World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Uncategorized

Eggnog Doughnut Muffins

Based on the Downtown Bakery & Creamery in Healdsburg, CA and then re-adapted by The Kitchn this is now my version of the recipe for the holidays.  As the question will arise, yes you could add a tablespoon of brandy.  I’m not here to tell you can’t just that you can.
 Makes 12 large muffins or 24 mini-muffins that look like oversized doughnut holes


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
a wee bit more than 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or powdered (don’t stress)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar with orange zest mixed in (I zest a whole medium orange into it; let it sit 20 minutes after you’ve rubbed it together with your fingers)
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1 cup whole-fat eggnog  (light works NOT non-fat–I mean, really?)

For the topping:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons gingerbread spice blend (“Lebkuchengewürz“)*

Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Butter a muffin tin really well–I butter then spray.  You do not want to use liners with these muffins if you are going to roll the whole thing in the spiced powdered sugar.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand or powerful hand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with beaters), combine the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, scraping down the sides as you go. Add the orange scented sugar.  Mix until light, fluffy, and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, until the batter is looking good and cohesive.

Alternating between the flour and eggnog Add a quarter of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until just barely combined. Mix in 1/3 of the eggnog until the batter comes together again. Continue adding the flour mixture and the eggnog alternately, ending with the last third of the flour mix. At this point, the batter will be thick — beyond a consistency of cake batter and on it’s way to a quick bread. Don’t worry just stop mixing. Try not to overmix, but once all the ingredients are fully incorporated stop!

Divide the batter between the muffin tins, filling each just over the top. Bake until the muffins have puffed up and begun to brown about, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a wire cooling rack.

While the muffins bake mix set up your finishing line–one bowl for the melted butter and another for the powdered sugar and gingerbread spice blend.  A little goes a long way but it is also what makes this somewhat addictive.

When the muffins come out of the oven, melt the butter. The key here is that you want to be able to handle the muffins while still warm:  dip the muffin (top or the whole darn thing) in the butter and then roll the tops or if doing mini muffins the entire orb.  I use my hands but if you don’t like to make a mess you could use a pastry brush.  Once you are done you may want to dust them or roll them again.  If you do these while too hot the powdered sugar will melt away.

Muffins are best the day of though I will say these are good the next day.

Gingerbread Spice Blend

I make a batch of this spice blend every holiday by 8x the recipe below. It is very adaptable especially if you prefer more of one spice than another, or not at all.


2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Dirty Snowballs


These are a family favorite.  Being New Englanders we always called them ‘dirty snowballs.” I don’t think that needs much explanation.  They are simple and elegant and most of the work can be done ahead of time.


  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, room temperature (takes about 20-30 minutes)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups AP  flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder diluted in warm water (optional)*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Note:  If you would prefer a peppermint flavor substitute espresso powder for 1 teaspoon peppermint extract.

Step 1

In a bowl measure out the AP flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Step 2

Combine in a mixing bowl the cocoa powder, about 2 teaspoons of the espresso liquid (if using),  granulated sugar and vegetable oil.  It should be well-mixed and glisten, shiny (means the oil is integrated with the dry stuff).

Step 2

Add the eggs one at at time — wait about 30 seconds after adding one before adding the next one. Finish this step by adding the vanilla.

Step 3

Mix the dry ingredients ever so slowly into the chocolate mixture on low speed until just combined–do not overmix. Go gentle into the batter of night folks. Keep the batter in the bowl, or transfer into a smaller one and wrap the bowl in plastic wrap.  Chill for 4 hours or overnight. This batter is better if made the day before and chills for 8 hours. It never hardens completely it is firm with give.

Step 4

Preheat the oven to 350°F,  line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or baking mats. Place confectioner’s sugar in a wide bowl as you need space to roll many at a time. Using two spoons get about a rounded teaspoon of the chilled dough and roll them into 1-inch sized balls using your hands Work quick as you want these firm and cool. Roll the balls in the confectioner’s sugar and place on the cookie sheets (you should be able to get a dozen or so on each baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool a few minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool.




Italian Wedding Soup.

A few weeks back I met up with friends for lunch at St. Vincent where they recently began offering casual one-pot lunches. Lucky for us we were able to experience a very simple yet satisfying Italian Wedding soup that day as the rain fell in almost a monsoon manner.  I rather liked the addition of country bread with an egg salad. While there are many variations for a lunchbox-meal-at-the-desk type of lunch or quick mid-week supper. In this recipe I made the meatballs with turkey for health reasons but equal parts beef and pork would be equally good. By preparing the essentials in advance, in particular, the cooked pasta, broth and meatballs it’s quick and you’ll feel almost virtuous.

8 oz. small pasta (tubes, small shells, etc.)
4 quarts chicken stock
3 cups baby spinach

3/4 pound ground chicken or turkey
1/2 cup panko
1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 1/4 pounds 97% lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

Serves 4.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

First, cook pasta to nearly cooked per package instructions.

Prepare the meatballs (can be made ahead):
Combine breadcrumbs and milk. Let stand 5 minutes; squeeze out excess milk, and place in a large bowl. Add turkey, parsley, basil, 1 tablespoon oil, and next 5 ingredients (through garlic). Gently shape meat mixture into 48 (1-inch) balls (do not pack tightly).

Line a baking pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs onto the baking pan.  Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Bring the chicken stock to a gentle boil .  Add the cooked pasta. Add meatballs, and simmer for 1 minute.  Add the spinach and return to a gentle boil.  Cook for an additional minute.  Taste for enough salt, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with parmesan.

Serves 6.

Azteca Torta: Hot Sauces

Best pork sandwich lunch for $4.50 (with great thick chips!).
Azteca Torta: Hot Sauces


Napa B&B Tour & Taste Event

Napa B&B Tour & Taste Event

India Pale Ale


Last week, a friend and I found ourselves at the weekly microbrew tasting at the Jug Shop.  We tasted 7 releases that were special collaborations.  As the beer poured several guys kept were espousing about the history of I.P.A. (India Pale Ale).  No one seemed to know the full story. So I did some digging.

Imagine, if you will, a country, England, filled with people who love to drink fine ale. That country establishes one of the great naval forces of all time, and in so doing its leaders encounter many challenges. Not the least of which is the importance of keeping beer on hand for the navy sailors,  soldiers and colonists in settlements around the world.  Soon realizing that the porter ales didn't   travel well across the great ocean blue arriving sour and flat after time and shifts in temperature.

Enter, at the end of the 18th century, an enterprising brewer named George Hodgson, brewer at the Bow Brewery in East London, who was motivated to solve the problem. In doing so he invented a new style of beer–India Pale Ale–which is where it was its key destination for the Royal Empire.  His  approach included brewing it to a high alcohol level and using more hops than any previous beers. High hop levels can preserve a beer’s flavor in two ways: they have a limited ability to protect beer from spoilage by some microorganisms, and, more importantly, theirbitterness can mask stale flavors. While there is not enough alcohol in any beer to offer serious protection from microorganisms, having more of it will certainly not hurt.  So really the magic is the is in the hops.

According to Real Beer:

High hop levels can preserve a beer’s flavor in
two ways: they have a limited ability to protect beer from spoilage by
some microorganisms, and, more importantly, their bitterness can mask
stale flavors. While the beer arriving in India would certainly have
suffered from oxidative staling during the long voyage, it could still
taste acceptable because of the masking effect of alcohol and hops.  Original English I.P.A.s were strong, very hoppy beers  weighing in at about 7-10% ABV. 

This new brew recipe began shipping during the 1790s as  Hodgson's India Ale. The drink is called pale ale because they were lighter in color than the popular brown ales, porters and stouts. These copper-colored, reddish-bronze beers were some of the the first beers in the world paler than the more commonly found black or brown.

Hodgson’s export beer was a success, and he worked hard to maintain his monopoly on the Indian beer trade. Eventually, other brewers, notably Bass and Allsop, managed to begin trading their own versions of I.P.A. in India, and some brewers began producing a somewhat more subtle version of I.P.A. for the domestic market. 

Today, in America, most I.P.A.s are dry-hopped adding a fresh aroma while removing the bitterness. It averages about 5-10% ABV

The brew tasting that brought this all up was the Schneider & Brooklyn Hopfen-Weisse collaboration, that tasted hoppy, zesty and well very refreshing. (Alc/Vol: 8.2%; IBU: 40) .  Very drinkable.

The Mystery of Chai


Hello!  My journey to India is nearing and its time to get all my learnings and tastes on the food culture together.  I will be starting in Kerala and after a time journeying north to Delhi, Agar (of course) and Jaipur.  I will then conclude the trip in Bombay Mumbai (showing my age!) hopefully with a Bollywood glamour.  I’ve been reading all types of books–tour, cookery and history.  I need to remind myself that this is just the start as there are thousands of years of history and as many tastes from this incredible land.


Most of us at some point along the coffee road experiment with a chai.  Or as we say here in the states chai tea–which is a blend of black tea that is more steamed milk than tea, honey, and a "masala" of spices which vary from city to city and home to home.

Turns out that chai is a generic term for "tea" in many other Eastern languages, including Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, Urdu and Swahili, as well as in such non-Eastern languages as Greek (τσάι), Albanian (qaj), Russian (чай), Serbian (чај) or Slovak (čaj).Various forms of tea are available in India, the most famous being masala chai, masala being the pan-Indian, particularly North and East Indian word for spice, and the spice mixture is sold as chai masala. In India, chai is more popular than coffee and is offered on trains, and street vendors called chai wallahs

Pronounced like the ‘ch’ in chocolate and rhyming with "sky’" the food lore is that masala chai dates back to over 5000 years ago when the King of Siam created an herbal version for his court.  However, its history is probably  more  closely connected to the Hindu healing practice of Ayurvedic remedies where it is considered to be a cleansing and invigorating dose for minor ailments.

Preparations vary with proportions of spices, tea, sweetener and milk varying from region to region and even among families. Often the  family chai recipe is handed down through the generations. Some boil the tea, spices and milk; some never boil. Boiling verses adding the milk and spices to hot tea produces a different taste and character to the finished chai.

The combination of  spices and herbs used all add their own health benefits to the combination. Tea leaves provide antioxidants which are known to fight cancer-causing cells, lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. Cloves invigorate and help generate heat in the body, making them useful during the cold and flu season. Ginger strengthens and heals the digestive and respiratory systems, fight off colds and flu, removes congestion, sooths sore throats, and relieves body aches. Cinnamon acts as a stimulant to the other herbs and spices enabling them to work faster. Black pepper adds warmth to the body. Cardamom stimulates the mind and gives clarity. Fennel seed calms the digestive system. Nutmeg adds a rich flavor to the blend. Other spices include carob, vanilla and licorice; although not in the traditional recipes.

You won’t find the teapots of Britain  but instead unglazed terra cotta pots or saucers called "kullarhs," unglazed pots that impart an earthy flavor to the chai. Part of this "chai ritual" involves smashing the pots after drinking.

Today the taste of chai has inspired many recipes–a taste of the unusual.  And remember just call it chai.

A few weeks ago when it hit 95 degrees and all of us in San Francisco started to melt (really we have few places with A/C to retreat to!) I experimented with my standard chocolate sorbet recipe and married the chocolate with a chai base.  I found it had many healing properties.

Chai Chocolate Sorbet


3 1/2 cups chai tea (loose or bags)

1/4 cup sugar

8 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate (such as Valhrona)

3/4 cup half & half

1 1/2 teaspoon fresh pressed ginger (you’ll use the "juice")

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


In a 4 quart pot over high heat, stir chai tea and sugar until it boils.  Remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate, cover pot and let stand for 10 minutes allowing the chocolate to melt.  Uncover and whisk to blend.  Pour in half & half and the remaining spices and ginger juice.. Cover and chill for 4 hours or make 1 day ahead.

Freeze in an ice cream maker following your brand’s instructions.  Transfer sorbet to an airtight container and freeze until firm, about 3 hours.

Cooking up a Bowl of Comfort


"We want to go back to a time when life was not so complicated — or, at least, when we look at it from a distance, it was one that seemed much simpler…”     Marian Burros

There are times in all of our lives when life is a bit too much in size.  Waves of uncertainty, confusion, absolute clarity and then back to overwhelm have washed over me the last few days.  My 98-year old paternal grandfather, “Pop” passed away this week, oddly at the same time as R.W. Apple. At the same time I learned that my father’s cancer has returned. Real and unpredictable I’m managing. What’s the adage, life doesn’t serve you up what you can’t handle.”

A recent news article suggests that the term "comfort food" first appeared in print in 1977, but really became more prevalent during the 1987 stock market crash “when, according to New York Times food writer William Grimes, "many restaurants took $30 pastas off the menu and replaced them with less expensive comfort foods such as macaroni and cheese.” We saw this again when many restaurants post 9/11.  Whatever the origin and use the idea of feeding the soul with food that heals is certainly not a new one.

Food nourishes your soul allowing you to connect to a place and a time and pull in strength that you can lean on. The steamy bowl of matzo ball soup, pork chops made with chicken noodle soup, the creamy bowl with a crusty top of macaroni and cheese, or the rich taste of a homemade brownie what we seek is personal, intimate. It’s the touch from our pasts that says, ‘all will be well again.’

Comfort food’s strength comes from its simplicity and certainty. You know it can bolster your spirit, offering reliability in its familiarities. It makes us feel protected and taken care of with its connection to home or past memories with friends.

For me the intersection in times of stress and personal crisis I retreat to the kitchen. Last night, I made a roast. Pop, a teamster who delivered bread and pies for Table Talk after serving in the Navy in WWII was of English descent. A proper meal was defined as meat, potatoes and a vegetable. My effort clearly therapeutic as I live alone and there’s now a cooked roast for six in the fridge was right. The aromas filled my tiny cottage for three hours transporting me back to Sunday dinners in the West Roxbury duplex with my cousins, the faint tinny sound of the Red Sox game playing on the radio. While that was the 1970s, the foundation may be the same my interpretation the Sunday roast is a coffee rub from Prather Ranch cooked in abobo sauce with a basting of local apple cider.

I’m not advocating sorrow as an excuse to mindlessly indulge in comfort food. But if you are going to seek refuge make it the best quality. Take care of yourself by wrapping yourself in the comfort of a chocolate chip cookie. This past weekend one of my comfort meals was a butternut squash with cheddar cheese biscuits. Next up it may be a cheesecake made with the brownies, an effort from Saturday, or a bundt cake or some pork tamales. The bowl of comfort is working its magic.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

Adapted from Recipes from Home © 2001

This recipe takes me up to today and my frequent Sunday dinners with S&K.  The recipes in this cookbook are a contemporary tribute to American cooking. 

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

Generous pinch of kosher salt

1/4 pound (1 sticks unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½” pieces)

1 1/2 cups coarsely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup cold buttermilk

2 pieces cooked bacon, thick-cut, chopped


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Toss in the grated Cheddar. Gradually stir in the buttermilk, mixing only until dough is formed.

Divide the dough into 8 to 10 pieces and roughly shape each piece into a ball. Place the biscuits 2” apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.     Makes 4-5 biscuits;   Ed. Note Recipe can be doubled as the original recipe is for 8-10 biscuits.

More Comfort Food

Surprised at the response to my macaroni and cheese post I became curious about comfort food.  A recent study has found that gender, age and of course culture influence our choices.

The study sponsored by Cornell and McGill Universities, found that women and men choose comfort foods for differing reasons.  Women decide based on emotional needs and men based on level of happiness. Men tend to choose protein-rich foods such as steak and women prefer sweets such as cookies and ice cream.  This makes some sense if you think of the fact that  proteins tend to elevate your satisfaction (i.e. happiness) level.  Sweets, such as chocolate tend to ‘make you feel good.’  It might also suggest that woman associate comfort foods with such negative emotions as guilt and men with the positiveness of reward.

The study, a collaboration between New York’s Cornell University and Canada’s McGill University, revealed that women indulge in comfort foods to boost their emotions when they are down, whereas men are more likely to opt for them when they are happy.  Jordan LeBel, co-author of the study and associate professor at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration states, "In the past comfort food was considered primarily as a strategy to alleviate stress, sadness and other negative emotions. Ensuring emotional well-being is still the goal, but pleasure and positive emotions can also determine food choice, especially in men."

Another study found that if we are constantly stressed we tend to crave comfort foods more frequently.  In a way comfort foods act as a support to your system. So what’s should one do?  It’s making this gal stressed and guilt-ridden.  Experts suggest that we think of other ways to treat chronic stress – exercise, yoga, meditation and long hot baths all stimulate and activate regions of the brain that are associated with pleasure. And this quack suggests that if all else fails anything in moderation is sometimes the medicine that you need.  And I’m not done with this curiosity just yet! To be continued…

San Francisco Snow Skiing


Really this is in no way food related–though I am tempted to taste the snow that is going down a few blocks away from my apartment.  I’ve uploaded some photos taken at 8:00am this morning.  The ski jump event takes place at noon on Fillmore between Broadway (run) and Vallejo (jump).

Rumour is Johnny Mosely who is 30 today has backed out from jumping.  It’s all being filmed for an upcoming MTV event.