Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Halloween Recap and Butterbeer Cupcakes ... YES Butterbeer CUPCAKES!!!

I love Halloween. It is my favorite holiday. Well, Christmas, Halloween, Mardi Gras, it's a toss up.

This year, Robert and I did Halloween in DC and we had a fabulous time visiting my sister. On Thursday night, the night before Halloween, we went to a dog Halloween party hosted by my sister's dog's (Louis) trainer. (My uncle's cousin's roommate's brother, just kidding.) We kind of had an SNL theme at the party. I was Wayne to my brother-in-law's Garth and Louis, my dog nephew, was Phillip the Hyper Hypo ... 




On Friday night we got the Po' Girls back together and took our Zapp's potato chip costumes out for a second fabulous year! The rest of the weekend included trying on wedding dresses for the first time (eeek!), delicious pumpkin curry, quirky/scary Halloween movies and TV and the horror board game Betrayal at House on the Hill — which is all fun and games until the haunting begins.

We missed you this year, Leah! 

Hope you had a Happy Halloween!

Butterbeer Cupcakes 
A perfect muggle Halloween treat ... 

This recipe was originally featured on HelloGiggles.com


Ingredients 
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (2 cups all purpose, 1/3 cake flour)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup beer (*If you would like to skip the beer, simply use 2/3 cup milk.)
3/4 cup butterscotch chips, finely chopped

Steps
Combine dry ingredients and set aside
Combine milk and beer, set aside
Cream butter and sugar
Blend in egg and vanilla
Add dry ingredients, alternating with beer and milk mixture
Once combined, mix in finely chopped butterscotch
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes in lined muffin tin. Allow to cool and frost cupcakes with Butterscotch Buttercream frosting

For the Butterscotch Buttercream

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butterscotch morsels, melted

Steps
Combine butter, sugar, salt and extract with electric mixer
Melt morsels and beat in buttercream mixture

Cheers!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Proposal Pie

I'm engaged! 

Instead of building up  to it, I decided to spare you the suspense! On October 11, Robert and I went apple picking just outside of Pittsburgh at Simmons Farm.  I was jazzed to buy baby pumpkins and pick fresh apples to bake a fall pie. Robert and I also were enjoying bona fide fall with changing orange leaves — something you don't really see where we are from in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.  While we were strolling through the orchard in an empty grove where all of the apples had been picked, Robert proposed. Very sweet and simple.




When we got home, we went to dinner at a favorite neighborhood restaurant and baked an apple pie for dessert, with the apples we had picked that day, our Proposal Pie! 

Proposal Pie 
Fresh picked apple pie


This apple pie recipe is derived from this one.


8 freshly picked roma apples
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
a sprinkle of nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Make crust, set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer. Add in vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Place apples in the crust, and pour mixture over the apples. Place lattice or rolled out crust atop, or keep open faced.  We chose to roll out crust and cut out a heart shape with a cookie cutter.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425. Remove from oven, lower temperature to 350 and continue baking for about 35 to 40 minutes, until apples are soft.




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Dish: What it's REALLY like to make a Cronut

The Cronut ... 

This post originally appeared on HelloGiggles.com 

Photos by Robert Giglio

I made Cronuts so you don’t have to! Unless you want to, because they are delicious.

Before I get too ahead of myself about the three-day Cronut process, let me first explain the delicate, deep-fried pastry and what the fuss is all about. In 2013, New York City celebrity chef Dominique Ansel released the Cronut, his flaky croissant, fried donut hybrid. Instead of using a machine from The Fly or sorcery, Ansel created the pastry after months of toiling with butter, flour, and more butter.

And, this is one serious recipe. It has been highly sought-after due to its success, and Cronut copycats popping up across the globe from Germany to Japan.

Earlier this week, Ansel finally released the Cronut bible. The recipe for the coveted pastry is online to promote his new cookbook, “Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes.” And though his recipe is not a secret anymore, his secret is probably safe with him. Not because of how Cronuts taste, but because of the amount of effort that goes into making them. Which, let me tell you, is a lot of effort.

When I embarked on my quest to make Cronuts for HelloGiggles (I think anything longer than two days can be defined as a quest), I was excited and ready for a new culinary challenge. I am always excited to try new food and preparing new things.  But after a trip to the grocery store and looking over the recipe for a third time, this time really studying it, I felt less prepared than ever. It was like driving to a final exam. How could I possibly get all of this right?


I enlisted the help of my engineer boyfriend. While I am very add this or throw in some of that in the kitchen (the food usually turns out delicious, might I add), he is helpful when it comes to meticulousness and moral support.  I had already made the pastry dough and let it sit for three hours; now it came down to the precision of rolling it into a 10 inch square and making a seven-inch butter block — yes, this is a 7” by 7” square of pure, unadulterated butter. My boyfriend assisted, using a tape measure. It was intense.


The next day, I had to take these squares and “laminate.” That means to put the butter atop the dough (like a diamond on a square) and fold the butter inside. Now we’re making layers, people. For the first time, I realized that the flaky, thin sheets of a croissant were not made by elves. This is tedious stuff. When I told my boyfriend about the process, he said with a grin, “Respect the Cronut.” Eight layers later, the work for day two was done.


On “The Day Of” as the recipe excitedly declares, I woke up with an It’s Cronut Day feeling — kind of like Christmas morning, but way better. Because butter.

In a nutshell, “The Day Of” consisted of rolling out the dough, cutting it into doughnut shapes, proofing and frying. My boyfriend helped with the frying, popping fried Cronut holes in his mouth when he thought I wasn’t looking (I was, but who am I to judge?).




There had been multiple filling flavors to choose from, and I dangerously chose the chocolate ganache. “Dangerous,” only because I had a bowl of chocolate ganache in my fridge for two days that I wasn’t allowed to touch. It was a triumph of will. When I finally stole a finger scoop, it was beyond incredible. I injected the donuts with the filling, getting more and more excited with each one. Then, I rolled the sides in my hand-tossed vanilla bean sugar (there had also been several sugar and glaze options to choose from). Lastly, I dipped the donuts in the chocolate glaze.


I looked at my masterpiece sitting on the tray. A dozen perfect Cronuts with 96 flaky layers, after three days of laboring. These were my Cronut babies and they were beautiful. In fact, before I ate one, I just admired the sheets of fried dough and took in the heavenly smell of vanilla and chocolate. . .and fry oil. This had been my Everest and I was on top. I MADE CRONUTS.

The hard work felt worth it.

And it was.

These bad boys (or girls) were delectable. Which really shouldn’t be surprising considering the name. After all, a Cronut is a butter-y croissant, cut and fried like a donut in sweet, sweet glaze. What’s not to love?





This post originally appeared on HelloGiggles.com 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pumpkin Beer Cupcakes

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes 
With Cream Cheese Frosting

These boozy babes first appeared here on HelloGiggles.com

It's Fall, Y'all!!!

Have Mercy! 

What you’ll need! 

• 2 ¾ cups sifted cake flour, half all-purpose, half cake (I proportioned it 1 ¼ Cake Flour and 1 ½ all purpose)

• 4 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/4 teaspoon salt, just a tad less is good.

• 3 eggs

• 1 ½ cups sugar

• About 14 oz of pumpkin puree, I used about 3/4 of a 16 oz can of pumpkin puree

• 1/4 cup milk

• 3/4 cup pumpkin ale

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

• Fall spices: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon cardamom, ½ teaspoon clove, ½ teaspoon nutmeg

Let’s get baking … 

Combine dry ingredients and spices, set aside.

Combine milk and pumpkin ale in one bowl, set aside.

Cream sugar and eggs. Blend in extract. Mix in Pumpkin. Add dry ingredients alternating with milk/ale mixture.

Stir until combined, try not to over mix.

Bake in lined muffin pan for about 20 minutes at 350 F.

Now for the cream cheese frosting … 

• 1/2 cup butter, one stick, softened

• 4 oz. cream cheese

• 1 tbs almond extract, vanilla is OK

• 2 cups powdered sugar

Mix it all together!

Cheers!

Photos by Robert Giglio

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Cake that's Out of this World!!!

A couple week's ago, my boyfriend's company asked me to bake a cake for an office party. It couldn't be an ordinary cake, it had to be out of this world ... 

I'm not sure that I've mentioned it before, but my super smart boyfriend works for a technology startup competing for the Google Lunar X Prize ... Basically, they are building a rover to land on the moon. 

Can you guess where I'm going with this?

I baked a moon cake.


Moon Cake 
Make two cakes. I made two white cakes from scratch with my grandmother's confetti cake recipe, sans sprinkles ...

 2 ¾ cups sifted cake flour, half all-purpose, half cake (I proportioned it 1 ¼ Cake Flour and 1 ½ all purpose)
4 teaspoons baking powder, just a tad less is good. Do Not Exceed 4 teaspoons
½  teaspoon salt, just a tad less is good. Do Not Exceed ½ teaspoon
4 egg whites
½  teaspoon cream of tartar
1 ½  cups sugar ( ¾ cup granulated half white, ¾ cup confectioners sugar)
¾ cup butter, softened
1 cup milk (maybe more or less depending on softness or hardness of batter at the end, I used the whole cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (I used my secret ingredient arak, if you use 1 tsp arak, still include ½ tsp almond extract)

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat egg whites until foamy with cream of tartar. Gradually add ¼ cup granulated sugar and ¼ cup confectioners sugar.
In a separate bowl, cream butter and add remaining 1 cup sugar.  Blend egg mixture into this bowl.
Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk a small amount at a time – this is where you see if you use all the milk.
Pour in extracts.
Bake at 350 degrees F. A regular sheet cake or cupcakes would bake at around 20 minutes — my half sphere cake baked at about 50 minutes.

I baked the first cake in a well-greased eight-inch glass bowl.  
The second cake was baked in an eight-inch circular cake pan. 
Allow cakes to thoroughly cool. 

You may need to cut dark areas off the sphere cake, as it takes nearly double the expected amount of time to bake in a bowl. Do not go cutting happy. I simply rubbed the exterior of the cake gently and let the over-baked dusting fall off. 

Now for the buttercream frosting ...
This recipe.

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks = 1/2 pound), softened (not melted)
3 cups + 1 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar, sifted (regular won't ruin it).  The +1 cup is ready to use only if the mixture needs thickening.
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 tablespoon flavoring extract (Arak; but since it is scarce almond or vanilla can work)*
2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons milk.  The +2 tablespoons are ready to use only if the mixture needs thinning.
Electric Mixer

Grab your cake board. 

Before you assemble the cakes, this step must be completed on the surface on which you are serving the cake! Once the sphere shape is made and held together with frosting, you will not be able to move the cake. See the gold cardboard cake board I used in the photo above. These boards are great because they can be wiped clean at the end. 

Once the cakes have cooled, apply buttercream frosting on the circular cake and place the half sphere atop. Apply a layer of buttercream around the outside of the cake, really getting in the grooves to attach the two cakes together. 

Roll out marzipan from a can or tube, I used two 11 oz. cans ... 

What is marzipan? Almond paste.
When rolled out, marzipan is a similar sheet texture to fondant.  I prefer the almond flavor of marzipan to fondant when sculpting and shaping baked goods.
I covered the cake in the rolled out, quarter inch thick marzipan. 

Decorate ...

To decorate the cake I used:
- Black spray mist food coloring
- Grey buttercream (done with food coloring) to delicately brush on small swirls and add dimension
- Silver sprinkles ... a lot of silver sprinkles
- Loose rock candy
- An American flag toothpick is a great moon topper. The other toothpick flag is a logo for my boyfriend's company. 

I also gently manipulated the marzipan to form craters. 

Feel free to get creative with your moon design! 





Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Honey Bourbon Cupcakes

Honey Bourbon Cupcakes As seen on HelloGiggles.com

This recipe was first posted on HelloGiggles as part of my Cupcake Girl column.

Something delicious is abuzz!!!


Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour (3/4 all-purpose flour, 3/4 cake flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk with 1 teaspoon cream of tartar—I used milk and tartar)
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbs bourbon per cupcake
The Steps:

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Blend eggs, extract and honey into this bowl.

Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk, a small amount at a time.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes.

Make about 8 holes in the cupcakes, poking the tops with a fork. Now, use the bourbon you set aside to drizzle over the tops of the cupcakes. Use about 1 tablespoon per cupcake.

Now for the Honey Bourbon frosting:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2-3 cups powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3½ tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon bourbon, or to taste
Mix it up. (If icing is too runny, add more sugar. If too thick, add a splash of milk.)

Apply frosting.
Cheers! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

White Russian Cupcakes *The Cupcake Abides*

White Russian Cupcakes
As seen on HelloGiggles.com


This recipe was first posted on HelloGiggles as part of my Cupcake Girl column.

Photo by Robert Giglio
What you’ll need 

•   2 ¾ cups sifted flour (1 ¼ cups cake flour and 1 ½ cups all purpose flour)

•   3 ½ teaspoons baking powder, just a tad less is good.

•   1/2  teaspoon salt, just a tad less is good.

•   4 egg whites

•   1/2  teaspoon cream of tartar

•   1 ½  cups sugar ( ¾ cup granulated, ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar)

•   3/4 cup butter, softened

•   1/4  cup milk

•   1/4 cup vodka

•   1/2  cup Kahlua

•   1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Beat egg whites until foamy with cream of tartar. In a separate bowl, cream butter and add sugar.  Blend egg mixture into this bowl. Combine milk, Kahlua and vodka, set aside. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk mixture, a small amount at a time. Blend in extract. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool.


Now for the Kahlua buttercream frosting!

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2-3 cups powdered sugar, by taste/texture

¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon Kahlua, or Kahlua to taste

Mix it up! Frost cupcakes and garnish with cocoa powder. 

Cheers!!! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

When Life Gives You Leftover Lemon Jelly ...

Lemon Linzer Torte Cookies 
With Leftover Lemon Drizzle

A couple of weeks ago, I made Lemon Drop cupcakes for my HelloGiggles column. I had leftover lemon drizzle and decided:

When Life Gives You Leftover Lemon Jelly ... 
... You make Lemon Linzers! 

Best decision I ever made.  



Ingredients for the cookie dough: 
I used this recipe as a guide, but tweaked it ... 
PS If you are OCD, you are going to hate this thrown together recipe ... 
Sorry. 

3/4 cup butter, softened 
1 cup sugar 
1 to 2 egg whites 
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
Pinch Clove
Big Pinch Nutmeg
2 teaspoons Vanilla, Almond or Arak extract 

Cream butter and sugar. 
Beat in egg, lemon and extracts. 
Add dry ingredients and spices. 
Roll out dough over flour and cut into shapes of your choosing. Remember, the cookies will be made into sandwiches. Pair each cookie with a mate and cut hole into half of the cookies. (See above image.)
Bake on greased baking sheet at 350 until cookies are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Apply lemon jam (recipe below) as the center of the cookie sandwich. The cookie with hole in the middle atop a regular cookie, the jam visible in the center hole (See above image).
Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Enjoy!

For the Lemon Jam 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
1 large egg 
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
1 teaspoon lemon zest 1 teaspoon vanilla

Use a double boiler (or use a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water): melt the butter in the top bowl. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice until blended and pour into the top bowl. Cook and whisk constantly (to prevent the egg from curdling)over the simmering water. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes pale in color and thickens to the consistency of sour cream (about 10 minutes of steady whisking or 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer if there are any lumps (strainer step optional). Keep the cooked lemon mixture off the heat, and stir in the lemon zest and vanilla extract. Chill in refrigerator for 2-6 hours.

About the Linzer ... 
We fell in love at the Hungarian Pastry Shop in New York.

I attended a summer session at Columbia University in June. While I was in the neighborhood, I found myself returning the to the Hungarian Pastry Shop in Morningside Heights. It is an adorable little bakery cafe with a European vibe ... and staff. I had Linzers before, but here is where I fell in love. 

This Linzer Torte — a cake — is named after the Austrian city Linz.  Like the cookie, it is a jam filled dessert topped with powdered sugar. This cake is often referred to as the oldest in the world, with a known recipe dating back to 1653! The little cookie version of the confection, which is often referred to in the U.S. by the same name, is actually called a Linzer Sable. So, I hope you enjoy my Linzer Sable recipe! 




Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lemon Drop (YES like the martini!!!) Cupcakes

Lemon Drop Cupcakes
As seen on HelloGiggles!


This recipe was first posted on HelloGiggles as part of my Cupcake Girl column.

That lemon drizzle ... 

•   2 ¾ cups sifted flour (1 ¼ cups cake flour and 1 ½ cups all purpose flour)
•   4 ½ teaspoons baking powder, just a tad less is good.
•   ½  teaspoon salt, just a tad less is good. Do Not Exceed ½ teaspoon.
•   4 egg whites
•   ½  teaspoon cream of tartar
•   1 ½  cups sugar ( ¾ cup granulated, ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar)
•   ¾ cup butter, softened
•   ¾  cup milk
•   ¼  cup vodka
•   1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•   juice from half a lemon
•   1 tablespoon lemon zest

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
Beat egg whites until foamy with cream of tartar.
In a separate bowl, cream butter and add sugar.  Blend egg mixture into this bowl.
Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, a small amount at a time.
Blend in extracts, lemon parts and vodka.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.
Allow cupcakes to cool.

For the Lemon Vodka Buttercream 
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon vodka, vodka to taste
Whip it all together!



For the Lemon Drizzle 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
1 large egg 
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
1 teaspoon lemon zest 1 teaspoon vanilla

Use a double boiler (or use a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water): melt the butter in the top bowl. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice until blended and pour into the top bowl. Cook and whisk constantly (to prevent the egg from curdling)over the simmering water. Keep whisking until the mixture becomes pale in color and thickens to the consistency of sour cream (about 10 minutes of steady whisking or 160 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer if there are any lumps (strainer step optional). Keep the cooked lemon mixture off the heat, and stir in the lemon zest and vanilla extract. Chill in refrigerator for 2-6 hours.

Add buttercream & top with lemon drizzle! 
Cheers!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cologne & An Old Friend



The final installment in my Food & Travel series: 
German favorites & Cologne

As some of you may know, German food was the basis for this blog.  The Old Country is Germany. And the indigenous Bavarian cuisine — coupled with Lebanese and Louisiana dishes —taught to me by my Oma became a little blog. This was my second visit to Germany and my first visit after losing my Oma. It was a happy reminder of the stories she read me, the chocolate candies she snuck me, the language she spoke in whispers to my mom and the food she cooked for us. 

Cologne was also significant because I stayed with a dear friend.  We had the luxury (after living out of a duffle and cheap baguette lunches) of home cooked, healthy meals in Cologne. 

If you would like to try any German inspired meals at home, I invite you to peruse the German recipes in the "100 Recipes & Counting" box [see lefthand side]. Or click here!  

Scenes from Cologne 
German love.

The Cologne Cathedral.
After 5 years, we had a lot of catching up to do. 
Kolsch beer.
A pretzel at the 500+ year old Haus Zims Brewery.

Yummy food prepared by my friend Janina.

The Original Cologne perfume.
Cologne dome clock tower.

We made it to the top of the cathedral ... 500 ancient stairs later.
Janina & Robert on the Rhine's version of the Love Lock bride.
Old town.


A little note on friendship ... 

I first met Janina when she was an exchange student at my high school in 2005. Janina had excellent timing, moving to New Orleans in August 2005 ... Her arrival could be marked in days before Katrina's. I couldn't imagine being a 15-year-old, far from home and thrown in a disaster. Obviously, it was a tumultuous year for us both and we became fast friends. My family — and Oma — quickly bonded to Janina with a German common ground. We celebrated our 16th birthdays together, a few holidays, dances, Janina's first Mardi Gras, inhaled my SATC dvds and attended lots of losing high school football games. When Janina went back to Germany, we stayed in touch emailing each other massive essays about boys, school and dreamy futures in big US or European cities. Janina stayed with my family in summer 2007 and surprised me with a visit again in summer 2008. In 2009, Janina's family hosted my family in Germany. But then five years passed without a visit. Although we were continents apart, we stayed friends. When we went through breakups, moves, new boyfriends and loss, we still messaged or called each other — though months may have passed since the last conversation. So we were both a little nervous to see each other again when I visited her in Cologne. And we both felt silly for being nervous. Because some friendships, regardless of time and distance and change, never go out of style. 

With Janina summer 2008.





Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dark & Stormy Cupcakes AKA Rum, Lime and Ginger treats!!!


Dark & Stormy Cupcakes 
As seen on HelloGiggles

This recipe was first posted on HelloGiggles as part of my Cupcake Girl column. 


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup finely chopped ginger
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (1 cup sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp of rum (set rum aside)
Steps:

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and milk.
Add dry ingredients, including ground ginger, slowly. Mix in minced ginger (I actually chopped the ginger in a food processor).
Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Use the 2 tablespoons of rum you set aside to lightly brush the tops of cupcakes.

Now for the buttercream lime frosting!
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ (AKA powdered) sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3½ tablespoons lime juice
Optional: 1 tablespoon rum, or rum to taste
Mix it up. (If icing is too runny, add more sugar. If too thick, add a splash of milk.)

Apply frosting.
Garnish with limes, ginger or zest! (I used all three!)
Yum!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Amsterdam & Appeltaart

The Third in my Food & Travel series: 
The Appeltaart & Amsterdam


Cafe Winkel Appeltaart 
Dutch Apple Pie 

When I asked a couple of friends what I should do in Amsterdam, I got a resounding "GO TO CAFE WINKEL!" And, order the appeltaart


And it was excellent advice — as you can see! Cafe Winkel is located in the Jordaan (I loved this Amsterdam neighborhood) and has a very European al fresco vibe. Several copycat recipes can be found online. This one looks pretty good ... but I doubt anything can beat the deep crust, rich apple flavor of the real deal. 


Amsterdam
Home of the yellow tulip, my favorite! 










Our Amsterdam highlights ... 
The Park
My black jumpsuit purchase in the Jordaan
Cafe Winkel
The little white dog that pranced on the canal
The little boat that played music a la the Mary Poppins chimney sweep & went in circles
Tulips
Getting lost in the red light district Chinatown
Cheese
Bicycles
Amsterdam Centraal 




Thursday, July 10, 2014

Moroccan Sweet Potatoes & Summer Salad

I have been doing a lot of cupcakes and travel posts lately, so I decided to take a little break from that and post a summer recipe: Moroccan Sweet Potatoes & Strawberry Arugula Salad


Moroccan Sweet Potatoes 
With Mint Yogurt Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 large sweet potatoes
2 Tbs. Harissa (paste or sprinkle)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. coarse salt
1-2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
1/4 cup mint leaves, dried, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Golden Raisins

Cube potatoes. Pour oil over potatoes and make sure the oil is spread throughout baking sheet.
Coat potatoes in harissa, cayenne, sesame seeds and salt. The harissa paste is quite spicy, so make sure the potatoes are lightly coated. You can add flavors to taste halfway (or longer) through baking.
Bake for ~25 minutes at 425 until potatoes are tender and mush when pressed/cut.
Saute about a half cup of golden raisins on the stovetop in olive oil. Browning the raisins will only take a couple of minutes.

To make the sauce, mix the yogurt, mint, and lemon to taste in a chopper/mixer. A dash of salt and pepper to taste is good.

Serve the potatoes warm, mixed with raisins, and the dipping sauce on the side.


Summer Salad 
Fruit + Prosciutto

Arugula, feta, prosciutto (pan fried), strawberries* & balsamic.
*I also make this salad with watermelon instead of strawberry. 

Harissa makes it Moroccan 

Whenever you read a menu with Moroccan this or that, it is because the item contains Harissa — a multi-pepper paste with garlic and herbs (sometimes sold as pepper flakes). An NPR article describes the tangy, spicy sauce as Sriracha's cousin and the "ketchup" of North Africa due to its ubiquity as a condiment for entrees and spread for bread.

Harissa's ingredients vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, though it is always a complex pepper blend. And though the sauce is considered Moroccan, the peppers it uses are native to the New World.

"It wasn't until Christopher Columbus and crew arrived that pepper fever really took off," the NPR piece states. "With the arrival of the spice-seeking Spanish and Portuguese, it was not long before chilies were shipped back to Europe and thence to Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Africa, India, and Southeast Asia." [The article sites Greg Malouf's book, From Artichokes to Za'taar: Modern Middle Eastern Food.]

Blogging tips