Thursday, May 20, 2010


The sun came out and let me thoroughly appreciate the beginning of my twenty-fourth year. The following activities made for a most satisfying celebration:

  I let the crisp shards of a Kougin Amann fall all over my hair
  Languidly eating whole wheat-apple-pecan-current pancakes in bed
  Savored small bites with my favorites
  Aired stinky cheese at Gas Works
  Imbibed creative concoctions with the many people who make me smile
  Found fresh pasta under a Tandem
  Finally tasted some of Seattle's best crust & crumb with the family
  Played with marzipan dough like a kid

A chicken hiding in a cabbage patch graced the top of the cake I made for my party. It made me think of my young love for marzipan animals.

When I was younger, my good friend had a Norwegian themed birthday party. We played a traditional after dinner game where everyone receives a bowl of rice pudding, but one person has an almond in their bowl. The lucky person with the almond wins a tasty marzipan pig. As soon as I became aware of the fact that we were playing this game, and saw the pig at the house before the party, I knew I wanted the pig. Badly. I anxiously awaited for when it would be time to play the game, and when I stirred through my serving no almond was to be found. I feel like the winner may have shared the pig with me, I assume I was visibly pouting. This year's marzipan chicken definitely made up for the loss of the pig some.

On the topic of strange cake toppers, I saw an almost disturbing cake decoration while out searching for a big pink bakery box to tote my cake in. I will only say that it was of a certain vampire that lives in Forks, WA. He was sparkly, perhaps made of fondant, dwelling in a forest of frosting. The disturbing part is that it was made at a most infamous bakery in Wallingford. If you can think of the shop, you can imagine how strange this cake was. The experience made my boyfriend wonder at how there is a market to support such a large collection of novelties.

Thanks to all who made my birthday wonderful. All the goodness of the weekend was enough to last me through this windy, rainy week.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Deep Roots

There is a particular lily in my yard that has made its presence very well known. Where there is an expanse of soil, it has saturated the space. Where there is a crack between rocks, it has settled. Unfortunately it has taken residence in the very space I would like to grow some squash,  or potatoes, perhaps.

The task of clearing this very innocent looking flower at first appeared straight-forward. The leaves and stalks slid out of the ground with almost no resistance whatsoever. As with most issues that seem so simple on the surface, a little bit of digging reveals that the root of the trouble is much more complex. No single simple action will finish the job, small decisive steps are the only way to clear the dirt of it's deep-set, intertwined tangle of past growth.

Maybe that is why I like a garden project. Or a cake project. In one afternoon I can deconstruct and rearrange a space to become something new. In a few hours many different entities can be treated in a unique manner, melded together into something that will satisfy not only empty bellies, but aesthetic senses.

 It is good practice for me to create, to continually envision a projection of what I can do on my own. This weekend it was a nutty cake, and readied garden beds (two, mine and my parents). In the present I am trying to project bigger undertakings for myself, but that hasn't come into focus just yet.

Almond-Pear Torte for Mother's Day
Adapted from this torte

1/2 c. ground, blanched almonds
2/3 c. unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick salted butter
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 oz.  dark chocolate chopped into small rectangles and shards (I used 70%  Theo Dark Chocolate)
3 medium sized pears, sliced 1/8-1/4" thick
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp amaretto
1 tsp almond liquor

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan and place a circle of parchment paper on top. Combine the flour, almonds, and baking powder together. In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients, chocolate and eggs. Mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, it will only be a thin layer. Overlap the pear slices in 2 circles on top of the batter until it is all covered by pears. In a small bowl mix together the honey, amaretto, and almond liquor. Brush this mixture on top of the pears. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until golden and puffy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bike Fuel

Muffin prepares for the ride to work in the warm morning sun. Little does muffin know that it will provide my hungry bike team with a snack after their first 'Bike To Work Month' trip. I am acting as Team Captain for my first time this year, and this morning I wanted to give my team a treat to reward their biking efforts. 

These muffins are one of my all time favorites. At one point I was would make them every weekend so I could have them everyday before breakfast. They have enough substance to keep you full and give you energy, but in no way are they a common over-sugared muffin-shaped-cake so often served at breakfast. You can substitute anything into the muffins; the fresh fruit keeps them moist, and the eggs retain a fluffy spring.  I put suggestions below for my favorite additions. Also, if you don't want to use eggs I have used Ener-G Egg re-placer many times for this recipe and other cookies & quick breads. It is found in the baking aisle, and is made of tapioca flour and leavening reagents.

 The trio behind morning muffin power

Morning Glory Muffins
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 c. coconut (or other addition - oat bran, wheat bran, soy protein powder)
3/4 c. sliced almonds (or any kind of nuts you like)
1 large carrot grated
1 large apple grated
zest and juice of one medium to large orange
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c. olive oil (or applesauce)
3/4 c. dried currents (or any other dried fruit diced small)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. If you are using currents or raisins, place in a small bowl and cover with warm water. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients well. Add coconut, almonds, sugar, carrot, apple, and orange zest. Stir until all of the grated pieces of fruits and vegetables are evenly coated in the dry ingredients. In a small bowl combine the orange juice, eggs, and olive oil. Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl. If you haven't added the dried fruit already, drain and do so now. Mix well just until a batter forms and all of the flour is combined. Divide the batter up over a 12 - cup muffin tin. If your muffin tin is not non-stick, make sure to grease the tin before adding the batter. Each cup should be filled just to the brim. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Carefully loosen the muffins around the edge with a knife and let cool on a rack.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Plant Babies

People flocked to Wallingford this weekend, and for a good reason: The Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale. Thousands upon thousands of enticing edible garden starts took over the park at the Good Shepard Center and were sold off to start their lives in gardens across Seattle. I volunteered at the event as a 'Line Wrangler' and watched people fill their strollers and wagons full of plant starts.  There was no way I could resist, and here are the little beauties I brought home with me.
An adorable 'Fish Pepper'. An heirloom variety hot pepper, given its name because of its use in seafood restaurants in Baltimore and Philadelphia in the early 1900's.
A Sungold and Jaune Flammee tomato basking in a 30-second sun break - the only one of the day. I am especially excited for the Jaune Flammee, it will produce medium sized golden orange tomatoes with a delicious flavor.
The Lemongrass plant is new to me, but I am looking forward to fresh Thai curries this summer.
I hope this curvaceous basil leaf will be the first of many to grow.

There are a few more baby plants I have sitting in my windowsills, but I will have to wait a bit longer to set them loose in the wilds of my backyard (it is so cold and windy out!). Below though is a glimpse of what is to come for me this week with the cold keeping up. Those are mushrooms taking a bath in some browned butter for a dinner I made for my wonderful buddy last week. I have oysters and morels I picked up at the market this weekend who are more than anxious to take a dip, I am sure.