Dr. Seuss-ing It Up

Last week my mother in law informed me that my husband’s nephew was having an upcoming birthday. She asked if I would be willing to make him a birthday cake. Without hesitation I was happy to do it! I immediately had thoughts running in my mind to make something pretty simple, given the busy weekend I had planned during the nephew’s birthday party. But then, a challenge was brought on. Little did I know that this nephew had some unique ideas for his cake!Justin was turning 6 years old and has grown fond of Dr. Seuss books. In fact, my mother in law was explaining to me how much he loved the book, Green Eggs & Ham. This book inspired Justin to have a very green birthday… green plates, cups, napkins, etc. So, the challenge was to make a cake that Justin would like as much as his Dr. Seuss books, tie in the color green and have it ready with very little time aside to prepare. I was doomed.

After scoping out ideas from friends and the internet, I came across a cake made in the shape of Dr. Seuss’ famous red & white striped hat. I figured I could make that easily so now my cake plan was coming together. I mean, how hard could it be to stack a few layer cakes, tap in a dowel to hold its shape and place some fondant on it before calling it a day? Wrong.

I still had to think of incorporating the color green into the cake. So fortunately my mother in law suggested a pistachio cake. I was unsure about how an average 6 year old would take it, but knowing Justin, he would eat it simply because it was green. So that was the cake flavor I went with.

As I let my cake layers cool, I made a simple buttercream (butter, confectioners sugar, heavy cream). After that was done, it was time to start building. I started stacking my layers but soon realized that the cake was so moist it could not hold its own weight. In fact, it started to crumble as I started to put the dowels in. Uh oh. Thank goodness my husband saved me from a state of panic.

I ended up having to use my trifle bowl and lining the edges with strips of red & white fondant. With the cake practically crumbling in my hands, I decided to salvage what I could and layered inside the trifle bowl, alternating cake and frosting. To cover I laid white fondant on top and used some red fondant to make the brim of the hat. By the time this was completed, it was well after midnight.

So to finish this cake, I decided to put my scrapbooking skills to work and made a small “book” to adorn the top of the cake. Using the actual Green Eggs & Ham as inspiration, I made the book out of orange cardstock and used the picture from the title page to reflect the “Green Eggs & Ham” piece of the challenge.

In the end, it worked out well. My husband was able to safely transport the cake to the party (which would have been possibly disasterous, had my original plan was carried out) and Justin loved the cake. In fact, the parents that attended the party contacted me and asked if I could make cakes for their kids. (Let’s just hope they don’t have any unique requests for cakes…)

If I were do it again, I would definitely make a denser cake that can stand up to the weight and dowels – a pound cake recipe perhaps? Here’s the final product…


Dr. Seuss-ing It Up

Last week my mother in law informed me that my husband’s nephew was having an upcoming birthday. She asked if I would be willing to make him a birthday cake. Without hesitation I was happy to do it! I immediately had thoughts running in my mind to make something pretty simple, given the busy weekend I had planned during the nephew’s birthday party. But then, a challenge was brought on. Little did I know that this nephew had some unique ideas for his cake!Justin was turning 6 years old and has grown fond of Dr. Seuss books. In fact, my mother in law was explaining to me how much he loved the book, Green Eggs & Ham. This book inspired Justin to have a very green birthday… green plates, cups, napkins, etc. So, the challenge was to make a cake that Justin would like as much as his Dr. Seuss books, tie in the color green and have it ready with very little time aside to prepare. I was doomed.

After scoping out ideas from friends and the internet, I came across a cake made in the shape of Dr. Seuss’ famous red & white striped hat. I figured I could make that easily so now my cake plan was coming together. I mean, how hard could it be to stack a few layer cakes, tap in a dowel to hold its shape and place some fondant on it before calling it a day? Wrong.

I still had to think of incorporating the color green into the cake. So fortunately my mother in law suggested a pistachio cake. I was unsure about how an average 6 year old would take it, but knowing Justin, he would eat it simply because it was green. So that was the cake flavor I went with.

As I let my cake layers cool, I made a simple buttercream (butter, confectioners sugar, heavy cream). After that was done, it was time to start building. I started stacking my layers but soon realized that the cake was so moist it could not hold its own weight. In fact, it started to crumble as I started to put the dowels in. Uh oh. Thank goodness my husband saved me from a state of panic.

I ended up having to use my trifle bowl and lining the edges with strips of red & white fondant. With the cake practically crumbling in my hands, I decided to salvage what I could and layered inside the trifle bowl, alternating cake and frosting. To cover I laid white fondant on top and used some red fondant to make the brim of the hat. By the time this was completed, it was well after midnight.

So to finish this cake, I decided to put my scrapbooking skills to work and made a small “book” to adorn the top of the cake. Using the actual Green Eggs & Ham as inspiration, I made the book out of orange cardstock and used the picture from the title page to reflect the “Green Eggs & Ham” piece of the challenge.

In the end, it worked out well. My husband was able to safely transport the cake to the party (which would have been possibly disasterous, had my original plan was carried out) and Justin loved the cake. In fact, the parents that attended the party contacted me and asked if I could make cakes for their kids. (Let’s just hope they don’t have any unique requests for cakes…)

If I were do it again, I would definitely make a denser cake that can stand up to the weight and dowels – a pound cake recipe perhaps? Here’s the final product…


Memoirs of a Geisha & Japanese Potluck

Today I hosted our monthly book/movie gathering between girlfriends. This month we read the book, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, prior to our get together. At the get together, we be watched the 2005 movie, Memoirs of a Geisha directed by Rob Marshall. We also tied the book & movie with a Japanese inspired potluck. Editorial Review by Amazon.com:
According to Arthur Golden’s absorbing first novel, the word “geisha” does not mean “prostitute,” as Westerners ignorantly assume–it means “artisan” or “artist.” To capture the geisha experience in the art of fiction, Golden trained as long and hard as any geisha who must master the arts of music, dance, clever conversation, crafty battle with rival beauties, and cunning seduction of wealthy patrons. After earning degrees in Japanese art and history from Harvard and Columbia–and an M.A. in English–he met a man in Tokyo who was the illegitimate offspring of a renowned businessman and a geisha. This meeting inspired Golden to spend 10 years researching every detail of geisha culture, chiefly relying on the geisha Mineko Iwasaki, who spent years charming the very rich and famous.

The result is a novel with the broad social canvas (and love of coincidence) of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen’s intense attention to the nuances of erotic maneuvering. Readers experience the entire life of a geisha, from her origins as an orphaned fishing-village girl in 1929 to her triumphant auction of her mizuage (virginity) for a record price as a teenager to her reminiscent old age as the distinguished mistress of the powerful patron of her dreams. We discover that a geisha is more analogous to a Western “trophy wife” than to a prostitute–and, as in Austen, flat-out prostitution and early death is a woman’s alternative to the repressive, arcane system of courtship. In simple, elegant prose, Golden puts us right in the tearoom with the geisha; we are there as she gracefully fights for her life in a social situation where careers are made or destroyed by a witticism, a too-revealing (or not revealing enough) glimpse of flesh under the kimono, or a vicious rumor spread by a rival “as cruel as a spider.”

Here are pics of the fabulous Japanese inspired potluck luncheon we feasted on as we watched the movie:

Jen’s Salmon Pate Joelen’s Shrimp Tempura
Joelen’s Vegetable Tempura
Anna’s Cucumber Salad &
Sake (not pictured)
Jenny’s Shrimp Eggrolls &
Ginger Miso Salad (not pictured)
Christine’s Broccoli Udon Salad
Becky’s Sushi
Jill’s Sushi
Joelen’s Chicken Teriyaki
Joelen’s Sweet Fried Rice
Victoria’s Beef Shumai & Shrimp Gyoza
Marcy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Jessie’s Green Tea Ice Cream
(not pictured)

Memoirs of a Geisha & Japanese Potluck

Today I hosted our monthly book/movie gathering between girlfriends. This month we read the book, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, prior to our get together. At the get together, we be watched the 2005 movie, Memoirs of a Geisha directed by Rob Marshall. We also tied the book & movie with a Japanese inspired potluck. Editorial Review by Amazon.com:
According to Arthur Golden’s absorbing first novel, the word “geisha” does not mean “prostitute,” as Westerners ignorantly assume–it means “artisan” or “artist.” To capture the geisha experience in the art of fiction, Golden trained as long and hard as any geisha who must master the arts of music, dance, clever conversation, crafty battle with rival beauties, and cunning seduction of wealthy patrons. After earning degrees in Japanese art and history from Harvard and Columbia–and an M.A. in English–he met a man in Tokyo who was the illegitimate offspring of a renowned businessman and a geisha. This meeting inspired Golden to spend 10 years researching every detail of geisha culture, chiefly relying on the geisha Mineko Iwasaki, who spent years charming the very rich and famous.

The result is a novel with the broad social canvas (and love of coincidence) of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen’s intense attention to the nuances of erotic maneuvering. Readers experience the entire life of a geisha, from her origins as an orphaned fishing-village girl in 1929 to her triumphant auction of her mizuage (virginity) for a record price as a teenager to her reminiscent old age as the distinguished mistress of the powerful patron of her dreams. We discover that a geisha is more analogous to a Western “trophy wife” than to a prostitute–and, as in Austen, flat-out prostitution and early death is a woman’s alternative to the repressive, arcane system of courtship. In simple, elegant prose, Golden puts us right in the tearoom with the geisha; we are there as she gracefully fights for her life in a social situation where careers are made or destroyed by a witticism, a too-revealing (or not revealing enough) glimpse of flesh under the kimono, or a vicious rumor spread by a rival “as cruel as a spider.”

Here are pics of the fabulous Japanese inspired potluck luncheon we feasted on as we watched the movie:

Jen’s Salmon Pate Joelen’s Shrimp Tempura
Joelen’s Vegetable Tempura
Anna’s Cucumber Salad &
Sake (not pictured)
Jenny’s Shrimp Eggrolls &
Ginger Miso Salad (not pictured)
Christine’s Broccoli Udon Salad
Becky’s Sushi
Jill’s Sushi
Joelen’s Chicken Teriyaki
Joelen’s Sweet Fried Rice
Victoria’s Beef Shumai & Shrimp Gyoza
Marcy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Jessie’s Green Tea Ice Cream
(not pictured)

Persian Persuasion & Lebanese Love

Today I hosted an ethnic food tour for my group. This month we focused on Persian cuisine and visited a Lebanese market. I think I’ve found my new fave restaurant, Noon o Kabab. It was a fabulous lunch of Hummus, Baba Ghannouj, Kash-Ke-Bademjan, Caspian Eggplant, Joujeh Koubideh, Joujeh Kabab and Koubideh (descriptions follow).

Unfortunately my camera’s battery died shortly after taking pics of some of our appetizers, however here’s what I was able to take pictures of… (I’m definitely going back there and will try to get more pics to add here!)

Fresh Feta Cheese & Radish Plate
Hummus
Blended chick peas, Tahini (sesame seed oil),
garlic and spices topped with lemon juice.

Kash-Ke-Bademjan
Mix of eggplant, mint and onion with Kashk (aged dried yogurt),
topped with fried onions & mint.

Baba Ghannouj
Charbroiled eggplant, tahini sauce, fresh garlic, and fresh parsley

Caspian Eggplant
Mix of sweet eggplant, tomato, onion and garlic
topped with moosir (Fine Persian Shallot Mix with yogurt).

Koubideh
Fresh ground beef, prepared daily with Persian seasonings
carefully put on skewers, cooked on open fire

Joujeh Kabab
Sskewers of deliciously marinated and seasoned chicken breast

Joujeh Koubideh
Skewers of marinated & seasoned ground chicken

After lunch, we walked across the street to Al-Khayameih, a Lebanese market complete with a bakery, butcher shop, countless aisles of middle eastern foodstuff and even a section dedicated to flavored tobbaccos and hookahs!

From Al-Khayameih, I purchased some sweet walnut baklava… and it was enough for me to return again (perhaps after another lunch at Noon o Kabab! I’d love to also return so I can take pictures of all the wonderful offerings the store has. It really is a great grocery find in such a diverse neighborhood of Albany Park in Chicago!

Persian Persuasion & Lebanese Love

Today I hosted an ethnic food tour for my group. This month we focused on Persian cuisine and visited a Lebanese market. I think I’ve found my new fave restaurant, Noon o Kabab. It was a fabulous lunch of Hummus, Baba Ghannouj, Kash-Ke-Bademjan, Caspian Eggplant, Joujeh Koubideh, Joujeh Kabab and Koubideh (descriptions follow).

Unfortunately my camera’s battery died shortly after taking pics of some of our appetizers, however here’s what I was able to take pictures of… (I’m definitely going back there and will try to get more pics to add here!)

Fresh Feta Cheese & Radish Plate
Hummus
Blended chick peas, Tahini (sesame seed oil),
garlic and spices topped with lemon juice.

Kash-Ke-Bademjan
Mix of eggplant, mint and onion with Kashk (aged dried yogurt),
topped with fried onions & mint.

Baba Ghannouj
Charbroiled eggplant, tahini sauce, fresh garlic, and fresh parsley

Caspian Eggplant
Mix of sweet eggplant, tomato, onion and garlic
topped with moosir (Fine Persian Shallot Mix with yogurt).

Koubideh
Fresh ground beef, prepared daily with Persian seasonings
carefully put on skewers, cooked on open fire

Joujeh Kabab
Sskewers of deliciously marinated and seasoned chicken breast

Joujeh Koubideh
Skewers of marinated & seasoned ground chicken

After lunch, we walked across the street to Al-Khayameih, a Lebanese market complete with a bakery, butcher shop, countless aisles of middle eastern foodstuff and even a section dedicated to flavored tobbaccos and hookahs!

From Al-Khayameih, I purchased some sweet walnut baklava… and it was enough for me to return again (perhaps after another lunch at Noon o Kabab! I’d love to also return so I can take pictures of all the wonderful offerings the store has. It really is a great grocery find in such a diverse neighborhood of Albany Park in Chicago!

Crepe Cravings

It’s a sunny Sunday morning and to start the day, I hosted a crepe class this morning… and I also ended my day with a crepe class in the evening. I love the versatility of crepes so I shared my fondness of them with my group. Everyone had a chance to make their own crepe batter to take home, flip & cook their own crepes and of course, filled as many crepes as they wanted with an assortment of sweet & savory fillings.

The crepe batter I used for my classes was from Alton Brown and can be found here. His batter recipe was especially good because it truly held up to flipping, had a great soft texture and very easy to make. This was the batter recipe everyone made themselves to take home. However for the crepes folks flipped and cooked at the stove, they had their choice of a sweet & savory crepe batter. These batters used the same Alton Brown recipe as the base… but for the sweet version, I added vanilla and sugar; for the savory version, I added salt and chopped fresh basil and parsley. These two variations can be found at the same link provided above.
Because I had a large group, I wanted to have folks involved at all times. To help direct their energy and attention, I created 3 “stations” in which they can be interactive. One station was dedicated to preparing the batter, which they took home to cook up themselves. Another station was dedicated to the filling buffet. I divided my dining table into a sweet and savory side, filled with various meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, jams/jellys/spreads, nuts, misc add ins and dessert sauces. My last station was in the kitchen at the stovetop. Here folks were able to master the art of cooking crepes without having them tear or break (thanks to the great Alton Brown recipe!). Here are pictures of both my morning and evening events:
Sweet Filling Buffet Side:

Savory Filling Buffet Side:
Crepe Batter Workstation:

Crepe Cooking Station: