Sauteed Vanilla Scented Apricots

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Elise and I recently traded vanilla beans for some fresh apricots. Staring at the perfectly ripe, sun-like globes of sweet juicy goodness, I knew I had to combine them with some of the vanilla beans.

Even as I opened the apricots, their pits falling out effortlessly, their overpowering scent took over the kitchen and began to strongarm the vanilla for aromatic dominance. I realized that a simple saute would be the best way to incorporate the two dueling flavors.

The finished bring orange apricots, flecked with black pinpricks of vanilla, and shimmering with glazed sugar it's quite a dessert to present to your friends. Perfect on it's own or over waffles or ice cream, or maybe even a pie or tart filling, it's a heady and comforting dessert for summer.

Sauteed Vanilla Scented Apricots
What You'll Need...
6 apricots
3 tablespoons of brown sugar

1 or 2 vanilla beans (I used Madagascar variety beans)

1 1/2 tablespoons of butter


What You'll Do...

1) Wash the apricots. Remove the stones from the apricots, and cut into quarters.

2) Warm a saute or fry pan over medium heat and melt the butter. Split a vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Throw the apricots, brown sugar, vanilla seeds and pod into the butter and stir. It will create a lot of juice the longer you saute.

3) Warm over medium-low heat for about 8-12 minutes or until you have them at a firmness you prefer. I like mine halfway firm, Rob let his share go a while longer till it was more of a sauce.

Note: These are the vanilla beans I used to make the vanilla sugar, afterward, I washed them off and let them dry overnight. I then chopped them up for some vanilla chips if I want to add vanilla bean flavor to some milk or cream for baking later.

Vanilla Pear Sorbet & The Austrailian Hook-Up

Friday, June 29, 2007

This is an aromatic and simple sorbet that's perfect for spring. It's like a vanilla scented Eau de vie, but in a tasty frozen treat form. Pears and vanilla are a perfect pairing that'll help finish any meal.

It's not always cupcakes here at Vanilla Garlic. Just most of the time.

Vanilla Pear Sorbet
Makes 4-6 servings

What You'll Need...

6 Anjou Pears

1 vanilla bean (preferably Bourbon)

3 1/2 cups of sugar or vanilla sugar

1/2 extra cup of sugar or vanilla sugar

5 strips of lemon zest

6 cups of water


What You'll Do...
1) Use a vegetable peeler to strip 5 strips of zest off of a lemon. Cut open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Place the vanilla pod and seeds, lemon zest strips, sugar/vanilla sugar, and water in a pot. Let it come to a boil so that all the sugar has dissolved, reduce heat to medium.


2) Peel the pears, and cut off a small portion of the bottom so they can stand up straight (for easy cutting later). Place in the water for about 10 minutes.

3) Cut the "meat" off of the pears and discard the cores and stems. Puree with 2 cups of the poaching liquid and 1/2 cup of sugar/vanilla sugar. Let cool in the fridge. Place in your ice cream maker and proceed via the manufacturer's directions.

Note: I highly suggest saving the rest of the poaching liquid, filtering the solids out, and adding and dissolving an equal part of sugar to make a rockin' simple syrup for cocktails later! Pair this with some Absolut Pear and ice and you are so made.
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Minh, my cupcake sister from Australia , sent me over a huge cache of Tim-Tam's (a popular cookie brand from down under), which are so insane shibby-good. They're basically two cookies with a chocolate filling, covered in chocolate. Then they come in a variety of flavors; raspberry & chocolate and the caramel ones are my faves.

Also, she sent over little caramel filled koala bears. Is it wrong I love to devour their little heads with so much joy?

Thanks a ton, Minh! Be sure to check out her blog and her variety of creative cupcakes!

How To Make Vanilla Sugar and Vanilla Extract

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Vanilla sugar and extract are astounding recipes, mainly because that they're remarkably easy and only require patience to receive phenomenal results. Good vanilla products have that rummy-sweet, reminiscent scent taking you back to mom's kitchen for fresh cookies or your favorite bakery when growing up. Thus, why not develop some of your own to ensure that those aromatic feelings never fade?

Vanilla sugar can be used in cakes, jams, cocktails and pretty much anything else that you want to add a bit of vanilla essence too. Vanilla extract is used in cooking and baking to impart a more potent vanilla flavor. Both also make for fantastic gifts.

For Vanilla Sugar
: Split a vanilla bean down the middle, but not from end to end so that it stays intact but open. Scrape out some of the seeds and mash them up into the sugar with your fingers. Place the seeds and the pod in a jar and cover it with granulated sugar; avoid using baker's sugar as it tends to clump up. Use more beans for bigger jars (my jar was larger than a gallon). Let it sit for two weeks. Afterward you can remove the vanilla beans and set them aside in another jar for future use.

For Vanilla Extract: Split a vanilla bean down the middle, but not from end to end so that it stays intact but open. Place it in the plain vodka. Let it sit for a few days to get vanilla vodka (yum!). Let it sit for about 6 weeks for extract. You may want to filter some of the floaty bits out, but it's your call.

It takes time, but good food requires time. When it's done you'll have so much extract you will never need to buy the stuff again. Ever. Feel free to use the beans inside if you need to, just wash them off well before they go back in. If the supply runs low, top it off with some more vodka (Thanks Heidi, for the topping off advice!)

I'll be sure to revisit the extract a few months from now so we can see the results.

Seven Things About Me (Assuming You Care)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

So I was tagged for this meme by Minh, so why not? I did one of these a year ago, so we can consider this Part 2. I am not tagging anyone cause I am too lazy to put in the links right now, plus I was writing this at home in bed on a sick day cause I got bored and needed something to do that didn't require much moving.

I am terrified of E.T. That little freak gave me nightmares as a child. When the movie was re-released a few years back, I would change the channel if his commercials came up. I still can't deal with the bastard. The cops should have aimed better when shooting at him, kill Elliot too as he was an E.T. enabler. And that part in the movie where he and Elliot see each other in the field and scream? Holy crap, his scream... E.T.'s horrible, death scrawl scream... *shudder and rock myself in a fetal position*

I laughed during The Exorcist. I kid you not. I was cracking up non-stop, screaming how cool it would be if I could do all the shit that little girl was pulling off. Rotating my head around and speaking in strange tongues in five voices at once = best party tricks ever.

I am a horrible driver. Still no accidents, but Rob, my brother, my parents, and many friends refuse to be in the car when I drive or hold onto the door (seriously, they do). I drive either too slow or fast, am easily distracted, and stop sometimes for no reason.

I have a bad habit of interrupting people. I don't do it on purpose, and I sometimes have to mentally remind myself not to do it. I just have always had a problem of not shutting up. When a thought pops into my head, I have to share, regardless how stupid or pointless the thought may be.

I can't cook rice to save my life. Okay, well let me specify. I can cook rice, and once in a while it comes out fine. Usually however, and only for rice, I forget to set a timer of some reason. It then stops steaming or absorbing water and begins to bakes into a burnt rocky mass of what was once rice. I have thought of shattering the whole mess and taking a stale bread to pudding approach with it, but more often than not the rice goes into the garbage can with a resounding, singular *thud*.

I can play the flute, piccolo, and the bass and alto flutes. I took lessons for about 14 years. I got pretty damn good at it too. It upsets me that once I started college I stopped playing, so maybe I should finally get that F-key fixed on my flute and pick the thing up again.

I hate the word "serendipity". I don't have a real reason for it, except it sounds liked the dumbest word ever.

An Off Day? (Chocolate - Santa Cruz, CA)

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm not really sure if this is a fair review. You see, this restaurant is known for being so bohemian, anti-establishment chic with great food, but today it seemed lacking. With the graduations going on, every senior is showing about 5 or more visiting relatives or friends around downtown Santa Cruz, so part of the population quintuples over night as thousands of visitors flood the tiny city.

Our reservation was at four o'clock and the place was packed solid. Only two wait staff were on hand, and the kitchen staff wasn't able to keep up. The food lacked any real depth or great flavor, and service was slow, taking 40 minutes for appetizers to arrive. The poor girls were in the weeds, and the stress was on their faces. So I can;t really blame them, but at the same time, shouldn't they be prepared for this event that occurs year after year after year? The hotels certainly know to plan ahead with jacked rates, the restaurants and cafes should know to have some extra help on.

So on to the food. Chocolate is a place that totes its local, organic, cruelty free and creative food. It's known for it's chocolate desserts, of which seem few and too complicated, and only one non-dessert menu item that contains chocolate in the form of a mole' sauce.

My brother ordered a chocolate Italian soda which tasted like a tootsie roll and was yummy. Except they served it using water, not soda water, which kinda is the only ingredient to an Italian soda aside from flavoring.

The mole sauce is quite tasty I must admit. Thick, sweet, and a bit bitter, it paired well with the chicken.

The appetizer, after it finally arrived, was good. It was a cheese and artichoke heart dip thingy. Nothing fantastic, but I'm not complaining. It just didn't possess that seemingly explosive flavor i have come to expect from the Italian cheeses used. Plus, it was served with bread, and while that was fine, we had already gone through many baskets of the stuff and a lot of water before it arrived.

I had a mushroom soup with a Mediterranean salad. The salad was laden with fresh assorted greens, a lemony dressing, pistachios, kalamatas, Parmesan, and artichoke hearts. Totally yummy, exactly what a salad should be. Best part of the meal by far, for it's freshness and flavors. The muted taste of the pistachios was a pleasant change from the everyday nuts you usually find in a salad.

The soup however was miserable little thing that needed to be put out of it's tasteless misery. It was like eating mushrooms in hot water. I know I saw other ingredients, but they just didn't have any fortitude in them to stand out. The chicken soup however, was mighty tasty.

Rob had some Italian portobello mushroom thing with cheese that he deemed eatable, but nothing we haven't made ourselves and wished he had ordered something else.

We didn't have any dessert, as we simply didn't have time as Rob and I had to leave, so I'll leave that to the adventurous eaters out there. Seemed to consist of overbearing truffles and a few gregarious cakes you find at any chocolate store. They did have a peach pie advertised with a picture of Bush called Im-Peach-Ment Pie, which I thought was clever (it is Santa Cruz).

Overall, give it a shot, you might like it. Salads are tops here and the chicken soup is great, so they have a good lunch set for ya'. Like I said, I think I just went on their off day.

Chocolate
1522 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.427.9900

Coffee at Cruz & Congrats (Lulu Carpenter's - Santa Cruz, CA)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

This last Saturday, I got to play the part of the proud older brother as I went to Santa Cruz to see my little brother, Brandon, graduate from UCSC with a major in Communications. I also got to see my mom, and meet my little bro's new boyfriend and a bunch of his friends.

After waking up at 4:00 am and driving there to be on time for the ceremony, Brandon offered me a microwave dinner of processed meat-like hockey pucks in brown gravy (?) and noodles. Totally gross. Sadly, Brandon doesn't know shallot from shellfish, which hurts me and makes me want to teach him if he only lived closer.

He does have the artistic talent that the rest of us in the family lack, like the mural posted here. If you are at Porter college in the large courtyard with the totem pole, you can find it there.

Anywhose, based on cooking not being an option we decided to grab a quick bite before our dinner later. Where we ended up was Lulu Carpenter's, a cute little coffee house that feels like an old time bar (which it used to be I am told). Deep red brick walls, exposed brick, and the use of antiqued wood have a bohemian feel that so many Santa Cruz students are known to outfit themselves in, like radical attire found in the grown flower child's attic. The white glow of apple laptops lit the room, and a fragrance of various teas and grounds allows you to become one of them, if just for a moment.

The apple turnover was light and fluffy, unlike many American pastries, this one reminded all of us of our times in the bakeries of Vienna and Paris. All this of course is due to their in-house bakery in the basement. They also served a variety of sammiches and other treats, but we had to save our appetite.

The cool cat (frappuccino) I had was a little lacking in flavor, the chocolate was too sweet and lacked any sort of bitterness I prefer. Brandon's honey and chai cool cat however screamed with the flavors it boasted. If Starbucks opened in Myanmar, this is the only thing they would serve.

You'll also find local artists' work on the wall, and since it is a coffee house, you may have to fight for a table at peak hours, but most students are willing to share their tables. Lulu's also has late hours so feel free to drop in after your tour one of the towns main financial streets, it's a perfect little ragtag rest stop.

Lulu Carpenter's
1545 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA
831.429.9804

Rosemary & Lemon Cupcakes

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I am not sure what the impetus for this cupcake was, I was planning to do an ice cream filled one, but then my day got too busy and I had to postpone it since I couldn't get the ingredients I needed. Still, I was in the mood to bake after psyching myself up for it all day.

Down into my pantry and fridge I went, hoping I might find some sort of inspiration to light my baking way. I uncovered some fresh lemons that I had purchased at the farmer's market and tried to see if I could use them. Then a big verdant aroma caught my attention, and I noticed the leftover rosemary from last night's spaghetti. I've always been a fan of my friend Sarah's rosemary bread; it's sweet, fragrant, rustic and sweet. Freshly baked it's perfect with when sliced and spread with creamy butter...

But back to the cupcake, I remembered the orange scented white wine cupcake utilizing cornmeal, so I figured that it might be the perfect base for a lemon and rosemary cupcake. With a simple sugar crust, it would be a perfect cheap n' easy Spring cupcake.

And they are. I think these are Rob's favorite cupcakes to date. They're very Andalusian in their taste and so simple to make. Plus, no butter or frosting makes them a bit lighter, which makes many of my taste testers happy. We also noticed a peculiar yet perfect match for this cupcake, English Breakfast tea. Really, the robust and bittersweet tea matched perfectly with the herbacious lemony cupcake, each emboldened the other and you never knew which was the star, the tea or the cupcake.

Rosemary & Lemon Cupcakes
12 cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You'll Need...

4 eggs, room temperature

1 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 cup of AP flour

1 cup of cornmeal
2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary

zest of two lemons
1/3 cup of sugar


What You'll Do...
1) Preheat oven to 350 F

2) Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and olive oil.
3) Sift in the dry ingredients together and whisk until incorporated.
4) Chop the rosemary, and fold it and the lemon zest into the batter.
5) Scoop into cupcake papers and sprinkle on sugar into a thick, snowy covering.

6) Bake for 17-20 minutes, rotating the pan after the first 15. A toothpick should come out clean.

7) Set onto a wire rack to cool.

Ice Cream Bandwagon & Wine Uncorked

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Yep, after getting an ice cream maker from Rob, and David Lebovitz's book from my mom (gotta love b-day swag, dontcha'?) I have been making a lot of ice cream. So far vanilla ice cream, rice pudding gelato, and now lime sorbet have come out of our kitchen.

It's nice to have frozen treats so readily available now that the heat is coming. But as for cupcakes? No worries, we'll just have to fill them with ice cream, now won't we? Expect to see a few of those coming up next week!

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Edible Sacramento is putting on an awesome wine tasting event for all of you winos out there! Be sure to check it out, if you love your local wine producers!

Quarry Ponds Uncorked

Featuring Placer County Wineries and local seasonal fare prepared by Pullman Kitchen.
Sip, dine and chat with our local vintners while strolling through the Market Hallway.

Sunday, June 24
4:30 - 7:30 p.m.

$30 per person
($25 for Slow Food Members)
includes a Riedel wine glass

FEATURED WINERIES
Charlie Green Family Winery . Dono dal Cielo
Fawn Ridge Winery . Mount Vernon
Ophir . Pescatore Winery
Secret Ravine Winery . Vina Castellano Winery

To make a reservation and pay by credit card
please call 916.786.5511.
To pay by check, mail check to:
Events at Quarry Ponds - 5540 Douglas Blvd. Ste 110
Granite Bay, CA 95746

Vanilla Garlic Has Upgraded!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Well, with grad school soon approaching it was time to finally invest in some new equipment. Rob and I have been sharing my desktop ever since my old laptop crashed out on me, and it's been difficult (Read: near-homicidal).

Luckilly, thanks to the amazing generosity of The Father on my birthday (who I should also thank for having a birthday in the first place) I am now writing on a new Compaq Presario F500 laptop. I also have Rob to thank for setting up the whole thing with Windows and whatnot. Now I can study, write for school, and of course blog from anywhere.

Yes, it is a joyous day here in the Vanilla Garlic household. A joyous day indeed.

Oh yeah, and I named the computer Chloe.

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By the by, the Happy Tails people raised over $900 at the bake sale!!! Thanks to everyone who bought baked goods!

Demon Spawn-ish-ness in a Restaurant is Learned, not Inherited

Monday, June 11, 2007

I think we all know how I feel about ill-behaved children in restaurants. I still hold myself to that opinion. But let me delve into a related topic; bad manners in children are learned from the closest role models and disciplinarians: parents.

Now, I know I don't have kids, but what I'm going to say is straightforward and simple fact. If your child is a total dick in a restaurant, begging me with a high pitched squeal to gag him or her with a dinner roll, then we should be analyzing the parent.

I'll condone the fact that sometimes it's not the parent, it might just be a night where for some reason, Satan himself has possessed the child in the attempt to drive all of God's creatures to plunge the nearest salad fork into their skulls as a means of escape. But when the child is the definition of hell spawn on a regular basis, then yeah, parents need to take charge.

I was in a cafe grabbing a quick sammich on the go recently, to find a child - I kid you not - spitting towards other customers. The mother just gave weak willed pleads, not orders, to "Honey, please stop that. It's not nice." The child would continue, she would sigh, eat a bite of her salad, then try again, begging him to stop.

My parents, God bless 'em, did an amazing job raising me. They would have taken me to the car, and sat with me till I calmed down. And should I talk back and really act up, a smack on the behind. A spanking rarely ever happened in our household (I don't think I can even count on one hand the number of times), but when it did, it only happened once for the reason given, and never again. If we were punished, both parents held strong to the punishment and there were no if, ands, or buts about it. There was a padlock on the TV cabinet to give example on how the punishments stuck; not that I didn't eventually learn that the key was hidden in a secret compartment in her flowery jewelry box. We learned to accept our punishment, since once it was done, we would be free. Any rebellion would be quickly put down and vanquished. Then we would be grounded further. If we did good, a lesson was learned, and all was forgiven.

Anyways, as this poor woman's child told her to shut up, continued to spit, and make noise you couldn't help but feel sorry for her. Parenting doesn't come with a handbook, and so sometimes the parent feels lost and out of control. Especially in a restaurant, surrounded by critical eyes and judgment.

Still, everyone wanted to scream to her, "YOU ARE THE PARENT! Knock some sense into the brat!" (I'm not condoning smacking him unconscious, but you get my drift, the woman needs to take charge.)

But there is the other parent, the one who barks at the waiter, is rude to the hostess, and yells at the child in public when the child is being a total pea soup spewing, head spinning, out of The Exorcist, demon spawn that congealed from the host-parent. Upset your child is rude and obnoxious? Don't set that kind of example. Screaming parent = screaming child. Rude parent = rude child. Anyone I know with kids confirms this.

A friend of mine told me she took her grand kid out to the car and sat with her kicking and screaming for 45 minutes until she shut up and they went back to the restaurant. Kid never acted up around grandma again, but still acts up around mom and dad. Bravo grandma for showing who's boss.

I guess that, yeah, it's not fair to say that if you can't control your kid you shouldn't take them out with you, but at the same time, screw you. Everyone else should not have to suffer. You pay a baby sitter for that shit. (Anyone remember poor Rosalyn from Calvin and Hobbes?)

Otherwise you know the punishment. I use your child as an blunt instrument of good demeanor "education" on you.

Dinner with my Kru (Kru - Sacramento, CA)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

(It was dim inside so pictures are a bit fuzzy, so bear with me.)

I and a bunch of the other Sac food bloggers had b-days coming up so we all gathered up for a dinner at Kru to celebrate. A decision we had come to while over at Zocalo a few weeks back.

It'll be hard to try to relay the food to you in this post since we had a lot of different dishes, and amongst the banter and laughing, I found my memory a bit fuzzy what we ate. Still my overall opinion of the place is still what it was when our meal was finished. "It was good food. Not great. But good. And they sure do like their banana leaves..."

The poke trio was the best dish I think we had. Spicy tuna, hamachi (young yellowtail), and tako (octopus) were marinated in soy sauce and other yummy Hawaiian flavors, then served alongside green tea, schichimi, and nori salts. All were fabulously sweet, salt, a little bitter, and a lot delish.

The grilled lamb chops with miso polenta and plum sauce was another truly stellar star of the night as the lamb was juicy and fatty in all the right ways, with the plum sauce tickling your sweet n' savory tooth. The duo of ribs which were lamb ribs and hamachi ribs were totally yummy with miso glaze and ginger, though the hamchi ribs might stab you with a bone or two. Ow. Overall, the small plates were real winners.

We were then presented with two sashimi mixes, which were exactly what they sound like. Fun, yummy, and exactly what I wanted. I couldn't get enough.

Rob had the grilled New York steak in truffle butter sauce. It. Was. Amazing. No fault here in any possible way. It was a large portion with crispy onions, some balsamic reduction, and crunchy asparagus. All was right with this dish.

The rolls were over the top things you couldn't fit into your mouth. The kind you find at every trendy sushi place. The Aden, a veggie roll, was the only that really stood out in a positive way. It was fun, with a hint of spice in the background. The tempura veggies were light and crispy, but not overly greasy to the point where I felt I needed to cleanse my face afterward.

The Cindy Roll, a spicy tun and snow crab roll was disappointing. It was a lot of heat that took away from the flavors of the fish, and was way to big for anyone at the table to eat in one bite, so each piece just fell apart. The J-Street roll, with it's laundry list of ingredients, was good, but just too much going on in it to really enjoy any distinct flavors or textures. It was just like a mosh pit in your mouth and you were in the center of it; too much activity to be able to hear the music.

The biggest offender wasn't anything with the food though, it was the room itself. The back dining room is a tiny cavern where every sound constantly ricochets off every wall. It got so loud between our party and another party that it got so that you couldn't hear the person next to you. I mean it was deafening. It was a shame we couldn't sit in the much quieter front room, or patio, but ah well.

Also and this is just what a few of us thought; the host had way to much attitude. As in his demeanor, the way he looked at me (I was in jeans and an old shirt (laundry day) and still recovering from punishing some b-day tequila) and flipped his hair with annoyance, and his tone with me were just uppity bitchy. You're a host at a Sac sushi joint duder, not the personal assistant to Jesus Christ. Get over yourself, and ditch the uber-emo haircut.

Still, I'll come back someday for a light lunch on the patio, avoid the flashy rolls, and enjoy the small and main plates.

Kru
2516 J Street
Sacramento, Ca 95816
916.551.1559

Oh yeah, by the by, the salted edamame... I ate the whole thing, pod and all, then asked why these were so popular since they were so rough to eat. It was then Becky informed me to shell the damn things first. Yeah... I'm an idiot. Go me!

Vanilla Bean & Black Cherry Cupcakes

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

When I decided to donate some cupcakes to the Happy Tails Bake Sale - which is going on June 7th at the Capitol Building by the way at 11th and L from 8am-3pm - I wanted to make something special. I've never sold any of my cupcakes before so I was nervous. These had always been made for friends, not for purchase, so I didn't want people feeling they had parted with their cash for an inferior product. On top of that, I had to work around the constraints of zero frosting as it would melt or spoil after many hours in the heat, if indeed they last that long. (And I hope they won't due to selling out too quickly.)

I had some vanilla sugar curing for about 2 weeks, and decided this was a good opportunity to use it. Plus after picking up a big bag of black cherries at the Farmer's Market, I decided these two classic cola flavors would be fabulous in a cupcake.

The vanilla sugar and vanilla infused milk really make them incredibly fragrant with their heady, floral vanilla-ness. The acidic and fruity bite of the black cherries acted as the perfect contrast both visually and tastefully. In lieu of frosting I simply sprinkled on some sugar to get a shiny and crusty sweet top, an idea I utilized in the White Wine Cupcake.

It's a perfect bake sale cupcake that adults and kids will enjoy and takes advantage of the great cherry crop that's coming in this year.

Vanilla Bean & Black Cherry Cupcakes
Makes 24 Cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You'll Do Before...


To make vanilla sugar, just split open a vanilla bean and place in a small jar. Fill the jar up with sugar and give it a shake every few days. The sugar will absorb the vanilla flavor. After two weeks, you have vanilla sugar. This is a great way to use vanilla beans you just used, just dry them out first and pop them in the jar. For this recipe, I just took the same bean from the sugar and used it in the milk. One bean should do it all.

Sure there is a bit of wait to this recipe, but good food takes time and vanilla sugar is nice to have around the house. It's addictive stuff once you have it, and can be used for Crema de Limoncello. If you don't have time for vanilla sugar, just add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the recipe and use regular sugar. It won't be the same, but it will still be very tasty.

What You'll Need...
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 3/4 cups of vanilla sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 vanilla bean
extra vanilla sugar
3/4 cup of pitted, chopped black cherries (preferably fresh)

What You'll Do...
1. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds into the one cup of milk. Place over heat until bubbles form around the edge of the milk. Turn off the heat and whisk/stir lightly until the heat dissipates to prevent a film of milk forming on the top (ew). Let sit overnight.
2, Pit and chop some fresh cherries. Wear crappy clothes to avoid staining anything you care about. (Dried cherries or thawed frozen could work too.)
3. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
4. Add vanilla sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
5. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl. Measure out vanilla milk in a cup.
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the vanilla milk mixture and beat until combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Fold into the batter.
10. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full. Sprinkle lightly over the top with extra vanilla sugar.
9. Bake for 18 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Be sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking!

Eat Beast Commands You to Buy Baked Goods

Monday, June 4, 2007

This post is for those of you in Sacramento who have a big heart and a sweet tooth. This Thursday there's going to be quite a nifty bake sale going on. It's to help raise money for the Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary. It's a no-kill, no cage pet home for kitty cats that need a home and some lovin'.

Kristy and I are planning to donate some tasty baked goods, which in my case means, duh, cupcakes. So be sure to pick some up.

Personally, I'm very happy to do this as both of my cats are shelter kitties. Actually, let me tell you why Mace the Eat Beast is such an Eat Beast to begin with.

Mace was actually living with 9 other cats in a car. Locked inside, 24/7, sleeping amongst all the cats and cat waste with fresh air coming in through only one cracked window. The owner would only feed them once in a while, so when he had a chance at food, he had to compete for it and be sure to eat as much as he could since he never knew when his next meal would be. When we adopted Mace he was skinny as a rail with ribs showing, and light as a feather. When he started getting regular meals, he had already ingrained an instinct to eat as much as possible as it would possibly be his last meal.

Mace was actually a lucky cat as he was taken out of that environment early on when he was still a kitten and found a home. I know I complain about him a lot, but he's actually a total sweetheart, and I wouldn't trade him for the world.

So do all those felines out there a favor and buy some baked goods this Thursday, June 7th on 11th and L on the Capitol Grounds at the Capitol Building here in Sac. They'll be on sale from 8am-3pm.

My Friends Rawk & The Big 2-4

Sunday, June 3, 2007

So this last Saturday I turned the big 2-4. (Yes, I'm a youngin', why does this keep shocking people?) Since it was my b-day and Ann and Kristy had their b-days fast approaching we all decided back at Zocolo to take our same little troupe plus spouses and a few other non-blogging guests to Kru for sushi. We make a fabulous dining party let me tell you; the life of the whole damn restaurant.

We all tasted and critiqued sushi. I proved Rob the Hermit really did exist. We chatted food, politics, the newspaper, and dental hygiene (there was a dentist among us). Afterwards, Ann surprised us all with some awesome carrot cupcakes with coriander cream cheese frosting which were totally shibby. She and her hubby Bob also got me an awesome little cupcake carrier which is the cutest thing eff-ing ever.

Anyways, it was a fabulous time. One of those nights that really makes you appreciate the family and friends you've got in life.

Edible Sacramento Preview - Hail to the Queen

Friday, June 1, 2007

Hey all, this is another plug for Edible Sacramento. If you don't know what it is yet, then you should check it out. It's a magazine that celebrates the food and drink that the Sacramento Valley has to offer, one season at a time.

The crazy awesome people there allow me to write for them - bless their crazy awesome hearts - as the Errant Gourmet, reviewing restaurants. However, there are many other far more talented writers working their butts off to bring you stories about local producers, farmers, politics, trends and food philosophies.

The magazine is free at your local fine food and wine purveyors in Sac and Yolo Counties, but we always welcome you to purchase a yearly subscription to be delivered to your home, if you like what you see (insert shameless plug).

Anywhose, we're in our Spring issue now, and the Summer issue is having it's last few bits of work done. Please go check out the ES site here and see what it's about and see some sample articles, like this one...
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Hail to the Queen (Queen Sheba - Sacramento, CA)
Edible Sacramento - Spring 2007

Trying to describe Ethiopian food is a difficult task. There’s no real jump-start for comparison, the closest one might be Indian food, but that doesn’t quite cut it. It’s unique, earthy, and aromatic; truly a unique culinary style. It’s probably best if you try it for yourself, and the best place to start is the newly opened Queen Sheba restaurant in downtown Sacramento.

Queen Sheba recently moved to a new location on Broadway and 17th and opened its doors in December. When my friend Penelope and I went, they were still painting murals and arranging some d├ęcor which is creatively dominated with colors of the Ethiopian flag and images of people from the cook’s, Zion’s, home county. You’ll probably see Zion sashaying about, bubbling with flare and friendliness both in and out of the kitchen. She and the wait staff will be more than happy to guide you through what may be an unfamiliar menu, and while some of the ingredients may seem familiar, their utilization and execution will be fresh.

The meal was started with some homemade bread which was a bit bland, but served as a good background to the tea. The spicy Ethiopian tea was fantastic to say the least. It was like chai without the milk and a slight, citrus kick to it. It serves as perfect start to get you ready for the courses to come.

I suggest you not wear anything fancy, have recently got your nails done, or expect anything fancy like knives and forks. Ethiopian food is eaten in a communal style. Everything is served on a large platter, and you use bread called enjera to eat it. You take a piece of the enjera between you thumb and fingers and use it to pick up bits of food and eat the whole shebang. It makes for a thoroughly interactive and entertaining dining experience. It’s a lot like the Melting Pot, but spicier, more affordable, and a lot more hands on.

One of the dishes we were a bit nervous, but eager to try was the gored gored. The server gave us a warning that this was what the menu said it was – raw cubes of beef prepared with onions, red pepper, garlic, ginger root, hot spices and purified butter. Intense spices lace the entire dish and the raw beef is exciting and almost naughty; perfect for the culinary thrill-seeker. We were served a complimentary side of miser kik wot; lentils cooked with spices with a subtle shadow of lemon flavor to help tone down the intense fire of the gored gored.

We also went with a combination plate to try a variety of dishes. One of the true winners was the alicha doro wot; chicken judiciously spiced with turmeric weaving the bright yellow, exotic flavor into every bite without it being too overpowering. The gomen, cooked spinach and collard greens with onions and spices, was thoroughly tasty and helped to mute some of the spicier dishes with a pensive, lemony flush. Along with these redolent fares we feasted with gusto on the key wot - beef simmered in peppery spices and butter, molding a truly distinctive dish.


Now Ethiopian food, while fun and interactive, does lead to a bit of a mess on your fingertips. Penelope and I both had turmeric stained fingers at the end of the meal, and a piece of chili sauce took vengeance upon my jeans. You might want to bring a wet wipe, but we flourished our yellowed fingertips like a badge of honor because, heck, it’s fun to get messy.

Queen Sheba is also willing to cater any events, and will be able to seat large groups though they suggest you call ahead if your group is 10 or more. There’s also a popular vegetarian and vegan lunch buffet on weekdays for a simple $5.99. You’ll find Ethiopian food to be very vegetarian and vegan friendly, so omnivores and herbivores alike will be happy dining with the Queen. If that weren’t enough, they also offer their entire menu for take out! Take out! Just call ahead and you can bypass the soul decaying dredge of the golden arches for a quality meal.

Ethiopian food isn’t just about the food, but the experience. Queen Sheba will be sure you leave happy, and encourage you to keep coming back for more. Make sure to gather a group of friends and go have a culinary adventure. Trust me; it’s a trip you won’t forget.

Queen Sheba Restaurant
1704 Broadway
Sacramento, CA 95818
916.920.1020

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