Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprises

These chocolate peanut butter cookies are definite crowd pleasers for anyone that likes chocolate and peanut butter. An innocent looking chocolate cookie that surprises any unsuspecting cookie monster with a hidden peanut butter center that is remisicent of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. I left some out in the kitchen, knowing full well the roommate would attempt to quietly sneak one. Five minutes later, I hear "Oh my Gosh!" followed by my roommate running into the room to pronounce "These cookies are so good!" So much for quietly sneaking one.

I'll warn you though - these little devils are a little on the labor intensive side and should be done quickly before the dough begins to dry out. Enlist some help with bribes of cookies at the end.

Cookies in different stages (from front to back): 1. Flatten chocolate dough ball 2. Place pb ball on top and wrap chocolate around pb 3. Roll combined dough ball to smooth out 4. Flatten into cookie shape

A stand mixer made all the difference when making these cookies. Getting the last bit of flour mixed into the chocolate outside and the powdered sugar into the peanut butter inside takes some work by hand if you use a hand mixer. When using the Kitchen Aid mixer, it probably cut my time down by 10 minutes. Did I mention my love for the Kitchen Aid?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprises

For the chocolate outside:
1 1/2 C All purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda

1/2 C butter, softened
1/2 C light brown sugar
1/4 C peanut butter

1 egg
1 T milk
1 t vanilla

For the peanut butter center:
3/4 C powdered sugar
1/2 C peanut butter

1/2 C granulated sugar

Prep: Pre-heat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.

Combine butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and 1/4 C of peanut butter in a bowl (or the mixer bowl if you are using a stand mixer). Beat at medium speed until combined. Add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat well. Slowly add the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda from the medium bowl to this mixture. Beat until a dough is formed and ingredients are well combined. If doing this by hand, you may have to knead the last bits of flour mixture in by hand. Set aside.

Wash out the mixing bowl. For the peanut butter center, combine the powdered sugar and 1/2 C peanut butter. Beat until smooth. Again, if doing this with a hand mixer, you may have to knead in the last bits of powdered sugar.

Shape: Divide both the chocolate and peanut butter dough into 32 balls each (for a total of 64 balls). The following steps correspond to the picture above from front to back. Step 1 - Take one chocolate ball and smoosh it a little to form a pancake. Step 2 - Place a peanut butter ball on top, then wrap the chocolate dough around the peanut butter ball. Step 3 - Roll the dough ball to smooth it out a bit. Step 4 - Slightly flatten the dough into the shape of a cookie (about a quarter to half inch thick). Coat the cookie in the granualted sugar. Place on cookie sheet.

Bake: Bake cookies for approximately 8 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack, as the cookies are still quite soft out of the oven.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking 2007

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Great Expectations

Sometimes you need to learn to lower your expectations. Or perhaps, just let go and not have any expectations whatsoever.

While at dinner at Tamarine in Palo Alto the other night, my oh-so-wise married friend commented that sometimes you may just need to lower your expectations when you are dating. For all those childhood (ok, and maybe current) dreams that Prince Charming who is also a doctor, masseuse, lawyer, cook, superman etc etc. is going to ride in on a white horse (a private jet would be ok too) and sweep me off my feet, I know she's probably right and maybe that "perfect" guy is just a tad bit more the guy sitting next to me on the bus. Let expectations go.

One of my good friends has been dating a girl for a couple of months now that lives a couple hours away. With Valentine's Day today and him being the good guy that he is, he went all out to show her he cared. Even I was slightly impressed with his roses-sending-and-traveling-up-for-one-night-and-showing-up-at-the-train-station-
with-her-favorite-Starbucks-drink-in-hand-shopping-and-cooking-dinner-at-the-apartment-self. While I'm certain he did this because he cared, not because he hoped to get anything in return, he reasonably had some expectations that she would return his affections in some way on Valentine's Day and that the evening would be extra special. Yet, not even an e-card. Nothing. And the night felt like any other night. A great night as usual, but nothing extraordinary. Let expectations go.

But I am neither a dating columnist, nor is this a blog about dating, so let's talk about how this relates to food.

I have been dreaming of going to Gary Danko since before moving to San Francisco. Recipient of the much coveted Michelin Star, Gary Danko is fine dining and I was fully researched, starved and prepared for this glorious meal. Except it's shiny glory was a little bit dull.

When I started this blog, I decided to write mainly about recipes I've tried or created or general food topics. I've decided to leave restaurant reviews to the experts, and so with that, I will only offer the following comments on my Gary Danko experience. Yes, the menu structure (pick any 3, 4 or 5 items from any where on the menu) is uniquely flexible. Yes, the service is good, but almost a bit creepy. These servers almost didn't seem like people. Yes, the food is good, but I expected fully to be dazzled out of my mind. It's rich and filling and maybe I just expected too much.

That's all I have to offer for now, other than what we ordered and some food porn.

Amuse Bouche

C - Seared Foie Gras with Caramelized Red Onion and Fuji Apples

A - Glazed Oysters with Osetra Caviar, Salsify and Lettuce Cream

C - Risotto with Lobster, Rock Shrimp, Winter Root Vegetables and Sage Oil

A - Seared Sea Scallops with Rutabaga Purée, Roasted Turnips, Braised Celery
and Brown Butter Golden Raisins

C - Guinea Hen Breast with Hen Sausage, Bacon-Butternut Squash Risotto
and Périgord Black Truffles

A - Roast Maine Lobster with Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Edamame and Tarragon

C – Herb Crusted Loin of Lamb with Beets, Polenta, Escarole and Raisin-Pinenut Relish

A - Lemon Herb Duck Breast with Duck Hash and Endive Marmalade

C – Wussed out and was too full for the cheese cart I ordered
A - Beef Tenderloin with King Trumpet Mushrooms, Potato Gratin, Cassis Glazed Shallots and Stilton Butter

C - Cute little chocolate cake wrapped up for the morning

A - A nice bill (forgot the picture :()

Even A was full beyond belief and just wanted it to stop by the end. We ended up boxing up the last three dishes after taking a few tasting bites while the food was fresh. Of course, A was a little confused why he only gets the bill while I get a cake.

Overall, I enjoyed the meal, but I am pretty certain that all the hype and expectations got the better of me in the end. Next time I dine at an hyped restaurant, I'm going to leave the hype and expectations at the door and hopefully have a more enjoyable meal. Yes, I need to let expectations go.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Two forks please?

Satura Cakes is a Japanese/French bakery in Palo Alto that I've heard SO much about from VMware co-workers. I finally ventured over there during lunch today and walked into the most heavenly smelling store. My thoughts went something like this...

"Oooh, tiramisu, yum...oh wait, strawberry shortcake! No, I want the mango parfait, wait, no the cream puff! Ahhh!

Ok, I haven't had lunch yet, so this can be my lunch. I'd like one of each please. Ok, Christine, get a hold of yourself. What's this...a sampler?! Perfect!"

I preceeded to order a sampler, which came with a strawberry shortcake, chocolate cake, mango parfait and cream puff in this cute little orange box labeled "Never Another Ordinary Bite." Then came the kicker from the waitress.

"How many forks would you like?"

Gulp. Do I admit I'm going to gorge myself on cake today? Or stealthily lie and say I'm sharing with lots of people at the office.

"2 forks please."

Note: I had to borrow a coworkers phone to take this picture. He now (reasonably) thinks I'm certifiably insane.

About Satura Cakes

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Beef and Broccoli (Romanesco)

Sadly, my Year of the Pig/Boar has come to an end...however, Happy Lunar New Year!

And what perfect timing. I have a mildly Chinese recipe to post, and what better time to post than Chinese New Year.

Three days before the Superbowl party and I am frantically trying to cook everything in my fridge to make way for the massive amount of groceries required to feed 45 people. And I come across this THING in my fridge. The thing that looks like an alien Christmas tree. Quite beautiful actually, but, what IS it?

It's romanesco. As mentioned previously, I received romanesco in my Mysterious Thursday box. After a bit of research, it turns out romanesco is part of the cabbage/brussel sprouts/cauliflower family. Many websites and blogs described it as a nutty cauliflower. Maybe I'm just a bad foodie. Blindfolded, I wouldn't be able to tell you the difference between this and broccoli. And at 9:30pm when I'm hungry, that's the treatment it's going to get. Beef and broccoli, er romanesco, time. Oh the irony of a white washed Chinese/Taiwanese girl making beef and broccoli for a white boy and herself.

I quickly chopped up the romanesco and some leftover beef. I briefly sauteed the beef and romanesco separately, then threw it all back in to coat it in sauce. Thrown on top of some rice and I was golden. Sorry, no real measurements here due to the "quick, feed me before I get grumpy" cooking style.

Beef and Broccoli (Romanesco)

Thinly sliced beef
Romanesco/Broccoli florets
Minced garlic
Minced shallots
Olive oil
Sesame oil
2 T soy sauce
2 T sherry
1/3 c oyster sauce
1 T cornstarch mixed with water

Quickly saute the beef until just before cooked. Remove from heat and set aside.

Quickly saute the broccoli/romanesco until cooked. Set aside.

Mix soy sauce, sherry and oyster sauce in a small bowl. Taste - dilute with water if necessary.

Heat up garlic and shallots in a mix of olive oil and sesame oil. Add beef and broccoli. Add sauce mixture and coat beef and broccoli evenly. Add cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. The sauce should thicken upon mixing. Serve on top of hot rice.

Romanesco links of interest:
Food meets math?
Cook (almost)Anything at Least Once's romanesco
Buy romanesco seeds from Amazon

Chocolate Decadence Cake with Raspberry Sauce

Since it IS currently the header picture of my blog, it's about time I post the recipe for the chocolate decadence cake. This cake scared me at first, I'll admit. My staunch "I cook, not bake" attitude would be completely destroyed if I baked a cake, other than baking with my good friend Betty Crocker. Granted, a large number of the recipes on this blog so far are of cookies, but for some reason, cookies seem to defy the baking category, at least in my state of denial towards baking. Yes, serious baking scares me because you have to be so precise with measurements and to me, that takes away the "a little bit of this, a little bit of that" fun that cookings brings me. But, in order to properly bribe, I mean motivate, a member of my project team, I promised chocolate cake. And chocolate cake it was.

This is a surprisingly easy recipe, and I think it would be even easier now with my lovely Kitchen Aid companion. I followed the instructions line by line and ended up with a beautiful and quite tasty cake that made many break their diets. *insert evil laugh here* As the magnet on my fridge says, "Lord, if you can't make me skinny, please make all my friends fat."

Chocolate Decadence Cake with Raspberry Sauce

I didn't have any raspberries or raspberry flavored liquer, so I used strawberries instead. The liquer would have given it that extra oomph, but it was just fine without.

For the raspberry sauce:
2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries or thawed frozen unsweetened raspberries
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 cup framboise or other raspberry-flavored liqueur (optional)

For the cake:
1 lb. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (I didn't have XL eggs, so I used 4 large eggs + one egg white)
1 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

To make the raspberry sauce, place the raspberries, sugar and framboise, if using, in a blender or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree until smooth. If you prefer a seedless sauce, pass the puree through a sieve.

To make the cake, position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 425ºF. Butter an 8 or 9-inch springform pan or a layer cake pan. Line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper or waxed paper cut to fit precisely. Butter the paper and dust with flour; tap out any excess.

Place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl or the top pan of a double boiler. Set over a pan of gently simmering water but not touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted and combined completely. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl. Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat until light, fluffy and tripled in volume, 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour. Using a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the egg mixture into the chocolate to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg mixture, taking care not to deflate the batter. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for exactly 15 minutes. Let cool completely to room temperature. Do not refrigerate or the cake will stick to the pan. Invert the cake onto a flat serving plate and peel off the paper.

Cut into small wedges and serve each wedge atop some of the raspberry sauce. Top with whipped cream. Makes one 8 or 9-inch cake; serves 12.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


These cheesestraws are a quick and easy tasty treat to make, perfect for party appetizers. As an added bonus, they look as good as they taste. These were served at the Superbowl party (thanks Lauren), and as usual, guests ate them right up.


2 sheets frozen puff pastry (Trader Joes has some good ones), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
Flour, for dusting
1 extra-large egg
1 Twater
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 t minced fresh thyme leaves
1 t kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

"Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it is 10- by 12-inches. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the surface of the pastry. Sprinkle each sheet evenly with 1⁄4 cup of the Parmesan, 1⁄2 cup of the Gruyère, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the thyme, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt, and some pepper. With the rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into the puff pastry. Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Don't over bake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve at room temperature."

(from Barefoot in Paris)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


While the rest of the sports fans world celebrates/tries to forget the upset on Sunday, I still have two sinks full of dishes (down from about five) remaining at home...perhaps a sign of a successful party? The second annual Super Sunday was a tremendous success. We had about 45 people pass through during the game, with a good 30 or so staying the whole time. While we expected a good handful of people to remain by the food and on the balcony the entire time, almost everyone had their eyes glued to the two tv's. Don't worry though, the food didn't completely take a back seat to the game. And so as ESPN, sports fans and bloggers analyze play by plays of the Giants' big win, here's my take on the more important aspect of Super Sunday.

Lessons Learned (because what else would a good consultant do?):

1. NEVER shop the Saturday before Super Sunday. The big grocery run took a total of FOUR hours (Costco, Trader Joes, Safeway) because the aisles were packed and people weren't moving. It reminded me of traffic on 101 that I encounter every day.
2. (Detailed) plans are essential, but be ready to deviate from them. I originally planned to do most of the prep work and baking during the week to avoid a last minute crunch. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned and the only thing I crossed off my list during the week was to make the chili (quite essential for the flavors to combine). Luckily, because I had listed out all the different tasks in order, it made the hectic Saturday night/Sunday morning much smoother because we always knew what needed to be done next. Of course, my list was nothing compared to this.
3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Again, having the list really helps, especially when you have people that aren't familiar with the recipes or what needs to be done.
4. Take pictures of food at least an hour in advance of when guests are to arrive. This goes right along with planning. People showed up early this year (they must have taken the evite suggestion to show up early for a good seat seriously), so there was a good amount of hovering waiting for food to be done. I managed a few quick shots of the food before it was devoured, but it would have been nice to get some quality shots next time.
5. Chafing dishes are a godsend. During past parties, I was constantly at the oven, putting in new food to warm up. The chafing dishes gave me the freedom to heat all the food in the beginning and actually eat/drink/watch the game this go around. And of course, it just makes me look like that much better of a cook :)
6. Enjoy yourself. People have always enjoyed the parties, which always makes me happy. I think as a host though, it's easy to forget to enjoy yourself.

The Hot Table

This was taken before everything was completely out, so we're missing a couple things. Items from the top: Left crockpot - Chili, Baby crockpot - Hot artichoke spinach dip, Right crockpot - Meatballs and chipotle smokies in Bourbon BBQ sauce, Hidden induction pot - Mac n cheese, Left chafing dish - Crabcakes (paired with mango salsa in bowl), Chipotle chicken skewers, Right chafing dish - Sriracha buffalo wings, Pineapple sausage pigs in a blanket with garlic mustard dipping sauce. Not pictured: Cornbread with honey butter.

The Cold Table
Items from Left to Right: Shrimp spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce, Veggies, Chocolate chip cookies, Cheesesticks, Shrimp ceviche, Deviled eggs, Peppered salami/garlic/pepperocini rollups. Not pictured: ranch, onion and hummus dips.

The Side Table

Items from top to bottom: Salted pita chips and pita, Peanut butter munchies, Chips and pretzels, Roasted tomato salsa, Guacamole