Friday, February 27, 2009

Naked Chocolate Cafe - spiced hot chocolate and cheesecake

So this year, a cute little dessert cafe opened up a block from school.

It's one of those places that's mildly irritating because it's trying too hard to be European. But I do like it, though, since it's all about the dessert and drinks, and so very few cafes are like that anymore. And if nothing else, it's a close-by place to get European-style hot chocolate - the kind that is basically like a bar of chocolate in a cup. I enjoyed it so much in Italy and Spain, and now I have it in my own backyard.

My cup of spiced hot chocolate. They're not kidding when they say "spiced." It's got a kick! It was like drinking chocolate-covered red hots. Really great on a cold day, I have to admit.

And my little mini-cheesecake. It was airy, tall, and tasty. No complaints from me.

I'll be coming back for the hot chocolate, if nothing else.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Remix bento (16)

Yep, another one that I never posted. This one is made up entirely of leftovers.

On the right, slices of cucumber and pieces of pineapple and a cherry tomato.

On the left, leftovers from the previous night's dinner: rice and fu zhu stew (fu zhu is dried tofu skin - it tastes a lot better than the translation makes it sound). I stuck a cherry tomato in the middle of the rice to make it look less visually boring. Yes, I take those kinds of things into consideration!

In the middle, sliced bits of corn from the previous night's dinner - we had corn on the cob, so I just took a knife and ran it down the cob to take off the corn kernels. Also, leftovers from lunch at a sushi restaurant - two pieces of spinach sushi, one piece of takuan sushi, and half of an inari-zushi. Also a cherry tomato for a gap-filler.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Cinnamon Swirl bread

I made some cinnamon swirl bread from a recipe out of Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home To Yours, one of my favorite cookbooks.

So here you have the mise en place. (I don't do this as religiously as I should. I normally just grab stuff out of the cabinets as I need it, but I'm trying to reform...)

This dough is very... wet. Incorporating the flour:

This is a yeast-based bread dough, which means that it requires some form of kneading, wet or not. For those of us without stand mixers, this means some old-fashioned elbow grease, beating and beating the darn thing with a wooden spoon.

It's actually quite a workout because the dough starts to bind and cling to itself and resist you (as yeast doughs do). Like so:

Eventually, you will be rewarded with a dough ball. Which you cover and let sit so it can rise.

Unfortunately, I made this in the middle of winter and my house is cold. I was dumb and I should've put the dough in my oven (with the temperature on low), but I just left it and forgot about it. It didn't rise as well as it should've! Oh well.

Sprinkling on the cinnamon and sugar and rolling the dough up:

Roll all that and tuck it into a loaf pan, and let it rise some more.

And despite having a not-very-well-risen dough, the bread still came out beautifully.

This bread is excellent with some sweet butter. And leftovers are great for French toast, too.

Thank you, Dorie! You never fail me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Spicy Peanut noodles

This recipe comes from Moosewood Restaurant, which is a pretty well-known vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY. They have a slew of vegetarian-friendly cookbooks,but you can find some of their recipes online, including this one, which I kind of bastardized for my own purposes.

First, boiling the linguine noodles in my rice cooker. You don't have to worry about breaking the noodles (unless you like shorter noodles), just let them sit in the water for a minute, and then the bottom half will get soft, and you can push the top half down into the water.

I also used the steamer basket on my rice cooker to steam some broccoli while the noodles cooked.

Chopping the broccoli:

Whisking the sauce together. Peanut butter, warm water, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil, and red pepper flakes.

Cutting the cucumber. Half the cucumber vertically, then scoop out the seeds. Cut out slices horizontally, and you have little half-moon cucumber pieces.

Aaand that's basically it. Once the noodles are cooked, the rest is assembly. I cubed some extra firm tofu, and tossed that with the sauce, cucumbers, and noodles. (Drain the noodles, but don't rinse them cold - the sauce will stick better to the unrinsed noodles.) I tossed the broccoli in a quick marinade of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and minced ginger.

Plated up:

The original recipe didn't call for tofu, but I thought that added more... substance? Especially since I don't eat these noodles with anything else but broccoli. The peanut sauce goes great with the tofu, so I really do recommend adding that in. Buon appetito!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sweet Potato pancakes

Pancakes are actually super easy to make. If you have the time to make them out of Bisquick mix, you definitely have the time to make them from scratch. And when you do that, you can tweak the recipe as you like.

So take a large baked sweet potato and scoop out the insides.

Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, sugar).

Pour together the wet ingredients (buttermilk, eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla and cinnamon and nutmeg if you like).

After combining the dry and the wet, fold in the sweet potato.

All pancake instructions say to wait until you see bubbles and the edges start to look dry before flipping. Listen to those instructions. That's exactly what happens. Like so:

Whoo hoo. Big stack of pancakes, ready for serving.

You don't need me to tell you to use real maple syrup, do you? You don't, because all you need to do is look at the ingredient list of those big name "maple syrup" brands and see high fructose corn syrup listed as a primary ingredient to see why. Look at the bottle next time, and buy the brand that only has 1 ingredient listed: maple syrup. Who would've thought?