Friday, January 29, 2010

graham crackers :: Daring Bakers January 2010

Oh, Daring Bakers, what has happened to my first love for you? I was so excited to experiment with new and complicated baking techniques that I had yet to try. But to be honest I've been a little disappointed with your most recent choices. Am I allowed to publicly admit this? Granted, I didn't get around to December's gingerbread house challenge, but I have made them before so it wasn't that novel.

January's challenged was Nanaimo bars. Foreign to me, but described by DB as
a classic Canadian dessert created in none other than Nanaimo, British Colombia. In case you were wondering, it’s pronounced Nah-nye-Moh. These bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate. They are extremely rich and available almost everywhere across the country.

This reminded me a little of the American kitchen sink or seven layer bar, based on top of a graham cracker crumb mixture and topped with every sweet thing in Grandma's cupboard. The first bite might fill a sweet tooth craving, but every subsequent taste makes your stomach feel increasingly sicker. The thought of making this bar cookie with vanilla pudding mix made me gag a little. Special Canadian tradition or not. Had I a little more time, I could have put my spin on it and experimented with homemade pudding, layered with dark chocolate ganache. But time is the most valuable thing of my life right now. Valuable and rare. I could have simply dipped them in chocolate. I might still do this. Yes, I will certainly do this, but not in time to photograph by the deadline.

I have never made graham crackers from scratch. Lucky for me this was the only mandatory part of January's challenge. They suggested a gluten-free version, but my pantry was not well stocked enough to pull it off last minute. So this time around I made a batch using 101 cookbooks recipe, with whole wheat flour. They were crispy and very flavorful. The brown sugar and vanilla really add a butterscotch overtone to this cookie cracker.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm also dieting here at the Last Bite. You would know this if you lived next door because along with my dieting comes a little bit more irritability and yelling. My kids probably would have loved the Nanaimo bars, so maybe I was just being selfish because I knew I wouldn't be able to eat them. A graham cracker, sure. But, a layered sugar rush. No way I'm counting those calories.

Here's hoping February's challenge is more of a culinary adventure to remember. Or maybe I should just go to culinary school.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

Thursday, January 28, 2010

the waffleizer

Food gimics. They're a dime a dozen. All over this new-fangled internet. But frankly, if I don't recognize the value of food gimics on the internet, it's fairly short sighted of me. Food blogs definitely fall in the category of food gimics.

The Waffleizer. A man who will try to waffle (is this a verb?) 30 different things in his waffle iron. He's currently up to #5 or 6. It's worth a quick look. I have a good friend who made the waffled indian aloo parantha, and her family adored them.

I don't expect you to copycat this and make a waffled-hamburger. If this site simply encourages you to dust off your waffle iron to make a traditional belgian, that's probably enough.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

food of the African-American street vendor

If you live in Ann Arbor and haven't been to one of Chef Alex's tasting dinners at Zingerman's roadhouse, GET yourself to one. The experience is priceless- you learn the history of certain cuisine while simultaneously sampling it. I adore the thoughtful combination of interesting narrative and marvelous eats.

I really enjoyed learning about the history of these dishes, how they originally migrated to the United States, how they've endured through the years, and how they've evolved as our culture has changed. I consider myself a bit of a student type, so to get this extra learning along with the fabulous food is an extra special treat.

Here are a few shots from our wonderful view into the cuisine of African-American street vendors.

loved the deviled crab here

mmm... peanut soup

did you know that in the 1800's eating spicy food was considered vulgar?
i have a similar reaction to spicy food. it leaves me breathless.... in a good way
philadelphia pepper pot = braised pork and beef, not tripe.

It might not all photograph well with this silly cell phone, but trust me. It was delicious.

As always, the collective Zingerman's genius knows how to satisfy as many senses as possible. If you've read this blog before, you know how keen I am on pairing music and food, as others pair wine with food. Part of the goal of the talk given during the dinner by Adrian Miller was to relay the importance of the call and answer songs of the street vendor. These songs obviously drew attention to the food being sold, and were so closely tied to of development of early African-American jazz. In fact if you connect enough dots, these food calls were the root of jazz. Having studied the history of jazz in college, this wasn't news to me, but it was awesome to see it specifically paired with this food.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

So glad you joined us, Kelly. Do you eat like this every night? ;)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tyler Florence :: Stirring the Pot :: Deux

Lobster Cakes. Apparently my sister has rich tastes. Actually I know she's got rich tastes. She definitely needs a sugar daddy (applicants please send references to When it was her turn to choose the next recipe of the Stirring the Pot Challenge, she chose lobster cakes. Not what I would pick on a teacher's salary, but I digress.

This was a very tasty recipe - the aioli was phenomenal. It had a real bite- salty, acidic, creamy. Just what I wanted to contrast the buttery, almost flat taste of the lobster.

But to be honest, I had a real problem trying to get the cakes to stick together. Tyler said in the instructions " The mixture should just hold together in a ball in the palm of your hand." Mine absolutely did not. Perhaps it had to do with the quality of the lobster. It was frozed when I purchased it. But for goodness sake, for only half of a pound it was $28 at Whole Paycheck Foods. Maybe my bread crumbs were too coarse - I did use my homemade breadcrumbs after all. And perhaps I slightly overestimated two slices worth. Or maybe the problem was with the recipe. It only calls for one egg white and 1/4 cup mayonnaise to bind one whole pound of lobster and 2 slices of white bread made into crumbs. That just doesn't seem like enough to me. They did stick together enough to form loose lumps in the frying pan. So I just went with it. I'd make this again for sure, but perhaps I would use only fresh, never frozen lobster.

I tweaked it a little by making toast points for the cakes to sit on - just by pan frying buttered bread. In addition after sauteing the lardons and removing them from the pan, I put one pint of cherry tomatoes into the pan to brown. Then I added these burst tomatoes to the frisee salad.

Tag. You're it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cecilia's Pastries of Ann Arbor

Just a quick note to let you know that you should definitely check out Cecilia's pastries of Ann Arbor. Her products, consistently french macaroons, sometimes other pastries, are for sale at New Chelsea Market out in Chelsea, MI. Cecilia used to sell at Eastern Market in Detroit, but lucky for us now sells at the Ann Arbor Farmer's market. Although this classically trained pastry chef sells to Eve, she does not have her own storefront. According to her website, she never had a desire to have her own shop because of her desire to have her customers consume her products within a few hours. Obviously this speaks to her passion for quality control. I can attest to this from only enjoying her classic french macaroons. This evening my family got the chance to sample five different flavors: vanilla, raspberry, chocolate, almond, & coffee. They were excellent, and quickly devoured. The flavors were clean; the textures of the macaroon were perfect. Crispy on the outside, soft in the middle; each macaroon filled with a complimentary cream center.

Cecilia plans to return to selling at the A2 farmers' market in March when the weather improves. This is something we all have to look forward to.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Raspberry Puree

Raspberry puree - It comes off as fancy, but like so many of my other tricks, it couldn't be simpler. It's a wonderful compliment to many things; as a coulis under a slice of flourless chocolate torte, drizzled over pound cake, or vanilla ice cream. I have put it in an ice cream machine before, and it magically turns into the best raspberry sorbet - smooth and tangy. To be honest my favorite way to eat it is straight out of the bowl, right off the spoon. In this morning's brunch, we layered it in a yogurt granola parfait. For a great granola recipe, check out this prior posting.

I love to use frozen raspberries in this recipe because it creates a frothy texture in the final product that wouldn't happen if you used fresh or thawed.

Raspberry Puree:
(this recipe can be doubled)

In the food processor combine one large bag (10-12 oz) of frozen raspberries with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, and 1/8 cup water. Pulse until the mixture has the appearance of a sorbet. If it gets very stiff, add a few more tablespoons of water and pulse again. At this point, taste the mixture - you might need to add more sugar. If needed, add two tablespoons at a time, pulsing again, and tasting after each addition. You can always add more, but you can't take it out. Each batch of raspberries will have a different degree of tartness - so there really isn't a static amount of sugar for this recipe.

Pour this mixture into a fine sieve over a bowl. With the back of a large soup spoon, push the mixture through. The sieve will catch the seeds and the puree will go through into the bowl. This is probably the most difficult and surely the most time consuming part of this recipe.

Kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this puree will last at least a week.

Monday, January 18, 2010


In case you have the opportunity to visit Chicago any time soon, I have to highly recommend eating dinner at Carnivale on West Fulton. It's a

fabulous spot, a little off the beaten track. It's aesthetically pleasing, and totally kid friendly, certainly loud enough to cover up any kid noise, like perhaps if your four year old falls backward off her chair...

But more importantly, the food is wonderful. We started with several apps, including the ham tasting - serrano, iberico, and a third. I wanted to take a pic of these but my little ones devoured these quicker than I could grab the phone. The meat empanadas were so full of flavor -- the pastry was flaky and perfectly encased the ground meat and olive mixture. They sat on a bed of pickled cabbage, but not a sickeningly sweet pickle - a briney acidic pickle. The whole dish was drizzled with a rich yet refreshing lime cream. The homemade guac was well balanced and went perfectly with the house fried tortilla chips.

We split three entrees:
(Grilled skirt steak, rice and beans, sweet red onion, chimichurri sauce)

Pollo Estilo Billy
(Spice rubbed chicken breast, papas fritas, citrus butter)

Costilla De Res
(Braised short rib, mash potatoes, corn and peanut salsa)

All were wonderful - well seasoned. Each had a distinct latin flavor profile. When we first sat down the waiter said the chef likes to call his menu Latin soul food. With this I can wholeheartedly agree. Food that left us satisfied and happy. If you're in the windy city, give it a try.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Clafouti :: a fancy name for a simple dessert

If you're like me, you still have cranberries floating around your fridge. By mid-November I'm so forlorn over the lack of a good strawberry, peach or plum. I'm already terribly sick of apples - we've eaten them straight for two months. So when November's fruits come along I'm ready. Cranberries, pomegrantes, clementines. I go crazy (crazy in relative terms - grocery store crazy). I start to hoard these little fruits like gems, buying two or three bags at a time.

But now, as January is flying by, I keep finding my stashes of cranberries around the kitchen. At this very moment, I have two Locovorious bags in the outside storage freezer, three home-frozen bags in the inside freezer, and one lonely bag, sorry looking, but still fresh in the refrigerator.

I'm looking for ways to use these puppies before they fossilize in my fridge. Sure, I could make cranberry orange bread - but one can only eat so much of that. Cranberry compote for Thanksgiving, of course. Cranberry curd. But, again? ... I guess I just bought too many cranberries.

This afternoon, I stumbled upon the clafouti, a dessert that sounds fancy, but is simple enough to throw together during dinner prep. It's one of those things I've tended to avoid. I was thrown off by the french name. Essentially a clafouti is a french pudding with two simple parts, seasonal fruit and batter. When baked, it puffs up initially because of the eggs, then settles down to the texture of a baked flan, smooth yet firm, every bite full of the tartness of the cranberries.

Tonight's recipe follows that method. First I boiled down cranberries with port and sugar. While that was happening, I made the batter in the blender, the way you would a crepe batter. This recipe from Gourmet calls for dried cranberries, but because I didn't have those I used the remainder of my fresh cranberries. Also in this version, the top is sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, mimicking the top of a brulee.

Typically you don't even have to cook the fruit. For example to make a peach clafouti in August, you'd just toss fresh ripe peaches with sugar and put them in the baking dish. If you're interested in different styles of the clafouti, check out Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child. She's got many different variations in that cooks' bible.

Cranberry Cinnamon Clafoutis

Gourmet, December 2007
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (I substituted 2 cups fresh cranberries plus 1/2 cup brown sugar)
  • 1 cup tawny Port
  • 1/3 cup rye whiskey or brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar mixed with
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in upper third. Butter a 9-inch shallow baking dish.

Briskly simmer cranberries, Port, whiskey, and cinnamon in a small heavy saucepan, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until almost syrupy, 12 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking dish.

Blend together eggs, milk, butter, sugar, flour, vanilla, and salt in a blender and pour over cranberries, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake until slightly puffed and set in center, about 35 minutes. Cool clafoutis briefly on a rack.

Can be served plain, or even better with ice cream or crème anglaise.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

this is why i'm fat?

This site a friend showed me is a combination of funny, gross, yet somewhat tantalizing.

This is why I'm fat?

I don't think so.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tyler Florence :: Stirring the Pot :: Take one

Since I've been on the subject of the Food Network, I thought I'd share a link. My sister and I have a blog called Big Heart, Little Heart - mostly a place for Facebook spillover so we don't bore the world with our sisterly nonsense.

This is relevant to you food readers because we recently started a Tyler Florence Food Challenge. I picked this new cookbook up when she was visiting for Christmas, and we sat staring, drooling and loving on Tyler. The last night she was here we made tortellini stuffed acorn squash and tempura fried green beans. Both were fabulous even though they weren't from the same continent.

We're going to challenge our way through this cookbook for fun. It might be sporadic, but I thought the most recent recipe Baked Lime Pudding(link to Tyler's blog and recipe) was fabulous.

Here's our take. Big Heart, Little Heart, eat your heart out!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

la gougere

open in a new window for background music

Part of the reason why I love food blogging is that I feel as if there's a joint effort to feed my family. I scour my brain (nothing but a few loose marbles), a few cookbooks (ideas sometimes good, sometimes bad), then a few reference sites (epicurious, etc - meh.). If I can't find anything, I go to the food blogroll. Now, I realize that I should just start there because I will most often find my inspiration among its lists. I invite you to begin to think of the foodblog world as a cookbook that never stops growing. And best of all it comes with reviews and revisions.

A few nights ago I found this on Tastespotting: a new-to-me blog, Thibeault's Table, and on it a recipe for "la gougere". I've made gougeres before, miniature ones that you can pop in your mouth. Heaven. But this was family sized, and I loved the look of it. I loved the feeling of it, very french countryside. Hunks of cheese in the fridge, leftover from the holiday parties. Now a way to use them, at least some part of them. A giant cheese puff. Alongside grilled sausages and a green salad topped with oven roasted tomatoes. Who wouldn't love that? Even my finicky four year old loved it - I did have to call it pizza. Nevermind a little deception.

Recipe for La Gougere
politely borrowed from Thibeault's Table
La Gougere
1 cup water (or half milk/half water)
1/3 cup butte
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh grated nutmeg

cayenne pepper
1 cup flour

4 eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 cup gruyere cheese (I used a combination of comte, aged gouda, and pecorino)
1 tsp milk
extra cheese for top

Bring the water/milk to a boil and add butter. When butter has melted, remove pan from heat and add flour, salt, cayenne, nutmeg, pepper and stir vigorously with a big wooden spoon. The mixture should come away from the sides of the pan and form a ball. Place mixture in the bowl of a large mixer and add one egg at a time beating well, After you add last egg continue to beat well. Mixture will be shiny. Add Dijon mustard and taste for seasoning. Adjust to your taste. Add coarsely grated cheese. Butter a large cookie sheet and flour. Draw a small circle in the flour (about 2 inches wide) and proceed to drop the dough by tablespoon full around the outside of this hole, making a ring, or a crown. Dough should be piled high. Brush lightly with milk and sprinkle the extra cheese over top. Bake the ring in the over for 45 minutes at 400°F. Do Not Open Door. After baking, open the door of the oven and leave the Gougere in the oven for 5 minutes. It should be firm to the touch and golden brown. Goes great with a glass of burgundy or with a white Alsatian wine.

So is there a down side to food blogging? Sure. Perhaps it's the time spent writing and even more spent surfing. Perhaps it's the jealousy that brews as I look at the evidence that other people have way more time to cook and photograph than I do. But is there an upside? Absolutely. Just ask my family.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Rach

Apparently I'm not the only one weirdly obsessed with RayRay... (an article from today's Serious Eats)

After you've watched the clip, scroll down and read some of the comments. Someone called her a "talentless food muppet". And I was worried overdid it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

an email exchange with my dad

me to dad:
whenever i accidentally catch 5 minutes of rachel ray (most times
aiming for something a little more high brow :) ), i can't help
but think
how she's become a shell of her previous bubbly self.
don't get me wrong,
this previous version annoyed the hell out
of me, but it was much more
palatable then what exists now.
kind of like a cross between a raisin,
martha stewart, and a
sopranos character who has a case of that wretched

diane rehm vocal cord disease.

it's terrible, especially because every few months that i tune in,
it seems more and more

dad to me:
Receiving this, I feel as though I'm just another of the many
nonpaying subscribers to your blog. Couldn't you have
personalized it a bit--i.e.
Dear Reader??

Yes, I know what you mean--but that's what happens when
you pluck the cheerful deli-counter girl out from behind the
coldcut case and stick her in the corner office with cherry
paneling, expecting her to watch over the
"handlers" (i.e.. leaches) managing the media empire that
bears her name--all while cobbling together a 30-minute
meal. Then there's the husband?!?!!

Not to worry!--as of 1/1/10 the food channel has lost its
berth on cable in NJ refusing to chop its fees. Maybe
this fate will befall cable subscribers in MI.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

seeing myself skinnier or at least healthier...

because who are we kidding? I'll never be a skinny person. I just don't have it in me. I do, however, need to tighten the belt a couple notches. Reign it in a little. I realize it's cliche to start a diet in January, and I do hate to be cliche. But sometimes, a girl's gotta do, what a girl's gotta do.

So I'm here just to quickly vent: I'm already dreading the diet that will begin tomorrow. I hope I can keep up the blogging even though I'll be weak with hunger.

Somehow my stomach knows that the clock has just struck midnight, and it let out a big obstinate growl.