Saturday, February 21, 2009

Je suis le petit chou...

Most hate it when their parents reminisce about the "cute" things they used to do as children. Fall asleep on the potty, drink out of the dog's water bowl, take baths with the neighbor kids, the usual. Well mine is a story of a true slow food foodnik. My Da loves to talk about how he would come home and find me sitting on the front porch with a half eaten head of raw cabbage in my lap. Then, we lived in Anderson, Texas a little mustard seed of a town where a kid could safely sit on her porch eating produce. We had a backyard full of dewberry bushes and a little path that led to our neighbor's prize winning garden. I felt sort of like Peter Cottontail sneaking things out of his garden, little did I know that he and my parents had a secret pact allowing me to pick things on my own. I would come back from his garden with a giant head of cabbage or lettuce, and from what my parents swear, whole onions that I would eat whole like an apple. Ah, the good old days. (Can I even say that yet, I mean I'm not even two decades old yet?!)

Look Ma I can make coleslaw!

3-4 cups purple cabbage (the best cabbage)
2 "shaved" carrots
1 tsp whole celery seeds
1 tsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tbs mayonnaise
1 tbs sour cream
2 tsp sugar (you can add more to taste)

Wisk together all spices, vinegar, sour cream and mayonnaise like a dressing. You can use the bowl you are going to serve in! Add shredded cabbage and carrots, toss and eat. In your face Chick-fil-a.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I've got a case of the cranberries

My secret wish, besides the one about being a librarian, is to visit a cranberry bog. Not any one in particular, I just want to be up to my waders in cranberries. Since that is my "happy place" I often go there when the world gets me down and I tend to eat/drink anything cranberry when I'm depressed. It's kind of like my "chocolate" or "fried chicken"; they are my comfort food yet secretly they boost my insides so I don't sick too. Philistines, I love them little bouncy berries! While I was in one of these sour moods I perused like one might Google "fluffy kittens". There I found something that could lift the moods of a landlocked sea dog (don't ask): Cranberry Vanilla Bean Coffee Cake. just so happens I have a three-pound bag of cranberries in my tiny freezer. Why, you might ask, would I keep so many cranberries on hand? Well why would you, oh never mind, I was reaching for something clever. You see, this is why I needed these cranberries.

If you need more convincing that cranberries can be an anti-drug, legal form of crack and oh yea antioxidant healthy superfood you should talk to the people at The Cranberry Institute. Yes it really exists, almost as exclusive as the MIB, or the CIA( that would be the Culinary Institute of America).

Of course you could Google "cranberries", if you needed a visual pick-me-up. Just looking at pictures of those little crimson candies does it for me. Then again your search might yield some unwanted materials, such as the semi-popular musical group "The Cranberries"; who knows they might be able to cure a urinary tract infection with their magical voices.

Anyways, I was quite upset this past week and one night I had just enough, even the vocal chords of Dolores O'Riordan couldn't make me happy again. So I bogged out my bag of cranberries and made myself a cake. Cranberry Vanilla Bean Coffee Cake.

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake
Gourmet, December 2008

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 ounces)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
*1/4 tsp nutmeg
*1/2 tsp cinnamon
Confectioners sugar, for dusting

*These ingredients I added of my own volition, add them if you'd like.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.
Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife
(reserve pod for another use if desired). Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.

Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).

Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla
sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time,
beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in
flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.

Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge.
Spoon small bits of the remaining batter over the top of the cranberries and smooth them with as gentle
of a hand as possible.

Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your
fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side
begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool
completely, crumb side up.

Do ahead: Coffee cake can be made 1 day ahead and kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The roomate's away, lets make some fish...

It's not that she is allergic or anything along those lines, she just doesn't like fish. So the minute she leaves town I head down to the market to buy some. My goal: Texas Gulf snapper, but no (in an embarrassingly drawn out fashion). They didn't have it, or at least the real Gulf snapper. They did have the thick marble-scaled red water breathers, though they were selling them under a false name! I know this because I have people on the inside (not inside the ocean) that know whats up. What's up? A terrifying over-fishing fiasco! My insiders (Grandmum and Grandpa) tell me that due to years of large limits and loose restrictions the red snapper has been banned, forbidden, unfishable! You get caught with snapper in your rig you get cuffed. A pretty decent reason for jail time in my opinion, but hey I also want to be proposed to in Whole Foods. So these contacts of mine, they live on the coast, a short yellow-jeep drive from the Island, my little Island, South Padre Island. Ever since my Grandpa, who later realised his monetary mistake, introduced me to snapper, flounder, shrimp and crabs, I have been quite particular about where my sea fodder is found.

...dream sequence...

I was walking back home the other day from Toy Joy, the kooky nostalgic toy store across from my house, when I paused at the light to wait for the cross-walk sign. There was a Texas-sized white truck in the front of the turn lane, patiently waiting for their arrow, and for some reason when it changed they lunged. Their mistake. As they turned the tell-tale ice chests started rolling out of the bed and toppling out of the truck, slashing their contents in the intersection. Now, some of you might understand my interest in these particular ice-chests. They are a certain breed that are only used when transporting fish, or perhaps the ones I was used to when my grandparents brought home bag after bag of fresh fillets. Focusing back on the mess interrupting traffic I had a mild panic attack, as did the woman who rushed out the doors of Toy Joy behind me who yelled "That's SNAPPER!" It was a voice that knew. She knew as did I, the value that lay in the filth of the upper drag, the stark red lips and tail of a raw snapper. Okay, I know its lame that for a few seconds I considered putting myself in danger to rescue the already dead fish. Before I threw myself into traffic I realised how pathetic I might seem and pictured the headline on tomorrow's newspaper: Hook, line and sink-her. Girl in critical care due to fish rescuing attempts. So I waited for the light to change and walked across the street and up to my apartment. Later I re-examined my actions and thought that it would have been a perfectly acceptable hospitalization, my father and grandparents might actually have been proud.

...end dream sequence...

So back in the market I had to settle for tilapia, my wallet couldn't fathom Chilean sea bass this month. With the roomie gone, the boyfriend and I made fish tacos with Havana style coke and lime, oh and garlic green beans. He saw them in the market and decided that fish tacos paired perfectly with my garlic green beans. I know he really loves me: true love=love of garlic green beans.

Baja style tacos:Grilled Tilapia with Lime, Scallions and Green Peppers

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February: Endless Month of Cheescakes

By endless I mean continuous,you know, like birthday week that slowly turns into birthday month. The roommate and I have decided February is now officially Cheesecake month and we will attempt as many flavours of cheesecake possible on a college students budget and with two lazy girls' lovehandles. So far we've had Chocolate Chip Animal Cracker Cheesecake and a Chocolate Orange Ganache (a little flawed so unworthy of earlgreytruffle-dom). Our most recent concoction: Brownie-bottomed Blackberry Cheesecake. Crowded around our little oven we peeked in the smudgy window at our creamcheese baby bubbling away. This particular cheesecake is quite rustic with cracks and crevices and a few browned edges. Though these flaws should not be taken so seriously of course, as nothing should when considering cheesecake in general.



half of a pan of old baked brownies (any kind, brand, flavour)
break into pieces and freeze before putting in food processor

When pulsing in food processor add a tablespoon of flour or so to reduce sugary stickiness.


2 packages cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
pinch of salt
1 package blackberries

Press crust mixture into tart tin or parchment padded spring form or cake round.

Mix filling together, taking care not to "over froth".
After completely mixed together you have two options:

fold in blackberries by hand for full blackberry effect
whip in blackberries with mixer to make pretty dotted lavender creation
(this is what I did, it looks nice)

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, but do watch for over browning.

Cool on wire rack and then in fridge for an hour or until your roommate just can't stand it.

Add a dollop of roommate's amaretto whipped cream (which she made for a dainty little angel food cake with strawberries) and enjoy.

The whipped cream maker:

The food fan:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

cinnamon roll in my cupcake, say what!?

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes marries the two niceties of cupcake batter and caramel like cinnamon swirl.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tbs baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter( 1 stick)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cinnamon Caramel Swirl:
5 tbs brown sugar
3 tbs standard sugar
2 tbs cinnamon
8 tbs water
(I always add nutmeg and cardamom to anything that involves cinnamon, but these are completely optional)

1/2 package cream cheese
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbs shortening
1/4 tsp vanilla
splash of milk (if necessary)


Blend sugar, salt, baking soda, vanilla. Slowly add bits of butter and let cream together. Add one egg at a time. Slowly add flour in 3-4 parts. Blend in milk. Do not over mix!

On stove top, boil down sugars and cinnamon in water to make caramel. Do not over boil, you do not want a hard candy state. Use a candy thermometer if necessary.

Let caramel cool slightly and hand stir into the cupcake batter. You want to see the swirls after baking.

Bake for 15-25 minutes(do not over bake, rather underbake to preserve moisture)

Top with Extra Cream Cheese Frosting

Combine all ingredients in mixer, looking for texture of traditional buttercream. Only add splash of milk if frosting needs thinning.

Dust frosted cupcakes with a little shower of cinnamon.

Now you can have breakfast all day long!

Friday, February 6, 2009

I think I just traded my soul for a bar-b-que sandwich

I am what the fancy kids call a flexitarian. To be honest I'm only a periodical flexitarian; my not-so meaty cravings waxing and waning perhaps with the faces of the moon or perhaps with the wafts of pits and grills that surround west campus. I, very occasionally, indulge in a chicken burger or a tranche of turkey tomato lasagna, throw a piece of fish at me or a skillet full of shrimp and I wont shy away.

I have no idea what phase the moon is in tonight, but today I needed my fix: a smoked turkey bar-b-que sandwich. I find solace in drowning the little pile of meat in homemade sauce, like submerging my sorrows in that ridiculously addictive brown-sugar base or baptizing my monthly indulgence in house style pickles. Pair that with an unhealthy heap of creamy poppy seed coleslaw made with purple cabbage and crisp orange carrots, the sharpness of vinegar and onions bites back oh so nicely.

Earlier, my future thoughts and present preoccupations seemed to slowly boil over and like a rue gone black completely tarnish the rest of my day. From reading Best Food Writing 2007 to perusing nothing seemed to soothe the sour spot that was mounting in my stomach. Until the roommate, saving grace in pint-size options she is, declared she would make my day better as soon as I came home from work. Although I was the one to suggest bar-b-que she lovingly obliged and took credit for my new found happiness.
Ruby's Bar-b-que, located on the little side street of 29th and Guadalupe, is a tiny savory stain on the smoke house map that is Austin. As you walk in, the smell of smoked meats and slow cooked spices sprints up your nose and tickles your inner most happy parts (those are located in the brain by the way) in a pure and blissful pit-pleasure. Not to sound saucy: I wanted to take one of those college-age beau hunks behind the counter home with me, simply so I could smell the sweet aroma for the rest of the night, if they happen to supply me with another helping of that coleslaw I wouldn't object. I think I sang my pickup order to one of those guys and pretty much batted my turkey-lusted eyelashes at him in thanks.

I just need to figure out why I haven't asked one of those smoke slathered bar-b-que boys to marry me yet.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

animal crackers are the stuff that childhood cheesecakes are made of

Yes, a very stupid title, but nonetheless, this cheesecake is not. This is how it all "went down":

Scene one- the grocery store

Keegan (the roommate): "So I vaguely remember you promising to make me a cheesecake soon"

Me: "Oh I did, huh, well I don't have any recipes on hand"

Keegan: "Well just get two things of cream cheese and make me one!"

Me: "But I don't even--"

Keegan: "Chocolate! Chocolate! A Chocolate one!"

She gets in these dessert moods, not necessarily foul ones, but those heart wrenchingly puppy eyed please ones. She will come prancing into my room in her polka dotted pjs and coo "roooooomieeeee" and then beg. She is quite good at this, seeing as she has a cheesecake cooling on the counter that I just pulled from the oven. Actually, this is my favourite mood of her's, because I can make anything and force her to try it. ***Remembering the face she made, reeling over the texture of cous cous*** Although she picked the make I chose the model, and oh what a cherry she is. A nostalgic piece of childhood poured into a buttery crust of adult sophistication. With a dollop of yesterdays hand-whipped chai spiced whipped cream, this little flashback will be complete. Fun Filled: Chocolate Chip Animal Cracker Cheesecake.


1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter (unsalted, as always)
1/3 cup almonds
couple handfuls of animal crackers
2 8oz packages of cream cheese-room temperature (I used low fat)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1/3 cup plain yogurt
splash of milk
plenty of chocolate chips

for the crust:
combine sugar and almonds in food processor, after slightly chopped add in animal crackers a bit at a time. Looking for the consistency of polenta or coarse corn meal. Add in melted butter, pulse a few more times. Add into a large tart tin, or spring form pan, if you'd like. Push flat with fingers and palm or bottom of a flat glass. Freeze for 15 minutes.

for the filling:
combine 1/2 cup of sugar and cream cheese to stand mixer on medium. Turn to low add egg, vanilla, and salt. If cream cheese is not quite room temperature this process might take a while longer to rid the filling of any big cream cheese pieces. Add in yogurt and splash of milk. Mix until smooth and creamy. With a spatula or spoon fold in chocolate chips. The chips will fall to bottom so you will end up scooping a bunch of them on top of the filling, its okay they will mix in quite nicely while in the oven.

Bake at 350, you remebered to preheat didn't you, for 30-35 minutes.

Cool on wire rack.

Chill for 1-2 hours, or overnight, or if you just can't wait, like my darling roomie, just eat it when its cooled.

Top with a bit of whip cream and an extra chocolate chip or two, or get fancy with some chocolate curls and shavings!