Homemade Chicken Pad Thai

I have this problem where I pretty much always want to be on vacation.  Not just at home with time off, but I want to be in a foreign country walking around and trying all the foods.

But that’s probably true for everyone, right?

I’ve been lucky enough to visit my fair share of countries.   Since we’ve been togetherJesse and I have made it a point to go on a trip once a year. We went to China, Peru and Thailand/Cambodia (along with Mexico and Guatemala, do those count if we were visiting family?).  Our 4th year together is looking to be a vacation-less one, since there’s a major expense coming up next year: wedding.

In both Peru and Thailand, we took cooking classes, which has become one of my favorite things to do on vacation.

In Thailand, there are tons of cooking classes.  We went with the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai, because some friends (they have an awesome travel blog!) we met while hiking to Machu Picchu had done it and recommended it.

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It was definitely worth it.  Now that it’s been about 7 months since our vacation, Jesse and I had an itch to make some of the recipes in the cookbook we were given.   So we hit up a local Asian market that I learned about at my new job (yay for supporting small business!), gathered all our ingredients and made this:

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Isn’t pad thai everyone’s favorite?  It’s also pretty easy to make too!  We added chicken to it to make it more of a complete meal, but you can also omit the chicken (or the tofu) if you’d like.

Here’s what you’ll need to serve 2 or 3…

Chicken Pad Thai

80g rice noodles
2 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
1/2 cup sliced tofu (optional)
1 piece of chicken breast, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup of mung bean sprouts
2 tsp tamarind paste (or white vinegar)
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/3 cup water
1 tsp molasses
Pinch of chili powder (or a squirt of sriracha)
Salt to taste

1 tbsp green onion (green part only)
Chopped peanuts and lime for serving

Soak noodles in warm water for 30 minutes until soft.  In the meantime, prepare your sauce.  In a bowl combine water, fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind paste and molasses.   (Note: Here I found a tamarind paste that was basically the whole tamarind, so I had to blend it but in Thailand I used a paste that dissolved.  If you blend, just be sure there are no tamarind seeds in there).  Set aside sauce.

pad thai ingredients

Heat oil in a wok (or large pan if you don’t have a wok like me), until it starts to smoke.  Add chicken, shallots and tofu.  Toss until chicken is cooked and tofu is crispy.  Move the chicken, shallots and tofu to one side of the pan.  On the other side of the pan, scramble the egg.  Once scrambled, toss them all together and add the noodles, carrots, bean sprouts and sauce.  Mix until the noodles are cooked and all is well combined.  Try a noodle and see if you think it needs salt.  Salt as needed.

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Serve with chopped peanuts and a wedge of lime.

Jesse and I devoured this yesterday.  I’m almost a little bit embarrassed to tell you how much we ate.  Ok not really.  We doubled this and ate about 3/4 of it.  Enough said.

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We also discovered that we seriously want a wok.  We made it in a dutch oven pot, which was fine but I think it would have turned out better (texture wise) in a wok.   But it still turned out great.

Since we bought a ton of basic ingredients we’ll likely be making tons of Thai recipes this week.  I can’t complain about that.

What foreign food do you want to learn how to make?

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Cheesecake with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

Nowadays, other people’s birthdays are far more exciting than my own.  Does that happen to you too? I think that’s what happens when you pass the age of 21.

I love other people’s birthdays, because I love getting other people gifts and I love making them birthday cakes.  Ok really, that last reason is the most important one.

Yesterday  was Jesse’s birthday.  In the past I’ve written an embarrassing post in his honor, but this year I’ll mostly spare him.  I made him an epic cheesecake, because while I love layer cakes, I know he’s a fan of cheesecake.

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On someone’s birthday, you should probably make what they like, not what you like.  Remember, it’s the time to be giving.

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Cheesecake with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

cake adapted from All Recipes (strawberry sauce my own)

9 graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 (8oz) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup flour

For Topping:

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipped cream (sweetened with a few tbsp sugar), optional

For Sauce:

1lb fresh strawberries
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 325F.  Grease 9inch springform pan and wrap in aluminum foil (this is to keep water from getting in when you bake in a water bath). In a bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter.  Press into bottom of springform pan.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Using a mixer, beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in milk and eggs, one at a time until just combined.  Add in sour cream, vanilla and flour and beat until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

Place pan in a larger baking dish, a roasting pan if you have one (I used a jelly roll pan because that’s all I had), and fill baking dish with hot water.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  After that time, turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another hour, then crack the oven door and let it sit for another hour or two.  The goal is to make sure the temperature doesn’t drop too quickly.  That way you’ll get a smooth cheesecake with no cracks.

While you’re waiting for the cake to cool, is the perfect time to make the topping.  Dice strawberries and place in a sauce pan with sugar and balsamic vinegar.  With regards to the amount of sugar, start with half a cup, after it’s been cooking for a while, taste the sauce and add more if you’d like.  I didn’t, but I could see where some would want it sweeter.  Cook on medium heat about 10 minutes.  Allow to cool.  At this point, you can leave it with chunks of fruit or you can blend to get a smooth sauce.  I blended it, but whole chunks of fruit could also be delicious and beautiful.

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The topping can be made in advance and refrigerated.  Feel free to serve it warm or cold.

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Now back to the cake… Once the cake has cooled, refrigerate a few hours or overnight.  A few hours before you’re ready to serve, prepare topping.  Mix together sour cream, sugar and vanilla.  Spread over top of cake.  Pipe whipped cream around edges (this is optional, just for decoration).  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Serve with strawberry balsamic sauce and enjoy!

I hope Jesse enjoyed it!  His birthday was pretty low key.  We had sushi, ate cheesecake and then proceeded to spend the rest of the night in a food coma.

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That might be one of the most awesome ways to spend a birthday.

Happy Birthday, Jesse!

I know I said my other people’s birthdays are more exciting than my own, but next week is my birthday and let’s be honest, making a birthday cake for yourself is always exciting.

I have many ideas in mind and it involves lots of fresh fruit.

What’s more exciting: your birthday or someone else’s?

Macaron Making: I Promise It’s Not Scary

I’ve started wedding planning and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if the word wedding is attached, it’s automatically expensive.

Cakes. Flowers. Dessert tables. Photographers. Dresses. Shoes. Invitations.

All of it = $$$$

So with dollar signs looming over my head, I’m going through a phase where anything I buy seems outrageously expensive, and I want to make everything myself.  While I don’t plan on having french macarons at my wedding, they’ve always been something I thought was ridiculously expensive.macarons1

$2+ a pop is too much for el cheap-o over here.

I was determined to make them myself but never got around to it.  I had tried a few times before and failed.  One time they turned out like meringues (with a little peak).  Another time, they just crumbled and fell flat.  After some research and reading, they turned out great.

These cookies are delicate and delicious.  I can see why they’re so pricey, but honestly, you can make them at home on your own.  They take some time, because they require a lot of sitting, but the active amount of work is actually minimal.

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Basic French Macarons

from All Recipes

100g egg whites
50g white granulated sugar
100g powdered sugar
110g almond flour, finely ground
Food coloring of choice (optional)
Filling of choice*

Weigh out your egg whites and allow your eggs to get to room temperature.  100g of eggs was a tiny bit less than 3 egg whites.  Yes, I was neurotic and weighed out exactly 100g.  I think this was part of my success.

While your egg whites get to room temperature, weigh out your remaining ingredients and set aside.  Sift together the powdered sugar and almond flour, set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites.  Once they start to foam, slowly stream in the granulated.  Continue to beat until they reach soft peaks.  Try not to over mix and get firm peaks.  Soft peaks are good! They tip of the peak will fall over to the side a bit.

Fold the almond flour and powdered sugar into the egg whites, along with a few drops of any food coloring you’d like (I used a few drops of red to get a bright pink).  Keep turning/folding until it’s all incorporated, but you don’t want to overmix it.  Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a round tip, then get your baking sheets ready.

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  If you want you can draw circles using a bottle cap so that your cookies are all the same size, I did that at first, then I just eyeballed it and it turned out fine.   You want the parchment paper to be fitted exactly to the baking sheet so it can be completely flat.

Then start piping.  Pipe some frosting onto the baking sheet.  They’ll spread a bit so leave an inch or two between each one.  Once you’ve piped enough to fill your sheet, lift the baking sheet and lightly slam it on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.  Then continue piping onto another baking sheet until you run out of batter (this recipe makes about 24 macarons, so for me that was 3 baking sheets full of cookies).  Let the unbaked cookies sit out on the counter for an hour.

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Then preheat the oven to 275F.  Bake 10-14 minutes.  This is where it might get tricky.  My first batch was underbaked and completely stuck to the parchment paper.  The second batch, I baked a few minutes longer (13 minutes) and they turned out great.

Once you take the macarons out of the oven, transfer the parchment paper with all the macarons on to a cooling rack so they can cool completely (you can put them in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up the process).  After the cookies have cooled completely you can assemble them!

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*For my filling, I used a simple chocolate frosting recipe, because I wanted to get the basics and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.  Later I’ll try experimenting with different fillings, but I wanted something quick and easy.  And so, I used the Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting Recipe.

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Chocolate Buttercream Filling

adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate Frosting

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/6 cup coffee (or milk)
Melt butter and mix with cocoa powder.  Using a mixer, beat in powdered sugar, a bit at a time, alternating with coffee until all ingredients are incorporated.  Beat a few more minutes until fluffy, then set aside.

Now assemble the macarons by spreading some frosting (or other filling of choice) on one cookie then putting together like a sandwich.

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Then ta-da! You have 24 beautiful macarons!  That wasn’t too scary, right?

Overall, in the macaron-making process, I learned a few key things…

Tips for Making Macarons:
  1. Sift the ingredients (and make sure you buy extra fine almond flour).  I hate sifting ingredients but these cookies are so light that it’s a must.  If you buy the almond flour at Sprouts in the bulk food section, it’s not fine enough.  I’ve tried.  Get the Bob’s Red Mill one.
  2.  Let the batter sit a bit before piping it.  I found that my last batch turned out the best, so I’m chalking that up to the fact that it sat the longest in the piping bag (a few hours really) and sat for about an hour and a half on the counter before baking (because I was working and forgot about them).
  3. You need to let them rest for 1 hour after you pipe them onto the baking sheet.  When they sit, they smooth out and develop that nice coat.  Let them chill.
  4. If you underbake your macarons, they’ll stick to the parchment paper.   It depends on your oven and the size of your cookies. Figuring out when the macarons were ready to come out of the over took some guess work.  They have to look set, but not browned.  If this is your first time, I recommending each baking sheet separately in case one gets messed up, there are still two others for you to try with.  I ended up baking mine for 13 minutes, and that was the magic number.  But remember, every oven is different and your macarons might be bigger than mine.

I’m excited to try to make different flavors now.  I’m a big believer in mastering the basics before moving on to more extravagant things or tweaking recipes.  I had a lemon macaron from Lette Macarons that basically changed my view of macarons.  I must try to recreate it!

Have you tried making macarons? or are you just an eater? What’s your favorite macaron flavor?

Basic Country Bread and My New Bread Baking Obsession

Last year, I bought the Tartine Bread book.  There was a special on Amazon.  It was $2.99 on Kindle.  I couldn’t turn it down.

I remember I started reading it while on the plane to Philadelphia.  The photos are so amazing and the recipes so detailed that I knew I had to try it as soon as possible.   Weeks went by and I didn’t bake any bread.  The thought of making a starter was intimidating to say the least.  Then, on December 2nd (funny how I remember these dates), my friend brought me some of her starter.

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Blog friends, meet Bernard.   Bernard is about 5 years old and comes from a culinary school in Michigan.  Now a part of him is with me, and through Foodologie with you too.  Here’s here to help us make bread.

I love that my friend named the starter.  It makes the process so much more fun.  Because after all, he needs to be taken care of and fed.  I feed Bernard on Monday nights and leave him in the fridge until I’m ready to bake some bread.

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Some of this glorious bread.  It’s nothing short of amazing.  It might take days to make, but it’s worth it.  And it all starts with Bernard.

The night before I want to make bread, I take a big spoonful of starter and mix it with pretty much equal parts flour and water (if we want to be specific 3/4 cup water + 3/4 cup Flour and about 1/4 cup starter will give you enough leaven, or fed starter, to make 2 loaves of bread).

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So I let that sit on the counter.  It gets all bubbly and smelly in the most endearing way possible.  Once it’s bubbly and ready to go (you’ll know it’s ready when you drop a bit of it in some water and it floats), I mix it with flour and water.  Once it’s all incorporated, I let it sit for about half an hour.  After half an hour, I add a bit of salt and some more water.  Then the first “bulk rise” begins.  This takes 3-4 hours.  You don’t have to do much, just turn it every so often.  That means dip your hand in water, then dip your hand in the dough and turn it a bit.  Pretty simple right?

After a few hours (assuming it’s in a fairly warm temperature, sometimes I’m too cheap to put on the heater and so I turn the oven on for a few minutes, turn it off, then put the bread in there to keep it warm), I turn it onto a well-floured surface and divide it in two.

This part is tricky.  The dough is sticky.  It sticks to everything. Your hands. The towel. The surface. Your hair.  Everything.  My first time around was rough.  I think I was a little shy with the flour, but after the next few times, I leaved that a lot of flour is necessary.  So you divide the dough into and fold it into two rounds mounds.  Then it sits for hours.    I know right? There’s a lot of sitting involved.

So those mounds sit for another 3-4 hours on the counter covered with a towel (flour that towel too, because seriously the dough will stick to it).  I’ve also tried leaving it in the fridge overnight.  That worked too.

After the dough has sat for a good while (either 3-4 hours or overnight in the fridge), you can start getting everything ready to bake.  I bake this bread in a dutch oven.  I think the dutch oven is my saving grace, because I’m pretty sure my oven is a bit messed up.  The dutch oven ensures an even bake, so you can’t argue with that.

So I turn the oven to 500F and put the dutch oven in there (empty that is, with the lid on), for about 20-30 minutes.  You want it to get piping hot.  This also gives you bread a little more time to rise (or to get to room temperature if it was sitting in the fridge).

Again, I reform the loafs into a round loaf then score to top.  Scoring apparently is important because it allows the bread to rise to it’s full potential.  I have a really hard time with the scoring.  In Tartine Bread, they suggest using a razor; I use a knife.  We made due with what we have, right?

Then the next tricky part, putting the dough in the dutch oven without burning your hands.  The dough isn’t the sturdiest.  The water content is pretty high so it’s a very sticky dough.  But it’s easy enough.  Drop it in, re-score if necessary and put in the oven with the lid on, reduce the temperature to 450F and bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the dutch oven lid and continue to bake for another 25-30 minutes or until it reaches the level of brownness you like.

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Remove the bread from the dutch oven, allow to cool then serve.  You can repeat the baking process with your second loaf now.  The dutch oven doesn’t need to heat as long.  I usually just put it back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes then move on.

For the full recipe, check out this write up in the New York Times.  It has all the measurements and weights you need to get your bread making on.  I still can’t get mine to look exactly like their bread, but sooner or later, I’ll get there.  But even if it doesn’t look exactly like the Tartine loaves, it tastes amazing.

To say that I love this bread is underselling it.  I seriously love this bread.

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It’s great for sandwiches (ahem, grilled cheese anyone?).  Awesome toasted with butter.  Amazing if you spread it with jam.  The process might be time consuming.  Scratch that, it’s totally time consuming, but it’s worth it.

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So this is my newest obsession: bread.  I want to make it all the time and eat it all the time, but I probably shouldn’t, so gifting loaves of bread is becoming my new thing.

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Now that I’ve mastered the basic country bread.  I’m ready to move on to new varieties.  Of course, croissants and brioche are on my bucket list for the year, but I also want to start experimenting with different flours: whole wheat, rye, etc.

Let’s get our carbs on!

Are you a home bread baker or just an equal opportunity bread lover?  What’s your favorite kind to bake or eat?

The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I pretty much always wish I had a reason to make a cake.  The more I think about it, it’s one of the reasons I love weddings, because I think wedding cakes are amazing.  Tonight I had a conversation with some ladies about wedding media.  Wedding sites, blogs, shows magazines are all geared at woman.  The wedding is portrayed as entirely about the woman, which to me seems a little unfair, given that the woman is only one half of the equation.

But in the conversation, one of the things I pointed out is that part of my fascination with wedding media is the aesthetic.  I think weddings are beautiful.  I think cakes are beautiful.  That’s probably why I love food blogs too, because I think the photography is pretty.

Most of the time when I see a beautiful cake my first thought is I want to make that, then second, I want to eat that.  For me, making cakes is fun.  I love making them look beautiful, but I also love making them taste good.

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Because really, isn’t a layer cake just one of the prettiest things out there?

While I always want to make cakes, there isn’t always an occasion to make a cake.  I originally made this cake for a birthday/going away party for friends.  But it was so popular and pretty that I wanted to make it again and photograph it.  

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  I think it just means I appreciate aesthetics. So if you want to make a cake for a special ocassion or no reason at all other than to please yourself… please do! ChocolatePBCake3

And as a bonus, it’s amazingly delicious and the perfect 6-inch cake.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

For Cake (adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate Cake):

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

For Filling:

2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup whipping cream

For Frosting:

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 big pinch of cream of tartar*
1 pinch of salt

For Chocolate Ganache:

3 oz bitter sweet chocolate chips
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Make Cake.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and line with parchment paper 2 (6-inch) cake pans, set aside.  In a stand mixer bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.  Beat together.   Add boiling water and beat until combined.  Pour batter evenly between both 6-inch cake pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes (this might vary based on your oven so start checking for readiness after 20 minutes, especially if using a convection oven) or until cooked through (i.e. do the toothpick test: insert toothpick, once it comes out clean, it’s ready).

Allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Beat together cream cheese, condensed milk and peanut butter.  In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream into firm peaks.  Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture, refrigerate until ready to use.

Next make your frosting.

Place a glass bowl over a sauce pan that has about 1 inch of water in it, make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl (aka build a double boiler).  Add egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, cream of tartar and salt.  Mix together.  Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are warm when you touch them.

Transfer egg white mixture to a stand mixer and attach whisk attachment.  Stir on low and turn up the speed every 15 seconds or so until it’s on high speed.  Beat 5-7 minutes or until glossy, stiff peaks form.

Now assemble the cake.  Level your layers and slice in half, so you have 4 layers (you’ll notice in my photo I only had 3 layers, you can accidentally drop one on the floor and have 3 layers as well… that’s allowed, but not advised).  Place your first layer on your cake circle or cake dish of choice. Lay some filling on top of the first layer and spread evenly, press on second layer, it’s ok if it overflows a bit.  Repeat until all layers are complete.

Next, frost with a generous layer of frosting.

Place in the fridge while you make your ganache.  Place chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.  In a small sauce pan, heat heavy cream and vanilla stirring constantly until it comes to a light boil.  Pour cream over chocolate chips.  Let sit for a minute, then stir until smooth.  Pour over cake and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve.

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I had hopes and dreams of making a beautiful vide to go along with this blog post, but I’m still working on perfect my video making skills… but in case you’re curious… here’s my first attempt:

 

Not the prettiest video, but I’ll take it for a first try!  We can’t expect to make gorgeous creations the first time around, and I’m cool with that.

 

So tell me, are you a fan of layer cakes, weddings and pretty things?  Are you overloaded with wedding stuff? Don’t even see it?  Is a cake just a cake for you?  

 

Easy Marshmallow Frosting

I’m going to ask you to brace yourself, because I can already tell that what I recently discovered is going to cause a whirlwind over here at Foodologie.

Marshmallow Frosting

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Why hadn’t I tried making this before? Oh I know why… it seemed too complicated and not worth my time.

Well, let me just tell you.  It’s totally worth it and not nearly as difficult or time consuming as I thought it would be.  All the recipes I read required 8-10 egg whites, too much cracking… corn syrup, um no.  But finally I found one without corn syrup that was easily to scale down and gave it a try.  Thank you, Martha Stewart, for introducing me to marshmallow frosting.

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Easy Marshmallow Frosting

from Martha Stewart

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 big pinch of cream of tartar*
1 pinch of salt

Place a glass bowl over a sauce pan that has about 1 inch of water in it, make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl (aka build a double boiler).  Add egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, cream of tartar and salt.  Mix together.  Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are warm when you touch them.

Transfer egg white mixture to a stand mixer and attach whisk attachment.  Stir on low and turn up the speed every 15 seconds or so until it’s on high speed.  Beat 5-7 minutes or until glossy, stiff peaks form.

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Frost cupcakes and serve! Refrigerate if you’re not using it right away.  This recipe will make enough to frost about 8-10 cupcakes using a lot of frosting per cupcake (as I did in this photo), or 1 small 6 inch cake.   I would probably double the recipe if you are doing a larger cake or 2 dozen cupcakes. *Note: the original recipe called for 8 egg whites, 2 cups sugar, 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar, so when I scaled it down I just did a big pinch.  If you double this recipe, use 1/4 tsp cream of tartar. marshmallfrosting

I’m seriously amazed at how delicious and easy it was to make this marshmallow frosting.  I already have a million ideas for variations on this type of frosting.   What I really loved about it is that it’s super light and NOT sickeningly sweet like other frostings I’ve had.  I almost want to say I’d add more sugar next time, but I think this would be the perfect frosting for an already sweet cake.

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So be prepared for lots of cupcakes to come!

What’s your favorite type of frosting?   I usually love chocolate ganache or just plain whipped cream, but this marshmallow frosting is going to be on the top of my list now.

P.S. Two days left to enter the Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams Giveaway!  Head over to Facebook to enter! Click the Giveaway tab! Make sure to tell your friends and get extra entries daily by tweeting about the giveaway.

Sunday Dinner

Sunday Dinner last night was the best.

First, because I didn’t cook.

Second, because it was just damn good.

Third, it was meat free, and I miss that.

Nancy made fruit salad and a spinach salad.

Kyla just got back from Ethiopia and brought spices with her.  So she made shiro and a delicious bean stew.

It was to die for.  I’m obsessed with the shiro that Kyla made.  Sooo good and so easy to make (given that you have the shiro spice mix).  It definitely came at a time when I’ve sorta been going crazy regarding Italian food.  Basically I’ve had enough.  I miss spiced food.  I cannot find cumin or cilantro in stores here!  I’m going to the “ethnic markets” in the immigrant neighborhoods this week to scout out spices.   So this dinner definitely helped with my spice cravings.

Spices, beans, grains, fruit, vegetables, friends!  What could be better?