Saturday, October 30, 2010

Food Obsessions: Sweet Leaf Tea

The other day I was walking through the culinary wasteland of Cleveland, Ohio, looking for lunch that was a cut above Arby’s, and I stumbled upon the Souper Market, a cute, independent place on the city’s West side that sells a wide variety of delicious, homemade soups.

Now, the rich and meaty Jambalaya I had was great, as was the hunk of crusty bread from the Stone Oven that was served alongside it. But the real revelation in this meal was my beverage: Sweet Leaf Tea.

I tried the Citrus Green Tea variety, which is easily the best tea—hot or iced—that I’ve ever come across. Richer and more real than in any iced tea I’ve ever had, its taste was tinged with orange and lime, and elevated by the flavor of pure cane sugar. The syrupy aftertaste that can be found in other sweetened iced teas was entirely absent. All this, and it comes in bottles and cans with a cute, cartoon grandma on the front.

So floored was I by this drink, that I popped back into the Souper Market and got two more cans for the road (my soup was spicy, so this was an extra help).

A few days later I was back on campus, and found myself more disappointed than ever with water, soda, and Gatorade. I was thinking constantly about the Sweet Leaf Citrus Green Tea. So I popped online, found their website, and ordered a case through the link to amazon. Soon my 512 ounces arrived, and since then my drinking habits have been forever changed. Until I find my next obsession, that is.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Reading Terminal Market's Harvest Festival

Philly's world-renowned Reading Terminal Market celebrated fall this past Saturday with their 10th Annual Harvest Festival. Filbert Street was closed to vehicle traffic and transformed into an urban farm complete with a hay ride around the block of the market and a local bluegrass group. Crowds of people of all ages roamed the sawdust-sprinkled street, checking out the sights, taking in the smells, and enjoying the overall atmosphere.

Although it only spanned one block, the festival offered a variety of products and activities. Local artists sold an assortment of unique crafts, from handmade yarn hats to bead and stone jewelry. Frozen vegetable company Green Giant set up a large tent in the middle of the street, interviewing passersby about company products and handing out reusable tote bags. Large crates cradled apples for munching and pumpkins for picking, the latter of which could be decorated with stickers and markers at nearby tables.

The festivities continued inside the market. A table in the center of the market held an enormous pumpkin for visitors to guess the weight of in a contest to win a $100 Reading Terminal Market gift certificate. More vendors lined the market's aisles, selling everything from cheese to organic vegetables.

The food fare, as expected, was delicious. Vendors owning stalls inside the market set up booths outside to sell their wares. From tempting caramel apples...

... to succulent, fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs... warm freshly made donuts (the apple cider donut was particularly delicious), there was something to satisfy anyone's taste.

Of course, it wouldn't be fall without autumnal treats, like hot apple dumplings and pumpkin pancakes.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's Like Something Out of a Dashiell Hammet Novel

Like a Hammet novel in so far as the answer can only be found once everyone has been gathered at a dinner party. Answer? I haven't asked a question yet. That's the easy part, Can I but together a dinner for 8, have it be ready on time, and make it great tasting?

Last week I decided that I wanted to have some friends over for dinner, and at the same time challenge their palates and my culinary skills. I really like oxtails when I have tried it and I've always wanted to take a crack at making it myself. I found a pretty good recipe and I dove in, planning out the timeline to have a dinner for eight ready by 8 pm Friday night. I made the mistake of telling one person what I was making and she got a little scared, so I kept the menu to myself. So I came up with a game plan: make sure no one could resist, just based on the main ingredient. Good game plan, no?

The Shopping List
8 lbs oxtails - Reading Terminal Market
4 lbs potatoes
2 bottles of red wine- Liquor Store
Large roasting pans
Beef broth
Balsamic vinegar

Primary shopping on Thursday night, and minor prep by premaking the mashed potatoes. Oxtails and wine could not be bought at the local Fresh Grocer and would be bought on Friday.

7:30 pm
Food Shopping

8:00 pm (24 hours till game time)
Peel, slice, and cook potatoes for mashed potatoes

Everything goes as planned, I'm feeling pretty good about getting dinner for 8 together.

10:00 am
Go to class then run downtown to Reading Terminal Market to pick up 8 lbs of oxtails and the liquor store to buy 2 bottles of red wine (a volunteer offered to bring wine to drink).

Reading Terminal Market is surprisingly busy at 2 on a Friday afternoon and I had to wait in a fairly long line to pick up my oxtails. But hey! did you know there is a wine purveyor in Reading Terminal Market? I get to cross Liquor Store off my shopping list. Sweet! Because by then I was running out of time. The oxtails needed about 3.5 hours total cooking time. I need to get the oxtails in the oven by 4:30, so I have have them braising by 5:15, and maybe have some time to finish the sauce before everyone is too hungry.

I don't quite manage this. Following the recipe I set in cutting off the fat from the individual joints of meat. Discarding all the excess fat from the oxtails takes longer than I anticipated. It's a slightly tough cut of meat, and I ended up cutting some corners, as it were, and leaving more of the fat on than I should have, for flavor I told myself.

They finally make it in the oven for the initial cooking time at 4:45. I took a break, opened up the bottles of wine and didn't drink too much of it.

5:25 pm
Back in action pouring in the braising liquid and herbs, back in the oven at 5:30, only running 15 minutes late.

6:00 pm
I take the mashed potatoes out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature before reheating them

7:30 pm
I start getting anxious that the oxtails are not quite fall-off-the-bone-tender yet. I need at least 20 minutes to reduce the cooking liquid to make the sauce. I put the mashed potatoes on the stove and slowly reheat them, at the same time, trying to move my desk into the kitchen to serve as a table extension because my tiny dining table will not fit 8 around. While my back is turned the potatoes start to brown at little - my first real misstep.

7:50 pm
I cut my losses and take the oxtails out of the oven and start reducing the sauce. Sadly my sauce never makes it on the table; it takes much too long to reduce sufficiently and everyone votes to start eating before I can finish it. The oxtails were still delicious, if a little tough to eat, with some fat still encasing them. My second real misstep, even though technically I left the fat on before the first misstep, this is where the less-than-desirable result shows up.

Everyone resorts to using their hands to eat the oxtails and - horror of horrors - someone asked for the salt and pepper for the mashed potatoes.

The answer to the question raised initially: I can, for the most part, put together dinner for 8 people. Things to work on for next time include doing all of my prep the night before, considering how difficult it might be to eat what I have on the menu, and budgeting more time than I think I need.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Fast Fix for Fall

2 Gorgeous Green Granny smiths
Peel, core, slice and fry in a pan with
¼ stick Bubbling Butter, until Browned
Then throw in
1 tablespoon Dark, Delicious Demerera sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon, and Cook till Caramelized
remove from pan and serve with
1 stack Fluffy French toast
and top with
1 Sprinkling Slivered almonds
and drizzle with
1 tablespoon of Honey for some extra Happy
then Eat!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Butterbeer Cupcakes

I love Harry Potter. In third grade, I read the first three books in quick succession, spending entire days just with Harry and friends. Thus began my relationship with the magical world of J.K. Rowling. I was disappointed when my eleventh birthday rolled around and there were no owls or Hogwarts missives to speak of. Outwardly I denied that I’d believed it could be possible, but in truth, I’d been pretty sure I was a wizard. So when I came across this recipe for Butterbeer cupcakes on the cooking blog amybites, I knew I had to make them. The recipe is based on the Butterbeer drink they’re now serving at the new Orlando Harry Potter theme park, and includes cream soda, butter flavoring, and oodles of butterscotch. Even if you’ve never even seen a Harry Potter movie (let alone dressed up as Ginny Weasley, as I did for the release of the seventh book), you will enjoy these cupcakes. They are delicious!
Butterbeer Cupcakes

For the batter
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup cream soda

For the icing
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup butterscotch syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
1 16 oz package powdered sugar
Extra butterscotch syrup and butterscotch morsels for decoration!

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine your flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream your butter until light and fluffy. Add your sugars and beat until well-combined. Beat in your eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then beat in your vanilla and butter flavoring. Alternate adding your buttermilk, cream soda, and dry ingredients. Fill each cupcake 3/4 full, then bake for 20 minutes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

For the icing, cream butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add in butterscotch syrup, vanilla, butter flavoring, and mix until well combined. Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until reaching desired consistency.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Feature-a-Blog: Celiac Teen

When Canadian high school senior Lauren McMillan was diagnosed with celiac disease at 14, an unexpected feeling overwhelmed her: gratitude.

Having gone through weeks and months of discomfort and uncertainty, Lauren welcomed the diagnosis because it gave her a sense of empowerment. She now knew what was wrong, and could do everything in her power to counteract it - which she has done successfully ever since.

Lauren's blog, Celiac Teen, describes her fascinating experiments with gluten-free food. Her posts, bursting with liveliness and optimism, explore the various ways of substituting other grains for tricky wheat.

Determined not to let celiac deprive her of yummy childhood favorites, Lauren has come up with her own gluten-free adaptations for any traditionally wheat-based food you might imagine: pancakes, muffins, shortbread, ladyfingers, focaccia, cranberry loaf, tiramisu, pita...and the list grows larger every week. She frequently takes part in Daring Bakers challenges, too, going the extra mile to devise a gluten-free version of each recipe that features wheat.

A daring young lady herself, Lauren boldly bakes in the face of celiac disease. She manages to completely overturn its implications - a lifetime of deprivation becomes an opportunity to explore, invent and - most importantly - to play with her food. And she dares all of her readers to do the same.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cheap Eats: Ode to a Burrito

Food Emergency! What do you do when you have a sudden craving for food, but know it has to be fast, cheap, and delicious? The obvious answer: a burrito!

Unfortunately, although tempting, Chipotle is a little bit more money than you would want to spend on a college budget and Qdoba is just, well, gross. But what would you say if I said that you could get a burrito that is better than Chipotle, and half the price, right here on campus?

Go down to Lucky’s Mexican Spot, a food truck located on Spruce, right across the street from the Quad. It's convenient whenever you've got a class nearby, and always convenient for those who live in the Quad.

Lucky's serves burritos with all kinds of different ingredients inside, from sweet potatoes, to tofu, to steak. Each one comes wrapped tight with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, rice, beans and other delicious ingredients. Our favorite aspect of Lucky's burrito is its lightly toasted tortilla, giving it a slight crunch as you bite into burrito perfection. All in all, it's a great, cheap option that's right in our backyard.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Favorite 5 am Food

Last week at 5 am in the tail end of an all night study session, I was struck by a feeling. “What was this feeling?” you might ask. Well, this feeling was hunger. Not really breakfast and certainly not dinner time I faced a dilemma. What could I eat? Of course I had the college standby, ramen noodles, but I had just eaten those for dinner. Or I had pudding cups and granola bars, but those didn’t really seem substantial enough for the hunger I was experiencing. Then it hit me. I needed a Hot Pocket.

At 5 am there is nothing better than a cheesy, gooey, delicious Hot Pocket. They’re also perfect for snacking on the go, quick breakfasts when you only have ten minutes to get to class. So that’s where I found myself that 5 am morning, in my room studying like crazy, and needing my Hot Pocket fix. Luckily in my infinite wisdom, I had bought a box of Hot Pockets two days earlier at Fresh Grocer, knowing I would want a Hot Pocket sometime soon.

I was worried that I would wake my roommates with the sound of the microwave, but at this point I was on a mission -- I needed to get that Hot Pocket. So I opened the door to my room which was squeaky as usual, went to the freezer, and got out my frozen Hot Pocket. The microwave seemed louder than ever and I was sure that the ding that lets you know your food is ready would wake up my roommates and anger them. (It was 5 am, after all, so I was a bit delirious). My mission was complete and I sat in front of my computer once again, my hunger satisfied, so I could try to finish all of my homework.

Well, it’s 4 am now as I am writing this post. I find myself hungry as I always am at this point late in the night. Sadly, this time, I am out of Hot Pockets. So instead I will go to ramen noodles, though I hardly find that to be an adequate substitute for my first true love, the Hot Pocket.

Tim and Jordan's Best of . . . Indian Food

This week in Tim and Jordan's Best Of: it's a delicious, flavorful, spicy cuisine that's ubiquitous on campus. It's Indian food, oft-enjoyed by undergrads discovering Penn's ever-varying tapestry of ethnic offerings. Our campus has its fair share of basic staple smorgasbords, but don't settle: skip Sitar, nix New Delhi, and venture a bit off the beaten track if you're looking for the best. Today we'll take a look at some of the more Indi-pendent joints around campus that are the cream of the Calcutta crop.


Founded by a Wharton MBA graduate, Tiffin is primarily a delivery service. After all, a tiffin is a lunchbox in India, into which wives (or servants) diligently package freshly-prepared food to be delivered midday to their working spouses (or clients). Appropriately, Tiffin is just that–freshly prepared, delivered, home-cooked Punjabi-style cooking. Tiffin's major selling point is its sincere authenticity. It's not overspiced, or swimming in cream and oil like in much of the buffets' standard fare. Rather, each bite is delicately spiced and exudes lightness. One lunch or dinner tiffin will run you $7.50 to $8.50 and includes two vegetable dishes, a generous smattering of dal (lentils), a heap of rice, and a serving of accompanying chutney. Compared to the 12 or 13 dollars you'd have to shell out at one of those buffets, Tiffin is an amazing deal. Tiffin's cuisine suits all, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, and we were amazed by their expansive but concentrated menu.

Our tiffin featured gobi manchurian, a delicious marriage of sautéed cauliflower and a zingy tomato sauce; aloo mutter (a simmered curry of potatoes and peas); and dal tadka, delicately cooked yellow lentils with a hint of cumin. Needless to say, each dish left us extremely impressed.

For the more adventurous, be sure to try their Indian pizza, which has become a very common dish in India. It consists of a bang-on combo of a western crust layered with paneer, curry sauce and various spiced toppings, combining the best of cream and spice into a familiar form factor. In this case, better ingredients really does mean better pizza–a veritable Papa Jain's, if you will.

Bottom line, Tiffin offers some of the best indian food you can get in Philly, in our opinion. And it's convenient to boot! They also boast a collection of physical restaurants, which we're itching to try. And who says Wharton graduates don't go on to do great things?

Desi Village

Situated west down Baltimore Avenue, Desi (pronounced DESS-ee) Village is a hidden gem in an already overlooked but foodie-approved section of West Philadelphia. Even from the outside, there is a welcome and warmth to its ambience, not unlike the food itself. Abandon the all-you-can-eat approach and tailor your meal for your cravings: Desi Village's menu covers it all, from ajwain to zindagi.

The reviewers' typical meal starts off with a platter of pakoras, served with a plop of mouth-watering pudina chutney. Our curries arrive–malai kofta, paneer tikka masala, and saag paneer, say–not to discount the side of raw onion and garlic naan. We suggest going the family-style route: the more the merrier. Everything can be spiced just to your liking, so no capsaicin complaints there. The curries are clean, fresh, and flavourful. The malai kofta, those classic balls of vegetables and cheese, bathe in a savory tomato curry sauce, but aren't drenched. Sop up the spinachy saag with your garlic naan, or taste some tikka, whatever you like. Both are scrumptious and smooth, flavored to the last detail.

Or try some other nuggets: their chicken tikka is some of the best there is (or so we've heard, the authors are vegetarian), or have a go at more lamb vindaloo than you can shake a stick at. Top off your meal with a glistening gulab jamun, and you'll see why this place is second to naan.

Desi Chaat House

Looking for something different? Desi Village owner Hassan just can't seem to quit. He's added yet another treasure to the toolbox. Desi Chaat House, a stone's throw away on 43rd on Balitmore, offers something completely unique to Philadelphia: authentic Indian street food, also known as chaat (pronounced like "chart"). Bits of bhel peppered with papris are placed in a pool of tangy yoghurt and sweet 'n' spicy tamarind chutney. Cold and salad-like, these are surprisingly satiating as a quick bite or dinner on the go.

For beginners, don't be fazed by their confounding conglomerate of choices. And don't let the sulfurous odor dissuade you: it's the natural brimstone-containing black salt pervasive in these parts. If you're planning a trip, we'll help you out with your order. The papri chaat, samosa chaat, and bhel puri are all safe bets, each with their own spin on this crispety, crunchety treat. Be sure not to miss out on their student deal (but which doesn't include authentic Indian sodas like Thumbs Up! and Limca). If you're itchy for a litchi, they've got that, too. Unlike Taglio and Già Pronto, this dynamic duo really packs a your tastebuds, not to your wallet.

So there you have it: our take on the best of Bharat. The next time you have a craving for curry, transcend Tandoor and try out one of these Hindustani havens that are sure to keep you cumin back for more.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Food Week at Penn

October 18 - 22
RSVP to events at

Tuesday: "Food and You: Health and Nutrition"
Sponsored by School of Nursing
Terrace Room, Claudia Cohen Hall
RSVP at:

A question and answer seminar with luncheon featuring Dr. Stella Volpe, Registered Dietitian. Get YOUR questions answered about food and healthy eating.

Wednesday: "Farmville Forum: Where Your Food Comes From"
Sponsored by BonAppetit
1920 Commons, Lower Level
RSVP at:

Beef, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Come find out where it all comes from. A panel of local farmers who supply food on Penn's campus will talk about how and why they farm and the values they bring to campus.

Thursday (Afternoon): "Feed Philadelphia"
Sponsored by More than Pennies
Kings Court2nd floor
Build bags 12:00-2:00pm; Lunch Included
RSVP at:

Come join More than Pennies and Food Week to help feed some of Philadelphia's less fortunate. We will be putting together bagged lunches and delivering them to shelters across center city.

Thursday (Evening): “'How to Get Fat Without Really Trying'—Secrets of Obesity Revealed"
Sponsored by Moral Voices
1920 Commons
RSVP at:

Please join Moral Voices for their kick-off event of the year, a film screening of Peter Jennings reporting followed by a discussion, beginning a year-long exploration of the moral issues revolving around hunger and obesity. We look forward to a thought-provoking session, which is sure to leave you questioning.

Friday: "Fall Festival at the Penn Garden”
Sponsored by Penn Garden
Penn Garden (West side of Rodin College House, 3900 block of Locust Walk)
RSVP at:

Stop by throughout the afternoon for a local lunch, apples and hot apple cider. Help us paint a permanent sign for the garden, plant garlic and learn more about urban agriculture!
** Rain Location Rodin Underground

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Icebox Cake

For housewives of the 1950s, the icebox cake (and its cousin, the icebox wafer roll) was a treasured standby. The ingredients and the recipe could not be simpler, but the final product—despite the lack of effort involved—can be stunning. This cake wows. It tastes like a slice of Oreos: Oreos that are creamy, fluffy and light. If cookies n’ cream are not to your liking, variations on the theme abound. Strawberry-graham cracker, mint-chocolate, lemon, pineapple or orange—each one promises an easy route to a delicious treat. Every time I make an icebox cake, it’s a given that it will be gone in minutes. People are always curious about the recipe, and they often assume that they’ve just eaten a painstakingly constructed dessert, one labored over for hours. It’s great for birthday parties and bake-sales, for any occasion when cake is called for but you don’t have the time to bake. More than that though, it is fun to make, the process being something akin to building a brick-and-mortar sculpture out of wafers and cream. The chocolate icebox cake is my favorite, but because the recipe is so straightforward, substitute vanilla wafers, chocolate cream, or fruit for one of the layers to indulge your culinary creativity.

Chocolate Icebox Cake

3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 (9-oz) packages chocolate wafer cookies (Nabisco’s Famous)
Fruit or candy for decoration

First make sure you have the right kind of cookies or graham crackers. They need to be thin enough to soften completely, so that you can cut into the cake after it has cooled in the fridge. In a large bowl, combine cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Next, arrange seven cookies on a plate, with one in the center and six around it, like petals on a flower. Spoon the cream mixture onto the cookies and spread. Place the next layer of cookies on the cream, and repeat until there are eleven layers. You can also make the icebox cake in a rectangular shape or in a roll. Alternating Nilla wafers with chocolate cookies makes for an interesting twist on the look and flavor. Use the remaining cream to ice the outside of the cake and decorate as you wish. Refrigerate the cake for at least four hours (or overnight), and enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Season's Last Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll

Although the leaves are changing color and there is an evident chill in the air, summer returned for one last hurrah via last Thursday’s Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll. The event was brought back by popular demand following the monthly strolls over the summer. Various stores and restaurants along Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia opened their doors offering one-night-only bargains on everything from ice cream to pet accessories to yoga classes.

The best part? Each item only cost $1.00!

Despite the pouring rain, I donned my coat, stuffed my pocket with dollar bills, and grabbed my umbrella — I was ready to brave nature in search of cheap and tasty eats! I had a list of participating establishments, but easily identified them by the bundles of bright orange balloons next to their doorsteps, and by the lines of customers stretching onto the sidewalk outside each one. As I hopped from one place to the next, West Philly natives and visitors from six to sixty hunted down deals along with me. My taste buds and I went on a culinary global adventure that evening. The stroll introduced me to an eclectic neighborhood with fantastic food options. When I tire of dining hall food and want a change of pace, I know there are plenty of great places to visit on Baltimore Avenue.

Samosa from Desi Village

Mango lassi from Desi Village

Injera finger foods (in mild and spicy varieties) from Dahlak

Tofu and BBQ chicken skewers from Vientiane Café

Roast turkey sandwich with cranberry mayo, spinach, and cornbread stuffing from Green Line Cafe

Bassett’s Guatemalan Swirl ice cream from Milk & Honey Market

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rice-ier than Rice - The Ultimate Comfort Food

With the weather as cold, wet and generally miserable as it has been in Philadelphia these past few days, I’ve found myself missing the warm, tropical climate of home. It’s been a week now since I very grudgingly put my flip-flops and shorts away, the sky’s been dark and grey, we’ve all been pelted by rain on the way to class, and they haven’t turned the heating on in my apartment building. Some comfort is in order.

“Comfort food” may be a loosely defined, subjective term (I’m told some people consider pizza comfort food) but, as far as I’m concerned, nothing could be more therapeutic than a bowl of Teochew rice porridge. Teochew Muei, as it’s called, comes from the Chaoshan region and is a variant of Chinese rice porridge that is less well known than its more ubiquitous cousin, Cantonese congee. Served in Chinese restaurants across America, Cantonese congee or Chuk is usually cooked along with other ingredients like sliced pork and century egg. The porridge is boiled for hours until the grains disintegrate, and has a texture that resembles a thick soup. By contrast, Teochew Muei is cooked for a shorter period of time, in order to maintain the integrity of the rice grains. A good Teochew muei is one in which there are soft individual grains of rice and a starchy broth. While Teochew muei is often described as bland on its own, I think it far more accurate to say that the porridge actually has a rather intense flavor – that of rice. Anybody who, like me, is a hopeless rice fiend will appreciate the way that this method of cooking results in a staple that is, in fact, rice-ier than rice itself. This makes the porridge the perfect canvas with which to pair the strong flavors of a variety of Chinese dishes. A typical Teochew Muei stall in Singapore will offer over twenty different options, including stewed pork, assorted pickles, vegetables, egg-dishes and fish.

Of course, having neither the ingredients, nor the skill, nor the energy to cook up twenty dishes, I had my Teochew Muei with just three. I made myself a salted-turnip omelette with pork floss, fried Chinese cabbage with garlic, and got some pickled spicy bamboo shoots out of a jar (which, along with a whole selection of other pickles, can be found at any Asian supermarket in Chinatown). I have included a recipe for the porridge here, and highly recommend it not only as a satisfying meal but also as an uplifting antidote to this dreary weather.

Teochew Muei

3/4 cup rice
1.1 liters water

Pour the rice and water into a pot and bring to a boil. Continue boiling on high heat, maintaining a noisy, rolling boil and stirring occasionally to prevent rice grains from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The porridge is ready after about 15-20 minutes when the rice grains are soft, but not mushy, and the broth is slightly thickened. Serve immediately with your favorite dishes.

Feature-A-Blog: Whisk Kid

To the average observer, 19-year-old Kaitlin Flannery probably looks like a regular college sophomore. Yet this impression would vanish as quickly as a lone cookie in a jar upon visiting her blog, Whisk Kid. Now a marketing student at Michigan State University, Kaitlin began baking when she was 15, after seeing Billy from Billy’s Bakery make cupcakes on The Martha Stewart Show.

Since then, she has concocted countless treats from tarts to ice cream, sharing her recipes in blog posts accompanied by stunning pictures she takes with her Canon Rebel XTI. Her impressive repertoire includes dandelion jam macarons, noyaux (cherry pit) ice cream and a six-layer rainbow cake she got to prepare – déjà vu alert – on The Martha Stewart Show! (click here to watch the video).

Kaitlin complements the tempting treats with beautifully written short stories about her friends, everyday life, or childhood memories. If this doesn’t sound enticing enough for you, consider that the mere sound of a backpack zipper can prompt her to develop an intelligent, compelling observation of general social trends in a classroom. Almost all of her posts bear a suggestive single-word heading literally whisking you into a story crafted as carefully as her camera creations.

“My aim is to inspire,” she says in her profile. That's easier said than done, but she's able to do both.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pumpple Cake

When does a cake get buzz? Real buzz, people (on the internet, at least). Folks are seriously talking about this cake.

The answer is when it is not just a cake, but a cake with pie baked into it. With the amount of buzz-worthy things you can do to the outside of a cake (Cake Wrecks anyone?) you generally don't hear about anything terribly exciting going on on the inside of a cake.

But here is something innovative. Dubbed the Turducken of cakes, this Pumpple cake is one layer of chocolate cake with pumpkin pie and one layer of vanilla with apple pie baked into it with a healthy layer of butter cream in the middle. The Pumpple is a truly beautiful cake, the sharp contrast between the chocolate cake and pumpkin pie is especially cool looking.

The Pumpple is not just a pretty cake, it is delicious too. The chocolate cake is moist and rich and the vanilla cake is almost pound cake-esque. The pies hold up well to being baked into a cake. The crust of the apple pie is still flaky and the pumpkin pie is still a little firm, not soggy. The coup de grace of the cake is when you get pie crust and cake in the same bite. The taste of pie crust and cake is not something I ever imagined tasting, but it is really great and makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

My hat off to the Flying Monkey Bakery in Reading Terminal for coming up with this cake. At $8 a slice ($4 for the cake, $4 for the hype), Pumpple is an expensive novelty, but totally worth it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tea Eggs

When I was little, Kinder Eggs were a rare treat. The delicate chocolate eggshell was almost beside the point. My siblings and I quickly tore away the foil wrappers, and the chocolate crumbled easily beneath our eager fingers. Inside each Kinder Egg was a colorful plastic shell filled with the pieces of a toy to be assembled.

I haven’t had a Kinder Egg in ages, but a couple of years ago I discovered a grown-up substitute. On my trip to China in 11th grade, I saw big pots of cracked eggs simmering in brown-black water, but after several food poisoning incidents, I was not inclined to try one.

Several months later, though, back in New York City, I rediscovered tea-eggs on a shopping excursion to Williamsburg. After a tour of the local consignment stores, my family stopped for bubble tea at Saint’s Alp Teahouse. When our order of tea-eggs arrived, I immediately recognized the browned crackled shells. We peeled the eggs to reveal a surprise as good as a Kinder toy: a beautiful spider-web pattern on the surface of the eggs.

The flavor of a tea-egg is as delicate as the spider-web: soy sauce-salty with a hint of cinnamon and anise. They’re incredibly easy to make, but they did leave my entire apartment smelling like soy sauce and licorice. You can find star anise at Asian supermarkets, but (for New Yorkers) I found some at Fairway, and Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are probably worth a try.

Tea Eggs (cha ye dan):

6 eggs

5 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoon black tea leaves or 2 tea bags

3 piece star anise

1 small stick cinnamon or cassia bark

1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns (optional)

1. Place unshelled eggs in saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 minutes.
2. Remove the eggs. With a knife, tap each egg to slightly crack the shells in two or three places. Return to saucepan.

3. Add other ingredients and stir. Cover and simmer for 3 hours, adding water as necessary. Drain, serve hot or cold.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cheap Eats: Cupcakes

Do you ever crave the mouth-watering sensation of biting into a sweet, rich cupcake but hesitate upon seeing the price? At most popular cupcake places today, the average price of a cupcake can be up to $5.00. As college students, however, we’re already running low on money and cannot afford the luxury of a $5.00 cupcake without feeling guilty. As your source of cheap food finds in Philly, we have found the solution to this serious dilemma.

Brown Betty Petite Bakery is a spin-off of Brown Betty Dessert Boutique that specializes in cupcakes. At $3.00 a cupcake, you can choose from a wide variety of unique flavors such as Hattie Don’t Play, Aunt Eva Says, Alice’s Two Step, and Jean’s Road Trip. Our personal favorites were: Sing Little Alice, a swirl of both chocolate and vanilla cake and icing; Company’s Comin’, made of coconut pound cake with coconut frosting; and Strawberry Letter which uses real strawberry preserves in a strawberry pound cake with strawberry frosting. One thing that we felt made the cupcakes from Brown Betty Petite Bakery particularly delightful was the use of pound cake. This created a denser cupcake and enhanced the flavor and moisture of the cake.

In conclusion, delicious pound cake + creamy icing for the small price of $3.00 = cupcake heaven.

Brown Betty Petite Bakery has two locations: 1625 Market Street and 269 S. 20th Street. Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, which sells all types of treats in addition to cupcakes, is located at 1030 N. 2nd Street.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Night Market Philadelphia

Night Market in Philadelphia has been postponed from last week to this week, just in time to kick off Fall Break! You'll be able to find some good food and live music at the corner of E. Passyunk and Tasker St. tonight from 6-10 pm.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Eating is sexy

I think everyone should watch Nigella Lawson. Yes, I understand that to some, she is hardly what they would fully recognize as the latter part of the term ‘celebrity chef’ but that is beside the point. In a world where Gordon Ramsey, Antony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver, Gina de Laurentiis and the like have all broadcasted their culinary geniuses for millions of viewers, few have truly introduced audiences to the true pleasure of consuming and appreciating what they are creating. Yes, there is anticipation for others’ opinions and of course we must admire the benefits of organic and fresh produce but where can one actually see the chef savouring every mouthful of food that they cook.

When I first watched her, she astounded me by the number of adjectives she pulled out in the process of mixing salad. Every ingredient was described as a gem of sorts and everything was so ridiculously indulgent it just made you fall in love with food. I understand critics and women around the globe have this issue with her being too pornographic, so to speak, when presenting her food and her show but honestly who doesn’t want to experience such incandescent pleasure when cooking and just enjoying the process of creating something so bloody delectable?

Also, please admit that whenever you visit you are overcome with the amazing feasts that appear on that page. But what really, really truly converted me to the Nigella fanclub, despite the occasional riff raff cooking methods she employs, is just the way she savours her food. It’s not gluttonous by any means but it’s enjoyable. She is delighted by every bite she takes and just hungry. This about it, don’t you want to just adore food? It’s the best relationship to have. I love it. Watch her. I promise you’ll love it too. No jokes. And with that, I’m going to go make myself a blackberry crisp. Till next time, ciao for now!

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Something Sweet...

Banana Cupcake with Honey Cinnamon Frosting

Linzer Cookie with Raspberry Preserves

Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cookies in Class

Have you ever been sitting in class, wondering what your professor is like in their everyday life? Have you ever wondered what they like to eat and what their cooking skills are? I have been lucky to take some courses where teachers would bring delicious food on the last day of class and have a relaxed discussion with us. One of those professors is Margreta de Grazia, who teaches in the Department of English.

Professor de Grazia specializes in Renaissance Literature and particularly Shakespeare, so she is probably the best instructor you could get on Renaissance poetry – the class I took with her in my sophomore year. She has written award-winning books of criticism and won several fellowships and prizes for distinguished teaching. I can see why – she genuinely cared about our performance, so every class she would assign one homework question to each of us. In this way, everyone had a chance to participate. I do not usually come up with brilliant interpretations on the spot, so having extra time to think made me much more active and engaged with the class.

On our last day before break, Prof. de Grazia brought us a basket of beautiful clementines and a tray of small brown homemade cookies. As I bit into one of those, the crumbly, walnutty goodness of the cookie swept me off my foodie feet. I instantly knew I had to have the recipe. So in the interim between the last day of class and the final exam I wrote a couple of emails to my professor almost imploring her in Renaissance verse to end my suffering and reveal the delicious cookie recipe. And she did! It turned out that it belongs to one of her grad students, still known to me only by the name of “Cathy from the cookie recipe”. I have decided that I should try to find Cathy and thank her for bringing these amazing cookies into my life.

And here is the recipe! When you bake the cookies, make sure you take them out of the oven as soon as their edges begin to turn light brown, or even earlier than that (if you have made them regular cookie size). Otherwise they get too crumbly and fall apart when you try to pick them up. Luckily, I figured this out from the very first batch. So later, when my professor wrote a study abroad recommendation for me, I was able to give her a delicious thank-you present!

Cathy’s Cookies (courtesy of professor Margreta de Grazia)

Sift together 2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix the dry ingredients with 1 cup of creamed butter, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and 2 1/2 cups of ground walnuts.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
While the cookies are still quite warm (but not so hot they burn you or fall apart when you try to pick them up – I usually let them cool a couple of minutes), roll them in very fine sugar. Very fine sugar is sold either in the baking aisle or with cocktail/drink supplies, but you can also make it yourself by pulverizing regular sugar in the food processor or blender for a minute or two.
So far, I have only used powdered sugar and it has worked perfectly. Since it tends to get soggy when you roll warm cookies in it, I wait until they are completely cool.


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