What I’m Loving

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I periodically don’t cook or photograph for whatever reason – I’m lazy, the food isn’t attractive, the recipe is just not INTERESTING enough. The usual. This is good though, it makes me think outside of the box in terms of content. This lack of food to post is a great opportunity to tell you about the things I’ loving or obsessed with right now.

Millet: A couple of weeks ago I found a bag of millet my mom gave me and threw it in the rice cooker while I prepped a bunch of other stuff and threw together a quick grain salad. I adored it – the texture was wonderful. It was a really nutty, wonderful change to the brown rice BF and I have been eating recently. I have really been obsessed with my rice cooker recently – it cooks grains perfectly and it is so remarkably simple to use. As an added bonus it doesn’t heat up the house either so I don’t have to stand over a burner in warm weather. This summer expect a few rice and grain recipes to pop up here.

My Melitta Pour-Over Coffee Maker: This little piece of plastic is a dream come true. I’ve been at home in the mornings and for a long time just did tea instead of coffee, but I LOVE coffee. The taste, the texture, the caffeine, so I finally caved a couple weeks ago and grabbed a pour over coffee maker. I am so thankful I did. The brew is delicious and it’s so simple to make coffee in it that I’m back to a cup a day and relishing it.

My Porch: Is there anything as great as sitting on your back porch early in the morning and drinking coffee while you check in on your social media? I thought not. The birds are all loudly awake and kittenish goes absolutely bonkers. I’ve taken to bringing my cat to the porch with me so she gets a little outside time and I don’t have to worry about her taking off. She gets a bit fearless, jumping up onto our porch railing two stories above the ground, but she loves to chase the squirrels out there.

Polar Seltzer: Everyone is talking about Polar’s Summer flavors right now, and they’re amazing. I’ve been drinking them pretty much non-stop since I found them on sale at my local star market. The cucumber-melon made a SUBLIME mojito (with Privateer Rum, no less) and I can’t wait to try more flavors. I also love that Polar beverages are all made locally (the Polar company is over near Worcester). Not a fan of the odd summer flavors? Go for the Ruby Red Grapefruit – it’s fantastic with a bit of gin.

Homemade Iced Tea: Ever since that first warm day in mid April BF and I have had a pitcher of Iced Tea in our fridge. I’ve been using mostly Celestial Seasonings “Zinger” teas for it, they have such a nice full body and no caffeine. All of the zingers mix well too so you can swap out and exchange flavors, this week we have Raspberry-Lemon.

This Swimsuit: My sister got me this for my birthday in April. I’m SO EXCITED to go to the beach in it this summer, and in general, for beach days this summer. I want to go to the beach, play in the sand, read books, and most importantly, play a bit of skeeball.

The Boys Club: This is a great blog that my friend Brian and a few other cocktail obsessed bloggers put together – go here for all of your cocktail needs this summer. With a new post every day they cover everything from glassware to delicious drinks to breaking down what you’re drinking. WONDERFUL.

CTC International: I recently went to a great presentation by the founders of this company and learned a lot. They built s special needs school in Kenya! They donate money to rhino and elephant preservation! They are a non-profit donating to other non-profits. Also, they have butts on their bags. I love that.

Summer Beer: In the summer I pretty much only want to drink light beer or saisons. With their fun fruity flavors saisons are such lovely drinks for this season and I can drink them all day. Currently I’m plotting the takedown of Ommegang’s Hennepin Saison tonight. Saisons also pair well with my porch. Trying to stay local with summer beer is a cinch too – anything out of Jack’s Abbey is worth the time and a nicely chilled Bantam goes a long way towards cooling anyone down on those warm summer eves. For the more creative flavors head to the crew over at Night Shift – from a Habenero to a white stout they’re doing really cool things in beer. And Chris over at Notch makes low ABV beer (around 4%) that is always a light summer refreshment and keeps you upright.

Celebration Cakes

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My birthday lands right at the beginning of April – it’s a time when the temperatures can jump from 75 to 45 in a single afternoon and there’s more likely than not going to be a blizzard. Every year I keep my fingers crossed for a nice warm birthday – where I can wear a sleeveless dress and flip flops. I wish for a birthday that will see me sipping a cocktail on some patio in the warm rays of an afternoon. This is all entirely unrealistic. So, instead I settle for giving myself a day of baking – the kitchen is always warm with the oven on and it is quite sunny.

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Each year I see my birthday as a baking challenge – a chance to try something I haven’t tried before that I’m daunted by. My birthday is an opportunity to try those recipes that could be potential flops – that way if I mess up someone’s birthday cake it’s MY birthday cake. No harm no foul, right? This year was no different. EXCEPT instead of going out for dinner with BF and my sister I chose to conquer Momofuku Milk Bar.

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I threw a dinner party. I made a ton of pasta and asiago cheese riddled focaccia. I invited BF’s and my favorite people over, we drank wine and ate good food. Dan and Mandi made a great sauce that went perfect with the I-drank-too-much-wine-last-night day that followed. Megan made a lovely spinach salad and there was liberal pouring of wine and beer. It was, truly, the best birthday I could ask for. But, in my brilliance, I decided that making two cakes that both required at least three separate pre-made ingredients and a whole bunch of love was the best way to top off this grand evening of debauchery.

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I made both of these cakes pretty much exactly according to the recipes – my variation was that I used liquid cheesecake in the chocolate chip cake instead of passion fruit curd. The cheesecake was WAY more accessible. I’m not sharing these recipes today – they are too complex and my pictures are MIA as my hands were typically too much of a mess to photo-document this process. SO all we have left of this cake is a remnant and these pictures. There were twelve of us at the party. We ate most of both of these cakes. I loved them.

And I will assuredly be baking from Momofuku Milk Bar again soon.

Dining Out: Treat Cupcake Bar

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Last week I was invited to try out a Treat Cupcake Bar cupcake party with the Boston Brunchers.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I am not the biggest fan of the “Cupcake trend” that’s been pseudo-taking over recently. And Treat is not the most convenient of places to get to, but the party – was FUN. I loved being able to go and play with frostings and candies and fondant (note: I LOATHE fondant) with out having to make all of those ingredients myself.  The party was very streamlined from decorating cupcake boxes, to decorating aprons, to decorating cupcakes everything lead into itself in a very smooth way. I thought Treat’s cupcakes were fine in flavor and texture but the experience was SO MUCH FUN. I would totally set this up as a kid’s party, with mini cupcakes though – the ones we left with were HUGE (and there were six of them!). You can learn more about Treat parties here.

This Baby.

This Baby

This cupcake party was provided free of charge by Treat Cupcake Bar in exchange for this post.  All opinions here are my own.  I did receive six cupcakes but gave one to my cabbie on the way home, as a thanks.

Tropical Thumbprint Cookies

thumbprint2Right before Christmas my dear friend Jess celebrated her birthday and I refused to let it pass unacknowledged. So I took the day off, brought her out to a nice seafood dinner and never called her again, brought her out to brunch at the Deluxe Town Diner, shopping for treats, and finally home where I gave her my favorite cookbooks and told her to pick a treat. She chose an adult thumbprint cookie from Baking by Dorie Greenspan.  It looked easy enough but then I realized I didn’t quite have the ingredients it called for but had a few other things that would work as substitutes and made it work.
thumbprint_flourWhat came out were perfectly bite sized cookies with a lovely yielding texture and bright non-winter tropical flavors of coconut, mango, and passionfruit. Dorie Greenspan’s recipe called for hazelnuts, but I didn’t have any so I swapped in  a combination of finely ground pepitas, pecans, and coconut – hers were also raspberry jam filled but Jess wanted something tropical and as all I had that could be considered tropical was coconut milk we went to the store and ended up getting this in Medley of Fruits. It made perfect curd (thanks Ina Garten!) and was just right in our thumbprints. There’s something truly indulgent about making cookies on a whim because it’s a friends birthday and it just feels right.
thumprint_doughThese were a perfect birthday treat for Jess and I sent her home with most of the leftovers, knowing full well that I wasn’t going to finish them and she would be MUCH better served by having them at her home.
thumbprints_curdMy point? Go make these cookies for yourself, right now. It’s cold and snowy outside and, honestly, all you want is a little bite of the tropics to make you at least fantasize about warmer weather and longer days, AMIRITE?
thumbprint1Tropical Thumbprint Cookies
The cookies are adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. The curd is straight from this recipe by Ina Garten but I substituted finely shredded unsweetened coconut (about 3 Tbs) for the lemon zest and fruit juice for the lemon juice (1/2 cup).

For the Cookies

  • 1 3/4 cup Finely Ground Nuts (I used 1 cup of ground pepitas and pecans and 3/4 cup of finely shredded unsweetened coconut)
  • 1 3/4 cup AP Flour
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Whisk the nuts, coconut, and flour together
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together for 3-4 minutes on medium, until light and fluffy. Add the extracts and beat to blend them in, another minute.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour/nut combination. Mix the dough just until the flour is incorporated, about 2 minutes.
  • working in scant tablespoons create dough balls in your hands. Once the dough is shaped using your thumb (or the rounded handle of a utensil) press dimples into the cookies.
  • Bake the cookies for 15-18 mins, they will be a little bit browned and crispy, don’t worry about under baking these though as the lack of eggs makes the dough fine to eat on it’s own. Also, I enjoyed the tenderness the cookies had when they were a hair underdone.
  • Allow the cookies to cool completely after removing them from the oven.
  • Fill the dimples in the cookies with your homemade curd, or jam, or whatever thick, treacly thing you want to put there – but the curd went a LONG way.
  • Enjoy, with a cup of tea and a friend on her birthday.

BF’s Nintendo Cake

So, Nov 20th was BF’s 27th birthday.  Not a significant birthday really – it’s not a milestone or anything, but this year is a special one for him.  He’s accomplished a lot and this past year has taught him how to be stronger and patient with all aspects of his life so I wanted to celebrate it.  As a gift he got (or rather is getting because it’s still not here) the 25th anniversary edition of Zelda: Skyward Sword, so I decided his birthday cake should be Nintendo-themed.  I started to plan this cake in March;  It’s a classic Nintendo Entertainment System, for those not in the know, and it has his favorite Zelda game in the cartridge slot, The Legend of Zelda, which is also the first Zelda game.

I made the cake of Brown-Butter Rice Krispie Treats and a family carrot cake recipe that I always make him.  I purchased the fondant; its just the Wilton brand because I wasn’t sure how to make it and didn’t want to mess up BF’s birthday cake for my first test.  But now that I have worked with fondant, (a first!) I will probably do it again, and may even try making it myself, maybe with marshmallows next time.  We’ll see.  Below is my photo step-by-step of the whole process from start to finish.

From start to finish creating this cake was a lot of fun, but next time I think I’ll try to make it on a day other than BF’s actual birthday.  It was a lot of work and took a fair amount of time because I just wasn’t prepared for how hard it was going to be to work with the fondant and keep the cake a surprise.  Also, banning BF from the kitchen for his entire birthday was kind of mean; he wasn’t able to come in and get snacks or anything.  Thankfully two of his best friends were visiting, so they played Settlers of Catan while I finalized cake sculpture.

[Editor's Note: The game "cartridge" was removable as well; instead of blowing out candles, I blew into the edible game cart in hopes that would get the system to start. And for the record, I do not recommend eating game controllers, no matter how vintage they may be. All in all, truly outrageous.]