Third Annual Bake-a-Thon

So Bake-a-Thon was a little different this year. In year’s past, a bunch of us have gathered at Edwin’s apartment where we work like a chain gang for an entire day – measuring, mixing, chilling, baking, cleaning, repeat.

edwin mixing

This year we hosted the event at Jane’s house, which provided us with a lot more room to scamper around in the kitchen. Bake-a-Thon also coincided with a historically large snow fall on the east coast that barricaded us inside (except for Edwin, who seems to enjoy taking his life in his hands).

jane scary face

But those who weren’t already at Jane’s when the snow started falling could never make it over, thus our chain gang was cut in half. And since everyone brings a recipe of their choice to the event, we were down in cookie varieties. Some bakers even had technical difficulties (sigh… me…). Bake-a-Thon 2009 was, you could say, a struggle. I could tell you tales of hardened espresso powder and overly softened butter…

jane espresso

We also had distractions – watching snow accumulate outside, a whining furry puppy trying to steal butter wrappers out of the trash and New Super Mario Brothers for Wii – we were bombarded on all fronts. It was also the first time I had actually seen Edwin and Jane since moving to Charlottesville in August. Now that I think about it, it’s truly amazing that any cookies were made at all.

edwin stirring

Holiday baking is a battlefield. I also forgot my apron and hat – Qué lástima!


There was also some PDA in the kitchen. Tye set up a video camera in the kitchen, so I’m sure there is a time-lapse video of all the trials and tribulations somewhere.

edwin's doughbutter

Edwin probably walks away with the cookie award for his perfectionism in the kitchen. He moved along on schedule and his cookies looked beautiful.

jane tea

Jane enjoyed some tea.

mario party break

Right before a round of Super Mario Bros Wii.

steak break

Yeah… there was a steak break, too. Courtesy of Dong.

edwin circles

Edwin drowned his guilt about gorging on steak by heading back to work.

edwin butter

See? He’s not even looking at the pretty snow outside.

jane espresso dough

We all had a laugh at Jane’s Espresso Shortbread Cookie dough. Something is just odd about pouring dough in a Ziploc.

jane edwin

Edwin arranged his cookies to cool, while Jane ate them.

cherrycherry cookies

Edwin’s Sour Cherry Hamantaschen

russian tea cakesfinished tea cakes

I was very embarrassed about my Russian Tea Cakes. I’ve made them 100 times without problems, but the 101st time really got me. Two batches – one with butter softened via microwave and one with it left out for 45 minutes – neither was perfect.

espresso shortbread

Jane had success with the Espresso-Chocolate Shortbreads from Smitten Kitchen.


Tune in next year for the 4th Annual Bake-a-Thon! Will we have another record-breaking snow? Will Edwin finally fall victim to distraction? Will I ever reconcile my differences with room temperature butter? Time will tell…

Let it Snow?

You may have noticed Edwin and I are taking a little mini vacation this week. He’s off to Chi-town with family, and I’m trying to do all the Christmas shopping that exams prevented me from getting done!

If you haven’t heard, parts of the east coast were slammed this past weekend with record snowfall. Eek. I’m still working on digging out my car, and I take my life in my hands every time I leave the house. We did have Bake-a-Thon, however many of our usual bakers were unable to make it due to the snow… more on that later this week!

In other news, my baby dog is becoming an adolescent dog. And we got him to finally wear his Christmas bandanna – take a look!


Christmas Recipes!

Here’s a roundup of DC Christmas Recipes from last year!

Kitchen Tips – Butter
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Yogurt Poppy Seed Dressing
Pumpkin Oatmeal Bites
Blackberry and Apricot Thumbprint Cookies
Mesclun Green Salad with Honey Vinaigrette
Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake
Steel Cut Oats with Apple & Coconut

Potato And Green Bean Stir Fry

I am so anxious for my holiday festivities that I am practically counting the hours as they go by.  Not only will the time off be greatly appreciated, I’m doing a big family get-together this year.  This year, we celebrate in Chicago where the bulk of my mother’s side of the family lives.  I’m not looking forward to the cold (or the loooooooong drive), but I am looking forward to seeing family I haven’t seen in quite some time.

Onions and Green Beans

Been a while since I’ve done a stir fry, though this one did not go the way I planned.  The garlic did not come out as strong as I wanted, though the potatoes and green beens kept a good texture.  I’m not sure where I’d take this if I did it again; perhaps asparagus over green beens, maybe some rice wine and more garlic sauce.  Still, a good quick meal.

Potato And Green Bean Stir Fry

Potato And Green Bean Stir Fry

1 russet potato; cut into match sticks
1/2 pound green beans; trimmed and cut in half
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons onion; in half slices
4 garlic cloves; minced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (optional)
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

Par boil the potato and green beans separately in salted water for 3 minutes each. Drain and set aside. Saute your onions in oil under medium high heat until brown; approximately 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and continue until fragrant. Add your potato, green beans and sauce and cook for 5 minutes. Raise the heat, ad the water and cover. Cook until water has mostly boiled away. Enjoy.

Food Photography – Christmas Cookies!

Who is getting pumped for Christmas baking?!


Julie & Julia?

So last night I kicked back with Julie & Julia. I’ve been told multiple times to watch it, but I have to say, I didn’t love it!

Meryl Streep is always an amazing actress, but I don’t think even her abilities could save the movie. Were we supposed to feel sympathy for Julie, played by Amy Acker? Mostly I just felt that she was extremely obnoxious. The splices between Julia Childs and Julie just didn’t seem to fit to me.

Also, I expected to be wowed and made hungry by all the food in the movie, but it was no Waitress. Waitress makes you want to go straight from the theater to your kitchen and to start cranking out pies. Maybe pies speak to me personally more than Beef Bourguignon?

Please tell me if I was missing something here. It did make me wish for some more formal training in the kitchen and a larger repertoire for cooking – but do I really need to know how to bone a duck? It’s an interesting question that a lot of food bloggers and modern cooks probably wonder. Do you have to be the Iron Chef, able to make a meal with any sort of flavor and food item that’s thrown at you, in order to be a good cook?

A Kickin’ Club

This may seem a bit odd, given my recent rant on meat substitutes, but I made a delicious Tempeh Club Sandwich this weekend thanks to Totally Vegetarian. I won’t post this as a “recipe” as it’s pretty simple (and I didn’t think of it).

Tempeh Club

I browned some slices of tempeh, followed by adding a bit of tamari. Stacked that on bread with lettuce, roasted red bell pepper, red onion, tomato, swiss and a bit of french dressing. Grilled that sucker up and it was delicious. Tempeh is, by far, my favorite meat substitute.

How about Banana Pudding instead?

Um… things aren’t going so well!

Baking with a rowdy puppy underfoot is… challenging.

Also I made an impulse buy at the grocery store and have been stuffing my face with Nilla wafers/making banana pudding. It’s not the most picturesque, but it’s pretty delicious! Why have I never bought Nilla wafers before?


I adapted the recipe a little bit because I’m uncomfortable with what they called for with the egg whites. I know some people are a little more liberal with their egg whites(coughEdwincough), but no salmonella for me!

Quickie Banana Pudding
adapted from Nabisco

1/2 cup granulated sugar + more for sprinkling
1/3 cup flour
dash salt
3 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Nilla Wafers
3-4 bananas, sliced

Preheat oven to 350F.

Using a double boiler (or stack pots if you don’t have one), combine 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt, egg yolks and milk. Stir constantly and cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Spread a thin layer of custard in a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Add a layer of Nilla wafers, then a layer of banana slices, then pour over more custard. Repeat these alternating layers about three times, finishing with custard each time. Sprinkle top with more granulated sugar.

Bake 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly, serve with Cool Whip.


Thinking I’m going to post a step-by-step Christmas cookie today – either apricot thumbprints or rugelach. Stayed tuned!

Serving Sizes, Never Enough

For me, one of the most affecting scenes from Supersize Me was the comparison of food and drink sizes “then and now” (I had to look away during the surgery scenes. that was a bit too affecting. I will never be a doctor). For those that never saw the movie, Morgan Spurlock compared the sizes of drinks, burgers and other restaurant offerings from now and several years ago. The contrast was both startling and eye opening.

Pizza Comparison

Have you ever wondered how serving sizes are determined? Mental Floss answers that question today along with providing a great summary of some analysis conducted by Divine Caroline on how how serving sizes have changed over the years. From the article:

Well, nationwide food consumption surveys do, but also the NHLBI (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute). So if you’re wondering why a serving of ice cream is usually only a ½-cup (on their Web site the NHLBI says no more than the size of half a baseball), it’s because that’s what they’ve determined is the right amount to stay healthy. Meanwhile, we all know how many baseballs Baskin Robbins scoops into their hot fudge sundaes–enough to fill a small bathtub, right?

I know I’ve never been satisfied with a measly half cup of ice cream (have you seen those really really small ice cream containers sold at the grocery store now? who buys those?). What’s amazing is how dramatic the serving size growth has been. Every comparison given has an increase of at least 50%; most have more than doubled. The photos really drive the point home. Check it out, and think about that next time you’re at your local Cold Stone or getting a caffeine fix. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence; but the key is moderation.