Monday, December 29, 2008

Pre-Christmas Baking

I usually make sugar cookies for Christmas, but I had a function to attend that required cookies so I made some a few days earlier. I took two dozen of them (colored red and green) to the event and made these with the leftover dough. They're blue because it was the first day of Hanukkah.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thanksgiving Baking

Lately I've been baking and forgetting to take pictures of the baked goods or taking pictures that are just so-so.

These pictures aren't the greatest, but I think they convey the deliciousness of our dessert table at Thanksgiving.
Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting. (Yes, I should have taken a picture of an individual piece, but I didn't. If you saw the Throwdown episode, it looked a lot like Bobby Flay's cake.) I doubled the frosting recipe and used the leftover frosting on some chocolate cupcakes I had in the freezer.

Pumpkin pie, nut roll and pumpkin roll. I didn't make these, but I ate 'em.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Made with the KitchenAid recipe but using 1/3 of the ingredients. I would have halved it, but the original recipe calls for three eggs.
The loaf pan is the middle size of a three pan set. The largest is red and traditional size and the smallest is yellow and not quite as tiny as the individual mini-loaf pans I have. Those are ridiculous. This blue one measures 8" x 4" and was just about perfect for my coffee cake needs. A few walnuts fell off in the baking, but no major harm done.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sergio's Sarava Desserts

Sergio's Sarava
13225 Shaker Square
Cleveland, OH 44120
Dinner; November 4, 2008
Party of Two

We each had a three-course dinner that ended with fantastic desserts. My dining companion and I took shots of all three courses, but the appetizers and entrees didn't photograph as good as they tasted. Also, I kind of forgot all the details of the first two courses and their descriptions aren't online. So, here are pictures and descriptions of the yummy desserts.

SERGIO’S COCONUT BUTTER CAKE – whipped cream, crème Anglaise, toasted coconut
A pretty dense cake that was made richer by the bed of cream it sat on and the dollop of cream that topped it.

OURO PRETO TORTE – black-gold chocolate cake. A dense, flourless cake topped with chocolate ganache and sparkles of real gold leaf

But, I remember the details of my first visit to Sarava (no pictures) in great detail.

Dinner; October 25, 2008
Party of Two

Diner 1 - Mojito
Diner 2 - Mojito mocktail

Shared Street Plates
Crisp Spanish Cheese with kalamata olive and caper-spiced tomato sauce
Prince Edward Island Mussels simmered in a lemon-pepper butter broth
Sticky Ribs with a hoisin BBQ glaze

Diner 1
Pan-Seared Sea Scallops in a ginger-cider reduction with lemongrass and coconut milk, rice and crispy fried spinach (substituted for the seasonal vegetables)
Coconut Butter Cake (see picture above)

Diner 2
Mojito mocktail
Brazilian Beef with black beans and rice, farofa, fried spinach, orange slices and carioca tomato relish
Ouro Preto Torte (see picture above)

The hoisin glaze on the Sticky Ribs started smoky and ended sweet. The scallops' sauce was similarly complex but started spicy and ended sweet. No matter what you get there you should order the fried spinach. It has a crisp texture that just about melts the minute it hits your tongue. The mussels were not at all fishy or chewy and the sauce was the type you wanted to pick up and drink after the dipping bread was finished. The Spanish cheese was no ordinary fried cheese with tomato sauce. My dining companion stated that although she doesn't really like fried cheese she loved this street plate. Maybe it was the sauce.

The food was all about taste and texture and was fresh and delicious.

I'd definitely go back and I'm sure to end my meal with the Coconut Butter Cake. It was delicious warm and cold.

And their Mojitos are to die for.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Cleveland Restaurant Week(s)

This past Sunday started Cleveland Restaurant Week, which is actually two weeks (excluding Saturdays) from November 2-7 and 9-14. During these weeks, participating Cleveland Independents restaurants offer three-course prix fixe menus at (relatively) cheap prices. I've had good, great and phenomenal experiences with restaurant week dinners in the past, and I'm looking forward to the ones I have scheduled this time around.
I'm behind on my restaurant reviews since I didn't have my camera for my recent dining experiences at Henry's at the Barn, Melt and Sergio's Sarava, but I took some shots at my first restaurant week dinner at Sarava (yes, it was good enough to go twice in less than three weeks) so maybe I'll do them all in one post.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

10/26! Make A Wish!

This year could see you outgoing, positive, generally happy, young at heart, or able to see the bright side to most any situation. You might have the opportunity to enjoy travel, competition, being a team player, the life of the party, or the one who lights up a room, and your exuberance or confidence could become contagious. You could demonstrate a gift for boosting the esteem of others, however, you can be exhausting, draining, or be feeding off the energy of others around you, or overlooking the suffering of others. You may get carried away, have manic tendencies, or not know when to slow down, relax, or quit, but learning to balance a sunny, extroverted disposition, with the need to chill out once in a while, can result in genuine gratitude for just being alive. This could be a really exciting year for you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I used my candy thermometer for the first time and added a new sweet to my repertoire. As usual, I was inspired to make this particular thing because I happened to have peanuts lying around. And what's a better treat made with peanuts than peanut brittle?

For a first attempt it was damn near perfect. I think the only thing I might do differently is use raw peanuts or add the peanuts later in the cooking. The taste was great and the texture was crunchy that melted into sticky-smooth. It also didn't linger on your teeth like candy likes to do, which was an unexpected bonus.

I found so many recipes that equated peanut brittle with Christmas. It's not part of my holiday memories, but it might be this year.

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Wave Mix Tape

I came across a tape the other day that I made from an LP called K-Tel's The Beat. It's a good compilation of new wave groups. I was shocked to find Mixwit had all of the songs on the tape except for one called You Hit the Spot by Graham Parker. No big loss since it's my least favorite song of the bunch anyway.

The better known songs are part of this lyrics quiz called One Hit Wonders: New Wave Trivia, which just told me:

You got 10 questions correct!

If you scored between 8-10, fantastic! The frosted hair look is so you!

Don't I know it!

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

Incidentially, I only have five of these songs on my iPod. It would have been six but the Depeche Mode song didn't make the cut.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Banana Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I love coffee cake. How can you not if you like coffee? I wanted to make a coffee cake and decided to try this recipe because I had bananas on hand. It turned out good, but I'll reduce the sugar next time since it was a little too sweet.

I used the streusel recipe from my usual sour cream coffee cake, which calls for brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon. I made about double what the linked recipe calls for because it seemed scant.

Pretty and delicious.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2008 Fall Television Schedule

So, I think I've figured out what I'll TiVo, what I'll watch live (if I'm home) and what I'll watch online for the fall season... at least until the schedules get shuffled or shows get canceled. If you need a printable fall schedule in order to make your own choices, click here.

This may seem like a lot of shows, but it's about normal for me. I don't watch a lot in real time, but that's why I love TiVo. Sometimes I wish I had a dual tuner TiVo so I could record more than one show at a time, but I'd never leave the house if that was the case. Same for having more stations although I'd love to get BBC America, The Independent Film Channel or Sundance Channel.

TiVo: How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Live: Chuck (NBC)
Online: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (FOX)

TiVo: Prison Break (FOX)
Live: Heroes (NBC)

TiVo: My Own Worst Enemy (NBC)

TiVo: House (FOX)

TiVo: Fringe (FOX)

TiVo: Pushing Daisies (ABC)
Live: Bones (FOX)

TiVo: Dirty Sexy Money (ABC)

TiVo: My Name Is Earl (NBC)
Live: Smallville (CW)
Online: Ugly Betty (ABC)

TiVo: Kath & Kim (NBC)

TiVo: 30 Rock (NBC)

TiVo: Life on Mars (ABC)

TiVo: Everybody Hates Chris (CW)

TiVo: Life (NBC)

nothing unless something is repeated from earlier in the week

TiVo: Valentine (CW)

So, that's 1 show on CBS, 3 shows on CW, 4 shows on ABC, 5 shows on FOX and 7 shows on NBC. CBS would have had one more show if they hadn't canceled Moonlight.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stuffed Pepper Soup

I made some Stuffed Pepper soup the other day and just finished it up today. I made 16 Bean soup a week or two ago, but didn't think to take a picture of it. With the bean soup I followed the recipe on the bag of beans, but for this one I made it up based on these four online recipes. Here's my take:

1 1/2 lbs of ground beef (80 % or leaner)
1 medium/small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large green peppers, chopped (around 2 cups)
2 small or 1 large potato(es), chopped
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 32 oz carton of beef broth
3 whole cloves garlic
salt/pepper/spices to your liking
2 cups cooked white or brown rice

Brown beef in a large pot with the onions. Add the green peppers and cook about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the cooked rice) and bring to a near boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 25-35 minutes or until the potatoes are done. Place 1/4 cup of cooked rice in the bottom of individual serving bowls. Pour soup over rice and stir before serving.

Keeping the rice separate really helps the soup from getting mushy. The soup was very tasty, and I'd definitely make it again.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sugar Cookies

I had two leftover egg yolks from the coconut macaroons so I dug around for a recipe that called for just yolks and found this one. The cookies were delicious, but my quest for the perfect sugar cookie continues.
This quest started when the Original Cookie Company went away, and I could no longer get their sugar butter cookies at my local mall. I loved those cookies. I miss those cookies. The pictured cookies came very close to the recipe I hope to find but were just a little off.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Coconut Macaroons

From the Baker's coconut recipe. On the bag of coconut the chocolate dip was optional. I dipped one (in milk chocolate, the only kind I had on hand) and wasn't impressed with the results so I didn't dip the others. But I used the leftover melted chocolate to make chocolate covered raisins so it wasn't a total waste.

It's kind of hard to discern the chocolate covered raisin blobs on the black plate. I don't have a picture of the chocolate dipped macaroon since I ate it before I took these shots.

I had been thinking about making macaroons since I watched the "No Pork, No Pressure" episode of Dinner: Impossible. The episode was shot around Cleveland and has Chef Michael Symon making a Passover dinner for the congregation of a synagogue that's right down the street from me. I wish I was invited to the Seder because everything he made looked really delicious.

The episode also made be hungry for brisket. Luckily, Jack's Deli and Restaurant (14490 Cedar Road, University Heights, Ohio 44121) has a great brisket, and I had it for dinner last Friday. I'll have to do a proper review of that place sometime.

If you missed the show last Wednesday, it'll be on again September 13 at 3:00pm and September 14 at 11:00pm. Of course it's bound to be shown at other times too since the Food Network plays a lot of repeats.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Durham, North Carolina

At the Sarah P. Duke Gardens

The Iris Fountain

Details of the fountain

At the Tobacco District

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Adios, Passions!

One of my favorite television shows and definitely my favorite soap opera ever has come to an end. The series finale of Passions aired last week. Unfortunately, I didn't get to watch it when it aired since I don't have DirectTV, but by following this link (thanks for sending it to me jenni!) I saw it today. It's a good ending to a crazy show.

Here's part 5 of 5 for those interested in knowing the fates of the residents of Harmony. If you never watched it (or haven't watched it lately) start with part one, which might not explain anything really.

So, goodbye Harmony residents! I'll miss you!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Come on in feel free to do some looking...

This isn't really new news, but I haven't baked anything lately so I thought I'd write about a show I just started watching. Chowder premiered last fall on the Cartoon Network, but I only recently became addicted. The main character (Chowder) is a chef's apprentice who eats anything and everything. All of the characters are named after food and most of the episodes revolve around a certain recipe or ingredient. It's all completely nonsensical and amusing.

Although it's a cartoon, they mix in stop motion animation, puppets and even live action. New episodes air on Thursday nights, but like most shows on basic cable you can catch it at other times. It's family friendly, and if you watch it with kids around you might even get them interested in cooking.

I've embedded the promo that ran last year to give you a taste of it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Blueberry Crisp

For the Fourth of July, I made a blueberry crisp à la mode. It was patriotic enough since the baking dish was red, the ice cream/frozen yogurt was white and the blueberries were blue.

Crisp in my big red casserole dish.

À La Mode

Plump berry goodness

Of course, I messed a bit with the recipe. For the sugar mixed in with the berries I used 1 tablespoon brown and 2 tablespoons white. I added a healthy drizzle of vanilla (1 teaspoon?)too because I like it. I've found most sweet recipes can benefit from a bit of vanilla. For the crumble topping, I used 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup all purpose flour and added about 1/4 cup crushed walnuts and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Double Fudge Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Naked cupcakes


Ample supply of cupcakes for a co-worker's birthday.

Double fudge chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. The recipe was supposed to yield 24 cupcakes, but I got 30 out of it. I kept the leftovers since my cupcake carrier only holds 18, and I decided to freeze the ones that weren't frosted (seven in total) so we'll see if they really do "freeze well" like the recipe says. As usual, I halved the frosting recipe. Who needs six cups of frosting?

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Last week I bought some mulberries from a vendor at a farmer's market whose other (non-produce) products I've enjoyed in the past. I did it against my better judgment since: A) a taste test at the market didn't impress me 2) the vendor had a lot of berries where other vendors were sold out and C) you later. When I got home I discovered the berries were full of teeny tiny bugs that were resistant to my attempt to drown them -- in fact a few swam to the edge of the bowl and tried to climb out. I stuffed the berries and their bugs down the garbage disposal and sprayed a bleach cleaner in and around the sink in case the bugs tried to escape. Apparently, this is a fairly common problem.

The trip to the market wasn't a total waste since I got some lettuce from a different vendor that was fantastic. I bought a head that had romaine, red leaf and green leaf in one. It's weird to rave about lettuce, but it was really very good.

I bought some cherries from the grocery store the other day and I decided to clean them with a vinegar solution I read about in a Newsweek article (there's also an NPR article with an audio clip on the subject). It worked brilliantly since the fruit tasted better than it did when I washed it with tap water alone. I was worried that the cherries might taste vinegary but they didn't. I've put the spray bottle in my fridge for future use.

I wonder how the vinegar solution would have worked against the bugs of the mulberries? Some of the links above suggest a salt wash but I can't imagine the salt not soaking into the fruit.

In case you were wondering, the FDA recommends washing produce with water. I'm not sure how to comment on that.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Irv's Sandwich Shop

Irv's Sandwich Shop
2164 S. Taylor Road
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118
(216) 321-6812
Brunch?; June 18, 2008
Party of Four

Barnyard Omelet with Home Fries and Raisin Toast

(My) Barnyard Omelet with Home Fries and Raisin Toast

Pancakes with Bacon

Corned Beef Sandwich with Seasoned Fries

Irv's is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday and serves breakfast until about an hour before closing. It might be called a sandwich shop, but you should try the omelets. Unfortunately, it has a storefront that is easy to drive by.
Don't miss it!

I'm not the biggest fan of eggs. I do like a good omelet though. And the omelets at Irv's are so much better than good. I told one of my fellow brunchers about Irv's awhile ago, and she wanted to try it for herself while in Ohio.

If you are in town for a week and only have time for one omelet you should get the Barnyard Omelet because it's stuffed with bacon, ham, sausage, green peppers, onions and American cheese. The egg part of the omelet is thin and rolled around the filling in such a way that you never get too much egg in any bite.

Omelets come with your choice of either home fries or grits, but they are always out of grits when I go. The potatoes were nicely breakfasty, and I managed to eat most of them even if they were my second choice. The raisin toast was awesome and makes me wonder why more restaurants don't offer raisin as a toast choice.

I sampled the pancakes and found them not-too-sweet, which is how I like them. I didn't taste the corned beef sandwich but was told it was good. The seasoned fries had a kick that complimented their extreme crunchiness and would make a good substitute next time they are out of grits.

In case you can't tell from the picture (taken on a camera with an enviable "food" setting), the Barnyard Omelet is huge! My fellow bruncher finished hers and I ate all but a couple bites of mine. The cook grinned as we left and asked, "Did you finish the Barnyard?" "Just about" I said. I think he was impressed. So was I.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


I used to love making mixtapes from songs on the radio and my albums and tapes when I was a kid. I made tapes from my CDs when I got a boombox that had a cool dubbing feature. And when I first got iTunes I made so many playlists-- a lot of which were CD copies of my old tapes.

Well, now I have a new reason to pick up my old habit. lets you make mixtapes that look like oldschool tapes that you can customize with pictures and such. I first heard about it from Jason at Hands On Your Ears whose tapes can be found here.

Below are my first two mixes. "Sun Mix" has songs with good beats that are easy to dance to and "Moon Mix" has maudlin music you might find on a college station.



One crappy feature is that you're limited to the songs that the site has available unless you're savvy enough to get songs yourself, which I'm not. The worst feature has to be that songs can disappear on you once you've made the tape. Even with those flaws, it's still pretty cool.

A less exciting (and both more and less limiting) website is, which lets you upload your own songs into a single mix. You can listen to mine here, which is taken from an old CD mix from a bunch of years ago. That website is just as boring as a list of songs can be.