Friday, March 4, 2011

math is always better with food

Becca, here.

Lately I've had the opportunity to do some practice teaching for school in a first grade classroom.  It only lasted 3 weeks, but there is one thing I've learned: kids understand fractions in terms of food.

One half a pizza.  One-fourth of a cookie.  One-third of a pie. It's enough to make any one hungry, especially if math is before lunch.

Today was our last day in the classroom, so it was time to whip out some food fun.

I recently bought a cupcake pan from Wal-Mart that was on sale for $4! Steal! The molds are set for one 'bottom' and one 'top' of a muffin/cupcake.  I can't wait to play around different kids to make!
Today's are simple.  White cake mix dyed different colors. I'm all out of red dye... 

Each kid got a half of a cupcake and had to find their other half.  Once they partnered up, they got a little icing to seal the deal.  They loved it!

Note to self: Always use food in future math lessons. Or Science, English, History...

granola bars from a granola freak.

Ally, here.

Back in our days in Washington, Becca and I could not get enough granola. I think the Northwest is the granola capital of the world or something (I'm possibly making this up), but as everyone there is super outdoorsy, it just makes sense to eat granola. And eat granola, we did.

And that love for granola made it all the way back to Kentucky (and Louisiana), where I consume a box of granola a week. My recent favorite is Kashi Cocoa Beach. Chocolate granola. Genius. Try it.

Anyway, besides loving simple granola, I also love granola bars. And as I am a girl in constant need of snacks (eating is a good way to stay awake during my less-than-thrilling classes), I go through a lot of granola bars. So I decided to make my own.

And with the help of GoodLife Eats, I have a pretty simple recipe for granola bars that taste good and aren't full of corn syrup! (By the way, you should check out her website and look at her photos, as her granola bars are far more beautiful than mine.)

I've been making these every few weeks for the last month or so. I haven't done the calculations to determine if it is less expensive to make your own granola bars or buy some at the store, but I always feel better about eating something I made myself.

These granola bars are chewy and delicious. The husband loves them and requests a batch to take to work every few weeks for snacks (I guess we're a snacking family).

Almond Butter Granola Bars
adapted from here

2 1/2 cups oats (I used half old-fashioned and half steel cut)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup honey
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup almond butter
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine oats, cinnamon, honey, vanilla, and almond butter. Mix until well combined. Add almonds and dried fruit and mix until incorporated.

Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper. Press the mixture into the baking pan until tightly packed.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in the freezer until firm. Lift the parchment paper out of the pan and cut granola into 8-12 bars.

I store my granola bars in an airtight container in the freezer to keep them fresh and then grab them on the go. They thaw out pretty quickly, so you can eat them almost immediately.

Hope you'll enjoy some granola bars and dream about the Northwest sometime soon!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

a cake with an alter ego

Becca, here.

This past weekend we celebrated our dearest friend, Meredith! Whenever birthday's arrive, it's really our favorite excuse to throw a party all for them.  The theme this time: Alter Ego.
Check out my pal, Meagan's blog for details other than food :)

For the birthday cake, I knew it had to be somethin' special. What's is a cake's alter ego? 
Found my answer at 'I am baker'Love her. She just doesn't know it. 
Seeing as this will probably be the one and only time I'll actually successfully make one of her astounding cakes...I decided it needed to be shared.  
Thanks 'I am baker' for your awesome inspiration!

Check out the link above for much better step-by-step directions, please.  I'm afraid all my patience is gone after making this cake, so I'll just chat about what I did...

It's already a 'Becca' cake if you have make it using Diet Sprite or Diet 7-Up. 
I can't remember the last time I made a cake with eggs or oil. 
It's a Weight Watchers recipe that really helps this dieting bride! 

I use: 1 box of cake mix for 1 1/4 cup (or 1 can) Fresca/Diet Sprite/Diet 7-UP

I should play around with the measurements more.  I don't think the fiance or roommates would mind ;)

Meredith's all-time-favorite cake combo is white with chocolate icing.  So I compromised my need for extreme flavors and made a funfetti cake + a white cake (dyed pale orange).  I wanted pink, but alas I only had about 4 drops of red dye left.  


The hard part for a dothingsasquicklyaspossible type of gal: freeze the cakes for 6 hours. 

Yep, make sure you have time for this.  
Go about your Satruday or Sunday (or day you decide to skip class)
Then return.

I made the cakes, then used our large coffee-canister to draw a circle on a piece of poster-board, then another circle in the middle using a coffee mug.  You'll have concentric circles that will look like a target when you're done carving the cake. 

it helps to have a real sharp knife!

Now, take your cake rings (carefully!) out and alternate their layers.  I did not make a simple syrup or anything to help the layers stick (and it would have been helpful).  But, I thought icing would do the trick.  

And if you know know I love icing.

I'm the "Can I have the corner piece?" girl.  

So, needless to say I slathered this thing in chocolate icing & it was onto the party!

Happy Birthday to my sweet friend, Mere!  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

hearts full of "sweet" stuff

Happy day after Valentine's Day!  
Hope you enjoyed some treats over the past day or week (sometimes Holiday's can be extended if need be)
So for a little Valentine's day fun Chad and I had a little picnic with some little extra pieces of fun.

Cake balls from the previously mentioned BrewHaHa Coffee. 
Major difference between Chad and I enjoy them?  
I savor every bite and he devours in one foul chomp.
Valentine's day flavors he choose: funfetti (personal favorite so far, still in the fridge!), double chocolate, strawberry, and cookies 'n cream.  

Chad loves cheese. More than cake.  After seeing some entertaining pictures of wedding cakes make of cheese, I decided it would be funny to make my own cheese art.
Purchased his favorite cheese (Jalapeno-Cayenne Cheddar) at Whole Foods and got to work. Easy to carve...because it's...cheese. And the wax that was originally around the half circle piece was simple to re-form.  Cut two strips out of the wax & microwaved it on 15 second incriments.  Re-formed around the heart!
So there you are. My 'Funny' Valentine.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Good Eaters are Good People to Have Around

Becca, here.

It's hard for me to define where 'home' is these days. Born in Baton Rouge, raised in Mechancisville, VA, and back to my roots now in Baton Rouge.  So with two states claiming memories of childhood and young adulthood, I say: Home Is Where Your Stomach Is.  (If I knew how to needlepoint that phrase I'd jump all over that craft project to hang at my new residence with Chad here in THREE MONTHS!!! yeah, I'm excited about becoming a wifey). 

With that in mind, I also believe it's the people you eat with that count where your home is.  Maybe it's  living in the South (not you VA- you, Louisiana!) or maybe God knew I needed people who loved cooking and food as much as I do, but there is never a shortage of good food when friends gather around.

Last weekend we threw a little surprise toga party for our favorite Greek food lover, Meg! She's always played around with a toga party, but seeing as this is our last college birthday for the gal (what will 'real world adult' parties be like?) we decided we needed to Make.This.Happen.

Here's the result!

You've got your Caesar salad, hummous, pesto-twists, and...King Cake?
Caesar was a king, right?
We won't mention the mishap of the supposed-to-be Chocolate Cake. Thank the Lord for grocery stores and the supply of King Cake throughout Carnival Season.

I made the Caesar Salad.  Obviously it's a no-brainer, but here's my twist:

Caesar 'would be oh so proud' Salad
1 head of lettuce -I used Whole Foods Romaine..but wait, this is Greek, not Rome! ha..ha...get it? :)
1 bottle of your favorite Caesar salad dressing
1 tomato (if you like!)
1 small loaf of rustic bread  for croutons(thanks again, Whole Foods! I have a complete stickered bread card!)
Plentiful handfuls of grated Parmesean-Asiago cheese blend
Plus, seasoning for croutons

Chop lettuce and mix in a bowl with tomato.  Set aside.
Roughly dice bread into bit size cubes.  Drizzle with some olive oil (as the Greeks would do, yes?), sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, and a little S&P. Bake in 425 oven for about 10 minutes, or until crispy. I think I might have broiled them for a little bit too just to crisp them a little more. 
Add your choice dressing, cheese, and mix!
Eat like a Greek would.

The pesto twists were pretty simple too.  Meg and Meredith have made them before. 

Pesto Twists
1 can of cresant rolls
1 jar of pesto

Lay out cresant rolls and slice into strips.  With a basting brush, slather with pesto. Twist the dough strips and bake as directed on container (350 for about 7 minutes).

So that was our Greek meal. 
Hooray for a friend, good food, and birthday's to celebrate!
To catch you up on other eatings that never got blogged, enjoy the photos taken from our Christmas party at our place back in December.  Maybe this is just a tease to blog later..

Natalie's spinach chicken roll-ups & Chad's twice baked potatoes 
Meredith's Spinach & Artichoke dip
My Pink Champagne Cupcakes (thanks Betty Crocker!)
See yall at the next party!

oats and cinnamon: a winning combination

Ally, here.

Our apologies, little blog. It's been awhile.

After our 12 days of cookies blogfest, I thought I would avoid cookies for a bit. But, of course, there were some cookies that I just couldn't get enough of. I've been making these chocolate cookies for every possible occasion since December. There's just something about cookies that is too wonderful. I could seriously eat them everyday. And lately, that's what I've been doing.

I recently organized all of my baking supplies and discovered a bag of cinnamon chips. I love cinnamon. And since I'm pretty sure it provides some mega health benefits, I don't feel bad about adding it to everything. Now, I'm sure that the cholesterol-lowering powers of cinnamon are greatly outweighed by the butter and sugar in these cookies, but just ignore that and believe that these cookies are good for you. They have oats in them, so they can also be consumed as a breakfast food, if you're feeling wild.

I based this recipe on another 12 days of cookies recipe for oatmeal cookies. This recipe has the best consistency of any oatmeal cookie I've tasted, and I've tasted a lot of oatmeal cookies. So try it out and let me know what you think!

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla (you could add more, if you please. I spilled some extra into mine...)
2 eggs
2 cups oats
cinnamon chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda, powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with a mixer. Mix in honey and vanilla until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix in oats and cinnamon chips (in an amount of your liking).

Form into balls and place on baking sheets. Bake 13 to 15 minutes.

I recommend enjoying these with a steaming mug of hot chocolate, stirred with a cinnamon stick. You're going to love it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the final cookie

Ally, here.

Here it is folks, the final cookie from the epic 12 Days of Christmas Cookies. And it's a good one to end on, my friends.

The final cookie is an oatmeal cookie. But this is not your run of the mill oatmeal cookie. It's full of random ingredients that I never would have thought would taste appetizing together. But my, oh my, did they taste good. Cinnamon, honey, coconut, and dried cranberries. Yum. You'll never eat an ordinary oatmeal cookie again.

So take a deep breath and prepare yourself for Guy Fieri's crazy oatmeal cookies.

2 cups flour (I used whole wheat, as always)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 cups quick oats
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped (I left this out)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, soda, powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with a mixer. Mix in honey and vanilla until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix in coconut, cranberries, oats, and rosemary. Fold dry ingredients into the butter mixture.

Form into balls and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake 13 to 15 minutes. Cool on cookie racks.

You're going to love it!

Please let us know if you've tried any of our blogging adventures for yourselves! We love comments!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Never fear, Christmas cookies are still here.

Becca here. 

I am terribly sorry for the delay of the Christmas cookie wrap up.  It's actually all my fault. Leaving computer at the apartment while home for the holidays and then just being busy.  Maybe no one would have noticed, but Ally and I have to finish what we started.  

A while a month ago...I made the Day 11 cookie.  What I didn't realize until making it was that this was what my family calls Russian Tea Cakes.  Why Russian, I do not know. This recipe used walnuts instead of the pecans my family uses.  They were good! But I must admit, if I'm going to eat a cookie...I want to eat a COOKIE. 

Polvorones (Ground Walnut Cookies)

You'll need:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup powdered sugar (plus more for serving)

Begin by...
Preheating oven to 325°F

With an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. 
Add the sugar and beat until well blended. 

Beat in the flour, and then the ground and chopped walnuts.

Divide the dough in half, forming each half into a ball.

Wrap separately in plastic and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

When you're forming the cookies, keep the dough you aren't using in the fridge so it keeps cool.

I used a Tablespoon and formed each cookie into a ball, to be about that size.

(Be careful to not break them! Fragile little guys...)


If you're like me, you'll want to roll them around in powdered sugar once they are completely cool.  It makes it look more like a snowball I think.
Enjoy! Merry Winter!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Candy. INSIDE. A Cookie.

Becca, here.

Catching up on the 12 days of cookies that have turned into the 20 days. Oh well, just spreading the cookie love a little longer, right?

So here we have Day #10.  Alton Brown's Peppermint Pinwheels.  Mine didn't turn out very pinwheel-ish. But they were still edible so all was not lost.

Some adjustments I made:
1. I bought sugar cookie dough.  I had every intention of making them during finals but that didn't happen. Still, it was easier to have pre-made dough this time around.
2. I made the dough and didn't use it for 2 days.  Woops.  When I melted the chocolate and added it to the dough, I didn't realize that it would harden the dough when it was in the fridge.  So I had to wait until I would be around long enough to let it thaw out and then make.
3. I don't have a rolling pin (still...come on Christmas!) and couldn't find a hammer.  So my candy cane pieces were quite large.  If you like candy canes then you'll love these! I did.

Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels

Gather up:
1 batch Sugar Cookies, recipe follows
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk (I didn't use this...or the vanilla, since I bought my own dough)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Here's what you do:

Divide the dough in half and add chocolate and vanilla to 1 half and incorporate with hands. Add egg yolk, peppermint extract, and crushed candy to other half of dough and incorporate with hands. Cover both with plastic and chill for approximately 5 minutes. Roll out doughs separately to approximately 1/4-inch thickness. Place peppermint dough on top of chocolate and press together around the edges. Using waxed paper or flexible cutting board underneath, roll dough into log. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 2 hours.

(When I made mine, they were really difficult to make 'pinwheels' so they turned into something swirled like)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Place cookies 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat and bake for 12 to 13 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking time. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Sugar Cookie:

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

I hope you're beginning to like cookies!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

day 9: fruit and nut shortbread

Ally, here.

Like I said before, we're playing a bit of catch up here.

Day 9 of the ultimately awesome cookie baking extravaganza delivered a recipe for fruit and nut shortbread cookies. I will be completely honest with you here and tell you that I had no desire to blog about these cookies. I don't like shortbread. I don't really enjoy dried fruit and chocolate. But, we promised to bake these cookies, so that's what I did. And I'm here to deliver the bad news that they weren't very good. But I'm also here to deliver my ideas for making them delicious.

Melissa d'Arabian's Fruit and Nut Holiday Shortbread

-1 stick butter, at room temperature
-1/3 cup sugar
-1 cup flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 cup chopped pecans
-1/4 cup dried cranberries
-2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
-2 tablespoons orange marmalade

Now, if you're like me, you probably read that last ingredient and immediately started singing "Lady Marmalade" in your head. You should know that marmalade is basically a jam, not just a Christina Aguilera song. Although I remember jamming out to that song a time or two.

Anyway, back to the directions.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter and the sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer.

In a small bowl, mix the flour and salt. Add to the butter and sugar mixture, a little at a time, until just uniform. Gather the dough into a ball and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Roll the dough out to about a 1/2-inch thickness and cut into squares or rectangles. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the pecans, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, and orange marmalade.

Remove the cookies from the oven and top with the marmalade mixture. Bake for 7 or 8 more minutes.

Maybe you are one of those people who genuinely enjoys shortbread cookies and the dried fruit and chocolate combination. If so, more power to you. You should try these.

If you are more like me, forget about the marmalade mixture and try drizzling these with chocolate. And maybe sprinkle some peanuts on top of that. The shortbread cookies themselves weren't bad, but the topping just wasn't for me. Let me know if you try anything different!

You're going to love it!