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Archive for the ‘Sweets’ Category

Bright Ideas

Having a roommate is a very good thing for me. Not only do I have someone to keep track of me (the odds of me one day ending up in a ditch are pretty likely) and split the rent and cable bill with, but it keeps me in line. If it weren’t for the presence of another person in the apartment, I would continually wander around, sans pants, cigarette hanging out of my mouth, while garbage and dishes piled up. You’d see me on Oprah, living in an apartment stacked high with newspapers from 1999 and every issue of Entertainment Weekly since the characters of Melrose Place graced the cover.

How do I know this is a possibility, you ask? Because all hell breaks loose every time my roommate leaves for the weekend. I have the decorum of a frat boy and clearly need other people around to keep me in line.

Yet, I have decided on my own that there shall be no more smoking in the apartment. This decision was made several months ago when, unable to find a book of matches or a lighter, I leaned over the stove to light my cigarette and singed off a lock of hair. Not my hair! It scared the hell out of me and smelled horribly to boot.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t be lighting my cigarette off my stove. In fact, I even know my habit of enjoying the occasional Marlboro Light is a dirty one that makes my clothes smell and increases my risks for lung cancer and wrinkling…but I am a moron.  Yet, if my hair isn’t a reason to change, I don’t know what is.

I tell this story to once again prove how incredibly idiotic I am capable of being…ya know, just in case you forgot. I am, in fact, so stupid that every time I have a great idea, even a decent one, a parade should probably be thrown. They do not happen often and are event worthy.

So, I am just going to say it: this cake deserves a parade of Macy’s proportions. I cobbled it together from multiple carrot cake recipes, using an All Recipes recipe as a point of reference. Instead of using all white sugar, I swapped out a cup of the white stuff for brown sugar. I added raisins and pineapple for extra moisture and flavor. To plump up the raisins, I had (if I do say so) the genius idea of using the reserved pineapple juice for even more flavor. For an added depth, I toasted the pecans before throwing them in to the batter. This cake was crazy moist; so moist that it almost fell apart and stuck to the pans a bit. To avoid crumbling, I added an extra 1/4 cup flour to the recipe and suggest using parchment in the pans. The frosting complemented the cake perfectly and was fantastic. Four days later this thing is still as tasty as when it came out of the oven and not dry at all. My roommate called this “the best carrot cake she has ever had”…and I have to agree. Look people, I know carrot cake. If I cannot get this right, I might as well hang up my shingle and shuffle away in shame. Thankfully, there was no shame in this…

It was pure genius. For such an idiot, I done good.

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It’s Wednesday! Get your hot ass over to So Good and see what (Haloween themed!) treat I am eating this week!

Best Carrot Cake in the Whole Freaking Universe

Heavily Adapted from All Recipes

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3 cups grated carrots

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

2/3 cup raisins (I used golden)

1 – 8 ounce can crushed pineapple, juice reserved

1/2 cup butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 cups confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease two 8 inch round cake pans, then line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pans (with the parchment on the bottom).

Shred carrot and let then drain in a colander for 45 minutes. Drain pineapple and heat reserved juice in the microwave for one minute. Dump raisins in juice so they can plump.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white and brown sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots and raisins that have been drained from the pineapple juice. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake.

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Lovin’ It

An inordinate amount of ass smacking took place Saturday night. My hand, in fact, is still sore. Poor LiLu…it was her birthday and she took a lot of abuse.

I figure it all evens out though. She doesn’t remember this–perhaps too much cider?–but earlier in the night she came bounding up to me as I iced a cake. I had used a 8″ chef knife, trying to create a smooth sheen with the liquid velvet icing. LiLu took one look at the knife, dripping in frosting, and attempted to lick it, sharp side first, two times. I am glad I was there to save her from herself, but she had those ass smacks coming after that foolishness.

It was a pity to have to do it, though. LiLu is truly a sparkling little light in every single one of my days. Sometimes I want to send the internet a dozen roses for introducing us. The other day, she referred to us as “secret shame” friends. I would say that is a pretty accurate assessment. If I were to say, “Hey, LiLu, sometimes I watch “Beaches” for two days straight, never changing my underwear, all while surviving on Elio’s pizza, Chubby Hubby and Arbor Mist”, she’d be like “I did that last week…you better invite me next time”. She is a wonderful, hysterical judgment-free zone…with a highly slappable ass.

For such a friend, I had to make a very special birthday treat. (As if saving her tongue from a tragic severing wasn’t enough.) She loves her peanut butter, so I found this recipe for chocolate brownie cookies and made some tweaks. Yes, you read that right. Chocolate Brownie Cookies. I added some peanut butter chips (chocolate chips were an option in the original recipe) and topped them with Reece’s Pieces candy. True to billing, they were chewy and soft like a brownie, but had the crispness on the outer layer like a cookie. These disappeared pretty damn fast and I cannot say I blame the crowd; this is one great cookie.

Nothing is too good for my girl. Happy birthday, you hooker.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Adapted from Joy the Baker


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (chopped or in chips)

3 Tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) butter

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoons salt

1 cup peanut butter chips

1 box or 2 packets Reece’s Pieces

In the microwave, gently melt together the chocolate and butter. To avoid heating the chocolate too much and possibly burning it, the best method is to heat till the butter is melted and the chocolate has partially melted, then remove from the heat. Stir till all the chocolate melts.

In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs till they’re thoroughly combined. You don’t need a mixer, just do it in a medium sized bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the hot melted chocolate, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate the batter like dough for 1 hour, to make it easier to handle.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets, three if you have them.

Drop the cookie dough by the tablespoonfuls (about the size of a small ping pong ball) onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave about 2″ between the dough balls, as they’ll spread as they bake.

Bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes, until their tops are shiny and cracked. They won’t crack until the very end, so keep a close eye on them; when they’re cracked all the way across the top surface, they’re done. Remove the cookies from the oven, and top each with a few Reece’s Pieces. Wait 5 minutes then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

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A Road Paved

Suddenly, I understood how the “Young Man” felt; she would not stop staring at my God damned feet.

I could not blame her. Frankly, I looked a bit ridiculous. I found myself in my own personal hell, but I had not arrived there without good intentions.

In a pre-coffee stupor that morning, I had thrown together my gym bag. This lead to quite the unfortunate ensemble on the metro ride home: a 1976 Carter-Mondale “Peanut Power” vintage t-shirt, black spandex bike shorts, and sneakers well past their prime. And the socks? Well, I had forgotten gym socks entirely, so I was stuck wearing the fuzzy, snowflake-embellished, bright red slipper-socks that had kept me comfy all day in my knee high boots. For a woman who finds herself tortured when her nailpolish doesn’t match her outfit, I found this ensemble a particularly painful endeavor. Yet, with G-d as my witness, I was working out and no amount of personal humiliation would stop me…even the evil glares of strangers on public transportation.

Something told me when I was throwing the bag together in the morning that I was missing something, but I couldn’t figure out what. So, as I am wont to do, I forged ahead, ignoring the mental whispers that I was overlooking something.

Take, for instance, this cake. While assembling it, I dumped the apples in the pan, then covered with them with batter. I thought something seemed off, but pushed ahead. As I added another layer of apples and poured the remaining batter atop the fruit, I felt a sinking in my stomach. This could not be right…and when I checked the directions again, my suspicion was quickly confirmed. Every single person who I told this story to said the same exact thing: “You didn’t think this was wrong right away? Why didn’t you stop?” BECAUSE THAT WOULD MAKE SENSE. I have no idea how my brain works, I feel thankful daily that I managed to reach another bedtime intact, without somehow managing to stick my tongue in a light socket or fall in a bath tub holding a hairdryer…Sure, I am wearing winter slippers on the metro and yes, the cake looks a little wonky, but it all works out.

So, despite my best effort to mess this cake up, I didn’t… This Jewish Apple Upside Down Cake was just as good as the any other I have had.  Man, this was some tasty stuff.  The cake was incredibly moist and super flavorful, but still had a bit of crumb.  The orange juice helps a ton with the flavor, but does not impart a citrusy taste.  The nuts are optional, but I think they add a nice crunch.  If you want to stay super traditional, leave them out.  Dusted with powdered sugar, this is insanely good and one I will definitely make again.

Right side up…

Jewish Apple Cake
from Smitten Kitchen

6 apples, I used McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples and nuts over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples and nuts on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

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Special Delivery

When I make promises, I keep them. Sometimes it takes a little time, but I always deliver.

When DF, who is one of my favorite people I have never met, won the baked good raffle a few weeks back, I was thrilled. Except, then I got scared. I had a huge case of performance anxiety. I agonized over what to make, weighing what would hold up to shipping and trying to come up with something that would really impress. God dammit, what if my imaginary internet friend came to think me a fraud?

I searched endlessly, and finally had a revelation when I came across these peanut butter brownies. I mean, what kind of crazy pills does a person have to be taking to not want the beautiful harmony of peanut butter and chocolate combined in a delicious cakey treat? Not anyone who would read here, I know that.

And turns out DF liked them. Hooray, Hallelujah and thank Holy Hell! This recipe is so perfect, I knew there was no way he couldn’t. The brownie batter is peanut butter based, making the name brownie a bit of a misnomer, but we will let that slide. The batter was thick and studded with mini-chips, making it almost impossible not to eat the bowl of peanut buttery goodness before it even hits the oven. The ganache on top is perfection, accentuating the peanut butter and adding a a creamy accent to the slight chewy brownies. These are criminally good. Even though I was wrapping them at 2 am to get them in the mail the next morning, every second was worth it. The kitchen was a mess (you can see some batter on the table in the picture), I was exhausted, and it cost $43 to ship them, but it was a success…and really, that is all that matters.

Peanut Butter Brownies
from Smitten Kitchen

For brownies
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces) note: i used mini chips….
1/2 teaspoon salt, see note

For ganache
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Make brownies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan, then line bottom of pan with parchment paper and butter parchment.

Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce mixer sped to low, then mix in flour until just combined.

Mix in chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) then spread batter in baking pan, smoothing top. (It will be thick, almost like cookie batter.)

Bake until brownies are deep golden, puffed on top and a wooden pick inserted in center come out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes.

Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make ganache: Put chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) in a heatproof bowl.

Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate chips and let mixture stand for one minute.

Gently whisk in butter until it is incorporated, chocolate is melted, and a smooth mixture forms.

Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

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The other day, I was chatting with Old Man, a college friend whom I met the first day of freshman orientation. I was 18, rocking a pixie cut hair, and innocently filled of wonder and hope that I would actually learn something of value in college. How foolish I was…Old Man was quiet and understated and we were quite the unlikely duo. I am now fully comfortable in admitting I badgered that boy in to our friendship, nagged him until he finally gave in and threw down the white flag of submission.

Old Man and I were chatting while at work, wondering what the hell we were doing with our lives, lamenting our jobs and our career development. We both did well in college and graduated with decent GPAs. I can say with full confidence that Old Man is one of the smartest people I have ever met, a stunningly talented writer and in possession of an astounding ability to comprehend difficult concepts almost instantly. But our job situation as of late? We both are pretty uninspired.

“Ugh, what is the point? This is killing me. I am so bored”, I opined.

“We went to college so we could secure white collar-esque jobs and get in to a club where we can sit on our asses for 75% of the day and get paid pretty handsomely. Oh, college… aka party as hard as you can for 4 years”, was his response.

“But God, did we fucking party. I don’t think there was a night where partying was off limits”, I nostalgically replied.

Oh, college, when my liver fails, I shall blame you. If it helps conjure an image, lay out the magnitude of the situation, Old Man played rugby and there wasn’t a party I didn’t attend. More nights than I care to remember were spent with us running around completely annihilated, knocking shit over, roaming the streets of DC, eating hot dogs out of a dirty cart, and ordering pizza as the sun rose. When I think of college, I can barely remember anything I learned in class, but I will never forget dawn breaking as we sat a the Washington Monument. I am rarely nostalgic for those days–I kept the good friends and life is much easier with a few extra dollars in my pocket–but it is those early, pizza filled mornings that always creep in to my mind when I am stuck behind my desk and wishing for a time when things were a bit simpler. I see my four boys, Old Man, Bawstin, InspectorG and Shady, and I cramped on one futon, barely awake and drifting in and out of a stupefied haze.

Yet, there is no more pizza at dawn in this adult world, but jobs that await us and obligations that must be fulfilled. On the weekends, we run errands (though admittedly still hung over a lot of the time) and do things like “brunch”. These scones were prepared for a brunch I hosted a few weeks back, and while they are no pizza, they are damn good. I took a very basic recipe from Cooking Light, spiced it up and added apples and the results were stellar. They were fragrant, flavorful, and not at all dry. Warm and slathered with butter, they were quite the treat and not nearly as difficult to make as it may seem. I’ve always had a bit of a scone phobia, but glad I overcame it to try these. As you can see, we didn’t even try to fool ourselves and just ate them straight off the board.

So, this is where I am…from pizza to scones in 5 short years. My body is thankful for it, but sometimes, not my mind.

Apple Spice Scones
Heavily adapted from Cooking Light

2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 ground ginger
3 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1/2 granny smith apple, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fat-free milk
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine 1/2 cup milk, vanilla, and egg white in a bowl. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist (dough will be soft). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle surface of dough with apple. With floured hands, knead 4 times or just until the currants are incorporated.

Pat dough into an 8-inch circle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut dough into 12 wedges, cutting into, but not through, dough. Brush 2 teaspoons milk over surface of dough; sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar and the cinnamon (which have been mixed together). Bake at 425° for 19 minutes or until golden. Serve warm, or cool on a wire rack.

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I Want It All

One of the unexpected perks of losing such a drastic amount of weight is I can often elude people from my past. Former classmates blow past me on the street and boring former co-workers breeze right on by me. Being so unrecognizable has spared me many a banal conversation. Many a time I have stood on the metro, some minor character from my past sheepishly casting sideways in my direction. I can hear the gears in their brains’ cranking (“Is that Lemmonex?”), but I generally let them twist in the wind as I try to read the Express.

Sometimes, though, I want to talk to one of these folks. This is when the awkwardness ensues. I desperately try to make eye contact, attempting them to get them to notice me. I see hesitation but a flicker of recognition in their eyes. I often make the move to speak first, hoping my voice will jar their memories. I have many times resorted to saying something along the lines of “Wow, I haven’t seen you since I left X Office”…Usually, that does the trick…usually.

Sometimes people fake it really well and I cannot tell they don’t recognize me. This is when things get painful. Such an incident happened this week when I ran into a man I worked with about 5 years ago. This man introduced me to my ex who I was with for three years. We spoke daily. He let the conversation drag on about three minutes and then I saw the lightbulb go off.

“Oh. My. God. Wow, ok. I am so sorry I didn’t recognize you at first. You look like a whole new person. You don’t look like you,” he said as he interrupted me.

I made a joke about looking like me now. He stood there, slack jawed, and asked me three times how I lost all the weight. The compliments spewed forth. It slowly became uncomfortable. He could not stop talking about it and I desperately tried to veer the conversation away from the former and current size of my ass. Many would argue this is flattering and I should be proud that I have changed so much, but it is just…complex and difficult. Underneath it all, I am the same, just lightened up.

While I am glad so much has changed, the essence of me remains intact. Things are just a little more moderate (in some ways) and a tad less indulgent. Yes, I am proud of my accomplishments and how hard I worked to lose weight (and continue to work to keep it off.) Yet, is it too much to ask that people don’t treat me so differently? I want my cake, dammit, but I want to eat it, too.

Luckily, I can eat this cake and have it all. Still delicious, yet none of the guilt. Of course, no cake is without a little bit of sin, but using splenda keeps this cake to less than 100 calories per slice. It’s airy and sweet and topped with fresh fruit sauce, it is enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. If this what changing means, I think I can handle it.


Angel Food Cake

Slightly Adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup sifted flour
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups Splenda
12 large egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or walnut, peppermint, orange , etc extract)
Preheat oven to 325°.

To prepare cake, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and 3/4 cup sugar, stirring with a whisk.

Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla, juice, and almond extract.

Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt; beat until soft peaks form. Add 3/4 cup Splenda, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla, juice, and almond extract. Sift 1/4 cup flour mixture over egg white mixture; fold in. Repeat with remaining flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time.

Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube or bundt pan, spreading evenly. Break air pockets by cutting through the batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan; cool completely. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Invert the cake onto a plate.

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Faced with a handle of cheap vodka–a toxic liquid that was more reminiscent of rubbing alcohol than anything a human should willingly consume–while in college, we struggled with what we should use as a mixer. Nothing could cut through the punishing burn that would linger on our tongues and sting the back of our throats. Coke, orange juice and apple slurpees were all candidates that did not pass the test; nothing was a match for this stuff.

Of course, in times like these, my friends looked to me for salvation. Let’s be honest; fat kids are fat for a reason. A disgustingly delicious idea could not pass my mind without me acting on it. I was the perfect candidate to serve as the Nancy Drew for this modern day mystery. If anyone could figure this out, it was me.

Many trips were made to the student center, “J Street”, as I tried to figure out how to best mask the truly awful taste of that alcohol. I am sure all of our parents would be so pleased to know we spent such an obscene amount of our meal plan points on these instruments of drunkening. Then, one day, I found the answer.

Pineapple juice and grape soda. I am sure you are thinking “Wow, that sounds gross and incredibly sweet”. Your thoughts would be spot on, but we were much more concerned with the courage that the alcohol afforded us than the lining of our stomaches. We could worry about ulcers and acid reflux when we were old. This discovery, this beautiful little combo, was seriously the best thing I did all freshman year. I certainly didn’t learn anything in my chemistry class, but I received an “A” in mixology that year.

So, it is no surprise that when faced with making a desert for the 4th of July, I took it to trashy new levels, pillaging the deep recesses of my brain for the most unhealthy and low class thing I could think of: peanut butter-chocolate rice krispie treats. Who doesn’t love rice krispie treats? The communists, that is who… I cannot be left to leave well enough alone, so while wandering the aisles of my supermarket, the cocoa krispies caught my eye. And where there is chocolate, I really think there ought to be peanut butter…so that is how these were born. Adding peanut butter to the marshmallows added a great little nutty undertone to everything and the chips were great… There were rice krispie treats with an added layer of sin; not much more to say here except they were really tasty.

It’s always good to have me on the case, all I am sayin’.

Rice Krispie Treats 2.0

Adapted from…a cereal box

3 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 package (10 oz. about 40) regular marshmallows 4 cups miniature marshmallows
2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
6 cups Cocoa Krispies
1/2 sack peanut butter chips

Directions

1. Melt margarine in large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Add peanut butter and stir until combined. Remove from heat.

2. Add cocoa krispies and peanut butter chips. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cut into 2-inch squares when cool. Best if served the same day.

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