Sunday, July 31, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Alright, you guys know the drill.  It's 10:30 pm, you're sitting in your room, and you have that late-night craving for something sweet, preferably in cookie form.  My favorite cookie to make in times like this are Oatmeal Raisin cookies....they're not too sweet, but light enough to want to have quite a few!

My family and I are leaving for vacation in a few days, and I just finished packing four boxes of stuff for my apartment/condo in Champaign!  I seriously cannot wait to start life post-college!  The physical therapy exercises are reeeally hard, though....oh well, hopefully it'll get easier and I won't be angry and frustrated for too much longer.

I've used this recipe for oatmeal cookies once before, and after trying 8 of them, I can safely say these are my favorite recipe.  Just a quick note, though: make sure you chill these before dropping on cookie sheets!!  When I made them just now, I forgot to chill the dough, and they turned out pretty dry....still tasty, but they don't look as pretty, haha.  Despite all of that, these cookies are quick, easy, and perfect for some late-night hunger!  Hope y'all decide to make these :)


1 stick butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350º F, and cream butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.  Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together in another bowl, and add to sugar mixture.  Fold in oats and raisins, and chill dough for about 30 minutes.  Drop by spoonfuls on non-stick cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Let cool, and serve with a cold glass of milk.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Homemade Pizza

One more week, and I'm moving out of my room in Austin!  Kinda bittersweet, though....I've wanted to live on my own, working a job, etc etc for god knows how long, and in that sense I'm VERY excited!  It'll be amazing to not have to go to school, and just be teaching full-time and cooking/cleaning on my own.  On the other hand, it's been really sad to clean out my bedroom :(  I went through all of my books and beanie babies, which was really funny to look through old diary entries and such, but it's so sad to be leaving Austin.  I know it's exciting to be moving on and living my brand-new life, but it's still pretty sad.

The ankle's been getting better; I've been walking around much more now!  The downside to that is that I've been shopping....heh, oops.  But I've really been gaining strength and energy, and should definitely be ready to survive in Urbana on my own! 

So last night, my dad thought it would be fun to make homemade pizza for dinner!  What I didn't remember about pizza dough was how physically exhausting it is, haha.  I'm sure it's a million times easier without a hurt ankle, and the mixing/kneading would most likely be loads easier if I weren't 5'2, but alas, I "made it work," a la Tim Gunn (yeah, I've been watching reruns of Project Runway all day long).  Because I wanted to make individual pizzas for a family of 4, I made a double recipe.  There were so many ingredients for the dough in my Kitchen Maid mixing bowl that pieces of flour were flying all over my kitchen, and I had to mix all of it by hand!  Moral of the story: I'd highly recommend making 1 batch at a time so it all fits in your mixer.  Trust's the right thing to do :P

As many problems as I had making it, it tasted SO delicious!  I hope you guys decide to make's definitely a crowd pleaser :)

Homemade Pizza (makes 1 large pizza and 2 medium pizzas)
Pizza dough:
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil (you may need a lot more)
1 red and green pepper, sliced
8 oz baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 small can artichoke hearts
garlic salt
fresh basil leaves
1/2 onion, sliced
Italian Sausage, crumbled
grated mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper
3 small cans tomato paste

Combine the active dry yeast with the warm water and let sit for 5 minutes until yeast is dissolved and mixture is creamy.  Combine the flour and salt, and with the mixer on low, slowly add the olive oil until it is just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir the yeast mixture and with the mixer still on low, slowly add the yeast mixture until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan.  If the dough looks a little too dry, keep on adding olive oil as needed until it forms a solid dough.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead a few times by hand until smooth. Place in a greased bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours.  Divide dough in half if you want to make two pizzas, and preheat the oven to 500º F.

Sauté red and green peppers in olive oil for 5-7 minutes, until tender; set aside.  Sauté mushrooms in olive oil for 5-7 minutes, until tender; set aside.  Sauté onion in olive oil for 4-5 minutes, until tender; set aside.  Crumble the sausage, and cook in the same pan until browned; set aside.

Once the toppings are done, roll out the pizza(s) on a floured surface to however thick you want your pizza dough to be.  Move pizzas to large baking sheets, and spread tomato paste on top of the pizza, leaving some room along the edges for a crust.  Sprinkle salt and pepper along the crust, arrange assorted veggies and meat on the pizza, and top with a generous amount of cheese.  Bake for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and crust is golden brown.  Cut into slices or squares, and serve immediately.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lemon Raspberry Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

It's been about 8 weeks since I sprained my ankle, and I'm walking pretty normally!  Yesterday I walked in an outdoor strip mall, and for you Austinites, it's in the Great Hills area, with a Starbucks and Saks Fifth Avenue.  My first stop was Sephora, and I bought a pretty new daytime lip color, with a little bit of a reddish tint.  I walked all the way across the strip mall, stopped at Starbucks of course, and walked back to my car!  I know, doesn't sound like a lot to most people, but I walked around for at least an hour!  Yeah, near the end I was feeling the pain a bit, but it wasn't terrible!  And I found some cute clothes, too :P

Today, my brother's friends are coming over to help take out this dresser I've had in my room that's pretty much falling apart, and my gift to them is baking this scrumptious cake :)  The first time I made it was 2 years ago, when the 6th and final season of LOST was airing on ABC.  I baked this cake for a viewing party with my friends, as we were watching arguably one of the greatest episodes of the series, "Ab Aeterno."  If you're a fan of the show, it tells the story of how Richard Alpert came to be the way he is on the island.  Anyway, I attempted to decorate it with one of those crappy cake decorating frostings at the grocery store, as the "Swan" Dharma Initiative station on the show.

Yeah, I know, pretty awful.  Hah.  Despite the terrible frosting job, it was DAMN tasty; Ricardos would have been proud.  Since then, it's been a highly requested cake from my friends, and I'm happy to help out with the tasting process :)  One day, I will recreate the "Swan" station frosting job, once I have the correct decorating tools.

This time, I decorated the cake with raspberries, and I think it looks pretty darn cute!  Hope you guys enjoy my adventure, and I hope you try this cake---trust me, you will not be disappointed!!


3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
5 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 
Pinch fine salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup (or more) seedless red raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350ºF, and butter/flour two cake pans.  Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Stir the sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla together in a liquid measuring cup, and set aside.  Cream the butter until light and creamy, about 2 minutes, and gradually add in sugar.  Cream until light and fluffy, for 3 to 4 minutes more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the lemon zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Alternately add the flour mixture and the sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix until just combined.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops.  Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes; then turn cakes out onto the rack to cool completely.

Whisk the sugar, the egg whites, lemon juice, cream of tartar, and salt by hand in a heatproof bowl.  Double boil mixture, and continue whisking until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar dissolves, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the bowl to a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the whites at medium-high speed until they almost holds a stiff peak and are cool, about 10 minutes. Beat in the butter, a little at a time, until the icing is smooth and spreadable. (If the icing separates, just keep beating and it will come together).

To assemble the cake, spread raspberry jam over the top of one cake, and place the other cake on top.  Spread cooled frosting over the cakes, and decorate with fresh raspberries, sprinkles, and/or piped frostings.

If you guys prefer a more buttercream-type of frosting instead of a whipped frosting such as above, here is one of my favorite vanilla buttercream recipes:


2 sticks butter, softened
3-4 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons heavy cream

Beat butter for a few minutes, and add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. 

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cloverleaf Rolls

It's been about 7.5 weeks since I sprained my ankle, and things are getting a lot better!  Physical therapy is definitely helping, and I was able to finally get out of the house with some friends a couple of times.  I'm only gonna be in Austin for a couple more weeks, and then I'm going to the beach with my family!  :)  That'll be fun, and I'm going to try and do some cooking and baking while I'm there.  Moving to Urbana is going to be after that, so it's still a while until I make the move, but hopefully I'll be able to move sometime in the near future.

Out of boredom over the past several weeks, I've been writing down recipes online and out of cookbooks that I am interested in.  I know, it's super weird, but it's just a busy-work kind of activity that creates wonderful yummy food images in my head :)  My mom owns this wonderful New York Times cookbook with the acclaimed cook Craig Claiborne, so I got inspired to make cloverleaf rolls.

The first time I ate a cloverleaf roll (and the BEST ones, in my opinion) was at The Beef House in Covington, IN.  It's about 45 minutes outside of Champaign-Urbana, and on my way to/from Oberlin.  They have this amazingly buttery and thick texture that goes beautifully with their famous strawberry jam and apple butter.  The cloverleaf rolls I made, from the Craig Claiborne cookbook, don't taste exactly the same, but signature to my usual concoctions, have an incredibly buttery texture :)  It takes a lot of arm strength and time to make these rolls, but trust me---it's worth the effort.  Hope y'all give these delicious rolls a try!

Cloverleaf Rolls
(from the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne)

2 cups milk 
1/4 cup butter 
1/4 cup sugar 
2 tsp salt 
2 packages yeast 
1/4 cup lukewarm water 
6 cups flour 
olive oil 
melted butter

Bring milk to a boil, and add butter, sugar and salt; cool to lukewarm.  Soften yeast in the lukewarm water and add to milk mixture; add about half of the flour and mix well.  Add remaining flour to make a soft dough, and turn out on a floured board; let rest 10 minutes and knead for 10 minutes. Place dough in a bowl coated with olive oil, grease surface, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, for 1 hour. Turn dough out on a floured board and knead until surface is smooth. Cut risen dough in three equal pieces, and shape each third into a 12" long log. Cut each into 12 equal pieces, and divide each piece into thirds, creating 36 pieces total. Grease muffin tins, shape pieces into balls, and place three balls in each tin. Brush with melted butter and let rise until doubled, for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375º F, and brush rolls with melted butter; bake 15-20 minutes. Serve warm with butter and jam.

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Orange and Cumin Pork Tenderloin and Asparagus with Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar

So, it's been 7 weeks today since I sprained my crazy!  I've been able to walk around the house fairly well, with my tennis shoe, ace bandage, and aircast, but I quickly realized I can't spend ALL day walking around on my poor little ankle.  Today was my first day of physical therapy, and although the exercises didn't really hurt, it was an hour of ankle-related activities, including riding on the exercise bike for 10 minutes.  Needless to say, I'm pretty sore!  And I've even been doing exercises to prepare for physical therapy....hah, oh well, I guess I'll be in great shape after all of this stuff is done!

So, last night I made my family dinner, and man, what a difference it makes to be able to stand on my two feet!  It was really tasty, and I think my family loved it too, seeing as there are no more leftovers.  I've made this dish many times, and it's consistently gotten great reviews; I hope you guys will try it and enjoy it!

Orange and Cumin Pork Loin

3 lbs boneless pork loin or pork tenderloin
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
2 Tbsp orange marmalade
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro 

Preheat oven to 400º F, and combine cumin, salt, and pepper together in a bowl.  Rub pork with oil on both sides, and coat with seasonings. In a large skillet, cook pork over high until browned on all sides, for 8 minutes. Transfer pork to a baking dish, and in a small bowl whisk orange juice, vinegar, and marmalade in a bowl; drizzle over pork.  Roast pork, basting frequently with cooking juices, until cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes (170º F on a meat thermometer). Sprinkle pork with cilantro, let rest 10 minutes before slicing, and serve with pan juices.

 Asparagus with Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar

1 bunch asparagus
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, or to taste
4-5 Tbsp olive oil, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Wash and trim the white ends of the asparagus, and evenly distribute on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Mix asparagus with minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper by hand.  Bake for 11 minutes at 350º F, and serve immediately!

Hope y'all enjoy!

xoxo, Sara 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Black and White cookies

Hey everyone, welcome to my food blog!  

So, I graduated from Oberlin College on May's such a strange feeling to be done with college!  But even more than that, it's pretty strange not having a fully working ankle.  Four days before I graduated, I sprained my ankle very badly at the Senior Supper during Commencement.  After going to two emergency rooms and two orthopedic surgeons, I have a sprained ankle with one or two torn ligaments.  Aka, FML.  I've been doing everything to try and get my ankle to heal: ice, advil, and basically staying in one place.  If you know me well, staying in one place is a rare occasion.  After a month of this ice/advil business, I was able to walk a couple of days ago!  With my aircast, but still---it's a huge step (no pun intended, hah)!  

I'm still planning on moving to Champaign-Urbana to start my job as a violin teacher, and play with The Prairie Dogs, Don't Ask (klezmer band), and other musical outfits....but I'm just waiting to see how my ankle heals to know when I'll be living there full-time.  In the meantime, I'm watching a ton of movies, catching up on Grey's Anatomy, and baking/cooking occasionally.

Today I embarked on my first baking adventure as a semi-crippled person---the Black and White cookie.  These are absolutely delicious, and I have eaten them in many a deli shop and bakery throughout my life.  However, anytime I think about these cookies, I think about that episode of Seinfeld, circling around the Black and White cookie, using it as a metaphor for the whole episode (Dinner Party).  As Jerry Seinfeld says in that episode: "The thing about eating the Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite.  Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate.  And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us.  If people would only look to the cookie all of our problems would be solved."  Obviously the most epic of all cookies.

So, here goes the can find the original recipe from The Simple Spatula here.

Black and White Cookies

1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
2-1/2 cups cake flour
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 to 2/3 cup water
3 ounces very bitter or unsweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon honey
1 to 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (to help achieve that dark black color)

Preheat oven to 375º F.  Cream butter and sugar, and add eggs one at a time, milk, and vanilla and lemon extracts.  (It looks really chunky, but when you add the dry ingredients, it looks more legit)
In a medium bowl, combine cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually add dry ingredients to wet, stirring well after each addition.  Spoon batter on the baking sheets, and bake until edges begin to brown, 18 to 20 minutes; rotate cookie sheets so each sheet of cookies are evenly baked.
Boil water, and gradually pour over confectioners’ sugar in a large, heat-safe mixing bowl.  Mix until frosting forms, and quickly spread frosting on half of each cookie.  The frosting hardens REALLY quickly, so make sure to be efficient in your frosting!  If the frosting is too hard, double boil frosting and mix vigorously until consistency is reached.
Double boil remaining frosting, and stir in unsweetened chocolate and honey.  Mix in cocoa, and stir until consistency is reached.  Quickly frost the remaining halves of each cookie.  I ended up using most of my white frosting, so I just eyeballed a fresh batch of chocolate frosting.
Let cookies sit, so the frosting reaches the correct consistency.  These cookies are VERY rich, but boy are they yummy---especially with a cold glass of milk :)  ...and some advil and ice, in my case.
Hope y'all enjoy!