Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Flu

I wanted to thank all of you for your support during the Pops in a Post contest. I did not win, but I was very honored to even be a finalist! Check out the winner here.

Anddd I want to apologize. It has been way too long since I posted. But, I do have a good excuse. I have the flu. I have been feeling under the weather for about 3 weeks now but this past weekend is when it hit me, bad. This has compounded to mean no dishes and no cooking. When I say no dishes, I mean it. it got to the point where there was no silverware (not even the backup set!), cereal bowls, plates, mixing bowls...

It was near impossible to find something to heat up my Trader Joe's spaghetti Os. Which I lived off of over the weekend. I think I ate about 6 cans.

This has meant that I haven't really caught up. I have dishes to eat off, of course, but each load only puts a tiny little knick in the mammoth piles of dishes in the sink and spread all over the counters. Everything I have cooked has been a repeat and something extremely easy to make without dishes (aka veggie burgers and roasted potatoes).

So, I am going to apologize again for no posts. I am hoping to completely recover this weekend and be back to normal very soon. It's painful to be this out of whack. I also have a very exciting Valentine's meal idea that I can't wait to share with you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Perfectly Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

I featured this recipe on the blog about a year and a half ago. Back when the blog was a mess and it was impossible to find anything. So, I re made these lovely cookies, changed a few things and felt they deserved a post of their own.

Perfectly Chewy Whole Wheat Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Gold Medal Flour's "Whole Wheat Baking"
makes 3 dozen cookies
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated shortening, softened
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup mix-ins, optional: can be dried fruit (raisins, cherries...) or chips (chocolate, butterscotch...) or a combination*

*I was really excited to play with the combinations. I made most of mine plain ole chocolate chip. But then, for some of the dough, I added some dried cherries (1/3 cup chocolate chips, 1/4 cup dried cherries for a whole recipe). Chocolate-Cherry Oatmeal cookies - ohhh yeah. I highly recommend this combination. :)

The original recipe does the all the mixing by hand. While I am not opposed to this labor, it didn't really work for my adjustments. I changed the fats to half butter and half shortening because of the different melting points (AB says this is what makes them perfect). I use Earth Balance as my non-hydrogenated shortening because it doesn't contain GMOs or trans fats (evil!). This is great health-wise, but it doesn't have that wonderfully buttery flavor that hydrogenated shortening does. There's an easy fix to that...but it requires beaters. :) 

Heat oven to 350F. Beat together the butter and shortening until light and fluffy. (The amounts pictured are a half recipe...because I don't need 3 dozen scrumptious cookies lying around!) See? Pretty.

Add sugars and cream with the beaters until well mixed.

Add in eggs, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Mix well.

Stir in oats and flour and using a large wooden spoon. It is essential to not use the beaters anymore because they can beat up on those beauuutiful oats. The oats are our friends. Be gentle. 

Stir in mix-ins.

Drop by rounded tablespoons (or use a medium cookie scoop for even cookies!) on a prepared cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool for 2 minutes, then remove from cookie sheets.

Nutritional Information (for oatmeal cookie): 129 calories, 6.4g fat (2.9g sat), 15.7g carbs, 0.8g fiber, 2g protein

Nutritional Information (for chocolate chip cookie): 142 calories, 7.4g fat (3.4g sat), 17g carbs, 1g fiber, 2.2g protein

Nutritional Information (for raisin cookie): 138 calories, 6.4g fat (2.9g sat), 18g carbs, 1g fiber, 2g protein

Nutritional Information (for chocolate-cherry cookie): 142 calories, 6.7g fat (3.2g sat), 18g carbs, 1g fiber, 2.1g protein

I always forget how much I LOVE oatmeal cookies until I make oatmeal cookies. I can honestly say that I prefer an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie to a regular chocolate chip cookie. GASP. I must be un-American. But oh well. They really are that good. And I think I was a genius up there for suggesting butterscotch chips. That sounds divine.

I'm trying really hard lately to curb my cravings for sweets. (Kinda hard while blogging about them, right?) I really need to get in gear if I want to lose those last 15 pounds. Before winter, it was only 10. Le sigh. No use in complaining now. Just gotta get my butt in gear. I ran Tuesday for the first time in a couple weeks. Two miles! I was ecstatic. I'm slowly getting back into it. ;) I am most impressed though, with how my body is handling it. I was sore yesterday but today, I'm fine! I always take that as a sign that my body is stronger than I think. I just gotta have more faith in what it can do! :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

LAST Day to Vote!

Today is the LAST day for votes in the Wilton Pops in a Post Contest! It's been such an honor to be included in as a TOP TEN finalist!!

Head on over to vote for my Earth pops! They sure do like that crown! ;) Fingers crossed!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Classic Whole Wheat Bread

Don't forget to vote for my "Recycle or Die" Earth cake pops!! You can vote once a day! Voting ends tomorrow (Jan 19th). It only takes a few clicks and no registration is required!

There are few smells that are as comforting as rising and baking bread. The whole apartment smells scrumptious for hours. It makes me want to eat the walls. Baking bread has become a lost art. When my friends found out that I have baked (and regularly bake) bread from scratch (without a bread maker!), they all thought I was a magician. I'm not. It's ridiculously easy. And cheap. And tastes out-of-this-world. PB&J will never be the same.

Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread
from King Arthur Flour
makes one loaf
  • 1 - 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
  • 1/4 vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 1/2 cups 100% Whole Wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp yeast (or 1 yeast packet)
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt

*The amount of water needed depends on your climate/humidity. Since it is winter, most climates will be drier and will probably need the full amount of water. 

Combine all dry ingredients a medium bowl. 

Transfer to a food processor (or stand mixer with paddle attachment, if you're lucky!). Slowly add liquids through drain, with processor or mixer running. 

If your dough is wet (or dry), add flour (or water) in small increments until dough is soft and slightly wet but still easily manageable. If you have a stand mixer, switch to your dough hook and let the mixer do the work for about 7 minutes. If not, pulse the food processor until dough forms a ball around the blade. 

On a LIGHTLY floured surface (like a Tb. tops), knead dough with greased hands for about 5 minutes. 

When dough is smooth, form into a ball. Place in a large, greased bowl, turning ball to coat with oil. 

Let rise 1-2 hours, until puffy (not necessarily doubled in bulk), depending on the warmth of your kitchen. We have a cold apartment. So, I always preheat the oven to 250 or so and let the bowl sit on top of the oven.

Lightly press down dough and form into an 8" log. Place log into a greased bread pan. Let rise 1-2 hours, or until dough has risen about 1" above the rim. 

Preheat oven to 350°rees;F. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Tent with foil about halfway through the baking to prevent over-browning. 

Viola! Freshly baked bread! Let cool about 5 minutes before turning it on to a cooling rack. Be sure to slice off a piece and spread just a bit of butter. Then, sprinkle a teeny tiny bit of kosher salt. Heaven. Seriously. Fresh baked bread ranks up there with fresh baked cookies. 

Nutritional Information (for 1 slice, 1/16): 150 calories, 3.7g fat (0.3g sat), 26g carbs, 1g fiber, 3.4g protein

These are thicker slices than normal bread (about 1/2 an inch). I'm sure if you have better knives/better cutting skills, you could get about 18 slices out of this loaf. But I like thick slices :) While it does take a while to make, with all of the rises, most of the time is hands-off. You can start the dough and do something else for the hours it takes to rise. I always do the full rising time too because it makes it lighter. 

I started baking bread last week because I was bored during the snow storm. Then, I remembered how easy it was. And what a treat it was to have fresh baked bread. So, I'm trying to bake a loaf each week for my sandwich bread; it's cheaper and I know exactly what's in it. Plus, I get 2 slices of fresh baked heaven as a little present each Sunday.  :) I only wish it would last longer. About Wednesday, it starts to taste stale...which makes me wonder what's in the loaves (even the organic ones!) at the stores. Anyone know how to make it last longer without putting anything unsavory in it?

And with that, I'll leave you with some pictures of the kitties. Because it's been too long. And they are adorable.

Whatcha doin up there?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Don't forget to vote for my "Recycle or Die" Earth cake pops!! You can vote once a day until next Wed (Jan 19th). It only takes a few clicks and no registration is required!

Panera should be scared.  I'm very close to beating out their Broccoli Cheddar soup. This was very necessary for me for three reasons: it's expensive, it's not vegetarian, and I had a deep love for it before the switch.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup
from Mega Nerd Runs
Serves 2
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tb. butter or non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 14.5 oz can (or carton!) cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 1/2 cups 1% milk (Organic would be best since even the low fat versions are creamier)
  • 1 cup cheddar, shredded
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 large head broccoli

Prep the veggies. Chop the broccoli into bite-size pieces. Peel carrots and grate them. Be careful while grating the carrots; it's easy for them to slip.

Steam broccoli until tender crisp. If you don't have a steamer (like me!), use a small colander and a lid to improvise. Bring about 2 inches of water to boil in a saucepan. Use a colander that can sit inside without getting into the water. Put veggies in colander and place a lid on top, bringing it as far down as possible. Not perfect, but close! And I get perfectly steamed veggies every time.

Get the rest of the ingredients ready to go.

Saute onion in butter until soft, about 3-4 minutes.

Add cream of mushroom and cheddar. Stir well and let melt.

After cheese is completely melted, whisk in milk.

Add broccoli and carrots. Stir well and let simmer until heated through and slightly thicker, about 10 minutes.  Viola! That's it.

Serve with a multi grain or French bread. I was ridiculously excited to find this little buddy at Trader Joe's. I rarely buy French bread because the baguette is so big and I just end up eating the whole thing, about 1000 calories probably. This baby has only 3 servings! $0.80 too! I swear, I almost did the happy dance in the bread aisle.

This soup is dangerously close. I don't think it's quite right because it was too mushroomy for me. This is probably because the organic cream of mushroom is way more mushroomy than campbells. But, alas. It was deeeelicious, comforting, and provided a lot more veggies! Not to mention how simple it is!! I was thinking of trying cream of celery next time and just adding soy sauce if it needed a meatier flavor. Either way. You need to make this.

Nutritional Information (for 1/2 soup): 361 calories, 20g fat (13g sat), 31g carbs, 3g fiber, 17g protein

I was surprised by how filling this soup was. I wasn't expecting it to be and it definitely was!

This weekend is all about catching up. What is it about winter that makes me get behind? Oh yeah - the cold. I don't want to clean. I don't like wearing pants. I just want to stay under the covers and stay warm. I realize the pants comment seems weird...but I really mean just around the house. Because of all my "pants" are too short or too big. Only my yoga pants fit correctly - and if I wear them all the time then what do I wear to do yoga? Exactly. Winter is evil.

But this weekend, I will conquer winter. One dish at a time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Exciting News!!

So apparently, I'm not the only one who thought my Earth cake pops were super cute...I'm a top 10 finalist in the Wilton Pops in a Post Blogger Contest! Eeeeek!

PLEASE go vote for the Earth here! Seriously, how could you vote for any team other than Team Earth? Don't mess with karma people. ;)

No registration required, no e-mail either! Just one vote per computer per day. Voting ends next Wednesday, January 19th.

If these pops take the cake, we will definitely be having a celebration giveaway!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vegetarian Cinncinati Chili

You would not believe the amount of cooking/baking I did over my looong weekend! Down here in the South we got a pretty big snowstorm (esp for us!). I'm not a fan of snow. We're not friends. There, I said it. More on that later. But for now, here's an incredibly comforting chili...

This was one of my favorite meals before becoming vegetarian! Like top 5. You have no idea how pleased I was that it transferred well. :) And frankly, you can barely tell it's not meat. This is another one of those meals where the meat flavor was never needed so it's just not noticeable when it's removed.

Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili
based on Food Network Magazine
serves 3-4
  • 1 Tb. vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 recipe spice mix, recipe below
  • 2 veggie burgers, thawed
  • 4 oz tomato sauce (1/2 small can)
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 Tb. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tb. soy sauce
  • 2 oz cooked spaghetti per person
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 oz colby or sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Spice Mix
  • 1 Tb. chili powder
  • 1 Tb. paprika
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cloves

Mix all spices together and set aside. This is one of those fast moving recipes where it's essential to have everything measured out and ready to go.

Chop onion and garlic. Use your handy dandy chopper if you have one. :) I should form a club.

Chop the thawed veggie burgers.

Here's the culprit of stares when I make this recipe. It's very polarizing. I've had people HATE this recipe because of it. Me? I love any excuse to put chocolate into dinner! ;)

Chop the chocolate and measure out the vinegar and soy sauce. We are finally ready to begin!

Heat oil in a large pot. Saute half of the onion and all of the garlic cook until soft, stirring, about 5 minutes.

Add spice mix. Cook, stirring, until fragrant.

Add chopped burgers and cook about 5 minutes. Add 1 Tb. salt.

Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, and 1 1/2 cups water. Simmer the mixture until slightly thicker.

Add chocolate, vinegar and soy sauce and cook until thickened but still slightly soupy, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

Now, there is an assembly to Cincinnati chili. First, place 2 oz spaghetti in a large bowl. Top with a large ladle of chili. Top with 3/4 cup kidney beans. Now you have two options: onions and cheese, or just cheese (4-way or 3-way). I've had it both ways and prefer it without the onions but that's just my opinion. It depends on whether or not you like raw onions, which I'm not a fan of.

If you need a cheese suggestion, here ya have it. This cheese was AMAZING. Such great flavor. Just make sure your cheese has a very sharp flavor.

Nutritional Information (for 1/4 chili on 2 oz WW spaghetti): 551 calories, 19g fat (8.4g sat), 75g carbs, 18g fiber, 32g protein

Nutritional Information (for 1/3 chili on 2 oz WW spaghetti): 604 calories, 22g fat (9g sat), 80g carbs, 20g fiber, 36g protein

Pretty high for us actually. But this meal is soo good. Definitely worth a lighter lunch that day, in my opinion. ;) Like I said before, this meal is polarizing. I have heard this on TV specials about it and have witnessed it as we had a guest just HATE it once. It's such a unique flavor...but I will say that both of us just love it. Really, it's that good. So at least try it! Who knows, maybe over spaghetti will become the only way you serve chili!

While this wasn't made over the weekend, it sure would have been a welcome meal since we were snowed in. Like I said, I'm not a fan of snow. And when you live in a place that rarely gets snow, it's normally not a problem. But apparently every one else in Georgia ADORES snow and they don't like it when I curse it.

But, be subjective for a minute. Georgia is not New York. I have a right as a Georgia citizen to expect my snow interaction to be very low. It's very clear that our government does because of the way snow gets handled down here. Schools have been closed for 3 days and today is my first day back to work (hellooo small paycheck!). The mail just started today. FedEx and UPS aren't even delivering. And I have fabulous shoes supposed to already have been delivered. BOO.

Another thing, Georgia doesn't get pretty snow. This time we got the nice kind even. Nice, fluffy snow. About 7 inches. Then, the next day comes. And it's not quite as cold so it rains. Then the night comes. Everything freezes. The roads are pure ice. The nice, fluffy snow is now under a 1/4" sheet of ice.  I have mammoth icicles on my porch that could create a serious Grey's Anatomy situation.

Even Antonio didn't like the snow.

Case in point: me and snow are not friends. And I want spring. So that I can run outside with my new shoes. If they ever get delivered.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Recycle or Die! Earth Cake Pops

Remember that Wilton Blogger Pops Contest? I was sent all of this good stuff to create my own, original pop for the contest!

I thought long and hard about my entry and came up with a pretty adorable idea...

Cute, no? :) Let's get started with these pops. You can make whatever type of cake you like and use what ever frosting you like...but there's nothing more fun than funfetti!! With a simple buttercream frosting.

Homemade Funfetti
using's basic yellow cake recipe
makes 2 8-inch cakes or 48 cupcakes (or one 8-inch cake and 12 cupcakes)

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

I didn't have rainbow sprinkles so I used an Easter blend and a orange and red blend to make it. That's resourceful right there. Nevermind that the yellow sprinkles are little baby chicks. Our secret.

Preheat the oven to 350°ree;F. Grease pans or line with cupcake liners. I made one 8-inch cake for the pops and 12 cupcakes for the husband. That's love. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs one at a time. Add in vanilla and mix until combined.

Slowly add flour alternatively with milk.

Fold in sprinkles. Pour half of batter into each pan or separate into cupcakes. 

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

Simple Buttercream Frosting
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt
*I made a half recipe because we're not big on tons of frosting on cupcakes. Just a light layer for us.

Sift confectioners sugar onto butter. Add vanilla and salt. Beat until creamy. It will look rough for a minute but give it time; it will work itself out.

Viola! So simple. Depending on humidity, you may need to add a capful of milk to thin it out but no more than that!

Earth Cake Pops

  • Pops decorating stand
  • 1 bag blue candy melts
  • 2 tubes green decorating gel
  • Green sugar
  • Lollipop sticks

I didn't end up using everything in the picture. It was a learning process for sure. :)

Crumble cake into a large bowl and add 1/2 cup frosting. Combine well.

Form into balls and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Take the balls out of the fridge and put in a lollipop stick. Reform into balls if necessary. Chill longer until solid.

Melt candy melts using a double boiler or a handy dandy Wilton Chocolate Pro. Originally I added food coloring to get a darker blue. Then the melts got all funny looking. And then I read the bag. Apparently this make the candy seize. Gross. So don't do that. :) If the candy does seize, just add some shortening to bring it back to normal.

Slowly dip each ball into the candy and turn to coat. The first couple were rough but I got better with just keep goin!

Do the best you can to draw the continents in green decorating gel. I had a map outline brought up on my computer screen to help. I drew outlines and then filled it with the gel. I made the mistake of using ALOT more than needed. You can spread the gel around with the tip instead of filling completely.

Sprinkle green sugar on the gel if wanted.

I made little signs out of toothpicks and slits of paper. Super easy. If you want a more civilized saying...

Disclosure - I was provided the products discussed in the post by Wilton for my personal use in the Pops Blogger contest. 

Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates