Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Decisions, Decisions...

They say that a healthy lifestyle is about choices ("they" being the Health and Fitness gurus of the world). I give you Exhibit A:

Remember the Animaniacs cartoons, and the "Good Idea, Bad Idea" segment? (Yeah, I know; that show was hilarious.) Zucchini=good idea. Cookie=bad idea.

But at this point we have to ask ourselves the inevitable question: who, in their right mind, would choose the zucchini, when the two are presented side-by-side like that? Oy.
Zucchini, to be fair, is a great vegetable. I like zucchini. A lot.

But let me introduce you to the Monster Cookie:

We're talking butter, brown sugar, peanut butter...

Oats, peanut-butter chips...

Yeah, I admit we're talking ZILCH nutritional value, unless you count a little bit of fiber from the oatmeal. But they're just...so...good.

Thus I posit to you, O Health-and-Fitness guru people, that a healthy lifestyle is not about choices, but about compromise.

My compromise? Voila!

Monster cookie + multivitamin. Yes! (And maybe zucchini for dinner?)

And, yes, I'll give you the recipe.

Monster Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups old-fashioned oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips or M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350.

Cream butter and sugars. Add peanut butter and next 3 ingredients; mix well.

In separate bowl, stir together oats, baking soda, and salt. Add to peanut butter mixture; stir to combine. Stir in chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.

Drop heaping spoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake about 12 minutes, until edges are set. (Centers will still appear wet.) Cool on pan 2-3 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interesting Things

They say you should try to learn something new every day. Well, I've learned several interesting new things lately. Three, to be exact: (1) The speed limit on a certain stretch of highway between here and Greenwood drops rather sneakily from 55 to 35. (2) Speeding tickets are both embarassing and expensive. (3) Baking peanut butter brownies is therapeutic. Eating peanut butter brownies also is therapeutic.

I won't elaborate on Items 1 and 2, because...well, because I don't want to. Ha. I WILL, however, give you the peanut butter brownie recipe. Because it's very good and very easy. And, of course, because I like you.

First, here's a picture:

Looks good, huh?

Okay, here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
splash of vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

(1) Heat oven to 350. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside.

(2) Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, then milk and vanilla. In separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix well.

(3) Divide batter between two bowls. Add cocoa powder and chocolate chips to one; mix well. Add peanut butter and peanut butter chips to other; mix well.

(4) Drop batters alternately by heaping spoonfuls into prepared pan. Swirl through with knife to marble. Bake about 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting.

(Recipe adapted from Taste of Home Baking cookbook)

Note: I've also done this replacing both the semisweet chips and peanut butter chips with chopped Reese's cups; it's really, really good.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cupcake Lava and Cake-Related Hilarity

Yellow cake, I've decided, is a rather challenging animal. Spice cake, or white chocolate cake, or carrot cake, or what have you...those can rely on their extra "stuff" for the wow factor. But yellow cake is just so darned basic. If it isn't really good, it...well...isn't really good.

So I decided to try a new recipe for yellow cupcakes. This should not have been incredibly time-consuming or challenging. Unfortunately, I, genius that I am, managed to overfill the cupcake liners (bad, bad habit) and wound up with little cupcake replicas of Mt. Vesuvius--post-explosion. Not that the cupcakes really exploded, per se...they more sort of bubbled up and oozed all over the place and then crusted over--more like one of those Hawaiian dome volcanoes, actually, than the explosive ones.

Aaaanyway...after scraping/peeling/pouring the cupcake lava into the garbage, I attempted Round Two. Much more successful.

Here was the result:

Yellow cake. Chocolate buttercream. Oh, and chocolate sprinkles (which, let's face it, are just fun). Simple, basic, yum.

I don't think I'm done with the Search for the Perfect Yellow Cake Recipe. But these were pretty good, anyway.

Now, on a different note. People, you have GOT to check this website out:
CakeWrecks. It. Is. HILARIOUS. You know how you sometimes see those grocery store bakery cakes that just make you go "Eh?" or "Whaa...?" or "You have got to be kidding"? The frightening, the humorous, the very oddly decorated or atrociously colored? Yeah. Well, this site is dedicated to those, and not only are the photos themselves really funny, but the commentary leaves me rolling. (And I have to admit, I feel like my baking looks really darned good compared to some of this stuff. Haha.) So check it out. CakeWrecks.