Friday, December 31, 2010

Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Pastry Cream

Happy New Year!

I've had the most amazing 2010. I've traveled all over the country this year with trips to:
Raleigh, NC- New Years trip for 2010
New Orleans, LA- 30th Birthday Drunkfest
San Francisco, Monterrey, Big Sur and Wine Country: For Big Sur Marathon and Wine Tasting!
Utah- To pace a best friend in his first 50 mile race!
NYC- For 4th of July weekend!
North Carolina Mountains- For college friends 8th annual drinkfest!
Lexington, KY- Bourbon Chase Relay Race
Chicago, IL- Fun weekend trip with friend!
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico- Amazing Yoga Retreat!
Richmond and Charlottesville, VA- For NYE 2011.

Now, I’m one of those annoying shits that is “too cool” to do whatever everyone else does. Example A: I don’t have a facebook account. Example B: I don’t do New Years Resolutions until my birthday on February 1.

But incidentally… if I were to do New Years resolutions when everyone else does… one of my new years resolutions would be to stop being such an independent/individuality obsessed asshole.

I do have a fairly good argument against the whole idea of Resolutions anyway… I mean, why wait till some arbitrary day?? Jan 1 is just like Jan 4 or December 18. What the hell does it matter? When I wait till my birthday… it seems to mean a little more… like… with turning this XX age, I will become more mature in the following ways… (although, admittedly… some of my yearly resolutions are things that others surely think are LESS mature… like… date less! Drink more! Et al.).

Anyway… if I were to have new years resolutions (which, these aren't! I swear!) these would be them:

1. Drive less. Sure, I drive a lot less than the average person. I walk to work a lot, I walk to yoga when the weather's nice, etc… but… I have this annoying habit of driving to the grocery store 3-4 times a week. For whatever reason, I can’t buy 12 pounds of apples at one go, so I go every other day and buy enough to last me two days. THIS HAS TO STOP. So… my goal is cut this down to twice a week. ALSO… a new grocery store/health food store just opened up and the route there doesn’t require me to cross through any major intersections… so…

2. I’m going to buy a bike! Not a fancy lance Armstrong bike with shimano somethings and hydraulic something elses…. No, just a roam about town bike that I can ride to the grocery store and to the farmers markets this summer. And possibly the bar, or friends houses, etc.

3. Keep in touch with friends better.

4. Get up to date with the music scene. Seriously this is a big one… I used to be a music fanatic. And then I kinda fell off the wagon. Last week I made a new cd to listen to on itunes and I kid you not, half of the songs were like from 2008 or 2009. Ugh. I’m so behind!

5. Read more! I cancelled my cable subscription when college football season was over in the hopes of reading more. I really think that watching episode after episode of The Real Housewives of New York was hindering my ability to carry on a half-way intelligent conversation. A few years ago, I made a goal of reading 50 books for the year… and I got to around 30, which was still awesome. So, this year, I’m going to revive it. 50 books for 2011! (Now, I need to stock up mountaineering, sailing, and city history books!).

6. Set a new PR in the following distances: 5k, Half Marathon, and Marathon!

7. Drink less beer and less shots. It’s a problem when people know that you love tequila shots.

8. Get out of North America for 2011! Shouldn’t be a problem since I’m going to Scotland and Ireland with the family this spring… but… also trying to plan a trip to Israel for this year. Fingers crossed on that one. Jesus Trail or bust!!!! Or maybe I’ll just go to Peru.

9. Blog more often!

2010 was the best year of my life.. and I see no reason why anything has to change as we roll forward into 2011! And I'm hoping for all the best for your 2011s, as well!

And to start things off with a bang... here's a recipe that I made for my brother's birthday (back in June).
Banana Cupcakes with Vanilla Pastry Cream

from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

This recipe was super easy and the cupcakes turned out very moist! But... I have to say, pastry cream, as it turns out, isn't my favorite topping for a cupcake (a filling, perhaps). So, next time I make banana cupcakes, I will frost with a proper frosting... cream cheese, vanilla, chocolate... not too picky.
For the Cupcakes:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 4)
1/2 cup buttermilk

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream
3 cups half-and-half
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the pastry cream:

In a medium saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a simmer and keep warm. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt together until the mixture is pale, about one minute. Whisk half of the half-and-half into the egg yolk mixture, then pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining half-and-half. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened and boiling, about 6-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a container. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.

Chill at least one hour, overnight is better.

Make the cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the eggs, and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl again and add the bananas, beating until just combined. Turn the mixer to low. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, giving the mixture a final stir to ensure it's combined.

Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove them from the pans and cool completely.

Assemble the cupcakes:

Place the vanilla pastry cream in a plastic disposable piping bag or a zip top gallon sized bag. Cut the end of the bag so that the opening is about a half inch in diameter. Pipe a dollop onto the cupcake (alternatively spoon a dollop onto the cupcake) and garnish with a dried banana slice.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

TWD Rewind: All American Apple Pie.

Last night I got to spend the evening with one of my best friends. She was only in town for a few days and between making time to see her family, Monday evening was the only spare time she had to squeeze me in. I was grateful to have the whole evening with her!

It's funny. You go through life having someone live down the road from you for several years... you go to dinner or lunch, you go to the museum, you go shopping... but you also go through some months where you don't really get together. You're busy, she's busy. It happens. But you still know what's going on in each others lives.

Last night I realized... I really had no idea what had been going on with her for MONTHS. And it made me very sad. Just because she's moved to the other side of the country, and just because I feel guilty that I've made trips to Montana, San Francisco, Mexico, etc and have yet to make it out to visit her in the Pacific Northwest is no excuse for allowing months to go by with little or no communication.

Luckily, things with her are great! She's enjoying her new town, making friends, and she absolutely loves her job. But, it definitely put things into perspective for me. I've slacked. I just assume that we'll always be great friends and we'll always pick up right where we left off when we do talk or get together... and while that's true. It's not fair. To either one of us.

Friendships are relationships, too. And just like anything in life... you have to give it attention for it to grow and bloom. And this year in particular, I've not kept my end of the friendship up very well.

I've taken our friendship for granted. We never fight or have arguments, so I know that we'll always be friends. But, that's not enough. This year I was the type of friend that called her maybe twice (once on her birthday), I was the type of friend who made plans to visit her and then bailed, I was the type of friend who only emailed or texted her a handful of times. I was, in a word: SHITTY.

So, as of today (or last night, really) I'm determined to be a better friend to her. Just because she's on the other end of the country, is no excuse. I miss her! I miss knowing whats going on in her life, I miss talking to her, I miss telling her whats going on in mine. And even if I can't go and see her as much as I'd like.. I can certainly call or email her!

In some ways... this recipe reminds me of my friend and I's friendship and how I've treated it this year. It's a recipe where you know what it's going to taste like. Who hasn't had apple pie, right? So, I never made it. In fact, I've never made any apple pie! There are so many other glamorous dessert recipes to be made, no?

But, I finally decided to make this pie for Thanksgiving. And oh my god... I had no idea an apple pie could be so good. I was reminded that the uncomplicated, familiar things in life are sometimes best. There's nothing flashy or unusual here. It's just good basic ingredients thrown together to make a most excellent pie.

All-American Apple Pie
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Chosen by Emily of Sandmuffin

Dead simple, folks. The hardest part is cutting up the apples, which I initially bought an apple corer/slicer for, but once I realized that it was still getting some of the core in the slices, I shoved the task off onto my mom to cut up (I highly suggest this step!)... so yeah... for me, this pie was a breeze!

Dorie's pie crust has definitely become my go to pie crust recipe. It's easy and so delicious. This coming from a girl who used to despise pie crust (and still despises all shortening based pre-packaged crusts).

If you have an apple pie lover in your life... this is the recipe to yes. This pie recipe might have just trumped my other favorite pies: pecan and cherry. It's that good.

Recipe found on Emily's Blog, HERE.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes

A perfect weekend is...
Dinner and drinks with one of your favorite people, at your favorite restaurant and
then out for your favorite drink: Clapless Belle. Yum.

Shopping with your favorite shopping partner and actually finding some cute things at your favorite stores, followed by lunch at your favorite Indian restaurant.

 Completing your favorite household task: cleaning and organizing your closet.

Baking your favorite cupcake recipe and decorating them like little monkeys.

Putting on a bib for one of your favorite marathons and lining up at the start line.

Finishing a marathon with some of your favorite running partners
(and indulging in your favorite local brew afterwards).

Eating at your favorite restaurant AGAIN with some of your fellow marathoners
 and recounting the race with pizza and more beer.

Finishing the weekend with a cup of fro-yo with your favorite toppings: granola and coconut.

In my mind... a weekend doesn't get any better than this past weekend.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from one I found somewhere online.
One recipe makes 27-31 cupcakes

I'm not a huge cupcake fan. But how can you not be a sucker for a moist, buttery cupcake? Which is how I found myself on a mission to find the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe... after tasting a delicious one at a bakery in Chicago.

To be honest, I hate the cupcakes at Nashville's local bakeries. Too dry, too big, too much frosting, too many whacked out flavors.

This is the kind of cupcake I like... plain and simple.

To decorate as monkeys for the Harpeth Hill Flying Monkey Marathon that I ran this weekend, I used chocolate frosting, nutter butter peanut butter snack cookies, a vanilla wafer with the top quarter cut off with a serated knife, and icing (white, black, and red). They look a lot like bears, but hopefully most people realized they were monkeys!

This cupcake recipe is awesome. My favorite, for sure.

1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar and add eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until light in color and fluffy in texture. Gradually whisk in the oil, buttermilk, and extract and combine well.

Add your flour, baking powder, and salt and slowly stir to combine (add a little bit of the flour at a time to make the stirring easier).

Transfer to muffin pans that have been lined with paper muffin cups. Fill the cups up about 2/3 of the way up. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until springy in the center. Cool completely before frosting.

Especially Dark Chocolate Frosting

(from the back of the Special Dark Hershey's cocoa box)

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup Special Dark Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (might need more)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to a spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups of frosting.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies, Healthi-fied.

Back in July, I went to NYC to visit a friend. It had been about 8 years since I had last been there and in a few short days, I quickly fell in love with the city.

The thing that had always kinda bugged me about NYC previously was the overstimulation. Everywhere you look there are people, cars, bikes, shops, pigeons, hot dog stands. It's so alive and in the past I unfairly held that against it. Back then, I didn't know how to quieten the outside world within my own head, so I would find myself drowning in the everything else-ness that NYC was.

But, 8 years later, I'm a much different person. I can easily silence the noise around me and enjoy things at my own pace, instead of allowing the bustling city to force its hustle upon me.

It was incredible. Central Park! The Ballet! The Bus rides! The Subway rides! The East River Greenway for running! The Brooklyn Bridge! Brooklyn! The Whitney (my first real Edward Hopper painting experience!!!)! The tree-lined streets! The people! The Clearance FLOOR (oh my god an entire floor!!)  at Anthropologie! I have a serious, serious crush on NYC right now. Granted, in general... I'm pretty city-crazy right now. NYC isn't my only city crush.. I'm still reeling from a San Francisco courtship earlier this year and just last weekend Chicago spun me around like a top. So, I'm definitely not a one-city loving woman.

My favorite times in NYC were spent just wandering around. Seeing the storefronts and the homes. Changing course at the drop of a hat, to avoid a no-walk crossing sign. Sitting on numerous park benches in Central Park, and various other parks, to watch the people buzzing by.

When I left to come home, I felt a sense of jealousy. How fair is it that some people get to live and work in that city??? I was merely a visitor, living out of a too small suitcase. Damn you New Yorkers and your fabulous city!

Oh well, the good news is that it's an easy city to get to for visiting (easier than San Francisco, that's for sure) and until then, I can try to be inspired by things that I experienced there. Like vegan baked goods!

For lunch one day I ate at Angelica Kitchen. I had a delicious salad, but what really stuck with me was some of their baked goods! I can't really remember what all that was ordered, but it was all really tasty. I do remember the homemade vegan fig newton!! Yum!!! And there was also some sort of deliciously homey tasting oatmeal cookie and a maple tofu whip!

These peanut butter cookies came out of an attempt to try and find a way to make a simple, healthy, vegan sweet snack. And... they didn't turn out perfect (not quite up to Angelica's standards), but they were damn tasty and I had no problem eating them. A base to build upon and perfect, if you will.

Healthy-ish Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from a flourless peanut butter cookie recipe like this one.

Again, this isn't going to be an actual recipe (because I havent perfected it yet), but more of an instruction of what I did.

I started with a flourless peanut butter cookie recipe and instead of egg, I used flax meal with a little bit of water. And instead of sugar, I used date pieces. Originally, I wanted to puree my dates into a paste and incorporate into the dough to sweeten it, but I had the date pieces that were hard and cut up. You know what I'm talking about?? Anyway, they wouldn't pulverize in the food processor, so I just threw them in whole. Thinking of them kind of like a chocolate chip, except a stud of sweetness in the salty peanut butter.

I completely forgot to add any kind of leavener. So, next time, I'll definitely add some baking powder or soda or both.

Overall, these tasted like baked, kinda sweet, intensely flavored peanut butter. A bit crumbly, but satisfying in a weird way.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hostess Cupcakes

I know you know what I'm talking about... even though it's something that you love and are passionate about... sometimes it falls by the wayside. You can't predict it and sometimes you can't fix it. I go through this with all my hobbies. It's the ebb and flow of life, I suppose.

And with this blog, I feel like I've lost my writing mojo. I've always loved to write. I've always written terrible short stories and poems. I've got notebook after notebook filled with characters, plots, pieces of dialogues and intros. But for the last year or so, it's been a struggle for me to even bang out a simple, entertaining blog post about some damn cupcakes.

What is wrong with me???

The one thing I do know about writing is.. the worst thing you can do is stop altogether. I've always read and learned that one must power through the block and even if you get pages and pages of worthless drivel... eventually... you'll find the otherside.

So, this is my attempt. I'm just going to ease back in and see what happens.

Such is my writer's block that I made these cupcakes back in JULY. That's right folks. Back when it was still flaming outside, back when I was in the midst of my 30 day vegan/macrobiotic/just eat fruits and vegetables diet. That was a long time ago.

I've become good friends with some running partners. And these cupcakes were made for one of those friends. It was his birthday, he was having a party at his new house and instead of being the lovable party-goer that brings booze (like I normally am), I was the lovable party-goer that had shunned alcohol for the month, so I brought the next best thing... cupcakes (because, let's be honest.. I can say no to a cupcake wayyy easier than I can say no to booze).

It was a fun night. My favorite kind of night, actually... I didn't really know if I'd know anyone at the party besides my friend who was the man of honor for the shindig... so it forced me out of my comfort zone a bit. And as those nights usually turn out.. it was a total blast. I met new people, I got to meet my friend's girlfriend and see their awesome new house.

It was a great time. And these were the cupcakes that I made. I know nothing about what my friend likes in baked goods. So, I figured a crowd pleaser would be chocolate cupcakes. And to make them a little more festive. I mimicked that of a hostess cupcake... with a thin layer of icing, with a white squiggle and a gooey white center.

Per my diet that month, I didn't taste these cupcakes, but... I was told that one of the kids that was there was asked what her favorite part of the party was... and she replied... the cupcakes! A good sign, no? (Nevermind the fact that of course at a party full of grown-ups, the cupcakes are going to be the star for the kid!).
Hostess Cupcakes

I did a bunch of different things for this recipe. First off, I made Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe for Baby Grands Cupcakes that I found in her delicious and amazing cookbook, Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Which, I incidentally won on Hilary's awesome website, Nosh With Me awhile back and am just now getting around to thanking her on the blog! (I'm an awful blogger, I swear).

After the cupcakes were baked, I scooped out part of the center of the cupcake and filled with a mixture of marshmallow fluff that had been diluted with a little bit of water so that it was runny (next time, I dont think I'll dilute it). I put the marshmallow mixture into a ziploc bag and piped it into the center of each cupcake. After that, I covered all the cupcakes with a layer of chocolate ganache. And put squiggles on the top to mimic the snack cakes with pre-bought white cookie icing in a tube.

I thought they turned on beautiful! But, they also turned out very, very messy. The marshmallow center kinda of oozed into the whole cupcake and instead of being a filling it made it into a gooey center (no complaints on the flavor!). So next time, I would pipe the fluff straight into the center (maybe even make it a little stiffer by mixing it with some confectioners sugar!).

Easily adaptable to your favorite recipes for the components. Definitely a fun way party cupcake!

Chocolate Cupcakes
Marshmallow Fluff
Chocolate Ganache
White Icing

Follow assembly instructions above!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TWD: Fold Over Cherry Torte

When I was very small, one of my most very favorite toys was a Fisher-Price kitchen. I didn't have all the accessories that went along with it, but I didn't really need them. I was happy to pretend with some of my mom's cooking utensils or with nothing at all.

I don't really remember what all I cranked out of that little kitchen. But, I do remember baking a bunch of cherry pies. You see, Cherry Pie was my dad's absolute favorite dessert. My mom made him cherry pies all the time, so of course... I had to make him cherry pies as well! (I'm talking imaginary cherry pies, obviously).

The relationship between my dad and I has changed a lot through the years. When I was small, the highlight of my day (and I'm sure my mom's too) was hearing his key in the front door. I remember my brothers and I scrambling to the foyer to greet him with hugs and kisses when he got home from work.

As I got a little older, I always enjoyed whatever time I could get to spend with him. He's not the type of guy that you would imagine upon meeting him that he's warm, loving, and affectionate. And with anyone else besides our immediate family, he's not really. But with my mom, my brothers and me he has never been afraid to show his love for us. Which, I know isn't always an easy emotion to express openly with those around you.  But, there were times when I don't really remember much about him. He worked long and hard hours to provide for our family, and to ensure that my mom was able to stay home with my brothers and I. And even at a young age, I never resented it. Somehow, I understood and it made sense.

By the time I was in high school and went off to college, to be honest, I didn't feel like I related to either of my parents. I was at that age: the teenage-y, angst-y age and I thought my parents had no clue what was going on. And I really didnt make any attempts to get close to them.

During and after college, I started to become friends with my parents. Especially my mom. Our relationship got better and closer and my relationship with my dad definitely grew stronger, but it wasn't until I started working for him/with him 6 years ago that our relationship really changed.

At first, it was kind of hard. I was used to a different dad. Not the work environment dad, but the at home dad. So, it was interesting for me to see him in a different role. Also, I took everything way too personal. There were a couple of moments that I had to excuse myself to the bathroom to bawl my eyes out, because he'd yelled at me or gotten upset with me over something. But, eventually, I evolved. I grew a backbone and instead of being a little apprehensive about speaking my mind around my dad (which I never did before), I started doing it all the time. (I'm sure he thinks I've copped a little bit of an attitude, but whatev).

People ask me all the time.. isn't it hard to work for your dad? And I always have the same response: It's not hard at all, it's great! My dad and have become so close. I can definitely tell him anything and everything now and I feel like I know him more on a personal level, rather just on a parent/child level. I also tell people that it's nice, because as a kid, he wasn't around as much as he would have liked, and so now, I get to spend everyday with him!

One of the best things about working with him and spending so much time with him, is I get to see how good of a person he really is. I'm not longer only exposed to him in the "dad" role, but I get to see him as others see him. I get to see how hard of a worker he truly is. How well respected he is by his colleagues and clients. If I had a nickel for every time a client expressed to me in private how much they respected my dad as a professional as well as a person, I'd have a much better shoe collection.

It warms my heart to see him do what he loves and I'm thankful that I've had the opportunity to be apart of his daily work. His knowledge about his profession seems limitless and he's always willing to teach me new things and always pushes me out of my comfort zone to try more difficult things, and while sometimes I'm cussing him under my breath, because it's scary to learn new things, I'm always grateful in the end that he had the faith in me to give me such opportunities to grow and learn.

Aside from work, I've also grown an appreciation for my dad's generosity and his commitment to family. He's always willing to listen without judgement and offer up any advice or help he can give. He's not just a great father, he's a great man.

His birthday was Friday and I wanted to make him something Cherry related. Something that I might have whipped up in that imaginary kitchen of mine years ago. So, instead of trying to make two desserts one for Tuesdays with Dorie and one for my dad's birthday. I did a little substituting in the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe to make it more appealing to dad.

Honestly, it didn't really work for me. I'm not sure if it was the recipe, the execution or the cherries, but I suspect it was a combination of all three. Not a hit... I'll stick with my favorite cherry pie recipe for sure (actually, eating this cherry dessert made me crave my cherry pie, so I'm pretty sure I'll be making one of those for Thanksgiving this year)! But, it was an interesting idea and I had really high hopes for it.

My dad didn't complain. I'm pretty sure he's just happy to spend time with his family on his birthday. But, I was kinda disappointed that I didn't deliver with an excellent dessert to knock his socks off.

Happy Birthday Dad! I love you and appreciate you!

Fold Over Pear Cherry Torte
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by Cakelaw of Laws of the Kitchen

First off, the absolute best part of this recipe was the pie crust. I used to hate the taste of pie crust, but now that I'm getting better at making it myself, Dorie's pie crust is out of this world! YUM!

Second off, I used frozen cherries in a baked good for the first time. BIG mistake. Just not tart enough for a pie. The cherries were so bland and blah.

I substituted frozen cherries (thawed and drained) for the pears and dried cherries for the raisins.

I was afraid of overfilling the pie with custardy filling, so I think I didn't fill it enough, because there just wasn't much custard or cream to the pie.

Not the worst thing I've ever made, but not the best either. Probably better with pears. Or with tarter cherries.

Recipe can be found by clicking this link.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

TWD: Peanut Butter Crisscrosses

Well, I guess that's it, folks. Summer is officially over. Labor Day is behind us, college football has started and there are no more long holiday weekends until Thanksgiving. Every year I find myself saying... where did the summer go? But this year.. while it did go fast... June and July somehow seem like eons ago.

Usually, I'm ready for summer to get the hell out of town. I mean... summers in Tennessee can be brutal. And this year was no exception... days after days of 90+ degree weather, some 100+ degree days. It was a sweat-fest out there. And I'm always looking forward to the cool, brisk days of fall with their bright blue skies and low humidity. (and football!!).

The only bad thing about fall? The clothes. I hate wearing jeans (because I can't find any that fit my body well) and I hate wearing closed toe shoes. Blah. Sure, I love looking at fall catalogs with their plaids and flannels and their tweeds and boots. But, unfortunately... it's not a look that I can very succesfully pull off. Oh well. Maybe this will be the year I find the one. The one pair of jeans that I can fall in love with. Fingers crossed.

I'm really looking forward to this fall, though. I've got lots of things planned:

Sept 24-26: Heading down to Auburn for the South Carolina vs. Auburn football game with friends
October 2: Stumpjump 50k
October 22-23: Bourbon Chase Relay
Nov 6-8: Chicago trip

Speaking of the Auburn/South Carolina football game... I made these peanut butter cookies and froze almost all the dough, to save for tailgating!

I can clearly remember the first time I ever made peanut butter cookies. You see... peanut butter cookies weren't really a standby in my house growing up. We had mostly chocolate chip cookies (in bar form), magic cookie bars, and grandma cookies (aka no bake cookies). I can't recall my mom ever making peanut butter cookies.

But one day when I was probably 13/14 I pulled down a little camel colored cookbook from the shelf and flipped through it. It was called something like... "recipes from the back of labels, jars, and cans." or something like that. I found a peanut butter cookie recipe and got to work.

The resulting cookies were crumbly and peanut buttery. They weren't chewy or moist, but they were full of peanut flavor and required a huge glass of milk to swallow. I made those cookies a few more times and now that I think about it, I need to copy that recipe from the book the next time I'm over at my parents house.

Since then, my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe is the one that is flourless. YUM. But, I'm an equal opportunity peanut butter cookie lover... I recently tried one of the Baked Peanut Butter Cookies and they were delicious!!! It seems just like chocolate chip cookies, there's no decisive peanut butter cookie recipe.. they're all good.

And these are good, too! Although, I do think I baked them a little long. With all the butter in the recipe, they stay pretty light in color and I kept expecting them to darken up a bit, so they got a little overcooked. But they were still pretty damn tasty. With all the other peanut butter cookie recipes out there, I'm not sure I'll be making these again... but it was fun to try a new recipe. And I'm sure once I pull these bad boys out in a couple of weeks and bake up a whole batch for some South Carolina Tailgating, I'll be shoveling them into my mouth and swallowing them down with loads of beer and thinking... DAMN these are some good cookies.

So, with that... bring on the fall! Bring on the weather, the changing leaves, the football, the tailgating and yes... the jeans. Ugh.

Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
From her book: Baking from my Home to Yours
Chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by: Jasmine of Jasmine Cuisine

These cookies were easy to make. No weird ingredients, no chill time before baking. Just whip up a batch and bake them off.

I did add vanilla (because I'm a vanilla whore and add it to everything) and I left out the peanuts. A good simple, classic peanut butter cookie recipe. The flavor of peanut butter could be a bit more intense for my liking, but still a yummy recipe.

Of course, I never could get my crisscrosses to do right on the cookies. Ugh.

Find the recipe here, scroll down for the english recipe.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

TWD: Oatmeal Breakfast Bread... Veganized.

Yes, these muffins are vegan.

I know. I know I told you that I didn't see myself trying to veganize my baking. It's just not something that generally interests me, particularly with certain substitutions (like margarine or soy-processed products). But, I have a good excuse for this one.

I made this bread (actually, I made muffins) vegan, because I made it for a friend of mine who has recently gone vegan. Like for reals vegan. None of this wimpy 30 day challenge stuff. No sirree, she's gone truly vegan. Since I'm all about sharing my baked goods, I knew that I needed to try and make these vegan, if I could, so that I could share them with her. And I lucked out when I read over the recipe.

The recipe lends itself to veganizing. For one... it's a quick bread recipe, which in my experience, I've found quick bread recipes to be forgiving as heck to modifications... you can make it healthier, you can make it lighter, you can make it more fattening... whatever you do, it usually still turns out delicious. But, can you make it vegan?

The recipe already used applesauce and a tiny bit of oil as it's fat. So, I didn't have to worry about subbing out butter. The problem laid in two ingredients: Eggs and Buttermilk or Whole Milk.

What to do? Well, I subbed a smashed up banana to replace the eggs and I used unsweetened almond milk to replace the milk (I didn't even worry about trying to make the milk buttermilk, though I could have with a little vinegar in the milk).

The batter came together nicely and quickly and I had these bad boys in the oven within about 5 minutes of starting the process.

To be completely honest, I didn't have high hopes. I've had delicious vegan baked goods before, but I just assumed that my first foray into the genre would be lackluster. I figured that my banana and almond milk substitutions weren't good enough. That there were some other fancy dancy baking products that cost an arm and a leg that I should have bought and used instead.

But I'll be damned if these weren't some of the BEST muffins I've ever had. Not even one of the best vegan muffins, but one of the best muffins, period. Delicious. Sweet (I think, I probably should have accounted for the additional sweetness of the banana, and cut back on the sugar, but D-A-M-N I loved them being so freaking sweet), spicy, moist without being wet, and a tender crumb.

I mean, really... this is a kick-ass recipe. I will be making these again and again. And I've already got more ideas for more modifications... maybe I could make it a slightly healthier vegan muffin. But, I shouldn't get too far ahead of myself and just enjoy the muffins as they are now... delicious and animal friendly.

Oatmeal Breakfast Bread
Brilliant Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie baking group, by Natalie of Oven Love.

I know, right? Who knew you could take the taste of an oatmeal cookie and put it into the form of a moist, tender bread or muffin??? It's truly genious. The cinnamon is fragrant and alluring and the pop of the dried fruit (I used raisins) is like a little firework in your mouth amongst the sturdy, yet soft oatmeal.

Yes, I'm getting poetical on your ass, but this is truly a delicious recipe. It really is like an oatmeal raisin cookie in a softer, gentler form.

The substitutions I made: I made a half recipe and got exactly 12 muffins (although my vegan recipe didn't rise at all, so I might could have gotten 10 really full muffins). I used white whole wheat flour, I subbed one small banana smashed for the 1 egg, and unsweetened almond milk for the milk. I also used raisins and didn't have any walnuts or pecans, so I left those out of the topping.

Do yourself a favor.... make this recipe and make it vegan! I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

You can find the full recipe here on Natalie of Oven Love's Blog.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these cookies back in May. Which turned out to be the month of Birthdays for me. Four friends and one brother all had birthdays in the month of May. What the heck? I didn't realize I knew so many May babies.

It was actually a good thing, because if it hadn't been for these birthdays, I likely wouldn't have seen a bunch of these friends during the course of that month. And am kind of wishing that I'd had lots of friends with birthdays in June and July, too! I have been insanely busy the past 3 months or so. But, I'm not complaining. Not at all actually... the things I've been doing have been awesome: I've been to California, Cincinnati, Utah, and New York. I've gotten to spend a lot of time with friends that I don't get to see very often on all these trips and I've ran in some really cool races and places. Aside from traveling, my workload has also increased greatly in the last few months. But, you know what? I'm really enjoying that, too. I'm learning new things and am just grateful that in this economy, my job and company is doing so incredibly well. I'm really blessed. And, I know it's easy to get stressed out when you're so busy, but I make a conscious effort to just enjoy it all and take it in. Being busy can be a really great thing, if you let it be.

So, even though I had all this stuff going on, I was still thrilled to get to celebrate my friends birthdays with them.

Normally, I would have made my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, but it requires a little extra time to chill out in the fridge, etc. So, I turned to one of my favorite bloggers, Deb at Smitten Kitchen and perused her recipe index for a suitable cookie recipe.

I found a recipe that sounded perfect, Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. How could I go wrong, right? And I was right, these cookies were delicious. They weren't all that crispy (which was fine by me), but they were chewy and baked up really well. Nice and sturdy, but not too thick and delicious. The recipe is exactly how a chocolate chip cookie recipe should be: straight forward, easy to follow, with easily accessible ingredients. The perfect birthday cookie recipe.

Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Found on the Smitten Kitchen Website.

These cookies turned out sturdy and tasty. They definitely had a good chew to them which is of utmost importance to me. Don't be turned off by the "crispy" in the title, if you're a chewy fan. The crisp is subtle and they aren't greasy at all like some crispy cookies can be.

The only substitute I made was to use almond extract instead of vanilla. But, that's only because I was out of vanilla. Good even without the vanilla, but next time, I'll go to the store and buy some vanilla.

Recipe can be found here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

TWD: Gingered Carrot Cookies

Admit it, you didn't believe me when I told you that I'd be posting fairly regularly again, did you?

Haha. Fooled you.

Admittedly, one of the reasons for my lack of posting lately is I have a pretty severe case of writers block. Like, I am just having a really hard time coming up with some kind of story or anecdote to include along with blog posts. But, I've decided to just throw caution into the wind and attempt to blog anyway. Maybe I'll work my way through it, eh?

It sucks when you feel like you no longer have anything creative coming out of you. And I'm not really sure what the cause is. Maybe it's work... maybe I've been so overwhelmed at work, that work-related thoughts have now invaded the space in my brain that was reserved for creativity. Maybe, it's the fact that I'm not going out and getting drunk very often. Therefore, I don't really have any good stories. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that my life basically consists of running, work, hot yoga, and sleep these days and there's just not much time for me to sit around and stew up some good bits. (Probably because any spare time that I have, I'm usually reading (educational, at least!) or catching up some television (hey, it's kinda educational).

I did get around to participating in Tuesdays with Dorie this week, though! So, I squeezed that in. I even put these together before work. When I woke up, I set the butter and egg out to come to room temperature, then I went out for my morning run and after I came back and showered, I whipped a 1/4 batch of these cookies up.

That's how easy they came together... And once they were cooled and photographed, I promptly packed them away and put them in my freezer, after nary a bite. (I've come this far with the vegan macrobiotic 30 day challenge, some carrot cookie isn't going to make me fail. Day 28, today! holla!). So, I can't tell you how they taste just yet, but they did look good and smell good.

Gingered Carrot Cookies
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan

So, yeah, there's carrot and ginger in the cookie. So, immediately by the title, I'm thinking... yippee! A healthy cookie! And, while on it's own, it is fairly healthy. There isn't a lot of sugar or butter... but, I did do some substitutions with the sugar, just because I felt a good hearty carrot cookie could stand up to some healthifying.

I swapped the white sugar out and used honey instead and in place of brown sugar, I used molasses mixed with maple syrup. I was also out of coconut (the horror) and for extra texure, I added oatmeal instead. I was really, really tempted to swap out the butter for applesauce, but I decided to leave it in. Usually, I go too far making a cookie slightly healthier (yes, debatable whether or not subbing maple syrup, molasses, and honey to a cookie in place of white sugar and brown sugar. but whatev. it seems healthier in my head) and the cookies comes out tasting like crap.

In this case, I'm assuming it didn't, although I haven't, actually tried the cookies. I will though! And you should, too!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Milk Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

*tap tap* Is this thing on, y'all?

Pardon me for my absence from the baking/blogging world. It's not you, it's me, I assure you.

I could ramble on and on with excuses that range from a very high workload to traveling a lot in the last few months to some serious writers block I've had lately. I've just been busy, overall. But, honestly, that's not the main reason I haven't been blogging 'round these parts much. Truthfully dear readers, I've started to cross over into the dark side...

It started innocently enough... I've been lollygagging around and hap-heartedly going about trying to lose the 20 extra pounds that I carry around on my belly for the last 2 years or so. I'd lose a few pounds from other parts of my body, but those stubborn pounds around my midsection would not budge. I'd tried everything... low carb, low cal, vegetarian, strength training, ab exercises, extra cardio (because apparently my body is completely oblivious to the fact that I run a shit-ton every week). And trust me... I know a thing or two about how to lose weight. Nutrition and exercise isn't a new thing to me.

Finally, I decided that I'd had enough and it was time to try something else. I amped up the vegetarianism... cutting out meat, but also cutting out most grains and loading up on fresh fruit and veggies. And then I started taking Hot Yoga classes everyday that I was in town. And I'll be damned if that wasn't the right combination for me. Slowly, the belly fat started shrinking. My body fat percentage started to decrease and instead of being miserable that I couldn't eat any sweets or pizza, I felt great. I didn't even want sweets or pizza. It was easy.

Aside from the physical aspects, I've come to realize that this way of eating is helping me break my food addiction. Finally, I'm not sitting around while I'm eating lunch, thinking about what I'm going to eat for dinner. I'm starting to feel like for once, I'm in control of my appetite, instead of my appetite being in control of me. It is wonderfully liberating.

Now, what does this mean? What happens when a girl who has a baking blog drastically changes her lifestyle and starts eliminating things like baked goods from her diet? Does she turn it into some kind of healthy lifestyle food blog? Does she blog about raw food or vegan goodies? Does she give up the blog?

To be completely honest, I have no idea what it means at this point. I love blogging and writing, so I cant imagine giving it up entirely. And there will still be plenty of occassions where I bake goodies (non vegan, I dont anticipate really getting into vegan baking) for other people to enjoy and I'd love to still have an outlet to share those. At this point, I'm in the middle of a 30 day vegan challenge (that also includes no alcohol or sugar). And once that's over, I anticipate that I'll occasionally eat cheese, butter, sugar, etc.. I just won't be consuming as much of it as I once did (hopefully).

All I know is that for now... things are going to be a little different around here. I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen, but I'm pretty sure I'll be around this little blog world and hopefully more frequently, since I've finally 'fessed up about what's going on.

I can't ever imagine giving up blogging in it's entirety.  It's really fun and fulfilling for me to carve out a little piece of myself into the world wide web. Hell, I've even met some great people through blogging that have become good friends in real life. Two of which, I made these cookies for.
After the Rocket City Marathon in December
(from left to right: Me, Melanie, and Matt)

I met Matt and Melanie through my other blog, Twenty Six Point Two. We started out as being running acquaintances, then into running partners, and now into friends! Even with as much running in Nashville as I do, it's still hard sometimes to meet other runners.

They both had birthdays back in May, and so I decided to whip them up a little something special to celebrate. It didn't take me long to figure out what to make them, either. When I think runners and baked goods for some reason I alway think peanut butter. But, aside from runners, who doesn't love peanut butter? Especially when there's some chocolate thrown in there, too? It didn't hurt that this was a recipe that I'd been wanting to make for a long time...

So, stick with me, South in Your Mouth might go through some changes in the next little bit... And, I'm not sure what's in store, but we can find out together. (I will tell you that I have a back-log of old recipes to get to, so there will still be plenty of yummy desserts to feature soon).

Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks

I hate to admit to you, that I didn't actually taste these cookies, at all. However they were a dream to make. They come together easily and don't require any weird ingredients or methodology. Do take note, though, that they do require some fridge time before they're baked off.

Once baked they come out perfectly round, with a not-to-thin, not-to-thick consistency. I can only imagine that they taste as good as they look.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter
6 ounces good milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. The mixture will look light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and peanut butter and beat until just incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least three hours. (I kept mine chilled overnight).

Preheat the oven to 375℉. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, at least two inches apart. With the palm of your hand, very gently press each cookie down so it forms a very tall disk shape. Do not press too hard and do not press it flat.

Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with granulated sugar and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until the tops of the cookies just begin to brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm or use a spatula to transfer the individual cookies to the rack to cool completely.

Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Yield: 24 cookies.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TWD: Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie

This pie could be a metaphor for my life right now: A hot mess.

I mean, the components are all awesome... coconut crust, bananas, ice cream??? I mean.. you can't go wrong, right? Just like my life... work is busy, awesome vacations and busy weekends... it's all good, don't get me wrong! But it's kind of nice to get those things in small doses on their own, rather than all together at the same time.

But, when you have opportunities to do things in both your personal life and professional life you grab a hold of them and see how long you can hold on to it all (even if everything's happening simultaneously)... so far, I've been holding on tight and I have avoided the crash and burn, but I've still got a couple of weeks to go... so, we'll see what happens.

That's not the case with this pie. Things kept getting thrown into the dish until it was just too much to enjoy, for me.

First of all, I didn't really understand the concept of the pie. It felt like I was eating coconut cookies with chocolate ice cream and sliced bananas. I didn't feel like the flavors really melded all that well together. It was like instead of putting together a Dorie recipe, I was putting together a Rachael Ray dessert. It always annoys me when she makes desserts on her show. Like... seriously.. you don't need to show people how to make an ice cream sundae. Nobody is watching your show (at least the food network one, I never get to see her other show) for dessert recipes, trust me.

I made this for mother's day and was pretty disappointed in the end result. It wasn't that it was awful, cause it certainly wasn't. It just felt like so thrown together and separated. It didn't feel like a homemade dessert to me. Maybe it's partially my fault... I wasn't able to give the recipe the full time in the freezer to really freeze up. But, I kinda feel like that probably wouldn't have helped the issue I had with it. Which is that throwing sliced bananas into some chocolate ice cream and dishing it up in a delicious coconut crust does not a "dessert" make.

You win some, you lose some, I guess. In theory sometimes the idea of putting a whole bunch of things that you love together into one pot is a great idea. But in execution... it doesn's always work out that way, I guess. I'm hoping that's where the similiarities of my life and this recipe end.

Banana Coconut Ice Cream Pie
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan for Tuesdays with Dorie
Chosen by: Spike of Spike Bakes

The recipe called for chocolate ice cream, which I used, despite my better judgement. Dorie mentions that using vanilla ice cream is delicious, it's just the that bananas turn the ice cream a kinda of brownish-gross color. Which... on my own, I wouldn't have cared about. But for Mother's Day... not the best look.

I also skipped the lemon juice.. because... lemon juice and chocolate?? No thanks. But, I'm weird like that.

The real winner in this recipe is the crust!!!! Which I will use again and again.

Recipe Here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TWD: Chockablock Cookies

I am currently gallavanting through Northern California's Wine Country, but please enjoy this post I prepared before I went on vacation. The recipe link at the end of the post will be updated once I get back to show the exact link for the recipe, instead of just the blog that the recipe is listed on. I realize the post is rather boring, but don't take that out on the cookie... it's delicious, I'm just in a rush. Thanks.

One of my favorite things to eat are chewy oatmeal cookies. They are like comfort food in a portable form. And you'd be surprised how hard it is to find oatmeal cookies that turn out chewy and moist instead of dry and brittle.

This recipe was chosen for Tuesdays with Dorie by Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet. And as I read through the recipe the first time, I immediately thought... Oh no, Dorie... dried fruit and chocolate in the same recipe... careful, now, careful. And then... then I saw molasses in the recipe, too! What the????

But, I started thinking about what combination of fruits, nuts, and chocolate I wanted to use that would all complement each other to my own picky palate (that hates chocolate and dried fruit) and go with the molasses as well. And I came up with the perfect combo: dried apricots, dried cranberries, pecans, and white chocolate.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.

These cookies were DELICIOUS. I made them one morning before my mom came over to do some shopping. I made a full recipe, stocked the cookie dough in the freezer for easy baking later and baked up 4 immediately to photograph and take with us for a little snack while shopping. They were awesome!!!! All the flavors really blended well together!

Chockablock Cookies
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan

So easy to make. As I said before, I used white chocolate, dried apricots and dried cranberries and pecans. Wonderful combination.

I've found that I dont like cookie dough that has molasses in it, but I do love the flavor that the molasses imparts once the cookie is baked.

Homey and delicious. A real winner.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TWD: Sweet Cream Biscuits

I know. Biscuits again, right? But this time... there's no buttermilk involved. Not only that, there's also no lard or even butter! Bring out the smelling salts... someone's Aunt Sue Ellen from Montgomery, Alabama just fainted or rolled over in her grave or whatever. Can't call it a biscuit if it doesn't have all of those things or !gasp! none of them! That's just not right. Or not southern, at least.

Well, screw it. These biscuits were the easiest biscuits I've ever made AND they tasted great AND had a great texture. Bring on the cream biscuits!

Now, it's kinda fitting that I'd be making these biscuits. You see, Nashville's own Biscuit Lady, Carol Fay Ellison passed away a couple of weeks ago. Her biscuits were the best biscuits I'd ever had outside of a southern lady's kitchen. They were light and tasty without being too tangy and they were rich without feeling heavy. They were delicious and luckily the recipe lives on at Loveless Cafe. But, I did eat there about a month ago and even though I was on a diet, I couldn't say no to having one biscuit with some honey drizzled on it. YUM.

I'm pretty sure that these sweet cream biscuits will now become my go-to biscuit recipe. Just because they are easy, they require few ingredients and they have a very mild flavor and a fluffy texture that fits perfect with jams, honey, or meats.

The night before I made these biscuits, I cut up some strawberries with some sugar and let it sit in the fridge over night to juice up. Having biscuits with strawberries is a childhood memory from my maternal grandmother. She always served her biscuits piping hot with strawberries that had been picked and stored in the freezer with a little sugar (okay, a LOT of sugar). Delicious.

Of course... when I tasted these biscuits and realized how delicious they were, I had to try them with a little bit of honey drizzled over, as well (my favorite way to eat a biscuit).
These may not seem like traditional biscuits to you when you read the ingredient list... but they sure taste like it.

Sweet Cream Biscuits
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan

So, I always use White Lily flour. It's readily available in every store here and I find it to be the best flour. I love the soft, light texture of the flour. According to Dorie, it's so soft that you should add 2 tbsps for every 1 cup of all purpose that you use White Lily for.

I also did something different this time. I used a ton of flour when I rolled out the dough. I'd always been scared of using too much flour ("lightly dusting" it a relative phrase, I think). But, after watching an episode of Throwdown in which Carol Fay makes her famously delicious biscuits I noticed she used a ton of flour to roll her dough out... And let me tell you... it makes the process SO MUCH EASIER. (Incidentally, she lost on her episode of throwdown, which reminds me... I need to make Bobby's recipe to see how they compare!).

I also still don't have a biscuit cutter, so I just rolled into a square, cut the biscuits into squares with a sharp knife and placed them in a square baking pan that housed all the biscuits to where they were just barely touching each other.

They turned out perfect. Thanks to Melissa of Love at First Bite for choosing this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe. It was a real winner, in my book!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TWD: Swedish Visiting Cake

Well, it's finally happened.

After years of working on my baking, trying new recipes, having massive disappointments and failures, mingled in with some mediocrity and a few really great recipes sprinkled in, it's finally time to pack away the apron.

It's been fun. I love mixing and measuring, nothing soothes me more after a long day than getting lost in a recipe. And even though things don't always turn out utterly yummy... sometimes they do and even when they dont, my friends and family still gush and coo as only friends and family can do.

But this weekend, all that changed.

It all started with Nancy of The Dogs Eat The Crumbs (who, by the way, I just LOVE. She always posts all the crazy 1/4 recipe, 1/2 recipe , 8 inch pan, 10 inch pan, etc measurements (metric, even!!!) that keep math-idiots like myself from pulling my hair out when I don't want to bake an entire recipe to take a bite of and throw away. Stupid diets). She chose a recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie that I have been DYING to try.

The name is simple: Swedish Visiting Cake. And there is a picture accompanying the recipe... that shows a very dry looking cake baked in a skillet with sliced almonds on top. Now, honestly... the picture doesn't make the recipe look all that appealing. But the story that goes along with the recipe, about how it's so quick and easy that it's said you could whip it up in no time for unexpected guests who show up on your doorstep intrigued me. Not that I ever have guests like that... (but I might now).

 So, I was very excited to be finally attempting this recipe. The fact that the timing of the recipe coincides with my busiest time of year (tax season) and also my trying to eat healthy (marathon training season) did not bode well. But I was determined to make this recipe.

Saturday, I did it. And of course... it started off bad. I was halving the recipe, and making it in two mini loaf pans. I managed to halve the recipe easily, except... I totally forget to only use HALF the zest of a lemon (I actually used an orange) and I used the whole thing. I feared a citrus overload, but I kept on plugging. Initially, when I realized my mistake, I considered just making a whole recipe... but decided that that much orange can't be a bad thing.

The moment I took the mini loaves out of the oven, I realized it. I could already tell, just by looking at the cakes that I was done with baking. For years I've been searching for the one thing.. the one baked good that knocks my socks off and with the crunchy, yet moist crust settling on the counter as they cooled, I started to think... could this be the one? This could be the one!!! It could really, finally be the one!!

I waited for them to cool for 5 minutes and then cut into one of them.


Seriously. This is/was hands down the absolute best thing I've ever put into my mouth. It was sweet and slightly gummy and chewy and lightly crispy on top. The texture was amazing. The flavor was amazing. And the effort was amazingly easy.

Hands down, bar none, the best thing I've ever baked. And I honestly can't imagine ever making anything else so satisfying. It's comfort dessert at it's best. It's like the macaroni and cheese of desserts. It's the one, I tell you!!!! THE FREAKING ONE.

I had fantasies that night of adjusting the recipe... maybe adding cocoa for some of the flour to make a chocolate cake. Maybe throwing in some chocolate chips. The opportunities are endless and I feel like there's no reason to bake any more. I've found my baking soul-mate.

Other recipes need not apply.

Swedish Visiting Cake
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan

The easiest cake you'll ever make. I don't even know what else to say except I know that this is a recipe I'll know by heart very soon. I see myself making this many, many times throughout the year. It's simply delicious. The flavor profile is very basic... just sugary (and citrus-y if you added a shit ton of orange zest like I did), but it's the texture of the cake that sets it a part. It's light, but rich. It's moist, but chewy.

I didn't sprinkle the top with almonds, because I didn't have any, but I did use all almond extract in the recipe (simply because I'm out of vanilla extract). It seems like the type of recipe you can easily sub things in and out and still wind up with a delicious treat.
It's amazing.

Find the Recipe here on Nancy's blog, The Dogs Eat The Crumbs.