Monday, February 28, 2011

You make the rockin' world go round

Some flavors were meant for each other. Like two perfect soul mates, these flavors compliment each other, elevate each other, and generally remind you of falling in love. Peanut butter and jelly are a match made in heaven. Wine and cheese are two birds of a feather. Brussels sprouts and bacon are without a doubt head over heels for each other.

Some foods work well with multiple partners. Chocolate, for one, is a bit of a town bicycle. However, there is no denying one of it's top life partners is coconut.

Last week, I decided to whip up a dessert to have on hand Friday night when we had our first DC visitor, Emily from A Cambridge Story. It needed to be something easy, delicious, and a dish I could make a day ahead of time. Martha Stewart comes in handy again with these perfectly paired chocolate coconut bars. Easy? Yep. Delicious? Yep. Still tasty the next day? Definitely.

Black Bottom Coconut Bars (from the lovely Martha Stewart)
Makes 16

For Chocolate Base
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

For Coconut Topping
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 package sweetened shredded coconut (7oz), 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang. I did this by tearing off a piece of foil just a bit larger than my baking dish and removing the corners, using the baking dish upside down to measure


The flip the baking dish over and fit the foil inside. Butter or spray the sides of the foiled pan with Pam with Flour.


Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 1minute in microwave to melt. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. 


Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.


Bake just until sides begin to pull away from edges of pan, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping, but keep the oven on for topping.


In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla.


Add all but 1/2 cup of your flour and coconut to the mixture.


Switch to a wooden spoon and gently mix in flour and coconut (except 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling).


Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. 


Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup coconut. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. 


Lift cake from pan, peel off foil, and cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container 3 to 4 days.


We have a winner!

Congratulations Gina from The Crave to Save! You are the winner of a $25 CSN Stores Gift Certificate. Hope you enjoy the Burgundy Bakeware Set or whatever you end up choosing from CSN Stores!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No really, it is

A few weeks, Alex and I had dinner at a wonderful DC eatery, Zaytinya. If you've been reading A Nesting Experience, you've probably gathered how much we love Greek food since returning from Greece this fall. We were super excited to try Zaytinya and truly loved every moment of our meal.

When we got home, I sat down and wrote a blog entry, titled Htipiti is my new favorite food because it was incredible. I was lucky enough that Zaytinya's Director of Restaurant Marketing, saw my write up responded that if I wanted it, they would share their recipe with me. I was so delighted!

So, without further ado. Here goes. Htipiti, my new favorite food!

Htipiti (recipe generously provided by Zaytinya)
  • 4-5 red peppers
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 shallots, peeled
  • dash white pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed
  • 8 oz block of feta cheese
Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.


Place red peppers directly on oven racks (I placed a cookie sheet on the rack below, to catch any drippings.) Bake for approximately 30 minutes, turning ever 7 minutes or so.


When the peppers are nice and charred, remove from the oven carefuly with tongs.


Set the peppers aside and let the peppers cool. Mince garlic and shallots and place in a small mixing bowl. Combine oil, vinegar, garlic, shallots, white pepper, and salt. Set aside.

Back to the peppers. Peel the charred skin from the outside of the peppers. Discard the peels, stems, and seeds.



Chop the peppers into small pieces and place in medium sized mixing bowl. Whisk dressing to combine and pour over peppers. Sprinkle fresh thyme on top of pepper mixture.


Coarsely chop feta into small pieces and add to pepper mixture.


Stir ingredients together and chill for 15 minutes beofre serving.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Washington Walks and Drinks

Though Alex and I have been dying to start doing all things DC, we have also been trying to get settled in our apartment and spend time making new friends and seeing old ones. This hasn't given us much time to get out and explore, even in our own neighborhood.

So when we saw that Washington Walks was hosting their annual Columbia Heights Historic Drinkabout posted on the New Columbia Heights blog, we knew it was time to schedule a break from the painting, cleaning, and curtain sewing to see the sites of Columbia Heights!


The tour began on 14th Street in front of the Columbia Heights Metro Station between Irving Street and Park Road. 


Our lovely tour guide Brian Kraft, wrote the book on Columbia Heights, literally. Brian penned the Columbia Heights chapter of "Washington at Home," published in 2010. Brian also wrote the historic street signs “Cultural Convergence: Columbia Heights Trail,” which were developed and installed by Cultural Tourism DC. So needless to say, the dude knew what he was talking about.


Columbia Heights was one of Washington, DC’s most important shopping and entertainment destinations outside downtown in the early to mid 1900's. In 1914, the first street car made it's way to Columbia Heights, which gave residents the chance to get to downtown DC and shoppers a chance to get to their favorite five and dime stores in just 20 minutes. In 1924, the Tivoli Theatre, Columbia Heights' first movie theatre, was built. The Tivoli closed in 1976, but was reopened in 2005 as a stage theatre.


Now that we've had a bit of history, it was time to get our first drink. We started off at The Heights, a neighborhood restaurant and bar.

Alex and I actually stopped in for dinner at The Heights when we were looking at apartments back in January. The decor is neat and the beer and wine list is extensive, however, that's about all The Heights has got going for it. The food: not so great. The service: so-so. And, it just doesn't have the homey feel you'd expect from a neighborhood pub. It's just kind of eh.


Adding insult to injury, this girl was very excited about getting an Allagash White on tap outside of New England.


But they only had Bell's Seasonal and Star Northern Lights available. Burn.


The Bell's Seasonal was pretty good though, and there was no time to savor. It was time to get back to the wonder that is Columbia Heights, Washington, DC.


But first, in addition to being full of history, Columbia Heights has it's fair share of Justin Beiber fans. I'd go as far as to say that Beiber Fever is sweeping the neighborhood. Good thing we brought hand sanitizer along with us.


In the 1920s, Columbia Heights became a popular place to live, leading to the construction of large apartment buildings in place of the quaint row houses. As the neighborhood became more urban, the population began to diversify. Though still racially segregated in the 1940s, Columbia Heights became a bustling middle class metropolis equally split between black families and white.


In 1968, the Columbia Heights hit somewhat of a dark period. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, riots ravaged the streets. Buildings burned for days at a time and storefronts, smashed in and looted, were left in rubble, unable to recover. Though the city promised funds to help businesses rebuild, many didn't survive. Columbia Heights has still not fully recovered and only began to economically regain strength in the early 1990s.


Next up on the drinkabout portion of the walking tour is Wonderland Ballroom. In 2004, the Wonderland Ballroom opened at corner of 11th and Kenyon Street. The bar was the former home of the historic Nob Hill Bar, Washington, DC's first black gay bar.


When we stepped inside, Alex and I were immediately in love with the eclectic decor and the fun atmosphere.


We saddled up to the bar, which has an impressive list of beers on tap, and ordered a Leffe Blonde and a Yuengling.


We found two cozy seats in the back, and ended up strategically placed near our tour guide who gave us a great list of bars and restaurants that we should check out in the area. Being new in the neighborhood we were more than happy for a few good recommendations.





Back on the street, we concluded our tour of Columbia Heights. The tour continued on to the Commonwealth Gastropub and Bar, but we headed home to meet Andy and Kim for dinner at Casa Oaxaca in Adams Morgan.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Milk's favorite cheesecake!

When Alex and I were putting together our wedding registry, I spent quite a few hours deciding what bakeware items I couldn't live without. Somehow, though I've never made a cheesecake in my life, a Springform Cake Pan made the list.

Since my wedding shower, that cute little Springform Pan has sat gathering dust in kitchens from Cambridge to Washington, DC. When I asked Alex what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday; He said Oreo cheesecake. The challenge was on. 

Cheesecake is pretty amazing, but also pretty daunting. Though my first attempt did not go perfectly, the results still ended up mighty tasty. Baking is, as always, a learning experience. With my new oven, I now know a recipe calling for 1 hour and 15 minutes of baking is much more like 45 minutes. I also now know that to preventing cracking, a cheesecake should never reach over 150 degrees. Next time, a thermometer will be used.

All and all, the cake ended up rich, creamy, and full of flavor. And, Alex was nice enough not to judge too much on looks. Happy Birthday one more time to the love of my life!

Cheesecake Factory  Oreo Cheesecake (from Copykat.com)
Serves 16
  • 1 large package of Oreos cookies (about 30 cookies)
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 8oz packages of cream cheese
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 8oz sour cream
Directions

First, take the cream cheese, eggs, and sour cream out of the fridge and place them on the counter to warm till room temperature. Set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Separate and remove the cream from 25 Oreo cookies. Place the cookies in your food processor or magic bullet and pulse until finely crushed. You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of Oreo cookie crumbs.


Now what to do with all of that sweet cream filling?


Take one cookie and make a quintuplet stuffed Oreo. Now, back to the recipe.


Mix melted butter with Oreo crumbs and press in spring pan cover the bottom and 1 1/2″ up the sides with crumbs, set aside.


Place cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy.


Add sugar gradually and continue beating until mixed through. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat until blended.


Add the vanilla, salt, and flour. Beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat well. Coarsely chop 5 Oreo cookies and stir into the batter with a spatula. 


Pour batter into a greased spring form pan.


Coarsely chop your remaining 10 Oreo cookies. Sprinkle chopped cookies on top of the cheesecake. Place pan on the top rack and in the middle of the oven. Bake for approximately one hour.


When time is up prop the oven door open and let the cheese cake stay in the oven for one hour. Remove from oven and let cool enough to place in the refrigerator. Chill cheesecake for 24 hours. 


Remove from fridge, slice, and enjoy!