Monthly Archives: March 2011

Berry Pudding Cake

This recipe always reminds me of my high school graduation. My mom made it for my party since I raved about it constantly. For the record, my college graduation is 39 days away.


It’s simple, sweet and ideal for a spring/summer dessert, served warm with ice cream or whipped cream. It’s also wonderful for breakfast, served cold. I use Whole Foods’ frozen mixed berries in mine, but only until I can find some fresh, local berries!

Besides making this cake this weekend, I also filmed a video for a contest I’ll tell you all more about Monday. In the meantime, I’d really appreciate it if you could vote for my friends‘ video. I’m making the cupcakes for their wedding–we had a tasting this weekend that was divine.

Simply click here and click the thumbs up. Aren’t they precious?

Berry Pudding Cake:
Serves 12
5 cups fresh or frozen berries
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I sometimes use almond extract)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1) In a 9 x 13 cake pan, evenly spread fruit and pour 1/4 cup sugar over the berries.
2) Stir the eggs, oil, orange peel, vanilla and remaining 1 cup of sugar in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the flour and baking powder.
3) Pour batter over the berries and gently spread to cover berries.
4) Bake at 350 degrees until top springs back slightly when pressed in the center (about 45 minutes).

How to Burn Hummus: A Kitchen Catastrophe

Why, yes. I have accomplished the impossible.

Burning hummus is no easy feat, I assure you. It involves the chickpeas engaging in an overnight soak, a long, sensual boil in what I thought was a generous serving of water, a steam break while I attended class and, finally, a final boil that resulted in the water abandoning my chickpeas in their last hour and allowing them to wreak havoc on my favorite pot.

Admittedly, the negligent water is not the only guilty party. I might not have watched the pot as closely as necessary, eschewing my kitchen duty in favor of homework and a long phone conversation.

“They” say that using dried chickpeas saves more money than cooking with their canned counterparts. I was operating under that notion when I decided to undertake a several-day chickpea softening process. Also, when cooking with canned food, I am always reminded of this quote:

We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine-gun.
– George Orwell

Frankly, I have no idea what sort of canned food battle Orwell envisioned when he said that (I can’t help but imagine troops of canned diced tomatoes armed with machine guns), but the man said so many other profound things that I’ve decided to humor him in this particular instance.

At this point, I’m simply looking to rectify the situation. I have more dried chickpeas, a back-up pot and enough patience to try this one more time.

Now can someone please tell me how to make hummus with less disastrous results?

Practically a Food Network Star

I’d like to take this opportunity to brag a lil’ bit. I have the privilege of shadowing Sandra Gutierrez this semester for my food writing class and, as if that’s not enough, she had me help her with a demonstration at her last A Southern Season cooking class.

The photo above represents how I will look on my future cooking show. Except decidedly less… pink.

Gluten-Free (or not) Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes

As I alluded to two weeks ago, I went on a cruise last week for spring break. (The biscotti traveled beautifully, by the way. Eating it kept me awake since I drove the whole way myself.)

The cruise itself consisted of an amusing combination of college students seeking to stay drunk for the duration of the trip, families trying to entertain rowdy children, and retirees attempting to make dents in their hefty retirement savings.

I fancied myself an observer, although I cannot deny my obvious association with the former group. I remember everything about our trip, though, which is more than I can say for most of the spring breakers.

I also had the opportunity to serve as a food tester and reviewer for the benefit of my vegan friend. I identified questionable ingredients to ensure that she maintained her vegan purity, and I generously described foods that she couldn’t actually consume.

Cruise food, in case you’re wondering, will lead to hypertension when consumed in large quantities. There was so much salt I began wondering if the chefs rinsed everything in sea water. Also, nearly all of the baked goods came from boxed mixes, which my tastebuds can detect almost instantly.

One of the best desserts on the cruise was a molten cake. Unfortunately, I made my own right before the trip, so I knew what potential a cake can possess when it is made individually, left under-baked and topped with vanilla ice cream. The cruise version paled in comparison.

I made these with my friend who has a wheat allergy (my friends have quite a diverse set of palates and dietary needs), but these cakes don’t have to be gluten-free. Still trying to work out how to make them vegan, though…

Recipe from here. Yum.

Gluten-Free (or not) Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes:
Serves 2
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
5 ounces dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
Large pinch of sea salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon flour (or gluten-free flour–we used Bisquick gluten-free baking mix)

1) Preheat the oven to 450. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double broiler (I create my own double broiler by putting a metal bowl over a boiling pot of water, making sure that the hot water doesn’t actually touch the base of the bowl) or melt everything in the microwave. Add sea salt.
2) Meanwhile, beat together the egg, egg yolks, and sugar with a whisk or an electric beater until light and slightly foamy.
3) Add the egg mixture to the warm chocolate; whisk quickly to combine. Add flour and stir just to combine. The batter will be quite thick.
4) Butter small ramekins and divide the batter evenly among the ramekins.
5) Bake for about 7 minutes if you want a little cake and a lot of lava. Bake for longer if you want the opposite.
6) To serve, place a plate on top of the ramekin and flip. Then place another plate on what is actually the bottom of the cake and flip again. Melt a little more chocolate to drizzle on top, or add hot fudge sauce. Serve with ice cream.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Shrimp

I spent a lot of my mid- to late childhood looking for opportunities to absorb information and develop new and unusual skills. For attention-seeking purposes, mostly. (I was a classic case of only child interrupted by the birth of younger siblings–who I adore, for the record.)

There was the keyboarding phase in third grade, where I prided myself on reaching the end of our keyboarding book, thus becoming the second most-talented musician in the class. The first was a girl who’d been taking piano lessons for years. I comforted myself with the thought that she’d actually had to practice outside of school.

There was the Titanic phase, where I memorized startling statistics about the lifeboat-to-passenger ratio, the speed with which the boat sank, and the number of chances that the boat manufacturer, captain and crew had to rectify the situation before it was too late. I imagine I was quite a hoot at parties.

There was the petitioning phase, where I envisioned myself as a sort of vanguard for elementary school girls’ rights. My friend and I crafted a particularly angry letter regarding our disgust at being forced to watch Aladdin on a field trip bus. The movie, we felt, was sexist.

Then, there was the chopstick phase. My parents bought me one of those American Girl books that allegedly taught useful skills, like blowing double bubbles and chopstick maneuvering. But, oh, did I think that learning to properly handle chopsticks was an admirable skill.

Every time we went to any Asian restaurant, I’d formally request the grown-up chopsticks and sit there eating in silent pride, just waiting for someone to comment on my cultured demeanor. I’d look eagerly to the door every few minutes, hoping a local television reporter would just happen upon this charming little scene, a young white girl using chopsticks:

Reporter: What…? Is that a young white girl using chopsticks? Why, she can’t be more than eight! She must be some kind of prodigy!
Cameraman: I’ve never seen anything like this. We’d better get this kid in front of a camera stat!

It never happened. If it had, you probably would’ve seen my face on cereal boxes throughout the late 90s. I was ambitious.

Still, when I eat at any restaurant that requires the use of chopsticks, I find myself wondering if that reporter will ever come striding in…

Fortunately, unless you’re feeling like I was circa 1998, this recipe does not require chopsticks. I first made Vietnamese spring rolls in my food studies course last year, although I’ve been enjoying them at restaurants for years. They’re simple, fresh, and light, which means you can definitely have dessert. They also remind me of spring. (It’s made an early appearance in NC this year!)

The rice wrappers, vermicelli and basil can be found at any Asian market. These can also be filled with pork, or remove the shrimp and make them vegetarian/vegan-friendly. I like them with peanut sauce, but you can also serve them with fish sauce, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Oh, and I always mix up the leftovers with additional vermicelli to make a cold noodle salad. You could just skip to that step.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Shrimp:
Serves 4
8 round rice wrappers
2 cups vermicelli (rice noodles), cooked
16 shrimp, tails removed and cut lengthwise
a few leaves/sprigs of Thai basil, mint and cilantro
1 carrot, sliced into thin strips
1 cucumber, sliced into thin strips

1) Take a baking sheet with a lip and fill it with 1/4 inch of water, then heat on low heat over the stovetop. (Really low heat! Your fingers are going to touch this water.) Take a rice wrapper and feel for the rough side. Place the wrapper rough-side-up in the water and left soften for about 10 seconds. Remove to a plate.
2) Arrange four slices of shrimp lengthwise along the center of the wrapper. Top with a few pieces of basil, mint and cilantro, followed by strips of carrot and cucumber.
3) Grab a small fistful of vermicelli and place over the carrot and cucumber. Carefully wrap the rice wrapper by folding the top and bottom of the wrapper over the layers of shrimp, veggies and vermicelli. Then roll the wrapper upburrito-style.
4) Repeat the process for the remaining spring rolls.

Peanut Sauce:
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon peanut butter

1) Stir to combine.

What weird/funny skills did you have as a child?

Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti

If the trip takes less than 15 hours in the car, my family drives.

It’s a thrifty decision that never fails to irk me, since I love plane rides and loathe sitting in the car for long durations of time. And yet, as I get older, I find myself willing to drive farther and farther distances in the pursuit of saving money. Being a prudent traveler is encoded in my DNA, apparently.

This spring break is no exception. My friends and I are driving down to Ft. Lauderdale to participate in what appears to be some sort of senior-spring-break rite of passage: going on a cruise.

Of course, my immediate thought upon learning that I would be driving the 12-or-so hours southbound was “What should we eat to pass the time?”

The answer is constantly laying on my family’s kitchen countertop: biscotti. My mom has been on what can only be described as a biscotti kick. Every time I come home, there’s a new variation, a new flavor addiction to form and then try to combat with other dippable foods.

This technique rarely works, and I end up finishing whatever biscotti my other family members did not consume between breakfast and dessert.

No doubt that these biscotti would’ve turned my teenage angst/resentment toward having to drive all the way to upstate New York into something resembling appeasement.

Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti:
Makes 36 pieces
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup almonds, roasted and chopped
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon orange rind (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking sheet, or line with a Silpat.
2) In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the almond extract.
3) Add the flour and baking powder and stir until just blended. Mix in almonds, chocolate chips and orange rind.
4) On the baking sheet, shape the dough into two 10-inch long by 3-inch wide loaves, a little more than 1/2-inch in thickness. Keep a few inches of space between the loaves. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until set. Cool for seven or so minutes. (The loaves don’t crumble as much when they’re cut still warm.) Cut the loaves into 1/2-inch slices with a serrated knife.
5) Lower oven heat to 300 degrees. Place biscotti slices back on baking sheet, one of the cut sides facing up, and bake for five minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, flip the biscotti, and bake for another five minutes. Let biscotti cool before placing in an airtight container.