the essential baking company

If you live in the Emerald City area, you’ve undoubtedly heard of The Essential Baking Company. Their loaves are in stores seemingly everywhere.

But did you know that the Baking Company is actually a company? Like with a storefront and a real live bakery that you can eat in?

I did. And I had been there before. But my pal Jen had not, so when we embarked on our now infamous mini-food tour of Seattle, we needed to stop here.

Their Wallingford shop is completely cute—brick, craftstman-style woodwork, wrought iron here and there. Very Seattle.

Inside, as my friend so aptly put it, “it looks like a bakery should look.” It’s bright but rustic, and smells completely and totally and insanely good.

So. The breads. You can buy a loaf in nearly any local Seattle grocery store. Yes, they’re good. But the bread is not what we came for.

We unfortunately didn’t come either for the three-cheese pizza tucked neatly into little individual paper sacks…

…or the single-serving quiches. Which looked and smelled divine and were cute to boot.

No, my friends, we came for goods of the sugar variety. And variety is what we had to choose from. There was an array of assorted pie/tart/cake concoctions….

…that I wanted to shove in my mouth without breathing. Fortunately, a thick layer of glass prevented me from doing so.

They weren’t so careful with the cookies, however. They left them right out in the open, dangerously close to RDG’s little paws. But which one to choose?

This one would do nicely: a double chocolate cookie. The gal behind the counter informed me that they tasted like a brownie. And before she could finish her sentence I screamed out something resembling “I’ll taaaaakeee one now please thanks WOO HOO I got a cookie!”

I reached out my hand to receive it but she graciously put it on a plate for me. All my manners go out the window when baked goods are involved.

So how was it? Dense, a bit on the chewy side, but moist and very rich. It certainly crumbled like a brownie. And tasted like one. And fit nicely into one corner of my belly, just like all good brownies should.

My pal Jen was taken aback by this cuter-than-all-get-out mini lemon meringue pie.

She needed it. And at Essential Baking company, they do this miraculous thing: you give them money and they give you sugary treats. It’s like a reward system for knowing how to locate your wallet.

She completely swooned over this little guy. I may have snuck a taste or two. And lemme tell ya, this was one heck of a tart. The crust was crisp but not hard, the lemon curd tasted fresh and light, and the meringue was as velvety and satisfying as whipped cream. De-flippin-licious.

Thanks, EBC, for the mid-afternoon pick-me-up. You are essentially delicious. You may now send me a variety pack of delicious treats on a weekly basis. Thanks bunches:)

Sincerely,

-RDG

scrunchies and celebration

February and March are birthday season around the RDG household. We began with Husband’s, then celebrated a bear turning the big 0-1, and last week it was my turn.

Because I grew up in the decade of Nintendo, Saved by the Bell, “Where’s the Beef?” and Hypercolor, we decided to celebrate by dressing, and acting, the part.

So we went to a bowling alley. A bowling alley that contains a roller rink. It’s in a part of town (well, non-town actually—a part of the outskirts) that contains an Applebee’s, if you catch my drift.

Maybe you didn’t. Let me clarify: it’s in a part of town in which I would be arrested for walking down the street (well, highway actually) dressed as I was dressed this particular evening. But for our purposes, it worked nicely.

What were our purposes? To don lots of acid-washed denim…

…bangles and sparkly hoops…

…rainbow zebra-print tights…

…and black heels with electric blue stripes. Think I got this stuff at Goodwill? Oh, I wish. I scoured the thrift shops. But when I ran an errand to the mall for something unrelated, I spied a bunch of neon in a teen store window. I purchased all this stuff brand spanking new in the mall. Granted, I didn’t pay a lot for it, but the 80′s are back in style to say the least. I feel a rant coming on in 3…2…1…

Of all the style decades that could have re-emerged, they chose the 80′s? Seriously? Don’t get me wrong. Soooo many things about the 80′s were right: mix tapes, Pretty in Pink, Corey Haim (*tear*), Rubik’s cubes. But the leggings? Neon? Hammer pants? Jellies? Granny boots? These are the things we need to resurrect?

Oh. My. Goodness. I sound like my mother.

I’m going to go wash my mouth out with soap and I’ll be right back.

Whew. That was a close one. Good thing I have this photo of my crimped hair to distract myself from the inevitability that I will one day become my mother. (Ma, I love you dearly. Nothing personal. It’s just something all daughters fear and must come to terms with. Please still babysit Lucy on Friday. Pretty please? One day she’ll fear she’s becoming me too, I swear.)

Ahem. Sorry, I’m back now.

What’s that you say? Do I have a scrunchie in my hair? Why, yes. Yes I do. And it’s neon? Why yes, yes it is. And I procured a hair crimper in the year 2010? Yup—at a beauty supply store that never even bothered to leave the 80′s at all. And using it, I was reminded why crimpers went out of style with the rest of the decade: they turn your hair into an afro. A large, blonde, unruly afro.

Embarrassing outfit and hair aside, we had a totally rad time. Turns out it was “teen night” at the roller rink, so we were surrounded by hoards of sweaty adolescents. It made for a true flashback to our middle school days, as well as gave me a healthy reminder as to why I don’t teach junior high English anymore. They may be able to skate circles around me and look cute in skinny jeans, but I can go to the bar and order a drink. Legally. Booyah.

And drink we did. That’s me on the left. I don’t dare give you a full body shot of what I was wearing under that acid-washed shirt. Let’s just say it involved the word “jumpsuit”. That is my lovely friend Nancy in the middle, maker of the infamously delicious Vietnamese Beef Stew, and there’s my gal Shannon on the right, who will kill me when she sees a picture of herself wearing a crepe paper headband on the internet. At some point one of us decided that in order to leave the bowling alley and venture to a bar, we needed not only to have shots, but also to rip down the streamers from the party room and tie them around our heads. Brills.

And where was husband all this time? Looking dang cute in his pastel-striped polo and skating his little booty off. When I’m going crazy with my girls he just smiles and laughs. And then just lets me keep going crazy. God I love that man.

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur. One thing I do know is that I got yelled at for taking a picture of a sorority girl’s crotch (I wasn’t really—she just thought I was), and she looked like she was ready to jump me. She may have had more girls with her, but I had the power of 1980′s crimped hair. And scrunchies. And that, my friends, trumps 2010 sorority girl any day of the week.

Have a bitchin’ Tuesday,

-RDG

lentil stew with chorizo and kale

When I hear the words lentil soup, I associate two things:

1) Hippies.

2) Nursing home food.

Hippies because, well, hippies eat a lot of lentils. And wear patchouli oil.

Nursing home food because that’s the slop I picture them serving up at the 4:30 dinner in the dining hall.

But after a few lentil revelations at French restaurants where they were done right and, quite frankly, pretty fracking delicious, I decided to give them a go at home. But no ordinary lentil stew for this gal. No way. I spiced mine up with chorizo sausage and ended up with another lentil revelation on my hands.

What to try it? Here goes…

You’ll need garlic, half an onion, one bunch of Kale (I used Italian which has smaller leaves, so if you’re using the normal kind use a half-bunch), two cooked chorizo sausages (or cooked ground chorizo—whatever your grocer carries), and four red potatoes.

Here’s the star of the show: green lentils. You can find them on the pasta aisle. One pound, please. Give ‘em a rinse.

Give your potatoes, onions and garlic a good chopping.

A 1/4″-1/2″ dice works well for the onions and potatoes, and mince the garlic.

For me, “mincing” garlic means “chop until you run out of patience.” It’s generally somewhere between a chop and a mince. And then I get mad and run my sticky, sticky garlic hands under the faucet.

Next, melt some butter over medium-high heat in whatever large pan you’d like to cook this lovely stew in. Toss in the garlic, potatoes and onions, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until onions are soft and begin to become translucent.

Chop up that beautiful sausage, baby. This freshly made stuff I scored from my dealer. It’s not super-duper spicy—definitely on the milder side as far as chorizo goes. But it really worked well with this stew because it didn’t overpower the other flavors.

Add your lentils and chorizo to the potato/onion/garlic mixture and pour in 8 cups of chicken stock.

Add a little salt and black pepper to taste and toss in one bay leaf. Then bring to a boil, cover, and turn down the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop up those gorgeous greens. One inch pieces work nicely.

When the half hour is up, throw in your chopped kale.

Give the broth a little taste and adjust the seasonings according to your liking. Then bring back to a boil, cover, and simmer an additional 15 minutes.

E voila! A gorgeous, hearty, savory and spicy stew.

This will knock the socks off your granny. Or your hippie.

The heartiness of the lentils and potatoes balanced nicely with the smoky spice of the sausage.

The kale was a nice addition—it not only added some rich color, but it lent a fabulous fresh flavor as well. I would also adore this stew with sweet potatoes or yams instead of the red potatoes. It would give it a touch of sweetness that would work nicely with the other ingredients.

I’m starting a lentil fan club. Specifically, a “Lentil Stew with Chorizo and Kale” fan club. Look for it on Facebook.

But the biggest fan of this stew by far was Husband, who kept a bowl of it on the kitchen counter all day long and snuck bites every time he walked by.

Try this soon. It’s a lovely, easy, fresh meal!

Happy Monday!

-RDG

Lentil Stew with Chorizo and Kale

  • 1 pound green lentils, rinsed
  • 3/4 lb chorizo sausage, cooked and diced
  • 2 red potatoes, cut into a 1/4″ dice
  • 1/2 yellow onion, cut into a 1/4″ dice
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch Italian kale or 1/2 bunch regular kale, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Melt butter over medium-high heat and add garlic, potatoes and onion. Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and starting to become translucent. Add chorizo, lentils, chicken stock, bay leaf and salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add kale, stir, cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Serve with crusty bread. Serves 8.

foodbuzzin’…and my favorite meals of late

I woke up to a wonderful post-birthday surprise this morning—my recent post on delicious Cuban sandwich spot Paseo made the Foodbuzz Top 9!

See right there? Yeah, I’m #2. I was at #1 for a while, but Food and Style with their roasted baby red potatoes had to go and knock me off my throne. Damn potatoes. But I’m comfortable with being second place. You know why? Lowered expectations.

Take, for instance, winning a baby red potato sack race. You win first place one year at the company picnic, build up a fan base who make t-shirts and a Facebook club, and then next year you have to win that damn race. Because if you didn’t, then you would be that gal (don’tcha remember?) who won that baby red potato sack race that one time. If you never won at all, then there’s nowhere to go but up.

See? Logic. It’s so comforting. Since I’m only #2, I can only get better. My posts will only grow cheesier and more random (which is undoubtedly why you all read this silly blog in the first place). My recipes will grow swankier (I’ll plate my next batch of cupcakes with solid gold). And the next thing you know, I’ll be rollin’ in an Escalade with diamonds on my teeth and Hypnotiq in my Big Gulp.

I think big, my friends.

So while I was daydreaming about all this gangsta style that Foodbuzz will surely bring my way, I also got to thinking about some other big hits that we’ve had around here at RDG. Or what I consider to be hits.

Okay, they’re not really hits at all. Just meals or recipes that I’ve drooled over more than normal.

Greek yogurt and honey pie. Creamy, dreamy, lighter-than-air filling on a crispy graham cracker crust. Five pounds of it are residing on my butt as we speak.

Vietnamese beef stew (bo kho). My pal Nancy’s recipe was a killer—smoky spice, tender morsels of meat and savory carrots in one satisfying stew.

Pork tenderloin with caramelized balsamic pears. Moist pork, tangy pears and a whole lotta lovin.

Girl scout cookie cupcakes. Just trust me on this one.

Momofuku pork buns. There are no words, except: eat these now.

And finally, simple roast chicken. A classic to write home about. Stuffed with lemon and rosemary, it’s the easiest kind of perfection there is.

And there you have it, folks: the recent recipes that are to blame for my girlish figure, or lack thereof. I’m off to recoup from a heck of a thursday and prepare for a 80′s-themed roller rink riot this evening. I will be showing off said girlish figure in rainbow leopard print tights, a jumpsuit, and entirely too much neon.

Thanks all for the kind birthday wishes and for being the most awesome readers a gal could ask for. Husband and I will get around to tweaking some design elements gone awry on the blog this weekend, so thanks for hanging tight while we iron this new look out.

And to the lovely Food and Style: no hard feelings. Just jealous feelings. And hungry-for-roasted-potatoes feelings.

TGIF!

-RDG

Update: Today my Greek Yogurt and Honey Pie made #1! Thanks to all my Foodbuzz friends and all of you awesome readers!

greek yogurt and honey pie

Last week I told you about our gluttonous weekend and our visit with some friends. Said friends are incredibly amazing. She’s an awesome English teacher, he repairs bridges (yeah, as in the Brooklyn bridge—I can’t even cross a bridge without shuddering, let alone hang out on one for weeks at a time getting it retrofitted), and they have a seven-month old and crazy hobbies to boot.

One of these hobbies is bee keeping, and it’s something they’ve been doing for years.

Naturally, I leave their house with lots and lots of honey each time I see them. And it is, naturally, the most delicious, mellow, lovely-tasting honey I have ever experienced. Not overly sweet, and it has a fresh, floral flavor.

Each time I receive a new bottle, I try to figure out something amazing to cook with this stuff. Something that showcases it’s natural flavor but doesn’t overpower it. This time, I decided on pie. And oh boy was it a good decision.

To make this scrumptious stuff, start with some graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and oats.

Mix it all together…

…and add some melted butter.

Stir together until it’s evenly moistened…

…and then press it into a 9″ pie pan, trying to distribute it as evenly as you can. Bake for about 6 minutes and then let it cool completely.

Meanwhile, let’s make the filling. Dissolve one packet of gelatin in a few tablespoons of water.

Now comes the sweet part.

Mix together your honey and some Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is more the consistency of sour cream than regular yogurt—it’s creamier, thicker and has a stronger flavor. But you could use regular whole milk yogurt in this recipe and either cut it with half sour cream, or be really naughty and use all sour cream.

I always err on the side of naughty.

Mix together until you get a uniform consistency.

Next, set up a double boiler on your stove and bring the water to a light simmer. For this ghetto-fabulous chef, “double boiler” means “glass bowl over a soup pan.”

Once the water is simmering, pour in your gelatin mixture.

Stir for a minute just until the whole mixture is smooth and liquid.

Next, add your yogurt and honey mixture and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool for a bit while you prepare the other half of the filling.

The longer you can let this mixture cool, the quicker the pie will set in the fridge and be ready to eat. I’ll demonstrate this with an equation:

Yummy pie in your tummy faster = letting mixture cool longer + more twiddling your thumbs.

Got it? Good.

And what is the other half of the filling? Whipped cream, of course. Pour some heavy whipping cream into your stand mixer with the wisk attached.

Whip it up, baby. Add some vanilla when the cream is about half whipped.

When stiff peaks (not soft) form, you know it’s ready. Don’t over-whip, though. We’re not making butter today.

Combine the whipped cream with the yogurt mixture…

…and gently fold them together.

Don’t deflate the whipped cream, please. We want this pie to be fluffy and light.

Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust…

…and shmoove it out.

Purdy. It doesn’t have to be perfect—a little texture on top makes it interesting. Cover and chill until set. Mine took about 4 hours.

Ready to eat?

I sure as heck am.

When you’re ready to serve, top with fresh berries and a drizzling of honey.

Perfection. Serious spring pie perfection.

I love that it’s slowly (albeit, very slowly) becoming berry season and I no longer have to settle for the under-ripe frozen variety.

For as easy as this pie is to make, it’s dang pretty too!

The crust was lovely—one of my favorite graham cracker-based crusts I have ever had. It was crumbly but not overly so, and the oats gave it a nice texture and little bits of crunch.

The recipe also made enough so that the crust stayed thick, even around the edges. I love me a thick crust.

And the filling?

Looks like cheesecake, eh? But it couldn’t be farther off.

It’s light and fluffy, but remains super creamy.

Alright, it still kind of looks like cheesecake. But it’s totally not, I swear—it’s lighter than air, creamier than all get-out, and showcases the delicate flavor of the honey perfectly. Ty and Kinga, I think I did Bella Bees justice.

Make this for your spring-fevered friends this weekend. You may even get them to spring clean your house for you in return.

Happy Wednesday! (And happy birthday to me!)

-RDG

Greek Yogurt and Honey Pie, heavily adapted from this recipe

For the crust:

  • 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking, please—they’ll just get soggy)
  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (or 1/2 cup sour cream plus 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir until evenly combined. Pour in melted butter and mix until moistened. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ pie plate as evenly as you can. Bake for 7 minutes or until crisped and slightly golden. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, pour the packet of gelatin over the cold water and mix just until gelatin has dissolved. Let sit while you prepare the filling.

Combine Greek yogurt and honey in a bowl and stir until smooth. Set up a double boiler on the stove and bring the water to a light simmer. Pour in the gelatin and heat for about 1 minute, just until the gelatin is liquid. Add the yogurt/honey mixture, stir to combine, and remove from heat. Let cool.

Fit a stand mixer with the wisk attachment and add the heavy cream. Beat until stiff peaks form, adding vanilla halfway through whipping. Gently fold in the yogurt mixture, being careful not to collapse the cream. Pour into cooled pie crust, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Serve with fresh berries and a drizzling of honey.

paseo

Last week, my friend Jen and I embarked on a mini food tour of Seattle. Just our favorite spots, or ones we needed to try. Paseo Caribbean Restaurant falls into the favorite spot category, a.k.a. one of the few restaurants I can’t live without. I need Paseo like I need to breathe. And you do too.

This unassuming little shop with no signage out front lies in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. There’s always a line out the door, unless you hit them up at at a rare lull. A second location in Ballard is rumored to be less crowded, but it’s farther out of the way for little ‘ol me.

If the line down the block doesn’t clue you in, the stickers on the door certainly let you know that this place has been discovered.

But it’s not all hype in a hand basket (yes, I’m making up phrases now, because it’s tuesday and I have honey in my hair…don’t ask). Whatever wait you have to endure, cash you need to procure from an atm (no plastic accepted here), or crowds of hungry Emerald City folk you have to elbow through, it’s all worth it in the end.

So, what exactly will you get in the end? What are you and scores of other Seattlites making this journey for?

This. A Cuban Roast. Tender roasted pork on a toasted Macrina roll slathered in garlic mayo, cilantro, crispy romaine, jalapeños and sauteed onions.

Not to mention the garlicy, buttery piece of corn that comes alongside.

This sandwich must contain a small amount of crack/cocaine because I keep going back for it again and again like some kind of junkie. Maybe that’s their secret. It’s Like Water for Chocolate meets a Cuban sandwich shop.

And oh, the corn. The CORN! There must be about 10 cloves of minced garlic and a pound of butter slathering each piece. I save mine for last. And then I tell myself that it’s okay that I just ate a foot-long pork sandwich because now I’m eating my vegetables. My slathered-in-butter vegetables.

The other thing I love about this restaurant, and yet another reason why I keep coming back, is that they’re exceedingly nice. Except for this sign. Which I need to tack up on my house.

Okay, they don’t look particularly nice here either. But they are—I promise. After I snapped this photo this lady smiled and laughed at me. Which is what people normally do when I’m taking pictures in their restaurants. Either that or look at me like I’m two tacos short of a combination plate.

But here’s the thing about niceness: I feel that sometimes when Seattle restaurants get as much positive press as this place has, they get a little snarky attitude. A little holier-than-thou. But not here. At Paseo, they’re here to feed you with a smile that will be contagious.

I had to post this photo because this guy looks like he’s running to squelch the fire a-brewin in the back. When in reality, he’s just rushing to get an order ready and smiling/laughing-at-me lady is manning the saute pan full of delicious fire-tinged onions. Paseo folk, as a breed, are not afraid of fire.

I mean, really? It’s so freaking delicious that it shouldn’t even be allowed.

I should also mention that they’ve got a full menu to sample for those of you who aren’t pork eatin’ types. And another tip from me to you: sometimes in the evening they run out of bread (usually after 5pm-ish), in which case I default to the West Caribbean Bowl or the Cuban Roast Plate. Go there for a lunch or early dinner if you want to score one of these delicious sammies. And they’re closed mondays. Which is why I didn’t post this yesterday.

Happy tuesday! I’m off to wash my hair…

-RDG

new season, new look

Since spring is finally here, and not faking us out this time, we’re doing some housekeeping here at RDG: sweeping out the cobwebs, mopping the floors and getting rid of an old, smelly blog design.

You’ve already noticed by now that we’ve got a brand new look. It’s a work in progress, so thanks for your patience while we get it up and running properly. We’ve still got several tweaks, twirks (yeah, it’s a word) and fine-tuning to do to get it just the way we want it.

And by “we” have work to do, I mean Husband, a.k.a. the one who knows how to code and keep his wife in blogging bliss. What can I say? I love nerdy types. He also knows how to toss a bear just right.

Have a fantastic spring day and stay tuned for some gorgeous recipes this week, including a pie perfect for the new sunny season.

-RDG