Baking Through the Alphabet: K is for Kahlúa Crème Brûlée

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Hello, friends! It’s been a while (as usual). Things have been a bit hectic the past few weeks, sorry! But they’re good things, I promise.

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I started this post two and a half weeks ago. I still can’t figure out how to start this, so here I go with the bullet points again:

  • I’m graduating in less than two weeks, eeek! I’m ready for school to be over (senioritis level has been at 100% this past quarter…), but not ready for friends to move back home. I think that’s something I’ve been really thankful for this past quarter, the community of friends.
  • #glmcnation, that is all. More on this eventually.
  • The Office Project. Don’t laugh at me, but I started this project where I post something related to The Office every Wednesday, aka I either recreate the scene, or I do something similar to it. Probably makes no sense right now, but it’s a way for me to have fun, share my love for the show, and test my creativity. Maybe I’ll post a picture on here sometime.

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  • I’ve been listening to two things recently: 1) Kishi Bashi’s new album, Lighght, and 2) Ellensburg. Ellensburg is an album from Resonate Church, who also has this really good hymns album out, called The Hymns Record. Anyway, a few lyrics have been stuck in my head: “But God, rich in mercy…” / “He rolled away the stone, death has been dethroned” / “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the sweetest Name I know.” These lyrics have stuck out to me because I think they hold so much truth–God’s unfailing love and unending mercies, the power of the Resurrection, and JESUS. There’s been a lot of uncertainty going on, not so much uncertainty in getting a job/grad school, but more so in what’s going to happen next in life for me. I’ve graduated college (or graduating, I should say), I’ve gotten my full-time job–so what’s next? It’s easy for me to be discontent in where I am, but I am reminded to not only be thankful, but also to just trust in God. He has a plan for me, and I don’t know what, but I know for a fact that He works all things for my good (Romans 8:28). He is merciful, He is just. He is good.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self  is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

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In addition to taking forever to come up with something to write about, it took me forever to figure out what to bake for the letter K. I settled on Kahlúa and was set on making Kahlúa cheesecake swirled brownies. It did not taste good (in the voice of Judy Geller when Rachel makes the trifle). I put too much Kahlua, and the cheesecake to brownie ratio was off…SUPER OFF. Round two, some other day.

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I partially settled on crème brûlée because I had extra egg yolks and heavy cream sitting in the fridge. And it worked out well! The Kahlúa flavor was prominent–so if you’re not a super big fan of Kahlúa, I would reduce it a little bit. It was creamy and silky, not too sweet, and had a nice kick at the end. I approve!

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Kahlúa Crème Brûlée
Makes 4-6 ramekins
Adapted From Being Suzy Homemaker

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup white sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons Kahlúa (I used Hazlenut Kahlúa)
6 teaspoons sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place ramekins in a roasting pan/deep baking dish at least 3 inches deep.

2. Stir together the cream and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until very hot, stirring continuously until sugar dissolves.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and Kahlúa until combined. Slowly add 1/3 of the cream mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time, while still whisking (you want to temper the eggs and not cook them). Stir in the remaining hot cream slowly.

4. Pour the custard into the ramekins. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the custard is set around but still slightly jiggly in the center. Let the custards come to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for four hours, or until cold.

6. When ready to serve, let the custards come to room temperature. Sprinkle sugar on each to coat the top. Then, using a hand torch, melt the sugar until it forms a crispy crust. Serve immediately (or soon!).

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

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Baking Through the Alphabet: I is for Irish Cream Bread Pudding

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Do some songs just remind you of certain moments?

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Like for me, Anberlin will always remind me of high school. Especially when “Pray Tell” kept running through my head during my Calc BC test junior year.

“Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson (or any song by him) will always remind me of Drama 16…the parts that I did manage to stay awake in, at least. (Thanks N and W for being my friends in this class!)

“Souvenirs” will always remind me of finals week, fall quarter, freshman year…and basically what really sparked my Switchfoot obsession.

“Holding my World” by Kristin Stanfill will remind me of when I got rejected from UCLA. Truth that I needed, though. More on that later.

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I think baking is the same way. There are just some things that hold so much significance to them.

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Asian steamed buns will always remind me of my childhood, because that was something I always made with my mom.

Oatmeal raisin cookies will always remind me of my grandpa, because that was his favorite, and every time he visited, I made sure he had a batch of those waiting for him.

Cinnamon rolls will remind me of my apartment, Samoas my sister, cheesecake my mom, etc. There’s something to everything.

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This one does the same, and it’ll always remind me of work.

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I remember this one day I was sitting at the table in our office kitchen with my coworkers, and I was telling them how I couldn’t think of what to do for the letter “i.” I’m doing this whole entire alphabet thing based on the main ingredient/flavor. For example, if I made Thin Mints Cupcakes (which I did actually, post coming…eventually), they’d be filed for the letter “t” and not “c” because Thin Mints is the main ingredient. I couldn’t think of a main ingredient that started with “i.”

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…Anyways, my coworker T suggested this bread pudding recipe that used Baileys and chocolate. I had no idea what Baileys was, and she explained that it was this Irish cream liquor with a coffee flavor. She gave me the recipe, the Baileys, and the idea for this post. I don’t think you’ll ever read this, T, but this one’s for you! =)

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I was a little iffy about bread pudding because I’d much rather eat the bread by itself (I’m a major carbs fan, in case I haven’t mentioned it yet). But I figured that this would be a good addition to this alphabet mix, so I went for it. The end result? YUM. A little too rich for my taste, but definitely comforting. French bread cubes soaked in a custard, mixed with white and dark chocolate chips, baked in little ramekins to perfection, then topped with a sweet Irish cream sauce. I think it’d go really well with vanilla ice cream too! But I didn’t have any…boo.

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Three notes though, 1) More dark chocolate chips next time, and maybe less white chocolate chips, 2) You can get little Irish cream bottles at BevMo! You need two of those little bottles (they’re so cute!). You won’t use all of it, but I just poured the leftover liquor into the custard sauce, and 3) Less Irish cream sauce. I’d probably cut that part of the recipe in half because I had so much leftover. I didn’t want it too rich, so I didn’t drizzle as much cream sauce over the bread pudding. It’s your call though. If you cut the cream sauce recipe in half, you have some Irish cream liquor to put into the custard sauce.

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Irish Cream Bread Pudding
Makes 8 ramekins
Adapted From Epicurious

Ingredients:

For the Sauce:
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons Irish cream liquor (Baileys)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

For the bread pudding:
14 cups 3/4-inch cube French bread with crust (about 12 ounces)
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped or chips
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped or chips
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups whipping cream, separated
1/2 cup whole milk

1. For the sauce: Bring the cream, liquor, sugar, and vanilla to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Mix the cornstarch and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl to blend, then whisk it into the cream mixture. Boil until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Cool, cover, and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

2. For the bread pudding: Combine the bread and chocolates in a large bowl, and toss to blend. In another large bowl, beat the eggs, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, vanilla, and leftover Irish cream liquor. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups cream and milk. Add the cream mixture to the bread mixture, and stir to combine. Really combine it so the bread can soak in all the custard. Let it stand for at least 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare the ramekins by spraying with nonstick spray. Scoop the bread mixture into the prepared ramekins (or if you want, a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish). Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup cream, and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake the pudding until the edges are golden and the custard is set in center, about 1 hour. Let the pudding cool slightly.

4. Drizzle the pudding with the Irish cream sauce, and serve warm. Enjoy!

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Holding my World. I sort of stopped listening to that song for a while, but it came back on my playlist the other day, and it reminded me so much about really trusting in God. I first heard this song this one Friday night at our high school fellowship group back in 2011. I had just gotten rejected from UCLA, which was my number one choice (even though a part of me knew I wouldn’t get in), so I was definitely bummed. But these lyrics spoke so much truth to me:

So I will not worry or fret
My God is the God who will never forget
All of His goodness and all of His promises
He’s holding my world in His hands

I was reminded that God is always good and He is always sovereign through my trials. At that moment, it sucked that I didn’t get into UCLA, but God is good because I ended up here at Irvine, and life is good. I’ve learned plenty, met great friends, have a stable job, and live with wonderful roommates. I’ve found accountability and loving brothers and sisters here who always care and love me. God was good, and He will always be good. He had a plan for me to be here at Irvine, and He has a plan for everything else in my future. Note to self: be patient and trust in God.

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating and baking!

 

Baking Through the Alphabet: E is for Earl Grey Donuts (baked) with a Blueberry Glaze

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I thought I would post another letter before the year ended…but obviously I didn’t. Winter break is over (insert sadface), but it was a good three weeks. I spent the first week plus some at work, a couple more days at a church retreat, and the remaining days with my family and friends. It’s always a joy to be at home, and it makes me happy to see old faces back home for the holidays.

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2014 is here, 2013 is gone (*whispers* foreverrrr. If anyone got that Friends reference…you make me proud), and winter quarter is here! I’m not going to go into too much detail, but 2013 was a good year. A bunch of trials and struggles, but I know that God is sovereign and has planned all things for a greater purpose.

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Something that comes with each new year is new year resolutions. I used to make resolutions, but stopped once I failed to keep up with them. As for this year…I’m not sure. I haven’t really sat down to think about my resolutions, but I do know one of them is be more consistent with my blog posts (sorry all!!). One for sure resolution is to glorify God in all that I do. And only through the grace of God may I do so.

One more thing before I get to the donuts (or doughnuts? what?): The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards. Read it. It’s an encouragement. I’m reading it too.

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E is for earl grey (baked) donuts with a blueberry glaze. I had originally planned to do earl grey macarons for the letter E, but that one totally flopped. I tried a new recipe and the shells just looked like junk. I did tint it a pretty blueish/gray color though! But the shells didn’t come out right, and the filling was too runny. I’ll try them again eventually! You’ll find out when I do.

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But I finally caved and bought donut pans–they’re so cute! I love donuts, but I hate dealing with all the oil after you fry them, so I figured baking them would be the way to go. BUT DISCLAIMER: if you’re thinking baked donuts=yeasty, bready donuts, then you’re wrong, and this recipe may not be the right one for you. Baked donuts taste more like muffins instead of bread, but having them in a donut shape do make them much more fun.

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I added two earl grey tea bags to the donut batter–I steeped one bag in the hot milk, and another bag I tried crushing the tea leaves and then threw them in with the dry ingredients. I made a blueberry glaze to go on top, and I really do like the combination, but to be honest, the blueberry flavor overpowered the earl grey flavor. If I were to make this again, I’d probably try either a regular vanilla glaze, or an earl grey glaze. Regardless, the donuts were moist and the earl grey flavor was there. Again, they had a muffin texture to them rather than a bready texture, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to deal with leftover oil and all the excess fat if I were to fry them. I like how they turned out! The bits of blueberries look like sprinkles. And if you like The Simpsons, these donuts look like the infamous one on the show =)

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Baked Earl Grey Donuts with Blueberry Glaze
Makes 1 dozen (I made 6 regular and 24 mini ones)
Adapted from A Beautiful Mess

Ingredients:

For the Earl Grey Donuts:
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 earl grey tea bags
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk, hot
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Blueberry Glaze:
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare your donut pans by spraying with cooking spray.

2. For the donuts: Open one tea bag, and pour out the leaves into a small bowl. Using a spoon (or a mortar and pestle if you have it), crush up the big tea leaves by pushing the tea leaves against the sides of the bowl with the spoon. It’s okay if you can’t get it. I just wanted didn’t want big leaves in the donuts.

3. Steep the other tea bag in the hot milk for 5 minutes. Using a fork, poke at the bag to get as much flavor out of the leaves. It’s okay if you pop the bag because the leaves will just get mixed into the donut dough. Toss the tea bag.

4. In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (first five listed above). In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients (the last five listed above, including the steeped milk–make sure it’s not too hot or it’ll cook the eggs).

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir just until combined.

6. Fill the prepared donut pans 2/3 full with batter (don’t fill too much, or else they’ll come out looking like mini bundt cakes). You can spoon in the batter, but I poured the batter into a pastry bag and piped the batter into the pans for better control. Bake them for 10-13 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If you’re making mini donuts, bake them for 8-10 minutes. Let the donuts cool before dipping them in the glaze.

7. For the blueberry glaze: Place blueberries, powdered sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor, and pulse until smooth.

8. Dip the cooled donuts in the glaze, and let them set before serving. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Baking Through the Alphabet: A is for Apple Pie Pull Apart Bread

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I had an epiphany a few months ago…but I never went through with it. Cheryl and I actually bought ingredients for it, but we never did it.

The epiphany came back a few days ago.

I’M GOING TO BAKE THROUGH THE ALPHABET.

Yaknow, desserts that start with A, then B, then C, and so on. What’s going to happen when I get to Q or X? We’ll see. Maybe I’ll cop out and make a Chinese dessert/baked good. It’ll be a surprise for me, too.

So, first things first: A. A IS FOR APPLE PIE PULL APART BREAD.

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Think…apple pie meets cinnamon roll. It’s SO GOOD. I found this recipe while scrolling through foodgawker (during class, probably), and I thought it was such an interesting combination! My only issue with the apple pie pull apart bread recipes that I found was that they used Pilsbury refrigerated biscuit rolls as the bread, and in my book…that’s a no-no. It’s no fun when you don’t get to play with dough and make it from scratch! Maybe I’ll change my mind when I get married and have kids, haha!

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But I decided to use the bread recipe from Joy the Baker’s cinnamon sugar pull apart bread. I made some adjustments for the filling, crossed my fingers, and hoped that it would come out okay. And it did! The bread and filling was gooey and cinnamon-y, and the baked apple slices between the bread slices tasted just like an apple pie.

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Oh, and the GLAZE that went on top of it was yum-o! I had considered not making the glaze, but my roommate convinced me otherwise, and she was right! Not only did the bread look much better, but it also brought all the flavors together. Delicious fall flavors–all in one loaf! =)

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Apple Pie Pull Apart Bread with Vanilla Glaze
Makes one loaf
Adapted from Joy the Baker and The Comfort of Cooking

Ingredients:

For the Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced (I used a Fuji apple)

For the Vanilla Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and set aside.

In a medium bowl, melt together the milk and butter in the microwave (you could also do this in a small saucepan on the stove). When the butter has just melted, add the water and vanilla extract. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes.

Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and mix with a spatula. Add the eggs, and stir until the eggs are incorporated into the dough. The dough will be extremely sticky; try not to add too much flour or else the dough will come out too dry.

Place the dough into a large, greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour. Alternatively, you can also let the dough rise until doubled in size, then refrigerate overnight to use in the morning. I did this and it came out just fine =)

While the dough is rising, make the filling. Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and set aside. Coat the apple slices in the cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg mixture and set aside. Keep the leftover sugar mixture and set that aside too.  Line a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

When the dough has risen, deflate it and knead it with a little flour. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 12×20-inch rectangle. Spread the melted butter across the dough. Take the leftover cinnamon-sugar-nutmeg mixture and sprinkle it over the dough.

Slice the dough vertically into six equal-sized strips. Stack the strips on top of one another, and then slice the stack into six equal slices again. You should end up with six stacks of six squares. Place the dough squares into the lined loaf pan like a flip book. Take the sliced apple slices and stuff them between the squares. I stuffed 1-2 apple slices between each square. Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and let it rise until doubled in size (I skipped this step because I was running late for class, but it came out fine!).

Place a rack in the cetner of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Bake the loaf for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is very golden brown.

While the loaf is baking, make the vanilla glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. When the loaf is done, let it cool for 20 minutes, and then drizzle the glaze over the warm bread, and ENJOY!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Minion Macarons

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Guys…School is in session. Summer is gone. 3.5 wonderful months of work, baking, no school, relaxation, and opportunities to serve the church. It’s weird to be back in school…can you believe I’m a third year already?! I’m entering the real world soon! It’s crazy. And God has been and always will be faithful.

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So goodbye summer 2013, you’ve been great! =)

I wanted to share with you all one of my proudest projects this past summer: MINION MACARONS.

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I don’t make character macarons often because they’re way more time consuming than regular circle macarons, but when I do…I feel very satisfied. Things I’ve done so far (please excuse the bad photos):

Beary Cute Macarons (inspired by Bakerella), which were coffee flavored with a Nutella filling;

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Large macarons for a bridal shower;

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Angry Bird Macarons, which were green tea flavored with a chocolate ganache filling;

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and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Macarons, which were green tea flavored with a Nutella filling.

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For all those character macarons, I used chocolate as decorations on top of the macarons–a mini chocolate chip as the bear’s nose, white chocolate for the eyes, etc. I never thought about using actual colored macaron batter to add to the characters until I came across Crumbs Macaron. She is amazing. She makes these macaron characters made out of 100% macaron batter, and it’s insane!!!! She made these minion macarons and I just had to try them.

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It took a lot of time (7 hours to be exact), different colored macaron piping bags, and a bunch of toothpicks.

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I found a picture of a minion online, printed about 9 of them on one sheet, and placed the Silpat over the sheet. For the macarons, I made the macaron batter without color, and while it was still a little undermixed, separated them into different bowls and added food coloring separately. I had seven colors: yellow, blue, black, red, gray, brown, and white. I piped the yellow body first, let the batter rest, piped the jeans, then the glasses, eyes, hands, buttons, and feet. Then I used toothpicks to make the hair, pupil, and smile. And seven hours later, after cleaning everything up, I had my minions!

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I know this is a short post, but enjoy the pictures (and sorry for the lighting! It’s hard to get good lighting at home). I think they’re pretty cool, and I hope you all think so too =).

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!!

Six-Banana Banana Bread

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I am super picky when it comes to bananas. I only eat bananas when they’re still slightly green. If there are brown spots, then nope. Sorry. For some reason, ripe bananas make me want to sneeze. And I hate the smell! My parents like buying bananas, but I think we go through phases. They either go out really quickly, or they just sit there and rot. So oftentimes we always have a whole bunch of bananas that are starting to brown that no one will eat, and I always feel so wasteful when they get so bad that we have to throw them out. I know the bananas are getting old when my mom starts asking when I’ll be making “banana cake.”

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Now don’t get me wrong, I love my banana crumb muffins recipe. It was the first post that got me onto foodgawker! But that recipe only uses three bananas. Then I stumbled across this recipe, which uses SIX (!!!!!!!) bananas in the banana bread. Amazing. This bread is so easy to make (you don’t need a mixer or anything! No creaming involved), and I think I’m still amazed at the fact that it uses so many bananas. That’s all the rotting bananas in my house! It’s super easy to put together, and the flavor is great. I like how it uses vanilla pudding mix in the batter; I think that’s what makes it so moist. Lots of banana flavor, super dense and soft, and it stays moist for days. It does take a little long to bake (mine took a little over an hour, I think), but it’s totally worth it. If the top starts to brown before the bread is done, just put a piece of foil over the top and it’ll be A-OK. This is my new go-to banana bread recipe; hope y’all enjoy =).

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Six-Banana Banana Bread
Makes one loaf
From Averie Cooks

Ingredients: 

1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sour cream or Greek Yogurt (I used Trader Joe’s Honey Greek Yogurt)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 medium/large very ripe bananas, mashed (2 1/2 cups)
one 3.4 ounce box vanilla instant pudding mix (make sure it’s not cook ‘n serve)
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prepare the loaf pan by spraying with floured cooking spray, or grease and flour the pan. Depending on the size of your loaf pan, you may need a muffin pan or mini loaf for leftover batter.

2. Whisk together the melted and cooled slightly butter, eggs, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, greek yogurt (or sour cream), and vanilla.

3. Add the mashed bananas; stir to incorporate. Add the pudding mix (don’t actually make the pudding, just add it like a dry ingredient), flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gently fold with a spatula, being careful to not over mix.

4. Bake the loaf for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (or with a few moist crumbs). If your bread is browning before it’s done, tent it with a piece of foil. Like the creator of this recipe, Averie, says, “watch your bread, not the clock.” I like that phrase!

5. Let the bread cool in pan for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. Bread will keep airtight at room temperature for up to one week, but hopefully they’ll be gone before then =)! Enjoy!!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

M&M Cookie Bars (and a P2 Missions update!)

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Three weeks ago, I was in Arizona for P2 Missions. Aaaanddd…I miss it already– the kids, the program, the company, the serving, and the list goes on and on. And it’s only been three weeks! It’s always hard for me to leave Arizona. This was my third trip, but each trip is significant in its own way. I always learn something new, and I always get to serve with new people and work in a different capacity. But one thing remains the same: I serve a great and gracious God! That is something to be thankful for.

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I made these cookie bars as thank you goodies to our Youth pastors, Mat and Eugene. It wasn’t much, but it was just my way of saying THANKS!–Thanks for shepherding the flock, for planning every aspect of the missions trip, for being patient with us, and for being our pastor. Anyways, I stumbled across the mini M&Ms while at Winco, and I think I may have put too much in the batter, but whatever. My cookie bars turned out to be 70% M&Ms, but who’s complaining? They were super chewy; I love cookies that use an extra egg yolk! They weren’t too sweet or greasy, and I’d definitely make them again. They’re perfect for your summer roadtrips because the M&Ms won’t melt all over the place because of the candy coating. I love the mini M&Ms! They just make everything 10x more fun =). Sigh, I’m such a kid. Oh well ; )

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M&M Cookie Bars
Makes one 9×13 pan
From Lovin’ From the Oven

Ingredients:

2 1/8 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 12 oz bag mini M&Ms, divided

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Line a 9×13 inch pan with foil, with the foil hanging over the sides.

2. Mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until combined. Stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour, salt, and baking soda into the wet mixture until combined.

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3. Stir in 1 cup of mini M&Ms. Spread the batter into the lined pan, and smooth out the top either with the spatula or clean damp hands. Sprinkle the rest of the M&Ms on top and press in slightly.

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4. Bake until the bars are light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 25-30 minutes. Let them cool before cutting into bars.

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When people ask me how my trip was, it’s easy for me to just say “good.” But it was definitely more than that, because everything in my life is always good because God is good. I made a video just for my own personal memory box (and also because I was babysitting and had no wi-fi and nothing to do while the baby was napping), and I’m going to share it here with you all too. It’s not much, but I think it captures a good chunk of the things we did while on our missions trip. Enjoy!

P2 Missions 2013 from graceko on Vimeo.

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy Reading, eating, and baking!!

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

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SUMMER IS HERE!!!!!!!!! (Insert High School Musical). It’s here, and I’m so excited! It hasn’t really hit me yet, though. Has it really been two years? Am I really halfway done? Am I really graduating soon?!?!

I’m still in shock, but I still remain thankful. Thankful for this past year because God has been faithful to me (as always!). I am thankful for my apartment, because a) where would I live and b) they are some of the craziest girls I’ve ever met who are always there to encourage me. I am thankful for J and my family, because who would I be without them, and they’re always the light at the end of a crazy week. I am thankful for brothers and sisters in Christ both at church and AACF because of our brotha and sista-hood, holla~! For reals though, they have been extremely encouraging this past year, caring for me, taking me home, asking me how I’m doing, loving me, playing with me, feeding me, and so on. I am thankful for my home church, for solid teaching and for helping me grow in my walk with Christ. I am thankful for work, and it’s always a blessing to be able to have a job and to have such wonderful coworkers and bosses. I am thankful for old hallmates and high school friends who are always a blast to be around–they’re great. I am thankful for school because it means I have an education. At the end of the day, life is good. I guess the underlying theme is thankfulness, which is something I’ve been trying to remind myself of recently. Because at the end of the day, you have Christ, you have your salvation, and that is always something to be thankful for.

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My friend Aaron (aka musicgoon) recently covered a few hymns with the high school students at church. One of the songs is My Heart is Filled With Thankfulness, and it speaks so much truth about how we always have something to be thankful for because of Christ. I think this part of the song stands out the most:

For every day I have on earth
Is given by the King
So I will give my life my all
To love and follow Him

This is what I should strive for–to live and serve the one and only God. The rest of the lyrics are good too =). You can watch the videos here and download the album for free (called All To Jesus To Receive) here.

It’s funny that I mention Aaron, because the reason why I baked these Oreo cheesecake bars was to test out a recipe for Aaron’s wedding. I have to make 300 bars for the wedding, and I figured it’d probably be a good idea to at least test it out before the big day. This cheesecake is loaded with Oreos–it uses a whole package for 16 bars. Normally I don’t care for the crust in cheesecakes, but I really liked the thick Oreo crust in this one. The cheesecake is creamy, bursting with Oreo chunks, and the nice thing is that it’s not too sweet either. It’s good enough to make for a wedding, if that tells you anything =)!

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Oreo Cheesecake Bars
Makes 16 bars
From Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients:

For the Crust:
23 Oreo cookies
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Cheesecake:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Line an 8×8 square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, allowing it to hang over two of the sides.

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2. For the Crust: Place the Oreo cookies in a food processor and process until they are fine crumbs. Drizzle the melted butter over the top and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed and the crumbs are moist. They need to be moist to form a firm crust. Pour the crumbs into lined pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes; leave the oven on when done.

3. For the Cheesecake: Beat the cream cheese until smooth; about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar; beat until incorporated. Slowly add the eggs, and beat well after each addition. Mix until it’s completely combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; add the sour cream and vanilla. Beat until incorporated.

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4. Fold in the chopped Oreos, and pour the batter over the prepared crust. Bake until the edges are set but the middle still jiggles slightly, about 40 to 50 minutes.

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5. Let the pan cool to room temperature, then cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least three hours before serving. To serve, lift the cheesecake out of the pan using the parchment or foil handles. Slice into bars and serve. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Banana Crumb Muffins

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Summer: T-7 days. I’m almost there. One final this Friday, and two more next Tuesday, then HALLLOOO SUMMMERRR 2013!!!!!!! I can’t wait. I have a long to-do list already–PowerPlant, work, bake, J+A Wedding, date nights, arts academy, bake, retreats, relax, and hang out with people.

Another thing on that list is to bake with people. I love being able to catch up with friends while doing something in the kitchen. I love conversation over food, even more over baking. Last Friday I met up with Norah and Nathan, the two biggest kids I know. Totally kidding; it’s encouraging to see how much they’ve grown these past ten years =). Norah and Nathan used to come over for piano and violin lessons, and after class their parents and my parents would chat for a couple hours. So we played together every week, from blowing bubbles, to playing with my PS2, to sleepovers, to driving me CRAZY!, to eating chex mix and drinking Sunny D. We had our own little club, “GNN Headquarters.” They drove me crazy when we were younger, but now they’re alright. Just alright. (Just kidding you two, love you both!!! =)

We made banana crumb muffins, mainly because I had rotting bananas sitting on my counter. I’ve been using this recipe for over a year and a half, and it’s great! The muffins come out to be super moist and the crumb topping is like the cherry on top. It’s super easy to make, perfect for using up your old bananas, and you’ll have muffins in no time =).

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Banana Crumb Muffins
Makes 12 standard sized muffins
Adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients:

For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten,
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the crumb topping:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

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Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Lightly grease or line a standard muffin pan. In a large bowl, mix together the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the bananas, white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, egg, oil, and vanilla. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon the batter into the lined/greased muffin cups.

For the crumb topping, mix together the 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle the topping over the muffins. Bake the muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!

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Nowwwww back to studying for finals. Seven more days, Grace. seven. more. days.

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

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P.S. We’ve grown!

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Toasted S’more Cookie Bars

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I have news!!

I’ll be going on a short term missions trip to Arizona this summer for a week! It’ll be through a ministry called P2 Missions from the North American Mission Board. Our church will be partnering with a church plant there and hosting a basketball and bible lessons camp to outreach to the kids in the community.

I’ve been to P2 Missions (formerly called PowerPlant) twice as a high schooler, but this time I’ll be going as a counselor! It’s a little weird, partially because I feel like a baby compared to all the other counselors (I’m the youngest!), but I’m pretty excited to see what God has in store for me and the team. It’ll be fun getting to know the other students on the trip, and it’ll definitely be a new experience for me! It’s been two years since I’ve been at PowerPlant, and both trips I’ve gone to have been a huge blessing and learning experience. God is good!

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Like my pastor mentioned to us (Hi Mat!), on missions trip we can get so consumed with the “doing” that we forget another crucial aspect of the trip: prayer. We’re so busy preparing ourselves with things we have to do that we forget to pray. We need to pray not only because we are called to, but also because by praying, we are entrusting the fruits of the missions trip to God, understanding that under all circumstances, God is in control and is sovereign. So with that said, please pray for us!

  • For God’s name to be glorified above all (Ephesians 3:21)
  • For our team to be able to boldly and clearly articulate the Gospel (Colossians 4:3-4)
  • For our team to have strength and team unity as we serve and fellowship
  • For softened hearts and opportunities to share the Gospel
  • For our team to have willing and faithful hearts to serve

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The reason why I mention this is because I wanted to make something for the students at our Friday night meetings. I wanted something that could make enough for a group of 25, and something that wouldn’t take up too many resources. My apartment has a bunch of graham crackers and marshmallows leftover from a beach trip, so I typed in smores bar into foodgawker and came across these. And I am SOOO glad I did.

My favorite part of a s’more is the toasty marshmallow. This cookie bar has toasted marshmallows baked right into it, and it’s soo good. It comes together rather quickly, and it’s packed with chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers, and more marshmallows. The cookie dough base was soft and chewy, and the toasted marshmallows in the dough were the cherry on top. Genius, I say! This is definitely a keeper. I really don’t repeat recipes often, but this one will definitely be repeated in the future. Chocolate chip cookies and s’mores in a bar–what’s not to like?!

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Toasted S’more Cookie Bars
Makes one 9×13 pan
From Carla’s Confections

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
15 large marshmallows, divided
7 graham cracker rectangles, divided
12 oz chocolate chunks (I used chips), reserve 1/4 cup for melting
1 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper (for toasting the marshmallows), and line a 9×13 cookie/jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray.

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Place 10 of the 15 marshmallows on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place in the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the marshmallows start to puff up and get golden brown. I really like marshmallows so I saved about 12 for the dough and one or two for myself =). Be careful when the marshmallows are in the oven–they might burn on the bottom.

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Meanwhile, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. In another bowl, combine the flour and baking soda; slowly add to the butter mixture. Mix to combine.

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In a ziploc bag, break the graham crackers into small chunks (not crumbs). When the marshmallows are toasted, scrape them into the dough and mix to combine (I found it easier to peel off when the marshmallows cooled for a minute or so). Add the chocolate chips, minus the 1/4 cup reserved, and the graham crackers.

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Press the dough into the sprayed foil pan, and press down to evenly spread out in the pan. I found it easier to press the dough into the pan with wet fingers. Sprinkle the remaining graham cracker pieces (I forgot this until toward the end). Bake for about 15-20 minutes. Add the remaining marshmallows on top of the batter, and bake for another 5-10 minutes until golden brown and the marshmallows toasted. Let cool on counter.

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Meanwhile, melt the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate with the oil in 30 second intervals (stirring after each interval) until melted. Drizzle over the top of the cookie bars. Let is set, then cut into bars and enjoy!

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Before!

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After! Just kidding. Not done until the chocolate’s on top.

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There ya go. Done!

Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

P.S. I’ve been wondering why my pictures have been so grainy recently. Turns out shooting with a high ISO = grainy pictures. Whoops! I’m learning as I go, I promise! =)