Jan 232014
 

Peanut Butter Cookies

I am really excited for this year! For some reason, it feels different…but I’m not sure why. Lots of thoughts rolling around in my head right now though. I hope to do some traveling, plan a few camping trips, and I want to run another half marathon. Completing a half last year was really challenging but it was totally worth it. Perhaps I am being too ambitious but I guess only time will tell. :)

I’m also in my second week of taking a nutrition class at the City College! So far, it’s really fun and interesting. We’ve learned a lot about the 6 classes of nutrients, the difference between calories from fat vs. calories from carbohydrates, and a few types of studies that are commonly used for nutritional research.

You might be thinking…Duh, Steph, everyone knows this stuff. LAME. Well, not meeee! I read a lot about nutrition in my free time but I really wanted to start from the basics and dig deeper into the subject. The science behind what we eat and how it effects ours bodies is just fascinating.

Which brings me to….peanut butter + cookie dough = magical. Scientific research says Trust me.

Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe

Good ol’ fashioned peanut butter cookies are. simply. the best. They are crispy on the outside and super chewy once you take a bite. This recipe makes a large batch but you can easily cut it in half if needed.

Let’s start 2014 off with a full batch, shall we?

If you have any fun goals/plans for 2014 that you’d like to share, please do!

Recipe adapted from All Recipes.

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
 
Serves: 3.5 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 Cups crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temp
  • 3 Cups flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter using a hand held mixer. Then mix in the eggs and vanilla extract.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet batter a little bit at a time while mixing in between.
  3. Once all of the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, put the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  4. When the dough has been chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I usually use two sheets so that i can switch them out of the oven more quickly).
  5. Roll dough into 1.5 inch balls. Place the dough balls on the lined baking sheet. Using a fork, flatten the dough ball by forming a criss cross. make sure there are about 2 inches between each cookie.
  6. Bake cookies for 10-12 mins or until the edges and bottom of the cookie are golden brown.
  7. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes and then move to a cookie rack to cool completely.

 

Nov 182013
 

Homemade Mulled Wine

We haven’t seen rain in San Francisco for over 2 months. 2 months! And when it did rain 2 months ago, it only rained for one day…it’s so weird and I’m anxiously waiting for some drops so that we can get some snow up in Tahoe. Fortunately for me, I’m running away and heading to the warm beaches of Mexico for a few days this week! Muahaha. But when I get back…I expect rain. :)

However, the warm weather has not stopped my friends and I from embracing Fall and enjoying some seasonal festivities (including a Friendsgiving potluck this past Saturday and a friendly game of softball yesterday). In my opinion, the best way to celebrate the holiday season is by chowing down on some delicious food and sipping on tasty drinks.

Warm, spiced drinks scream comfort to me. It’s quite possibly my favorite part of the holiday season (besides snow!!). If you’re looking for a last minute drink to make or an item to contribute to a potluck, this is your recipe! It’s extremely quick to whip up, it will make the entire place smell like winter spices, and you can double or triple the recipe to accommodate a huge group of people. Plus, you don’t need expensive wine for this so it’s pretty cheap to make…Helloooo, 2 buck Chucks from Trader Joes.

I do love making this mulled cider with fresh fruit recipe but this mulled wine might have surpassed the cider this time around. If you already have the spices on hand, all you need to buy is wine, an orange, and some brandy.

Trust me, this recipe is a must.

Mulled Wine

You just add orange zest, sugar, and spices to a medium sized pot, pour in enough wine to juuuust cover all of the ingredients and then bring everything to a rapid boil for about 8-10 minutes to create a spiced syrup. Then you add the rest of the wine, squeeze in the juice of the orange you zested, and warm everything up over low heat.

Once your mulled wine is heated (not boiling or else you’ll burn off the alcohol), you top it off with some brandy, and that’s it! Serve and enjoy.

What’s your favorite holiday drink?

Mulled Wine
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 bottle of Cabernet Savignon (or your favorite red wine)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large orange
  • 1/4 cup brandy (more or less to your taste)
Instructions
  1. Zest the orange skin (by using a vegetable peeler or knife) into thick slices.
  2. In a medium sized pot, add the orange zest, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, nutmeg, and sugar together.
  3. Pour just enough wine to cover everything (in a medium pot, this was a little less than 1/4 of the bottle for me).
  4. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil for about 8-10 mins while stirring occasionally. This will thicken it a little bit and create a flavorful syrup.
  5. Bend head over mixture and smell..it smells like winter!
  6. Once the syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low. Add the rest of the wine. Squeeze the juice out of the orange you zested earlier into the pot.
  7. Let the wine slowly warm up. You must do it at a low temp so that the alcohol doesn't burn off.
  8. Once it's warm enough, add the brandy and serve immediately.

 

Oct 222013
 

How to Taste Craft Chocolate

I recently attended a craft chocolate tasting in the city hosted by Bar & Bean, and it was awesome! I learned so much about chocolate (the history, how it’s made, where it’s made, etc.). For instance, do you really know and understand what you’re choosing when you pick out a bar of “nice chocolate” at the store? I thought I did until this tasting session.

And the delicious perk for attending this event? I got to taste a BUNCH of small batch chocolate bars from all different places! :) Among some of the fun facts received, I learned that 80% cacao can mean different things, and that all chocolate bars are not created equal.

In honor of National Chocolate Day coming up on October 28, 2013, and with the help of Bar & Bean, I’m going to share some of the things I learned so you will know how to properly taste chocolate next time you eat a bar.

So let’s have Hershey’s sit this one out and focus on the good stuff. Ready? Let’s go!

A guide About Craft Chocolate

Fun Fact: The majority of the chocolate flavor depends on where the cacao is grown and how the beans are  fermented and dried. This all happens before the chocolate maker gets his or her hands on the raw ingredients and each part is really important; if parts are not properly monitored, the chocolate won’t reach its full potential.

Another fun fact (that completely threw me for a loop but I guess it’s not that surprising when you actually think about it, right?): Big corporate companies like Hershey’s dull down these unique flavors on purpose. Varying flavors are intentionally overshadowed so that Hershey’s chocolate bars will taste the same no matter where they are made. That sort of bums me out because Hershey’s is known as a go-to chocolate, and they’ve been keeping the good stuff from us all along.

So if you want to enjoy the taste of one-of-a-kind chocolate that was made to really bring out the flavors in a specific cacao bean, try a bar of craft chocolate. Plus, you’ll be helping out small batch makers by purchasing their bars! Craft chocolate is sort of like wine…you won’t get the same bar from the same chocolate maker year after year, even if the beans come from the same farm so that’s also fun to think about.

After tasting many craft chocolates in a row, it’s really easy to see how each bar is so unique. I learned that I really loved Escazu and Mast Brothers (learn about their  interesting story here), and then there were a few brands I didn’t care for. Nonetheless, I really developed an appreciation for these chocolate makers and their chocolate. Now, it’s time for you to learn! :)

Things you may not know about chocolate:

  • It takes one week for a chocolate maker to go from the cacao bean to the chocolate bar (in some cases, it’s longer)
  • Americans eat it in some form 107 times a year, on average.
  • There are more than 51 bean-to-bar chocolate makers in America.

Important Fun Fact: Cocoa Percentage is actually a combination of cacao butter, cacao powder, and cacao mass so it can affect the taste of the bar in many different ways. I never knew this! I assumed that there was a standard, and this information will definitely make me think again the next time I buy chocolate bars.

How to Host a Blind Chocolate Tasting

Now, most importantly…

How to properly taste chocolate in order to experience all of the flavors:

When you grab your next piece of chocolate…

  1. Don’t eat the piece immediately, but also don’t let it melt :)
  2. Take a look at its complexion. If it’s really shiny and dark, you know it’s going to have a good snap.
  3. Smell it. This is a sneak peek at the flavors you’ll taste when you dive in.
  4. Hold it on your tongue while it melts. Give the cocoa butter time to melt and release all those great aromatics.
  5. Taste the flavor profile as it develops.

(If you’re tasting multiple bars, write down what you’re tasting/smelling/seeing during these steps. It’s also really fun to compare these notes with others!)

Things that you’ll find are unique to each bar:

  • How it feels in your mouth
  • The flavors over time
  • What it tastes like afterwards

This was one of my favorite parts of the chocolate tasting. I never knew there was a technique! It’s awesome to share this information with friends and you could even grab a couple bars and host a blind chocolate tasting. Then after the tasting, bring out some wine, cheese, fruit, and nuts to make it a party.

Artisan Chocolate

There you go! You are now a craft chocolate tasting expert :) Let me know if you try these tasting techniques the next time you grab a bar!

Oh, and Happy (early) National Chocolate Day!!! Help spread the word about National Chocolate Day by linking up here!

[Bar & Bean provided the chocolate tasting, but all opinions are my own. Thanks Bar & Bean for teaching me all about chocolate!]

Sep 202013
 

Savory Bacon Cheddar and Green Onion Pancakes

Breakfast might possibly be my favorite meal of the day. I’m more of a savory (vs. sweet) type of gal though. And I love bacon so this recipe totally hits the spot. The pancakes are savory, with a little bit of sweet, and a lot of spicy (if you choose to douse it in hot sauce like I do).

This is a simple and tasty recipe that will change up your weekend routine in a good way. Just make a large batch of pancakes, brew a strong cup(s) of coffee, and enjoy. It’s the weekend so you owe it to yourself to indulge a bit!

Bacon Cheddar Green Onion Pancakes

The idea for this recipe came from St. Francis Fountain’s menu in San Francisco. This local spot offers Upside-Down Hog Cakes which include bacon, cheese, and green onion. Every time my friends and I would go to brunch here, I’d be tempted to order them so I figured that it was time for me to make some of my own!

Topping the pancakes off with your favorite hot sauce and maple syrup is is the cherry on top to this delicious dish so don’t forget that part!

Bacon Cheddar Pancakes

This recipe doesn’t take much more time than making regular pancakes so there’s really no excuse for not trying this recipe. The outcome is fantastic.

What’s your favorite breakfast meal? Happy Friday! :)

Savory Bacon, Cheddar, and Green Onion Pancakes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Ingredients
  • 1/2 Cup shredded cheddar cheese + 1-2 tablespoons extra
  • 1/2 Cup green onions, finely chopped + 1-2 tablesoons extra
  • 5 Strips of bacon, fried and crumbled (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Large egg
Optional
  • Maple syrup
  • Hot sauce
  • Extra crumbled bacon, cheese, and onions for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.
  2. Then using a wooden spoon, stir in the milk and melted butter. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl and then add it to the pancake mix. Be careful not to overmix the batter too much.
  3. Add the cheddar cheese, and green onions to the bowl and stir everything together.
  4. Lightly butter a large pan or skillet and then warm it up on medium heat.
  5. Scoop about 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle at a time, and then sprinkle pieces of bacon over the top each pancake (as much or as little as you want). Then add just a FEW pieces of green onion and a light sprinkle of cheese to give it some color on that side.
  6. Cook each pancake until you start to see the bubbles popping on top then flip it over and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes on the other side (or until the outside is slightly brown and the middle is cooked all the way through).
  7. Repeat for each pancake until the batter is gone.
  8. Top each pancake stack off with some extra crumbled bacon, cheddar, and green onions.
  9. Serve with maple syrup and your favorite hot sauce!

 

Jul 182013
 

Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing with Greek Yogurt

I have some uncharacteristic news: I registered to run a half marathon in November! WOAH, right? I know…I am the worst at exercising but yes, I will be running the US Half Marathon in San Francisco on November 3rd, even if that means crawling across the finish line at the 2 hour and 59 minute mark of the race.

I found out about the race from a colleague, finally got the guts to sign up, and started a training plan this week which will eventually increase to running about 40 miles a week. Wildddddd! But I was able to convince Abby (my housemate) and a few other friends to run it with me so we’ll all be training together. I’m so excited!! If you have any race tips, I’d love to hear them!

ALSOOO, a dozen of my Salted Dark Chocolate Chip and Hazelnut Cookies will be up for bid during Echoing Good’s Bake For Their Sake Online Bake Sale. The bake sales starts tomorrow, Friday, July 19th at 10am PST, and will run until 2pm on Saturday, July 20th. Echoing Good is a non-profit that works directly with the local community in Gulu, Uganda to develop farms that enable lunch programs in primary schools. The crops grown provide childen with daily nutritious meals, and Echoing Good’s program currently feeds over 1,400 kids every day. I love the vision that Molly, Echoing Good’s founder, holds and am so excited to be a part of this bake sale!

The bake sale will take place on Echoing Good’s Facebook page so head over there and bid on some delicious treats (made by an awesome group of bloggers!) for a wonderful cause :) For more information about the online bake sale, click here.

Guilt-Free Blue Cheese Dressing Made with Greek Yogurt

Now, let’s address this guilt-free blue cheese dressing made with greek yogurt :) Salads have been my jam lately but the olive oil and vinegar combo can get a little dull. I still really love making this lemon garlic vinaigrette but when I found this easy blue cheese dressing recipe on  Paleo Spirit, I had to give it a try. It’s so tasty and such an easy way to make your own blue cheese dressing. I love that the recipe calls for greek yogurt, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar–all super healthy ingredients! This version also doesn’t require buttermilk or mayonaise which is another perk if you’re shooting for a healthy but creamy dressing.

You can pair the dressing with these Spicy Buffalo Chicken and Quinoa Wraps, drizzle it over a large batch of Buffalo Fries, or add it to your favorite salad. It will taste delicious!

Enjoy! :)

Guilt-Free Blue Cheese Dressing (Made with Greek Yogurt)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Recipe adapted from Paleo Spirit (paleospirit.com)
Ingredients
  • 1/2 Cup greek yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 1/8 Cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 oz. Crumbled blue cheese
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the yogurt, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar together.
  2. Then stir in the blue cheese and mix until desired texture--you can make it as chunky or as smooth as you like by how much you smoooosh the blue cheese.
  3. Add salt to taste and store in the fridge for up to a week.

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