What Being a Foodie Means to Me

cool-cartoon-1089012Let’s just get this out of the way now and agree, food is great. For some, food is seen as a necessity for survival. For others, food creates an experience in which family, friends, and even strangers can come together to share culture, religion, politics, and stories. Over all, the possibilities with food are seemingly endless, in both a preparation and execution fashion. But about the people who are eating this said food? They vary just as much as the food does. From ages to gender, and everything in between, the list goes on. The same can be said for their food preferences. Some of them couldn’t care less what’s on the plate, they’ll eat just about anything. Others, will throw a fit if their meal doesn’t meet their specifications. Some know what they like and will try, on occasion, to be adventurous, to experience something new. Others will stick to what they know; its the familiar stuff that makes them happy. Considering such a variation of food eaters out there, where exactly do people who identify as foodies come in? In fact, what is a foodie?

According to the ever-reliable Urbandictionary.com, a foodie is:

A person that spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food, the proper preparation of food, and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation.

Yea, that sounds about right. Foodies are people who have apparently taken their love of food to the next level. These are the people who will geek out at the sign of a sale at of cookery or bake-ware on Amazon.com or at William & Sonoma. These are the people who will always have a camera on them whenever they go anywhere related to food, be it a strawberry field, farmer’s market, or restaurant. Basically, foodies are those who fall in the grey area between interest and obsession. Think trekies but for the food world.

So what exactly does this have to do with me? Well, since having my foodie awakening back in 2010, I’ve learned much regarding gastronomy and the culinary world. Prior to 2010, I was one of those people who simply ate food without thinking much about what I was putting into my mouth. Today, I try and stay on top of what is going on in the food world regarding flavor trends, social issues, and what not. While my friends are busy scrolling through Tumblr, I’m searching the web for new food blogs and recipes. Being a foodie is more than just a past time or a hobby, it has become a part of who I am. Not only do I love food, I appreciate it. For me at least, that’s the core of what being a foodie is all about. Appreciation.

One final note before signing off today. While I love being me, what I love about being a foodie is that I am not the only one. There is an ever growing population of us! Foodies United should totally become a thing, whether a website or some form of national/international club or organization. I know that I would join. Would you?

Till next time,

Litbaker

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Cake Deocrating Class Final

Cake Deocrating Class Final

Behold! It isn’t the most beautiful thing out there but it is a fully frosted and decorated cake. See those little flowers? I did them, not some cake decorator at my local supermarket.

Sometimes its the little accomplishments like this that just make you want to smile.

Over all I am super proud of this cake. However, I think the only thing I wish I could change was that the frosting didn’t get to chill enough (we didn’t have a fridge at our disposal) between applying the crumb coat and the second coat. Next time I frost something I’m going to put in the fridge for at least an hour so I can ensure an even coating.

Now that I’ve taken this course, I have a better understanding and respect for cake decorators. I can’t wait to make a cake or cupcakes so I can practice and refine my skills!

Cake Fail: Hey, it Happens

Sometimes we forget that we were all novices at one point in our lives.

As the great Julia Child once said:

No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” –My Life in France (2007)

In the last two years, I have been highly fortunate to have unusually long run of baking successes. Of course there has been some failures, the majority of them related to appearances rather than taste. But don’t get me wrong, I have experienced some considerably nasty baking failures. Personally, I think my most memorable failure just so happens to be my first. It was junior year of college, a little more than two years ago. I had only begun seriously baking, having started the summer before. Until that early spring afternoon, I had never known the sensation of failure, at least in a baking context. That was until I decided to take my baking up a notch and try something new. The recipe? S’mores cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes with a gram-cracker bottom topped with a homemade marshmallow. While the cupcake itself was relatively easy to make, the marshmallow was another story entirely. Going into it, there were three signs that failure was going to be imminent.

http://www.52kitchenadventures.com/2013/05/23/homemade-smores-cupcakes/

From 52 Kitchen Adventures. I later tried this recipe and it worked perfectly.

1. I didn’t understand how egg whites worked. The whole notion not getting any yolk in the whites was beyond my comprehension.

2. I lacked an small, candy, thermometer. The recipe asked me to heat the eggs to a certain temperature before removing them from the heat. A slightly hard things to do without a thermometer.

3. I didn’t know the difference between over beating and under beating. Even if I had managed to get this far along, I lacked the knowledge to distinguish a difference.

Putting all three things together, it would be safe to say that I was doomed from the start. What resulted was a minor breakdown. Ok, maybe a bit more than minor. But after the tears were done, I was able to step back and take note of where I had gone wrong. I learned something that day: never bite off more than you can chew, especially if you don’t totally understand the task you are about to undertake. It was a lesson that I have since taken to heart.

Its been more than two years since that dark day in my personal baking history and once again, failure has come knocking on my oven door. This time around, I wasn’t trying to make something challenging. It was to be a simple birthday cake for dad, who turned 61 this past Sunday. While the s’mores cupcake fiasco was caused mostly due to ignorance, this time around, it was due to a faulty cake pan and our oven.

Taken from one of my mother’s beloved Cusinart cookbooks, she assured me that this was something that couldn’t go wrong. Well, it did. And boy oh boy was I surprised when the thing crumbled apart. Initially, we thought it was because we only put in 1/3 cup of brewed coffee instead of 1 cup, leaving the batter too dry.

Hard to believe that a minor difference could affect the final result.

Hard to believe that a minor difference could affect the final result.

An hour later, we shifted blame to the cake pan it was baked it. “I guess that’s what you get when you buy a cheap pan at the store.” Now my mom mentions that. But it was true, something was wrong with it. After I coated the pan with butter, which I did generously, and later flour, not enough of it seemed to stick. We later compared this to a pan I bought of amazon.com and it was true; her pan seemed unable to be coated correctly.

As for our oven, its quite possibly the slowest oven ever. It takes forever to reach the designated heat and then as soon as you open the door to turn the pan, it has to reheat to get back. When the timer went off and I went to check to see if it was done, my tooth pick came out with moist batter on it. I shut the door and added another five. Second time around, it came out clean. Ten minutes later I went to separate and this was what I got.

Happy Birthday daddy!

Happy Birthday daddy!

Half the cake came out, and the rest stayed in the pan. Not good at all. How about the taste? After all isnt’s what matter’s? Dry. Very dry. Was it the lack of coffee? The recipe also called for sour cream so the batter was plenty wet. Was it the oven? Who really knows? Despite the inopportune timing of this cake fail (9:30pm) it was kind of nice to be reminded of what I learned two years ago. Never underestimate a recipe, ever! Even if it seems simple, read the directions carefully and be prepared for all sorts of outcomes.

Since I started today’s entry with an inspiring quote from one of my personal idols, I think its fitting to end with another quote, one that I think perfectly fits with this post’s theme.

Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy” -Miss. Frizzle.

I think that applies to cooking and baking quite nicely.

Till next time,

Litbaker

First Day of Summer, Last Day of Freedom

Summer officially starts today and with it comes a number of changes. While I would love to get all metaphorical here, adding clever quips about how we change with seasons and blah blah, I’m talking in the literal sense here. However, for the sake of appearing scholarly, I’ll include a quote that I stumbled upon this morning that I think will bring in a touch of class to my little blog here.

“Some of the best memories are made in flip flops.” -Kellie Elmore

Never before have words been so true. Why, I have had a number of great experiences happen to me while wearing flip flops. Perhaps the one that stands out the most is when I found and singed the lease for the apartment that I’ll be moving into in Boston this September. After a series of some considerable apartment let downs, the place that my future roommates and I looked like pure heaven. Trust me, some of the places we looked at were down right awful. One that’s still makes my skin crawl is an apartment that kind of

Image

Be it ever so humble, there is no place like a creepy home!

reminded me of Norman Bate’s house. No, not the Bate’s motel, the creepy house.

As for the changes themselves, there are quite a few that are about to happen. Come Monday morning, I’ll be back working at a summer camp run though my local Jewish center. While I’m thrilled to be working again, especially after having been on break since early May, there is one little side note about my job that I’m not exactly jumping up and down about. That of course, is our limitations when it comes to food. No meat, no peanuts, no hard foods like carrots (kids aren’t allowed to bring it so neither are the counselors) and if any kids in my group have any special food allergies, I can cross whatever that might be off my list as well. So, with such a restrictive list of food, what can I bring to work? Yogurt. Lots and lots of yogurt. Maybe some granola too, but that might have to be negotiable. But oh wait, there’s more! I can’t bring my yogurt in a plastic bag, plastic bags are banned too. I’m going to be brown bagging it this summer!

So besides that big change, what else is going to happen now that summer is starting? Well, Sunday mark’s my last say of my cake decorating course AND my dad’s 61st birthday. What this means is, CAKE!!!! But not just a cake made out of measly old cake mix, haha, that would be too easy. I’m going to make a cake my mom pulled of a binder filled with recipes she collected during the last late 1980s. Who needs cake mix when you have retro recipes from a food publication no longer in print!!!

Hmm, anything else?

Well, after much deliberation, I have decided to bike rack my history of cookbooks stuff for now. There are other things I really want to focus on, like preparing for grad school, food (of course), and getting ready to move out. It may come back someday down the road, but for now, its on hiatus.

I’ll be back tomorrow night (hopefully) with the cake recipe. Let’s all hope my time management skills allow me to pull it off.

Till then,

Litbaker

Recipe Write Up: Coffee Cupcakes

Recall how last week I mentioned that I was taking a cake decorating class. Well, for my most recent class, we were instructed to bring in six cupcakes so we could decorate them. They either could be baked or purchased at a supermarket so long as they were regular size, flavor certainly didn’t really matter. Considering how well received my cake from a previous class was, I was understandably hesitant to tell my parents. By the way, Mr. Cake has officially be evicted from our fridge and now resides at the top of some trash heap. Remarkably, my mom took the news well. But then, she threw me a curve ball. Instead of buying my cupcakes, she insisted I bake mine from scratch. “After all”, she said nonchalantly, “cupcakes are your specialty.” Just a few days before she was lamenting about the limited space in our fridge and the fact that neither she or my dad really eat baked goods. Yet, here she is challenging me to make something she knows I can’t resist. Talk about mixed signals

She isn’t wrong though, cupcakes are indeed my favorite thing to make. They can be simplistic or complex. Truly, with a cupcake, the possibilities are relatively endless. And, as always, every time an occasion arises that calls for cupcakes, I always strive to make something new, to challenge my baking skills. After going through a few of the food blogs that I read religiously occasionally, I finally settled on one. Coffee flavored cupcakes with a beautiful vanilla butter cream frosting. Combined together, the taste would be something reminiscent of a vanilla latte. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be getting the full latte effect. Confession time: I leave out the frosting when I bake cupcakes at home. Why? Well, let’s just call it the parent factor. As I learned years ago, none of my parents really like frosting and when frosted, you are basically giving your cupcakes an expiration date. Freezing them really isn’t an option. Trust me, if it wasn’t for the parent factor, I’d be making frosting whenever I could. However, even without the vanilla butter cream, these cupcakes tasted fine, especially when eaten while drinking my favorite tea, vanilla chai. PicsArt_1371485867733

Then again, I never doubted the taste; I kind of helped myself to the batter left in the bowl. Ok, I helped my self to a  lot of the batter that was left in the bowl. Since I don’t actually drink any kind of caffeinated beverages (with the exception of the occasional mocha and latte), I am, according to my dad, constantly caffeine deficient. Since the batter has both espresso powder and brewed coffee in it, my normally yawning and exhaustive self suddenly was moving like the Energizer Bunny.

Oh, and ironies of ironies. We never got to the actual decorating part in my cake decorating class. We ran out of time. At the end of the two hour class, all I had to show for my hard work was one frosted cupcake out of the six I brought. In all honesty, I think it’s better this way. I know my mom wouldn’t have been happy if I had brought back six fully decorated cupcakes. It doesn’t matter anyway. Next week is my final class and I HAVE to either fully decorate a cake or cupcakes. Let’s see how my mom tries to get around this one.

IMG_4144

Coffee Cupcakes

Adapted from a recipe found on annies-eats.com

Makes about 18 cupcakes

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. espresso powder
½ cup strong brewed coffee
¼ cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. additional buttermilk

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and espresso powder.  Whisk to blend.  In a liquid measuring cup, combine the coffee and buttermilk.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients alternating with the liquids, mixing each addition just until incorporated and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients

    Trying to improve my photo skills!

    I’m making an active effort to improve my photography skills. My day’s of snapping pics my with phone are OVER

  2. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

*Next time I’m going to put chocolate chips in the batter so I can have a mocha cupcake. Mhmmm, I love me a good mocha.

Before I sign off I just want to say that History of Cookbooks will be back soon with another installment! Sorry for the wait, but life has been a bit distracting lately.

Till next time,

Litbaker

Recipe Write Up: Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes (kind of) and Lemon

There is nothing more wonderful then receiving a birthday present from a friend. Especially if your birthday happens to occur right at the start of what some would refer to as ‘Academic Hell’ aka spring finals and you are so stressed that you’ve forgotten completely about the fact that you’re turning twenty-two because you have a final in your Weapons of Mass Destruction chem class and still have to memorize the top ten deadliest animals in the world. But then, amidst this male-storm of exams, presentations, and papers, your friend from freshmen year pops over to wish you a happy birthday and then hands you one of the most beautiful cookbooks you have ever seen. IMG_20130609_171634_20130616150445203Beautifully written and photographed, this cookbook is a food porn addict’s dream. If you are acquainted with food porn than I you know what I mean. If you have never ever heard of food porn before, click this link right away, foodporndaily.com, now. I can promise you, it’s worth it.

Ironically, my mother had purchased this book for my older sister some months ago. When I saw it before she handed it off to her, I asked my mom why she hadn’t gotten me a copy. This is how the conversation went.

Me: You know that I’m the sister who cooks and stuff. Where’s my cookbook?

Mom: Your sister cooks, she just doesn’t have as much free time as you do. Besides, I think your sister would appreciate this book more. She did spend a lot of time there.

Me: I went to Israel too mom.

Mom: I know, but this doesn’t really seem like a cookbook you’d like. Anyway, if you want a copy, buy one yourself.

In summary, what she was referring to is the fact that 1). my sister did spend a lot of time in Israel (about 6 months) and really fell in love with the country and 2). she has a closer connection to our Jewish culture than I do. What this is has to do with whether or not I’d appreciate an attractive and unique cookbook like Jerusalem its beyond me but clearly, my mom saw it differently.  Needless to say, you can guess what I didn’t get as a holiday present from my mom.

Jump forward to May 3rd and there, in my hands was the very book my mom had denied me. Contrary to my mom’s initial theory I can honestly tell you that it was love at first sight. Just flipping through the well photographed pages bought me right back to my personal journey to Israel four years ago. Almost immediately, my memory started recalling all the delicious food that I had had there. And when I say food, I am talking about more than just falafel. There is just something about Mediterranean flavors that I love. They are both vibrant and subtle. IMG_20130609_194641_20130616150701693 The additions of saffron and tarragon really gave this mean a punch when combined with the lemon and its juices. As for the artichokes, I can proudly report that, unlike those wicked olives, I love them. I  can’t recall if I had ever had artichokes before I made this but I can guarantee that I will be eating more. There are only two things that I would do differently. The first is that next time, I will let the chicken marinate in the mixture (see below) for at least four hours or even over night. My mom and I were in a rush so we only let it sit for maybe two hours. The second thing is to finish off the chicken on the grill or leave it in the broiler longer so it can get a bit more crispy. When I make it again, I’ll let you know what happens.

Roasted Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes and Lemon

From Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yoyam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

1 lb/420 g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 6 wedges 2/3 inches*
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 skin-on, bone in chicken thighs, or 1 medium whole chicken, quartered
12 banana or other large shallots, halved lengthwise*
12 large cloves garlic, sliced*
1 medium lemon, halved lengthwise and then sliced thinly
1 tsp saffron threads
3 1/2 tbsp/50 ml olive oil
2/3 cup/150 ml cold water
1 1./2 tbsp pink peppercorns, lightly crushed
1/4 cup/10 g fresh thyme leaves
1 cup/40 g tarragon leaves, chopped
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

*Since I couldn’t find these specific artichokes, I used frozen artichokes from Trader Joes
*I used 5-6 shallots and about 4-5 cloves of garlic. Remember my mom hates intense flavor so using 12 cloves of garlic was absolutely out of the question

  1. Put the artichokes in a medium saucepan, cover with plenty of water and add halt the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, lower the hat, and simmer for 10-20 minutes, until tender but not soft. If you are using frozen artichokes it will be about ten minutes. Drain and leave to cool
  2. Place the artichokes and all the remaining ingredients, excluding the remaining lemon juice and half of the tarragon, in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to mix everything together well. Cover and leave the chicken to marinate in the fridge overnight, or for at least two hours
  3. Preheat the oven to 475F/240C. Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, in the center of a roosting pan and spread the remaining ingredients around the chicken. Roast for 30 minutes. cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook for a further 15 minutes. At this point, the chicken should be completely cooked. Remove from the oven and add the reserved tarragon and lemon juice. Stir well, taste, and add more salt if needed. Serve immediately.

*Special thanks to my friend Therese for getting me this cookbook for my birthday. If hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be the foodie I am today*

Till next time,

Litbaker

Foodie Brain Blast!!!!!

Two posts in one day? My god, whatever this must be about has to be important!

*Drums roll in the distance*

I believe that I have done it, that I have found one of the seven wonders within the foodie universe. What is this earth shattering discovery? Its called FoodFanatic.com and for someone who merely hours before was commenting on how their life is surrounded by food, this website is like a godsend. How do I know that I have stumbled upon a foodie Shangrila? Because of what is written on the about us page: “Food Fanatic was created with a few simple ideas in mind. We love food, in fact, you’d say we’re downright fanatical about it. But we also love pretty pictures, excellent writing, and people who are passionate – maybe even fanatics themselves – about creating good food. -”

*Swoons*

Food, passion, pictures, and writing? It’s like four of the most important things ever coming together and forming the Justice League of foodie websites. Just like Seriouseats.com, this website offers an extensive list of different recipes. It has healthy recipes, one pot meals, desserts, vegetarian recipes, even a section labeled ‘Food Network Recipes’. How much better can you get? On top of all of this awesomeness, where this website really finds its charm is the fact that they have different bloggers -fanatics- writing in their own recipes for their respective section. I think that that is so cool, having real people simply doing what they love, baking and cooking. I highly suggest checking out this website as I will most likely be doing for the next few hours.

And yes, I actually shouted out the phrase ‘Foodie Brain Blast!’ when I accidentally stumbled upon this website (while watching The American Baking Competition in the background).

Till next time,

Litbaker