Saturday, March 31, 2007

Vegan Apple Muffins

I was so delighted with the result of the Vegan Coconut Tea Cake from a few weeks ago, that I decided to alter the recipe a bit and see if a new flavor and texture combination worked with the base ingredients.
apple muffins 010
I wound up with these tasty but a bit chewy Vegan Apple Spice Muffins.

For the muffins you'll need:

2 cups strong cinnamon tea (or any tea you love)
2/3 cup uncooked quick oats
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger (use more for a spicier cake)
1 1/2 cups vegan sugar (you can use white sugar if you like)
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 apple, peeled and diced

Prepare the tea ahead of time by steeping three teabags in two cups of boiling water until cool.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 13 X 9 baking pan.

Combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, in a large mixing bowl. In a separate smaller bowl combine the tea, applesauce, vinegar, extract, and the diced apple. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out free of crumbs.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Taco Riendo

After a long day of shopping with Alison, we ventured over to Northern Liberties to check out Taco Riendo. We'd heard good things about it, and knew it was the sister restaurant to Las Cazuelas, so we were excited to sample some of their offerings. They've been open a while, but oddly the restaurant hasn't supplied menupages with their menu.
sidral mundet apple soda
I enjoyed this awesome apple soda called "Sidral Mundet". The friendly and helpful woman behind the counter told me it was her favorite, so I decided to give it a try. She was even nice enough to replace the bottle for me when I broke the neck trying to get the lid off. It was delicious and refreshing after all that shopping.
chips and salsa
We started with some chips and salsa. The salsa was green and little bit spicy, but not nearly as hot as the green salsa you're served down at Taqueria Veracruzan.
steak sopes
Sopes are hands down my favorite dish to order, I love the crispy but thick masa shell. You can get the sopes topped with chicken, steak or shrimp. I chose the grilled steak and it was placed on top of black beans, Oaxaca cheese and more of the green salsa.
steak taco2
I also ordered a chicken taco (I was hungry!) but what arrived at my table was a steak taco. Not what I ordered, but delicious all the same, presented simply with chopped white onion, cilantro and a fresh lime wedge to squeeze on top. The tortilla was fresh, possibly made on the premises. The steak was tasty, but not nearly as flavorful or tender as the grilled steak down at Taqueria Veracruzan.
chicken quesadillas
Alison tried the chicken quesadillas and called them tasty, but again, in comparison to Taqueria Veracruzan, there was no contest.

We're happy that we don't have to get down to South Philly to get Mexican food, but I have a feeling when we're up for something truly delicious, we'll still make the drive. The atmosphere at Taco Riendo was far superior to any of the places down on Washington Ave, beautiful wooden tables, traditional art and an open kitchen are all positive features of Taco Riendo. For a decent taco and an awesome apple soda, the short bike or trolley ride out to 5th and Thompson is also much more manageable.

Taco Riendo
1301 N 5th St
Philadelphia, PA 19122
(215) 235-2294
Mon-Thu 9AM-9PM
Fri-Sat 9AM-10PM

$ Very Affordable
Taco Riendo in Philadelphia

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

WBB - Breakfast Taco Salad

Breakfast has slowly become my favorite meal of the day. I only make time for a real breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. During the week, I gobble a breakfast bar from Trader Joe's and drink a mug of Pleasant Morning Buzz at work. When Sig over at Live To Eat announced Weekend Breakfast Blogging: Eggstra-Ordinary Breakfast, I jumped into the kitchen and created a breakfast version of one of my favorite meals: Taco Salad.
taco salad

Breakfast Taco Salad

1 lb. Ground Turkey
2 tsp oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more!)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1/3 cup water

1 tbsp butter
6 eggs, lightly beaten with 3 tbsp of water

Tortilla Chips

Cheese, lettuce, sour cream and hot sauce for garnish.

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the turkey and break it up into crumble with a wooden spoon, add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. When the turkey is nearly cooked, sprinkle the cumin, cayenne, paprika and chili powder over the meat, add the water, stir and cover with a lid for 10 minutes to let the spices develop an aroma.

2. In a medium skillet, heat the butter until it foams and subsides, then add the beaten eggs, salt and pepper and reduce the heat to low. Slowly cook the eggs, stirring occasionally until set to the consistency you like. I prefer my eggs a little on the soft side because I dig the silky texture, but feel free to cook them harder if you like.

3. Place a layer of tortilla chips on a plate, cover with a spoonful of the spicy turkey mixture. Divide the eggs into four portions and place one portion on top of the turkey. Sprinkle with cheese and lettuce, add a dollop of sour cream and a drizzle of hot sauce.

4. Devour.

Serves 4

Check out all the other entrie to Weekend Breakfast Blogging: Eggstra-Ordinary Breakfast Roundup on March 31st at Live To Eat.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Brunch at The Four Seasons

Yeah, you read the title of this post correctly. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to brunch at the Four Seasons recently.
four seasons & St Paddy's Parade 017
My favorite brunch buddy, Healey, was given a gift certificate to the acclaimed hotel, and wanted to try their famous brunch spread. We got dressed up (I took a picture to prove it!) and had a nice stroll in the beautiful weather down to the Parkway where the Four Seasons is located.
four seasons & St Paddy's Parade 001
The fresh fruit on this plate may have been the best part of the whole meal! Raspberries, Strawberries and Blueberries were perfectly ripe and sweet. The blackberries left a lot to be desired, but what exactly was I expecting in March in Philadelphia? Clockwise from the fruit, I sampled some bread, a nice piece of Gouda, chicken satay with a cilantro sauce, calamari, a potato pancake and a veggie salad with carrots and zucchini. All of this food was really yummy, what wasn't yummy was the incredibly cold cup of coffee they served me. I was like, really? Aren't I dining in a four star restaurant? But the subsequent refills were perfect and delicious.
four seasons & St Paddy's Parade 002
The highlight of the second trip is pictured at the very back of the plate. Banana bread pudding with raspberry sauce. I'm drooling just remembering it now, I'm definitely going to have to try and make it at home. It was so comforting, warm and not heavy the way some bread puddings can be.
four seasons & St Paddy's Parade 003
Finally, dessert. I wish I could say that Healey and I shared this plate, but alas, it was only mine. I didn't care for the layered orange cake. The flavors were all there, but the top layer was gelatinous and strange. The chocolate cake in the middle was nice, but plain, just chocolate cake and vanilla frosting. The real gem was the lemon meringue tart picture on the left. It was filled with tangy lemon curd, topped with just a touch of meringue, and the crust was buttery and delicious.
four seasons & St Paddy's Parade 009
The entire duration of our meal we were able to watch Philadelphia's St. Patrick's Day parade. Our table faced the Parkway, and the glass enclosed dining room was ideal for people/parade watching. We couldn't have picked a better day to wander down to some fancy breakfast. Yeah, we felt a tad bit out of place, both prefering a greasy spoon diner to four star cuisine. But it was nice to dress up, act like a real adult and catch a parade of bagpipers and Irish dancers.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What's in your Cupboard?

I've been in the food blogging world for a while, but have not participated in many (any) food blogging events. Why? Probably laziness. But I've turned a new leaf as of late, and have been stockpiling posts to submit to those who are hosting events. This first event intrigued me so much, I just had to join in on the fun!

Lydia, over at Kitchen Exhibitionist is hosting "Peeking Behind Closed Doors" an exploration of kitchen cupboards.

Here at the 884 collective, the three of us share space and resources. Hence, I'm warning you that our cupboards are cluttered and packed with an assortment of foodstuffs that beg for organization.
peeking in the pantry 003
That top shelf contains over a dozen boxes of tea, different varieties probably even some empty boxes.
peeking in the pantry 006
This is our main food cupboard. It's a weird size and shape, rendering it difficult to see or get to what's behind the front line of products. Mmm, rainbow sprinkles.
peeking in the pantry 007
The fridge isn't really a cupboard, but I think it holds similar cultural significance and insight into our lives. Despite the fact that I went shopping at Trader Joe's yesterday, our fridge is a little bare. It appears we subsist on Diet Coke and yogurt. Also, please ignore the huge jug 'o wine. Someone brought that to our house back in December for our Holiday Party and every time I open the fridge I'm disappointed that it still shows it's label.

This blogging event took me back to when I was taught about a type of anthropological study called "Garbology". By studying trash we generate knowledge about material culture. Lydia - to me this is a much more exciting and fun way to explore each other's lives than through garbage. Food consumption is a huge part of our lives, something we participate in numerous times a day. These photographs provide snapshots into the patterns of consumption behavior for those who participate. Thanks for creating this fun event!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Coconut Tea Cake

Coconut Tea Cake

2 cups strong brewed tea (I like Chai or Cinnamon, but use any tea you love)
2/3 cup uncooked Old Fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar (you can use white sugar if you like)
2/3 cup applesauce
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut, toasted (1/4 cup reserved)

Prepare the tea ahead of time by steeping three teabags (I only had one chai tea bag, so I substituted in one bag each of rose hip tea and chamomile) in two cups of boiling water until cool.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 13 X 9 baking pan.

Combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, in a large mixing bowl. In a separate smaller bowl combine the tea, applesauce, vinegar, extracts, and all but 1/4 cup of the coconut. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the reserved coconut.
coconut cake 008
This is what my cake looked like pre-baking.

Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.
coconut cake 009
If I weren't conscious of the fact that this cake doesn't have any eggs or dairy, I seriously wouldn't have guessed it upon first taste. It's delicious, moist, slightly sweet and spicy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Full Plate Cafe

My friends over at A Full Plate have gotten their website up and running!

Check it out.

A Full Plate

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

By the time Angela and I made it out to Georgetown for brunch on Sunday, it was nearly 2 and I still hadn't had ANY coffee. I was cranky. Poor Angela. But we stumbled into News Cafe Cucina Italiana. You should also check out their listing on D.C. Menupages. news room 2
The restaurant is long and narrow. Tables in the front room get a view of M Street and there is also an attractive bar. A middle room is red and romantic. As soon as we were seated I felt better. The back room of this restaurant was just beautiful. All the walls and table tops were covered in Mosaic tile. A huge skylight was draped with deep red fabric, but the sun made everything light and bright.
angela with limoncello bubble
Angela enjoyed a Limoncello Bubble, a blend of limoncello, lemonade and champagne. I drank numerous cups of their very good coffee.
For brunch I ordered Crepe Florencia. Two crepes were filled with smoked salmon, shallots, and dill cream cheese, then topped with caviar. The salad was baby greens with a light and uninteresting dressing but a really nice piece of Romano cheese.
coco banana crepes
Once again I had a bit of order envy when I tasted Angela's Crepe Coco-banana. Delicious! Banana, walnuts, and chocolate sauce, what could be better?

I'd definitely do brunch here again.

News Cafe Cucina Italiana
3056 M Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20007
Phone: 202-965-5535
Open Daily: 11:30am-11pm

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Our friend Shane, who works at A Full Plate, is leaving for a few months in Germany. We're sad to see him go but incredibly happy for the experience this will likely be in his life. To see him off, we got together at the cafe for Liz's famous Chicken Divan. I felt like I was back in a college commons sitting at the long table and eating identical plates of food.
shane's going away 022
Prior to dinner, I baked Shane a cookie that I'd never made before and only learned of the previous weekend hanging out with Lynda in D.C. She sent the recipe via e-mail Thursday morning, and I gave it a try Thursday night before dinner. Lynda's recipe didn't come with a title, but I thought my version (I added toffee bits in at the end) of this cookie was crazy good, so that's what I'm dubbing them until convinced to change.

Crazy Good Chocolate Cookies:

10 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped and divided (I used the Nestle's Chocolatier 62% cocoa chocolate chips)
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup Heath toffee bits
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2) Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside
3) In the top of a double boiler, melt 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate and the butter.
4) Meanwhile, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer for four or five minutes on medium, until light, scraping down the bowl after about four minutes.
5) Add the chocolate mixture and mix for a minute to combine.
6) Add the flour mixture, the remainder of the chocolate chips, and toffee bits. Combine for a minute, and use a spatula to ensure that it's well combined. It's a thick batter.
7) Use a heaping tablespoon of batter for each cookie (I used my cookie scoop). Bake 10 minutes on parchment-lined baking sheets, rotating as appropriate for your oven. Cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then store in an airtight container.
shane's going away 026
The consistency was like a fudgy brownie but in cookie form. They had nice shiny and crisp exteriors, but gloriously silky interiors. The toffee bits melted just enough to make it all reasonably gooey.
chicken divan
We ate dinner before indulging in the cookies. Liz, who is not the food side of the cafe, made her famous Chicken Divan for all us to have before going bowling. I never had Chicken Divan before I met Liz, it's pretty much the only thing she's ever cooked for me, and I love it, though I hear it's not remotely healthy despite the presence of broccoli. But it's the ultimate in comfort food and I'm surprised I never had it as a child. Broccoli and Chicken are covered with a sauce made of mayonnaise, cream of chicken soup, lemon juice and curry powder. The dish is topped with cheese and buttered breadcrumbs before baking. Served over white rice, this is a satisfying whole meal in one dish. Liz also made a vegetarian version using "Chicken" patties from Boca and Cream of Asparagus soup. Equally delicious.
shane's going away 123
It was a good thing we all had such a hearty dinner, three games of bowling and a bunch of silly dancing required a lot of energy!
shane's going away 067
To North Bowl: Sorry we were so ridiculous, but you kept bringing us pitchers of beer!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Saturday night in D.C. I wanted to meet up with some friends who live in the D.C. area. I figured it would be good for Angela to meet a few people that I already knew were decent and fun to hang with. We took the metro up north to U Street and walked a few blocks to Cafe Saint-Ex. You should also check out their listing here on the Washington D.C. menupages. Thank goodness for menupages!

Angela and I were a bit late, which perturbed the waitress I'm sure, but I tried to make up for it by ordering lots of drinks to boost her add-ons. Cafe Saint-Ex is a small bar on the corner of 14th and T Street, with a handful of tables for dining and a narrow bar. Another floor of Cafe Saint-Ex hosts Gate 54, a club with a rotating selection of DJ's. Must have been a popular one that night because the place was packed and loud! But I kinda like that on a Saturday night, makes me feel like I'm part of a big social event.
prime rib
That evening, they were having a special price fixed menu. Any appetizer, entree and dessert was just $32. The deal gets even better if you dine before 7pm when the same three course menu is just $28. Considering the options on the menu, this was a pretty sweet deal, but I just wasn't that hungry. A few members of our party did partake in the special and I was jealous of their lovely looking mushroom soup and Wood Grilled Calamari served green beans, frisee, and basil-walnut pesto. But I had two #9's so I was happy. The above picture shows Andy's entree, the prime rib. It was served with roasted fingerling potatoes and grilled lemon pesto. Lynda's husband, Michael, also enjoyed this entree for dinner.
fried tomato BLT
Both Kim and Lynda had the Fried Green Tomato BLT. Applewood smoked bacon, tomato mayonaise, mixed greens and the green tomatoes were served on toasted brioche.
burger with bacon
I suprised myself by ordering a cheeseburger. But I was lured in by the promise of humanely produced beef. My Smith Meadow Farms Grilled Burger was made with virginia grass-fed beef and then topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, blue cheese, and bacon, and served with a side salad dressed with white balasamic. Yum!
mahi with barley
I assured Angela that she would like Mahi Mahi, so she ordered the Costa Rican Mahi grilled with lemon and served with barley pilaf.
mocha torte
I did indulge in dessert! While numerous options were available, we all ordered the mocha chocolate torte. Layers of chocolate cake, doused with Kaluha, then covered with ganache and served with cinnamon whipped cream. Very chocolately and delicious.

In sum, this place was a great pick for dinner (thanks Andy!). Their menu changes often to reflect sustainable, organic and local products whenever they are available, and I totally can get on board with that.

Café Saint-Ex
1847 14th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
202.265.STEX (7839)

Lunch: Tues-Fri, 11am-5pm
Brunch: Sat-Sun, 11am-5pm
Dinner: Daily, 5pm

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

“An empty stomach is not a good political advisor.” - Albert Einstein

This is my best friend, Angela. She drove down to my house in Philly, with her gorgeous cat, Magellan, last Wednesday night. (Magellan is an expert at controlling the windshield wipers with his tail!)She'd spent the previous few days packing up her rented Penske truck in Brookline, Massachusetts in preparation for her move and new career in Washington D.C.
speaking of
Magellan really didn't know what to do with himself once he was finally freed from the Penske truck, so he did some hissing and complaining and then settled in nicely on my bed where the quilt complimented his coloring nicely, don't you think?

So we arrived. But the movers Angela hired to unload her belongings didn't. Well, at least not at the time they were supposed to. We spent hours carrying things up to her apartment and we stopped when it started raining. At which point, 4 hours late, the movers finally did show. Because we worked so hard during the day, it only took them a little under two hours to finish the job. Luckily, we managed to get a tip from the guy at the front desk about a good restaurant to order delivery from.
kung poa chicken
Szechuan Gallery was kind enough to promptly deliver our food. I had the kung pao chicken, which I always hope is going to spicy, as the little chili pepper next to it on the menu suggests, but alas, I was disappointed again. It wasn't half bad though. However, I would skip the crab rangoon, I've had better in my dreams.
fortune cookie
And for dessert, the ritual fortune cookies.
Angela's fortune (top)totally rocked! And how true. She's moving back to D.C. where she has a few old friends. And of course, now she's only two hours by train or car to me in Philadelphia! My fortune(bottom), was religious in sentiment, an instant turn off, but Angela insisted I include it in the photo. Probably because my fortune makes her fortune look so much better.

Friday morning I don't remember what we even did. But I know it involved walking around the city a bit which in turn, led to developing extreme hunger. We stumbled in to some Italian restaurant, Maggiano's, that Angela informed me later was a chain. I'd never heard of the place and I wouldn't have guessed from the food that they were a chain. But if I had known before we stepped into the place, I probably wouldn't have wanted to try it out. I can't help it, chain restaurants are notorious for unoriginal and crappy food. Because of this, I tend to only eat in them when I have to, or when I'm in Nebraska. It turns out that there is a branch of Maggiano's in South Philly, and I'm wondering why they heck they would put it down there with all of the amazing Italian restaurants in that part of Philly.
blueberry martini
I had a blueberry martini. I know it was only lunch, but I felt like I deserved it, and I'm a sucker for Stolichnaya Blueberry Vodka. It's amazing. So was this cocktail, but it had zero garnish save for two bar straws that seemed ridiculous in the large glass.
lobster ravioli
I had trouble deciding what to order, so I asked the waiter for a suggestion, and decided upon Lobster Ravioli. It was a good portion for lunch, and the ravioli actually had large chunks of lobster inside. The sauce was fairly light, made with shallots, lobster broth and a little cream.
chicken and spinach manicotti
Angela's dish, chicken and spinach manicotti, was a bit heavier due to the Alfredo sauce, but it was very very very tasty. So tasty in fact, I suffered from a little order envy.

This is just the first in a series of posts from my weekend with Angela in her new city. I'm really excited that such a great friend is spatially close enough to see more often and on top of that, I'm also really excited to be able to explore a new awesome food city.

Anyone have an D.C. food/restaurant suggestions??

Monday, March 05, 2007

Healey and I finally got together for brunch this past weekend. As much as I love Azure and it's happy hour, I'd never had brunch there. Healey was up for it, so we headed there late on Sunday morning.
Azure & Marissa's Birthday 004
I had a delicious mojito for just four bucks. During brunch, Azure features mojitos, margaritas, mimosas, and bloody mary's, all for just four dollars each.
Azure & Marissa's Birthday 007
The Brunch menu offers a few variations on eggs benedict, a fritata of the day, french toast, salads, sandwiches and a cheese starter, pictured above.
Be careful if you go to menupages posting for Azure Brunch, it's a huge menu in comparison to the one we were given at the restaurant. Interestingly, the brunch menu provided by Azure's website shows less than the menu we were given at the restaurant, but is fairly accurate otherwise.
Azure & Marissa's Birthday 008
The brie was baked in puff pastry and served with fresh fruit and a mango drizzle. I could have done without the powdered sugar, but that's just a pet peeve of mine more than a real flavor protest.
Azure & Marissa's Birthday 010
Healey and I both ordered the Monte Cristo served with maple syrup for dipping. Doesn't that sound delicious? It was delicious! But a little rich when paired with our cheese in puff pastry, so I had to order another mojito to feel balanced(Good thing we were walking).

Brunch at Azure is affordable, especially if you like a cocktail with brunch (just 4$).

931 N 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Between Laurel & Poplar
Phone: 215-629-0500
Mon-Fri: 11:30am-4pm
Sun-Thu: 4pm-11pm
Fri-Sat: 4pm-12am
Sat-Sun: 11am-3pm