October 28, 2012

The Half-Eaten Cake Project

Whoever said that if you breastfeed your baby you'll lose tons of weight was a big fat liar. They do not deserve any cake.

I breastfeed my baby. I have not lost a ton of weight post-baby.

To be fair, I eat cake. And cookies, and pastries, and candy, and other sweet stuff.

I happen to LOVE cake. I love chewing on layers of moist cake with silky smooth frosting.

But it doesn't help me lose any baby weight.

So, I have a new project. It's called The Half-Eaten Cake Project. It's just what it sounds like. I will make delicious cakes (I have dozens of them ear-marked, ready to be baked.). I will cut a slice out for me. I will cut a slice out for Zach. And then I will pass along the rest of the cake to whoever wants it. That way, I won't eat slices for breakfast, slivers for mid-morning snacks, chunks as an afternoon pick-me-up, or wedges for dessert.

Because that is what I do when I have cake around. Or cookies, or pastries, or candy, or other sweet stuff.

I have no control.

I still think whoever said that if you breastfeed your baby you will lose tons of weight was a big fat liar. But I will be the first to admit that eating cake doesn't help.

So, I'm doing my part. :)

Person who started the rumor that if you breastfeed your baby you will lose tons of weight, please stop saying that.

Do you want some cake? Leave a comment on this post saying so, and I'll add you to the list of possible half-eaten cake recipients. You have to live in the TC. I have to be able to reasonably give this cake to you. I have to know you already. Sorry, but those are the rules.

My brother was the recipient of the first cake, a cake with three layers of banana cake, a peanut butter filling, and chocolate ganache from the Baked Elements cookbook.

The layers of banana cake were delicious and moist. The peanut butter filling was good. The ganache was a hot mess. It was slick, and it slid. I have some theories about why this might have been (I used chocolate chips to make it, I really helped the butter become softened). So for now I won't share the recipe. It's not fool-proof in my eyes.

The concept is a brilliant one, though. Who wouldn't love those three flavors together in a cake?

Again, want in? Comment, please.

October 19, 2012

The Difference a Day Makes: Crunchy Peanut Butter Banana Bread

I'm loving the new Baked Elements cookbook.

Divided into different flavor sections, like Banana, Chocolate, Booze, Pumpkin, and Peanut Butter, their recipes are just what I love to bake. Homey but aspirational, comforting but a little bit interesting, almost always yielding great results.

These guys aren't new to me. Their earlier book contains the recipe for my favorite pumpkin whoopee pies and some killer brownies.

There are many recipes I have mentally earmarked in this new book. But I started with the Crunchy Peanut Butter Banana Bread.

I'm somewhat obsessed with banana bread these days. My mom said I must be missing something in my diet (sugar? white carb-y goodness?), but I know that isn't the case. But I'm drooling over recipes for Nutella Banana Bread, Chocolate Banana Bread, Tropical Banana Bread...

My friend Jessica told me she wanted this recipe. But the night I made it, I messaged her back and told her I didn't love the recipe, that it was way too peanut buttery at the expense of the poor bananas. I was sad about it. Warm, it tasted overwhelmingly like cooked peanut butter. And not in a great way. It was fine, don't get me wrong. But I was missing the banana. And I was not digging the peanut bits (you use crunchy peanut butter).

I had pretty much rejected the recipe.

Until the next morning.

Did I love the bread the night I made it? No. Did that stop me from eating a rather thick slice for breakfast the next morning anyway? Yea, right.

And you know what? It's a good thing.

Overnight as the bread cooled, the flavors readjusted themselves. The peanut butter tamed itself and the bananas woke up. The balance was nice. And the chocolate chips...well, they did their yummy chocolate chip thing.

The peanut chunks? Still wasn't a huge fan. Next time, I'll make this with smooth peanut butter, much to the dismay of Matt & Renato.

Mmm, peanut butter, banana, chocolate.

Stay tuned for more of these flavors from me. They're exactly what I'm craving these days. And there are chapters in this book on each. Watch out.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Banana Bread (which would just be Peanut Butter Banana Bread if you take my suggestion), adapted slightly from Baked Elements by Matt Lewis and Ronato Poliafito

1 1/2 c flour, plus 1 tbsp to coat chips
1 c sugar, plus 1 tbsp
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/3 c whole milk
1 c crunchy peanut butter (I'd use smooth next time)
2/3 c semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan and dust with flour.

Whisk together 1 1/2 c flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk together bananas, oil, eggs, milk, peanut butter. Mix together remaining tablespoon of flour with chocolate chips in small bowl. Add chips to banana mixture.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients gently until just combined. Pour batter into pan.

Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes or until toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Then cool completely on rack.

Serve after cooled completely in big thick slices.

October 13, 2012

The Pie-Oli is Born

So, making things easier is what's hot right now.

My mom and I did the opposite this week. Why, you ask? Because we love to take on food projects when she visits. Because we had too much time on our hands. Because, why not?

We rattled through the typical seasonal flavors as we tried to decide on a project. Then we tried to figure out how we could turn the usual form on its head. There was some discussion about a kitchen tool I brought back from Rome 4 years ago and have yet to use.

And the pie-oli was born.

The apple pie-oli to be exact, with 3 glazes: calvados, maple, and lemon.

We shopped for the ingredients. And then the project sadly sat idle for a few days as we tended to a baby.

But finally, the night of the vice presidential debates (a fitting night for apple pie of some format, no?), we cranked it out.

As dinner cooked, we sautéed the apples. Tiny diced Granny Smiths, sautéed in butter and brown sugar. A pinch of salt and a splash of calvados added at the end.

Then we whipped up 3 different glazes. Again, because, why not? Glazes are easier than easy. We used 1/3 cup of confectioners' sugar as the base for each and added enough of each of the three liquids to get to the right consistency. For maple (our favorite because it added exactly the right does of sweetness against the pie crust), we used 2 tablespoons.

After dinner, we rolled some pie crust dough out super thin, laid it on top of the ravioli mold. Filled. Topped with another thin layer of pie crust dough. Rolled with the rolling pin. Pulled from the molds (which was surprisingly and thankfully easy). We brushed the sweet little pillows with egg wash, slitted the tops for venting. And in the 400 degree oven they went.

We pretty much stood in front of the oven watching them puff to perfect golden brownness. We pulled them out of the oven, lamented over how long they would take to cool, and stuck them in the cold porch to speed up the process.

Then we got to the fun part: drizzling on the glazes and evaluating which was best.

So, were these putzy? Yea, a little. Will we be making these for Thanksgiving instead of the standard pie? No. We'd have to make too many, and that could evolve beyond putzy to something close to tedious.

But making 24 of these was no sweat. And we'd argue they are pretty darn cute.

October 4, 2012

New Mama Eggs

I was about to tell you how it's hard to cook with a baby in the house. Well, that it's hard to do anything with a baby in the house other than have 5 pm show up wearing the same thing you woke up in (ok, that hasn't happened in a while, but it did at one point during newborn life). But Lola just woke up from her nap crying. Now I don't have to come up with a creative way to tell you that it's hard to accomplish anything (blog post, for example) with a baby in the house. She did it for me. Thank you, Lola. I'll be back...

Back. It's seven hours later.

In that seven hours, I changed a few diapers, got the darling girl back down for another nap, made some banana bread during that nap, supervised tummy time, took some photos, and made New Mama Eggs for dinner.

What are New Mama Eggs, you ask? They are a breakthrough in my post-baby dinner world. They are really Ina Garten's Herb-Baked Eggs from Barefoot in Paris, but to me, they are something that I can easily pull off with Lola and they feel like something special. Whoa.

Look at them. They are pretty. They look delicious (and are!).

And best of all, they take 15 minutes (if even) from start to finish.  There is some herb chopping and cheese and garlic grating. Then you throw the gratin dishes under the broiler for 3 minutes with a dash of heavy cream and a small pat of butter in them. You add the eggs; top with the herbs, garlic, and parmesan. And pop under the broiler for another few minutes. That is seriously it.

Oh, and I guess you have to toast some bread and throw together a salad. But whatevs to that.

These New Mama Eggs were perfect for tonight as we struggled getting Lola to go to bed for the night--a task that happens right smack in the middle of dinnertime. Everything was prepped so I knew there were only 8 minutes in between go-time (Lola asleep) and us eating. Thanks to New Mama Eggs, we got to eat a hot dinner as soon as it was ready. At a reasonable hour. At the table. Together.

A rarity.

Don't skimp on the bread. Use good stuff, like a good baguette or even thick strips of good whole grain bread. Drizzle the bread with olive oil or give it a once-over with butter. Toast it. Good toast is a must for this dish, to sop up the runny yolks and scrape the browned bits of butter and garlic off the side of the gratin dish.

These are particularly for my new mama friends (the ones who like eggs, anyway). But I think anyone would be egg-stra happy to eat them.

Boo to the bad joke.

Herb-Baked Eggs, adapted slightly from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten

1 small clove minced garlic
1/4 tsp minced thyme
1/4 tsp minced rosemary
1 tbsp minced Italian parsley
1 tbsp grated parmesan
6 large eggs
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat broiler. Prep garlic, herbs, and cheese, and mix them together.

Grab 2 individual gratin dishes.

Place 1 tbsp of heavy cream and 1/2 tbsp of butter into each gratin dish. Place on baking sheet about 6 inches under broiler for 2-3 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.

In the meantime, crack 3 eggs gently into 2 bowls (3 eggs in each bowl for total of 6 eggs).

Add eggs to gratin dishes. Top with garlic, herb, and cheese mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place under broiler for about 5 minutes until egg whites are almost cooked (will continue cooking after removed from oven).

Serve. Eat.

Serves 2 new parents.