Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Daring Bakers! Chocolate Avocado Cake

I'm struggling to find words for this post, for some reason. I guess it sort of mirrors my internal struggle of showing people that I care about them? If you've met me in person (or maybe you can just tell from my internet persona) you know that I'm not physically affectionate at all, and can initially come off as cold and standoffish. I admire from a distance those people who can dish out hugs like nobody's business, but that's not me. I basically need explicit permission from the other party for that sort of thing.

I even have a hard time verbally showing affection at times. I'm of the opinion that oftentimes people throw their words around too carelessly, causing them to lose meaning. There's rarely a time or place to stop a friend in the middle of whatever they're doing, look them dead in the eyes, and tell them how much you care about them without appearing either trite or creepy. I know that I over analyze most of what I say, oftentimes replaying conversations in my head and thinking about different ways that they could have turned out. 

So I have two major ways to cope: writing and making food. Paradoxically, sitting in a room alone with a piece of paper or my computer in front of me frequently allows me to feel closer to people than if we were standing in the same room. There's more time to carefully choose my words, construct my messages. Words can build a person up or tear them down, and I really do try to use the gift I have been given responsibly and positively. Making food is less complicated. The simple act of bringing someone some cookies when they're least expecting it, or a loaf of bread when they're having a rough time, brings so much joy. I can't count the number of times I've seen someone's face light up when presented with food I made for them, for no reason other than the fact that I care about them. They'll say, "You made this for me?" or "You're sharing this cake? Giving it away just because?" Yep. But not just because. It's because I like you, I think you're an incredible person and you bring happiness to my life. If you're sitting here reading this, thinking, "She couldn't possibly be talking about me", well, you're wrong. I'm talking to all of you who have shared a meal with me, who have made me laugh or confided in me, indulged in my habit of watching craptastic sci-fi movies, shared your favorite songs and books...and eaten my food. Whether it be in person or through a recipe I've posted. Thank you for letting me share with you. 

Ruth from Makey-Cakey was our March 2013 Daring Bakers’ challenge host. She encouraged us all to get experimental in the kitchen and sneak some hidden veggies into our baking, with surprising and delicious results!

For my Daring Bakers post, I knew pretty early on that I wanted to use avocados, because I love them dearly and I had to redeem myself after making a horrible avocado pie. Yeah, I know avocado isn't technically a vegetable, but neither are a lot of things considered veggies, such as peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, etc. This cake doesn't use avocado for flavor, but as a replacement for eggs and most of the fat. It's incredible, I've made it twice in the past few weeks, and absolutely no one thought there was anything weird about it. 

Chocolate Avocado Cake 
adapted from sugary & buttery  

For the cake:
1 cup (120 g) flour  
1/2 cu / 60 g ground almonds
3 tablespoons cocoa powder  
100g dark chocolate, chopped  
2 teaspoons baking soda
pinch of salt  
1 avocado, mashed
3/4 or 1 cup / 200 g brown sugar  
1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil  
1 tablespoon lemon juice  
1 cup / 200 ml milk
For the glaze:
100 g dark chocolate  
2 tablespoons butter  
4 tablespoons milk  
1-2 teaspoons vanilla

I used a weird shaped pan, like a 7x10, but I think an 8-9 round or square would work fine too. Mix together the flour, almonds, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Then, heat up the milk in a sauce pan on medium heat and add the chopped dark chocolate, the sugar and the butter (or vegetable oil). When the chocolate is melted, pour the mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well. Now add the mashed avocado and the lemon juice.
Fill the batter in the greased cake form and bake on 180°C/350°F for about 25-30 minutes.

When the cake is done, take it out of the form and let it cool down. Then, flip it over on a plate to get the sharp edges of the cake bottom up - it makes the cake look nicer. 
For the glaze, heat the butter and the milk on medium heat and add the chopped dark chocolate. Once the chocolate is melted and the glaze is shiny and creamy, it's ready to go on the cake. Start in the middle of the cake and carefully push the glaze to the edges until it slightly runs down on the sides.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Break Travels

Yo homies, it's been too long. It's nice to know that Dublin has become one of my homes. And yes, you can have many homes. Even certain people can function as's being able to experience a certain level of comfort in its/their presence. So welcome home to me. Dublin greeted me with a torrential downpour so my super productive errands day was cut short, since I didn't want to spend more time walking around than I had to. But I ended up so wet that I could feel the water squishing inside my boots. Ew. Anyway, spring break. 

 This is the Cliffs of Moher near Galway in western Ireland. The weather was especially horrible, which is why it looks so gloomy. But it enhances the creepiness, which is appropriate, considering that this is where Harry and Dumbledore go to look for one of Voldemort's horcruxes. I, unfortunately, didn't find any horcruxes. Or even see a puffin!

 Incredibly bizarre. Outside of Limerick, we (not my choice) made a stop in a tiny town of 300 called Moneygall, and the "ancestral home" of President Obama. We sat around in a bar completely covered in Obama memorabilia. Photos, videos, cardboard cutouts. Weird.

Yes! Pulled pork sandwiches in Scotland. I had mine with haggis and apple. Haggis is not as scary as people make it out to be. I mean, I wouldn't eat it all the time (it's kind of unhealthy) but it was pretty salty and tasty. 

 Edinburgh Castle. It looms over the in more of a friendly way, but in the past I can imagine that it was pretty menacing. Edinburgh was a fairly violent place back in the day

 Loch Ness! So beautiful, I couldn't stop smiling. I didn't spot Nessie...she was probably busy doing something important. You know how those lake monsters are.

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The St. Patrick's Day Parade! It was honestly the strangest parade I have ever attended. Why are Hawaiian shirts Irish? Every float was like this. It was kind of like a bunch of people sat around discussing their nightmares and weirdest dreams they've ever had and made them into a parade.

Pretty sure all I did in Budapest was eat. It's hard not to when everything is so cheap and delicious.

 The view from Castle Hill. You can see the Széchenyi Chain Bridge and St. Stephen's Basilica off on the other side.

 Climbed alllll the way up inside the tower of the Basilica. It was worth it for the amazing view.


The inside of the Basilica. I could stare at that ceiling all day. 

Lángos! Deep fried bread with sour cream and cheese on it. Honestly, what's not to like?

Kürtőskalács, or, since that is impossible to pronounce, chimney cakes. I want to make them so much, it looks like an exciting challenge. But see? I told you all I did in Budapest was eat. 

Hope you enjoyed these pictures. We will return to your regularly scheduled program shortly!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spaghetti Carbonara

I'm not really sure why I rarely blog the "real" things I eat. I swear, I do eat things beside cake. Sometimes. I think part of it is that when I'm cooking, I'm feeling more "I'm hungry and I don't want to take pictures, I want to eat my dinner" rather than "Oh, what a fun break this is from doing homework". You dig?

 And it's not even that I make really boring things for dinner. Some of the more notable meals have been pasta e fagioli, chicken tikka masala, pad thai, and pandan chicken. Oftentimes I even take pictures of my ingredients or process but I just forget to take a picture of the final dish. Or I just don't feel like it. Basically, I just suck, haha. 

I've also made spaghetti carbonara before and not posted it, but this time I've made a concerted effort to bring it to you! It's an incredibly easy and tasty meal, and a good way to use up random bits of food from the fridge. Perfect for a college student. 

Oh, by the way, today is the start of my spring break, woo! Or, as the Irish kids call it, reading week. I guess this is a period of study for them. For me, it's a period of almost interrupted travel! So I won't be able to post much/at all for the next week or two. But I promise you that when I come back, I'll have all sorts of stories to share. Wish me safe journeys!


Spaghetti Carbonara 
adapted slightly from BBC Good Food
serves 2ish

50 grams chopped back bacon (what I used), ham, pancetta, Canadian bacon...not American bacon
50g grated Parmesan
1 large egg
175 grams spaghetti
1 crushed garlic clove
a bit of butter or olive oil for the pan

Cook your spaghetti according to directions on the package. Add a little salt to the water. 
While the spaghetti is cooking, fry the meat with the garlic. Drop the butter into a large wide frying pan or wok and, as soon as the butter has melted, tip in the meat and garlic. Leave these to cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the meat is golden and crisp.
Keep the heat under the meat on low.When the pasta is ready, drain it, but leave a bit of pasta water to thin the sauce. I only needed a few tablespoons. In your now empty spaghetti pot, throw the spaghetti back in, plus the bacon/garlic mixture, and the cheese.
Take the pan of spaghetti and meat off the heat. Now quickly crack the egg in, and using the tongs or a long fork, lift up the spaghetti so it mixes easily with the egg mixture, which thickens but doesn't scramble, and everything is coated. Add extra pasta cooking water to keep it saucy (several tablespoons should do it). You don't want it wet, just moist. Season with a little salt, if needed.
Use a long-pronged fork to twist the pasta on to the serving plate or bowl. Serve immediately with a little sprinkling of the remaining cheese and a grating of black pepper. If the dish does get a little dry before serving, splash in some more hot pasta water and the glossy sauciness will be revived.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Sorry for taking so long to post this, I didn't get back until like, midnight on Sunday and I've been hardcore planning for my other upcoming trips! But I'm here now, and I'd love to share some moments from my trip to Belgium with you. 

This is a Brussels waffle. There are two (well, three if you include stroopwafels) different types of waffle in Belgium -  The Brussels waffle and the Liège waffle. The Brussels waffle is crispier and airier, and always rectangular. They're traditionally leavened with egg whites or yeast. The Liège waffles is denser and sweeter, almost like brioche. They have sugar inside and outside, which caramelizes as it bakes. I just sighed in happiness thinking about them!

 Me proudly touching the ugliest tree in Leuven. Glad I can find weirdo things like this, haha.

Whatwhatwhat. Belgian McDonalds has MACARONS. So classy! I had the pistachio one and it was actually quite good. I wish American McDonalds had macarons. 

 World War II Memorial in Mechelen. Mechelen was a transit camp during the war, and over 25,000 Jewish people/other minorities were deported to Auschwitz and the Heydebreck-Cosel labor camp from Mechelen. Only 1240 of those 25000 survived the war. In the room pictured above, a cacophony of voices reads out the names of the 25000. Being surrounded by all of that sound was incredibly moving.

On a lighter note, this is the Grand Place in Brussels.  Home to beautiful architecture and many delicious chocolate shops.

The Chocolate and Cacao Museum! This man gave a lesson in mostly French about how they make their chocolates. I loved learning more about the process, and getting to try all the different percentages of chocolate (on a side note, eating a small piece of cocoa butter is pleasantly weird).

So there's a small bit of my trip for you! Hope you enjoyed this glimpse. If any of you are traveling to any of the places I happen to go over the course of these months and want some more practical travel advice, I'd be happy to help!