When you make a cake, you're not just making dessert. You're making a monument of sugar, flour and glory.
Sure, you've made batches of cookies or a few cupcakes before. And they were good, right? Delicious, even. Betty the old, crotchety neighbor down the street raved about them for weeks! People bought them in droves at the bake sale! You're gonna save town hall and have that parade after all!
Or something like that.
But admit it. The minute someone puts one of your measly handfuls of frosting next to a towering, three-story-tall chocolate-coconut masterpiece, you just feel ... inferior. And it's not a matter of flavor, either. You know those cupcakes are good. You had five of them last night at 3 a.m. over a cup of coffee and a rousing game of "c'mon man, seriously don't call your ex this time." Of course they're good.
They're just not impressive. Not the way that cake is. A cookie is something you make because you're sad and you want something warm and chewy in the general vicinity of your mouth. A cake is a magnificent Machu Picchu made of fudge. Know the difference.
So, because it's been rainy and hot and gross as all hell this week, and I know you all probably feel like garbage, we're gonna make a big-ass cake. We're gonna make a Strawberry Cake. And we're all gonna feel glorious together.
Hi. I'm Scott Greenberg, and I'm obsessed with baking. So much, in fact, that my personal recipe-blogging is now spilling over to Creative Loafing's Eat My Charlotte.
For those of you who don't know what my site's all about (which is probably every single one of you), I make tasty-ass recipes and pair them with equally tasty beats. It's cheaper than wine, way harder to OD on, and much more legal to drive around with. Plus, it just makes sense. You ever try eating in silence? It's boring. Depressing, even. You get the right track playing over the perfect plate, and both the music and the food are gonna taste better. It's a beautiful thing.
This week, I was thinking about something most of you food-obsessives think about on the regular: five-star restaurants. I like going to them just like anyone else - ordering something simple like a chocolate mousse and seeing it come out covered in gold leaf and tiny little marzipan recreations of the Sistine Chapel. But you know what I like even more? Going home, dumping a bunch of crap in a pan, and having something come out that tastes just as good.
And before you say it, no, I don't like making an easy dessert because it makes me feel like a good chef in a Sandra Lee, pick up a couple of cans of pre-made frosting and "you can't taste the difference!" kind of way.
I like doing it because it's a metaphorical smack in the face to Mr. Five-Star. Because I know, in my heart of grease-clogged hearts, that I can get the same reaction from people by melting a bunch of butter and chocolate together that a fancy dessert chef can from spending hours on a Lavender Meyer Lemon Soufflé. Those desserts might get some more ooohs and ahhs from people, but we both know what most people are gonna go for when they stumble into the fridge at 3 a.m. They're gonna go for the Nanaimo bars. Specifically, for some Lime and Espresso Nanaimo Bars. I can be a bit fancy too, y'know.
Sometimes I treat pancakes like a blank canvas. I dump in all kind of things from my pantry and fridge: rolled oats, almond flour, blueberries, nuts, peanut butter. Everything but the kitchen sink ...
But there's something to be said for plain ol' classic pancakes.
The weather is getting more beautiful every single day in Charlotte. And if you're like me, you don't want to spend every warm evening standing over a hot stove preparing dinner. That's where my crockpot comes in. It's probably my very favorite appliance because it practically does all the work of cooking for me.
Here's a delicious and easy recipe I make on evenings when I'd rather be walking my dog or sipping a beer in my backyard. Just start this easy recipe in the morning or on your lunch break (instructions are provided for both) and you can spend the evening doing whatever you want.
Well, we've skipped right over spring and went straight to summer. For you creative cooks and enthusiastic eaters, you're going to be seeking out fresh-tasting, cool meals that won't weigh you down. You're done with thick hearty stews and comfort foods like meatloaf and mashed potatoes - for now, anyway.
So, let me introduce you to my lemon and basil orzo dish with goat cheese and pine nuts. The fresh taste of lemon and basil paired with creamy rich goat cheese is a flavor combination that won't let you down. I like to serve this pasta slightly chilled like a pasta salad. Use it as a side dish with grilled chicken or fish or make it your main dish with a side salad. It's a spring-time pasta dish that goes with just about anything.
Mango salsa is one of those dishes you can whip up in minutes, but is just different enough to really make a dish taste totally different. And it goes a long way in a short time to impressing dinner guests. For some reason, people think you're Suzie homemaker just because you chopped a few veggies (and in this case, fruit) to make your own salsa.
While this stuff always is a big hit when served with salty tortilla chips, don't stay inside your box when eating mango salsa. You can do so much more with it, by using it as a topping on:
- Grilled Chicken Salad
- Rice and black beans
- Tacos and burritos
- Tropical nachos (shrimp, jalapenos, sour cream, and monterrey jack cheese)
- Black bean soup
- Turkey burger
- Grilled fish
I posted a couple of weeks ago about my easy strawberry pudding and I just can't seem to get strawberries off my mind!
So this week, I want to introduce to you a bowl of good-for-you hearty oatmeal inspired by the flavors of spring.
For those of you who say you don't like oatmeal because it's bland, well I'm here to fix that. This oatmeal will make you a believer. It's slightly sweet from the honey and creamy from the ricotta cheese. The fruity flavors also add a touch of sweetness. Bland, it is not.
Do you ever find yourself invited to an impromptu dinner party? Or even find yourself hosting a last-minute get-together? If you're anything like me, the answer is, "Yes, all the time."
When you're a self-proclaimed foodie and somewhat of a perfectionist on top of it, dropping by the Teeter for a couple of bakery doughnuts just doesn't cut it in these situations. You've got to make something, and you've got to make it fast.
Enter my super easy, super quick strawberry pudding. It's kind of like banana pudding but with strawberries, and it's so good that it never lasts longer than a party's end. It's creamy, cold, light and fruity. A fun dessert that everyone will enjoy ... even my friend who thinks this pudding is good to eat on saltines.
I'll stick to the Nilla Wafers.
When I want a good fish taco and I don't feel like cooking, I go to Cabo Fish Taco. But more often than not, my husband and I make them at home. This is one of those few meals that is almost always a joint effort. We've made them about 20 different ways and they always turn out right. It's one of those meals that is hard to mess up.
Every once in a while, though, we stumble upon a better-than-usual way to make fish tacos. This was one of those times.
With 14 pounds of shrimp in our freezer and my husband's tendency to cook everything with a splash of bourbon, discovering this recipe was practically inevitable.
Risotto is my go-to fancy dish. Even though the time required may make it seem overwhelming, trust me when I say that when you've made it once, you've got it down. Every recipe for risotto is practically the same except for a couple of ingredients (unless you're making fritters or cakes).
If you're like me, you adore seafood and can eat it pretty much any ol' time. The marriage of seafood and risotto is a perfect combination for me, and I hope it is for you as well.
In this particular recipe, I used a frozen seafood mix I bought at Trader Joe's, but you could buy the shellfish fresh or even just include one or two of your favorite types of shellfish.