May 21, 2011

On to sweeter things!!

incase you havn't noticed... the practicing foodie has been on a bit of a hiatus, to say the least. BUT a new blog has been born and this time its sweeter!! 

I'd like you all to meet omg dessert!

Dec 6, 2010

A VegGiving Story

What would thanksgiving be without a little drama? The annual meal is not complete without some mashed potatoes with a little drama on top. In my case, the best drama is the drunken buffoonery that goes on, but this year there was a good ol’ slice of awkwardness with an offensive aftertaste. It all started when No-Name* over heard that the stuffing was made with veggie broth so it was Veg friendly. When No-Name learned I was a vegetarian, she released the kind of chuckle you hold inside when a child tells you he’s afraid of the monster under his bed, like it were the silliest thing she’d ever heard. She said “Oh, honey… Animals have no souls! Its people you should worry about, people have souls, not animals” like she was assuring me (condescendingly) that there were in fact no monsters under my bed. Uhhhhhhh! I literally didn’t know what to say. It was quite literally a ‘WTF’ moment.  Had I been more than half way through my (lethal) Cosmo at this time it could have gotten ugly, the awkwardness at the table could have been cut with the carving knife. I calmly assured her I care very much about people, in addition to caring about animals. I don’t think its really and issue of either/or. 

This moment made it clear to me MORE THAN EVER that not everyone understands vegetarianism, and I can relate because I too, at one time, thought of vegetarians as kinda… well… weird. Like rebels to society or trying to be ‘better’ than the average (meat-eating) person. And this was the first time in my 5 years of being a Veg that someone truly
insulted because I’m vegetarian. 

I’ve been asked on countless occasions why I'm a vegetarian. I, myself, think it’s interesting to know why
everyone choses to eat what they do! I know I’m being cliché, but we quite literally are what we eat. I find I’m never very good at answering this question in conversation, so when people ask me why I don’t eat meat, I never have the same answer. I don’t want to offend any meat eaters by saying I think eating animals is wrong, because I think people have every right to eat meat, just as I have every right not to. Sometimes I’ll talk about how I’ve always avoided eating meat, even since I was a child, it just seemed weird to me and after doing research on the food, and specifically the meat industry, I couldn’t ignore what I had learned and go back to eating meat. 

So here is my opportunity to hopefully put into the best words I can, exactly why I choose to be a vegetarian. I’m not trying to blow your minds here with quotes Gandhi wishes he came up with. Its really very simple. For 18 years of my life, I was NOT a vegetarian. I’ve been a member of both parties now, and I’ve chosen to stay on the leafy side.  This is why:

I like to know where my food has come from and what it has gone through to get to my plate. This includes fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, butter, pasta, flour, sugar, meat, etc. I’m very interested in it all, not just meat. I don’t actually ever remember making the conscious decision that
today will be the last day I eat a burger, or chicken, or bacon, etc. I was in college and the options available in our cafeteria were wide and varying. I never really picked out anything that had meat (well except the fried chicken strips, I liked those... shh!). Then one day it kinda clicked. Hey! There are others who don’t eat meat!! That’s when I realized I hadn’t really decided to enter the world of vegetarianism, it just kind of happened (after I said my final goodbyes to the chicken strips). I started doing research on why other people are vegetarians. Then I got into how species like cows go from being cows to beef, learning about where they are raised, how they are treated, how they are killed, and how they eventually get onto our plates. Even in the most ‘humane’ of cases, knowing the meat on my plate was at one time a live animal just doesn’t settle right in my stomach. What it all comes down to for me is a very simple reasoning. I believe there is a certain amount of suffering involved with turning animals to meat. It’s a suffering that I don’t want to be a part of. Eating the flesh of an animal that suffered to get onto my dinner table is not what I want to do. Plain and simple. If I were perfect, I would apply this logic of mine to eggs, dairy and leather too, but I'm not perfect in my ways. I know there is suffering involved with these too, but it is easier for me to forget about than being faced with a plate of flesh. 

In the end, who know if animals have ‘souls’ or not. Who is ANYONE to say? But I do know
they are capable of suffering. Have you ever seen a dog in pain? If a dog is capable of suffering, so is any other animal. Anyone can tell me that animals are meant for us to eat. If that works for you, that’s fine by me! I’m not the one to judge whether eating meat is right or wrong. I think it’s an issue of personal beliefs and it is a very personal decision. I’m okay with you eating meat as long as you are okay with me not. 

I’ll never be one to say a vegetarian diet is the best way to eat because hell if I know!! I just know what is best for me. I can only encourage you and everyone here to give a damn about what you eat; where its coming from and how it got there (not just meat!!) and make your diet decisions from there. Don’t do it to fit in with any one person or group or family. Most of my friends aren’t vegetarians and I am the only member of my family who is one. I didn’t do it for them, and I didn’t do it for attention or to stand out among the rest. I do it for me.

If you eat meat, you are NOT a heartless animal killer and I don’t mean to say you don’t care about suffering either. You have reasons for eating meat just like I have reasons for not. . The End

*names have been changed, obviously

Since I don't want to leave you without a recipe ill share a link to the recipe I served as a main course alternative (or additional as it turned out to be) to the thanksgiving meal. From one of my idols: Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding. I cant recommend this enough!

Oct 5, 2010

Want a Cookie?

The first thing I ever baked from scratch was a batch of chocolate chip cookies. It was for a very special occasion... the birthday of one of my Beanie Babies (yes I was one of those kids). I remember it like it was... well...15 years ago, so i don't actually remember the celebration that well, but with the help of an old photograph, I can actually remember the feeling of excitement I had to be baking!  I have been making chocolate chippers ever since and my recipe for chocolate chips cookies is the only one I keep secret. But lucky for 

you I have made some fantastic, brag worthy oatmeal cookies that rank right up there with chocolate chip! I had actually never made oatmeal cookies before my first day of pastry school, so I went home after class and invented my own variation on the classic. I am very happy to share this recipe with you and whether you keep it a secret or share it with many, I hope you love these as much as I do.

I actually made these and other cookies (see picture at the right) for a bake sale to raise money for triple negative breast cancer research! Family, friends, and neighbors all made it a very successful event, raising almost $600! 


Oatmeal, white chocolate, and candied hibiscus flowers

One of the most important things I have learned in pastry school thus far is the importance of measuring ingredients by weight. It is important for consistency and accurate proportions of ingredients! So I will give you both weights and measurements for this recipe

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, but not so soft it looses its shape when you un wrap it
½ cup (4 oz.) packed brown sugar
¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon (2 oz) sugar
1 large egg
1 cup (5 oz) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon bakingpodwer
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (3 ¼ oz) old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup – ¾ cup white chocolate chips
¾ cup (3 oz) candied hibiscus flowers, finely chopped (I bought these from Trader Joes)

Cream the butter and sugars in a stand mixer on medium speed until light in color and well incorporated, about 2 minutes (you can use cold butter straight from the refigerator, but you will have to beat the butter and sugar for a longer time).  Add the egg and vanilla and mix again until it is well blended.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add this all at once to the wet ingredients. Mix on a low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated.

Add the oats, white chocolate chips, and chopped candied hibiscus flowers. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is well mixed and there is not unincorporated flour left.

I use a small ice cream scoop to measure out tablespoon sized portions of dough. This ensures they will all bake evenly in the same amount of time. I measure out a dozen on a parchment lined baking sheet and pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes, then straight into a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes.

They are done when then are golden around the edges and the tops are starting to get some color.

This dough will last months in the freezer so you can make these in a pinch or whenever your cravings strike

Jul 15, 2010

It's 110˚Outside and I'm Inside Frying

I am apologizing again for the long delay between posts. I just moved to a new home in San Francisco (I must take a moment here to say that I successfully drove a fully loaded 17-foot u-haul through the streets of San Francisco, parked it on Lombard St. and unloaded that sucker. An accomplishment fit for a spot on the resume I believe) and I have been making trips back and forth between LA since.  

I am in LA now where it's 110 degrees outside, I kid you not. And what am I doing? Frying. Speaking both literally and figuratively. I go outside and this oh-so-fair skin of mine fries. I step inside, and as the sizzling dissipates from my skin, I hear it again except its coming from the stove and its zucchini blossoms, not my shoulders. 

The first time I ever had fried zucchini blossoms (or fiori fritti, their Italian name), I was a little nervous. I can only compare it so the nervousness a meat-eater would have about eating something like frog legs. Knowing that eating one won’t kill you, but not knowing how close the trash can needs to be for a worst-case gag scenario. 

Put all nerves aside because I can confidently tell you: don’t fear the fried flowers. They are absolutely divine. When I laid my eyes on their golden petals at the farmers market for the first time this summer I squealed like a little girl who had just been handed a brand new Barbie, or maybe a Webkin. Everyone should try these, at least once.  They are light and crispy and the bold and adventurous feeling you get from eating one for the first time is delicious. 

There are a ton of different batters people use to make these fried zucchini blossoms. I have tried the more elaborate types with flour, egg, cornstarch, and ice cubes among others things in it, but I actually prefer this simple recipe with just three ingredients. Some people also prefer to stuff their blossoms with cheese. I prefer it without. 

While this is a great thing to make to impress, only attempt these when the time is right. They are at their prime minutes after coming out of the oil. They need a minute to cool, but their quality goes down after that minute. Do NOT make these ahead of time! They are great and easy to make as appetizers when everyone is hanging out around the kitchen so you can be manning the fryer and hanging out at the same time. 

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

  • Zucchini Blossoms (you want the males. How do you know it’s a male? Well don’t be shy and take a peek inside!  There will be a very male looking stamen.)
  • Frying oil (I use canola)
  • Batter:
              2/3 cup all-purpose flour
              3/4 cup beer (or soda water)
              A large pinch of salt

If your zucchini blossoms are dirty, you should rinse them with water, but pat them as dry as you can because you will have oil spattering all over the place if there is any water on them. You can remove their boy parts if you want to, but they are edible and I don’t notice a difference with or without them.    
Whisk together the flour and salt.

In a medium side bowl whisk the flour into the beer.  If your batter appears to be too thick, add more liquid.

Coat the blossoms in the batter; just a thin coat is good.

Fry the blossoms in 1-2 inches of canola oil at 375 degrees (it is a good idea to have a cooking thermometer for this). You can fry about 3 at a time, flipping them after each side has turned crisp and gold, about a minute or two each side.

Remove immediately after both sides have been fried and sprinkle them with salt and serve.

**Printable Recipe**

P.S Zucchini Flowers are one of Louie's favorite things

May 17, 2010

Something Savory, Cause it's Gonna Get a Whole Lot Sweeter!

The weeks have been flying by, unlike the piles of work stacked on my desk! With just about three weeks left of my college career, I know my time for blogging will be ZERO between now and then. So I’m going make this post short and sweet. But first, speaking of sweet…  it’s going to be getting a lot sweeter around here because this practicing foodie is officially going to PASTRY SCHOOL in September!! To explain how thrilled I am would take a ridiculous amount of time because I could quite honestly go on forever! But for now, I will give you this, a recipe for (yet another) Tartine Bakery inspired creation. I am counting down the days (26ish) till I can get back into Blogger mode!!!

This is simple and fantastic! Perfect for a small dinner party (or a party of one), served with steamed artichoke and red wine

Vegetable and Raclette cheese Open Faced Sandwiches
Inspired by Tartine Bakery’s Croque Monsieur


1 large loaf of crusty bread
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and roasted
3-4 zucchini, sliced thin lengthwise, grilled or sautéed
2 crates of cremini mushrooms (or baby bellas), sliced and sautéed
Sundried tomatoes
2 garlic gloves
1 package of Raclette cheese

Slice the bread in thick 1/2'” slices. Brush each slice with olive oil and grill or bake until just golden. I used my le creuset grill pan. Once golden, rub garlic clove on one side while still warm. Don't forget the best part... snacking on the butt of the bread while you cook.

In the meantime, prep all other ingredients. Roast the asparagus in olive oil and salt. Grill the zucchini (in grill pan) or sauté it in olive oil. Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil and salt as well. And slice the cheese (warning, it is a super stinky cheese and it is soft so it may be hard to cut) into fairly thin slices.

Once all is ready, spread pesto on each slice of bread. Then pile anything and everything on top, go crazy. Throw whatever ingredients you don’t use into a salad the next day. Next, place a single layer of cheese on top of the veggies.

Broil until the cheese has melted and gotten a little golden around the edges, but make sure the bread has not burnt! Keep checking after 3 minutes or so.

 <-- Click & Print

Apr 15, 2010

Baked Beet Chips

 Hey, long time no blog!  
You know the saying, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’? Well I didn’t realize the amount of free time I had before April came and took it away!  Ever since my last post, life has shifted up a couple gears. A week of studying and paper writing, to a week of cabo(ing), and then back home with a whole new schedule of work and school which unfortunately leaves me with little time for cooking, let alone eating and sleeping. But this busy life is a good one.

Just because I haven’t been cooking much, doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about cooking a lot! Have you ever been reading a book and get to the end of the page and realize you’ve been thinking about something entirely different, yet seem to have ‘read’ the entire page? Ya, try being a foodie deprived from precious time in the kitchen and reading the psychology of learning and behavior. Ive spent the better part of an hour reading page 43. In practically every chapter there is some mention of the Pavlov-Dog experiment, which involves food. Dog food, mind you, but the word food sends my mind off into thoughts of recipe ideas and hunger pains.  Whoever buys the textbooks I have been using will be seriously confused at the annotations I've made… "
What the heck do beet chips have to do with psychology??"
Beet chips probably have nothing in common with psychology, but they have a whole lot in common with incredible deliciousness. Ive noticed a couple blogs with recipes for kale chips recently, so my housemates and I tried them out. We are BIG FANS!!! I think even the biggest Lay’s fan would find these kale chips tough competition! After making them continuously for a week, I saw some beets looking a little neglected next to my stash of kale. So I decided to give the beets a shot at being chips. I wasn’t really sure how they would turn out, but it was all needless worrying. 

As I sat at my desk, attempting to study my textbook, the smells coming from the kitchen swirled around me. As the beet slices dried up and shrank into crispy perfection, they infused the house with a warm and earthy smell. If only text could infuse its way into my brain the way these beets can. As the smell gets a hold of you, close your eyes and the darkness you see will turn from black to deep beet magenta.

Pavlov’s dog’s would salivate when he rang a bell. This Practicing Foodie drools at the scent of beet chips baking.

Baked Beet Chips

A mandoline is an essential tool for this recipe. It is important for the beet slices to be uniform and very thin, something hard to do even with the best of kitchen knives. Unless you have the precision of a ninja who catches flies with chopsticks, use a mandoline.

  • Use as many beets you want, 3 large beets would be enough for 4 people to snack on. 
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
Wash and peel the beets. Make sure to wear an apron of some sort because beet juice is attracted to things it can stain. Ive noticed it especially loves dry clean only clothes.

Using your mandolin, slice the beets around 1/16th – 1/8th of an inch.

Place all the beet slices in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, just enough to coats all the beets, 2-3 tablespoons. Toss all the beets together with the olive oil using your hands to make sure all the beets are coated and aren't stuck together.

Lay the beet slices flat on ungreased cookie sheets, in a single layer. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt (or ground sea salt is even better).

Bake at 300 degrees for around 30 -40 minutes. They will shrink a lot. To test if they are done, I removed one of the slices after 35 minutes, set it on the counter to cool for a few moments, then tasted it. If it got very crisp and crunchy after cooling, then take them all out of the oven. Keep doing this test until you get a good one.

Store in an air tight container, though mine were gone before they had a chance to get stored.

**click picture to print recipe without the whole post

Mar 6, 2010

Butternut Squash 'Something'

Here I am, sitting at my kitchen table, looking at my 'coming soon board'. When I have ingredients that I need to use up or if I have a craving to make something in particular, I jot it down on this board. If I don't, I forget.  I'm cursed with the memory of a goldfish. Right now the board says 'butternut squash something'. I had bought a particularly nice looking butternut squash at the Los Gatos farmers market last weekend when the sun finally graced us with its presence.... for all of maybe 24 hours. First thing I did when I got back home... wrote 'butternut squash something' up on the board. If I hadn't, that pretty squash would have become a pretty decoration on my kitchen counter for far too long.

After searching through three and a half cookbooks for inspiration on what to do about the 'something', I had nothing. Then I saw my favorite Italian cookbook sitting there on the shelf, looking neglected. Before I even opened it, my little light bulb of inspiration turned on in my head. Ravioli! I had not made ravioli in ages and it felt like the perfect day to make it. I was feeling particularly creative at that moment so I decided to create something on my own. No cookbooks. I just followed my foodie instincts into the fridge and got to work. The dish came together perfectly as the wheels were turning in my head. Here is what it sounded like in my there:

mmm SWISS CHARD! ya chard! chard with ricotta! yummm! 
Gosh there's so much freakin Parm in here! I'll add Parmesan too!! 
hmm...this thyme needs a serious trim. ok, stop! ravioli's are done. move on!
OH OH rosemary!
NO you crazed foodie! NO MORE.


ok, I know I want to puree the squash, but I'll need to add some garlic. ROASTED GARLIC. oh yeaaah. roasted garlic!!! And I'll use the rosemary if I remember it.

Then my chaotic stream of thought came to a halt.  In my head there were nothing but delicious ideas. As if those little keebler elves were working at the speed of my thoughts and created the meal for my brain to approve before relaying the message to me that this would be perfect.

This is a great dish when you want to make something ahead, AND it's impressive. I roasted the garlic and made the ravioli filling in the afternoon and the butternut squash sauce about an hour before dinner time. I was having a friend over who I had lived with in Italy, so I thought it would be nice to make the ravioli together over a glass of vino and reminisce about our times abroad. 

This dish is really simple to make. It may seem like a lot of steps, but take it slow and get it done all ahead of time and when it comes time to putting it all together, it will be stress free. Nothing is worse than stressing over dinner... it leaves a terrible aftertaste. 

Ravioli with Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Sauce

For the Ravioli:
    1 ½ lbs. swiss chard, leaves cut off from the stems
    1 c. whole milk Ricotta cheese
    ½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
    1 egg
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    Wonton wrappers

Fill a large pot with about ¼ c. of water, and bring to a boil, this will happen fairly quick since the water just barely covers the surface of the pot. Once it is at a boil add the stemmed swiss chard. Cover the pot and let steam for a couple minutes, until it is bright green. Let it drain until it is cool enough to handle. In the mean time, in a medium bowl, mix together the Ricotta, Parmesan, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the chard has cooled, squeeze out at much of the water as you can and chop really fine. Once chopped, place all of it onto a dish towel and wring out the water again. The drier the swiss chard the better. Add this to the ricotta cheese mixture and combine well, taste for more salt or pepper, then add the egg and combine well.

To assemble the ravioli:
Take one wonton wrapper and place about 1 Tbls. of the filling in the center. Dip your finger in some water and wet the edges, then place another wonton wrapper on top. seal the edges tight with a fork or by pinching the edges. If the filling is coming out the edges, use less filling.

Butternut Squash Sauce
Butternut Squash Puree
     1 Butternut squash, peeled (watch lasts posts video).

Cut the squash into 1” pieces.  Put on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Roast in the oven at 375 for about 30 mintues, or until very tender and starting to brown around the edges. Let them cool for a bit, then I used a food mill to make a puree. You could use a food processor too.

Roasted Garlic

     1 head of garlic 

Peel the papery skin off the outside of the garlic. You want to keep the head of garlic in tact so don’t go to crazy with this. Just remove as much as you can without getting obsessive about it. Cut the top off the garlic to expose the tops of all the cloves within the head. In a small baking dish drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of the dish. Add the head of garlic and drizzle the garlic with more olive oil. Cover with tin foil and pop in a 375 oven for about 40 minutes.

    ½ an onion diced fine.
    2 sprigs of rosemary
    6 cloves or 1 Tbls. roasted garlic, mashed
    2 c. Butternut Squash puree
    1-1 1/2 c. water

Saute the onion and 2 sprigs of rosemary in about 2 Tbls. of olive oil until the onions are translucent and just starting to brown up.  Remove the rosemary. Add the roasted garlic and stir around to combine. Add the squash puree and mix them all together. Add 1 cup of water and mix till combined. Add more water until the sauce is the consistency that you like. Add salt and pepper.

Boil the ravioli in a large pot of water until they float to the top, just a a couple of minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ravioli and serve on individual plates (if you drain them all into a colander, they could get stuck together and form one very large ravioli! Lay the left overs flat on a cookie sheet lined with parchment). Spoon the sauce on top. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Mar 5, 2010

Food For Thought Friday

Butternut squash. As much as people love it, they hate it.  When it comes time to peeling the thing, it has a rep for being hard to work with, stubborn, and an over all pain in the you-know-what. Sound familiar? 

If peeling vegetables were a video game, butternut squash would be the Boss level. I have had my fair share of battles with the butternut squash, vegetable peeler in hand… and I end up being the one getting peeled. So Instead of going out and purchasing steal mesh gloves, I came up with a game plan. I started by cutting off the top and bottom of the squash, then cutting it down the middle lengthwise. Here is a video (so cool right?!?!?!) of what you need to do next to avoid serious injury and beat the butternut squash. All you need is a cutting board, a horizontal vegetable peeler, and Nora Jones… no steal gloves necessary. 

The Practicing Foodie Peeling a Butternut Squash

TADA! So that’s your food for thought Friday! Tune in again soon to see what happens to the butternut squash next!

Feb 28, 2010

Cake Worthy of a Birthday

What's the best thing about birthdays? Two words...Birthday Cake. Hands down.

I am a strong believer that birthdays deserve cake. Not cupcakes. Not pies. Not tarts or cookies (unless they are in addition to the cake). For me, a birthday is just not a birthday without a slice of your favorite cake. And you can gather a lot about someone by their favorite kind of cake. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting? Vanilla cake with chocolate frosting? Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting? Each is so very different, as are the people whose preference they are.

I love it when someone’s birthday comes along because it gives me a legitimate reason to bake a cake. As much as I would love to bake cakes all the time, I don’t because it makes it all the more special when the occasion for cake arises.

One of my greatest friends' bday was on Saturday. Knowing I would be baking a cake helped me get through the week. As if I could see a cake on a pedestal at the end of the tunnel… it made all the work in the week bearable. This friend is definitely the chocolate cake – chocolate frosting kind of girl. Meaning, basically, you can’t help but love her.

I got the recipe for this cake from Tartine Bakery’s cookbook. I had the cookbook before I had actually visited the bakery, and let me say that the place deserves its own post. If you are ever visiting San Francisco, you will have missed a treasure if you don’t stop here somewhere along the way. But like I said, i'll fully express my love for it at a later time, right now all I can focus on is THE cake who happens to be sitting right here, tempting me with its chocolate cologne and good looks.

It is a chocolate devils food cake, with chocolate ganache frosting. Need I say more? I don’t think so… but I will anyways. The creation of this cake is still fresh in my mind. Like one of those rare occasions when you can remember yesterdays dream so well, you feel as if you closed your eyes you could jump back to the scene.

It was Saturday morning and, being the early bird that I typically am, I was up at 7:00. But even 7:00 was a bit early for me on a Saturday morning, I think it was the excitement and anticipation that woke me up. Like every Christmas morning of my childhood (psh! who am I kidding, this STILL happens every year), when you wake up at 6am because your internal clock KNOWS that Santa has come and gone and its show time. Except in this case, instead gifts under the tree, I was excited about the butter I knew i had left on the counter overnight to soften. The butter was ready, and I couldn’t wait any longer to unwrap it. The cake baking ensued before 8am.


I have to say, i've never seen such a beautiful batter. It might have been the most beautiful thing to come from that shiny red kitchenaid. I wanted to swipe my entire hand finger through it sooo badly, but it was much too early to be eating cake batter. As much as I wish differently, cake batter is not a sufficient breakfast.  To ensure the finger swipe wouldn’t occur, I started to fill the mixing bowl with water. It was heart wrenching to watch the chocolate dissolving into the soapy water, and as the water level approached the top I lost control. Like my brain went into neutral and survival instinct kicked, my index finger swooped up the last bit of batter from a watery death. My housemate said the sounds I made as I tasted this batter were borderline inappropriate. When you make this, I recommend not resisting a taste and inviting every man woman child and dog to try this batter.

While I aim to only post recipes that I have made at least somewhat my own, I didn't make any adaptations to the recipe from this cookbook. I didn’t want to mess with success the first time around. I wasn't going to write about it, but it is just too good not to share. I did however, use raspberry jam instead of caramel between the layers. Since I used the recipe to a 'T' I don’t know if I can post it on here because of copyright reasons or what not. But I will give you a little secret. You can Google ‘tartine bakery devils food cake’ and find it there. It feels weird not leaving you guys with a recipe on this post :( I’m going to look into the rules for sharing recipes from cookbooks. If anyone knows, please do let me know

The letters on the cake are my go to for birthday cake decorating. I melt white chocolate chips slowly in the microwave, and then pipe it on to parchment paper. Let it set until it is completely cool and the letters pop right off the paper. Stick them on the cake and viola! I like this better than piping directly onto the cake because I have been known to misspell ‘birthday’ a few times. Don’t judge.
This cake deserves a birthday just like any person does and I know just the way to celebrate it.

Feb 20, 2010

Love and Bananas

It’s been a long while since my last post, I know, don’t hate me. I can assure you laziness was not a contributing factor. The reasons include 1. Having both my feet strapped to a board that was supposed to glide me down a soft snowy mountain (in other words, I snow boarded *kinda* for the first time in my life), 2. An ear infection… in both ears. (I thought one of the perks of surviving past your third birthday was that you were out of ear infection territory, apparently not), and i’m going to stop listing off my reasons, you’ve got the idea. 

I spent the better half of today finishing a book that I really didn’t want to finish.  It’s Molly Wizenberg’s, A Homemade Life, and it’s a winner. This book has been on my list for quite some time now, but I bumped it to the top since I started blogging. Molly has a blog that I have found myself looking at everyday during my morning routine of coffee, cereal, aol/yahoo/gmail/gwmail, facebook, orangette. In that order. Her writing is delicious and her thoughts, analogies, and life remind me so much of… me. There were several times throughout the book when I felt like I was reading about myself. A very strange feeling to say the least. As I was reading, it felt like she was talking
to me like a good friend would. I was fully immersed in the pages. I caught a severe case of the giggles around page 40 and by page 145 I was trying to control sobs… some of it was all too real for me. And by the very last page I felt in love with food, with Paris, with words and with Brandon (her husband).  I’ve never been a fan of the idea of cloning things (except when I was 12 and my cat, Rudy, died. I kept one of his whiskers so I could clone him… I kid you not), but now I’m thinking again that cloning might not be so bad if I could have a Brandon sent to my doorstep. ANYWAYS I couldn’t recommend this book more to anyone who loves food, or who loves life for that matter. I can’t remember a time I have so thoroughly enjoyed a book more. 

Another big reason I love this book so much is because of the banana bread it inspired. I am a big fan. Growing up, I loved seeing the disgustingly blackened bananas on the counter top at home because I knew of their fate. I only know two people who don’t like bananas. One being my mom. She thinks it’s because she ate too many as a kid. I think it's because she’s crazy… or maybe there’s a genetic mutation to blame because my sister is the only other person who would not eat a banana for a million dollars. Not only does she hate bananas, she gets particularly PISSED if she
hears you eating one, even from the other side of the room, or behind a brick wall. It's one thing to not like bananas, but it’s a whole other thing to not like banana bread. Like it’s ok if you don’t like tomatoes (I guess), but you’d have to be crazy/un-American to not like ketchup.

I adapted this recipe for banana bread from A Homemade Life. I love adapting recipes because then I don’t feel guilty taking full credit for the great outcome, and calling them my own. Here I’ve created the practicing foodies own banana bread. I’ve always thought you can tell a great bakery by its banana bread. I became a regular at an American bakery in Florence after I had their banana bread… and because it was the only place to get a big cup of coffee. I became a regular at Doan’s in Los Angeles after a slice of banana bread and a latte. And If I were you… I would become a regular of this blog after making this banana bread. My experiment was such a success the first try; I am tempted to make this little loaf my practicing foodie mascot. Worthy of having its portrait put on a flag and hung from the streetlights lining my street.

These days I find myself happily hiding bananas in the far depths of my pantry to be forgotten and found a week later, my neglect nursing them to full term. But since I really can’t forget about the hidden yellow gems in the pantry, I have made an addition to my morning routine… coffee, cereal, aol/yahoo/gmail/gwmail, facebook, orangette, banana check. Nothing beats the morning when I wake up to find the banana bunch ripe with age spots and begging to be mashed. 



In the past banana bread has always been a struggle for me. I always took it out of the oven far too soon because I was afraid the top would brown too much. While the butt’s of bread are my favorite parts, its nice to have a loaf cooked through the middle too. I’ve made this banana bread several times now and it has turned out moist, tender, and absolutely fabulous each time. The trick is to place some tin foil over the top if you think it is browning too much. I usually place it over when there is about 10 minutes left of cooking time, but you may not have too.

  • 3 Tbls unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 c. almond flour  (I found almond flour at Trader Joe’s, if you can’t find it, all-purpose will work too… but it won't be as fabulous)
  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ oz. 72% dark chocolate, chopped fine (or any grade of dark chocolate)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ c. mashed bananas (3 bananas)
  • ¼ c. 2% greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan.

Melt the butter in the microwave slowly, set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate and whisk to combine well.

In another bowl beat the eggs together with a fork a bit. Add the mashed bananas, yogurt, butter, and vanilla and mix well.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and gently mix/fold until just combined.

Scrape the batter into loaf pan

Bake until loaf is a deep golden color on top and a toothpick comes out clean. About 50-60 minutes

 <-- click this picture to bring up a new page where you can just print the recipe. If you want to print the whole post (writing & recipe) click the title of the post and then print.

Feb 6, 2010

For the Love of Fresh Pasta

Mmmm, Fresh pasta! I would argue that if you haven’t had it, you have yet to experience all life has to offer. What’s the big difference between buying dried pasta and having it fresh? Well that’s like asking, oh I don’t know… what the difference between 12am and 12pm? It’s night and day!!! There is nothing like making pasta by hand. When I am making it, it's almost as if the colors of my world shift to antique hues and the little Tuscan grandmother in me comes alive. Now, I don’t exactly have a Tuscan grandmother, BUT i've spent enough time learning about and eating traditional Tuscan food that I think I do have a little Tuscan fairygrandmother. Making pasta is a labor of love. I think that’s the difference actually. A lot of things taste better with a little love in them… it’s my not-so-secret ingredient. In fresh pasta, you can taste it lingering in every bite.  I have only recently started making it in my own home, but I already feel almost guilty making pasta dishes with the dried variety. I see my little pasta machine sitting there on the shelf as I reach for store bought stuff and I imagine the rejection it must feel. Like how all that puppy in the window must feel when it sees one of the others being chosen and not him.

(see... antique hues!) photograph made possible by roomie

We all know it’s equally fun going out at 12am and 12pm but for different reasons. It’s the same when it comes to fresh vs. dried pasta. They are both great in different circumstances. Obviously… if you don’t have a pasta machine like this one, you aren’t going to be making rigatoni any time soon! But you can make ravioli or fettuccini. Dried pasta is best with your hearty sauces like rich marinara. Fresh is delicate and needs a sauce of the same nature.

One of my closest friends and I collaborated on this recipe.  Often times it hasn’t even hit noon yet and we are throwing around ideas for dinner. Always a good start to the day. When coming up with this pasta, we were thinking fresh & light yet cheesy & substantial. When we had decided on all the ingredients, we knew it was going to be good, but we didn’t know it was going to be THIS good! This is a slow sauce to make, one that doesn’t require a lot of attentiveness and it gets better the longer it cooks. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I salivate at the sound of the ricotta cheese mixing with the pasta and melting into the crevasses. I was so hypnotized by the sound, in fact, that I completely forgot to take a picture of the final result. Forgive me, it wont happen again.

Fresh Rigatoni with Heirloom Cherry Tomato Sauce
serves about 4

Fresh pasta is not necessary for this recipe. Feel free to use dried, it will still be delicious.

To make the pasta I followed the recipe that came with my pasta maker... but any will do. You do not need a stand mixer to make pasta dough.

For the Pasta dough:
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 c. sifted all-purpose flour (sift first, then measure out 3 1/2 c.)
  • 2 Tbls. water
  • 1 Tbls. salt

Break eggs into a glass measuring cup
     Place flour and salt in stand mixer bowl. Beat at low speed and gradually add in the eggs plus 2 Tbls. water. Mix for 30 seconds. Stop and exchange the flat beater for the dough hook. Turn to low speed for about 2 minutes.
    Remove mixture from bowl and place on a clean surface. Knead by hand for about a minute untill it is smooth and forms into a ball.
    This is when you add the dough in small balls into the pasta maker and it comes out in pretty shapes :)

For the Sauce:
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced - use 4 the first time (i say first because you WILL want to make this again) but add in another clove the second time if you would like a stronger garlic flavor
  • 2 cups (more or less) heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 Tbls balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 of a 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese (I used whole ricotta, you could use skim if you want, but whole really is the way to go)
  • 3 oz. goat cheese
  • 2 handfuls of arugula
  • 1/2 c. basil, roughly chopped
  • about a dozen cranks of lemon pepper - I bought this at Trader's (as in Trader Joe's grocery store...we are on a first name basis thanks to my frequent visits). I bought it on a whim and now I add it to everything! Seriously Delicious
In a medium sized pan, pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom completely. Add the diced onion and a pinch of salt and sauté over a medium-low temperature. The slower you cook the onions the more delicious they get. You are not trying to brown them… you just want to sweat them out and make them happy and translucent. After about 5 minutes add the minced garlic. Keep cooking over a low temperature, once the onions become translucent, add the halved cherry tomatoes and another pinch of salt. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and cook for a good while, I’m talking at least 20 minutes, until it is thick and glazed and saucy. Once it has all come together and reached this saucy stage, add the splash balsamic vinegar and turn up the temperature a little bit. Continue cooking until it is reduced and has turned the sauce a wonderful caramelized color. Resist eating this with a fork straight out of the pan… but its okay if your can't.

      (This is right before adding the balsamic vinegar)
You can keep the sauce over low heat while you cook the pasta. Since I am using the fresh rigatoni I made only hours beforehand, it takes about 3 minutes to cook. If you are using store bought pasta, follow the time on the box. Once the pasta is done, save about ½ c. of the pasta water and set it aside. Drain the pasta. In a large bowl, add the pasta, the cheeses (it is important to do this first so the heat from pasta really melts the cheese), the pasta water, the onion/tomato sauce, the arugula, basil, and lemon pepper. Toss all together until well incorporated. I like to have some freshly grated Parmesan to sprinkle on top. I also like to add a little salt and pepper once I’ve dished up my individual plate, but after I’ve tasted it to feel it out.

I had these leftovers cold for lunch the next day, YUM