30 January 2010

eat cookies for breakfast!

oatmeal cookie breakfast

It's the new campaign I'm heading up. I'm already a big believer in eating cookies for breakfast, and I think I remember reading on the David Lebovitz site that he also eats cookies for breakfast when he has them around. Many people will be quick to tell you that they are not morning people, but a cookie would definitely brighten their days, especially the kind of cookie I'm talking about.

Many breakfast cookies are a cross between a cookie, a muffin top, and maybe a scone. This, however, is more akin to portable granola or oatmeal, as pointed out by my brother who said that crumbling the cookies into milk would most likely taste good. He then said these would also make a good ice cream and yogurt topping. He also requested that I should make these again only if I made about 100 instead of just two dozen.

To make this you first will need some leftover hockey pucks, or as I like to call them, oat-coffee crinkles. You can either heat up the milk, pour it over a few cookies (you probably will need at least 4 per half cup of milk) and let it sit for a few minutes to soften, or you could simply crumble the cookies into a bowl and pour cold milk on top if you'd rather eat them like granola. Either way, you have a caffeinated, protein packed breakfast to start the day! Toss in some fruit if you feel like being extra healthy.

One note: If you want to make these simply for portable breakfasts, decrease the sugar to 1/2 cup and add in a fourth egg white. To make life easier, mix the ground coffee in with the oatmeal. Portion the dough out into 1/3 or 1/2 cup portions and bake until the outsides are beginning to take on a golden brown hue, probably at least 15-17 minutes, maybe 20. Cook completely, then wrap individually in plastic wrap.

breakfast oatmeal cookies



29 January 2010

oat-coffee crinkles

cookies

I had an idea for a cookie that wasn't quite a cookie as we know it. These are the first take of this idea, featuring an oatmeal macaroon rolled in freshly ground coffee beans.

My idea was for a lighter cookie in texture that was still chewy, something a little off the beaten path. I've also been thinking about a cookie rolled in ground coffee beans, so I decided to add that component to these cookies as well.

cookies

For flavor, I toasted the oats until they smelled oaty. Yeah, I didn't time it. Then I processed them until the flakes were broken up, some pieces were large, others powdery, but mostly none were whole. I then briefly whisked egg whites with sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and stirred in the oats. The mixture was a bit sticky, though it probably would have been easier to form than after the dough had chilled overnight, probably just a 30 minute chill would have sufficed. The dough wasn't that difficult to shape, though I found that after you formed the cookie ball, I needed to lightly wet my fingers and moisten the cookie dough to get it to stay together and so the coffee bean-sugar coating would stick. My main concern was that the cookies would fall apart after baking, but it didn't.

cookies

How did I like them? I thought they were surprisingly good. I wasn't quite sure if the idea would be better than the actual production, so I was pleased when everyone else also thought they tasted good. The chewiness was definitely the best part of the cookies. The coffee bean coating was delicious, though it didn't pack quite the caffeinated experience I was hoping to taste.

These definitely are a work in progress, but so far so good!

Recipe after the jump.




Print this recipe

oat-coffee crinkles
Recipe by Christina Provo

Makes around 2 dozen

ingredients ~

3 cups whole oats, toasted, then pulverized to a coarse powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup whole coffee beans
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

directions ~
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt until frothy. Stir in oat powder and stir until mixed. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Grind the coffee beans, 2 tablespoons at a time, for 6 seconds. Repeat with remaining coffee beans, then mix in a pie plate (or other shallow container) with the sugar. Add half back to the coffee grinder and grind for another 5 seconds; repeat with remaining coffee-sugar mixture.

  3. Place a small bowl filled with water next to the baking sheet. Form and pack 1 tablespoon of the cookie dough, then using moistened fingertips moisten the dough, packing gently with your palm. Roll in the ground coffee and place on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Repeat until all dough has been used. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten cookies slightly into disks. If they break about at the edges, gently press back together.

  4. Place sheet on the middle rack and bake for 9-10 minutes. Let cool on sheet for about a minute, then remove to cooling rack.

27 January 2010

oh holey bagels

bagels

The last time I made bagels was a few years ago P.B. (pre-blogging) when I made cute little tasty mini chocolate chip bagels. So delicious with cream cheese. Since it had been a while, I decided to try out The Fresh Loaf recipe for bagels. The recipe is for a plain bagel and starts with a sponge, then after the bagels are shaped they rest in the fridge overnight, which further develops the flavor and also is flexible. These are also boiled, which is really the only way to make a bagel.

bagels

Besides the boiling before baking, the other difference between a regular bread recipe and a bagel recipe is that the dough for bagels is much thicker, and to give you a comparison, there is about 7 cups of flour for about 12 4 ounce bagels (for my bagels, I portioned the dough out into 3 ounce balls), vs two loaves of bread with around 16 slices a loaf. Yet while bagels are dense, they shouldn't be heavy. The crust should be chewy and a bit crackly and break away into a fluffy, sturdy, and chewy crumb. Bagels really are deceptive.

For further reading, I recommend an article from The New York Times (read it now for free before you have to pay), Was Life Better When Bagels Were Smaller?

While the dough rises overnight, let's play Cotton Towel Rorschach!




The first one reminds me of some strange human figure. Or maybe an amoeba.

The second figure looks like a freaked out ostrich. Maybe after it realized the size of eggs it lays.

Lastly, the figure reminds me of either a vulture or the bald eagle that tried to carry Fivel away.

Back to the bagels.

bagels

Once the bagels have proofed overnight, you carefully drop them in to a pot of boiling water mixed with baking soda. Unfortunately, maybe the dough wasn't as thick as it needed to be because my fingertips dimpled the bagel rings rather unattractively when I lifted them to plop in the pot. I was hoping the boiling might poof them back out, but no dice. Once placed on the sheet next to the risen bagels, they looked dimply and deflated.

bagels

Obviously they grew a bit, but they also deflated. Rather disappointing. I also played around with the baking temperature and time since I felt they needed to be baked longer to achieve a golden texture.

So how do you show a picture of bagels that didn't come out how you expect? You gather the best looking bagels to make it seem like they did!

bagels

As for the taste, they were pretty good, and definitely better than what you can find in the freezer section just by being homemade. For not having anything but flour and water (and salt), the taste was also good. The crust was a bit chewy and the insides soft and chewy, too, though overall they didn't remind me of my favorite bagel place, where they are also boiled in the traditional manner.

bagels

The innards shot was lovely since it had structured holes that I see sometimes in bagels.

I definitely need to work on bagel skills. Next recipe I try is a recommendation from my mom, who likes the bagels from The Joy of Baking.



These bagels will be my contribution to YeastSpotting this week. Check it out to see some great bread ideas!

25 January 2010

thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies

cookies

I detract my previous statement of man being able to live on bread alone. Man also needs cookies. With chocolate chips and dried cranberries, which I believe covers all bases.

While I normally prefer to make a Sugar Plum recipe, I opted for the really quick thick and chewy chocolate chip recipe from America's Test Kitchen. Calling for melted butter and a higher amount of brown sugar than white, the recipe promises a cookie that stays thick and isn't crispy. The cookies are also not completely baked in the oven, as they are allowed to rest for 10 minutes on the baking sheet post-baking to continue cooking at a gentler rate.

cookies

Naturally, I figured if I was melting the butter I would also brown it. I didn't. I had just gotten back from a run and wanted a cookie NOW. These hit the spot, and compared to a normal chocolate chip, these were better. However, I felt that the flavor wasn't as complex as I have grown accustomed to, and the chewiness of the cookie seemed to disappear overnight, becoming alarmingly in that limbo state of staleness and freshness where the cookie goes from deliciously fresh to unimpressively okay, despite being stored properly, the next day. A plus for this recipe is that you don't have to chill the dough to prevent them from spreading out if you lack the time.

A few days later I made the Alton Brown "the chewy" recipe. While very similar to the ATK recipe, the leavening ingredients were a bit different (double what this had), it calls for bread flour instead of all-purpose (can't recall if I did that), uses a higher ratio of brown sugar to white than this recipe did, uses 4 tablespoons more butter (whether I did used two full stick or not, I can't recall), and had 2 tbsp milk (which I left out). By the time I made this recipe, I didn't want to use an egg and an egg yolk (ATK says the fat from the extra yolk contribute to the chewiness), so I used two whole eggs, omitting the two tablespoons of milk with no issue.

Knowing that this recipe would still taste similar to the ATK recipe, I set out to Em-alize the Brown recipe by a) browning the butter, b) adding a teaspoon of instant yeast, b) keeping the baking soda at 1/2 teaspoon (I think) but using the full teaspoon of kosher salt, and c) refrigerating the dough overnight. The resulting cookies were much more caramelized, had better depth of flavors, and seemed to stay chewier longer. The Brown recipe bakes at 375 degrees instead of the 325 that the ATK recipe bakes at, and I felt it browned them a little too much. I did use the same technique of just baking the cookies until set and letting them rest on the sheet for 10 minutes.

So what I mean to say by all this is that I'd definitely make this recipe again if I took the few extra steps of converting it to a Sugar Plum-esque recipe, which really is the best chocolate chip cookie I've made to date. No, she's not paying me to say this. I do not receive a cookie per word of adulation I speak on her behalf. Nothing. At all.

I'm over it, I can also bake. *sniff*

Recipe after jump.

thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies
From The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

My notes: I used 12 oz of chocolate chips instead of the 9 oz called for in the recipe, along with no more than 2 oz of leftover dried cranberries I had. This stretched the dough out to get about a dozen more cookies than the 2 dozen stated. Also, each cookie is 2 tablespoons of dough, which makes a nice looking cookie, though normally I make 1 tablespoon cookies because they are a better snacking size. If you do this, you'll have double the amount of cookies.


Makes about 24 cookies

ingredients ~

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (I recommend using a coarse salt)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed light brown sugar (I almost never use light brown sugar in anything since I usually only have dark)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I increased this to a tablespoon in the Sugar Plum version)
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

directions ~
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position (I didn't) and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.

  2. In a large bowl, beat the melted butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.

  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the chips until incorporated.

  4. Working with 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay them on the prepped baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking.

  5. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

23 January 2010

big beautiful banana muffins

muffins

My love affair with America's Test Kitchen continues with a recipe for muffins. The basic recipe is plain with options for various flavors, and I chose the banana. A couple changes I made were to replace half of the flour with white whole wheat, not subbing brown sugar for the white, and not adding walnuts, though I used slightly more than the amount of finely diced banana called for to make up for it. That's right, the bananas weren't mashed, and I kind of like that.

muffins

Using yogurt as the liquid, along with eggs and melted butter, the recipe whips up quickly and even can be made a) ahead of time, and b) ahead of time and frozen in pre-portioned "cups" for future baking, which I'll be trying out later for the sake of testing.

The texture is moist, spongy, and soft. It didn't have a mouth-melting quality of a muffin made where the butter is beaten with sugar, it was light and good for what a muffin should be.

To make the crowns large and domed, the same Once Upon a Tart principle of filling the tins to just below the top is implemented with the ATK muffins. I still wasn't quite pleased with the overall height, though I figured I slightly overmixed the batter since didn't have the correct egg size and used 2 tablespoons less butter because I didn't want to cut into another stick, so I quickly beat a third medium size egg with a few tablespoons of milk and stirred that in. I wouldn't say it was really overmixed, but it probably was just by a bit. I also got 17 muffins instead of the 12 they said, most likely due again to the extra additions. I didn't see when they said to fold the extra ingredients into the batter, but I'm assuming it's before all the wet and dry ingredients have been folded together properly (a few light streaks of flour should remain).

One mistake I realized I made was that the recipe says to mix the wet ingredients with dry just until combined, then fold in melted butter. Obviously, I did not do this, and they make no explanation for why this method differs. This only means I'll have to make even more to see what happens.

muffins

I had a little ATL experiment of my own, one I've noticed in the past, too. Whenever there isn't enough batter to fill all of the cups in the muffin tin, I fill the empty cups halfway with water. I notice the muffins in the tin with water tend to have a higher crown than those in tins filled with all batter, even though the steam should hit all of them. Interesting.

Also, I notice that if the muffins come out at a certain height, after cooling they fall down a bit, even if cooked completely. Is this a steam being released thing going on?

Edit: These were delicious. Not too sweet, yet a perfectly accented banana flavor. I already noted the texture above. Here are some previously blogged banana bread recipes: black-and-white banana loaf, GT's banana bread, Mom's favorite banana bread.

Anyway, I have a few more recipes I've made that I need to blog about. If I don't, I certainly will talk about it. I may get them all out of the way in one sweet post. In the meantime, enjoy the recipe for muffins after the jump.



big beautiful banana muffins
Recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Makes 12

ingredients ~
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk or low-fat yogurt
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups finely diced bananas

directions ~
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 370 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt and eggs together until smooth. Gently fold the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined, then fold in the melted butter. This is where, maybe along with the butter, I'm guessing you also fold in the bananas.

  3. Using a greased 1/3-cup measure, portion the batter into each muffin cup. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time.

  4. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.


21 January 2010

savory cheese and scallion muffins

savory muffins

Or, why I love Christopher Kimball.

See, I've caught episodes of America's Test Kitchen before on PBS, and I like how they try and find the simplest, best, and most reliant method of creating a recipe so that anyone is able to do it. For obvious reasons, that means whatever you make, if you follow the methods and recipe, will come out how it's supposed to -- or what I really mean, how it's supposed to look.

savory muffins

Part of why I like to bake is because I like creating things, and then I like eating the creations. But, I'm into aesthetics, so I want whatever I bake to look like I put in the effort. I know I'm not the only crazy person like this, and I really don't think it's all that crazy.

When these muffins came out, I just smiled. It's one of those simple pleasures.

These muffins are just great, a nice savory, cheesy flavor with a bite of scallion thrown in. I'd say the texture is between a spongier biscuit and a traditional muffin. The batter is quite thick, but it doesn't make up heavy. And don't be afraid of using all the batter in just 12 muffin tins because it's what gives the muffins their nicely domed crown.

Perfect with soup, perfect as a snack, or as part of lunch, and even better with half white whole wheat, which gives it a little nutritional boost that sticks with you longer.

Recipe after the jump.



savory cheese and scallion muffins
Recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Makes 12

Grating the Parmesan on the large holes of a box grater adds a nice texture to these muffins and helps prevent the cheese from burning; do not grate it fine or use pregrated Parmesan.

ingredients ~
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, or blue cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
2 scallions, sliced thin (I used about 4)
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cups sour cream (I had none, so I briefly strained some yogurt -- use about 1/4 extra to compensate for the drained liquid, making sure to remeasure)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater (1/2 cup) (I omitted this because I had none)

directions ~
  1. Adjust and oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne, and pepper together in a large bowl. Stir in the cheese and scallions, breaking up any clumps, until the cheese is coated with flour. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, sour cream, melted butter, and egg together until smooth. Gently fold the milk mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined (the batter will be heavy and thick).

  3. Using a greased 1/3-cup measure, portion the batter into each muffin cup. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the tops of the muffins. Bake until golden and brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

  4. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

20 January 2010

I'm a twit

Yes, She Runs, She Eats is now a member of the Twitting community. I encourage you to follow me, though I may not update it very often. Let me know who you are and I'll follow you back!

RunningFoodie on Twitter


19 January 2010

toasted coconut baked oatmeal with caramelized bananas

baked oatmeal
I haven't made baked oatmeal in a long time. I really enjoyed it the last time I made it, especially the texture. Unlike regular oatmeal, the texture is more like a soft oatmeal bar rather than an Oliver Twist-like porridge, although it's not something I make often because it requires a little more foresight. When I have a morning to spare, though, I can take a bit longer to make a more complex breakfast.

When making this recipe, I wanted the flavors to be more tropical than the fruit typically stirred into a bowl of oatmeal, so I decided on toasted coconut and a caramelized banana topping. For other flavors, I browned some butter and added cardamom. Instead of whole eggs, I used egg whites so that it wouldn't be too dense. You can sub whole eggs if you're feeling like Gaston.

This dessert-like baked oatmeal is filling, yet won't sit like a brick in your stomach, making it the perfect weekend breakfast. While it's traditionally baked in a baking dish, you could evenly divide the mixture between muffin cups for individual storage. Omit the bananas, maybe add crushed banana chips to the oatmeal (they'll soften overnight), wrap the oatmeal cups well, and freeze for longer storage.

baked oatmeal
I love it when recipes come out how you envisioned. As the weather continues to be crappy, I can pretend it's better by making dishes with a more summery feel. At least my stomach will be happy.



Print this recipe

toasted coconut baked oatmeal with caramelized bananas
Recipe by Christina Provo

You can also prep this delicious breakfast the night before and pop it into the oven the next morning.

Serves 5-6

ingredients ~

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned and cooled
1/2 cup egg whites
3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 large bananas, sliced into 1/4 inch slices, on the bias
Granulated sugar

directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 8x3-inch round baking dish, or similar dish with tall sides. In a medium sized bowl, whisk oats, coconut, brown sugar, baking powder, spices and salt together.
  2. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, whisk together applesauce, milk, and browned butter. Add oat mixture and mix thoroughly to combine, then gently fold in beaten egg whites. Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes
  3. Twenty minutes into baking time, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. When butter has melted, stir in 2 tablespoons brown sugar to melt. Carefully place banana slices in skillet and lower heat to medium-low. Cook, carefully turning slices, for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Take oatmeal out from the oven and place banana slices, overlapping, on top in a circular style. Pour and spread any remaining sugar-butter remnants on top and continue baking for remaining 10 minutes.
  4. Remove dish from oven. Preheat broiler to high, with oven rack at the second-to-highest position. Sprinkle bananas evenly with enough granulated sugar to lightly coat. Broil until sugar has melted and slightly caramelized. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

18 January 2010

cinnamon oatmeal raisin bread

bread

They say man cannot live by bread alone. This was said because cinnamon oatmeal raisin bread probably hadn't been discovered.

I've been meaning to make this recipe, from The Fresh Loaf, for a while now. Like just about every recipe I make that I talk about. I kept thinking of a slice of raisin-studded cinnamon bread toasted and slathered with butter and honey for breakfast. Finally, I made it.

bread

Featuring the obvious, cinnamon and raisins, this also had oatmeal. You couldn't really tell, though, because the oats were soaked before being mixed with the flour. I like texture in my bread, so next time I'd either not soak all of them, or not soak them at all. They did add a more nutritious element, along with whole wheat flour, so this isn't as bad as, say, a cinnamon roll disguised as a slice of bread. Not too sweet, either, which I liked, though I'd have added just a bit more honey, or boosted it with some sugar, to enhance the flavor a bit more.

While mixing this bread, I accidentally added all the flour at once and it was much too dry. I fixed this by adding just enough water to get things mixing, knowing that the raisins, which were soaked and not pat dry, would also help. (A note for adding water: It might seem to be really sticky at first, and you'll be tempted to add additional flour. Don't. Just knead it a bit to allow the water to be absorbed by the flour.)

There's a ton of raisins. It might seem like too much, but it isn't. Often times I skimp on the fruit and realize after the fact that I shouldn't have, as the dough expands and the raisins do not.

With two tablespoons of cinnamon, the dough ended up turning a bit grey. Weird, huh? I think with less cinnamon and a bit more of the sweet stuff you could get away with whiter, more enhanced flavor, though I'm not complaining at all.

Another note was that this bread was quite dense. The loaves were like weights, I swear I could have gotten some strength training in after they baked. The recipe says it makes 3 8x4-inch loaves, and I only have two of those, so I figured 2 9x5-inch loaves would be appropriate. While they rose well, and I don't think they would have had I made 3, they still were rather dense. If anything, this is a very filling bread to have on hand for a sweet bite that'll leave you satisfied, and is also good for you.

french toast

And what to do with extra bread? You make French toast! And you douse it with powdered sugar. Slices of bread soaked with a creamy custard-like mixture of eggs and milk, flavored slightly with nutmeg and sugar (hoping it would help caramelize the crust -- I don't know if this worked), then fried on the skillet until crispy and golden.

This has been a very technical post in terms of what I've told you. I'm almost boring myself. Almost, because I find what I have to say very important.

I will be submitting this bread to YeastSpotting, a place where great bread comes together.



If you are interested in a different kind of energy, one that you can try whilst exercising, head on over to Trying to Heal's blog for a chance to win some Forze GPS Bars. They come in some pretty delicious flavors!


16 January 2010

PowerBar Energy Gel Blasts free sample!


Sitting here before a run, I thought this commercial for PowerBar's Energy Gel Blasts was timely. And then I thought of all my cool blogger friends who might be interested in free stuff, too!

The Gel Blasts (I love saying that... BLAST OF ENERGY!) says it offers up to 20-55% more energy than typical glucose energy supplements. I've never taken any gels or stuff during running, mainly because I don't run that far, but since my runs have been inching up there I'm looking forward to checking this out. I also know that a bit of something has helped me feel better during the end of a long run, like the awesome Clif Quench I tried a while back.

Get your sample now at PowerBar's website for free Energy Gel Blasts!.

(The fine print on the website says this offer has expired, but I just saw the commercial on the TV so maybe they're still running it.)


15 January 2010

Easy Bake takes the cake

easy bake
The timer would not cooperate.

This will be a blast from the past for many of you, an Easy Bake Oven blog appearance! Before you laugh, there is an entire book of gourmet recipes scaled down to Easy Bake size that legit chefs have contributed to, even Rick Bayless. And so, as requested, I now blog about Easy Bake cake.

I would like to mention that this oven has not seen the light of day for a few years. The same crusted cake that overflowed onto the metal hinge flap is still there, though. Sigh, memories!

easy bake

I found a site that shows how to make homemade mixes and I started off with the brownie mix. It turned into more of a cake since I don't have chocolate syrup, and not just a chocolate cake, but an applesauce chocolate cake.

Now if you're an environmentalist, an Easy Bake Oven is not for you. You can't use any of those special earth-saving light bulbs because these cakes took 15 minutes per layer. And, as you know, only one layer can bake at a time. This is with a standard high-wattage light bulb. And if the bulb breaks inside the oven, forget about it. You'll have toxic waste cakes.

easy bake

An hour and four cake layers later, I was finished for the night. I did have fun baking this, and I even took a video of the first cake going in the oven. That's not really upload-worthy, but it gets funnier because I forgot which side the cake goes in. Easy Bake Oven fail.

easy bake

The next day is frosting day, my favorite part of cake baking. Nothing says cute more than a miniature pink layer cake. You could probably slap pink on anything, call it cute, and the world will concur.

easy bake

This is so much fun. I mean, seriously, if you're on a diet, this is the cake for you. If you have ADD, this is your kind of cake. (Don't get mad -- it's the truth. Oh wait, I forgot about how long it took to bake.)

easy bake

I'm just really quite flabbergasted by how well this turned out. The cake layers were moist, the entire thing looks genius, and you just want to stare at it all day, knocking on neighbors' doors and offering them a bite-size slice of cake. (I didn't.)

If you really want to one up your wedding, tell everyone that the mini cakes were baked in an Easy Bake Oven.

The guests will die.

Some might call you crazy.

But they'll always remember the cake. Imagine a line up of freaky illuminated Easy Bakes all in the same room with hundreds of little mini cake pans ready to pop in the oven, a nonstop process that begins half a year before the date of your wedding. Incredible.

easy bake

So here is the special request cake. I hope you like it. =)

14 January 2010

apple cherry pie

pie

Everyone loves pie. It's not an option to hate it, and if you do hate it I don't want to hear it. Actually, I have a love-hate relationship with pie, but only because I haven't got a legit grasp on making it. They turn out alright and flavorful, yet there's always something lacking, like a soggy bottom crust (who wants to hear that their bottom is saggy, let alone eat a saggy bottom crust on a pie?), or the crimping loses shape (like when you decide to curl your hair or something, only to have it fall flat upon leaving the bathroom) or the dough shrinks. I used to be afraid of cakes, but Barney taught me that all the things that used to bother me really aren't so scary at all.

Sorry.

I just started baking and decorating cakes until I became semi-confident in my ability to create a purposely level and straight-sided cake. I still hold my breath, waiting to see if the cake will actually come out of the pan or be stuck and flung across the room in rage.

pie

This is Martha's mile-high apple pie, with the remaining frozen cherries leftover from the Christmas pie. While the ratio was favoring the apples, the cherry flavor came through more than I expected. I added a bit more sugar and flour to compensate for the excess liquid once the cherries thawed, and I added cardamom, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg.

Usually you might encounter the gapping crust issue with apple pies, where the apples cook down and the crust stays up. Here, there are so many apples that when the pie cools, it's pretty flush with the top crust. Then again, you could partially cook the filling and use less apples, though it's not as impressive when you slice into it as this is because there's like 5 inches of apples per slice. There's about 5 pounds of apples. In this pie. That's a lot of peeling, coring, and slicing, not to scare you away or anything. If you have any frozen fruit besides strawberries, throw them in in place of some apples.

pie

So pretty, the crimping. I think I will start a new saying, "You're crimping my style." Except it'll be a good thing.

pie

Another issue I have with pies is that the filling never sets up and it ruins the slice. Using this recipe, however, and letting it rest overnight before slicing (you might say this is a test of will-power, but I really just want to be done with the thing and can't wait for it to be out of my sight) produces an upstanding slice of pie.

pie

And thus concludes the apple pie. I feel I'm getting closer to producing a crust I don't find fault with in both taste and look, and I'm getting closer to just churning pies out without much production. WATCH OUT, I'M BAKING PIE. DO NOT ENTER. Yeah, that's fun. Here's your damn pie.

"Isn't this the one you wept into?"

"It's salty sweetness, enjoy it."

So yeah, I'm much more confident in rolling the crust out and all that, and overall it's more fun to make than when the holidays come up and I haven't made a pie since a specific time in history I will not mention by name.

Expect to see more pie.

13 January 2010

chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies

choco-ginger cookies

Last weekend was spent doing practically nothing but baking. I made some new things, and I made some favorite things. I also made something that was probably the most fun, if not a bit time-consuming that you'll see later, sort of a flashback to the past. So the next few posts will be the recipes I made.

One of my favorite cookies to make during cooler weather is anything spicy, anything with warm flavors. You can't get much warmer or spicier than the combination of ginger and chocolate together. These cookies have a great ginger flavor thanks to both ground ginger and fresh ginger, as well as a few other spices to subtly boost the flavor. Molasses and brown sugar make the cookie chewy, and the chunks of chocolate are a great contrasting texture and flavor.

As good as these were, though, and call me crazy if you must, I wonder what they would be like with a bit of espresso powder mixed in. Or, better yet, finely ground coffee beans added to the sugar you roll the cookies in. How awesome is that!

choco-ginger cookies

If you can't tell already, I highly recommend everyone making these cookies. Super simple, the dough can be made ahead of time, and you'll be rewarded with pretty, crackly, sugar-topped cookies.

Recipe after the jump.



chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies
Recipe from Martha Stewart

makes about 2 dozen cookies

ingredients ~

7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar

directions ~
  1. 1. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.

  3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.

  4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

11 January 2010

baking Chocolate Cream Pie with Mom

chocolate cream pie

My mom and I decided to bake a chocolate cream pie this weekend, during which we discovered how best to make a crumb crust. It turned out as more of a crumb shortbread crust that was really delicious. It started out by crushing some coconut cookies and mixing with melted butter, sans sugar since we didn't want it too sweet. Well, it completely collapsed in the oven after we baked it, so Mom dumped it back in a bowl, mixed in the sugar we previously left out, and I added some flour. We could tell right away that we wouldn't have a problem with the crust this time.

chocolate cream pie

The custard came together really well, though it took a bit of whisking to completely emulsify the chocolate into the milk mixture once it started thickening. In the recipe we used, the chocolate is added with all the ingredients instead of being melted separately and whisked in. It's easier, though remember to really whisk the mixture together.

chocolate cream pie

Very delicious. The chocolate pudding was rich and creamy and very chocolaty. Seriously, this is a 1 slice-per-sitting type of dessert! My mom and I were discussing how this even was invented since it's practically pudding in a crust, as she noted. And yes, it is, but everyone is impressed by pie.



chocolate cream pie with a shortbread crust

I will list directions and ingredients for the crust we used, and the link to the chocolate cream pie recipe.

ingredients ~
2 cups cookie crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons melted butter
Chocolate cream pie

directions ~
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Mix together cookie crumbs, sugar, and flour. Pour in butter and stir until evenly incorporated. Press crust into a lightly greased 9-inch pie pan, evenly along the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Let cool while preparing chocolate custard.

10 January 2010

No-Knead to panic, just bring your towel

no knead bread

Hello, there! This recipe has been talked about before on here, though I never cared for the pictures. Since I made this loaf for our traditional New Year's Eve fondue, I snapped better ones and I'm going to talk about it once again.

So yes, the "debate" about no-knead bread, and the carryover to Artisan in Five recipes, is that the fun of baking bread is lost if you don't get your hands messy (I actually feel that way about bread machines because you work with the dough even less than this). Even for someone who likes to bake, like me, I can appreciate a good loaf that's quick to make and produces knockout results. I'm not necessarily trading learning techniques for the easy route, I just want something I don't have to think about and fits around my schedule.

And for not requiring much hand-on time, this does just that. The crust is excellent and the crumb texture is outstanding. My only complaint was that it seemed a bit gummy. I fixed that this time by adding about 1/4 cup additional flour. The dough wasn't as shaggy, but it rose just the same and was a bit easier to work with during the folding period. The crust seemed a bit more egg shell-like than the loaf I made for comparison with the regular amount of flour.

crumb shot

Beautiful. Tastes amazing plain, toasted, as croutons or as a platform for toppings. You just can't go wrong with this recipe.



No-Knead Bread
Recipe by Jim Lahey on Martha Stewart

My notes: I mixed the salt with the water before adding it to the flour and yeast. I've seen many recipes lately saying to mix the salt with the instant yeast, and my general knowledge is that salt kills yeast, though maybe it doesn't affect instant yeast the same as active dried yeast. Whatever the reason, I just mix it with the water. And I use kosher salt.

Instead of wheat bran, I use rice flour to dust the cotton towel and the top of the bread. I find that the loaf doesn't absorb rice flour as it does wheat flour. Carry on.

ingredients ~

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Olive oil, as needed
Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed (optional)

directions ~
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Coat a second large bowl with olive oil. Transfer dough to oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, but preferably up to 18, in a room about 70 degrees in temperature. When surface is dotted with bubbles, dough is ready.

  2. Lightly flour work surface. Place dough on work surface and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

  3. Sprinkle just enough flour over work surface and your fingers to keep dough from sticking; quickly and gently shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran; place dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran. Cover with a second cotton towel and let rise until it has more than doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.

  4. After about 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot, such as cast-iron or Pyrex, in oven as it heats. When dough has fully risen, carefully remove pot from oven. Remove top towel from dough and slide your hand under the bottom towel; turn dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough looks unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking until browned, 15 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

08 January 2010

Enjoying the Run, and Setting Boundaries

A food-related post will be coming either Sunday or Monday; in the meantime, I really feel the need to talk more about the mental side of running, as that's often where the trouble first starts.

When it comes to running, I've seen many runners put too much stock in whether or not they're able to run. After posing this question to myself, especially thinking back on when I was injured, I realized I didn't want my mood or my life to be determined by running in the sense that I'd be a grouch to everyone around me if I didn't get my run in, or I'd fall into a depression if I got injured.

This realization came to me this past summer as I, you guessed it, had a minor injury. "No! I have goals this summer! Races to run, PRs to set! I don't have time for this injury," I cried out to, well, no one. Though meeting those goals was a struggle, heck even wanting to run became a struggle, it then hit me -- shouldn't running be something I want to do instead of just a run to be checked off on my log? That was it--I lost the joy and enthusiasm I had when I first started running and didn't have a clue.

My first ever running plan came from Cooking Light. My mileage totaled 9-15 miles a week, but I never noticed since the miles didn't matter. Yet, I felt great. I didn't even know what my average pace was.

My new goal was to combine my current knowledge of running with my "innocence" from before. I started off by running timed runs instead of mile-based, though a little structured in the sense that I knew the total miles I would be running, just not the mile marks. I ran by how my body felt instead of what my watch was telling me. I used to have this incredible sense of pacing that I lost because I quit running the race and was running the miles within the race. My first split was WHAT? Unacceptable! I started off slowly, going out for 50 minutes (this being determined by what my average mileage had been before). Pretty soon I decided to go out further. When I got back and mapped it out, I realized it totaled 10 miles. Huh? Ten enjoyable miles? Miles I didn't struggle with halfway through? Yes, that's right. Thinking back, I did enjoy the run. I didn't necessarily let my mind wander off, but I appreciated the nature and the minute things I ceased to notice before that made running fun at the beginning.

And now I will pose this question to you: Has your running turned into a checkoff list, or do you still want to be out on the road? When we decide that we "are" something, I am a runner, I am a knitter, I'm a cook, we often cease to set realistic boundaries because it's a major part of our lives when, really, that's why it needs boundaries or we'll slowly become wrapped up in a bubble. Unless it's your job, we have other facets of our lives, and if we can't run (for whatever reason), we have "fallback" activities that are a part of us. The whole reason we start something is because we enjoy it, so make sure that you still do.

06 January 2010

a brief pause



Hey guys! Things have been a little quiet around here, but rest assured that I'm still around and cooking. The cooking is actually taking me in a different direction at the moment and once I'm finished I'll be able to get back to a normal blogging routine. Also, I haven't been commenting on your blogs much; just know I am still reading and enjoying what's going on in your kitchens!

As for running, I'm also talking a little break, not so much because of the cold as it is the snow. I've found that running in white fluffy matter affects my stride for the worse. Lately, my goal in running is to bring a realistic approach in how I view it; things ebb and flow, and I don't want to be a stickler for "getting my runs it". Granted, I don't have to stop all activity, it's just the way things are going at the moment. My advice to everyone is to step back and take a look at your training plans and running goals. Having goals is great, but we need to realize, especially if we tend to expect immediate results, that things take a while to come about and it's about consistency. I like to break things up into macro-goals that are attainable during the course of said long-term goal as it doesn't make the road ahead seem quite so long.


This was on my New Year's Day run a bit after midnight. I set out for 10 and only made it 6 because I underdressed my hands. The first three miles were great! My brothers were going to join me when I looped back for the remaining 4 miles. Unfortunately, I called it quits and was not going back out; they went out for 1 mile and almost broke into the high 6-minute range! For my little bro, who just started running at the beginning of 2009 year, that's incredible!

I'll sign off with the words of Conan: Keep cool, my babies!

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