Thursday, December 29, 2011

The End of the Beginning: The Last Ackbar

It was November 15th, 2011 - a day the admiral and his friends wouldn't soon forget. 

"Hey, guys, look what came for us! It's a Jelly Belly dispenser from Lucasfilm," said Spidey.
"Interesting," replied Ackbar.
"Put it down then," said Ironman impatiently. 

"Okay, okay," Spidey grunted.  The dispenser hit the ground with a thud.  "You should do the honors, since it's from your homeland, Admiral."

"Lucasfilm makes the coolest stuff! I can't believe they'd send something like this!" Ackbar said excitedly.

"Ooh, what is it?" Lizzie asked.
"Only one way to find out," Ironman grinned, staring down at the shiny ball that emerged from the dispenser.

Ironman gasped as he saw the horror that the capsule contained.

"You're killing me, Ironman! What is it?!" shrieked Ackbar.
"It can't be that bad... can it?" questioned Spidey, his voice full of worry.

Ironman shakily read the letter that was within the capsule.

The silence that followed was deafening. 

The capsule fell to the ground from Ironman's strong, trembling hands and the admiral screamed in fury.

"What do we do now?" cried Spidey.

"I need to sit down," whispered Ironman.
"You and me both," muttered Ackbar.
Lizzie turned around. "I can't look..."
"I just got this gig!" shouted Spidey.  "I didn't even get to be in an episode yet!"

"I didn't even get to do the zombie twin mirror scene thing yet!" Ackbar cried.
"Zombie twin mirror...what?" Spidey asked.

"Somebody call Zombie Ackbar?" said a familiar voice.
"There you are!" exclaimed the admiral, smiling.
"Who the h-e-double hockey sticks is that?" asked Ironman.
"I found him a while ago, but we hadn't had a chance to do any work together yet. His abused paint job makes him look a bit zombie-esque, don't you think?" said the original Ackbar.
"No time like the present," replied Zombie Ackbar, winking his chipped eye.

"It's just like I'd always dreamed!" original Ackbar smiled happily.
"WTF..." Ironman muttered.
"I don't get it," Spidey said.

"A hug to end it?" said the Ackbars simultaneously. 

"Maybe someone else can star in the children's books Stacey wanted to write," said Lizzie sadly, "Maybe someone without such crazy copyrights, who can be customized..."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Matcha Green Tea Chocolates

Thought I'd do some more matcha green tea flavored white chocolates for the holidays.

Stacey's Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Ingredients
16 oz Guittard white chocolate couverture
0.5 oz matcha green tea powder
4-8 oz Guittard 38% milk chocolate couverture

I tempered the chocolate and then sprinkled in the green tea powder a little bit at a time, to avoid clumping.  I also made sure to crush any lumps in the powder with a spoon beforehand.

I used the leaf and seashell molds.  For the seashell molds (18 count), I added some milk chocolate to the bottom for a nice two-toned effect. I tempered the milk chocolate after filling with the matcha white chocolate and so when I topped off with the milk chocolate, the white was already mostly set.

Also, it's best to tap the mold as you fill each cavity to release any bubbles and make sure the chocolate fills the molds evenly.  I usually just use a teaspoon to fill each mold.  Once they'd cooled for several hours at room temperature, I inverted the molds and freed the chocolates.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Matcha Chocolate Covered Caramels

I took a break in November to try to do Nanowrimo (and failed again, sigh) but I'm back! I thought I'd try a little caramel variation. I made my regular caramel recipe and then I covered it in a mixture of white chocolate couverture and some matcha green tea powder.

I can't remember exactly how much green tea powder, but I think I could have gone a little stronger. I think it was something like this:

2 cups Guittard white chocolate couverture discs
1-2 tsp matcha green tea powder, organic
Hawaiian Black Sea Salt
El Rey Semisweet dark chocolate

I put a layer of the dark chocolate on the bottom so it would be easier for dipping (like in the original recipe). Then I tempered the white chocolate, gently mixed in the matcha powder, and dipped some rectangles of caramel in it with a dipping fork.  I finished them with a sprinkling of Hawaiian Black Sea Salt. 

It was pretty yummy, but I definitely think more matcha next time.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I got this super cute Halloween chocolate mold so I made a bunch of little Halloween chocolates.

But then I didn't know what to do with them, so I opted for making cupcakes for a pumpkin carving party that I was going to, and using the little chocolates as decorations. :)

Stacey's Pumpkin Cupcake Ingredients:
1c unbleached white flour, organic
3/4c whole wheat flour, organic
1/4c brown rice flour, organic
1tbs cornstarch
3/4c dark brown sugar, organic
1tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
1tbs cinnamon
1/2tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 can pumpkin, organic (15 oz)
2 eggs, organic
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/2c nonfat yogurt, organic
1/2c butter, salted, organic (1 stick)
1/4c whole milk, organic
1 tsp fresh grated ginger

For the frosting, I thought I'd try using Neufchâtel. I think I will use regular cream cheese next time because it looked a little grainy.

Stacey's Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
8oz Neufchâtel cheese
1/2c butter, salted, organic (1 stick)
1/4c heavy cream, organic
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2-2.5c confectioners sugar

Toasted pumpkin seeds
Chocolate decorations

First I [preheated the oven to 350F, then mixed all the dry ingredients for the cupcakes in a large bowl.  Then in a large glass measuring cup, I microwaved the yogurt, butter, and milk, for about 30 seconds to 1 minute in order for the butter to be soft without it melting all the way.  I added the eggs, vanilla and fresh ginger, and whisked with a fork.  I poured this over the dry ingredients and then put the canned pumpkin on top.  I mixed everything with a spatula and then used a cookie scoop to spoon the batter into cups in a muffin tin - this is easiest since the batter is kind of thick.  If you don't have a cookie scoop, probably 2 large spoons would be good to scrape batter into each cup.

I baked them for about 22-24 minutes, rotating once in between and it made 22 cupcakes.  While the cupcakes were cooling, I made the frosting.

I had let the cheese come to room temperature, but you can probably microwave and stir it and the butter at 10 second intervals (making sure it doesn't get too hot) until everything is soft.  Then I added that and the cream and vanilla to my standing mixer and added the confectioners sugar 1/3 cup at a time until it was the sweetness and consistency I wanted.  It ended up a little grainy, as I said before, but it still tasted good.

Once the cupcakes were cool, I frosted them, and placed 1 chocolate in the middle of each cupcake.  Then I sprinkled the toasted pumpkin seeds around the chocolate.

I liked these.  The cake isn't too sweet so the frosting goes well with it.  Everyone at the party seemed to enjoy them.  And of course, I can't not show you the pumpkin I carved at the party!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Makeup 2011

Sephora posted a bunch of cool instructions for Halloween this year and I decided to try one out.

Zombie: Trial Run
This is the version just as is from the Sephora instructions.  Black and green around the eyes, green to take out any red tones, powder finish, light foundation on the lips, shadows under the cheekbones. 

I also tried out an additional bit of red lipstick and some brown liner (to make it look a little dried) since I didn't have any fake blood.

Zombie: Yaboo!
For Yaboo! (Yahoo!'s Halloween extravaganza) though, I opted to just go without the "blood." I scared people. :)

Zombie: Brain Taste Trial
Despite the makeup, still don't like eating brains.  And that pesky skull gets in the way. 

Happy Halloween! ((^-^))

UPDATE:  Decided to put on some more makeup for the trick-or-treaters tonight. :) This one's for you Heart. [Props to you if you get the reference without clicking the link. :D ]

Friday, October 28, 2011

Honey Almond Spice Cake

I'm what you would call a honey junkie.  If there is honey at a farmers' market, 9 times out of 10, I will buy it.  I'm pretty sure all the honey vendors have a picture of me with a caption on it that says, "(Honey) Sucker."  If they give me a sample, I'm pretty much honey in their hands.  The 1 out of 10 times I don't buy it is probably because I don't have enough cash on me and I feel like it's wrong in some way to go home with no produce yet still weighed down by giant glass jars of heaven in syrup form. Let's just say I'm only one dimension away from being a cartoon bear stuck in a tree. I'm already chunky and yellow and enjoy tight T-shirts.  Here is some of my massive honey collection:

In case anyone is curious, from top to bottom, left to right:
  1. Orange Blossom honey from the Alemany Farmers' Market - yummy and floral in a good way (vs the bad way where it tastes like soap - I'm looking at YOU, disgusting rose candy)
  2. Mountain Flora honey from Eggman Family from the Civic Center Farmers' Market - nutty, but mild and delicious
  3. Avocado honey from boyfriend who obtained it from a Mediterranean store - very mild but thick and dark, not much flavor
  4. Amorossi Blueberry honey, also from same Mediterranean store - haven't tried yet
  5. Wild Blackberry honey from Marshall's Farm the Civic Center Farmers' Market - super expensive but see above paragraph about junkie status; wonderful hint of berry, thick and a bit chunky, nice texture for just eating (I probably won't ever use this on anything - will probably just eat it)
  6. Wildflower Honey (I think) from Queen Bee Honey from Millbrae Farmers' Market - very complex floral flavor, light, very delicious
  7. Raw Orange Blossom Honey from Burlingame Farmers' Market - much less flavorful than the Alemany one, but still light and yummy
  8. Raspberry Honey from Moon Valley Honey from my mom from I don't know where - doesn't really have much flavor other than a light honey, but nice level of sweetness
    I definitely like the milder tasting honeys versus the darker ones which taste stronger and more molassesy to me. 

    Okay, now that you know about my habit that maybe in a few years will intensify enough to get me on My Strange Addiction, back to the original reason for my post.  In this recipe, I wanted to highlight the flavor of the Mountain Flora honey (#2) that I bought recently.  Since it is nutty and light, I thought I'd make a spicy nutty cake that would complement it. 

    Stacey's Honey Almond Spice Cake Ingredients:
    1c unbleached white flour, organic 
    1/2c almond meal
    1/4c brown rice flour, organic
    1c sugar, organic
    2 tsp baking powder
    3/4 tsp salt
    2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

    2 eggs, organic
    1/2c nonfat yogurt, organic
    1/2c heavy cream, organic
    1/4c water

    3-4 tbs Mountain Flora honey
    9x9" cake pan
    Reusable 9x9" cake liner

    First I preheated the oven to 350F. I mixed all the dry ingredients into a medium sized mixing bowl.  I mixed the yogurt, cream, and water together and microwaved it for a minute to take the chill off.  It was about 80F degrees when I whisked it together with a fork.  Then I mixed the wet into the dry ingredients and poured the contents into the cake pan with the liner at the bottom. 

    I baked the cake for about 32 minutes, rotating once at the halfway point.  

    Then, while the cake was still hot, I poured the honey on top and spread it over the surface.  Since the cake is warm, the honey spreads quickly and has time to permeate the surface.

    The cake was really moist with great flavor.  Everyone really seemed to like it.  The spices and the nuts seemed to complement the honey just like I'd hoped.

    Now there's no more cake.  Oh bother...

    At least there's still more honey.  And the recipe to do it again. :)

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Zoo Chocopops

    Heading down to the mothership today for Halloween festivities at Yaboo! where I will get to see some of my co-workers kiddies all dressed up.  Thought I'd make a few kid friendly treats for the occasion.

    Stacey's Zoo Chocopops Ingredients:
    Guittard white chocolate couverture
    Guittard milk chocolate couverture

    Zoo mold
    Lollipop sticks

    First I tempered the milk chocolate.  For some reason I've found that if you go dark to light when applying chocolate, it will remain tempered but if you try and go light to dark (i.e. put white chocolate down first, then put dark chocolate on top of it), the lighter chocolate will become untempered and will have fat bloom.  In any case... I used the chopstick to apply milk chocolate for a giraffe's spots and a lion's mane.  Then I used all milk chocolate for a monkey and an elephant (applying the sticks to these).  Once I poured in the white chocolate to the giraffe and lion, I put the sticks there too.  I jiggled the mold as I was filling to make sure there were no air bubbles.

    Once everything had dried and cooled overnight (you really only need a few hours), I inverted the molds.

    The lion is my favorite. :) Rowr!

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Ackbar's Adventures: San Francisco

    Lizzie and I decided to take a little trip into the city.  We had heard BART was an interesting experience, so we went to the nearest station.  Little did we know that the journey would be fraught with danger.

    Still, we had heard many good things about this beautiful city by the bay, so despite the threats to our safety, we waited patiently for a train to arrive.

    And waited...

    We thought perhaps there was some sort of sensor that might need to be triggered by a larger entity to make the train come, so we decided to hitch a ride in what we heard was called a "hoodie."

    The ride into the city was long and arduous.  Lizzie and I passed the time by staring out the window.

    I asked our hoodie if it would be much longer.  He said he wasn't quite sure, but that he was getting hungry. I took that as a warning and tried to keep my distance.

    When our hoodie got off the train and finally stopped, we appeared to be on some sort of platform.  Lizzie saw a silo of what appeared to be giant fried slices of tuber and fruit near some wading pools of different colored muds.

    I told Lizzie to stay back as I approached the silo.  "Coast is clear," I called out to her.

    Little did I know the hungry hoodie was also indulging on these fried delectables.

    Lizzie tried to warn me, but I was too hungry.

    "Look out, you stupid fish face!" she shouted.  Lizzie is not very nice when she is upset.

    Do not worry, readers.  I was mostly unharmed.  I wondered if I was ejected by the dreaded "electric third rail."

    I ran off to hide behind what appeared to be a lime slice aquarium. Lizzie kept watch for our next opportunity.

    When a swimming pool of food arrived at the table, we realized the hoodie would be distracted by it.

    We made a break for it and leapt into the silo of fried goodness.

    There wasn't much left by hoodie standards, but there was enough for us.  We got some food and made our way back out of the silo.

    Lizzie and I sat and enjoyed the fried fruits of our labor.

    But, we did not have long to enjoy our meal.  Moments later, an abomination was laid down before us.  It pains me to recall what occurred next, but it is only to warn my ocean brethren readers, should you come to visit this place.  Lizzie and I looked down in horror as we saw what appeared to be large pieces of fish on a skewer.

    We ran as fast as we could off of the platform and when we were outside again, we saw the big sign that said La Mar.  I gasped... "The Sea"... I then wondered if the swimming pool of food could also have been the fish torture I'd only heard about in childhood ghost stories, hidden beneath the enormous onions: cebiche.

    Lizzie and I decided we could no longer travel with the hoodie.  We were on our own to continue our exploration.  The road looked long and arduous, but we were prepared.  After what we had just seen, we thought nothing could be worse.

    We took a moment of silence for the victims and gazed out at the ocean.  Perhaps they were now swimming in some great ocean in the sky.

    As we walked, I saw Lizzie looking at something.  "What is it?" I asked her.  I turned around and to my shock and horror, I saw another atrocity.

    This poor octopus had suffered the same fate as Han Solo!  "Don't worry my cephalopod friend! I will save you somehow!"

    As we looked down, we saw there were many other sea creatures.  "Maybe it's art?  Perhaps it's some sort of memorial to your people by the hoodies to apologize for eating them?"

    I stared down at all the other statues and I wondered if it were true.  It was then that I saw another mortal enemy of small sea creatures and I knew we had to get out of there.

    I saw a massive weapon that I thought could be used to exact revenge on the hoodies for their crimes against my people.

    Then I found an escape method.  "After we're done destroying the planet with the weapon, we could leave forever and never come back!" I told Lizzie excitedly.  "Um, I don't want to leave," she said sadly.

    We walked around and I continued to ponder the situation.  We passed by some sort of zoo.  The animals appeared friendly. I asked them if they wanted in on my revenge plan.  "Who me?" said the dragon. "Me like people. Please no destroy."

    Suddenly, I remembered that hoodies take care of Monster.  And Monster is our friend.  I looked at Lizzie.  She must have sensed what I was thinking.  "It would be so much work to kill everyone and I'm tired.  Can't we just go home and see Monster?" she whined.  We decided to find our hoodie again and we smuggled ourselves aboard.  Just another thing Han taught me.

    Once we arrived back home, we greeted Monster and snuggled in for a nap.  And so ended our first San Francisco adventure.