The word “amalgam” kept popping up in the article I was reading this morning, before I embarked on my Breakfast Tuesday endeavors. It’s a word I grew close to, and practically fell in love with, during my time in graduate school. I always thought “amalgam” and all its variants were apt words to use when talking about literature because it’s a word with a huge scope, a word that makes sure you know that there are many, many things you can and should consider when looking at other words on a page. It reminded me that words aren’t just words; they are words with past definitions, words coming out of someone’s mouth, words used while thinking about other words, etc. Looking it up now, though, I see the definition is a lot more straightforward. Apparently, an “amalgam” is primarily an alloy used for filling teeth, and only secondarily a “mixture of different elements”. I guess being immersed in a world where poetry is practically shooting out of your eye sockets makes you see and understand things differently (and abstractly, it seems).

Regardless of the dictionary definition, it kept jumping off the page and grabbing my attention, basically screaming at me, and then hopping around to each corner of my mind. I remembered how much I loved the word because I loved thinking about the world as a seamless combination of all things past, present, and future. I browsed breakfast recipes, to share this Tuesday, in this state of mind and felt compelled to throw a bunch of ingredients together into one, self-contained, breakfast food. Muffins seemed perfect for the job because you really can just throw a bunch of pantry/fridge/fruit basket ingredients together to make your own baked and breakfast appropriate amalgamation. According to my poetically-stretched and partly made-up definition, at least!

(PS- Fun fact: The online dictionary lists “cocktail” as a synonym for both “amalgam” and “amalgamation”.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Plantain Muffins

(Recipe adapted from Handle the Heat, originally “Chocolate Banana Muffins”)

Yields 12 muffins

Notes: Since the original recipe did not call for peanut butter, you could easily skip it, and, if you’re craving a sweeter breakfast, you can fold one cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate into the batter before transferring it to the tin.

Ingredients:

3 very ripe plantains, mashed

¼ cup creamy peanut butter, melted and slightly cooled

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

½ cup whole-wheat flour

½ cup all purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line muffin tin(s) with cupcake papers or grease individual muffin cups.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda until completely combined.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together plantains, peanut butter, sugar, egg, and applesauce until completely combined. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and fold ingredients together until just combined. Be careful not to over mix.

4. Fill each muffin cup almost to the top with an equal amount of muffin batter.

5. Bake muffins in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

6. Cool muffins in pan for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Muffins are best the day they are made, but can stay in an airtight container at room temperature up to two days. You could also freeze the muffins, baked or unbaked, up to a month, reheating or baking as needed.

 

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It seems like I’m breaking free from a cold that has kept my head underwater for the last four days. I’m finally able to smell, and therefore taste, the food I make AND can look at words on a computer screen for more than ten minutes without feeling like I’m being abducted by aliens aboard a ship with bright lights and weird symbols. Not being sick also means I can enjoy dairy with the reckless abandon to which I’ve grown accustomed over the years. I wanted to celebrate all these things – not being sick, regaining the ability to enjoy food, being able to live my life free of haze – with dessert. Celebrations, in my mind, always call for dessert.

The weather is cooling down, so I wanted a celebration dessert that could not only be served warm but also provide the same feeling of full-body warmth, like soups and stews. It had to be chock full of dairy and chocolate, because I needed to up the indulgence ante. Maybe some whiskey, if I could swing it. Lo and behold, I came upon some recipes for rice pudding and my decision was made. Rice pudding fulfills all the requirements listed above, along with the added nostalgia of eating rice pudding my entire life. I grew up eating rice pudding with my family in PA, went on many late night grocery runs with boyfriends to get rice pudding and eat it out of the tub, and now I can add making rice pudding and sharing it with my friends as a adult wanna-be to the nostalgia check-list.

Rice pudding takes a little bit of time to make, but that’s it. The process is straightforward, the ingredients are usually on hand, and the final product is worth every minute of it. I plan to make rice pudding pretty often this coming winter! (My roommate has been warned.)

Chocolate Rice Pudding

(Recipe adapted from My Feasts)

Yields about 4 cups of pudding

Notes: The original recipe calls for ¼ cup arborio rice, but I did a little research and it looked like a lot of people used a cup rice per quart of milk. I took the leap and added an entire cup of rice. The pudding was delicious off the stove and delicious warmed up, but very, very rice-y. If you prefer a higher pudding to rice ratio, I’d recommend using 1/2 to ¾ cup rice (1/4 cup seems like very little if you’re craving rice pudding). Also, the addition of whiskey at the end is optional but AWESOME. If you’re not a whiskey drinker, try Irish crème or another fun liquor. You have a lot of leeway.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups milk

1 cup arborio rice, uncooked

2 tablespoons whiskey

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Method:

1. In a medium saucepan, combine cocoa powder, sugar, salt, milk, and rice. Whisk to fully incorporate all ingredients.

2. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, and then reduce heat to low and let pudding simmer gently for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently so the rice does not scorch, until rice is cooked and pudding is thickened.

3. Take pudding off heat and stir in whiskey (if using), vanilla, and chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted.

4. Let pudding cool to desired temperature and serve!

Storage: This rice pudding kept well in the fridge for three days, and, although it cooled into a block, was great heated up. Keep pudding in an airtight container. If you decided to store pudding in a bowl and don’t enjoy puddin’ skin, place the plastic wrap cover directly over surface of pudding.

it’s 10 o’clock at night and I’m trying to write a post about the breakfast I made over twelves hours ago. I was thinking about putting it off until tomorrow, or even the next day, and could think of a bunch of excuses to justify it. I’ve been sick these last few days and feeling overwhelmingly tired stupidly early in the day. I got called into work on a day off, but had to go in because, hey, who doesn’t need the money? School applications are breathing down my neck and there are a million people with whom I have to get back in touch. I’m not even sure if people expect me to post a breakfast recipe on Tuesday, so what’s the point?

Now what? What is the point? That kind of thinking sucked me into a pretty dark spot, sitting here, writing this. I guess what’s keeping me going is the fact that I woke up super early, despite having to go into work and despite being sick, so I could make something fun to eat and share. I even made two batches of scones because the first recipe didn’t turn out as delicious as I thought it might. It was obviously important to me that I make the effort here and try my best to keep my word, even if my word means something as simple as making scones and posting pictures of them on the internets. Also, who doesn’t love peanut butter and chocolate in the morning?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scones

(Recipe adapted from bakingsheet)

Yields 16 smallish scones

Notes: There are two things that almost guarantee perfect scones: using very, very cold butter and working the dough quickly with your hands. I always cut my butter into the smallest cubes possible and stick them in the fridge for about 15 minutes before using.

Ingredients:

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

10 tablespoons butter, cut into ½ inch cubes and very cold

4 tablespoons peanut butter

1 cup and 2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup chocolate chips

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. Add peanut butter and cubes of butter to flour mixture and mix with your hands until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in chocolate chips.

4. Combine milk and vanilla extract, and then add to dough. Mix with your hands until just combined, then turn out onto a clean, floured surface and knead once or twice. This process should go very quickly and dough will be lumpy.

5. Split dough into 2-3 discs, about one to one-and-a-half inch thick, and cut into wedges.

6. Place wedges two inches apart on the baking sheet and bake each sheet 16-20 minutes, until edges are light golden brown.

7. Cool wedges on a baking sheet until cool enough to eat.

Storage: Scones do not store well, so I only bake enough scones to eat. To freeze ready-to-bake scones, just place unbaked wedges on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Store frozen wedges in an airtight container or freezer bag until ready to bake and serve. You may have to add an extra two or three minutes to the baking time, but other than that everything  is the same!

In desperate need of a mini-vacation, I packed an overnight bag and set off to visit one of my closest friends, M, in New York City. Seeing him and experiencing a change of scenery did a lot to ease my wandering mind, and goodness gracious was it good to be in New York City. My stomach is still thanking me for all the treats and delicious food. Let the gushing begin!

Levain Bakery

I may or may not have been summoned to NYC by pictures of these cookies floating around the interwebs. I may or may not have made a beeline straight to the bakery immediately after getting off the bus. I played it safe and ordered their famous chocolate chip walnut cookie, although they had other cookies and other pastries, along with a pretty decent beverage selection. In this situation, playing it safe was the way to go! This is one seriously good, and seriously big, cookie, packed with chocolate chips and HUGE pieces of walnut. I swear the cookie was at least two inches thick! Because it was so thick, the edges were perfectly crisp while the middle remained chewy and ever so slightly under-baked. Chocolate chip cookies number among my favorite foods, which means a disappointing chocolate chip cookie can break my heart, but an amazing one can be the thing that keeps me smiling like a goofball all week. This cookie did just that. My only qualm was the price tag – four dollars a cookie! Worth it when it’s a special treat on a much-needed mini-vacation, though I can see how that could be dangerous if you lived near one of their locations!

Jacques Torres Chocolatier

While eating my cookie from Levain Bakery on a bench, someone asked me if there was a famous chocolate shop nearby. Not being from the area, but wanting to be nice, I told her I wasn’t familiar with a chocolate shop nearby, that I was just there for the cookies (she politely declined my mouth-full-of-food cookie recommendation, which sounded a lot like “thish cooookie ish goooood YOU PROBABLY NEED ONE”). After finishing my cookie, I turned the corner onto Amsterdam Ave and, lo and behold, there was a Jacques Torres retail location right in front of my face. I felt like a jerk for not having noticed it on my way to the bakery, which turned into my not being able to help a poor lady who just wanted some chocolates, so I went in to cheer myself up. What better pick me up than the experience of picking out a few chocolates at a chocolatier?! I picked out four chocolates – dark chocolate covered dark chocolate ganache with honey, milk chocolate covered milk chocolate ganache with a touch of cognac, milk chocolate covered cinnamon hazelnut praline, and milk chocolate covered peanut butter and jelly (pictured). It was a big operation, which made me worry about the quality of the chocolate, but each piece was divine. I thought the cinnamon praline one tasted like chocolate cinnamon toast crunch (YUM), the cognac was perfect with milk chocolate, wildflower honey dripped out of the honey piece, and the PB&J truffle was too cute.

Murray’s Bagels

I’m not sure what needs to be said about Murray’s, because, from what I’ve read on the internet, this place is getting all the attention it deserves. I loved the fast paced atmosphere and the sounds of paper bags, slicing bagels, pouring coffee, people chatting, and newspapers rustling. It was an almost perfection amalgamation of my love of being around people, my love of good food, and my love of everything breakfast. My order was a pumpernickel bagel with scallion cream cheese and tomato, with an onion and an everything bagel to bring home, and M’s order was two bagels, one cinnamon raisin and one whole wheat everything, both with plain cream cheese. He received, instead of a whole wheat everything, a whole wheat bagel, which was kind of lame, but everything tasted so good and we ate breakfast sitting on the highline. You can make up for a lot with good company and pretty scenery. The thing I liked most about my experience at Murray’s though, was that they wouldn’t toast the bagels because they had come straight from the oven! Nuts!! You could tell, too, because the warmth of the bagel made the cream cheese all melty and delicious.

Madison Square Eats

My night at Madison Square eats was one of the most impromptu, most wonderful experiences of my life, no exaggeration. It was early evening and we were deciding on a place to eat for dinner, both of us being kind of tired (M from school and me from… life?) and not wanting to make a huge fuss but still wanting something new and delicious. Somehow I came across a few blogs talking about the Madison Square Eats that happened during the summer, and I silently lamented the fact that we totally missed it until coming upon this blog and reading that they had just reopened, and would stay open until October 21st. The decision was made and we made the long trek from the 190th Street station to Madison Square Park. It had just rained and was a bit chilly, so we basically had the place to ourselves and were totally overwhelmed by how pretty and homey and charming it was. There were lights strung over our heads, tables and umbrellas with chunky, bright colored patterns, vendors chatting each other up, the smells/sights/sounds of food sizzling and popping, and the sheer amount of food for the choosing sealed the deal – it was totally amazing. We had lamb meatball subs, hot dogs with kimchi and nori, pastrami sandwiches, steamed buns, mini cannolis, and cupcakes. There were also mini doughnuts, soft pretzels, pizza, tacos, crepes, liege waffles, and chocolate and wine pairings. I fell in love with everything that night, head over heels with M, NYC, food, people who love food, you name it. See what happens when I have good things, like PB&J mini cannolis and pecan french toast cupcakes? I’m just beside myself with the gushing… or is it the sugar talking?

I consider myself a healthy eater. Don’t laugh. I eat carrots with my lunch almost every day, cook at least  three times a week, and keep active by pretending to run* around whatever body of water is closest to my apartment. My all-time, top favorite food might actually be tomatoes. Sometimes K, my roommate, and I eat quinoa and spinach and other super-health-hero-type foods. And then there’s this baking blog. How does one consider oneself a healthy eater when she has to buy butter every single time she goes to the grocery store, or eats some sort of cake/ice cream/pie/cookie every single day, or runs out of heavy cream on a weekly basis? I try, desperately at times, to balance out my baked good obsession with healthy things.

*My idea of running usually means jogging peacefully while making many stops to talk to chipmunks that, more often than not, turn out to be rocks, to coo at ducklings, or, as of late, to ponder how quickly the leaves change in Boston as compared to where I grew up in Pennsylvania.

Well, I’ve been baking a little less lately due to stress and extreme lack of time-management skills, but still have been eating like a normal, healthy adult. A little too well, if you ask me. People, sometimes I just need to go crazy, forget about superfood, and make something ridiculous. I present you with booze-infused hot fudge. Two of the most viciously delicious hedonistic pleasures, whiskey and chocolate, are combined in liquid form, and are just begging you to be eaten warm with ice cream or straight from the fridge, rolled in graham cracker crumbs. I think I hear it calling me now…

Whiskey Hot Fudge Sauce

(Recipe adapted from kitchenplay)

Yields 2 cups hot fudge

Notes: Original recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, which I switched for dark, and a bit of instant coffee, which I omitted altogether. I also upped the whiskey from 3 tablespoons to ¼ cup. Shhh.

Ingredients:

7 ½ to 8 ounces dark (60% cacao) chocolate, broken up into 2 inch chunks

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup light corn syrup

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons water

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ cup whiskey

Method:

1. Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or in a boil over gently simmering water. If using a microwave to melt chocolate, put chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 45 seconds, take it out and stir, then place back in microwave for 30 seconds, and stir again. Repeat this process until chocolate is melted. Once chocolate is melted, set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring granulated sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa powder to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 to 2 minutes, stirring or whisking constantly to both dissolve cocoa powder and keep mixture from burning.

3. Keeping mixture over medium-low heat, whisk in melted chocolate until smooth. You can take it off the heat now if you prefer and more liquid-y hot fudge. If not, boil hot fudge for a few minutes until it reaches desired consistency.

4. Once off the heat, whisk in whiskey until smooth.

Keep fudge, stored in an airtight container, in fridge up to a week. To reheat, melt over low heat on stovetop or microwave for 10 to 15 seconds.

Buzzzzz. The sound of silence. I know it’s no excuse, but this time around the moving process has been slow and overwhelming.

Exhibit A: This is my bedroom as of yesterday. Something seems off, no? That’s because it’s also the living room. And it’s full of everything I brought over from the old place – kitchen, living room, bedroom, everything. There are two other people moving stuff out of the apartment over the next few days, so I can’t move my stuff around until they are out and settled in the world. It’s cool. I kind of love having everyone hang out in my room all the time. In fact, last night we had some frozen cheesecake in the living room/my bedroom and everyone had to eat cheesecake and leave, whereas I could eat cheesecake in my bed and not have to move afterward. Gotta love the little things.

Exhibit B: Because all my kitchen stuff is still packed away, I haven’t baked or cooked a single thing in a few days. What you see here is the extent of my “cooking”, and basically what I’ve been eating for the last two days (and will continue to eat until tomorrow-ish, most likely). I can’t complain, though, because they are chocolate mini mini-wheats, and I’m a mini-wheat fiend.

I’m having some guilt issues concerning my lack o’ recipes this week, just in case you couldn’t tell, and I’m going to try to wriggle free from some of the guilt by sharing photos from my most recent trip to Mike’s Pastry. Mike’s is pretty touristy but they somehow manage to maintain a good level of deliciousness, and cheapness (the cost of living in Boston is in every other way astronomical). I don’t normally trek out to the North End but my mother was in town and we both love ourselves some dessert. What you see here, friends, is our lunch during one of the days we spent walking around the city. The box contains a pistachio cannoli (with the traditional ricotta filling), a chocolate peanut butter cupcake, a slice of tiramisu, and a profiterole the size of your face (no lie).

First up, the cannoli. No words, people. I love, LOVE anything with ricotta filling (sweet or savory), and the pistachio bits were a nice bit of change from the more traditional chocolate chip option. Mike’s does a great job with the cannoli shell, too, which is crispy but not crumbly and fried but in no way greasy.

Second is the peanut butter cupcake. My only concern with the cupcake was that the peanut butter filling was actually peanut butter. It sounds weird, but I don’t really come across peanut butter filled desserts that are filled with plain old peanut butter. It was a little cloying, but not enough so that we were prevented from devouring it.

Lastly, the profiterole. It was hugantic. Poofy and filled with pastry cream. I’m alright with that.

I’m sorry, again, for my lack of recipes and baking adventures. Stay tuned, though! I hope to bake in the next few days!

Moving day is approaching way too quickly for comfort – I have four days to finish packing and it’s a little frightening to think about all the work and tasks that have yet to be accomplished. The good news is that I swore to myself that I wouldn’t leave everything until last minute and I’ve kept my word. There are boxes all ready to go, laundry bagged and sorted, and rooms almost completely packed up. Let’s see, there’s the living room, storage closet, kitchen… wait! Kitchen? Really? I packed up the kitchen already? Yes sir, it was the first room I attacked with cardboard and tape. Random room knick-knacks and mountains of old receipts? Still got ‘em. Baking pans, pantry supplies, pot holders, cook books, silverware, cups, etc? Gone until Tuesday.

There is no method, people, only madness. It’s not like the kitchen is my favorite place in the house or I’ll need supplies to make food or bake for my friends. I was definitely kicking myself in the rear-end for it all when I wanted to make something for a friend, who was in need of a sugar pick-me-up. After rummaging through everything that didn’t belong to me, I came up with a large pot, a spoon, and a pyrex casserole dish. Thinking about her favorite desserts and my lack of kitchen utensils, I found a solution. Rice krispie treats! There aren’t a whole lot of ingredients (I don’t want to have a lot of food lying around before moving) and you don’t need a whole lot of kitchen stuff to make them.

I decided to do a “split personality” sheet of rice krispies – one half original topped with M&Ms and one half peanut butter krispie treat with chocolate ganache. The candy didn’t stick to the treats very well, even though I pushed them in pretty hard after pressing the krispies into the pan. I’m not sure if that was a me-mistake or just some sort of unwritten rice krispie rule of which I’m unaware. Regard the peanut butter personality, I went a little crazy with the chocolate ganache (using ¾ cup chopped dark chocolate melted with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter) and it overshadowed the peanut butter. Next time I’ll drizzle the chocolate instead of glopping it everywhere. It also took a long time to set on account of the muggy pre-hurricane air. Grievances aside, I loved them. It has been so long since I’ve had a rice krispie square and I loved how I got the choice between peanut butter and original. I didn’t do anything to change the recipe, so I’ll link you right to it.

(Once I’m moved and settled you’ll see more interesting and original recipes, promise!)