Potluck staple

Rest day so just taking a workout log break, too … I’ve got some other baked goods pics that still need to be uploaded. Once upon a time I had pride in my baking antics. These days I just run out of time. Plus, if the toddler is “helping” I need something quick and easy.

Can’t get much easier than the classic Rice Krispies Treat. Even though others going to the potluck bring way fancier stuff, this is the go to snack for kids and grownups alike. And did I mention how easy they are to make (I am always reminded of this commercial…)? Funny the first time I made them I remembering it being so messy I didn’t do it again for years. The the next I attempted it, years later, it was a cinch and cleanup not a problem. Wonder what I did wrong that first time around.

These days they sell marshmallow bags in exactly the right amount for one batch of treats. I recall there always being leftover marsh. It was always a nice extra to enjoy those leftovers, but alas all good things must come to an end.

These are a fun retro snack, though I don’t think I could bring them to the same potluck event more than once. Then I start looking lazy!

Run for the border, eh! The Daring Bakers head north to Nanaimo

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Shut up, you hoser!

Lauren’s choice is fitting, considering the imminent 2010 Olympics, hosted in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., just few hundred miles away from my home in Seattle. Am I going to be anywhere near there in February? Heck, no. But I will be watching the coverage down here, and what better local treat to enjoy than these wonderful chocolatey layer bars. For those of you unaware, Nanaimo is a city located on Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia.

And there is some great history on behind the Nanaimo Bar. If I may quote the always-accurate Wikipedia:

The bar originated in Ladysmith south of Nanaimo in the early 1950s. A local housewife from Cowichan Bay, by the name of Mabel Jenkins, submitted the recipe to the annual Ladysmith and Cowichan Womens Institute Cookbook. This cookbook was sold in the early 1950s in the region as a fundraiser. It made its way throughout the province’s communities by way of household cookery recipes shared by housewives in the 1950s, particularly via company towns. It was sold in many of the coffee shops on Nanaimo’s Commercial Street, and soon became popular. Tourists in the region, especially US tourists on pleasure boats came to refer to these as “Nanaimo Bars”.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s begin with the basics of Lauren’s challenge, namely, the homemade graham wafer (or as we ridiculous Americans like to call graham crackers). Seems to make sense now, until this challenge I did not know this is a North American treat. Loved hearing about the experiences of my global daring baker neighbors who have never seen or heard of a graham cracker, something I’ve taken for granted all my life.

Baking them was fun and simple. Reminded me why I enjoy baking. While Celiac Teen impressed upon us to try the gluten-free version, I opted for the gluten-ful version for cost reasons. I did look for the gluten-free ingredients and was surprised that the local natural foods store did not have all of the flours available in their bulk section, and not even all of them in the packaged section (Really, View Ridge PCC? I am shocked). Total costs of buying the flours packaged was over $15 at Whole Foods and since I had all of the gluten-ful ingredients at home anyway, I made the decision to go gluten.

I didn’t expect the cracker to be so simple to make. I love this recipe because it’s so natural. Most commercially-made graham crackers contain high-fructose corn syrup, something this family strives to avoid. Mine were a little softer than the grocery-store kind, but I kind of like them chewy that way. Works for me.

I must say the dough smelled terrific. Just like honey graham crackers! I loved making that dough. With fair warning from fellow DBs that it was sticky, I was well-prepared. I baked these Saturday, with the plan to make the Nanaimo Bars on Sunday, using crackers that came out a little bit more crunchy.

graham crackers

On Sunday, the husband took the babe with him to his parents and I was given a few hours to myself, some of which I thought I would spend on the bars. Not all of the 5 or so hours, just some. To my surprise, the simple recipe became a decidedly challenging one for me. First, I couldn’t find my square baking pan. I asked the husband who denies knowing its whereabouts. If I find my Calphalon pan under a sink catching a leaky pipe somewhere there will be heck to pay. Though this didn’t really slow me down. No problem, I thought. I’ll be creative and use my silicone muffin pan. That was challenge #1.

Challenge #2 was my desire to reduce the rich/sweetness, especially of the middle icing layer, which was basically icing sugar and butter. Other DBs declared this a decadent treat. My attempt to test a way to reduce the richness of that icing layer turned into a debacle. I got the math wrong or something, and my icing layer would not thicken. And it was lumpy. I hate lumpy. I was very close to throwing my Kitchen-Aid mixer out the window when instead I just left the house. Took a walk. Who knew making a layered bar would be so frustrating. When I returned I decided to turn that middle layer into a vanilla pudding layer and suddenly things looked up.

Because of the consistency of the pudding (kinda soft), I threw the pan into the freezer. My bars became a really great frozen treat. The layers themselves are not has thick as the typical bar, however in an effort to reduce the richness of it, I think I succeeded. I wouldn’t call these “light” by any means (a cup of butter by any other name is still a cup of butter), but definitely a great version for those not into the sweet-sweet treats.

For the bottom layer I traded the ground almonds for pecans, then sprinkled some of those pecans on top. The top layer is your basic semi-sweet chocolate. Yum.

In hindsight, a lot of fun. As always, very thankful for even a few hours of alone time between the kitchen and me, even if we fight a little. You gotta have a little passion in the relationship, right.

Jump for the recipes, download the PDF or visit TheDaringKitchen.com for recipes plus additional baking tips.

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You say it’s your birthday!

While L’s actual birthday was last week, I will never forget that my water broke the night of the AFC/NFC Championship games, which happened to be tonight. Haven’t decided who I’ll be rooting for in the Super Bowl, but I will try to remind the husband that I called these two teams as meeting in the Super Bowl back around week 5 or so. Seriously. No, really. I did. Maybe it wasn’t too difficult a call to make considering both teams were so frikkin hot, but I did and that’s what’s important. But, I digress.

Due to scheduling, we did a little celebratin’ yesterday, when Grandma was in town. Sheva, a gal I know from work who does photography on the side, came over and took pics of the family. I made cupcakes for the little girl. I made it easy on myself by purchasing Dr. Oetker brand organic cake and icing mix (chocolate/chocolate, as requested by the husband), then just whipped up a little bit of icing to decorate. Used some handy decorating tools that the MIL gave me for Christmas. Thus the fancy-schmancy leaf tips and star tips and somewhat neat handwriting using the round tip. Thanks, Grandma, for playing with the little monkey while I baked and frosted.

happy birthday

Happy Birthday, little monkey!

My First Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day started with me being cranky.

Until the husband said, “Happy Mother’s Day” and I said, “Oh yeah!!” Goody. Suddenly I was in a much better mood. The babe gave me a wonderful card with lots of wonderful things written inside, as translated by the husband (she likes to call him the “waiter”).

Flashback to a few weeks ago. We were standing in line at the grocery store and I saw the display of Mother’s Day cards. I started thinking about all the things I had to do to get ready … get cards for my mom and my sis. Figure out what to get for my mom. Make sure the husband got something for his mom, etc etc. “Oh drat,” I say to the husband, “Mother’s Day is coming up.”

“Yeah,” he says back to me. “You’re a mother now”.  I am! Suddenly I got very excited.

“I want pancakes!”

In the past, Mother’s Day has been brunch at some restaurant on the Eastside. This year, the mother-in-law offered to make brunch at the in-laws’ house, which was a splendid idea. I didn’t want to go to a restaurant, especially since the babe has been cranky lately. This also gave the grandparents as much time as they wanted to fawn over the babe.

Mother-in-law made a delicious brunch that included French toast (even better than pancakes), fresh fruit, bacon, sausage and blood sausage. I didn’t actually know what the blood sausage was. The husband had to tell me on the way home. I wished I had remembered to take a photo. Boo.

And … dessert! Cute little mini-pastries, including cupcakes from SweetCakes in Kirkland. Mini eclairs, tiny lemon meringues, cream puffs and more. My favorite, as I get the opportunity to try a variety. Yum.

mamma mia!

mamma mia!

These are some of the desserts we were allowed to take home with us. The in-laws know me way too well.

I look forward to many more Mother’s Days, and to making amazing new traditions with my growing family. Hooray!

Back to basics

First time back in the kitchen (baking, that is), since you-know-who. Simple lemon bars, for a baby shower. Easy and simple, and much overshadowed by the delicious panna cotta made by a certain talented pastry chef.

lemon bars

lemon bars

The husband was bummed that I baked the bars only to take them to a party. So I made another batch today, though this batch stuck to the pan more than I like. Dang.

BBQ in the ‘Quah

Last week we ventured out of our comfort zone and went over to the Eastside to visit Joanne & Pete. The live in the Issaquah Highlands, what I like to call The ‘Quah. As we’re driving up the hills to get to their house we pass by tons of cookie cutter homes, townhomes, condos and small shops that make up this development and I’m thinking to myself, yeah, maybe when we have kids and tire of the city and decide to move to the ‘burbs, maybe this could be a place I could live in. At the same time the husband blurts out, “Man, I could NEVER live here.”

Anyway, we had a fun afternoon of doggie play date plus BBQ. I won’t get into the details of the crazy antics Max performed (note to self … do NOT leave dogs out near the barbie, but more importantly do not leave food out in the open near the grill, with the dogs locked outside. Bad idea!).

The kids, Bode and Max, tired from playing, and wanting to come inside for eating, drinking and more playing.

The kids, Bode and Max, tired from playing, and wanting to come inside for eating, drinking and more playing.

The husband and I brought over his famous Asian Noodle Shrimp Salad (cold noodles, mixed with peanut oil, tomatoes, snow peas and other natural flavors). Small tangent here … I love this dish, a perfect summer dish. It is a recipe his mom handed down to him years and years (and years) ago. This time I made it. Now. I’ve been Asian all my live (oh really, you ask)… Yes. And not once do I recall my Chinese family every making a dish like this. Seriously. Is my memory just that bad? I remember chow mein type dishes in general, and maybe a peanut noodle dish and lots and lots of soy sauce. It is really very yummy and so easy to make, though. But, I digress.

Asian Sesame Shrimp Salad

Asian Noodle Shrimp Salad

Joanne outdid herself with very tasty turkey burgers (couldn’t even tell it was turkey, we all said, which, really, for a turkey burger, is the best compliment). Side salads and chips. For dessert Joanne whipped out these cool “dessert pizza pies”: Sugar cookies with a lime-cream cheese frosting, topped with fresh kiwi, strawberries and blueberries. Yum.

Dessert pizza pies

Dessert pizza pies

It’s now our time to host J&P for dinner back in the city. We’ve gotta get ourselves a grill first.


The sister & family are in town this week, having driven all the way from Colorado. Woohoo! To celebrate I attempted to make my first angel food cake. Lots of egg whites. Lots of powdered sugar. Lots of sifting. Other than that, not that bad. A bit more high maintenance than I like, but it was all cool. Here is a hint, though, watch the cake in the oven, because I have a feeling it tends to bake much quicker than it’s supposed to. I took this cake out just a little bit before the suggested time (40 – 45 minutes), and still I feel I was a little late in doing so. Next time I will take it out even earlier. Yes, there will be a next time with this cake, even though the husband is not a fan of AFC. Can you believe it? That’s cool. More cake for me …

angel food cake via chattycha on flickr

See, I should have taken it out of the oven earlier … it’s browner than I’d like it to be. Also, it was quite the sticky thing, not wanting to come out of its pan. BTW, we received an AFC pan for our wedding (yes, I did register for one and no, I don’t believe the husband mentioned he didn’t like AFC when we registered for it). It was still NIB until this week. The wedding was, yes, four years ago!

angel food cake via chattycha on flickr

The cake, with a homemade cherry sauce on the side (a bit too sweet, next time I’ll cut the sugar amount in half or something) and some low-fat Cool Whip topping. I never buy that stuff, but hey, I’m still on vacation!

Apple & Almond

fresh apple almond tart via chattycha on flickr

I have other tasty dinner photos to display, like chicken stir fry, or pork chops, however this is the most fun and a new one. I was looking for my occasional splurge at MM, specifically a red velvet cupcake. However apparently the market didn’t have any cupcakes so instead I settled on this delightful-looking tart.

Fresh Apple and Almond. The apples with a sweet glaze is remisnicent of apple pie, though the buttery almond crust gives this dessert an upper-class attitude. I’m impressed. Since the husband is banning desserts like these I enjoyed my half one night and what would have been his half the next day. Mmmmm…