June 27, 2011

Vietnamese Baguettes

I'm going to make this quick because, well, I haven't slept more than four hours straight in about a week (the child), and I've been busy writing restaurant reviews (which cost more to "research" than I get for writing them), and it's late... and I want to go to bed.

I guess I've been under the Asian influence lately, but I haven't been able to get Vietnamese baguettes out of my head. I've had them a few times from various places and have some valuable advise for you from these experiences: 1. if unidentifiable meat grosses you out, go for the vegetarian option and 2. the weird mayonnaise sauce is always sitting out on the counter and then is spread in a thick, warm layer onto your sandwich. So, you might want to go sauce-less and meat-less. Or, just make them at home.

Vietnamese baguettes
makes about 4 baguettes
1 long baguette, cut into 4 sandwich-size slices
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (rice vinegar would work also)
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/4 jalepeno, thinly sliced
1/2 of a small pickling cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce*
1 tbsp garlic chili sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp honey
1 or 2 cups shredded pre-grilled chicken or pork, or fried or grilled tofu
1 cup cilantro
Combine lime juice and vinegar in a bowl or pyrex. Add veggies (radishes through bell pepper). Let sit for at least an hour (I did four hours). Drain before assembling sandwiches.
For the sauce, combine the soy sauce through honey, stirring well to mix.
To assemble baguette: pour about 1 tbsp of the sauce onto the bread, then layer meat or tofu, pickled veggies, and cilantro. Enjoy.
*a note on 10/21/13- I must have used low sodium soy sauce for the sauce, because I made it again, and holy moley was it salty! Perhaps reduce the soy sauce or use a low sodium version

June 23, 2011

Double Chocolate Mango Scones

This is going to sound ridiculous... oh gosh... I'm a little embarrassed, so I'll just say it and get it over with: I was totally obsessed with this show called Psych last fall when all I did was sit on the couch and feed a new born all day long (I put "was obsessed" in past tense only because I watched every episode that is currently available on netflix), and one time the main character (Shawn Spencer if anyone is interested) mentioned something so quickly and in passing that you would have only caught it if you were as consumed with baked goods as I am; he said: "double chocolate mango scones."

I haven't been able to get them out of my mind since. 
I feel that this is comparable to going to the mall and later suffering from buyers remorse over a particular dress you didn't purchase, and finally your wise friend says to you "You can't stop thinking about that dress, therefore you should buy it." Well, I don't dream of clothes... but I've dreamt of those scones. 

Today was definitely the day. To continue yesterdays drama, I was awake at 2:30 am for an hour, and then up for good at 5:30. And I must say, nothing is more comforting when you are deleriously tired than a chocolaty baked good. These scones were just the ticket: rich and indulgent, yet not too sweet. The mango is not overwhelming; my husband, who apparently doesn't "love mangoes," scarfed one down as soon as he was home from work, and then later for dessert. I, on the other hand, only had half of a scone. I'm really trying to watch what I eat. Psych.

Double Chocolate Mango Scones
Adapted from Cindy's Scones from her comment on this post (thanks again, Cindy!)
makes 12 scones (or 8 if you are like me)
 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons sugar 
1 tablespoon baking powder 
6 tablespoons butter 
1 egg 
1/2 cup milk 
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup ripe mango, cubed

Preheat oven to 425 F. Assemble ingredients.
Food processor instructions: Add dry ingredients (flour through baking powder) to processor bowl. Add butter cut into several pieces, and process with steel blade until mealy in texture (it will look like beautiful brown sand). Add egg and milk and process just until the mixture holds together. Knead on lightly floured board. Sprinkle chocolate chips and mango on top, then knead in. Roll out to about 3/4" thick. Cut into wedges and bake on ungreased pan (wedges should not touch each other) at 425 for 8-10 minutes (I made them larger, so they took 12). Brush with egg or milk before baking if desired. If making more than one batch, there's no need to wash the bowl and blade between batches.

By-hand instructions. Blend dry ingredients in large bowl. Add butter and mix in with pastry cutter or fork or two butter knives, until mealy. Add egg and milk until the mixture holds together. Continue as above.

Note- the directions for this recipe were copied and pasted from a comment that Cindy made, then I put in a few notes.

Survey: Does my childs' lack of hair cut really make him look like a Justin Bieber want-to-be like people keep saying? Please say "no."

June 22, 2011

Thai Chicken Pizza

Let me just state for the record: I love my son. I do, I really do. But today he woke up from that holy and sacred period of the day (commonly referred to as "nap time") on the wrong side of the crib.
From the moment he woke up he seemed to need more sleep. However, he didn't think that he required nap number two, despite all my efforts to convince him that indeed, he did.
At one point, as I was attempting to cook dinner, he was throwing such a tantrum that I decided to put him in his high chair and offer him some food to bribe him into silence. Instead of what I put on his tray, he concluded that he had to have a piece of lime that was on the counter nearby, and he stated this loud and clear. Fed up, I gave it to him.

This is how the entire afternoon went. It took me at least three hours to make this pizza, which is actually so fast that Rachel Ray could probably make it on 30 Minute Meals (how she isn't sweating like a pig by the end of the show, I don't understand; she is basically sprinting for a half hour).

If the pizza had turned out even a little less scrumptious, I wouldn't have posted tonight. But, it was so good that I had to share. I love Thai food, and I love pizza (cheese on bread, what could be better?) and this is the perfect mix of the two. Lane and I have ordered a Thai chicken pizza from a place near us a couple times which not only seems over priced ($20 for a medium not including tip? give me a break), but is also lacking in the number of fresh veggies, which I can pile on when I make it at home.

Not to toot my horn, but I think this pizza was way better than the one from the pizzeria anyway.

Thai Chicken Pizza
for the pizza dough:
adapted from Bread Machine Magic
makes 1 lb of dough
3/4 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground flaxseed meal (optional)
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp sugar (or honey; use honey if making with all whole wheat flour)
2 tsp Red Star active dry yeast for bread machines
Place all ingredients in bread pan of bread machine, select dough setting, press start.
If you don't have a bread machine: buy the dough, or make this dough.

for the peanut sauce:
1/2" piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup ground peanuts (a.k.a. natural peanut butter)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp water*
1/4 to 1 tsp chili garlic sauce**
Put all ingredients in a mini-food processor, mix until well combined. The sauce should be like a thick paste. If you store it in the refrigerator until you use it, make sure to bring it to room temp before spreading over the pizza dough.
*the peanut butter I used was dry, so this was needed; if the peanut butter you use is oily, this may not be needed
**We like our Thai food spicy-hot, so we did 1 tsp, maybe even a bit more; add 1/4 tsp at a time to make sure you don't over-spice for your taste buds

1/2 cup sugar snap peas (or snow peas), trimmed
1 carrot, cut into short matchsticks
1/2 bell pepper, cut into thin slices (red would be pretty, but green were cheaper)
about 1/4 of a red onion, chopped
1 cup shredded pre-cooked chicken
2 cups mozzarella, grated
cilantro and/or bean sprouts

To make the pizza: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll dough out onto a greased pan to desired thickness. Spread peanut sauce and then the first five toppings (through chicken) evenly over dough. Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove and sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake 15 to 20 more minutes, or until dough in the middle is done all the way through. One way to do this: After baking about 15 minutes total, take pizza off pan and bake directly on rack- but watch it closely, or it will burn. (We all know this can be difficult for me.)
Garnish with cilantro and/or bean sprouts. Enjoy.

June 21, 2011

Asparagus rolled in chicken with Caprese potato salad

I have to apologize. Sundays' post was kind of a bummer post. I just didn't sound like my usual upbeat self, which is ridiculous becuase there are so many things to be positive about. To make it up to you, I will write this post Martha Stewart-style, filled with all good things.
First good thing: James finally found a martini glass his size...

Second: we went to our favorite coffee shop today and loitered for about an hour on the couch (and in front of the pastry case)...

Third: it was so warm that James decided clothing was optional...

Fourth: we had a great dinner, and I didn't even have to turn on the oven.

Asparagus rolled in chicken
serves 2
2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper
olive oil
1/4 cup asiago, grated
2 tbsp pine nuts
about 16- 20 thin asparagus stalks
1 lemon
Pound both chicken breasts to about 1/2" thickness (I put the chicken in a large ziplock bag and beat it with a rolling pin). Sprinkle both sides of both breasts with salt and pepper. Massage about 1/2 tsp olive oil over both sides of chicken with your hands or a piece of saran wrap if you are really against touching raw meat. Sprinkle one side of the each breast with 2 tbsp asiago. Then create a row of pine nuts width wise along the middle of each breast. Stack 8 to 10 stalks of the asparagus on top of the pine nuts. Roll each breast up tightly so that the pine nuts don't fall out. Secure with tooth picks. Place a large slice of lemon on top of each breast while grilling.
To cook the chicken: place on a piece of foil, then grill over indirect heat at about 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until meat thermometer registers at at least 165 degrees. Serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy.

Caprese Potato Salad
Serves: many. Bring it to a picnic or bbq. It won't go bad as fast as the classic potato salad, no mayo!
about 2 lbs red potatoes
2 cups tomatoes, chopped (I use on the vine tomatoes)
2 cups fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 to 2  tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper (like, 25ish turns on the mill)
1/2 (or more if you have it) cup torn basil
1 lemon
Scrub potatoes and place in a large pot of water, covering with water by 2". Bring to a boil, then salt water and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook potatoes until a knife can easily cut through the middle of the potatoes.
Drain and cut into cubes. Let cool fully before tossing in a large bowl with tomatoes and mozzarella.
Drizzle the potato mixture with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Add basil and toss gently. Cover and let chill at least 2 hours (or over night).
Before serving either cut lemon into wedges and serve on plate next to salad, or squeeze lemon juice over salad and toss to coat. Enjoy.

June 19, 2011

Boccone Dolce (trifle)

I have been thinking a lot about birthdays lately, and why we celebrate them. Maybe because this is the first birthday that I really was not too excited about turning a year older (I know that you readers in the extremely-late-thirties crowd are rolling your eyes right now, but I'm just being honest).

I didn't think that 25 was that big of a deal until a friend asked me about a month ago how I was feeling about turning a quarter of a century. "The next big birthday is 30, you know," someone else said to me. That's when I really started thinking about it.

The first twelve or so birthdays are exciting because you have an excuse to eat as much sugar as you want, you get a bunch of fun toys, and all your friends get to come over. Then you're thirteen, finally a teenager. Then fourteen, entering high school. Fifteen you get your permit. Sweet sixteen you can drive. On and on the excitement builds... until about twenty five.

All the birthdays leading up to this year have made me look with excitement and anticipation at the year ahead. This year was different. This year, I felt myself looking back for the first time.

Maybe it was because this was my first year as a mother, and if any life situation should make you feel like you've grown up fast, parenthood is it. At any rate, I look back on twenty five blessed years of life that have rolled out in front of me, step by step. It seems that most of the time the next bit of the path was only visible as I was in the middle of stepping onto it. But I think that is what celebrating birthdays is about as you get older: celebrating your ability to adapt and cope and keep taking those life steps as they come, one at a time.
It is at this point in my rambling that I will bring us back to food. We will look at this dish as a micro-example of a larger life lesson: the ability to adapt as life happens.

Friday was my birthday, and I wanted- no needed- to make my favorite dessert in the whole world: boccone dolce. Imagine layers of meringue drizzled with chocolate and smothered with fresh seasonal berries and fluffy pillows of heavenly whipped cream. That is what I made, more or less.

The second life lesson of this post: waxed paper does not equal parchment paper. The meringue layers (which require about four hours, start to finish, plus a babysitter) are supposed to be baked on parchment paper. I thought the cheap equivalent, waxed paper, would work. So, so wrong. Instead of easily peeling off as the parchment paper would have done, the waxed paper melted to the meringue and formed a sticky adhesive that was pretty much impossible to remove. Except in chunks.
(Insert picture of my mother and I frantically trying to chisel off crumbling meringue pieces from the wax paper at the time I am supposed to be somewhere with completed boccone dolce in tow. Photo unavailable due to the situation just described.)

As a result, I- now being an extremely mature, level headed, rolling with the punches 25 year old- made boccone dolce trifle. Which was delicious and just what I had been craving, despite its appearance being far from the beautiful layered cake from Papa Haydns.
This recipe, which I shamelessly copied and pasted from this site and then wrote in my own notes, is supposedly the Papa Haydns' recipe. It tasted pretty dang close to me.

Boccone Dolce (trifle)
Serves: oh so many! 20 people who have already had dinner maybe?
For the meringue layers, you'll need the following:
1 1/2 cups egg whites
2 cups sugar
(about 4 hours, and a babysitter, as stated above)
1.  Whip the egg whites on high until they come to a stiff peak
2.  Turn down the mixture to medium speed and start adding sugar 1 Tablespoon at a time, every 2 to 3 minutes.  This allows the sugar to be absorbed.  You'll notice the meringue will become very thick and glossy.
3.  You will need to line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Draw the circles (the size you want your meringue layers to be) on the under side of the parchment.
4.  Take a rubber spatula and start spreading the meringue inside the circles.
5.  Bake at 225 degrees for 2 and a half hours. (I only took about 2 hours, 10 minutes)  Meringue should be white in color and crispy all the way through.  If they're still soft after this time, you can bake them longer.  The low temperature will prevent them from browning too quickly. Let cool completely before carefully peeling off parchment paper.

For the sweetened whipping cream, you'll need the following:
4 cups heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar (or more, to your taste)
1.  Whip cream to soft peak
2.  Add vanilla and sugar
3.  Whip cream to stiff peak -- then it's ready to use.  The cream needs to be stiff in order for it to hold the meringue layers together.
4. Flavoring the whipped cream to compliment the fruit with a smidgen of spice like ground cardamom or an orange liqueur adds another a counter point to the classic vanilla.
You also need: 
- 6 cups berries (I used strawberries because they are in season in Oregon, and amazing. Use whatever you have fresh and local)- 8 oz melted semisweet chocolate (the recipe calls for 6, but 8 is more realistic in my chocolate-loving opinion)
Let's put together the Boccone Dolce:
1.  Put one layer of meringue on your serving plate (or 1/3 of the crumbled meringue chunks into the serving bowl)
2.  Drizzle melted chocolate over the layer
3.  Spread 1/4 of your whipped cream on top of the layer, and top with berries.
4.  Spread 1/4 of the cream on top of the berries.
5.  Repeat with next layer
6.  Top with 3rd meringue layer.  Drizzle with chocolate.
7.  Decorate with edible fresh flowers, fruit, mint or geranium leaves.  Enjoy!

Source: Papa Hyden’s Natasha Ohlman - Portland, Oregon

June 15, 2011

(edible) Summer host/hostess gift #1

I decided a couple weeks ago that I would create an entire post about some of the fantastic edible host/hostess gifts you can give at all those summer bbqs and dinner parties you are invited to. But then, we went to a couple parties and ended up just bringing six packs of Twilight (the seasonal Deschutes beer, not six DVDs of that teen drama gone Dracula.)
So instead I have chosen to present them to you one at a time. Here is the first installment:
Potted plant with chalkboard labels
you need:
chalk board paint (a small tub may seem spendy, but it goes a long way)
paint brush
duct tape
terra cotta pot
Simply mark off on the pot the section you would like to be the label with the duct tape. Paint two coats, waiting for the first to dry completely before applying the second. Carefully remove the tape after the second coat has completely dried and ta da! a chalkboard label. Then plant the plant into the pot and write what it is on the chalkboard. This last step may seem unnecessary, but it is very helpful for people like me who know nothing about gardening. Also helpful is the erasable label for people like me who can't keep a plant alive for longer than a week.

Now I just need to be invited to a party.... hint, hint

June 14, 2011

Turkey, basil, and nectarine paninis with balsamic vinegar

My dear readers, it has been far too long. You are most likely carrying on, as if nothing is missing in your lives, but I am having withdrawals. I cannot believe it has been four days since I have posted anything. There are many things I could hold responsible for this long lapse of time between blogs, namely a certain little guy who is in a stage that I will call really-fussy-and-cranky-unless-I-am-destroying-Mommy's-Calaphon-pans.

However, I cannot entirely blame my lack of time in the kitchen on the munchkin.
There was also, to put it bluntly, a failure. It was my first real failure at a dish that I thought would be blog-worthy. It just didn't make the cut. I really wanted it to, mainly because I took some pretty pictures of the ingredients.

My last reason for not blogging that I will bore you with is this: we are house hunting. Ugh.
I am learning quickly that this is not as glamorous as one would think. I originally thought that poking around in a bunch of old houses in Northeast Portland would be enjoyable. And it was, until we put an offer on one and we didn't get it. And then we looked at a bunch more that apparently already had offers on them. And then we realized that no matter what we buy, it will probably need work. Maybe a lot of work.
The process is chaotic and makes us both tense and exhausted. We usually arrive home late from house hunting and, because of the first mentioned reason, I have nothing ready for dinner. So, I make paninis.
They are so easy and, like pasta, you can pretty much throw anything into them and they taste amazing.
I really like the following combination, but some people- ahem, my husband- are not quite daring enough to try it with the nectarine, but he insists they are still good without.

Turkey, provolone, basil, and nectarine paninis with balsamic vinegar
(please excuse the lack of measurements, but really, they are just sandwiches.) 
loaf of good, fresh, artisan bread (I used ciabatta), cut into thin slices
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
turkey lunch meat (I used peppered turkey)
basil leaves
nectarines, sliced
Turn a pan or stove-top grill to medium heat. Lightly brush one side of a slice of bread with olive oil, then set it down, oiled side down. Pour a small amount of vinegar over the other side of the bread (about 1 tbsp). Layer meat, then nectarines, then basil, then cheese on top. Place another slice of bread over the cheese, and lightly brush with oil. Place on grill, then press down with another pan on the top of the sandwich. Grill about three minutes, or until grill marks are present and cheese is melting. Flip and grill, pressing down, on the other side about three minutes. Serve with a large side salad (and by that I mean Kettle pepper and salt crinkle chips, yum). Enjoy.

PS I promise something better is coming, because Friday is my birthday, and I must make something fabulous of course. Here are some hints for you:
1. I am collecting egg whites
2. I bought heavy whipping cream, bittersweet chocolate, and vanilla extract at the store today.
3. I am praying for fresh berries (so optimistic) to be available at the Farmers Market tomorrow.
If you guess correctly and post your guess in the comment section before Friday, you will win a free copy of my cookbook*

*minor stipulation- you must first get me a book deal, and your book will be scheduled to arrive sometime late 2015

June 10, 2011

Happy Graduation Strawberry Scones

Parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and carloads full of distant relatives are headed to Corvallis this weekend. It is Oregon State University's graduation weekend.
This weekend makes me look back one year ago to my graduation weekend: the cap and gown, the parties, being handed my diploma... oh wait. I did not participate in any of that. I was 36 weeks pregnant.

(insert picture of me pregnant here... I seem to have deleted them all... can't imagine why...)

No, I did not sit in Reser Stadium for hours, crossing my legs in agony because I couldn't escape to use the bathroom, or waddle across the stage (still having to use the bathroom), or wear the cap and gown, looking like a ridiculous hippo in a tunic. My mind was on other small details that were to soon enter my life.
My husband's family and I did attend his engineering graduation ceremony (during which, I had to use the bathroom), and then we had a little party afterward. At this party, his grandparents gave me the best graduation gift ever: a cuisinart food processor. Although the whole idea behind the gift of a food processor was so that I could make baby food- which I did- I also love it for the ease it provides when making so many other things. Including scones.

Scones are easy to make regardless, but the food processor makes the process about five minutes. So, happy graduation to all you grads. And happy graduation to me. Have a scone.

Happy Graduation Strawberry Scones
makes 8 large scones, or 10 regular sized
adapted from allrecipes.com

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat white flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, cold (actually, I used a couple less tbsps than this, and they were still plenty rich)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • a couple tbsps turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add butter, pulse until mixture is like a course meal. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg and milk, and add to flour mixture, pulsing until incorporated.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly. Gently knead in strawberries and almonds. Roll dough out into a 1/2 inch thick round. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cut into 8 (or 10) wedges, and place on greased baking sheet, spread apart from one another so that they will not touch as they bake.
Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown. Let cool a few minutes before enjoying with a hot cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy.

June 09, 2011

Corn encrusted chicken with fruity pico de gallo and cilantro lime rice

I have had corn encrustment on the brain lately. "Oh gross," you are thinking,"is she really going to tell us about her foot disease on a cooking blog?" But no, I'm not referring to some sort of foot disease. I'm talking about encrusting meat with corn meal, and then cooking it.

I really don't know why this idea popped into my head, but it has been there a while, and it won't go away. So today I decided I would finally do it.
Originally I kept thinking about corn encrusted halibut, but something (we'll call it lack of monetary means to support possible culinary disaster with expensive fish) stood in my way. So, the old standby: skinless, boneless chicken breast.

On a day like today- in the mid-seventies- you don't want to turn on the oven, so I decided to barbecue the chicken, and I was shocked (for some reason) when it actually turned out really good. This is a great summer meal because its light and fresh tasting, really simple, fairly healthy, and the rice dish could even be served cold so you wouldn't have to turn the oven on at all.

Corn encrusted chicken with fruity pico de gallo 
and cilantro lime rice
serves 2
1 jalapeno, minced
1 cup pineapple, diced
1/2 cup mango, diced
1 cup red onion, diced
1 tbsp lime juice
3/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided + more for serving
2 chicken breasts
1/3 cup cornmeal (such as Maseca)
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper
about 3 cups cooked rice
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp lime juice
several turns freshly ground pepper

for serving:
sour cream
cotija cheese
lime wedges
Combine first five ingredients in a medium bowl, add 1/4 cup of the chopped cilantro. Mix and set aside.
Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry with a paper towel. Season both sides of both chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Spread corn meal out in an even layer on a plate and sprinkle with cayenne pepper and cumin. Lay both chicken beasts onto the corn meal, then flip them, so that the corn meal sticks to both sides of the chicken. Heat a bbq to medium-high heat. Cook chicken on each side for about 8 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reaches 165.
Mix pre-cooked rice together with salt, lime juice, pepper, and 1/2 cup of the chopped cilantro.
Serve each chicken breast with a scoop of rice, the fruity pico de gallo, sour cream, cotija, lime wedges, and the remaining cilantro. Enjoy. 

June 08, 2011

Silk Espresso White Russian Mocha Cupcakes

One day a week I am privileged to "work" at an incredible place called Silk Espresso in Gresham. (I put "work" in quotations because I actually consider it my day off. I get to drink amazing coffee and have adult interaction, enough said.)

I definitely consider myself a coffee snob/expert. Here are my qualifications: 1) I was born, raised, and currently reside in the Pacific Northwest 2) I have worked in the coffee business for four years 3) I have been to two coffee conventions (if you attend a convention about any subject that makes you an expert, and a nerd) 4) my wedding was coffee themed for Pete's sake, need I continue? 
My point is, I feel that I can recognize good coffee.

But Silk is not just good coffee; it is excellent coffee. The espresso is sweet, rich, and smooth. It pours out of the portafilter (coffee lingo) spout looking like liquefied caramel. It was at Silk that I was taught to smell the shoots- as well as watch and time them- to make sure they are pulling correctly. And Silk shots smell like a sweet piece of heaven... 

The tasty espresso is not the only reason Silk has a special place in my heart. I really love Silk because of relationships.

I know that may sound like an odd statement, but relationships are actually what makes Silk what it is. It seems to me that these relationships are what Silk means to the other baristas and to the customers that find sanctuary there as well. 

It's like this special place that connects us all to each other; and even though the only way I know some of these people is because I make their quad mocha with extra whip, through Silk I am able to touch their lives in a small way, and maybe even make it a little bit better.

The relationships that I have formed with the owner, the other employees, the regulars, and even those customers that come in once, and leave smiling- these relationships are the real reason I keep coming back for more Silk. 

Okay, before I get too gushy and misty-eyed (something that does not happen often with me), lets get to the sugar.

I wanted to make a cupcake that celebrated a classic Silk drink. But, oh! so many options. I decided that it had to be chocolate, so that eliminated Silk's caramel cream latte, made with real caramel and vanilla (perhaps a project for later). I considered Silk's PBJ (peanut butter and joe), but peanut butter and chocolate cakes are done so often together, plus I wanted something with a white cake so that it would show off the coffee granules embedded in the cake. Silk has many white mochas, but I thought the white russian would be adventurous, so I took it on. I am pleased with the results, especially the super simple kahlua buttercream frosting which is, if I do say so myself, to die for.

Anyways, these cupcakes are definitely for coffee lovers. In fact, I enjoyed one with my freshly brewed cup of Silk coffee this morning. Yup, that was breakfast... you won't judge me for it when you try them.

Silk Espresso White Russian Mocha Cupcakes
White Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes
Makes about 18, I think. i filled the tins way too full and only ended up with 12. Really, you should be making about 18. Remember to fill the unused tins with water so avoid burning the tins while they bake.
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp finely ground Silk espresso 
1/2 cup low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup milk*
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp + 2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
5 to 7 oz white chocolate**
about 18 chocolate-covered espresso beans, or plain espresso beans for garnish (chocolate shavings or white chocolate chips would also be cute)
Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and espresso. Measure out and whisk together yogurt and milk. Set aside.
In an electric mixer, beat together sugar, 4 tbsp butter, and salt until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.
In a double-broiler, or a make-shift one like I used by putting a stainless steel bowl on top of a pan, bring the water to a simmer. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter in the double-broiler, and add chocolate. Stir the chocolate, watching it the whole time as it melts (it's a beautiful thing). As soon as it has completely liquefied, add it to the butter/sugar mixture in the mixer, with the mixer on a low speed. 
Once the chocolate has been fully incorporated, add about a third of the flour/espresso mixture. Then add about a third of the yogurt. Continue to alternate adding the flour mixture and yogurt, ending with the flour. Mix until the batter is smooth. At this point, you must try the batter. It is amazing, like the consistency of mousse. 
Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling tins 1/2 way. No more. (trust me on this one)
Bake 15-20 minutes -until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean- at 350. Remove from oven and let sit in pan 15 minutes.
* I did not add milk to the batch I made; I only used the yogurt. However, after a day of refrigeration, the cupcakes were a little dry, so I added the milk to the recipe for moisture. 
** I used 3.5 oz (well, more like 3 oz because I had to sample for recipe related reasons, of course), and I just don't think the white chocolate taste came through enough. I feel completely comfortable telling you to at least double the amount I used. 
Kahlua Frosting
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp kahlua... If you are a minor, you could substitute really strong coffee (or straight espresso), but I would suggest just waiting until you're 21 to make this frosting. It is well worth the wait.
(note- I originally made the frosting with 1/3 c butter, 1 3/4 c powdered sugar, and not quite 3 tbsp kahlua, but it was just not enough frosting; however, this may have been due to my snacking -er, I mean, testing- so if you make it, let me know how the cake to frosting ratio is for you)
Beat together butter and powdered sugar with a handheld electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add kahlua and beat until evenly incorporated.
Spread an even amount of frosting on each cupcake. Garnish with chocolate-covered and plain espresso beans. Enjoy.