Chocolatey, Gooey, Deliciousness

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Recently, Izy from Top With Cinnamon released her first cook book! First off, congratulations to Izy, what an accomplishment. If you have not read her blog or bought her book yet, they are both awesome. This recipe from her book got a lot of attention from other food bloggers. I first saw it on I am a Food Blog and The Vanilla Bean Blog, and since pretty much anything that chocolatey and gooey is worth having, I decided to take a crack at it. I have made this cake two days in a row now, once for family and now for friends. I am actually letting the cake cool as I write this post. It’s kind of hard to sit at a computer knowing that it is only fifty feet away, but I struggle on!
Anyway, I only tweaked the recipe a tad. The whipped cream I topped it with was mixed with pistachio liqueur to give it a little boozy kick, and I must say, it is awesome. The first time I did the cake, it was in a slightly larger than 7 inch square pan, so it was more like a super moist brownie. I did manage to get my hands on a 7 inch circular pan, and now the one I am waiting for looks exactly like the picture in Izy’s book.. I can’t wait!

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Top With Cinnamon – Swedish Chocolate Cake!
10 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup, minus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 eggs
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting

Pistachio Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioner sugar
2 tablespoons Dumante Verdenoce Pistachio Liqueur

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees. Line a 7 inch circular baking pan with parchment paper. Grease and flour the parchment paper.

Melt the 10 tablespoons of butter in a medium sized saucepan. Mix the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract with the butter in the pan. Then crack in the three eggs and mix throughly. Pour the batter into the lined pan and cook until the sides have set and the middle of the cake is still gooey in center. Between 20 and 30 minutes.
Remove the cake and let cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cake over onto a wire rack and powder with sugar to finish.

The whipped cream is very simple, but oh so yummy. Pour the three ingredients into a KitchenAid with the whisk attachment and whisk on high until the ingredients are incorporated and cream comes to a stiff peak.

Well, I am off to enjoy chocolate heaven!

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Restaurant Review #2: Prune

During my second day in New York, I had made a dinner reservation for a restaurant called Prune. I had been looking forward to this meal specifically because I had read the book “Blood, Bones, and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton who is the owner of Prune.

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First off, I loved the restaurant. It was a tiny place that seated maybe 30 people total plus the bar, you could see into the kitchen, and there was quite a bit of pink. I was later told that pink was kind of the uniform of the restaurant, which was awesome because even if you didn’t know that the owner had a thing for pink, it just worked. The front of the restaurant was all windows with the door in the middle entering straight into the dining room. Overall, it had a great ambiance.

As a little starter dish, we were given a small bowl of fried chickpeas and salt. A tasty little snack before diving into the meal.

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I started off with three appetizers:
1. Cold Smoked Oysters
2. Canned, boneless, sardines with mustard and cornichons
3. Fried cheese with a caper-shallot dressing

These three appetizers were very quaint, but tasty. The oysters were Bluepoints and are native to the New York area. Being an east coast oyster, they should be briny, however bluepoints tend to carry a much milder flavor. These were served with mustard seed and a vinaigrette, and chives to garnish. I thought what was paired with these oysters was a good choice due to the mildness of the oyster, that being said, the oyster was not completely overpowered.

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The canned, boneless sardines were a nice bar snack.  Nothing to go wild over. I will say that it fit the mood and style of the restaurant. I’m also a sucker for sardines and cornichons.

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The fried cheese was another bar snack and was kind of an upgraded mozzarella stick, which isn’t supposed to be insulting, because it was tasty, just not something to jump at. My conclusion on the bar snacks is that they are just that, snacks. If you want something with a little more “wow” factor, stick to the main menu.

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Following the bar snacks, we ordered one more appetizer and our entrees.
1. Hen of the Woods mushrooms on garlic bread
2. Swordfish steak with fresh date agrodolce
3. Spatchcocked whole chicken with sauce charmoula

The fourth appetizer was my favorite amongst all the food we ordered (excluding desserts). There were several large bunches of Hen of the Woods mushrooms on top of a delicious, thick piece of garlic bread. Hen of the Woods are some of my favorite mushrooms, and that is saying something cause I can be stingy about mushrooms. They were cooked perfectly, still retaining plenty of moisture in them and I got a nice, yet mild flavor from them. Paired with the bread I was tempted to get a second order.

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Now, I am going to come off a little posh here, so excuse me. I have a great uncle that has a house on Martha’s Vineyard, and I have been lucky enough to spend time there growing up. Swordfish for me, is swordfish that has been harpooned off the coast, coming fresh from Menemsha Harbor, and thick as steaks. I was a little hesitant to order anywhere else, but here it sounded great and I can say I wasn’t totally disappointed.  The zucchini topping with the sauce was quite good, but the steak itself was a little thin. It did have the great “melt in your mouth” quality that I am used to, so I did enjoy it. It was a very light entree, so if you want something a little heartier, I would go with the the chicken.

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The Spatchcocked chicken was very well done. A whole chicken with a nice sauce and no sides. It was moist, and the chicken picked up the flavor from the sauce quite nicely. There really is not much else to say about it other than I found it to be my favorite between the two entrees.

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Following the entrees, I could not resist my need for dessert. I will be the first to admit, three desserts might be a little excessive, but they were oh so tasty.
1. Candied sour cherry-chocolate ganache tart
2. Toasted almond meringue with macerated red plums, rhubarb, and raspberries
3. White Creme de Menthe Parfait

Starting with the tart. I thought the tart itself was good. I was pleased that it was not some huge, or thick cut piece of chocolate cake that I have come to be fearful of when ever I see chocolate anything on a restaurants dessert menu. It was actually a tart. That being said, I thought the cherries were a tad bit over powering.

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The almond meringue was by far my favorite. The meringue was thin, had a nice crunch, and was not presented in a peak, which for some reason grates on my nerves. I guess it wasn’t trying to be anything else, it was just meringue. The cream and fruit, a classic pairing, was delicious. What really struck me about this dessert though was the rhubarb. I couldn’t tell if it was pickled, or just slightly cooked so it retained a celery like texture with a very tart taste.  It was a new flavor for me that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Last but not least, there was the Creme de Menthe Parfait. What an interesting little dessert. The parfait was not too sweet, and the creme de menthe was at the cusp of being too much, but was held at bay by the cream of the parfait. Topped with a raspberry, the appearance was pleasing to the eye and the flavor was quite a treat.

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In the end, I found Prune to be a nice experience. If you are looking for a nice night out, with great atmosphere, and tasty treats, its and ideal place to go. The food is not going to throw you threw a loop or anything, but it will certainly send you home happy. I also very much enjoyed the staff. They were kind, willing to answer your questions, and conversational as well!

Restaurant Review #1: Neta NYC

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Tonights post is featuring a restaurant that has, quite possibly, the best sushi I have had thus far in my life. Neta is a small restaurant in East Village that features some incredible sushi/sashimi as well as quite a few delicious small plates.

I want to start by talking about the service. Victor was awesome. He was cheerful, accommodating, and he would joke around with us, but always remained professional. His recommendations were always spot on as well. After we ordered, and before our first plates were brought out, each of us were given a dish of soy sauce, pickled ginger, and a small towel to pinch your fingers onto if you are eating with your hands. A nice presentation before the food even arrived. Before I go into the food, let me say that service through the night was great. Food was never presented at weird intervals, water was constantly refilled, the table was kept clean for each round of food, and the ginger bowls were refilled from time to time. A great job.

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I started off with two small plates and six pieces of sashimi.

1. Duck and Foie – Pekin duck, Hudson Valley foie gras, served in a cucumber cup
2. Steamed King Salmon – Yamaimo, yuzu, shiso, buckwheat honey and chive
3. Toro (Tuna Belly), Akami (Lean Tuna), Suji (Grilled Toro Sinew), Engawa (Karage Fluke Fin), Sawara (Spanish Mackerel), Nijimasu (rainbow trout roe)

The Duck and Foie was a great starter. There were four cucumber cups, each filled with shredded pekin duck, topped with a thin strip of foie gras, and a drizzle of hoisin sauce. The cucumber was very fresh while the duck provided a gentle savoriness, and the foie gras melted in your mouth with a wave of sweetness. What was very nice about this dish was that it was not over done. There was not too much sauce, and all the flavors meshed well.
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Duck and Foie

The Steamed King Salmon came second. It was nothing short of delicious. It was three pieces served over a yuzu broth and small garnish on top. The salmon was cooked perfectly. It was delicate, “fall apart”, and retained the flavor that salmon so famously boasts even when dipped in the sauce. I definitely recommend this small plate.

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Steamed King Salmon

Now for the sashimi. Before I begin, know that each piece has a incredibly gentle touch of sauce on the underside of the fish. There are occasional hints of extra saltiness, maybe wasabi, all depending on the type of sashimi.
Initially, I could not believe how delicate and fresh the fish was. Truly, I had ever experienced sushi quite like this. The very appearance of each piece was different from your everyday sushi, which could only mean that the taste of it would blow my mind.. and it did. The Suji melted away into traditional notes of tuna while retaining an incredibly soft texture, but was definitely sweeter. The Akami was a great middle piece between the three tuna pieces. Resembling the toro in flavor, though a little lighter, with a great mouth feel. It was not as soft as the sinew, and not as thick as toro. This was my first time seeing Akami on a menu and it was well worth it. I don’t think the toro needs much of an introduction. However, at Neta, I got a real sense for the beautiful texture and flavor it carries.

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Following those works of art, I knew I had to try more. I followed with a few more pieces of sashimi and one more small plate to call it a night.
1. Toro Kama (Tuna cheek), Kinme Dai (Big-Eyed Snapper), and Uni (Sea Urchin)
2. Grilled Whole Scallop – Uni, garlic soy butter, maitake mushroom, and lime

There was clearly a tuna trend going on tonight, and it wasn’t a bad idea. The toro kama was epic. Nicely seared on the outside, the flavor and texture resembling that of the Suji, but there was another aspect to the cheek that added an extra hint of something that made it quite a treat. The Kinme Dai may have been my least favorite amongst the array of sashimi I had. It had a thicker, chewier texture, and the flavor was very delicate. Compared to the other pieces I had that night, it didn’t leave quite the same impression. The Uni on the other hand. Oh my goodness. Where do I start? I have never ordered it before, due to the fact that I have been told if it is not fresh it can taste and feel like rubber, but Fernanda highly recommended it and I decided to go for it. I bit into it, there was a release of water, I chewed for a second or two.. and it dissolved, dissolved into a sweet, silky cream that was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I was kind of in awe. Victor told me later that it was from Santa Barbara. I don’t know what they are doing to their Uni in Santa Barbara, but they need to keeping doing it.

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Our dinner came to end, all of us stunned by the meal we just had, with glasses of green tea and a small serving of peanut butter – miso ice cream. A great way to end the night.

I hope this review has shed some light on Neta for anyone thinking about sushi in New York. If you ask me, it is definitely the place to try.

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Quinoa + Nuts + Berries = Breakfast of Champions

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One thing I strive to do when I cook is to be healthy. It honestly makes a day so much better when you start with a breakfast that is filling, nutritious, and provides boundless amounts of energy! Todays post is a recipe I found on 101 Cookbooks. I could honestly scour that food blog for hours. Heidi Swanson provides such an awesome base for finding meals to make your day better and your body happier.

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My main inspiration for wanting to be a healthy individual comes from two people. My mom and my AP biology teacher. As I grew up, my mom was always learning more and more about food, the food industry, what to cook, and where to shop. Wanting to follow in the foot steps of my super hero, I tried to do the same. I was always trying the new grains she brought home, or the beautiful salads she prepared. Even when the burgers had gone veggie, I was ready to take the plunge. We still eat meat and fish, I mean, they are delicious, but we do it in moderation.

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Now my AP Bio teacher, he was the science behind it all. He made sure anyone in his class knew that if you are gonna eat food, you were gonna know what is happening besides chewing and swallowing. This was senior year, and the year where I hit a health craze. I couldn’t eat food without thinking about the variety of cells in the body doing all their individual jobs. It was definitely for the best. I feel good, I see a difference in my moods, my motivation, depending on what I have been eating, I can even see it in my skin. THAT’S BONKERS! Your body can take the stuff you eat, transport the nutrients to the outer most part of the body and change your appearance.. Stop, hold the phone, that is awesome. The human body is wicked cool.

Anyway, This Quinoa recipe is great. I had never thought of quinoa for breakfast, but now it’s always in my cupboard. My version is a tad bit different because I like to gild the lily. It looks good, it tastes good, and its going to start your day off right!

Breakfast Quinoa with Nuts, Berries, and Creme Fraiche 

1 cup 1% milk
1 cup water
1 cup quinoa (regular, black, or red)
1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup blueberries
Handful of Raspberries ( or your favorite berry)
A drizzle of honey
1/4 cup chopped pecans or almonds
1/4 cup of Creme Fraiche

Combine milk, water, and quinoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for around 15 minutes. While the quinoa cooks, roast your pecans or almonds in the oven at 350 degrees, shaking and stirring them occasionally, about 5 minutes. You can also do this in a dry pan over medium-low heat, which is much faster. Once the quinoa is finished, add the 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon ( I usually add a little extra dash cause I love cinnamon) and mix, followed by the chopped pecans or almonds, then add in the blueberries and gently mix together so that the blueberries do not fall apart. Serve in a bowl and top with raspberries, top the raspberries with creme fraiche, and then drizzle the honey over the top.

* Serves 2 -3. If using black quinoa, I noticed it can be a little finicky with the cooking time, just keep an eye on it and add a little water if you think it needs it.

ENJOY!

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My next couple posts are coming all during the weekend. Going to explore NYC and some delicious restaurants!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Startin’ simple.. Buttermilk Pancakes

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Alright, so on a regular day, as I peruse food blogs and the internet, or just life in general, I have all these ideas of what I want to cook/photograph. Things tend to get pretty convoluted and before I know it, the kitchen has exploded. Well, amazingly enough, one morning (after a night of shenanigans) I settled on pancakes.

Pancakes.are.awesome.

Little round pillows of fluffy goodness, maybe some bananas or blueberries tossed in for a little extra somethin’ somethin’, and then you cover them in maple syrup. What’s not to love! That being said, I think there must be a million recipes for pancakes. I settled on a recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, The Vanilla Bean Blog . Every time I look through Sarah’s blog, I have to control myself, everything she bakes looks like heaven.

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This recipe is coming from Sarah’s blog. I will post my version here, but you can always check out her blog, it is definitely worth a read.

Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup strawberries, diced
1-2 tsp vegetable oil (I use safflower or coconut oil)

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and vanilla bean in a large bowl and mix well. If you do not have a vanilla bean, you can substitute with a tsp. of vanilla extract or omit it completely. They will be fluffy and delicious with or without it. If using vanilla extract, make sure to mix it in with the wet ingredients first. Mix the one beaten egg and cooled melted butter in another bowl, then mix in the buttermilk. Make a small well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and gently poor the buttermilk mixture into the well. Gently whisk together all the ingredients. As with most pancake batters, you may find a few clumps, its totally normal, and you do not want to over mix the batter.

Heat your skillet on medium to low heat for around 4 minutes. Drizzle in just enough oil to coat the pan. to be absolutely sure your skillet is ready, run a test. With just a big spoonful of batter, make a baby-cake and when you see bubbles forming on the pancake, its a good sign its ready to flip. Once your done with your test cake, pour in 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and reapply oil as needed.

  • If using strawberries, add slices to top of batter in pan before flipping
  • If using blueberries, add 1/2 cup to the bowl of batter and mix in before cooking
  • If using bananas, use the same method as the strawberries.

Serve with warm maple syrup and enjoy!

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