Friday, September 28th, 2007

Reason For Not Eating Out #13: 1 Year of Not Eating Out, 114 Recipes, and only 6 Regrets

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do. I've been waiting weeks to share this milestone with you: My first birthday in the blogosphere. The real one-year anniversary for ...

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

I’ve been waiting weeks to share this milestone with you: My first birthday in the blogosphere. The real one-year anniversary for this blog flew by sometime in early September while the redesign was still in the works, so the party had to wait. So now it’s time to break out the big balloons and silly string, let the honking toys a-herald one successful year of not eating out. Oh, and check out my new look.

This leads me to the question that many have been asking me all year: Just how long will I continue this shenanigan of “not eating out” as a standard diet. And the answer still is, I don’t know. There’s plenty of more dishes to debauch, and disasters in the kitchen to be had. In fact, this category is looking so weak, I think that’s what I’ll focus on in the upcoming year. As the song by Three Dog Night continued, “Two can be just as bad as one.”

But moreover, I’ve discovered in that it isn’t so much a matter of a “year of cooking dangerously,” like the Julie & Julia project, for instance. It’s no longer a prank. It’s something that’s become very much ingrained in my lifestyle — like a yoga class — and I would frankly feel weird parting with it. With lunch-bringing down to a science, know-how on what to buy at the grocery store that will produce a week’s worth of different dishes, and many, many more dishes and ingredients yet to be tackled, I think I’ll keep chugging along for now. Why not?

This obnoxious, fourth grader-sounding rebuke is my 13th reason for not eating out: Why not? You might say, “but chefs are so talented and they create such amazing food.” Yes — in fact, I’m really craving a trip to Penang right now, for some curry mee or something else I know I’ll never taste at home. But, it’s not like I’m deprived of restaurant food, and I’ll get back to it later on. Trust me. Okay, so that’s one reason.

Why else not? “Convenience,” the Devil’s Advocate tries. Funny, given that there’s a convenience store on every other block in my neighborhood — more than take-out food — I really have no excuse not to opt for something more prepare-able. As for the precious time factor, this might sound like more of a stretch, but consider the average wait time it takes for your food to get cooked. You could be doing that instead. And I could care less about the other reasons why not, because I’m ready to share with you my birthday cake recipe!

Cakes are a special occasion for me, indeed. I like to improvise, and measure with my fingers. Hence, I’ve rarely baked a cake that came out… right. Plus, cake recipes are usually for two 9″ layers and I don’t even have the pans. But I’ve got one muffin pan and bought some cupcake liners to make six celebratory cupcakes. Six? The cookbooks sneeze at this measly number. As if it were hardly reason to bother baking in the first place. Yet, by quartering the basic cake recipes I looked at, adding a little more of everything to try and get the math right, and adding a few drops of almond extract instead of vanilla for something a little different, these cupcakes somehow came out perfectly. It must have been a once-in-a-year birthday gift.

(Have you ever hear the way Jacques Pepin pronounces almond? “Aal-mund.” Now I can’t say this word without thinking of that. I think I’ll adopt this pronunciation for no reason whatsoever.)

Cherry Almond Cupcakes
(makes 6 cupcakes)

for the cake
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon very finely chopped dried cherries

for the frosting
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon very finely chopped dried cherries, for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped almonds, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium-large mixing bowl, beat the butter with the sugar for 2 minutes or so. Add the egg and almond extract and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour and milk, alternately, beating to incorporate each new addition. Beat until smooth in consistency. Fold in the dried cherries. Fill batter into individual baking cups set in a cupcake or muffin tin. Batter should just almond reach the top of the cups. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.

Make the frosting: Beat the confectioner’s sugar with the butter vigorously until the mixture begins to form sharp peaks when the whisk is lifted away. Add the almond extract and milk and beat until once again thick and creamy. Once cupcakes have cooled completely, spread the frosting onto each one with a spatula. Combine the chopped nuts and dried cherries and sprinkle on the tops of each cupcake.

Cost Calculator
(for 6 cupcakes)

7 tablespoons butter: $0.85
2/3 cup all-purpose flour: $0.20
1 egg (at $3/doz): $0.25
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk: $0.40
1/3 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar: $0.40
3/4 teaspoon almond extract: $0.25
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried cherries (at $4/3 oz.): $0.50
1 tablespoon chopped almonds: $0.40

Total: $3.25

Health Factor

Eight brownie points: They’re cupcakes, what else can I tell you? Yes, the almonds and dried cherries are a more healthy alternative to sugar sprinkles, so I shaved off a couple points because of it. Onto the frosting, it’s ludicrous — no, blasphemous — to try and forge a vaguely healthy version of something that had evolved from lard, to partially hydrogenated oils (think the store-bought frostings), to its current trendy state, essentially butter. So I went with the butter.


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19 Responses to “Reason For Not Eating Out #13: 1 Year of Not Eating Out, 114 Recipes, and only 6 Regrets”

  1. danny says:

    the site redesign looks great!

    and even with yoga or any other lifestyle related choices, there are still days one can cheat, right? or one of those, “I am too tired to go to gym/yoga today…”

  2. mark says:

    Keep up the project…with the money you save, you certainly can get a lot more weekend trips and enjoy the great Fall events in the region.

  3. OhioMom says:

    Happy Birthday ! Love the new redesign. Eating (and cooking) allows you to discover that creating in the kitchen can be fun.

  4. deb says:

    Happy anniversary! I love the new look. And, although I have accumulated a lot of baking pans (I consider them a relatively cheap indulgence, like lip gloss) I am always looking to make divided amounts, because there’s just two of us, so I know how difficult it can be. I want to try these cupcakes soon.

  5. Kim says:

    This new design looks sharp! Congratulations on a whole year of making the world a tastier place.

  6. Maria says:

    I love the site, and congratulate you on a terrific year.

    I admit, though, that I find the new design extremely difficult to read. The Patchwork background makes the text blurry, and it has already
    discouraged me from reading. It might be worth considering lightening the background.

  7. cathy says:

    Everyone: Many, many thanks!
    Maria: Thanks, and uh-oh…

  8. Kalyn says:

    Congratulations on one year!

  9. becca says:

    Congrats Kathers! Its been one amazing year. Tell Ben the site looks wonderful.

  10. Kitt says:

    Great design! I love the way the skyline stays put as you scroll the text.

    Keep on cookin’!

  11. StickyGooeyCreamyChewy says:

    Happy Anniversary! Your blog was great before, but I love the new design. My husband and I also went on the “Not Eating Out” plan about 6 months ago after we figured out that we spent upwards of $700 a month at restaurants. It really adds up! Now we spend our Friday nights planning all of the fun things we’re going to do with all of the money we’re saving!

  12. Deborah Dowd says:

    What a milestone! Only another blogger can appreciate the effort that goes into a year of posting, commenting, photography, etc. Loved your blogbefore and the redesign is great!

  13. Aoife says:

    The design looks great! I especially like the font for the banner. Congratulations on your anniversary, as well. Has it only been a year? You’re already such a fixture in the wide world of foodblogging!

  14. vanessa (of vanesscipes) says:

    Congrats Cathy! Gosh, has it been a year already?!

    Love the new look and can’t wait to see all the yumminess you’ll roll out in year 2.

  15. Michelle says:

    This is going to sound redundant, but the new look is great! Congratulations!

    I have a feeling you’ve inspired others to make tasty, creative, money-saving meals at home. Keep up the great work!

  16. Allie says:

    I LOVE the new design, especially the masthead. Congrats!

  17. janet says:

    happy bloggy birthday. Keep on keepin’ on and choosing taste over convenience! Yay cooking! It’s very inspiring, in both spirit and for ideas.

    Plus, really love the new design. Looks fabulous and fun.

  18. Yvo says:

    Happy birthday!!! And I find it so much more satisfying to make a meal than to wait for it at a take out place.
    PS You named the exact reason I do not bake. I hate measuring. Hehe. Maybe I can be “Not Baking in NY” … NAH. I’m still dough-wary!

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