Sunday, February 26, 2006

Feel the buzz

I shamefully admit to you that I've logged in several times within the past week and stared blankly at the screen, completely at a loss for a topic idea. Or maybe my brain has just been so strung out on caffeine it hasn't been able to slow down long enough to actually think. I'm not really sure. But I hope y'all have been doing well! I know I have. In fact I've been fantastic - fantastically busy, but fantastic nonetheless.

I haven't actually baked much this week - a birthday cake for a client and a batch of brownies for the upcoming issue of Good Things, but you'll hear about those later! Oh yeah and I made a couple batches of fudge - an old fashioned chocolate fudge and a peanut butter fudge. For the write ups and recipes check out Sugar Savvy. Both recipes were included in last weeks "Five Days Of Fudge". They were YUM-O!

My morning cupI have definitely had PLENTY of coffee and tea over the last few weeks. And I mean that more figuratively than literally. I'm excited to say that I am editor for the soon to the published coffee and tea blog - A Nice Cuppa, that is a part of The WellFed Network. I'll let y'all know as soon as we start publishing, and hope u'll head over and check it out! If anyone is interested in writing for A Nice Cuppa or one of the other blogs just let me know. I know a couple of the other blogs are still looking for writers also.

I promise I'll have some yummy new recipes SOON! Don't give up on me yet lol

Monday, February 20, 2006

Who you callin crusty??

In another effort to play catch up with last weeks baking adventures I introduce you to Crusty!!

Crusty French Bread

Crusty was the star of those delicious cheese sandwiches I grilled up for "Cheese Sandwich Day" last Thursday. I randomly stumbled onto this website: cookingcache where I found a somewhat sketchy recipe for a crusty French bread that seemed to have some potential. So I printed the recipe out and went to improvising, and ended up with a tasty bread that is great for making paninis, garlic bread, crostini and everything in between. I even made banana nutella dessert paninis with it!!

Crusty French Bread
yields 2 8 inch long loaves

1 pkg (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees), divided
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Add sugar, salt, melted butter, and remaining 1 cup warm water; stir until dissolved. Add flour and stir until smooth (do not knead). Cover and let rise in a warm draft free place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Turn onto a floured surface. Divide dough in half; let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into a 10 x 8" rectangle. Roll up from a long side; pinch to seal seam. Place seam side down on greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. If desired sprinkle top of loaves with cornmeal.

Bake until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped on. (The recipe didn't indicate a baking temperature or time. I found 450 to be an appropriate temperature. I think I baked the loaves for about 20-30 minutes.)

Hey cupcake!!

Heart CupcakeCupcakes are all the rage these days aren't they?? I know I can't resist em! I'm obviously a huge sweet freak anyway, so I of course look for any possible excuse to bake stuff. So in honor of the fabulous colors and the adorable hearts that go along with Valentine's Day I made cupcakes last week!! I can't lie, they were pretty freakin cute too..

For Christmas my Big Bad Dad gave me "Hey There, Cupcake! by Clare Crespo, the cupcake diva herself. I thought last week was the perfect time to FINALLY try out one of her recipes. And about a month ago, while shopping at a local cake decorating supply shop I found the most adorable teeny tiny heart-shaped sprinkles I couldn't resist. Now I'm looking for every possible reason to use them, they're SO cute!! lol

I wasn't impressed with the cake part of the cupcakes. I like my cake dense and moist, and this cake definitely wasn't moist. I followed a buttercream recipe from Cupcakes Year Round, mostly out of curiosity because the recipe called for much less butter than I usually use for my buttercream. I ended up having to add a bit more butter while I was making it up the frosting came out delicious. And I don't feel quite as guilty eating it because of the reduced amount of butter.

Valentine's Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
yields 18 cupcakes

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 hot water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners.
2. Melt chocolate in double-broiler or microwave. Set aside to cool.
3. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and sugar together into large mixing bowl.
4. Add butter and sour cream to flour mixture and beat well.
5. Stir in melted chocolate. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well until batter is smooth.
6. Add vanilla and hot water, and beat until batter is smooth.
7. Pour batter into cupcake tins. Bake 15-20 minutes, until cake springs back when touched. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Then turn cupcakes out of tins and onto rack until completely cool.

Easy Buttercream

4 Tblsp unsalted butter, softened
1 lb confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp milk, or more for desired consistancy.

1. Cream butter, until smooth. Add confectioners sugar, vanilla and milk. Mix until smooth and creamy, adding more milk 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Cheese Sandwiches and Mean Men

whineMany of you that are active in the food blogging community have already read or atleast heard about the article in the current issue of Food and Wine magazine written by Pete Wells. Wells has caused quite a stir by expressing his opinions on the content of much of the food blogging community. He has definitely struck a very deep nerve with many people, plucking quotations from some well known food blogs and expressing his rather insulting opinion that many food blogs are comparable to a cheese sandwich. Wells seems to think that many food blogs are bland and lack content.

I happen to LOVE cheese sandwiches, Mr. Wells however seems to find them bland and unexciting. I find them to be comforting and homey, and frankly if someone sees my blog as either of those things then I'm quite flattered. Yes, Wells was expressing his opinion, which we are all entitled to do. But it seems that he didn't bother to put much thought behind his opinions, nor did he think much about how those he included in his article would feel, which I think is in HORRIBLY, HORRIBLY POOR TASTE!! He seems to have totally missed the point of the food blogging community. Yes we all love food very much, but the emphasis isn't on food nearly as much as it is on COMMUNITY. Since joining the food blogging world I have met or at the very least crossed paths with many very wonderful people. I've been welcomed into the homes of some amazing people via their blogs, and Mr. Wells opinion can't take any of that way. The thing that upsets me about his article is that he has angered and hurt so many people.

We are all entitled to our opinions, and Mr. Wells has definitely expressed his. But from what I've seen the food blogging community has come back and expressed theirs 100's of times louder. It's just unfortunate that the article was published in a major magazine like Food and Wine, with so many readers that may have never delved into the world of food blogging.

In support of those who were the target of Wells' undeserved criticism, February 16th was declared Cheese Sandwich Day!! I'm a day behind with my post and sadly my cheese sandwiches were gobbled up before any photos could be taken. But to show my support of all the wonderful food bloggers of the world we had cheese sandwiches on Thursday!!! Mozzarella, extra sharp cheddar, roasted turkey, brown sugar ham and mayo on freshly baked bagguette to be exact! YUM-O!!


Friday, February 17, 2006

A Toast To The Birthday Boy - 100 Years Young!

Happy Birthday Hot Stuff!

No, no, no. I haven't pulled an Anna Nicole Smith & started dating some old guy. Eh as if! I'm simply celebrating the 100th anniversary of one of the worlds most warming small appliances - the toaster. No worries I won't bore you with tons of toaster facts or a timeline on the evolution of the toaster. It wouldn't be much of a timeline, as they haven't changed so much in the last 50 years or so. But why mess with a good thing right? I will say this...

toasterWe all talk about comfort foods right? Well, according to the Grains Food Foundation, toast is the world's first comfort food. They also conducted a poll that found more than half of America would supposedly choose toast over candy in the morning. A third of Americans would choose toast over chocolate in the morning - yes CHOCOLATE!!! And get this..1 in 10 would prefer to start the morning with toast instead of sex! Yes, ladies and gentleman, you read it here. So when your mate gives you the brush off in the morning, chances are they're headed for the toaster. I know I'll never look at mine the same again.

So have you hugged your toaster today??

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lovely Labels and Groovy Gadgets

Wow, I feel like I've been away from y'all for ages! I apologize if anyone is feeling neglected, although I doubt that's the I've got something in the works that I've been keeping pretty busy with. For all you curious kids out there, I will update you in a day or so. I would do it now, but y'all know how much I like to talk, if I get into it now I'll be here all night and I don't have that kinda energy or time at the

stamp_100excellentI found a couple cool things in the local newspaper yesterday I thought I would share with y'all. First off, the Whole Grain Council is now offering food makers a nifty new way to help consumers quickly and easily identify those foods which are a good source of whole grain, by providing them with a whole grain stamp for product packages. Unfortunately this label isn't required so you're still going to have to read labels, but you'll know for sure you've got a good source of whole grain when you see this label.

Good%20LOVE%20Bites%20PhotoNext up is this groovy little gadget from Good Bites that cuts the crust off your sandwiches in 1 easy step. There are 4 cutters to choose from at $3.99 each. They make a cutter that cuts the sandwich into a circle, and a cutter that cuts the sandwich into a heart. A HEART!!! How cool is that?? I want them just so I can have heart shaped sandwiches my darn self! Just google Good Bites and you'll find numerous sites that sell the cutters. The article says they are available at Mom Inventors, but when I went there I was directed to , which sells them.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Chocolate Obsession And Marshmallow Madness

I'll be the first to admit I eat enough chocolate for it to be it's own food group. But is it me or everywhere you turn lately is oozing chocolate? I'm not so much saying that's a bad thing, as it just seems, if only momentarily, the world is chocolate obsessed. I imagine a lot of the oozing of chocolate products, recipes, factoids and such is thanks to the upcoming D-Day. Errr I mean V-Day, yeah that's it V-Day. D-Day, V-Day, what's the diff? I'm kidding!!


I also imagine I'm noticing so many things around me related to chocolate because of my involvement in Sugar Savvy, the candy and chocolate blog which is part of The Well Fed Network. As a contributing writer for Sugar Savvy, I find that my eyes and ears are always open for new products and interesting ideas or delicious recipes I can write about. I encourage y'all to check out WellFed regularly, as there are a ton of great writers and topics. If anyone is interested in possibly writing for WellFed leave me a comment with your email address. I'll contact you ASAP with some info.

Homemade MarshmallowsWhile we're on the subject of WellFed, I thought I would share with y'all a recipe I shared over there. Over the holidays I had planned to make homemade marshmallows to go with the "Homemade Hot Chocolate For Two" I made and included in the foodie boxes for family and friends. I ended up with so much other stuff that I nixed the marshmallows. I was still really curious to try them and had everything I needed so I made them recently. Y'all know how I love pink, so I made pink heart shaped marshmallows. I dipped most of them in white and milk chocolate and coated them in sprinkles and jimmies. The marshmallows were soooo good!! And they actually last a pretty long time without getting hard, which is a really good thing because they make a HUGE batch! I'm dying to make them again using some flavorings and stuff. I've seen this recipe many many places with slight variations here and there. My first memory of this recipe is thanks to Martha Stewart, so I'm giving her credit for the original that has inspired my tweaked version.

Handmade Marshmallows

2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin (about 3 envelopes)
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa, sifted (optional)
Powdered sugar for dusting
Cooking spray or oil for greasing pan

1. Prepare the pan. For thicker marshmallows, use a 9x13; a jellyroll pan works well for thinner marshmallows. Grease the bottom and sides of pan, then dust with powdered sugar. Set aside for later use.

2. Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Let the gelatin bloom 15-20 minutes.

3. While gelatin is blooming, combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1/2 cup water in a heavy medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

4. Raise heat to high. Cook syrup without stirring until the mixture reaches firm-ball stage, 244°F on candy-thermometer. Immediately remove from heat.

5. Using whisk attachment, turn mixer on low and slowly drizzle syrup into the softened gelatin. After syrup has been incorporated, add the cocoa if desired. Once mixed in, moving one speed at a time, raise mixers speed to high. Mix on high speed for 15 minutes or until very thick and nearly tripled in volume. Add vanilla and beat in.

6. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan, as evenly as possible. Work quickly as mixture becomes more difficult to work with as it cools. Dust top with powdered sugar, wet hands and pat to smooth. Allow to stand overnight, uncovered.

7. Dust cutting board with powdered sugar and turn marshmallow out onto board (I left mine in the pan so I didn't dirty up an extra surface). Using a knife or dough blade cut marshmallows into desired size squares. You can also use various shaped cookie cutters. Dredge your cutting utensils in powdered sugar periodically.


-Substitute other flavor extracts in place of vanilla, such as peppermint, coconut or lemon.
-Colored marshmallows - When adding vanilla, add gel or liquid food coloring of your choice. Add gradually to get desired color.
-Dipped marshmallows - melt chocolate or white chocolate and dip marshmallows. If desired, dip in sprinkles, shredded coconut, and/or chopped nuts. Place on waxed paper to set.
-S'mores marshmallows - Dip vanilla marshmallow in melted chocolate, then graham cracker crumbs. Place on waxed paper to set.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Muppet or Monster??

Which is Cookie Monster I ask you?? I mean afterall his name is Cookie MONSTER, no? But Cookie Monster and his buddies are Muppets are they not?? Can one actually be both a Muppet and a monster?? Ehh, I suppose it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that I made cookies!!! Deliciously chewy peanut butter cookies, and I came up with the recipe myself!! Yup, it's a Culinarily Obsessed Original. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back, lol

Peanut Butter Cookies

As it's very clear by now, based some of my grumbling episodes in the past I can be very very picky. Peanut butter cookies are far above and beyond my normal picky to be quite honest. I LOVE peanut butter and I LOVE peanut butter cookies. But I want two things in my peanut butter cookies - chewiness and peanut butter chips. The second is negotiable, the first is an absolute must. I've tried recipes in the past that were just all wrong to me, but everyone else enjoyed, cookies that were crunchy and had just this hugely overwhelming peanut butter flavor. I know, that sounds crazy right?? You're thinking "Hellooooo, they're PEANUT BUTTER cookies!". And my cookies taste like peanut butter..they have peanut butter chips in them for Pete sake! It's just different. lol

I borrowed from the methods I used on the last couple batches of chocolate chip cookie I've made. I used melted butter, and like the Alton Brown cookies last week, I refrigerated the dough right up until they went into the oven. I wanted to do my best to make sure the cookies were chewy so I used MORE brown than granulated sugar, whereas a lot of recipes call for equal amounts. Also I used bread flour, for added tenderness, but all-purpose would work just fine. The dough is a bit thinner than chocolate chip cookie dough, so be careful what type of peanut butter you use. I tried Smucker's Natural, which is very runny, once and the cookies spread. As you can see in the photo, those famous peanut butter cookie crisscrosses don't show up too well, so next time I will omit that step.

Obsessedly Soft And Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
Yields: approx 3 1/2 dozen

2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
13 Tbsp butter, melted & cooled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients together & set aside.

Melt butter and allow to cool. On medium speed, blend sugars; add cooled butter and mix until grainy consistency. Add eggs, mix on low until just incorporated. Add peanut butter and vanilla extract; beat on medium until fluffy. On low speed, slowly add flour mixture until barely mixed into butter mixture.

Drop by rounded tablespoonful, onto ungreased cookie sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Refrigerate 20-30 minutes.

Bake until the edges are lightly browned, approximately 18-20 minutes. Remove and cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A visit from the Muffin Man

Ok, well the Muffin Man didn't actually visit, but I did make muffins! A while back I had a craving for these muffins from my childhood. My Nana made them, and from there I think my Big Bad Dad must have made them. For some reason I distinctly remember eating them for breakfast before school. Breakfast before school was never a pleasant experience for me - I HATED eating so early in the morning and even more I HATED waking up early! But these muffins I didn't mind eating early in the morning, so naturally they left an impression on me, but for the rest of the family?? Not so much.

So I wanted these childhood muffins, but I had NO recipe. All I really remember about these muffins is that they were lowfat, and contained oatmeal and applesauce. Oh and I think the recipe came from the back of the Quaker Oatmeal container, but that's insignificant at this point. What's a girl to do?? Google of course!! My trusty Google came up with quite a lengthy list of muffin recipes containing oatmeal and applesauce, but I do believe I found MY recipe! I was a bit nervous until I tasted one. Nervous that I would be disappointed because these really weren't the muffins I longed for. Nervous that they were going to be totally disgusting because they are actually extremely healthy and we all know sometimes unfortunately that equates to extremely gross. But gross they are not..good they are. To me atleast.

The recipe is pretty simple, has minimal ingredients and is "guaranteed to turn you into a marathoner". Hey I don't know about that last part, I'm just quoting the recipe here! I have to be honest, the muffins don't look like much. The recipe makes 12 "medium-sized" muffins, but I made mine into 18 "squatty sized" muffins. A girl's gotta enforce portion control yanno? lol

Oaty Applesauce Muffins

1 c. Rolled Oats
1 c. buttermilk ( can use regular non-fat milk)
1 c. wheat flour
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 egg whites or 1 whole egg
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. chopped apple (cut into small even size chunks)
2 tsp. cinnamon

Soak oats in miik for 1 hours. After 1 hour add remaining ingredients and mix well. Line muffin tin with liners or spray with non-stick spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Yields 12 muffins.

Note: As I listed in the ingredients the original recipe indicates you can use regular non-fat milk instead of buttermilk. I also think you can probably use quick cooking oatmeal and omit the soaking step, just put everything into the bowl and combine. The original recipe did not contain chopped apples or cinnamon, but I had an apple going to waste and the batter smelled bland so I added some cinnamon. The muffins are good with and without the apple chunks and cinnamon. I made some of both =)
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