Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quinoa-Chickpea Enchiladas

Today a nice lady named Kate walked down an aisle, maybe you're an early riser and saw it happen?

I know this is strange but, I like to walk down aisles too, the grocery store type of aisle. What most see as a chore I like to see as a hobby. I mean, what's not to like? Every product you pass by is a possible inspiration for a dish and a new experiment. And if there's free samples, well that's just icing on the cake isn't it?

Sadly, there are currently two huge barriers preventing me from walking among well-stocked shelves:

  1. I'm moving out tomorrow and my baggage allowance doesn't allow me to bring all my darling ingredients (You don't find food darling? Well you should.)
  2. I have final exams hanging over my head and should be spending my time among another type of shelf, book shelves.
At least my current demise has forced me to get a bit creative with what's left in my cupboards. Here's what my Mexican food craving lead me to couple nights ago.

Vegetarian Quinoa-Chickpea Enchiladas
Yield: 8 enchiladas

  • 3/4 cup canned chickpeas
  • 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup (or more) vegetables of your choice
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (try to find a low sodium kind)
  • 1/2 cup water (I just used the chickpea 'juice' from the can)
  • 8 tortillas
  • ~1/2 cup salsa
  • shredded cheese
  1. Preset oven to 350F
  2. Cook cooked quinoa, chickpeas, taco seasoning, water and 1 heaping tablespoon salsa on stovetop
  3. Spoon 1/8 of the mixture onto tortilla and roll
  4. Spread some salsa on the bottom of a baking tray, place enchiladas, top with more salsa and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
  5. Bake until cheese is melted and slightly browned (~10 minutes)

          Thursday, April 28, 2011

          4-minute McMorning sandwich

          If I had it my way, I would get to wake up to a large bowl of oatmeal and sit at my kitchen table to read blogs for at least an hour every morning. Unfortunately, the busy life of a college student just doesn't allow for that. My solution? A breakfast sandwich that can be made in 4 minutes (trust me, I've timed it) and to do my blog reading in lecture.

          No wonder I'm having so much trouble right now as I attempt to study for my last final exam this year. . .

          4-minute McMorning Sandwich
          Yield: 1 sandwich

          • 1 English muffin
          • 1 egg
          • ground pepper
          • 1/4 tomato
          • 1 slice cheddar
          Here's how to get it done in 4 minutes:
          1. Lightly oil pan and turn on stove
          2. Put English muffin into toaster
          3. Crack egg into pan
          4. Slice tomato as it cooks
          5. Flip and turn off stove
          6. Assemble sandwich

          Sunday, April 24, 2011

          Week 19: Toffee Crunch Cookies

          I bake to stay sane, I bake for the people around me, I bake to experiment with new ingredients and techniques. But sometimes, the things I bake make me laugh.

          I awoke this morning set on the idea that I would bake blookies. Blondies + cookies = blookies, chewy golden brown cookies with crunchy toffee bits. Throughout my whole ab workout I thought about how I was going to make them, how they would look, what ingredients I would use.  I had this idea in mind that I would roll the dough in the Skor candy bits and then bake them to create a crunchy toffee crust. Doesn't that sound great? It did to me.

          This is what came out of the oven.

          Cookies that looked like toffee termites had settled in, began tunnelling and built a toffee puddle moat.

          And that's when I was laughed and remembered what this blog was all about, the misadventures of a college girl and her oven. I remembered what I have forgotten for a while now, that it wasn't about trying to take foodgawker worthy pictures and getting more page hits than the day before. I had started this blog to document my hobby, both the ups and downs and I'm happy that my misadventure this morning served as a reminder.

          So here you go ladies and gentlemen, readers, a post, as advertised.

          PS A more aesthetically pleasing version of these cookies are pictured below, bake them without the toffee and then drizzle with chocolate and sprinkle with the toffee bits.

          Toffee Crunch Cookies
          Yield: ~40 cookies
          • 3/4 cup butter
          • 1 cup brown sugar
          • 1/4 cup white sugar
          • 2 eggs
          • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
          • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
          • 1/4 teaspoon salt
          • 1-1/4 cup flour
          • 3/4 cup toffee bits (I used Chipits Skor bits)

          1. Preheat oven to 350F
          2. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla.
          3. Add flour, baking soda  and salt. Mix well.
          4. Roll dough into 1-1.5" balls and roll in toffee bits
          5. Flatten and place on lined baking sheet (don't forget to flatten them, the cookies don't spread at all)
          6. Bake for 9-10min

          Friday, April 22, 2011

          Pesto Quinoa

          I've been spoiled. Spoiled by chocolate chip cookies, humongous ice cream sundaes, and homemade Italian food, but mostly, by The Food Network channel.

          I don't watch TV at school except when on a treadmill. So when I'm asked "Hey, have you seen that commercial where..." or "Have you seen that trailer for that movie that looks so good?", no I really haven't. And though it's mostly a good thing that I do more productive things when there's no TV around, it also means that I'm entirely deprived from inspiration from the Food Network. 

          When I was over at my cousin's all of last week, I watched it like there was no tomorrow, trying to make up for months of deprivation. I watched as Bobby Flay made Baked Alaska, as Toy Story 3 cakes failed, as Guy Fieri tailgated, as restaurants were made-over and also as Chef-at-home Michael Smith demonstrated a food combination that looked so good I wanted to fly to his home in PEI to have some right away.

          Peanut butter and chocolate may be good, and tomatoes and cheese appetite-inducing, but nothing compares to quinoa and pesto.  I've actually eaten it for two out of my last three meals. Michael Smith made a much more elaborate version involving toasted quinoa and almond pesto, but my simplified college kid version is along the same lines.

          Pesto Quinoa

          • 1 to 1.5 cups cooked quinoa (instructions) (I added in some mixed vegetables while it was cooking)
          • 1.5 tablespoons pesto (I like this)
          1. Mix and serve

          Tuesday, April 19, 2011

          Exam Eats

          Carbs, glorious carbs!

          That's not how it goes, is it?

          Exams do funny things to your diet. They make you eats junk food despite your best efforts to do avoid doing so, and they make you eat it all the time.

          In my defense, we learned in biochemistry last year that brains are selfish beings that have carbs as their energy source of choice. According to what I just studied, they can even take in sugar when the rest of the body can't anymore, selfish indeed (Livers on the hand are altruistic and make food for the whole body, did you know?). So really, if you look at it my way, I'm just giving me poor brain exactly what it needs.

          I really do think that all those M&M's, sugary cereal (Reese's makes cereal, did you know? It should be banned), ice-cream, and cookies do help me concentrate so I can cram more of physiology and pharmacology into my brain.

          Guess I'll just have to make a promise to eat better once they're over. Sorry body, you'll have to endure this for 11 more days. But after, after I promise I will feed you with veggies and whole grains, just a little longer.

          Saturday, April 16, 2011

          Kitchen Sink Smoothies




          TomEHto, TomAHto.

          Regardless of how you say or spell it, smoothies are unequivocally delicious and definitely one of my favourite foods. I often make one post-workout and sip it in delight as I figure out what I actually want to eat for dinner. I usually like to stick to one of my favourites, but as I am currently out-of-town, away from my soy milk, ground flax seed and other  'rabbit foods', compromises must be made.

          I like to call the smoothies I've been making with my cousins Kitchen Sink Smoothies, you know, like Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cookies? Except smoothies instead of cookies, obviously. These smoothies have been breaking some of my smoothie rules (i.e. No juice allowed), but they've been delish nonetheless. Here's a no fail way to refreshing, fruity bliss.

          Kitchen Sink Smoothies
          Inspired by my smoothie rule breaking cousins
          • Frozen fruit/vegetables
          • Liquid (milk, 'milk', juice, water)
          1. Toss your frozen fruit into a blender
          2. Pour in liquid until all fruit is covered
          3. Blend and serve

          Friday, April 15, 2011

          Apple-Dijon Salad

          I've been good, like Santa's nice list good. I've been drinking Green Monsters, eating oatmeal for breakfast and not indulging in junk too too often. Since I also have a nice 17-day break between my exams this year, I'm spending some of my break with my cousins. The weather cooperated nicely with my arrival, because it appears that it was officially the start of BBQ season. Oh how I've craved charred food on those -20C nights this past winter. Last night, dinner included a burger the size of my face. I told myself, I deserve this, I've been a very good girl lately.

          Meat, portobello, cheese, Canadian bacon. Enough said.

          My aunt served the magnificent thing with a side of delicious salad. I promise it was impressive indeed, but I sort of got distracted by the burger and didn't snap a few nice pictures before we polished it off. I'll make sure to when I try making this at home sometime soon.

          Apple-Dijon Salad
          Serves: 4-6

          • 1 head iceberg lettuce, washed and dried, broken into smaller pieces
          • 1 cup cheese, cubed (My aunt used cheddar but I think Swiss or Emental would be delicious)
          • 2-3 granny smith apples, peeled and chopped
          • 2 stalks celery, chopped
          • Honey-Dijon dressing (We used this, but I'd love to try this recipe)
          1. Toss and serve

          Mint Chocolate Chip Green Monster

          My grandfather was a passionate cook and lover of food (I think that's where I got it from) and I have many childhood memories of his kitchen. One in particular involves  my mother using a fancy juicer. I must have been 5 or 6 because I don't really remember it clearly.  I don't know what season it was, and I have no other memories of fancy juicers in my childhood, so maybe this was a dream instead of a real experience.

          I remember the Apple-Carrot juice my mother made for my grandfather. I remember having a very clear distinction in my mind that only fruit belonged in juices and smoothies, and vegetables were for soup. This was very apparent to me, in the same way that I was certain that there were 'boy colours' and 'girl colours' (yellow is girl colour in case any of you expectant parents out there are wondering.). My mother had violated my most basic dogma at the time and obviously I refused to try her 'juice'. She made me some pure apple juice instead, and I happily gulped it down.

          In case of you've never heard of a Green Monster, it's a spinach smoothie that's been catching on in the, um, smoothie-enthusiast world. A smoothie that's filled with the most vegatable-ey vegetables of the vegetable world? No wonder I was afraid of the big bad Green Monster.

          ...until I saw this.

          And found a huge bag of prewashed spinach in my fridge; It was a sign. So I took out my magic bullet proverbially bit it ('bite the bullet', get it? Ok I tried). And that's when my new life addiction began. 24 hours later, I made another, a whole blender full so I could share with my roommate AG (sort of).

          Dogma broken.

          Mint Chocolate Chip Green Monster
          Yield: 1 ~16oz smoothie

          • 1 cup 'milk' (I like soy)
          • 1-1/2 small or medium frozen bananas
          • 1-1/2 cups raw spinach
          • 1 tablespoon ground flax (optional, but it's a great source of omega-3's and fibre)
          • Peppermint extract (start with 1/8 teaspoon and add a few drops at a time until desired minty-ness)
          • 1 square dark chocolate, grated or chopped

          1. Blend all ingredients except chocolate
          2. Garnish or mix in grated chocolate

          Tuesday, April 12, 2011

          Week 18: Graham Blossoms

          I always wonder what Christmas is like in the Southern hemisphere. Does Starbucks still sell peppermint hot chocolate? Does the term 'White Christmas' conjure thoughts of a day spent on a white sandy Australian beach instead of waking up to a white blanket of snow? But more importantly, do they still bake cookies?! Or is it too hot out to turn on the oven comfortably?

          Though I love gingersnaps and gingerbread as much as anyone, it always seems rather inappropriate to be baking Christmas cookies until at least November. It's a shame because I missed out on making peanut blossoms this year and it's still seven months until November. And frankly, I don't have the patience to wait seven months to enjoy Hershey Kiss topped cookies.

          This is why I decided to summer-ize the holiday classic by making graham blossoms. Graham crackers are used to make s'mores, which are eaten when camping, which happens in  the summer. It's seasonally appropriate, I promise.

          Graham Blossoms
          Inspired by: Graham Cracker Cookies
          Yield: 4 dozen

          • 1/2 cup butter
          • 1/2 cup brown sugar
          • 1/4 cup white sugar
          • 1 egg
          • 1 teaspoon vanilla
          • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
          • 1/2 teaspoon salt
          • 1 cup +2 tablespoons flour
          • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
          • 48 Hershey Kisses
          1. Preset oven to 350F
          2. Cream butter and both sugars
          3. Mix in egg and vanilla
          4. In a large bowl, mix sifted flour, salt, baking soda and graham cracker crumbs
          5. Combine wet and dry ingredients and scoop 1 tablespoon portions of dough
          6. Bake for 7-9 minutes (Mine were perfect at 8)
          7. Immediately out of the oven, press a Hershey Kiss into the cookie
          Oh, was I supposed to wait until the chocolate set back up? whoops

          Per cookie:
          75 calories | 3.6g fat | 5.9g sugar

          Sunday, April 10, 2011

          Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal

          I'm staring at the Blogger toolbar right now, looking for a button that will allow me to attach a 'smell' to this post. Unfortunately, I don't see one. Quotes, links, pictures, videos, but no smells? That's really doing you all a great disservice since I don't have enough words in my vocabulary to describe the smell of my breakfast this morning.

          I had this brilliant idea last night that I would try making oats on the stovetop, I mean, it is Sunday morning, so I thought my breakfast deserved a bit more effort than my usual microwave quick oats I make while still half-asleep on weekdays.

          We're in the midst of final exams right now so I planned to wake up at 7:30, do my ab workout, have breakfast, all by 8am. This way, I could get to library and finish up studying for my anatomy exam tomorrow and still have time for baking and my Hot Yoga class . But unfortunately my overly-optimistic self forgot that I don't actually know how to make old-fashioned oats on the stove, so by 8 I was still wondering how often I needed to pause my workout to stir the pot.

          This is the part where I would have attached the 'smell' to this post because it is absolutely intoxicating. So please do pretend that I did and breathe in deeply. Doesn't that smell amazing? I know.

          Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal
          Adapted from Stovetop Oatmeal with Whipped Banana
          Yield: 1 serving

          • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
          • 1 cup water
          • pinch salt (don't forget this)
          • 1/2 a banana, sort of mashed
          • 1/4 cup milk or extra water
          • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
          • 2 tablespoons roasted chopped walnuts (roasted nuts are about 100 times more delicious than raw, see instructions here)
          1. On low heat, mix the oats, salt and 1 cup water. Cook for 4-5minutes
          2. Add the banana and cook for 1-2 minutes longer
          3. Stir in the extra milk/water, use more or less depending on how thick you like your oatmeal
          4. Top with peanut butter and nuts.
          Had to take out the rubber spatula, it was that good.

          Saturday, April 9, 2011

          Cocoa Roasted Almonds

          I still remember the first time I went to Target. I remember all the types of foods that were there that we can't get up here in Canada. I know this probably seems odd to those of you reading from the states, but the thing is, Banana Nut Cheerios are kind of shocking to see for the first time when you've grown up under the impression that Cheerios are only sold in three flavours: regular, honey nut and multigrain.

          Every time my family goes to down for some cross-border shopping we always make sure to import some of our favourite goodies from Target, American Costco (yes, we call it 'American' Costco), and Trader Joes. Goodies like my childhood favorite, Trix cereal, which isn't sold here anymore and, also plenty of nuts of every kind (Don't worry, nuts are sold in Canada too, they're just much cheaper in the states).

          On a recent trip I picked up some cocoa roasted almonds since I remembered seeing them on the list of '125 Best Packaged Foods for Women' in my favorite magazine. They were delicious, but sadly, I have now run out and they contain artificial sweetener, yuck!

          Fortunately, I have everything I need to make my own in my kitchen here at school because I've been craving them ever since I finished off my last pack.

          This should last me until our next trip down south, maybe.

          Cocoa Roasted Almonds
          Yield: 2 cups

          • 2 cups roasted almonds, cooled (see roasting instructions here)
          • 1/4 cup cocoa
          • 3-4 teaspoons icing sugar
          • generous pinch of salt
          • 1 egg white (I used 2 teaspoons of meringue powder and 2 tablespoons of water instead)
          1. Preset oven to 200F
          2. Sift and mix cocoa, sugar and salt in a bowl large enough for the almonds, set aside (A large tupperware container would work well)
          3. Toss almonds in egg white (I recommend a ziploc bagl, I made a huge mess with my plate-bowl contraption)
          4. Add coated almonds to the dry mixture, cover and shake until well coated
          5. Pour onto baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 20min

          Peanut Butter Banana Stack

          Go faster! Because faster is harder, and harder is more fun!. . .now smile.
          This is what my spin class instructor was screaming at us at about 8:30 this morning, and after a few times, I was starting to believe it. It's amazing what a dedicated and fun fitness instructor can get you to do, even if it's a Saturday morning. I really have no idea what I'm going to do this summer away from the incredible Rec Centre we have here at school.

          I got too excited and inhaled half of it before snapping a picture, I'm sorry.

          I wonder sometimes what my life would be like if I had a peanut allergy. I think I would actually starve. The grocery store at school was recently giving out free samples of a soy-based spread meant to replace peanut butter. The store staff were all saying how it taste just like the real thing, so I was really excited to try it once I got home. My excitement was quickly quenched once I tried it, it tasted like soy, in a bad way. Yuck. I am incredibly thankful that my immune system will tolerate the real thing, because that means that I get to enjoy this!

          The pancakes are from my favorite pancake recipe and the same ones I used in my Strawberry Shortcake Stacked Pancakes. They have no oil, eggs, or butter but taste like they're full of it, yum. They also freeze well, not that you'll have any left.

          Peanut Butter Banana Stack
          Adapted from Strawberry Shortcake Stacked Pancakes
          Yield: 8-10 pancakes (I got 9 + a baby one)
          • 1 cup + 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
          • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (plus a little more for garnish)
          • 1 teaspoon baking powder
          • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
          • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (didn't have any)
          • 1/4 teaspoon allspice (didn't have any)
          • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
          • Pinch salt
          • 3/4 cup milk
          • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
          • 1 tablespoon honey
          • 1 cup warm water
          • Plenty of peanut butter
          • 1/2 banana per stack
          1. Combine all dry ingredients, and all wet. Whisk the two together.
          2. Scoop 1/4 cup of batter onto a heated and greased pan, flip when the edges are set.
          3. Layer pancakes with peanut butter and banana slices
          4. Sprinkle with extra coconut

          Friday, April 8, 2011

          Week 17: Hazelnut Shortbread

          I blame my parents for my early exposure to Nutella and resultant lifelong addiction to hazelnuts. I put hazelnuts in my oatmeal almost every morning and at every gelateria, I choose hazelnut (it was most crushing when I was in Vienna a couple summers ago and they didn't have it, but then again maybe they did and I just couldn't decipher it from the German menu).

          Last week I headed to my favorite bulk foods store and picked up a large bag of raw hazelnuts, with many  delicious bowls of oatmeal in mind. But then I dug up this recipe that's been on my computer for a while. It was a recipe for hazelnut cookies with only 5 ingredients and were super simple, surely it was worth some of my stash.

          So I followed along the recipe, I roasted, peeled, chopped and threw it all into my magic bullet (food processors are for adults, college kids get magic bullets). This is the part where I neglected a user comment that said not to try to make these without a food processor. I had been making food processor recipes all this time with my magic bullet, hummus, peanut butter, lemon bars, Mr. Bullet had tackled them all, until now. My cookie dough just wouldn't come together. I rolled it into logs the best I could and hoped that it would all come together while chilling in the fridge.

          Unfortunately my cross-fingered prayers to the baked good deities were not heard and I was met with a colder version of the crumbly mess I had stuck in the fridge. Maybe leaving them overnight would work?

          Since I've now become a morning person (I bet it was the oatmeal), I was up with well enough time to bake before my first class, which was when plan B came to mind. I should just press it all into a pan and make shortbread! And that was exactly what I did, and we all lived happily ever after. The End.

          Hazelnut Shortbread
          Adapted from Hazelnut Cookies
          Yield: 20 cookies
          • 1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts (roasting instructions here)
          • 1/4 cup sugar
          • 3/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
          • pinch salt
          • 1/2 cup butter, cold and chopped into little pieces 
          • chocolate to drizzle (optional)
          1. Roast nuts and allow to cool, peel by rubbing together with a dishcloth or paper towel (don't worry if you don't get all of the skin off)
          2. Pulse nuts and and sugar in a food processor
          3. Add flour and salt and mix until well blended
          4. Add butter until dough comes together, or not
          5. Now you have 2 options, the epicurious way and the collegebakergirl way. My way is described below, the alternate is linked above.
          6. Preset oven to 350F
          7. Press dough into a small pan (I was able to fill half of a 9" square pan), cut into 20 pieces, a pizza cutter works well
          8. Bake for 12-14 minutes, allow to cool and break apart
          9. drizzle with melted chocolate if desired
          Had some extra chocolate left over and covered a Ritz cracker, mmm.

          Thursday, April 7, 2011

          Almond Joy Smoothie

          I am old. It feels like just yesterday that I arrived on campus, sleep deprived from the red-eye flight, knowing no one and extremely lost. But today I officially finished my last class of third year, thereby making me a little old lady, minus the little part. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but right now I think I just want to be in undergrad forever because the real world seems pretty scary.

          Does the real world have cafes that offer 5 different types of dairy to put into your coffee? How about state-of-the-art gym's that I can enter with the swipe of my student card, gyms with smoothie joints with half-price Tuesdays? And professors that defer deadlines on 'compassionate grounds' when you drop your laptop and shatter the screen? I like my current world.

          I think its best to brush away these panicky thoughts until at least halfway through fourth year by going to said card-swiping gym. Gyms are sacred places where you get to run, swim, elliptical away all that's concerning in the world. At the gym there are no exams, interviews, rejection letters, or the 'real' world to freak out about. At the gym it's just me, my 'Cardio <3' (I keep the <3 from my high school days for nostalgia) playlist, and the treadmill. I can handle that.

          Another one of my favorite cure-all's are smoothies. There's really nothing more soothing than an icy drink that tastes like dessert. I had an epiphany yesterday afternoon that coconut, almonds and chocolate would make the perfect combination for one. You know, like an Almond Joy? Except I've never actually had an Almond Joy before, is it an American thing? Because if so, I'd like to know so I can grab a few on my next cross-border shopping trip. I'm hoping it'll taste like this so I don't have to rename my recipe and because this is delish!

          Almond Joy Smoothie
          Yield: 1 ~16oz. smoothie
          • 3/4 cup almond milk
          • 2 tablespoons cocoa
          • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut
          • 1 small frozen banana
          • water to adjust consistency
          • handful chopped almonds
          • Almond extract (I don't have any but I imagine it would be delicious)
          1. Blend all ingredients except the almonds, it might take a while to get the coconut smooth
          2. Top with almonds
          3. Sip away the 'real' world

          Wednesday, April 6, 2011

          Hazelnut Cookie Oatmeal

          You know those mornings where you wake up before you need to be up, in a frenzy because you think you missed your alarm ringing and are now horribly late? But then you look at the time and realize that you actually don't need to be up for a while and get to go back to the warm haven that is your bed, calm and relaxed?

          I'm sure those moments are pretty awesome but I can't really know for sure. Because the thing is, my body does this weird thing where it makes me terribly hungry right when I wake up, regardless of what I ate the night before. It's a drag, really, but I'm not too upset about it, especially when I have a bowl of this waiting for me. . .

          Hazelnut Cookie Oatmeal
          Yield: 1 bowl

          • 1/3 cup quick oats
          • 1/3 cup milk
          • 1/3 cup water
          • pinch salt
          • 1 tablespoon cocoa
          • 1 teaspoon sugar
          • 2 tablespoons chopped roasted hazelnuts
          • 1 cookie, crumbled
          1. Mix everything except for the hazelnuts and cookie in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes
          2. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and cookie

          Sunday, April 3, 2011

          Pizza Margherita

          Thankfully my cell phone's back to normal now and woke me up in time for my 8:30 spin class. Actually I set it to ring before the sun rose so I could get in some school work time to make for all the procrastinating I've been doing recently. That's right, I was up before the sun rose on a Saturday morning!

          Actually it's for the better since I've realized that I need to eat breakfast at least 90 minutes before an intense workout so I won't get an upset stomach. In case you're in need of encouragement to get up early, oatmeal with a spoonful of cocoa and peanut butter does a great job.

          After getting my butt kicked by a stationary bike, it was off to the library for a group project meeting. Not before I had my morning coffee and a delicious Luna Bar of course. I was feeling adventurous and very liberally sprinkled my coffee with cinnamon, it was amazing, I'm drinking all my coffee with copious amounts of cinnamon from now on. Did you know that it's supposed to help regulate your blood sugar levels?

          I meant to make a short trip to the grocery store afterwards but got distracted and the trip ended up taking three hours. I tried to keep it healthy by snacking on almonds and walnuts but I was definitely famished by the time I got home. I had been craving Pizza Margherita since I was at the store and picked up some fresh basil, so glad I did. This was so delicious I ate the whole pizza in one sitting.

          I like my pizza with really thin crust and a whole wheat pita does a great job at being super quick and a good source of proteins and complex carbs. Two things that are very necessary after a long workout.

          Buon Appetito,

          Pizza Margherita
          With help from Pizza Margherita
          Yield: 1-2 servings
          • 1 pita (I like Byblos Whole Wheat)
          • 1/4 cup pizza sauce
          • 1/4 cup mozzarella
          • Handful of fresh basil, stems removed
          1. Preset oven to 450F
          2. Cover pita with sauce and mozzarella
          3. Bake until cheese is melted and 'crust' is crispy (~10min)
          4. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve

          Saturday, April 2, 2011

          Week 16: The Chocolate Chip Conundrum

          It is often said that you get what you pay for and that quality will cost you. But when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, does that still hold true?

          Chocolate chip cookies are one of those things that are always good. Even when they're bad, they're good, unless of course you burn them. But even then they might still be pretty good. So would I be splitting hairs if I set out to find the 'better' chocolate chip cookie? Probably, but that's no reason not to.

          In my freezer I had two bags of chocolate chips. One was Trader Joe's house brand, which costs about $2.50. The other was from San Francisco chocolatier Guittard, which costs about $5. Both are semi-sweet, perfect for cookies and both came with recipes printed on the back.

          Guittard calls its recipe 'THE ORIGINAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE' (yes, actually in capital letters) while TJ's modestly titled its as 'Chocolate Chip Cookies'. The truth is, both recipes were exactly the same except for the ratio between brown and white sugar. Another thing is that folks at Guittard like little baby cookies, because their recipe claims to yield seven dozen, while TJ's, two.

          Comparing the chips alone, Guittard's are a clear winner. Their chips just taste smoother and with less in-your-face sweetness. But then again, this is a chocolate chip cookie test so I had to see how they'd compare when engulfed by dough.

          I suppose the fairest way to have done this was to add each chip to its respective advertised dough recipe, but they differ so little and I personally really like brown sugar, so I chose TJ's recipe. I made the dough as directed and then divided it into two separate bowls before adding the chips. I then scooped out the dough with a level tablespoon and refrigerated it for an hour (apparently cookies are better if you let the flavours 'marinate', the NY Times said so). They were baked side to side for consistency (This is serious science).

          Once they were all baked, cooled and anonymised, I set out to gather some data. Unlike most scientific studies, this was easy to recruit subjects for. All I had to do was offer people a cookie with one catch, they had to take TWO cookies. It was really hard, really.

          I got quite a few interesting guesses on what was different between the two batches. "This one's store bought and this one you baked!" No. "These have sea salt" No. It was great fun.

          The results:
          TJ's: 7
          Guittard: 11

          Can you guess which is which?

          I guess money does buy quality. But the numbers are pretty close, so I have other suspicions. First, you have to watch this:

          Ok, watched it? I think chocolate chips are like Malcolm Gladwell's spaghetti sauce. There's no perfect chip, only perfect chips, as he would put it. Personally I liked the 'cheaper' cookie, I think the sweeter TJ's chips worked better because the cookie itself was quite sweet and they needed the sweeter chip to be able to stand out. On the other hand, one of my friend's like the more subtle Guittard chip and thinks its because she doesn't really like things that are over sweet. I guess my chocolate chip palate isn't so refined, but I am perfectly ok with that.

          And yes, this post has a larger word count that the current state of the real lab report I have to hand in soon. Ugh, school.

          Chocolate Chip Cookies
          From the TJ's bag (This is half the recipe)
          Yield: 6-7 dozen baby cookies
          • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
          • 1/2 teaspoon salt
          • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
          • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
          • 1/4 cup white sugar
          • 1/2 cup butter, softended
          • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
          • 1 egg (I replaced this with 1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons water)
          • 1 cup chocolate chips
          1. Preheat oven to 375F
          2. Cream butter and sugars. Add vanilla and egg.
          3. Mix all dry ingredients and add to wet.
          4. Scoop the dough in spoonfuls and refrigerate for as long as you can resist (Make sure you scoop then refrigerate, its really hard to do it the other way around)
          5. Bake for 8-10 minutes


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