Friday, April 24, 2009

Too Good Not To Eat

I guess you can say I was in a baking mood this week. Last night I attempted to make, David Lebovitz's chouquettes, which are French, bread(y), cookie-like pastries. Adding cinnamon and sugar to the glaze made these light airy pastries even more delicious than my taste buds had hoped. When it comes to dessert, I have no self-discipline. Therefore my refrigerator stocks only fruit, vegetables, soymilk, water, dark chocolate, and plain yogurt. When I bake, my lack of control becomes an issue; if I keep a pile of cookies on my counter I always overindulge. 
This is one good reason for having an admirable suitor in your life, as I do. I knew that if I made chouquettes, he would be more than willing to take a plate-full (piled high) of these delicacies. When I called Vitali this afternoon, to be sure to set two aside for a couple we are going out with tomorrow, his gleeful response was "too late, I ate them all." At least now you should be convinced that Lebovitz's chouquette recipe is worth trying. But if your cookie jar seems inexplicably low, send me a message and I'll talk to my cookie monster. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cafe Au Lait

I'm fascinated by the omnipresence of coffee. People wake up in the morning and the first thing they do is make a fresh cup. Millions of people are drinking coffee at this very moment— decaf, tall, grande, large, small, cappuccino. There is probably a gas station at which you can pump the coffee yourself, a unique little coffee shop, or a Starbucks around the corner. Coffee
 does not stop at its diversity of flavors and pungency; with all of the extras you may add, one could write a novel. Sugar, cream, saccharine filled sweetener, chocolate, caramel... the list goes on.  None of those appeal to me, for I am a purist (or so I like to think). I like coffee with milk (soy) or what the Italians call caffe latte. This is my favorite drink; a day without it, is a day incomplete. When it's hot outside an iced latte cools me off while providing me with the utmost delight. If it's mid-December a hot latte has a way of warming me and my cold hands up, as my wintery-chapped mouth slowly absorbs the rich flavors.  
If it would provide me with the nutrition doctors say I need, cake and coffee is all I'd consume in a day. I'm not the only one in my family with great-taste— it's genetic. I remember Dad telling me, that when he was just a lad, he'd walk into the kitchen  and on numerous occasions his parents would be sitting around the table with friends and shmoozing over coffee and cake.  I remember the first time I enjoyed coffee was with my father, when I was a young girl. Dad was taking me to buy house-slippers for my cold feet; they were pink with one white embroidered clock on either shoe. Instead of going straight home after our purchase he turned to me half-smiling and said, "Rachael I have a surprise for you." I remember anxiously waiting for Dad to arrive at this "surprise" destination. He finally parked the car and there it was. On the outside there was a sign with a funny shaped woman on it, and I asked what "Starbucks" meant. Dad explained that it was the name of a new coffee shop, first established in Seattle. I never tasted a drop coffee until that day. We went in, and he ordered a tall latte with skim milk. After his first sip, he used the word "superb" as  he always does when describing something he likes. I tried the foreign drink after it cooled, and admitted that I too like the taste of the latte. I vividly remember the cozy velvet chairs we sat in as we absorbed the atmosphere of this new coffee-house, that I would later describe as American imperialism at it's best
As I reflect on that day I wonder if I actually enjoyed the taste of coffee or just said I did because I've always wanted to be just like my father, which at the time entailed doing and saying everything he did. Whatever the answer may be, today, I whole-heartedly, genuinely and willingly enjoy the aromatic warm flavors coffee. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

At Last...

At last, my love has come along... The words to Etta James' song, were ringing in my ears as I took a bite of my home-made chocolate chip cookie. I finally found the recipe that I will soon inscribe in my leather-bound journal that I use as my cook-book. This is the recipe that I will use to fill my cookie jar that will sit on my kitchen counter. These are the cookies my children will eat with a cold glass of milk, and the cookies I will adorn with shiny ribbon as a get-well remedy for a sick friend. I guess my cookie disaster the other night was a "felix culpa" or a happy fault— a mistake that resulted in finding the perfect recipe. These quick and easy, dairy-free, 100% whole wheat, chocolate chip cookies are delicious delicacies will satiate every cookie lovers sugary fantasy! Hurry up to your kitchen! 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cookies Gone Awry

I've been searching for the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie recipe for a while now. The perfect cookie entails the right amount of crunch and chewiness in the same bite. It must be sweet, but not cavity inducing. The perfect cookie must be made with whole wheat flour and vegan butter so I can call it "healthy"  (well really justify it for myself) while tasting like the creme de la creme.   Turning to the Toll House recipe is just not good enough for me— it's just as homemade as buying the Toll House "break & bakes." I'm starting to think that the agony of finding the right recipe is just not worth it. But my palette, told me otherwise a few nights ago. 
My friend, Nicole, and I spent last Thursday evening baking chocolate chip cookies. We were off to a late start, probable around 9:51. I wanted to try a new recipe, one that I found on a favorite blog of mine. I have never been so precise when baking, we double checked the instructions and used exact measurements. I like to use Earth Balance, vegan butter, instead of regular butter filled with large amounts of artery clogging, heart attack causing cholesterol and fat. The sticks are packaged in half size. Therefore, 2 cups of butter would mean 4 sticks of Earth Balance. 
We mixed the batter, placed little balls of dough on two shiny pans, and put them in the oven. As we anxiously waited, Nicole and I cleaned the bowl. Mmmm cookie dough. 
With 6 minutes to go, I turned the oven light and saw that our cookies had merged together to form  large pans of what looked like mush with specks of glistening chocolate. It was so bad that on one of the pans, the slop of cookies began to dripping off the edge. When the timer turned off, the result was an ugly and tasteless mess. I thought this recipe would be the end to my interminable search! I was ever so wrong. 

A few days later, I replayed the steps we took when baking over and over again in my head. I continued analyzing the chocolate chip recipe, seeing where we could have gone wrong (or where the maker of this recipe went wrong). It hit me like a gallon of milk being thrown at my head— we only put 2 halves of Earth Balance in the batter! 
Lesson learned: you can't expect to master the "perfect" cookie recipe past bedtime.
I plan to make a new batch this week. Any recipe suggestions? 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Scream For...GELATO

It's pretty warm in Texas and being that it's still Passover, I've  been craving chocolate ice cream— gelato. Dad and I went to Italy, on a "father-daughter" trip, and I can proudly say that we ate our way through the fabulous country. We were on a tour and from time to time we'd ditch the group to do a little exploring of our own. On our own time, we got a taste for the real Italy. Among all the beautiful churches and ancient ruins is a country filled with the most delectable food. In every city from Orvietto to Rome every corner you turn down lies a quaint gelato shop. After my first spoonful of bacio (chocolate with hazelnut) gelato I fell deeper in love with Italy. The rich nutty and cocoa flavors combined with the cool and creamy texture created a symphony in my mouth. Dad and I would eat gelato at least three times a day, but I could've eaten a lot more. In Venezia gelato tubs, are adorned with unique masks and decorations beautifying the frozen dessert. You know you're in an exquisite place, when even the ice cream shops are sparkling. 
If you get the chance to travel to Italy, forget dieting. Be sure to stop in every gelateria to see it's uniqueness and if you can't resist, try every flavor there is. 
Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Since I observe Passover, many foods are restricted. This is one of the hardest holidays, because it involves eating only simple foods for eight days— no bread, no corn, no rice, no beans, no soy products... I've been noshing on vegetables, almonds, strawberries and eating lots of apples. As I bit into a red apple today, my crunching could not distract me from thoughts of the delicious apple pie I made for Thanksgiving. Barefoot Contessa's fabulous recipe took me three hours, but the result was well worth it. It was perfect. Just thinking about the cinnamon and spicy flavors combined with the buttery flavor of the crust makes my mouth water. Only two more days to go... 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If You Give a Mouse A Cookie...

I was told that the "Oreo of Argentina" is called an alfahor. The only similarities between these American and South American delights, are the sandwich-like form and the popularity. I tried my first one in Cordoba, after a long day of painting a kindergarten. 
We were given an hour-break before night activities, so Erin and I decided to explore the area. The city is unlike anywhere I have ever been- with shops practically on top of each other and intricate details on the buildings. We trotted along, with backpacks on our backs- making us tourists very distinct. We had no shame in stopping and admiring the uniqueness of hardware specialty stores; and meat hanging all around tiny grocery stores. We saw little kiosks with chocolate, cigarettes (of course), snacks, and all different types of alfahors. I wasn't sure what the most popular brand was at the time, but there was one package that stood out to me. It was transparent. I could see the brownish coloring of the alfahor and the dulce de leche oozing out of the sides. It looked home-made, gourmet- I had to try it. I bought two, one for me and one for Erin. 
I carefully unwrapped mine, it was like holding a piece of glass- light and delicate. Afraid of shattering the cookie-like delicacy I put it to my mouth. Unaware of its life-changing ability, I took a bite. The alfahor had a soft texture. As I slowly chewed, the flavors began to excite my taste buds. Sweet. Light. It tasted like the sugarplum fairy from the Nutcracker ballet. Oreo's are undeniably, crunchy, chocolate(y) and delicious. But alfahors, are capable of satisfying me and my salivary glands in ways even a Nutcracker couldn't imagine. Do yourself a favor and try one of these treats.