August 30, 2011

Pineapple-Zucchini Muffins

When I brought these little guys to a work meeting, they got eaten, and a few hours later I started getting asked what were in them after all—something sweet with a distinct (distinctly wonderful I say) texture. Answer: zucchini, which makes things fresh and summery, and pineapple, which makes them sweet and tropical, and some warm spices that give them an essence of spice cake.
Having a giant container of mini-muffins made it fun to share their sweet and summery flair, at our meeting, then leftover snacks for coworkers, then breakfast for roommates, right through snacking over a lake weekend. I had to squeeze them onto the blog before zucchini season ends, which is probably soon because ever-so-barely-cooler mornings and evenings are hinting that fall might come one day in the relative future.
The source for this ingredient mix that looks somewhat like Easter in a bowl? Bake sale goods in my grandmother's freezer...and then an internet search to replicate it of course.

August 23, 2011

Food Thoughts: Feeding People in Tragedy

Amidst the glossy-perfect food and homes in the August Southern Living,  I discovered some extraordinary storytelling about the aftermath of April's tornadoes. I loved how it so eloquently captured the comfort of food, especially in the South, in times of tragedy:

"In the South, food and tragedy are sisters. And while the instinct to feed others in a crisis may not be strictly Southern, what we prepare, and how we do it—in lovingly generous, belt-busting portions—may be our region’s finest recipe.
Chocolate Sheet Cake
It is true that some ills in this world cannot be cured by Rita Trull’s chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. But that cake, and the love and compassion baked into it, may be more beautiful than any cake that ever appeared on a magazine cover. By the look of the spread in front of her, Rita is not alone in her ability to cope, and help, through baking. When she put out a call for help after the storm, the answer came strong, and sweet.

'I said, "I need some cakes for these people!”' she said. 'And I had 21 cakes come to my house.'”
-Southern Living, August 2011, page 97

How have food and coping with tragedy intersected in your life?

August 20, 2011

Oatmeal-Butterscotch Cookies

My brother is on his way to start a new adventure for a season of life in Jackson, Wyoming, home of those breathtaking Tetons...

where he will be capitalizing on all powder potential possible.
Rough, right? But he might not have any of these, his favorite cookies with oatmeal and butterscotch chips, for a while.
So I sent a batch of them, the cookies that make me think of my grandmother because she always made them when we were little, and some Chex Mix along for the three-day drive.

Two women the car together all day can manage to chit chat for hours on end, but two men, maybe not so much. They are probably playing on their phones and tying flies in between snack breaks at the moment.
I'm slowly learning to more fully channel my bakaholism into a love language. Maybe I'll have to ship some baked love out to Wyoming, too, or maybe I'll catch a flight and deliver them myself so I can get in on the Western wilderness action.

August 16, 2011

Mango-Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Fresh mango. Cheese. Bacon! Warm bacon dressing with lime, honey and sauteed red onions. Do you really notice any spinach when you toss it in all that goodness? Not really. It just adds color and hidden nutrients.
I am always looking for a new salad of the fruit and cheese variety, and this one from Southern Living is definitely worthy of making the weekend salad treat rotation. It even turned out delicious on my first try when the power went out just after the bacon cooked, and we ate raw onions and an improvised dressing in the dark. The warm bacon dressing on the second try made it all the better, and it looked quite pretty in the light.

August 9, 2011

Chocolate-Buttercream Cake Decadence Pie

Generally, when I bake I follow a recipe. But sometimes recipes don't turn out quite right, which is unacceptable when you are baking to thank an intern who has slaved away to help you all summer and even let you bum an impromptu ride for 8 hours.

Sometimes you think you are smart wrapping up a roll cake in a dish towel for a while before filling it with buttercream and topping it with ganache (think homemade swiss cake roll). And sometimes when you unroll the cake, it cracks in 27 place and it will not come close to rolling back up again.
Then, my friend, you must innovate because you cannot waste decadent-tasting cake. So I made cake roll I had planned for into a cake pie: luscious, thick chocolate cake crust with buttercream icing filling topped with ganache. Instead of icing being a light finish on cake, icing rules this cake. It might be the best dessert mistake I've made.
Before you start to think I think outside the box more than I actually do, let' me say my cake pie innovation has two recipe sources: Nanaimo Bars, a similar tasting dessert that layers a chocolate-graham mixture, buttercream and straight chocolate, and a Tiramisu Toffee Trifle Pie, which turns cake into a pie crust and fills it with cream.
Hopefully the passion with which all of our cake-partaking going away partygoers and contributors to the cause of not wasting leftovers spoke of the cake creation reflects a tiny bit of how awesome its honoree, my intern extraordinaire, Mia, is!

August 2, 2011

Grilled Pineapple-Avocado Salsa

If a restaurant serving all things avocado should open, as some friends and I were dreaming up last night, it would serve this fresh and fruity salsa.
Grilling the pineapple brings out its flavor and rids of that strong, acidic aftertaste that turns some people off from the super-sweet fruit. Plus, grilling fruit doesn't require you actually know if something is done right, as I have yet to master with meat, just that it looks cooked and not burnt. Also, grill marks are cool.

(The dip bowl is one antler of a moose-face chip and dip plate in case you were wondering. We like to pretend like we have wildlife like out West at my lake house.)
As I was reminded in my interview with Salsa Senorita today (which involved chatting over homecooked Mexican in someone's kitchen! side note: try their salsa), salsa is one of those things that always wows me because I get as addicted to it as I do homemade chocolate chip cookies, only it's good for you because it's veggies and, in this case, fruit (and fruit makes veggies all the better.)

With my two batches thus far, I've used it to top grilled chicken and swordfish and served with chips and salsa. I could also just eat it with a spoon.

For more fruity salsa love, see my Mango Salsa recipe or use my friend Amy's favorite shortcut and use canned tropical fruit salad for salsa something like this.

What kind of salsa do you like to make?