Unlike the way I find most blogs, I kind of backed into Tales of an Overtime Cook. I had tried a few of Miriam Pascal’s recipes when they materialized in my inbox, were reposted on another blog and, when they were in a pamphlet distributed by a local tzeddakah. However, it wasn’t until I interviewed her that I realized she was the same person who created the recipe for the Streusel Swirl Butterscotch Cake that my family demolished in record time over Sukkos. I must admit I was more than a little intrigued. Miriam seems to have zeroed in on exactly the niche I have been looking for: recipes that are not overly complicated, are a little different and taste fabulous.
My next surprise came when I checked out TOAOC and realized that Miriam lived five minutes away from me. When you live in Monsey, like I do, you imagine that everyone you talk to or read about lives somewhere in the five boroughs, most likely in Brooklyn, and it is a rare moment when you discover that not everything that happens in this world takes place in New York City. My third shocker came when I was chatting with my oldest daughter and mentioned I had just interviewed a food blogger. When I told her who it was, my daughter laughingly told me that she and Miriam had gone to high school together.
So to recap, we have a Monsey based food blogger, who has an eye for putting together recipes that are unique, easy and delicious and she is the same age as one of my kids? How crazy is that?
Apparently not at all. When you have a feel for food, it just comes naturally. Or at least it did for Miriam.
“I work in a very corporate business job and I like it, but I am a creative person and had no outlet for my creativity,” explained Miriam. “I started baking and bringing cookies to work where they were very much enjoyed.”
Miriam began taking pictures of her creations on her iPhone and with the help of a co-worker she learned how to show off her baked goods to their best advantage. With her natural flair for writing, blogging seemed like a logical step.
“Baking and cooking were both things I had always enjoyed. Photography was something I was enjoying and I always liked writing. I started thinking, ‘I could totally do this.’ I started the blog just for fun and didn’t tell anyone about it. I never imagined that one day I would be writing a magazine column.”
Word spread and in just a few weeks, Miriam was contacted by Leah Schapira, of Ami Magazine, who was looking for someone to take over the magazine’s baking column.
“I’m not sure how I found Miriam’s blog, but the second I started reading it I realized that she is very talented and is going to go far,” said Leah. “She was using a basic phone camera to take pictures, but you could tell she had a knack for composition, lighting and angle.”
Leah, who frequently sends an encouraging note to new bloggers when she sees a site she likes, dashed off a quick e-mail to Miriam.
“I asked her to write a guest blog on my site CookKosher.com,” recalled Leah. “I had no idea who she was, where she lived, nor the fact that I was friends with her sister. I just saw talent. Not many people can create recipes you want to eat, take good photos and write well. With Miriam I saw all that.”
After that initial post on CookKosher, Leah introduced Miriam to Victoria Dweck, the editor of Ami magazine’s food section, titled Whisk.
“Victoria hired Miriam right away on the condition that she buys a proper camera to take photos,” said Leah. “The rest is history. We’re great friends and she does an amazing job every time.”
Since the start of TOAOC two years ago, Miriam estimates that she has close to 200 original recipes on the site.
Developing recipes can be a varied process for Miriam, who finds that sometimes they take effort until they turn out just right, while other times they seem to create themselves.
“The Streusel Swirl Butterscotch Cake was something that just came to me,” admits Miriam. “I was dozing off on the bus on my way home from work and I literally dreamt that one. I woke up with the idea pretty well formed in my head.”
Other times, planned ideas just fizzle.
“I tried apple cookies once but the texture wasn’t working,” said Miriam. “Then I tried it as blondies and it still didn’t turn out right, so finally I scrapped it. Sometimes it just doesn’t work.”
The inspiration for Miriam’s second most popular recipe was a sale on vegetables at the local store.
“Zucchini was on sale and I stood there thinking, ‘Hmm…what can I do with zucchini?’ I wasn’t in the mood to peel them so I cut them into sticks, threw on spices and baked them.”
And with that Spiced Baked Zucchini sticks were born.
“Sometimes it just happens on a whim,” admits Miriam. “But every time I make those zucchini sticks I think I should make them every day.”
Another of Miriam’s favorites is pretzel crusted chicken fingers.
“They are a crowd pleaser, easy to make and they are baked, not fried. What else can you ask for?”
Miriam’s goal is recipes that are fast and easy.
“I leave the house at 7:30 and come home at 7:30, hence the name Overtime Cook. I have very little free time,” explained Miriam.
Not only have Miriam’s recipes appeared on her own blog but they have attracted the attention of other media outlets including PBS Parents, Glamour, Babble, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post and Yahoo Shine.
“I have had people e-mail me asking for permission to run my recipes and it is always very exciting,” said Miriam. “But the surprise was when my Healthy Oatmeal Pumpkin Pancakes were featured on Yahoo Shine. It is the most popular recipe on my site every day and thousands of people from all over the world have made it.”
Does Miriam have a cookbook in her future?
“There are no concrete plans yet, although it will probably happen one day,” said Miriam. “Right now I just don’t have the time for it.”
Miriam frequently gets feedback from her readers, one of the most gratifying parts of blogging.
“Someone once messaged me on Facebook saying, ‘My husband thinks I am such a great cook, but really I just use your recipes.’”
To check out Miriam’s recipes, pictures and more, visit her online at www.overtimecook.com.
* * * * *
Blueberry Muffin Cookies
Yields: 3-3 ½ dozen cookies
By Miriam Pascal, OvertimeCook.Com*
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 Tablespoons flour (use only for frozen blueberries)
1 ½ sticks (¾ cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons milk or soy-milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2/3 cup corn meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease lightly. Set aside.
If using fresh blueberries, skip the first step.
For frozen, leave blueberries to defrost completely, at least a couple of hours. Once defrosted, drain out all of the accumulated liquid. Squeeze lightly to drain as much liquid from the berries as possible. Toss the blueberries with 2 tablespoons of flour and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the margarine, sugar and brown sugar until smooth.
Add the milk, vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time, beating well to combine after each addition.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
With the mixer on low, slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet mixture in the mixer. Beat until just combined.
Stir in the prepared blueberries, very gently to prevent the colors from running.
Using a medium cookie scoop (or a heaping tablespoon) scoop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, leaving room for spreading.
Bake the cookies at 375° for about 11 minutes, until the tops appear set.
* originally published in my column in Ami magazine
* * * * *
Streusel Swirled Butterscotch Bundt Cake
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup oil
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk or non-dairy milk substitute (I use pareve/Rich’s whip)
¾ cup rolled oats
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup flour
½ cup butterscotch chips
¼ cup oil
¾ cup butterscotch chips
1 – 1 ½ Tablespoons of milk (or non-dairy substitute)
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a bundt pan well with floured baking spray and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sugars until smooth. Add the vanilla and oil and beat to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
Turn the mixer to low, and add in half of the flour mixture, then half of the milk, and repeat.
To prepare the streusel: combine all ingredients together in a small bowl until they are fully mixed.
Pour about 4/5ths of the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Sprinkle the streusel in an even layer over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the streusel. The streusel should just be covered by the batter, as it will sink while baking.
Bake the cake at 350° for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
When cake is fully cooled, prepare topping. Melt the butterscotch chips in a large bowl. Add the milk or pareve whip and stir until smooth. Drizzle the topping over the cooled cake. (Note: the topping will harden completely, not like a typical cake glaze.)
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