Apple Cider Donuts

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It’s starting to feel a little more like fall, my favorite season! Unfortunately in Madison fall only lasts for, like, a month, so gotta take advantage of it while it’s here. I love that the weather gets cooler, that the leaves change color, and that it’s apple season! Super not into all the over-hyped pumpkin spice stuff (except for a certain someone’s pumpkin white chocolate chip cookies) but I love apples, apple pie, apple crisp, apple cider (both cold and hot), and apple cider donuts!

I was first introduced to apple cider donuts when I was in college. Every October one Friday was declared to be Mountain Day, classes were canceled and we all climbed up Mount Greylock, drank apple cider, ate apple cider donuts, and listened to various a cappella perform. It was definitely one of the most fun, memorable experiences of college.

When I moved out to Madison I got excited when I saw some apple cider donuts at the local grocery store. But unfortunately those ones were not nearly as good as the ones from Mountain Day (they tasted like they were made using those powdered hot apple cider packets… gross!). So with the help of Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction, some sisters from my family group and I made some on our own.

We tripled Sally’s recipe and followed the directions pretty much to a T with one exception – instead of dipping the donuts in melted butter, we put them directly in the cinnamon/sugar mixture… which makes them healthier right? ūüėČ

The result was pretty delicious (especially given that they’re baked and not fried). Super flavorful, moist, and fluffy. Definitely the best apple cider donuts I’ve had in a while. As one of my friends often says (she’s a huuuuuge Sally’s Baking Addiction fan), “Sally’s done it again!”

Totoro cake and cooking adventures

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It’s only been a little over a month since my last post! I’d say that’s pretty good for me =)

I don’t know if this counts though since I’m not really going to post any recipes. But I had a bunch of pictures on my phone so I figured I’d post them.

The top picture is from my friend’s birthday. She loves Totoro, so I thought I’d try to make a Totoro cake. I’m really not very good at baking though so I was pretty¬†nervous. I found this video and recipe¬†so thought I’d give it a try but at the last minute I decided I didn’t want to attempt making the blueberry lemon cake, so I went with Funfetti instead. I mean, who doesn’t love Funfetti cake? I used plain buttercream for the stomach and eyes, the blueberry frosting recipe from the link for the rest of the body, and plain black frosting for the eyes and v’s on the stomach.¬†I also had a couple friends help me with baking the cake, making the frosting, shaping the cake, and decorating the cake. So really I didn’t do a whole lot.

The bottom panel of pictures is from a cooking competition my church had between the family groups. Each group had to use chicken, kale, and strawberries to make an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Technically we only needed to use one of the ingredients in each course, but I thought a) it would be more interesting and b) our team would would get more creativity points if we used all three ingredients in all three courses.

Our group split into three team, one for each course. For the appetizer we made mini chicken tacos with shredded kale, cheese, and a strawberry salsa. For the entree we made Hmong stuffed chicken wings – that is, de-boned chicken wings stuffed with ground pork, rice vermicelli noodles, shredded carrots, onion, Hmong/Thai peppers, and kale (this was a substitute for cabbage), seasoned with salt, pepper, and oyster sauce. This was served over a bed of garlic/cilantro rice with a side of sweet and spicy Hmong pepper sauce (traditional Hmong pepper sauce (Hmong/Thai peppers, cilantro, green onions, fish sauce, lime) with pureed strawberries). And finally, for dessert we made chicken and buttermilk waffle cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting topped with a popcorn chicken and maple glazed kale chip garnish. All in all I thought our team did a really good job with everything and even though we didn’t win the competition, we had a ton of fun cooking together.

Anyway, I don’t have much else to say. So I’ll end it with the rest of the¬†random pictures from the cooking competition that I had on my phone.

Fruit Pizza

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As usual, it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted anything here. Time has really flown. I can’t believe it’s already mid-June (looks like I last posted in February). Winter is finally gone and the sun has finally come! Yay!

With summer comes summer family groups at Harvest. This summer we’re doing gender-specific studies. The women are going through this book called Breaking Free by Beth Moore. I’ve done a few of the studies on my own in the past, but I haven’t gone through the whole book before. I’m excited to see how God will work in the group (and in me) this summer. Will hopefully keep you updated on that.

My brother’s getting married next Saturday, so I’ll be going home on Wednesday. It’ll be nice to get away for a little bit, but I think it’ll be a pretty busy week. I have a lot of work to get done and I have to drive to Chicago for my flight on Wednesday so I have a feeling it’ll be pretty hectic. But exciting and fun! I have a lot of weddings to attend coming up (this weekend, one in July, one in August, one in September, and one in November…as far as I know right now). I guess I’m at the age where that’s pretty normal.

This weekend seems like one of the chiller, more laid-back weekends I’ve had in a while. I slept in, then had lunch with some friends at Joe’s Kitchen in Monona. It was pretty good, but the place was super small and hidden in the back of a Vietnamese grocery store. Then I spent the afternoon cooking for a dinner at my pastor’s house.

I ended up making lo mein with snow peas, red peppers, carrots and chicken. It wasn’t particularly exciting. But for dessert, I made fruit pizza, which I’ve been wanting to try out for some time now. I think it turned out pretty well – although I would also say it looks much more impressive than it is. The actual recipe is quite simple. I guess next time I could make the crust from scratch.

This time I followed this recipe pretty closely. I used Pillsbury ready to bake sugar cookie dough for the crust, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract for the frosting, and topped it with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and kiwi slices. I ended up skipping the glaze but I think it would have been too sweet with it.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of cream cheese, so I would consider making the frosting into more of a whipped cream or a whipped topping (Cool Whip-esque), but I think if you like cream cheese frostings this recipe is quite good and fairly simple.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

This year is the first year (I think) that I wasn’t home for Thanksgiving. My family has lots of Thanksgiving traditions, so it was kind of sad to not be there. But neither of my brothers would have been home anyway, so even if I had gone home it wouldn’t have been then same.

Instead of going home I went to Deerfield, Illinois on Thanksgiving day to hang out with my brother, my sister-in-law, and a bunch of my brother’s friends. We played a lot of games and ate a LOT of food. All in all it was fun, but it wasn’t the same as being at home.

The rest of the time I stayed (am staying? I guess the weekend isn’t over yet) in Madison. Worked yesterday, then had dinner with a student and made these chocolate chip cookie bars.

Don’t have a whole lot planned for the rest of the weekend… just relaxing, hopefully.

This recipe came from Cate’s World Kitchen. The only thing I changed was instead of using 2 cups of regular chocolate chips I used 1 cup of milk chocolate chips and 1 cup of dark chocolate chips. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly, so I’m not going to re-post.

Apple Pie

Today I had my second Thanksgiving dinner in two days. I love Thanksgiving food. Although to be honest, I’m not the hugest fan of turkey. But I LOVE all the side dishes. Mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and macaroni and cheese. Those are my favorite.

Yesterday was the dinner for the Intervarsity group I volunteer with. It was a really good night, and I didn’t do any of the cooking (mostly because I had work all day). Tonight was my church’s Thanksgiving dinner. Each family group (weekly Bible study group) was in charge of a set of dishes. My group had a turkey, corn, macaroni and cheese, and pecan pies. I was in charge of macaroni and cheese. I spent basically the entire day cooking 120 servings of mac and cheese. That was 10 pounds of (uncooked) pasta with 45 cups of cheddar cheese.

There was a tray of apple slices leftover from the dinner and I was going to make apple crisp, but then there was an unfortunate accident that caused most of the apple slices to fall on the floor. Luckily not all of them fell out of the tray on to the ground, so I still had enough to make a pie.

Haven’t tasted it yet (bringing it to church tomorrow morning), but hopefully it’s delicious!

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients
2 9-inch pie crusts
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups apple slices (not sure what kind I used)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a pot, melt butter. Add flour and whisk to make a paste. Add water, both sugars and cinnamon. Add apple slices and stir to coat.

Press bottom crust into a 9-inch pie crust. Pour in apple mixture. Cover with a lattice crust

Bake for 40-50 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Millionaire’s Shortbread

It’s late, I’m tired (worked until 9 today) and I just posted two minutes ago, so this will be brief.

This recipe was quite good too. The shortbread base was good… and very buttery. I didn’t deal with the white chocolate swirl because I’m lazy. They reminded me of Twix bars, but they’re really sweet and rich.

The original recipe said to prick the shortbread with a fork, but I wouldn’t do it next time. Also, it took more time to make than I thought it would because it took longer for things to cool than I thought it would.

Anyway. It’s 11:30 and I have to be up at 6:30… plus I have to drive an hour and a half to get to Green Lake, WI tomorrow night after work, so I should get some rest!

Recipe adapted from KitchenSter

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 (3/4 cup) sticks of butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
7 tbsp butter
3 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate chips
3 1/2 oz milk chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour and powdered sugar. Mix in softened butter. Press into the 9×13 pan and back 20 minutes or until light brown. Set aside to cool.

In a saucepan, put sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar and remaining butter and heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Simmer, stirring constantly until it reaches the desired consistency. Be careful not to burn!

Pour mixture over the shortbread and let cool.

Place all chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power in increments of 1 minute, stirring time until the chocolate is melted and mixed together. Pour on top and let cool again.

Strawberry Icebox Cake

I’ve never heard of icebox cake before. But it was a friend’s birthday and her husband told me she liked “fruit cakes” that are “not too sweet”. If you take a look at all the other dessert recipes I have on my blog, well, “fruit” and “not too sweet” are not my M.O. No, my style is usually heavy on chocolate and sugar. Out of the 27 dessert recipes I’ve posted (well, now 28), only 5 do not involve chocolate. And maybe 4 involve real fruit… and that’s if you count bananas. Personally I wouldn’t really consider banana nutella wontons as a “fruity” dessert.

Anyway, I was a little skeptical of the idea of softened graham crackers, but it looked really good and had strawberries and homemade whipped cream, so how bad could it be? It ended up being pretty good, but my guess is that it won’t keep for very long because the graham crackers will get progressively soggier. But all in all a really good, simply dessert.

Hm, what else has been going on in my life? Work has been fine… I carpool with a friend so that helps me strike a better work/life balance. I have weekly Bible studies through my church and the Intervarsity chapter I volunteer with. My roommate and I started having a weekly “roommate night”. This week we cooked dinner and watched the Joy Luck Club (I have mixed feelings about the movie). I’ve been playing drums again… I don’t know, nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve also been recently feeling the need to have alone time. Time to journal, reflect, pray, and just be… still.

Ok, enough of me. It’s 10:30 (I’m soooo old and tiredddd) so I should wrap up!

Recipe adapted from Let’s Dish

Ingredients
2 lbs strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3-2/3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 oz dark chocolate chips
18 graham crackers

In a large bowl, whip 3 cups heavy whipping cream with a stand or hand mixer. Add powdered sugar (1/3-2/3 cups, depending on how sweet you want it) and vanilla extract.

Spread a layer of whipped cream on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Lay 6 graham crackers on top of that. Spread another layer of whipped cream, then a layer of strawberries. Repeat (whipped cream, graham crackers, strawberries) until you run out of graham crackers (3 layers). Garnish the top with strawberries. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours (I refrigerated overnight).

When you’re ready to serve, make the chocolate ganache. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of cream until bubbly. Whisk in chocolate and take off heat. Continue whisking/adding chocolate until it reaches the desired chocolatiness (this is not a word, but you know what I mean). Drizzle on top of the cake.

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