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Archive for November, 2007

Fancypants Sunday

If you happen to be in San Diego this winter and you have a lady to impress, may I offer the following:

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Chris surprised me with this amazing meal last week at the Marine Room in La Jolla – you may have seen the restaurant when snorkeling at La Jolla Cove, because it’s literally sitting in the water. Every high tide this winter, they’re hosting a special weekend brunch.  The high tide provides the most beautiful perspective, as long as you can get past the fact that the place has been hit by waves that have busted through the windows (check out the pictures in the lobby).  The brunch itself was decadent without being obscene, delicious, romantic and beautiful. I felt like a fancypants queen every time the super attentive waiters came by to clear a plate or to top off my coffee and oj. We started with the seafood bar – fresh crab legs and shrimp, caviar and lox. Yum central. Moving on to the entrees (pictured here), I found my personal favorite in the Grand Marnier-flavored French Toast. Dessert was next, and we each enjoyed a bite of everything. Yeah, man. Dessert before 10am? Now we’re talking. Pace yourself – brunch is served until 10, so take your time and enjoy the view.

You’ve still got two more chances: December 22nd-23rd (for a pre-Christmas stomach-stretching exercise) or January 20th-21st (for those of you who are gearing up for a New Year’s resolution to eat more caviar. By the way, I salute you). Need more convincing? Here’s the full menu. Yowza.

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Mom’s Masterpiece

I got to travel up north last week for Thanksgiving, so spent some good time playing games, shopping and eating with the fam.  Ahhh.  The day I came in, my mother was undertaking a serious challenge: to replicate the amazing burger cake that she’d made for my cousin’s 6th birthday (he’s now 23).  Behold, the original:

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Aww, adorable!  And such a beautiful cake!  Mom had a special request this year to make a burger cake for another 7 year old’s birthday, and this time she was determined to improve on the original.  Luckily, I was there to help, laugh and take pictures.

First, we spent way too long getting the colors just right.  We added food dye, brought the bowl over to the photo album to compare, then adjusted.  It was painstaking, and involved lots of sentences like “Buns are mostly orangey, with just a hint of brown”.  The cheese and lettuce were made with almond paste mixed with dyes:

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It goes without saying that mom and I had some funky looking hands at the end of this adventure.  Once the frostings were all right, the building could begin:

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I’m pretty proud of my decision to texture the patty layer.

A sprinkling of pinenuts went on top to simulate the sesame seeds, and the world’s biggest birthday burger cake was complete.  Our friend Greg likes it:

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Yum.  Meat cake.  The cheese color may have been a little off, so we thought it looked like old cheese – the stuff that’s been sitting out a little too long at the barbeque. 

Here’s my beautiful mother in front of her masterpiece.  I have no idea how they ended up cutting into this behemoth, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?

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Fall-ing

It’s time.  I had to put another blanket on the bed last week, and I need slippers in the mornings.  It’s fall!  I can now indulge in a few of my cold-weather Southern-California-vaguely-cool-weather obsessions, so I pulled out two of the biggies last night: butternut squash and pumpkin flavored treats.

The first you already know about, but the second is another winner. It’ll probably go in the special occasions pile, but oh, what an occasion. I came home late from work the other night and found a fabulous organic sourdough bread loaf waiting for me on my doorstep.  I suspect one neighbor in particular who works for People’s Co-Op, but I haven’t run into her yet to confirm and thank her. A true friend brings gifts of carbs. Ahh.

Anyway, I already had my toast loaf ready to go, so I decided to repurpose my gift into a decadent pudding, adapted from Epicurious:

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

For the pudding:
2 cups half and half
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (or just forgo the above combination and throw in a bunch of pumpkin pie spice)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
10 cups 1/2-inch cubes sourdough bread

For the sauce:
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whipping cream

Whisk half and half, pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, spices and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Fold in bread cubes and transfer mixture to 13×9-inch glass baking dish. Let stand 15 minutes. Bake at 350° until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

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Doncha just love fall?

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Nanners

Caaake.  I feel like Homer, with drool coming down the side of my mouth as I picture the deliciousness of this thing.  Uuuhhhhh Huuuuhhhh…

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I swear, sometimes I buy bananas knowing that they’ll sit in the basket and eventually go past the eating stage.  Oh well, I’ll think, I guess I’d better do something with them.  How about banana bread?  No, done that recently.  Still have some in the freezer.  I know – caaaake (drool)…

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This was adapted from a recipe for a layer cake, using 2-9″ cake pans, but I didn’t have the patience for all that, so I threw it in my bundt pan.  I didn’t, however, change the amount of frosting.  Get ready for the hearty frosting layer, people.

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2 bananas)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

Mix together the wets (sugar through banana) until thoroughly combined.  Dump in about half of the drys, mix.  Add the buttermilk, followed by the other half of the dry ingredients.  Coat your pan with cooking spray, pour the batter in, and bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

As you eagerly await the cake, prepare the frosting.  Mix together:

2/3 cup (about 5 ounces) cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

until smooth.  Let the cake cool a bit, then slather it up.

The cake is really moist and lovely, even after its second day in the fridge.  I won’t be giving you a report on how it survives three days, because it will be eaten by then.  Caaaake.

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Power Pumpkins

What makes pumpkin carving even more awesome, you might wonder?  Power tools. 

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We stole shamelessly from Extreme Pumpkins, because we were so excited about this new art form, but left with about 20 minutes until sundown. 

Here’s Chris’ pumpkin, complete with wrinkly face:

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Impressive!  And I went for the Extreme Pumpkin cover-girl:

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Argh.  Hungry for pumpkin flesh.  Must.  Eat.  Own.  Kind.

I think that the actual carving pictures are on Chris’ camera, but it was pretty entertaining to watch him with a jigsaw, hacking into these babies. I can’t wait until next year, when hopefully I’ll have success with pumpkins grown from my own garden!

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