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Deanne made these Clue-themed cupcakes at my house for her Clue party this weekend.  I helped a tiny bit, but the credit for these definitely goes to her!

Clue cupcakes

The characters include: Miss Scarlet with the rope, Mrs. White with the wrench, Mr. Green with the lead pipe, Mrs. Peacock with the candlestick, Colonel Mustard with the revolver, and Professor Plum with the knife.  Also, poor Mr. Boddy in chalk outline.

What is a Clue party, you may ask?  For the party, Deanne and her friends each dressed up as a character from Clue.  They got fake weapons and costume accessories from the dollar store.  At the party, they played the Clue board game, watched the 1985 Clue movie, and ate these cupcakes.  Awesome idea.

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Rock Band is my most favorite video game in the history of all video games.  I’m by no means good at it (I usually recruit someone to split drumming/kickpedaling duties with me, and have been known to fail singing on Easy) but I love it like no other.  I even draw nerdy literary comics about it. And this week, I made Rock Band cupcakes.

Rock Band Cupcakes

Rock Band cupcake

They’d be really nice to make if you were having people over for a Rock Band night.  (Do those exist?  They should.  If you host one, invite me over.  Perhaps I’ll bring cupcakes.)

On a somewhat related note, have you seen the trailer for The Beatles: Rock Band yet?  I’m pretty stoked.

In honor of Watchmen, I made these cupcakes with Jackie.  It is probably one of the more kickass sets of baked goods I hope to ever create.  The whole second generation of Watchmen is represented, even Archie:

The Comedian cupcake, Rorschach cupcake, Archimedes cupcake, Ozymandias cupcake, Silk Spectre cupcake, Captain Metropolis cupcake, Nite Owl cupcake, Dr. Manhattan cupcake, Doomsday Clock cupcake, Watchmen cupcakes.

Watchmen cupcakes

watchmen cupcake the comedian's badge

See my previous post on Father’s Day cupcakes for a link to the fondant recipe we used.  Based on demand, I might put up a fondant decorating tutorial later this week when I make cupcakes with Deanne.  We’re thinking Rock Band and/or Clue.  Get excited.

Digg!

mosaic_cupcakes

Inspired by hellonaomi’s adorable cupcakes on Flickr, Jackie and I decided to make our own for Father’s Day.  We started with a basic fondant recipe and colored it with food gel coloring; working with fondant is a lot like working with marzipan (or, if you’re not much of a pastry chef, like playing Sculptorades in Cranium).  Here they are, in golf and airplane themes:

father's day golf cupcakes

father's day cupcakes airplanes

father's day cupcakes airplane

I do not exactly have a reputation as a master chef.  Ask my family about my culinary prowess, and they will probably regale you with a story of the time I managed to botch up a batch of Betty Crocker brownies by forgetting to add the eggs.  My dad, always the optimist, pointed out that I had invented a nearly indestructable building material.  What a kidder.

1 Egg and Oil!

"Just Add: Drywall and Insulation!"

Now that I live in an apartment, however, I cook my own meals, with surprisingly edible results:

Her range of dishes, initially limited to Spaghetti And Other Assorted Shapes of Pasta, has in recent weeks included rosemary-thyme lamb chops and a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

The rest of her family regards her meteoric culinary rise with a mixture of pride (Dad), skepticism (sister), and astonishment (Mom).”

Excerpt from this year’s family Christmas newsletter

In order to prove to my disbelieving family that I am indeed capable of such feats, I baked another carrot cake a few days ago, using the same recipe as before.  The recipe I am about to share with you is, to the best of my knowledge, the most epic carrot cake recipe of all time.

Ultimate Carrot Cake

Here it is, in all of its carrotty applesaucey pineappley walnutty glory.

It originated from the “Carrot Cake III” recipe on allrecipes.com; I like to imagine user “Tammy Elliott” working feverishly in her underground kitchen/lair, inventing carrot cake after carrot cake until, in one triumphant moment, she shouts, “I’VE GOT IT!” and posts her recipe for a third-generation carrot cake so good that it deserves its own Roman numeral.  Next, the recipe was further improved upon by suggestions from 1,390 reviews, and consolidated into one list of alterations by user “gneebeanie”, whose perplexing choice of username is, I can only assume, a secretive anagram for “A Bee Engine” or “Inane Be(e) Gee”.

Saturday Night Fever for carrot cake?

Saturday Night Fever for carrot cake?

My humble contribution to this global effort has been to incorporate these alterations back into the recipe, which I have fittingly entitled “Ultimate Carrot Cake”. Both times I have baked this cake, it has garnered rave reviews:

“Some sort of cooking god needs to bow down to you.”

If you never make this again, I will kill you.”

“After nineteen years, I finally believe Katherine can cook.”

Here is the recipe, if you’d like to try it for yourself:

ULTIMATE CARROT CAKE

Beat together:
4 eggs
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 c brown sugar
1 c white sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract

Then mix in:
2 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
0.25 tsp nutmeg

Then fold in:
3 c grated carrots
20 oz canned pineapple, chopped/crushed and drained (optional)
0.5 c applesauce (optional)
1 c chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Bake at 350 degrees in a greased 9X13 baking pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Beat together:
0.5 c butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3.5 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Frost cooled cake and sprinkle on:
1 c chopped nuts

I love you, Trader Joe.  To the moon and back.

This is going to be a short post because I’m up late tonight writing an essay on free indirect discourse in Jane Austen’s Emma for my Literature & Linguistics class.  But I could not let the opportunity go by without telling you how, in the midst of the writing frenzy that accompanies my usual eleventh-hour inspiration, I would have starved tonight if it wasn’t for Trader Joe.

This was almost going to be me, but it wasn't.

This was almost going to be me, but it wasn't.

Dinner?  Who has time for petty societal conventions like dinner when there is free indirect discourse to be analyzed, preferably before 2 pm in the third-floor English office of Wheeler Hall the following day?

Me, that’s who.  Thanks to my trusty Trader Joe’s Indian Fare in a box, I was able to enjoy a meal of Pav Bhaji, jasmine rice, and garlic naan before getting back to work on that tense-aspect analysis.  What is Pav Bhaji, you ask?  Good question.  I like to describe it to people as The One In The Teal Box.

cinemafia)

Told you. (Flickr credit: cinemafia)

See, Indian Fare is ready-to-heat Indian food just like your roommate’s mom so lovingly brings her in thirty thousand tiny labeled Tupperware single-meal portions every other week.  The only difference is that Trader Joe encloses them in silver pouches that you can dunk in boiling water or slit open and dump into the microwave, so you feel way more badass when you heat up your dinner, like a Navy SEAL preparing C-rations or something.

While you’re at Trader Joe’s picking up your multicolored boxes, you should also be sure to swing by the frozen foods aisle and pick up some Garlic Naan, which heats up marvelously in a toaster oven.

This is actually almost what frozen garlic naan from a bag looks like.

This is actually sort of what frozen garlic naan from a bag looks like.

I think that food this good deserves its own stereotypical ethnic Trader name, to join the proud ranks of Trader José, Trader Giotto, and Trader Ming.

Imagine this: An experimental restaurant in Berkeley bills customers $0.00 for their meal and encourages them to pay the generosity forward however they wish.

That’s right.  Karma Kitchen, which began in March 2007, is open Sundays for lunch, issues no bills, is volunteer-staffed, and is based entirely on the premise that we could all do with a little more good karma in the world.

Paul Van Slambrouck.)

Viral Mehta, co-founder of Karma Kitchen, familiarizes the day's volunteer servers about their tasks before the restaurant opens.

Karma Kitchen rents out Taste of the Himalayas restaurant on Shattuck on Sundays from 11-3.  Customers eat a delicious vegetarian and mostly Indian-inspired meal prepared by chef Chatra Lamichaney, but they don’t get a check at the end:

“Instead, the guests of this restaurant are handed a gold envelope with a handwritten note on the outside that says, ‘Have a lovely evening.’ Inside a bookmarker-sized card states: ‘In the spirit of generosity, someone who came before you made a gift of this meal. We hope you will continue the circle of giving in your own way!””

The Christian Science Monitor, “A restaurant with no checks”

Most guests choose to pay for the next guest’s meal; others choose to volunteer at the restaurant one Sunday, but Karma Kitchen leaves it entirely up to you, as long as you give something back to the world.  How cool is that?

Karma Kitchen's current volunteer sign-up list from their website; it gives you an idea of what tasks volunteers do.

Karma Kitchen's current volunteer chart on the website shows who has signed up to do which tasks in the upcoming month of Sundays.

I am so sad that I learned about Karma Kitchen on a Sunday.  Now I have to wait an entire week before I can try it out myself and tell you about it.  If I like it, which I’m pretty sure I will, I’ll volunteer the next week.  In the meantime, you can read an early article about Karma Kitchen back when it was open for Saturday night dinners, check out the glowing reviews on Yelp, or visit Karma Kitchen’s website to learn more about their business model.

Since starting this blog, I have developed an unhealthy need to take photographs of my food.  Things have gotten to the point where I will bring an entire dinner party to a halt just so that I can take a few snaps for this blog while my friends slouch in their chairs, exhale pointedly, and roll their eyes.

My favorite meal to photograph is lunch; maybe it’s the simplicity of the meal, or the way the light in our kitchen looks at noon, or the satisfaction of a well-fixed sandwich.  Hopefully, these photos will give you healthy lunch ideas that are easy to fix in 10 minutes with a stock of basic groceries from the fridge in your apartment.  At the very least, my mom, who just started reading this blog, will be able to see that I’m not living off of Hamburger Helper and Mac & Cheese in college.  Hi, Mom.

celery; broccoli; baby carrots; hummus

After school snack: celery; broccoli; baby carrots; hummus

turkey, jack cheese, baby spinach, mayonnaise, dijon mustard; hummus; tortilla chips; sugarplums

Sandwich: turkey, jack cheese, baby spinach, mayonnaise, dijon mustard; hummus; tortilla chips; sugarplums

Baby spinach, roma tomatoes, raisins, sunflower seeds, olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Baby spinach, roma tomatoes, raisins, sunflower seeds, olive oil and balsamic vinegar

salami, jack cheese, sprouts, tomatoes, dijon; vegetable chips; pear

Sandwich: salami, jack cheese, sprouts, tomatoes, dijon; vegetable flax seed chips; pear

PB&J; baby carrots; hummus; tortilla chips; sugarplums

Sandwich: crunchy PB&J; baby carrots; hummus; tortilla chips; sugarplums

As you have doubtless noticed, hummus is a staple part of my diet.  Hummus to me is like corn to the Incas, or rice to the Chinese, or barley to the Mesopotamians.  As I have mentioned multiple times on this blog, it’s all about Trader Joe’s, people.

For this post, I was inspired by Jen’s blog project at simply breakfast, introduced to me by Natalie.  Jen takes amazing photographs each morning of the first meal of the day, and has even published an entire book of them.  Here are a few samples of her work:

I’m not nearly as patient as Jen in selecting backdrops and dishware specifically chosen for the way their colors compliment and accentuate the food-as-art.  Usually I manage to snap a photo just before I wolf down my lunch and dash to swim class.

If I was a snooty art major, though, I would give the alternate explanation “I like to give the natural colors and textures of nature room to express themselves, by juxtaposing them with the simple pastoral feel of our worn wooden table, so that the visual exploration of the food itself is the focal point.”

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Edit: Drat, I just saw that Stuff White People Like posted an entry on hummus two days ago.

I went to Berkeley Bowl off Shattuck for the first time yesterday and left wondering where it had been all my life.  Berkeley Bowl is a local, non-chain store version of Whole Foods, that carries fresh local produce at eye-poppingly low prices.

How much would you pay at your local supermarket for this collection of vegetables?  (Hold on to your eyeballs.)

broccoli, roma tomatoes, celery, baby carrots, red potatoes, sprouts

Clockwise, from top: broccoli, roma tomatoes, celery, baby carrots, red potatoes, sprouts.

Here’s how much you can expect to pay at Berkeley Bowl:

  • Baby carrots: $0.89
  • Sprouts: $1.15
  • Roma tomatoes: $0.50
  • Red potatoes: $0.64
  • Bunched broccoli: $1.08
  • Celery: $0.59
  • Credit for bringing my own bag: -$0.05
  • Total: $4.80

I thought that the cashier had made a mistake at first and forgotten to swipe half of my produce through the register.  I wouldn’t have even been able to pay for my purchase if I used debit card because it was under the $5.00 minimum charge.  Wowza.

I’ve spoken to a few veteran shoppers and they agree that you’re better off buying non-produce at Trader Joe’s or another supermarket, but that you can’t beat Berkeley Bowl for its selection and prices of fruits and veggies.

Here’s the info, in case you want to make a visit to see for yourself:

Berkeley Bowl

2020 Oregon Street

Berkeley, CA 94703

www.berkeleybowl.com

Four out of five school days, I eat lunch in the apartment because I’m working from home for my internship with ChunkIt!, a San Jose, CA tech company that basically has found a way to make your Internet research (easier), better, faster, stronger.  This is usually after Stats 20 lecture or before swim class, so by the time lunchtime rolls around, you can bet that I’m in serious need of brain food.

This is one of my favorite lunches: a toasted PB&J with crunchy peanut butter, tortilla chips, carrot sticks and hummus, fruit, and milk.  When I made it on Thursday I felt like a 1940s mom preparing a nutritious and healthful lunch pail for her first grader.  Except that first grader was me.

Literally 95% of what's on this plate is from Trader Joe's.

Literally 95% of what's on this plate is from Trader Joe's.

I even covered all of the food groups again: protein (peanut butter), grains (bread, chips), fruits and vegetables (plums, carrots, hummus), and dairy (milk).  Score.