CLICK for Bri

Friday, May 30, 2008

This is an appeal on behalf of a group of food bloggers who are friends of Briana Brownlow @ Figs With Bri.

Bri was diagnosed with breast cancer two and half years ago. A mastectomy, chemotherapy and two years of relatively good health later, the cancer is back. It has metastasized to other parts of her body. At the age of 15, Bri lost her 41-year old mother to the disease. Now, she's waging her own war against breast cancer. More about it here.

She is going through intensive chemo and other treatments and needs to focus single-mindedly on healing and finding what treatment works best for her. Her health insurance, unfortunately, does not cover holistic alternatives which she would like to try. Bri and her husband Marc have enough on their plates right now in addition to worrying about her medical bills.
The team organizing the June edition of CLICK at Jugalbandi has organized a fundraiser to help Bri and her family meet some of her out-of-pocket medical costs. CLICK is a monthly theme-based photography contest hosted by Jugalbandi.

This month's theme is: Yellow is the color of hope. Through the work of the LiveStrong Foundation, it has also come to signify the fight against cancer.

The entries can be viewed HERE. The deadline for entries is June 30, 2008. The fundraiser will extend until July 15, 2008. The target amount is 12,000 U.S. dollars. We appeal to our fellow bloggers and readers to help us achieve this. Bri deserves a chance to explore all options, even if her insurance company thinks otherwise.

There's a raffle with exciting prizes on offer. After viewing the list, you may make your donation HERE or at the Chip-In button on any participating site.

Your donation can be made through credit card or Pay Pal and goes directly to Bri's account.

This month's photo contest also has some prizes. Details HERE. You can support this campaign by donating to the fundraiser, by participating in CLICK, and by publicizing this campaign.

Vanilla Garlic will donating a copy of the cookbook, Cupcake Heaven for the raffle. It's a fabulous book filled with practical and easy, yet stylish and contemporary cupcake recipes. I hope that all of you will check this out and help a fellow food blogger and food lover.

Taste3 Fellowship & A Sad Goodbye to Delicious Cupcakes

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

So I recently found out that I'll be going to the Taste3 conference in Napa this July! Very exciting stuff. Taste3:

[Brings] together more than forty of the most compelling writers, thinkers, chefs, winemakers, journalists, artisans, and executives as speakers and hosts, joining 400 attendees who are every bit as tapped-in. TASTE3 will thrill, tantalize, engage, intrigue, provoke, and inspire both its audience and its speakers. The single-track program is broken into themed sessions filled with hard-hitting, engaging short-format presentations. Sessions are interwoven with breaks with networking opportunities and interactive exploration.

TASTE3 is presented by Robert Mondavi Winery. In the spirit of founder Robert Mondavi’s vision, passion and leadership, TASTE3 aims to push the exploration and marriage of wine, food and art.

Normally, the fee is a bit out of my range (oh, by about $2,000+) so I have to simply hear about it from friends. However, I applied for the fellowship and wrote a nifty little essay, one that was apparently well received, and the fee was waived. Hooray!

I'm quite excited as I feel this will really be a chance for me to learn and network with some professionals in the food industry, and particularly the food writing sector, and really be able to take and apply the information I pick up. In addition, there are some awesome tours and winery dinners to attend, and from what others who have gone tell me, some pretty raucous drinking every night as well (you all know who you are...).

T'will* be the highlight of my Summer for sure! Luckily my friends Ashley and Raul are kindly giving me a floor to sleep on for the 3-day event, so even more yayness there.

Cannot wait!

*Yes, "t'will" isn't a real word, but I like it, so blah.

I was privy to bad news today, the beloved blog, Cupcake Bakeshop is apparently closing shop. It's quite upsetting to me, Cheryl was one of my major inspirations for blogging, and she was the one who got me into baking to begin with.

Keeping up a blog can be demanding, but keeping up an incredible blog can be life absorbing. I can understand her need to leave and respect her decision. I want to publicly applaud her though for all the incredible work she has done and the amazing amount of creative cupcake creations she has produced over the years. If you haven't been to her site, I highly encourage you to go there and read her archives from beginning to end.

Bravo to you, Cheryl. Thanks for all your breath taking, educational, and inspiring work.

On Comments - Part 2

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Can I make blueberry muffins but without the blueberries?"

I stared back in a mute state, dumbfounded. True, comments like these were nothing new to me. In fact, they seemed to instinctively hunt me down in a die-hard mission to bludgeon the meaty bits of my brain. However, no matter how odd and backward each little comment was I always found myself slightly perplexed.

I re-read over the e-mail that my friend had forwarded to me. She was just as stupefied as me, and insisted on sharing it's delightful insanity.

I must admit that a certain spark of curiosity is always ignited whenever I read one of these comments. What sort of person composed this comment? What are they like in the kitchen? Did their mom smoke a lot of pot while they were still in the crib? All, I believe, to be valid questions.

I have a sort of mental image in my head of these people. Some sort of hunchback of Notre Dame-esque sort of person, with a lazy eye and slow but steady stream of drool coming out of their mouth. They stand at a kitchen counter over a bowl, all ingredients mise en place. The surly would-be cooker looks at the recipe, looks at the bowl, then back at the recipe. Slowly, unsure of what the sentence "Whisk ingredients" may actually mean, they pick up a spatula. Then they proceed to energetically smash everything on the counter and then bludgeon themselves in the head with a fry pan. They then take whatever makes it into the pot, throws it in the oven for the wrong temperature for however long it takes for them to remember there actually is something in the oven. Remembrance is often brought on by the smell of smoke and the high pitched squeal of a smoke alarm.

Afterwards, defeated, they go back to their computer and pull up the recipe. They go to the comments section and emphatically write, in all capitals no less, "THIS REHSUHPEE SUX!!!!". And yes, that is an actual quote.

Then of course there is The Substituter. Their approach to any blog's recipe is that the author has made every single variation and substitution possible in any known conditions that ever will and could happen.

I'll give some leeway. Some substitution questions are logical and reasonable, "Can I use almonds instead of walnuts?" Why not?

"Can I freeze the cookie dough for later use?" Absolutely, I'm glad you brought it up!

"I am allergic to wheat, can I use rice flour? Also, I have no butter in my house. I once used applesauce instead of oil for some brownies so can I use applesauce instead of butter?"

*slam head on desk*

The last one is a bit more painful to me. Certain substitutions are fine and dandy, but asking about changing the whole damn recipe and how it will cook if you're located at 42 longitude of the seventh circle of Hell or on a boat off the Jersey shore during an ice storm is something completely different.

My usual answer to this is, "I don't know. Try it for yourself and let us know!" It's a static answer that hides my desire to beat them with a sack of oranges. Fact of the matter is, you obviously want a different recipe, and you want me to figure it out or find it for you. Too bad. Want the slim-fast version? Look somewhere else. Want my recipe to be more like another recipe? Then go scour Food Blog Search. Does it not exist? Then create it. I am not your oracle, I am a guy with a shitty kitchen and internet connection.

Another favorite commenter that makes me palm my forehead in frustration? The Tangent Commenter. "Love your site. My cats name is Mittens and he loves cupcakes!"

How special for you and Mittens. *Delete*

Seriously, if you have something to say that contributes to the post I wrote, please include it. Do not however go so far off the known map that I'm left to question your psychiatric state.

Then, one we have covered before, The New Guy Commenter. The new blogger in the community who blog stalks the hell out of you, leaving a comment at every post that says something inane like, "Wow, neat!" then plugs their blog URL at the end. I read a lot of blogs, but I only leave a comment when I have an opinion or comment that actually demonstrated that I have 1) read the post, and 2) have something to say that pertains to the post.

Then there is The Asshole. Retarded teenagers or 20-something living in a dorm room or mom's basement, trolling around on the internet. They leave comments like, "Your recipe is shit! Damn, you suck! HAHAHAHA!"

Now, the cute thing is they never seem to get that most people moderate comments. So they basically just waste time. I pay little attention to these honestly. Ten to one, they live a meaningless existence filled with hanging out behind 7-11 or leveling up on World of Warcraft. Life is already to pathetic for these people for me to knock them down further.

Lastly, we have the Errant Questioner: "Are you sure this recipe is right? I tried it and it's not right. You wrote this down wrong." Yes, this recipe was a deliberate subreption, created in order for you to waste time. Everyone else did fine with this recipe, just not you.

I'm not perfect though, if people catch something wrong with the recipe or I wrote it down incorrectly I'll admit fault. However, if you are the 1 in 100 that had a problem with it, then it's probably you.

Ah, but lets move on to the actual composition of these comments, or the lack thereof. These grammatical and syntactic abortions of the English language physically nauseate me to the point of actually wanting to hurl over my keyboard. Or at the very least take a Valium and make it all go away (the curse of a Composition graduate student). It actually pains me when people can't (or won't) spell or capitalize properly. Given, there are allowances. Text messaging. Posting something new on the blog at 3 am. Trying to write on the laptop when your friend is drunk and trying to sit in your lap in a coup to wrest the keyboard away from you and show you something nifty on YouTube. All perfect examples when perfect writing isn't necessary.

I'm also partial to OMG, WTF, and LOL. In fact when texting, I use LOL in place of periods. These and other well known bits of web-speak are acceptable. "LOL, that post was sooo awesome!" is cool by me. "hahahathat post ws SO awsome!" is not.

Still, in light of all the inane comments, they still comfort me in one specific way. It means people are reading, which is nothing to complain about. It means that some people are actually interested in the content of the post and have tried the recipe. Knowing that someone has taken your creation, your project of love, and adopted it themselves is one of the greatest joys in the world. One of the reasons people food blog is to share their culinary lore and knowledge with each other. It's an enriching experience.

In the end, the way I see it, comments are like eggs, there's usually one broken in every dozen, and there isn't shit you can do about it but throw it away, save the good ones, and move on.

(And rant a bit...)

My Blogday & Vanilla Thyme Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Today Vanilla Garlic turns 2. Which is odd, I mean looking at a calendar it all makes sense. 731 days (one extra for the leap year) have come and gone. Yet, it feels like much, much longer than that. A lot has happened in the course of two years. More than I would have expected, and things were never expected seem to constantly occur.

It's astonishing really.

But no big celebration this year. I'm playing it low key. No need to upset the blog, it's in it's Terrible 2's. Anything can happen this next go-around.

Still, we can't have a birthday without a cake. With finals finishing, my brain is too tired for anything groundbreaking. Simple and tasty will do, which is where we find this cupcake.

It's based off of one from Cheryl, her 3 Vanilla cupcake. I've just gone and added some fresh thyme to it. Fine crumb and simple flavors that, when combined, become complex and soothing. If this blog wasn't called Vanilla Garlic it would be Vanilla Thyme, but that's a bit to punny for me.

Happy Blogday to me.Vanilla-Thyme Cupcakes
Makes 20 cupcakes / 350F oven

3/4 cup (1-1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2/3 cups vanilla sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2-2/3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
2 teaspoons of loosely packed, fresh thyme

1) Beat the butter and sugar together for a few minutes until light and fluffy.

2) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in each for 30 seconds.

3) Measure the flour, baking powder, salt and thyme into one bowl.

4) Measure the milk, vanilla bean scrapings, and vanilla into another bowl.

5) Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.

6) Scoop into cupcake papers about 2/3 full. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool on wire racks. When completely cool, frost with cream cheese frosting.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
For the frosting, I used my basic recipe, and added the scrapings from 1/2 of a vanilla bean.

Ginger Fiend in a Ponytail

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

So many of you may recall the horrendous story of Snotty Grapes Child and his psychopathic screech owl of a mother, her voice causing ears to spontaneously bleed and their sense of common sense to commit ritual seppuku.

Well, this is a story along similar lines... I was at Whole Foods filling up on wild rice, a task which usually takes me a few minutes as I try analyze each bin trying to find what type of grain really speaks to me like some kind of culinary Cosmo quiz. As I slowly made my way to inspect the black emperor rice, I noticed a child next to me analyzing some candied ginger.

I gave it no real mind. She was probably eight, an adorable rosy-cheeked girl with shiny bobbles putting her hair in a ponytail. The child was quiet and, I assumed, getting some ginger for her parents as she had a bag in her hands.

As I plunged the scooper into the pitch pool of rice, I noticed the child suddenly open the bin and eat one of the candied ginger. Now, most of you may think I would freak. Not true (kinda a shock, isn't it?). Honestly, I do the same. I taste before I buy and think it's fine to do so, especially if it's something new.

She popped it into her mouth, looked at me and I smiled and chuckled a bit. She smiled back. It was an adorable little Kodak moment.

She then turned and popped another in her mouth. I chose to just turn away and ignore it. Not my problem. Plus it was cute. Very, Little Rascals. Then the delicate fingers morphed into paws. I looked back and she was double fisting the candied ginger into her mouth like she'd win a prize.

Her cheeks were swollen with ginger, as if she was a chipmunk storing nuts for winter. Drool poured from her mouth and on to her shirt. The image reminded me of a party I went to in college when my friend had a beer bong get away from him and splatter his new white Biology Club shirt. I mean, this was just... well funny, but also gross. Seriously, that ginger bin needs to be thrown out. But I swear to God... it was like watching a human Eat Beast.

I turned around and left as she plunged her hand into the barrel, pawing out more like a dog digging under a fence. I didn't want to deal with this one. I didn't care what the parent was going to do. I just wanted to leave the sticky scene.

And from now on, I buy my candied ginger prepackaged.

Plant Murderer

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I am Death. Riding on my pale horse, scythe in hand and raised to the sky, preparing to cut those down before me and scatter them like leaves in the wind.

At least, this is how plants see me.

Let me run down the toll for you:

1998: Four strawberry plants. Murdered by bugs due to my lack of attention. And my lack of giving them fertilizer, love, sunshine, and general upkeep. How these things ever lived on their own in the wild before man is beyond me.

2001: Pot of rosemary given to me as a gift. Drowned it by watering it every single day. I thought I was doing such good giving it all that attention. I will remember this when I have to take care of children in the future.

2002: Cactus. Death by thirst. Forgot to water it. For over a year. I thought these things lived through drought and whatnot? Obviously, this one was flawed.

2002: Lemon Tree. Accidentally tripped and crushed the poor thing the day after I planted it. Worst $30 ever spent.

2003: Ivy. Killed an entire yard of the stuff under my watch. I like to see it as another admirable practice of man conquering the incredible strength and apparent passivity of nature yet again. Go me!

2004: Orchid. Damn thing never had a chance. I accidentally knocked it off a second story window. It was immediately trampled by a dozen bikes. The funeral was quick and painless, though a bit smelly, but that's what I expect from a refuse bin behind the 7-11 that smells of hobo ass. Amazing how a thing of such beauty can be defiled so quickly.

2005: Mint plant, which I had kept alive for years. Okay, I planted it under a leaky hose, then neglected it. It flourished. I was happy. Then I stopped thinking one day and fixed the hose. Withered to dust.

2007: Rosemary - Part 2. You'd think it would be happy I remembered to water it every day, like it's now-dead realtive. Ungrateful bastard.

2007: Bamboo in a pot. Don't use over-calcified Sacramento tap water, apparently it can crawl up the bamboo plant and actually choke it to death. Who knew?

Now... a new pot. Rosemary: The Third. Let's hope I don't have to talk this one off the ledge.

Or drop it off one somehow.

Cheese Tasting - The Aftermath

Sunday, May 18, 2008

After a long hard day, I met with Kaiti and Dan for an afternoon of catch up. And what better way is there to play but over a little Parisian-style lunch? A variety of cheeses, crusty bread, good balsamic vinegars, icy-cold cream sodas, and a fresh garden salad with pumpkin seed oil. Good friends and good food are simply made for each other.

Okay, enough waxing emotional crap. I have one more final to go and then summer vacation! I can finally read for fun again!

Cheese Profile - Redwood Hill Traditional Chèvre

Friday, May 16, 2008

Redwood Hill has been around since the late 1960's and has been happily situated in the heart of the Sonoma County. They're dairy goats are raised on mostly organic feed, raised humanely and free range, and treated with the utmost care. They make a delicious feta cheese, but personally I'm a fan of the soft creamy cheeses they produce.

Type: Goat

Taste: The goaty flavor you normally expect from a chèvre was almost absent. It's light and airy, with a nice smooth texture and almost tastes and feels like a whipped cream cheese. A lighthearted cheese that can please any palate.

Serve With: This is a cheese for smearing on bread, or maybe layered with a bit of honeydew melon a sliver of prosciutto. I also feel that smeared on a strawberry it would be a match made in heaven. The cheese is also more flavorful than cream cheese and has far less fat, making it a perfect substitute for any bagel. Incorporating it into a variety of dips and spreads could open up a wide variety of possibilities. This cheese is also idyllic for any picnic or outdoor setting. I'm told a nice Chardonnay or a Muscadet from the Loire Valley is a perfect wine pairing.

Cheese Profile - Oregonzola

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rogue Creamery up in Oregon is well known on the West Coast for their delicious, fruity, Italian style blue cheeses. Established in 1935 when Tom Vella arrived from Sonoma, California to the Rogue River Valley. The cheeses are made in a very Italian style as Vella himself learned while in Champagne and Cambalou, as such he had four limestone and cement caves built at his creamery in order to produce similar effects like classic Roquefort cheese. This has produced stunningly flavorful blue cheeses that are now known nation and world wide. Most any cheesemonger or market with a good cheese selection should carry their products.

Type: Raw, Cow

Taste: Creamy and smooth, surprisingly mild for a cheese that emulates traditional Gorgonzola. In fact we called it a brie with a hint of blue. If you're new to blue cheese, I do believe this one would be a great way to start. The texture is easy, with a slight bit of granulation to it. Appearance wise, I find this cheese visually striking, the white slowly evolves into a tinged mustard yellow color and the veins of blue and green that dot and striate it are vivid and entertaining.

Serve With: This cheese best pairs with a very sweet and fruity balsamic vinegar. The slightly more than medium saltiness of it makes it an ideal choice for flavorful fruits such as citrus or figs, whereas berries and pommes might be a bit to take to really give it a proper go. The soft, natural rind has a firmness to it that would make for a tasty grilled cheese sammich if paired with a bit of radicchio and a heavy walnut or rustic multi-grain bread.


Rhubarb Rosemary Jelly from Gourmet

Monday, May 12, 2008

I saw this recipe recently over at and after looking it over it seemed like something doable during a study break. I had time and I had the ingredients on hand, so I figured why not? Recently, I had switched into my alter ego, Anxiety Man, able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound, and as such needed to unwind a bit.

Making jelly during finals, I find, is surprisingly fulfilling. To begin, it's always a pleasant feeling having a weighty knife in one's hand. There exists a sense of power and raw dominance that comes with it and the pleasure of slicing through the body and juices of all that rhubarb and rosemary. That bit of petit destruction gives a nice sense of relief and works as an irrefutably phenomenal stress reliever.

Honestly, my jam and jelly skills are what I would call... minimal. My luck with making them... disastrous at best. Mainly because all my past experience have had unfortunate mishaps which end with me somehow needing to be bandaged up.

Take the time I reached into a pot of scalding water for a jar lid, forgetting in fact, that the water was in indeed scalding. I didn't quite realize it somehow until I was a forearm deep. Fun trip to first aid there. Apparently I have a slow pain response to boiling water.

Then there was the time the jar exploded in my hand during the cooling process. A rousing game of "Is that blood or tomato sauce?" was enjoyed by all present.

Still, this recipe seemed so nonchalant. Relaxed. Easy. Basically it was chop shit up and boil it in a pot. Afterwards, pass it through a sieve and then jar it. It's a fridge jelly to be sure due to the use of gelatin instead of pectin, but I doubt it will last long anyways. (Update: It's gone now.)

The tickle pink, almost startlingly neon blush is stunning in itself. Really, I'm quite proud of myself just looking at it. The color is only surpassed by the flavor. Sweet, tart, and quite savory and while the jam is pink, the taste is a foresty green. While tasty by the spoonful (it's like rosemary candy for God's sake), I look forward to trying this with a bit of chicken or turkey assuming it lasts that long.

The recipe, as I have said, is easy; ridiculously so. So now I am jellied and happy, a bit less jittery, and ready to go back to the grindstone.


The Rockstar Ingredient Theory

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I've slowly been realizing that each year the same pattern emerges. It seems to me that every single year in food is subtly defined by one specific ingredient. Somehow, someway, this possibly unheard of ingredient rises above the thicket with a tremendous rush and takes over the food world by storm. Suddenly, in a dizzying array of photography flashes, blog recipes, and magazine exposes this once underground food legend becomes a flash-in-the-pan rockstar.

For some of us it seems odd. We've been using the now ooh'ed and aah'ed ingredient for years. You haven't noticed it before? Where were you, society? Some of us were loving these guys before they were cool. I don't need the t-shirt, I was at their first concert.

It's hard to trace back, mainly because I wasn't paying too much attention for a long time. For a year or two back in the late eighties and early nineties, the coasts were abuzz with recipes and restaurants toting the use of goat cheese. And who can forget how suddenly every single thing lining the market shelves had some sort of sun-dried tomato in it. How glad,I am that that Tuscan flavored nightmare is over. (Sun-dried tomatoes make me gag.)

Last year, 2007... It was all about tea being used in food. Don't believe me? Look back. Matcha, chai, and Earl Grey. In cakes, tea cookies, for smoking meats, making preserves, and flavoring breads. It was everywhere. What food blogger didn't try using tea for something else other than a cup of hot water? I know I did. I made at least three different tea-based cupcakes using Earl Grey, matcha, and chamomile. Tea has dozens of healthy properties and flavorful opportunities to be explored, and explore we did.

2006? Pomegranate molasses. I grant this one to it being used suddenly on quite a few Food Network shows. That and the ever growing influence of Moroccan and Indian food. I think part of it traces back to the strengthening bonds and seemingly inevitable addition of Morocco to the European Union. With the country being accepted by most first world countries as "one of us" people were more willing to give it a try. Soon we were infatuated with that amazingly powerful fruity and acidic flavor.

I think 2005 was the chipotle pepper. Smokey heat that could give authentic Mexican/Tex-Mex/Creole/South of the Border flavor. We were adding it to BBQ, chocolate (best idea ever), salads, and breads. It flavored our junk food and perked the senses.

This year, 2008? RHUBARB.

Why you say? Look around. Check out any of your favorite food blogs. I bet you dollars to rhubarb jelly stuffed doughnuts you'll find a rhubarb recipe.

But why? Surely it's been around forever? People have been making rhubarb pies since time began. But it's suddenly that people are starting to push it outside the pie. Finding new and creative uses to apply this partly poisonous plant.

My friend Elise thinks it's a slow move from West to East. We on the West Coast have greater access to... well, most all produce. It's California. We just do. The rest of the nation seems to finally be catching up to the same kind of access we have to this veritable ruby-red boon. It's a good theory that seems to make sense, or at least it does to me.

I have no real proof or evidence to back up my claims. Just observations from reading over many, many food blogs and other food websites. It's my Rockstar Ingredient Theory, but if anyone else has any other insights or observations, please, I'd love to hear them.

That's the sound of me slamming my head on the wall.

Friday, May 9, 2008

(Finals time at grad school, so another post from the archives!)

I actually had this conversation lesson about the human race the other day.

"How do you get the papers to stick to the cupcakes?"

"I'm sorry?"

"The paper part. How did you make them stick to the cupcakes so you can hold them without getting all gunky?"

"Um, they're baked in the papers."

"The paper doesn't catch fire in the oven?"

"No. How did you think it was done?"

"I though you just made a really big cake and then used a cookie cutter to make them, then wrapped them up."

*blank stare* "No."

"Wow, must be one fancy oven you have!"

I didn't talk to anyone else that day, out of raw fear that there might be more of them out there.

Five Spice Chocolate Krinkle Cookies

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I've been playing with more of Pichet Ong's recipes from his book. With each recipe, I'm learning something new about pastry and desserts and get a delicious tasty morsel as well. Today I approached the Spiced Chocolate Krinkle cookie.

I admit I doubted the recipe at first. When making it, it feels like everything you're doing is wrong. From forming the disk out of a still-liquid dough to rolling out the cookies into balls only 1/2 inch big, I kept second guessing myself. Still, the recipe worked like a charm just like all the others. Overall, it's a cookbook I highly recommend.

I did rework it a bit, I had no fresh ginger as called for, so instead I just went and used Chinese Five Spice. It was a subtle taste that gave paired well with the chocolate. I brought them in to my graduate class on Postmodern Fiction and they were happily devoured by everyone with a few asking for the recipe, so here it is...5 Spiced Chocolate Krinkles
Makes about 45
Adapted from The Sweet Spot, by Pichet Ong

What You'll Need,,,
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of almond flour
2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/3 cup of flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
confectioner's sugar

What You'll Do...
1) Place the oil, chocolate, salt and spices in a double boiler and melt. Allow to cool.

2) Combine the flour, almond flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder together in a bowl as the chocolate mixture cools.

3) Once cool, mix in the egg, sugar, and vanilla extract and whisk together.

4) Fold in the dry ingredients. Afterwards pour out into plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill until hard, at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.

5) When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

6) Put confectioner's sugar in a bowl. Take pieces of the dough and roll into balls about 1/2 inch wide, about the size of a marble. Roll in the powdered sugar until totally coated.

7) Place coated dough balls onto the baking sheets one inch apart. bake for about 10 minutes or until dry to the touch. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for two days, assuming you don't eat them all yourself.

Then how did we get green tea as a flavor?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

While at Lowes looking at some gardening stuff...

Guy Behind Me: "Yeah, you didn't know? Asians can't eat ice cream, they're all lactose intolerant."

Lady Behind Me: "Really? All of them?"

Guy Behind Me: "Yeah, it's genetic. That's why you never see them at Baskin-Robbins."

I bet this guy gets an "A" in his workplace diversity class, no?

Also, if you didn't know, it's most likely that ice cream was invented in China.

Banana Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dear readers, I apologize. Profusely. With utmost sincerity. It's just that I've been so busy and distracted. Part of it is due to school and work. I'm in the throws of finals, and I have a GPA and 20 page papers that are making me fuss and worry. Well, actually, school is just all encompassing all the time. I just haven't had time for cupcakes.

Plus, baking wise, I have been exploring other new routes and recipes with my work over at Simply Recipes. These projects have just taken me away from cupcakes, which I am glad for as I am becoming a better baker for it. Though there still is a nagging feeling of neglect for the cupcakes I love so much. Plus, as many ideas for cupcake recipes as I have had, I just haven't had one that really gave me drive or inspiration.

Compound that with work on my own blog, the magazine, and my actual day job, I'm a bit of a busy bee. Rob and my friends are concerned I'm going to stroke out or have a heart attack or ulcer due to the stress, which I have never handled well to begin with.

However, I recently stumbled onto the blog, Tartlette, and after reading every single one of her posts (which badly cut into time I should have been studying) I found some new inspiration, and budgeted out a night to for these cupcakes.

This delicious cupcake takes it's bare base measurements from Tartlette's recipe for Banana Rhubarb cupcakes. The difference here is the swap of rhubarb for strawberries, lemon for orange zest, and vanilla sugar in lieu of spices. For the most part I was thoroughly happy with this cupcake; rich in banana flavor, very dense, with nice bits of strawberry that, after being baked, had a great almost jam like quality to them. Add in the subtle hints of soothing vanilla, and the inexplicably delicious taste of cream cheese frosting (proof that not only does God exist, he likes to bake) it's a winner and a perfect cure for Spring fever.

The cupcake thus gets a special dedication to Jill and Rob who have been great in helping me focus and stay centered and realize that everything will work out. =)
(And yes, Jill, I will make a batch just for you.)
Banana Strawberry Cupcakes
Makes 20 Cupcakes / 350 F

What You'll Need...
3 cups flour
1 cup vanilla sugar (or substitute regular sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
grated zest of one lemon
2 bananas, mashed
1 cup of chopped strawberries

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

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir the eggs and the oil. Add the bananas, rhubarb and orange zest.

Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Spoon into cupcake papers, about 3/4th's full and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in a wire rack and frost.

You can find the recipe for my Cream Cheese Frosting here.

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