February 25, 2011

Link Love: Feb. 25

by Amanda

It happens every year: I call up my mom and tell her which Girl Scout cookies to buy. She tells me she already ordered them, and she doesn’t remember which ones she chose. The girls show up to our house with boxes of Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Samoas and occasionally Do-si-dos. I never satisfy my craving for Thanks-A-Lot or Lemon Chalets. I really should have just stayed a Girl Scout. Sadly, it wasn’t even my choice when I stopped in the seventh grade. My troop disbanded leaving me stripped of my patches and cookie-selling abilities. I really only was in it for the cookies.

This week’s link love includes a recipe for Tagalongs, the cookie I unscientifically deem as most popular in my what’s-your-favorite-Girl-Scout-cookie poll. Maybe I should create my own recipe for Thanks-A-Lot or Lemon Chalets. If only I had a sample of the real deal to work off of…

Homemade Tagalong Girl Scout Cookies from Cakespy for Serious Eats


Artichoke and Goat Cheese Strata from Cooking Light

PBfull Banana Bran Muffins from Gracefulfitness

Moroccan Skillet Quinoa and Chicken from Simply Gluten Free


Shrimp Saganaki from Eating Well

What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?

February 21, 2011

Baked Brownies

by Amanda

Brownies hold a special place in my heart. They’re not my favorite dessert. They are–and always have been–my sister’s favorite dessert. They were also the first food I ever baked for a boy. My high school boyfriend devoured the brownies I gave him. I never told him they weren’t technically made from scratch. Instead, I cut out the front packaging of the boxed mix I used in order to remember which brand of brownies he claimed were the best brownies ever. And then I only bought and made that brand.

Brownies were also the dessert my elderly neighbor across the street made for our family as a thank you for helping her out with something, a special treat on our birthday or a way of welcoming us kids home when we visited from college. Those were made from scratch, and she refused to give us the recipe. She recently passed away, but her memory will live on whenever I try a brownie. Because my family and I claimed her brownies were the best brownies ever.


Baked Brownies

from Brown Eyed Baker adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking



1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

5 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.

3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.




I always think food tastes better when it’s not made yourself. I also think food tastes extra better if it’s made for a special reason or given to you out of love. Therefore, nothing will probably top my neighbor’s brownies. But if I can’t have her brownies, the ones from Brooklyn bakery Baked may just have to do. Oprah agrees with me. So does my chocolate-loving roommate. As for my high school boyfriend? I have no idea. But now I don’t regret throwing out the box package front after our break up. Because I’m confident that this recipe can very well make someone claim that these are the best brownies ever.

Do you have a go to recipe for certain desserts? If so, please share! Also, have you ever pretended something you made from a mix was homemade? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

February 18, 2011

Link Love: Feb. 18

by Amanda

I wish:

  • For my hand to no longer need a cast
  • To be done with my last four assignments so I can graduate
  • That I will get time off from my part-time job so I can celebrate graduation with a trip to Austin, TX
  • I didn’t have excuses for not posting as often as I would like, but unfortunately I do, and they are listed above

The good thing is other awesome people find plenty of time to post regularly, and I am finding time to read their posts. I spend probably 80 percent of my time on the Internet looking at food, and I figured I may as well have something to show for that. Thus, I decided to do weekly link love posts where I direct you to my favorite posts and recipes from the week.

Pear-Vanilla Brown Butter Bars from Piece of Cake

Salmon Corn Chowder with Quick and Healthy Cornbread from Clean Eating

Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta from Oh She Glows

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake from Miss Lemonie


Miso-Ginger Wild Rice with Carrots and Cabbage from Whole Foods

Feel free to let me know in the comments section any good recipes you made or spotted this week!

February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day…

by Amanda

…to my staple in life, bread.

Because very few things are better than sliced bread. That’s why the saying exists, right?

February 11, 2011

A Sweet Surprise

by Amanda


My mother can read my future thoughts. How else can I explain the fact that the day after I wrote about having an uncharacteristic craving for a box of chocolates, these show up on my doorstep? She ordered them the week before. See, moms really do know best.


I know Valentine’s Day is kind of the box-of-chocolate holiday, but because of my apathetic opinion of chocolate, I don’t usually receive any. I’m really glad I did this year. I’m also really glad they were from Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a Chicago-based chocolatier. Check out these flavors for the exotic truffle collection.


The chocolates came with instructions on how to eat a truffle. Fun fact: I once gave a 45 minute presentation on how to eat chocolate for one of my classes in high school, complete with a taste testing demonstration. Chocolate is serious business and clearly worthy of academic study.


I know some people don’t like Valentine’s Day (“it’s a manufactured Hallmark holiday”), but I don’t see what’s wrong with a special day devoted to showing people how much you love them. Especially when that love comes in the form of chocolate when you really need some.

What’s your favorite chocolate company?

February 7, 2011

The Gift of a Gift-Giving Website

by Amanda

I don’t love chocolate. I don’t dislike it either, that’s for sure, but I’m not a person who hoards bars of chocolate in her pantry, only orders chocolate off the dessert menus and prefers chocolate fudge over chocolate cake with chocolate icing. That being said, I do enjoy chocolate from time to time.

I also love gimmicks. You know those seasonal items and promotional tie-ins marketers dream up so people buy things? I buy those things. They’re a small way to make myself just a bit happier. So, when I saw this Wine Tasting Chocolate Kit on one of my favorite gift websites, UncommonGoods, I couldn’t help but share the link.


The site has awesome, unique products that make great hostess, birthday or just because gifts. There is a particularly great selection for those of us who love things like embroidered kitchen towels and weird-shaped bowls a little too much.

In other news, T-minus two weeks until my hand escapes from its imprisoning cast.


Hopefully the time goes by quickly. I’m going through serious baking withdrawals. Maybe I should take my own advice and buy this gimmicky chocolate set to boost my mood.

February 3, 2011

A Brewing Question for You

by Amanda

I’ve never been a huge juice drinker. Growing up, I didn’t enjoy drinking my glass of milk with dinner. I normally saved it until the end, and that’s what I was told I had to finish before I got ice cream for dessert (apparently I didn’t mind dairy in dessert form). And after an epic two-year battle, I’ve overcome my addiction to soda.

But I love coffee. And I love beer.


Yes, I am hugging the beer.

Some of my favorite coffee companies include:

Some of my favorite microbreweries include:

For some unknown reason, I always put my love for supporting small coffee companies in the same category as my love for trying craft beers. Maybe it’s because the two are acquired tastes? Quintessential American beverages? To some degree, adult beverages? I can’t quite figure out the connection, but Starbucks also seems to think there is one since they starting selling both in some of their stores last year.

It’s a strange thing to want to figure out, I know, but it’s actually my assignment for mygasp–last undergraduate journalism piece. So, if you wouldn’t mind, please share your opinion in the comments section. Are you a coffee and beer drinker? Or do you just like one kind of brew? Is there a connection or is the coupling of these two drinks as greatly exaggerated as Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock’s recent love story? Let me know your thoughts below.

Also, feel free to mention some of your favorite beers and coffees. Let’s toast to the good stuff!

January 31, 2011

Etsy Is My Jam

by Amanda

I’m busy. Most of us are. You don’t need to hear me explain how busy I am, but you should know that I don’t have time to browse Etsy for food art. And yet I did it anyway. I feel better about it not being in vain if I turn it into a blog post. Click on the picture to get more information about each print.


It’s vintage! So you know it’s cool. It’s also a message from the Great Depression that still makes sense today.


Ah PB&J. My favorite food since birth, no joke, shown in a sophisticated way. I’m classy.


I know what you’re thinking, but I’m still classy. And this one may be my favorite.


An Operation Beautiful note? Or just an ode to my favorite condiment.


Yeah, that’s a watercolor.

January 26, 2011

Food for Thought

by Amanda

My mom frequently sends me articles she thinks I may be interested in reading. As recently as six months ago, she would clip out the magazine and newspaper stories and mail them to me in an envelope with a smiley face sticker. She is a champion of print media’s rights. Occasionally–and much more lately–she has sent me emails with the links to the stories. Even she can’t deny how much more the Internet offers!

This week, she sent me an article from Real Simple, The Psychology of Happiness. I hated it. My mom told me I was supposed to because I’m in my 20s. Basically, the author of the article talked about how happiness is not flashy, but rather it’s rooted in the absence of things/events that make us unhappy. I argued to my mom that sounded more like contentment than happiness. I didn’t like the way in which the author seemed to have given up on finding greater happiness.

I did like the message that happiness is found in the simple things in life. For me, the greatest source of happiness is found in family, friends and food. I feel like I’m not alone on this one. Narrowing in on the food part of that equation, I realized that the simplest foods give me the greatest joy. I don’t need a prime rib steak (although I won’t turn that down), a Bourbon-Chocolate Cake with Praline Frosting or a fancy bottle of wine. I do, however, need the following:

happy food

A good apple. I love all apples, but it’s the best when you get that rare, perfect one that’s crispy, juicy and sweet-but-not-too-sweet.

Well-stocked supply of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats. Not the Instant Oatmeal. There’s a world of difference between the two.

Flavored coffee. As long as it’s not chocolate flavored.

A perfect overeasy egg with runny yolk. I’m terrible at cooking these myself.

A crunchy, seedy, nutty slice of whole wheat bread. And the smell of it in the toaster. This one makes more than just me happy.

The smell of anything with cinnamon baking. Or nutmeg, or pumpkin…actually, probably the smell of most desserts baking.

A satisfying pint of non-dairy ice cream when you need it. My sister knows what I’m talking about with this one.

What do you think about the article? And what are the foods that make you the happiest?

January 24, 2011

Save Up: A Soon-to-Be College Grad’s Brain Food

by Amanda

In seven-ish weeks, I’ll be graduating college with a degree in journalism. There’s no need to ask what my plans are for week eight and beyond because I don’t have an answer for you. Fortunately, I’m graduating a quarter early and have given myself a couple of extra months to figure stuff out. You know, the life stuff. I am 95 percent sure about one thing: I won’t be making that much money. I mean, I’m graduating with a degree in journalism.

Luckily, I’m not too worried about feeding myself. I’m actually pretty good at keeping my food costs low at the grocery store. Tonight’s dinner was a great example of an inexpensive, satisfying meal. It also included completely non-American fare. Ha.

Chobani meal

Chobani Plain 0% Greek Yogurt, brown rice, black beans and a sauteed banana. I have Emily from Chobani to thank for the yogurt. She sent me some Chobani love, and I’m really excited to incorporate my favorite brand of yogurt into my meals. I’m also really excited about hunting down their new flavors. Especially the lemon one.

Back to the cookbooks. For seven-ish more weeks.

What’s your go-to inexpensive meal?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.