Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Natalia's Elegant Creations

Europe is known for its elegant, quaint cafes and bistros where you can leisurely sip cafe au lait or munch on a freshly baked pastry while watching the hustle and bustle of passersby. These types of locally owned shops are often harder to come by in the U.S. To my delight Ariel and I happened to come across a lovely cafe and bakery still fairly new to the Northern Va dining scene. One drizzly afternoon Ariel and I had our sights set on finding a lunch destination that would satisfy our craving for a good bowl of soup and a sandwich. We remembered passing by Natalia's a little while back and decided to head on over and give it a try.

Elegant mini pumpkin caramel cheesecake

Natalia's may be better known in the area for the wide assortment of cakes, cookies, pastries and tarts, but they also serve a number of sandwiches, salad and soup. Ariel and I were excited to see that they had a "soup and half sandwich" combo and jumped on the chance to try the dairy free mushroom barley soup. I ordered the roasted red pepper sandwich and Ariel went for the turkey, gouda and apple. Both orders arrived with a lovely little accompaniment of crudite and fruit.

After one spoonful of the mushroom barley, Ariel and I were hooked. This soup was so good we licked those bowls clean. The mushrooms were earthy and the broth picked up the richness from the mushrooms, and had just the right amount of seasoning. The barley was hearty and the nutty flavor paired well with the mushrooms. All in all an excellent winter weather soup.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Roasted sweet Red Peppers, fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced Cucumbers with a creamy Artichoke Spread

Display case full of goodies

After a rather healthy lunch, we felt like we could peruse the display case full of goodies. How could we come to an establishment known for its baked goods, without sampling them? We overheard the ladies next to us raving about a flourless chocolate torte, so we decided to order one of those. Looking around the case, we found something a little more festive - a pumpkin cheesecake. As you know, pumpkin cheesecake is one of our favorites - so we decided to put Natalia's version to the test.

Pumpkin Cheesecake and Flourless Chocolate Torte

The chocolate torte was extreme rich and dense. A chocolate lover's heaven. It was a little too rich in our opinion. A couple forkfuls satisfied our chocolate craving. The pumpkin cheesecake was the clear winner. It was light and creamy, with wonderful spicy pumpkin flavors. The graham cracker crust was sweet and slightly crunchy, which played off nicely against the cream filling.

We will certainly be back to sample some of her tasty creations again!

2 out of 3 JAMs

Natalia's Elegant Creations
230 West Broad St
Falls Church, VA 22046

Monday, November 24, 2008

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Ah winter. As you can tell, JAM's entries and food adventures are trending more and more towards cold-weather foods, and my recent trip to Momofuku Noodle Bar was no exception.

I was meeting up with a friend for dinner, so we decided to go to Momofuku Noodle Bar for some soup and snacks to fight the colder temperatures.

My friend, Cathy, had already been there before, so she told me to order the pork buns and then some ramen of some type. I settled on the namesake, the Momofuku Ramen, and Cathy did the same. The soup arrived- rather visually appealing and smelled awesome!

The restaurant itself is small and perpetually crowded, Cathy and I were perched on small stools against a counter overlooking the open kitchen. The whole time we were just smelling bowl after bowl of ramen, so I was very excited when ours was plopped on the counter in front of us.

I mixed all the components together, taking care especially to break open the egg yolk (which was prepared in a soft-boil) and to mix the noodles with the ingredients. The ramen was good, warm and comforting, but the highlight of the dish surprisingly wasn't the ramen or the broth, but all the extras that came in the bowl. Particularly good were the strips of roast pork, the scallions, and the egg. The noodles reminded me of typical ramen and the broth was a bit salty for my personal taste. I added some hot sauce and liked it better, as it masked some of the salty flavor. All in all, 2 out of 3 JAMs. If they could turn down the saltiness, I'd gladly give it a higher rating.

We also had the pork buns, which were my favorite part of the meal. Pieces of roasted pork (very fatty, which I liked, but could see where it would not be to everyone's liking) were nestled in a U-shaped piece of steamed dough (similiar to the dough in Chinese baos or buns) on top of thin slices of cucumber (slightly vinegar marinade) and hoisin-based sauce. Really, really good, the fatty pork basically melting in your mouth contrasted with the salty/sweet sauce, the tart cucumber, and the sweet dough. Yum

3 out of 3 JAMs!
These buns made the trip worth it - and for all its hype, I did enjoy my first Momofuku experience but am looking forward to trying even better creations.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I tend to curry favor with some shrimp red curry...

It is funny how tastes tend to change over time. According to my psychobiology teacher, that would be due to the fact that we lose tastebuds as we age. I used to hate thai food when I was growing up. My parents would rave about this little thai restaurant in Falls Church, bringing home leftover spicy catfish and green curry for us to try. I would taste a little piece of fish and claim that it was too spicy or fishy.

The remnants of our thai takeout (shrimp red curry and pad kee mao aka "drunken noodles")

Fast forward years later, and thai food has become one of my favorite cuisines. While many Americans are familiar with pad thai and curries, they often overlook the many other dishes that are offered in thai restaurants. I have become more adventurous with my selections, as I hope to gain a more thorough understanding of thai cuisine.

On a recent Sunday evening, my parents, Malia, and I were trying to decide what takeout option would satiate our hunger. Having had pizza earlier in the week, I suggested Thai. We quickly got out our favorite takeout menu for Pilin.

Taking charge as usual, my Mom told us to order our Dad's favorite dish "that eggplant thing" (also known as Tofu Eggplant Basil). We also ordered the Tom Yum Gai soup, Pad Kee Mao, shrimp red curry, and chicken satay.

This turned out to be the perfect amount of food. As you can see from the picture, we happily devoured our meal (I was only able to capture the remnants). The highlights of the meal were probably the Tom Yum Gai soup, the red curry, and the eggplant. The Tom Yum Gai is a spicy lemon grass broth filled with shrimp, mushrooms, onion, and hot peppers. Boy did the pepper flecks explode in your mouth. I love a spicy soup, and this one is sure to clear out your sinuses! The lemongrass, lime juice, and cilantro give so much depth of flavor to this dish. It is light and fresh.

The red curry was excellent, although it could have been a little spicier in my opinion. I like to be on the verge of tears when I'm eating thai food. But in all seriousness, this curry is light, slightly spicy, and full of flavor. The coconut milk adds body and creaminess. The fish sauce gives it a salty depth of flavor. The juicy shrimp were a great addition.

The eggplant is sauted with tofu, basil, and peppers in a bean sauce. The eggplant soak up the sauce and the oil. I would have used a tad less oil, but the flavors were excellent. The basil is super fresh. The tofu is slightly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

The chicken satay was decent - grilled pieces of meat that were fairly juicy. The peanut sauce was too sweet. The biggest disappointment, the pad kee mao (drunken noodles) had very little kick. This dish is supposed to be very spicy, but this version was lacking in chillis. The beans served with the noodles were crunchy and sweet - which would have been a nice compliment had there been more heat. The noodles lacked much flavor besides the taste of oil.

I would skip the noodles and go with a curry or pilin specialty. I have tried the catfish on occasion and would definitely recommend that (and don't forget the delicious soup). All in all Pilin does an excellent job with the preparation of all their dishes. Don't be afraid to try something other than Pad Thai!

Pilin Restaurant

116 West Broad St.
Falls Church, VA 22046
TEL. 703 241 5850

8385 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22182
TEL. 703 556 9191

2 out of 3 JAMs

Soup Wars Part III

Garden Vegetable Soup in a Bread Bowl

As you may have seen previously, Ariel and Jenny both did a taste test of soups from their favorite lunch chain Au Bon Pain. I have to agree that this transition into chilly fall weather has given me major cravings for something warm and comforting. I decided to go for my lunchtime mainstay-Panera Bread (I call it Panera because who really calls it Panera Bread?).

The first soup I tried was their "Garden Vegetable" soup in a bread bowl. The bread bowl is a Panera specialty in which the top of a round sourdough loaf is cut out and soup is poured in using the bread as a bowl. My friend Natalie turned me on to the wonders of the bread bowl back in high school and I have been a faithful fan ever since. The Garden Vegetable soup is packed full of veggies including carrots, onions, potatos, corn, spinach, red pepper, zucchini, tomato, navy beans and lima beans. The vegetarian tomato based broth and the little pearls of pasta give the soup added flavor and texture without being too heavy. The bread soaks up some of the broth, making it easy to scoop up in my spoon with each bite of soup. Delicious, nutritious and filling.Rating: 2.75 out of 3 JAMs (its great, but my Mom's homemade soup is better!)

On my other ventures I tried:

Black Bean: This soup is touted as being low fat and vegetarian. The black beans are simmered in a vegetable broth which tastes of onion and garlic. It's a nice hearty option when you are hungry, but aren't looking for the excess calories. One thing I like about Panera is that a bowl of soup comes with a slice of a baguette in either whole grain or sour dough. I tried the whole grain, which had a nice nutty, slightly sweet and dense interior, and a crusty exterior. It matched up well with the black bean and was great for mopping up leftover broth.
Rating: 2.5 out of 3 JAMs

Creamy Tomato: I should warn you that while this soup may seem like a healthy option, the hefty dose of cream that goes into it, wipes that idea away. I thought the soup was slightly too heavy on the cream (I later looked at the nutrition content and nearly fell out of my chair when I saw how much fat is in this little bowl of soup!). That being said, it is still a nice rich, creamy, slightly tangy and sweet soup that will be sure to melt away those winter blues. It comes with homemade buttery croutons for some added crunch. The sourdough baguette that came with the soup was a perfect compliment. The soft, slighlty tangy interior and the crisp golden crust were perfect. I could eat a whole loaf of this bread its so good.
Rating: 2 out of 3 JAMs

Chicken Tortilla Soup: This soup was a major disappointment. I expected the soup to have a rich broth, with nice spice and meaty, tender chunks of chicken. What I got was small gristly pieces that were hardly edible and a watery broth with little flavor. The pieces of roasted corn, poblano peppers and black beans were tasty, but nothing exciting enough to make up for the other flaws. Rating: .5 out of 3 JAMs

Broccoli Cheddar: Anyone who knew me in highschool knows Ariel and I used to looove this soup. There is just something about that classic combo of broccoli and cheddar cheese that you just can't go wrong with. The soup is creamy, cheesy and has nice chunks of broccoli and strips of carrot. The only problem I've had is that it tends to get runny as it cools down.
Rating: 2.5 out of 3 JAMs

Chicken Noodle Soup: I grew up eating chicken noodle soup as a cold cure, as I am sure a lot of you have. While Campbell's condensed chicken noodle may have a nostalgic place in my heart, there is nothing like homemade. My mom is an awesome cook and has been known to make her own variations on this classic. Now, I knew Panera's soup probably wouldn't hold up to Mom's, I was expecting more. This soup is just plain bland. The chicken broth lacks a strong chickeny flavor. The noodles are heavy and are reminiscent of a dumpling and also seem to disintegrate in the broth, giving it a strange taste and texture. The chicken is nice and tender, but bits of carrots are the only other added ingredient. I was left missing the wonderful aroma of celery, onions, and herbs.
Rating 1.5 out of 3 JAMs

Overall I'd say Panera is a good go-to soup destination when your crunched for time and you are looking for something healthful and light to warm you up. Nothing too exciting, but their bread really makes the meal. Be sure to check out their loaves, rounds, baguettes and bagels!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

This or That Part III

Okay, so I've been getting some heat from Ariel and Jenny to post more so since I only have about 15 minutes before I'm off to take the GRE (eeek!) I figured I can at least do my post on "This or That".

1)Hamburger or Hotdog: I have to say I am much more of a burger girl, but there will always be a special place in my heart for Vienna Inn chili cheese dogs...a JAM high school fave

2)French Fries or Onion Rings: I'll be different and say both! It depends on my mood.

3) Pepsi or Coke: Coke, I used to give Ariel such crap for liking Pepsi more when were kids

4) Coffee or tea: I like tea for its calming effect, but if I really need a caffeine boost I'll take a trip to starbucks

5)Peppermint Mocha or Gingersnap Latte: Mint and Chocolate is the best combo ever, so I have to say peppermint mocha

6) Chai or green tea: I take responsibility for hooking Ariel onto the goodness of green tea with honey

7) Bagel or Muffin: Whole wheat everything bagel yum!

8) Whole Wheat or Multigrain: I enjoy both, but multigrain has a nice nutty flavor and heartier feel

9) Pizza or pasta: Homemade pizza and pasta are out of this world...Can I get pasta on my pizza?

10) Chinese or Thai: Thai curry is one of my absolute favorites. I do love Chinese dim
sum...thanks to Jenny!

11) Chocolate or Vanilla: I'm a 20 something woman...chocolate!

12) 50 cent or Eminem: I can dance better to a 50 cent song, but my high school days were filled with the sounds of Ariel and her bf AJ rapping Eminem lyrics to their hearts content...so Eminem wins.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Grilled Cheese...the gourmet version

So I am sure you are all sick of my obsession with soup. So you will be happy to hear that I sought comfort from the cold in a different venue - the grilled cheese. I love a classic grilled cheddar cheese on wheat, preferably with tomato. However, I had an abundance of veggies that needed cooking, so I took the classic grilled cheese up a level.

Eggplant, onions, and portabellos getting soft and delicious.

I began by sauteeing some veggies I had leftover from the previous nights stirfry ingredients. The onions caramalized nicely. The eggplant softened and soaked up a little bit of olive oil, and the portabellos would add a meatiness to my grilled cheese.

Grillin' my cheese.

I decided that fontina and multigrain bread would be the best compliments to the delicious vegetables. I dabbed a little butter on the bread and let it fry. The cheese melted perfectly, and the crust was crisp and buttery. This grilled cheese was outta this world. The fontina was gooey with a slight nutty flavor that complimented the sweet vegetables nicely. I can certainly say that this is a combo I will repeat again.

Close up!

3 out of 3 JAMs

This or That Part II

Here are my choices just for Ariel, plus one more I added. Also, I am VERY indecisive, apparently!

1)Hamburger or Hotdog: Hamburgers, especially when medium rare with bleu cheese (or a chili cheese dog from Vienna Inn)

2)French Fries or Onion Rings: Onion rings!! (but, I do love curly fries!)

3) Pepsi or Coke: Coke!!! No competition. Also amazing - coke floats

4) Coffee or tea: Coffee, either iced coffee or some sort of espresso based drink (preferably from Starbucks, see my next answer below)

5)Peppermint Mocha or Gingersnap Latte: Peppermint Mochas are the best!

6) Chai or green tea: Chai, though I hardly ever drink either (I like fruity teas)

7) Bagel or Muffin: Bagels, especially whole wheat w/ scallion cream cheese

8) Whole Wheat or Multigrain: Multigrain

9) Pizza or pasta: Pizza! I'm into everything from Pizza Hut to gourmet to homemade

10) Chinese or Thai: Chinese. Chinese is so much more than stir fry and general tso's chicken

11) Chocolate or Vanilla: CHOCOLATE (refer to my Chocolate Show post which will be up shortly)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This or That

So I recently noticed a game called "this or that" posted on a blog I read called Gastronomy. The name describes the game rather well. You simply pick two food items and ask yourself would you pick this or that? So instead of studying for the GRE, I will post my choices for my original 'this or that' food list. Hope you all enjoy!

1)Hamburger or Hotdog: Hamburger hands down! Who wants meat filler...

2)French Fries or Onion Rings: French fries (I do enjoy a good onion ring every now and then)

3) Pepsi or Coke: Coke, although I used to love Pepsi.

4) Coffee or tea: Generally tea, although I've been on a starbucks kick recently

5)Peppermint Mocha or Gingersnap Latte: Peppermint Mocha is the essence of xmas

6) Chai or green tea: green tea (with honey of course)

7) Bagel or Muffin: Bagel, I am addicted to carbs

8) Whole Wheat or Multigrain: Multigrain, esp the au bon pain multigrain baguette :)

9) Pizza or pasta: pizza is one of my favorite foods, but it must be done right! 2 Amys is my fav.

10) Chinese or Thai: Thai, definitely. I make a mean red curry w. shrimp and pineapple.

Feel free to add on your own this or that options! (That means you Jenny and Malia).

Soup Wars Part II

After hearing that Ariel was going to do some soup reviews, I wanted to do some of my own. A frequent patron at the Au Bon Pain (ABP) near my office myself (50th between 6th and 7th ave) I noticed my soup taste was pretty different from Ariel, so was excited to add more ABP soups to the mix.

The first soup I tried was Broccoli Cheddar.

Not normally my type of choice (usually I go for chowders or tomato-based soups), I was surprised myself that it seemed the most desirable, but went for it along with a side salad and cheese jalapeno breadstick (which is amazing and a 3 out of 3 JAMs in and of itself)!

The soup was creamy (obviously) due to the cheese, but did not have an overpowering cheese flavor. The broth was chicken broth based with cheese, and was mild. The chunks of broccoli were varied - mostly small chunks with a few larger florets, but I imagine the broccoli doesn't hold up well to cooking and sitting in warm pots for extended periods of time. I wanted more broccoli bite in my mouth. My major complaint was that the soup didn't have enough chunks to be a chunky soup, but wasn't thick enough to really just be a cream soup, so it left me wanting more of either to balance out the texture and flavors in my mouth.

ABP Broccoli Cheddar soup - 1 1/2 out of 3 JAMs (harsh, but honestly I've had better)

My coworkers, Anjali and Jeremy, got the Cream of Chicken with Wild Rice soup (and Anjali got half a turkey sandwich on wheat bread, pictured below).

Both enjoyed it and gave it a "solid" 2 out of 2 JAMs

Today I went back to ABP and was determined to have a more positive soup experience than my previous. While my favorites (Creamy Tomato Bisque and Thai Coconut Curry) weren't there, I saw Tomato Florentine and knew that was the one! Plus, I had a turkey sandwich I made from home, so knew a heavier soup would be unnecessary.

It was delicious. Strong tomato flavor with noticeable chunks of garlic and bits of basil, this soup was made from a beef broth and tomato chunks (which were palatable upon eating). I particularly enjoyed the spinach leaves and shell pasta floating in the soup, though one has to be proactive in scooping the soup from both the top/middle of the pot and the bottom to get a proper broth and noodle ratio.

A very good 2 1/2 JAMs out of 3. Not as good as Tomato Bisque or Thai Coconut Curry, if you're looking for something to warm you up that's on the lighter side (also without meat), this should make your ABP soup list!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Soup Wars Part I

Harvest Pumpkin Soup

As JAM mentioned last week we will be posting every Friday with a review of soups from some local chains. I think the first time I stumbled upon Au Bon Pain was while I was waiting to board the bus to NYC to visit Jenny, so I think it is only fitting that this place gets the first review.

Au Bon Pain serves up a variety of sandwiches, salads, pastries, breads, and most importantly SOUP! Au Bon Pain is located a block from my office, so it is a great place to grab lunch. I have recently become obsessed with their soups (I got soup 3/5 times this past week). All things squash have been on my mind this fall, and so naturally I have gravitated towards soup featuring this seasonal vegetable.

I have had the opportunity to taste the butternut squash, harvest pumpkin, jamaican blackbean, and carrot ginger soups. While I enjoyed all of these flavors, I must say I am partial to one in particular.

The butternut squash and apple is hands down my favorite soup! It is so creamy, without being too rich. The sweetness of the apple compliments the squash nicely. The onion and garlic draw out the flavors of the squash and balance out the sugars of these two main ingredients. The subtle spices of nutmeg and cinammon really take this autumn favorite to the next level. I could probably eat this every day.

The harvest pumpkin has a similar consistency as the butternut squash, but uses more cream to achieve that effect. While the butternut squash soup favors the sweet notes, the pumpkin soup is more of a savory option. There are nice bits of carrot and onion. The cinnamon also plays a bigger role in this soup. I love the pumpkin flavors, but this soup is much richer, making it a better choice on those bitterly cold days.

The jamaican black bean soup was very hearty and packed with protein. It was creamy, with lots of whole beans. The smoky cumin rang through and the sweet bits of pepper and onion added nice flavor and texture contrast. I would have liked a little bit of heat from some peppers to give this soup a little more kick.

I tried the carrot ginger one day when I they were out of butternut squash. I felt like I was settling as I ordered this soup, but was pleasantly surprised when I tried my first spoonful. Again, this soup was smooth, with a slightly more watery consistency than the squash soups. The carrot was sweet and the ginger was not too overpowering. While, I would say this was my least favorite of the four, you really can't go wrong with Au Bon Pain soups. Be sure to add a side of whole grain baguette. This bread is buttery and nutty, with an excellent crust on the outside and soft dough on the inside. So grab a spoon and get ready for lunch!

Butternut squash and apple

3 out of 3 JAMs.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What do a brain, a heart, and an eye have in common?

They can be made into cupcakes of course! JAM saw a halloween cupcake contest posted on one of our favorite blogs, How To Eat A Cupcake. With thoughts of halloween candy, ghosts, and goblins running through our heads, we knew we had to enter. Because Jenny lives just a little too far away to collaborate, we decided we would all make our own spooky cupcake and enter them together. But, we needed a cohesive theme. Inspired by a recipe from Epicurious, Ariel knew she would make "Bleeding Hearts". Seeing this recipe, Jenny decided that JAM would make body-part themed cupcakes! Jenny chose the brain. (Unfortunately Malia didn't have time to make her eye cupcakes.) We were in for some creepy cupcake making!

Ariel's "Bleeding Heart" Cupcakes

Dissecting the heart...

The original "Bleeding Hearts" cupcake recipe called for a white batter and vanilla frosting. I wanted the inside of the cupcake to look more like the color of a heart, so I chose a red velvet cake batter. I found the recipe on Washington Post writer/blogger, Kim O'Donnel's website. The frosting would obviously be cream cheese, dyed two shades of red (one for the heart and arteries) and one shade of blue (for the veins).

Oh you cut me open and I keep bleeding, I keep keep bleeding...

I liked the idea of the "bleeding hearts" and so I decided I would fill them with strawberry jam. The batter was fairly simple to make. I simply followed the directions.

Adding the buttermilk, which gives the red velvet its distinct flavor.

Fresh out of the oven. The cocoa smell is divine.

I poured the batter into the cupcake tins. Before putting the cups into the oven, I placed balls of tinfoil in with the cupcake liners to make indents in the cupcakes. This gave them their "heart" shape.

I "heart" red velvet.

Beginning the "blood" transfusion...

Once the cupcakes have cooled, you can begin filling them. Using a sharp knife, insert at an angle and cut out a cone-shaped piece of the cake. Fill the hole with strawberry jam (JAM Note: Welch's Strawberry jam). Cut off the tip of the cone, and place the piece of cake back into the hole, covering the jam. The cupcakes are now ready to be frosted.

My bloody valentine...

Inserting the arteries...

I used a cream cheese frosting to decorate these babies. I reserved two spoonfuls for the arteries and two spoonfuls for the veins. I added approximately 45 drops of red food coloring to the remaining batch of frosting. (JAM Note: Be careful when frosting these not to mix crumbs into the cream cheese.) Place a large dollop of frosting over the middle, and carefully pull the frosting to the edges as to not mix crumbs into it. Once the light red frosting has been applied, use the remaining spoonfuls to create a dark blue and dark red frosting. (JAM Note: Approximately 15-20 drops of blue and red food coloring). Spoon the frosting into ziplock bags and cut a tiny piece of plastic from the corner. Pipe lines of blue and red frosting to create "veins" (blue) and "arteries" (red). I always remember that Arteries bring blood Away from the heart to the rest of the body and veins bring blood to the heart from the rest of the body (the opposite). Arteries are red because they contain oxygenated blood. Veins are blue because they contain de-oxygenated blood. (Just a little biology lesson for ya!)

"My 'heart' is yours to fill or burst to break or bury"...or EAT!

Jenny's "Oozing Brain" Cupcakes

As soon as Ariel brought up the idea of making Halloween cupcakes, I KNEW I wanted to make brains to go with Ariel's hearts (especially since eyes creep me out).

I took a regular cupcake recipe for white cake and added a bit of pink food coloring to imitate brains (I use food coloring gels as the colors are stronger and require less than liquid food coloring) and almond extract for flavor.

I then cut out the centers, much like Ariel, and added melted raspberry jam (not preserves as they have seeds and jam does not) to the centers for a bloody effect. I also wanted a consistent raspberry almond flavoring in all components so the jam insides matched my buttercream I planned to put on top.

Next I made raspberry butter cream frosting, based off of a strawberry buttercream frosting (JAM note: I pureed the raspberries and strained them before adding to the buttercream base) I made recently for a friend's birthday, and added a bit of black food coloring to create a "grey matter" effect! The small bits of raspberry left from pureeing the fruit looked like bits of blood, making my cupcakes even more like a biology dissection.

I then piped on the frosting, using a piping bag, in large squiggly designs, clearly trying to create two hemispheres in the process. As you can see from my various brains below I was at times more successful than others in creating two clear hemispheres of similiar size....

But the real magic was once you dissected my lovely craniums, resulting in a slow bloody ooze...

Despite the creepy look of my treats, they were pronounced delicious though very sweet by all those who ate them. Definitely something you'd want to eat with a tall glass of milk or tea or coffee, but all in all a fun Halloween treat!!

Happy Halloween!