Cake or Death?

On our outing to Seattle Center today, Gloria noticed the signs for Seattle Children’s Theater and asked if she could see Stellaluna. I told her that we had tickets to see it two days before my birthday, which led to the following conversation:

GLORIA: What kind of dessert do you want for your birthday daddy? Do you want cupcakes or ice cream or cake or cookies or donuts?

KENNY: I hadn’t really thought about it. Those all sound pretty good.

GLORIA: But which one is your favorite. Cake? Ice cream?

KENNY: You know, I do really like ice cream cake.

GLORIA: Well daddy, you can’t have ice cream cake. It has too much sugar. After the frosting and the ice cream there’s too much sugar. You should just have the ice cream, I know how much you love ice cream.

If Gloria remembered the D’Ambrosio gelato cake we ordered for my 37th birthday maybe she’d change her mind. Smile

Birthday of Champions

Lauren got me an amazing birthday gift this year – the Champion Juicer. We found out about the Champion Juicer at Banana Joe’s in Kauai, where they make a creamy, soft-serve ice cream-like product they call a “frosty”. Turns out, they simply freeze their fruit (banana or slices of pineapple) and run it through a Champion Juicer. The result is magic.

And now we can make these delicious frozen treats at home! We immediately acquired some bananas to freeze overnight, and in the interim tried our hand at fresh carrot juice (delicious).

The secret to the Champion is that it’s a masticating juicer, so it “chews” the food before pressing the results through a filter in the undercarriage. The filters are swappable, and we used the solid “homogenizer” for frosties (it can also be used to make nut butters, or even baby food when Gloria is ready).

I was giddy with excitement as we made our first banana frosty tonight, and the taste brought me right back to Kauai. Now we need to acquire a pineapple or two. It’s exciting to have a new way to brighten up our winters!

Champion Juicer
The Champion ready for action


Making our first homemade banana frosty

Shave Ice

All over Kauai, restaurants, storefronts, and free-standing carts offer “Shave Ice” – a large domed cup of finely shaved ice, with your choice of flavored syrups and optionally served over a scoop of ice cream. With the exception of the ice cream, I know this sounds like a snow cone, but the guidebooks all insist that’s an unfair comparison (snow cones are “crushed ice” and shave ice is “an infinitely fine powder”).

As it was a treat “everyone should try” (and we were craving a ice cold snack as a respite from the heat), we put aside our skepticism and picked up a shave ice in Hanalei this afternoon. Wishing Well, the top-recommended truck for shave ice, was closed, so we journeyed across the street to Shave Ice Paradise, another highly-rated stand.

Lauren ordering a shave ice

Our guidebook author swears by rainbow shave ice over macadamia nut ice cream, and we went with a small variation using one of Shave Ice Paradise’s recipies: Bali Hai Sunset (mango, liliko’i, li hing mui) over macadamia nut ice cream. The verdict: indeed, the shave ice is fluffier than your typical snow cone (no real “crunch” to be had). However, the syrups were still sickly sweet, and next time I will just opt for the scoop of macadamia nut ice cream!

Bali Hai Sunset
Hawaiians take their shave ice designs as seriously as Seattlites do their latte leaves

Syrups

P.S. For those that are curious, it looks like each liter of syrup contains about 1.25 pounds of sugar; who knows how that actually translates into shave ice servings though!

Macarons

During my first trip to Paris I fell in love with a confection called a macaron. They look like little flying saucers, and are made by sandwiching two almond meringue cookies around a buttercream or jam filling. Since then I’ve had some good macarons in the US, but none of them have quite lived up to my memories of Paris. I decided that it was imperative as part our current detour to see if I had faulty memories, or if the Parisian macarons were indeed that good.

This morning we stopped by a small patisserie down the street from our hotel and picked up a six-pack of macarons (along with our requisite croissant and pain au chocolat). While the macarons here do not look markedly different from those at home, that is where the similarity ends. These macarons were soft but not chewy, with an amazingly thin shell and enough body to hold a moist texture in the cookies. Between the cookies, the buttercream and jams were top-notch. These were flying saucers from a different plane of deliciousness. We savored them all over Paris, from a café macaron at the Catacombs to a pistache one at Musee Rodin, and ending with a chocolat macaron atop the Eiffel Tower. I couldn’t be happier.

six-pack of macarons
Clockwise from bottom-right: framboise, pistache, vanille, café, chocolat, citron

Eating a coffee macaron
Starting off the day with a café macaron while waiting for Les Catacombes to open

near Centre Pompidou
Staving off pre-lunch hunger with a vanille macaron near Centre Pompidou

McDo
In Paris, you can even get your fix at McDo

Pressure Cooker Pumpkin Puree

As Kenny mentioned, our culinary experiments in India have often led us to source many of the constituent ingredients of our recipes the old-fashioned way. The dishes we prepared for Thanksgiving were no exception, and I was determined that the absence of canned pumpkin puree at our local grocery store was not going to prevent us from eating delicious pumpkin waffles for dessert (we don’t have an oven, so no pies for us, but we did discover Archana’s waffle iron a few days ago). We acquired a beautiful pumpkin from the local produce market in Malleshwaram and resolved to make the puree ourselves.

Of course most pumpkin puree recipes on the interwebs (including this one, which I used for inspiration) involve the use of an oven, which we don’t have. But my time in India has firmly convinced me that there’s pretty much no culinary problem that a pressure cooker can’t solve. Conveniently enough, Sean and Kenny had just purchased a 12L pressure cooker for the turkey, which was just perfect for the pumpkin.

First I cut it in half and removed the stringy stuff and the seeds (which I put aside for delicious toasted garam masala pumpkin seeds later). Then I hacked it up into smaller pieces, and into the pressure cooker it went, with about 3 cups of water. About 20 minutes later I had the “meltingly soft” pumpkin that every recipe demands. After it cooled, it went into the food processor, and then we mixed up the waffle batter. The end result was delicious, and further cemented my belief in the magical powers of the pressure cooker.

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Bisected pumpkin

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All cleaned up and ready for the pressure cooker

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In it goes!

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Delicious pumpkin waffles, garnished with ice cream, cinnamon, and red Kerala bananas (my favorite!)

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Garam masala pumpkin seeds

Chocolate Room!

Last night we had a very entertaining Dalvi outing. After a fabulous home cooked dinner, we headed to The Chocolate Room for dessert. The Chocolate Room has 20 pages of desserts, from waffles to sundaes and cakes. Their house-made chocolate sauce is tasty, but what really made this excursion memorable was Tanvi and Vihan. Vivek casually mentioned “this new dessert place”, and all of a sudden Vihan jumped up and declared “CHOCOLATE ROOM!” This exclamation was then repeated every few minutes (I wish I had an audio recording, as text doesn’t describe how amusing this was). On the 20 minute drive over, Tanvi and Vihan were excitedly talking over each other with stories interrupted with the occasional “CHOCOLATE ROOM!” All of this at 10PM before the sugar rush. Surprisingly enough, they were more sedate after gorging on chocolate cake!

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Vihan showing off some of his dessert

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Tanvi enjoying her chocolate cake

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Chocolate pancake with chocolate ice cream topped with chocolate sauce (aka “Death by Chocolate”)