Sunday, February 28, 2010

Co-op Food + Lemon Ginger Molasses Pinwheel Cookies

I come home from a good sweaty yoga sesh only to find myself munching on a frosted chocolate cake. Oh, living in a co-op. Food is EVERYWHERE at every hour of the day. I come home to a huge hotel pan of chocolate cake, to the smell of homemade granola just out of the oven, to waffles wafting throughout the house, to cookies and flan and pie.

Aside from all of the sweet stuff, I come home to dinner every night at 7pm. Salads and roasted veggies and grains and beans and meats and cheese. To something new and exciting. To soups, stews, and casseroles. Comfort food, health food, vegan food, ethnic food.

Fresh baked bread. Fresh baked bread made with wheat gluten instead of flour: an accidental miracle. Snack shift. Oh, snack shift. Brownies, salsa, midnight madness.

Here is a photo of a typical co-op meal made by moi:

Mini grilled cheese bites (with a rosemary butter), balsamic roasted asparagus with sauteed chard, couscous salad with chickpeas, roasted bell peppers, olives, onion, and peas, and a spring mix salad with citrus (blood oranges, cara cara oranges, and grapefruit), cranberries, and feta cheese. Oh yes, and lemon ginger molasses pinwheel cookies as well as vegan sugar cookies for the vegans.

And here is a picture of a strawberry streusal coffee cake that I made last week (recipe from JoytheBaker):

Buttermilk Biscuit Bonanza:

A Whole Lotta Breaded n' Baked Chicken:

With the gargantuan amount of food that a cook makes for the house (I live with 60 people, some other co-ops have only 20 people, and some 160 people), it can be difficult to take nice photos because everything is made in large, industrial pots and pans, and I'm usually rushing to finish cooking so I haven't got a moment to photograph in nice lighting before someone devours the food.

What a rewarding experience it is to cook here. I get everything delivered (no grocery shopping necessary) and I get to cook with a variety of ingredients that come in seasonally. I can experiement and people will eat my experiments and compliment me, yay!

We even bought and entire cow to be more "green" and to save money for the house. Furthermore, we have switched to all-organic Straus milk and yogurt. Our eggs are organic, too.

While cooking for and living with 60 college students can be tough at times, it is nice to have a "family" to eat dinner with every night.

Oh, and here is the recipe for the Lemon Ginger Molasses Pinwheel Cookies. These cookies require a bit of time just because the dough has to be refrigerated a few times and rolled out and rolled up and cut. Worth it. These are aesthetically pleasing and taste really great. I taste real ingredients and I taste something sweet, satisfying, and soothing for my body.

Alice in Wonderland, the movie, is coming out next weekend, and these cookies would be great to make if you are hosting a "mad hatter" themed party in honor of Alice. They've got that Treshire Cat vibe going on.

Lemon Ginger Molasses Pinwheel Cookies
From CookingLight

yield: 40 cookies, serving size: 1 cookie


  • Ginger dough:
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash of ground allspice

  • Lemon dough:
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


1. To prepare ginger dough, place 1/4 cup butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined (about 3 minutes). Add molasses and egg yolk; beat until well blended. Weigh or lightly spoon 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 6 ounces flour, ginger, and next 4 ingredients (through allspice); stir with a whisk. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

2. To prepare lemon dough, place 5 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended (about 3 minutes). Add egg white; beat until blended. Beat in rind and vanilla. Weigh or lightly spoon 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 6 ounces flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; chill 30 minutes.

3. Unwrap ginger dough. Roll ginger dough between sheets of plastic wrap into a 13 x 8 1/2–inch rectangle (3/16 inch thick); chill 10 minutes. Unwrap lemon dough. Roll lemon dough between sheets of plastic wrap into a 13 x 9–inch rectangle (3/16 inch thick); chill 10 minutes. Carefully stack ginger dough on top of lemon dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border along one long edge. Starting with the long side without a border, roll up dough, jelly-roll fashion. Seal edges (do not seal ends of roll). Cover with plastic wrap; freeze 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F.

5. Unwrap dough. Cut with a sharp knife into 40 slices (about 1/4 inch thick). Reshape rounds, if necessary. Arrange slices 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake, 1 batch at a time, at 350° for 8 to 9 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 81
Fat: 2.8g (sat 1.7g,mono 0.7g,poly 0.2g)
Protein: 1.1g
Carbohydrate: 13.1g
Fiber: 0.3g
Cholesterol: 12mg
Iron: 0.6mg
Sodium: 33mg
Calcium: 9mg

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Café Leila: A Quaint, Unobtrusive Little Gem of A Berkeley Café

Sunday morning brunch. After living in Berkeley for three years, I find it safe to say that us “Berkeleyans” like to eat, and we like to eat a hearty weekend brunch filled with good grub and good people.

It was a rainy Sunday at ten thirty in the morning and my two girlfriends and I were seeking a new place to satisfy our morning hunger pangs. Café Leila definitely hit the spot. A quaint, unobtrusive little gem of a café located on San Pablo and Cedar St. in North Berkeley, this place had everything I wanted and more.

The girls and I walked in, immediately ordered our food at the counter (we got our coffee right away), and sat down at a cozy table in the back of the restaurant. Café Leila also offers garden seating, which would be ideal on a lovely spring or summer day.

Started by two brothers, Café Leila strives to feature local, seasonal, organic, sustainable, and fair-trade offerings. They specialize in healthy, tasty food, at affordable prices—everything on the menu was less than ten dollars. Foods are prepared on-site daily—the scones, oh the scones (I was oogling over the gorgeous scones and on the way out I bought big, bursting fresh cranberry and walnut scone because I simply could not resist). Their use of organic ingredients and chemical free foods makes me even happier to have dined here. On the website, they advertise their dishes as naturally low in fat and cholesterol, yet high in taste. High in taste, indeed.

Usually when I go out to restaurants, I have a difficult time making decisions about what to order because, well, I want it all. My friends and I are not shy about digging into each other’s plates and tasting everyone else’s food, so often times we will order a bunch of items and share.

Café Leila may have served me some of the best buttermilk pancakes of my lifetime—light, thin, and fluffy, and I could really taste the buttermilk. So simple yet so good. The special of the day was the salmon hash, and boy was it special. Two poached eggs with a salmon hash cake accompanied by roasted tomatoes. The salmon cake was drizzled with a lemon butter sauce and rested on a bed of little capers. Talk about protein power. We ordered the date omelet because the idea of two farm eggs stuffed with fancy medjool dates, goat feta, and fresh chopped basil just drew us in, and the sweet and savory combination was out of this world.

The cashier was friendly and cheery and we even went back to chat with him when we finished eating because our meal was just so stellar. Although Café Leila may seem like a trek for some Berkeley students who do not have access to a car or bike, I found it refreshing to get out of the hustle-bustle of campus life and to explore a place with more of a family/non-student crowd.

Come with friends or with a significant other, come with family, or come alone. Sophisticated yet casual is the name of the game at this north Berkeley café. They offer jazz concerts on Friday and Saturday nights, which may just be the perfect excuse for me to come back again. Two thumbs up for the homey Berkeley tea room, Café Leila.

(Sadly, I did not snap any of my own photos. They all are from the restaurant's website. I know I know, I am a failure)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Simple Savory Soft Polenta: The Bowl that Will Soothe Your Soul

I feel tiny. When I think about all of the people in this world who have to be fed, I feel tiny. After visiting UCSF medical center today and taking a tour of the kitchen, observing how all the food gets prepared and delivered to patients, students, faculty, and the general public, I feel tiny.

When I watch the movie Food, Inc. and see how the number of slaughterhouses in the US has dwindled from thousands to just thirteen and how the animals are squashed together knee deep in their own manure, I feel tiny. I feel tiny, I feel trapped, but I also feel empowered.

Every time I buy from a farmer's market, every time I stop and take a moment to think about my food purchases, every time I think about what I am about to put in my mouth, I feel empowered. By simply purchasing from a local farmer, I am giving a vote for a hypothetically safer, healthier, greener world.

We are thrown such mixed messages about the food we eat, and we have become so detached from where are food comes from. We have skewed our food system to the "bad" calories. The chips and candies are less expensive than the broccoli and the carrots. Why oh why are we so addicted to refined carbohydrates and added sugars?! Because they are cheap, they are subsidized, they taste good, and that good taste is addicting.

I sit here, frustrated and confused. When I think about all that I do related to food, I feel so proud and excited for the people I see cooking together, eating together, learning together. Yet, sometimes I still feel so tiny and so helpless.

I praise those who work in hospitals and schools and businesses and farms who feed thousands of people every day.

I need something that will soothe my soul today. A warm bowl of soft polenta--creamy and smooth with that slight bite of crunch from the corn. With a sprinkle of good cheese, I feel a little better. I feel a little bigger than tiny. I can sit here with my big warm bowl of soft polenta and be content. Content for the few minutes it takes to gobble this grain down.

Now go soothe your soul with a big warm bowl of the good stuff.

Simple Savory Polenta
from JoytheBaker

serves 4?

1 cup polenta

3 cups cold water

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place 1 cup of dried polenta in a medium sized bowl. Top with one cup cold water. Set aside.

In a medium sized sauce pan bring 2 cups of whole milk and remaining 2 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add salt. Slowly whisk the polenta and water mixture into the boiling milk mixture. Turn flame down to medium low. The time the polenta takes to cook will depend on weather you’re using fine grain or course polenta. My polenta took just minutes to thicken. However long it takes, stir occasionally until you’re reached a desired thickness.

Turn of flame and add grated parmesan cheese. Stir to incorporate.

***NOTE: You can make a sweet version of this polenta, just omit the cheese and give the grain a splash of vanilla (or use a vanilla bean!), a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a bit o' brown suga'

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kiss My Bundt Goodbye: An Ode To Apple Spice Cake Sans Bundt Pan

So I live in a house. I live in a house with 60 college students. I live in a house with an industrial kitchen, with a seemingly endless amount of food. And with all of the fun and happy times comes dirt, smell, and disorganization. We've gone from soap hockey to sudsy and soaking wet dance party, from Mariah Carey sing-alongs to eating cereal with a fork out of an old dijon mustard jar.

My point is, I wanted to make a cake. I wanted to make this apple cake. I wanted to make this apple cake and bake it in a bundt pan. The only problem was finding a bundt pan amongst the calamity of pots and pans and lids and tops. I knew we used to have one somewhere, but who knows where it could be now? After searching and asking around the house, I finally stumbled across a bent and dented angle food cake pan. Or at least I think it was an angle food cake pan?

Anyway, the bent and dented cake pan actually worked perfectly for letting my batter nestle in its crevices and sit in a hot oven for 45 mintues or so.

Dense and Delicious. Fruity and spice-y. This apple cake is so moist and hearty, you can't just have one piece, it is really just impossible. Almost as impossible as shoving 10 saltine crackers in your mouth in under 1 minute. Or eating a tablespoon of cinnamon.

I intended to make a nice caramel sauce to accompany the apple cake, but, well, I got lazy. So then I decided that I would dust it with some powdered sugar. Usually we have a huge bucket full of powdered sugar, but it was just my luck we ran out. Actually, I do not even know where the bucket is. I found the lid, but no bucket.

Ho-hum. At least the cake was good, right?

Apple Spice Cake
from the CookieShop, who got the recipe from

serves 10
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 to 4 apples (I used Fugi), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped assorted nuts, such as pecans and walnuts (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Caramel Sauce OR Powdered Sugar for drizzling or dusting
***maybe next time, I will add some freshly grated ginger into the batter, you know, just for kicks and giggles
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Working over a large sheet of parchment paper, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; gather sifted ingredients into center of sheet; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or just mix by hand), combine vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs; mix on high speed until lemon yellow.
  4. Fold reserved parchment in half lengthwise; with mixer on medium speed, gradually shake in dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  5. Add apples and, if desired, nuts, to batter; mix to combine. Add vanilla, mixing until incorporated.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack.
  8. Invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely on rack, and serve drizzled with caramel sauce or dusted with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sprouts Cooking Club Fundraiser at Pizzaiolo

300 apple fritters. 19 frittatas. Toast, jam, butter, homemade pork rillette. Straus yogurt and granola parfaits with bananas and berries. Espressos and Americanos. Volunteers arrived early Sunday morning to help prepare for the Sprouts Cooking Club fundraiser brunch held at the trendy Oakland restaurant hot-spot, Pizzaiolo.

Sprouts Cooking Club is a children's cooking program located in the Bay Area. The program emphasizes hands-on cooking with local, sustainable ingredients and with chefs from around the area. Donations from Straus Creamery, Whole Foods Market, McLaughlin coffee, Organic Valley Farms, and Alter Eco Fair Trade supply the kids with the ingredients and materials necessary to get their hands busy and their creative juices flowing.

Here are some of the kids from the summer. They are very serious about chopping their ingredients to make homemade salsa fresca and guacamole at Picante restaurant in Berkeley:

These Sprouts go above and beyond in the kitchen—not only are they excited about all of the fresh meals they get to prepare, but they act so maturely and are not afraid to connect with all of the guest chefs, asking questions and experimenting with different textures and flavors! Going into a restaurant and seeing where their food is coming from and how it is prepared is another integral portion of the program.

Cooking and enjoying a meal together is a real treat, and in April 2010, some of these lucky kids will have the chance to travel to FRANCE to cook! This trip will provide the kids and their families an opportunity to experience first hand what another country's culinary and cultural lifestyle entails.

At the fundraiser this past Sunday, we had Jed working the frittatas and overseeing pretty much everything. Jed is actually going to go to France with the kids in April!

Tony was manning the coffee.

Volunteers from UC Berkeley were all over the dining crowd, directing people to their seats, clearing tables, washing dishes.

And I was standing over a hot pot of oil, frying up some delicious apple fritters. Dunked in glaze, these fritters were sweet and soft, and the apples gave them a nice bite.

This blogger sums up the exciting story of how Karen Rogers, founder and director of Sprouts Cooking Club, came to start the camp and foster an ever-growing next generation of chefs and food lovers.

Hooray for young, budding kid chefs!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fried Chicken and Waffles

Fried chicken and waffles. I never really thought much of the combination, but wow, after enjoying a tasty meal at Home of Chicken and Waffles in Oakland's Jack London Square, I now realize what all the hype is about.

First of all, you just can't go wrong with a good homemade waffle. The ridges and grooves are made for the syrup that slips inside. And fried chicken is just so freakin' delicious. The chicken should definitely be eaten with the syrupy waffle all in one bite. Genius, just a genius combination.

With a side of some real buttery mac and cheese, I was set.

Ok so this may be a major artery-clogging meal, but it was so darn good that it did not even matter. With every bite, my friends and I could not stop talking about how good everything tasted.

For another finger-lickin' fried chicken find, check out Bakesale Betty's fried chicken sandwich in Oakland's Temescal district.