Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chocolate Coffee Bean Pound Cake..... Happy Anniversary Honey!

Chocolate lovers.... caffeine addicts...... espresso bean munchers.....come hither and celebrate with me as I dive into the anniversary cake I made for my dear husband Hopper. (Yes, his name is Hopper....

We celebrated 2 years of blissful (sometimes...wink wink) marriage today! Hip Hip Hooray! How I remember this day - nerves all jangling, butterflies in my belly, blissed out of my mind, family and friends galore, summer breezes blowing, beautiful music playing, green grass, prosecco (a bit too much) the lake, the view.... and of course the moment I joined my husband at the altar! What a blessed day!

We were so lucky to have our friends and family make the food for our wedding. The night passed so quickly, I was never able to truly appreciate the copious amounts of food brought to our wedding, not to mention the caliber of food! Organic...delicious..... and beautiful about sums it up. Plus a dear friend made 8 specialty cheesecakes and one woman made this gorgeous tres leches cake. I am posting a few photos, even though they are  from 2 years ago... they still bring back sweet memories for me.
So tonight... in celebration of our anniversary... I lied to my husband! (you know.... one of those white lies) The night before last, he saw me working hard on this chocolate pound cake, venting our un-air-conditioned house out the back door, bringing my eggs outside to "warm up".....measuring out my Valrhona. I told him it was all for our back-to-school party at work. He is used to me making cakes for the people I work with, so starting off the school year with a nice chocolate cake did not make my husband suspect a thing.

The next day he came home from work to this!... of course the first thing he says is "Aren't you going to take photos of it for your food blog?" and "Why didn't you take it to school?" And then he was quite tickled when he realized the cake was for our anniversary. ♥♥♥

The recipe for this cake came from yet another gem of a book I picked up from the library. Joyce White is the author of Brown Sugar a fantastic book that focuses on Soul Food....not the savory, just the sweet. I have learned quite a bit while reading and drooling over the recipes. Did you know that a cake walk has it's origins in slavery and the plantations of the south? It started as a dance, subtly mocking the slave owners, and ended up with the best dancer, winning a cake! I found this fascinating - Check out more information here if you are interested- http://edwardianpromenade.com/amusements/the-cakewalk/ .

The cake was a treat, especially the coffee glaze that soaked the cakes top and bottom. The espresso bean pillow from Trader Jo's also added a fine specialty crunch once I got to the edge of my piece. I may have over-baked the cake a tad, as it was a touch to dry for my tastes. However....that can and was easily solved with some heavenly organic whipping cream from Organic Valley and fresh berries.

I am not including the recipe tonight, as I am hoping to make a few "tweaks" to get it just how I love it. Please do check out this book as it is a delightful collection of recipes and soul history. For now, I am going to go kiss my husband and remind him of what a wonderful person he is (plus have another slice of cake!) xoxo  ♥♥♥ Miss Megan

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The taming of the... Dragon Fruit!

How to tame and eat your Dragon Fruit 101
Step 1) Head to your library and pick up a copy of a fantastic book titled the exotic fruit and vegetable handbook by Oona van den Berg. Read before bed, and you will dream of dragon fruits, sapodillas, palm fruit and cherimoyas.

Step 2) Admire your fruits.... they resemble what I would imagine a dinosaur egg to look like. Brilliantly pink with odd spikes of green aloe like flaps protruding from around it's oval shaped body. Admire some more....

Step 3) Prepare your work area, you will need 1 large knife and 1 spoon.

Step 4) Get ready for some amazing visual contrast. It was like cutting into a dinosaur egg... and then finding 101 Dalmatians inside! See for yourself.

Step 5) Scoop! Take your spoon and gently scoop the dragon flesh out, if you are careful, you can scoop it all out in one fell swoop making it even more lovely for the presentation. 

Step 6) Cube the dragon fruit carefully and transfer back into the shell of the fruit. Enjoy alone or drizzle lemon syrup over the fruit for added flavor. 

I really did start dreaming about exotic fruits after I poured over that wonderful book one evening while curled up on my couch. One of our local Asian Food Markets carries lots of fun produce, so I headed over last week to see what fruits I could pick up and bring home to taste. I ended up with lychee, dragon fruit, and rambutan.  It felt like I needed a lesson in exotic fruits, how to peel them, eat them and what they taste like. Ten dollars later..... they were in my car heading home.

The kids took one look at the dragon fruit and their eyes popped open wide with a "what is that?" expression. I even had an "ewww, we're going to eat that." It was like I brought home an undesirable alien. I proceeded to dice the dragon fruit and serve it up to them. I think we were all a bit disappointed when we took our first bite. With all the pomp and circumstance that the fruit comes housed in, we were all expecting some sort of an enticing exotic flavor. Sadly, it was quite bland, extremely mild.... pretty much flavorless ie. BORING.  However, not wanting to dis this beautiful glorious dinosaur egg fruit.......it does holds it's shape beautifully and would be a great addition to any  mixed fruit salad.

Next time you are at the market, try something new. Tame those dragons, dream big dreams and have a wonderful start to your week!.....xoxo Megan

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Headaches and rainbows in the kitchen...Quiet Riot

I have  had a terrible migraine for the past 24 hours, one of those "I will not let you eat, sleep or be a productive member of society" headaches. I chose to stay home today, to try and sleep off my headache and be still. It has been a quiet, shh, pull the shades, block out the sun, turn off all exterior noise please and let me be type of day. Thankfully the clouds rolled in and a sweet cool pre-autumn wind is breathing on me and cooling my temper as I type.

Quietly, I am dreaming of planting quince trees and eating the dragon fruit that I just purchased..... it's pink skin will have to wait for now. Nature has blessed us with so many achingly beautiful colors. I was recently blessed with my own personal Quiet Riot in the kitchen. No need for words or loud noises, just the bounty of Summer's harvest, sitting on my kitchen table. Not feeling the need to get all crazy in my kitchen and write a long blog entry, today is megan-time, time to be, me, quiet, resting, silent.

I had big plans for all of the beauty you see below, yet most of it just slipped into the daily routing of our life. A nibble here and a nibble there, snacks for hungry tummies, and side dishes for our supper. A rainbow of color. No recipe. Just soothing color ready to be eaten. A feast for my eyes.... and head.

Blue Damson Plums....they made it as far as our Scottish Oats, sliced and drizzled with maple syrup.

Blue Damson Plums, Brown Berry Tomatoes, and Purple Beans 

My quiet riot of rainbow colors.

Instead of ice cream, we enjoyed tomatoes!

Purple Beans...... turn green when eaten. 
Be well, enjoy your peace, may you have no headaches, and if you do happen to have one today.... bliss out on nothing and just be!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fresh Colombian Aji Sauce with Steak.....Estupendo!

Again... dipping into my old stacks of bon appetit magazines, I pulled out this one (many personal modifications) the July 2009 Issue. I repeat.......This will forever replace any steak sauce that I may have used or would ever plan to use in the future. Fresh, green, spicy, with a touch of vinegar..... even the kids gulped it down. One of the best sauces I have enjoyed in quite some time. Enjoy with bliss....xoxoxo Megan

Fresh Colombian Aji Sauce

1/3 cup vidalia onion
1/3 cup chopped green onion
3-4 large jalapeños - seeded and de-veined
3/4 tsp salt
2 TBS. red wine vinegar
1 handful of cilantrao, grab a handful off of the bunch and toss into food processor

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until a juice begins to form and there is still a bit of pulp left in the sauce. Taste, add more salt if necessary or vinegar. This sauce mellows with time. Do no serve right away, the vinegar begins to work on the ingredients, pulling out flavors that will not be there until it has had a chance to sit. Serve on steak or anything else from crackers to pizza...seriously!

Colombian Aji Sauce

Marinated Swiss Steak


1.5 lb. swiss steak or flank steak - grass fed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup worchestire sauce
1/4 cup red wine

Mix all ingredients, minus steak in glass bowl. Add steak, let marinate on counter for an hour. This will get your steak warmed up before it is placed on the grill and I find that the meat takes the marinade much more quickly when it is at room temp. Heat grill to med-high. Brush grill with oil, and grill for 3 minutes per side. No more. Let rest for 5 minutes, slice and enjoy~with Aji sauce of course!

Marinated Swiss Steak, sliced and served with Aji Sauce

Colombian Guacamole


2 large avocadoes
handful of cilantro
1/3 cup green onion chopped
1/3 cup vidalia onion chopped
1/2 water
salt to taste, at least 1/2 tsp... I put in almost 1 tsp.
juice of 1/2 lime

Place all ingredients minus water and lime juice into food processor. Pulse until creamy, add water and lime juice! Taste and enjoy with your steak and on everything else you are serving!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Finger Lickin' Cornmeal Fried Chicken

crispy, crunchy and salty, Sunday Fried Chicken

Have you ever made fried chicken before? Well neither had I until yesterday when I awoke at 7:00 a.m. in the morning and did not leave the kitchen until 2:00 in the afternoon. What a well deserved undertaking, frying up chicken in the kitchen on a Sunday at noon. Hot and sweaty and OMG .... this stuff was what fried dreams were made of.  

After my husband took his first bite he said....."mmmmm this is the best chicken coating that I have ever tasted that didn't have MSG in it." I of course smiled and took it as a compliment, right? 

For one of my sister's wedding presents, I scooped up several 2008 old Bon Appetit issues from our local library sale. (What good cook does not love pouring over cooking magazines?) I made sure I grabbed her the September 2008 issue, the restaurant issue, as it is stuffed full of jaw dropping recipes.  I have had this issue myself for 2 years and always salivated over the fried chicken recipe but have forever been to chicken to make it (no pun intended). My sister showed no fear and whipped this recipe up 2 days prior. Okay, if she can do it, I could. I think my fear of hot oil meets raw meat was what kept me away.

adapted from Thomas Keller's Buttermilk Fried Chicken September 2008 Bon Appetit - He uses only wheat flour... I added the cornmeal and rice flour... I also cut the recipe down quite a bit, as his is for 24 pieces of chicken.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken - makes 8 pieces

Part I - The Brining

6 cups water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 Heaping TBS honey
4 bay leaves
6 cloves smashed garlic
3 tsp black peppercorns
3 bunches of fresh thyme
1/2 cup Italian parsley
1 TBS grated lemon peel
3 TBS fresh lemon juice
8 pieces of chicken

Combine all the brine ingredients in sauce pan (minus chicken) and bring to a boil. Let cool or chill in the fridge. Rinse chicken and add to brine. Put back in fridge and let brine for at least 6 hours up to 24. Drain chicken, remove remaining herbs and pat dry.

Part II -Making your buttermilk coating

1 cup coarse corn meal
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup wheat or spelt flour
1 TBS garlic powder
1 TBS onion powder
1 TBS smoked paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
couple twists of freshly ground pepper
2 tsp coarse kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 bottle peanut oil for deep frying
Thermometer for Deep Frying
Meat Thermometer

Whisk together dry ingredients in a med sized bowl. Pour buttermilk in another bowl. Line up your work space with the chicken on the left then moving to the right you want the dry mix, buttermilk and baking tray, in that order. (makes for less mess). Take your first piece of chicken, place in dry mix, then dip in buttermilk, then back to the dry mix for a second coating. Place on baking sheet. Coat all chicken in this manner and let stand to dry. It is okay to be left out.... you are going to fry the heck out of anything potentially dangerous.

Part III - Hot oil meets the Bird

I used my Le Creuset dutch oven to complete the frying portion of this recipe. It did a fine job holding the temperature and protecting me from splashing hot oil. Use some type of a large heavy pot for the frying. Pour peanut oil to a depth of 1" into your pan. Place thermometer on side of pan to watch your oil temperature. Heat oil up to 325 degrees, then you are ready to add your chicken. Do not crowd your pan, 3-4 pieces at a time if you are using something similar in size to my panSet your timer for 7 minutes, turn chicken at 7 minutes. Test for doneness at 14 minutes, pull meat out of fryer and then insert meat thermometer. When cooked, transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with more kosher salt. Fry up second batch, let drain and then platter up your chicken.

Serve with coleslaw, mashed potatoes and other good things that you desire. Do not be surprised. You will probably just want to eat the coating...... All of it!

My sister Molly just began her bloggind adventures last night..... check out her first post.... Creamy Butterscotch Pudding with Bacon Lardons....Yeah Molly! Prefers Pig

Fried Foodie Love from Wisconsin ♥♥♥
Miss Megan

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sometimes you feel like a nut - so soak them already, will ya!

Almonds, soaking in spring water.
This post is just about nuts.... nothing too exciting, no sugar or chocolate here, just nuts, plain nuts.

If you are some scientist reading this that knows a lot about plant chemicals, please...skip to the bottom so I don't embarrass myself too much!

Many of us, or those of us fortunate enough not to have a nut allergy, probably pop nuts into granolas, cakes, muffins and cookies or we just eat them salted (or not) right out of our hand. And why not? A salty crunchy tamari almond is quite addicting. You end up eating half the bag before you realize that you have a tummy ache and that you possibly have spoiled your supper. What most of us don't know is that nut eating can be quite hard on our digestive system, it actually causes it some gastric distress. (sad but true) Now don't sit there and think that you never have had a problem eating nuts. You may not have ever even noticed it. It could have come as a mild or strong stomach ache or maybe as a  "silent side effect", ie. the inability to absorb the amazing nutrients that are packed into these dense little foods. It is not like some of us are born with some super ability to digest nuts. We are just all in the same non-nut-digesting boat together!

Dried raw almonds and soaked raw almonds.

Nuts are tiny (some not so tiny like the coconut), nutrient packed foods. They are high in the good fats, protein, fiber, Vitamin E, folic acid, you name it... they've got it. The difficulty in nut consumption is their own canny little ability to resist digestion and assimilation. They are a seed of course, and what are seeds but tiny genetic warehouses that are chock full of fertile goodness just waiting to propagate themselves. But seeds are picky, they don't just want to sprout themselves the minute someone sprinkles them with water or throws them atop of some soil. Seeds and nuts save themselves for the right environment before they decide to sprout. Our stomach is obviously not their preferred place to land!

Nuts contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. The phytic acid is present to stop the seed from sprouting when the environmental conditions aren't just right. This little chemical  is what puts the brakes on premature germination. Phytic acid also hampers our ability to absorb the minerals found in nuts and some even say the protein. It seems to glom on to the good minerals found in nuts and makes an insoluble, hence unabsorbable. The enzyme inhibitors will also prevent protein digestion and nutrient uptake. Since nuts are such a nutrient dense food, wouldn't we want to get the most bang for our buck?

Time to get those nuts soaking. One could just roast nuts or seeds at high temperatures which can reduce levels of phytic acid as well as well as the enzyme inhibitors. However, soaking nuts/seeds for 12 hours in water has become a preferred method as it uses dramatically lower temperatures which keeps the "good things" intact without destroying their health benefiting properties. Placing nuts or seeds in water for such a long period of time, allows you to "trick" the nut per say so that they release some of their phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors as they get ready to sprout.

Look at the difference between the two almonds - the one on the right has been soaked.
Just try soaking your almonds... and slipping the plump little nut between your thumb and pointer finger to squeeze the skin right off. You will be left with sweet, juicy almonds, ready to be crunched upon. 

Almonds, soaked and skinned.

Since nuts are a bit difficult to digest yet offer so many wonderful nutrients, we should eat them in small amounts and if at all possible, soak them first. You can also dehydrate your nuts after a long soaking (these are actually my favorite) as they are so wonderfully delicious. If you are fortunate enough to have a food dehydrator, slip your soaked nuts into the dehydrator until completely dry. Otherwise, if you oven can be set to a low enough temperature, 150 at max, you can low-temp roast your nuts this way. 

I know we live in a grab and go society and it seems like a big pain in the wazoo to soak your nuts before eating....but... if you are one who like to eat raw foods and reap their benefits, well then, by all means, soak your nuts!

Soaked Nuts Recipe Using Almonds
1 cup almonds in a 4 cup ball jar
1/2 tsp of salt (good salt) We use Hawaiian Pink
filtered water

Dissolve salt in 1 cup water, add nuts and fill with filterd water to the top. Let sit out on counter over night. Rinse and drain in the morning. Throw into your smoothies or make homemade almond butter. Dehydrate in oven or dehydrator. If you are planning on dehydrating the nuts, make a big batch using 4 cups nuts and 1 tbs good salt. Soak in a bowl over night.
Soaked Almonds Almond Butter
Follow the same recipe as above, do not dehydrate and immediately grind in blender until very creamy. Sooo delicious.

Blueberry Soaked Almond Smoothie
1/4 cup soaked almonds without skin
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1 banana
1/2 cup purified water or juice

Blend and enjoy!

Note to Readers!
I am not a scientist. I just have gleaned a bit of nutty information over many years of eating a specialized diet. So if you are some phyto-chemist reading this blog and find that I have made some grave scientific errors in regards to phytic acid and enzymes, please forgive me and let me bake you a cake.... ♥♥♥

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chocolate Orange Cappuccino Wedding Cake

Bride to be... Molly
My amazing sister Molly got married this past weekend. It was a beautiful, classy, graceful and elegant wedding... just like my sister. It is such an honor to be at the wedding of your sibling....especially your favorite sister (she is my only sister, so of course she is my favorite!). I felt as if my heart was going to burst right open with all of the love that I had for her and her husband on that day. Young love, it keeps everything so wonderfully fresh and delicious doesn't it?

Matt, Molly and their bundle of curls... little Lola
Of course my sister chose to get married down on the Capital Square, on a Saturday, in the rush hour of the Dane County Farmers' Market (one of my favorite places to be in Madison). It was lovely choice for a celebratory Summer day. Hot summer market, teaming with flowers and fruits. Happy people strolling, little children laughing and a wonderful gathering of family and friends blissing out on the wedding vibes of a very happy couple!

Molly and Megan ♥♥ sistahs!
My sisters wedding was a weekend long wedding extravaganza. There was the wedding proper with reception immediately following at a restaurant on the Capital Square and then a wonderful dessert reception/party at their home the following day. I ate and ate and ate lots of food, more good food and had the opportunity to make my first wedding cake!

Gorgeous food spread... and my cake.
Molly and and her husband Matt are both foodies, so it was not hard to decide what to make them. Make it taste good and they would eat it. My sister and I both love chocolate, chocolate ganache, chocolate and orange anything, chocolate mocha, coffee, cappuccinos, cream cheese frosting... you name it, we usually both love it. I decided upon a Chocolate Orange Cappuccino Cake with 7 lbs of Chocolate Cappuccino Ganache filling and then frosted with an Orange Cream cheese Butter Frosting laced with Grand Marnier . Okay, I admit, I went overboard on the ganache and made way to much, but the cake still held at least 4 lbs. of it! Even though I knew there were going to be loads of desserts at the reception, it was fun to bring something white and a bit "weddingish." And equally as fun to cut through the creamy white frosting to find the dark and delicious chocolate cake hiding underneath.

My husband and children suffered the most during this cake making process. I was so ultra-focused, I had no room for idle chatter or friendly hellos. I had to get this cake right, no mess ups... it was a one shot deal. I love them dearly for putting up with a hot and bothered mama in the kitchen. ♥♥♥ love you guys! My mindful attitude had completely gone by the way side and my ability to "roll with it" was no where to be found. My family stayed away while I frantically whipped up those 7 lbs. of ganache and pounds of butter cream cheese frosting. Though I must add that my lovely daughter did serve as my official taster. She made sure the frosting was just right and the ganache perfectly palatable. 

Note:  Hopper, my husband, has decided he will never be the cake driving chauffeur if I open up a bakery. I was the worst possible back seat driver during the cake transport to my sister's house.  I sat in the back of the car, hovering over my cakes and shouting profanities around every corner. But... as you can see from the beautiful family photo below, we still love each other (well.... this was actually take the day before the cake driving crisis). He forgave me after he tasted the cake!

my lovely family who puts up with me! ♥♥
Chocolate Orange Cappuccino Wedding Cake with Ganache Filling and Orange Butter Cream Cheese Frosting


I will begin with my favorite chocolate cake recipe. I made this in 2 batches, first for the nine inch layers, then I  cut the recipe in half for my 6" top layer. Make sure your oven is at the right temp, have good pans, butter your parchment, breathe deeply and dive into the zen of baking. Only make the cakes when you are ready and have time to put the cake together.

Favorite  Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Valrohna preferred)
1 and 3/4 cup flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 stick of melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup hot (not boiling) water with 1 TBS instant espresso powder dissolved.

In large mixing bowl whisk together your dry ingredients except your cocoa powder. Sift your cocoa powder into the other ingredients and whisk again. Attach mixing bowl to mixer with paddle attachment. Add butter and eggs and mix slowly until moistened. Add buttermilk and mix for a minute. Add hot water and mix again for about 1.5 minutes. Measure the batter and pour, cup by cup into prepared 9" round pans. Measuring the batter will help keep the cakes even.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Test for doneness. Let cool. Slide knife around edge of pan after 10 minutes and tap out cake onto cooling rack. Let cool completely.

 Chocolate Cappuccino Ganache

This recipe makes enough ganache for 2, 9" inch layer cakes.

6 cups heavy whipping cream
2 bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 bags bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup instant espresso powder

In a large bowl, empty chocolate. In large sauce pan, heat cream until simmering. Turn off heat, add espresso powder, whisk until dissolved. Pour hot cream mixture over chocolate, let rest a minute or two and then begin to whisk mixture into chocolate ganache submission. Let cool completely. Store in re fridge until ready to use. However, ganache is easiest to work with when it is soft. You can make this the day of and then cool it to a spreadable consistency. You can achieve this by putting into freezer and whisking every 5 minutes until it begins to firm up to your liking. It is hard to wait for your ganache to "warm up" without reheating the mixture. But.. it is nice to get the ganache out of the way as there are plenty of things to do when assembling a cake.

Orange Butter Cream Frosting.... with cream cheese addition

5 sticks unsalted softened butter
3 packages of cream cheese
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 TBS Grand Marnier
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate

Blend butter, cream cheese until very soft. Add powdered sugar. Keep blending for 2 more minutes. Add in vanilla, Gran Marnier, and orange zest. Add orange juice concentrate in 1 TBS additions, tasting along the way. Some of you may want more orange flavour or even powdered sugar to their frosting. Keep mixing until all lumps are out. Place into Tupperware and into fridge until ready to use. When frosting, the frosting must be almost mayo consistency. Keep this in mind so you can take it out several hours before you use it.

Orange Cake Moistening Syrup

You will want this to brush this onto your cake layers before you spread them with ganache. It adds moisture to the cake and also adds orange flavor. This only takes a few minutes to make and a few to cool down, so you can make it when you are ready to put the cake together.

1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice concentrate

In small sauce pan over low heat, mix until sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and let cool.

Putting the cake together was the most difficult part of the process. It was definitely a learning experience. I was in unfamiliar territory with only a book to guide me. If you attempt to make this cake and  get lost in the construction process, email me and I will call you on the phone to walk you through it. I wish I had someone help me! I am giving the abbreviated version below as I had an entire Wedding Cake Book to walk me through the nerve wracking process.

Take your cooled cake layers and slice them all lengthwise with a cake leveler or a long serrated knife. Brush off crumbs. Take your 9" cake board and place first cake layer upon it. Brush with orange moistening syrup. Layer on ganache. Repeat with 3 more layers. Apply your crumb coat of frosting, light layer. Put cake into fridge to firm up crumb coat. (about 2 hours) Repeat this with the 6" layers, put into fridge. Frost again, using your cake turn table to get a smooth application. When satisfied, place in fridge. You may have to frost a third time to cover up any crumbs. You will have frosting left over, you will use this to pipe around the edges when you put the cake on serving cake platter. When you are ready to put your cake together, please use the following online tutorial when stacking your layers  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvaCSW78ybc . You will need to use wooden dowels as this cake was heavy, and it would just sink right into the cake below it without the added support of the dowels. Add your final touches of frosting and your decoration. I chose seasonal orange flowers, Zinnias. I wanted orange to evoke the orange taste/flavor in the cake.

♥ Peace, Love and Chocolate Cake ♥

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Somebody, please Salsify Me! The dumbing down of America's taste buds!

It all starts with the mighty green tomatillo.... the husky forgotten cousin of the bright and shiny red tomato or jitomate. Salsa verde has it's appeal on your table as a dipping accoutrement for corn tortilla chips or maybe even a sauce to spoon over your taquitos, empanadas, gorditas or your Sunday roast chicken. Some people do not care for the taste of tomatillos.... and it can be awkward when working with a sticky green fruit that you have to husk.....and then wonder, "What do I do with this thing"? (pause.......we will come back to the pendulant green fruit in a minute)

If you go out for Mexican food in this country, you can rarely find the good stuff. Most of what is plated up for us is laden with salt, impregnated with too much cheese and smothered with sour cream. The typical Mexican dish has been watered down to serve the dull taste buds of many Americans. Besides Chef Rick Bayless, who has worked tirelessly to reinvigorate Mexican cuisine and enlighten us with moles and other traditional Mexican dishes, it is difficult to find culturally competent quality food outside of the kitchens of Mexican families and certain fine restaurants.  Look at what Taco Bell has done for our senses? They have dumbed down our nations intelligence and convinced many of us that burritos, churros and Mexican pizza are typical foods found on a kitchen table at lunchtime in Mexico. 

I spent one long hot summer living down in Oaxaca Mexico. Never once was I served a churro, burrito or a Mexican Pizza. I was given beef stews, chicken mole, eggs served with huitlacoche,(cool fungus found growing on corn), avocado ice, fresh stone ground tortillas cooked over a comal, pure cajeta -(a lovely burnt milk caramel sauce), chocolate drinks fashioned with freshly ground cane sugar, almonds and cinnamon, plus who knows how many different types of salsas I ingested. If you have the opportunity to spend some time in a Mexican kitchen, I guarantee that you will see authentic foods being made with love. And I promise you that that recipe they are using does not come from a cookbook, it is a learned recipe, shared amongst mothers, sister and dear friends.  

I am currently undertaking a project where I am working with Latina women and recording their traditional recipes.We are working collaboratively to create a cookbook, one that records the recetas sagradas or sacred recipes that these women carried with them over the border.  I know so many woman who will never have the chance to ever go back to Mexico their homeland.  What they do have is their ability to recreate their native foods right here in America. It is my job to make sure their recipes are written down and brought to the attention of us foodies who so want to taste the traditional foods of Mexico and can appreciate the love and stories behind them. 

Tomatillo Salsa/Salsa Verde
1 lb. fresh tomatillos, fresh means, no yellow tomatillos, you want nice vibrant green tomatillos.
1 Fresh Onion Cut into eighths 
Handful of cilantro
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
1 hot pepper of choice, de-veined and de-seeded - if you want more spice, leave in. I like using fresh Jalapeños.

Roast your chiles, onions and tomatillos under the broiler or in a heavy bottomed pan. It does not take long for your tomatillos to blacken under the broiler, about 5 minutes. Turn so both sides have a chance under the broiler. If using a heavy bottomed pan, I would opt for cast iron... as it took a long time to clean my Le Crueset. Throw all your ingredients... minus the onion, into the blender. Pulse 4-5 times. Finely chop onion on the side and then add into the mix, salt to taste. Delicious... make sure you use green tomatillos. The yellowing ones are not as tasty and can create an unpleasant taste in your salsa. 

I am visiting my friends carrito... or food cart this week, she is going to show me what she has cooking and hopefully teach me a thing or two. I am looking forward to sharing more of these authentic finds with you during the coming months. For now... I am preparing for my sister's wedding and attempting to make a gorgeous cake for the reception. Keep your fingers crossed folks!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

And the Award Goes To....(drum roll please!)

 2 Versatile Blogger Awards...? Who me? Versatile? Willing to change easily?

1 : changing or fluctuating readily : variable
2 : embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills; also : turning with ease from one thing to another

Okay the changing or fluctuating readily... that would be my ADD kicking in. My father keeps reminding me that we all have in it in my family and that I need to read the manual. Supposedly the Dummy's Guide to Living with ADD is going to show my the light. But... my ADD keeps me from even picking up the book, I am much too distracted by my cooking adventures!

I guess I do jump around, lots. Versatility, that is what I like about myself and I am pretty sure it is one of the reasons my dear husband married me. (wait.. I better check on that).  I embrace the sweet, bitter, and savory parts of life...and not just in cooking. Thank you dear Foodie Friends who bestowed this award upon me. I am grateful for the both of you! Kudos and mil gracias to Just Food Snobs..... and Weekly Vegan Menu...Thank you both again! 

Blogging Tradition States: Thank those who gifted you the award. Tell 7 things about yourself. Give the award away to 7 more blogs that you feel are making a difference!

All about Me in 7 Simple Steps!
1) I make up crazy songs, rhymes and jingles...almost every day and torture my children with them, especially when they have friends over. The following is my husband's favorite -

You don't like my food, that makes me very mad
It makes me want to turn into a giant big red crab!
I'll pinch you with my claws, and grind you with my teeth
And spit your little bones out onto the seafood street.

2) I married a corn farmer named Hopper......and yes, you did read that correctly H O P P E R. He is not green but does tend to bounce around a lot. I love him dearly, mostly because he likes my versatility.

3)I gave both of my beautiful children Hindi names. Why? Because they sound beautiful when they roll off of your tongue and I fancy myself a reincarnated Indian Princess.

4)I play guitar and piano and write lovely songs that have nothing to do with food.

5)On a whim, I began working with Latina Mothers and began recording their recipes brought with them when crossing the border. It is to become a cookbook/fundraiser for a low income neighborhood. This is my largest undertaking and hopefully....someone will come through and fund the publishing costs. It is a delicious undertaking and am thrilled to be working with such amazing cooks.

6)Many people call me Munks, Mugsy, Magi and Miss Megan.

7)I am addicted to food blogging.

And now... to pass on this wonderful award to some of my new blogging buddies! Check out their links - These women are awesome and they each add something amazing to our blogging community!  Good food and love!

Here they are in no particular order!

Keep it real! Love your kids and make good food! ♥♥♥ Miss Megan (currently drinking a glass of wine and eating leftover strata)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Farm Fresh Eggs - Support Your Local Hens! ♥♥

With these eggs, and this bread,

I made her......

With smiles from my kids and husband.... we ate her up for breakfast this morning. But first, I must give props where they are due.  Those gorgeous colored eggs came from the lovely, hard working hens at Dream Farm. And that corn bread made with butter and more eggs, came from Mary, the wonderful baker at Honey Bee Bakery

I lined the bottom of my greased pan with the golden yellow cubed bread, then layered on cooked pasture raised pork sausage and poured on the farm fresh eggs, cheese and milk mixture. She sat overnight, shivering, all alone in the fridge, with that off the chain corn bread sponging up the milky goodness just waiting for morning to roll around. Finally, at 8:45, in she went... and out she came some 50 minutes later, a whole new woman, golden brown and delicious.

Sausage Cheese and Egg Strata
10 FARM FRESH EGGS... and I mean it! Have you tried the difference? Source out some local eggs and give them a try.
8 slices of a delicious bread, cubed
1 lb. sausage, cooked
1.5 - 2 cups sharp aged cheddar, grated
2 cups milk
2 TBS. freshly chopped chives
2 TBS. whole grain mustard
1 heaping tsp. good salt
Black pepper to taste

Fry up and brown your sausage and set aside. Cube bread.  Line bottom of a 9x13 pan with bread. In separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, mustard, mustard, salt, chives. Add in cheese. Sprinkle sausage over bread, then pour egg mixture over sausage. Let sit in the fridge overnight. Oven at 325 for about 50 minutes. 

Tell me about your experience with FRESH EGGS!