Tuesday, August 31, 2010

International Food Bloggers Conference Day 2

Now I know why they gave us long lunches to blog about the conferences... I have such a hard time remembering everything!  I mean, of course I remember what I did... but I have a hard time remembering all the little details.  There were so many wonderful & in depth things that I participated in!  I did miss the panel on Law & Ethics in food blogging.  I was out pretty late on Friday night and needed to take a quick afternoon nap.  It's nice that I live so close to where the conference was held - it wasn't unreasonable to go home for a quick nap and then make it back in time for the next event!

Here is my best recap of the two days (based on my notes I took throughout the conference).

The venue, Theo Chocolate Factory
Inside the Theo Chocolate - bloggers doing what they do best... blogging
Whoever is the interior decorator gets major kudos from me!
This is a long post so...

Click Here for More About Day 2!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

International Food Bloggers Conference Day 1

Here I am, sitting at the International Food Bloggers Conference, listening to the amazing creators behind Modernist Cuisine (via Intellectual Ventures) and I can't stop thinking about how bad I've been about doing daily recaps of the daily events.  So please, please ignore the ambitious comment I made a few days prior.  I was young and adventurous then.  Now I'm old and coffee deprived (yes, it is possible even in Seattle).  Simply put, the conference has been so amazing that after I drag my body through the front door my the tips of my fingers, I turn into a pumpkin until my cell phone wakes me in the morning.

Ok, recap.  Day 1.

The weekend started at Hotel Monaco in downtown Seattle, kitty corner from the library.  I only live 5 miles away.  FIVE MILES.  You know how long it took me to get downtown, park and walk (uphill in high heels)?  1 hour.  ONE HOUR.  Apparently there was also a Mariners game on the same night, so there was a lot of traffic trying to go south through Seattle.  Being the savvy woman that I am, I left my condo at 4 pm and arrived just as the clock stuck 5.  Even then I was one of the first attendees to arrive.

Dear International Food Bloggers Conference, The Ginger Cook has arrived… but without her camera.  Oh snap.

Oh well, my intense onset of disappointment was soon quelled by the table of local Washington wines.  And a cup of the best Chai I have ever had.  And some Oregon microbrew.  And a cookie.  Annnnd I was in heaven.  This was all in the first little room!

I bet you can assume what comes next.  A lot more food.  I jumped in with a Cherry Tomato Salad by Chef Lisa Dupar.  It was a bright salad with subtle citrus flavors hitting the palate first.  Twirling my fork around the mozzarella I was able to scrape up a taste of the watermelon sorbet.  The smoothness of the mozzarella contrasted perfectly with the clean and fresh taste of the watermelon.  I would never before have thought this combination would have worked well together… you showed me IFBC!

While everyone else went gaga over the caveman lamb pops, I gravitated towards the cupcakes (provided by Cupcake Royale) and Spanish Olive Oils.  I also struck up a conversation with wine-genius Robert Larsen and a food photographer Alan Campbell.

The conference part of the night concluded with a Q&A interview with Morgan Spurlock, creator of Super Size Me.  Looking back to my handy dandy notebook, here are a few points that struck me enough to write them down.
  • Us food bloggers who emphasize local food are preaching to the choir.  Locavores listen to other locavores.  How do we reach the people who, I quote, "don't give a shit."  I personally think the best way to do this is give them some local food, but how can we feasibly do this?
  • There needs to be more emphasis on sit-down family meals; it is a lost art.  I completely agree.  I grew up eating dinner with my family 6 nights a week and I think I'm a better person because of it.  Thanks Mom and Dad!
  • We should use our blogs to start a movement, organize events and spread the word.
  • I was pretty shocked to learn that his 3 ½ year old son is vegan!
  • He really inspired me to research and learn about CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture).  Here they are in Seattle, WA.
  • What can we do about labeling on foods?  "All Natural" on healthy foods segregates them and gives them a negative stigma.  How about writing "All Chemicals" or "All Poison" on GMO's?
  • We need to change the price of a bag of apples to match the price of a bag of Oreo's.  Here here!
  • Three words: GOURMET FOOD TRUCKS
  • We need to get away from preaching to people, we need to make it sound like we're having a good time!

I left a little bit early so I could run back home.  One, I needed to drop off my gigantic swag bag (more on that later).  Two, I wanted to change my shoes.  Three, I was able to bring my roommate Rachel (per the blessing of the Urban Spoon guys) to the after party at the Purple Cafe and Wine Bar.

While the after party was packed, it was nice to be able to interact with the bloggers and chefs in a much more relaxed (and wine filled) atmosphere.  I spoke at length to Robert Larsen and Alan Campbell and all the guys at Urban Spoon, particularly Mani and Phil.  My favorite wine I tried that night was a Pinot Noir by Elk Cove Vineyards.  Luckily, it is produced close by in the Willamette Valley.  I hope it's in my price range…

Well, the Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, the genius behind the Modernist Cuisine, is wrapping up his panel.  Next up is a panel on food photography by Pennt De Los Santos… so excited!

I'll get the (few) photos I took Friday night as soon as I get home!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pre-International Food Bloggers Conference

I am very pleased to announce that I am attending the International Food Bloggers conference this weekend!  The events commence tonight at 5 pm at Hotel Monaco in downtown Seattle (just a quick drive for me!).  There is a wide array of speakers, including Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) tonight, Kristine Kidd (author & former food editor of Bon Appétit) and fellow Seattle food blogger Gluten-Free Girl.  I'm seriously pumped!  And don't even get me started on the food I'll get to try from some local Seattle chefs... I've been drooling since I bought my ticket.

I'm going to lug around my DSLR and hopefully be able to report back at the end of each night with news from the days events.  But considering the conference goes from 7:45am to 9pm... I might be a wee bit tired.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate/Raspberry Swirled Frosting Topped with Tempered Chocolate

Who knew cupcakes could be so evil.  In my mind, they represent all that is pure and good in this world.  But apparently the day I decided to make them in my new kitchen, they had other plans.  Saying that everything around me fell apart, stopped working and generally just did not work is not an understatement.

When Alex was visiting (part one) last week, I got the urge to bake one sunny Seattle day (yes, they do exist).  Having not baked anything sweet in a long time, I decided the best way to start back up again was with cupcakes.  Cute, pink, chocolate and fruity cupcakes.  The universe had other plans.

I have always had gas stoves and always want one.  Alas, my condo has an electric stove.  Albeit a nice one, but it will still take me some time to get used to. This was the first time I had used my oven in Seattle; I had no idea if it'd run a little hotter or colder.  If definitely runs hotter - WAY hotter.  My cute little cupcakes that, according to More from Magnolia, should have taken 25 to 30 minutes to cook.  25 minutes after popping those babies in the oven, I was disturbed to sniff the faint smell of burning as I approached the oven.  That's right, about half of the cupcakes were dry and crumbly (through not burnt).  No, I didn't over crowd my oven.  Yes, I let it preheat for 20 minutes after it reached 350 degrees.  Yes, I was sad.  The next batch of cupcakes turned out well, but they baked for only 21 minutes.

Oh, but that's not the worst of it.  One, the drawer that utensils are in literally fell apart when I opened it to get a spoon out.  Alex fixed that for me.  Then when I was mixing the raspberry frosting with my tiny little hand beater (the chocolate was already finished in the Kitchen Aid stand mixer), I blew a fuse... the same fuse that the fridge is on.  My fridge shut off.  No big deal, right?  Just go back to the circuit breaker and flip the switch.  Wrong. So very wrong.

After frantically flipping the fuses, and one phone call to my landlord later, Alex and I had no success.  We though maybe they was a surge protected outlet behind the fridge, but who would do that?  Apparently whoever designed my condo.  After pulling out the fridge we pressed one button and the fridge whirled back on.


But at least the buttercream turned out wonderfully and the frosted cupcakes were still as cute as can be.  No matter what is thrown at me, I seem to have a surprising knack for making buttercream's.  I just though you all should what lengths I went through to bring these beauties to the masses... well, to mainly Alex & Rachel... and a few people at a downtown Seattle rooftop BBQ.

Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from More from Magnolia

  • 2 cups All-Purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons soda 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar 
  • ½ cup sugar 
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened 
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 

  1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ
  2. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers, set aside.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together, set aside.
  4. Using the medium speed of a stand mixer, cream butter until smooth and light in color.
  5. Add sugar, beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
  7. Add the dry ingredient mixture, in thirds, alternating with buttermilk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until ingredients are well mixed, but do not overbeat.
  8. Using spatula, scrape down bowl, making sure ingredients are well-blended.
  9. Carefully spoon into pans, filling 3/4 full.
  10. Bake 25-30 minutes.  Cool in tins 15 min.Remove and cool completely on wire rack before icing. Makes about 30 cupcakes.

Chocolate Raspberry Buttercream
Adapted from More from Magnolia
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons strained raspberry puree
  • 1 tablespoons almond milk
  • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Note: to melt the chocolate, place in a double boiler over simmering water on low heat for 5-10 minutes; stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely smooth and no pieces remain; remove from heat and let cool 5-15 minutes or until lukewarm. 

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter using an electric mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes or until creamy. 
  2. Add the milk and raspberry puree carefully and beat until smooth. 
  3. Add the melted chocolate and beat well for 2 minutes. 
  4. Add the vanilla and beat for 3 minutes. 
  5. Gradually add in the sugar and beat on low speed until creamy and of desired consistency.
Raspberry Buttercream
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup (approx) strained raspberry puree
  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter using an electric mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes or until creamy.
  2. Beat in the raspberry puree until smooth.
  3. Add in the powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time until creamy and of desired consistency.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sourdough Bread

I finally made a successful loaf of sourdough bread.  Back in April I attempted to make a sourdough starter from scratch.  At first, the starter bubbled out of its container like a middle school science experiment gone dreadfully wrong.  Once I controlled that, it decided it wasn't going to listen to me and just exploded all over my kitchen, engulfing my counter.  I had no way to control it but to add some salt to try and kill the yeast.  Bad decision.  Turns out, I also killed the ability for the starter to get sour.  I made two loaves of bread from the starter and while they had the texture of sourdough... they just weren't sour.  As you could probably guess, said starter for shoved to the back of my fridge and was sorely neglected...

Jump to August and a new starter.  While hanging out and cooking with Ann Dornfeld a week ago she mentioned how her dad was an avid baker and had a well loved sourdough.  Lucky for me, I was able to take half of it home!  Post yoga class the following day, I excitedly procured half of a very sour smelling starter.  Soon after arriving home I fed it and promised to love it forever.  As I would have to discard a cup of the starter the next day anyways, I decided it was time to foray into sourdough once again.  This time, I would try King Arthur Flour's "Extra-Tangy Sourdough" to try and ensure I would have a sourdough.  Success!!!

While I wouldn't say this was a super sour loaf, but it did have that "tang" to it.  It definitely had an amazing texture and a good crust, so I have to give a shout out to Ann for giving me such an amazing starter.

But sadly, while I was cutting some bread to make croutons to put in my soup, I gave myself a pretty good cut on my thumb (don't we all?).

Extra-Tangy Sourdough
Adapted from: King Arthur Flour

  • 1 cup "fed" sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 5 cups unbleached AP flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  1. Combine the starter, water, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously.
  2. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, for about 12 hours.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, kneading to form a smooth dough.
  4. Allow the dough to rise in a covered bowl until it's relaxed, smoothed out, and risen. Depending on the vigor of your starter, it may become REALLY puffy, as pictured; or it may just rise a bit. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. Understand this: sourdough bread (especially sourdough without added yeast) is as much art as science; everyone's timetable will be different. So please allow yourself to go with the flow, and not treat this as an exact, to-the-minute process.
  5. Gently divide the dough in half.
  6. Gently shape the dough into two oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours. Don't worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they'll pick up once they hit the oven's heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  7. Spray the loaves with lukewarm water.
  8. Make two fairly deep horizontal slashes in each; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.
  9. Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's a very deep golden brown. Remove it form the oven, and cool on a rack.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Red Lentil Spinach Curry

Ladies, gentlemen and casual readers of my blog, I have officially made my first legitimate meal in my new kitchen!  What better meal to make than one that's smells linger for hours afterward - curry!  Rachel, my new roommate, came home about 3 hours after I had made the curry (and cleaned up) and proclaimed that the entire condo smelled wonderfully!  Win!

I originally had intended to make this after yoga on Wednesday, but it turns out that I was in too zen of a place and lacking tomato paste.  After a quick trip to Trader Joe's (the one that I can see from my patio) on the way back from running errands, I picked up some tomato paste, some Belgian raspberry beer, a hunk of fresh ginger and a double pack of tofu.  I had originally intended to make the shopping trip much more substantial, but my shopping list had other plans.  It laid itself to rest at the bottom of a Target shopping cart... I think.

Either way, this recipe is amazing.  I don't have too much experience cooking with lentils; out of all the varieties red lentils are the easiest to cook with.  Primarily they just don't take as long to cook, hence hurry curry.  Another bonus is that you probably have most of these ingredients somewhere buried in your cupboards.  However, if your curry powder was discovered in the back of your pantry... you might want to consider replacing it; curry powders go stale pretty fast.

Lentil Spinach Hurry Curry
Adapted from Kitchen Demure
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 ¼ cups water
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp of Garam Masala
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • A couple of handfuls of chopped spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a small to medium pan add the oil and the onions. Turn the heat to med/high and saute, stirring constantly until they soften a little.
  2. Add the garlic and the ginger and continue to stir. When the mixture is lightly golden, add the curry powder and stir for another 20 seconds or until you can smell the spices.
  3. Add the lentils and water and bring to a simmer. Let the lentils cook for 15-20 min.
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the spinach leaves and serve.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Caramel Pecan Layer Cake

Very slowly, but surely, I have been settling into Seattle.  I dropped my family off at the airport yesterday (a tremendously sad event) and have been trying to do things to fill my days since.  Being unemployed, the job hunt always continues, but you can't do that all the time!  My new roommate Rachel and I took a stroll around Green Lake... but don't ask me to tell what district it's in, I'm just getting a hang of that stuff!  But then we went to this wonderful vegetarian restaurant "Cafe Flora."  It is decorated so serenely; the center of one room has a small rock garden/waterfall complete with a bonsai tree while the walls are lined with bamboo.  The other room, which features the bar, was a little more lively.  But both sides serve their wonderful food.  Now, you're talking to someone who would ask to eat at Seva (an Ann Arbor vegetarian restaurant) every chance they got.  So it means a lot when I say this place was better than Seva!  The didn't have as wide of a range of dishes, but everything they make they appears to be made perfectly.  I personally got the black bean burger with caramelized onions with a side of yam fries.  I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.  The only reason it doesn't get five stars is because I have yet to eat something so good it literally knocks me off my seat.  But the burger... it has the perfect balance of flavor and spice.  It was spicy enough for me, but not so spicy that the flavors of the black beans and onions couldn't shine through.  I'm exited to go back and try other dishes.

But you're not here for  restaurant review... maybe you are... but the point of this post is cake!  Lots of cake for a wonderful person - my Grandma!  As I was moving (erm... now moved) to Seattle, I wouldn't be able to celebrate my Grandma's birthday on her actual birthday, so we surprised her with a party a month before hand!  As seen in a previous post, I made her cards, my sister gave her a book and a bookmark that she made and my mom presented her with a wind spinner she bought from the Ann Arbor Art Fair.  It was so nice to see someone so surprised and happy!  In my opinion, one of the best parts was the cake I also surprised her with.

It's from my new cookbook "More from Magnolia" (looking back, it's ironic because I now live in Magnolia) that I purchased from the Magnolia Bakery in New York City when I was there in early July.  I flipped though all the recipes and my mom and I decided a Caramel Pecan Layer Cake would be the best one for her.  She, and my mom, love caramel.  And toasted pecans.  And cake.  And cake in layers.  Obviously, there were no objections.  The cake was easy to make and better yet you had to make the frosting beforehand!

Caramel Pecan Layer Cake
Adapted from: More from Magnolia

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperture
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room tempture
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans
  1. Toast the pecans, place on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes... or until your whole house smells like pecans.  Keep oven at 350-degrees.
  2. Line two 10-inch spring form baking pans and grease.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the flours then set aside.  In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.  
  4. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy (3+ minutes).  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the dry ingredients, beat until all the ingredients are incorporated... but take caution to NOT over beat (this will create gluten and make the cake tough).  Scrape down batter into the bowl, making sure all the ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.  Let the layers cools in the pans for one hour.
  6. When the layers have cooled completely, ice the cake (recipe below).

Caramel Frosting Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, on the medium speed on an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.  
  2. Add the sugars and beat on low speed for 2 minutes.  
  3. Add the milk, syrup, and vanilla, and beat until smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes.  Store covered, at room temperature, overnight or up to 2 days.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

The rumors and whisperings in hushed hushed corners are true - I am now a resident of Seattle!  I'm living in the Magnolia district and my condo overlooks the Lake Washington Canal.  So far every morning I have woken up to the sound of seagulls and shipbells with the sunlight (it does exist here!) streaming in.  No complaints.  The condo is beautiful too. And the kitchen, OH, the kitchen!  Mahogany cupboards, marble counter tops... and all new appliances.  Pinch me, I'm in post-grad foodie heaven!

Sadly, I feel like it will take a while for me to get up and running in the kitchen at my new place.  I have a few recipes that I made in Michigan that have yet to be posed, this being one of them.  As most of you know, I started eating chicken at the beginning of the summer.  It was a hard decision to make, but has vastly improved my health.  Once I got comfortable with the idea of eating meat, I slowly began to cook more with it.  I'm still a little uneasy when working with a raw breast of chicken, but hopefully that will subside with time.  This chicken tortilla soup requires a shredded rotisserie chicken, some vegetables, spices and stock.  The pot that I used wasn't large enough for all the stock, so I gradually refilled the soup stored in the fridge with a little bit of stock.  Best part about this soup (other than that it tastes wonderful?) it that it heats up well and stores for a good length of time in the fridge.

Chicken Tortilla Soup 

Seasoning mix
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 cups onion, diced
  • 2 cups carrot, sliced
  • 2 cups zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cups green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 10-11 cups chicken stock
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup canned roasted green chilis
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (2-3 limes)

  • Monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • Tortilla chips
  • Cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Sour cream
  1. Combine all of the dry seasoning, mix and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter in a stockpot. Add a third of the onion, garlic and seasoning mix and sweat. After 7 minutes, add another third of the onions, garlic and seasoning mix and cook for another 7 minutes while stirring. Add the remaining onion, garlic and seasoning mix and cook for 7 minutes.
  3. Add the carrots and bell pepper and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, chicken stock and tomato sauce and stir. Cook for about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the corn, shredded chicken, zucchini, black olives, green chiles and stir to combine. Cook for another 25 minutes on medium heat.
  6. Add the lime juice and stir.
  7. To serve, ladle about 1 cup of soup into a warm bowl, sprinkle with cilantro sprigs, cheese, crushed corn chips, a dollop of sour cream (if desired) and a healthy squeeze of lime juice.


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