Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Drunk Date" Cake

What happens when you tweak a recipe? Usually you get a much better recipe. What happens when you give that tweaked recipe a little pinch in the ass? You get Apple-Date Whisky Cake! Also known as "Drunk Date" Cake.

I took my apple cake recipe from the other day and passed it a shot of Johnny Walker Black Label. OMG! This one is definitely keeper! I did a couple of tiny adjustments with the spices and since I ran out of dried cranberries, I used dried dates instead. In the original recipe, I plumped up the dried cranberries with a little lemon juice. But lemon juice didn't seem to strike the right chord with the dried dates. Looking around my kitchen, I found a bottle of Johnny Walker hiding in my cabinet. I don't typically drink whisky but I received this bottle as a gift one Christmas. It has, in the past found its way into several BBQ sauces and marinades, but never before into a dessert. I thought it would be a nice compliment to the dates ( I mean, who doesn't like a drunk date?!)

(I topped the cake with a cinnamon buttercream icing and chopped walnuts. My recipe for the icing was not as good as others that I have used in the past, so I won't include that recipe here. Why ruin an otherwise fantastic cake?)

"Drunk Date Cake" (Apple-Date Whisky Cake)

(To prevent over-browning due to the agave nectar, try baking at a lower temperature for a bit longer time.)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/2 cup light agave nectar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup finely chopped apple
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried dates-soaked in 1 shot(1/4 cup) of scotch whisky

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare pan (I used a bundt pan) with non-stick cooking spray and lightly dust with flour. In a medium bowl, sift in and mix first 7 ingredients. In a separate large bowl, mix agave nectar, applesauce, and vanilla, beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each egg. Add flour mixture little by little and beat until smooth. Drain extra whisky from dates. Gently mix in the apples, dates, and walnuts until well incorporated. Bake at 325 degrees for about 45-50 minutes or until a skewer stuck into the cake comes out clean.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My First Apple Cake!

It's beautiful at this time of year. This is the the time during the fall season that I like. It's still warm (in the 80s here for the past few days), the sun is shining, I've come to terms with the end of summer, the trees that haven't been ravaged by the Asian Longhorn beetle are bright yellow and orange, leaves are blowing on the ground... I just wish it could last.

The other thing I love about this time of year is the abundance of fruits and vegis that are ready to be harvested. My co-workers have been brining in bushels of big juicy apples. So the other day, I grabbed a few with the idea of baking an apple cake. But I didn't really have a recipe for apple cake just yet. I had plenty of apples so it was time to experiment. (You're shaking your head and rolling your eyes already.)

In my last post, I mentioned that I the first apple cake experiment was in the oven, filling the house with the most incredible aroma. Well here's the result.

My first apple cake.

This one is an Apple-Cranberry Nut Cake. It really wasn't a bad first attempt. Not great, but not bad. The recipe needed a little tweeking, which I have done already(see recipe below).

I had tried to make it a bit on the healthy side. I also have been experimenting with different flours so, in this one, I used a bit of quinoa flour. You'll notice that I left the quinoa flour out of the recipe below. Frankly, I didn't care for the taste that the quinoa flour left. The cake was moist, but there was hint of a dry, bland, sawdust quality to the taste. Part of the problem was that I had originally put a little too much nutmeg in the batter, so that had to be adjusted. But overall, it was the quinoa flour that had to go, I don't think it added anything to the recipe at all. I used agave nectar again, which I really like using in my baking in place of sugar. And I used applesauce in place of any oil. The adjusted recipe is really good.

And I never did figure out what type of icing to use (other than my favorite cream cheese icing) so I just dusted the cake slice with powdered sugar and cinnamon. I also tried it with a bit of mulberry preserves, which was yummy! But actually, the best way so far is with a bit of butter spread on the cake slice and I popped it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Mmmmmmmmm! Perfect for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee!

Apple-Cranberry Nut Cake

(To prevent over-browning due to the agave nectar, try baking at a lower temperature for a bit longer time.)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp allspice

1 1/2 cup light agave nectar

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1 cup finely chopped apple

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup dried cranberries (soaked in juice of 1 lemon)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare pan (I used a bundt pan) with non-stick cooking spray and lighlty dust with flour. In a medium bowl, sift in and mix first 6 ingredients. In a separate large bowl, mix agave nectar, applesauce, and vanilla, beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each egg. Add flour mixture little by little and beat until smooth. Gently mix in the apples, cranberries, and walnuts until well incorporated. Bake at 325 degrees for about 45-50 minutes or until a skewer stuck into the cake comes out clean.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It smells good in here...


In the oven right now, Apple Spice Cake. I haven't decided what type of icing to give it just yet. This one is a healthier recipe using agave nectar in place of sugar and applesauce instead of oil. It's the first time I'm experimenting with this concoction, so keep your fingers crossed.

So far so good. It looks just right and it smells incredible! If it tastes as good, I'll post the recipe and picture. Oh, I wish you could smell it! Scratch your computer screen and take a sniff...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Cupcakes, 3 Ways

Ok, so I couldn't decide what kind of cupcakes to make. I had some bananas that had to be used. I had some coconut and some butterscotch chips. Hmmmm, what to do? I did have a recipe for Coconut Banana Bread courtesy of CulinaryConcoctionsbyPeabody.com . But I had a few other things in mind. I made just a few minor adjustments to the recipe and then had a little fun with it...

Cupcake #1

Toasted Coconut Banana (ok, I can't find the picture now but they were good.)

This one pretty much followed the basic recipe. No big surprises.

Cupcake #2

Butterscotch Banana

Yummy butterscotch goodness with a caramel glaze and slivered almonds.

Cupcake #3

Hazelnut Banana with Nutella

Ya, these were as good as they look! Da bomb! A basic banana cupcake with chopped hazel nuts, topped with nutella (num, num, num) and more chopped hazel nuts.

The recipe:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter-room temp.

1 cup granulated sugar substitute

1/3 cup brown sugar substitute

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas

1/3 cup yogurt

1/2 tsp almond extract

additional ingredients:

(for cupcake #1)

1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut- toasted

(for cupcake #2)

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

1/2 cup slivered almonds

(for cupcake #3)

1 cup chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine first three ingredients.

In a large bowl, blend sugar and butter until smooth. Add eggs one at a time beating until smooth after each egg. Add banana, yogurt, almond extract, blend well. Add flour mixture and blend well.

(If doing different flavors, divide batter into thirds at this point.)

Stir in additional ingredients (according to the type of cupcake you are making). Pour batter into paper-lined cupcake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees 30-35 minutes.

To decorate:

(for cupcake #1)

I left the coconut cupcakes unfrosted and sprinkled toasted coconut over the tops while they were still hot so the coconut would stick. It gave them a rustic country look.

(for cupcake #2)

Just before serving, drizzle melted caramel over the tops and sprinkle with slivered almonds. This made an incredible "breakfast" cupcake! Wonderful with a cup of hot caramel cream coffee.

(for cupcake #3)

Give a healthy schmear of Nutella (chocolate/hazelnut spread) to each cupcake and don't be shy about it! Top each cupcake with chopped raw hazelnuts. There is no specific occassion necessary to enjoy this simple, yet decadent masterpiece. Go to town on this one any time of the day (or middle of the night) because they WILL be calling you...!

Been away for a while

Holy crap! Where did the summer go?! I guess I've been away for a while. Time to get back into the swing of things. I'll be posting more recipes soon, promise! And I've added a new link section for my favorite health conscious sites. Please check them out!

Monday, July 28, 2008

What would you bake for your own birthday?

Ok, so my birthday was at the beginning of the month. But in my family, July birthdays are a plenty. So instead of having a separate party for each person, they get grouped together all on the same day, somewhere in the middle of the month. This year, we decided that everyone would bring something to the party. Since I was arriving later than everyone else, I decided to bring dessert. Dessert being, of course, the cake. So, I thought, what kind of cake would I want for my birthday?

My Mega Cupcake, of course!
(approximately 10"diameter x 12" high)
I went back and forth trying to decide what flavor to make the giant cupcake. After much inner debate, I settled on Lemon Poppy Seed. A happy cake flavor for a happy giant cupcake. What better way to say happy birthday?!
Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Mega Cupcake w/ Lemon Almond Cream Cheese Icing
Truth be known, this is actually my second attempt at baking this cake. The first is a whole separate story. The original Mimosa Mega Cupcake (an adult version of the easy soda pop cake) that I had baked the night before had turned out ok but not (at least I thought so) the way I would have liked. (The Mimosa Mega Cupcake was actually devoured at work the next day and got rave reviews!) So, at 5am the next morning, knowing this was my last chance, I scrambled to find a recipe that I knew couldn't fail. Elinor Klivans to the rescue! I frantically paged through her book, "Cupcakes!" to find a recipe that I knew everyone would like and that called for ingredients that I already had (well, mostly) in my cupboards and fridge. I re-baked the giant cupcake with the Lemon Poppy Seed recipe. I had to make some last minute changes for ingredients that I had run out of but the Lemon Poppy Seed was definitely a hit. A little last minute decorating with fresh raspberries and green mini marshmallows on the cream cheese icing, and my birthday Mega Cupcake was complete. Light and fluffy on the inside with tons of lemony goodness.
As I said, I did have to make some substitutions during baking because I had run out of a few things and I was doing this second cake at 5am the day of the party (not a chance I was running out to the store again). Either way, the cake came out tasting and looking beautiful!
Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Cake
(Adapted from Elinor Klivans' Lemon Poppy Seed cupcake recipe in "Cupcakes!" The original recipe makes 1 regular cake or 12 regular cupcakes. I had to double this recipe to fill the giant cupcake pan. Below is the recipe for 1 regular sized cake, with the substitutions I made.)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt{or 1 tablespoon lemon juice+enough milk to make 1 cup}(original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of buttermilk. I substituted a combo of yogurt, lemon juice, and milk in my double-sized recipe. Don't laugh, it worked just fine!)
Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is blended and the batter is creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in the almond, lemon zest, and poppy seeds. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture, mixing to incorporate. Mix in the yogurt to blend it. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter is smooth.
Fill the prepared cake pan about 3/4 full with the batter. (If using the giant cupcake pan, set the pan on a cookie sheet to make it more stable on the oven rack.) Bake until the top feels firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (You will need to use a long wooden skewer to do this with the giant cupcake.) Cool the cake for about 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. To release the cake from the pan, place the wire rack on top of the pan and, while holding both the rack and pan securely, invert the rack and pan, let the cake rest on the wire rack. Let cool completely before icing.
Lemon Almond Cream Cheese Icing
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces fat free cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese, almond, and lemon juice until blended smooth. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, beat until blended and smooth after each cup.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Save an industry, eat tomatoes! A recipe challenge.

In the past two months, we in the US have seen tomatoes disappear from our grocery stores, vanished from the menus of our favorite restaurants, and filled our landfills with millions of fresh, juicy, goodness. Why?

Because the US Food and Drug Administration, on June 7, 2008 declared that three varieties of tomatoes had been contaminated with the deadly Salmonella bacteria. Let it be known, that the FDA has now cleared all types of tomatoes currently on the market and declared them safe to eat. But is is too little, too late?

In the days and weeks after the FDA warning of a salmonella outbreak, grocers across the country were forced to trash crate after crate of fresh tomatoes, restaurants were forced to remove fresh tomato based dishes from their menus, and prudent shoppers confused as to which tomatoes were declared unsafe (canned and jarred tomatoes were never declared a risk) stopped buying tomatoes altogether. What has resulted is sickening to the tomato industry, pun fully intended!

The truth is, the FDA has actually never found the root cause of the recent salmonella outbreak. In fact, after thousands of tests on tomatoes, and now jalapenos and cilantro, the FDA has not found a single salmonella bacterium of the same type as that connected to the outbreak.

"If they're going to do that kind of economic damage to a commodity group, then they should have a very firm foundation for making that determination," says Tom Nassif, the chief executive of the Western Growers Association.

By issuing warnings to the national public without having anything concrete to base their suspicions on has devastated the entire tomato farming industry. Farmers whose crops were still on the vines and just ready to be harvested when the announcement was made, instead were forced to plow under their fields and destroy millions of dollars worth of tomatoes that were not able to be sold. Truck loads of already harvested, yet undelivered tomatoes sat rotting. Somewhere between $100 to $250 MILLION has been lost to an entire industry because of the FDA's gaff. And they are well aware of the damage they have caused.

"The fact we cannot prove they were contaminated is going to stay with us forever," said David Acheson, FDA food-safety chief. As a personal note, gee it's swell that the FDA feels guilty about the debacle. But in the mean time, tomato growers are losing, at the very least, their entire seasons revenue, at most- there's no telling. After more than 18 months, spinach growers are still trying to recover from their own salmonella scare. And now, fearful shoppers are avoiding other fresh fruits and vegetables.

How can growers survive such devastating and irresponsible FDA reports? For one thing, the tomato industry is fighting back, demanding the agency be required to actually find a piece of contaminated fruit or vegetable before issuing such wide sweeping warnings. They are also demanding compensation to the growers, packers, and other industries greatly affected by the FDA warning.
And what can we do to help? Simple, buy tomatoes! Return to farmers' markets and load up on the fresh locally grown produce. Visit our favorite restaurants and savor our favorite fresh tomato-based dishes! Find all those tomato recipes that we've collected, and always meant to try, and actually make them!

For my part, I started with making my favorite pizza. A crispy delight of fresh tomatoes, basil, and goat cheese. Future recipes include a tomato tart, vodka penne with fresh tomatoes, a salsa study, tomato jelly, and a four-cheese omelet with fresh pico de gayo.
The Recipe Challenge:
I challenge all you lovers of the juicy red fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable) to come up with your very best tomato recipes and share them with us. And while we're add it, let's add spinach, cilantro, and jalapenos to the challenge (all ingredients need not be in the same recipe). Leave a link to your recipe in the comments section here on this post to share. Or better yet, post your recipe on tastespotting and tag it "Tomato Challenge". Your prize for the best recipe... bragging rights and the satisfaction of supporting the family owned produce growers that provide us with fresh ingredients every day.
Tomato Basil and Goat Cheese Pizza
(serves 6-8 according to dough package, or serves just me according to my love for pizza!)
1 tube pizza dough (or dough from you favorite pizzeria)- thawed but chilled
4 plump large Roma (or favorite variety) tomatoes- sliced
1/2 c fresh basil- chopped
1 medium red onion- sliced into rings no thicker than 1/4 inch
1 c pine nuts- toasted
2/3 c fresh basil and pine nut pesto
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/ tbsp dried fennel seed
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper- to taste
In a dry skillet over low to medium heat, lightly toast pine nuts until you just begin to smell them. Remove from heat and spread out on a paper towel to cool. Heat oven to 350F degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pizza dough to your desired thickness, repairing any holes. (Round or square doesn't matter.) Press 1/2 cup of pine nuts into dough, spreading evenly. Brush the dough and pine nuts with extra virgin olive oil. Spread pesto evenly over dough. Lay out slices of tomato to completely cover the dough. Layer on red onions. sprinkle with oregano, fennel seed, and remaining pine nuts. Salt and pepper to taste. Crumble fresh goat cheese over the entire pizza. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Transfer pizza to a pizza stone or un-greased pizza pan/cookie sheet. Bake until dough is a golden brown on the bottom and cheese has softened and browned slightly. Time will vary according to the thickness of crust. Serve hot with your favorite beer or wine. (Although cold pizza for breakfast is money!)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How Corny Can You Get?

I love that you can see all the cheese and corn kernels. It gives it more rustic look that makes everything look so much more appetizing.

Judging from the title of this post, I guess I can get pretty corny!

Cheesy Cornbread Goodness!

I was actually referring to a yummy little treat that I whipped up for breakfast the other day. A cheesy cornbread that I served with chorizo and eggs. I don't usually keep bread in my house because I'm a breadaholic and would eat every last crumb before the day is out anyway.

Is that a crumb on that plate?!

So on this particular morning, when I was craving a slice of toast to go with my eggs I rummaged through my tiny cabinets and came up with a box of cornbread mix. Now I could have made this recipe from scratch, but if you have the mix already, why not? It took about 5 minutes to mix up and was done in no time at all. How did it turn out? Well, just about as good as this cheesy cornbread goodness looks!

I baked these cornbread goodies in individual ramekins for easy serving.

The recipe was pretty easy, considering I started with a boxed mix. But that makes it so great for breakfast. There's not a whole lot to have to think about in the morning before your coffee.

Cheesy Cornbread

1 box prepared (Fat Free) cornbread mix

1 1/2 cups water

2 tbsp frozen corn kernels- thawed

1 tbsp roasted red pepper- chopped

1 1/2 cups Mexican 4-cheese blend-finely shredded

In a large mixing bowl, combine cornbread mix and water and mix on high until well incorporated. Fold in 1 cup of cheese blend. Divide mixture into 4 medium-sized ramekins. Top with corn, red pepper and remaining cheese. Bake at 350F for 8-12 minutes or until golden and a toothpick in stuck into the center comes out clean. Serve hot.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

TasteSpotting- It's Back!!!!!!!

Wake up, wake up, wake up!!! All of you foodies who have had no reason to get out of bed in the morning...all you culinary addicts scrounging for a fix...all desperate food porn seekers flipping the tv remote to watch nothing but the food commercials... turn off the gas and get your heads out of your ovens. Today is a new day and life is good! Make that, LIFE IS DELICIOUS!

What a great way to wake up in the morning! To flip open the notebook and log onto my blog, and on a whim (and out of habit) click onto the link for TasteSpotting just to see what would happen. I couldn't believe my eyes!

TasteSpotting has returned! The delectable web site has found a new home and has picked up right where it left off. I can't wait to jump back in and roll around in that yummy goodness! In the past week, TasteSpotting has had something cooking. Another note on the cyber-fridge, the sound of pots and pans clanking behind the computer screen...hmm, I wondered why I smelled paprika coming from my hard drive.

The absence of Tastespotting since friday the 13th of June has been upsetting, to say the least. But if there was one savory thing to come from it, it would be the emergence of FoodGawker. Thanks to Chuck at SundayNightDinner, epicurians everywhere have had a safe haven to weather out the storm. FoodGawker has had a great start and seems to be taking off. I hope it stays around. Like digging a fork into a rich, gooey double chocolate cake (the breakfast of champions), FoodGawker and TasteSpotting together is double the fun. What could possibly be wrong with that?!

Grab a Bloody Mary to nurse those hangovers. It's time to get cooking!

Chuck said...
Thanks for the kind words regarding Food Gawker. We definitely plan on staying around!
June 28, 2008 2:03 PM

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Whoop, whoop!! The Great Whoopie Pie Experiment

I've been wanting to try making whoopie pies for a while now. Actually, I only just recently found out what these yummy little goodies were named. They are basically two cake cookies with icing in the middle. Sounds so simple, looks so decadent. I chose to make mine with a pumpkin spiced cake batter. I also love chocolate so of course I had to throw in some milk chocolate chips. And I chopped some pecans to roll the edges.

My first experiment with these are not quite the result I saw in my head when dreaming of these every night. But they turned out good enough to take into work and share. Believe me, when you are involved in the study of "experimental culinary goodness" there are more than a few recipes that lack a little, well, goodness. Those less than triumphal results usually stay at home on the kitchen counter or in the fridge until they have sufficiently ripened to the point that I no longer feel guilty about dumping them in the garbage.

Not a bad first attempt, but a little more filling will help.

In the Great Whoopie Pie Experiment of June 2008, I accidentally discovered a twist that I had not expected, but like so much more than the whoopie in my dreams. First, since this first batch was a test, I made them with a little less icing than normal. I just wanted to make sure that I has the taste down, I could always add as much icing as I wanted for the final version. But testing recipes can add a lot of "real estate" to my butt in a very short time. For this reason, I also made most of them in a mini version. The minis were cute and just needed a little less time in the oven, although they didn't puff up as much as the larger version. The lack of icing, however, does make it difficult to roll the edges in the pecans because there is not much for the nuts to stick to.

I had a little cream cheese icing left over from my big giant Red Velvet Mega Cupcake. Once the icing was gone, I had to improvise. I checked around the kitchen for inspiration. On the TV in the other room, the opening melody of Giada DeLaurentis' "Everyday Italian" began to chime out and inspiration struck. Giada, although not in this episode, often makes the most devilish desserts with Nutella. Many times I have had to wipe the drool from my chin as I watch her make something like a Nutella Pizza or Fried Ravioli with Nutella Filling. And lo, up on the top shelf of my all too tiny kitchen cabinet was a lone jar of the chocolate and hazelnut ambrosia of the gods.

Nutella to the rescue!

My mini, flat whoopies were saved. Adding the Nutella in the middle was genius. That wonderful pumpkin spice was perfectly complimented and the pecans stuck like glue in the gooey goodness. When I make these for the final testing, they will definitely have the Nutella. Silly me... cream cheese icing, what was I thinking?!

Mini Pumpkin Spiced Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies With Nutella Filling and Pecans

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Food Gawker- A New Tasty Treat!

After a sad day of learning about the end of Tastespotting.com, a shining beacon of hope has come to the rescue. The cyber-refrigerator door has opened and the little light has come on to reveal a new site hoping to pick up where Tastespotting left off.

FoodGawker.com has taken the reigns to lead lovers of "food porn" to the promised land. Bloggers are already posting and it seems to be off to a great start. I for one will be checking it out as soon as I'm done writing this post.

I hear there are other sites starting to pop up hoping to create something as wonderful as Tastespotting. I will hunt them down and add links to my column on the left as I find them.

Food is one of the essentials of life, and so too is food blogging! Thank you Chuck from Sunday Night Dinner for getting Food Gawker up and running so quickly. You don't know how many meals you have saved!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lil' baby herbs...koochie koo!

So far my little 4th grade science experiment seems to be working. Just a few days after beginning my herb garden, little sprouts have begun to form!

The basil seeds are sprouting. Mmmmm, I can taste the pesto already!

This tarragon will go marvelously with a nice juicy steak...in about a month or so.

I'm so excited. The other seeds have not sprouted yet but a few of them look almost ready. I think the coriander will be the next to start showing signs of life and it will be on its way to becoming cilantro. Ooh, I have so many recipes that call for cilantro, it bugs me that I still have to buy it while I wait. Patience, patience...

Posted by LittleBrownBird at 5:42 PM

moonmystic said...
I always loved those experiments!
June 11, 2008 9:05 PM
jealousydesign said...
oh, so fun to see! I need to get started with my plants to.
June 11, 2008 9:09 PM

Monday, June 9, 2008

My Obsession!!!!

I finally did it! After months of working out and watching every tiny calorie to get in shape for summer, I have finally given in to the one nagging craving that has haunted me through every weigh-in. I have endured countless disgusted looks from restaurant servers when I asked if the chef could make my plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli without oil or butter. I have suffered endless bruises from falling off my excercise "Bean" while doing crunches. I have knocked the lamp off the bedroom dresser and kicked the dog (sorry, Zuzu) twice while Tae-bo'ing. And it has paid off, having lost nearly 40lbs. since September. Back to my fighting weight of 121lbs., all I have to do is wait for summer to get here.

Of course, here in the midwest, the unofficial start to summer happened on Memorial Day. When WAS that again? Mother nature seems to have forgotten the traditional start to the sun, fun, and beach season. Well, WTF?! I busted my @$$ for rain every freakin' day? Tornado warnings, flash floods, hail! Ya, I said HAIL! You know, that stuff that is actually chunks of ICE falling from the sky! In JUNE!

That does it. No more Ms. Nice Girl. I promised my self that when I reached my goal weight and summer arrived, I was going to give in to my obsession. I have been craving a Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing. Just a cupcake. Not a big deal. What harm could that be?

The Mega Cupcake! Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Monster Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing!

Mmmmmmm, yummy goodness. What? If I'm going to have to wait for Mother Nature to get her act together, I might as well take full advantage of the situation. (For size reference: The dish used in the photo is my grandmother's fine china serving charger.)

Posted by LittleBrownBird at 3:21 PM
Labels: ,

Silver Canyons said...
that's just awesome!!!! I am sure you look absolutely FAB!!!!!Keep it up girl!!!
June 9, 2008 5:02 PM
jealousydesign said...
wow! that is so strong of you to make it! I wish I had that self discipline. that cake looks so yummy........
June 9, 2008 8:27 PM
moonmystic said...
Congrats on working so hard and earning your reward. I hope it was dreamy.
June 9, 2008 9:08 PM
Mary Ryan said...
June 14, 2008 4:34 PM

Sunday, June 8, 2008

In the kitchen with Mary...

I have decided to go ahead with making my cookbook. Everytime I cook something really yummy I think, "Why don't I write this down and take a picture of it?" I have so many ideas for recipes. Making a cook book might give me the reason to go ahead and test some new things. And I'll be photographing the ones that turn out "pretty" so I can remember what they are supposed to look like because I just hate cook books without pictures! I never know if I've made it right or how it should be plated.

mmm...doesn't it just make you drool?

This first recipe that is going into the book is a smoked turkey sausage served with spaghetti squash, into which, I mixed 3 different cheeses. I cleverly named it...wait for the drum-roll...
Smoked Turkey Sausage with 3-Cheese Spaghetti Squash
I know, shocking! I'm so creative sometimes. I'd like to think I use so much of my creativity in my cooking that there's nothing left for the name. (wink) Whatever, I'm just a dork.

Oh ya, I'm not a vegan!

I will be refining the recipe a little before I set the final version in stone. I used red onion, which I usually don't cook because I prefer the bite of it when it's raw. But I had a little red onion left over in the fridge that I wanted to use before it went bad (naughty onion) so I mixed it with a little spanish onion, also a left-over. I really want the sausage to stand out though so I think I might try this with shallots next time. According to Mario (Iron Chef Mario Batali), shallots have a more subtle flavor. I don't remember a specific time that I have cooked with shallots before but I'm sure I have. And I like the slight pinkish color of shallots too. I want this dish to be colorful. I thought of adding roasted red pepper or sundried tomatoes to the mix but I thought the flavors would get too much in the way of the sausage, and certainly the spaghetti squash, for this one.
Spaghetti squash has such a lightness about it that it is easily overwhelmed by other stronger flavors. For that reason, I am also going to cut down on the amount of cheese. Oh, there will still be three cheeses, just not as much. I didn't use much cheese to begin with. But I also want to make this a healthy dish. I chose cheeses that pack a lot of flavor in them so I don't have to use so much to get the point across. You're dying to know what they are, aren't you? Fine, whatever. I used a little fresh goat cheese to create a nice creamy sauce. I also love, love, love asiago so I had to throw that in there. The last one was one that I haven't cooked with before. I found that aged provolone, which I don't like in my favorite tomato and provalone sandwhich (I prefer the lighter taste of regular provalone for that), is quite nice when melted. The aged provalone has a good bite to it like parmesan but...different. The asiago and aged provalone do get a little oily (which doesn't really jive with the whole "healthy" thing) when melted but I think that problem will be solved once I reduce the amounts used.

Isn't it pretty?

The result of this first try was incredibly "nummers"! The kitchen smelled sooooo good and it looked good enough to, well, eat. Don't laugh, you haven't heard about all my culinary disasters. That's going to be a whole other book. And my neighbors must think I'm crazy, out on the patio taking "beauty shots" of my food before I eat it! Whatever, it's my world, everyone else is just scenery. LOL!
Posted by LittleBrownBird at 8:19 AM

moonmystic said...
Oh my yummy!
June 8, 2008 12:59 PM
Made By Tammy said...
That is Pretty!I'm going to come over and take it off your patio, Yum!!
June 8, 2008 8:11 PM

Spice Cabinet Woes!

I'm hoping to figure out a way to organize this mess. I have the tiniest kitchen and only this tiny cabinet to store all my spices. As you can see, I use A LOT of spices when I cook. Very few of these go unused.

A close up of the scene of the crime!

I spend most of my "cooking" time looking for the spice or dried herb that I need. And when I open the cabinet, tiny bottles go flying into my sauce pans! I don't exactly have a user-friendly kitchen.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My New Herb Garden

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I love cooking with fresh herbs. But I hate buying them at the grocery store. I mean, are they kidding charging $3.89 for a tiny package of fresh basil?! Yowza! Times are tough. $3.89 is ALMOST a gallon of gas these days. (And don't get me started on that!) So, it's time to cut back somewhere.

I will be planting my own herb garden in a couple of big pots on my patio since my townhome association doesn't allow such planting in the yard.

Who knew 4th grade was important?
As best that I can remember from left to right, starting at the top: Mint, Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Cilantro/Coriander, Basil, Tarragon, Dill.

I'm starting my herb garden the way I learned in 4th grade. Lay the seeds out on a wet paper towel and cover. They should start sprouting in a few days.

Coriander is the seed form of Cilantro.

Basil seeds.
These are so cool! Just about 2 minutes under the wet paper towel and already they begin to transform. Don't these kind of look like caviar at this stage?

I do admit to having a brown thumb when it comes to gardening so this might be a bit of an adventure at best. At worst, I'll be starting this over again next week. I can't wait to start cooking with these though. They say food tastes better when you make it yourself. I'm hoping the same is true when you grow your own herbs.
Posted by LittleBrownBird at 9:31 AM

Jewelry on Etsy Team said...
Hey-- I just found out a great trick-- on the really tough-thick shelled seeds-- nick it with a knife or sand a bit with a nail file-- the water will activate the sprouting process MUCH faster!!!Fish
June 12, 2008 10:49 AM