Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Gift Giving for the Foodies Part 2

Happy Black Friday!

I know you all are probably out and about scoring big deals (like I did at Michaels last night!), but in case you are like me and don't feel like going anywhere after eating enough turkey and stuffing to feel, well, stuffed, here are some holiday gifts that will be wonderful stocking stuffers or presents for your foodie friends. The best part? Not having to leave the comfort of your house in order to purchase these; they are merely a click away with the shared links.

1. Chocolate S'mores Snowman Soap By LoveLeeSoaps

I love LoveLee Soaps, it's such a relief to see someone who is as dedicated (and I mean dedicated, not obsessed) with desserts and sweet treats that are not edible. The classic donuts or cupcakes are neat, but for the ultimate holiday foodie gift, these snowman s'mores are sure to please. Just wrap them in festive cellophane, tie with a ribbon and you're good to go. 

2. The Italian Baker by Carol Field

Yes, I am Italian, and yes, I may be posting some of these suggestions as more than just suggestions for all of you for your friends so much as for my own friends (just kidding), but if you have a friend who likes to bake, this is a cookbook that will keep him/her occupied for awhile with wonderful bread-baking experiments. From focaccia to ciabatta, this book has it all, and once you bake your first bread, you'll never want to go back to store-bought.

Granted, this is a bit more retro or vintage, but these are beautifully made recipe cards with an adorable wooden box, and if you really want to go all out, write out some of your own favorite recipes on a few of the cards as surprises for your friend to find when he/she opens it. I love how hand-written recipes look, and this litttle box would look so neat on a kitchen counter and of course, functions as a great resource for staple recipes!.

I apologize for the less than spectacular photo, but these smell so amazing you will completely forget about it. Shampoo, shower gel and bubble bath all in one - these wonderful little bath and body treats come in candy cane, cinnamon bun (my personal favorite), bubbly, and peppermint bark. Philosophy has it down when it comes to matching scents to the title of the body wash, and I am always impressed with how realistic it smells. This is a great value pack, but if you'e not a fan of all of these, check out their page on Sephora (or at your local JCPenney) for a multitude of fabulously foodie-scented goodies.

5. Peppermint White Chocolate Fudge by Ajoyhas Sweet Treats

I. Love. Fudge. After learning how easy it is to make, I can't get enough of it. But, in the event that you don't have the time (or patience) to whip it up yourself, picking it up for a friend (or you!) is the next best thing. Peppermint white hot chocolate fudge is festive for the season and would be a great surprise in a stocking or for a holiday gift exchange.

Keep an eye out for new posts on holiday baking in the near future! Enjoy your Black Friday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Baby Banana Cakes

There is no better scent than ripe bananas, vanilla, and cinnamon.

I love baking around the holidays; it gives me the best excuse to whip up tons of sweets. Though, now that I work at the computer lab at my college, I really don't need an excuse - there's always hungry students ready to taste test my kitchen experiments.

But this week I am home with my family for Thanksgiving, and I wanted a chance to try out this wonderful beauty that my mom also managed to score with her American Express Rewards.

Beautiful, is it not? I have waited years to get my hands on one of these babies, and now, I wanted to use it to bake up a more contemporary dessert midst the classic apple and pumpkin pies.

What's more contemporary than cake truffles?

Yes, I know cake pops are all the rage, but I love the tiny balls of delicious cake whether or not they happen to stay on a lollipop stick (since in my case, they usually fall right off the stick into the melted chocolate).

But what kind of cake truffles should I make for the holiday? Well, pumpkin was out since we make pumpkin pie, and I wasn't in the mood for apple so...


Banana Bread is one of my favorite desserts of all time. It's not overly sweet, but it's warm and wholesome and oh so good. Not to mention I tried a banana cake truffle up in Chester that blew my mind.

I found this recipe for Banana Cake on Food Network, and apparently it's famous, from Flour Bakery in Boston. Having now made this cake, I see why. I used my BabyCakes Cake Pop Maker for these, but you could go the "authentic" cake pop method and bake the cake, mix it with frosting, and then form the balls. If I can tell you the whole truth though, I just like these kind of cake balls better. They are not so sweet that I feel like I need an insulin shot after I eat more than one. Now that's not to say that there's never a time or place for the others (because I can put those away when I'm in the mood), but I do love how much less time it takes to make beautiful little round cakes with the cake pop maker than by hand.

Then, it's just a matter of melting up some candy melts (or almond bark, which I've found is so much more affordable than the Wilton Melts) and dipping away. Fun, relaxing, and most importantly - yummy.

Or, if you're like me and manage to, once again, seize the entire bag of Wilton Candy Melts (Wilton, why do you make it so easy for me to do this?!) then these baby banana cakes are still delicious plain.I leave you with this wonderful recipe and I hope your Thanksgiving is full of family, friends, and delicious desserts.

See you all next week!

Banana Cake Truffles slightly adapted Via FoodNetwork
makes 36-40 cake balls

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 3 bananas, very ripe, mashed
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1-2 bags Vanilla Candy Melts or Vanilla Almond Bark
1. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. In another bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) beat together eggs and sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes)
3. Add oil and beat until combined. Add in bananas, sour cream, and vanilla, and beat until well incorporated.
4. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
5. Plug in your cake pop/donut hole maker, and once its preheated fill each cavity with approximately 2 tbsp of batter.
6. Bake for 3-4 minutes.
7. Remove promptly and let cool on wire rack.

8. Melt candy melts in 20 second intervals in the microwave or in a double boiler.
9. Gently dip balls and roll until coated. Tap off excess and place onto cookie sheet covered with wax paper.
10. Decorate and enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

THE Foodie Podcast: Splendid Table

Hello all!

So an old friend of mine suggested this podcast to me in light of the research I am doing on food and ethics, and I just had to share it with you. It's hosted by American Public Media and it's entitled The Splendid Table.

So the particular episode of this podcast I want to share with you is one of their first ones, and it features Dr. James Levine of the MAYO clinic and his book Move a Little, Lose a Lot. His ideas about how we are meant to be animals in motion (as evidenced by our upright, standing nature) and how we can just add small amounts of motion to our everyday activities in order to remain healthy are fascinating. It's also intriguing to see a health expert not merely blaming people and personal behavior for the obesity epidemic, but instead striving to find a way to adapt to current societal needs and norms. For example, the innovative idea of a treadmill/desk (stay with me for a moment) highlights just how difficult it is for many of us who work all day at a desk to find time to exercise, when work means earning a living to survive. In the interview, he eve states that tests show those using the prototype begin to feel more focused on their tasks, more creative, and less inclined to nap in the middle of the day. This makes sense, as exercise increases blood flow, and that means it could get your intellectual juices flowing. It's just so refreshing to hear someone suggest that we work with societal norms (like long work-days in desks) in a new, innovative manner instead of suggesting an unrealistic change to one's lifestyle (such as fitting in an hour at the gym every day midst work, commuting, cooking, cleaning, taking care of children or family members etc).

Another great interview on this podcast is with Karen Solomon on her book Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it: And Other Cooking Projects. She discusses adult versions of the classic DIY Popsicle we all know from way back when, only this time with wonderful ingredients like coconut milk and in wonderful new textures such as granitas. She highlights that an ice cream maker is not necessary to create delectable frozen treats, and her book features section on (you guessed it) jamming and pickling as well. Very impressive and very intriguing - I've always wanted to try making my own jams, so this might just end up on my foodie Christmas wish list after all!

The podcast was full of other intriguing interviews, including one about how happy cows make the best ice cream, and how to know whether the fish you are buying is actually the fish it is advertised as being in the store.  I just subscribed to the entire podcast and downloaded all the episodes, so I'll be sure to share with you any other exciting interviews I come across. 

Here's the link in case you'd like to hear the episode in full: The Splendid Table

Think Happy Food Thoughts! - Jess

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holiday Gift Giving for Foodies

Hello friends,

I know it may seem like it's too soon to talk about it; but it's not. The holiday season is almost upon us, and soon our malls will be jam-packed with last minute gift shopping. You don't want to be part of that hot mess, do you?

I didn't think so. Now I assume that those of you who actually read my blog (and are not my loving mother who reads all my posts because she's awesome) are what we like to call "foodies"; and, as such, I have begun to compile a list of super neat gifts that are sure to excite you and all your fellow food fanatics. (Sigh, I've been so good about not using alliteration, I just couldn't help myself!)

1. Artichokes By ErinChristin

I don't even like artichokes and I love this. I just love food in general, and I believe food in art can be relaxing or invigorating, two feelings that happen often, though never at the same time, in my kitchen. Simple yet inspired, it would be a great addition in any aspiring home cook's kitchen (or any other room if you really love artichokes).

2. Colander Pendant Lamp By boeliedesign

This is just plain awesome. Who would've thought to turn a colander into a lamp? Well it's been done and done quite well I might add. It's retro but still classy, and white goes with everything. If I had my dream kitchen and not my tiny galley apartment kitchen, I could definitely find a place for this in it.

3. Cupcake Kitchen Timer By Shimrita

Now this is something I DO have room for right now and would make a wonderful addition to my ever expanding cupcake collection. I know most (if not all) of us use our timers on our ovens, but there's something nostalgic about winding up a kitchen timer; and I feel as though you wouldn't be able to help but be inspired as you came into your kitchen to see an adorable little cupcake sitting on your counter, begging the question: "What do you want to bake today?"

4. Coffee is Fuel for Genius Pencils by TheCarbonCrusader

These pencils have college student foodie written all over them (hah, it's funny, because they're pencils - they write AND there's something written on them. I crack myself up). But seriously, I know I am constantly losing my pencils and pens, and at college coffee's fuel for not only genius, but just for surviving three hour classes. Though I do wonder if having these pencils will make me think I should go after class and treat myself to those lovely (but expensive) flavored Starbucks drinks...who knew pencils could be so dangerous!

5. Cookie Prep Board - Dollhouse Miniatures By PetitPlat

I know I dedicated an entire post to PetitPlat in the past, but take a look at this photo and tell me how could I not talk about it? True food artistry, and one of the reasons I want to have a daughter when I'm older so that I can buy her a dollhouse just to have things like this in it. Of course, I had a beautiful Victorian Dollhouse (made with the blood, sweat and tears of my wonderful Dad) that, naturally, I never played with. But that was before I knew about this! If only I knew, I would've made the whole house a giant bakery! But if you have a little inspiring baker in your family, this could be the perfect gift to start her dream bakery dollhouse.

I plan on attempting to make this into a mini series of posts, depending on the will of the English Gods and how many papers I am assigned from now until Christmas. So keep checking back for more fabulous foodie gifts and a post on Cinnamon Roll Cookies! 

Happy Baking!

Disclaimer: I do not profess to own these photos. I link and cite these photos back to the original sources I found on the internet.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Muffins Muffins Muffins!

Oh my goodness, I know you are all just sitting at your computers and thinking "Okay, c'mon now, enough with the muffins." But you know what I say to that?


Well, maybe after this post. I did just see an awesome recipe for cinnamon roll cookies, so perhaps the muffin mania will go on a short hiatus following these two awesome recipes I plan on sharing with you.

So I work at the computer lab at college, and when I open at the ungodly hour of 7:30 on Friday mornings, I find that I never have time to make breakfast before I go. I thought to myself "I must solve this - or my stomach will eat itself every Friday morning in defiance."

Now you see where my new love of muffins has arisen.

I can just make a bunch the night before and whamo! Instant amazing breakfast when I'm on my dark, dreary way to the computer lab at 7am. Not to mention, my co-workers are all for this, since they get to taste test every recipe.

Last week I made two different recipes, mostly because the first recipe (albeit awesome) only yielded 12, even after I doubled it. You might say "12 muffins sounds like plenty" but reader, in college, 12 muffins is never enough. No amount of any baked good is ever enough, or any amount of food for that matter.

But now, my lovely friends, you get a 2fer post. I present to you the French Breakfast Muffin AND the Maple Banana Oat Muffin.

If I had to pick JUST one of these, I'd have to go with the French Breakfast Muffin. Despite its higher level of  commitment and work than the Maple Banana Oat, who can resist a muffin that is almost in every essence a delicious donut? But that's not to say that the Maple Syrup in the Maple Banana Oat Muffin isn't to die for.

Seriously, both these recipes are so worth the try, and if you have to be up early for work like I do, these are a simple fix. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

French Breakfast Muffins via VelvetLavaCafe

2/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg (I bet you could use cinnamon as well if you don't care for nutmeg)
1 cup milk
For Topping:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, melted
2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line or grease 12 cup muffin pan
2. Combine dry ingredients (sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg) in a large bowl
3. Combine wet ingredients in medium bowl.
4. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, stirring until just combined. Consistency will be thick.
5. Scoop even amounts into muffin cups, about 3/4 way full
6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, just until they start to turn golden
7. Stir together sugar and cinnamon. Dunk muffin (I am so not kidding) into the melted butter, then dunk in cinnamon sugar.
8. Inhale immediately.

Maple Banana Oat Muffins via LipstickBlogger

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup  oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
For the topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp 
melted butter 
1/2 tbsp maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease or line 12 cup muffin pan
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl. 
3. Combine the rest of the ingredients (except for topping ingredients) in a medium bowl and mix until well blended.
4. Stir wet ingredients gently into dry ingredients; do not overmix. It is okay if tiny bits of oats still show.
5. Fill muffin cups 3/4 way full.
6. For the topping: combine first 4 ingredients until blended. Then add melted butter and maple syrup and mix until consistency becomes crumbly. Sprinkle topping over muffins liberally before putting into the oven.
7. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, November 7, 2011

S'mores Muffins

Hello all!

This is a bit of a short post, as I am so inundated with exciting (and at the same time aggravating) college papers. I am even writing one on (you guessed it!) food! But I couldn't just not tell you how amazing these muffins were.

Do you enjoy s'mores? I do. But s'mores, as delicious as they are, are messy and not easily transportable...until now.

Behold - the beauty that is the s'mores muffin! Sweet, but not overtly so, and perfect (in my opinion) for a quick breakfast or snack on the go. I am usually of this opinion when it comes to muffins, but my friends, I kid you not. These are all the fun of s'mores with less mess, more ease of transport, and thus more enjoyment.

The recipe is from Elle's New England Kitchen, and I am so impressed with how well all of these ingredients blend together. I was a bit concerned about putting actual big chunks of graham crackers into the muffin mix, but they absorb liquid just enough to make them chewy and delicious and a great change in texture amidst the soft muffin.

I hope you enjoy testing out this muffin recipe! Like I said, I am on a bit of a muffin kick, so be prepared for both French Breakfast Muffins AND Maple Banana Oat Muffins!

Smore's Muffins Via Elle's New England Kitchen

1 1/2 cups flour 
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1 cup mini marshmallows 
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
3 whole graham crackers, broken into small/medium chunks
2 eggs 
1 cup milk 
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp vegetable oil 
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease 12-cup muffin pan.
2. Mix together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl
3. Gently fold in the marshmallows, chocolate chips, and graham cracker chunks.
4. Combine eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract in a separate bowl.
5. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Do not overmix.
6. Fill cups 3/4 of the way full and bake at 400 degrees for 17-18 minutes.
7. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then promtly remove to wired rack.