March 2009 Archives

March Recap

Back on March 3, I read on Cynthia's Furey and the Feast that she was challenging herself to post every weekday in March - five posts a week, and something new every day. I write other places daily, and it's tough. Food blogging can be even tougher, since there's "action" photography and extensive recipe testing and writeups involved. I decided to take her challenge as well, and I'm glad I did.

I had 21 posts in March, including eight recipes, two cupcake posts, five questions, and even a post featuring tofu.Some days I kinda went through the motions, but I really like having to post so regularly. That said, I'm not sure April will feature a post a day - but it will feature a new theme - very likely a couple savory dishes a week. Thanks for reading!

Dark and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

For whatever reason, it's taken me much longer than it should have to consciously think of another treat (besides cupcakes) that's easy to make and distribute. I have a lot of baking plans, but I kept thinking to myself "cakes/tarts/custards/etc. are too difficult to give away in small portions", failing all this time to remember the classic sharing treat - cookies.


Once again, this recipe is from "The Art & Soul of Baking", and it's pretty traditional as far as butter, white and brown sugar style (think: chocolate chip or oatmeal) cookies go. I went with a mix of white and dark chocolates - originally I was going to go all white, but I could only get 1 bar of Black and Green's White Chocolate (the only organic, and it's awesome, that I can find), so I added some dark I had handy. It's interesting how the white retained its shape very well, but the dark melted into the cookies more. They're small and tasty.

Dark and white chocolate chunk cookies

1 1/2 sticks (6oz) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (5 1/4oz) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (6oz) light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups (11 1/4oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6oz white chocolate, in chips or chunks
6oz dark or milk chocolate, in chips or chunks

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Cream sugars and butter in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) until smooth and blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time until each is just blended, then add vanilla and blend in.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients (all at once is fine, if your mixer bowl is large enough for a little mess) and blend just until there are no patches of flour visible. Add chocolate chips or chunks, and mix on low until well distributed.

Place tablespoon-sized (or ping pong ball-sized) mounds of dough on a non-stick baking sheet (or on parchment paper on a cookie sheet), and bake for 10-14 minutes, rotating once during cooking. Cookies will look brown on the edges but slightly pale in the center when they're done. Remove and let cool 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet before moving to a plate or cooling rack. Makes 50-60 cookies.

Thoughts and observations: Use whatever chocolate you have for this, but if you're using whole bars, make sure your chunks are small for this size cookie (no larger than pre-made chocolate chips). Cook a few minutes longer if you like a crisper cookie. You can also refrigerate this dough to make it easier to work with (and to have it spread out less when baking). Share and enjoy!


Quick question for everyone to ponder over and argue about: Outside the actually staff members I know, just about everyone I've met who I'd consider pretty hardcore vegans and vegetarians doesn't care for the practices of PETA. I happen to find them very, very entertaining, but a lot of people think they go to far.

What's your take? Are there specific things they do that you don't like? Are they generally a good group? Often I'll talk to people who say they hate PETA, but can't give me any real reasons. Do you have some?

Vanilla cupcakes with citrus frosting

vanilla.jpgIt seems no matter what I post about or bake, nothing gets near the attention that my cupcakes do. I'm betting it's a "pretty dessert" thing in general, but so far cupcakes have ruled the roost here. No reason to stop now...

I found this recipe in "The Art & Soul of Baking", a fantastic book from Sur la Table - it's basic enough for new bakers to get a handle on, but detailed enough for us wannabe pros to get a lot out of it. It reads like an instruction manual, in every wonderful geeky way that's possible.

The book's got a lot in it for me to discover; the recipe below was my first find, and I like it a lot. I decided to literally go "by the book" and not skip on any instructions: I warmed my eggs to room temperature, creamed my butter and sugar together much longer than I usually have the patience for, and alternately added the dry ingredients (sifted, of course) and the sour cream to the creamed sugar and egg mixture - the resulting batter was surprisingly uniform and airy. "Surprisingly" because the cupcakes are rather dense - again, in a good way.

The frosting recipe didn't go along with the cake in the book, but I thought something lemony would be nice for springtime. The reason I'm calling this "citrus" is because you can use orange, lemon, or even lime if you'd like - all would work well. In all honesty, I'm not 100% sure I actually used a lemon, as it was rather green on the inside. "Citrus" is a nice safe word. Enjoy!

Vanilla cupcakes (adapted from Classic Yellow Layer Cake, from Art and Soul of Baking)

1 1/2 sticks (6oz) butter, softened
3/4 cup (5.25oz) sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tbl. vanilla extract
2 cups (7oz) cake flour, sifted
3/4 Tsp. baking soda
1/4 Tsp. salt
1/3 cup (3oz) sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F.

vanillaall.jpgIn a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar with an electric beater until smooth, 4-6 minutes. Add eggs, one and a time, and incorporate. Add vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Combine dry mixture and sour cream into wet ingredients, adding 1/3 dry mix, then 1/2 sour cream, then 1/3 dry, then the rest of the sour cream, then the rest of the dry, fully incorporating each addition before adding more.

Using a small scoop or pipping bag, pour batter into cupcake papers, filling each about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 16-20 minutes, rotating cupcakes once during cooking. Cupcakes are done when slightly springy to the touch, and when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Citrus buttercream frosting

4oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (2oz) butter, softened
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
lemon, lime or other citrus fruits
Food coloring (optional)

In a mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese, butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar, and beat with an electric mixer until combined. Add juice of one lemon (or other citrus), careful to avoid seeds. Combine, adding more sugar to reach desired consistency. Add several drops of food coloring, if desired.

To fill, carefully cut out a piece of the center of each cupcake after cooling, and fill with frosting. You can replace the "cap" of your cutout if desired. Frost the top of each cupcake using a large, flat knife or spreader, or with a pipping bag.

Thoughts and Observations: You certainly don't have to "fill" these - it's a bit of extra work, and the frosting is rich enough without adding more. But it makes a nice presentation and surprise on the first bite.

I realize my frosting recipe is kinda basic - frostings are next on my list to experiment with (before research, I had no idea a lot of frostings had heat involved at any step - color me surprised). Play around with it, remembering that you can always thin it out with milk, and thicken it up with powdered sugar. You can also go all butter and no cream cheese - I just happened to have some handy, and like the taste. Purists might be blowing a gasket at all this, but they can yell on their own food blogs. I added yellow color purely for show. I didn't do it for these pictures, but a garnish of finely grated lemon rind would round these out nicely. 

Burrito Based Economy

I love burritos. I love search engine manipulation. What fun is a food blog if you don't use both together?

I noticed this morning that there were no results on either Google or Yahoo! for the phrase "burrito based economy" - I was sure someone, at some point, would have used those words in that order, but apparently not. I wrote about it on my regular blog this morning, and within the hour, there was one hit for the phrase - my site.

While I just find it funny, lots of websites would give their left knee for such quick indexing by The Google. I link here from there quite often - we'll see how fast TofuFighting gets on the burrito bandwagon. If it's fast, I should start selling links...

Update: I hadn't checked until just now (9:10pm), but this post is now the top result for the search. Nice.

Ice cream meetup?

This morning, I made a maple crunch ice cream, as my cream needed using and the maple candy I made last week wasn't getting any fresher. It turned out really well, and got me thinking: Are there enough LA/OC folks out there who make their own ice creams to have a meetup and tasting?

I've thought about doing it with cupcakes, and while it'd be fun, there are only so many cupcakes you can try in an evening. But with ice cream, you can get the full experience with a spoonful, leaving you open to five to ten more spoonfuls are the night goes on. I'm not sure, though, if many/any of my blogging friends even make their own. Your thoughts and input welcome!

Meat's kinda bad for you

Not that I had to tell all of you this, but...

Study: Lots of red meat increases mortality risk

By CARLA K. JOHNSON, AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson, Ap Medical Writer

CHICAGO - The largest study of its kind finds that older Americans who eat large amounts of red meat and processed meats face a greater risk of death from heart disease and cancer. The federal study of more than half a million men and women bolsters prior evidence of the health risks of diets laden with red meat like hamburger and processed meats like hot dogs, bacon and cold cuts.

The surprising parts of of this study for me were all the numbers involved:

Over 10 years, eating the equivalent of a quarter-pound hamburger daily gave men in the study a 22 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 27 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease. That's compared to those who ate the least red meat, just 5 ounces per week.

Women who ate large amounts of red meat had a 20 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 50 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than women who ate less.

Those numbers, of course, are kinda scary. I don't blame the meat entirely - I'm sure most people that have meat as a major component of every meal probably aren't skimping on the rest of the high fat menu. Also amazing to me is that more than half a million people were involved in the study - that's huge.

The story also has the obligatory comment from the meat industry denying the connection, but also throws in a couple sentences about the positive environmental aspects of eating less meat. I wish they'd throw around less "global warming" and maybe add some "increased energy usage" and "damaging to the water table", but it'll do.

On the menu...

All sorts of baking, cooking, preparing, and eating to do this weekend:

Tonight I baked a variety of Amish Friendship breads - some muffins, some mini loaves, and a big loaf. They were all the same dough, but the variety in types is due mostly to wanting to make a bunch of muffins, but realizing I'd be up until 2 in the morning if I went that route. Instead, I made loaves to use up the huge batch of batter faster. If you'd like some, please ask.

Tomorrow I'm going to my first flavor tripping party - thrown by a foodie friend, even. I've acquired a bunch of very sour, very delicious kumquats to test the before-and-after effects of the miracle berries. I'm very excited!

Having some leftover maple syrup and an overinflated sense of my candy-making skills, I tried to make some maple caramel last night, but ended up instead with a sort of grainy maple meltaways, not quite a hard crack, but not at all soft. So what to do? Ice cream - I'll make a richer-than-usual ice cream, and incorporate the candy. I have high expectations for it.

Since it's been a while, Sunday might find me making pizza, cupcakes, or both. If you need me, I'll be in the kitchen.

Question of the day

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What have you never tried (culinary-wise) that you're curious about, or scared to try? Why?

The Accidental Anti-Diet

I'm not on a diet.

That said, I'm watching what I eat, and try to keep between-meal snacking, overly fatty food, and caloric pitfalls to a "healthy" minimum. I've maintained my weight well over the last few months, and I'm approaching 200lbs for the first time since high school.

Enter real life. Between a busy weekend, my mom moving, my car breaking down, having a two year old and a host of other things, I found myself going out to eat an inordinate number of times. When I did eat at home, it was a quick meal, and not always well thought out. So even though I'm not on a diet, I've done a hell of a job this week in making sure I eat pretty poorly.

soup1.jpgWhat's a guy to do? Eat soup. I've never been one for purifying, detoxification, or flushing out my body - it'll do that itself when you give it the right foods. And since I'm predicting the rest of the week could be as busy as the first half, I figure I might as well have something easy, tasty, and healthy to grab. For me, it's this very simple to make, very cheap, and very tasty veggie soup.

Simple Veggie Soup

1 can (14.5oz) tomatoes, diced
3 medium carrots, sliced thin
6-8 oz mushrooms, any variety, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 head cabbage, sliced thin
salt, pepper and other spices, to taste

soup2.jpgPlace tomatoes and juice into large pot on medium high heat. Add vegetables, then add enough water to just cover them. Cook on medium high for 45-50 minutes, until all vegetables are cooked through. Add salt, pepper and any other spices you like, to taste. Makes 6-8 servings. Serve with crusty bread.

Thoughts and Observations: Just like with the Shepard's Pie below, feel free to add any veggies you have handy to this soup - peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, beans etc. Make sure you add enough salt - there's no reason the soup has to be bland just because it's all vegetables. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Even in my meat-eating days, I wasn't ever that fond of corned beef and cabbage. I'm pretty sure it wasn't due to my mom's rendition, as I tended to like her meat dishes. I just never found anything special about the dish.

Once I turned vegetarian, corned beef was, of course, out, and I preferred my cabbage in salads or Asian preparations. But it's still nice to have something vaguely Irish for the holiday, and shepherd's pie fits the bill.

In our household, shepherd's pie is the "use up what needs using" dish - we throw just about any vegetables in, top with mashed potatoes, and bake. I've never been one for adding fake ground beef or other veggie meat alternatives, but they tend to work well in a dish like this.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

3-4 medium potatoes
2 tablespoons butter or oil
2-3 carrots, chopped or sliced
8oz mushrooms (any variety), sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 head broccoli, chopped
1 medium zucchini, sliced
4oz mushroom gravy
4oz milk or cream
salt and pepper

Peel and cube potatoes, and boil for 15 minutes on high heat, or until tender. While the potatoes are cooking, prepare all other vegetable ingredients, and place into a large saucepan with the butter or oil. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until mushrooms and onions are cooked through.  Add mushroom gravy to vegetable mix, stirring to coat the vegetables. Remove potatoes from water and mash, slowly adding milk until they reach desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350F, and move vegetable mixture to oven-safe, high-walled dish (8x8x4 works well, as does a loaf pan). Add mashed potato mixture on top, covering the surface of the vegetables. Cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes develop a slight golden brown crust. Let stand 5 minutes, then serve.

This recipe can easily be adapted to suit your taste. Try using mixed Asian style mushrooms (fresh, dried or frozen), substitute any of the vegetables for what you have on hand (eggplant and squash would both work well), or add flavorings or cheese to your mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Cutting it close...

I hate posting this late, but I said I'd post every weekday in March, and doggoneit, I've got another 14 minutes to entertain you.

That said, this'll be a short and sweet entry - emphasis on "sweet". I'll post the full recipe in a few days, but for Pi Day I made a Banana Cream Cheesecake pie (with homemade chocolate whipped cream), and try as I might to mess it up, it turned out as perfect as I could every hope for - great banana flavor, perfectly cooked crust, and a smooth, velvety texture. Note to myself for next time: I know you think block cream cheese is as easy to bake with as the organic whipped stuff at Trade Joe's. You're wrong. Go shopping special.

I'm pressed for time and energy this week, but you'll get your five posts. I promise, however, nothing involving either corned beef or cabbage for St. Patrick's day.

Happy Pi(e) Day!

therespie.jpgLong before Congress decided to recognize it, I gathered non-math geek friends together every March 14th for good conversation and good pi(e). In the years since those first small gatherings, my annual Pi Day celebration has grown to include St. Patrick's Day in a mid-March extravaganza of baked goods and green beer.

Even with my love of all things pi, pie, and baking, I'm not a big fan of actually making and rolling out my own pie crust - It's intimidating, and there are several nice companies that make them for me. Luckily pie crust is one of those things that can be made vegan by default (instead of requiring adaptation), and several commercially available products are. My favorite is Marie Callender's frozen crust - cheap, easy to use, and completely animal-product free (until you fill it up with something creamy, that is).

On that topic, below is my award-winning vanilla cream cheesecake pie recipe. I'm lazy today, so I'm going to copy/paste the two-pie amounts below, but you can halve it if one is enough for you. Enjoy!

Michael's Vanilla Cream Cheesecake Pie

2 9-inch pie shells or graham cracker crusts
1 large box instant vanilla pudding mix
2 1/2 cups whole milk
10oz no-bake cheesecake filling (or 8oz cream cheese combined with 1/2 cup sugar)
8-10 vanilla cookies

Whipped topping

1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla


Bake and cool pie shells, if needed.

Prepare pudding/pie filling as directed on box, mixing pudding powder with 2 1/2 cups whole milk. Whisk two minutes. Stir in prepared no-bake cheesecake filling, whisk until mostly smooth (about 1 minute). Add 1/2 of pie filling to each shell and refrigerate for 10-30 minutes.

To make topping, add sugar and vanilla to heavy cream in a large mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer, whip for 3-4 minutes, until mixture holds soft peaks when beaters are removed. Smooth over the cooled pies using a large spoon or spatula, or pipe on using a piping bag. In a plastic zip-top bag, crush vanilla cookies by hand into small pieces, and sprinkle cookie pieces over pies.

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Mom's Tomato Sauce

A few years ago, I posted this to Insignifica, noting that I wanted to put it somewhere I wouldn't lose it. I figure my new food blog is as good as any other place.

This is my adaptation of my mom's tomato sauce. This sauce really is all about the tomatoes, so buy the best. You should use canned instead of fresh here, but go for something high quality - I prefer plum tomatoes for texture, body, and flavor. If your tomatoes aren't salted in the can, you're gonna want to increase the amount you add to the sauce. Total cooking time is at least an hour, but I often let it go all afternoon (3-6 hours) to let all the flavors meld.

I usually serve it over thin spaghetti, with a high sauce-to-pasta ratio (tradition be damned - I'm an American, and I like sauce). As listed, it's almost vegan - just cook your mushrooms in oil instead of butter, and you're set. Top with your favorite cheese (I've been using mizithra, grated over the top - I still haven't found a good Parmesan Reggiano that doesn't use animal rennet), and enjoy.

Mom's tomato sauce


2 28oz cans whole or crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons Italian seasonings (premixed Italian seasoning, or a combination of basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme or rosemary, to taste).
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/2 small white onion, diced
8-12oz white mushrooms, sliced or chunked
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste


In a large pot, simmer tomatoes on medium heat. If whole, crush first with a potato masher or with your hands, making sure to remove all skins. Add olive oil, then Italian spices. Allow sauce to simmer for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a medium saucepan, heat butter or oil on medium heat. Add onions, and cook for 4-5 minutes before adding mushrooms. Once this mixture is mostly cooked (onions should be clear, and mushrooms should have given off a fair amount of moisture) reduce heat to low and add garlic. Cook for another 3-5 minutes then stir into sauce.

Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. After cooking for an hour total, the sauce is ready to be served over your favorite pasta. Sauce can also be prepared ahead of time and reheated.

Recaps and More Water

Yesterday's Cupcake event was fun, even though we had two "forgets" and one "late" - still, it was nice to see friends I don't get to see often. We'll definitely do another one of these soon. I'm thinking Mondays at lunchtime (and in the evening), as I do a lot of my baking on Sunday night...

For a little further discussion on water, I've decided to boycott Brita because they're evil horrible scaremongers. Well, they produced this, at least:

Remember, kids: water from clean-looking-but-often-parasite-infested streams is great, and you should drink it. But the water from your tap is horrible and evil, and you need our filter to save you from it, and make it more like the parasite-infested stuff.

If you haven't noticed, boycotting is second nature to me. I have entire countries on my shit list. I can even make that today's question: What, if anything, do you actively boycott? Extra points if it's food-related. 

Meet and Eat tonight!

Due to a response I certainly wasn't expecting, we're having today's "Meet and Eat" cupcake giveaway in the evening instead of lunchtime - that way, more people will be able to stop by. We'll be at The District in Tustin starting around 8pm, in the courtyard in front of the AMC movie theaters. We'll either be at one of the round cafe tables, or in one of the couch-fireplace deals they've got there. Good times!

Other notes of interest:

Speaking of The District, my friend Elysse James has a review of the newest restaurant there, Marmalade Cafe. While meat is certainly their thing, they've got a good number of menu items that look vegetarian. Check it out.

On a totally unrelated subject, I recently got Sur La Table's "The Art and Soul of Baking", and I'm going through it now. So far, it's a great mix of recipes, techniques, terms and science. I'll have a full review sometime soon.

Advice for the day: Make yourself a "Thanksgiving"-style dinner sometime soon (in the Spring, at least) - last night we had a Tofurky roast (and stuffing), gravy, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and cranberries. It was wholly satisfying.

See y'all tonight!

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

carrot1.jpgI made cupcakes. Again.

It's not that cupcakes are my only trick, it's that they're easier to handle and decorate than cakes, bake more quickly, easier to give away, and easier to eat. I'm thinking those factors are the driving force behind the cupcake's surge in popularity lately. Whatever it is, I'm deep in it.

I've been craving carrot cake for a while - dense, rich, spicy, and much more substantial than most other cakes. I've found it's also one of those "I don't like cake, but..." type desserts - it stands out for people. I didn't have a good recipe, so I went with Alton Brown's overly fussy take, and it turned out pretty well. As directed, I didn't include any nuts or raisins, but I may next time - they still turned out really well.

As you can see, I also went a little wacky with the decorating. Instead of pipping a carrot onto the frosting, I used a triangle stencil and homemade orange powdered sugar to apply the designs. I then capped the carrots with green sugar crystals, and both the orange and green "melted" into the frosting, creating an interesting effect. A little messy, but not bad for my first such attempt. Recipes and instructions are below.

Also! If you'd like one, I'm going to be somewhere I can give them away on Tuesday, March 10. Watch for more details, or email me for more info!

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Alton Brown's recipe here.

12 ounces, approximately 2 1/2 cups, all-purpose flour
12 ounces grated carrots, fine grate (approximately 6 medium)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 ounces sugar, approximately 1 1/3 cups
2 ounces brown sugar, approximately 1/4 cup firmly packed
3 large eggs
6 fluid ounces plain yogurt
6 fluid ounces vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

carrot2.jpgPut the grated carrots into a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Add this mixture to the grated carrots and toss until they are well-coated with the flour. Work the carrot mixture with your fingers to get out any large carrot clumps.

In another bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and yogurt, and mix until combined. While mixing, drizzle in the vegetable oil. When integrated, pour this mixture into the carrot mixture and stir until just combined.

carrot4.jpgPour batter into cupcake pans (use cupcake wrappers for best results, otherwise liberally grease pan) and fill to 3/4 full. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate in your oven, then bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the cake reaches 205 to 210 degrees F in the center (or a toothpick, inserted in the middle, comes out clean). Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese
1-2 ounces unsalted butter (1/4 to 1/2 stick), room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
9 ounces powdered sugar, sifted, approximately 2 cups

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter (I use a stand mixer, a hand mixer would work fine, as would a large fork, though your arm may never forgive you) until just blended. Add the vanilla and beat until combined, then add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, and beat until smooth. Place the frosting in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes before using.

Sugar Decorations

carrot7.jpgThere are a lot of ways to do this - I used the ingredients I had handy. You could use orange sugar crystals, all granulated sugar with red and yellow (or orange) food coloring, or any other tricks you know. The important parts are adding enough granulated sugar to remove excess moisture, and blending until fine).

1/8 cup red sugar crystals
Yellow food coloring
1/4-1/2 cup white granulated sugar
X-acto or art knife
Small, thin piece of cardboard (larger than a cupcake - 2"x2" or bigger)
Green sugar crystals to garnish

In a small container, combine red sugar crystals with 10-20 drops of yellow food coloring, and stir in completely. Add granulated sugar and combine until desired color is reached (adding more food coloring and white sugar as needed). When no longer wet, put mixture into a food processor or small mixer, and blend, pulsing and shaking caked sugar down into the blades. Final product should resemble superfine sugar.

carrot5.jpgUsing a small art knife, cut a triangle hole in the cardboard to desired size to make a carrot stencil. Hold stencil over frosted cupcake and dust orange sugar to make a design on the cupcake. Sprinkle a few green sugar crystals on top of triangle to finish the carrot. Sugar colors will "bleed" slightly over time.

Thoughts and Observations: The cupcakes are dense, so you might want to reduce the temp to 325 and bake a little longer - mine browned slightly on the bottom. I didn't include raisin or nuts, but there would be no harm in doing so. If you like a spicier cake, I think you could easily double (or more) the amount of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg. I find I have pretty good results when weighing ingredients instead of just using volume measurements, but either way should work. I do contend that a kitchen scale is the best tool I never knew I needed until I had one. More process shots (and larger versions of the above pictures) of the cupcakes are available here.

What are you reading?

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Try as I might, I'm realizing that I can't hope to post an extended recipe entry every day - and like I've said before, that's OK. But I can try to broaden my horizons every day, and you can help:

What other food blogs are you reading?

I have a few friend's sites to the left there, but truth be told, I'm not really someone who reads a lot of stranger's blogs (though comment on my site once, and you're not a stranger anymore). That said, I'd like to find some. Vegetarian-themed is fine, and I like baking, but I think there's value in all sites, as long as they're not meat-only. What are you reading that's funny, or inspirational, or just plain good?

Sneaky Tofu and Cheese Stuffed Shells

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You know, for being called "Tofu Fighting Dot Com", I don't write much about tofu. I blame this partially on my recent obsession with baking - well, baking cakes, cookies, and other things that don't require tofu, that is.

I do like tofu, however, and in a lot of forms. As a generic "meat replacer" in savory dishes, it often does the job. Baked, seasoned and thinly sliced (usually bought from the store pre-made like this), it's one of my favorite ramen additions and sandwich toppings. In soup, it works great just boiled along with everything else.

The reason this comes up (and why it's on my mind) is that I also love sneaky uses of tofu. For example, tonight's stuffed shells with mushrooms and tomato sauce has 1/3 block of the stuff, mixed finely with the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. I've found it adds an interesting nutty flavor while cutting fat and calories in the dish.

Sneaky Tofu and Cheese Stuffed Shells


8 - 12 large "stuffing shell" pastas
2 - 4oz tofu (any firmness)
4 - 6oz ricotta cheese
6oz mozzarella, grated
1 - 3 teaspoons salt
Italian spices, fresh or dry, to taste
1 egg
Tomato, cream or other pasta sauce, jarred or fresh.
1oz Parmesan cheese, grated


Cook pasta shells according to package directions for al dente. Prepare filling, below, while they're cooking. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Using your hands, mash the tofu in a large bowl until it has a uniform fine consistency. To the tofu, add ricotta and 4oz of the mozzarella cheese and mix with Italian spices (dry "Italian Spices" are fine, or add fresh basil, finely chopped) to taste. Add salt as needed. Add egg and combine into mixture.

Prepare a non-stick or glass bread loaf pan or small baking dish with a thin layer of your preferred sauce. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and rinse under cold water until you can handle it. Using a spoon, fill each shell with the cheese and tofu mixture - overflowing a bit is fine -  and place the stuffed shells (open side down) into the baking dish. When finished, cover the shells with more of your sauce, then top with Parmesan and remainder of mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered (with foil or glass lid), for 35-40 minutes at 425 degrees, or until sauce is bubbling on the inside walls of the dish. Uncover and cook 5-10 more minutes, until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Cool 5 minutes, plate and enjoy! Serves 2-4.

Thoughts and Observations: You can use whatever sauce you like, and add whatever else you enjoy to either the stuffing mix or the pan. I love mushrooms, so I usually sauté a large batch (4-8 oz) along with my pasta dishes. Spinach, garlic and onions all work very well. I also enjoy mixing sauces with this (and all baked pastas) - try a layer of tomato on the bottom and top it with something creamy. 

A post a day? Really?

My friend Cyn, writer of the much-prettier-than-tofufighting Furey and the Feast, has given herself a challenge - post every weekday in March.


I post every weekday at my "regular" blog, Lemme tell ya - it's not easy. There tends to be enough general stuff happening in my life, however, to fill up a few sentences every morning - sometimes 4, sometimes 20. But food blogging tends to be a little more intensive, with more photos, more documentation (recipes, reviews, etc.) and a more narrative feel. All that takes time, doubly so if you want a dash of quality thrown in.

Being a masochist, liking a challenge, and needing an excuse to get the ball rolling here, I'm going to try the same thing. Some days will be big posts with pictures, recipes, and commentary. Others might just have a mini-review of a new product or restaurant. And some days, I might just ask you a question and fill my self-imposed quota.

It is still my site, after all.

So let's get started with the quota-filling question: What foods are you reluctant (or just plain unwilling) to try/use? It could be for any reason: I don't use eggplant because it always tastes bad to me, and I'm allergic to it's family (though I love a lot of the other members). As a vegetarian, this tends to make my life a little more difficult than it needs to be. Alas, for cooking there's always zucchini, which can often be substituted well.

How about you?

On Water

My brother, sister and mom got together yesterday, and the topic of water came up - specifically, what we drink, won't drink, and where we get it.

Maybe because I like convenience, or because I'm cheap, but all my water comes from the tap. I drink very little plain water, but everything I cook with, mix with, clean with and boil with is good 'ol municipal H20. Apparently I'm the rare one here - my siblings and mother all hate the taste of tap water, and get their drinking water from a variety of other sources - bottled water services, home filters, or "water stores". Oddly enough, individual bottled water didn't come up.

What's your view? I can totally understand if someone doesn't like the taste of tap water, but I get very angry when people say or infer that it's somehow bad/dirty/not worth drinking - it's an elitist attitude and not at all founded in truth (we have some of the cleanest drinking water in the world). I can't see the justification for the cost of paying extra for water, or even for filters. Where do you get yours? Do you use filtered/delivered water for boiling/cooking as well as drinking? Water plays into many of my dishes in some way or another, yet I rarely think much about it.

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