Category Archives: Food Blogs

Daring Bakers April 2008– Success!

Those who know me well know that I don’t do well with fiddly details. You see, at work, I’m a perfectionist I work with statistics and economics and data analysis, I have to be precise and perfect all the time, and when I come home, I want to make ginormous sticky measures and play around. Plus, I don’t seem to have the coordination to make pretty little fussy things, though I do hope to improve my cake decorating skills this year. So, when I tell you that making these chocolate-dipped cheesecake pops from the aptly named cookbook Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor was dead simple, and that it is nowhere near as difficult as it looks, please believe me. In fact, not only were they gorgeous and individually portioned– perfect for parties– but they were also easy enough that I’d be willing to do it again, and have been requested to do so for a friend’s wedding! Plus, I got to wander around the Dupont Circle farmer’s market this morning giving them out to my unsuspecting food providers as a thank you for hanging out in the wet to make sure that I eat well this week.

And, really, if even I can make them look so pretty, imagine what you can do. I made half of them plain chocolate-dipped (O Organics chocolate bits), and half covered with toasted hazelnut bits. I also did 2 covered in some leftover sprinkles, but didn’t get to take a picture of them. Next time I think I’ll also try colored sugar, and I’ll probably try it with darker chocolate. I also might use a little more shortening than the recipe called for- the chocolate coating was a little thick, but it was probably my fault as– big surprise– I altered the recipe! Well, really adjusted it by 4/5ths.

You see, I order my dairy (for the most part) from a loverly company called South Mountain Creamery. They deliver it to me at work, and I take it home. The creamery is fabulous, and having access to it, I couldn’t imagine using Philly cream cheese, as dependable and thick as it is, for this cake. South Mountain Creamery, however, only delivers the plain flavor of cream cheese in 1-lb containers. The recipe called for 5! 8-oz packages of cream cheese, and I really did not want to buy 3 of them and have half a pound making its’ way to my hips. I suppose I could’ve halved it and had the same problem, but that isn’t like me. I have to do it the hard way. So, I made 4/5ths, made the main cake in a 9″ cake pan, and filled 24 mini cupcake liners, hoping with a very little bit of excess batter. Unfortunately, I must have overwhipped the batter, because the cupcakes and cake sank a lot after rising, making the mini-cupcakes unusable as pops. Luckily, they were tasty on their own; Had they lasted long enough, I would have piped some chocolate into the sunken center and decorated that. However, I had to bring them into work before I could, to get them out of my greedy little hands.

I can’t recommend this recipe enough. Please make it! It’s creamy, the chocolate crackles under your tongue, and you can personalize it so many ways. Plus, even if you can’t find lollipop sticks, it works fine on straws, and then you get pretty bright colors. A giant hit. Thank you so much to Elle, Deborah, and the rest of the Daring Bakers for this recipe.

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Filed under cake, cheese, chocolate, daring bakers, dessert, Food Blogs, holiday, Uncategorized, vegetarian

A Festival of Desserts

I had many, many people in my tiny, tiny apartment today to celebrate… well, my love of baking, I suppose. There were a lot of things I wanted to try making and not enough patience or calories in a day to do it piecemeal, so I invited everyone I knew in DC to come by and have some dessert.

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It was great fun, of course (how could friends and desserts not be?), and I particularly impressed myself by spontaneously cooking up a quick, easy dinner at the spur of the moment for everyone without flipping out– with just ingredients I had in the pantry. Now, to most of the experienced cooks and homemakers out in the blogosphere, this may seem like no big deal; however… well, I tend to be the planning type, as you may have noticed. And if there are *people* coming over, I like to go all out. It was nice to feel confident and comfortable enough to just throw something I knew how to make without making a fuss together from my bare cupboards and not freak out or order pizza when things comfortably ran on into the evening hours.

The first beauty, one of my all-time favorites, is a Linzer Tart cookie made with hazelnuts substituted for almonds. It worked pretty well, but the hazelnuts seemed to be a little oilier than the almonds. so next time I do them, I’ll reduce the butter slightly. I filled them with raspberry jam, but I’d love to try nutella in the future. Unfortunately, the way I rolled them was sort of a pain. I don’t have circular cookie cutters, so I made do with a glass for the big circles and a soda bottle cap for the cutout centers. In the future, when I make them for home consumption, I think I’ll make them as “circular” (i.e. cut off from a chilled log that’s roughly circular) sandwich cookies. Less dramatic, but they should taste just as good, and I’m more likely to make them if they’re not as a pain.

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These are gingersnaps. I’d never had gingersnaps until last year, when I fell in love with the buttery, spicy treats I got at a cookie swap. The dough freezes beautifully, and so it’s very convenient to store a log in the freezer for when people decide to drop by. The shine you may or may not notice on the top comes from ginger-sugar (similar to cinnamon sugar) sprinkled on just before baking.

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I made marshmallows, too, for the first time. Don’t they look like big, fluffy, somewhat irregular (oops), comfy pillows? They tasted and felt markedly different from the storebought ones, much in the same way that boxed mac and cheese and boxed cake mix taste different from the homemade versions. Both are good, but you really have to think of them as being entirely different products or else it’s impossible to like whichever you tasted second.

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These are the base to “apple pie” cupcakes that I topped with whipped cream and graham goldfish crackers. I made the base from a mix, Hodgson Mill Vanilla Bean. I usually make my own cake, but there was plenty of mess going on, and while the boxed mixes barely save time, they sure do save on mess and cleanup time. Hodgson Mill is the most homestyle of the mixes I’ve tried, though I also like the Trader Joes version for homestyle desserts. For trashy dessert nights, I occasionally buy Betty Crocker. When I feel like baking, I search blogs and try a new one almost every time– when it comes to vanilla cake, anyway. I love Orangette’s chocolate cake recipe, and use it as my standard. Anyway, I sauteed apples in sugared and spiced butter, and poured some over each cupcake before baking. After would have been good, too, but less portable. I got the idea somewhere on the blogosphere, but I really can’t remember where. If you know, let me know. I hate not to give credit where credit’s due, especially since they were a big hit.

I didn’t get pictures of two things. The first, chocolate pudding, was far too rich for most people’s taste– made from cream, milk, chocolate, and sugar, it was so rich that it was pretty much solid– so most people “cut” it with extra whipped cream. I also made tiramisu (also a first-time endeavor.) It was time consuming and fabulous, and I made waaaaay too much. Leftovers for work, I believe. After having made it, I can tell you it is *decidedly* not healthy.

Now that you’ve all gained weight just looking at the pictures, I think I’ll call it bedtime. Let me know if you want a recipe, I’m always happy to share.

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Filed under Cookies, dessert, Food Blogs, Uncategorized

Mmm… Tastes Like Arugula

Or perhaps the reverse. Arugula will probably always taste like victory to me.

I handed in the first draft of my Masters thesis late last night– overdue, of course, mainly due to my inability to do anything important the easy way. Of course, the first thing I did after that (well, after a night of drinking and music, and then some sleep…) was go to the farmer’s market and brag to one of the farmer’s I speak to every week about its’ completion. I believe that her name is Missy, but as I don’t usually address her by name, I generally just call her the lettuce lady. Clearly, that’s what she grows. Beautiful hydroponic lettuce, fresh from the farm— often with roots still attached (we called the little butterball we got a few weeks ago Oscar, and he was adorable).

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(The Lettuce Lady, picture lifted from their website.)

The lettuce lady, after a brief discussion of my thesis and much gushing (wheee! I am incredible!), gifted me with arugula to take away with my lettuce mix. I was touched. Then, the milk man gifted me with a large bottle of milk because he sold out of my usual single-person size, the bread girl gifted me with her tester remnants, and the mushroom lady sold me a giant bag of mushrooms at a very reduced cost. Not all because of the thesis, just some– I didn’t go around bragging too much… but because they’ve gotten to know me, and it was the end of the day, and I drop my money reliably on impulse vegetable purchases. All in all, I saved at least ten dollars on my weekly grocery run, maybe more.

I’m not bragging- honestly! In fact, what I originally wanted to talk about was how lovely it felt to be a part of that community, and how exciting it was to get to talk with dairy farmers about agriculture policy on Sunday mornings.

But then, about an hour ago, my roommate woke up from her nap craving cookies. I was in an odd mood and craving a walk, so I walked to the 7-11 down the block in my PJs to drop money- about $10, again- on junk food and soda, food with no nutrient and soul value. Right in front of the 7-11 was a beautiful elderly Turkish woman, homeless, with her cart in front of her. I said hi as I passed, and she didn’t ask me for money- a rarity in the DC area, where there’s a homeless person on every block, and many of them heckle you every time you enter a store. Humbled by the irony of the purchases I was about to make, I turned around and gave the woman the $10 bill from my wallet and told her that I hoped she’d find it useful. She followed me into the store and made some purchases- I tried to give her some space.

On my way out, we chatted for a few minutes. Her name is the same as my sister’s, and she told me that every day, she feels God’s blessings. Every day. Goodness, I just finished the bulk of my thesis, and let me tell you, despite the luxury that it is to have that stress, I did not feel blessed most days during the process. I continued up the hill, berating myself for giving away money; I’m a graduate student on a budget, and while I’ve been told to budget for fun stuff like midnight 7-11 runs, I’ve never been taught to give away money, and I’ve always had the slight feeling that by giving away money I’m hindering change in the system that produces such extreme poverty.

Then I remembered the generosity of the farmers this morning, the beauty of their gifts and company, and the savings to my own budget, and was suddenly grateful for having passed on the gift, even though those who gave it did not expect any such thing.

This is how communities grow.

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Filed under arugula, Food Blogs

Foods that Blow My Mind

I’m not dead, just in the middle of exams and not doing much cooking. But while my mind is being blown by a fabulous lunch that my wonderful roomie cooked me, I’m going to make a list of 5 foods that have surprised and delighted me recently. Feel free to chime in with your own.

1. Twice baked potatoes– made with cream cheese! (whoever heard of that?! but it’s amazing), cheddar, spinach, and onions.

2. Homemade tzatziki sauce– amazing, and great to pack w/ veggies for lunch.

3. Pad Woon Sen Jae– I love this, and get it every time I go out for Thai food. If only I weren’t too intimidated to try cooking Asian foods other than stir fries at home.

4. Homemade chai– so different from the guilty-pleasure Starbucks variety, and yet deliciously creamy and spicy nonetheless.

5. Natural honey peanut butter with multi-grain crackers– Oddly, this is nowhere near as good on white flour crackers. A good midterms food for obvious reasons, but as I don’t normally like peanut butter or anything with peanuts, I have to thank my friend Jess, who knows to gift me with food.

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Penne as Promised

Penne a la Vodka, in fast. Not a health food, but it’s so good. And, you know, sometimes you need easy comfort food. Of course, many of the people collecting pasta recipe’s at Once Upon a Feast agree. Thank you, Ruth, for hosting Presto Pasta Nights.
I’d try to do more describing, but I think that this picture speaks for itself:

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(Served with garlic bread and yesterday’s arugula-pear salad)

To achieve your own plate of yummy pasta comfort, take a cup of cream in a small pot and cook it down until it halves in volume. While you’re doing that, cook 4 pieces of bacon in a large skillet with tall edges or medium sized pot, and put a pot of water up to boil for pasta (add enough pasta for 4 members of your household to the pot when it boils). Add 1 cup of tomato sauce, cream, and 2oz of vodka to the bacon and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Combine sauce with pasta. Eat. Smile.

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(Mmmm. Sauce)

Also, bonus points (yeah, I’m not sure what those are good for either) to anyone who can guess what this was made into:

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Filed under alcohol, Food Blogs, pasta

Peppers and Penne and Potatoes, Oh my!

Well, to be fair, only one will be featured in this entry, the other two are more… teasers. However, I made a well-recieved stuffed red pepper dish the other day, and as red peppers are an antioxidant rich food, particularly when combined with the arugula-pear salad I served it with, I’m happy to submit this entry as part of Sweetnicks’ ARF-5 event. Check out the other entries here!

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The peppers were inspired by the mushroom and cheese stuffed pepper tapas my family enjoyed at Jaleo last month. Of course, I used up all my mushrooms making Faerie Pasta, so I had to improvise, but I really think that any vegetable and cheese (or uncheese combination would work using this technique.

I used:

9 mini sweet peppers (red, yellow, and green)
2 oz fresh mozarella
2 oz feta
1/2C cooked couscous (could also use rice, or nothing– the original had no starch, but I’m a carb addict)
1/2 cup textured vegetable protein or meat (also optional, but I try’n sneak in my protein wherever I can.)
3 tbsp. tomato paste (could also use fresh tomato)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4c onions
1/4 c carrot
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1/2c water or broth/stock
salt/ pepper to taste

First, wash peppers thoroughly and slice the very head off, deseeding as you go. (I tried two ways, “buckets” and “boats”, and found the buckets to be better textured– even though the buckets are arguably prettier).

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Lay pepper buckets on a foil-lined tray and preheat the oven to 350.

Sautee onion and carrot in olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat until you can smell the onions, add the garlic , sautee another 30 seconds, and then add the TVP/ meat. For TVP, sautee another minute and a half, for meat, sautee until cooked all the way through.

Combine TVP/ meat mixture with other ingredients (reserving water/stock and peppers) and pulse in blender until a paste is formed, adding water/stock as necessary. The finished consistency should be that of somewhat loose mashed potatoes.

Spoon the filling into the pepper “buckets”, and bake until the pepper begins to brown/ blacken at the edges, around 20 minutes in my oven.

Serve with a salad, preferably the one I made– arugula, pear, parmesan cheese, and a mustard-vinegar dressing. Yum. I could live off of that salad, at least until I remembered that I’m obsessed with pasta.

As your trivia of the day, in Australia red pepper is called capsicum and arugula is called rocket. In fact, I didn’t know that I’d even had arugula before until I bit into it last night and realized that it was my old, familiar friend.

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Filed under cheese, Food Blogs, greens, pear, pepper, Uncategorized, veggies

Faerie Pasta

Someone once told me an erotic story of a woman who saw a man she fancied at a art gallery exhibition of faerie/ woodland art. The woman, the story goes, ate nothing but mushrooms for a week, so that she would smell– and taste– of mushrooms, fashioned herself an enormous set of faerie wings, and snuck into the man’s bedroom as he slept, allowing him to think that the seduction that ensued was just a dream.

If I ate mushrooms for a week, I hope I’d be able to have them prepared this way:

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Simple, fast, and oh so good.

Per person:

 

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced parsley (fresh)
1.5 cups of sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1.5 cups of pasta (cooked)
salt, pepper, parmesan (to taste)

Set up pasta water to boil. In a heavy saucepan, sautee garlic in olive oil until you can smell it (about 30 seconds on medium-high heat). Add parsley and mushrooms and sautee until tender. You can add a little pasta water, preferably after you put the pasta in and it releases some starch, as needed to prevent sticking and burning. When both pasta and mushroom mixture are ready, add 1/4 cup pasta water, lemon juice, cream, salt, and pepper to mushrooms, then toss in the pasta. Serve with parmesan (and, if you’re good, a salad.)

Y um! And the leftovers are fantastic.

 

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Filed under Food Blogs, mushroom, pasta