From the Box

Trader Joe’s came to Miami! After hearing about this place in almost every food blog I follow, I was  very excited when I heard the news, so I braved the traffic, the terrible parking, and the threats of having my car towed if I parked at Burger King, and made it to the fabled Trader Joe’s.

And instead of buying the organic vegetables and fresh fruits, what did I do? I spent a ridiculous amount of money on chips and snacks, how surprising.

Brownie Mix

One of my favorite buys was this cool box-brownie mix called Reduced Guilt Brownie Mix. And before you start judging me, this is no ordinary brownie mix. It’s a ‘healthy version’–or as healthy as you can get with sugar and chocolate–and all you have to add is yogurt. That’s right, no oil, no butter, and no eggs.

And to add to the ‘cool factor,’ it has instructions to make individual brownies in the microwave. Two tablespoons of mix, one tablespoon of yogurt, zap it for 45 seconds, and BAM–you got yourself a brownie.

brownie2brownie 3

You might still be skeptic, but these people know what they’re doing, it was actually a pretty decent brownie.

bronwie 4

Advertisements

Thanksgiving and the day after

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last night was so fun! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday so I was really excited that we got to host it this year. We had like 25 people over and, like most Thanksgivings, we were rushing until the last-minute to get everything done. I’m usually on dessert duty, but Thanksgiving is the exception; this is the second year that I’ve been officially in charge of the turkey–no pressure.

But my loyalty is always with dessert–I’m thankful for my family, friends, and the blessings in my life, but I can’t lie– I’m also thankful for cream cheese frosting. Fittingly,my sister made an amazing red-velvet and we also had pumpkin cake, pecan pie, apple pie, and ice cream. I was so busy I forgot to take pictures, but I promise they were to die for.

So to redeem myself (and to satisfy my constant need to bake) I made some strawberry mini-muffins this morning. Perfect for a post-thanksgiving breakfast– they were light, tangy, and delicious.

photo

Finding your “Go-To” Recipe

When you’re the official baker in your house, like I am, there are usually a couple of recipes that are requested time and time again. For me, that’s chocolate chip cookies.

I’m very particular about chocolate chip cookies–they have to be very chocolatey and must stay chewy even after they cool. (Although I’ve been known to break my rules when I get a request for crispy chocolate chip cookies now and again.)

After trying what seems like hundreds of recipes and different techniques, I’ve finally found one that works every time. And the best part about finding your perfect recipe, is that after perfecting it, you can get creative and add different ingredients–white chips, nuts, berries, and my favorite alteration: M&Ms.

M&M Cookies

The best part about chocolate chip cookies is how versatile they are, there’s no wrong way to make them. So go ahead and bake some, your “go-to” recipe is out there somewhere, I promise.

P.S. Here are two of my favorite recipes: Alton Brown’s The Chewy Recipe and How Sweet it Is rainbow cookies (which are the ones I made in the pictures above.) Give them a try and tell me what you think..

Literally Cool Ice Cream

IMG_5658Clearly my obsession with dessert knows no bounds, and ice cream has to be at the top of my list of favorite sweet treats. You can never go wrong with a classic vanilla sundae with hot fudge, and a scoop of ice cream is always the perfect partner for cakes, pies, and cookies. That’s why I was so excited to try this place called Chill’N Ice Cream in Pinecrest. They’re serving ice cream in a super cool way–they freeze it with nitrogen gas.

True to their theme, the whole place is decorated like a science lab; a periodic table of elements is really the menu, and your flavor combinations are written up in your cup like scientific formulas.

The “Periodic Menu” helps you build your ice cream

Here’s where the magic happens

The process is simple, you choose your base (ice cream or yogurt), choose your flavor, and then your toppings. They mix it all right in front of you is these professionla looking stand mixers and then they blast it with nitrogen gas, which freezes the mix instantly. Not only is it super cool, but they ice cream is perfection. It’s thick and creamy, the texture is of ice cream, not soft froyo.

Dulce de Leche ice cream with Fresh Berries

What I love most about it, is that you can actually see how they flavor the ice cream, I ordered Dulce de Leche flavor and they actually added a generous scoop of dulce de leche spread to the ice cream base. And if you’re a Nutella fan then you definitely want to go just for that, they have industrial size pots of Nutella right behind the counter, and they don’t cheapen out.

I highly recommend this place for a great treat and a way to see something new and fun. I’m definitely going back to try more flavors soon…

Oh, Apple Cake

So here I’m taking a moment to rant about recipes that don’t give you exact instructions.  Isn’t it common knowledge that baking is a science? It’s a ll about perfect measurements, and exact temperatures–if one little thing changes the whole cake can collapse on you.

Why the rant? Well, my mom was craving an apple cake that she remembers having years ago at some lady’s house–you know how it is. So it’s up to me to scout the internet for this mystery cake she remembers so fondly. There hundreds of recipes out there, but none of them passed my mom’s approval.

Finally I find one–it looks promising. The basics, granny smith apples, caramel, and a simple cake.

I start prepping everything and find strike number one–no pan size. I seriously have cake pans that rage from 6 inch to 12 inch. I go for the medium 9 inch, and cross my fingers that it’ll be alright. Finally I’m ready to bake  and then strike two–no oven temperature. Really? That’s like baking sacrilege. I’m beginning to regret this recipe. But it’s not over, strike three: no cook time. “Just cook until golden.” I was about to give up right there.

But I kept going, and thankfully the results were good. It’s not the most attractive cake, the “wait until golden” technique cause me to burn some of the caramel.

Image

But thankfully, people ate it up and my mom was happy. Lesson learned though, read a recipe completely before baking, and if it’s not right, keep looking.