Friday, November 26, 2010

A Thanksgiving Extravaganza

For Thanksgiving this year, we had a last minute change of plans and decided to stay in VA rather than drive to NJ to be with Aaron's family. My first inclination was to just order takeout or go to a restaurant (it is, after all, the last two weeks of the semester), but Aaron convinced me that we should take this as a challenge and make a full meal. We invited friends over, gathered all of the recipes that we've been wanting to make for a while and started planning. Our generous friends also brought pies, wine, cheese and hors d'oeuvres--we had a feast!

It was a great meal and although we couldn't be with our families we had a lot of fun with our friends. Now, we are pros at cooking Thanksgiving :)

The menu was:

Hors d'oeuvres:
Sweet potato coins with cranberry, goat cheese and pecan topping
Prosciutto and sage wrapped sweet potato wedges
Cheese plate

Salt Roasted Turkey
Sage, Sausage and Apple stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Greek-inspired giblet gravy
Roasted acorn squash two ways
Thyme-roasted apples and onions
Parker House Rolls
Green beans with toasted walnuts and dried cherry vinaigrette
Cranberry sauce with orange zest
Cranberry sauce with red wine, pomegranate molasses and herbs

Pumpkin pie (we had THREE pies!!!)
Chocolate Cake with chocolate buttercream

I have linked to all of the recipes above, but some of the highlights include:

Aaron's pumpkin pie

Aaron's turkey

my cranberry sauce

Green beans


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It Came!!!

I present to you, our long-awaited new sofa!!!!! Now, the rest of our furniture looks lame in comparison :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Re-Birthday!!!!

That's right, today is Joseph Shmuley Biden's re-birthday: the day we adopted him! We have officially endured one year of wall-chewing, late night barking, computer cord eating and shoe stealing, but we have also enjoyed a year of stink-bug hunting, morning face-licking (although this could easily fall into either category) and tail-wagging.

Today, to celebrate, we dressed Joe up in his costume (for the millionth time) and took him to the UVA Lawn where they give out candy to kids all afternoon. There were tons of people and Joe was a huge hit! Little kids kept going "I see a turtle-dog!" He also wore his costume on Friday night to hear Obama speak in downtown Charlottesville (for photos, by a local photographer, click here). Obama was campaigning for our local Congressman Tom Perriello. There were tons of people and we couldn't hear anything, but Joe liked walking around and seeing all the people, plus we got cookies.

Also to celebrate Halloween, Aaron and I went to an art history party last night--in costume, of course. Aaron dressed as a bee and I was glitter (the craft supply, personified). Mainly, I just like sparkly things.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Sneak Preview

Here is a sneak preview to whet your appetites for Halloween! Let's just say we went to Target and purchased a costume and Joe S. Biden is going to be the coolest, half-schnauzer/half-something else dog walking around this Halloween. Not to mention Sunday (Halloween) is his re-birthday!!!! That is, the day we adopted him. I think this calls for celebration.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A New Cook in the Kitchen

The past week (or two weeks?) has just flown by. Aaron and I attended another wedding, took a whirlwind trip to NC and acquired a new sofa in the process. I have also been preparing for two upcoming conferences at which I am presenting papers, the first is this Thursday. Amidst all of this I have pretty much stopped cooking in any capacity. Some mornings I barely manage to pour cereal and milk in a bowl (and just eat cookies instead). Instead, Aaron has been cooking dinner every night and we have been eating some very delicious meals! Chicken and lentils, tandoori chicken, orzo the list goes on and on.

My two favorites of the bunch are probably BLT's and butternut squash gnocchi. We have been eating BLT's a lot lately and I guess they aren't necessarily a blogworthy meal, but they are sooo delicious! (and take only about ten minutes to make). More impressive is the butternut squash gnocchi that Aaron made today. It was truly an endeavor--he started almost as soon as we got home from church this morning and it wasn't finished until 7:30pm. Unfortunately, I was so excited to eat it that I forgot to take any pictures of the finished product, but I can tell you it was worth all the work--very light and full of flavor! Perhaps I will just stay busy forever so Aaron can keep cooking...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Return of me

I looked at my blog today and realized that I haven't posted in almost two months. A ton of things have happened, but almost none of them have been food related, or I guess I should say, almost none of the food related things have involved me baking or cooking. The few things I have made have been either repeat items or less than interesting so I haven't even bothered photographing them.

This apple cake is possibly the one exception. I made this cake for Rosh Hashanah because it is possibly one of the easiest recipes ever and it involves apples--sounds like a winning combination! It isn't very sweet and has no glaze or icing or anything, it is almost like an upside down cake except not upside down. Aaron actually preferred it the next day, cold.

Apple Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart
3/4 cup flour
1 lb. Granny smith apples, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
 6 T. whole milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs
6 T. butter, softened
1/3 c sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Coat an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread apples in pan and set aside

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, oil, and eggs in a medium bowl until smooth. Pour over apples. Bake until set and pale golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Stir together butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl. Remove cake from oven, and pour topping
over cake. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. 

Aside from the lack of baking that has been going on around here I have been pretty busy with school. I am presenting papers at two conferences in the next month so I've been busily writing and rewriting those papers. We also spent a weekend in NJ/NY recently and now we are in the midst of back to back weddings. Here is a photo from the weekend we attended this past weekend. Hopefully, I'll be cooking and baking more soon so I will also be updating more!


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hearty Breakfast Food

Yesterday I was searching through my saved recipe files for a good zucchini bread recipe when I came across this other one for granola muffins. I have a huge bag of granola in my cupboard as well as a multitude of tiny, leftover bags of other granola because I normally enjoy eating it with yogurt for breakfast, but lately I have been on a cheerios kick. I was pretty psyched because I figured this would be a good way to use up all those leftover bits of granola (thus cleaning out part of my cupboard) and make something else for breakfast (cheerios is also starting to get old).

This recipe comes from the New York Times and is perhaps meant for people who enjoy eating bran flakes without any sweetener or raisins or who like those Carr crackers without any cheese on them. In other words, people who like boring food. They are indeed, hearty food and provide a good base, but really require something else to make them worth eating. I suggest jam or cream or even peanut butter. I think next time I might put extra dried fruit in them.

Granola Muffins
New York Times

1 cup granola
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large or extra large eggs
1/4 cup mild honey, such as clover
1/2 cup buttermilk or plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, mix the granola and milk and set aside to soak for thirty minutes. In another small bowl, soak the raisins in hot water for 15 minutes and then drain and dry. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl beat together the eggs, honey, buttermilk/yogurt, canola oil and vanilla. Whisk the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and then fold in the granola and raisins. Distribute into the muffin tins (12) and bake at 375 for 20 minutes.  

Friday, July 30, 2010


I have been taking Italian classes all summer, actually that is kind of an understatement--I have given up my life to learning Italian 7 1/2 hours a day this summer :) It is a pretty insane process, but I knew what I was getting in to because I have done intensive language study before. I am learning a lot and I really think it has been a productive five weeks (only three more!). As part of our class, we had a "mandatory" party a few weeks ago. Doesn't "mandatory" just make it scream fun?  Needless to say, we spent a lot of time asking each other what we were doing for the weekend, what kinds of food we like, and what we like to do in our free time.

For the event, I decided cupcakes were necessary since I haven't really been able to bake much recently. In my mind I associate Italy with nutella (or really, all of Europe with nutella) so I decided to whip something up. I went with my standard chocolate cupcakes, for which you can find the recipe here and used a nutella icing recipe. Personally, I like a lot of hazelnut flavor so I adjusted the recipe a bit from the original and I am still not totally satisfied, but it will do for now.

Nutella Icing
adapted from Sugarlaws

2 sticks of butter, softened
approx. 4 cups of powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
approx. 1/2 cup of nutella

beat together the butter, vanilla and nutella until fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar until it reaches a desired consistency. I also added a pinch of milk at the end to make it slightly creamier. Basically, just adjust the ingredients until it tastes/feels like you want.

*for the title to this post, I must give credit to D who sent me an email with the same title.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mini Galettes

As I have made abundantly clear on this blog, I am not a fan of pie, however this summer I have made quite a bit of pie and fruit related dessert because we have had a lot of fruit around from our CSA. This week in particular we received plums, nectarines and blueberries so I decided to make some mini-galettes to use up some of the not-so-perfect fruit (when we get so much, some of it is bound to be a little less than wonderful).

I've made galettes before, but this time I thought mini versions would be a nice alternative because my favorite part is the sugared crust and I just really like mini desserts.

See this post for the crust recipe. This time, instead of using strawberries I used plums, nectarines and blueberries, basically whatever I have sitting around.

Other than these galettes, I've been spending my time chugging away at Italian (ciao ciao!) and doing basically nothing else.

Here is a picture of Joe trying to look innocent, "what me? you think I chewed another hole in the wall??? impossible!!!"

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday!

My friend Elizabeth had a birthday this week, but since I have been busy learning Italian I couldn't make her a cake until this weekend. In honor of the occasion, we held a small brunch and also ate this cake (what? you don't eat cake for brunch at your house?). She requested berries and whipped cream--something fresh. I guess when your birthday is in June you grow up eating a lot of ice cream cakes. This cake was a take on a shortcake and I thought it would be appropriate for the incredibly hot weather we've been having recently.

The recipe comes from one of my favorite books: Sky High Cakes. When I was putting it all together I worried that it would just topple over because of all the berries and cream, but it managed to stay in one piece until we cut into it. I think this would be equally delicious with any other berries or maybe even peaches? Really, it just a light, yellow cake layered with a strawberry mixture and unsweetened whipped cream. How much simpler does it get?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Coconut Milk Fudge

I have a list of recipes to try for my dessert bar and I decided to give this one a whirl this weekend. I liked the looks of this recipe because the process and ingredient list is very simple, but the end result is tiny and pretty. Although they look like chocolate truffles, these are coconut milk fudge--or brigadeiros--covered in various toppings. I think the picture describes them better than my own words.

Coconut Milk Fudge
from smitten kitchen

1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 T. butter
2 t. light corn syrup
finely shredded, unsweetened coconut
ground pistachios
chocolate sprinkles

In a saucepan combine the condensed milk, coconut milk, butter and corn syrup. Bring to a boil and then reduced heat to medium-low. Whisk constantly until the mixture becomes fudgy in consistency. The recipe says this should take 10-15 minutes, but it took me at least thirty and I still think mine was too thin. Pour mixture into a bowl and cool for four hours in the refrigerator.

Once cooled, form the mixture into small, teaspoon sized balls. Roll the balls in the various toppings and place in the tiny cups  (if you have them). These will save at room temp or in the fridge.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Another use for rhubarb

Several weeks ago we received more rhubarb in our weekly CSA. As I've mentioned before, there are two things I don't really like (only two): pie and rhubarb. Unfortunately for me it seems like the most common thing to do with rhubarb is mask it in some sort of pie (see: cherry rhubarb, strawberry rhubarb, peach rhubarb). I just feel like rhubarb is not a worthy vegetable if the only way to eat it is when it is hidden by the flavors of another, more tasty fruit/vegetable. 

So, since I don't really like pies and I'm sick of crumbles and crisps I decided to do something different with this obligatory produce--ice cream. The original recipe calls strictly for rhubarb, but we also had a bunch of cherries to use up so we decided to add them in (and, yes, mask the taste of the rhubarb). The end result is good--Aaron loved it--but not something I would do again. The worst part is the stringy pieces of rhubarb left in the ice cream. The flavor is very rich and fruity, it actually tastes like a rhubarb pie in ice cream form.

Cherry Rhubarb Ice Cream
adapted from Not Without Salt

1 lb. rhubarb, chopped in 1/2" chunks
1 cup cherries, pitted and chopped in half
2 oz. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 t. salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk

Combine the rhubarb, butter, vanilla, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan on medium low heat. Simmer until the rhubarb is soft (if you are using cherries you should add these a bit later since they don't take as long to cook). Remove the lid and break up the fruit with a spoon. In a medium bowl combine the cream and milk and then add the rhubarb/cherry mixture. Let the mixture cool completely in the refrigerator. Churn according to your ice cream machine's instruction. 

And, here is a picture of Joe after his bath. He went swimming in the lake yesterday and was all muddy and smelly so this was what he got.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oreo Cupcakes

When I was growing up my family would go out for ice cream a lot. When we were in St. Louis this meant Ted Drew's for custard, but when we were at home this meant Dairy Queen and I would always get an oreo blizzard. Even today, whenever I go to a soft serve ice cream place I always get some variation on this mixture of soft serve and cookies. So, when I saw this recipe for oreo cupcakes with whipped cream icing I thought it just might come close to capturing the creamy goodness of blizzards.

This recipe is chocked full of oreos, each cupcake has half an oreo on the bottom plus oreo chunks throughout the batter. I also added oreo "dust" to the icing and had I not run out of oreos I was planning to put crumbs on top as decoration as well. I think they are perfect for summer--light and sweet and a touch of nostalgia.

Oreo Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Icing
from Annie Eats

24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 and line 24 cupcake pans with liners. Place half an oreo in the bottom of each liner, cream side up. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla. On low, beat in half of the dry ingredients and then add the milk, beating on low until combined. Add in the remaining dry ingredients. Fold in the chopped oreos. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake tins and bake for 18-20 minutes. 

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. whipping cream
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 tbsp. Oreo cookie crumbs

 In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until gentle peaks just form. Gently fold in the cookie crumbs.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My favorite combination

You might recall that I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with Nutella, that smooth and creamy chocolate hazelnut spread that is perfect on bread, crackers, fruit, spoons, right out of the jar--you name it and it makes anything better. As of late, I have been on a kick to recreate the deliciousness of Nutella in other forms, a.k.a. the intense chocolate hazelnut flavors of this spread in cakes, ice cream, tortes, etc. I recently made a hazelnut torte with chocolate ganache glaze and it was good, don't get me wrong, but i did not think the combination was quite right.

So, I found this recipe and decided to give it a whirl. Again, I'm not totally pleased with the intensity of hazelnut--it is a bit more chocolate heavy, but who can really complain about that? The crust is one of my favorite parts because it is slightly salty and has a nice crumb--I think it would be perfect for many different kinds of cakes or even by itself as a shortbread cookie. This is also a good summer dessert because it requires very little baking, only the crust needs to cook for about fifteen minutes.

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake
from Gourmet

Shortbread base:
2 T. hazelnuts, toasted and skins rubbed off
3 T. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/2 stick butter, softened
2 T. cocoa powder
1/8 t. salt

Mousse Filling:
1 t. unflavored gelatin
3 T. cold water
1/2 c. chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)
1/2 c. mascarpone
1 1/2 c. chilled heavy cream
2 T. cocoa powder
3 T. sugar

1/4 c. plus 1 T. heavy cream
3 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

8 in. springform pan

To prepare:

-combine hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor, pulse until nuts are finely chopped. Add the flour, butter, cocoa powder and salt until a dough forms. Line your springform pan with parchment paper and press the dough into the bottom. Bake at 350 until the dough is dry to touch, approx. 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool, in the pan, on a wire rack until completely cool, approx. 30 minutes. When cool, remove the rim of the pan and carefully discard the parchment paper. Put the rim of the pan back in place and lock

-Sprinkle gelatin over the water in a pot and allow to soften, about two minutes. Heat over low heat until gelatin melts, stirring about five minutes. Whisk in the nutella spread and remove from heat. Whisk together the nutella/gelatin mixture and the mascarpone in a large bowl.

-In a separate bowl, beat together the cream, sugar and cocoa powder until soft peaks just form. Whisk 1/3 of this into the nutella mixture and then fold the remaining whipped cream into the nutella until combined. Pour the mousse into the prepared pan and spread the top evenly. Chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

-For the ganache, bring the cream to a simmer in a pot and remove from heat. Add the chocolate and let it stand for 1 minute then whisk until combined and smooth. Transfer the ganache to a small bowl and cool for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is thick, but still pourable. 

-Run a warm knife around the edge of the pan and remove cake from the pan. Pour the ganache over the top. Cake with the ganache can be chilled for up to six hours before serving. Cake without the ganache can be chilled for up to two days.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Way better than SnackPacks

When I was a kid I used to take pudding SnackPacks in my lunch, usually chocolate, but sometimes chocolate mixed with vanilla--extreme! I haven't really had a pudding cup or even pudding for years, but I saw a recipe in the June issue of Bon Appetit for this bittersweet pudding from The Sandbar in Vancouver. I've never been to The Sandbar so I cannot vouch for the reliability of the recipe, but the version provided in the magazine is delicious, and pretty easy.

This recipe is slightly more rich than normal pudding because it uses bittersweet chocolate. To top off the whole thing, a caramel cream is added plus pecan pralines--these really help balance the bittersweet chocolate so I wouldn't suggest leaving them out. The extra caramel cream and pralines can be used on ice cream....

Dark Chocolate Pudding with Caramel Cream and Pecan Praline
adapted from Bon Appetit June 2010

Pudding, 6 servings

1/4 c. cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 2/3 c. plus 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 c. sugar
2 T. water
1/2 c. chilled heavy whipping cream

Whisk cornstarch and salt together in a bowl then add 1/2 cup of milk and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Stir 1 2/3 cup milk, 1 2/3 cup cream, chocolate and 1/2 c. sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth and beginning to bubble. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and allow to boil for two minutes, whisking constantly. Pour into six bowls and refrigerate for at least three hours.

Caramel Cream: Stir 1/2 c. sugar and 2 T. water in saucepan over medium low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring until a deep amber color, occasionally swirling the pan. Pourin 1/2 c. cream and stir until caramel has dissolved. Cool mixture. Beat 1/2 c. chilled cream in bowl until peaks form, fold in cooled caramel and refrigerate.

Pecan pralines:
3/4 c. pecans, toasted
3 T. water
3/4 c. sugar

heat sugar and water in saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium high as mixture boils without stirring and allow mixture to become a deep amber color. Add the pecans and coat well with the caramel. Pour the pralines onto a foil lined cookie sheet and cool completely. Peel from the foil and put in a food processor, pulsing into small pieces.

Top the finished puddings with caramel cream and pralines when serving.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My NEW favorite pizza

It is pizza season around these parts! Since we have tons of fresh produce and little desire to spend lots of time cooking, pizza is the fastest and most delicious way to eat many days. Oftentimes, we just throw whatever we have on a pizza crust, but some days I plan ahead.

Today was one of those days. I saw this pizza posted (very) recently on Smitten Kitchen and knew that I had to make it. It requires very few ingredients, but one of the main ones is asparagus--something that I have a lot of these days. Smitten Kitchen suggests a few tweaks if you're feeling bold, but I liked this pizza just the way it was. (This pizza is especially delicious when enjoyed with a San Pellegrino Aranciata.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza
from Smitten Kitchen

1 batch of Really Simple Pizza dough (also from smitten kitchen) or other pizza dough of choice
1/2 pound asparagus
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 pound mozzarella, grated or cut into cubes
2 t. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
ground pepper
1 scallion thinly sliced

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into thin strands. Put the shavings into a bowl and mix with the olive oil, salt and pepper. To prepare the pizza, spread the dough onto a peel or pizza pan and sprinkle the parmesan on top followed by the mozzarella. Load the asparagus on top of the cheese and bake in the oven at 500 degrees (or the highest temperature your oven goes to) for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese starts to bubble and brown.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the scallions on top.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Strawberry Pie

I may have mentioned once or twice that I am not a huge fan of pie. I can't really put my finger on why, perhaps it is all that baked fruit that is just better off fresh or the crust that seems like a waste to me since it is normally tasteless and soggy. I would rather take a piece of cake or a scoop of ice cream any day. I am not inherently against fruit desserts, however, I do like tarts and fruit ice creams, but I guess I'm just not big on the baked fruit with crust variety.

Aaron, on the other hand, loves pies. Lucky for me, he loves any dessert so he is happy to eat the cakes and cupcakes that I make. This weekend, however, I decided to make a rare pie--partly because Aaron likes pie and I rarely make them and partly because we had a quart of strawberries that were beginning to meet their end. Instead of opting for a normal pie that it made in a pie pan, creating a deep crust and layer of fruit I made a galette--basically a French style pie that isn't made in a pie pan. If I am going to eat pie, strawberry or another berry is my preference (or maybe peach) and these strawberries were delicious! The crust is also amazingly delicious and easy, possibly the best crust I've ever had. It is nice and flaky, not at all soggy and just sweet enough to be worth eating. With a sprinkling of sugar on top, it is pretty close to perfect.

Strawberry Pie
from What Geeks Eat

1 c. flour
1/4 c. cornmeal
1 T sugar
1/4 t. salt
6 T. butter
1/3 c. water
1 T. buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream (I used buttermilk)

Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Put the butter into the food processor, in small bits, and pulse again until it is chopped, but still in chunks. Mix the buttermilk and water in a separate bowl and slowly dribble into the food processor as you pulse until the dough starts to clump (you may not use it all). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.

Dust the countertop with flour and roll the dough into a circle, approximately 15 inches in diameter. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.

2 pints strawberries
1/3 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1 t. vanilla

Remove the heads from the strawberries and cut into pieces about the size of your thumb. Add the sugar, vanilla and cornstarch and stir until combined. Pour the filling into the center of the crust leaving about a three inch border. Fold the borders over onto the pie, brush them with cold water and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A master (of art history?)

Today was graduation. I received my MA in Art and Architectural History (I know, you are about to ask "what are you planning to do with that?") And, my response is, I will be moving on to get a PhD in Art and Architectural History.

My mom flew in for the ceremony and Aaron was there, of course. We only went to the departmental portion where we actually receive our diplomas. I figured that I'll force everyone to sit through the entire thing when I receive my PhD. It is an extra incentive for me to finish :) Originally, everyone thought it would rain today and we would have to move the ceremony inside. Instead, it was blazing hot and we were miserably warm in our black, polyester robes. I guess it is hard to really be comfortable in those robes though.

So, I suppose this sort of ends my year of thesis research and writing. Although, I guess it never truly ends since I will be sort of continuing with the same general topic for my least I think.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Possibly the best (and easiest) chocolate cake

I was invited to a dinner party at my friend’s house earlier this week and I brought a dessert. We had quite a feast with shrimp, chicken, salad, pesto-pasta, ratatouille, unicorn cookies (!), two rhubarb crisps and half of a birthday cake. I decided to bring this cake because a) my friend loves chocolate cake and b) I try to always try out a new recipe when I make things ( I have a huge file of “to try” recipes so I can’t afford to make things twice).

I think I might break my rule, though and make this one again. It was pretty tasty!

Chocolate cake with Chocolate Glaze

1 ¼ c. plus 1 T brewed coffee
¾ c. cocoa powder
2 ¼ c. sugar
1 ¼ t. salt
2 ½ t. baking soda
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 ¼ cups plus 1 T buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 T canola oil
1 ½ t vanilla
2 ½ cups plus 2 T all purpose flour

6 oz. unsweetened chocolate
¾ c. unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
½ c. sour cream ,room temp
¼ cup brewed coffee, cooled

Place oven rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degree. Grease and flour 10 inch bundt pan. For cake batter:
-put coffee and cocoa powder in small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking often. Remove from heat and cool to room temp.
-in the bowl of a stan mixer with a whisk attachement mix together the sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk  on low for about 1 minute. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla on low again for about one minute. Add the flour and mix on medium for 2 minutes. Add the cooled cocoa mix and beat on medium for about three minutes. Pour into the cake pan and bake for about 1 hour.

Let the cake cool completely.

For the glaze: chop the chocolate and put in a double boiler to melt. Melt the butter in a separate dish and whisk into the chocolate. Sift in half of the powdered sugar and then add the sour cream, whisking until combined. Sift in the remaining powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Stir in the coffee until the mixture is shiny.
Pour over the cake.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Step One

I am visiting home this weekend because my brother graduated from college today--woohoo! He is officially a college graduate and will be heading to Princeton Theological Seminary for his masters this fall. It has been a busy weekend so far: graduation brunch, graduation, graduation lunch (mmm, steak) and various family activities in between. Who knows what we will be up to next...

Sunday, May 9, 2010


I thought I'd share these pics of Joe--we went to the farmer's market on Saturday and took him along. He has finally mastered the "puppy push-up" where, on command, he goes from sitting to lying down and back to sitting (repeat). It is pretty funny!

Pretty, Sparkly Cupcakes

One of Aaron's labmates is having a baby in a matter of weeks or days (or hours, who knows) and I will take any excuse to make cupcakes, so I broke out my cupcake pan this weekend for the occasion. Since she is having a girl I decided to make them slightly pink with sparkly white sprinkles on top.

The cupcakes themselves are the standard chocolate that i always make and the icing is a new seven minute frosting recipe I found. Seven minute frosting is great because it has no butter so it is very light and not too sweet. This one is especially tasty, I think I'll use it again.

Joy the Baker's Seven Minute Frosting

1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1/4 c. water

Mix all ingredients in a metal bowl over a simmering pot of water. Using an electric mixer, beat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm. Remove from heat and mix until thick and fluffy, about seven minutes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


When I was little, I loved my Grandma's potato salad. Now, when I eat it I think that it is a little bit bland (shhh), but i still love potatoes. I recently encountered this much lighter, fresher and healthier potato salad that uses no mayonnaise or mustard and instead uses tahini plus lots of vegetables.

It is delicious! I recommend that everyone make it immediately.

It is also very simple and I'm sure could be modified with whatever you have on hand. It allowed us to use up the rest of our weekly produce.

Potato salad with watercress, radish and cucumber
adapted from La tartine gourmande

1 lb. yukon gold potatoes
sea salt and pepper
5 pink radishes, sliced very thin
1 cup cucumber, sliced very thin
8 asparagus tips, chopped roughly
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1/2 T. sugar
handful of watercress leaves

3 T. olive oil
1 T. tahini
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper

-boil potatoes. when cool, peel and slice in thick slices.
-put cucumbers into a colander with a pinch of salt. Let them sit for about 30 minutes to release excess water. Put them in a large bowl with the radishes. 
-Mix the rice vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and stir with the radishes and cucumbers.
-In a frying pan, heat 1 T. olive oil. Add the asparagus and sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 2 minutes.
-In a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper, then whisk together lemon juice and mustard. Add the 3 T. olive oil and the tahini and whisk well. 
-Toss the potatoes into the large bowl of cucumbers and radishes, add the asparagus and coat with the dressing. Add the watercress and serve.

In other news, the weather has been really nice here lately and this weekend we took Joe to a nearby park where he could run around without his leash. We were walking around near a lake and all of a sudden Joe, who was walking in front of us, just kept walking right into the lake. It was like he didn't know there was a difference between land and water, but once he was in the water he was perfectly happy until we started yelling at him to get out, which he did and shook his wet fur all over. Good to know he can swim if necessary.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The first produce of the season

This year we decided to join a local CSA for produce. We wanted to do it last year, but since I was in Italy all summer it was kind of unrealistic for Aaron to get it all alone every week. Last week, we picked up our first delivery which consisted of a variety of leafy green vegetables as well as radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, honey and a bunch of other delicious vegetables. For most of the things, we had a bunch of great ideas for recipes, but I was sort of at a loss for rhubarb. I pretty much hate rhubarb. My memories of rhubarb consist of my grandma making various rhubarb pie-like dishes, which seemed to me a way to sort of hide the gross, stringy texture of rhubarb.

So, when confronted with rhubarb, knowing that Aaron likes pie (and I don't) I figured this sort of dessert was the best way to go. I consulted Bon Appetit, which has a recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble this month. I have to say, it was fine, if you like enjoy fruit pie-like desserts (read: crisps, crumbles, etc). I still feel like the recipe was using strawberries to mask rhubarb, but whatever--Aaron ate the whole thing, so I guess it was a success on some level.

The recipe follows, I am certain the crumble could successfully be made with other fruit. The sugar could also be cut significantly, this recipe was very sweet:

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Bon Appetit

3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
6 T. butter cut in to 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup husked hazelnuts, toasted, chopped coarsely
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 pound strawberries, halved
12 oz. rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces

Combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt in a bowl. Add butter. Mix with fingers until in medium sized chunks. Mix in oats and nuts.

Preheat oven to 375. Butter a ceramic or glass baking dish. Pour 1/2 c. sugar into a large bowl and mix with fruit. Pour the prepared fruit inside the prepared baking dish. Pour the topping on top of the fruit. Bake crumble for about 45 minutes, cool for about 15 minutes.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Whole Lemon Tart

I like citrus and it is perfect for summer months, however, sometimes it is difficult to incorporate into baked goods. Last week it was unseasonably warm in Charlottesville (I think it hit 90 degrees one day) and . Weather like that just screams for summery desserts, no more heavy, rich cakes and cookies, but some lighter fare. Lucky for me, my friend Elizabeth passed her PhD exams last week, which gave me an excuse to try out this seasonally appropriate, whole lemon tart. If you like lemon bars, this is the dessert for you.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and is great because you literally use a whole lemon (peel and all). The best thing about this tart, however, is the crust! It is buttery, but still light and flaky. More importantly, it does not require any rolling!!!!! This is great, because I hate rolling out crusts. It also doesn't require pie weight!!!! Even more amazing. 

In short, this is possibly the easiest, fool-proof tart you could ever make. 

Recipe for Whole Lemon Tart

1 9-inch tart shell (see the website above for a link to this shell--it is worth it!)
1 lemon, cleaned and whole
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 T cornstarch
1 stick butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 300 and line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Slice the lemon (removing seeds) and put it in a food processor along with the sugar. Blend until completely pureed.  Put this puree into a bowl and stir in the egg and yolk. Next, stir in the cornstarch and butter. Pour this into the tart shell, leaving about 1/4 inch between the filling and the top of the shell. Bake the tart for about 20 minutes and then increase the temperature to 325. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the filling is set, no longer liquid and only slightly jiggly. Cool before serving. 

**Note: the original recipe says to bake at 325 before moving to 350, but I cooled the temperature since my oven runs hot. If you bake it at too high of a temperature, it will curdle and never set.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Strawberry Clafoutis

Although I love to make cakes (and cookies and brownies) I also like to make other desserts. Really anything that can be considered "sweet" but also be eaten the next morning for breakfast falls right up my alley. And, since I will basically eat anything for breakfast (birthday cake, brownies, cookies) there is not much that does not fit these requirements.

This dessert is actually Aaron's recipe, but I've tweaked it just a tiny bit. I think it comes from Cooking Light or something because it substitutes yogurt for the cream or milk of normal clafoutis, but I think the substitution works pretty well (and makes you feel slightly better about eating half of the pan for breakfast). The original recipe uses nonfat, plain yogurt, but I use plain (not nonfat) Greek yogurt. I like the texture a little bit more, plus I like the leftover yogurt more. You can obviously use any kind of berry (cherry is traditional), but this time I used strawberries since I found some really nice ones at the store and cherries aren't really in season here yet. I also ignore the liquer called for in the recipe because I never have it on hand. Lastly, I make it in this oval pan that is slightly smaller than what is called for because it creates a thicker clafoutis and I like having two distinct parts: berries on the bottom, creamy-goodness on top.

Berry Clafoutis

4 slightly beaten egg whites
2 slightly beaten eggs
1/3 c. sugar
 3 T honey
2 T orange juice
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
1 c. flour
berries of choice

Beat together egg whites, eggs, sugar, honey, orange juice and vanilla until light and frothy. Stir in yogurt until smooth. Add the flour until combined. Grease a dish (I use an oval, deep dish, but you can use a round pie dish) and line it with berries of choice. Pour the batter on top. Bake at 375 degrees until set, about 35 minutes.