Posts Tagged by dessert

Eating Local Means Eating Healthy, Right?

Ever since moving to Vermont, Evan and I have really been taking advantage of local foods and homemade cooking. Which would be super awesome and healthy…if that local fare wasn’t primarily cheddar cheese, bread, and our new favorite craft beer. And the homemade stuff wasn’t primarily baked goods.

Okay, so there’s been some healthy stuff mixed in there too. We try to buy local produce whenever we can and we always get our eggs from a local farm. We rarely eat out and never get take out (even if that’s only because take out doesn’t actually exist up here…).

basil plant

We’ve also been experimenting with new recipes. My love for cooking has been rekindled now that I have a partner to help out/cook for. And Evan has gotten into it too — by making his own pasta sauce, vegetable broth, and even trying out homemade seitan (I’ll post the recipe if/when we ever perfect it!).

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vegetable broth_2

But for all the healthy foods, there’s been plenty of unhealthy stuff too. We pretty much live off of cheese, have taken it upon ourselves to keep the local bread bakery in business, and have made it our mission to sample every single kind of McNeill’s brew on the market.

You can’t really blame us though. When you live right near the absolute best cheddar cheese in all of the United States, how can you not consume a pound a week?

Grafton 3yr raw milk(Source)

Plus, the bakery offers different types of breads on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. So I go on Monday to get my Maple Oat bread, Wednesday to get my Ciabatta, and by Friday, that Cinnamon Raisin is looking pretty good. (I mean — you’ve got to have variety, right??)

Add to that the fact that I got this beautiful new toy as a wedding gift from my sister-in-law, and you can see how there’s been an overabundance of baked goods, saturated fats, and delicious carbohydrates in this house ever since.

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I probably would have gone on my merry cheese-eating, beer drinking, dessert-inhaling ways for months if I hadn’t made a startling discovery the other day. As I went to get dressed for a run, I realized that my running shorts — pants that are supposed to be roomy and comfortable — were starting to get just a little too snug.

Now I’m really not someone who obsesses over weight. I don’t own a scale and I accepted the way my body was built a long time ago. But…when your running shorts stop fitting you so well, you know you have a bit of a problem.

I’ve read enough about people gaining weight after they got married to know that it’s a pretty common thing. But for whatever reason I just sort of figured I was immune to it. After all, I cooked for Evan all the time even before the wedding, I knew how to eat healthy, and I’m training for a marathon. Clearly running more means I can eat whatever I want…right? Plus, like I said — we’re more focused on eating local and cooking meals at home now than ever before. And I thought all local and homemade foods were healthy! Isn’t that what the blogging world sort of tells you anyway?

Obviously I know that just because something is made in my own kitchen or a kitchen down the street doesn’t mean that it should be consumed in large quantities. But my point is that it can be easy to fall into that trap. I didn’t actually think we were eating all that poorly until I took a step back and looked at just how much of my favorite foods I was consuming.

I’m not going to stop eating cheese (that would be sad) or buying fresh bread, but it might be time to cut back on the baked goods just a little bit. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to try to be more mindful the next time I want to consume an entire block of cheddar in one sitting.

…not until after this weekend, though. I’m heading back to Rhode Island for a special someone’s wedding, and I think that calls for celebrating with unlimited cheese and dessert, don’t you?

 

{ontherun} Carrot Cake

A little over a month ago, I made a bold proclamation. In front of all the multitudes on the internet, I claimed to be an expert carrot cake baker (though I’ve also previously admitted to not being a good baker, so there’s a chance you might want to take that proclamation with a grain of salt). At the time, I had no intentions of actually sharing my carrot cake recipe. It’s one thing to tell you all I believe my carrot cake to be the best thing since baby carrots – another to give you the recipe and have you actually judge for yourselves. But after months of agonized debate (or just a few recipe requests), I’ve decided that it’s finally time to put my money where my mouth is. It’s time to share the {ontherun} carrot cake recipe.

carrot cake slice

It should be stated, however, that I am doing this against EC’s better judgement and advice. He believes there are some things that are so special, so sacred, that they don’t deserve to be shared. Instead they need to be held secret, passed along only through generations of the ontherun family.

But I disagree. As you’ll see, this recipe is really nothing special. And carrot cake love must be shared. It’s the ontherun way.

{ontherun} Carrot Cake

This recipe is neither healthy, nor running fuel (though it makes the perfect post-race treat!). But it’s packed with carrots and fruit, so that’s got to count for a full serving of produce, right?

2 Keys to the Perfect Carrot Cake

I believe the keys to the perfect carrot cake aren’t the carrots – it’s everything else you add in. I like my carrot cake the way I love my ice cream – packed to the brim with different mix-ins. The result: a moist cake bursting with a multitude of different flavors.

Whether or not you’re a fan of all the additions, there are two key things I believe you must do to have a perfect carrot cake.

1.) Soak your raisins

Soaking the raisins in warm water for a few minutes before adding them to the batter plumps them right up, making them extra delicious.

soaking raisin

2.) Plenty of pineapple

Pineapple is the secret to making the cake extra moist. And it perfectly compliments the other flavors, transforming your cake from pretty good to perfection.

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Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2  cups granulated sugar
  • 1  cup vegetable oil
  • 3  eggs
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 2  (heaping!) teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 3  cups shredded carrots (appx 5 medium or one regular-sized bag of baby  carrots)
  • 1  cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1  cup raisins
  • 1  container diced pineapple, drained
  • 1  cup of shredded coconut

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For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1  package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4  cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 4  cups powdered sugar

Directions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of one 13×9-inch pan or two 8-inch or 9-inch round pans with cooking spray (or butter) and lightly flour.
  2. Before preparing the batter, fill a cup with warm water and soak raisins for at least 10 minutes. Drain pineapple.
  3. In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed for about 30 seconds or until blended. Stir in vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and the salt.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet and beat on low speed for 1 minute, until well combined.
  6. Stir in carrots, nuts, raisins, pineapple, and coconut just until combined. Pour into pan(s).

carrot cake batter

Bake in a 13×9-inch pan for 40 to 45 minutes, or round pans 30 to 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Top will be dark.

carrot cake baked

For the frosting:

  1. In medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and beat with electric mixer on low speed until smooth.
  2. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, on low speed until smooth and spreadable.
  3. Wait until cooled completely (at least 1 hour) to frost.

Tip: if frosting seems too think, slowly add 1 – 2 tablespoons of milk to thin it out

Slice and devour!

carrot cake

Cupcakes and Juice and Vegans, oh my!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that my love for desserts has been well documented. I like to think those treats give me the extra boost I need to get through long training runs. So when I first learned that a vegan bakery and juice bar was opening down the street from my house, you can bet I was beyond excited. A bakery that I could easily walk to?? This could be dangerous…

The Wildflour Vegan Bakery is technically in Pawtucket, right at the point where Hope St becomes East St. But that’s close enough for me. And it’s conveniently located right by Garden Grille, the area’s well-known (and absolutely amazing) vegetarian restaurant.

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According to their website:

The purpose of Wildflour is to serve the most delicious, healthful baked goods, fresh juices and living foods in order to have a profound positive impact on the health of our community. We strive to be a resource of information and to expand the experience of healthy living through healthy eating.

Now that’s a mission I can easily get behind! So I did what any smart dessert-lover in my position would do — I called up my co-ontherun-taste-testing expert, to have an official sample.

I’ll admit I had high expectations. I am no amateur dessert eater, after all. And when it comes to cupcakes, I’d like to think of myself as a bit of an expert. So would vegan cupcakes and other baked goods hold up to the best that NYC has to offer?

Becky and I decided to sample two items that came highly recommended: a candy bar cupcake and a pecan roll.

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They both looked and smelled delicious. I also got a freshly pressed Big C juice (which contained pineapple, orange, ginger, and camu camu berry). It seemed like the perfect recovery drink after my cold, wet, 18 miles on Sunday.

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First, I’ll say that I loved the juice. It was refreshing and not overly sweet. The ginger was actually a bit more pungent than I expected, but it was a great compliment to the other flavors. And it gave me the feeling that I was drinking a “health elixir” that would magically heal any ailment I may have had. I’m not typically a big juice person, but I found myself excited to go back and try their other flavors.

As good as the juice was, it was the desserts we were most excited to dig into.

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The pecan roll was delicious. Cinnamony, nutty, and sweet.

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The candy bar cupcake was also good. A brown sugar cupcake with peanut butter frosting and peanuts on top — what more could you ask for?

Wildflour_candybar cupcake

While neither item disappointed, I will say that both were a little dry. Sadly, butter and eggs appear to make a difference when it comes to cupcakes…at least in this case, anyway. That being said, however, the peanut butter frosting was pretty amazing. Light, fluffy, and not overly sweet. It was the cake part that didn’t quite live up to expectations.

The only other negative was that everything was a little pricey. The juices were around $7 each. Which isn’t outrageously expensive and it’s comparable to other things in the area, but I wouldn’t say it’s the place to go for a quick, low-cost treat. However, everything was freshly made and so I do believe it was worth the money.

All in all, I am excited about going back to try one of the many other selections on the menu. Even if these things weren’t my favorite, Wildflour offers a huge variety of juices, teas, savory dishes, and baked goods. All are vegan, and many are also gluten-free. The atmosphere was clean, crisp, and friendly (we may or may not have closed the place down).

Good thing this place is within walking distance. Something tells me they’re going to be seeing a lot of me.

Momontherun’s Homemade Skor Bars

Remember Skor Bars? The Hershey toffee bar covered in milk chocolate?? Ok, so I don’t either. But word on the street is that they’re buttery, delicious…and hard as a rock.

Candy-Skor-Wrapper-Small.jpg

(Source)

Now you may be wondering why I’m even bothering to give you a recipe to make a type of candy I don’t ever remember eating. Well the truth is, when my Mom first made this for us, we all just thought of it as homemade bark. An amazingly delicious, simple recipe she would make whenever we were home for the holidays. I didn’t even know they resembled a famous candy until EC tried them for the first time — and that was the first thing out of his mouth. He told us they tasted just like Skor bars, only better. And they’re definitely a lot softer.

Skor Bars_1

But whether you call it bark or a Skor bar, one fact remains: these treats are insanely delicious. A heavenly combination of butter, sugar, and chocolate. And they are extremely easy to make. You can whip up a batch in less than 10 minutes, which is about twice the amount of time it will take you to devour them.

Momontherun’s Homemade {Better Than} Skor Bars

Skor Bars_2

Ingredients

  • Box of club crackers (such as Keebler) (Note: you could also use saltines, but the buttery flavor of club crackers makes it so much better!)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 12 oz (1 bag) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • (optional) 1 cup topping, such as:
    • chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds
    • crumbled Trader Joe’s Cinnamon School House Cookies (this is what I used)
    • Butterscotch chips, coconut, etc

Skor Bars_Butterscotch

Directions

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.) Grease a jelly roll pan (which is basically a cookie sheet with sides). You can use one that’s either 10 1/2-inches x 15 1/2-inches or 12 1/2-inches x 17 1/2-inches. You’ll just have to adjust the number of crackers that you use.

3.) Combine butter and brown sugar in small pot and melt over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes.

4.) Meanwhile, line the crackers in one layer along the bottom of the pan. It’s okay if your crackers break in the process – the toffee will hold them all together.

4.) Pour sugar/butter mixture over crackers and gently spread until all crackers are evenly coated.

5.) Bake for 15 minutes.

6.) Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let the chocolate sit for about 2 minutes or so to melt. Once melted, use a wide spatula to spread evenly over cracker/toffee base.

7.) Sprinkle with toppings! I didn’t have nuts, so I made one section plain, one large section coated with crumbled Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Schoolhouse Cookies (if you haven’t tried these yet, you’re seriously missing out!), and one with butterscotch chips.

8.) Refrigerate for 1 hour (sorry, this is the toughest part. But believe me, it’s worth the wait). When hardened, break into small pieces.

Skor Bars_plan

Now I realize that it’s not very logical to be posting a buttery, unhealthy recipe during a time when people are trying to cut back on sweets. But I made these the other day and they are way too good not to share. Next time you need to whip up an easy treat for an event, or are just craving something sweet for yourself, make a batch of these. I can pretty much guarantee you won’t regret it!

Weekend on the Run: Part 1

(The Part In Which We Eat Our Weight in Baked Goods)

Today I ran my first 5K since college, and my first road race 5K since high school (in case you were wondering, that was a long time ago ;)). You might think that a little 5K would seem like nothing after running marathons. But the truth is, I was extremely nervous to sign up for this race. More nervous than I was for the marathon I signed up for the same day (more details on that to come). After all, 5Ks are fast! And my running since the Cape Cod Marathon has been pretty minimal. But when my fellow ontherun sister told me she had signed up for the Providence Downtown Jingle Bell 5K, I had to jump on board.

So what’s the best thing to do the day before a race to make sure you’re nice and ready? Rest, hydrate, and eat plenty of healthy carbs. Naturally, I did the opposite.

A little while ago, Becky had also invited me on an impromptu, one day trip to NYC. Since I had never been at Christmas-time to see all the decorations, I jumped at the chance. Armed with nothing more than Google Maps on my iPhone and a few recommendations from Susan, we set out in the early hours of the morning with one simple plan: to eat.

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And we didn’t want to eat just anything. We both knew nothing could fuel our 5K dreams better than cupcakes. More specifically, cupcakes from 3 well-known NYC bakeries: Magnolia, Crumbs, and Buttercup Bake Shop. Now I was no stranger to these amazing cupcakeries, having tried them all on previous trips to the city. But it had been awhile, and we felt that an official taste-test was in order.

Weekendontherun1

Fueled by a late morning Peppermint Mocha, we trekked through the city by foot, following a less-than carefully planned route to these sugar havens. 3 cupcakes, 2 kinds of pizza, and several cute Christmas markets later, we dubbed the day a huge success. Our route, along with a quick review of all the restaurants we tried is all below.

View Larger Map

In order of destination

Crumbs Bake Shop

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I’ll admit I was already partial to Crumbs before this trip. I knew their huge, rich cupcakes were to die for. I’m happy to say this trip did not disappoint. There was a sea of cupcakes to choose from – each one looking more decadent than the next. We finally settled on a mammoth-sized peanut-butter cup cupcake to sample. This chocolate cupcake had a light, fluffy peanut butter frosting with mini peanut butter and chocolate chips on top.

DSCN1396 Photographed atop the now infamous pizza box

And on the inside, peanut butter filling. Heaven.

While this cupcake was more expensive than the other two (by about a dollar), it was definitely much larger in size. And totally worth it.

DSCN1397 Did you know restaurants don’t like it when you bring in outside food? ;) This photo was quickly snapped before we got scolded by the waitress

Bella Vita Pizzeria

Seeing as our big plans for the day included consuming mass quantities of sugar, we figured it would be a good idea to get some solid food in our bodies. When it came to choosing what to eat for lunch, we went with the obvious choice: pizza!

We happened to be near Bella Vita, so decided to give it a try. We figured we couldn’t go wrong with Neapolitan Old World style brick oven pizza. The long wait outside told us it must be good.

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Our wait ended up being completely worth it. We ordered a pesto & mushroom pizza that was so good, it had non-mushroom eating Becky convinced. ;) So good, that we decided that we had no choice but to cart a box of leftover pizza around the city for 6 hours.

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The pizza had flat crust that was still soft, sauce that was slightly sweet, and fresh-tasting pesto that had just the right amount of basil. I loved how the pesto was actually on top of everything else. And while I do love cheesy pizza, I appreciated the balance of cheese and sauce on this one.

Max Brenner’s

Our next stop on the dessert tour of the city was a chocolate lover’s dream: Max Brenner Chocolate. Becky had seen their chocolate pizza featured on The Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. With a proclamation like that, we knew we had to give it a try. Would it stand up to the cupcakes in a taste test?

DSCN1400 Clearly ecstatic at the thought of chocolate overload

The chocolate pizza had a buttery bread crust, with melted milk chocolate “sauce,” white chocolate “cheese,” and was topped with toasted marshmallows. It was quickly determined that we would probably need a cup of coffee to wash all this sugar down.

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The verdict: messy, sweet, and delicious! I loved the combination of melted chocolate with roasted marshmallows on top of a delicious crust. But to say this slice was sweet is probably an understatement. Even with our coffee to chase it down, the two of us could not get through one slice.

DSCN1409I think she likes it ;)

DSCN1411 See the glassy eyes? Sugar coma is setting in.

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Despite the fact that we couldn’t actually finish the pizza, I’m glad we tried it. And I’d definitely go back. Max Brenner’s had so much more to offer: brownies, cookies, spiced hot chocolate, and the most amazing fondue spread I’ve ever seen. Thank goodness there is one opening in Boston soon!

Magnolia Bakery

Of all the cupcakes that we tried yesterday, I think those from Magnolia are probably the most famous. There are 4 different locations throughout the city. We chose to go to the smallest location because it fit in best with our plan – the one in Grand Central station.

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Despite the small size of the shop, there was still a decent selection to choose from. This time, we decided to go with something a little more classic: a yellow cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting.

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These cupcakes are quite a bit smaller than the ones from Crumbs. The buttercream frosting was delicious. Fluffy, buttery, and chocolatey, without overloading on the sugar. The cake was not overly sweet either, which provided a nice balance to the buttercream. However, it lacked the filling and overall moistness that made the Crumbs cupcake so wonderful.

Buttercup Bake Shop

The last stop on our Cupcake Tour of NYC was cute little Buttercup Bake Shop.

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Inside we were greeted with row upon row of cupcakes and delicious looking cakes. I found myself wishing I could sample one of everything.

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For our last cupcake, we decided to go with the German chocolate cake. The piles of coconut in the frosting alone sold us.

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This cupcake was very similar in taste and texture to the one from Magnolia, which didn’t come as a surprise once we found out that they’re actually founded by the same person.

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Although I could probably have eaten an entire tub of the amazing frosting, I found the actual cupcake to be a bit dry and disappointing. The dryness of the cupcake mixed with the rich frosting did balance each other out, but I like my cake dense and rich…and this just wasn’t.

The Verdict

After a long day of walking, eating, and an awkward photo shoot with our frosting-stained pizza box, the results were in.

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The winning cupcake?! Crumbs, by a landslide! Not only did this win for best cupcake, but we declared it to be the best thing we ate all day. Rich, moist, and not overly sweet, this humungous cupcake was a clear winner. Our only regret was that we didn’t bring home extra (yet managed to take back a few slices of smashed pizza and a dirty box. Go figure…)

After being on our feet for hours, walking over 6 miles, and eating 3 different types of cupcakes (plus drinking 3 cups of coffee and little water throughout the whole day – oops), we both were ready to crash. After all, we had a race to run!

If you’re ever in New York City, I highly recommend trying out Crumbs bakery. Or, if cupcakes aren’t your thing, check out Max Brenner’s. The cool atmosphere and wealth of options means there’s got to be something there for everyone!

*Race recap to follow soon!

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