Dec 30, 2007

She: Divinity

Okay. I'm not giving the recipe here, because this recipe or this candy in general is TOO MUCH WORK. And thats saying something, coming from me. But this is a creamy vanilla treat we would get during christmas from my Grandmother. I've been trying this dish for the last few years, and this is the first time I've gotten it right! So I had to post an image to my family. As proof.

Now, if you're curious, I used the good old fashioned Betty Crocker recipe. I found out a couple of things: After whipping up my whites, I started pouring in the hard-ball sugar mix. At this point, once its all fluffy, you're supposed to start spooning it onto sheets. Well, mine was still so hot it made pancakes...until it cooled more by the end of the line. So I'd say disregard that part of the recipe, and let the sugar cool just a bit before spooning it out. At the end, I had my fluffy candy, but it was still sticky. It took two days to set in the fridge! That was where I went wrong every year before--I didn't wait long enough for it to set! So, hurrah for divinity.

Dec 15, 2007

He: Butter

Okay Brandy has been giving me a lot of crap lately. My head is just full of useful food information, that I could be sharing with the world. What do I usually do with it all? nothing. So this might be a boring post, but for those in the world that would like a little more information on what is actually happening with our foods, or how to pick out better will like this.
I was very slowly reading my way through this amazing book about food by Harold Mcgee who takes all of the scientific information that Alton Brown brings to you in Cliff's Notes form in the full unabridged dictionary form. This guy's work is the stuff of legend and requirement of any modern kitchen in the US. Let's get to the meat of things...or rather the fat of it.
Raw Cream butter--just as it sounds this is raw butter made with raw milk. Something that nobody in this country will find without the right teat to remove it I'm not going to bother to explain it (if you ever do find it...enjoy it while you can).
Sweet Cream Butter--The common stuff that you find all over the US. It's just pasteurized cream that has been turned into butter. Can be found salted and unsalted (the salted is usually less money because the salt makes it antimicrobial, and therefore extends shelf life). They are both at least 80% fat, and the rest is divided up between water and milk solids, and in the case of the antimicrobial one salt. Coincidentally, I NEVER buy salted butter...why buy something that is potentially old?
Cultured cream butter--Originally this was raw cream butter that is soured prior to being churned. Basically this is butter that has a more intense flavor and aroma....but since it's made from raw can't find it in this country. In Europe they make this by using a couple of methods, using the a bacterial culture that already has the flavor profile, and diacetyl that makes it more intense. This butter is great for eating raw, or for cooking in things that the flavor of the butter is greatly needed (croissants come to mind).
European-style butter--American creation that is meant to resemble European butter. The restaurant standard that comes to mind to me is Plugra...horrible name...good butter. Most of Europe has a standard that butter has to be at least 82% fat, so that is the standard that most of these 'boutique' American producers shoot for. Most of these producers tend to hit around 85% fat.
What does all of this really mean to you and your wallet? Well, if you're smart you will just buy standard unsalted sweet butter from whatever producer you like. The only times that you should even think about any of those crazy expensive butters (the stuff that you see at places like Whole Foods) is when you're working on pastries where there are only a few ingredients...places where the FLAVOR of butter is important to the final product. Brandy and I tend to do this when we do cakes and cookies...and every once in a while just for kicks.

Dec 6, 2007

She: Cupcake Craving

Last week we went to Cupcake Craving off Arden and Howe. We got the half dozen and brought them home for a sugar coma. We had the Smores, Lemon Boost, Cherry cake, Red Velvet and German Chocolate. The Smores was fabulous--chocolaty (iiif thats a word) and creamy. The German Chocolate was also decadent. Red Velvet? (shrug) I don't think red velvet is ever all that fantastic, but I was disappointed by the cherry cake. I wanted much more flavor! There are a few others in town I want to try out. For this place, the people were very friendly, the cakes were all super soft with nice icing, and anything chocolate is great, but I'd prefer more punch to their fruity flavors.

She: Pumpkin Cheesecake

I actually made two different cheesecakes for thanksgiving, but the pumpkin cheesecake was by far better. Infact, it didn't last for more than an hour. The whoooole thing. I got the recipe from "Joy of Baking." It wasn't the easiest recipe, but it was worth it. I added a few alteration, but they are minor.

First, the crust: I used a food processor and ground up a cup of ginger naps, cup of graham crackers and mixed that with 1 tb of sugar and 4 tbs of melted butter. I smashed all that down into the bottom of a springform pan. I then ground up some walnuts and sprinkled those ontop...that helps the crust from getting soggy later.

The cheesecake: Mix/grind the spices together and set aside (1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 nutmet, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp salt). On low speed, beat 1 lb cream cheese til smooth, then mix in 2/3c brown sugar and spices. Add 3 eggs, then add 1 tsp vanilla and 1 cup pumpkin puree. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl! Pour ontop the crust, and bake at 350F for 30 minutes, then reduce to 325F and bake for another 10 minutes. If you put a cake pan filled half with water at the bottom of the oven while it cooks, it'll help prevent cracks in the cheesecake.

Topping: Mix 1c sour cream, 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4c sugar. Spoon the mix ontop of the bakes cheesecake and then return it to the oven for 8 minutes to set it. A nice tip Mark shared: if you need to put this in the fridge, you can spray some pam oil on a plastic sheet before you put it on the cheesecake--it keeps it from clinging to the dessert!

Nov 21, 2007

She: Gaaaaah

I am in the midst of making: Lemon-cheese tart, pumkin/vanilla cheesecake, and pumpkin pie. I bit of juuuust as much as I can chew tonight. I'm exhausted just watching the oven. And you KNOW its a long night when it takes 10 minutes to realize I've been listening to the BeeGees...

Nov 19, 2007

She: NC and food

We have pics from fabulous restaurants and all, but I thought I'd add a post on WHY we were in NC and the food along with it...we were there for a wedding. Mark was part of the wedding party--his best friend was getting married! Important foodie things: the rehersal dinner had an interesting cake based off the bride and groom hitting it off at a carwash. Then there was the dinner. I laughed at the southerness of it: fried chicken, green beans, hush puppies and bbq.

Now, I MUST protest this, much to Mark's annoyance. My family is from the bbq capital of the world...Kansas City. (thats right, I threw down that glove). This...meat that they call bbq in NC is NOT bar b que! Period! Its shredded meat. There's no rub, not basted with sauce...nothing. They just have some vinegar you can put on the side with some chilli flakes in it. THATS NOT BARBQUE! Okay. I'm stepping off the soap box now.

Last there was the wedding cake. It was a lovely layered cake--each layer was a different flavor. I had the carrot cake. It was moist and yummy. AND pretty without a lot of fake icing. I haaaate that serious buttercreme stuff that tastes like shortening. In between the festivities we went tooling around town to different restaurants. Niiiice stuff. We'll post'em soon.

Nov 16, 2007

He: Lilly's Pizza

When I was little there was a couple of meals that just stuck as things that my family always made. The two things that stick out in my head that my excelled at were baked chicken with noodles and steamed broccoli, and spaghetti with either meat sauce or white clam sauce. I can't say that I have fond memories of the chicken, although I probably lived off the noodles...and probably would to this day, if it wasn't for the Atkins diet and all of those years thinking that carbohydrates were bad. Unlike the chicken, I do have very fond memories of the spaghetti and clam sauce (or meat sauce), and today I can make those sauces with no effort at all. If given the chance to relive those memories of the family around the table with spaghetti and sauce, and garlic bread that would make even garlic farmers blush is something that I'd love to be able to do.

Later, once I was living on my own, trying to survive as a post college, semi-lost adult I attempted to develop my palate in Raleigh. I developed a love for a few distinct spots that my college buddies and I seemed to spend way too much time in. One of those classic spots for us was this little eclectic pizza place called Lilly's. The whole place is just a hodgepodge of styles, with old sections of cathedral ceilings just lying on the floor, and a bliniking sign near the bar that just says 'wow'. Even with the hodgepodge they make the best pizza that I think that I've ever eaten. The last time that I was able to enjoy a slice was about 7 years ago.

Thanks to by best friend Steve, and his new bride Mary, Brandy and I got the opportunity to enjoy a slice from this fantastic little place. Here are a few shots of the place, and what doesn't look like an incredible pizza....but the thing that I say when people ask is that the dough they make is soo good that you'd almost like to eat the crust..and then maybe the rest. Trust me this is something that if you ever make it to Raleigh, you have to try at least once.

Nov 3, 2007

She: Explaining Delusions

First, Mark's last post was a mea culpa, of sorts. First, since I've been traveling this month I told him that HE needed to be in charge of the blog this month, and do his fair-share of writing for a change...which didn't happen. And, we had our oven break, and in another delusion, he decided to fix it himself, which took 2 weeks to complete (and a repairman did most anyways) so even if I WANTED to bake and post I couldn't. As far as the tomato plants he's referring to? 3. Thats right, three whole tomato plants and he thought he'd have enough to bottle ketchup. He gets these bright, half-baked ideas, and I sit in the back of the room saying, that its all nice and well, but will never be a reality if you don't have a gameplan. Which he usually doesn't. So if I don't decide to take over (like I did with the tomato plants...he just forgot the water them for 2 weeks, snort) then I get a blog without the HE component to counterbalance, an unusable oven, and other mangled ideas. But thats what makes us great--he's got the optimism, and I have the practicality--together we can pull off anything...but only if I'm in town to give'm a nudge.

Nov 1, 2007

He: Delusions of Grandeur

Everyone knows the old saying 'don't count your chickens before they hatch'. Well, in my world that should extend a whole lot further. A couple of years ago when Brandy and I were still living in Atlanta we had a garden. The delusion that I had going is that we would have tomatoes coming out of our ears. I was sure that we would have sooo many tomatoes that we would have more than enough to sell some to the restaurant that I was working for at the time. I was sure that we would have soo many tomatoes that after canning, and drying, and the selling them that we would still be eating them until we couldn't stand it. As fate would have it, we ended up having a massive thunderstorm when the plants were loaded down with fruit and we lost a ton of tomatoes. Of course I was distraught...and the wonderful ninja poster just below had a hearty round of 'I told you so'. I'm sure that you will see my delusions of grandeur rear it's ugly head many times in the future.

Oct 22, 2007

She: Ninjas + Food...

Okay, check this link out...Adventure Dining. Now, some people like a little...unique spice to their meals. Eating in the dark while blind waiters serve you is trendy now. Could be cool...but I'd be really worried about how clean the place is...I know. I have a suspicious mind. But this article, this boggles the mind. Or atleast, MY mind. Ninjas! "Ninja New York" is a restaurant where "the wait staff at Ninja New York has been rumored to leap out and startle visitors from the shadows, scale walls, mysteriously appear and disappear..." Thats right. The chef and the wait staff are all reported to be Ninjas serving you in ninja style.

I find this absolutely hilarious. BUT, not enough that I wouldn't actually go if it wasn't a bazillion dollars to eat there like I think it probably would. Of course, I do understand that its showy, and doesn't tell us about the food itself at all or if it's worth eating. But, as Mark says, restaurants are part of the hospitality industry, meaning they need to be hospitable and entertaining, since thats partly what you pay for. And I, just once, might like to be served my buffalo wings with stealth, smoke and mirrors.

Oct 17, 2007

She: Truffles galore

I went to the Oak Cafe and was served some scrumptious truffles. I bought a few to take home, and on the way FROM the cafe TO the car, it melted into a pool! So I decided to make my own. I used one of Mark's books, "Chocolate" by N. Malgieri...I usually stay away from it because its so...well, cheffy. A thousand silly ingredients and specific temps...if I can find a work-around, I will use it. But, not with chocolate. Too tricky. I decided to go crazy and make lemon flavored, dark chocolate truffles with milk chocolate coating. Ha! So here it goes:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs light corn syrup
8 oz bittersweet chocolate (72%)
grated peel of 2 lemons

Coating: 12 oz milk chocolate (50%) and a plate coated in dutch process cocoa powder.
First, cut your bittersweet chocolate into slivers and put it in a glass bowl with the lemon peel. Then mix cream, butter and corn syrup in a pan and bring to a low simmer. Remove from heat, and add to your glass pan of chocolate. Whisk smooth, and cool the mix for 2-3 hours in the fridge. Roll into balls and put on a cookie sheet, which you put back in the fridge for another hour.
Melt the milk chocolate to about 95, and let cool to the low 80's (F) and dip your truffles--I put the chocolate in my icecream scoop and then rolled the truffle around to coat. Let cool for a few minutes, then roll in the cocoa powder. Keep them chilled til you wanna eat them, then let them reach room temp. Yummy!

Oct 6, 2007

He: For the love of god...if you make nothing else...MAKE THIS CAKE!

How's that for a tagline? All due to the amazing cake that almost wasn't made.
Brandy and I were running through our area whole foods looking for ingredients. We were trying to find something that would inspire us to make a dessert with some of the apples that I had picked up earlier in the day (it's apple season right now...enjoy them while they rock). We talked about maybe some sort of turnover....nah. We talked about maybe making a pie...just too plain to really be us. I talked about some sort of thing that is in phyllo dough...that was shot down on the principle of being too cheffy (happens all the time in our house). By the time that we were out of the store we were really no closer to figuring out what we wanted to make with the damn apples...then it hit me....Scott's apple cake.

When I was working everyday at Watershed this cake went virtually unnoticed in my mind. I'm not sure if it's the leaden death-bomb quality of all of the peanut oil in it, or the almost gritty sugar glaze over the top. I never quite saw it for the beautiful thing that it is...just this wonderfully rich cake that beautifully shows off in-season apples. does have a lot of sugar, and the glaze almost hurts it's so full of sugar...but if you don't attempt any other recipes on this site you must try this one!

Okay I just thought of one more thing that is kinda cool that you should know about this post...apples. The apples that the original recipe calls for are winesaps. Well, here in this part of California that isn't something that seems to be available right now. I ended up using pippins (which are a japanese creation crossing a yellow delicious with a granny smith). Also used were gravensteins, which I don't know the history of..but if anyone out there does please enlighten me. The last variety was some sort of crisp apple, as in there was 'crisp' in the name but I can't think of the variety now. When working on anything with apples it's always better to have more than one variety so that there will be greater depth of apple flavor (just one and it will be very monotonous as far as the apple flavor goes).

Here's the recipe:
1 C. packed light brown sugar
1 C. granulated sugar
1 1/2 C. vegetable oil (we used peanut oil at the restaurant..just make sure that the oil doesn't have any strong flavors...I bet grapeseed would be very nice in this)
3 eggs (at room temperature)
1 t. baking soda
2 t. ground ceylon cinnamon (very important...most cinnamon is vietnamese, and it's way too spicy for this preparation)
1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t. salt (fine grain sea salt preferrably)
5 ea. fresh apples peeled, cored and diced into 1/2" pieces (baking varieties)
1 1/4 C. coarsely chopped pecans
2 1/4 t. vanilla extract

The Glaze
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 C. granulated sugar
1/4 C. packed light brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 C. heavy cream

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2) Mix the sugars and oil in a bowl until well blended
3) Add the eggs one at a time and mix until each is incorporated
4) Sift together the dry ingredients and mix into the wet..stirring only to incorporate (if you overmix at all this cake will be really dense and hard)
5) Fold in the apples and pecans and vanilla
6) pour into a buttered and floured 9X13 inch pan and bake until the cake tests clean with a skewer (ours took 2 hours.....don't expect this to be accurate for everyone else. At the restaurant the cook time on this cake varied a lot! Start checking it after 1 hour)
7) Allow to cool in the pan completely (about an hour
8) To make the glaze melt the butter in a saucepan, add the sugars and salt, stir until well blended and cook over med-low heat for 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream, stir and bring to a boil...cook 2 more minutes.
9) Quickly poke holes with a skewer or fork all over the top of the cake, and with the hot glaze pour it over the cake.
10) Allow to cool slightly, and then enjoy this fantastic old southern treat.

Sep 21, 2007

She: Peanut Butter n Jelly Cupcakes

I saw different parts to this recipe in different places, and just had to put it together. I had a baaaad week, and when I do I bake. I needed a good project. These cupcakes are worth it. They are delicious! The icing alone is sinful.
1 1/4C flour, 1 1/2tsp baking powder, 1/4tsp salt, 1/2C peanut butter, 1/2 stick butter, 1/2C brown sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 tsp vanila, 2/3C milk.
1/2 stick butter, 1/2C peanut butter, 1/2C cream cheese, 2C powder sugar, 1tb milk
Directions: for batter, mix pb, butter and sugar on high til fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Reduce and alternate between the rest of the wet and dry. Fill cupcakes 2/3 full and bake for 18mts @ 350F. While its baking, mix the icing: all the ingredients should be at room temp, blended on high. For the filling, I used smuckers raspberry jam in a piping bag with a long tip and just stuck it into the cupcake and squeezed. I squeezed too much in the first few and had jam volcano erruptions, but I got it right after a few. I just covered the spot with the icing. Tasty!

Sep 17, 2007

She: Home-grown Sunflower Seeds

This is a different kinda post, but I thought it could be educational, so what they heck. First, we have a garden. Not a fabulous one--it is plagued by aphids and spider mites, but we have peaches, lemons, a horde of pepper plants, tomatos, strawberries and a host of herbs. And sunflowers. I bought a different kind of sunflower this year--it looks like a giant mum. The things were huge! 8 feet tall, they had half foot wide heads on them, and the bees loved them. I wanted to save my seeds. So I read up on it, and found that if we had enough we could even have enough for a snack! Well, we didn't quite, but this is the process:

1. Once the sunflower starts to die, the stem and base of the flower will go from green to yellow. At this stage clip it and leave it in a dry place.
2. Once its dried, first pluck all the petals off. There will still be a section of innerpetals that hold and divide the seeds.
3. Now put the flower in a plastic baggie and use your nails to scratch out the seeds from the center. You put it in a baggie so seeds and their inner petals don't get all over the place. After thats done, you can save them to plant for the next year, or roast and eat 'em!

Sep 14, 2007

He: Corn Quiche Crostada

Anyone that knows how to bake will look at the header and wonder what the heck I was thinking and how the freak is this going to work? Well the thought was to try and come up with a crust for a quiche that would be low fat, high fiber, and high in good fats. Enter the crostada crust....slightly modified of course. The other big thing that I was trying to do with this is come up with a quiche that I could use as a meal (getting enough protein in 1 slice for me, makes that slice dowright huge...not so appealing).

6 ea. lg eggs
1/2 pound of lowfat cottage cheese
1 pound of organic tofu
1/2 C. rolled oats (nothing flavored...just plain 'ole oats)
1/2 C. plain raw nuts (I recommend pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, or pecans)
2 Tbsp. plain lowfat yogurt
1 tsp. salt
2 ea. ears of corn (roasted and kernels removed from the cob)
a few dashes of hot sauce

1) Add the oats, nuts and yogurt to a cuisinart and pulse to combine (you want the nuts to be broken down, but you don't want the oats to be total flour.
2) Press this mixture into a pie pan until you've reached a consistent thickness
3) Bake at 325 degrees for 8 minutes
4) Blend together the eggs, cottage cheese, tofu, and hot sauce until smooth in a blender.
5) Transfer this mix to a bowl and stir in the corn
6) Transfer the egg mix into the cooled, baked pie shell and place in the oven at 325 degrees until lighly browned on top and the whole mass jiggles just a little when you shake the pan
7) Cool and serve

The beautiful thing about this quiche is that it comes together in just a couple of minutes (minus roasting the corn). Also it satisfies all of my rediculously healthy diet stuff too.

Sep 10, 2007

He: Old Southern style preserved figs

Okay, Brandy has been giving me a lot of crap lately for not putting together any new posts, and she has every right to....I've been neglectful of our little blog. Well no least until I run out of pics and recipes for stuff that needs to be posted.

Let's get to the point of this guys really don't care about the random blatherings of a cooking you?

In a cookbook that I LOVE The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis I found a recipe for whole preserved figs. I've seen this recipe executed under the tutelage of Scott Peacock a couple of years ago. It really seemed simple at the time...really just a lot of waiting for things to 'do their thing'. How often do you see something like that in a recipe? Anyhow, since Brandy is in love with figs, and since we're in the fig growing capital of the US, and since we hit that great local farm for more figs than anyone can realistically eat before they go bad (believe me I limit seems to be about 10 of them before I just want to yack), I thought that this recipe would be a good idea.

I'm not going to give you tried and true amounts for anything in here...because it's really not essential to getting this to come out. The only pieces that are important are: the amount of time between cookings, the type of figs that you use (black missions will not work), and making sure that once they are canned that they sit for at least 6 weeks. So here's the basic if you need more specific instructions...but really, there aren't any more

1. Sprinkle figs with a couple tablespoons of baking soda and then pour boiling water over all. Let soak for 5 minutes (this step toughens up the skins a little bit so that the figs stay whole).
2. Drain off the water and rinse the figs in a bath of cold water 3 times, so that you can get off all of the baking soda that hasn't combined with the figs.
3. Pour a bunch of sugar over the figs (for 2 pounds of figs, at least 2 cups of sugar). Back the freak off you diabetics...this is important to cure the little suckers! If you're really that concerned with the sugar content....tough....just don't eat so many.
4. Allow to sit in the sugar for at least 2 days.
5. Follow this cycle for the next several days: after 2 days put in a nonreactive pot and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to make sure that all of the figs get some time in the sugary mess at the bottom of the pot. transfer back to your holding container and wait 2 more days. do this cycle 3 times.
6. After the 3rd cooking transfer the figs to canning jars (with out transferring much of the liquid). Bring the liquid to a boil and cook until a candy thermometer reads 220 degrees. Pour the resulting syrup over the figs. Can according to manaufacturer's instructions.
7. Store in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks (do not store them in the's not dark in there all the time...and too cold).
8. Eat the delicious figgy goodness when there are no figs available.

Sep 8, 2007

She: Figs and Such

I suck. I'm sorry. But school just began and I've been wrapped up with my classes! Now I'm back, and I'll get to nagging Mark about his fig post. But I'll start here with a preview...We went to this beautiful farm a few weeks ago--Mark wanted to check out where he was buying produce for his business from, and the owner we drove up to Davis and had a peak at the place. First, it was gorgeous. The grew a variety of everything: peaches, nectarines, lavender, wine grapes, tomatos, almonds...we walked around the place and looked at what they had. First, I have to say I was astounded by the almonds. I've never had them fresh before, and it was amazing. Once you get them out of the shells they have a good water content, like coconut. It was and eye opener to have this moist nut instead of the dry stuff you get at the supermarket. They also had fig trees--a few kadotas and some black missions, and we picked and ate the fruit off the tree. They let us take some home, and thats what mark is making preserves out of. They started talking about varieties of fruit and I started to go cross-eyed, so I went out side and took some pictures. They had bunches of flowers around to attract bees, and the whole place was beautiful. My grandparents had a little garden with some veggies and a couple of apple trees, but I've never had the experience of just walking thru acres of fruit you could pick right off the trees. It makes you appreciate food in a new way, and I felt so much more connected to the process. We put the figs to good use, and now that they are canned, mark will be adding up instructions and some of the pitfalls he ran into with the whole process, so stay tuned!

Aug 26, 2007

She: Tomato Soup

Normally I hate tomato soup. I couldn't put my finger on why, until I told Mark. He summed it up for me: tomato soup usually tastes like nothing but tomato acid. So true! Well, I visited my folks back in KC recently, and had great soup. I had been in the airport and on planes all day. I had some trail mix with me, but I didn't eat since the Denver airport *sucks* unless you like McBurgers or gelatenous stirfry. So instead I left the airport ravenous, and when my sis brought me home, she didn't have much readily consumable except for tomato I shrugged and chowed down. And it was brilliant! I finally begged for the recipe, so here it goes:
1 LB    roma tomatoes
1 LG    red bell pepper
1 LG    red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp  olive oil
5 cups  vegie stock
pinch   sugar
1 cup   small pasta (optional)
salt and pepper to taste, fresh basil leaves (garnish)

Preheat oven to 375. Half the tomatoes, pepper, onion and place on foiled roasting pan or cookie sheet.  Add the garlic cloves. Drizzle olive oil over vegies and cook 30-40 until edges of vegies become blackend. In a blender (food processor), add 1 cup of vegie stock. Add roasted vegies while still hot from oven. Puree. Strain blended vegies into pot.  Add remaining 4 cups of vegie stock, sugar, salt and pepper.  Bring to boil. Add pasta. Cook for 7-8 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. And here's a pic of the sis as I show her the blog at the airport..obviously she is amazed at the sheer beauty of my laptop. Snort.

Aug 21, 2007

He: Chicken Stock

Okay...Okay...I put up a post about how to make chicken stock. Brandy pointed out to me that people in the regular world don't make their own stock. They don't? Why the heck not?.....oh I know....they just don't know how. Well once you read through this you will be amazed at how easy it really is.

3 lbs. chicken bones(or turkey bones)...wings, necks, is okay too
1 onion
1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
2 bay leaves
8-10 whole black peppercorns
a few(2-5) parsley stems (no leaves)

1)Stick all in a pot and add enough water to cover
2)Bring to a boil uncovered, over high heat
3)Leave at a boil for 1 minute
4)Reduce heat to as low as it will go, and allow to cook for at least 6 hours(it's okay at this point to cover it, just not tightly)....I usually let it go overnight
5)Strain out all of the solids, saving the liquid (toss the solids out, they're not good for anything else now)
6)Place in the refrigerator until cold, and gelled
7)Skim off all of the fat and use as needed

Okay, this is just slightly simplified from how it actually is, but it will make a great stock. If you need a stronger/more intense stock than this, use more bones and a little less water(although you still need enough water to completely cover the bones). If you need a slightly weaker stock use more water and less bones (again the bones still need to be completely covered by the water when you start to heat it from cold).

One more little tidbit...chicken bones are hollow...they float. Don't freak out when they start to float up as you're heating the stock up to bring it to a boil.

Aug 12, 2007

He: Roasted Summer Vegetable Salad

There are some of the great things that are here in Sacramento. One of those great things is the local farmer's market. Not to get into detail about the market, I will just say that it's year round and has all the good stuff that is growing in the immediate area. I LOVE to go to the market. Really this is all beside the point of this, which is this roasted summer salad that I threw together last night.

The original base idea for this is born from a cookbook written by a mentor of mine, Scott Peacock. He wrote this beautiful cookbook that you really should check out sometime called The Gift of Southern Cooking (click here for Amazon book link) His is based on roasted okra and heirloom tomatoes, and shallots and field peas (which are completely not available around here...damn). Mine is based on what mood hit me while we were at the market.
The only things that I would probably change about this salad are, that I would like it to be a little spicier (Brandy doesn't do spicy food well, and I can always make something hotter just for me), and I wish that the string beans at the market weren't soo bloody expensive (they were going for $4+ per pound...highway robbery if you ask me). Well here's the recipe the way that you see it pictured.

2 lbs Small summer squash(crookneck, pattypan, zucchini, whatever looks nicest)...just make sure they're small...big will be too starchy
1 lbs Red torpedo onion
1 lbs Sugar Snap peas
6 ears yellow corn
1/2 C. Fish sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. peanut oil
4-5 coarse grinds of black pepper

Roast the corn still in the husk at 350F for 30 minutes, then cut the corn off the cob. Slice the onion into rings 1/4" thick, toss with the summer, squash snap peas and oil. Put on cookie sheet and roast at 500F until squash is lightly browned (maybe 5 minutes). Cool and toss all together with soy/fish sauce.

Aug 11, 2007

She: Hina Tea

I love tea. Mark loves a good, strong green tea, but my tastes vary a bit more. I do prefer green tea since its light in caffine and has a more delicate flavor, but I drink all sorts. Good tea is easier and easier to come by, which is good, considering I don't drink coffee. Most malls have a teavana store, and we've found a great place in San Fran's china town thats amazing. However, we recently found a great place downtown that is fabulous: hina tea.

Hina tea is a balm for the body AND the mind--as an artist I'm a tad picky about my surroundings in some ways, but the architecture there is calming and creative. There are tons and tons of teas to choose from: blacks, whites, greens, fruit infused, you name it, they've got it. And if you aren't sure what you'd like, they'll let you try a few out. Smelling the teas gives you a decent idea of what the flavor will be, but it gets a little tricky with fruit teas, which was what I was hunting.

Mark set down the path of purism, selecting a ton of straight green teas. He likes a stronger, grassier taste to his teas than I do. I like teas with jasmine and other flavors--but no sugar. No siree. I tried a white apricot tea, a passionfruit tea, and when these didn't ring my bell I asked for the barista's opinion, and am sooo glad I did. She introduced me to their Shanghai Lychee. I love and remember lychee from overseas, and the tea was amazing. The grean tea wasn't overpowered by the fruit. Instead, I got a strong kick of green with the lychee on the back of my tongue as an aftertaste. I got it iced (they have iced, hot, chai and all other sorts of stuff). Mark and I sat down with our teas and they gave us a tray of cute cookies to go along with our tea. They have a great selection of ceramics, and the place is spacious, quiet and soothing. The staff are helpful without being pushy. I highly suggest giving it a try. The shop is located off K street (2319 K Street) near Rick's Dessert Diner and Tres Hermanas. The website is:

Aug 7, 2007

She: Non-Desserts

Recently I talked to my sis, who said she hadn't tried any of my recipes since they were mostly desserts. (eep) Weeeeelll, I DO cook, but I just like desserts, so I tend to post those. But I will henceforth scatter my recipes with entree blogs as well. For tonight, I'm making quiche.

Quiche was one of the few things my mom would make that I loved as a kid. Usually she made it with shrimp, crab and cream cheese. Yummy, but laden with calories, so I try for other stuff instead. I wanted a meal I could eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner and something that had lots of protein, and this fit the bill. Now, this recipe calls for tabasco sauce, but don't think that makes it spicy. It just gives the dish a very very subtle zing. Same goes for the garlic salt, too.

Here's the list of ingredient: 1 frozen pie shell (I'm feeling lazy), 4 eggs, 1 cup milk (or soymilk), 1/8th tsp tabasco, 1/8th tsp salt, 1/4th tsp garlic salt, dash of pepper, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 1 small diced onion, 6 or 7 chopped basil leaves. I also added 1 oz mozzerella in blocks.

Instructions: First, put the onions in a frying pan over medium heat with cooking spray or oil and cook til translucent. When they are, add the mushrooms and toss them in the pan til golden brown, then remove from heat. In a bowl whisk eggs, milk and tabasco, then mix in the salt/pepper. Place half the onion/mushroom mix in the bottom of your pie shell, then add on half the basil. Pour in the egg mixture, then put the rest of your veggies, including basil, ontop. Put in the oven and cook at 375 for 35 minutes, or until knife comes out clean. You can replace the mushrooms/onions with anything--I also like bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and scallions and a bit of goatcheese. See? I can write healthy!

Jul 31, 2007

He/She: Just Desserts

She: Besides cheese, we did other foody things in Berkeley for Mark's b-day. We went on the Sharffenberger tour, for starters. (and mark looked oh-so-snazzy in his paper hairnet). We tasted lots of chocolate, learned about cocao, and how they actually build their own chocolate instead of buying it. Meaning, they go straight from the bean.

He: Okay I have a point of clarification about that. They don't build the's not like it's a building that needs to be constructed. Cut into it's simplest terms they make a completely smooth mixture of roasted cacao beans and added cocoa butter in bar form. There's a ton more complexity to it, but heck if I really know what that is.

She: OMG. Thats incredibly picky on word choice. And you build up layers of paint in a painting, you build the complexity of an image, you build flavors in food (I've heard you say that)...I'm right, you doofus. :P

She: we also went to two dessert places. For immediate gratification, we went to Ciao Bella Gelato. I must say, I loved their selection. The colors were like a beautiful pallete. I tried quite a few flavors before succumbing to one scoop of Jasmine Cassis and one of Passionfruit sorbet. Lovely. They were both tangy, and while sweet, filled with lots of fruit flavor. The jasmine stayed on the back of my tongue for hours and is my new favorite flavor.

He: What did I have? Mocha somethingarether and pistachio. They were was nice to have actual gelato(which does seem like an actual treat). Honestly it still doesn't hold a candle to the joint that we used to go to in Atlanta that Alon's owns.
She: Well...I didn't have the gelato, I had sorbet, and THAT was better than any atlanta or other sorbet I've had. But yeah, nothing beats Alon's gelato yet. sniff, sniff...

She: The other dessert place we went to was Love at First Bite. The cupcakes came in interesting flavors like ginger or pistachio chocolate, but alas, the didn't have each every day. We picked up a four-pack for home. The lady at the register was really sweet, but I have to say that if there was anything that was a tad off-putting, it was the chef. She was a tad curt...and I was overflowing with cupcake adoration (but not in a scary stalker way), so it was baffling. At home I tried to lemon pistachio, which while the lemon cake was good, the icing was almost...chalky. I dunno. I didn't dig it too much, but it was a flavor adventure. The one I truely adored was the strawberry. The cake was light and pink, and the icing was sweet and crammed full of tart strawberry flavor. It was amazing.

He: Yeah, you'd think that someone that owns a shop that is dedicated to sweet little cake pastries would be more positive. The woman was cold...distant...and rude(typical cali). The cupcakes were nice, very nicely made...but after looking at their site, and reading their menu I wasn't really all that impressed by any of it. If you're going to specialize in just one foodstuff, be great at it...not just good.

Jul 28, 2007

He: Oh toaster how I shall continue to long for you...

Yeah, I didn't get the Dualit toaster that I'd been asking for over the last couple of months. How much joy would I have really gotten out of the thing? Would it have become the latests kitchen albatross like our yogurt maker? We may never know. What we do know is that Berkeley is a fantastic place that has an incredible love for food. We also know that something as simple as a little disk of bread dough can bring me back to my childhood. More on this last part later...

We went to Berkeley for my birthday, because we really needed to get out of this town(which seems to only excel and being spectacularly mediocre). A wonderful woman that used to work with me over at the coop, Jill, gave us this great little map of all of her favorite spots to go while in Berkeley. Why follow the map of someone that could be completely MAD!?...what the hell...what do we know of this place...besides how bad could it be? She listed this fantastic little Jewish deli that we plan to go and check out next time that we're there...Chez Panisse, and this place called the Cheese Board Collective.

I've never been anywhere that had such an incredible selection of cheese. There's this amazing little bar in Georgetown that has 700 some odd beers, but a place that probably has that many cheeses?! unhead of.....and they let you taste ANYTHING(definitely not a possibility with the beer joint). [By the way the beer place in Georgetown is called The Brickskellar(sp.) if you ever make it over to our nation's capital and need to find the Mecca of beer.] Everything about this place just made me happy..from the board proclaiming all of the cheeses that they had available that day(as you can see from the pic, you almost can't read them all...there's just too damn many), to the breads that were being baked perpetually while we were the incredible pizza shop that they run a couple of doors down. We were in love with this place as soon as we walked by it. Yeah...we were famished by the time we got to Berkeley, thanks to a rediculous traffic jam in Sacramento that stranded us for 4 we went for the pizza first.

I LOVE this little place. They have the concept of what a restaurant should be down pat. Offer just one thing to eat. Yeah...screw the Friday's or Applebees, or whatever concept you want..of offering 85 bazillioin badly made things and just do 1 thing great. The one pizza that they were offering that day was mozzarella, feta, roma tomatoes, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and cilantro. We ordered a 1/2 pie and ate the whole thing(just barely)...and it was worth every last remaining bite. At just $9 for that half it was also a really good deal. I could continue to wax poetically about this place for at least a couple more paragraphs, but Brandy would kill me for making this post way too I'll stop.

I know that Brandy was just overwhelmed by all of the cheese at the main shop. (When loading the blog Brandy writes in this thought: I looooooove cheeeeeeese). Their selection was very was too much for me too (and I know a good bit about cheese...although most of my knowledge is in American atrisanal cheeses, and Italian cheeses....with highlights in just a few of the bigger known ones of the world). They had a huge selection of foreign cheese, with just a little bit from bay area producers(which is a little disappointing. You'd think that with Chez Panisse right across the street from them that they'd be pushing local with a vengeance too???...hmm). I tried to steer things towards cheese that I thought that Brandy might like(my personal tastes and hers are not always the same...I like having the richness of a soft ripened cheese with the sharpness of bacterial bloom in the background, she tends to like things a little less aggressive). (Again, Brandy interjects: I think my tastes are generally MORE aggressive with hard cheeses like sharp, cave aged gruyere's where most of his hard cheeses are...milder. He just goes more tangy with soft cheeses) So I tried to let her pick out all of the cheese...mostly because I was completely enamored with the smile and the gleam in her eyes as she tried each new cheese. The woman that was helping us was very gracious, very friendly, incredibly helpful..and completely unlike what we would have found in Sacramento, very polite. Overall it left such an increbly positive feeling in us for the whole experience. We just can't wait to go back.

Okay, so what was the point about the little dough round that sparked memories of my childhood? Well while we were stuck in traffic..listening to the radio...something in my head thought back to living in Chicago and to this weird little Jewish bread thing that I hadn't had since leaving there. They're called bialys, and they're just little rounds of dough with some ingredients on top of them...kind of bagel-shaped, but without the hole. I can remember living in Chicago and going with the family out somewhere to a shop that just made these things and nothing else. They'd have every topping under the sun on them...but the only ones at that point in my life that I wanted had sauce and cheese, just like a pizza. As I was thinking about these little disks while we sat in traffic...I tried to come up with the word for what they were called(simply so that I could try and look them up on the internet..and maybe make them someday)...and it just hit me. Coincidentally...someone out there remind me to make them and I will do it...and post the results...with troubleshooting tips. it was the very last food that I thought that I'd find 2000 miles away from when I'd had them last. It was the last thing that I'd thought that I'd have 24 years since the last time that I'd had them. it was this stupid little round of dough, topped with roasted onion and poppy seeds that brought me closer to childhood than anything has in recent memory.

Thank god for Berkeley. Thank god for the Cheese Board Collective on Shattuck in Berkeley. Thank god for bialys, and thank god for those great childhood memories of Chicago.

Jul 21, 2007

She: Caaaake

Well, Mark still hasn't gotten off his keister and finished his blogs, so I'm posting this one. Preparations for Mark's b-day were a little harrowing. I went ALL out and got him a whole Star-Wars ensemble for the table, including streamers and all...and forgot wrapping paper. So I got creative with wrapping some presents with grocery bags...
Owls are birthday-ish, right? Well, in between cutting bag parts, I made cakes. Yes, CAKES, plural. I made a lemon cake for Erika (her bday too) and a chocolate almond cake for Mark, upon request. I've given a lemon recipe before, so I'm gunna dive into the chocolate one here, which is a little different, since its a Vegetarian chocolate cake...not because I don't eat dead things, I do (hope I don't offend, shrug), but because Vegan/veggie chocolate cake TASTES better. More chocolate, less sugar. So here we go:
Chocolate Cake Recipe
3 C. flour, 2 C sugar, 6 tbs dark cocoa, 2 tsp b. soda, 1 tsp salt, 2 C water, 3/4 c. veggie oil, 2 tbs vinegar, 2 tsp vanilla. Put into 2 nine inch cake pans, bake for 40 mts at 350F. I actually did one cake pan, and made cupcakes that I cooked for 20 mts with the other half of the batter. That way I could give away some more of the desserts...the icing is the chocolate ganache I previously mentioned in the toffee cupcake recipe, with the vanilla switched for almond extract (not neccisary, but gives a...almondy flavor that was requested) and then sprinkled sliced almonds ontop. You can see the process from un-iced to decorated here. Mark ate his entire cake ALONE. The rest of us had cupcakes.

Jul 17, 2007

She: Adjectives and icecream

Well, first I must say that Mark has about three blogs in the works filled with yummy recipes, but he hasn't finished them for some *lame* reason...But I now have this fabulous tale for you, and a promise that many recipes are in the works...we've been making our own preserves, veggie salads and other creative foodstuffs. So please be patient.

Mark and I are running a tad low on summer funds for fun, so we decided to do something cheap that we've been meaning to for a while: hunt good ice cream in town. You see, we left Atlanta JUST as we'd found the best gelato shop in town (What's the Scoop, right next to Alon's bakery). Now we are completely spoiled, having tasted quality. Sigh. So first, I wanted to get a sandwich so I didn't go completely piggy at the ice cream parlor, so we went to Bernardo's to split a grilled ham and cheese. It used to be that Bernardos served a fabulous grilled ham and cheese on a long slice of bread with warm tomatoes and a side of fries. Hmmmm. So I ordered the same thing I have in the past, but my sandwich comes out...and its not grilled. Infact, besides having ham and cheese on it, its nothing like the old sandwich--this new fiasco is drenched in mayo and stacked with lettuce, with a soft bun replacing the buttery, grilled bread. I look at the waiter and say "I'm sorry, I ordered a grilled ham and cheese?" to which I get an explination that the menu has changed, and that this IS the grilled ham and cheese. I protest. It ISN'T GRILLED. Ah, but the ham is, I'm told. The way this usually reads in the normal world is Grilled (ham and cheese) sandwich. Meaning, grilled sandwich. But no, now at Bernardo's it means ham thrown on a skillet til luke-warm...with some cold cheese, on a bun. UTTER CRAP! Don't use adjectives if you don't know how. As a consumer, I find this misleading and just wrong, considering they have, in the past, actually grilled the sandwich.

Well. After my mis-described sandwich, we move further downtown to Gunther's shop. There are pictures inside to prove it really hasn't changed much in the last 30 years or so, and I almost got one of their fruit freezes--they really do shave the ice right there, and they sandwich two scoops of shaved ice with a bit of vanilla icecream. Yum. But we wanted to see what these guys were made of, so Mark got two scoops: Butter Brickle and Mocha Almond Fudge, and I got Black Raspberry Chip and Chocolate in waffle cones. The cone was good, and didn't drip or get soggy...important when you're downing the sweet stuff. I think Mark preferred the butter brickle, and though the black raspberry was good, it was the old-fashioned chocolate that was amazing. The ice cream didn't have any ice chips in it and was nice and smooth. The service was good, and I kept wanting to go photograph the malts and bannana splits coming out for other people. The food was PRETTY. Its also local, friendly and cheap, so I'll be going back soon.

Jul 6, 2007

She: 4th of July and recipe justifications

This blog needs ceremonial meat, and who doesn't bar-b-que during the fourth? We didn't have a grill, so I got one at lowes. For some reason Mark had been saying a true dome top is better for some reason...don't remember WHY, but did remember he said that. Anyways, I got one for 10 dolla that was small enough to hide away, and it works great. Of course, I made my best buddy Justin put it together (one little grill, sooo many parts). We made burgers with grilled pineapple slices and cheese. MMMMMMM.

Well, as he put together the grill for Mark to slave over later, I was fixing an upside-down pineapple cake. For Mark's b-day Justin got us the Amy Sedaris cookbook, so I cracked it open to find a recipe. Of course, what that recipe called for DIDN'T WORK. You take 4 tb of butter in a skillet and mix in a cup of brown sugar til it dissolves...except IT DOESN'T. I tried this frickin thing twice (no one every said what temp to heat it at, so I tried a few times) but it either doesn't mix or makes candy. It sucks. If you know something I don't then lemme know. I'll also say that the cake ended up a little dry, so I'm changing the heat temp for the cake. Here's my altered version:

The upside down part: Lay 5 pineapple rings in 9 inch cake pan. Mix 1 cup brown sugar with 1/4 cup pineapple juice from can (unsweetened) until it dissolves (hah! take THAT recipe!) then mix with 4 tbs of melted butter in a pan and reduce. Pour it all in the pan with the rings.

The cake part: Mix dry in a bowl: 1 1/2C flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/2C sugar. Get another bowl--Melt 8 tb butter, add in 1/2C milk and 1 egg. Mix wet and dry, then spoon over pineapple stuff in cake pan. Cook for 30-35 mts at 375F.