Monday, September 28, 2009
Tune in later today for a wonderful creation that a certain fellow came up with to use the leftover chocolate cupcakes.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I thought I would give you all a heads up on the cupcake du jour in case (a) I get stuck at work and can't make them or (b) they fail, in which case my super neat-o diagram will have already brought a smile to the face of anyone faithful enough to keep checking for blog posts even though I haven't written since July. This of course assumes that your inability to stay away means that you appreciate how much of a "kook" I am (a direct quote from a partner at my law firm...and yes, it was the highlight of my week - what a fun word!)
So here it is...my hand drawn Superdog Burgertop Cupcake assembly instruction sheet:
Thursday, July 30, 2009
The tasting party took place in my office at 2:15 pm (between my 1-2 pm video conference with London...how awkward to have to attempt to adjust your very short skirt when you realize it is showing a bit much to the wider audience...and a 2:45 meeting where I was told that I should time my (very far in the future) pregnancies so that I give birth in June and am back at work by the start of the 4th financial quarter). The attendance was only the three of us because the rest of the office is a bunch of vultures. The items sampled were as follows:
* A "forget about it" (to be pronounced as if you are a cast member on The Sopranos) - it looks like a chocolate coated Oreo cookie but wait, inside is crispy puffed rice covered in a layer of caramel!
* A "TKO" - the Bouchon Bakery standout (besides the Bouchon, of course) - this really is an Oreo reinvented (word on the street is that Keller loves the old school Nabisco variety)...chocolate sable dough with a white chocolate ganache cream.
* A "Nutter Butter" - Are you sensing a theme here? Two soft, yummy peanut butter cookies with light peanut butter filling. It tasted like the real thing, but better.
* A "Bouchon Ho Ho" - No, that is not what the boys at work call me. This looks exactly like its name, but has a lovely foil wrapper and ingredients a step above the boxed variety.
* A "the best thing they serve" - Apparently the salesperson did not know the name. This slightly disturbing log looks kinda like a napoleon covered in chocolate, but when you cut in, it is thin pastry layers surrounding a liquor flavored chocolate mousse!
Now, I can't even attempt to pick a clear winner, but my vote is leaning toward the Nutter Butter. The other members of the tasting committee felt that the chocolate that shall not be named took the literal cake though. Fortunately for me, that is not the end of my birthday baked good extravaganza. In addition to the taste test candidates, the Mary Poppins bag of bakery boxes also includes a fruit tart (I can vouch for the perfection of a runaway raspberry and blackberry), a red velvet cupcake, another TKO, a double chocolate cookie, a chocolate walnut cookie and a chocolate tart!
While this does sound like enough to last me about 12 hours, I might be forced to freeze one or two...I may be 28, but I think I'm a little young to have to wear a mu-mu.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
So anyway, "she of many hats" Gael Greene (you may have watched her on a show I despise called Top Chef Masters...so much for anonymous restaurant critics), recently analyzed her experience with the super secret $35 four course menu at Del Posto's Enoteca. And people think I am harsh! Never one to be outdone, I put on my high heels and a lovely black dress and hoofed it through a humid NYC night to experience the Del Posto magic on the cheap.
My date kept me waiting, which gave me a chance to chat with my charming and incredibly knowledgeable server, Daniel. What a treat. I also got checked out by the toolish finance types at the next table. Score one for the self esteem! Daniel asked me what kind of wine I usually enjoy and brought me a perfect glass of white that had me tipsy before the (very substantial and yummy...and served with a side of whipped lard) bread basket arrived.
My companion enjoyed the OUT OF THIS WORLD Calamari. Wow. It melted in my mouth and was the best item of the night. My appetizer, the broccoli rabe and mozzarella was also outstanding...not too much garlic, which had been my fear. I would have liked to take it home and try it heated up just to mix things up, but I finished it instead.
Now, when you get the $35 prix fixe (instead of the $52) the table chooses one type of pasta course instead of each person requesting the item of their choice. We had the Oreccheiette with Lamb Neck Sausage. I thought I was in the mood for more of a tomato sauce based course, but let me tell you, those little buttons of pasta were amazing.
Ok, apparently the secret is out about the halibut...the prix fixe people don't receive fillets of fish but receive a plate beautifully dressed and covered with pieces of fish about the size of a saltine cracker. The reason (in case you were wondering) is that the head and tail are used to make up the entree course for the proletariat. Being that I embrace my public school roots, and I am also cheap, I have no problem with a little fish head fillet, which was nicely complimented by a light mustard sauce and greens. The duck was also enjoyed at my table, and could not have been more perfect. The red wine that Daniel suggested topped it all off.
I am a girl that loves sweets, so it is always hard for me to narrow down the choices on a dessert menu, especially when they are all as impressive as Del Posto's. I went with a ricotta cheesecake with toasted pine nuts baked in the top and a macerated strawberry topping. It was an amazing cross between cheesecake and pound cake that would make any Italian grandmother's heart skip a beat. When we couldn't decide between the olive oil roasted dates and the chocolate wonderfulness (that they top with liquor), Daniel brought us a little of both! While my date might have wondered if I would leave him for Daniel, he certainly didn't mind the dessert buffet that arrived at our table.
In closing, this is a prix fixe that puts restaurant week to shame 365 days of the year...And upon departure, truffles in a little Del Posto box!
Just what I needed to get me through a long afternoon of loving the law.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I suggest the following flavors:
- Cupcake of the Week - Almond Marzipan - chocolate cupcake flavored with almond and topped with an almond-vanilla buttercream and a rainbow cookie. Roy G. Biv, eat your heart out.
- Funfetti - Vanilla funfetti cake topped with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles.
- Elvis - Vanilla cake with banana frosting and peanut butter on top. Where is the bacon? I wondered as well.
WHAT A TREAT.
Friday, May 15, 2009
As a fitting send off after the amazing NYC Housewives Reunion show that took place last night and to celebrate Bethany and her book and her Skinny Girl Cupcakes, I present the Lazy Girl's Cupcakes aka breakfast for dessert aka the idea I totally stole from a tv show (and my cousin), but the recipe is all mine.
French Toast and Bacon Cupcakes
1 box yellow cake mix
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) (softened)
1/2 cup (plus 1 tbs) skim milk
6-8 strips of bacon, cooked until crispy and minced.
Put cake mix in a bowl and thoroughly mix in (with a fork) the nutmeg and cinnamon.
Cream together 1/3 of the dry mix with softened butter.
Add another 1/3 of the dry mix and beat with eggs and vanilla
Add and beat together the remaining dry mix and the milk.
Feel free to mix using a hand mixer (remember it is harder to get lumps out of cake mix) or a wooden spoon.
Add the bacon - you can mix the bacon into the batter before filling the cupcake papers or sprinkle it on top. If you prefer, the french toast cupcakes taste delicious without the bacon as well.
Cook at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes removing when slightly brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
You can take the true lazy girl way out and not frost these (they don't need it) or use store bought buttercream with a tablespoon of maple syrup mixed in. I warn you, this frosting will be sweet! I recommend putting a tiny sprinkle of sea salt or kosher salt on top to cut the sugar.
If you prefer to make frosting just take a cup of confectioner's sugar, 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and beat them together on high until light and fluffy.
And no, I did not frost mine nor did I take a picture. Lazy, remember?
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Best Birthday Cake:
* Billy's Bakery Vanilla-Vanilla or Chocolate with Vanilla Icing
Yes, chocolate cupcakes can often be dry but Billy's chocolate cake is a consistent crowd-pleaser.
Best Birthday Cupcake:
The 45 flavors (and 30 locations) ensure you can always give the birthday girl (or guy) their personal favorite.
Best Birthday Cake Decorations:
* Cupcake Cafe
A heavier cake but they come in 6 inch with amazing floral designs. For a kidtastic cake I have to go with Flour Patch Bakery though...They decorate their buttercream frosted cakes with iced cookies in different shapes! The cookies are also available for purchase and would make great party favors.
Best Cake Toppers:
* Oriental Trading (see picture above)
I mean seriously, what don't they have? Pearl River Mart is also a good bet.
Best Alternative Birthday Treat:
* Macarons from La Maison Du Chocolat
These delicacies are not to be missed. Light crispy shells with smooth pastry and complimented with flavored ganache fillings. They are the perfect gift...and the raspberry ones are pink!
Best Birthday Breakfast Baked Good:
* Bouchon Bakery
Oh Thomas Keller, how I love thee...and your croissants...and your baby bouchons...etc.
Best Birthday Restaurant Style:
* This one is still up for debate...It requires a perfect balance of delicious dessert and the decorative component. For example, Gramercy Tavern does a nice job writing Happy Birthday with chocolate sauce...even if their pastry chef is now my enemy.
On an angry note, I am personally against any place that charges you a per person cake cutting fee...(You know who you are Otto - $7 a person for cake cutting!? Even for cupcakes!? We had 12 people! When I asked to speak to the person who made this decision I was informed that it is Mr. Batali's rule...so I asked to talk to Mario Batali about this...they hung up on me.) While I would have no problem with a straight $20 or $25 fee, when you have a bunch of people at a restaurant I think $7 per person is pretty excessive. I get it, you have your own desserts. We will order them. We will order ice cream. We will tip our server accordingly...just don't alienate your customers by trying to charge them $72 to cut a $35 cake...
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
First up, the New York Times piece on a burger club that ranks burgers throughout the city. WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THAT? I mean sure, that is pretty much what I do with cupcakes (although, sadly, I do it alone), but burgers are my favorite savory food! There is nothing I like more than a juicy burger with fries followed by a cupcake (R.I.P. Burgers & Cupcakes). Even Obama and my man Joe Biden went out for burgers this week (though I heard theirs were served with cheesy tater tots...). My top burgers? Bistro Burger at Corner Bistro ($2.50 McSorleys), Burger Joint burger (with a side of fries and attitude) and Shake Shack (frozen custard).
Second, Babycakes has a cookbook. I went to Borders to check it out (when I bought my Jillian guide to not being a fat cow). I still reject that place (one word: DRY) and I think their recipes are insanely complicated. I also do not know what some of their ingredients actually are...and doesn't that defeat the purpose of this type of cooking? Aren't you not supposed to eat things if you don't know what they are? I mean, clearly that would prevent me from eating delicious items like the contents of the Hillshire Farms holiday baskets so I don't actually aspire to such lofty ideals...but Babycakes should.
Third, KGC. You know what I'm talking about...Kentucky Grilled Chicken...which apparently is brought to us all by Oprah Winfrey for free. For a limited time (no, not mother's day, the coupon is specific) you can save $3.99 and get two pieces of managers choice KGC along with a biscuit and two sides. FREE MEAT. Ok, yes, $3.99 is actually cheaper than the lean cuisines I buy at Gristede's for lunch every other day of the week, but that didn't stop me from heading over to take advantage of this sweet deal courtesy of Oprah. How she became tied to this offer I have no idea. Clearly grilled chicken is a healthier choice, but combining 200 calories of chicken with 300 calories of biscuit, 250 calories of coleslaw and 350 calories of mac n' cheese is not going to win you any weight loss contests. No worries though, the line was so long that I immediately turned around and went to get a salad with no dressing instead (it was that or Magnolia and I decided to save room for beer and sliders tonight). Others didn't handle the situation as well and apparently riots broke out when the manager denied patrons their free chicken. That's right - a food riot - complete with screaming and some physical contact. Fast food, free lunch, talk show hosts making bizarre endorsement decisions and riots...You can't make this stuff up.
So yes, I will just have to wait until another day to get my KGC fix. In the meantime, I'll plan my cupcake club - anybody in?
Monday, April 20, 2009
I am too fat for warm weather clothes;
My hair frizzes at the first sign of humidity;
I have allergies; and
It rains all the time.
It is a good thing that it has broken 50 degrees in NYC exactly 3 times since October. Today I woke up to rain and a healthy 40 degrees (and you wonder why I broke the diet I had been on for exactly 7 hours and 37 minutes by eating a vanilla-vanilla monstrosity...I was cold! I need layers of fat for warmth since I have very cold appendages.).
To be honest, I love the spring. The warm weather (ok, not yet), flowers (destroyed by heavy rain and spring frosts) and sunshine (clouds) really are a treat. The problem is that NYC's version of spring this year is really thwarting my motivation to get bikini ready. Instead, I wear a lot of black and eat a lot of baked goods. It seems like as long as the Dow continues to hang out below 8000 and big law firms drop associates just as quickly, the cold clouds will remain. What is a girl to do?
My solution? No, not antidepressants. Pharmaceuticals are expensive and I'm not sure I would be able to combine them with booze. Baking isn't a good idea because my cupcake roll is pretty out of control. I can't go to the gym more than 5 or 6 days a week (I'm told that is already excessive) and my days of spending $ on pricey personal trainers are gone (and, unfortunately, Jillian from the Biggest Loser doesn't run the vacation fat camp I dream about).
The solution is gardening. That's right, Home Depot sells seeds buy one get one free right now. 54 cents a pack! You don't need to worry about the cold when the only place your pots can sit is on top of your radiator! For $13 I bought pots, saucers, 5 seed packs and enough "seed starter" soil for all of them. Sure, I looked like a homeless person lugging my massive bags home across town, and yeah, I broke one of the pots before I got in the door (which I will attempt to return), but I am going to be a gardening machine! People are going to walk by my 2nd story apartment and instead of thinking "Why is that girl dancing around like that? Is she having a seizure?" they will ponder "I wonder where that girl having a seizure bought those beautiful pansies? Her pots of herbs are lovely!". I can just see it now. It is going to be glorious. Fresh mint for iced tea. Parsley and basil for homemade tomato sauce. Wildflowers galore.
Of course, I didn't actually plant anything yet. I mean, after lugging all that stuff home I was tired. There was also the broken pot. And I don't have a spade...or like to get dirty. But the plans that I have...big plans...for sometime next week or maybe the week after that. Definitely before summer.
Monday, April 13, 2009
This got me thinking, what is the best combination with a cupcake? Is it wine or beer as the folks at Sweet Revenge would have us think? How about a glass of milk? Also, is it weird to dunk your cupcake in coffee? I mean, my Grandfather dunks every sugary carb in his coffee...including peanut butter and jelly eggo waffle sandwiches...but he is also 91 and mixes red wine and coca cola over ice, so perhaps his chewing ability/refined palate are not something I should be holding up as the gold standard. Personally, I usually have water with my cupcakes, or, if I am shoving it in my mouth while walking down the street, nothing.
Now, at restaurants it is pretty standard to have coffee or tea with your dessert, but I prefer to think of a cupcake as more of a snack. It is important to make that distinction since it is not appropriate to have multiple desserts a day. Snacks on the other had are an important part of a balanced diet. For example, a cupcake and a glass of milk contains calcium and protein! If you have key lime icing it also provides fruit. A cupcake with coffee has the added bonus of a sugar/caffeine combo. Nothing like a little red bull cake to add a spark to your day!
I know, I digress. The question is cupcake beverage pairings. The answer must be on Google. Except, when I went to Google and looked up "Cupcake drink" I did not find the survey of best beverage pairings that I hoped would be readily available (No, I am not sure why I thought that would be the case), instead I found this drink recipe:
1/2 cup Seagram's® Vanilla vodka
1/2 cup Sprite® soda
Fill a glass half full with cubed ice. Pour in 1/2 cup of Seagram's vanilla vodka (or other vanilla vodka). Pour in 1/2 cup of Sprite from 1/2 a foot above glass (helps make it mix better). Stir for 10 seconds, and serve.
Now, I have a few questions about this drink. First, what difference does the 6 inches make in the pour? Second, isn't that equivalent to about 2.5 shots of vodka? Does it taste like a cupcake because you are so drunk you don't notice that you are drinking a clear drink instead of eating a delicious buttercream confection? Finally, why can't I get an answer to my actual question, and after downing a half cup of vodka in one gulp, would I even care?
Of course, none of this will stop me from trying this "not that interesting or creative but strong" adult beverage this evening. Ever health conscious, I think I will use Diet Sprite...this snack doesn't cover many food groups.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I have had enough.
Grub Street, you want to talk cupcakes? Let's talk.
Your bakery reviews stink. Your reviewer, from Gramercy Tavern, where I do not think the desserts are that great, stinks. At least Crumbs isn't on the list. They are busy taking over the universe.
Ok, now on to the cupcakes, in no particular order (except for Billy's):
1. Billy's Bakery - This is hands down the best cupcake in Manhattan. To be fair, the icing is a bit sweet. Guess what? That is why you get cupcakes! Because they are cute and sweet and taste/look like every 5 year-old girl and man in Chelsea's dream come true. And I am not just saying this because I want to work there...contrary to what my mother predicts every other day, I am still employed as a lawyer. (Grub Street rank: 11th...out of 15...)
Magnolia - Maybe it is because the new Rockefeller Center location is so close to my office (Hello Al Roker, have another), but this mecca of cupcake consumerism and dry cake has grown on me lately. Seriously though, I still maintain Magnolia is (a) no comparison to Billy's and (b) the closest thing to eating chocolate flavored sandpaper that I can think of. (Grub Street rank: 7th)
Sweet Revenge - I reviewed this one. I am not doing it again now. The cupcakes are good. The peanut butter frosting is not great. (Grub Street rank: 8th)
Cupcake Cafe - The best thing about these cupcakes are the decorations, which are really spectacular flowers of every shape and color. The buttercream is a bit dense, but this is a truly amazing presentation. The chocolate cake is actually less dry than the vanilla, but both are basically poundcake. Grub Street got this one right. (Grub Street rank: 9th)
Babycakes - Ew. Cake is made with eggs and flour. I don't know what made vegan/gluten free cupcakes sound like a good idea, but these prove they are not. (Grub Street rank: 15th)
Kyotofu - When I ordered these cupcakes they did not have icing. It was $2 a piece for little muffin turds. I guess the New York Magazine people rate a little higher than lawyers ordering cupcakes to the office on a Saturday (don't judge) because mine had a weird aftertaste and no toppings. (Grub Street rank: 3rd...drat)
I will save the Brooklyn cupcakes for another day...it requires some commuting.
That's right, I'm back.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I will be hosting a bridal shower at the Shore this weekend and won't be able to post anything for a few days. I'll be back next week with a detailed description of the cupcakes and cake that I am preparing for the party.
To make my journey, I will be riding the often travelled but rarely discussed Casino Bus. For $30 round trip I receive about 1/2 of a seat on a dirty bus to Atlantic City. The bus-o-fun departs from the lovely Port Authority Bus Terminal, which makes me think of a third world country. Upon arrival the passengers are given vouchers for the destination casino which are usually valued at $20. If you go into the casino, you can turn in the vouchers and receive a crisp $20 bill or gamble the entire thing away. Now, I love a bargain, and since the entire trip costs $10 the dirty bus is worth it in most situations.
The problem is riding the bus alone. First, I have a history with mass transit. While I have been hit on exactly once while out and about in NYC (and I decided to stick with him), I am the queen of Amtrak. THE QUEEN. I am a bus/train/plane supermodel. I once was bombarded with date requests from a banker who I sat next to on Amtrak. The guy had boarded after me and gotten off before. When we finally met for a drink in the city, I stood up when he walked in and he looked at me in horror. The reason? Because in my 3 inch heels I was a full 7 inches above his head. That's right, he was 5 ft 3 inches and I was a massive giant. Needless to say, we did not go out again. Another time, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a really fly 19 year old enlisted marine who at one point leaned over and told me he totally goes for older women. Super, I am a 27 year old cougar.
The bus is even more of an extreme experience. While I have always thought that I won the prize for the person who fits in the least, last summer a fellow in critter shorts sat next to me and stole that prize away. This 24 year old Lehman fellow really rocked my world by telling me about how he is a trader and all that jazz and followed this broad statement up by asking me what RMBS stands for. I sure hope he was given a job at Barclays! To be fair to critter shorts, at least he was clean and did not drift over onto my side of the seat. This is a strong contrast to my most memorable bus ride. Yes, lady luck was on my side when an elderly man boarded the bus carrying a grease soaked bag and took the open seat next to me. For the next 3 hours he proceeded to eat a sausage, onion and pepper sandwich (he took breaks). This smell combined incredibly well with the musty BO smell that he was already sharing with the bus. To top it off, he turns to me, pops a piece of Dentyne Ice out of the plastic and tries to hand it to me. When I refused he told me with a heavy accent that I needed it. Shockingly, despite this truly grand gesture of chivalry, I refused again. Then he got mad. Oh, memories.
Maybe tonight I will get to sit next to a crying child. At least then there is no risk of getting hit on...
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
This just won't work. First of all, I am not a 3rd grader. Second, I do not like being hungry. Third, I like to eat baked goods with every meal. Even the guy who owns the deli on my block knows me as "rainbow brownie girl" because I poke my head in at least twice a week to see if he has any in the cookie case.
Ok, so dieting is out of the question, but I do like to punish myself with exercise (star for me!). For my New Year's resolution this year I decided that I would take Pilates once a week. Please be aware, while Pilates is a great workout, it doesn't really flatten your stomach unless you also diet. This is a problem. The stomach muscles build up under your fat rolls and actually make you look bigger. Ick. Despite this, I continue to go every week at 7:15AM because (a) I always leave in a good mood (even after I have been on the verge of tears because of the pain inflicted) and (b) it is the only time all week that I stretch (which probably has something to do with the tears). One really can't help enjoying something when the instructor yells out "spread your legs like a girl on prom night!", exuberantly as he pulls the legs of the girl next to you closer to her chest...or "your heads should be on the floor, not looking between your legs...you know what's down there".
Ok, so the class starts at 7:15 AM, usually makes my eyes fill with tears, results in my stomach sticking out farther and STILL has a positive side. This is big. I feel like I should be able to find the good in a lot more things. Alright new life outlook! Yay positive thinking! Another star for me! Oh, and one for stretching. Yay again! Ok...one star a week for stretching. And none for sleeping because you can't exactly sleep 8 hours a day and get to the gym for a 7:15AM Pilates class.
This means I am only up to two legitimate stars. Now I feel like a failure (goodbye positivity star). How did this happen? I just wanted to read about Taylor Swift's bizarre rants against Joe Jonas, not find out I am living my life as a 1 out of 5. Blast you SELF Challenge. I don't need this criticism. If I wanted a magazine to make me feel bad about myself I would read the New Yorker. You can take your challenge and shove it. Months of doing things you don't want to do and not enjoying anything you like is called being a first year at a law firm...and I'm done with that.
I think I'll go to the deli.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
As a 2nd grader I often pondered the sad and empty state of my parent's lives because they were not famous. This seems quite amusing now, but I legitimately believed it at the time. I thought, and in many ways still do think, that there must be something that defines you to the world and makes you "something". For me, it has always been career oriented. Now, as the economy tanks and dreams of partnership in a law firm (or leaving said law firm to work for the public interest) tank right along with the Dow, what is a girl to do? Continue on to 28 maintaining the status quo? Keep whining about cupcake consumption? Do some random research to make myself feel better? Good idea.
Rachael Ray was 29 when she did her cooking segments on local cable tv in upstate NY. My father was 31 when, his wife in the hospital having just had their first child, he started his general contracting company. A prominent law firm partner for whom I have tremendous respect didn't graduate law school until he was 36. The New Kids on the Block are new all over again and Jon is close to 40. All of these examples combine taking a risk to become something by doing something - for example, getting rid of the name NKOTB was a really good idea.
So I guess we are all supposed to step out of our comfort zones more to find that something? Let's be honest, I have a tough time with risk. The will be no random declarations of personal goals I plan to pursue. I'm still trying to figure those out and will do so in my typical anal retentive fashion. Perhaps instead of planning the next 5 years, I'll figure out the next month, practice my souffles and write better entries on here...or at least decide what to wear to work.
One thing I do know is that I still have 2 years to starting cooking on TV. Watch out Rachael, we all know you can't bake...
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
P.S. Watching Khloe Kardashian make more selling cupcakes for an hour than I will ever make selling baked goods in my life was a bit difficult for me...though anything that involves watching KK is pretty trying. And she is not a celebrity.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Minutes 1-3: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix bisquick, milk, cinnamon and some brown sugar to form a dough. Stir in some raisins and spoon on a greased baking sheet - pop in the oven for 10 minutes.
Minutes 4-6: Using your laundry basket, take a quick sweep of the kitchen and living room, throwing all shoes, mail and other items that you don't want laying around (redwells, your dirty gym clothes, binder clips, 45 empty dry cleaning bags). Throw the basket in your bedroom (or closet if you don't have a bedroom) and close the door.
Minutes 7-8: Wipe the kitchen counters and table and fix the couch pillows.
Minutes 9-10: Wipe the bathroom and make yourself presentable (brush hair, teeth...just the basics).
Doorbell rings...your home looks clean and smells like cinnamon...and the biscuits are done.
Ok, it might not be that easy for everyone...if you have a studio, you should probably make your bed. If you haven't vacuumed in a month, that should be on the list too. Finally, if you don't have Brita (I don't), fill a jug with tap water and a few slices of lemon (or lemon juice) and stick in the fridge before you mix the biscuits.
Of course, in lieu of water, I usually just serve straight vodka. It is funny, no one seems to notice the dust on the glasses and the crumbs by the couch...
Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Some housekeeping items/updates:
1. I hear the pink writing is hard to read, so I am going with dark blue from now on. Your eyes are welcome.
2. I decided to give up candy for lent. Not chocolate, because that is not candy, it is chocolate. To be fair, and because I love to make rules, I will not eat chocolate when it is in "candy form". This means Reese's peanut butter cups, M&Ms and Hershey Kisses among other items that I will determine, at my discretion, depending on how miserable this all makes me. Candy does not include heart benefiting dark chocolate, because one should not remove important health foods from their diet. Generally, "candy" means sugary fruit-flavored things like swedish fish, sour patch kids, gummi bears (I just remembered that I have some yummy Haribo ones in my cabinet...) and twizzlers - basically the entire vending machine at work. It does not mean the fruit-flavored antacids that I eat 5 times a day because I need them to live.
3. In an amazing show of deep religious conviction (and because I saw a fat roll during pilates), I attempted a juice fast yesterday. I started the day with a carrot banana (gag) juice from Jamba Juice and had a pre-bottled Black and Blueberry Rush juice in the afternoon. I was surprisingly not starving at 4pm, but it was a good thing I had finished off that Lindt chocolate bar the day before or I would have been in trouble by the time I left work. On my way home I intended to stop at a juice bar at Rockefeller Center and get a beet, celery, carrot, cucumber concoction. Instead, I went home and had some thai noodles with vegetables. Yes, failure, but 2 out of 3 isn't bad.
I did not conclude that juice fasts work (you have to actually complete it to figure that out); I did determine that the decision not to eat 3 cupcakes makes you feel a little bit thinner the next day (but not enough to be worth it), as does not wearing cupcake top stockings or putting on a loose dress. Also, juice is expensive and costs a lot more than carrot sticks and PB&J, which is what I will be eating the rest of the week since I spent $20 on juice yesterday.
4. Hosea won Top Chef. I am bitter and angry and hope his girlfriend dumped him.
5. I am trying to determine whether cupcakes are out and donuts are in. Alec Baldwin, you fine man, why must you stump me with these questions?
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Padma is trying to punish me. I really don't know what I ever did to her. I mean, clearly she won in the genetic gifts department. She has also won in the "owns cool stuff", "has a cool job" and "gets to do cool things" departments (proven when I had box seats at a Knicks game last week only to look up and see she was sitting courtside). So, why must she taunt me by having the season finale of Top Chef on Ash Wednesday? Instead of sitting in front of my TV eating a delicious meat based entree, I will be pondering, stomach growling, what I have done to deserve such misery. Truth be told, I should be thinking "I deserve this misery and I should go to confession and repent", and perhaps I will, having been raised with a healthy sense of Roman Catholic guilt. Either way, I am dreading salivating over Carla's cooking while fasting (not to mention breaking out on my forehead from greasy ashes). I suppose I could wait and watch the finale on Thursday, but there are so many risks to that strategy...the main one being that someone will reveal the ending to me and I will maim them in a hunger enhanced rage. I will just have to watch the episode in real time and make due with what is "allowed".
After all, there are various approaches to Ash Wednesday fasting. They include: (i) no food or drink; (2) no food, beverages ok; (3) one normal meal, beverages ok; (4) one normal meal supplemented by a few smaller meals that don't equal the big meal; and (5) a few small meals. I am a 3, 4 or 5 girl myself, though I always start off the day as a 3. Not matter what, the "no meat" part is the key. Oh, and walking around with ashes on your forehead and getting stared at even more than usual on the subway. And repenting for making sarcastic comments about the ashes (sorry).
Of course, I did prepare for today by consuming every delicious treat I could possibly think of on the aptly named Fat Tuesday. This led to my discovery of Lindt Pistachio Chocolate. This slice (bar) of heaven is swiss milk chocolate with whole pistachio nuts in almond filling. Now that is a treat. The gluttony of eating almost the entire bar made me think I should give up chocolate for lent...which made me eat the rest of the chocolate...which made me conclude that I should not give up chocolate for lent.
Now I start my day still trying to decide what to give up. Looking back, my mother always gave up liver, something I have never seen her consume in her life. This is cheating though...even if my allergy to shellfish makes giving up shrimp incredibly appealing. It should be something food related because that is beneficial to my waistline, and because, though it is quite early, swearing is already out of the question. It can't be baked goods, I have done ice cream before (5 times) and I already ruled out chocolate. Maybe swedish fish? Perhaps cocktails (and by that I mean fancy ones at bars, not the ones I make at home, this is a recession, let's not make it a depression).
At least there is one benefit of fasting - I have the entire day to decide (oh, that and the whole chance to repent thing...sorry, again).
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I am not sure what that means, but I don't want it. I see these women on TV talking about regulating their digestive system in 6 weeks with Activia. We all understand what they are getting at...it is a discreet way of saying something gross. I don't want mini bacteria on steroids running around my digestive system and trying to pummel all of the cute cakes and pies that I have consumed. Leave them alone! I need them to create the fat cells that keep me warm in my cold office.
Reviewing the package, it claims to boost immunity and improve digestive health. That is interesting since the two times I have consumed this yogurt I wanted to take a sick day and not even a cupcake and swedish fish made it better. I couldn't even focus on marking up documents with thrilling comments. Interestingly, Google informed me that there are 100,000 results for probiotic side effects. Upon further research, it seems that the positive benefits of these "friendly germs" are not proven. This destruction of my La Yogurt makes no sense. Why would something seemingly perfect, like yogurt, need to be pumped full of weird bacteria? It is bad enough that we suck out the fat (and add artificial sweetener...but that is a chemical which I love and would never badmouth).
On a positive note, this is clearly an indication that I should not eat (super) healthy breakfasts. I am looking forward to a nice organic donut.
Monday, February 23, 2009
I think an Academy Award themed cupcake needs just a few basic components:
- a fresh taste, like an independent film or Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire;
- a little off-the-wall pizazz, like Mickey Rourke's suits; and
- the ability to make a lasting impression (if only for a few hours), like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's romance or Meryl Streep.
Components to be avoided include:
- super sweetness – like Dakota Fanning or Mamma Mia;
- stale ingredients – like Ryan Seacrest's commentary; and
- anything that induces vomiting – like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's romance or a Mike Myers movie.
I decided on almond cupcakes with pine nuts. I got the idea from the pine nut cookies that every Italian grandmother forces you to learn how to make, and thought I might as well mix things up a little (see fresh taste and off-the-wall pizazz above). If they didn't work out, I figured it would probably be the least of my failures this week (awkward work email, subway trip and fall – yes, I failed at walking), so I was willing to take that risk.
To top the cupcakes, I wanted to use basic vanilla icing and had visions of festive gold toppings (lasting impression!). Unfortunately, after looking around online I determined that edible gold glitter reminds me of asbestos and makes me gag. In an attempt to find the next best thing, I headed over to New York Cake and Baking Supply on 22nd St. That went poorly. It wasn't open. Blackberryless, I wasn't sure where to go next, so I went to the gym and pondered it. I wandered around in the rain and after a stop a Party City (sold out), I concluded that Williams Sonoma was out of my price range and went home in defeat (ok, I did stop at 4 other stores...I was on a mission).
The cupcakes actually turned out rather delicious, if not as pretty as I hoped. I usually mix fat free sour cream in my cake to make it fluffy, but to give the cupcakes a texture more similar to the aforementioned pine nut cookies, I beat milk and folded the foam into the batter (skimming it off the top like they do at Starbucks). To my surprise it worked just as I intended, and while the gold sprinkles were missing, after watching the Hugh Jackman/Beyonce dance routine, I figured my dessert couldn't compete in the lasting impression department anyway.
I love a theme.
The entire recipe (with the exception of the milk) can be done by hand - no mixers or fancy equipment is needed:
1 stick, plus 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp (added to taste) almond extract
1/4 cup pine nuts (crushed/pureed)
3/4 to 1 cup sour cream (or, if you don't have sour cream, beat 3/4 of a cup of milk and use the foam)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and mix until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly add to the mixed wet ingredients. Fold in the sour cream or foam, alternating with the almond extract. Mix in the pine nuts. If you would like, add a little extra almond (but note, the flavor will enhance while they cook). Spoon the batter into cupcake papers/pan and bake for 16-20 minutes until the tops are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before icing.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The Day of Fun ("DoF") started last year as a way for me and a friend to spend the afternoon when everyone abandoned us in the city and went skiing. Not that we weren't invited, but there seems to be an awful lot of effort that goes into a skiing excursion. Boots, goggles, warm, waterproof clothes...not to mention skis. Overwhelming when one would spend the entire time drinking hot chocolate in the lodge.
The DoF has three main components that come together to make a day that tourists visiting from around the globe would find thrilling (while most New Yorkers would run screaming). The first is "culture", the second is a famous burger, the third is a notable dessert venue. Oh, and the day ends at the Time Warner Center (mostly because that is where my train home is located). I know, exciting.
Last year, the DoF consisted of a visit to the MoMa, lunch at the Burger Joint and sundaes at FAO Schwartz.
This year, the Natural History Museum was the first stop. After getting lost attempting to go from the Big Bang to present day (I am a lawyer, we are bad at science), a real treat was the "Birds of the New York City Region" room, where they have pigeons stapled to a bulletin board.
The second stop was the new UWS location of Shake Shack. The burger was just as yummy as the Madison Sq. Park location, but the atmosphere just didn't do it for me. The Shake Shack is an experience because of it's outdoor atmosphere, where a rat might run over your foot at any moment. You just don't get that in the new locale's downstairs "rec room".
Finally, in the double whammy of dessert indulgence, we headed over to Jacques Torres to ogle the truffles and then to Crumb's where a few cupcakes happened to be sampled, including an impressive vanilla-vanilla.
Totally beats skiing.
To clarify, I am not opposed to skiing, I just don't know how. Growing up, my father adamantly insisted that skiing was not something that we could do as a family. He said that if he broke his leg, he would not be able to run his construction company and climb up ladders. Pondering the logic of this statement recently, I have determined that (1) climbing up a ladder is more dangerous; (2) his summer water skiing is equally dangerous; and (3) he was making up an excuse. My one skiing adventure was with family friends in the Poconos. My parents sent me because I had been invited to a dance for that evening and the guy canceled at the last minute. Yes, a night on the bunny slope, wearing jeans, with 6 year-olds who knew how to ski provided just the confidence boost that a rejected teenage girl needed.... These days, the black diamonds of my living room carpet during the skiing simulation portion of my Biggest Loser workout DVD are the closest I get to a snowy mountain trail.
Do not try to roll out cookie dough that has chunks in it (chocolate chips, nuts, cranberries).
Despite your visions of beautiful cut-out hearts or stars studded with color, failure will result.
It will stick to things. It will make a mess.
It is a bad, bad idea.
Friday, February 20, 2009
To celebrate receiving a plum assignment at work (because really, does anyone feel they have value in this profession if they aren't working 12 hour days?), I finished off the last of the whoopie pies last night. It was a nice compliment to my Lean Cuisine. I followed this delicious entree and side dish with a single conversation heart (white) to cleanse my palate. These little treats are quickly flying off the shelves only to be replaced by the heavier, creamier, chocolaty goodness of Cadbury Cream Eggs (yum), so you must act fast. Luckily, D'agastino's seems to have filled a groddy looking shopping cart with marked-down 50 cent bags just for me! I bought three.
As I rolled that mini sugar rush over my tongue and prepared for the much guiltier pleasure of the Millionaire Matchmaker, I contemplated "what am I tasting?". Is it black licorice fennel? Mint? A potpourri of chemicals? And finally, something I have rarely wondered in my life, "where is Mark Summers when you need him!?!".
So, I looked it up.
Interestingly, the label of Brach's hearts (pictured here) only states that they contain "natural and artificial flavors". I was not able to find additional details online so their contents will continue to remain a mystery. Drat! NECCO (which stands for the New England Confectionery Company - who knew?) provides all of the information a curious candy connoisseur would need on the handy FAQs page of their website. It turns out, the six flavors in the Sweethearts Conversation Hearts are (drumroll): cherry, banana, lemon, grape, orange and wintergreen.
But wait, what is the green flavor? I mean, the white is clearly wintergreen. Lemon? It does have citrusy undertones.... I am going with the lemon, just to set my mind at ease.
Every Friday I intend to profile one bakery in the NYC area to give a little taste of what makes them stand out. I was going to pick my absolute favorite bakery to start, but to encourage you to keep reading, I'll save that profile for another week.
This week: Sweet Revenge - http://www.sweetrevengenyc.com/
Heralded in Time Out New York and profiled on the Martha Stewart show (where my mother found out about it and proceeded to barrage me with emails encouraging me to check it out), this small venue close to the Houston stop of the 1 train is a cute way to end a nice dinner or a great place for a sweet treat anytime. What it is not is a place to have dinner, though their website and menu of "Savories" might convince you otherwise.
The luncheon/dinner baked goods and lame cheese tray leave something to be desired, but the cupcake I sampled really was tasty. I tried the signature "Sweet Revenge" - peanut butter cake (not moist enough for me, but with great flavor) with a ganache filling and a peanutbutter buttercream icing - and enjoyed the complexity of the cupcake (I am usually a vanilla-vanilla girl). Some of the special flavors worth making a trip back to try include Spice Islands Carrot and Malaysian Coconut. Plus, the presentation is beautiful – raspberry topped cupcakes wrapped in a decorative parchment…Martha S. would be oh so proud.
Sweet Revenge has a decent beer (bottle only) and wine selection and the special cupcake choices change daily (they always have four signature flavors). The menu is also full of suggested alcohol and baked good pairings which are surprisingly on point. The tiny tables still have room to set up a laptop for the coffee break crowd and Sweet Revenge is a perfect place to head after a dinner date if you aren't in the mood for the White Horse and Little Branch is a bit intimate…or their potent cocktails might make you do something you normally wouldn't.
Overall, this bakery get points for creativity and atmosphere, plus the timely story about how the owner came to start her baking adventure. The cupcakes are good, just get rid of the cheese tray.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
After the Valentine's Day four course disaster of 2009 I decided that I am the Carla of cooking.
In case you are wondering "who?"...um, Carla from Top Chef? The awesome former model turned Big Birdesque crazy lady who only seemed capable of making pastry for the first 9 episodes of the season? Yes, that Carla. I am her. Not just because I regularly do spontaneous dance routines and have a tendancy to be loud, but because I seem to fail with most recipes that don't involve sugar. Actually, most recipes that come before a dessert course would be a more fair assesment. And to be fair, Carla appears to be quite adept at entrees these days, so maybe I am just a bad cook.
I can only do dessert. After 3 almost inedible courses on Valentine's night...dessert was my saving grace (that, and wine). The menu was as follows:
- Warm brussel sprouts and artichoke salad - much better when I fried the leftovers with some bacon last night;
- Ricotta gnundi in a sage brown butter - I didn't have time to make the gnundi so we had it over spaghetti;
- Braised monkfish with a tomato and bacon compote - bland. We smashed it up into fish cakes the next day, added lots of salt and pepper and fried them.
You may notice a theme that frying items I cook with butter makes them edible. So does an entire bottle of expensive red wine but you can't have either everyday.
So, dessert was a recipe from one of my favorite restaurants in NYC, the Spotted Pig. I made an Orange Chocolate Bourbon Cake with a spiced cream. Heaven. That is, until I tried to cut the cake out with a heart-shaped toast cutter (yes cute, but still stupid). I ended up putting the cutter on the plate and inserting the cake into it until it mashed together. After that, I took the crispy top from the rest of the cake and put it on top of each heart so you couldn't see that I had created the Frankenstein of desserts. The cream helped with the presentation also. I added cloves and cinnamon and even though it might have been a little over whipped, the taste combination was pretty incredible.
My one wish (beyond the obvious one where everything came out perfect and I served it in high heels and a size 2 designer dress) is to have saved a little orange zest for a garnish. Instead, I used it to make an old fashion with the leftover bourbon...still an excellent use of said orange, as I needed it before serving the 3 initial courses.
It was scrumptious.
I think I have a cupcake gut. Either that or buying irregular pantyhose was a bad idea. Scratch that. Irregular pantyhose are without a doubt a bad idea. And you should not put them on at 8 am while consuming a homemade whoopie pie (yum! created with flair by a former investment bank employee - more on that another day).
In an effort to save money because of the failing American infrastructure I bought irregular pantyhose at a discount store. To be fair, I didn't know they were irregular (though maybe the $2 price tag should have tipped me off). Also, this is the second time I have worn them even though one leg is shorter and kinda cuts off blood flow and they give me a muffin (cupcake?) top.
Yeah, the gut is definitely the pantyhose. It can't be my two a day baked good habit. Thinking about it though, it totally beats the substance abuse habit that most (ok, "most" is a bit extreme...the higher than average substance abuse habit) lawyers have in New York. A habit that is getting worse as we all watch our job security go out the window, our clients go under and our colleagues get shown the door with severance packages that seem just compensation until you realize that 3 months goes really fast and there are no jobs. To avoid confusion, I am talking about baked good habits. I (fortunately) don't know all that much about substance abuse habits, but based on the fact that no one seems to be going out in NY anymore, I think that means either people can't afford that habit or they are drinking grain alcohol at home. Either way, makes $2.50 seem pretty great for a cupcake that provides all of the initial rush (and guilt) of more questionable vices without the hangover (unless you count having to drag yourself out of bed to go to the gym).
So, let us all eat cake.
Tip of the day: any cake, cupcake or cookie (even a package mix) can be made into a delicious delicacy by adding just a few little items...maybe throw in some club soda instead of milk to make it fluffier, add almond extract to really modify the flavor, or, my personal favorite, place little balls of frozen cookie dough in cupcake batter to provide a little surprise to those who choose to indulge.