This is a sponsored post brought to you by the upcoming Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return 3D animated film.
I remember reading about China Country for the first time in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book and I was utterly charmed by the description of a land and people entirely made of porcelain. Rereading it just now I find that a startled china cow has it’s leg broken off! Happily the cow could be mended but, still, eeek. In the book Dorothy and her companions pass through the land of China Country and then there isn’t any more mention, but for some reason I’ve always remembered it. Happily we will see a lot more of China Country (called China County in the film) and the China Princess in the upcoming Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return film, which opens this weekend. (Quick note: sound plays when you load that website. It’s lovely music but, just in case, I wanted you to know.)
To celebrate the film I decided to make tea cakes themed around places in Oz including China County and Candy County. The icing I used here doesn’t require any heat or electric mixers to make, it’s stirred together by hand, so young children can be responsible for icing and decorating these cakes.
I wanted to keep things fairly simple and shopped for candies that could represent the various places in Oz. I found rainbow sour ribbon candy, green rock candy for the Emerald City, orange nonpareils for the field of poppies, yellow cake sprinkles for the Yellow Brick Road, chocolate cones and mushrooms that would work as forest trees, sugar roses and gold dragees for China County and gingersnaps and peppermint candies to represent Candy County.
I wanted to create small cakes but instead of buying a baking pan specifically for them (they are out there if you’d like) I used jumbo sized cupcake pans and put a smaller amount of batter in each cup making for small and charmingly domed cakes. Since my cakes are little landscapes I used chocolate cake to represent earth but any flavor of cake, or even a brownie, would work out great here. This is a good time for your favorite one-bowl chocolate cake recipe.
Spray a jumbo muffin tin with a baking spray such as Baker’s Joy. Put 3 tablespoons of cake batter in each section and bake at 300 degrees until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool, remove from the tin and place on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
The icing is simply confectioners sugar and milk mixed together by hand. I made white icing for the porcelain of China Country and the snow of Candy Country, and the rest of the icing is colored green to represent grass. I used clear vanilla flavoring so the white icing would stay as white as could be. The great things about this icing are that it’s as simple to make and it sets up into a beautiful shiny finish, like porcelain. The downside is that it doesn’t keep overnight very well so it’s best to make these the same day. (Or keep in a sealed container in the fridge overnight.)
The trick for the icing is to make sure it’s as thick as can be while still being a little bit flowy. Add the ingredients listed below and if it’s thick like a paste add 1/4th of a teaspoon of milk at a time until the icing feels thick when you stir it but it relaxes and becomes shiny about 10 seconds after you stop stirring. 1/4th of a teaspoon seems like a tiny little amount but you’ll be surprised at how quickly that amount will change the texture of the icing.
- 9 ounces confectioners sugar (or two cups of of confectioners sugar that you’ve fluffed up by running a whisk through it before scooping)
- 2 tablespoons milk (plus more)
- 1 teaspoon clear vanilla flavoring
- green food coloring
Mix the ingredients above together in a bowl. If the icing is thick like a paste or not all the sugar will dissolve in the milk add 1/4th of a teaspoon of milk at a time just until the mixture is still matte when you stir but relaxes and becomes shiny a few seconds after you stop mixing. Either separate it and make 1/2 of the mixture green or make a second batch. One batch will cover twelve cakes.
Drop a heaping soup spoon of icing on top of each cake.
Be a little patient and let it settle and spread. Now quick! Before the top dries it’s time to decorate!
A little bit of sour rainbow ribbon candy works for our rainbow. I used a butter knife to poke into the cake and hold the rainbow in place
Simple sugar roses and gold dragées echo China County.
Green rock candy represents our Emerald City and tiny orange nonpareils for our field of poppies.
Candy County is full of gingerbread house delights, here I used half of a ginger snap and some peppermint candy.
Small chocolate cookies from a Japanese import store work as trees in the forest. These are supposed to be cones and mushrooms but clustered together I think they look like a foreboding forest.
You might think I’m looking forward to this movie because of the actors behind the voices (Kelsey Grammer! Bernadette Peters! Oliver Platt! Hugh Dancy! Patrick Stewart! Lea Michele!) but I think I’m most excited to see what the animators have done with Candy County. It’s like a gingerbread house but instead it’s an entire land, be still my gingerbread loving heart!
Have a look at the movie trailer for more peeks at the new lands:
As a kid did you read the further stories of Dorothy or the land of Oz?
· comments  · 05-7-2014 · categories:food ·
· comments  · 05-1-2014 · categories:food · links ·
I’m sure you’ve seen the stories about artisinal toast in San Francisco and lately news has been talking about the toast trend hitting Seattle, but I remember fancy toast being here years ago. There was a cafe called Nervous Nellie’s (now closed) that offered coffee and interesting toast. There was cheese, and jam, and jam and cheese, and cheese and a red pepper relish. I tried the relish because I’d never heard of it and, quite shockingly honestly, I really liked it. A whole lot. It was savory and tangy and a nice change from the usual sweet breakfast offerings.
Nervous Nellies is closed now but I tracked down the ingredients to make the same style of toast. A bit of snooping around archived web pages and my old notes leave me believing that the ingredients I remember are Lappi cheese (a very mild cheese, havariti will work just as well), and Ajvar, a red pepper spread.
Add butter and a sprinkling of good salt to the toast, then slices of cheese and spread the Ajvar on top. The toppings are cold and creamy and a little spicy and tangy. I don’t think everybody will like Ajvar but I highly recommend giving it a try should you come across it.
Nervous Nellie’s listed their red pepper relish as “Lutenica” on the menu but after doing a tasting of a few relishes I’m convinced that they were using something closer to Ajvar. At an imports store I found both hot and mild Ajvar as well as Pepptizer and Lutenica. They all looked similar with the exception of a few different ingredients. Clearly there had to be a taste test.
Mild Ajvar: This is what I remember, it’s got a very mild heat. Mostly tangy and a little sweet, very fresh tasting. (Top left.)
Hot Ajvar: There is a extra zing of spiciness but no acid (no tomatoes). It’s a still a relatively gentle heat. (Top right.)
Lutenica: This one is more blended and looks more like a sauce than a relish. This is definitely not what I remember from the Nervous Nellie’s toast. It’s got more garlic and the taste of cooked tomatoes, and it doesn’t taste fresh. (Bottom left.)
Peppetizer: Too much onion and something tastes off, like stewed vegetables. Not what I’d want on toast. (Bottom right.)
If you’re in Seattle and interested in sources: I tracked down Ajvar at Big John’s Pacific Foods Imports in SODO and the Lappi cheese at Scandinavian Specialties in Ballard. This winter Trader Joe’s had a red pepper relish that I suspect is the Zergut brand with a TJs label and last time I was in the store they still had a number of jars available. (I had the opportunity to ask a TJs employee and he said it was almost certainly one of those seasonal items that they won’t be stocking again after the run is sold out.) Update: mims mentioned in the comments below that the red pepper spread carried by Trader Joe’s is actually a year round product, and sure enough it’s been there on the shelves every time I’ve checked for it. It’s stocked down near the floor and easy to overlook, look for it and give it a try!
· comments  · 04-9-2014 · categories:food ·
· comments  · 04-2-2014 · categories:food · links ·
I love brown rice but I’m too impatient to make it for dinner so I borrowed an idea from Trader Joe’s and cook it in advance and keep it in the freezer so it’s just a microwave away from being ready to eat. It’s also great to have around for a fast breakfast of an over easy egg on rice, which I default to a lot when I’m feeling lazy.
I’m terrible at cooking rice in a pot (burned rice, melted pots, other tragic results) so instead I bake it using instructions from Alton Brown and Good Eats and no pots have been ruined since.
To make: Put 1.5 cups brown rice and a teaspoon of salt in an 8×8 baking dish. Pour 2.5 cups boiling water over the top, stir and cover tightly with tin foil. Bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour. Allow to cool, divide into portions and freeze.
I do two or three batches at the same time and I’ve used larger baking dishes and even pie plates with good results, no need to have multiple 8×8 baking dishes hanging around. If you’re a rice texture snob this cooking method probably won’t make you happy, but hey, convenience.
· comments  · 03-24-2014 · categories:food · freezerpantry ·
I recently received a KitchenAid pasta roller attachment as a gift. I asked for just the single pasta roller, none of the other cutter attachments, because my kitchen is tiny and I’m happy enough to cut my own noodles into wide strips. And if it comes down to something as thin as linguine I’m far more likely to used a boxed pasta anyhow.
It is so much fun to make pasta but with all the flour being scattered about it’s worth making a whole lot of noodles at the same time. A little research tells me that freezing fresh pasta will preserve the flavor better than drying it and the best way to freeze it is in bundles or nests.
Technique: Toss your just-made pasta with extra flour so it won’t stick together. Let it dry for a few minutes then fold and twist into bundles. Freeze those on a parchment lined baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container. When you are ready to cook simply drop one bundle into boiling water, the noodles should separate from each other easily. Also, voilà, fresh homemade pasta appears before you like magic!
Before I did nests I decided that individual pasta strands rolled up, frozen and stacked together would be charming. And they were, but obviously they stuck together like mad in the boiling water. Oops.
· comments  · 03-4-2014 · categories:food · freezerpantry ·
Scott and I have schedules that mean during the workweek we only cook dinner together about two times a week. This makes it impractical to keep a lot of fresh food in our fridge (cleaning it out got depressing, so many unidentifiable items) so we tend to pick something up to cook earlier in the same day. To make it even easier I’ve been figuring out what half-prepared foods to keep in the freezer. For whatever reason if I made something complete (say lasagna) and freeze it we never seem to actually eat it, we prefer to make something we are craving so having components that will cut down on dirty dishes and chopping time have been making a big difference. It nearly makes me feel like I’m qualified to be an adult.
I’ve mentioned a few things I keep in the freezer before — kale, bacon layered so it’s easy to just grab a few slices, bolognese sauce — and the latest staple I’ve added is caramelized onions. I use the recipe from Tea and Cookies which mostly calls for “time, patience, and faith” which isn’t an exaggeration. The first time I caramelized onions I had to restrain myself from them off the stove too early. They need to be nice and dark:
Image by Tara Austen Weaver, Tea and Cookies.
Basic technique: two sliced onions in a 10-inch pan, 1/4 cup olive oil, medium high heat, stirring every five minutes and patience. It will take about 30 minutes. For a more detailed description go read the entry at Tea and Cookies and follow her tip about slicing bits a little thicker than others. I let these cool, put them in ziplock bags pressed flat and freeze them. Then I break off a tablespoon or so as I need it.
So far we’ve mostly been using them in egg dishes. For the omlette pictured above I used mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese left over from a salad with some of the caramelized onions to create a way more delicious breakfast than I usually have. Tara describes caramelized onions as the bacon of the vegetarian world, they are smoky and salty and add a hit of flavor whatever you add it to. And people, yum. Also, having them on hand will make you feel like a genius.
· comments  · 02-27-2014 · categories:food · freezerpantry ·
is this STILL the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, ever? At Shelterrific.
Orangette: A good person to know. A good steel cut oatmeal recipe, and she reports that it reheats well.
Check It Out: Ernest Hemingway’s Personal Burger Recipe | Man Made DIY.
How to: Make Edible Spoons – The Perfect Holiday Treat! | Man Made DIY.
Gin Gin Cocktail, at The Ginger People website. I’m a wee bit obsessed with their Ginger Juice and all the things it can do (ginger/lemon/bourbon toddy has been a regular this winter).
11 Healthy Kale Recipes – Health.com. I would eat every one of these, who wants to do the dishes for me? Via Swiss Miss.
Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To, and the follow up “Black Rust” and Cast Iron Seasoning. This is fantastic, the how and why and what for seasoning cast iron. Via Kottke.
Valentine’s Day Treat: Cupid’s Creme Brulee // Hostess with the Mostess®. She makes caramelized hearts inside a silicone mold, what a great use for it.
Perfect Soft Boiled Egg | Eat the Love. My only regret from getting to visit America’s Test Kitchen is not forcing them to answer their best technique for soft boiled eggs. Mine is still the Egg-Perfect Timer.
Tom’s Supermarket Picks: quality oils at good prices | Truth in Olive Oil. Great information when you want a good olive oil but are only headed to your local grocery store. The notes on inequality among lines at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are interesting. Via Kottke.
5 More Great Cocktail Blogs You Should Read | Serious Eats.
Sprizee :: A simple girl replete with complications: Roasted Vegetable Lemon Tahini Salad. This looks delicious and it’s so simple.
· comments  · 02-18-2014 · categories:food · links ·
Years ago I received a Scanpan 8-inch frying pan as part of some conference* schwag**. Sometime after that our regular small nonstick frying pan finally went to the cookware grave and we pulled out the Scanpan. We were pretty darn impressed with it’s nonstickablility and how easy it made it to cook an over-easy egg just right every time so we continued to use it. For four years. I’m just now taking note of how awesome it is. The pan is easy to use, it’s easy to clean, nothing ever sticks, it holds up to my clumsy handling and stacking beneath dirty dishes and, despite four years of near daily egg cooking, you have to look really close to see any scratches. Thumbs up.
I have to say though, when I went to find our pan over at Amazon I was a little aghast at the price ($120, on sale for $90). And then I thought a little bit about the psychology of how we value things, or fail to value them if they’ve been handed to us. And then I thought about all the nonstick pans we’ve owned that came before it, inexpensive numbers that scratched easily and flaked horrifyingly after only a few years. Each of those was $10 to $20 and, had we been more responsible, we’d have replaced after a year of use. (And then I thought about the Great Toxic Teflon Freakout of 2008ish and did a bunch of reading which made me conclude that I am not qualified to defend nonstick but I am confident that I’m not poisoning myself.) Added up the Scanpan has nearly already been worth the price tag and I anticipate it going strong for another four years. So if you know you’re going to use it well and you have the cash, Scanpan is worth it.
* It was a hefty bag of free items that has since become the stuff of legend. I am pretty sure it was the first International Food Bloggers Conference, but not absolutely certain. I do know that I paid to attend said conference so this wasn’t a case of a blogger getting free stuff just because.
** Let’s discuss swag vs. schwag. I have a personal preference to use the word schwag because one of my theater professors in college was known to have occasional emotional outbursts over off-topic irrational things while teaching class and one of those that I had the privilege of being present for was a rant over the use of the word swag. He said: swag is used to describe the way that one drapes a curtain, schwag is the free stuff you get at a conference. The end. And so, because I believe he can still see into my very thoughts, I use the word schwag.
· comments  · 01-15-2014 · categories:food · shopping ·
· comments  · 01-7-2014 · categories:food · links ·
chalkboard birthday cake | a subtle revelry. I wish I’d thought of this.
One-Pot Wonders: Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Kale | Serious Eats. The kale negates all the ways this could possibly be bad for you. For real.
What’s the secret to a very fluffy omelette? – eggs | Ask MetaFilter. Really great tips in the answers here.
Diamonds for Dessert: Homemade Celebration Oreos. These are pretty darn cute.
Fresh Ginger Syrup | David Lebovitz. “Although the customers loved it, the reason I later found out why I was going through so much ginger syrup every week was that the staff liked it even more.”
Seattle News and Events | Five Apples to Try This Fall. Five varieties to try and a few suggestions for u-pick places. My friends take an annual trip to Jones Creek.
Help me find the kind of recipe that sticks in your memory for decades. | Ask MetaFilter. Lots of these look good, despite many of them counting as trashy. No mention of a glug of soy sauce over a block of cream cheese as the perfect holiday craker spread yet.
glitter pissing: doctor whoodles for you to scarf down. Dr. Who scarf colored noodles! Genius.
Must-Order Soup Dumplings and Wine Chicken at Long’s Noodle House in Vancouver | Serious Eats. For our next trip up to Canada.
· comments  · 12-3-2013 · categories:food · links ·
Wine Glass Ring Pops Make The World A Better Place, at The Frisky.
The best macaroni and cheese: traditional vs. Modernist at Science Fare. Fun experiment, have a macaroni party and let your diners choose which is better. I gotta try this.
Campari Shandy, by those geniuses behind Essex and Delancey. This is part of a new cocktail column and I bet each and every one will be outstanding. Evidence: The Queen Mary is my very favorite cocktail at Essex and only available when there are ripe tomatoes from their garden. Out of season now but well worth keeping around for late next summer.
Julia Child Was Wrong: Don’t Wash Your Raw Chicken, Folks : The Salt : NPR. “But science, says Quinlan, is really giving the lazy a free pass — nay, an imperative — to cut out this step.” Lazy for the win!!
Food Worth Growing: Mexican Sour Gherkin | You Grow Girl. She calls them “Barbie Doll Watermelons” because they are so very wee.
Best Food Bloggers of All Time | FirstWeFeast.com. I have geeked out over most of these, some of them right to their face (which was awkward, I admit).
Bonavita’s Porcelain Immersion Coffee Dripper: The Best of All Worlds? | Serious Eats: Drinks. I think I need one of these.
Sprinkle Bakes: Raspberry-Champagne Layer Cake with Victorian Cake Pulls. A sweet lesson on cake pulls and how to keep them tidy.
· comments  · 11-26-2013 · categories:food · links ·
Last weekend I checked off an item on my life list and the first of four things I’m hoping to do while on my trip to the UK. I ate a Liege style waffle while standing firmly on Belgium soil. While standing in Bruges to be exact.
We found the first one within less than an hour of arriving in the city. It was delicious. Warm and yeasty and sweet and the perfect way to shake off the the slight panic brought on by finding all the train station listings in Belgium to be in Dutch and therefore completely incomprehensible to us and being without a SIM card for Belgium. Oh the horror.
The next day we set out to find more and, delightfully, it wasn’t difficult. I’m including the time stamps below so you can see how easy it is to stumble from one waffle place to the next. In all of these we bought the hot waffles from the window of a shop and ate them while wandering around.
And after that we really needed to stop and go find some salad for dinner.
The next morning we had a waffle from this adorable van. We ate it while standing in a park and looking at a Medieval cathedral. Bruges I love you.
· comments  · 10-21-2013 · categories:food · travel ·
· comments  · 08-12-2013 · categories:food · links ·
· comments  · 07-22-2013 · categories:food · links ·