Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Posts of 2011

As it is the last day of 2011, and I can't be the only one thinking WHERE did this last year go, I don't want to be the only blogger left without a recap post. As I don't think I have the time or willpower to mill though every post of the last year and give you a DVD style commentary, I'll post readers most popular posts of the last year.

As the day winds down and 2012 is creeping around the corner, here it goes. The top posts 10 of 2011 as decided by the internet (and reported by Google):

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Triple Chocolate Strawberry Cake

This recipe is brought to you by the friendly skies, courtesy of Delta Airlines and the generosity of my dad's frequent flyer miles. I'm totally lying about Delta Airlines, they have no idea who I am. The fact that I am currently writing this post at, oh, about 36,965 feet in the air somewhere over South Dakota (thank you in-seat monitor!) is due to my ol' pops lending me a few thousand air miles so I could make it home for Christmas. This post is not brought to you by the man across the asile watching Twilight or the overly touchy-feely couple next to me. Nope. Not at all.

I'm slowly but surely getting into the Christmas spirit. I would like to think my journey down jolly lane began somewhere in West Seattle sitting in a second-run theater watching a slightly askew showing of "A Very Muppet Christmas". Not only was I good Seattelite and donated a massive bag of dog food to the Humane Society of Seattle (there are more dogs than kids in the city, it's obvious who we love more) but I also roped two of my closest friends into going with me. We left the theater feeling spirited, mainly due to the excitement of the hundreds of children surrounding us, and my skin is losing its green tint and I think my heart has grown at least 1.25 sizes. The last part may be because of holiday food but let us pretend it's from Christmas and going back to the Midwest for the first time in a year.

While I may still be working up to celebrating Christmas, I was surely in the celebratory spirit last weekend.  One of my best friends from not only high school, but also college, now lives in Seattle with her boyfriend (also an alum of BHS and Michigan) doing the whole AmeriCorps thing. I can't be the first one to say it's always nice to have a piece of your upbringing in your new home. As her birthday falls at the end of December, she rarely is able to have a birthday party, let alone in the company of twenty plus people. Her boyfriend came up with the idea to throw her an early surprise birthday party with me at the helm helping spread the word. While I guess actually having people at the party is pretty important, I personally think having the perfect cake is crucial.

Casually bringing up the topic of cake at our weekly girls Glee night earlier in the week, the birthday girl in question explained to here that there can be no such thing as too much chocolate. Ever. Triple chocolate diabetic-shock ice cream? Bring it. Girl hath no fear. So I made the most ridiculously over the top chocolate cake. Dark chocolate cake PLUS dark chocolate almond whipped ganache PLUS a dark chocolate cake collar.


Oh, and it was pretty cool that a lot of people showed up too the party too. And that 'A' turned 24. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Dark Chocolate Cake
Adapted fron Ina Garten

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup strong black coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper. 
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking power and salt. Mix together.
  3. In a small glass, milk almond milk and vinegar together with a fork. Allow to sit for a few minutes until almond milk starts to "curdle." (Note: if this doesn't need your cake to be dairy-free, use 1 cup of buttermilk).
  4. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until they begin to froth. Whisk in almond milk mixture, coffee, vegetable oil and vanilla extract.
  5. With mixer running, slowly add in liquid mixture until completely incorporated, taking care not to overbeat the batter.
  6. Divide better evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until tester is inserted into the middle of the cake and comes out clean. When done, leave in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn the cakes out onto a wire rack until completely cool. Frost as desired.

Whipped Dark Chocolate Ganache
This recipe is incredibly flexible. I always do equal parts chocolate and almond milk but you can adjust the ratio to suit your ganache consistency tastes.

  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 200g almond milk

  1. Chop dark chocolate and place in a medium heatproof bowl.
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat almond milk until it starts to boil. Keep on eye on it - it tends to boil over when it's not being watched.
  3. Pour heated almond milk over chopped chocolate and let it sit for one minute. Whisk together until uniform and smooth. Allow to cool completely (I sometimes use my fridge and freezer to speed to up).
  4. When cooled, use a whisk or whisk attachment on a mixer and beat until light in color and the texture of mousse. 
  5. Use as desired on cake.

As this was the first time I've ever made a cake collar (I think it turned out pretty decent!), I'll direct your attention to a site that does a much better job explaining the process than I ever could. Here you go.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tomato-Olive Stuffing

Sometimes it's hard to get into the holiday spirit and I guess this would be one of those times. As a girl from Michigan who was frequently spoiled rotten with a fresh blanket of flakes every few days in December, the adjustment to holiday weather in Seattle has been less than jolly. How am I supposed to feel Christmas in my fingers and my toes when it's a balmy 45 degrees and  the ground is damp with freshly fallen rain drops? Bah! HUMBUG!  

Tonight I went for a long walk by all the fancy houses in Queen Anne while listening to my favorite podcast's holiday episodes. I took pictures of silly houses and a decked out Space Needle! My cheeks got rosy! I even had to put gloves on…  Eventually, I felt some of the spirit slip through me, but I don't have the same urge as in years past to listen to non-stop Christmas music from the day after Thanksgiving to the evening of the 25th. I think I might be broken.

No matter, I am preforming some self-therapy and forcing myself to listen to Sufjan Stevens' Christmas album and throwing in the classic Bing Crosby for good measure too. I might even see what holiday offerings Netflix has. No matter what, when I fly into Michigan a week from now, I will be jollier than the man in red himself!

Regardless of if you're a little like me or you're pacifically one of Santa's elves, I'd like to think this stuffing is perfect for the holidays. I personally made it for Friendsgiving (which was ironically a week after real Thanksgiving), which is my mind is one of the greatest holidays of them all! Friends, lots of wine, more food than we know what to do with and college football playoffs? HECK YES! We know how much I love Friendsgiving so we should move onto the stuffing… it's amazing. Completely out of left field and out of the ordinary amazing. After poking around the internet for a few days looking for a stuffing recipe that didn't make me think of a 1950's Christmas television special, I finally came across something that didn't just call for butter and bread. No no, this had olives, tomatoes and rosemary, oh my! Even though I'm positive tomatoes aren't the least bit in season in Seattle, I was able to find a beautiful box of cherry tomatoes ready for roasting.

While Thanksgiving has passed, Christmas is fast approaching.  If you need a dish that reminds you of far-off flavors but in the comfort of your home, look no further. And hey, we can pretend it's totally healthy because it has vegetables in it and stuff.

Tomato-Olive Stuffing
Adapted from The Bitten Word

  • 1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (approx. 8 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking dish
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
  • 2 large celery stalks, diced medium
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup roughly chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in middle and lower thirds. On two rimmed baking sheets, arrange bread in a single layer. Toast until dry and pale golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool. 
  2. Meanwhile, lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and cook, stirring frequently, until onion and celery are softened, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, rosemary and red-pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add parsley, eggs, and bread; stir to combine. Add broth in two additions, stirring until absorbed after each addition. Season generously with salt and pepper and transfer stuffing to dish. Bake on middle rack until deep golden brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. 
  4. Great for leftovers, both hot or cold!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Moroccan-ish Carrot Salad

For the past few weeks months my CSA box has been overloaded with carrots.  We're not even talking your standard large orange carrots that cartoon bunnies nibble on, oh no. I have never seen, let alone cooked with, such colorful carrots in my entire life. White ones, purple speckled ones, rainbow bunches and tie-dye ones. I'm totally lying about the last one, but that would be pretty cool except I'm not so sure I'd want to know about the science that brought my hippie carrots.

I had thought I exhausted all the uses for the common carrot. Roasted? Check. Pureed into a variety of soups? Triple check. Gnawed up raw? Yep. In a carrot only salad? No… or at least not until a few weeks ago. I saw this recipe somewhere on the Internet a few weeks back and was excited to finally have a new use for my overflowing collection of carrots. Even better was I didn't have to turn on the oven and cause the heat to rise in my apartment to unbearable levels. That's the curse of having a 400 square foot studio and an incredibly powerful convection oven - the temperature of the oven is pretty representative of the temperature in my apartment. I guess worse things have happened in the world.

While I was pretty happy with this Moroccan-ish carrot salad, there are a few things I would have changed.  First off, I don't know if this was my or the recipes error, but I thought the carrots were a tad too firm. The smaller cuts were perfectly tender but some of the larger ones were nearly impossible to penetrate with a fork. As you might imagine, some carrots were leaping off the plate in my attempt to trap then within my tines. Second, I thought carrots alone were a little bland and there wan an excessing of dressing. My remedy was throwing it upon a bed of lettuce and calling it dinner. All in all, good & healthy salad.

Moroccan-ish Carrot Salad
Adapted from Crumb

  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp each cumin and caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp spicy paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful mint leaves, chopped
  • Handful crumbled goat cheese
  • Romaine lettuce

  1. Blanch the carrots for 2 minutes (note: I would increase the blanching time) in a large pot of boiling water, then plunge into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. Once the carrots are completely cooled, drain and transfer to a pretty salad bowl.
  2. Using a dry skillet, toast the cumin and caraway over high heat for about 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Grind into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
  3. Combine the cumin and caraway mixture with the paprika and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and honey. Whisk until blended, then pour over the carrots and toss to coat. Set aside to the flavors meld, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. When ready, serve over romaine lettuce and sprinkle salad with handfuls of chopped mint and crumbled feta.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup

The soup has some serious heat and had the same magical powers as pho.  Remember how you feel the need to eat a whole bowl of pho every time you sense a sniffle or start covering coughs? I do. It's made even worse, or better(?), by the fact that there is a pho shop less than a mile away from me. And there isn't even that big of a hill to walk up on the way back. Too bad I don't think unemployment supports a pho-a-day habit so well. Good thing I know my way around a kitchen and can make things that are just as good, if not better, than what I was caving. Well, except Fro-Yo… if I knew how to make that you'd have to lift me out of my apartment window.

When the boy and I made this for dinner a few weeks ago, I can safely say it was the least sexy meal ever. We were both dealing with the consequences the sniffles a la jalapeño & chipotle. For anyone who has had pho, you know that this is the end goal. You want to be cleaned out and warmed up. These minor symptoms of hot soup shouldn't take away from the fact that this soup is delicious. Even more so, I was finally able to use up the butternut squash from my CSA's and fend off a winter cold. BONUS POINTS!

I would advise against eating this soup in the summer, that just might be considered torture.

Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from uTry

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small leek, use white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced and rinsed
  • well
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced
  • 1 Granny Smith (green) apple, cored, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 pounds Butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut
  • into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pound red yam, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 cups chicken/vegetable stock
  • 1 medium chipotle chili (canned in adobo sauce),
  • can substitute with 1 tablespoon of chipotle spice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup pepitas 

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute garlic, leek, carrots and onion until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add apple, ginger and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Add butternut squash, yam and stock; simmer until squash and yam are tender, about 15 minutes. Add chipotle or chipotle spice.
  3. Puree using an immersion blender (or a standard blender, in batches).
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dollop teaspoon of pepitas right before serving.


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