TGA- Day Three

Posted: March 10, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure | 1 Comment »

Today truly was an adventure.  The plan for the day was to work on making bread, and at the (joking) request of a couple students I thought it might be interesting to try our hand at making matzo.  Here is the schedule I had in my head:  1. Use the leftover pie crust to make empanadas.  2. Make bread dough and set to rise.  3. While dough is rising, make matzo.  4. Punch down bread, shape it and bake it.  5.  Clean while waiting for bread.  6.  Pull out bread to cool while we finish cleaning.  Done. 

Now, for those of you that don’t know much about teaching, or life, here is a little tip.  NOTHING works out like you plan.  Here is how the day really went:

1. Make empanadas for the kids (success!)  2. Make bread dough and set to rise (here is where I start to get some hope that this will go according to plan…my mistake)  3. Send a kid to get matzo meal because I’m a dumbass and forgot to get it at the store.  4.  Follow the recipe for matzo, and find that it does not work.  5.  Experiment for a while to see if anything makes it better.  6.  Nothing does.  7.  Bake matzo anyway just to see what happens then check the bread.  8.  Discover that bread has not risen AT ALL.  9.  Try to work with the bread anyway to see what happens (you know, the matzo method).  10.  End the day with some DISGUSTING matzo and some delicious, but very dense bread. 

Bread:

1 -1/3 C warm water

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp butter

4 rounded cups flour

1 tsp active dry yeast

Dissolve salt and sugar into water and add yeast.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes until the mixture gets frothy.  Then add the butter to the mixture and slowly add flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and work the dough with your hands, adding more flour as you go.  Knead the bread until it is no longer sticky and is very elastic.  Form dough into a ball and put in a greased bowl.  Cover and place in a warm dark place to rise, hopefully, until it is double in size and looks a little spongy (about an hour).  I always proof my bread in a closed( and off) oven with a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven.  Punch the dough down and form into a loaf.  Let it rise again for about 30 minutes, then bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  You will know the bread is done when it is brown on top and sounds hollow when you tap it with your finger. 

You can also make it into rolls if you use a muffin tin.  Cut the dough into  small pieces, roll them into balls, dip them in melted butter and put three in a muffin cup.  Bake for 15-20 minutes. 

Matzo:

Don’t.   Just don’t….  Its totally worth it to buy the box on this one. 

Although the kids did have fun with the dough and ended up making  their very own “Wilson” out of their left over matzo dough…

My life has never been so interesting…


The Great Adventure- Day Two

Posted: March 9, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure | No Comments »

PIE!  While our biscuits didn’t turn out the way we expected (totally my fault), making biscuits did give me a nice segue into making pie crust.  Its basically the same thing: cut butter into flour and add liquid.  So we started out making our crusts with the end goal of making three pies: apple, chocolate chip, and sugar cream.  I’m pretty sure by the end of the day the kids were totally over the process of cutting butter into flour since its a giant pain in the tuchas without a food processor.  But they did a fantastic job and we made a total of 10 pie crusts and made 9 pies.  We made one apple pie as a group, because thats what we had enough apples for and then four pies of the other two.  

The apple pie turned out really well, although I think some of the kids prefered to eat the precooked apples more than the pie itself.  Not that I blame them, I do the same thing.  We started by peeling and coring eight apples, which was pretty amusing for me.  I’m surprised at how many kids aren’t comfortable using a knife, even to cut an apple.  I guess its a good thing that they aren’t well versed in weaponry, but it was still a little surprising.  After the apples were prepped we added a cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, 1 tsp of cinnamon, a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg.  Everyone did well rolling out their crust, although tomorrow I think we are going to have a discussion about over-flowering.  We set the crust in the pie pan, tossed in the apples, topped with a second crust and voila!  Ten minutes at 450 and 40 minutes at 350 and we had a fully baked apple pie. 

     

While that was baking/cooling, we got started with the chocolate chip pie and sugar cream pie.  Both of these are single crust pies, but neither are blind baked.  

Chocolate Chip Pie: 

1 cup each flour, sugar and brown sugar. 

2 eggs 

1 stick of butter 

1 cup of chocolate chips coarsely chopped. 

Bake 325 for an hour.  Some of the kids got a little overzealous with the chocolate chips.  If you add a couple extra, no big deal, but if you add a whole extra cup, it really starts to mess with the structural integrity of the pie.  Unfortunately we are still having trouble with one of our ovens, so these got a little too cooked and I forgot to bring foil to prevent the crust from over baking.  We still ate the ones that weren’t too overcooked and they tasted pretty good.  

A little toasty...But delicious!

 

The sugar cream was pretty easy, just mix together 1 1/3 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup cream, 3/4 cup milk and pour it into the unbaked pie crust.  Dot with small pieces of butter and sprinkle with nutmeg.  Bake for 10 minutes at 450 and 30 minutes at 350.  These came out looking great and I’m excited for the kids to try them.  This pie is very sweet and creamy, so its normally served with a less sweet whipped cream. All in all a good day.  Day three will begin by using the left over pie scraps to make BBQ chicken empanadas with some pie for dessert.


The Great Adventure -Day One

Posted: March 7, 2011 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, The Great Adventure, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Sometimes you have to go outside your comfort zone.  Today I not only left my comfort zone, but rather, I was launched headfirst out of it.  As some of you know, I started a new job this year and as part of my job, I am responsible for planning a 2 week experiential learning class each year.  This year, I am teaching a class of 8 kids about baking.  We have rented a kitchen, I have ordered a ridiculous amount of flour, sugar, eggs, butter, etc… and I have gone shopping for tons and tons of kitchen equipment (which, by the way, was probably some of the most fun I’ve ever had…even at IKEA on a Saturday).  Up until yesterday all that was left to do was actually teach it.  That’s where the problem came in, because once I actually sat down for a second and thought about the adventure I was about embark upon, I freaked out.  I don’t know if it was the stress of getting everything ready AND getting my exams/grades/comments together, or if I just really never fully thought about it as a real thing, but all my insecurities came out last night.  And they didn’t just make a quick appearance and then peace out, they came in full force with tents, hiking gear and coolers of food to last them through the long, cold winter. What if I forgot something?  What if they hated it and I couldn’t make baking fun?  What. If. I. Forgot. How. To. BAKE?!  Obviously failure is not the end of the world, but seeing as this is my first foray into anything like this, I think I am justified in a little freak out.  Luckily I got through today without tanking epically.  Here’s how the day went:

I took two trips over to the kitchen to bring all of our stuff and at 8:45 I was in the kitchen, ready to go.  The kids were supposed to be there at 9.  At 9am, I had one kid. Everyone else rolled in around 9:10-9:15 ish, saying that they had gotten lost.  Apparently I was not as explicit in my directions as I should have been, but eventually everyone found their way down and we were set to go. 

Before we could really do anything we had to get set up, get acquainted with the kitchen and wash all the new stuff.  I always like to wash new stuff before I use it, especially after wandering around the stores and seeing a little kid sneeze and then pick up a cutting board…you never know what that stuff has been through before you get it.  So we spent the morning doing dishes and getting the equipment set up. 

Then we got started with biscuits.  We needed a few things so we ran to the grocery next door.  Then the kids broke into pairs and we got started.  We went over various techniques and tips, like keep your butter very cold and how to cut butter into your dry ingredients even though it can take forever.  We rolled out our dough, cut it and baked it.  As I was trying the first round, I was starting to bask in the overall success that was our first day (I wasn’t a total failure!!).  But something tasted a little off.  I figured it was just the oven (its from the 3rd century) and didn’t give it another thought.  Some of the biscuits were overcooked because the ovens run pretty hot…like 75 degrees off, but overall they came out great and the kids did really well. 

After lunch, we went for another attempt on the biscuits, this time without my direct instruction.  The kids kind of went off course, wanting to try various things like putting unsweetened cocoa powder in, but I figured there was nothing wrong with trying new things.  Some of them came out pretty good, like the cheddar cheese biscuits and the brown sugar biscuits, others were… interesting.  No matter how many biscuits I tried though, something still seemed off and I was really starting to worry about if the ovens were going to make all of our food taste a little off. 

The kids got the kitchen all clean and I sent them on their way, and it wasn’t until I was packing up for the day that I realised why everything tasted different.  Trader Joes baking soda comes in a can just like the baking powder that I use.  We were supposed to be using a Tbsp of baking powder, but instead we were using baking soda.  AAANNNDDD….I’m dumb.  I can’t believe I didn’t notice that!  I haven’t told the kids yet, but I’ll tell them tomorrow and we can try our biscuits again, this time with the right ingredient…

So it wasn’t perfect, but overall it was a pretty good day.  I’ve got a great group of kids and I think we’re going to be able to do some fun stuff in the next two weeks. 

Here is the recipe we used:

2 cups flour

1tsp sugar

1tsp salt

1Tbsp baking POWDER

1 stick of butter

3/4 of a cup of milk (give or take)

Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes.  They are pretty easy, if you can read labels……


Monster Sushi

Posted: December 9, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | No Comments »

Sushi makes me happy.  From what I can tell it seems to be one of those things that people either truly love or truly hate.  Let me assure you I am in the first category, except…..if I’m going to be completely honest with you all (and myself)  I’m kind of a candy ass.  By that I mean I tend to shy away from the crazier stuff on the menu like fish eggs, octopus…etc.  I love my spicy tuna, salmon rolls and yellow tail, but throw me a crazy curveball  and I will usually do everything I can to avoid it because there is nothing worse in my mind than this scenario:

You finally work up the courage to try something new (or someone tricks you into it), but just as you are in the middle of that first bite it hits you that you are eating something that normally you would deem gross.  Then, if you have my awesome sense of timing, you start REALLY thinking about it and thats when it happens….that gaggy feeling that does not allow you to keep food in your mouth at any cost.  So then you go into the awkward dance of trying to figure out how to be very discreet while simultaneously getting it the hell out of your mouth. 

I like to do my best to avoid this horrible scenario, although I have to say for those around you it provides some impressive entertainment. 

Anyway, I got a text the other night asking if I was up for sushi, and seeing as it has been an excessive amount of time since my last good sushi meal, I was on board.  See, the beauty of sushi is that even though I love every second of the meal, I can walk away feeling a lot less guilty (and sluggish) because for the most part it isn’t so bad for you.  Sadly, the evening in question fought hard against my ‘sushi is a healthy treat’ theory. 

The place we went was new to me, so I was super excited.  The coctails were good (and strong) and everything on the menu looked good.  My friend ordered a sushi boat (seriously it comes on a boat) and for some reason I got it in my head that this was the night when I was going to be adventuresome and try something outside of my comfort zone.  Little did I know how that decision would rock my world.  It may have been the four liquors in my drink, but when the waitress came to our table and described something called a tuna volcano, I couldn’t resist!  So I ordered the special volcano roll and a Boston roll.  I knew what to expect with the Boston roll, but the volcano?  Ohh the volcano.  Let me tell you what was in this bad boy: Spicy Tuna, salmon, jalapeno, asparagus, cucumber, avocado and tobiko (flying fish roe).  All of that was rolled up and then deep fried and topped with sea scallop, eel sauce and tempura flakes. 

So apparently I had only heard about every third word that she had said because I did NOT expect this gigantic mountain of crazy.  It was freaking huge and I was a little intimidated, so I made my friend try a piece with me, because if you can’t beat em, make your friends look stupid with you :) .  Once I got past the challenge of actually eating it, I realized that even though I was eating fish eggs, I didnt get the terrible gaggy feeling.  It was delicious! 

As cheesy as it sounds I was proud of myself for trying something new, and as a foodie, I feel like I need to constantly be pushing myself to try new things.  My sushi was really delicious and I am pumped that I had the guts to eat it even though it looked like it could take me in a fight.  The only problem is, now I’m craving sushi again…

In other news this weekend begins my holiday bake-straviganza, so keep an eye out for some yummy recipes and possibly some hilarious but epic failures.


Breaking Tradition

Posted: December 3, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

I love Thanksgiving.  It gives me an excuse to do two of my favority things: cook for others and eat.  I couldn’t ask for more! Of course, I don’t really get down with all of the traditional Thanksgiving foods.  I’m not a fan of sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie is probably one of my least favorite things ever.  I like pumpkin, but not when it is super dense, sweetened and from a can.  So this year I decided to go in a different direction.  I felt this was appropriate as this Thanksgiving was a little different than previous years.  Normally we are at my parents house with one sister and her family, and this year we were at my other sister’s house with her family.  So I was feeling a little non traditional to begin with. 

I had seen this recipe for brownsugar merigue pie in my Southern Cooking book, but seeing as its normally just me, I’m not really in the business of making pies on a regular basis.  So Thanksgiving was a great time to try this out without ending up eating it all myself. 

On the morning of Thanksgiving day, I got to work.  This pie has two separate components, but there is some overlap so preparation and planning are KEY.  It takes some work and makes a bit of a mess, but trust me, it is totally worth it!

Start by blind baking a 9″ crust. 

For the filling:

  • 1  cup  firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3  cup  cornstarch
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  cups  half-and-half
  • 4  egg yolks (lightly beaten)
  • 2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • 1/4  cup  butter, cut into pieces
  • Put the brown sugar, corn starch and salt in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the half and half while cooking it over medium heat.  Stir it continually until it boils and thickens.  Once it thickens, let it boil for about two minutes while you beat the egg yolks.  Remove the pan from the heat and pour about 1/4 of the mixture into the yolks, beating them constantly.  Then pour the egg mixture back into the pan again, stirring constantly.  Put the pan back on the heat and cook for a few minutes while continually stirring (this pie is also a good arm work out).  Remove it from the heat and then stir in the butter and vanilla.  Set that off to the side while you make the meringue.  You may want to cover it because, as with most puddings and custards it tends to get a little solid on top if it cools uncovered. 

    For the meringue:

  • 3/4  cup  firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3  cup  granulated sugar
  • 6  tablespoons  water
  • 5  egg whites
  • 1/2  teaspoon  cream of tartar
  • Combine water, sugar and brown sugar in medium saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the sugar has fully dissolved.  Bring it to a boil and cook it until it reaches 250 degrees. You have to stir it regularly, but not constantly.  If you have a candy thermometer this is firm ball stage.  If you are like most home cooks and don’t have a candy thermometer here is what you can do.  When you think its at the right stage, take a small spoonfull and drop it into cold water.  Let it sit for about 30 seconds and then pull it out.  Once it forms a firm, yet pliable ball then it is good to go.  **Sometime around this stage you should start preheating the oven to 375, that way you don’t have to wait once everything is put together. 

    While the syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until it forms soft peaks.  I used a hand mixer which made it more difficult to work simultaneously with the syrup and the egg whites, so if you have a stand mixer use it!  Pour the syrup slowly into the egg whites while beating on high until it forms stiff peaks.  It should still look smooth and shiny.  If it starts to look chunky or curdled, you have beaten it too much. 

    Pour the filling into the pie crust and spread evenly.  Top with the meringue in dollops (I know, I hate that word too but its the best I’ve got right now) and spread to the edges.  Make sure you ‘seal’ the edges along the crust.  Bake for 9 minutes, just until the meringue is golden brown and delicious looking. 


    Total Satisfaction

    Posted: November 23, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

    If you’re anything like me (god help you) you sometimes get things stuck in your head and become a little fixated, ok obsessed, with them. For me this happens a decent amount. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t get fixated on people and hide in bushes and stuff. That kind of stalking is just too damned exhausting for me to keep up with. For me its more things like songs, ideas, and recipes. The song thing I’ve learned to deal with by playing it repeatedly in my car until it loses some of its appeal. not so much that I can’t stand it, but just enough so that I don’t have it stuck in my head all day every day. Ideas I usually try to follow through on, or I quickly realize that I’m setting myself up for impressive amounts of failure and thus abort mission. Recipes, well the only way to get those out of my head is pretty obvious, make the dish!

    My recent obsession in the kitchen has been a two part situation. I discovered a recipe for ravioli in a balsamic brown butter sauce that sounded amazing, and perfect for me because I LOVE ravioli, but ravioli in red sauce sometimes makes me a little gaggy. Not because of the flavors, but I think something about the combined textures some times makes me a little queasy. So this new sauce seemed like a perfect fit for me: butter, no tomato, and less sauce overall since the oil from the butter would allow the ravioli to be coated in flavor without running the risk of over saucing. Then, being one who needs to complicate all things, I discovered a recipe for balsamic braised short ribs (thank you culinary cell phone apps). It immediately clicked in my head that with the common denominator of balsamic, these two things would go together perfectly, and not to brag, but I was damn right.

    Now some of you are probably thinking, why waste time becoming fixated, why not just cook it dumbass? And while you have a valid point, I have a better one :) . This is a recipe that requires some love and attention, as well as a decent amount of time which is a pretty rare thing in my life these days. So I waited until I knew I would have time and then i got to it. I went to my local butcher (luckily he’s about 500 yards down the road so its pretty sweet) and got my short ribs and I was ready to go. So here it is: Ravioli in a Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce with Braised Short Ribs.

    For the ribs:

    You will need about 4 pounds of short ribs. Pat the ribs dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In a greased dutch oven over medium-high heat, brown the ribs on all sides. This takes some finageling (yeah thats a word) because it requires some weird balancing of ribs, but trust me its worth it because the more you brown the meat, the more flavor you are going to get. Once the ribs are browned, pull them out and set them aside for a few minutes (you may have to brown in batches). Add 2 cups of diced red onion to the pan and brown. Once brown add in 12 cloves of garlic, diced, and cook for about a minute until you can really smell the garlic. Put the ribs back in the pan and add 2 cups beef broth, 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 cup red wine, 2 cups diced tomato and 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar.

                                                                          Cover the pan and put it in a 275 oven for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Once its done in the over, let it cool a little and then put it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. I let mine sit over night, but that was more a time issue rather than a recipe issue. About an hour before you are ready to serve it, pull it out of the fridge and skim the fat off the top. Heat it on the stove over medium heat until everything is hot.

    While the meat is heating up, prepare the ravioli. For this one, I used a prepared mushroom ravioli because I haven’t yet mastered the art of pasta and if I can’t do it better than I can buy it, why bother? You can also prepare the balsamic brown butter sauce while everything else is cooking.

    Over medium heat, cook 6 Tbsp of unsalted butter. It will melt, then foam, and then begin to turn brown. Once it begins to turn brown, turn off the heat and let it sit for one minute. Then add 2Tbsp of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add about a half a cup of the braising liquid, and cook the liquid until it reduces enough to coat the spatula. While the sauce is reducing, slice up the short ribs and toss them in with the cooked ravioli. Once the sauce is ready, pour it over the ravioli and toss to coat. Top with some shavings of parmesan and enjoy!

    There is something truly satisfying about eating a meal after you have put in so much time and effort, to me its the ultimate in comfort food.  Rich delicious food that I have had to work for and prepare.  When a recipe comes together and tastes so homey and good, its a sense of satisfaction that can’t be duplicated. 

     


    The Long Long Run

    Posted: November 9, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

    I apologize for the size of that photo up there, and for the fact that the goldish medal reflected on my teeth, making them look yellow. But I get to post one huge photo. I have earned this gigantic photo. Because this photo?

    It was taken after I finished my first marathon.

    On Sunday. The 2010 ING New York City Marathon. I averaged an 11:34 minute/mile pace over 26.2 miles, finishing in 5 hours, 2 minutes, and 48 seconds. I whailed into a wall at the 23rd mile, and was totally cooked when I crossed the line, but I ran 26.2 miles. And a year ago, I hadn’t even completed a 4-mile run yet. This is a fact.

    I don’t know if any of you know any long distance runners (besides those of you who were out there cheering for me on Sunday, and to whom I am therefore eternally grateful), but they’re very interesting creatures.
    Distance runners are constantly doing battle, waging war. We fight the weather, the elements, often running in the cold, the oppressive heat and humidity, or the rain/sleet/snow if we have to. We fight our friends and family members, who sometimes unknowingly make us think we can’t do it, or try to convince us to skip a run or not prepare properly the night before. We fight the distance, aiming to beat it and better it. We fight our bodies, our doubts, the pain and the sweat. We are constantly fighting.
    And after all that work, most of us never even win. 44,829 people finished the New York City marathon this year. Only 4 of them came in first place. The rest of us? We did something that maybe we never knew we could do. I sure did.

    50 weeks after I ran my first road race, I completed my first marathon. I’ve been training for 4 months. 3 times a week, every week, for 4 months, I ran. I didn’t drink on Fridays because I knew that I had to get up and do a long training run on Saturdays. I sweated through runs increasing from 9 miles to 20 miles. I covered 20 miles TWICE. And in the end, it all came down to 5 hours of my life. And I did it. I have never been as proud as I was on Sunday when I crossed the finish line. Except when they gave me my medal, and my mylar cape, and I was able to see my family and friends after and celebrate.

    Sunday’s run was amazing. It was painful. It was difficult and it was glorious and I cried more tears than I knew I had to cry, and I am in more pain than I ever imagined I would be. I am grateful for every person in Bay Ridge, who gave me high fives and yelled “Go Yosie” at me, for getting me off to a happy start. I am thankful for every band that was out on the route, even the ones I didn’t listen to that closely. I am thankful for every single footstep, because I never knew I would take them all at once.
    I ran 10 wonderful miles. I ran 8 Ok miles. I hit the Bronx and felt like hell, but somehow the pace picked up. And then I hit Central Park. And everything slowed way down. But I ran.

    I am glad for every supporter in Brooklyn, for my wonderful friends who cheered me on in Queens. For the present Pretty Girls, all of whom were out to support me and cheer for me, who stood in the wind and held up signs and screamed. I am glad that when I hit the Queensboro bridge just before mile 15, I knew that I could get to the other side if I had to crawl, and I am glad that when I saw my friends again in Harlem, I apparently looked good despite how bad I felt 22 miles into the run. I am glad for Adi, who tried her damnedest to get to the City to see me, because others in her position absolutely would have given up or turned back. I am grateful to EDub, who also tried SO hard to see me. She did more than most would, and more than many did, and she didn’t even get to see me. But she was with me. I’m grateful to Mr K, to Grampa and to Pop, for lifting me up and carrying me when I thought I couldn’t run anymore, and helping me find that little bit more. I am grateful to every single person at First Congregational Church who kept me on the prayer list, and who sent their prayers and their energy to me around the time I started the marathon. I love every single person who couldn’t be there in person but told me they were pulling for me. I felt your energy.
    I am blown away by my parents, my brother, my cousin Mike coming out to cheer for me. I am so glad that Erin, Jen, Marla, Rita, Bakezilla, Ben, Alyssa, Alex, Mom, Dad, Trev, KBam, EVo, John, and my wonderful, supportive, amazing boyfriend Jesse were there. I will never be able to thank you all enough.

    Long distance runners are fiercely independent. We know that no matter what we say, the only things that are getting us through the next training run are our selves. We have nothing to rely on except for what we carry – our energy gels, electrolyte drinks, our clothes and our shoes. And what we carry inside us – grit, determination, independent spirit and the relentless will to finish. I trained with KBam for 4 months, and without her I would not have made it to the starting line. But I knew that the only way I could get to the finish line was to find it in myself. And I did. Even when I was sure I would stop, give up, never see Manhattan, let alone Central Park.

    Even so. Every long-distance runner knows that we cannot do it alone. Without the crowds to lift you, you have no will to push. Without knowing that my family was out there, expecting me, I would have started walking the first time things got tough. Without Alex to run alongside me I wouldn’t have been able to push through the Bronx. Without the promise of hugs, and congratulations I would not have driven all the way to the finish.

    Have you ever wondered what a runner eats?

    Right after the race, I ate a huge plate of gravy fries, and 2 pints of Guinness. For my first dinner after running the race, my first proper balanced meal, I had broiled home fries, spicy black beans, and 2 fried eggs. This may not have been the most “from scratch” of meals, but it was hearty. It had protein and carbs. And in a world where being tired and sore does not mean you don’t have to get dinner on the table, it was just what the people I love wanted to eat.
    And for that, as well, I am eternally grateful.


    I <3 Fall: Stuffed Squash

    Posted: November 5, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla | 2 Comments »

    I love fall. I love Halloween and Thanksgiving. I love foliage. I love sweaters and cups of tea. And, I adore fall food. Squash, pumpkin (which, I suppose, is a squash), apples, cranberries, the works. It’s a great season. So, I bring to you a very fall-feeling recipe for stuffed Butternut Squash. You could really use any squash for this, and I’m sure acorn would work very well, I chose butternut because it’s common, they had good looking ones at my supermarket, and it’s amusingly phallic. (I never promised I was mature).

    This recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook, adapted for my personal tastes.

    Preheat the oven to 350. Halve a squash (again, whatever type you have) and remove the seeds and guck. Cutting a squash can be tough, don’t be afraid to pretend to be a sensai and yell “Hi-yah!” when you do it. I did. Put it on a well oiled baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 25-30 minutes (even longer if it’s a particularly large squash). Remove and let cool until touchable. Don’t turn off the oven, you’re going to need it again.

    Meanwhile, make the stuffing. Chop up a package of mushrooms, a small onion or a couple shallots, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, and sautee in 2 or three tablespoons of oil or butter. Throw in whatever spices suit your fancy. I used oregano and basil and a tiny bit of thyme. I’m sure rosemary would be good too. I also bet you could put carrots or some other veggie in with the mushrooms…

    Put the mushrooms in a bowl. Mix in a cup or so of breadcrumbs and some other things that might be good. I used chopped walnuts, chopped celery sunflower seeds and grated parmesean cheese. Add in a good dose of salt and pepper. Some more suggestions of what you might like to put in: dried apricots, dried cranberries, raisins, any type of nuts, sundried tomatoes, any type of cheese… or get creative. The only things I’d say this really needs are the mushrooms or the breadcrumbs… everything else is negotiable.

    Fill up each half of the squash with the stuffing mixture. Bake, covered with foil, for another 15-20 minutes.

    This is a very filling, hearty and healthy dish. It would make a great Vegetarian main course for Thanksgiving, served with cranberry sauce, a green vegetable, maybe a starch and of course dessert. Or, just an awesome fall oriented dish.


    Easy Fall Treats

    Posted: November 4, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | 2 Comments »

    Have you ever worked your butt off cooking a meal with multiple courses, complex cooking technique and about three days of planning and inevitably everyone is blown away by the amazing dip you made which took three minues?  Maybe thats just me.  The point I’m trying to get at is that people seem to enjoy the majority of food that I make, but it always seems to be the simplest things that really give them that  ”holy cow amazing food” feeling.  I find this especially true with teenagers.  I will make chocolate mint brownies with chocolate ganache from scratch and they are happy, yet they squeal with amazement when I bring in Dunkin Donuts.  Tonight has been no exception.  I am on duty in the dorm and normally I try to bring treats every time I’m on, since this is their home for 9 months out of the year.  I have brought cupcakes, cookies, brownies, you name it and tonight is the night that my treats are gone in approximately 45 seconds.  If you want a RIDICULOUSLY simple crowd pleaser here it is:

    All it takes is a bag of marshmallows ( I tend to use vegan when I can get them, especially when I am making for other people), a couple ounces of semisweet chocolate, some pretzels and caramel (preferably home made, but I used Smuckers since I didn’t have the time or patience to make caramel, besides it comes in that convenient little squeeze bottle!) 

    Step One: Melt chocolate until it is smooth, I use the microwave stirring at 30 second intervals.

    Step Two:  While the chocolate is melting, crush up the pretzels into pieces, they don’t have to be fully smashed just in smaller pieces than a whole pretzel.

    Step Three: Dip half of marshmallow into chocolate and then roll in pretzel pieces.

    Step Four: Place on foil or parchment, once you have a full tray put in the fridge for a few minutes to set the chocolate. 

    Step Five: Drizzle with caramel and eat.

    Step Six: Make more, because your first batch is probably gone already.

    This is the quickest and easiest thing I have probably ever made and everyone LOVES them.  I’m not sure why they tend to feel like fall treats, but its probably something to do with the color scheme :) .  From start to finish this probably took about 10 minutes and that was with a couple of stops to hand out candy to the cutest trick or treaters I have ever seen. 

    Enjoy!


    Nurturing-esque Instincts

    Posted: October 31, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa | No Comments »

    I work with teenagers pretty much all day every day, so its hard to avoid caring about them and having some slight maternal instincts towards them.  The especially comes into play when I am on duty over a weekend.  Most of the kids can go home for the weekend but for the kids that live extremely far away, thats not possible.  Its part of my job to help make sure that they feel at home here and they like staying on the weekends.  to me, this means baking for them.  The majority of my last on duty weekend was spent in the dorm with cupcakes and Disney movies hanging out with the girls.  I had decided that I wanted to make them cupcakes because to me, they are the most comforting of the desserts.  So I started on a quest to the grocery store to pick up one ingredient for simple chocolate cupcakes with white frosting, and by the end of the 4 mile drive I had decided to go all out and try chocolate toffee cupcakes with buttercream frosting.  I’m not going to give you too many details because my mind is a scary abyss of sad, but here is the basic format of how I got from point A to point B:

    Hooray Cupcakes!! –> I love cupcakes, the girls are going to be so happy, I haven’t brought them food in a while –> Last time I brought them cookies –> mmm…I miss grammy’s cookies –> What were the ones that I always loved the most –> defintely the Skor cookies, those were pretty bomb –> oh god, the teenage slang is rubbing off –> wait, cookies, I like cookies, especially cookies with toffee….

    And I feel like you can figure it out from there.  SO when I got back from the store, I went to it.  I used a pretty standard chocolate cake recipe:

    5 oz Butter – softened

    5 oz superfine sugar

    6 oz self-rising flour

    3 eggs

    2 tbsp cocoa powder

    1 tsp vanilla extract

    I just throw everything in my mixer and mix for about 2 min on medium until everything is incorporated.  Then I threw in about 6 oz of toffee chips.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

    While the cupcakes are baking, you can throw together the butter cream.  You need

    2 cups unsalted butter

    2 cups powdered sugar

    1/4 tsp salt

    1 tsp vanilla

    1/4 cup buttermilk

    3 oz toffee chips

    In a small saucepan melt 1 cup of butter and the toffee until fully incorporated, then set aside to cool.  Once the mixture is cool, blend it with the remaining cup of butter and the sugar using a hand mixer.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat until fully incorporated and viola!  Toffee buttercream!

    I frosted the cupcakes and topped them with a couple of remaining toffee chips.  The only issue I had with these was that the toffee chips had a tendency to sink toward the bottom of the cupcakes, so I’m not sure how to combat that issue.  But overall these were delicious, and the girls loved them which was the ultimate goal.



    Johanna: The Improviser

    Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

    Alyssa: The Triple Threat

    Can do it all. And modest to boot.

    Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

    She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

    Rita: The Kosher Chick

    Restrictions have nothing on her.