Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

You may remember that I posted about my wonderful friends baking for my birthday and generally making the entire weekend amazing.  I must confess, I didn't have enough faith in them and I totally baked for myself.  Yep, I did.  My mom told me not to, she said surely someone else would take care of it.  But I didn't listen.  There's a lesson in there somewhere...

I wanted something special for my birthday, and darned if I wasn't going to make sure that happened.  I thought and thought about what flavors I wanted to include in this special treat...  My love for Nutella goes back to the summer I was an exchange student and my host-mom gave me Nutella and brötchen before going to school in the morning.  I could eat a whole jar of the stuff in one sitting; lucky for me this recipe calls for just that.  As a side note, can I just say how much I love that I can type in an ingredient to Tasty Kitchen and instantly get a ton of options from which to choose?  I know the website doesn't need any additional press, but I find myself turning to it time and again when I'm having a hard time deciding what to bake.

These cookies were just what I was looking for- the hazelnut aspect didn't get lost in the chocolaty cookie, something I've experienced before when baking with Nutella, and the white chocolate drizzle really does make everything taste better.  I skipped it for the first few I tried; big mistake.  I highly suggest including it, if and when you decide to make these cookies. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Margarita Cake and Allison's Birthday

A month after my birthday (well, really a day shy of a month) was my friend Allison's 25th, that's her up there.  She was a huge part of making my celebration the extravaganza that it was, so I wanted to be sure that hers was just as awesome.  Lucky for us, her birthday landed a few days before Memorial Day-a built in three day weekend!  I was out of town all week for work but when I got back, the fun started!

I made margarita cake since it's appropriate for the season and who doesn't like a little baking with booze?
I took Annie's suggestion and brushed the cake with tequila after it cooled, I think it was probably only two or three tablespoons for the whole cake (two 8-inch rounds).  Nothing that'll get you in trouble for trying this out at work, but completely worth it.  The only notable difference from the linked recipe is that I made a different frosting than the one she describes.  I tried to make the swiss meringue that was suggested, but had a considerable amount of difficulty with it and ended up just throwing it all away.  I don't know what happened, but figured I could turn to my trusty Bailey's Buttercream and substitute tequila for the Bailey's.  I was SO right.  The frosting was delicious, and really did complement the lime-y aspect of the cake.
We barely got to taste the cake, we were so busy with festivities for the birthday celebration.  Two concerts, two river floats, and a shopping trip or two later left us very tired and not terribly hungry for sweets.  We all tried it and decided the recipe is definitely a keeper; I've made it since and it hasn't disappointed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fourth of July

I went home last Thursday for my mom's birthday and to spend some serious time with my family.  Some unexpected health news resulted in all four of us girls being home at some point throughout the holiday weekend, and I really enjoyed being around everyone.

On Sunday night, Amanda and I hopped in the car to find a spot on 190 to watch the fireworks display put on by Ft. Hood.  An awesome 4th of July celebration, complete with carnival rides and live music, is definitely one of the perks of being so close to post and they really outdid themselves this year.  Amanda took a bunch of pictures with her fancy-pants camera and was nice enough to share them with me.

Hope your 4th of July was filled with some combination of fun, family, and fireworks!  I'll post later about all the baking I did while at home, you didn't think I'd go home for my mom's birthday and not bake, did you?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Funfetti Cupcakes

I made these a few weeks ago for the bartenders' last night of quiz.  Aren't they adorable?  The cupcakes, I mean.  Pictures of our favorite bartenders are pretty rare, so how would you know if they're adorable... 

Anyway, I was running low on time and ended up making these from a mix.  I know, I know, mixes are the easy way out.  But I made the frosting from scratch, and then I put sprinkles on top.  So that's something, right?  I love making buttercream frosting, can I tell you that?  Because it's true.

Lucky for us, the last night of quiz coincided with the boys' last Thursday of work.  I ended up being out of town the next few weeks for work, and missed out on quiz night.  So, as a tribute to the super fun times we had on Thursday nights, I'm posting some of the "artwork" that Anna included with our quiz sheets.  She's got talent, that roommate of mine.

Devin's birthday, naturally.

Seriously, this describes us perfectly.

To really understand this, you have to look at our answer to one of the questions...

I don't even know anymore.  But there's a dolphin!

She illustrated the songs. Yep.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Birthday, Part Two

On Saturday morning, after we recovered from Friday night's festivities, I met the girls in downtown Bryan for breakfast at a Mexican food restaurant for chips, salsa, and breakfast tacos.  Naturally, everything was delicious.  Then we headed out to a local vineyard for their annual Wine and Roses Festival.  Despite the fact that I've lived in B/CS for nearly seven years, I've never been to the vineyard, and I have been missing out!

We took a tour of the facility, took advantage of the tasting tent, and walked around the vineyard a little bit.  Everything was so beautiful; flowers in bloom, bright sunshine, and fantastic friends to share it with.

After we finished up at the vineyard, we went back home to change and head out to dinner.  Little did I know, my friends had gotten together to surprise me at one of my favorite restaurants in town.  Those little sneaks were all there when I walked in, and it took me a little longer than it probably should have to realize what was going on.  I finally figured it out when I saw my friends Cara and Daryl, who live near Houston, at the table.  Jessi baked me a cake (chocolate with raspberry filling, delicious) and afterward we went out for drinks and dancing on Northgate.
Sunday was my official birthday and it was an appropriately low-key, fun ending to the craziness that was my 25th birthday.  The girls and I went to an Aggie Baseball game to cheer our boys on to victory against OU. Though we ended up losing, we had a good time yelling and heckling, and that's really what baseball's all about.  Isn't it?

I really wanted to share how much I appreciate what my friends did to make my birthday special.  If you're reading this, THANKS!  You have no idea how lucky I feel to have people like you in my life.

I promise the next few posts will be baking related; I've made so many things in the last few months, there's a lot to catch up on!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

My Birthday, Part One

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had a birthday recently (and by recently, I mean at the end of April so not recently at all).  It was by far the most amazing birthday I've had in a very, very long time.  I've written before about what a big deal birthdays were when I was growing up, and have tried and failed to recapture the magic for myself throughout the years since I moved away from home.  This year though, I decided things were going to be awesome. 

Want to know why having an awesome birthday was so important to me?  I seriously spent the night of my 21st birthday by myself, in the library, studying for a lab practical and finishing a sociology paper. That's why.  Seriously, terrible birthday.

THIS birthday, my 25th, was amazing.

It started a whole nine days before my actual birthday, I went home and spent a wonderful weekend with my family.  My mom made me a cake, I slept in, had a sleepover with Shelby, and all was right with the world.  I got the Pioneer Woman cookbook from Dominique and it turned out to be perfect timing.  My mom was leaving for D.C. at the end of the week and would be attending the Pioneer Woman's book signing while she was there!  I love the Pioneer Woman.  For serious. 

I decided to do one thing every day the actual week of my birthday and it went a little something like this:
Monday- volunteering and Pilates, doesn't sound very exciting but a good way to get ready for the week
Tuesday- meeting in Austin until 8:00, which resulted in meeting at Magnolia Cafe with my step-sister and a friend for Mag Mud (which you should rush out and try ASAP)
Wednesday- kickball games followed by burgers and beer
Thursday- Quiz Night!

I'll stop here and say that Quiz was the official kickoff to my birthday weekend celebration.  Allison and Nicole had cupcakes waiting for me at the bar when I got there, and I felt really, really special.  Seriously, look at them.  So pretty, and tie-dye!

I took the next day, Friday, off because who wants to work on the Friday of your birthday weekend?  And I really enjoyed waking up late and goofing off almost all day.  That night there was a concert that I was looking forward to; Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, and Coolio were all performing at the same venue, so we packed up our lawn chairs and set up camp in the grass at Wolf Pen. We danced and sang along to almost everything, and then there was a robot.  Pretty much the perfect start to an awesome weekend.
*As a side note, can I just say the fifth-grade version of me was so pumped to see Coolio perform Gangsta's Paradise?  I know it's lame but, at least in my hometown, there's no way you didn't know all the words to that song and LOVE IT.  True story.*