Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brookster by Baked Product Review

Brownie or Cookie?  
No need to choose when you can make a Brookster, sometimes known as a brookie:  A chocolate chip cookie baked inside a rich fudge brownie.  
Baked, a Brooklyn bakery and author of two cookbooks is now selling mixes for some of their most popular items. 

I saw this mix in Williams-Sonoma and being a fan of Baked, I had to give it a try.
Each box contains 2 cookie mix packets, 2 brownie mix packets and 2 chocolate chip packets.  All you need to add is butter and eggs.  One set of packets makes 9 brooksters, so each box will make 18. 

The directions are easy to follow and no cooking experience is required to prepare them.  They are baked in a muffin pan.  You line the pan with the brownie dough and then add the cookie on top. The only thing you need to know, is both the cookie and brownie doughs need to be refrigerated for a least an hour before they can be cooked.  So this is not something you can whip up and eat in a short amount of time.  Prep time is about 75 minutes including chilling time.

Despite the extra time it takes to make, these brooksters were delicious right out of the oven.  I topped mine with vanilla ice cream.  The brownie was chewy and the cookie crisp - Perfect!   These have equal amounts of brownie and cookie. I kept them in an airtight container on the counter for a few days and ate one the next day, although good, I preferred the fresh out of the oven one best. 

The mix sells for $16 and would make a great hostess gift. I am a fan of Baked and love their recipes.  If you cannot make a treat from scratch, they are a good alternative.

 I don't want you to read this and be frustrated that you can't make eat one right now because you don't have this mix.  So I will share the recipe I found to make a similar  homemade version of these cookie/brownies using a recipe from Bakerella HERE.  She calls them pillow cookies.   

This recipe has more cookie than brownie as the brownies are baked into the cookies. 
They were very good and very large! 

Which do you prefer, brownies or cookies?

(I bought this product with my own money and received no compensation for this review.  These opinions are mine alone.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey Day Run Recap

I was fortunate to spend Thanksgiving in Charleston, SC with my brother, sister and their families in a beach house on the Isle of Palms. There were twelve of us all together and we had a grand time!  

Oh how times have changed...growing up our Thanksgiving day included watching TV and eating, lots and lots of eating.  There were some years that I remember literally lying on the floor with my brother or sister moaning because we were so uncomfortable from all the food we ate.  We ate like it was our last meal ever.

As we have grown older and wiser we now include a holiday run/walk to our Thanksgiving day and it is becoming a new tradition for our family.  This year we participated in the Turkey Day Run in historic downtown Charleston. 

It is a scenic course that takes you through the city, down Meeting St. to the Battery (waterfront) and then back up King St. to Marion Square.  It is a large race with over 6,000 runners and a big after race party including a beer garden with free beer, kids races and a band.

In addition to all that, we got some good stuff in our race packet too.  I love the long sleeved T-shirt and its design.  The Eat. Think. Smile. bar was new to me and I got a mixed berry flavor.  It is a chewy granola bar with a chocolate base.  It was okay, but not a favorite.

Not only was it Thanksgiving it was also my niece Emily's eleventh birthday. Here we are before the race. We didn't plan to wear matching outfits. Great minds think alike! 

I started the race with my 19 and 15 year old nieces thinking we would run together.  That didn't last long.  These girls took off and started weaving through the crowds with ease.  I did not.  They are both great athletes and left me in their dust.  I finished with a time of 26:43.
My brother and I in the beer garden

The after party was fun. We ate some Krispy Kreme doughnuts and I couldn't pass up the free beer even if it was only 10:15 in the morning.  It's not every race you get this perk. 

Our day was off to a great start and just got better as we headed back to the beach for a day of food and fun together. 

Hope you all had a relaxing and enjoyable day with your families too!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Take this day to appreciate all of your blessings big and small. Remember, things could always be worse.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Food and Fun in the Windy City Part II

I am a fan of the food in Chicago and the more I visit the more good food I eat.  Finding good places can be tricky for an out-of-towner but my love of Chicago food started with a food tour I took a year ago and since then I have gotten some great suggestions from my daughter, Cate who lives in the city.

On my most recent trip I had the chance to experience more good eats. We had a plan of all the places we wanted to visit including a list of food spots. The big event during the trip was to run the Hot Chocolate 15K. We did eat a lot of good food, but not in excess quantities (except maybe cupcakes), plus we ran the 15K and had to walk everywhere we went, so it balanced out, sort of.

Being a fan of cupcakes I wanted to try some of the cupcake shops in Chicago. We went to Crumbs first and the cupcakes were large, but visually appealing with enticing names.
We got a PB&J, Chocolate Milkshake and a Raspberry Brownie Cheesecake to try.  They were okay, but I wasn't impressed and won't be going back.  A little dry and too much cake for the frosting.   

Although I gave up on Crumbs, I did not give up on cupcakes.  The next day we went to Sprinkles to try a few.  I know they brag about being the first cupcake shop and having the best cupcakes so I wanted to see for myself.

If you follow Sprinkles on Twitter they often tweet a secret word that will earn you a free cupcake.  Because Cate is so connected, she knew the word and we got a free pumpkin cupcake!
Oh, these were fabulous: so fresh and flavorful! Sprinkles bakes cupcakes all day in small batches and I think that really makes a difference.  I knew we had to go again before I left town.  We did and this time came home with a few more because again Cate scored us the free cupcake of the day and the girl was nice enough to give us two salted caramels!  
I was in heaven! Those salted caramel were to die for.  I liked every single cupcake I tried from there.  I can't wait to go again.
I may have to try the cupcake mixes they sell to see if they are just as good.

A trip to Chicago is not complete without pizza so we ate  some of that too.  I had to try the original pizza pot pie from Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.  I make a homemade version of this and wanted to see how it compares to the original.  
The restaurant is in an old building that has a lot of history.  The host does not take names for those waiting for a table.  When asked if he wants your name he replies "No name, I remember you."  And he does.  I learned he has been the host for years and it has always been that way. The pot pie was great, but no better than the one I make at home.

We also went to Pizano's for deep dish pizza.  It was only November 5th and the place was all lit up for Christmas. (A little over the top, I think.)
spinach, mushroom, onion pizza

Another great place we went was Counter Burger in Lincoln Park. This is a build your own burger joint.  You place your order for by making your selection on an order form. You choose your meat, toppings, sauce and bun. 
I went with a hamburger on a pretzel roll with chipotle aioli, cheddar, onion, lettuce, tomato, black bean and corn salsa and avocado.  It was BIG.
We shared some onion rings and fries to go with it.
It was a fantastic burger!
My trip also included some shopping.  I got to see a giant Whole Foods that contained a liquor bar, a wine bar and a food court with at least four different types of cuisines.  It was incredible and so different from the small neighborhood one we have. A trip to Trader Joes was on the list and I am so jealous we don't have any in Florida.

I also got a chance to go to Title Nine, a retailer of women's fitness and casual wear. I usually shop from their catalog.  It was so nice to be able to try the clothes on and see them all in person for a change.  I ended up buying some pants and a smart wool sweater.  Now I just need it to get a little cooler at home.

I had such a wonderful time with Cate in Chicago!  I miss having her around, so it was nice to spend time with her. She was a great hostess and has really learned her way a round in a short time. I came home tired from all of our excursions and am thankful I do not have to rely on public transportation to get around. 

Have you ever been to Chicago?
Of all the things I did, which would you like to do the most?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Food and Fun in the Windy City

Chicago is one of my favorite cities to visit, but I like it even more now that my daughter Cate lives there! I recently spent four days with her and we packed in as much fun and food as we could.  Every night I fell asleep exhausted. 

Upon arriving in the Windy City (rightly named-the wind blew ALL the time) we hit our first eatery The Bongo Room. This was recommended by a teacher a met at a conference and she nailed it!  The food was fabulous! We made it just in time to order off the breakfast menu.   
We shared a breakfast burrito and their special White Chocolate, Caramel Pretzel Pancakes.  I was worried these would be over the top sweet, but it was more of a savory flavor and one of the best pancakes I have ever had.  

My next meal was at a Melt Sandwich Shoppe, a local soup and sandwich place in Bucktown/Wicker Park.
All the sandwiches are a variation of the grilled cheese.  The place had a school house theme with the menu items written on the chalkboard walls.
I chose The Provence which was loaded with roasted mushrooms, tomatoes and truffle white cheddar. It was a big sandwich and more than I could eat.  Cate got a wrap that I enjoyed more.  The food was okay, but I wanted it to be better.

Our destination that night was Arts n Spirits to paint.  These casual group painting places have become quite popular and this would be our first time going to one.  Each night they spotlight a different painting which they teach you how to create.  This crazy flower design was tonight's project.

Although we liked this painting we decided to go rogue and change it up a little and make a blue toned background. I had a great idea to capture the creation of my painting from start to finish, but I got so absorbed in the painting that I missed a few steps along the way, but you get the idea.

I am not much of an artist, but they guide you step by step and make it easy enough for anyone to follow along.  
As you can see, we exercised our artistic licenses. 
We spent about four hours working on these and the time flew by.  After waiting for a bus and a train and walking the half mile to her apartment, we didn't get home until midnight. That was day one!

I will share more of our adventures in Part II...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hot Chocolate 15K Race Recap

 I will definitely run for chocolate!
While in Chicago over the weekend visiting my daughter Cate, we ran the Hot Chocolate 15K together.  The race started in Grant Park and took us on a big loop through the city ending up back at the park.

For a Florida girl like me, the start of the day was a CHILLY 39 degrees!  We had to get up and leave her apartment early since we were relying on the train to get there.  Our timing was perfect but we ended up with a little extra time due to a delay in the start time.  A section of the route had to be changed at the last minute because a large truck got stuck under one of the underpasses.

Cate and I decided to run the race together and lined up in the open time corral.  It was great back there,  very relaxed and plenty of room, in fact it was not crowded for us at any time during the race.
I was so cold at the start of the race, my toes felt numb.  I did not wear the right gear.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I had capri pants, long sleeve t, gloves, winter headband and the awesome running jacket we got in our goody bag. I did warm up as we got going, but never warm enough to take anything off.

We ran at an easy pace just taking it all in. As we got to mile three the road became littered with gear people had discarded as they warmed up.  I spotted some items I could use and scooped a few things up along the way. I knew they did not donate all the discarded stuff and it would just end up in the trash.
Having only eaten half an apricot Clif Bar before the race, I stopped at all four water stops for gatorade.  Kudos to the gatorade makers of this race, you know how sometimes it is too strong or too weak, this time it was perfect!

The course was mostly flat with a few spectators along the way.  It was neat to see the city from this vantage point.  The last part of the race was down Michigan Avenue.  After crossing the finish line with a time of 1:54:33, we were rewarded with a bottle of water and a piece of Ghiradelli chocolate. I ate mine right away.  It was a new flavor I had never had before and it was delicious!
Intense Dark Sea Salt Soiree
But that was only the beginning of the chocolate treats.  They don't call this race the Hot Chocolate for no reason.  We headed to the after race party and the tent that was serving the chocolate fondue first!

Each tray had a banana, pretzel rod, marshmallow, rice crispy treat and apple slices to dip in the warm fondue.  We got right to eating and enjoyed every bite.  The banana and marshmallow may have been my favorite.  It was so cold out, that the chocolate had already hardened like a candy bar before we were finished.
Because I did not run this race hard, I actually felt like eating afterwards.  Usually, my stomach is less agreeable to food when I run faster.  Running with Cate was a win-win decision.  We got to experience it all together, I could enjoy all the food at the end, plus the lines had diminished by the time we got to the after party.
Of course that wasn't the end of the goodies, we made our way to the hot chocolate tent and indulged in a creamy glass of  liquid chocolate.  We could top it off with either marshmallows or whipped cream.  I loaded on the whipped cream! SO GOOD!

I enjoyed everything about this race.  I thought it was well managed with a good course and good perks.  In addition to the food at the end we got a running jacket that I wore for the race.  We also got personalized bibs.(I love that)
 Now I can add Illinois to the list of states I have run a race in.
What a yummy race!

Does the swag influence you to run in races?
What's the best thing you ever got at a race?