December 24, 2012

Spiced Chai and Ginger Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

Photographs by Britta Lokting.

I am not a great baker, but I am very proud to say that these cupcakes turned out perfectly. They were, as my mom put it, "very decadent." The cake was moist and the chai flavors are wonderful for winter (not to mention the holidays).

It was not an easy task however. Not only was there filling to make, but because it's an Indian recipe, from Indiaphile, there are numerous spices and various ingredients that go into the mixtures. The time spent was well worth it, but know to set aside a few hours.

Ginger Cupcake Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds
3/4 cup milk

Chai Cream Filling
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp black tea leaves or 2 black tea bags
4 oz mascarpone cheese
1/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 pinch saffron
1/2 tsp bourbon (optional)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (or more if you like it super sweet)

Mascarpone Frosting
12 oz mascarpone cheese
4 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch salt

To Make:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
Toss in the chopped candied ginger.
In another bowl, beat the sugar and butter. 
Beat in one egg at a time.
Add the fresh grated ginger and cardamom and beat for a few more seconds.
Beat in a third of the flour followed by half of the milk.
Then beat in another third of the flour, the last half of the milk and finally add the last of the flour.
Scoop the mixture into the paper liners and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. It's important not to overcook.

Meanwhile, make the chai filling.
Heat 3 tbsp of milk in a small saucepan on the stove.
Add in the tea leaves and steep for 5 minutes. Then strain.
In a small bowl, beat together the mascarpone with the spices.
Add 1 tablespoon of the strained milk tea to the cheese and beat well.
If using bourbon, add it and beat well. Add the powdered sugar.
Take a cooled cupcake, carve out a hole from the top with a pairing knife. 
Fill with chai filling and place the top back on.

For the frostingbeat together both cheeses in a bowl.
Add in the vanilla, ginger and salt.
Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat until all the powdered sugar is mixed in and the frosting is smooth.
Frost and refrigerate until ready to serve.

December 23, 2012

Creamy Tuna Noodle Cazuela

Photograph taken by Britta Lokting

I will admit this dish did not sound very appetizing when I first read the recipe in the January edition of Food & Wine. However, it was not too thick, not too fishy, and actually very delicious. The panko gives the dish a necessary crunch. If you can't find panko, bread crumbs will work just fine.

12 oz. farfalle pasta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk or half-and-half
1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas
3/4 cup piquillo peppers, sliced
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 can of tuna
1/2 cup of panko

To make:
Preheat the oven to 450 and cook the pasta.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and cook the onion.
Add the floor and stir for one minute.
Add the milk and bring to a boil.
Cook the sauce until thickened, about 3 minutes.
Add the pasta, frozen baby peas, piquillo peppers, cheese and tuna to the sauce.
Transfer the mixture to a baking dish or 4 individual gratin dishes.
In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the panko. Cook for 1 minute.
Sprinkle the panko over the casserole and bake for 10 minutes.

December 20, 2012

Snowflakes for Newtown

Today, my co-workers and I made snowflakes to help decorate the new Sandy Hook school before the kids return. While I know these snowflakes will not heal the pain of what has happened, I hope that as the kids walk through the strange halls of their new school, they might find joy - if only just for a moment.

Even those who live far away can help. Click here for more information about the winter wonderland.

December 16, 2012

DIY Secret Santa

Last week, I participated in a DIY Secret Santa at my office. While I am not the craftiest of crafters, I decided to make, for the first time ever....bath scrub! It turned out to be incredibly easy, delicious smelling, and soft on the skin. I think I would chalk it up to a success, and I would definitely make it again. Almost all of the ingredients are household staples. I made much more than could fit into my little jar, so both my mom and I tested it out, and loved it. The mixture of the soft oil and rough salt felt like a 2-in-1 moisturizer and exfoliator.

I recommend experimenting with the measurements. The recipe I used called for a 2:1 oil to salt ratio. It ended up being way too much oil, and I had to discard most of it. Next time, I would slowly add the oil one tablespoon at a time to the salt. Also, I used rosemary and grapefruit oils, but it would be interesting to try other scents.

Organic Rosemary and Grapefruit Bath Scrub
In a bowl, combine olive oil, sea salt and honey. 
Mix together until the oil is absorbed, about five minutes.
Add in drops of rosemary and grapefruit essential oils.
Add in a small drop of red food dye (or beet juice works too if trying to stay organic).

Photograph by Britta Lokting.

December 10, 2012

One Month...

...of being a vegetarian. Please find some recipes below of things I have been making.

Cauliflower, Leek and Brussels Sprout Soup
I always think of soup as having to simmer and cook for long periods of time, but this was quick and easy. It was also hearty and great for winter.

To make:
Cook the sliced leeks and cauliflower in simmering water until soft.
Boil and then grill the brussels sprouts .
Once the leeks and cauliflower are soft, puree in a blender until smooth.
Transfer back to the pot and add in the brussels sprouts.

Photographs by Britta Lokting.

Pasta with Squid and White Beans

To be honest, there wasn't much flavor to this dish, but with some doctoring up and added spices, I think it could be really good. I personally think it would be great spicy and would add some red pepper flakes next time.

To make:
Begins cooking the pasta.
Meanwhile cook onions and garlic with olive oil in a sauté pan until soft. Add sliced squid and cook until slightly browned. Add in the beans.
Toss mixture together in with the pasta. Serve with salt and pepper.

Grilled Carrot Salad with Almond Vinaigrette .
I loved this salad. Grilling the carrots was a bit time consuming (not to mention marinating them for 2 hours), but with a small amount of ingredients, this salad still looks elegant and tastes anything but normal.

To make:
Marinate the carrots in a mixture of olive oil, smoked sweet paprika, ground fennel, coriander, and garlic. Let sit for two hours.
Then, using a stovetop grill (probably easiest), cook the carrots and turn until all sides are charred.
Meanwhile, heat up 4 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet and cook until browned.
Scrape the butter into the blender and add 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar, one tablespoon of water and 2 tablespoons of macrona almonds.
Toss the dressing with the cooked carrots and arugula. 
Serve with salt, pepper and chopped almonds.

Deviled Eggs with Crab 
Very. Rich. But delicious. 

To make:
Boil the eggs and prepare like deviled eggs. 
Combine paprika, mustard and mayonnaise with the yolks.
Add in crab meat.
Top with salt and pepper.

December 6, 2012

Jonathan Adler Book Signing

Last night Jonathan Adler was at his new store in Portland, signing his book. My mom and I went to check it out, and there was a mixture of goods - some I liked, and some I didn't. His work has turned into a franchise, but I remember when my mom and dad bought vases handmade by Jonathan at local design stores in Portland. Below are some pieces I admired.

I thought the mustache vase was funny.
In line to sign our book - Jonathan surprised by the time.

I liked the design and material of the flask cover, but thought it could have been made better.

I thought the gold accents were nice with the bright porcelain.

All photographs taken by Britta Lokting.

December 4, 2012

Holiday Blues

I quite literally have the holiday blues.

Currently in the midst of finding a New Year's dress, I realize in the past I have always leaned towards black. Obviously I love a good LBD, but this year, I'm thinking of going a bit brighter, a bit bolder - a bit more blue. I've found that hues from midnight to royal to snowflake blues have caught my eye for their ability to reflect the cool winter weather and embrace the sultry holiday season. Unfortunately I am  having difficulty finding the perfect blue holiday dress (preferably with sequins), and may have to revert back to the classic black.

Even festive decorations in blue are more soothing and cool than a house full of red and green lights. Some of my favorite ornaments on our tree are the vintage blue ones. As Charlotte York says "It's very rare to have a blue Christmas ornament." Not quite sure how accurate that quote is, but I find the blue ones special too.

Blue ornament display at Thea's in Portland, Or.
Blue lights and silver stars at Paragon in Portland, Or.

Photographs by Britta Lokting.

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