Am I Ready for Fall?

September 9, 2010

Am I ready for fall?  Let’s see… my electric bill for August was over $200 (90° days + antiquated mammoth AC window unit = trouble), I’ve lost both my pairs of flip flops, and my office declared last Thursday and Friday “wear shorts to work” days.

Yep, I am ready.  I’m ready for sweaters and tights and boots.  And I’m so so ready for caramel apples and tea dates.  And holing up in my apartment during stormy weather.  I have all my moody Fall things ready…

Moody, gothick novels.


Moody movies.  Hitchcock. Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Jimmy Stewart.  Yes.

Double Shot Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Very necessary.


And speaking of pumpkin…

!  I am ready for baking.  FALL baking.

Also secured: trench coat, umbrella, red lipstick (so as to emulate Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Jimmy Stewart, and Kim Novak).  All important things for stormy weather.

Now all I need is the perfect Halloween costume idea and the leaves can start turning.  Any thoughts?


Mascarpone Love

September 7, 2010

While very common, tiramisu is not “old school” Italian fare by any means. A quick wiki search shows that the layered dessert is maybe thirty, forty years old max. Which means that when my Gram and I decided to make this, we did not have a family recipe to refer to. Based on everyone’s feedback, I think we managed just fine with Gale Gand’s recipe. It’s ridiculously good. Coffee, whipped cream, chocolate, mascarpone, KAHLUA… I mean how can you go wrong? And the best part is, you don’t even have to turn on your oven. Just get you hand/stand mixers ready. Make this for people you really REALLY like.
Recipe barely adapted from Gale Gand’s for the Food Network. WARNING, this recipe uses RAW eggs, and lots of ’em. You MUST splurge on the pasteurized, salmonella-free eggs at your grocery store. No poisoning people, K?  Also, the gelatin won’t add any flavor to the tiramisu, but it will help your mousse set, so don’t skip it!

7 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 cups mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 Tablespoons unflavored gelatin powder
4 1/2 Tablespoons water
3 egg whites
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
1 1/4 cup, cooled espresso or strongly brewed coffee
1/4 cup Kahlua
20-24 ladyfingers
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2- 3/4 cup dark chocolate shavings

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat together the egg yolks and one cup of the sugar until color pales and “ribbon stage” is reached.  This is at the point in beating when a spatula drawn through the yolks will leave a trail that lasts a few moments.  Add mascarpone and mix until combined, set aside.

In a small heat-safe bowl combine gelatin and water.  Let sit for 15 minutes.  The gelatin will firm.  Fill a slightly larger, microwave-safe bowl with an inch or two of water.  Heat in microwave until water is boiling, about two minutes.  Remove from microwave, placing smaller bowl with gelatin in larger one, creating a double boiler.  Stir gelatin well.  Gelatin will begin to soften, and then liquefy.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks and then mix in 1/4 cup of sugar.  Slowly add gelatin.  Whip egg whites to stiff, glossy peaks.  Gently fold in whipped cream, and then the egg yolk mixture until combined.  Now you’re ready to assemble your tiramisu.

In a small bowl, combine Kahlua and espresso.  Quickly dip both sides of the ladyfingers into the espresso mixture and arrange in the bottom of an 8″x10″ pan in a single layer.  Ladyfingers should be close to each other, using 10-12 in the first layer.  Cover the ladyfingers with half of the mascarpone mixture.  With a sifter, dust the layer with 1/2 cup of cocoa powder.  Then create a second layer with 10-12 more espresso soaked ladyfingers and the rest of the mascarpone.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Chill in the fridge 2-3 hours until the layers have set.

Sooooo good.  Thanks Gram for making it with me!

Roasted Banana Ice Cream

September 6, 2010

I had some awesome people over for dinner last week. It was a super casual, sort of last minute, takeout-fueled dinner party. Aren’t those the best?  No elaborate  prep, easy clean up. I am pretty lazy during the week post-work, but takeout I can do.  And we ordered Indian food, and I love love Indian food. It’s one of those things that just doesn’t taste the same when you make it at home. Or at least when I make it at home. I guess I have to work on my curry skills.

Because I really like my special dinner guests, I got over my sloth and was able to pull together a homemade, albeit pretty easy, dessert. Thank you David Lebovitz, master of all frozen confections, for inspiring me to save my ultra-ripe bananas from a boring smoothie demise. I had originally looked through The Perfect Scoop to figure out how to make a Mango Lassi type fro yo (which I still plan on doing), BUT came across this recipe. I had all the ingredients on hand (that almost never happens) and exactly three on-the-edge bananas. Fate.

Roasted Banana Ice Cream with Mocha Sauce

both from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.  Note that the original recipes calls for whole milk.  I used skim, because that was what I had on hand.  With the Mocha Sauce, I liked the “lighter” consistency of the ice cream, but if you want yours a bit richer, go with 2% or whole.

3 medium ripe bananas
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup strongly brewed coffee
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 Tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted), divided

To make the ice cream, first preheat your oven to 400° F.

Peel and slice the bananas into 1/2 inch pieces.  Toss them in a 2-quart baking dish with brown sugar and butter.  Bake 30-35 minutes, uncovered, stirring halfway through.  Bananas will be brown and syrupy.

Cool for 15 minutes.  Scoop bananas and syrup into a blender or food processor.  Add milk, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt.  Blend until smooth.

Chill the banana mixture in your fridge until cool, and then process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

To make the Mocha Sauce, stir the first three ingredients together in a saucepan.  Bring mixture to a boil, do not stir.  Boil for 30 seconds and then remove from heat.  Whisk in chocolate and butter until melted and combined.  Let sauce rest one hour.  Reheat to desired temperature before serving.

You can make the Mocha Sauce  up to two weeks in advance.  Store in the fridge and rewarm in the microwave on low power, stirring every minute or so until hot.

Pour Mocha Sauce over ice cream and top with chocolate chips, crumbled cookies, whipped cream, etc..


August 30, 2010

I had an amazing weekend!  A brief breakdown:  It involved fam and friends, train rides, car rides, and farmers markets…

bubblegum plums (tiny!), witnessing the marriage of a really sweet couple at a boat wedding, and a lovely Lake Geneva B&B…

getting thrown around at the Iggy & The Stooges concert, nighttime walks, popsicles, and cookies!

Finally.  I was super stoked to make this recipe ever since the Pioneer Woman posted it a few months ago.  I love chocolate malts, and this cookie, especially with the milk chocolate chips, really captures the flavor of that classic dessert drink.  I split the dough and tried half with these milk chocolate chips, and half with semi sweet.  Go with the milk chocolate for sure.  You won’t be disappointed.  Note, HIGHLY addictive.

Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

from the Pioneer Woman

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup, rounded, malted milk powder
  • 12 ounces milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, vanilla, and malt powder until just combined.  Gradually mix in flour mixture.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by the teaspoon or 1/2 tablespoon onto a cookie sheet.  Be sure to leave a couple inches between each cookie as they spread and will completely flatten out.  I used about a 1/2 tablespoon of dough for each cookie and I ended up with 4-5 dozen.

Bake 7-8 minutes, but start checking them at minute 5!  Because they are so thin, these cookies burn VERY quickly.  As you watch them in the oven, you will see them first puff up and then fall.  You will want to remove them as soon as they fall, maybe even when the middles are still puffed on a couple of the cookies on the sheet.  The cookies will be a medium brown, see above pics.

Cool on baking sheet for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.  Enjoy!

Boulevard Beer, or KC Love Part II

August 27, 2010

My darling of a roommate gave me a ride to work today. Thank goodness, as I didn’t want to be lugging the above on the el. I normally walk around with a lot of stuff as it is… cans of soup (lunch), books, gyms shoes, etc., etc.. I thought I would scale back when I switched to a smaller handbag, but that didn’t really happen. Now I just carry bagS, and my once adorable chic-ish purse is now a bulging, unzippable, nightmare blob. Hang a coffee thermos from my strap, throw a 12-pack in my arms and you got my Friday morning, teetering-into-work look.

But about that beer. Boulevard Brewing Company is based in Kansas City and seems to be most beloved for its unfiltered wheat beer. If that’s not your thing, they have a billion other brew varieties. Yes, a billion. If you are ever in the KC area, you should visit for a tour and tasting (info on their site here). Our group was partial to the Bully! Porter. As far I know Boulevard is not distributed in Chicago (sadness), but I have found it in other Midwest cities like Minneapolis. This sampler was purchased on my most recent KC trip for my sometimes beer-brewing, often beer-drinking, baby brother.

Um, my baby brother is 22. And moving away. To study bioengineering (what the heck?!) like a smartypants. Or maybe just to escape his crazy family which includes THREE nutty older sisters. Even I can admit, that’s a lot of nutty. Happy escaping, Miguel–Cheers!

P.S. Due to kitchen “issues” that involved bailing water with plastic beer steins across the hall and into our toilet, baking has been on hold for the past couple days. All is well now though, so cookies soon!

Why I Love Chicago

August 24, 2010

Reason No. 728

Last night Clare & The Reasons played a FREE concert in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. Clare, her French hubby Olivier, and the rest of the band were completely precious. The music was dreamy, the weather was perfect, AND I was with two of my besties… truly a gorgeous Chicago evening.

Plus, we picnicked! Lizzie brought us food from Ba Le. If you have never been, you must must go to their location in Uptown (5014 N Broadway) immediately. Ba Le is a French-inspired Vietnamese bakery and cafe with super fresh sandwiches (Banh mi), yummy bubble tea, and ridiculously cheap prices. They offer quite a bit of variety with their Banh mi, from tofu to pork to pâté. A sandwich loaded with meat, pickled veggies like cabbage & carrots, cilantro, and jalapenos will cost you $4 or less! My personal fave is the BBQ Pork.

Oh! And also for Banh mi, Roomie L recommends Nhu Lan (2612 W Lawrence). Give ’em a whirl.

For a list of events at Millenium Park, you can visit their site here.

I hope to get a cookie recipe up here in the next couple days.  Ta til then!

A list, because it’s Monday.

August 23, 2010

This past weekend I…

  • went to Whole Foods.  Twice.
  • consumed cantaloupe gelato.
  • celebrated Mego’s birthday at Bull & Bear.  Go drink their Dirty Money cocktail… vodka lime ginger goodness… served in a copper mug… do it.
  • made an edible pasta dinner in 12 minutes.
  • bought two pairs of shoes.
  • decided I spend too much money, made plans to return the shoes.
  • contemplated getting a second, part-time job to pay for things like gelato and shoes.
  • got sick of thinking of things like money and played Beatles Rock Band.  A lot.
  • wanted to make/eat  marshmallow pies.
  • decided to be economical, and ate this sorbet, made with the last of my orchard peaches instead…

Peach Basil Sorbet

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.

I didn’t like any of the pictures I took of the sorbet.  Ah well.  I think this recipe turned out pretty good–even a certain picky boy liked it.  Next time I will try a lemon basil flavor… maybe as a gelato.  I love fresh basil,  mmm.  Taste the sorbet mixture before freezing to see if you need any additional sugar.  I used 4 white and 3 yellow fleshed peaches, so either work.

7 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted & cubed
1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your peaches)
2/3 cup water
5-7 fresh basil leaves, minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, heat peaches and water, covered, over medium heat for 10 minutes, until peaches are cooked through.  Stir in 1/2 cup of sugar and remove from heat.  Cool to room temperature.

Add basil and lemon juice to peaches.  Puree mixture in a blender until smooth.  Chill in fridge for 2 hours.

Remove from fridge.  Taste mixture and add more sugar if desired.  Freeze mixture with an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

How was your weekend?

In Celebration!

August 20, 2010

In celebration of Meagan’s birthday…

Vanilla Caramel Fudge Cupcakes from Sugar Bliss. Yum. It’s their flavor of the week, get there before this Sunday to enjoy! Next week’s flavor? Mint Chocolate Chip. Now you know!

Happy Birthday Meagan! All the best this year. You’re the most wunderest True Blood/sometimes-gym buddy a girl can ask for.


What Zucchini?

August 19, 2010

It doesn’t look like it. But that above loaf has a cup of zucchini, which makes it a perfectly acceptable breakfast food. Veggies, they’re important. Chocolate, that’s important too. Dessert disguised as breakfast makes mornings tolerable. You’ll hardly notice your clogged tub not draining as you shower, or your leaning tower of dirty laundry while you frantically search search search for anything that’s “clean” and “work appropriate.” Really! Bake this bread… it’s magic!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Adapted from, makes one 9” x 5” loaf

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, plus more for the top of your loaf
1 (1 ounce) square of unsweetened chocolate
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup grated and drained zucchini (drain in colander, pressing with a spoon to eliminate any excess water)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350° F and grease a 9″ x 5″ bread pan.

Combine the flours, baking soda, salt and 1/3 cup of the chocolate chips in a bowl. Set aside.

Melt the square of chocolate in the microwave on low power, checking every 30 seconds to stir.

Whisk together eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla, and chocolate. Add zucchini and melted chocolate. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Pour batter in your prepped pan. If you would like to amp up the chocolate a bit more, sprinkle the top with a few more chocolate chips. Bake 60 minutes. A tooth pick inserted in the center will come out dry and crumb free. Cool for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack.

Eat for breakfast, then later, eat for dessert. Versatility–important.

Today I Felt Crazy

August 19, 2010

Today I felt crazy.  Maybe because it’s Wednesday.  Maybe because I AM crazy.  I dunno.  I felt tired but antsy and weird and unbalanced.  I felt crazy at work and crazy while I was talking to people and crazy on the train and when I got home I felt crazy still.  I started baking and cooking dinner and making my lunch for tomorrow and DOING DISHES…

what the?  Dishes?  I know, I totally lost myself.  Don’t worry, at some point the crazy stopped.  I stopped.  There’s a crumby bread pan and bbq’d casserole dish sitting in the kitchen sink to prove it.  I hung out with Roomie L and went to Misiu’s art show at the bowling alley.  The world was right again.

That zucchini, however… there was something unsettling and not right about the size of that thing.  It was gifted by a friend.  Andrea was out of town for a week, and when she returned Mammoth Zucchini had turned mammoth, scaring all the other garden vegetables.  She very kindly turned it over to me.  Since yesterday I’ve used two recipes with the thing, and I still have about half left.

The first go was with a basic zucchini bread, with a bit of cornmeal to switch up the flavor.  It was a tad like corn bread, and had more of a crumbly texture than most zucchini breads I’ve tried.  I liked it plain, but you could also serve with a bit of butter.  Zucchini, Take I…

Zucchini Bread with Cornmeal

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (buy it already, seriously).

When using super mammoth zucchini, make sure you drain the shredded veggie to get rid of excess water.  I used a colander, pressing the zucchini shreds along the bottom with a spatula.  Recipe makes one 9” x 5” bread loaf.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 eggs
1 cup drained, shredded zucchini
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter, plus some for greasing loaf pan
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350° F and grease your loaf pan.

Mix the dry ingredients (first 8 on list) together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whisk the two eggs with the zucchini, brown sugar, melted butter, milk and vanilla.  Fold in the flour mixture until just combined.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake for 6o minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf should come out clean and crumb free.  Cool for ten minutes and transfer to a wire rack.