Monthly Archives: August 2010

It’s Not You, It’s Me

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So, um…this is kind of awkward. It’s been awhile. It’s been so long since my last blog post that I don’t even know where to begin. And I really don’t blame you at all. You guys have been great. Loyal readers. Me on the other hand…I don’t even know what to say for myself. But I guess I’ll try my best. So here goes.

I left Madison two weeks ago to return home and start my job in downtown Chicago. With the lowest (most realistic) expectations, I returned home to start the 9-5 routine of the rest of my life. Going in that first day I didn’t expect much, so what I found amazed me, and would probably be pretty cool for any non-food obsessed normal person too. Stocked fridge, fountain soda machine, Keurig coffee maker, magic bullet for smoothies, beer Friday AND a candy drawer. True story. And the people are pretty great too.

As I’m finally settling in to this new (and busy) chapter of my life, my brother is starting one as well. He’s leaving for Madison tomorrow morning to start off his freshman year. Lucky! My words of advice: wear shoes in the shower or you’ll get warts, eat Juston sticks from Ed’s and eat ice cream there too (but not every day or you’ll gain 15 pounds in one semester–true story). So in honor of his departure, and because I haven’t had time to bake so I have nothing to write about, I give you my favorite Madison food memories, what I miss about Madison the most.

Wisconsin Ice Cream

Yes, that is the Ginger Foodie herself, showing some affection for her one true love. Clearly the cold weather couldn’t separate us, and I won’t let a little thing like living in a different state pull us apart either. Long distance relationship? No problem. Well, there happens to be a Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream about 10 minutes away from me. I haven’t gone there yet, but I think about it a lot. Mint avalanche, yippee skippee, orange custard chocolate chip! I’ll never forget you.

Stella’s Bakery

My apologies for the lack of any food in this picture because Stella’s is AMAZING. And I don’t just love it for it’s spicy cheese bread either. Stella’s Bakery has the best everything. Scones, muffins, breads, cookies, empanadas–you name it. And I’ve tried it. My favorites are the strawberry scones, the honey whole wheat bread and the cowboy cookies. Now that I think about it, my parents will be at the market on Saturday…and that honey whole wheat bread is just too good to pass up.

Food Reviews

As many of you know, I spent my final year in Madison reviewing restaurants for a weekly column, “Let’s Eat for $7.70,” that I wrote for 77 Square. It was probably the best job I’ll ever have. I got to try budget eats around Madison at some great restaurants that I never would have been to otherwise. Or I would just revisit my favorites and get paid for it. Good deal. Pictured above is a hazelnut crepe with toasted almonds from Bradbury’s just off the Square. I would recommend it for a light breakfast or coffee. I basically got paid for eating. And now that I’m home I have to pay to eat. It’s a rough transition that I’m adjusting to.

Taste of Madison

Yes, that is who you think it is. Remember the girl who told me my white balanca was off? That’s her. Most definitely eating a veggie hotdog. She might kill me for posting this, but you probably can’t even tell who it is. Large Rayban sunglasses…those look like they might leave a sunglass tan. Anyways…The Taste of Madison is an incredible assortment of vendors around the Capitol and it’s only for one weekend at the beginning of September. There is way to much food to try, and last year was my first time so I had a lot to tackle. The good news? I will be in Madison next weekend!! For the Taste!! This also means there is potential for another blog post. I mean, you want to know what I eat when I’m there, right?

Well, I’m sorry this wasn’t as serious of a relationship as I promised it would be. I made false promises. I kept you checking Ginger Foodie for weeks. And all you continued to see was a very peanut-allergic friend of mine holding a losing plate of cookies. Sad. I’m not going to make any promises. I’m a working girl, and this is a lot of work. I’ll try to write as much as I can.  I will understand if I lose you, but it was good while it lasted. So…keep reading? At least say something! My dad is monopolizing the comments and I don’t think he’s too upset that I have a job. It’s hard to stay in touch, so comment/email/facebook if you can!

Don’t forget to text me Keith—you can get your updates on the diseases kids get these days from Mom, but only trust me for what restaurants to go to.

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The Peanut Butter Cookie Throwdown

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You’d think I would have learned my lesson by now.

The Food Network has a show called “Throwdown” with Bobby Flay.  Bobby takes on a different expert each show to see who can make the best you-name-it: fish and chips, pulled pork, blondies… What’s the one thing in common with all of these shows? Bobby lost. He’s an outstanding chef that struggles keeping it simple with traditional flavors. For example, his fish tacos had some unique ingredients, but the old standby with classic flavors beat him by a long shot.

I think you see where I’m going with this.

I have this neighbor who tends to stop by wearing an apron, hot cookies in tow. He’s really not your average spatula-wielding baker. Chad looks like he would feel more comfortable cradling a football than a cookie sheet, but as I have experienced first-hand he really likes food (almost as much as I do). When my roommate suggested a bake-off at 2:30 a.m. one night, I jumped at the suggestion. I do like my cookies, so I offered the idea of a peanut butter cookie throwdown. Simple ingredient but versatile cookie. He warned me that we could do anything with that peanut butter cookie, and I told him I was well aware of how a throwdown works.

So it was on. I purchased my ingredients, including some high quality bittersweet and semi-sweet Ghiradelli chocolate and heavy cream (because that just makes everything taste better, right?). I knew I wanted to rely on my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe and change it up with my own version.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

-1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt-1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened-1 cup peanut butter at room temperature
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
-1 large egg, at room temperature-1 tablespoon milk
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For cookie rolling: 1.5 tablespoons granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium size bowl combine flour, baking soda and powder and salt.

2. In a separate large bowl, beat the softened butter and peanut butter until fluffy. I didn’t use a mixer this time and I think that was the problem with the cookies. Use a mixer and make sure there are no butter chunks. Add sugar and continue to beat until smooth.

3. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix well.

4. Add flour mixture until combined.

5. Form small balls of cookie dough and roll into the sugar. Then, place on to cookie sheets (leave enough room between the cookies).

6. Use a fork to form a criss-cross pattern on the cookies without flattening them. Then bake 10-12 minutes. Even if they look uncooked they are actually just tender in the middle. Give them a minute and then transfer them to wax paper to cool.

So I let them cool for a while and then I had an epiphany. These have to be pretty cookies. Like, really pretty. I would make peanut butter sandwich cookies with a chocolate ganache between them, dipped in chocolate and peanuts. Yes. I would bake and I would win. And invite all my friends over to finish the leftovers.

I made some chocolate ganache. I used an entire bag of  semi-sweet chocolate and a cup of heavy cream…but I also increased the recipe for my adoring fans. I would suggest using 6 oz. of chocolate and 1/2 cup of cream. Bring the cream to a simmer and then pour over the bowl of chocolate, letting it sit until it melts.

Spread a thin, even layer on one side of the cookie and lightly sandwich another (preferably evenly sized) cookie to it. After letting the cookies sit. I carefully melted some semi-sweet chocolate (about 4 oz.), dipping half the cookie in the chocolate and rolling it in salted crushed peanuts.

Yes.

You can only imagine the surprise of my competitor when he saw what I had to offer. Especially since his cookies looked like this:

My terrible camera aside, these cookies don’t really look like anything special. But let’s see what went down at the Throwdown. My competitor and I each chose a friend to judge  and then picked one person we both knew.  Let’s see the final verdict.

Click here to watch a video of the final verdict on the Throwdown.

Ouch that hurts. But let’s be fair. His cookies were really, really good. His basic cookies were warm out of the oven, and he even spiced them up with some cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Obviously, the cookies with the ginger won. Why didn’t I think of that? Good game, Chad. If you want to challenge me to a Throwdown…I’m unfortunately taking the week off from baking because my supplies are (gasp!) no longer in my apartment. But watch out–this time next week I’ll be throwing it down back home in Chicago.

A Sweet Weekend

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My weekend began on Friday. I came back to Madison from a job interview to spend the day with my roommate, Staci, who was visiting from New York for the weekend. I was upset that I had to miss her arrival the night before but hoped all my time spent interviewing would be worth it in the end. Two (homemade apple cinnamon) muffins and half a (free, from the lobby) bagel later, I had begun catching up with Staci. I casually checked my phone, not expecting much at 10:30 a.m. and…

I got a job!!

Good news: I am no longer unemployed. Bad news: I can no longer be a full-time blogger. More good news: I can get a new camera!!!

Worst white balanca my camera has ever seen. Cute sign though.

After a sweet weekend, I decided to make some sugary muffins–cinnamon sugar doughnut muffins to be exact. These are my favorite go-to muffins when I don’t have fruit around. They’re great any time of year, and they are so cute when you make them mini (plus there’s even more sugar to go around that way). And don’t let the name fool you. These “doughnuts” are actually pretty healthy. Pretty much no butter, yogurt and whole wheat flour–but they definitely don’t taste like it.

Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins
Adapted from Laura Rebecca’s Kitchen

-2 cups flour (1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
-1 tbsp baking powder
-½ tsp baking soda
-½ tsp salt
-1 tsp cinnamon
-2 extra-large eggs
-1 cup low-fat vanilla or plain yogurt (Don’t use fat-free it tastes weird. Another great alternative is to use Greek yogurt, but throw in a little honey to sweeten it up)
-2/3 cup packed brown sugar
-4 tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla

Topping:
– A little less than 1/2 stick butter, melted
– 1/4 cup sugar
– 1 tsp cinnamon

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray your muffin tin.

2) Mix together  flour, baking powder, baking soda salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, sugar, oil and vanilla.

3) Add wet ingredients to flour mixture. Do not overmix, even if the batter isn’t smooth. Just be sure that you don’t leave any flour unmixed at the bottom of the bowl…it happens.

4) Divide batter among the muffin cups. Whatever size works, from mini to giant popover-sized muffins. Bake until golden, from 12-15 minutes (a bit less for the mini-muffins).

5) In the meantime, melt 1/2 stick butter and place in a small bowl. Combine ½ cup of sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon in a separate small bowl.

6) As soon as the muffins are done, put them on a rack to cool or you’ll burn your fingers off. After a few minutes, dip them each in the melted butter first and then dip them in the sugar mixture. Set on a rack to cool. Admire how pretty they are. Eat.

Oh and I happen to be taking part in a peanut butter cookie throw down with my neighbor at 7 p.m. tomorrow. For free cookies and to take part in the action stop by my apartment then…but be on time or else all you’re getting are crumbs.