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The personal blog of Michael Ashby

Category / food

My Recipe For Madeleines

I received an e-mail a few days ago from someone who wanted to know if I had found a good recipe for Madeleines. They had just read the article I wrote back in 2003 entitled “When Recipes Go Wild“, where I had recounted my mishaps in making these beloved petite cakes and how they tasted like eggs. At the end of the article I said that I was going to continue until I found a good recipe and indeed, I did find one.

Looking through my kitchen drawer I did find the recipe, but what I didn’t find was the source of recipe. My culinary skills are not to the level where I can make my own recipes from scratch. I rely heavily on recipes and I then tweak them to my tastes, or skill, whatever the case may be. After much googling and searching in my usual haunts, I can’t seem to find the recipe that I use. Granted, I have tweaked it a bit, but by no means can I lay claim to it being My Recipe — it’s just the one I use.

So all caveats and disclaimers aside, here is the recipe that I use for when I make Madeleines. I hope you like it.

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Is Starbucks The New McDonalds?

Carrie from Sex and the City at her computerThis morning I needed to run a couple of errands and since there are a few articles that I’m working on, I thought I’d take the MacBook, go to a coffee shop and write. As I drove the back roads to Publix to pick up some dog food for Gracie, my mind began to wander about where I’d go for a cup of joe. I thought about what was around where I live and my internal dialog went something like this.

Me: Let’s think about this for a second.

Myself: There’s a Starbucks at Nipper’s Corner.

Me: Yeah, but it’s kind of small and crowded.

Myself: Well, then there’s the Starbucks at Hickory Hollow.

Me: Yeah, but I’d prefer something new.

Myself: Umm… There’s a new Starbucks coming up at Nolensville and Concord.

Me: That would be fun, but only because it’s new and different (its not open yet).

Myself: You want different? We could go to the Starbucks in the Target at I-24.

Me: Again with the Starbucks. I’d prefer better coffee than that.


I: Too bad Perk Central couldn’t keep their customers and had to close.

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Going Cold Turkey From “The Juice”

Beverage canI’ve been hooked on “the juice” since I was a young boy. It’s what all the cool kids were doing, so it just seemed natural to follow suit. It started as an occasional thing, but by the end of high school, I was drinking regularly and within the first few years of college, it was starting to catch up to me. No longer was I able to slug back a six pack without seeing it’s effects on my system. College life had me hitting the books and spending untold hours in the practice room (I majored in Trumpet Performance), so I wasn’t as active as I once was and all that drinking starting packing on weight. That’s when I made the switch to Diet Coke. Yes, I’ve been talking about Diet Coke! What did you think I was talking about? 😉

I gave up Diet Coke a week ago Thursday and I went cold turkey. Why the sudden change? Well, Patty, a co-worker of Holly’s, said that aspartame can mess with your brain chemistry. When mixed with MSG, which is found in more food than you’d imagine, can really do some freaky stuff to your head. I knew that Diet Coke wasn’t a health drink, due to the aspartame sweeter, but hearing that it could monkey with my brain chemistry was the final push I needed to give it up.

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Anyone Have A Recommendation For A French Press?

I’ve written in the past how much I enjoy coffee, most especially French Press coffee. Unfortunately, my french press broke, so I’ve been using my trusty old Krups AromaMaster. It makes a decent cup of coffee, but it’s just not as good as a French Press.

Homemade Biscuits – Round 1

My biscuits after the first roundWhen I got into cooking last year, my Mom gave me her Mother’s cookbook. It’s an old stitch bound notebook in which my Grandmother would write down her favorite recipes. There’s a wide assortment of dishes ranging from “Mincemeat Cookies” to “Cabbage Bundles”, but the majority of my Grandmother’s recipes revolve around baking. My Mother has told endless, dreamy tales of how my Grandmother was such a great baker. Unfortunately she didn’t pass on her knowledge, so all we have is this small notebook.

With Thanksgiving coming up my thoughts have been centered around cooking and one of the things that I’ve been wanting to try are Grandma’s biscuit recipe. So this weekend I thought I’d give it a shot. I have never made biscuits before and I’ve never seen them made either, so I didn’t have high hopes for the results of my labor. As long as the biscuits came out edible, I would be happy.

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Thinking About Thanksgiving

A young boy wrestling a turkeyHolly’s folks are coming up to visit us this Thanksgiving, so this morning I thinking about what to cook for the big holiday. I really like to cook and I don’t have a chance to do big family dinners much, what with it being just Holly and I, so when a holiday comes around, I tend to get a bit excited.
My first thought was to do a more traditional southern style dinner. It’s a style that Holly and I are quite familiar with and it’s just good comfort food. Then I got to thinking that since her folks are coming up, they’re kind of used to this style of cooking for the simple fact that they are from the deep south. So the idea of doing something they’re already used to, didn’t seem so exciting.

So I did what I always do when I’m at a loss for a menu – I went to Food I’ve garnered a lot of excellent recipes from there and it’s the first place I turn to when I’m looking for something new. I found that they had a whole section devoted to Thanksgiving and with it a whole range of recipes to choose from.

Since the meat choice is the centerpiece of the dinner, I figured that was the first thing to nail down. I’ve done pheasant and quail for past holidays, but I thought going with the traditional turkey would be fun this year. So the next step was to determine which way to cook it and that led me to wide array of choices, but I was able to narrow it down somewhat and was down to two choices: Italian Style Turkey (Roasted with Fennel Spice Rub), or Deep-Fried Turkey.

What was nice though, is that once I make a decision on how to prepare the Turkey, there is a whole menu already associated with each recipe. That certainly makes it easy to plan the whole meal. The problem is, they both sound delicious and I can’t decide which one to go with.

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The Frothy Monkey

The Frothy Monkey Logo Since getting back home from the PalmSource Mobile Summit & DevCon 2005, I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been, this morning being no exception. I had an appointment first thing this morning, but after taking care of a couple of small items, I ran into a snag. For me to finish up the work my client needed, I had to wait for a return phone call. Since my office isn’t all that close to where I was working, I opted to do a little nomad computing and setup shop in a nearby coffee house.

My usual haunt is at Caffeine. It’s a fantastic coffee house and I was sorely tempted to go there since I know what to expect. However, I spotted a new coffee house last week when I was driving down 12th avenue one evening. Feeling a little bit adventurous and up for something new, I headed to The Frothy Monkey instead.

The Frothy Monkey is located at 2509 12th Avenue South in an area that’s just south of Belmont University. The building is a converted house, typical of the businesses in the area. And like most businesses in this area, parking is a challenge as well. There are only a couple of spots out front, so more than likely you’ll have to find the alley that runs parallel to 12th street and make your way to the back of the building. If you’re familiar with doing this it’s no big deal, but if you’re not it can be a bit confusing.

Once inside you’ll find a nice open layout with a hodge podge of seating to choose from, ranging from high tops, booths, tables and even a sofa. If the weather is nice, there’s always the porch beckoning. If you’ve ever been to Bongo Java, the setup is very similar, but the clientele is a little bit different. It’s a mix between business and students and as such gives off a hip, professional vibe.

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The Wing Basket

A basket of buffalo wingsThe other night Holly and I were feeling like “being bad” and getting something not on our South Beach diet. As we sat there on the couch, I threw out the idea of going to a new place that opened up near us called “The Wing Basket”. Much to my surprise, Holly took me up on my suggestion and we headed off in hopes of finding a place that “does wings right.” Although buffalo wings are now fairly common, most places don’t prepare them “right” in my book. Sure I can order wings from Dominos, but that doesn’t mean that they are any good and in Domino’s case, they aren’t. Usually there’s something wrong with the sauce, or they’ve prepared the chicken itself poorly – this is especially true when the wings are breaded. I’m sure there are others who prefer their wings breaded, and to each his own, but when I go out for wings I want a nice spicy experience with nothing between me and my chicken. 😛

As Holly and I walked into the restaurant, I could instantly tell that Wing Basket was a chain. Growing up in Louisiana, I’ve been spoiled by family owned restaurants and I try and steer away from chains whenever possible. Having someone local cook up a nice dinner will always be head and shoulders above what a restaurant chain can offer 9 times out of 10. Preferences aside, Holly and I stepped up to the counter to see what was on the menu. Other than a couple of side dishes, the only item on the menu were buffalo wings. That was fine by me and I was rather pleased to see that they were so specialized. Yet wings aren’t the focus on the menu. According to their slogan, “It’s all about the sauce”.

The Sauces
With a slogan like that, I figured it’d be best to sample as many of them as I could. Typically the wings are served coated with sauce, but we asked them to put it on the side so that we could try the whole range of the menu. We started with just two sauces, but we kept going back for more to try different ones. Here’s a run down on the ones that we tried:

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I’m A Coffee Snob

A cup of coffee with a bag of beans.I gently pour my coffee from my french press coffee maker into one of my favorite coffee cups. I let it cool for a few minutes and let the air permeate with the smell of freshly made coffee. I lift the cup to my lips and take a small sip to minimize burning my tongue if the coffee is still too hot. It’s not and the hot liquid easily slides past my taste buds and down my throat. Getting the full taste of today’s brew, I make a small grimace as the sound “Eh…” pops out my mouth. It’s then that I finally admit to myself – I’m a coffee snob.

From Humble Beginnings
That’s right, I admit it, I’m a bit of a coffee snob. I suppose it was always this way in some form or another. When I was younger and began drinking coffee, only Community Coffee would do. The difference between then and now is that back then (and still to this day), Community Coffee is considered the State coffee of Louisiana. It’s served everywhere and is a staple of the coffee diet in the deep south. So I really wasn’t being a snob per se, I was just going with the natural order of things.

Then came the coffee house boom of the 90’s, where Starbucks began popping up on every corner along with mom-and-pop shops and alternative chains. All of a sudden it seemed you weren’t cool if you didn’t frequent a store that specialized in coffee. Naturally, I stopped into near by Perks, since Starbucks hadn’t made it to Baton Rouge. It was there that I was introduced to such coffee drinks as Cappuccinos and Espressos. There was a whole world out there that I had yet to experience, so I sampled everything they had to offer.

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