Author Archives: Jessica Petersen

Seeing Signs in Cupcakes

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Rainbow Cupcakes

I’ve written about these cupcakes before, but in few enough words to hide the real story, the one I wanted to tell the moment I snapped this photo. But now that we’ve passed a magic number I’ve untied my own hands, so I want to share: the moment I looked down through the camera lens and saw that tiny, little red heart, I knew I was going to be someone’s mom, and that someone wanted to say “Hi.”

I’ve long thought that studying literature in college makes you more likely to see symbolism and structure in your own life. I’ve never decided whether those material metaphors woven into the ups and downs of daily existence truly mean something. It’s tempting to think so, especially when you have questions that no one can answer for you but time. Still, in a rational world, it’s natural to be suspicious of any signs you think you see in the world around you. Particularly when the sign in question has a bit too much in common with those images of the Virgin Mary that “miraculously appear” on a piece of toast. Back when I was working a dessert buffet as a pastry cook, all it took to burn the image of Trogdor (a cartoon dragon, for those not in the know) into the top of a giant creme brulee was a deft hand with a blow torch.

But this heart convinced me better than the actual pregnancy tests I took days later did. Those were easy to doubt, to question, but the moment I saw the heart, I knew. Sure, it helped that I’d been getting lightheaded all morning while I was up and around baking, and that what was to become a four-day straight headache had just set in. That didn’t stop me from knowing that this was a message just for me, the girl born on Valentine’s Day.

Hopefully, between the cupcake and the heart, this is a sign that we’re going to be welcoming a very sweet, very loving child into our lives. If nothing else, a lot of people have come by the site to see what I consider our first “baby photo”, even if they didn’t know what they were looking at.

So for my long absence–and my severe aversion to even the thought of those vegetarian Peeps I made–I have our future foodie-in-training to thank. He or she will be showing up around the first week of December, so I probably won’t be posting another flood of cookies and chocolates around Christmas again this year. But now that I’ve hit the second trimester and I’m feeling more like cooking, I hope to catch up on answering comments and be around more regularly.

And I mean that this time. As long as no one mentions those Peeps. I’m still having issues with them.

Buitoni Mushroom Ravioli Review

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So, funny story…I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather the past few weeks, queasy stomach-wise. In the course of this, I developed a few food aversions. The worst of which? My own food blog.

Okay, so maybe I haven’t had a food aversion to the food blog itself–after all, I haven’t figured out how to disseminate it in edible form yet. But I may have eaten a few too many of those delicious vegetarian marshmallows in the same week as gorging myself on that incredibly rich Cadbury Creme Brulegg, which resulted in my not really wanting to look at or think about sugar–unless, of course, it came in a fruit or chocolately sort of flavor. Which is a problem for a writer of a blog that focuses a lot of its attention on the pastry arts. Every time I looked at the front page, I’d have to run and get some nice, bland crackers or a brown rice cake. And just when I would think that I could get past it and write something for the blog, another comment would come in on one of the offending posts and it would start all over again.

But I think I’m feeling better now, and the thought of eating a s’more only slightly grosses me out. Still, to stay on the safe side, I’m going to ease back into things with a walk on the savory side of the kitchen.

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Homemade Vegetarian Marshmallow Peeps

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What’s the number one omnivore’s treat that vegetarians miss eating? Okay, fine, technically it’s bacon (don’t ask me why that is, as I don’t miss it at all), but I’m going to bet that marshmallows come more or less right after it, definitely in the top five.

This hole in the vegetarian’s candy jar is hard enough in the summer, surrounded by blissfully happy s’more-toasters at any campfire you twirl a veggie dog over. But months later, Easter hops onto the scene, and suddenly us vegetarians are surrounded by not only chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs, but Peeps, glorious Peeps.

Homemade Vegetarian Peeps

A few years ago, I started satisfying s’mores cravings with a complicated procedure involving a low-heat oven, Marshmallow Fluff and a blow torch, but then homemade marshmallows became all the rage. It killed me even more than I not only couldn’t eat regular marshmallows, but I also couldn’t make their gourmet grown-up cousins. I saw a recipe for marshmallows made with agar at one point, but I was never really keen to try it knowing the kind of brittle, flaky gel agar tends to produce. At one point, there was a brand of vegetarian marshmallows on the market, but they were outed as not actually being vegetarian before I got my hands on a bag.

Fortunately, the situation is on its way to being resolved. Last year, Chris started getting curious about molecular gastronomy stuff, and one of the interesting recipes he came across was a recipe for marshmallows set with xanthan gum rather than gelatin. It’s from Texture: A hydrocolloid recipe collection, a free PDF download at that contains all sorts of interesting recipes, from the weird to the ingenious. He made them, and even though he over-cooked the sugar and made “caramel marshmallows”, I was really amazed at how good the texture and flavor were.

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