thursday things – owl cafes, new oreos, and a super bowl round up

thursday things

In case you were wondering, I’ve decided that it’s time to move to Japan. Apparently owl cafes are a thing there and I can’t possibly resist.

I learned last week that if you hollow out a Reeses cup, Oreo filling will fit perfectly into the hole… I would personally have had BOTH fillings, but that’s just me.

Speaking of Oreos, they’ve announced their newest flavor: “Filled Cupcake” (aka: Hostess Cupcake).

And Lays has announced their newest flavor competition, with flavors like Korean BBQ and Smoked Gouda & Chive.

You may remember me rambling about the majestic and elusive Quesalupa around this time last year, but somehow I completely forgot about them when I went home for Thanksgiving and missed my chance. Lucky for me, the Quesalupa is now poising itself for nation-wide domination, so I will finally have a chance to try the heart attack in a shell after all!cucpake oreo

All three of these babies (Oreos, Quesalupa, and Lays) are scheduled for a Feb 8th release date – soon to be most-self-loathing-filled day of my life (so far).

My only saving grace may be the fact that it’s impossible for me to find new flavors of things on their release dates. Phoenix seems to be a bit ‘behind the times’ in these areas, so I may be able to spread out my self-loathing as I eat my way through February’s new items.

In the meantime, Oreo released a new “Cinnamon Bun” flavor. It’s a cinnamon cookie with a “cinnamon bun flavored creme.” While the flavor wasn’t bad, I didn’t think it tasted like a cinnamon bun. It tasted more like Dunakroos (remember those?) or Teddy Grahams than anything else. So far on Oreo flavors, S’mores and Brownie Batter are still my two faves.

I also found out that not only is Phoenix getting THREE Shake Shacks this year, but that one of them will be SO CLOSE TO MY HOUSE I COULD DIE. I’m so excited my heart could explode.

In other news, I hear that “Super Bowl” thing is happening this weekend, so in case you still need recipe inspiration, here are some ideas!

Super Bowl Recipe Round Up

Baked, Occasionally – Kitchen Sink Dutch Baby

20160130-IMG_3601

2016 is a new year and a new collaboration with Shannon over at A Periodic Table. Last year, we spun our way through the Jeni’s books and this year we have something new in store. We will be baking our way through the Baked Occasions book month by month in our new series Baked, Occasionally. Each month we will select one recipe (the same recipe) from the book and bake it together word-for-word from the book. Then, we’ll compare our results and, if we see room for improvement, we’ll tweak the recipe and make it again until it’s just right!

This month’s recipe was the Kitchen Sink Dutch Baby.

Round 1 yielded tasty results, but we saw some room for improvement.

Pros: 

  • Very easy to make
  • Comes together quickly
  • Great for breakfast or dessert

Cons: 

  • Not much fluff
  • Not enough stuff
  • Flavor needs a boost

20160130-IMG_3602

Issue #1: WHERE’S THE FLUFF? 

My usual dutch baby recipe has lots of floof with peaks and valley and all sorts of poof. This one fell a bit, well, flat. I chalked this up to the fact that my pan was a bit larger than their recommended size (11.25″ vs the recommended 10″), but Shannon used a 10-inch skillet and still did not have the expected poof. That being said, even the pictures in their book were pretty flat.

We decided to try to remedy this by pouring the batter directly into a screaming-hot pan instead of letting the pan cool for 5 minutes. This corrected Shannon’s lack of floof but mine remained pretty flat. I think I would need an extra egg to reconcile the larger pan, and by the time we add an extra egg we need extra flour, etc, and we’d have a whole new recipe, which is not what we wanted here.

Issue #2: WHERE’S THE BEEF STUFF? 

Now, if I was naming this I probably would have called it a “banana dutch baby” because the term “kitchen sink” makes it sound like you throw in, ya know, “everything but the kitchen sink”. While you certainly could do this, their recipe calls for bananas, chocolate chips, and optional nuts. Nothing about this was very “kitchen sink-y” if you ask me, but nobody asked me.

However, Shannon and I both agreed that there should at least be enough banana to cover the majority of the bottom of the pan. We added one (or two) more bananas to fix this issue. Also, a “scant 1/4 cup” of chocolate chips isn’t basically how much I eat when I’m making a recipe that includes chocolate chips, so we we upped this from 1 1/2 ounces to easily 2 – 2.5 ounces. Think a very generous 1/4 cup scoop, maybe even closer to 1/3 cup.

Issue #3: Flavor enhancement.

While delicious, Shannon and I both had the feeling that it could use a little “oomph” – We resolved to throw a half teaspoon of cinnamon in for round two to take it a bit closer to that “banana bread” flavor, but not so much cinnamon that it would turn into a “cinnamon roll” type thing. We both loved the extra warmth it added to the dish.

Forever the tinkerers (and naturally heavy-handed with vanilla) we both really wanted to up the vanilla in this recipe. The batter on its own doesn’t have a whole lot going on and definitely benefited from the boost of an extra dash of vanilla.

Lastly, The recipe called for plain toasted nuts and I only had raw. Since I was going to have to give them a quick toast in the oven anyway, I let myself tinker a bit because plain nuts are boring and nobody likes boring nuts. Knowing they were heading for a breakfasty dutch baby, I added a healthy amount of maple syrup and nice dash of salt to them.

This caused issues only because it was hard to photograph the finished dish without eating all of the nuts… Oops? When I shared this modification with Shannon she jumped for joy and decided to make the same adjustment for round 2. You may want to make extras of these because they really are a delightful treat.

You can check out Shannon’s post right here!

Below you will find our round 2 recipe, which is the Baked recipe including our adjustments. If you’re interested in joining us for March, on the first Monday in March we will be posting the Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting. I hijacked this choice because March is my birthday month. And because chocolate and peanut butter. I mean, you know there’s no way we weren’t going to make that.

Feel free to bake along and share your results with us on our Instagram Accounts (hers & mine) or Facebook by tagging us!

20160123-DSC_1264

Baked Occasions Kitchen Sink Dutch Baby

Ingredients

    For the nuts
  • 2 cups assorted nuts (I used walnuts and pecans)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted) or other neutral oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup (enough to coat the nuts)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
  • For the dutch baby
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 to 3 ripe medium bananas, sliced 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (can use regular, if desired)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 ounces chocolate chips (a generous 1/4 cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • maple syrup

Instructions

    Toast the nuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Toss the nuts with the oil, syrup, sugar, and salt.
  3. Spread in an even layer and toast for about 5-10 minutes, tossing halfway through.
  4. Remove and set aside to cool. (Can be made a day or two in advance)
  5. Make the dutch baby
  6. Preheat oven to 425F, place your 10-inch oven-proof skillet (I used cast iron) in the oven while it preheats.
  7. While oven is preheating, add the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract to a blender. Blend on high for about 45 seconds until foamy.
  8. Add the sugar, flours, salt, and cinnamon and blend mixture for another 30 seconds until frothy. Set aside.
  9. When oven is preheated, add the butter and allow to melt.
  10. Once the butter is completely melted, add the sliced bananas and stir to coat. Return to oven for a minute or two to soften and brown just ever so slightly on the bottom.
  11. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and pour the batter into the skillet, on top of the banana slices. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and return the pan to the oven.
  12. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes until the pancake is slightly puffed and browned on top.
http://wee-eats.com/2016/02/01/baked-occasionally-kitchen-sink-dutch-baby/

Happy 2016!

snowman_marshmallow

Happy 2016, everyone! We made it through another year! I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays, I know things have been quiet around here lately. I like to take time during the holidays to actually, you know, enjoy the holidays.

I’m taking January off of blogging and dedicating it to hitting my “Reset” button. We’re doing another Whole 30 at home (here are some of my favorite W-30 recipes!) to work out all the holiday junk we consumed and then in February I’ll be diving head-first back into the blog with more recipes and regular installments of Thursday Things!

2015 Highlights

Top 10 Posts of 2015

Coming up in 2016

Last year Shannon of A Periodic Table and I teamed up to bring you the Jeni’s Spinalong project and I’m thrilled to announce that we are teaming up again this year! This year we plan to tackle Baked Occasions, the latest cookbook from that famous New York bakery! I got the book for Christmas and immediately thought of it being the perfect project because the whole book is organized by month of the year.

Starting in February we will begin sharing our posts on the first Monday of every month. You will get to see which recipe we picked from the book, along with any changes we made, and how it came out!

 

2015 Christmas Gift Guide

It’s almost time for presents, and if some of you are still left in the dark as to what to get your food-loving friends, I’m here to help!

For the ice cream lover:

Collage ice cream

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home ($10 – $16)

Wilton Incredible Ice Cream Scoop, cuts through even the hardest ice cream (~$10)

Ice cream containers – disposable or reusable – the choice is yours!

For the occasional ice cream maker, a Cuisinart 2-qt Ice Cream Maker (~ $50)

For the hard-core ice cream maker, go for the Cuisinart ICE-100 (~$200)

For the baker:

Collage baking

The KitchenAid Stand Mixer ($200 – 300) reigns supreme. If it’s just not possible, a well-made hand mixer can stand in, though it won’t be nearly as good for breads and heavy-duty doughs.

A heavy duty rolling pin ($20) and some helpful rolling pin guides ($8)

Durable measuring cups and spoons ($10)

I love these Oxo Containers ($17) – they’re great for storing flour, sugar, and anything else you can think of! (That size holds a 5-lb bag of flour)

A trusty kitchen scale ($11) for those recipes that measure by weight instead of volume.

For the pizza-maker:

Collage pizza

I’ve gone through a lot of pizza-cooking devices and this baking steel provides the best results by far.

Or go all out for the Pizzeria Pronto propane-powered pizza machine! ($299)

A nice pizza peel ($25)

A trusty pizza cutter ($12)

For the bartender:

Collage bar

No bar is complete without a cocktail shaker – get one with style like this adorable penguin-shaped masterpiece ($20)

Step up your skills with the ultimate bar book ($12).

Never miss out on a drink with this carry-on cocktail kit ($23). It makes an especially great gift for guests who will have to fly back home after the holiday!

Try something new with Scrappys Bitters sampler kit ($24).

Always have great-tasting wine with this pocket-sized wine aerator ($30).

For the coffee-lover:

Collage coffee

We use our Nespresso ($200-300) every day and I love it just as much as I did on day one. The perfect gift for the caffeine-lover who wants their coffee in 60 seconds.

The only thing I love as much as our Nespresso is its milk frother ($99) – which does hot and cold froth (who knew that was a thing?). Upgrade your espresso into a latte, cappuccino, or macchiato with ease.

Experience coffee in a whole new way with a Chemex coffee brewer ($45 – 65).

Whatever you’re drinking, drink it in style with a gorgeous double-walled Bodum tumbler ($20).

For the avid home chef:

Collage

When I worked at Sur la Table, we used the Breville Smart Oven ($200-250) for EVERYTHING and I could not get over how consistently amazing the results were. It is by far the best toaster oven around (and can make everything from toast, to pizza, to cupcakes!)

The InstantPot ($120) is the new 7-in-1 that is taking the world by storm. It’s even on my very own Christmas List this year! It is everything from a rice cooker to a slow cooker and even a pressure cooker all in one compact little gadget!

Ranked highest by America’s Test Kitchen, this slow cooker ($70-80) heats evenly and has extra features like a countdown timer and “keep warm” feature so you don’t have to worry about your meal over-cooking!

No kitchen is complete without a sturdy dutch oven, although Le Creuset really has the market cornered you can save a bundle with this one from Lodge ($60)!

Also on my own list, the Food Lab’s guide to better home cooking ($20-30) uses science to level up your kitchen skills.

These are my favorite kitchen spatulas ($15 for 4) by far, I use them for everything and they are super affordable (and dishwasher-safe!). StarPack has a large range of other products that are above-average quality and very durable, too!

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase one of the products that I linked to, I may receive a small percentage of commission for your purchase.

jenis spinalong #6 – cookies (and coffee) for santa

jenis coffee ice cream sandwich 2

Hello and welcome to the final installment of our 2015 Jeni’s Spinalong Project! There are no plans yet to carry this into 2016, but I’m pretty sure Ms Table is going to try to talk me into it… We’ll see.

In case you just got here, this is what you’ve missed so far:

Which brings us to…. December! Ms. Table created icelandic wedding cake frozen skyr with lingonberry swirl and kransekake (what a mouthful!).

My December theme was a sort of “cookies for Santa” type of deal. Except I filled these cookies with delectable coffee ice cream, because I imagine that Santa get pretty sleepy traveling house to house all night long. Since we all know that Santa loves cookies, I couldn’t think of a better delivery system for the caffeine than in a cookie (ice cream) sandwich!

So, this project was twofold: 1> Make the macaron sandwich cookies 2> Make the coffee ice cream. Since I had extra coffee ice cream (this recipe made two pints), I filled a second container with those good ol’ Nabisco Famous Wafers, for more cookie & coffee deliciousness.

coffee and cookie ice cream

I chose to go with the chocolate version of Jeni’s macaron cookies, thinking that the coffee and chocolate would complement each other perfectly, and I was right. This match is reiterated again in the coffee & cookie ice cream.

My piping bag was way to small for all of the macaron batter, so as I got closer to the end of my batch, the macarons started coming out a bit flatter. I suspect this was due to over-mixing the batter (as scooping and stirring was required in between each fill of the bag).

The cookies were a bit lumpy because, although I would normally sift the almond flour/sugar mixture, I did not opt to sift these because I am pretty sure that when I get the cookies at Jeni’s they are actually a little bit lumpy themselves and I’ve grown to appreciate the extra texture it adds to the ice cream sandwich. If you would like to ensure a nice, smooth batter, then go ahead and sift your flour/sugar mixture to remove any clumps that might be hiding in there.

So this year, pull out your ice cream maker for Santa. But maybe just leave him a note to check the freezer. You don’t want these babies to melt before he gets to them! Maybe if you’re lucky he will leave you one of the Jeni’s books!

chocolate + coffee macaron ice cream sandwiches

Ingredients

    For the cookies:
  • 8 oz almond meal
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (from 6 to 7 eggs) room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • For the ice cream
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 oz (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup coarse-ground dark roast coffee beans
  • 7 to 14 nabisco wafers

Instructions

    Prep
  1. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, trace 12 circles onto the parchment paper to use as a guide for when you pipe, then flip the parchment over so the drawings are on the bottom side. (They should still be plenty visible from the top).
  3. Make the cookies
  4. Pulse the powdered sugar, cocoa, and almond flour in a food processor until incorporated.
  5. Sift the powdered sugar mixture through a sieve onto a clean sheet of parchment paper, discarding any large pieces that remain in the sieve. (I skipped this step)
  6. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until frothy.
  7. Once frothy, add the granulated sugar a tablespoon or two at a time, until all the granulated sugar has been added. Continue whipping until the meringue becomes shiny and holds medium peaks, about 5 minutes.
  8. Using a spatula, gently fold 1/3 of the almond mixture into the whites. Repeat with the remaining 2/3 of the mixture, adding 1/3 at a time. Be careful not to overrmix.
  9. Fit a large pastry bag (or gallon size Ziploc) with a 1/4-inch plain tip and fill the bag with the macaron batter.
  10. Pipe & bake the cookies
  11. Pipe in a spiral into the circles you traced onto the parchment, reducing the pressure as you reach the end of your spiral to allow the edge to taper off. Repeat with the remaining batter until you have piped all of your batter.
  12. Lightly tap the the baking sheet on the counter twice to remove any bubbles and set aside for 30 to 40 minutes until the tops become dry and take on a matte finish.
  13. While the cookies are resting, preheat the oven to 300F degrees.
  14. Bake cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until they are baked through.
  15. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
  16. Using an offset spatula, lift the cookies from the parchment. Move to a baking sheet and place in the freezer approximately 30 minutes. Once frozen, transfer to a gallon size freezer bag and store in the freezer until ready to use. Note Be careful, they can be very fragile!
  17. Make the ice cream base
  18. In a small bowl, make a slurry by mixing 2 tablespoons of the milk with the corn starch; set aside.
  19. Place cream cheese and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  20. Combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high hea. Allow to boil for 4 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the coffee.
  21. Let the coffee steep for 5 minutes, then strain the milk mixture through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze the coffee in the cheesecloth to extract as much liquid as possible and discard the grounds.
  22. Return the cream mixture to the saucepan and gradually whisk in the corn starch slurry, Return the mixture to a boil and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.
  23. Whisk 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until completely combined. Carefully add remaining milk mixture, whisking to combine, then transfer the mixture to a 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag, ensuring the bag seals completely.
  24. Submerge the bag in a bowl filled with ice water until chilled, about 30 minutes.
  25. Once chilled, you may spin your ice cream immediately, or place it in the fridge overnight until you are ready to spin.
  26. Spin the ice cream
  27. Pour ice cream base into the ice cream maker and spin according to manufacturer's directions until it is the texture of soft serve ice cream.
  28. Transfer to a storage container (mine filled two pint containers), stirring Nabisco Wafers into one (or both) if desired.
  29. Place in the coldest part of your freezer for at least 4 hours, or overnight, until you are ready to make your ice cream sandwiches.
  30. Assemble the ice cream sandwiches
  31. Place your ice cream out to soften, if it's not already softened.
  32. Once slightly soft and easy to scoop, remove cookies from the freezer and place them on a baking sheet that will fit into your freezer.
  33. Top half of the cookies with a generous scoop of ice cream and, using the palm of your hand, gently press another cookie on top of it until the ice cream spreads towards the edge.
  34. Place baking sheet in the freezer for about 30 minutes until the ice cream has firmed back up, then remove the sandwiches from the freezer and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Store the ice cream sandwiches in a gallon-size freezer bag until you are ready to eat them.

Notes

* In case you're wondering, the other ice cream sandwiches are filled with this delightfully chocolatey ice cream , also from the Jeni's book (of course).

http://wee-eats.com/2015/12/02/jenis-spinalong-7-cookies-for-santa-coffee-and-cookie-macaron-ice-cream-sandwiches/

Thinking of starting your own spinalong? Here’s what I used along the way:

  • An ice cream maker – Last year I upgraded from this guy to this beast, and I love it so much! Not only do I not have to give up precious freezer space to freeze the canister, but I can spin multiple batches back-to-back (like I did this day with the coffee ice cream and Mr. Eat’s favorite chocolate)! That being said, either one will work just fine. So long as you aren’t going to be making ice cream on the reg, you should be just fine with the cheaper option!
  • Jeni’s books, of course – Her first one is chock-full of ice cream recipes (including both recipes above) while her second book has some ice cream recipes, but really focuses on desserts and add-ins – ways to upgrade your regular ice cream game.
  • Storage – Far too late in the game, I finally picked up a pack of these pint containers. (Previously I was just using large plastic Glad storage containers). The pint containers are 4 for $10.00 at our local Sur la Table, or I could get 25 on Amazon for practically the same price. So it was really a no-brainer. Plus, they’re good for more than just storing ice cream – they’ll make great containers for holiday cookies and treats.