Monday, January 24, 2011

Savory Triangles & Sweet Curd Sauce

My family. We have our quirks and inside jokes, but I love my siblings more than anything. They have always been the light in the darkness of my life.

This past week, my brother went for some tests since he had not been feeling well. We all may not like the doctor, but since our father passed away so young from heart disease, we don't mess around.

After being admitted to the hospital and undergoing testing all day, the tests came back negative last Monday and the doctors said he was the picture of health. He kept reiterating that something was wrong and wanted more tests done. We certainly didn't want them to find anything wrong, but better safe than sorry, so he stayed overnight for observation and to prepare for more tests.

I didn't hear from anyone all day last Tuesday and I was getting really nervous. My brother was under general anesthesia for two of the tests and I was praying they would find something simple and easily fixable, if anything, to help him feel better.

Late Tuesday night, I was able to get his girlfriend on the phone and the news was regrettably not good. The doctors had diagnosed him with a very rare disorder, called Brugada's Syndrome. This disorder involves the electrical impulses that keep the heart functioning, so if the disorder ever leaves its dormancy and becomes active, it can cause sudden death. Since the disorder has no predictability, the only thing that can be done to counteract it is to implant a pacemaker and defibrillator.

I lost it.

I was trying to control myself on the phone so his girlfriend could catch me up on the past two days and how the doctors had confirmed without a doubt he had this disorder, but I didn't say much since I wasn't holding myself together well. As soon as we finished talking, I ran into the office to tell Guy, where I nearly collapsed from crying so hard. I would not have been able to organize everything to get down to my brother so quickly without Guy's strength.

And that was just my reaction - what the junk was my brother going through?!?

They were going to do the surgery as soon as possible on Wednesday. I obviously couldn't sleep on Tuesday night, so I exhausted myself researching the disorder online, packing, etc. On Wednesday morning, I called the dog sitter, but she was out running errands, so we had to wait for her to come home before we could leave. She took much longer than anticipated, and the trip to my hometown is several hours away. Once I said a sad goodbye to my confused pooch, I kept myself mentally busy while Guy drove (since we are still trying to work out a replacement car from my accident last month), and we finally made it to town Wednesday afternoon.

Our mom works at the local hospital, so my brother had a large room that allowed our family to fit inside and be with him during this emotional time. He was sleeping and being checked on by a nurse when we reached the room, and everyone was pretty quiet. I had wanted us to arrive before the surgery to speak with him, but it turns out they had just brought him out of surgery. I just stood by his bed, staring at him sleeping, not knowing what to think. This discovery is not a one-time event. The battery will need to be replaced on the devices, which means more surgery within every ten years, not to mention avoiding complications during his lifetime. I have been having a hard time recovering from my accident, but my brother's disorder and surgery puts this in a whole new perspective.

My brother is a unique person and handled this entire process better than anyone else I know could. He kept thanking the doctors and nurses, thanking my family and I for being by his side, and trying to keep us laughing as usual. My middle sister and our beaus stayed late on Wednesday night talking and keeping our brother company, which hopefully helped take his mind off the pain (with the help of medications). I couldn't bring myself to leave, so Guy and I stayed the night in the hospital. My brother was so sweet and kept asking if my back was okay in the chair I was sleeping in beside his bed, but I told him not to worry since it doesn't compare to what he's going through. It was somewhat comforting to be with him and help him during the night, to know he wasn't in that room all alone.

The doctors discharged him the next day, so we packed everything up and took off for his little apartment. We made a fort out of pillows and tried to tuck him in as best as possible, but those hospital bendy beds are much more forgiving after major surgery. Guy and I stayed one more night so we could check in on my brother the next day, since most everyone had to return to work after being out all week. We started watching Man v. Food again (we both love the show and had stayed up until 2am in the hospital watching it together), which caused him to ask for cheese fries over and over - but he was a little out of it from the pain medication. I of course couldn't say no, so we headed to the store to gather supplies. I made him some cheese fries, which he loved, but it was sadly time to return home. It was very hard to leave, but he's in good hands and we couldn't stay forever.

My sisters and I have to be tested now for Brugada's Syndrome as well. It's usually only found in males, but since our brother has been diagnosed, we need to be checked. I'm not ready to mentally face that yet, but I will have to soon. Obviously, I turned to my kitchen for comfort, trying to feel some sense of normalcy after this week; however, I came home to most of my food being spoiled. I cleaned out the fridge and freezer, making something from anything I had left - including a strong drink.

All the vegetables I had left were cooked with spices, then wrapped in phyllo dough and baked through. I whipped up some sweet curd sauce to counter the savory triangles in just a few minutes. The dish was comforting, quick, and simple - just the item I needed after a trying week (and I didn't even experience the difficult part). I hope you'll be able to enjoy this dish in brighter spirits. I'm grateful my brother was able to get help and he's at home recovering, I just wish he didn't have to go through any of this. My siblings and I are optimistic people, plus we have each other, so we'll keep laughing and joking together through anything in life.

Savory Triangles & Sweet Curd Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups spinach
1 tbsp curry
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

phyllo dough - 8 strips, 4" wide, 3 layers deep
8 oz smoked Gouda, shredded
melted ghee

6 oz sour cream
1/4 cup fine organic sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

In a lipped skillet, add the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for 5 min to allow the onions to brown. Then add the garlic, broccoli, and cauliflower and cook for 5 min.

Next add the spinach and all spices, stirring occasionally. Cook until the spinach has wilted and all ingredients are mixed well. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 400*F. Lay down a kitchen towel and cut the phyllo dough into 8 strips that are 4" wide and 3 layers deep.

Using one strip at a time, add 1/4 cup of the vegetable mixture, top with 1 oz Gouda, and wrap into triangles.

Repeat with the other strips.

On a baking sheet, brush with ghee and lay down each triangle. Then liberally brush each triangle with ghee.

Bake for 12 - 15 min until the triangles are browned.

While the triangles are baking, fill a small pot half way with water and simmer over low heat. Add a second metal bowl on top to create a double boiler, and add the sour cream and sugar. Whisk together until the sour cream has melted. Then add the egg yolk and continue whisking to prevent it from cooking, then drizzle in the lemon juice until fully combined. Remove from the heat and pour into a serving bowl.

Remove the triangles from the oven and serve warm.

~Yields 8 triangles.

~Original by Brie.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lucy & Leo's - Cupcake Wars




On Tuesday night Lucy & Leo's Cupcakery put Tallahassee, FL on the map! They proudly competed in Food Network's Cupcake Wars after being contacted to come out and take a chance on winning $10,000 and instant cupcake fame.

Lucy & Leo's has been a gem of Tallahassee's for several years now. The cupcakery is named after co-owners Jean & Paula's dog Leo & the pup-next-door Lucy. 

Jean & Paula started selling their family recipe cupcakes from their home, and soon had to find a storefront to keep up with demand.

A quaint spot in the area of Tallahassee labeled Midtown is a perfect location to feed die-hard fans and welcome newcomers. Lucy & Leo's is well known for their consistently delectable cupcakes of moist cake and rich frosting, plus their dedication to regularly creating new winning flavors.

They use many organic ingredients, like milk and sugars, in the cupcakes which helps keep the flavors bright and clean, instead of the often artificial synthetic flavors other bakeries use. Although you can't go wrong ordering any of their cupcakes, some of my favorites are the German Chocolate Cake Cupcake and the Grasshopper Cupcake (chocolate + mint). During the holidays, they made an Eggnog cupcake which was pure heaven. To ensure everyone can enjoy a cupcake every now and then, they also feature gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan cupcakes every week. And, my personal favorite, Happy Hour Fridays! They feature 'happy hour' flavored cupcakes like Amaretto Sour, Margarita, and Guiness each Friday and even stay late some days relaxing with the regulars.

In addition to their voluptuous cupcakes, they also create mini-cupcakes and cakeballs from their daily flavors. They love working with clients to create individual requests for weddings and other celebrations, some of which have included Monopoly and Cheshire Cat cupcakes as seen on their website. If you're a Twitter follower of their shop, you can also discover sneak peak announcements of BOGOs and new flavors.

Lucy & Leo's has definitely turned me into a lover of cupcakes, something I was not before they came along.

To thank their loyal fans, Paula & Jean held a premier party Tuesday night during the airing of their show at the 5th Avenue Tap Room across from their shop in Midtown. These two ladies are still humble in their sudden leap in fame, and are as dedicated to their customers as they are Tallahassee. They're often involved in supporting Midtown's shops, as Jean is President of the Midtown Merchants Association, as well as local animal shelters since both Lucy & Leo were adopted from the Leon County Humane Society. They had shared their audition video for Cupcake Wars months ago, so the fans had been waiting a long time to see them on tv!

The room looked sleek and elegant, with their surprise cupcakes lighting up the room. Although we were unable to discuss what magical ingredients were hidden in each one, we were free to taste upon arrival. They had done such a beautiful job of displaying the cupcakes, I was hesitant to pick any up; however, I reminded myself who had made them and quickly snatched up all four flavors. It was at this point I knew if they had made four flavors, they had at least made it to Round 2, but I sequestered my excitement for the moment.

Soon Jean & Paula took to the stage to welcome everyone and thank their fans for their support not only of their cupcakes for these past several years, but also for their excitement and believing in them to do well on Cupcake Wars.

Moments later, after the cheering had died down, the speakers began playing the familiar introduction to the show and Jean was on screen! Thankfully nothing much happened in those first few minutes because you wouldn't have been able to hear them over the roar of the fans.

The theme of their show was 'Weddings'. Thus, their first cupcake had to include the old adage, 'Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue'. Jean & Paula had to include ingredients that fit these four criteria into one single cupcake. Their cupcake included the following: Old - balsamic vinegar, New - marzipan, Borrowed - matcha powder, Blue - blueberries. This was the most complexly flavored cupcake of the evening, and my personal favorite (I went and bought two more the next day since I was modest and only had one at the party).The matcha powder I had guessed incorrectly as being wasabi due to the tang from the balsamic vinegar reduction. The cupcake was vanilla and had blueberries in it, with the green tea frosting topped by a marzipan flower which held another blueberry with the reduction. The flavors were not busy as one might expect, but melded perfectly. Although this cupcake is time consuming, I would buy it regularly for its sophisticated notes. The judges seemed to enjoy the cupcake, and only complained that the vanilla cupcake was too plain with all the available options. Thankfully not a real complaint, but I assume they must find something to spice up the show.

With the success of the first round, Jean & Paula made it to Round 2! This round required them to invent three more cupcakes. Whew.

First, a Groom's Cake Cupcake consisting of chocolate and espresso flavors with a white chocolate drizzle and chocolate covered espresso bean as garnish.

Second, a timeless Raspberry Chambord Cupcake and champagne frosting, garnished with a fresh raspberry and sweet raspberry sauce.

Third, a classic Southern Hummingbird Cupcake with fruity flavors and topped with pineapple and pecans in the shape of a hummingbird.

I was attempting to take notes on all the components of each cupcake, but I should have reserved eating them after hearing the descriptions, not at the same time. I just kept drifting off into space mumbling to myself how delicious they all were and so impressed how these amazing cupcakes could be made on a whim.

The judges decided to fault these cupcakes as not being decorated enough. Lame. The flavors were outstanding and the decorations were a classic representation of such a mature theme. Although I admit to being partial, the flavors were outstanding and thankfully the judges recognized this by advancing them to Round 3!

In this round, Jean & Paula had to create a tablescape to hold 1,000 cupcakes. 1,000. Yikes. They decided to create a Japanese oval table, which reminded me of the sideways 8 eternity symbol, complete with dark wood branches and wispy cherry blossoms. The table was gorgeous and brought the theme into focus, since all the cupcakes looked like they belonged on that table together. Jean gave a great speech to the judges explaining their choices and everyone at the party went wild with excitement!

The Tap Room seemed to be buzzing with anticipation over the next few minutes until the announcement of the winner. Everyone was on their feet ready to celebrate, but, alas our beloved cupcakery took second place. While we think the judges chose wrong (they did admit to deliberating much longer than normal), Lucy & Leo's has much to be proud of. Their feature on Cupcake Wars has brought them to a new level of recognition in the cupcake world and will bring many new customers, near and far.

I was able to steal Paula away from the party for a few minutes to answer some behind-the-scenes questions about the show. While I knew filming would have to be long, I was surprised to learn they spent at least 15 hours filming in one day in Los Angeles. They had to buy new equipment and have it shipped out to be ready for anything that might be brought as a challenge on the show, since the studio is not fully equipped for each contestant (since they assume each team will want to use items that are familiar to them and their usual kitchens). Plus, the studio was kept freezing cold and extremely bright from a plethora of lights. The physical and emotion drain of filming sounded exhausting.

All their decisions were made on the spot. They do not have any time to sit and think about what they should make or build, so the timed portion of the show is true to real time. The assistants in the third round are local chefs, culinary students, or volunteers that want to participate in the show. And what about all those extra cupcakes? Paula said they are donated to local food shelters or community programs for hungry children, plus the crew get their pick as well.

Although it would have been a pleasure to see Lucy & Leo's win, I'm happy to hold onto them for a bit longer locally. Their publicity has opened them up to national clientele who can always send away for delicious individualized cupcake flavors for weddings and other parties.

Congratulations to Lucy & Leo's for their amazing display of cupcakes and talent on the Food Network! Make sure to thank them when you become a regular, too.

Lucy & Leo's Cupcakery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Calvin & Hobbes Snowmen Sugar Cookies - 100th Post

I've been reading a lot of Calvin & Hobbes lately.

I own all the books. I've reread them dozens of times. And I still cry a little inside when I read the Sunday comics in the newspaper and realize my favorite characters are nowhere to be found.

You see, I knew I had found the right doctor to fix me up after the accident when his waiting room was full of the same comic books I have at home. It ensures I get to my appointments a little early so I can pick up where I left off a few days before. It gives me something to chuckle about while they're moving my spine back into place. ::shudders::

I pretend I was actually injured while with Calvin & Hobbes on one of their soul searching sled rides, careening down the side of a steep mountain, only to end up in a slushy of half-frozen water from a pond at the bottom. It's a much more interesting story, that's for sure.

All those comics got me thinking and have inspired the recipe for my 100th post - Calvin & Hobbes Sugar Cookies. Err, rather their infamous snowmen. It at least looks like Calvin took over for his mom in the kitchen, so it counts.

It feels great to reach the 100th Post blogging milestone. I pledged to post more on my 1 year anniversary, and I have kept my word. I'll still be posting more inventive recipes in the new year, plus continuing my dairy series. And even if my virtual book club is sparse for a little while, I'll be sharing a book once a month, too.

Bill Watterson revealed that Calvin's snowmen were his [Watterson's] way of making fun of the "pretentious blowhards" of the art world. Calvin's attitude and intellect were a perfect match on mocking those who believe literally anything can be art - although Calvin still blows anyone out of the water.

This one is labeled by Calvin himself, called "Bourgeois Buffoon". Too bad his mom didn't approve his grant application. This series could have really advanced the avant-garde artworld.

This is a piece from Calvin's "Snowmen House of Horror" series. The others were judged too gruesome to be seen here.

Lastly, this is titled "All Knowing" since Calvin's parents proclaimed you could always tell when you got to their house after seeing his latest creation compared to the other neighborhood snowmen.

I used cream cheese to hold the snowmen together, but the marshmallows are really just for decoration. I popped them off before enjoying the sugar cookies as they were intended to be eaten (which are slightly overcooked since I couldn't hop off the couch fast enough - le sigh).

I hope you enjoyed this goofy recipe and thank you for helping me reach my 100th post. I think this is a great way to start the new year together.

Sugar Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup turbinado
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup fine organic sugar

Preheat the oven to 375*F and line an extra large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer, add the butter and sugars and mix for 3 min. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

Once the butter and sugars are creamed together, add the egg and vanilla, mixing well. Then slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Use an ice cream scoop to measure out 12 large cookies. 
Before placing them on the baking sheet, roll the top and sides in fine sugar. 
Press down the cookies to help flatten them before setting them in the oven. Bake for 15 min.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 10 min before transferring to a cooling rack.


2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp raw milk

Mix the powdered sugar and milk together, adjusting the thickness to the desired consistency by either adding more powdered sugar to make it thick or more milk to make it thin.

~Yields 12 large sugar cookies.

~Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.