Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The End of Spring Break

Before I'm accused of being ten days late on spring break posts, I'm going to quickly put up two pictures from my last night in Boston. My dad, Diane, Zoe, and I went to a tiny little restaurant with North African food. Baraka Cafe was so small and mysterious that it seemed like once you step in, the outside world disappears. The crowded room is very dimly lit, which is nice for mood perhaps, but very bad for pictures. These two were taken by the light of my dad's phone, so don't judge!  Despite the lighting, the food was delicious. I'm not sure that I could name any of it, but I especially liked Melfouf la Kasbah, which had skewers of different types of meat over pommes frites,  and the Melkha, which was a flavorful eggplant dish. I loved Baraka Cafe's unique personality, and I definitely want to go back. Oh and if you go there, don't leave without drinking a pitcher of their famous lemonade: a thick, sweet lemonade, almost opaque, with rose petals and mint leaves floating on top. 

And as for a personal update, I'm paralyzed in the waitingforcollegedecisions process. I've heard from seven schools and I'm waiting for six more letters in the next few days. I know everything will work out fine and dandy in the end, but waiting is almost as bad as the applications themselves. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Noodles, Pizza, and Fries

How cool are these? Knotted noodles from a restaurant in Chinatown.

Every time we walk into Davis Square, I ache to step into the Rosebud Diner. I love diners, and this one is especially adorable. On St. Patrick's Day I finally got a chance to try their food and it was just as I imagined it: kitschy and irresistible in its holiday spirit. I had a burger with mushrooms, which was really good. Here's Zoe's extremely attractive BLT.

The other "every time I walk by I wonder why I haven't been here yet" eatery: Zing Pizza. I'm usually a thick crust person, but this stuff is good. And as I was in the middle of reading Dracula, I had to get a slice of the "Dracula's Dilemma" pizza with lots of fresh garlic and cherry tomatoes. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Small World Cookies

While in Boston, I saw five people from West Lala not including my family, which I thought was pretty impressive. One afternoon, Alex and I returned from the Museum of Science soaked through with rain. Waiting for us was a giant bowl of pasta carbonara with peas, cooked by Zoe and Malika, who was visiting for the afternoon. After lunch, we decided to bake cookies, because cookie decorating is an excellent rainy day activity. Lacking some of the ingredients necessary for gingerbread men, we made sugar cookies, but supplemented the dough with sprinkles of nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and ginger for a little more flavor. 

This cookie dough was amazing. Not that I'd ever say cookie dough is bad, but the spices were perfect for cookie dough eating.

I cut out three sizes of men, cows, heels, chili peppers, toothbrushes, teapots, stars, violins, and a few fleur-de-lis. I have the feeling that those aren't normal cookie cutter shapes, but that's my family for you.

Zoe and Malika made the icing with cream cheese, and we each colored a ziplock of icing with food coloring. It was crazy and messy, but delicious. 

Mr. Smith?

This is what happens when you are late for dinner and you don't want to waste icing. 

Sometimes, I drop entire trays of cookies on the floor. No big deal. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Cream

My Starbucks drink, on the rare occasion that I go to Starbucks, is a mint steamer. It sounds weird, just warm milk with mint, but the sweet minty warmth is both comforting and refreshing. That's what immediately drew me to this recipe when I decided to make a gluten free chocolate dessert. On one of the first nights in Boston at Spring Break, some neighbors of my dad's were coming over for dinner and their daughter can't have gluten. I wanted to bake something with chocolate, but most flourless chocolate cakes aren't very kid friendly. These chocolate souffle cupcakes with mint whipped cream are light and fun while still being elegant. 

The cupcakes use lots of whipped eggs to achieve a light, airy texture, completely unlike the dense texture of most flourless desserts. Apparently white chocolate is so processed that it can also pose a problem to people with gluten intolerance, so I skipped the white chocolate in the cream topping and just whipped up some cream with a bit of sugar, some peppermint extract, and a drop of food coloring. The whipped cream turns flourless chocolate cake from intense to lighthearted. 

And here is the dinner which my lovely cupcakes followed. Diane made chicken with mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus, and balsamic carrots. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Jenny!

Since I baked 50 cupcakes with Jenny yesterday, I knew I couldn't bake her anything for her 18th. Instead, this morning as I stood in the kitchen eating oatmeal and packing my lunch, I made her a sandwich.

Is that a strange birthday gift? Probably. Jenny always used to have bites of my sandwiches at lunch, until she became vegetarian and my chicken sandwiches were off limits, so I thought that by now, I owe her at least one complete sandwich. Plus, due to morning time constraints, she's taken to bringing a box of cereal to school for lunch, so I knew any real food would go over well. Here's my vegetarian birthday sandwich.

Like all sandwiches that I make, it started with mayo and whole grain mustard. Next came green apple slices for crunch. 

To complete the green theme, avocado slices for ooze and lettuce for substance. (If it were just for me, I'd add a few slices of chicken at this point, by the way.) 

Happy birthday, Jenny! You are an amazing Lady Macbeth and an amazing speech buddy and an amazing friend. I'm going to miss you next year.

Deep Springs Brunch Continued

Besides the croissants, the menu for Sunday brunch at Deep Springs included scrambled eggs, dutch babies with cinnamon apples and glazed bacon. Dutch babies are sort of like a giant eggy pancake served with powdered sugar and lemon juice.  

You know it's going to be good when the first step is a pan filled with butter and brown sugar. This is getting ready for the chopped apples. 

Somehow, Deep Springs turns me into a bacon person [I'm a sausage person, when it comes to pizza (pepperoni looks at me funny) and sides at IHOP.] (and yes, I just used brackets and parentheses).

"Ta da!" says Matt. 

 The buffet all ready to go.

Have you ever scrambled 50 eggs at once? It's great fun. 

My final plate, and how delicious a plate it was.

(And. This is my 150th post! Yay for me!)

Will's Croissants

On weekends at Deep Springs, the students take turns cooking. Will and Matt were making Sunday brunch, and having nothing else to do besides read and walk (homework being far too boring an option), I decided to help them. Saturday night, I "helped" Will make croissants. Basically, I stood around snapping pictures and gawking at the copious amounts of butter, but since I've never really worked with yeast dough before, I appreciated the opportunity to see croissants in action. Will expertly prepared six times the normal recipe of dough, ready to turn out trays of plain, chocolate, and almond croissants on Sunday morning.

I love kitchen chaos. 

Look at all that butter. Yum. 

Brushed with egg and ready for the oven.

Squint at this picture for your only glimpse of the chocolate and almond croissants. For some reason, I didn't take any pictures of those at all. The almond ones were filled with almond paste and topped with sliced almonds. I didn't expect much from them, but these were tremendous. And the chocolate croissants were perfect, I don't need to say more. 

The gleeful baker himself.


Flaky and beautiful. And the best part is that I have the recipe, so whenever I feel up to the challenge, I'm going to make these myself! Just you watch me. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eating Like a Cowboy

Considering my size, age, and gender, I'm not a light eater. I love salads and fruit, don't get me wrong, but I need more than that. I like food that sticks. And Deep Springs food is great for that. Designed for 20-year-old male cowboys, Deep Springs menus feature large quantities of meat and carbs, even at breakfast. When you're a hard-working college student, you need ham and eggs and freshly baked wheat bread to start you off right. All of the food found in the boarding house is extremely fresh because so much of it comes from right there in the valley. I didn't photograph everything from my days there last week, but here are some highlights. 

I seriously need to learn to bake bread. 

Herby chicken with cabbage and baked potatoes and salad and fresh bread. 

 Pork with spiced applesauce and pumpkin gnocchi in walnut cream (which were absolutely 100% divine) 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fads and Froyo

In my town, trends either arrive a year or two after they appear on the coasts or simply don't appear at all. We were infiltrated one by one by gauchos, crocs, sillybandz, then Tom's, yet not a single cake pop ever entered the scene. I shamelessly blame Lalaland's slow uptake of fads for any ignorance I have of pop culture. Thus, I am not embarrassed to say that two weeks ago, I had never been to one of those cute self-serve frozen yogurt places where you choose your flavor or flavors of yogurt, add your own toppings, and weigh the final bowl to determine the price. We have only one frozen yogurt store here and I've only been once since it opened almost a year ago. Luckily, my ignorance was cured, as in the past ten days, I've been to two of them: one in a mall in Las Vegas and one in Coolidge Corner in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Here's my concoction: mango and green tea yogurts with mochi, mango, lychee, and kiwi. Very color coordinated and very yummy. 

My thoughts on self-serve frozen yogurt places aren't entirely positive though. I love that customers get control over the infinite yogurt possibilities and I like yogurt when in fruity flavors with sweet tart fruit on top, but I'm just not positive why anyone would eat frozen yogurt in place of ice cream. Did I enjoy this mango and green tea yogurt? Yes. Would I choose it over the cone of J.P.Licks rum raisin ice cream I had on Friday or the bowl of Jeni's violet and meringue ice cream I had when I got home from the airport this evening? Never. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Airplanes and Spring Break

If I had an entire day that I could spend doing anything in the world, I think I'd spent it sitting on a plane. I like nothing better than a long flight by myself. I love the chance to spend time alone, reading a novel, doing sudoku, browsing SkyMall, but airports are also the best place for people watching. Staring from above the pages of my open book, I study the people of the airport and they study me in return, each of us anonymous in the privacy of a crowd. 

Those people afraid of flying need to set aside their fears; after all, aren't cars more dangerous than airplanes? And what could be better than a few hours with absolutely no responsibility? No one can talk to you when you are alone on a plane. There is no cell phone or email to check. You can't do homework. No one can encroach on your personal space. You're left in this perfect little space by yourself. Thinking or mindlessly filling in numbers in sudoku, either way is just right for me.

And then, just when I think that I couldn't be any happier, someone brings me a snack. Ah, life is good to me. I'm not a fan of pretzels, but if you're flying Delta, you can get biscuits WHERE EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT IS RECOGNIZABLE AND EXPECTED IN A COOKIE. There is nothing quite like Delta biscuits with a styrofoam cup of tea on a morning flight. And if you're flying Frontier, you get something even better than cookies with recognizable ingredients: cookies with no ingredients listed at all! Frontier serves chocolate chip cookies straight from a tray on a napkin with no plastic wrapper in sight! They are warm and soft with melting chocolate chips, as if they were fresh out of the oven. With this gooey Frontier cookie below, you see a drink that surpasses even hot tea, tomato juice, and ginger ale for the title of my favorite plane beverage. It's half cranberry juice (or crabapple) and half soda water. The soda water cuts the cloying sweetness of the juice and makes it festive by adding bubbles. Isn't it cute, all pink and bubbly with the red drink stirrer? That picture is bliss. 

If you haven't gathered by the fact that I've been absent for a week and I just blabbered for three paragraphs about airplanes, I'm not at home at the moment. I left last Thursday for spring break, landing in Las Vegas at around the same time my friends were going to bed, ready to go to school on Friday. After meeting my family in Vegas, we headed to Deep Springs College for the weekend. As always, Deep Springs valley, which is in the desert of California right on the border of Nevada, is breathtaking. The sage-scented earth would stretch forever if the brown velvet mountains didn't cut into the edge of the deep sky. After a peaceful weekend of food and hikes, we left for Boston, where I'll be until Sunday. Get ready for some great pictures of the past week when I get home and have my computer with me, featuring homemade croissants, gluten-free chocolate cupcakes with mint whipped cream, and more.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Cookie dough is the food of the gods. Especially this cookie dough. I wanted to make cookies for a pot luck lunch we had as we watched Macbeth yesterday, but I didn't have much time earlier in the week. I decided to split the process up, making dough, then leaving it in the fridge for a few days. 

I made these cookies, but with chocolate chips instead of white chocolate, just because they were on my mind. This time, I didn't like them as much though. I think I left them in the oven for a minute too long, resulting in crunchy cookies. And I despise crunchy cookies. They were easy and they're good with a glass of milk, but I just wish I had taken them out of the oven sooner!

I was so frustrated with the crunchiness that I woke up early yesterday to make something else. I ended up with another crunchy concoction, but this time it was on purpose. I found a recipe entitled "Praline Squares" in one of my dessert books that reminded me of my favorite sweet treat: Ben's saltine crackers. But instead of saltines, this recipe involved graham crackers, and in place of the chocolate, there was caramelly pecans. Yum! These crunchy, buttery cookies smell amazing. Opening the tin, the buttered caramel scent instantly spreads thickly through the room. 

The food at our banqu(o)et was superb, from vegetarian lasagna to pulled pork. I was addicted to these little fellows here, brought by some anonymous actor.