Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cinna-Bana-cranberry Pull-apart Loaf

I've never been one for cutting corners when it comes to baking, but hey ... we've all gotta do it sometime. I have occasionally indulged with the box of Betty Crocker Brownies (OMG I love them, they're so easy, fudgy and delicious!) but I have never really branched out into the use of Pillsbury products. So, the other day while I was wandering through Safeway I noticed that Pillsbury biscuits were on sale... what could I do but fall for their cheap marketing ploy. I bought 2 cans :P

Bringing the cans home, I gave them a good inspection. Each can/tube comes with 10 country biscuit inside and the can said don't freeze!! My bad, I had already stuck one of the cans in the freezer while I decided to use the other can straight away... hm, I should probably take it out now. Anyhow, I looked around my kitchen and saw a wonderous world of potential in terms of ingredients... I was ready to make tasty dessert...

Here's the can, hanging out inside of a 2lbs loaf-tin (8x4x2-inch).

Here are the chopped up ingredients. Note how similar chopped up biscuits and hacked up bananas look... and they both do not resemble cranberries at all :P

After being baked for 20mins! Nice and fluffy

Jo's Sweet Cinna-Bana-cranberry Pull-apart Loaf

- 1 can of Pillsbury Country Biscuits (10 biscuits)
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 medium banana
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Cut each Pillsbury Biscuit into quarters, set aside
2. Cut up the banana into chunks and toss together with the cranberries, set this mixture aside
3. In an 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pan, combine the melted butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. Spread mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.
4. Place the banana mixture ontop of the brown sugar + butter mixture, spreading it evenly.
5. Take the Pillsbury Biscuit quarters and place them on top of the banana mixture in the pan. Place the biscuits in a single layer (you'll end up squishing the pieces together, this is good... keep squishing so that you make a single layer of biscuit)
6. Place the loaf in a 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. Note: if after 10 minutes the top biscuits begin to brown but the inside remains uncooked, cover the loaf with a sheet of aluminum-foil and continue baking until the 20 minutes is reached or the loaf is cooked all the way through.
7. When the loaf is completely cooked, and no raw biscuits remain, take the hot loaf-pan out of the oven. Using oven mitts of a towel, invert the loaf onto a serving plate while the loaf is still hot.
8. Let the butter-brown sugar mixture drip down the sides of the loaf, allowing the syrup to moisten the entire loaf for at least 3 minutes. Serve warm (preferably with ice cream!)

Oh my goodness, I definitely know what I'm going to be doing with that other tube of Pillsbury Biscuits... make another pull apart loaf. The banana aroma was intoxicating and the buttery-sugary goodness dripping down the chunks of biscuit dough were to die for. My sister loved the "pull-apartness" of the loaf; I too enjoyed the simplicity of not having to use utensils and just using your fingers to grab at the timbit sized chunks of sugary goodness. Perhaps next time I make a pull-apart loaf I'll try apple-cinnamon-raisin, or some other tasty combination ... If you have any suggestions, I welcome them! Anywho, I should probably get back to working on my Nursing term-paper... I haven't even started yet!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Energy Bars

Just yesterday I was walking through Superstore and decided that I'd mosey on down to the "health-food" section. When I got there, I noticed that they were having a sale on energy bars! Being on a real "running-high" and trying to maximize my nutritional intake and athletic performance, I was excited to try a whole bunch of different energy bars. I simply love Clif bars (my favorite is the Oatmeal Raisin Walnut) and Luna Bars, and usually stick to my favorites for fear of spending money on something that tastes nasty, so when I saw that they were 5 for $5 I was ecstatic. Usually they're $1.49 each, so $1 per bar was a steal. I left the supermarket proud of my purchase, and headed home.

The next day, I thought to myself "hey, it can't be that difficult to make my own energy bars?!" What a brilliant idea! So, I grabbed all of the "healthy" ingredients in my pantry and began sorting out what flavor combinations I wanted to create. I couldn't really decide on the "right" combination so I basically made a hodge-podge energy bar full of ingredients that I deemed energy-bar-worthy.

I can't quite remember the exact proportions of ingredients that I added to my energy bars, but here is the list of the various ingredients and their rough measurements:

Jo's Energy Bars

Yields 6 bars

- 1 medium banana, mashed

- 1/4 cup steamed zucchini, mashed
- 1/3 cup oats
- 1/4 cup 7-grain cereal (hot breakfast cereal, Roger's brand)
- 1/8 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp espresso powder
- 3 tbsp dried cranberries

- 1 tbsp chocolate chips

- 1 1/4 cup Multi-grain cheerios
- 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
- 2 tbsp no sugar added maple syrup

1. Mash together the zucchini and the bananas, set aside

2. Combine the remaining ingredients together (except for the maple syrup), tossing well

3. Add the mashed zucchini mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until the entire mixture is moistened. Add in the maple syrup, to taste
4. Press into half of an 8x8 square pan, and bake at 350F for 15-20minutes or until the mixture is firmed up (honestly, it's difficult to tell if the mixture is fully cooked... but there's no egg in it, so there's no risk of salmonella :P)

5. Remove from oven, allow to cool and cut into 6 bars.
6. Cool bars completely and wrap individually in saran or aluminum foil.

These bars were great! There fairly dense, so I wasn't tempted to eat more than one and they tasted very much like dark chocolate. I think the next time I make this recipe I will add a bit more sugar (or at least some more sugary ingredients) to counter-balance the unsweetened cocoa powder taste. The espresso powder was a nice flavor boost to the bar, and I'm sure the caffeine did something to give me energy :P I usually will eat half of an energy bar before a run (if the run is longer than 75mins) and then have the other half-bar post-run. It's always important to replenish your energy store after a great run, and don't forget to hydrate!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another Month, Another Run!

It's another month and I have enjoyed spending today running a 10k around Fort Langley with my Dad and a friend that I talked into running with me :) She's been taking a training course for the Sun Run (which is coming up in April) and I figured that this race would be a good form of "homework" for her... maybe she'll get extra credit :P

The weather was perfect for the race. Although it was chilly in the morning, by the time the race started at 9:00am the sun was beaming down it's lovely warmth on all of the participants. The course started in the heart of Historic Fort Langley (I guess that's why they call it the Historic Half Marathon, 10k and 5k) wove through the township of Langley, down Glover Road, Telegraph Trail and back via 88ave to the actual Pioneer Fort in Langley.

It took a while to warm-up but once I got into the swing of things I kept my pace rather well. The course for the Historic had a lot more hills than last months Chilly Chase, but thankfully since the Chilly Chase I began training running up and down hills. Reaching the pioneer fort at the race's end was exhilarating. The crowd was much larger than at the Chilly Chase, so there were a lot more people cheering the racers on. At the end of the race all participants were awarded with a neat medal and there were plenty of healthy refreshments of fruits, dessert tofu, juice, water and buns... and of course Tim Horton's was there handing out their amazing coffee and Timbits.

My next race is the Sun Run, which is a 10k and I'm not too worried about it; but what's really making me nervous is the BMO Vancouver 1/2 Marathon that I'm going to do in May. Hopefully by then I'll have worked on my stamina and will be able to complete the race in under 2.5 hours... but only time will tell.

For more information visit the race webpage.

I do recommend you sign up for this race if you're in the area; it's a lot of fun, especially if you're running with someone you know. But even if you run alone, I find that runners tend to be very friendly people (I've met many runners and shared stories with them as we waited in the pre-race washroom line-up!).

My Race Results:
25th overall (out of 243 10k runners)
7th female finisher (out of 164)
2nd female finisher between 20-29years of age (out of 37)
Chip-Time: 51 minutes 13 seconds

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A New Oven!

It seems like oh so long ago, my poor old cream-colored oven konked out on me and I was left with nothing to do but bake in my teeny-weeny toaster oven. Finally, after 3 months of being ovenless (woah... that's 1/4 of a year!) I have my brand new shiny oven. It's a Kenmore, and so far I'm very pleased with it power. The stove-range has a middle burner that you can attach a griddle to. You can probably guess that means I'll be doing a lot more frying :P

But onto the oven, and it's amazingness. It preheats to 350 degrees within 2minutes! That's light-speed compared to the 7-8 minutes it would take my old oven to reach the right temperature. Although I do miss my old oven, this new one is slowly growing on me. I can't wait to test out all of the functions; like the broiling, grilling, self-cleaning!! Yeah! And just in time for me to bake that lovely concoction for the DB challenge.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Yet Another Toaster Oven Creation

Well, my mid-terms are over... but February (the month I have been dreading, in terms of projects and assignments) has only just begun. You know what that means!??! Time to enjoy the carbs :P

The other day I was shopping around Langley and found a cute little place called McFrugal's... I thought to myself, "Man, with a name like that how can an Asian resist :P" So, I stepped in and to my surprise they have some really good-quality stuff there. I was expecting a whole pile of dollar-store-esque products to surround me, but was quite pleased to see that there was very little of that here. What I loved about McFrugal's was that it had a grocery section with a good selection of organic foods, pasta, baked chips, canned vegetables... and tubs of Pecan Cookie Dough! The entire tub of cookie dough was only $2.50 so I had to buy it. I brought it home and immediately began thinking of ways to fancy up this beautiful creation. If I was truly lazy, I would have simply scooped out the dough, placed it on a cookie sheet and made a batch of cookies. But, making cookies from scratch is easy enough (and tastes way better) so I decided that using this cookie dough, I would create the cookie-bar to rule all cookie-bars.

The Ultimate Cookie-bar

- 1/2 tub of cookie dough
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup marshmallows
- 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
- 1 cup Teddy Grahams, crushed

1. Prepare an 8x8 inch square baking pan. Lining it with tin-foil (for easy lifting), greasing it and flouring it.
2. Press the cookie dough into the pan, even it out and make sure that is covers the bottom of the entire pan.
3. Mix together the chocolate chips, marshmallows, coconut, teddy grahams and set aside.
4. Place the pan in a 350F oven (toaster oven) for 10 minutes.
5. Remove the cookie dough from the oven and sprinkle on your chocolate chip mixture, covering the cookie dough evenly.
6. Place tin foil over-top of the pan to prevent the marshmallows from browning, and return the pan to the oven for another 5 minutes.
7. After 5 minutes check the cookie dough for done-ness by pocking the center with a skewer/toothpick. If not fully cooked, continue to cook covered for 5 more minutes.
8. Once the cookie dough is done, remove the tin foil and continue baking until the marshmallows begin to turn golden (but do not burn).
9. Once marshmallows are golden, remove pan from the oven and allow cookie-bar to cool in the pan for 3 minutes.
10. Remove cookie-bar from pan and place on cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing. Slice into 16 bars.

As the title of this post implies, I did end up making this creation with my trusty toaster oven. But... I am very excited to say that my new oven will be arriving sometime tonight! The delivery guys are bringing in the new oven sometime between 5-9pm tonight and I am beyond thrilled. I really hope that they come at 5pm, because I have a lecture tonight from 6-9pm and I don't want to miss watching them install it! Oh, but it doesn't really matter, as long as it all hooks up alright and the oven doesn't explode I'll be happy. And it's just in time for February's Daring Baker's Challenge. I am one happy baker :)