Belly of a Beast

Notes of a novice cook, but expert eater

X-men Cupcakes

Veronica plays dodgeball. She’s a captain now, and this season her team is Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. I don’t play dodgeball, but I crash a lot of their parties, usually those with a theme. At least I brought dessert.

  • Cupcakes
  • Vanilla frosting
  • Nilla Wafers
  • Blue & yellow food coloring
  • Red icing

1. Separate 1/3 of the frosting into a small bowl & mix well with yellow food coloring. Heat frosting in the microwave for about 10 seconds until smooth.

2. Dip top half of each Nilla Wafer into the yellow frosting, flip, and let dry on a wire rack over a paper towel to set.

3. Mix remaining frosting with blue food coloring. Frost the cupcakes, then top with the wafers. Finish decorating with red icing.

Funfetti Sandwich Cookies
From Baked Perfection

My best friend Ivy is getting married in just 7 days. I can’t wait and couldn’t be happier for her. It’s going to be such an incredible weekend with some of my most favorite people, in a beautiful place I’ve never been before. Ivy doesn’t really like cake…but everyone loves Funfetti, so guess what her wedding cake will be! Thinking about it reminded me of this yummy and adorable bite-site version I made for my friend Lorena’s birthday, then again as a welcome home gift to Veronica. Enjoy!

Makes approx. 24 sandwich cookies

Funfetti Cookies

  •     1 (18.25) package Funfetti Cake
  •     2 eggs
  •     1/3 cup vegetable oil
  •     2 tbsp. milk
  •     1 tsp. vanilla extract

Very Vanilla Frosting

  •     1 stick of butter, softened
  •     3 cups powdered sugar
  •     Pinch of salt
  •     1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  •     2 tbsp. milk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pour cake mix into a large bowl. Stir in eggs, oil, milk, & vanilla until combined.

2. Drop teaspoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. It seems impossibly small, but the smaller the better. Bake 7-9 minutes. The bottoms will be light brown. Move cookies to a cooling rack; cool completely before assembling.

3. In a bowl, beat butter and vanilla until creamy. Add salt. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, beating until combined. Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until frosting reaches desired consistency.

4. Frost bottom side of half the cookies and top with unfrosted cookies. Roll edges in rainbow sprinkles.

Bonefish Grill, Brandon, FLStrawberry Shortcake
After a long day of working an event in a city far from home, our little group feasted on a ton of good food and drink…and then this strangely perfect strawberry shortcake.
Here’s the recipe from their website:
Active Time: 45 minStart to finish: 60 minServings: 4
Strawberry Shortcake
Ingredients
4 small short cake biscuits (purchased from the bakery section of your supermarket)
1 pint - strawberries, washed, hulled and cut into halves
Bacardi strawberry mix
Crème Anglaise as needed
Whipped cream (as needed)
Mint sprigs, for decoration (optional)
Directions
In a 1 qt stainless bowl, combine the strawberries and mix in 1/4 cup of Bacardi strawberries mix.
Cut short cake biscuits in half and lay each bottom on a 6 inch round plate.
Distribute the strawberries mixture evenly on top of each biscuit and place the other half of the biscuit on top.
Drizzle 2 ounces of Crème Anglaise over the exposed strawberries and the remaining on the plate.
Place 3 over heaping tablespoons of whipped cream on top of biscuit and garnish with a sprig of mint, if you like.
Crème Anglaise
Ingredients
1 cup of half and half
2 each egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Directions
Place 1 qt of water into a two quart pot and bring to a simmer.
Place a stainless steel bowl on top of the simmering water, being careful of the rising steam.
Pour half and half into stainless bowl and stirring frequently until the temperature reaches about 100 degrees.
In a separate bowl mix egg yolks, sugar and vanilla.
Whisking constantly, slowly add warm half and half to the egg mixture; then pour back into the stainless steel bowl (that is over simmering water).
Stir constantly until the custard sauce becomes creamy and coats the back of a spoon (temperature should be approx. 170 degrees).
Strain the mixture into a clean container with a lid.
Allow to cool to 40 degrees before using.

Bonefish Grill, Brandon, FL
Strawberry Shortcake

After a long day of working an event in a city far from home, our little group feasted on a ton of good food and drink…and then this strangely perfect strawberry shortcake.

Here’s the recipe from their website:

Active Time: 45 min
Start to finish: 60 min
Servings: 4

Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients

  • 4 small short cake biscuits (purchased from the bakery section of your supermarket)
  • 1 pint - strawberries, washed, hulled and cut into halves
  • Bacardi strawberry mix
  • Crème Anglaise as needed
  • Whipped cream (as needed)
  • Mint sprigs, for decoration (optional)

Directions

  1. In a 1 qt stainless bowl, combine the strawberries and mix in 1/4 cup of Bacardi strawberries mix.
  2. Cut short cake biscuits in half and lay each bottom on a 6 inch round plate.
  3. Distribute the strawberries mixture evenly on top of each biscuit and place the other half of the biscuit on top.
  4. Drizzle 2 ounces of Crème Anglaise over the exposed strawberries and the remaining on the plate.
  5. Place 3 over heaping tablespoons of whipped cream on top of biscuit and garnish with a sprig of mint, if you like.

Crème Anglaise

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of half and half
  • 2 each egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Place 1 qt of water into a two quart pot and bring to a simmer.
  2. Place a stainless steel bowl on top of the simmering water, being careful of the rising steam.
  3. Pour half and half into stainless bowl and stirring frequently until the temperature reaches about 100 degrees.
  4. In a separate bowl mix egg yolks, sugar and vanilla.
  5. Whisking constantly, slowly add warm half and half to the egg mixture; then pour back into the stainless steel bowl (that is over simmering water).
  6. Stir constantly until the custard sauce becomes creamy and coats the back of a spoon (temperature should be approx. 170 degrees).
  7. Strain the mixture into a clean container with a lid.
  8. Allow to cool to 40 degrees before using.
Umamicatessen, Downtown Los AngelesCrispy Pig Ears with parsley, lemon, & brainaise
Bizarre and addicting. The crispy, crunchy (“…potato chippy”), tough texture takes a bit getting used to, but once you start, you just can’t stop. Definitely share though, if you can. I was with the one vegetarian in the room, so it was unfortunate for my stomach that I finished them all.

Umamicatessen, Downtown Los Angeles
Crispy Pig Ears with parsley, lemon, & brainaise

Bizarre and addicting. The crispy, crunchy (“…potato chippy”), tough texture takes a bit getting used to, but once you start, you just can’t stop. Definitely share though, if you can. I was with the one vegetarian in the room, so it was unfortunate for my stomach that I finished them all.

Amy’s Bread, Chelsea Market, NYSemolina with Golden Raisins & Fennel
Reliving our NY trip with #thedreamteam

Amy’s Bread, Chelsea Market, NY
Semolina with Golden Raisins & Fennel

Reliving our NY trip with #thedreamteam

Saltine Chocolate Brittle

Cheap, easy, & delicious!

Makes 30 pieces

  • 1 sleeve (about 37) saltine crackers
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 12 oz (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Line a cookie sheet with foil; spray very lightly with cooking spray. Cover cookie sheet with crackers.

3. Boil sugar and butter for 3 minutes. Pour mixture over crackers and spread evenly.

4. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips. Let sit 1 minute, then spread melted chips with spatula. Sprinkle chopped nuts over this and press down lightly. (I also like adding sprinkles and/or marshmallows.)

5. Cut on diagonal immediately, or cool until firm, then break up. Pieces can be frozen.

Fresh Basil Pesto
Our basil plant, Basil (BAZ-el), was looking a little top heavy…and now he’s “naked…very nude.” At least he’s going to good use, along with the french grey sea salt I got for Christmas. Most recipes call for more garlic (~3 cloves), but I don’t get it—how is that possible?? Am I doing something wrong? 1 clove is good and damaging enough for me. 
Makes 1 cupPrep Time: 10min
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts…but it’s just not the same!)
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine the basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times.
2. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is on.
3. Add the cheese and pulse again until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Fresh Basil Pesto

Our basil plant, Basil (BAZ-el), was looking a little top heavy…and now he’s “naked…very nude.” At least he’s going to good use, along with the french grey sea salt I got for Christmas. Most recipes call for more garlic (~3 cloves), but I don’t get it—how is that possible?? Am I doing something wrong? 1 clove is good and damaging enough for me.

Makes 1 cup
Prep Time: 10min

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts…but it’s just not the same!)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine the basil, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times.

2. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is on.

3. Add the cheese and pulse again until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Vanilla Bake Shop, Westfield Century City, Los AngelesFleur de Sel Cupcake
Dark chocolate cake with creamy caramel filling, french sea salt, and dark chocolate buttercream frosting. Mmmm…

Vanilla Bake Shop, Westfield Century City, Los Angeles
Fleur de Sel
Cupcake

Dark chocolate cake with creamy caramel filling, french sea salt, and dark chocolate buttercream frosting. Mmmm…

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
Adapted from Annie’s Eat

OK, this wins. You can even freeze them for later and they’ll be just as scrumptious as the day they were born.

Special thanks to taste testers Jared and KCRW’s DnA host, Frances Anderton (pictured above); Veronica; Monica and Aaron; Janette; Jo Hannah, Susanah, and Omar at Hoehn Honda; and pretty much everyone I saw that week and their mother (including my mother).

Makes 24 standard muffins

Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Muffins:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tsp. ground cinnamon*
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground nutmeg*
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground cloves*
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger*
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree

*In lieu of pumpkin pie spice…

Streusel Topping:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup and 1 tsp. flour
  • 4 tbsp. butter, cubed
  • 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

1. To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. On a piece of plastic wrap, form mixture into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Smooth the wrap tightly around the log and reinforce with a piece of foil. Freeze until slightly hardened (~2 hours).

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two muffin pans with paper liners.

3. To make the muffins, combine the flour, spices, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk to blend and set aside. In a separate large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin puree. Mix until blended. Add in the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until just incorporated.

4. To make the streusel topping, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together with a pastry blender or two forks until crumbly. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

5. To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with just enough batter to cover the bottom. Slice the cream cheese log into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice in each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, covering the cream cheese completely. Sprinkle the streusel topping over each muffin.

6. Bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Teaser…

Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

I made this while caring for a very sick Jared on the day before his first day of work at an awesome new job. The recipe’s simple, comforting, and a great way to use that crock pot in the back of the bottom drawer. Your sick one will thank you.

Cook Time: ~5hr 30min to 6hr 30min

Serves 4-6

  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, very coarsely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 4 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt-n-Pepa to taste (Ah, push it - push it good. Ah, push it - p-push it real good!)
  • 8 oz. noodles (I like extra wide egg noodles)

1. Put carrots, onion, celery, chicken, broth, water, & bay leaf into crock pot. Sprinkle parsley, basil, salt, & pepper on top

2. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hrs

3. Remove bay leaf & chicken

4. Add noodles and cook on high until done (approx 20 min), or cook noodles separately and add to soup before serving

5. Dice chicken & return to broth until noodles are ready to serve

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip CookiesAdapted from Cooks.com
And we’re back! Out with the old, in with the new. I’m not even sure what to make of it just yet, but these past couple months have been insane. I recently quit my job; chopped off my hair; curated my first art exhibition; started this blog; decided I’m going to take some real cooking classes; ran my first 5k; and bought tickets to finally return to Italy.And all that happened before exactly 1 hour ago when I accepted this new job in an entirely different field. ?!? This is all so bizarre…and kind of scary. But also kind of exactly what I need. So arrivederci routine, goodbye summer, and hello new things, fall, and (hooray!) fall baking.
"PUMPKIN, I need you."
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Mix together the following:
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. oil
1 egg
3. Sift the following, then add to above:
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. baking powder
4. Dissolve and add to rest of ingredients:
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. nuts (optional)
5. Drop on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake approximately 10 to 12 minutes.NOTE: Be careful not to overcook. These cake-like cookies will be soft and moist.
I think you will like these a lot. My friend Aaron is strange (he’s not into sweets) and yet he loved them. Special thanks and find cred to Karen.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Cooks.com

And we’re back! Out with the old, in with the new. I’m not even sure what to make of it just yet, but these past couple months have been insane. I recently quit my job; chopped off my hair; curated my first art exhibition; started this blog; decided I’m going to take some real cooking classes; ran my first 5k; and bought tickets to finally return to Italy.And all that happened before exactly 1 hour ago when I accepted this new job in an entirely different field. ?!? This is all so bizarre…and kind of scary. But also kind of exactly what I need. So arrivederci routine, goodbye summer, and hello new things, fall, and (hooray!) fall baking.

"PUMPKIN, I need you."

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Mix together the following:

  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 1 egg

3. Sift the following, then add to above:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

4. Dissolve and add to rest of ingredients:

  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. nuts (optional)

5. Drop on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake approximately 10 to 12 minutes.
NOTE: Be careful not to overcook. These cake-like cookies will be soft and moist.

I think you will like these a lot. My friend Aaron is strange (he’s not into sweets) and yet he loved them. Special thanks and find cred to Karen.

Blood Orange Cinnamon Black Tea

Don’t be turned off by its name, “Eat, Pray, Love” (ew)—this tea is amazing. Thanks, Sheridan, for sharing it with me!