Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cake of the Week: Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Vanilla Glaze

I just awoke to a very dreary, grey, cold, and ominously foggy Northern California morning. 

Later on I may psyche myself up to put on some real clothes, leave my book behind, and go on a bike ride or something. But for now I am settled into the warmth of my parents' kitchen, a hot cup of coffee, and the last Sweet Potato Cinnamon Roll left over from Christmas morning. 

The best thing about these cinnamon rolls is that there's no yeast involved, so you don't have to worry about them rising. I started these first thing in the morning on Christmas, and about 30 minutes later we were eating them while listening to Christmas music.


Sweet potatoes are relatively new to my family. For some reason I had never tried one until I went to college! But now we're converted -- sweet potato fries, roasted sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes in stew, etc. This is the first time I've baked sweet potatoes into a dessert and so far I am totally pro. The potato gives these cinnamon rolls a slightly pumpkin-y flavor. The rolls themselves are barely sweet, but with the sugary filling and bourbon vanilla glaze, I think they are perfect.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls with Bourbon Vanilla Glaze (adapted from Chocolate & Carrots)

Go here for the printable recipe.

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
dash of salt
2 medium sweet potatoes (I know this is vague - I did about 1 cup mashed sweet potato)
1 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 skim milk
3 heaping tablespoons of buttermilk powder
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, melted and cooled
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon
milk as needed

  • Prepare an 8 inch square baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray and setting it aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Wash the sweet potatoes and poke them with a fork.
  • Wrap in a wet paper towel and microwave them for 6 minutes, or until tender.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • In the meantime, prepare your filling by combine all of the filling ingredients together in a bowl and setting it aside.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer (I used a spoon and bowl, and once all the ingredients were in I kneaded the dough), and then when , combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix just for a few seconds to combine.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the skim milk and buttermilk powder together and pour into the mixing bowl.
  • Scoop the potatoes out of their skins and mash with a fork and add it to the mixing bowl.
  • Add 4 tablespoons of the melted butter to the mixing bowl and mix with the dough hook attachment for about 2 minutes (this is the kneading part). The dough will be sticky
  • Turn out the dough onto a heavily floured surface.
  • Roll out the dough to a 9″ x 12″ rectangle.
  • Brush the dough with the last 2 tablespoons of melted butter, leaving a 1/2″ border.
  • Sprinkle the filling mixture over the butter.
  • Roll the dough up along the long edge (so that the dough is long).
  • Cut into 9 equal parts using a pastry scraper or serrated knife (You can also cut until 12 equal parts for smaller cinnamon rolls).
  • Gently reshape cinnamon rolls as your put them in the dish to be more circular (if they became more oval when cutting).
  • Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 12 minutes.
  • Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  • Whisk together glaze ingredients. Add milk as needed to thin it to a spreadable consistency. Spread the glaze over the cinnamon rolls. 

Serve warm and enjoy! Go here for the printable recipe.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas and Yoga on the Beach

Christmas is a big deal at my house. My family loves everything Christmas-y and we have very specific traditions. 

It starts on Christmas Eve. Every year we go for a hike or beach walk. 

This year we went to Dillon Beach, where Sister1 and I did some yoga. She is a much more committed yogi than I am - she and Geoff go almost every day! But I can still throw down a pretty solid standing bow pose, so there's that. 

For the eve part of Christmas Eve, Sister1 and Geoff (to whom I have yet to give a blog nickname...but he's my brother-in-law as of last December) go to dinner with his family. (Sister2 is conspicuously absent this year because she's traveling in Peru, so my parents and I watched some Christmas movies while they were at dinner.)

Then when they return, Geoff drives us all around Petaluma to look at the best Christmas lights. We've been doing this for probably 8 years now, so we've perfected the routes. 

Then we usually watch Christmas Eve on Sesame Street before going to bed, but this year were too tired, so we postponed that viewing. (Feel free to watch it now. You're welcome.)

And on Christmas morning we open presents!

I made a breakfast of Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls (recipe will be posted tomorrow).

Then I went on The Run before returning to the epic prep that is involved in hosing Christmas dinner for the whole family. 

We (i.e. mostly Mama) made shrimp salad, steak, dinner rolls, roasted root vegetables, sauteed asparagus, and leek bread pudding. 

When the whole family arrives (cousins, aunts, uncle, and grandma), we snack on appetizers until dinner time. Then we go around in order of age and open presents. It's pretty fantastic. And then we eat dessert - eggnog bundt cake, pumpkin pie, and many many many cookies!

Merry Christmas! Hope yours was wonderful too!

Friday, December 23, 2011

December Dipping in Lake Tahoe

I'm home in CA for Christmas. My mama and I drove from our home in Petaluma to our cabin in Tahoe, originally planning to ski, but the 4 runs open did not justify the $90 ticket prices (bahhhh no snow!), so we opted out. Instead we went for walks, read books, oh, and dipped in Lake Tahoe.

Let me give you some back-story on "dipping." Mama worked at a camp in Michigan this past summer, and first thing in the morning the kids ran down to the lake to dip. At the end of the summer, awards were given to all the "Perfect Dippers" -- campers who had dipped every day of the summer. Mama, being the competitor she is, was upset -- If I'd known there was a prize I totally would have done it!

So when she returned to CA in August, she decided that as long as she and my dad were in Tahoe, they had to dip in the lake every day. And they did it through October, but then moved back to Petaluma (there's some weird house-splitting going on in my family right now).

Naturally, we just had to dip in December, mostly for the sake of saying we'd done it. 

The day was surprisingly auspicious -- December 21, Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. What better day to jump into an icy cold lake?

The water temperature (50 degrees) was only slightly warmer than the 40 degrees air. (Yes, above is an ice-covered rock.)

We drove the one mile down to the lake feeling a bit apprehensive. I'm not much of a jump-in-water person even in the summer, so doing it when there's ice on the edges of the lake and patches of old snow on roadsides did not immediately appeal to me.

We got out of the car and a woman and her husband looked at us like we were absolutely nuts

"You're not going swimming, are you???"

"No no," responded Mama, standing outside in a bikini in late December. "We're just going to go dip and come back out."

I held out my camera to the woman, "Actually, would you mind taking pictures of this?"

Luckily she obliged and was a very good photographer! Thus, we have evidence. 

I took off my fleece and was ready to go.

We walked down the rocky beach and kicked off our flip-flops at the edge of the icy-blue lake. I saw Mama's feet go into the water and thought, Oh my gosh we're really doing this! I took three big steps into the water and plunged. 

(You may notice from the picture that I dipped first...not saying it was a race...but I won.)

We came up gasping and spluttering and shrieking.

We trudged out of the lake, shaking and freezing, but surprisingly elated. Our hastily enlisted photographer snapped photos all the while, herself shouting, "Oh my God! I can't believe you're doing this! Quick get a towel you crazy girls!"

It took some time for me to stop shaking, but I'm happy to report that dipping is just as fun and satisfying as Mama promised it would be. 

I hope that wherever you are, you're having a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and wonderful winter season!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cake of the Week: Mocha Coconut Fudge

Every year, my family’s Christmas dinner changes slightly. Sometimes it’s turkey, sometimes beef tenderloin. Sometimes we have roasted root veggies, sometimes green beans. Dessert could be a chocolate torte, pumpkin pie, cheesecake, or any variety of cookies. 

But one thing is constant: Auntie Robin’s Fudge. It’s a once-a-year thing that can only be once a year in the interest of special-ness and pants-fitting-ness. One particularly ridiculous year Sister2 ate something to the tune of 20 pieces of fudge! That girl is impressive. Or something.

Anyway, Auntie Robin’s Fudge is her thing, and I would not presume to re-create it for blogging purposes. But I did make my own fudge – a little more complicated, and (dare I say) a little prettier…Mocha Coconut Fudge

It probably won’t become a Mollie-family Christmas dinner staple (some people don’t like coconut or coffee…I know!), but it’s pretty freaking delicious. 

Mocha Coconut Fudge (From How Sweet It Is)
makes one 8×8 pan
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 12 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
  • 1 can (15oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons espresso powder (or instant coffee)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (I didn’t have this and the fudge turned out ok)
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut, toasted

Spray an 8×8 pan with non-stick spray.
  1. Add semisweet chocolate to a double boiler, and melt completely. 
  2. Once melted, add in half of the sweetened condensed milk, the vanilla, the coffee powder and 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil. Stir with a spatula until combined and fairly smooth, then spread evenly in the bottom of the pan. Mixture will be thick. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add white chocolate to a double boiler and melt completely. 
  4. Add in remaining condensed milk, coconut oil and coconut extract, stirring until combined. Remove fudge from freezer and add white chocolate on top, spreading evenly to coat. Top with toasted coconut, then chill in the refrigerator for 60-90 minutes.
  5. When ready to cut, fill a large cup with hot water. Dip a sharp knife into the water, then blot on a towel. Use knife to cut fudge into your desired size of squares.

Note: the melting can also be done in the microwave. I suggest melting the chocolate first on medium power in 30 second increments, stirring after each time. Once melted, add in remaining ingredients and stir until smooth. 

(Go here for the printable recipe.)

Weekend Report: Shopping and the Spy Museum

First things first, it is officially 6 days until Christmas. And 10 days until I find myself in Costa Rica! So there’s that.

This weekend marked the end of my Christmas shopping. By 3pm Saturday, all my gifts were purchased, in the mail, or waiting in my suitcase to go home with me. I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. 

Saturday morning I met 6x6 for a pleasant jog on the Mall (6.2 miles), before heading to Eastern Market with LLC. It was cold, so Eastern Market was not the same pleasant experience of last weekend. We bought a few gifts (which I won’t describe here on EatRunRead since the recipients are readers), then sat down in a warm coffee shop to thaw before venturing to the next leg of our shopping venture: Georgetown. 

Georgetown is usually ridiculously crowded, but it wasn’t too bad. I actually really enjoy Christmas shopping – I love finding the perfect gifts for people! We finished our shopping around 3, got free eggnog cupcakes from Sprinkles (follow them on Twitter, trust me it’s worth it), and headed to my house for a late afternoon Christmas movie. 

We watched The Holiday while eating popcorn (with pepper - have you tried that?) and our cupcakes on my couch. I’d never seen that movie before – it’s cute, but not particularly Christmas-y. Also, it's very strange to see Jack Black in a romantic comedy...he's still Jack Black. 

Sunday started off with a pool run at Wilson. 6x6 and I met at 9am for 90 minutes of fun in the pool...or something like that. Wilson pool is now doing short-course (25 meters) on Sundays, which is a bit of a bummer. I definitely prefer long-course (50 meters), because it means each lap takes a full 5 minutes. Oh well, at least I had company for the workout! (Go here for Wilson's official schedule.)

Sunday afternoon I went to the Spy Museum. I’d never been before, since it’s not a Smithsonian and I don’t usually go to museums that aren’t free. BUT it is one of those DC things you’re supposed to do, so why not? It was pretty ridiculous – cameras hidden in watches, guns in umbrellas, microdots (which remind me of this McSweeney’s article), etc. I think the Cold War is fascinating, so I enjoyed it. There were also exhibits about the history of spying, everything from the Trojan War to ninjas to the American Civil War. 

And that, my friends, is that. And as of 9:30 pm tomorrow I will be back on the West Coast - YAY! :) 

My mama and I were supposed to go skiing, but there isn't much snow, so we may just go up to Tahoe and hike around. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Best of the Week #42

Alright, it’s time for Best of the Week. I hope you’re excited about the impending weekend. Less than 10 days until Christmas! And if you need an exact count:

My most popular post this week was S’mores Cookies. Here is a testimony from my cookie-eating co-worker Matt: Rarely does a cookie come along that transports you back to your childhood days of camping in the woods with your family. This is that cookie. Delicious.

This is awesome – 10 major news stories of the past 12 months created in Lego by Flickr members.

My friends and I totally agree with this.

There’s a total lunar eclipse this weekend (last one until 2014). But boooo we won’t be able to see it here on the East Coast. For those of you in the West: The spectacle will last nearly three and a half hours, starting on Saturday at 4:45 a.m. Pacific Time. Totality—when the full moon will be completely blocked from direct sunlight—will start at 6:05 a.m. PT and last until 6:57 a.m. PT.

Somalia’s Insurgents Embrace Twitter as a Weapon. Most notable from this article: "Shabab fighters recently held a quiz show for children. (The prizes were grenades and an AK-47.)" Yeah, think about that... 

LLC sent me this article about a Hunger Games cookbook. My reaction: insane/love. I think we’re going to have a Hunger Games dinner party before the midnight showing of the movie.
Each of the recipes comes with an explanation of the textual origins of the dish, and it’s amazing to see just how many significant or weird food references the Hunger Games trilogy contains.

The Harvard Sailing Team is probably my favorite thing on YouTube. “Girls Will be Boys.”

Durban: Winners and losers
For some reason that I've not quite figured out, lots of people in the dying embers of this UN climate meeting were asking "who's a winner, and who's a loser?"
There are loads of perhaps more rational questions you could ask, the most pertinent being: "What has this done to curb climate change?"
But what the heck - winners and losers is as good a way as any to set up a quick review of the meeting - so here goes.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I want all of these. Five Hearty Holiday Vegetarian Main Dishes
Meatless main courses guaranteed to satisfy everyone at the dinner table. Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions - ummm yes please!

I love when McSweeney’s publishes articles about DC. "The Long Walk: A Column About Washington"
To put it another way, we’re constantly approaching tragedy here—let me check my calendar for the next scheduled government shutdown—and we’ve learned to roll with it.
Also from this column, the word “seriocomic.” I wouldn’t have believed it was a word if the google didn’t tell me so…

Do you speak runner? As in, do you know what this means? Have you ever had this kind of exchange?
Person 1: "I'm wiped. I just did three at 6:30
then eight by 400 with 200 recoveries."
Person 2: "I thought you still had that ITB thing?"
Person 1: "I did, but I foam-rollered it and now it seems okay."

I challenge you not to cry when watching these videos. It’s a whole blog of reunion videos of soldiers coming home.

I might want to go see this movie tomorrow, but I’m not sure…Unbreakable: The Western States 100. Has anyone seen it? Is it good?

25 clever ideas to make life easier:

This article is hilarious and I love it. It’s about a serious subject (the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court), but it’s sooooo over-the-top that  when I started reading I thought it was a joke. 
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the name synonymous with the International Criminal Court, belongs to a man whose heavily slurred Spanish accent and five o’clock shadow have inspired fear, respect and caricaturing in Kenya and many other nations. A man for whom the international system is but a stage for, some would say, his matador-esque manner of prosecuting the world’s bad/worst people.

Elephants and Africa – two of my favorite things in this photo series.

I'm almost done with my Christmas shopping, but have a few more things to find...hope you have a great weekend! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cookie Week Day 3: Apricot Bars

These are ideal breakfast cookies – LOTR-Emily’s Apricot Bars. I don’t know if words can express how much I love them…but clearly I’ll try. 

They’re in the shape of biscotti, but with a scone-ish texture and mild sweetness (minus the usual scone-y dryness).  A  biscotti-shaped cookie-scone? Yes. That’s exactly what this is. They have dried apricots for chew and walnuts for crunch, and since LORT-Emily uses whole wheat flour, I can easily convince myself they’re semi-healthy. 

They go really well with coffee - definitely the kind of cookies that get me excited about the morning! 

Apricot Bars
(Go here for the printable recipe.)

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, blended with 2 teaspoons cold water
  • 3 c whole wheat flour, 1.5 c white flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • 8 oz chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Cream together butter and sugar.
  2. Beat in 3 eggs.
  3. Mix in 1 tsp baking soda that is blended with 2 tsps cold water.
  4. Add flour,  cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
  5. Fold in dried apricots, and chopped walnuts.
  6. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour, then shape into two long rectangular logs about ¾ inch thick on one greased baking sheet. Bake 25 min at 350 degrees.
  7. Cool for 10 minutes, then slice the cookies into bars.
  8. Spread the bars on a cookie sheet and bake for another 15 minutes until they are almost beginning to get brown around the edges, but still chewy in the middle. 
  9. Cool completely before storing.

Cookie Week Day 1: S'Mores Cookies
Cookie Week Day 2: Lacey Oatmeal Cookies

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cookie Week Day 2: Lacey Oatmeal Cookies

I have made the executive decision that this is officially COOKIE WEEK! This occurs as a reflection of my recent diet, the number of cookie pictures on my camera, and the annual mid-December world-wide obsession with all things cookie. 

Today’s recipe comes from 6x6. Or, more specifically, 6x6’s Aunt Michelle. 

The recipe is super-simple and these cookies are insanely addictive. For our weekend Cookie Exchange, 6x6 made them with chocolate chips.

My only concern about these cookies is that they’re very fragile. My mama has this life rule that broken cookies don’t count. If that is the case, then I may or may not have recently consumed a whole lot of nothing...

Lacey Oatmeal Cookies
(Go here for the printable recipe.)

  • 1 c butter (if you like non-lacy cookies, do 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c shortening)
  • 1 1/2 c light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 c quick oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • Optional: 3/4 c nuts and/or 1 c choc chips and/or ½ cup raisins


  1. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  
  2. Add egg, vanilla, oats, flour and remaining ingredients.
  3. Drop tablespoon-sized cookies on a greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 mins.


(Go here for the printable recipe.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cake of the Week: S'mores Cookies

We’re long past s’mores season - camping and bar-b-q’s and bonfires will have to wait for the spring. But why is it acceptable to have chestnuts roasting on an open fire in December, while marshmallows have to wait for June?

Well, I can’t wait and you shouldn’t have to either. These cookies are s’mores, winter-style: they have a graham cracker base, chocolate chip cookie dough with mini marshmallows mixed in, and then a Hershey’s chocolate on top. 

No fire, no smoky-smelling clothes, and no bug repellent required. They travel really well, so they’re a good Cookie Exchange contribution. And most importantly, they taste awesome

S’Mores Cookies (adapted from Lovin' From the Oven)

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (The original recipe called for 11 tablespoons butter. If you want your cookies to be more bar-ish, then do that.)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 3 regular sized Hershey’s bars, broken into pieces
  • 1-2 packages graham crackers, broken into square

  1. Cream together the butter and both sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla.
  2. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda,  salt and cinnamon.
  3. Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Chill dough in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking pans with parchment paper or tin foil. I used one 11x17 pan and one 9x13 pan but you can really use any sized pans you want.
  5. Lay out graham crackers side by side on the pans as close as possible (they should be touching). For thicker cookies, use less graham crackers and more dough.

6. Place rounded tablespoons of dough on graham crackers about 1 – 1 ½ inches apart. Use your fingertips to slightly press down.

7. Bake for 5 minutes then remove from oven to press Hershey’s bar pieces on to the top. 

8. Bake for an additional 10 more minutes or until dough is beginning to turn golden brown at the edges. The foil should make it easy to lift the cookies out of the pan and break them apart. 

Go here for a printable recipe.