Foodie Friday – Pumpkin blondies (take 3)

Third time’s the charm with these pumpkin blondies? Actually, I think this is the fourth time I’ve tried making them, but the first batch was so bad that I chose to leave it out of the count. Back in 2011 I documented two of my attempts to make pumpkin blondies – one that was pretty standard and one with shredded coconut. Neither was exactly what I wanted so the search continued. Fast forward to last weekend when I cracked open a can of pumpkin puree to do some long-awaited fall baking while watching the Florida football game. The Gators lost, which was extremely disappointing, but my latest batch of pumpkin blondies turned out great! They were more cake-like than I would have liked, but that’s what you get when you bake with pumpkin. This recipe uses less pumpkin puree than others I’ve tried which I really liked, and browning the butter added an extra dimension of flavor. Delicious!

INGREDIENTS:
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 c pumpkin puree
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 c all-purpose flour
2 c chocolate chips (I used a combination of semi-sweet and milk chocolate)

DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl mix together the sugars and set aside. In a medium saucepan, brown the butter over medium heat. The butter will melt, bubble, and then start to foam. Shortly afterwards it will start to brown. This should only take about 5 minutes so keep an eye on the pan because the butter can burn quickly! When the butter is golden brown remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour over the sugar. Stir to combine and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Once the butter/sugar mixture has cooled, add the vanilla, egg, and pumpkin, and stir to combine. Then add the pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine. Lastly, add the flour and stir until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spread the batter into a 9×13″ pan lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 deg F for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Enjoy!

Based on The Art of Comfort Baking’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars.

STS-122

During the summer of 2000 I worked on the Space Shuttle during my first Boeing internship. It wasn’t the most exciting job I’ve had, but at least I can say I was part of the Shuttle team, even for just a few months. The one assignment I remember the most during that summer was integrating the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory into the Shuttle payload bay for transport to the International Space Station. About eight years later, after many trials and tribulations the Columbus was ferried to the ISS as part of STS-122. I wrote about it in December 2007 when the STS-122 launch was postponed and again in February 2008 on the day it finally launched. So when I was at the Kennedy Space Center visitor’s center last month I bought a patch and pin of the STS-122 mission logo. Yep, I worked on that! I was also reminded that it was the Atlantis orbiter that flew that mission, the same one that’s on display at KSC these days (check out my photo). Pretty cool, huh?

Running in Florida

I don’t know why I wasn’t inspired to write about my adventures in running while I was in Florida. It was an interesting experiment, to say the least! Full of ups and downs. My first few outings were pretty discouraging, but eventually I made it work. And I even made some progress while I was there! I flew to Orlando on Sunday, 9/8 and then had to pick up my rental car and drive from there to Cape Canaveral. The rest of my evening was spent getting dinner (McDonald’s – not very inspired), grocery shopping (Publix is awesome!), and settling into my hotel room. I was too tired to go running that night, but I got up early the next morning to run before it got too hot outside. I failed. Luckily that’s not the end of the story. Here it is in an abbreviated form.

Monday 9/9 – Morning run thwarted by heat and humidity. Decided not to try that again.
Tuesday, 9/10 – Evening run instead, but thwarted by heavy rain this time. Very frustrated.
Wednesday, 9/11 – Made it 8.2 miles during this evening run, but the humidity made it pretty miserable. Decided to take a few days off before trying something else.
Monday, 9/16 – Discovered the joy of indoor treadmill running! Watched “Star Trek Into Darkness” on my iPad while running 1.25 mile intervals (5 miles total) for the first time.
Tuesday, 9/17 – Watched “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” while running on the treadmill.
Thursday, 9/19 – Started watching season 1 of “Torchwood” on Netflix while running on the treadmill.
Friday, 9/20 – Same
Sunday, 9/22 – Same
Monday, 9/23 – Same
Thursday, 9/26 – After taking an extra day off to let my blisters heal I started running 1.5 mile intervals (5.5 miles total) while watching “Torchwood.”
Friday, 9/27 – Same
Sunday, 9/29 – Same
Monday, 9/30 – Same
Wednesday, 10/2 – Same
Thursday, 10/3 – Same. Last run in Cape Canaveral.
Sunday, 10/6 – Made use of a treadmill at Homewood Suites Lake Buena Vista and watched “Once Upon A Time” while running. No wifi in the fitness center or I’d have continued watching “Torchwood.” I almost made it through season 2 by the time I got back to LA.

Not bad, huh? There’s more to this story, but I’ll get to that another time. And I’ve been running consistently since I got home last week so I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

Foodie Friday – Cranberry cream cheese pound cake

After a ridiculously unnecessary visit from a Time Warner technician I am back online! The less than helpful service rep yesterday didn’t even bother to add my new modem to my account so that’s why it wasn’t working. So stupid. But it’s fixed now and I’m very happy. So on to the recipe!

The week before I left for Florida I did a lot of baking to use up all of the butter and eggs that would have gone to waste otherwise. For some reason I also had a package of cream cheese in my fridge so I had to find a way to use that. Cream cheese pound cake seemed like the obvious choice. And I still had a lot of dried cranberries leftover from my DC business trip (One of my co-workers there unloaded a huge bag of dried cranberries on me because he was moving and didn’t want to just throw them in the trash) so those got thrown in too. This cranberry orange pound cake turned out AMAZING. It was incredibly dense and tasted delicious. This is going to be my new go-to pound cake recipe. You can easily replace the cranberries and orange extract with other mix-ins and flavors. It’s a definite winner!

INGREDIENTS:
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
1/4 tsp orange extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 c all-purpose flour
2 c dried cranberries

DIRECTIONS:
Put the dried cranberries in a medium bowl and add enough water to just cover them. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Stir and microwave on HIGH for 1 more minute. At this point the cranberries should be pretty plump and a lot of the water should be absorbed. Let the bowl sit and cool while you mix up the rest of the batter.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar. You can use an electric mixer or just a wooden spoon, which is what I do. Add the extracts and eggs and mix until combined. Add the baking powder and salt and mix until combined. Add the flour until almost completely incorporated. Drain the plumped cranberries and dry them a bit between a few sheets of paper towels. Fold the dried cranberries into the cake batter and mix until the flour is completely incorporated. Divide the batter between two loaf pans (I used one 9×5″ pan and one 8×4″ pan) coated with cooking spray and bake at 350 deg F for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before turning them out on the rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Based on Sophistimom’s Cranberry Orange Cream Cheese Pound Cake.

The system is down

So, I’m back in California and so happy about it, but I haven’t updated my webpage because my modem/router decided to croak while I was out of town. So I bought a new modem and wireless router today, but I can’t seem to get them to connect correctly and the person at Time Warner I talked to was less than helpful. Ugh. I have an appointment with a service technician tomorrow afternoon although I have a feeling that won’t resolve anything. Hopefully I’ll be back online soon. Updating from my phone just doesn’t work well!

Not Wordless Wednesday

Every day when I’m at work I think of something I want to write about, but by the time I get back to my hotel room (yes, I’m still in Florida) with my laptop my mind goes blank. I just don’t seem to have the energy at the end of the day. I’m sure this can be partially attributed to my crazy running regimen (5+ miles 5 times a week), but that’s not the whole story. This business trip has been really exhausting – both mentally and physically. But the last thing I wanted to do today was post another picture with absolutely no real content. Today was a short day at work for me for two reasons – 1) I only needed to attend a couple of meetings before lunch, and 2) my forty hours for the week were up around 11 AM. So I took off at noon and spent the rest of the day doing whatever I wanted. I ran some errands (got some boxes at the Post Office, returned something to Walmart, put gas in my rental car), ate lunch at Firehouse Subs (my favorite), and went back to my hotel to relax. Well, sort of. While watching the season 3 premiere of “Once Upon A Time” on my iPad I tore my hotel room apart trying to figure out how I’m going to get all of my stuff home with me. Yes, it won’t be long before my time in Florida is over. Hopefully my work obligations will be over by the end of the week so I’ll be back in Los Angeles not long after that. I really miss California, but now I’ve become acutely aware that I need to make the most of my last few days in Florida. So my plan for tomorrow is Disney World! I went running early this evening (5.5 miles on the treadmill while watching episodes of “Torchwood” on Netflix) so I could go to bed early in preparation for driving to Orlando tomorrow morning. I’m excited. So here’s to finishing up this business trip right. I’ll let you know how it goes!