Monday, June 28

Dark Roast Coffee Gelee: Dessert for a Morning Wake Up

Looks just like the picture above, right?

Ever since I saw this recipe on epicurious, I've been dying to make a dark roast coffee gelee. Luckily I had some gelatin packets left from my panna cotta experiment, and of course my handy dandy french press, so I knew I was good to go. 

I generally tend to crave savory foods, as opposed to sweet ones. But, thinking about the cupcakes I made yesterday was getting to be too much to ignore. Luckily, I had the gelee waiting in the fridge for a low calorie, sweet-tooth-satisfying pick-me-up to keep me going until lunch.

And forgive the unyielding structure of my coffee gelee. I had originally planned on setting it in glasses, similar to the ones in the picture above. But then I thought to myself, I bet I could just mold it into a nice shape in some coffee mugs. Obviously that was not the case.

Dark Roast Coffee Gelee

Note: I've adapted the recipe slightly, substituting white sugar for a mix of raw agave and an agave blend syrup, both from Trader Joe's. I think it made the flavor a little more mellow, and maybe a little sweeter than with white sugar (mellow, yet sweeter. It makes sense in my mind and in my mouth).

2 1/4 C dark roast coffee (made from 6 tablespoons finely ground dark-roast coffee beans) plus 1 T cold water
1/4 C raw agave

1/4 C syrup (or Trader Joe's agave syrup blend)
1 1/2 t unflavored gelatin (from one 1/4-oz envelope)
2 t vanilla


Brew ground coffee in french press.

Sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon cold water and let rest for one minute. Add the the hot coffee, agave, syrup, and vanilla to the gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved.

Pour into glass tumblers or a gelatin mold. Chill, covered, until softly set, for at least 8 hours.

Whole Wheat Pesto Bread

In keeping with my baking theme, I woke up this morning hoping to make a plan to clear our my fridge this week. I came across a jar of spinach-walnut pesto that I had made last week as well as a ball of whole wheat dough that had been resting in the fridge. The first thought that came to mind was Pesto Bread, a recipe I came across last night.

I had a loaf that was approximately 5 oz flour to 3 oz water, so it wasn't very big, but rather just enough to experiment with. So I hand rolled it out to about a 10x5 "rectangle"and blanketed  the inside with my homemade pesto. I then rolled it up jelly-roll-style, sliced it down the middle, and twisted it back up, which should have been easier considering I twist/braid my own hair relatively often. I then slid it onto a baking sheet, preheated the oven to 500, placed a water-filled saucepan at the bottom of the oven and baked the loaf for 12 minutes (it cooked quickly because it was such a small amount of dough). Here are the pictures, maybe if you have this week off from work like I do (!!!) you'll be able to experiment with some dough and flavors of your own.

Sunday, June 27

Sunday: Bridezillas and Pizza

Bridezillas is my guilty pleasure. There is something about watching women screaming about getting a vanilla cake instead of chocolate, or a mother of the bride showing up to a wedding in a white dress that makes me smile inside and out. And tonight, the natural pairing was a pair of personal pies for Mike and myself.

Mike's pizza was a classic pepperoni pie topped with coarsely chopped garlic and roasted garlic tomato sauce from Trader Joe's (rated best red sauce by Rachel Ray, who, despite being my arch nemesis, got it right with this one).

Mine was a whole wheat pie topped with pesto sauce and mix of diced pepperoni, asparagus and portabello mushrooms, sliced red onions and an egg sunny side up to top it all off. The egg was a great added protein for the pie and could naturally make a transition to breakfast, particularly those who enjoy savory foods in the morning.

Note: Enjoying the rustic, free-form look? That's because my house is lacking a rolling pin, and thus everything is hand-shaped. Makes for a pizza with personality.

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Bread: The Story, The Savings

I've been reading ratio by Michael Ruhlman, as I've mentioned so many times at this point. The first ratio that is presented in the book is one or a basic bread dough. He calls for a ratio of 5:3 (flour:butter). I mixed 10 oz of flour (~1 cup) with 6 oz of water. Despite never making a brewed dough, I found this ratio to be insufficient and my mix to be too dry. So I added a little bit more water. From there I found the mixture to be too runny and added more flour. In the end, I believe the ratio came out to about 15 oz flour to 12 oz water (3 cups flour to 2 cups water), far from the 5:3 I had planned on.

The bread came out well, nonetheless. It is a little gluten-y, though, and I believe it I the lack of flour that is holding it back. Also, it could use more flavor, in the form of salt or garlic, or even some sweet ingredients. But my priority was to produce a decent loaf of bread, and that I did.

Basic Bread Dough

2 C of all-purpose white/whole wheat flour (~10 oz)
3/4 C water (6 oz)
1 T yeast
1 T olive oil
dash of salt

In a bowl add the flour and salt. Measure the water and add the yeast, allow it to dissolve completely.

Add the water/yeast combination to the flour and mix. Add the olive oil and combine.

Let the dough sit at room temperature, covered with a damp towel, for 2 hours. You can bake at this point or keep it in the fridge for two weeks.

Cut out a grapefruit-sized amount and roll into a ball, on top of some dusted white/yellow cornmeal and let it rest for 30-40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place your baking stone in the oven during preheating (if using a baking stone, I don't have one so it's not necessary), and place a saucepan filled with water at the bottom of the oven. This steam that is created will replicate professional steam baking. You can take out the saucepan after the first 10 minutes of cooking, when steam is the most crucial for baking.

Slice the dough three times on top with a serrated knife then slide into the oven on a baking sheet or onto the preheated baking stone. Bake until browned, about 30 minutes.

Let the bread cool completely before slicing. Enjoy with honey butter or olive oil.

Bonus Recipe: Basic Pizza Dough


2 C of all-purpose white/whole wheat flour (~10 oz)
3/4 C water (6 oz)
A big pinch of yeast
1 T olive oil
dash of salt


In a bowl add the flour and salt. Measure the water and add the yeast, allow it to dissolve completely.

Add the water/yeast combination to the flour and mix.

Add the olive oil and combine. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, then let it sit for 2-3 hours. You can bake at this point or keep it in the fridge for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2-3 months.

When baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with your baking stone already in it. This step is crucial, as if you put a cold baking stone into a 450-500 degree oven, it will crack and split beyond repair. If using dough that was in the fridge, let it sit for 15-20 minutes, before kneading and shaping.


Notes: if using whole wheat flour, you may need to adjust the amount of water you use to more than this, or any recipe calls for.
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Thursday, June 24

The Fast Food Arms Race

Since KFC first released their Double Down Chicken Sandwich -which I may add was inspiration for the change in direction for my blog - it seems that every fast food joint has been calling to their R&D departments to create an even bigger, calorie-laden, heart-stopping, mega-sandwich. Well, first to step up to the plate is Friendly's Grilled Cheese Burger Melt.


(Which would you rather eat?)

Try not to quake in fear people, 'tis only a sandwich. But lo and behold it is not just any sandwich. The nutritional facts are as follows:
1 Serving = 1  Sandwich
1500 Calories
97 grams of fat
2,090 mg sodium

It's gotten to the extent that McDonald's, former fast food evil empire, is producing food that could be perceived as good for you, relatively speaking of course. For example, the Big Mac, long perceived as the monster of all burgers, is a David compared to these Goliaths.

Nutritional value per serving
Serving size1 sandwich
Energy540 kcal (2,300 kJ)
Carbohydrates47 g (16%)
Sugars8 g
Dietary fiber3 g (14%)
Fat30 g (47%)
saturated10 g (52%)
Protein25 g (45%)
Vitamin A120 IU
Vitamin C2 mg (3%)
Calcium250 mg (25%)
Iron2 mg (16%)
Sodium1010 mg (44%)
Energy from fat270 kcal (1,100 kJ)
Cholesterol80 mg (26%)
IngredientsBeef, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, "special sauce" (a variation of Thousand Island dressing), and a bun topped with sesame seeds

Further Investigation:

Wednesday, June 23

Lunch: Responsibly, Reasonably and On A Budget

I love making food from scratch. There is no better stress reliever for me than cooking, and luckily enough that doesn't necessarily include a second step of eating. However, when you work full time, planning lunches from scratch gets to be relatively complicated. I live close enough where I can go home to cook food, but it is so hot in DC that I'd rather sit in an air conditioned office without food than melt on my way home to get some, just to walk back overheated and with the itis (a.k.a. food coma). That's right people, it's a dangerous combination and I don't want to be caught asleep at the front desk.

Luckily, Trader Joe's is known for having an amazingly stocked freezer section, perfect for mine and Mike's weekday lunches. I do much of my shopping at Trader Joe's, mostly for staple items and some snacks, but I do have to say that it is not for those who enjoy putting painstaking detail into making each component of a dish from scratch. While I would love to be able to have the time to do that during the day, it's neither practical nor time-effective (time being just as important to me as cost), and so I am giving up this battle.

While it is unclear in what way this will direct my efforts to get Mike off of processed foods, save a few special items, I'm excited for the time savings. Moreover, their freezer sections boasts prices that are extremely reasonable and enough variety to keep us distracted from the fact that it's not homemade.

And on that note, anew component of my blog for this summer will be reviewing the frozen foods that we try. So far we've tasted the mac n' cheese ($2.99), spinach and mushroom quiche ($1.89) beef tamales ($2.29) , chicken fried rice ($2.99), and the mandarin orange chicken ($4.99). Look out for those reviews as well.

Tuesday, June 22

Asparagus Panzanella

I've had this frozen asparagus sitting in my freezer and diced ciabatta bread in my refrigerator waiting to make this recipe. This morning it finally happened. Panzanella is an Italian bread salad originating from the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Lazio. It features bread, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and vinegar.  Those ingredients, however, serve simply as the foundation for a panzanella. Think of it as a fridge clearing meal, and use it to get rid of any extra ingredients, such as onion, lettuce, white/red wine, capers, garlic, bell peppers, lemon juice, cucumber, mint, etc.

My recipe for Asparagus Panzanella is adapted from a grilled asparagus panzanella recipe on Serious Eats. The difference is, I threw in some garlic paste (made it myself, instructions to come), diced basil and bacon, roasted the asparagus in the oven and left out the capers and olives. Next time I will try searing the tomatoes until they caramelize for a little added sweetness and depth.

In total, it was about 5 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cook time. How about that for a quick meal, particularly when you don't want a hot oven on. You could probably roast the asparagus in a toaster oven for even more heat/money savings. For now, here is the recipe. See what you make of it.
Of course, today was the day that the office treated me to lunch from Jetties, but I known I have a great meal for dinner now.

Monday, June 21

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Jam and Strawberries

I just purchased some gelatin to make Coffee Gelee, but the mood had not struck yet. Not to mention I was faced with a gallon of milk that needed to be used before spoiling. Naturally (*sarcasm*), panna cotta was the first thing that came to mind. I found a couple of recipes for strawberry and strawberry-thyme panna cotta on Epicurous, David Leibowitz, and Yum Sugar. My recipe is an adaption of all three, due mostly to substitutions of ingredients. But it came out well nonetheless. It was silky smooth like jello and probably much healthier than the original recipes.

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Jam and Strawberries

Serves 4

1 1/2 C 2% Milk + 1/2 C Butter -or- 2 C Heavy Cream/Half and Half
1/4 C sugar
2 t of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 packet powdered gelatin (~ 2 T)
3 T cold water

(Melt the butter in the milk) Heat the heavy cream and then add the sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. 
(If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)

Lightly oil four custard cups/tumblers with a neutral-tasting oil.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them until firm, which will take at least two hours, but preferably 4 or more.

Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired.

The Butter will rise to the top and solidify while in the refrigerator. It is very easy to slip the mold off of the put of butter, or serve as is and it's slides off the butter easily using a spoon. This is probably better for you anyways, as the flavor of the butter imparts itself into the dessert, without all of the added calories and nutritional negatives.

Excuse the poor photo quality. It still tasted good.

Approximate cost:

1/2 C 2% Milk - $0.19
1/2 C Butter - $0.99
2 C Heavy Cream - $3.29
2 T Pure Vanilla Extract - $1.43 (pure extract is expensive, real vanilla beans are more expensive (~$8.50 for 5-9 pods), get imitation if you need to, dropping the cost to $0.72)
1 Packet Gelatin - $0.63
Cold Water - $0.00
1/8 Jar of Homemade Strawberry Jam - $0.25

Total Cost: 
With Heavy Cream and Pure Extract - $5.60
With 2% Milk and Butter and Imitation Extract - $2.78

Friday, June 18

Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes

In honor of the season premiere of Top Chef DC I made burgers the other night. I had also planned on making toasted marshmallow milkshakes, the featured drink at Spike Mendelssohn's Good Stuff Eatery in Northeast DC. However, inspiration was lacking that day, due to fire alarms that Mike, Jacob and myself were unable to control.

Luckily, I was able to muster up the energy to make a special dessert for Mike and myself.

The end result totally looked like this. Ok fine, not exactly, the glasses were a little shorter.
Actually, I didn't take a picture because my phone, Mike's phone and my camera were all upstairs. A testament to not only my gluttony, but also my laziness.

Original Recipe, from, as shared by Spike Mendelssohn of Good Stuff
Serves 4
1 bag jumbo marshmallows
2 cups milk
1 Tbsp. sour cream
2 cups creamy vanilla ice cream

On a medium-size cookie sheet, place 1/2 bag of marshmallows in a row. Place under your burner in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until completely charred. Take out of oven and let cool.

Repeat this step but only let the marshmallows toast, so they are slightly burnt. Take out of oven and let cool.

In a blender, pour milk, sour cream, ice cream and charred marshmallows. Mix for 5 minutes. Pour in a large glass and top with 2 to 3 toasted marshmallows.

My Adapted Recipe
Serves 2

1/2 Bag Marshmallows
2 C Vanilla Ice Cream
1 C Milk
1 T Greek Yogurt


Cover a toaster over-sized baking sheet with aluminum foil and place 3/4 of the 1/2 bag of marshmallows on the sheet. Place in a toaster oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until completely charred. Take out and let cool.

Repeat this step with the remaining 1/4 of the marshmallows, but only let the marshmallows toast slightly. Take out and let cool.

In a blender, pour milk, greek yogurt, ice cream and charred marshmallows. Mix for 5 minutes. Pour in a large glass and top with toasted marshmallows.

Next time I might add a little more ice cream so that the shake is a little thicker. Otherwise, the toasted marshmallow flavor really shined, reminiscent of campfires and my summers in Holmes, NY.

Check out more at Table for Two on Tumblr

Now I'm a blogger and a tumblr-er

I was beginning to contemplate a switch to Wordpress, however I'm in allegiance with Google. My hope is that Wordpress' recent updates will be an incentive for Google to add some more functionality to Blogger. On the other hand, I did decide to create a Tumblr account. 

My motivation behind the two accounts is to use the two to complement each other. This blog will be the primary source of information, as I will provide recipes and other musings, be it food politics or vuvuzelas. Tumblr will be my way of blogging on the go, and providing short posts and pictures. 

Whatever source you choose to look at, I will continue to bring food politics, healthy eating and good cuisine to college students and those pressed for money and time.

You can find me at Table for Two on Tumblr

Thursday, June 17

Building a Better Burger

In honor of the season premiere of Top Chef DC, and to make myself feel better about not being able to go to Good Stuff, a burger joint in DC run by a Top Chef season 3 alum, for a viewing party, I decided to make burgers and a toasted marshmallow milkshake for dinner. While the milkshake never materialized, the burgers became a reality, albeit a smoke-alarm-filled one.

I am of the opinion that burgers are a messy food, especially for those topping-happy folks that just can't live without their cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, bacon, along with any other ingredient that strikes their fancy. My answer to toning down the mess without toning down the flavor: chop up those ingredients and mix them into the hamburger meat. While this would not be as well executed with lettuce or tomato, a finely diced onion, chopped bacon, even a diced or grade semi-hard cheese could be mixed into the patty.

Ground Beef, Red Onion, Bacon, Basil, Garlic, Dash of Soy Sauce and Worchestshire Sauce
And when mixed together...

I guess I've been a little off my cooking game because the smoke detector would not stop going off. At first there was absolutely no smoke in the room and Mike and I just shared frazzled looks as we waved rags underneath to dissipate the nonexistent smoke. However, upon opening the door of the over after about 10 minutes, smoke came billowing out and I had no choice but to abandon my original attempt at cooking the burgers.

I turned off the oven and just let the burgers sit in there a little longer, using the residual heat to cook the meat further, as well as melt the sharp cheddar cheese on my burger. Then I fried some crinkle cut and sweet potato fries on the side in a pot full of canola oil. The burgers were put on kaiser rolls (I was hoping for brioche but Safeway failed me, and so I turn to Trader Joe's in my next time of need), mine accompanied by sliced red onion and a few leaves of basil.

Hamburgers are a great way to add variety to a week possibly filled with pasta and the occasional Chinese delivery. All in all, it's a great meal, quick meal, cheap meal.

Tuesday, June 15

Vuvuzela - Future Internet/Soccer Meme?

I know, I know, two un-food related posts in a row. I've got come crispy noodles with shrimp and kale planned for tonight. But for now, BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA


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