Just Another Thursday Night in South Pasadena

After a brutal commute home from a long work day, I can’t think of anything more refreshing than stepping off the Metro at the Mission Street station to find myself smack dab in the middle of the South Pasadena Farmer’s Market.

South Pasadena Farmer's Market

balloon manThe event takes over the center of town every Thursday night with vendors hawking locally grown fruits and vegetables, flowers, and other local products like honey, nuts and beans, and organic roaster chickens. And it seems like the whole town comes out to celebrate.

Even better than the groceries are the food vendors who cook up sidewalk cuisine to rival the best of them. I headed straight for the fresh tamale stand and chased one down with a buttery roasted corn on the cob. If you prefer barbeque tri tip or Peruvian or Korean or Greek or Vegan, they have something for you too.

The kids entertained themselves popping bubbles with our new friend, who we still only know as “the bubble man” (you’ll meet him later on Weekndr). He sets up camp in the grass among throngs of kids and creates giant bubbles, tiny bubbles, and everything in between, while the kids stand at attention ready to pop.

The girls topped off this night by convincing us to pony up for a pair of balloon wands, ordering up one with an alien head and the other sporting a picture of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. The five-dollar fee was the well worth the 20 minutes we waited in peace while the girls patiently watched the Balloon Man’s inflatable creations come to life.

Cereal and Grilled Cheese Cafe. Really?

What will they think of next?

They say most small  businesses fail within the first two years, so I have to wonder about the chance for success of Mix n’ Munch, a cereal and grilled cheese cafe coming soon to the heart of downtown South Pasadena.

If I had to open a cereal and grilled cheese cafe I suppose South Pas would be the place to do it. This is definitely a kid-dominated town, and I have to assume kids are the target audience here. But still, how many bowls of cereal do you have to sell to pay rent on the most popular commercial stretch of Mission Street?

Not to mention, don’t most people go out to eat so they don’t have to go through the trouble of preparing a meal? And aren’t a bowl of cereal and a grilled cheese sandwich two of the easier meals to prepare?

I’ll reserve (anymore) judgement for opening day, but if you happen to see the Mix n’ Munch sign replaced by a for lease sign, remember, you heard it here first.

Oh My Ganache That’s Good Chocolate Cake!

Southern Devil's Food Cake with Ganache Frosting

Southern Devil's Food Cake from FineCooking.com.

When I saw the devil’s food cake recipe in the recent issue of Fine Cooking magazine, I knew I’d have to make it. A ganache frosting made with a pound of dark chocolate and heavy cream, magically melted into a creamy, shiny icing, with me the alchemist of this dreamy dessert?

Cutting the cakeThe only question was when. Did a cake this decadent need a special occasion? Or like Miles and his ’61 Cheval Blanc in the movie Sideways, is the day you make the Fine Cooking Southern Devil’s Food Cake your special occasion?

I decided to make it the next day. Most of the ingredients were already in my pantry, but I did run to the market for buttermilk, heavy cream and a pound of dark chocolate (at least 65% cocoa recommended).

Something to note about this recipe is most ingredients need to be softened or brought to room temperature, even the 3 egggs. Since the gananche needs to be made at least 8 hours before the cake, I made the ganache early in the morning and set out the eggs and butter all day.

Chocolate Ganache

The devil is in the frosting. Four layers of chocolate ganache to be precise.

To make the ganache you chop up the 16 oz. of dark chocolate, then bring a pint of heavy cream to a boil. Remove the cream from heat and mix in the chopped up chocolate bar and 2 tbsp. of softened butter. When blended, simply cover with plastic wrap and let sit 8 hours.

Unusual ingredients in the cake batter – mayonnaise and buttermilk  – made the finished cake incredibly moist.

Southern Devil's Food Cake with Chocolate Ganache

This cake was so rich one of the kids, who is a sweet-aholic and loves dark chocolate, only ate a few bites and accused the ‘bad cake’ of giving her a tummy ache. It’s a cake for grownups. A little goes a long way, so we gave away half the cake and still ate delicious chocolate cake for days.

Weekndr Recipe: Wrapped in Bacon

bacon wrapped bread sticks

Bacon-wrapped breadsticks, sprinkled with brown sugar (not shown), and baked for about 35 min. at 350 degrees. Sorry, we ate them all before we could snap a final photo.

Name us a food that can’t be wrapped in bacon, sprinkled with brown sugar, and baked to a sweet and crispy perfection? Can’t do it, can you. We’re not big meat eaters but there’s something about crispy bacon hors d’oeuvres that brings out the carnivore in even the toughest holdouts.

Mrs. Weekndr whipped up this easy recipe for two holiday parties last month. She picked it up during a catering gig a few years ago where, according to lore, party guests inhaled them at record speeds. They were equally devoured by our party guests, including one diet-conscious, animal-loving friend who finally broke down for a bite after much protest.

For these pictured we used crispy bread sticks, but we also made them with “homemade” wheat breadsticks prepared by cutting slices of wheatbread into sticks and then toasting until crispy. Once wrapped with one-half of a bacon strip and placed on a baking sheet, sprinkle with brown sugar and bake for about 30 min. at 350 degrees.

Bacon wrapped breadsticks

I have to say I preferred the wheat bread version over the crispy sticks. The spongy toast soaked up the bacon fat and sugar better than the hard, white-flour sticks, adding more depth to each bite. I apologize but we ate the entire batch before anyone could snap a photo of the finished product so you’ll have to use your imagination or make them for yourself.

P.S. If you’re obsessed with bacon, here’s a list of blogs and articles you might enjoy: 1. The Bacon Explosion, via NYTimes.com; 2. The Bacon Unwrapped blog. 3. Bacon is Dead! Long Live Bacon! from Salon.com; 4. Reactions to bacon-haters on the Bacon Today blog.

Happy Thanksgiving! A Day in the Life

7:05 a.m. Thought about tuning in for early TV coverage of the Macy’s T-Day Parade. The crowd started at 6:30 a.m. EST. on and it airs on NBC by 9 a.m. Visit the Web site for some cool games and video and an annoying musical underscore.

macy's thanksgiving day parade

7:18 a.m.: Started baking sweet potatoes for the Obama’s cumin-spiced Sweet Potato Casserole. Recipe from Us Weekly (no link).

7:24 a.m.: Read an article on NYTimes.com about the most-search food terms for Thanksgiving, via our favorite food site, Allrecipes.com. Sweet Potato Casserole  and Tofurky top the list. Read the article…

10:13 a.m.: Finished making replacement scrabble tiles and blogged about it (see next post).

diy scrabble tile

11:45 a.m. Left the house headed for turkey dinner at the Diaz Family Farm!

1 p.m. Watched Sadie the Scottish Terrier win the National Dog Sow. I was rooting for the black lab or the miniature pincher to no avail.

2:00 p.m. Ate the bird. Became too tired to write any more.

3:00 p.m. Went for a walk.

4 p.m. Sat down.

8 p.m. Fell asleep.

Make-Shift Coffee Filter From Paper Towel

Here’s a project that is easy and comes in real handy on those early mornings when you run out of coffee filters. I used this one two days in a row without fail.

I can’t vouch for flat-bottom coffee filters, but this is tested and approved for cone filters. Step one: Tear off a single sheet of paper towel. Step two: Carefully place the sheet in the filter canister, folding as necessary. Step three: Cut away the towel that extends above the rim as this may prevent the filter canister from closing properly.

It looks soggy but the coffee brews up great. The final word on paper towels as coffee filters: Works in a pinch!

coffee filter in a pinch

coffee filter in a pinch