Yellow fail

There are plenty of desserts that I adore, but just don't make that often (or ever). Not sure why. Lemon bars fall into that category.

I visited my aunt recently, and she had a gorgeous lemon tree in her backyard (that she apparently wasn't doing anything with). So I greedily snatched up as many ripe ones as I could fit into my bag. When I got home, I thought of all the wonderful things I could make (any number of Moroccan recipes using preserved lemons, or a simple piccata), but lemon bars immediately came to mind. So I went in search of a good recipe, and this lemon bar recipe on allrecipes.com had lots of great reviews. 

Dear faithful reader, I want you to know that I don't always write only about my cooking/travel eating successes; there have been plenty of failures. And this one ranks pretty high in that category (along with the pumpkin bread where I forgot to put in any kind of leavening). It was a big, yellow disaster.

It doesn't look too bad, does it? Too bad I couldn't get a closeup. It was disgustingly spongy...and why in the world would a lemon bar be spongy?! It had gross pockets of air, and then of course, the edges got burnt. Reminded me of the pimply face of a hormonal teenager. The lemon flavor was quite refreshing, but that's where the redeeming qualities stopped. I have no idea what went wrong...but I'll have to experiment with some other recipes to figure it out. Oh, and the little corner where I had a taste? Most of it ended up in the compost container. Blech! Horrible, epic, giant yellow fail. :(


The case of the disappearing peanut brittle

A friend's dad hasn't been feeling well lately. So I thought I'd cheer him up by sending him some peanut brittle, which is one of his favorite candies. On a candy making frenzy, since my somewhat successful first attempt at salted caramels last week, I decided to give it a go. How hard could it be anyway? Turns it out it wasn't hard at all. Like candy making in general, it just requires a bit of patience. 

So here's the batch I made:

I was admittedly pretty proud of myself, because it actually tasted pretty darn good. Not bad for my first try. 

But just a few short hours later, here's what was left of the big pan:

Unbeknownst to me, a mischievous little bear named R. had been sneaking into the kitchen every so often, taking a little piece here and there. Hmph! So I had to go back and make a second batch for my intended recipient. And the little bear got a good scolding. 


Golden goodness

Last month, I wrote about the salted caramel cupcakes I made for a friend. It got me thinking about how much I really love salted caramel. So I came across a recipe for salted caramels (slightly different from the drizzled caramel I made), which seemed perfect as a hostess gift for my Thanksgiving host.

The recipe is Ina Garten's, and it's quite easy...but it does take some patience and careful measurement. I don't know why I've waited this long to try salted caramels myself, considering how much I love them and how many times I've gratefully received them as gifts. Some creative friends of mine recently gave me a batch with pickled cherry blossoms in them. The intense saltiness of the cherry blossoms, combined with the aesthetic beauty of a gorgeous bloom in the middle of the golden goodness, was definitely a treat. These same friends also recommended steeping earl grey tea or lavender in the cream, before adding it to the sugar, which infuses the caramels with a delicate, but wonderful flavor. But those experimentations will have to wait for another day.

Here are the beginnings of my recent batch, boiling away:

Once it had reached the right temperature, I poured it into a pan. And once that cooled, I formed it into thick logs, and sprinkled sea salt over it. The darker the color, the more intense the flavor:

Here are the pretty little morsels, wrapped in parchment paper:

And finally, here they are, nicely packaged as my hostess gift.



I love me some donuts. What's not to love about fried goodness?

This weekend, we were driving around a new neighborhood and came across a cute, old-fashioned donut shop. It wasn't memorable (because I don't even remember the name), and probably not worth a photo, but...here it is anyway:

As you can I see, I had already taken a bite out of the apple fritter. Well, I suppose it was an apple fritter, but it was hard to tell - the tiny, square piece you see in the middle of the giant glob is the only piece of apple I got in the entire thing. And no, I didn't eat all 3 donuts - the other two were immediately gobbled up by my dining partner. I didn't hear much out of his mouth other than "nom nom nom."

Makes me nostalgic about the amazing donuts I used to have at Top Pot Donuts in Seattle. Dear Seattle friends, please send me some Top Pot Donuts on a magic carpet!


Cleaning the cupboard

It was a dreary, blustery day of rain - just the perfect kind of day to snuggle up with a great book and a steaming cup of cocoa, right? Well, it started out like that...but when I went to the cupboard in search of some stray marshmallows, everything but the marshmallows came tumbling out. Guess it's been a while since I've organized the cupboard. So what do I proceed to do? Take everything out and start organizing, of course! And about 2 minutes into it, I'm thinking to myself, "Why the *%$@ am I doing this again?"

Here's 1 shelf of the final product:

Apparently, I eat a lot of curry and a lot of pumpkin. Huh.


Pumpkin Scones

(Note to self: Gotta think of more clever titles.)

I had half a can of pumpkin puree to use up yesterday. It was leftover from yet another disastrous attempt at trying out a new recipe. Epic fail = forgetting to use baking soda and baking powder. 'Nuf said.

So I came across a recipe for pumpkin scones. I love this time of year, because I love pumpkin - anything: pumpkin flapjacks, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pudding, pumpkin-you-name-it. I added some currants, as I wanted to add a bit more sweetness without adding more sugar; the currants definitely gave some nice texture to the scones as well. In retrospect, I might've drizzled these with a light cinnamon glaze or something, but I didn't feel like dirtying up another pan. Suffice it to say, these scones filled the house with a delicious and subtly spicy smell.


Pecan Pie - Hard lessons learned

As part of my baking rampage, I decided to try out a new pecan pie recipe. The author claimed that it was hands down, THE best pecan pie ever! Lesson #1: Don't bother making the recipe...because the likelihood of the recipe truly living up to its hype is...well, minimal. But what do I do? I of course, had to test drive the recipe. Here's my creation, en route to a dinner party: 

The pie looks pretty decent, right? Nice and toasted and golden brown on top -- and if you look closely, you can almost see the golden goodness underneath, wanting to ooze out. But alas, I learned Lesson #2: Don't try out a new recipe for a dinner party. I tried a sliver, just to make sure it was ok, and was so glad I did. If I wasn't running so short on time (and if the stores nearby weren't already closed), I would've tossed the pie into the trash. The inside was still runny (despite cooking it almost twice as long as the recipe had indicated), the pecans chewy (from overcooking, I suppose), and it was far too overwhelmingly sugary (and that's coming from someone who has a serious sweet tooth). In other words, epic fail. :( So whether you say pecan, or pecaaaahn, this recipe experiment says DISASTER.