Sunday, April 29, 2012

Reflecting on a Year

What? My time is up?

... you mean to tell me that my challenge is OVER?! 

I don't know HOW it snuck up on me, but I realized that as of today, my baking blog is DONE! 

And I didn't meet my goal. Not even close. If I were to put on my teacher hat and actually SCORE myself on my goal, I would receive a solid 68%... we're talkin' a D+ at best people. 

I have a pile of excuses, but I'll spare you the details. What I can tell you is, I LEARNED TO BAKE. And I learned to bake well. Not every recipe was one for the ages, but I found some real winners. I have a new goal of creating a family cookbook out of some of the recipes featured in the blog... when I've got the time... someday...

Reflecting back on this year, I can tell you, my life has CHANGED. Some for the better, some for the worse... 

1) I've made friends in all different states
2) I've visited cities I'd never dreamed I'd see (shout out to Phoenix)
3) I've acquired a taste for sushi
4) I've dropped the pounds
5) The gym has become my anti-drug
6) I've lived in Utah... and LIKED IT
7) I've stopped drinking
8) I've been to IKEA
9) I've been attacked by a raccoon
10) I've shot a hole in one at mini golf
11) I've been tricked into going on a roller coaster
12) I've jumped in a two foot deep rain puddle (thank you Provo flash floods!)
13) I've had a surprise party
14) I became engaged to the love of my life
15) I've planned a wedding in Hawaii
16) I received a proper kiss at midnight on New Year's Eve
17) I learned how to walk in heels
18) I've watched the snow fall with the one I love
19) I've developed a nail polish addiction
20) I've suddenly become a "science/social studies specialist"

I've also realized: a whole new chapter of my life starts soon. Very soon. I am soon to be a wife, a companion to a man whom I love more than anything. I'm going to be the start of a whole new family... talk about pressure. And potential for being the BEST blog ever!

Will I continue to blog about my baking treats? OF COURSE! I'm no failure, I've got to hit 100 recipes EVENTUALLY. I will, however, be taking a new twist on things. 

Get ready: I'll be bringing you the triumphs and challenges from the NEW Bairds. Our lives are about to go through some BIG changes... so why not write about them?

... love you guys. Thanks for caring about my misadventures. 

- Kristen

Friday, April 13, 2012

Love and Birthdays: #67 and #68

Meet my fiance.

He's the most wonderful person I have ever met, and I don't think I tell him that often enough.

His birthday falls during my spring break, and I always try to devote a good weekend or so to trying to make him feel as loved as he always makes me feel. I kind of hate feeling like I'll never be able to "repay" him for how much he has changed my life for the good, but I can certainly try... with pastry. That's what I do, right?

... I actually feel kind of tacky seguing this particular blog entry into a recipe list. I feel like I should instead just try to put into words my feelings for this man. How I can't wait to spend Christmas mornings with him and our little family, make Sunday breakfasts and read the paper, go to bed at 9 and be that 'old, married couple' we get teased for being, raise children with, and grow old and gray with. How he can change my day with just a phone call (or sometimes, with a hug). How he still is as exciting to me as a "high school crush" after nearly two years of dating. How everyone always has such wonderful things to say about him (yeeeeeeah, he's mine).

There is no one I would rather drive down the highway screaming Katy Perry with. Eat "experimental" sushi with. Cry with. Laugh with. People watch with. Awkwardly slow dance in a living room with. Cook with. Smile stupidly with while he plays his guitar (love guitar players).

There is no one more patient. How many times have you held me while I've cried, listened while I've complained, and feigned interest with while I've tried to explain which of Nicki Minaj's alter-egos is singing during a particular song?

There is no one more loving. Caring. Giving.

I love ya, Stephen. And I always will.

And now I have to share your recipes I made for you, okay? <3

#67: Lemon Raspberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (AKA Stephen's 25th birthday cake. Best served following dinner with friends at P.F. Chang's, and finished with a spoon and a frown following my departure back to Washington)

As found on


Cake Bar Ingredients
1 lemon cake mix
1/4 c. oil
1 egg
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c. frozen raspberries or fresh raspberries
Frosting Ingredients
2 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream (whipped)
1/2 tsp lemon extract or fresh lemon juice (optional)

1) Mix together cake mix, milk, whipping cream, vanilla and egg.
2) Fold in raspberries until just combined.
     -Like this:

3) Bake in 8x8 greased.baking pan for 25-30 minutes minutes at 350ยบ.
   Yeah, that easy. So good though. Seriously, it took everything in me not to just eat the batter prior to baking... but I suppose I am always pretty guilty of that. One thing to note, I had to keep my cake in the oven for 45 minutes, because the center wasn't rising the way it should have. It still never did, but I had to take it out after 45 because the top was browning too much. And then of course, the middle sunk after I took it out of the oven. I just spread the frosting evenly over the cake, so it wasn't AS noticeable. 
Frosting Instructions:

1) In a small bowl whip heavy whipping cream with an electric mixer for a couple minutes until it thickens.
2) In a separate bowl mix together cream cheese and powdered sugar.
3) Add heavy whipping cream to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth and thick. Place in refrigerator until bars cool completely.
     -Notice she also forgot to mention the lemon juice? I didn't add it either. The cake itself is pretty lemony, so I didn't feel like it needed it.
4) Frost bars and serve (or refrigerate until serving).

I also woke up early on Friday and popped this in the oven for breakfast. 
#68: Overnight Blueberry French Toast (as found on
Following the success of my first overnight french toast casserole, and per Stephen's request, I made this bad boy. I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with the delicious, cinnamony one I made a week earlier for his family, but he really enjoyed this.
French Toast: 
12 slices bread, cut into cubes (french or Texas toast work well)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut in cubes
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
12 large eggs
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 cups milk (I use 1 cup milk and 1 cup cream)

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 Tablespoon butter 

1. Arrange 1/2 of the bread cubes in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle cream cheese cubes and blueberries evenly over the bread cubes.Top with remaining bread cubes.
2. Mix together eggs, milk, and syrup. Pour over bread cubes and cover pan with foil. Let chill in refrigerator overnight.
     - This, ladies and gentlemen, is what 12 eggs looks like. Cracked. And it all went in this recipe. Bleck.

3. Bake covered with foil at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes or until fluffy and golden. Top with sauce. Serves 8. 
     - Yeah, we didn't have any foil, so I opted without it. I wish I wouldn't have. Since the top browned pretty quickly, I had to take the pan out of the oven so the bread wouldn't burn, but the bottom was still pretty eggy. Definitely could've been prevented if I had followed the recipe. I think I was only able to keep it in for about 40 minutes uncovered. Lesson learned.

4. Syrup: Cook water, sugar, and cornstarch until thickened. Stir in blueberries and simmer for 10 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted. Serve over the french toast.
There you go. Make this for someone you love. From us, to you.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Most Important Meal of the Day: #65 and #66

Anyone who knows me well knows my love for breakfast. Seriously. I could eat waffles, pancakes, scrambled eggs, muffins, smoothies, sausage links, and french toast for every meal for days on end and never tire of it. I also love when an opportunity arises for me to SHARE breakfast with someone, because let's be honest- breakfast most mornings means grabbing a bowl of oatmeal, cold cereal, or a Slim Fast bar on your way out the door... and that is a shame. A CRYING SHAME. Food this delicious is meant to be shared, and there it nothing I love more than getting to show up at a friend's door, still in my sweats, hair a mess, holding onto a delicious breakfast baked good we're going to share over cocoa and gossip. Ugh, SQUEAL! I die.

This blog contains not one, but TWO delish treats I made a couple of weekends ago (My friends and family are spoiled). The first was a cupcake my friend recommended to me about two months prior to me actually making them. I had been struggling trying to find something fun to bring to Nichelle's house, and had settled on a sticky bun recipe in a cookbook she had bought me as a gift ( that is their website. I'd type the name of the actual book, but I wouldn't want any of you jumping down my throat for the wrong reasons). ANYWAYS, long story short, upon heading to the grocery store I quickly realized that in order to obtain 18 of the Rhodes rolls mentioned in the sticky bun recipe, I'd either have to buy 3 6-packs of rolls... which was RIDICULOUSLY expensive... or one 36 roll pack... which was unnecessary. Cut to me rolling my eyes, and quickly pulling up my Pinterest, where I had remembered my friend Gabby had found a recipe for a, GET THIS


... YEAH, so mind-blowing it got center billing.

Okay, so... maybe cupcakes aren't traditional breakfast fare, but Cinnamon Toast Crunch is, and considering this particular weekend was also Gabby's last at a certain coffee conglomerate (... which shall remain nameless; however, I myself used to wear their GREEN, UNFLATTERING apron), I knew her recipe would be a perfect excuse to visit her, drop off some num-nums, and congratulate her on a job well done. Yes. Perfect recipe.

#65: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cupcakes (as found on apparently my fiance knows the woman running this blog, so shout-out to Lizzy!)


Cinnamon Cake:
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
¾ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream
Vanilla Cake Mix (not white cake mix)
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Buttercream:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup Cinnamon Toast Crunch powder
(Crush the cereal in a bag and then sift out 2/3 cup)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pans with 20-22 cupcake liners. In a large bowl, gently combine eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix in sour cream.
     - I know what you're thinking, and yes, I had a minor panic attack putting both buttermilk and sour cream in this batter. Two of my greatest baking fears, COMBINED. They are completely necessary though- I have NEVER had such a fluffy, soft homemade cupcake before.

2. Add cake mix and cinnamon and mix until smooth. Fill cupcake liners ¾ full and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

3. While the cupcakes are baking, make the buttercream frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add Cinnamon Toast Crunch powder. Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Adjust the consistency using milk if it is too thick.
     - I usually stray from putting as much powdered sugar as called for in my frosting recipes, just because I prefer the other flavors in the frosting to shine, but this recipe has JUST ENOUGH cream cheese that you can still taste it even with all that sugar. The scary part, however, was putting the cereal in the frosting. I hadn't noticed it said to SIFT the cereal after crushing (WHOOPS), so my frosting ended up having chunks of cereal in it. Weird at first, but delicious once the cupcakes had sat in the freezer for the night. The cereal softened up just enough to where it wasn't crunchy- I don't know HOW, but it just worked!

8. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and top with cinnamon sugar and Cinnamon Toast Crunch squares.
     - I actually DID the piping using a plastic bag technique I learned off of Pinterest, and it worked WONDERFULLY! And my cupcakes actually didn't look half bad- of course, I forgot to take pictures, but here is the picture from Lizzy's site:

The next project was for, who else, the BAIRDS! I was heading over to their house early Sunday morning for some brunch, and I thought I'd bring over a little treat, because I.LOVE.FRENCH.TOAST.

#66: Overnight French Toast Casserole (as found on

Whoever invented overnight casseroles deserve a big-old-medal for it. Seriously, genius! ... I am becoming such a housewife...


1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 loaf Texas Toast bread (the blog recommended brioche or challah, but people, I AM FROM THE TRI-CITIES. We don't have that kind of selection at Albertson's... French bread would also work well)
8 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/8 teaspoon salt
maple syrup and powdered sugar for topping


1. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and melted butter and pour on the bottom on a 9x13 baking dish.
     - Pour? Huh... my mixture was super thick, and I ended up spreading it all over the bottom of the pan with a spoon, and it had a texture similar to that sugar scrub you put on your skin to exfoliate it. I guess I didn't melt the butter enough?

2. Arrange pieces of bread in the baking dish, overlapping if necessary.

3. Combine milk, eggs, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl and pour evenly over bread slices. Sprinkle chopped pecans over bread slices. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 4-12 hours.
     - Sprinkle? Shoot, I pulled back the bread and STUFFED those pecans between the slices. Every bite had a little nut... that's how we do! OH, and a side note: when I made this, our fridge was stuffed, so I ended up putting the casserole dish in the freezer. I thought it was a genius move at the time, but looking back on it, I think the dish cooled so rapidly that the egg wasn't able to completely soak into the bread, and instead just kind of stayed at the bottom of the pan.

4. In the morning, take the casserole out of the fridge for at least 10 minutes while you are preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Bake casserole for 30-35 minutes. If it starts browning too quickly, place a foil loosely over the top of the casserole for the last 10 minutes or so. 
     - Good advice on the last part. My bread browned really nicely during the first 35 minutes, but the bottom was still eggy... so I covered it and set it back in the over for another 10 minutes and it worked beautifully.

5. Remove casserole from oven and let it cool slightly before serving. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup. 

This was good. Too good. I may never make traditional french toast again. The best part was the brown sugar at the bottom of the pan that got all crusty and warm at the bottom of the toast. Ugh. SO GOOD!

... I forgot pictures again. So here is this to tide you over: