Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cake of the Week: Apple Cheesecake Bars with Walnut Streusel Topping

Imagine your holiday dessert plate: there's a slice of apple pie on there because that's what the uncles like, there's a piece of cheesecake because that's what Sister1 makes best, and maybe if you're lucky there's one of Auntie Robin's shortbread cookie in the corner. Clearly you stick your fork into all three treats at the same time, creating a tangy creamy bite of apple pie, with some buttery crunchiness in there too.

Are you with me here? Ok. Now imagine all that awesomeness baked into one bar. Yep, my apple kick continues with these Apple Cheesecake Bars with Walnut Streusel Topping, and they are good. Shortbread crust, cheesecake, apple pie-ish filling, and crunchy walnut streusel-y awesomeness on top.

There's a lot of apple going on in here -- three big Granny Smiths cook down to a whole layer of apple pie-like spicy goodness.

I'm not saying you should make these instead of your other holiday desserts, but it wouldn't hurt if you made them in advance, just to get yourself in a sufficiently dessert-happy holiday season mood.

Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter -- (1 1/2 sticks) at
  • very cool room temperature, cut into
  • 1-inch pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  1. Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.
  2. If you have a food processor: Pulse flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts. 
  3. If you're doing it by hand: Mix flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl. Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of box grater into flour mixture. Toss butter pieces to coat. Rub pieces between your fingers for a minute, until flour turns pale yellow and coarse.
  4. Sprinkle mixture into pan and press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/4 inch up sides. 
  5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  6. Filling: In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.
  7. In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. 
  8. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. 
  9. Streusel: In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. 
  10. Sprinkle streusel evenly over the top of bars (I didn't use it all -- I had about 1/2 cup leftover, which can be stored in the fridge in a tupperware for a while and sprinkled on top of the next batch of muffins you bake).
  11. Bake 30 minutes, or until filling is set. 
  12. Cool completely before serving. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekend Report: International Crisis, My Life as a Snow Leopard, and One-Legged Vinyasas

I swear that the title will make sense by the end of this post....What a weekend! I am exhausted.

Roommate Rachel is Mr. Mondavi (of the wine).
I am a snow leopard, obviously.
Friday evening and all day Saturday I participated in a crisis simulation "game"...because that is totally normal right? Aah grad school. How it works is that participants are organized into (mostly) country teams, and given background reading on the international context. Then everyone is given the scenario of a realistic international crisis in the year 2017, and has to work together within teams to come up with a strategy and carry it out. The point is for  us to play roles as decision-makers and to experience the problems, dilemmas, and processes of managing a crisis or resolving a conflict.  (More info here if you care.)

I was given the role of Chechen terrorist (my name tag: “Miss Mollie, Terrorist Organization”), which was exciting and interesting, but also deeply disturbing when you think about it too hard. Turns out that in the context of a crisis game, I am pretty good at devising seriously destructive scenarios…eek? We issued press releases, video press releases (hilarious), and carried out actions over the course of 3 2-hour "moves." I was allegedly assassinated at one point, but don't worry, I came back to life. It was definitely an experience.

With just a couple hours recovery, I traded my terrorist garb (!?!? I can’t believe I just wrote that) for leopard print and headed out to celebrate Halloween! I went as a snow leopard because a) I already owned the pants; and b) snow leopards are the most bad-ass animal out there.

My school’s dorm (I do not live there) throws a huge Halloween party every year and it was pretty epic! I can’t remember the last time I actually did Halloween, but I do enjoy a good excuse to dress up.

Sunday was far more normal, and involved neither an international crisis nor a costume – just some good old fashioned doing homework at my dining room table, interrupted by mid-afternoon power yoga and rock climbing. So many one-legged vinyasas! There is a reasonably good chance I will be unable to lift my arms tomorrow.

You should definitely try these -- here's how:

Just keep going through that, one side at a time, until everything burns so much that you have to stop. (If the pictures aren't enough, here's a more detailed description.) Told ya it was fun! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cake of the Week: Roasted Apple Layer Cake

Usually October is pumpkin everything season, but this year I'm focusing on another fall fruit -- I'm on the autumn apple train, and nothing can get me off of it.

For reals friends, in the fall fruit department, New England is the apple of my eye! Apples here are so fresh and sweet and crunchy and crisp and delicious: sliced to scoop my breakfast yogurt, easily tossed in my backpack for a snack (an apple a day...), roasted and savory in my dinner salad, and of course baked into dessert.

My most recent culinary confection may not be quite as American as apple pie, but roasting the apples for this cake ensures that they're soft and sweet and apple pie-ish in the layers. And it's covered in cream cheese frosting. Trust me: everything good in this world involves cream cheese frosting.

I left class on Wednesday, my coursework in apple-pie order, looking forward to finishing an assignment and beginning to bake my first layer cake in a loooong while! (According to Eat Run Read, which never lies, my last legit layer cake was this Black Forest Cake from last February!) Anywho, Roommate Rachel and I had invited friends over for a mid-week dinner party, and though she and I may be apples and oranges appearance-wise, we are same-same in the food and hosting department: we want to cook delicious things and invite others to enjoy. So we commandeered the kitchen and cooked up a storm -- pizza and roasted butternut squash salad and this cake of course!

It was REALLY good -- very moist and apple-y, as there are three whole apples in the cake plus over 2 cups of apple sauce, and just the right hint of autumn-y spice. My only error in execution was that I did not make enough cream cheese frosting to adequately sandwich between the layers, so the recipe below reflects a slightly larger frosting recipe than I made. Also, this makes a TON of cake. I had enough for all three layers, plus 10 muffins (breakfast cake? With some streusel crumbled on top? Yes please!). Or you could make thicker layers. Or you could make 4 layers! (Woah crazy, do it! You'll need more frosting.)

Roasted Apple Spice Cake

Adapted from SK's giant sheet cake recipe. 

Cake Ingredients:
  • 3 medium apples, any variety you like to bake with (I used Granny Smith), peeled, quartered or halved, and cored
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoons table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cups honey
  • 2 1/4 cups applesauce
  • 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cups packed dark-brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
Frosting Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • milk, as needed
  1. Roast apples: Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper. Arrange apple halves face down on paper and roast in a single layer until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned underneath, about 15 minutes.
  2. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter or spray three 9-inch round cake pans. 
    1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. In a medium bowl, whisk together applesauce and honey.
    2. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and dark brown sugar until very fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between every other addition. 
    3. Add one third of the flour-spice mixture and mix it until just combined. 
    4. Add half the applesauce-honey mixture, again mixing it until combined.
    5. Add the second third of the flour-spice mixture, the remaining applesauce-honey mixture, and the remaining flour-spice mixture, stirring between each addition.
    6. Chop roasted apples into smallish chunks (1/2 to 2/3-inches) and fold into batter. 
    7. Divide batter between baking pans. It makes a TON of cake, so I actually made 10 muffins in addition to the three layers of cake.  
    8. Bake about 35 minutes. Transfer baking pans to cooling racks and let rest for 10 minutes, before flipping out of the pans onto racks and cooling the cakes right-side-up.
  3. Make the frosting: Whip butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixture until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar and beat again until smooth and light. If it's too thick, add milk one splash at a time as necessary. 
  4. Frost the cake, sprinkle the top with cinnamon if you're feeling fancy, and enjoy!

How do you like them apples? 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Yoga and Mountain Biking in Boston

Friends, it's been about 6 weeks and I'm still not running. I know. Mistakes were made, lessons were learned, yada yada yada, BLERG. Don't even get me started. But I promise to keep this post on the positive side and talk about all the fun things I've been doing instead!

The Fells!

Mountain Biking

I've been biking a lot this past month. I live next to a bike path, I ride to and from school (and everywhere else I need to go), and exercise! I need it! The out-and-back to Bedford on the Minuteman Trail is getting old, but it's a solid 22 miles with minimum traffic that requires very little thought on my part. However, this weekend I changed things up a bit...

After a Saturday morning of homework I was ready for a break, so I hopped on my bike and peddled away, with no exercise objective in mind other than movement. I meandered around Medford and found my way to The Fells, a mid-suburb wilderiness(ish) area I had heard of but, until Saturday, never seen.

Route details on MapMyRun.

Trails! Oh fun! My rambling ride quickly turned into a mountain biking (mis)advenure. In case you're wondering, no, I do not actually "know" how to mountain bike...but I bike a lot and I'm experienced at throwing myself down dangerous hills (refer back to my ski racing days), so I winged it reasonably well. It was fun! I need more adrenaline in my homework-heavy life...

I say mis-adventure because after about a half-hour it sunk in that mountain biking alone on a hybrid bike is probably not a thing an inexperienced person should do. So I continued my meander through Medford. But I will be going back to The Fells!


I have been yoga-ing HARD. I no longer do Bikram, but I joined a rock gym here in Somerville, and they offer yoga classes every day! I do vinyasa, power yoga, yoga for climbers -- basically whatever class I can work into my schedule.

I'm not a "yoga person" (you know what I mean), and I have never been super-good at it. But I am generally strong, and usually on the stronger side of people in your average yoga class. Well, not anymore! Let me tell you, yoga at a rock gym, with every class full of core-strong upper-body fit rock climbers, is a different game entirely! Woah dang people are strong!

Going to 2-4 classes a week does really make a difference. I can now do a lot of push-ups -- the kind with your elbows tucked in -- and about three seconds of crow. I can do one-armed vinyasas, and I don't even want to know how long of plank. I can hang out in chair pose for a while, and I can actually do a class-full of downward dog and still be able to lift my arms the next day.

This is not me. Obviously. I aspire to someday
look this good while doing yoga.

Though I feel incredibly unfit due to not running, I don't think I've ever been so all-body strong. Hooray for my core? This will probably be good whenever I actually start running again. And while I have no aspirations of becoming a yoga-master (let's be real, in an ideal world I'd be running every day and going to just one or two classes a week), for now I am learning to enjoy it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend Report: SpeedyKate in Boston

Flashback: this post is about Columbus Day weekend. Then mid-terms happened, my brain melted in the process, and I was quite literally unable to blog last week.

But! Before that craziness I gave myself a lovely vacation from all things school and spent the weekend with SpeedyKate (visiting from DC). And for serious, it was so fun!

SpeedyKate arrived Friday night from DC (hooray!!!), and we headed back to my apartment to host a rather Fletcher-centric party. The impetuous was the celebration of the the completion of a group project (me: I like you all but I hate group projects...let's hang out outside of class?). I love hosting low-key evening parties -- it's so easy to provide dessert, and then ask friends to bring snacks and drinks. Everyone wins! Plus, though it feels like everyone has already met everyone, turns out there are many a networked hole to fill.

And Saturday, oh Saturday, SpeedyKate, Jess, and I had BIG plans. Jess periodically blogs for the Finance Foodie, and thus gets to attend fancy shmancy food events around Boston. For the last four years I've been hearing about them, mouth watering in jealousy. BUT NOW I LIVE HERE TOO. Aka, Jess emailed me to inform me that I was her +1 for the Boston Dessert Showcase. When I told her Kate was coming for the weekend, boom! We were both her +1s. You can read her very entertaining write up of the event here, and let me just say: sooo much chocolate and sugar and cupcakes and a s'mores bar = a well-earned sugar coma for all.

Sunday was glorious weather-wise (Dear Boston, Thank you. Love, Mollie), and SpeedyKate and I spent it walking around, seeing the sights, and eating delicious food in the North End. Then we saw Ra Ra Riot at the House of Blues. This was a semi-two-for experience, since the House of Blues is literally across the street from Fenway Park. So we saw all the Red Sox craziness, and enjoyed a great concert!

Monday morning we made our way to Brookline Village to meet my mama (she's working in Boston for 3 weeks) for breakfast at Martin's Coffee Shop. The pancakes are seriously HUGE. I was happily full and in a quasi-syrup coma for the rest of the day.

After breakfast we walked along Riverway to get to the Museum of Fine Arts. There are two excellent special exhibits right now: "John Singer Sargent Watercolors," and "She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World."

Some of my faves:

Beautiful, right??? If you're in Boston, I highly recommend both shows. 

Sadly, Kate left Monday afternoon and I returned to my real life...but I'm happy to report that I successfully survived two midterms and a Calculus final exam, so life is pretty awesome here in Boston!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Weekend Report: The Electric Run, Boston

On Friday night a few classmates and I did the Electric Run, and it was so much fun! It's one of those running(ish) experiences -- not a race at all, just thousands of people dressed in neon and splattered in day-glo on a lighted 5K course. 

We all registered in the first couple weeks of school (me: new friends! running! I'm in!). But then fast-forward to this past Friday (holy bejeezes it's already October!), and I was just not in the mood. It was gray and rainy and the venue (Gillette Stadium) is far from Boston. But as I left school, composing my "I'm out, have fun" email in my head, I ran into a couple of the other runners and was talked into going. 

Long story short: I am so glad I went! 

The un-timed "run" was 5K of mostly walking, which was a-ok with me. The course wound around the stadium and would have been completely boring in the daytime, but was surreal and awesome at night.

We ran through a glowing forest, a tunnel of overhead neon lights, and a ceiling of light-up umbrellas, all alongside thousands of people dressed in day-glo, decked out in glowing accessories, smeared in body paint, and splattered with whatever the chemical is inside glow sticks. 

The course ended in the stadium and turned into an epic rave-esque dance party. Electronic music isn't usually my thing, but I do love dancing and neon things -- aka it was so much fun!

For the rest of the weekend, I adopted new grad school weekend strategy: work all day, and then DO NOT WORK. So I spent all day Saturday and Sunday at my dining room table, staring at various books, articles, and websites, writing a paper, and learning calculus. I know. Ick. 

But then, by 7:30 pm each day I was done (academically at least), and on my way to fun things with interesting people! Saturday night a house of students hosted a pizza party, aka they provided the dough and sauce, everyone else brought toppings. Yummmm. And Sunday night I went to a formal(ish) sit-down dinner party with grad students from other schools: fancy 3-course meal, a set table, everyone dressed nice, and a host-directed mandate: you will have interesting conversation. (Sometimes I feel like I'm playing adult...but I guess technically I am an adult.) 

Anywho, back to work now for me. Or, to be completely honest, yoga, lunch, then back to work. Hope you had a nice weekend too!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Weekend Report: Pancake Party!

On Saturday morning,* my roommate and I hosted a celebratory Pancake Party in honor of National Pancake Day, the completion of the required language exams, the purchase of a griddle and real maple syrup, and just general awesomeness. I am struggling here to list reasons to have a pancake party, mostly because I can't think of any good reason NOT to have a pancake party.

Pumpkin Walnut Chocolate Chip Pancakes

We whipped up two base batters: buttermilk and pumpkin, and purchased an assortment of additions: walnuts, pecans, bananas, chocolate chips, and blueberries. 

As our classmates walked through our door, dazed by their recent encounters with foreign verb conjugations, tricky script (Вы читаете России? Я не), and unfamiliar sentence structures (ດ້ວຍຄວາມຊື່ສັດ, ຂ້າພະເຈົ້າບໍ່ຮູ້ຫຍັງນີ້ເວົ້າວ່າ, ແຕ່ວ່າມັນເປັນຄົນລາວ?), we greeted them with a brand-new griddle -- Pumpkin or plain? Pick your toppings!

Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes.

Roommate Rachel (wo)manned the griddle and flipped pancakes for a few hours. Clearly A LOT of pancakes were consumed, along with gallons of orange juice and coffee. Aka, a morning well-spent!

Text from Rachel: I just bought a griddle,
we're having a pancake party!

Pancake parties are SO easy and always a winner (really, who doesn't like pancakes?). I made the Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes, and my roommate made her mama's Buttermilk Batter -- so buttery! So light! So delicious!

An unexpectedly awesome combination for you to try: pumpkin, banana, walnut. Pumpkin and banana go shockingly well together, for serious.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes 

Adapted from Mother Thyme

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Make a well in the middle and add in the wet ingredients.
  3. Stir until smooth. 
  4. Let the batter sit (anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight).
  5. Preheat your griddle to 350 degrees.
  6. Scoop about 1/4-1/3 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake. 
  7. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side. 

Buttermilk Pancakes


  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • approx 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 stick butter, melted


  1. Mix the flour and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in the wet ingredients.
  3. Preheat your griddle to 350 degrees.
  4. Scoop about 1/4-1/3 cup of batter onto the griddle for each pancake. 
  5. Cook 1-2 minutes on each side. 

*Apparently Weekend Reports come on Wednesdays now...alas I do as the homework gods command...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy Birthday Liam!

Guess what happened a year ago today? This little guy was born!!!

Almost 7 months old.

It's crazy that a year and one day ago he was just an idea, an event we knew was going to happen but couldn't fully comprehend. And then BAM! Though he was brand-new, it was immediately like Liam had always been a part of our family.

1 hour old.

We all know I'm biased, but just look at him! My little nephew is pretty much the greatest thing EVER!

He is so well-behaved (I would expect nothing less of Sister1 and Geoff's offspring), and active, and silly, and smiley, and so much fun! If you missed it (or want to take another look at the adorable pictures) here's his birthday post.

He doesn't quite talk yet (at least not in a language the rest of the world can understand), but look at him walking all by himself! 

Sister1 has been taking him on her runs, and it's really only a matter of time before he's running himself! (What sports will he play? Omg I am so excited to watch him grow up!!!) The only sad news is that I can't be there to see it all...luckily we live in an age of texted pictures and Instagram and Facebook so I can see him grow week by week. Happy Birthday Liam!!!