Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chocolate and Pretzel Nostalgia

Showing up sweaty, “bumming out” in gym clothes, and carrying helmets under our arms made my friends and I the talk of the school. At my school out in the county, everyone rode the bus or drove to school. But, we rode our bikes from my house to Central Davidson High School, an easy three miles. Except, the ride was more challenging on the way back when we had to contend with increased traffic, the sun blaring down on us, and pedaling uphill for what seemed like most of the way. The return trip was always at least five minutes longer. We each pedaled to my house, staggered up the steep driveway with our bikes, and walked into my house plopping down in a haphazard order. Everyone was welcome to help themselves at my house, in fact, raiding of the cabinets or finding some sort of baked good and beverage was always a must. We started with water until everyone made it in the house.

Then, it was snack time. We deserved it (or so we told ourselves) after our bike ride. On several occasions I remember opening the cabinets and all of us being unanimous on the jar of Nutella and the  bag of pretzels. We all gathered around my bar, perched on the high stools and passed the bag and jar back and forth. This went on until we had finished gossiping or sharing funny stories, by which time there was serious damage done to both the Nutella and pretzels. The salty sweet combination was incredibly addictive and the small pretzels made the perfect vessel for the creamy, chocolate-y Nutella.

As you can imagine, we probably  consumed more calories than we burned from these bike riding adventures. But, it is something that I will always remember as a great time with friends, especially now that we don’t get to see each other every day.

Just recently, I had something that reminded me of this communal chocolate and pretzel experience. It was my first trip back to Davidson Chocolate Co. this year. Although I have come to develop high expectations, I was not disappointed in the least. Literally every time I get chocolate from there I am so bewitched by the flavors and the mastery of the chocolate making (also, I love to watch them in the kitchen making the chocolate) that I absolutely cannot decide which of their chocolate confections is my favorite. The toffee, the milk chocolate caramel, the truffles. Let it suffice to say that they are all good. Seriously, you cannot go wrong here.

After much deliberation and pacing in front of the glass display cases Sunday, I settled on the chocolate pretzel caramel (milk chocolate). Unfortunately I do not quite remember the name but it was those three words in some order. Regardless of the name, it combined sweet and salty, crunchy and gooey into a combination that was nothing short of life changing. The flavors and textures themselves were wonderful, but it also took me back to those afternoons in high school, talking and eating a ridiculous amount of Nutella and pretzels with some of my best friends that I miss dearly.


Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving! For Thanksgiving, I spent the day with family and friends, eating wonderful food made with love. Here is a picture taken at my great grandmother’s farm.


Sam the donkey. He loves peppermints and is very friendly!


My great grandmother, my sister Allyson, and me in the barn.

As if all the food that I consumed today was not enough, I decided to bake a cake that I had been eyeing for a while on one of my favorite food blogs. This cranberry cake is a sort of transition for me into winter flavors. The top of my cake turned out very bubbly and I do not know the cause of this.


Cranberry Cake

Adapted from the kitchn

3 eggs

3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into chucks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups flour

2 1/2 cups cranberries (1 bag)

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan or a 10 inch springform pan.

Beat eggs and sugar with a mixer for about 7 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and doubled in size. It should be thick enough so that when you lift the beaters ribbons should stay on top of the batter.

Add in almond and vanilla extracts and chunks of softened butter. Beat for another 2 minutes, then stir in flour. Next, fold in cranberries. Batter will be thick, close to a dough consistency. Spread into pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. The top of cake should be golden brown and a toothpick inserted should come out clean. For the last 10 minutes, you may need to tent the cake with foil to prevent the top from getting too brown.

Cool completely before serving. You may add a pecan topping or icing (shown in the original recipe), but I think that just like this is delicious. You could also add in some orange zest and a squeeze of orange juice.


Pumpkin Pancakes

Recipe adapted from i am baker

1 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal (corn muffin mix works too)

1/4 cup sugar

2 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp all spice (or pumpkin spice)

1 beaten egg

1 cup milk

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

1 tsp vanilla

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium size bowl. Then combine egg, milk, canned pumpkin, and vanilla in a separate large bowl. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet, stirring to incorporate. Do not over stir, but stir just until mixed. There will be lumps in the batter and it will be thick and fluffy, not runny like many recipes. Cook on a griddle at 350 degrees. Flipping after 3 to 5 minutes. It depends on the size of your pancakes but I made about 7. Enjoy!


I made these yesterday morning. Waking up at 7:30 with the light seeping through the cracks in my blinds, plodding downstairs with unkempt hair and donning comfy pajamas, and making breakfast is my ideal morning. Just what I needed for a first morning home for break! Two hours later had a pumpkin spice chai latte. I am loving the fall flavors! (But, don’t over do it and get burnt out, it would be so sad to develop an aversion to pumpkin.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Cake Pops


If you have read food magazines or food blogs in the last six months you probably already know that cake pops have been very popular. Normally I wouldn’t advocate doing something because it is the “in” thing to do. But, please jump on the bandwagon. Make cake pops, ASAP! You will not regret it.

The mixture of cake and icing into a conglomerate ball might not sound appealing to some people. But, for those of us who are put off by cupcakes' ratio of cake to icing and the fact that the icing is just a blob on top, the cake pop is for us. The icing mixed in with the crumbled cake makes for a smooth texture that is distinct from both the cake and the icing. This texture is contrasted by the solid chocolate candy coating on the outside. The flavors meld together to form an experience that can only be found by eating a cake pop.

However, making cake pops is not for the faint-hearted or someone that is looking for a quick baking project. Give yourself plenty of time and plan ahead. It will be worth it.

IMG_2517I made pumpkin cake pops with my friend Alexandra (I will start just using the letter A to refer to her). We were pressed for time, so I will go ahead and preface the pictures by saying that the cake pops could have been neater.

We were still late to the potluck dinner. This might be because A and I had to walk with our friend Jennie over a mile to the location of the potluck. Remember, this was Friday night at 6:45. It was very dark and very cold. I toted a plate of cake pops and also a batch of baked apples (I normally don’t use a recipe but Gala apples work great!). When we arrived, my hands were literally frozen in the same position that they had been in to hold the dishes. Luckily the good Thanksgiving-style food, heat, and fellowship made the long walk and numb hands worth it. (And everyone loved the cake pops!)

Here is the recipe and the technique we used.


A putting the chocolate coating on a cake pop. (It is ok to omit the coating, they are absolutely delicious and even more pumpkin-y without the chocolate.)


Final product- we had to use a mixture of lollipop sticks and skewers cut in half because the recipe made so many. The size of the balls could easily be smaller if you are making for a party or need a large quantity. It is a simply a matter of personal preference.


About to step into the cold abyss of an evening with our creations.

P.S. I promise to stop writing about pumpkin flavored baked goods after Thanksgiving. But, I already am planning on making pumpkin pancakes when I go home. So exciting!

Have a great Thanksgiving and eat something pumpkin flavored (if not, then just enjoy a day centered around food and family)!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Catching up from the weekend: Part 2

Right now I am sitting in the library drinking a cup of surprisingly tasty, although still obviously from a machine, hot chocolate. For this rainy day, nothing could be more comforting, unless I didn’t have any schoolwork that I should be doing or if I was watching The Sound of Music.

But anyway, I wanted to tell you about Sunday. I went to the Renaissance Festival with Jerry. We have decided to make it a tradition. Everyone needs traditions and it gives us something to look forward to every fall. Also, sharing a tradition with someone, be it family or friends, seems to strengthen your relationship and intertwine you through this meaningful, religious, silly, fun, or slightly ridiculous occasion. The Renaissance Festival probably leans towards fun and slightly ridiculous (but don’t worry, we haven’t actually dressed up… yet).

At the festival, we watched a sword swallower, acrobats, and a royal joust. These people are truly medieval. Many festival-goers are dressed up too. Some looked more like regular pirates, are these from the Renaissance time period? Others were very stately and looked like the Queen or King of England in their full regal attire. And of course there are those of us who do not dress up, but instead enjoy watching others do so. The Renaissance Festival is a great place for people watching.

The food is a mixed bag. I will not go so far as to say that some is authentic, but some choices are possibly more “Renaissance” than others. A classic example is the turkey leg. I have never tried one, but the concept of eating this massive piece of meat that looks similar to a small club, is fascinating to me. Maybe one day… There are other choices such as “Steak on a Stake”, bratwurst, bread bowls, roasted corn and more. The ones that I would definitely steer clear of are the chicken nuggets and pizza. These are not festive at all and didn’t look too appetizing.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Bread Bowl



I got the spinach artichoke dip bread bowl. The dip was overflowing out the top of the bowl and very warm. The consistency stayed very creamy and although I didn’t see any artichokes or pick up much of the flavor, the spinach was delicious in it. Beware of these pieces getting caught in your teeth! Not pretty. The bread is slightly crusty but with a soft interior, perfect for soaking up the flavor of the dip.

The best way that I have found to eat a spinach artichoke bread bowl (I got the exact same thing last year) is to first take the top off and eat some of the dip out of the bowl with your spork. Then, break off pieces of the bowl and eat it with the dip. With this method you  finish with both at the same time.

Also, the cinnamon roll with cream cheese is delicious too! I love cinnamon rolls and although not warm, this was better than I expected. It was not cloyingly sweet or dense. It also tasted like it was freshly baked. Unfortunately, I was too eager to eat it to take a picture.

Here are some pictures of Jerry and me during our time at the festival.


There are lots of swords and weapons there. Evidently, people actually buy these. We just take pictures with them.


You can even ride camels.

To finish off the day, we went to Earth Fare. It was my first time but the inside reminded me of Fresh Market. However, Earth Fare differentiates itself by its commitment to carry products with no high fructose corn syrup or other preservatives/artificial additives. I bought some granola bars that I will report on later. At this particular Earth Fare, near SouthPark in Charlotte, there was even a café and grill. It was complete with freshly made smoothies, grilled chicken and fish, burgers, and specialty wraps, sandwiches, and paninis. I got food from the salad/hot bar. Everything was very fresh and there were many options. The panini that Jerry ordered was large and reasonably priced. I will definitely be back the next chance I get.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pumpkin Bread: Catching up from the weekend

Saturday was a beautiful autumn day here in Davidson, NC. Bright, sunny skies with a crisp breeze made for the perfect backdrop to a wonderful day filled with friends, baking, good food and conversation, and productivity. It was everything a Saturday should be.

With some friends from RUF, I baked pumpkin bread. ‘Tis the season! The recipe was from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, a cookbook that will surely not lead you astray.

Here is the counter with all of our ingredients laid out (before flour, batter, and dirty dishes were everywhere).


Me with my baking buddy (and fellow pumpkin lover) Alexandra.



The final product…


All of our hard work paid off. We finished our meal with the wonderful pumpkin muffins and coffee or tea. I chose a fruity orange tea to compliment my muffin…. ok, muffins. The recipe was supposed to make 2 loaves but we didn’t have two regular-sized loaf pans, so in the spirit of improvisation we made a tin of 12 muffins, a pan of mini loaf bread, and a medium-size loaf bread. The mini one was cute but slightly deformed on top, not quite as picture perfect as these muffins, and I totally forgot about the larger one since it baked for longer. The muffins were especially light for pumpkin bread, which was a nice change from the especially dense pumpkin bread that I have had in the past. The taste wasn’t overly sweet but the pumpkin was definitely the star. It is a perfect fall recipe and the ingredients are ones that most people already have in their cabinets.


Best Ever Pumpkin Bread

(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

3 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

2/3 cup water

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

Optional: 1 cup of dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips, raisins, or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350o. Grease the sides of two 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pans. Combine sugar and vegetable oil in a bowl and beat until combined. Beat in eggs until completely incorporated. In another bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Alternate adding in flour mixture and water to the mixing bowl. Then, add stir in pumpkin until the batter has an even consistency. (Optional: add chocolate chips, nuts, or raisins) Do no overmix! Bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick can be inserted and come out clean. If you choose to make muffins these will take considerably less time, about 30 minutes.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Too many things to blog about…

Due to my low level of alertness, I will have to keep it short and just write about one of many food-related experiences I have had in the last few days.

Remember way back when I wrote about going to Charlotte with my boyfriend Jerry? Well here is a tidbit from that day.

We ate Puerto Rican food. Ever since I watched Guy Fieri try mofongo on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, I knew I had to try this dish. It consists of fried green plantations mashed up with butter and often served with pork and a sauce. I liked it but this specific one although not lacking in flavor (think savory, not sweet), was dry. The fried ripe plantains that we ordered as a side were what captured my heart. They were not too oily but had a delicate brown exterior and were very tender.


For dessert, there is always dessert when Jerry and I go out to eat, I actually picked McDonald’s. As much as I am against fast food, my heart drew me to the comfort of an M&M McFlurry. Mmmm! Part of the reason I love it so much is the mix of colors left in the wake of the M&Ms from being spun throughout the soft serve vanilla ice cream. By the way, did you know that the spoon that is in the McFlurry is the one that connects the miraculous machine that spins the toppings into the McFlurry? Hence, the odd shape of the spoon and why it is stuck in the McFlurry.


We painted pottery. It was so much fun! I used literally half of the paints the store kept on hand (and they had a lot). It also took me an hour and a half just to paint this mug. I am very meticulous about craft projects, so I wanted it to be perfect. Today I got back the finished product. Tea it is! Chai is one of my favorites. It often fuels my “late” night studying which I consider anything after 11:30


After I polished off the tea…IMG_2507

Just wanted to jot this short post. More later about some fun topics that are slightly more interesting. Sorry for the lack of chronology.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Silver dollar pancakes are going out of style

Ok, don’t freak out, I am just kidding. But, at the Union here on campus the staff make pancakes that instead of silver dollar size are equivalent to the size of my head. It is really quite an experience to get a pancake from Davis Café. I would highly recommend it if you haven’t done so, if you have extra Bonus Bucks to use, or if you just need a delicious pancake one weekday morning.


Being the food nerd that I am, I like to watch the whole pancake-making process. First of all, it is always the same lady that makes the pancakes. Actually, she makes all of the eggs, pancakes, and breakfast sandwiches which is a feat in itself (truly a jack of all trades). She squirts a bottle and I can hear the butter squirt out and sizzle on the flat top. Then she takes a heaping ladle full of batter and drops it in a perfect circle to start the cooking. Although she goes about her other orders, it is like she has an internal timer. She knows just when the one side has gotten golden brown enough to flip it with her spatula. It is a metal spatula but not a wide one that would make it easy but a slender one that is also used for eggs. The second side doesn’t take as long and isn’t as much fun to watch because there are no batter bubbles to observe. The smell wafting through the small space makes me inch my way over to the counter where completed orders are placed. It is a tough balance, to be ready to get to my pancake when it is at its warmest and trying not to seem overly desperate. But I am there by the time she calls my name. As if I was not following the trajectory of that fresh-off-the-griddle pancake from the flat top to the plate and finally into my hands!

The $1.25 price tag is extremely affordable for the huge quantity and amazing quality. When I get the plate back to my seat, I am so excited to eat that I almost forget that I brought my camera. But alas, I remember and take a picture, although not great quality (can you blame me?). I am joining a friend for breakfast so have to restrain myself somewhat. First I pick at the edges, where browned butter has has gathered into delicate crispy pieces. These melt in my mouth and then I start on the main attraction. It too has a buttery taste and is not overly sweet. Last time I had a pancake here, I used syrup but this time I refrained. The buttery-ness of the pancake comes through more without the syrup. It also seems slightly lighter and fluffier without syrup, although if you want something sweet go for it! Although the pancake literally hung over the plate (the plate appears in cognito but it is under there) I still ate it all. It was wonderful and although it was not healthy by any means it wasn’t heavy.

So treat yourself to a pancake on a weekday, just because! If you make one or have a particularly amusing pancake story/picture post it!

For example, here is my epic fail of a pancake that I made a few weeks ago. The marshmallows for eyes was not a good idea (I had to improvise). Instead these made the pancake look like a mass murderer. Oops!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Asheville: Conference, Food, Conference, More Food!

To tease you.....

We visited The Chocolate Fetish in Asheville after dinner at The Twisted Crepe (also amazing, but I do not think that writing about dinner before dessert is a requirement in the food blog world so I will move forward). I had read about this chocolate shop, where they make their own chocolates, on the Internet and had talked with foodie friends about it too. As you can see, chocolate shops where they make their own truffles and other chocolate confections (including chocolate pasta, no kidding!) are a trend in Asheville. But it is a trend that I do not mind. French Broad Chocolates must be excellent too because every time we walked/drove by, the line was out the door just to get in the shop. Back to my experience, the staff were very knowledgable and helpful. They have a wide variety of truffles and also other chocolate including rounds of chocolate with various add-ins, ones in various holiday shapes. Another hot commodity that I saw several people order is European sipping chocolate. A staff member told us that it is dark chocolate melted down with half-and-half. Umm, how could that be anything other than delicious?

So, on to what I ordered. I actually debated about what to order and paced in front of the lit glass cases for at least ten minutes. My friends tried the hot chocolate and a dark chocolate truffle. Because of this and my truffle experience last night, I finally went with chocolate dipped fruit.

Chocolate covered dried plum (this was definitely not a prune). The fruit was actually moist and provided a tangy but sweet and chewy contrast to the hard, not overly sweet chocolate.

Chocolate covered cherries. I loved how it was like chocolate covered twins. However, I have to say that I still like the Candy Factory's chocolate covered cherries better.  They are sweeter and do not have the stems which are asthetically pleasing but hard to avoid eating.

Not that I was deterred by the stems (I just ate a little chunk of one).
I honestly could spend a really long time talking about the actual restaurants we went to today but I don't have time and dessert is more important anyway. Although, if you are in Asheville give VegHeads Drive-Thru a try (especially the Baked Falafel).

A New Experience: The Laughing Seed

Laughing Seed in Asheville, NC

As soon as you walk in the door, there is an immediate European charm. On the left hand wall is a mural of a forest and ocean scene with old world stucco on the other walls. Cast iron accents and whimsical lights decorated the back wall and added to the soft lighting of the restaurant. A hint about the name is that it came from the sugar-coated fennel seeds available as you walk in or as you leave. Although these were a little bit strong for my taste, evidently they made the original owners laugh, hence the name.

The restaurant advertised itself as serving international vegetarian cuisine. Prices ranged from $10 for a sandwich to $15 to a full plate of food. The dishes ranged from a Mediterranean salad to a curry dish and a burrito. They also had a wide range of smoothies and many vegan menu options.

What I ordered:

Uptown Mac ‘n Cheese

Orechiette and a five-cheese mélange with zucchini, red bell pepper, tomato, scallions, housemade vegan sausage, and roasted garlic; finished with herbed truffle oil.

clip_image002clip_image002[1]clip_image002[2]clip_image002[3] (4/5 spoons)

While not your typical mac-and-cheese, this definitely outdid the kind from a blue box. The sauce wasn’t runny at all, but instead proved that the sauce was mostly cheese, thereby delicious and creamy but thick. Having five cheeses provided a depth of flavor although none of them overpowered the others to stand out to the point of being able to identify them (at least to a cheese novice like myself). The zucchini was cut into perfect bite-size pieces, unlike at some restaurants that put huge slices of flavorless, soaked in oil zucchini on the plate. The other vegetables were also cut into small pieces so that the whole dish worked together instead of getting a bite of only one component. The roasted garlic was especially delicious! However, the pasta would not have been as stellar as it was without the vegan sausage and herbed truffle oil; these elevated it from good to really tasty. I was skeptical about the vegan sausage when I ordered it, but was prepared to pick it out if needed. Typically, I don’t enjoy eating things that are just imitations of the real thing. But at this restaurant, most dishes had tempeh, tofu, or some other vegetarian protein that is foreign to me. However, it had a consistency that, although not exactly like sausage, was still appealing. The flavor was slightly spicy and provided a nice contrast to the creamy cheese. The truffle oil rounded out the flavor and was the perfect finish.

My friend Alexandra and me outside the restaurant.CIMG7741

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thanks for the patience!

For all of the people that have checked out my blog, I sincerely appreciate it. I hope that in the future I will be able to write something that you want to read. Right now, I am still trying to figure out how to make time in the day. But, rest assured in the next week I will have regular posts.
I have so many things to tell!
Yesterday, my boyfriend Jerry came to visit me. Here is a picture of him, although he looks slightly demented here (he is really just happy that he is about to consume a blue velvet cupcake from Cupcrazed).

We go on food adventures together. It is so up right up my alley. It's because he gets me. These adventures normally involve large quanitities of delicious food so look out for these posts soon.
But, today I am off to Asheville with a great group of people from the Environmental Action Coalition at Davidson. We are going to the Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference. We hope to bring back lots of great ideas to campus (and it should be a fun bonding/relaxing time).
Happy Friday!