Pizza and Muffins and Curry and Coffee…!

Looking over my Flickr account, I’ve eaten quite a bit of yummy things and not taken the time to write about it here! That’ll change right now, then.

A little over a week ago, my sister decided she wanted to make some garlic knots at lunchtime, so we ordered a pizza to go along with them from the only place near campus that was delivering that day, Cosmos Café. The timing wound up perfect, as the pizza arrived just as the garlic knots were coming out of the oven.

Homemade Garlic Knots
Garlicky dough-knots
While they were certainly fresh and delicious, my sister and I agreed they could’ve used a bit more garlic-and-oil topping. Next time, we’ll be keeping that in mind. At the same time, we found that her baking stone makes a wonderful difference with the texture of the bread. The outside gets a nice, dry crust while the inside stays perfectly soft. While lacking a little in the flavor department, these garlic knots had truly authentic dough.

Cosmos Pizza with Peppers and Onions
Cosmos pizza with peppers and onions
The pizza was pretty comparitive. It did possess the thin crust, not-to-much cheese, and yummy veggies that comprise my pizza preferences in those areas, but the sauce was just good, not fantastic. It well-satisfied my pizza desires, though, and I would definitely order from Cosmos again.

Another Pizza Shot
I ate it–yep yep!
Here you can see that the cheese and crust are in balance. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when pizza has more cheese than crust. That’s plain just too much greasiness, ick. At the same time, I much prefer thin-crust pizza to Sicilian-style, so dramatically more crust than cheese is also in the Terrible Pizza section of my book. This pizza could’ve had less cheese and that would’ve put it into the Perfect Pizza section, at least with respect to cheesiness, but it was certainly far from disagreeable. :]

Hmm…I think if I don’t paginate this entry, it’s about to get excessively long, so continue on to the full entry page if you’d like to read more about what I’ve eaten and cooked and eaten again!

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Bread Overload

For some reason, I’ve apparently had a need for sweet bread-type things this past week. Last Wednesday, I made some sweet Indian roti, I mixed them up again on Friday, and today I cooked Portuguese sweet muffins. At this point, though, I can say that I am quite thoroughly breaded out. Oi. However, I did reach this point of sweet bread saturation quite deliciously, as you’ll see.

Sweet Indian Roti
Happy little sugar-laminated breads
The roti is really nice to quickly satiate a sweet bread craving attack. Flour, salt, water, and sugar is all you need along with a little bit of time to mix the first three into a dough, roll them, sprinkle with the sugar, fold up, and roll out again before pan-grilling. They come out chewy and light, with fabulous layers of gooey sugar. For variation on Friday, I added a tiny bit of sugar to the flour and salt for the dough along with some oil before the water. The oil makes for a more tender bread that is easier to flatten. However, for some reason the sugar-laminating doesn’t work quite as well. Some seems to get…absorbed by the bread and it starts to brown before all of the sugar gets a chance to become melty. I think I like them without the oil better, though maybe if I’m particularly wanting a tender bread, I’d go with the oil.

As for other tender breads, today’s Portuguese sweet muffins were a fantastically fun and delectable adventure! I’ve had a packet of yeast lying around since I bought one from my sister over a week ago, and I just couldn’t decide what to make with it. Today, it came to me in a sudden craving for the Portuguese sweet muffins my dad used to regularly buy from Trader Joe’s (a natural foods supermarket chain). After searching high and low–or really, just a few minutes at AllRecipes.com–I came upon this recipe that, aside from a lack of lemon, looked like it would at least come pretty close.

Portuguese Sweet Muffin
No Portuguese were harmed in the making of this muffin
It surpassed Trader Joe’s by galaxies. While I would appreciate the addition of some lemon in these muffins, it certainly isn’t necessary. I can’t imagine it being removed from the Trader Joe’s version because it needs the freshness of the flavor to make up for the lack of freshness in the muffin. Seriously, now that I’ve gotten very confident in my bread-making ability with these muffins, I will never, ever buy packaged breads again. I so rarely get cravings for bread that it’ll be worth the time to spend baking my own. I get cravings for cakes and pastries much too often to completely exclude packaged stuff, though, as much as I prefer homemade. ;x

Split Muffin
Soft and moist inside, firm and dry outside–perfect!
Being moist by nature, these muffins wind up with a completely different texture when packaged. The muffin becomes uniformly moist with tougher tops and bottoms in a package, whereas the fresh ones I made had a more extreme, pleasant contrast between the doughy, soft interiors and firm, dry tops and bottoms. Toasting is absolutely necessary for the Trader Joe’s muffins because the chewiness of the exteriors is just unpalatable right out of the bag, but I wound up eating my muffin sans toasting today. I think it could very well be enjoyed toasted, and at the same time, it isn’t a detriment to devour it as-is.

<Dressed-Up Muffin
There’s nothing like sweet breads topped with maple syrup
I didn’t quite consume it “as-is,” though. 😉 After tasting a small piece to see how it was plain, I had the sudden idea to top it with a little maple syrup and a pat of butter instead of my usual toasted-and-buttered treatment for the Trader Joe’s sub-pars. This concoction thus satisfied not only my desire for a sweet bread but also pancakes. While Portuguese sweet muffins are certainly not like a pancake, I almost exclusively have maple syrup on only either French toast or pancakes, so the association between “syrup” and “pancakes” is very strong in my mind. I’d never consider dressing a Trader Joe’s sad-excuse-for-a-muffin in this manner, though. I think I’ll stick to having those toasted-and-buttered.

So the moral of the story for all my bread-making recently is that if bread is on my mind, it’s time to whip out some mixing bowls, flour the table (the only flat surface large enough for kneading here–unfortunately), and heat up the stove or oven. Store-bought goods just aren’t worth it.

Sweet Potato Scones

Last night I tried some of my sister’s scones leftover from her breakfast, and they necessitated recipe-sharing. Looking over other recipes from the same site, I found one for sweet potato scones that was simply begging to be made! She had sweet potatoes, and I had all of the other ingredients, so the begging ceased and baking commenced.

I halved the recipe that follows but used five teaspoons of sugar, since we really didn’t need that many scones and I prefer mine on the sweet side. I also put all of the butter in at once because I don’t like a too-crispy and browned crust on my scones, and it seemed like it would be good with all of the butter in the dough. On the other hand, I do like the crust to have a teeny bit of sparkle and crunch, so I sprinkled a little sugar on top before baking the scones. It wound up making four good-sized pieces of moist, tender, biscuity goodness that was enough for my sister to taste, me to eat, and then have some leftover for breakfast this morning. The sweet potato probably has the same properties as pumpkin in baked goods–keeping it really moist and soft. Even after quintupling the amount of sugar called for, they still weren’t especially sweet. I thought it was perfect for the recipe–somewhere between “biscuit” and “dessert.” My sister thinks they need to be sweeter. 😉 Overall, I was thoroughly pleased by these scones. The texture had that perfect combination of slight crusty outside complimented by soft, moist-crumbly insides; the taste was mildly sweet, slightly sweet potato-y, and buttery-but-not-rich. They were wonderful both fresh out of the oven and cooled.

While I would so make this recipe the same way again, I think I’m also going to try varying it a little–maybe adding more sugar or substituting another sweetener like maple syrup or honey, adding some cinnamon and nutmeg, and maybe trying a little vanilla extract. This recipe can easily be made into a sweet scone. On the other end of the spectrum, I might try making it with the original amount of sugar called for and mixing in more savory ingredients like some grated cheese and herbs. The sweet potato flavor would lend itself well to either a sweet or savory scone, I think.

I’ve also decided to start using Flickr for my photos in this blog. They have some nice features that I can take advantage of, and it’ll give anyone who’s interested the chance to see larger versions of the photos I take. It’s too much of a hassle for me to make multiple sizes to upload here, but Flickr automatically does that for me. 😉 We’ll see how much I like it over time.

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Rooibos Cauliflower Mash

To see me eat this dish, you’d think I had ants in my pants. I was excited for HOURS after I first made it–seriously, I told everyone I ran into about it!–and now that I’ve perfected it with a second attempt, I’m making the recipe public. 🙂 It took me forever to figure out what I could possibly do with rooibos tea for this month’s TeaChef, and using it in place of broth when making mashed cauliflower just randomly came to mind during some of my brainstorming.

Personally, I find it so flavorful and the texture so delightful that I can eat it by itself, but it would make a great substitute for mashed potatoes or go beautifully with roast poultry. Yum! :yum:

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Jasmine-Scented Crème Brûlée

For a program I’m participating in, I created a recipe for tea-infused crème brûlée. My favorite site for buying tea, Adagio, runs another site, TeaChef, and through it I have the challenge of inventing a recipe using a different tea each month. This month, it was a jasmine oolong tea, and the dessert I put together with the tea is absolutely sinful! Even my sister, who was adamantly opposed to it since she doesn’t like jasmine teas, found it to be fabulous.

And considering the TeaChef program is a contest, I would muchly appreciate it if you voted for my recipe at the site! The voting starts on the 25th of the month, and there will be a link from the main page of the site to where you can vote.

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Herbed Scrambled Eggs

The other night I decided to throw together some kicked-up scrambled eggs, and the result was a quite thoroughly satisfying dish! With some veggies on the side, it makes a healthy and complete meal. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos–first of all, eggs cook too quickly to do step-by-step shots, and I was too hungry to bother photographing the result. ;x However, I do remember the ingredients, so here’s a recipe:

1/2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground sage
2 leaves fresh basil
1 small sprig fresh oregano leaves
2 whole large eggs
2 large egg whites

Preheat a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until mixed and eggs are slightly frothy. Pour egg mixture into preheated pan and stir constantly until almost set–some liquid will remain. Remove from heat and plate, allowing eggs to finish setting a minute or two. Serve with salt and fresh-ground black pepper, as desired.

Red Velvet Cake with Buttercream and Fondant

The real main event of my birthday party meal was, of course, the cake! And what a cake it was–it took me nearly the whole week to prepare between baking the layers, freezing and defrosting them, filling and sealing it, and then decorating it with fondant and icing. Since I had to make up my own recipe for the icing, it didn’t quite work out the way I was hoping, since I’m clearly not experienced enough at this just yet. However, it impressed my friends, and that’s what really counts!

I’m only including the recipe for the red velvet cake layers this time because the buttercream and icing were things I put together on the fly and I completely don’t remember what I did in any sort of detail. I bought the fondant from a craft store because I definitely didn’t want to mess that up–I’ll experiment with making my own sometime in the future.

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Pasta and Chicken with Lemon Sauce

For the main dish of my birthday party dinner, I put together a simple pasta dish with pieces of chicken and a light lemon sauce. Butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice comprised the simple sauce which was tossed with chicken and then some ziti. Just before serving, I added some freshly-grated parmigiano (yay for my new Magic Bullet!). Despite preparing a total of two pounds of pasta, there were very little left-overs.

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Stracciatella Soup

In keeping with the Italian theme of my party, I started off dinner with a nice, steaming pot of stracciatella soup. Stracciatella is an Italian-style egg-drop soup; the name literally refers to “tiny pieces,” and reflects the fact that unlike Asian egg-drop soup which has a thickened broth that maintains the threads of egg drizzled in, the pieces of egg in stracciatella are so tiny that the soup has more of a creamy texture than a piecey-egg texture. Of course, the other ingredients give it a much different flavor, too, but that is the primary difference.

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Tomato-and-Basil-Topped Bruschetta

Another appetizer I had at my birthday party this year was a simple bruschetta with tomatoes and fresh basil. Along with fresh pieces of garlic and some freshly ground black pepper, this was one fantasticly fresh-tasting topping for toasted slices of a bakery loaf of Italian bread.

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