Thursday, October 30, 2008

I've Moved!

If you are visiting this blog for the first time, you should know that I have moved on to a different blog that I started with my sister Julie. Its packed full of all kinds of great recipes and tips. Please take a minute to check it out: Two (Almost) Mavens

"We are two sisters who have a knack for all things culinary. Here is where we share our virtual kitchens with each other and with you from two capital cities, Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas. Freshness, simplicity, seasonality, and exceptional ingredients are what inspire us. One of us focuses on baking, and the other on cooking, although occasionally we may dabble on the other side. This is real life, so everything we cook may not always be fresh, or seasonal, or even exceptional. But we try!"

Welcome - come see what's in the kitchen!

Two (Almost) Mavens

Monday, September 29, 2008

Micky D's- Cloned Sandwhiches

You. Must. Read. This. Now!

1996 McDonalds Hamburger

Go Here:

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What to Do with Lots of Ripe Bananas

I went to our neighborhood corner store, Sarah's Market, last night. It was 10 minutes until closing time, and there were a ton of over ripe bananas on the checkout counter. I made a joke to the owner that it looked like she was going to have to make a lot of banana bread. Well, she must have not wanted to make banana bread, because she laughed and then insisted I take the bananas. So guess who got to make lots of banana bread? Perfect excuse for me to procrastinate studying for my child psychology classes.

We got about 10 bananas that were already in danger of fruit flies getting to them so I wanted to make something fast. I've never liked to freeze bananas, even though that's what a lot of people do- something just changes in the consistency that I don't like. Since baked goods generally freeze well, I figured I could make a bunch of banana bread muffins and freeze them to use for several on-the-run breakfasts.

This is hands down the best banana bread recipe I have ever tried or had. I think the secret is in its simplicity. It takes less than 10 minutes to mix the ingredients together. The toughest part is just waiting for them to come out of the oven.

Here is the basic recipe, you can do lots of things with this and add your own fabulousness. I usually just make the basic recipe and add in a generous amount of mini chocolate chips (a combination I absolutely love) and bake in a loaf pan.

Basic Banana Bread Recipe:
  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

This time, I didn't have any chocolate chips, so I made two different variations with things I had on hand:

Banana Pumpkin Muffins
  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin butter (I got mine pre-made from Trader Joe's)
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
Makes about 15 muffins
5 Weight Watchers Points

Chocolate Banana Muffins
  • 4 0r 5 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
Makes about 12 muffins
6 Weight Watchers Points

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Spray loaf pan or muffin tin with cooking spray. Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl (I use a potato masher). Cream the rest of the ingredients together with the bananas. Pour into prepared loaf pan or muffin tin (use 1/3 cup batter per serving if using muffin tin) Bake 30 minutes for muffins, an hour for a loaf. Insert toothpick or knife, you will know its done when it comes out clean.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lemon Ginger Cupcakes

It's a rare person who doesn't love cupcakes. They are a current trend on their way out, but I don't think I could ever get tired of them, there are so many varieties! (by the way, I kind of think brownies and blondies should be the next "it" thing in kitchy baking.)

I actually made these from left over cake batter for a friend's birthday cake. I brought these to share at work, and lets just say there wasn't a single crumb left by one o'clock.

I will post the birthday cake recipe later, but for now you can try and guess how I made them- I made my own recipe!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cherry Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Oooooh these are sooo good. I'm not so sure they really count as "breakfast", since they are really more of a dessert. Then again, I have never been one to turn down dessert for breakfast! This is inspired by Smitten Kitchen who got their recipe from Baked Bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I gotta check out their bakery next time I make it up to New York, the pictures on their website are mouth watering!

I know, my pictures really suck. I really need to get a nice camera or have my other one fixed. I was tempted to not even post this picture, but whats a recipe without a picture? Trust me though, these are to die for. If you don't like cherries, you can substitute any kind of berry or mix of berries you like. Next time I make this, I might try apricots instead, yummmmm!


For the crust and crumb:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

For the cherry filling:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound cherries, fresh or frozen (pitted)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled


Make the crust and crumb: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Oil, butter or spray the baking pan.

Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined, and then pour back into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and stir until mixture is crumbly.

Reserve 1 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. Pour the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands to push the crust into an even layer at the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside. Keep the oven on while you make the cherry filling.

Make the cherry filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour together. Add the cherries, lemon juice and butter and use your hands to toss gently until the cherries are evenly coated.

Assemble and bake the bars: Spread the cherry mixture evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges.

Let them cool for as long as you can stand it, and enjoy!

Makes 16 bars
5 Weight Watcher Points per serving

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sourdough Starter!

I've decided that if I want to learn to bake, then I should probably have on hand at all times a sourdough starter. So many possibilities (and not just sourdough bread)! Just think:

Blueberry Sourdough Muffins
Sourdough Pizza Crust
Sourdough Hot Cross Buns
Chocolate Sourdough Cake
Sourdough Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce
Sourdough Pancakes (there are many options with this!)
Sourdough Carrot Cake
Fresh Tomato Basil Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Rustic Sourdough Noodles
(OK- not exactly baking, but still intriguing)
Sourdough Biscuits

I think you get the point...

Making a sourdough starter is so amazingly easy, it's pretty much idiot proof. You just have to make sure to "feed" it once a day for the first few days. After that, you mostly just need to tend to it once a week.

Here is what you do:

Mix together one cup of flour with one cup of warm water. Pour into a wide mouthed jar or other container. Avoid using a metal container, because it can affect the starter in an adverse way. Make sure there is a way for a little bit of air to circulate in the container. I used a mason jar and punctured a hole in the lid with a nail. Put aside and keep at room temperature.

After about 24 hours, you will need to "feed" the starter: throw out half the starter, and mix in half a cup of warm water and a half cup of flour. Set aside for another 24 hours and repeat. After 3-5 days, your starter should be bubbly and yeasty smelling which means its ready to use; at this point you can begin keeping it in your refrigerator. Your starter will keep for as long as you continue to feed it once a week or so.

If you want more details on how to make a sourdough starter, John Ross over at Sourdough Baking has lots of information and advice, along with a basic sourdough bread recipe.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dry Socket

If you read my previous post, you know that I just had my wisdom teeth taken out. Its been 6 days since the unholy day and I have been mostly fine, eerily fine even. Except last night I woke at 3 AM to an unbearable searing pain on the left side of my face. After diagnosing myself in the only way a "Gen.comer" knows (the Internet), turns out I have dry socket. Oh yes folks, DRY SOCKET. Just hearing the term is like nails on a chalkboard. Ever hear of the twinkie defense? Well, if I do something really evil or violent I think I can claim dry socket defense. Oh yea, dry socket only happens to about 5% of people who have a tooth extraction, lucky me!

In reading up on my condition, I stumbled upon a particularly comical blog post about a guy who pretty much had the same exact experience though he was able to, I'll put this lightly, give a much more adequate description of the experience. I only wish I could have written it, because it pretty much sums up exactly whats going on with me at the moment. Hey- at least I'm not alone!

Go here:

Wisdom: A Tale of Dental Redemption

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mexican Horchata

I got my wisdom teeth taken out on Friday, not especially the most pleasant experience in the world so I will spare you the gruesome details. Whats worse, Daniel had to leave for Columbus, Ohio on a work trip about an hour after he drove me home from the oral surgeon.

So here I am, cooped up on a Saturday with no place to go, and no one to share my misery because half of my face looks like a chipmunk and I keep getting headaches. Thankfully a friend is coming over later to veg around and watch movies with me.

I have to admit, I am getting squeamishly tired of eating mashed potatoes, apple sauce and ginger ale. I had the idea to make Mexican Horchata when I realized I basically had all the ingredients at home. I had to improvise a bit as I did not have white rice, fresh lime or cinnamon sticks. I also did not want to refrigerate the almond and rice mixture overnight as I wanted to consume it today, so technically this is my own recipe adapted from Gourmet Sleuth.

For those of you who don't know, horchata is a sweet milky-like drink made out of rice, almonds, lime, and cinnamon. It does not have any milk in it, so it is definitely vegan. Oh, and its supposed to be a good cure for a hangover.

6 Tbs. cooked brown rice
1 1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tsp. lime juice (fresh is best)
1 cup white sugar
6 cups water

Using a food processor, pulverize the almonds and rice together until it as smooth as possible. Transfer the mixture into a blender and add the cinnamon, lime and 2 cups of water. Blend for 2 minutes.

Transfer the liquid into a large mixing bowl. Stir in 4 cups of water and the sugar. You may want to use more or less sugar depending on your preference.

Using a wire mesh strainer, strain the liquid 4 or 5 times until it runs smoothly through the strainer. Pour liquid into a pitcher and refrigerate about 3 hours, or until very cold.

Makes 6-7 servings

P.S. As a kid, I used to heat up left over rice in the microwave with milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. I am thinking it might be good to eat the left over rice you made for this recipe that way, by just heating up the rice with some horchata poured over like its cereal. Sounds good to me, but I will probably have to wait until my mouth heals a bit more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Engagement Pics

We found a lovely married couple named Elizabeth and Ashley Wright who are starting up a professional photography business, Wright Studios. They posted an ad on Craigslist offering free engagement photo shoots in order to build up their portfolio. We figured, why not?

We were not disappointed, they did a great job. They were so nice and they made us feel comfortable from the beginning to the end of of the shoot. Its not everyday that you are asked to make out in front of a camera! The results turned out wonderful, I know that we will have these pictures for the rest of our lives and our great grandchildren will be looking at them long after we are gone.

I think the two posted here are my two favorites (but there are many more favorites). If you want to see more you can either go to their website and look in their Engagement section of their Gallery, or you can go and see a bunch we posted on PhotoBucket.

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Attempt at Homemade Donuts

"Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?" -Homer Simpson

When I first got the idea to make donuts from scratch, my eyes almost popped out of my head. I thought, "Oh my god, how kitchy! How yummy! How fun!"

I was warned they would take commitment. These aren't something you can just stir up in a bowl and stick on the skillet.... I think I underestimated that warning as I was up until one in the morning last night making these puppies.

They were pretty good, but I definitely learned a few things:

1. I need a candy thermometer.
2. I need a round pastry cutter set.
2. I'm 95% sure that its better to fry these at a lower temperature than the recipe calls for and to take them out of the oil well before you think they are done otherwise they turn out dry and chewy instead of soft and melt in your mouth.
3. The maple frosting was a bit too thin. Next time I will add a bit more powdered sugar to thicken it up.
5. These are not super sweet like the kind you buy at a grocery store bakery or Krispy Kreme. They taste more like a slightly sweet fry bread with a touch of cinnamon.
6. Only make as much as can be consumed or given away in one day,
7. These are a great gift to give to someone who needs a little sweet in their day.

I got the idea from Joy the Baker. I did not use an electric mixer, as I do not have one. I didn't find it to be a problem, I just vigorously mixed the dough with my hands when the recipe called for it to be mixed for 3 minutes (kind of a bicep work out). Also, I think what was even better than the donuts themselves were the donut holes. I dropped them immediately from the oil into a bowl of cinnamon and sugar and rolled them around. I took the donuts and the holes to work, and the holes were first to go.

I think next time I will make these from Peanut Butter and Julie.

P.S. I know the picture isn't of the highest quality, I had to take it with my cell phone. It's just another thing I need to work on.

Gourmet, December 2006

makes 1 dozen doughnuts

1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons warm water (105–115°F)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for sprinkling and rolling out dough
1 cup whole milk at room temperature
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
About 10 cups vegetable oil for deep frying

Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Mix together flour, milk, butter, yolks, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and yeast mixture in mixer at low speed until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium-high and beat 3 minutes more.

Scrape dough down side of bowl (all around) into center, then sprinkle lightly with flour (to keep a crust from forming). Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Alternatively, let dough rise in bowl in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours.)

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round (1/2 inch thick). Cut out as many rounds as possible with 3-inch cutter, then cut a hole in center of each round with 1-inch cutter and transfer doughnuts to a lightly floured large baking sheet. Cover doughnuts with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes (45 minutes if dough was cold when cutting out doughnuts). Do not reroll scraps.

Heat 2 1/2 inches oil in a deep 4-quart heavy pot until it registers 350°F on thermometer. Fry doughnuts, 2 at a time, turning occasionally with a wire or mesh skimmer or a slotted spoon, until puffed and golden brown, about 2 minutes per batch. Transfer to paper towels to drain. (Return oil to 350°F between batches.)

I also fried the doughnut holes for about 1 minute and them tossed them in powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar straight out of the hot grease.

Chocolate Glaze

recipe from Alton Brown

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk, warmed
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Combine butter, milk, corn syrup, and vanilla in medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Decrease the heat to low, add the chocolate, and whisk until melted. Turn off heat, add the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Place the mixture over a bowl of warm water and dip the doughnuts immediately. Allow glaze to set for 30 minutes before serving.

Maple Glaze

Bon Appetit November 1995

You might consider doubling this recipe and drizzling it on everything you know and love.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons whipping cream
6 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted

Melt butter with maple syrup and cream in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Cool glaze until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Dip doughnuts into glaze or drizzle glaze over doughnuts.