Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ice Cream Cones

I finally finished the last painting from my painting class this spring. The assignment was to copy somebody else's painting, and I did one of Wayne Thiebaud's ice cream paintings. I liked the exercise - it took the pressure off! I am not currently signed up for any classes...I need to remedy that.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Austin - Last Installment

This is a final wrap up of the southern snacks I had to try on my trip to Austin - things you would not be likely to find in Seattle.

Crawfish Etouffee at Ruby's BBQ. Everytime I go to Austin I have to get myself some of this stuff.

Fried Pie - this is definitely not something you would find in Seattle. I found this at Jo's, the fabulous coffee shop where I spent so many hours reading while sitting in the balmy shade.

I would love it if there were more filling, but the dough was heavenly. I really don't know what to compare it to - it was not flakey like normal pie crust, and was almost like fried bread. Then there was a glaze over the top of it. I will definitely be going back for more the next time I am in town.

Frozen Custard at Culvers. This was like soft serve ice cream only it wasn't. It was creamier and tasted more like ice cream, and wasn't as soft as soft serve.

I've Been Tagged...

by fellow southerner, Sandi, over at the Whistlestop Cafe!

But first, a picture of one of my favorite places in the world. This is Discovery Park in Seattle. It is huge, and no matter how nice the weather, the place never feels crowded. The park overlooks Elliott Bay. You can walk through the woods down to the water, or picnic on tall bluffs. It is close to downtown, but feels like you are a million miles away, and makes for a really nice bike ride destination.

This is supposed to be 8 Random Things About Me but I am going to have to make it 4 instead - that is all I have been able to come up with!
1) I have two fat old cats (please see photo) that I adopted from my brother. When my niece was born, she turned out to be allergic to the beasties so I took them in.
2) I am a chocolate wuss. Dark chocolate, flourless chocolate cake, "tortes", truffles - it is all too much for me. And if there were a Hostess Ding Dong nearby, I would take that over any of the previously mentioned treats. (I like to think this is because I am one of the "supertasters" I read about in David Lebovitz's book, The Great Book of Chocolate!)
3) I biked across the United States.
4) Singing is my first love. Choral music and country, especially!

Not sure yet who I am going to tag next - I will get back to you!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cherry Blackbottom Cupcakes

After all my griping about the weather, I decided to celebrate the sunshine by taking my cupcakes outdoors for their class picture. It still isn't exactly summer here, but I have at least been able to go on a couple of long bike rides. This should somewhat compensate for the fact that I will be eating these cupcakes for dinner every night until they are gone (three per night, 12 in a batch means I'll be back to real food by Monday.)

These cupcakes land somewhere near World Peace Cookies on my top ten list. I love the combination of chocolate with the cherry and the cheesecake, and the texture is exactly what I want out of a cupcake, too. They are incredibly easy to make, and they keep well. Basically I have nothing bad to say about them. I used David Lebovitz's recipe for Black-Bottom Cupcakes from the Great Book of Chocolate, and made two tiny modifications (cherry jam and almond extract).

*I am in love with this jam, and am constantly seeking out new delivery methods (toast, sandwiched between graham crackers or cookies, by the spoonful when nothing else is available). That is how I ended up with cherry jam in my cupcakes.

Cherry Blackbottom Cupcakes

- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 5 Tbsp natural cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract


- 8 ounces room temp cream cheese
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 room temp egg
- 1/8 tsp almond extract
- 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- cherry jam*

Oven to 350 degrees, line one standard muffin tin with cupcake papers.
Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, and almond extract together. Mix in chocolate chips.
In large bowl, mix together dry cupcake ingredients. Make well in center and pour in wet ingredients. Stir together with wooden spoon. Distribute amongst cupcake papers. Next, distribute cream cheese mixture, about 1-2 Tbsp per cupcake. Finally, drop about a tsp of jam onto each cupcake.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until cupcakes are springy and tops are slightly golden.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Austin Treats - Kolache

I got this book a few weeks before my trip to Austin. Reading it, I learned of kolaches, a treat found in many Texas bakeries, probably of Czech origin. I decided I would have to try them on my trip. Upon arriving however, I couldn't find a single local that had actually eaten one. Still, there were plenty of bakeries to choose from. I ultimately wound up at the Kolache Shoppe, mainly because it was right around the corner from my friend, Jen T.'s place, where I was staying. It was a small little place in the middle of a strip mall, and I am pretty sure it sold nothing but kolaches. There are both sweet and savory varieties, but all of their savory ones contained meat, so I stuck to sweet. My plan had been to sample just one.

I tried cherry.

Then apple.

Then cream cheese.

I think they appealed to the same part of me that secretly likes Twinkies. The dough was soft and flakey, like a cross between danish, a buttery dinner roll, and Wonder Bread. And the dough was not very sweet. Then resting in the center was the filling. The fruit could have come straight out of a can of pie filling (which I love as much as Twinkies). The cream cheese was sweet. I would love a cherry-cream cheese version...

Brownies with Peanut Butter Caramel

I am about to lose my mind - it is the middle of June and I can't remember the last day the sun was REALLY out. As I write this, it is 3:45 in the afternoon and 55 degrees out. And cloudy. And rainy. Two nights ago I finally broke down and brought my winter blanket back to bed. Meanwhile I am supposed to be training for various bike rides I signed up for this summer. Instead, I am staying inside, where it is warm-ish, and baking (and eating). Like these brownies, for example.

I'm discovering that I may be a bit of a chocolate wuss. With all of my brownie-experimentation lately, I am finding that my favorites have been a little bit light on chocolate. This time around I used David Lebovitz's recipe for his Dulce de Leche Brownies, then modified the dulce de leche with some peanut butter. The brownies were of the fudgy variety, and were so chocolately they were almost black. They were truly amazing, but I think that next time I will go back to these or these.

I followed DL's brownie recipe to the letter, so I won't re-copy it here. For the peanut butter caramel variety, just replace the dulce to leche in the recipe with the following:

Peanut Butter Caramel

- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (natural-style works fine, if not better - not quite as sweet)

Mix together in pan over medium heat until well combined. Continue to warm, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and use as directed in brownie recipe. This recipe makes much more than is needed for the 8x8 pan of brownies. I plan on using my left-overs on ice cream, but there would certainly be enough for a 9x13 batch instead.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


I had planned on doing one big post about my trip to Austin, but I've changed my mind. Austin is one of my favorite towns and I am having a hard time thinning out my pictures, so I will be doing three or four "little" posts instead. This one is for Nina Roux - it is hard to explain why I like this place so much, and these pictures probably don't help, but at least you will have a little idea of what Austin looks like! It seems like everyone has the idea that all of Texas is a desert. East Texas is actually very green for much of the year. A lot of the neighborhoods I wandered through reminded me of where I grew up in Houston - tons of trees and plants and thick grass. The weather was muggy and hot (my favorite!) and we even got a nice and loud thunderstorm the night before I left.

This is what you see looking over the fence in my sister's backyard.

Barton Springs is in Zilker Park - a HUGE park right in Austin.

Around South Congress.

On South Congress looking back towards downtown:

South Congress is a fairly hip neighborhood with cafes, restaurants, and vintage shops, etc. It is one of the good spots to go if you want to park your car and walk around. For the most part though, Austin is a car town. And if I am truly honest with myself, it is not particularly attractive. Considering those two things, I still can't quite put my finger on why I love it SO MUCH. The weather certainly doesn't hurt!
This picture is of Jo's, a cafe on South Congress that I will mention again later in another post. I spent a good hunk of time reading and journaling here, sipping on an iced americano, sitting in the shade. I love that so many restaurants have outdoor seating, and that even at night, (or during the thunderstorm) you never get cold.

Speaking of thunderstorms, there was a doozy while I was down there. I miss those so much! It never thunders in Seattle, and when it does, it is generally an isolated event during a "storm" that lasts all of five minutes. This storm in Austin first showed up on the horizen at about 6:00 in the evening and didn't let up until late at night. At one point I was standing on my friend's balcony, and the lightening literally never stopped. The sky looked like a strobe light because it was constantly flickering from lightening going off somewhere.

I think I will post most of my storm pictures even though some of them aren't that great, because you can also get an idea of what the town looks like.

Driving north of downtown:

This is taken from the parking lot of minimart right around the block from where J.T. lives.

It is probably difficult to see what you are looking at in this picture. It was taken off the deck of J.T.'s apartment during the storm. She has a view of a tin-roofed Mexican restaurant and its parking lot. There was a LOT of rain coming down.

Lemon Cornmeal Cookies

I have been wanting to try this recipe for awhile now. Then yesterday, after one of my most favorite co-workers worked her last day with me after quitting her job (I still can't believe it is true!), I decided to go home and drown my sorrows in these cookies. The recipe came out of a Martha Stewart Food Christmas cookie magazine. The recipe seemed a little odd to me, but I wanted to try it anyways because the photo looked so promising. Of course my cookies looked nothing like the ones in her picture. It turns out that these cookies are heavenly when they are warm out of the oven - lemony and buttery, but dense like shortbread, with a cornmealy crunch. The next day, however, they are just flavorful hockey pucks. That is when I discovered how lovely they are when softened by a little bit of melting blueberry frozen yogurt, or dipped into a hot cup of tea. So there is no need to worry that my lemony hockey pucks will end up in the garbage. These cookies are good enough (and easy enough) that I can imagine trying them again. But I may add a tiny bit of leavening, and also try a finer ground cornmeal or corn flour. Into half of my cookies I squashed a dried tart cherry. Next time I would definitely do that to all of them.

Lemon Cornmeal Cookies (adapted from Everyday Food, Holiday 2006)

- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup cornmeal (I reccommend finer rather than coarse, or maybe a mix of the two?)
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 12 Tbsp butter, at room temp
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 24-36 dried tart cherries (optional)

Oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together in small bowl. Beat together butter, sugar, lemon zest, and egg. Mix in dry ingredients. Roll dough into balls, using a heaping tablespoon of dough. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment. Flatten dough to 3/4" thickness. Squish a cherry into the center of each cookie. Bake until browned around the edges, about 20-25 minutes.

I am submitting these to the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. This is the 17th one, and the theme is cornmeal. I imagine the round up with be up soon, so check it out!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Dorie's Peanuttiest Blondies

I cannot begin to express how devastated I was when I got home from the grocery store and discovered...I had forgotten the PEANUTS! I made these bars anyways, and they were great (like everything else I have tried from Dorie). But they would have been so much greater with the peanuts! The blondies are pretty sweet, and I can only imagine what a lovely contrast the salty peanuts would have been. And they were indeed chewy, just as Dorie said they would be. The one thing I will leave out next time, however (because I WILL be making these again), is the cinnamon. For some reason, the combination of peanut butter and cinnamon didn't work for me.

Peanuttiest Blondies, from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (not natural)
- 5 Tbsp room temp butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup chopped salted peanuts
- 6 ounces semisweet, 1 cup minichips

350 degrees. Line a 9 inch square pan.

Whisk together dry ingredients. Mix butter and peanut butter until smooth, add sugars and mix 1-2 minutes. Add eggs, mixing well after each. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients, mix until just combined. Stir in peanuts and chocolate. Spread into pan. Bake 40-50 minutes (mine were finished early). Thin knife should be clean.
Cool completely in pan, lift, cut, etc.

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt...

...good enough for a cold and rainy Seattle day. This stuff is way better than the sum of its parts. When I had my first taste, I honestly did a quick mental scan, trying to recall if I had accidentally dumped in a pint of heavy cream without realizing it. The texture is wonderful (requires a ten or fifteen minute thaw at room temperature before serving), but the flavor! I went back and tasted the plain yogurt left-overs, and that didn't explain this stuff either. Whatever. It is just good. Creamy and fruity and just sweet enough.

Of course this came from David Lebovitz's fabulous and amazing new book, The Perfect Scoop, which I finally have in my possession. Anyone with an ice cream maker that does not yet have this book needs to go out and buy it immediately! I think I have already read it cover to cover twice, and my lilliputian freezer is the only thing keeping me from making every recipe.

I used Greek-style yogurt, and frozen wild blueberries. (The recipe calls for straining out the blueberry seeds. All I will say is that I have a strange compulsion that prevented me from doing that - therefore my yogurt was unstrained.)

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt, from The Perfect Scoop

- 1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 cups blueberries
- 1 tsp kirsch
- 2 tsp lemon juice

Place yogurt, sugar, and blueberries in food processor and mix well. (Strain.) Stir in kirsch and lemon juice and chill for 1 hour. Place in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.