Monster Cookies

I almost didn’t make this post. Or these cookies, for that matter. It seems that I’m in somewhat of a baking rut. It’s like writer’s block but worse. Well, its horribleness is in the eye of the baker but alas, I have baker’s block.

Monster Cookie

It’s strange because a planner like me always has something up my sleeve. I don’t know, I like having a little bit of insurance for when things don’t go as planned. There’s a long list of recipes I’m dying to make and yet, I didn’t feel like making any.

This week, I just decided it was time to slap some sense in myself and get back in the kitchen. Luckily, I had a reason to. You see, I now work for the fabulous program I mentioned a couple times here. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I work for a non-profit organization called CO*OP (which is short for cooperate). Its main goal is to give recent city grads an opportunity to add onto their education with new digital skills. The grads then get to take these skills and put them to practice during a three month apprenticeship at a participating agency/company. I was part of the pilot group and am fortunate to be part of the team that will help this grow into something huge.

Monster Cookie Dough

Anyway, yesterday was our welcome party for our second cohort of fab grads. I knew I had to bake something, and forced myself into the kitchen to do so. Earlier this week, my sister brought me an M&M cookie. It kind of hit me right there. I was just like “PUT M&Ms IN A COOKIE, STAT.” To me, the only cookie with M&Ms in them are monster cookies.

I gotta be honest, I wasn’t expecting these cookies to come out this way. I used Ree’s recipe with a lot of faith that I’d have a cookie similar to the one I ate but much better. I wasn’t totally disappointed but it could’ve gone way better. The cookie spread out something fierce in the oven, which made it thin and lacy. Again, not the result I was expecting but delicious nonetheless. If I can blame it on anything, I’d blame the hot oven. 375F is kind of high for cookies.

Monster Cookie Dough_2

My favorite thing about Ree’s recipe, which is why I chose it in the first place, was how easy it is to customize with your own favorite fillings. You know how much I love throwing random things into my baking, so I was all over that. For this particular trial, I chose the traditional M&Ms (of course), mini semisweet chocolate chips, and threw in some cornflakes last minute. Cornflakes, you ask? Yes, cornflakes. Ree puts Rice Krispies in hers, so I thought about it for a good two seconds before I was like “CORNFLAKES.” I’d say it worked!

Despite the fact that the cookie was ridiculously thin, the cornflakes kept their crunch, which made the cookie twice as crunchy. The M&Ms popped out both in color and taste, which brought yet another layer of crunch, followed by some smooth chocolate. My old and new classmates loved them! I had an absolute blast hanging out with them, and seeing them enjoy the cookies (and the brownies) made me feel really good. Like, “get back into the kitchen to bake like usual” good. I look forward to getting back in the game, and treating the second cohort to some goodies on a regular basis!

Monster Cookie 3

Monster Cookies – adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Makes 48 cookies

  •  2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cups plain M&Ms
  • 3/4 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 1/4 cups cornflakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the sticks of softened butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Mix until incorporated. Next, add the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Mix until moistened and combined. Fold in the rolled oats, M&Ms, and chocolate chips until evenly distributed among the dough. Lastly, fold in the cornflakes.
  3. Using a tablespoon, two spoons, or a #50 disher, portion out the cookie dough onto the prepped baking sheets, making sure to leave room between each cookie. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before carefully moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips: 

  • Ree’s recipe originally calls for salted butter. I usually have unsalted on hand because I can control the salt content in what I’m making myself. To kind of match the salted butter, I opted to add 1/4 teaspoon of salt per stick of unsalted butter. Since the recipe already called for 2 teaspoons of salt (on top of the salted butter), I only added 1/4 teaspoon more instead of 1/2.
  • If your ovens run hot, like mine, take advantage of the temperature reduction I included in this version of the recipe. If yours doesn’t, feel free to bake these at the original 375F. 
  • Also, don’t forget to customize your monster cookie with your favorite toppings!
Advertisements

Green Monkey Smoothie

When I started my health journey sometime seven (!!!) years ago, I was told I had to eat all of my veggies and fruits, stop eating sweets, eat less carbs, and do tons of cardio. I listened to that advice for most of my journey but thankfully, I snapped out of all that noise since then. Yeah, I still eat better than I did back then but my focus shifted. I eat what I want but watch how I feel when I’m eating. What do I mean by that? I eat what I crave when I’m hungry until I’m satisfied. Can you believe it took me seven years to figure that out? Such a simple concept that can change the way you eat and view food isn’t as widely known as “eat less carbs and sweets and do all the cardio.” Confusing.

One thing that stuck, that’s equally as important, is the veggies part. If you know me, you know that I loathe vegetables. Hate them with the burning intensity of a thousand suns. I’m not talking about all vegetables, but the ones that everyone usually preaches are the best to eat. Like broccoli and stuff. Yuck. The only way you can get me to eat a leafy green is if it’s covered in pasta sauce or in a smoothie.

Enter the Green Monkey.

Kale bouquet

What’s a “Green Monkey?” Only my favorite way to get my greens in! It’s a combination of spinach, kale, bananas, and peanut butter. The monkey part is obviously the banana (and maybe the peanut butter?) What I love about this combo is that it’s impossible to taste the greens. You wouldn’t even know they were in there if the smoothie itself wasn’t green. It tastes like bananas and peanut butter; the classic combo that most kids, like me, love.

The best way to make this smoothie is in a powerful blender. If you’re one of the lucky ones with access to a Vitamix, I’m officially jelly. I have my trusty Magic Bullet (which I actually broke when we got it but I fixed it, so we don’t talk about that anymore) to blend in, which works great in a pinch. I usually break up the smoothie in two batches because I love packing as many greens as I can fathom into my smoothies.

Smoothie Prep

Along with a boatload of greens, the banana is an integral part of the smoothie. It’s what gives it that thick and luscious texture. Bonus if the banana is frozen because it does double duty in chilling and making the smoothie thick. No frozen bananas? No problem! Use ice (duh)! Finally, the peanut butter. I love the natural, smooth stuff but feel free to sub with your fave smooth or chunky nut butter.

The result? The Green Monkey: a smoothie so delicious, you forget it’s healthy. Amp up the health content by throwing in a scoop of your favorite protein powder. Chocolate protein powder works pretty well; makes it taste like drinking a Reese’s. It’s the perfect post workout drink, along with a healthy snack to help refuel your body.

Green Monkey Smoothie

Consider the Green Monkey the next time you realize you could use more greens in your life but don’t actually want to eat them.

The Green Monkey Smoothie – a Lucy the Baker Original

Makes one smoothie

  • 2 cups of kale, rinsed and de-stemmed
  • 1 to 2 cups of fresh spinach, rinsed
  • 1/2 of milk or water
  • 1/2 to 1 whole banana
  • 1 to 2 tbsps natrual, smooth peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Rinse and de-stem your kale. If you’re using a small blender, tear the leaves into smaller pieces. Repeat with the spinach but don’t remove its stems (there are a lot of vitamins in spinach stems and they blend easy, unlike kale stems).
  2. Place the prepped greens in the cup of you blender. Add in the banana, the peanut butter and the milk or water. Add ice if using, and blend! Make sure greens are thoroughly blended until smooth (ahem, hence the name smoothie).
  3. Pour the smoothie in a glass (if you’re fancy) and drink!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • For the lazy, like myself, you can enjoy this smoothie straight out of the blender cup. Throw a straw in it (or not) and call it a day. 
  • You can add a variety of greens into this smoothie, just stick with mild ones so they don’t overtake the flavor of the smoothie. 
  • Use frozen bananas when you can!
  • Feel free to use the milk of your choice. I use soy milk but this smoothie would be fab with almond milk (and almond butter!), coconut milk, cow’s milk, etc. 
  • Also, use the nut butter of your choice. The options are endless!

Turning 25 + Deb’s Yellow Birthday Cake

Happy New Year! It’s only been a week so far, and some things already hit the ground running. Back when I was a kid, I hated my birthday because it was so close to New Year’s. I still kind of hate that but I’m growing to love it because I get to start fresh at the same time everyone else does. Looking at it like that makes it seem less special but it is to me.

Looking back, my 24th year was pretty eventful. I started out 2014 at probably one of my lowest points. Sad but true. Everyone in my house was unemployed and miserable. The holidays that year was one of the worst, aided by the fact that Christmas didn’t even feel like Christmas. It just sucked. When my birthday rolled around, I hoped for a change in all of our lives. Despite whatever was going on, I was determined to keep it positive.

2014 birthday throwback! Remember this?

2014 birthday throwback! Remember this?

Fast forward to March. We’re still all kinda miserable and unemployed. Through my efforts on the internet, I was able to apply to some jobs for my mom. She was desperate for a career change, and I did my best to help her out. She loves kids and used to babysit when my sister and I were younger. She wanted to get back into that so I did what I could. Through one of those caretaking websites, I applied for her to one post that caught my eye from day 1. The poster replied back to me, which I honestly wasn’t expecting. Once I cleared up I was the one who applied for my mom, she insisted on meeting the both of us. Taken aback, my mom and I went and the rest is history. My mom now takes care of the cutest and smartest little baby girl. They welcomed my mom into their family, just as we did to them. My mom, the baby, and her family are all happy. That alone put me at ease, despite the fact I was still unemployed and unsure of my future.

For me, things didn’t start changing until maybe June or July. I got an email from my former professor, to whom I reached out because I was desperate for a job. Graduating into a recession is the worst thing ever because no one wants to hire a graduate. In that email was an application to a startup non-profit organization, called CO*OP, that focused on helping graduates find their footing in the industry. This sounded like what I needed so I applied. This was the best decision I had made in the entire year. It was the biggest blessing for me because it was exactly what I desperately needed. Not only did I learn a bunch of new skills, I got a group of friends (including a few special ones) that I never thought I’d have, and sort of had a new job. The founder of the program hired me this past December, so exciting things are happening!

Look who's on the front page of the website!

Look who’s on the front page of the website!

Thanks to CO*OP, I changed so much as a person. I figured out why I am the way that I am, and how to amplify my greatest skills. I became more outgoing and a little more confident in myself and the things I do. Still a work in progress! My new friends became my support system and they helped bring out the best in me; for that alone I’m grateful. I can’t wait to see what happens in my life this year but I’m hoping for some surprises, some love (ahem!), and stability.

Now, let’s talk birthday celebrations. I celebrated my 25th birthday this past Friday. As usual, I baked my own cake but before I get to that, let me tell you how I celebrated.

25th Birthday 1

My sister took me out to dinner at Cafeteria, a cool restaurant here in the city. I’d never been, so I was excited. I’m not one to go out to dinner for birthdays, mostly because that’s not something my family did frequently. I was dying to go out so my sister did me the honors.

Dinner was fantastic! For appetizers, we had mac and cheese spring rolls. As an entree, I had my usual cheeseburger with fries. I get that basically everywhere I go but this was the first time I had one medium rare; it was delish. My sister had a roasted chicken sandwich. I also had a “liquid passion” cocktail, which was a champagne cocktail with passion fruit. For dessert, we had deep fried Oreos that came with a mini milkshake and a scoop of mint chip ice cream with crumbled Oreos in the middle. Everything was amazing and my sister and I were beyond full.

From L to R: mac and cheese spring rolls, liquid passion cocktail, cheeseburger with fries, and deep fried Oreos

From L to R: mac and cheese spring rolls, liquid passion cocktail, cheeseburger with fries, and deep fried Oreos

We also had a mini adventure because every year, I dress up really nice for my birthday. I got myself a pair of heels to go with my pretty dress this year. The problem is that I don’t usually wear heels so my feet were killing me before we even made it to the restaurant! I had to go to the pharmacy and pick up a pair of those fast flats. After dinner, we walked to the nearest Marshall’s where I bought a pair of real flats. Let me just say, the judgmental looks I got from my little leopard print sock like flats were unreal but super entertaining.

IMG_20150102_173844

When we got back home, it was time for cake. Now, this year, I opted to make my cake the day before to save myself some of the hassle the day of. This was mostly a good idea except I ended up with kind of a huge cake fail. The cake itself worked beautifully. I made Deb’s recipe for yellow birthday cake, which is becoming a favorite now. However, due to poor planning, I never figured out how I wanted it flavored in terms of frosting, so I decided to give Swiss meringue buttercream a shot. This is where I messed up, big time.

I gave the buttercream a go the day before as well. When I was making it, I knew something was wrong but trucked on anyway. My meringue wasn’t as fluffy as it should’ve been so the texture was off. Using the instructions to troubleshoot the buttercream, I added more butter. It looked right, so I stopped there and put it in the fridge for the next day. To assemble the cake, I forgot to let the buttercream come to room temp. Another huge mistake right here, as my rushing messed up the buttercream completely. I tried adding more butter to fix it but it ruined the texture of the frosting and made things worse. I wasn’t about to whip up a new batch, as my butter supply is dangerously low, so I rolled with it anyway. Not my best or proudest cake but I couldn’t have a birthday without my cake.

25th Birthday 5

Despite the buttercream coming out way less than perfect, the cake itself was amazing. It was so soft and tender. Deb likens the recipe to her favorite Duncan Hines box mix and she’s definitely right about that. It totally brought back those feelings from when my dad used to bake us cake mixes. That alone was enough to complete my birthday. Even though the texture was off, the taste was still there, so my birthday cake was still somewhat of a winner.

I hope that the couple missteps I’ve had this past week aren’t any indication of how my year is looking. I didn’t quite start on the right foot (which I’ll talk about another time), but I handled it in an adult way. I guess this means I really am an adult? Either way, I hope this year is as successful and eventful as the last half of my 24th.

25th Birthday 8

Deb’s Yellow Birthday Cake – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 2 8″ round cake, plus 3-4 cupcakes

  • 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (530 grams) cake flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup, 1/2 pound or 225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk (475 ml), well-shaken

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and line two 8″ round cake pans with parchment, buttering the parchment as well. While you’re at it, line a couple of cupcake wells with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In another large bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next one. At a low speed, add the buttermilk. The mix will look curdled but it’s right; keep going.
  3. Add the flour mixture in three batches, making sure each batch is incorporated into the batter before adding the next one. Divide the batter among the cake pans, filling them about halfway. Use the remaining batter to make a couple cupcakes. Rap the cake pans on the table a couple times to get rid of air bubbles. Bake the cakes for 35-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  4. Cool the cakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the cakes out of the pans and onto the rack to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips: 

  • The cake recipe is originally for two 9″ rounds. I only have two 8″ rounds, which is why there’s extra batter for cupcakes.
  • I forgot the ‘rap the pan’ part, which is why you can see the giant air bubbles. Not too pleasing to look at but still delicious. 
  • The buttercream recipe is obviously missing. I won’t post it till I get it right!
  • If you’re making the cake a day ahead, wait until it is completely cool before wrapping in several layers of plastic wrap. You can refrigerate it or keep it room temp after that. For a firmer cake that’s easier to level and work with, I suggest refrigerating.