A Breakfast Treat

If you happen to have cinnamon swirl bread on hand, this is a great way to get rid of bananas. (You shouldn't need help getting rid of your cinnamon swirl bread.) It's also a great way to surprise a sleepy cinnamon-loving man in bed.

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Broiled Bananas on Toast

Baking tray
Tongs OR heat-proof finger skin

slices of cinnamon swirl bread
banana (sliced lengthwise)
cinnamon sugar


Remix: Peanut Butter Cookies

When I say peanut butter cookies, I know what you're thinking:

(peanut butter + sugar + eggs) * oven = cookie

Well, it's time to rethink the peanut butter cookie. The original recipe came from Alice Medrich's book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-your-Mouth Cookies. I made two batches--one was exactly as she specified in her book, the other with my own addition. Mine won, hands down.

These are the originals, with chopped peanuts on top
The cookie itself is crispy but gets stuck in your teeth like cotton candy. The Reese's Peanut Butter Cup I snuck in the middle? The chocolate and peanut butter melt and stick to your tongue. It's an incredible play of textures.

The best part? The cookie is only 50 calories.

You'll burn off at least 2 cookies if you whisk by hand.
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Peanut Butter Surprises
makes 30-35 cookies
adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

whisk + really strong arm OR electric mixer OR stand mixer
measuring cups OR scale+1 measuring spoon
rubber spatula (OR something similar)
parchment paper
2 baking trays
plastic bag OR pastry bag OR spoon

3 egg whites
0.125t cream of tartar
4.60 oz sugar (2/3c)
3oz chunky all-natural peanut butter (1/3c)
2 bags Reese's Minis (they come in bags and are pre-unwrapped)
chopped peanuts (optional)


Book Review: The Curious Cook by Harold McGee

Another book I found hiding in the university's chemistry library, this was a fairly fun and entertaining read. You may have heard of Harold McGee—he writes for the New York Times and has written a couple of other books (one of which I'm currently reading!).

The Curious Cook is basically a book about playing with food. By playing, I really mean performing pseudo-scientific experiments. The first part of the book reads like a series of lab reports, just lab reports from the best lab course you could ever take.

McGee talks about searing meat, sous vide cooking, beurre blanc and persimmons from an objective and scientific standpoint, creating experiments to explain the chemistry behind the concepts. While the chapters aren't as in depth as his tome On Food and Cooking, they're a lot more fun and accessible. Plus, I'm game to read any book that has a whole chapter on sorbet, particularly if that chapter has recipes and instructions for making your own.

Unfortunately, the book doesn't really go out with a bang. The second part of the book is about food and our health, including heart disease and cancer. Although his explanations of how food might affect our health did give me more information, they weren't as accessible as the first few chapters.

The highlights
- It's a fun, light, easy read.
- It piqued my scientific curiosity about food, and made me think about ways to ask and answer my own questions.
- The last few chapters were really a lot less fun to read.

The verdict:
This book would make the perfect present for a teenager who likes both science and food (but maybe doesn't have a huge background in either). It also has a few pretty handy reference tables scattered throughout the book. It's a cheap enough book that I would consider purchasing it as a reference book, especially if I made a lot of fruit ices/sorbets or cooked a lot of meat.


Pots de Creme

A few minutes after I asked D what he wanted for dinner, I found myself clicking on the first post on Tastespotting--pots de creme from Lick My Spoon.

I had everything on hand, so I made them. As with every other food blogger, I made my own substitutions (otherwise why would I bother posting again--I could just direct you to her post!).

First, I used peppermint tea (with loose peppermint leaves) instead of coffee. I brewed it strong, but you could hardly taste the mint. I think it needed mint extract!

Second, I used extra bittersweet chocolate, because it's what I had on hand. Next time I'd made it with semisweet. D found it a little bit too bitter for his tastes, although I thought it was delightful.

In other news, I started my culinary school application today!

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Chocolate Pots de Creme
makes 4 servings

hot beverage maker (tea kettle, microwave, coffee maker, etc)
blender (see Notes if you don't have a blender!)

6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
2 eggs
1t vanilla extract (or mint extract)
0.5t salt
4oz. very hot peppermint tea, brewed very strong (0.5c, although beware it evaporates fast, so brew a little bit extra)


M+D's Favorite Pasta Sauce

A while back my dad sent me his amazing meat sauce recipe... but I lost it. I asked him for it again, but I don't think he ever remembered to resend it (probably for fear that I would lose it again and it would fall into undeserving hands).

Found this frying pan in the kitchen. It was perfect for tossing.
Instead, D and I searched the archives of Tastespotting for a recipe and found this one. Of course, we didn't actually follow the recipe (for a lot of reasons) but it ended up being delicious.

Over the past year, it's transformed a couple of times and improved a lot. It takes a decent amount of time to get everything in the pot, but most of it is inactive time. It's a great project if you're working on something else in the kitchen--writing blog posts, watching a movie or even making/decorating cookies.

The instructions are long, but they're very step by step. (You don't even have to read all the way through them before starting--they walk you through when to chop and when to add.)

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M+D's Meat Sauce
makes enough for 3lbs of pasta

Cutting board
Chef's knife
Wooden spatula
Medium frying pan
Large pot (plus one for cooking pasta)
Grater (for nutmeg)
Butter knife (or you can use the chef's knife)
Two burners

Worth every minute. Yum!
2T olive oil
3T butter, divided
0.5 large onion
2 large carrots or 2 handfuls of baby carrots
2-3 stalks of celery (you want about the same amount as the carrot)
4 cloves garlic
1.5lbs ground beef (as fatty or unfatty as you desire)
1c milk
1 can sweet corn kernels
1 can (15oz.) beef broth (or you can use half broth and half wine--we weren't 21 when we first started making this recipe)
1 32oz. can and 1 15oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (if you have tomato haters, use crushed or diced, or crush them with your hands)
5-10 brown mushrooms (optional, although D's pretty upset that they ever became an option..)
1t red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1-2t Italian seasoning, basil or thyme (whatever you have)
0.5 nutmeg
salt, pepper

(Almost Vegan) Banana Bread

I was so excited for this to be vegan.. but then I used honey. Oops. I have some ideas for future honey replacement, so expect to see an updated, actually vegan version of this in the future.

For now, if you're an ok-with-honey vegan, give it a shot. (Or replace the honey with either agave or malt syrup! Although honey works as an emulsifier, which you need if you're leaving out the eggs, so this may not work very well. If you do this, you may want to consider using egg replacer instead of flaxseed meal.)

Also, coconut in banana bread is a great idea. Do it.

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Almost Vegan Banana Bread
makes one loaf

kitchen scale (although I've included approximate measurements!)
measuring cups
loaf pan (or muffin tins)


2T flaxseed meal
3.8oz soy milk (7T + 2t)

3.2 oz vegetable oil (6T)
3.75 oz brown sugar (0.5c)
1t vanilla extract
0.75t baking soda
0.5t salt
3 super ripe bananas (about 15 ounces without peels)
3oz. honey (6T)
8oz whole wheat flour (about 1.75c)
2oz chopped nuts (about 0.5c)
handful of unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional)



This weekend has been filled with lots of baking, shopping and eating... not as much homework, but it will get done eventually. Let's call it my own little way of celebrating Valentine's day.

Another favorite knife in the background!!!

D and I were watching Good Eats last night while our cinnamon bread was baking. The episode was about  parsnips, or more specifically hiding veggies in other foods to trick unsuspecting children. He used parsnips because they're sweet, mildly nutty and easy to disguise. He uses them in pear sauce, in muffins and to make chips.

At the beginning of the episode he mentions that beets would also be a good veggie to use, but their red color gave them away.

Since I'm not as worried about hiding my veggies, when I saw beets at the store, I decided to grab a couple and see what I could do with them.

After some pondering, I decided to try red velvet cupcakes, using beets as coloring. Not only in the spirit of V-Day, but this was a perfect opportunity to use our new blender! [The RA's bought a blender as a group for smoothie study breaks! I am currently the guardian.]

They're incredibly tender and light, with a fairly strong beet and chocolate flavor that I think is wonderful. They're not very red, but they are very delicious so it's ok. I've also given them a sour cream frosting with a hint of nutmeg.

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One-Bowl (Chocolate) Borscht Cupcakes
makes 24 large or 36 regular cupcakes

1.25c butter, very very soft
3c beet puree [see Notes]
2c sugar
1.5t salt
3 eggs
1.5t vanilla extract
1c milk (soy or regular) with 2T white or balsamic vinegar added [see Notes]
3.5c all-purpose flour
1c natural cocoa powder [see Notes]
2t baking soda
1 recipe of sour cream-nutmeg frosting (see below)


Valentine's Day Surprise - A Guest Post

A Valentine's Day gift from the Mini-Mart.
If you bring home Russel Stover, she'll know it was last minute. Guaranteed. But you don't have any time, do you? So go to the mini-mart and get her favorite flat candy, preferably Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and large York Peppermint Patties. (Bonus points if it's easy to cut.)

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Peppermint Patties are not inherently romantic. Go figure. So make them romantic. With just a paring knife (or really any reasonably sharp object) you can turn mini-mart candy into a Valentine surprise.

You folks on the West Coast have three hours left. See how happy it will make her?

Notice I said peppermint patties and peanut butter cups,  not or.

--- D

Cinnamon Swirl Bread/Homemade Bagels

Cinnamon Swirl Bread with the Bread Baker's Apprentice open in the background.
I've been slowly working on baking my way through Peter Reinhardt's Bread Baker's Apprentice. I definitely haven't been going in order, nor have I made much progress, but the recipes I have made have been delicious.

Since Valentine's day is coming up, I decided I better make some of D's favorite foods. I'd say his two favorite ingredients are probably garlic and cinnamon, so I decided to make one goodie with each.

He recently bought me two brand spanking new loaf pans, so those were obviously going to factor into the equation. Since cinnamon + loaf pan = cinnamon bread, I knew exactly where to start. I don't want to reprint the recipe, because you should really check out the book but here are the basics:
1. Make a lightly enriched white bread dough (some eggs, sugar, fat, etc. but not a lot), with about a teaspoon of cinnamon in the dough. (Too much cinnamon will slow down the yeast. Don't worry, there's plenty more in this recipe.) Knead in chopped nuts in the last two minutes if you want. (Reinhardt's recipe calls for raisins, but really, who likes raisins???)
2. To form the loaf, roll the dough into a rectangle a few inches narrower than your loaf pans and fairly long (12-16 inches long). Sprinkle the topside with cinnamon sugar and then roll the dough tightly, pinching the end shut to create a seal.
3. Bake as instructed. When the loaves come out of the oven, brush the tops with about 1T melted butter per 2 loaves, and sprinkle with any leftover cinnamon sugar to make a nice delicious crust.
That's an awesome bread knife in the foreground. I'll post on knives soon.
Yum!! We finished about a third of a loaf as an evening snack.

Yes, all of those slices (and more) went into our belly immediately after this photo was taken.
Next task: garlic.


Lots of Training and Whole Wheat Apple Pastries

We're starting to transition into shorter pieces in preparation for the spring season. We've spent the fall and winter working mostly on our aerobic base, doing 80+ minutes of low heart rate work on a regular basis, with a few shorter (~45 minutes total work) stints at faster paces.

Our training now is phasing into 20 minutes or less of total work at much faster paces. It's really fun to see all our hard work translate into the faster pieces, without ever training these speeds.

We've also been lifting a lot. If you've never lifted before, it's time to start! Look out for an upcoming post on lifting basics.

I've been an athlete for most of my life, but I remember for most of it feel very out of shape. I got tired walking to the tops of stairs, couldn't run very far (or very fast) and just generally wasn't very energetic. This year that totally changed. I'm sure losing weight has helped, but we're also doing some incredible training this year.

We bought a bunch of apples from the 'soup bin' at our local grocery store, and have been collecting apples from the dining halls as well. I had originally intended to make my one bowl muffins (I have a post waiting, it just needs some good pictures.. they always seem to disappear before I can take pictures).

I then quickly remembered that I was trying to branch out and try new, different things. Quick breads and muffins are fairly straightforward, as are cakes and cupcakes. Instead, I thought I'd try pastries. I tried to make mini pumpkin pies with homemade crust over winter break and was sorely disappointed. I figured I'd give it another go.

I'd been wanting to try poptarts for a while, so I found a recipe. I also have an excess of whole wheat flour right now, that needs to be used ASAP. (Did you know that whole wheat flour goes rancid quickly?) I decided to sub whole wheat for the all-purpose flour and see what happened.

They were crumbly, not flaky, and the whole wheat gave these a great nutty flavor that went well with the apples.

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Whole Wheat Apple Pastries
makes 6-8 small pastries

1 tart apple, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
0.25c brown sugar
1T cinnamon
0.5t ground ginger (optional)

1.25c whole wheat flour
1 stick (0.5c) butter, cold, cut into small cubes
2T really cold water
1T sugar
0.5t salt


New books about cooking! (and a few posts to come...)

Instead of posting this week, I've had my head buried in books! D bought me two books this past week, and I'm super excited about both of them. First, he bought me On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.. In case you're following my book reviews, you might have noticed I was already reading this. 

Well, turns out the library had the 1st edition. D bought me the second edition (which is so much better!!!) so I'm starting over from the beginning of a now 800 page book. I just finished the chapter on dairy, so expect a dairy-based recipe soon!

He also bought me Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-your-Mouth Cookies. I was fortunate enough to try this woman's amazing chocolate cake in high school, before I knew who she was. All I remember was thinking it was some spectacularly good chocolate birthday cake (and probably going back for seconds). I'm looking forward to (eventually) trying each and every one of these recipes.

For now, I'm reading and waiting for D to send me some long overdue pictures for some long overdue posts, including apple poptarts and absolutely delicious muffins. Expect both soon.
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