Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My First Fondant Cake

I took a cake-making class last week and it was tons of fun! I think I annoyed the teacher because I was so slow that I ended up taking an extra hour after class was over (plus I was his only student that day). Hey, you can't rush a perfectionist.

One thing I learned is that you have to work quickly or else the fondant will start cracking. It's also an advantage to have naturally warm hands, as mine were so cold that I couldn't get the fondant to soften no matter how hard I rolled and rubbed!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bacon and Waffles

There are two things I have really come to love recently--weekends (though yesterday I had to work) and Trader Joe's Baking Mix.

Since I'm an early riser that also suffers from insomnia, and Superhusband is the polar opposite, it means I can wake up before him on weekends and make him breakfast. This breakfast was a combination of our favorite breakfast items (I love waffles and he loves bacon).

Long ago, I stopped ordering waffles at a restaurant. The idea that it costs $6+ for no expertise has always been a mystery to me. I've been using the same waffle iron ($16 from Amazon) for the past few months now (with the batter from Trader Joe's mix added with a generous spoonful of sugar), and it always delivers crispy but tender perfection.

To Assemble:
1) Lay a waffle on a plate.
2) Sprinkle powdered sugar (I always use a flour sifter to get rid of the lumps).
3) Lay four crispy pieces of bacon on top.
4) Pour fresh syrup (I prefer Grade B) as desired.

I don't even like bacon that much and I LOVED this (and of course, Superhusband was making devouring sounds). Definitely try it. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cocoa Cupcakes with Matcha (Green Tea) Frosting

I didn't like the recipe that much, so I'm not going to share it. These were pretty good but after the third one, I got sick of them.

One thing I did learn though--when the recipe calls for matcha POWDER, it does not mean that I should go the cheap way and crumble the green tea leaves we have at home by hand. First of all, my fingers were green and sore after crumbling dried leaves for an hour (welcome back, tendonitis). Second of all, the green tea flavor was not consistent throughout the topping. Ah well, lesson learned.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bon Appétit Changes Logo


I'll leave my opinions out of this one. But I liked what this writer said:

The announcement by Bon Appétit that they were going to court younger readers by adjusting its logo was greeted with plenty of amusement earlier today, but the reality is even grimmer than it sounds: Not only is Bon Appétit trying to skew younger, but it’s trying to differentiate itself from other food magazines. The truth is that Bon Appétit will never be any hipper or friskier than it is, because no magazine about upscale entertaining can ever speak to people that don’t have big houses and plenty of time on their hands. Even among such magazines, Bon Appétit is the most boring, an ad-packed Nembutal calling to mind the "women's pages" where newspapers used to publish their party recipes. With the Food Network, the Internet, and a dozen more interesting magazines at their disposal, there's no way we can imagine someone under 40 reading Bon Appétit.

The current Bon App is wall-to-wall recipes: goat-cheese crostini with blood-orange marmalade, beef tenderloin with port sauce, chocolate-panna-cotta layer cake. There is some travel and restaurant stuff and a few token “fast easy fresh” recipes, but basically this is the same stuff Gourmet was publishing in the sixties, plus lemongrass. There should be more about chefs and trends and ingredients and culinary culture. Bon Appétit chronicles the same fine-dining ghetto that people have been running away from at full speed for the last ten years.

So is it possible for a cooking magazine to be hip and frisky? Chow tries, but we still think the original concept behind it, which was to be Maxim with food instead of girls, remains the great untried experiment. Once a magazine is a repository for recipes, it stops being exciting, unless someone figures out a way to attach it to the outside world. Bon Appétit is for people who eat in. No new typeface is going to fix that problem.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Super Hamburger (Stuffed with Short Ribs)

Serves 4


1 lb Ground Beef (sirloin or chuck is best, if possible buy a steak and ask the butcher to freshly ground it for you)
1 Egg (beaten)
Salt (I used truffle salt since we already had it, but regular is fine too)
1/4 cup Chopped Onions
Leftover short ribs, defrosted (one large short rib fills two burgers)
4 Brioche Buns (I went a little fancy here, but you can just use regular buns)

Suggested Fillings/Condiments:

Mustard (As Jason's French coworker always says, buy Maille and NOT Grey Poupon)

In large bowl mix ground beef, egg, pepper, salt and chopped onions. Shape into 8 thin patties. Top 4 patties with short ribs and top them with the other 4 patties. Seal the edges tightly.

You can then broil these like a traditional burger. However, I wanted a softer and more tender burger, so I put the patties on a skillet over medium heat, browning each side for two minutes. Then I turned the heat to medium-low, put a lid on it, and let it sit for another 10 minutes. You can play around with the timing to see what kind of texture you like.

Serve immediately atop toasted brioche, with fillings/condiments.

Budget rundown:
1 lb Ground Beef (Safeway)-$4.99
Brioche Buns (Whole Foods)-.99 each

Total cost: $8.95
Cost of each meal:
$2.46 (since the cost of short ribs was accounted for in the previous recipe)

If you combine the amount I spent for the short ribs recipe with the amount for the hamburgers, it comes out to $5.07 per meal (we got eight meals out of the two recipes). Okay okay, so it's still not "under" $5, but hey, it's pretty darn close, right? And don't tell me that burger isn't worth twice as much...

Going Over the Budget with Port-Braised Short Ribs

The second meal Superwife cooks, and she's already cutting it close to the $5/meal budget. *sigh* Does she succeed? (Haunting music plays in the background...)

Some coworkers and I were talking about DB Bistro Moderne's famous hamburger stuffed with short ribs and foie gras the other day, when Doug suggested I try his recipe for port-braised short ribs and then stuff the leftovers in hamburgers the day after. So I did.

Serves 6 (or more)
(I cut the recipe in half)

- 12 Beef Short Ribs (I was told to buy the best quality available)
- 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 1 Carrot – roughly chopped
- 1 Celery Stalk – roughly chopped
- 1 Yellow Onion – roughly chopped
- 1 Bottle Ruby Port Wine (I was told to buy the cheapest one)
- 1/2 Qt. Veal Stock
- 1/2 Qt. Beef Broth (I subbed this with more veal stock since I already had tubs of it in the freezer)
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- Fresh Chervil – chopped (This is just garnish, so I left it out. Every dollar counts!)

- Preheat oven to 350
- Salt and pepper short ribs heavily
- In a large oven-safe pan, heat oil and brown short ribs on all sides for 10-15 minutes – don’t overcrowd pan
- Remove ribs from pan and throw in vegetables and cook until lightly brown
- Drain fat from pan
- Pour in port wine and reduce by 60% (I'm not sure what 60% meant so I just winged it)
- Put ribs back in
- Cover with veal stock and broth until meat is covered
- Cover pan with foil (or lid) and bake in 350 degree oven for 2 ½ hours (or simmer on stove top at low heat, same thing said Jason, who needed the oven for his own purposes that day)
- Let cool and refrigerate overnight to let fat set
- 1 hour prior to serving, scoop up fat and reheat on stove top at low heat for another hour

Place short ribs (2 per person) on plate, cover with sauce and garnish with chervil.

I served mine with arugula-bleu-cheese-mashed-potatoes (leftover in the freezer) and green salad (leftover from the chicken recipe I made two days before)
* Low heat is the key to this recipe. You will dry the meat out if you turn it up any higher.
* Though I did pour some of the sauce on top of the meat, I also poured extra sauce into a little bowl. Jason and I would cut off a small piece of meat and dunk it in the bowl as we ate. DELICIOUS!

Budget rundown:
6 Short Ribs (Whole Foods)-$22 (I know--yikes! But I don't like the meat at our local Safeway or Asian supermarket)
Carrot (Whole Foods)-20 cents/stick
(Whole Foods)-$1.99/package
Yellow Onion
(Whole Foods)-40 cents/each
Port Ruby Wine (Trader Joe's)-$6.99/bottle

Jason likes making homemade stock, and we had plenty of leftover veal stock in the freezer, so that's what I used.

Total cost: $31.58
Cost of each meal:
$5.26. Since I cut the recipe in half, it should technically be three meals. But since one rib was good enough for each of us (it's pretty heavy), especially with the potatoes and salad, it made six meals. I suppose if you're a big meat eater, that wouldn't be the case.

I know what you're thinking. I failed by going over the $5 limit (though honestly this meal would be much more expensive in a restaurant!). But you haven't read about my hamburgers yet! Stay tuned...

Monday, November 19, 2007


After a recent budget meeting with my husband, I have decided to become a Superwife.

This uncommon hero has vowed to create delicious and (somewhat) nutritious meals for two under a budget. Here are the rules:

Rule #1: Each meal must average to $5 (or less) per person.
Rule #2: Each meal must have a protein and veggie, starch optional.
Rule #3: At least one ingredient must already be available at home (This is a good way to save money!).
Rule #4: At least 50% of meals must be gourmet, or I will no longer qualify as "foodie."

Here are my powers for the weekend (my comments in pink):

Maple and Black Pepper Chicken
Serves 4 (but it made five meals for us!)

1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 chicken, about 4 - 4 1/2pounds, cut into 6 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 bone-in breast halves with wings (I just bought a pre-cut chicken from Trader Joe's)
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus more to taste1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with a rack set in the second highest position. With a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, coarsely grind the peppercorns and set them aside. (I don't own a mortar and pestle, so I just used my pepper grinder which worked fine)

2. Pat the chicken pieces dry and season them well with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt. In a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan or skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil 3-4 minutes. Put the chicken breasts into the pan skin side down and cook for about 7-9 minutes, without moving, until the skin is golden brown. Remove the chicken to a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to hold all the chicken. Next, brown the thighs and drumsticks, turning so the skin is evenly browned, up to 10 minutes.

3. Add the thighs and drumsticks to the baking dish and put the chicken in the oven. (Reserve the pan.) Roast for about 30-35 minutes until the chicken flesh closest to the bone is opaque. An instant-read thermometer should register about 165 degrees F for the breasts, and 175 degrees F for thighs and legs.

4. While the chicken is roasting, make the sauce in the reserved pan. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat and set the pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and thyme and cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes or just until the shallot starts to color. Add the vinegar and simmer 1-2 minutes, using a spatula to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the maple syrup and cracked black pepper and simmer for about 8-10 minutes until the sauce is reduced by about half. Adjust seasoning to taste. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

My Comments: Your kitchen will smell like vinegar while cooking, but don't worry--the sourness will dissipate after it is reduced.

I served this with a spring salad on the side and Superhusband (he is "super" by default) was smacking his lips the whole time! If you put the chicken on top of the leaves, you definitely won't need dressing, since the maple-vinegar sauce dripping from the chicken is enough.

Budget rundown:
Chicken (Trader Joe's)-$9.55 (they charge by the pound, so I just picked the cheapest one)
Shallot (Whole Foods)-40 cents/each
Thyme (Whole Foods)-$1.99/bundle
Cider Vinegar (Trader Joe's)-$1.99/bottle
Spring Salad (Trader Joe's)-$1.99/bag

Total cost: $15.92
Cost of each meal: $3.18 (or $3.98 for four meals)

To fulfill Rule #3, I already had maple syrup, purchased two years ago from my trip to Massachusetts. I love Grade B maple syrup the best, as you really taste the essence of it, but Grade A is the most popular.

First Post

I used to blog on Xanga but discovered there are more foodies on So here I go, with my first post!