Monthly Archives: September 2010

Cupcake Decorating

Last night’s class was all about decorating cupcakes… with flowers! Although I’m pretty sure that our class is taught with an old-school mentality, there really is something sort of classic about all of the flowers that were learned.

With our fantasic, criso-based buttercream frosting, we learned:

Drop flowers

Drop flowers with a twist

Drop flowers wtih Lani’s twist

Shaggy mum

Pom pom flower – not sure if this is a real flower



Here are some pictures… clearly I need some work – just topping them was difficult for me. Although what I am really learning in this class is that the consistency is everything. If the frosting is too hard, it breaks and doesn’t look even. If it’s too soft, it won’t hold its form. Practice will hopefully make perfect soon.

Next week’s class is a “final” of sorts. We will bake, split, fill and frost a cake before coming into class. During class, we are to decorate something fantastic – I’m thinking multi-tiered and something themed. Suggestions? If I use your suggestion, you’ll get a prize πŸ™‚


Basil and Buttercream

Let me first start by saying that Santa Barbara is not equipped to handle temperatures over 85 degrees let alone over 100. The iPhone weather app said 108 today in Goleta, and although I would agree with that because to me, it felt like I was literally melting, it was probably somewhere around 98-100.

Regardless, it was way too hot and my poor little basil plant found that out today. I thought nothing of it when I left the house this morning. If nothing else, my plants normally do not get enough sun – today that was not the case. Poor little Bailey the basil plant nearly died. Luckily Brad rescued him and he is safely resting in the house where I hope he will recuperate because I would like to make some fresh pesto with him soon. πŸ™‚

And on another note, I am very thankful that I chose to do my baking yesterday instead of today. The thought of turning on the oven today makes my skin crawl and temperature immediately rise by another 10 degrees leaving my internal temperature somewhere around 110 – did I mention I always run hot?

So tomorrow’s decorating class is cupcakes. My six cupcakes are wrapped and ready to go and now so is my buttercream. Like I have previously said, the buttercream recipe on the back of the blue powdered sugar box is fine with me, but as we know from last week, not fine with Lani. So it’s back to the crisco frosting. I must say though, it does decorate nicely. Pictures and commentary from tomorrow’s class to come.

German Streusel

My best friend Kristi got me one of the greatest birthday gifts two years ago and sad to say, I never used all of them – but I didn’t get rid of them either. Whether it was not having all of the ingredients, the correct pan or I just didn’t see them on the shelves, somehow the mix for German Streusel was never used. I would like to think that part of this was because I didn’t have a springform pan. Actually, at one time I did, but when I recently went to look for it, I couldn’t find it – sorry grammie! So this afternoon I took a little shopping spree to Sur la Table and among other things, I found a set of three springform pans for $24 – quite a good deal. So now I am properly equipped to make Dr Oetker’s German Streusel (I believe this can be found at World Market but Kristi will have to confirm).

The preparation is easy enough: mix one egg and butter with the streusel and mix with the dough hook and kitchen aid – should only take a few minutes. Press majority of the mix into a 9 inch springform pan (greased, of course) and top with some sort of pie filling – I used apple. Cover the pie filling with the remaining mixture (should be crumbly) and pop in the oven for 45 minutes. Although this looked really good, when I think of streusel, I think of some sort of crumbly topping like a coffee cake so I also mixed brown sugar, raw sugar and some melted butter and also sprinkled on top of the leftover streusel mixture. When it came out of the oven, it looked and smelled heavenly and tasted even better.

I’m 2 for 2 today… now if only I could win the football pool this week…

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

I don’t normally make pork and I claim to not like it even though that is basically a lie. For a split second when I hear the word pork, I think of the pork chops my mom made when I was a child and those, I actually do not like. I basically hate pork chops but pretty much love anything else – bacon, carnitas and more recently, pork tenderloin stuffed with all kinds of good stuff πŸ™‚

My recent trip to the grocery store left me thinking of the week ahead and what I would make. And since I basically blog about everything I make, I tried to step up my game a little. So a lazy Sunday afternoon led to the following dinner:

Pork Tenderloin stuffed with brown and white mushrooms, spinach and chicken sausage (that is also stuffed with spinach and cheese)

Mashed Potatoes

Mushroom Sauce

The pork was pretty straightforward and although it was already cut into slices, I had to cut the middles in order to “stuff” them. The “stuffing” was brown and white mushrooms sliced and sauteed in butter along with spinach and the sausages (the sausages were leftover from pizza and I didn’t want to waste them and meat stuffed with more meat sounded great) and a handful of bread crumbs for good measure. After it was warm and well-mixed, I laid the pork so that it stood up and the hole was in the middle and opened to the top – this makes for easier stuffing. I spooned the mixture into the tenderloins and lined the pan with the remaining mixture. 350 for 45 minutes – they were perfect!

While the tenderloin cooked, I made the mashed potatoes (nothing special: garlic, butter, milk, potatoes and mix until creamy) and the mushroom sauce just as the tenderloin was finishing. I let the PT rest for about 7 minutes and finished up the sauce. The sauce was olive oil and butter heated in the pan and saute the mushrooms. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/2 pint of milk (2 cups). Stir, stir, stir… and don’t try to hurry the sauce – I’ve done that, it is just ends up boiling and separating and it’s nowhere near as good as if you would have timed your meal correctly and slowly stirred over medium heat.

This meal was fairly easy to make and didn’t take any more time than a regular dinner but it was honestly, so good. I would almost claim restaurant quality, but my presentation definitely needs a lot of work. I must say though, while I was chopping and stuffing and stirring, Brad came in to look for a recipe and I didn’t have one (this scares him, by the way- not sure how after five years he thinks this will change). None of the recipes I found online had everything that I wanted to include so I just made sure that I had the cooking time right (I also have a meat thermometer and if I remember correctly, the inside needs to be around 155…) and went from there. Cooking, unlike baking, is a little easier to make up as you go along. I have found that when I take too many liberties in baking, nothing turns out. I might need to invest in a book that covers the science of baking – suggestions anyone?

Petit Valentien

During our five plus years in Santa Barbara, Brad and I have had our fair share of favorite restaurants – sadly, a lot of them have closed over the years. By recommendation, we tried Petit Valentein for my birthday this past May and we have been dying to go back ever since. It’s safe to say that this is our new favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara.

Located just off of upper Sate Street, PV is a cozy, candlelit restaurant with dark wood and fun accents. While sitting at our “usual” table, a Charlie Chaplin movie played on the high walls and we enjoyed a fabulous dinner:

Crab Cake with an amazing citrus sauce

Escargot Crepe

Potato-wrapped Opah over gazpacho and vegetable tabouli

Lemongrass & Ginger infused Cornish Game Hen over mashed potatoes

First of all, let me say that I have had escargot on three other occasions: the first two times I was in Paris with Brad and he nothing short of forced me and the other time was just recently at PV. It would have seemed wrong to leave my first trip to Paris without trying escargot and although I needed a little nudge, it was good and I am glad I tried it. The last visit to PV felt similar, except that I wasn’t in Paris and just sort of eating snails… The escargot crepe that I had last night was nothing short of perfection – honestly. It was a perfectly folded, crisp crepe filled with escargot goodness and one of the best things I have ever eaten. I’m still thinking about it and I wish I was eating it right now even though I am filled to the gills with homemade pizza (that gets a blog tomorrow).

Oh, and the crab cake was also delicious, just not in the slimy, buttery, crepe-y sort of way that the escargot was.

On to the entree –

Against my butter judgment, I didn’t order the duck so I can only blame myself that I didn’t like my entree as much as I know I could have. I’m not saying that it was bad, but I should have gone with my gut on this one. I started off with the potato-wrapped Opah. A year or so ago Brad and I were lucky enough to be passing by the harbor when the boats were coming in and bringing up their catch from the day. We saw urchin, fish, shark and a whole slew of sea creatures that were probably going to be served later that night for dinner. One of the really cool things that we saw were these giant round fish with really pretty iridescent coloring all along the sides – that, we later learned, was Opah, which was also what I ate last night πŸ™‚ (here is a picture of an Opah caught by teenagers in Newport Beach:

So anyway, the fish was good. There was nothing overwhelming about the dish and I can’t say that I am a huge fan of gazpacho, but all-in-all, it was an ok dish. Half way through however, I decided to taste Brad’s… after that I no longer wanted to eat mine but rather his. Being the fabulous bf that he is, he switched me – that and he really liked the fish. His cornish game hen was cooked over a bed of lemongrass and infused with ginger. It was perfectly cooked and on top of a bed of mashed potatoes and amazing gravy-type sauce. It was heaven and I practically licked the bones clean.

So the moral of the story is: if you are in Santa Barbara, I suggest that you eat at Petit Valentien. It is located at 1114 State Street. I can’t wait for our next adventure there. Word on the street is Sunday’s are especially nice as they have a four course dinner for only $25. I will let you know when we go – I’m sure there will be a lot to talk about!

PS – sorry the pictures are so lame. Like I said, it was candlelit and I only had my iphone.

I hope I still like that in 7 years

I recently heard that your body cells change every seven years, so basically every seven years, you areΒ  a completely new person. It got me thinking, this also means that the cells in your mouth and taste buds are changing so maybe this is why something you didn’t like as a kid, you like now… just a thought. Something I didn’t like as a kid was pumpkin. Actually, up until a couple of years ago, I refused to go near the stuff but while I was in college working at D’Angelo Bakery, I tried Dietmar’s chocolate pumpkin bread that would barely stay on the shelves, and since then, I have gradually incorporated more pumpkin into my life each year.

Although I like to keep it simple – pumpkin bread or muffins, I feel like this is the year to finally try pumpkin pie or what I’m dying to make – pumpkin soup and serve it out of a shelled out pumpkin! Fall is my favorite time of year, did you guess that already? And even though the weather today was anything but fall-like, I made my way to the kitchen this evening and make pumpkin mini-loaves – with and without chocolate chunks by request of Brad.

Last year I was absolutely in love with Pillsubury’s Pumpkin Quick Bread and even though I have a few boxes stashed away in the cabinet (they ran out last year and I almost had a heart attack), I opted for homemade-ish pumpkin bread. (Since I’m using canned pumpkin, it seems weird to call it homemade).

First things first: I’m in the process of making a cork board to hold recipes while I cook. I want it to be mobile and I don’t want it to matter when it get’s dirty. I usually tape things to the cabinets but the paint is really starting to peel and I obviously can’t tape the computer to the cabinets so I tried out a different path tonight – the napkin recipe πŸ™‚ So here it is:

The first four ingredients get mixed together and the last five dry ingredients get mixed together. After they are each mixed, slowly add them together. The mini-loaves or muffins take about 20-25 minutes and a regular sized loaves takes around 50 minutes. And as with everything, change as you see fit – add chocolate chunks, nuts, etc. The batter is the perfect shade of fall (and goes well with our countertops too)

The end result is also nice. Thanks for the mini-loaf pan Mom. I think this is the first time I have used it.

If any of my co-workers are reading this and you want to try it, leave me a comment and I’ll bring some in tomorrow.

Cake Decorating Slow-01

God bless her heart, but Lani is one of the slowest teachers I have ever had. I suppose that the art of cake decorating requires a steady hand and slow, thoughtful movements, but really, some of this is not okay. Not only did she not give me the rolled buttercream recipe last week (I copied it from an advanced student this week – ha!) but yesterday she didn’t let me double layer both of my cakes and practically forced me to wrap up my other cake. Although enraged, I complied but at one point, I was so bored, I got it back out and started unwrapping it to do decorate anyway. I have this weird disease that when someone tells me I can’t do something, I want to prove them wrong because really, how do they know what I can do?

I realize that this isn’t a great quality… I’m working on it. But as I recently read, women work harder at proving themselves – I guess it’s just in our nature. Years of being thrown on the backburner and not being trusted to do a “man’s job” and all.

Anyway, my cake. It was everything short of fabulous and I blame (because I like to do that) the class and a little bit of myself. It’s really hard for me to focus when the teaching moves at the pace of a snail. By the time half of the instructions are explained, I could have baked another cake. Leave it to Sarah and me to pipe out our pattern only to have it dry out on our parchment paper… and that’s after she already said that she didn’t like my piping gels and chastised Sarah in front of the entire class for her icing. You live and learn, I guess. And Sarah and I have learned that we are not exactly on Lani’s golden list. For some reason our excellent frosting skills didn’t impress her – go figure.

Anyway, another week down, another cake baked and consumed. Next week is cupcakes – hold on to your forks because I can make a mean cupcake.

Inspired by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory