Category Archives: food, baking & restaurants

baked cornbread

Martha Substitutions: Cornbread

Yesterday it was raining all day, which was lucky because I needed to stay in and get some commissioned paintings done. While I had the Christmas music playing and was waiting for the first coat of paint to dry, I popped an easy cornbread recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook into the oven.

Martha Stewart's cornbread
Martha Stewart’s cornbread

Here’s the scoop:

This cornbread is of the sweet variety (which is my preference) and is extra fun given the lightly charred kernels of corn mixed throughout.

Here’s what I subbed:

  1. Butter in lieu of vegetable shortening (1:1). I didn’t really feel like purchasing a thing of Crisco just for this recipe…and anyway, isn’t that stuff supposed to be bad for you? Not that butter is a health food, but at least it was the organic kind.
  2. Coconut milk in lieu of regular milk (1:1). I was nervous it would give the bread a coconut-y flavor which I don’t think it did.
saute corn until golden brown
saute corn until golden brown
mix cornmeal with dry ingredients
mix cornmeal with dry ingredients

Here’s how it turned out:

Really well in fact! Fortunately or unfortunately Martha says this bread is best served day of baking or¬†maybe the day after is well-wrapped….Sooooo you can guess what I had for lunch yesterday.

Day of baking the cornbread was moist and slightly sweet and slightly salty and I really enjoyed the pop of the corn bits. Day after baking, slightly drier but still delicious covered in more butter ūüėČ

golden crusted cornbread
golden crusted cornbread

Now not ever having made this recipe with the suggested ingredients, I can’t say for sure how these substitutions might detract or improve the original recipe. But I can tell you that the recipe definitely still works and the ease of the mix-batter and bake means I will be bringing this out again next time I’m called on for a pot-luck.

slice of cornbread
slice of cornbread

I’m off to have a¬†lunch of cornbread and roasted acorn squash. A perfectly cozy fall meal!

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cookie batter

Fall Baking Has Begun Again: Eggless Cookies

It came as a bit of a shock this morning that it was so chilly and windy outside. It shouldn’t have since it’s already October, but it’s been so beautiful for so long that I forgot it was fall and no longer summer! After a morning coffee date (and before visiting some potential new apartments this afternoon), I threw together some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

To be perfectly honest, the reason I went with oatmeal cookies was because I had a huge tupperware container of oatmeal taking up WAY too much room in the cupboard and I had to get rid of it.

The recipe I adapted from allrecipes¬†is an eggless one, which is perfect because I don’t have any eggs, AND because I can eat the batter guiltlessly. A word to the wise though: don’t eat too much batter if raw oatmeal makes your tummy upset.

While the recipe doesn’t call for eggs, it does mean the cookies are a bit drier than a typical moist oatmeal cookie.

A few adaptations and tips:

  1. Use all brown sugar to keep the cookies chewier
  2. Use dark chocolate chips for a richer flavor (and to be slightly healthier depending on how dark you go)
  3. Add a pinch of cinnamon for a fall flavor
  4. Skip the oatmeal altogether, add the chocolate chips, wrap the uncooked dough in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator to snack on. Why must the cookies be baked to enjoy?

 

Here’s the recipe with my changes:

Ingredients & Procedure:

1 cp butter (slightly softened)

1 cp brown sugar (light or dark)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the above ingredients until well-blended.

cookie batter
cookie batter

In a saucepan, boil 1/4 cp water and dissolve 1 tsp baking soda into that.

To the butter-sugar-vanilla mixture, add: 1.5 cp flour and 1 tsp salt  (optional pinch of cinnamon) and stir.

Add the water-baking soda mixture and stir.

Add 2 cps oatmeal and at least 1 cp chocolate chips (to taste based on the darkness of the chocolate and how chocolatey you like your cookies).

oatmeal cookie batter
oatmeal cookie batter

Bake teaspoon-sized balls on parchment lined cookie sheets at 350 for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown

That’s it! Enjoy!

chocolate chip oatmeal cookie
chocolate chip oatmeal cookie

 

Homemade PSL

Homemade (and Cheaper) Pumpkin Spice Latte

One time I went over to my boss’ home for coffee and paperwork. The coffee she was brewing smelled so good, I thought it was some specialty flavored kind. It tasted richly of cinnamon and milk.

Then she let me in on her secret: it was just regular ground coffee but she added a few taps of ground cinnamon to the top of the coffee grounds before brewing. It was like drinking flavored coffee!

This year, with the presence of Starbucks around the corner from my apartment (and really anyone’s apartment in Manhattan), I’ve been drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes like I have $5 to spend on daily coffee.

They are a deliciously warm and remind me of good autumnal times. But let’s be honest, they are full of sugar, fake sugar, chemicals and cost a million dollars (not really, but they’re not cheap).

So even though I don’t think I’ll totally quit my Sbux habit, I have come up with an equally (although less syrupy-sugary-sweet) yummy version of the #PSL that I can make at home.

While I’ve been a devoted cinnamon-shaker ever since that morning when I learned my boss’ trick, I never thought about taking it to the next level in terms of adding AAAALLLLL the pumpkin pie spices.

So that’s what I did: after measuring out my ground coffee, I sprinkled a good amount of cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg, a bit less of ginger and threw in some whole cloves (although ground would’ve been fine too) on top of the coffee, and brewed away.

The result was coffee that tasted like pumpkin pie! Without any added chemicals, syrups, sweeteners or sugar.

coffee, spouted cup, milk frother
coffee, spouted cup, milk frother

Now, you could just add milk and call it a day. Or sugar, or simple syrup if you like your coffee sweet.

But I took it a step further and warmed some milk up in a pot (not to boiling but almost) and transferred it to a mug with a spout (I have a special metal one for frothing milk but a measuring cup would do too).

warming-milk
warming milk

Using an aerolatte milk frother that we got for our wedding, and a technique I learned while barista-ing it up at my bakery gig, I added some creamy warm milk and latte foam to the top of my coffee ~ instant pumpkin spice latte!

So here’s the trick: either keep the frother near the bottom of the cup of milk and keep it steady to create some foam but also to generally steam the milk; or move the wand slowly up and then slowly back down to create tons of foam ~ more like cappuccino-style, less warm milk, more foam.

Maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon to top it off? And even if you don’t have the milk frother, just add warm milk to your pumpkin spice coffee, try it¬†and¬†let me know what you think!

Homemade PSL
Homemade PSL
hard caramel dots with sea salt

#MarthaBakes Caramel Dots

Wow, it’s been a few months since I’ve written up a Martha Stewart recipe¬†but it always seems a bit too hot to be baking up a storm during the summer. Now that fall is starting to creep in, spending days inside doesn’t seem so blasphemous.

I was recently longing¬†for a sweet treat but didn’t feel like leaving the house to go purchase some cookies or something, so I turned to Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook¬†for an easy recipe.

I came across these caramel dots, which are actually part of a sub-recipe for cake decorations, but who needs a whole cake when you can just eat some caramel?

Additionally, the recipe was super simple: sugar, water, lemon juice!

Step 1: Mix sugar and water and lemon juice.

water and sugar in the pot
water and sugar in the pot

Step 2: Heat until it turns into caramel

bubbling sugar
bubbling sugar

Step 3: Drizzle bits of caramel onto parchment paper* and let cool

*When the caramel was still hot (and PS it was really hot – I burnt my finger and it blistered because the caramel stuck to it and I couldn’t get it off – so don’t touch it!) I pinched bits of black sea salt on top to make a sweet-salty dessert.

stained glass-looking caramel dot
stained glass-looking caramel dot

Thoughts on this recipe:

  1. I don’t have overly processed white sugar, only pure cane sugar which is pretty coarse. I think this resulted in too grainy a caramel.
  2. These dots are super hard candies. Definitely more of a sucking candy. Next time I would add a tablespoon or two of butter to make the texture creamier and try for a chewier caramel.
  3. The ones with sugar tasted a lot more interesting and less overwhelmingly JUST SUGAR than the regular ones.
  4. The caramel dots were quite pretty – almost like stained glass.

This recipe definitely served the purpose of sating a sweet tooth and would look good on a cake, but one or two was enough.

hard caramel dots with sea salt
hard caramel dots with sea salt

Verdict: Have I ever said something was TOO sugary? This might be the first time.

Okay, time to capitalize on this dark rainy day to make chocolate chip oatmeal cookies!! ūüôā

 

New Belgium Ranger Station

Snowmass Pizza: New Belgium Ranger Station

Okay, this one isn’t your normal pizza review because it’s not your standard pizza. On our Colorado vacation back in June, we headed into Snowmass Village the fist night to grab a low-key bite at New Belgium Ranger Station. The restaurant has tons of New Belgium beers on tap (the Colorado brewery that makes Fat Tire) and a good selection of appetizers, salads and apres-ski fare.

I had a delicious and huge kale salad that I couldn’t even finish, paired with a 1554 black ale, and Mark had a freshly grilled chicken breast accompanied by a green salad. Everything was quite tasty, and it didn’t hurt that we were sitting outside by a massive fire pit, watching the sun set over the mountains, turning the clouds all shades of yellow and pink.

New Belgium Ranger Station
New Belgium Ranger Station – I like these stools that have cubbies for your things built in!

Although I was also tempted to order the make-your-own s’mores kit, I refrained and we split the pepperoni pretzel rolls instead. Yum.

pepperoni pretzel pizza sandwiches
pepperoni pretzel pizza sandwiches

Maybe just slightly too cheesy, but otherwise it hit the eating-pizza-without-actually-eating-pizza spot. The pretzel bun had that lovely chunky rock salt, and inside was melted mozzarella and pepperoni, accompanied by a marinara dipping sauce.

This would definitely make a good apres-ski snack with a beer or two!

Taster's in Snowmass

Snowmass Pizza: Taster’s

Back in June, Mark and I spent a relaxing week hiking, swimming, reading and eating in Snowmass, Aspen and Denver, Colorado. We were lucky enough to stay at The Timbers Club in Snowmass – a gorgeous property right on the side of the mountain with a friendly and accommodating staff, comfy big beds, our own grill, afternoon cookies and multiple hot tubs to choose from.

One night for dinner, we popped across the street to a tiny strip mall with an excellent gourmet grocery store and a pizza place called Taster’s. (There’s one in Aspen too I think.)

We got a carry-out cheese pizza and ate it on the couch in front of a roaring fire and a flat screen TV.

Taster's cheese pizza
Taster’s cheese pizza

We had heard mixed reviews from people who had eaten there before, and I think it lends itself to be that kind of pizza place.

Overall, it’s kind of what you would expect from a ski-town pizza place. It was warm and doughy and filling, with a good flavor and a lot of cheese. It wasn’t gourmet pizza by any stretch, and it wasn’t really even New York thin crust. It was kind of like a puffy bread with sauce and cheese and grease and spices. Quite comforting.

Would be good on a snowy afternoon when you don’t have to wear a bathing suit afterwards.

pizza The Timbers
Taster’s in Snowmass
Turnstyle The Pizza cheese pizza

NYC Pizza Review: Turnstyle

Recently, a new underground shopping mall and food court has opened in the Columbus Circle subway stop. It’s brightly lit, well decorated and has some excellent options for coffee and dining, including Starbucks, FIKA, Dylan’s Candy Bar, Doughnuttery, Pressed Juicery, Casa Toscana and many more.

There are cute handmade jewelry stands down the center aisle, and all manner of shops from a wine store to a shop that has a mishmash of random novelty gifts and home goods (like a giant gummy bear piggy bank).

Inevitably there is a pizza place down there. And it is just called: Turnstyle The Pizza, as in, there is only one pizza place down here, and this is it.

So of course we were going to get pizza from there. It was only a matter of time being that it’s literally on our commute home from work.

One night, Mark stopped and picked up a large cheese pizza for dinner.

Looking good so far in its extra large New York pizza way:

Turnstyle The Pizza cheese pizza
Turnstyle The Pizza cheese pizza

But then I went to pick up a slice:

cheese pizza from Turnstyle The Pizza
bye bye cheese

Ehhhhhh I can maybe even forgive a cheese slide, but I was overall disheartened at the way the cheese was kind of lumpy and crumbly and the sauce was particularly sweet and oversauced and the crust was particularly dry.

I mean, I ate it, duh. And maybe if you were really craving pizza, grabbing a slice down in the subway makes sense. But generally we can do better. That Italian Casa Toscana looks interesting to me, and they have gelato, so that might be the next place to try down in Turnstyle.

Has anyone else tried any of the other food down there?

artisan pizza with roasted red peppers, goat cheese and olive tapenade

Denver Pizza Review: Osteria Marco

For our last dinner in Denver before heading home after a lovely vacation out West a few weeks ago, Mark and I dined al fresco on Larimer Square at Osteria Marco.

What I loved about this restaurant was the fact that although it is casual, the food reminded me a bit of my beloved Chinghale in Baltimore. Delicately plated salumi, and fresh and delicious-looking main courses. Different in that where Chinghale has interesting housemade pastas, Osteria Marco offers pizzas and paninis. No matter. It was the feel of the place that was warm and friendly and inviting.

After our appetizer of lace-y thin finochietta (fennel pork sausage) that I inhaled, I ordered the Artisan pizza with olive tapenade, goat cheese and roasted red peppers.

artisan pizza with roasted red peppers, goat cheese and olive tapenade
artisan pizza with roasted red peppers, goat cheese and olive tapenade

Um, yum. That is all I can say. I gobbled this down too and was feeling particularly pleased with my order. The chewy crust, salty olives and sweet peppers paired well with a healthy smattering of spicy crushed red pepper and a light white wine.

So if you’re in Denver, I would highly recommend checking this place out after a Rockies baseball game.

High Mountain Pies main entrance

Pizza Review: High Mountain Pies

As the name implies, this small pizza place is located in Colorado, outside of Denver, in historic Leadville. We found it on Yelp as we were passing through, as did many of our co-diners.

High Mountain Pies is situated in a cute little bright-blue house off of Leadville’s main street. They have picnic tables in a grassy field outback as well as under shaded umbrellas on the side patio (where we ate).

High Mountain Pies main entrance
High Mountain Pies main entrance

The owners were a couple of friendly hippies (obviously) who clearly created a pizza restaurant to fulfill their pizza-craving needs. (Mark and I noted how many Colorado restaurants seem to be designed to fulfill late-night cravings: for instance, on our way through town on the front end of the trip, we ate lunch at a pizzeria/taqueria, and last time we were in Denver, we ate at a pizza/biscuit restaurant. YUMMY!)

We ordered the pizza margherita, which was fine for what it was, but not really any sort of amazing pizza by general world standards. It was more of a doughy, salty, cheesy bread with sliced tomatoes. The fresh basil was a plus.

our pizza margherita
our pizza margherita

It was good, but I’d probably steer more towards a regular cheese pizza (or find a bar-b-que restaurant) next time. A+ for setting and friendly staff.

one strawberry and one blueberry muffin

Red (White) and Blue Muffins ~ Happy 4th of July!

Phew it’s been a while since I’ve whipped up any Martha Stewart treats in the kitchen, but last week I was inspired by the start of berry season, so I turned my Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook open to blueberry muffins.

Have I mentioned that I’ve been working in a bakery for the past 5 months? Mostly helping customers up front, but it’s afforded me the opportunity to sample some delicious cookies, quick breads, brioche and¬†blueberry muffins.

At the bakery, our muffins typically turn out huge with tops that far exceed the size of the rest of the muffin. And that’s pretty much everyone’s favorite part anyway right, so what’s not to love? (My mind is jumping to Seinfeld: “It’s not, ‘Top of the Muffin TO YOU!'” with flamboyant Elaine hand gestures and then later, “I gotta haul some stumps”…such a hilarious episode.)

ANY.WAY.

In pursuit of using up some strawberries from the fridge, I decided to make a batch of mini blueberry muffins and a batch of mini strawberry muffins. PS I only own a mini muffin tin. New York apartment and all that. PPS I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a¬†strawberry muffin before. Have you? I was really quite excited at the prospect!

I’ve never really made muffins before, but I’m not sure why not since it only calls for very standard ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, milk, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract and eggs. I think I’ve always been scared that my muffins will stick to the tin and I’ve been too lazy to purchase those little paper cups, which also seem sort of a waste to the environment.

So with this, I made to sure to super duper butter the muffin tin, not only in the wells but all along the ridges too because I knew I wanted to try to “overstuff” them to create the large muffin tops. Then I dusted the whole tin with flour and scooped in heaping spoonfuls of batter – first up was blueberry.

Since I was using a mini tin, I thought the cook time should be decreased but I wasn’t sure by how much. So I started with 15 minutes, they were clearly not done, so I turned the tray and put them back in for another 10.

They seemed to be slightly browned on top, so I pulled them out of the oven, let them cool for about 10 minutes and then flipped them over and banged the tray a few times (a new trick I learned at work) so that the muffins slide right out. I only had to manually pull a few out and they ended up breaking, mostly because the berries were at the bottom of the well and had melted and stuck to the pan.

blueberry mini muffins
blueberry mini muffins

I rebuttered, refloured and did the same with the strawberry batter, although I had even more batter to use, so I cooked for 27 minutes instead of 25.

folding strawberries into muffin batter
folding strawberries into the batter

The strawberry muffin tops were much wider than the blueberry ones and they had kind of baked into one another so the flip and tap method didn’t work and I had to use a little knife to help pop the muffins out, but none of them broke.

the bottoms of baked strawberry muffins
the bottoms of baked strawberry muffins

Some tips:

  1. Toss the fruit with flour before folding it into the batter to prevent it from sinking to the bottom of the tin.
  2. Sprinkle sugar on top of the raw muffins before baking for an extra sweet crunch. I did this on the strawberries but not on the blueberries.

    raw strawberry muffins ready for baking
    raw strawberry muffins ready for baking
  3. Bake the muffin tin on top of a cookie sheet (especially with a mini muffin tin) so that you have a wider tray to handle. It’s hard to grasp narrow edges of a muffin tin with oven mitts on.

These muffins were quite addicting and I ate at least 4 warm ones straight away. The blueberry ones were tart (small blueberries) and the strawberry ones were pretty sweet. I LOVED the way the strawberry ones smelled in the oven – like strawberry shortcake – and just like summer.

one strawberry and one blueberry muffin
one strawberry and one blueberry muffin

How perfect for July 4th to have some summer berry muffins that are red and blue and white (the muffin part?) – yum!