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How this might be portrayed in other media…

FOX: Obama does nothing as Muslim chicken causes the death of 6 Egyptian civilians. Currently investigating connections to Benghazi.
MSNBC: Unregistered high capacity well kills 6 in chicken incident after Republicans fail to end sequester, preventing funding for well inspectors.
RT: chicken and 6 people die protesting US authoritarianism.
Liveleak: brutal 6 person drowning [contains death]

Facebook: Like if you are praying for the 6 lives lost today

r/politics: I know this will get downvoted, but had the six had firearms they would have survived.
r/worldnews: 6 less muslims in the world.
r/atheism: 6 bigoted idiots believing in Muslim gods drown trying to save a chicken after raping a woman.


It’s time for a little Nyan Cat


Hidden Veggies! [Daring Bakers]

This month’s challenge was fun, and it allowed me to make and try some of the baked goodies that Jessica Seinfeld (and the woman who sued her for plagiarism) touted in her cookbook. I personally think pastries with hidden vegetables are only marginally healthier than those without, but the inclusion of beans, spinach, and other protein-, fiber-, and vitamin-rich foods can’t hurt. But would they defeat the point of indulging in brownies and muffins in the first place?

Ruth from Makey-Cakey was our March 2013 Daring Bakers’ challenge host. She encouraged us all to get experimental in the kitchen and sneak some hidden veggies into our baking, with surprising and delicious results!

I made two recipes: black-bean brownies, and spinach-banana muffins. The first is a slight alteration of Ruth’s recipe (I used black beans instead of kidney beans, and added some decaf Starbucks Via) and I followed the spinach-banana muffins recipe to the letter.

The verdict?

First, both were incredibly moist and resistant to drying out. I baked them on a Saturday afternoon and left them uncovered outside, and by Sunday night both were still moist.

Second, I wasn’t personally too impressed with the flavor or texture of the brownies, which were more fudge-like than cake-like and lacked any of the crisp/crunch texture of regular brownies. I felt they could have used more sugar and cocoa. However, one of my dining companions liked the flavor and sweetness. Neither of us could detect any bean flavor.

Third, the muffins were great. But spinach has a natural sweetness to it, and, when blended, doesn’t have any of the bitterness or fibrousness associated with whole spinach. And the gorgeous green color was perfect for St Patrick’s Day, when we ate them!

I would have liked to experiment a bit more, but this month is pretty busy and I was glad to have completed the challenge at all.

Photos after the jump. (more…)

Crackers and Flatbreads [Daring Bakers]

In July 2012, we Daring Bakers made some crackers. Mine turned out pretty well. This time, we had a second go-around. The challenge was to make crackers and flatbreads of any sort, provided they’re crispy. Mine turned out – well, just OK.

Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie was our February 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to use our creativity in making our own Crisp Flatbreads and Crackers!

I went with the ground corn crisps (I used regular yellow corn flour instead of blue corn flour) and herbed flatbreads. My corn crisps were tasty except very hard to get them to be really nicely crispy (the thicker ones turned out soft, and the thinner ones started to burn a bit in the oven). My flatbreads almost all turned into pita bread, which is ironic since I never got the pitas I tried to bake on purpose last year to puff up so reliably. I didn’t have any good rosemary on hand, so I used sea salt and poppy seeds instead. Ah, well.

Photos after the jump.


Gevulde Speculaas/Dutch Almond-Filled Gingerbread [Daring Bakers]

This was a surprising challenge. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Dutch cuisine. Well, making a spicy gingerbread from scratch (down to the marzipan-like filling) can make you change your mind. The resulting gingerbread wasn’t tough and cardboardlike; it was cookie-like, crumbly, and fragrant like you can’t believe. And the taste! It had a bite, and a lingering pungency that lasted for hours. Not that anyone was complaining.

Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

The key had to be the blend of spices. Here’s what went into it:

  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1/2  tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper (yep, you read that correctly; gives it some really great subtle heat)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 4 tsp Saigon cinnamon

Francijn, this month’s host, also suggested ground coriander and anise, but I had neither. I don’t think my gingerbread missed them at all. I also used all of the spice mix (approx 8 tsp) when the recipe called for a bit less (2 tbsp or 6 tsp). Hey, I like my gingerbread HOT.

Photos after the jump.


CSAs are a Ripoff

We signed up for a CSA with rave reviews (an average of 4.5+ stars on Yelp) and got two boxes. We paid $35 for week home delivery of a box of produce.

For $35, we got:

  • Strawberries (2 pints; several moldy or mushy)
  • 4 Fuji Apples
  • 4 Baby Bok Choy
  • 4 Green Bell Peppers
  • large bunch of Red Butter Lettuce
  • large bunch of Green Curly Kale
  • 1 Romanesco
  • 1 Cheddar (yellow) Cauliflower
  • 1 bag Bloomsdale Spinach
  • 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 bunch Pink Radishes

Hmmm…well, the quality was great, but not phenomenal. The tomatoes were delicious; savory. The lettuce was terrific, soft and blemish-free. The rest was quite good but nothing to write home about. And I believe all of it was organic.

For comparison, we went to Berkeley Bowl and got the following produce (hand-picked, so we could choose exactly what we wanted):

  • 48 squash blossoms (flor de calabaza)
  • 7 small beets (organic)
  • 1 large pomegranate
  • 4 large bunches of Swiss chard
  • 1 bunch of celery (organic)
  • 1 plantain
  • 1 medium-sized bunch of wine grapes
  • 1 small head (?) of ginger
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 7 gorgeous heirloom peppers
  • 6 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • yellow and orange bell peppers (1 of each)
  • 1 fuyu persimmon
  • 1 hachiya persimmon
  • 1 bunch of radishes (organic)
  • 1 red prickly pear (cactus fruit)
  • 1 bunch of savory (herb; organic)
  • 1 bag of fresh fava beans (organic)
  • 5 carrots (organic)
  • 3 large watermelon radishes (organic)
  • 1 head green cabbage (organic)
  • 1 Chinese bitter melon
  • 1 kabocha squash (organic)

Now, not everything was organic, as you can see above. But the total cost of ALL of those items? $41.72. It’s easily twice as much food, and all food of our picking. What’s a little puzzling is that there is a middleman here who demands 50%, so the farmers are providing this bounty of food to BB for a bit more than $20. Aren’t CSAs supposed to be cheaper because there isn’t a middleman?

If you want to be completely fair about it, there’s the cost of gas (about 1.2 gallons for the round trip, so about $5.40) and the cost of the bridge toll ($5), so now we’re up to about $52. And there’s the cost of time, which is almost nothing, considering that my time is practically worthless at this point, I enjoy shopping there, and we have had to shop for non-produce items anyway.

Yep, we’ve cancelled our CSA service. And we’re planning on weekly trips to Berkeley Bowl instead.

Empanada Gallega (Galician Empanada) [Daring Bakers]

I loved this month’s challenge, since it was savory instead of sweet. (I’m still battling a major sweet tooth)

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

The suggested fillings were all carnivorous, so I googled around and found a great recipe for a vegetarian vegetable filling. The only thing missing from my version was the nutmeg; it still tasted absolutely delicious and was just spicy enough. The pastry was great, too; we even made a tiny loaf of bread with the remaining dough.

I prepped the empanada for a friend who was celebrating both her birthday and her passing of a major licensure exam in her field, so I decorated the empanada accordingly. (Pics after the jump)


Crackers [Daring Bakers]

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

This was a great challenge, especially since there was little opportunity for me to f*ck things up, and I was also able to make these two types of crackers at scale. I went with the health crackers (although I used oat bran and einkorn flour instead of wheat germ and all-purpose flour, respectively) and the cheddar, walnut, and rosemary icebox crackers (using rosemary from our backyard, and also using einkorn flour instead of all-purpose). Both came out exceptionally delicious: the icebox crackers were very rich (they’re full of butter and cheddar cheese) and the health crackers, maybe because I used oat bran, had a delightful texture similar to Nairn’s oatcakes. I would happily make both of these again, particularly the health crackers.

Battemberg Cake [Daring Bakers]

This month’s challenge was not really one I’d have selected on my own. We made a Battemberg cake, which was created to commemorate the wedding between Queen Victoria (the one alive in the 20th century) and Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. It’s a pretty fussy dessert, and I’m not really a fan of any monarchy (something I’ve hoped we would move past as a species, but Europeans love them as part of their history), but the Queen of England just celebrated her jubilee anniversary and, well, it really is a challenge to make. If it didn’t push us out of our comfort zone, it wouldn’t be a challenge, right?

Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

I made the coffee and walnut version with marzipan, with just a tiny change: I added my homemade walnut liqueur to the walnut batter in addition to the vanilla to give it an extra measure of walnuttiness. I also used an organic Nutella knockoff as the “glue”. Came out delicious but very rich. The cake didn’t completely cook through in the middle (I guess I poked it with a toothpick towards the edge) but I’ve never been one to complain about gooey cake.

Challah [Daring Bakers]

Got back to my religious roots – Judaism – with this month’s challenge. Challah, that braided loaf of sweet, fluffy bread, is something we bless with the “motzi” on Friday nights, before ripping into it and devouring it. The next morning, you can make great French toast out of it. (A trick we learned from one of my favorite brunch spots in Oakland, Cockadoodle Cafe, is to roll the dipped challah slices in graham cracker crumbs. It’s divine.)

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

I went the easy route, since I didn’t have much time on the Saturday morning I made my challah, and, generally, the simpler the recipe, the less likely I am to f— it up. Fortunately, Ruth provided some great recipes and several different braiding options which she presented in a video. I went with Temple David’s simple challah recipe (which, since it was taken down from Temple David’s site, I’ve reprinted below), and one of the 6-braid patterns.

The challah loaf ended up being a little oblong – I think I rolled my dough ropes out too thin. Next time, I’ll just make the ropes shorter and fatter, to end up with a short, plump loaf. The texture, however, was awesome – super fluffy and soft, delicately sweet, and slightly yellow from the egg that each loaf had in its dough.

No question that I’ll make this again. It was pretty simple to make, and tastes a lot better than the expensive loaves you buy in the markets.

Here served with homemade veggie tapenade (i.e. no anchovies), cotswold cheese, a couple of goat cheeses, and hummus, courtesy of Mollie Stone’s. A few more pics of this delicious challah after the jump.


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