Sunday, June 18, 2017

Orange You Glad it's Summer?

It's the time of year when I frequently have Wicked Witch of the West moments because I literally feel like I'm melting every time I set foot outside. When it's 6 a.m. and the real feel is 90, you know it's gonna be a long day. I try to combat the heat by complaining about it as much as humanly possible while simultaneously thanking the inventor of air conditioning and counting down the days until our Alaskan cruise. Let's face it--while I may be from Texas, I'm about as well equipped to handle heat as a pint of Blue Bell. The only thing that summer is good for as far as I'm concerned is delicious, fruity desserts to help deal with the misery that is sweating while standing perfectly still. When I looked at the forecast for the week (and stopped crying), I decided it was time for a creamy, light-as-air dessert. I wanted something that would give me a respite from the heat, so immediately, I thought citrus fruits. And when you live in a state that's kind of known for one in particular, it seemed only natural to base my dessert around the tasty and ever-so-hard-to-peel orange. Although, my  childhood soccer games would've been woefully incomplete without orange slices at halftime, so I'll give them a pass on having an exterior more difficult to crack than most safe vaults. Say hello to the Orange Creamsicle Bar...
Orange you glad to see me?
I'm going to have a hard time resisting play on words with the word "orange" in this blog, and I'd like to apologize, but I'm not in the least bit sorry for these terrible puns. Besides, I am sharing a ridiculously amazing and simple dessert recipe with you, so I feel like I've earned the right. Soccer games aside, these squares also remind me of my childhood because they taste like a cross between a Flinstone's Push Up and a nice glass of Sunny D (purple stuff is still for chumps). With a crumbly graham cracker crust, mouth-watering orange Jello layer, and creamy pudding and Cool Whip topping, there's nothing to hate here unless you're allergic to oranges. Which I'm sure probably is a thing, so there's that. They're also guilt-free! An 8x8 pan can either yield you 12 bars at 118 calories a piece or 8 squares (in which case, I'm going to need you to call these Orange Creamsicle Squares for posterity) at 157 calories a pop. I obviously went for bar servings because these are literally the only kind of bars I'm interested in at my old age of 72. Or 30. Close enough.
I feel like 72 is more accurate, because at 30, I should be able to drink a glass of OJ without getting acid reflux. Sigh.
This recipe is actually a Kraft recipe that I completely tweaked to lower the calorie count from 310 calories a serving. To make the lightened-up version, you'll need:
  • 6 1/2 sheets of reduced fat Honey Maid Graham Crackers (save the half a sheet for later on in the recipe)
  • 2 tbs of melted butter (I used one tbs of butter and 1 tbs of butter spread to reduce calories. You could opt totally for the spread, melted to save even more, but I like the real butter flavor in a crust)
  • 1/2 a cup of Trop50 no pulp OJ
  • 1 box of Sugar Free Orange Jello
  • 8 ounces of fat free cream cheese spread, divided (leave out for an hour prior to making so it is soft but not runny)
  • 8 ounces of Cool Whip Free
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (plus a splash or two to get to the right consistency) 
  • 1 box of Jello Sugar Free Instant Vanilla Pudding
  • 1/2 tsp of dried orange zest (or 1 tsp of fresh orange zest)
Tiny food processor, you are so useful.
 I have a 4-cup food processor that has saved my recipes from becoming a giant messy disaster time and time again. Either crush or process 6 sheets of graham crackers into a fine crumb.
Like so. Seriously, just buy a food processor.
Melt your butter in small bowl for about 25 seconds. While this is nuking, cut a sheet of Parchment paper to fit an 8x8 pan. Mist the paper and the edges of the pan with cooking spray.
There are few things more annoying than crumbling dessert because it is stuck to the pan. 100% humidity in June is one of them.
 Once the butter is melted, dump in with the graham cracker crumbs and blend well. The crumbs should be wet. Turn this mixture into the prepared pan and press to distribute the crust evenly:
Bonus, have your dog handy for the mess you're making.
 Set your crust in the freezer so it can firm up while you prepare the first layer of the bars.
A piping hot cup of...juice?
 Find a microwaveable liquid measuring cup and measure out the 1/2 cup of OJ. You're going to heat this in the microwave for 1 minute. While it is getting warmed up, dump the orange Jello mix into a bowl. Pour in the hot OJ (weird) and whisk for 2 minutes. There should be no clumps.
And it should be a shade of orange best described as "Cheeto-nian."
 In the bowl of your stand mixer, take HALF the fat free cream cheese spread and give a quick stir. Then add in half of the orange Jello mixture. I found it easier to whisk by hand otherwise things got sloppy. Like, accidentally soaked my phone in orange Jello juice sloppy (and yet, to my chagrin, my crappy phone is still just fine). Once sorta blended, add in the remaining orange Jello mixture. Take one cup of Cool Whip Free and plop into the bowl with the cream cheese/Jello mix. Now it's safe to use the actual mixer to blend together.
Pour this mix onto your crust and smooth out.

Lick the spatula when you're done to immediately be taken back to the last time you had an orange push up ice cream.
Place this into the freezer to set for about 15-20 minutes. When the time is almost up, prepare the topping layer by first cleaning your stand mixer bowl to simply turn around and get it dirty again (ah, the joys of baking). Whisk the rest of the cream cheese and the milk together by hand until smoothed out. Then add in the vanilla pudding mix and beat with the stand mixer until well incorporated. Add in the remaining Cool Whip Free and the orange zest. My mixture was quite thick, and since I knew I wanted to be able to spread my topping on with ease, I added in a splash of milk (about 1 tsp) to give it a looser consistency.
And it spread like buttah.
Take the topping and evenly frost the top of your bars/squares with it. Smooth out as best as you can, and then find that half a sheet of graham cracker I told you to save awhile ago. Did you eat it? Yeah, accidents happen. Just grab another half sheet then and crush it into a fine mixture. Sprinkle this on the top of your bars to complete the recipe and make it look pretty. Everything looks better with a fine coating on top (this is precisely why I wear makeup).
Crushed graham crackers--like Bare Minerals foundation for desserts.
Now, these do need to set in the freezer for about 2-3 hours. I'd err on the side closer to 3 because my hungry, ravenous, dessert-crazy stomach wanted these at the 2 hour mark, and they were very tricky to get out of the pan. Set a timer and walk away. Do something constructive like try to drink a glass of orange juice at the age of 30 without dying of reflux. Whatever you need to do, just give these bars time to set up. Like anything good in life, they are totally worth waiting for. They're dripping with so much orange deliciousness that they can probably prevent scurvy, making them safe for both pirates and your waistline! Derek and I each had a bar yesterday, and it has literally been the only thing I've wanted to eat all day even though we had steak kebabs for dinner (and you never get in the way of a Texan and her cow). For one brief moment in time, bite after bite, I forgot that it's hot enough to bake cookies on the dash of my car outside and more humid than an Amazonian rainforest in the midst of monsoon season. I would live in a pan of these Orange Creamsicle Bars if it were feasible. It might still be a little sticky, but at least it would be tasty. While I complain to my steak kabobs about this oppressive heat, I'm going to be counting the minutes until I get to sink my teeth into these amazingly light and flavorful bars. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Because the only way to get me to stop complaining about the heat is to shove you in my mouth, Orange Creamsicle Bar.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Brownieception

I knew I wanted to make brownies for a coworker's going away party last weekend. Chocolate helps me cope, and thankfully, I work in an office with like-minded individuals who also appreciate the therapeutic effects of sweet, delicious chocolate. So to say I wanted to find a way to make the chocolatiest brownies ever was a massive understatement (we're really, really gonna miss that coworker. We really, really needed a lot of chocolate to deal with it). I decided to go with fudge brownies stuffed with Oreo's and topped with cookies and cream frosting. Essentially, a chocolate-in-chocolate, topped with more chocolate, inception-type situation, or a brownieception, if you will. I don't believe that time heals all wounds--but an artfully crafted chocolate dessert certainly is the first step in the right direction.
If tasty is a direction...
There were two things that made these brownies nearly impossible to make. The first being the fact that I had literally no idea there are now over 30 flavors of Oreo's. I lived in a world where I was only aware of the existence of regular Oreo's, Double Stuff's, and Mint Creme Oreo's. Needless to say, when I turned down the cookie aisle at the commissary I was immediately flabbergasted. Red Velvet Oreo's? Cake batter Oreo's? Oreo's that aren't even chocolate? Blasphemy. So imagine my reaction when I found out Cookies and Cream Oreo's are a thing. Think about that for a minute--yeah--those are Oreo's, stuffed with other Oreo's. The people at Nabisco clearly need to be stopped. They've taken this way too far. After I was done having a small meltdown over what kind of Oreo I wanted my brownies to be filled with (I settled on the classic Double Stuff after staring longingly at the Peanut Butter Oreos for a solid two minutes), another conundrum smacked me in the face when I looked to the right only to see Chips Ahoy has clearly followed the Oreo-every-flavor-we-can-think-of marketing strategy. My childhood is officially in the dust. I carried my head lowly and wondered if opening and eating half a sleeve of Oreo's would be frowned upon while I finished grocery shopping.
Although, probably still worth it.
The second thing involving these cookies and cream brownies that made me weep was calculating the calorie count. I didn't take any healthy shortcuts since I was going to be feeding normal people who aren't obsessed with health food like I am. It's all fun and games when you're baking a 9x13 pan of chocolate on chocolate when you're leaving them in someone else's home, but if they were staying at home with me, I would've subbed a few things (notes below) to cut calories. But like I said, we were all sad and in desperate need of a real, no-applesauce/honey substitutions brownie. I still wanted to deliver some nutritional tidbits on the blog since I've gotten used to bequeathing you the unfortunate calorie count of everything you love to devour post-dinnertime. A 9x13 pan made as directed below will run you 293 calories a cookies and cream brownie for 20 servings total. You could be like me and have a sliver of one piece to indulge with minimal guilt...I ended up cutting these in smallllll pieces not just for that fact but also because they are very rich. I'd estimate I ended up with 36 actual servings for 163 calories a brownie (which is wayyyyyy better).
Spot the pirate!
I took ALL of the shortcuts with this recipe, down to a box mix instead of my fudgy homemade brownie recipe because, let's face it, I wanted to take a nap since 1. I have to wake before the sun to walk the dogs or we'll all melt, and 2. Having human emotions is absolutely draining (which is why I avoid them in most cases). To make the simplest, yet most delicious cookies and cream brownies ever, all you need is:
  • 1 box of Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie mix 
  • 2 eggs (can use just egg whites to lower calories)
  • 1/2 cup of veggie oil (can sub applesauce to lower calories)
  • 3 TBS of water
  • 10 Oreo's (can use Oreo Thins to lower calories)
Preheat your oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan. Mix together the brownie mix, eggs, oil, and water for 2 minutes on medium speed in your stand mixer. Take this time to count out 10 Oreo's, think about eating a few, suffer that moral dilemma, and then turn off the mixer.
And get ready to get hammered.
I've recently acquired a meat tenderizing mallet, which I loving call "The Pulverizer." I placed my 10 Oreo's into a plastic bag and, well, pulverized them into chunks. Dump this into your brownie mix and give it a good stir.
After you admire your handy work. Thanks, Pulverizer!
Take your batter and turn it out into the greased pan. Be sure to smooth out the batter and tap the pan on the counter a few times to get out any air bubbles. Place into the oven and bake 22-27 minutes. With the addition of the Oreo's, my mix took a little longer than the box directed.
I had forgotten how messy powdered sugar is...the benefits of eating healthy-ish, I suppose?
Let your cookies and cream brownies cool off on a cooling rack either on the counter or in the fridge depending on how impatient you are. While you're resisting the urge to dive into the pan, get out your frosting ingredients:
  • 4 TBS butter at room temp  (can sub with reduced fat cream cheese to lower calories)
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2-3 TBS skim milk 
  • 8 Oreo's (can use Oreo Thins to lower calories)
Mix together the butter, sugar, and 2 TBS of milk until smooth. Really grind up the 8 Oreo's to a fine pulp and then add them to your frosting and mix. Depending on the consistency you'd like, either add a half to another whole tablespoon of milk after you've added the Oreo crumbs. I went with another 1/2 TBS (for a grand total of 2 1/2 TBS) to get a smooth enough frosting that was easy to spread but would still set.
And look pretty. This is important.
Simply frost the brownies once they are fully cooled and place them back in the fridge to let the frosting set up for an hour or two. You could also crush up more Oreo's to sprinkle on top, cut Oreo's into halves and place a half onto each individual brownie, etc. I went for classic and plain, and that did not disappoint. These are soooooo good (thanks, butter!), and I am so very happy the whole pan is not sitting in my house, or I would've eaten them all in one sitting. I adore cookies and cream ice cream (Halo Top or Blue Bell--they know what's up), and these brownies are a great take on what typically gets eaten as a frozen dessert. Not to mention they require about as much effort to make as a bowl of cookies and cream ice cream. Easy, quick, and delicious--all prerequisites when it comes to feelings eating. Or just regular eating, I suppose. A magical thing happens when Oreo's get cooked into brownies, so needless to say, I'm going to brave the Oreo aisle again soon to try the peanut butter version of this. Do I need to be stopped? Probably. But you better be one brave individual to stand between me and a pan of brownies...'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Can you blame me? I mean, these are drool-worthy.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Just Add Jif

When I really like something, I tend to go a bit overboard with it. For instance, if I find a cute top that fits me perfectly, I have to go back and buy it in every color available. There was also the time I figured out I liked avocado and decided it had to be put in every meal I ate for a solid month. Oh, and there's my collection of hedgehog-related merchandise ranging from socks to hedgie salt and pepper shakers. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when I make the decision to fall in love with something, I believe only in whole-assing it; there's no half-assing allowed. I'm a woman of few feelings, so when I commit to actually experiencing a modicum of pure joy, I tend to zero in on my poor unsuspecting subject with a laser-like intensity best described as "shark at a feeding frenzy." It's been no secret to many that I'm simply nuts about peanut butter (see what I did there?), and I am still relatively new to mixing peanut butter and chocolate, so it has been my go-to dessert flavoring in recent months. I'm nothing if not efficient in making up for lost time. So when a friend of ours who is even more obsessed with PB&C than I am had a birthday party, it was pretty much a given that I'd be bringing some form of chocolate-peanut-buttery goodness with us. Enter the chocolate fudge peanut butter cake...
I'll take this time to also mention it is topped with both Reese's Minis and Reese's Peanut Butter Chips. Like I said, feeding frenzy.
There is both a layer of fudge and a layer of peanut butter cream cheese resting comfortably between the dark chocolate cake and Cool Whip topping layered in more fudge and what some people might consider enough peanut butter toppings to incite a peanut allergy simply by looking at it. And yet, still under 300 calories a slice. I'm a really efficient glutton. I knew I was going to want room in my food log for both appetizers and dessert, so I opted to make this as low in sugar as humanly possible. Funny thing about that sugar--the stuff is just loaded with calories; so by lowering the sugar in the recipe, I was able to take this from over 600 calories a slice (even for 20 slices!) to 276 calories a slice (for 20 slices total). You know, so you can have your seven-layer dip, enough tortilla chips to hate yourself, a main course, and a slice of cake without having to run a 5k before eating to your heart and/or stomach's content. I won't lie to you--my favorite part of the day is anytime I'm eating.
Needless to say, Betty is my homegirl.
 I'm still sticking with the diet soda/cake recipe that I've found to be tried and true, and most importantly, delicious. Now, your cake won't have a bakery-level of density to it this way, but like I said, I want to be able to have my ten pounds of Tostitos and enjoy some dessert, too, so having a chocolate cake that isn't as hefty as an actual brick is helpful in that regard. I save those dense chocolate (and possibly booze-filled) cake days for rough times when I want to eat something as heavy as my soul feels, like NFL Sundays when my team goes from a 35-point lead to somehow losing in the last two minutes. As a Vikings fan, this happens with a little too much frequency. I digress...to make the cake, all you need is:
  • 10 ounces of diet soda (Coke, root beer, creme soda, something non-citrus)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 box of Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix of your choice. I like the pudding in the mix cakes because they are quite moist (even if I hate the word moist).
Grease a 9x13 cake pan and preheat the oven to 350. Mix all ingredients in a stand mixer for 2 minutes and turn into the pan. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly. Baking with the soda always speeds up whatever the cook time on the box is by 5-10 minutes, so keep that in mind. While baking, lay out the rest of your ingredients...
I accidentally ate a few of these Reese's Minis. I had literally no control over what was happening. They just somehow ended up in my mouth.
You'll also need:
  • 12 ounces of Cool Whip Free, divided
  • 12 ounces of sugar free hot fudge sauce
  • 8 ounces of reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup of creamy JIF (there are literally no substitutes. Get your life together and just add Jif.)
  •  Reese's Minis, chopped (I used 8)
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Chips (a small sprinkling)
  • 1 tablespoon of Hershey's lite chocolate syrup
Things got stabby.
Let the cake cool completely and then poke some holes into it with a fork. Nuke your hot fudge for 45 seconds, stir like crazy, and dump the whole bottle over the cake, spreading it out so it fills in the holes. Technically this makes this a poke cake, but adding another word to an already really long cake name felt unnecessary and cruel, like having to share a Reese's Mini.
I would've eaten it as is, but there were two more layers to go.
 Take your cake and put it in the freezer to let the fudge set while you make your peanut butter cream cheese. In your stand mixer, blend the softened cream cheese with the peanut butter until totally incorporated. Then add in 8 ounces of Cool Whip Free and mix well. At this point, I'm surprised the good people at Cool Whip haven't contacted me about a sponsorship opportunity because I use this stuff almost as much as I use toothpaste. Yes, that means multiple times a day, every day. Whole-assing, people...
Dump your peanut butter cream cheese on top of your set fudge layer (I froze my cake for 15 minutes).
Spread evenly over the cake; be sure to wait to lick the spatula clean until after this has been taken care of.
 Place your cake back into the freezer for an hour to let the peanut butter layer firm up. I used this time to hop online and try to find more peanut butter Halo Top. It's my all-time favorite ice cream now, so naturally it's become my White Whale, and I can't find it in stock anywhere. I assuaged my sadness with another Reese's Mini. I get the feeling you all understand how hopelessly obsessed I am with peanut butter by now. I'd like to thank my dogs for constantly needing walks, my elliptical, and Jillian Michaels for making my fat kid eating habits possible.
And to the good people at Cool Whip...
 Once firmed up, spread the remaining Cool Whip Free on top of your cake. I promise you, this is the final layer. So if you're looking at the depth of your pan and wondering if this cake is going to have a muffin top situation, rest easy. You'll be able to mostly close the lid on your pan. Mostly.
Worth it.
Pictured top left: what the desk looks like at my home office when I have a grant to write.
 Set your cake aside and chop up 8 Reese's minis. I was intending on using 10, so I unwrapped 10, but then I realized I didn't need that many and made the ultimate sacrifice and ate 2 more Reese's Minis. They were unwrapped...what was I gonna do? Throw them away? Share them with my husband? I'm only human.
Drizzle the chocolate syrup on top of the Cool Whip layer. No rhyme or reason to my pattern here. I call it, "Chocolate sauce meets left-hander."

Then sprinkle the chopped up Mini's.
And finish with a smattering of the PB Chips.
 End result: a beautiful mess of Cool Whip, chocolate syrup, and several varieties of Reese's:
And it took my breath away. Well, there was some wheezing and a little drooling.
 This did not disappoint. While the cake and Cool Whip are light and airy, it is definitely needed thanks to the indulgence that is not one, but two layers of extra chocolate and peanut butter amazingness. Each forkful was met with the perfect ratio of Reese's toppings, peanut butter cream cheese, and insanely gooey fudge. I was seriously busy this week, so I didn't have a lot of time to spend on baking (which is both good and bad...good: I don't get to pig out; bad: I don't get to pig out). This cake comes together with total ease and not a ton of time constraints. Baking is quick, decorating simple, and the end result is worthy of anyone who appreciates peanut butter. Thanks to the folks at Reese's for coming up with a ridiculous amount of peanut butter and chocolate dessert offerings, I'm already wondering if it's possible to make a pie crust out of mostly peanut butter cups. Clearly, I'm gonna have to find out. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Peanut butter and delicious.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

An Apple Multiple Times a Day?

I eat an apple every day either with my lunch or for a snack, and I can confirm that the adage is true--an apple a day does keep the doctor away. This could also be due to the fact that unless one of my appendages is falling off, I refuse to step foot in a hospital...but I'd like to thank the apples first and foremost. It had been awhile since I had eaten or even made an apple-based dessert, but I wasn't jonesing for a pie since we had that last week. This then led me to ponder one of life's great mysteries--why aren't there more apple desserts? Why must it just be the pie where we let apples shine? Why do I think this is one of life's great mysteries? Do I care too much about dessert? Does one bad apple really spoil the whole bunch? Somehow the answer to all of these questions was yes, even where it didn't make any sense. But I took that yes and I turned it into a cake. A delicious, apple-filled cake. A cake so good it can stand on its own, or be served a la mode, or even become a syrup sponge for breakfast. A shining example of how you can eat an apple a day, multiple times a day! Take that, healthcare industry.
It's also pretty! And although that does nothing for taste, it still accounts for something.
And now's the part where I get to boast that you get to top the cake with ice cream, syrup, or powdered sugar because one slice is only 170 calories. A slice of apple cake a day will also keep the stretchy pants at bay! This is an 8" round cake, but it is a bit tall, and I knew there was no way I could eat it without trying it with ice cream and caramel drizzle at some point, so this whole cake breaks down into 170 calories per slice for 10 slices total. And now I'm doing apple math. Something I haven't done since elementary school where I always questioned why one person would have 15 apples and if another person took 4 of those apples how many person one would have left...like I would ever share my apples with anyone. I might need them all for snacking. Kate doesn't share food!
Especially if it contains brown sugar.
This cake does not require any crazy ingredients; hell, it barely even requires any sugar. Which is sometimes a cautionary tale in how to dessert properly, but I promise you this is plenty decadent thanks to lemon zest and Golden Delicious apples. To make this culinary masterpiece, gather up:
  • 2 large Golden Delicious apples (~1.5 lbs)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (I like the taste of dark better than light since it has more molasses in it and packs more flavor) 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup of loosely packed flour
  • 1/8 tsp of salt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup + 1 TBS  skim milk
Start by greasing an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan and preheating the oven to 350. In your stand mixer bowl, dump the eggs, sugar, and zest of the large lemon. Save the rest of the lemon...you need it in a minute! Whip on medium high for 5-10 minutes, until your mixture goes from looking like this:
Sad and not at all appetizing.
 To this:
Fluffy and downright tasty-looking.
While your mixture is getting all poofy and delicious in the mixer, peel your apples and core them. Slice into thin, uniform size:
Saving some of the prettiest slices for the top of the cake, naturally.
Take your lemon, cut it into slices, and squeeze over your apple slices to keep them from getting that weird brown funk that normally occurs when apples sit out for too long. No one wants to eat a cake with funky apples. Once you're done mixing the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest, dump in the flour, salt, and baking powder. Blend on low while pouring in all the milk. Up the speed on your mixer a bit and blend until everything is nicely incorporated. Finish up by folding (by hand!!) in all but about 12 slices of apple into the cake batter.
Would eat with a spoon.
Bang your pan on the counter to distribute batter and apples evenly throughout the pan. Then take the apple slices you set aside, and place them into the top of the batter. I just made a simple circular pattern, but feel free to get crazy with it and make a work of art. I was getting too hungry for cake at this point to channel my inner Van Gogh.
Plus I thought this looked pretty in its simplicity. That's also what I'm going with.

And brown sugar sprinkles make everything look 10 times more appetizing anyway.
I sprinkled an additional tablespoon (included in calorie count) of brown sugar on top of everything because it was either that or the tablespoon of sugar was going directly into my mouth. I told you, I was hungry. Now, bake in the center of your oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the cake cleanly.
Your house will smell like the most American of dreams.
So apple pie fresh out of the oven is such a quintessentially American smell...but I just out-America-ed apple pie. My house smelled so deliciously apple-y, George Washington would have been proud. Or at the very least, mildly amused by my steadfast determination to enjoy apples. Let your cake cool on a cooling rack for about a half an hour, then, find some powdered sugar and dust a bit on top:
Much like brown sugar sprinkles, this is mostly just to make the cake even prettier.
 Serve yourself a slice after you dust it with sugar and it is still fresh from the oven. It will change you as a person, I promise. The lemon zest mixes with the apples and hint of brown sugar to create a taste that is leaps and bounds above a simple apple pie filling. Not to mention its ensconced in cake and not pie crust. Unfortunately, cake can't stay piping hot out of the oven forever, but luckily, there is this wonderful invention called the microwave. I see you're familiar with this concept. I've been storing my cake in the fridge and reheating for 30 seconds a slice.
You can't even tell its microwaved!
 Is it still good? You bet your apple-bottomed jeans they are. Want to make it even better? Add apple's best friend, caramel, to the top of the cake with a nice drizzle of caramel syrup. If it's before 11 a.m. and you feel like someone might judge you for using caramel syrup that early in the day (maybe it's been a rough morning and you just need it, okay?!), you can always opt for a nice drizzle of maple syrup instead. Not gonna lie, we've been feasting on this for brunch all weekend, and it pairs perfectly with a cup of hot tea and some scrambled eggs...also swimming in syrup. Just the eggs though. My tea gets honey. I'm not a total heathen. I'm trying to decide which way I enjoy eating this cake the most...plain, for brunch, or for super dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and I really can't decide. I'm simply bananas about apples, so clearly I could eat this with every meal of the day and be one happy, apple-filled camper that never caps out her health insurance premium. Who said eating healthy had to mean giving up taste? Not I. So go forth and make this apple cake! Ditch the pie! Save comparing apples to other apples for another day. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
The apple of my eye is made of cake, and that is in no way surprising.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Floats and Dreams

If any of you were chronicling my weekend updates on Facebook, you already know I spent Saturday in what I would consider to be my most massive cheat day since college when I ate and drank with the reckless abandon only a 20-year-old's metabolism can survive. Ten years later, eating like this occurs once every equinox or solstice. Between nearly licking the plate clean for brunch, eating my Texan, cattle-loving heart out at a burger battle, and polishing the day off with a pound of froyo with all the fixins, I thought surely I wouldn't grow hungry for at least 48 hours. Imagine my surprise when I awoke at 5 a.m. the next morning to feed the dogs and was immediately met with the pangs of hunger rumbling forth from my apparently insatiable stomach. I've known since I was a child that I'm the only person in the world whose eyes are actually smaller than their stomach. Although I could probably still polish off eight pancakes before becoming physically ill, my adult forethought keeps me from rehashing childhood mistakes. If only my adult body could figure out how to utilize motor functions better than my childhood one...baby steps. Literally. So I spent Sunday making good choices (well, dietary ones anyway) and decided to stop the insatiable stomach growling with hearty, healthy foods that wouldn't require stretchy pants or ten hours of circuit training to recover from. One of those choices even included pie. My will to treat myself while also not requiring a two-person team to fit me into my skinny jeans has caused me to craft another low calorie delight: root beer pie.
Solids are usually more satisfying than liquids.
I saw this recipe on a Buzzfeed Tasty video and decided I could hijack the original and make it much, much lower in calories with a few simple tweaks. When I asked my husband if he wanted root beer pie for dessert this week, he was both confused and extremely delighted that this could possibly be a thing. There's this magical occurrence at the bottom of a root beer float; the ice cream has melted and mixed in with the root beer, creating an amalgamation of hopes, dreams, and deliciousness. That is exactly how this pie tastes. It is cold, refreshing, and tingles the taste buds for only 170 calories a slice for 8 servings. Any time I can eat a slice of pie with fewer calories than a mini muffin, it justifies why I believe in eating pie for breakfast. Give it a chance. The only thing stopping pie from becoming a breakfast food is people's inability to think outside the box! I also feel strongly about eating breakfast for dinner, so I'm all about squashing food norms.
It also has fewer ingredients than a mini muffin.
Five minutes is all that stands between you and the creation of this pie. It is the easiest thing you can make all week, and apparently in the world I live in, appropriate for every meal. All you need for life-changing root beer pie is:
  • 12 ounces of diet root beer
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 package Jello sugar free instant vanilla pudding
  • 8 ounces of Cool Whip Free
  • 1 reduced fat premade pie crust
  • Optional: root beer concentrate to add into piping Cool Whip

Whisking is a good bicep workout..
Start by adding the root beer, milk, and pudding mix to a bowl. Whisk for 2 minutes until the pudding mix has started to thicken. Then, dump in the 8 ounces of Cool Whip and stir. Things will taste plenty root beer-y, but if you're crazy into root beer for some reason, you could always add a 1/4 tsp of root beer concentrate to the pie mix for extra oomph. Pour the filling into the crust:
Alllllmost spilled over. Would've cleaned up. With a straw.
This was a very full pie, so I placed a baking sheet underneath it before putting it into the freezer to chill for 4 hours. Literally does not get any easier than that. It's more difficult to drive to the store and buy a premade pie in its entirety. There's traffic, trying to find parking, and don't even get me started on generally having to interact with the public.
See, root beer concentrate is totally a real thing. Photographic proof that it is not the Sasquatch of extracts.
Once my pie had frozen through, I mixed a small amount of Cool Whip Free with 1/4 tsp of root beer concentrate and loaded up into a piping bag fit with a #32 tip. I wanted to create a fancy-looking border that wasn't the standard 1M star border or 2D rose border I usually do with pies. I'm trying new things here, people. For someone who plans out an entire week in advance down to the outfits I'm going to wear, this is a small step towards rebellious behavior for me. I realize my OCD planning makes me about as exciting as watching paint dry, but I'm the person you go to when you need a good plan or a good pie, so I got that going for me.
To make the braid, start by piping a small parenthesis --> (
Take your piping nozzle and place it in the middle of the parenthesis. Pipe an overlapping parenthesis that covers half of the one on the bottom.

Repeat for the entire pie. The ending can get tucked away and hidden on the edge of the pie. I do love being able to cover up my mistakes. I mean, who doesn't. It's kinda this thing called human nature, I suppose.
It's glowing for a reason. A pie so good, it is actually heavenly.
 You will want to keep this pie in the freezer until you're ready to serve. About an hour before you might want pie (this is literally every hour of my life), cut your slice and place into the fridge to soften. I made the mistake of cutting our pie last night right after dinner and promptly forgot to put it in the fridge (Bob's Burgers was on. I already told you how much I love things relating to cow). When I went to grab our pie an hour and a half later, it was mostly melted but still tasted absolutely amazing. I consider this to be a testament to the recipe itself. I enjoyed this pie so much I had an actual dream about it; so naturally I woke up really hungry again and wondering when my next chance would be to eat a slice. My husband is working tonight and I don't want to short him on pie servings (I may be boring, but I am at least considerate), so it will be a day sans pie for me. But it doesn't have to be for you! Make the pie and awaken your inner root beer lover. It's still in there--buried since childhood, waiting to relive the glory of root beer float magic. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
It will make all your floats and dreams come true. If they involve root beer, anyway.