Birthdays sometimes go unnoticed in my office, and while I can’t bake a cake for everyone, I try to do something. We hired a new project assistant a couple months back and we kind of forgot her birthday. My excuse was that I was working from home because of my never-ending knee problems. But I decided I would bake a cake for her 25th birthday + one week. You know, keep everyone on their toes about whether or not there was going to be a cake.
I didn’t really know what kind of cake she liked, but I figured that most people like chocolate (how can you not?) and I had seen this stunning cake on tastepotting. I was a little thrown off by the ingredients because I was unfamiliar with golden syrup. I knew it was popular in England (coincidentally, I had read about it just the day before I cake across the recipe), but I didn’t want to go from store to store trying to find it. I have since learned that it’s actually available in every single grocery store I shop in. Oh well.
Do you ever have that perfect storm when you have random ingredients that you don’t normally have and it suddenly hits you that you can make something fabulous by combining them? Last Sunday afternoon we sitting around taking it easy and enjoying the nice spring weather. Joseph suggested a drink on the porch, thinking of the bottle of Gremona Gessami Bianco we had picked up the day before. But I was thinking of the pineapple juice we had.
When I was a kid, I loved pineapple orange banana juice, but almost never got to have it. I had forgotten all about that, but was reminded when I was looking for pineapple juice at the store to use for our Easter ham in pineapple mustard sauce. There was pineapple peach mango juice and pineapple orange banana, and oh man, I wanted to try them. But our fridge was already bursting, so we just got what we had come for. All this came back to me when Joseph suggested the drink on the porch.
True to form, I’ve told you about dessert before dinner. What can I say, I was really excited about that key lime coconut cake! But the dinner definitely held up to the dessert that followed. We didn’t really have any plans for Easter dinner, but wanted something that was easy and celebrated spring. We had planned to make an asparagus and bacon quiche with a goat cheese and strawberry topped salad, but things took a turn when we got to the Whole Foods and saw that Vermont Smoke and Cure had a table set up with a bunch of different samples. We love their pepperoni but had never tried any of their other products. We both tried the ham, took one look at each other, nodded, and I picked out the smallest ham they had while Joseph returned the quiche ingredients that we no longer needed.
I hadn’t even known that ham was a classical Easter dish until about a week ago. I have no real memory of Easter dinner growing up. My Easter memories revolve entirely around the chocolate cake with green coconut grass and peeps that my mom made, and the absolute best Easter egg hunt you could imagine. Our good family friends had a cabin in the Shenandoah’s and we would all head out there for the weekend. After a hearty scrambled egg breakfast, we would venture out into the woods where the “Easter Bunny” (aka our fathers) had hidden eggs. As the youngest, Stanley and I would get a head start before our older sisters raced past us and got all the eggs in the higher branches.
The eggs were a mixture of hard boiled eggs that we had dyed the day before and plastic and metal (yeah, really old school) eggs filled with candy. After we scoured the woods for eggs, we would sit on the floor, decide who had won the biggest loot prize, and commence trading of candy for our favorites. Every year there was a “winner” of the special egg: a plastic egg with a carrot or piece of broccoli in it to the great delight of our mothers. We were considerably less amused. Continue reading
I love baking for other people. There’s just so much satisfaction in giving someone one of your favorite treats, like chocolate glazed gingerbread cakes, chocolate raspberry cake, apple cider cake, or a cranberry upside-down cake (can you tell I like cake?). But what about when that person is on a diet? You’d hardly be a good friend if you showed up with these sinfully delicious, rich, gooey, brownies.
This chocolate angel food cake has become my answer to that. It’s light and and airy and chocolatey and oh so very good, and the best part? There’s no butter, no egg yolks, no oil, and hey, it’s half air! How bad can it possibly be? It’s a much healthier alternative but it’s still so good, especially served with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream.
So when I said I’d bring dessert to a dinner party to celebrate the birthday of a friend that has lost over 30 pounds through several months of hard work and dedication, this is the dessert I immediately thought of. But I was still pretty wobbly after knee surgery and was a little nervous to committing to that much time standing in the kitchen. What if I got halfway through and just couldn’t stand long enough to finish it? Continue reading
If you had told me 15 years ago that one of my absolute favorite foods was eel, I would have laughed and told you you were out of your mind. I mean, who eats eel? That’s just craziness. today, freshwater eel, or unagi, is absolutely one of my favorite things. When we go out for sushi, I always save a piece of unagi nagiri for last so that I can end my meal with that perfect bite.
I’m a sucker for sauces and condiments and I just can’t get enough kabayaki sauce, the salty/sweet barbecue-like sauce it’s basted in. After your tongue gets a hit of the kabayaki sauce, you bite through the crunchy exterior to find that it’s melt-in-your-mouth succulent and smokey on the inside. It’s a wonderland of flavor and texture and once I finally tried it, I knew that unagi and I were going to have a very strong lifelong relationship.
When we were little, my sister received this kid’s cookbook that we just loved. There are actually only three recipes I remember making from it, but we made them over and over again. There was the yummy, chunky apple sauce, these awesome cakes that you put in an ice cream cone and that looked like ice cream but weren’t (I pulled one out of my lunchbox at school one day to the utter amazement of my friends), and oven baked fried chicken. I loved that chicken. I’m not sure how much my sister and I actually helped, but the one thing I do remember doing is putting the cornflakes for the breading in a big ziplock and mashing it to pieces with a rolling pin. It was so much fun and I felt all grown up. And honestly, the bag and rolling pin is a useful trick I still use often (who wants to sit there chopping walnuts when you could just roll over them?).
Those of you have been following along know that I had knee surgery a little over a month ago and have been relying on Joseph for most of my meals. We also have a freezer full (well, only half full now) of amazing food my mother-in-law sent us home with right before my surgery. Joseph wins the best husband ever award in part because of how he waited on me hand and foot in the first couple weeks after my surgery and still does all the cooking and cleaning, in part because he drives me everywhere (including all my doctor’s and physical therapy appointments of which there are many) because I’m not allowed to drive for a few more weeks, but most especially because he made me this oven fried chicken last week.
Have you ever gone to dinner at someone’s house and before they serve you the food they say, “Uh, I hope you like garlic,” with just the slightest touch of hesitation? Like garlic? Are you kidding? I can’t get enough!
Now, to be fair, I have on occasion turned down an everything bagel because I was afraid of starting the day off with garlic breath, but by lunch, it’s all over. You might just want to sit on the other side of the conference room if I have a meeting with you in the afternoon.
And of course there’s garlic and then there’s roasted garlic. Don’t you just love restaurants that serve roasted garlic with thick, crusty bread to smear it on. Well, if you like that, you’ll love this pasta dish. The lemon adds a nice tang to the sweet, rich flavor from the roasted tomatoes and garlic, while the beans add both protein and a nice flavor and texture, and the basil adds a nice earthy sweetness to top it all off.