24 September 2007

Couple of Cupcakes

Yesterday I made cupcakes. I used the one-bowl chocolate cupcakes recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. I had issues with this recipe in the past and that's why I wanted to try it again. Overall, the results this time were better than before, but there are points that I would like to tweak in the future.

Follow me:

The batter is pretty runny, unlike the batters that are between runny and muffin batter, which I prefer. If you were to pour the batter from a spoon, it would flow like juice opposed to flowing like ribbons, or however it's supposed to flow.

You have to only fill these two-thirds full unless you want it to overflow in a volcano-like mess. I filled these probably a little too much, though it worked out fine because I didn't overfill it to the extent I did in my pre-blog era. This is where I'd tweak it, decreasing the water slightly to make a somewhat thicker batter and to decrease the amount. It was supposed to yield 2 dozen, but I got 26 and enough extra to fill all the cups a little more. I couldn't use another tin since I only have one oven. (In my dream kitchen I want two restaurant-style ovens with gas burners.)

I blurred out the brand name of my toaster oven enough so that I cover any legal troubles.
Just kidding, that was unintentional.

In this picture, you see the baked cupcakes that have risen quite nicely, extending over the holes enough to add character without saying that I'm a horrid baker.

What you are looking at to the left is pretty much self-explanatory -- the cupcakes outside of the tin.

And if you noticed, it's sunken a bit. That's because the recipe says to switch the tins on the top to the bottom rack of the oven halfway through baking. I've never had success doing so, which is why I waited until later on in the baking time, nearish the end. It didn't work. I think my oven is too creaky and "bumps" when I closed the door that resulted in fallen cupcakes. And maybe it's me. I should have left well enough alone since it was baking nicely anyway.

I wanted to really go all the way with these cupcakes, so I made a simple vanilla buttercream frosting (actually, half butter, half Smart Balance shortening). I don't think I added enough vanilla extract because it kind of sort of just tasted sweet. But still good. Since I don't like too-sweet things. It came out really well, smooth and thick.

Does this picture look better?

These are half of the frosted cupcakes. (Frosted sounds better than iced -- I picture trees at Christmastime "frosted" with snow.) I dolloped some frosting in the middle and spread outwards, keeping a mound in the middle and thinning it out a bit at the edges. My aim was to create swirls on top. Don't they look nice? I could have stopped there, but did I? NOOOOOO.

I wanted to make them even prettier by drizzling MELTED CHOCOLATE... on top... OH yeAH!!!! (I'm "yelling" now...)

This is a close-up on an individual cupcake. MY cupcake, the cupcake I would eventually eat. It's pretty, and I like the peak of frosting at the tippy-top that was happened to be perfectly topped with drizzled chocolate. I didn't do that on purpose. If I tried to do so, it would have failed. That's just how I am.

This really reminds me of a ballerina's tutu. That's why I took this picture, and that's why I almost didn't eat it, it was so pretty. But... it occurred to me that the cupcake was DEAD. So I ate it. After this:

After I took the innards shot, that is. Can you see the billowyness of the frosting? And the cupcake was very moist.

My overall thoughts were that the frosting seemed to overpower the cupcake, because when I took a bite all I could taste was the sweetness of the frosting. Maybe I didn't redistribute it properly. Also, when I took a bite of the top edge, it kind of took away from the textural taste because it was between crunchy and soft, but not quite rubbery. Most likely a result of overcooking a bit and accidentally keeping them in the tins too long.

I had fun making these and I'll bake something soon so I can share it with you all again. :)

22 September 2007

Everest Biscuits

I have a request for my biscuit recipe. I want everyone to be able to make stellar biscuits and I hope you'll try this recipe.

Print this recipe

Rumford Baking Powder Biscuits
Recipe from the back of a Rumford Baking Powder tin

Ingredients -

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2/3 cup shortening (I use Smart Balance)
1 1/3 cup milk
(you might need a little more milk to make it cohesive enough to shape)

Directions -
  1. Heat oven to 425˚. If you have cast iron skillets, put about a tablespoon of shortening each in 3 10-inch skillets and place in the oven to heat while preparing the dough. I use a 10 1/2-inch, an 8 1/2-inch, and a 6-inch skillet because that's what I have. If you don't have any cast iron skillets, grease a large cookie sheet and set aside. Or, use the cast iron skillet and a cookie sheet if you haven't enough skillets.

  2. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. Cut in shortening until mixture is like coarse corn meal (if some pea-size chunks remain, that's okay). Add milk, stirring it in quickly with a fork, to form a soft dough. (If a large portion of the dough is still crumbly and not dough-like, add a tablespoon or so more of milk.

  3. Turn dough out onto lightly-floured surface; knead about 1/2 minute. Roll 1/2 inch thick, or slightly taller (Update: To get the height you might want to pat the dough out to about 3/4" or even 1". Also, baking them close together sort of helps them "grab hold" of something and bake up instead of out.); cut with 2-inch cutter dipped in flour (I use both a 2-inch and a 1 1/2-inch cutter). Place fairly close together in the skillets or on the cookie sheet (about 1/4" apart) (you can also brush the tops with melted butter if you like) bake about 12 minutes. Serve hot.


Randomness and Peach Salsa

This is the post where I put pictures of foods I have eaten but didn't give a separate post. And a running update at the end.

Stellar peach salsa with homemade pita chips. The recipe, which I will include, is really simple and very versatile with the ingredients. There wasn't any single flavor, but rather it was as salsa should be, which is all the flavors melding and complimenting each other. Even the skeptics ("Okay, what should I pretend the peaches are?") were highly impressed.

This has to be the best snack I ever bought. It's coconut-flavored rice crackers from my local oriental market where I buy my rice from. It cost 79¢ for a 5 oz. bag. The texture of the rice isn't like regular rice cakes, which can be chewy. Rather, these were thoroughly crispy. I could taste the coconut because I've eaten unsweetened coconut before and made a note of the flavor, otherwise it might not taste much like it if you're used to sweet coconut. There is sugar, just not very much (it's listed in the ingredients list but not in the nutrition facts under "sugar"). The square-like crackers has a powdery coating that makes it not entirely eat-in-the-car-while-you-should-be-driving friendly, though if you don't care about that, or the fact it might get all over the car if one isn't careful, I swear it's better than chips and you should get it, because this was on the verge of sweet and seemingly savory without a salty taste.

What you see there is exactly what you think it is -- a hunk of beef. This was just seasoned and rubbed with a little tomato paste (I think), then cooked over low heat with a little water added for a couple of hours. The result was a tender, falling apart-as-you-cut-it chunk of beef with very flavorful beef broth. Perfect taco filling with warm corn tortillas with salsa verde on top.

**Running Update**

I've been doing the 5 minutes running, 2 1/2 walking x4 this past week, but on Wednesday I started getting a bit discouraged at the whole thing. Sooo... On Friday I decided to give my ego a boost and just run 3 miles. And I mean run, well, slow jog, basically I'm not walking. I finished 23 seconds over 30 minutes. That's pretty good for not running in four months, though this wasn't about the time, I was just letting myself know I still have it and I'm not terribly far off from where I was.

I might run today, though I might not. If I don't today I will tomorrow, back to my regularly scheduled run.

Print this recipe

Peach Salsa
Recipe by Christina Provo

Ingredients -

3 large peaches, peeled, pitted, chopped
1/4 c. finely diced red bell pepper (I used green)
1/4 c. chopped red onion (I used white)
2 TB fresh lime juice
2 TB chopped fresh cilantro (I forgot the cilantro but it didn't ruin it)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded (minced is optional)
(I added a can of rinsed black beans)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions -
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and serve immediately (or can be refrigerated up to 2 days).

Possible Uses:
-spoon over grilled fish or shrimp or sauteed w/ scallops
-spoon over toasted baguette slices w/ cream cheese or goat cheese
-use w/ chips as a dip!

16 September 2007

Chicken and Beef

But not together. Although I have made beef and turkey meatballs and it was fine.

On Friday I made chicken cacciatore. One of the cooking clubs I'm a part of had this recipe and although it wasn't the week for it, I had chicken and wanted to make it.

I really like the colors of this dish

I didn't use as many bell peppers as the recipe called for because one was hidden in the back of my fridge, so I thought I had already used it. (Which is why I'm making it again this week.) I also used baby portobello mushrooms because I prefer the taste over regular mushrooms. You couldn't really taste it, but it's flavor melded together with everything else. The chicken I didn't coat in flour before browning because I don't think it's necessary. It was tender, the sauce was wonderfully seasoned (I added a little more oregano and some whole capers), and although I didn't have any fresh basil and forgot to add dry basil, it didn't mess it up (that's Italian parsley on top). There was a slight nip from the red peppers that I really enjoyed. I served this with fettucini and next time I'm making a salad to have before it.

On Friday I made beef stew with biscuits. This again was seasoned properly and had essence of whatever red wine I used and coffee, plus the herbs and such. The broth didn't taste like Campbell's canned tomato soup but a robust broth that perfectly suits stew. The ratio of beef to vegetables was perfect, as I don't like too much beef.

The recipe I use for biscuits is a baking powder version off the back off a large Rumford Baking Powder tin. This recipe is amazing, as I've never made biscuits that aren't light, fluffy, tall, and crispy on the outside. No dense hockey pucks here! I made this with Smart Balance shortening because I don't prefer to ingest large amounts of trans fat (or any amount, really, but sometimes I do). I'll type out the recipe in another post because I very much want you all to give this a go and tell me what you think.


13 September 2007

Blueberry Doughnuts and Wannabes

On Labor Day, I went over to the Blueberry Festival because they have homemade blueberry doughnuts. The ice cream was not homemade or I would also have gotten that.

The entrance from the neighborhood

After walking around for one minute, I located the doughnut booth.


I tried to get a picture of the doughnut-making machine, but one of the ladies in the front had a minor freak-out so I wasn't able stand there and try to get a good picture. Hey lady, thanks for nothing.

If my memory is working properly, a dozen was around $8.

I couldn't wait to get home to try one, so I didn't. The doughnuts were fresh, which means it was very soft and hadn't completely set yet. I could still tell it was moist and cakey, but unlike some cake doughnuts it wasn't overly dense (even after it set it still wasn't too dense). One of my issues with it was that when you bit into it, grease oozed out. You could kind of taste greasiness. If you smushed it between your fingers, you could see it. (It wasn't as bad as it could have been, just a subtle essence of grease that didn't detract... Well, it did detract because I couldn't help but notice it and talk about it this much.) The other issue was the flavor. It wasn't so sweet that it stuck with you for hours and sapped all traces of moisture from your mouth, but it lacked any discernible blueberry taste. Did I mention it's a blueberry doughnut? I have? It didn't taste like it. Liars. They lied to me, they're a liar!

A good doughnut, but I wouldn't go out of my way to get more. Those blueberry bits are a mockery.

The other day, I had half of Krispy Kreme's blueberry cake doughnut. Oh boy, it was the polar opposite! In both looks and taste. Overly sweet, horrid artificial blueberry taste that sticks with you until you brush your teeth or eat something savory, and just nasty. So if you want a blueberry doughnut, don't go to Krispy Kreme unless you care not about moisture-sucking sweet artificialness.

**Running Update**

My run/walk went a bit smoother this time, very enjoyable. I'm keeping a close watch over how my leg feels because I'm overly paranoid. (It has a dull throb a few hours after, but it might be from working it out again.)

Besides running, I'm trying to learn how to do a handstand. (If you read the last post you'll know why I'm banning myself from doing it inside until I have control over it.) I'm coming along, even made it up for 2 seconds on Tuesday. I wonder if that's why my lower back hurts a bit.

11 September 2007

September 11 2007

I don't want today to pass without making a post specifically in honor of 9-11.

I really can't believe that six years have passed since this happened. What happened should never be forgotten and neither should all those who passed away and gave their life while trying to help.

I pray that the families connected to all the victims have peace in their lives.

I am proud to be living in the United States of America. With all the problems we face, I'm thankful to not be living under a regime that controls every facet of how I live to the point that I fear leaving my house.


Art Beat Fooding, Part Deux

I had a little internet trouble last week and my post was delayed.

After the Art Beat ended at 2030 (seriously -- why? Would it really be that hard to end it at 2100? That's South Bend for you.), I headed over to Polito's.

It's open

I hadn't been there in a very long time and I was looking forward to a slice of their thin crust with anchovies.

Look, see the grease? I didn't remember that.

Something seemed different, and I don't know what exactly it was. The crust seemed different, more doughy than usual and not holey. Maybe I just became used to my pizza crust and I was comparing it too much.

They have nice TVs and Polito's and I watched the Colts-Saints game.

Underside looks preeetty!

Back at home, I tasted the two mini desserts I bought from the Ciao's table. I don't have anything to say about it so I'm saying nothing. But the picture looks nice.

Chocolate mousse on the left, tiramisu on the right.

**Running update**

I am now on my first run/walk week. I'm going out four days a week for thirty minutes, 6 minutes running, two minutes, x5. Good stuff, but I have forgotten how to run a bit!

It's very good that I don't believe in omens, because on the first day (yesterday) I passed a dead deer and on the way back I found the penny, this time heads up, that I saw tails up the first week I started walking. (I just realized that I don't know where I put the penny.)

Not having anything to do with "omens", when I was slicing the potatoes I set the knife down. But the bad knife didn't stay put and fell. When I looked down I said this, "Whew! Look how close that was to my foot!" Then, on my big toe and the toe next to it, on my right foot, blood started spewing out. Fortunately, it wasn't very deep. Numero uno on my cooking idiocracies list. Theeen, as I was speeding through my kitchen to get ingredients out for making a microwave cake, I WHAAAAACKED my knee cap on the edge of the refrigerator. My right knee cap. Remember folks, my right leg was the injured leg. I started laughing, somewhat like a lunatic. For a long time. After which, I sang Barney songs.

Fast forward to this morning. I fell onto a tray with papers while attempting a handstand (later on, outside that time, I did a handstand for 2 seconds -- w00tzorz!), bruised and bumped my left knee cap, before knocking my coffee cup into the trash can. This was all very hilarious!

I'm really not... well, maybe I am crazy and strange! I'd rather be like that than be super normal. =D

P.S., I apologize for the yellow tint in the pictures in last post's pictures. I don't know why that is but I will find out how I did that.

That's all, folks!


07 September 2007

Art Beat Fooding, Part 1

I'm splitting this between two posts because I can't do cuts.

Beignets, gelato, pizza, and mini desserts. Lovely dinner!

First stop was the Chicory Cafe for their beignets and gelato. It was really busy due to the Art Beat and it was open mic. Whoever the two guys were, they sang really well.

Side entrance

Part of the menu

First things thing first, I got one of the last tables there and then took come pictures of the gelato case.

See the third section on the top to the right? Spiced something Fig.
I think the middle is honey.

Right side. The Kiwi Lime sorbetto must be a favorite. I'll try it next time.

I decided to start with beignets. An order consist of three small pieces with a blizzard of powdered sugar for $1.75. For me, it was just the right amount so as to avoid the rolling-out-of-my-chair effect.

Order's up! They bring it to your table for you.

Dip each bite in powdered sugar for sweetness.

The beignet featured crunchy outtards, with nice, chewy, doughy, holey innards. Great mouth feel, but not sweet. I actually liked the fact that the dough wasn't sweet. However, I wanted sweetness so I dipped each bite in the powdered sugar. Perfect and not too sweet! Oh, they make them to order and these weren't greasy. (More about that in a later post.)


An empty feeling came over me. :(

Now it was time for gelato. The taste of the Spiced Something Fig was good, but as I didn't feel like anything with spice I ordered the White Chocolate Raspberry. A small, about 4 oz, was $2.50.

To-go cup of White Chocolate Raspberry

Their was a pleasant tartness but not very strong raspberry taste. I remember having the Häagen-Dazs raspberry sorbet and it had an intense raspberry flavor. As in milk chocolate, where the milk sort of dulls the chocolate-ness, the same could be said for gelato. I SAY NO! I also tasted ice crystals in a few of the bites. The white chocolate, though, was really... not like white chocolate. It had a salty-ish taste and the texture was a bit gluey, as if mixed with something to keep it from freezing. I tried to stay away from it but a little was involuntarily mixed with the raspberry bites, and it was overpowering the raspberry flavor. I would not get this again.

I can't comment on the texture because I don't really know what the consistency of good gelato should taste like. This was creamy, though.

Part 2 coming up.

Chicory Cafe
105 East Jefferson Blvd
Suite 103
South Bend, IN 46601


06 September 2007

Busy, Busy

I have a backlog of posts I meant to post, as well as pictures to accompany them, but I've been busty and have either been too tired or ... busy! So, most of the posts coming up will be from the past.

Workouts Update:

Week 2 is almost at a close! I'm very excited, but also nervous because I don't want a repeat of May. The walks have been pleasant and (because I have to keep a note of time and distance -- not always the best to do) I'm covering a little more than 2 miles in 30 minutes. (I once walked 3 miles in 30 minutes. For real. I don't think I'd ever want to do that again.) The weather is nice and today it's especially nice. I have three more walks, including today, until I'm finished.

Oh, later today I'm going to South Bend's Art Beat and will be fooding at Chicory Café, tasting their beignets and gelato. Therefore, my next post will be about that and the posts after from the past. Do I confuse you!? [insert sly tone, with look of pleasure - I like confusion!!! No, I don't.]

I'm looking forward to the gelato because the last I had tasted like foamy straw. And the waitress said it was low-lat. Which is why we eat so much of it. I prefer Chicory Café's description:
"What's gelato?

True Italian ice cream. It has no added air whipped in, so it weighs twice as much as most ice creams. Because of the density, it is amazingly creamy. It's made with true, raw ingredients...nothing artificial"
Sweet stuff, right there! They also have sorbetto!
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