Thursday, April 20

Happy National Pineapple Upside Down Cake Day. Now With Booze!

Here's how to make yourself feel less guilty for eating cake ... and then make it more naughty. This is my take on the Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Save a slice for yourself and send the rest to your friends and co-workers. They will appreciate the slight alcohol buzz with the sugar rush. If you do bring it to work, serve a piece to your manager before you ask for a raise. It cannot hurt your chances.

It's also 420 Day, but that's not entirely legal in Pennsylvania yet. So if you cannot legally indulge in one vice here's another (which is ironic): Alcohol

Sugar and an alcohol high at the same time.

In my version, I use real cherries and fresh pineapple. I know that most pineapple upside down cake recipes call for maraschino cherries, but those things are gross. Don't believe me? Watch this: What is a Maraschino Cherry?

How dare you mess with nature's goodness, sir!

But ...

If you are going to mess with nature one should incorporate copious amounts of alcohol.

For this recipe, I currently have a stash of pitted black cherries (AKA My Drunk Slut Cherries) that were soaked in rum for more than a year. This will make a mighty fine maraschino cherry replacement.

I consider myself "chaotic good".


Boozy Pineapple Upside Down Cake

What You Need:
  • Black cherries pitted and soaked in rum (In my opinion as long as possible. Three days minimum. I have mine for more than 6 months. The long soak doesn't cook off in the oven.) 
  • A fresh pineapple (Smell the bottom of the pineapple. If it smells fragrant then you are good.)
  • The Perfect Vanilla Cake recipe (see below)
  • Melted Butter & Brown Sugar Topping
  • 1/4 cup of rum with a pastry brush
  • 9"x4" cake pan
Note: If you don't have a cake pan that high, use parchment paper around the rim to keep the batter from spilling over during baking.

Pan spray the hell out of the cake pan.
Peel, core, and slice the pineapple as thin as possible. Put to the side for now.

Melted Butter & Brown Sugar Topping

What You Need:
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of densely packed brown sugar

  1. Melt the butter.
  2. Add the brown sugar and mix.
  3. Make sure you break down any clumped brown sugar.
  4. Pour the sugar into the cake tin.
  5. Neatly spread the pineapples and position the cherries into any available spaces.
Start on the cake.

The Perfect Vanilla Cake

  • 2 2/3 cups cake flour 
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup [2 sticks] unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (the good stuff)

  1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and put to the side.
  2. Mix the butter until it's smooth.
  3. Add sugar and mix until fluffy.
  4. Add the teaspoon of vanilla to the eggs.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter sugar mixture. Make sure the egg is blended before adding the next.
  6. Alternate adding the flour to the mixture in two parts. Meaning: Add part of the flour mixture ... blend / add part of the milk ... blend / add rest of the  flour mixture ... blend / add last of the milk ... blend

Do not over mix! You'll end up with an edible sponge.

Bake for 350°F for 70 minutes (yes, it's a moist and dense cake) or until the cake tester comes out clean.

After resting for 15 minutes, run a sharp knife around the tin edge to loosen it and flip it onto a clean plate. Be careful the sugar is hot!

While the cake is still warm brush the pineapple tops with rum.

Share with people you like.

Throw in some extra slutty cherries for good measure.


Tuesday, April 11

Tasting My Way Through the Manayunk StrEAT Festival

Within a section of Philadelphia lies a hilly area where parking is scarce, hipsters are plentiful, and food is poppin'. This magical area is called Main Street Manayunk.
A whole lot of hungry people filled Main Street.

On Sunday, April 9th it was the annual Manayunk StrEAT Festival. I was fortunate to be a judge and help pick the best gourmet vendors and food trucks who made a dish with a signature ingredient: Strawberries.

With great responsibility in the tasting challenge that laid ahead of us my fellow judgesCassie Hepler of and Elyse Castillo of Philly Food Tours met up at the Manayunk Development Corporation office and the battle plan was discussed with our guides Megan and Caitlin of the MDC team.

We were charged to pick the Top 3 Food Trucks and Top 3 Gourmet Vendors with the aforementioned selected ingredient. To my delight the culinary wizards in Vendor Form found a place for the delightful berry to used in not only sweet, but also savory dishes.

Everyone brought their A-Game, but there were some that stood out from the rest.

My Honorable Mentions:

Revolution Taco customers waiting patiently.

This is an authentic taco! A swirl of colors and flavors that satisfy all the senses.

Dump N Roll's offering: A yummy little dumpling filled with turkey bacon cheeseburger with a tangy strawberry dipping sauce.

The Winners: Gourmet Vendors

#1 Stockyard Sandwich

You know you are doing something right when YOUR pulled pork slider with slaw wins First Place! Congratulations to Stockyard Sandwich.
Stockyard Sandwich was caught off guard when we handed them their First Place Gourmet Vendor Award!

All the walking burned the calories from the sampling! Everyone was in good spirits with the various lunch trucks and food vendors available.

#2 Birdie's Biscuits

The Birdie's Biscuits reminds me of my childhood. Southern cuisine made modern with a choice of lemon curd or pastry cream topped with strawberries bursting with flavor. Slip on some yoga pants and forget the calories just for the moment.
Birdie's Biscuits knows how to re-brand a classic to a whole new generation with their fresh ingredients and old-fashioned know-how. They took the Second Place Gourmet Vendor prize. 

#3 The Spicy Belly

If you are looking for a delicious cultural mix then head over to The Spicy Belly. The Strawberry Rice Cake secured Third Place Gourmet Vendor prize.

Here's The Spicy Belly team showing off their Third Place Gourmet Vendor award. I'm looking forward to trying other Jamaican-Korean fused entrees.


 The Winners: Food Trucks

 #1 Cannoli World LLC

Cannoli World puts love in their cannoli.

Allow me just for a minute to go on and on about these particular cannolo. I ate one and I could instantly taste that the shells were freshly made - a firm but not too thick shell; a smooth, tasty, but not too sweet cream, and just enough confectioners sugar to mess up my black shirt (a necessary hazard to the job). Three samples had chocolate drizzle and the Strawberry Shortcake was crumb coated. My fellow judges concurred that Cannoli World ran away with the top award.

First Place Winners Food Trucks! Next time I'm in Jersey, I am searching out their truck. I need a cannoli fix!

#2 The Chilly Banana

There's a new boss in town, Ice Cream. It's called The Chilly Banana.
That's why they won the Second Place Food Truck award.
After floating back to earth after trying the Banana Paris (fresh strawberries, Nutella, hazelnuts, CMWC (coconut milk whipped cream), my first thought was how this vegan-friendly banana whip would make an amazing filling to my Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies. A great way to beat this upcoming summer's heat!
Like the ice cream without the guilt? The Chilly Banana has a delicious dish for you!

#3 Sweet Lavender

Three things that I love: Sweets, Lavender, and Strawberries!

Sweet Lavender won my heart as well as my vote! Third Place Winners Strawberry Dish Food Trucks!
My faithful blog readers know that when people talk about the never ending on-going cupcake trend I roll my eyes as hard as possible.  Sweet Lavender made me eat my words within one bite of a Strawberry Lavender Cupcake.

It's everything a gourmet cupcake should be. Simple ingredients with a complex flavor! The icing was sweet but not enough to scream "SUGAR". The cake was moist, and the filling had enough flavoring without overtaking the cupcake!

Brides who insist on having cupcakes as their wedding cake, I demand you look into Sweet Lavender!

Tuesday, April 4

Rising from the Flames to Run a 5K

How's that for a cliche, trite, and overused start?

It pretty much sums up the past few months. The beginning of the year I closed The Pastry Prophet and that means closing all my business accounts, notifying customers, and getting my affairs in order. What I thought it would feel like is a breaking of a love affair at most or at least saying goodbye to a loved one.

It was neither. It felt like letting go of a boulder. What also surprised me is that I wasn't in pain for letting all my hard work go. I did feel guilt. I spent so many years working, fighting, and feeding my dream, but it didn't pan out. Not all dreams come true.

But ...

I think a factor that helped me not to implode is the realization that I need to fix the damage. Working a full time office job, prepping pastries and taking orders at any free moment, and hustling on the weekend, I became frazzled and fat. I was bursting out of my J.Lopez brand Kohl's jeans like an overstuffed sausage, my back was strained and sore, and my doctor tut-tutted my blood pressure reading.

I worked out at the gym and felt disheartened watching people flitting around like gazelles while I lumbered around like a sedated rhinoceros. A few of my friends are runners and one thing I noticed is that they make it look like better than a pint of premium ice cream on a rainy day. I wanted in.

My good friend Tish suggested that I download Couch to 5K. So at age 45 38, I spent $2 for the phone app and started running. It was easy at first: Run for a minute walk for three. After the second week, I got distracted and time lapsed. I was determined to finish the program so I started from square one.

Three months later I finished the app and worked to running a full 5 kilometers (3.11 miles for you Americans).

Then I heard about the Hot Chocolate 5K/15K. Accomplish a goal and receive chocolate. That's a win/win for me. 
Although I'm in the last group at least I got this awesome hoodie!

Saturday, April 1 Race Day

Tish - a seasoned runner - sacrificed her sleep and comfy warm bed to run with me. I'm pretty sure I have to take a bullet for all she has done for me. Although Tish is way faster she hung out in the back with the last running group to make sure I wasn't alone in my sweat and sadness. Tish has first pick of my organs and add some blood to that IOU Inventory.

As for the weather it rained for several days prior, but the sky was finally clear. Still it was cold as a bitch. Anticipation had me excited, but not nervous. I knew the only opponents were my mind and body. I was determined not to be defeated.

I don't deserve friends like Tish.
The skies are finally clearing!

Impatient to start and excited about my challenge. This explains a lot about my life decisions.
It quickly warmed as our group started to run. Some runners dressed in costume, others in full running gear, and the newbies were obvious - we were the ones grinning.
Eye of the Tiger!

Forty minutes later, Tish encouraged me on to the finish line.
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

Was I the fastest? .... HAHAHAHAHA .... no.

So I'm not Usain Bolt. I wasn't last and I finished the 5K. Can Bolt make an awesome pie?
 I did it and it encouraged me to work towards future goals. Although my pastry dreams did not work out as I wished I still have other dreams to work towards.

And I earned chocolate.

Monday, January 23

My Pursuit of Happiness

If there's anything I learned living on the third rock from the sun is that most things don't go the way that one imagined. In fact if a plan does go as scheduled, it's a bigger shock.

The last two years taught me that a business either makes your passion grow more or squashes the dream. Kind of like moving in with your partner or friend - either you make a compromise or you don't. It's simple as that.

Vending made me move away from what I loved - traditional and retro desserts. People wanted cakes that looked like Disney or Sesame Street characters. That's not what I want to do or can do. Cakes are not my strength and I do not want to appear on Cake Wrecks. What most people don't understand is that some bakers and pastry chefs are not all cake decorators.

Side Note:

I fucking hate writing on goddamn cakes. While I'm on the subject, stop requesting long ass messages on small cakes. It's a 9" cake. It cannot hold the Canterbury Tales. Buy a card!!!

Not mine. My writing isn't nearly as crisp.

I truly loved meeting people and introducing my desserts to them. I worked to keep The Pastry Prophet alive. My friends encouraged me to buy a store front. That's another thing: a storefront costs money. Lots and lots of money, risk, employees, etc.

Since I'm not a character in a Sims game, I cannot say "mother lode" and money will magically appear in my bank account.

I wish!

Frankly I felt stuck. I worked so hard to put myself through school, worked for minimal wage with chefs who all thought they were Colette Peters, sacrificed and carefully avoided putting myself into debt. Still I had very little to show. Also I did not see a potential of things improving in the future.

I spent too much time in the past wishing and hoping complacently for things to go my way. Also swimming against the current again hoping for improvement.

So I decided to make the change. Life is incredibly brief and I'm too old care what people think about my decisions. I officially closed my business. I am only taking requests from friends, friends of friends, and family.

I want to write, travel, and enjoy life more. Something I missed out while selling my business. Then I'm getting back into shape and improving my health. I refuse to believe that I need to give up delicious food.

That's my focus for this new chapter in my life (if I can use such a hackneyed phrase):

  1. Do the things that I love: baking and sharing desserts that I love to make 
  2. Travel and dine at non-tourist destinations. Suggestions are appreciated.
  3. Develop new recipes. All things considered, I still love to eat.
  4. Embrace a healthy lifestyle. Under this administration, I cannot afford to get sick. 
  5. Write ... write ... write ....!!!!

Tuesday, January 10

Winter (Squash) Is Coming

Soup. In my opinion it’s best when the weather drops under 30°F (-1°C). So this Monday it was at a bloody low 20°F (-6°C)and this summer baby whipped out ingredients to make Curried Red Lentil & Winter Squash Soup.

The history of this soup comes from a co-op that I worked at a few years back. It was during a time where I really didn’t know where I sat at in the culinary world. It was fun. The store was filled with all types of people [hippies, hipsters, stay-at-home moms and dads, 9 to 5ers, conservative republicans, and Wiccans]. In this one place in the universe everyone got along.

So watching my co-worker and friend make this soup I eventually memorized a few recipes. I’m no genius, this soup is incredibly wholesome, rich, and easy to make. Also it’s vegan and gluten free.
  • 1 small Winter Squash (I prefer butternut squash)
  • 1 cup Red Lentils
  • ½ chopped Onions (Spanish, Yellow, or White)
  • 2 - 3 chopped Carrots
  • 1 quart Vegetable Broth (preferably from scratch, but store-bought is okay too)
  • 1 can (13.5 fl oz) coconut milk (regular and not the light version. Make sure it's unsweetened!)
  • 2 Tbsp. Canola Oil
  • Fresh Cilantro (a tablespoon worth)
  • 1 tsp. Curry Powder
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Coriander
  • Salt to taste ( I recommend salting at the end. You do it once, you will soon learn why. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED)
  1. Cut, gut, and slice the squash into chunks. Pan spray a tray and place the squash on the tray skin up. 
  2. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350°F or (176°C) until very soft.
  3. When cooled (don’t burn your hands), scoop out the flesh into a bowl for later.
  4. Place the canola oil in a big pot on a medium low temperature. When the oil is hot (NOT SMOKING) add the onions and carrots and sauté until tender.
    It doesn't matter if the cuts are professional. The carrots and onions are going to get pulverized anyway.

  5. Add the Red Lentils and stir until they are coated with the remnants of oil.
    Uncooked Red Lentils

  6. Add the Vegetable Broth and cook the mixture until the Red Lentils are soft and cooked.
  7. Include the remaining ingredients and mix occasionally for 45 to 60 minutes. I usually place a lid on the pot and clean up my prepping mess at this point.
  8. When done take an immersion blender or food processor and go to town until smooth. Please not that I like my soup on the chunkier side. Don’t worry if you want it completely smooth. If you do, strain it through a China Cap.
  9. Salt to taste.
  10. Pour it into a bowl, add some cilantro (or parsley) to garnish, and enjoy.
    Time to eat!

 If you make it, let me know what you think!

Monday, January 2

Obligatory Statement of New Year's Resolution

2016 for me has been a year of learning.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I started vending at a farmer's market. I learned that people like my baking and I would do even better if I had a actual location. After the election it seems nothing is a sure bet though.

I'm hesitant because I don't even own a house yet. Do I even want to stay in Philadelphia? A brick and mortar place means I'm sticking around. So many questions, but I do know what I want in 2017. 

What I want to do this year:

  1. Get back to my mission statement. My focus is retro desserts and I gone way off in my attempt to please everyone. 
  2. Go out more. I stupidly felt that going to nice restaurants meant going with a companion. Considering that I'm chronically single waiting to go to nice restaurants meant I rarely went nice restaurants. Well that's stupid. I should go to nice restaurants when I fucking want to.
  3. Getting back in shape. Less snacking, more moving.
  4. Travel. Oh I missed traveling. I met terrific people this year, but the open road is calling me.
    4a.  Major travel goal: Malta ... of course if I'm THAT close to Italy it would be rude not to visit that beautiful country.
    4b. Definitely going to visit because it's awesome: Montreal 375th Anniversary 
At least I learned that people really appreciate my baking and services.  At this age and watching so much Kitchen Nightmares and Bar Rescue I don't know if I want to use my savings for a bakery. The two things Philadelphia doesn't need any more of are bakeries and banks.

There's a lot to consider and do in the new year.

Friday, September 2

What I Did This Summer or My Farmer's Market Adventures

Like I said in my previous post, there isn't really an instruction book on how to open a food business. So I started vending and I learned a lot. Yes, mistakes were made. Of course they were not devastating or I wouldn't be here blogging. I'd probably would be crying in my car with the lights off.

The Positives:

The Upper Merion Farmers Market - During my search of vending options, I came across this weekly market. Many other markets I searched in my area were booked it seemed 6 months prior. UMFM welcomes both weekly, bi-weekly, and occasional vendors.

I made way too much for the Memorial Day weekend. I thought this was a "light" selection

My fellow vendors were all from the 100 mile radius of the area. I saw what they were selling and how they marketed their product. I realized I had to packaging my items to catch the eye of my customers.

The first day was the Saturday of the Memorial Day Weekend. I thought I was making the minimum. Oh heavens was I wrong. The one thing I did learn is to listen to my customers. The patrons included a good number of senior citizens. They would look and say they could not eat sugar because of diabetes or other health issues. So guess what I placed on the menu next time?

Sugar-free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.
Made with stiva.

The extremely helpful managers and volunteers answered every one of my stupid questions and helping me setup my tent. Also the other vendors sold some great stuff!

Coffee. My lifeblood.

Also dogs are welcomed.


The Cons:

I decided rather quickly that I wanted to participate in a farmers' market. Much like my standard, I decided that I was going to do this and I'm doing it now! In some cases, I don't like researching too much or else I get a case of the nerves.

I've previously shopped in other markets so I kind of knew what to expect, but I've never attended this one in particular. The only research available was the listing on the website. I did not want to sell anything that conflicted with my neighboring vendors.

At my first market day I brought a big selection - regular items (baked goods made with eggs and butter), gluten free, and vegan. Now my menu has regular items, fewer vegan, no gluten free, and child-friendly sweets.

At this point my season is nearly over and I am finally getting the handle of what to make, how much to make, and other factors such as how temperature affects shopping attendance. One big revelation is that kid-friendly items attract children and it makes parents hard to say no.

Cue evil laughter.

It's the end of the summer and it's time to consider the fall menu. Oh the ideas that I have.