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Deliciously Organic: September 2010

Deliciously Organic

A blog devoted entirely to simple, wholesome, organic cooking.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kombucha and a Giveaway

I never thought I'd write a post about kombucha. In fact, I've had a running list of things "I'll never try".
Five years ago, my "never do" list looked like this:

1. I'll never grind my own grain. (Bought a small mill 3 years ago, totally converted now)
2. I'll never drink raw milk. (One taste and I was hooked.)
3. I'll never make my own sauerkraut. (I do now, on a monthly basis)
4. I'll never make homemade kombucha. (Well, you see the evidence of this)
5. I'll never make my own sourdough bread - on a regular basis. (Still haven't done this one)
6. I'll never have my own chickens. (I'm seriously considering it)

Apparently, my definition of "never" can be fuzzy.

If you've never tried kombucha, you must. It's a naturally effervescent, sweet fizzy tea (very sweet, in fact, I add a little water). It's so sweet you feel like you shouldn't be drinking it, like it's not allowed. But it's full of probiotics, live active enzymes, polyphenols (fight free radicals), glucuronic acid (a powerful detoxifier), and many other powerful nutrients.

A few months ago when the FDA pulled kombucha off of the shelves temporarily, I had to choose between going without or putting aside my pride and making my own. I ordered the culture and gave it a whirl.

Two weeks ago when my culture arrived in a little test tube I still wasn't so sure I wanted to go through with this. I had a feeling that once I started I might not ever stop. I boiled the water, added the sugar, brewed the tea, added the culture, and then safely tucked the jar away in the pantry to ferment. Seven days later, my kids were giddy to find out what it looked like. To my amazement, the culture had grown into a huge mushroom-like substance perched above sweet, fizzy tea!

I've tried two different recipes for kombucha, each with their own attributes. If it's your first time drinking kombucha then I'd try this recipe. If you've had it before and prefer a drink that's not quite as sweet, use the recipe below. You can purchase a kombucha mushroom here. If kombucha resides on your "I'll never make that" list, I recommend looking for Synergy Kombucha at your local health food store. They mix their teas with raw fruit juice for a fizzy, fruity flavor.

I'd like to give away a kombucha culture so you can start making your own. Please leave a comment between today (9/28/10) and Sunday (10/3/10). I'll draw a number at random and announce the winner on Monday. (Only one comment per reader please, and I can only ship to the United States)

While I don't use white sugar in my cooking or baking, the experts say it is essential for this recipe. The white sugar reacts with the tea and kombucha culture to produce acetic, lactic and glucuronic acid.
Recipe from Sally Fallon's, Nourishing Traditions (used with permission)
Makes about 2 quarts

3 quarts filtered water
1 cup organic white sugar
4 organic black tea bags (I used Newman's Own black tea bags)
1/2 cup kombucha from a previous culture (go to your natural foods store for this)
1 kombucha mushroom (or starter culture)

Boil water in a large pot. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and add the tea bags. Steep tea bags until water has completely cooled. Remove tea bags and pour cooled liquid into a 4 quart or larger glass bowl (not plastic). Stir in 1/2 cup kombucha and place the mushroom on top. Cover loosely with a clean cloth or towel and transfer to a warm, dark place. Let mixture sit for 7-10 days. When the mixture is ready the mushroom will have grown a spongy pancake and the tea should be slightly sour and fizzy. Remove the mushroom and store in a glass container in the refrigerator until you are ready to use again. (After your first time making kombucha the mushroom will have grown a second spongy pancake. This can be used to make other batches or you can give one away to a friend.)  Pour kombucha into a glass jar or pitcher with a tight fitting lid. Store in your refrigerator.  Don't forget to cross kambucha off your "I'll never do that" list!

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Cheesy Beef and Pasta

How many of you have purchased a cardboard box with pasta and a "seasoning mix" hoping for a quick but wholesome meal? I think we might all be able to raise our hands. I bought them early in my marriage, even though I was already an experienced cook. I look back now and I can't really understand why I did, but I think the convenience allured me. Let's admit, the concept is pretty fabulous - brown some meat, pour in water, milk, seasoning, and pasta. Twenty minutes later you have dinner. Plus they come in so many different flavors. Have you read the ingredients though?  

Last week I was working on recipes that are healthier than the boxed versions and can still be on the table in 20 minutes. The first one I came up with is Cheesy Beef and Pasta (I'm working on other flavors). It's not gourmet, but it tastes so darned good and will probably take you back to your childhood a little. It was a huge hit with the kids, they ate every last piece of pasta left in the pot. It's a great meal for those hurried nights when you want to get something on the table without all the fuss. Make a quick salad while the pasta's cooking then scoop ladles full in bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream. Dinner. Done.

Cheesy Beef and Pasta "Hamburger Helper"
Serves 6

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 pound ground beef

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces whole wheat or rice pasta
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add beef to pan, break apart meat, and cook until browned. Make a well in the center of the pan and add the garlic, paprika and salt. Stir in the middle of the pan until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and then stir spices into the beef mixture. Whisk together hot water and arrowroot and pour into beef mixture. Stir in milk, cream and pasta. Bring to a boil and then decrease heat to low and place lid on top. Cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Remove pot form heat and stir in cheese and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Ragu

As I shared, last week was a busy one. When the weekend finally arrived, Pete and I looked at each other and agreed to aim for a slow-paced weekend. Relaxing for me means opening a bottle of wine and piddling in the kitchen for hours on end. For Pete, it's watching football. Our new favorite team is Florida State. My brother is one of the coaches, so it's exciting to see him on TV each weekend. Saturday afternoon, the football was on, the kids were doing crafts of different sorts, and I opened some wine and decided to make gnocchi with wild mushroom ragu.

Gnocchi isn't complicated, but it isn't exactly a weeknight dish either. It involves baking potatoes until tender, scooping out the insides and combining them with arrowroot, egg, cheese, a little flour and salt. I love to knead this "dough". It's soft and supple and extremely comforting. The dough is rolled out into ropes, cut and boiled for about 1 minute. The resulting little pillows of fluffiness happily float to the top of the pot. They can be eaten with a simple sprinkling of sea salt and cheese or you can take things up a notch and serve them with a meaty sauce or ragu. I love this ragu because it's woodsy from the mushrooms and a has a kick of spice from the chipotle. I had leftovers of the sauce and it was fantastic served over linguine. 

Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Ragu
It's best to get the potatoes in the oven before cooking the ragu. When the ragu is finished, simply put the lid on and keep warm until the gnocchi is ready. Chipotle in adobo comes in a small can at the grocery store. Since you only use one chipotle in this recipe you can freeze the rest to use at a later time (I prefer to freeze them in an ice cube try.)

Adapted from Food Network Magazine
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 pounds wild mushrooms, stemmed and diced large
1 pound cremini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 whole chipotle in adobo, chopped (if you prefer a less spicy ragu only use half a chipotle, or simply omit it)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup cream

1 recipe gnocchi
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

Heat butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Reduce the heat to low, cover pot and allow vegetables to sweat for 20 minutes. Remove lid and add half of the wild mushrooms and cook 5 minutes over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining wild mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cremini mushrooms and cook 1 minute. Make a well in the center of the pot and add the coriander and fennel seeds. Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds) and then stir spices into the mushroom mixture. Stir in the chipotle and cook for about 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 2 cups of water, bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Stir in heavy cream. Serve over gnocchi.

Potato Gnocchi

3 large baking potatoes, about 2 pounds, scrubbed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons arrowroot
6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 375°F and adjust rack to middle position. Place potatoes in oven and bake for about 1 hour until a knife can be inserted without resistance. Cool potatoes.

Cut the cooled potatoes in half, scoop out flesh, and put in a large bowl. Discard the skins (I baked them in the oven with a little butter and salt until crispy - a great snack!).  Press the potato through a ricer into a large bowl. Add the arrowroot, flour, cheese, salt and egg to potatoes and stir until combined. Knead the mixture with your hands until it forms a soft dough. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and also fill a large bowl with ice water. Divide the dough into 4 portions and roll each piece into a long rope about 1-inch thick. Cut the rope into 1 1/2-inch long pieces. Repeat with remaining 3 pieces of dough. Add 1/2 of gnocchi pieces to boiling water and cook until the dough rises to the top, about 45 seconds. Immediately remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and place into a large bowl. Pour ragu over top and serve immediately.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Whole Wheat Waffles

It's only Thursday and I feel that I've lived several weeks in just a few short days. It's been one of those weeks where life gives you unexpected twists and turns. I've even struggled to get healthy meals on the table. Thank goodness I made these waffles this past weekend so I haven't had to think about breakfast.

I made a large batch of whole wheat waffles on Sunday and then put the rest in the freezer. In the mornings, I heat them up in the oven as we run around getting ready for the day. So despite the craziness that life has handed us this week, I'm sending everyone off with a nutritious breakfast.

These waffles are light and fluffy with a crisp exterior - you'll never know they are whole wheat. The waffles wouldn't be complete without a generous pouring of maple syrup. My favorite is Coombs Family Farms Grade B maple syrup. I always cringe when I see the price of maple syrup at the store, but now, no longer! I signed up for a regular shipment of this sweet syrup through Amazon for only $16.80 for 32 ounces! That's one heck of a price my friend. (I'm not receiving any compensation for plugging this company.) 

Whole Wheat Waffles
Adapted from Christopher Kimball's The Cook's Bible
Serves 6

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, separated
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat waffle iron.Whisk flour, cornmeal, sea salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Whisk egg yolks with buttermilk and melted butter. Beat egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Add egg yolk mixture slowly to dry ingredients while stirring with a spatula until just mixed together (there will still be lumps and maybe a few patches of flour). Gently fold in the egg whites until just mixed together. (It's important not to over mix).

Using a ladle, spoon batter onto waffle iron and cook until deep brown. Serve immediately.

If you are cooking for a crowd, simply preheat the oven to 200°F and place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. When the waffles are cooked place them on the cooling rack/baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Homemade Coffee Creamer

My friends tell me the one thing they can't give up is their flavored coffee creamer. I can understand. Creamy, sweet, smooth, with all sorts of different flavors to choose from. The problem is the ingredients. Have you ever read what's in those bottles? They are full of artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. As far as I can tell, most of them don't even contain milk!

So if you're hooked on store-bought creamer then today's your day. I've developed several recipes so you can make your own creamer at home. Each recipe takes about 5-10 minutes to whip up. You can double or even triple them if you'd like to have enough creamer to last a little while.

Next time you have friends over for a gathering, make a few batches of homemade creamer, put them in cute bottles and have a coffee bar. You can include whipped cream, chocolate shavings, cinnamon sticks, etc. They are also fabulous poured over hot oatmeal at breakfast.

A great alternative to regular coffee is herbal coffee. Teeccino is an herbal coffee that tastes just like the real thing. I even put the herbal mixture in my espresso pot and brew herbal espresso. No caffeine or acidity and even the kids can have a cup!

Homemade Coffee Creamer
I prefer to strain each of the creamers through a fine mesh sieve to prevent any spices floating in my coffee. If this doesn't matter to you, then simply skip this step.
Each recipe makes 2 cups

Cinnamon Strudel Creamer

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Whisk together milk, cream, maple syrup and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat. Stir in extracts. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pour into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Almond

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cacao powder
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract

Whisk together milk, cream, cacao powder, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat and stir in almond extract. Pour in a glass container and store in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Spice

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together milk, cream, pumpkin, pumpkin spice, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pour into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator.

French Vanilla

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 vanilla bean

Whisk together milk, cream and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cut vanilla bean in half, and scrape out seeds. Add seeds and vanilla bean to milk mixture. Turn off heat, cover the pot and steep for 30 minutes. After mixture has steeped, strain through a fine mesh sieve, pour into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator. (If you don't have a vanilla bean on hand, simply replace it with 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract)

Peppermint Mocha

1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons cacao
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Whisk together milk, cream, maple syrup, and cacao in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When mixture begins to steam, remove from the heat and stir in the peppermint extract. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pour into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator.

This post is linked to Simple Lives Tuesday

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Labor Day has passed, school is in full swing and the mornings are beginning to get cooler. Little by little it's beginning to feel like fall. I'm looking forward to this fall. Lots of new opportunities are on the horizon. Next month I'm attending the Blogher Food conference in San Francisco and I'm excited to announce I'll be speaking on the panel entitled, "New to Blogging? How to stand out in a crowded food atmosphere." I'm thrilled to meet many people whose blogs I've followed for quite some time and spend time with friends, talking about food and writing. If you are attending please let me know. I'd love to meet you!

One of my all-time favorite family meals for fall/winter is meatloaf. This is a new favorite, not something I grew up eating. For years I've made my meatloaf with breadcrumbs as a binder but the other day I wondered if a gluten-free grain would work just as well. I cooked up a small pot of quinoa and used it as a replacement for the breadcrumbs and it worked beautifully. The added whole grain provides benefits like extra protein and a bit of fiber. Our family usually fights for the leftovers the next day. I like to cut thick slices of leftover meatloaf and cook it in a little olive oil. Meatloaf sandwiches also score huge points, with good crusty sourdough.

It's important to finely dice the vegetables, so I blitz them a few times in the food processor to save time. I usually serve this with buttermilk mashed potatoes or brown rice and a salad.
Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely choppped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup quinoa, cooked
1 large egg, gently beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 pounds ground beef
6 pieces bacon, pastured preferred
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350°F and adjust rack to middle position. Heat oil and butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add carrot, celery and bell pepper and saute for 5-7 minutes, until soft. Make a well in the center of the pan and add salt and thyme and stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds), then stir into the vegetables. Remove pan from heat, let cool for about 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine quinoa, egg, cream and beef. Add cooled vegetables and stir until combined. Pour mixture into a 9x11-inch baking dish and form into a large loaf. Arrange bacon in a criss-cross pattern on top and using a pastry brush, brush with maple syrup. Pour 3/4 cup of water on the bottom of the pan (the loaf will be surrounded by water. This keeps the meatloaf moist). Bake for 1 1/2 hours until golden brown. Let meatloaf rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Because of a lack of time this week, the second photo is from istockphoto.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Butterscotch Pudding

Last night's dinner was nearly a flop. Not just a little problem, but a potential throw-out-the-main-dish-and-cook-some-pasta disaster! We invited a friend over for dinner and in my usual style I decided to try something new. The recipe came from a very well-known magazine but about 10 minutes after starting, I realized things weren't going well. I followed the instructions to the letter and ended up with a kitchen full of smoke, a nearly burned sauce, and almost raw chicken. Oh, and the kicker? There wasn't any salt called for at all, producing a very bland dish. I was able to salvage things with some spices and 45 extra minutes in the oven, but I was sort of offended the magazine hadn't done proper testing. You may think I'm being harsh, but we just finished months of extensive testing for my up-coming book with 2 professionals working to make sure the recipes are written clearly and correctly. With this so close to mind, I assumed major magazines test their recipes, too. Lesson learned. When our guest arrived I didn't make excuses, just explained the situation and the smoke lingering in the house and we all sat down and hoped for the best. The meal turned out OK, but an amazing butterscotch pudding saved the day.

I've tried many butterscotch recipes over the years from numerous cookbooks and  magazines and have always been a bit disappointed. When I taste butterscotch I want the flavor to hit me right between the eyes. I want it to be full flavored, rich, and buttery. I found this recipe in Baking by Dorie Greenspan. I was drawn to it because of the method she uses so I thought I'd give it a try - with a few deliciously organic adaptations, of course. The result? It's ultra creamy, thick, and buttery, with a deep butterscotch flavor. Everyone said "Wow" at the first bite and no one remembered the smoky kitchen. I wish I doubled the recipe, I think you will, too.

Butterscotch Pudding
Adapted from Baking by Dorie Greenspan
Serves 6

1/2 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
3 tablespoons water
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 3 pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whisky

1/2 cup whipped cream
1/4 cup toasted pecans (optional)

Whisk together the whole cane sugar and water in a medium sauce pan. Place pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes, while stirring (you may need to lower the temperature a little). Pour 1 1/2 cups milk and all of the cream into the sugar mixture and bring to a boil.  Don't worry if the mixture curdles. 

While the milk mixture is heating, put the arrowroot and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Pour arrowroot mixture into a small bowl. Put 3 tablespoons whole cane sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of the processor and blend for one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the arrowroot mixture one tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition. Add the remaining 1/4 cup milk and pulse to blend. 

Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the food processor, with the machine running, then pour everything back into the pan. Whisk without stopping over medium heat until the pudding thickens, about two minutes. If necessary, lower the temperature to avoid boiling. 

Pour the pudding back into the food processor and pulse a few times. Add the butter, vanilla, and whiskey and pulse until blended and smooth. Divide the pudding into 6, 1/2-cup ramekins. Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving. 

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of pecans (if desired).   

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Ate - New York

It all started last week. My mom called and asked me if I could meet her in New York City for a weekend blitz through over 20 of the restaurants from the show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate". If you haven't seen the show on the Food Network, set your DVR. They will have you salivating in about 2 minutes and wishing you could hop on a plane and go eat whatever they are. Thanks to some creative planning and some very understanding friends, I was able to say "Yes!" and soon flew off to NYC to spend the weekend with mom.

We carefully planned our itinerary, put on some good walking shoes, and hit the town. By the way, yes, I do cheat sometimes when it comes to food. The rule for the weekend? There weren't any rules.

The first stop was the Doughnut Plant. Now, I'm not much of a doughnut girl, but these doughnuts are worth seeking out. They're famous for their peanut butter and jelly concoction. The square doughnut is filled with gooey jam and dunked in peanut crunchy butter. My favorite was the small creme brulee doughnut. It's filled with subtely sweet pastry cream and topped with carmelized sugar.

For lunch we stopped in for the Colatura di Alici pizza at Motorino. The restaurant is a quaint little place, comfortable and homey. The pizza was a puffy and crispy crust topped with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, white anchovies, olives, and parsley. Every bite was completely perfect.

After each restaurant we walked for miles, enjoying the sights and anticipating the flavors in our future.

After several hours of walking, the air began to warm up and we needed a break. We made our way to Chinatown Brasserie, reputedly the location of New York's the best crispy egg roll. We breathlessly plopped onto the red couch and each ordered a peach Bellini martini and one order of crispy egg rolls. The egg rolls lived up to their billing with an extra crispy wrapper enveloping shrimp, mushrooms, cabbage and bamboo shoots.

Next on our list was Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, a tiny place with about 8 tables. The door to the kitchen was open so we could watch as the noodles were pulled by hand. For $5, I got a bowl of incredibly delicious noodles in broth.

Saturday morning, we woke up early and took a taxi over to Levain bakery. The little bakery sits on a quiet upper west side street and sells the most amazing baked goods. We walked down a narrow stairway into their kitchen/storefront and were overcome by the smells and sights spread out before us. I had a hard time choosing, but settled on the chocolate brioche. Hands-down, this is the best pastry I've ever had. The bread was smooth and pillowy with a sugar-crusted top. The inside of the bread was oozing with bittersweet chocolate. See the chocolate chips stuck to the side of the bread? Those were the best.We bought our pastries and coffee and sat on little stools with a window above looking out on the street.

After Levain, we meandered our way down to Union Square Greenmarket. I felt right at home among the beautiful produce, flowers, shoppers, and chefs. What a fabulous asset to NYC!

As we made our way through the West Village we stopped for some organic palm sugar ice cream from the Van Leeuwen truck.

Down the street from the ice cream truck was The Magnolia Bakery. My Mom wanted to slip in and buy their red velvet cupcake. So there I was, eating ice cream while waiting in line for a cupcake! I secretly hoped I wouldn't run into anyone I know. What kind of an example was I setting?  :) I had a bite of their cupcake and yes, it's the best red velvet I've had in a very long time. The cake wasn't too dense and the frosting was an understated, light and airy vanilla butter cream. I can see why they're such a huge success.

Later we roamed around Chelsea Market. Shaved ice was served up at a little place called Pops with real fruit juice combinations. No additives, no artificial colors, just the real stuff.

We read The Stanton Social serves "must try" onion soup dumplings, so we added them to our list. We met up with Andy and Annie - two friends from Texas who are now New Yorkers - and had an amazing meal. The onion soup dumplings were outstanding. It was like all of the best parts of onion soup rolled into one bite. We also tried their crab cake corn dogs (outstanding!), chicken and waffles, and duck empanadas. The entire dinner, from the ambiance to the food to the company was fabulous. (the picture above is my Mom and me outside the restaurant)

On our last morning we chose EAT for breakfast. Ina Garten recommends their grilled cheese sandwich and although it was 8:30, we ordered it along with coffee. A few minutes after we began our meal, guess who walked in? Ina Garten! What are the odds? We were there because of her recommendation! She was there eating breakfast with her husband and looks just like she does on the show. What a great way to end the whirlwind tour, huh?

Our last stop before heading home was Babycakes. Babycakes is a gluten-free, dairy free, and vegan bakery. We sampled several of their baked goods, which were fabulous, but the best part of our visit came unexpectedly. My Mom and I sat outside, resting our feet when a young lady sat down at the same table and began eating a carrot cake cupcake. I couldn't help but overhear her excitement that she was "actually able to eat cake." I assumed she has allergies to many foods and it brought tears to my eyes because I know what that's like when food makes you sick. I leaned over and told her I couldn't help but overhear. With a huge grin, she told me it was her birthday and she was so excited because she loves cake and hasn't been able to partake of it for years. What a gift it is to be able to enjoy food again without the threat of it doing harm.

Here is a list of the other restaurants we ate at. They were all exceptional:

Artisinal - Creamiest and most rich cheese fondue I've ever eaten.
Scarpetta - The best spaghetti ever. Really.
Blue Ribbon - The beef marrow with oxtail marmalade was exquisite.
Stand 4 - Toasted marshmallow shake
Bouchon Bakery - Best croissant in town.
The City Bakery - The caramel french toast is to-die-for. It's a 10.