Chiffon Cupcakes
April 30, 2008, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Recipe

I love Good Eats and I love cupcakes so I was super excited about a brand new cupcake episode, especially since there hasn’t been a new one in many months.  I follow a few cupcake blogs but I had never heard of the Chiffon Cupcake method.  It involves beating egg whites and folding them into the batter.  I was pretty nervous about how this souffle-like cake would bake in my oven.  They came out lovely and perfectly domed, even though my oven was 25 degrees too hot whenever I checked the temp.

perfectly even cupcakes

The frosting recipe wasn’t posted on Food Network, so thank goodness for the DVR.  I had never heard of making buttercream this way.  Check this out:


  • 6 oz butter, room temperature
  • 2 oz vegetable shortening, room temperature
  • 1 egg, also room temperature
  • 1 pound of powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Beat the butter & shortening together with the mixer on high until they are well blended.  Add the egg and beat until it is combined, about 2 minutes.  Turn the mixer to low and add the sugar in 1/2 cup increments, waiting until the portion is all worked in before adding more.  When you’re done adding the sugar, add the vanilla.  Beat on medium high for 3 mins, until it is light and fluffy. 

Yes, it has a raw egg in it. I don’t really like buttercream frosting that much; I prefer whipped cream or cream cheese style but this one was good! It wasn’t grainy or gritty at all, and didn’t taste like it would melt your teeth off (though in reality, it still would).  It was so much lighter and tastier than all of the other buttercreams that are just butter + sugar + milk.  

Alton Brown told us the history of the cupcake and encouraged us to bake them in actual cups – a cup-cake.  How novel!  Even though my mugs don’t say “oven safe” everything worked out fine.  These coffee mugs hold 6oz, which is enough for a small cup of coffee or a Texas-sized (or bakery sized) cupcake.  (I was not able to eat the entire cup-cake)

This was also my first time using my sweet Wilton cake frosting tips set, which I got at Michael’s for $4.  It was pretty easy to get the hang of.  I think it was harder to figure out how to fill the pastry bag without making a mess than it was to make the swirls.

Taste:  The cake had a great texture, the best I’ve ever made.  Crumbs weren’t falling all over the place, but it wasn’t spongy like angel food cake either.  The taste was different though.  It wasn’t very sweet; kind of salty or savory.  I didn’t notice it under sweetness the frosting, but I still think I will cut back on the salt next time.  I realized that my theory on cupcakes is this:  A good cupcake will taste totally amazing at first bite and you’ll enjoy every second of eating it, but you might struggle with the last bite and you definitely don’t want to have room for another one right away.  What do you think?


April summary
April 28, 2008, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Life, Shopping Day

We spent $245 on groceries for the month of April.

My first instinct was to say that we never spend this much in one month.  But now I’m like, what if we always spend this much and we just don’t notice?  What if my whole blog is a lie???

Keeping track of my spending has really made me more conscious of the impact of my choices, and now I’ll think more carefully about what a certain recipe will cost.  However, I ended up feeling really really guilty about overspending.  Before it was like, yeah we went over on groceries so that’s less spending money no big deal.  But now I’m fixated on what I could’ve saved by buying the different sun-dried tomatoes, or having tuna sandwiches for lunch.  And I feel really bad that I wanted to show that eating tasty food doesn’t have to be expensive, and I went bust in my first month!  If this happens again next month, I might have to shamefully rework the description of this blog.

Cupcakes, Pedicures or groceries?
April 28, 2008, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Shopping Day

I had another embarrassingly expensive week. I’ll just get right into it.

$58.00 @ Stop ‘n Shop

– English muffins (buy 1 get 1 free!)
– shredded cheese
– pepperoni
– smoked cheddar cheese
– water crackers
– rainbow sprinkles
– canned tuna (2)
– Crisco
– powdered sugar
– enchilada sauce
– cream of tartar
– tortillas
– Wheat Thins
black bean tortilla chips
– green pepper
– onions (2)
– potato
– lettuce
– grapes

$3 @ Chinese market

– chopped dried seaweed
– lime
– piece of bulk tofu; it’s soooo cheap!

Two factors that doubled my grocery bill this week:

1) Went shopping at 9pm. The deli was closed, and I don’t like the taste & texture of prepackaged deli meats. I stupidly came up with the idea that we’d have tuna or egg salad one or two days, and then make some adult Lunchables for other days. We got smoked cheddar, Boar’s Head Pepperoni, crackers, and grapes. $18 right there. Fucking grapes cost $3/lb and only come in 2lb bags = $6 for grapes. WTF.

2) Right before I left to go shopping, I watched a brand new episode of Good Eats. I love Good Eats and there hasn’t been a new episode in forever. The subject of the show? Cupcakes! I also loooove cupcakes. I immediately amended my grocery list to include the ingredients for cupcakes. Hence the shortening, powdered sugar, cupcake papers, sprinkles, and cream of tartar. $10 (not including the butter)

Bam! Half of my grocery money was spent on bougie things I didn’t need. Speaking of bougie things I don’t need – I wanted to get a pedicure this week so that I could start wearing open-toed shoes. (I indulge in pedicures like twice a year; at the beginning and middle of sandal season) But after this trip, that’s not going to happen this week. Boo.

The Menu

Sunday – frozen mushroom pizza from last week

Monday – miso soup and Asian lettuce wraps

Tuesday – split pea burgers

Wednesday & Thursday – massaman tofu curry

Friday & Saturday – bean & cheese enchiladas

Shopping Day
April 22, 2008, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Shopping Day

I made bad choices this week.  

$78 @ Whole Foods
– brown rice
– split peas
– yeast
– vegetable broth
– cereal
– cooking spray
– sun dried tomatoes
– wheat thins type crackers
– garbanzo beans
– diced tomatoes

– chicken leg (1/2 lb)
– cajun sausage (1/2 lb)
– celery
– rosemary
– white, shitake, and other weird mushrooms
– green pepper
– onion
– mesclun greens salad

– goat cheese
– parmesan cheese
– fontina cheese
– burger buns
– bread
– cheddar deli cheese
– deli ham

I only have $1 left on my food stamp card.  How embarrassing that it’s my first month of the blog and I’m going to go way past my budget!  I could have made better choices though.  For example, the sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil cost $7, while the plain dried stuff cost $4.  But I bought the ones in oil because they taste better and now I feel guilty.  Also, one of the recipes that I decided to make, Mushroom Pizza, turned out to be very expensive.  It didn’t occur to me when I chose the recipe.  I even used half the amount of mushrooms, less than half the amount of goat cheese they called for and omitted the prosciutto.  Here’s the rundown of the costs:

  • $6 for 1/2 lb of loose shitake, button, & wood-ear mushrooms
  • .75 for a packet of yeast
  • $4 for fontina cheese (I used the entire amount
  • $2 for goat cheese (half of the $4 log)
  • $1 for fresh rosemary (part of a $3 bunch; i don’t know what to do with the rest of it) 
  • plus the cost of parmesan cheese

$14, which made 3 personal-sized pizzas, one of which is in the freezer for next week.  I probably spent less than half of that to make 8 split pea burgers.  There’s a pizza place in town that does a delicious wild mushroom pizza and a large costs a few bucks more than what it cost me to make it.  Factor in the labor (it takes a long time to slice all those mushrooms and grate all of the cheese) and it’s probably cheaper just to buy it!  If you still want to try the recipe though, it’s very very good.  It was my first time using strange looking mushrooms, fresh rosemary (amazing!), and yeast to make my own dough yet everything was perfect.

I ate dinner out way more than usual this month yet I still went overbudget on groceries!  Between the $21 spent on pizza and sun-dried tomatoes, I could have had money leftover to get me through the end of the month. Thinking back on it, I think I usually do one full grocery shop per month at the non-organic grocery store, just out of convenience because it’s less crowded and open longer.  I didn’t do that this month, so maybe that’s what made my bill higher than usual?  Don’t worry, I won’t starve.  It just means a little less recreation money next week.  I’m just annoyed at not having better discipline.

The Menu

Monday – Mushroom and Three Cheese Pizza

Tuesday – Penne with Mixed Greens & Goat Cheese

Wednesday – leftovers

Thursday – crockpot jambalaya

Friday – leftovers

Saturday – homemade split-pea burgers

ideas for cheap eating the week after:  the last mushroom pizza, more split pea burgers, veggie stir fry, bean enchiladas.  I’m going to try to keep it under $30.  That way, I’ll be under $200 for the month, and an average of $50/wk for two people still sounds pretty good.

The Happy Customer
April 17, 2008, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Tabella, an American-style tapas restaurant that focuses on local, seasonal, and organic ingredients, is tied for the award of my favorite restaurant in Amherst.  Prices are a little bit too much for my budget, so I haven’t eaten dinner there since boyfriend’s parents came to visit.  But this review won’t be about the food.

Last night I went there for a drink and dessert.  For dessert, I had a chocolate whiskey cake.  I thought it was a little bit dry and umpressive.  That’s the first time I’ve ever had anything there that didn’t floor me.  But for my cocktail, I chose the Happy Customer, which cost a hefty $10.  It’s organic vanilla bean and earl grey infused vodka, another shot of vodka, topped with soda and a twist of lemon rind.  It was so good, and so smooth.  There was barely any bite from the alcohol, and the vanilla-lemon-tea infusion made it even smoother.  I happen to love vanilla vodka, and I love early grey tea because of the bergamot so putting the two together blew my mind.  I already make my own chocolate liqueur so now I must figure out how to make my own vanilla bean & earl grey vodka!  I’ll let you know when I do.

Brunch Review
April 16, 2008, 11:12 am
Filed under: Restaurant

The Dirty Truth
29 Main St
Northampton, MA 01063
Brunch is only on weekends and starts at 11 am

The Dirty Truth, a renowned beer bar (40 taps or something?) that serves great food, just started offering brunch. Since I like brunch, boyfriend likes beer (an understatement), and we both like this bar at night, we had to go.

It is so hard to get brunch or breakfast in the Valley where I live. There aren’t too many places, they are always packed, and parking and traffic on Saturday mornings sucks. *cough*And usually I can’t get up, get dressed, and get there before breakfast ends*cough*. When we walked into the bar a little after 11, it was nearly empty. Good for us, probably not so good for business. You know what else was a nice side effect of having brunch in a place that is usually a beer bar? No kids and no strollers!

The menu looked great, and the dishes were definitely different from other breakfast places in the area. I think the entree prices ranged from $8-$14. I chose the French Toast with Brie, Apples, and Walnuts. Three slices of 1 inch-thick cinnamon raisin french toast, scattered with granny smith apple slices and walnuts, and topped with a wedge of oozy melty brie cheese. The cinnamon vanilla smells coming from my plate made me dizzy. When I got it, I hurried up to cut up the cheese and distribute it over the bread. The bread was awesome. Sweet and dense, the batter wasn’t too egg-y. It also came with a little carafe of real maple syrup and I barely used any of it because the bread was so good and I wanted to be able to taste everything else. The sweet spongy bread, tart apples, bitter walnuts, and grassy, lightly salty cheese.

I opted for a side of sausage, but I could’ve gone without it. I had enough food as it was (I could only finish 2 pieces of bread), plus the salty sausage was a little bit “loud” compared to the flavors of the bread, fruit, and cheese. The sausage itself was good though and had a good texture. I don’t like it when link sausages have noticeable chunks of fat/blubber in them, or when the casing is really tough; their sausage didn’t have either of those faults.

Brian got the cheddar & kielbasa omelette and gave it a thumbs up. I didn’t taste it because I was too excited about my meal. There are 3 or 4 omelette flavors and they all come with french fries and a baby greens salad.

A few other dishes that I remembered from the menu:
– egg-in-a-nest, except using cornbread, and served on top of a bowl of chili
– ham, onion, and gruyere frittata
– sirloin steak and eggs
– breakfast sandwich with egg, spinach, goat cheese (or was it feta?) and tomato tapenade
– hummus, olives, pretzel, fries, and a few other snack things that are on their dinner menu

According to the bartender, the Belgian style beers make good “breakfast beers.” Brian had a couple of those, and I had a mimosa. $6 is a pretty good price for a mimosa! The genius part about starting brunch at 11am is that you can drink beer and say that it’s almost noon, so it’s not exactly like you’re a lush who rolls out of bed and to have a beer with your breakfast. You’re classy! It’s the new martini lunch!

Potato Leek Soup
April 15, 2008, 10:50 am
Filed under: Recipe

Emeril’s Potato Leek Soup recipe was a winner and a keeper. I wanted to eat the entire pot. We ate it with mixed baby greens salad and a Belgian style beer.  It wasone of the best meals I made in a while, and a great way to have soup of a beautiful Spring day.  What was also good was that this version doesn’t use any cream, but still tastes really creamy. Roughly divided, each serving had the equivalent of 1 strip of bacon and less than 1 teaspoon of butter, so I think the amount of fat in it is realistic. (I could totally be wrong though.)

My modifications:
– cut the recipe in half; it still made enough for 4 big servings
– used all chicken broth instead of beef
– left out the white wine
– used 4 strips of bacon instead of pancetta; next time I might even use less bacon.
– used 1 Tbsp of butter
– pureed in a food processor
– didn’t bother with the fried garnishes

Usually if I make a giant soup recipe, I freeze a bunch of it in smaller portions for later. This time I didn’t because potato-based soups tend to get really gross after you freeze them.