A Scarf for Ryan – Update #2

So, I’ve been neglecting my knitting.  Thank goodness it is way too hot for Ryan to be wearing a scarf any time soon.  One of the really nice things about the pattern that I am using for this scarf is that it is incredibly easy to put down and pick up again weeks later without worrying about what you left off on.  And once you get going again, you can make a lot of progress very quickly.

The scarf so far:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Experimentation

I made a trip to Vosges to pick up some chocolates. You can buy these at some grocery stores but if you have the chance to actually go to one of their stores, do it. My plan was to pick up some bars so that I could make some chocolate chip cookies. The idea was to use a basic recipe and then substitute one of the bars for a Vosges bar.
First on the list: Mo’s Bacon Bar.  I got the dark chocolate variety.  Second on the list:  I wanted something a bit less crazy.  I decided on the Organic Peanut Butter Bonbon bar.  And now, it was time to bake.

I decided to use a recipe that I had already used and that had worked well for me before.  I chose to use the Martha Stewart Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that I had previously blogged about.  You can find the recipe here.   As I wrote when I baked/blogged this recipe previously, I wanted to try dividing up the brown sugar amounts so that it was half light brown and half dark brown.  I gave that a try this time.  My thinking was that the extra molasses flavor would pair well with the added bars.

I worked through the recipe as normal until it was time to add the chocolate chips.  At this time, I divided the batter into two batches.  (In case they didn’t turn out well, I did not want to be stuck with piles of bacon chocolate chip cookies.)  In each batch, I added one cup of semisweet chocolate chips.  Then I cut the bar for that batch into small pieces and folded it in as well.  Then I put them in the oven and crossed my fingers.

The finished batches:

Bacon-chocolate-chip cookies actually turned out to be pretty delicious.  They are very chocolatey and have just a slight smokey taste.  There really isn’t much of a bacon taste, though.  If I were to do this again, I might just only use the bacon bars and might add in a bit of maple flavor.  Perhaps, this could become a breakfast cookie.  Mmmmmmm.  Cookies for breakfast.

Bacon-Chocolate-Chip Cookies

The peanut-butter-bonbon-chocolate-chip cookies are actually really really good.  I wish that you could smell them through the computer.  There is something quite intoxicating about the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  And yet the peanut butter taste is not very strong in this cookie.  It almost has more of a sesame taste than a peanut taste.  Next time, I might try this bar in a peanut butter cookie recipe so that it is really really peanut buttery.

Peanut-Butter-Chocolate-Chip cookies

Although experimenting while baking can have very poor results, this experiment has made me begin to think outside of the box with my future baking.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

When I was younger, I hated asparagus. I hated hated hated asparagus. It wasn’t until Ryan and I started dating that I was able to begin to overcome my feelings toward asparagus. Ryan roasted some asparagus in the first meal that he made for me. And that was the beginning of a new world for me and asparagus to live in.

We recently joined a CSA and our first delivery had some rather nice looking asparagus in it. I saw a salad in the May 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living that used shaved asparagus. You don’t have to even turn on the oven! Since it is really really hot out and we don’t have central air conditioning, any food that doesn’t require added heat is fine by me.

To prepare the salad, you snap off the ends of the asparagus spears and then use a vegetable peeler to shave it into ribbons. Please note, this is a lot easier said than done.  If our asparagus had been thicker it might have worked out better.  I alternated between using a vegetable pealer and using a small mandolin to try to shave the asparagus into ribbons.  Once you have shaved the asparagus into ribbons, then you toss the ribbons with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper. One of the goals that I have established for myself is to work on my improvisational skills in the kitchen.  (This is one of the reasons that I bake far more often than I cook.  Baking basically requires that you don’t improvise.)  So, instead of the shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese that was used in the magazine’s recipe, I topped it with some toasted almonds for a little bit of crunch.  I’m sure that the cheese would also taste very good but the almonds were also incredibly delicious.

It is a really tasty salad.  The lemons that I had were very fragrant and lemony.  I added quite a bit of pepper and I recommend doing that if you are going to try this salad.

Best way to learn about a city? Eat cupcakes!

When it became official that my little sis was going to visit us for about a week during the summer, I immediately started planning what we could do.  I knew that the week would involve eating lots of food.  Originally, the plan had been to go on a cupcake crawl to the many bakeries in my neighborhood.  However, my lil’ sister and I are actually a bit smarter than that.  Instead of piling on tons of baked goods in one day and never making it through the rest of the visit, we decided to try to go to a different bakery each day.

And so, I give you Big Sis/Lil’ Sis bakery tour:

Bakery #1 – Lutz Bakery.

This worked out rather nicely as Lutz had just had a Groupon.  Yay for Groupon!  Yay for snacks at Lutz! In addition to being a really great deal since we had a Groupon to use, Lutz is one of those bakeries that’s been around for a very very long time.  A bakery that’s been around since 1948?  You can be pretty sure that anything you order will be fantastic.

Our order – a lemon log (cake rolled with lemon butter cream) and a piece of marzipan cake.  This was the first time that the lil’ sis had ever tried marzipan.  I am fairly certain that it will not be her last.

Bakery #2 – Cafe Selmarie.

I’ve blogged about Selmarie before.  Their raspberry marzipan torte is on my top 5 list.  But, everything that I’ve had here has been delicious.  You want a delicious dinner?  Head to Selmarie.  You need a cake or pie to bring to a party?  Head to Selmarie.  You want to pick up a bunch of cookies to bring to a party but you know that you will actually leave them at home so that you can eat them all by yourself?  Head to Selmarie.

Our order – raspberry marzipan torte (surprising, I know) and chocolate espresso tart.  I finished up my slice of raspberry marzipan torte rather quickly.  I am a pro at eating this cake.  Lil sis finished up her chocolate espresso tart for breakfast the next day.  It has all of the food groups that guarantee a great beginning to your day: chocolate and espresso.

Bakery #3 – Bleeding Heart Bakery.

I’ve blogged about Bleeding Heart before as well.  Ryan and I used their Groupon for my birthday.  Ryan and the lil’ sis and I had just finished brunch at Orange and were not particularly hungry but we decided to grab a couple cupcakes for later. I always feel a little torn when I walk into Bleeding Heart.  Do I want a cookie?  A giant brownie?  A pile of cake balls?  A cupcake?  Decisions, decisions, decisions.

The final decision:  lil’ sis got a carrot cake cupcake and I got a key lime cupcake.

Bakery #4 – Angel Food Bakery.

After I tried their coconut cupcakes, this quickly became one of my favorite bakeries in the whole city.  Not only are their baked treats delicious, the bakery is absolutely adorable.  Seriously.  Just walking through the door makes me happy and that’s before I’ve even ordered anything.  And once I order something, I am even happier!  They bake their own version of a Twinkie!  How could you not love that?!?

Our order:  coconut cupcake (because I love them so much!) and a hockey puck (basically a giant Rice Krispies treat covered in chocolate)

And that wraps up our mini-tour.  I do believe that the best and easiest way to learn about a new place is to eat their food.  Sure, these were all places that I had been to before many times.  And yes, I ordered some of my usual snacks at a couple places.  But this was all new to my lil’ sis.  She got to try marzipan for the first time ever!  And, in the case of the the chocolate espresso tart, she got to eat her dessert as breakfast.  And when is that ever a bad thing?

For the Love of Veggies – and my 50th blog post!

I will admit it.  I am not very comfortable working with many vegetables.  It’s not because I don’t like to eat them.  I do.  I like to saute zucchini and squash but that’s about as far as my veggie cooking goes.  It works out nicely for me that Ryan is such a great cook.  However, it is definitely time for me to get fully acquainted with cooking and how to cook vegetables well.  I’ve given myself an assignment.  I will join a CSA and/or go to the farmers market every week and will cook vegetables!

The plan:

Tuesdays – go to the Farmers Market in the Square

Pick out a new vegetable before buying my regular mini-loaf of zucchini bread, butterkase cheese and pint of berries.

Bring home vegetable and search for recipes.

Cook food and have it ready when Ryan gets home.

Extra credit:  Join a CSA.  Ryan and I found a CSA that seems like it will be a good fit.  You can do weekly or every-other-week deliveries.  You can add on specific produce that you want or dairy or meat products.  And you don’t have to do an expensive membership fee.  So, hopefully, that will work out nicely.

I’ll let you know how I do on this assignment.  And I’d love to know of any veggie recipes that you recommend.  Especially, for veggies that are in season now.

Cats Have No Sense of Personal Space

If you have a cat, you already are well aware of their lack of a basic understanding of personal space. They crawl into your lap. They sit on your laptop. They wait until after you have showered so that they can chew on your hair. (That last one might not be all cats.  That one might just be Buddy). It really comes down to the fact that cats want to be where they want to be when they want to be there. They don’t care that you are wearing black pants. They are going to rub their tales on your outfit. You just made an ice cream sundae? They will wait until you turn around and to dive in. But, it is comforting to know that this lack of personal space knowledge is not just a cat-person problem. It is also a cat-cat problem.

This was recently demonstrated by Buddy and Bugz. Buddy was napping on the couch. Bugz decided that he wanted to sit exactly where she was already sitting. How does a cat solve that problem? Well, he solves it by doing exactly the same thing that he would do if Buddy had been a person. He sits on her.

At least they both look comfortable

Sometimes You Just Want to Get a Little Help

There’s a phrase that is used frequently on cooking shows. For dessert “you can get a little help from the store.” It is usually said in a manner so that it sounds like an apology. However, I don’t really understand that. Yes, I could turn on the stove when it’s really hot outside and we only have air conditioning in one room. Yes, I could start sweating into a pot on the stove. Or, I could pick up a few items from the store and put together a nice dessert. If you do this, the key is to buy the best items that you can. Read labels. Compare pricing. You don’t have to feel guilty because you wanted a dessert and it felt like 105 degrees in the kitchen. It’s ok to get a little help from the store.  You don’t need to apologize.

Ryan and I were out of the apartment all weekend. I managed to unpack most of the suitcases when we got home. I threw all of the laundry into a giant pile that I would get to eventually. It had been a great weekend but now we were both exhausted. The conversation, as usual, turned to what we were going to have for dinner. He was going to roast garlic and several types of vegetables. I knew that I wanted a dessert but really didn’t want to bake anything and I didn’t want to just grab something that was entirely pre-made from the bakery section of the grocery store. So, I decided to improvise.

I bought an angel food cake from the bakery section and I picked up a couple jars of lemon curd. After browsing through the berries, I grabbed a couple containers of raspberries.

When we got home, I cut the angel food cake into three sections as though it were a layer cake. I added a layer of lemon curd and then a layer of berries. I then topped it with a second cake layer and repeated the process.  It was very hot in the kitchen but I guessed that this would actually help with the cake because the lemon curd would smooth out nicely.  The raspberries and the lemon curd both had some time to seep into the cake a bit before we ate it.

A layer of lemon curd

Top with berries

Repeat and top with last cake layer

I figured that this would taste good for three reasons. 1) Angel food cake is delicious until it reaches the point in which it is as hard as a rock. 2) Lemon curd is fantastic on any light bread or cake items and is incredibly delicious in the summer. 3) Raspberries. That is all. Raspberries.

The verdict:

Delicious!  The lemon curd is just lemony enough so that it does not overwhelm the berries.  Ryan suggested mashing the berries a bit next time.  I think that that would help the berries to seep into the cake layers a bit more.  I might try this out with different types of berries.  I think blueberries might be tasty but Ryan doesn’t like blueberries so someone else would have to help me to eat it.  Or else I will just have to finish it off by myself.  That is also a possibility.