Foodie Blog

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Yes, rhubarb.  I guess it's my turn to be the picky one.  I have never been drawn to rhubarb.  My whole life, I've never felt the need to try it.  Sure, it looks like celery, and I love celery.  But it looks like red celery!  Weird! 

Plus, I've never felt drawn to fruit based desserts.  I mean, I'll eat them.  But I don't crave them.  Chocolate, I crave.  I guess if you gave me a choice between a pecan, meringue, or some other type of pie and a fruit pie, I will always choose something else instead of the fruit pie. 

Ok, so this humble little strawberry rhubarb thing just proved how wrong I can be.  I guess Picky isn't the only picky one.  But I will say that I will no longer shun rhubarb.  I think with the right ingredients, and paired with the right complementary fruit, it can taste transcendent.  So call me a rhubarb convert!

More likely it had to do with the pecans and all the brown sugar though.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I didn't have any rum on hand so I ended up leaving it out.  But I imagine that adding it in would make this taste even more phenomenal!  Plus, this is one of the easiest recipes I've ever made.  Make it now!

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1  1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup diced rhubarb
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Topping (Optional)
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 to 3 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Beat together the brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg, vanilla and rum. Combine the flours, salt and baking soda; stir. Add dry ingredients to first mixture with the sour cream. Stir in strawberries, rhubarb and pecans.
Spread into a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan — the batter will be very thick. Combine topping ingredients except the pecans, they should be thick and clumpy; add the pecans last and sprinkle over the loaf.
Bake at 350° for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Brussels Sprouts

The last time I made Brussels Sprouts for Picky, it was Christmas.  Unfortunately, Picky came down with a fever just as we were starting to eat, so he doesn't remember whether he liked them or not.  I prefer to think that he did like them, whether he remembers or not!

I don't have the recipe that I made back in December, so I decided to look for another recipe.  I found one on Epicurious.  How could I not try a recipe titled "For people who think they hate Brussels sprouts."  That sounds like Picky to me!

Brussels Sprouts for People Who Think They Hate Brussels Sprouts

Adapted from Epicurious

This is a fairly simple recipe that was very tasty.  At least to me.  Picky didn't have a problem with the sprouts, but he did have a problem with the nutmeg.  I didn't hate them, but I do see his point.  I would make these again, but I would probably leave out the nutmeg since I do associate it with pumpkin pie, and it just didn't seem to go with the Brussels sprouts.

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, or to taste, preferably freshly grated (optional)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1.  Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and remove and discard any discolored outer leaves. If sprouts are large (more than 1 inch in diameter), cut them in quarters lengthwise through the stem end. If smaller, cut them in half.
2.  Bring 2 quarts of water to boil, add salt and the sprouts. Boil the sprouts uncovered until they are just crunchy-tender, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook them. Drain the sprouts well.
3.  Heat the olive oil in the empty pot. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the sprouts and nutmeg and sauté for another minute. Mix in the Parmesan cheese and toss the sprouts until the cheese melts.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chocolate Pots de Creme

You know, when I was younger, back when my cooking and baking fascination was in its infancy, my mom had this big fancy cookbook with these creations that I really haven't seen created anywhere.  Now, I knew that there was no way I could re-create any of these things since I didn't even know where to find some of the ingredients.  But there was one recipe I knew was simple enough for me to make:  Chocolate pots de creme.  I remember it called for milk, sugar, and chocolate.  I'm not sure what else was required since that huge cookbook was sold many garage sales ago.

I do remember how incredibly frustrating that recipe was because I ALWAYS followed it exactly and it never ever came out how it should have.  It would end up more like chocolate soup, never firming up in the fridge like the pictures showed.  I just thought maybe I was doing something wrong.  Now that I'm older, I know that there are a million imperfect cookbooks out there which might leave out some small step or include an incorrect measurement.  Now, when I come across something that doesn't seem right, I know how to correct it.  But I do feel bad for those out there who follow these horrible things just to end up with disaster.
I know, this isn't a chocolate pot de creme, but it is a sneak peak of something I will make again in the future.

Anyway, Cooks Illustrated has never led me astray.  Neither has Alton Brown.  When it comes to baking, you really can't just throw together any combination of things.  It's kind of like chemistry.  Martha Stewart is someone that can kind of be trusted.  I know enough about making creme brulee and other custard like creations to know that some combination of cream, eggs, and sugar, baked in a water bath will produce a very creamy creation.  And also make you feel really guilty afterward.  But this recipe is worth it!  Plus, it's not really hard at all.

Chocolate Pots de Creme
Adapted from Martha Stewart

I didn't follow this recipe exactly since I didn't have whole milk on hand and was too lazy to go out and get some.  I also only had bittersweet chocolate on hand and was too lazy to get milk chocolate.  Besides, in my book, there is no such thing as too chocolatey.  It still came out good, I would probably just start checking on them when there is 5 minutes left of cooking time since the tops ended up a bit firmer than the inside.  But I wouldn't shove it off the dessert tray at all.  Oh, and I would say Picky, and his parents really, really enjoyed them.  Definitely add some fresh whipped cream to even out the chocolate.
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Boiling water
  • Whipped cream, for serving 
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the lower third. Place a small kitchen towel in the bottom of a medium roasting pan.  Then place eight 4-ounce pots de creme pots or 4 ramekins in the pan; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk, and chocolates over medium heat. Bring almost to a simmer; remove from the heat. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and salt. While whisking, add a little of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture to combine. Add the remaining milk mixture, and whisk to combine. Whisk in vanilla. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large liquid measure.
  4. Pour approximately 1/2 cup of the egg mixture into each pots de creme pot. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven. Fill pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pots de creme pots. At the 30 minute mark, check to see if the center is set.  If still a little jiggly, bake until the custards are just set in the center, about 35 minutes.
  5. Remove the roasting pan from oven. Remove the pots de creme pots from the water, and place on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled, cover, and transfer to refrigerator. Chill for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

    In a large bowl, pour in about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of heavy cream, then whip at high speed with an electric mixer.  When it starts to form soft peaks, add a tablespoon of powdered sugar and continue to whip until it reaches a whipped cream consistency.  Spoon on top of chocolate and serve.  You might want to eat half and save the other half for later.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jen vs. the birthday cake

Cake - 1, Jen - 0.5

I give this round to the cake since it did throw me for a loop.  I know, it doesn't make sense.  Creme brulee doesn't scare me, neither does cheesecake.  I laugh in the face of meringue!  And souffle doesn't intimidate me.  But cake!  It has always been my downfall.  It always ends up looking like some Frankenstein-inspired monster.  Not appetizing to the eyes at all.  I was extremely tempted to go the cupcake route.  Cupcakes are cute and innocent, nothing like the behemoth that is a cake.  But I was determined to conquer my long time foe.

I had the upper hand while combining the ingredients.  I forgot to soften the butter, so I stuck it in the microwave for 10 second increments until it was properly softened.  I used cake flour.  I shook the buttermilk.  And the pre-baked product looked gorgeous.  It tasted really really good too.

But my downfall came when it was time to pour it into the cake pans.  I had buttered, placed the buttered parchment rounds in the bottom, and then poured my mix in.  However, instead of searching for my tried and true cake pans, I chose to use the shorter cake pans that were within easy reach.  These had a 1 1/2 inch depth instead of the 2 inches required.  I beg of you, for all that is holy, please use the 9 inch cake pans with a 2 inch depth!  I suspected there might be some spill over.  So I placed a cookie sheet on the rack below just in case.  I was not prepared for the lava-like flow that came out of my poor cakes.

Luckily, I was able to salvage them somewhat.  Frosting covers everything.  But still, I would know about the folly that took place in the oven.  And now you know my shame.

We shall meet again cake.  You haven't heard the last from me!

Yellow cake with sour cream chocolate frosting
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Picky requested a yellow cake, so that is what I made.  This tastes almost like the yellow cake mix, except way better since it doesn't have that artificial taste.  I would definitely make this again.  Maybe in cupcake form though.

Yield: Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment. (Alternately, you can use a cooking spray, either with just butter or butter and flour to speed this process up.)
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. (I like to drop mine a few times from two inches up, making a great big noisy fuss.) Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Adapted from The Dessert Bible

Picky said he hated buttercream frosting so  I searched for a frosting that would appeal to him.  If you prefer less of a sugar taste and more chocolate, this is for you.  I didn't find it sour, just very rich tasting.

Only cooking note: Be sure that your sour cream is at room temperature before you make the frosting.

Makes 5 cups of frosting, or enough to frost and fill a two layer 9-inch cake

15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso (optional, but can be used to pick up the flavor of average chocolate)
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the chocolate and espresso powder, if using, in the top of a double-boiler or in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted. (Alternately, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is melted.) Remove from heat and let chocolate cool until tepid.
Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly and stir quickly until the mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in one tablespoon increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.
Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.