Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cake of the Week: Eggnog Bundt Cake

In mid to late November, something magical happens. In the milk aisle of the grocery store, somewhere between the buttermilk/cream section and the regular milk, a festive-colored carton appears...eggnog. And my mom and I get EXCITED! My phone will ring, sometime a little before Thanksgiving, Guess what Mollie? I'm drinking eggnog right now! gloats my mom. Yes! It's time! And thus the Christmas season begins.

Then, in the beginning of January, something very sad happens. The eggnog slowly but surely (and inevitably) disappears. And something inside us dies a little bit.
It's our last carton of eggnog! we commiserate. I can't believe Christmas is really over!

I know that not everyone loves eggnog with the same passion as us crazies. I get that it's often a texture thing (you have to expect
a milkshake rather than milk consistency). And many people think they don't like it because it sounds weird (Nog, nog, NOG! Say it with me, I'm amused), or their parents don't like it, or they tried it once when they were little and forever condemned this delicious holiday beverage.

Well, now it's time to open your mind, face your fears, and get out there and buy a carton of eggnog before it's gone forever!!! (Ok, ok, I know it'll be back next year. But right now that seems like
forever and a half away!)

And even if you're sure you don't like the
texture, the flavors are undeniably delicious: vanilla, nutmeg, rum. No doubt about that - win, win, and win! So use that last carton of nog in this subtly rich and fabulous eggnog bundt cake. I made it as one of my Christmas desserts (to go with chocolate pumpkin pie, Sister1's chocolate cupcakes, Grammy Jean's persimmon pudding, and Auntie Robin's fudge). Have I mentioned my recent fatstorm?

Anywho, here it is (from Eat Me, Delicious):

Toasted Pecan Eggnog Ring

Adapted from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More

2 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp cake flour
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
(I used fresh nutmeg. You can buy it at most grocery stores in the spice aisle. It looks like a jar of acorn-ish nuts, and you grate them)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup premium-quality eggnog (If you're in CA, Southern Comfort Eggnog is the absolute best)
1/4 cup bourbon, such as Jack Daniel's
(We don't have alcohol chez moi, so I just used water and added an extra 2 teaspoons vanilla)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 1/2 cups (packed) very fresh light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely chopped toasted pecans

Eggnog Glaze
1 cup strained powdered sugar, spooned in and leveled
2 tbsp warm eggnog
1 tbsp light corn syrup

1. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 325F. Generously butter a 9 inch bundt pan, dust with flour, then invert it over the kitchen sink and tap firmly to remove the excess flour. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups of the flour, the nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine the eggnog, bourbon and vanilla. Set aside.

4. Cut the butter into 1 inch pieces and place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddled attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, taking 6 to 8 minutes.

5. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 1 minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

6. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the eggnog mixture, dividing the flour mixture into three parts and the liquid into two parts, starting and ending with the flour.

7. In a small bowl, toss the pecans with the remaining tablespoon of flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and using a large spatula, fold in the nuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake for 1 hour and 10 to 15 minutes. The cake is done when the top is firm to the touch and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

8. Remove from the oven and let stand on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and carefully lift off the pan. Turn the cake right side up onto a cooling rack, and place it over a rimmed cookie sheet. If you're going to make the glaze, start it while the cake is cooling.

Make the glaze
9. Whisk the powdered sugar, eggnog, and corn syrup together until smooth.

Finish the cake
10. Using a fork or a whisk, drizzle the glaze over the cake while it is still warm. Let stand at room temperature until the glaze is set.

Store under a glass cake dome or covered with aluminum foil for up to 5 days. This cake may be frozen.

This is good as breakfast cake, afternoon coffee cake, or for dessert. Basically, it's just good. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Weekend Report: How You Know It's Winter Break

Ok, ok, so technically, it's not "Winter Break" for me...because I'm not in school anymore...so I have a "real job"...which means that you don't just automatically get seasonal breaks...BUT I felt the need, so I created my own. Thus, Mollie's Winter Break 2010 was born.

Anywho, words cannot describe how
absolutely wonderful Christmas was. And though I love words, and I'm willing to try, you all would probably promptly remove me from your RSS/bookmarks bar/thoughts due to the extensiveness of that potential post! So I'll keep those particular words to myself.

Instead, I bring you a list:

How You Know It's Winter Break
(And by "you" I mean me. Obviously.)

1. You are never sure exactly what day it is. E.g.
Well hmmm, I know Christmas was on Friday...so today must be Saturday. Wait, it's not? Today's Sunday? Then what happened on Saturday? Did Saturday happen???

2. Fatstorm. To the max. My daily meal plan looks like: leftover desserts for breakfast - Christmas cookies for lunch/snack/coffee break - dinner (I do that for reals) - dessert - post-dessert cookie - pre-bed snack (i.e. dessert). I know, I know, the scary part is that I'm
not even kidding!

3. You play boardgames (
without any drinking or dirty jokes) because the age range is 5 to 65.

4. Running can take over 3 hours. (Drive to trails, find a bathroom, run, walk, stretch, wait for lost family-members, drive home.) And that's ok.

5. You can go
a whole day without putting on real pants.

6. Read 3 books in 4 days? Bring it.

7. Movies in movie theaters. I forget how
good those are!

8. No
real responsibilities. (Me: Hmmm, I could check my work email...or I could eat this gingerbread man instead...tough decision...)

9. I forget my phone at home, come back 6 hours later, and see that I have no missed calls. My first thought:
Wow, is that kind of pathetic? Should I be worried about my Petaluma social life? My second thought: Time for jammies and cookies!

10. Ants attack our kitchen. This happens every year. Why? I don't know. They destroyed my granola...then a half-eaten box of See's Chocolate! You know the movie A Christmas Story? (How can you not? It's on TV like 24/7 through December.) The dad in that movie vs. the Bumpus Hounds = my dad vs. The Ants. Cover your ears kids, this could get inappropriate!

In other news, I have been recently reminded how beautiful my home area is.

On Christmas Eve we did our annual Point Reyes run/hike on the Bear Valley Trail. You go out 4ish miles through the woods, and then suddenly you're out on Arch Rock, looking at the Pacific, SF, and Point Reyes. Absolutely spectacular. I just stood there for a while to admire it.

The day before Christmas Eve, my dad took me to run Mt. Home trail (which, fyi, is not the actual name of the trail, it's just near Mountain Home Inn on the south side of Mt. Tamalpias). I've done that run before, but this was the first time the air was fog-less and I could see the view. Richardson Bay/Mill Valley/Sausalito on one side, the Pacific on the other. Again, wow to the max.

And then today my parents and I went on a beach walk at Salmon Creek Beach at Bodega Bay. It was only partly cloudy, and not too cold/windy. I guess I just really like the ocean. I don't have any desire to
go in it (I've done my fair share of surfing, and I can definitively say - Paddling a ton while swallowing salt water? Not for me.) but I do like to have it close-by.

I guess that's all for now. Happy Winter Break!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve!
I'm off for our annual Christmas Eve family run/walk at Point Reyes (aka we all start at the same time, and end at our car).
Then we're going out to brunch, which, you all know, is one of my favorite things

Then it's just one more sleep 'till Christmas! (Gaaahhhh - I can hardly contain myself!!!) In just a matter of hours (about 24, to be exact), I will be waking up with that wonderful Christmas Morning feeling.

I will get up (early, per usual), turn on the Christmas tree, make coffee, and read Christmas books until the rest of my family rolls out of bed. And then we'll open our stockings! And then we'll make breakfast! And then we'll open our presents! And then we'll clean out house and get ready for the extended fam to come over for Christmas dinner and more presents!!!

Here are the pictures from the gingerbread I made this week. I know, you just
wish you were at my house!Can we get a close up?
There we go - fabulous! Sexy! Wow!

I hope you all have the merriest of Christmases. I'll be back on Monday, most likely blogging about Christmas awesomeness.

(PS - 15 exclamation points in this post. Sorry about that...I just get excited!)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Places I've Run: Petaluma, CA

In December of seventh grade, I danced in the Nutcracker, and then decided that it was time to quit ballet.
So my mama says, Well now that you're not doing ballet, you're going to have to start running.
I don't even remember questioning it, or really thinking about it - I just said
ok, and that was that. (To make this seem a little less weird, both my parents are runners and have always run every day, so suggesting that I run wasn't totally off the wall.)
On my first run, my mom took me on a 3-ish-mile loop near our house (unfortunately years later MapMyRun informed me that it was only abot 2.5. Damn.). We ran the first half, walked up the hill, and then ran home. And that was it - The Run was born. I did that same run every day. Eventually I could do it without walking. And even later, I started adding on. So The Run got longer and longer. There was the standard short loop, a 3.5-mile version, a 4-miler, a 5-miler, and really the sky's the limit when it comes to adding on.

When Sister1 started running, she did The Run. When Sister2 started a few years later, she did The Run as well.

The amazing thing about The Run is its staying power. To this day I start my run
on the same route. I never do just the original loop, but variations on that theme are a part of all my Petaluma runs. I'm not sure if this says something about my creativity...or my laziness...or perhaps my persistence (?). It's just a matter of habit. I leave my door and turn right. Then right again. Then up to the hill...and then, well, it's up to my in-shapeness and desire from there.
It's comforting, in a way. When I'm home, I like to eat breakfast and drink my coffee while reading the paper, then putter around a bit before going out for my run. When I get back I take my dog for a walk.

So, how was your run? my family asks when they see me later.
Good/bad/meh/terrible. (response of my choice)
Where did you go?
Well, I started with The Run...

And so it goes. If I'm home for too long, I get bored, but considering the fact that in the last 5 years I've been home for a grand total of 3 months...well, not a whole lot of time for getting bored.

Do other people have a route like this?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cake of the Week: Gingerbread Two Ways

There's only 3 more sleeps 'till Christmas!!!

In light of that most wonderful fact, it is only appropriate that I bring you gingerbread. It is the most classic Christmas cookie/dessert...not sure who decided that or why...but mmmm it's a-ok with me! And because I like variety, I bring you not one, but two variations on the gingrebread-y theme.

First I made gingerbread cupcakes. This was one of those times that I experimented, and it turned out well. (Much better than expected actually, I was a bit concerned for a while there!)
Let me explain:
- I DVR all episodes of Barefoot Contessa.
- I watched her make fabulous-looking gingerbread one day while I was doing my post-run situps (a little sick-and-twisted? Maybe...but I do what I want!)
- So I found the recipe online, and listed it on my blog.
- Thus, every time I checked on
Eat, Run, Read for the next week (which was like 20 times a day - not sure what I think is going to happen, but I swear I'm like an overprotective mother), I saw this delicious-looking recipe...and well, wanted it!

When I went to make it, I realized that I didn't have any sour cream. No worries though, milk+vinegar solves that problem. And I didn't have
golden raisins, or rum to soak them in. And I looked, but I couldn't find crystalized ginger anywhere. And I don't eat oranges, so zest wasn't going to happen. And then I didn't have quite enough butter. And then I realized that I only had about half the molasses the recipe called for...
Any normal person would stop baking and go to the store. But I can be exceptionally lazy, so I just decided to wing it.
If you want the Barefoot Contessa version, check it out here.
But if you want to experience this with me - here it is!

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

* 1/4 cup water
* 1/2 cup raisins
* 1/2 stick unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1 cup milk + 1 teaspoon vinegar (mix them together and set aside before starting)
* 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or line cupcake pans.

Place the water and raisins in a small pan, cover and heat until the water boils. Turn off the heat and set aside. Place the butter and molasses in another small pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the milk/vinegar combination and the sugar.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a small bowl. Mix with your hands until combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth. Drain the raisins and add them to the mixture with a spatula. Spoon into cupcake pans bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost them with
Maple Syrup Frosting:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
2Tbsp maple syrup
1-ish Tbsp milk (as needed)
Cream butter and sugar until blended. Add maple syrup. Add milk as needed until frosting reaches desired consistency.


And then I made traditional gingerbread cookies. This recipe is an old family heirloom - aka from our Betty Crocker's Cookbook, circa 1960. ("You're more time-conscious, energy-conscious, dollar conscious. More than ever you're preparing meals from scratch with fresh, natural foods - perhaps even in a microwave!")
What can I say, she does some things right!
My family likes thick soft cookies. If you're into the crunchy kind, just roll the dough thinner and cook them a bit longer.

Gingerbread Cut-out Cookies

1/3 cup Shortening
1 cup Brown Sugar (packed in cup)
1 1/2 cups Molasses
7 cups Flour
1 tsp. Allspice
1 tsp. Ginger
1 tsp. Cloves
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 cup cold Water
2 tsp. Soda
3 tbsp. cold Water

CREAM SHORTENING, add sugar gradually, and cream thoroughly. Blend in molasses. Sift the flour with spices and salt, and stir into molasses mixture alternately with the 1/2 cup water. Dissolve soda in the 3 tbsp. water and blend into dough.

Chill dough for at least 2 hours, then roll it out 1/4 inch thick on lightly floured board, or pizza-rolling sheet. Cut out your favorite shapes. Place cookies on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes in a 350* oven.

You can decorate the cookies pre-baking with candy, cinnamon dots, sprinkles, or whatever you can thing of. Or you can frost them when they are completely cooled. I went for frosting and sprinkles - aka a BIG mess. But totally worth it!


2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons water
- Mix until a good spreading/piping consistency. Feel free to add more water/powdered sugar until it feels right. Add food coloring if desired.

Ok, major sad-face. I can't find the wire to upload my beautiful gingerbread cookie pictures!!! So I promise to get you those tomorrow!!!

The Weekend Report: Back in the Bay!!!

This post is coming to you today from lovely Petaluma, CA. That’s right - I’m HOME! (Does it feel different to you? Becuase trust me, it does to me.)
Don’t get me wrong, I love DC. But home - that’s something different entirely. I’m taking vacation days to do absolutely nothing. No plans. No committments. Woah. Kind of crazy. My To Do list for this time really is just to eat, run (hopefully!), read, and hang out with the fam. Glorious, right?

I flew home on Friday and beat the blizzard (win!). A few notes on that:

1) I’m not surprised that the Houston George Bush Airport has a very prominent FOX News Store.

2) Does Christmastime justify reindeer antlers in public? I mean, I understand if you’re at a Christmas parade, or carol singing...but at an airport? That’s a bit odd, right?

3) I’m pretty sure that the meanest people in the world have been specially selected and vetted to become airport traffic controllers. Not the ones who guide airplanes, but the ones who will not let you stop when you’re trying to pick someone up. A scary little man with a whistle and a sense of life-or-death urgency ran at our car, arms waving and yelling "No stopping!!! No stopping!!!" as loud as he possibly could. Yeah, yeah, I get it, you have to keep looping around the circle, but there’s no need to shriek at me!

But I made it home, where nothing has changed in the year since I’ve been away - as expected.

I watched a football game chez my big sister (henceforth Sister1). (And for the first time kind of got into the game. Crazy, I know!) One contributing factor to my enjoyment was Sister1 saying Hey, do you guys want red velvet cupcakes? (Asking Sister2 and I.)

Ummm YES! Sister1 makes absolutely amazing cupcakes. She has way more patience than me, and makes sure all the details of her baked goods are perfect.

So I selected a pretty little cake from the tin, and began to unwrap the paper. Oh wait Moll, I have a piece of cake in the fridge if you want that. I know you like peices better.

YEEEAAAAH! That may be the nicest thing she has ever said to me. (Well ok, that’s a totally exaggeration. But in the moment...) I attempted to re-wrap my cupcake and put it back, and then proceeded to enjoy a fabulous piece of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum! Done - I’ll root for the Cowboys any day if it involves treats like that! (Haha, what can I say? I'm a new fan and easily bought!)

On Sunday we went to see Santa with my three cousins at the Stanford Shopping Center (we go there every year because he’s the real one - we don't want our message getting convoluted via messengers, we prefer to tell Santa to his face).

And we are not detered by the minor fact that our average age is 19 - we must see the Big Man. Every year we go, wait in line, and take a picture on his lap. My family has quite the collection of these pictures - quite a few of them with at least one baby crying through the whole experience (it’s like a cruel rite of passage or something).

One picture and 6 candy canes later, we had accomplished our mission. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Newbie

Oh hey! Happy Friday!!!
Per my request (/begging) last Friday, one of my glorious readers volunteered to guest-blog. Yes! I mean, she's not just a total rando - she's is a friend from home who emailed me back in November to ask for a little running advice.
"My year has been all about hitting the ground stumbling, flailing and semi-running forward since september :)
i'm totally with you on the reading and eating part of things and now...on to the running... i need a little help! what would be a simple and general training plan i could follow (or recommendations for a good book on it) to train? i've been running on and off since the summer, and i can run for up to 1.5hrs...distance-wise somewhere around 7mi has been my longest. i'm a little nervous especially about winter weather training so any and all tips would be mucho appreciated!!"
And as you all know, I love running. And I love getting other people to love running. So without any further ado, I would like to introduce...drumroll...dum da da dummmmmmmm The Newbie!!!

I am one of those who grew up always saying that I "hated" running, and was always incredulously asking avid runners, "Doesn't it hurt? Your knees! Your ankles!" like some kind of arthritic grandma. Swimming was my passion and I was a competitive age-group swimmer for about 10yrs. Therefore activities on land were confusing and made me feel clumsy (Where's the resistance?! Where's the buoyancy!?).

Over the years I've tried to keep up with my swimming, but after moving to NYC post college it became harder and harder to make the time for decent workouts between all the dinners & drinks out, endless lesson planning to be done and much-needed time to veg out by myself after long weeks of crazy commutes to teach
middle schoolers in the Bronx. In college it's so easy to get your workouts in because your schedule is flexible. I definitely let myself go a little post-college and decided this past summer to rededicate myself to my health.

Hence....le running. After a summer of getting back into shape, I felt so much healthier and happier come fall. As I was heading back into a new school year I started to get anxious about my dedication to sticking to my new goals: exercise regularly and eat better. Serendipitously a good friend and I were talking and she casually asked me if I'd like to run the NYC 1/2 Marathon.

Uhm, YEAH!!!

While I'm not sure if I will get into the race through the lottery, I am going to stick with my running plan which, your gracious creator and writer of
with her this spring.Eat, Run, Read is monitoring and coaching me on :)

So far I am about 6 weeks in and am enjoying the running more and more. I look forward to my 5mi long run days because it's a chance to clear my head, plus I'm enjoying the challenges of pacing myself. I also have the trippiest day dreams while running with my music...puts a whole 'nother spin on "runner's high." I usually run in the evenings post-work or in the mornings on the weekends, fitting runs into my schedule can be hard but it's definitely part of the lifestyle change---to stop the excuses!

I'm developing insane calves (yeah!) and I find that after each workout, I have more motivation for the next one. It's also helping me be well, *nicer*. I find that letting out whatever has been going on in life through some pavement (err, track) pounding is great for my mental and emotional health as well. Especially when you work in a tough and stressful environment. I am so excited to be learning how to run and hope you will enjoy hearing more about my progress as well!

Much love and happy running,


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holiday Book Guide for Everyone on Your List

Holiday Countdown:

-1 days since Hannukkah
7 days until Festivus
8 days until Christmas
9 days until Kwanza
15 days until New Year’s Day

If you haven’t bought gifts yet, take a deep breath, don’t panic, and keep reading. That’s right, I’m here to help. 

Think about the friends and family on your shopping list. Do they like to read? Is there a chance they might enjoy a good book?
If the answer is yes, then done. Your shopping is complete. All you need to do is pop down to your local bookstore and buy the books I am about to recommend.

Yes that’s right, you are about to experience the Eat, Run, Read Holiday Book Guide! I know there are a lot of lists like this out there, telling you what to get for The Traveler, The Gardener, The Sports Enthusiast, etc. on your list. But what about the people who don’t fit into neatly stereotyped categories? Well books are great because they can be escapist. You don’t have to be The Traveler to enjoy a book set in China. You don’t have to be The Athlete to read Lance Armstrong’s books. And you don’t have to be The History Buff to enjoy historical fiction. That’s the beauty of books – you can experience new things from the comfort of your reading chair (or the Metro, or a coffee shop, or under your desk at work). 

With this in mind, I have developed a list of books you and your friends are GUARANTEED TO LOVE. Yes, I know that’s a bold statement. But I stand by it. This list is all fiction/biography because recommending non-fiction is harder (for example, I enjoyed Ghost Wars, but not everyone is into the history of US-Afghanistan relations). And I haven't included any mysteries - because that's the only genre of book I don't like. 

Here we go!

 Everyone Books:
- Anything by Ann Patchett. Start with Bel Canto. Then read Run. She just writes beautiful stories. The kind that you buzz through because they're so good, but then get sad at the end when the story is over. 
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry - the story of 4 people's semi-intersecting lives in India in the 1970s. 
- And if you like India books/Indian authors, I can recommend anything by Vikram Seth (A Suitable Boy is GREAT, but very long. An Equal Music is shorter, and absolutely fantastic!).

- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts looks intimidating because it's so long, but when you're reading, it goes by so quickly! And parts of this book are HILARIOUS! Here's a little excerpt from the opening:
“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming of my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is an universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.”
- Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. You all know my feelings on this one. Refer back to that post.
- Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazas - a fun book on a crazy runner. I don't want to be him, but it's interesting to read about a guy who runs multiple ultras in a row!
- For someone who likes art/museums/biographies, do Renoir, My Father and/or Luncheon of the Boating Party (both of which I have already blogged about).
- Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. I read this book freshman year of high school, and remember a) being slightly scandalized by all the sex in it, and b) thinking it was one of the best books I had ever read. 
- I tend to steer away from '"classics," but if you haven't yet read The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, or Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, you should probably do that. Both are great adventures. 


I'll keep this brief. Obviously there are a TON of options out there.
- The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. You all know how I feel about this place's cake
- The Moosewood Cookbook. No pictures, but really great vegetarian and baking recipes (think the best banana bread ever!)
- I love Ina Garten. I am the proud owner of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Barefoot in Paris, and Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Kid’s Books (But any age would enjoy them - I still do!):
-       Anything by Brian Jacques (start with Mossflower). Think epic adventure - Lord of the Rings-esque, but not as dark. 
- The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman - this is the first book of the His Dark Materials Trilogy. Adventure, intrigue, awesomeness!

This is obviously a very short list, but I hope it helps! Let me know what you think of my recommendations. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tips for Running in Cold Weather

Back during the summer, I complained a lot about running in the heat. Because it sucks.

Now we’re well into winter, and here in DC it’s getting cold! I love winter. Winter means snow, skiing, Christmas, and running without losing half your body weight in sweat (Hooray!!!) Running when it’s cold out is great because it warms you up. On a day when you would otherwise be cooped up inside because of the cold, it’s nice to get out there and run. 

In light of this, I have compiled some facts about and tips for running in the winter.

  1. Don’t get discouraged! It is never too cold/rainy/snowy to run! (The injured runner in me urges you to get out there, just because, unlike me right now, you can!!!)
  2. Dress properly. I already posted about running clothes, so just refer back to that. 
  3. If it’s particularly cold or windy, protect your skin! If you use a water-based moisturizer, maybe skip it before going out for a run, or consider switching to oil-based for the winter. The water in your moisturizer can freeze on your cheeks in cold wind, causing frostbite at worst, and skin damage at best.
  4. Warm up! Especially if you’re running in the morning when your legs may be stiff anyways. There is no need to start your run at a fast pace. It’s much better to start at a slow jog to get the blood flowing before you work up to your regular pace. And for a workout, I recommend adding at least 5 minutes to your normal warm up time.
  5. Your pace may slower than normal – but it’s no big deal! Here are some wise words from my coach about this: Please keep in mind that as we get into the colder weather, your workout times are going to get a little slower. This is a perfectly normal phenomenon; so do not be concerned about it. It’s a little more difficult to get your muscles warm and loose in the winter (which makes your pre-workout warm-up more important than usual), the cold air can be hard to breath, and you’re bundled up in a lot more layers of clothing than usual, so it stands to reason that you’re going to be running a little slower than you would if you were running in shorts in 60 degree weather.”
  6.  You don’t need to drink quite as much when it’s cold (because you’re not sweating as much). But please don’t forget to drink before and after your run. Being hydrated  is not a seasonal/optional thing.
  7. Watch your footing! Especially on bridges. Black ice can slip you up and cause some unnecessary damage!
  8. And finally, some days are really really really horrible. On such a day, you may need to cross train or treadmill. Again, some wise words from my coach: Many of you opt for treadmill running in the winter in an attempt to stay warm and avoid the elements. Treadmill running usually feels easy since the ground is being pulled underneath your feet and there is no wind resistance. While I agree that treadmills can be the preferred option during periods of extreme winter weather, I do not like the idea of spending any more time than necessary on a treadmill. I’ve seen a lot of very funky injuries result from excessive treadmill running, particularly hip and hamstring injuries. Running on a treadmill is not the same as running on terra firma. The treadmill belt is moving underneath you, which propels your feet backward and totally changes your running biomechanics. All phases of your running gait are going to be slightly altered as a result of running on a treadmill, and lots of bad things can happen when you start running un-naturally. To add to the potential problems, many runners also incline the treadmill bed, which puts additional strain on the calves and achilles. So, if you do spend any time on a treadmill this winter, please try to limit your treadmill workouts to only those days when running outside isn’t possible or practical, and DO NOT incline the treadmill bed. Run outside whenever possible.”
  9. It’s always a beautiful day for a run!
And here's another running blogger's cold weather running tip list. 
And a discussion thread on what motivates you to run in the winter


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cake of the Week: More is More Bars

A truely wise person once said, “Less is more.” And for the most part, I agree.

[Fun fact: that wise person was Robert Browning in his poem, "Andrea del Sarto” (aka the "Faultless Painter"), published in 1855.]

Less is more when Tim Gunn is mentoring a designer with “vision” on Project Runway.

Less is more when your enthusiastic karaoke-singing friend can’t hold a pitch.

Less is more in most decorating contexts (picture the interior of Versailles – and agree with me that Rococo is a bad idea for contemporary home decorating).

Less is more when we’re talking media-whores like Tiger Woods (literally), and Sarah Palin (figuratively).

 But sometimes, just sometimes, more is more. You know I’m referring to desserts here.

I see the argument for simple, basic, classic treats. And I enjoy those, I really do. But I often can’t resist adding more and more stuff to my baking adventures. (Remember my Caramel Apple Eggnog Cheesecake? Or my Maple Walnut Cranberry Cupcakes?)

I like to start with a base recipe, and then think…hmmm…what would make this better?

So this week, as I prepared for a few holiday parties, I started with a good-looking Snickerdoodle Blondie Bar recipe from Beantown Baker (Sidenote, in my mind, snickerdoodle = cream of tarter, which these bars don’t have, fyi).

And so I asked myself, what would make these more exciting?

The cranberries in my freezer. Yes.

And what goes well with cranberries?

Dark chocolate.

What else do I have in my fridge?

Cream Cheese. Egg.

A cheesecake layer on top?

Yes. Done. Genius.

(I'm not even kidding, that's how most of my interior dialogues actually go.)

 So here they are, Sinckerdoodle Cranberry Chocolate Cheesecake Blondie Bars (for simplicity's sake, let's just call them More is More Bars).

Here is the recipe for exactly what I did. But if you're going to make them, I think you should double the cheesecake topping.


2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh/frozen cranberries

1 3.5-4 oz bar dark chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.

Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Add the chopped cranberries. Spread evenly in prepared pan (mixture will be somewhat cookiebatter-ish.)  Sprinkle dark chocolate over the top.

Cheesecake Topping:

1 package cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 Tablespoons milk

Beat with a mixer until smooth. Pour over unbaked blondies.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until cheesecake looks solid. Cool and then cut into bars.