A Summer of Strawberry Cake (May)


Maple Balsamic Roasted Strawberry Cake

I’ve always associated strawberry cake with summer. I guess it makes sense because strawberries grow in the summer but it goes beyond that. Maybe it’s because my mom only baked strawberry shortcake every few years— usually reserved for my dad’s birthday in May or Father’s Day in June.

It is a bit more labor intensive than many other cakes but I’d happily core strawberries and make fresh whipped cream throughout the summer for shortcake.

Although I imagine eating strawberry shortcake weekly isn’t too healthy. How about monthly? That sounds reasonable, no?

Speaking of monthly cake, this post kicks off my Summer of Strawberry Cake series where I’ll post a new strawberry cake recipe every month from now until August.

Maple Balsamic Roasted Strawberry Cake

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Stepping Up to Plate Tonight is… Chive Gougères & Chums


Chive Gougeres, Balsamic Flank Steak and Roasted Strawberry Cake

Tonight’s plate appearance was made by Chive & Goat Cheese Gougères of the pâte á choux clan. Some may call her an airhead but you’ll never forget her delicate touch and light chive blossom fragrance.  Somewhat of a rebel, she has forgone her family’s traditional Gruyère and and styled herself in a creamy goat cheese. You’ll rarely find her without her mate Onion Jam, who’s secretly sweet on her— but because he’s a caramelized fellow, it’s a very poorly kept secret.

Following these two are longtime friends Flank Steak and Mushrooms who have just returned from a trip to the Balsamic Bath House. Giving them a welcome reprieve from their long soak is Snow Pea Pods, with his crisp exterior and fresh attitude. Some people believe he’s immature but most appreciate his slightly raw sense of humor.

Bringing up the rear is Strawberry Cake, whose personality traits reflect elements from all her friends.  Her own lightly crisped exterior is softened by a smattering of melted goat’s milk brie and fresh strawberries roasted in a maple balsamic bath. Topped with a kiss of powdered sugar, she might just be your new summer lover.

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Ice Cream So Good It’s Illegal?


Maryland Dairy at University of Maryland

Earlier this week, my dad and I drove down to the University of Maryland in College Park to pick up my brother for the summer. It probably took a half hour to checkout from his dorm and pack his things in the car— much shorter than any time I moved out for summer break.

Since we had time to spare, we walked around campus a little.

Did we walk around sightseeing for the health benefits?  Not so much.

Our real destination was Maryland Dairy, an ice cream parlor in the UMD student union. Although the shop has only been located in the student union since 2014, it got its start back in 1924 when it was called the Dairy Salesroom.

Any place making ice cream for over 90 years, I’ve got to try!

Besides its long history, what makes Maryland Dairy special are its creative handcrafted flavors. While folks with vanilla personalities can stick to their titular flavor, the more adventurous patrons can grab a scoop of Cafe Norita (coffee ice cream with Kahula, salted pecans and caramel) or Fear the Turtle (vanilla ice cream with triple sec salted, pecans, caramel swirl and a white chocolate truffle ribbon.)

As if that wasn’t good enough, Maryland Dairy introduces a new flavor every so often named after a member of the University’s faculty or staff.

Recent releases include Terpin Durkin Crunch (Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream with shaved bittersweet chocolate, dark chocolate covered pretzels and a caramel swirl) named for football coach D.J. Durkin and IT Delicious (orange ice cream with triple sec, orange zest, chocolate chips and a raspberry Melba swirl) in honor of Dr. Catherine Carr.

(In case you were wondering, Dr. Carr is a biology professor who studies interaural time difference. I originally guessed the flavor’s name was a play on the information technology field, which would have been cute too.)

The flavor I ordered was mislabeled but I think it was Brenda’s Peanut Butter Frese (brownie batter ice cream, crushed peanut butter cups, brownie dough, chocolate liquor and peanut butter fluff swirl) named after UMD’s women’s basketball coach. Mine had crushed Reece’s Pieces and was light on the fluff swirl but whatever flavor it was, it was pretty good.

What does swirl around this ice cream though are rumors that the fat content is too high for the FDA to approve for sale outside the campus. Read more

A Passion for Truth and Cinnamon


Pysch Inspired Cinnamon Pie

If you’re craving some cinnamon pie but don’t want to hang out with the unusual patrons of the Sawmill Diner, you’ve come to the right place. While I have zero desire to visit the fictional town of Dual Spires, the cinnamon pie in this episode of Psych— c’mon son.

What kind of cinnamon enthusiast could say no to a slice of that?

Pysch Dual Spires Cinnamon Pie

This episode of Psych paid homage to another television series, Twin Peaks. I’ve never watched Twin Peaks, so most of the references went over my head. When I read more about this episode online, I was blown away by the sheer number of allusions the writers made.

It probably would have been more fun if I was familiar with Twin Peaks, but I enjoyed the humor in Dual Spires at face value. And the ever-present cinnamon pie definitely didn’t hurt.

From the moment Robert “Bob” Barker suggests “a cup of the best piping hot apple cider this side of the Mississippi and a slice of cinnamon pie so good it may just bring tears”, I was hooked. I had never heard of cinnamon pie but from the way Shawn and Gus devoured slice after slice, I’m sure it was delicious.
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The Mother’s Day Mission


Cornelius Low House and Esquina Latina Outing
At the Cornelius Low House and Esquina Latina

It’s been almost a year since my mom first mentioned the “History of New Jersey Diners” exhibit at the Cornelius Low House.  Even though the museum is right around the corner from us, we only just took her there last Sunday for Mother’s Day.  Better late than never!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Cornelius Low House, it is the Middlesex County Museum, which holds rotating exhibits free of charge.  It’s actually down the street from the Metlar-Bodine House Museum where I interned back in 2014.

(Fun Fact: The Metlar family actually bought the Low home in 1870 and it became known as “Ivy Manor” after George and Catherine Metlar planted ivy around it.)

This two-story Gregorian-style stone house was built back in 1741 for wealthy Dutch merchant Cornelius Low.  As one of only two surviving 18th century structures from the Colonial port community of Raritan Landing, it has been cited in the Historic American Building Survey of the Library of Congress.


History of NJ Diners Museum Exhibit Read more

Star Wars Day “Chewy”bacca Bars

Star Wars Day Cookie Bars


Happy Star Wars Day everyone! Have you seen the new Star Wars movie yet? Okay, technically it was released back in December but it’s comparatively new.

I liked Episode VII— it was a fun movie albeit somewhat safe.  With a predictable storyline and a fair number of plot holes, it wasn’t anything revolutionary.  However it stayed true to the original series so it still gets a thumbs up from me.

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In honor of Star Wars Day, I made these “Chewy”bacca Bars. Get it? Chewie and chewy.

Does laughing at my own jokes make me a dork?

Oh well. If you can’t entertain yourself, who else will? Read more

The Implosion of My Mushroom-Averse Mind




Maple Balsamic Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Havarti, Walnuts and Spinach


I’ve never liked mushrooms.  Combine the unappealing idea of eating fungi along with a rubbery texture and “earthy” taste (i.e. a polite way of saying they taste like dirt) and now you know why I never particularly dug these decomposers.

Did I think they looked cool?  Of course.  I always liked the shape as you can probably tell by the drawing below.

Cartoon Toadstool
This is the cartoon toadstool character I created when I was 10 or 11 years old. Am I aware the name Señor El Toadstool makes no sense? Yes. And before you ask, yes I was a weird kid.

I always found mushrooms to posses an unusually alluring aesthetic.  Some sort of odd combination of funkiness and beauty.

C’mon, a naturally growing circle of mushrooms is called a fairy ring so I can’t be the only person with mixed feelings about these fascinating organisms 

Recently I’ve tried to be a little more open minded and have done some experimentation with mushrooms.  Culinary experimentation only, thank you.

In July, I had some sesame flavored enoki mushrooms in ramen.  In September, I made an apple-goat cheese risotto with both dried porcini and fresh mushrooms.  And just last week I posted the recipe for my cremini mushroom mac ‘n cheese.

But mushrooms were never the main component of any of these dishes.  It was time to cast the humble mushroom in the lead role.

And boy, was I surprised. Read more

Stepping Up to Plate Tonight Is…French Onion Soup & Friends


French Onion Soup Dinner

Tonight’s plate appearance was made by French Onion Soup, a real class act born in the 18th century.  Don’t let the warm and comforting disposition fool you, this Frenchman has a streak of Port wine and isn’t afraid to tell you like it is.  Balancing out her more traditional companion is Mixed Greens, a sassy salad dressed in this season’s latest citrus vinegar.  As nutty as she is sweet, mandarin orange slices and toasted pecans round out her look.

Last but certainly not least is Chocolate-Orange Cake sporting a creamy yogurt hairstyle straight from Greece with orange zest highlights reflecting her bright personality.  Fresh from her oven-wide tour, she’ll make you, along with any scoop of ice cream, melt.


Hungry for more?  Check out related content.

Brunch Ready Pancakes in a Jiffy


Pancakes with Pears Caramelized in Fig Preserves

Wow, two of the first five recipes I’ve written here on Allspice & Ally use fig preserves.

You’d think I’d be a huge fan of figs but you’d be wrong.  I’ve never actually tasted a fresh fig…

My mom used to give me store bought fig bars for snack time during Chinese School.  Nine year-old me used to buy 50¢ Pringles from the snack cart instead.

And I’m not alone.  Last time I reminisced about fig bars and Chinese School aloud, my brother exclaimed fig bars are not cookies! with more emotion than he usually expresses about most things.

Sorry mom, neither of your offspring appreciated the snacks.

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I still don’t love fig bars but I do enjoy these fluffy pancakes. Served with pears caramelized in fig preserves and orange honey butter, they’ll start you off to a great weekend. Read more

The Floundering Fridge


For an appliance, our side by side fridge/freezer unit is getting a little old.  Having dealt with twenty years of Thanksgiving leftovers without complaint, it’s been a dependable companion but late last Friday night it needed to take a few days off.

Our poor broken fridge.

By Saturday morning, ginger ice cream had turned to soup and the numerous bags of frozen vegetable bought the previous afternoon were decidedly soggy.


Like children awakening on a particularly warm winter day, we were dumbfound by the unexpected thaw.  But instead of melted snowmen, we faced rapidly defrosting chicken breasts and turkey burger patties.
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Gourmet Gemelli


Mac 'n Cheese with Mushrooms and Leeks in a Cauliflower Goat Cheese Sauce

I’m not ashamed— I like boxed mac ‘n cheese. Yes, it’s powdered cheese. And yes, I think it’s delicious.

For college students, it’s practically a food group.  Just like instant ramen, it’s quick and cheap but nothing about it screams of sophistication.

So for those of you who scoff at powdered cheese or just want something different, meet my gourmet gemelli. It has plenty of cheesy goodness but there’s something special about this macaroni and cheese.

It’s secretly packed with vegetables!!

It’s perfect for getting kids to eat more veggies.

It’s also perfect for getting adults to eat more veggies.  I’m looking at those of you who shrink away from spinach and disappear at the mention of daikon.

You know who you are 

Homemade Mac 'n Cheese Gourmet-style

Veggie lovers and veggie loathers unite, I think this is a dish you’ll both enjoy.
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Accidental Discoveries When Hitting Pot Bottom


A Delicious Bed of Coconut Rice

I love this coconut brown rice. Actually I love just about any coconut rice but the addition of dried apricots and raisins gives this one an extra hint of sweetness and some nice texture.

I first made this dish back in 2014 while throwing a picnic to celebrate the end of the school year.

Regular people serve food along the lines of fried chicken, potato salad and sandwiches at a picnic.

Apparently I am not a regular person. Read more

Clammy Confessions


Clam Chowder Window 2

Okay, confession time.

I don’t eat clam chowder for the clams.

I know. Can we still be friends?

The clams are okay.  Sometimes I eat them but if it’s a low quality restaurant or buffet chowder, I often eat around them. I’m into chowder for the potatoes and the rest of the creamy goodness rather than for the clams.

So why not just eat cream of potato soup?  I could but I still like the faint briny taste of the chowder.  New England Clam Chowder is the embodiment of a winter beach scene.  Picture yourself tucked away in a cozy seaside cottage near a crackling fireplace as you watch the choppy waves break over a snow-scattered shoreline.  Now imagine that feeling in taste form.  Delicious. Read more

Monster Pizza + The Man Who Sold The World

Holy Holy at the NJ State Theater

I’ve gone to the NJ State Theater more times in the past three months than I do during most years.  We couldn’t pass up $10 tickets so my parents and I saw Holy Holy perform last night.  I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to call the group a David Bowie tribute band because it was formed by Woody Woodmansey and Tony Visconti (original Bowie bandmates).  Maybe just a tribute to David Bowie? Read more

The (in)Famous Frosted Carrot Cake



My famous curry cream cheese frosting. Or infamous, depending on who you ask.

My family rolls their eyes. One of my friends licks it straight off her arms while helping me frost cupcakes. I have the photos to prove it. Except she’d kill me if I shared them. And you still want the recipe, right? 😉

Some people love it. Some people don’t get it. I hope you love it!

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Carrot cake is one of the first types of cakes I ever baked. It’s also one of my family’s favorite cake flavors.

Unfortunately many bakeries and restaurants sell dry carrot cake.  And the dryness can’t be hidden by the super sweet frosting that doesn’t even taste like cream cheese.  It makes me sad.

What makes me happy is this super moist carrot cake full of crushed walnuts and golden raisins topped with a creamy frosting that gets just a touch of warmth from the curry.

It’s like a hug for your tastebuds.

And just look at that glorious cascade.

Carrot cake collage Read more