Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Kitty Litter Cake

No, I haven't made it. Yet. One never knows what Madam Chow might cook up. Curiously enough, I received this recipe from my mother-in-law, the Dowager Chow. Maybe I'll make it for her birthday!

Kitty Litter Cake


1 box spice or German chocolate cake mix
1 box of white cake mix
1 package white sandwich cookies
1 large package vanilla instant pudding mix
A few drops green food coloring
12 small Tootsie Rolls or equivalent


1 NEW cat-litter box (please notice that it's supposed to be NEW!)
1 NEW cat-litter box liner (ditto!)
1 NEW pooper scooper (ditto!)

1) Prepare and bake cake mixes, according to directions, in any size pan. Prepare pudding and chill. Crumble cookies in small batches in blender or food processor. Add a few drops of green food coloring to 1 cup of cookie crumbs. Mix with a fork or shake in a jar. Set aside.

2) When cakes are at room temperature, crumble them into a large bowl. Toss with half of the remaining cookie crumbs and enough pudding to make the mixture moist but not soggy. Place liner in litter box and pour in mixture.

3) Unwrap 3 Tootsie Rolls and heat in a microwave until soft and pliable. Shape the blunt ends into slightly curved points. Repeat with three more rolls. Bury the rolls decoratively (Ed. Decoratively??) in the cake mixture. Sprinkle remaining white cookie crumbs over the mixture, then scatter green crumbs lightly over top.

4) Heat 5 more Tootsie Rolls until almost melted. Scrape them on top of the cake and sprinkle with crumbs from the litter box. Heat the remaining Tootsie Roll until pliable and hang it over the edge of the box. Place box on a sheet of newspaper and serve with scooper.

And here is a photo of the . . . masterpiece:

Photo from

Apparently, this cake appears in the book Gross Out Cakes, along with mouth watering desserts such as the Open Wound Cake and the Toenail Torte. Oh, yum. And be sure to check out the imaginative creations over at Kids Kuisine!

Black Bean and Corn Salad

One day, I found myself blessed with about 12 ears of fresh, farmer's market corn. I wanted to try something different that would not heat up my kitchen (at the time, the temperature was hovering around 100 degrees), so I decided upon a black bean and corn salad.

I adapted this from many different recipes that I looked at, including one by Rachael Ray of "30 Minute Meals" fame. All measurements are approximate - tweak the recipe to suit your tastes.

You can use dried black beans that you cook yourself, but as I said above, my goal was to keep my kitchen as cool as possible, so I used canned.

Black Bean and Fresh Corn Salad
4 cups fresh corn, cooked and sliced off the cob (about 8 ears)
2 cups black beans, rinsed and drained (if canned)
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced, or sliced into rings
Tabasco, to taste. (I used about 8 shakes of the bottle, but then I don't like heat.)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3-4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cups olive oil
3 T cilantro, finely chopped. (I love cilantro, but you can add more or leave this out.)
Whisk salt, pepper, Tabasco, and cumin into the lime juice. Stream in the olive oil, whisking all the time.
Mix together the beans, corn, bell pepper, and onion. Add the lime juice dressing. Mix in the cilantro before serving.
Gets better if you let it set a spell.
This makes a lot of salad, plenty for 6-8 people.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blogger News Roundup

  • Derrick presents his list of "Good Books for Cooking Technique."
  • Cupcake Bakeship has moved! Chockylit has two interesting recipes: one for lavendar ice cream, and one for honey ice cream. Remember when Haagen Dasz used to have Honey ice cream?
  • Kathy continues blogging about her eating adventures in Hawaii, including her discovery of some colorful mochi. Master Chow and I will be heading out there in the near future to visit family and friends, and we are already planning the restaurants that we are going to visit!
  • Traveler's Lunchbox has a list of things to eat before you die.

Robocat - Off Topic, but Interesting!


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

Recipe coming soon!

Update - here is the recipe.

Panzanella is an Italian bread salad that makes wonderful use of the bounty of summer - fresh, ripe, juicy tomatoes. Fragrant basil. Crisp cucumbers.

I always heard that it was a creative Italian way to use up stale bread. I've always loved panzanella, but was never really satisfied with different variations that I tried over the years. Until I picked up the September 2006 issue of Fine Cooking, one of my favorite cooking magazines. On the back cover I found a panzanella recipe that I decided to try, and have made about four times in the last month - it's delicious. Below is my adaptation, where I omit only the three tablespoons of chopped fresh mint (there are enough flavors in this salad, and I believe it doesn't need the mint).

Other recommendations - use good artisanal bread, if you have access to it. This is not the time to cut corners; this salad benefits from good olive oil, vinegar, fleur de sel, and freshly ground pepper.

One final note - it's best to add the bread to the salad just before serving so that it does not get soggy. You can mix the rest of the salad in advance (let it sit at room temperature - refrigeration affects the taste and texture of tomatoes), but add the bread at the last minute.

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, September 2006

Makes about 6 cups, and serves 4 to 6.

(4) 1/2-inch-thick slices from the center of a round sourdough loaf
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt or fleur de sel
freshly ground black pepper
1 small shallot, sliced into thin rings
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I like things vinegary, so I use 4)
1 small clove garlic, chopped coarsely
3-4 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) tomatoes, chopped in a quarter-inch dice
1-1/2 cups small English cucumber, chopped in a quarter-inch dice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

Heat a grill pan (I just use a cast iron skillet). Using 1/4-cup of olive oil, brush both sides of the bread slices, and season with salt and pepper. Grill both sides of the bread, checking often, until lightly browned. When cool, slice the bread into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, soak the shallot rings in the vinegar for approximately ten minutes. Using a slotted spoon, move the shallots to a large mixing bowl, and reserve the vinegar.

Sprinkle the chopped garlic with 1/4-teaspoon of salt. Using the side of a chef's knife, mash the garlic into a paste. Add garlic, 1/4-teaspoon salt, and 1/8-teaspoon pepper to the reserved vinegar. Whisk in 1/4-cup of olive oil to the vinegar mixture.

Gently toss the dressing, vegetables, basil, and bread together. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed.


Note: Creampuffs in Venice offers her treasured family recipe for Panzanella, here.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Blogger and Food News Roundup

  • Dana, at Phat Duck, has a very informative post on perfecting food purees.
  • Food and Wine is running a food photo contest (h/t Chez Pim). If you are interested in a great cookbook, Food and Wine's annual cookbook is hard to beat.
  • The Amateur Gourmet's July 31 entry sings the praises of Gourmet's July 2006 issue, which provides instructions on how to make the perfect pie crust. Says The Amateur Gourmet: "Bad pie makers, have I got a tip for you. Buy this month's Gourmet magazine and follow their technique for making the perfect pie crust. I am a terrible pie maker and I worked up the courage to follow their recipe after too many bad experiences and guess what? This crust was killer." Who can resist a recommendation like that? **Update: Kit at Kitchen Notes says it's the August 2006 issue of Gourmet.**
  • Rowena has mouth watering posts on the cuisine in Friuli, Italy. Oh, yum.
  • Kathy has a review of Waiola Shave Ice in Honolulu. What I like to order there is lilikoi (passion fruit) syrup, with crack seed, li hing mui powder, all topped with sweetened condensed milk. I used to be a purist until my sister-in-law introduced me to all the fixins'.
  • David Lebovitz has handy instructions regarding cell phones so that you can stay connected on your next trip to Paris.

Who Ate My Cookbook?

Inspired by Cream Puffs in Venice's recent creations from Once Upon a Tart, I pulled out my copy of the cookbook.

I admired the clean cover. Happily, I trotted upstairs and settled down in anticipation of turning the crisp pages, when I saw THAT A CORNER HAD BEEN CHEWED!!!!

Oh, the horror! Who ate my cookbook? Was this the culprit?

Or was it this dastardly fellow?

Ode to Cookbooks

I think I have at least 500 cookbooks. Seriously. I had collected quite a few on my own, but a couple years ago my mother passed away, and I inherited her vast collection. I have given away literally hundreds of cookbooks in the past year, as I try to pare down my horde to a manageable size.

Of course, one of my favorite hobbies is collecting . . . cookbooks. And what did I just do with my birthday money? I ordered this:

I eagerly await its appearance.

Key Lime Pie

I seem to be trying a lot of Ina Garten's recipes lately. Probably because they are usually quite good, always seem to work, and adapt well to my constant tweaking!
I tried this recipe without changing a thing, a rare and noteworthy event. I still ended up tweaking it a bit!
Ina Garten's Frozen Key Lime Pie

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature (if you have only large eggs, just use an extra yolk)
1/4 cup sugar 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 to 5 regular limes, about 20 key limes)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Crust: combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press into a 9-inch pie pan, making sure the sides and the bottom are an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Filling: beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze.

Freeze for several hours or overnight (it really needs at least 8 hours in the freezer).

Thoughts: this is a good recipe - lots of flavor, and great texture. Very refreshing on a hot summer day. That being said, the next time I make this, I will NOT use the lime zest if I use key limes - it's just way too much lime (and I'm a citrus lover). If you use regular limes, I would recommend that you include the zest - regular limes are not as tart or intense as key limes.

Lychee and It's Hairy Cousin, the Rambutan

Rambutan (left) and Lychee
I love to cook and bake, but sometimes I just get . . . tired. Burned out. What usually follows these episodes are weeks of furious experimenation. Once again, I find that I love to shop for food, and will venture to our local Asian markets and farm stands to look for interesting things, instead of just our standard fare.

This week, I was happy to discover fresh lychee and rambutan. You may have seen the lychee in cans, but the one in the picture above is a fresh one. Both fruits are similar in taste - sweet and mild (lychee is a bit sweeter), and you eat their white fruit by cracking the outer shell. Yum. You can find more info and pictures here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Meat Loaf Post

I've updated it with photos.

Of course, I will be studying Heidi's Food Photography Tips!