Category Archives: Favorites

Vanilla Bean Cake

I remember my early baking days. They consisted of making a cake mix in a 9×13 pan (the only one my non-baking-interested mom had). Once the cake was done, my family would eat it – without frosting. That’s how we ate cake. It wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it. My parents would enjoy their piece of cake with tea, while my sister and I ate it with milk.

Nowadays, with my discovery of frosting for those who love the sugar and those who want something more subtle, my cakes are rarely frost-less. Recently, when I had extra Swiss meringue buttercream, I wanted to pair it with a vanilla cake to see how the flavors would work out. Beautifully. Just beautifully.

I found the recipe on My Baking Addiction, which if you have not perused, you should and be warned that you will find yourself wanting to make everything you see. I made this.

A light yet flavorful vanilla bean cake, which held up and complemented the subtle sweetness of the strawberry buttercream. Using both the vanilla bean seeds and extract allow the flavor to really shine in this cake without being overwhelming. The seeds in the batter bake up beautifully and stand out against the pale yellow cake.

In preparation for company, I made half of the batch into cupcakes and the other half as one layer of cake. I served the cupcakes to the guests. I saved the cake for myself to remember the same experience I had as a child…to eat a really good piece of cake.

Vanilla Bean Cake

recipe from My Baking Addiction

yields 2-layers of an 8-inch round cake or about 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • seeds scraped from one vanilla bean or 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. If you make cupcakes, line with cupcake liners. If you are baking cake layers, grease two eight-inch round cake pans.
  2. In a large and separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the milk and eggs. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, on medium heat, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds, until the mixture is very light/pale.
  5. Add the vanilla extract until fully incorporated.
  6. Carefully add and mix in half of the milk mixture until all is combined.
  7. Then, mix in half of the flour mixture until fully combined.
  8. Add the remaining milk mixture until combined. Finally, add the flour mixture until incorporated.
  9. Once everything is incorporated, beat the mixture for a good 2 minutes to ensure that everything is smoothly combined.
  10. If making cupcakes, spoon evenly into the cupcake liners, filling 2/3s full. Bake between 18-24 minutes until it passes the toothpick test.
  11. If making cake layers, divide between the two layers. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test.
  12. Cool completely before frosting.

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Filed under Cake, Cupcake, Desserts, Favorites, Uncategorized

Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Chocolate Glaze

Good God. That’s pretty much what I said after a bite of this cake. First and foremost, say hello to strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. I am a fool for not trying this earlier. Perfect in every way. Sweet, but not overly sweet. Rich, but not so that you can’t eat it straight from the bowl. That isn’t a joke, unfortunately. While regular buttercream will always have a special place in my heart and cakes, I will be using this version more and more. If you’ve tried it, you’ll know why. If you haven’t, try it and I highly recommend Sweetapolita’s version that I used here. When this cake was posted on Sweetapolita, I bookmarked it immediately. With dark chocolate cake layers contrasted with the light pink strawberry-speckled buttercream, this is a stunning cake perfect for a special occasion. What better one than my first Mother’s Day with the two grandmothers. I initially wanted to make the towering six-layer cake, but with a shortage on time, I decided to do a simple two layer cake, using my favorite quick go-to chocolate cake recipe. I love using this cake recipe because it uses one bowl. Less cleanup after means that I can enjoy the cake faster.

Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk (I have used almond milk and it has turned out just fine)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup strong hot brewed coffee

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour 2 8-inch round pans.
  3. In a large bowl sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add the eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.
  5. Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes until everything is incorporated.
  6. Stir in the hot coffee. This will make the batter very runny.
  7. Pour evenly into the greased pans.
  8. Bake 35 minutes (make sure it passes the toothpick test) and remove from the oven.
  9. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. Do not frost a cake that has not been completely cooled.

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Sweetapolita

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh ripe strawberries
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, day old and room temperature
  • 1 and 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3/4 lb butter, unsalted (3 sticks of butter)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Take your butter from the fridge and cut it into cubes and set aside on a plate on your counter – just not in your fridge.
  2. In a food processor, add the strawberries and process until smooth.
  3. Add the strawberry puree to a saucepan with the 3 tbsp sugar.
  4. Over a medium-low heat, cook down the strawberries into a thick sauce (cooking for about 15-20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Once thickened, set aside to cool.
  5. Wipe down a large (preferably steel) bowl with lemon juice to ensure that no trace amounts of oil remain. Oil is danger to meringue.
  6. Add the egg whites and sugar to the mixing bowl and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), stirring constantly with a whisk. Be gentle but consistent with the stirring. Keep whisking until you get a temperature of 150F for the mixture using your candy thermometer. Another way to check is to dip your hands in the mixture and rub it between your fingers. It should be completely smooth, with no grainy-ness. If there is any grains of sugar, keep stirring/whisking. you want the sugar to be completely dissolved and the egg whites to be hot (and cooked).
  7. Once it gets to be 150F, attach the bowl to your electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high heat until the meringue is thick and glossy. You know you are done when the bowl is also room temperature to the touch, and not at all warm. It cannot be warm at all.
  8. Once you get stiff thick peaks with your meringue, switch from the whisk attachment to the paddle attachment.
  9. You are going to start adding the butter, one cube at a time. Your butter should be cool, not cold, at this point.
  10. With the mixer on low speed, mix until you get a smooth rich texture. The mixture will look curdly at some point, just keep mixing. I promise you it will come together.
  11. Add vanilla and salt, and continue to mix on low speed until everything is combined.
  12. Add the strawberry puree until well blended into the buttercream.

Chocolate Glaze
recipe from Sweetapolita

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
Directions:
  1. Place the chocolate and butter into a bowl and melt over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture until completely melted.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Place the first layer of cake and add buttercream frosting. Place the other layer on top.
  2. Crumb coat.
  3. Refrigerate for one hour.
  4. Remove from fridge and frost the cake. Try to be as even and straight as possible. Don’t worry too much about the top as you will be pouring chocolate all over it.
  5. Chill the cake.
  6. Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the chocolate glaze over the cake.
  7. Chill the cake again to set.
  8. Remove from the fridge at least 2 hours before you serve the cake. You want this cake to be completely at room temperature when you serve. Otherwise, the buttercream will be too hard and will taste just like butter. For those that complain of the Swiss meringue buttercream, this is the number one problem and can be easily remedied if you just let you cake sit out.

11 Comments

Filed under Cake, Desserts, Favorites

Happy Valentine’s Day {Sugar Cookies}

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

I must say that I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day.  Whether I was single, dating or married, the purpose of the day was lost on me.  All purposes save one.  The delicious factor.  You know what I mean.  Chocolates.  Desserts.  And of course, cookies.

With sugar cookies on the brain lately, I finally sat down and decorated sugar cookies for friends.  My experience has been that most cut-out decorated sugar cookies have lacked great flavor.  Well, not these.  These cookies are perfect.  Full of flavor and tender crumb.  The cookies are not overly sweet, which works well when paired with the royal icing, which let’s admit may not be the most delicious thing to put on top of a cookie.

And, as a novice at the decorated sugar cookie, I fully expected my cookies to be imperfect and composed of minor, superficial blemishes.  However, with a superior base product, I would gladly eat and share these cookies with my family and friends.

Sugar Cookies
-  from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cup sifted flour

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Cream butter until fluffy and add powdered sugar until fully incorporated and light.
  3. Add egg, almond extract, vanilla extract, salt and flour to the butter mixture until well blended (in that order).
  4. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least two hours, until the dough has firmed up.
  5. Once chilled, on a lightly floured surface, roll out the cookie dough to a 1/4 inch thickness.  If your dough keeps sticking, I suggest alternating between flour and powdered sugar to powder to the surface.  This way you won’t run the risk of adding too much flour to the mixture.
  6. After rolling, cut out your desired shapes with cookie cutters.  Transfer the cookies to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes until only barely browned on the bottom.  You do not want to brown these cookies.
  8. Allow the cookies to cool on a cooling rack completely before decorating.  If you don’t intend on decorating right away, store in an airtight container until it is time to decorate.

10 Comments

Filed under baking, Cookies, Favorites, Uncategorized

Chocolate Almond Toffee

When I first started dating Binks, around the holiday season six years ago, I made him a care package filled with goodies.  As I had just met him there was no meaning for the packaged goods, other than being delicious and wanting to impress him with deliciousness.  It worked.  Six years and a baby later, I can tell you that he still remembers that package.

The one treat that impressed me the most was toffee.  Considering that working with melting and browning sugar perfectly can be temperamental, this recipe was really forgiving and workable.

Toffee is a staple during the holidays, but considering the history of this simple candy, it means that much more.  Without question, Binks always brings up his first bite of the toffee after opening the package.

Now, to save myself from eating the whole batch, I package it away as edible gifts for friends.

Chocolate Almond Toffee

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Before beginning, line a cookie sheet with foil.  Cover everything.  I’m ultra-paranoid about candy sticking to the pan so I double wrapped the pan.
  2. Over medium-high heat, in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter, sugar and salt.  Mix constantly.  (Keep the vanilla extract handy.)
  3. Once melted, reduce the heat to medium and stir the mixture continuously until you get it to a boil.  It should be a smooth boil – not a rolling boil.  If it’s a rolling boil, then reduce the heat more.
  4. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you want to stir until you get the mixture to look like the color of a raw almond, a deep amber.  It’s completely normal in this process for the mixture to become gelatinous and mesh together.  Just remember to keep stirring.  It will get to the amber/almond stage.  Be patient.  Another way to test if the mixture is done is to take a bit of the sugar mixture and drop into ice-cold water.  It should be brittle when it hits the water.
  5. If you have a candy thermometer, the temperature should be 290-300 degrees.
  6. Once the mixture reaches the temperature, remove from heat, add the vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.
  7. Pour the mixture into the pan and it should naturally spread to a good thickness.  I like for it to be 1/4 inch thick.  If not, use a spatula to spread more.  Don’t worry about it being perfect.
  8. Once you are done with the sugar mixture, sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.  The chocolate will melt so take a spatula and spread the chocolate across the toffee mixture.
  9. Sprinkle the almonds over the chocolate, and press the looser almonds slightly into the chocolate to make sure it sticks.
  10. Cool the toffee in the fridge until completely cooled.
  11. Once cooled, break apart into shards.  Store in an airtight container.

 

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Filed under Candy, Desserts, Favorites, Holiday, Uncategorized

Baby Shower Goods

I have been in a work-related whirlwind for the past three weeks.  The end of this whole mess was marked by the most fantabulous baby shower I have ever received.  Well, I’m not one for surprises and I wanted to be involved.  I donated my baking abilities.  Remember the smorgasbord?

After a grueling three weeks of response writing, which at the end included a grand total of 600 complied documents, 60 of which were my written product, I went on a baking spree.

Meet the results.  (Lemon Blossoms from here; Goat Cheese Terrine from here; Mexican Wedding Cookies from here.)

And, some additional items.  (Pumpkin bread and chocolate cookies – recipes to come)

My mom made Southwestern Egg Rolls – yep, she’s that awesome, and my MIL made her famous chicken salad sandwiches on croissant.

It was foodie heaven.

And presents and decorations heaven.

I must say that this really did mark the beginning of nesting and preparing for the new baby’s arrival.  I have had baby on the brain night and day.  I plan on balancing that out with more baking.  :)

How do you unwind?  Do you cook your stress away?

12 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, baking, Cake, Cookies, Desserts, Favorites, Pregnancy

Comfort Food: Dal Curry

For the past few months, Binks has decided to cut meat (save fish) from his diet.  My job has then been to make sure he incorporates healthy proteins to ensure he is full and satisfied with what he eats.

The easiest, cheapest and tastiest way to do this?

Lentils.  Specifically, dal curry.

There are several ways to prepare dal, but this is the absolute favorite for me.  It’s comforting and flavorful.  On top of it all, it packs a healthy punch.

I used to make this version often (given to me by my MIL) until I perfected this version.  Now, it’s one of those dishes where I’m absolutely satisfied with the results and acts as a “go-to” recipe for me.

For this recipe, I use yellow split lentils as it cooks fairly quickly and does not need the overnight soak that other lentils typically require (i.e. urad dal).  You can also use masoor dal (red lentils) as it cooks quickly, as well.

Dal Curry
Ingredients:

-  1 cup dal (I use yellow split lentils or toor dal)
-  2 cups water
-  1/4 tsp turmeric
-  1 tsp salt
-  3 tbsp olive oil
-   1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to your taste – if unsure, start with a scant 1/4 tsp and go up if you want)
-  1/4 tsp cumin
-  1/4 tsp turmeric
-  1/2 tsp coriander
-  2 tsp ginger paste (you can also just grate fresh ginger)
-  2 serranos, diced (you can use jalapenos and/or adjust the amount per your taste)
-  1 small onion, diced
-  3 cloves garlic, minced
-  2 small tomatoes, diced
-  big pinch of garam masala
-  salt to taste

For tadka:
-  1/2 tsp cumin seeds
-  2 dry red chili, tear apart with your hands
-  pinch of asafeotida
-  1/2 tsp garam masala
-  2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:
1.   Place 1 cup dal, 2 cups water, and 1/4 tsp turmeric into pot and boil until the dal until the dal is soft.  Mash some of the dal in the pot.  Add salt to the dal mix.
2.  In a separate pan, heat oil over medium-high heat, and add cayenne pepper, cumin, turmeric, coriander and ginger paste (or grated ginger) and fry until the raw smell of the spices vanish, about 2 minutes.
3.   Add the onion, garlic and serranos (or jalapenos or any other pepper you decided to use) and saute for another 4 minutes until the onions have browned a bit.
4.   Add the tomato and cook for another 5 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and mixed with the spices and onion mix.
5.  Add the dal mixture (water and all), and lower the heat to medium.  Now, taste to see if you need more salt and add if you need.  Once properly salted, add a pinch of garam masala to ‘finish it off’ and stir to incorporate.  Cook the dal over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  (At this point, if you want the consistency to be more watery or soupy, add boiled water, 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.  I prefer my dal a bit thicker so I just usually add 1/4 cup.  Remember, as the dal cools, it thickens so add water accordingly.)
6.  While the dal is cooking, in a separate pan, you prepare your tadka.  Over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.  Once the oil has heated, add cumin seeds and let it sputter for approximately 1 minutes.  Then add the dry red chili, asoafeotida, and 1/2 tsp garam masala.  Cook until the raw smell of the spices is gone and the red chili peppers have toasted a bit.
7.  Pour the tadka into the dal and stir.
8.  Serve hot, preferably with rice.

I love the combination of this dal curry with brown rice.  Talk about hearty and perfect for a fall night.

8 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Favorites, Indian, Vegan, Vegetarian

My Favorite {Pregnancy} Things

Baby Binks is now approximately 32 weeks and now seemed like the best time to share with you my favorite pregnancy things up to date.  These aren’t baby-related – but just pregnancy-related (aka – all about me)!

1.  Old Navy

Here’s my math.  Pregnancy lasts 9 months.  And, for at least the first three months, you can fit into everything you had before.  So, I just have to shop for 6 months.  I refuse to spend a lot of money or redo my wardrobe for such a short period of time.  Call me crazy – or call me cheap – I can admit to both.  Enter Old Navy.

a.  Leggings

[Source]

I have lived in these leggings for longer than I want to remember.  I wear it under almost every dress and T-shirt I own.  I cannot attest to a more comfortable pair of leggings.  Mostly b/c I don’t own any others.  Thank God for maternity leggings.

b.  Jeans

Jeans are always tough.  I usually buy Gap jeans but the price and the fit of these maternity jeans sold me.  I got flare-legged jeans the day that I started noticing my thighs were widening.  I’m not a fashionista, but I think it helps.

 

[Source]

After experiencing maternity jeans, I’m not sure how I can ever go back to a button again.  You feel me?

2.  Gap

a.  The Dress

After finding out that my cousin’s rehearsal dinner required American dressy-casual clothes, I had to go look for a dress.  Luckily I found this:

[Source]

I really am pleased with it.  It’s plain.  It’s black.  It fits and hugs in all the right places.  I’m happy.

b.  The Cardigan

I can’t find the exact one but it’s similar to this, except it’s black (of course).

[Source]

3.  Burt’s Bees Body Butter

I found this on sale and randomly picked it up as a belly butter rub, and I am extremely glad I did.

[Source]

I use it every other day on my stomach and some dry areas (elbows, feet, etc.) and it’s perfect.  It’s not greasy and absorbs fairly quickly.  Either that or my skin is so dry it sucks up any moisture it can get.  I hope it’s not that.  It has a great smell and the one tub should last me until the very end!

4.  Babycenter

Yep, there’s an app for it.  And, I have it.  And, it’s free.

[Source]

I usually rely on my apps to get me through the day.  Facebook, Twitter, Words with Friends, Yelp, INRIX, TV Guide, Pandora, and now…Babycenter’s pregnancy app.  I use it often to find out what the update is on the BittyBinks.  It gives you a check list of things you should be doing at certain times so that you don’t run behind (e.g. Kegels, signing up for birthing classes, finding a pediatrician, etc.).

5.  Flats

I was never a flats wearer before, but when the heels were getting too much, I went and bit the bullet.

[Source]

Are they most attractive pair of shoes I own?  No.  But, I love them.  I wear them everywhere.  I can’t imagine a better pair to accompany me through the pregnancy.  Side note:  Do you know it’s not safe/good for your feet to be completely flat?  So, I made sure to get some ‘flats’ that had a slight heel to help keep my feet in good condition.

6.  An extra pillow…or two.

I didn’t buy a special maternity pillow.  I refused to.  No other reason than I’d rather spend the money on something else.  Instead, I just added an extra pillow to my sleeping schedule.  I keep it between my legs.  (TWSS!)  Sometimes when I feel the need to be especially cozy, I put an extra (extra) pillow behind my back.  It keeps me in place.  Think of Ethel and Fred preparing for bed in that cheap motel.  No one said I was trying to win the sexy pregnancy award.

7.  Other Bloggers

You cannot imagine how thrilled I am to have at least 5 pregnant bloggers – all around my same due date.  It’s like having a pregnancy club where you are reassured that what you are going through is normal.  And by club, I mean one where I’m in it and no one else knows they are in my club.  :)

My favorites:  Rhodeygirl Tests, The Daily Garnish, Legally Fit, and The Fitnessista.

At a time where none of my friends and/or family are pregnant or have been pregnant (in the past 2 years), reading about their experiences really has helped tremendously.

8.  My Binks

I will avoid being mushy.  I have been very fortunate – nay – blessed to have a super supportive partner/teammate who puts up with the good, the bad and the hormonal.  I couldn’t have come this far so well without him.  :)

So, whether it be your partner, friend, family, etc., the support of a loved one goes a long way.

So what’s your favorite thing right now?  Pregnancy or not.

12 Comments

Filed under Favorites, Life, Pregnancy, Uncategorized

Bouchon v. Levain

As you may or may not know, a week before my dad’s passing, Binks and I went to NY for a cousin’s wedding.  We took 4 days for the wedding and an additional 3 days of non-wedding time (can we say too much extended family time?).

Call it a Babymoon if you will – I will not.  Rather, the appropriate term would be my search for the best food ever.

I have an affinity/bias/love-affair with NY.  When my family first moved to America, we moved to NY for about a month.  We didn’t stay long but it left a lasting impression.  From things I remember as a kid, I remember having the best Indian food in NY (heard of Jackson Heights anyone?), obviously killer pizza and the like.

This time, was really my first time in NY.  Usually we spend our time with family and were deemed too young to travel outside of Queens.  So, Binks and I made full use of the times we got alone to walk the streets of NY.

One day, as were heading out of our hotel, a girl walked passed me with the most delectable chocolate chip cookie in hand. I wanted one.  Not just one.  I wanted to try as many chocolate chip cookies as possible and find the best in NY.  Call it pregnancy cravings if you will – I will not.  It’s just me being me.

Here are my requirements for the perfect chocolate chip cookie:

1.  Texture – Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  This is a balancing act like none other.  And, while I enjoy a good slightly under-cooked center as the rest of us, I don’t want the whole cookie to rest on that.  (You should remember that Otis – although I will devour you any day and in anyway!)

2.  Chip/cookie Ratio – Definitely more cookie that chip for me.  If it’s too much chocolate chip, then I miss the whole point of a cookie.

3.  Taste – buttery, deep, not too sweet, hint of salty – I know you know what I mean.

My first stop – Bouchon Bakery.

Luckily we had a bakery just one block from our hotel.  Talk about tastefully convenient!

And speaking of tasty – this was just that.  Dare I say perfect?  I do.  The dough is fantastic – sweet but not overly so with a nice rounded out flavor.  What stood out the most was the chocolate.  Far superior to any other chocolate chip I have had.  Overall, I was one happy NY foodie tourist.

Then, came Levain.  Known to many as offering the best cookies ever, I had to try.  We were walking around the Upper West Side (Binks wanted to see where Seinfeld lived), we trekked south towards our hotel before catching a bus to the airport.  With our time constraint, and the distance, I was sure we wouldn’t get time for a visit.  But, this is when determination hits hardest.

I told Binks that I would gladly walk another 4 miles just to get this cookie.  And, Binks being Binks, obliged.

Meet the chocolate chip walnut from Levain.

This is a beast at the least.  Heavy and dense.  A Goliath among chocolate chip cookies.  I broke into one to discovery an ooey and gooey center.  Yes, “ooey” and “gooey” is the ONLY way to describe it – I dare you to say differently.  It quite literally melts in your mouth.

I loved it.  The taste was there.  Full of chocolate chips and who could ever complain about portions?  Perfect?  Umm…..don’t hate me but No!  While nothing less than delicious, Bouchon ruined me (maybe for life).  I prefer a thinner chocolate chip cookie.  Levain was more like a giant dough ball.  Again, while I love an under-cooked center, this was too much.  And, there might have been too many chocolate chips.  Binks, the president of the chocolate addict club, agreed.

I said don’t hate me!

Would I ever deny myself one in the future?  Nope.  But if standing in a line offering Bouchon or Levain – Bouchon for me, please!

I do have to say there were many places we didn’t get to try:

-  Max Brenner
-  Pret A Manger
-   Almondine

Tasting only two cookies in my quest for the perfect cookie.  Call it a failure if you will – I will not.  Rather, I’ll be back – with a vengeance.

Tell me about your favorite chocolate chip cookie.  What do you look for?

13 Comments

Filed under Cookies, Favorites, Vacation

Lunch with the Inlaws

Binks and I designate every other weekend as parents weekend and we usually go to the parents’ houses for lunch and dinner.  This past weekend, after finding out that we are having a baby boy, I thought we should do a gender reveal party just for the parents.  However, due to our severe excitement to blurt it out and scheduling issues, we just told everyone and had a lunch with Binks’ parents for his birthday.

‘Tis a rare occasion that I cook for my in-laws.  ‘Tis a rarer occasion that I cook Indian food for my in-laws.  I love my MIL, but cooking Indian food for her is a stress that I have imposed on myself.  The lady can cook.  And, I am a hot mess and I get nervous.  So, in order to pull off a seemingly-easy-full-course Indian meal was something I had to gear up for.

Menu

-  Appetizers:  Fresh cut veggies and lemon wedges. To me, this is the perfect beginning of a heavy Indian meal.  And it goes great as a salad on the side of the meal itself.

Main Course:  Naan, Fried Rice, Chicken Tikka, Palak Saag, Potato Sabji, and Raita.

I must apologize.  The only picture I got of the naan was this.

This is the dough at the initial stages.  I totally intend on making this again soon so recipe to follow I promise!

The chicken tikka recipe I used (my absolute favorite) can be found here.  This time, I doubled the sauce because you can’t have enough for soaking with your naan or pouring over the rice.

The saag again is another favorite of mine.  I have to say I love the preparation and ease of saag.  First, you start out with a sink full of greens.  Literally – a sink FULL.

And it all cooks down to this:

The potato sabji is favorite of mine.  It’s truly comfort food for me.  Recipe to come soon!

Finally, to me, no meal is complete without raita.

Dessert:  The best yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting!

Meal Preparation

An Indian meal, in my opinion, takes a long time to prepare.  Unless, you’re my aunt who somehow does everything in an hour.  So, to prepare my meal (as a novice) and have time to clean up (so it looks somewhat effortless), this was a two-day process.

Day Before:
-  Grocery shopping
-  Marinade chicken
-  Make saag and refrigerate in the same pot you made it in.
-  Make raita
-  Clean up entire kitchen.
-  Set out the plates/serving ware you want to use.  This will give you a great head start for the next day.
-  Set out butter before bed to have it softened by the next morning.

Day Of:
-  Make dough for naan.
-  Make cupcakes.
-  While dough is rising, prepare chicken tikka.
-  While chicken tikka is simmering, boil potatoes for potato sabji.
-  After naan dough has its first rise, roll into balls and allow for second rise.
-  Heat saag on low in the same pot.
-  Make buttercream.
-  Frost cupcakes.
-  Plate and set out food, dishes, cups, drinks & utensils.
-  Clean like crazy.
-  Make fried rice
-  Once rice is cooking covered, plate your other dishes.
-  Make naan.

I make naan last so it’s most hot and fresh when people arrive and if people were to arrive when I’m making naan, it’s not as bad or as busy as if people were to arrive when I’m plating or cleaning.  You know?

The best thing to show you would have been my detailed calendar for the day, complete with time frames.  I’ll save that craziness strategy for another post.

How do you plan for guests?  Do you start days early?  What do you take into account when planning a menu?

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Filed under Favorites, Indian, Lunch, Uncategorized

A Purposeful Cupcake

This weekend, we celebrated Bink’s 34th birthday.  And what has the 34-year-old Binks been wanting for his birthday?  Why none other than the mighty cupcake.

What’s the purpose to the cupcake?  Read to the very end and find out!

Call me ignorant – well for many reasons but namely this one – I don’t care whether it’s cupcake or cake.  I like both and both love me.

Binks, on the other hand, will go bonkers for a cupcake over a cake any day.  Even if we were at a party and there was a delectable cake and an average looking cupcake, he would reach for the cupcake.  I don’t get it.  Maybe you can explain it to me?

To me, it’s the difference between picking a blue M&M as opposed to a red one.  Am I stirring up some feathers?  I apologize.

Meet Bink’s birthday cuppy-cake.  The cake recipe is the same that’s used here.  I will never buy or make another yellow cake again now that I have this.

The frosting is none other than a chocolate butter cream.  Again, I won’t look any further.  I’m happy with what I concocted.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1.25 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Directions:
  1. Cream butter in your mixer on medium speed.
  2. Gradually add in powdered sugar.
  3. Gradually add cocoa powder.
  4. Add vanilla extract.
  5. Add cream.
  6. Add salt.
  7. The consistency should be soft, light and spreadable.  Keep scraping down the pan so that all the ingredients are incorporated.
Trust me, there is nothing better than laying out on the couch after dinner with one of these in your hand.
P.S. Want to take a wild guess as to why I’m eating cupcakes in a blue liner from a blue plate?
:)
Did you guess?  Do you prefer a cake or a cupcake?  Do you prefer a color M&M?  If you do, tell me why please!  I want to understand!

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Filed under baking, Cake, Desserts, Favorites, Vegetarian