Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Foodie Blogroll and a Contest Win

I recently applied to be a part of the Foodie Blogroll. Some of you may have noticed that I now have a red widget on my side panel: that is a sign of me being a member of that online community of food bloggers. I'm still getting to know the site and familiarizing myself with the content of it as well as all the wonderful food blogs it contains. Some features I have already noticed, one of these being contests. Most of them are for citizens of United States and/or Canada, but some don't have country restrictions. I took part in a contest and actually won something after being a member for only a couple of days! My prize was a eBook called Healthy Snacks to Go by Katie Kimball.

I haven't had the time to thoroughly go through this book, but I glanced at the recipes and they definitely seemed like something that I could and would like to try out. My husband and I usually only eat one warm meal a day and both our lunches usually consist of granola bars, fruits, sometimes from porridge or berry soup etc. We both try to eat light and healthy and eat our dinner around 5 or 6 pm and therefore we are content for the rest of the evening. These kinds of recipes could bring nice change to our usual lunching routines, so I'm definitely going to take a closer look at the recipes. In order to give you an idea what kind of snacks Katie Kimball is talking about, here's the table of contents for the book. The book is on sale and you can buy it online.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The perfect oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

I use Google Reader a lot. I mean - a lot. Two years ago, just before I started my own blog, I found the amazing supply of food blogs out there. I originally meant to find one foreign one and one Finnish one that I would visit actively and the other ones I liked would be visit more randomly. Guess how long that decision lasted? I don't think even a month, especially after I discovered the usefulness of Google Reader. It was very easy for me as a Gmail user to also start using Reader, and that on the other hand allowed me to follow a larger amount of blogs. Nowadays I have at least a couple of dozen food blogs in my Reader and I check it on a daily basis and usually notice pretty quickly when my favorite bloggers have posted something new. I also use the Share, Star or Like features that Reader offers and by using them, expand my list of "want to try" recipes. That way, whenever I feel like trying something new, I can just click at my shared or starred items and browse through them seeing what inspires me the most at that given time. This recipe has been on the list ever since I saw it in Joy The Baker in the end of April. A week ago I got a sudden inspiration to make these. An added bonus was that I could use my new measuring cup set and didn't have to try to convert the measurements into metric ones.

These turned out oh, so well... Luckily I decided to make the whole batch and not halve it, which was something I also considered. No, I didn't eat them all at once, although it wouldn't have been anything out of the ordinary, instead I offered some to friends that came over, saved a couple for the next day and from the rest I made a couple of stashes in the freezer, so I'll have the pleasure of enjoying them later too and not gain ALL the weight at once.

What I most loved about these was the texture. They were big, crisp on the outside and just soft enough from the inside. This is exactly how I like my cookies. I yet have to achieve the same texture in ordinary chocolate chip cookies, but with these I really hit the mark and next time I'm making the normal chocolate chip cookies, I'll make them as big as these and see what becomes of them then. Until then, I at least have a full-proof oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe.

I was in a bit of a hurry while making them, however, as well as live in Finland instead of the States and not the mention feeling a little bit creative, so I made some moderations to the recipe in regard to for example ingredients. I will give the recipe as I made it. As I can't buy chocolate chips ready like is the case in US, I've developed a habit of buying a chocolate bar (about 200 g) and funneling my sometimes occurring frustration of not being able to buy chocolate chips into smashing that chocolate bar into pieces and using them instead of the ready chips. Works quite nicely. This time I bought a new-comer in the chocolate genre, Marabou Polka, which is Kraft's basic milk chocolate with pieces of Polkagris, i.e. mint candy, in other words candy canes, only not in cane form. I think the mint gave a nice addition to the cookies and to the sweetness of Marabou's milk chocolate, which is sweeter than Fazer's, my favorite brand.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Joy the Baker which again adapted from Southern Living

with the size of the dollops I made, makes a bit more than 2 dozen cookies

ca. 1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups uncooked oats

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

200 g milk chocolate bar with mint caramel pieces (Marabou Polka)

ca. 1 cup orange juice

Before starting to bake, chill the chocolate in the freezer and break into about chocolate chip sized pieces.

Mix the sugars and oil and add the eggs, beating well. Add the vanilla extract and beat until blended.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Add to the oil and egg mixture slowly beating on low speed until just incorporated. Add the orange juice until the texture of the batter seems right. Stir in the chocolate chips. Make big dollops of the batter (I used an ice cream scoop).

Bake at 350 degrees F / 175 C (I forgot to check what 350 F is in Celsius and took a wild guess and baked them in 200 C) for 10 to 13 minutes or until they’ve reached your desired doneness.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bread with cute figures

Last Sunday we visited the newly opened IKEA Tampere (website only in Finnish). Being thoroughly exhausted from the Christian youth event called Karkkugospel that had been organized the previous day and us being there from dawn til dusk, we didn't make any big purchases, but one thing (and actually the only thing) we bought (cost only 3.95 €) were these immensely cute cookie cutters that I have been wanting to try our ever since getting hold of them.

Today then, I made up an excuse to use them for something. Because I've developed a sudden urge to get more fit (although that sadly hasn't yet forced me to exercise a great deal) and thus to pay attention to what I eat and especially the health factor of food, I ruled out the possibility of actually making cookies with these cookie cutters. I thought about cutting cute animal figures out of watermelon slices (which I might just still do later on, I thought it as a fun idea) but as I forgot to jot "fruits" down to my husband's list of grocery shopping yesterday and hence being without them at home and getting more and more anxious to do SOMEthing with these wonderful shapes, I googled a recipe for the kind of bread that is thin and fills the whole of the baking sheet (if anyone knows the real name for this kind of bread, please educate me!) and decorate it with the outlines of different animals. (Wow, wasn't that a long sentence!) And here it is, straight from the oven!

And here it is, about 3 minutes later!

I wouldn't have believed that the recipe searched for so quickly and without much of an effort could produce such a delicious outcome! The crust was crisp and the bread tasted and felt like it had a lot of yummy roughage. The texture was perfect and even though the bread wasn't thick enough to be halved, it worked just fine as a thick one layer. And the figures are just so fun! I didn't much plan how I placed them on the sheet of dough and that's why the end result is so haphazard, but I learned from this experience too and next time I will place the figures in even lines and cut them into squares with a e.g. pizza cutter so that it's easy just to break up the bread into pieces. I made some slight alterations with the recipe itself. There wasn't a mention about what flour to use, so I used one third of wholewheat flour, second third was medium-coarse wheat flour and the last part was a ready-made flour mixture for making rolls. When flattening the dough on the baking sheet, instead of using more flour, I oiled my hands and flattened it like that. I though it gave the bread some extra crispness as well.

Bread made easy and fast

500ml / 2.1 cups water
4 dl / 13.5 oz oatmeal
1 bag (á 11 g) dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbls sugar
50 ml oil
6 dl / ca 20 oz flour

Mix the oatmeal and dry yeast in the warm (42 C / 100 F) water. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix smooth. Pour on a baking sheet and flatten the dough as an even layer. Let rise for 30 minutes. Cut into squares (and cut the figures as well, if you will). Bake in the middle level in 225 C / 440 F for 15 minutes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New measuring cup set!

Here it is, my new measuring cup set! Isn't it wonderfully green! They even have little spouts!

I like it from all angles! I'm thoroughly in love with this set! It includes four parts: 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, ½ cup and 1 cup. I really like having this, because it makes it so much easier to make American recipes. As the European and Finnish way is to use the metric system, i.e. liters and their parts, like deciliters and milliliters etc, practically all my measuring cups are for measuring metric measurements. I have two bigger measuring cups, that hold 500 ml all in all that have cup measurements on them as well, but having only a couple of big ones is a bit difficult when I need to use cup measures more then once while making something. It means that with liquids I have to wash the measuring cups to be able to use them again, even though I might need it just to measure 1/4 cup. This new set means that I can let the dishwasher do the washing, like it should be in the first place.

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