Category Archives: Food

Happy 2010!

It has been a long time since I’ve written on Lavender&Cocoa, and I’ve missed it!  I hope everyone had a lovely last few months leading to 2010!  It certainly was a busy, sometimes crazy, time for me and Hubby.  But we survived and are excited for this New Year and Decade.  To keep us sane from all the busy craziness these past couple of months, we took some trips, met some new friends, played in snow, and cooked, cooked, cooked.  Hubby made yet another perfect Queen of Sheba, which we served our lovely dinner guests for the New Year celebration.  I learned how to make lumpia, which are Filipino egg-rolls.  It was tedious, time consuming, but oh so rewarding!  On the design side, I’m happy to report that I’m sooooo close to finishing our second bedroom/home office and have finally found that perfect white sofa to fill our space and function needs (see previous story).  I’ll be sure to post before and after pics so you can see the transformation.  It has taken quite some time to get this room just right, and I think we’ve finally got it.  I’ve just got two items on the to-do list, and it’ll be done!  Since pictures can better convey what I’ve missed writing about over the past couple of months since my last post, I’ve created a collage posted here to tell my story.

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Mac & Cheese – Classic Comfort on a Rainy Day

My hubby has a mistress in the kitchen.  Her name:  Betty Crocker. She has opened his eyes to many a culinary treat and has provided him comfort in a way that I can’t. She certainly has ways to get him to relax, whether it’s getting him to knead out his frustrations while making fresh pie crust or offering comfort food suggestions on rainy days. I suppose I should be grateful to her for getting him in the kitchen (and by extension, to General Mills for creating her in the 1920s). And I certainly benefit from the relationship — perhaps too much.

Today was a rainy one, so he turned to Betty C for a classic. She offered Mac and Cheese, of course. I offered Panko breading–a little Asian infusion to the classic American dish. He loved it! I guess that’s what I do. I bring a little something different, cultural, worldly, spunky–a little twist to something classic.

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Here’s a Mac & Cheese variation from the 2000 edition of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, which is good for 4 servings.

What you’ll need:

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded light Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (4 ounces)
1 cup Panko breading

What you’ll do:

1) Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Cook the macaroni as directed on the package.

3) While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter in 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in the milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute; remove from heat. Stir in both cups of cheese until melted.

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4) Drain the macaroni. Place in baking dish. Pour the cheese sauce on the macaroni and gently stir to incorporate the sauce.

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5) Top the macaroni and cheese with Panko breading. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until the Panko breading is golden brown.

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And, I have to admit…it was delicious!

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French Toast = Perfect Saturday Start

Another great Saturday morning in September…

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Queen of Sheba

Isn’t it lovely when you wake up on a Saturday morning to the scent of freshly brewing coffee and your hubby baking in his boxers? Believe me, I count my lucky stars frequently. It has been a particularly busy past September (hence the long absence). At times, it seemed like no matter how many hours I put in, I could never keep up with pile that kept on building. But thanks to the occasional Saturdays with my hubby baking away, I made it through September with a smile. On this particular Saturday, hubby made me the Queen of Sheba.

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And after my first bite, I did feel like the Queen of Sheba who was given “all her desire, whatsoever she asked” by King Solomon.

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Queen of Sheba is actually a French cake–Reine de Saba–made famous by Julia Child who said that it was the first French cake that she ever tasted. Our recipe was taken from another one of our picture cookbooks simply called French by Carole Clements and Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen. Below is the recipe taken verbatim from this delicious and classic cookbook.

What you’ll need:
2/3 cup whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted
2/3 cup of superfine sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
3 eggs, separated
2 tbsp almond liqueur (optional)

For the Chocolate Glaze
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp almond liqueur (optional)
chopped toasted almonds to decorate

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter an 8-9 inch spring form pan or deep loose-based cake pan. Line the base with nonstick baking paper and dust the pan lightly with flour.

2) In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the almonds and 2 tbsp of the sugar until very fine. Transfer to a bowl and sift over the flour. Stir to mix then set aside.

3) In a medium bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy, then add half of the remaining sugar and beat for about 1-2 minutes until very light and creamy. Gradually beat in the melted chocolate until well blended, then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in the liqueur, if using.

4) In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining sugar and beat until the whites are stiff and glossy, but not dry. Fold a quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then alternately fold in the almond mixture and the remaining whites in three batches. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Tap the pan gently to release any air bubbles.

5) Bake for 30-35 minutes until the edge is puffed but the center is still soft and wobbly (a skewer inserted about 2 inches for the edge should come out clean). Transfer the cake in its pan to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes, then remove the sides of the cake pan and let cool completely. Invert the cake onto an 8 inch cake board and remove the base of the pan and the paper.

6) To make the chocolate glaze, bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir gently until the chocolate has melted and is smooth, then beat in the butter and liqueur, if using. Cool for about 20-30 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

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7) Place the cake on a wire rack over a baking sheet and pour over the warm chocolate glaze to cover the top completely. Using a spatula, smooth the glaze around the sides of the cake. Spoon a little of the glaze into a pastry bag fitted with a writing nozzle and use to write whatever you like. Let stand for 5 minutes to set slightly, then carefully press the nuts onto the sides of the cake. Using two long spatulas, transfer the cake to a serving plate and chill until ready to serve.

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Food Carts in Portland

I’m having a late start this morning, made even later by my discovery of Food Carts Portland. It’s a blog about, well, food carts in Portland. It provides where the food carts are located, what they serve, and what the authors recommend you eat. And the cuisine selection presented on the site is just as diverse (perhaps even more diverse) as going to OpenTable.com.  You’ll find food carts specializing in cultural cuisines like Thai, African-Caribbean, Peruvian, and Middle Eastern.  Of course, the essential hot dog stand is featured as well as other specialty foods like cheese steak, pizza, waffles, and even pastry carts.  Who would have thought that Portland could have as thriving a food cart culture as New York City?  This is great!  Find yourself traveling to Portland?  Try one of the food carts showcased on the blog and let me know what you think!

Here’s a sampling of the recent highlights on Food Carts Portland:

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Asaase Ital Palace

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**All photos above from Food Carts Portland.

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Easy Bake (Lemon-Raspberry) Birthday Cake

Last weekend hubby and I were attempting to make a made-from-scratch lemon birthday cake for our beloved cousin when our hand mixer died.  And it was sad because we’ve had our trusty old Hamilton Beach since college.  With only a few short hours to spare, we had to quickly think of plan B (after all, this was going to be our birthday present, so we had better deliver).  What we ended up with turned out quite well, and I must say, a saving grace for the beginner baker (like me).  Have you guessed by now what we did?  Yep, we went for it: store bought cake mix and frosting.  But hey, it was still homemade and surely made with plenty of creativity and love!  =)

What you’ll need:

2 9-inch round baking pans

2 boxes of French vanilla cake mix

6 large eggs (3 eggs per cake mix)

2 1 1/3 cups of water (only 1 1/3 cup for each cake mix)

2 1/3 cups of vegetable oil (only 1/3 cup for each cake mix)

1/2 cup lemon curd (we used Elizabethan Pantry found at our local HT)

1 1/2 pints of fresh raspberries

2 16 oz lemon cream frosting

1 16 oz vanilla cream frosting

1 sheet of parchment paper (cut into a 11-12 inch round)

1 cake stand

Fresh flowers for cake decoration

Birthday candles

What you’ll do:

1) Preheat oven according to cake mix box instructions.  Prepare the cake mixes one at a time, according to box instructions.  Once the ingredients (water, eggs, cake mix, and vegetable oil) have been mixed according to the instructions on the box, split the batter equally between the two 9-inch round baking pans.  This is important because you don’t want the mix to spill over, so you have to split the batter between the baking pans.  Bake cakes according to time instructions on the box (usually between 28-31 minutes).  You should have a total of 4 low cakes.  Let the cakes cool completely.

2) Place the parchment paper on your cake stand, and place 1 of the 4 cakes on top of the parchment paper.  The parchment paper’s purpose is to keep your cake stand all clean and icing free while you decorate.  You’ll pull it off later on once you’re all done decorating/icing.

3) Bottom and middle layer cake:  On your bottom layer cake, spread the lemon curd until all of the surface is covered.  Once done, put on another layer of cake (this is your second or middle layer).

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4) Middle and top layer cake:  On top of the middle layer, spread the vanilla cream frosting until the entire surface of the middle layer cake is covered.  The vanilla cream frosting will hold the raspberries in place.  Once you’ve evenly spread the vanilla cream frosting, begin to place raspberries around the top of the middle layer cake, beginning outside and working your way into the center of the cake.  Once done placing the raspberries, top the cake with a third layer (yes, you’ll have one extra cake which you can use for other purposes).

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5)  You should now have a three layer cake, with lemon curd in between the bottom and middle layer and vanilla cream frosting spread and raspberries in between the middle and top layer.  The final piece is to ice the cake with the lemon cream frosting.  The best way to do this if you don’t have an icing spatula (which we don’t) is to use a butter knife.  Start by filling in the gaps around the cake between the bottom and middle layers and between the middle and top layers.  This will ensure that your cake comes out smooth around the sides.  Follow by evenly spreading the icing on the top layer, then work your way around the entire cake beginning at the side of the top layer and working your way around and down the cake.  We found that starting at the top and working your way around helps to best spread the icing.

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6)  Once you’re done icing, remove the parchment paper by gently lifting on side of the cake and pulling it off.  This can be pretty tricky, but can be done.  However, if you find it too difficult or feel nervous about messing up your beautified cake, just take the tip of your sharp knife and cut around the cake, removing the excess parchment paper.  Almost done!  For the final presentation, arrange the fresh flowers on top of the cake.  Bring along your birthday candles to place on the cake when the celebrant is ready to make his or her wish!

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PS. Sorry the pics came out a little dark and somewhat blurry. Blame it on poor studio lighting and time!

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Three Step Bebop-Rebop Stawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Mama’s little baby loves bebop-a-rebop, bebop-a-rebop, rhubarb pie!  If you don’t know that song yet, you should.  Watch here.  Actually, I have never heard of rhubarb until I started listening to A Prairie Home Companion a few years back.  It kinda looks like a redish celery.  Apparently, hubby’s grandma frequently made rhubarb pie for him and the siblings when they were growing up in Indiana.  Well, no one ever made me any rhubarb anything — until now.  And, boy, did I ever get a lovely treat after a long work day!  Hubby made my first-ever strawberry-rhubarb pie, with made-from-scratch pie-crust and all.  Isn’t it a beauty?


Hubby's Delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


To make:  Three Step Bebop-Rebop Stawberry-Rhubarb Pie (modified from Betty Crocker’s Coobook 2001)

Ingredients:

Two-crust pie pastry – see below for link to recipe

2 to 2 1/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups of sliced strawberries

3 cups of 1/2-inch pieces of rhubarb

1 tablespoon butter

First make the Best Buttery Pie Crust Ever from the July 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine. You cannot go wrong with this recipe. Butter makes all the difference!

Second, make the pie filling.  Mix sugar and flour in large bowl then fold the rhubarb and strawberries in the mix until they are coated in sugary goodness.

Third, put it all together. Line the pie plate with one of  your Best Buttery Pie Crust Ever and spread in (as evenly as possible) the rhubarb/strawberry sugary goodness mix.  Cut butter into small pieces and sprinkle over the rhubarb/strawberry goodness.  Cover with the remaining Best Buttery Pie Crust Ever.  Seal both pie crusts together and flute (essentially, pinch the edges of the pie between your knuckles).  Slit the top of the pie crust as shown in the picture above (for ventilation).

Now you’re ready to bake.  55 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice begins to bubble through the slits in the crust.  Cool for about 2 hours, unless you just cannot resist the sweet-tart aroma emanating from your creation.  It is advisable to let the pie set, relax, and chill for it to be at its tasty best — so please be patient.  Enjoy!

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