Friday, December 26, 2014

The Day After

Ahhh, yes, it's December 26th, and Christmas is over.  Sigh.  I always feel a bit blue on the day after Christmas.  Maybe it's because the big day has been much anticipated these last few weeks, and there's been so much prepping, planning, wrapping, and baking, and then it's finally Christmas, and then...poof! It's over.  Well, time to plan for Christmas 2015, right?!

Today's post will be about the things I baked for Christmas 2014 and maybe you will want to put these on your list for gift giving for next year.  Or better yet, why not make these now and you can enjoy them as we look forward to celebrating the New Year?

Homemade Granola

This is a recipe I've been making for the last 7 years, maybe.  It's super easy and relatively healthy because there isn't any added oils at all. You just throw some brown sugar, dried fruit, nuts, and oats together, bake it, and voila! The recipe is one I adapted from Alton Brown and the Food Network and you can find it here:

Kipfel (German Crescent Christmas Cookies)

Cookie dough shaped into crescents

Cookies baked and allowed to cool

Shower these babies with powdered sugar!

Oh, this is one of my go-to and favorite recipes for the holidays.  I've been baking and giving these cookies for the past 18 years.  This year I made the dough a few days prior to baking, rolled the dough into logs, and wrapped them in plastic wrap.  You can keep the dough frozen for 6 months!  When I knew I was going to gift the cookies to someone, I simply let the dough thaw out for a few hours and baked them the same day.  This made my baking schedule so much easier and less stressful. It's a win-win!

2 cups unsalted butter, room temp.
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups (9 ounces) whole almonds
1 tsp salt
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Beat butter, granulated sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until well blended
Combine 1/4 cup flour, almonds and salt in a food processor and grind until almonds are finely chopped.
Add almond mixture and the remaining flour to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly.
(at this point, you can roll the dough into logs and freeze in plastic wrap)
Working with 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, form into a crescent shape.
Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets, spacing evenly.
Bake until golden brown at edges and firm to touch, about 17-20 minutes.
Cool cookies for about 10 minutes on sheets; place cool cookies on a large plate or parchment paper and sprinkle them with powdered sugar.
Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Candy Cane Truffle Brownies

Shhhh...don't tell anyone but I actually used a brownie baking mix for these.  My favorite one is the Truffle Brownie Mix from Trader Joe's.  It tastes just as good, or even better, than homemade, in my opinion.  I got about 12 candy canes, placed them in a large plastic freezer bag, and pounded them with a metal spatula to break up the candy canes into bits and pieces. I stirred in about half the candy cane pieces into the prepared brownie batter, baked it, then once it was out of the oven, while still hot, I poured the other half of the candy canes on top of the brownies, and then let the whole thing cool in the pan.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Do You Charcuterie?

Charcuterie is truly an art form.  French in origin, charcuterie is a "branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products such as sausage, bacon, ham, pate..." (Wikipedia).

Last weekend I hosted a wine tasting party at my house.  The theme for the evening was South American wines.  I served two whites and three reds.  The first course was this charcuterie platter:

Chardonnay from Chile was a lovely accompaniment to the charcuterie, which consisted of several types of salamis, fresh and dried fruits, homemade chicken liver pate, hummus, nuts, breads, olives and several cheese.

Have you served a charcuterie platter? If so, what was on yours? 

I'm looking forward to throwing my next party, wine tasting or just a get together, the charcuterie platter will surely make another appearance!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ever Hear of Everlane?

Seems like everybody and their brother (or sister) has done one review or another about the online retailer, Everlane.  I myself had never even heard of this company until about 3 months ago.  Since then, I've been an Everlane-addict!

I love the clean lines of their clothing; nothing fancy, just simple basics that I can wear every day and pieces I can dress up or down.

The reason I'm even mentioning Everlane today on my blog is because this company did something simply unheard of, in my opinion at least.

Let me first give you a brief "back story"; a few weeks ago I was pining over one of their tank tops, called the Langley Drape Tank.  I no longer saw this item on their website so I emailed their customer service to ask about it.  Lisa Pham, their customer service representative messaged me back to inform me that they had sold out on this particular tank top and Everlane wouldn't be producing any more of them.  Bummer.

Fast forward to this afternoon.  I looked out on my porch to see a large brown envelope which I quickly recognize as the Everlane packaging.  I didn't recall ordering anything again after my most recent purchase which was just last week.  I quickly (and excitedly), open up the package only to find the Langley Drape Tank inside, and a note from Lisa herself telling me that she looked high and low for me and was able to find one of the tanks I had wanted so badly.  Plus, it was a gift from Everlane!

I was happily surprised.  I already loved Everlane but now I love them even more.  I've been an online shopper for maybe 10 years now, shopping some pretty great and not so great sites.  Never once have one of those companies given me a gift of any sort (not that I expected them to)!  I can't praise Everlane enough.  Not only because I got a free tank top from them, but really, because the tank top represents their thoughtfulness as a company and how they will go out of their way to please their customers.

Anyways, here's my tank top as it was packaged in classy Everlane style:

and here's the's made of a cozy slub cotton and the cut is a little longer in the back.  I love it!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Kiddos in their Costumes!

Here's a preview of my two honeys in their Halloween costumes.  I'm not sure if I'll take them trick or treating or not this year. We will definitely be passing out candy though.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Our Trip to Julian

The bulldogs and I recently visited the old mining town of Julian, CA.  I rented a dog-friendly cabin there and the boys had a blast exploring the almost 1 and a half acres of property.  A trip to Julian is not complete without trying out the apple pie there.  Julian is well known for their apple orchards, apple picking during the fall, and the apple desserts.

One morning we stopped by the Julian Bakery and I got a slice of boysenberry-apple crumble a la mode.  The a la mode part was half cinnamon ice cream, half vanilla.  YUM!!

Our second pie stop was to Mom's, also on Main Street.  My friend Deb had recommended this place to me so of course, I had to check it out.   I got the strawberry-rhubarb pie and also a caramel apple.

Here are some photos of Tate and Finn exploring the cabin grounds, and some shots of the gorgeous Julian scenery...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Breakfast is probably my most favorite meal of the day.  There's just something extra satisfying about digging into something delicious after your body has had a chance to fast for several hours. Usually I wake up pretty hungry but this morning, because I knew I'd be meeting my friend at 10am to "break my fast", I decided to drink my usual black coffee with a dash of condensed milk and had some nuts and raisins to munch on.

I met my friend at a coffee shop called Hill Street Cafe in Burbank.  This place has got an old school feel to it with its cozy booths and very friendly staff.  The breakfast menu was pretty extensive but I zeroed in on what my body was craving: strawberry waffles topped with whipped cream,  eggs, and extra crispy hash browns (yes, I had a big appetite)!

The waffles were absolutely scrumptious--crispy and light with loads of fresh strawberries and just the right amount of whipped topping.  The hash browns and over-medium eggs were also excellent.  I washed everything down with their passion fruit iced tea...ahh...refreshingly good!

If you're ever in the Southern California area, head over to Burbank and the Hill Street Cafe. I'm looking forward to my next visit!

Hill Street Cafe
3301 N. Glenoaks Blvd
Burbank, CA

Friday, September 12, 2014

Summer Cooking--Asian Style Short Ribs

It's so DANG HOT here still that cooking anything other than toast is a bit of a turn off.  But, I did manage to make this Asian Style Braised Short Rib dish a couple months ago (I know, it took me THIS long to post it)!
I ordered the grass-fed short ribs from US Wellness, an online meat supply store. I love short ribs and was really excited when I found this recipe on Terry B's site,

Yes, the short ribs do take some time to prepare and cook but the end result is totally worth it. I loved the juicy, tangy flavor of the ribs, and they went perfectly with steamed rice.

(Recipe adapted from Blue-Kitchen dot com)


3 1/2 to 4 lbs bone-in short ribs
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (I used duck fat)
6 scallions, cut into 2-inch sections (reserve the green tops of one)
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
2 cups water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
5 Whole Star Anise (Note: I substituted this with Chinese 5 Spice Powder--about 1 teaspoonful)

There are so many ingredients in this recipe that Mise en place is very important, otherwise, I'd be going nuts with all the prep work and cooking at the same time.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Trim any excess fat from short ribs, but no need to trim ALL the fat as the fat adds the flavor! Season generously with black pepper (but not salt). Heat a heavy dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil and brown short ribs on all the meaty sides for about 8 minutes total. Work in batches if necessary to avoid over-crowding in the pot. Transfer ribs to plate with tongs. Reduce heat to medium and add scallions, carrots, garlic, and ginger to pot. Cook, stirring frequently (note: you want to sweat the veggies, not brown them), for about 5 minutes.

Add orange juice, soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, brown sugar, and crushed red pepper flakes to dutch oven, stirring to combine. Scrape up any browned bits. Rterun short ribs to dutch oven, arranging in a single layer, if possible (don't worry about over-crowding at this point). The liquids won't completely cover the ribs and that's okay. Sprinkle the ribs with the Chinese 5 spice powder. Place parchment paper over ribs and braising mixture. Cover pot with lid and place in oven on middle rack. Braise until ribs are tender, about 2.5 hours, turning ribs once half-way thru cooking.

Serve the short ribs with white rice and top with scallion tops and sesame seeds, if you wish.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I'm baaaaaaackkkkkk!!!

Holy cow, where has the time gone? Or should I say, where have I been?!  Well, I'm back, folks, in case anyone was wondering. It's been a long, hot summer, as the saying goes, and I'm absolutely, undeniably READY for fall and some cool weather.  Here in sunny So Cal though, it's still a steamy 90 plus degrees on most days. Ugh.

I've got some recipes to post and some things to discuss but in the meantime, let me entertain you with some pictures of my bulldogs, otherwise known as "my sons".

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

There was a brief period in my life when I dabbled in the Paleo Diet.  If you're not familiar with that, just "Google It!" because I'm not going to elaborate on it here.  Suffice it to say, it wasn't for me as I love desserts, bread, pasta, and all things non-paleo all too much.  During that time though, I did get somewhat acquainted with some Paleo websites and I have to admit, some of the recipes were very appealing and tasty.  One such recipe are these to-die-for pancakes.  I'm not exaggerating...they are GOOD. The recipe, being Paleo, calls for coconut and tapioca flours in place of regular flour. So if you are allergic to gluten, this would be ideal for you.

The original recipe appeared on the website PaleOMG, titled Lemon Raspberry Pancakes.  Instead of raspberries, I used fresh, organic blueberries.  You can ommit the fruity compote all together and these pancakes would still be to-die-for.  Seriously.

Lemon Blueberry Pancakes (yields 4-5 pancakes)

For the compote:

1 cup fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey

In a saucepan over medium heat, add the first three ingredients: blueberries, lemon juice, and honey. Mix together and let simmer. Once raspberries have broken down, bring heat to low to let thicken slightly.

For the pancakes:
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • ½ cup almond milk + 3 tablespoons (carton, unsweetened)
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • coconut oil, for greasing pan

  1. Whisk together pancake ingredients: eggs, almond milk, honey and vanilla extract in a large bowl.
  2. Then, while continuously whisking, add coconut flour, tapioca flour, baking powder and baking soda and a pinch of salt to the large bowl. Whisk until batter is well combined.
  3. Grease a large pan and place over medium heat. Once pan is hot, use a large ladle to pour a pancakes size pancake on the pan. Then use a small spoon to scoop out a tablespoon of the raspberry jam mixture and swirl it around on the top of the pancake.
  4. Once pancake has cooked and bubbles begin to surface on the top of the pancake, flip it. The pancake should need to cook for 2-3 minutes each side.
  5. Repeat with the rest of the pancake mixture

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Just Wingin' It!

Sorry for the silly title and sorry for not posting for a few days.

Last weekend I had a hankering for some chicken wings.  Luckily, the local Whole Foods had a sale on organic wings so I quickly snatched up 2 pounds worth.  This recipe incorporates two different kinds of mustard with honey, resulting in a tangy and sweet serving of deliciousness!

Recipe for Sweet Mustard Chicken Wings from Allrecipes


2 lbs chicken wings
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; coat the aluminum foil with cooking spray.
  2. Arrange the wings on the prepared baking sheet so they do not touch; season with salt.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until browned and crispy on top, about 20 minutes. Flip the wings with tongs and cook until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes more.
  4. Stir together the Dijon mustard, yellow mustard, honey, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and hot sauce (if using), in large mixing bowl. Add the wings to the bowl and toss with a spatula to coat evenly. Allow to sit for about five minutes and toss again to re-coat. Transfer to a plate to serve.

Friday, July 4, 2014

An Old Favorite for the 4th of July

Happy Independence Day!  I thought today would be perfect to revisit one of my favorite recipes for corn bread.  The recipe comes from Sherry Yard's Dessert By the Yard cookbook.  I just love that cookbook.  I've tried several of Chef Yard's recipes and they've all met or exceeded my expectations.  This one for cornbread far exceeded my expectations however.  It's a sweet cornbread and has a very light and airy consistency. I'm planning on bringing this to a neighborhood potluck picnic this afternoon to celebrate the holiday.

Cornbread Ingredients:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 stick unsalted butter (3 ounces)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk

1/2 cup buttermilk

Glaze Ingredients:
3/4 stick unsalted butter (3 ounces)
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven rack in middle of oven. Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs. Melt the butter and immediately whisk into the eggs in a slow stream. Whisk in the oil, milk and honey. Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined.
4. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan from front to back and bake for 10 additional minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Make the glaze: While the cornbread is baking, melt the butter. Add the honey and water and whisk until blended.
6. When the cornbread is done, remove from the oven and poke holes all over the bread, about 1/2 inch apart, with a toothpick. Brush with the glaze and allow to cool.

I like it, I really, really like it!

This recipe was something I wasn't going to write about.  Main reason--I didn't think it tasted especially good.  It was just "okay" to me when I first tried it.  That all changed however the day after I made this Coconut Lime chicken breast.  I don't know,  I guess the flavors were able to meld even more the next day and hence, so much tastier and definitely something to write home about!

This recipe incorporates some of my favorite ingredients, coconut milk, garlic, and ginger into a marinade that you soak the chicken breasts in overnight.  I added some freshly chopped chili for an extra kick, and also a dash of turmeric.  The recipe calls for chicken with skin-on but I used skinless and they still turned out fine.  I didn't have any cilantro for garnish so I used some fresh basil instead.
Very easy to prepare and another way to cook up that "boring" chicken breast you may have tucked away in your freezer.

Coconut Lime Chicken:
(from Nutrioulicious)

  • 2 packed tablespoons grated lime zest
  • ¼ cup lime juice (from 2 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened, light coconut milk
  • 4 bone-in chicken breast halves, with skin on
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish
  1. In a large glass bowl, combine lime zest and juice, ginger, garlic, sugar, cumin, curry powder, and soy sauce. Slowly whisk in coconut milk until mixture is smooth. Submerge chicken breast halves in marinade, making sure the marinade gets under the skin; cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 and up to 12 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil and fit with a wire rack. Remove chicken from marinade and shake to remove excess. Arrange in a single layer on rack, skin side up. Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sashimi for breakfast

I was lucky enough to be the recipient of some freshly caught Yellow Fin Tuna last night.  My friend's hubby went fishing off the San Diego coast and caught some over the weekend.

Yellow Fin Tuna

Thinking how I was going to prepare it, and at my friend's suggestion, I decided to just eat it as I would sashimi...raw.  So for breakfast this morning I made a stir-fry of beet greens and leaves, chopped up celery, a little bacon, and tossed in some sweet fresh peach.
I topped all this off with some avocado and the tuna sashimi.  Delicious!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Attempting the Poached Egg

For the past two days I've been trying to perfect the poached egg.  I Googled "poached egg recipe" and of course, there were a lot of them.  I settled on the most straightforward (and shortest), explanation on how to prepare the poached egg (and not to mess it up).  Well, I think I was successful.  Sure there are much prettier poached eggs out there but I'm pretty happy with the one I made for this morning's breakfast.  I sprinkled a tiny bit of chili pepper over the egg, and ate it with a low carb tortilla. What do you think?

The following technique for poached eggs is the one I used and is taken from the site, Simply Recipes :

  • Fresh eggs
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar (rice vinegar works well) (optional)

Equipment needed


1 First bring water in a saucepan to almost boiling. If the water is already boiling, lower the heat until it is no longer boiling. At this point, you can add one or two teaspoons of vinegar to the water, if you want. The vinegar will help the egg whites to congeal more easily. 

2 Working with the eggs one by one, crack an egg into a small cup, then place the cup near the surface of the hot water and gently drop the egg into the water. With a spoon, nudge the eggwhites closer to their yolks. This will help the egg whites hold together.

3 Turn off the heat. Cover. Let sit for 4 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked.

4 Lift eggs out of pan with a slotted spoon.

One trick to make the eggs stay somewhat contained is to take a ring from a mason jar and place it in the pan. Drop the egg over the mason jar ring and let it settle in the ring, then turn off the heat and cover.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Breakfast of Champions

Oh, how could I resist a chocolate bar donut? The answer is, I cannot.  Especially a freshly baked one, still warm and soft in the middle. Drool.

This was one of my breakfast items for this last day of  a very long work week.

So, what was the other?  This lovely, delicate, not-so-sweet-but-oh-so-good strawberry and custard filled croissant, dusted with powdered sugar.

Fridays never tasted so good!

What is your sweet indulgence on this Friday?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A few treasures

One of my favorite past times is scouring thrift stores and yard sales so please allow me to share some of the fun things I've found over the years. 

This cute dish set was something I bought at a nearby thrift store. I use the plate and bowl almost every day...makes me feel like a kid again!  Unfortunately, I broke the cup after pouring hot water in it. My bad.

This one is an old A&W Root beer mug.  I cannot recall where I found it but I can tell you it's quite heavy!

and this is a pretty vintage piece from Fire King which I bought in the mountain town of Wrightwood, CA last year during their annual Memorial Day city-wide yard sale:

Some vintage trays I've collected,

and this plate reminded me of something my mom had from the 1970's:

Do you like to go to second hand stores and yard sales?  If so, what do you enjoy looking for and what are some of your favorite finds?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

No June Gloom Here

Not in the least, especially when you bake a batch of these Sunshine Cupcakes!   This is a revisit of an old recipe I found on the back of my Swan Downs Cake Flour box.  I first baked these deliciously moist cupcakes, actually called 1-2-3-4 Cake, 5 years ago and I remember how they put a big smile on my face back then.  Nothing's changed as these cupcakes still make the gloomiest of June days happy and bright.  Enjoy!

Sunshine Cupcakes (aka, Swan Downs’ 1-2-3-4 Cupcakes): (when halved, makes 12 regular sized cupcakes)
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Cream butter. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Add eggs one at a time to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture alternately with milk and flavorings, beating after each addition until smooth. Baking: Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch layer pans, using about 2-1/3 cups batter in each pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans and finish cooling on racks

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Watching My Garden Grow

I never really thought of myself as a "gardener".  No, not me, the person who cannot remember to water the hibiscus shrubs that were planted two years ago, or who kills pretty much every potted herb I pick up at the farmer's market.  But, this year would be different, I told myself.  I was determined to start my own vegetable garden and with the help of my sister-in-law and friends who are experienced gardeners, I did it!

Yes, it's still a work in progress but it's fun "work" and it brings me lots of joy.

Let's take a stroll, shall we?

Raised garden bed



Green Bell Peppers

Oregano, green onions, Celebrity tomatoes

Red onions

Kale and Lettuce