Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Marshmallow Cloud Cookies

This week, Ryan and Tara baked since I've been so busy doing multiple choice problems in preparation for my GMAT test on Monday.

Ryan tracked down his mom's award winning, according to him, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe. I must say I breathed a sigh of relief when I remembered that he said oatmeal chocolate chip cookies instead of oatmeal raisin cookies. Several dessert night regulars, including J and ChuThis, don't like raisins. Here's a pic of the tasty cookies:

Tara brought over these very tasty chocolate cookies with marshmallows stirred into the batter. They were really really tasty, especially after dipping them in a glass of milk! I totally misunderstood that Tara was bringing cookies, so I went in search of milk for hot chocolate that I thought we'd stick these marshmallow clouds in, but I was mistaken. Good thing I had the milk to dunk the cookies. Mmm, marshmallow clouds!

Also, this week, we bid temporary farewell to our good friend Neena. She's returning home to Texas for a month or so and we all will miss her terribly while she's gone.

Farewell Miss Neena!!! We're going to miss you!

Monday, November 24, 2008

One More Week!!

Yup, that's right folks!! I have one week of doing hundreds of multiple choice problems left! I can't wait to be done and back onto essays for my next grad school app.

While I'm incredibly stoked to be almost done with the GMAT, I'm quite nervous because I haven't been scoring as well as I would like to be on my practice tests. I have at least 4 more to take between now and next Monday so hopefully that changes soon!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ben's Tasty Banana Cake

This week, Ben brought a very tasty and moist banana cake to Dessert Night. It was much more moist than traditional banana bread and tasted great with a small layer of powdered sugar on top. Ben was worried that he didn't cook it long enough, but I felt that the almost gooey texture of the cake made it's texture more cake-like and avoided the dryness that can come with over baking.

Unfortunately, I've been VERY bad about remembering to take pictures of the dessert prior to eating it, so once again there are no photos from this week. Sorry Ben! I promise I'll get better at this next time.

Up next week: Ryan M's Mom's famous Oatmeal Raisin Cookies!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday J!!!!!

Happy 26th Birthday J!!!! You can officially round up to 30 now. Ok, enough giving him a bad time for being old and on to describing his very tasty cake.

A month or so ago when I asked him if he wanted to keep Dessert Night on his birthday, he decided that he did and that he either wanted Chocolate Zucchini Cake, which is mom always makes for him, or something chocolatey and peanut buttery. I decided it was best to leave the Chocolate Zucchini cakes to his mom and instead find a tasty chocolate peanut butter dessert. After much searching for possible tasty recipes, I settled on this Chocolate Peanut Butter cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

The recipe posed several challenges for me as this is probably the nicest cake I've attempted to make in a long time. First of all, it's always challenging to bake a 3 layer cake in only 2 cake pans, but I managed to quickly swap one of them out in time to bake the other one before anything bad happened to the remaining dough. The cake part turned out really tasty and fluffy. I will definitely be making it again. Second, the recipe was rather long as there were 3 pieces to it and somehow I managed to not read the entire recipe the first, second or even third time around which resulted in 4 trips to the grocery store to acquire all of the ingredients for this recipe.

All in all, it turned out really well and was surprisingly not too sweet after all of the sugar that went into it. I highly recommend that you follow Deb's notes with the recipe about chilling the cake at certain points in the assembly process as they really make it much easier to put together. The only thing I'd add in addition to her notes is that the recipe for the glaze seems to make a lot more than you actually need for this cake so you might try putting only about 2/3 of the glaze on the cake at first and then adding more later if you need it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Today a Dream Comes True

Since I moved out of my parent's house and had to furnish my own kitchen, I've dreamed of owning my own Kitchen Aid mixer. I say dream because furnishing an apartment let alone a kitchen is an expensive endeavor for a 21 year old with college loans to repay.

I grew up using my Mom's Kitchen Aid mixer which was handed down to her by her Grandmother. It was one of the old ones that doesn't have the 3rd prong on the outlet and has 2 beaters instead of the one that's found on the current models. The bowls are ceramic and very flat instead of the more rounded bottomed metal bowls of today. Also, because of it's age, it's almost impossible to get additional attachments for it. Nonetheless, it was the mixer that I used when I first learned how to make a souffle, whip cream, and frosting (and let me say that it can still make a mean souffle despite it's age).
All of the food blogs that I read seem to assume that their readers possess a stand mixer as a part of their kitchen equipment and often don't detail how to make the recipe without this vital piece of equipment.

Now, at 25, I'm finally able to afford this expensive kitchen plaything. After much searching and deliberation, I found the Kitchen Aid Professional 600 Series 6-quart stand mixer on sale on for 46% off! I couldn't believe it. Not only could I actually afford a mixer, but I could buy one with the dough hook and beater attachments as well as the pouring shield. I finally got it in the mail on Friday and already unpacked it and made it at home on my counter. Now, I can't wait to have time to make all sorts of yummy things that I couldn't have made before with no mixer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Training Tips for the GMAT Marathon

A GMAT survivor and I were discussing the GMAT last night and he framed my thinking of how to go about the GMAT in a very interesting way. He used the analogy of a marathon.

Honestly, that's kind of how I feel about the process right now is that I'm in the middle of a long marathon and am doing my best to not get tired. But his analogy was different. He looked at the studying process for the GMAT like one would train for a marathon, with actual GMAT test day being race day. I could no longer think of GMAT studying as just the memorization of formulas, grammatical rules, and practice tests. Instead, these were some of his thoughts.

1. Train for endurance. When you train for a marathon, you run for increasing lengths of time until you've almost reached the 26 miles in one sitting. The GMAT is much the same. You cannot do small problem sets of 10-20 problems and then take a break and then go back. On test day, you will be doing 35-40 problems in 75 min blocks. Why not train that way? Do 60 problems at a time, then when you get to test day your brain things "wow, only 35 problems? easy!"

2. Train for a time. Many marathon runners train with the goal of the completing their marathon in a certain time. We GMAT takers HAVE to complete the GMAT sections in their allowed time or suffer a serious blow to our score. Why not train that way? If you have to do a problem in under 2 mins, but you practice doing them in 3-5 mins, then you're not helping yourself. Stick to the practice test time limits and then this will be no shock on test day.

3. Improve your strenghts as well as your weaknesses. I guess this applies more to triathalon runners, but if you're very good at the swimming leg of the race, work on getting faster at that too. All it does is improve your performance in the end. The GMAT is the same way. If you're good at math, an amazing math score will compensate for a slightly weaker verbal score, resulting in that overall high score that top B-schools want from you.

These tips will definitely result in a different studying approach for me for my remaining 2.5 weeks before my test. Hopefully, they will help others as well.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Bread

It's finally starting to feel like fall out in San Francisco. This weekend we're having our second rain of the entire year which isn't really all that bad, but it does make you want to enjoy more wintry foods. I checked out ChuThis's brussel sprouts, which were totally amazing and really only took about 15 mins to do which is great. In the stores, in addition to seeing brussel sprouts, squashes have started to enter the produce department with their great colors, shapes and variety of sizes. I have loved basic baked butternut squash so much that I thought I should make some sort of a squash related dessert. Thus, this week, it was everything pumpkin.

I had some pumpkin leftover from a Mystery Box a while back and wanted to see if it made different tasting pie filling than the plain old canned pumpkin that I usually use. I'm sorry to report that it really didn't taste that much different for the additional couple of hours work required to make my own canned pumpkin.

For my pie, I used the pie recipe that I've been using for years from the back of the Libby's canned pumpkin, except I substituted my pumpkin puree. It turned out tasting just as great as the usual pie recipe.

Also, I thought I'd try a new tasty pumpkin treat. I saw a fun and easy recipe for Pumpkin Bread on Cookie Madness the other day and thought I'd give it a shot. The recipe called for pumpkin pie spice and I was not aware of any such spice so I substituted the same spices in the Libby pie recipe. Here's the modified recipe below.

Pumpkin Bread (modified from the Cookie Madness recipe)

1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 inch metal loaf pan or spray with cooking spray.

Stir together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Set aside.

Whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin, and water in a mixing bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir just until moistened.

Transfer mixture to loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until done. (I think that mine probably took a bit more like 1 hour and 15 mins but you want to keep a close eye on it.)

The thing that I really liked most about this recipe is that it was really fast. I think my prep time on the whole first loaf was only 15 mins and it was so tasty that I made 2 more loaves.

Sorry for no pictures this time around. I've been really bad about forgetting to take pictures of the desserts that I've made lately. Next week, I will do better. I promise.

Monday, November 3, 2008

GMAT Crunch Time

Now that I've managed to get in my first B-school app, I'm buckling down on my GMAT studying once and for all. I have less than one month until my scheduled test date, so must get down to business.

Here's my quick and dirty study plan:
-Week 1: math review, practice math bin questions, & take a practice GMAT
-Week 2: finish math review, review concepts from missed practice problems & take a practice GMAT (2 if possible)
-Week 3: switch to verbal problems & take a practice GMAT (2 if possible)
-Week 4: finish review of verbal problems, do practice essays, & take a practice GMAT

As you can see, it's a pretty tight schedule, so if I'm not blogging regularly you'll know what happened.

Good luck to all the other B-school applicants out there.