Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Study....in Brownies

Last week a friend and I decided to try and make homemade gumbo for the first time, in fact it was the first time either of us had even eaten gumbo. It turned out to be wonderful! It was also the first time we had cooked together and that was a lot of fun, he did the prep work I didn’t want to do-chopping all the vegetables- and I did the prep work he didn’t want to do-working with the raw meat- and most of the actual cooking. 

While we were waiting for the roux to cool I decided to bake some brownies using a new recipe I had found. This was my first attempt at brownies made from scratch and I decided to try and use a sugar substitute instead of actual sugar as an experiment. Needless to say this was a mistake, the brownies were not sweet at all and were too dry and cake like for us. 

After this disastrous failure I swore to avenge myself in the baking department. This is how this Study was born. J told me that he liked brownies made out of a box but I had to try them from scratch again. I have absolutely nothing against premade mixes- in fact I find them to be extraordinarily helpful in many ways- they save time, energy and money and can produce pretty tasty treats. But I am trying to expand my culinary abilities and I have already mastered the art of premade mixes- I can make a mean cake out of a box, just ask my family.
So here it goes Box Mix Brownies vs Homemade Brownies


First I made the box mix brownies because they are the quickest to make. I made walnut brownies because, well, that’s what J choose (personally I do not like nuts). I am not the biggest brownie fan in the world I enjoy one every once in awhile but not very often. However brownies remind me of my mother who loves brownies, probably more than any other dessert because it’s all chocolate! When I told my mother about the two batches of brownies sitting in my kitchen she was both impressed and jealous, she said she wished she was here-my father whole heartedly agreed with her. My mother is an amazing cook and baker she has taught me a lot about cooking but the most important thing she taught me was to try. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t come out right the first time just try it again. Practice makes perfect, this is a phrase I’ve learned to live by. 
My photography professor likes this shot

I think when it comes to brownies I prefer a mixture type, one that is part cakey-part fudgy brownie though if I had to choose between the two I would pick fudgy; when I asked J what kind he liked the answer was immediate and spoken without any hesitation- Fudgy.  That settled it I set out trying to find a suitable brownie recipe. The winner is from one of my favorite food blogs- use real butter . While I may try to avoid using actual sugar when possible I could never use anything but real butter! I’m a fan of Paula Deen after all so pass that butter!
I love the way the batter looks when its mixing

Brownies are incredibly simple to make there are only a few ingredients need and there is no creaming involved; I didn’t even need to use my handheld mixer (sadly I do not own a stand mixer). Plus the homemade mixture practically fell out of the bowl for me when I was putting it in the baking pan-no scraping needed! And once I was done I only had 8 dishes to wash which was wonderful. 

 [Homemade brownies on the left, Box brownies on the right]

            Everyone loved the brownies I am very pleased to say. Some preferred the sweeter (and nuttier) out of the box brownies while others preferred my homemade brownies which weren’t quite as sweet. I personally preferred the homemade brownies but I don’t love super sweet things either.

I have a lot of brownies at my house!

Recipe courtesy of use real butter
1 Stick of unsalted butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup flour
2 tbsps cocoa powder
Cooking Spray or Butter for pan

·         Preheat oven to 350’F.
·         Line an 8 inch baking pan with Parchment paper and spray (or butter) the parchment paper.
·         Using a double boiler melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate. (I recommend cutting your butter into tabs so it melts faster and more evenly) Once the chocolate and butter have melted remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool down some.
·         Then add the sugar, salt and vanilla extract.
·         Beat the eggs in one at a time
·         Add the flour and cocoa powder.
·         Pour the batter into the pan and place on the center rack of the oven.
·         Bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center of the brownies. About 35-45 minutes 
Note: Allow to cool completely before cutting.
Will make 16 2-inch squares.  (I made several smaller squares)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sadly leaving Japan

Flying back to the United States today. Gonna do a quick bit of shopping this morning-probably just more bento stuff and then its off to the airport for a series of flights.
Wish me luck, I will do much more with this site once I get back home and have the time and energy to put into this place what it needs

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Quick Update

So I have enough trouble trying to eat the right things and in the right amount without worrying about it but in the last few weeks (ie this whole year so far) this has been especially difficult because I am currently studying in Japan.

This is absolutely amazing for me and I love it but its been difficult eating wise and I know I've been under eating which is bad. Good news is that today is actually my last day here in Japan and I am flying back to the United States tomorrow. I am both very excited and not so excited about this. I miss my place and what could be considered 'normalcy' but Japan has been a lot of fun and its so beautiful here. I will probably post some photos once I get the chance.
But for now I must go enjoy the last of my time in this amazing (and amazingly confusing) country.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hello and thank you for visiting Pandora's Wonderland.
I'm not sure what brought you here today and to be quite honest I'm not 100% sure on my reasons for begining this blog.

In 2009 I had Gastric Bypass Surgery (information can be found on Wikipedia) but basically this is a surgery that drastically reduces the size of the stomach and thus it affects how much food one can eat. Even shortly before the surgery I did not have much of an appetite and I am sorry to say that this continues even today. There are many days where I realize that all of a sudden it’s three in the afternoon and I haven’t eaten all day simply because I’m not hungry. I know that this is bad, and my surgeon would probably yell at me (along with my dietician). I do want to make clear that this is in no way done on purpose; I just do not possess much of an appetite most of the time.

Despite being over a year post-surgery  I am still struggling with this new stomach and new life of mine, this I believe is whats driving me to write this blog. I am very happy with the results of the surgery, having lost around 90lbs so far, and I do not regret having it overall. This doesn't mean that there aren't times when I wish I could eat an entire bowl of Ramen instead of a few bites or times when I wish I didn't have to worry about the things I eat.

One of the biggest challenges for me is my age, I am 20 years old which is somewhat young for this surgery and I believe that has made it a little more difficult for me to adjust. Suddenly I have to worry about everything and after watching my mother (who also had Gastric Bypass Surgery) struggle from time to time with the things she ate I have come to worry a lot about how and what I eat.

Things need to change for me. I need to change and I need help doing it so I am reaching out via this blog to do so.