Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate Lollipops!

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dark chocolate lollipop with fruits and nuts

This was an easy fun recipe I saw while watching Ina Garten the other day on an episode of her show where she was visiting Paris and learned how to make these cute white chocolate lollipops.  I made mine with dark chocolate, Marcona almonds, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried figs and cranberries!  You can do many variations with each lollipop and of course you can use whatever dried fruits and nuts you love.


Ingredients

  • 16 ounces very good chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried figs
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Macrona almonds
  • 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Fleur de Sel (a pinch on top of each lollipop after the fruit and nuts)
  • Lollipop sticks (I cut some bamboo skewers into smaller pieces, but you have to watch for slivers!)

Directions


Place a sheet of non-stick silicone or parchment paper on a sheet pan.
Using the double boiler method:  Melt chocolate on very low heat, stirring with a whisk often until melted. Take off heat.


Using the microwave method:  Place 12 ounces of the chocolate in a heat-proof glass bowl and put it in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. (Time it with your watch for accuracy.) Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula, return it to the microwave for another 30 seconds, then stir again. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second intervals until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately stir in the remaining 4 ounces of chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. (If you need to heat it a little more, place it in the microwave for another 15 seconds.)
Using a tablespoon, pour the melted chocolate in rounds onto the silicone and place lollipop sticks in the middle of each chocolate round, giving the stick a little twist.  Sprinkle the tops of the lollipops evenly with the chopped fruit and nuts.  Put a pinch of the fleur de del on each if you like (totally optional).  Set aside to harden.  Wrap them up in a pretty package and Voilà!  There you go!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jam Success!

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jam in fridge

My Pear Cardamom Jam is ready to be distributed!  It tastes FANTASTIC!  Sweet and spicy with a nice bite from the cardamom.  At the very end of the recipe when you're adding the honey, I felt like adding a dash of ground cardamom because I wanted it a bit stronger.  I bet over time the flavor will concentrate even more though, so I will find out if that was a good idea or not in a few weeks when other people eat it, haha!  I had some for breakfast this morning, thinking it's just something you would never find in a regular market.  I'm so glad I found this recipe!

In conclusion, I might make it a bit more chunky next time because when I eyeballed a third of the batch to add to the rest,  I think I did over a third...so the ratio of smooth pear to chunky pears was a bit skewed.  But it seems like the type of recipe where you can alter it depending on personal preference.  Anyway, I highly recommend it!  It was easy peasy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pear Jam with Green Cardamom

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pears, lemons and Cardamom

I found this super easy tasty-sounding jam recipe in my Food & Wine magazine.  I'm ripening my pears as we speak so that in a few days I can try it out myself.  It's a 2 day recipe in that you have to soak the pears for one day, but there's no complicated canning process.  I promise to report how it turned out, but I just had to share before the holidays were over.  To vary this recipe, add a split vanilla bean or a cinnamon stick in place of the cardamom.  I'm definitely using the cardamom though...it sounds so flavorful!

INGREDIENTS:

4 pounds ripe Bartlett pears - peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon honey

DIRECTIONS:


1.  In a large glass or ceramic bowl, toss the pears with the sugar and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2.  Put a metal spoon in the freezer. Transfer the pears and their liquid to a wide, heavy pot and bring to a boil.  Put the crushed cardamom in a tea ball and add it to the pot.  Cook the pears over high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid starts to thicken and the pears become translucent, about 10 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat.
3.  Transfer one-third of the pears to a food processor or a food mill and puree until smooth.  Add the puree to the pot.  Boil over moderately high heat, stirring until the jam is very thick, about 5 minutes.  To test the jam, drop a small amount on the chilled spoon and freeze for about 30 seconds.  When you tilt the spoon, the jam should be thick and run down the spoon slowly.  If the jam is runny, cook it for a few minutes longer, then test again.  Remove the tea ball and stir in the honey.
4.  Ladle the jam into three clean, 1-pint jars and let cool completely.  Tightly close the jars and store the pear jam in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.  (I'm going to use little 12 ounce jars to give out this holiday!).


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fresh Pumpkin VS Canned Pumpkin!

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Fresh Pumpkin!

Okay, so here's where I'm at in terms of comparing canned pumpkin in a recipe versus cooking it on my own.  There's a color and textural difference for sure, but in terms of taste and in the last Iced Pumpkin Cookie Recipe I made, I'm kind of partial to the canned believe it or not!  I didn't find the taste more or less intense, and although this time the icing turned out better, I still like the texture of the denser canned pumpkin cookie better.  The lighter real pumpkin ones puffed up more in the oven, but were no more moist than the canned ones and perhaps even less so.  And I didn't mind taking the time to cook the pumpkin, which is usually the argument for using canned.  It made the whole house smell delicious! So that was a bonus.  And of course I was able to bake the seeds with some Johnny's Seasoning Salt YUM YUM!

Conclusion: Used canned if you really want to save time, it won't sacrifice on the flavor! Bake your own for the experience and to impress your friends, haha!

Here is the recipe I used to bake my pumpkin:


INGREDIENTS:

1 medium sugar pumpkin

DIRECTIONS:
1.Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
2.Cut pumpkin into small manageable pieces and cut off pith and seeds.
3.Place cut pumpkin skin side up in a large roasting pan. Add 1/4 inch of water and bake uncovered for 1 hour or until tender. Remove from oven and allow pumpkin to cool.
4.When cooled, cut away skin and mash or puree. I used a hand blender! Use in any recipe that calls for canned pureed pumpkin.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cupcake Calendar!

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With the holidays and a new year approaching, I decided to make a Cupcake Calendar! Ideal for the Cupcake Lover in your family or a friend who can't stop drooling over these delicious confectioneries! All photographs are of course mine. And all were eaten.

http://www.cafepress.com/CupcakeOrDie.487037364
Cupcake Calendar

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Baking Season is Here!

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chewy chocolate chip cookie
Indeed the cold weather has inspired me more to bake these days.  Hot food, mulled wine, cider, movies, and stoking the embers of a fireplace all sound really comforting and nurturing.  I am not sure what I want to bake next, but I got these great tips off the internet for a winning outcome:

 Use an oven thermometer -- ovens can by off by as much as 75 degrees. (Mine is almost 100 degrees off!)

 You'll get better volume from cakes if the ingredients are at room temperature before you begin mixing.

 Shiny pans are best for cake-making because they reflect the heat and produce cakes with tender crusts. If you use glass baking pans instead of metal, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

 Whenever a chocolate cake recipe calls for greasing and flouring the pan, grease it and dust with unsweetened cocoa powder instead.
 Before measuring sticky sweeteners such as honey or corn syrup, lightly coat the measuring cup or spoon with vegetable oil. The syrup will easily slip out.
 Don't open the oven door during the first 15 minutes of baking time. Sudden movement or temperature changes can cause a cake to fall.

So have fun this winter with old and new recipes and we'll see you back here with something delectable to share!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Savory Baked Pecans!

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Savory Baked Pecans!
Originally uploaded by Lara604
My lovely friends Dawn and Dana brought these over and now I can't stop eating them!  If you like things a bit more on the spicy side, put in a bit more hot sauce, or maybe cayenne. These have a great buttery texture, but if you like nuts a bit more dry, put a wee less butter. ENJOY!


4 C pecans
4 TBS butter
2 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic minced

Preheat oven to 250º
Melt butter.
Sauté garlic for one minute.
Add hot sauce and salt.
Mix with nuts and spread out on to a cookie sheet in a single layer.
Bake until toasted; about 45-60 minutes (depending on your oven and type of
cookie sheet). Keep an eye on them so they don't burn. Start checking at 30
minutes.

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

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Iced Pumpkin Cookies
Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of Cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies, then drizzle glaze with fork.
To Make Glaze: Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.

I found this recipe on All Recipes, and I found reading the comments were very helpful. No need to seal in an airtight container, these cookies have a cake-like consistency and are super moist!  I think putting them in Tupperware made them shiny, hah!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eyeball Cupcakes!

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Eyeball Cupcakes

I made these last year for a Halloween party, they were so much fun to decorate!  I'm pretty sure I got the idea from someone else on Flickr too.  Anyway, I'm not going to post a recipe for the actual cupcake because really you can use whatever recipe you want!  I used those apple gummy rings for the eyes, chocolate M&Ms for the pupil, white frosting, and of course just that store bought red writing gel.  I know a lot of people don't want to use it because of the red dye, but I figure since I never use it, this once won't hurt.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake!

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pumpkin cheesecake...sky diving?

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe *
(modified from an ad in Food & Wine magazine)
One of the time saving points of this recipe is that you don't have to make a water bath! Easy peasy!

Makes 16 servings

Ingredients:


38 small sized Ginger Snaps, finely crushed)
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 packages (8 oz each) Cream Cheese, SOFTENED
1 cup sugar
1 can (15 oz) plain pumpkin
3/8 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs

HEAT oven to 325ºF.
Mix crumbs, nuts and butter (I used a food processor).  Press onto bottom and 1 inch up the side of a 9 inch springform pan.  BEAT cream cheese and sugar with a mixer in a very big bowl until blended.  Add pumpkin, spices and vanilla.  Mix well.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each just until blended.  Pour into crust.  BAKE 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until center is almost set.  Loosen cake from rim of pan.  Cool before removing rim.  Resist the urge to eat it right away, and refrigerate 4 hours.  Serve with whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg!


*picture reflects the light and creamy texture of the cake, flying in the air without a care in the world!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thai Turkey Sliders!

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I really meant to post this a month ago, but better late than never!

Thai Turkey sliders I made!

Thai Turkey sliders!  I made this recipe from Food & Wine Magazine.  By far, one of the most flavor packed recipes I've tried for burgers before.  Such unique flavors going on, all melded perfectly together.

INGREDIENTS
1 small shallot, quartered
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Two 1/4-inch-thick slices of peeled fresh ginger
1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
Vegetable oil, for brushing
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Sriracha or other Asian hot sauce
4 brioche or kaiser rolls, split and toasted
Bread-and-butter pickles, lettuce, mint leaves and chopped peanuts, for serving


DIRECTIONS

- In a mini food processor, pulse the shallot, cilantro, ginger and jalapeño with the fish sauce until chopped. 
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and knead in the turkey. Using slightly moistened hands, form the meat into four 4-inch patties, about 3/4 inch thick.  Then slice those in half, and make little patties out of them.
- Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the burgers with oil and grill over moderately high heat, about 2.5 minutes on each side. DO NOT PRESS THE BURGERS WITH YOUR SPATULA!  All the yummy juice will run out, which is how you get dry burgers.  Do you want dry burgers?  I sure don't.
- In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise with the Sriracha. Spread the mixture on the rolls. Top with the burgers, pickles, lettuce, mint and peanuts, close and serve.







Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Little Kiwi Season!

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baby_kiwi_2

It's that time of year again, for those cute little Baby Kiwis to pop their tiny heads up in the produce aisle!  About the size of grapes, they have a smooth texture on the outside, not fuzzy like it's larger counterparts, so you don't have to bother taking off the skins. Just pop them into your mouth and enjoy the burst of kiwi flavor in "wee" form!  The seeds are also less apparent which is nice if you're someone that doesn't usually like that texture.  Sometimes I go to the trouble of nipping off the ends with my fingers, but you don't have to.  I bought them at PCC from the Organically Grown Company  in Oregon where you can get them only for a few months usually in September and October.  If they're not ripe, just wait a few days but not too long!  I discovered that they can go bad pretty quickly if not eaten.  But then again, if I get a little half pint I'm usually finished by the second day.  They are THAT good.




Thursday, September 30, 2010

Authentic Tacos in Downtown Seattle??

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It's not often you get really authentic Mexican food in Seattle, except for the occasional taco truck or cuisine specific to a certain region.  But Barracuda Taqueria was a great find on the edge of Belltown that I just had to share.  Specializing in real street food tacos, they add their own twist to each of their menu items with homemade condiments and super fresh ingredients.

I devoured two fresh handmade soft tacos:  The Chile Lime Shrimp which had fresh shrimp sauteed with chiles de arbol and deglazed with lime juice, topped with their own cabbage slaw and avocado lime crema.  And The Vegetarian with rice, black beans, and a mix of sauteed seasonal vegetables typically including market fresh wild mushrooms and squash. Topped with salsa fresca.

I never thought the variety of sautéed vegetables would be good in a soft taco, but they were!  Everything was so fresh and flavorful.  The cabbage slaw was so deliciously tangy and crisp, if they sold it by the jar I'd probably end up buying a whole case of it. We also ordered their chips and salsa which had a lovely light crunch and the salsa you could tell was homemade with a HOT spicy kick.  If you ever find yourself at the west end of Denny, check out Barracuda!

sept 13 10 025

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sweetest Scarf Ever

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You have to admit, this is pretty cute.  But I think at this point, if I get one more thing that links me to cupcakes solely I will go nuts, hehe.


But you can get yours HERE!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fun Storage!

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Okay how cool is this?!  I have super limited space in my kitchen, so I love stuff like this that can contain everything.  I love the fun colors too!  Not bad for $49.95.

Nest 8 Food Preparation Bowl Set


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Best Pie Crust Ever!

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Need a foolproof pie crust?  Well thanks to my mother-in-law here it is!  And it's made with Vodka!

The best apple pie crust ever.  Made with vodka!


Foolproof Pie Dough 

Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor, do not substitute. This dough will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to ¼ cup).

2 ½ Cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp table salt
2 Tbsp sugar
12 Tbsp (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter cut into ¼ inch slices
½ Cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
¼ Cup cold vodka
¼ Cup cold water

1. Process 1 ½ cups flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses.  Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).  Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade.  Add remaining cup of flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses.  Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture.  With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.  Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4 inch disk.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Apple Pie 

3 ½  lbs. sweet apples (6 to 7 medium) peeled, cored, and cut into ¼ inch thick slices
½  cup sugar
¼  tsp cinnamon
¼  tsp salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 recipe Foolproof Pie Dough
1  egg white, beaten lightly
    
1. Mix ½ cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and cornstarch in large microwave safe bowl; add apples and toss to combine.  Microwave on high power, stirring with rubber spatula every 3 minutes, until apples are just starting to turn translucent around the edges and liquid is thick and glossy, 10 to 14 minutes.  Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

2. While the filling cools adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425°.  Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface to 12 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.  Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1 inch overhang.  Ease the dough into the plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into the plate bottom with other hand.  Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

3. Transfer cooled apple mixture to dough-lined pie plate and mound slightly in the center.  Press down any sharp apple edges.

4. Roll second disk of dough on generously floured work surface (up to ¼ cup) to 12 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.  Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over the pie, leaving at least 1 inch overhang on each side.

5. Using kitchen shears, cut evenly trough both layers of overhanging dough, leaving ½ inch overhang.  Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate.  Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal.  Brush top and edges of pie with egg white and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar.  Using sharp paring knife, cut four 1 ½ inch slits in top of dough in cross pattern.

6. Place pie on preheated baking sheet and bake until top is light golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 375°, rotate baking sheet, and continue to bake until crust is deep golden brown, 15 to 30 minutes longer.  Transfer pie to wire rack to cool at least 2 hours.  Cut into wedges and serve.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Whoopie Pies a big Whoop!

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Originally uploaded by Baking is my Zen LLC
You know it was bound to happen, but the new craze after Cupcakes seem to be the classic Whoopie Pie from the 1920s. You never know how quickly these things will catch on or in what state (because I think the East Coast has been doing this for awhile), but here in Washington they are about to take off.

I think they tried making the gourmet ice cream sandwich the new popular sweet a few years ago in the Northwest, but it never caught on - surprise, we love ice cream but may not want it in the middle of winter!  Certainly handmade ice cream has received much attention and popularity, but I'm not sure it's gained the momentum yet that cupcakes have.

Really, a Whoopie Pie seems like just a different variation of a cupcake where you twist off the bottom of a cupcake and flip it on top making a sandwich-like item.  It's just now with these pies, they're a perfectly round little delicious bundle!  As far as I know you can make it with cookies or with round cake pieces.

If you do a search on Flickr you can find many many whoopie pie creations and I encourage you to do so!

Have fun making Whoopie!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Seattle Cupcake Wars

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Cupcake Massacre

Seattle is overflowing with cupcake places.  Seriously, just when you think you have a favorite another one pops up with stranger and stranger combinations of flavors to make you go "what?? I MUST HAVE THAT BECAUSE IT'S SO WEIRD!".

In the beginning there was Shnoo Cupcakes (Part of Shnoo Yogurt), across from Century Square at Westlake Park in Seattle.  I actually didn't think they were that bad (maybe a tad dry) and I loved their sugary icing.  There was also Cupcake Royale.  Not that partial to them, I thought their cupcakes were dry and uninteresting but I still ate them because they were the only ones in town at that point.  Then along came Trophy Cupcakes, a better alternative because they were moist and their brilliantly piped icing topped interesting and sometimes kooky flavored cupcakes.  I suppose being featured on Martha Stewart wasn't too shabby of them either.

But wait, what's this?  HEADLINE: Cupcake Royale Changes Their Recipe.  OMG, THEIR CUPCAKES ARE SO MOIST!  And what a new slogan, "Legalize Frostitution", making you aghast at first glance of the words on their new tshirts, until you realize it doesn't say "prostitution."  Okay, whew.  Yea, their cupcakes are way better than they were before.  Nicely done guys!

And what about 2 of the most well known and delicious bakeries in town:  Dahlia Bakery and Macrina Bakery?  I really have to say they are worst of the lot for cupcakes.  You guys can make a killer crust for a pie, amazing bread and sweet loaves, but good lord your cupcakes are dry and your icing tastes like whipped flavorless butter.  I like my frosting to taste like it did as a child: Sugary goodness and that certain familiar texture of butter whipped with icing sugar. Some people don't like it too sweet, but in these cases the icing does not help their dry cake and they really do just look pretty in the display case.  That is all.

The latest in the running for fast growing cupcake places is The Yellow Leaf Cupcake Co. right in the heart of Belltown.  Their flavors are well thought out, choosing to have a more sugary cake and less sugary icing.  See, I like it the other way around:  Flavorful and slightly sweet cake with the icing being more sugary.  So they aren't the highest on my list for favorites, but they do make a darn good moist cupcake and seem to follow the trend of making flavors that fit the season.

I still have yet to try Wink Cupcakes in Queen Anne, so if anyone wants to send me a box that would be A-Okay by me.  I will update this post with new places that pop up as well, or if you have any other recommendations around town.

So even if you're against those cute little cakes that are all the rage, get over it and just stuff yer face with one!  And better yet, watch this video before you do so you get it right!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Vegan Maple Cupcakes with Creamy Maple Frosting!

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I'm not sure why I forgot to post this recipe, but it was one of my favorite from the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World cookbook.  On the sweet side, it's the perfect flavor profile for the fall season coming up with a lovely nuttiness and spice.  The frosting in this photo was just spread on, and then with a small spoon I used the back of it to pull up the frosting in little bits.  I wanted to have a less-perfect look, making you just want to sink your teeth into them!

Maple Candied Walnut vegan cupcakes

Ingredients:


1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped sugared walnuts (recipe follows, or you can buy them in the supermarket!)


For the sugared walnuts:
1 cup walnut halves
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
dash salt
dash ground cinnamon


Directions:

To make the sugared walnuts:
1.  Preheat oven to 275 F.  Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes.  Open oven and shake the pan after about 4 minutes.  Watch carefully so as not to burn!  Remove from oven and place in a bowl to cool.  Lightly grease a large piece of parchment paper and have it ready because you will need it at the end of the next step.
2.  Pour sugar, maple syrup, and salt into a large, cold, heavy-bottom skillet.  Turn heat to medium and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar starts to melt and bubble, about 5 minutes.  Continue stirring and cook another 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is thick, amber-brown, and smells like caramel.  Remove from heat and quickly stir in the walnuts and cinnamon, stirring to coat each nut.  Immediately spread coated walnuts on greased parchment paper, using a spatula to spread out the nuts and avoid forming large clusters.  Allow to cool completely on sheet before handling or eating.

To make the Cupcakes:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
2.  Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl; set aside and allow to curdle for a few minutes.
3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg into a separate bowl and mix.  Whisk the maple syrup, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla, and maple extract into the soy milk mixture.  Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients, stirring until large lumps are gone; fold in chopped sugared walnuts.  Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way.  Bake 20 to 22 minutes.  DO NOT OPEN OVEN WHILE BAKING, CUPCAKES WILL FALL!  Transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.  Frost with Creamy Maple Frosting and sprinkle with Sugared Walnuts or sprinkles (in my case).

Creamy Maple Frosting:

2/3 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup margarine, softened
2/3 cup soy milk powder
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Beat Together the softened margarine and maple syrup.  It might look a little curdled but that's okay.  Beat in the vanilla and the maple extract, then slowly add soy milk powder a little bit at a time.  The frosting should be creamy and fluffy.  If it looks too wet, add a little more soy milk powder, if too stiff, drizzle in a little more maple syrup.  The frosting can be stored in fridge until ready to use, just allow to sit at room temperature 10 minutes to soften.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thank you Food Network!

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WARNING:  Spoiler alert if you have been watching "The Next Food Network Star."

I am so ecstatic that Food Network picked a winner this time who has such a vibrant personality and isn't afraid to introduce us to a plethora of spices and color!  Aarti Sequeira reminds me of all the Indian friends I grew up with in Vancouver, B.C., whose kitchens smelled like heaven every time I walked through the door, warm spices wafting throughout the house.  She's got such an infectious giggle, a great smile, and isn't afraid to speak the truth in her point of view and life experiences.   Aarti is like the Indian Ina Garten cooking with ease and comparing ingredients to things we might be familiar with but also teaching us about all the spices that are out there we should be using.  Indian cooking doesn't have to be intimidating, and can be totally fun to make.  Imagine the smells and flavors that can come out of your kitchen...mmm!

Her show Aarti Party will be on every Sunday at noon, so check it out!  I can't wait to try those Creamy Pistachio Pops she made today!

Aarti Sequeria, Aarti Party

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Busy Busy!

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Hey Everyone!
So sorry I've been out of touch here on the ol' food blog.  I have been in the middle of house hunting, and we're on the verge of purchasing so things have been quite hectic.  I have also been post processing a bunch of wedding photos for friends so that takes up a lot of free time as well.

In the meantime, I had a totally delicious lunch at the Cherry Street Coffee House (for the millionth time, no doubt).  They had their rice, lemon, and egg soup which is just the perfect bowl of goodness to nurse a cold I have had the last few days, accompanied with a half sandwich of ham and cheddar with all the fixings!  If you are ever in Seattle and want a delicious fresh lunch please check out their multiple locations downtown!

Also some of you might recognize the photos on their website, and that is because I had the complete pleasure of taking photos for their new menu!  I think it turned out pretty well!  Thank you AJ and crew!

Lunch!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Obasan wins again!

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I've already written about Obasan on Queen Anne, so this entry will be short.  I had the loveliest little shrimp salad the other day, along with some nigiri.  It was the perfect lunch!  The waitress we always get is so friendly too.  She always remembers us now.

my salad with shrimp

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What's in Season?

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mmm purple carrots

One of the websites I follow periodically (okay, and a million others) is Epicurious, and I would like to share a post with you that has really been helpful in figuring out what to buy at the supermarket while still being thrifty.  The key to not spending a lot of money is to find out what's in season and let the ingredients dictate what recipes you will be inspired to tackle.  If you live in the U.S.A. you know how different each state is in terms of climate, soil, and what you will find at the grocery store.   In January, while avocados and tangerines are plentiful and cheap in Florida, they are extremely expensive up in Seattle, Washington at the same time of year.  So how do we figure it out?  You can always ask your grocer, watching the food specials in restaurants at the time or if you're trying to cook more at home, this is a great resource:  Seasonal Ingredient Map.

I live in Seattle, WA, so right now the season is perfect to buy and cook with these ingredients:

blackberries
blueberries
cucumbers
currants
corn
gooseberries
raspberries
strawberries
summer squash
tomatoes

So never fret, you don't have to back out of the store disappointed when you see expensive produce, or think you can't enjoy a great meal because tomatoes are $4.99/lb.   Just leave yourself open to trying new recipes based on what's in season, and have fun with it!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Purple Cafe: Always good food!

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Purple Bartender

Do you like great food, excellent wine, and friendly service? OH ME TOO!   Purple Cafe and Wine Bar is the place that will get you exactly that for special occasions or a simply fantastic meal with friends.  Now I can only speak for the downtown Seattle location, but every payday we used to walk a few blocks from work for an amazing lunch here and was never disappointed.  I mention "payday" because this place isn't the cheapest downtown but you can get a super tasty lunch for about $11.  Dinner is more expensive of course, but worth every penny.

Through their fantastically heavy metal doors you walk into the extremely spacious high ceiling restaurant with a huge tower of wine in the middle.  Very impressive.  For some, probably seemingly pretentious.  But by the time you're greeted by the very friendly hostess and waiter and your mouth meets their food, you realize it's not pretentious at all.  They just want to do things right!  They have a very extensive menu, from smaller fare, to sandwiches, to cheeses and wine pairings, to full on dinner courses that appear to feature what is in season.

I had the delicious Syrah Braised Short Ribs you see below, that was fall-off-the-bone goodness, atop Rosemary Soft Polenta and a side of Jicama Slaw.  My husband (A full on vegetarian) had the Pesto Pizza which he remarked was very flavorful and plenty for one person, maybe even two if you wanted to eat lighter.  And if you're like me and ALWAYS have to have dessert, they have the perfect solution for wanting to eat every choice on the menu:  Small 2 Bite Desserts.  That meant we could try a few and not completely go over the edge!  We narrowed it down to two (I wanted five!).  The "light" tasting Mango Cheesecake with Kiwi Coulis, Mango Gelée, and Toasted Coconut.  YUM!  And then the absolutely heavenly Sticky Toffee Pudding Crème Brûlée with date caramel, which was like no Crème Brûlée I've ever tasted.  Just perfect, with that crunchy sweet topping, smooth creamy center, and deep molasses flavor hitting my palette.  I am having flashbacks now...I must rest.

In a nutshell:  I highly recommend Purple Cafe and Wine Bar!

Syrah Braised Beef Short Ribs
Pesto Pizza
Dessert!

Friday, June 11, 2010

My First Newspaper Photo!

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My bagel and cured salmon photo made it into the Seattle Times, care of the Cherry Street Coffee House and article writer Nancy Leson, who chose my photo. I'm so excited!
I'm in the paper!

And here is the article online !

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A little bit of France in Seattle!

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montage

1. Chocolate Croissant, 2. Ham & Split Pea soup with Croissant, 3. French Onion Soup and Vegan Salad, 4. Boulangerie Nantaise 

At Boulangerie Nantaise on 4th Ave. in Seattle, you will find one of the best buttery croissants this side of the Atlantic, as well as delicious light lunches and great coffee.  I find myself constantly ordering their French Onion soup (topped with a slice of baguette and grated cheese that melts into the soup) and a side vegan salad.  Then I usually can't resist taking either a Pain au Chocolat (chocolate croissant) or butter croissant home.  If you need a fresh loaf of bread for your daily consumption, I would also recommend getting their Country French loaf, which is perfect for your breakfast toast, sandwiches, or simply sliced and topped with whatever you have around the house.  It's the perfect loaf!

You must come EARLY to this bakery though (preferably morning or before 3pm), so you get all these tasty treats at their peak of freshness and availability!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cheese!

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The cheese on here was impeccable!

If you live in the Washington State area or are visiting, and have a chance to buy Mt. Townsend Creamery local cheese, you have to try the Truffled Fromage Blanc. It was on my delicious salad at Macrina Bakery in Seattle and I couldn't eat enough of it.  Our waiter let us sample it before we got our order, and I had no idea it would be on my salad too.  SCORE!  Not too strong, not too mild, spreadable and fluffy! The salad had asparagus, roasted leeks, cannellini beans, organic field greens and Macrina's Casera bread tossed with champagne vinaigrette.  The perfect lunch!  I could seriously eat a bowl of this with veggies or fruit for breakfast...just try me!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vegan Banana Bread!

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Banana Bread! from Lara Schneider on Vimeo.

I ran across this recipe online when I wanted to use up a bunch of bananas before they went too bad.  The recipe turned out really well, and was the easiest I have ever found.  I might have added a dash of nutmeg or all spice, and I'm sure if you added about a half a cup of chopped nuts it would work as well.  My oven has been running about 100 degrees off it's real temperature, so last year I bought an oven thermometer so I could make sure I wasn't going to burn the heck out of my cakes!   It really came in handy this time as this bread bakes for an hour, so if the oven were too hot I would have a burnt outside with a soggy mess inside.

SIDENOTE:  This recipe is SUPER moist, and uses a lot of banana, so it will seem underdone when you first take it out, but just let it cool down and it will be perfect. :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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chewy chocolate chip cookies

Yes I know I know, you would think I have posted enough chocolate chip cookie recipes, but can you REALLY have too many??

This one is modified from the back of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip package.  It produced one of the chewiest cookies I have made so far.  And of course the best time to eat it was about 5 minutes after it came out of the oven.  Well I tested it right out of the oven, then at 5 minutes, and then at 15 minutes.  And then later that night. Um...they were so good.  The next day they were a bit crispier but delightful with a cup of coffee or tea to dip into.  MMM!  It yielded about 3 dozen cookies (package said 4), but I'm sure there could have been more if I didn't keep eating the dough.  I don't recommend it with raw eggs inside, but hey I'm a glutton for stomach punishment when it comes to sweets.That's what TUMS is for, right?!

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Recipe:

In a medium size bowl combine:
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you can used all purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
Set aside.


In a large bowl combine:
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients, stir with wooden spoon or spatula until ingredients are incorporated and there's no more flour showing.  Drop by tablespoon (I literally used my measuring tablespoon) onto un-greased non-stick cookie sheets.  Bake for 8 minutes and cool them on a rack if you have one.  They will seem under-done, but give them 5-10 minutes and they will be perfect!

ENJOY!



Sunday, May 16, 2010

Magnificent Malaysian Food!

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Roti CanaiTiger Prawns
chicken sataymango sticky rice

I probably can't say anything that hasn't been said already about Banana Leaf Malaysian Cuisine in Vancouver, but it really is one of the best places to eat down on Denman.  If you like your food with punches of spicy, sweet and salty tastes, this is the place for you!  There is nothing bland about this restaurant and everything I tried seemed so authentic.  Malaysian food isn't super popular where I live in Seattle, so this was quite a treat when visiting my mom for Mother's Day.  We shared a delectable appetizer called Roti Canai, that wasn't like an Indian roti that I've had before, but more soft with a touch of sweetness.  The spicy dipping sauce was perfect, too!  Then I had some spicy Tiger Prawns that were cooked with garlic and chili mixed with lemongrass and dried shrimp paste.  SUPERB!  And this was the first time I had okra that wasn't mushy, it was incredible.  My mom's Satay Chicken was really good too.  The dishes had just the right amount of food too, so we had room for dessert and splurged on the mango sticky rice.  The texture was perfect, and whatever caramel-like sauce they made with it, was like crack...I just wanted more, and had to stop myself from using my fingers to wipe the plate clean!

Check it out if you haven't already!


Banana Leaf on Denman
1096 Denman St., Vancouver, B.C. | Phone: 604-683-3333

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yee-Ha! Sweet Cornbread!

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mmm sweet Cornbread!

Funny thing that prompted the making of some sweet cornbread the other night.  I had looked over at my calendar and it said "May 6 - Jeff Haynie's Birthday", and I thought to myself, "Oh no!  I forgot!  I'll make some cornbread and bring it into work tomorrow morning!"  I work with Jeff, and he's from the south so he loves a good cornbread.  So I quickly went online and found a really easy one on All Recipes, and whipped it up in under an hour!  Then it suddenly occurred to me that wait a minute...didn't we JUST celebreate Mr. Haynie's birthday a few months ago?  OH MY GARSH, WE DID!  And we even had pie, I mean, how could I forget??

So, my co-workers got to reap the benefits of my freak-out, and I brought it into work the next day along with some honey to drizzle on top after it was heated.  SO GOOD. It's a pretty light recipe, and you only have to use one bowl!  If I had a cast iron skillet I would find a recipe for that method, but I didn't so this was just fine.  Right out of the oven it was pretty heavenly. Top with butter or honey or both!

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).  Spray or lightly grease a 9 inch round cake pan.  In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil until well combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  Wait a few minutes before cutting, but it really is the best when it's still warm. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Perfect Gift!

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Original and Chocolate Crumb Cake!

crumb cake squares


These were in 8 huge squares, so I cut them into little pieces to share with co-workers. They were from my Dessert of the Month club, that my father-in-law got me last holiday. A new dessert comes every few months! You can pick and choose how often they deliver, and for how long.  There's also Beer, Cheese, Wine, Chocolate, and many more types of gifts to send monthly!
www.amazingclubs.com/

I have to say, this was one of the best crumb cake recipes I've ever tasted.  Of course, with all the butter and eggs in it, I don't see how it could be bad.  The chocolate was apparently cooked with a liqueur and hints of cinnamon.  Delicious!  It was my favorite, and although it seemed like it would be heavy, it had a nice lighter texture and taste.

There's no way to know what dessert you will receive each month, but that's the fun of it!  I really recommend  Amazing Clubs for your next special gift purchase. And no, I'm not a spokesperson, but I suppose I should be now that I have done two posts about this company, haha!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

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homemade Macrina Bakery chocolate chip cookies
Okay folks, I'm finally posting this recipe!  Wow, took me long enough, eh?  I was busy eating, and not enough posting!

So this recipe is from Leslie Mackie's "Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook", found on page 161.  My fellow food lover Tabitha gave me the book to borrow, and I had yet to try anything.  Shame on me! This is definitely one of the best chocolate chip recipes I have found.  Chewy, chocolatey, with just a few crisp parts around the edge.  Pretty much the perfect cookie, if you don't care about calories or diet. *cough!

The recipe itself is called "Olivia's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies", and is named after two Olivia's in Leslie's life: her daughter and the grandmother of the pastry chef, Karra Wise.  Apparently it's Macrina Bakery's take on the Toll House cookie.  So here's the recipe!

Makes 16 large cookies

2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I only had one package of chips (2 cups) and it was plenty!)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature (I used Earth Balance)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add chocolate chips and mix well with a spoon.  Set aside.

2.  Combine butter, shortening, sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and pale in color.  I actually didn't used my stand mixer and got a nice arm workout using a spatula, because my mixer doesn't have a paddle.  Add 1 egg and mix until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the remaining egg and vanilla extract.  Continue mixing until incorporated, about 1 minute with the mixer (3-5 with your buff arms).  Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

3. Using a rubber spatula (Woot! Already have it!), fold half of the dry ingredients into the dough.  After the first batch is fully incorporated, fold in the rest of the dry ingredients and continue folding until all the flour as been absorbed.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  At this point the dough can be formed into cookies or stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

4.  Preheat overn to 350 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (I used foil greased with butter).

5.  Scoop dough out of the bowl (about a medium ice cream scoop) and roll the dough into 2 inch balls.  Place 8 balls on each baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between each ball.  Flatten the balls with the palm of your hand to about 1 inch thick.  Place 1 sheet of cookies in the refrigerator while baking the other sheet.

6.  Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, on center rack of oven for about 15-18 minutes each.  To help the cookies bake evenly, rotate the baking sheet every 4 minutes or so.  The finished cookies will be golden brown around the edges, and still light in the center.  Let cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.  The cooled cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trip down the Bayou for Happy Hour!

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Toulouse Petit Mosaic

It's been awhile since I've been to happy hour, so my friend Kristen and I decided to head to Toulouse Petit up on Queen Anne, Seattle.  My other co-workers had already been there for lunch, and had pretty good things to say about the place, so of course I had to try it.

When you walk in the dining area is spacious and nicely decorated.  Nothing too fancy, but that was a good thing for me because I didn't want to feel like I wasn't welcome in my jeans and t-shirt.  We headed to the bar area and frantically looked through the menu because we only had one hour left for happy hour.
"Quick Kristen! Narrow it down to 4 to 5 dishes from 40 delicious sounding menu items!"
"Okay Okay!  ummmm...er...uhhh...wow, there's a lot here."

Everything sounded fantastic, making it harder to choose, so in the meantime the waitress took our drink orders. Kristen had a white wine ($6 or $7) and I had their Pomegranate Mojito ($6.95), which isn't really a deal, but with their menu items at $5 each, maybe that's where they were making up the difference...who knows, but my Mojito was fantastic!

Anyhoooo, we ordered what we thought were going to be tiny plates, but ended up with generous portions of, in no particular order:

1.  Bayou Garlic Shrimp (Really basic, but nicely presented in a skillet full of garlic and butter.  It was delicious!)
2.  Spicy Fried Alligator (We loved it!  The alligator wasn't tough at all, perfectly fried, and the creamy sauce it was served beside was super yummy.)
3.  Seafood Gumbo (A big bowl of hearty goodness, with a touch of sweetness from somewhere!)
4.  Crawfish Étouffée (Much like the gumbo but a lot spicier and without the sweet hint like the other one had, which wasn't a bad thing...I just think I preferred the gumbo.)
5.  Corn and Tasso Macque Choux (One of the best corn and ham dishes I have ever had!)
6.  Fried Green Tomatoes in Remoulade (Nicely done with a lighter corn batter.)
7.  Buttermilk Beignets (Nothing to write home about; I am guessing the strongly flavored Chicory Anglaise sauce with it's coffee-like taste, was supposed to pair well with the less flavorful friend dough, but I'm not sure it worked for us.  I would have much rather have some kind of whipped cream or fruit compote.  But whatever, we ate almost all of it!  *hides)
8.  Pear Hazelnut Frangipane  (I think we both liked this one the most and pretty much had to stop ourselves from licking the plate.)


Okay wait, hold on...this is a lot of food.  OMG KRISTEN!  Hi...


10 minutes later:  Waitress comes back.
"Hi, can I get you another Mojito?"
"Oh no, I shouldn't, WELL OKAY!"


Seriously, the drinks were pretty good.  Either that or I was really thirsty.  Yea, thirsty that's it.
So folks, if you're looking for a decent happy hour and want to try something we don't see a lot of here in the Northwest, check Toulouse Petit out.  The only thing, is that their happy hour is from 4:00-5:30pm, so plan on leaving work a bit earlier.  Just do what I did, and tell the boss you were just stepping out for a bit, and you'll be back...and then RUN!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easiest Chocolate Cake Ever!

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vegan chocolate cake with ganache frosting

My mother used to make a variety of this easy delicious chocolate cake,  and it's definitely a no fail recipe and creates the most moist cake ever!  I had some friends coming into town for the day, and I just whipped it up before they came over.

Easiest Cake Recipe Ever:
preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together in large measuring cup or medium bowl:
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup warm water

In a large bowl sift together:
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Pour contents of measuring cup into the large bowl of wet ingredients and stir/whisk until there are no large lumps.  Small lumps are okay.  You don't want to over stir cake batter, or it will get gummy. Pour into an 8x8 round or square tin, smoothing it out on top. NO JUMPING!
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.
For the ganache, just make your favorite ganache recipe, or follow what I did. I just heated soy milk (enough to almost cover 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate) over medium heat in a double boiler until the chocolate is just over half way melted, whisking and keeping an eye on it. Put in a dash of vanilla, take it off the heat, and continue to whisk until the whole thing is melted. If it hasn't quite melted yet, hold it over the steamy heat and whisk some more. You can finish it off by stirring a teaspoon of margarine in at the end, until melted, and it will make it nice and shiny.  
Then when the cake was cool, I poured the ganache over the cake, and wait for it to all set. Refrigerate if you somehow don't eat all the cake within the hour!  
SIDENOTE:    You can also melt chocolate in a microwave!  Just watch that informative video.
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