Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sayonara Buffalo

Well, after a long time of debating Brian and I decided to move back to the city that we love, Pittsburgh.  This meant we'd have to leave the place we called home for three years, Buffalo.  It was a bitter sweet goodbye.  There were so many places we enjoyed in Buffalo, especially the Elmwood Strip.  It was one of our favorite places because 1: we could walk there whenever we wanted to, 2: the restaurants were fantastic, and 3: the Bidwell Farmer's Market.  We would get up early on a Saturday morning, grab a cup of coffee, and walk with the dog down to the market to get our produce for the week.  We'd also grab a homemade cinnamon roll if they were available.  They always sold like hot cakes because they were so darn toot'in good!
Some of our favorite restaurants on the Strip were the Blue Monk, Pano's, Cecelia's (for the drinks), and most recently Sole.
The Blue Monk was where we had our last meal in Buffalo.  It's this amazing Belgian Beer restaurant/bar that offers over 30 beers and great frites that are fried in duck fat and served with a choice of dipping sauces.  Our favorite sauces were the aioli and Thai ketchup, at least I think it's called Thai ketchup but don't quote me on that.  I'm sorry to say I didn't have a favorite beer at the Blue Monk, but I can say I never had a bad one.  If you have the time you need to go and sample as many beers as you can.  They change every day!  I did have some amazing food though, besides the duck frites.  I can vouch for the Blue Monk Burger and the Roast Beef on Weck.  If you don't know what weck is please allow me to explain... It's basically a bun with salt on top.  Lots and lots of salt.  I'm sure that a true Buffalonian would be able to explain it better, but basically that's what it is.  Both sandwiches were awesome and I'd be happy to try them again.

Another favorite of ours was Pano's.  You could go there for any meal and have a great experience.  You might have to wait 20 minutes but it's well worth it. The last meal we had there was a Sunday Brunch.  I had their french toast piled high with fruit and filling.  It was so, so good; and to top it all off I had a cranberry mimosa.  Yummmmm!!  We had nice dinner dates there with great company and if I were to return to Buffalo I would definitely want to stop in.  As their commercial says, "How do you do it Pano?"  "I do it, I do it well."

Cecelia's is our next stop of Elmwood Strip favorites.  I have to say that the very first experience there was awful; and when I say awful I really mean awful.  Our waitress was nasty to us, we never got bread because they "ran out" at 6 p.m. on a Saturday (weird right?), and we waited an hour for our food.  To top it off, the owner was schmoozing a table right next to us and didn't do a thing.  He went around to check everyone elses' table but ours.  Needless to say it was the worst restaurant experience we had ever had; which was too bad because the food was good.  Our second trip redeemed itself a little bit.  The service and waiter were much, much better and the food was still excellent.  The drinks though were my absolute favorite overall.  Cecelia's has a martini bar inside the restaurant, so both times we went inside and had a drink before dinner.  I had a Cable Car Martini and a Berry Snapple Martini.  They were awesome!  I would have loved to have had another Cable Car but it knocked me on my butt!  But I guess 151 will do that to you.
So if you ever visit Cecelia's it will probably be hit or miss, but definitely have a martini!

Sole was the newest restaurant to the Elmwood Strip.  I'd like to think of it as a modern day Mexican restaurant.  The food was great, I had a chicken burrito wrap, and so were the drinks, AKA Mojitos!  My favorite part by far though was the guacamole.  It was actually made table side right in front of you.  The gentleman walked up to us and introduced himself and told us a little bit about what we were in store for.  He explained everything that went into the guacamole and how he was going to prepare it.  He even asked us how we liked it so he could make it to our liking.  It was served in these huge mortar bowls with a side of chips, and let me tell you we gobbled that up in less than 5 minutes it was so good.  Two thumbs up here!

The Elmwood Strip was good to us and we can't wait to visit again.  But I have to end this post with an absolute favorite of ours.  It's called Towne and it's on the corner of ElmwoodTowne!

Buffalo was very good to Brian and I, and we will miss it very much.  So until we meet again Buffalo, sayonara. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Please sir, I want some S'more!

Well, I'm back from vacation and ready to bake!  We had such a great time in the OBX.  We saw dolphins, hung out on the beach, ate great seafood, and accidentally swam with stingrays.  Yes you read that correctly.  Hey, I'm sure if you were in the ocean and saw a giant grey mass coming towards you, you would run to!   So now we are back in our home packing up for another great adventure together... moving.  So I thought why not take my mind off of things and bake something?  So I did.  S'more cupcakes seem to be all the rage this summer, so I thought I would try my hand at it.  I took 1 chocolate cake recipe and added to it to give it that S'more taste. 

To make your own S'more cupcakes here is what you will need: 

- 3/4 cup of room temperature butter, and 3 tablespoons
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 2 cups of flour
- 3/4 cup of cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of good vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups of milk
- 1 bag of large marshmallows
- 1 box of vanilla wafers

- 1 stand or hand mixer
- 1 spatula
- 2 cupcake tins
- 1 package of paper cupcake holders
- 1, 1 quart saucepan
- 1 medium sized bowl
- 1 cooling rack
- 1 cupcake scooper or 2 large spoons
- 1 wooden spoon

For the chocolate cake:

- Combine all of your dry ingredients, except the sugar, into a medium sized bowl and set aside.  This includes the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- Using your mixer beat the 3/4 cup of butter on high speed for 30 seconds, no more no less.  Then lower your speed to medium and begin to add your sugar 1/4 cup at a time.  After all of the sugar is in, let the butter and sugar mix for 2 minutes.  Occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is mixed well. 
- After 2 minutes keep the mixer going and add your eggs one at a time.  Once those are incorporated add your vanilla.
- Now, lower your speed to the lowest setting.  Grab your dry ingredient mixture and milk and add them to the mixture, alternating.  After everything is added allow your mixer to mix for an additional 20 seconds.
- Now you are ready to pour your batter.  When you scoop it out it should almost have a mouse like texture and taste delicious!

Here is how to set up your cupcake to become a S'more:
- Place your paper cups in the cupcake tins.  Mine holds 12 cupcakes.
- Put 1 vanilla wafer on the bottom of six cups (based on a 12 cup tin).
- Fill your paper cups half way up with batter.
- In the six cups you DID NOT put a wafer, crush up 4-5 wafers and sprinkle a little bit over each batter.  Using the end of a spoon mix the wafer into the batter.
- Now bake your cupcakes at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until they spring back from your touch.

Vanilla wafers were crushed and
added to this cupcake's batter.

For the marshmallow topping:
- Place 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a 1 quart saucepan over a low heat. 
- Once it is melted add your bag of marshmallows and continuously stir until they have melted.
- Turn off your heat and grab your first cupcake.
- Dip it into the marshmallow top side down.  You may have to spin the cupcake a little in order to get the cupcake completely covered.

Let your cupcakes rest for about 30 minutes then devour them! 

*The only thing I would have changed about the cupcakes was I would have added a few rice crispies to the batter in order to make it crunch when you bit into it.  I thought the wafer would do that, but instead it added a nice vanilla flavor to the cupcake.  I was really happy with this cupcake.  It is probably one of the better tasting ones I've ever made.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

OBX Vacation

It's true.  We are off on an adventure to the beach for the week.  Unfortunately, due to time restrictions, I was unable to make a delicious snack for the road.  But when I get back I'll have a bunch of recipes to share with you.  Or, even better, you can share with me!  What snack do you absolutely have to have with you when you travel?  Any restaurants you like to stop at along the way?  I love Gardetto's!  They are definitely addictive. 

Until we eat again!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lemon Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday to Chris and Ed!!  It was a great weekend seeing our college family and celebrating the birthday of two great guys.  As their choice for a birthday cake I went in search of the perfect Lemon cake and cream cheese recipes.  With help from a co-worker I found some pretty good ones, courtesy of Martha Stewart.  Man that woman knows what she's doing! 
So without further adieu, Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cake Ingredients:
2 sticks of room temperature butter (unsalted)
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon of lemon zest
2 cups of sugar
2 egg yolks AND 3 eggs
1/4 cup of lemon juice and 2 Tablespoons to save
1 cup of buttermilk
1 lemon, sliced

Frosting Ingredients:
8 oz. of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick of butter, room temperature
2 cups of sifted confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla (I substituted lemon juice for vanilla)

1 hand or stand mixer with attachable whisk and flat paddle
1 medium bowl
1 whisk
3 spatulas (2 large, 1 small)
1 sifter
A knife and cutting board
2, 8 or 9 inch cake pans (circular preferably)
1 cooling rack
1 froster (as I call it) or 1 dull knife
A cake stand (or board)
Wax paper (to use while frosting)

Cake Steps:
-  Grease your two cake pans.  Make sure you grease them well!  Then, in a separate bowl from your stand mixer's, combine all of your dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.  Whisk together.
-  Using your mixing bowl beat your butter and 1/2 a cup of sugar until it becomes light and fluffy.  Lowering your mixing speed to as low as it can go, add your eggs and yolks one at a time.  Once your eggs are incorporated add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice.
-  Now add and alternate your flour mixture and buttermilk into the bowl.  But make sure your final addition is the flour mixture!
-  Once your mixture is well incorporated divide the batter between your two pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 32-35 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
-  While your cakes are baking, create a simple lemon syrup by bringing to a boil 1/2 a cup of sugar and 1/2 a cup of water.  After water begins to boil, stir and add slices of 1 whole lemon (without the seeds).  Simmer  liquid for 25 minutes, then with a slotted spoon take out the lemon slices and place on a sheet of wax paper.  Now add 1/4 cup of lemon juice to the syrup, stir.

-  When cakes are finished baking, let them rest for 10 minutes before you pop them out of the pan.  Once cakes are popped out onto a cooling rack, carefully prick them with either a toothpick or fork.  Then, brush the simple syrup over top of the cakes.  Let the cakes cool completely, then assemble.

Frosting Steps:
-  Place cream cheese in the mixing bowl and beat until smooth.  Then add butter and beat until mixture becomes creamy.
-  On low speed gradually add granulated sugar.
-  When just about everything is combined add your vanilla, or as I did lemon juice.  Mix.

Cake Assembly:
-  Grab your cake stand or board and place 4 short sheets of wax paper on it creating a square shape.
-  Take one of your cakes and place it in the center of the wax paper square.
-  Place a heap of frosting in the center of the cake and slowly smooth it out towards the edge.  Once you have a pretty thick layer of frosting on top place your other cake on top. 

-  Once your second cake layer is in place, drop another heap of frosting on top.  Push the frosting towards the edge of the cake and smooth out the top.  Then frost your sides. 
-  Once you are done frosting pull out your wax paper from underneath the cake carefully.  Decorate with the candied lemon slices from the simple syrup. 

Enjoy YOUR Birthday!!  I know these boys did!