Guiltless Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding is one of those things I occasionally crave – usually on cold, damp night, but especially during the winter holidays, which I have begun to associate with an eggnog panettone bread pudding recipe that I just love! The combination of the cranberries in the Panettone with the sweet bread and the egg-y cream is just heaven.

But in October, when Panettone is harder to find, Hungry Girl’s peanut butter chocolate bread pudding seemed like a viable alternative.  Also, since it was more healthful that my holiday favorite, it seemed like a good non-holiday season choice.

good for now

I’ve gotta say, it was just ok.  I think a big part of my problem was that I used the bread I always have in the house: whole wheat.  It’s a smooth wheat, sure, but it’s still not white bread. And since the recipe calls for only three slices of bread, I couldn’t justify buying a whole loaf of bread that I don’t otherwise like for toast or sandwiches.

So, I went with the wheat-bread-soy-milk-reduced-fat-peanut-butter (which I love, even in it’s purest form: on apple slices)-brown-sugar mix. I put it in ramekins to make portion control easier, anticipating greatness. I sprinkled chocolate chips on top. I baked. I tasted.  It was fine. I added Cool Whip, and it was finer – bread pudding is a good vehicle for the chemically-derived whipped topping. I would probably swap out the chocolate chips for chocolate syrup, and add peanut butter chips to up the ante just a bit.

Would I make it again? With certain conditions: If I were really craving peanut butter AND had Cool Whip on hand and  REALLY needed a comfort food to eat in my pajamas in front of the TV on a cold night.

I’m making my shopping list right now, I swear

It’s no secret that I hate grocery shopping, and based on the breakfast served in my household this morning, it’s obvious that it’s been too long since my list trip to the store: I enjoyed a 100 Calories pack of Doritos, while the Other Eater in my Household went for a handful of jellybeans.

I’m thinking about topping off my Doritos with a tasty Halloween find from my last trip to Target, Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses. They are SO much better than I expected.

Pumpkin Kisses

The Kiss itself is orange on the outside, and if you have the patience to bite one in half (but I understand that normal people pop the whole thing all at once, if not a few at a time) you’ll find white chocolate on the inside.  That’s the part that is spiced with all the good fall flavors, like cinnamon and nutmeg.

Prediction: the bag will not last the week at my house.

I’m not the only one who likes them!  Check out this blog to see what all is happening in Hershey.

TWD: Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

I’m torn this week, for a variety of reasons.  First, the idea that it took me three days to create this beautiful dessert put a bad taste in my mouth.  I just don’t bake that way. It’s not fun. And if I don’t have fun baking then the guilt of eating the finished product is just too great to justify putting away half a cake at one sitting.

But I persevered. I shopped Sunday, baked the cake Monday, and finished the topping Tuesday afternoon after the world’s best handyman finished repairing my kitchen light. And I gotta be honest, my tiny little cakes are just not as perfect as the photo and title of the dessert suggest it should taste.

the look good, but

I took the advice of my fellow bakers at TWD and halved the recipe, and then baked it in ramekins to avoid the treacherous grease-the-pan-then-line-the-bottom-with-a-circular-piece-of-parchment-paper-process. The cake is delicious. It’s light, the perfect balance of cake and chocolate.  I’d make them again in a heartbeat, and probably eat one still warm from the oven with melty whip cream on top.

Today I tackled the topping: a caramel made from cooked sugar and mixed with salted peanuts.The smell reminded me of Frau Mueller’s Level 1 chemistry lab in High School – not something anyone who survived wants to relive. It was torture. Her tie-dyed lab coat didn’t soften the blow. But I digress…

My topping’s not good.  See, the tops of my cakes caved in in the center, so when I put the topping on it pooled in the center of my ramekins and hardened like a hockey puck. The other eater in my household looked like he would break a tooth digging into my latest baking effort (just as the presidential candidates were debating the future of health care, might I add), so I quickly made the executive decision to microwave the cakes in order to soften the topping.  It helped, but not as much as three days of work warranted.

Another bust, as far as I’m concerned. Sorry, Dorie fans.  I’ll make the cake again, but I need to find a better topping.

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.

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?

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.

Me? Not like M&Ms?

I shouldn’t go to Target hungry, I know, but there were these long and skinny boxes of Premium M&M’s, made in fun flavors like mocha, triple chocolate, and something about raspberries. The mocha ones are sparkly, too – kinda bronze-ish. I threw a box in my cart.
I hate them. I mean, not enough to throw them away, but not enough to buy them again, which in my world equates to hate. They are cloyingly mocha-y, and the flavor stay LONG after you stop eating.
First, the shell is not crispy. It’s soft. If you eat M&Ms, you want the crunch. These do not.
Second, the chocolate tastes expensive, where we all know that I prefer cheap chocolate. I would much rather have a peanut butter cup than a box of Godiva. I prefer M&Ms to truffles. I prefer milk chocolate over dark. These failed on all fronts.
Verdict: I’m sticking with the peanut M&Ms.

It’s what’s for dinner!

So, only while vacationing in Hershey, PA, would I have found AND PURCHASED a bag of chocolate pasta, and only while in the perils of Hershey withdrawal would I have tried to make the Chicken Mole recipe on the back of the package. Healthy skinless, boneless breast of chicken in the chocolate-based sauce, served over chocolate pasta.

But I’m glad I did.

You can find the recipe here, and the pasta is available a lot of places, including Amazon. And actually, when you break the recipe down, there isn’t anything in there that’s whole-heartedly bad for you: no cream or butter, and only minimal sugar. No cheese. Lots of tomatoes.

The directions for the sauce weren’t great, and for that reason alone I wouldn’t call this a beginner recipe, but the outcome was pretty nice, for only 90 minutes of simmering. I’d certainly serve it over regular pasta next time – even whole wheat pasta, which seems to have become the only pasta I eat at home these days.

Much like the cooking instructions, the chocolate pasta was kind of underwhelming. I appreciated that it had a savory flavor for dinner (it also came with two dessert recipes on the package, so I was nervous), but I didn’t find it all that chocolately when I tried one to see if the noodles were ready.

Recipe: good, but don’t count on the instructions to carry you through
Noodles: stick to whole wheat

Recipe Review: Nutella Ice Cream

This may be the easiest, most heavenly recipe I have ever found online:

  1. Equal parts Nutella and evaporated milk (I used Fat free, but to relieve a fraction of guilt), plus 1 T. skim milk.
  2. In an ice cream machine.
  3. Freeze before serving.

The ice cream comes out with somewhat of a grainy quality, but it didn’t bother me or the other eater in my household enough to put the stuff down for even a second (he actually licked the bowl while he was supposedly washing the dishes, but that’s a different blog). It tastes like the richest chocolate ice cream you’ve ever had, but without making you want to push back from the table or save the rest for later. That could be the fat free milk talking.

Just one note on the simplicity of the ordeal: I mixed the Nutella and milk together in a medium size bowl before putting them in the ice cream machine, which was good. Next time maybe I’ll use a larger bowl to save my t-shirt from the sloshing of the milk and the chocolate spread. Also, I chilled the smooth batter before dumping it into the machine because both of my ingredients were stored at room temperature. It worked well, but created more dishes for said roommate to lick.

Welcome to my world!

My name is Joanna, and this is my blog.

I like to cook. I like to think that I’m a pretty good cook, in an amateur-forever-beholden-to-other-people’s-great-recipes sort of way. Maybe the problem is that I like to eat so much that I’m driven to find great recipes for the things I like, and then I concentrate really hard on making them exactly as the recipes says to. Maybe this dogged determination is what has twice landed me in one of America’s leading weight loss programs.

On the nights I don’t like to cook, I like to shop for things that make it easier to seem like I’ve cooked: “bottled food enhancers,” frozen foods that reheat well, and gadgets that make it more difficult for me to draw blood while cooking. In fact, now that I’m looking for a new house, my biggest concern is a kitchen big enough to hold all my food-related stuff.

I have a full-time job that is not food-related, but it allows me lots of time to read about food. There are some great sites for amateurs (like me), dieters (like me), and readers (like me). They are what inspired me to start this silly blog anyway.

Most recently, I hosted Easter dinner in my home. This is fun because I get to pick the menu AND I get to enjoy all the leftovers in the comfort of my pajamas for the next several days. The real challenge is finding uses for all the leftover ingredients after everyone has gone home. I made a nice creamed spinach dish this year, but was left with half a container of half-and-half in my refrigerator. I prefer milk in my coffee, so I turned to the folks at Every Day Food for this late-night treat:

Chocolate soda
¼ c. half and half
2 T. chocolate syrup
5 oz. seltzer water (I used club soda and that worked well, too)
Mix the chocolate syrup and half and half in a tall glass. Still stirring, mix in the settler water until the top gets foamy. Serve with a long spoon so that you can get all the chocolate off the bottom at the end!