Great Friends and Yogurt Bombs

I still have so many posts to catch up on from the last couple of weeks, but today I’d like to talk about my experience this weekend while it’s fresh in my find.

I flew to St. Louis this weekend to meet up with my amazing friends Lisa and Mandy. I can’t tell you how much I love these ladies and I can’t tell you how good it was for my soul to get to spend time with them. As an added bonus I also got to make some new friends and share laughs with Becky from Love Every Day Life and her husband Ben and Nilsa from SoMi Speaks and her husband Sweets and their ridiculously adorable son Gavin. You know how sometimes a group of people meets and it just clicks. This was one of those times.

All in all it was a great weekend, however there was a truly crappy food related incident at the end.

I don’t really talk much about how incredibly awful it is to have potentially fatal food allergies. The reason I don’t talk about it is simple; I don’t want to think about it myself. Make no mistake though, it is awful, but I still need to live my life so most of the time I need shut those thoughts off and just push through.

Traveling with food allergies is not easy. I’m sure that if you think about it for about 30 seconds you can think of the many ways in which it would be difficult for food allergic people away from home and you’d likely be right about all of them. What you may not think about though the actual travel itself, the getting there and getting back on planes trains and automobiles.

Getting there is usually not so bad as I can just pack a cheese sandwich and some snacks from home in my carryon. My return trip is another story. Often I don’t have access to a supermarket or refrigerator before my return trip which means buying food at the transportation hub. Sometimes I can find cheese or yogurt in a refrigerated section. Usually though I’m not that lucky. Most often the only things I can find that are safe for me are processed packaged crap. You know, the kind of stuff that I never eat.

After a day of travel that involves nothing than chips and pretzels I always come home feeling sick so imagine my excitement that the breakfast buffet at our hotel had 4oz containers of yogurt that I could grab. It wasn’t my favorite kind of yogurt as I prefer to buy plain Greek yogurt and mix in my own fruit, but still those 4oz of Yoplait strawberry was a God send compared to what I knew would be available at the airport.

Lisa’s flight was leaving from a different terminal so after saying our goodbyes to her, Mandy and I made our way through the security line. We both put our luggage on the conveyer belt and walked through the metal detector. At the other side of the detector though, we heard the TSA agent who was screening our luggage call for a rescreen. Another agent came over and picked up my carryon and brought it over. “Is this yours?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied and instantly I knew, it must be because I hadn’t taken out my iPad!

The agent unzipped my bag and reached inside as I prepared my apology. The words were just about to form on my lips when he said in a stern voice, “This is not allowed!” as he held up his hand to reveal … yup you’ve probably guessed it by now… my yogurt!

I was literally stunned. All I could do was stammer, “But it’s not liquid!” because, uh, it isn’t! I was rewarded with a sharp look and was informed that my yogurt would be thrown out and my carryon rescreened. I. Was. Pissed. But as all travelers know that the TSA and their arbitrary rules have you by the balls. I am not the type to keep quiet when I know I’m right, but in this case there was no point. If you argue with a TSA agent all that will happen is they’ll go all SEAL Team 6 on you, take you in to a room meant for dangerous yogurt wielding criminals and then hold up everyone else on the security line in order to prove a totally useless point so instead I just sat there and watched him throw my  yogurt away.

Mandy’s flight left before mine so after saying goodbye to her I wandered the terminal looking for something to eat. As expected there was no yogurt, no cheese, nothing remotely resembling real food that was actually safe for me. My lunch consisted of a bag of cheezits and a bag of pretzels. I felt like crap. Awesome.

So here’s a big ol’ thank you from this allergic traveller to the TSA for keeping the world safe from potential yogurt bombs. I’m sure everyone reading this will feel a little more confident next time they fly.

Treating Myself To Dinner

So I’m still playing catch up.

The Friday after Rosh Hashanah I had an errand to run at Chelsea Market (and by errand I mean picking up done cookies at Eleni’s, my favorite nut free bakery!). Since Colicchio and Sons is just across the street I decided to buy myself a drink at the bar.

When I sat down I was delighted to find that they had my favorite beer in the world, Tröegs Dreamweaver, on tap.

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After a few sips, I realized that I was hungry. Luckily Colicchio and Sons offers pizzas that are affordable and filling. The bartender recommended the pizza with Taleggio, lardo, honey and figs, but I informed him that I was allergic to figs and went over my other allergies with him. He suggested I still get the pizza and he’d have the kitchen leave off the figs so I went with it.

While I was waiting for my pizza I talked to the bartenders about what a huge fan I am of Colicchio and Sons. I guess hearing that I’m a loyal customer prompted the always awesome staff to go the extra mile for me because a waiter came over and rewarded me with a tea cup of chilled corn soup with cucumber. OMG yum!

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And fresh baked Parker House rolls!

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And then it was time for this amazingly decadent pizza.

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Thank you Colicchio and sons for your fantastic food and impeccable service. You never fail me!

P is for… Peru. Feliz Año Nuevo!

¡Hola

Flag of Peru

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve blogged. It’s been an incredibly busy couple of weeks and every time I sit down to write I’m just too tired to even think.

One of the things that have kept me so busy is the Jewish High Holidays.  Two weeks ago we  celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and last week we celebrated Yom Kippur.

During Rosh Hashanah it’s traditional to eat sweet things to represent our wishes for a good and sweet year to come so this seemed like a perfect time to make Encanelado, Peruvian cinnamon cake filled with dulce de leche.

Making this cake presented quite a challenge, not because it was all that difficult to make, but because recipes were so hard to find and not very specific. I could only find two recipes in English. The majority of recipes were in Spanish so I translated a few more using Google Translate. As I said though, none of these recipes were very specific saying things like, “pour batter in to a rectangular or square pan” so there was a lot of finger crossing and educated guesses involved in making this cake.

First off was the making of the dulce de leche which I had heard could be sort of dangerous. Truthfully, it’s incredibly simple using the boil in can method and as long as you ALWAYS make sure the can is covered with water you’ll be fine. The most dangerous part for me was reminding myself that I needed the dulce de leche for the cake  and couldn’t just eat it right out of the can with a spoon.

You know you want me!

The next day, pre-made dulce de leche in hand, I arrived at my parents house ready to make the rest of my cake. It’s so nice to cook in a real kitchen… sigh… I digress…

All of the recipes I found were very similar and I was surprised by the high egg to flour ratio, but in my quest to keep these recipes fairly authentic I went with it. My one adjustment to the cake was that where the recipe called for a shot of Pisco, a Peruvian brandy, I replaced it with White Tequila. The Pisco is used to make a syrup that you drizzle on the cake, but the Tequila worked just as well and it made no sense to go buy an entire bottle of Pisco.

The role of Pisco is now being played by White Tequila.

After you make the cake and cool it you’re supposed to slice it in half lengthwise and fill it with the dulce de leche. I have no idea if the “rectangular pan” I chose, a 13×9 was too big or if I should’ve changed that strange egg to flour ratio, but the cake never grew higher that an inch so I made an adjustment and sliced the cake in half vertically.

Despite all this the cake still turned out to be a great way to ring in a good and sweet new year.

Are you there God? It’s me, Encanelado. How come I’m so flat? Why can’t I be like all the other cakes at school?

Encanelado

For the cake:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Large pinch of salt
  • plenty of cinnamon for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 13x9in pan or line with parchment paper.

Beat eggs until fluffy, add sugar.

In separate bowl sift together the flour and baking powder then add salt. Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and gently stir to incorporate.

Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 shot Pisco (or other strong clear alcohol such as White Tequila or Grappa)

In small sauce pan mix together sugar in water. Bring to a boil making sure sugar is dissolved. Add Pisco and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

For the filling:

  • 1 can dulce de leche

Use boil in can method mentioned above or another method if you prefer. I believe you can also buy this premade.

To assemble:

Once cake has cooled completely slice in half lengthwise or, if your cake is flat like mine was, vertically.

Soak bottom layer with half the syrup then cover with all of the dulce de leche. Cover with the top layer.

Pour the remaining syrup over the top layer than dust completely with cinnamon.

Serves 10-12

Yea, I’m flat, but I know how to work it.

FINAL VERDICT: B

This was a tough grade to come up with as my family all agreed that this cake had some textural issues, but the flavor was great.

The flat as a board cake wasn’t bad, but it was coarse and a bit dense. The bites where the syrup really soaked in where the best as they softened up the cake. The flavor however saved this cake. Dulce de leche and cinnamon are just natural partners, kind of like Luke and Lorelai (woot woot, Gilmore Girls reference there!). So the flavor was great and the dulce de leche just gave everything a decadent quality.

I will definitely be making this cake again because I’m determined to get it right. A taste that good deserves an equal partner in texture. I think I’ll just make a basic white cake next time or even experiment with cupcakes… cinnamon whipped cream topping anyone?

¡Buen provecho!