Just Baked, Livonia, MI

I had heard great things about Just Baked cupcakes for a while, but didn’t get a chance to try it for myself until recently. While I was in Livonia last week, I stopped by their original store at Seven Mile and Farmington.

I picked out a Fat Elvis cupcake for me – banana cake with a pillow of peanut butter frosting then dipped in their chocolate ganache; and a Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake – chocolate cake with peanut butter butter cream, dipped in chocolate ganache topped with Reece’s Pieces candy. I can attest that both were quite tasty as I stole a bite of my husband’s, a woman’s got to do a little direct research for her blog, right? The cakes were nice and moist, the ganache was an unusual touch that made it more interesting and it wasn’t too rich. The peanut butter buttercream ‘pillows’ were a nice light texture and the right balance of sweetness just under the ganache glaze. Believe it or not, I saved half of a cupcake for the next day and it was still moist. I’ll have to remember that next time I’m in because the sell day-old cupcakes for $1.

When I was in the store the case was stocked with most of the flavors they show on their website, at least 20 the day I was there. I scoped out their ‘menu’ online beforehand and was a little sad that they didn’t have the Sweet Potato Pie flavor when I was in, I’ll have to try that next time. There’s a wide variety to choose from and the choices play on dessert favorites, such as Oreo Cookie, Cinnamon Donut, Peach Cobbler and S’more. You’re likely to find something to fit the pickiest of palettes and the child in you.

Just Baked also has a location in Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, and, I’m excited to say, are opening up a location very close to me in Ann Arbor around Febuary or March as well as another shop in Royal Oak.

UPDATE: NOW OPEN IN ANN ARBOR!
24633 West Stadium
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Lotus Thai, Ann Arbor, MI

Lotus Thai has been a favorite lunch spot of mine. I used to work on the west side of town and made it over there frequently. Now, I’m sad to say that I only make it out there once in a while.

Service at lunch is usually pleasant, but often a bit understaffed. The quality of the food makes up for the slow service, in my opinion. The dishes are consistently good and the portion sizes are a good value for the $8.96 lunch special that includes a small salad and a Thai spring roll with the entree.

My favorite dish is the cashew chicken. The cashews are always very fresh and nicely toasted and I haven’t found another Thai restaurant in the area that has a better sauce for the cashew chicken. The portion sizes are generous and I can get two lunches out of one order, but because their spice level can be a bit hit-or-miss I usually order in between mild and medium for leftovers so it doesn’t get overly spicy the next day. The spring roll is always perfectly crisp and delicious and the simple honey sauce is a nice compliment. The dressing on the salad is a little sweet, but still a nice addition to the meal.

The designer and artist in me loves the intimate and cozy upscale Asian decor and that the plates the meals are served on are beautiful and seem to change with every visit. It’s just an added touch that makes the experience a bit more special.

Pizza Perfect, Ypsilanti, MI

Writing about pizza on a food blog may seem a little low-brow, but this is very well deserved. Pizza Perfect in Ypsilanti on S. Ford Blvd. is fantastic. They don’t sell gourmet pizza, but they serve excellent quality food and consistently give outstanding service. I have a standard order of ham and pineapple with butter cheese crust and mozzarella bread. The service is always friendly and efficient, the estimated pick up time is always accurate and the food is always perfectly cooked and just as it was ordered.
I grew up in Farmington Hills near the Papa Ramono’s chain; I consider Pizza Perfect to be the Papa Ramano’s of Ypsilanti. The crust is crisp on the outside, soft and chewy inside and you can really taste the flavor. The cheese is gooey and the toppings are plentiful. The portion sizes of the pizza and bread for the price are generous. For a large 2-topping pizza, a large order of mozzarella bread with ranch and marinara, and a 2-liter of pop it will run you a little over $13 for carryout.
The staff is always friendly when you arrive for your order. The food is always ready to go and they always thank you for your business and hold the door for you on the way out. It’s rare these days to find a business that really shows how much they value their customers, but Pizza Perfect is an exception. Maybe it’s because they’re in a less desirable part of town and want to make sure their customers come back, but I think it really comes down to their love of the business and genuine love of people.
Pizza Perfect may be a bit off the normal route, but I highly recommend trying it. It’s a rare combination to get both quality food and service when ordering pizza on a Friday night.
Pizza Perfect
332 South Ford Blvd., Ypsilanti
(734) 485-8800

Monahan’s Seafood Market Fries

My husband and I had a Monday off and I thought it would be great if we went to Kosmopolitan’s in Kerrytown for lunch since they have fantastic French fries, but they only serve them Monday thru Friday, or so I thought. When we got there we found out that they no longer carry their fabulous fries, but have instead replaced them with tempura vegetable fries. We were disappointed, but ordered lunch there anyway and the girl behind the counter suggested we order our fries next door at Monahan’s Seafood Market, how thoughtful!

The fries at Monahan’s are a bit pricey, $3.50 when you don’t order a lunch entree ($1.75 with an entree), and are really only enough for one person. But, while I waited for the fries I was treated like royalty. I sat at one of the tables to wait and was served a paper napkin and plastic fork by a gentleman while I waited (it made me smile). A moment later I was served ice water in a plastic cup as well, even without requesting it! In addition, the fries were great too! Nicely salted, but not overly so. Thick cuts of potato with a nice fresh potato flavor. They tasted like they’d been blanched in the oil then refried to give them that perfect outer shell. Definitely worth the splurge once it a while!

Tomato Horseradish Rubbed Chicken Breasts with Roasted Vegetables

I picked up a cookbook from Michigan Chef Eric Villegas called Fork in the Road from the library the other day. Villegas had an Emmy-winning series of the same name on PBS celebrating Michigan based foods. It’s a great way to create recipes in your home based on local products.

Tomato Horseradish Rubbed Chicken Breasts

Adapted from pages 68-69 of the Fork in the Road cookbook.

For the Rub:
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 4 tbsp. tomato powder*
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. wasabi powder
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 4 tbsp. lavender
  • 4 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 8 tsp. sea salt

1. Combine all ingredients in small bowl.

2. Store the rub in a sealed container preferably away from heat and light in a cool, dark pantry or freezer. The blend will keep for several months.

*If you can’t find tomato powder you can make your own using dry-packaged sun-dried tomatoes. This is the method I used:

Blend 1/3 c. of dry packaged chopped sun-dried tomatoes in a blender until fine and powdered. Sift out seeds and large flakes over a bowl and reserve remaining powder. Discard seeds and and large flakes.

For the Vegetables and Chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, preferably from Michigan
  • 4 tbsp. Tomato Horseradish Rub
  • 5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 large red potatoes, cooked, cooled and quartered
  • 2 whole portabella mushroom caps, stemmed and cut in half
  • 2 whole Roma tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 lemon
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Mix 2 tablespoons of the rub with 2 tablespoons of the oilive oil until well blended. Coat each chicken breast thoroughly with the paste. Cover and place in refrigertor at least 30 minutes or ovenight.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Juice the lemon into a mixing bowl, toss with mixed vegetables and remaining olive oil. Season with the remaining 3 tablespoons of rub, one of the rosemary sprigs and additional salt and pepper if needed. Toss until well mixed.

4. Place the vegetables on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the sheet from the oven and place the seasoned chicken breast on the baking sheet with the cooking vegetables.

6. Return the sheet to the oven and roast for another 15-18 minutes or until the juices in the chicken run clear.

7. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and garnish with lemon and a rosemary sprig.

8. Serve immediately.

Banana Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

I had a couple of well ripened bananas and was looking for a new way to use them up. I’ve done plenty of banana bread in the past so I looked for a cookie recipe. Many of the banana cookie recipes I found were described as more cake-like than cookie-like. I like my cookies with a crisp edge and a chewy center. The recipe below achieves that perfectly. I added peanut butter chips because I love the combination of peanut butter and banana and I had some on hand. They add a nice change from chocolate and they make a nice lightly sweet rich addition to the cookies. The cookies also freeze well, but if stored in a Ziploc bag the do loose a little bit of the original crispy texture.

Banana Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Recipe adapted from the blog Genesis of a Cook which adapted it from The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook by Elinor Klivans.

  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp. butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. rolled oats
  • 2 very ripe mashed bananas
  • 1 c. peanut butter chips, such as Reese’s

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with Silpat sheets or parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, stir the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together, set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until blended.

3. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing just until it is incorporated. Stir in the oatmeal. Mix in mashed bananas. Stir in peanut butter chips.

4. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Bake until edges are lightly browned and the tops look dry, about 16 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies