Monday, October 31, 2011

Starbucks and the Free Coffee

I'm not a Starbucks frequenter.  I don't drink much coffee and I just can't see spending $3-$4 on a cup of coffee every day.  I do however treat myself about once a month usually due to traveling and wanting something delicious and warm to drink.  Either I'm on my way to my knitting meeting in the bay area or this month I was in Portland.  My friend had JUST moved into her house and wasn't set up for any real food prep in her house.  So, she asked where I wanted to go for breakfast the next day and I suggested Starbucks.  They are close and I love their Maple Oat Pecan scones.  Once we got there I ordered my usual a Grande Decaf Latte.  Then I changed my mind and bought a Dark Cherry Yogurt Parfait to go with it.

Now I'm down at the "wait for your coffee" shelf.  I'm waiting.  I'm waiting.  I realize that I forgot to order a Pumpkin Latte.  I'm waiting.  Now people who have walked in the door long after me are getting their coffee.  So, I ask the Barrista, "Any Grande Decaf Lattes coming down the pike?."  He says no.  Then he asks me if he can make me one.  I say yes and add, "Since it hasn't been made make it a Pumpkin Decaf Latte please and I'll pay the difference."  He tells me don't worry about it.  I'll make it for you.  Then when he slides the coffee to me he slides a coupon for a free coffee and apologizes for the mix up.  Wow I think that's pretty nice.  I got my Pumpkin Latte and a free future Latte.

I come back home and forget all about the coupon in my purse.  I had an encounter with my daughter's school front office crabby lady.  It's nothing new she's always crabby, but she runs a tight ship and gets the job done.  I can always count on her to help on those rare occasions I need it.  This particular day she flat out tells me she's having a bad day even though her crabbiness didn't seems any worse than usual.  After leaving the office I felt like I should get her a pick-me-up.  I decided to anonymously give her a Starbucks gift card.  Off to Starbucks I go.

I ordered myself a Pumpkin Decaf Latte, one $20 gift card and a $20 reload on my coffee card.  The cashier pushes the cash button instead of ATM and now he's got a problem he can't fix.  I'm smiling and joking with him and then the manager as they try and figure out how to remedy the situation.  Once the manager gets it all worked out it took probably 10 minutes.  He, I thought, forgot to ring up my Latte and I point that out.  I like to help out cashiers; after all, I'm there to buy a cup of coffee not steal one.  He says, "Oh I'm not charging you for the cup of coffee you're a really nice lady and I really appreciate your patience."  Earlier in the transaction the first cashier had given me my "sorry for the trouble" coupon.  I tried to give this back and the manager would not let me.  So, now I've received 2 coupons from Starbucks.  I leave with my free Latte and great feeling that I'm a valued customer.

Today, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  I had a hard time sleeping last night.  I'm just generally feeling cranky on my rounds of errands this morning.  I decided to cash in one of my coupons and treat myself to a Latte.  And BTW their Dark Cherry Yogurt Parfaits are so good I wanted to get another one of those for my lunch.  As I walk up to the cashier the guy in front of me orders 42 $20 gift cards.

"Are you kidding me," is what I'm thinking.  It's really OK though he was in line before me and I'm just going to have to wait.  The manager and cashier are counting cards and asking what kind of card does he want... this picture or a generic card.  Now he wants the cards rung up in 2 separate orders.  I'm keeping my crabbiness to myself, but I'm thinking really they couldn't open up the 2nd cash register?  The barista takes my drink order.  After some more fiddling around with the 42 gift cards my barista is loosing patience that I'm having to wait.  I tell her really it's OK.  She tries to open the 2nd cash register, but apparently there is an ongoing problem with her employee number.  They haven't been able to get it to work.  The barista/cashier, assistant manager and now the manager are trying to figure out why her employee number doesn't work and she has to use the generic number when she rings anything up.  The 3 of them are huddle around the cash register.  The other cashier is loading 42 gift cards on the other register.  Honestly, as crabby as I feel I'm very patient about this whole thing.  What am I going to do?  Her employee number I'm sure is an important part of doing business.  15 minutes has past.  She now can ring up my order.  Only my Parfait is rung up and I'm thinking that's because I used a coffee coupon.  She then hands me my receipt and my coupon back saying, "Please keep the coupon for another day.  I apologize for your trouble.  Thank you for your patience."  I can't believe it.  That is 5 free Starbucks drinks in a 3 week period.  Now I've only drank 3 of them.  The other 2 are in my purse waiting to be enjoyed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lots of Baking No Pictures

I've made 3 Bundt cakes in the last three days and didn't take pictures of any of them.  I've discovered that bundt cakes are better when stirred together by hand rather than by the mixer.  Why?  I've found if I use a mixer it beats the cake batter so it's really full of air and rises really high.  Sounds like a good thing right.  No, not for a bundt.  Once released from the pan it falls quite a bit.  It still tastes great don't get me wrong it just doesn't look as nice.  The sides get quite wrinkly making them the Shar Pei of the cake world. I've found a bundt needs to be a little denser. Mixing by hand still gets a good rise just not as high. The cake keeps it's beautiful bundt shape which is the whole reason for using a bundt pan.

The only thing I'm going to try and remember to do the next time a make a bundt is to sift the cake mix.  I've spent my life avoiding the extra step of sifting, but cake mixes are pretty lumpy out of the box.  Lots of stirring using a wooden spoon and a whisk and there are still lumps.  I've found the small lumps do seem to bake up and are not noticeable.  I just think sifting the cake mix will save on stirring and whisk washing.

What cakes have a made this week... Bacardi's Rum cake an 80's favorite and still loved in the 2000's.  I also made Pampered Chefs Gingerbread cake a favorite of the 90's.  Then I made a beloved Chocolate Kahlua cake that was a favorite of my Grandma's and her coworkers.  When they had a potluck sign up they would just put her down for the Chocolate Kahlua cake.

Oddly, I never use Bacardi.  I just never have it on hand.  I use Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum.

Bacardi Rum Cake

1 cup chopped pecans
1 package Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 (3 3/4-oz.) package Jell-O vanilla instant pudding and pie filling
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup Wesson or Criso oil
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum (80 proof )
1 stick butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum ( 80 proof )

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease and flour 10-inch tube or 12-cup Bundt pan.

Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan.

Mix all cake ingredients together.

Pour batter over nuts.

Bake 1 hour.

Cool; invert onto serving plate. Prick top with fork.

Spoon and brush glaze evenly over top and sides.

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar.  Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, and remove from heat.  Stir in rum.

Gingerbread Cake

Source: The Pampered Chef

1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1/3 cup molasses
3 eggs
1 tablespoon Pantry Cinnamon Plus Spice Blend (or 1 tsp Cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ea. nutmeg, allspice, cloves and ginger)
1 (18.25 ounce) box German chocolate cake mix

Brush Stoneware Fluted Pan with vegetable oil using Pastry Brush. In Classic Batter Bowl, whisk pumpkin, molasses, eggs and Spice Blend until smooth, using Stainless Steel Whisk. Add cake mix; mix with Mix 'N Scraper until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.

Pour batter into pan, spreading evenly. Microwave on HIGH 14 minutes or until Cake Tester inserted near center comes out clean. (Cake will be slightly moist on top near center.) Let stand in microwave 10 minutes. If necessary, loosen cake from sides of pan invert onto serving plate.  Let cool 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped topping, if desired.

Yield: 12 servings


1 Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix
1 pkg. chocolate or vanilla instant pudding mix
2 cups sour cream
4 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup Kahlua
1 (6 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, eggs, oil and Kahlua. Mix until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into well-greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until tests done.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool or not.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Frosted Pumpkin Mini Donuts

There was a yard sale 2 doors down from my house Saturday.  Couldn't resist taking a peek.  I found a mini donut pan for 50 cents.  Thought it was cute and would be fun to play with.  I figured there would be mini donut recipes online.  Or I could use a regular cake mix.  Or my favorite fall recipe for Frosted Pumpkin Cookies came to mind.

My search on the internet didn't yield anything exciting, so thought I'd go with my Frosted Pumpkin cookie recipe.  I thought it would work well for a couple of reasons.  One I really love maple frosted donuts.  Two the recipe makes a cake like cookie perfect for a mini donut.  Recipe is below, but see my notes below the recipe for instructions on how to use the recipe with a mini donut pan.

Frosted Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly
2 Large Eggs
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
1/2 tsp Lemon extract
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup all purpose Flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pecans, chopped

1/4 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 T milk
3/4 tsp maple extract

Cream butter; gradually add brown sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in pumpkin and flavorings.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing well. Stir in pecans.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 F for 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Frost with Maple Frosting. Makes 7 1/2 dozen.

Frosting: Cream butter; gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well at medium speed of an electric mixer. Add remaining sugar alternately with milk, beating until smooth enough to spread. Add maple extract, and beat well.

Lynne's notes for mini pumpkin donuts: I put a couple of tablespoons of milk in dough to loosen it up a little. I spooned pumpkin dough into a ziploc sandwich baggie (if you don't have a ziploc use a twist tie to close bag and keep dough in bag) and then cut the tip off enough to let the pecans pass and fill mini dough pan at least 1/2 way with one pass. This technique filled pan easily, quickly and without a mess. I buttered mini donut pan feared the donuts would stick. Last batch I sprayed pan with Pam and that worked great too.

I baked mini donuts for 8 minutes. The 10 minutes for cookies was too long for the donuts.  I made a 1/2 batch and it made 36 adorable and delicious mini donuts. 

For the frosting I added a tad more milk to loosen it up a little too. Don't want it too runny. Dipped top of donuts in frosting and placed on plate.

Make sure you set a few aside for yourself as your family will inhale them before you get back to the kitchen.

P.S. I make my own Pumpkin Pie Spice.  I always have all the spices to make it and I don't use it often enough to have a whole jar of it alone.

3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg

Stir to blend.  Makes 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice.