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I made mini-cakes! They are adorable and mini.

Here’s what I did – it was pretty easy and a fun way to make personalized desserts.

I made one recipe of my fave carrot cake (, and baked it in a 9×13 pan. Once baked and cooled, I wrapped the cake tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for an hour or so.


Then I used a biscuit cutter to make little cake rounds. I cut all the cake rounds into two pieces. Each cake was then made with 3 layers – 1.5 times the thickness of the cake as baked originally. It is easier to cut each round in half individually than to try and cut the whole cake in half (into two layers) at once. Trust me.

I frosted these with lots of cream cheese frosting, chilling as I went so that the outer layer would harden. I added some marmalade to the middle for yummy filling.


I also rolled some in party sprinkles.

These were so yummy and pretty. Very easy, and very fun. I served them in cupcake wrappers, for ease of eating and mobility.

One note: While cream cheese frosting is clearly the most delicious frosting ever, it does not harden like a true buttercream, which can pose decorating challenges. For example, it is difficult to pipe designs with cream cheese frosting because the shapes begin to melt, while piped buttercream designs tend to hard and hold better. You may consider just using cream cheese frosting for the middle filling, and using buttercream for your decorations.


Another note: You may be wondering why I made mini-cakes instead of making cupcakes. You may think cupcakes and mini-cakes are the same. You would be wrong. The frosting-to-cake ratio in a cupcake is way off, in a way that really bothers me. Also, cupcakes tend to be drier, in my experience, since they are basically all corners. By making mini-cakes, you reduce the amount of heat exposed edges, which makes for more delicious moister cakes. Finally, I think fully frosted mini-cakes are more adorable than cupcakes, plain and simple.


Now go make some delicious and adorable mini-cakes.





Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

It is FINALLY getting warmer. Snow is melting. I have left my puffy coat at home for a few days, and I actually thought about NOT wearing tights this morning (I thought about it, but I’m not crazy – I still wore tights).  But, it’s still chilly enough for some hearty warm winter time comfort foods. And yet, since spring is coming, it’s best if that comfort food is also super healthy and crazy delicious.  Enter, Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley risotto.

photo 2

By cutting the arborio rice and using pearl barley, you can make a hearty whole grain risotto that tastes amazing, even if it is slightly less creamy than a traditional risotto.  The best part is that it doesn’t taste healthy but that can be our secret.

Do yourself a favor and just try it.  This is one of my new faves.


photo 1

Mushroom Butternut Squash Barley Risotto

Makes about 5 servings for me (but 3 or 4 servings if feeding my boyfriend too).  I used my 14″ cast iron – if it had been any smaller it might be necessary to combine all the ingredients at the end in a bigger bowl/pan once the barley was completely cooked through.


8 oz pearl barley (I bought a bag from Trader Joe’s)

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 butternut squash, diced into 1/2″ pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil (approx)
1 or 2 tablespoons butter (2 is more delicious, but 1 is a little healthier)
1 tablespoon cornstarch.
1 tsp dried parsley
4 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup apple juice, or sweet white wine (but I used apple juice, if using wine, reduce to 1/2 C, use water for rest)
2/3 C grated Parmesan reggiano
Spread squash on baking pan and toss with a little olive oil to coat. Put in oven to roast at 400F for about 15 minutes, until it starts to sizzle and brown, but is not cooked completely through.
In a large cast iron skillet (or any large skillet, or sauce pan with low sides – the sides should be low to allow the liquid to evaporate), saute onion in a bit of olive oil until translucent (5 minutes). Remove from pan and set aside. Put mushrooms in pan with additional olive oil and sautee until golden. Remove from pan and set aside with onions.
Put uncooked barley into hot skillet and let brown for about a minute or two over medium heat. Add 1/2 C broth. Stir frequently until broth is absorbed, then add more broth in 1/2 cup increments and stir until absorbed. After about 15 or 20 minutes, you should have added 2 to 3 cups of the broth. Stir in one tablespoon cornstarch and about a teaspoon of dried parsley. At this point, add the butternut squash and continue stirring, adding more liquid (broth and juice/wine) until absorbed. This will take another 20 minutes or so of frequent stirring.  Occasionally taste the barley to see if it’s tender. If all the liquid has been added but the barley is not yet tender, add a little water.
When barley is tender, or just about, add the onions and mushrooms back in. Stir frequently until all liquid is absorbed and barley and squash are completely cooked. Before serving, stir in 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter and grated parmesan until thoroughly incorporated and melted.  At this point, season with salt and lots of pepper.  You do not want to add much salt before adding the cheese, because the cheese itself is very salty.  But lots of pepper is yummy.  Serve with additional grating of parmesan on top, if desired.


Farro (or Quinoa), Feta & Grape Salad

Posted on
Farro (or Quinoa), Feta & Grape Salad

BLOG FAIL! I haven’t posted in three months. I am back at law school for final semester, and that’s been pretty time consuming. I have done a fair amount of cooking, arts and crafts, but I haven’t had the time or energy to post.

I wrote the blog post below shortly after spring break (2 months ago) but never uploaded the pictures to post it until now. I am not going to edit it for time content, because (1) I am lazy; (2) I am in the middle of finals; and (3) my rant about winter still stands. It’s now sorta spring in NYC, though it should almost be summer and the seasons are taking their own sweet time rolling in. In other news, Punxsatawney Phil might start looking for another job.

Original post follows:image1

This winter is DRAGGING. I mean, I thought Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow and winter is supposed to be over already?

Because I get so sick of winter, I start pretending it’s spring. Doing things like wearing sandals even though it’s really too cold for them. I do it to spite nature, but in reality, I just get cold feet. Whatever. It’s my own personal form of protest against winter. It may or may not be very effective. Take that, WINTER!


One thing that I find is great for spiting winter without giving me frostbite is making yummy food that reminds me of warmer climes. This farro (or quinoa), feta and grape salad does just that. It’s got a great mix of textures. It’s a slightly warm salad, so it deals well with the winter chill, while being reminiscent of a warm weather meal that could be eaten on a porch or at a picnic table.  Plus, it makes great leftovers. Oh, and it’s super healthy. And really easy make. So basically, it’s freaking awesome.


Cook according to package instructions:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups farro (or quinoa)

Meanwhile, saute in olive oil:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of diced celery

After about 5 minutes, add:

  • 1/4 cup craisins or yellow raisins. Continue cooking the onion mixture until its tender (maybe another 10 minutes).

Dice (but do not cook):

  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper
  • 2 cups red seedless grapes (I just cut these in half, do not dice)

When farro (or quinoa) is done cooking, mix in the onion/celery mixture. Let cool for a little bit.

Then add:

  • 1/2 cup or so crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Chopped pepper
  • Grapes

At this point, you can season with salt and pepper. Do not start salting the salad before you add the feta. The feta is pretty salty, so you may only need to add a little additional salt (or none at all).

While salad is still warm, serve over big bed of spinach. This recipe makes many servings (at least four or five, and then some leftovers – that’s how I roll).

If you want, you can switch out the raisins/craisins for fresh pomegranate seeds. Or, if you felt like really going for it, you could use BOTH the craisins/raisins AND pomegranate seeds! What?!?!

Ooooh oooohh! If you have access to fresh mint, some fresh mint in this salad would be awesome. Man! Why didn’t I think of that before I ate the last of these leftovers. Oh well. Next time.

Eat outside, even if it’s only 50 degrees, and pretend it’s summer.


Very Cold Rachel

PS. The sun was shining when I took these pics because I was in San Diego. It was not nearly so lovely in NYC.

Spicy Shrimp and Mushroom Soup

Spicy Shrimp and Mushroom Soup
I wish I had a bowl right now.

I wish I had a bowl right now.

It’s soup weather!

Inspired by this lovely soup that I saw on a Beautiful Mess, I wanted to make a spicy shrimp soup. I didn’t have the pineapple from that recipe, so I improvised. It’s super yummy, and healthy, and satisfying after a run on a cold winter’s day.

Warm and spicy and healthy, too!

Warm and spicy and healthy, too!

You will need:

1/2 yellow pepper

1/2 orange pepper

2 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 pound deveined, de-tailed shrimp

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms

4 roughly chopped gloves of garlic

1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce (I always start small and slowly add more so I don’t hurt myself)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 very thinly sliced carrot

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth (low sodium)

Salt to taste

Spicy shrimp soup with rice.

Spicy shrimp soup with rice.


1. Sauted peppers, carrots and mushrooms in 1 tablespoon coconut oil in saute pan until a little browned, but still the peppers are still crisp. Transfer to soup pot.

2. In same saute pan, saute the shrimp with the garlic until lightly browned. Add to soup pot.

3. Add the broth, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, other tablespoon of coconut oil, sriracha, soy sauce. Play with the salt, soy sauce and sriracha to taste. Cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, until heated through.

4. Serve over small bed of brown basmati rice.

5. Enjoy!

Makes 3 lady-servings, probably 2 man-servings.



PS. Not to be super preachy, but I generally try not to eat shrimp, because shrimp farming is incredibly bad for the environment (as in after a year or two of shrimp farming, the mangroves where the farm is barely sustain any more life). Trader Joe’s now sells wild caught Argentinian shrimp, which costs a little more money. It is a much better alternative to farmed shrimp. For more details on sustainable seafood and what is the best to eat, check out this website.

Breakfast (Homemade Super Easy Bread)

Breakfast (Homemade Super Easy Bread)

I made breakfast this morning. Nothing too complicated: homemade bread, straight from the oven, butter, some sliced mozzarella and coffee.

So simple and so yummy.

So simple and so yummy.


You have probably seen this no-knead artisanal bread recipe floating around on Pinterest. The one you bake in your cast iron pot with a lid.

The recipe is here. She has great pictures and lots of instructions along the way.

For some reason, her recipe comes out a little too watery when I do it. She calls for three cups of flour, but this morning I used 3 cups, plus three heaping tablespoons of flour and that seemed to do the trick. Different flours can all absorb different amounts of liquid, even if the packages both say “unbleached white flour” on the front. Go figure.

There is something so European about having fresh bread with butter, cheese and coffee for breakfast. And the fact that it comes out of my oven makes me feel like a total rock star.


Anyway, just wanted to brag share with you! Give it a try. It’s super easy and so rewarding.

Have a great yeasty day!




How to Slow Roast a Turkey (Part II)

How to Slow Roast a Turkey (Part II)

I apologize. My first post about slow roasting a turkey was a little vague. I WAS JUST SO EXCITED THAT IT’S THANKSGIVING! I am controlling my excitement now. Here is a step-by-step description of how I plan to get my turkey from the store to the table. Lots of what I (now) know comes from trial and error, and even more of what I know comes from my wonderful uncle, Daniel, who may just be the master of the turkey, and was kind enough to share his turkey tips with me. Thanks, Daniel!

1. Don’t be too intimidated. Roasting a turkey isn’t easy, but it is doable. Take a deep breath. Prepare WELL in advance so you know how long each thing will take. We can do this together.

2. If you buy a frozen turkey, it will probably take at least two days in the fridge to thaw. This means that by Monday morning at the latest your turkey should be in the FRIDGE not the freezer. This will give it time to defrost by Wednesday when you want to start brining.

3. On Wednesday evening, start brining the turkey. You will want either a brine bag, or a giant stock pot to do this. Brine bags are inexpensive to buy, but sometimes you will need two sets of hands when filling the brine bag.

  • If using a brine bag, place the brine bag inside a large dish and fold the edges over to keep the bag open.
  • Put turkey in brine bag. Save the giblets and neck for later, which you will not brine, but will roast with the rest of the bird to help make good gravy.
  • Add the following to the turkey (if using a brine bag, all the liquids may not fit, so play it by ear) (these ingredients are taken from the Martha Stewart website, BTW):

7 quarts (28 cups) water
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
6 bay leaves
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 bottle dry Riesling
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch fresh thyme

  • I brine outside of the fridge on Wednesday night (and so does Uncle Daniel). This allows the turkey to come to room temperature, which means it cooks more evenly. Martha Stewart brines in the fridge. You can decide, but just know that no one has gotten sick from my (or Daniel’s) turkey yet (knock on wood).

4. In the morning, preheat the oven to 220F. To slow roast, it often takes about 20-25 minutes of cooking time for each 1lb of turkey. This means a 20 lb turkey can take about 7-8 hours. So figure out when you need to start roasting, but always allow buffer time – better to have more roasting time than to not have enough time.

  • For example: If I am cooking a 16 lb turkey and want to have dinner at 5pm, when do I put in the turkey?
  • The turkey needs to rest for 25-30 minutes before eating, so it should come out at 4:30pm.
  • It will need to roast for 6:45 hours, because it’s 16lbs, allowing 25 minutes per pound.
  • Working backwards, my turkey should be in the oven around 9:00am (allowing about 30 minutes of buffer time).

5. Put turkey into pan WITHOUT stuffing. When slow roasting, the bird must be empty. Rub the turkey down with a mixture of the following: 1/2 cup melted butter or olive oil, 1/3 cup coarse sea salt, 2 tablespoons ground pepper, 2-3 gloves crushed garlic. Put half of a quartered onion (2 quarters of an onion) and a clove of garlic inside the cavity. Rub the mixture under the skin – especially getting the butter under the skin too. Butter under the skin is a really good thing.

6. Cut a slit in each breast, towards the outside of the breast. Stuff the slit with a clove of garlic and fresh herbs (think sage, rosemary, thyme or whatever fresh savory herbs you have on hand). This will help flavor the meat. To help visual, I do the slit horizontally, coming in from near the arm pit, close to the plane of the ribs. You want it to be about 2 or 3 inches deep.

7. Make sure turkey is BREAST SIDE DOWN in the pan. The oven is hotter towards the top, so we don’t want to dry out the meat by cooking it breast side up. It keeps the breast juicier. Bonus: you don’t have to bind the legs when it’s breast side down.

8. Put giblets and neck in bottom of pan. If you like, you can put a halved onion in the bottom of the pan too for extra flavor.

9. Put pan in hot oven. Baste every one or two hours.

10. Check the temperature. Insert the thermometer into thickest part of the breast, making sure not to touch the bone. When the breast is 145F, flip the bird and continue roasting. At 220F, the skin doesn’t get crispy. If you like crispy skin, once the breast is about 155F turn the oven up to 400F to brown the skin for 10 minutes.

11. Take turkey out of oven when breast is 155F (and browned). Some prefer to remove when breast reaches 160F, but that is risking drying out temperatures, if you ask Daniel. (“When the bird is in that long, even the dark meat gets done.”) Either way, the legs should be “loose” when pulled on. Give the leg a wiggle and see how it feels. Should feel loose.

12. Remove turkey from pan and let rest on serving platter/carving plate for 25 minutes before carving. The temperature will stabilize. Pour the pan juices into a medium-ish stockpot, in which you will make the gravy.

13. While the turkey is resting, deglaze the pan. If you used an actual metal pan (as opposed to a disposable pan), you can put the pan right over the stove top. I like to use a little white wine for deglazing. Pour all the deglazed goodness into the gravy pot.

14. Put the gravy pot on low heat. While it’s heating, in a small bowl mix about 2 heaping tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of pan juices to form a paste. Slowly add more juices until the flour mixture is smooth and about the consistency of molasses. Then mix the flour mixture into the pan juices. NOTE: Do not add flour directly to the pan juices. This will create lumps. Stir the gravy over low heat until it thickens. Add turkey or chicken stock to make it go further (I like having a LOT of gravy). If it gets too watery, you can cook it more and/or mix more gravy with another spoonful of flour, then add the flour mixture back into the pan. Season gravy with salt and pepper as needed. Some people strain the gravy, but I don’t. I don’t know how Daniel does his gravy…

15. Carve turkey. Serve with lots of gravy (and all the other fixings. Duh!).

16. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!

How to Slow Roast a Turkey (Part I)

It’s that time of year again! THANKSGIVING!!! What a freaking awesome holiday, right? I mean, it involves food, booze, dessert, more food and more booze. Plus like family and friends and stuff. Did I mention dessert?

Last year I slow roasted a turkey and it freaking rocked my world. So I am going to repost the majority of that post below, including last year’s menu.

Happy Early Turkey Day!!!



Last Year’s Thanksgiving Post Follows

The menu:

Nosching plate of cheese, prosciutto and dried figs.

Slow roasted Turkey

Mashed Potatoes

Moose sausage stuffing (OMG soooo good!) (cornbread stuffing with sauted onions/celery, garlic, fresh herbs, dried cranberries soaked in chicken broth, pecans, and moose sausage flown in all the way from Alaska. This stuff was crazy good.)

Roasted brussel sprouts and carrots


Cranberry-Pomegranate Relish (fresh cranberries, whole orange, ground ginger and sugar blended in food processor, then add chopped pecans and pomegranate seeds. Let sit over night if possible).

Canned Cranberry (of course)

Dessert: Classic pumpkin pie, triple chocolate pumpkin pie, apple-cran pie with streusel topping and super gingery gingerbread. Yes, I realize there are as many desserts as people for dinner, but that was planned. How else would you do it? A post on desserts will happen in the future (hopefully).

Amelia and I spent the day in the kitchen on Thursday (after staying up late on Wednesday making multiple pies). Here is a photo journal of what we did that day:

1. Remove turkey from basting bag. Turkey had been sitting in brine with pepper corns, tons of salt, fresh herbs (sage, rosemary and thyme), onions and bay leaves. Rub turkey down with butter/salt/pepper mixture, stick 1 quartered onion into cavity, insert fresh herbs into turkey breast (make incision into breast and insert herbs), also insert herbs under the skin, directly onto the meat. Put into 220F degree oven breast-side down. Baste every hour or so. When bird is about 140F or 145F, flip right-side up. Remove once breast temperature reaches 155F – you may want to cook for last hour at 300F to get the skin a little darker, because the skin doesn’t crisp up at 220F. Let sit for 20 minutes before carving.

Slow roasting the turkey. A 16 pound bird took about 6.5 hours.

2. Take dog for a run. Dog chases and barks at squirrels.

Chloe, dreaming big.

3. Maturely talk about our Thanksgiving dish preferences.

Debate about whether stuffing gets roasted inside the bird or outside. Outside the bird won.

4. Indulge a little while cooking.

Simple math: Case of wine + friends + cheese = wonderful Turkey day.

5. Indulge a little more. Four types of cheese (a triple cream, cambozola, something soaked in wine whose name escapes me right now, and a mushroom brie) served with prosciutto and dried figs.

To nosch while cooking.

6. Maturely discuss whether we like our mashed potatoes lumpy or smooth.

Settling another debate…with brussel sprout stalk.

6. Baste the turkey a few times.

You want me to do what with this?

7. Check the turkey for doneness. Bird should be 155F. You can also make the gravy once the bird is out (which is what is happening in the background of the picture below). Most people check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Amelia chose to use the old-fashioned way, the face thermometer.

Wait, Amelia! Can’t eat the turkey until there’s gravy!

7. Torment the dog.

Chloe wants dark meat!

8. Admire your handiwork. You can see the slit in the breast where I stuffed the bird with rosemary, thyme and sage.


9. Carve the turkey.

Light or dark meat?

10. Admire your spread.

Dinner time!

11. Do whatever dorky/endearing traditions that your family requires. We all had to have first bites that included a little bit of everything, and we went around the table and said what we were thankful for. I am thankful for cranberry sauce! And you know… friends, family… etc…

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Gobble gobble,


Quest for Perfect Cookie Recipes Part I – Dulce de Leche

Quest for Perfect Cookie Recipes Part I – Dulce de Leche

Well, after my disappointment with NYC cookies, I decided to test out a bunch of cookie recipes until I find the best ones. This fits in well with procrastinating. So here is Part I.

Pass the cookies!

I made some oatmeal crispies. I got the recipe from a blogger that I super-respect. While these cookies were good, they were not awesome.  Until I tweak the recipe a little, I will not post it, because obviously I only want to be associated with cookies that will blow your freaking mind.

Mmmmm…. dulce de leche! That’s thick awesome caramel for those gringos who don’t speak Spanish.

Regardless, they are very pretty little cookies. Especially when made into little cookie sandwiches stuffed with homemade dulce de leche.

Nom nom nom!

I plan to tweak the oatmeal crispies recipe just a bit until I get something perfect. In the meantime, I will share my recipe (which I found on Pinterest) for homemade dulce de leche. Super easy. Yummy yummy yummy!

Oatmeal crispies with homemade dulce de leche!

(Obviously I couldn’t decide whether to use the flash or not.)

Dulce de Leche (Caramel)

Take a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Put can into slow cooker on low heat. Make sure the can is COMPLETELY submerged. Cook for 8 hours.

Then rinse under cool water and put into the fridge while still warm. The can needs to refrigerate for at least two hours to finalize the deliciousness-process (read: I don’t know what the importance of refrigerating the can is, but apparently it’s important).

Enjoy! Eat it with pretzels, with cookies, with apples… on a spoon…

With love,



For Butter’s Sake! A lament for the lack of good pastries in NYC.

For Butter’s Sake! A lament for the lack of good pastries in NYC.

ARGH! Just freakin’ ARGH!!!

I have had it up to here (*holds hand above head*) with New York bakeries. Seriously. Fed. Up.

Have New Yorkers never tasted a good pastry? Is this because no one in NYC grows up with parents who bake cookies on the weekend or make real cakes from scratch? You’ve never eaten a pastry or frosting made with real butter? You want me to pay $3 for a cookie or $3.50 for a cupcake that barely can be called mediocre and thank you for it?!!? It’s a bakery that only makes cupcakes, so why did I think the cupcakes would actually be good?! Your cookies look gorgeous, so I buy one only to be sorely disappointed by the taste?!

I am ranting, I know and it’s because I am so OVER the New York thing where someone opens a shop that specializes in some darling trendy dessert, where the desserts look lovely, cost a small fortune and are NOT YUMMY! Either they don’t know that pastries can taste better, or they have no pride, or they think all NYC consumers are idiots. Whatever the reason, I am NOT PLEASED.

Ok, so this annoyance has been a long time brewing. I had been struggling to find a good cookie (my go-to when I have a sweet tooth). This cookie plight was recently elevated because cookies in Europe are nothing like American cookies, so after all summer in Europe, a chocolate chip cookie was all I could thing about.

Yes, I can and do make the world’s best chocolate chip peanut butter cookie at home, but if I can do it and it’s not that hard, why can’t a store that specializes in cookies do it?

Back to the story: I was in NYC and jonesing. I figured Magnolia Bakery, of cupcake fame, might have decent cookies, so I stop in. (Magnolia did have a very respectable oatmeal cookie, but their brown sugar cookie was lacking, possibly from too much baking soda.) While I was in there getting cookies, there were samples of a red velvet cupcake with “cream cheese” frosting.

Looks good right? Don’t be fooled.

I tried one and get this:
The frosting was made with shortening!!!

They were charging $3.50 for a tiny little cupcake made with shortening! Maybe there was a tiny bit of cream cheese in there with the frosting, but I know my frostings and I know that it was not made with real butter!! Are you kidding me, Magnolia? You pride yourself on deliciousness and you cannot use real butter? I should have said something to the guy working the counter about my disappointment, but I was too upset to talk rationally with the man.

How does Monica feel about low fat mayonnaise? “It’s NOT mayonnaise!” That’s how I feel about shortening: It’s NOT butter!

I have ranted about the need for making frosting with real butter before, but it obviously bares repeating: butter makes the best frosting. Butter has the same calories and fat content as shortening and tastes a million times better. Butter costs a little more than shortening but who cares? If you are charging $3.50 for a cupcake, you can afford to make it with real butter!!!!!!! If I am going to splurge some calories on a yummy dessert, it had better be yummy. Magnolia, have you no shame?!

This supreme annoyance at Magnolia Bakery has been smoldering for a while. This dessert-related angst resurfaced today when I went into Rocco’s bakery in the West Village to get a cookie. They have this display window laden with all sorts of heavenly-looking cookies that lure you in, thinking that anything that looks that lovely has got to taste good.

Another sneaky bakery that cannot be trusted.

I went in for the praline pecan cookie, but while I was waiting in line I was tempted to go for the trick-or-treat, a “caramel” cookie with bits of Twix in it. I asked the girl at the counter what she thought, and without hesitation she said the trick-or-treat.

I rue my decision to follow her advice. The cookie was subpar. Like Magnolia’s brown sugar cookie, it suffered from too much levening agent. The dough does not taste like caramel in the least, and the texture is meh.  It’s a little bland too, and while I cannot be certain, I don’t think it was made with real butter either because the darn cookie tastes fake. I know I made a last minute switch, but I doubt the pecan praline would have been good either.

And so, I am officially done with New York. How can it possibly call itself the best city in the world if far too many over-priced specialty stores cannot fathom the importance of cooking with real butter? If I overpay for one more mediocre pastry in the stupid city I am going to lose it! Like even more than writing-a-seven-page-rant-about-pastries losing it. It’s insulting to my intelligence, to my taste buds, to Julia Child, and to cookies all over the world.

Butter has been around for thousands of years (no joke). There is a reason: it is delicious. Do not accept substitutes! Gosh, New York!

For shame, New York specialty bakeries. For shame.

So, my dear readers, if you pass by Magnolia or Rocco, I suggest you skip it. And if you happen to know a place that makes awesome pastries, let me know. (But if you like Magnolia’s cupcakes, then we have different standards for pastries, so maybe keep your suggestion to yourself. Sorry for the snark, but I seriously am doubting the New Yorker’s ability to discriminate between what is good and what is expensive). Thanks for tolerating my rant. Or maybe you stopped reading 7 minutes ago.

Teetering on the edge,

Munich is for Eaters. And Drinkers.

Munich is for Eaters. And Drinkers.

Munich is only a four-hour drive from Vienna. So, when a dear college friend of mine was coming to Vienna, I thought, Munich would be a lovely weekend trip (especially because its only another 90 minutes from Salzburg, where they filmed the Sound of Music – more on that later).

Munich is pretty small. The architecture is lovely. There are one or two interesting museums. But where Munich really shines for me: the victuals and beverages. Upon immediately getting of the subway in downtown music we saw the awesome Cathedral above. And then I spotted the Haribo Gummy Candy Cart!!! I am such a sucker for anything gummy.

Haribo Gummy Candy Cart! Are you freaking kidding me?!?

I managed to walk away from the gummy cart without buying anything, only to turn around and find myself in front Rischart – a truly phenomenal bakery.

Oh, yeah, they had some cakes too.

Chocolate and cherries and apples, oh my!

After a little snack-y-poo at the bakery (with fresh plums!), we went to a modern art museum, and then felt it was time for lunch. So we walked for what felt like ages until we arrived at a beer garden located within Munich’s ginormous and lovely English Garden.

Being famished and thirsty, we had some Weissbier.

Weissbier in the Biergarten.

Molly got the first round. I got the second round.

I am not much of a beer drinker. I usually prefer wine. But this Weissbier is AWESOME. It’s all the flavors and things I like about beer, but none of the things I don’t. It’s not filtered, so it’s super flavorful, but it’s not bitter at all. Not too hoppy. Super cold. Doesn’t leave you feeling bloated, only refreshed. I may have drank a whole liter of Weissbier at this meal, which is quite a lot of beer for someone who doesn’t consider herself a beer drinker. (Probably didn’t hurt that I was very thirsty and quite hot).

Of course, at the Biergarten, we had some brat with kraut and mustard, a side of french fries and some awesome country-style kartoffelen (potatoes). Yum yum yum. So simple, yet so unbelievably good.

After lunch, we did a little shopping at an European clothing store you have probably never heard of, H & M, because who shops in stores that are available in America when they are in Europe? Oh wait….

Saw some more buildings and things…

This building is HUGE. And only part of its hugeness is captured by my picture.

It was about time for another meal here (are you noticing a pattern?), so we went to Lonely Planet’s top pick for beer halls in Munich, Augustiner Bräustuben. We were not disappointed.

Locals and tourists alike gathered around large rustic wooden tables, drinking tankards of beer and eating a variety of meat straight off the bone. Waiters wore Lederhosen and waitresses wore Dirndl (think Saint Paulie’s girls…). In fact, some guests were wearing their traditional bavarian attire, as well, because there is a great deal of Bavarian pride. And rightfully so. The food and beer were great. It was the kind of food where there are no fancy bells and whistles; it’s basic stuff done just perfectly. It’s the type of food that one might expect a soldier to eat before going to battle to pillage some villages. And the beer is what you would expect that soldier to drink upon return to celebrate his victory.

Molly had the pork knuckle. It was awesome.

I ordered the Bavarian mixed plate. It did not disappoint.

With a meatball, some pork saddle, a dumpling and mushrooms in a delightful gravy.

Later that evening, we waddled back to our hotel to dream about gummy candies, incredible bakeries, pork products and beer. Two days later, I decided to sign up for a half-marathon to undo some of the damage. But man, do the Bavarians know how to feed their people!