This week was scary. And it wasn’t even a full week. I spent three out of the four school days on campus from at least 8:30 – 5:00.

School is a full time job. Well, school and shifting heavy books. The British have HEAVY books. Chris and I have been shifting stupid Parliamentary Records for the past THREE weeks!

Needless to say, my arms are getting a work out.

So is my brain.

Luckily I’ve had some good eats to get me through the week. I made Bombay Sloppy Joe’s from Aarti Party. I just want to pinch Aarti’s cheeks – she’s so darn cute! And her food is totally amazing. The Sloppy Joe’s were super, but they weren’t really picture-worthy. I’m no Food Network magazine food artist.

I tried the Chocolate Brownie LARA bar, which was good, but I still like Cookie Dough the best. The Brownie flavor didn’t have that nasty, raw cocoa taste that Clif bars have, which was great. Raw cocoa = BLEH!

I also had the Cherry Pie LARA bar. Gross. I hate dried cherries, so I was pretty grossed out by the flavor of the bar. In my defense, I thought I was buying a PB&J LARA bar….sad surprise when I bit into it at work. And I swear, this is my last bar review for a while. Hopefully.

But I had a Pecan Pie LARA bar today. It was good – sweet, nutty, typical LARA bar texture….but it tasted nothing like pecan pie. Now I have an unsatisfied craving for pecan pie, but 2 months until Thanksgiving. Sadness.

You know what else is sad? Cooking blunders in Food Principles Lab. This week was Starches and Cereals I, which unfortunately is much less exciting than it sounds. Next week we’re making millet, homemade pasta, quinoa, etc., but this week was all about the scientific food effects of the different starches.

I ate a lot of gravy and tapioca. Luckily, I enjoy tapioca.

Anyways, I was assigned chocolate pudding – homemade, instant, and canned. Canned pudding = dump into a bowl. Check. Instant pudding = mix powder with 2 cups of milk. Mix, then pour in a bowl. Check.

Homemade pudding requires some milk scalding, chocolate melting, and lots of thickening. My milk scalded, my chocolate melted, but my pudding did not thicken. No one knows why. It’s a food lab mystery. Luckily we don’t get points taken off for failed recipe attempts, but it was kind of depressing to see everyone look disgustedly at my soupy chocolate pudding.

Fortunately, I’m still capable of making some delicious chocolate chip cookies AND taking (if I do say so myself) fabulous pictures of them. Well, fabulous for a cheapo digital camera. And there’s also the abundance of natural light to consider.

These chocolate chip cookies may look ordinary, but they actually had a special twist. What’s the twist, you ask?

Vanilla pudding mix. That stuff made the cookies soft (but not cakey) and they held their shape wonderfully. I found the recipe on Lovin’ From the Oven. Go check this blog out, seriously. She’s like Joy the Baker, except my age and the recipes are much more accessible.

This is probably one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes. They were a hit at my parents’ Labor Day shindig. Be sure to mix the chocolate chips with a little bit of flour, though; it helps them rise to the surface, which makes the cookies super attractive.

I’m also capable of making delicious PW-ified French Toast. I’ve made and tried “healthified” French Toast bakes in the past. They’re gross. They’re egg-y, bland and soggy.

The Pioneer Woman knows what’s up, though. She knows you need lots of butter, lots of sugar and real eggs to make delicious, casseroled French Toast. It was so good. PW makes the best cinnamon rolls and now I can honestly say that she makes the best French Toast. And I think the other breakfast tailgaters agreed with me. Just look at this beauty:

The bread was soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside, no sogginess in site. Cinnamon and sugar permeated the entire dish – I could have easily eaten it without a gallon of maple syrup….but that wouldn’t be fun. It’s also super easy to make – make it at night and bake it in the morning!

Here’s the recipe:

French Toast Bake, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman
Serves 10-12

– French Style Bread, something crusty
– 8 whole eggs
– 2 cups milk
– 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (I just added extra milk)
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 2 tbsp vanilla extract
– Sprinkling of cinnamon (I like a lot of cinnamon…)

– 1/2 cups AP flour
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces

Grease a 9×13 baking dish with butter. It just tastes better, people. Tear your bread into chunks, or chop it into cubes. PW likes the rustic look of torn pieces, and so do I. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon together. Pour the mixture over the bread evenly. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. In another bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt together. Chunk in the butter pieces and use a fork or a pastry cutter to work through the mixture until it resembles little pebbles. Put the mixture in a ziplock bag and stick in the fridge.

In the morning, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread the sugar/butter mixture evenly over the bread and bake for 45 minutes or up to an hour, depending on how crunchy you like the bread. I cut the oven off at 45 minutes, but kept the dish in the oven for another 15 or 20. Cover with maple syrup. This is not an option.

Sorry about the sporadic updating – I think I’ll try to do more short posts instead of these massive ones!

And here’s a parting picture of Max:

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