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nectarine cupcakes with marscapone frosting

Apparently cupcakes are dead. Soon all of the cupcake confectionaries will disappear just like my beloved bagel shops of the 90’s. Magnolia Bakery will need to find a new dessert to put on a pedestal (or a cake stand). Trophy will have to diversify and start selling fly-fishing gear on the side. The food world must make way for a new hip dessert, my friends. Soon the glitteratti will flock to whoopie pies or cake pops or jello molds shaped like Norman Mailer.

So as a farewell, I present to you the ultimate cupcake recipe for your consuming pleasure. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Don’t let the quantities scare you. I was making a double batch (the recipe at the bottom of the page contains the correct amounts for normal people who don’t need 24 cupcakes). You’ll need sugar, nectarines, milk, eggs, vanilla, butter, flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg (my pea-sized brain forgot the nutmeg in the lovely text above).

Slice the nectarines into small pieces. If they’re a bit under-ripe (as a few of mine were, and I couldn’t wait a day to let them ripen), sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar, stir, and let sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together with the paddle attachment until thoroughly combined. No need to cream.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add the vanilla, then alternate additions of the flour mixture and the milk. Fold in the nectarines.

Pour into prepared muffin cups. These cupcakes don’t rise much, so you can fill them very full.

Bake for about 25 minutes. The edges will just begin to brown and the middles will spring back slightly when touched. Let cool on a rack.

When the cupcakes are completely cooled, make your frosting. A warning: this frosting has the consistency of whipped cream. Don’t make the frosting until you’re ready to frost, and don’t frost the cupcakes until they’re ready to be eaten. That sounds like a riddle. I apologize.

You’ll need heavy whipping cream, powdered (confectioner’s) sugar, and marscapone cheese. The cheese can be found at better grocery stores.

Toss all 3 ingredients together in the (cleaned) bowl of the stand mixer. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high to high (splash guard comes in handy) for about 2 minutes, or until medium peaks form.

Frost as soon as you’re ready to eat. Top with a small slice of nectarine or a pretty berry.

Can we talk for a minute about the texture of these puppies? They are not the least bit cakey (which I pretty much despise in any cupcake). They are moist, dense, and flecked with juicy bits of fruit. The frosting is creamy, light, and not overly sweet.

I’ve died and gone to cupcake heaven. Which is probably a good thing, since all cupcakes will be there soon anyway. More for me.

This may be my last cupcake post. I couldn’t resist.

Nectarine Cupcakes, adapted from 125 Cupcakes and Way More than 52 Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 peaches or nectarines, pitted, thinly sliced and cut into thirds

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together sugar and butter until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition until light and fluffly. Add vanilla. Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk, making three additions of flour mixture and two of milk, beating until smooth. Fold in peaches or nectarines.

Scoop batter into prepared cupcake pans. Bake in preheated oven for 23-28 minutes or until golden brown and tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.

Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack.

Martha Stewart’s Mascarpone Frosting, from Way More than 52 Cupcakes

This makes a huge batch of frosting, so feel free to halve the quantities or reserve the rest for another use.

1 pound mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone, cream and powdered sugar until medium-soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Be careful no to overbeat. Frost cupcakes when completely cooled.

agua verde

If you know anything about me, or if you’ve read this blog for anything longer than a hot second, you know that I’m a sucker for Mexican food. I believe wholeheartedly that Mexican food and I were put on this planet to find each other. It was destiny. It was fate. Stars collided. And don’t even get me started on how I met my friend sour cream. That’s a story for a different kind of blog.

So when it came time to host our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding, we all knew where my vote went. We took our nearest and dearest and out-of-town-est to this cool taco joint on the water for simple eats and yummy margaritas.

Now, a few years later and plus one toddler, we still come here a lot. It’s cute, brightly painted…

…and has a fantastic view of the lake. They also rent kayaks down below, which makes for a perfect weekend date.

But why we really come here isn’t the atmosphere or the boats. It’s the food. And starting with one trip to the salsa bar before your meal, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Everything tastes so remarkably fresh.

Husband orders the Bagre: grilled catfish splashed with salsa and creamy avocado sauce. The fish is tender and flavorful and the sauces are a perfect compliment.

Brother and I order the BBQ pork, which is shredded, slathered in sweet, spicy BBQ sauce and served atop crunchy slaw and soft tortillas.

Dad goes for the Camarones: fresh sauteed shrimp topped with pico and a creamy, sweet curried sauce. I love eating with my family. I get to try bites of everything.

They’ve also got incredible vegetarian options and an entire menu outside of the taco column, if I were ever to stray from my usual and branch out. I’ve also have heard it through the grapevine that their little outside window serves up killer breakfast burritos in the morning.

So now go, Seattlites. Eat tacos. And prosper. It’s just occurred to me that I’ve gotten in the habit of recommending restaurants on mondays. If it’s cool with you, it’s cool with me.

-RDG

P.S. You can check out Agua Verde right here.

chipotle chicken salad

I’ve got a major beef to pick with whomever gave “chicken salad” it’s misnomer. Chicken caesar salad? Chinese chicken salad? Buffalo chicken salad? Those are all salads. With chicken. Hence, “chicken salad.” But chopped chicken with various spices mixed with mayo? Where the heck does the salad part come in?

This lovely food, which is perfect for summer lunches, should go by some other name. Chicken sandwich spread? Unappetizing. Chunky chicken delight? Worse. Mayonnaise chicken surprise? Oh, the horror.

Alright. I give. Chicken salad is a pretty decent name. It’s not glamorous or perfectly descriptive, but it works. I’m calling this variety chipotle chicken salad because it uses chipotle mayo instead of regular, lending it a smoky, subtle spice. It’s crunchy, fresh, and it only gets better as it sits in the refrigerator.

Ready? Grab some chicken pieces that have been cooked and cooled. You can roast your own or go with a grocery store rotisserie chicken. You’ll also need celery, green onions, and chipotle mayo. I’ve seen a few varieties on grocery store shelves, but I prefer to make my own.

Lop off the roots and very bright green parts of the green onions…

…and give ‘em a quick dice.

Do the same with the celery—the ends tend to taste bitter.

Run your knife down the length of each stalk three times to create four long, skinny pieces.

Dice the lengths into about 1/4″ chunks.

Cut up your cooked, cooled chicken. I like about a 1/2″ dice, but whatever you prefer is fine.

Toss your prepared ingredients into a large bowl.

Stir in the chipotle mayo and mix until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This “salad” (and I say that begrudgingly) is delicious on top of greens, made into a sandwich, or grilled on a panini with a little provolone. I like it on top of these mini bagels because they’re cute and tasty.

If you come up for a better name for this dish, let me know. Until then, I’ll be wallowing with my head in my poorly-named, but extremely delicious, chipotle chicken salad.

-RDG

Chipotle Chicken Salad

Feel free to get creative with the vegetables and add-ins. Nuts, peppers, and dried fruit all go great in chicken salad.

  • 4 pieces cooked, cooled chicken (breasts and thighs work best)
  • 3 stalks celery, washed and trimmed
  • 3 green onions (scallions), trimmed of stems and very bright green parts
  • 3/4 cup chipotle mayo (store bought or homemade)
  • salt and pepper

Dice the chicken into 1/2″ pieces. Make 3 vertical slices down each stalk of celery and then dice into 1/4″ pieces. Dice green onion finely. Mix together chicken, celery and green onions in a large bowl. Stir in chipotle mayo until the mixture is evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

iphone update 3.0

With 9 days to go in my iPhone experiment, I wish that I had something more meaningful to report. I haven’t run into any huge snags or missed it so much that I caved. But I have learned a few things, or noticed a few things, that I never had before.

1. There is something blissfully freeing about being out of touch. When there is no way for anyone to get ahold of you, you can focus on what is right in front of your face.

2. I tend to lose my phone a lot less when it never leaves the house.

3. I tend to lose myself a lot more when I don’t have GPS. Google Maps, I miss you.

4. I’ve had more telephone conversations with friends that have generated loud, uncontrollable bouts of laughter than ever before. Texts can’t giggle.

5. The non-moblie versions of websites are actually a lot better than the mobile ones. In most cases.

6. When I don’t have a calendar at my fingertips, I tend to forget what I was supposed to be doing and shop for shoes instead.

7. There are moments when even a tiny, blurry camera would do.

8. I should have procured an iPod before this lovely experiment began.

9. Digging in the dirt is the coolest thing ever. And they don’t make an app for it.

10. My daughter is the most amazing, funniest person on the planet. But I already knew that.

-RDG

P.S. Check out Unplugged Sundays, a new website that encourages us all to give our digital devices a break.

marination

When the nation’s best food truck is serving up delicious eats (somewhat) close to your neighborhood, at a time that is convenient for you and your toddler, on a day when your hungry husband (who won’t let you go without him) can join you, you go check it out.

Marination is, arguably, Seattle’s most gabbed about food truck. It has won every local award under the foodie sun, made us drool all over Seattle Magazine’s April cover, and has become infamous for it’s long lines at Mobile Chowdown. I figured there had to be a reason for all of this hype. But sometimes in Seattle hype is a tossup—you could wrap a flax tortilla around a hemp sausage and people might never stop raving about it. We are, after all, the same folk who wore nothing but flannel and socks with sandals not so long ago.

Just kidding. I trust in your taste in food, Seattle. Even you hippies. Who still wear socks with sandals.

We meandered our way down to Columbia City to an empty bank parking lot where the truck was stationed for the lunch hour. I was too curious not to.

Actual size of toddler. Actual size of Marination Mobile. She later tried to dive head first into that yellow trash can.

The menu is small—tacos, fried rice, sliders, and a quesadilla. I’m assuming it’s a byproduct of Marination’s tiny mobile kitchen, but I also think that a limited menu is the mark of a good restaurant in general. It usually means that they know what they do well and what their customers like.

First up: the Aloha slider. Shredded pork, slaw and creamy sauce on a toasted sweet Hawaiian roll. This is likely Marination’s signature dish, and it didn’t disappoint. The pork was slightly sweet and tender, the slaw crisp and tangy, and the sauce melded nicely with the sweet roll. I only wish I had ordered more of them.

Next on our tasting menu was the Kimchi Quesadilla. Melty cheese, the same sweet, tender pork, slathered in that same delicious sauce. I didn’t think it was amazing, but as far as creative quesadillas go, this one was top notch.

Husband wolfed down two tiny tacos: one kalbi beef and one spicy pork. The beef was sweet (sensing a pattern here?) and garlicy, and the pork was gently spicy and super moist. These were the true stars of Marination for our hungry clan. Next round, when I manage to track this truck down again, I’ll load up on these babies. They also offer a miso ginger chicken taco, which I am anxious to try, and I also want to dig into the Kimchi Rice Bowl, which our friend Linda happily noshed on.

Hype, in this case, was completely deserved. Hunt down this truck, eat lunch, and be happy, Seattle. And if you wear socks with sandals whilst doing so, I won’t tell.

-RDG

a simple summer supper

I love when meals come together organically—when what you already have in the fridge coincides with a great deal at the grocery, or when the perfect ingredient is already hiding in your cupboard. For me, this was one of those meals.

Because it was a sort of hodgepodge of ingredients I needed to use up and new things I had just purchased, I didn’t know whether everything I was serving would taste right together. Fresh summer corn with garlic butter, taboule with cherry tomatoes and herbs, and chicken stuffed with sharp cheddar cheese. These are all great dishes on their own, but I was worried that some of the intense flavors would overpower each other. It was quite the opposite; when the three came together, it was kismet. The corn complimented the juicy chicken, the fresh, light taboule balanced out the richness of the butter and the cheese, and a happy, happy family savored every bite of dinner.

The recipes below are meant to serve 4, but chicken breast halves are generally so huge that they can be shared. The taboule only gets better as it sits in the fridge, so if you can make it ahead of time, you’ll reap the benefits. Corn is never sweeter than right now, and as it cooks in the butter, the garlic crisps and sticks to the kernels, reminiscent of corn served at the county fair.

This meal is isn’t fancy or complicated, but it’s pretty enough to serve to company. My company of two can’t get enough of it.

-RDG

Cheddar Chicken

  • 4 chicken breast halves with skin and bones
  • 3/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar or extra sharp cheddar cheese (I like Tillamook Vintage White for both its color and flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Rinse and pat chicken dry, then cut a deep 3-inch-long pocket horizontally in long curved side of each chicken breast half. Fill each pocket with one quarter of cheese. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a heavy oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Place chicken, skin side down, in skillet and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn breasts over, then place skillet in oven and bake until just cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter and serve.

Garlic Butter Corn

Overcooked corn is one of my biggest pet peeves. You’ll get the best flavor out of the corn if you remove from heat before the kernels begin to look mushy and “pucker.”

  • 4 cobs of corn, shucked
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or microplaned

Melt butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the corn and cook for about 5 minutes, turning frequently, until all of the kernels turn bright yellow. Serve immediately.

Tabouleh with Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs

  • 1 box taboule mix (I use this brand)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (sometimes box mixes will call for lemon juice—omit their recommended amount and use this)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes, washed and halved

Prepare taboule according to package directions. Stir in the lemon juice, parsley, basil and tomatoes. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

chunky chipotle chili

Chili, I declare, is a food that transcends all seasons. Well, most chili. The heavy-on-the-meat, soupy variety should stick to winter. But this light, chunky, smoky-spicy variety spiked with fresh corn definitely says summer to me. It’s a great meal if you have some leftover meat to use from that BBQ last night, and even better if you’ve got some spare veggies and corn to toss in. Plus, it’s incredibly easy.

You’ll need some beans (I like kidney and black), some canned tomatoes, one sweet onion, fresh corn, taco seasoning and some pureed chipotle chilies (see tutorial here). You’ll also need some sort of ground meat; beef, chicken or turkey would suffice. My ground beef was feeling camera shy.

Peel and dice the onion. Cry if you must.

Brown the ground beef in the same pot that you’ll be making the chili in. I like a large dutch oven, but any large pot would do. Add the onion halfway through browning and toss in the taco seasoning. Keep cooking on medium-high until the meat is fully browned and the onion becomes tender.

Toss in the rest of your ingredients—the canned tomatoes, beans, pureed chipotle and corn (cut from cobs)—and add 1 cup of water. Stir well, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for about 2 hours. It will give all of the flavors a chance to come together nicely.

And when the time’s up? You’ve got chili, my friends. A slightly sweet, deeply smoky, chunky chili that is fabulous for dipping.

I had no intention of eating this bowl of chili when I was staging it to photograph. But then one bite turned into many, and before I could take stock of what was happening, it was gone. Long gone into my happy, happy belly.

-RDG

Chunky Chipotle Chili

This chili stores and freezes well, making it perfect for double batches. Be careful when handling the chipotle puree and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards! Serves 6-8.

  • 1 lb ground beef (or chicken or turkey)
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 20 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 ears fresh corn, kernels removed from cobs
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pureed chipotle peppers (see tutorial here)
  • 1 cup water

Brown meat over medium-high heat in a large pot. Halfway through browning, add taco seasoning and onion. Continue browning until meat is fully cooked and onion becomes tender. Stir in the diced tomatoes, corn kernels, beans, chipotle and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 2 hours. Serve with sour cream and tortilla chips if desired.