the 4th. finally.

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Miss Fats is embarrassed by the delay of this post.  She’s finally getting around to giving you the run down on her 4th of July…3 weeks later.  Part of the reason is that she’s been at work baking much more exciting cakes for celebrations and she frankly failed to properly document the backyard BBQ shenanigans of Independence Day.  However, as Chicago finally cools down, she thought she’d share the delights of a little garden party to remind everyone that summer is actually awesome and not a miserable hot towel wrapped around your face threatening to suffocate you (at least not all the time).

Part of the delay on posts is due to the fact that Miss Fats is currently in the process of moving.  The worst.  This is hardly the most difficult move she’s ever experienced, but there’s something about the chaos and constant movement of schlepping that puts Miss Fats into the worst mood.  She apologizes to all her friends who have now seen the effects of this process.  However, despite the fatigue, sweat and strange box bruises all over her body, she could not be more excited about her new apartment.  She doesn’t like to brag (false: she loves bragging) but this place is out of control: backyard, porch, fireplace, and a DISHWASHER.  And these are only a list of amenities.  She should probably throw in the fact that the place is absolutely gorgeous.

Miss Fats can’t take credit for this place: she’s moving in with her lovely friend N, who has been kind enough to allow her to inhabit this incredible apartment and put up with her constant baking and moving watching.  She could not be more delighted to begin life with N and her partner M, in September, where there will likely always be a new craft cocktail and cookie every night.  Cue exit from reality.

IMG_3959M was in town for a short summer visit during the weekend of the 4th, so the three of them decided it was an excellent chance to their first party as future roommates.  It was all pretty impromptu: they had to pull it all together in about 48 hours.  But for team N, M & M? Not a problem.  (Clearly: see above)

They kept it simple with burgers, brats, and hot dogs to be thrown on the grill, and asked friends to bring additional drinks and sides.  Thanks to M’s amazing bartending skills, there were fruity Pimm’s Cups for all. (Not to mention she kept Miss Fat’s excellent  G & T full at all times!)  Their awesome friends filled in all the gaps between spicy margaritas, and a huge haul of cool beers.  For the most part, they all just hung out in the backyard, nomming and drinking (as it should be on the 4th).

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Miss Fats was, naturally, in charge of dessert.  And she has to admit that she had alterior motives for this party from the beginning.  She’s just going to come out and say it: she suggested this party because she wanted to make a big ‘ol cheesecake.  Not that Miss Fats couldn’t just make one for the hell of it, but the 4th of July seemed to be begging for a proper red, white and blue, creamy cold cake.  To her, nothing screams backyard BBQ more than a bright dessert topped with a heaping pile of fresh berries.  And ever since her recent cheesecake success, Miss Fats has been itching to get a little more practice in while berry season is ripe.

So all set with a venue, Miss Fats baked up a bright lemon and vanilla cheesecake base, topped with rhubarb sauce and fresh blueberries.  Happy Birthday, America.  She used the same lemon cheesecake recipe from Food 52, with the same alterations as her first attempt.  Unfortunately, it didn’t come out quite as beautiful as her first attempt.  (Anyone who’s baked a cheesecake knows that the pesky beast is always coming out slightly different.  Damn that temperamental cooling process.)  So as you can see, the cake’s edges pulled from the pan a bit too soon and didn’t create the most elegant of corners.  Oh well.  However, the cake itself was close to perfect: Miss Fats was shocked.  She couldn’t believe the final texture and flavor of this thing.  Typically, a cheesecake dips slightly in the middle and loses it’s heft a bit.  Not this one.  Somehow, the cake remained perfectly fluffy, slightly firm and beautifully creamy from crust to center.  This sat a-top a thin and crisp graham cracker crust with good hit of salt and was topped off with a creamy and tart layer of sour cream.  Cake miracle.  Look at that thing:

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Miss Fats kept the toppings simple and tart to cut through the creamy cake base.  She made a simple rhubarb sauce (since she’d obsessed), that required cooking down a couple of stalks in a bit of sugar and vanilla.  Miss Fats worked the fruit through a fine strainer to get that beautifully clear and smooth sauce.  Then she simply mounded fresh blueberries (they needed nothing: so plump and crazy sweet) on top and let the rough, messy edge all hang out.  Miss Fats doesn’t need fancy perfection: she’s much more concerned about what happens in when the cake gets in your mouth.

Initially, she planned to just move forward with the cheesecake, since guests would likely be stuffing themselves full of grilled meat objects.  But as she was checking out at the grocery store, she happened to notice a bag of super processed, red, white and blue star-shaped marshmallows that obviously needed to be purchased.  Then it dawned on Miss Fats that it was fucking July and she hadn’t gotten her s’more on at all this summer: not okay.  Upon this realization, Miss Fats threw in all the necessary s’more makings and anxiously awaited the oozing toasted marshmallow fest to come.  Double dessert.

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Don’t pretend like s’mores aren’t always a good idea.  Come on: look at that thing.  Even blue ooze is beautiful.

In the end, the party was a big success.  Mostly because it was so little work and filled with so many taste-goods.  Lets get real: Miss Fats couldn’t care less about America’s birthday, but she’ll take any excuse to make an excessive dessert, char meat, and wind up covered in sticky sugar and chocolate.  And this party hit all of the marks.  There were even bubbles.  (M & N are the best.)  Miss Fats wishes she could say more, but there are leftover s’more ingredients calling to her.  More BBQ’s to come.

Orange and Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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Miss Fats almost always forgets about the bundt cake as a baked good option.  The round and slippery pan has just become that awkward globe-like thing that keeps falling on her head when she’s reaching for the cupcake trays.  She’s not sure why, because frankly that pan’s fancy shape sure makes for an impressive cake with very little decorative action.  Not to mention the bundt cake almost always encourages just dumping whatever tasty frosting option all over and watching it ooze down the sides.  Mmm oozy food porn.

So when Miss Fats had to bake a cake for a late morning celebration, she dusted off her bundt pan and make the perfect treat to transition from am to pm sweets.

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This recipe makes a not-too-sweet cake with a crumb similar to a muffin, but still forkable enough to call it dessert.  The orange flavor is subtle, so for all you citrus fiends out there, Miss Fats encourages you to turn it up a notch with more zest and orange extract (and then let Miss Fats know how it goes!)  She glazed this cake with a simple orange syrup to keep it nice and moist and get more of that orange flavor in there, and then topped it all off with a serious dump of bitter-sweet chocolate.

Orange and Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake:
adapted from Lemon-Buttermilk Bundt Cake from Bon Appetit
serves 8-10

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups flour
1 tbs baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 navel oranges zested, with just the flesh removed and chopped, and the remaining squeezed for juice (yep. use that whole orange)
1 lemon zested and juiced

1 navel orange zested and juiced
2 tbs powdered sugar

8 oz dark chocolate

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease (butter and flour) a 10 inch bundt pan.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, citrus juices and zest.

2. With an electric or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes).  Add the eggs, beating until well combined after each.

3. Alternating between the dry ingredient mixture and the liquids, add them in about three stages to the fluffy stand mixer mixture.  Make sure to scrape down the sides as you go.  Mix in the orange pieces.  Pour into bundt pan and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes and invert onto cooling rack.

4. In a small bowl combine the orange juice, zest and powdered sugar. Once the cake has mostly cooled, glaze the cake with a pastry brush, making sure it soaks up all that extra orange juice goodness. Allow the cake to fully cool.

5. Using a double broiler (or some careful microwave action), melt the dark chocolate.  Carefully and slowly dump the dark chocolate over top the cake, making sure it’s evenly distributed.  Miss Fats recommends doing this in stages, watching (and perhaps aiding) the chocolate as it drips down the sides.

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There you have it: probably Miss Fat’s most reserved cake.  However she respects this one: there’s an elegance to the solid orange/chocolate combo that we often forget.  She also apologizes for the lack of proper food porn documentation.  She clearly got distracted by dripping dark chocolate and frankly isn’t all that sorry about it.

Best Gourmet Doughnuts in Chicago

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Chicago seems to have finally caught on to the gourmet doughnut trend (way to be two years behind).  In the last year, Miss Fats has noticed a crazy increase in the number of spots featuring doughnuts and the opening of a handful of delicious gourmet shops across the city.  With the release of Saveur Magazine’s “America’s 50 Best Donuts,” article, Miss Fats thought it was high time she ranked her favorites for you all. As you all know by now, Miss Fats has an unhealthy addiction to fried dough, and considers herself a self-taught expert in gourmet doughnut knowhow.  She’s slaved over testing out all the hip and is prepared to give you her official ranking. Miss Fats realizes that many of you might disagree, so please share thoughts and your own rankings, but know that she put some serious research in. Get ready for some sweet fried food porn.

In reverse order…

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New kid on the block. Do-Rite Donuts hasn’t been in its loop location long, but they boast small-batch gourmet donuts, including vegan and gluten free options.  Miss Fats was very excited about the prospect of getting a HOT, fresh donut.  Her’s was warm, but not too exciting.  Don’t get her wrong, Do-Rite made a DAMN FINE old fashioned.  They had a perfectly crispy outside and delicious cakey inside.  Seriously a textual orgasm.  However Do-Rite comes in 5th because they need to turn it up a notch flavor-wise.  You see that crazy delicious looking lemon pistachio raised donut up top? Yeah, you think that would be a total mouth party.  Unfortunately it was just good.  Not great.  Lacked lemon flavor and not everything was jiving together exactly.  The same can be said for the two old fashioned: butterscotch (boy was Miss Fats excited for that one) and meyer lemon.  The butterscotch just tasted like a perfect old fashioned glazed donut, so if that’s what you’re looking for, Miss Fats highly recommends it. But Miss Fats wanted her butterscotch flavor and it never happened.  Same goes for the lemon.  Give me some tang, Do-Rite.  Miss Fats feels that with a little more extract and some experimenting, Do-Rite could easily rise to the top.  She puts them to the challenge.

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Miss Fats apologizes for the lack of Glazed and Infused pictures.  As some of the first gourmet doughnut shops to open in the city, Glazed and Infused has been visited sporadically over the last year, and therefore lacks proper documentation.  She’s a big supporter of Glazed and Infused multiple locations and easily accessible fried dough goodness.  Pictured above is their monstrous bearclaw that was filled with insane almond paste that did away with Miss Fats’ most tragic marzipan memories.  She has now had the opportunity to try their PB&J jelly, as well as the Triple Chocolate.  And it’s that chocolate doughnut that helped Glazed and Infused earn this spot.  Holy shit chocolate goodness.  Now she doesn’t recommend this doughnut for those out there who might just “like” chocolate.  You need to love it to truly appreciate the excess of this thing.  That shit is basically covered in ganache, not glaze.  She wishes she had the same things to say about the PB&J, but unfortunately Miss Fats took one bite and it exploded all over her.  Never a good sign.  Despite it’s amazing homemade jam inside (and all over Miss Fats’ shirt), it lacked peanut flavor.  Total fruit overload. Literally.  Therefore Glazed and Infused earns its respectable spot at number four.

3. The Doughnut Vaultphoto (7)

Now this was a challenge.  The Doughnut Vault is one of those spots that boasts a long line, up-to-the-minute twitter feed, and VERY limited hours.  For literally months, Miss Fats tried to get herself one of these doughnuts.  She religiously followed on twitter, examining the busiest days, the best hours, what daily special she’d aim for… Not to mention in order to get one of these bad boys, Miss Fats would have to hurry her ass to a bus by 7:30 am to get to their Merchandise Mart location in time for some serious line waiting.  With her schedule last spring, that really only left Saturdays for Miss Fats to attempt to get her doughnut on.  So one cold, wet morning she braved the early bus and got herself to the line by 9 am.  She waited and waited, refreshing her twitter app, watching the day’s doughnuts disappear.  She was so close. But no luck.  This unfortunate situation kept Miss Fats away for a bit, as she longingly watched the tweets of delicious treats go by.  Finally three months later, she went for it.  She had a Thursday morning free.  She arrived a little before 10 am and there were still plenty of flavors left.  She settled on the Buttermilk Old Fashioned and Blackberry Jelly.  The jelly was pretty unremarkable.  It was a solid doughnut but little can really be remembered about that pastry.  The Old Fashioned on the other hand is why Doughnut Vault has outranked Glazed and Infused.  This was pretty much perfect.  Tender, crispy, and not too sweet.  BALANCE: They have it. Is it worth the wait?  Probably not for most.

2. Firecakes

photo (9)This little shop just opened downtown and Miss Fats was ON IT.  Miss Fats needed to be downtown at 9 am one Saturday morning so she felt entitled to treat herself to a morning donut.  She stopped in at Firecakes just after they opened and got to choose from their fresh full selection.  Because it was practically dawn, Miss Fats impulse purchased the GIANT Butterscotch Praline and Raspberry Blood Orange Jelly (she had intended to try a cake donut for you all). She does not regret this decision at all.  Hell no.  Let’s begin with the Butterscotch: holy shit it was filled with fresh butterscotch pudding.  Need she say more?  The doughnut itself was tender and chewy and topped with a crispy praline glaze. fuck yes. The jelly was the same raised dough business but it was filled with a tangy and fresh mixture of blood orange and raspberry jam.  That shit oozed out into a powdered sugar and sticky mess that Miss Fats proudly wore all over her face all day long (despite being at a super important academic conference. priorities, people).  Now to make sure she’d done proper work for you all, Miss Fats returned for a cake doughnut.  And she was NOT DISAPPOINTED.  In fact, the Valhrona Glazed Chocolate doughnut might have been the greatest cake doughnut Miss Fats has ever had.  Like Glazed and Infused, it was basically topped with a rich chocolate ganache and peppered with cacao nibs.  The cake itself was the star, though: PERFECTLY tender, yet rich and dense.  Some sort of magic happened in that doughnut and Miss Fats doesn’t want to know anything about it.  Just keep them coming.

HOWEVER: on a side note, Miss Fats also tried their Bacon Maple Pineapple mini doughnuts.  She was very unimpressed.  These little bites did nothing.  She supposes the maple flavor was good, but she hardly thinks a sad piece of pineapple and some bacon bits belong together on a lame doughnut bite.  Skip it.  Miss Fats highly recommends that Firecakes toss them from their menu.  

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I am lame. Do not purchase me.

1. Nightwood Sunday Brunchphoto (10)

Alright. Here it is: Miss Fats top choice for Chicago’s gourmet doughnuts.  She’s talked to you all before about these gems, and she stands by them: Nightwood Sunday brunch doughnuts are the greatest in the city. Miss Fats might be obsessed with their Butterscotch Bacon doughnut.  It comes hot to your table with a sweet, sticky glazed outside, topped in a heaping pile of maple-y, crispy bacon. Shit, is there anything better than a hot doughnut, people??  The bacon doughnut seems to be available every week (or at least for the last month or so), but the filled doughnut changes week-to-week.  Miss Fats has had the opportunity to try the Chocolate Cherry Cashew and Vanilla Custard Burbon Caramel.  Both were damn good. She’s complained a bit about the lack of cherry in the chocolate before but still fully supports its oozing ganache filling.  The vanilla was full of flavor: stuffed with a fresh vanilla pudding and topped with a boozy caramel sauce.  Miss Fats’ friend pointed out a slight lack of salt, which she found was true if you couldn’t quite get the right bite of that milk crumble.  And don’t forget: you get three crispy little doughnut hole friends rolled in cinnamon sugar.  Just go mopping up your caramel sauce with one of those little suckers and pop it in your mouth.

Miss Fats realizes that Nightwood might not count per se, because it is in fact not a doughnut shop.  Nor are doughnut available more than one day a week.  She fully recognizes that there are many other restaurants out there that feature house made doughnuts, and Miss Fats will get to you!  But for now, she stands by these Sunday treats and encourages you all to go out and have some of the greatest fried dough treats of your life.

Shout out: Beaver’s Doughnut Truck

Miss Fats wants to give a special shout to Chicago’s only mini doughnut  truck: Beaver’s Doughnuts.  This delightful truck parks on Miss Fats’ campus multiple days of the week, tempting her with fresh fried goodness.  Though Beaver’s does not make the short list, she appreciates their cheerful truck and dedication to hot, freshly fried doughnut bites.

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Beaver’s specializes in fried to order mini doughnuts that can be tossed in the usual doughnut hole coatings: powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.  OR you can top those suckers off with a range of tasty gooey delights.  Miss Fats indulged in their Turtle Doughnuts, which featured chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and chopped pecans.  This gooey hot mess had to be eaten with a fork, but it was oh-so-good on a crap, cold Chicago afternoon.  Not to mention, Beaver’s served Miss Fats ten mini doughnut when she only ordered six.  DOUGHNUT WIN.  Despite the fact that they had been recently hanging out in a vat of oil on a truck, these little guys were still surprising light and crispy.  The reason why they don’t make the list is because they unfortunately had that grocery store doughnut hole flavor.  This was mostly masked by the toppings, but Miss Fats doesn’t let these things slide.  Your doughnut dough should be able to stand on its own (she feels that same way about the cake part of a cupcake).  But Beaver’s is a damn fine enterprise and she’s always a fan of moving fried dough vehicles that want to warm her up with gooey doughnutness.

Worst Doughnut in Chicago:

Ok, so Miss Fats is probably being to dramatic about this one and should let it go, but whatever. She’d just like to remind you all to avoid the pathetic “Italian” doughnuts at Spiaggia Cafe.  These sad little fried things deflated into a chewy mess as as soon as she bit into one.  Just don’t do it.  They’re too lame for words.

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So that’s it, people.  Miss Fats has laid down some truth for you all.  She hopes you go out and try all of these tasty treats and reports back on your favorites, and potential disappointments. Do you all agree with Miss Fats’ list?  She knows she’s missing some critical Southside favorites, but Miss Fats considers those to be in a league all of their own.  They are clearly doing their shit right: the classics, served up without any of this shmancy nonsense.  But for those of you who like a little nonsense in your life, she recommends eating a $5 doughnut covered in bacon.

Recipe Review: Salted Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookie Bars

IMG_0208Make these IMMEDIATELY, people.  Salted Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Cookie bars are no joke.  They seem non descript, with their average looking blonde color and square shape: no decorations, no shmancy ingredients.  But these affirm that a simple cookie just might be a thousand times more delicious than the fanciest of cupcakes.

IMG_0199Miss Fats made these little guys to celebrate the end of classes and provide a little cushioning for that paper extension she needed.  Given her current butterscotch addiction, she gravitated toward Passports and Pancakes’ tasty looking recipe for a little salty-sweet treat.  Since Miss Fats was baking for a smaller crowd, she halved this recipe and had no problems with the result.  The original recipe seemed to make too many: 40 cookie bars? But NOW SHE KNOWS WHY.  These bars were gone so fast, Miss Fats was just left mourning the loss of some butterscotch saltiness to stick in her mouth.  This was a solid and simple recipe that allows for a good deal of play with ingredients and servings. Passports and Pancakes’ recipe allows for an adjustment of salt based on taste, but Miss Fats seriously recommends upping it to at least 1 1/2 tsp (for the half recipe) to make sure you get that perfect balance. Also, since she’s a grad student and cannot afford nuts, she threw in some extra white chocolate chips she had on hand instead of almonds.

IMG_0211Miss Fats would like you to know that this recipe technically doesn’t call for crack. It just tastes like it.

Brunching at Nightwood + Sunday Sundaes at George’s

Team Miss Fats hasn’t spent much time in Pilsen, so they were excited to venture into this neighborhood to get their brunch on. (Though they fully recognize this brunch is a NOT a representation of Pilsen’s excellent Mexican restaurants.  THEY WILL BE BACK FOR MEXICAN BREAKFAST. DO NOT WORRY.)  Nightwood has been at the top of their lists for a while, but is way far out of their price range.  But per Miss Fats’ style, brunch is always an option.

And what could make Miss Fats more excited?  Surprises.  Nightwood does not have a set menu and changes their options every week, so they only had a vague idea of what they were in for.  Look at the super cute hand written menus:

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Miss Fats thought listing just “fried skin” (what animal? who cares.) as an ingredient was pretty dope.  Game on, Nightwood.

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Bacon butterscotch donut

J: Having had an extremely unpleasant experience with the Maple Bacon Manhattan at The Southern, Miss Fats avoids bacon in places where bacon shouldn’t go. Actually, Miss Fats generally never eats bacon, and doesn’t understand why it’s such a thing. (Go ahead, lose all respect for Miss Fats as a person right now. Go ahead!!! She’s used to it.) This wasn’t half bad though. Except when her “better half” dropped the last bite on the floor. Doof.

M: Miss Fats is just going to say it: this is the best donut in Chicago.  (Maybe even one of the best things in the city.) Hands down.  Fuck. No words. SALT. SWEET. CRISPY. SOFT.  Miss Fats isn’t even sure how to go about describing this incredible treat.  It was literally the most heavenly contrast between the soft, fluffy cake center and crisp tender outside that was smothered in butterscotch glaze.  Don’t even get her started on the crispy bacon goodness. BEST.  This is the stuff of dreams.  Which turned into a nightmare when she dropped the last bite:

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THE SADDEST PICTURE YOU WILL EVER SEE.

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Chocolate cherry cashew donut

J: This was a pretty great donut. There wasn’t really a detectable cherry flavor, it was more like the very very distant memory of a chocolate-covered cherry. Both of the donuts came with three tiny donut babies. Free baby donuts! Miss Fats really likes when food comes with extra food, like how when you order a Bloody Mary you get a free surprise snack. Sometimes it’s celery, sometimes it’s cheese-stuffed olives, you never know! Sometimes you order a donut and you get donut babies! The only bad part about the choco donut is when Miss Fats dropped one of the cinnamon-sugar babies on the floor. Doof. (see above if you want to cry again.)

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M: Again: donut bliss. Miss Fats is such a huge fan of donuts she’s not sure this is even a fair subject to discuss.  And what’s basically the only thing Miss Fats loves more than fried dough? CHOCOLATE.  So obviously she was all over this shit.  Usually chocolate donuts are a little too sweet with their glaze, but this shit was filled with the tastiest, perfectly salted ganache.  She agrees with the other Miss Fats, however.  No cherry.  She wishes they had just omitted the flavor from the description or thrown a heaping spoonful of tart cherry preserves right on top.

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Hello! I am cherry sales-kitten and I can help!

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Wood-grilled Butcher + Larder Polish sausage, sauerkraut, neon relish, peppers & onions, runny egg

M: This was Nightwood’s cracked out version of a polish sausage complete with Chicago’s token neon green relish.  Miss Fats seriously struggled to get this monster into her mouth, but once she did, she was all about it.  The sausage was so tasty: perfectly tender and full of porky flavor that wasn’t over powered by spices (sausage often has too much fennel seed for Miss Fats).  Obviously this paired well with the sauerkraut and runny egg: two ingredients that cannot fail.

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Pure joy.

J: What M actually said about this dish was, “I’M INTO YOU,” while pointing at it with her fork. Miss Fats forgot the sausage came with all that sauerkrauty gloop. Not a huge fan. It overwhelmed all the other flavors. Stupid bossy sauerkraut. But look at that eggsplosion! Best!

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Bagel sandwich – Rushing Water’s smoked trout cream cheese, slaw, bacon, an over-easy egg and tots

M: This was a very tasty bagel sandwich.  The crispy bagel (Miss Fats needs to eat more bagels) and crunchy bacon were paired with mustardy sauciness and (always appreciated) runny egg.  Despite fully enjoying this dish, Miss Fats is disappointed to report the lack of smoked trout flavor.  She is ALWAYS excited about the prospect of smoked trout (there may not be a better smoked fish) and could not wait to get her salty-fishy cream cheese on.  However the shmear fell short: little-to-no fish flavor.  Still a damn good sandwich, but she was all excited about that trout! Guess Miss Fats’ fish luck ran out.

J: The fish luck didn’t run out! We just transferred some of it for ultra convenient parking spaces and ice cream luck. The bagel sammy was better than the sausage, but Miss Fats had to remove some of the bacon, because you just shouldn’t do surf n turf n egg like this. TOO MANY ANIMALS. It was too much!!! Miss Fats got spoiled with the ginorm serving of smoked fish they received at Jam, so the cream cheese did seem lackluster in comparison. None of this really matters though, because have a look at these breakfast potatoes….

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tater tots

M: Ok these tater tots deserve a post all in their own.  Miss Fats could probably spend a full twenty minutes describing these to you.  Supposedly tater tots are a “food trend” now, but team Miss Fats has been munching on these suckers since birth.  Well maybe not these gourmet tots.  Nightwood’s tater tots were perfectly soft and tender inside and crazy crunchy deliciousness on the outside.  BALANCE. (Insert nonsense food talk about texture.)   This shit celebrated that potato.  Though Miss Fats will continue to order tater tots whenever she enters a bar, she will always remember just how good a tot can be.  And then probably run home and make a rez for brunch at Nightwood.

J: New plan is to contact chefs from Nightwood, Little Goat, and Jam, and have them make a mashed potato out of the Jam potatoes, then apply a Nightwood crispy filter and tempura fry them like Little Goat. It would be the best. The. Best. Ever. These were so so so so so ridiculously crispy. Each entree came with three of these golf-ball sized tater gems, but Miss Fats would have happily eaten a pile of these on their own, maybe with some different dipping sauces. #dreams
Oh yeah, and the fine staff at Nightwood kept our coffee cups FULL. So they get 10/10 coffee points from Miss Fats. Which is important. Coffee points are better than brownie points.

after-brunch

Miss Fats wanted to take a nap after this, but instead WAS AWESOME AND WENT ON MORE ADVENTURES.

Cut to Andersonville.  (Don’t ask why we made this jump.  Just know that some serious appetite was created in the process. Aka sitting in traffic listening to Top 40 and wishing we were at the Chinese New Year parade.)

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George’s – A new instant favorite for Miss Fats! George’s offers more options and amazing flavors than anywhere else around, with super cute chalkboard drawings & vintage photos with funny captions. And a photo of a raccoon eating ice cream with a bear or something. Yes please.

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How Miss Fats felt after they conquered George’s.

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coconut, birthday cake, horchata ice cream

J: This was a greedy combination of three flavors. Miss Fats could not decide between these three, pistachio nut, “Kitty Kitty Bang Bang” (a cheesecake ice cream with raspberry ripple, Oreo and chocolate chunks), and a raspberry soy ice cream that looked pretty darn yums. Unfortch, George’s doesn’t offer a size option for “Insane Gluttonous Food Bloggers Who Think They Can Justify Eating ALL The Ice Cream Because They’re Going To Write About It Later,” so Miss Fats had to choose.
The coconut would have been great on its own, as would the horchata, they were both subtle, rich, and got lost in the birthday cake wonderfulness. Miss Fats is a big fan of super tacky ‘party cake’ flavored ice cream, this was just like, THAT, but made out of REAL food ingredients. And had windex-blue swirlies in it! George’s horchata flavor was maybe a little bit too subtle for us, the cinnamon rice-milk gelato at Cafe Spiaggia really hit a better balance with their spices. Overall, Miss Fats found everything they tried at George’s to be better than Baume & Brix’s Fish Cream. SHOCKING!

IMG_20051 scoop Heaps of Love: oreos, pecans, caramel, chocolate ripple, cookie dough in vanilla ice cream; 1 scoop Yippie Skippie: peanut butter cups, caramel ripple, and more crack Miss Fats cannot remember; topped with hot fudge and peanut butter

M: Miss Fats fears she may have just given you a sugar attack just by listing those ingredients.  This was literally the most indulgent chocolate-cookie-peanut butter-caramel crazy time that Miss Fats has ever had.  It was someone gave her free reign and asked her to list all her favorite sweet treats and shoved them into a sundae.  She’d like to think that her six year old self dreamed this one up, but let’s get real: this is pure adult Miss Fats.  Not even child Miss Fats would have even gone this far.  And boy was that good.  While picking flavors Miss Fats was faced with her usual crisis: top with hot fudge or peanut butter??  She asked the kind woman at George’s which to do, and she made the reasonable rec to go with fudge… and THEN TOPPED IT WITH BOTH.  WIN. It was like every spoon full was a new treat: Miss Fats spent most bites exclaiming what new discovery she’d made.  This sundae is purely for chocoholic professionals.  Beware of choco-salty-sweet flavor explosion.

Hey, it also turns out it was the one month anniversary of Miss Fats! Four weeks ago Miss Fats was enjoying/taking unprofessional photos of some sundaes on a Sunday… and Sunday Sundaes was born. Miss Fats didn’t realize this till they were deep in the middle of today’s ice cream divertissement and had a bit of deja vu. Yay Team Miss Fats!!!

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cat art from the Andersonville Galleria, where there were no treats. but that’s a story for a different day…

galentines part 1: affordable fetes from miss fats

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image courtesy of Michelle Taylor

Happy Galentines everyone! Miss Fats is a HUGE supporter of this made-up holiday.  She doesn’t need any excuses to brunch or celebrate with girlfriends, but whatever, she’ll take it.  Since Miss Fats remains technically single this year (though obvi her better half of Miss Fats is her real valentine), Galentines is getting a double feature: february 13 AND 14.  So for all you out there looking to share galentines (or valentines) with friends, Miss Fats is sharing some ideas for budget entertaining.

This past weekend she hosted two little get togethers: a larger dinner celebration for a friend, and a valentines cookie decorating dinner party.  Since she’s in grad school, budgets are tight. However Miss Fats is obsessed with a deal.  And both of these parties were a steal.  (She hopes her excessive enthusiasm for thriftiness doesn’t cheapen the experiences for those readers out there who might have attended one of these shindigs!)  Now, none of this is Martha-style, but both parties are fun, casual ways of providing guests the opportunity to play with their food while you don’t have to do all the work.  Now put your hostess hats on and get the partay started (sorry, that just happened).

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Gyoza Making Party: 12 guests, 2 hours prep (3 including dessert)

Yeah, Miss Fats just wanted to give you a taste of just how epic gyoza party is.  We’re talking way too much food, satisfied guests and activities: all for about $30.  Yep. That’s right: $30. For 12 people. INCLUDING dessert.  For a party of this size it will require a bit of leg work, but this is easily scaled down depending on the number of guests.  Miss Fats is going to give you the run-down for the gyoza and sides, and for the dessert, you can head on over to Monday’s post.  So here’s how you do it:

Shopping List:

  • Round gyoza wrappers. This can be a little tricky to find, but for the most part, grocery stores (Whole Foods or fancier places) will carry them.  The ideal spot to find these, however, is an asian grocery store.  They’re dirt cheap (about $1.50) and can easily be frozen/hoarded. For 12 people, Miss Fats used 3 packages of about 40 wrappers. (FEAST)
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 package of firm tofu
  • 1.5 lbs of ground pork
  • 1 large ginger root
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • About 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbs sesame oil
  • Ingredients for Obachan Spinach (Miss Fats quadrupled this recipe)
  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • Any assortment of dipping sauces you’d like. (Miss Fats likes to keep it simple: she just mixes half white vinegar and soy for her gyoza dipping sauce).

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Prep:

Basically, get ready to spend at least an hour chopping. Miss Fats recommends turning on your favorite tunes and entering into a mental chop zone.  For lazy people out there, you can purchase things like shredded cabbage to make your live easier, though this will up the budget a bit.

Essentially all that needs to be done pre-guest arrival is chopping up and mixing together all the ingredients to make the filling.  This can even be done the day before (which Miss Fats almost prefers because it gives the yummy pork and tofu time to hang out in the flavorings).  For this past weekend’s party, Miss Fats opted to do both vegetarian and pork gyoza.  This means chopping everything up and simply dividing the ingredients between two giant mixing bowls.  Thinly chop the green onion and shred the cabbage (Miss Fats probably used about 4/5 of the large head of cabbage).  Grate in about 2 inches of fresh ginger into each bowl. Roughly chop the tofu (do not worry about this- it will look like crap) and throw all of it into one of mixing bowls).  In the other, dump in the pork.  Divide the soy, and sesame oil between the two bowls (this does not need to be exact by any means) and mix!

Filling

Store your filling in the fridge until guest arrival.  Meanwhile, make that Obachan Spinach, and about 30 minutes prior to guest arrival, begin the rice.

Spinach

Party Activities:

At your dining room table, set up your big bowls of filling, wrappers with small spoons to go around, a couple of trays or baking pans to put the gyoza on, and a few bowls of water.

Now it’s time to teach folks how to fill.  Miss Fats thinks that this blog did a much better job documenting the process, so she asks you to head over there for instructions.  While peeps are hard at work, you should set up a couple of nonstick frying pans and a steamer if you have one, on the stove. For a crowd this size, Miss Fats highly recommends as many cooking pans as possible.  It seriously speeds up the process.

To pan fry the gyoza, heat some canola or vegi oil to medium high in a nonstick pan.  Once the oil is hot, place the flat side down and allow to brown (about 1-2 minutes).  Pour about 2 tbs of water into the pan and immediately cover with a lid.  Reduce heat to medium and allow the gyoza to steam through (about 7 minutes for the pork, less for the tofu).  (Just break one of those bad boys open to make sure they’re all cooked.) Repeat this process until your giant trays of gyoza are all done! (This is exactly why Miss Fats recommends also using the steamer.  That shit has three levels and doesn’t need to be attended to. Plus then guests get even more food options.)

To serve these up, Miss Fats just sent them out on some large trays and allowed people to grab what they wanted, along with the big bowls of rice and spinach.  Now there’s a rule to this party that Miss Fats fully believes in upholding.  There can be NO LEFTOVERS.  You and your guests did all that work, and frankly, those gyoza aren’t that great the next day, so get your fat pants on and FINISH them.

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Cookie Decorating Party: 5 guests, 2 hours prep (plus 1 hour a day prior)

This delightful little holiday-themed get together was a fun way for Miss Fats to share her love of baking with her friends, while indulging in some much-needed child-like crafting and nostalgia.  This party was basically part two of last week’s card crafting sesh, and this time it was Miss Fats’ turn to host.  For dinner, she kept it light with a hearty winter salad of brown rice, baby spinach and roasted sweet potatoes.  This allowed for maximum cookie consumptions during decoration.  The budget for this party came to about $30, which when you compare to the gyoza party, is not as much of a deal.  However this could easily be subsidized by asking folks to bring along sprinkles and candies. (Sprinkles ate up this budget.)  Miss Fats also recommends spreading the prep over two days, because the sugar cookie dough or even the baked-off cookies can easily be stored over night.

Shopping List:

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • About 2 tbs honey
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbs curry powder
  • 2 lemons
  • Feta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups butter (for all recipes)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups flour (plus extra for rolling)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Any assortment of sprinkles
  • Ziplock bags

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Day Before: make cookie dough and bake cookies

The day before the party, Miss Fats recommends just banging out these easy cookies.  Her favorite recipe is an old-school dough from an ancient copy of Joy of Cooking.  She will share it with you below:

Sugar Cookie Cuouts

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour

1. Beat butter and shortening on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar, baking powder and a dash of salt.  Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix in flour.  Divide dough in half and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out your dough on a floured surface to about 1/3 inch thick.  Cut out your hearts and bake for about 8 minutes (depending on the size of your cookies), or until edges are ever-so-slightly golden.

Store these in an airtight container for the next day.

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Day of Prep:

With all that pesky baking out of the way, all that needs to be done is the salad and frosting.  About an hour before the party, cook the brown rice.  Then work on the following components:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes:

3 diced sweet potatoes
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 inch grated ginger
2 tbs melted butter
2 tbs honey
1 tbs curry powder
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk honey, ginger, butter, oil and curry powder together.  Add potatoes and onion and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Roast for about 30 minutes or until they are tender and browned.

Dressing:

Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp honey
About 2 tbs olive oil
Salt and Pepper

1. Whisk together all the ingredients.  Add warm cooked brown rice and toss to coat.

To serve up this salad, lay down a bed of the baby spinach, followed by about a 1/3 cup of the brown rice, a couple of heaping spoon fulls of the potatoes, and finally top with a little feta.  Pretty, heathy and delicious.

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Ok ok, so far this party sounds pretty contained and bougie, right?  Well Miss Fats doesn’t do under-indulgent, prim and proper.  Not to mention, this valentines day themed party was seriously lacking chocolate.  So, because this meal was looking too healthy, Miss Fats decided at the last-minute, to throw together some salted double chocolate chip cookies for snacking (got to keep the energy up).

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Unfortunately, these were not factored into the budget because Miss Fats literally had all the ingredients on hand (obvi.)  She used Martha’s double chocolate chip cookie recipe , added salt, and simplified them by refusing to use more than one bowl.  Simply skip a couple of steps by melting the chocolate and butter together in the microwave, and moving directly to step 2 of the recipe.  Once the batter is done, sprinkle a little kosher salt over top.  Miss Fats also recommends allowing the dough to sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes to firm up: she found her second batch to be a lot fluffier once it had sat for a bit.

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Chocolate and Salt: literally one of the greatest combos in the world.

Now after enjoying your salads and cookie apps, Miss Fats recommends stepping away from your guests to make the buttercream frosting.  This will take you literally 5 minutes.

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Buttercream Frosting:

1 cup butter (2 sticks), soften to room temp (VERY IMPORTANT)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
food dye (optional)

optional: make your frosting chocolate buttercream.  All you need is 1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled

1. Beat the butter on high for about 2 minutes until fluffy,  and light in color.  Scrape down sides.  Sift in the sugar in batches (so as not to make a huge mess), beating to combine each time.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Beat to combine. Optional chocolate: remove about 2/3 of the frosting into other bowls.  Beat in melted chocolate into the remaining frosting.

2. In separate bowls, divide your frosting and mix in whatever colors you’d like.  Miss Fats kept it simple with white, pink and chocolate.  To make little pastry bags, distribute frosting into ziplock bags and simply cut the tip off of one corner.

And now it’s decorating time.  Miss Fats kept it simple my throwing down some paper bags to protect the table and allowed people to just have at it.

Deocrating

So much craft delight, with treats to take home.

IMG_0049Clearly Miss Fats’ friends are not the most adept pastry chefs, but it’s about the experience, people. Plus they all taste damn good.

Miss Fats hopes this inspires you to celebrate with your girlfriends today.  In the very least eat a waffle or watch a chick flick.

cupcakes and cooked fruit, or how miss fats got over her distaste for warm pineapple

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Miss Fats is not a picky eater. She’ll eat just about anything (apparently even toilet cookies. actually she won’t. don’t ask.) However, she has never been a fan of warm pineapple, particularly when paired with savory meats (get out of my life, Hawaiian pizza.) She gets it: for some this combo is out of control crazy good. But Miss Fats doesn’t really understand why anyone would want to mess with raw pineapple’s perfect tart flavor and magically slightly crisp and soft texture. Ok, enough of this: a battle that will never be won.

Anyway, this past weekend Miss Fats had some serious birthday cake to bake. The request: pineapple upside down cake. At first she vetoed, but quickly got over herself and decided to take on the challenge. Since she was baking for a crowd, she immediately went for her go-to cake form: the cupcake.

Pineapple

Researching this kitsch cake, Miss Fats found it to be relatively involved and contained some things she was not ok with: canned fruit, maraschino cherries, and too much sugar. However, with a couple of tweaks and a solid base recipe, she’s adapted this classic for you all. Welcome to the not-so-upside-down pineapple coconut cupcake.

Sauce

By refusing to turn these on their heads, the cupcakes have a ooey gooey bottom layer of caramely fruit, which contrasts with a light whipped cream frosting. (Not to mention this makes Miss Fats’ life a hell of a lot easier when she’s not having to scrub caramelized sugar off the bottom of her cake pans.)

Not-So-Upside-Down Pineapple Coconut Cupcakes
makes 16 cupcakes
cake recipe adapted from Caramelized Banana Upside-Down Coconut Cake

Bottom Ingredients:
1 fresh pineapple, peeled and cored
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp baking powder
heavy pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup coconut oil (you can substitute with canola or vegi oil)
2 tbs oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut milk (melted)
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs

Frosting Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar (can be adjusted based on your preference for level of sweetness)
toasted coconut for decorating (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line your cupcake pans with FOIL cupcake liners. (This is important: if you use the regular liners, there’s a good chance the hot caramel sauce and fruit will seep through and make a big ‘ol mess) Get your fruit tetris on: cut up your pineapple into little slices (approximately 1/2 inch thick) and arrange in the bottom of your liners (see pretty picture above).

2. Make the cake: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and ginger. Add the oils and milks, and whisk vigorously for 1 minute (or slightly longer if you have weak arms like me). Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until completely combined.

3. Make the caramel sauce: heat the butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer for about 4 minutes or until the sugar has all dissolved and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt (be careful! it will bubble a bit). Spoon about a tablespoon of the caramel into each cup. Spoon the cake batter over the pineapple caramel goodness. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Allow to fully cool before frosting.

4. Make the Frosting: beat the cream, sugar and vanilla on high until soft peaks form. (these soft peaks. not these.) To frost, I like to throw the whipped cream into a large ziplock bag, cut off the tip and create some pretty little swirls. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and enjoy!

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Miss Fats was VERY happy with the way these little delights turned out. She apologizes for not properly documenting the bottom layer, but eager guests were a bit too hungro to stop for photo ops. Despite her aversion to cooked pineapple, Miss Fats gives full pardon to these cakes. Using fresh pineapple allowed the fruit to keep a little bite that paired well with the slightly-crispy cake tops. Double yum. Miss Fats just hopes all the guests enjoyed them as much as she did: though she’s no expert on this cooked pineapple nonsense and therefore cannot expertly speak on these matters.

-EDIT: Other half of Miss Fats here, my lovely partner-in-thyme is being insanely modest. Everyone flipped the fuck out over these, they’re like, “I’m-a-girl-but-these-are-so-good-I’m-going-to-eat-three-even-if-everyone-IS-watching-me-shove-them-in-my-face-I-just-don’t-care-because-I-*have*-to-have-this-in-my-mouth-again” good. And if you have tastebuds, you should make them for yourself and your friends, even if they ARE girls.

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IMG_1699As icat said, Miss Fats has had a bit of a bad weekend.  However today was Super Bowl Sunday and Miss Fats was determined to buck up an celebrate the ultimate day of bad binge snacking with a playful and inventive dessert.

The challenge: use only what she had on hand.  What did this mean??
ULTIMATE BREAKFAST CUPCAKE ADVENTURE   

This monstrosity consists of a bottom layer of banana bread, followed by creamy baked french toast, topped with granola streusel and a maple syrup drizzle.  Sweet breakfast bomb.

It ended up being quite delicious: just imagine all your sweet breakfast breads on a plate covered in maple syrup.

Unfortunately Miss Fats doesn’t have a recipe for this one (mostly because she had no idea what the hell she was doing), but promises to make some tweaks (add bacon! more butter!), and share later. For now, just imagine some ooey gooey french toast and moist banana bread all up in your mouth.

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