Food Photography – Earth, Wind and Fire Scramble

Every time I go out on travel my usual diet goes out the window; it’s not really an option. For most restaurants vegetables in general are just an after thought, never mind an actual complete meal. It can be a bit frustrating, honestly, but on the upside it provides me with an “excuse” to sample cuisine I wouldn’t normally expose myself to; and that is a must when traveling. Exposure to different (and tasty) meals is a highlight of many trips.

Earth Wind Fire Scramble

This past weekend some friends and I went down to Orlando, Florida for a wedding. Disneyland World to be exact. But instead of flying, we decided it would make a great road trip; so we rented a car early Friday morning and embarked on a 15 hour drive. With two other people to rotate driving responsibilities and those two people being friends, it turned out to be a pretty fun trip. We crashed at a friend’s place who happens to live in the city and had a really good time (and ate a lot of really good food).

Earth Wind Fire Scramble Close Up

Sunday morning before the wedding Ben, Lindsey, Carolyn and I went out for brunch at a local spot called HUE and had some really excellent food. On the third Sunday of every month they feature something called Disco Brunch with a DJ and some horribly designed menus (the typographer in me died a little), giving each item some clever name like Billie Jean and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I ordered the Earth, Wind and Fire scramble which was scrambled eggs, smoked ham, Gouda cheese and potato hash. Delicious. If ever in the area for brunch, I strongly recommend HUE.

Day #3 of Smoothie Week – Berry Breakfast Blend

You know those people who wake up just as the sun is rising and a crisp new day begins, jog a few laps around the neighborhood and pick the newspaper up on their way back in the house, throw together an energizing breakfast smoothie and then drive to work for the day?


That’s not me! In fact, my friends and family will tell you that I’m grizzlier than a bear when awoken…

But I will accept the energizing breakfast smoothie – thanks!

Today’s smoothie is lightly sweetened, but rich in fruit, fiber and dairy. It’s a little more complex than my Blue Afternoon smoothie, but it’s still very easy to put together and enjoy. It combines my preferred frozen fruit with a bit of fresh fruit (blueberries) so that I’m still able to buy and use all those great blueberries on sale right now.

zoom bbb

Unlike Edwin I don’t use juice, so if you’re on the fence about which method you prefer try experimenting with both. My base here is yogurt and skim milk. The yogurt gives the smoothie a little extra kick, but don’t worry about it tasting too “yogurty,” to put it elegantly.

To answer a question I’ve received – I typically wrap my peeled bananas in foil to freeze them, but I’d also stored peeled bananas in a gallon ziploc freezer bag. You want to make sure that your bananas don’t freeze together, get freezer burn, or turn dark brown too quickly.

Hope you’re enjoying Smoothie Week so far! Please let us know how your experiments are going – or if you have your own concoction that we should check out!


Berry Breakfast Blend
makes about 3 servings

1 heaping cup plain non-fat yogurt
1/2 cup skim milk
2 medium frozen bananas
1 cup frozen strawberry puree
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon wheat germ/bran
1 tablespoon simple syrup (it incorporates better than sugar)

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until desired consistency is reached.

A Secluded Cabin In The Woods, A Good Book and Home Fries

You may have picked up (or not!) that I’ve been a wee bit quiet around here the last few days. My husband and I took the opportunity last week to abscond for a mini vacation.


It had been a while since we went anywhere for more than a long weekend. It’s just been a busy year, and it’s rare for all the stars to align so that we’re able to make plans in advance.


We rented a cabin in West Virginia at Lost River State Park. The park was recommended to me by a co-worker, and it sounded like just the kind of low on planning/high on relaxation trip that we needed.

halfway up the mountain

The mountains in West Virginia are truly gorgeous. Typically we do our mountain trips to Douthat State Park or Warm Springs, VA, which are excellent, but the mountains in West Virginia just seemed endless. Rain was really only intermittent, and the weather behaved at a perfect 70-75 degrees.

side of a mountain

If you like the mountains, cabins at state parks really are the way to go. If you’re a technophile you might go mad (no television, no cell phone reception, no internet), but the cabins are inexpensive, well-maintained and generally spacious. The cabins we’ve stayed at have fireplaces, bedding and towels and a fully functioning kitchen with a stove, fridge, microwave, pots and pans and utensils.

five counties

I’ll throw out another plug while I’m at it – if you’re looking for something a little less rustic, on our last night in West Virginia we ate at a nice restaurant attached to a gorgeous inn with great mountain views – The Guest House at Lost River. The owner encouraged us to walk around and explore the property after our meal. It was beautiful and the rates are pretty reasonable for how nice it is. There’s not much in vicinity, but I thought my husband broke it down nicely, “if you just want to chill in opulence, it’s your place.”


Getting back to cabins – because you’re in remote regions, cooking your own food is usually the only game in town. There was nearby no grocery store to run to for eggs and milk, but luckily we picked up a few things before we left. I was able to throw together some curried home fries for brunch one day.


I just don’t buy into the idea that meals need to be complicated or time consuming to be good. I have a great memory of enjoying brunch at a friend’s house a few years ago – omelets, home fries with rosemary and thyme and mimosas.

chopped potatoes

I tried to pack only a few spices so that I wasn’t carrying the entire kitchen with me, so we brought salt and pepper, curry powder, cayenne, Nature’s Seasoning and paprika. I cubed two russet potatoes into 1 inch pieces and seasoned them generously. I cooked them for about 20 minutes in the cabin’s heavy cast iron skillet; they probably would have cooked faster if I had covered them. Whether you’re vacationing in the mountains or enjoying brunch with mimosas, home fries are a delicious addition.

smoking potatoes

Lost River Home Fries

1 medium onion, diced
2 russet potatoes, washed and cubed
non-stick cooking spray
salt and pepper, curry powder, cayenne, Nature’s Seasoning and paprika as desired

Heat large skillet to medium temperature and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Dice onion and add to skillet. Wash potatoes well, cut into thin slices and cube. Add potatoes to skillet about 2 minutes after onion. Add seasonings and stir potatoes frequently so that they don’t burn or stick to the pan. I was most heavy handed with the curry powder and salt.

Cook for about 20 minutes, or shorter if your skillet has a cover (if you have a cover, cook for half the time covered and half the time uncovered). You should be able to pierce the potato with a fork without resistance. Season with a little extra curry powder and salt on top before serving, as some of the spices do get cooked away.

Cinnacrumb Cake

Hello, folks. I’m not feeling too chatty at the moment. Sadly my grandmother (my dad’s mom) passed away earlier this week. She lived a long life (over 90 years) and thankfully did not experience a debilitating and drawn out illness. My husband and I will be heading up north for the funeral and to be with family, so I’ll be unable to answer your comments and questions for a few days. You will, of course, have Chef Edwin available to answer all your DinnerCakes needs.

combining the cinnamon mixture

In times of stress I’m grateful that I can turn to baking to relax me; I can get into the rhythm and let stress (usually) melt away. I was able to squeeze in a crumb cake this week, inspired by a beautiful “big crumb coffee cake” found on Smitten Kitchen.

swirl the cinnamon mixturebig crumbs

The Smitten recipe calls for a rhubarb filling that frankly made me a little nervous. I decided to replace it with a Cinnabon/cinnamon roll filling which worked out really well. It kept the cake moist (I’ve known some crumb cakes to be sadly dry) and gave it a little depth of flavor. I use the past tense because the cake is now gone.

cinnacrumb cake

Cinnacrumb Cake

For the cake and big crumb recipe, please see Smitten Kitchen.

Leave out the rhubarb filling and replace it with the following –
Cinnabon/cinnamon roll filling
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
dash allspice
1 tablespoon ground pecans

Follow Smitten’s instructions for the cake. Pour half the batter into a prepared 8-inch-square baking pan (I lined mine with parchment paper). Combine the cinnamon filling ingredients and sprinkle over the batter and try to spread it out evenly. Using a toothpick, marble the cinnamon mixture into the batter. Finish by pouring the rest of the batter on top and sprinkle with crumbs in large chunks.

On my cake, the cinnamon mixture bubbled up over top of the crumbs a little bit in one corner. I was fine with this, but if it will bother you then you may want to cut the cinnamon filling in half.

Bake for about 50 minutes on 325F; a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.


Whole Wheat Apple Muffins with a Punch

As Heather mentioned earlier, a group of us attended Greater DC Care’s MLK Day Of Service a few weeks ago. We all had fun and a few of our party even got lost on the way to the project and saw celebrities (Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, and Tobey Maguire).

Whenever I organize something like a service project, I try to bring food to give it an extra special touch. It’s just a way of saying thanks and “sweetening” the deal so that they’ll be more inclined to participate in the future. For this event I brought Smitten Kitchen’s whole wheat apple muffins and King Arthur Flour’s Chocolate Muffins. Both were great, but I felt the apple was taking a back seat in the former. And thus, today’s recipe was born.

Muffin Batter

These muffins definitely get you that apple-y goodness. They’re very moist, so if that turns you off consider reducing the amount of apple sauce. Nicole from Baking Bites suggested adding 1/4, but I did not reduce to that this time.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins with a Punch

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins with a Punch
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 unsweetened apple sauce
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 stick butter at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar; packed (plus more to sprinkle)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup yogurt
3 apples; peeled, cored, and chopped

Preheat the oven to 450. Line or grease an 18 cup muffin tin and set aside.

Reduce your apple sauce in a small pan under low/medium-low heat for approximately 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Mix together the fours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and mix well, followed by gently mixing the buttermilk in (according to Smitten, the buttermilk will curdle if you over mix) along with the applesauce and yogurt. Stir in the flour mixture and fold in your chopped apples.

Divide in your muffin tin cups and sprinkle brown sugar on top, as much as you like (more = better. 1/4 cup total, perhaps?). Bake for 15 minutes and test with a toothpick. Let cool and enjoy.

It occured to me recently as I was preparing for the day that I was on my 6th straight box of cereal without having an alternative for breakfast. (unless you count sleeping through breakfast) This was a problem. Variety is the spice of life and provides some welcome balance. Plus, cereal was beginning to get really old. Enter steel cut oats.

The Cauldron Boils.... Steel Cut Oats

Steel cut oats are the super heroes of the oatmeal family. Everyone knows oatmeal is good for you, being high in fiber and proven to help lower cholesterol; but steel cut oats are also whole grain and have a lower glycemic index to boot. Steel cut oats are from the inner part of the oat kernel (known as the groat) that have have been chopped into smaller pieces. Your classic rolled oats is the groat that’s been steamed, rolled and flaked. Quick cooking oats are the same as rolled oats except chopped.

Steel cut oats offer a nuttier flavor and have a chewier texture than rolled oats. Rolled oats sometimes can resemble a paste or porridge. Steel cut oats are thicker. Creamier. The only down side is the time it takes to cook. Because it’s less processed you’re looking at approximately 30 minutes to cook. I think it’s well worth the effort. Give this recipe a shot or any variation that you apply to your regular oatmeal. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Steel Cut Oats with Apple and Coconut

Steel Cut Oats with Apple and Coconut
Adapted from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen
If you like your apples crisp like me, then add them at when serving. Otherwise, add with the oats and coconut.
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 large apple; chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (if you can only find sweetened, opt out on the sugar)

Put the water, cinnamon stick, salt and sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil. Add the oats and coconut (and potentially the apple); simmering for 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with milk, ground cinnamon and additional sugar to taste.

I’ve been experimenting a lot more with my cooking and baking since we started this the awesomeness that is DinnerCakes. Most of these forays in the culinary jungle have been met with limited success. My climbing cake was a dismal failure and my roasted stuffed turnips probably won’t knock any one’s socks off. I recently attempted to craft a red velvet cake for my six inch pans and once again the harsh gods of baking slighted me. Sorry Carly, guess you’ll have to settle on store bought cupcakes for your birthday. But hey, that’s life, right? You learn more through failure than victory. Let’s move on to a success story.

Oh, the possibilities...

There are some really great non-profits in the DC Metro area and I’ve had the opportunity so meet some really great people through them. One of the groups I’ve been working with for a few years is the Capital Hill Community Foundation. They’ve been working to renovate elementary school libraries in the Capital South area of DC. I gotta say, they’ve been doing some amazing work. I’ve been coordinating a few volunteer efforts with them recently and this last Sunday we had a really productive day at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary.

Ready For The Oven

It’s sometimes hard to get people to sign up for something like a Sunday morning project. I totally understand this. I love sleep. Sleep and I are tight, and on Sunday we try to catch up on all the time we’ve lost over the week. But alas, duty calls sometimes. I try to make sure the projects I organize are enjoyable for everyone and one of the ways I do this is food. People love free food. It’s insane. I mean, anyone can buy muffins at the local grocery store; but if you bring them for people, you’re guaranteed to hook a few.

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

I got up (way too) early Sunday morning to once again attempt another culinary adventure. There was a lot riding on this one. People need their food. Perusing my ever-growing list of to-do’s I came across a tasty looking dish from the folk’s at Baker’s Banter. This blog will make you want to be a baker, people. One of their more recent posts was for a Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake (side note: why must something so delicious be tainted with the label “coffee?”). It. Looked. Awesome. I felt the need to make my own modifications, of course (hey, that’s how we roll here at DinnerCakes). It was a big hit. Next time you need some quick and easy (and cheap) to impress, give this baby a shot to save the day.

Interested in service in the DC Metro area? Contact us for more information on how to plug in to the community.

Update: My friend Laurian tried this recipe with powdered buttermilk with no ill effect. In addition, she recommends adding some water to the topping for a more crunchy effect. Thanks, Laurian!

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake
adapted from Baker’s Banter

1 cup brown sugar; light or dark (I used light)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter; melted
2 tablespoons water

1 cup butter
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar; light or dark (I used light)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups milk; any kind (I used skim)
3 3/4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9″x13″ baking pan.

Mix the filling together in a bowl and set aside. Mix together the topping in another bowl until crumbs form. Set aside.

In a large bowl with a stand or hand mixer, beat together butter, salt sugars, baking powder and vanilla until combined and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in between until well combined. Be sure to scrape the sides. Combine the milks together in a separate container such as a liquid measuring cup.

Alternate adding the flour and milk to the butter mixture; three times adding the flour, two times adding the milk (flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Be sure to scrape down the sides to ensure it’s well combined.

Pour half the mixture into your baking pan (since i don’t bother weighing, i tend to put a little more in this half. better on the bottom than the top). Sprinkle the filling evenly on top. Give it a light shake to make sure it’s even and reaching all the corners. Spread the remaining batter on top; evenly. If you have a pastry scraper, I recommend using this to help evenly spread the batter, but a spatula will work as well. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the pan. A bit more light shaking will help.

Bake until golden brown at the edges and passes the toothpick test; approximately 50-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 20 minutes. Service straight from the pan and enjoy.