Sunday, May 8, 2011

Today I made...


Ingredients for this weekend's food projects included, citric acid, ladyfingers and agar agar. Don't worry, only the ladyfingers were intended for the tiramisu. I made this with good ol' cream, sugar, eggs, mascarpone and coffee. This was the first time I've made tiramisu and I don't know what took me so long--super easy and delish! I used this recipe (the only changes I made were swapping vanilla sugar for the regular sugar and amaretto for the rum). Did you make your mom something nice for Mother's Day?

The strata of tiramisu.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms; and soon-to-be moms; and two moms; and two dads; and Mother Earth! Smooches.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Uno, dos, tres, cuatro...

margarita cupcakes2
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Oh-me-oh, oh-my-oh, it's Cinco de Mayo! Between Easter and Mother's Day and lots of birthdays, Cinco de Mayo totally snuck up on me. Tragically, I have nothing going on for this totally random holiday that isn't even really celebrated in Mexico. There is not even a Corona in my fridge. Boo. But a couple of years ago I was much better prepared for el Cinco and made these delish margarita cupcakes!

The cake is a basic 1-2-3-4 cake (1 cup of butter, 2 of sugar, 3 of flour, 4 eggs) with the additions of lime juice, zest and sotol. What, you were expecting tequila? You could totally use tequila. But sotol is very similar (it's made from a wild relative of agave, rather than the blue agave used for tequila); and good aged sotol (reposado or añejo) is much cheaper than comparable tequilas. So give sotol a try! The frosting is lightly sweetened whipped cream (stabilized by some gelatin or agar-agar) with lime curd folded in. The lime curd gives you that great tart punch of a real margarita. Yum!

And since we are being visited by the ghost of Cinco de Mayo's past, last year I discovered this amazing song by Ozomatli. It's called "Gay Vatos in Love." You love it already right? It's got a great oldies vibe and has been stuck in my head all day. Cinco de Mayo doesn't celebrate Mexican independence--just an unlikely win in the Battle of Puebla. But I like the idea of celebrating the small victories along the way. And in the long-fought battle for LGBT equality, this unlikely song certainly represents a small victory. Download it already. And then eat a cupcake.

margarita cupcake 1

Margarita Cupcakes w/  Whipped Cream and Lime Curd frosting
Makes 24 Cupcakes

For the cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk +1 tsp. of lime juice (or buttermilk)*
3 limes, zested and juiced
1/4 cup sotol or tequila

Preheat your oven to 325. Line your cupcake tin with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture is light yellow and fluffy (use a medium to high speed for several minute). Add the eggs, one at time, mixing throughly each time. Add the lime zest, juice and sotol; mix to combine.

With your mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in several batches, alternating with the buttermilk in between each batch. Mix just until everything is incorporated, being careful not to over mix.

Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanly. Allow to cool before frosting!

For the frosting:
1 teaspoon agar-agar or unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons cold water
1 1/2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sotol or tequila
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups lime curd, store bought or homemade (this recipe for lemon curd has never let me down--just swap out the lemon for lime)

The key to good whipped cream is to chill everything--the cream, the bowl and even the whisk or beaters. While those are chilling, prep your gelatin. In a small saucepan, sprinkle the agar-agar or unflavored gelatin over the cold water and let soften for 5 minutes. Place the saucepan on low heat until the gelatin dissolves. Set the saucepan aside and allow to cool. Take your chilled cream, put it in your chilled bowl and whip it with your chilled beaters. Whip for several minutes until softs peaks form. Add the sugar and sotol and whip until the cream holds stiff peaks. Add the lime curd to the bowl and gently fold it in to the whipped cream.

Top your cupcakes with the frosting and you can even sprinkle them with a little sugar and a pinch of salt. ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

*No buttermilk in the fridge? Make your own! Add a teaspoon of lemon juice (or lime juice, if you are already juicing some limes for this recipe) to a cup of milk and let stand for 15 minutes or until curdled.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Today I made...

French 77
A French 77!
vintage bar cart I was so excited to snag this vintage bar cart for a song at a local flea market. Especially when Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge and other blogs routinely feature swoon-worthy carts well above my price range. I plan to strip off the brass plating because silver will work better with my decor. In the meantime, this awesome find warrants a celebration cocktail!

And nothing says celebration like a bubbly libation. But it seems wasteful (or gluttonous) to pop open a bottle of champagne for just one person. Which is why I love these single serving cans of Franis Ford Coppola's Sofia Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine. They're great for picnics and it's hard to resist booze that comes with its own straw, yeah?

French 77
1 shot St. Germain liqueur (a yummy liqueur made from wild elderflower blossoms)
1/4 shot of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Champagne or sparkling wine

Combine the St. Germain and lemon juice in a chilled glass and top with the bubbly. Garnish with a lemon twist (I was lazy and just chucked in a lemon wedge I had squeezed for the juice). Santé!

St. Germaine + Sofia

Saturday, April 30, 2011

That Sucks

litho5 copy

Breakups suck. I generally don't believe in universal truths, but the inherent suckiness of breakups might be something about which all human beings can agree. Heck, they suck even if you aren't involved in the relationship that is ending. It is particularly crummy when you have good friends breaking up with each other because you can't indulge in the ceremonial and cathartic verbal-bashing of the ex. And so we talk about how we feel and drink. And talk. And drink. And at some point, all of my comforting words begin to sound trite. Sure, it might be for the best. And it would be healthy to take some time to focus on yourself. But really, at the end of the day, it just sucks.* And there is no card in the grocery store that conveys this properly. So clearly the solution is to make your own.

Clockwise from top: barren, inking plate, brayer, soft pencil,
linoleum cutter and linoleum blocks sitting on a pad of tracing paper.
Now the last time I made a linoleum block print I was probably wearing braces. To my delight, I discovered that there are other types of lino blocks besides that hard, dark gray linoleum we were stuck with in school. That stuff is difficult to carve and increases the chances of gouging, stabbing or otherwise maiming yourself. I tried Speedball's Speedy-Cut and Speedy-Carve and preferred the Speedy-Cut (I'm linking to Dick Blick because they often have great online deals and ship nationally, but also check out your favorite local art supply store).

Supplies you'll need:
Linoleum block
Linoleum cutter (getting multiple sized/shaped blades is helpful)
Water based block printing ink
Inking plate
Baren or spoon
Soft pencil
Tracing paper (unless you are drawing your design directly on the linoleum)
Blank cards and envelopes


I'm really crappy at drawing so I created my design in Photoshop and kept it simple. That little guy is supposed to be a sad raindrop but I realize it looks like a tear. Sigh. Create a computer based or hand-drawn mock up of your design. If you aren't using letters and you are a better artist than I am, feel free to draw your design directly onto the linoleum. Just remember that everything will be reversed when it's printed, making any lettering pretty tricky (if you can freehand draw backward letters, you might be a robot). Otherwise, trace your design onto the tracing paper with a soft pencil. Now turn the paper over and place it on your lino block. Trace over the design again to transfer the image to the linoleum.

litho3 copy

Use your linoleum cutter to carve out your design. Remember that you are carving away the areas that will be negative space. Using a narrow blade for detail work and a wider blade to carve away larger spaces is the way to go!


Squeeze a good tablespoon of ink onto the inking plate. Roll the brayer through the ink in different directions until you have even coverage on your brayer. Roll the brayer over the block (again it's sometimes helpful to roll over it in different directions) to fully cover the positive areas. Carefully place your card on top of your inked lino. Using a barren or the back of a spoon, rub the paper with even pressure to transfer the ink to the card. Gently peel the card stock away from the lino. If you've used bit too much ink, some smudging may occur. No worries, just try it again or embrace the smudges as tell-tale signs of your DIY awesomeness.


You should also give your friend a gift along with that awesome custom card. Something to help combat the the epic suckitude of a breakup. May I suggest baked goods? I find banana bread comforting and it's easy to jazz it up with a few additions. Use mini loaf or bundt pans, and create as many variations as you'd like! Or maybe gift a selection of treats from across the pond to accompany a marathon of deliciously trashy British lezzer television? Come on, you know baked goods and cute girls with accents make everything better.

*Are you offended by the number of times I've used variations of "that sucks" in this post? Don't be. It's the "most sincere expression of sympathy" amongst modern idioms.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Today I made...

carrot cake cupcakes
Carrot Cake Cupcakes! (vegan version on the left)

I made two batches of carrot cake, one using this recipe and the other using the same recipe with modifications to make it vegan/healthier. For the vegan version I used "flax eggs" and coconut milk instead of the eggs and buttermilk. I also swapped out half of the AP flour for whole wheat, used applesauce in place of the oil, 1 cup of brown sugar instead of white sugar and dried raw coconut instead of the sweetened flake variety. For the vegan "cream cheese" frosting I used Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese and flavored it with maple syrup, cardamom and nutmeg. We'll see which one the fam prefers!

spinach strata
Spinach strata with feta, lemon, oregano and thyme

I've been obsessed with Heidi Swanson's new cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, and I can't wait to dig into this spinach strata from the book! This recipe, printed in Food & Wine, is the same as the book version except it calls for additional tablespoon of olive oil and 2 more ounces of spinach. I also threw in some lemon thyme with the oregano.

cupcake face plant Update: The verdict is in and the vegan cupcakes won! Most people thought the vegan version was more moist and appreciated that the frosting wasn't cloyingly sweet. The regular cream cheese frosting recipe calls for 2-4 cups of confectioners' sugar and for the vegan version I just used a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup. They were so good, they might make you want to do a face plant right into the cupcake!

When I'm feeling a bit grumpypants, cupcakes are a surefire way to make me feel better. But apparently cupcakes aren't enough to cheer you up when you've just woken from a nap and are disappointed that rain is postponing an Easter egg hunt. So the aren't magic, but they are pretty darn tasty!

cupcake pout

Monday, April 4, 2011

To Dye For

Easter Egg Project

This is the perfect post to mark my attempt to resurrect this blog. According to Wikipedia, the "egg is a pagan symbol of the rebirth of the Earth in celebrations of spring and was adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus." Whatever your reason might be to start boiling up some eggs (Easter, Passover, some curried egg salad), why not make them a bit festive (apparently we really like a little color in our food). Yes, you could go the easy route and just dump fake dye in a cup with some vinegar and hot water. But why not get a little mad scientist and play around with some natural dye options? You probably have a few things in your refrigerator or cupboard right now that would work! And just look at those gorgeous colors--so much prettier than Red Dye No. 3 (which always reminds me of this song).

You'll need:
Hard Boiled Eggs
Alum Powder (optional)
Oil (optional)
Natural dye matter (red cabbage, blueberries, turmeric, spinach, beets and onion skins are popular options)

First, the eggs. I used both white and brown which produced slightly different results based on the dye! You probably know how to hard boil an egg, but here are some directions anyway. To ensure that your eggs are easy to peel, you could use older (but not out of date) eggs or steam them!

Easter Egg Project          Easter Egg Project

Easter Egg Project Now it's time to scour your cupboards and the produce section for some natural dyes! For my eggs, I used raspberry zinger tea, turmeric, beets, blueberries, red cabbage and red onion skins (I just raided the onion bin at the grocery store for extra skins). You could also try spinach, grape juice, pomegranate juice, cranberries, red wine, etc. Basically, if you've ever stained your clothes with something it will probably work as a natural dye.

To prepare the dye, chop (e.g. cabbage) or shred (e.g. beets) any of the larger produce. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the eggs you plan to dye and add your dye matter, plus a tablespoon of vinegar. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until you've achieved a deep, rich color. Strain and let your dye cool to room temperature.

Easter Egg Project
Dyes, left to right: beet dye, turmeric dye, red cabbage dye, raspberry zinger tea dye, blueberry dye.
Find some sealable containers, add your hard boiled eggs and fill with your dye. At this point I also added 1/2 tsp of alum powder which is supposed to make the colors a bit brighter. I think it ended up producing a mottled effect on some of the eggs (which I sort of liked). I probably should have added it when the dye was still warm and stirred it in a bit more thoroughly! I also experimented a bit by combining two different dyes (blueberry dye + turmeric dye = lavender eggs). Now stick your containers in the fridge and let them sit overnight.

Easter Egg Project

Easter Egg Project
Clockwise from top right: beets (white egg), red cabbage, blueberries+turmeric, turmeric (white egg), turmeric (brown egg), beets (brown egg), beets (brown egg), turmeric (brown egg), red onion skins, red cabbage, beets (white egg), blueberries. 
If the colors aren't quite where you would like them you can let them sit a bit longer. Otherwise, pull them out and let the eggs dry in an egg carton or on paper towels. Once the eggs are dry you can drizzle some oil onto a paper towel and buff the eggs to give them a bit of gloss.
And now you have naturally dyed eggs! Marvel at their beauty...and then destroy them to make some yummy deviled eggs or ridiculously good egg salad.

Easter Egg Project