TWD: I’m out this week

The Creme Brulee that my Tuesdays with Dorie colleagues were making this week didn’t thrill me (I love ordering the dessert when I’m out for a decadent dinner, and I feared that trying to make it myself would ruin that indulgence), but I am preparing for next week’s Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake. Stay tuned.

Instead, I’ll offer you this: if you’re near Wrigley Field celebrating the Cubs’ post-season play, eat at Ian’s Pizza. Tell Gomez that Danny’s sister’s friend sent you for Macaroni and Cheese pizza.

This is Gomez

I was skeptical, too (noodles on crust? why is that good?), but it was soooo worth it.  Sara and I tried the Mac and Cheese, as well as the Vegetable Burrito (again, rice on crust? why?), and both were great.

Mac and Cheese had perfectly cooked pasta with some kind of oozy cheese sauce that didn’t taste as fake as Stadium Nacho Cheese or  the Mac and Cheese that comes in the blue box. It was melty, kind of like real pizza cheese, and yellow (whereas powdered cheese is more orange). I was impressed.

The  Veggie Burrito was very traditional, in that it had all the veggies you’d find in a standard burrito, but also the black beans and the rice, which was oddly satisfying when applied to a pizza crust. Not half as weird as I thought it would be. I’d even order it again.

Actually, next time I think I want to try the Steak and Fries pizza. Rumor has it that Ian’s R&D department is working on a Chicago Style Hot Dog pizza.

I got my mac on

No-bake brownies: a good find

Many thanks for the warm welcome I’ve received from the other TWD bakers.  Not only did they reaffirm my participation in this online project, but their sites provided a great way count down a quiet Friday afternoon in the office. I’ve already found some great recipes I am eager to try!

The first one I tackled was the oven-free Oreo cookie treats I found at Baking and Boys! The list of ingredients was short so I threw them together Friday after work.  They likely will not last through the weekend because they are so good! You can find the recipe here.

No-bake Oreo treats

One taster described them this way: if you think of a continuum of chocolate density where chocolate cake is at one end, brownies are in the center, and fudge is at the opposite end, these are somewhere between brownies and fudge. You can definitely detect an Oreo flavor and a breadcrumb-like presence in the batter, but they are not quite as cakey as a brownie.

I took Baking and Boys!’ advice and used a few extra cookies, coarsely chopped, for a dramatic effect when you cut into them, and they look great! For the candy topping, I used a handful of crumbled toffee I had leftover from an ice cream machine experiment as well as one Snickers bar, and it was great – but think of how cute they would be with Halloween candy or gummy worms for a Worms and Dirt dessert.

Also, considering what’s in them and how easy they were to make, I think they look pretty classy in a silver tray.

File Under: Seemed like a good idea at the time

Three young men in Maine were arrested August 29 for what I would consider bargain hunting.  The Bangor Daily News reports:

The Skinny Dip sandwich at the Black Frog Restaurant is free if you bare all and brave a jump into the cold waters of Moosehead Lake, but the court fee for indecent conduct isn’t.

Three friends who took the plunge bare-naked over the weekend and had the tasty sliced prime rib in a baguette roll may now have wished they’d ordered another meal or paid the $10.95 for the sandwich.

See, the restaurant backs up to a small lake, and have outdoor seating on a barge.  When our heroes expressed interest in dropping their pants for the free sandwich, the restaurant owner asked his other patrons if they would mind.  None did, and the young men proceeded with their naked jump in the lake.

Sadly, their jump did offend a family that was standing on a nearby boardwalk (they were the ones who called the police to complain), as well as a local gamewarden who was refueling his boat. Police came to the restaurant to arrest the jumpers.

Here’s where it gets good:

When police arrived and issued the summons, all of the restaurant patrons on the barge pitched in and donated money to the streakers to help pay the fine, according to Turner. He believed the guests provided about $150 to each of the three skinny dippers.

The Class E crime is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, but the local District attorney said the punishment for such a misdemeanor would not involve jail time and that the fine would likely range from $300 to $500 each.

And the restaurant owner will continue to offer a free sandwich for diners who take the plunge.

TWD: Dimply Peach Cake

Technically this week’s TWD selection was a plum cake, but Dorie’s margin notes said I could just as easily change up a few of the spices and make a peach cake rather than a plum cake. I did, and I was pleased. I am very glad Michelle of Bake-en choose it.

Peach cake: before

I had some peaches leftover from an August trip to Michigan, so I peeled a few of them in preparation for the cake. About halfway through I decided that was dumb and left the skin on many of the peach halves. Both were fine, though if I were trying to impress my dinner guests I’d probably peel the peaches. The other eater in my household, my father and I did fine with the skin on.

Dorie’s margin notes recommended that I add a little fresh basil to the peach cake batter, but I forgot about that  early on and threw in some dry ginger. Then, at the end, I added the basil from my window box, cursed because it was at that moment that I remembered the ginger, and went on with the baking.  I have to be honest: it was pretty darn good with both the flavors.

Peach cake: after

The cake was fluffy and savory – not at all sweet – and perfect for the late summer days when the sun goes down a little earlier than you would like and the temperature is just beginning to drop below 70 degrees. Topped with some vanilla ice cream, the cake is practically irresistible.

My only problem was how to store it. I put it in the fridge to keep the fruit from spoiling, but that soggied the crust that had baked on the top of the cake. Keeping it out on the counter in a cake dome when have fermented the fruit within days. I hate to think this is a dessert I have to polish off in one sitting!

Think your vegetable garden produced? HA!

Though this weekend in Chicago looks to be near perfect weather-wise, we are nearing the end of the local  vegetable garden season. If you grew anything this summer, you’ll soon pile it onto your kitchen counter and then work really hard to pawn stuff off on neighbors, coworkers, your hairdresser – anyone who eats, really – before it spoils.

Just be glad you’re not this guy, profiled by the LA Times, who grew 11,000 tomatoes last summer (and he’s expecting 15,000 this summer).

My favorite part of the story is this:
“If you think that growing backyard tomatoes is just that, you’re missing the point,” said Scott Daigre, a garden designer whose Tomatomania seedling sale has become an intensely awaited kickoff to the season. “It’s a search for the past, a romantic search for a memory, a hope of reliving a childhood experience, a great dinner.”

No doubt a seasoned criminal

Thanks for Reader Sara for allerting me to the following food crime, first reported by the AP at

Officials: Burglar wakes men with spice rub, sausage whack

Fresno, CA, authorities arrested a 22-year-old man they found hiding in a field wearing a t-shirt, boxers and socks. He’d left his wallet and ID behind after he ransacked the home of two farmworkers.I feel like this part of the capture could have been avoided if he were wearing pants.

The news report is somewhat lacking in details, but it does offer this image:

 The farmworkers told deputies the suspect woke them Saturday morning by rubbing spices on one of them and smacking the other with an 8-inch sausage.

The suspect is also accused of taking money from the farmworkers’ home, but it was recovered.

TWD: Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops

I’ve already revealed that I prefer my cookies cakey, rather than crispy, and now I’ll add this: I don’t like them too chocolatey. I prefer, for example, that my cupcakes be yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and that my oven produce chocolate chip cookies rather than chocolate-chocolate chip cookies. But I tried my best with these uber-chocolate creations and I was pleasantly surprised.

Whopper Cookies: before

First problem: I could not find the recommended malted milk powder in any of the three markets I visited. I used chocolate Ovaltine and it seemed to come out ok, but now I’m not sure what to do with the other 17.5 oz. of mix in the Ovaltine canister.

Then, I had the Whopper dilemma. I ended up buying bulk milk chocolate malted milk balls from an upscale grocer I visited near my office while searching for the malted milk powder, and I think they were a huge bonus to the final product. Far better (and also more expensive) than the box of stale Whoppers I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond a few days later while I was looking for a new mildew-resistant shower curtain.

Would you believe I even got the other eater in my household to help chop the Whoppers? I spent a few minutes bagging the bag of candy with a stainless steel spoon, and nothing broke! Not even a chip! So I had to individually cut the candies into quarters with a paring knife. I think the fruitless banging The Other Eater had to endure won me the sympathy vote and we chopped candy side by side. I am proud to report that no blood was lost (unlike the bloody cheese incident of 2004) on the Whoppers and that we remain friendly.

Finally, the whole milk. I used 1/4 cups. I have a lot more in the fridge. I’m thinking quiche is in order this weekend.

Whopper Drops: After

But, the cookies turned out soft and cakey and perfect with a glass of milk. I’ll totally make them again for a chocolate lover in my life. Any takers?

The Moldy Oldies

There are times in my life when I turn to the steadfast, the tried and true, the old reliables…whatever you want to call it. I look to the items that have stood the test of time to guide me into the future.

(did that sound like a commencement address?)

I did just that when I sent the other eater in my household to the meat counter with a $2 coupon and he came back with ribs.

I ‘ve never made ribs. I don’t particularly like eating ribs. I never order ribs at a restaurant. I’m not allowed to BBQ in my current home (have I mentioned lately that it’s for sale?). For these reasons, ribs posed a particular challenge. And i turned to my Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen New Cookbook.

ribs: before

And once again it served me well. I found a great recipe for oven roasted ribs with a sauce made primarily of onion, chili sauce, beer and honey.

I had no chili sauce, though, so I substituted a mix of katsup and BBQ sauce, and it worked like a charm.

Ribs: in the pan

The other eater was certainly happy, as this was all that was left of a 2.5 lb. slab after one man’s meal:

Ribs: After

TWD: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

How could this be bad? It has oatmeal, peanut butter, cinnamon and chocolate all rolled into one cookie.

And yet, I don’t think I’ll make them again.

I’m not a huge fan of drop cookies to begin with because I feel like mine and never similarly enough sized to bake evenly, and then they generally turn our more crispy than I like my cookies to be (I prefer bar cookies, in case you were wondering) because they didn’t bake evenly, and so I’m left with a huge amount of cookies that I ‘m not overly proud to pawn off on my coworkers. And then I generally bake something I am proud of a few days later just to prove I’ve still got it. It’s a vicious cycle.

But I was optimistic about these cookies from Dorie, in part because of the featured ingredients but also because of my success with the Cornmeal and Fruit Loaf. So, I gathered my ingredients on a Friday night and made the batter, and then put it in the fridge to chill as Dorie recommended. Saturday afternoon I went to work, with the anticipation that I would have a lovely plate of delicious cookies to take to a BBQ Sunday afternoon.


The cookies turned out flat and crispy, and just not for me. I baked two trays at a time, one on a silicone mat and one with parchment, and it make no difference. In the end, I had a mess of flat cookies all over my kitchen. They were tasty, but no flat and free cracker-like I didn’t really savor eating them like I do the Christmas cookies (first my mother and now) I have been making for as long as I can remember.

To top it all off, I brought my plate to the BBQ and nobody ate them. They were on a sweet table with chocolate covered strawberries and key lime pie and cheesecake and two plates of cookies that I swear were from the grocery store bakery and delivered on a paper plate to make them look homemade. My sad, flat cookies remained untouched, even as the grocery store cookies were wiped clean.

look good?

  So, I’m left with a plastic tub full of cookies. I’ve dunked them in milk, brought them to my mother-in-law, packed them for the BBQ, smuggled them into a movie with a friend, and brought some to work, just to get them out of my house. I’m looking forward to next week’s recipe.

My TWD audition piece

I’m not sure of how I found that Web site, but I kind of fell in love with the idea of Tuesdays with Dorie: amateur cooks from far and wide all struggling with a common recipe at the same time, and then sharing their experiences at the same time, a Tuesday – the day of the week when there is little else to be excited about. (Monday has a feeling of dread, Wednesday is hump day, Thursday is almost the weekend, Friday starts the weekend… get the idea.)

My concern was that I would be able to hang with the other bakers – that my brand of baking was too simple or sub-par and in some way not good enough to keep up with these experienced writers and bakers who have long traveled from their kitchens to the computers with style and grace. So before I signed up for the program, I decided a dry run was in order: I would do one recipe from the book of my own choosing on my own day and see if I could hack it.

I bought Dorie’s book used online and found a recipe that appealed to me. The cornmeal and fruit loaf (I swear that what’s it’s called) contained ingredients that I already had in the house, two ingredients that I love (apples and cornmeal), AND it made use of the leftover buttermilk I had in the refrigerator from a previous experiment with a recipe for cherry cakes I found in the Weight Watchers magazine.

Cornmeal and Fruit Loaf: the ingredients

The loaf is dense and buttery, which I love. The cornmeal gives it a bit of a gritty texture and makes it ripe for toasting. Not everyone likes that, but I could eat the whole thing in one sitting. But the cornmeal also makes the bread more satisfying, so I actually had a piece on my way out the door one weekend morning and was pretty satisfied until lunchtime, which is not normal for me (I usually need a snack around 10:30 a.m.).

The recipe called for one apple or pear, peeled and diced, and 1/2 c. of dried apples or pears. I used awhole apple I picked up at a Michigan farmers’ market a couple of weeks ago, and also a couple handfuls of Craisins that I had in the house. I’d use far more fruit the next time around because the bread just looked bland – lifeless and lacking color, and not something that I would pick up from a buffet table. A bit of apple butter helped that out after toasting, but still.

Cornmeal and Fruit Loaf: the Loaf

As for Tuesdays with Dorie, I think I’m in. I’m gonna try the September recipes to be sure, but I think I’m up for the challenge. I’ll bet my photography skills will improve, too. The other eater in my household is certainly up for the taste-testing. We’ll see how it works out for both of us.