Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our own mini cupcake competition - a birthday celebration!

After mulling it over for months, we decided to finally do our own "DC Area Cupcake Competition!" As I've posted before, the DC area has had its own cupcake explosion in the past year and we thought, well, who wouldn't want to take part in it?

My birthday also just happened to be this past week, so we decided to make it a birthday celebration as well! "Cupcakes and Bubbly" (which turned out to be cupcakes and hot mulled apple cider with a touch of rum) gave us a chance to invite our friends over for a cupcake showdown. (Check this out for some savory treats I cooked up for the party -- baked brie with apricot preserves and antipasti bites!)

Guests were asked to bring half a dozen cupcakes from a local bakery/cupcakery or a bottle of bubbly for sampling. Each guest's set of cupcakes were then assigned a number so the whereabouts of where the cupcakes came from would be left a secret (a blind tasting!). Mini scorecards were provided, asking guests to score the cupcakes from 1 to 5, 5 being the highest score, and to mark down any comments on the flavor, texture, presentation, etc.
After a very successful tasting by discerning judges (and many leftover cupcakes remaining), I tallied up the scores. Here are the results!

(1) Carla's Cupcakes
Score: 5
Price: Time, love, and $3.75 for cake mix and frosting.
Flavor: Yellow cake with chocolate icing
Coming in first, my friend Carla's homemade Dunkin Hines cupcakes!! They received one vote of FIVE OUT OF FIVE and accolades of "simple, sugary, & so my fave!"

(2) Georgetown Cupcake
Score: 4.375
Price: $15 for half a dozen
Flavors: Chocolate strawberry, vanilla squared, chocolate cubed, chocolate coconut, and chocolate ganache
With eight scorecards entered, Georgetown Cupcake (my personal favorite) was a winner for many of the guests for both flavor and presentation. The chocolate ganache and chocolate strawberry were the preferred flavors. The vanilla icing was viewed as being a little bit too "cream-cheesy" -- but this was a plus for some! Comments ranged from "amazing!" and "by far the best" to "Love it, except a little too much frosting" and "vanilla frosting too cream cheeesy but the look of them was elegant."
(3) Buzz
Score: 3.67
Price: Researching
Flavors: Bumblebee (Yellow cake with a chocolate cake surprise inside!), Carrot Cake, Chocolate
With six scorecards entered, Buzz came in third with its ADORABLE cupcakes. A favorite of the group was their "Bumblebee" cupcake ("Un-bee-lieve-able!") with a cute little fuzzy bee coming out of the cupcake. Comments included "loved the cupcake, too much frosting," "good but not awesome," yummy!," "too rich for my blood," "so cute! and great chocolate surprise in the middle."

This was actually one of the bakeries I hadn't heard of so I went to their website and also went to my favorite cupcake blog, Delleicious DC, to see if there was some info there. This tasty bakery is in Alexandria, VA and offers a wide variety of baked goods including also pies, brownies, and cookies (and chocolate!). Buzz is part of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (for instance Rustico, Vermilion, Tallula). Also see these cute doggy cupcakes that they baked up for the Washington Humane Society's Sugar & Champagne Affair.

(4) Safeway
Score: 3.66
Price: $7.29 for a dozen
Flavors: Vanilla icing with yellow cake, vanilla icing with chocolate cake
Coming in a very close 4th (only 0.1 off of Buzz!) are grocery store brand Safeway's cupcakes! These were $7.29 for a full dozen, only about 60 cents a cupcake! The feedback included "nice, light, fluffy," "love the sprinkles and good frosting (which is key!)," "icing is a little too sweet," and "fluffy, sugary, but nothing spectacular." Looks like a good bet if you have a sweet tooth!

(5) Whole Foods
Score: 3.166
Price: Researching
Flavor: Vanilla icing with vanilla cake

"Small but filling," these cupcakes wowed guests with their icing ("great icing!" "icing good" "love the icing" "amazing icing"). The cake part itself however fell a bit short, garnering comments such as "a little dry," strange flavor and weird texture," and "not fresh."

(6) Cakelove
Score: 3.14
Price: $3.25 each; buy 6 get one free
Flavors: Strawberry, Coffee/Latte, Carrot Cake, Vanilla Cupcake with Lemon Icing

These particular cupcakes came from Cakelove's Baltimore branch and were the least favored of the group. Despite being one of DC's most well known bakeries, their cupcakes lacked some appeal (although the cupcakes were slightly better than other times I've tried them!). The cupcakes drew a mixed bag of comments from "frosting is awesome, but cupcake is not fluffy enough," "a little dry" and "not as moist as I would have liked" to "good cake, frosting TOO GREASY," "icing too buttery," and "cupcake great, icing strange" to "delicious, presentation could have been better."
Cheers to a fun party, great company, and, of course, cupcakes!

Easy and Flavorful Antipasto Sausage, Artichoke, Sundried Tomatoes, and Red Pepper Skewers

I was hunting on the for a savory appetizer to accompany the cupcakes and baked brie for my "Cupcakes and Bubbly" birthday party and came across Elie Krieger's "Antipasto Sausage Skewers." Adapted slightly, these were a bit hit!! Below is the recipe:

Antipasto Sausage and Veggie Skewers
What you need:
Cooking spray
12 oz fully cooked chicken sausage (I used Aidell's Chicken & Portobello Sausage)
12 oz jar of roasted red peppers (I used fire roasted red peppers in a jar)
1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes
1 jar of artichoke hearts
Small wooden skewers or toothpicks

What to do:
Heat a skillet over medium heat, spray with cooking spray. Once heated up, add the sausage, cook and brown turning several times until warmed through and browned, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. I added a little bit of pepper, garlic salt, and red pepper flake to the sausage while it was cooking.

Cut the red peppers, sundried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts so they are all about the same size (approx 1 inch pieces).

Once sausage is cooked through, slice the sausages to approximately 1 inch pieces. Cut them so they have a flat bottom so they can stand.

On each skewer, add a piece of roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, artichoke, and sausage. Arrange them so that the skewer can stand up on the sausage end. Place on a large plate or serving tray and enjoy!

I made 18 skewers (with a sausage and a half left over!), but these ingredients could definitely come out to two dozen skewers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Melty goodness -- Baked Brie with Apricot Preserves

As part of my "Cupcakes and Bubbly" birthday celebration, I made several more savory bites to balance out the richness of all the cupcakes. Well, one of the things I made was probably equally rich, but offered a different flavor palate from the sugary cupcakes -- a baked brie with apricot preserves! I adopted it from friend who used to bring this dish to all our gatherings and mixed it together with an Emeril recipe I found. It was simply an oozing delight that was so easy to make -- I encourage you to try it out!

Baked Brie with Apricot Preserves
Feel free to be creative and use whatever types of preserves you enjoy. I've also seen this done with dried cherries and pecans.

What you need:
A 6 inch round of brie
Frozen puff pastry sheets (I used Pepperidge Farm)
A jar of apricot preserves
One egg (slightly beaten)

What to do:
(1) Thaw your puff pastry (I left mine in the refrigerator for about 4-5 hours).

(2) Preheat the oven to 400.

(3) Roll out your puff pastry so it will be large enough to completely wrap your brie.

(4) Scoop out some apricot preserves onto the center of the puff pastry square. I used about half a jar, which I think may have been a little bit too much, but still was delicious.

(5) Place your round of brie on top of the preserves.

(6) Wrap the puff pastry around the brie and preserves, making sure that you seal all the seams.

(7) Flip over the pastry package of brie and preserves so that all the seams are on the bottom.

(8) Cut out shapes from the leftover puff pastry for decorating on top!

(9) Brush the egg wash on your pastry package to create a golden crust.

(10) Bake for 20 minutes until the outside is golden.

(11) Reduce temperature to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

(12) Place on a serving platter, surround with crackers and fruit, and enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Week in the Food Diary of ... A NY Corporate Attorney

Week 3: A Week in the Food Diary of... a New York City Corporate Attorney

For our third week of "A Week in the Food Diary of...", a look into my friend's life as a junior NY Corporate Attorney...

I am a corporate attorney without time to cook for myself and frequently eat all of my meals at the office. If I am not careful, it's easy to order hamburgers and french fries every night on the corporate tab (which I am prone to do when stuck here late and irritated). I try to get fresh fruit every week and bring it as a snack rather than raiding the vending machines. I try to drink tons of water throughout the day. I try to stay dedicated to the Weight Watchers way of eating (low fat, lots of fiber). I am also trying to fit into a dress for a family affair next month.

Breakfast: Large Dunkin Donut coffee with skim milk and 2 Splenda. Deep Chocolate Vitamuffin (

Hydration: one 0.5 liter bottle of water

Lunch: Subway!! 6 inch wheat with turkey, lettuce, tomato, cukes, banana peppers, extra pickles, spicy mustard. Large diet coke. A bag of WOW potato chips.

Hydration: one 0.5 liter bottle of water. Brrr... my office is FREEZING. I also make some tea (Bigelow Vanilla Chai) with skim milk and 2 splenda.

More Hydration: TWO 0.5 liter bottles of water. A can of fresca.

Snack: At 4pm, I get hungry, and have an apple, fiber one, and fiber one caramel. plus another fresca and one 0.5 liter of water.

Dinner: LOTS of edamame; brown rice; steamed veggies with dumpling sauce. Another water bottle and another chai.

Snack: Medium Pinkberry with mango, kiwi, and raspberry

Wednesday's Commentary: I am environmentally conscious and refill the same water bottle--not constantly purchasing these 0.5 liter bottles... Also, a little embarrassed about how much I drink! Did not realize the quantity until I had to write it down :)

Addendum: It is 1:33am and this BigLaw associate is still burning the midnight oil. Don't worry, NYC has 24-hour bodega delivery. To the rescue: 1 swiss miss hot cocoa, 1 frozen yogurt milkshake, and banana chips.

Stuck at the office til 4:30am last night ... so still full from the 2am milkshake.

Breakfast: Get to work at 10:30. Stop for a LARGE dunkin donuts coffee with skim/2 splenda.

Lunch: Fage 2% greek yogurt with Strawberry; fresh raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I heart Fage because it has TONS of protein and relatively low cal. I often make little Fage sundaes (fage, berries, honey, a crunchy cereal like Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Kashi, and Fat Free ReadyWhip)

Snack 1: banana chips and green tea

Snack 2: fresh blueberries, bottle of diet Dr. Pepper, some Werthers candies

Snack 3: 100 calorie pack of Cheese Nips

Dinner: kofte kebab (turkish ground meat patties) with rice

Snack: handful of peanut M&Ms

Stuck at work again ... this time til 11:30pm...


Breakfast: large dunkin coffee, deep chocolate vitamuffin

Lunch: chopped salad with spinach, tomato, kalamata olives, blue cheese, hearts of palm, white beans, beets, cucumbers. Lemon juice and balsamic vinagrette.

Snack: apple and green tea

Dinner: egg white omelette with swiss cheese, and corn vitamuffin.

After dinner: My friend had a private wine tasting at her apartment for her birthday. I had some spinach and artichoke dip in a bread bowl, olives, berries, M&Ms, and of course, some vino.

Late night snack: Tasti D Lite chocolate flying saucer


Sleep in til noon (yay Saturday!), wake up to an email from my supervisor (boo weekend work).

Breakfast (or is it lunch if it's 1pm): Banana nut vitatop, fresh strawberries (in desperate need of coffee, but too tired to get dressed to go outside for it)

Lunch: gotta heart NYC delivery. Egg white omelette with feta, spinach, olives. multi-grain toast w/ butter. LARGE coffee.

Snack: fruit salad

Dinner: McCann's Brown Sugar oatmeal with sliced banana and blueberries.

Snack: tootsie pop, frozen grapes, blueberries


Breakfast: banana

Lunch: egg white omelette with feta, mushroom, spinach. Large iced hazelnut coffee

Snack: mango, blueberries and strawberries; instant Swiss Miss hot cocoa

Dinner: wok sauteed tofu and veggie platter. mashed sweet potatoes


At the office on President's Day (and EVERY single day of this purported 3 day wknd!)

Breakfast: LARGE Dunkin' coffee

Lunch: Chop't 10 Vegetable salad (lettuce, grilled asparagus, green peas, hearts of palm, carrots, broccolli, beets, mushrooms, cukes, grape tomatoes, corn)

Snack: Deep chocolate vitatop muffin, peach

Dinner: went to Maya and ordered the guacamole/chips; side of plantains; pechuga abodada (adobo marinated grilled chicken breast, huitlacoche dumplings, warm pico de gallo, cilantro pesto).

Breakfast: Banana, large dunkin coffee (I need to stop spending money there!)

Lunch: Chopped salad with spinach, swiss cheese, white beans, beets, grape tomatoes

Snack: Chocolate peanut butter Vitatop muffin, green tea

Dinner: Sweet potato with veggie chili

Snacks: mango, melon, and mixed berries

Still clocking the hours at 2am...

Final Commentary: Our all-nighter pulling corporate junior attorney is hoping to return to some sense of normalcy after putting in several (very) hectic weeks. Her final comment: "ha-- you picked THE perfect week to find me. I'm the stereotypical junior associate!"

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bring Your Lunch to Work Day

I go through periods of time where I'm reallllyy good about bringing my lunch to work ... well, this period of time hasn't been one of those periods of time. Despite the cold weather, I find myself hoofing it to various lunch places near my office, as a treat to (a) leave the office and (b) to get something delicious as a midday treat.

But who is to say that you can't have something delicious made from home? I think it is time to get back on track. Inspired by the Modern Girls Kitchen, I asked around to friends about their bring from home lunch ideas and tried to brainstorm a few of my own. Here are the highlights:

Two Meals in One!

Often some of my favorite lunches come from dinner the night before. We'll often make a bit too much for dinner just so we can have some for lunch the next day. Some "leftover" ideas from my friends and me:

  • Fried Rice! -- So easy and perfect for all those leftovers hanging out in your fridge. Just put a little oil in a pan, throw in your rice, some diced up veggies/meat, a teeny bit of soy sauce, maybe a little bit of black pepper for good measure, and a must ingredient (in my mind) -- an egg. Cook it all up together and you're good to go! Warms up well the next day, the day after that, the day after that, and the day after that...

  • Dirty Rice -- A variation on "fried rice" -- Rice cooked with ground meat, stock, and spinach.

  • Polenta with meat sauce

I'm a big soup fan and one of my favorites to make in bulk is chicken noodle soup -- I love the Barefoot Contessa's recipe -- I've posted about this recipe in a separate entry. I often cook up a large pot of it if someone gets sick and then we can all enjoy the leftovers for days. But also just warm and comforting for any time of year, especially now when it is quite cold out.

No Leftovers? Try this salad formula: My friend RH suggested a "salad formula" to me that encompasses some of those good for you nutrients with very tasty items. Do not be like me and be tempted by Chop't when you can make your own salads at home! (Although, I recently discovered that Chop't delivers... I like that).

Yummy salad = Whole grain + Lean protein + Diced veggies

  • Grain ideas: whole wheat pasta, whole wheat couscous, lentils, quinoa, bulgur, barley

  • Protein ideas: canned tuna, hardboiled eggs, black beans, white beans, leftover pork chops, low fat feta cheese, avocados (yes, not lean, but healthy fats!), Babybel cheeses

  • Veggie ideas: green onions, salsa, parsley, bell peppers, cucumber, blanched broccoli, mushrooms, baby spinach.

All drizzled with olive oil, flavored rice vinegar, sprinkle of furikake, or whatever else fits with the ingreidents.

Her particular fave is brown rice with avocado, fake crab meat, cucumber and furikake -- like a California roll salad (inspired by Teaism).

Another suggested combination, with a Mexican flare, is quinoa, black beans, salsa, shredded cheddar, and green onions.

Summer Ideas

So yes, still many months until summer (although perhaps some of you reading are enjoying summer right now...), but a simple summer idea (also courtesy of RH): white beans, black beans, diced tomatoes, olive oil, and salt/pepper.

So, I hope that these ideas are helpful to you in your quest for bringing lunch to work... it certainly was helpful to me to ask around and be inspired by my friends' ideas.

I'd love to hear about any of your successful lunch ideas!

A Cure of the Winter Blues - Barefoot Contessa's Chicken Noodle Soup

I'm a big soup person. I love soup, especially in the winter, because they are comforting, versatile, and lend well to leftovers.

One of my favorite soups to cook up is chicken noodle soup. Yes, yes, a standard classic, but I always found it to be so warm and inviting. In particular, I'm a fan of the Barefoot Contessa's Chicken Noodle Soup, which goes a little something like this:

(1) Coat two chicken breasts (she suggests with skin and bone, I tend to have boneless skinless chicken breasts in my freezer so I use that) in olive oil, generous helping of salt and black pepper. (I've recently become a fan of Giada's sea salt with lemon zest).

(2) Roast the chicken breasts in the oven at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes (this is actually one of my favorite ways to just make chicken breast in general -- turns out quite moist!). After the chicken breasts are done (and at least somewhat cooled), shred or dice the chicken.

(3) About 10 minutes before the chicken breasts are done, heat to a simmer 2 quarts of chicken stock (Ina recommends homemade chicken stock... I often don't have this, so use good old store bought Swanson chicken stock).

(4) Once simmering, add in 1 cup of diced celery (approx 2 stalks), 1 cup of diced carrots (approx 3 carrots), and 2 cups of wide egg noodles (I often put in a bit more noodles because I love them). Cook uncovered for 10 minutes or until the noodles are cooked.

(5) Add shredded/diced chicken breast into soup to heat through.

(6) Ladle up a large bowl and enjoy!

Ina also suggests adding parsley, but I often end up omitting this. You can also easily freeze this into serving size portions to save for a snowy day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Late Night Bite - Amsterdam Falafelshop

Ever since I moved to DC years ago, everyone told me I had to try Amsterdam Falafel in Adams Morgan. I've had falafel before, but the big draw was the fluffiness of these falafel sandwiched in either a white or wheat pita and then covered by the widest selection of toppings I've seen in a long time. (If you are condiment obsessed, this would be your heaven).

My friends swear by Amsterdam Falafel any time of day (they do warn that you'll crave it again and again afterwards), but truth be told, many of my friends suggested it for an after drinks meal. Adams Morgan is jammed pack with late night dining options (unlike so much of the city) from omelettes surrounded by home fries at the Diner to the ubiquitous jumbo slice (a weakness) to chili half smokes at Ben's (ok, a little further off from Adams Morgan, but one of President Obama's stops and one of my fave late night eats). But this weekend, we decided to forego Pizza Mart's jumbo slice for falafel.

The small space was packed when we got there, but the line moved so quickly. We were offered the Israeli falafel sandwich -- a falafel sandwich topped with deliciously crisp french fries - and then before us laid an array of at least 18 different toppings. Salads, sauces, spices, pickles... tahini, garlic, hummus, chopped tomato and cucumber salad...

We perched at a small table right by the window and watched a chef outside cook up what I think were more falafels right on the sidewalk for passerbyers to try. The temperature had dipped into the low 20s (much to my now Floridian friend's sadness), so the outside fry up had a constant line of people coming by to buy falafel.

I'll just say it. I LOVED the falafel. So much flavor, so many textures, and the right amount of food to warm my tummy and satisfy my hunger cravings. Another visit to Amsterdam Falafel will be in order for my next outing in Adams Morgan.

Amsterdam Falafelshop
2425 18th Street, NW
Washington DC 20009

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Week in the Food Diary of... a Law Student during Finals

Week 2: A Week in the Food Diary of... a Law Student During Finals
The food thoughts of a female law student at the beginning of finals (back in December) residing in the balmy sunshine of Florida.

Morning: I started off by getting up early and pulling out the cookbooks in preparation for two weeks of studying hibernation with my study buddies (T and K). I knew I'd be feeding the three of us, so I wanted to stock up on some goodies that would be good not just the first time around, but could be remade into some other meal. I bought stuff for snacks as well as meals. I got some hummus, carrots, goat cheese, and lots of 100 calorie packs. I plan on making the roast chicken recipe given to me tomorrow for dinner, and then turning the leftovers into chicken soft tacos the following night.

11 am: I got home and was famished. So I made myself a little turkey sandwich on italian bread. I love when Publix puts out their fresh bread, so good! It had some spicy honey mustard, oven roasted turkey, cracked pepper turkey, and spinach. Then I had a cup of tea (green tea) with honey, since I still have a little cold that I'm trying to kick.

1:30 pm: T decided she was hungry, so she went to her apartment and brought up some thanksgiving leftovers. She had turkey and veggies and a piece of bread. She also brought me some leftover brisket, which I promptly heated up in the microwave and devoured. I washed that down with what will likely be the first of many cherry coke zeros.

Dinner: Dinner was surprisingly tasty. Fitting in this year's theme of trying to be healthy, I made grilled salmon with salt and pepper, oven roasted potatoes, and some mushrooms and spinach sauteed in garlic. It was deeeelicious. Very light. I had a little of my no pudge brownie for dessert (made some for T too).

Morning: This morning for breakfast I had a special K protein bar. They're quite tasty if you haven't had one. The consistency is not what you'd expect from a bar. It's really chewy and as if you're taking a huge bite out of a big sandwich. It's weird. But it's filling and tides me over for awhile.

Midday: For lunch I made sandwiches for T and me on some tasty italian bread, roast turkey, pepper crusted turkey, tomato, spinach, and the most delicious avocado ever. Washed it down with some obviously fabulous cherry coke zero. Just awesome :)

Dinner: Continuing in my theme of healthy home cooked meals, I made roast chicken, old bay fries, and salad. The salad was scrumptious! It consisted of spinach, mushrooms, apple slices, craisins, and a small bit of crumbled goat cheese. Topped off with my own homemade dressing.

The dressing is something my mom has been making ever since I was a kid. It's so easy and it works on just about any salad. You take equal parts of a mustard (i use honey mustard) and something sweet (such as apple butter, jelly, etc) then you add olive oil and balsamic vinegar (sometimes I use white wine vinegar because it's a little sweeter). Then mix and serve. The potatoes were old bay fries, also an oldy but a goodie. Take potatoes, cut into about 8 slices, like steak fries. Place them on the baking sheet and then absolutely cover them in old bay.

The chicken proved to be the most challenging. Whether because my oven was being obnoxious or because I underestimated the amount of time, I simply couldn't get the center of the chicken to cook. I ended up serving the rest of the chicken and tossing the center back into the oven (to be used on tonight's dinner of chicken tacos). The girls seemed to enjoy everything. The potatoes were a particular hit. Everyone is always looking for a healthy twist on the french fry, and these seemed to be it.

Morning: Bright and early, I met a friend for breakfast. We hit up a random diner on the beach. I don't think I'll be returning there. It looked promising, because it was pretty crowded. However, we sat down and ordered. I had corned beef hash with poached eggs and home fries. The eggs were overcooked (which is sad because i love the yolk) and the hash was some of the worst I've ever had. I ate the eggs (because I try to do protein at breakfast) and devoured the home fries. I was fortunately full after that. Definitely wouldn't recommend the 11th street diner in South Beach. Yucky! Plus it ended up being over $40 for two for breakfast.

Post-Finals Note: So, after Tuesday morning, things started to fall off a bit. My fabulous law student friend made notes to herself of what she ate and when, but with the whirlwind known as studying for law finals, the notes never quite made it to me and the notes became lost in the shuffle of outlines, highlighters, and flags. This is probably quite true to form for law final studying and definitely an accurate representation of what it is like to be a law student!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Finally Found the Food -- Founding Farmers

As you probably know, sustainable food and "farm fresh" is all the rage right now. The fairly new Founding Farmers (yes, a twist on "Founding Fathers" -- we are in DC after all) follows along with this trend -- as our waiter explained, Founding Farmers is owned by a collective of 40something thousand farmers who provide the restaurant with fresh produce, meats, and seafood. I thought that this fact may have explained why the restaurant was out of many ingredients the first time I visited Founding Farmers. A group of six of us were dining that night and each one of us, in turn, managed to order something that turned out not to be available due to one or another lacking ingredients.

On the invitation of two friends, I decided to try Founding Farmers again. The restaurant had garnered pretty fantastic reviews from local critics, it was a new restaurant so probably still working out the kinks, and at the very least, I hadn't seen these two friends in quite some time so I wanted to spend time with them! And, I was happy that I did go back again. This experience was much better than my first one -- the hostesses were very friendly and accommodating (while we waited 30 minutes for our table despite a reservation), our waiter was more knowledgeable and served us promptly (unlike my first experience there), and, best yet, all the dishes we ordered were available!

The restaurant was practically bursting at the seams. Despite it being a Tuesday and being 8 pm, the restaurant was completely packed with diners, drink-enjoyers, and people waiting for their tables. While we waited for our own table, my friends and I had some drinks at the bar -- Founding Farmers' drink menu contains some interesting and delicious sounding concoctions. I ordered the blackberry julep, which was unavailable at my last visit, and my friend had the "Organic Cucumber Delight." I much preferred my friend's organic cucumber delight -- it tasted almost like a lemonade with a hint of cucumber -- very fresh tasting and reminded us of summer days. It actually contained all-organic vodka, cucumbers, and cantaloupe.

We were seated at a booth near the bar. The whole feel of the restaurant, booths included, was a large communal restaurant where the focus was on a "green" atmosphere. The restaurant is LEED-certified and uses many recycled products (such as reclaimed woods for the table tops) throughout.

The first time I came to the restaurant, we ordered the "bacon lollis" (bacon candied with cinnamon and maple sugar glaze) -- the friends that I had went with that time raved about them and thought they were a must have. They are quite delicious, but I would only recommend them if you are a bacon fan. This time around, for three of us, we decided to share three different "small plates." My favorite of the three was the prosciutto, fig, mascarpone, & balsamic vinegar flatbread -- served up on three pieces of flatbread, these just packed a punch of flavor and delicious ingredients. Founding Farmers actually offers quite an array of small plates -- and as usual, I would love to just make a whole meal out of them, almost as if at a tapas/mezze/dim sum restaurant. The other small plates we ordered were the fried green tomatoes (usually a winner for me at a restaurant, but I find these just too heavy, with more breading than tomatoes -- and I've had them twice now!) and the heirloom cheese puffs (filled with spicy pimento cheese dip... very tasty, but perhaps would try something else next time).

We did end up ordering entrees as well. The Founding Farmers menu in general is just mammoth and filled with loads of options. This time around, I ordered the skirt steak served with chimichurri sauce and served with mac & cheese (I substituted the potatoes with mac & cheese) and corn on the cob -- I had spied someone at the bar having this earlier. The grilled corn on the cob was covered in what I think was parmesan cheese and paprika - delicious. I also quite loved the mac & cheese - large macaronis (almost like rigatoni noodles but with a slight bend to them) covered in a rich and creamy cheese sauce. The steak was also tasty, but nothing unusual from other skirt steaks. My friends in turn ordered the "steak and enchilada" (his side of mac & cheese earned more excited remarks than the actual steak and enchilada) and the "lemon meuniere diver scallops" served with pumpkin risotto (delicious, and a great lighter option).

This trip to Founding Farmers was much more successful than the first round. I love the concept of Founding Farmers and the menu itself appeals to me greatly. I plan to come back again, but may wait for a few months once the hype dies down and once more of the kinks have been worked out. The other flatbreads piqued my interest (creamy brie, onion jam, and slice organic apples...yum), as well as some of the sandwiches (the crab roll perhaps? or the always reliable "grilled artisnal cheese and tomato soup") and the pasta (butternut squash ravioli...straw and hay pasta...lobster mac & cheese). Now I only wish that this restaurant had opened when I used to live closer to it!

Founding Farmers
1924 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 822-8783

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Holidays Overseas - Austrian and British Holiday Desserts!

One of my best friends moved to London several years ago and has enjoyed numerous new treats in her new(ish) hometown. Some of them were winners (as seen below!), some of them not so much (not a fan of the mince meat pies). As a special guest feature, she's provided some delicious sounding desserts from her holiday adventures in England and Austria. Thanks Lanie!

This looks like a good recipe to use for a trifle since it shows you where you can alter it to personalize to your own tastes. T's mom makes hers with cake, fruit cocktail, sherry, and a red jelly/jello layer on the bottom, a custard layer, and a whipped cream layer on top. To ensure the layered effect you have to refrigerate inbetween layers for an hour or so or until it's set.

This is the trifle from celebrations at various homes and from the 1952 Queen's Coronation street parties. You can make in individual dishes or in one big bowl, glass preferred. If you use two layers of jelly/Jell-o, also use large, relatively shallow container or the trifle will be too high for serving easily.

Build in the following layers:
Sponge-type cake (pound cake will do) either crumbled or cut in pieces to fit bottom of container, perhaps an inch or so, give or take.

Gently pour GOOD sherry over (e.g., Harvey's Bristol Cream) until cake is nicely soaked. Stale cake is really good because it soaks up more sherry. As noted in other recipes, Swiss or jelly roll cut in slices is appropriate, especially in a glass bowl because it looks pretty if you put halves around the sides as well.

Optional - sprinkle thinly sliced or slivered almonds over soaked cake.

Pour on a layer of jelly/Jell-o. Wait until it has cooled and has just started to set, otherwise pieces of cake and almonds will float in it. Keep a close eye - you know how fast it sets once it starts! To hurry the process, after jelly/Jell-o is dissolved in HALF required boiling water, use part ice cubes for remainder and put in fridge. If it's a Chistmas trifle you might want to use red jelly/Jell-o. You may also include fruit in this layer, such as canned sliced peaches or bananas, fresh strawberries or raspberries are also nice, if you can find them.

Optional - after first layer of jelly/Jell-o has set, you may pour over another layer, possibly green this time, also with or without fruit, canned or fresh, also on edge of setting (you do not want layers to bleed or fruit to sink.)

Optional - custard, cooled before pouring, otherwise jelly layer bleeds into it. Cool thoroughly before using whipped cream.

Whipped cream - spread and made fancy with basketweave by pulling a fork over the surface, or piped. Garnish with sliced almonds or walnuts and glace/candied cherries. If you can find it, use crystallised/candied angelica for stems and leaves on cherry flowers. Keep it fairly simple.

When serving be sure and scoop up the sherry-soaked cake with each portion. It's the best part!

(Perhaps you've experienced this chocolate decadence before... now try making it at home)

One of Austria's most famous cakes, created in 1832 by master baker Franz Sacher to please the prince. Later his descendants built and operated the Sacher Hotel and made this delicious cake their specialty.

Preperation time: 2 hours
Baking/cooking time: 1 hour
Serves 12

5 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 stick plus 3 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
6 eggs, separated
1 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. powdered sugar
12 oz. apricot jam at room temperature

Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by cutting waxed paper the exact size of the base of the pan. (Measure the circle for the base by putting the pan on top of the waxed paper and drawing a circle around it.) Then cut a 29X2 1/4-inch strip for the sides. Insert waxed paper in the pan.

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a double boiler, heat the chocolate until melted. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar. Add melted chocolate, then add egg yolks, one at a time, beating continuously until creamy. In another bowl, sift flour and baking powder together. In a third bowl, using clean beaters, beat egg whites and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Add egg whites to chocolate mixture. Sift flour mixture onto the eggwhites, a little at a time. Fold egg whites and flour carefully into chocolate mixture.

Pour into prepared pan, spreading batter evenly. Bake for about 50 minutes. (Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.). Remove cake from oven, remove springform rim, carefully peel off side paper, allow cake to cool slightly.
Turn onto a cake plate and remove base of pan and waxed paper. Slice cake horizontally, spread bottom later with jam, and replace top layer.

Chocolate Icing:
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. butter
a few drops fresh lemon juice
8 to 10 tbsp. hot water

Melt chocolate in double boiler. Add powdered sugar, butter, lemon juice, and hot water - one tbsp. at a time - to get right consistency for spreading on a cake. While icing is still hot, spread over top and sides of cake, and allow icing to cool completely.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Week in the Food Diary of... a Radiology Intern

Welcome to "A Week in the Food Diary of..."! I was inspired by my friend J's mental food diary entries and also just generally thought it would interesting to take a glimpse into the food lives of others and to see how much my food habits do or do not relate to theirs. So thus "A Week in the Food Diary of..." was born! Every week (or close to every week), I'll feature a different "guest star" who I've asked to keep track of their food intakes and musings for a week. I've compiled their food diaries here for your curious eyes -- some of them require a bit more tweaking than others and then again, some of them are perfect as is! Each guest star is identified with something about their lives that may be affecting their eating habits. I'm excited to see how this all turns out...

See what this Foodie Radiology Intern in Dallas eats to satiate her love for sustainable food and her need to sustain her sanity!

DAY 1:

Breakfast #1: Kashi Heart to Heart and almond milk – Because of my Crohn’s, I can’t drink soy milk. Almond milk is an excellent alternative. When I have tons of extra time (which is never!), I make my own my soaking almonds in water, adding sugar, and pureeing!

Breakfast #2: Since I need to gain weight, my body is constantly ravenous. I head up to the Parkland Cafeteria for breakfast food, my favorite! Like any good Southern girl, I love sausage and biscuits, so I get one of those along with a side of bacon. I like to dip my bacon in maple syrup, so I grab one of those, too

Lunch: No groceries at home = lunch at work. The salads from the cafeteria are actually pretty good, so I get spinach salad with tomatoes, feta, and a balsamic vinegrette. I love condiments and could eat this vinegrette all by itself!

Snack #1: Radiology keeps me constantly busy so I need brain food to keep me going. I love to knosh on salted almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Indian mothers say that almonds are good for the memory. All three are rich in protein, pumpkin seeds help with hair and nail growth, and sunflower seeds have folate.

Snack #2: I finally manage to get groceries, but since I am at Whole Foods, I also manage a snack from all the samples! I love to nibble on the variety of cheeses and try any new soups they have for future reference.

Dinner: Today my friend Houston and I are going to a South Indian restaurant in one of the suburbs of Dallas. South Indian food is one of my favorite. The staple is dosa, which is similar to a crepe or pancake, and is made from rice flour. We get the masala rava dose, a rice and lentil “pancake” stuffed with spicy potatoes. You eat it with sambar, a spicy vegetable soup, and coconut chutney. We also ate iddli, a steamed rice cake, and vadda, a fried lentil fritter, which is one of my favorite snacks. To wash it all down we had mango lassi, an Indian version of the milkshake made from fresh mango and curds. Dairy is the secret to combating the spice of Indian food.

DAY 2:

Breakfast: In a bit of a hurry so I grab a strawberry fruit yogurt and pack blueberries and raspberries to eat in morning conference. I also have a cup of tea made from tea leaves from friends Mollie and Rob gave me. The leaves are from Sri Lanka and are an excellent start to my morning. I always like something salty with my tea, so I have cheese nut thins, which are crackers made from almonds, not wheat! They are so thin, crispy, and low in calories!

Lunch: Packed my lunch today. I had to have a PB&J, because everyone loves a classic. I like mine with crunchy peanut butter, and instead of jam I use honey I bought from the Dallas Farmers’ Market. I also made a salad from mixed greens, tomatoes, mushrooms and Greek vinaigrette I bought from the cafeteria.

Snack #1: Cheddar cheese and saltines. I could eat cheese for every meal of the day!

Snack #2: My mother made carrot hulva for me, which is an Indian sweet that is similar to carrot cake. It has cooked carrots, dried milk powder, lots of butter and sugar, and almonds. I wash it down with a glass of almond milk. Because I am trying to gain my weight back, I am still hungry after my snack, so I have a few stalks of celery and peanut butter.

Dinner: I seared tilapia with ginger, garlic, onions, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar and made a salad of mixed greens and tomato with rice wine vinegar and lime. I had a glass of merlot and had a champion crème for dessert. (A triple crème cheese with mushrooms – yum)

DAY 3:

Breakfast: Nothing crazy here, just raspberries and blueberries, carrot hulva (see above!), almond milk, and a steaming cup of earl grey tea. Did you know that the tea is named after Earl Gray, who presided over Ireland? He had the tea blend made specifically for him. It is a mixture of black tea leaves, either Darjeeling or Ceylon, with bergamot, which adds the floral hint that makes Earl Grey so yummy!

Lunch: The first Wednesday of the month means lunch with the Chairman in the Faculty Lounge! This is music to any resident’s ears. It’s a buffet style and I always have a plan of attack. Salad bar first, with Waldorf salad; Gouda, havarti, and cheddar cheese with crackers; a strawberry and orange salad with shaved coconut; and cold wasabi noodle and vegetable salad. Next was the pasta bar, where penne was prepared with Alfredo sauce, diced chicken, sun dried tomatoes, and topped off with Parmesean cheese. The entrée bar provided me with mahi mahi, a bit of gumbo (nothing compared to my New Orleans kind!), and cream of cauliflower soup. Finally, I rounded out the meal with 2 cream puffs with strawberries and chocolate, cheesecake, and a cup of coffee. Sadly, naptime did not follow.

Snack: It may not seem possible, but I needed a snack to keep me going, so I turned to my champion crème and stone wheat thins.

Dinner: Tilapia with blood orange juice, ginger, and caramelized onions and a glass of merlot was the perfect end to my day.

DAY 4:

Breakfast: More of the Sri Lankan tea and garlic bagel chips for my salt fix. Then came a little more balanced breakfast with carrot hulva, almond milk, and a strawberry fruit yogurt.

Snack: Celery and peanut butter. I would eat peanut butter with everything if it were possible. Sometimes I eat it straight out of the jar. (With a spoon…)

Lunch: BBQ chicken – the sauce is homemade from tomatoes, chipotles, blood orange juice, and a smattering of other ingredients which make it the perfect tanginess (in my eyes, at least!). I come from TN, near Memphis, which is known for its BBQ, and now I live in TX, which is also known for BBQ, so I do take the task of making BBQ sauce quite seriously. I also had a small salad, much needed chocolate, and a coffee with both hazelnut and French vanilla creamers.

Snack: A friend is throwing a dinner party tonight, so I make a quick run to Whole Foods to buy supplies. There I munch on four kinds of chocolate “bark,” including peppermint, raspberry, pomegranate, and yogurt. Not exactly my thing, but you have to try the samples, right?

Dinner: My friends had a fabulous dinner party. We started off with glasses of Cabernet and the hors d’oeuvres I made: red grapes rolled in blue cheese and walnuts. I love them! They had also bought a variety of cheeses from a wonderful artisan cheese shop called The Mozzarella Company that is in the Deep Elum section of Dallas. I have yet to go there, but these cheeses made me want to! Then came actual dinner, which was absolutely fantastic. We had pork tenderloin stuffed with goat cheese, spinach, pecans and mushrooms with a side of cheese cauliflower and crispy zucchini latkes with a tangy remoulade. The Cabernet was also flowing, of course. I am happy to say I cleaned my plate and had seconds! The pork dish reminded me of my favorite dish from my favorite restaurant in New Orleans, called Dick and Jenny's. I actually cried about that dish when I had to move away from New Orleans! The grand finale was crème brulee with fresh raspberries and Cafe Du Monde coffee, which has chickory in it, with crème de cacao creamer. Then I passed out from food coma.

DAY 5:

Breakfast: On occasion, I take a break from black tea and sip on the antioxidant rich green tea. I munched on garlic bagel chips with whipped cream cheese. Once at work, I finished up breakfast with a strawberry fruit yogurt and red grapes.

Lunch: Given the heavy dinner last night, I kept it simple at lunch with a homemade stir-fry of rice, bell peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, ginger and soy sauce. I also stole some chocolate from the administrative offices…

Snack: Because I love salt, I turn to garlic chips with whipped cream cheese to hold my over until dinner.

Dinner: Despite a fabulous dinner party the night before, my friends and I need a night out. In Dallas, this generally means Tex-Mex. To change things up, I suggest Monica's Aca Y Alla, which is still Tex-Mex but with a twist and also has great salsa music and $3 drink specials on Friday.. We start with the standard chips and salsa, a round of margaritas, and I quickly order their queso, which is some of the best I have ever had. Though it was no longer needed, I had a shrimp and halibut ceviche and pumpkin ravioli. The ceviche was pretty good but the ravioli sounded better than it tasted; it was under seasoned at best.

After Dinner: We went to a local pub afterwards called The Stoneleigh P, which used to be an apothecary years ago. (Thus the name – P = pharmacy!) I had a Red Stripe and then called it a night.

DAY 6:

Breakfast: After a glorious morning of sleeping in, I started my day with Kashi Heart to Heart cereal and almond milk. For a change of pace, I made coffee instead of my regular tea.

Late Lunch: During a marathon day of shopping, my girlfriends and I were famished and turned to La Madeline for help. I had the Duet of potato leek soup with cheddar and bacon, a side Caesar salad, and a half sandwich of Roma tomatoes and pesto and a toasted baguette. Godiva was giving free truffles and I happily obliged with a hazelnut one.

Snack: I was so tired from shopping and the late lunch, so rather than a proper dinner I snacked on garlic bagel chips and whipped cream cheese. There is something very satisfying about dipping/dunking food.

Party time: Before hitting the dance floor, my friend and I go to Vino 100, a great wine bar in Uptown Dallas, where we split a bottle (oops) of Seven Sinners, a syrah from Napa Valley. My friend likes to pick her wine based on the label, so she had to have one with such a devious name. Did it live up to its name? I didn’t feel sinful, but I certainly did enjoy it.

DAY 7:

Breakfast: Sundays were meant for a big breakfast, so I make myself eggs over hard (because I do not like runny yolks!), smother them in chipotle Tabasco (even better than the original!) and cook a jalapeño garlic chicken sausage from Whole Foods. You might have guessed that I washed it all down with a piping hot cup of Sri Lankan black tea.

Lunch/Snack: Weekends mean fun time, but they also mean study time. As a new radiology intern, there is so much left to learn! A long day of studying means plenty of snacks, so I put out grapes, blueberries, blackberries, Nut thins, cream cheese, almonds, and pumpkin seeds to satisfy my need for munching. At some point, a salad of mixed greens and grapes with a light vinaigrette is thrown together.

Snack #2: After a long day of studying, we headed to The Magnolia Theatre to check out Slumdog Millionaire, which I had been excited about for quite awhile. We snuck in every kind of drug store candy and were incredibly giddy after the movie, both because it was excellent and because of a major sugar rush.

Dinner: Near the theatre is one of my favorite pizza places in Dallas, Campania Pizza, which is a tiny place in Uptown with a wonderful habit of aggressive use of basil. Beyond that, it is BYO, which I always love in a restaurant. We walk to Cork, a wine shop nearby, where I choose a Chianti Classico and Nero d’Avalo to accompany our Italian fare. We split one of the delectable salads on the menu, with Italian tuna, arugula, and basil, and two of their thin crust pizzas, one with pepperoni and basil for the boys and the other with basil, cheese, and eggplant to make the girls happy. Despite all the chocolate earlier, we are all eager to try a new frozen yogurt place in town. Yogilicious persuades the image conscious Dallas crowds to head through their doors with claims that their yogurt has only 27 calories per ounce, half that of ice cream! Whatever the calorie cost, the self serve yogurt service, endless flavors, and toppings bar are enough to convince me. I choose the taro flavored with pomegranate seeds, raspberries, and mochi, sweet glutinous Japanese treats that compliment the taro beautifully. I would say this is the perfect end to a very long week of work and eating.