April. Wow. It’s already April, and the past year has been a blur. The move to grad school, meeting my newest nephew (he’s the most gorgeous baby ever – I’m not biased, really), getting acclimated to MIT and Boston, meeting some of the best friends anyone could ask for. I’m not sure how so much love and learning have squeezed themselves into such a short year, but alas, here we are. Boston’s weather is holding to the expected ‘April showers,’ and I can think of nothing better to break up the gloom than some ooey-gooey, break-your-heart, phenomenal chocolate chip cookies.
Honestly, what more could I possibly say than “Chocolate Chip Cookies”? This is the holy grail of baking. It’s a simple, amazing dish with the power to win over even the harshest critics. BUT, and this is a big but, only if you can get them right. There are so many recipes out there claiming to be the best and, believe me, I’ve tried most of them. Many of them are great in their own way; many of them are disappointing. Each person has their own “perfect” version of chocolate chip cookies – crispy, chocolatey, gooey, crunchy – there is something about them that can send you into a tailspin of delicious nostalgia.
For me, the best chocolate chip cookie has to have the just-right crispiness on the outside, combined with a soft, but not too chewy inside. It has to stay the right texture, and have that certain “something” to the flavor that so many recipes lack. But I find that chocolate chip cookies are VERY sensitive to changes in the recipe. So, I tested. And I tested some more. And, then, I tested some more. Each round of testing has been given to friends, family members, really whoever I could find (to make the sacrifice of eating a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie). Folks, we have a winner here. The recipe is a simple one, but oh so delicious. The secret is in the steps, and a few key ingredients. Do the steps in order, and buy the right ingredients. That’s it.
I don’t know why this never ceases to surprise me, but most people I meet have never eaten Cuban food. Now, considering the sum total population of 11MM people on the island, you would think “hey, Damaris – that’s to be expected.” Now, whenever I meet someone, it feels like it is my mission from the universe to make sure they experience Cuban food, Thai food, Korean food, Japanese food, and Vietnamese food – at a minimum (and in that order). It isn’t always the simplest thing to quickly cook up some Cuban black bean stew or some ropa vieja – but gosh darn it, I will at least fry up some Cuban empanadas.
If you have experienced at least a simple (and incredibly, crazy delicious) street food from each of these places, I feel like my universe debt is paid. Because we need to cover our bases in order – we’ll start you off with Cuban. Empanadas were one of the first Cuban dishes I ever learned to make. My mom taught me, and this was one of our tag-team recipes, where she would prepare the filling, and then I would shape and close the empanada. If you have little ones of your own, you might find this is a great recipe for keeping those little hands busy without making a lot of mess.
There are so many different doughs and fillings you can use to make empanadas that this recipe is just the way to open a door to a world of creativity. You can go sweet, salty, gooey, crunchy. Our personal favorites use either picadillo, or guava paste and cream cheese. The Cuban kitchen is all about being resourceful – using what’s available, using up leftovers, making the most of everything. These are a great way to enjoy the heck out of some leftover meat, veggie, or rice dishes. Do me a favor – help me ease my debt to the universe, and go make yourself some empanadas. I promise this is one debt that’s actually very fun to repay.
At the risk of being way too early for this, I honestly can’t help myself. Today was our first cool morning of the year, the first vestige of the oncoming Fall season. Oh, I know. You’re not ready for summer to be over yet, please Damaris, don’t talk about it. Oh, but I can’t help it! My heart is swelling with the thought of smoky air and a kaleidoscopic world of multicolor leaves. To think that I will soon be able to decorate the house with glass pumpkins and cute scarecrows, to know that our Fall vegetables will bloom in the garden… it is magical. So, here is my daring entrance into the Fall season, even though it seems the rest of the world is not quite as fond of it as I am.
My husband and I have been making an effort in the last year to continue our course toward habitually eating well. Mind you, I refuse to put anything in my mouth that I will not absolutely relish. I am a mere 5’2″ and I just don’t have the calories to waste. Here is one of my favorite creations – the Trickster Treat Double Chocolate Muffins. Why “Trickster,” you ask? Well, if I could ask you to make this recipe blindfolded, try it, and then tell me what you thought was in it – boy, would you be tricked. To prevent some major potential fire hazards, I’ll just spoil the trick.
This recipe has no oil, no butter, and is made with whole wheat flour, flax seed meal, and bran flakes. I promise – one of these, and you will be full for a good, long while. But here’s the real trick – these are tastier than a lot of the regular chocolate muffins I’ve had. You’re welcome.
Wow, life has been crazy recently. One weekend involving two 8 hour drives (and two audiobooks), 3 days of feeling dead-to-the-world tired, several cups of tea, and 1 honey oat bran loaf later – I am back to reality. I don’t know about you guys, but I can smell Fall in the air outside. The crisp notes of cooler times coming our way, the hint of slightly wet leaves and grass, the tinge of something reminiscent of smoke in the air. I loooooove the Fall. And right now I am just aching inside for Fall festivals, pumpkin picking, and jumping around in piles of leaves.
That being said, if you’re a Fall lover like me, this loaf is one way to sneakily begin to celebrate the arrival of the season. It’s got the warm touch of Fall dishes, while still being enough like a regular loaf bread to be acceptable in the summer. And, along with it is the recipe for one of the easiest (and most delicious) things you can ever make: butter. Seriously, ten minutes, tops. And it’s sooo good. Plus, it’s actually kind of fun.
Grab a mug of cocoa (or lemonade, depending on your favorite season) and snuggle up on the couch to enjoy a slice of this loaf. It’s got a smooth glaze around it’s edges that will simply make your mouth water. If you come across good variations, changes, subtractions, or additions, let me know! I’d love to hear how they turn out!
This past weekend, my roommate and I decided to be particularly …err…relaxed. We started off the weekend with espresso at 10pm and a game night with friends (which, by the way, included some of the most memorable Taboo quotes I’ve ever heard…though I don’t think I’d be allowed to share them here). We stocked up on sugar and Asian goods from the local Asian market, and proceeded to binge watch anime while we ate some homemade ramen. We ate way too much chocolate and also watched 10 Things I Hate About You (if you haven’t seen this movie – please, do yourself a favor and go rent it on Amazon or something). We played Mario Party. We vegged. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there, we devoured some Strawberries and Cream Cinnamon Rolls.
Little known fact: strawberries and cinnamon are actually delicious together. If you don’t believe me, you can also check out this Guava Strawberry Pie post. I won’t lie – at first, I thought I preferred my original recipe cinnamon rolls. But, after consuming 2 *cough* maybe three of these, I realized how very wrong I was. When Sunday came, I had to scramble to get rid of these puppies as fast as I could, for fear that I would eat the entire batch by myself. The strawberries and cream glaze would probably work just as well on biscuits, pancakes, whatever carb-laden delicious breakfast food you desire. Try not to eat it all off the spoon, though, if you can.
Let me do my duty as a nice person right now. If you’re trying to be “good” or on a diet – this probably isn’t the post for you. Really, you probably should just stop reading right now. There’ll be another Wellness Wednesday recipe up soon – you can catch back up with me then. If, however, you are craving something different, something extravagant, then just keep on scrolling. And maybe plan a jog for later.
We’re going to talk about Guava Strawberry Pie during this post, but first let me tell you a story. I met a man earlier this week who said he worked as a psychologist. He was a man of quickfire questions who left little time for replies. Yet, somehow, you left his side feeling as though you had shared your innermost self with him. He asked me, at one point, in his speed-questioning way, what had been the overarching lesson I had gleamed from my father. Pressed for time and without much time to think, the reply came on its own, “Do what you need to do, when you need to do it, and enjoy doing it.” Without of a moment of hesitation, he asked me the same question about my mother. Again, there wasn’t time to think this through. Yet again, the reply came on its own. “Love others to the best of your ability.”
Wow. How is it that in twenty seconds of my time, this man brought about two things about me that even I didn’t know? Why have I never really asked myself these questions? I was shocked, a little lost in reverie, as he went on to explore his own curiosity within my psyche. It was certainly an experience, and a very pertinent one in my life. Today, I want to celebrate the two people who have celebrated my efforts, who have loved me through my annoying phases and my know-it-all ones, and who have encouraged me to get past those phases. These people have sacrificed more for me than I have ever sacrificed for everyone in my life put together.
In their honor, this recipe brings in a hint of Cuban flavor to it with some guava and lime. It is very traditional for Cuban sweets to revolve around tropical fruits. In honor of the new things that their love allowed me to experience, I’ve incorporated a few of my favorite American flavors. Won’t you indulge me by indulging in this sweet treat? This pie really is “the best of both worlds.” Sweet, homey, and delicious. Grab some vanilla ice cream and a warm piece of pie, and let the memories take you where they may! I will gladly join you.
You know, I never thought the first official entry to this blog would happen on a bus. But here we are, as the trees and mountains speed by along both sides of me, I am thinking about cake. Not just any cake, though. This cake has been a source of frustration and hope for me since I was little. It might even be fair to say this was one reason I ever started baking. You need background, you say? Well, you asked for it. I grew up frustrated with “cake-makers” in general. I never liked cake. I never thought I liked cake. Until, of course, the day I had my first homemade cake.
One particularly irksome issue was cakes that were titled “Oreo Cake” or “Cookies and Cream Cake.” There was never anything “Cookies and Cream” about them. I felt lied to. The promises of crunchy, chocolatey, and creamy were all empty! I have, as a result, been on a lifelong mission to bring some kind of happy resolution to this issue. So, recently, I sat down and developed this beauty of a cake, aptly named “Real White Chocolate Cookies and Cream Cake.”
The promises of chocolatey, crunchy, gooey deliciousness are blissfully fulfilled in this cake. The batters are a combination of the best, thickest, most satisfyingly creamy white chocolate and deep, dark chocolate batters around, with an abundance of Oreo cookies, white chocolate chunks, and dark chocolate chunks. And, if that is not enough to set your chocolate-loving tastebuds in a frenzy, it is filled and topped with a wonderfully creamy white chocolate cookie ganache. Are you in heaven yet? I am. Be warned, this recipe is not for the faint-hearted! Note the *subtle* lack of a prep/cooking time. But it is oh, so, worth it!