the cake! the cake! and marshmallows, too

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Many many thanks to all of you who sent ideas (and encouragement) after last week’s puppy cake post. I promised follow-up on that cake and food for fun is here to deliver.Its deLizious facebook debut noted a resemblance to the … Continue reading

gate-crashing a Sicilian cocktail party

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Liz: Well, hello. Welcome to a Special Travel Edition here at food for fun. I hope you brought your passport, as we’re going International today. First, you’ll want to meet my friend Saucy of Saucy Gander. She puts my simple … Continue reading

t is for tofu

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An invite to play with tofu was too good to pass up. Today’s food for fun post is a collaboration with three other fun-loving bloggers. Shanna, of Curls and Carrots, pulled me into a “cooking through the alphabet” game she … Continue reading

special edition: health hero

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Dear Dad, When I was asked to nominate my Health Hero, you were top of my list. Your commitment to exercise and staying fit has helped shape my view of what it means to be healthy. I may have been … Continue reading

soy brownies and rum?

Spring break is so over. A week of r& r at the in-laws–complete with far more DIY marshmallows consumed than recommended–was lovely, but this week it’s back to that real world and all its ensuing insanity. Cue the crazy.

Which put me at the intersection of Nothing Prepared and No New Ideas when time came to write this week’s post. So I’ll fall back on a now time-honored tradition of repeating myself, visiting my work elsewhere in the blogsphere.

Another month, another post at Minnesota Soyfoods Real Story Blog: Brownies anyone? (no worries–neither tofu nor actual soybeans were used)

We also play a game here at food for fun called “Find a Cocktail Recipe.” Enter part deux of this post…

Immediately upon opening the liquor cabinet, out fell a small paperback volume I don’t remember seeing before.

vintage 1940

vintage 1970

Famous Rum Drinks of the Virgin Islands is all of 32 pages and was penned by a Ms Dea Murray as a collection of drinks from “famous hotels, restaurants & bars.” Drowning in red, brown, gold, and harvest orange glory, it could only be a garage sale find. Yet its appearance rang no bells.

That said, it fell out of my liquor cabinet–reason enough to thumb through. Bluebeard’s Wench called for blue curaco, which is not on my shelf. Same story Hurricane Buster. Old Fashioned Voodoo would be mine if only I had guava juice. Swashbuckler called for Champagne and Coco Loco requires the purchase of coconut cream. Clearly I need a better pantry for this book.

wpid-mntsdcardPhoto-Editor2014-03-19-20.32.06.jpg.jpgFortunately, Rum Swizzle met me where I was at. Out came the rum, sweet vermouth, lemon, bitters, and fresh nutmeg. Though not a big fan of rum, I like what it stands for: warm sand and sun, island breezes, tropical tunes.

The resulting sipper was bracingly tart and could’ve stood a bit more sweet, but it won me over by being both assertive and classy. A newly purchased thrift-store cocktail glass made the project even more fun.

sS what if it's only 33°F outside? I have rum in my cocktail.

So what if it’s only 33°F outside? I have rum in my cocktail.

Our winter may not be over quite yet, but the mercury climbs slowly and surely a tropical rum cocktail can help push things in the right direction. So here’s to seeing the backside of winter. Here’s to garage sale finds–remembered or no. And here’s to the busy-ness of life. May it all be great fun as often as it can. Cheers!

food geek chocolate cake

The hardest part of monthly guest posts at Blog of Funny Names is coming up with that funny name. Committing to a food-related name helps narrow the field, but I’m never sure where to look for a name that is fun, fresh, interesting, relevant, and unique enough to be considered “funny.”

Googling always saves the day, but I still need a direction in which to head. This month I got that direction from a small inner voice whispering, “molecular gastronomy.” [While hearing small voices might qualify me for professional help, your reading this might qualify you for the same so we’re in this together. Stay with me? Please?]

So. Searching “molecular gastronomy” was exactly what I needed to do and we all benefit because 1) I found an amazing man named Hervé This, whom I now admire greatly and 2) I thought I’d try a bit of kitcheny science over here as well.

Those kitcheny science results are as laughable as they are delicious and we’ll move on to them as soon as I can convince you to hop over and learn a bit more about Hervé. Click here, then please return for a doozy of a chocolate cake experiment.

***

Back for cake? Very good, then. Learning about Monsieur This inspired me to find a recipe I remembered seeing on Foodography, a favorite Cooking Channel show. Self-proclaimed food nerd Jeff Potter demonstrated a microwave chocolate cake leavened only by N2O gasses in the cream whipper that dispensed the batter.

Long a cream whipper fan, I’ve used mine only to whip cream and branching out sounded like fun. A cake leavened with nitrous oxide instead of chemicals–kitchen science indeed.

ready to rock

ready to rock

Though the recipe threw me a bit: Four ounces chocolate, four eggs, plus smaller amounts of flour and sugar. This sounded like multiple servings, but best I could understand, it all went into one glass. Mention of only filling the “pan” two-thirds full should have been my clue, but after studying the recipe closely, I saw no mention of anything more than one serving. I filled that mug to the top. (also added a dollop of marshmallow fluff after half-filling with batter per recipe suggestion)

batter in place

batter in place

halfway

halfway

fluff!

fluff!

ready for the microwave

ready for the microwave

The first 30 seconds in the microwave didn’t “bake” the batter through, so I added four more 30-second intervals. And by the first minute, the batter was up and over the side of the mug. For sure this recipe is meant to serve four and shame on me for not getting that.

no words for this

no words for this

Just the same, this offers opportunity to turn disaster into triumph. (It’s a game I often play called, “I meant to do it this way.”) The cake turned out nicely on a platter, a bit of gooeyness on the top (now the bottom) adding to its charm. Dusting with powdered sugar, as advised, crowned it in glory and it was happily ever after.

A side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it's restaurant worthy.

Add a side of ice cream or sweetened whipped cream and it’s restaurant worthy.

No question the batter was meant to be divided evenly among four glasses. Though the numbers divide in half easily enough, making two servings an option as well.

While this was fun, and meeting Hervé was worth any amount of kitchen mess, my next microwave cake will be of the chemically leavened mug variety. Fortunately, another Liz–of Tip Top Shape–has me covered with her funfetti version.

I raise my future mug of Liz’s Funfetti Mug Cake to you all for spending time with me here and over at Blog of Funny Names. I look forward already to our next food adventure.

British (cake) invasion

Anyone who writes, reads, comments on blogs would attest to the power of online communication for building relationships. Ditto for facebook, twitter, etc. We’ve all made friends we’d never have imagined meeting outside of online connections.

Today’s story is about such a connection, though it goes back 12 years, before blogs, facebook Likes, or tweets. Remember the chat room?

With little to do at the end of my first pregnancy (I had stopped accepting new projects in anticipation of first-time motherhood and the nursery was ready and waiting), I found myself newly addicted to a television show I’d enjoyed in the ’80s. Discovering its virtual chat room linked me to others following this cult favorite. Thus my bonding with Scarecrow & Mrs. King fans began.

It’s with some embarrassment that I ‘fess up to having been into this show (admitting to a trip to LA for SMK’s 20th anniversary reunion doesn’t help my street cred either), though I will forever be grateful as it formed a friendship I still hold today.

Di–watching SMK in Great Britain–was brilliantly funny and we soon moved on to emails and exchanging packages (though she’s much better at sending than I am). We’ve met up in LA, Vegas, Boston, D.C., and DisneyWorld and I’ve hosted her in my home as well.

(You can meet Di yourself, through TourGuide Ted, her well-traveled stuffed bear who has his own website, twitter account, and vacation property.)

Though Di would never call herself a “cook,” her bear, Ted, has posted the occasional culinary delight. Most recently, he showed up on his Twitter feed with a piña colada cake. And when Di sent me the recipe, I was on it like a maraschino cherry on a pineapple ring.

TourGuide Ted's cake is much prettier than mine.

TourGuide Ted’s cake is much prettier than mine.

What’s surprising here is that I don’t like pineapple. I especially don’t like pineapple in baked goods. (My theory that raisins don’t belong in baked goods easily extends to all fruit, excepting apple pie and crumble of course.) But a seemingly endless string of sub-zero temperature days broke me and I wanted nothing more than a slice of piña colada cake.

Luckily I have a kitchen scale and working knowledge of google as I needed to weigh ingredients and translate British cooking terms such as sandwich tins, caster sugar, and Gas Mark 3.

In the end, my cake baked up flatter (didn’t have 7-inch cake pans, so used 9-inch) and was less pretty (bought two cans of pineapple tidbits instead of one each rings and tidbits–oops) than what Ted had whipped up, but it couldn’t have been any less delicious. Moist, sweet, a little bit boozy, the cake offered texture contrast with moist pineapple pieces and shredded coconut. I put away three (not huge, honest) slices before I could stop eating.

Kept going back for more.

kept going back for more

slice of heaven

slice of heaven

In the spirit of the recent Winter Olympic games, food for fun salutes all its readers–international and domestic–with a cake that is good enough to bring about World Peace. And hopefully a spring thaw for those in northern climes.

Piña Colada Cake as told to an American food editor

  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • 4 ounces tinned pineapple rings
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 6 ounces butter, softened
  • 6 ounces caster sugar (used granulated)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons coconut rum (used twice that and Ted claims to have tripled the amount)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces dessicated coconut (used shredded)
  • 6 ounces self-rising flour (used 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 ounces tinned pineapple pieces, drained and well-chopped (used canned tidbits)

Filling and Frosting

  • 525 grams icing (powdered) sugar
  • 225 grams butter (1/2 cup), softened
  • Coconut rum
  • Pineapple juice (reserved from canned pineapple)
  • 2 to 4 ounces dessicated coconut (Ted says toasted, though I did not)

Set oven to Gas Mark 3 (325ºF). Line 7-inch sandwich tins (with removable bottom). [I coated two 9-inch cake pans with baking spray.] Sprinkle bottom of one pan evenly with brown sugar. Top decoratively with pineapple rings and cherries.

In mixing bowl, beat together 6 ounces butter and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, rum, and vanilla until blended. Fold in coconut, flour, baking powder, and pineapple pieces. Add more rum if mixture is too thick to pour. Divide batter between pans. Bake on same oven rack 35 to 45 minutes or until cakes pull away from sides of pans and wooden pick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Cool (pineapple-side-up for pan with rings) on wire rack.

To make filling and frosting, sift icing sugar into large bowl. Add 1/2 cup butter and small amount of liquids; mix until smooth. Add liquids to taste until mixture is smooth and spreadable. (Here Ted mentions that it is important to keep tasting, though he is speaking specifically about the rum at this point.)

When cake layers are cool, place bottom half (without pineapple rings) on serving plate. Spread with about half of frosting; top with remaining cake layer, pineapple-side-up. Spread remaining frosting around side of cake. Top with coconut as desired.

deLizious leftovers

What with all the sweet potato dishes cooked up here last week and the oatmeal cookies the week before that, I’ve burned myself out a bit in the kitchen. My husband has made more than a few of our weeknight meals and we have so many cookies (double dosing this cookie season with two Girl Scouts in the house), cakes, and the like that there’s no need to make any new sweet treats.

OK, I did make this cake for Valentine's Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

OK, I did make a cake for Valentine’s Day. Inspiration and recipe found here.

So I’ll do what other cooked-out cooks do and serve leftovers this week. For starters, here’s a recent Blog of Funny Names post. Give it a click (Do it! It’s not like you’ll be tested on it 😉 ) and learn more about the folks behind your favorite cold-weather foods.

Minnesota Soybean’s Real Story blog also gave me opportunity to bake up tasty cornbread, containing not one, not two, but three soyfoods. You need cornbread if you have chili on the menu, so give it a read here.

Because food for fun’s goal is to send you away with more than enough, I’ll also offer you the recipe for husband’s killer oven-baked Crunchy Chicken. Served with creamed spinach (A pinch-and-dash puree of spinach and garlic sautéed in olive oil, then mixed with fat-free half-and-half and neufchâtel cheese. Sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg, it made a lovely side.) and reheated stuffing from a soon-to-be-posted clams casino recipe (spoilers!), the chicken was a hit.

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Crunchy Chicken and sides

Would love to see you back here next week and while I don’t yet know what we’ll be serving up, I promise it’ll be fun eats.

Crunchy Chicken

My husband plays it fast-and-loose with seasonings, so there’s no guarantee his results can be recreated exactly, though this is the recipe he used. Also note that he used only drumsticks and chicken breast tenders.

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 3 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, thighs, and/or drumsticks), trimmed
  • 3 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
  • 2/3 cup coarse breadcrumbs (about 2 slices bread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To marinate chicken, in large plastic resealable food-storage bag, whisk together buttermilk, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the hot sauce. Add chicken; seal bag. Turn to coat. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position; heat oven 400ºF. Set wire rack on foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Coat rack with cooking spray.

To make coating, in shallow dish, combine cornflakes, breadcrumbs, paprika, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle oil over crumbs; toss until well coated.

Working with 1 piece chicken at a time, remove from marinade. Dredge in crumb mixture, firmly pressing crumbs onto all sides. Place chicken on wire rack, leaving 1/2 inch between pieces. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until coating is deep golden brown and thickest part of chicken thigh registers 175°F and thickest part of breast registers 165ºF.

sweet stuff

Too many sweet potatoes. That’s where I found myself after Trader Joe’s opened up in our neighborhood. My girls and I refer to TJ’s as our “happy place” and while the prices are most definitely right, I always manage to drop large amounts of cash if only because I buy so much. Hence the sweet potatoes.

My plan was to serve them solo baked, mashed, and roasted and also cook them up for chili, shepherd’s pie, biscuits, and the like. Best of intentions. What really happened? I baked a batch one night, and while my husband and I devoured ours, the girls were unimpressed. Same thing happened a few days later when I served sweet potatoes mashed. Apparently naturally sweetened foods do not work for my children.

Their lack of enthusiasm dulled mine, and the potatoes sat. Not wanting to throw them out, I finally roasted and mashed what was left of the five-pound bag and committed to making something fun with sweet potato puree.

First up was sweet potato spoonbread, from Down Home Wholesome, 300 Low-Fat Recipes from a New Soul Kitchen. Quintessentially Southern, spoonbread had never graced my Midwestern table. But this custardy, pudding-like “bread” seemed a good way to pass dessert off as part of the main course. Because the cookbook focused on low-fat fare, this version had only one teaspoon butter and one egg. Cornmeal and sweet potatoes made up the bulk and two whites were folded into the final “batter” for extra lightness.

prebake

prebake

It baked up lovely and glorious–especially served with (fat-free) half-and-half. I’m calling it a side dish, dessert, AND breakfast. Score one for the sweet potato.

sweet potato spoonbread

sweet potato spoonbread

glory be!

glory be!

A recipe for squash rolls also came to mind; I remembered making them for Thanksgiving years back and that they were a hit. Sweet potatoes were a natural sub for the squash, so I collected ingredients and made me some dough. It rose nicely and in the interest of variety, I divided the dough in half, shaping 12 dinner rolls from one and rolling out cinnamon rolls with the other.wpid-mntsdcardPhoto-Editor2014-02-12-16.36.08.jpg.jpgContaining only whole-wheat flour, the dinner rolls could have been heavy, but weren’t. Honey and oil kept them soft and tender and the 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes added plenty of moisture.

now with butter

now with butter

The cinnamon rolls got a heavy pour of honey-sweetened cream cheese and offered a legit breakfast, dessert, or snack. They weren’t as light as the bakery-style mile-high rolls, but their graininess and sweet, earthy flavor put them in a league of their own.

before frosting

before frosting

after the frost

after the frost

after plating

after plating

Though my girls were nonplussed with the spoonbread (more for texture and unfamiliarity than objecting to flavor), the rolls–dinner and cinnamon–got a big thumbs-up from all. Mission accomplished.

With that, I’m closing my sweet potato chapter for at least a short while. Just the same, I sense another trip to Trader Joe’s, for yet to be discovered bargains, in the near future.

Sweet Potato Spoonbread

  • 3 cups 1% milk (I used soymilk)
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large egg whites, beaten until stiff

Butter 2-quart casserole. Heat oven to 375°F.

In heavy 2-quart saucepan, whisk together 2 cups milk, the cornmeal and salt. Heat over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in sweet potatoes, brown sugar, and butter.

Whisk egg into remaining 1 cup milk; stir into saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in baking powder and baking soda. Fold in egg whites until no white streaks remain. Transfer batter to casserole. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until just set, though custard will still be jiggly.

Sweet Potato Rolls

Instead of making 24 rolls, I rolled half of the dough into a 15×12-inch rectangle, brushed the dough with melted butter and sprinkled generously with cinnamon-sugar. The dough was rolled tightly, seams sealed, and cut into 1-inch slices. Rolls were then placed in a 9-inch pie pan to rise, covered, 20 minutes. They baked at 375°F for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and baked through.

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (105-115°F)
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour

In large bowl, combine yeast and water. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except flour. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, stirring until dough forms. Turn onto floured surface; knead vigorously 8 minutes or until soft and elastic. Place dough in clean greased bowl, turning dough so all sides are greased. Cover; let rise in warm place until nearly doubled. Shape into 24 rolls; place on greased baking sheet. Let rise 20 minutes or until puffed.

Bake at 375°F until browned and baked through. Transfer rolls to wire rack to cool.

2 oatmeal cookies–one traditional, one not so much

A fellow WordPress blogger set a lofty goal for herself in committing to read 52 books in 2014. An avid reader as well, I pledged to join her. While I read a fair amount of food-related fare (culinary mysteries are faves), I enjoy genres of all sorts.

Take my most recent read: Before Green Gables. The prequel to the series of Anne and her adventures on Prince Edward Island, it covers the span from just before her birth to her arrival on PEI. It’s a tale that speaks to the spirit of the underdog as well as how hard life was in earlier centuries.

Though there was no direct food connection, Anne’s story made me crave cookies. Molasses, oatmeal, and other old-school favorites were mentioned in its pages. I wanted a plate of old-school, from-scratch, homemade cookies. Oatmeal seemed the thing and despite a disdain for raisins in baked goods (which I’ve learned many of you wholeheartedly share), I had to have me some oatmeal raisin cookies.

yes, they have raisins, but they're so good!

yes, they have raisins, but they’re tasty!

The recipe came from Susan G. Purdy’s The Family Baker. I followed directions for the extra-chewy version, soaking the raisins in beaten eggs and vanilla for an hour before stirring into the batter. Note that this version replaces 1/2 cup butter with an equal amount of shortening, though coconut oil works if shortening isn’t happening in your kitchen. These are lovely cookies, chewy and sweet. Pair them with a glass of milk and call it breakfast.

And the other oatmeal cookie? This one was found in Bartender’s Black Book, purchased ten or so years ago as my first foray into cocktails. I remember well the winter weekend my husband and I were snowbound with a sick baby. We watched movies to pass the time, but my recently purchased spiral-bound bar guide called to me and I flipped through, imagining the cocktails I could create if only I had the booze.

The following weekend we were still snowbound and baby was still sick. Tired of winter, tired of sick, it was time to make my cocktail dream reality. After making notes of recipes I wanted to try along with spirits to buy, I ventured out the few blocks to a local liquor store and came home with ingredients for an Oatmeal Cookie.

oatmeal cookie squared

an oatmeal cookie served with oatmeal cookies

In the spirit of cocktail evolution, I more recently dressed this drink up after Attempts at Domesticity posted this marvelous concoction on deLizious facebook. A cap of marshmallow fluff and brief spin in the microwave made for a steamy and sweet cookie cocktail. No surprise that it pairs perfectly with treats that Anne (with an “e”) would most certainly have enjoyed.

before heating

before heating

30 seconds later

30 seconds later

what a way to drink!

what a glorious drink!

Extra-Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats

In medium bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Add raisins; stir to coat. Let soak 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.

In mixing bowl, beat together butter, shortening, and granulated and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add soaked raisin mixture; beat to blend. Slowly beat in flour mixture just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in oats.

Drop batter inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 12 to 16 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheets 1 minute; transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Oatmeal Cookie Cocktail

  • 2 ounces half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 ounces Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 1/2 ounces butterscotch schnapps
  • 1 ounce Jägermeister
  • 1 ounce cinnamon schnapps
  • Large spoonful marshmallow fluff

In microwave-safe drinking glass or mug, stir together all ingredients except marshmallow fluff. Top with fluff, spooning to seal rim of glass. Microwave, watching carefully, 30 seconds or until warm and fluff is puffed but hasn’t yet overflowed.

more momofuku insanity

I’ll admit to not being on top of the blogging game this week. My posting day arrived, but still no sense of what to write up. While my week was full of the usual food-related projects along with a handful of meals out, nothing had struck me as blog-worthy. And truth be told, sometimes I just get lazy. Having to track details, take pictures, etc for a post can (sometimes, not always) suck fun from a food adventure.

So today’s “inspiration” was forced and also a bit lazy. I grabbed Momofuku Milk Bar, Christina Tosi’s amazing cookbook, from the shelf and flipped through until I found a recipe that looked tasty, used minimal ingredients, and took little time to throw together. And boy howdy, did I strike gold.

Momofuku has been featured here before and for those who haven’t heard of this crazy little New York sweet shop, know that it’s famous for Crack Pie™ as well as crunches, crumbs, cereal milk, brittles, and the like. Tosi has an imagination like no other along with a willingness to think waaaaaaay outside the pastry box. She’s the proverbial kid in a candy store except that she’s in charge of the candy store.

What caught my eye this go-round was her Liquid Cheesecake. A dessert in itself, it’s also an ingredient in ice cream, sorbet, layer cakes (both apple and carrot), and truffles. Tosi is an excellent communicator and only her words will do her thought process justice:

…I’m kind of a fan of the gooey, just-barely-baked approach to making something delicious. There’s just something so naughty and fulfilling about the texture… Once I’d settled into my role as pastry chef at Momofuku, I knew I had every right to eat magically thickened cheesecake filling in the confines of my new home…so began my search for my voice in the form of cheesecake. It was short journey: my heart beats for one and only one kind of cheesecake–the underbaked, messy kind. And so, my signature cheesecake is liquid cheesecake.

Now doesn’t that sound lovely?

Should you share Tosi’s obsession for ooey-gooey goodness, I suggest you find yourself a copy of her book. It’s a fun read and a great kickstart for crazy-good dessert ideas. But if you can’t wait to make liquid cheesecake, here’s what I did:

Heat oven to 300°F. In mixing bowl with paddle attachment, beat 8 ounces softened cream cheese on low speed 2 minutes or until smooth. Scrape down side of bowl with spatula. Add 3/4 cup sugar; beat 1 to 2 minutes or until completely incorporated. Scrape down side of bowl.

In small bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt; whisk in 2 tablespoons milk. (I used almond milk.) Whisk in 1 large egg. Beat cornstarch slurry into cream cheese mixture on medium-low speed 3 to 4 minutes or until smooth and loose. Scrape down side of bowl. Stir in 2 or so cups chopped chocolate, miniature candy bars, and cut-up marshmallows.batterScrape mixture into 9-inch graham cracker crust. Bake 15 minutes; gently shake pan. Remove from oven if cheesecake is firm in center and jiggly around edge. If mixture is jiggly all over, bake 5 minutes more. Add another 5 minutes if needed, but, in Tosi’s experience, “it shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes to underbake a cheesecake.” Cool cheesecake completely, allowing to set. Store in airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Note that the candy stir-ins and graham cracker crust were my spins. Tosi bakes in a 6-inch square pan lined with plastic wrap and describes the final “cheesecake” as “pipeable and pliable enough to easily spread or smear, while still having body and volume.”

I’ll close with a warning: This cheesecake is deadly addictive. As expected, it’s creamy and rich, but the chopped candy makes it über-sweet as well. What starts out as one spoonful easily leads to two, then three, etc. And before you know it, you’re regretting those last bites. (or so I’ve been told 😉 ) This is a sweet treat meant to be enjoyed in small portions.

Liquid Cheesecake Pie, not for the feint of heart!

Liquid Cheesecake Pie, not for the faint of heart!

If the description and picture didn’t sell it, I offer one more reason to love liquid cheesecake:

not a fail!

not a fail

so not what I was going for

so not what I was going for

It’s supposed to look like this! I’ve had similar baking experiences that were considered fails (see pink squirrel pie at right) and it seems the same result is a major success here.

Hats off, then, to Christina Tosi for her envelope-pushing sweet treats. I love how she thinks and am ever grateful for her inspirations.

cookbook travels and banana bread squared

A show of hands here–who brings cookbooks home from their travels?

Even with the rise of the electronic recipe (my 11-year-old daughter Googles recipes, despite her mother’s large cookbook collection), paper cookbooks remain popular vacay take-homes. They give travelers return trips, even if just in mind and taste buds.

Opening Makers Mark® The Special Touch cookbook, a Kentucky purchase, I smell the bourbon of distillery tours. When the pages of Savoring San Diego are flipped, I see the ubiquitous flowers of that fair city. The Montana Cookbook brings back a sense of open land and Simply Colorado invites visions of rocky mountains.

While relatively close to home, the city of Duluth was another vacation spot worth remembering. (Culinary details from last summer’s camping trip recorded here.) An especially impressive restaurant stop was The Duluth Grill, and their cookbook told the tale of evolution from Ember’s franchise to one-of-a-kind comfort-food haven. The parking lot garden speaks volumes to their emphasis on fresh, locally sourced, and sustainably raised ingredients.

The book’s $30 price tag gave me pause and I left without, knowing I’d find it online for far less. Except I didn’t. The Duluth Grill Cookbook was available only on the restaurant website. I kicked myself (and certainly deserved a kick for not supporting small business when I had the chance), but found redemption in a friend who was making a quick trip that way. She, too, is a big fan of this much-loved restaurant and agreed to bring the cookbook back for me.

sauce with bookJust last week, then, I finally held a copy of this beautiful and lovely book in my hands. To prove its worth, I immediately set out to make Tofu and Walnut Marinara (taking a pass on the walnuts). It was hearty, flavorful, and packed with good-for-you veggies. Two days later it tasted even better and I know I’ll be making this sauce again.

now THIS is a tofu marinara sauce

now THIS is a tofu marinara

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

I have my eye on the Ratatouille recipe as well as the Buffalo Tofu Strips, both dishes I enjoyed while there. I’d also love to make their Beet Lemonade, though will have to riff on their standard Lemonade recipe as they do not share the beet version I was so enamored with during my visit.

Minnesota’s bitter cold winter called for a baking recipe, so I also made TDG’sr Chocolate Chip Cookies. In the same manner as an earlier cookie adventure, I experimented with each baking sheet, sprinkling some unbaked cookies with chocolate salt, some with vanilla salt and also mixing in marshmallow bits and even leftover movie popcorn that was sitting on the counter just asking to be poured into the remaining batter. Even without my improv, these cookies were amazing and hit all the right sweet, salty, tender, crisp notes.

cookies

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

So here’s to cookbooks and here’s to travel and here’s to those cookbook gems we find when we travel. If you’re looking for the recipe for either the sauce or cookies, let me know in comments or at deLizious facebook and I’ll pass them on your way.

And speaking of sharing recipes, I’ve been on a bit of a banana bread binge lately after finding two renegade recipes on favorite food blogs that demanded to be made. The Cottage Grove House rocked my world with Rye Whiskey Banana Bread

there's rye whiskey in my banana bread!

there’s rye whiskey in my banana bread!

and Shanna over at Curls and Carrots kept my spirits up with Rum-a-Dum-Dum Banana Bread. Thanks, ladies, for two fabulous loaves!

rum-spiked banana bread

rum-spiked banana bread

soy snack break

After recouping from last week’s presentation with multiple mugs of hot chocolate, food for fun is ready to hit the blogging circuit again. This week, I offer the six recipes featured last week when presenting a Snack Break at a client’s annual meeting.

Minnesota Soybean has been a long-time partner and my work with them has taught me that soyfoods can be a fun tool in the kitchen. Why not include them in your ingredient palette when you’re thinking through meals, snacks, and even the sweet stuff?

True, some people have allergies to soy and there have also been whispers of soy’s “dark side” in certain media circles. To those with allergies, skip right over these recipes, or try subbing in another type of nut, nut milk, green veg, or flour. And to those who believe soy has that dark side, I’d offer that moderate consumption of soy has yet to show negative effects in any study to date. On the plus side, it’s a strong source of plant protein and fiber and has been proven to reduce high cholesterol levels, possibly prevent against certain hormonal cancers, yadda yadda yadda.

Shopping for and cooking up the snacks for the presentation was loads of fun–as a writer, it’s a treat to move around and create something tangible (and edible!) for a work project. An overestimate of attendees meant there were plenty of leftovers, which I wish I could serve up here. Instead, I’ll post photos and recipes and invite you to try a little soy.

green tea edamame

Green Tea Edamame

  •  1 quart water
  • 4 tea-bags green tea
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen edamame
  • Sea salt to taste

In medium pot, bring water to a boil. Remove pot from heat; add tea bags. Steep 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove and discard tea bags. Return pot to medium heat. Bring tea to a gentle boil. Add edamame. Cook about 7 minutes or until beans are cooked through; drain and discard tea. Sprinkle edamame with salt. Serve immediately. Makes 4 (generous 1-cup) servings.

soy sconesSavory Spring Scones

  • 1 tablespoon vinegar plus enough soymilk to measure 1 cup
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup soy flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sliced green onions
  • Dash cracked black pepper

Heat oven to 500°F. In measuring cup, combine vinegar and soymilk; let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in soured soymilk until dough forms. Stir in onions and pepper.

Turn dough out onto well-floured surface; knead dough gently 8 to 10 times, sprinkling with flour as needed. Pat dough into 8-inch circle, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut circle into 8 pie-shape wedges, pressing down with knife without sawing. Sprinkle baking sheet with flour. Gently transfer wedges to baking sheet.

Reduce oven to 450°F. Bake scones 20 minutes or just until golden. Makes 8 scones.

tofu saladEgg & Tofu Salad

  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh chives
  • 4 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) package water-packed soft tofu, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, and chives until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; stir gently to coat. Adjust seasoning to taste. Makes 4 cups.

Edamame-Chile Hummus

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen edamame, cooked and drained
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons each seeded diced red and green jalapeño chiles
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In food processor, combine all ingredients; cover. Process until blended, but still slightly chunky. Adjust seasoning as desired. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

pumpkin granolaPumpkin Soynut Granola

Love pumpkin? Go ahead and double the pumpkin puree.

  • 3 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup roasted soynuts (can use Cinnamon-Roasted Soynuts, recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Heat oven to 325ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In large bowl, toss together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt.

In small bowl, stir together maple syrup, pumpkin puree, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir into oat mixture until coated. Stir in cranberries, soynuts, and pumpkin seeds.

Spread mixture evenly on baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool before storing in covered container. Makes 5 cups.

1386593552042Cinnamon-Roasted Soynuts

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups soynuts
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 300°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

In medium bowl, beat egg white just until frothy; beat in vanilla. Fold in soynuts. Stir in brown and granulated sugars and cinnamon.

Spread soynuts evenly on baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes or until just lightly browned. Cool slightly, breaking up any clumps before serving. Makes about 2 cups.

All together now:

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

hot chocolate blogging x 2

Last week’s marshmallows (black cherry whisky! rum!) have been joined by Rumchata marshmallows and they all scream for hot cocoa. Because it’s been a busy week with lots of food prep leading up to a presentation, I’m plumb (or plum?) tuckered and will fall back on work already done for this week’s post.

Hot cocoa made an appearance over at this month’s Funny Names in Food Post. Hoping you’ll click over for a read about San Fransisco’s most famous (and funnily-named) chocolatier, even if just because I use the word “dude” in the title.

The hot cocoa bell was also rung for this month’s Minnesota Soybean post, where I feature a recipe for a DIY chocolate syrup that was written up here over a year ago. Love the stuff so much that I’m never without a jar in my refrigerator and I’d strongly recommend you make yourself a batch as well. Too simple not to.

Speaking of Minnesota Soybean, these are the folks that had me cooking and baking crazy-like for a presentation I did at their annual growers’ meeting. In the interest of offering healthy foods to balance out all the sweets we’ve been enjoying of late, I’ll bring my soyfoods stories–and recipes–next week. For now, here’s a picture of the spread.

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

tofu, edamame, soynuts, oh my!

Would love to see you back here next week for more on tofu “egg” salad, green onions scones, pumpkin soynut granola, green tea edamame, and edamame chile hummus. Just writing that sentence made me feel healthy. Imagine how awesome we’ll feel once the recipes are out there. Until then, let’s add a few more ‘mallows to our hot chocolates and enjoy!

in-laws, outlaw marshmallows, plus a pan of bars

The blogosphere has been abuzz with end-of-year posts and kicking-off-the-new-year posts and year-end reports. And while I’d like to consider myself capable of looking within and learning from the past 365 days in hopes of improving my next round, I find that mostly I just move forward. I go and I do.

Balancing professional and personal ambitions with mommyhood leaves precious little time to just Be. And while that’s a bit disturbing, it’s where I–along with a lot of other mommies–am right now. Forward march with the task-driven mentality. (Though should you need a good look inward, I’ll send you over to meet Kaela. She’s fun!)

So to kick off 2014, food for fun offers you its most recent Adventures in Marshmallows. (If you were reading food for fun last winter, you know that I went through a bit of ‘mallow madness back then as well.)

Another blogging friend and I have been trading cocktail recipes and found we share a love for bourbon. Her use of cherry-flavored bourbon piqued my interest and I did a bit of “research” when visiting my in-laws over the holidays. Their small town boasts one liquor store and it’s little more than ten or so shelves on one wall, plus a few bottles behind the counter. I figured my chances of finding cherry bourbon were small, and it was indeed a wash.

Yet I knew from reading Drink More Whiskey (best. birthday. gift. ever. Thanks, dear husband!) that on some level whiskey is whiskey–whether bourbon, Scotch, Canadian, etc–and a bottle of black cherry Canadian had to share some common ground with cherry-flavored bourbon. I bought said bottle and returned to my in-law’s.

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

cherry whisky meet other marshmallow ingredients!

But I didn’t plan to drink it. Instead, I was subbing it in for bourbon in a cheeky recipe I’d found at The Tart Tart. The resulting marshmallows were amazing and lovely–the cherry sweetness came through as the spirited booze flavors flew just below the radar.

whitedogmallows

I bet Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

Santa would have enjoyed a few of these!

My sister-in-law and mother-in-law helped me lick the beaters (and spatula and bowl) clean upon project completion. It was then that s-i-l made a game-changing comment:

“I need rice krispies with this. And butter.”

My universe shifted a bit at her words. Boozy rice krispy bars. Sheer brilliance! A few rice krispies were stirred into the fluff left in the bowl and we enjoyed  a taste.

Fast forward a few days and I was back in my own kitchen using TTT’s recipe again, this time replacing the bourbon with rum.

there's rum in these 'mallows

there’s rum in these ‘mallows

After the marshmallows had cooled and been cut, I measured up 10 ounces and made a batch of Hot Buttered Rum Rice Krispy Bars. Oh divine.

hot. buttered. rum.

hot. buttered. rum.

The possibilities seem endless–adult rk treats in flavors of margarita, mudslide, etc. I sense that 2014 has taken on a new purpose for me. My resolution seems clear: Make More Marshmallows. (Which oddly enough is not too far off from my 11-year-old’s “eat more gummy bears” resolve.)

So please stick around (marshmallow pun–get it? 😉 ) and help me meet my ‘mallow-y goal. A fellow blogger (you’ve met amb here before) and I have joked about Marshmallow Mondays and while I’m not sure yet exactly how this will play out, I see it as a good start for a new year of sweet and fluffy fun.

Introspection will always be welcome here and maybe even occasionally offered outright. But it’s mostly about the food and the fun that accompanies. Marshmallows, then, seem a good way to kick off the new year. Wishing you all a mountain of marshmallows in 2014!