Friday, December 31, 2010

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Welcome to the last day of the year. We’ve made it! We’ve made it through earthquakes and lunar eclipses, volcanic eruptions and mudslides. Our nation’s capital was inundated with snow and our coastal waters were filled with oil. And according to my boyfriend, Ronald Reagan passed away. It’s been a tough year. Luckily we have many reasons to celebrate 2010. For one thing, Conan is back on TV! And I made cookies for you.

Hopefully your personal year has treated you a little better than it did the planet and at least now you can watch Conan to cheer you up. After a rousing success at my 2010 new year’s resolutions I’m finding it difficult to decide on my 2011 goals. I mean, how can I beat “Eat more Chinese food?” That was one awesome resolution. If you are thinking about your goals for the New Year, try to think more liberally. Goals like “Lose 50 pounds” only set us up for a lot of stress. More fun goals like “eat more strawberries” are much easier to meet. So, here we go, my 2011 goals and resolutions!!!

1. Find a really good pair of jeans. I had an amazing pair, but then I wore them too much and they fell apart. I had a little funeral for them. I’ve mourned them and now it’s time to replace them.

2. Convince Wegmans to install a store in the first floor of my apartment building. It would make my life so much more easy, and awesome. This one might be a difficult one…

3. Use more bacon in my cooking. A coworker of mine has been touting the many merits of bacon, he carries a bag of bacon around with him at all times. Or at least, this is what I think he does.

4. Determine the perfect cupcake to frosting ratio. Many cupcakes will need to be consumed in accomplishing this goal, but I feel as though I am up to it.

There we are, my 2011 goals. Here’s hoping that I can accomplish at least half of them! I’m thinking that number two will be exceptionally difficult, but the benefits would be exponentially greater than the amount of work I have to put into it. I feel as though it would benefit mankind as a whole.

To celebrate the last day of the year, enjoy some cookies. A simple a delicious recipe, reminiscent of an
Oreo cookie. One last cookie recipe before our January health-fest. Remember, we’re spending the month of January eating healthy! Don’t think that means we’ll be without cookies and desserts, there will be dessert.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blueberry Macarons

The year is coming to an end. Have you accomplished your new years resolutions and goals? At the beginning of 2010 I made several resolutions and decided upon a number of goals. My resolutions might sound a bit strange, but I wanted something that would be attainable and fun at the same time. During my first BodyPump class of the year, I shared my goals with my class. There were mixed reactions. I think it’s because none of my goals and resolutions were fitness or health oriented. Maybe next year, I’ll have to think on that and get back to you on Friday! Here were my resolutions for 2010.

1. Wear more Hats. Now, I was not trying to be metaphorical, suggesting that I wanted to become more of a renaissance woman. I meant that I literally wanted to wear MORE HATS. Berets and cowboy hats, beanies and chapeaus. I look good in hats. Sadly, I did a poor job of accomplishing this goal. Send me pictures of cute hats, I need to try again this year.

2. Eat more Chinese food. Why? Because it is delicious. I’m not sure if I can check this one off the list. I think that if I had made it a more generic goal, like “Eat more Asian cuisine,” then I could put a check mark there. I ate an exceptional amount of Thai food this year. I’m going to include all the Indian food I ate as well, since India is on the continent of Asia. Asian Cuisine accomplished.

3. Complete current work project. Easy enough to understand - finish my total synthesis. A work goal. Sometimes being a synthetic chemist is a little disappointing because it can take an entire year (or five) to complete a single project. Thankfully it is done and I’ve moved on to another project, which will hopefully be done soon!

Making French macarons was not on my original resolution/goal list. They weren’t even on my radar in the beginning of the year. This year I have transformed into more of a foodie, with the start of Wilde in the Kitchen and my many worldly travels, I have learned so much more about cooking, baking and eating! Here’s to 2010! I hope that whatever the year brought you, you’ve learned, loved and had some great moments along the way.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Raspberry Three Layer Jell-O

Three ingredients?  Perfect

Sounds like a good chunk of my friends out there are buried under feet and feet of snow! The funny thing is, here in Buffalo we have barely gotten a dusting! So, if you are trying to figure out what to do with 24 inches of snow, I’ll tell you what to do! Just leave it there; it will go away at some point! If that isn’t an option, then you should throw on an extra layer of clothes and head outside. That two feet of snow is just calling for you to make an army of snowmen!

Thanks for the help mom!

Today I present to you one of my favorite holiday desserts. The dessert that we brought to every holiday dinner we attended. When we asked what to bring to thanksgiving or Christmas dinner it was an easy answer, “You’re going to bring the Jell-O, right?” I’m in no way a food snob, and I’m happy to make Jell-O my fancy holiday dessert. All you need to do is dress it up with a little fruit and some colored sprinkles!

I should warn you, this is a messy dessert! Have a bleaching solution ready for your countertop, when you inevitably spill some of the mixture. I have to claim responsibility for spilling some on my aunts white carpet. What can I say, I was little and uncoordinated. I suggest serving it in bowls, rather than dishing it out onto a plate. Especially a paper plate with low edges!

I'm a kid, all over again! 

A heads up!  Starting January 1st, I'll be spending the entire month providing you with healthy (and tasty) recipes.  I thought, why not start the year off right?  Along with the healthy recipes I'll be posting helpful hints, common diet mistakes and tricky food lies.  Until then, let's eat sugar!  Two more cookie recipes this week will finish up out 2010!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Daring Bakers: Christmas Stollen

Merry Christmas or Happy Chinese food and movie day to everyone! I hope that your day is treating you well, no matter what you are up to. I’ve been enjoying my Buffalo Christmas this year, spending time with family and friends. In the spirit of spending time with the ones I love, I decided to complete my December Daring Baker’s challenge with my mom! We had a great time, made a huge mess and came out with an amazing dessert.

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge the Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

The original recipe called for lots of candied citrus peels and rum. Personally, I’m not really a rum person, and I didn’t feel like candying that much peel. I was feeling particularly lazy this Christmas. However I couldn’t be too lazy because this stollen has quite a few steps. I recommend getting a partner to help you with this recipe. This will help you make sure everything that needs to be added to the bread, actually is added to the bread. Also, you’ll have four different bowls of ingredients that need to be prepared before they are all combined.

We had a great time making this dessert. The best part of it was watching the bread grow. After we formed it into the wreath we watched it grow and grow (it’s alive!), then once it went into the oven it got even bigger. We decided to bring the monster to our family gathering on Christmas eve. After a little explanation the dessert started to disappear (it goes well with pizza and buffalo wings!). At the end of the evening there was some fighting over the remaining stollen, mostly because I suggested it would make an amazing French toast tomorrow morning.

Plan ahead and spend some time with someone special, baking this dessert. You’ll be enjoying it for days ahead. Make it into French toast, a bread pudding or just as toast with butter. If you coat it with sticks and sticks of butter and layers and layers of powdered sugar, then this dessert will last for weeks. (And also be buttery and delicious, BUTTER!)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Candied Orange Peels

As I cook more and more I get a little more confident with trying new things. Of course we’ve discussed the issue of cooking fears. When it comes down to it, the likelihood of killing someone with my food is pretty low. Also, the chances of me causing myself serious harm in the kitchen is equally low. Although, some days I feel like I should be wearing my safety goggles in the kitchen.

You may have seen some people already posting their December Daring Bakers Challenge pieces. I’ll be getting mine up tomorrow because it is currently rising on my parents kitchen table. The process involved in making the stolen took a few days.

Two days ago I ventured into making candy, my first time making candies! The Christmas stollen recipe calls for candied citrus peels. I don’t know if you’ve ever had store bought candied peels, but they aren’t terribly good. I think they taste like sugar, nothing citrusy about them. After a little looking around online I determined that the recipes are basically the same. Boil peels, boil sugar, boil peels in sugar. Tada! The flavor of these homemade orange peels is something akin to orange gems.

We decided to use half in the Christmas stollen and dip the other half in dark chocolate. The dark chocolate really balances the citrus and sugar. These were also really easy to make in boyfriends kitchen, because all I needed was a pot.

My mom and I decided they look like chocolate covered french fries

Merry Christmas eve everyone!  (And a merry christmas to my friends in New Zealand, Australia and Korea!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Asparagus Risotto

I’ve made it home to Buffalo and I have to say, it’s cold here! When I left Connecticut it was a balmy 35 degrees and sunny. When I landed in Buffalo it was a normal day, overcast, cold and snowy. Brr, dislike. Luckily in returning to Buffalo I was coming home. Coming home to my family and friends from my childhood. It’s been over seven years since I’ve lived in Buffalo and there are still things that I miss.

Buffalo might not be known as the foodie capitol of the US, but there are things that you can only get here. Local restaurants like Andersons and Teds call to me with their hot dogs and milk shakes. Summertime hang outs like Mississippi Mudds and Old Man Rivers make me want to hop on a bike and ride down the river. Nina’s custard taunts me with their ever changing array of soft serve. Finally Wegmans, the grocery store of all grocery stores.

I know that I can go to Wegmans and get everything that I need, from breakfast to dinner. It you are a resident of the Northeast then you are privy to the secrets of this grocery chain. If you are really lucky, then you get to watch Alec Baldwin perform terribly in Wegmans commercials. Check them out on YouTube, they are hilarious. Alec knows all about Wegmans. I know that I can get everything I need to cook boyfriend dinner, all in one place (which is helpful, since he has salt and pepper at his house). (Oh yeah, and some Gatorade).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

Today is going to be a very good day. I know, this is a surprising thing to say on a Monday. However, this is the last day of work before I head home for the holidays. Winter lab shut-down, such a great time of year. This year will be especially sweet for me and my lab mates because we have all been working very, very hard. The past few weeks have been very crazy. If it were a day of the week that ended in ‘day,’ we were in the lab.

My friends out there who have been to grad school, or are currently in grad school, should understand this perfectly. Those of you who thought it was a good idea to get your PhD in the sciences, you know. When I signed on to go to grad school I didn’t realize that I was giving up my free-time/life for the next five years. Seven years now if you include my postdoctoral training! Luckily I like what I’m doing. If you are considering graduate school, or your PhD, consider how much you like other things. You know, fun things. Things that include going outside in the daylight. Things that include seeing people who don’t work in the same room as you do. Are you that dedicated? If so, c’mon in! Grad school is great!

If you’ve chosen to pursue your graduate degree, don’t worry. You’ll be coming to grad school with many like-minded people. Depending on your field will of course determine the number of “normal” people you’ll meet. In the hard sciences it goes this way, in order of increasing weirdness. Biologists, biochemists, chemist, physicists. Sorry physicists, you know you’re a little strange.

So, you’ll see that I put myself pretty high on the oddness scale. Don’t worry about me, I’m not that much of a weirdo and luckily neither are my lab mates. They are some pretty wonderful people, which helps with the fact that I see them approximately 60 hours a week (on a slow week). Today is the last day I have to see these people for almost two weeks. This is a good thing, because we are all running out of things to say to each other. We also think that punching each other is a good idea these days.

To avoid getting punched today, I’m plying my lab mates with sweets. Here are some peanut butter bars lab mates! Please, don’t punch me in the face.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Browned-butter spritz sandwich cookies

Can you believe that it’s December 17th already? I feel like it was September just a few days ago. Now here we are, creeping up on Christmas. How are you doing? Have you finished all of your shopping? Have you baked all of your cookies? How about the decorations, are they hung by the fireplace with care? To make you feel better let me answer these questions. No, no, no and no. I have not done any of the above. I’ve been living in my little fantasy world over here. You know the one. It’s the one where I have plenty of time before Santa comes rolling into town. What happened this year?

When I was little I would get ready for Christmas in November. It was simple, after my birthday was Christmastime! I spent the day after my birthday preparing my countdown chain. You remember those, right? A ring of paper for each day before Christmas and each day you tear off a ring. In the early days of the chain I would behave and tear off the right number of rings. As the days went on I would pretend to forget about the chain, only to be able to tear off three or four when I “remembered.” Such gratification, tearing off three rings!

Then thanksgiving would arrive, marking the official start of the holiday season. (For everyone else that is, I was already celebrating) The morning after thanksgiving we would head to the local garden store and get two trees. A cute tiny one (for my tiny grams house) and a huge one for us. And I mean HUGE, ten to twelve feet. We would bring it home and set it on the deck. This is where it would sit until the week before Christmas. It would taunt me. It would inevitably be buried in feet and feet of lake effect snow!

According to my calendar it’s one week from Christmas. The tree on my parents deck is getting ready to make its appearance inside the house. A few more days after that I’ll be heading home to visit. The holidays are here and they snuck up on me this year. I decided to make some more cookies to try and convince myself that they really are here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chorizo and Vegetable soup

This is what it looked like when I stared out my apartment window this Sunday.

Yup. Grey, dark and stormy. It was one of those days where you just want to curl up on the couch and watch a bunch of terrible movies. Sadly for me, I don’t own a couch. It just wouldn’t fit in my palatial, 325 square foot apartment. It was either a bed or a couch and I decided I could probably use a place to sleep.

The second problem I faced was the work I had to do in the lab. Why did I set up chemistry that needed attention Sunday morning? Because I’m a crazy person, apparently. So, I had to trek into work and pay some attention to my chemicals. Now, I only live a mile away from work and I had driven into work the past two days. These two factors combined led me to decide that it was a good day to walk to work. Oh boy, what a mistake.

The walk into work wasn’t particularly bad, just windy. It got to be a problem when I wanted to leave work. Bands of rain came and went over the hours I was in the lab. From calm to downpour and back again in just minutes. How was I supposed to get home? Like I said, bad day to walk to work. Finally, during a break in the weather, I decided to head out.

Halfway home, whoosh! Downpour! Umbrella in hand, fighting the wind, I battled my way home. My poor little umbrella, it was working so hard. I think I managed to keep my head dry. When I got back to my apartment my coat was soaked through. After shedding my soaked coat and rubber boots, I had to laugh. I was completely dry, except for my jeans. From where my coat ends at my mid-thigh, to where my boots begin below my knee, was completely soaked. Wet knees. Time to change into some sweatpants and make soup.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Walnut-Strawberry Quick Bread

Before I moved out to the east coast I was living in Broomfield, Colorado. If you have ever been to this area of the country then you are familiar with its beautiful year-round weather, fantastic views and plethora of health-conscious people. Colorado is consistently ranked as the fittest state in the country, with one of the lowest obesity rates. The first two qualities of Colorado help influence the third. When the weather is nice and there is a mountainous playground at your front door, you tend to enjoy your exercise so much more.

While I spent the majority of my time in Colorado working in the lab, I did take some time to enjoy the sights. I would pack myself a nice slice of banana bread and head out into the wilderness. Just me and my water bottle, against all of the elements of nature, I would set out into the Rocky Mountains. By reading the signs at the entry to the park you expect to be attacked by at least three woodland creatures before you leave.

According to the signs you must… 1. Not go into the areas marked with specific signs because they are raptor nesting areas. Now, I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t think we should be promoting raptor procreation. Didn’t the people of Colorado ever see Jurassic park? 2. If you see a cougar, you should yell at it. I think that having a nice conversation with the cougar would suffice, but apparently this will not keep it from mauling me. 3. Beware of bears. There wasn’t much more helpful information beyond that.

Luckily for me I made it out of the wilderness without getting mauled by raptors, cougars, bears or any other mysterious animals. The Rocky Mountains are full of crazy animals, many of which I was not warned about on the signs. What if I came upon a tap-dancing squirrel or a monkey with a tambourine? Other than thinking that the local circus lost a train car, I would have no idea what to do. I guess I would just have to offer them some of my bread.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Stylish Blogger Award! Pass it along!

I was so happy to discover that I'd been awarded the Stylish Blogger Award by two three! of my favorite bloggers!  Many thanks to Boulder Locavore, The Kitchenarian and I'll have What She's Having!  It is an award passed through the blogging community to those blogs that are deemed "stylish" by their peers.  And if there is one thing that I pride myself on is being stylish.  I do wear these boots around in wet weather (actually I wear them all the time...)

I love reading Boulder Locavores blog because it reminds me of the great years that I spent living and working in Boulder.  The posts also help to remind me that it is possible to eat locally and eat well. 

The Kitchenarian also has a fantastic blog that I love to read.  I'm always impressed the the photography, go check it out, the photos are beautiful.  Be sure to read some of the older posts, they are a wealth of great information!

I've just discovered Lynn at I'll have what she's having, but I love it.  She has so many different recipes posted.  So whether I'm in need of a dessert or dinner recipe, I've got a place to go!

So in accepting this award I am obligated to do the following...  Share 7 things about me, that you might not know!  Then pass this award along to some deserving bloggers.  So here we go!

You just might not know...

1. My first paying job was as a coat-check girl.  Drunk people give the best tips.
2. I was originally a photography/art major in college.  I spent a whole year painting, drawing and spending time the darkroom.
3. I have photographed many many weddings, it's most fun when you're not the lead photographer. 
4. In the past year I have traveled to ten different countries.
5. I was a cheerleader in high school.  I think this is why I excel at teaching group X classes, I get to yell at people.
6. I love BBC America and my DVR tapes Doctor Who whenever it's on.
7. Michael Weston is my TV boyfriend.  My real boyfriend looks very similar to my TV boyfriend.

Okay, I hope that you have enjoyed that little glimpse into my world.  And now let's pass this award along!  Please check out some of my favorite reads.  They make me laugh, they make me want to lick my screen and they bring so many different perspectives to cooking.  Thank you for your energy!  In no particular order...

Hot Polka Dot



Squirrel Bakes

Bite by Bite

Awardees – Accepting this award is based on the following criteria:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the Award on to other bloggers you follow and who have inspired you.
4. Copy the award from my blog and then you may display it on your own blog.
5. Notify your selected recipients.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Banana Whoopie Pies

It would seem that I’ve been making a lot of cookies recently! I suppose that it’s that time of year! This year I wasn’t in the mood for the regular old boring cookies. I didn’t want to make raspberry thumbprints and chocolate mint cookies, I wanted to break out of the mold. Go cookie crazy! Throw tradition to the wind and have some fun. So I started out with the dark chocolate hearts, wonderful. Then I thought, let’s get nuts! It’s whoopie pie time!

The whoopie pie. If you haven’t heard, it’s the cupcake of 2010. They’re getting more hits on Google than “What to buy my husband for Christmas.” That’s pretty popular! If you’ve never had one, then apparently you’ve been hiding under a house all year long. Now is your time to embrace the whoopie pie.

Wikipedia describes them as “made of two round mound-shaped pieces of chocolate cake, sometimes pumpkin cake, with a sweet, creamy filling or frosting sandwiched between them.” Cake mounds? Cream filling? Sounds right up my alley! How about you?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dark Chocolate Heart Cookies

“These cookies are great, but they would be so much better if they were shaped like tanks.” That’s right people, my taste testers are getting picky about the shape of the cookies I feed them. Another mentioned that the hearts were cheesy. If you guessed that my taste testers were boys, then you were correct. If you guessed that they were twelve-year-olds, then you would be wrong. Apparently the shape of the food still affects the taste, even when you are in your mid-twenties.

What the boys didn’t realize is my thought process behind the heart cookies. Other than cutting squares or triangles, hearts are the shape to use when you want to get the most out of your dough. I hate re-rolling dough and the hearts fit together like a little puzzle. So few dough scraps!

These cookies are super rich and dark. My taste testers decided that they would be good as sandwich cookies or with a little frosting. If you love dark chocolate then these cookies are perfect on their own. If you like your chocolate a little on the sweeter side, then choose a dark chocolate bar with a lower percentage of cacao. I inherited this chocolate bar after it was bought by accident, by a coworker looking for a sweet fix. FYI, 90% cacao is not good for eating, but it is amazing for baking.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pork, Cranberry and Pear Salad

Oh boy! I just had the best dinner! In order to properly feed myself, and make my mom happy, I decided to make a real dinner. My mom is slightly concerned with my wacky eating habits of late. Let’s just say yesterday for breakfast I had a slice of chocolate tart. For breakfast this morning I had some cookies. Several nights last week dinner consisted of lettuce.

Now it’s not that I’m a bad eater, it’s just that there was no food in my house! I returned from my thanksgiving vacation Monday afternoon to a slice of bread and some far-past expiration milk. There were a few onions and maybe some mustard. It was a sad state of affairs. This is how things usually are when I return from a trip, except this time I came back with a cold. It slowly took over and made me lazier and lazier. I managed to buy some milk and cereal from the Dollar General across the street, but beyond that, I had eggs.

After some concern from my mom (talking about protein and nutrients) I decided I should probably go to the grocery store. Armed with this recipe, I bought my ingredients, substituting here and there for what was one sale (I’m cheap too!). I was not disappointed; this was the best meal I had in a while. Please enjoy, and eat your vegetables!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Crostata

Here it is, my third and final crostata. I had so much fun with this particular Daring Bakers’ challenge! And I think that this is the best one yet. I even had a slice for breakfast! There is something about eating a decadent chocolate tart at eight o’clock in the morning. Really fuels you up for the rest of the day!

Looking at the recipe for this dessert you would expect to be in the kitchen for quite some time. In fact, I had this crostata on the plate in two hours. From flour to delicious in the time it takes to watch a movie! Don’t be scared of this recipe. The words caramel and ganache tend to do that to people. I know I was a little concerned when this idea came to my mind. I have never made caramel before. I have never made ganache before. Plus, I would have to blind bake the crust. All together this makes for one fancy-sounding dessert.

I decided to stop being such a pansy about my recipes. We’ve discussed this before, I’m a chemist. I handle chemicals on a daily basis that have the ability to spontaneously light on fire, burn through my $200 jeans or cause damage to my DNA. Making caramel should be a breeze, right? In fact, it was. And you will love it.

Look at that caramel ooze!
 Don’t worry about how fancy it sounds, you can handle it. I know, I had to talk myself into trying this, but you can do it too. Just be sure to read through the recipe before you start. Gather up your courage, put on your big-boy pants and get ready to do some chemistry. Some delicious, delicious chemistry.
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