Baking for Gene Roddenberry’s Birthday: Star Trek Treats

We haven’t really geeked out in my office in a while, so today we’re celebrating Gene Roddenberry’s birthday. (It’s August 19th.)

If, like some of my coworkers, your first question is, “Who’s Gene Roddenberry?” then this probably isn’t the party for you. But if you love Klingons and Ferengi and Betazoids and Vulcans, then this is a fun way to pay tribute to the man who created Star Trek. (Yes, that’s who he is.)

Office space... the final frontier...

Office space… the final frontier…

The entire reason I wanted to do a Star Trek themed party is because I got these nifty cookie cutters from Think Geek. They have fantastic nerd baking stuff. But you’ll notice from the photos that there isn’t a single sugar cookie on the table. Why? Because sugar cookies are my own, personal Kobayashi Maru. No matter how I tackle them, I can never win. I wind up with puffy blobs that have no discernible shape.

Oh, Think Geek. You make it look so easy.

Last year I had some success with my Doctor Who Dalek cookies, but that just gave me false confidence. I should know by now that cookie cutters are best used to cut brownies into shapes, because sugar cookies and I were not meant to be allies.

Luckily I came up with some other sugary Starfleet goodies, a few of which I bought instead of baked, because this blog should be called Lazy Baking for the Office, since I’m always looking to cut corners and keep my oven off in the middle of summer.

First, I had to make Tribble Bites. I thought about doing donut holes covered in coconut, or maybe some kind of tea cookie with cinnamon and sugar, but then while going through one of my cookie books I saw coconut macaroons and knew they would be perfect.

Mmm, Tribbles. Taste like coconut.

Mmm, Tribbles. Taste like coconut.

Tribble Bites (a.k.a. Coconut Macaroons)

1/2 cup flour
pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups dried coconut
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the dried coconut.
  • Pour in the sweetened condensed milk. Add the vanilla extract and stir together until a very thick batter is formed.
  • Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls 1 inch apart on baking sheet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

I altered this by making small teaspoon-sized balls instead of heaping stacks. It’s very sticky stuff to work with, so pinch with your fingers to get them to hold together in the shape you want. Then bake for 12-14 minutes instead of 20.

Hungry for cake? Then make it so!

Hungry for cake? Then make it so!

Next, I got out my Star Trek cookbook. Because I have one. Doesn’t everybody? I got it as a gift years ago and still hadn’t made anything from it, so this was my chance to try Picard’s Earl Grey Cake. It’s sweet with a little spice to it from the tea, so make a nice, strong cup of Earl Grey to use.

Picard’s Earl Grey Chocolate Cake

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons Earl Grey tea (infused)
3/4 cup sifted, self-rising flour
grated rind of 2 oranges

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a large loaf pan.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat in thoroughly.
  • Add the grated rind, flour, and tea and fold in with a wooden spoon.
  • Turn the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and let cool. When cool, score the top lightly in preperation for the icing.

Icing:

Juice from 2 oranges
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

  • Heat the orange juice and sugar toghether in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Pour over the cake.
  • Once it has soaked in, remove the cake from the pan.
  • In a small saucepan (or in the microwave), melt the chocolate and pour over the top of the cake.

Finally, I was looking through one of my binders of recipes I tear out of magazines when I came across Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Zucchini Cakes with Walnuts. I looked at those walnuts and thought, “Wow. Those look like Klingon heads.” And so there you go: Klingon Warrior Cakes.

Qapla'!

Qapla’!

Really, you can make anything you want as long as you give it a good Trek name. So I turned Sour Patch Kids into Gorn Babies:

Gorn is surprisingly tangy.

Gorn is surprisingly tangy.

I made opposite colored Oreos into Cookies of Charon (because making black and white cookies sounded exhausting).

And I found these blue creme filled Twinkies and knew they would be perfect Andorian Sponge Cakes.

So blue. So spongey.

So blue. So spongey.

Mix up some Kool-Aid or cranberry juice to be Klingon Bloodwine or Romulan Ale if you have the space to serve it, and get creative with other snacks. Funyons could be Uhura Hoops. Chex Mix could be Chekov Mix.

I love my geeky (and photogenic) coworkers.

I love my geeky (and photogenic) coworkers.

Or skip ahead a few series and only do “Deep Space 9″ or “Voyager” treats. There’s a whole universe out there to mine!

Live long and prosper,
Lisa

Categories: Geek Baking, Theme Parties | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Chocolate (and Treats) in Portland, Oregon

Summer is a bad time for baking in a house without air conditioning, but it’s a great time to travel around and see what kind of sweet things other people have to offer. With that in mind I agreed to spend a girls weekend in Portland with my friend, Eleanor.

Long before I went I knew I wanted to visit Moonstruck Chocolate. They had a shop in the San Francisco area years ago that I loved, but it closed after maybe a year. I knew they were based in Portland, and maybe that’s why I’ve had this desire to go there.

Moonstruck was our very first stop after checking in at the hotel, but Portland wasn’t cooperating with my chocolate tourism plans. While I had envisioned escaping the California heat to enjoy the mild warmth of Oregon, what actually happened is that Eleanor and I arrived to find that Portland was in the middle of a heat wave. Like, sweat-dripping-down-our-faces-and-our-backs-and-into-our-shoes style heatwave.

We spent the afternoon, and most of the weekend, looking for shade and iced drinks, so I got to Moonstruck excited to try something new, but also thinking that chocolate sounded way too heavy. I got two truffles but passed on the hot chocolate. It smelled divine, but I just couldn’t take the heat.

There are five Moonstruck locations around Portland, so you're bound to run into one of them.

There are five Moonstruck locations around Portland, so you’re bound to run into one of them.

After dinner at some of Portland’s diverse food trucks the weather started to cool off, so we made our way to Cacao. If you want a cozy place to drink chocolate, eat chocolate and buy lots of chocolate to take home, this is the place.

The two guys working there were super friendly and cute and Eleanor and I both enjoyed the rich and creamy hot chocolate. This isn’t the kind where they dump a little chocolate into some hot milk. You can see the chocolate being churned in containers and they pour that right into your cup. It’s the good stuff.

By the evening it seemed safe to buy some fancy chocolates without having to make a mad dash for the hotel, and just look at the assortment they have at Cacao:

cacao-portland
They carry several Portland-area chocolates, including Woodblock and Cocanu, which I’d never heard of before. I love the little square packages with the fancy sealing wax:

cacao-chocolate-portland

They also have plenty of chocolates from the rest of the country, including Askinosie, from Missouri. I first heard of Askinosie at a tasting held at Bittersweet Chocolate here in the Bay Area where they were held up as an example of sustainable, fair trade chocolate. Mostly though I remember that their white chocolate is made with goat’s milk. It’s not a taste you easily forget.

cacao-askinosie

Our destination on day two was Voodoo Doughnut. You can’t go to Portland without visiting Voodoo, if only to say you’ve been there. It’s located right next to the Portland Saturday Market (which also has all kinds of foods and sweets), but when we went by the line was really long. We did some more sightseeing, going up to the International Rose Garden and Japanese Garden (both lovely) and came back later in the afternoon… when the line was just as long.

Waiting 45 minutes for donuts sounds crazy, but it’s the kind of crazy thing you do on vacation. And I’ve been to Comic Con, so put into that context, this line was pleasantly brisk. It was still about 132 degrees outside though, and by the time we got inside the shop I think we were far more thirsty and sunburned than we were hungry.

portland-voodoo-sign

Caught up in the thrill of finally getting to the counter, Eleanor briefly entertained the idea of getting a dozen donuts, but we agreed that three each would be more than enough. The Mango Tango was fantastic, and the other donuts were good, if not spectacular. I don’t think the heat helped them any, and the ones we saved for breakfast the next morning were a bit limp. I think I would have enjoyed them a lot more if I hadn’t waited outside in the blistering sun for almost an hour to get them.

voodoo-doughnut-portland

That night we decided to get some more walking in and have dinner in the Nob Hill area. Well, we decided to have ice cream at Salt & Straw, but figured we should eat some real, non-donut food before that. While walking down NW 23rd Street to find a good restaurant I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw The Meadow.

I guess I didn’t Google or Pinterest hard enough before my trip, because this place should have come up in any kind of search for chocolate in Portland. The whole length of the shop is shelves and shelves of chocolate from all over the world, and the back of the shop is filled with jars and slabs of more kinds of salts than I even knew existed.

The Meadow is like a chocolate library, with shelves full of tempting goodies.

The Meadow is like a chocolate library, with shelves full of tempting goodies.

I’ve seen shops that sell wine and chocolate, but this was my first salt and chocolate store. I walked out with a bag of chocolate bars to try and Eleanor left with a bag of salt rubs. We paid for them first, of course. We would never just *walk out* with stuff. That would be wrong.

Salt, salt and more salt.

Salt, salt and more salt.

Finally, after a long, hot weekend of food and lines, we made it to Salt & Straw. Where there was a line. And it was still kind of hot. At 9:30 at night. It was only about a 20 minute line though, so not nearly as bad as the one at Voodoo. And this one was more worth it. I got the salted caramel ice cream and it was incredible.

Delicious ice cream and the portions are huge.

Delicious ice cream and the portions are huge.

I’ve had other salted caramel ice cream and gelato before, but usually the whole thing is caramel flavored with a slight salt taste. This was super fresh and creamy vanilla ice cream with a ribbon of smooth salted caramel running through it. It was vibrant and intense and absolutely perfect. I’d wait in that line again in a heartbeat.

On our last day we made a second trip to Powell’s Books (because once is not enough) and about a block away from there I saw a sign for Little T Baker. I’d just read about them on some travel blog so I popped in to see what the fuss was about.

The cookies at Little T Baker. Meh.

The cookies at Little T Baker. Meh.

The first thing I noticed was how many little black gnats and other flying things were landing on the food. I’m not sure why a bakery would ever leave their door open, especially when their baked goods are just sitting out on a counter and not in a case, but it didn’t get my appetite going. Still, I was there so I bought three different cookies to try. They were ok, kind of dry and crumbly. I wouldn’t go back, but maybe their breads are better than their sweets.

Right in the same little shopping complex, just a few feet away is Quin, a handcrafted candy shop that sells fancy caramels and other things that will travel well if you need to take something back for your coworkers. I got a small bag of salted caramels and another of chocolate caramels. They were tasty, but very pricey.

The selection at Quin.

The selection at Quin.

At this point, Eleanor and I swore we would never eat again. We were beyond stuffed. We’d broken every healthy eating rule either of us had every tried to follow. We were done.

The we realized we were just around the corner from Blue Star Donuts.

Well, as long as we were right there…

Blue Star: Donuts for grownups.

Blue Star: Donuts for grownups.

Blue Star is donuts for adults. The line here was far more manageable, maybe a 5-7 minute wait. Most people we talked to around town told us that while Voodoo is the fun place for tourists to go, Blue Star is where the locals and anyone serious about pastries goes. And they were all right. The donuts here were lighter and far more flavorful, and while the selection included standard chocolate and powdered options, they also have Blueberry Bourbon Basil and Dulce de Leche.

Just buy one of each.

Just buy one of each.

If you go, don’t leave without trying the Passion Fruit Cocoa Nib. I still have dreams about it. Another coworker was there the week after me and brought me one back. Even a day old it was still mouth-wateringly delicious, and he is now my favorite person in the office. Yes, I’m that fickle.

portland-blue-star-valrhona

I went home from Portland with a bit of a tummy ache, but it was worth it. All 12,837 calories of it.

Fried and battered,
Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Chocolate, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Baking for Star Wars Day *and* Cinco de Mayo

Star Wars Day fell on a Sunday this year, but I know my geeky co-workers would hate to miss the celebration, so I decided to combine it with Cinco de Mayo. Let’s call it Cinco de Star Wars. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it has a nice ring to it.

Like this? Visit https://www.facebook.com/misnopalesart for more.

Like this? Visit https://www.facebook.com/misnopalesart for more.

When I started planning this I saw a piñata cookie on Pinterest that looked like fun. The sugar cookie dough recreates the colorful stripes of a piñata, and then you put the cookies together with M&Ms in the middle to make a piñata. That was totally my plan for using my new Star Wars cookie cutters (currently on sale for half price at Williams-Sonoma), until I realized that if I did that I would only have cookies for about size people, since each piñata uses three cookies. So I just set mine out as regular cookies, but let me know if you actually assemble yours.

Eat them, you will.

Eat them, you will.

Also, this cookie isn’t difficult, but it’s incredibly time consuming. Give yourself at least 30-45 minutes to make the dough, separate and color it, and then layer it, then allow 4+ hours for the dough to chill before you try baking it. They’re fun, but they’re a lot of work, and I don’t imagine I’m going to make them again any time soon.

Here’s the original tutorial on how to make pinata cookies. A few shots from my own experience:

So much stirring.

So much stirring.

Working food coloring into sugar cookie dough is a lot slower than dying frosting. I probably should have used my mixer, but I didn’t want to have to stop and wash the bowl and beaters every time, so I used a fork. It got the job done.

I found a square plastic container to use as the frame for my dough and lined it with plastic wrap. This makes it simple to pop out after you chill the dough. I divided each color into two, except the black, and used my hands to form a squarish shape before adding it to the tub. If you drop it in and then try to flatten it, you’ll just wind up pushing the colors below it out and having a new lump of color in the middle.

Keep those layers flat and even!

Keep those layers flat and even!

Once it was chilled I sliced it into 1/4 inch slabs and used my cookie cutters on it. I didn’t grease or flour the cutters until I was about halfway through, and then I just gave them a light dusting of flour, brushing off any big chunks that stuck. The flour didn’t blend back in to the dough when they cooked, so wipe off any excess or you’ll have white clumps on your cookies.

These would look pretty as plain rectangles if you don't want to mess with cookie cutters.

These would look pretty as plain rectangles if you don’t want to mess with cookie cutters.

This left me with a bunch of little dough scraps, so I put them back in the fridge for 5 minutes or so to chill a bit, then I pieced them together into new layers to make more cookies, or with some I just made a multi-colored ball and wound up with some tie-dye looking Darth Vaders.

Use those scraps!

Use those scraps!

It's art you can eat.

It’s art you can eat.

He's so cute!

He’s so cute!

Along with the piñata cookies I made some Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcakes. That’s just a box of chocolate cake mix with a half teaspoon of cinnamon added in, and I replaced the water it calls for with Kahlua. Because why not?

I used my candy mold to make a few Vader heads in different fiesta colors and left those in the fridge overnight, just adding them to the cupcakes when I set them out at work. (They shouldn’t melt, but it’s been a little warm lately and I didn’t want to take any chances with them.

He doesn't look nearly as intimidating in pink and green.

He doesn’t look nearly as intimidating in pink and green.

There are also some Chocolate Cookie Cups with spoonfuls of dulce de leche in the middle. I made the cookie cups the same way I did my S’mores Cookie Cups last week, and used a can of dulce de leche to fill them. Fast and easy, and I like to call them Dulce de Death Star cookies.

cinquo-de-star-wars-table

I find your lack of baked goods disturbing,
Lisa

Categories: Baking Holidays, Box Mix, Cupcakes, Geek Baking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Baking for the Battle of Hogwarts: Graveyard Brownies

Why is today of all days the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts? Because J.K. Rowling says so.

Earlier today she tweeted:

battletweet

I decided that I really wanted brownies, and it’s pretty easy to turn a pan of brownies into a graveyard. The dulce de leche, walnuts and chocolate chips on top were just for the sake of deliciousness, although they also look a bit like a roughed up battle landscape.

battle-hogwarts-brownies

There were six big deaths during the battle (Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Tonks, Lavender Brown, Snape, and Colin Creevey) but plenty of others died in skirmishes and attacks before the big battle, and how can you not honor Dobby?

tonks-lupin

To quote David Tennant’s Doctor, “Oh, I cried.”

And just how big a fan are you? Take today’s Harry Potter quiz from the Mirror to find out!

fred-brownies

Want to make your own graveyard? Download my sheet of gravestones to print and cut out.

Cruciatus,
Lisa

Categories: Brownies, Geek Baking | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Baking for Spring: S’mores Cookie Cups

Baking, like anything else, has its fads and phases. Lately I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot of variations on cookie cups: chocolate and peanut butter, lemon meringue, key lime and chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, just all kind of combinations of yummyness.

The "toy camera" filter on my new camera makes everything look extra sugary.

The “toy camera” filter on my new camera makes everything look extra sugary.

They’re adorable to set out, easy to eat on the go (no utensils required!) and they can be one of the fastest things to make while still looking fancy. I decided to combine a few different ideas I’d seen to make S’mores Cookie Cups, because Spring is a good time for cookies, but the occasional rainy day makes me nostalgic for toasted marshmallows around the fireplace.

To see just how simple I could do these I shunned my bake-from-scratch approach and went with these bought ingredients:

  • Refrigerated sugar cookie dough
  • Hershey’s Chocolate Spread
  • Marshmallow Creme
  • Sprinkles (optional, but in line with my New Year’s resolution to use up stuff I already have before buying new baking toys)
Only three ingredients, but they create a whole rainbow of flavor.

Only three ingredients, but they create a whole rainbow of flavor.

Will you win any baking awards with this combination? Maybe not, but this method made them very quick to put together and they still got rave reviews from my co-workers.

So first you take your mini muffin pan and either grease it or spray each little muffin hole with a non-stick baking spray. If you don’t, the cookies will stick and you’ll have a crumbly mess.

Next, use your wooden dough smoosher tool to push the cookie dough into the perfect cup shape.

Smoosh smoosh smoosh.

Smoosh smoosh smoosh.

What, you mean not everyone has one of these things? I’m generally against any kitchen tool that only has one purpose, but this one is absolutely worth it. You can use your fingers or a plastic bottle cap or something to do this, but it’s going to take way longer. And although I found mine at a thrift store for less than $1 (I didn’t even know they existed before I saw this one) if I lost it I would absolutely buy a new one. Pampered Chef sells these “Mini-Tart Shapers” for $6.50 and I’d pay even more if they’d call it a “dough smoosher tool”.

Bake at the temperature specified by your dough and take a look at it after about 8 minutes. If they start to look brown, take them out. If they’re still pretty wet looking, you may need to go to 10 minutes. And yes, I know they’ll poof up and you’ll think, “Why did I just waste all that time making them into cup shapes if they aren’t going to stay that way!?”

If the Hitchhiker's Giude to the Universe has taught us anything, it's "Don't panic!" Your cookie cups will recover from this fluffy state.

If the Hitchhiker’s Giude to the Universe has taught us anything, it’s “Don’t panic!” Your cookie cups will recover from this fluffy state.

It’s because once you take them out and they cool a bit, they’ll settle back down, like this:

Ah, much better.

Ah, much better.

And then you’ll take your mini-tart smoosher and *gently* press them again so you can fill the cups.

Carefully help your cups to regain their girlish figures.

Carefully help your cups to regain their girlish figures.

I added a small spoonful of the Hershey’s Chocolate Spread while they were still in the pan and that worked really well. It helped the chocolate to melt and spread nice and evenly. I now wish I had added a big spoonful, because there’s a lot of cookie here, so it can take a good amount of chocolate to balance out the flavors.

Don't feel bad if you get this far and then just start eating them. They're pretty irresistible.

Don’t feel bad if you get this far and then just start eating them. They’re pretty irresistible.

I took them out of the pans at this point because I was afraid that it might get messy once the marshmallow layer was on there. They came out easily once I gave them a little twist to loosen them and then popped one side up with the side of a knife.

Next, spoon on your marshmallow. It helps to get through these steps as quickly as you can, because as long as they’re still warm the marshmallow will melt and create a nice, shiny layer instead of just sitting there in a sticky clump.

This reminds me of Ghostbusters for some reason.

This reminds me of Ghostbusters for some reason.

And then you can decorate however you want. Sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, pretty much anything would be good with these. I also considered toasting them to give them a more authentic feel, but wasn’t sure how the jarred marshmallow creme would do against a crème brûlée torch. Anyone ever try that?

smores-cookie-cups-sprinkles

Some other combinations I’d like to try:

  • Peanut butter cookie dough with a mini Reese’s peanut butter cup stuck in the middle
  • Chocolate cookie dough with a mint filling
  • Chocolate cookie dough with a Rolo in the middle
  • Lemon cookie dough with a passionfruit curd filling

You can get as simple or as fancy as you want with cookie cups. Use what’s on hand, buy some pre-made dough and candies, or make it all from scratch.

Mmm, goopy.

Mmm, goopy.

C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me,
Lisa

Categories: Bake Sale, Cookies, Easy Assembly | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Baking “Goodbye” to Shawn and Gus: It’s a Psych Party

You thought a geek like me would let “Psych” end without having a little shindig?

Come on, son.

Oh, you want more Cary Elwes in your life? As you wish.

Oh, you want more Cary Elwes in your life? As you wish.

So after eight mostly hilarious years, our fake psychic is leaving Vancouver Santa Barbara. I’m thankful for the many laugh-out-loud moments Shawn and Gus have given me, as well as the opportunity they provided to get Ally Sheedy, Ralph Macchio, Kristy Swanson and other 80s greats back on our screens for a bit.

Baking for “Psych” was just too easy given how much time they dedicate to food on the show. The hardest part was narrowing down what to make. Some things I considered but didn’t do:

  • Lassie’s Pecan Tassies
  • Gus’ Gut Busters (I don’t even know what these would be, but they sound cool. Maybe really big sandwiches. With potato chips in them. And Red Vines.)
  • Pineapple soda and straws with which to suck it
  • Juliet’s Jellybeans
  • Jamaican Inspector Man Jerk Chicken
  • Have You Heard About Pluto? Pie
  • Cinnamon Pie
  • Buzz Bites (maybe brownies made with coffee to make them extra caffinated)
  • Henry’s Hawaiian Shirt Shakes (vanilla ice cream, crushed pineapple, etc.)
  • Tears for Fears Fries

The list could go on and on.

So many nicknames, so little room on the table.

So many nicknames, so little room on the table.

I stuck to just a few things that were simple to make or buy, and then I yelled at myself for selling the “Psych” pineapple foam finger I got at Comic Con 2009 and sold on eBay. How could I not foresee needing it many years later? At least I still have the t-shirt.

This might just be enough to keep Gus full for an afternoon.

This might just be enough to keep Gus full for an afternoon.

Get your party started with a trip to the grocery store for these psychedelic snacks:

  • Snyder’s of Hanover’s Butter Snaps, in honor of one of Gus’ best aliases, Ghee Buttersnaps
  • Something purple, in honor of another great Gus alias, Lavender Gooms (You could base an entire party just on these aliases. Get the full list on the “Psych” wiki.)
  • Pineapple (obv.)
  • Four types of cheese and two bags of Fritos for the poor man’s version of Quatro Queso Dos Fritos. There are recipes out there to make the real thing, but deep frying in the office isn’t really encouraged. If you’re doing this at home, go for it. They look delicious.
The fourth cheese is hiding behind the Fritos.

The fourth cheese is hiding behind the Fritos.

Now make some stuff!

I made not just blueberry muffins, but The Blueberry muffins, because that car is just as much of a character as anyone else on the show. R.I.P. old friend. I used a Jiffy mix for them because they’re cheap, super quick to mix up, and they only make six muffins, which was plenty with all the other stuff I had for the table.

The Blueberry can go from zero to murder in sixty seconds.

The Blueberry can go from zero to murder in sixty seconds.

Next I made Pineapple Coconut Bread. It came out so sweet that it seemed a little evil. Or “sweevil”. You know that’s right.

Just like me, this recipe came from 1977. I found it in a cookbook of Recipes from Solano County, and it’s held up just as well as I have.

Pineapple Coconut Bread

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
1 cup sugar
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1 tbsp. pineapple juice
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but a co-worker suggested using macadamia nuts. This intrigues me.)
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven on 350. Beat egg and sugar together. Beat in sour cream, pineapple and juice. Add in the dry ingredients (the original recipe doesn’t call for any spices, but I think a dash of cinnamon would add a nice touch) and beat until well mixed. Stir in nuts and coconut.

Grease a 9″ loaf pan. (The original recipe doesn’t say to flour it, so I didn’t. But next time I’ll sugar the pan – just like flouring it, but with sugar – to give it a sweet crust. This works really well on my banana bread so I think it would be great on this.)

Bake 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let stand five minutes and then turn out on a rack to cool.

Every party should have a touch of sweevil.

Every party should have a touch of sweevil.

If bread sounds too dull for you, try the Pineapple Coconut Pie I made last week for Pi Day. It was incredibly easy and extremely tasty.

Mmm, coconutty and delicious.

Mmm, coconutty and delicious.

And then there just had to be American Duo cookies. When it comes to food I don’t think there’s an American duo that goes more perfectly together than peanut butter and chocolate, so I made two different cookie doughs, one peanut butter with chocolate chips and one chocolate with peanut butter chips, and then I smooshed them together in a happy partnership of flavor and fun.

You could also call these Ebony and Ivory cookies, or just call them lunch. I did.

You could also call these Ebony and Ivory cookies, or just call them lunch. I did.

You can call them Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies or Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’ve heard it both ways.

They go together in perfect harmony.

They go together in perfect harmony.

If you have two other favorite cookie recipes, make them and smoosh away. I’d just recommend you choose recipes that have the same cooking temperatures and time.

For the chocolate cookie dough I used Hershey’s recipe for “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Chip Cookies, but instead of dark chocolate chips I used peanut butter chips. I also left out the nuts because I already had so much going on with these cookies.

For the peanut butter cookies I used Hershey’s recipe for Reese’s Double Peanut Butter Cookies and DOUBLED it so that I would have the same amount as I did of the chocolate cookie dough. I also replaced the peanut butter chips with semi-sweet chocolate chips, which I guess no longer makes them “Double”, but still makes them tasty.

Really don’t want to have to mix cookie dough? Buy two different kinds of the pre-made stuff and smoosh ‘em together. It’s not quite the same as made-from-scratch, but I doubt your co-workers will know the difference.

If you’re going to make some signs and want that authentic “Psych” look, download the Dateline font. I found it listed on a fan forum by people who are far more into typography than I am. Thanks, Psychos!

psych-suck-it

Are you a fan of delicious flavor?
Lisa

Categories: Geek Baking, Office party, Theme Parties | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Baking for the Office Birthday Hater: These Cookies Are Not for You

How do you celebrate an important birthday when the birthday girl doesn’t want to celebrate? You disguise it as something else. Stealth-like. *wink wink*

Our Sr. Director Vanessa’s birthday is tomorrow, and although I said I was only doing monthly birthday celebrations from now on, this had to be an exception because she’s leaving us next week. After nine years. And she’s breaking all our hearts.

That's Vanessa in the pink scarf, hard at work during a team bbq.

That’s Vanessa in the pink scarf, hard at work during a team bbq.

I’m just going to cry quietly while I write the rest of this. Pay no attention to any choked-back sobs that may be coming out of your screen.

My old Time Life cookbooks never disappoint.

My old Time Life cookbooks never disappoint.

A couple of years ago I made a selection of Viennese desserts in honor of Vanessa’s birthplace. They went over really well so I figured now would be a good time to bring them back as a farewell treat. Also, I’m going to Vienna in May (woo hoo!) and I want to start getting my palate ready for the local sweets.

But since Vanessa really doesn’t like attention, I had to make it look like this party wasn’t for her. Luckily, today also happens to be Jon Baron Appreciation Day.

That’s on your calendar, right?

This annual celebration started three years ago when I had a bizarre dream about throwing a Jon Baron Appreciation Day party in the office. Since Jon seemed like he could use some appreciating (who doesn’t?), I went ahead and made it happen.

There were donuts and decorations and I had people make out certificates for Jon that said what they like most about him. It was nice. And now it’s on the calendar for every March 21st.

They may look bland, but the Vanilla Crescents are as yummy as they are pretty.

They may look bland, but the Vanilla Crescents are as yummy as they are pretty.

To tie it all together, I sent out this email:

Subject: Treats for someone special

Not everyone likes to be celebrated, but today is an important day for someone we all care about. Today is… Jon Baron Appreciation Day. Yes, that’s what it is, and nothing else.

To honor Jon’s, um, heritage, we have some traditional Viennese desserts:

  • Apfel Strudelfulle
  • Vanillekipfel
  • Vienna Fingers (I don’t care that they’re in a yellow cellophane package, the Elves say they’re authentic, and Keebler elves don’t lie.)

The treats are out by Jon’s desk, although it might look like they’re next to Vanessa’s desk. This is just a trick of the light. Nothing I can do about it.

Tschüss,
Lisa

P.S. – These treats have nothing to do with the fact that Vanessa’s birthday is tomorrow. You do not need to go by her desk and wish her a happy birthday.

You can get the recipes for these Viennese treats on my post Viennese Desserts.

The Vienna Fingers are super authentic. And the donuts are what Jon likes most, so he did get something just for him today.

The Vienna Fingers are super authentic. And the donuts are what Jon likes most, so he did get something just for him today.

And then the hugs and greetings started pouring in. But not for Vanessa’s birthday. Because that’s not allowed.

Sachertorte,
Lisa

Categories: Office Birthdays | Tags: | 2 Comments

Baking for Pi Day: Pineapple Coconut Pie

Happy 3.14! I couldn’t let Pi Day go by without making some kind of dessert in a crust, but as it’s also the end of the week there was no way I was going to spend hours in the kitchen on a Thursday night.

Luckily, I found this super fast and easy recipe for Pineapple Coconut Pie on Pinterest (apparently there’s more on there than just Doctor Who memes and pictures of Hanson), and the whole pie only took about 10 minutes to put together and another 45 minutes to bake. If you’re a purist and need to make your own pie dough, please feel free. I’m quite happy with the frozen ones, unless I’m doing something special with a walnut or gingersnap crust or something.

pineapple-coconut-pie

Pineapple Coconut Pie smells just as juicy and tropical as you’d imagine.

I also remembered that I had the Pi symbol mold – something I bought a year ago with the idea that I would have a math-themed birthday party for one of my co-workers. But then I forgot I bought it, forgot the whole math theme idea, threw something else together at the last minute, then found the mold in a cabinet a month after his birthday and went, “Oh yeeeeaahhh.” Oops. At least I got a chance to use it now. I had yellow candy melts left over from last week’s Lego party and they only take a few minutes to do.

This was also my first pie made in my new Pi Pan! I posted about this flat-sided pie dish last month and one of my co-workers saw it and ordered it for me as a birthday surprise. I already own so much bakeware that I almost never buy anything new anymore, so getting this was a real treat, and a mysterious surprise since it was delivered to my desk without any kind of note. I started to think maybe I’d ordered it in my sleep. Awesome Christine finally took credit though and it was fun baking with something new.

pi-pan

My Pi Pan is totally straightedge.

The pie cooked very evenly, no burnt crust, and it really was easier to dish up with the flat sides. It also fits nicely in the Tupperware pie carrier thing I use to bring stuff in to the office, even without a round base.

I would like the Pi Pan people to make one that does 10-12 slices instead of just 8 though, since no one in my office ever takes a slice that big. They’ll cut these in half, or maybe thirds, insisting, “I just want a little taste.” It’s so hard baking for healthy people.

Mmm, coconutty and delicious.

Mmm, coconutty and delicious.

As for the pie itself, it’s sweet but not overly sugary and has a really nice tropical flavor to it. If you want to shake off the winter blues maybe you could have a luau and serve this up. Pineapple Coconut Pie would be fantastic for a “Psych” party as well, if you’re a fan of delicious flavor.

Is it Pineapple Coconut Pie or Coconut Pineapple Pie? I've heard it both ways.

Is it Pineapple Coconut Pie or Coconut Pineapple Pie? I’ve heard it both ways.

3.14159265359,
Lisa

Categories: Baking Holidays, Pie | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Office Birthday: G.I. Joe / Army / Lego Theme

It’s really hard not to play favorites in the office. I try to make every party and every birthday special, but you know, I just like some people a lot more than others. I mean, I can be really biased. And obvious about it. As the old saying goes, or would go if it was an old saying, “The proof is in the birthday cake.”

So when Bill’s birthday comes around we all go embarrassingly overboard for him, because he’s the guy that pretty much everyone likes most. He’s weird and fun and easy to work with and he really likes Legos, which is why I made my first Lego cake a couple of years ago:

It's no Vogon destructor fleet, but it'll do.

It’s no Vogon destructor fleet, but it’ll do.

Well I’m still getting my money’s worth out of that Lego mold, and not just for Bill. There are other Lego aficionados in the office, so last week I made a couple of Lego serving trays for another birthday and topped them with Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (at the request of the birthday girl) and Passionfruit Macarons.

lego-cookie-tray

People are always so excited they can eat the minifigs. Just don’t let them bite down on your real Legos. Dental work is expensive.

lego-macaron

Macarons disappear very quickly. An armed guard isn’t a bad idea.

They’re a month too late to be the Valentine’s Zacarons I wanted to make, but I finally found a passion fruit jam at a specialty store in San Francisco and just had to do them. (You can get the jam on Amazon if you want to pay the $7.50 in shipping. It’s incredibly delicious though, if you feel like splurging.)

But back to our buddy, Bill. At least a year ago I picked up a whole bag of vintage G.I. Joe party supplies at a garage sale.

It's like a party time capsule from the early 90s!

It’s like a party time capsule from the early 90s!

I tried not to think about the sad circumstances in which a G.I. Joe party was planned for but never had (maybe it was canceled due to bad behavior? or the birthday kid suddenly decided that Joe was lame and Power Rangers were the must-have birthday theme of the year?) and scooped up the invites, treat bags, paratrooper centerpiece, place mats, 3D glasses and napkins for just a few dollars.

Every party should have 3D glasses and place mat games to use them on.

Every party should have 3D glasses and place mat games to use them on.

Since then they’ve been taking up room in a closet, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to make some kid happy. And because Bill went to West Point, we all decided that he would be that kid.

gi-joe-party

For the cake I decided to go camouflage. I mixed up two boxes of white cake mix then divided them into four bowls. I added a little green food color to one, a lot of green food color to another, and some unsweetened cocoa powder to another.

Next it was a simple matter of dropping spoonfuls of different colors next to each other, and trying to make sure each pan had an equal amount. I made one 9×11 sheet cake and two 8-inch round cakes. Normally I would take a spatula and smooth the tops before making to make sure it’s all even, but to keep the camo look going I tapped them on the counter instead. That seemed to help them settle and even out just fine.

The most difficult part of making this cake was having three extra bowls to wash when it was done. I need an intern.

The most difficult part of making this cake was having three extra bowls to wash when it was done. I need an intern.

Once the cakes were baked and cooled I made my buttercream frosting and split that into colors as well. I wanted a blue river, a white, sandy beach, and some brown mud. Crushed graham crackers added texture to the beach, and I made sure not to mix the blue up too well, so it looks like it has streaks of foam in it.

gi-joe-cake-waterfall

And then I added a few Twix for barriers, some Whoppers for cannonballs, and my little candy Lego men in camo colors. I’m not sure if the two on the beach are sunbathing or dead. I’ll let you interpret the scene in your own way.

gi-joe-army-cake2

gi-joe-legos

gi-joe-army-cake

I also stopped by the dollar store and picked up a couple of little Army toys and a helmet, which Bill was only too happy to wear.

Birthday Bill

Birthday Bill

Be all that you can be,
Lisa

Categories: Office Birthdays, Package Mix, Theme Parties | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Baking for Ash Wednesday, Bruce Campbell Style

I don’t know why, but as soon as I saw “Ash Wednesday” on my calendar this month, I thought of Bruce Campbell. Maybe it’s because I have no idea what the actual religious reason for Ash Wednesday is, and therefore my brain was open to interpretation.

Bruuuuuce! I've seen a lot of Comic Con panels in my day, but Bruce Campbell's solo "Burn Notice" panels had to be some of the best. The man deserves far more than chocolate-peanut butter muffins, but it's a start.

Bruuuuuce! I’ve seen a lot of Comic Con panels in my day, but Bruce Campbell’s solo “Burn Notice” panels had to be some of the best. The man deserves far more than chocolate-peanut butter muffins, but it’s a start.

But if ever you wanted a reason to put Bruce Campbell and the greatest jaw to ever grace the silver screen on a cupcake or muffin, or maybe even a brownie, this is it, people. This is it.

Hail to the king, baby.

I can't believe "Brisco County, Jr." only lasted one season.

I can’t believe “Brisco County, Jr.” only lasted one season.

To really get in the mood, maybe splash some fake blood around and practice making crazy faces. This won't work in all offices though, so use your best judgement.

To really get in the mood, maybe splash some fake blood around and practice making crazy faces. This won’t work in all offices though, so use your best judgement.

Groovy,
Lisa

Categories: Geek Baking | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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