Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cornbread Pancakes

There are those recipes that we keep coming back to, again and again.  Pancakes are my thing.  It's not one particular recipe that gets me.  Actually, I love trying out new recipes each time I make breakfast.  I've made peanut butter pancakes, fluffy buttermilk pancakes and chocolate chocolate chip pancakes (coming soon!) but this time I decided to make something a little different.


While wandering the streets of New York this weekend, boyfriend and I happened upon a random street fair.  Nothing special, no carnival rides or popcorn machines, no theme or clowns (thank goodness, clowns are totally creepy).  It was just a few vendors, in their white tents, taking up some space between sixth and seventh.  You find these things all through the summer, popping up all over the city, selling the same screen-printed shirts from Pakistan, "hand-made" bracelets from Taiwan and character hats knitted by someone's grandma (factory worker) in India.  Now don't avoid these little street fairs, there are also some local artisans thrown in the mix and their stuff is amazing.

Don't skip these fairs for another reason, the food.  I've decided that street food is among the best food in the world.  It's hard to truck this stuff in from the Far East, so you know you've got something that was made locally, most likely by the person dishing it out.  Let the aromas of crepes and gyros, chili fries and pulled pork, draw you in.  Just try to limit yourself to one indulgence, these are not low calorie treats!


The item that peaked my interest was so simple.  Two cornbread pancakes, sandwiched with mozzarella cheese.  The cheese was just oozing out from between the two pancakes, calling my name.  The four dollar price tag however, was making me turn in the other direction.  I can make that at home, for like ten cents!  And that's just what I did.  Except it was breakfast by the time I made these and I wanted syrup.  So I added a little sugar and called them pancakes.  I have plans on making the savory version of these, all cheesey and delicious, but for now I have breakfast!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Filled Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker's challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria's Collection and Jamie of Life's a Feast.  Ria and Jamie challenged the Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted meringue coffee cake.  I love breakfast and when I learned that this months Daring Baker's challenge would be a coffee cake, I was jazzed.  I've never made a yeasted coffee cake before and this was something new to try out. 



To just look at the pictures doesn't do this recipe service.  The dough was so smooth and springy, it was a treat to work with.  Many people called this dough "sexy" and after making it, I have to agree.  It was so easy to roll out and fill, it rose and baked up like a dream. 



When it came down to deciding what to fill this sexy dough with I thought to keep it simple.  When I was little, we would get an Entenmann's walnut danish ring for breakfast every weekend.  When picking out the ring, my dad would go with the ring with the most frosting on the top.  As a kid, I couldn't help but agree with this method of choosing breakfast.  More frosting = more sugar!  I decided to fill my coffee cake with something similar to the Entenmann's version.  Cinnamon sugar with dried cranberries and walnuts, coated in a delicious layer of orange icing.


How did this coffee cake compare to the Entenmann's version of my youth?  Listen up dad, THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER!  The meringue melts into the coffee cake making it unbelievably moist and the cranberries and walnuts give it great sweetness and crunch.  Give up your storebought danish ring and head to the kitchen with mom, you won't be sorry.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Balsamic BBQ Chicken


Sometimes you need a quick dinner and this week it was extremely important. Several thirteen hour workdays this week have lead to dinners of lettuce, a bagel and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (three different nights). I partially blame daylight savings time for my longer work days and I also blame my project deadline of April 7th.


Maybe you’ve been having the same issue as I have. I’ve gotten so used to the sun going down at 4 o’clock that I think it’s so much earlier than it actually is. It was six thirty before I realized how late it was, and then it was quarter to nine before I headed out the door. It’s been going on like this all week, I get distracted by the loads of work I have to do and all of the sudden it’s dark out. By the time I get home I’m all glassy-eyed and hungry, with no energy left.

Last night I decided, no more! I need some real food! Then twenty minutes later I had this sitting on my plate. I’m in love with these new Steamfresh pasta meals. In four minutes I had a side dish that worked well with my balsamic BBQ chicken, which was pretty delicious on it’s own. Try it out the next time you’ve got no time!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Poppy Seed Bagels

Some things you just wouldn’t think of making yourself. Take these bagels for instance. Why make your own bagels? You can buy prepackaged bagels from the grocery store in an unbelievable number of flavors. You can buy them fresh, frozen or even recently baked from the store bakery. They come in white, wheat, high fiber, low fat, mega-size, mini-size and even skinny-size!



Maybe you’re not a fan of the grocery store bagels. There are local options on every corner for getting yourself a bagel. You can go chain and head to Panera, Brueggers or Einsteins. Or you can go local and support the small business owner in your town. The options for bagel purchasing are endless, which begs the question again, why make your own?


The answer is simple, because they are delicious. I was very suspect of this recipe when I first read it over. It seemed so long and complicated, like a lot of work for something that I could buy for three dollars. Even up until the morning that I began making these bagels I was dreading it. I set my alarm for 6am to get the sponge together, then I promptly went back to sleep for two hours. It was Saturday after all!

At 8am I rolled out of bed and into my kitchen (literally, I live in a studio apartment) and began getting the dough together. As I continued through the recipe I realized that it wasn’t going to take that long at all to make these bagels. Plus, they required an overnight sit in the fridge, meaning I wouldn’t have bagels until Sunday morning. I was done with the bagel prep by 9am and headed off to the lab for another rousing day of chemistry.

Fill me with more delicious!
After only twenty minutes of work on Sunday morning, I was the proud mama of six golden, chewy, crunchy bagels.  Fresh out of the oven, quickly toasted and slathered in butter, these bagels were perfect.  I stored the extras in a zip-top bag and tossed them in the fridge.  I've been enjoying my homemade bagels all week.  Will I give up storebought bagels?  Probably not.  Will I be making another batch of these?  Definitely.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Buffalo Sponge Candy

Sometimes, being a chemist comes in very handy in the kitchen. In my previous candy experiments you might have noticed the massive amount of molten sugar I’ve been working with. From the marshmallows to the taffy and the butterfinger bars, I’ve been going through pounds and pounds of sugar and my kitchen is getting pretty sticky. (I found some rogue purple sugar this morning while toasting a bagel!) This danger of the sugar is not what makes my PhD an asset, it is my familiarity with failure.


Failure Number 1
As a synthetic organic chemist, one gets pretty used to failure. You begin with a plan on paper and you set upon this path. A new project is exciting, you order your reagents and get everything in order.  At first things go well and your chemistry works!  Then you hit a wall. Perhaps a reaction that you expected to work one way does nothing at all, or worse, something unexpected. The reaction could even destroy all of the forward progress that you have already made, sending you months back.

Failure Number 2
Your original plan gets torn apart after a series of failures and you re-write your scheme. No matter how many failures you have there is still that end goal in sight, the completed molecule. You’ve got to finish the project! So, no matter how many failures you have and how many walls you hit you eventually find a way. Success comes to the persistent and persistence pays off (with candy).

At Last!  Sweet Success
This candy was a little tricky to make, only because I didn’t have the right recipe. Many people have sponge candy recipes, but they weren’t coming out like my sponge candy. So many recipes called for vinegar and baking soda, which turns out to be totally unnecessary for the desired reaction. This recipe was the first failure. The second failure involved a recipe that called for heating honey to 300, this causes honey to burn.


After a little research into how Buffalo sponge candy is made, I had worked out a recipe and right the method of how to put it together.  This final batch came out exactly like I remember it from Watsons and I’m sharing my recipe with you. Don’t worry, I’ve worked out all the kinks for you. These failures lead to candy gold.

Eat me

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ham & Cheese Risotto

All you have is ham? Go back two spaces. Get away scott free after breaking the gym lights. Go ahead three spaces. Dramatically break your ribs on the first day of your honeymoon. Go back one space. How many board games do you know of that contain these particular cards? How many games can only be played in the presence of one person?  Have you ever played a game that it doesn’t matter how well you do, you might never win?



These playing cards all tell stories; they are glimpses into my friends life. This past weekend was a walk down memory lane and it was one hilarious walk. Boyfriend and I journeyed to Buffalo, NY this weekend for a surprise birthday party. It was a long trip, six and a half hours in the car, and we spent barely more time in town than we did in the car. Thankfully, the party was all worth it.

We were there to celebrate the 30th birthday of a longtime friend, T-. Many of us had come from far away, travelling in from New Jersey, Ohio and Washington, DC. We had all gone to high school and college together and this is the year that we all turn 30. So, in a sense, it was a celebration for all of us! (Happy birthday class of 1999!)

The night was topped off with a present, the present to end all presents! A board game. This was not just any board game, it was the Game of T-! To celebrate T-'s birthday, several friends got together and created a board game of his life. Since we’ve all been friends for the past fifteen years, there are many, many stories we share. This game brought all the memories back and I have to give major props to the friends that brought this game to life. We were up into the late hours of the evening playing this game, laughing and reminiscing. Stories were retold for the benefit of those who came into our lives at later points and oh yes, did I mention the laughing?


To continue the celebration, I decided to make some ham and cheese risotto. An homage to D-, who was disappointed by what T-‘s fridge had to offer one late night. Perusing the fridge, D- professed “All you have is ham?” Then he decided to open a can of tuna.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Grape Salt Water Taffy

Am I the only one who woke up this morning and wondered why it was still dark out? It’s 6am and my alarm goes off. I’m at my most confused and vulnerable at this time of day and the sun has decided to desert me! Now, I’m pretty sure I slept past 6am on Sunday (being that I didn’t hit the sheets until 3am, but that’s another story) but I thought the sun had been peeking over the horizon by 5:45 these days.


It's a blob!  A blob of deliciousness!

It took me a full two hours to remember that we set the clocks ahead yesterday, then another two minutes to do the math and realize 5am was now 6am and the sun wouldn’t be making an appearance until I was just about the head to work. Like I said, my brain doesn’t start functioning properly until I’ve been awake for at least an hour. This is also why I like to get to work at 7am, no one is there. I don’t have to talk to anyone. Am I the only one that likes to be alone with myself this early in the morning?


This is not to say that I’m not a morning person. I most definitely am a morning person. I would much rather wake up at 5am than stay up until 2am. When the alarm sounds I reach for the off button and head to the shower. Even though the snooze button is about 1000% larger than the off button, I’ve never hit the snooze button. I don’t see the purpose of those extra fifteen minutes. Although, I will dive back under the covers if I happen to wake up two minutes BEFORE my alarm. I know, it’s weird.


So, the missing sun really threw off my routine this morning. Thankfully, the late-rising sun means a late-setting sun and a late-setting sun means spring is on its way. And it’s about time, I’m sick of dreary East Coast, winter-like weather. Bring on the sandals, sun dresses and bikinis, I’m ready to shed my Northface!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Green Velvet Cupcakes

Sorry mom, I’ve been bad this week. I haven’t eaten dinner all week. I know, I know, I’m terrible but I have some really good excuses! Let’s go through my week.



Sunday – Travelling back from New Jersey after a long weekend of unpacking boxes and moving furniture. My huge, strong, girl muscles were tired and it was all I could do not to fall asleep on the train. Making dinner was near impossible, so I decided to eat a brownie. Not even a good brownie, one that I had bought on Friday and was in my purse all weekend. I’m gross, I know.

Monday – Girls night! Okay, I actually did eat dinner Monday night, but it was not of my own doing. Recently I’ve been hanging out Monday nights with some awesome ladies from my department. We eat dinner, we gab and we watch silly girl TV. It’s excellent and a fantastic way to start the week. There are usually baked goods too, awesomeness.


Tuesday – I finally made it to the grocery store! I had big plans to leave work by six o’clock. This way I could walk home, get my car and be to the grocery store by six thirty. Thanks to a major accident on the highway, (right before my desired exit!) I didn’t make it to the store until seven thirty. Grocery shopping (plus a much needed trip to TJ Maxx!) done and I’m home by nine. Dinner was a banana. No, I’m lying; it was those rice crispy treats I showed you on Wednesday. They were delicious.

Wednesday - I’m now halfway through the week and you’re thinking I haven’t had a single real meal. Not true! The first two days of the week I had lunch at the food carts. Chicken and veggies over rice , it’s like having dinner for lunch. Which is good, because Wednesday I had Lettuce for dinner. The reason? I had grand plans of heading to the gym. With my gyms shoes on I get ready to head out the door and I glance at my computer. At some point in the evening I had picked up some malware and my computer was all jacked up. I spent the next two hours trying to restore my computer. Gym and dinner plans are thrown out the window.


Thursday – I decided I’m just going to start over next week with real food and I had toast for dinner. I slathered it with my own raspberry-peach jam. Then I made these, which will be quickly devoured by my coworkers. Then everyone will have green tongues. So festive!

Don’t worry mom, Friday comes with big plans! I’m taking the train to visit boyfriend and we’ll go out to dinner. I’ll have some protein and a whole lot of vegetables. I’ll even pay! I’m such a good girlfriend. Let’s not pretend that we’re going somewhere fancy though. Boyfriends new apartment is right around the corner from Panera and I’m going to get a salad.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Apple Marshmallows & Apple-Cinnamon Crispy Treats

I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve had these marshmallows in my house for three weeks. I would come home from work and have one, you know, a little sugar to fuel my workout. Each marshmallow tasting like a fluffy apple pie. Now, doesn’t that sound tempting?


A big slab of happiness!

I have become addicted to making marshmallows. This is mostly due to Eileen Talanian’s book – Marshmallows. These marshmallows were to most fun batch yet, they are fluffy, springy and bouncy. They are so full of air and flavor. These little pillows have a hint of cinnamon and a subtle tartness.


Once I finished preparing, cutting and coating the marshmallows I had to decide what to do with them. These apple marshmallows were too fun to let them just exist as marshmallows. Sure, they make a wonderful candy, but I thought they could be even better. Then it came to me, in a rush of sugar-induced giddiness… Rice crispy treats! Apple-cinnamon rice crispy treats, drizzled in caramel.


And that’s just what I did. Let me tell you, these will rock your world. Now I’m sitting, leafing through Eileen’s cookbook, thinking of all the amazing flavors of crispy treats that I can make. Chocolate, honey, matcha, dulce de leche, the options go on and on. I’m also wishing I hadn’t shared my cooking plans with my coworkers, because I want to hoard these treats and eat them all myself.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Sugar Crisps

It’s official, I’m a professional train rider. It’s true, I can ride a train with the best of them and 99% of the time I’ll wind up in my desired location! I even just returned from a trip to New Jersey, via train. I’m pretty awesome at train travel. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to call myself a professional, trains were a mystery to me. My first real train experience was in France, while on vacation with boyfriend.


For our first trip abroad, boyfriend and I decided to take a Mediterranean cruise. It was a safe choice because even though you were wandering through foreign countries by day, you could come back to the ship and be in a little slice of English-speaking territory by night. Not that we couldn’t manage to get along in Spain, France and Italy. Boyfriend pretends like he can speak Spanish (FACT – he cannot. I speak as much Spanish as the guy who took eight years of the language). I speak French fairly well and can stutter along in Italian until I find someone who speaks a little English. (My favorite phrase is “Mi dispiace! Io non parlo Italiano! I love the way it sounds.)


Anyways… While in port in Villefranche sur Mer, we decided that we would take the train to Nice, then on to Monaco. Supposedly the train station was easy to find and it was a few stops to Nice. First know this, when presented with two directional options, boyfriend will inevitably choose the wrong one. Should we turn right and walk along the boardwalk or should we go straight up these millions of stairs? Up it is. Right it should have been.


Luckily we were in port for many, many hours because while we did a fine job of buying tickets (Bonjour!) and getting to Nice and Monaco. Getting back was a bit tricky. Did you know that the ticket salespeople in Monaco aren’t nearly as helpful as those in Villefranche? And you should also know that the express train does not stop in Villefranche sur Mer, you need the local train. We spent a good half hour extra passing the port and then backtracking on a return train. This was after we walked up a million stairs in Monaco, searching for the train station (again, not my fault).


I’ve come a long way from that first train trip four years ago. I’ll regale you more fabulous train stories in the future, until then know this… I wanted cookies after I got back from my trip to NJ and these only took a few minutes to throw together. They are sweet, crunchy and I think they look like platelets once they cool (notice the little dimple in the center?).


Anyone else have train troubles as a beginner or while travelling abroad?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Gorgonzola Risotto

You’ll notice a little something different about today’s post. No pictures of food! Now don’t worry, I am giving you a recipe (a very delicious recipe in fact!). However the pictures of the food weren’t nearly as pretty as my pictures from New York City last weekend! You might remember that I met my mom in New York last weekend to celebrate her birthday. We had three girls-only days in the big city.


I’ve been to New York a many number of times and know my way around pretty well. Of course, it’s pretty tough to get lost when you’re in Midtown, all the streets are numbered. Once I get to the East Village is when I start to get all turned around, especially after coming out of the subway. I think all I need is a compass, then I wouldn’t go the wrong direction nearly as often as I do. It’s too bad the compass on the iPhone doesn’t work in New York. The signal bounces off the buildings and your GPS thinks you are inside of a building three blocks away, not helpful.


So what did we do in our weekend in the city? We went shopping, we saw the sights and we watched a show. We also ate a lot of cupcakes. Seriously, we had cupcakes every single day that we were there. Rather than heading to just a single bakery, we decided to check out a couple of different ones. You know, we had to compare and contrast the product, right?


Personally I fell in love with my peanut butter cup cupcake from Crumbs, although I was covered in frosting when I finished eating it. I was licking it off of my elbow, I’m pretty sure there was frosting in my hair too. I was a little wired that night! Mom liked her vanilla cupcake from Eleni’s Bake shop, located inside of Chelsea Market. They also served up a mean raspberry cupcake, super delicious.


It was a great weekend, full of history, culture, shops and sugar!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chocolate Butterceam truffles

I think it’s time for more candy! Last week’s Turkish taffy is now safely out of my house and in the hands of my mom and dad. I decided that taffy would be an excellent birthday present! So, I gave a big bag of taffy to my mom while we were in New York City this weekend. Although, I’m feeling like I need to make more since I only ate one piece!

This week we’re heading back to chocolate land! I decided to make some very fancy, artisan chocolates this week. I can call them artisan because I made them with my hands, right? This week it’s time for truffles. Since we are only in week four of Candy Challenge 2011, I decided to start with a simple chocolate truffle. Get the basics first, then try to launch myself into a wide array of truffle flavors rivaling that of See’s candies.


Here is what I have learned in making this first set of chocolate truffles…

1. Chocolate truffles are basically balls of hardened buttercream frosting. Delicious, yes. Healthy, no.

2. If you want to flavor dark chocolate truffles, you have to use some powerful flavors. (these were supposed to be orange truffles, the flavor was masked by the chocolate)

3. Do not make truffles on a warm day. In fact, you have a friend with a really cold apartment/kitchen. Go there. Bond over making truffles.

4. You will be covered in chocolate, invest in an apron. Not a cute one with ruffles, a black one. Reserve the cute on for less dirty tasks.

5. Rolling truffles in straight cocoa powder, following the recipe directions, will lead to a bitter outside, contrasting starkly with the sweet truffle. This might be a good thing in your opinion, I got mixed reviews from my taste testers. Although all of the truffles were eaten at the end of the day.


There we are, truffles are a little finicky and they took a full evening to make. However, if you are looking for a shot of chocolate in the afternoon, these will not let you down. They are rich and creamy (because they are made out of chocolate and butter). Be prepared for more truffles in the coming year, I’ve got some flavor combinations that are itching to be made!


What’s your favorite truffle flavor? Mine is Key Lime, yum.
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