Okay, I know it has been quite a long time since I have written anything. I have not created any tasty treats as of late. What incentive is there to keep reading this post?!
Well, if you want to hear about how much a girl loves her hometown, then maybe this is for you!
Lately I have been surprised at all the haters of my stomping grounds, Orlando, FL. People talk about all the crap that happens there (Casey Anthony, anyone?). Many accuse it of being ghetto, which is one of the craziest things I have ever heard. They say it's a big, stinky tourist trap and that there's nothing else to it.
I want to take a few minutes out of my day to tell y'all how all of these things are bogus! Orlando is the town I grew up in and I just love it in my heart of hearts. And, furthermore, my lovely co-blogger Katelyn also grew up here and I am sure she can identify with my sentiments. And so, without further ado, I give you...
Orlando: An Ode
Oh, City Beautiful. Yes, we laugh at that stupid name because we are all pretty sure there are more beautiful cities... at least, to the untrained eye. But having lived in Orlando during all my childhood memories, it is a beautiful city to me!
I love downtown, with its pretty brick roads and old houses, swanky restaurants, parks, museums, libraries, and the only lake with a fountain that people freaked out about more when it was struck by lightening than they would probably freak out about a real natural disaster.
Yes, there are parts of Lake Eola that smell like dead fish and are covered in swan poop, but at sunset on a night that isn't hot as a mug, it is quite a lovely walk and a very nice piece of Floridian joy. Not to mention that there is some boss pizza within walking distance, in Thornton Park.
I love all my lesser-known hangouts and dives. There are some ridiculous little restaurants and cafes in Orlando that people miss all the time. I miss Pom Pom's when I am away at school, with their delicious sandwiches and cute little cupcakes. I miss the Drunken Monkey and their awesome coffee creations (I think the owner lives near my parents, too). I miss Dandelion and their vegan deliciousness and beautifully-decorated digs. I miss going to Elephant Bar for a good mojito and Chinese evening with my parents. They are all hard to beat.
I love the tourist-ness, too! I like having billions of sweet roller coasters nearby and friends who work at those parks who can slide you some tickets. I love hitting up Harry Potter world on a free day with my brother because we don't have anything to do. I love seeing weird stuff off of I-4 and wondering if people really pay money to visit them (Holy Land Experience and the former Dixie Stampede, for starters). I love going to Mall at Millenia and feeling like a cheapskate, or going to Florida Mall and seeing Japanese people take pictures in front of the hotel sign (why??).
Look how much fun we have! P.S. pretty sure this caption is wrong, this looks like Magic Kingdom. I would know. I am from Orlando.
I love the Orlando Magic and our little loyal band of fans, through thick and thin. I love seeing little kids with their Dwight Howard jerseys on. I love watching Stan van Gundy freak out on the sidelines.
I love our little celebrity-tastic moments, for that matter. I love hearing that Shaq is in town hanging out at some gym, or that Chris Kirkpatrick from N*SYNC will be at some restaurant opening (woohoo!).
Yeah, y'all, he is a VAL STATE GRAD! (Valencia, that is.)
I love turning on the air on Christmas Day because it's raining and 80 degrees outside.
I love all the fantastic Puerto Rican and Dominican stores, salons, and restaurants.
And Vietnamese. (Little Saigon in downtown Orlando is fantastic.)
I love the crazy little lizards that run around everywhere, the furry Spanish moss dangling from the giant oak trees, the tangerines you picked from your neighbor's backyard, the gigantic cranes and herons gracefully walking around. I love the random peacocks that live in Conway for no good reason!
And life is only ghetto in Orlando if you make it that way. Is it a good idea to go walking around OBT at night around the motels and strip clubs? Probably not! But during the day time, if you want to, by golly that is just fine. In Girl Scouts we did a car wash once at the OBT Papa John's and found a nice homeless man in the dumpster! You never know what adventures lie ahead!
Anyways, this is the best Orange County of all the Orange Counties. I am from the real Orlando in the city limits and I miss it quite a bit! So, attention world: stop being so rude to O-Town. I will help you drink the Tampa haterade instead.
Good morning, world! Lara here, with a shiny new adventure in food! In particular, we are talking about food filled with sugar. For some unfortunate and unknown reason, they are the most fun for me to make.
I don't know what it is about dessert that is so fun to me! Most people avoid things that take constant supervision, care, and detail when it comes to food. And doesn't that make sense? On the other hand, I live for the painstaking attention and precision needed for "fancy" things. I get a weird rush of satisfaction when I have (over the span of hours and hours) created something that looks like it was made at a store. The more difficult and exotic something is, the more I want to do it myself. Glutton for punishment and back cramps from hovering over counters and stoves? Yes, I am!
So I've recently seen so many gorgeous dessert decorations. There are some very artistic and talented people out there making all kinds of cookies and cakes that kind of deserve to be in some kind of museum! (Whoah, new life dream? Starting a dessert museum.) I think one day I would like to be one of those people who is a Van Gogh of food.
And you always have to start somewhere.
My grandma gave me a ton of really fun old-fashioned cookie cutters that I just had to try out! Let me tell you, though, the journey to these faux doughnut sugar cookies was not an easy one. The recipe that I used for the cookies themselves made them spread so much, and stuck all over the counter, no matter how much I kept refreezing the dough and flouring the surface. I won't bother sharing that recipe since I'm not sure what I did wrong. Maybe it's the Florida humidity? Either way, I recut the cookies out of the oven to make them look the way they're supposed to.
And after that they looked alright! Then came my first royal icing experiment. Everything I've ever seen about it had me sold -- it's so shiny and has a very polished look to it when it's dry. I used the recipe that came with my Wilton can of meringue powder, using powdered sugar, warm water, and -- surprise! -- meringue powder, haha. I replaced some of the water with almond and vanilla extracts to give it flavor to match the cookies, so that the frosting didn't mask the mellow amaretto-y stuff going on in the cookies themselves.
Working with royal icing isn't so hard! I kept my first batch pretty dry and piped the edges of the areas I wanted to ice by cutting the tip of the corner on a plastic bag. After letting those outlines dry for a few minutes, I added a few more drops of water to make the icing more glaze-like, so it would flood easily. I spread it using the back of a spoon until it kissed all the edges of the hard icing I piped on. If you gently guide the icing all over what you're trying to decorate, using the tip of the spoon for hard-to-reach spots, it so easily stays within your hard icing borders and makes it all look like one clean-cut design!
I'd suggest if you want to add details on top of the regular layer of royal icing, wait a whole day to let it dry before piping anything else on, to be on the safe side. Sadly, I do not feel up to that today after fighting that crazy spreading cookie dough.
Besides, who needs anything else but a shiny yellow rabbit!?
I'm pleasantly surprised by how these turned out! It was a lot of work, but mostly because I'd never done anything like this before and took crazy precautions. I'm going to try another sugar cookie recipe sometime and return with a recommendation. But in the mean time, these little guys will suffice just fine! If you want to impress someone and have some time on your hands, I think with patience and a steady decorating hand, you can come up with some pretty professional looking cookies on your first try!
And with that, I'd like to leave you with a shout out to my little brother's art skillz. He made this sweet bowl at a pottery painting place and I like it very much.
I'll make a wing of my dessert museum dedicated to glazed bowls with crazy looking peanut magicians painted on them. :)
Try something new today, my friends! It can't hurt if it has some sugar in it!
Katelyn, budding superstar chef, here! Behold- another post worthy of every ounce of your attention.
Sometimes life gives you lemons. And you know, I like lemons. They are useful, they are pretty, they are delicious, and in some art classes they are the shape you learn to base your drawings of eyes after. I especially like the word "lemon." It sounds so good. Just say it! "Lemon." It just begs to be said over and over. I try to make the repetition of the word "lemon" a regular part of my life.
Other times, life gives you bourbon. This is is perhaps less enticing to say but nearly as good. It's got that invigorating within-the-word-alliteration effect to it. But anyhow, life gave me about a 1/4 cup of bourbon the other day, and I wondered what to do with it.
Just drink it? Boring. Then I couldn't write an obnoxious blog entry about it.
LUCKILY I have friends. A dear friend of mine, Andy, made a soul-shattering suggestion-- bourbon brownies. Really, I didn't even think about it. I was all "yes" from the get-go and I praise Jesus because these were DELICIOUS.
Andy and another inspiring friend, Caroline, helped me concoct these mamas!! Those are Andy's hands chopping the chocolate. My hands aren't quite so man-like.
Offering the beauty of bourbon brownies to the world.
They were so good, in fact, that we felt this sudden urge to adorn them with flowers picked from nearby trees.
Framed by some crepe myrtles.
Framed by Andy.
CAUTION: THESE MAY BE BROWNIES.
So here's where I stole the recipe from and where you can find real directions: http://www.redramekin.com/2008/07/celebrownie.html
Ingredients: 1/2 c. butter 1 c. sugar 2 tsp. vanilla extract 1/4 c. bourbon 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped 2 eggs 2/3 c. flour 1/4 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
I also made this fancy pecan topping just for kicks! Basically melt butter (1/2 stick?) in a pot with some sugar (1-2c?) and let it caramelize and then throw some vanilla, any leftover bourbon, and a bunch(1-2c?) of freshly-chopped pecans. I poured in on top of the brownies after they had been in the oven for 10 minutes or so.
:) Thanks to Lara for inspiring me to jump on this again. You are waaaay too modest. Dry ice for frozen yogurt?? I didn't even know that was edible! Way to be awesome AND make a recipe that calls for solid CO2. Next up-- liquid nitrogen??
Alright. There are some things you people need to know about how this food blog and my culinary career works. (I won't speak for my colleague, Katelyn. She really is a budding superstar chef.)
First of all, I am a college student. A mere college student. I have college student skills and a college student budget. I study International Relations and Ancient History, so the only cooking skills I may have gleaned from such intellectual pursuits might be bargaining for boxes of space food to be dropped into my backyard during a time of crisis, or rotating crops along the Nile. Basically, not so much on that front.
Secondly, I enjoy pretending to be this master of the deliciousness arts. So most people my age or in my spheres of influence aren't especially thrilled at the thought of ingredients like jasmine water or lemon rosemary butter. (I just got chills writing that, haha.) I don't know if it's more that I want to paint myself as this kind of obnoxious person, or if I really and truly thrive on the exotic. Either way, if you see me walking down the street with a bag of tamarind pods, don't be too surprised.
In short, I just want you all to know that I realize that the things I create do not taste like Ina Garten creations, despite my inability to shop at Trader Joe's. Just let me continue in my delusions!
HOWEVER: t0day is a different day.
A brand new day in the life of Lara.
Today, something happened that exceeded my paltry expectations.
I am madly in love with those rather new Japanese frozen yogurt shops that are popping up all over Florida. The ones where you pump fro-yo into little cups, smother it with fruit and candy, and weight it? They con me into paying exorbitant amounts of money in order to meet my basic yogurt needs. They do it by making it seem like there's no way to make it yourself, as if little wizards are in their back rooms concocting the magically creamy stuff. And that purple taro flavor? It's so mysterious to this American that I am willing to sell my kidney for whatever the heck it is, because it tastes so good.
However, the college student budget really makes it hard to indulge in this desire too often, which is probably for the best. But my inner cheapskate couldn't help but wonder, how might one recreate the tangy, soft wonder that is Mochi frozen yogurt?
I let this recipe be the jumping off point for the journey (Pinkberry and Mochi are pretty much the same thing), with some tweaking, and a suggestion from my dad that was too fun to resist. I think he partially thought of it because he left our ice cream maker in his classroom, but also because of the cheap and easy factor: dry ice! Sure enough, when I googled the concept, you can crush dry ice into little chunks and mix it into your ice cream/frozen yogurt base and voila! Cold in a matter of minutes! And so the great experiment began...
My inner eight year old enjoyed the crazy fog that happened during this process.
Does that not look like a lovely cloud that angels sleep and play the harp on?
Mmmmm. Dreamy and beautiful.
I decided to make three flavors with what I had. I saved some of the plain because it tastes so stinking good by itself. (You know what? I hate the idea of calling it plain. That makes it sound so boring and unappetizing. Let's say it's the "classic" flavor.) I also mixed in some fresh cherries in some of it, because that stuff is in season right now at Publix and they are so pretty!
As if that weren't enough, I bought something the other day that I had spent forever fantasizing about owning for myself, and made that a part of the fro-yo journey. You see, every time I go to a Boba house, or Mochi for that matter, I head straight for the taro flavor. I don't think anyone else likes it as much as I do. I think I may have a clinical issue because I love the taste so much. I wanted to know how to infuse everything I eat at home with taro. Luckily, my dad pulled through for me again, when he invited me to tag along to his favorite Asian grocery megastore on Colonial Drive. First of all, if you live in Orlando, you need to go there -- I don't the name of it but it is around Colonial and Bumby. The prices are good, the people are nice, and there is so much stuff there that it will blow your mind! And, as if you didn't need any more persuading... they had my Kryptonite, taro boba drink powder. $10 for a whole bag of it beats the horrific thought of $5 smoothies every time I need a fix.
And the result was... oh. my. stars. It was SO GOOD. Usually I am okay with making stuff at home for cheap and sacrificing some of the taste, but that is absolutely not the case here. It is perfect. The texture is right, the flavor is amazing, and there is nothing second-rate about this stuff. You wish you were eating that right now.
The good thing is, you totally can!
Dry Ice Classic Frozen Yogurt (adapted from David Lebovitz's masterpiece of a cookbook, The Perfect Scoop)
- 4 cups 2% plain Greek yogurt (there is this much in a 2 lb. tub)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- a block of dry ice (the amount I got cost only $1.50 and it was plenty)
1. Carefully place the dry ice in a plastic bag and seal, and crush with a hammer or rolling pin, until in much smaller crystals. (The size of peas is about the biggest the chunks can get away with being, or else you run the risk of biting into some raw dry ice and getting frostbite. Ow!)
2. In a bowl, mix the yogurt and sugar with a whisk until well-mixed and the sugar is dissolved and spread through the entire batch.
3. A little at a time, whisk in the little chunks of dry ice. (A standup mixer would be best for this part.) Continue adding and mixing, especially taking care to scrape the bottom of the bowl well, until you have the desired consistency. At this point, you can have an awesome soft-serve and just leave it at that. You can also pop it in the freezer for later!
This would be awesome with some vanilla/coconut/lemon/anything extract mixed it, fresh fruit, chocolate chips, candy, flavor powder, chai, coffee... anything you want. Go wild with your imagination!
So, if you're not familiar with this kind of tangy frozen yogurt, you really need to give it a whirl. If you're an afficionado as I am, this is an awesome way to make it yourself without too much trouble or paying a ton of your hard-earned money. If you're looking to stay healthy when you have dessert, this beats ice cream by a long shot. It's about 180 calories per half cup, using lowfat Greek yogurt with those live cultures that are so good for you. (Because this recipe doesn't heat up and kill the cultures in the yogurt before freezing, they are preserved and brought back to life when it melts in your mouth. Yay!) You can even cut the sugar some if you really like it on the tangy side, or maybe try artificial sweeteners or honey sometime. The sky is the limit!
Treat yourself to a nice summer-y cone of frozen yogurt!
I went into this culinary adventure with the best of intentions. Flavors that I love? New ingredients? PETA friendly? They were all very positive, sunshine-y, and wholesome. I would even venture to say that the Proverbs 31 woman would be proud.
Let me invite you into my thought process. I was perusing my neighborhood Publix, as I often do, mostly looking for things like almond milk -- the necessities. However, in my peripheral vision, I spied with my little eye a box of silken tofu.
I'd seen this mystical ingredient in recipes before. You could magically make so many things that are horrendously bad for you into reasonably good for you without making it taste like shoe polish. (Eww, why did I say that?) And... 2 bucks for a box? Okay, sold. I didn't know what in the world I would make with it, but I am 21 and I try new things. I am not ready to throw in the towel and make the same spaghetti casseroles and peanut butter thumbprint cookies for the rest of my life.
In my (perpetual) food blog wanderings, I realized that silken tofu was part of vegan cheesecake a lot of the time. My heart started beating faster... lemon cheesecake, lemon cheesecake, lemon cheesecake. My favorite kind of dessert, always, without fail, unquestionably, is the lemon option. It's so tangy and bright and beautiful! Lemon bars, lemon meringue pie, lemon poppyseed muffins, they are all food of champions. It was quickly determined: this tofu will be used with lemon, and that is that.
Google did not let me down in my quest. I happened upon this fancy recipe and gasped with joy, a kind of joy that is not common for a college student like me: I have all the ingredients already! So unlikely. Especially if it's a healthy, vegan, or straight up snobby recipe, I often lack the crucial component, maybe some agar agar or coconut milk soy cream cheese. (Made that last one up, btdubs.) But these were things sitting around my super disgusting kitchen!
I made the cheesecakes in my muffin tin because I probably did not have enough tofu for a whole pie, and there's this trend of making things in miniature in the food internet world anyway, so why bother?
Here are those little suckers in the pan. The lighting in the kitchen is horrible, so I thought that maybe tinting the photo all vintage-like would be the trendy thing to do. It kind of reminds me of the easter themes on Picnik.
That's more like it. (I think those are jellybeans?)
Anyways, after baking and chilling those little goobers, it was that special time in a foodie's life -- plating and beautifying the food for a picture. This is where things began to go downhill. Immediately, I ravaged our cabinets, looking for dishes that weren't plastic with hearts all over them from Target, and saw nothing. Nothing classy. Nothing fancy. What will do in a situation like this? I saw my ten cent wine glasses in the corner. Oh, perfect! Lots of people do stuff in glass jars and cups because it's so cute and trendy and hip!
But the little vegan lemon cheesecakes were so plain all alone, and plopping one in a cup was so... anticlimactic. What more could be done to make this more visually appealing? Of course! Strawberries! I microwaved a frozen strawberry and cut it up and put it on top. We'll call the runny juice strawberry coulis.
Yet, this was still not enough! What yawning critic of internet food bloggery would be impressed by just some strawberry on top? I racked my brain to think, what would someone in the know do? I saw some flowers on our dining room table and was so relieved! Leaves! People put mint leaves on stuff to make it pretty! Paula Deen even does that! I yanked some leaves off the flowers and dropped them in, and voila! It was finally complete.
I ventured to my room where there is abundant natural light through the window and set it up all pretty, got my angles going, and all that jazz. And it hit me.
WHAT IS THE POINT!??!!
The mouth of this wine glass is way too narrow to get food out! Why would I want to eat something out of this confined little breakable tube instead of a nice, caution-to-the-wind plastic plate or bowl? What's wrong with using normal dishes? Does that make something taste less good?
Why do we put leaves and herbs on things? Are we going to eat them? With my luck, this one is probably poisonous, but even if it were perfectly restaurant-worthy, the heck I'm eating a mint leaf on my dessert! Desserts are infinitely tastier and easier to eat quickly without some relative of grass sprinkled on top.
The least mockable hip part of this dessert turned out to be its vegan-ness. No, it was not the same as a real cheesecake, but if you are an animal rights protector who still likes normal food, you could do a lot, lot worse. Not a raw granola parfait in sight. (Although I love stuff like that! But I digress.)
Anyways, I just had to share my realization: we do weird things to make food look prettier and more delicious, when really, just taste the darn thing. Eat things that taste good!
I'm out of here! Time for something dipped in Duncan Hines canned cream cheese, because your eating habits are not about shame. Peace, homies!
Today, we are going to make a PROTEIN BERRIES 'N CREAM SMOOTHIE!! Yum yum yummalumma
Cuz it is superduper hot outside and I bike everywhere. This isn't a very legitimate recipe...
...But who needs complexity???
I like smoothies! And I like pictures(aren't they cool??). So here we go.
Oh gosh I love my blender. He's just a rinky-dink ol' guy but he makes so many delicious foods for me. Dear blender, I love you.
Mmmmm. I remember now... this was good.
You know you've got some high qual stuff when the spoon stays put like that.
So. There's not really a recipe for this...thus I am going to create an ingredient list made completely out of guesswork. Who knows if it's right? Not me. Oh well!
Ingredients(ish): 1 cup of ice 1 cup of whole milk (GO HARD OR GO HOME) (or use whatever you have) 1/2 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I like whey) 1 banana (chopped, frozen) (frozen bananas make fer the BEST smoothie texture!) some (1/2 cup?) strawberries (chopped, frozen) some (1/2 cup?!) blueberries (ditto) a lil (1/2 tsp) vanilla extract dash o' salt
You could totally use whatever fruit you want.
I'm a fan of protein. But if you're a frugalista (what a dumb word) like me, then you're probably thinking "Katelyn, how oh how can I afford protein powder??" Unless you are a guy. (I think it costs like $15 for one of those mongo-big containers that will last you until new Jerusalem.) There are two ways to achieve this-
1. Make the sacrifice that week and commit to spending $10 on the rest of your groceries. or 2. Bum the protein off of someone who doesn't use it(like my family)!
Since I'm a college student, I'm constantly making use of(stealing) the items in my family's pantry(Sriracha sauce?? That's a big fat yes!). I mean, they don't like curry anyway. And when on earth would they use that bag of dried chick peas? I'm only maximizing the efficiency of everyone's lives here. It's a good practice to implement in your life.