Posts filed under: ‘Extracts and Spices‘

Moment of Zen, Green Tea Cupcakes

So its been awhile!!  I should mention first and foremost Aunt Penny is doing well.  It was a little rough to be honest in the beginning but her spirits are high and things are good on the road to recovery.  I saw her last week in the hospital and she said she couldn’t wait to read the blog again soon and was so thankful for everyone’s wishes of good health.  So from Aunt Penny and Me thanks you for stopping in and thinking of her in the last few weeks, and sending all that good energy.

I’m finally starting to fit into a groove at my new job.  This is a pretty big transition for me consider I’d been working full time at my last job almost 9 years.  Its crazy when I think of where the time went?!

I started working at the Performing Arts Center as a college student, when the campus was in fact my home, and given the sheer time committment my job at the PAC required, my emotional investment was great.  I’ve been thinkng of all the great experiences and people I’ve come across in the years I spent there.  The growing I’ve done, both good and difficult.  One of the biggest parts or perks of the job was all the great performances.

Just last year The Performing Arts Center became the set of Black Swan.  Lincoln Center gets top billing of course, but truly every scene in the dressing rooms, backstage, on stage and the rehearsal areas in the film was shot at the Performing Arts Center.  Yes I saw (Academy Award winner!!!!) Natalie Portman, and Mila Kunis around the “dungeon” as all the PAC staff affectionately call the backstage areas where the offices are.  Can’t say I really had much interaction with actors, lets be honest I just took advantage of Craft Food Services, but nonetheless its a cool thing to have been around for.

One of my favorite performances was watching Savion Glover, tap dance, or hoof as its called, the several times he’s taken the stage at the PAC.  It has always been an inspiration to the part of me that spent so many years studying tap dancing as a kid.

I’ve seen groups like The B-52’s, Joshua Bell, Matisyahu, Chuck Berry, The Righteous Brothers, Regina Spector, and the Legend James Brown. And comedians like Kathy Griffin and George Carlin.  I’ve gotten to experiences some world class entertainment!!!

One of my favorite memories is of a young concert pianist by the name of Lang Lang (pronounced Long Long) who has performed many times at the Performing Arts Center.  Lang Lang is kind of a rockstar in his own right.  Hes in his 20’s, wears leather jackets, and pattened leather sneakers when he performs, so I think he’s trying to at least be himself, and both old and young people are always in attendance.  Hes also a total prodigy and a completely rare talent and has been playing since he was 3 years old.  And if you still don’t know who I’m talking about– he was part of the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics last year. OHhhhh that guy…

As time passes and my memories become more rose colored, I will still always recall how just about anything in theater can go wrong at the last minute. Its actually one of the things I liked best about my former job– having to problem solve at the last possible second.  Un/fortunately for me I’m pretty good at finding a remedy for a last minute crisis, and putting out fires and its taxing to say the least– always operating on full throttle but totally rewarding.

On more than one occasion I’ve found myself inside the theatre while Lang Lang was rehearsing.  The first time, I went in for a standard walk through of the theatre a few hours before the show.  I walked across the back of the first balcony as he rehearsed.  I didn’t know if it was Mozart or Beethoven.  But it didn’t matter, I took a couple moments to enjoy my secret concert.

The last night Lang Lang performed there was lots of chaos.  Between ticketing issues, technical issues, and lots of important people in the building, my staff and I were running all over the place.  Just as we were about to open the theatre to begin seating for the show, I stepped inside.  I was one of the few people inside the big Concert Hall.  It seats more then 1300 people.  I quietly moved inside towards the seats, the door shut behind me and all the noise and choas of people waiting to get in became quieter and quieter. As I stepped into the seats the melodic sounds of the solo piano grew.  Lang Lang was warming up, and I was the only person in the audience.

This moment didn’t last for more than a few minutes as my staff began to take their positions at the doors inside, but for a moment, a moment, a brief moment of zen, I sat captive in my last private concert, given by Lang Lang at the Performing Arts Center.

In reverence to the phase of my life that have ended and all the great things I learned, and to all the great things in the future….

Zen Green Tea Cupcakes

"E" for Ella, and Eccentric

This recipe is from my favorite (often referenced) cupcake cookbook: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World! by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.

I’ve made many different versions of green tea cupcakes and these take the cake (pun intended).  They are always super moist and fluffy.  And I think Oscar winner Natalie Portman would also appreciate the lack of diary and eggs.

You will need:

1/2 c soy yogurt

2/3 c rice milk ( I’ve used regular yogurt and buttermilk if you aren’t concerned about keeping these cruelty free)

1/4 tsp vanilla

1/3 c canola oil

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 1/4 c all purposed (unbleached) flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

3-4 tsp matcha green tea powder

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 c granulated sugar

Green tea powder can be a little hard to find. I’ve found it near the cafe section of Whole Foods.  Its what they use to make those yummy green tea fraps at Starbucks.  Its a little pricey, but let me mention its about $10 for a few ounces.  I’ve been to culinary fairs and festivals where its sold at $100 for a few ounces!!! So if you find yourself shopping online, don’t break the bank.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients (obviously sugar doesn’t count this time) whisk soy milk and yogurt, vanilla, oil and almond extract until smooth. Sift in flour, baking soda and powder, matcha green tea powder, salt and sugar.  I recommend using only 3 tsp of matcha powder, unless you really love the flavor. Its great in more mild amounts, too much?? taste like sea weed if you ask me. Mix until smooth.

Fill lined baking pans 2/3 full. Bake for 18 min
utes approximately or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.

Vegan Cupcake Take Over the World recommends a Matcha Green Tea Glaze, but this time around I flavored a couple cups of Swiss Merignue ButterCream with a tsp of Rose Water, and 1/2 tsp of blackberry extract I found at specialty culinary store.  A little burgundy food coloring made for a beautiful and exquisite flavor profile.


3 comments March 7, 2011

They Say its Your Birthday

So today happens to be my Birthday!  And I thought it only appropriate to carve some time out for a post. To celebrate this fancy new layout I thought I’d add some photos from the Annual Orchid Festival I went to a couple of weeks ago at the Bronx Botanical Garden.

I have one friend in particular who is the queen of birthday gifts and care packages (I’ve already recieved a great little gift in the mail from her!) and this recipe is inspired by her and the beautiful orchids I saw curated at this show.

Do It Yourself Vanilla Extract

Has it ever happened to you: You’re in the middle of a baking project. Folding together ingredients and you realize that you’re out of vanilla extract?  Might it also be 2 am on a Saturday night and that 24 hour grocery store just so happens NOT to be open 24 hours on Saturday night??

Pure vanilla extract isn’t something you should skimp on when you are baking.  Don’t buy the imitation vanilla and put it in your cookies or cake although imitation– particularly clear vanilla extract (not made from Orchids) has its own purposes in decorating).  I really suggest you go for the good stuff, made from the fruit of a particular species of orchid Vanilla Planifolia.  Orchids that produce vanilla are native to Mexico, and Madagascar, which is partially why its a little more pricey.

Making your own vanilla is really really simple, though it involves some waiting.  It can also make a great addition to a gift basket…for a birthday or just comes in handy when you think you’ve run out.  All you need are vanilla beans and vodka and a few jar to hold your sweet and fragrant elixir together.


3 Whole Vanilla Beans

1 c Vodka

Make sure your beans are plump and moist and shiney, not overly dried.  I’ve done some searching on the ratio of vanilla beans to vodka.  Some people say 1 bean to 1 cup of vodka.  Other people say three beans to 1 cup.  Both will make the vanilla extract you desire, the difference is how long you wait.

Split the vanilla bean down the center length wise.  Place into a mason jar, or other sealable glass jar. Glass is ideal this way you can see how the extract is progressing by checking the color.  Cover with vodka (make sure the beans are soaked)  and close.  The more beans per vodka you use the quicker the extracting process will happen.  The vanilla will be ready in about 2 months should you use 3 bean per cup, and can take up to 6 months to be fully prepared.

Using a funel you can package the prepared vanilla into smaller jars for gifts.  Leave part of the bean in the gift jar, this way your gift recieptients can add a little extra vodka when their supply gets low and within a few weeks they will have more vanilla ready to use.

3 comments May 6, 2010

Dessert Wine

Not to long ago I was in my local wine seller (haha pun intended) and a particular bottle caught my eye.  When comes to spirits I have a proclivity for red wine.  I’d like to believe my palate is well versed in tasting all the notes in a good glass of wine, but the truth is I’m just no sommolier.  When it comes to choosing wine I have some favorites,  but I’m more apt, like anyone, to judge a book by its cover and buy a bottle with a pretty label or funny name. So when I saw this bottle with a big ole slice of cake on the front I was intrigued and completely skeptical.

Surprise surprise Layer Cake is actually a really nice bottle to try.  Here I thought they were trying to sucker this cake enthusiast by using a clever name for their vino.  The name Layer Cake comes from the family’s philosophy on wine making.  “…wine if  properly made was like a great layer cake, fruit, mocha, chocolate, with hints of spice and rich–always rich.” (

What a great philosophy on wine…and cake for that matter.  I could cozy up with a glass of layer cake just about any day of the week.  I recommend the Primitivo, though all the different kinds are delicious.  I’ve also started incorporating this wine into my baking.  As we speak I’m soaking fruit for a black cake (recipe to come soon), and I thought it only fitting to soak my fruit in Layer Cake.

Add a comment February 26, 2010

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The Cake Eccentric

Sugar, Frosting, and Fondant: an artistic exploration of Cake and other Sweets