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Summer Lovin’

August 20, 2012

Hi peeps. It’s been a rad summer so far. I have been working quite a bit lately with long work week hours but I make it up with a great weekend with family and friends. Here’s a mish-mash of photos to give you a quick glimpse of my summer so far.

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Despite the heat spell this year, I managed to survive the oven temperature in my kitchen and baked a few goodies for the family including a Key Lime Tart, Mini Fresh Fruit Tarts, and Lemon Bars.

Summer Baking

I also made Chocolate Caramel Bars and a Chocolate Star Wars Cake for my nephew. That was a rad birthday party.

Summer Baking

My nephew Logan was crazy stoked to defeat Darth Vader at his birthday party.

Darth Vader vs. Logan

Some of my favorite summer getaway pictures…

Summer Fun

Summer Fun

I’ll follow-up with the Key Lime Tart recipe soon and a mish-mash of my favorite Instagram summer snaps.

XO

David Lebovitz’ Cranzac Cookies

July 7, 2012

Cranzac Cookies

Folks, excuse my recent absence. June was a slightly chaotic (but in a good way) month for me this year. From a Palm Springs bachelorette party, to visiting out-of-towner friends, to a theater outing to see Les Misérables, to Taste Of The Nation volunteer work, to my nephew’s Star Wars birthday party (more on that on a separate post), and to a Cancun vacation, I hardly had any time left to watch The Big C and Girls.

Alas, tropical vacation is over and I reel myself back to get to routine again. When one entire month is absolutely booked with commitments and social events, you’ve got zero time to do anything for yourself. You know, the simple but self-enriching activities you routinely do to be your best self.

I definitely missed the rubbery smell of my yoga mat. I stopped getting up early to play tennis on weekends. I am barely joining the Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon (errr, excitement rather). I left my clothes at the dry cleaners for three straight weeks. Shopping wasn’t on my mind… not even online shopping! Yikes! Despite putting off a few of my routine things, I actually declare June being the best month of 2012 thus far!

June was spent with dear loved ones – family and friends – as well as new friends. Plus, I got to end the month with a relaxing time off in Cancun for eight days. June was bomb.

Cranzac Cookies

Now that I lengthily explained my inexcusable absence, I end my “I’m back” post with David Lebovitz’ Cranzac Cookies. What are Cranzac Cookies anyway? It ‘s David’s spin on the traditional ANZAC biscuits which are oat cookies said to be shipped to soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC, get it?) because it didn’t spoil as fast and it’s a pretty hearty cookie fit for long-distance shipment. David’s version has cranberries in addition to the oats and coconut. I like to describe it as a chewy granola cookie.

Cranzac Cookies

Cranzac Cookies appears on David Lebovitz’ latest book, Ready For Dessert. Just as a reminder and a note to any new readers, I stopped posting recipes here on the blog in respect to the original owner of the recipe… except if I made any adjustments to it. Instead, I post a link on how you can get the recipe – either a link to how you can buy the recipe (cookbooks for example) or a link to their website.

You can order Ready For Dessert on Amazon here.

Hope you are having an awesome summer of 2012 so far! Stay cool everyone.

French Macarons with Mint Chocolate Ganache Filling

April 21, 2012

Las Gaviotas

I have not been to Las Gaviotas in Rosarito, Mexico since December of last year for New Year’s Eve. Coming back in beautiful spring weather was such a treat. Bearik’s family has a beautiful beachfront house in Las Gaviotas, a community of beach houses down in Baja. Anytime we feel like getting away for a weekend, we drive down with our boogie boards, golf clubs and of course a voracious appetite for delectable Mexican food.

Beach

The Beach

Golf at Baja Mar

Now here are a few snaps of my nephews, niece, and cousins for Easter. Thought I’d share with you their absolute cuteness.

Baby Landon

Kids running

Avery and Daddy

French Macarons with Mint Chocolate Ganache Filling

Despite my awful and intense allergy attack Easter day, it was a beautiful time celebrated with family. I made French Macarons with Mint Chocolate Ganache Filling for the occasion. With its sea-foam green color, these beauties looked just as festive as the Easter eggs on our picnic table.

French Macarons with Mint Chocolate Ganache Filling

Most bakers have their own macaron secrets but I only really abide by the following when I make macarons:

1. I use aged egg whites (egg whites separated from the yolks at least overnight – if you can age for 2 days sitting in your counter top, that’s preferred)

2. I have only used the French meringue method. It works for me so I don’t really have any reason to try the Italian meringue method.

3. I follow Helene of Tartelette blog’s macaron mixing method. No more than 50 strokes… fast at first, then fold. Visit her site and learn from the pro. She has a great resource for macaron newbies – Demystifying Macarons.

French Macarons with Mint Chocolate Ganache Filling

Read more…

Ham and Gruyère Thumbprints

April 8, 2012

Ham and Gruyere Thumbprints

A short post today friends. I have a few pretty exciting things currently unfolding in my life and I couldn’t be more happier. First, my folks are transitioning into a beautiful new home we are all really thrilled for them. Second, my 6th wedding anniversary is fast approaching and Bearik and I have already been debating discussing which restaurant to go to. Third, I have a handful of friends who recently got engaged and that means we have plenty of weddings to attend (YAY, I love weddings). Fourth, I found a new advertising gig closer to home with great growth opportunities and wonderful people.

Then talk about today’s Easter fun with the family… great food, great conversations, games plus egg-hunting with little ones, and uplifting time at church. I am utterly blessed.

I’ll let you get back to the rest of your Easter celebration so I’ll close by sharing this insanely easy Ham and Gruyère Thumbprints recipe from Martha Stewart. This recipe is available online and was also published in Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics and a previous issue of Martha Stewart Living Holiday magazine.

Ham and Gruyere Thumbprints

The recipe uses a pâte à choux base. Pâte à choux is the dough used for making cream puffs, éclairs, and gougères . These thumbprints are actually very similar to making gougères – a savory dough with cheese and herbs – wherein you incorporate minced black forest ham and shredded Gruyère cheese into the dough.

These are great cocktail party appetizers or as an after-school snack for kiddies. Who doesn’t like ham and cheese, right? Read more…

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

March 18, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart inspired by The Help. That was my contribution to my sister-in-law’s annual Academy Awards viewing party and potluck.

This post is about 3 weeks late and irrelevant now. Blame it on a last minute Vegas trip and a wild work schedule as of late.

Heather, my sister-in-law, throws an Oscars party every year where each guests bring a completed ballot together with a $5 bill for a little fun and tease and a dish inspired by the best picture nominated movies for our bellies.

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

As daring as I was before Oscars weekend to make something inspired by The Tree Of Life, I found myself stuck and uninspired because let’s face it, it was my least favorite movie of the year. Fast-forward to February 25th, Saturday, day before the party. I woke up with memorable scenes of Minny’s infamous Chocolate Pie from the movie. And that was it, forget The Tree of Life, we are doing some sort of Chocolate Pie minus the “duty” of course – if you saw the movie, you know what I am referring to.

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, has a great Chocolate Hazelnut Tart recipe in their self-named baking book. I thought this would be a good version/twist of Minny’s pie. I made the pie with a very slight change… skipped the brandy and just reduced the amount of orange zest. Because ½ teaspoon of zest as the recipe called for just slightly overpowered the chocolate. About ¼ teaspoon is enough to give it another depth of flavor without distracting you from the chocolate goodness. But feel free to use more if you prefer that stronger orange flavor like Tartine’s original. Read more…

Blueberry-Pear Pistachio Tart

February 14, 2012

Blueberry-Pear Pistachio Tart

I get excited about the Super Bowl and I get a little mushy for Valentine’s Day, but the February tent-pole event/holiday that I am absolutely most stoked about is the Oscars. Having seen all the best picture nominated movies this year, I am predicting that The Artist will win best picture this year, with The Descendants as a close rival.

Last year, I had a clear favorite movie which was The King’s Speech. This year, I can’t exactly pinpoint which one is my favorite… the movie that I enjoyed the most just as a regular moviegoer, not as a hyper-critical film enthusiast. I do have a top three list though, and in no particular order: The Artist, Midnight in Paris, and The Descendants. Loved all these films tremendously but just can’t point my finger to the absolute numero uno. However, last year around this time, I had already established my three favorite films, and this is in order: The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Black Swan. Toy Story 3 was my fourth in case you were curious.

My sister-in-law is hosting her annual Academy Awards viewing party and attendees have to make/bring a dish inspired by the best picture nominated movies. Perhaps some Black and White Cookies for The Artist? Make Chocolate Éclairs for Midnight in Paris? How about Cream Scones with jam for War Horse? Baseball-shaped cookies for Moneyball or homemade Cracker Jack? Oh the dilemma. I’ll share on the next post what I end up making. Prize awaits for the most creative, most inspired dish. Very eager to take that prize home… whatever it may be.

Blueberry-Pear Pistachio Tart

I thought of reinventing this Blueberry-Pear Pistachio Tart I made not too long ago for the much-awaited Oscars viewing party. The twist was to transform the tart to a pie in honor of The Help’s nomination. I brewed the idea in my head for several days and decided that I want to challenge myself and come up with a dish inspired by The Tree Of Life. Gulp. This trippy movie directed by Terence Mallick is chock-full of imagery, a little non-linear, and honestly a little too long. It tells the story of a boy’s relationship with his father through his childhood memories while intertwining rich images of how the world started and how it became what it is now. Any ideas on what I should make to commemorate the brilliance of this film in the form of edible food? Baking a tree-shaped cake or bread is a total cop-out – although playing with the title seems to be the only viable option I can manage to come up with right now. I’ll share on the next post what my imaginative mind can whip up. Don’t get your hopes up, I might end up with a pie.

Blueberry-Pear Pistachio Tart

Blueberry-Pear Pistachio Tart

Focusing our attention back on this gorgeous tart. This uses pre-made puff pastry dough (please don’t judge) smeared with homemade pistachio paste and topped with sliced pears, blueberries, and chopped pistachios. Making puff pastry from scratch is a big task. Last time I made homemade puff pastry was culinary school days (about four years ago) and since then, I haven’t rekindled my relationship with the sometimes daunting puff pastry. It really is all about technique. It isn’t daunting once you have the technique down. I remember my chef instructor lauding my flaky puff pastry layers when we made Brie En Croute and Napoleons. That was a great feeling. But if you are pressed for time and can’t make puff pastry from scratch, like myself most days, you can opt to use a pre-made but high quality brand like Dufour and still have satisfying results. Read more…

Dorie’s World Peace Cookies

January 22, 2012

World Peace Cookies

Web freedom won… at least for now. The force of the entire online community was so impressive the past few days that SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) votes have been shelved indefinitely. No imminent Wikipedia shutdowns and no closing down of sites without due process in the near future until the bills are both revisited again possibly later this year. So thank you, if you participated in one way or another, in the mass online protest earlier this week. We can enjoy all the web content out there with great freedom.

Be in the know. Here’s a really good Gizmodo article about what SOPA means to you and me.

In the spirit of this temporary web victory, and big hopes to having a ‘perfectly-imperfect’ online privileges for all, I leave you with Dorie Greenspan’s much-loved World Peace Cookies. The recipe for these cookies have been published multiple times online and in-book (magazines and baking books alike). I wouldn’t be surprised if you had made these superb chocolate cookies a thousand times over in your lifetime.

These cookies shine because of the “generous” amount of fleur de sel in the dough. I don’t mean generous like  A LOT but it has a good amount of salt compared to other cookie recipes. In her book, Baking From My Home To Yours, it asks for 1/2 teaspoon of fleur de sel. But she also gave a substitute of 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt if you don’t have fleur de sel sitting in your pantry… I know they can be a little pricey. I used gray sea salt when I made my batch and it was divine.

Dorie's Cookies

I also made these cookies during the holidays and my family went nuts for them. We drank hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows to wash down the cookies for our post-Christmas dinner treats. Just perfection.

World Peace Cookies by Dorie Greenspan recipe as published by American Public Media (The Splendid Table) and by Bon Appetit. Or get the printed version here.

*Dorie warns that the cookie rounds may start to crack as you slice your cookie log… just patch the bits back to the cookie and everything will be fine. Trust Dorie.

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