Archive for July, 2010

July 22, 2010

An oldie but an ohhhh so goodie.

I know… another dessert?  I promise you I’ll bring some variety in soon enough.  I’m starting a list tonight of all the recipes I want to blog about for you lovely people.  And lovely you are.

Let’s talk for a moment about chocolate chip cookies.  Let’s discuss the fact that something about a fresh baked cookie transports us back to a simpler time in our young lives.  A time when helping mom bake meant licking the spatula.  A time when homework didn’t exist, school consisted of field trips and arts and crafts, and our biggest concern was picking up our toys.  Let me tell you, there’s nothing like a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

However, when time is a rare commodity, there’s something that comes awfully close: the Tollhouse Cookie Bar.  Please, hold the applause.

Lately I’ve been having a sort of kitchen love affair, if you would, with bars.  Raspberry bars, blueberry crumb bars (post to come!) and the oh-so-simple but oh-so-good cookie bar.  It’s a time saver more than anything, and so easy to cut up into individual pieces to serve up at Bible study!  Next time you really want chocolate chip cookies but can’t bother with spooning out individual cookie-sized drops on a cookie sheet, make these instead.  Especially if you’re like me and own only one cookie sheet, this can save you some time and energy.

Original Nestle® Toll House® Chocolate Chip Pan Cookie

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 (12 ounce) package NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 10×15 jelly roll pan. (I used a 9×13 pan)
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Spread into greased pan.
  8. BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack, then cut into bars.

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July 17, 2010

Berry, berry good!

It’s summertime, and something about summer just makes me crave all things FRUIT!

I’m a huge fan of watermelon and berries, but also find them to be some of the hardest to find perfectly ripe.  For instance, once blueberries lose their firmness, I refuse to eat them as is.  I know, I’m a spoiled brat.  Being that I can’t possibly eat 2 pints of blueberries before at least some of them soften (they’ve been 2 for $5 on my dear, sweet Fresh Direct), I’ve been looking for new outlets for my fruit.  Both the fruit that is overripe and the fruit that’s a bit bruised and just doesn’t look pretty.

One of the perfect options is, of course, fruit smoothies.  Not only are they delicious, but they’re easy to make, versatile and are a healthy option (when I say healthy I’m assuming they’re made fresh at home.  I can’t vouch for the ones you buy at smoothie bars.  In fact, some of those ones are surprisingly terrible for you.  Proceed with caution!)

I’m giving you this “recipe” as more of a guideline than anything else.  Feel free to use the fruit of your choice and switch it up and have fun with it!

Berry Banana Smoothie

1/2 medium frozen banana
1 cup strawberries, halved
1 cup blueberries, frozen
1 4oz yogurt (I used Activia Light Strawberry)
Ice cubes (use as many as you need to reach desired consistency)

Put all of the above in a blender and blend until smooth.  The above yields about 2 servings.

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Next on the list is… Blueberry pancakes!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love breakfast food.  I’m particularly fond of pancakes.  I used to always buy the complete mixes that required you to only add water.  I still do that on occasion when I’m feeling a bit lazy or don’t have all the necessary ingredients for pancakes from scratch.  However, when I’ve got the time, engery and ingredients, nothing beats homemade pancakes.

Homemade Fluffy (and might I add, delicious) Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
(Adapted from Fluffy Pancakes recipe at AllRecipes.com)

3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking sode
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

  1. Combine milk with vinegar in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to “sour”.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk egg and butter into “soured” milk. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are gone. Stir in fresh blueberries.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

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Now, if you’ve managed to stick around this long, you’re in for a real treat.  Every Tuesday night I have bible study, and I always either bake or buy cookies for refreshments.  This past week I wanted to try something new, and since I’ve been on a fruit kick as of late, I decided I’d try raspberry bars.  I have to tell you, this was one of the easiest recipes to make and yet it got one of the biggest reactions.  I had a few people offer to pay me their entire salaries if I would just cook and bake for them every day.  I think I’ve got them fooled into thinking that this baking stuff is pretty hard work, but I’m telling you, it was easy as pie! (Ahem, pun intended.)

Raspberry Bars
Recipe from Sewfordough on Tasty Kitchen

Now I ran into a bit of a snag when I made this.  I have a problem with reading directions thoroughly sometimes.  It’s something I need to work on.  I had a 9×13 pan on hand.  Well, the recipe called for a 9×9 pan.  This meant that the dough I needed to press into the bottom of the pan was not going to cut it.  What I ended up doing (since I didn’t have a smaller pan, nor did I have the ingredients to make more dough) was reserving only a half cup of dough for the topping and adding more chopped pecans to it to make a little go a long way.  These ended up tasting just as good as they would have with the correct pan size!  The more time I’m in the kitchen the more I’m learning: you’ve gotta learn to improvise!  Thankfully this was an easy error to work around.

For those of you troopers who made it to the end of this post, what are your favorite fruit-based recipes?

July 11, 2010

Audience Participation

Question: What’s your favorite recipe?

It can be new, old, weird, traditional, whatever!  It came be something you just saw on the Food Network or something passed down for generations in your family.  It can be your all-time favorite or just your pick of the week.  Whatever it is, post it as a comment!  I’m always looking for new ideas and would love to blog about your favorites.

July 11, 2010

Sweet and Salty

It seems like every day someone’s come up with a new pairing for chocolate.  Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about the chocolate/bacon combination.  I’ve yet to try it (and, admittedly, it freaks me out a bit) but I’m guessing it’s delicious because of the combination: sweet and salty.

I looooove that combination.  Who doesn’t love a good chocolate covered pretzel?  There’s a mexican restaurant back home that serves this mudslide pie that I absolutely adore.  It has a pretzel crust!  It’s something I probably wouldn’t have thought of on my own, and for years after I first tried it I’ve been saying I’ll try making it myself.  Well, that day finally came due to nothing more than boredom.  And maybe the desire for a cold, sweet (and salty!) treat.

In order to keep things super simple, I decided to make the crust and then simply fill it with vanilla ice cream.  Then I got ambitious and melted up some chocolate chips and some peanut butter to make a drizzly topping.  This recipe is totally flexible and you could really use any kind of ice cream and any toppings you fancy.  Yep, I said it: fancy.

Next time I make it I’d also like to try to spread melted chocolate on top of the pretzel crust and let it harden before putting the ice cream in.  Then you’d have a layer of the pretzel crust, a thin layer of chocolate, and a layer of ice cream.  Doesn’t that sound delightful?  I think so, too.

Disclaimer: This sounded so darn good that I got impatient.  I didn’t let the crust cool before putting the ice cream in it and well… I’ve been waiting for the ice cream to reset for HOURS now.  Don’t be like me, folks.  Stick the pie pan in the freezer for at least a half hour and let it cool.  Otherwise, you’ll think you’re going to be able to eat it sooner and the opposite happens.  Ice cream melts must faster than it freezes, I’ve learned. Sigh….

Brittany’s Sweet & Salty Ice Cream Pie

For the crust:
2 cups of crushed pretzels
1/2 cup of butter, softened (you may need a bit more)
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
Thoroughly mix the above ingredients and press into a 9-inch pie pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. LET COOL. (Please, please, please don’t be a doofus like me.)

For the filling/topping:
1 quart of your preferred flavor of ice cream, softened
1/4 cup of melted chocolate chips, drizzled on top (optional)
1/4 cup of melted peanut butter, drizzles on top (optional)
Suggested topping ideas: chopped nuts, sprinkles, caramel sauce, fruit (sliced strawberries, bananas, etc.)

Once pie crust has cooled, spread ice cream evenly on top and add desired toppings.  Put back in the freezer to set.

July 11, 2010

Morning treat!

I love Starbucks.  I love lattes, macchiatos and frappuccinos.  They are delicious, indeed.  They’re also budget UNfriendly.

My morning coffee is like a security blanket.  I have to have it or my whole day is thrown off. YaknowwhatImean?  Typically I just have my french roast coffee with a little bit of half & half and splenda but last week I was at the supermarket and something caught my eye: Bailey’s coffee creamer.  They basically took everything delicious about Bailey’s and removed the alcohol.  Count me in!  I picked up the caramel flavor and went on my merry way.

This morning I made my coffee in the french press, put some milk in my coffee mug and warmed it in the microwave, threw in 1 tbsp of my new coffee creamer and 1 packet of Equal and filled the rest of the mug with the coffee.  It was just sweet enough and crazy delicious.  Definitely less expensive than Starbucks, maybe not as fancy, but still just as good.  Try it some time!

Caramel Cafe Au Lait
1/4 cup of milk, warmed (I used 1% milk)
1 tbsp of Bailey’s caramel creamer (use any flavored creamer of your choice!)
1 cup of fresh brewed coffee
Sugar or sugar substitute to reach desired sweetness

July 11, 2010

A brief introduction…

As Austin Powers once said, “Allow myself to introduce… myself.”

My name is Brittany.  I’m a 24-year-old Vermonter who now resides in the big city.  When I say “big city”, I mean New York.  What other city is there, really? ;-)  I love Jesus, coffee and chocolate.  I also love cooking and baking just about anything.  More than making food, though, I love feeding it to people.

I’ve loved cooking since I was a kid.  I used to make my brother and his friends grilled cheese sandwiches and they’d pay me a dollar.  I still consider a good grilled cheese one of my “specialties”.  I appreciate the everyday meals like that, ones that remind you of home and childhood.  I also love a fancy, gourmet meal.  Good food is good food, right?

Some of the recipes I post here will be decadent, delicious and certainly not appropriate for those of you trying to eat healthy.  However, I also love good, healthy, fresh food.  Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring and the times in my life when I’ve been my healthiest have been those times I’ve been an avid cook in the kitchen.  Really my goal with this blog is to have a little bit of everything for everyone.  It’s going to be very unpretentious (I hope!) and I intend to show you not only my successes, but also my kitchen disasters in the hopes that you and I alike will learn from my mistakes! :-)

I look forward to sharing my kitchen adventures with you!

July 2, 2010

I need Africa.

Exactly one year ago I was standing on Ethiopian soil.  I was surrounded by people whose language I could not understand and whose lives were dramatically different than my own.  I was sharing my life with a team of people and there was rarely a moment alone.  I was being confronted every single day with my own pride, selfishness and greed.  And it was the best experience of my life.

I found myself profoundly touched by the people of Ethiopia.  I began to understand God’s vastness and greatness and that He cannot be contained within borders of countries, He transcends our cultural differences and He is the common bond that we all have.

I saw people worshiping Him with their whole hearts when their circumstances seemed impossible.  We met a little girl who was able to worship Him after her father had been killed and as her mother continued to deteriorate from AIDS.  I watched women who were former prostitutes worship the God who redeems them every single day.  I saw them lift their hands and praise the One who created them, the One who is with them when no one else seems to be, the One who cares infinitely more for them that any one of us possible could.  I saw them affirm the goodness of our God in their poverty.  I saw joy in them.  I saw peace in them.

I saw Him in them.

God showed me a lot of things within myself during my time in Africa.  Things that I need to repent of and trust the Holy Spirit to work out in me.  God showed me a lot of things about Himself during my time in Africa.  Things that result in a greater love for Him and a deeper understanding of who He is.

We all have our “Africa”.  God uses experiences and moments to challenge us, to grow us, to strengthen our faith, to humble us.  Some of them are “Africa” moments.  They’re huge, life-changing and often overwhelming moments.  But not every moment is Africa.  Not every lesson is wrapped up in an earth-shattering experience.

I’m not in Africa this year.  I’m on American soil where life can be comfortable and “easy”.  But I need Africa.

Why do I need Africa?  Because I need to be reminded that my God is still God in the dark moments.  I need to be reminded that God is IN those dark moments, that He does not abandon us.  I need to be reminded that there are broken hearts and lives all over the world that He desires to heal and redeem.  I need to be reminded of how broken I am, how selfish and unthankful I can be, and how desperately I need Jesus.  I need to be reminded to be generous and to love and care for the widow and the orphan.  I need to be reminded that if I love Him, I will love others.  To love Him is to love others.

I need to remember the big lessons, the “Africa” lessons, and live them out in the everyday moments.