Monday, December 13, 2010

little balls of cake

It's that time of year again, when people find reasons to stay in and warm up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and some delicious treats. For my annual holiday party I decided to make cake balls with my favorite Amy's Bread yellow cake recipe. Tasting one of these delicacies is like sampling a piece of utopia. I spent a lot of time making over 70 of these drops of heaven. So you can imagine by the end of a long day—full of cake, frosting and chocolate—I was utterly relieved to share with my friends. Believe me, they were delighted too.

The power of these chocolate coated cake balls will stop you and send you into a world of bliss. The thought of biting through a chocolate shell into a soft sweet cake continues to marvel me, as the differing textures are so compatible together. I would definitely suggest learning some patience with this dessert and having at least three dish towels nearby...let's just say that by the end of the day my kitchen was happily covered in sugar, flour and chocolate.

Bake AMY'S YELLOW CAKE and BUTTERCREAM FROSTING. When the cakes are out of the oven and still warm, dump them into a big mixing bowl. Pour the frosting over the cake—this will be messy. Use your hands (if you don't mind) to mix the cake and frosting. It should be very mushy. Make small balls with the mix. Place the cake balls on a baking sheet and place in freezer for at least 1 hour. Take bakers chocolate and melt in a double boiler (it's good to use a candy thermometer to keep the chocolate at the right temperature). Have the cake balls ready. Use a toothpick to insert into the cake balls and one by one dip in the chocolate. Place the chocolate-coated cake balls back on the pan. Repeat until all of the cake balls are coated. Place in freezer until ready to be served. I enjoyed getting extra fancy by melting more chocolate for drizzling and sprinkles for fun (sorry that I only have pictures from the first few steps of the baking process, but understand that few confections last long enough for a proper photo shoot in my house).

happy indulging!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

sweet & savory

What are the first foods that come to mind when you think of a tailgate? Hamburgers? Hot dogs? What's for dessert? Nothing sweet comes to mind when I think of tailgating before a football game. But when my friend, Deb, told me that she was making cupcakes that looked like hamburgers I began to think otherwise. I am a bit of purist—I prefer steamed veggies as opposed to grilled or fried, red ketchup instead of green, and hot fudge instead of the chemically enhanced stuff that hardens. The idea of eating a cupcake that looks like a hamburger baffled me, until I found myself standing in Deb's kitchen fascinated by her confection. One bite had me sold on this clever dessert. The sweet vanilla, chocolate and coconut flavors worked beautifully with the contrasting savory facade. She prepared over 100 hamburger-looking-cupcakes for a fraternity tailgate. Deb used vanilla and chocolate cake-mixes, frosting, shredded coconut, and food coloring for dying.


Bake chocolate and vanilla cake mixes in a cupcake pan. Cut all of the baked vanilla cupcakes in half. The baked chocolate cupcakes you should cut in thirds. The chocolate cake will be the 'burger' and the vanilla cake will be the 'bun.' Use food coloring to dye vanilla frosting—yellow for mustard and red for ketchup. Dye the shredded coconut green for lettuce. Layer the burger with all of the condiments and enjoy this awesome dessert!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the glory of chocolate milk

I just applied for the NYC Marathon, 2011—let the training begin! Along with strengthening my legs at the gym and running outside, I've been trying to eat healthfully so that I have enough energy to keep up with my routine. You'll never guess what I've been gleefully indulging in after my usual run...CHOCOLATE MILK! When I first read about the benefits of drinking chocolate milk after a workout I couldn't believe it—probably because I remember only drinking this sultry and smooth chocolatey delight as a child on occasion. I thought to myself, if this is true I will never miss a day of exercising ever again. Gallons of research has been done on this work-out-recovery-drink and studies show that chocolate milk provides the right amount of carbohydrates, proteins, sodium and fluid to restore your body. Not only does chocolate milk help my body in the physiological sense, but it makes me feel joyous, youthful and alive as it glides down my throat. I drink Organic Valley's Lowfat Chocolate Milk, which comes in a fabulous well-sized container with a straw (always a plus). Let's just say that now I have an even better incentive to keep running.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

hot chocolate

Today was the first real of sign of fall here in Texas. That's right—the third day in November! I woke up in a hurry, walked outside feeling the cool crisp air, looked up and saw a cloudy gray sky. A smile quickly warmed up my face as I thought about coming home later to a nice cup of hot cocoa. I began thinking, what are some varieties of this beloved libation?
Mexican hot chocolate is made with chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and—depending on how spicy you like it—a pinch of chile powder. American hot chocolate generally consists of a chocolate powder, which is often mixed with hot milk or water. Marshmallows are sometimes added, not only to make ourselves feel like we came up with the warm sweet concoction all by ourselves, but to add a nice creamy contrast in color and texture. In Europe hot chocolate is taken seriously and literally. Their winter drink is made with real chocolate, giving it a nice thick consistency. Just imagine walking around the Marais district, bundled up in a chunky knit sweater and cashmere coat, and coming back to your Parisian loft for a hot cup of liquid chocolate—c'est parfait (perfect)!!

Here's a recipe to for Parisian Hot Chocolate (David Lebovitz):

Four ‘Parisian-sized’ Servings

2 cups (1/2l) whole milk
5 ounces (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, (with at least 70% cacao solids), finely chopped
optional: 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1. Heat the milk in a medium-sized saucepan.

2. Once the milk is warm, whisk in the chocolate, stirring until melted and steaming hot. For a thick hot chocolate, cook at a very low boil for about 3 minutes, whisking frequently. (Be careful and keep an eye on the mixture, as it may boil up a bit during the first moments.)

3. Taste, and add brown sugar if desired.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

a piece of cake

I'm on a bit of a cake-baking rampage. Looking at my calendar and seeing a birthday makes my ears perk up, like a giddy dog. A special cake was in order for September 19th. It was my significant eater's twenty-first birthday, as well as his two brothers (triplets). My close rapport with all of the boys, compelled me to bake a spectacular cake. I decided to go with my favorite yellow cake recipe (below) and chose a chocolate silk frosting, from Amy's Bread cookbook. My significant eater loves chocolate so I thought this frosting would be a nice treat. This cake is moist with sweet vanilla flavors permeating through eating compacted crumb. The chocolate frosting adds contrasting texture, taste and color appealing to the senses in my body. At first bite the words OOH and AHH rolled out of my mouth, almost reflexively.

At the end of a wonderful celebratory weekend, all I could think about was the warmth and sense fulfillment this cake stirred up inside—as if it literally took over my soul. But the boys could only think about one more piece of cake.

Amy's Bread Chocolate Silk Frosting

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 3/8 cups Confectioner's sugar
3/4 cup Cocoa powder
2 cups Unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 tspn Vanilla extract
1/8 tspn Kosher salt

Melt the chocolate chips in the top pan of a double broiler and set it aside to cool. In a separate bowl, sift together the confectioner's sugar and cocoa powder.
In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed until it's very light but not too soft, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar mixture and continue to mix on low to medium-low speed until the sugar and cocoa have been well incorporated. Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, and salt and mix again on medium speed until everything is incorporated and the frosting is smooth and has a good spreading consistency, 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful not to over-mix it or the frosting will get too warm and runny. It should be smooth, glossy, and soft enough to spread but still hold a stiff peak.
The frosting can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container at room temperature, but it should be used within 3 days.

*from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread

Monday, August 16, 2010




This is seriously the best cake I've ever made. The buttercream frosting is the perfect consistency, with the right amount of fluff. The sweet taste beautifully accentuates the softness of the yellow cake interior. I searched for Amy's Bread (one of my favorite bakery's) cake recipe and recreated it in my own kitchen. I still cannot believe how incredible it tastes and how precise the recipe is. I'm telling you that simply one bite is like eating pure happiness. If all of the world's problems could be solved with a special cake, it would definitely be this one.

compliments to ben baron for being a great help in baking this fine cake and eating it too.

Monday, August 2, 2010

a tribute to ice cream

Before the leaves change here in New York, I want to dedicate this post to my favorite confection—ice cream. Furthermore, I want to share a piece my fellow intern, Nicole, published in SAVEUR. Her words are absolutely perfect and because I could not express my love for this frozen treat any better, I have linked you to the website below for your enjoyment...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

the BEST cake in the city

As a patron of the arts (particularly the culinary arts) I know that NEW YORK is the place to be. I've heard about many great bakeries here in the city, and tried a few of them out. Initially Magnolia was my favorite bakery...not anymore folks. Two Little Red Hens is a quaint locals-only bakery situated in the upper 80s. You could easily miss the tiny shop if it wasn't your final destination. Thursday, Two Little Red Hens was my only destination. The adorable plaid awning reeled me in like a fish hooked to its bait. The shop smelled sweet, but the aromas were not too strong. The cakes were lined up perfectly behind the counter with spectacular ornate decor. I looked around and saw another case full of pies and other fabulous desserts. When my eyes locked with the cupcakes, I thought no glass shall come between us. I asked the lovely man behind the counter for two mini cupcakes, red velvet and a yellow-cake with chocolate-fudge frosting. After paying and a brief conversation with the man, I sat down to stare at my cupcakes. They were perfectly frosted, with fine ridges that made the cupcakes seem unreal. With each bite, my heart beat grew stronger and stronger (well maybe not, but when I remember the moment that is how I picture it). The cake was perfectly moist with the most delectable smooth icing. I couldn't choose between the red-velvet and the yellow, so I got both. I still cannot decide which I enjoyed more, they were each incredibly flavorful—I guess that means I need to go back.
If you make it to New York City, you MUST stop by this fine bakery.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Love and the City

My love for New York City goes WAY beyond the incredible desserts and pastries available. You know the old cliche, love is in the air? Well, love is in the air here. There are young couples everywhere, pregnant women holding their bellies as they jog at a slow pace and older couples holding hands as they cross the street. Yesterday, on the way home from my usual jog, there was an elegant table set up on the sidewalk outside of a stone-walled apartment complex. You must understand, there were no restaurants on this particular street. There was only a man and a woman sitting at this table enjoying a wonderful meal, the comfortable evening, and each other. Today at the store, the woman behind the counter told a co-worker her account number, so that he could log in. She said soon after, "That's my husband's birthday," with a huge smile on her face. You see, everywhere I go (and I'm sure it would be the same for you, if you were here) I'm surrounded by this giant bubble of love. No wonder there are endless amounts of cupcakeries and ice cream shoppes—sweet confections are the perfect food to share with a loved one.
Naturally, being the intense romantic that I am, when I heard the story of how one of my fellow interns fell in love with her boyfriend, a tear came streaming down my face. Tamar met her man (who was a friend of a friend), while she was studying in Spain. He was in Belgium and insisted upon paying Spain a visit (he really wanted to see her), after communicating through email—only. It took less than two weeks for them to fall in love. Two years later, they are still together.
When Tamar told us (the girls at work) she would be out for a few days, helping with her mother's wedding, we were all ecstatic to hear the details. Since Tamar has her heart set on pastry school, I asked if she'd be making the wedding cake. Although the wedding cake was provided by the lodge, where the reception took place, Tamar did not hold back from adding a hint of sweetness.
Tamar, or T-Muffin, made lovely party favors which were filled with heart-shaped sugar cookies, a chocolate brownie, and (my favorite) chocolate chip cookie with dried cranberries. The confections were wrapped in cellophane with a ribbon and placed in a box labeled "Compliments of T-Muffin."

Tamar said her favorite part of the process was, "decorating the cookies" and "testing the recipes" to make the perfect treats for her mom's wedding.
Today, Tamar brought us party favors from the wedding. With each bite I was more and more impressed. The sugar cookies looked like they were professionally decorated. They had the most wonderful consistency—not too soft and not too crunchy. The brownie was chocolate(y) with little chocolate chunks, yet they were smooth at the same time. The chocolate chip cookie had an incredible surprise—dried cranberries.
So it is true, love just makes people do crazy things...baking is definitely at the top of my list.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sweet Popcorn

My roommate and I love popcorn.
It's a reliable and somewhat healthy snack, which has a way of making me feel like I'm fourteen again. I close my eyes and see myself in sweats curled up on the couch—with a friend and a giant bowl resting on my lap. Nothing to worry about, except finishing the popcorn too fast, when school is canceled because of the brutal Texas "winter storm"...

Naturally, on our first visit to Union Square market my roommate and I decided to buy a bag of white kernels. Over the past few weeks, we've made a few batches of plain popcorn. But, it wasn't until last Monday did we decide to step outside the realm of lightly-salted popcorn to make kettle corn. Earlier that day I found a great recipe for this crunchy sweet and savory confection. Some of the popcorn pieces were heavily caramelized with sugar, which made for a sweet surprise.

Ah, there's nothing like the warm scent of sugary popcorn wafting through the air...

*note: the picture does not do the delicious popped kernels justice. trust me when i say...this recipe is FANTASTIC!


Yesterday I sat in an important meeting with some fellow interns and the California Fig Advisory Board. We sampled Black Mission figs (dried and fresh), dried Calimyrna figs, Mediterranean fig chutney and chocolate covered figs. The world of figs is beautiful, flowery and quite sweet. The fig industry means serious business and I am frank when I say that figs should be in everyones kitchen. This fruit, which looks like an inverted pink-colored flower when breaking through the skin, is fiber-filled and tastes like a rich honey confection.

Chocolate is just one ingredient, which beautifully compliments this amazing fruit. This dessert is absolutely mind-blowing! It is perfect for cocktail parties or for any day of the week.

Chocolate Covered Figs (recipe from California Fig Advisory Board):

4 whole California fresh figs with stems
Fine sea salt, as needed
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Wash and dry figs. Dust lightly with salt; set aside.
Measure chocolate chips into microwavable bowl. Microwave on High for 30 seconds and stir.
Microwave on High for 30 more seconds and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
Holding the fig by the stem, dip in melted chocolate and set on wax paper-lined tray.
Let stand until chocolate is set.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


my buds scream for this ice cream...

"Going out" for me, in the big city, means eating out. So a couple of weeks ago, I went out with two of my good friends. After eating a lovely Italian meal, they were craving a nice piece of cake. I had my heart said on ice cream...typical. Walking around for about twenty minutes we stumbled upon a bakery, where they indulged in marvelous yellow cake with pink frosting. Yes, I had a bite. After finishing that piece of cake I grabbed a business card (so I wouldn't forget the name of the bakery) and we continued to walk around. Well, it didn't take long before I set my eyes on an ice cream store called Cones. With a line out the door, I knew their frozen dessert had to be good. We waited and a few minutes later, I ordered a cup of coffee chocolate chip ice cream. The coffee flavor was very precise and the texture was like a balance between gelato and ice cream. The chocolate specks added a nice touch to the fine flavor. I am not lying or exaggerating when I say this—it was the BEST ice cream I have ever had in the United States. This is saying a lot, considering there are thousands of ice cream stores and brands. You may not call me an "expert," but I have had my fair share of ice cream—enough to tell you that next time you visit New York, you MUST go to the West Village for a cone. I've already been back twice since my first visit.

During my last ice cream run, I learned that the owners are Argentinean. When the "apprentice" pointed out the owner/inventor of this amazing ice cream, I immediately ran up to him and poured out my compliments. He modestly said, "Thank you" and went back to the giant mixer.

Cones $$$ (cash only)
272 Bleecker Street New York, NY 10014
(212) 414-1795
Open Mon-Thu,Sun 1pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 1pm-1am

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Unforgettable at Delmonico's

My grandfather's favorite dessert is a Baked Alaska. Knowing that made planning out my day, with my grandparents, much easier...
A few days ago, I remembered reading that Delmonico's was the place to go for a Baked Alaska. Delmonico's is no ordinary restaurant. Given its history of housing the elite high rollers and only the most fabulous people (including my great grandmother), I knew going to it would be an event. Well, it was more than that. Walking through the big doors, my eyes widened. It was like walking into a dream. Walking to our table in the bar, I couldn't help but look around at the beautiful portraits, classy tables, gold chandeliers and well-dressed men and women laughing as they wait for their food. Since we were only there for dessert, we were seated in the bar area. I was okay with long as our baked alaska exceeded my expectations.
As we waited for our fine delicacy, I watched the men in suits and business attire order drinks while standing around the bar. It was right out of an old movie. I saw our waiter bringing a plate towards us. There it was— our beautiful meringue and banana ice cream combination. It was love at first sight and love at first bite. Seriously it looked like a beautiful piece of art and the taste was seriously good. The banana gelato and the walnut cake were rich and sweet, but not to the extreme. It was just right. What a way to celebrate this fine dessert—in good company at Delmonico's.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Laduree and the Macaron

The way the French say "macaron" does not, at all, sound like the English interpretation "Macaroon." Nor is this dessert anything like the typical coconut macaroon you can find in a can at your local grocery store. This dessert is seriously transcending. Since I knew I was going to the famous Laduree (a Parisian 'tea salon' specializing in this french treat), I had to try a macaron at a local shop first so that I could compare. I really enjoyed my first chocolate macaron, with its chewy chocolate filling sandwiched between two impressive meringue cookies. But, I had no idea what was coming. The next day, we arrived at Laduree in the morning and waited in line for this specialty. The salon was so beautiful, with warm gold and pink colors covering ever inch of the walls and floor. I felt like I was in a dream. I got three mini ones— chocolate (to compare to the traditional macaron I first tried), vanilla and pistachio. I took the chocolate macaron, closed my eyes and went for it. The texture of the meringue was not too hard which made for a clean eating experience (that's always a plus for me). The flavors began bursting in my mouth as my spirits, which were already high, lifted. When I got to the ganache, the soft and creamy filling, I realized why Laduree was so famous. Out of the three flavors I tried, vanilla was probably my favorite since it had little specks of the vanilla bean in the filling. If you ever make your way to Paris, you MUST have a macaron (or three) at Laduree.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

j'adore paris

Patisseries and boulangeries on every street ('rue' would be more appropriate) sounds like an ideal world. Welcome to Paris. My favorite breakfast treat when I was in Paris was a pain au chocolat— a chocolate croissant, with the perfect balance of butter, flour and chocolate...better than you can ever imagine. I wasn't my typical mess when eating this treat because the croissant wasn't too flaky (like the ones that fall apart in your hands or the ones that are too soft it's like eating a stick of butter...aka the poor attempts of Americans to recreate the French pastry). If there are laws for crossing the street, there needs to be a law for bakeries in America. It seems like quality of ingredients is top priority in Paris— at least in the pastry shops and bakeries. I propose a change in the government. There should be a committee of special tasters, which would include the best chefs from every country and a few obsessive foodies to go around to American eateries (just to be sure they are providing us citizens with the best food). Can you imagine waking up every morning knowing that in twenty minutes you will be eating a beautiful perfectly-baked, pain au chocolat? (sigh) If only.

dearest readers

okay, so my blog is taking a temporary turn...i have had a whirlwind of a month— traveling through europe and now settling in new york city. i'm interning at Saveur magazine and enjoying all of the wonderful food and markets this city has to offer. anyhow my posts will be shorter, but hopefully just as sweet.


the confectionist

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pecans on Passover

Passover is quite difficult for a foodie like me. Although there are plenty of flour-less cakes and approved chocolates for me to indulge in (and create), I decided to go a different route this year. I've been on a health-kick lately, so Passover for me includes an increase in fresh produce, protein, and nuts.
I believe that "there's always room for dessert," so no matter what diet you're on you can still satisfy your sweet-tooth. As the end of Passover approaches, I find nothing but some blackberries, eggs, and mushrooms in my refrigerator. Just when I got a craving for something sweet, I spotted a bag of pecans on my counter. I thought to myself, "Should I attempt to candy these pecans?" My inexperience with candying (anything) and somewhat klutzy behavior didn't hold me back.
To my relief, the pecans turned out to be a grand success without a complete mess-of-a-kitchen! This small confection provided a large burst of sweet serenity to my palette in a guilt-free manner. Ahh, I can just imagine how magnificent these pecans would taste with fresh vanilla ice-cream...


2 1/2 tspns granulated sugar

1/2 tspn cinnamon

around 15 pecans (halved)

Put sugar and cinnamon in a metal pot on the stove. Set on medium heat. Watch the sugar. As it begins to melt, mix the cinnamon, sugar quickly. Add the pecans, mix. The pecans should begin to form a ball. Immediately remove the pecan-ball and place it on a piece of foil. While it's still warm break up the pecans to individual pieces. Bon Appétit!!

**You can add these pecans to a spring salad or vanilla ice cream for a pleasant surprise. You can also substitute pecans for your favorite nut (works best with hazelnuts & sliced almonds).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Baked Alaska

My infatuation with all-things-delicious is purely genetic. Really, I think my DNA is infused with bursts of flavor and spoonfuls of enthusiasm. When my grandparents came to town, they went out to Oceanaire and raved about the food. My Grandfather, a man with a well-respected palate, described to me the dessert he indulged in—it was called "Baked Alaska." Hearing the words, ice-cream, cake, fire, meringue, left me salivating. I was very curious to see what this fantastic dessert was all about. Since my Gramps and I have an impenetrable bond, especially when it comes to our love for dessert, he insisted on treating me to this mysterious confection. He took me and my parents to Oceanaire, where we made a reservation for dessert—only! It was perfect. In this family, we are serious about everything that we consume so I came fully prepared—I already ate dinner so I wasn't hungry...but I saved plenty of room for dessert. We all ordered coffee, which is pretty standard for my native-New York family, and "one Baked Alaska." As we chatted, my anticipation grew. I didn't know what to expect.
Minutes later, the waiter came towards our table with about an 8-inch plate and with a dessert that looked like a bee-hive covered in whipped cream. He placed it down, right in front of me, pulled out a lighter and lit this dessert. I was in awe, this "Baked Alaska" more than just a scrumptious dessert—it was truly a piece of art (not-so-permanent though).The unruly flames died after a minute and it was time to divvy up this treat. My first bite was like floating on clouds on a cool day—the combination of the fluffy meringue, chocolate cake, and mint-chocolate-chip ice-cream gave me a natural high. The textures were well-balanced, and the flavors were spectacular. This was one of the best desserts I've EVER had.
When Gramps' brother, Uncle Herby, came to town, my parents and I brought him to Oceanaire...just for dessert ( I know, we have our priorities straight). He was very excited to try this foreign confection...and let's just say he wasn't disappointed. I think that this sweet experience was the cherry to his sundae flame to his Baked Alaska.

Readers, have you ever had a Baked Alaska? What was your experience like?

This confection is actually a Norwegian dessert. It's called " omelette á la norvégienne" or a Norwegian omelette.
The name "Baked Alaska" was designated to this treat when Delmonico's, a famous New York restaurant, named it in honor of "the newly acquired territory of Alaska" in 1876.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A New Kind of Brownie

Brownies are a great dessert mainly because of the dense consistency, rich chocolate flavor and its finger-food form. I've never met someone who has an aversion to brownies—even my friend who claims to dislike chocolate occasionally indulges in one. Brownies are the perfect treat probably because we've indulged in these chocolate squares since we were little. Slumber parties involved brownie-baking and birthday parties required a pan full of brownies for those who didn't like the classic celebratory vanilla cake—well, I somehow managed to always get both. Whether from a box or an old family recipe, you can never go wrong with brownies.
When my friend, Laken, spoke of red-velvet brownies excitement began seeping through my mind. This confection was foreign to me, so I did my research and found a great recipe. I've always been a fan of red-velvet cake, with its aesthetically pleasing rouge color and fantastic flavor. To top it off, a cream-cheese frosting makes this sweet treat even more spectacular.
After being introduced to red-velvet brownies, I feel like I've been upgraded to first-class. This recipe makes for an incredible dessert, which I just added to my leather-bound cook book (the one I will use for family gatherings, birthdays and the one I will pass on to my daughter). From now on, a ceramic plate of these velvety brownies will attend ALL of my soirées.

You must try this recipe from McCormik:


1 cup flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon red food coloring

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch baking pan with foil. Spray foil with no stick cooking spray. Mix flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Mix eggs, granulated sugar, sour cream, food coloring and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Gradually stir in flour mixture until well mixed. Spread in prepared pan.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar

Drizzle on top of brownies or spread them evenly like you would for a cake (after they cool)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Paper Hearts and a Box of Chocolate

Ah, I love this time of year. Everywhere I go, I'm reminded of Valentine's Day with chocolates stocked everywhere from coffee shops to convenient stores. Red and pink hearts are pasted on storefront windows and all I think is...does this day need to come? I know that when the clock strikes 12:00am on Febuary 15th, everything will change. Why can't every day be like the 28 days leading up to this occasion? I truly believe that days filled with paper hearts and a life full of chocolates would make for a better world...after all who doesn't like being tempted with assorted truffles?

I am absolutely dreading February 15th—not because I have a French exam—because the selection of chocolates will be minimal, the romantic jewelry commercials be gone and cut-out-hearts will be found only in kindergarten classrooms. Let's not forget that the only thing left in our red cardboard boxes will be a few chocolate caramel truffles (I save the best for last) surrounded by empty metallic candy wrappers .

Mark my words...If I own a restaurant or bakery one day, I won't mess with peoples emotions like this—A warm atmosphere, musique d'amour, heart-shaped linzer torte cookies and fantastic chocolate truffles are only a few of the temptations that will seduce my customers into returning for another spectacular culinary affair.

If you don't have a "valentine" this year, go buy yourself a box of chocolate. And if you do, remember that no one is making you share.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coffee Etiquette?

Yesterday, I met up with a friend for a cup of coffee. It was a cute little coffee shop right by where I live—it was quite cozy, which was great on a gray winter day. We each ordered a caramel macchiato—I've never indulged in this drink before, but I was in a daring mood. I'd definitely call it a liquid confection, for its sweet caramel flavors swirling around amongst two shots of espresso made my mouth feel like it was twirling on an ice-rink.
My friend began pouring our her heart with regards to her current rocky relationship, while I sipped on my warm drink. As I listened, I realized how fast my coffee was leaving my cup. In between offering advice and unveiling her vulnerability, I slyly glanced over to the coffee table to see if her mug was still full. I was a little disappointed when I saw that she had at least thirty more minutes, before finishing her drink. We had been sitting with our coffee for at least fourty-five minutes, and I was just three sips away from an empty mug.
I began to wonder if there was a certain standard, for how fast one should drink in the presence of a fellow comrade. Was it rude that I drank so fast? Was she just too slow? What does this say about me? Is it unacceptable that I like to drink my coffee while it's hot?
An hour and fourty-five minutes passed before my dear friend finally finished her coffee and sorted out her life. I doubt her last sip warmed her up like mine, but hopefully the company did.

Readers, what do you think about coffee drinking etiquette? Are there some rules I'm missing out on?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


When I think about the American staple for dessert, well, that is processed—and nestled in hermetic packages so that some four year old in the child's seat of a grocery cart can drool all over the outside without being able to open it—I think of Oreos. I guess we all tend to go "gaga" over these little chocolate and cream least us Americans.
These perfect treats have the right amount of contrasting textures, with a crunchy chocolate cookie on either side of a thin layer of smooth cream filling. As much as I love the standard Oreo, I absolutely despise double stuffed. Too much cream is like an overstuffed pillow—miserably uncomfortable. Too much filling overpowers the cocoa taste of the outer cookie and throws off the well-balanced textures.
I've tried Oreo Cakesters, vanilla Oreos, mini Oreos, mint Oreos—the list must end there... because as long as Nabisco provides my local grocery store with standard Oreos, my taste buds and I aren't budging.

Now if you are a "cookies n' cream" ice cream's an easy ice cream cake recipe. In the name of Sandra Lee, this cake entails "semi-homemade cooking":

1 quart of cookies n' cream ice cream (semi-melted)**
1 chocolate cake mix
1 container of Cool Whip
9 X 13 pan

Bake chocolate cake. Let cool and freeze for a few hours (this enables you to easily spread the ice cream layer). When the cake is semi-frozen, pour (semi-melted) cookies n' cream ice cream over the cake—use a spatula spread it out. The amount of cake should be equivalent to the amount of ice cream. Cover with foil. Put in freezer over night. Take cake out of freezer, cover the cake with a thin layer of cool whip (like frosting). Add decorative writing if you wish and serve.

**if you wish to "make" the ice cream layer (instead of buying cookies n' cream ice cream), take vanilla ice cream and blend with Oreos. Be sure you don't let the ice cream melt completely.

Bon Appétit!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Go Green

Last night I made sushi with Vitali, which turned out to be quite delicious. For dessert I got a quart of Green Tea Ice Cream from Central Market, which was a perfect finally to a lovely Japanese meal. This ice cream was really flavorful and the texture was—astoundingly—very similar to the Green Tea Ice Cream I previously posted about. Everything about this frozen, earthy, delight is really spectacular—let's just say that even if I wanted to share...I couldn't (yes, it's all gone).
I wanted to provide the name with my readers in case you get the urge to try this fabulous treat...
Maeda-en is the brand—choose their standard Green Tea Ice Cream.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Appreciate Today

As you are all aware, the people of Haiti are currently suffering more than you can possibly imagine. No home, no food, no water...
I'd like to think that I am always grateful for a delectable dessert because it is truly a luxury. Imagine if you're the type of person who has a piece of chocolate everyday or never has a meal without a sweet delicacy at the end. Now think about the Haitians. Take a minute today to be grateful for what you have, for what you get to enjoy. If you were planning on buying dessert today, instead use that money to donate to Haitians who are struggling for simple necessities—like food (something most of us take for granted).
There is a link on the side of this blog that will connect you to FEED Projects (an organization that uses money from FEED Bags-these may look familiar-to feed starving children allover the world where food is inaccessible). The FEED Projects is currently donating the money from these bags to Haiti, for their Feed Haiti Campaign. You can also donate directly to their Campaign if you choose. If food is close to your heart, give back today...
I used to say, "the little things in life make me happy." People that know me, agree. But today I realized, nothing is "little." These things— like: the sense of relief with a soft tissue (after a day of an unbearable runny nose), a cool pillow, or a scoop of ice cream—that yield a smile and comforting sigh, make me happy. But they are only a dream to many people around the world— and that makes them so much greater. So from this day forward I am grateful, not "for the little things in life" but for all good things in life.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Crossing Lines between Coffee & Tea

I’m a devout coffee drinker—it’s genetic. My beautiful family wears their loyalty on their teeth, with coffee’s powerful staining ability visible at just an inch of a smile. Avec le diner ou le dessert…café au lait, espresso, petit, grandé—you get the point.

For most coffee lovers, coffee ice cream is like a dream come true. With every bite taste buds become energized and a smile peels away revealing those not-so-white teeth. I am definitely not a moderate when it comes to loving both coffee and tea, but I can appreciate the divine taste of Green tea.

It wasn’t until recently that I tried Green tea ice cream at Vitali’s favorite Japanese restaurant when we were on a double date with his brother. Although sushi-loving Vitali enjoys the sweet wonders of cookies n’ cream ice cream, he cringes at the sight of Phillip’s favorite frozen delicacy—green tea ice cream.

I absolutely detest those preserved “cherries” that ice cream parlors top off a sundae with—so I was quite hesitant when I saw how the ice cream was served. The wasabi-colored scoop threw me off a bit, but Phillip insisted I try it. I slid my utensil through the striking green concoction, pulled out a spoonful and looked at it one last time before setting it in my mouth. Fireworks went off inside, with strong green tea flavors permeating through every inch of my mouth. The natural taste made for a surreal experience with sandy textures working in tandem with a strong earthy taste to taunt my tongue. I wanted more…but I feigned the will share.

You don’t have to be a tea connoisseur to appreciate this wonderful Japanese frozen delight, but it may bring you to the "I Love Tea" borderline.