Thursday, August 31, 2006

I had to buy this at Trader Joe's. It just looked so healthy. Never mind the fact that I have no idea what to do with it. So, I I printed a recipe from for Oat Bran and Raisin Cookies. Here's the original recipe. Below is my slightly altered version with the addition of unsweetened carob chips and chopped dried apricots.

While this may look just like it's only oat bran, it's 2 cups of oat bran, 2 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg. It smelled fantastic. In fact, while these cookies were baking, the whole house smelled like the old days when I baked cookies for the holidays.

This is 1/3 cup of agave nectar, 1/4 cup of canola oil, two whole eggs (despite the recipe calling only for egg whites) and 1/2 tsp of vanilla paste (my addition to the recipe).

After adding the wet to the dry ingredients.

After mixing in the raisins. Right after this photo, I added 1 cup of carob chips.

After the final mix with the 1/2 cup dried chopped dried apricots.

Pre-baked cookies dropped by the tablespoon onto a lighly canola-sprayed cookie sheet.

I had two baking sheets full, so I baked them 7 minutes for the first half. Then, I switched the position of the sheets (moved the upper shelf tray to the bottom and vice versa). The recipe called for them to be very lightly browned, and it was right. Any longer, and the cookies would have been dry.

It's a yummy, chewy, moderately healthy cookie. I wasn't sure about the oat bran, but it made me a believer.

Happy Blog Day!

Chef Paz is the source of this alert:

About BlogDay:
BlogDay was initiated with the belief that bloggers should have one day which will be dedicated to know other bloggers, from other countries or areas of interests. In that day Bloggers will recommend about them to their Blog visitors.

What Will Happen on BlogDay:
In one long moment on August 31, bloggers from all over the world will post a recommendation of 5 new Blogs -- preferably, Blogs different from their own culture, point of view and attitude. On this day, blog surfers will find themselves leaping and discovering new, unknown Blogs, celebrating the discovery of new people and new bloggers.

BlogDay posting instructions:
  1. Find 5 new Blogs that you find interesting.
  2. Notify the 5 bloggers that you are recommending on them on BlogDay 2006.
  3. Write a short description of the Blogs and place a a link to the recommended Blogs.
  4. Post the BlogDay Post (on August 31) and5. Add the BlogDay tag using this link: and a link to BlogDay web site at

Here are my 5 "new" blogs:

  1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Blogosphere -- They have nearly daily updates notifying readers of "new" blogs they've discovered, so it's like Blog Day every day to them.
  2. Bill Walsh's Blogslot -- He is the definitive resource for my editing questions. He's entertaining as well as educational.
  3. This Next -- It's not so much a blog as much as a collection of mini-blogs that are lists of what people want from kitchen stuff to books and records. However, the comments are funny, interesting and telling.
  4. Love Made Visible -- High style in all things. Gorgeous photos.
  5. The Future of Work -- I had the great pleasure of interviewing the guys who run this project. The blog is a good resource if you want to know what's new and coming in the work trends.

Enjoy your blog day! Back to our regularly scheduled foodie blogging very soon!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I don't know about you, but I saved my old issues of Martha Stewart's Living magazine. Sometimes I whip out the old issues and page through them for good recipes. John mentioned a passing interest in corn muffins, so I was pretty happy to find that Martha had one in her November 2003 issue of Living. Her recipe was for Cornbread Muffins. It called for confectioner's sugar as well as granulated sugar, both of which I swapped for my friend, agave nectar. She also wanted her readers to use 1/2 a vanilla bean, but I used vanilla paste instead since I didn't have a lot of time when I made the muffins. Finally, she asked for buttermilk, but I used 1% lowfat milk instead. I think they came out fine, in fact, I'd make them again for a brunch. John, since he doesn't like cake or cakey things, would not request them, but did eat some of the ones I didn't freeze. I also added fresh blueberries to mine since I had an abundance of them in the fridge. Below are the photos of my cornbread muffin adventure.

The dry ingredients: 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal (I used white cornmeal), 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. The recipe also called for salt, but because I was using salted butter, I didn't add it.

This is the vanilla, eggs, milk and agave nectar, beat up all nice and fluffy.

Here's the batter all mixed up nicely courtesy the Artisan mixer. Have I mentioned how it cuts the mixing time by orders of magnitude?

I had enough of the batter left to make six extra mini muffins.

Pre-baking state. Martha's recipe said to fill the cups three-quarters the way, but I figured that the blueberries might cancel out any domed tops. I was wrong. The filled muffin cups had perfectly domed tops rather than the flat, plain cornbread muffin tops.

Mmmmmmm. Muffins. John said they tasted like cake to him, but he only ate the corn-only muffins. Even with the blueberries, they reminded me of good cornbread. Made me want to spread a pat of butter on 'em like Paula Deen.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Things to Eat Before You Die

Melissa from The Traveler's Lunchbox (a wonderful blog) started a Meme based on the BBC list of 50 things to eat before you die. The BBC list has many things that I've had and quite a few that I'm pretty unlikely to ever try. Some examples of the latter are alligator, haggis, guinea pigs and reindeer. Of the former, I've certainly eaten my fill of the American diner breakfast, sandwiches, Mexican food, pizza and Thai food.

In the spirit of Melissa's very long list, I've put mine recommendations here:

1. Mom's matzoh brei
2. Really good lox and Temptee whipped cream cheese on a Brooklyn bagel
3. Peas in their pods right off the vine
4. Freshly made chocolate mousse (just because I don't eat it anymore doesn't mean I can't recommend it)
5. A multi-course meal at Millennium in San Francisco (it's vegan, so be prepared)

And, while you're in San Fran, don't miss a trip down the coast to Point Lobos. It's south of Carmel by the Sea, so wave Hi! to Clint Eastwood for me on your way down.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ginger-Macadamia-Coconut-Carrot Cake

I made all kinds of substitutions with this cake, but still kept it vegan. To be precise, Vegan with a Vengeance. I'm saving the outcome for the end. Ooooh! The suspense!

But, to be fair, I'll post Isa Moskowitz's recipe here and tell you how I altered it along the way.

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup pineapple juice (I used 1 cup of pineapple chunks in their own juice.)
1/2 cup canola oil (I cut this by 1/3 to account for the agave nectar.)
3/4 cup sugar (I used agave nectar.)
1/2 cup maple syrup (I used agave nectar.)
2 t vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste.)
1 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped (I used a mix of macadamia and cashew nuts.)
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped (Because that contains sugar, I just used 1 T ground ginger.)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups carrots, grated

To keep it short, I'm editing her recipe description. You should go BUY her book anyway. It is the coolest vegan book available. John was a dear and bought me mine.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 8-in round springform cake pans (I used a bundt pan and a mini-cupcake pan, both of which are non-stick, but I sprayed the bundt pan with canola oil anyway. I also used paper cups for the cupcakes. This recipe is truly flexible, like most of hers are, so if you use a bundt pan like I did, you will end up with enough extra batter for 12 mini cupcakes).

Sift together the first 6 ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Add the dry to the wet in batches and combine well. Fold in the nuts, ginger (I added mine to the dry ingredients), coconut and carrots.

Pour the batter into your pans and bake for 40-45 minutes. (In my case, the bundt took exactly 45 minutes. The wee cupcakes took about 20.)

Let cool in pans. (I didn't do this. I let them cool for an hour, then I turned them out onto a rack to cool the rest of the way.)

Frost with her Coconut Heaven frosting.

I'm ending the recipe here, because from here out, I invented a glaze.

I mixed 1/2 a can of coconut milk with 1 cup of agave necar to make a glaze for the cake. Then, I turned the cake back from the rack into the bundt pan and used a skewer to poke holes about 2 inches apart down through what would become the bottom of the cake to the "top".

Then, I poured the glaze on top of the cake and let it soak in for several hours before turning the cake out of the pan and onto the cake keeper bottom (it was destined for Mom's party this past Sunday).

It looked pretty glazed and smelled very coconutty. I tried a few of the cupcakes that didn't have glaze, and they were pretty tasty. I couldn't taste the ginger or the carrots, though. Mostly, they were nutty and coconutty. And cinnamony. I figured they'd be even more coconutty after a good glazing, but all the glaze went to the cake.

At Mom's party, the cake received a lot of compliments. My cousin Gabe, who doesn't like coconut really enjoyed it, surprisingly. Mom had many lovely things to say about it and the guacaamole I brought.

I tried it and was very happy with how moist the glaze made the cake. And, I was right, it was plenty coconutty. The pineapple helped as well.

If I had to do it again, which I might, I'd leave out the nuts, use more pineapple and fresh ginger, and add some clove or allspice. The glaze went well, so I'd probably leave that alone. Or, if I'm feeling experimental, I'd make some kind of butter/cream cheese coconut frosting and flake coconut over it for a pretty, fluffy effect.

I asked Dave to take a photo of the "innards" for Robyn, so when he sends me the slice shot, I'll post it here.

The next recipe I plan to try from VWAV is with millet. Will definitely post about it here.

Oh, and BUY Isa's book, please.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Since one of the primary purposes of my blog is to showcase my wee chocolate business, I thought I'd share with you my latest project. Dad and Joann asked me to make favors for their 20th wedding anniversary party which was held yesterday afternoon. As we approached the party, the count for the favors continued to increase. Consequently, I've been spending more weekends making the very detailed chocolates that follow in the photos below. At the same time, I'd gotten some freelance writing work in addition to my regular 40 hours consulting per week. But, everything worked out fine, and soon, I'm going to give myself a break. I'm a bit burned out and way overdue for a vacation. What I'd really like is two weeks off to travel, but the likelihood of that happening is very slim. Well, super-duper slim, to be honest. But, when I do relax, I try to make the most of it. Even if it is for a few hours. Hope you enjoy the chocolate photos.

Prior to loading them all into a Lock and Lock container for safekeeping on the drive up to Dad and Joann's party, I took some photos of the finished boxes. You can see that I alternated the colors in the LOVE candies for variety. The top box was an exception, since all the others had a heart in white next to the LOVE candy. They were all done in milk chocolate, with white or colored white chocolate for the design. Inside the chocolates were a Kona coffee filling for the top two and a dulce de leche (caramel creme) in the bottom one. The response to the favors was overwhelmingly positive. Dad and Joann were especially surprised when I told them that the favors were a gift. A pretty extravagant and very time-consuming gift, but a gift nonetheless. More than anything, I'm glad everyone enjoyed them and appreciated their appearance.

When I sealed the acrylic boxes, I used a very simple seal of two entwined hearts to echo the general LOVE theme.

Side view of the stacks. I used a variety of candy cups, some with hearts, some with large hearts, etc., for effect. Frankly, I don't think anyone noticed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Warning: Chocolate May Be Hazardous to Your Health

John just sent me a warning about making chocolate because he saw a Yahoo! News about a man trapped in chocolate. Read the Associated Press story here (or read on for more detailed info than what was offered in that version).

Me, I get elbows deep at the deepest. That's from fingertip to elbow, not from toe to elbow.

Can you imagine being stuck chest-deep in chocolate with the only hope being enough cocoa butter to thin it and free you?

Because the story happened in Wisconsin, I went to a local source to get more (ehem) color on the event. The Milwaukee Jounal Sentinel gave a lot more information. For instance, the chocolate was dark, not milk. They also said that the poor guy had his pants caught on a roller, and had to wait until the bright firefighters thought to empty the chocolate from the vat so he could take his pants off an climb out.

Here's the Debelis Quality Assurance section of their Web site. Mind you, the copyright hasn't been updated since 2003. But that's just me being picky. (Yes, mine's up to date, you can check it if you must.)

Matzo Brei 101

Just a quickie, my article on how to make whole wheat matzo brei is now available at Cooking for US. Please let me know what you think. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Heavenly Dinner with Auntie E

While my restaurant reviews are rare, I seem to be starting a trend here by including guest visitors (or people I visit) in my postings. My lastest guest is my ever-fun Auntie E. She's Mom's younger sister and is in town for a visit. I wanted to have a little time alone with Auntie E before Mom's big family party on Sunday so I was very happy when she suggested we dine at Veggie Heaven in Parsippany, NJ.

We opened with a bowl each of the Vege Spinach Wonton Soup. It was tasty, with just a tiny taste of seafood in the wonton. I would guess that there might have been seaweed in the wonton, but I didn't ask for the ingredients. However, it's great for people who wish they could eat the wonton soup in non-vegetarian restaurants, but cannot because the broth is made from chicken stock and the wontons have pork meat inside.

Next, we moved on to a couple of appetizers. This was a tough decision because I usually order the Boneless B.B.Q. Ribs (more than likely a soy analog). E and I decided to try some completely different appetizers for a change and ordered the B.B.Q. Stick in Beef and Fried Yam. As you can see here, the "beef" on a stick was very much like a kabob, with colorful peppers and pineapple chunks between the thickly sliced wheat gluten. It was served with a sweet sauce that I didn't use.

The Fried Yam was batter dipped and deep-fried yam bits. Unlike most soggy, limp yam fries, these were crisp and firm. It was refreshing to taste such well done fries. But I'm still going to get the fake ribs next time.

For our main dishes, we decided to try one veggie-only entree and one fake chicken dish since we had not-beef in the opener. On the left here, you can see our aptly named Sauteed String Bean with Snow Peas and Broccoli. There's easily more than one string bean there, but I'd hardly fault them a typo in their menu with such a flavorful dish.

This dish was served with a savory brown sauce, while the next dish had a white scallion sauce.

The other entree, Fresh Garden Walnuts, also had string beans and snow peas, but it had a completely different flavor. In the menu, Veggie Heaven had specified that the dish has "Brussels sprout, apple, string beans and chunk chicken topped with walnuts sauteed with white scallion sauce."

Maybe E got to all the sprouts before I could, but I couldn't find any. Plenty of yummy walnuts and not-chicken to be had. The walnuts were crispy, with some kind of light coating. Years ago, this dish used to have honey coated walnuts, but these didn't have a honey coat. It was almost like cinnamon, but not the flavor, just the texture. I really don't know what it was, but I'd order it again.

All the vegetables were perfectly cooked, as were the meat/chicken analogs. They so often are overcooked and rubbery, but these were not. They were tender with just enough give to be cut with a fork.

Neither dish was spicy hot, and I think perhaps next time I'll try a spicy entree just to see how they do with the flavor.

This was E's fortune. Mine said "We create our fate every day we live."

All things considered, between the delicious fare and the impeccable service, I give Veggie Heaven an A. Oh, and dinner with Auntie E was an A+, per usual.

P.S. For Mom's party, I'm going to bake (and photograph) a cake from Vegan with a Vengeance. I'll try to take pictures of all the chocolates I've been making for Dad's party on Sunday and post them here for your enjoyment as well.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen, Richard Factor

Yesterday, John and I brought the pie and a large box of my Deb's Delectables chocolates to my friend Richard Factor. His lovely housemate, Barbara was there as well, so it was a foursome for part of the visit. I know I've mentioned Richard, his blog, his PriUPS project and other inventions here before, but had yet to include a physical reference.

Well, allow me to introduce you to Richard in the flesh, so to speak.

Here he is in his bedroom/office. Richard heads an interesting company called Eventide. Here's a quote from a press release: "Founded in 1971 in New York City, Eventide is a leading developer and manufacturer of digital audio processing products for recording, broadcast, and live performance. Headquartered in Little Ferry, NJ, Eventide invented the H910, the first Harmonizer® effects processor in 1975, and introduced the H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer effects processor in 1988." One of his devices was used in the movie Contact (Jodie Foster, remember?) to visually display the sound the characters heard from space.

You can see that he's using three monitors turned vertically to better see what he's working on from the multiple computers. Right then, he had his blog up and Ebay.

In back of him is a gorgeous view of the side of the mountain below his home.

This visit, John and I were able to take a tour of his new, huge house and a bit of the neighborhood via a strenous walk. Barbara does a wonderful job with the garden in back and the property in front of the house, and we enjoyed the garden surrounding the pool before we went for that walk. There are several decks outside each floor of the house (somewhat like the previous home, but with far lovelier views). John and I enjoyed a swing on one deck by their little vegetable garden before we ventured out to dine at a local restaurant.

I probably should have taken more photos, but what I really want to do is come back for another visit when the leaves are changing, and I can grab a few of the granny smith apples from their tree for another pie.

And, don't worry, Richard, I'll be sure to bring more chocolate.

To answer Elise's question, the pie turned out very well. The almonds in the crust were right on the money. Even though it took a very long time to make, I would definitely use this crust again. Ever so buttery, the almond dough is a perfect match for the summer fruit. It was a hit with my friends Richard (who usually doesn't eat dessert unless it includes some measure of chocolate) and Barbara (who was impressed by the fall cut-outs as well). I left them with half the pie and took the equivalent of three medium-sized pieces home. Can't wait to have some for breakfast. So, Elise, it was a success!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

No Kitty! That's my pie!

My first issue of Gourmet magazine. I'm not a stranger to Ruth Reichl's writing though, having read her first two books and many of her NY Times articles. But I recently became a subscriber and an avid reader of her magazine. The editorial echos many sentiments I see lately on the blogs, time to make pies. So, I pulled out my trust Emile Henry pie dish and searched the 'net for pie crust recipes that don't use shortening. I'm not a fan of the stuff and am happy to use butter in my crust. Luckily, Elise at Simply Recipes had one that she adapted from Oprah magazine. Below is a photo journal of my pie baking. It's a blueberry nectarine pie with an all-butter crust. Enjoy!

I really don't have a large or powerful enough food processor to make this recipe, but I tried it anyway. First, I ground the almonds (above) into flour, then, I added some King Arthur AP flour. The recipe calls for salt, but because I used salted butter (2 sticks), I omitted the salt. I used agave nectar instead of brown sugar and added it with the water.

Sorry this isn't in focus. There were several things happening at once, so I'm sure I moved a little when I took this shot. And, it was about 9 pm after a day of working on chocolate since 7 am. But, after I pulled the dough out of the food processor, I made the two discs called for in the recipe, wrapped them in plastic and chilled them for more than an hour in the fridge. Then, I cleaned up the kitchen and dried the chocolate molds while I waited for the dough to chill.

I didn't have much luck with the rolling pin, so instead of rolling it out and sticking it back in the fridge like the recipe instructed, I rolled it out as much as I could, then I plopped it into the pan and used my fingertips to press it into the pan. It worked just fine. Since I knew I was going to have a top crust, I wasn't concerned about how the edges looked. You can see the skins of the almonds give a nice speckley color to the shell. The recipe said to blanch the almonds, but I skipped it and just used them raw.

Here's a close-up of the edge. I gave it a straight edge, but matched the wavy edge of the Emile Henry pie plate. It's closer to 1/4 in. thick, rather than 1/8 in. like the recipe instructed.

I first baked the crust for 20 minutes with aluminum foil on top of it and my version of pie weights (spit peas) weighing down the foil. Then, I peeled the foil off (note, next time, I'm spraying the foil with oil because it stuck to the crust) and baked it for 10 more minutes at 350 to brown it a bit. The washed out part of the photo at the top is my bad kitchen lighting. Sorry. Also note, it's important to poke holes in the crust, otherwise it puffs up.

After I sliced up each nectarine, I squeezed lemon juice over it. By the time all three were done, I'd used about 1/4 of a lemon.

After I added about 1.75 cups of blueberries to the sliced nectarines and lemon juice, I added a tablespoon of cornstarch and 2.5 tablespoons of agave nectar.

I really guessed on how much fruit would fit in the pie shell, but it worked out perfectly.

It's been feeling like fall a bit lately in the mornings, so I took out my seasonal mini cookie cutters. I used the maple leaf shape and the acorn shape. They measure 1.5 in. tall. If I had made an apple pie, I would have used the maple leaf and the apple shape. I always forget about these until I make pie.

My fancy decorations. The kitchen had gotten so warm from baking the pie shell that cutting the leaves and acorns was a bit challenging. Essentially, the butter in the pie dough was melting. But, I made it just in time. I cut the pieces almost 1/4 of an inch thick. I was going for a lattice design that would allow the fruit to cook, but not dry out.

Topping off the pastry, I glazed it lightly with Trader Joe's Organic Apple Orange fruit spread.

The finished pie. Even with glaze around the edge, it was carmelized pretty good. Next time, I'd bake it for 30 minutes with foil around the edges. However, I really like using the Emile Henry pie dish because it bakes perfectly. The pie was uniformly the same color and bubbling pleasantly throughout.

This is a close-up of the middle of the top of the pie. Today, when I bring it to Richard's, I'll take a photo of the innards for you. I had a few extra cut outs of the crust and baked them with glaze as well. They reminded me of shortbread, but not as sweet. I'll have to remember to try making another version for a shortbread. If I had to try it again, I'd put some cinnamon in the top crust layer. Will let you know how the pie itself tastes.

Ode to a summer fruit

I'm not entirely opposed to genetic engineering of fruits, especially when it leads to the delicious pluot. It's a touchy subject, especially here in NJ, where Rutgers legendary agriculture school is responsible for developing most of the tomatoes and asparagus available in groceries stores across the country. But, more importantly, back to the fruit... This combination of a plum and apricot has become one of my favorite fruits. Most likely because it is a pairing of two of my favorite summer fruits. I primarily eat fruit all morning until lunchtime, but there are some exceptions (like this morning when John and I had eggs, homemade hashbrowns and fake bacon on the deck because it was gorgeous out). However, on Friday morning, I realized that I had an abundance of fruit in the crisper, so I paired this beauty with some blueberries Mom gave me. You can see how it turned out in the next photo.

The ruby red flesh of the pluot has the meatiness of an apricot with the juicy sweetness of a plum. The skin reminds me of golden plums, but with a color between the gold and the crimson of a red plum. They make a perfect foil for the plump, end-of-season blueberries. I cannot think of a tastier summer breakfast.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Now isn't this lovely! It's a snapshot my step-dad Dave took of the Almond Apricot Bundt Cake I posted about on Sunday. Nice. Makes me wish I hadn't left the whole cake with them...

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Girl Who Ate Everything Comes For Lunch

Robyn, whom you know from The Girl Who Ate Everything, came for a lunch visit with her mom. We met at Makeda's in New Brunswick. Here's Robyn taking a shot of her white chocolate mousse cake. It was a pleasure meeting Robyn after corresponding for some time and reading her blog for a year. She and her mom were fine dining companions and lively conversationalists. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and hope to visit with them again.

I apologize for such a crummy shot. The dining room at Makeda's was so dark, I had trouble focusing with the camera (and the very bright flash). But, this is the plate of veggie dishes I had at Makeda's. Clockwise from the top, Gomen Wat (Fresh collard greens sauteed with fine onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and Ethiopian spices.), Kik Alicha ( Yellow split peas cooked and flavored with green pepper, onion and Ethiopian herbs), Makeda's salad, and Atakilt Wat (Fresh green beans, carrots potatoes, green peppers, cabbage and onions, sauteed with garlic, ginger and tomatoes). My favorite is the Gomen Wat, although Atakilt Wat comes in a close second. The bread is a teff-based sourdough cooked in a flat pan. I didn't eat much of the side breads, because I used a fork to eat, but the bread on the bottom that had soaked up the flavors of the food was yummy.