Monthly Archives: September 2011

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What a Beautiful Baking Day!

I love this crisp weather. It’s absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, the crispness in the air also means that snow will be here sooner than later. That makes me sad. But the snow isn’t here yet, so I’m going to do my best to enjoy autumn as long as I can! I love everything about autumn. I love pumpkins, colored leaves, apples and baking! Man, do I love baking. During the summer I still bake, but I never feel completely inspired.  I just don’t feel like turning on the oven inside when it feels like an oven outside.  Yuck.  But now that the days are in the high 60′s and low 70′s, and since I had to work all weekend long, I thought I’d bake my co-workers a Brown Butter Pumpkin Cake.

This cake is really moist and has a really good flavor.  Some would say it was because of the pumpkin—who doesn’t love pumpkin?—but I would disagree.  I think it’s the browned butter, baby!

To make brown butter you just take regular butter and drop it into a skillet (I prefer my cast iron for this) until it foams up and turns a golden color.

The butter will eventually melt entirely and the foam will subside quite a lot.  Brown butter isn’t just for baking though.  Have you ever made scallops and finished them with a butter bomb?  I recommend it!  Sear them nicely then toss in some butter with a couple sprigs of thyme stuck in it.  Finish the scallops by “poaching” them in the butter.  I don’t know if poaching is the right word, maybe basting would be better?  Anyway, they are delicious!

Back to the cake! This recipe is a keeper, but the only thing I would do differently is to bake it in multiple pans, maybe 2 or 3.  I just used one 9″ x 3″ cake pan and it takes forever to bake this way!  It will bake all the way through but I noticed my layers were a little more “doughy” than I’d like.  Some people love “doughy” though, so do what you want!

I decorated the cake really quickly using a Cinnamon Brown Sugar Buttercream.  This stuff is delish.  I don’t really have a recipe for this but I think I had seen it somewhere.  I just don’t remember!  I just make a regular buttercream, adding some brown sugar and cinnamon.  You have to cream the butter with the sugar though or else the frosting will be really grainy.

Before I left for work I cut a slice off to keep at home for Piyush.  The night before he had been begging me to cut into the cake (before it was even frosted).  He said the house smelled so good he just wanted to eat it!  I told him no, so then he asked me if he could eat the cake scraps?  I told him I didn’t level the cake so there were no cake scraps.  I wish I took a picture of his reaction.  He was so disappointed and tried to talk me into not taking the cake to work and leaving it for him.  For someone that insists he does not like sweets, he sure doesn’t like to share them!

I ate one bite of the cake, the pointy end of Piyush’s triangle piece, and it was indeed amazing.  I sliced the rest of the cake and took it to work.  It was gone in 5 minutes.  I’m not even joking.

Pumpkin Brown Butter Cake

(adapted from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter; more for the pans
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  • Make the brown butter (see how earlier in the post) and set aside.
  • Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and cloves in one bowl.
  • Combine the two sugars and add in the eggs.  Cream together.  Add in the buttermilk and whisk it until its all combined.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and start mixing.  Slowly drizzle in the brown butter until everything is combined nicely.
  • Pour batter into greased pans that have the bottom lined with parchment paper (this makes it a million times easier to get the cake to slide out of the pan).
  • Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven.  I had to bake mine for over an hour but that was because I poured all the batter into one 9″ x 3″ pan.  Use a couple shallower pans and you should only have to bake it for around 45 minutes.
  • Cool the cake and then frost it with whatever you choose!

I’ve got all sorts of frosting left over…so be prepared to see some pumpkin spiced macrons.  I think those sound amazing!

Busy as a Bee…errrr…Hornet.

Finally, I had a day off from work today!  I used it wisely too, if I do say so.  I slept in (this felt nice!), Bought new running shoes, did some thrifting, nearly killed myself at the gym, did some laundry and I made a pretty good dinner (although the broccoli had to be sacrificed).

This morning after I woke up and got ready I took a trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods.  They used to have this really awesome shoe insurance program that I took as much advantage of as I could.  Basically you buy a pair of running shoes.  You pay an extra $10-$20 dollars to put the insurance on the shoes.  Once the shoes are worn out, in about 3 months, you call up the insurance company, they send you a label and you send the shoes back to them.  They then send you a gift check to Dick’s for the full purchase price (including tax if there was any).  You can use this towards your next pair of shoes and just pay the premium again—or you can use it towards whatever you want.  Unfortunately they stopped doing this program Jan. 2011.  I still had a gift check left over and I desperately needed a new pair of shoes.  I wear the Asics Glycerin.  I have high arches and roll outwards if I don’t have the correct shoes along with my orthodics and out of all the shoes I’ve tried these seem best.  It seems that every year the new model is different though.  I wanted last years model…and it was on sale!  Only 80 bucks.  That meant that I had almost 60 bucks left over.  I could have been a good wife and I could have given it to my husband to buy some more golf crap, or I could have saved it to use towards my next pair of shoes…but I do either of those things! Nooo, I bought myself a brand new yoga mat!  I’ve been eying this baby up for the past year but couldn’t really justify spending 75 dollars on a yoga mat when the gym provides top quality ones for free, also I don’t really exercise at home. But now that I only had to spend $25, it didn’t seem so bad.  I don’t even know if I could get one at Target for that much?

Anyway, I got the Manduka Prolite in navy blue.  I love these mats.  We have Manduka Pros at the gym—the only difference is mine is just a tiny bit thinner.  I hope it inspires me to attend yoga more often.  I feel so good when I practice, so I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.  I think its because I’m lazy.  Actually, I’m pretty sure its because I’m lazy.  I’ll have to work on that…

Wow, its getting late and I work at 5:45 tomorrow morning, so I’m going to make the rest of this short and sweet.

Thrifting:

$12 This is perfect for my entry way!!! Now, What color to paint it?!

I was so excited about this dresser that I promptly tore off the handles and started sanding her down before I realized I should take a photo.  I have high hopes for this makeover!  I also got a neat shaped wilton bundt pan ($4).  I didn’t have a bundt pan and thought maybe I should.  I also got a baguette pan ($2) and some giant blue mason jars ($2 ea.).  No photos of that stuff though—they’re in the dishwasher!

While I was sanding down the dresser I spotted something weird going on inside of our outside light.  Ha! That sounds weird.  Anyway, I got a little closer to see what it was and this is what I saw:

It freaked me out!  I know it shouldn’t because its just doing its normal thing for survival, but my husband swells up so big from hornet/bee bites that we just can’t have something like that around such a high traffic area.  I feel really terrible, but I went to Menards and got some spray to take care of it.  Is that normal to feel so bad?  I don’t know, but I do.

Then I went to the gym for a cable class…it was HARD!  I haven’t been getting to the gym much this summer and this work out really proved it!  I can’t believe how out of shape I’ve gotten in such a short time.  Paula, the instructor, told me that I’ll get back in the groove really quick because of muscle memory.  I hope so!

After Piyush and I got home from the gym he put the chicken that I had been marinating on the grill while I took a shower.  When we’re really busy and know we won’t have a lot of time, we love to grill out.  I get it prepared in the morning and then it’s ready to cook by the time our day has settled down.  I bought an Amish raised chicken (these are amazing! Not too fatty and they have amazing flavor) and I sprayed it with olive oil.  I shoved an onion and some garlic in the cavity and then salted with pink Himalayan sea salt.  I ground pepper all over it and then sprinkled Herbes de Provence all over it too.  There’s something about lavender.  I’m obsessed.

Anyway, we stood it up on a can of 7up and roasted it in the grill at 35o degrees.  I think my husband takes it out when the temp of the bird is around 165 degrees. Its the tastiest, juiciest bird you’ll ever eat!

Just off the grill! I tied the legs to make it look a little more modest for the photo.

While Piyush was tending to the poultry, I was making some mushroom and thyme couscous.  This stuff turned out awesome!  I didn’t really write down the recipe, but I used something like:

  • 2c. homemade chicken stock
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch saffron
  • 1.5 c. couscous
  • a big package of mushrooms that were on their last life
  • fresh garlic
  • a little olive oil for cooking the mushrooms

I threw the mushrooms in a pan and sauted them in a little olive oil.  Once they cooked down a little I threw in the garlic and salted/peppered everything.  I added the thyme and let it mingle a little while.  I turned the heat off and set them aside.  Then I boiled the chicken stock and added the saffron to let it steep.  Meanwhile I put the couscous and the mushrooms in a big plastic bowl and mixed them together.   Once the broth got hot enough, I dumped it on the couscous and covered everything with plastic wrap.  It was done perfectly in less than 5 minutes!

I was going to steam broccoli too, but the stuff that we got from the farmers market had little green wormy things and I couldn’t rinse them all off.  It grossed me out, so it went into compost.

Believe me, It tasted better than it looked!!!

Goodnight now!!!

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Pesto Pasta…for one! My Version of Noodle and Co.’s Pesto Cavatappi

Today Mayo is hosting a chess tournament in the cafeteria so Piyush is busy competing with his friends.  I work evenings this weekend, so its nice he has something fun (for him) to do aside from golf.  He is a golf maniac and I think a little weekend break will be good for him.

While he’s busy with chess, I’m at home until I have to leave at 1:30.  I was feeling a little hungry and was craving pasta.  I don’t eat pasta too often, its not my favorite thing and I rarely ever order it when eating out.  There is one exception to this though…I will eat tons and tons of pasta if it is covered in pesto!  Its dangerous, believe me!  I thought about running to Noodles and ordering a Pesto Cavatappi, quick and easy.  Instant gratification.  But then, I remembered I had some spirally pasta in the pantry.  —Who knows how long that’s been there.  I also remembered I had bought some ready-made pesto at Trader Joes last week.  I also have tons of veggies in the fridge.  So, I decided I’d just whip together my own version.  It was so quick and easy, and the calories were significantly lower.  Did you know one serving of Pesto Cavatappi at Noodles is almost 800 calories!?!  My version comes to approximately 385 calories.

This was delicious!  and I didn’t regret my choice to make it at home at all.

The Recipe:

2 oz cellentani (spiral) pasta —weighed on the food scale to make sure

2 tbsp. pesto (you could even use a little less, if you’d like)

4 cherry tomatoes

1/4 c. sliced fresh mushrooms

1 c. fresh spinach

1/4 oz. goat chesse

How I made it:

  • I first cooked the pasta according to the box in a pot of salted, boiling water.  Drained the pasta and set aside.
  • In the same pan that I cooked the pasta, I put a couple mists of olive oil (using my Misto) and then added the cherry tomatoes.  I cooked these until they started to blister (turn a little brownish and burst), then I threw the mushrooms in.
  • I stirred until the mushrooms were fully cooked and then added the spinach.  I kept stirring until the spinach was wilted.  I threw the cooked pasta into the pan and stirred everything around.
  • I added the pesto and cooked until everything was nicely heated through.
  • Garnish with a little goat cheese because goat cheese = happiness!

I will definitely be making this again!  I’ll probably increase the quantities to make at least 4 servings though.  Leftovers make fantastic lunches for work!

Well, time to go make a quick salad for tonight…hope everyone is having a good weekend!!!!

I’m a bad blogger!…and Dinner at Zzest

A couple nights ago my lovely husband took me and my bestie, Summer, out for dinner.  Summer was in town for school and we hadn’t gotten together in awhile, so we decided to go out for dinner.  Living in Rochester, there really aren’t that many choices.  Well, there are, but I don’t like most of the restaurants.  I’m definitely a very judgmental diner.  If I’m going out for dinner and I’m paying a lot of money…I want to enjoy it.  I want to be impressed with the food.  This means that places like “The Olive Garden”, “Old Country Buffet” (GROSS!) and “Applebees” are out.  In fact, I would even go so far as to say I hate those restaurants.  I cringe every time one of my friends suggests going there.  Call me pretentious if you will, but I like real, good food.  I hate knowing that a lot of the desserts, sauces and breads you order are actually previously frozen and were shipped cross country for some “chef” to simply thaw, heat and serve.  I was going back and forth between a couple restaurants and couldn’t make up my mind.  Piyush suggested Zzest.  I agreed.

Zzest:  My personal favorite restaurant in Rochester.  It’s a little pricey, but it’s worth it.  I never feel like I overpaid for my dinner when I eat here.  They have a fantastic menu that changes everyday based on what local ingredients they have.  I think the secret of their success is that the chefs get complete creative control.  They don’t have to follow old recipes but can instead change everything up.  Summer had never ate here before, so we all decided we’d get the Chefs 4 course tasting menu.  It’s almost like an “Iron Chef” type challenge for the chefs.  I really thought we’d end up with 4 things off the current menu, but we didn’t.  They made different things and made it all flow really well together.  We also got a wonderful bottle of wine—I believe it was a Malbec.

Guys, I’m a terrible blogger!!!  I forgot to take pictures!!!!  I had brought my camera with me but forgot to take it out of my purse. I wish you could see how pretty this food was!

1st course:  arugula salad with fresh figs, blue cheese, almonds, prosciutto and a raspberry balsamic.

2nd course:  Bouillabaisse (this is AMAZING! I asked for the recipe and the chef came to the table and told me how to make it, hopefully you’ll see it here soon)

3rd course: Braised lamb with a pomegranate sauce over cous cous with a yogurt herb sauce

4th course:  Apricots 3 ways.  Apricot infused whipped cream sprinkled with an apricot sugar.  Dried apricot dipped in dark chocolate.  Puff pastry with layers of apricot preserves.

Next time, I promise photos!

“Bodyguard” —What I thought of the movie

Today was a nice holiday for me.  I had to work Labor Day weekend so going on a mini-vacation was not in the cards for us.  Instead my husband and I decided to take an hour and a half drive to go see a new Hindi movie.  We watch a lot of Bollywood cinema, mostly at home and streaming from Netflix, but nothing beats a trip to the theater where you can see it on the giant screen and eat samosas instead of popcorn.

This time there were no samosas.  There also were no crowds waiting to see the movie.  That’s usually a bad sign.  One of my favorite things about going to a Hindi movie is seeing all the beautiful dressed women wearing sarees and salwar kameez, watching the husbands chase after the most adorable Indian-babies you could ever imagine.  I was sad, but I wasn’t surprised.  I had read the plot of the movie and also saw the trailer earlier in the week.  It looked weak and boring.  I didn’t want to see it.  Piyush wanted to, so off we went.

Before I tell you what I really think, I have to say I love Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor (the lead actors), but I did not love this movie.  I felt like there were a lot of holes in the story and Salman used the movie to show off his big muscles more than his acting skills.  I couldn’t tell if they were trying to make a drama or a slapstick comedy, and I don’t think they knew exactly what they were making either (which says a lot considering the movie is a Bollywood version of a South Indian movie).  The fight scenes got more and more annoying as the movie progressed, and Salman easily whooped every bad guy with not much effort.  By the time intermission came I was so bored that I even contemplated leaving early!  In a way I’m glad I didn’t, but that’s only after seeing the final 20 minutes of the film.  The last 20 minutes were fabulous!  I was surprised with the twist, I definitely didn’t see that one coming.  I only wish the first 2.5 hours were on par with the ending.

I know when you go to the movies (especially Bollywood films, in my opinion) you’re supposed to just forget yourself and have fun.  You’re not supposed to take it too seriously and the dance scenes are supposed to make you want to jump out of your seat and have a good time.  I tried my best to keep that in mind, but Bodyguard (at least 3/4 of the film) couldn’t keep me interested.

I’d rate the movie… 2.5/4, The ending really helped to save this film.  I won’t watch this movie again, but that’s okay.  Even spending 3 hours watching a disappointing Bollywood movie is fun when I’m with my husband (awwww!).

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Green Sludge

I slept in today!  It was really nice to lay in bed and just feel completely relaxed.  Once I finally stumbled out of bed and decided to start my day, it was time to go to the grocery store.  I’ve been going through so many veggies and fruits lately that it seems I have to go to the store every couple days.  Juicing is expensive!  Since Tuesday I have spent roughly $50 dollars just on produce.  I should have enough stored up now to last me until Wednesday, maybe Thursday.

I started out today with a juice I’d like to call “green sludge.”  It looked disgusting, although I don’t think the photo makes it look as gross as it actually was.

It was made using green apple, kale, 1/2 cucumber, celery, 1/2 lemon, disc of ginger, pear and carrot.  The taste wasn’t super bad, but it was maybe a little bitter.  I hope I can find a green juice that I would love to drink soon!   I’ll have to search the web for some good recipes.

I enjoyed stomached the juice along side a simple salad dressed in balsamic.

Lunch!

I also made another juice to take along for work tonight.  I’ll be taking the remainder of the green sludge but I wanted something a little sweeter as well.  Its Sunday, and Sunday means treats at work!  Actually, everyday there are treats at work, but nothing like what will probably be there today.   I threw some fruits, a beet, and a little ginger in the juicer.

green apple, pear, gala apple, small beet, disc of ginger

This combo turned out pretty good on the initial taste test.  I really prefer the juice cold, so I’ll have to let you know how it was when I get home from work.  It was a very pretty color, which I think makes it look more appetizing.  I also added a little (4oz) coconut water to this juice so that it made a full 16oz.  I sure hope this can keep me from snacking tonight and that it will curb my sweet tooth!

Rumbly Rumbly in my Tummy!

Long day! I had to work a morning shift today, which I don’t usually do. I had brought some fresh apple juice to work for breakfast and a gorgeous salad with blackberry ginger balsamic/olive oil vinaigrette. I was really excited about it, but in the morning I was so hungry (was I really? or was it mostly habit?) I ordered an egg omelette with sausage from the work cafeteria. Total calories for the omelette were approximately 400. I wasn’t feeling too bad about the decision because I knew that it would fit in with my daily allowances (although, it wasn’t juiced). It tasted okay, but it made me extremely sick! When I got back from break, the pains in my stomach were so terrible I could hardly handle it. I felt really disgusting and nauseous. I’m sitting here 14 hours later, and my stomach is still pissed at me.

I ended up just having water for lunch and believe it or not it left me craving my green juice. I’m not sure if the omelette was cooked funky, or if she used too much oil to cook the sausage. Maybe it was the meat, I don’t know. It left me wondering if my body was beginning to feel “happy” that I wasn’t overloading it with junk, and this was it’s reaction to my impulsive decision to eat things I had been avoiding. Maybe it was telling me that it liked the idea of being fed veggies and fruits, that it was excited that I wasn’t feeding it sugar, dairy and meat. I’m not sure exactly what it was trying to tell me, but I did get the message that it was pissed off!

Tomorrow is a new day and I’m looking forward to moving forward. I work tomorrow evening but get Monday off to relax with my husband. I think we may go see a new Hindi movie…I’ll just have to make sure to stay away from the samosas at the concession stand. This will definitely be a test of my willpower!