Monday, January 24, 2011


Random deliciousness: bulgur wheat + parsley, feta, dried cranberries, avocado, and tandoori toasted chickpeas. Just because.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I seem to suffer from a MAJOR sweet tooth. Or maybe it's a carb tooth since I've been going to town on the bread I've been baking, too. It's gotten to the point where I would seriously call it an addiction. When I have some, I just want MORE. And more and more and more and more...


Anyone else suffer from the same problem? I mean, sure, we all struggle with sweets occasionally, but I'm talking full-on "I can stop myself once I start going" epic consumption. Do you know anyone who fights this battle? What have they (or you) done to beat back the demon of sugar? Even if the stuff isn't in the house, I'm attacked by it when I'm out and about, and the problem just seems to get worse.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My life has meaning again!

The oven is fixed! The nice GE repairman came by today (on a holiday!) and replaced the glowbar. It turns out that out attempts to relight the pilot light were unnecessary- yet highly humorous looking back on it. There was no way we would have been able to fix this ourselves. A new (clean) oven would have been nice, but the repair was cheaper than a full replacement. I can't believe this thing is 20+ years old and just now had something break.

Oh, and the stuff underneath the stove? SCARY. There were not one, not two, but FOUR pens under there! None are mine because I've never lost a pen in the kitchen. There were pasta noodles, massive dust bunnies, a bottle cap, pills (?!), and a knife. ???? LOL. When I told my mom, she asked if it was a good one. OMG, I wouldn't keep anything I found under there! The only thing (other than possibly some of that food) that was mine was a lid from a yogurt container. The other funny thing under there? A dog treat. Since we only have cats...that's definitely not ours. Despite the grossness and mortification of a stranger seeing this filth (I'm sure he's seen MUCH worse), that area is now clean. WIN!

As soon as the GE man left, I fired up the oven so I could bake the strawberry fig newtons I put together yesterday.  The recipe I used can be found here, but I added in some criminally expensive dried strawberries and used whole wheat pastry flour in place of the regular whole wheat. My dough didn't come out like hers- more like a cookie instead of the doughiness that a newton has. And since my dough would not yield to the rolling pin, I ended up pressing one disk into the bottom of a pan, spread on the strawberry/fig mixture, and then smooshed the remaining dough onto the top.

Despite these not turning out how I expected/wanted, they're still pretty tasty. Dangerously tasty...I had saved some of the strawberry/fig mixture to use on my oats this morning, which I sadly forgot about in lieu of some dark chocolate almond butter. Tomorrow perhaps! This recipe came at a good time for me as I was thinking about trying to make my own to "save" money. Barbara's Bakery has some awesome fig bars out there (if you can find them), but they're over $4 at Kroger, which I think is a little ridiculous for a package of cookies. After purchasing the dried figs and strawberries, that store price is looking pretty good, LOL. The berries I found at the Upper Arlington Whole Foods (the Dublin store didn't have them)...for $18.99/lb. Isn't that INSANE? I did try a couple to see how they were, and go figure, delicious! I really want a dehydrator now, but it's going to be awhile. Hopefully I can get one during the summer when we have all that wonderful fresh fruit at the farmers' markets. Another lesson learned from this experiment? I LOVE dried figs! I'm not a fan of the fresh ones because the taste isn't there for me plus they look creepy and alien on the inside.

I'll leave you with this (blurry) photo of Arwen taken yesterday while we were trying to sort out what was wrong with the stove. You know how cats are- if there is a space, they will fill it. Said space is under the oven where the broiler drawer pulls out. And who knew it got that dusty in there? Don't worry, it's all nice and clean now!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The worst thing that could possibly ever happen...

The oven.


After spending the entire morning baking up Twinkies for the husband's birthday, putting rolls to rise, and mixing up a batch of strawberry fig newtons, the oven has ceased to work! It worked (thankfully) this morning when I baked the sponge cake, but after setting it to preheat for the fig cookies (and not hearing it not kick on because someone's Batman game is really loud)...I opened it up to find a cold, dark abyss. We googled the user guide (because no one left us the manual for the 20+ year old machine), and tried lighting the pilot light which seems to be the problem.

No dice.

The blasted thing won't light. J called the 800# and a repairman will stop by tomorrow. I feel like after his fee to just look at it, plus the cost of what repairs it may need, it seems like a new one might cost the same. I would think we'd get an estimate and go from there. I'd love a nice, new, clean(!) oven...but I really don't want that expense right now. Also, some of the models I was looking at online wouldn't be available until 02/06. WTF? I can't go that long without an oven!

I guess in the meantime (no matter what the outcome), I'll be kickin' it like Allie over at Live Laugh Eat and baking in the toaster oven. No longer just for toast, chicken nuggets, or garlic bread! Right now I'm trying to bake up my rolls that have been rising (too long). They're not getting very golden on top, but they seem to taste delicious. I can only fit in 3 at a time, so it's taking FOREVER.

Tomorrow I'll sort out what to do with my fig bars. I'd have grand plans today to make whip up a fresh batch of granola, too...but that will just have to wait. Bummed by my inability to bake, I don't even feel like making dinner anymore...I'd been planning on making Salisbury Steak with mashed potatoes for J's birthday dinner. It's not fancy, but it's got to be better than the tv dinner version that he likes so much. I guess I'd better go start on the potatoes!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Some people take smoke breaks

I take bake breaks.

I'd been wanting an oatmeal cookie for the past few days, and today the NEED to have one escalated to the point where I gave in and mixed up a batch of dough. I made Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, swapping the ratios of the white and brown sugars and using milk chocolate chips because they were in the kitchen  and I didn't want to run into the basement to get the right kind. Most of the dough was scooped into balls and put into the freezer for later. Of the six that I did bake, I wish I had remembered to sprinkle a bit of vanilla salt on them, but they are still REALLY good.

Did you see "still"? Yes! I managed to not eat them all! (yet) Pictured above is how I chose to enjoy them- an ice cream sandwich cradling a small scoop of Jeni's (of course) Honey Vanilla Bean ice cream. Salty-sweet heaven! I can't wait to try this with their upcoming Bananas & Honey.

I also made use of the crockpot today (that lonely appliance that doesn't get much love around here), brewing up a batch of unsweetened applesauce. I've never made it before, but it seemed pretty simple. There were (still are) a ton of Winesap apples lingering in the crisper that needed to be used, and this seemed like the healthiest option. Read: not a baked good.

All I did was take:
  • 8 apples- peeled, cored, sliced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar 
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Toss all ingredients in a crockpot and let simmer for a few hours on low
It smells and tastes delicious. At first it didn't seem like it was doing anything, but after awhile they started to break down. Most recipes I found online called for 1/2 cup of sugar or more, but since I prefer unsweetened, I went with only a tablespoon. Next time I might omit it altogether. I wish I had tried this sooner! Once this batch is gone, I can start working with those remaining apples.


Splendid Parfait: goat cheese w/ cognac fig sauce,
chunks of gingerbread, caramel, and whipped cream
I can't wait to check out Jeni's this weekend (or maybe I can control myself until our Girls' Lunch the following weekend) because they are releasing some new flavors! Well, new to me; I think they had them last year.

Titled Bakeshop, the flavors are as follows:

BANANAS & HONEY: bananas, Ohio honey, vanilla bean

BRAMBLEBERRY CRISP: Ohio blackberries and black raspberries, black currants, and oven-toasted oat streusel layered with honey vanilla bean ice cream

HONEY BUTTER CAKE: Ohio-honeyed ice cream with chunks of honey butterscotch-soaked vanilla sponge cake 

ROXBURY ROAD: dark milk chocolate ice cream, handmade marshmallows, crunchy smoked almonds, with caramel sauce swirl

YLANG YLANG HONEYCOMB: tastes of nectar, honey and spice with crunchy honeycomb 

I got to taste the Bananas & Honey at the Splendid Holiday event- it's DELICIOUS! The rest of the flavors sound fantastic too. Definitely looking forward to cashing in my free Trio so that I can enjoy three of these at once. The hard part will be deciding which three...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why did I buy this?

Have you ever purchased an ingredient for a recipe only to forget what the recipe was? I did. It's a slab of Gruyere cheese I picked up at Whole Foods- I even had to ask an associate where it was! Gruyere is a nice melty cheese, but the question is, what was I planning to melt it on/with?

I have been going through cookbooks like crazy, marking any interesting prospects with a yellow Post-It. it from a book, or is it something I bookmarked on the web? Have I even marked this mysterious recipe?

This same thing happened to me the weekend I got the yogurt maker. I had picked up a jar of chestnuts at Williams Sonoma (don't buy them, they are gross!) but couldn't recall what they were for. Before the end of the day, I was able to remember they were for a brussels sprouts recipe...that I still have yet to try.

So Gruyere...have you ever used it? In what? Do you ever find yourself buying random ingredients only to forget their purpose? Or is this old age setting in?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Go figure

Why is it that after it sputtered snow all day that NOW is when it starts to fall faster and really stick to the ground (and car)? Not cool, Mother Nature. Not cool.

I'm WAY behind on my 100 mile challenge, having logged only 5.25 miles in 6 days. Tonight I had hoped to get some miles in and try out a new kickboxing class at the gym. Since I don't feel comfortable driving the Neon in the snow, I'll be staying put. Plus, I don't want to deal with the start of rush hour with this snow falling and the roads probably aren't treated or cleared. Grr! Looks like I'll have to make do with some DVDs instead, although that doesn't help me track miles. I caved yesterday at lunch and tried a Leslie Sansone 2 mile walk via On Demand...not really my thing, but I sweated. I just wish there was something else to watch than her for 30 minutes!

Maybe I can haul myself out of bed early tomorrow and hit the gym. Hahahaha! I don't know how I managed all those months of 6:30 AM workouts with the trainer before- I can't even get up at 7AM anymore! Why bother when you can just roll out of bed, walk into the other room, and fire up the computer and get to work? Tomorrow evening I definitely plan to be at the gym for Dance!Dance! because the instructor is awesome and has promised us new choreography for the new year.

Anyone else struggling with their resolutions/goals to get more activity in? Sometimes I wish I had a treadmill in the basement, but I wonder if that would really make a difference. How do you stay motivated?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Holy Deliciousness!

I know I just posted, but I couldn't resist taking a photo of this when I pulled it out of the oven. Too bad the photos are a little grainy, but I was shocked at how much this had puffed up and how beautiful it looked. Click here for the recipe. I used fresh spinach instead of frozen (didn't want to deal with squeezing out all that water!) and used thyme in place of the ground mustard since I don't have that spice- sounds like another trip to North Market Spices is in order! LOL, I was just in there today.

I sure hope this tastes as good as it looks.

Last Day of Vacation :(

Ugh, I'm so bummed it's my last day before returning to work! Why can't adults have breaks like kids do? Rarely can we take more than a week off at a time, and most people can't even afford the luxury of a full week. Thankfully the company I work for lumps both sick and vacation time into one bucket so that all that time is available to you. It's perfect for those who don't get sick- more vacation time! And to start, we get FOUR weeks- who does that anymore? The last place I worked at, I only got 5 days my first year, and I couldn't even use them until I'd been there 6 months.

Right now I've got a Spinach & Cheese Strata in the oven in an attempt to use up the last of the bread I baked on Monday (Tuesday? SUNDAY?). I've stored it in a giant ziploc all week and it's neither stale, dry, or moldy. Amazing since there aren't any preservatives in it. It's made excellent french toast for a few days now.

As for two of the experiments I had going on yesterday...well...they didn't turn out quite like I expected. Aided by a brand new candy thermometer, I was able to get my caramels to turn color AND achieve the consistency I was looking for. The problem? They taste burnt. Not sure what went wrong, but it's possible when adding the cream/butter mixture the heat may have increased above where it needed to be. The last two recipes I tried only had me heat the sugar/corn syrup mixture to 248, but this new recipe said 310. I'll definitely be trying this specific recipe again, but I think I won't heat the sugar as high.

After the LOOONG wait yesterday plus time spent chilling in the fridge, I was eager to try my homemade yogurt this morning. I used 2% milk (from local Snowville Creamery) and Fage Greek yogurt as my starter. I followed the directions...but the end result was grainy. Yuck! All that time (and milk wasted) and not the finished product I wanted. Speaking to another girl today that makes her own yogurt (without a machine!) and consulting Google has me thinking that the milk was cooked too long/high...even though I followed the directions. I'm going to have to try this one again, too. Maybe I should try the dried starter that came with it this next time or order a dried Greek yogurt starter. I will prevail!

Today I had another volunteer shift at The Greener Grocer. Because the winter market bags are smaller, there seems to be less prep work (at least for me) involved. This was different than last Monday where I actually packed the individual market bags that are sold. On weekends they prep the items that go into the bags- boxing up apples, grapefruits, potatoes, etc. My task was to bag kumquats into 1/2 lb bags...106 bags to be exact. It sounds daunting, but it was actually kinda fun. A nice repetitive, easy task where I got to take in the surrounding hubbub of the market on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

A perk of volunteering on Mondays means you get your own market bag of goodies. I had scored some cider, brussels sprouts, apples, grapefruits, blood oranges, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes. A generous offering that I hadn't expected at all- if more people knew about that, they'd prolly be flooded with volunteers!

Today I discovered something equally awesome: the Employee Bin! It's filled with fruit and veggies that didn't meet standards to hit the sales floor or may be past their prime. Sure, they're slightly bruised and not perfect (although some items seemed fine to me!), but you don't need perfect veggies to make delicious stock. Hopefully I'll get lucky next week, too! I had already made some purchases, so I only took one giant potato, some green apples, clover sprouts, a cuke, and a bag of cherries.

Mmm...I can smell the strata now, which I hope means it's going to be tasty! I'm off to enjoy the last few hours of vacation...which unfortunately include putting away laundry. :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011!

I hope all is well for everyone this first day of 2011! It's been a pretty low-key day here, which has been the case ALL week. I'm kinda down that vacation is almost over, but it's been great to do nothing all week- no responsibilities! Well, other than volunteering last Monday and then another shift tomorrow afternoon, I haven't had to be anywhere to do anything.

I didn't get to log any miles for the 1 Month, 100 Miles challenge because (go figure) my back started acting up. At least this particular unpleasantness is in the middle of my lower back instead of the "bad" area on my right side. I've been fine for weeks, but after last night's viewing of True Grit from the second row (almost like 3D!), it hasn't felt right. Grr. I do plan on getting into the gym tomorrow morning for 6 miles on the treadmill...which is going to take forever just walking it.

So am I the only person who passed out before midnight last night? I recall waking up because the neighbors were setting off fireworks, but I just couldn't make it to watch the ball drop. With less than 4 hours of sleep from the night before (no idea why, but I finished the Prisoner of Azkaban!), I was exhausted. We didn't do anything exciting other than have dinner at the movies...which consisted of popcorn for me and nachos for him...and then watched an old documentary In Debt We Trust...which I feel asleep during.

Today I ventured out to pick up the yogurt maker! Right now it's cooking up a batch of (hopefully Greek) yogurt made with Snowville Creamery milk. Using 2% milk take 9 hours! I'm going to be up past midnight! I also picked up an OXO mandoline, intent on recreating the homemade potato chips mom made for Christmas. I suppose the food processor could have sliced things up for me, but I've never figured out how those plates work. It's strictly used for blending/grinding things.

Actually, I've been reorganizing the kitchen (hope to have pics tomorrow!) and found a blender in a hard-to-reach cabinet. Does anyone use theirs? Mine never gets used. Might as well get rid of it since it's just taking up space.

I'm off to try making caramels while my heavy cream is still fresh. Looking forward to yogurt for breakfast in the morning!