Monthly Archives: December 2007

i am not opposed to cake mixes.

Generally, I like to cook things that are neither the easiest nor the hardest. Cake mixes are my main exception. When it comes to cupcakes, though, I am not very good. I can do tortes, and flourless things, and even the occasional full cake, but whenever I’ve made cupcakes from scratch, they don’t puff enough and are too dense and just aren’t that good. Giada De Laurentiis from the Food Network does a lot with cake mixes – she adds things to them or spends a lot of time on the icing or somehow makes them better. Mostly I think Giada is totally nuts and the ideas behind this style of cooking remind me of adding a can of Campbell’s mushroom soup to everything, but because I can’t make a decent cupcake on my own I have kind of embraced it.cupcake

Here, for instance, is a regular cake mix cupcake with Giada’s mascarpone icing, that I dipped in chocolate chips and butterscotch chips that I had thrown in the food processor. I did not like this icing, because it didn’t hold very well so I had to add wayyyy more icing sugar than it called for, but if you wanted to try it, the recipe is:

• 2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
• 1 cup cream
• 3/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

It also may have not worked because I always substitute milk for cream because I don’t have cream around. Anyway! The point is that these cupcakes look nice and tasted pretty good, because I added a bunch of chocolate and butterscotch chips to it.

Now, you might be wondering: why is Beth writing a lot about a recipe she didn’t care for in a forum that maybe no one will ever find? And the answer is simple: I just wanted a reason to post this picture:

mario

There is absolutely no recipe for this. But here are 156 mini cupcakes shaped like a pixelated Mario. This didn’t take so long, and I think roommate Ashley appreciated the pixelated birthday love and Ashley and I had a lot of fun making this. And if you are going to try this, I would definitely recommend using a cake mix. Two, in fact.

amazing day for many drinks

Yesterday was exciting for many reasons. Roomie Ashley just got back from ten days in Mexico. I am very jealous of her awesome tan, her cute clutch and her experiences with Mexican chocolate. So, I decided to try to make some spicy hot chocolate, to make me feel better about the constant rain interrupted only by a huge snowfall. It was delicious, easy, and better than my usually half sugar, half cocoa hot chocolate.

hot chocolate

3 teaspoons cocoa
3 teaspoons white sugar
3 pinches of chili powder
3 dashes of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk

Add more of whatever you need and top up with milk. This is very good and you can taste the spice but it is by no means spicy.

Anyway, then Ashley came home from work, which is less exciting than home from Mexico, and still less exciting, but nevertheless awesome is that she brought home bottles of gin, vodka, and rum, and many many cookies, chocolate covered treats and antipasto. Apparently her office is overrun with awesome and she had to take some home. Meggie had just finished a test, and Laura stopped by and making a drink seemed like a good idea. We had nothing to mix anything with, but our wall of tea is generally thought to be awesome:

tea

Basically, we brewed some Fresh Air, which is this awesome lemon grass and peppermint herbal tea from Tealish. Tealish is basically my favourite place ever and they sell the most amazing teas in the cutest ways. I am too into cute packaging. Then we iced the tea, added honey and gin and an amazing drink was born:

new drink!

After this we spent a lot of time patting ourselves on the back and discussing how this was going to be our signature cocktail at the restaurant of our dreams.

Then! Ashley and Tony came over, even though Gossip Girl was not on, and Ashley brought a bottle of red with some cloves and an orange and a plan of mulled wine. We had never done this before but it was totally delicious.

mulled wine

1 ½ cups water
½ cups sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom pods
orange
cloves
1 bottle of red wine

Push the cloves into the orange, using as many as you want. Cloves are wonderful, so I would use a lot. Bring the water, sugar and cinnamon sticks to a boil. Then, turn down the heat to low, add the crushed cardamom, the cloved orange, and the bottle of red and let it simmer for twenty minutes.

mulled wine

At first I was very skeptical, because this sweet sweet drink reminded me of mead, which I remember being so totally disgusting that I opted to give it to strangers at a bar in the Czech Republic. But slowly, the wine grew on me and it’s quite lovely and I think we generally agreed that the sweetness was not too overpowering. I was also concerned about the cardamoms, since my mother used to eat them in the pod and it was totally gross, but in moderation they do give a very nice flavour.

Also, I should note that while it looks like we were just drinking like mad on a Tuesday, it is basically the holidays! Also! We are young! And! We were celebrating Laura’s and Ashley’s return to the colder climate, and Meg’s and Ashley’s triumph over first semester. Just sayin’.

bluegrass brunch

All I’ve wanted to do for so so long is go out for brunch at the Dakota Tavern. It’s pretty much the most romantic thing ever: you sit at a long table and they just bring platters of whatever they’re making that day while a bluegrass band plays. Seriously amazing. I love going out for brunch, but there are two major problems with it. Most brunch places are teeny, which is cute but impractical since it’s so fun to start the morning with a busy brunch with many people. Plus, if it’s a small restaurant, you end up having to wait, which is very hard for me since I am impatient with everything but with food especially. In my dream world, everyone would be ready for brunch at 9 am, but this is definitely not the case, so when we finally do make it to brunch, I am not so interested in waiting. Anyway, the Dakota fixes these problems, but doesn’t really address the fact that my friends like to sleep in.
brunch

A bunch of friends had planned to try out the Dakota on Sunday, and I was so excited. Except! On Saturday night, we had a very exciting snowstorm. I’m on a break right now, so I was happy about the snow, but worried that it might keep people from keeping our brunch plans. In the end, everyone made it, which is terribly impressive since it was literally impossible to get a cab and the Ossington bus was barely running. Jen, Ashley and I ended up walking it which was actually really nice and meant that by the time we got there we were super hungry. Amazingly, we didn’t have to wait for a seat, which was probably due in part to the weather, but we were 9 people which is more than fit in many breakfast places at most.

dakota

When you get there, they bring you a bunch of delish fruit and then a lot of food. On Sunday they were making scrambled eggs, bacon, homefries and pancakes. All wonderful, except I’m not into scrambled eggs.
dakota

The whole time a really good bluegrass band is playing and it’s generally the most wonderful atmosphere ever. I would recommend wearing plaid, and going often.

quinoa risotto

I’ve never made quinoa, and am always impressed when people do. Plus, I keep hearing that it’s so good for you. Anyway, I looked it up, and the Joy of Cooking tells me that it’s one of the best sources of plant protein, and that I should always rinse before cooking it until the water runs clear, which I didn’t do because the holes in my colander are too big. Whoops.

Anyway, I looked up a bunch of quinoa recipes on the food network, but ended up changing one of them fairly dramatically. It called for half couscous and half quinoa, which seemed unnecessary so I just used the quinoa, and for frozen peas. Sadly, the grocery store near me is basically a fallback to World War II. They are always out of sugar and have no produce and were not surprisingly out of peas so I substituted asparagus and I think it was fine. I also ended up using twice as much liquid than was called for, and maybe three times the garlic, because it seemed like the thing to do.

I really do wish that the quinoa photographed better, but it didn’t.

risotto

Mushroom and Asparagus Quinoa Risotto:

• 3 cups of quinoa
• 6 cups of vegetable stock
• olive oil
• 1 lb of mushrooms
• 1 cup of asparagus, cut into one inch pieces
• 5 cloves of garlic
• ½ cup chopped parsley
• parmesan cheese

Sauté mushrooms in oil, add garlic then asparagus. Remove from heat and add in the parsley. Put the veggies aside. Heat olive oil in a pot and add quinoa, coating and toasting the grains for 1-2 minutes. I thought this was unnecessary, but the Joy says that this brings out the best flavour. Add the stock one cup at a time, until it’s absorbed, which generally takes between 5 and 10 minutes. Keep adding stock until it reaches the consistency you want, which may not take 6 cups of stock. Like Arborio risotto, you do have to keep stirring it all the time. Add grated parmesan and stir.

Also, 3 cups of quinoa is a lot. It looks like I will be eating this for at least two meals a day for the next week. Maybe reducing the recipe by half is a good idea if you’re interested in diversity in your meals. I also add the parmesan into each bowl individually, rather than into the whole pot at once.

almond biscotti

Since I finished comps, all I do is sit around and drink warm drinks and think about treats. I also play a lot of tetris and read celebrity gossip. Basically, I deal in the internet and food. So, a food blog seems like a good idea. We’ll see if it lasts.

Here is a lovely biscotti recipe that fits into my new lifestyle of not doing very much. It’s come to the apartment via my roommate’s sister, who makes very nice treats and watches a lot of the food network, which I support.

biscotti

• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoons baking powder
• ¼ teaspoons salt
• ¾ cups sugar (I usually use half white/half brown)
• ½ cups unsalted butter
• 2 teaspoons vanilla (if you are one of those people who doubles vanilla, then good call, but I have already done this, because it tastes so so good.)
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup toasted, chopped almonds (I always burn nuts. You know, don’t do this.)

Preheat the oven to 375. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar, butter, and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour mixture, stir in the almonds. Form the dough into a 16-inch long, 3-inch wide log. Transfer the log onto a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Bake 30 minutes until golden. Cool on a baking sheet for 30 minutes. Put the log on a cutting board and cut into slices. Places the slices cut side down onto the baking sheet and bake until pale golden, about 15 minutes.

afternoon snack

I used to think biscotti was stale cookie, but now I’m way more into it. Also, these are delish and never stick around long enough to actually get stale.