Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baking Mountain Dew Cupcakes

I'm not a fan of Mountain Dew, but I tasted a cupcake in Topeka, Kansas that was enough to make me holler, "Ya-Hoo". By golly, it did seem to tickle my innards- as the slogan claimed. I thought the unusual treat was fantastic and I loved its green color. I'd describe the taste as sparkling with lemon and lime flavors. 

My Mountain Dew Cupcakes

When I recently decided to bake cupcakes for a friend's birthday, I thought I'd try the recipe. Although my cupcakes seemed rather dense, they were still very flavorful and tangy.  I'd make them again.

Mountain Dew Cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
zest from half of a lemon
zest from one lime
2 eggs
1-1/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup Mountain Dew
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp lime juice
3/4 tsp orange extract
neon geen food coloring, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups.

2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add lemon and lime zest, then add eggs, one at a time.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large cup, stir together Mountain Dew, lemon juice, lime juice, and orange extract.

4. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter. Stir in the Mountain Dew liquid, and finish off with the rest of the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

5. Fill each baking cup 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cupcakes rest in pan for a few minutes before removing. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Mountain Dew Buttercream

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp Mountain Dew
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 1/4 tsp orange juice
zest from half of a lemon
zest from one lime
neon green food coloring

1. Cream together butter and 1 cup of powdered sugar.

2. Add Mountain Dew, lemon juice, lime juice, orange extract, and zests.

3. Add remaining two cups of sugar (you can add more or less depending on your desired consistency). Stir in one or two drops of green food coloring, making sure the dye is fully incorporated before frosting.

Read this and other food blog stories on Wanderfood Wednesdays. 

Mountain Dew Cupcake in Topeka, Kansas

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blue Planet Cafe, Topeka, Kansas

Street front view of the Blue Planet Cafe.

I only spent one day in Topeka, Kansas, but I've traveled enough to know a good restaurant when I find one. Actually I didn't find Blue Planet Cafe on my own. My host took me there, but from the continuous stream of customers in and out of the place, you can see it's a popular local's favorite--the best kind.

One reason-- just looks at the artistic presentation of cappuccino.

Beautiful cup of cappuccino.

Blue Planet opens Monday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch. Their freshly baked-from- scratch items include all breads, even the sandwich bread. The scones are very popular. They also have gluten-free and sugar-free items among an array of healthy food choices.

Blue Planet Cafe customers enjoy their lunch.
The restaurant buys local produce, recycles, composts and strives for energy efficiency. Their ballroom (yes, they have one) is used for live music, poetry readings and meetings. The main walls of our building feature a different local artist every month.

We stopped in for lunch and I ordered the black bean and cheese quesadilla. As expected, it was delicious but I truly appreciated the lack of oil used in the preparation. The tortilla was light and crispy on the outside with melted cheese goodness inside. Someone at my table ordered tomato soup which smelled divine and included nice-sized chunks of tomato in the broth.

Quesadilla of the Day

Ma Linda offers Sybil Cookies
Linda and Jeff Carson are the owners. Ma Linda (as she is called) made rounds offering freshly baked Sybil cookies. Ma Linda named them Sybil because they are multi-personality cookies with chocolate chips, cranberries, macadamia nuts, raisins, etc. How could I resist? 

The Blue Planet Cafe is not a fancy place, just a terrific place to meet friends for breakfast or lunch. They cater to vegetarians but offer selected lunch meats as well. Ma Linda explained that Saturday brunch was quite something to behold.  "Over here I get the church-type ladies, opposite sit the breastfeeding LaLeche Moms, the health food nuts linger around the corner and everyone else just fills in," she said.

It's a happy and happening place.   Don't miss it if you visit Topeka. 

Oh yes- they offer free Wifi.

Read this and other food blog stories on Wanderfood Wednesdays. 

Blue Planet Tomato Soup

Blue Planet Cafe
110 SE 8th Ave.
Topeka, KS 66603

785 783-8883

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fabulous Prix Fixe Dinner at Row House Restaurant, Topeka


When I thought of Kansas I imagined mile upon mile of corn and wheat fields. Of course, I knew I'd find cities, too, but I didn't expect the world-class meal I was served at Row House Restaurant in Topeka.

Row House Restaurant, Topeka, Kansas

Should you walk down Van Buren Street, I bet you'd never guess there's a restaurant from the exterior of the building.  Indeed, number 515 is a row home, a charming one with three levels plus a garden and patio--  all that work well for small group and intimate dining experiences. Many of the fresh ingredients are grown in the garden just steps from the kitchen. The ground floor includes a small bar with an atmosphere conducive to camaraderie. 

Chef Greg Fox changes the menu weekly, which is updated and posted on their website. He says, "I base my menus off the season, what's available, and what I feel like eating.  I am inspired by Kansas, by my upbringing, and by the many great women in my family who fed me all these years. You always find a taste of where I am from in my cooking. "

In the kitchen with Chef Greg Fox (right). 

Although the menu selections change from week to week, the meals always include a salad, soup, three entrees (one is always vegetarian), and three desserts. That means you get all those dishes at what I consider an amazingly low price -- $37.00 per person.  Personalization is available should you decide you want, for example -- a larger portion of just two of the entrees or just one dessert. 

I didn't make any menu changes because I wanted to taste each of  Chef's fresh dishes. The following decadent menu was served in late September.
Chef's Appetizer of the Day

Salad of romaine, radish, cornmeal croutons, and capers with Feta vinaigrette. The croutons were deliciously different.

Salad Course

The soup of the day was potato, carrot and kale: smooth and creamy but not too thick.

Potato Soup

Entrees began with the vegetarian choice: pumpkin and parmesan risotto with mustard greens.  Very appropriate for fall.
Vegetarian entree

Next came beef tenderloin, parsley chimichurri, and roasted root vegetables.  I especially loved the beets.

Lastly I was served a small portion of crusted chicken breast stuffed with Brie, cranberry cherry fool, and roasted root vegetables.  This was my favorite entree because I prefer chicken to beef and the sweet boldness of the cherries teamed well with the poultry.

Crusted chicken and vegetables by Greg Fox.

For dessert, three bite size servings arrived on one plate.  What a great idea. I wish other restaurants would offer this option.  Mine included chocolate cream pie with raspberry swirl, banana crumb cake and vanilla custard and apple walnut granola parfait. I have a sweet tooth and loved them all.

Dessert Plate served as the final course.

If I lived in Topeka I would be a regular at the Row House.  Greg Fox demonstrated his superior command of the kitchen and use of seasonally fresh produce to create tantalizing combinations. No wonder locals return time after time.

Row House
515 SW Van Buren
Topeka, Kansas
785 235 1700

Open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday. Reservations strongly recommended.