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Still Waiting {recipe: chocolate chip cheesecake brownies}

20 Jan

Blake wrote this week that millennials are not good at waiting. She is right.

I think this is very true. My whole life I have been more-or-less able to get what I want by working harder, training more, listening better, enduring longer, accomplishing faster…

But, I am quickly learning there are things that we can’t control. Things that we can’t work harder for or change ourselves. We wait for babies to come and cancer to heal seasons to change and someone to fall in love with us and heck, for that really dense beer bread I was put in the oven to bake all the way through. Sometimes we get what we’re waiting for and sometimes we don’t.

Last night, we went to a benefit concert for Real Hope for Haiti. It was amazing. Aaron played. He and Jamie are waiting for a four year old that they met and adopted two years ago to come home to the US. Two years of arduous paperwork has likely been lost and they’re not sure what happens now.

Aaron wrote a song last year about getting their two kids home from Haiti. the two-year-old girl came home in October, and they’re still waiting for Amos, the four-year old boy. Here’s the video:

No matter how hard we work, there are a lot of things that we can’t control. There are a lot of things we just have to wait for. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. waited for people to gain a sense of urgency and open their minds, we too shall wait.  And we should be patient, because as noble as his dreams were, we are still waiting for some of them to happen.

On that note, I will try to work harder at things that I can affect. Like wooing the Labor & Delivery nurses to like me with chocolate. I made fudgy, cheesecake-y brownies that will freeze well and I wrapped them individually and stacked them in the freezer so that I can grab them when we head to the hospital. I hope they work.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Brownie Batter

12 T. butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces

4.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 t. salt

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 T. cinnamon

Cheesecake Batter

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 t. salt

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Make brownie batter: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Heat butter and chocolate over a double-boiler by placing the mixing bowl over simmering water over moderately low heat, whisking occasionally, just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt until well combined. Whisk in flour and cinnamon until just combined and spread in baking pan.

Make cheesecake batter: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until soft. mix in sugar, salt, vanilla and egg yolks. Dollop over brownie batter, sprinkle chocolate chips on top, and then swirl in with a knife or spatula.

Bake brownies: Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is just set, about 35 minutes. Chill in the fridge and then cut carefully. Serve cold.

I hope they like me!

original post:


No Baby Yet {recipe: cranberry vanilla granola bars}

16 Jan

Dear Baby,

Today is your due date. It is 11:36 a.m. and you are not here. You have shown no real signs of wanting to be here. That’s ok. I am usually late to stuff too, so maybe this is the first quality that you’ll take from me. Together, we will annoy your dad for the rest of our lives.

I have done a lot in the past few weeks. I have cooked enough meals that if I did not leave the house for a month, we could still eat well. Don’t worry, if you tear my insides up on your way out, it doesn’t matter because I won’t be having to stand up in the kitchen for any length of time. The freezer shelves are packed carefully with lasagnas with homemade sauce and enchiladas and stuffed peppers and other things that are easy to thaw and throw in the oven. Those all sound like dinner foods, huh? Well don’t worry, because we also have roasted chickens and roast beef for lunches and breakfast food too: batches of muffins and pumpkin bread and fresh granola bars.  And snickerdoodles and chocolate peanut butter cookies and oatmeal scotchies for dessert. It is ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop.

There are still some things I have not finished, but I don’t know that they’re too necessary. Like I haven’t made the mobile to go above your crib (that your little eyes won’t even be able to focus on for months), and I haven’t made the clock (that you won’t be able to read for years). All of the important things are in place, you have a carseat an diapers and a crib an a beautiful room, and most of all, parents and grandparents and lots of friends to love you.

Today we planned fun stuff to do, in case this day comes and goes and you are not ready to come out yet, so that we are not sitting there, staring at each other, waiting. But really we are still waiting. Anticipating. We are just doing it at a coffee shop surrounded by life. There’s a table of four people next to us learning French, a couple who looks like they’ve just recently met and are getting to know each other. There are people reading and studying and to my left there’s a woman from Colombia writing letters, and today, an old friend is the barista. So, we will wait, and we will mask our waiting with activities and plans and conversation, but really, we are just excited for you to get here.

So when you are ready, we will be ready too. Ready to love you with a love that I don’t even thing we understand yet.



Here’s something I made for quick breakfasts in the mornings to come:

Cranberry Vanilla Granola Bars

Makes 16 granola bars, one 9×13 pan.

2 cups oats (old-fashioned, not quick-cooking)
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, loosely packed
2/3 cup honey
2 T. pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350. Butter  a 9×13 pan and line it with parchment paper.

Pour the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Dump the ingredients into a mixing bowl and reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

Add honey, vanilla and salt to the oat mixture and stir until everything is coated in honey, then stir in the cranberries. Dump the mixture into your 9×13 pan and press it into the pan (if you wet your fingers, it’s a little bit easier because the granola won’t stick to your fingers. Get it packed in there as tightly as you can.

Bake about 25 minutes, until light golden brown.

Cool for a few hours, then wedge the giant granola rectangle out of its pan and place it on  a cutting board. Use a long, serrated knife to cut the giant rectangle into bars. Put the granola crumbles in a bag for yogurt topping later.

Now, here’s the key. Store these bars and granola-crumb bag in the freezer. They will last longer and be crunchy…rather than awkwardly sticky granola 🙂 If you want them for on-the-go eating, wrap them individually in foil and put them all in a plastic bag in the freezer. That’s what I did.

original  post:

How to Know When Not to Tip {recipe: pumpkin bread with maple cream cheese icing}

16 Oct

You know how you tip based on the level of difficulty you perceive of the task at hand? Well, maybe you don’t, but I do.

From Pumpkin Bread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

For example:

Venti regular coffee that you just poured out of the drip coffee maker? No tip. I can do that, and do on most mornings.

Tall non-fat double-shot latte with pumpkin syrup (only one pump) and a little of that caramel sauce on the top. Please? Tip for sure. I am embarrassed. I can’t even remember what I ordered.

Valet my car with complimentary restaurant valet and go park it in a tiny spot three cars deep in a lot behind the restaurant because we’re building high-rises in every known parking lot in town? Giant tip. I am not a good driver and would have surely hit at least two cars doing what someone did for me. That would have cost way more than $5.

From Pumpkin Bread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Ok, so now that you know about my tipping strategy, I will tell you about all of the food we brought to my last friend who had a baby.  The meal signup went out. I picked a day, planned my meal, and  then kept adding to it. Maybe they need dessert too. Maybe they need breakfast? Yes, definitely breakfast as well. And juice. And probably some fresh fruit.

My friend just had a baby. I was thinking about why I felt compelled to bring her so much food. Well it is because having a baby seems way more difficult than parking my compact car in a small spot. I perceive it arduous and stressful. I was trying to bring her the I-just-had-a-baby version of a tip.

So we go over there and bring the food and I am holding this beautiful little baby and trying to explain why I brought all of these things and it came out like, “having a baby must be hard. Here is your tip.”

I am awkward. But I make a mean pumpkin bread, so please forgive me. I love you, and your baby, A 🙂 Bottom line, if there’s not a line, or a tip jar, don’t try and relate anything to tipping. You will sound insensitive.

Pumpkin Bread

makes one loaf

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup pumpkin

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup flour

1 t. sat

1 t. baking soda

1/3 cup water

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/2 t. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix first four ingredients thoroughly, then add in the rest of ingredients and mix until combined. Pour int oa buttered 9×5 loaf pan and bake 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar

1/4 c. pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy (this will take about 10 minutes).

Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

From Pumpkin Bread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

I Love Carbs Now, Honestly {recipe: chocolate caramel oat bars}

22 Sep

I am going to be honest with you, because it will be best to maintain honesty in our friendship. I originally made these bars to send to my brother. And then I ate them all.

Sorry, Ben.

I shall make more. Actually, I am a little afraid to make more in case the same thing happens where I lose all willpower and then eat too, too many. So maybe I will make you something slightly less tasty.

In the spirit of honesty, there is more I should share… all these tidbits of pregnancy that I did not expect. Honestly…

1. The first is that dutiful willingness to indulge in many a baked treat or carb. I have never been much of a bread or pasta eater, thinking meals laden with such things leave me feeling full and sleepy, but now I have a newfound love for them. Especially when I am hungry and turn into the need-to-eat-now-or-the-hungry-monster-will-take-control-of-my-emotions person, nothing fixes that quicker than a quick pasta dinner or frozen pizza (gasp!) for dinner.

2. There is a sense of pride that comes when someone you don’t know, asks you in public when you are due. At this point, you can stop wondering if everyone just thinks you drink a lot of beer.

3. The willingness of other pregnant ladies to share their pregnancy/baby things. Right now, I am wearing Erika‘s shirt and Olivia‘s pants. Amber-Rose‘s sling and Coralee’s Baby Bjorn are patiently awaiting a newborn, tucked away in the closet, and Jackie’s soft, green crib bumpers are rolled up on the floor, where the crib  will go in the nursery. I didn’t ask for any of these things. Friends just willingly shared from what they had from their own babies. Think of what life would look like if we did that with all stages of life.

4. Temporary, overwhelming emotions to a not-over-emotional person like me.

5. Pain. I came back from a run last week with shooting pain in my back and down my leg. I am only 23 weeks pregnant. This will get worse and I am a little irritated that the pain has started now, and not 12 weeks from now.

6. A sense of feeling. Other than physical pain and other than the occasional over-emotional times that I mentioned before. I feel like if pregnancy has done anything to me, it has made me ‘feel’ things more, giving me a heightened sense of emotion. I like it. I would say that I am someone who shoves things out of my mind and would rather not deal with things that are hard because they can cause hurt, and consequently, I don’t feel as much excitement around happy things as I should, because I feel like getting really stoked about something only sets me up for disappointment, and then that hurt that I so desperately avoid. So….I am hoping I can hold on to this. Not being an emotional wreck, but just having heightened senses of excitement and sadness, because I am finding that those things only drive me to a healthy empathy and sorrow, or joy and thanksgiving.

7. Pregnant does not always mean tired. There have been multiple mornings that I have quit fighting insomnia at the wee hour of 4am and just gotten up to start the day.

8. General largeness. I knew I would get bigger, but I really only thought my stomach would get bigger. I have jeans that side low, on my hips below my waist. I left these jeans in the closet when I rid the racks of any clothing I knew would not accommodate my growing belly. Much to my surprise, I am 23 weeks in and, um, none of those pants fit. Apparently all other body parts grow throughout pregnancy as well. Some more than others, but we won’t go there. This weekend, I will conduct Round Two of maternify-my-closet, and all such pants will be banished to the storage tubs, sealed, and placed on the floor of the closet, not to be opened until June of 2010.

9. Nosebleeds. And giant veins. I look like a body-builder. You gain something like three pounds just in blood during pregnancy…and it shows on me. So much that for 10 days straight the veins in my node would burst from so much pressure and I had nosebleeds.

10. Excitement and Fear. Fear of pain. Of giving birth. Of raising a human. Of not being enough…and Excitement to experience new life. To give birth. To raise a child with my husband. To try.

Chocolate Caramel Oat Bars

from Half-baked

2 2/3 cup oats, rolled, old fashioned or quick cooking, divided

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
32 kraft caramels, unwrapped (or, a bag of the new kraft caramel bits for baking)
5 tbsp cream
1 cup chocolate chips

Grease or butter a 9×13 pan.

Take 1 2/3 c. oats and whirl through a food processor until they resemble a fine flour.

Combine oat flour, baking soda, salt and stir well. Stir in oats and brown sugar. Cut butter into dry ingredients until crumbly.

Press half of mixture into a lightly greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
While the base is baking, in a small saucepan, melt the caramels in the cream until smooth.

Remove pan from the oven. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the base. Drizzle the caramel mixture on top. Add remaining oat mixture. Return to the 350 degrees oven for another 10 – 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow bars to cool before cutting. Because they don’t contain any flour or eggs the carmalites are not as thick and a little most crumbly than most bar cookies but they taste so good you won’t mind.


This Will Change Your Life (and mine) {recipe: starbucks banana walnut bread}

1 Sep

Back in May, exactly one day after Mother’s Day and two days after I had thrown a baby shower for my most wonderful friend, I, myself peed on the magic wand to discover some timely news.

I have not told you all yet, blog readers,  but I, two-years-and-change-into-marriage, what-should-I-do-with-my-life, oh-things-are-so-easy-to-not-have-kids, am pregnant. Yes, sometime in mid-January we are supposed to be having a baby. I am just sure ours will come via stork, clean and wrapped in a nice blanket and not with the traditional arsenal of medical tools awaiting every pregnant woman at the hospital. I am sure.

From starbucks banana bread

That being said, I have the normal pregnancy stuff, nothing that I can really tell you which would be out of the ordinary. But there is one little caveat. The only thing I didn’t expect is probably this craziness of feelings and thoughts and emotions. I am not a huge “feeler.” I would say, in any event I sort of guard myself from becoming too excited that I would be devastated if let down, and I also deny becoming too upset about anything, because what is that going to help, really?

Let me tell you what has changed. Not just my expanding waistline, or the fact that I am a human incubator harboring giant soon-to-be milk factories, or that any time after 2pm, I could slide into unsuspecting narcolepsy, or that I think if I don’t find out this baby’s gender, I can’t feel bad that I don’t feel prepared for this baby because heck, I don’t even know if it is a boy or a girl. Oh, there is more than that.

We shall call it a tornado of emotions. Now, I would not call myself an over-emotional person. Moreover, I think that I don’t get excited enough about things because I fear disappointment, or that I am not greived enough, because I am trying to shield myself from pain and hurt. Until now. Now, there is no filter. No shielding.

So, last Saturday, I was a huge jerk to my loving husband. I then proceeded to cry, uncontrollably, for at least 90 minutes and between sobs said things like, “I am so overwhelmed,” and, “I am just sad.” And Jon would have done anything to help, but all I wanted was for him to “sit there with me” to console me, after I was so rude. Then I got over the overwhelmed part and cried because I was being a horrible wife and how am I supposed to be a good mother if I am already a horrible wife? It went on. He stayed. Consoled. I survived.

Whew. So, I got through it and I am back now, in action, but something inside me thinks that will not be the last time.

Well, a few good things have come out of the last week. We had some friends and their cute baby over for breakfast last Sunday and I made this banana banana bread that is so, so good. I then proceeded to make it three more times within the following week. That’s how good it is.

All that being said, the banana bread will change your life; the banana bread AND the baby will change mine. Can you tell I am nervous?

From starbucks banana bread

I can’t take credit for this recipe. I started with a recipe for Starbuck’s Banana Walnut Bread that they posted on their corporate site. With a few modifications, this is awesome.

Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread

makes one 9×5 in. loaf.

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/8 cup sugar

1 egg

1 T. vanilla

2 c. flour

1 t. baking soda

3/4 t. cinnamon

3 very-ripe bananas

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 325 F and grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

Mix together oil and sugar until blended. Add egg and vanilla and stir.

Stir in flour, cinnamon and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, mash bananas until creamy and then stir in  buttermilk.

Add banana mixture to flour mixture andstir to combine.

Stir in half of nuts.

Pour batter into pan and top with remaining nuts.

Bake 45-60 minutes or until wooden toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

From starbucks banana bread

Everything Can Wait {recipe: toffee shortbread bars}

2 Aug

Everything can wait.

From toffee cookie bars

My work ‘to do’ list is organized and pristine, nothing is crossed off.

The floors in my house are grimy and there are dishes in the sink and I head out tomorrow for a four-day conference that will have, perhaps, no down time.

But, it can all wait. Erika and Micah are having a baby. And Jon and I aren’t going to miss a second of it. Somehow, what I would have stressed myself out with tonight has found a way to fit itself into tomorrow’s schedule. Tomorrow there will be time. Now, we wil wait in the waiting room among family and a now-empty Domino’s pizze buffet complete with four boxes of cinnastix (courtesy of the father-in-law).

Rewind 38 weeks and three days ago. Erika called about an hour after peeing on a pregnance test that gave back two lines unstead of one. I feel like I have been waiting a long time and it is not even my baby. I can’t imagine how long it has been for her and Micah.

Ten weeks before that, we sat in their living room and talked abou the domestic adoption that they were pursuing wholeheartedly, until the news that would follow. And, only five weeks before that. we met at a mutual friends’ house. So much has happened in a year. Our relationship has progressed so quickly: meeting, birthday celebrations, camping trips, adoption plans, tuesday night conversations that went so late they ended in overnight stays  in guest rooms, dinner parties, pregnancy news, holidays, early-morning grocery trips, late-night dinners, more pregnancy news, and now, childbirth.

It has been 30 hours. That is a lot of hours.

They are going on 40 hours of no sleep, 30 hours of labor, and 28 hours of no food for Erika. Laughs and joking have turned to prolonged waiting as she pushes through resisting a cesarean delivery. It is go time. We, in the waiting room, hear there is lots of pushing going on in the delivery room. What was once soft, mood-type lighting in her room has I am sure turned into a spotlight show, with bright lights and lots of instruments and hairnets. All so glamorous.

Well, Erika, this one is for you. I think we polished off a plate of these cookies after dinner one night a few months age 🙂

From toffee cookie bars

Toffee Shortbread Bars

adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces almonds, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325°F and grease a 9-x-13-inch pan.

Beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, then add brown sugar and beat on medium high until fully mixed. Add in vanilla and beat for 30 seconds on medium-high. Turn mixer to low and mix in flour and salt. Press dough into prepared pan. It will be thin.

Bake until shortbread is golden brown,  firm at edges and slightly soft in center, about 30 minutes.

Take shortbread out of oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the shortbread. Place back in oven for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and using a spatula, spread the chocolate out evenly over the shortbread. Sprinkle the almond pieces on top of the chocolate. Let cool. Place in fridge for 30 minutes and then break into pieces.

From toffee cookie bars

Good luck, E. It’s 9:36 and I think you’re almost there.

Pre baby, Oct 2008
Pre-baby, October 2008
New Year’s Eve, 2008
May 2009

July 2009

For the Birds {recipe: nut and seed biscotti}

28 May

Recently, Rocky has really become quite the watchdog. We have a picnic table in the backyard and he takes the liberty to sit on top of it. From there, he can see into a few of our neighbors’ yards and also moniter all bird activity in a 100-yard radius. Oh, how he would love to snag a bird. I even got a birdhouse that Jon put up in the back yard to entice the birds to come into the back yard and entertain him.

It is all very cute.The bridge here is that this biscotti is maybe a little like bird food. It is full of toasted nuts and seeds and whole wheat flour.I like to say that this is a biscotti for the tea drinkers. It’s not heavy and doesn’t need the sweetness that normal biscotti does to hold its own against bitter coffee. This biscotti is perfect with a cup of herbal tea. I am going to recommend something like a tarragon lemon tea. Yes that would be perfect.

Nut and Seed Biscotti

This is totally not my recipe at all. It came from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks. Her site is full of recipes and fabulous.

makes about 15 pieces.
1 1/3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups mixed nuts and seeds (I used a combo of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sliced almonds, and pistacios)
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup natural cane sugar, fine grain
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 300F degrees. Rack in the middle. Lightly butter or oil a 1-pound loaf pan and line with parchment paper.

If you are using any whole nute, place them in a plastic bag or between two sheets of waxed paper. Bang them with a meat tenderizer or a wooden spoon or rolling pin to get them into smaller pieces.

Combine the flour, nuts and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a separate large bowl whisk together eggs and sugar. Add the flour-nut mixture to the egg mixture and stir until combined. The dough will be quite thick. Scoop into the prepared pan and press the dough into place using damp fingertips. You want to be sure everything is nice and compact, level on top, with no air bubbles hiding in there. Bake for 45-50 minutes – or until the loaf tests done. If you under-cook the loaf at this stage, it makes slicing difficult. Remove loaf from the oven, and turn the oven up to 425F.

Immediately run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the loaf, remove it from pan, and set the loaf upside down on a cutting board. Using a thin serrated knife (or the thinnest, sharpest knife you have), slice the loaf into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet. brush tops with a bit of olive oil and bake for 3-4 minutes or until the bottoms are a touch golden and toasty. Pull them out of the oven, flip each one, and brush the other side with olive oil. Bake for another 4-5 minutes or until nice and crisp. Let cool.

Here are some pics of the other animals, you know, so they don’t get jealous.