Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Study on Foods in America

More specifically, a study on commercial yogurt at a typical grocery store.


because why should you have the real thing when it can come in YOGURT!

probably the most natural looking one. THIS sounds GOOD yo.

It's just...bizarre. 

...and this is only a small selection of a myriad of other odd flavours. Peach cobbler, double chocolate donut flavour (wtf?!). I wanted to try one out of sheer curiosity--can you guess which one...but when I saw the ingredients list, I totally passed. The 36 g of sugar per yogurt cup was pretty off-putting--YIKES.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Flourless chocolate fudge cake

This year I volunteered to bring a dessert to Christmas dinner because a lot of people, including me, don't like the traditional English Christmas pudding. I decided to make the chocolate fudge cake from Ottolenghi.  It turned out really well, so I decided to make this cake again for New Year's Eve. I think it'll become a tradition at dinner parties and special occasions.

The book describes is recipe as simple to prepare, but typically with Ottolenghi the instructions are quite precise and involved. It's baked in two layers so that you'll have a firmer one on the bottom and a mousse-ier one on top. The whole process takes a few hours at least. You are allowed to bake it all at once, "for a less discerning audience, or if you want to hasten the process or are feeling lazy." In case you were afraid they were judging you!

I was unable to follow the instructions precisely because this is my kitchen scale. I think it was part of the "furnishings" of our first house, and somehow got packed with our things.  It's precise to the nearest 25 g at best. I'll give you ladies my measurements, with the book's measurements in brackets.

Chocolate fudge cake (from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)
250-ish g unsalted butter, cut into cubes (240 g)
275-ish g dark chocolate, 52% cocoa solids (265 g)
100-ish g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids (95 g)
300-ish g whatever golden brown sugar you have (290 g light muscovado sugar)
4 tbsp water
5 large eggs, separated
A pinch of salt
Cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

Put the chocolate and butter in a large bowl.

Heat the sugar and water over medium heat until they boil.

Pour them over the chocolate and butter and stir until it is smooth. Stir in the egg yolks one at a time. Allow it to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites and salt to a firm, but not too dry meringue. Fold the meringue into the chocolate sauce a third at a time until fully incorporated, but it's ok to see small bits of meringue in the mix.

Pour 800 g (about 2/3) of the mixture into a prepared cake tin and level it. I don't have a palette knife so I used a spatula. Bake for 40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out almost clean. Leave to cool.

When it is cool, flatten out the top (again I used a spatula) and don't worry about breaking the crust.

Pour in the rest of the batter and level it again. Bake again for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer comes out with moist crumbs.  This time you can't really level it.  It's supposed to look like that.

Allow to cool while you drive to visit your friends.  This is a picture of the gorgeous English December weather. I bet you're all jealous.

Dust the top with cocoa powder before serving.  The one I made for Christmas was made the day before and it was much neater to slice than this one.  We served with whipped cream but I think plain yoghurt or creme fraiche would be nice, too. That slight tang goes well with rich chocolate desserts like this.


Monday, January 28, 2013

So many food adventures!

Since I accepted Amy's invitation to join the Leek Geeks, I have had so many food adventures!

We got to go to afternoon tea at the Ritz in London with Simon's grandparents, as part of his grandmother's 80th birthday gift.

There was a dress code: jacket and ties compulsory for gentlemen. Simon wore one too. (Ha!)

Look at all the teas! We had the traditional one, because you don't go to the Ritz to drink herbal tea.

They bring out the scones (on the middle level) just before you eat them, so they are at the perfect temperature when you are ready to eat them with clotted cream and jam. There were also sliced cakes from a trolley. Afternoon tea was actually quite a feast! They offered more of everything, too.

I also bought a new slow cooking cookbook in an attempt to do more interesting things with my slowcooker, and of course the first recipe I used was not a slowcooker recipe!

This is beef rendang, apparently a famous dish. You make a curry paste and simmer it with stewing beef and coconut milk so that it goes from this:

To this. With lots of time for evaporation, then more liquid and more time, and then toasted coconut, tamarind paste, and coriander. The whole process took about five hours.

We didn't have our dinner until 9 o'clock, but Simon was happy! I served it with basmati rice and steamed spinach. The next day I had tinned "Thai chicken soup" for lunch and it tasted like salty, slimy water. I think my palate is getting used to all this nice food!

Are we allowed to share recipes that come from books? I documented the process of making a gorgeous, flourless chocolate cake from the Ottolenghi cookbook, but I didn't know if publishing it here would be frowned upon.

And finally, we are obsessed with homemade pizza now! We keep the toppings constant (mozzarella, caramelised onion, mushrooms, feta, and olives) and I make the crust thinner and thinner every week! The same amount of dough that made a dinner plate-sized pizza in the beginning now makes a monster that barely fits on my baking sheet!

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Last night's pizza had mozzarella, cheddar, black olives, thin lemon slices, potato, and onions (these latter three coated in oil to roast), and was sprinkled with rosemary, crushed chillis and black pepper and a little extra drizzle of olive oil. It was SOOOOOOO GOOOOOOD. lemon lemon lemon lemon lemon lemon lemon

This morning's waffles had blueberry sauce, as we're out of maple syrup and it's too cold to leave the house for something so slight ... blueberries, butter and honey.
Does it seem like I am posting more, and posting everything I eat? Yes. Because Sam is in a whole other freakin country and she needs to know the details!!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Flat Iron Steak and Mango Salsa Fajitas

So I've survived my first week as a grad student, and it's a disrguntling reality that there are serious challenges being a Foodie and a grad student at the same time.

Because, like, no. I refuse to subsist on store-bought zaatar, or MacDo, or coffee and cigarettes for breakfast.

You see, between grub and graduate readings, I will take the grub any time. 

I always knew there was lots of planning ahead, but I didn't realize how strategic that planning ahead had to be. Last weekend, I cut up veggies (onions, peppers, kale) in small baggies for use in breakfast casseroles over the week. Sadly, many of them went bad before the week was over. I was super frustrated. Matt tells me organic produce will go bad more quickly, esp if cut up--true? I don't know.

I haven't yet studied my whole first week. I was coming home exhausted, wanting to cook and enjoy my food, but by the time I was done, I was done for the night. I did have some veggie soup frozen, some meat prepared, etc--but even when you don't have meals planned, it can still take upwards an hour to get your dinner together!

Are you pretty strapped for time too? Like using leftovers for yummy creations? 


Matt was driving home from St. Louis last night and suggested we get Chipotle's, which is this (supposedly) natural burrito house and watch a movie. I'm kind of addicted to their margaritas, so I declined for fear I would pass out  So dinner last night was flat iron steaks, sauteed bok choy, and mango salsa. Flat iron steaks here are relatively cheap-- $8-10 in meat can feed two adults very comfortably, and still leave extra for leftovers. He came back this afternoon to help me set up my printer and hang more curtains ... yes I know ... <3! , and with those leftovers, I made us fajitas with the leftover steak, mango salasa, shredded pepperjack cheese, and hot sauce. O-lé.

weekending & double-doubles

eating a banana-cocoa-kefir popsicle while browsing some Jamie books from mom's fantastic all-alone date at the library

an array: fragrant peppermint pot, library treasures, pizza dough under the seersucker bowl cover, roasted beans in the mason jar (garlicky and spicey, a snack du moment here), fruit, roasted broccoli and corn for the quiche tomorrow, ready to go. I've been trying to precook for Sundays to make it more fully a day of rest, prayer and fun for us - the quiche has been made, and I used duck fat from our last roast instead of butter. It smells good!


green apple tibicos

on my way home from my library outing, I went to the grocery store to get milk. I was also pondering pizza toppings for tonight, but this is a small store and the veg selection this week is particularly pitiful. I had just enough cashola to get three lemons for $1.25. Lemons are like sunshine in my mouth. Pizza will have thin lemon slices, onions, potato and olives. anyway - that wasn't enough. I needed MORE LEMON. So I created double-doubles, the groundwork for which is in the picture above...

double-doubles, omnomnom
Double-Doubles (Amy's Chocolate-Lemon Cookies)

Preheat the oven to 350F.
1 c butter, soft
1 c sugar
--> beat, then beat in 2 room temp eggs. mix in 1 tsp lemon flavouring (I use an organic oil blend, sunflower and lemon) and 1 tsp vanilla.
--> mix in 1/2 tsp each salt and baking soda.
--> stir in:
2 1/2 c oats, quick (I have whole rolled oats so I grind them mostly into flour in the blender)
1 c flour - 2 tbsp (I used sprouted spelt)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 lemon, finely diced, seeds removed, put in a measuring cup (is about 1/4 c)
chocolate chips, about 3/4 c (to bring the +lemon measure up to 1 c)

Bake about 15 m, let cool on a wire rack.

Happy weekending! What's on your pizza??

Friday, January 25, 2013

Caramel Cinnamon Buns

Mmm C'est bon! This, my friends, is what I call 'special occasion' treat. Although my husband wishes I made them every week, I only make these puppies a few times during the year, because of the sweetness to these. Step by step:

1. Make the dough. I did this entire recipe within my KitchenAid bowl, so forget about switching bowls for this or that. Creates more dishes, and honestly, nobody's got time for that! I used this recipe for the dough, except I added a bit more flour as I found the dough to be too wet, AND I cut that salt by 3/4, leaving me with 1 tsp. Ive also subbed the whole wheat flour for white flour, depending on who I make these for. Either works fine!

2. Once youve got your dough punched down, wrap it in seran wrap and stick that sucker in the fridge for 15-20 mns. Cold dough is sooo much easier to roll out, trust me. Once its been chilling, spread some flour on your workspace and on your rolling pin if you use a wooden one. Get ready to rumble.. I MEAN ROLL! Roll your dough out in a roughly rectangular shape like so:

3. Next, take out a saucepan and melt 1/4 butter. Please use the real stuff, not that turkey fattening crap. It makes a world of a difference in baking, trust me. So, when that butter is all nice and melted, and starting to bubble, add a heaping 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and 1 tsp pure vanilla essence. Whisk away, until there are no more clumps, and heat at mid temp until bubbles start forming, then take off heat immediately. Bubbles like this:

4. Take a pastry brush and generously 'paint your dough canvas'. Dont forget the edges. Youll notice as soon as you spread it, itll solidify. Its always a marvel to me how change in heat creates such change within the molecular structure of food, making it solidify, liquify, etc. Keep about a quarter of the caramel for later. Should look like this:

5. Alright I love this part. Prepare a spice/white sugar mixture. I use 1/4cup sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (and sometimes add a pinch of ginger as well) as my ratio, but feel free to play around with that, depending on if you like it sweeter or spicier. Take that mixture and SPRINKLE YOUR HEART OUT! Cover all the dough, like this:

6. This part is pretty fun too. You now get to roll the dough. You remember when I said roughly rectangular? Here is your chance to make it as straight as you can. Start at the bottom, and if you have an edge that is longer than the rest, roll it very tightly until everything comes to an even edge. Then slowly and evenly roll all the way to the top. Now all you have to do is cut the log of sweet/spicy goodness into equal parts. I get 24 rolls out of that recipe.

7. The last step is a decision you have to make. Remember the reserved caramel? You can either keep it and pour it over the baked rolls, or like me, pour it over the unbaked rolls. Doing so will create this delicious crispy crunchy bottom to the rolls of caramelized baked sugar. Bake at 350 for about 25-35 minutes, until they are lightly golden on top.

Ooo yes I forgot, I always add an extra sprinkle of sugar/spice before baking!


You could top these with sugar icing, cream cheese icing, eat it as is.. but if you want something a little different, and a little less on the sweet side, try topping it with some Spiced Apple Butter, it is just delish!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

berry cups infused with lavender and cardamom

My mom and brother are coming for supper tonight, which they're bringing (lobster ravioli, salad, wine), so I made these delicate desserts this morning.

Fill a 2 c measuring cup with mixed fresh or frozen berries. Pour in whole milk until the fluid volume reaches 1 3/4 c. Add two big tablespoons honey. Dump into a medium pan and heat over medium. Add 1/4 tsp lavender buds and 2 pods cardamom. Prepare unflavoured gelatin according to package instructions. After adding gelatin to the hot mixture, stir constantly till dissolved, then cook another minute or two. Remove cardamom pods and discard. Pour into cute, dainty serving cups (presentation matters!) and chill at least two hours. Serve garnished with fresh mint leaves. You could also use half or entirely rosé wine instead of milk if you prefer (*cough*dairy-free Valentine's day dessert, Sam!*cough*).

Lately I am fascinated with gelatin, cornstarch pudding, and ice cream; how so many of the same flavours, and indeed, almost identical ingredients and proportions, can be "finished" different ways according to the season, availability of equipment, etc. There's a whole world within these three similar dessert categories, and it's fairly simple to translate one form to another! Oh, or to turn any one of them into popsicles (a basic toddler food group). I am also really loving flower infusions. I made lavender and chamomile vanilla puddings yesterday for us to enjoy throughout the week. It's so fresh and summery; the aromas remind me that despite what it feels like, winter will not actually last forever! On that subject, I also ordered flower and vegetable seeds today! Hooray!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

lemon-pepper pasta

Today Julia and the kids came over and learned how to make pasta. It was delicious!

Lemon-pepper pasta

1 large mug flour
3 eggs
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp lemon oil
a splash of water as needed

Mix together and knead 5-10 minutes, until elastic. Roll out as thin as you can, using lots of extra flour, then cut however you like. Cook 2 minutes in boiling salty water.

Pictured with a sauce of broccoli, milk, cheese, and garlic powder.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Kamut blueberry waffles!

This is the third time this week I'll be eating gluten... It started with an incredible mini pizza Ambrose wanted to share with me, and when I had no flare-up, I made scones the next morning. Heaven! Tonight is also real pizza (I tried making gf pizza, it's really just depressing)... Wish me luck! I don't know how to make sense of this but I'm enjoying it!

Monday, January 7, 2013

and some light housekeeping...

I finally updated the seasonal header image. Sorry that was so late... again! I couldn't find last year's image. Anyway now I do have 4 seasonal ones saved, so I can pull those out when we get lazy (eg when I get lazy). However, as always I strongly encourage y'all to submit high-resolution images for the upcoming season... so come late February or so, start thinking about a spring image if that appeals to you. Email images to me.

Also you may have noticed from Ana's intro post that I've included a new question - "How do you know Amy?". I hope it's clear that I do this not for narcissism, but because y'all don't all know each other yet (maybe 2013 will be the year for a Leek Geeks party! Yes?), and I think if it was me in that position I'd be interested to know how we all connect to the hub, and it would make me feel a little better acquainted with my fellow posters. So when y'all come to my house for a canning party/cocktail meet & greet/garden tea, you'll have a better idea of each other's rootedness IRL. Initially our team was so small that it didn't matter, but I think at this point it makes sense.

I am thinking June or July or so for a LG party. Out-of-towners, any chance your plans could bring you to my backyard around that time? There will be tiny paper parasols to make it worth your while!

I've changed the posts per page from 3 to 5.

Finally, I turned off word verification for comments, because I just learned I can! Blogger is pretty good about detecting and automatically deleting spam comments, but it's possible you'll see sketchy comments appear briefly. If they aren't deleted right away let me know and I'll take care of it.

Happy new year!!

welcome back, cake.

I have missed you in my life.

Amy's New Go-To Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter and flour two 8-inch pans as usual for cake.

200 g white rice flour or equivalent (potato flour, white wheat flour, etc.)
100 g ground almonds
1 c cocoa (80 g Camino brand or about 105 g Berthelet brand)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
--> combine in a medium bowl, then sift through a sieve into a larger bowl (helpful tip I picked up from GFG; cocoa powder really does clump, and almond flour as well can get clumpy).

In the KitchenAid bowl:
1/2 soft butter
1 c sugar
Mix in:
3 c kefir, home-fermented strength (room temperature, not cold) or sour milk (3 c milk with a good splash of vinegar or lemon juice, left thicken 5 minutes)

Add dry mixture to wet. Separate into cake pans and bake 30-40 m.

Cream cheese & maple frosting (makes enough to ice two cakes; I'm a make-more-and-freeze type of cook, but if that's not practical just halve):

2 tubs cream cheese (800g total)
about 1/2 c - 1 c soft butter

Whip in the mixer.

Then whip in about 1 c maple syrup, until the texture is loose but not drippy, and just sweet enough.

Frost only when cakes are completely cool.

*Last edited January 19th after my second cake run - and for the record, Cynthia, for whom I made this cake, said upon tasting "I was prepared to be polite, but this is amazing!" (something to that effect, Cynthia, yes?). So there! You can have your GF cake and impress your glutinous friends too!

*Update as of July 28, 2013 - chocolate cake 2.0 has some significant changes and is a significant improvement! Check it out!