poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie

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A Dessert That’s Good For You (sort of)

*We interrupt your regular scheduled programming for this special report. A blog post pertaining to one delicious Peking Duck will resume next time.*

In our lab, it used to be that SP would kindly bake us all cakes or pies on our birthdays. However, since her departure, we’ve had to change to a buddy system. Last week, it was my buddy Debbie’s birthday. We, as a group, had gotten into a routine of buying fancy cakes. Not that that’s bad or anything, but I thought I’d bring it back to the roots and bake a cake from scratch. Also, one of my undeclared resolutions for 2011 is to get over my fear of/aversion to baking. Well, there, I’ve just declared it, haven’t I?

The first cake I thought of was my sister JS’s carrot cake. I haven’t had it in years but I still remember it as one of the tastiest homemade cakes ever. So, I asked her for the recipe (see below). In addition to her notes, I’d also like to point out that I think she once made it with only one cup of sugar instead of two. I think you can get away with it because: 1) the frosting is very sweet, and 2) the pineapple and coconut flakes are also sweet (well, and the carrots too, duh!). (UPDATE 5/29/11: I made the cake with 1.5 cups of sugar and it was great! I also used 1 cup unbleached flour, 1/2 cup wheat flour, and 1/2 cup flax seed.)

It ain't pretty, but it sure was delicious!

One interesting thing was that I compared JS’s recipe to the one found in my Gourmet Cookbook. They were eerily similar, except that the one in the Gourmet Cookbook asked for twice the amount of vegetable oil. Ewww. Trust me, you can get away with just 3/4 cup. Also, make sure the cake and frosting are cool before you frost the cake. Otherwise, you’ll end up with an ugly (but still incredibly delicious) cake.

JS’s Best Ever Carrot Cake

Ingredients (cake):
2 C flour (note 1)
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
3 eggs, beaten
¾ C veg. oil
¾ C buttermilk (note 2)
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
2 C grated carrots (about 3/4 lb)
1 3 ½ oz can/bag of flaked coconut
1 C coarsely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

*JS’s Note 1:  you can also try: 1/3 white, 1/3 wheat , and 1/3 flaxseed; or 1 C white, ½ wheat, and ½ flaxseed.  I haven’t tried this mix with the carrot cake, but it seems to work ok for waffles.
*Note 2:  Buttermilk substitute – Almost a cup of milk (1 TBSP short) + 1 TBSP of lemon juice or white vinegar

Cake Instructions:
1.       Cream oil & eggs together.
2.       Add sugar, vanilla, buttermilk, cinnamon.  Mix.
3.       Add carrots, coconut, nuts, pineapple.  Mix thoroughly.
4.       Add flour, baking soda, & salt.
5.       Bake at 350F for 40-50 min.

Cream Cheese Frosting
½ C butter, softened
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp orange juice
1 tsp grated orange peel

Mix all ingredients.  Refrigerate until frosting is set to frost the cake.


My latest obsession: fried egg sandwiches

When it comes to eggs, I’ve always been a scrambled or hard-boiled kind of girl. But lately, I’ve ventured forth into the exciting, dangerous world of fried eggs. I can’t really explain why I’ve had an irrational loathing of undercooked egg for almost my entire life, but it prevented me from ever wanting an egg sunny side up or even  poached. Even more perplexing, I can’t remember what made me wake up one day a couple of months ago and think, “You know what sounds really good right now? A fried egg. Over toast.”

Since that fateful day, I have eaten dozens of fried egg open-faced sandwiches. I stick a slice of Milton’s Multigrain into the toaster, two if I’m super hungry. Then I drizzle olive oil in the pan, crack open an egg, sprinkle a little salt and pepper, and flip it at just the right time. When the toast is ready, I spread a layer of Smart Balance on top (butter would be better, but sadly, I’m a lactard). If I have an avocado, I’ll put a few slices on the bread,  then top it all with a perfectly cooked fried egg. For me, this means that the whites are just a little brown and the yolk a little runny. Inevitably, some yolk runs onto the plate, so the only solution is to sop it up with the last nubbin of toast.

What makes this whole experience even better is that I’ve been getting a steady supply of farm fresh eggs and avocados, courtesy of TC. If you’ve never had a farm fresh egg, I urge you to do so ASAP. They taste awesome and fry up superior to store-bought eggs. Plus, they’re probably better for you as well.


Weekend in Baltimore

Back in March, I headed to Maryland for two very important occasions: EF’s bachelorette party and SM’s wedding. For EF’s bachelorette party, the bridesmaids tried to take care of everything but EF insisted on contributing too. To this end, she made delicious scones and a huge sandwich for our outing to a winery. Sidenote: I know what you’re thinking. “A winery in Maryland, what the heck?!” Yeah, I was skeptical too. It wasn’t that bad actually… but of course, no comparison to Napa or Sonoma.

Homemade scones. Yum.*

Oh, did I mention that she baked the bread for the sandwich herself? If you’re impressed with this, wait until you see the things EF pulled together for her wedding. She’s an amazingly talented lady, and an even more amazing friend. Dinner was at Chiu’s Sushi, a low-key, above average sushi joint downstairs from our hotel.

We had a great time celebrating with her! Woot!

That sandwich is bigger than her head!

Awesome homemade sandwich with tapenade, prosciutto, and roasted red peppers.

Sushi for dinner. No, EF didn't make this.

*This is the first photo taken with a bounce flash that I got from EF for Christmas. It is awesome, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing many more photos taken with it in the future. I should also mention that I have a new Photos FAQ page. Check it out!