Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cake? Truffles? Lollypops? Who knows!

Hello Hello!

I was struck by a recipe of pure genius as I was surfing on of my favorite foodie blogs, TheKitchn. I noticed an adorable picture of Bakerella's St. Patrick's Day cake balls. I decided then and there that I would set out to make them, or their simpler counterparts, the generic cake balls I managed it, without a dull moment in the whole process. These balls are lovely for a big group of people, but there are several stages so start it a couple nights before, if you have a day job or school, or do it during one whole afternoon if you can. {This post was written in the thick of it, so follow along on my meandering journey through a seemingly simple process}

It was truly a worthwhile adventure, but an adventure nonetheless. Me, in a wonderfully glorious moment of dyslexia managed to misread the recipe and set the temperature to almost 200 degrees below the needed heat... probably because I am used to recipes listing Fahrenheit first, then Celsius. Whoops!

I reset the temperature, but not soon enough, as the mixture proceed to spill over onto the cookie sheet I prudently put under... At this point I am amused, but hopeful.

As you can probably deduce, that is not a Red Velvet cake. It is, in fact, a Devil's Food Cake. Bakerella noted that Red Velvet may just be a southern thing (hopefully our Mississippi bound writer will try it when she's there!)

Hmmm... Perhaps I should have put this in a larger pan... I am so glad that this was my first attempt at a boxed cake. It's the one style of cake that nobody will know if you had some creative ways of evicting it from its pan! The consistency is great, and the cake will be reshaped afterward, so it's pretty challenging to mess it up.

I may have a freer schedule because of exams, but I am not the most patient, so the cake remains are in the refrigerator chillin' so I can crumble them and start the balls. *30 min is the perfect amount of time to cool down a piping hot cake.

Well, the crumbling is easy and fast, but set aside some time to do the rolling... and prepare to get a tad messy, if you don't have a mini ice-cream scooper (and how many people have those?). I wasn't exaggerating; these are great for large groups of people, the yield is enormous. I got quite a few because I couldn't find any pop sticks, so I'm using large toothpicks (they can't hold much), so each ball is about the size of the cheap-o tootsie pops you get on Halloween from the people who buy the value packs. I just skewered about half the balls and they are cooling in the freezer in preparation for dipping.

And it's done! I managed to dip over 40 pops before running out of chocolate, and there are still over 40 in the freezer to be dipped when I get more chocolate. For the dipping, I only have a few tips:

1) keep the pops in the freezer as you dip, that way when you dip them in the warm chocolate, you don't over heat them and have them melt off the sticks. (This also helps the chocolate solidify fastest, and lessens drips)
2) melt the chocolate a bit at a time in a mug or glass so you can submerge as much as possible. When you get to the end, spatula the remains onto a side plate and melt some more.
3) It's important to put aside the extra chocolate before you warm some more because the warm chocolate will burn as the chocolate squares melt. You can re-melt these combined remains after they solidify to get the most out of the chocolate.
4) Make sure that you cover part of the stick as well as the ball to prevent the cake falling off the sticks.
5) Try using a chopstick to stir the chocolate. I always have an excess after I order Japanese food, and they go fine through the dishwasher, so I use them to stir, to skewer, to fence... and all that jazz.

And, as with every experimental baking, this too had a graveyard:

Be forewarned: This variation has chocolate coating, chocolate devil's food cake, AND chocolate frosting (instead of cream cheese frosting). It has ALOT of chocolate. It is almost guaranteed that you will have a sugar high, and more than one pop is not advised in a short increment of time.

Chocolate Ciao!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hungry Hoards

Saturday was an endless day of meetings and hours spent staring at my computer screen in my corner of the library. Later than I intended, I ran home to an empty kitchen. I had invited a couple of friends over for a simple dinner that evening and was desperate for something fast and easy to cook. After a quick trip to the mom and pop store around the corner, I decided to make a frittata dinner with green beans on the side.
I had just peeled some potatoes when, to my surprise, my friends arrived with 3 extra people in tow. The beauty of this meal was that it was easy to expand to accommodate the appetites of 7 starving college students. The quantities below are for two large frittatas.

Red Pepper and Cheese Frittata:

5 medium potatoes
2 bell peppers (I used one red and one orange for the colours)
8 eggs
1 onion
1 shallot
3 cloves of garlic
1/2-1 green chili (optional)
olive oil
1 tbs cumin seed (I love cumin seed and always put a lot, add more or less depending on you)
cilantro (fresh)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
grated cheddar cheese

Peel and chop the potatoes into 1/4 in by 1 in chunks (try to keep an even thickness even if the size varies). The potatoes can be pre-boiled (or microwaved if you are lazy) to cut down on cooking time. Dice the onion, shallots, garlic and green chili. Slice the bell pepper into roughly 1/4 inch strips and then cut the strips in half.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the cumin seed. Saute the onion, shallots and garlic. Add the green chili. Add the potatoes and continue sauteing. When the potatoes are half cooked, add the bell peppers. Saute. Season the vegetables with the marjoram and oregano. Mix in the cilantro at the very end.
Scramble the eggs with some milk or water. Add the salt and pepper to the scrambled eggs.
Divide the onion-pepper-potato mix into two two casserole dishes. Pour the eggs over the vegetables and mix in grated cheese.
Bake the casserole dishes at around 400 degrees (it doesn't matter too much as long as you watch them) until you can stick a knife in at take it out cleanly.
For a smaller frittata you can mix it in the pan and either bake the pan or cook one side and then flip it over using a plate.

Green Beans:
This was honestly the simplest way of cooking them possible. Saute fresh green beens in butter along with chopped garlic and lemon juice. Alternate stirring and covering until they are cooked (but still a bit chewy). Salt to taste

Top this simple meal off with nice wine (preferably bought by the people you are cooking for)...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pi Day

In defense of pop tarts... OK they have agribusiness image problem, but really it's just pie in an "grab-and-munch" format. And on March 14 they were reborn as "Pi Tarts." I used a standard short crust recipe (2 C general purpose flour, 1 C shortening (even split between butter & vegetable shortening), 1 Tbsp confectioner's sugar, 1/3 C + 1Tbsp of ice water.) At the recommendation of my local apple pie goddess, I cut 2/3 of the shortening in very thoroughly (cous cous size) then 1/3 as pea-size lumps. Mush together to create a ball, but don't knead extensively. Rest in fridge for 1 hr, then roll on floured wax paper. Trim edges to produce the toaster size form, then wet 1/2 inch along the edges carefully with milk. Spread jam or cinnamon/sugar in the center, then fold and pinch the edges. Using home made pastry and nice jam will make you swear off the commercial variety, but one risk with the home-made approach is not sealing the edges well enough. We used apricot, raspberry, and cinnamon, but I must defer to Sophia for the results of the comparative taste test.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

If you put red wine on it... I would eat a bale of hay

Here is my dinner from a couple of nights ago. An easy, quick, tasty meal great for weeknight dinners. I made polenta (1/2 cornmeal, 1 cup milk, 1 cup water, some red pepper flakes, and a dash of salt) with a mushroom, red swiss chard, orange bell pepper, ginger, garlic, a dash of lemon juice, soy sauce, and red wine topping. On top of all of this was a fried egg and on the side (because my roomie has this strange need for all meals to have at least two dishes) was some home made yam fries with a ketchup + Siracha mixture. Enjoy the photos!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Daylight-Savings Remedies

Hello All!

I don't know about you, but Monday morning certainly hit me hard. I'm not the biggest fan of spring Daylight-Savings time, as it effectively steals an hour from me. Normally, I have to get up at 6-ish to make it to school on-time... which meant that Monday morning had me protesting a 5-ish wake-up.

To help me function, I use a couple of fool-proof solutions to get me on my feet.

1) The classic caffeine always jump-starts your day. I recommend a blend of jasmine and ceylon tea, or a simple darjeeling with a dash of milk and sugar.

3) If you're a coffee person, try an Ethiopian coffee blend. Ethiopia is known to be the origin of the coffee plant, and around 12 million people depend the Ethiopian coffee industry. See if you can find fair trade coffee... lots of organizations are registered fair trade org.s and that way you can support the farmers, too!

4) A cool smoothie is consistently a solid way to start the day. Blend any frozen fruit that you have in your freezer, along with a ripe (close to overly ripe) banana, some ice cubes, and a dollop of yogurt. In one drink you've managed to get 2 food groups and the freezing quality will jolt you awake (or give you brain-freeze).

5) Music with an upbeat rhythm like The Noisettes... not strictly foodie, but the french word of this same spelling also has been known to boost energy levels throughout the day. Sprinkle some pecans on you cereal, or pack a snack of dried cranberries and almonds for the day. A nice morning treat is toast with almond/peanut butter and honey.

6) Lots of foods have scientific perks:

>Oatmeal gives a boost in serotonin (the same chemical that's released when you eat dark chocolate). Plus, it's high in fibre-- which, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association, lowers cholesterol (improves heart health).

>Raisins can top anything, from oatmeal and cereal to "Ants on a Log", a piece of celery filled with peanut butter and topped with a line of raisins. Raisins are high in iron, which can improve energy... people who don't eat a lot of iron generally are slightly more tired.

>One of my favorite savory fruits (it has a seed), avocados, share something in common with bananas. They both have potassium! Potassium deficiency can cause tiredness. Try eating avocados dressed in lemon juice (thought to fight scurvy!), or in guacamole.

>Tired and sick is not a good combination. An orange a day keeps up Vitamin C levels, which are known to boost your immune system.

Eat well!

Thanks to M. Matsuda, for her information on food with scientific perks, and the Ethiopian Coffee Network for their picture.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Citrus Circumference

Hello all!

I always love when Pi Day comes around, because it gives me a chance to revel in being a geek, and satisfy my sweet tooth. I wanted to go overboard this year and make a lemon meringue pie… and idea that was rapidly vetoed by my more sane parents. As a compromise I searched for a tangy citrus-y pie that didn’t have the fluff factor of a meringue. By chance, I stumbled across this recipe for a Lemon Chess Pie: .

It’s ridiculously easy, with a fast prep time, and everyday ingredients (I didn’t even have to run to the store to find any last ingredient… a pet peeve of mine when it comes to cooking). One lemon is really all you need to cover the entire recipe. You cook it as an open faced pie, and the cornmeal (or the corn flour, in my case) creates a crispy top layer. As I mentioned, I decided to replace the cornmeal with corn flour, just to make it a bit smoother. I also made my own pie crust (or borrowed a part of my father’s Pi Day experiment), which made for a nice flaky touch.

I'm a strong believer in the proverb: "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first", so this accompanied my breakfast this morning... I was riding the sugar wave all day!

Just as a side note: The combination of the lemon and 1.5 cups (~ 301 g) of sugar packs a powerful punch, so you may want to cut the experience with a nice cup of espresso.

Missed Pi Day this year? It comes around every year on March 14th (at 1:59, if you want to observe more digits of this irrational number)… and you can practice with a pie a day following this simple list of pies ranging from classic apple to kooky avocado!

Next on the agenda? Daylight-Savings-Time Remedies.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lulu's Pumpkin Pi Day

Hey all.
Today for pie day I made Pumpkin pie with a little bit of a twist. It is a normal pumpkin pie filling with (the twist) a topping of walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon. The recipe I used is from Epicurious (

I made a few changes. To the topping I added some honey walnut granola for some added crunch. Nutmeg replaced ginger, because I had no ground ginger and was too lazy to go out to the store. I used a full can of pumpkin puree (probably 1 and 2/3 cups instead of the recommended 1 cup.. though I didn't measure it). I added 1/2 cup of peanut butter to the filling, which might sound weird to you if you don't know me. I love peanut butter and find an excuse to put it into... well everything I can. To make up for this added moisture I only added 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream. I think it turned out really well, despite my not having a pie dish (I used a spring-form pan, sacrilege I know!). It was consumed happily by me and my sister with some vanilla ice cream in front of an episode of the West Wing. This recipe was super tasty and easy. To make it easier you can buy pie crust. Oh... and I found that the pie filling took longer to bake than the 30 minutes suggested but seeing as I am horrible at following recipes to the letter it might be my fault. Anyway this recipe is much recommended and I hope you all enjoyed your Pi Day.

PS: it's a bit sweet.

What's next on my list of things I want to cook? Brown Butter Soda Bread with Tarragon and Black Pepper.


Welcome to The Cuisine Collective

Hello Readers!
We are The Cuisine Collective, a group of regular people ranging from 14-53 years old with a variety of tastes and concoctions spread across North America. We hope to bring you a melting pot of postings related to all things foodie. And what better day to start than on Pi Day! Generations of teachers have celebrated this day to recognize the irrational number pi: 3.14159... We like to celebrate it by baking pi's yummy homonym, pie. Stay tuned for each reader's personal fiesta.
Bon Appétit! Happy Eating! Buen Apetito!