NYC Mini Culinary Tour

Yesterday I returned from a 1-week trip to New York City via Greyhound bus. During that time, I was kept away from my beloved computer, and although I had a well-worn laptop with me, I couldn’t use it for drawing. And while I missed it to the point of withdrawal symptoms, I wouldn’t have been in the necessary state of mind to produce something of value. Similarly, I lacked access to baking equipment – there was an oven, but no other baking tools or ingredients. And bringing all that with me from home, or buying it there, was out of the question. I’ve never been so happy to return to my computer and kitchen!

For me, going to NYC always means indulging in some of the many vegan establishments. Some things there can’t be found in Toronto, like a vegan ice cream parlor. Formerly known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, the place currently has no name following the divorce of the owner-couple this year. The place is open daily except Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3pm (to 11pm I believe). For some reason they have no phone number nor website, which means one has to go there in person for any information. Their ice cream is phenomenal, cashew, coconut, or soy-based. It is a tiny place furnished reminiscent of an old pharmacy with wooden cabinets. This is their Sundae – they are nice enough to split scoops, allowing to double up on the flavours. Here we have rum-raisin (out of this world!), chocolate, peanut butter, and mixed berry, topped with coconut whip cream, chocolate fudge sauce, walnuts (my choice of sprinkles), and a maraschino cherry free of artificial colours that actually tasted like cherry! I recommend that someone new to their Sundaes share one with another person as they seem too rich for one. Or simply try 2 scoops – remember, you can get 4 flavours! The staff offers a sample of every flavour on metal spoons (versus the typical plastic ones).

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My favourite vegan bakery in NY is at Lifethyme, a health food store. Lots of variety, beautifully made, always offering some things that are less common out there. Their lemon pound cake and chocolate-peanutbutter Funny Bone (cake roll) are to die for. Every time I go there I hope to meet the baker(s) but haven’t had that luck yet.

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We went to a restaurant called M.O.B. in Brooklyn on Christmas Eve, with the following (for our party of 4): cream of corn soup, curry popcorn, veggie burger, veggie dog, and a kale side dish. The food was not bad (bit on the salty side) but very expensive: the burger was $16 (vegan cheese $2 extra), by far the most expensive burger I’ve ever had. The hot dog was $14, again without the cheese. Small servings!

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And finally something design-related: Here a little collage of the lovely mosaics at Court Square Station.

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German Lebkuchen, Buttery Christmas Cookies & Cinnamon Stars

I made some traditional German Christmas-season treats I wanted to share with you: Elisenlebkuchen are a very common type of gingerbread in Germany but are made without ginger. They come coated with a sugar glaze or chocolate coating, sometimes plain. They are flourless, made with almonds and hazelnuts, candied orange and lemon, and ground clove, baked on a plain tasting wafer called ‘Oblate’ in German.

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Then there are the ‘buttery’ Christmas cut-out cookies, which are simply made of flour, butter (in my case Earth Balance margarine) and sugar. Adding rum extract is never a bad idea. They are then iced with a sugar coating; I added lemon rind to some of the icing. Next time I’ll try using coconut oil since I’m not crazy about margarine, whatever brand.

The cinnamon stars (Zimtsterne) I made a few months ago: again flourless with hazelnuts and almonds, orange rind and juice, sugar, and spices. I am including the recipe here, also published in this month’s Lifelines, the magazine of the Toronto Vegetarian Association. If you end up baking them yourself, I’d love to read your comment! Happy baking, Christmas or not!

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Herr Schmidt’s Memories of Tyrol

I haven’t been missing a single Spoonflower contest entry since I first came across the website at the end of October. But this week’s contest I definitely didn’t want to miss: ‘retro skiing’ with a restricted colour palette. I don’t mind when sometimes the colours are specified by Spoonflower, as it saves me time to think only about the design. Colours are a whole thing in itself; as much as I always thought I had a knack for colour, it’s not as easy as I had always thought, as they can make or break a design.

My entry shows some of the memories, photos and mementos of “Herr Heinrich Schmidt”, who went there around valentine’s day of 1976 (entirely fictitious of course). Only on his second day, he wrote a postcard to his office subordinates, bragging about his vacation. Then things started going ‘downhill’, hahah! Karma took it out on Herr Schmidt. I won’t say any more – just look at the evidence yourself.

A happy birthday with cake & pizza!

Finally I get to another passion of mine: baking! Hence the name of this blog, which is supposed to be a pun. Why does ‘cookie cutter’ have to have a negative association when most people seem to like cookies? :) I like cakes even better, but calling the blog ‘cake cutter design’ would have probably been quite a stretch.

Until MATS, I was working on a baking book, which has since been sleeping in the depths of my computer. The course has caused me to change my direction a bit, but I’m not planning to give up on my book.

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On the happy occasion of my partner’s birthday, I baked two of my favourite cakes (and a pizza): chocolate cherry poundcake and Frankfurter Kranz, a German pastry originating in Frankfurt. The chocolate cake is inspired by the one my mom always made for my birthdays back in Germany. She always baked more than one cake but this one was the ‘regular’ that returned each year. Frankfurter Kranz I never even tasted until a few months ago when I veganized it, and its flavours and textures positively surprised me – shockingly tasty would be more accurate. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the buttercream-like frosting, but it’s not completely buttercream (secret!) which makes it taste more like cream cheese. The cake itself has a slight rum flavour and has a thin coating of red currant jam. Then the frosting sprinkled with candied almonds, topped with maraschino cherries – but since I don’t like their flavour and artificial ingredients I chose cranberries. The tartness contrasts well with the overall sweetness. OK, there are maraschino cherries out there that are free of fake colours and preservatives (I have only seen them at Whole Foods where I live) – but right now I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg for a specialty ingredient.

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Do you like to bake? What is your favourite birthday cake? Any baking plans for the holidays?

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Spoonflower Ugly Sweater contest: 21st Centry Digital Sweater

When I first read the description of Spoonflower’s ugly holiday sweater contest, I wondered how someone could possibly create something decent in this category. I don’t know if I’ve succeeded, but here’s my contribution: a knit-style design for people who can sew but not knit and for whatever reason don’t want to get an actual ugly holiday sweater. My 21st Century Digital Sweater for the modern stylish individual. **Update: my sweater design made #10!**

Here a close-up showing what the whole design is made up of:

What a difference a few votes can make…

After some delay, today Spoonflower published the voting tally for last week’s mittens contest. What a tease for me to see that my design is #11! With 12 more votes it would have been in the top 10, which means that the design would have been printed by Spoonflower, freeing it up for sale, instead of me having to order it first.

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At any rate, I placed my first order last Thursday and it’s hard to wait to get my hands on it. It won’t ship for 10 days from ordering though, and with the holidays I expect a longer shipping period. But once Spoonflower processes it, all but 1 designs of mine will be available for sale, which is an exciting prospect.

Here is my contest entry of the week, a 1-yard wall Christmas tree hanging. The rules stated that any type of tree would be accepted, so I chose a palm tree in the tropics, with a jolly bunch of party animal fellows.

I also made a repeat design, “Jingly Jangly Jungly Holiday Party”: