Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mars Bar Chunk Cookies

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Last weekend was probably the most exhausting and exhilarating weekend I've had in a while!

Saturday was my first baking class with Chennai Food Guide and Crimson Chakra, and I had a blast with the 22 enthusiastic and super-fun participants who were there, ready to bake their hearts out! The day was really fun, but very tiring. The next day continued at the same pace with church and family obligations! Whew... I think I slept through most of Monday to recover from the weekend.

This morning, I woke up refreshed & raring to bake! I knew I had to get something in the oven because I could feel a craving coming on. I rummaged through my make-shift pantry and through the multitude of bags in there, and found just what I was looking for! Mars bars! Chewy, malty, chocolate-y and most importantly - caramel-y!
This recipe makes 6 giant or 8 regular sized cookies. I made giant cookies. And to make up for the fact that I was using sugar AND two whole candy bars in this recipe (well, ALMOST two bars - I did have to taste-test the candy bars to make sure they were not...umm... stale), I did substitute some of the all purpose flour with wheat flour, and added some oatmeal too. Now I don't have to feel so bad that I ate two of these giant cookies all by myself. So there!
Mars Bar Chunk Cookies
Adapted from the voices in my head
2 oz (55g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1 medium egg, cold
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup oatmeal
2 bars (51g each) Mars candy bars, chopped into chunks (I cut each bar into 16 pieces)

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a baking sheet/cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
2. Cream the butter along with the sugars until light.
3. Add the egg and continue to cream for about 1 minute.
4. Add the vanilla and mix well till incorporated - about 30 seconds.
5. Sift the flours, soda and salt together into the same bowl.
6. Stir just until combined and you see no traces of the dry ingredients.
7. Stir in the oatmeal and chopped candy bars.
8. Scoop the cookie dough onto the baking sheet, making sure you leave about 2 inches between each cookie.
9. Wet your fingers in clean water and slightly flatten each ball of dough. If you see any candy chunks peeking out the sides of the cookie, press them into the cookie. They tend to ooze and burn.
10. Bake for until the edges are starting to go golden brown - about 15-16 minutes for the large cookies. Reduce the time if you are making smaller cookies.
11. Transfer to a baking rack to cool & store (if you still have any left!) in an airtight jar.
I enjoyed these with a tall glass of iced tea, sitting out in my backyard. They were SO good. The cookie itself was soft, punctuated with these super chewy, caremel-y bits that WILL stick to your teeth.

Now, that I've sufficiently satisfied your sweet tooths (teeth?), I am excited to share some news & updates with all of you!

First, you may or may not have noticed, but I have migrated to my own domain!!!! You are now visiting me in my new home, at www,theharriedcook.com! I am VERY excited about it, as you can see. If you find that silly, you'll probably be appalled that I am even more excited that I have a new email ID - marsha@theharriedcook.com. LOL :D Write to me!!!

Next up, the baking class went great and the next batch is going to happen in April! If you are in Chennai, and you are interested in getting a start in baking, you must sign up! I will announce the dates for the workshop soon on my Facebook page! :)

Finally, the calls have been rolling in! I've been getting quite a few people calling - some orders, some enquiries and even some people calling in for baking tips! Ha ha... It's been a hoot! Thanks y'all! :)

And it would be wrong if I ended this post without doing some shout outs!

A BIG thanks to Kimby of A Little Lunch for bestowing upon me 'The Versatile Blogger' award! Thanks, Kimby - I am honored and you're the best! Big hugs :)
I must add - I needed to desperately print business cards before the baking class, and my dear, sweet friend, Miss. Mouse, was such a big help - designing them for fussy ol' me who wanted 1247 changes in design, going back and forth to the printers and supporting me so much! I owe you, Miss. Mouse! I owe you big!

And I owe Mr. Mouse (a.k.a. Gecko) & Ms. Squirrel (of 'Oh Dakuwaqa!' fame - check out her cool comics!) for helping me sort out some site migration issues! You guys rock! I will bake you all a batch of these cookies!

See you all in April!

I entered these cookies in a BlogHop over at Deelicious Sweets! Here are the other entries :)
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Apple-Blueberry Muffins & Answered Questions

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It has been almost a week since my last post! I hate when that happens... The fact that I haven't posted weighs on my mind all the time!

Apart from the recipe today, I want to take some time to answer a few questions I have been getting from readers/new friends both via email and Facebook.

But the food comes first! :)

Right now, I want to share a muffin recipe. Speaking of muffin recipes, a BIG thank you to everyone who has ever commented or emailed me thanking me for my Walnut Muffins recipe! I am so glad it turned out to be so popular, because it is hugely popular in our home! Thank you, all!
This recipe for Apple-Blueberry muffins is also adapted from the same book which served as an inspiration for the Walnut muffins. I love this recipe too, and I think it makes a great breakfast. Loaded with fresh apples, dried blueberries & oatmeal - I don't see how you could find fault with these muffins!

Apple-Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Muffins Galore
Ingredients (makes 4-6 muffins, depending on the size)
125g plain flour
55g oatmeal flour
110g castor sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 large apple, cored and coarsely chopped (you can leave the skin on)
100g dried blueberries, coarsely chopped
1 egg, beaten lightly
65g butter, melted
85ml buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoon demerara sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

1. Soak the dried blueberries in 1 cup of water for 1/2 hour. Drain well and discard the water.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C or 400F, and line a six-cup muffin tin with paper liners. If you are not using paper liners, grease and flour the tins.
3. Mix the demerara sugar and cinnamon powder in a small bowl and set aside.
4. Mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
5. Add the chopped apples, and well-drained dried blueberries.
6. In a small bowl, stir together the egg, melted butter and buttermilk.
7. Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl containing the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Do not over-mix.
8. Spoon into the prepared tin, and sprinkle over the top with the demerara-cinnamon mixture.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
I love the crunchy demerara topping on this muffin! Such a nice crunch against the soft, juicy muffin!

The original recipe calls for dried cherries instead of blueberries - and I am sure that would work great as well. Other options - dried cranberries, fresh blueberries, raisins? I suppose you could play around with this recipe quite a bit. You could also add about 50g of chopped pecans or walnuts to take this to another level! Mmmmmm... I wish I had done that!
This is a really good, wholesome muffin!

Okay, now I need to address a few questions I have been asked a lot lately.

1. Why do you blog?

I think everyone secretly wants to be a proficient cook/baker! Making something at home, from scratch, gives a me a wonderful sense of accomplishment. I love that rush when I see a perfectly tender, golden loaf of bread coming out of my oven, or when I stare at picture perfect cupcakes that I made! Honestly, I would love  for more people to experience that! I love blogging and sharing my recipes and  I will keep doing it till the cows come home!

I have a dream, that one day, I will write my own cookbook. Sigh. A girl can dream!

2. Do you take orders for baked goods?

The answer is - YES!

If you live in Chennai, and something on this blog (or not), strikes your fancy, or you have a craving that you need satisfied but don't feel like putting on an apron and trying out a recipe, just drop me a note on my contact page, and I will call you back. I will need 24-48 hours to fulfill an order, though!

3. Do you think sharing your recipes will affect how many orders you get?

Probably! But as I said earlier, baking brings such immense satisfaction and I LOVE sharing recipes with people. Heck, I wouldn't have recipes to share if someone didn't share them with me first! I love sharing my passion for baking so much, that I am even teaching a baking class this month! My second baking class in the last 4 months... and hopefully not the last! I love teaching - especially when it's something so fun like baking!

I believe that there will always be a need for food - whether for a recipe to cook it, or for the finished product itself. And I want to be there for my readers at both times. You feel like baking something? Browse through my recipe page, and choose something that strikes your fancy! You can email me if something about the recipe baffles you, and I will respond within 24 hours - usually!

Are you a total baking novice? Sign up for the next baking class in Chennai! I will post details both on my Facebook page, and here on my blog!

You feel like indulging yourself with some rich chocolate cupcakes but don't want to sweat it out in the kitchen. Just write to me and I will be glad to make you a batch! At the end of the day - food makes people happy, and I would like to play a small part in making someone happy!

4. What do you think of stolen recipes/ideas/photographs?

I honestly believe that when you use someone's recipe, they deserve credit for it. Most of my posts have links back to either the book or the site where I got my inspiration from. But I rarely use a recipe as it is, and add my own touches, making it my own. I think it's only fair and honest to give someone credit for what they've created. If you are using one of my recipes and selling the product - more power to you! I am flattered that you are using my recipe, and I would love to hear from you! Don't worry - I won't claim a share of your profits! :) LOL :D

In terms of food ideas - presentation, flavor combinations etc. - I don't think there's much that hasn't been done yet in terms of food! I don't think anyone's ideas a completely unique and so there isn't really much point in talking about copying. And, hey - imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So if you feel ripped off because someone 'stole' your idea, just revel in the fact that someone thought your stuff worth ripping off! Besides, I am sure it's all been done!

Photographs are a completely different story! A photograph is completely the photographer's property and cannot and must not be used without the owner's permission. I hate when people do that!

If you are concerned your recipes and photographs are being used without permission, this might interest you. I am a part of Chef Dennis' Neighborhood Blog Watch because photographs & recipes are being used without proper credits all over the place, and we bloggers really need to look out for each other! If you are a food blogger and would like more information about the blog watch, you can read more about it here.

Once again, if you are in Chennai and you have a craving, just drop me a note at my contact page here and I will be glad to whip something up for you.

Or you could head here, and get baking!

Thanks for reading this post! :)  
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes w/ Whipped Ganache Frosting

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A really strange thing happened to me this week. If you know me well, you will know how totally out of character this is for me.

I wanted chocolate cake.

Well, 'wanted' seems like a mild word for what I felt. I longed for chocolate cake. So weird! Can you believe it?

Most of my cravings revolve around citrus or spice. Very, very, VERY rarely do I actually crave chocolate cake. Okay I'll stop now before you totally write me off as a lunatic.

In order to satisfy that craving, I made these.
Aren't they pretty?

Look at this one standing high & proud on his high chocolate tower! :)
The cupcake recipe isn't a new one. I have shared it with you before in my Rocky Road Cupcakes post. It is Alton Brown's Chocolate cake recipe that I made into cupcakes. It is a dense, moist cupcake. This time around I made it extra moist by under-baking it a little and it was really delicious!

The frosting is a whipped ganache - which is the easiest thing to make, and SO yummy! And it goes without saying - the better the quality of the chocolate you use, the better your frosting will taste.

Whipped Ganache Frosting
8oz (227g) dark/bittersweet chocolate
8oz (227g) heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

1. Chop up the chocolate and place in a large bowl.
2. In a saucepan, heat the cream until it just begins to simmer. Be careful not to let it boil or it will split.
3. Pour the hot cream over the melted chocolate. Allow this to sit for about 2 minutes.
4. Whisk until smooth, and add in the vanilla. Whisk until dissolved. Set aside to 'set' for about an hour or two. I put it into the fridge for about 15 minutes before I whipped it.
5. Beat using an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes until you achieve a piping consistency.
This frosting is absolutely delicious and very versatile. I used the same recipe with milk chocolate for some cupcakes I baked this week for a friend, and it tasted great!

I must report that with the craving completely satisfied, the strange chocolate phase has passed. Right after I hit 'Publish', I am headed to the kitchen to make a batch of lime curd to have with breakfast.

Now that feels normal!

In other news, next weekend I am teaching an 'Introduction to Baking' class in partnership with Chennai Food Guide and Crimson Chakra. Registrations have closed for this batch, and I am really looking forward to meeting all the participants who have registered! Before you come I must say: a word to the wise - baking is addictive!!! And I cannot wait to pass the baking bug on to you! I'll see you all at Crimson Chakra on the 24th of March.

Also - a BIG thank you to the lovely Pratiksha from Honeyed Pandemonium for the Leibster award! I really appreciate it :) Hugs to you!
Have a wonderful weekend and I will see you all on the other side! :)
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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Restaurant Review: Dewberry's

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I had never heard of Dewberry's before this event. I liked the name and I was looking forward to the review. It is tucked away in a quiet street off Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai (Cathedral Road). The restaurant has outside and indoor seating, and while the outdoor seating seemed the popular choice, I was glad to be inside where the lighting was a lot better for photographs! Sans camera, I would want to sit outside for sure!

To kick things off, I ordered a blueberry smoothie, but it kinda let me down. Not a good way to start the meal huh? I couldn't taste even a hint of blueberry despite the purple color. It just tasted milky (and you KNOW how I feel about milk!), and slightly vanilla. I decided I would abandon it and move on. And then I sampled another friend's drink. It blew me away! I just HAD to have it. So I got my own salt-rimmed glass of it!
Yes that is a fresh green chilly! This drink was a twist on the regular lime juice - lime, water, sugar syrup - and the most perfectly balanced hit of fresh green chillies! So amazing... and as the dinner progressed, the drink got spicier and spicier as the chilli soaked through. It was really awesome! A must have when you visit Dewberry's!
We were joined for the evening by one of the partners at Dewberry's and we let her do all the ordering for us. Several starters, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, started appearing in quick succession. First up was a sweet bruschetta - Caramel Fruity, it was called. The idea itself sounds great to me because I love the whole sweet-salty thing (remember my bacon brownies?), but this didn't deliver for me.

I did not like the texture of the bread or the taste of the cheese. But I was glad to see some of the others enjoying it.
I loved this dish named Chippy Fungi (interesting names ;)!) - it was deep fried tortilla strips tossed with some fresh veggies and lots of button mushrooms and coated in this creamy sauce. I really enjoyed it and I would order it again!
The Prawn Gamberoni was a unanimous favorite among the meat-eaters. The prawns were cooked to perfection. Perfectly juicy, plump, not at all chewy prawns, with peppers and a tomato based sauce. Honestly, I was not a great fan of the sauce. It tasted a little ketchup-y to me, but I could not stop eating it because those prawns tasted incredible.

The other starter - Chicken Tortellini was interesting - a little chewy but I didn't mind that. Again with this dish, I didn't much care for the sauce.

Moving on, the main courses began to arrive, starting with a few sizzler plates.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, again I felt that while the paneer (pictured above) and the chicken sizzlers were well-cooked, I didn't like the sauces. I did like the accompaniments on the plates though - a garlicky rice and perfectly cooked and seasoned veggies that I couldn't stop picking at.
Two pasta dishes were served - a vegetarian option, Magic Mushroom Pasta (no not THAT magic mushroom) and a Chicken Bolognaise. I felt the bolognaise was quite flavorful but found the pasta sauce kinda runny. Tasted decent though. The mushroom pasta was just okay.
We also sampled the Grilled Fish Fillet - Vietnamese Basa grilled with an Asian tasting marinade. This was a well seasoned tasty dish, and the fish was cooked very well. The sides were the same as the ones on the sizzler plates and were good.
The only main that I totally did not get was the dish called 'Fruitlette'. It was a tortilla stuffed with peppers and paneer and grilled like a quesadilla. While the tortilla and the filling tasted fine, I did not and still don't understand the whole lot of fruits served on the side. Don't get me wrong. I like fruit. I like quesadillas. I just didn't like this concept. I felt there was no connection between the quesadilla and the fruits in terms of flavor. And I didn't like that a whole lot of fruit was wasted.

There were a lot of options for dessert and overall I wasn't too thrilled with what we tasted. I asked for something called Simply chocolate. It was okay. It tasted nice but didn't blow me away.
I was very excited about trying the fried chocolate bar and envisioned something totally decadent and oozing, but it was chewy instead of melty and not great in flavor. I wish they had used better chocolate.
Two crepe dishes were ordered - the Simple Simean (pictured above) tasted nice - thin buttery crepes with banana and chocolate and some slightly caramel-y sauce poured over the top. The sauce wasn't great (sorry!), but the crepes had a lovely texture. It came with a fruit entourage like the one on the quesadilla plate, and once again, most of the fruit was wasted.

The other crepe dish was a small pancakes filled with apples and raisins and drowned in chocolate sauce. It also usually comes with the fruit on the side, we heard, but in order to avoid more waste, we got it without the fruit. This dish was a total miss. The crepes were rubbery and almost inedible in my opinion, and the filling didn't help. Worst of all (at least for me personally), I hated tasting elaichi (cardamom) in the chocolate sauce. Didn't work for me at all!

Another strawberry shortcake inspired dish didn't do anything for me. Especially when I noticed the supermarket style cake slices on the plate. It was edible because it had stawberries and a lot of whipped cream but I wish they would use better cake!

After glancing through the menu, I was surprised how easy on the pocket Dewberry's is. Another thing that caught my eye in the menu was a quote on the first page. I loved it! (typo aside) :p
Overall, I actually enjoyed the meal despite the few big misses. The average sauces were totally overshadowed by the perfectly cooked meat and seafood, and the great sides totally compensated for the rest of the flaws.

If you are on Cathedral road and wondering where to grab a tasty bite, without blowing a hole in your pocket, this is a place worth checking out.
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Triple Dark Chocolate Cookies & a Doubly Special Post!

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Happy International Women's Day!

Welcome to a very special post at The Harried Cook.

In today's post, I would like to introduce you to a campaign that a few of my friends have been working on. It is also an doubly special post (as you may have noticed in the title :p), because all the pictures in this post were taken by my friend, and one of the wonderful women working on this campaign, Zippora. She is a gorgeous woman, a great friend, a really fabulous photographer and is the mom of an absolutely adorable little two year old boy. You should check out her blog here. Why don't you leave her a comment, and let her know that I sent you? :)
On to these cookies.

Tell me this - how do you like your chocolate? White? Dark? Extra dark? I must say I often like my chocolate dark. To be honest, thanks to my sweet tooth, I am generally happiest with milk chocolate, but I love dark too. And I like my caramel dark! Mmmmmm dark caramel rocks my world!

When I think back to when I was growing up, dark chocolate was never popular. In fact, I am not sure it was even available. We only had regular, but delicious, milk chocolate and that was all we ever knew. But dark is very popular in India now.
But only when it comes to chocolate.

Not when it comes to skin color.

Millions of people in India grow up hearing, every single day, that they are not good enough because of the color of their skin. I have heard stories from my own friends about how they've been ridiculed at school, given mean nicknames, and how they've even been told by their own families, "Oh! How we wish you were fair!" It is tragic. Now, I am not fair by any standard. According to the Fairness Meter (oh yes, that is a real thing!), I am 'wheatish'. That means I am not fair, but I am not dark either. Whew. I dodged the bullet!

Things are getting worse! Everyday we are bombarded with advertisements for products claiming that they will make you fairer. But it doesn't stop there! Not only will you get fairer skin, you'll get the job, you'll make friends with the popular kids, you'll become a talented musician, you'll become a celebrity, you'll achieve great things in life and most importantly, you'll get the guy/girl that you've been in love with forever, but won't give you the time of day because you are not fair!

You can check out some of the fairness ads on YouTube and see for yourself how ridiculous they are. To normal people, these ads would be funny. I find them hilarious. But to people who have heard every day of their lives that they are dark, or lived through rejection, ridicule and torment because of their skin color, these ads would appear like a ray of hope. But none of these products can deliver what they promise.

Not. One. Of. Them.

I think the advertising industry needs to take more responsibility & be more aware messages they are sending out! They are setting people up for disappointment. Not just women. Men too!

I love this parody. It shows a fairness cream turns you into a blonde, white woman. Because that's what we all want to be, right? It's so funny how while on one side of the world, millions of fair skinned people are trying to get a tan, people with a naturally bronzed complexion, are trying to get fairer. Human nature?
The Dark is Beautiful campaign has been around since 2009. The main goal of this campaign is to try to make people realize that they ought to be comfortable in their own skins.

It is a lot harder than it sounds.

We are working against a mindset. We are working against an enormous industry. We are working against years, decades and possibly centuries of people telling you that you won't get far because of the way you look, or the color of your skin.

In my mind, Dark is Beautiful is not just about skin color issues. It speaks into every aspect of appearance. Short is beautiful. Curly hair is beautiful. Small eyes are beautiful. Dark hair is beautiful. Seriously people. Do we want to be clones of each other?

I believe God made each of us unique - in appearance, in personality, in the talents and abilities He has given us, and in the color of our skin. I believe that what we can achieve in life is determined by how hard we try, how hard we pray and how much of ourselves we put into what we do. Not by how we look. If the world has given an edge to the fairer, more 'perfect looking' people, let's take that edge back by raising our children to be confident in their skins!

And parents - don't make your kids feel anything less than gorgeous! Help them be the beautiful people God created them to be. It's part of your job.

Triple Dark Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Annie's Eats
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz. (227g) dark chocolate (or semi-sweet)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tsp instant coffee granules
5 tbsp (70g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup chopped dark chocolate, or dark chocolate chips

1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside
2. Melt the dark chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over boiling water. Stir until smooth and molten. Set aside to cool. (You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, but be very careful not to burn the chocolate. Nuke it 20 seconds at a time, stirring well between each 20 second interval.)
3. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl along with the vanilla and instant coffee granules. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, cream the until smooth and light.
5. Add in the sugars and beat for about 30 seconds
6. Add in the egg mixture and beat for about a minute. Don't worry if the mixture looks a little 'separated'.
7. Pour in the melted chocolate in a slow stream, beating continuously. Beat on low speed for a further 45 seconds until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat for a further 20 seconds.
8. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Don't over beat.
9. Using a spatula, stir in the chocolate chunks.
10. Set the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. I left mine in there over-night.
11. Preheat the oven to 180. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
12. Scoop out tablespoon sized balls of dough and place them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Do not flatten the balls.
13. Bake for about 12 minutes until the sides are set but the centers are still soft.
14. Remove from the oven, and leave on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
15. Store in an airtight cookie jar.
These cookies are delicious! Chewy, fudgy, intensely chocolate-y in every bite. I thought, and my friend agreed, that they taste like brownies in a cookie form. A real treat for chocolate lovers!

You can learn more about the Dark is Beautiful campaign by checking out the website, Facebook page and our first local celebrity-endorsed commercial that is going to be on television soon!
P.S. - When we say 'Dark is Beautiful', we are not saying that other colors are not! :) All the colors in the world are special and make the world a more beautiful place! It's just that 'Dark is Beautiful' sounds a lot nicer than 'Dark is also beautiful'! :) :)
Love the photographs? I know I do! Don't forget to check out Zippora's blog, and tell her what a great job she's done!

Tell me - has skin color discrimination affected you or someone close to you? How has this impacted you? I would love to hear your stories and thoughts!

I am submitting this entry for the Stayfree Time to Change contest which encourages you to speak out about change you would like to see in the world around you.

You can learn more about this contest here on their Facebook page!
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Monday, March 5, 2012

Vanilla Bean Mini-Bundt Cakes & Winner Announced!

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Isn't this cake gorgeous?

You know what else is gorgeous? I have something really beautiful & special I want to share with you all. The post will be out in a couple of days! :) Don't forget to come back and check it out! 

Now, back to these white-capped beauties. I have been wanting to use my mini bundt molds for ages, and I am so glad I finally did!
You know, once I find a good recipe, I stick to it like glue! I've been using the same vanilla cake recipe since the beginning of time! So I decided I would  be brave and try something new.

I looked around and finally decided on a new recipe and it made the kind of cake I love! It is not a bundt cak recipe, really. It is just a vanilla bean cake. But I just wanted to use my bundt molds. So I did. I am sorry if this offends anyone.

You know how some cakes have a shiny, slightly crispy top and a soft fluffy interior? This is one of those cakes. Sometime I want a dense, moist pound cake, and sometimes I need light, fluffy, delicate cake. This one is definitely the latter.

This cake method was new to me, and I must admit I was a little skeptical about how it would turn out. Worked just fine! Whew!

Vanilla Bean Mini-Bundt Cakes
Adapted from Sweetapolita
50g egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean
95g (3/4 cup) all purpose flour
110g (1/2 cup) castor sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
55g (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour your bundt molds.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the egg whites and half the milk. Slit the vanilla bean down the center and with the tip of the knife, scrape out the insides of the bean into the milk. Throw in the bean to infuse for a while.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, castor sugar, baking powder and salt. With your mixer on low speed, stir well to combine. For the mixer, the paddle attachment is recommended. I used the whisk attachment and it worked just fine.
4. Add the butter and the remaining milk and continue mixing until the mixture is evenly moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about a minute.
5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and start adding the egg-vanilla mixture (after you have fished that bean out!) in 3 installments. Beat well after each addition.
6. Fill your molds 3/4 full and bake 20-25 minutes or until very slightly golden brown and feels 'set' to the touch. Keep an eye on the cake and make sure you don't over bake.
7. Allow to cool for a while, and turn out of the molds.
8. Glaze when completely cool.
For the glaze, I simply scraped out the insides of half a vanilla bean and combined it with 1 cup of powdered sugar with enough milk to get the consistency I like. I ended up making the glaze a little too thick, and while that makes for nice presentation, I found it too sweet. Next time I will make a thinner glaze.

But I loved the double hit of vanilla. I mean, look at those gorgeous flecks in the cake and in the glaze!

Now, for the giveaway winner!

First, let me thank each and every person who commented on my anniversary giveaway post! I totally appreciate the encouragement and anniversary wishes. I didn't reply to each comment because that would confuse me too much while taking a count for the giveaway.

As you may notice, we have 81 comments,  but only the first 80 qualify for the giveaway. That last comment came in too late :( Sorry!

And the winner of this gorgeous book
is... (drum roll, please!)
Comment #47 belongs to Tara, who said - "whoa that is one pretty cake... i would love something like this for my wedding! i've been reading your blog for a while now, and my favorite recipe so far is the brownies with bacon. yummers!!"

Congratulations, Tara! You will be getting an email from me very soon :) 

Thank you all once again for taking part in this giveaway, and for all the support!

A quick reminder - please don't miss the special post that will be out in a couple of days. I promise it is going to be really beautiful. So beautiful, that I am considering getting a professional photographer to come take the pictures! Don't miss it!

Note: The giveaway winner has been contacted by email, and if there is no response within 72 hours, another winner will be drawn using the same method, and will be contacted by email. 
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Thursday, March 1, 2012

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies (and an announcement)

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I know! I know! This cookie doesn't look very fancy or impressive. But didn't your mother ever tell you not to judge a book by it's cover?

Before I talk any more about this cookie - have you entered my blog anniversary giveaway yet? No!? Seriously? Go do it now!

Now, let me tell you - this cookie is...


We interrupt regular programming to bring you this important announcement.

Okay, okay. Sorry about all the drama.

I am more than a little upset about this whole GFC going away thing. Not only do most of my readers get my updates via GFC, but I also subscribe to SO many of my favorite blogs via GFC. It is going to be so tiring to have to make sure that all 1023942323433 feeds in my Google Reader are functioning feeds. Okay. Maybe not THAT many, but still a lot, okay?

To do my bit, I would like to let you know how you can continue receiving updates when recipes are posted on my blog. Here are your options.

1. Subscribe to my RSS feed. You can do that by clicking HERE, or by clicking the RSS icon on the top right of my blog.

2. Subscribe for updates directly in your email inbox! You can do that by clicking HERE or entering your email address in the subscription box on the top right side of the page.

3. To follow me and receive updates via Facebook, you can 'Like' my Facebook page which can be found HERE

So there. Those are your options. You can also follow me on Twitter, Pintrest or Google Plus.

Here are your options.

I hope you will take the time to do this! :) If I am following you on GFC, I promise to take the time to make sure I am receiving your updates. Or I will email you and pester you for your RSS feed. Believe me. I've done that before.

And now, back to our regular programming.

These cookies are seriously good. I loved these cookies. As I said, they look simple, but let me tell you - looks can be deceptive!
I made a tiny batch and got yelled at! "You made just twelve tiny cookies? What's wrong with you?", I was asked. So I am sharing the full recipe with you. For your safety. Trust me.

They are soft, slightly chewy, mildly sweet - until you bite into an intensely sweet white chocolate chip - and have a slightly salty, nutty kick from the roasted salted macadamia nuts in there.

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies
Adapted from Betty Crocker
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, chilled
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup salted roasted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
1 cup white chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 190. 
2. Cream together the butter, sugars, vanilla and egg until fluffy.
3. Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt and mix well to combine.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Mix until incorporated.
5. Drop rounded spoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet, making sure you leave at least 2 inches between the cookies.
6. Bake until the edges are starting to brown, and the centers are still slightly soft, about 8-10 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and leave on the baking tray for 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Have I ever told you that I detest milk? Personally, I have only two uses for milk in life - 1. as an ingredient in baking, and 2. to dunk cookies in. I love dunking cookies in milk and then giving the leftover milk to the dog. He loves it too. These cookies taste delightful with milk! I hope you will try this recipe!

There is still time to enter my giveaway. You could win Alton Brown's book 'I'm just here for the food'. I really hope you'll stop by and enter!

Toodles for now!
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