18 August 2009

Cool cakes

Been back in hiatus-land while I wait for my trusty Mac Guru to fix the ol' lappy -- which I thought had happened, but sadly, was only temporary. Thanks for all your help, James. While I continue lusting after a working compubox (new or used, just working would be nice), I'm going back into general blog shut-down mode. In the meantime, have fun with these crazy cakes!

First up: Geek Cakes & Cookies from BCakeNY. Here's their iPhone cake, which is pretty boss:

And second, the Threadless Threadcake winners are all pictured here. My personal favorite is the third runner-up, The Red Cake:

Dang, now I'm hungry. Good thing it's a coworker's birthday -- I wore my cake shirt today and everything.

23 March 2009

Time for a Revolution? Not Quite.

A pair of articles in this weekend's New York Times puts the spotlight back on the ol' hometown and the optimism of the local/organic/anti-agri-business/slow food movement.

First up: Andrew Martin's "Is a Food Revolution Now in Season?", the latest in speculative will-they-or-won't-they-change-the-world journalism. It's not a bad article, it just seems like I've read it before. The only difference? The bits about the Obama Administration. Okay, I'll concede that there's an authentic spirit of hopefulness in the new outlook of many of these foodies and food pioneers -- one that's not related to how well Whole Foods' stock is doing today. While I agree that the new administration brings with it cause for celebration in the local food world, until the political world can reconcile to a holistic approach to food and environment, foodies are simply patching up cracks in the quagmire's façade.

For instance, check out this choice quote from Fred Hoefner, policy director of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, when asked about Michelle Obama's new White House vegetable garden: “We just want to make sure that interest in that symbolic action can be channeled into some of the more difficult policy challenges.”

The point in new Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's plan that'll have the most impact (IMHO) is the placement of fresh, unprocessed foods in school kitchens. Many children in the cities of Berkeley and Oakland relied on free school breakfasts in my day, a fact that I'm sure only increases in times of economic crisis. And having school lunch options with real vegetables that taste really good will go a long way toward changing the eating habits of children across America -- and perhaps their parents' too. After all, when Junior comes home and asks for arugula, Mom's more likely to give it a try, right? And wouldn't you know, the first lady agrees!

Chew on that for a minute, then start reading Mark Bittman's article, "Eating Food That's Better For You, Organic or Not", which I'll cover later this week.

18 March 2009

Yum! Flourless Nut Butter Chip Cookies

This is a batch of cookies from a recipe I made up. It's delicious. I've made these cookies a bajillion times, given them as gifts, and have finally figured out which brand of peanut butter makes for the most consistent results (Adams, if you're curious).

Thought I'd post some after-St.-Patrick's drool-worthiness to go with the hangover:

12 March 2009

Bacon: Because too much is never enough

Made the most perfect batch of bacon bits tonight. Behold:

I used them to make a pretty carbonara-style pasta, which was delicious. Even though I don't generally do the lactose, I made a little exception for the butter in this one, though I used unsweetened soymilk for that portion of the recipe. Fake butter's okay, especially Earth Balance, but I gotta have the real stuff if I'm going so decadent as carbonara anyway!

What's your favorite bacon dish? I know, it's a loaded question. Give it some thought?

07 March 2009

Recipe: Rolled Biscuits

Pulled out the rolling pin this week for a rolled biscuit recipe I've been looking at sideways for a while now. Will they come out flaky and fluffy, or will they fall flat? Rolled biscuits, here I come.
Recipe: Rolled Biscuits
1 3/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3 tsp. double-acting baking powder
6 Tbsp. chilled butter
3/4 c. milk
Extra flour for dusting

0. Preheat your oven to 450ºF (my oven runs hot & in fairly precise increments of 5º, so I set it to 445ºF).

1. Sift flour, salt and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Cut in chilled butter using a fork or a biscuit cutter, until pastry has a clump-free, flaking consistency. Create a cavity in the center of the dough and pour in the milk. Use a fork to stir the liquid into the pastry, turning it around the bowl until it begins to pull away from the sides.

2. Turn the dough on to a floured board and knead quickly -- only 8 to 10 times, so it retains a flaky consistency and doesn't get tough. Roll the dough out in as few strokes as possible. Use a round pastry cutter, a large cookie cutter, or even a floured glass to cut the biscuits into shape, then place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool 2 minutes before serving with butter.
Well, here's how they came out:

Yup, flat as flat can be. I could barely pull apart two halves of the biscuit to put butter inside. Though they worked for my purposes (dipping in soup), I think I'll probably try a different dough next time, because this experiment turned out far from perfect. I was fantasizing about flaky, puffy, southern-style biscuit towers and I got a squished-down version instead. Maybe it's time to seek out a bag of White Lily and see if I can't turn out a batch of these.

01 March 2009

Vegan Cupcakes: Vanilla-Agave

What better way to start back up on the ol' blog than by making up a batch of simple vanilla-agave vegan cupcakes? Also, I had an excuse since I've wanted to celebrate having a new roommate in my little apartment today. I grabbed my copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (essential, seriously), shopped for a few missing ingredients, and made my way back to the kitchen.

The great thing about vegan cupcakes is that the ingredients come together so quickly, in a way that traditional dairy-full cupcakes just don't. (The icing is always delicious and fluffy, too, but I've got some left over cream cheese icing from my last baking experiment, so the finished product wasn't completely dairy-free.) Oil-based cupcake recipes tend to make spongier, fluffy cupcakes, but they don't rise as much, according to my past experience. And, just as I suspected, they were dense, moist and rich, but didn't rise sky-high over the pan's edge.

The flat surfaces made them easy to frost, so with the icing at a perfectly spreadable temperature, the finished product turned out quite pretty (if I do say so myself). The result? Delicious.

26 February 2009

Just because it's a frozen burrito doesn't mean you have to sacrifice presentation.

Case in point -- tonight's dinner, at your right (guest starring Miss Dyna Bean).

That's an arrow made out of Sriracha, for the curious. When you run out of salsa, it's an adequate substitute to get the hot chile flavor. It also appears frequently next to sushi rolls, if you think you might have seen it before but are having trouble placing it.

Tonight's dinner also happens to be vegan, and, despite the presence of the Coke over there, it's HFCS-free. I stopped eating the fructose devil about a year and a half ago, and now when I encounter it, the cloying sweetness is such a turn-off that I find I don't want it anymore. (Kind of like being non-dairy -- I have to ask my roommate whether the milk is bad when I'm baking, because I think it all smells icky after having abstained for so long.) This bottle is from a grocery store that carries Mexican Coke in glass, which makes the taste so much better on top of the fact that their version's made with regular old sugar. And sometimes, doesn't everyone want to ditch the healthy routine and drink a damn soda?

Try going without high fructose corn syrup for a few days and then drink a regular Coke and you'll see what I mean about how unpalatable it becomes -- let me know if you give it a try!

23 February 2009

seize the cake: The Return

After a lengthy hiatus from the interwebz (personal crises, no web access in the home and self-imposed blogging moratorium at the day job necessitated the break), I'm back! Didja miss me?

I know I missed the blog. Between the Bacon Explosion, Maple-Bacon Buttercream, and Candied Bacon, I feel like I've missed a lot. And that's just where the New York Times' Dining section and the awesomeness that is bacon intersect! Imagine what else may have gone unblogged! (Okay, no imagining necessary: I made a version of this bacon brittle and the photo below is the only evidence I've got of the process -- bad blogger!)

Well, the cake demands to be seized! Check back very soon for some killer cookies and yummy cupcakes. You couldn't keep me away.

05 July 2008

This week in baking: Grape Nuts (preview edition)

So I've been having a Grape Nuts craving, but since I usually get tired of them long before they go stale (and then they, um, go stale), I decided to get preemptive and concoct some Grape Nuts baked goods, including vegan strawberry cereal bars and a very Daring Custard Caper. Stay tuned to this space to see what delicious Grapey-Nutty yummies I come up with!

The other reason for baking in the relative heat of July is that I heard a horrible story from my mother this morning. Seems that while she was putting away the delicious peach pie we had at her July 4th barbeque, the pie plate slipped from her hands, shattering the dish and laying waste to all those hand-peeled peaches and the perfect, flaky, homemade crust. So I wanted to bring something yummy and not-too-bad-for-you to her when I see her next, to help ease the pie-related trauma. Here is a picture of the pie, taken by my friend Styrous, before it met its doom:

In the meantime, check out this recipe for Peanut Butter & Jelly Tart (with graham cracker crust, I might add) that I found on Epicurious while I was looking up other people's Grape Nuts experiments for inspiration in my own. It contains no Grape Nuts cereal, but the words "grape" and "nut" appear in the recipe, so it showed up in the results of my searching. If I were gonna make this tart, I'd tweak it a little (for instance, I'd try seasonal berries & homemade jam instead of grape jelly & Concords). Anyone else feel like giving it a go?

P.S. I can't help it -- I'm also making Wheat Free Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for a certain Birthday Boy I know... Mmm... cookies...

Update: (Sunday afternoon) I went to three different grocery stores, and there were no Grape Nuts to be found! To be fair, I wasn't expecting Trader Joe's or Whole Foods to stock them (I was right), but when I went to Andronico's they didn't have any on the shelf, and the employees were incredibly unhelpful. My mission continues tomorrow, when I try a fourth store and hope that the universe stops thwarting me at every turn. At least it gives me an excuse to keep buying wine -- everyone has such good deals! So as a consequence, my wine rack is completely full.

01 July 2008

Duh: Vegetables are good for you.

Tara Parker-Pope blogs over at The Well, a New York Times blog, and yesterday she posted "The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating", a fairly comprehensive list of foods that aren't incorporated into the average person's daily diet. (Pro tip: Check out the comments for some great recipe ideas and Tara's replies to her readers, some of which betray her closet case of bitchiness.)

Your mom already told you that beets are good for you, and Richard on Top Chef reinforced this idea on the cookin'-with-kiddies episode this season. Cabbage is so delicious, and often overlooked. Also, most people slather cabbage in mayo and think they're doing themselves a favor. Newsflash for these folks: the mayo offsets your attempt at health. TPP is quick to suggest an alternative -- here's a recipe for Asian Slaw with Peanuts from Epicurious. Personally, I'd skip the peanuts and throw on some sesame seeds to substitute the crunch and avoid the overpowering nut flavor, since I dig the taste of cabbage.

For anyone who eats spinach avidly (one of the superfoods that usually makes these top lists), swiss chard is probably a known substitute, especially because it's prepared so similarly. At my favorite farmer's market, the chard is such a pretty sight that one can't help but be tempted by the bright stems, especially in winter when everything else in season is so void of color. Canned pumpkin and frozen blueberries are great tips for high antioxidant foods that can be kept in the cupboard/freezer year-round. I like to substitute purréed pumpkin for the eggs & water portions of the readymade recipe for a boxed chocolate cake -- it makes for a great, fluffy vegan cake when you're short on time -- but don't forget the oil or it won't puff up enough!

Of course, all the aforementioned basically boil down to the following: Eat More Freaking Plants (with apologies to Michael Pollan for butchering his lovely original phrase). To add irony to the eye-roll, what should appear on the RSS this morning but TPP's latest missive: "Lying About Your Vegetables".