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Spring Gardening

April 28, 2011

Over the past few weekends, Mr. Latenightjam and I have been getting the garden ready for spring.  We’ve turned over our green manure (winter rye planted last fall), added compost to the soils, installed an irrigation system (happy birthday to me!), and planted our spring crop.

Spring Awakening! ps- don't go see that musical with your mother, like I did...

This year we are cutting back on variety and going for quantity!  In the containers in the photo, you will see some herbs (lavender, basil and oregano), garlic (planted last fall), leeks (ditto), and tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!  There are more herbs and some peas that we started that aren’t shown in the photo.  Over the past few seasons, we have realized that with limited space, herbs and tomatoes are the best bang for your buck.  Herbs because you don’t need much, and it is way cheaper to keep picking what you need all summer that buying fresh herbs at the grocery store.  Tomatoes because in my opinion, you can never have enough fresh summer tomatoes from the garden.  Ever.  I am hoping that the garlic pays off with enough heads to justify one container.  Their low volume needed per recipe (versus, say, carrots- I do use a ton of garlic when I cook, but it is still small in size) may make them worthwhile in a similar way as herbs.

Stay tuned for more updates and photos as all of these little babies grow up!

Editor’s note: Yes, I do call them babies, as in “Oh, my babies are growing so fast” or “I can’t go out tonight, I need to take care of my babies”.  Maybe I should get a dog…


Carrot Cake

April 21, 2011

This winter, I was bombarded by carrots from my CSA’s winter share.  This led me to pursue carrot cake as a more fun way of blasting through all of those carrots.  After scouring the internet for lighter carrot cake recipes, I settled on this one, which I then further modified.  It works as a cake as well as muffins, with or without frosting.  If you are intimidated by the long list of ingredients  (or just don’t like nuts or coconut), you can get away with omitting them pretty easily.  If the mix looks dry, add some more applesauce- the batter should seem pretty rough and moist before baking (hence the long cook time even for the muffins).



  • 1 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
  • 3/4  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/3  cup  chopped pecans
  • 2  teaspoons  baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  teaspoons  ground cinnamon
  • 3  tablespoons  apple sauce
  • 2  large eggs
  • 2  cups  grated carrot
  • 1  cups  canned crushed pineapple in pineapple juice, drained and 2 tbsp. of juice reserved
  • 2 tbsp. chopped candied ginger
  • Cooking spray


  • 1  (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2  cups  powdered sugar
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • Pineapple juice reserved from crushed pineapple
  • Additional grated carrot (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, coconut, pecans, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Combine apple sauce and eggs in a separate bowl; stir well. Stir egg mixture, grated carrot and pineapple into flour mixture. Spoon batter into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan or 15 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To prepare frosting, beat cream cheese in a large bowl with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar, pineapple juice and vanilla just until smooth. Spread frosting over top of cake. Garnish each serving with grated carrot, if desired.

Yield: 16 servings OR 15 muffins

A Caffeinated Tour through Brooklyn

April 20, 2011

In case any readers were wondering why I don’t wander and eat through my own city, take note!  While I do this quite a bit, I often don’t document it.  While my sister was in town (the non-canner), we did organize an extensive tour of locally roasted beans.

My Google Map of where we’ve been (diner symbols) and where we need to go (pins)

We started out with a brisk tour over the Pulaski Bridge and headed straight to Peter Pan Donuts to get some food in our belly.

Peter Pan Donuts

Cafe Grumpy was our first coffee spot.  The make a mean latte, and have a cool off-the-beaten path vibe.  Also conveniently close to Fred Flare.

Cafe Grumpy Lattes

Based on the recommendation of our barista at Cafe Grumpy (hard to say if he was impressed or freaked out by our coffee drinking plans), we then headed to Cafe Variety, where we got some good old french press made with Stumptown beans.  Unfortunately, it was not as great as we had hoped; the combination of not-so-fresh french press with a dark cafe with EVERY patron glued to their mac book just did not jive with us.  While decent in a pinch, I wouldn’t go back, especially knowing that our next stop is close and much better.

French Press coffee at Cafe Variety

Gimme! Coffee was our next stop, which was great.  I first learned of Gimme! awesomeness in college in Ithaca, where the company got its start.  We sampled the clever pourover method of coffee, which seems to me like a clever cross between pourover and french press (my personal preferred brewing method).  The coffee is poured over a filter, but sits for 4 minutes, then a release allows the coffee to drain through.  Very tasty, and somehow made tastier in those old school diner-style mugs.

Hot n tasty at Gimme! Coffee

After all of this, we were a bit jumpy and in need of a long walk.  So we strolled through Fort Greene over to the Flatbush Avenue for lunch.  Bklyn Larder offered that opportunity, along with lots of fun browsing through their awesome collection of foodstuffs.  We were so excited about sitting down and enjoying our grilled cheese and soup that I forgot to photograph it until after it was all gone.  All that remains is evidence that something tasty was eaten.

Clean Plate Club submission

Last stop on our coffee train was Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope.  We went for their maple latte; perhaps not traditional, but we interested in trying a full range of coffee offerings for the day.

mmmmmmaple lattes!

Well, we did have grand plans of tracking down a clover coffee machine, but pretty much met our limit of walking and caffeine at that point.  Oh well, all that means is that there will be a round two!

Eating our way through San Francisco

April 4, 2011

What better way to tour a city than by eating everything in sight, and walking around until you are hungry again.  All of those hills make working off [some of] what you eat even easier! Mr. Latenightjam and myself recently toured the great city by the bay, and can’t wait to go back!

I would also like to give a big shout out to Mighty Girl for her Top 10 Worthwhile Tourist Attractions in San Francisco and Top 10 Ways to See San Francisco Like a Local.  We listened to almost all of them, and would have done more if it weren’t so rainy and we weren’t so short on time.

Salted caramel and vanilla swirl from Bi-Rite Creamery

So good, we went back two days later…

Roasted banana, earl grey, honey and lavender...yes, those are ice cream flavors...

Breakfast at St. Francis Fountain

This was one of my favorite meals of the whole trip!  We had the Nebulous Potato Thing and the Chef’s Mess.  Also, they had great coffee and kept the refills coming!

After that big breakfast, we did some hiking around in the rain, including the amazing walk from Levi Plaza to Coit Tower.  After that walk, I didn’t feel guilty about all of the snacking we did at the Ferry Building:

Boccalones Cone o Meats

Sandwich from Acme Bread

Clam Chowder...unfortunately due to rain, this could not be enjoyed outside on the water...

And here we arrive at my first photo failure of the trip: Mitchell’s Ice Cream.  Listen people, when you have amazing food in front of you, sometimes getting your camera out isn’t your first priority.  Let’s just say that the ice cream didn’t last very long.  It was awesome, and you should go to Mitchell’s.  You already know what ice cream looks like.

Croque Monsieur & Quiche at Tartine

Speaking of photo failure, this is a really bad photo of some really good food.  Tartine had a line commensurate with its fame, but when you are on vacation, who cares?  I would recommend going, but not on a weekend…

Beers at Anchor Steam

We managed to book a tour at Anchor Steam Brewery.  If you are planning on going, call early!  We barely got a spot when we called two months before our visit.  Totally worth it if you like beer, and like free beer even more.

Whiz Burgers...perfect follow-up to a brewery tour

This seemingly-random spot on 18th and Van Ness was like a trip back in time, except you can get fresh avocado on your burger.  Take that, back in time!

This was followed up by an evening at Bourbon & Branch, which does not allow photographs.  They do allow awesome drinks in at speak-easy style bar that requires a secret password.  Make sure you make a reservation, or you get sent to the other public side.  Its worth it- a reservation gets you a seat with great ambiance, no crowds and table service.

Brunch at Zazies

After brunch we checked out Golden Gate National Park (yay beaches and bison!), the Conservatory of Flowers (small but pretty, worth the $5 if you are a San Francisco native or still carry around your old student ID card…), and Green Apple Books (plan on spending a long time there).

Dinner at Firefly

More bad pictures of good food…Firefly was amazing (our host’s favorite resturant), and worth heading a bit off the beaten path.  Plus, there are some great views from walking around nearby Billy Goat Park, ocmplete with secret staircases…

Dim Sum at Koi Palace

Perhaps our most unexpected eating took place in a strip mall south of SF in Colma/Daly City, near not one but TWO Targets.  Judge not!  Any dim sum spot that is totally PACKED at 9:30am on a Sunday morning full of people who certainly look like they know their dim sum has to have something good going on.  And they did.  My goodness, they did…

Americano and gibraltar at Ritual Roasters

It seems to me that San Francisco has good coffee in the same way that it has hills and fog: frequent, sometimes in unexpected places, and jealousy-inciting in visitors.  Ok, I might be the only one who really likes the hills and fog (who knew my paleness and large calves could be such an advantage!), but they really do have great coffee.  We also had Blue Bottle and Four Barrel.  Mr. Latenightjam took a particular liking to Peerless.

Well, that about sums up our food-tour.  Some food wasn’t captured by the camera, such as burritos in the Castro, and some other ice cream trips (vacation=ice cream in my family).  In case you were wondering, we also cooked a few meals.  As you can imagine, the grocery shopping was on par with dining out.  Lots of local, well-made and delicious food.  We also did some other tourist type things (walking along the waterfront, Crissy Field and Golden Gate Bridge, touring the Castro and Haight).  All in all, it is a great city to visit and I would recommend it to anyone…

Disclaimer: for some of you who have come to know me as a “vegetarian”, or as I like to call it, “flexitarian”, you may have noticed some meat in these photos.  Ignore this post.  I won’t know what you are talking about if you bring it up…

Some Recent Dinners

March 16, 2011

While I won’t list specific amounts of ingredients or recipes, here are some recent dinners we have been enjoying that you could easily replicate, many of which use canned goods!

Brined Pork Chops with Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili

This dish had two steps that required some planning- brining the pork chops and chopping veggies for the chili.  A few cups of apple cider mixed with 1/4 cup salt were mixed for the bone-in pork loin chops, they brined overnight and were then grilled.  The chili consisted of onion, sweet potato, black beans, kidney beans and corn, cooked on low with some spicy tomato jam for 6+ hours in the crock pot.  The spice came from chipotle peppers- yum!

Sausage sandwiches with mashed rutebaga

This dish was based on some awesome ingredients from the Brooklyn Kitchen.  Pan-fried chorizo sausage was piled on bread along with aged goat cheese from Cypress Grove and a sauce of sauted onions, arugula and accidental BBQ sauce.   Served with a side of steamed rutabega, mashed and mixed with butter, milk and lots of parmesean cheese.

London Broil and root vegetables a la crock pot

I got a crock pot for Christmas, and have been really in to it…  This was a simple recipe; I browned the beef, then added it to the crock pot with some onion, potato, carrot and sun-dried tomato.  8 hours on low later, dinner was served with a simple green salad.

Hope you are inspired to make up something tasty for dinner tonight!

Lemon-Rosemary Cake

March 14, 2011

This cake is delicious and unusual, making it great for bringing to friends or serving to guests.  A perfect balance of sweet and savory makes it universally appealing.

Baked cake, waiting for some frosting...

Recipe (adapted from Cooking Light)

  • Butter to line baking pan
  • 2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
  • 13.5  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 2-1/3 cups)
  • 3  tablespoons  finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1 1/2  cups  granulated sugar
  • 2/3  cup  olive oil
  • 1/2  cup  fat-free milk
  • 4  teaspoons  grated lemon rind
  • 1/3  cup  fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/4  teaspoon  lemon extract
  • 3  large eggs
  • 1  cup  powdered sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh rosemary sprig (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Coat a 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 tablespoons flour. Weigh or lightly spoon 13.5 ounces flour (about 3 cups) into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl.

3. Place granulated sugar and next 7 ingredients (through eggs) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at low speed 2 minutes or until smooth. Add to flour mixture; beat until blended.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack, and remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Combine powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, stirring until smooth. Drizzle sugar mixture over cake. Garnish with rosemary sprig, if desired.

Glazed mini-cake

Champage Cocktail Experiments

January 27, 2011

Of course, trying out a variety of champagne cocktails is all in the name of science.  It wasn’t fun at all…wait….

The line up

Materials Used:

  • Dry sparkling wine- we used an inexpensive cava
  • Lemon sugar
  • St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
  • Pimm’s No. 1
  • Aperol
  • Orange liqueur
  • Bitters (we used Jerry Thomas, Angostura works too)
  • Rosemary simple syrup (1 cup water and 1 cup sugar simmered with 4 sprigs of rosemary for about 20+ minutes, then strained)
  • Orange simple syrup (juice and peel of 2 oranges, simmered for 20+ minutes with 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup water, then strained)

Making rosemary simple syrup


What would be the best combination for a New Year’s cocktail that would meet the following criteria:

  • Universally enjoyed
  • Drinkable over the course of an evening (ie not too strong or sweet that you can only have one)
  • Not too fussy to make over and over again
  • Plays well with a lemon sugar rim, because I already made the lemon sugar, liked it, and wanted to use it for New Year’s.


The ideal combination would be 1 liqueur, 1 simple syrup flavor, topped off with champagne.   Something that had a balance of herbal, sweet, and bitter would be ideal.  My pre-taste testing guess was rosemary simple syrup, orange liqueur and a few dashes of bitters.

Taking notes!


Trial 1: This recipe came from the NY Times, and was sort of a starting off point.  It contained 3/4 ounce each of Aperol, St-Germain,  lemon juice (although the recipe called for lime juice, we didn’t have any on hand), and rosemary-infused simple syrup.  This was mixed together and then topped with 2 ounces dry sparkling wine.

Notes: This drink was delicious, with all of the ingredients working in harmony.  The herbal flavors of the rosemary played well with the bright aperol and the lemon juice.  This wasn’t as light as most sparkling wine cocktails, which lead up to using 3 oz. of cava in all of our drinks rather than the 2 ounces listed here.

The only drawback was that this drink required many ingredients, including 2 different liqueurs.  Bringing this to a party might be unwieldy as well as expensive.  So we forged ahead to find a combination that would be tasty and interesting, but simpler and easier to transport.

Trial 2: 1 oz. each of Aperol and  rosemary syrup, topped with 3 ounces of cava.

Notes: Too medicinal in taste.  There wasn’t enough bright flavor to counteract the herbal flavors.

The final syrup, a mix of orange, grapefruit and rosemary


The final result, ready for transport to a party!