Lately, I've been in this baking/cooking mood. People who know me know this is crazy because I'm always complaining that I hate to cook. But, there are moments when I just get in a mood to cook, and I go at it like an ant on meatskin (I love that saying from my mom.)
At any rate, I've been on this whole foods kick. I don't want to use artificial ingredients. I think our American diet is killing us and making food conglomerates and doctors rich. I don't want to do that. I want to live a long time and be healthy and rich so that I can buy cute shoes. You can never have too many cute shoes.
Anywho, about two years ago I stumbled on this site that I have fallen in love with: 101 Cookbooks I LOVE this site. It features vegetarian fare, but the recipes combines such exotic ingredients that I feel like I am some world traveler, sampling exotice, world cuisine. The site owner, Heidi Swanson, is also a photographer, and her pictures are wonderful. Definitely check it out. I will say though that some of the recipes use ingredients that are either exotic and hard to get, or pricey. However, with all my cooking knowledge that I've recently amassed, I've learned that you can substitute a lot of that pricey stuff for things that you already have in your kitchen.
For instance, this week's feature recipe was Unfussy Apple Cake. That's the other thing I love about 101 Cookbooks--the absolutely cool titles of the recipes. Back to my point. Since we're smack dab in the middle of fall, and there are apples to abound, I decided to make this cake. I figure, if it's unfussy, that's right down my alley because who wants to spend 3 hours making a cake? Have you ever made one of those Martha Stewart/Bon Appetit/Hoity-Toity cakes? Waaay too much time in the kitchen. By the time I'm finished, I'm covered in flour and clarified butter, and I'm too tired to even enjoy the fruit of my efforts. But not so with this cake. It was so easy.
You can get the recipe here. Now in this recipe, Heidi mentions something about Saigon cinnamon. I assume that I could probably get this at an Asian food market, but the only problem is that our Asian food markets don'tave it. The area we live in is still pretty rural, and it's just not the epicenter of haute cuisine.
At any rate, she describes the Saigon cinnamon as tasting like a red hot. I thought since I didn't have the Saigon cinnamon, why not add a bit of spice of my own? So I did. I know what I'm about to say sounds gross, but it was really, really good. I added nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon (regular), garam marsala, anise, and, hold on to your hats, a smidge of chili powder! Yes, chili powder! And you know what, that was a good cake! I topped it with a bit of her caramel sauce, and that cake was gone by morning. It was spicy without being overwhelming. I added walnuts, too (I have to have walnuts in almost every baked good. It's a requirement; like wearing a seatbelt.) Also, if you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can take a cup of milk and mix in about a tablespoon of white vinegar. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, and you have buttermilk. One last thing, Heidi used whole wheat pastry flour. I used freshly ground hard red wheat berries--it was really good. I don't know that this recipe would work with all purpose flour, though. You would probably have to adjust a thing or two. I think the whole wheat flour makes it a little heartier and holds the apples and buttermilk just a little better. But what do I know? I'm new at this :)
My family are my resident guinea pi--, er um, taste testers, and they all said they loved it. They weren't being nice, either. When they don't like something, believe me they let me know.
Well, I'm off to try baking some more things. I have a taste for orange-cardomom scones! Yum!