Yeah, I got too many of them...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I haven't been feeling too well, so I was glad I had this all set up. I made lemonade a few days ago, because lets face it, fresh lemonade is fantastic. I also had a lot of leftover prickly pear puree, so I added a few tablespoons of water and froze it into ice cubes.

Let me tell you, lemonade is elevated, canonized when you add prickly pear puree ice cubes. I mean Jesus... Rob even asked if anyone was marketing this idea. It's really, really, really good. It's so Santa Fe (I hope you people in New Mexico are appreciating the abundance of prickly pear there). Sour, sweet, tangy, and something I plan to serve a lot of come the summer. Right now, it's great for the days I'm not feeling so hot.

I bet the ice cubes are great with a glass of tequila and bit of lime...

Lime Cupcakes with Prickly Pear Frosting

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I have been itching to utilize both of these ingredients for some time. Limes are a staple in my kitchen, and prickly pears are just so new and unique in their color and taste. Really, I'm surprised they aren't used more often. I played with the idea of flavoring the cupcake with the pears, but the color kept turning icky after baking and the flavor was too muted. However, with the lime flavored cake it acted as a perfect counterpoint when used in a buttercream frosting.

The lime is a bit subtle, but let the cakes sit overnight to really let them show. The prickly pear has a unique taste. Wild, maybe slightly watermelony, but at the same time not at all. It tastes like prickly pear. That's the best I can do to describe it. Lime zest on top reinforces the flavor and - let's be honest - makes them so f#@*ing pretty. Admit it. The pink and green are visually awesome. The lime zest chunks don't need to be candied in my opinion, the frosting evens out the bitter bite of any pith, but you can if you want.

What upsets me though is that prickly pears simply aren't readily available, if available at all, to many places. I think that you could substitute a lot of flavors for the prickly pear though, such as mangoes or maybe something else with a fragrant-sweet flavor.

Tasty, cute, new and exotic. And they match my Cook for the Cure mixer. How can you go wrong?

Update 3/1/07: A few people suggested that using prickly pear jam could be used as a filling for this cupcake, and I tend to agree that that's a golden idea for next time.

Lime Cupcakes
Cupcakes adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You'll Need...
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoon chopped lime zest

What You'll Do...
1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
5. Measure out milk and lime juice/zest together.
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the milk/lime juice mixture and beat until combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full (depending on whether you want
flat or domed cupcakes).
10. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Prickly Pear Frosting
What You'll Need...
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups of powdered sugar
5-9 teaspoons of prickly pear juice (2 prickly pears)
1/8 cup of milk
lime zest

What You'll Do...
1) Prepare the prickly pears (go here to see how), puree the flesh, and push through a mesh strainer for the juice.
2) Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add half of the sugar.
3) Add the milk and the juice. Add more juice as desired for flavor.
4) Add the rest of the sugar. Add more sugar and/or juice as desired. Spread on cooled cupcakes and sprinkle on lime zest.

Well Played (Mulvaneys Building & Loan - Sacramento, CA)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"You have to go to Mulvaneys!" This is what everyone who has been there keeps telling me, so to put a stop to the harassment and satisfy my own curiosity I finally made a reservation for Rob and I.

I had called and made a reservation the week before for 8:00, however when I called to confirm my reservation the night of, my name had vanished and we were placed in a table for 9:15. I was a little bit irked by this but I let it slide as I made the reservation on the night of Valentine's Day. Still, it's writing my name in a book, kinda hard to botch that task up.

Upon walking in at 9:15 for our new reservation we were floored at what we saw. From outside, it's a nondescript red brick building, inside are vaulted ceilings, book shelves filled with cook books, well set tables, and charming decor. It was classy, but not over the top. Another plus is the sous station out in plain sight for the entire dining room to watch and be amazed, and the entry to the kitchen is wide and spacious allowing you to see the clean and busy kitchen. Quite awesome.

We started with an amuse bouche of endive with a bit of crab and something else which escapes me. Tasty. Exactly what I wanted. I couldn't get enough. I was looking forward at what was to come.

The asparagus soup I had was second to none. It was creamy, bold, and the asparagus was unfettered. Small bits of cheese also surprised me in each spoonful. I couldn't figure out if they were bits of parmesan or mozzarella or something else?). They would sit on your tongue and tease you with their taste, then vanish like little Houdinis before you could pin them down.

Rob ordered the goat cheese and beet salad. Tasty and utilizing local ingredients (all dishes here utilize local ingredients, and the menu allows itself to be altered daily in lieu of seasonality) the cheese was creamy yet crumbly and tasty. I never tasted any, but anyone who can convert Rob to love goat cheese is doing something right.

His main course consisted of some pork that was just, how did he put it? "This is what pork should be." He was right. It was insane shibby good. The meyer lemon mashed potatoes were interesting, Rob loved them, I was undecided; it seemed contradictory to me. His wilted spinach with garlic was insane tasty as well. Like never had better wilted greens ever tasty.

I ordered duck with some wild mushrooms, wild rice, and some wilted greens with garlic. The duck was upsetting; it tasted like a Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage. One so tough, you couldn't cut it. I gave Rob some to confirm and he agreed, it was foul fowl. The wild rice was delish, I so love the soft crunch and texture of wild rice. The wilted greens were the best I ever had, the razor thin garlic reminding me of that scene from GoodFellas. The wild mushrooms were meaty and bold with a foie gras glaze that just enhanced the entire dish.

Service is tops here. It's courteous and friendly without being overbearing. The wait staff is knowledgeable about the menu and wine list, and work seamlessly. They are also more than willing to ensure you are leave happy and planning to come back again. The said duck? The tough Jimmy Dean duck? Well, the waitress asked me if it was okay as it was relatively untouched on my plate as she cleared the table. I reluctantly told her my issues with it, to which she replied, "Oh no! I'll tell the chef immediately!" The plate was whisked away, where in the kitchen I saw the kitchen staff gather around the offending fowl.

I was mortified. The chef was gonna come out and bitch slap me or a sous chef or something. I waited for the onslaught, but nothing happened. The bill came back - presented in not a billfold, but a cookbook where others had left their adulations in the bindings, natch - and was told "The duck was taken off the bill."

I was speechless. I mean most places in my experience just say sorry or offer you a free dessert, not make an entire entree gratis. Damn. In thanks we took the entire price of the entree, and put it towards the tip. Good service like that deserves it.

Overall, a pleasant dining experience. One of the best I've had in Sac.

Mulvaneys Building & Loan
1215 19th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 441-6022

How to Prepare a Prickly Pear

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Well, the prickly pear is not a common ingredient in most kitchens. Being a cactus fruit, they're quite a bit of work for not a lot of juice, but what you do get its colorful, flavorful and great for cocktails or vinegarette. It doesn't really taste like anything except prickly pear, so until you try it I can't really describe it to you. They're very fresh, can be a bit crisp and, I dunno... old world. It has a sense of history to it; a story you can only let your tongue tell to you.

When picking them out, go for the ones soft to the touch, but not rotting or massively bruised (shop for them like you would for a peach). Unless you are familiar with them, handle them with gloves so as not to get your self with the fine needles. I say fine because they don't so much hurt, but they irritate like hell and you have to tweezer the thousands of small threadlike needles out. Some stores have them pretty well scraped so you may not have to worry, but they rarely get all of them.

To prepare them...
1) Cut off the ends, then make a slit down the vertical length of the fruit.
2) Peel it apart. Think of the fruit like the earth, with a crust, mantle, and core.
Like so: [(O)]
The crust and mantle peel easily off the core, [( O )], leaving you with the seedy core.
3) Cut the core up and press and mash through a fine sieve (maybe process in a food processor first if you want). You want to get out all those inedible seeds. Afterwards, you are then left with the bright pink juice.

The juice is refreshing with a splash of tequila, gives new life to lemonade, or mix with some light red vinegar for a salad dressing. Reduce it for 15 minutes over medium heat for a great sauce for ice cream or as a glaze for pork. I've also heard of people making jam or utilizing the juice or seedless puree for prickly pear ice cream.

Maybe I'll even figure out a cupcake recipe with it someday? Hmm...

Update 3/1/07: I have gotten a lot of questions as where to buy these. Nugget Markets in the Sac and Davis areas seem to carry them. You can also go and pick them yourself if you see a nopales cactus (they're everywhere in California and the Southwest), just be just to handle them with heavy gloves until you have just the core as they won't have been cleaned of the needles like in a market. Some bushes can be found on the UCD campus across from the Chem 194 building and in the UCD Arboretum near the horse stables. Many markets will do special orders, and prickly pears are cheap so you can always go that route as well.

Another Pepper Post

Sunday, February 18, 2007

So, I understand why salt has become a basic table side staple. Salt is a basic dietary need, it chemically enhances the flavors of foods by coaxing out juices and proteins. It makes sense. But why pepper?

I mean I understand the taste side of things, pepper has that unique flavor and mouth feel that leaves a sort of presence in your mouth like cinnamon creating heat, or mint creating a chill. But what I mean is WHY pepper? Is it simply because it pairs so well with everything? If that were the case then it's because we love it's exotic neutrality, which may be reason enough. Pepper seems to be undergoing a new wave of popularity and we're seeing it in cupcakes, ice cream, and as the main focusing spice in a variety of dishes; it's more popular than ever yet rarely given a second thought.

But how come it wasn't rosemary or paprika? I mean, it makes sense that these flavors are simply too strong to pair with any 'ol dish like salt and pepper can, but is there a specific history as to how pepper became such a staple in cooking world wide?

Pepper has been used since prehistoric times in India as evidence suggests, and is actually a dried fruit. Throughout time apparently, it has only grown in popularity and spread like wildfire from India. It was found lodged in the nostrils of Ramesses II as part of his mummification process. Five peppercorns was payment enough to have some assassinated in the Medieval period. It was thought to help fight off malicious plagues and maladies. It was one of the most expensive spices in recorded trade history of the ancient world, and a favorite in the foods of only the Roman elite. Today it's one of the cheapest spices on the market and makes up about 20% of the overall world spice trade.

None of this really answers my question really. I guess it's simply a chemical thing having to do with taste and the brain. The phrase "exotic neutrality" really does seem to do the spice justice. Pepper has a fruity, floral, spiciness that is so well balanced it perfectly compliments each and every dish. Still, it's something to think about.

For more pepper information:
Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner

The Hangar One Tour

Thursday, February 15, 2007

About two weeks ago, Rob and I made the perilous trip down to Alameda to check out the Hangar One distillery and meet up with the good folks of Hedonia and In Praise of Sardines. I call it perilous because the roads and sidewinding ways of Alameda pissed me off to the point that Rob and me almost turned around to go back home. Seriously Alameda, fix it.

Hangar One is a small distillery that works in small batches to create truly awesome eau de vies, specialty vodkas, and creative spirits. They pride themselves in using localized ingredients, such as Buddha's hand, kaffir limes, mandarin blossoms, and in the works... chipotle pepper (all these from grape based vodkas of course!).

Upon entering Rob and I were treated to a small glass of Qi, a liquor based on Lapsang Souchong tea. The tea itself is like black coffee, you have to get used to the flavor. I am and love the burnt cedary taste, but in liquor it takes on new properties of spice and maybe a bit of cocoa. It' was good but at the same time, bitter and dark. Something to get used to for sure, but the smell was intoxicating and lingered well.

The vodkas each extrapolate some beautiful flavors; for instance the raspberry has the audacity to pleasantly surprise you with a real fruity flavor and no candy like artificial flavorings. Meanwhile, the Buddha's hand was very fragrant and citric.

The tour was informative and very well run. The guide was hilarious and knew her stuff. Props indeed. My only complaint would be the tour seemed awfully short. I suppose if you are in the area, drop by and check it out. Sacramento area people, is it worth the drive? Yeah, I would say so; getting there is a bitch, but we were very happy we did. The tour is all standing the whole way though, due to this Rob threw his back out pretty hard (this was compounded on working to much the past few days) and we had to take him home and miss out on our dinner plans.

It's fun, educational, and a chance to get a little bit tipsy at 1pm on a Saturday. Total snaps.

"It's all about me, and what I know!" - Alti, Xena (Season 6)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm not normally a fan of memes, but I had a block of time to kill for once and figured why the hell not? Plus Amy and Tea both tagged me for this so how can I say no? So here is some stuff you don't know about your favorite blogger:

1) I worked in a cafe run by a total crazy eastern European guy. I worked there for four hours; after that he called back, drunk as frat boy at pledge week, and said he changed his mind about hiring more help. I was paid out of the till for the four hours and sent home. Probably a good thing too. The special was a mocha thingy with cookies sticking out of it, which inevitably sink to the bottom of your drink and become nasty mush.

2) I am a total nerd in some respects. I have every season of Xena in my DVD collection, I watch them so often that Rob now can tell give you character histories just from absorbing the information through osmosis. Plus, how can you not love Alti and Callisto as villains?

I also am addicted to Final Fantasy games and other like minded RPG video games. The past three months, when I can, I have been trying to save the world of Ivalice.

3) I don't like driving more than 60 minutes at a time. Otherwise I fall asleep, or need a book on tape to keep me awake. It's not a good thing.

4) I grew up in Mission Viejo, in Orange County, California. I have toured castles in Spain, seen the ruins of Ephesus, bartered in the fish markets of Greece, seen the Blue Mosque in Turkey, encountered death in Austria, seen poverty Slovania, had a home cooked meal in Slovakia, crossed a bridge for luck in the Czech Republic, almost bombed in Israel, set off an alarm in a restaurant by accident in Italy, scuba dived in St. Kitts, was fooled by a glass cannon in Nevis, saw two European towns in St. Barts, visited Mexico many times (got sick once), saw the Queen run into a bunch of naked gay men in Canada, chillaxed in Costa Rica and seen what there is to see in most every state except I believe Maine and Alaska. I am only 23, and still have a few more places on my list to go before I die.

5) My eventual career goal is to be a professional writer of some sort and a college English professor so I can be paid to lock myself away and do reseach projects, which I love. I mean, I am happiest when I have a 40 page paper due and have open time to research as much as I want, then in the end turn it in to my professor after getting permission to go an extra 15 pages. Pure F*&%'en Joy.

6) BONUS! My friends from way back and I adopted the word shibby from an on-line comic called Boy Meets Boy. This comic helped get through hard times in life more than once, and always cheered up my day. It's sadly no longer going, but two of the characters got a spin off comic. The art starts kinda funky, but progresses and is now truly professional and shibby. Worth reading just to watch the evolution of an artist, but also funny, fantastic and light hearted.

I tag Gigi Cakes, Pie is the New Toast, Restaurant Whore, S'kat and the Food, and What Did You Eat?. I expect full reports by all of you or else I go Xena on your @$$.

Cupcake Blogs!

Quickie post but you want to see some cupcakes that really take the cake? Go check out these two up and coming cupcake bloggers. They're quite shnazy and a lot more skilled than I am (I have no ability to make my cupcakes pretty or use a piping bag). Anyways, go check out the Toffee Tumble Cupcakes over at Cupcaketastic made with choux pastry and hard crack toffee (Rob said, "Oh God, I'm in heaven. Make those."

Another cupcake to check out is the White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cupcakes over at E Cupcake who seems to have drilled into my psyche and made me love her.

Chai Latte Cupcakes... ahhh, who doesn't love chai? I know I do, as does Gigi over at Gigi Cakes. Here you'll find fabu baked goods on a wild ride of sugar and spice.

These blogs are only about two months old, but based on the cupcake recipes they have developed and their photography, I think they're going to be great resources for every cupcake fiend out there.

Strawberry Cupcake - Five Ways

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I've always wanted to do a fancy petit fours (or in this case fives) kinda' dessert or appetizer. It just seems so swanky and chic. Penelope came over to spend the day with me so we could catch up and just be bitches, and I wanted to involve her in this project. It was fun, exotic, and just in time for Valentine's Day!

The cupcake was odd; it was fruity but didn't resound of strawberry. It was a quandary, too hard to describe, but it was good none the less. Plus it came out an odd grey-purple color. The frosting luckily resounded of strawberry and really backed up that pink color. The cupcake tasted of strawberries. Ah but lets move on to the flavors...

Balsamic and Black Pepper Reduction
This was the favorite by far. The idea came to me as during summer, Rob and I do the Italian thing and macerate our strawberries in balsamic vinegar and pepper. We made this into a reduction and drizzled it on the cupcake. Pow! Zing! Pop! The reduction develops a surprisingly slight, lemony pizazz that pleasantly contradicts the strawberry flavors. It dazzled the senses.

This was the flavor we were really eager to try and at the same time understandably weary. Strawberries and cilantro actually share many of the same flavor compounds, thus they compliment each other nicely. The cupcake is sweet, but the single peppery leaf whispers in the back on the mouth and creates a nice finish.

Chocolate & Pink Salt
We at first used only a dark 60% cacao chocolate and that was pleasing. Chocolate and strawberries. Pink and black. It's classic. The addition of pink salt elevated this to a new platform of flavor; it enriched the chocolate to new heights.

Himalayan Pink Salt
Salt naturally enhances flavor, and it does no different here. It accented the strawberry flavors, ans the salt went wonderfully with the sweet. It's was definitely the wild card of the plate.

Orange & Cointreau
Orange oils and the orange liqueur mixed into a syrup created a fruity, cavity inducingly rich, and viscous lushness to the cupcake. Orange and strawberry go well together in strawberries romanoff so we knew the royal flavors this conveyed would give it presence amongst the other cupcakes with more bite.

Strawberry Cupcakes
Makes 36 mini cupcakes -or- 12 regular cupcakes
Adapted From Rickpoon Flickr and E Cupcake

What You'll Need...
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup strawberry sauce (see below)
1/4 cup milk

What You'll Do...
1) Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

2) Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.

3) Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Measure out milk and strawberry sauce together. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add about one third the milk/strawberry sauce mixture and beat until combined. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.

4) Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes). Bake for 20-22 minutes at 350F until a cake tester comes out clean. If using a mini cupcake tin, bake for 8-10 minutes and use Pam For Baking to grease the pan. Scoop into slots until three-quarters full.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
What You'll Need...
8 ounces or 1 package of cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
approximately 1/4 cup of strawberry sauce

What You'll Do...
1) Bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl.

2) Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add half of the sugar, beat until combined. Add strawberry sauce until you achieve the right color and flavor, making sure not to add too much or the frosting will be too soft. Gradually add remaining sugar (more if you have to) until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

Strawberry Sauce
What You'll Need...
2 cups of fresh strawberries, cut in half and stem removed
sugar to taste

What You'll Do...
1) Macerate strawberries with about 1-2 tbs sugar for 15 minutes.

2) Put strawberries in a small saucepan and heat under medium heat with lid on. Cook strawberries for approximately 15 minutes till strawberries cook down and become soft and saucy. Adjust sweetness with sugar until you get the desired sweetness.

3) Using a hand blender, puree until you get the desired smoothness or chunkiness. Cool before using in recipe.

Orange Cointreau Syrup
What You'll Need...
1/2 cup of Cointreau
4 good strips of orange zest
1/2 cup of sugar

What You'll Do...
Combine all over medium heat until bubbling and all sugar has dissolved. Turn heat to low and let bubble for 5-8 minutes. Let cool, it should be a thick syrup. Drizzle on cupcake.

Balsamic Reduction
Take a 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper and let come to a boil at high heat. Reduce to low and let reduce for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Drizzle on cupcake.

Chocolate, Salt, and Cilantro
Sprinkle on the salt. Place a leaf or two of cilantro on the cupcake. Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler and drizzle on cupcake.

See Flickr Set Here

Boy, O' Boy! (The Waterboy - Sacramento, CA)

Friday, February 9, 2007

So, here is the review as promised, sadly I forgot my camera that day *head hit keyboard*. I'm also tired as I just had a bit of cutting done on me at the hospital (nothing serious), so I hope you enjoy this!

I was lucky enough to recently have a fabulous meal thanks at The Waterboy for an Edible Sacramento meeting with Darren, Ann, Jennifer, and Steven. It's a place that's been touted as one of Sacramento's best restaurants, and let me tell you it lives up to that reputation. Using seasonal, local ingredients, it presents surprise after surprise!

After first stepping in, you notice the high ceilings, the tasteful art, the classy tables and chairs. All beautifully done. Nothing else to say.

We first were first presented with some roasted marcona almonds and an antipasto platter. Best. Snacky Plates. Ever. The almonds were butter with small flakes of salt allowing them to pirouette on your tongue. The various cured meats, bruschetta, and cheese were fabu, and the olives! So well herbed, such eloquence in the subtle oils, I was smitten! The only quirk about the platter was the fact they gave us four pieces of bread, yet there were five of us. A small hiccup, and more bread was made available.

Soon a plate of various raw marinated fish was placed before us. Each was fresh and buttery, I was throughly surprised by this fact as I try not to order Monday fish due to past experiences. A pizzetta with housemade sausage, roasted red peppers, and onions was also served. It kind of contradicted every wine at the table, so as a first course it may throw things off, but on it's own it was spicy with layers of Italian flavors classically prepared.

The baby beet salad was rich with the various red and yellow beets seducing you with their color, deep flavor, and texture. Roasted almonds and watercress also gave variety in texture and flavors. The blood orange vinaigrette got a little lost in the whole thing, but taste great none the less.

I then had the mixed grill of lamb, quail, and pancetta. The quail seemed lacking in salt, but that was easily remedied. Served with a butternut polenta and wilted greens, it was a dish to remember. This was it, it had beat Mason's hands down.

And it only got better. Chocolate brioche bread pudding that warmed the entire body! Soft gingerbread with meyer lemon sabayon and candied ginger eased you into warm smiles and laughter! Boston cream pie was playful in it's presentation and taste!

Each wine was truly fabulous. I would give you a run down, but when it comes to wine Garrett don't know jack. Jennifer made the decisions, which is a good thing as she worked at a vineyard in Ojai so she knows what's down and what to leave echoed. Darren knows whats what too as he works in wine. Yeah, they roll like that. Each wine perfectly complemented the meal, and the wait staff seemed to know their stuff, so I feel I could trust myself in their hands. (I really need to take a wine class, I'm suddenly finding so many I love!)

It was needless to say, an experience. A decadent one. A fabulous one. The menu is seasonal and changes abut every month, but from what others tell me, repeated visits never cease to amaze. Wine, music, and surroundings complete the meal. It's like stepping into a world where only good things can happen.

The Waterboy
2000 Capitol Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 498-9891

Guilty Food Confessions

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Yeah, we have a filler post today. I'm insane busy this week what with work, trying to get everything organized for my grad school application, and hunting for a new place to live. However, I promise a good review of The Waterboy, and a damn good cupcake series in the next few days, and maybe a surprise or two.

So what are we going to do today, kiddies? Well, I thought I might open the forum and admit my little foodie secrets. All the foods I normally won't admit to eating but love to when no one is looking. My guilty food pleasures. These are what I eat when I watch shows like The Girls Next Door, which is awesome and another guilty pleasure of mine. So frickin' funny.

So here we go, my Top 5:
In & Out french fries: Greasy, salty goodness. And I swear to God, if you try and take one... I'll cut you.

Tubes of Cookie Dough: Sure I've made my own to devour, but store bought is quicker. Crack it open, pour a glass of milk, pop a cheesy B-horror flick into the DVD player and enjoy. Totally worth the stomach ache.

Cheez-its: I will curse all generations of your family if you touch my cheez-its. I'll engrave the nasty sin of you touching my cheez-its on your damnable soul. Then I'll cut you... again.

64 Box of Corn Dogs from Costco: These were a food group for me and my no-budget in college. Remember, the FDA suggest 3 servings a day.

Mint Oreos: They rarely make it home from the store. I once hid them in an empty Wheat Thins box so my roommates wouldn't find them and I wouldn't have to share.

There ya' go. Hope you enjoyed. Feel free to comment with your own fun confessions. TTFN - Ta ta for now!

Our Disconnection with Food and it's Origins

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

I recently had a comment written to me about my experience in an Afghani restaurant, and how lucky I am to be eating Afghani food here in California and not in Afghanistan. Going back over it, and reading through the post and the comment Miriam left me, it really made me step back and think. How much do we know about our food and where it comes from?

I'm not talking about a local level. You all probably know about that, and there certainly isn't a need for me to preach to the choir, though I suppose sometimes the choir must be reminded why they're singing. No, I mean on a more international scale. It scares me how little people know about the world outside their own town let alone the country and, God forbid, the actual world.

I went to a party recently and was surprised how few people, U.S. born and raised citizens no less, know how many states there are. I kid you not. I had answers from 48 to 53. Some answers being Washington D.C., Ottawa, and Cuba. How on earth would they know the history of the pork dumpling?

Okay, so maybe the history of the dumpling is a bit much. I don't expect people to know that, and wouldn't hold it against them if they didn't, but I think reflection and some simple common thought about the source and origin of international foods (or any foods) should be a basic part of deconstruction of a meal, or even as mental and aesthetic flavoring to add to the joy to a dish.

Ethiopian food is starchy and has it's roots grounded in the fact that the country is generally arid and without a lot of leafy greens growing about. Refrigeration isn't exactly as widespread as in the states, so food can't be preserved as long. Dishes are designed to be something simple, cooked in a single pot, and from ingredients that can be easily stored in dry conditions. Sugar isn't prevalent in the area either so desserts as we know them (i.e. cakes, puddings, etc) aren't exactly going to be familiar.

An Iranian family here recently explained that she and many other families are adapting recipes and their way of cooking as trade in many parts of the area has halted due to violence, so meals have had to be tweaked and tinkered to make due with what is available.

Later these dishes make their way to the U.S. where supplied are abundant and we simply accept that the dishes we eat are everyday fare and leave them at that. The dish defines the people, without any real thought as to how that dish or the people and their current situation came to be.

This post is starting to develop into a sociology paper, so I'll leave this there right now. There's isn't a true solution for me to offer, just something to think about. So Miriam, thank you for the thoughts about food. I'll take a moment to think about how those in Afghanistan are eating when I'm at the Afghani restaurant, and take a bit of time to reflect over any meal.

Peanut Butter Black Sesame Cupcakes with Almond Whipped Cream

Saturday, February 3, 2007

This was one of the entries from the cupcake challenge. This particular one just seemed to stick out in my mind when it was submitted by Joann. I did have a few issues with finding the black sesame soup so I instead used a soybean black sesame powder that you mix with milk for a surprisingly tasty drink (thought it would taste groady to be honest, but yay for it not!). I also went to three stores for corn syrup for a simple frosting but to no avail as well. I mean how do three supermarkets not have corn syrup?! So instead, I made a simple whipped cream with a hint of almond extract and sugar.

The cupcake had a sweet slight peanut buttery taste that was backed by that black sesame. Very different and shibby tasty! The light almond whipped cream was just the right flavor to assist the cupcake. I piped on the character "Fu" which means luck. I colored them with black sesame seeds however due to their getting in your teeth and not adding positive texture wise, I might just heavily pipe "Fu" on them next time and do a very light sprikling of the seeds. I'm inspired to try a few more Chinese flavors, especially since Chinese New Year is coming up, and it's year of the Boar baby! MY YEAR! *woot woot*

With the overall flavors of peanut, sesame, and almond these were quite a hit at work. Not too sweet, a little bitter, and a slight umami flavor. Yum! A very tasty, easy to make cupcake! Thanks Joann!

Peanut Butter Black Sesame Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes / 350 F degree oven

What You'll Need...
1/4 cup of unsalted butter, softened to room temp
1/4 cup of smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup of flour
1-50 gram individual package of instant black sesame soup powder -OR-
3 1/2 tablespoons of black sesame and soybean powder
3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup milk

What You'll Do...
1) Prepare muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350F.
2) Put butter and peanut butter in a bowl of a mixer and mix on medium until creamed together.
3) Add the sugar and mix until the mixture is light and fluffy.
4) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Scrape down the bowl to ensure the incorporation of the eggs.
5) In another small bowl, sift the flour, black sesame powder, baking powder, and salt together.
6) With the mixer on low, alternate the additions of the flour mixture and the milk to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and mix until smooth, about 2 minutes.
7) Scoop batter into the muffin liners and bake in the oven for 18-22 minutes. Test if they're done with a toothpick. When it comes out clean, they're done.
8) Cool for a few minutes in the muffin tins, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Almond Whipped Cream
What You'll Need...
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract

What You'll Do...
Place all ingredients in a mixer and mix until stiff peaks form. Duh, it's whipped cream.

Eat Beast Update #3 - Limes are his Kryptonite

Friday, February 2, 2007

The eat beast has a weakness! He dominated lemons, devoured hot peppers, stole bacon, purloined bagels, and stickypawed more than a few chips and crackers. He even threw his face into a bowl of cereal while I was still eating it and looking the other way.

Yes, he won't eat limes. Detests them. I can put a slice of lime in a bowl of food and he won't go near it. He'll pace around and inspect it for hours. HOURS. He'll attempt to swat at it in hopes it might run off, but to no avail. It's crazy. And by crazy I mean tormenting him this way if non-stop fun.

Finally, now if I can just figure out a way to utilize this weakness. For something aside from my own twisted entertainment I mean. (I feel like Lex Luthor, only Superman is a fatty fat fat McBlobicus covered in black hair and obsessed with licking his groin and eating.)

Getting Crabs and V-day (No Correlation...)

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Waterfront Crabfest

On February 10th, the Old Sacramento Buisness Association will host the Waterfront Crabfest from 7 pm to 10 pm. The event will take place at the California State Railroad Museum at 2nd an I in Old Sac. This year’s feast will include hot crab, pasta, salad and fresh bread. A no-host bar with beer, wine and soft drinks will also be available. The event will feature a silent auction, a live auction led by DSP Executive Director Michael Ault, dance lessons, a chef demo and music performed by Sacramento’s own Betty and the Boomers.

Contact Information
For more information or to purchase tickets, call (916) 445-3054
website: http://visit


Wine & Dine Downtown - Valentine's Day 2007

A few restaurants are offering special V-Day prix fixe menus. 55 Degrees, The Firehouse, and Dawson's at the Hyatt are signed up with a few more to be added! make your reservation now. A great way to show someone you love them and want to bang them like a trash can lid.

See the Menus!

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