Cake Impossible
May 2, 2010, 1:35 am
Filed under: Recipe

I’ve got a million pages of writing to do for the end of the semester but I’ve got the issue of cake buzzing away in my brain.  I wanted to make cupcakes tonight, which I haven’t done in a few months (a long time for me!).  I was going to make regular vanilla cake and went looking into my recipe files & books and realized… I don’t have a cake recipe that I regularly use.  The last zillion times I made cupcakes were either something novel, so a specific recipe was used, or from the Vegan Cupcakes book. I don’t have a go-to- recipe for plain cake.  I use the vegan cupcake recipes so much for a couple of reasons:

  • they taste good and always taste better than vegan cupcakes I’ve tried from bakeries (the boy still prefers real cake)
  • I can make cake without eggs.  I always have the dry ingredients, soymilk (esp since I can keep it in cartons in the cabinet), and apple cider vinegar in the pantry. With regular cake, I need to eggs & butter, which I don’t always have.
  • the biggest reason: The recipes in the book make 12 cupcakes.  Every other cake recipe is for 24-30, which I don’t want to make for two people.  I don’t have room for them in my counter and don’t want to eat them all in the 3 days before they go stale.  And no, I’m not going to give away cupcakes *every* time I make them.  People are bitches.

So here I was, wanting to make plain vanilla cake and without a recipe.  I also only wanted a small amount of cake.  I looked at a bunch of cake recipes and attempted to create my own recipe based on the use of only one egg.  The scientific ratio for pound cake is equal parts butter, flour, sugar, and egg.  I’ve used it before and it works perfectly: weigh one egg, add in equal parts of all the other stuff based on how many grams are in that egg.  Perfect amount of cake for two people, no leftovers.  But a cake-cake is different than a pound cake, right?

After like a half hour of calculations, here is the recipe that I came up with:

1 egg (54 grams)
54 grams butter
90 grams flour
90 grams sugar
30 grams milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder

I already knew that 2 tsp baking powder seemed like too much for this amount of cake, but in the video for Billy’s Cupcakes, he uses 2 TBSP of baking powder for a full recipe and confirms it. When I was measuring my incredients, I compared my amounts with Billy’s Cupcakes recipe divided by 4, and the numbers were pretty much the same, give or take a few grams.  I thought the video was correct and the written recipe was a typo.  I thought I was in good shape.  Of course, looking at the video a 3rd time and the way Billy doesn’t really respond to Martha’s question about the baking powder makes me think he made a mistake and isn’t really a baker because he didn’t explain himself.

Verdict? TERRIBLE.   (I tried to make one vanilla batch and one mocha w/espresso frosting) The batter tasted good.  The flavor of the cake itself was fine.  It made 8 cupcakes, perfect.  But the texture was totally off.  Dry, hard, and they sank when I took them out of the oven.  I’ve never had a cake sink!

I blame it on the baking powder. Next time I guess I need less baking powder, possible a few more grams of milk.  If that still doesn’t work, I will try decreasing the amounts of flour & sugar.  I hope I eventually succeed in this because the ability to make a small quantity of cake is a necessity in my life!  And maybe when I do, I will publish my results and be famous for improving the lives of sad people who eat cake alone.

My frosting swirls look good though.

Another weird random thing I learned: I think Crisco works better than Whole Foods 365 shortening when it comes to making frosting.  My frosting never came out gritty when I was using those Crisco sticks, but it does with this WF brand.  Hmm.  Must be that transfattyness.


TMI? GERD or Acid Reflux, health coverage, etc
April 19, 2010, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Life

Filed under the “getting old” category, I think I’ve developed a sensitivity to red wine, which makes me very, very sad. Red wine with meat, chocolate, or cheese are combinations that I love, but I’m noticing lately that it might not love me back.

I hate to be gross, so don’t keep reading if you’re squeamish.

I noticed that the last couple of times I’ve drunk red wine, I’ve had issues.  My chest would feel tight and heartburn-ish.  At first I chalked it up to maybe heartburn from the heavy food.  Then about a month ago after red wine with dinner, I coughed and well, a little bit of vomit came up and I ran to the bathroom (luckily we were at home). It freaked me out; it had never happened before. Tonight I had one glass of wine that came free with my dinner, and I noticed I was burping a lot and feeling like my entire dinner could come up with any of those burps.

Sorry, I warned you it was gross!

Anyway, I came home and did a simple search on red wine and acid reflux, and there were a lot of hits that came up.  When I was younger, I also had trouble tolerating tomato sauce – another food that is commonly linked to acid reflux/GERD.  I’m wondering if I can live with just avoiding those foods or if I truly need to take medication.  Going without red wine is very sad for a foodie, but I’d rather do that than take drugs.

Some Internet sources say to just avoid the trigger foods, others say it can cause tissue damage if untreated.  I know, I should talk to my doctor.  But being young and mobile, I haven’t had a steady doctor since I left my pediatrician 8 years ago.  And I’m finishing school in 6 weeks, which means my health coverage will end and I will need a different doctor after that (if I even have health insurance), so I feel like it’s not even worth it.  I guess I’ll just suck it up and try to squeeze in as many appointments as I can while I still have insurance.  Until then, no more red wine for me 😦

April 7, 2010, 10:21 am
Filed under: Restaurant

I had to take a picture of these eggs from the farmer’s market.

It’s just a camera-phone pic because my big camera was in a curling accident. Anyway. I’ve bought eggs at the farmer’s market before, but they were always one color. These are so pretty in their shades of cream, pink, even green.  The varied eggs almost seem more personal, makes me think of the chickens as individuals.

Speaking of eggs, the exec chef at one of my top 3 favorite Providence restaurants, Tini, was on the Martha Stewart show yesterday making an egg dish and talking about his chicken farm. He brought Martha similarly colored eggs.  I was just at Tini a couple of weeks ago and heard him talking to a customer about raising chickens for eggs and I thought it was so cool.  Nice to see our little city getting big attention.

(And I just missed Emma Watson.  Apparently she was eating dinner right before I got there; guess she likes to eat with the senior citizens)

Grilling season
April 5, 2010, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Recipe

Our weather went from really crappy (historic flooding) to 80 degrees overnight.  I used the bbq grill all weekend long and it was fun.  Tried grilling par-boiled potatoes – they were soo good.  I sprinkled them with wild chives that I picked from the side of a walking trail; ate them and didn’t die, so I guess that’s good.

Here’s a recipe for fish tacos I tried that were really good and low fat.  You need to add a lot of flavor to make up for the fact that the fish isn’t battered and deep-fried.

Fish Tacos (4 servings)
1/2 of a lime
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 jalapeno, finely chopped, de-seeded if you wish
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp mayo
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb tilapia filets
chili powder
salt, pepper
1 avocado, cut into eighths
8 small whole-wheat tortillas

1. Squeeze the juice from the half-lime into a bowl. Half of the juice will go into the salsa, half into the yogurt sauce. Heat the grill or pan on medium-high.
2. Make salsa: Mix half of the lime juice, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, and 1/4 tsp salt in a bowl and set it aside.
3. Make the yogurt sauce: Mix the yogurt, mayo, and remaining lime juice.
4. If pan-frying, add the olive oil to the pan. If grilling, brush the oil on the fish. Cut the fish into wide taco-sized pieces (about 2″ x 4″). Season


with chili powder, salt, pepper (but be careful w/the salt if your chili powder already has salt on it). I thought I put a lot of chili powder, but it could’ve used even more. Cook the fish about 3 minutes per side until browned.
5. Serve! Top your taco with the homemade salsa, lime sauce, avocado, and an extra squirt of lime. Two tacos comes out to 300-ish calories.

The original recipe, which I got from a magazine, said to mix some of the yogurt sauce w/shredded cabbage to make a slaw but it was really bland. I would’ve rather eaten just a salad. Also, I think the homemade salsa works better than store bought because store bought would be too strong and cover up the rest of the flavors.

Cheers to grilling season. I haven’t had much experience cooking on the grill but my summer resolution is to do it more. And cheers to mojito season! I picked up a big bottle of rum on my recent trip to New Hampshire, where booze is wayy cheaper, and I’m looking forward to mojitos in the courtyard.

Farmer’s market
February 23, 2010, 12:24 pm
Filed under: Shopping Day

Finally made it out to the winter farmer’s market. I had a limited amount of cash so I had to spend it wisely. Next time, I’ll bring more cash so I can buy eggs and try some meat. One of the meat vendors had pork on sale for $5/pound but it was only packaged in 3lbs.

For $12, I bought:

– 1 bulb garlic
– bag of arugula ($3)
– ball of mozzarella ($4)
– bunch of carrots ($3)
– 2 potatoes

Expensive, but with more practice hopefully I can find the good deals.

Dinner this week
February 16, 2010, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Shopping Day

Monday: tofu & carrot Szechuan stir fry, brown rice
Tuesday: Tilapia filets, roasted cauliflower
Wednesday: Butternut squash & duxelle casserole (From Feb 2010 issue of Veg Times), salad
Thursday: ditto
Friday: spaghetti
Saturday: ditto
Sunday: pizza

I’ve got some big cooking ambitions this week in order to plan ahead for busy days when I can’t cook or we’re out of groceries. I’m also trying to make some freezable lunches.  Why the preemptive measures? I’m going to Key West in one month for a wedding. Gotta lose weight and save money. It’s just too easy to grab a slice of pizza, a fattening sandwich, or head out for my favorite mac ‘n cheese when I have nothing to eat for lunch or dinner. I also want to eat well for the sake of eating better for health & the planet. (BTW, we find ourselves eating at Red Fez like every 2 weeks… sometimes more often than that.)

To-do list:
– make a few batches of pizza dough, one for now, one to freeze, one for hot pockets
– make a pot of marinara sauce (also with extra to freeze)
– experiment with homemade hot-pocket type things to freeze. I’ve had success with bean burritos, though they are a little soggy. Since I’m already making pizza dough and sauce, I’m gonna try these chicken parm things.

February 4, 2010, 11:39 am
Filed under: Life

Over the past month, I was interning in DC again. Unlike the summer when I was in a dorm, this time I had a room in a condo with a real kitchen. That made the eating situation marginally better, but still not great. Not a lot of spices to work with, no pantry stash, and cooking for one. I basically cooked 4 times while I was there – one big meal that I would eat leftovers from all week long. And because I couldn’t make anything too complicated, the meals were really boring:

– Pasta w/sauce of tomatoes, onion, garlic, spinach, blue cheese
– broccoli chicken rice casserole thing
– pasta w/jar sauce
– frozen veggie burgers w/turkey bacon & the rest of the blue cheese

Breakfast was cereal or toast, lunch was always boring homemade sandwiches. The rest of the dinners were filled in by eating out, or my bosses taking me out for happy hour and I’d fill up on the cheap happy hour food.

By the time I got home, I just wanted to be back in my own kitchen and make a real dinner. But I was home for almost a week before I got that chance. Groceries were low and we were eating out for the first few days*. My palate was tired from over a month of restaurants and processed foods. (We were traveling around in December as well) When Brian asked me where I wanted to go for dinner the other night, I really just wanted a home cooked meal.

Finally made it to the grocery store. Last night’s dinner, my first self-cooked, real meal of 2010. It wasn’t very elaborate: frozen cheese tortellini w/lima bean sauce, roasted carrots. The lima bean sauce is interesting – lima (or fava) beans simmered w/stock, thyme, and a few spoonfuls of cooked rice. Then pureed and grated parm is stirred in. Recipe is from Food 2.0, a cookbook that I love in theory, but for some reason never cook from.

I served it with roasted carrots. This was the first time I ever tried roasting carrots. Probably the first time even serving carrots as a side dish because I used to think I hated cooked carrots. (But I always ate them if they were covered in demiglace next to a steak, lol) Anyway these were awesome. They were farmers’ market carrots, so they were already very sweet – they made the kitchen smell all sweet when I was cutting them. I just cut them into chunks, tossed them in a tiny bit of oil, roasted for 15 mins while I cooked the rest of the dinner, and sprinkled parsley & sea salt on top. SO good.

Tonight, I have a craving for bibimbap but I can’t find that sauce anywhere – you know, that magical smoky stuff  they give you on the side that transforms a bowl of rice & vegetables into the best hangover cure ever. I’m going to marinate tofu in some bottled “Korean BBQ Sauce” that I found from Whole Foods, throw it together with the last of the carrots and frozen spinach for a korean-inspired rice bowl. I’m so happy to be back!

** One of our regular Providence restaurants had a special: head cheese tacos. A rectangle of head cheese, battered & deep-fried, in a taco. Brian ordered it and I had a few bites, but only after I worked myself up. It was actually good. (good thing it’s dark in there so you can’t see what the head cheese looks likes) We found out that the place made the headcheese themselves.
** Also, we visited my mom the day after I got back and she made a Lao chicken soup with thick udon-type noodles. The noodles (homemade; my job was to slice them) are made with starchy tapioca and rice flour. When you cook them in the soup, the starch from the noodles turns the clear chicken broth into a thick porridgy stew. (oh look, found a picture)