Archive for June, 2012

Cappuccino Muffins

Friday, June 29th, 2012

If you know me even a little bit you probably know that I love coffee. I think it’s in my blood…for as long as I can remember my parents have always had a pot brewing around 6am and 2pm. I started drinking it in high school, and then in college I got a job at Starbucks – 5 years with the company and I was a lost cause.

When I worked in the stores I tried pretty much every combination of coffee beverage you can think of, but these days I just drink it black. I just like the taste of it, which is why I’ve been wanting to make some sort of baked good with a coffee flavor.

I could not have found a better recipe than these Cappuccino Muffins. The combined flavors of coffee, cinnamon and chocolate were so comforting. The muffins were really moist too.

I did make a small change to the recipe by using regular-sized chocolate chips, rather than mini (which is what the original recipe called for). I did this simply because I forgot to buy them. I’m sure mini would be delicious.

I also sprinkled a couple extra chocolate chips on top of each muffin cup before baking. This caused the chocolate flavor to be a little stronger than the coffee, so it’s up to you which you prefer. Overall, an A+ recipe – I’ll definitely be making these again!

Cappuccino Muffins

Makes 12-14 muffins

Slightly adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup miniature (or regular) semisweet chocolate chips (plus a few more for sprinkling)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin cups with liners.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt to a large mixing bowl, and combine. In a separate bowl, add the instant coffee to the milk and combine until the coffee has dissolved. Add the butter, egg and vanilla and combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Scoop batter into muffin cups (about 2/3 full). If desired, sprinkle 4-5 more chocolate chips on top of each muffin.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for five minutes in the tins, then move to a wire cooling rack. Serve warm, and enjoy!

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Venturing Outside the Comfort Zone

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Hi everyone! I just wanted to write a quick note about the content of the post below. I think I’m going to begin posting about a few new subjects besides baking. I’ll still post baking projects regularly, but you may start to see some other content as well. One category of posts will be more focused on writing, and below is the first example of this. I welcome any feedback you have about this or future posts. Thanks for reading!

Venturing Outside the Comfort Zone

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how important it is to step out of our comfort zones.

This seems important to me because when I look back over my life, some of the most vivid and interesting experiences I’ve had required a decent amount of risk at their inception.

For example, in the fall of 2006 I attended a Discipleship Training School through the Christian organization YWAM. This particular school is about 5 months long, including 3 months of study at a YWAM base and 2 months of outreach in another country.

My team went to Thailand. Those two months were some of the most challenging weeks I’ve experienced, but I was refined through the challenges and emerged from that season as a better person.

I had to step out of many comfortable habits during that time. In particular, I was taken out of my physical comfort zone. To begin with, the humidity in Thailand is almost palpable – I’ve never experienced anything like it! In addition to that, I had to try and sleep in so many different situations – long plane flights, church floors, and the infamous Night Bus. (If you’re familiar with Harry Potter, you probably remember the Knight Bus, which careened wildly through traffic and sporadically lurched to heart-stopping halts? The Night Bus in Thailand was exactly like that. It was almost impossible to sleep, and the minute you finally dropped off the bus would invariably stop at a rest stop, someone would fling on all the lights as well as blaring music, and you were required to get off and walk around.)

It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m really not. It was uncomfortable, but it changed me for the better. I am a much more flexible person these days when it comes to physical conditions. When I travel, I don’t often feel stressed when curve-balls occur.

In addition to this, I gained so much life experience through that trip. My worldview was broadened through visiting another country. We visited schools, orphanages and prisons. It was an invaluable experience to step into the world of victims and lonely people whose cries of “Don’t forget us!” will echo in my heart for the rest of my life.

I think stepping out of comfort zones is almost a requirement for those of us who are Christian. When I look back at the stories in the Old and New Testaments, so many followers of God had to take wild leaps of faith, and make risky choices that were often unpopular with their peers. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter, Paul, all of the prophets…basically anyone who was following God had to do this. I truly believe that walking with God results in a life overflowing with peace and rest, but it is definitely not always comfortable.

I do want to clarify that I don’t think uncomfortableness should be sought after for it’s own sake. I erred to that side for a season when I was younger, and now I’ve learned that it’s more of an occasional requirement when we’re seeking after other things – truly living life to the fullest, and also giving out from ourselves.

So, how am I doing this myself? Well, it isn’t easy, but I’m working on it. I’m kind of bashful sometimes (I get blushy and awkward even when I’m paying for groceries) but I’m trying to be more open to meeting new people. Last weekend, I made my way over to the Dusty Strings in the Fremont area of Seattle with the purpose of joining in a bluegrass jam session I’d heard about. I didn’t know anyone there (and my guitar skills are very rusty), so I was nervous. That particular experience turned out to be somewhat anti-climactic…my heart was beating in my throat as I descended the steps into the shop, but when I got there every room was overflowing with enthusiastic ukelele players. I was informed by the harassed-looking employee that the jam was postponed until next week due to the ukelele workshops. I was a little disappointed, but at least I took the step!

I guess that is the risk of it all – you never quite know what will happen when you do step out. But if there is something you’ve thought of while reading this, and the thought of it makes you uncomfortable and kind of cranky, it probably means you should do it. Good luck!

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Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Hi everyone! I have a very simple recipe to share with you today – Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches.

This is a basic dessert, and I’m sure you’ve had it before. But sometimes simple is best, especially if it includes cookies and ice cream…you can’t really go wrong with those two.

For the cookie portion, I used my favorite Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies. I made them just a little smaller than I normally do, and rolled the dough into uniform balls (I did have a few cookies left over). For the ice cream I used Dreyer’s Mint Brownie flavor.

I loved this combination – it was so refreshing.  Of course there’s a lot of potential with different cookie and ice cream flavors. The possibilities are endless!

Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Makes 25 sandwiches

Ingredients
50 cookies of your choice
1/2 gallon ice cream (flavor of your choice)

Directions
Bake cookies. Make sure they have cooled completely before moving on to the ice cream step.

Let the ice cream sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes or until it’s a bit soft. Place one scoop (or a little less than 1/4 cup) on the flat side of one cookie. If needed, you can press it down or spread it a little with a spatula. Place a second cookie (flat side down) on top of the ice cream and press the sandwich together lightly.

Place the finished cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. You may need to stop a couple times during the process to put the sandwiches you’ve already made into the freezer if they start getting melty. If needed, you may also have to put the ice cream back in for a few minutes – if the sandwiches are too melty they will look messy.

Place the sandwiches in the freezer for 1-2 hours or until they are firm. Enjoy!

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May/June Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted book reviews. This is mostly because I’m about halfway through a 1200-pager…more on that book later!

These three books have been my refreshment whenever I was in the mood for something a little lighter. All three of them happen to be very British…I just love British lit. The shelf in the picture above is my “British” shelf and space is starting to become an issue…

It’s a pleasure to talk about all three of these books. I absolutely loved them.

The Horse and His Boy/Prince Caspian
C.S. Lewis

I’ve been slowly working my way through the Chronicles of Narnia. This particular series edition ordered the books chronologically, rather than in the order they were originally published. (So, the first book is The Magician’s Nephew which describes the birth of Narnia, rather than starting with The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.) There is some debate about this, and I have to say personally I prefer the original order (not chronological). The books that were published first have a slightly different feel to me than the ones published later (all good – just different), and I’m just more comfortable with the flow that way. But in the end, I don’t think it really matters.

I’ll keep my summary brief as these books are so well known. The Horse and His Boy tells the story of a boy and a girl and two talking horses, on a desperate attempt to escape their unhappy situations and travel to Narnia in order to start a new life. The story is set during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.

Prince Caspian is an intense adventure story. This time it is hundreds of years since the golden age of the reign of the four children, and wicked men have taken over Narnia. Prince Caspian has heard rumors of the old days when there were dwarves and talking animals and a mysterious lion named Aslan, but nobody believes in those things anymore. When his usurping uncle produces a potential heir, Caspian’s life is in danger and he escapes on horseback and the adventures begin.

I am in awe of these stories. It’s amazing to me how Lewis can write so simply, and yet bring up such a vivid world. There were many moments that gave me chills. For example, in The Horse and His Boy, there were several times when the travelers were herded together or forward because a fierce lion was chasing and terrifying them. Only later do they learn the lion was Aslan and His guidance took them exactly where they needed to go. It is moments like these, when simple truths or hints of God suddenly emerge from this simple storytelling, that make the Chronicles something I will continue to read all my life. I can’t wait to keep working through the rest of the series.

The Inimitable Jeeves
P.G. Wodehouse

A friend of mine told me about the Jeeves and Wooster series a couple years ago. I looked into it but noticed that there was no real order to the books in the series, and I couldn’t figure out where to begin. I’m a little neurotic about reading things in their correct order (see above), so I moved on.

I was reminded of the series when my mom and sister started watching the tv adaptation, starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. The series was so funny (I had no idea Hugh Laurie could be so goofy – I pretty much only know him as the growly doctor on House) that I decided to look into the books. I fought against my nature and picked up a random novel in the series, as I read online that the order just doesn’t matter (and it doesn’t).

These stories tell the tale of Wooster, an idle and rich gentleman who gets himself into all kinds of upsetting predicaments. Jeeves is constantly prim, polite, and appropriate, and always knows how to get his employer out of scrapes.

This book was hilarious. The best part for me was all the slang and nonsense spoken by the characters, who throw around sentences like “I don’t know, you know, don’t you know.” The world of Wooster, who wrinkles his nose at the idea of working, and spends his time dodging his overbearing Aunt Agatha and visiting different families in the country, is so much fun to enter into. I’m glad this is a series – it’s one to keep tucked away and come back to whenever I need something refreshing.

So there you have it – three simple books that will make your day just a bit brighter. These books are part of two excellent series that I will continue to revisit for a long time to come.

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Jessie's Kitchen Chronicles