Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Break: Day II & III

Winter Break Day II (Christmas Day):
Hub told me he had to work, and I almost exclaimed "but it's Christmas!" and then realized that we don't celebrate Christmas. It's just so infectious that Christmas spirit! So it was me and les kides plus one (playdate)- baking project was definitely in order. We made 'smores bars with marshmallows, golden grahams, semisweet choc chips. And continued to trash the house. For dinner I made a hearty mid-winter roast.-fa lala la chaim.

'Smores Bars
Melt 1/2 c. butter in a saucepan, add 1 bag of marshmallows to butter and stir vigotously until marshmallows pretty much melt. Pour marshmallows into large pyrex bowl and mix in 5 c. golden grahams cereal and then 1/2 c. of semi-sweet chocolate. Mix well, chocolate will melt and be incorporated in with the marshmallow and golden grahams.

Day III: Not so good, my patience is starting to wear thin, although we did play at least 20 games of Connect Four. Had a minor eruption today- not at the kids, but still... Must work on being more centered "ommmmmmygod"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Winter Break: Day I

Day one of Winter Break and so far so good. With the assistance of TV, caffeine, an absorbing craft here and there, a daily baking project, and a well-placed play date this should be a snap, of my sanity. Being with kids indoors all day long requires lots of patience and a little creativity, and only a moderate amount of meds. All hilarity aside, I'm going to have to try and pull out my A game for the next week, until mother dear arrives and saves me just in the nick of time (New Year Eve).
Todays cooking/baking project will be tonight's dinner- Pizza. I got premade dough, and they can roll that out. Maybe I'll mix up some sauce, they can help me stir and measure. We can make pizza art with the leftover craft supplies from my kiddie cooking class- I have cardboard circles, red, orange, yellow tissue paper cut into squares, sequins, buttons, glitter glue. A mmm mmm good mixed media pizza.

Pizza Sauce
Sautee 2 -3 chopped garlic cloves in 2 tbsp. olive oil, when garlic become fragrant and slightly golden in tone, dump a can of fire roasred diced tomatoes and a can of tomato sauce, 2 tbsp. of tomato paste. Stir for a while until it gets saucy. Add 1 tsp. oregano, a couple grinds of black pepper. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes or more.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Holidays!

This holiday season is turning out to be quite picturesque. A robust and engulfing snow storm that began late saturday afternoon and continued to bluster through the night, made this sunday morning bright and white. And now that I am pretty much done with all my holiday commitments, I'm feeling as light and giddy as a snowflake. I just took the last of the brownie batches from the oven. I'm giving my neighbors, and the many people who make our life easier, a cookie tin piled full with brownies and a gift card to Starbucks to go along (coffee + brownies = a snatch of heaven).
Last week I leaped from the Hanukkah cooking and craftfest to the last of my chocolate orders to my last kiddie cooking class- which deserves a brief mention: Ice cream cone cupcakes. It was my chance to release my inner Willy Wonkette and let the sugar reign. Throughout the 10 week program I emphasized sensible eating and moderation, but in honor of my favorite chef quote: Moderation in everything, even moderation (Jacques Pepin), I let them have it!
Rachel, why are we baking cupcakes in ice cream cones? All the easier to lick the frosting and sprinkles off my dearies. I set up a milk bar for them and gave them a choice of chocolate, caramel, and strawberry syrup. I threw in a marshmallow dreidel project for good measure. And with a bag o' gelt and a kiddie baking set (whisk, rolling pin, and cookie cutters)I set them on their way.
And as a bright ending to our eight days of Hanukkah, we had company on friday night. It was a crispy finale- beginning with fried cod cakes and a bed of greens doused in a simple vinaigrette. Continuing on with a batch of extra golden crispy latkes among other olive oil inspired delicities.
And now I am done. Free to sit back and enjoy the holiday season, specatacle, and let's not forget-sales. I am planning an evening of holiday lights drive by shooting, me and my camera and the best and brightest my neighborhood has to offer. I really love this time of year! Kiddles are off as of thursday and there are a whole lot of things I want to do with them. Excited about the absence of schedules, just shoving the I-gotta-do-this/need-to-do-that's, and hanging out in our PJ's for a day or two. Yay!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I love the first snow of the season. I love the cold stillness of the morning after a snowfall. And I was lucky this year that I got to take a few breaths and enjoy this first snow, while it is still pristine, fluffy and perfect. Over the past couple of weeks I've had my nose down, back hunched, and hands atwitter working on a few holiday chocolate orders,and other assorted commitments. Last night was book group which is always a fun time. We read Astrid and Veronika which was worthwhile, the writing was so descriptive and detailed. The story is really touching and thought-provoking. Thumbs up from me. I made an eggnog cheesecake with a gingerbread crust which was OK, but not as good as last year's. I think I got a little too merry with the rum, and I don't care what anyone says- you could taste freezer in it.
Tomorrow night is the first night of Hanukkah...fa la la la la. Friday night dinner will have the fried food quotient of the holiday that makes fried potatoes into a quasi-religious icon- now that's something I believe in: the glory and wonder of a perfectly fried potato. It'll be pot roast and latkes, followed by jelly-filled donuts- and the first light of Hanukkah. The first night of Hanukkah is a lot like the first snow, exciting, new, fun. By the fifth night you're over it.
On sunday, when Hanukkah is still in it's early days I'm doing a family holiday cooking and craft project at the JCC. I figure I'll use this month's article as a template. We'll make jelly donut muffins, which seem to be very popular this season. Marshamallow dreidels dipped in chocolate would also be fun. To break up all the cooking activity they can make Hanukkah decorations with popsicle sticks and sparkles. I'll play Mama Doni's groovey Hanukkah disco CD (Hanukkah Fever). A fun time will be had by all.

Peel and grate 5 medium sized potatoes- squeezed of liquid, mix in 2 beaten eggs or 1/4 c. egg braters, 1 envelope onion soup mix. Drop by the small scoops in a skillet of sizzling hot vegetable oil. Fry on both sides until a warm and toasty shade of amber. Enjoy while hot.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Thanks

I love Thanksgiving. I love that there is a day set aside for everyone in this great land to celebrate, regardless of personal politics, religion, orientation. A day to come together and enjoy a good meal, a meal that is often a group effort. It is a day that promotes gratitude and thankfulness, an attitude that I try to keep going throughout the year, but often fall short on. There is so much to be grateful for, even when the day is gray and prospects feel bleak. When I was a teen, and living in Australia, I started a running list of things to be thankful for, it was after a particular trying day in salt mines of highschool. The idea was to focus on the good stuff. Back then I think Johnny Depp, the Beatles, and cornetto ice cream cones were on the top of that list.
On my revised and updated list of things to be thankful for I'd place the kiddles, Hub, my parents and brothers. Our good health and our good fortune is huge. My friends also deserve a shout out. And then of course there are things like good music and good food that really enhances the quality of life. I've been really enjoying Feist and Bach lately. I am totally grateful (and relieved) that I got a few nice-sized chocolate orders for this holiday season. The Kiddie Cooking Class is also something that I'm happy about- it allows the kooky cook in me some play time, and a few bucks to boot! And I'm grateful that I found a paper that will publish me, a dream I've had for a long time ever since those highschool days.
But beyond the personal and specific, I am thankful for the beautiful world we live in, and for the majority of people that inhabit it who are good. I am grateful for the seasons. I give thanks for living in this country and enjoying all the comforts, riches, freedom, and beauty that it offers. I am grateful that I am allowed to be me; in a different place and at a different time it would not be so easy.
OK so there's my Thanksgiving benediction. Now enough talking and lets start eating.

Pecan Fudge Pie
Preheat oven to 375F. In a saucepan over med. high heat combine 1/2 c. butter/marg and 1 c. packed brown sugar, stir until a thick amber syrup occurs. Add 1 c. chocolate chips and stir until melted and smooth. Remove from heat, whisk in 2 beaten eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Once a thick chocolatey batter happens, add 1 1/2 c. chopped pecans. Spoon into prepared pie crust, smooth until even. Place in oven and bake for 35-40 mins.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I am burnt to a cinder. Sizzled to a crisp. Ready for an extended vacay in a land with no kitchens. If I never see the innards of another supermarket it'll be too soon. If I have to wash another pot, I will flip my lid. If this week was a book it'd be the Berenstain Bears and Too Much Cooking! Kiddie Cooking Class was the final spatula. I am coming off quite a bender of Kitchenicity. I spent the majority of the past week testing a jelly donut muffin recipe for an article I wrote. I finally figured it out after the fourth batch. I should have known all along that the testing is the easy part, the writing is where it gets rough. How many ways can you say yummy? How to describe messy projects as tidily as possible? Sometimes I feel like I am sifting through a pile of junk searching for a gem.

Kiddie Cooking Class project was tomato soup with crispy parmesan croutons. I improvised by using tomato sauce instead of whole canned tomatoes the recipe called for, knowing full well that lots of kids have issues with chunky textures when it comes to soup. I should've substituted it with tomato puree instead. The kiddies swallowed up the soup, due in no small part to the fact that I threw handfulls of parmesan cheese into it in addition to the DELICIOUS parmesan croutons. But the soup was unnecessarily salty, next time-tomato puree.
This morning I did a chocolate project with Girlette's class which was cute and fun and really easy. Cleaning up after a chocolate project with kids is like dealing with the aftermath of a chocolate tornado. No matter how much fun it is to witness the unfettered glee of kids wrist deep in chocolate, the scraping and scrubbing still sucks.
I was thinking that I would get a head start on the eggnog cheesecakes I'm giving our neighbors for Xmas (they freeze beautifully)- but there's no #$%*& way that's happening tonight. Tonight I am watching Top Chef and eating cereal.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brown Butter Apple Pie

Just returned from paying a shiva call. Shiva is the 7 days of mourning immediately following the funeral. The mourner sits on a low stool, in their stocking feet, and accepts visitors who pay their respect to the passed and the family in mourning. I never know what to say. Today's visit was particularly difficult as the woman who lost her mother is a year younger than I am, with kids that are similar in age to mine, her mother was the same age as my mother. She still had a lot of living to do.
I baked a pie, because that's what I do. I felt almost embarassed as I placed it on the table alongside the other bakery stuff. What good is a pie when you're facing the rest of your life without your mother? Inevitably I started thinking about my mother and I how I just assume she'll always be here. If I'm a little abrupt on the phone- no matter I'll call her tomorrow. Sometimes when she's dispensing motherly advice I tune out, because I can always get more.
One day I will be on that low stool, in my stocking feet and I will have to face the concept of my life without my mother. My mother is always on my side, even when I'm wrong. She is like a soft and comfy chair in a world that can sometimes be harsh and unyielding. The world without my mother will be darker with more hard edges. All the brown butter apple pies in the world won't be able to sweeten that.

Brown Butter Apple Pie
Preheat oven to 400F. In saucepan melt 1/4 c. butter over med. high heat, stirring often until lightly browned. Set aside and cool for about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, peel and core 3 large apples, cut into 1/2" slices. In a small bowl and with wire whisk beat 1/2 c. white sugar and 1 egg until yellow and custardy. Stir in 2 tbsp. all purpose flour and 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat in browned butter with whisk. Pour into pie crust, and smooth over bottom. Arrange apple slices on top. In a medium bowl mix 1/2 c. all purpose flour, 1/4 c. white sugar, 1/4 c. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. apple pie spice together, then with a pastry blender or fork cut in 1/4 c. butter until coarse pea sized crumbs occur, add 1/2 c. chopped pecans. Sprinkle streusel over top of apples. Bake for 50-60 minutes until apples are tender. If necessary, cover edge of crust with strips of foil to prevent burning.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kiddie Cooking Class Chronicles

Kiddie Cooking Class Chronicles: Chapter 5

Maple Syrup Pudding & Fall Leaf Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

Autumn is almost gone: the leaves are lying everywhere in dry heaps, daylight savings is darkening the days early, and jackets are required when leaving the house. I decided we might as well get one last look. I found a bottle of Grade B maple syrup from the new foodie emporium. After making a maple syrup cheesecake a few years ago I came to realize how rare it is to find Grade B syrup. Grade A maple syrup is good, but grade B is great- richer, deeper, smokier. I found a quick and simple recipe for Maple Pudding, and knew that I needed a baking project as well to go along. I decided to use refrigerated sugar cookie dough from the supermarket for this one, busted out my fall leaf cookie cutters, melted 2 tbsp. of butter and mixed up a cinnamon sugar for sprinkling. They painted the butter on top of their leaves and covered them with a dry dusting. On the cookie tray they looked like the dead leaves scattered on our patio. Which led us right onto our mini art project, using fallen leaves and acorns, glitter and googly eyes they made end-of-autumn collages. Before long the pudding had set, albeit with lumps, and the cookies were golden and smelling like a warm bakery. The pudding was slurped up instantly, and I'm dissappointed in myself for underestimating these little gourmands by adding a redundant dollop of whipped cream to the treat- the syrup stands alone. The cookies were snarfed down at a respectable rate.
Came home and it was almost night, made a filling dinner of shakshuka, greek salad, and garlic naan. Let hub bathe the kiddles and watch the Yankees with Kid1. Slipped out and went to Eustacia's Grilled Vegetables and their many uses demonstration. A warm and yummy day.

Maple Pudding
Beat 2 c. milk, 2 c. real maple syrup, 2 beaten eggs, 5 tbsp. flour, 4 tbsp. butter, 1 tsp. vanilla in a large saucepan until well blended. Place saucepan on top of pot of boiling water stirring regularly until thick.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pizza Monkey Ring

So I'm teaching a cooking class at the local JCC. It's called "What's Cookin' Good Lookin'" and is geared towards PreK aged kids and their grown-ups. Initially I was daunted by the extreme youth of the kids, as well as the grown up element of the parents. But now I really like it, even if the grown ups think I'm sorta loopy. I play good music and we begin the class by washing our hands with soap (instilling good kitchen habits) and being a little silly. Then we gather around the kiddie tables and prepare a semi-healthy snack.
Week One: Hoppin' Popcorn 2 Ways- Apples & Honey, and Spicy Cheese
Week Two: Dino Chips and Grrrrreat Dips (tortilla's cut with dino shaped cutters and baked 'til crispy)- Guacamole and Ranch
Week Three: Bananachocolata Muffins with a side of Hot Cocoa
Week Four (yesterday): Pizza Monkey Ring (Recipe below)

The actual cooking takes maybe 20 minutes because let's be realistic they're 4- so while the stuff is in the oven, I give them an arts 'n craft project to do. Yesterday I brought in molding clay and rollers and cookie cutters and they made pretend pizzas as the aroma of melting cheese and garlic tumbled and rolled through the kitchen. By the time we're finished art-ing and craft-ing, the food is ready for enjoying. A nice way to spend an hour. The parents enjoy the snack as much as the littlelies do.
Yesterday's pizza ring recipe was adapted from a Susie Fishbein Kids Cookbook, and there was not so much as a crumb letfover.

Pizza Monkey Ring (like a pizza flavored monkeybread):
Preheat oven to 350F. With a pizza cutter cut 2 lbs. pizza dough into little 2" pieces. Set aside. Cut a ball of mozzarella cheese into 1" cubes and set aside. In a small bowl combine 3/4 c.-1 c. of olive oil with 2 tbsp. of pizza herb and spice mix or 1 tsp. oregano, 1 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. chili flakes mix well. Take dough pieces and with your fingers flatten them , then place cube of cheese in center. Roll cheese into dough ball and then dip in olive oil concoction and place in a ring or bundt pan. Repeat process until all dough is rolled up, and tossed evenly in the pan. Sprinkle top with parmesan cheese. Place in oven until golden and bubbling. Serve with pizza sauce on side and dip pizza monkey into sauce for pizzalicious results. YUM!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy To Know You And Here's The Cake To Prove It

This past sunday evening my good friend, Kenzo, got married. It was a lovely and traditional affair, the kind of celebration that makes you feel warm, sentimental, and hopeful. I've been friends with Kenzo since college, all the way through our post-collegiate City days. Often times she was a co-conspirator, sometimes a foil, always a true pal. We wiled away many a dingy City day in her apartment on the Upper East Side, watching cheesey TV, drinking Diet Coke, and chain smoking (it was a long time ago). And huge blocks of time were occupied speaking on the phone hatching plans or unravelling our stories for one another.
I was very much looking forward to her wedding as I knew it would be a reunion of sorts. I was excited about seeing people from ye olde college days, as well as my newly sprung NYC days. After the beautiful ceremony in the elegant synagogue, we enjoyed cocktail hour which doubled for me as "This Is Your Life" Early Adulthood Edition. And the greatest thing about it? Everyone was exactly as I remembered them. I was so happy to meet their partners, view pictures of their offspring, hear about their lives. Goodwill deluged me all evening long, and the fruity cocktails didn't hurt one bit either. While chatting with them I was returned to the former moments when they were all a part of my life, whether peripherally or centrally, and I hold onto the bittersweetness of those moments. I was so young and so dumb and so insecure-but also completely free to live as selfishly and irresponsibly as I wished. I felt so grateful for knowing each of these interesting and fantastic people during this time.
Tomorrow night is book group. Book group is also a gathering of old friends- new old friends who I've spent my early Mommy days with. Eventually this too will pass, and I will reflect longingly on these moments. I will remember it with sweet sadness, how quickly it flew away. Growing older and moving on is inevitable. All I ask for is the foresight and wisdom to appreciate it while immersed in it.
I baked a warm and homey coffee cake for the occasion. Coffee cake goes perfectly with friendship and conversation. While I was preparing it I thought of the book club ladies and
how wonderful each one is, and how grateful I am to know them during these special moments in my life.

Friendship Coffee Cake
Mix together 1 1/2 c. sugar, 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract until fluffy. Add 2 eggs one at a time until a batter forms. In a separate bowl mix 2 c flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. baking soda. Add flour mixture in parts to batter, alternating with 1 c. thick greek yogurt (I used 2%) beating after each addition until smooth and thick. Scrape the beans of half a vanilla pod into the batter, mix well.
In a small bowl mix 1/2 c. chopped pecans, 1/3 c. brown sugar, and scant tsp. of nutmeg. Pour half of the batter into a greased bundt pan, sprinkle pecan mix on top. Spoon and smooth out the rest of the batter on top of pecan layer, and then sprinkle rest of pecans on top. Bake at 350F for about an hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

Post Script: The cake was served last night to general approval. However, Daz, my most honest and constructive critic- is decidedly not a nutmeg fan. I suggested that if she was to make the cake she simply substitute the nutmeg for cinnamon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Birthday For Girlette!

Yesterday was girlette's birthday. Wary of another kiddie party where I would have to come up with a theme and amusements, all the while spending needless amounts of money, I offered her the option of going into the City for a manicure and lunch and playtime with her brothers in Central Park and FAO Schwartz. Done and done, I didn't have to ask her twice. The manicure would have been enough, as I'm a real girlie-girl grinch and save nail polish for just for special times like birthdays.
We began the day by being dropped off on my beloved UWS, and to our great good luck right in front of Loehmanns! I could definitely not miss the opportunity to share a Loehmanns moment with my daughter, as I had with my mother many times before. It being her birthday no less! We dragged les boys into the store, Boy 1, grumbling the whole time, and almost ruining it. I got her a sparkly long sleeved tee. And for me a woollen winter cap and cat's eye sunglasses. Fun! Despite the boys.
Then off to her first real-life/big-lady manicure. She went straight for the gold colored polish and sat at the table like she'd been doing this for years. I wanted to get one too, as my nails look like some lazy goth girl's . But les Boys insited on acting like the boys that they are- and alas my chipped-off nails remain. Then we met my brother, also a boy, at Crumbs cupcake eporium on Amsterdam and 75th. Wowee! I had a golden cupcake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles YUM! My brother had one named the Artie Lang which was appropriately overladen with junk (but delicious I hear). Here's were the day gets New Yorky but not in a good way. I wanted to take Girlette for the perfect ladies lunch (despite the Boys tagging along). Initially I called to make a reservation at Sweetiepie for the Eloise experience, but like Museums they are closed on Mondays-boo! Then I tried Alice's Tea Cup, despite the fact that I swore never to darken their tea cup again. Well, they showed me- no reservations, not even for a party of six in the middle of a recession. Apparently, Manhattan really is a magical island that is not affected by a recession that gnaws at the rest of the country. Or maybe just parts of NYC?
Next defense was Sarabeth's- and if Alice's Tea Cup doesn't take reservations, her all-grown up sister Sarabeth's sure as hell won't. I'd have to chance it. Suffice to say we ended up lunching with Hub at Le Pain Quotidien which was perfectly fine and the fudge fallen souffle delighted Girlette regardless. However, next time I take Girlette to the City it will be any day but monday.
We then spent time at Central Park, for the children to observe how city kids live and play in their habitats, and to enjoy the differences. We ended the day at FAO Schwartz and by this time Munch had fallen asleep, mouth ajar in the stroller, and Girlette and I had a... disagreement. The perfect time for Hub to pull up and whisk us back home to the country.
Because I'm a guilty Jewish mother, or maybe because you can't take the Celebration out of Celebrationist, tomorrow I'm serving lunch to both Kindergarten classes at her school. Mac 'n cheese (Girlette's fave) and cupcakes are on the menu. Easy, fun, festive, convenient, and inexpensive for everyone. Happy Birthday, Girlette! Life with you is a wonderfully female experience!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fast Birthday

Q: What do you get when you cross a 36th birthday with Yom Kippur?
A: A hungry birthday girl.

But seriously folks, I'm glad it's over. Thirty six hardly seems like a birthday worth getting emotional over. It's just loitering around in the thirties neighborhood- spry and energetic 30 is way back there and empowered and assured 40 is still a ways off. So instead, I focused on Yom Kippur, and the transgressions, sins, follies, inequities, and slips that weighed my year down. And I decided that this year I will try to listen more. Listening means less talking, less gossiping, less naysaying, less yelling, less imposing, less noise.
The thing about Yom Kippur is that it is supposed to be a day of reflection and inwardness, soul searching and new resolutions, but at about 4:00 p.m. my interior starts to grumble and my head inevitably turns to what I want to eat. On Yom Kippur my true pallette affirms itself- I long for pizza, cheese, and sweet pastry. And that's what YK is for me, it is a day that strips everything down to it's bare elements.
Knowing myself as I do, after 36 years of inhabiting these skin and bones- I put together a maple french toast right before the fast began, and left it in the fridge for those 25 hrs. to soak up the egg/milk/vanilla mixture. Straight out of the oven it was homey and sweet and warm. And it reminded me that life, like my astrological sign, is about balance. The harshness and hunger of the Yom Kippur fast was important, but so was the comforting and warm nourishment of the french toast that followed it.

Maple French Toast
In a small saucepan combine 1/3 c. butter (I used light butter spread and it was fine), 2/3 c. packed brown sugar, and 1/3 c. maple syrup. Stir over medium flame until a smooth syrupy mixture occurs. Spread syrup mixture over a casserole pan. Slice up a challah into 1" slices, trim off the crusts and place the challah over the syrup covering the pan in a single layer of challah slices. In a med. bowl beat 4 eggs, 1 c. milk (I used 2%), and a teaspoon of vanilla extract and if you have it a tsp. maple extract. Cover and place in the fridge overnight. Bake uncovered at 375F until the challah is golden brown and puffy.
Serving suggestions: Butter and jam is delicious on this breakfast dish, as well as additional maple syrup. Sliced bananas are also a fantastic addition.
Addendum: if you are after a more ooey-gooey cozy breakfast experience- increase butter to 1/2 c., brown sugar to 3/4c. and maple syrup to 1/2 c. (especially if you are using Grade B syrup- and in that case save a piece for me)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Georgia O'Keefe And The Meals That Followed

"One can't paint New York as is, but rather as is felt"

I fear I may have fallen out of the habit of blogging. Perhaps I have lost the impulse to record my noteworthy dishes and memorable meals? Sometimes it just feels like yet another thing that needs to be done. And I wonder if anyone is even out there anyway. But today deserves a mention- if only to commit it to memory. Despite all the UN happenings in midtown, Eustacia and I decided to check out the Georgia O'Keefe exhibition at the Whitney Museum. We parked in my old neighborhood on the Upper West Side and walked through the park in pleasant early autumn weather.
The exhibition was incredible, it focused on Georgia O'Keefe's abstract paintings. There were a number of her recognizable large scale flower canvases which were gorgeous and absorbing. But the pieces I was most attracted to were in a series called Bright Star, and her paintings on Lake George. These works did for me what I feel good art does in general- it made me see things in a different way. I left feeling "spiritually" nourished but physically starving. Where to for lunch? We were in Manhattan- and a myriad of choices lay deliciously before us. Due to time constraints we decided that wherever we went should be close to the car, as we had to make a quick getaway. I remembered a Le Pain Quotidien on 72nd Street and hoped it was still there. Mais Oui and Hell Yeah! We were seated at one of those long communal tables and I immediately ordered a cafe au lait, which was perfect. Next, I deliberated over what to eat- all I really wanted was baguette with butter, which they do well, but the adorable teenaged waiter convinced me to get a cheese platter to go with it. Memories of our recent visit to LA Burdick flitted through my mind, and the stylized French-ness of it all had me going. Going, going, gone - with a final swallow of my cafe au lait, I grabbed a piece of baguette for the road, and eyed the sumptuous pastry case on the way out. We headed to the car, got back on the road that leads out of my magical island, and straight to afternoon pick up. It was one of those perfect New York days.
The presence of Georgia O'Keefe and her artwork lingered through dinner. I made cornbread and beans as a tabletop tribute to O'Keefe's New Mexico influence. Honey butter seemed appropriate for this time of year and was a nice addition to the cornbread.

Honey Butter
Mix up 1 tbsp. honey with 4 tbsp. softened butter. Great on toast, muffins, scones, and tea bread

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Of Sprains and Maine

Monday, September 7
The most delicious sight after 10 days of tents, motels, hotels, and cabins is my lovely soft and cozy bed. A bed for my tired, strained, and sprained body. New England is a real beauty this time of year. The people are reserved in the friendliest manner. The food is superb- due to the bounty that springs from the multitude of farms in the vicinity. The proud history that the area is steeped in is almost palpable. The air is clean, the maple syrup is pure, and the hiking is scenic. Reinforcing to me why I love this region of the US. But ultimately, at the end of the day, my beloved bed is my favorite destination.

We landed in Woodstock, Vermont after a 6 hour car voyage. We brave pilgrims perservered through traffic, hourly peepee stops, bitter squabbling, frequent hunger. Once in Woodstock though, we were transformed and revived. What a gorgeous little town 'tis! The houses and buildings dating back to the early 19th Century and are meticulously preserved. The grandest and most elaborate building belonged to the Woodstock Inn right across from the village green. We took our ravenous herd to the Tavern at the Inn for dinner. The interior of this wonderful inn was done in what you'd call Yankee Chic; clean, uncluttered, wood floors and beams, simple wood furniture, elegant understated rugs, colonial era landscapes or sparse nature scenes on the walls. The kind of place that makes you inadvertedly whisper- for fear of upsetting the seriously tranquil atmosphere.

The cheese fondue we ordered at the Tavern was delicious, with just the right amount of garlic infused into the cheese to keep it from tasting bland and fatty. And the french fries were also great, but to be honest- I didn't have a bad or even sub-par french fry throughout the whole 10 day trip. I indulged in a cocktail or two at the Tavern and the Hemingway was really enjoyable.

The rest of the weekend was spent at the Pond Ridge Motel which was set upon really spectacular grounds and overlooked a river. We enjoyed several picnics catered by the Woodstock Farmers Market on the benches at the river bank.

The camping portion of our trip started on Monday at the Wilgus State Park, on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire. While driving around the vicinity we happened upon this amazing little town in New Hampshire called Walpole. Ahhh Walpole....Sweet dreams are made of this. To start, there's this incredible chocolate boutique in this tiny country town called L.A. Burdick. Elegant, upscale, French, marvellous- are the words I'd use to describe the chocolate. The salt caramels and honey caramels being my favorites, and the sesame cashew bon bons deserving an honorable mention. To take things from the sublime to the ridiculously awesome- the next room from the chocolate shop was Burdick's bistro/patisserie. A glass case displaying the most delicate and dainty cakes and pastel mini macarons had me spinning an elaborate plan to return the next day avec famille for afternoon tea. I would do a few loads of laundry in honor of the occasion, so that we would all look somewhat decent and not the wild and woolly savages camping had made of us.

On the way back to the campsite, we passed a small unassuming storefront that offered ice cream made on the premises The Walpole Creamery. I hardly ever get anything during summer's regular ice cream trips. But this place was different, I had the good sense to realize. I got a scoop of mango ice cream which was creamy and fruity and not overly sweet, and so fresh it made me swoon. My brother claimed his milkshake was the best he'd ever had. Walpole's my kinda town, quality sweet treats tempting you at every turn.

The next day began without a hitch. Hub and the kids dropped my brother off at the train bound for NYC (he had a flight to Thailand to catch) as I did laundry. We ate our sandwiches at the picnic table at the base of the hike we were about to take. We hiked up the path, and enjoyed the sights and smells. So when reaching the top-I gleefully hopped off a boulder and landed wrong on my ankle, heard a nauseating click, and knew I was in trouble. It wasn't broken, 'cos I was able to get back down the mountain, but it was swollen and it hurt. But those were mere details, that I was not going to let get in the way of my afternoon tea at Burdick's.

I limped in and promptly ordered us a platter of their macarons one in every flavor. They were all good, but my favorite was coffee, second favorite-chocolate. The kiddles each had a cup of maple flavored steamed milk, I had a French Martini. Hub ordered the cheese platter for all of us to share- the Vermont cheddar was just right in sharpness and creaminess. The pomme frites were also laudable for their saltiness and crispiness.

Eventually, I had to deal with reality and go to the hospital to get my foot checked out. Which ended up being a nice 2 hr break of non-movement and non-kiddles and I finished the engrossing novel I was reading: "Loving Frank". A good book that I am still thinking about.

From here on I was hobbling around on crutches, and pleading infirmity whenever the kids needed to be taken to the bathroom (poor Hub, lucky me). I missed out on some cool things like the Harpoon Brewery tour and the Garden of Life path, but I made a point of making it to Stubs & Laura for breakfast. The nurses at the hospital recommended this roadside diner to us, and it is the kind of hidden gem Jan & Michael Stern the Roadside Gourmets seek, find, and write about. The kiddles had oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins. I had eggs sunny side up, the home fries that came with the order were delish. Cubes of potatoes fried the perfect shade of golden brown, well seasoned, and offering a texture that was alternately soft and crispy. The wheat toast was homemade and was hearty and thick and homey with butter.

But enough about Vermont/New Hampshire let's talk about Maine. O Maine, what a gorgeous & quirky place thou art. We drove into Portland and parked our car at the waterfront, I was excited about the prospect of visiting another city. I wasn't going to let a pair of @#$%# crutches get in the way of a city scene. I crutched up the cobblestone streets throwing Hub a proud little "ha ha I can't be kept down" grin every now and then. I labored my way over to this vintage thrift store that seems to be part of a New England chain "Second Time Around", and found a really chic LBD from some earlier era; black, below-the-knee sheath with a jewelled collar and jewelled sleeves. I need to throw a party or something so that I can wear it, maybe Kenzo's wedding?

We had dinner at a pretty good place called Wharf 57 (referring to the street address). Hub had a juicy blueberry featured salad. Les Kides grilled cheese kiddie meals came with great fries. I had an asparagus small dish that was great and another small dish pasta that was very enjoyable and creamy and garlicky. Cocktail was decent.

We had to move on the next day, but not before stopping at Portland's Whole Foods. It's a big one, with beautiful local produce; and an expansive cheese and bakery counter, as well as colorful and diverse self serve stations, and generous samplings at every turn. We stocked up for our weekend in a rustic Maine cabin near the port of Camden. On the way to Camden we took a several hours long pit stop at LLBean in Freeport. That place is cool and huge, a sprawling complex that the town is built around. They have a summer concert series in their courtyard, that attracts talent like Dar Williams, Blues Traveller, and for the hip-kiddie set and the parents who love them, Dan Zanes. An aquarium you can step into- stocked with brown trout, rainbow trout- needless to say Hub was in his element- He was so in the spirit of it all that he got Kid1 a set of his own hip waders (size 2). About 2 hours later and much lighter in the purse, we set off.

We got to Megunticook, campsite by the sea, checked out our cabin- tres rustique, and then grabbed dinner in town. The town of Camden features a harbor chock full of gorgeous and majestic tall ships and boats. It also has a number of cute and quaint boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Unfortunately, our first dinner in Camden was a disappointment. We chose the Village Restaurant- the harbor view was spectacular, the food? Not so much.

During that rustic family weekend by the sea we enjoyed several adventures in almost perfect weather. We took a 2 hour tour around the bay on a beautiful sailing ship, whose first mate made a damn good and spicy bloody mary. At my urging (OK, I forced them) we visited the Wyeth Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. I was impressed by the size and sophistication of the museum, which was exhibiting Richard Indiana. I was surprised by how many well known artists have roots in Maine.

We also checked out a pirate themed puppet show in the diminutive Camden Opera House, which had kid1 giggling throughout. Of course I cannot neglect a mention of the Camden Cone, a tiny little counter of an ice cream stop. Again, I had the good sense to order a cone and after tasting my Maine Blueberry deliciousness, I started believing that I have a sixth sense when it comes to ice cream. Lordy! Was that stuff good! To begin with it was the most soothing shade of soft mauve. It contained real blueberries, it was creamy and at the perfect pitch of sweetness. And with that, our trip drew to a close. We drove for 8 hrs. through the main arteries of New England, the lush green fields were traded for gray asphalt and and metal and glass traffic.

Saturday, September 12
Reentry has proven to be bumpy. Out of the morning mists of New England I was deposited into the chaos of back-to-school. Lucky that I called my friend Erica and found out school actually started on thursday, not wednesday. School supplies needed to be purchased, groceries needed to be procured... Alas, my life of rustic meandering, cocktails at dinner, exemplary french fries, magical ice cream cones, and undisturbed family time gave way to Responsibility.

Rosh Hashanah follows back-to-school closely. The two events combined becomes the perfect storm of activity and responsibilty. However the good news of this past week was that my ankle is going to be just fine-- No MRI's, physical therapy, or dorky sneakers required!
I'm going to take it easy on the high heels for the next few months, which will be forcing me to rethink my outfit options for a few formal and semi-formal events I have in the next few weeks- but thank god my ankle is going to be fine. And back to life we go.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I've been nudged out of my summer cooking stupor by a viewing of the movie Julie & Julia. I saw it with my friend Moniqua, and liked it quite a lot. Meryl Streep is always so much fun to watch, she would make a user 's manual interesting. I read the book by Julie Powell when it came out a few years ago, and I thought the concept behind the book was great- now there's an idea for a blog! One year to cook your way through Julia Child's iconic cookbook, in the process teaching yourself the rudiments of fine cooking, finding yourself through your bliss, and learning from other assorted mishaps and adventures that occur along the way. So good I'm sorta jealous. But the thing about the book, and I only read the book- not the original blog, is that I found Julie Powell a little irritating, I found the author's voice cloying. So, the parts of the movie I enjoyed most were the ones that had to do with Julia Child, as portrayed by the wonderful Meryl Streep. To begin with it was set in Paris, and this is the Paris of my fantasies. Vintage Paris with women in hats, shapely suits, and high platform heels. The quaint patisseries, open markets, salons de the with platters of pastel colored macarons and trays of perfect petit fours - men in berets, chefs in toques. It was kind of like Ratatouille come to life minus the gross rat. Julia Child was depicted as an inspirational woman, an indomitable force, and all-around great dame. A chick who wasn't afraid of boning a duck, a televised gaffe, or a pound or three of butter. Her tender relationship with her husband Paul (played by sexy Stanley Tucci) was also beautifully described in the movie. Julia's jubilant personality and love of life and of food made me leave the theater planning a beurre blanc and soon.
Tonight's dinner will be a L'Chaim to Julia Child who's been gone for a few years but whose spirit was great and lives on strong. I'll be serving pan fried fish accompanied by a beurre blanc, potatoes cubed and bathed in hot clarified butter until it becomes the most comfy shade of golden brown, and then some naked asparagus. For dessert: fresh, sweet strawberries with homemade vanilla whipped cream...... Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Freedom Tastes Pretty Good

The house is still, save for the occasional cough coming from Puppy's room (summer cold). Hub is in Vegas, the two older ones are spending the weekend with their grandparents. The nights are my own. All mine to do as I please. How am I luxuriating in my freedom? Watching trashy TV and reading a delightfully quirky book called What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin. It has me thinking about how I am constantly in food prep mode when the kids and Hub are underfoot. Yet, when it's just me, you'll likely find me scarfing down a bag of barbecue chips or throwing down handfuls of chocolate chips and calling it dinner, as I check my email.
So, taking a cue from the nutritious read, this weekend I decided to treat myself to a couple of good meals. Which does not mean fancy or elaborate, rather, simple and satisfying with a just a smidgeon of indulgence. For dinner last night I thoroughly enjoyed a bowl of garlic sesame noodles washed down with a bottle of Coke (regular-not diet). The noodles were simple yet so wonderfully tasty. And the Coke was a godsend; cold, bubbly, sweet, and delicious relief from the salty spiciness of the noodles.
Tonight's dinner will be low-effort but I'll be ramping up the luxe factor with a plate of Port Salut cheese, a baguette, and a side salad of baby spinach, avocado, and tomato lightly dressed in the house Italian. A flute of champagne will be the dish's sparkling companion. I'm in wannabe-French heaven! The burning question: What's for dessert? A bowl of cocoa puffs or a bowl of Ben and Jerry's? Ahhh, life is good for this occasional bon vivant.

Garlic Sesame Noodles
Heat 1 tbsp. sesame oil in a wok or skillet, add 2-3 cloves minced garlic to oil and saute until garlic becomes fragrant. Add cooked chinese noodles, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp garlic chili sauce,and 1 tsp sugar. Mix well until noodles are heated through and well coated.

*I'll make this dish for the Hungry Hordes and include veggies and tofu for a one-bowl meal.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My So-Called French Life

I am in a summer funk. Which I find a little quizzical- Summer being bright and warm and shiny and all. There has been a few days of gray skies and rain around here, but truthfully, I love rainy days.
Lately that eighties Bananara gem "cruel summer" has been playing in my head. "The city is crowded, my friends are away, and I'm on my own". Everyone seems to be away or going away to more exotic or cosmopolitan places. Eustacia is in Amsterdam/Paris, Marcene is summering in the Hamptons, even Hub is going to Las Vegas, my brother is in Puerto Rico, Shelz is on her way to Israel. And I'm here in my regular daily life- summer version. I want to be somewhere else, somewhere different. A city that doesn't speak english. A spot where the food tastes different. A location where the people dress differently and have different rules and customs. I want something other. Really, I want to go to a place where I'm other.

The only (and cheapest) way I can travel while still having to be here, is through books and cuisine. I finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, a really excellent book translated from french. Through it I felt like I was living in a grand and fabulous apartment in a chic neighborhood in Paris. Which led to me baking a tray of madeleines and fantasizing about my alternate reality French life, where I'm called Manon. And whenever I nibble on a madeleine, I think of my Grandmere Lisette's wonderful little sponge cakes that I would wash down with a bowl of hot chocolat upon returning from school everyday. Grandmere's madeleines are flavored with fresh lemon juice and vanilla extract. My best friend Nathalie's maman added a a few drops of rosewater to her madeleines, to delicate and delicious results. I am thinking about incorporating a chocolat dimension to my madeleines with les petites chocolat chips. Zut alors! How super would that be? That way it would be like eating the madeleine and drinking the chocolat all at once! Quel Genial!

Grandmere Lisette's Madeleines (sans mini chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease madeleine tin well. Melt 6 tbsp. butter and put aside to cool a little. In a medium bowl sift together 1 1/4 c. all purpose flour and 1 tsp. baking powder. In a separate large bowl beat 2 eggs and 3/4 c. powdered sugar until thick and frothy and the mixture displays ribbons when beaters are lifted. Fold in juice of half a lemon and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Starting with the flour mixture, alternately fold in the flour and melted butter in four batches. Let batter sit for about 10-15 minutes. The mixture will be sticky and tacky, carefully spoon into the tin. Bake for about 15 mins. or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack. Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hawaiian Sweet Bread

When I came across this Pineapple Macadamia Nut Bread recipe, images of Hawaii flashed before my eyes. Immediately I started to plot my Hawaiian Sweet Bread, using this recipe from the Los Angeles Times Cookbook circa 1981 as a template. Of course it had to have pineapple in it, no trip to Hawaii is complete without one of those fruity drinks served up in a pineapple. Macadamia nuts are also a ubiquitous flavor in Hawaii. They're a great addition because they provide a great crunchy texture and a mild, creamy, and nutty taste. I also decided to add orange juice and roughly chopped mandarin segments, because when I think of Hawaii I think of sunshine, and when I think of sunshine I think of sweet orange juice. I mixed in some shredded coconut to round out the tropical paradise feel, but I think it was unnecessary- the coconut flavor was lost in the mixture and the coconut texture was distracting. The crunch of the macadamia nut was enough. The wholewheat flour was OK, it worked with the flavors, but I think next time I'll use 1 cup of white flour to smooth it out a bit. Instead of using white sugar next time I will use brown sugar for a more caramelized flavor.
This sweet bread is a good starting point. My plan is to have a great recipe that I can turn to in the dead heart of winter when Hawaii is just a sunny wish.

Hawaiian Sweet Bread
Combine 1 c. egg beaters, 3/4 c. sugar, 1/2 c. canola oil, 3/4 orange juice, 3/4 c. crushed pineapple, 1/2 c. roughly chopped mandarin orange segments, and mix well. Sift together 1 tbsp. baking powder and 3 c. wholewheat flour. Mix flour mixture into pineapple orange mixture. Fold in 1/2 c. chopped macadamia nuts. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350F for about 55 minutes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Chocolate Boulder

Sometimes I feel like Sisyphus pushing a huge chocolate boulder up the mountain. My chocolate truffle project aka Roxy Chocsmith (, is pretty much at a standstill. True, summer is usually slow in the chocolate world, and the R word isn't helping any (rhymes with depression). But what about all those anecdotal tidbits I hear about how during the Depression the only businesses that made any dough were 1) cosmetics 2) bars 3) chocolate. Very recently I heard on some news-type program that Hershey's numbers are up- because people are drowning their sorrows in chocolate. While I am not advocating chocolate suicide, I am totally recommending a well placed truffle here and there to escape into a a blissful, creamy, and dreamy chocolate dimension.
Today I made a couple of sales calls- toting my sweet wares and glad handing out samples to sweeten the pallettes. I had no trouble pushing the samples, and I took the eyes rolling to the back of skulls as an honest endorsement. No orders were placed, however my card was pocketed many times over. Who knows if they'll remember me when they need to? I always say that everyone's favorite thing is free chocolate. Paying for it? That's a different story.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

King Of Popcorn

Today they layed Michael Jackson to rest. Long live the King of Pop! And now can we get back to the regularly scheduled program? There is no doubt that this guy was super-talented, that he changed music, popular culture, maybe even the world - but enough already! Judging by the all-Michael/all-day media coverage you'd hardly know that the world is still spinning and that there's major unrest going on in Iran, and a coup occuring in Honduras. And not to mention, a long-winded recession that is still squeezing us all dry. More myopically, summer and camp are happening right here, right now.

Dinner is still a couple of hours away when they get home from camp in the late afternoon, so I'm trying to devise a few semi-healthy/wholesome type snacks to tide them over 'til the main event. Yesterday I made a huge bowl of honey-nut king of popcorn. It has a homespun Cracker Jack quality to it, and was pretty easy to make. I lightened it up with that spreadable butter/canola oil stuff, used half a cup of honey and half a cup of brown sugar. Baking it at a low heat (250F) for about an hour, made it crispy. I dedicated it to Michael Jackson, because one of my fondest memories from the early 80's in Seattle, was sitting at the small TV in the kitchen and watching the Thriller video on MTV like a zillion times, and discovering how wonderfully liberating music can be. Those are honey memories for me now, my early adolescence in the early 80's. As cliched and old-fartsy as it is to say that those felt like simpler times, it's true. The peanuts in the King of Popcorn? Well it's obvious why they're there- the guy was 25 different kinds of nut. So there goes my offering to the growing cult of Michael Jackson.. Now can we talk about something else....?

King of Popcorn

Preheat oven to 250F. Put 10-12 c popped corn in large bowl (or pot). In a saucepan melt 1/2 c. light butter, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/2 c. honey and bring to a syrupy boil. Mix in 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. vanilla. Pour over popcorn and 1 c. salted peanuts- mix well so that all popcorn is covered in syrup. Lay popcorn out on baking trays. Bake for about an hour, stirring every so often.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Starts With Sweetiepie

POP! And just like that summer starts. School ended wednesday morning, however the peculiarly unseasonal conditions had prevented us from hurtling full whoop! speed ahead. The serial downpours kinda providing the clouds for the silver lining of summer vacation. Yesterday, I decided a celebration was in order. We chugged down to the City for a little lunch at Sweetiepie. What a treat that was for both young and old-er alike! The space is gorgeously whimsical and playfully sophisticated, with hot pink leather banquettes to lounge on at your perfectly appointed table. If it's the special little touches that make big differences in life, Sweetiepie has made this idea it's central theme. The dainty mismatching china, the huge gilded cage containing a table for 5, the bar stocked with bottles of spirits, wine, and colorful jumbo gumballs, the fey pastel mural stretching along the wall in the back room, the femme powder rooms- where you actually feel like powdering your nose, all contributes to a chic grand time.

Obi 1 Kenobi (kid#1's requested new name) ordered fish 'n chips. Girlette got her usual of mac 'n cheese. I had a salad of halved boconccini and cherry tomatoes with greens and splashed with olive oil and truffle oil. All three dishes were delicious. The mac 'n cheese was seriously yummy smooth, creamy, and sharp, with an attractive golden crust to poke through to get to the stuff. Mmmmm I'm swooning just recalling it. The french fries were thin, crispy, and salted, and served alongside a tiny cup of malt vinegar. Chips with salt and vinegar are a great nostalgic treat for me, so at that point in the experience I was wondering how I could tranform my kitchen-dining area into Sweetiepie. For dessert, the kids decided on milkshakes served in posh heavy glass goblets, which were so thick that Girlette flattened her straw through her hollowed cheek vigor. My dessert of a light and sweet coffee was offered in a beautiful gold rimmed cup and saucer set. And after Girlette and I freshened up in the powder room, and Obi experimented with the automatic hand dryer, we set off through the West Village, back home. Definitely worth the while and effort; a little flight of fancy from the weekly budget every once in a while is always fun.

To provide a contrast for les kides, upon returning to ye olde country we grabbed a couple of balls and Munch, and headed for an off-the-beaten-path park I discovered recently, and frolicked summerly for a while- until I remembered the recent bear warnings in the area. And that's how our vacation began, quite a fantastic opening day, if you ask me.

Today I tried a new dairy-free chocolate cake recipe, and I think I like the result. Of course tweaking and improving are usually necessary, and I already have a few ideas. But this original iteration might be a good canvas to work off of. I'll serve slim wedges of this 2 layer cake on my Royal Albert Country Roses china, with dessert forks and a primly folded cloth napkin in order to have a Sweetiepie experience in my own dining room.

Dairy-free SweetieCake
In med. bowl sift together p2 3/4 c. all purpose flour, 1 c. cocoa powder, 1 tsp. baking soda and set aside. In a large bowl beat together 1 1/2c. smart balance-type spread and 2 c. packed brown sugar. Beat in 4 eggs (1 at a time), 1 1/2 c. almond milk and 1 tsp. vanilla extract (the mixture will be soupy). Gradually mix in flour, beat until it resembles a thick batter. Pour into greased cake tins. Bake at 350F for 35-45 mins. or until it passes toothpick test.

Post script (7/1): COCONUT MILK!!!!! Replace almond milk with 2/3 c. coconut milk- and then mix in 1 c. choc chips right before you pour into bundt pan. Pour chocolate glaze over cooled cake. Chocolate Glaze: 1/2 c. coconut milk heated in saucepan, mix in 1/2 c. choc chips until smooth.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Banana Honey Pecan Scones

My baking binge continues on with these Banana Honey Pecan Scones. A while back, during the holiday season, I had a banana scone that I just could not get out of my sense memory. It was just heavenly with a cup of coffee- not overly sweet, and not at all mushy in the way that banana baked goods sometimes are. Last night, I decided to exploit my burst of baking energy, and make a version of those unforgettable scones. I was quite pleased with the result. These scones are lightly sweetened with honey, making them more of a breakfast bread than a dessert. They are best served warm, with a scraping of butter- or if you want to be extravagant; with peanut butter and nutella.

Banana Honey Pecan Scones

Preheat oven 400F. In a large bowl mix 1 1/2 c. wholewheat flour, 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda. Cut 3 tbsp. chilled butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. In seperate bowl combine 1/2 c. plain yogurt, 1/2 c. honey, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp. vanilla, 1 c. mashed ripe bananas (about 3). Mix until well-blended. Add to flour mixture, stirring until just moist (do not over-mix). With floured hands turn dough (which will be sticky) onto lightly floured surface, knead and shape into a large disc shape. Place on lightly greased baking tray, sprinkle with chopped pecans, and 1 tbsp. brown sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Press pecans gently into dough. Score scones into wedges. Bake for 20 mins. until golden brown.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

That's A Latte Cake!

You know you've got a baking problem when you convert a shortcut cake mix recipe into a from scratch recipe. Last week, for Hub's birthday I made him a Latte cake. It was a three step program, this cake was, despite it being a cake mix concoction. It was good- unsusual and a little sophisticated. Ever since, I've been thinking on how to make it even better, more homemade. I used a simple butter cake recipe for the base and mixed in a cup of strong espresso. For the next cafe fab layer I substituted condensed milk for dulce leche and stirred in more espresso- poked holes in the cake base and let this coffee-like syrup seep through. And then for the foam on the latte? Slightly sweetened whipped cream with a neat sprinkling of cocoa powder. This is one for those who love the flavor of coffee, the strong smokiness of it, and the bittersweet taste.

Latte Cake
Preheat oven to 350F. In large bowl combine 1 c. butter, softened, 4 eggs, 1 1/2 sugar, 1 tbsp. vanilla extract, 1 3/4 c. all purpose flour, mix well. Add 3/4 c. very strong espresso. Mix well. Pour into a greased baking pan, and bake for 35-45 minutes until cake passes toothpick test. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes then with stem of wooden spoon, poke holes at 1 " intervals in cake. In a medium bowl mix 1 14 oz. can of condensed milk with 1/3 c. v. strong espresso and 1 tbsp. rum, it should be porable and syrupy in constistency (if too thick, microwave for 30 seconds). Pour over the poked cake and let cool for about 2 hours. In a med. bowl beat 1 c. whipping cream, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and 2 tbsp. powdered sugar- until firm. Spread thickly over cake. Sprinkle cocoa powder or chocolate shavings on top.
PS: Upon further consideration I've decided that this cake needs a further makeover, beginning with the cake base. The butter cake is too dense, this cake needs a fluffier lighter cake that will be completely absorbed by the syrup. Also, the espresso mixed into the condensed milk needs to be very strong. I'll be revisiting this one.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blue Johnnycakes

Let the Johnnycake trials begin! I proposed an article on Johnnycakes made from blue cornmeal- to coincide with the July 4th issue. My plan is to make a sweet and savory version of this pre-and post-revolutionary American standard. The sweet version will feature the blue corn cakes sweetened with honey and served alongside whipped cream and red berries (red, white, and blue- geddit?). The savory will include salt, grated cheddar, and possibly creamed corn. And will be plated with a dollop of sour cream and a ladling of salsa (also red, white, and blue...)
Here is the truth about Johnnycakes- they're not that tasty, especially when following traditional recipes. The reason why they were so popular probably had everything to do with convenience and ease. They were originally dubbed as journeycakes because they were transportable in those pre-refrigeration days. The early recipes called simply for cornmeal, lard, and boiling water, and were suited for frying over a fire.
In order to make this hoary old chestnut appetizing to our modern palates I included other ingredients that will hopefully provide some flavor. I'm happy with my sweet version, as I got the thumbs up from Kid1. I'm still working on Savory Version.

Blue Corn Johnnycakes for a new Generation of American Patriots

Melt 4 tbsp. butter. In a large bowl mix butter, 2 c. blue cornmeal (reg. is fine too), 2 lightly beaten eggs, 1 c. lowfat buttermilk, and 1/3 c. honey. Melt 1 tbsp. butter in skillet. Drop Johnnycakes batter into skillet in 1/4 c. spoonfuls. Flip over when edges start to firm and brown slightly.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Bakery Bunch

The Shavuot Cake Party has been and gone, much like the cakes I baked and prepared in it's honor. My sweet little goodies did me proud, with the exceptions of a couple of misbegotten experiments and careless mistakes, but you just can't be ashamed of trying, or for being human.
Each cake had a little story all it's own, on how it came to the platter. Each little slice of sweetness had it's own special qualities that distinguished them from the rest.

Take this lovely fluffy chocolate coffee number. It's former incarnation was made with wholegrain pastry flour (which I bought in error), and while it wasn't awful, it just did not do it's striking flavors of coffee and chocolate justice due to the grainy quality of the flour. And, also, the earthy wholegrain taste clashed with the mocha smoothness. So I scrapped it, and tried a different coffee espresso cake recipe I've attempted a few times before. I went with the original recipe's frosting which was made with mascarpone, melted bittersweet chocolate, strong espresso, and some powdered sugar. All whipped up to a gorgeous swirl-worthiness, made even more comely with the bittersweet chocolate shavings on top.

Oh that Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie was a popular one. I dressed it up with little interval puffs of whipped cream and an oversized chocolate chip in the center of each cloud. I never really got to know this one, as I was to stuck on one or two others, and didn't get around to trying it. But how can you go wrong with peanut butter and bananas? Just ask Elvis at your next seance.

This was one for the Traditionalists. If the Torah is Shavuot's official trademark, then cheesecake is almost certainly it's unofficial one Thanks to a great suggestion from Hub, I decided to add a pie aspect in the form of a fresh blueberry topping.

If there was a favorite, this tarty tart would have probably been it. The recipe came from the good old Joy of Cooking. Which proves to me that there are classics, that will never be irrelevant.

This dense chocolate cake was a favorite with my kids. Which makes me feel hopeful that I have had a positive influence on their tastebuds. It was very dark and very dense and not overly sweet, very smooth, and very deeply chocolate. So very...

I hate to say it but this was my most difficult one. A chiffon cake is very slight and light. It's the delicate flower of cakes. It had to be coddled into existence, starting with a tube pan completely devoid of even a smudge of grease. Egg whites beaten into fluffy shape which are to be folded in four parts into the orange scented cake batter . Buttercream frosting just seemed too heavy and offensive on such a such a sweet nothing of a cake, so instead I made a citrus glaze out of freshly squeezed and zested oranges and lemons and powdered sugar. This baked flour was not worth the effort.

While this one wasn't much of a looker, with it's craggy pecan streusel surface, it was my favorite. It tasted like a big delicious nutmeg scented donut and was made for a big cup of morning coffee. At the party I took a couple of minutes away from my hostessing and secreted away to a little corner with a hunk of this cake, some heavenly joe, and a couple of girlfriends for a few minutes of kitchen bitchin'.

This one was the looker of the bunch, but it didn't measure up to it's glistening appearance. It was my fault, I used self-rising flour which is best used in muffins and quickbreads. The seven minute boiled frosting was marshmallow-like in flavor and consistency and the coconut flakes also added a good texture. Unfortunately, the white cake inside was not soft, it didn't yield to the fork as it should have.

My other favorite. How can you not love a big and beautiful Carrot Cake? Made with hand-grated carrots, heaping spoonfuls of cinnamon, vanilla bean scrapings. And the frosting! That unforgettable cream cheese frosting- I gave it a tarter edge by adding half a cup of thick Greek yogurt to the cream cheese and more vanilla bean scrapings. I found my carrot cake recipe.