Day 12 – 36 Hour Chocolate Chip Cookies

Long week. Glad it’s over, but it’s not really over. Glad I can support my mom. Not glad the last time I saw my grandmother was two years ago. Distance sucks. I’m not quite sure what else to say right now. I think I’m going to miss my Oma though.

Chocolate chip cookies – a classic comfort food.

Chocolate chip cookies, you gotta have more
You can bake them in the oven or buy them at the store
But whatever you do have them ready at the door
And I’ll love you til I die, boom, boom, boom

In our quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookies, I came across a recipe published in the New York Times in 2008. The gist of the article that accompanied it was that in order to get a truly flavorful chocolate chip cookie, you must let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 36 hours. The resting time allows the eggs, the hydrating ingredient in cookies, to really penetrate the dry ingredients. You must pay attention to the size, because, well, it matters. Large cookies allow for three textures – a crisp outer edge, a soft center, and a small space where the two meld together in a ring. Please also use salt. Salt enhances sweet like no other. Trust this. And use disc-shaped chips. Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chips are a larger, disc shape.

So, was the 36 hour wait worth it? My brother claims they are more flavorful. I ate five yesterday.

The recipe suggests baking for 18-20 minutes. I had never heard of cookies baking for that long, so I punched 10 minutes into my timer for the first batch. When it beeped, the cookies were very ready to come out. In fact I shortened the baking time to 8 minutes for the rest, rotating the sheets at 4 minutes.

Also, don’t be scared by cake flour. Mix 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon of cornstartch and you have one cup of cake flour.

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Day 3 – Grilled Cheese and Nail Polish

We are on day 3 of 30 Days of Creativity.

What happened to day 2 you ask? Well. Day 2 I created the September/October 2011 issue of Jack and Jill. By that I mean I decided what was going in it and the order it would all go in. To me this part of my job has always been like organizing a paper and its argument. I love doing it. I also used my creative juices to edit the story, articles, and poem for the issue. No picture.

Back to day 3.

I created watermelons on my toes with nail polish in my living room. I also created dinner with homemade bread, cheese, basil, oregano, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. Yes, that’s mayonnaise. Don’t slather the outsides of your grilled cheese bread with butter. Use mayo instead. Yum. I did not keep my feet near my dinner for very long. My feet are incredibly gross. Well, really only the right one. It’s an embarrassment.

OK, now, finally, I have a garden update for you! I know, you’ve been just dying to know.

black cherry tomatoes

zebra tomato

prudins purple tomato

rosemary and basil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been watering. Think I need to get some fertilizer. I can wait to see if I’ll actually get some tomato growth!

Day 1 – Scotcheroos and Corn Cakes

Day one of 30 Days of Creativity was a delicious success. I got creative in the kitchen. Start easy and where you’re comfortable, right? On Sunday we went to a barbeque hosted by a former co-worker. We’d been camping Friday through Sunday morning near Bloomington, so I needed something easy to make. Lucky for us, I requested breakfast on the way home from our campsite at Bloomington Bagel Company. Michael spotted a Peanut Butter Crunch bar in the dessert case and declared it very good. Could we reproduce it? One taste and I said hell yes, this is gonna be easy! These are scotcheroos!

Have you heard of scotcheroos? They’re like Rice Krispie Treats but better because they involve peanut butter, butterscotch, and chocolate. I use the word addicting loosely here. I ate one at the barbeque and then two more on the way home.

Scotcheroos seemed to be the easy and obvious choice for Day 1 for multiple reasons: Michael requested I make them again, and soon; they take literally 15 minutes to make; no oven; did I mention delicious?

We also had corn cakes with avocado and tomato salsa for dinner.

I prepped half of this meal (the corn cake batter) while I ate breakfast at the counter this morning. All that was left to do tonight was cut up veggies for salsa and cook the cakes. The meal is flavorful and balanced, filling and yet not heavy. The sweet corn cakes go nicely with the bright salsa. I love combining tomatoes and avocados. Just something about the flavors mixing together. Next time will add some black beans to the salsa. And the bright colors in this meal were actually fun to photograph! Continue reading

Muffins, Races, and BFFs galore!

I got an iPhone about a month ago. God it’s worlds better than the LG Ally I had. And universes better than the HTC Eris before that. I can confidently say that I am an Apple girl all the way! I’ve been snapping lots of pictures with my iPhone. It’s not the world’s greatest quality (like I won’t be taking tons of pictures with it when we go to SPAIN! More later.), but it’s so nice to take photos when I’m out and about.

So here is a brief tour of the last week in my life via photos.

Two weekends ago we went to Chicago for the Shamrock Shuffle, an 8K that starts and ends in Grant Park. This was my first race since I’ve gotten serious about running. Marnie and her boyfriend Jannson have done it the past two years I believe. The weather was perfect on race day. I ran the 5 miles in 44 minutes. So proud of myself!

The 717 totally tore it up!

Coffee always tastes better with two of your best friends. Especially after steak dinner at 11pm the night before! This was one of my favorite trips to Chicago yet.

One of my visiting people rules is Never Show Up to a Friend’s House Without a Baked Good in Hand. This weekend we were runners, so I picked a healthful baked good that would give us fuel.

These ginger-cranberry oatmeal muffins from Everybody Likes Sandwiches were perfect. Made with only whole-wheat flour, oats, and no butter or oil, I really felt OK about eating these muffins. And they were not heavy or dense. Nicely the opposite in fact. I think my favorite part was the chewy candied ginger bits and tangy cranberries. Click over to Jeanette’s blog for the recipe. The only thing I did different was replace the oil/melted butter with a mashed up and very ripe banana, per Jeanette’s suggestion.

This past weekend my bff Bette came up from Charlotte to visit. Bette and I have been friends for 16 years. I have been down to North Carolina to visit her (in a non-working-at-camp visit) about five times in the last three years. Oh and plenty of times before that too. Bette, on the other hand, had visited me in Indiana twice in the past 16 years. Granted, North Carolina is like 20 times cooler than Indiana. But I was ecstatic when she finally bought a plane ticket to see my city.

We ate crepes, drank local beer,  went to Luna Music for National Record Day (OMG The Head and the Heart album is to die for!), hung out in Zionsville, and ate cupcakes, despite less than ideal weather on Friday and Saturday.

We even found some sunshine time to take Mira to 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Art Museum.

I hope she comes back sooner than 11 years from now!! I do love the girl.

And in news that I cannot yet document in photographs, Michael and I are going to Spain for 10 days in May. In fact, we leave in 2 1/2 weeks!! We’ll be staying six days in Granada and two days in Madrid. Hopefully there will be some site seeing, beach going, hiking in the Sierra Nevadas, lots of delicious food and wine consuming, and merriment!

Have you been to Spain? I’d love to hear favorite places, recommendations, and general input.

A Lemony White Chocolate Birthday Cake

When one of your best friends turns 27, you throw down in the cake department. At least that’s what my friends and I do.

So I started planning for Samantha’s birthday cake weeks in advance. Sam’s birthday is in the beginning of April, right when Spring starts to tease you with a few warm, sunny days. So a cake that says Spring! She doesn’t really like chocolate in an obsessive way, which is OK because in my book this time of year rings in the beginning of fruit-baking season.

So when I saw a white chocolate cake filled with lemon curd, I figured I’d found my cake. I like white chocolate in certain situations, where you don’t want a chocolate flavor perse, but you want a nice, sweet cake. I looooove lemon curd. Have you ever had it? Seriously, it’s worthy of eating all by itself with a spoon. Creamy, tangy, delicious. Balances out the white chocolate perfectly. I was completely inspired by the original cake’s pretty pastel-colored frosting and polka dots, but not so much the fact that it was cream cheese based. Too heavy. So I opted for whipped cream. I felt really good about giving this cake to Sam to celebrate her life.

Also, a note. I’m normally terrible at assembling layer cakes. As in they end up lopsided, the icing melting down the sides, and the layers sliding apart. This cake was supposed to be four layers (bake two layers, slice each in half). The idea of four layers scared the shit out of me. I went with two. I also think the whipped cream as icing really helped. It slathered on easily and I didn’t have to do a lot of smoothing. The pink and yellow really helped the whole thing look nice, too I think. Sam said the yellow dots looked like popcorn. I’ll let you decide!

I did use some layer cake tricks that I’ve picked up on various blogs. I’ll bold them in the directions below. I did do the cake over two days. Actual cake (and curd if you make your own) day one, whipped cream and assemblage day two.

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Corny Pancakes

I know, I know, I’ve been ridiculously absent lately. List of reasons:

  • I haven’t made any inspiring new recipes (until this past Sunday morning). I’ve been recycling delicious old favorites.
  • We’ve been searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. They’re the boyfriend’s favorite thing to spend money on at the grocery. Obviously, I am convinced I can make better than store-bought. We’re very close.
  • I’ve been totally copping out on Songs of the Week by posting just a song, no explanation, on my Tumblr.
  • Nothing noteworthy has happened and I don’t like blogging about random, meaningless things.
  • I’m going to work on sharing more things like awesome internet finds, my running updates, and things I’m making every day in the kitchen. (This’ll involve more photos, so bare with me as I struggle to become better!)

So, weekend breakfast. It’s my favorite meal of the week. I love taking my time to make something a little more involved, slowly sipping multiple cups of coffee, and not eating like I’m taking part in a competition. I like pancakes, but so often the just basic, run of the mill, buttermilk variety bores me. Pancakes with a twist, an extra ingredient and more dimension, are worthy of weekend breakfast in my house.

For my birthday, my sweet brother got me The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century. This cookbook is a compilation of over 1,400 recipes gathered from the New York Times food section from as far back as the 1850s. There are sections on everything from drinks to fish to dessert. And a whole section on breakfast and brunch!

When I was craving pancakes Sunday morning, I turned to my new trusty kitchen companion, and I found Kathleen Claiborne’s Hot Cakes. They’ve got cornmeal in them, which gives them a great texture and flavor, and a lovely light yellow color. The whole pouring boiling water over cornmeal and sugar was a bit odd and resulted in a very thick, almost paste-like mixture. But once the milk and oil are added and the egg whites folded in, things even out. I put a bit of syrup on some of mine and apricot jelly on others. Definitely worthy of Sunday breakfast.

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Soup Days: Vegetarian Chili

This winter has been a very soupy one. Soupy in a food sense for sure. I cannot get enough of making soup. You can let it simmer in a big pot as you walk the dog, it can cook all day in a slow cooker, and it’s good for lunch for days and days.

If snow could be soup, then winter has been soupy in a snow sense too. I haven’t seen grass in what feels like an eternity, but is probably more like two or three weeks. Winter will never end.

We got hit pretty hard by the Storm of Doom last week. First, two inches of ice, followed up by five to six inches of snow. I happily did a little sledding on Saturday. My bum did not happily sled. It is in fact largely bruised now.

Now as the ice was falling last week I thought about how this amazing chili recipe would be the perfect thing to be trapped in your house with. Then it occurred to me that when you’re house-bound, you can’t leave to get ingredients for chili at the grocery. So I would just be taunting you.

Now that the roads are passible and there’s still quite a bite in the air, I say have some chili! I’ve been looking for a good and flavorful vegetarian chili all winter and I think I’ve found a winner! It’s spicy for sure, a little sweet, thanks to the barbecue sauce, sticks to your ribs, and Joy the Baker says the steak seasoning is the secret to all the wonderful flavors. I trust Joy. She’s got taste and she’s funny.

Uh, also, I tried to take a photo, but it looked not so great. I’m trying to get the hang  of this food photo thing. It’s tricky! Any tips?

Recipe post-jump.

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Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Bread/IheartNC

Oh my goodness. I always forget how entirely exhausting the holidays are. I get excited every year for baking, presents, family, and friends being home. And then I get caught up in this whirlwind of…baking, presents, family, and friends being home. It’s not a bad whirlwind at all. I mean, who am I to complain when I get to host a sleepover for eight lovely ladies at my house and paint our nails and make friendship bracelets?

I’m awfully lucky to be friends with these beautiful girls.

And why would I complain when I got to spend Christmas with my little family? Especially when they threw down in a huge way to put this under the tree for me!

Hello lover, we will be very good friends, I just know it.

Right before the holiday rush began, I up and went to North Carolina to visit one of my best friends in the world Bette. But I may have screeched about that on here earlier…

I don’t know if you have a place like North Carolina is for me, so maybe you won’t quite get what I’m about to say. But when I go down there, it feels just like I’m home, not like I’m on vacation. It’s like I’m just picking right back up in my other life, right where I left off last time I was there. It just…fits. So it’s no wonder that’s where I ran the second I needed to clear my head. And let me tell you, North Carolina never fails. Head? Cleared.

We spent most of our time in Charlotte, and one of our good friends from Raleigh even drove down to hang out! But, we also went up to camp. Talk about places where you just fit. We had lunch with old friends who are practically family in my mind. They care so much it blew my mind. Then of course the fact that people can care so little also blows my mind.

Anyway, Bette and I met at camp in the summer of 1995.

Some of the horses that we rode that summer we met are still there. We snapped some pictures with them.

Did you survive Christmas? Are you looking forward to New Year’s Eve? Is your belly so full of holiday food you may pop? Mine is!

Meanwhile, back at the Indianapolis ranch, a good month ago, I made some kickass quick bread. Cranberry orange cornmeal bread. I am BEGGING you to run to the grocery store right now and snatch up the last bags of cranberries you can find before the disappear. Please. I’ve become obsessed with cranberries this winter. They’re so deliciously tart and brightly, festively red. And they work so well with oranges, which are also in season during the winter.

So this bread is studded with cranberries, laced with orange flavor, and sweetened with cornmeal and honey. It’s just completely amazing. All day, every day, any time of day. Sadly, I took no pictures, but if you pop over to Joy the Baker’s site (link to her recipe to follow after the jump) you’ll see her photos, and I only made a few small changes.

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Red Lentil & Vegetable Soup

Oh the weather outside is frightful…cold…frigid…very winter-like for early December. Perfect soup weather. And perfect running weather.

That’s right bitches. I ran outside in 20° weather yesterday and today. And today I ran my best 5K time – 25 minutes. And then, just for good measure, I ran another half a mile. Total mileage and timeage? 3.6 miles in just under 30 minutes.

Now I swear I’m not bragging. I’m just amazed by myself. In high school, when we were forced to run at crew practice, my friend and I were the last people to finish because we walked most of the way. So guys, if I can do it, so can you. I swear.

Now, once you finish running, or just standing outside for 2 seconds, you’ll need something to warm you up. And I’ve got that covered. You will need a bowlful of red lentil and vegetable soup. It’s like tomato soup with substance, a bright sunny kick from some lemon juice, and a nice, warm cumin flavor.

Cumin reminds me of my dad’s chili, which reminds me of being toasty in winter.

Toasty up your insides. Make this soup. Maybe add some green beans, because that’s kind of what I want to do next time I make it. And there will be a next time, and a time after that, and a time after that…….

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Fat Witch Brownies

So, did you have a good Thanksgiving? Did you survive? Did your stomach survive? By the end of the weekend I felt slightly pregnant, but in all honesty this may have been the best Thanksgiving I’ve had in awhile. I think that’s because I had no expectations. No, that’s a lie. I expected to miss celebrating with a big family as well as my own. This year I just spent time with my family. We don’t have a huge Thanksgiving; just my mom, dad, brother, and my grandfather, and this year Ian’s girlfriend. Ian and I pulled up to my parents’ house around 1pm to start cooking…and drinking. After all, what’s Thanksgiving without some wine?

Look at my brother! He’s a cook!

A quick rundown of the really really delicious food we made.

So, now starts December. I’m very excited because this year my friends and I have decided on a no presents rule. Instead I’ve ordered two packs of really cute (and some baking-related) holiday cards. Also begins a time when I feel absolutely guilt-free about baking non-stop. Who cares about calories during the month of December? OK, actually, I’m buying a cold-weather running shirt to combat all the baking. As in, I will be running aplenty. Out-of-doors.

So, the first delicious-you-must-make holiday recipe is: brownies! Fat Witch Brownies to be exact. This recipe has been floating around the food blogosphere internet for quite awhile. I’ve just been slow to jump on the bandwagon. Fat Witch Brownies come from a bakery in New York called, yes, Fat Witch Bakery. They seem to specialize in awesome brownies. Sweet. They have a cookbook, in which the recipe for their original brownie can be found.

It’s a very different brownie from the other brownie recipe I have on here. Still gooey, but much more mellow. It’s still very obviously chocolatey, just not insanely intense, probably because it has only 1/2 cup of chocolate in it. And it’s kind of buttery. I have no other word to describe it. These are every day brownies, the kind you can snack on without feeling like you might explode. They’d probably travel really well in holiday care packages too.

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