Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Scenes from a Cookie Swap

I attended my first ever cookie swap a few weeks ago. The rosemary butter cookies I made won best rookie cookie! Here's some pictures.

Welcome Sign!

The Entries!

My winning cookies!

Favorite Albums of 2010

It's that time of year again! Time for the favorite albums of 2010. All in no particular order, except for #1.

Black Keys - Brothers

Another solid release from the Black Keys. I keep coming back to this album. It is fun, soulful, and good for beer drinking. People seem to like this band, but I feel like they don't quite get the props they deserve.

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

This isn't the album cover, because I'm afraid it will offend those who read this blog for cupcake pictures. I want to dislike Kanye West. I really do. But, this album is filled with some really brilliant music. So, I gave in and I love it.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

When we first bought this album, we could not stop listening to it. It's beautiful and dreamy and just plain fabulous.

Grinderman - Grinderman 2

I have a crush on Nick Cave now.

Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM

This was my first favorite album of 2010. I have bought it for numerous friends. She produced it with Beck, and it shows, but it's a lovely way to spend a nice summer afternoon.

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse (and various artists) - Dark Night of the Soul

This collaboration is overlooked on alot of best of lists. I don't know if it's because it technically came out last year, or if people just haven't heard it. The Suzanne Vega and Julian Casablancas songs are especially nice.

Walkmen - Lisbon

Another solid release from Walkmen. I felt their last album was a little lacking, but this one is great the entire way through! Love the spanish influenced horns.

AND NOW.....#1!

LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening

Dance, punk, David Bowie...love it all. I was lucky enough to see them in concert this summer and it made my year.

The Quest for the Perfect Bacon Cupcake

In the fall, a few friends hosted a sausage fest and asked me to bring cupcakes. I thought it would be appropriate to make bacon cupcakes to fit the theme. This proved a little more difficult than I imagined.

I started with a recipe for french toast cupcakes, where you baked the bacon in the batter. This resulted in a very dry, sad, cloying maple cupcake with bacon scattered throughout. I decided then that bacon in the batter is always a bad idea. (My guess is the salt just destroys any moisture in the cake itself).

I decided to abandon maple flavoring for caramel. These turned out wonderfully! They were still sweet, but received rave reviews. Pictures below!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Birthday Present

Last week was my birthday, and one of my presents was this super cool filled pancake pan (also known as Ebelskivers)from Williams-Sonoma. I had been eyeing it for a while, and was excited to try it out!

The first attempt at flipping them while trying to keep the filling intact was a little difficult to do using chopsticks. Later in the weekend, I used wooden skewers, and found them to be much easier to use.

If you're into hosting brunch for people, I would recommend investing in this pan. I got the cookbook also, and it offers some great recipe variations. The batter is light and fluffy, and tastes fantastic!

First attempt at filled pancakes, below.

Pan on stove!



First batter is poured!

First Flip!

Some worked out, some did not

Mmmm...powdered sugar

What I Made for Dinner 08/27/10

Friday is typically pizza night at our house. I've been experimenting with different pizza dough recipes, and really love this one for wheat dough. Sometimes, I just don't have the time to wait for it to be ready, and cheat with the super cheap and awesome freshly made dough from Trader Joe's. I'll admit, I did cheat this Friday night.

I still had plenty of fresh basil and tomatoes from a weeknight trip to my parents' garden, so I opted for a fresh mozzerella pizza this night. It was phenomenal. I could have eaten three.

Before oven!

After oven!

Tomato Sauce

Each year, my Dad has one of the best gardens around. Last summer, his tomato crop was hit with the blight, so sauce making was not an option. This year, there are almost too many tomatoes! So, I set out to put up 2 baskets of Romas in two nights. I accomplished this goal, and the sauce looks wonderful. Luckily, I had my friend, the Squeezo in the kitchen to help!

I ended up with 15 quarts of sauce, and 4 quarts of roasted tomatoes. I thought I could turn those into sauce at a later date. I chose to freeze everything because I do not have a pressure cooker. I find that the sauce keeps just fine.

Tomatoes in basket, ready to be made into sauce!

Getting their first wash in the sink!


Sauce on stove (aka, I heart my Le Creuset dutch oven)!

Sauce in bags, ready for freezer!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer Grilling

It's summertime here on the east coast, and that means it's time to feast on some bbq chicken and asparagus. (Yes, I know it's not really in season, but it tastes good on the grill and I couldn't resist it!) We also received the first cobs of corn from the family farm, and thought it would be good to have a feast.

We are traditional grillers, which means everything is cooked on a charcoal grill using hardwood charcoal, without the use of lighter fluid. While a gas grill is convenient, I don't think it really imparts any flavor to the food. So, I'm sticking with old, slow charcoal.

Corn and the first tomatoes of the season!

The grilled feast:

No Knead Foccacia Bread

This month's issue of Cook's Illustrated included a recipe for no knead focaccia bread. This is one of my favorite breads, despite it being a little heavier on the olive oil than I'd like. I thought it was a little heavy on time. If you just knead the bread, it takes alot less! But, the end result was a much tastier, fluffier foccacia. This was my first time baking bread on my baking stone, and it really does make a difference!

Bread in pan

Detail View

My Favorite Season

My favorite season is fall, but in food terms, it's when tomatoes are in full effect. I am spoiled, and have a Dad who grows phenomenal chemical-free produce. The tomatoes and potatoes are my favorite. During tomato season, I probably eat a BLT sandwich every week. I am always saddened when they are all turned into sauce.

I wish I could capture the beauty of them. These pictures will have to do.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Burgers I've Eaten - Part 14 - Sunshine General Store

This weekend, we took a little trip up the road to a place recommended by my husband's co-worker for burgers. The place? Sunshine General Store. Let's be clear. This is not somewhere you'd take a girl (or guy) for a romantic first date. But, if said girl or guy is into huge, 1/2 pound, very tasty burgers, you might want to consider it. Sure, this place could use a good cleaning, but the grime is part of its charm.

And the burgers are no joke.

These are a generous 1/2 pound, well done burgers served on a roll that was perfectly toasted on the grill. Toppings range from tomatoes to fried onions, but I'm a simple girl, and just got cheese, lettuce, and mayo.

For a burger under 7 dollars, this is the place. I don't think I'll go to Five Guys ever again.

Sunshine General store is located at:

22300 Georgia Avenue
Brookeville, MD 20833

Don't forget to stop by the ATM before visiting. They do not take credit cards.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Georgetown Cupcake

I have been wanting to try the confections at Georgetown Cupcake for a few years, but could never get down to their flagship store to try them. A few weeks ago, I discovered they also had a location in Bethesda Row. I thought it would be a good idea to try them out before it got super crowded because of their new show on TLC.

I ordered 6 cupcakes. Each new bakery I try, I always get a vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream. Theirs was the best I've ever tasted. (My previous favorites were Sugar Sweet Sunshine in NYC and Sweet in Boson) The cupcake was a little heavy on the icing, but it was so good, I was glad for extra. The sprinkles were mini gobstoppers and were a step up from the everyday rainbow ones.

I also had a key lime, and bites of the coconut, pumpkin spice, and chocolate. All were very good. The pumpkin spice was a little too heavy on the maple in the icing.

Overall, I'm really glad this shop is just a short drive from my house (on a good traffic day). I can't wait to go back and try more flavors.

Meadow's Frozen Custard

My new favorite treat is the frozen custard from Meadow's in the Hickory Ridge Village Center. Each day, they have vanilla and chocolate and 2-3 other rotating flavors. They also have italian ice and espresso drinks, but I have yet to try those. Custard is made with egg yolks, making it just a little creamier than ice cream. Theirs does not disappoint!

Their take-home quarts of custard are a great deal at 4 dollars.

Check out their website and stop by for a cool treat next time you're in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Burgers I've Eaten - Part 13 - Hamilton Tavern (with bonus cupcake review!)

This weekend, my husband and I ventured out of our 10 mile radius to have burgers and beers with friends at .Hamilton Tavern. Business owners have really been revitalizing my old home town with hip places like this (and Red Canoe, down the street).

We split the beef and veggie burger, so as to try them both!

First, the beef burger...

The burgers here are really top notch. The beef comes from a farm, about 20 miles north, and tastes like it was picked up that morning. I ate this burger on Saturday, and wish i could go back for more tonight! The bun looks like it might be too much, but it compliments the burger perfectly.

Second, the veggie burger

The veggie burger was substantial and homemade. It had a nice smoke flavor, and was not, like most places, a reheated Boca burger. Even if you're a serious meat eater, I would suggest giving this a taste.

Finally, for dessert, a salted caramel cupcake with salted caramel buttercream topped with bacon.

One word - yes. Sure, the icing application could use a little work, but when a cupcake tastes this yummy, it's hard to criticize.

All in all, a fabulous night out with friends, good burgers, dessert, and beer. Note to the ladies, the Hamilton Tavern has one of the coolest women's rooms I've ever seen, but it will make you feel guilty for not having read Wuthering Heights.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Baby Shower Cupcakes and Cakes

My friends and I made a bunch of cupcakes (118) for a baby shower this weekend for our friend and her partner! They looked super cute and were a big hit all around. Here's some pictures of the cupcakes and cakes.

Lost Questions Left Unanswered

Here's my best attempt at making a list of unanswered Lost questions. I think this list speaks to why season 6 was such a disappointment for those of us who really loved the show. Shame on you, lazy writers.

Who is Alvar Hanso?
Does Sun's dad have any ties to the DHARMA Initiative and/or the Hanso foundation? Did he know about the island?
Who was running all the things in Ann Arbor? What was in Ann Arbor?
Who were the DeGroots?
Why the conceiving issues on the island?
What was the DHARMA initiatives motives on the island?
Was it smoky in Jacob's cabin all those years giving orders to Ben? If so, why did Jacob let him do that? Was Jacob just observing all the goings on to see if Ben would be "good" in the end?
What was Libby's purpose? Was she working for Widmore? Or was it just a random coincidence that she gave Desmond the sailboat that brought him to the island?
Please explain the map written in invisible ink on the door in the hatch.
Why was Aaron supposed to be raised by Claire only?
What were the rules between Widmore and Ben? Why did Ben break the rules at the end?
How did Ben have unlimited resources and money off island? Who was supplying him with these resources?
Was smoky controlling all the ghosts on the island? Was he the ghosts?
What was the purpose of the temple?
Why did the water turn brown?
What happened to ben in the temple when he was little?
Why didn't Richard tell Ben more about the island?
How did the others get all the food? (Ben's crew who lived in otherville)
What happened between Kate and Ben at the beginning of season 3 (or 4, can't remember), when he brought her onto the beach for breakfast and told her that the next few weeks were going to be very hard on her, and then she came back to the cages all beaten up and bloody? What did they discuss?
Why was Ben getting Sayid to kill all those people? Who was the economist?
What was Illana's background? Who were the people in her group and what did they believe?
What was Desmond's sacrifice? What happened to little Charlie?
What happened to Miles, Lapedius, Richard, and Claire?
Why was the lady at the hotel in Africa scared of Ben when he checked in?
What happened to Anna Lucia?
Why did smoky selectively kill some, but not others?
what was the point of the polar bears?
How did the polar bear get to the desert for Charlotte to find?
What did Eloise know? Why did she know so much? Why did she eventually leave the island?
Why was Desmond immune to the electromagnetism?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sushi Note

I am a big fan of sushi. There are great places in my area to eat this edible art. With its growing popularity, many fish are at risk of being overfished, especially bluefin tuna. A plethora of rolls at most sushi restaurants contain bluefin tuna. I encourage you to avoid these rolls. I have been skipping the bluefin tuna for about 6 months now, and it has not hampered my eating experience.

Check out this link for more information regarding the overfishing of bluefin tuna and a list of more sustainable restaurant choices.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nostalgia Cupcakes

I ventured to Nostalgia Cupcakes in Annapolis, MD. Their cupcakes are really pretty, and quite tasty. Pictured here are the HOT chocolate cake and the Pink Lady cupcakes. I was surprised that the hot chocolate cake contained chili powder, or pepper of some sort. It was an interesting idea, but it detracted from the chocolate flavor in the cake. The pink lady cupcake was injected with a bit of strawberry jam and topped with vanilla buttercream.

These cupcakes were definitely among the top tier of bought ones, but I still feel like I can make tastier ones at home. I was also a little put off by the attitude of the workers in the store. They substituted a bunch of cupcakes without letting me know (I had ordered and paid for them ahead of time), and weren't very apologetic about it either. I guess I just figured if you had your own cupcake shop, you'd be in a good mood. Or at least smile when someone picked up their order.

Maybe they were just having a bad day.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Happy 20th Anniversary, Twin Peaks!

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the premiere of Twin Peaks. I was in middle school at the time. I still can't believe my parents were cool enough to let me stay up to watch it. My mom would make me black coffee and feed me cherry pie.

I still think David Lynch just wanted to make a show that was all about food.

If you have the DVDs, sit down with a cup of coffee, black as a moonless night, and watch a few episodes. Twin Peaks, like your gum, is always in style.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Strawberry Cupcakes

I found a huge amount of strawberries at COSTCO last weekend and thought it was time to make the Strawberry Cupcakes from the Martha Stewart Cupcakes cookbook. I also thought it was a good reason to show off the pretty tray I snagged from Target's Liberty of London collection. These cupcakes were delicious, tasting of strawberry shortcake topped with strawberry milkshake icing. A perfect way to celebrate the beginning of spring.

Cupcake batter with strawberries!

Finished cupcakes and tray!