Friday, 19 April 2013

What's in your bag?

This post was motivated by several things...the immense love I am feeling towards my backpack and a few of you who keep asking me about two things: a) how much can I fit into said backpack or b) what kind of food I buy on a regular basis.
So I thought I might as well combine the two :)

For my birthday I bought a new backpack. 
After about 8 years of carrying my worldly belongings around in bags, when I moved to Berlin (and subsequently broke my laptop while cycling...don't ask...) I started using backpacks again. I started out with three - a pretty one that I had bought because it worked really well with my laptop (but once you put my ginormous wallet and the laptop charger in was pretty much full, no chance of fitting a water bottle in), a cycling backpack (yes, it was comfortable but you couldn't even fit my laptop in properly, don't even think about going shopping with this one), and a larger one that had enough pockets for everything and even had a strap you could carry your yoga-mat with and a compartment to keep wet swimming stuff separate from all the dry stuff in the main compartment. In a way I really liked the big one because it actually fit a water bottle as well as the laptop. I was even able to go shopping on my way home and fit at least some of the food in there as well. You might wonder why I didn't like this bag in the end. It pretty much came down to one main problem. Once you had the bag on your back and you were cycling somewhere it was really uncomfortable and felt really heavy on the back. By the time you arrived anywhere you had to stretch for half an hour to get the feeling back into your lower back. Oh, and it wasn't really waterproof (I have my laptop and other electronics in there on a regular basis...not something I want to worry about when I'm cycling across town and should be focusing on stuff like traffic).
After looking around for ages, reading every stupid cycling website on the internet, and trying on backpacks in more shops than I care to admit I decided to get a rolltop from San Francisco Freight Baggage. In case you have to even ask - no, they are not paying me for this post. 
Before I say anything else - this was the most expensive bag I have ever bought. I don't own handbags or shoes that expensive. Heck, all my coats were cheaper than this bag. Perhaps I shouldn't say this because my mum reads this stuff as well. 
That said, was it worth it? 
The cool thing about Freight Baggage is that you can either just order a bag at their online shop or you can get one custom-made for the same price. That way you get to choose the colours and whether you want stuff like a laptop divider or reflective strips and whatnot.
I don't think I've ever emailed back and forth with a lovelier person than Brianna at Freight Baggage. She answered all my gazillion questions and helped me choose what I think is the most amazing colour combination ever.
Are you itching to see the bag yet?
Here is a photo I took right after I got back from customs to pick up the parcel. Isn't it pretty?!

According to Verena it is the size of a small house.
I think it's just right!
In cas you are wondering - that is the medium size. The large is huuuge (plus, I am not planning to become a professional bike courier any time soon).
The most important thing which I should have led with is the following: once you put the bag on your back it seems to weigh nothing. Even if it is so full that you can barely close it. Even if you didn't eat all weekend because you were sick and you are exhausted after just walking from the car to the train tracks. Also, it's like Mary Poppin's bag...
...which brings me back to the picture at the beginning of this post. If you click on the version below you can even read some more of my dribble :)

This was everything in my bag when I got home after work today. Everything. Even the mouthguard that I thought I had taken out after lacrosse practice on Wednesday. Even the allergy kit that lives in the bag that you probably couldn't care less about. Even the empty plastic box that was full of cookies for the lab. You get the point...
I'll try and post these pictures every once in a while to keep both you and me entertained. Perhaps I'll even write more about what's actually on the photo...

What do you always have in you bag? Do you have a favourite bag or backpack?

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Granola Cookies

Lately I have been on a slight cookie bender. I think the people in my lab find this quite exciting. What happens most of the time is that I throw random things together and hope for the best. Generally this works really well (at least according to Torsten and Gina who I share an office with). Sometimes we learn things the hard way. Like that replacing all the granulated sugar in your cookie recipe with rapadura sugar is a stupid idea. Or that leftover peppermint bark pieces added to chocolate chip cookies is like my least favourite flavour of all times. Oh well.
Anyhow…a few weeks ago I made the granola cookies Todd and Diane wrote about on White on Rice Couple. And then I made them again. And again. And whenever someone in the lab hears the telltale rattling of my super awesome royal-wedding cookie tin they ask whether I have made the granola cookies again. 
So, what else can I tell you about these cookies. I think they are best still slightly warm. Depending on how long you bake them they are either still chewy or really nice and crispy. Because you soak the dried fruit in booze before you make them I have never managed to bake them so they were actually 'dry' (and I went for something resembling a member of the Jersey Shore cast in one batch because I completely forgot that I was actually baking cookies). The original recipe calls for rum or kaluha. I don't like kaluha for anything other than white russians and I didn't have any rum in the house so the first time I used bourbon and it was really really nice. A few batches later I moved onto southern comfort and I think that is what I'll keep using - the spices work really well with the dried fruit and give the cookies a bit of a kick.
Oh, and instead of apricots I'm using dates (cos dried apricots are evil and vile and gross…and I'm that grown-up…) and raisins but I have been thinking about using dried cherries for a while. I think they would be really nice. 
Are you convinced yet?
Make some cookies! :)

Granola Cookies (adapted from Porter & Chu)
70g dried, pitted Dates
70g Raisins
Enough Bourbon, Southern Comfort, Rum, or whatever else you like to cover the fruit
60g Walnuts
60g Almonds
155g Flour
1tsp Bicarb
1/2 tsp Salt
180g steel-cut Oats
170g Butter, at room temperature
175g Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
125g dark Chocolate Chips
125g white Chocolate Chips

Preheat your oven to 175˚C.
Cut the dates into 1cm pieces, put them into a small bowl with the raisins and cover them with booze.
Toast the nuts until they are starting to brown and your kitchen smells amazing. 
In a medium sized bowl mix the flour, bicarb, salt and oats and set aside.
Don't forget about the oven - take the nuts out of the oven and allow them to cool before you either chop them coarsely or simply crush them a bit using your fingers (you can probably guess which approach I favour).
Take out a larger mixing bowl or your fancy kitchen aid mixer bowl and beat the butter for a minute or so until it starts to fluff up a bit, add the sugar and keep beating for another two minutes or so. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and give things another 4 minutes or so. What all of this does is incorporate more air into the mixture and bond the sugar and butter together (at least that's what I'm told). Irrespective of how this whole thing works, what it does is give your cookies a certain lightness while also giving you crispy edges and an amazingly chewy centre. So ignore the fact that you are probably dying from boredom, listen to one of those new super long Justin Timberlake songs and you will barely notice all that waiting :)
Ideally the butter-mixture should have nearly doubled in size and will look a lot paler than before.
Switch to a spatula or wooden spoon so you don't overmix in the next few steps. 
Stir in the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Then add the chocolate chips, nuts, and boozy fruit (without the remaining liquid - save that to make a drink or dip the cookies into it later or whatnot). 
Scoop two tablespoons of dough (what I do is use my tablespoon measure and scoop up enough dough so it forms a dome on top of the filled spoon that is the same size) per cookie onto a cookie sheet, leaving about 3cm between them. I can normally fit 18 cookies onto my full-size baking sheet if that helps with the spacing between the cookies at all.
Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until the cookies are starting to brown. 
Don't even think about letting the cookies cool completely, give them a few minutes before you transfer some of them onto a wire-rack, then eat the others while they are still warm on the inside.
I hope you have a fantastic rest of your weekend!
You could make some cookies :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...