Archive | December, 2010


30 Dec

Is it just me, or are mornings made a teensy eensy bit more tolerable by the fact that they often contain breakfast?

I don’t know about you, but for me, the only thing that gets my sleep-filled eyes to finally open is the thought that in approximately half an hour, I will be eating pancakes. Or eggs. Or oatmeal. Or a yogurt parfait. Or an english muffin. Or waffles. Or cereal. Or a bagel. Or scones. Or coffee cake. Or–the head honcho of all breakfast foods, the MUFFIN.

And, you know how it is, some mornings you get up feeling completely uncreative and you really couldn’t care less what you have for breakfast, and you end up just shoving a plain ol’ piece of toast or two down (preferably followed by a cup of coffee, which doesn’t often happen to me due to time constraints but I am in absolute heaven when it does) to keep you going until lunchtime rolls around. But some mornings, you feel inspired. You get up and think–the entire world of breakfast possibilities is open to me! I could have crepes this morning! I could make french toast! I could make a fruit salad! I could make donuts from scratch! I could fry myself up an omelet! Or maybe–maybe eggs benedict! (an example of a dish I hear about all the time, but have no idea what it actually is…) And then, if you are like me, you spend fifteen impatient minutes flipping through the one breakfast cookbook you own before deciding on some grand idea that (more often than not) gets shot down sometime within the creation process and you end up having the inescapable toast.

Thus it was the other morning. Both my mother AND I awoke annoyingly full of energy, and so we decided to branch out a bit and make something new! Something using the poor overripe bananas that were currently rotting on our counter. Something…chocolatey. Something like…oh, I don’t know…

Cocoa Banana Muffins!

And oh god were they good. : ) They had a distinct chocolate flavor without being super sweet (which, I hate to say, does actually start to grate on my nerves by the end of the holiday season. Sugar, sugar, sugar, and more sugar!) and were studded with yummy little chunks of banana. I’m a sucker for the chocolate/banana combo myself, so these were especially good. They turned out pretty moist (except the ones we overcooked…) and were impulsively snacked on for the remainder of the day.

My mom had this recipe stashed away in our recipe folder. It’s cutout magazine ad from probably more than a decade ago. (Just to let you know, according to it, the only appropriate oats to use are Quaker brand.)

Cocoa-Banana Muffins

adapted from a Quaker Oats ad

makes around 1 1/2 – 2 dozen muffins


1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup oats (preferably quick-cooking)

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2)

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup margarine, melted (I would imagine that butter would be fine too)

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

dash salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients; mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed bananas, milk, margarine, beaten eggs, and vanilla; then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix to combine, but do not overmix–some lumps are fine. (The lumps taste like cocoa powder. You’ll live.) Line two muffin tins with cups (I like foil or silicone, but paper would work too) and fill the cups almost full. (If you are awesome like me and have cupcake tins shaped like Christmas trees, use those!) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool, and then you can sprinkle them with powdered sugar if you want. (I didn’t feel the need.)


Pumpkin White Chocolate “Truffles”

29 Dec

As an avid reader of the fantastic HowSweetEats blog and an avid eater of delicious food, when I see a recipe like this one, I have to try it. 

I halved the recipe, and was very pleased when the truffles ended up looking fantastic and very elegant,as if they took an entire day to make.  However, they tasted much different than I expected, for many reasons.  A) My pumpkin bread that I used as a starting point was very moist, probably because our household, sadly, did not have an appropriate loaf pan.  (Also, because I was really hungry and couldn’t be bothered to keep the loaf in the oven for longer than necessessary.)  B) Because of this, I needed significantly less cream cheese to hold the “dough” together- instead of half of a bar (4 oz.), I used about 2.5 oz.  Finally, C) I ended up needing two bars of white chocolate, even though I halved the recipe.  Maybe this is because I’m an inexperienced dipper, but I felt like this was way too much.  Despite all of these complaints, I ended up with 20 beautiful, dense truffles (so dense and rich, in fact, that it was tough to finish even one) that would be great holiday gifts.

Cinnamon Rolls–Destined to Become a Tradition

28 Dec

Now that Christmas is over and gone, (*sniff*) we have some time to reflect on all the delicious goodies that the holidays brought to us…most notably for me, the discovery of homemade cinnamon rolls a la Pioneer Woman.

Because I’m such an unabashed flog addict (at the moment, I’m subscribed to, oh, 31 individual flogs on google reader…), I’ve been hearing a LOT of buzz about the food blog world about these cinnamon rolls. Especially so during the past few weeks, because with the coming of the holidays, the demand for cinnamon rolls–and sweet treats in general for that matter–has increased drastically. I must have seen references to this recipe five or six times before I had the good sense to go check it out myself.

What I discovered was a dangerous and powerful weapon.

As it turns out, cinnamon rolls are fairly easy and convenient to make at home. AND, when you make them at home, you actually have control over what goes into them, so you can not only skip Cinnabon’s step of dunking the rolls in atrocious amounts of butter (I mean, butter is delicious, but really? How far do you want to go with that?), but you can also be sure that your rolls don’t have things like azodicarbonamide and L-cysteine in them.(Yes, I googled that. Actual ingredients in a Cinnabon.) I won’t tell you the other nutritional information of a cinnabon roll because it will probably terrify you, but let me tell you, it is not pretty. On the other hand, my homemade cinnamon rolls actually were–dare I say it–not that bad for you. Shocking, I know! But it’s actually true. I modified the Pioneer Woman’s recipe in places to make them a little less artery clogging-ly delicious, and I really can’t imagine that there was that much of an impact on the taste. Most people who tried her rolls thought they were actually a little too greasy, so I cut way down on the butter and they were still very, very moist and actually benefited from a slightly more delicate, airy and sweet flavor! Win, if you ask me! I also slightly modified the rising procedure from the Pioneer Woman to Alton Brown’s (oh, do I love that man’s recipes) make ahead rising technique, partly for convenience and partly because I just wanted to see if it would work. With AB’s recipe, you can roll the buns the night before and keep them in the fridge so that nothing has to be done the next morning but let them rise and stick them in the oven. (can you say Christmas morning tradition?)

Although I did not make the Pioneer Woman’s icing myself, I imagine it would be very good. It has maple and coffee and vanilla and butter and seemed delicious. For my first batch, we had the glaze seperate, and we put it on after taking the rolls out of the pan, according to personal preference. I even tried a roll plain–still mind-blowingly delicious! Our glaze at first had just plain powdered sugar mixed with milk and a little maple syrup, but we thought it was a little lacking. I suggest that you use either maple extract or a lot of maple syrup for a strong maple flavor, or you add both syrup and coffee to the icing, or you just use coffee, or–here’s what I think would be good–replace most of the milk with orange juice and skip the syrup. I personally don’t like butter in my icing, but I also don’t like buttercream frosting, or cream cheese frosting, so that might just be my weirdness.

The bread that makes the roll part of these is *very* good, and I imagine that you could make it by itself as a roll, or as a filled roll, perhaps in a donut shape, as crescent rolls, or maybe even a slightly more savory than normal cookie. Or–do I dare suggest it?–perhaps a monkey-bread type application?….ohhhhhh my god I never said that…..

You know what? You’ve just simply got to try this recipe. You just have to. Go. Now. Try.

Cinnamon Rolls

adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Alton Brown

makes three pans of rolls, about 8 or 9 small/medium rolls per pan


  • 2 cups Milk (I used 1% because that’s what we had)
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 package Active Dry Yeast
  • 4 cups (Plus 1/2 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
  • 3 TB Butter
  • a little more than 1/2 cup Sugar
  • Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon (more than you might expect, be sure to have plenty stocked up)
  • 3 seven-inch round foil pans
  • Glaze (optional, see below)


Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 30-45 minutes or until the mixture reaches 110-115 degrees. Sprinkle in the package of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for around 5 minutes, then add 4 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1/2 more cups of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface very generously with flour. (Don’t be afraid to! This is an IMPORTANT STEP. Trust me. I know.) Take the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape.

Melt the butter in the microwave and use a basting brush to spread a thin layer evenly over the dough, reaching all the way to the edges. (This layer can be as thin or thick as you like. I probably only used 1 1/2 TB of butter for the whole thing and they turned out great, but if you want to use a whole stick, go for it!)

Now sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. If you want, you can use your hands in circular motions to really get an even coating and work the cinnamon sugar into the dough. I was bored, so I did, but Pioneer Woman didn’t. Then again, I don’t imagine that she’s the sort to be bored at any point in time–ever–so…

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it, using water to get a nice tight seal if necessary. (no pictures of this because my hands were gross, sorry!)

Spread melted butter in three seven inch round foil cake or pie pan to grease them. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick, using either a knife or a piece of floss, and laying them in the buttered pans.

Cover the rolls tightly and put them in the fridge overnight. In the morning, take the rolls out and place them on the top rack of the oven while it is still turned off. Put a pan filled 2/3 way full of boiling water on the bottom rack, then shut the oven door and leave the rolls to rise for 20-30 minutes, or until they look slightly puffy.

Take the rolls and the boiling water out of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. When the oven reaches temperature, pop the rolls in and bake until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. Despite the hypnotic aroma, it is important that you let them cook ALL THE WAY. If you start convulsing with desire for the warm, buttery, sugary, cinnamony goodness, I suggest you remove yourself from the area and get some fresh air. By the time you get back, they’ll probably be done.

For the frosting, pick one of the following, or free-form it yourself (as long as you start with powdered sugar and throw in some liquid, it’s gonna turn out.) Add more sugar or milk to achieve desired consistency–it should be thick but pourable.

TRADITIONAL MAPLE: 2 1/2- 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup of milk, a dash of vanilla extract, and maybe 2 TB of maple syrup.

COFFEE MAPLE: 2 1/2- 3 cups of powdered sugar, 3/8 cup of brewed coffee, 2 TB of syrup, and 1 TB of milk.

ORANGE: 2 1/2- 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1/4 cup orange juice, and 2 TB of milk.

CREAM CHEESE: Take 4 oz (half a box) of cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, half a stick of unsalted butter (softened), and dash of vanilla, and use an electric mixer or whisk to combine. Whisk thoroughly, until smooth.

Either drizzle the glaze (and you don’t have to use all of it if you don’t want, but hey, why not?) over the rolls WHILE STILL WARM and then let it settle, or skip it and let people put it on their personal rolls themselves to whatever point they desire.



25 Dec

After the 364 day wait, it’s finally here: CHRISTMAS!!!

And Christmas is in my opinion the best day for food.

Sure, some may say, “Um, don’t you mean Thanksgiving?” but I say no, I mean Christmas, because we are not restricted to having meat as the main dish and a French Canadian-Italian can eat whatever pleases her!

Although, somehow this year I was only in charge of dessert, so we did have turkey (with a side of lasagna, though).

But, being in my happy lazy Christmas mode, I just selected dessert, I didn’t actually cook anything

BUT I’ve made these before.

(keep in mind that I don’t measure things…)

Dirt Truffles

about 3/4 of the box of plain Oreos (or similar store brand kind of cookies)

1 package of cream cheese

chocolate chips (your choice in semi sweet, dark, or milk)


Directions: Put the oreos in the food processor and process well.  Pour the crushed up oreos into a bowl with the cream cheese and stir (by hand is the easiest way)

Stir with hands

The way to mix it

Once thoroughly mixed, roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Allow to cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, although if you’re really freakishly impatient and amazing at chocolate coating, you can go straight on to the next step.  Melt the chocolate chips in a bowl, and roll each dirt ball (dirt like the dessert that has oreo cookie crumbs and chocolate pudding) in the chocolate until completely coated, then place back on the parchment lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate for approximately an hour at least, or however long it takes for the chocolate to harden.  If you want to be fancy, drizzle white chocolate on it! But I’m much more direct, and there usually isn’t much time for something like that especially on Christmas



Happy Christmas Eve Eve! (Old-Fashioned Gingerbread and Candied Cranberries)

23 Dec

‘Tis the season to be eating…fa la la la la la la la la….

You know what happens when I am too busy to blog for a while? My queue of recipes starts filling up. Fast. I eat three (or four. Or five.) meals a day, and usually I want to blog about ALL OF THEM because they are so delicious, but that would be boring. (Can’t you see that? A post about cereal? Lame.) But still, it’s been a good couple of weeks since I last blogged–most of which has been during the CHRISTMAS!!! season–so my list of things to blog about is…extensive, to say the least. And I am quickly running out of time in which it is appropriate to blog about holiday goodies…however, I will try to limit this post to a couple hundred recipes.

Not really. Just two for today. I am the classic example of self-restraint.

First up, is….*drumroll* —Old Fashioned Gingerbread (Sneaky-Healthy Style)!

I’m telling you, this is the way to eat gingerbread. It really is. That’s not to say that gingerbread men or gingerbread houses are bad in any way shape or form–I would be the first to admit their complete tastiness/awesomeness–but they’re so, you know, pretty that I always feel absolutely terrible eating them. Add that to the fact that I like to imagine that little people live in the gingerbread house (don’t judge. I think that, okay?), and by eating it I leave them homeless. And on that note, I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly enjoy savagely biting the head off of a poor defenseless gingerbread man (until his delicious head is in my mouth, at which point caution is thrown to the wind). But anyway, this gingerbread is actually a loaf of bread. This is gingerbread in its original form, the way that I’m pretty sure grandmas in the fifties would make it. Except this recipe takes great pains to be healthy, with whole wheat flour, no butter, and splenda instead of sugar! Yeah, yeah, I know, “ew, healthy”. But honestly? My mom didn’t tell me that this recipe was supposed to be healthy, and I would have sworn that it was made with your typical heart-stopping butter/sugar/simple carb combo. It tastes exactly the same–which is delicious. And you know, ginger helps prevent cancer. Mm-hmm. Eating a slice of this is equivalent to going on a run!

…Okay, maybe not. But a girl can dream.

Second up are the infamous Candied Cranberries.

These are so cute as well as being delicious. Done right, they have a crunchy exterior layer of sugar, and then they pop in your mouth to reveal a slightly tart and soft interior. It’s like a roller coaster for your palate! If you’re into that sort of thing.) And they look so pretty and festive too…this is a must-have for your holiday dinner tables. You can serve them as an appetizer, or with the meal, or as an after-dinner but pre-dessert treat, or you can simply set them out alongside the mixed nuts for people to nosh on while they listen to christmas music and chat! (If any of you didn’t get the chance to try them when I brought them in, my deepest apologies. Guess you will just have to make them yourself!) Don’t let the recipe intimidate you. It’s actually pretty easy, despite being a tad finicky and specific.

Recipes are below. For now, I’m having a great Christmas Eve Eve, mainly because my hands smell like butter and sugar…but that I will tell you about later. Anyway, enjoy the holidays, everyone! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all…

Old Fashioned Gingerbread (Sneaky-Healthy Style)


1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp light spread (like Promise Buttery
Spread Light or Smart Balance Light)
1/2 cup splenda
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp  molasses
3 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup non-fat buttermilk


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 1 1/2 quart glass Pyrex oblong loaf pan with foil (non-stick foil works best). Whisk the egg yolk until smooth. Add the reduced-fat spread and whisk together until smooth. Add the Splenda, applesauce, pumpkin and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the molasses.
In separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they begin to be very frothy and white. Do not beat into stiff peaks (the egg whites should about triple in volume). Place the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and wheat germ in a sifter and sift into the mixing bowl. Gently fold the creamed mixture together with the flour mixture. Add buttermilk and fold until smooth. As soon as the mixture is well blended add the frothed egg whites and fold together until smooth.
Pour the batter into the lined Pyrex dish. Place the loaf pan in the preheated oven. Bake for 50 minutes.

Candied Cranberries



2  cups  granulated sugar
2  cups  water
2  cups  fresh cranberries
3/4  cup  superfine sugar


Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

Holiday Cookies

23 Dec

The best part of the holidays is always food- especially when you get to make it!  A family friend of ours always has a cookie exchange party, and I was especially excited this year because I had tons of new recipies to try out.  My mom and I ended up making three cookies: the ginger orange cookies that I’ve already posted about, holiday hershey kiss cookies (recipe at HowSweetEats), and my mom’s pumpkin cinnamon whoopie pies.  It was definitely a lot of work and dishwashing, but it was definitely worth it.  The only problem I had was with the chocolate cookies; they were fine, but not as soft and cakey as I had expected.  Everything else was great, and we were so happy that we stole some extra to save for later.  🙂

Chocolate cookies with Hershey Kisses (in mint truffle, bailey's, and candy cane flavors)

Cinnamon filling for pumpkin whoopie pies!


22 Dec

After I set up one of my nativity scenes, I realized how desperately I needed some fudge! So, after turning up the Christmas music, and of course getting the right ingredients for fudge, I set off to make some fudge.  I always use the recipe on the back of one of the Ghiradelli bars, but I searched and it wasn’t there! What was I supposed to do?! So I made up something.  I hope it’s decent. Whatever way you end up making fudge, whether you have your own recipe, or you have the guts to try this, make some fudge.  Because it’s delicious, and simple, and chocolately, and delicious, and perfect!  This one didn’t quite reach the correct hardness, but it tasted normal, at least I think it did!


2 bars of Ghiradelli (or another brand) 60% bittersweet chocolate

1 bag of Ghiradelli (or anything else…) of semi sweet chocolate chips (any size)

1 and 1/3 cans (14 oz I believe) of condensed milk

approximately 2 tsp of vanilla extract


Melt a bar and a half of chocolate in a bowl.  Add about half or 3/4 of the bag of chocolate chips and melt those in it.  Add the vanilla.  Mix in 1 and 1/4 of the cans of condensed milk.  Line a glass dish with wax paper, and fill the dish (I used two dishes, but my fudge is a bit thin) with the mixture.  In a separate bowl, melt the remaining chocolate (1/2 a bar and 1/4 of the chocolate chip bag) in a bowl, and add around *2 tbsp of condensed milk (if you do not add the condensed milk, the fudge can be more of a fudge bark, which would probably be delicious).  Pour/place this on top of the fudge, and then put your fudge in the refrigerator for a few hours, or until very hard.

After that, remove the fudge by taking the wax paper out of the dish, and dumping it on to a plate, with the smooth bottom side up.  Cut into whatever sizes you wish, and ENJOY!!!

photo credit to orangechef!