Monday, July 27, 2009

The Morning After

I don't remember how long ago it was, a month? Nearly two, maybe? Whenever it was, Taylor and I went to this place called Earth House Cafe one night to meet up with a few of his friends and watch live music. It was a Friday night, open mic night, and it was beyond fun! Not only was the music really interesting, but it turns out the Earth House Cafe has a vegetarian, and for the most part vegan, friendly kitchen!

No, I'm not a vegetarian, but often vegetarian options are my top food choices. That night I got what was called a wheat berry pita taco. It was a pita filled with a generous layer of hummus and this mixture that was some sort of wheat berry salad. Sounds a little odd, I know, but it was delicious! Taylor was a little less than thrilled... after all the closest he got to meat was a fried egg, and he didn't touch the wheat berry salad that was piled next to his sandwich, but where I'm a happy camper with cuisine generally he's not I guess.

Anyway, I decided wheat berries were an ingredient I'd have to play with. They look almost like rice, and cook in much the same way, but the grains are a little bigger, darker in color, and have a chewier texture and nuttier taste. Unfortunately I couldn't find a recipe that I thought was comparable to what they serve at Earth House and instead opted for a soup recipe that sounded promising.

I found the recipe for Cumin-Scented Wheat Berry and Lentil Soup in a Google search that took me to Cumin is one of my all time favorite spices, so I figured, why not?

It turns out that Cumin-Scented Wheat Berry and Lentil Soup is really not that great. I mean, it was ok. I'll eat it, but my whole family sat around the dinner table making fun of my recipe (not the first time, won't be the last, I'll live to cook another day). Even though I tried desperately to defend it, truth be told it's a little bland... fortunately I cooked too many wheat berries! I had leftover wheat berries after assembling my soup so I decided to take advantage of the left over "berries" and use them to make breakfast Tuesday, another option I'd read about.

This time I decided to screw the whole recipe route and free-style based on what I'd read, which is generally a lot more interesting. I'm not going to lie to you, it was delicious. I took a half cup of plain yogurt mixed with a little bit of dark honey and put it on the side of my wheat berries. Then I added about 1/2 a tablespoon of flaxseeds and a diced apricot. I'm officially adding this to my list of favorite breakfast items, it's delicious, filling, and healthy!

Wheat Berry Breakfast Bowl

I like to call it a "Breakfast Bowl" because you can throw in basically whatever sounds delicious. At the time and apricot sounded like a good addition and flax seeds make everything better. It's really popular to use berries, though, so you could really mix in whatever kind of fruit you favor. I'm a plain yogurt fan, but you don't have to use that either. If you're really an oatmeal fan you can just mix them into hot oatmeal for a heartier breakfast cause you can eat 'em warm, too!

The wheat berries are those things on the right, they kinda look like Smacks cereal... I soaked them in water overnight (which I actually read numerous places you DON'T have to do) and then simmered them for an hour the next day. Like I said, I made more than I really needed for the soup and ended up having plenty left over after breakfast, too. I just popped the leftovers in the freezer and supposedly they'll keep until I want to defrost them for another morning.

I found these wheat berries at Whole Foods and I'm sure you could get them at any grocery store along those lines. I know some of the stuff I put on here is a little too health food oriented or exotic for some of you, but try these, they're really picky-palate friendly and can be used in so many ways!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Cup of Tea

Admittedly this blog is a little late, but better late than never right? And even though I was busy enough that I neglected to write about the small tea party I had I figured I'd share with you now anyway cause it's like a dozen recipes all at once!

So yes, I decided to have a tea party. Which I didn't know meant I decided to have a cooking frenzy on a Saturday and a get together the next afternoon, but hey, I was in my element, right? Hope was my consultant on the food fare of traditional tea parties, and as much as I would've liked to stick to an old fashioned menu, I decided I'd rather cater to the taste buds of teenagers and let myself experiment with some really rich recipes :D. I'm not sure where to start... I guess I'll just show you the whole spread!

Tea Party

There were a few things I didn't really make, like carrot sticks and bowls of fresh plums and apricots (by the way, apricots are like my new favorite fruit, SO GOOD), but most of the tier and most of the plates are things that I did whip up myself. Ok, Hope brought along the little chocolate balls, I didn't not venture into the realms of cream puffs.

As I mentioned before, I spend Saturday night in the kitchen. I whipped up the scones that day that are piled high on the platters. First: Triple Chocolate Chip

Tea Party

And then Cinnamon Bun Scones!

Tea Party

Both of these recipes came from my favorite cook book, A Passion for Baking, and were admittedly more like desserts than anything else. Oh well! Who cares as long as they're delicious?

I also managed to crank a few dozen cookies out of the oven. I have a friend who is hypoglycemic, so I wanted to pick at least one sugar free recipe and I settled on a type of oatmeal nut cookie. Now although I really liked these, I think they are an acquired taste and are actually not really my idea of a cookie at all. They were a whole grain oatmeal cookie made with applesauce instead of butter (not only sugar free but also low fat now) and loaded with cinnamon, mixed nuts, and a small handful of raisins. They don't have the same crunch as a typical cookie, courtesy the applesauce, and they have more of a bread flavor since they aren't very sweet. You can kind of see them stacked on the bottom of this tier...

Tea Party

On the top of the tier I put a fleet of banana nut mini muffins. If you like banana bread, these are right up your alley. I wanted finger food, that's the idea of tea parties I'm told, so everything was supposed to be like a bite. I had a bunch of bananas that had seen better days, but banana bread didn't seem to be an ideal finger food to me, so I turned to these instead. Again, I pulled this recipe from A Passion for Baking and I think they are delicious. There were a ton left over and I later found out with a little peanut butter they make a great breakfast :).

There were sandwiches, too. I put together three different kinds on Sunday morning and stacked them all on this cute tier my mom picked up at Marshall's.

Tea Party

The top ones are simply mini tortilla wraps filled with hummus and strips of roasted red pepper, the middle are classic peanut butter and jelly, and the bottom are true to tea party tradition: crust-less cucumber and cream cheese. I think the hummus and roasted red pepper rolls went over the best, surprisingly enough. I ended up eating like two sandwiches worth of leftover peanut butter and jelly because they were neglected and I just couldn't bear to throw the food away...

That about covers the food table, I think. We also had ice water, sparkling water, iced black tea, and watermelon lemonade to wash it all down. I don't think I'll drone on any longer, besides I've got some wheat berries I need to go soak so I can make something delicious tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

cup·cake (kŭp'kāk') n. A small cake baked in a cup-shaped container. WRONG

So I work at a hair salon, right? They used to turn to one of my coworkers, Tracy, for birthday cakes, but somehow I seemed to have inherited this responsibility...

Jeremy does my hair, he's totally awesome at what he does, and his birthday was a couple days ago. He jokingly asked when I was making his birthday cake so I figured I might as well go ahead and do it. I mean, I live for these things, right? And I have a wicked new piping set that I was dying to try out :D.

Besides my ridonkulous piping set, I also wanted to pull something cool out of my closet that I haven't used in a very long time. A CUPCAKE CAKE PAN! WHOA! It's like a cupcake, BUT SUPER HUGE.


There are things that I like and don't like about these kinds of cakes. What I really like about them is that cupcakes are designed to be single servings, right? No cutting, no plating, no fork, you just unwrap your cupcakes shove it in your face. This is truly an American portion sized cupcake, and I would really like to watch somebody pick it up and eat it. No cutting. No plating. No fork. :D

What I don't like about it is that it's holds so much less frosting! See how it's kinda but not really frosted on the sides? Well... the cake pan is really two different section, a section for the bottom and a section for the top:


I knew since I was piping the top I wouldn't fit quite so much frosting on it, and I didn't want to frost the sides cause then it would have looked more like a blob than a cupcake. I decided, to make up for lost frosting, to pile it high on top of the bottom section before putting the top part on. It just so happens that the chocolate frosting I made was a little lighter than the top of the cupcake... only a few minutes into piping the carefully placed top of the cake, Sally, who I have recently apprenticed, screamed in the most horrifying banshee-like voice "OHMYGODOHMYGODIT'SFALLINGIT'SFALLINGAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" I thought we were gonna die. Turns out only Sally was going to die, cause it was Monday night at 11:30PM and my dad was already in bed and my mom just about tore her head of for screeching like a cat getting a bikini wax that late at night. This whole ordeal would have been exponentially more hilarious if the top of my cupcake was not in fact quickly making a run for the bottom of the plate. Even though I caught it before it tumbled to disaster, the generous amount of icing I had piled in between the two layers came gushing out all over and fell less than gracefully all around the base of my once lovely cupcake. Damn it. I tried to make it decorative but ultimately failed and decided instead to smooth out all the icing that had accumulated at the bottom into a little chocolate moat and covered it with sprinkles!

I got so frosting happy that I even decided to write on my cupcake :)


I love birthdays.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Apple Technology Has It's Place EVERYWHERE

I'm getting to the point where I have to carefully choose which recipes I actually want to blog about. Yesterday I whipped up three separate goods: watermelon lemonade, olive bread, and banana bread. Today I decided to experiment with my bread machine again and cranked out a loaf of whole wheat honey bread which I have to mention merely because bread machines ARE SO AWESOME. I like to cook/bake when I have generous amounts of time to dedicate to the task at hand, but if I want to make something in a hurry my bread machine is my new best friend. Let me illustrate what I mean for you. This is what I put in the bread machine

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

and this is what came out!

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

I didn't even have to mix the ingredients! Just dump them in, close the lid, press start, and four hours later... bread! Too awesome.

But anyway, more to tell. So my mom and I went to get massages at Foot Finesse today, a place at Rangeline and 116th that does these full body massage things for $25. One hour for $25, I recommend it, it was nice :). Well on the way back home my mom informed me we needed to stop at Meijer to get mayonnaise for a cole slaw recipe she wanted to make to go alongside the bratwurst that would grace our dinner table this evening. Two things I don't really care for: cole slaw and bratwurst. I decided to make a salad, but as creative as I can be with food I cannot put an impromptu salad together for the life of me. Just as I was about to resort to concocting my own recipe it dawned on me that I had recently added a number of free applications to my iPhone. I opened my recipe search engine, curtesy of Whole Foods, and immediately had hundreds of salad recipes literally at my fingertips! I chose a "Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Avocado, Roasted Corn and Grape Tomatoes." Yum.

Roasted Corn, Mozzarella, and Grape Tomato Salad

Chunks of mozzarella, avocado, tomatoes, corn, black beans, all lightly dressed and seasoned with fresh chives and basil on a bed of spinach. Oh yes. I found the recipe online just for you because it went over so well with my parents and the couple they had over: I made it right before we ate dinner, though, and I felt like it would've been much better chilled, so I'd recommend making it an hour or so ahead of time and let it hang out in the fridge for a bit. Oh yeah, and I only used one avocado because I felt like two (the recipe's instructions) seemed a little overwhelming. The salad could've handled two avocados pretty easily, but I was happy with the turnout so it's up to you. What I really like about this recipe is that it's heavy enough to be a meal itself, but it's also light and clean enough to work well as a summertime side dish. Either way, it's deliciously fresh and so pretty!

My Shot at Raw Foodism

I said I would try a raw food recipe, and I didn't lie! I'm really excited about this one, too, because it's one of my favorite foods... HUMMUS! Hummus recipes in general are really straight forward and pretty easy if you know how to assemble a food processor, but this one was a little different because for the first time ever I had to "sprout" something. I could describe sprouting to you, but I would probably end up telling you a whole bunch of bull because I really don't know anything about it. All I know is I have sprouted bagels in the freezer from Whole Foods that are delicious and I spent three days growing little tails (of sorts) on my dried chickpeas in order to make this stuff :D. My chickpeas look like tadpoles!

Sprouted Chickpeas

After their little tails grew long enough I had to dump them in hot water for a minute then rinse them off. I through them in a blender with some lemon juice, water, tahini paste (sesame seed paste), cumin, garlic, and a little salt. After this stuff pulsated for a little bit, I'm not going to lie, I was getting a little nervous. My hummus looked grainy and thin, and I didn't even put as much water in as the recipe called for! Oh dear... I let my food processor hum away for a little while and it never really did get too smooth but a little time in the fridge thickened it a bit. I tried the stuff on some bread you'll hear about later and it didn't really taste like hummus to me. I couldn't quite place it for some time, but the taste reminded me of something... some kind of vegetable I thought. It dawned on me later. It tasted like sprouts. Go figure. I feel like raw hummus, assuming I didn't completely botch this recipe, has to be an acquired taste, only something a true veggie lover would enjoy. It wasn't my favorite, certainly didn't trump regular hummus in my book, and I probably won't bother to make it again. Sprouting can, however, be done with multiple types of food and I'd be interested to try some of those, I've had bagels and bread that were "sprouted" and they didn't taste odd, oh well.

Raw Hummus

Some other cool things I came across while looking at raw food diet sites:

  • Decadently Raw: These YouTube episodes feature Meg McMurray, who creates and demonstrates raw food recipes. The recipes themselves look pretty good, but sometimes the videos are hard to understand or Meg is a little awkward...
  • Raw Flax Crackers: I LOVE FLAXSEEDS. They are awesome in smoothies, granola, yogurt, and (as I recently discovered) excellent in pancakes. If you own a dehydrator there are tons of flax cracker recipes out there. One I glanced at was I'd be inclined to look for something sweet or a recipe with other nutty ingredients, cause it's really the deep nutty flavor of flax seeds that make them so divine :)
  • It makes most sense to me to stick with recipes that normally are raw food or nearly raw food recipes, that way you're setting your taste buds up for success, right? Pesto is almost completely a raw food recipe, I'm pretty sure the only ingredient that's not is parmesan cheese..., this is one I came across that skips the cheese.
  • Avocados are absolutely delicious, guacamole is one of my favorite foods and is probably considered a raw food (but again, what do I know?). I came across a number of recipes that use avocados as a thickener, even desserts!!! (See Decadently Raw's episode 4: s'more pie) I want to give it a try, but in the mean time, why not use avocados in a more convential way? This recipe looked pretty good,, but I would argue with the claim that it's a burrito...
  • Back to the flax seeds... obviously the "logical order" to these bullets is the order in which I find them... and the idea of smoothies, this is a cool recipe that is for "raw oatmeal" but to me sounds more like a tasty breakfast smoothie:
  • This one's kinda iffy, I read someplace that raw food diets don't include raw fish like sashimi, and this recipe has smoked salmon which seems like a stretch. It does have, however, a good example of a bread option. Sprouted bread is really good, I've had Ezekiel sprouted whole grain bread and bagels which are both delicious. I also really like smoked salmon, so this one looked recipe looked good: I also liked that the ingredients were simple, if you want to experiment with a raw food diet, this seems like a reasonable place to start because it doesn't require any special foods or appliances.
  • FOUND A GUACAMOLE RECIPE!!! And it's pretty ordinary, so I don't think you really have to change your typical guacamole recipe in order to fit a raw food diet. The one I came across though is listed here I like my guacamole with a bit of a kick, I use a recipe that has cumin in it. If you're into experiementing I'd play with a couple spices instead of leaving your guacamole so bare, cumin is an awesome one!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Double Decker Dining: My Tourist Spots Have Menus

As much as people ranted about how fun London would be and all the things there were to do and see the bustling city, no one I spoke with before leaving for England had anything nice to say about the cuisine. I was told the food was mediocre at best, and honestly, in part, I cannot disagree.

One of the most intriguing parts about London, however, was the cultural diversity that makes the city so colorful. Walking down the street one would not only see people of an array of elasticities, but you would hear people conversing in a handful of language within mere minutes. Waiters and waitresses were not only English, but French, Portuguese, Spanish, and more. This quality is not only fascinating, but redeeming. No, British food is nothing to rave about, but should you venture out of the pubs, the city is graced with a range of cuisine options. China town boasted dozens of restaurants and Japanese, Italian, and Indian districts offered similar ranges of options. I may not have enjoyed British food, but there were definitely indulgences that were beyond delicious.

Unfortunately I realized after arriving in London that my digital camera was stocked with a backup memory card that held a whopping 15 or so photographs, so even though I planned to document the food I ate via pictures I was, and consequently you ;) were, deprived. I'm going to share a few of my favorite dishes with you anyway and drop in photos when I can!

1.) I always thought waffles were a breakfast food. WRONG. The waffles we came across in London, instead of syrup, were topped with heaping scoops of gelato, a neat pile of whipped cream, and a choice of sauce. Waffles = dessert. At least that's now the only use I have for them! Taylor and I went to this particular restaurant, Rendezvous, twice. The first time with his family when we all seemed to lean toward chocolate options.

Dessert Waffle

You can see them in that picture fairly well. Mine had a scoop of Chocolate Hazelnut gelato and another of Cappuccino, drizzled of course with caramel sauce. The place had probably 40 different gelato flavors, I was really tempted to get Chili Chocolate gelato, a deep rich chocolate with chili flakes that had a really interesting kick to it.The second time we went was with a friend of Taylor's, Gomez. We followed awesome Indian food with waffles topped with an assortment of fruit gelatos. My choices were Black Currant and Pomegranate, Taylor opted for Pink Grapefruit and Mango, and Gomez chose Strawberry and Kiwi, but all four of us had bright green Kiwi sauce drizzled all over the top. So. Freaking. Delicious.

2.) Taylor and I went out for dinner by ourselves one evening and stumbled across an adorable little French restaurant. I hesitated to order a dish that was labeled as a "casserole," but it sounded like it might be good and I gave it a chance. It was like no American casserole I had ever seen. A big bowl of seafood and vegetables soaking in a thin white wine cream sauce was placed in front of me, with a couple crusty pieces of bread along side to soak up stray sauce. I think I nearly died of happiness that night. And not only was dinner absolutely divine, but for dessert I ordered a large crepe filled with generous slices of bananas and doused in dark chocolate. Need I say more?

3.) Digestives! They sounds like something for the elderly, but they are actually these round whole grain "biscuits" (a.k.a. cookies) covered in either milk or dark chocolate. I discovered them at a convenient store, of course picking up the dark chocolate variety, and loved them so much I brought home a couple sleeves. I think they will be perfect with a cup of tea, but I had them, in my infinite oddity, dipped in Fage 2% greek yogurt and they ROCKED.

4.) As I mentioned briefly before, Taylor, Gomez, and I ventured out for Indian food one night. We started walking down a street full of various Indian restaurants and were immediately hit up by man after man standing outside of their respective eateries trying to convince us to eat there. It was hilarious! We were offered free rounds of drinks, menu price discounts, and fixed price offers that were all supposed to lure us into the advertised joint. We finally settled on one where we each order a different dish that was brought out in it's own round metal bowl. We were then handed plates where the boys mounded rice and I places pieces of naan and spooned our curry type concoctions on top. It was, again, soooo good. I've always been a fan of Indian food, but I feel like the options in the Indianapolis area are severely limited. If anybody has any good recommendations, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

5.) I go through phases of food fixations. Over the winter I was hung up on Moroccan and Mediterranean type dishes, for example. For now, I'm going French, they do everything oh so well. For Mrs. Browning's birthday we went out to a place called... Pasta Brown, I think? Whether I remember the name or not, I certainly remember the dish! I've never been very drawn to mussels, they kinda creeped me out a bit, but after Mrs. Browning ordered them I decided to give them a shot. MUSSELS ROCK. I got this big pile of pasta topped off with prawns and mussels in a bath of white wine tomato sauce. In a word, perfection. Mussels are so incredibly rich without feeling heavy. They taste like an indulgence, but don't weigh you down. Lucious, lucious, lucious, I'm adding them to my list of favorites. Just thinking about it is making me drool...

6.) Poons. Actually formerly Poons. Believe it or not, Karen, the Brownings' ever faithful handheld GPS, led us to a restaurant it called, I kid you not, Poons when we were in search of Chinese food. After a good 10 minute search we found out that it was actually no longer Poons.


Very classy. Admittedly, we didn't actually eat here, but do you really blame us?

I think that's enough sharing for now, I could go on forever really, but we'll save black currant greek yogurt, Yagamama fried noodles, rhubarb tart, coconut creme tart, roasted pepper and goat cheese sandwich, and countless other endeavors for another time ;). I've got chickpeas soaking for raw hummus at the moment though, so that should be up in a couple days and I'm also plotting a recreation of some of my other London dining experiences that I'll for sure share (crepes and olive bread are just a couple!) so hopefully those will be success stories soon! BYE!!!