Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes

When it comes to recipes that are healthy or accommodate some kind of special dietary requirement, I prefer those with two qualities:
  1. They don't require ingredients whose purpose is solely for that dietary requirement.
  2. They taste good enough that people with no desire to be healthy crave them.
That means that I tend to stay away from gluten-free recipes that use fancy flours.  Yes, I would like to one day experiment with them just to see what they are like, but my baking pantry is bursting enough with just all-purpose, cake, self-rising, and whole wheat flours, I don't really have room for others.  Things like corn meal, oatmeal, and quinoa I already have on hand, so I tend to seek out recipes that utilize those.

And of course, describing a baked good as primarily 'good for you' is like describing a potential blind date as having a good personality.  It may very well be true, but it's not the first impression that's going to inspire a first bite or a first date.

These cupcakes meet both of my requirements perfectly.  First of all, it uses leftover cooked quinoa, so it's perfect for dessert after making some stuffed tomatoes.  And because you blend the quinoa, you end up with a gorgeously moist cake that reminds you of a decadent flour less chocolate cake, the ultimate example of something that is gluten-free practically as an afterthought.  

Plus, being quinoa, it's not just about the lack of gluten.  It's also about being a superfood with lots of protein and qualities that allow you to feel completely self-righteous as you lick frosting from your lips.

Quinoa Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from A Dusting of Sugar: Chocolate Quinoa Cake

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/4 cup sweetened cocoa (hot cocoa mix)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine milk, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Add quinoa and butter.  Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, cocoas, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Divide evenly between cupcake liners, about half full.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, make a double batch of cdkitchen: Easy Cocoa Frosting

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: Rather Be (in Tokyo)

I know I mentioned a while ago my intentions of rebranding this blog, and I'm still planning on doing that.  I'm just still in the consideration and procrastination phase.  But I'm already thinking about some of the things I'd like to write about.  One of those things is music.  I'm not a huge music aficionado, but I think everyone lives their life with their own soundtrack, and every song means something different to each person, depending on when, where, and how they heard it.  Exploring all of the ways we identify with music, and the sometimes surprising reactions I have to music, continues to fascinate me.

So perhaps consider this a kind of sneak preview of the things I'd like to write about in the (hopefully near) future...

For many years, I had a morning ritual every school day that included spending a little time watching music videos, flipping between VH1 and MTV to pass the time before I needed to walk out to meet the bus or (for the last few years) drive myself to school.  Now, when I'm working from home, I occasionally like to indulge in some melodic nostalgia and do the same channel surfing.  That's how I found this music video about halfway through, which caught my eye when I recognized the Yamanote train line.  I immediately went to YouTube to watch the whole thing, and I've since replayed it several times over and had the song stuck in my head.  And so, I pass it along to you, "Rather Be" by Clean Bandit, featuring Jess Glynne:
Tokyo!  And not just Tokyo, but some of the lesser-known but extra-special bits that maybe not everyone will recognize.  The fish market, which I've wandered around quite a bit of in search of our favorite conveyor belt sushi restaurant; the Yamanote line train, which my dad loves and even downloaded an album of ringtones from; and the quintessential yakitori on the grill serving straight-faced businessmen (before the burst into song), which just rings so true.

It's enough to bring my always-latent desire to return to Tokyo up to sigh-inducing levels.  But since that won't be happening any time soon, I should probably just focus on making something out of the yarn I bought the last time I was there from Avril yarn store in Kichijoji.  And maybe drink a cup of Karel Capek tea, which I've been hoarding and drinking only on very special occasions.

Are you also from the TRL generation?  Do you have any favorite music videos?  Do you ever watch them now?  Alicia from Woolen Diversions is having a hopefully great time on her honeymoon right now, but I'm sure she'll have lots of inspiration from Costa Rica when she returns.

Friday, July 18, 2014

FO Friday: Twist of Triumph

Let me just take a moment to say: Hurrah Germany!  They weren't my first choice for World Cup champions, but it is the land where at least two great things were born: Wollmeise yarn, and me!  I kid, I kid.  But did you know,  both Wollmeise and I come from the same town?  Pfaffenhofen.  Of course, the yarn store wasn't there when I was there, and being three years old when we left, I probably wouldn't have had much use for yarn, but still.  Just one more reason to want to visit my birthplace again.

So anyway, I was rooting for Germany in Sunday's match.  And I enjoyed it all the more because I wasn't having to rush to finish my Twist of Death.  Despite losing two days of knitting to lack of yarn, I was able to finish up the sleeves on Friday.  The finishing was a team effort, which means that my mother was kind enough to sew the sleeves in for me.  What can I say, she's awesome like that.  I did complete the weaving in of the ends, the blocking, and the modeling, though.  Of course, Mom did take the photos.  So, um, still a team effort.  We took the photos pre-blocking to make sure that I could post them before the end of the tournament, so there's not as much rolling at the edges now.

I love how many ways there are to wear this:
Style #1: Open front
Style #2: Wrapped front
Style #3: Open back
Speaking of team efforts, I'm going to give a shoutout to one of Mom's FOs this Friday as well, because I played a vital role in it.  Behold, from my handspun yarn:
I had totally forgotten that the yarn I spun ended up being fingering weight, so she had plenty of yarn for this shawl.  There was a little bit of unevenness between the hanks, but nothing you can really notice.  And I love the way the colors worked up:
I'm not doing the Tour de Fleece this year, and I missed out on a recent wheel spinning course at an LYS last week, but this definitely makes me want to spin some more.

In the meantime, though, I have more WIPs that need to turn into FOs.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cubicle kitchen: Pomegranate Chocolate Quinoa Cookies

Even though I'm never the first to try one of the new food trends, I do get there eventually most of the time.  Especially when it comes to overnight health sensations.  So forgive me, because there's going to be a lot of quinoa coming up in my cubicle kitchen.

I told you about my quinoa-stuffed baked tomatoes the other week.  Well, after filling the tomatoes with not just quinoa but onions, spinach, and an egg, there was still plenty of quinoa left for other purposes.  And by other purposes, I usually mean baking treats.  Turns out, there are all kinds of uses for quinoa in goodies, and for the most part you can treat it like you would oatmeal.  As in, when making oatmeal muffins, substitute the same amount of cooked quinoa for the uncooked oatmeal called for.

Because I also had some pomegranate arils collected, I decided to go with a cookie packed with healthy excuses to eat one more.  Between the vitamins in the pomegranate, the antioxidants of dark chocolate, and quinoa's protein power, this is practically health food.  Since breakfast cookies also seem to be pretty trendy, I think you could pass these off as one of those too.

Pomegranate Chocolate Quinoa Cookies
Recipe from hidden ponies: Chocolate Pomegranate Oatmeal Cookies

My notes:
  • I chopped up Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate instead of just chocolate chunks to amp up the pomegranate factor
  • I substituted equal amounts of cooked quinoa for quick-cooking oats
  • The quinoa makes the cookies really moist, to the point of falling apart; I would suggest maybe adding a little flour, or some of the originally called for oatmeal, and cooking for a few more minutes or perhaps cooking them in a mini muffin tray for soft cookie bites
  • I used an ice cream scoop to get these onto the sheet because the dough is quite wet
  • Some cookies don't need the two inches of space between them on the cookie sheet, but these definitely do because they spread quite a bit

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

WIP Wednesday: 15 rows forward, 14 rows back

My mother both horrifies and impresses her knitting group when she casually rips out her work when something goes wrong.  She's very adept at fixing errors by tinkling back or other means, but she has no qualms about just frogging away (rip it, rip it) whenever necessary.

Maybe I'm finally taking after her a bit in that respect, because on Monday I didn't feel overwhelmed or unsettled in my decision to undo more than a dozen rows of colorwork in my latest WIP, Mittacles.  When I first cast them on, I was planning on using the yarn I had leftover from Affection-ite, blue and turquoise.  But as the rows went on, it didn't seem like there was enough contrast between the two colors:
You can sort of see the octopus starting to emerge, but without knowing what to look for, it could end up more like a Rorschach test.  And because this is another project destined for my swap partner, I don't want to leave her guessing when she unwraps them.

So after a little contemplation and relatively little anxiety, I backtracked and now I'm a few rows into my second attempt, in which red has replaced the turquoise.  I don't have a progress photo of it, but I'm already much happier with it, because the stitches pop. If I'm going to mess around with DPNs and two different yarns, I want you to be able to see it.

Do you feel traumatized when you have to frog your work, or do you take it in stride?  Leave me a comment, then check out more WIP Wednesday posts at Tami's Amis.

Summer cinema: The Third Man

After Destry Rides Again and Guys and Dolls, I take a nerdy pleasure in the symmetry of The Third Man being the third movie I saw in the summer film series at Paramount.  This is one of those movies that I sort of knew that I should see at some point, but had never really gotten around to.  They also screened Citizen Kane as the second film in the double feature, but I had to work the next day, so that's still on my list.  'Rosebud...'

I love old movies, and this was no exception.  Intrigue, style, setting, some great chase scenes, and a lack of cynicism that you see in movies today after all of the things I've just listed have been done and done again.  As Holly Martins bumbles around in his own investigation of the death of his friend, he makes the kinds of mistakes that left me laughing, but I imagine that at the time the results of his ineptitude wouldn't have been quite as expected.  There's something refreshing about seeing twists before they became tropes.

I also learned that animals are all on the side of evil:

  • A parrot bites the protagonist
  • A cat cuddles with the shadowy figure of Orson Welles
  • A small dog plays the chihuahua to another villain's Paris Hilton
So, that was the third movie in my personal Paramount series.  I was going to see the fourth movie last week, but President Obama made an appearance at the Paramount the next morning, so presumably it was being made threat-proof instead of being filled with people who wanted to see The Red Shoes.  I'll just have to see it some other time.  Hopefully no heads of state are planning on being there on Thursday, so I'm still safe to go and see The Heiress tomorrow.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Inspiration Saturday: That's the way the cupcake Crumbs-bles

I was surprised earlier this week to read in Cupcakes Take the Cake that the cupcake chain Crumbs had closed the doors of all of its locations permanently on Monday.  I wasn't keeping close tabs on the company, but I did know that they had gone from heady claims of opening locations all over the place, including as nearby as Dallas, to seemingly retreating back to the East Coast.  But I think everyone, including the employees, were shocked to hear that they were going to go from dozens of locations to none in a matter of hours.  And so, I offer you a eulogy* for Crumbs.

I can't tell you that Crumbs had the best cupcakes.  They didn't, and likely suffered from the increasing quality of smaller competitors as well as over-expansion.  But they were my first experience with gigantamous gourmet cupcakes.

It all began on my first trip to New York to visit Sarah Lawrence College as a prospective student.  We stayed in the city to be tourists apart from one day's expedition to the campus a few train stops away.  Along with a whirlwind whip around the city, taking the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty and going up and down the Empire State Building twice, we stopped in what was then one of just a handful of locations around Manhattan.  I had a Red Velvet cupcake, taking a photo to show just how enormous it was in comparison to my face.  The combination of cream cheese frosting and college dreams made Crumbs part bakery, part symbol for me.

Sure, Sex and the City made Magnolia the go-to place for miniature frosted cakes, but I was several years behind the uptake on that show.  I didn't watch it until my first spring semester at SLC (yay for dreams achieved!) when my roommate arrived with the complete DVD set.  Then Sprinkles took over the West Coast, and the founder judges an entire competition show on the Food Network devoted to them.  Every other food trend report seems to declare the end of the cupcake trend, making it so frequent a topic of conversation that it seems impossible that it will ever really be true.  Every 'new' cupcake, whether it's doughnuts or pies or macarons, never reaches the same frenzied peak as the cupcake did, and never even really surpasses the cupcake's current numbers.  And so they continue to be the reigning treat in the bakery, constantly inspiring new and delicious creations.

But for me, Crumbs cupcakes were the treat that I indulged in when I went into the city on the weekends.  I was never a very wild, party-going person, so my adventures in the city generally involved Strand Bookstore and cupcakes.  Sometimes I would even buy two and haul one back to my dorm room for later.  And they were the amazing gift a Ravelry friend brought me from new York when we met up near Dallas, transporting them in her carry-on just for me.

So even though I've discovered some tastier cupcakes here in Austin at Sugar Mama's Bakeshop and Toot Sweet, and even though I bake my own cupcakes these days more often than I ever buy them from someone else, there's always going to be a place in my heart and stomach for Crumbs.

*Now, according to Cupcakes Take the Cake again, there's word that the CEO is going to infuse some cash into the company and get it reopened.  Since they're coming back from the dead, maybe they can capitalize on another trend and turn their brand into...zombie cupcakes!

For more (and probably healthier) inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.