Just read this and it touches on the intersection of the issues of poverty and food / nutrition. Will reading this solve the issue? No, but I would like to think that this would help folks better understand the plight of poverty. Please give it a read. Maybe it will inspire some action.
Fall is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it — the smells, the cooler days, the crisper nights, the colors, the pies, Halloween, Thanksgiving, volleyball and football start up again — what’s not to love? Alright, I admit there is one thing I don’t like — cleaning up all those damn leaves on my property. I own about an acre of land with maybe 20 giant oak trees. So the leaves can pile up and pile up quickly. And unlike in some neighboring cities, I can’t just push my leaves into the road, so I either have to do it myself or hire someone else to do it. But that’s a whole other issue. . .
Anyhoo, I saw this the other day on Facebook and wanted to share. This appeared on my feed from the magazine Midwest Living. This sums up everything that is awesome about Fall and I wanted to share it with y’all. What do y’all like about Autumn? Just let me know — either here or on Facebook! I gots a recipe for some Gluten-Free Rocky Road Brownies coming up later this week, and hopefully some other fun stuff.
It could just be me, but I need a break from the Olympics. So instead I’m up watching the NASA channel on updates about the Mars Rover, well that and reruns of Futurama. I guess I need to feed my inner nerd. Sure I could be studying up on Policies and Procedures, but science is important.
And as another break from the Olympics I thought I’d just post some random things that I find funny that are food related. I was thinking about trying to make this a regular feature, but that requires extra work that is difficult right now with all the training and studying I have to do. Hell, I can’t even keep up with my regular blogging duties.
Anyhoo, I thought this was funny. It was making the rounds a little bit ago along all the Interwebs, so I’m a little late with this one. I have no idea on the source, but if anyone knows, drop me a line.
I was hoping to have this posted before Flag Day, but it turns out that Flag Day was yesterday (and apparently National Bourbon Day was yesterday, too). At least this is something that you can make for the upcoming 4th of July holiday. I made these a little bit ago for a Memorial Day / Birthday celebration. They’re fun and festive, especially if you put metallic star picks in them! Very patriotic, and not just here in The States, but everywhere else that has those same colors in their national flag. Like France, the UK, Puerto Rico, Slovakia — in Canada, you can just make the Red Velvet cupcakes — in Greece just make the blue ones! — and so on. Maybe you could make some for a UEFA Championship Party (can’t believe the Dutch are almost eliminated).
As for the recipe, Red velvet is what people typically think of, but why not Blue velvet cupcakes? It’s the same principle, just with blue coloring. Plus, there’s that song about them. Well, not the cupcakes, but about blue velvet. Or was it Blue Moon? But I digress. . . if you were ever wondering about some of the background of the Red Velvet cake, you can find some fascinating information here at Gilt Taste.
As you can see from one of the pictures, I tried to use one of those cupcake stands made out of cardboard (There was a sale at Jo-Ann’s, so I thought why not? I can never resist a sale!). I just could not get that thing together right, AND there were three of us working on it. Sure I had a couple margaritas, some sangria, and a beer in me by then, but I’m pretty sure my two “assistants” were fairly sober. That thing was such a hassle it had me sweating like a wh@%& in church, pardon my language. And of course the first cupcake we put on made the top tier topple over and fall onto several of the other cupcakes. Alas, if I was only recording the whole ordeal. Such is life. Maybe I should just invest in something more sturdy, but then again, I wouldn’t have any interesting stories to tell!
There’s a small part of me that is always hesitant about using dyes, particularly in cakes. With frostings and buttercreams, I’m okay with using tints, but I always balk at cakes. So I probably didn’t use as much color as I could have. I’ve seen some recipes that called for a whole bottle of coloring, which I did not do, so the color is not as pronounced. But no worries — if you want more intensity in the colors just use more. You can get away with using less red since the chemical reaction between the acids (buttermilk and vinegar) and the cocoa are supposed to produce the red color you get in Red Velvet cakes, although it’s very faint. But I did use more of the blue to make sure it would come out. And the amount of dye you use may depend on what products you have. The blue that I used for this is AmeriColor Royal Blue; the red is Wilton’s Red-Red. Gel pastes are usually what I prefer because it will not affect the recipe ratios as much. Here’s what you need:
for the cupcakes (one batch makes about 2 dozen; the red batch used 1/2 t. of coloring and the blue used 1 t.):
- 2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 c. corn starch
- 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1 t. salt
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 2 t. white vinegar
- 1 t. vanilla
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- gel paste coloring (see above)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your muffin pan with cupcake papers and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, corn starch, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, white vinegar, and vanilla. Set aside as well.
3. In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the oil and sugars until combined on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Whisk in the gel paste, scraping down the sides as needed.
4. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 additions of the buttermilk mixture. Scrape down the sides after each addition and whisk well.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners, filling to about 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating once halfway through baking. Cool cupcakes in the pans set on wire racks. Frost with the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.
for the frosting (this was enough for 4 dozen cupcakes):
- 3 8-oz. packages of cream cheese
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter
- 3 c. confectioners sugar
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1 t. vanilla
- 8 oz. white chocolate, chopped.
1. In the bowl of a mixer using the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium for a couple of minutes, until well combined. Place the white chocolate in a microwave proof bowl. Microwave in 15 second bunches until melted, stirring after each time. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, making sure to keep in a liquid state.
2. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners sugar and salt. Mix until smooth. Add the vanilla and white chocolate and mix for about 1 minute, scraping down the sides. Use either a small spatula knife or a piping bag to frost the cupcakes.
Notes — I have read that you can use beet juice instead of the red coloring, but I have no idea how much you need and how to adjust the recipes for the change in the amount of liquid. . . I’m not sure about an alternative for the blue, but I do have some ideas if you needed something green 🙂 . . .You should be able to store these in the freezer for a few weeks. Thaw the frozen cakes in the refrigerator overnight. . . As always when making cakes, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. . . I’m still bummed I missed National Bourbon Day; been wanting to add some Four Roses bourbon to my collection. I really need to revisit my Foodie Holiday postings. . . And don’t forget to visit Daisy Cakes and Jereme’s Kitchen on Facebook. . .
Happy June and Happy Hazelnut Cake Day! Alright this may be more appropriate for locals, but some of y’all might be visiting. Plus it might give some of y’all some incentive to visit us here in SE Michigan (if you need more incentive, Frommer’s just named us as one of the top 20 Best Vacation Destinations!). But we have a couple of our annual summer events coming up this weekend. First of all there’s Ya’ssoo — the Greek Festival of Ann Arbor. It starts today and runs through Sunday so there are lots of chances to head on over. Here’s a link to the event flyer and here’s the website. Of course, there’ll be specialty foods (here’s the menu!), concerts, raffles, and tours. Lot’s of fun and I’ve been craving Saganaki and some Paximathakia (if you don’t know, look it up!). Ooo, I should post my baklava recipe sometime.
There is also the 17th Annual Ann Arbor African-American Festival, Saturday, June 2, 9am – 9 pm. This festival pays tribute to the historic black business district of Ann Arbor. Now I couldn’t find a website, but I did find an email where you can get more information — email@example.com. There’ll be music, food, dances, and theatrical performances. The cost is free and this will take place downtown.
Also this Sunday (June 3) is the Taste of Ann Arbor. I’m excited and hope to attend this year! Tasting tickets are $0.50 and it runs from 11am – 5pm. Games and music will be a part of the festivities, but the food is the main draw! A lot of my favorites will be there and some places that I’ve been dying to try. And it’s great that a sample will just cost me 50 cents! And if you’re interested there’s the Dexter Ann Arbor Run on Sunday; registration ends tonight. They schedule concurrently with Taste of Ann Arbor; all that food at the finish line is motivation enough for me. I wonder if runners get some free tasting tickets 🙂 There’s a half marathon, 10k, 5k, and kids’ run. If the races are still open, you can register online here.
Sure this is short notice, but these are just some of the fun things going on around town this weekend. They involve eating food, which is something I do everyday! And they also give you a chance to learn, and play, and maybe run a half marathon.
Hello again everybody! Sorry for being out of commission for a little bit, but again I’ve been busy trying to keep busy. Although today, I’m feeling somewhat under the weather and flu-ey, plus my back hurts. So you know what that means for me — Cheezits and Rum! But it also means that I won’t be going to the gym (I’m up to lifting 110,425 lbs. now) so I gots me some time to post some fun stuff for y’all!
This is what I made for a little get-together to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo. You’ll need some cayenne pepper, which is said to have been used by the Mayans and the Aztecs (cultural nugget — yay!). It has been some time since I made these and I forgot the heat they impart. I don’t think it’s overwhelming, but it is definitely noticeable. It won’t hit you at first, but after the chocolate melts away is when you get that kick from the cayenne.
This recipe came from chatelaine.com, and they in turn adapted it from the book A Matter of Taste by Lucy Waverman and James Chatto. And if y’all remember my chocolate truffles cake, I prefer a more “natural” truffle — one that actually looks like the truffles you dig out of the ground. That’s why these chocolates are called truffles after all. Here’s what you need:
- 10 oz. (280 g) bittersweet chocolate
- 1/4 c. (50 mL) room temperature butter
- 1/2 c. (125 mL) whipping cream
- 1 T. (15 mL) liquid honey
- 1/2 t. (2 mL) cayenne pepper
- 1/4 c. (50 mL) cocoa powder
1. Finely chop chocolate. Place in a large bowl with the butter. Pour cream into a small saucepan and set over medium heat.
2. As soon as cream boils, remove it from the heat and then pour it over the chocolate and butter. Stir until melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in honey and cayenne.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment, foil, or silpat. To make truffles, scoop out a small amount of the mixture with a melon baller or a very small ice cream scoop. Use your hands to shape chocolate into 1-2 inch balls. Set each ball on a baking sheet.
5. Place half of cocoa powder in a small bowl. Place one truffle in the bowl and gently roll to coat with cocoa. Shake off excess and return to the baking sheet. Repeat, adding cocoa as needed. When all are coated, place in a container in single layers separated by wax paper. Refrigerate. Will keep for up to 5 days.
Notes — Every time I make truffles I always think that it’s a good idea to always have a bain marie ready. Most recipes I find involve pouring some scalded cream into some chopped chocolate. More often than not, the heat from the scalded cream is not enough to melt the chocolate. That’s where the bain marie comes in to finish the job. . . experiment with different types and amounts of chili and see if there’s anything that you like better. . . Don’t forget to like Jereme’s Kitchen and my bakery Daisy Cakes on Facebook!
With all the hub-bub over my cookbook giveaway, I thought it might be time for another trip over to Frita Batidos. Frita’s is owned by Chef Eve Aronoff (who is the author of my cookbook giveaway, if you’ve not heard) and this is her second venture in the Ann Arbor dining scene after her first restaurant eve. Actually, I believe there is some overlap between the two timelines, if I remember correctly. But that’s all beside the point — I’m here to eat!!!
She is quick to point out that the food served here is not Cuban food, but rather, it’s what is called “Cuban-inspired” street food. When describing the basis for this inspiration, Chef Aronoff talks about the times she spent growing up in Miami and being exposed to all the different local cultures. Of course, this includes the Cuban and Latino communities, but also numerous influences from other migrant populations like Creole and African. So, Cuban food traditions are just the starting point of where she develops the signature flavors and tastes of Frita Batidos.
Before we get too far along, let’s look at some of the terminology. That’s when the menu gets extra handy offering some explanations. First of all, let’s start with the name of the restaurant. A frita is a type of Cuban burger which is traditionally made with chorizo, but can be made of fish or black beans. It’s usually served on top of a soft bun with a side of shoestring fries. A batido is a tropical milkshake made fresh fruit, crushed ice, and a drop of sweetened milk, with or without rum (yummy Cajeta Batidos!). But there is a wide selection of other menu items that would be at home in any Cuban restaurant like Cuban sandwiches, plantains, conch fritters, and churros — lovely churros. Just look at the picture above to see (or go to the website). What’s also great about the menu is how it’s broken down on the back (it’s also printed on the wall). There are listings for what’s Vegan and Vegetarian; there are categories for Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Garlic-Free items; and there’s a breakdown of flavor profiles. It’s great for those who may need a little direction and guidance in making their selection. But then again, I love categorizing and organizing things so it makes perfect sense to me!
When you first enter the restaurant, one thing that you’ll probably notice is that it is stark white with various metallic accents from the chairs, menus, lighting, etc. The storefront is white, the walls are white, the ceiling is white, the floors are white. The lone pop of color comes from the window-side bar which has a warm wooden tone; there is another bar towards the back. You’d think all this starkness would lean towards a more sterile, clinical feel, but it really doesn’t. The exposed brick and wood are among the various textures help add to a feeling of warmth. Also all the white lets the food really stand out — which is why my everyday plates are simple and all white. There is an air of informality here, which is helped along by the use of the picnic tables instead of regular tables and chairs. You could even start up a game of dominoes with your neighbor if you like, which again is a nice touch that is reflective of the Cuban / Latin American cultures.
Luckily for me, I get there around 11:30 and I beat the lunch rush. I try to keep things simple and just order a Chorizo Frita (you can get a Frita Loco which includes Muenster cheese, cilantro-lime salsa, tropical coleslaw, and an egg sunny-side-up!). I also get a Fresh Ginger Lime Juice to accompany it and make myself comfy at the window-side bar so I can look out on this cold, gloomy Michigan day. Hard to believe it was 85 degrees here a couple of weeks ago!
When I get my Ginger-Lime Juice, I was definitely surprised. This was my first time ordering this and I was taken aback, not just with the flavor but with its presentation. It was served in a simple plastic baggie with a straw. This may seem strange to some, but it definitely stays with the street food theme. If you’ve done any traveling in the Caribbean, or Latin America, or if you’ve watched any travel programs like No Reservations, or even Destination Truth (remember, I’m a nerdy dork) you should be familiar with how this drink is served. It is very typical of what you can find in markets or being sold by street vendors in that part of the world. I am very much appreciative of the effort and thought that went into this drink. The flavor was amazing — just what I needed to brighten this gloomy day! The flavors of the ginger and lime feel so balanced and refreshing. I really could drink this all day long! It reminds me of her Ginger-Lime Martinis, but without the martini part.
It doesn’t take too long for my Frita to be ready. Served on a small sheet pan (these would be handy in my bakery), it’s wrapped in paper sitting on top of a piece of banana leaf. Again, you have a gamut of textures and flavors here — there’s the soft and creamy brioche, the crispiness of the fries, and the spiciness of the chorizo. All the different layers all contribute to the really exceptional experience you get when biting into one of these. The flavors all seem to blend and yet stand out on their own. The quality of the ingredients is definitely apparent — everything was delicious!
Unfortunately, I had to cut my lunch date with myself short because the time ran out on my parking meter. Originally, what I had hoped for was to get a large cohort of folks together so we could all sample a wider array of menu selections and give a better representation of what Frita’s has to offer. But I guess I’ll just have to make another field trip downtown, by myself or what have you. It’s not like I need an excuse to eat some great food. It’s all in the name of research! And I do have to apologize to the nice folks that sat next to me at the bar. Sometimes when I have a task on hand (like doing a restaurant review), I have a tendency to be too focused and not be as friendly as I should. It’s a flaw and I’m working on it 🙂
So, if you ever happen to find yourself in downtown Ann Arbor, stop in to Frita Batidos for a bit. Have a churro and hang out for a while! You won’t regret it.
And don’t forget to like me of Facebook (why do I always forget about self-promotion?)