food bloggers

Of Wonder and Eggs.

On this Easter Eve, I find myself looking back over nearly a year of posts. My blog will be a year old on April 8th, and I can hardly believe that a year has gone so quickly. I was recently asked what made me start blogging. I've been doing what you faithful readers have been seeing here for the past 12 months, for a much longer time than I've been writing about it. I may not have been quite as prolific when I was working a job or multiple jobs, but I was still making my own noodles and chicken stock, and stockpiling quick homemade meals in my freezer, and reading as much (usually in the way of cookbooks or magazines back then) as I was able.

But what made me decide to start writing about the food I make was the sudden passing of my uncle a year ago. It really affected me. It made me stop and realize just how precious our day to day lives are, and on a grander scheme how the things I love are important to others. While food blogging could seem frivolous and lighthearted at times, I often draw so many correlations to the bigger picture, especially during this Easter season which is very important to me.

One of my favorite food ruminations is that of milk and honey. Nearly all life on our planet must be sustained by eating foods that first must die. This goes for people of all dining preference: vegetarian, carnivore, vegan. All diets contain that element of the brevity of life, be it a lamb or cow, or a stalk of wheat or a lowly legume. When God promised the Israelites the land of Milk and Honey, it confirms to me the amazing knowledge of life everlasting. Milk and honey are two of the only foods that are nutritionally valid and contain no death to produce. (I think an argument for maple syrup could be made, but to my knowledge, there were no maple trees in the desert...)

Food blogging has been a series of personal kitchen adventures for sure, but it has also changed the way I see this basic necessity for life. I've heard it said that there are two types of people, those that live to eat (*raising hand*) and those who eat to live. No matter your category, you can't escape the fact that everyone, everywhere, needs to eat to live. In this incredible era of computing, I can immediately have access to hundreds of thousands of ethnic recipes from cultures around the world. If it is edible, I'd wager it has been written about somewhere. And it's all because we have the amazing privilege, I believe by design, to eat.

Not only does eating sustain us physically, but it does mentally as well. Conversation that can be had over mealtime is often among the most memorable. And what you ate on a first date, or an anniversary, what kind of cake you dreamed of for your birthday, what foods are served after a funeral of a loved family member, these are all very powerful things that we carry around with us, intrinsic parts of especially our childhood memories. They are the things that unite food bloggers of all types, regardless of all the external things that hang up all of us humans in endless debate and argument.

I think the egg is an important part of Easter for me personally. Though I wrote a very inarticulate essay by comparison, in his book The Elements of Cooking, Michael Ruhlman's discussion of the egg is alone worth the cover price. I read this book for the first time a couple of months ago, and I really find myself thinking about it often. A sample of his passage on the egg:
My reverence for the egg borders on religious devotion. It is the perfect food - an inexpensive package, dense with nutrients and exquisitely flavored, that's both easily and simply prepared but that's also capable of unmatched capability in the kitchen. Yes, an egg is just an egg, but it is also ingredient, tool, and object, a natural construction of near mystical proportions..... Eggs are appropriate to serve at any time of day for any meal. They can be the main item or the garnish, they can be served simply in rustic preparations, but they are equally suited to four star cuisine. No other ingredient has so many uses and effects. The egg is a wonder.
Easter in particular holds a special place for eggs. We dye and hunt for them. We make them out of chocolate. We fill plastic ones full of jelly beans. As I type, I'm waiting patiently for my Chocolate Schaum Torte (courtesy of Burp! Where Food Happens) to bake; it is full of the wonderful levity that egg whites produce. I'm glad I decided to make it, since this is my first ever Easter dinner at my house - with just my little family. A dessert appropriate for Easter in my 33rd year...

One night this past week, we had eggs for supper. My Husband: two fried, with runny yolks. I decided at the last minute that I had to have a soft boiled egg. I have never had one! I've eaten eggs all sorts of ways, including raw, but never have I soft boiled one. I remember Sasa telling me how she loved them as a child, and called her to ask how many minutes to boil them. She said 5 minutes without hesitation, and then Googled to be sure. Bring water to a boil, carefully lower eggs into water, and boil 5 minutes. That's it. Without a doubt, the best way I have ever eaten an egg - even if I had to improvise an egg cup by using my 1/8 cup measure and the 2 ounce side of a bar jigger. I am not sure I could eat two of these every day as Nigella Lawson does, but I can tell you I will be eating many more of them in the future.

As CakeWalk bravely enters year two, I have no idea what will be in store. I am frequently surprised even at the direction my thoughts take me as I type away, let alone what will be on the docket of food adventures. I do know that I am thankful for this opportunity to share what is important to me, and that I live in a place where I can sit here and type whatever comes to mind without fear. (I just recently read of a blogger who was visiting China, and had to post her food adventures when she returned because they do not allow blogging!) I enjoy being a small part in other people's lives, and in some cases discovering what that little part is. It's also quite contenting to know that I may never know some people who read about my little life, just as some others don't know that I read about theirs. A great mystery in this wonderful life.

It's Not Too Late for a Very Important Date...

I think dates are some of my favorites in the vast world of dried fruit. While figs are charming, there are seeds to contend with. While raisins are workhorses, especially when soaked to proper plumpness in either liquor or boiling water, they can err on the side of sweet. Dates, however, are perfectly palatable in sweetness and texture when properly stored. In either sweet or savory application, there is no better candidate for versatility either. Tagines with lamb and dates are perfection in my mind, and these cookies that I'm about to share with you are now officially on the Food Obsessions list in the sweet category.

One of my favorite new blogs is innBrooklyn, which is a design/food/green living/technology/knitting blog run by Noerah and Talia. They began late in December, and have a number of good ideas - and all of it makes for a unique experience each time you visit. I couldn't wait to try these Date Biscuits that were posted on Jan. 30th, but I made myself wait judiciously until the very last piece of my chocolate cake was gone. For those of you keeping track, I actually kept a chocolate cake on my counter for 8 days. Boy-O and I were the only eaters, and though it wasn't my favorite recipe, it got the job done in the dessert department.

Now this will tell you something, since normally, I would have made the date biscuits anyway and then tried not to eat two desserts simultaneously. I'm well on the road to reducing my consumption by just simply making less food. This is hard for me! I love to bake especially, and to not turn on my oven is excruciatingly hard. But not only did the day finally come that my cake was gone, in true innBrooklyn green living fashion, I didn't even need to turn on my oven to make these amazing "cookies".

This recipe melts butter stovetop, and adds the remaining ingredients without heat involved: a no-bake method. I'll let you look over at the link for the proper recipe, but will note that it calls for British Marie Biscuits, which you may be able to find in a specialty foods store, but are very closely related to Maria cookies, which are widely available in the Hispanic food section of many stores. I weighed a package on my digital scale, and removed just one cookie to get the 200 grams called for in the recipe. Bet you can guess where that one went...

At this point, I'd have to say that SOMEone NEEDS to make a pie filling based on this date/butter/cocoa powder filling! My first choice would be none other than Gina, the Goddess of Pie. If the GOP can't find a way to turn this recipe into the most delicious pie ever made, I'd be surprised. The only other alteration I made to the recipe was to let the date mixture cook just slightly after I added the egg to make sure it got hot enough, since I melted my butter at a pretty low temperature. After adding the hot mixture to the Maria cookies, I found it near impossible to stop "sampling", hence my dreams of a forthcoming pie.

We had pretty snow globe snow most of the day yesterday, and as I used the remaining afternoon light to photograph these roly morsels, I thought how perfect to make such snowy looking things on a day like this. Promptly after photography, the eating ensued. Bite sized things are always hard to resist, and these are deservedly no exception. Boy-O loved them, and I had to be a good example and not eat them all in one sitting. My confession is that they are probably almost half gone, and that just thinking about them makes me want to go and sneak another. But like I said to Lo earlier, they can be nearly be construed as healthy, what with all of the fiber packed in there svelte, round selves, so why not?

Miraculous Mac

I don't really have a comment-heavy blog site, which is fine. I love that when I do get a comment from someone I don't know, I can in turn check out his/her site and see a little part of another world, and in the case of food bloggers, what's up in the kitchen. Such was the case on my last post when I got a comment from ChefAmiee at A Twist of Spaghetti. I saw a recipe she posted for macaroni and cheese with spinach that was on the back of a Dreamfields pasta box.

Since we don't have this pasta
brand (at least that I've seen) in Wisconsin, it's unlikely that I would have happened upon it. It's a simple recipe, but so delicious. Even more so now that I have a full range of taste buds working for me once again. It's also something to tuck away into your repertoire, since with just a couple of ingredient changes, you can have an entirely different meal every time you make it.

I used half amounts for everything, since often I have way too many leftovers. Many times, even with half recipes, this is the case - but not tonight since my Husband loved this recipe, and I know because he had seconds! This above serving was the only leftover from my dinner adventures tonight, and I am happily looking forward to eating it for lunch tomorrow.

The original recipe calls for Dreamyfield pasta, but I used Barilla Plus, which what was on hand. I also used skim milk (which I shortcuttedly heated in the microwave), and took Aimee's advice on using slightly less cheese. The only other adapting I did was to add some of the spice mix from yesterday's tofu, and then a pinch more cayenne - since I can't have anything that's too spicy.

I don't buy many boxed things, pasta included. This truly isn't due to food snobbery, just that I like to make pasta. But sometimes, I get such a craving for pasta shapes, which I have no easy way to make, and the ease they lend to meal making. Tonight, it was just perfect for a girl that hasn't been whipping up any amazing scratch meals since before Christmas! I just toasted some wheat bread under the broiler for garlic toast, and that was it.

I think it may be the first time this new year that our little family has sat down all together and at the same time for supper (not that the Boy-O would eat any - his newest thing is that he doesn't like the smell of my food cooking), due to my NY trip and sicknesses. I forgot how nice it is! So nice that I forgot to take a pic until I was almost done eating...

So, please tuck this recipe Aimee was so kind to post into your brain box for pantry supper nights when you can't think of anything to make and don't feel like spending too much time in the kitchen. You'll be happy you did!

(Wisconsin) Food Bloggers have the best recipes...

In my newness to food blogging, I think I neglected to search out food bloggers closer to home for too long. I remedied that last week when I googled Wisconsin food bloggers, and eventually found Peef and Lo at Burp! Where Food Happens. True to my form, I immediately found several recipes that I bookmarked for later uses, and some for beets that I couldn't wait to make. After my bean obsession weekend, I was happy for some veg food, and Sunday evening I decided to make the beet risotto from their site. (Note that you'll have to click a recipe link after reading the post! They are great cooks, and Computer Savvy!)

This photo was actually taken by me. Peef and Lo do have a similar one on their beet borscht post... I guess there are just so many ways to photograph a plethora of beets. I got these three varieties from Highcross Farm.

I couldn't wait to try this recipe. That Highcross Farm produce is so overwhelmingly lovely, I couldn't dream of tossing away the beet greens, and this recipe incorporates them all for what I'm imagining to be a super healthy, antioxidant red risotto. I opted for using toasted walnuts and blue cheese, but they list several nice parings for cheeses, we are in Wisconsin after all...

If you love beets, you will really love this dish! I love the combination that I used, and though I made it Sunday, it is still good today. I'm betting, I can get a couple more days out of the leftovers, and I'm glad I did have a taker for some of the bounty. Had I been in a beet loving household, I probably would have made this as a side alongside another dish, since it was so rich, but I'm not really sure what. It has such

a specific beety taste, that it would require something on the milder side to complement it. It was fantastic on its own.

I love how easy it is to connect to other foodies now that I decided to de-hermitize myself and go online. While I wouldn't

say I'm introverted, I do tend to stick to myself - and sometimes I feel a little bad about obsessing over food with my Husband, who tends to eat to get full (mostly on the non-picky side, and mostly on the non-veg side) and then prefers to obsess over sporting events. I'm glad that we are different, but I'm glad to share some of my excitement with others that appreciate it in the same way I do. I catch myself wondering if my little boy-o will take after me in the beet loving department, however. I would be so happy if he had a broad little palette in the near future... and I could have someone to eat beets and leftovers with.

We are heading into the great Northwoods tomorrow through the weekend to visit family. Cooking will most certainly ensue. I'm planning a couple of bring along suppers to share and a couple pounds of Alterra Coffee for my Uncle. It somehow always feels like I'm going home to enter the piney wilderness of my youth. It's funny that when I'm in the city, I love the benefits of grocery shopping and social activities...but give me two or three days back where I came from and I find myself aching never to return here. A paradox I think, but good to know that the wilds are still in me, somewhere. Even if most of the time, they are hidden from view.

Quickbread (part one.)

Yesterday, I searched for a better Banana Bread recipe. This happens a lot, since I have all the intentions of eating bananas, then before I know it - they are spotty and black and begging for a new life in quick breads. Last week though, I made them into Nikki's Healthy Cookies, from food blogger 101 cookbooks. I have them frozen for moments of cookie needs... and they are users of 3 bananas, and no refined sugar. See? I really am trying to be better.

So, after much searching, I finally found this recipe for Whole Wheat Banana Bread: and I came across it in a strange manner. Every recipe I perused up to this point had lots of butter. I love butter, but I was searching for healthier options. All recipes also seemed to have way too much sugar as well, which I don't normally have a problem with, but you know, I'm trying to be Better.

It helps too that my Mom is looking for baking recipes that are using less or no refined sugars. I have a task, and I am up to it! I found a forum of people discussing healthier banana bread options at A commenter included a link for the following recipe. I did alter it slightly, so I am posting my version below. My little picky boy-o loved it, and I loved it. Better yet, absolutely no guilt is involved.

Healthy Whole Wheat Banana Bread

1 loaf

  • 1/3 c. oil (part can be converted to applesauce,according to a poster at serious eats, but I used canola oil)
  • 1/2 c. brown rice syrup
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour (King Arthur, of course)
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 1 t. baking soda dissolved in 1/4 c. hot water
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts.

Preheat oven to 325.

Beat oil and honey together in a large bowl. Add eggs and mix well, then stir in bananas and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt, then add baking soda to hot water and stir into batter. Fold in chopped nuts.

Spread batter into "prepared" pan (I opt always for cooking spray with flour. Normally, I am against such things, but it really does make life so much easier.)

Bake for 55-65 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Try to wait at least a half hour before cutting into it.

I think in the next occasion of overripe bananas, I will tweak this recipe using my two favorite additions from the Alton Brown banana bread recipe. To date, his is by far my favorite. (All about Alton has the recipe by weight: Bread of Life has it listed by measure.) He uses oat flour in his, which is a miracle, I think, for adding softness. But the true marvel is that he also adds almonds and almond extract which is seriously my favorite flavor ever. If you are looking to impress, and not eat healthy in the privacy of your own home...make Alton's banana bread.

I think the whole wheat version is really delicious however, and the brown rice syrup is the key I think. If you were to use honey, as the original recipe wished, I think it would be too sweet. I love honey, but if I was going through the trouble to make a healthier recipe, I figured why not try the brown rice syrup? It is made (according to the Lundberg Farms label) by simply boiling down brown rice. It is great, and really does taste a little like sweet, nutty brown rice.

I originally bought it for making Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Peanut Granola, which is very tasty and perhaps my third batch after watching that episode is happily residing in my freezer.

I hope you have luck with this healthy version of banana bread. I am actually going against all my personal thoughts on cake and bread storage and storing this, wrapped in foil, in the refrigerator. It is just so moist, that I can't see getting my normal 6-7 days out of it! I'm also planning to toast some, since I think that the almost pudding like interior will stand up to it.