Food and the Pope

This weekend was full of food.  All delicious of course.

Friday night dinner with Nancy and my apartmentmate, Joe.

I had Rigatoni al Agnello

and Artichokes

I ate meat.  It was delicious.  I don’t really feel bad.  I have no intention of turning into a carnivore but I love lamb.  And honestly, when in Rome…

Then the next day, Nancy

Kyla

and I walked around Trastevere.  It was lovely!  Great view!

Along the way we stopped for lunch.

Pomodori e mozzarella

In America we have ketchup and mustard in packets on every table.  In Italy, they have olive oil and balsamic vinegar in packets.

A much better choice if you ask me.

Later that night, we had a gathering at our apartment.

Lots of cheese!  and wine…

Delicious!

Then this morning, Nancy and I headed to the Vatican with the intention of going to the Vatican Museum (since it’s free the last Sunday of every month).

Instead, we hung out with the Pope

There he is!

After some more walking around and lunch, I headed home and took a nap.   I woke up with a sore throat.

Please don’t let me get sick!  My internship needs to start ASAP!

Discovering Indoor Exercise and Roasted Vegetables

As much as I hate to admit this, being at my parent’s house was driving me crazy.  For some reason, being there makes me the most sedentary person on the planet.

Example: I watched every episode (5 1/2 season) of How I Met Your Mother in the nearly 3 weeks I was home.  Hilarious show! But that’s wayyyy too much TV.

The truth is, I feel better when I’m more active.  I like walking places and working out.  It just makes me feel better about myself.

So now that I’m in Ithaca, I’m trying to find ways to feel better about myself and my health… despite this:

I won’t lie.  The weather here can be terrible.  I walked to meet up with some friends and my toes were numb even though I was wearing tights, thick socks and snow boots.

But to keep myself moving, I present to you, my home gym:

Real state of the art, right?

Lately I’ve taken to doing circuits while watching episodes of last season’s The Biggest Loser.

Circuit 1: 25 Step ups
Circuit 2: 20 crunches
Circuit 3: 25 jumping jacks
Circuit 4: 20 bicycle crunches
Circuit 5: 25 bunny hops (back and forth over my computer charger)
Repeat

Not the most exciting work out ever but definitely better than sitting and doing nothing.  I’ve also recently discovered ExerciseTV online!

I made another discovery.  It’ll revolutionize lunch (or dinner… for me, at least).  Okay so I didn’t really discover it.  Rather, it’s new to me.

Roasted Broccoli

Who knew it could be so delicious.

What you need:

  • Broccoli, Carrots, Onions, etc.
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • baking sheet
  • oven preheated to 400F

Combine broccoli, other vegetables, olive oil, balsamic vinergar, salt and pepper.  Put it all on a baking sheet like such:

Roast at 400F for about 25 minutes.

Makes a wonderful side dish.  I’m so pleased!  Last night I went and bought more broccoli just so I could have it again.

Definitely recommend it if you haven’t tried it.

Off to try to get some work done, or at least move myself a bit.  Have a wonderful day!

Cakes and Rum Balls

I left Ithaca where it was a chilly 10F for California, where countless friends and family members had been bragging about the warm weather.

The second I landed, the weather turned rainy and cold.  It’s been raining for 5 days straight.  I have the worst luck.

So since I’ve been stuck at home, I worked on the never ending report! made a cake (among other things).

Okay really I made 2 cakes.  Both were mistakes.  My brother asked me to make a cake for a party he’s going to.  For some reason I thought his party was on Monday December 20th.  Nope, it’s on Thursday December 23rd.

Clearly a cake made on December 19th would be no good by the 23rd.  So instead, I took one to a party, and another was made for family friends.

Chocolate cake filled with chocolate mousse and frosted with raspberry whipped cream.

I didn’t try it, but I can only imagine it’s good.

Facebook wall confirmed.

Great!

Now, you know everyone favorite part of making layer cakes… leveling off the top?

Well I had a lot of leveled off cake tops after making 2 layer cakes.  So instead of stuffing my face, which ordinarily is my favorite thing to do.  I decided to make something exciting.

Chocolate Rum Balls

1 1/2 cups crumbled chocolate cake
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tbsp dark rum
1 tbsp honey
Extra powdered sugar, cocoa powder, or melted chocolate

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Any good Guatemalan household has Guatemalan Rum…

Use your hands to form it all into a mass.  Break off pieces and roll into one inch little balls.

Then you can roll them in powdered sugar, cocoa powder or dip them in melted chocolate.  Refrigerate for a few hours and serve!

My brother gave one to my niece; she wasn’t a fan.

Me on the other hand… I’ve eaten about 5 today… Clearly I hated them.

Now I need to figure out what cake to actually make for my brother’s gathering.

In the meantime…

 

Fall Cake

It feels like fall.  That’s probably because it is.

Lately, we’ve had daytime highs of 43F.  To most Californians that would sound like winter.

Most mornings it’s below 30F.  Most Californians (including my former self) don’t even know what that feels like.

Regardless of what fall looks and feels like, I generally have a vague idea of how fall tastes.

At work, there is a cake called the Fall Collection.  I’ve never tasted it in it’s full glory, but I’ve tried pretty much all the component parts: Gingerbread Cake, Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake, Caramel Pecans and Vanilla Buttercream.

Sounds like fall.

I was inspired to recreate it.

I won’t lie.  This was sort of a process.  It pretty much requires two days since the cheesecake has to cool completely and set.

BUT totally worth it.

Start with the cheesecake.  I used good ol’ Paula Deen’s recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake.  I’m not 100% pleased with the recipe, I think it could use a little more spice.  But definitely not bad for my first try at cheesecake.

I didn’t have a springform pan, so I greased and floured two round 9″ baking pan and lined the bottom with wax paper to keep it from sticking.  After baking and letting it set overnight in the fridge, I used a knife along the edge of the pan and turned the pan over.  The cheesecake slipped out pretty easily.

The next step was the gingerbread cake.  Using this Food Network recipe, but adding extra crystallized ginger.  Great flavor, but would like it to be a little less dry (or maybe I just overbaked it a bit).

While your gingerbread cake is cooling, start making the caramel.  I’ve never had my caramel turn out right.  This time it did!  It was great!  Thanks to Yummy Supper!

Toast the pecans and mix it with the caramel.

Then the layering can start.

Start with the gingerbread cake.  Put it on a plate, remove some of the cake to make a little well for the caramel pecans.  This will keep it from overflowing.

Next, place the pumpkin cheesecake layer.  My cheesecake had a little bit of a well in it naturally (mistake maybe?), the well allowed me to pour more caramel pecans in there and keep them from flowing out.

However, if you, unlike me, make perfect cheesecake that is flat on top, you can create a barrier with buttercream that will keep your caramel from flowing all over the place.  Which leads to the next step, frosting.

Make traditional vanilla buttercream with butter, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract.  Frost the cake all around.

Lay it on there thick, because we could all use a little more buttercream in our lives.

Mexico

Sometimes we all do things we regret.  This week I did a few, or maybe  just one.

I didn’t tell my parents I was going to Mexico.

Big mistake.

They freaked out after not hearing from me for days.  My mom called the Cornell Police Department to report me missing.  It was a fiasco.

But I don’t regret going to Mexico.  It was pretty much amazing.

I seem to have anxiety attacks prior to flying, but luckily I had delicious Ghiradelli Chocolate from Foodbuzz Tastemakers to calm me down.  Definitely don’t regret eating those.

I also don’t regret spending my fall break doing research.

I met interesting people.

Tried interesting things… like Pozol… Corn and Cocoa beans milled together, then made into a dough that is then dissolved in water to make a thick drink.

I definitely thought I would regret drinking that after I saw where the water came from.

Also saw some crazy things

Saw thought provoking things

and some really beautiful things

and in the end, I’m glad I went.

Let’s hope our report isn’t a complete failure.  I’m thoroughly concerned for a whole slew of reasons I really don’t want to get into.

Let’s just say, sometimes I think I care a little too much.

Indian Feast!

I’m back!  I went to Florida for a few days to visit some friends, cousins and an aunt!  Fun all around!  Beach, lots of food and family!  It was a nice break from the internet and taking pictures of food, but I’m ready for more blog fun!

Before I left last week, the Biscotti Queen and her fella came over to help me eat some vegetables before my trip.  Here’s another little known fact about the Biscotti Queen: in India, the little boy she lived with called her the Chapati Queen.  I had to put that nickname to the test.

What is chapati?  Everytime you go to an Indian restaurant, you probably order naan or roti, right?  Chapati is a similar flatbread, cooked on a skillet.  Only a few simple ingredients: whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt and water.

Mix 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup of all purpose with a 1/2 tsp salt.  Add 3/4 cup water, knead until smooth.  Divide into 10-12 balls and roll into thin circles.

Cook on an ungreased, hot skillet for about 30 seconds each side.  You can also toast it on the stove like such

Then brush with butter and sprinkle with salt.  Mmm sooo good!

Serve it with something tasty like Baingan Bharta and Fennel Rice for a quick and easy Indian inspired meal!

Baingan Bharta

from Manjula’s Kitchen

1 medium eggplant
2 tomatoes
1 jalapeno or green chili
1 bell pepper (I used a strange yellow variety)
1 tsp ground ginger (or 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp tumeric (I completely forgot to add this and it still tasted good)
1/2 tsp cayenne
salt to taste (or about a tsp)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Microwave the eggplant 8-10 minutes, until tender.  Allow to cool then peel and dice.  Set aside.

In a blender, blend together the tomatoes, jalapeno (or green chili) and ginger.  Set aside.

Heat oil in deep pan or pot.  Once oil is hot, add diced bell pepper and sautee for 2 minutes.  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Next, add cumin and coriander to oil and stir.  Add in the blended tomato mixture, add tumeric and cayenne.  Add eggplant and bring to a boil.  Using a wooden spoon, mash the eggplant along the side of the pot for about 10 minutes.  By the end you should have a lumpy mash.  Lastly, stir in garam masala and cilantro.

Serve with Chapati and Fennel Rice with Raisins!

Eating with your hands is recommended!  After our delicious feast, Biscotti Queen and boy were pooped.  Aren’t they adorable?

BUT that didn’t stop us I from finishing up something we’d been wanting to make for a looong time!  Stay tuned for that!

Sunday Dinner

I love big families.

My family is big and loving and fun.  When we get together, everyone is greeted with a hug and kiss.  There’s always a ton of food and generally some salsa music playing in the background (Laura, that Celia Cruz CD has a permanent spot on my ipod and in my heart).

Last week, I was lucky enough to meet and share a meal with a family that rivaled my own in enthusiasm and affection.

The Biscotti Queen talks about Sunday dinner with her family all the time, usually recounting the amazing things her grandmother makes.  She wasn’t kidding when she said Sunday dinner with her family is an event.

This lady made it all happen.  That’s the Biscotti Queen’s grandmother.  She made an outstanding meal all on her own!

Penne in Vodka Sauce with crusty ciabatta

Green Beans, Lamb, Corn, Potatoes, zucchini pancakes.  I was so excited I forgot to take pictures of it all.

and three desserts:

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse in Dark Chocolate Cups

Chocolate Pavlova made by the Biscotti Queen’s beautiful mama.  Oooooh myyyy goodness. I think this one was my favorite!  I’d never had pavlova before but it was aaaamaaazing!

and a sponge cake with peaches and cream.

You’ve probably noticed I love dessert.  I was in heaven… and luckily surrounded by wonderful people

and cute dishes!

Dinner was never this exciting (or long!  the whole meal took about 4 hours!) at my house!

I’m so thankful Sara’s wonderful family let me join them for their weekly family tradition!  This was most definitely one of my most memorable meals!

Nutella Makes Everything Delicious

I want a big scoop of ice cream right now more than you’ll know.  Instead of giving in, I’m going to try to write about a fantastic dessert the Biscotti Queen and I made for Sunday Dinner with her family

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse in Dark Chocolate Bowls.

Do I need to say any more? Well maybe just how to make it.

Inflate some balloons to the size that you want your bowl to be.  Dip the balloons in melted dark chocolate chips, place on plate/sheet pan lined with wax paper.

Refrigerate (or put infront of the AC) until the chocolate hardens.

In the meantime, make the mousse.  Mix together a 13oz jar of nutella with 3 cup of heavy cream.  This guy comes in handy…

Whisk with a mixer until you get peaks.  Be careful!  I overmixed in the first attempt (don’t go thinking I let all that nutella and cream go to waste… more on that in a bit).  Once you’ve whipped up the mousse, pop the balloons!  You might have to peel them off carefully and gently like we did.  Be careful not to crack the chocolate or handle it too long, as it’ll melt.

Fill the bowls with mousse and refrigerate for a few hours.  We didn’t do this so we had sort of a soupier mousse than is desirable, but I’m sure if refrigerated in the bowls it would turn out great!

Serve with a strawberry!

The presentation is lovely and the taste is absolutely AMAZING!!  The best part… it’s SUPER easy!  Only 3 ingredients: Nutella, Cream and Chocolate!

Now onto my mistake.  So I accidentally overwhipped the nutella and cream!  Oops!  It turned to liquid again!  Boo!

Solution: Chocolate Hazelnut Creme Brulee

Chocolate Hazelnut Creme Brulee

1 13 oz jar nutella
3 cup heavy cream
7 egg yolks, lightly beaten
12 teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 275F.  Combine the first 3 ingredients.  Pour mixture into 12 ramekins.  Put ramekins in a large baking dish or roasting pan, fill pan with hot water until ramekins are half way submerged.  Bake 45-60 mins.  Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar and burn sugar using a kitchen torch or broiler.

Deeeeelish!

Best mistake I’ve made in a while.

Hmm… I still want ice cream.  Distracting yourself from your cravings with other delicious treats probably isn’t the best idea.  Oh well!

Coming up… Sunday Dinner with Italians!

Brooklyn Birthday

I had a pretty amazing weekend.  Sure, it was my birthday, but really that wasn’t even the good part.

Let me tell you about it.

It started on Friday, when I drove down to the NYC area.  I picked up the Biscotti Queen at her parents house and we headed to Brooklyn to visit our friend who was subletting a place with the most AMAZING rooftop.

The view was outstanding.

Even better was the food

and obviously drink

Grilled french bread with dijon mustard, brie, avocado and sundried tomato.

Oh goodness.  Make it now!

This was only the beginning of the weekend of eating.   Stay tuned for more!

Cherry Cobbler

Most of the time, I don’t have the heart to bake with fresh fruit that is delicious (i.e. blueberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc.).  I usually think they should be enjoyed, raw, delicious and completely on their own (I don’t understand putting sugar on strawberries!), as nature intended.

But if someone gives me some fruit and asks me to bake something with it, do you really think I’d say no?

Cherry Cobbler

from All Recipes

3 tablespoons butter (I used EarthBalance)*
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk*
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups fresh pitted cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread cherries in a greased 9 inch pie pan or 9×9 square baking dish.   Combine the first seven ingredients in a bowl. Spread the mixture over the cherries.  Combine the 1 cup of sugar with a tablespoon of flour and a cup of boiling water then pour it over the batter and cherries.  Bake for 45 minutes.

*Use non-dairy milk and Earthbalance to make it vegan.

Potential Problems You Might Face in Making This Cobbler:

  • Pitting the cherries if you don’t have a cherry pitter.  –> Solution: Enlist the help of a friend.  Slice the cherries in half and pull out the pit with your fingers.
  • Temptation to eat the entire thing –> Solution: Give it to the friend who helped with the pitting.
  • Feeling that you need an occasion to make this.  –>  Solution: New season of Mad Men started last night, make this next Sunday and have a piece with Don Draper and an Old Fashioned.

Was anyone else as sorely disappointed as I was at that first episode last night?