daring bakers: i declare my love of éclairs!

if you must know - and as you can probably tell from the more than pathetic results - i did this at midnight the night before the deadline. and i am so pissed at myself because when meeta from what's for lunch honey along with tony of olive juice picked pierre hermé's classic chocolate éclairs i was so frickin' excited! does it really need explaining? i mean, doesn't everyone love éclairs? plus, i've never made the choux before, so i was definitely on to the challenge!

hmm, challenge ... by definition, doesn't that mean i shouldn't have left it the last minute? yes, i know, but stay with me here. i halved the recipe, because i'm trying to train, and having a box of fresh éclairs around was not going to help. first batch of choux came out runny after i beat in the eggs. me thinks it wasn't the eggs but that i didn't mix and heat the dough thing long enough.

i am far from even being a novice, let alone expert, in this stuff - so i had really no idea, but the reasoning sounded good at the time. so the second batch had the dough thing mixed and heated for at least 4 minutes, and this time the eggs added beautifully and i had a nice pipable dough. coincidence? who knows, i'm just happy it worked. so now they were baking good, golden brown, rising up, out of the oven ...

and the damn things deflated! and became soggy!! i think the main reason is because i left them - by mistake (see midnight baking circumstances, above) - on the hot baking sheet to cool instead of putting them on the rack. me thinks that it must need the air circulation. i also read the tip from foodbeam to poke a hole in the bottom once they're done to let the steam escape. makes perfect sense, thanks hindsight!


i wanted to cry. of course i want things i bake to come out correctly. but because this was new and because i love éclairs, i really really wanted these to come out better than ever! and now they were just soggy eggy hot dog buns!!

thankfully the over the top death by chocolate pastry cream made up for it!

so dear darling choux ... i may have failed you this time, but you have not seen the last of me, i promise i will make you proud!

and i promise if you take a look at some of my fellow daring bakers, you will be drooling to make your own éclairs today! they are an amazing group, and every time i think about dropping out of this thing (hello time management problems) i am always pulled right back in by all the gorgeous creativity they show month after month. if these lads and lassies don't inspire you as well, then i don't know what will!

chocolate hot dogs, anyone? ;)

or chocolate hot dogs?


lemon (non-poppy) muffins

lemony goodness

although i'm no longer part of tuesdays with dorie because of the weekly time commitment it requires, i still like to see what they are up to and use her book now and then. her lemon poppy seed muffins were always top on my list to try. i haven't baked anything since we returned from vacation and even though i was dying to get back into it, i wanted something easy parcheesi (gosh, i used to love that game!)

of course, i drive mr. mimi crazy because i am the opposite of mis en place. which is weird since i'm a typical virgoan organizational maniac. but somehow, when it comes to the kitchen, i like to go with the flow ...

which means that i forgot the poppy seeds in lemon poppy seed muffins!!!

but fear not - these muffins were still rockingly awesome! i halved the recipe and it came out fine. i didn't have enough sour cream, so i had to throw in a couple tablespoons of yogurt to make up the difference. these babies will not fool you into thinking that muffins are "healthy" - these are definitely more like a loaf cake with lots of lemony goodness. and yes, i have more of that sweet icing on my muffins than dorie has in her photo, but can ya blame me?!

on the rack

lemon (non-poppy) muffins: makes 12
adapted from dorie's baking book (2006, p. 10)

2/3 cup sugar
1 lemon - juice and grated zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
8 tb butter - melted and cooled

1. preheat oven to 400F with center rack. prepare muffin pan of your choice. in large bowl, rub sugar and lemon zest together until sugar is moist and fragrant. whisk in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. in other bowl, whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and melted butter until well blended. pour liquid ingredients over dry and gently but quickly stir to blend. do not overmix the batter (a few lumps are okay).

3. divide evenly in muffin cups and bake 18-20 minutes until tops are golden and thin knife inserted in center of muffins comes out clean. transfer pan to rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin. let cool completely before icing.

4. to make optional icing (but is icing ever really optional?) - put 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted, into bowl and add about 1 1/2 tb of fresh lemon juice. stir to moisten and then add enough additional lemon juice (it will be about 2-3 tb total) to get a thinned, drizzable icing.

lemon (non-poppy) muffins

a tasty bite

i want to believe

that this year is going to be different.

i never had a problem or dislike of obama, per se. i had a very big problem with the "leadership" and decision making incapability of the DNC that made the primary season a farce. i had a pretty big dislike of many of obamaniacs (which, btw, is almost everyone in my circle) and their intense - yet completely hollow - demagoguery of hillary. the media fueled contradictions and hypocrisy - if the majority of white people in a county voted for hillary it was because of racism, but if 90% of black men in a state voted for barack it was solidarity?? - of the primary season was almost unbearable.

i don't think i will ever agree with the selection of biden as VP. strategically i think a united party is a stronger party and including 48 percent of the party would have been a start.

but i want to believe that this year is going to be different. that our passion, our determination, and our efforts will not be for naught. because i refuse to believe that the only winning vote i have ever casted in my whole twelve years of voting was for bubba.

i don't get the same visceral reaction that the most fervent supporters do when obama speaks. but he had some amazing passages that reminded me ... i still believe in a place called hope.

oh yeah, and when i was a wayward teenager i was ga-ga over al gore. i wanted to bear his love child. i mean look at this photo - wasn't he a hottie?! he might still not be a great speaker, but damn he's still handsomely good-looking!!


garlic chicken

anyone who knows me, knows i'm only not only never speechless, but i'm passionate about politics. when i was an adolescent, my nickname was "madame president" until someone had the courage to burst my dream and tell me that only american-born people can be president. then i decided first female secretary of state would be good enough, but ms. albright beat me to it. now i'll just have to settle for senate majority leader :)

so even though this is my food blog, you'll have to indulge my occasional political ramblings, particularly at a time like this.

i remember in my 11th grade US history class, a photo of hillary clinton was posted beside the chalkboard. she looked so powerful, and so graceful; it was just a photo-op but i knew she was looking right at me. i remember staring at it, thinking i could be anything i wanted to dream of. emotionally i am still saddened by her loss. strategically i still think she would have been the better VP choice. but honorably i am proud to be part of her 18 million cracks. she didn't have to apologize for anything; her speech was for us.

and bubba ... amazing then, amazing tonight, amazing always. i'm so glad he tried (in vain, i'm sure) to make people realize that this is politics, not a peace parade, and that obama is a stronger candidate because of the primary contest against hillary. the people who constantly berate hillary with this delusion that the republicans would never have come up with this negative ad shit on their own has been living under a rock for the past 8 years.

both clintons have reminded me why i'm proud to be in the democratic party, and why the party still owed them the gratitude that they never have been given since he left office. but i anxiously wait for tomorrow night to see if obama can convince me that he has earned the vote to celebrate this historic moment. i am certainly not as undecided as before, but i am definitely not as convinced as i need to be.

now how to segue to some garlic chicken??! ;)

this was made some time ago, and what it might lack in the creativity department it sure does make up in the delish factor. so if you're looking for a quick and easy meal, this is all you need! (sorry the photos have such a yellow hue - photoshop expert i ain't!)

sizzling away

garlic chicken: serves 2
adapted from donna hay magazine (issue 37, p. 136)

cook one chicken breast in olive oil on high heat until cooked through. add 2 cloves crushed and 1 clove chopped garlic and season with salt and pepper. toss with a handful of chopped parsley and chives and a squeeze of lemon.

i love garlic

garlic chicken


thank you hillary

i know i said no more politics, but i am so happy now in a way that i so so so much needed.

i may still not understand why barack didn't choose her as VP - and that's pure strategy talking, not my emotions.

it's bittersweet, but thank you hillary ... you did it, and you did it brilliantly and beautifully.

(don't worry, i promise tomorrow there will be more food. but can you really blame me? it's been an amazing year!)


martha mondays: peach, apricot, and cherry pie

sorry about that political diatribe. it should be an interesting week. but regardless, even if you don't agree with me, hopefully you still keep reading this blog! because food knows no political bounds :)

this lovely martha monday pie was made about a month ago. i rushed to get it done by the date i picked out and then didn't have any time to get it posted, but better late than never (i think?!)


despite the fact that i just bought a bunch of grapes, i do normally like to stay within season for my fruits and vegetables. i'm not so much a fruit pie person (you either are or you aren't) but it would seem heresy to let summer pass by without at least one fruit pie baked. i tend to like the pies in the old standby book, but wanted to give martha a try.

peach, apricot, and cherry pie

this was easy enough to assemble (although i did not have time to do the lattice) and pretty much your standard pie filling technique. i wasn't exactly fond of the flavors - i think it was the cherries that bothered me - but mr. mimi loved it. and of course, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and almost anything turns into delish!

à la mode

the next martha monday will be on september 8th. keeping with the summer theme, the recipe will be the tomato tart on p. 268 - pretty simple but a great addition to any one's labor day picnic! if you want to join me, simply make the tart and post about it on september 8th. if you email me a link, i will make sure to include you on my post.

a juicy slice

peach, apricot, and cherry pie
from martha's baking handbook (2005, p. 236)

i'm omitting the recipe part for the dough, so just use whatever one that's handy!
1 lb fresh peaches, pitted and sliced into 1/4 inch wedges
1 lb fresh aprictos, pitted and sliced into sixths
1 lb fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
2/3 cup sugar (increase to 3/4 if you like a more sweet pie)
3 tb cornstarch
1/4 coarse salt
juice of 1 lemon
2 tb butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tb heavy cream
sanding sugar for sprinkling (optional)

1. in large bowl, toss together peaches, apricots, and cherries. add sugar, cornstarch, salt, and lemon juice; toss to combine.

2. spoon mixture into chilled pie shell, mounding fruit in the middle (to make sure it doesn't get soggy, fill the pie shell right before you're ready to cover). dot with butter. brush rim of pie shell with water and cover with lattice, or entirely. if you cover entirely, make sure to cut some steam slits. in small bowl, whisk egg yolk and cream and brush on top. generously sprinkle with some sanding sugar. freeze or refrigerate pie for 30 minutes until firm.

3. meanwhile preheat oven to 400F with rack in lower third. place pie on parchment lined baking sheet. bake until crust begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. reduce oven temp to 350F. continue baking, rotating halfway through, until crust is deep golden brown and juices are bubbling and thickened, about 40-50 minutes more. let cool completely and enjoy!

please check out lil miz lynn over at bites and pieces who made an awesome looking pie!

a slice of pie


fish en papillote

anyone who knows me knows i ain't speechless ...

why does the democratic party consistently have to disappoint me? don't even get me started with how pissed i was that the party leaders fucked up florida and michigan (so not counting votes in 2000 was bad, but not counting your own votes in the 2008 democrat primaries is permissible?!) - that's like ancient history now.

i have never felt this depressed since the third of november 2004, when the mimis were honeymooning in peru and heard the news. after all that excitement felt during the protest - i was like this is it, this is going to be real change. and then the bubble burst and it was back to the reality of what the fuck?

i felt similar excitement during the primaries this year (except florida and michigan, see above). granted, the end result was not what i wished for, and the amount of accusatory, misogynist shit i had to hear from people on the other side of my own party was beyond anything i could ever imagine. but it was an exciting time to be a democrat again. if 2004 wasn't our year, for goodness sake, what could go wrong now??!!

oh, why am i so naïve?

even though i was not thrilled with the idea of obama as our party's nominee (i think people are going to be sorely disappointed when all that rhetoric meets reality; and perhaps they are now realizing the messiah is just another strategic politician) i still had hope that the choice of 48 percent of the democrat party was going to be at least considered. sure, there was always second place during every primary cycle, but for goodness sake - 48 percent!! - this was different! but then 18 million voters were just pushed aside as sore losers, and i just don't know what to think about my party anymore. and somehow now all the things/votes/politics that were such evil in hillary are suddenly okay in joe?!

and even though this is fueled by my emotions, even looked at realistically (i.e., we want to win) i just don't believe that joe actually adds much to the ticket. i know that demographic analysis is often ballooned into media-hyped generalizations. but who, really, is going to switch to obama because of biden?

i am just so frustrated, angry, and disappointed. all i feel is an empty pit in my stomach. contrary to what is posted in the new york times comments section ... i am not a bitter hag or a rovian republican or a racist. all i have to say is that i'm glad i live in new york where my vote really doesn't matter. because if i lived in ohio or florida i would feel absolutely tortured going into that booth in november.

now that i have gotten that out of my system, the real purpose of my post was to show you an awesome way to get your fish on during the last weeks of summer. there's only so many times you can do tuna or swordfish on the grill. sometimes you want just a light, flaky fish (or in my case, like all the time!) and here is the perfect way ...

fish en papillote
fillets of your favorite white fish (sole, flounder, wild bass, snapper, etc)
a couple of new potatoes, sliced - or a couple of cherry tomatoes, halved - note: you could probably play around with other types of vegetables, you just need something to act as a small bed for the fish
1/2 vidalia onion, sliced
fresh sprigs of thyme, parsley, chives, and/or dill (play around with what you have)
salt + pepper
old bay
olive oil

1. toss the potatoes, tomatoes, and onion with olive oil and salt and pepper. place on a piece of parchment paper. add herbs on top. depending on your number of servings, and how you want to present the fish, you can either put it all on one parchment, or do it individually.

2. place fillets skin side down on top of mixture. drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top and then season with salt, pepper, and old bay. fold parchment into closed pouch and then wrap entire pouch in aluminum foil.

3. meanwhile have your grill to 375F. place pouches to the side of the direct flame, cook for about 30-40 minutes until done. to serve, you can either serve it right in the pouch, or plate it. but if you plate it make sure to get all that delicious juice too, it's the best part!

this version had potatoes, all in one pouch

potatoes, onions, and herbs

fold into pouch

fish en papillot

this version was tomatoes, in individual pouches

onions, tomatoes, and herbs

flounder fillet

amazing summer supper!



i am so disappointed.


south africa

day 3: rooi els bay?

settling back home is always the toughest part of vacation. but especially so when you have the best vacation, ever. which is the simplest way to express how much we loved south africa.

day 4: kayaks

in two weeks you can hardly see anything in a country as large and diverse as south africa, but of what we did, it was amazing.

day 6: S100 sunset

our itinerary kept us very busy until just the last day: boulders beach, cape of good hope, langa township, hermanus, kruger park, sabi sands reserve, and hazyview.

day 11: CC morning drive: in the sunrise

the main reason we decided to vacation in south africa was for the animals. and we were not disappointed at all! in addition to the big five, we saw so many other animals large and small. great birding too, and beautiful, diverse ecozones.

day 6: H1-4: tree

day 5: letaba: resident bushbuck

day 5: H9: big ears

day 10: H4-1 LS morning drive: marabou stork

you can also see more photos on my flickr set. if you really want all the boring little details, i also have a trip report posted on lonely planet.

day 8: H1-2: southern ground hornbill

day 7: gudzani (near S90): lilac-breasted roller

day 8: S86: zebra

day 10: S21 LS morning drive: lioness

but now it's back to the reality of not working and going back to school ... AND BAKING!! 'tis about time to get back to it, huh? so i'm off to make an old favorite and spend my entire afternoon catching up on everyone's blogs that i've been missing!! :)

day 7: H1-4: more zazu!

day 6: H1-5: buffalo


this blog is not a figment of your imagination

i really am here. and i really did my martha pie this past monday, really. i even have photos to prove it! in fact, i have a whole crapload of photos of so many different things i was wanted to post here but haven't yet gotten around to it.

i promise i will when i return.

but this afternoon i will be on my way to south africa, for cape town and kruger. so you, my dear readers, will have to wait just a wee bit longer.

in the meantime, please go check out lynn at bites and pieces who also did the martha pie, and it came out looking gorgeous! her lattice top - first ever! - is lovely and looks oh so delish. she also passed along the arte y pico award, which certainly is undeserved at the blog moment. i promise i will make it up to her!

and here's my sweet milo. i hope to see the ancestral version of this on my safari :)