Drunken Pasta and Sexy Cupcakes

Fall is in the air and food is oven again. This past weekend I've tried Molly's marinated chevre, Chockylit's Late Summer cupcakes (at Garrett's recommendation) and a fellow GoLers Vodka Cream pasta recipe. Phew. Luckily, these have all been made to share. There's nothing better than trying out new recipes on mean others who may appreciate new flavors too. Share the love, right?

As the recipes for both the chevre and the cupcakescan be found on their respective website I won't copy them here. Just follow the above hot links to deliciousness. The chevre was pretty good, I tried the first variation with lemon peel, basil, thyme and marjoram. Maybe too spring-y for the chilly rainy weather we've been having here. I'd prefer something a bit more hearty and earthy. I might try the second variation next time...or manchego in garlic and olive oil with a big crusty rustic bread. Either way, you can't go wrong with cheese, and both of these are very simple and delicious appetizers for any get together.

The cupcakes? Wow. A myriad of flavors (roasted peaches, thyme, blueberries and topped off with a creamcheese frosting) that blend so very very well together. I've been checking out the backlog of intriguing cupcake recipes on Chockylit's site and I think I may very well be getting close to the realm of NotMartha's Cupcake Madness (but still nowhere close to being as good as being an IceCreamMonster I fear. Although the cupcake bombe might need to be tried at the next possible opportunity, the best of both worlds.) These cupcakes would make delightful gifts, pretty to look at, delicate and light, soooooo easy to eat. But the real question is...complex cupcake or sophisticated frosted muffin? Hmmmmm........

Sidenote- These market berries may have been the most expensive blueberries I've ever bought, but those little suckers were just brimming with flavor. So much better than the normal blandberries to be had at the supermarket.

Sidenote number 2- I substituted lemon juice for vanilla extract in the creamcheese frosting. I like the zip it gives it and helps to cut the sweetness. Maybe Swiss powdered sugar is excessively's been semi-problematic in the past.

I wish I had counter space. Sigh.

Finally, the pasta. I was impressed and a bit skeptical at the same time. Skeptical because I was unsure if the can of tomatoes I bought was crushed or not, neither the French word on the can nor the word crushed in English appeared in my mini dictionary. Yarg. Also, I was unsure if the sauce would ever thicken up or remain soupy. But all of my worrying was for naught. Everything ended up peachy, much like the cupcakes. A fine dinner to be served up with a big salad and a checkered napkin tucked into your shirt. I made about a half recipe and had enough for two meals. Adjust to suit the amount of people you plan to serve.

Vodka Cream Pasta

- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow stream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
- Coarse salt and pepper
- 16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic and shallots. Gently sautee shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan (3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup). Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves.


Rice Krispie Treats...OF DOOM!!!!

My very first boyfriend ever once imparted a piece of wisdom that I follow to this day. Now, keep in mind, we were both 15 or so, our wisdom was all encompassing then, and that wisdom is a relative thing, no? He shared with me the 'Of Doom!!!' and 'Surprise!' school of thought. Any food can be made instantly funner with the addition of one of those two phrases at the end of it. The food either ends up sounding spooky or just downright scary depending on what feeling you are going for.

Example - fear the Rice Krispie Treats OF DOOM!!! but be wary of Tuna Surprise! Try it out at your next formal dinner and just try not to crack a grin. Better yet, next time you are at a new restaurant and bored while waiting for your food you could add a sticky note commentary on the menu. The possibilities are endless!


Crunchy like Taffy

Lately I've been on a pseudo healty eating kick. Whole grain cereal croissants, more fruits and veggies, wild rice, raw brown seems only natural (pun intended) that I'd want to make my own granola bars. I'm trying to be more proactive and DIY at home these days. I like the idea of knowing every ingredient that's going into what I eat...and being able to pronounce them. Ah, some day when I have my homestead with garden and requisite orchard and berry patch. Until then, I will depend on store based goods but in their most pared down forms.

I must mention at this point that I had also bought an impulse jar of pollen back in July. Wha? The thing that bees gather to make honey with? Yep. And no, I don't intend to make my own honey (or not just yet anyways! The kind folks at Log Chain Honey offered to let me come out and try my hand at beekeeping next time I am home. They make DEEELISH raspberry creamed honey by the way.) I had been apartment hunting and saw some on the kitchen table of one of the places I was checking out. The little golden nuggets intrigued me and after a bit of research I decided to try some. It's supposed to be all kinds of good for you but the part I didn't read up on was the intensity of it's flavor. It's very unique and after downing a spoonful straight (which I wouldn't recommend) I started thinking up other ways to consume my bee food.

Sprinkled on ice cream might work or in a peanut butter and cheddar cheese sandwich but the most logical thing that came to mind was granola bars. Nestle it along side it's hearty counterparts of dried fruit, nuts, and grains. I won't lie, the flavor still comes through but it is a bazillion times better. And think how much healthier for you this seems than those NutriGrain bars you snag on the way to work. Eh? Eh?

I've modified a recipe found on as per other users' suggestions and my own preferences. The possibilities for experimentation on this are limitless though.

Chewy Granola Bars made of Products Whose Name's You Can Actually Pronounce

yield about 24 servings
active time about 15min.

2 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups 5 kinds of oats or oatmeal or your grain of choice
handful of raisins
handful of dried apple pieces
handful of chopped pecans and walnuts
handful of chocolate chips
liberal sprinkling of pollen
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients

In a sauce pan combine: corn syrup (which I might replace entirely next time...rice syrup perhaps?), molasses, honey and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over med. heat, stirring all the time. Remove from heat. Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla until combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and toss until all is coated.

Lightly spray a 9x13 pan with Pam, and press the mixture into it using waxed paper. Let cool on a rack before cutting into bars. Grab and go.

As an aside, I took in some to work and half the pan was gone before lunch. Try freezing leftovers in individual serving sizes.


FoodVentures : Hot Dog Cheetos

...Or at least that's what I hope the little food icon means! I found this gem in the Bambou Store, an asian grocery store behind the train station, quite some time ago. Honestly, despite how intrepid I am (or like to think I am) I confess that I've been hesitating to try these for much longer than I normally would. Turns out I was justified in my hesitation.

Let me begin by saying that this little red bag gave me the hardest time ever while trying to pry out my bounty. I resorted to scissor usage. After successfully scissoring an opening a smell of what the janitor's used to throw woodchips on in elementary school wafted my way. Not a good sign, but there was a toy in the bottom in the bag, so I had a goal to work towards.

At first bite, it had the sweet zing of ketchup chips (yes, ketchup chips and they are delicious, thank you very much) with some zippy notes quick on it's heels that MIGHT have been mustard-like in nature and leaves you with the taste of freeze dried peas on your tongue. I guess if we use our imaginations and strengthen it like Armstrong we MIGHT be able to guess why there's a mini hot dog icon on the package.

Summary : I had to stop after 2. As in, 2 pieces. Guess there's a reason I've never seen these on my regular grocer's shelves. And if this is 'hot dog' flavor in which ever country* these are from, I think I fear hot dogs from there as well.

*Anyone know what language is on the packaging? Thai? Sanskrit? Hindi? Anyone??? Beuller? Beuller?


Mama Max's Mushroom Delight

As my few faithful readers know I am dreadfully behind on a number of posts. WHICH WILL BE UPDATED, I TELL YOU. But I felt it necessary to share this dish with the world. Immediately. Yesterday, even.

Last week my friend, Mama Max, was visiting from Milan. It was a spur of the moment decision. On Tuesday I got a call and he announced that after my having lived in Geneva for almost two years, it was time to visit. 'Ok, when?'', I asked innocently. 'Thursday' was the surprising response. So after a whirlwind cleaning of the apartment a bedraggled Italian appeared on my doorstep. As we jetted off to a bbq in France (all 20 minutes away) he regaled me with visions of meals to come.

You must understand, Max is a Rocker. I had attended one of his concerts while living in Milan at a 'Rock Horror Cafe' if that says anything. When I first met him the boy couldn't cook beans, I mean, pasta (however he did introduce me to the miracle that is Agroturismo). But now he was spouting on about delicate cream sauces and wines to pair with the meals. To me, this firmly puts Max in the Gruffy Apron* category. And damn, can the boy cook. After having this dish last week I felt compelled to try recreating it last night for a dinner I was giving, to rave reviews and absolutely no leftovers. So, without further ado.....

Mama Max's Mushroom Delight

But first...A quick disclaimer...When Max made this dish, and I assisted, everything was eyeballed and guessed at. When I made this last night I went about in the same manner and crossed my fingers. Now, I am fairly certain that this can't go too awry no matter how you do it. So feel free to scale up or down and tweak the ingredients to your tastes. The following recipe uses 1 pot and two pans (one with lid!) and makes generous portions for two. I give you....

Mama Max's Mushroom Delight

Porcini mushrooms/bolets
butter - about 1-2 Tbsp.
red wine - enough to cover mushrooms and then some
cream - to lighten and dilute the wine
1/2 cube of chicken or mushroom stock
fresh parsley

In the pan without a lid, melt butter, add mushrooms and lightly saute. Add wine, cream, stock, and parsley. Let simmer.

Chicken - 2 breasts cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cube of chicken stock
milk - enough to cover the chicken
butter - 2 or more Tbsp.
3 garlic cloves peeled and cut in half

At the same time, melt butter in the pan with the lid add garlic and cook til fragrant. Add the chicken and cook until done, remove garlic. Add milk and chicken stock. Cover with lid and let cook.

Fusilli pasta - 1/2 bag

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to the directions on the bad. Drain. Add the mushroom dish to the large chicken pan. Then the pasta. On low low heat add freshly grated Parmesan until the sauce thickens. No need to add salt or pepper or superfluous spices. Enjoy.

*Gruffy Apron is a phrase coined by my partner in crime, you know who you are. Picture one of Hell's Angels. Now, imagine that after biking around all day and generally being a bad ass he goes home, dons a frilly apron and bakes cookies. THAT is a Gruffy Apron.