We just got back from a much needed break at my in-laws farm in Virginia, this is where M grew up. We ate a lot of biscuits, had lunch with author Emily Nunn who wrote The Comfort Food Diaries (I strongly recommend, you should read this), pickled beets, fried chicken and casseroles.Read More
It’s been a few years since I last visited Chicago and boy have I missed it ,from the people, to the culture, the food and even the architecture of this wonderful city. And then a couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to take a trip to Chicago to spend some time with the folks who create Safeway’s O Organic products (http://www.albertsons.com/). I got to meet several other bloggers including my friends, Ashale, Jeanine , Ashley and Irvin among many other bloggers. Needless to say this was an event full of food and learning about good food practices when it comes to sourcing and make healthy changes in our lifestyles.
We kicked off our first night with dinner at the Windsor restaurant in downtown Chicago and ate a meal prepared entirely from ingredients from O organics but the best part was to come the next day when we actually got to step into a kitchen and cook! We started our morning with a breakfast bar that had a bunch of different types of slow cooked oats flavored with maple syrup, chocolate chips and fresh and dried fruit. Then we proceeded on to a quick demo with a dietician and picked up some quick tips on how to make our food friendlier to our own personal needs and diets yet keeping it as flavorful and tasty. Now comes the fun part, we got to cook in the Rick Bayless kitchen!!! After getting a few pointers on how to operate in the kitchen, I teamed up with Ashlae and we made a stove top nut and mixed berry crisp and flavored it with all sorts of lovely fresh herbs such as tarragon and mint. It was sweet, jamy and heavenly and also one of the most colorful things we could eat. Later we got to photograph our creations (you can see the image below). All the ingredients provided to use were from the O Organics line and I was really impressed to see that they have an organic version of every ingredient I could think of using and I know I do in my kitchen.
Using their ingredients, I’ve baked this simple yet flavorful fall themed pound cake that uses toasted walnuts and a little bit of ginger. It’s more of a tea cake though you could add a powdered sugar frosting on top to add a little bit of extra sweetness!
Just a couple of notes about getting access to Safeway’s O Organic products across the country. At the recent O Organics ‘Organic for All’ event in Chicago, I had the opportunity to work with a vast selection of O Organics products, but please check your local Albertsons family store to see what’s available in your area. I get my O Organics products at Safeway, but if you are outside of the SF Bay Area, O Organics products are available at Albertsons Companies stores across the country, including Albertsons, ACME Markets, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Tom Thumb, Randalls, Pavilions and Star Market.
walnut ginger pound cake
yields: one 9 inch loaf cake
1 cup/16 tablespoons/227gm unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature plus a little extra to grease a nine inch loaf pan
1 cup (198.5 gm) sugar
3 large eggs
198.5 gm all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
99gm toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Place a wire rack at midlevel and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and line a 9 inch loaf pan with a little butter and parchment paper cut to size.
Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for about 3 to 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Then slowly start to add one egg at a time to the batter and beat until completely combined.
In a large mixing bowl, dry whisk the flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using the paddle attachment beat the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture in three installments. Fold the toasted walnuts into the batter using a silicone spatula and transfer the contents to the prepared cake pan. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking process. The center should be firm when done and the edges golden brown, a knife/skewer when inserted should come out clean from the center. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then release it from the sides using a knife and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before serving.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Safeway for sponsoring this trip and post, however, all opinions expressed are solely my own.
My friend Justin recently sent me a meme joking about how the rest of the country celebrates fall while we in California don't. We do, it's just a little late. Some trees will shed their leaves and the temperatures are relatively warmer but it's still autumn. My pomegranate and fig trees will shed their leaves soon and I will anxiously wait for them to breathe back to life next year but till then I will indulge and immerse myself in seasonal pies and flavors.
And then there are pomegranates! Pomegranates are one of the most beautiful fruits to behold during a season that's usually enveloped in shades of yellow to brown. This pink fruit stands out in every way possible. The perfect balance of color, sweet and tartness enclosed in a ball.
This layer cake is my ode to the pomegranate. It draws inspiration from the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the South, it's a cake as diverse as its flavors. Sticky sweet pomegranate molasses in crème fraîche, a cinnamon sponge cake made with crème fraîche and a simple syrup of honey bourbon to flavor the cake.
This sponge cake is made with whole-wheat pastry flour from Bob’s Red Mill's . It's probably one of the best whole-grain pastry flour mixes I've baked with because it's light and the gluten content is low enough to work with in cakes and pastries, and the resulting cake texture it produces is always impeccable and delicate just like it did in this cake.
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this cake;
- In this genoise sponge cake, folding the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients will cause some deflation of the foam, be quick and fold carefully but don't worry if you lose a little volume.
- When adding the pomegranate molasses to the crème fraîche, taste and adjust the amount as needed since it is a sweet yet tart liquid with a lot of flavor packed into a tiny spoonful.
- I recommend keeping this cake in the refrigerator if you can't finish it up the day of, since the acidity of the pomegranate molasses can break down the crème fraîche over time.
- If you have access to Brazilian Pinga Com Mel then try and flavor your cake with that versus honey bourbon. It's a honey based alcohol which is delicious!!!
for the cinnamon sponge cake
yields: 2 X 9 inch cakes
2 cups (228g) sifted Bob's Red Mill whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
8 large eggs
1/5 cups (300g) superfine baking sugar
2/3 cup whipped crème fraîche
1. Place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven and preheat to 350F. Line two 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper and keep aside.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt three times in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
3. Using the whip attachment whisk the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes. Then in a slow steady stream pour the sugar from the side of the bowl while continuing to whisk the eggs for about 5 to 6 minutes until the eggs turn pale yellow in color and the entire mixture gets thick in consistency.
4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the eggs and fold with an outward to inward motion using a silicone spatula. Then fold 1/2 of the whipped crème fraîche. Repeat and fold in 1/3 flour and remaining crème fraîche. Fold in the remaining flour and divide and transfer the batter equally to the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the preheated oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to touch. Remove from oven and allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 5 to 6 minutes, then run a pairing knife between the edges of the cake and the pan and transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. At this point you can also wrap the cakes with cling film and freeze for up to a month before using.
for the bourbon syrup
yields: 1 cup
3/4 cup simple syrup (1:1 mixture of sugar and water)
1/4 cup honey bourbon
1. Mix the simple syrup and honey bourbon together in a small saucepan and bring the contents of the pan to a gentle simmer and cook for 2 minutes with occasional stirring. Remove from stove and transfer to a container and refrigerate to chill before use.
for the pomegranate molasses frosting
16 ounces (454g) crème fraîche
1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 1/2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl on ice, whisk all the ingredients for about 2 to 3 minutes until firm peaks form.
Preparing the cake
1/4 cup pomegranate arils
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Take one cooled cake and place on a cake stand. Spray/brush the surface of the cake generously with the bourbon syrup. Place half of the pomegranate crème fraîche mixture and spread to cover the surface of the cake with an offset spatula. Place the second cake over the frosted cake and repeat. Garnish with pomegranate arils and dust with cinnamon. Allow the cake to rest for about 20 minutes before serving. This cake will last for a day or two.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Bob's Red Mill, however all opinions expressed are solely my own.
I think I'm getting old, we hit 90 degrees which is a bit of a rare event in Oakland especially when we've crossed the line into Fall. It was hot enough to make me stay indoors at all times, I had most of the blinds drawn to keep the heat out but kept a few of the windows cracked open to let the air in. Of course, as one would expect there was no draft when it was needed the most. I survived on a diet of cold things that included iced water, lemonade, popsicles, and salads.
My inability to handle hot weather might just be one sign of old age, our cat is now testing my patience. Vesper has learned to pop open the wire mesh panel on our backdoor. He's an indoor cat and neither M nor I want him strolling the streets of the neighborhoods or picking a fight with another cat or raccoon (ya never know what's out there). But my little kitten is curious and intelligent which for a pet owner is a terrible combination (There was that one time when he opened the pet cabinet door to help himself to treats, so now we keep that door under lock and key). Thank goodness, Vesper is driven by greed because I quickly lured him back in to the house with treats because if he had jumped over the fence and run away, I'd go nuts. He makes Snoopy look like a saint!
An Indian summer and a crazy kitten have kept me crazy and consequently, I've been thinking of cooler fall desserts to eat. This pumpkin pudding is almost tropical with it's coconut flavors. It reminds me of being at the beach while fall is sneaking in. I used Califia Farms toasted coconut and almond milk blend to create the base for the pudding, it's heat stable which makes it really easy to thicken it over heat. I've added shredded coconut which gives the pudding texture while cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg brings in the warm fall flavors with a hint of sweetness.
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this pudding;
- You can use toasted shredded coconut to create a richer coconut flavor in the pudding. Another option is to add a teaspoon or two of coconut rum or liquor.
- If you want more shredded coconut in the pudding you can increase the final amount to 1 1/2 cups.
- Butternut squash and pumpkin both work in this recipe.
- The pudding gets thickened at two stages, once with tapioca starch (cornstarch will ask work here) and then by the shredded coconut.
coconut and pumpkin pudding
yields: 4 servings
2 cups Califia Farms toasted coconut almond milk
one 15 ounce can unsweetened pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons coconut cream
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (preferably palm sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon + a little extra for garnish
1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1. Place all the ingredients from the coconut milk to the nutmeg in a blender and pulse until smooth and combined.
2. Transfer the contents to a medium-sized saucepan with a thick bottom and on medium-high heat whisk until you get a thick custard like consistency in about 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Remove from stove and fold the shredded coconut into the pumpkin mixture. Transfer to a container and place a piece of clingfilm over the surface of the pudding. There should be no air bubbles between the clingfilm and the pudding. Refrigerate for at least 4 to 6 hours, preferably overnight before serving. Garnish the pudding with a little powdered cinnamon just before serving.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia Farms, however all opinions expressed are solely my own.
This year for Thanksgiving, I opted for several changes to our menu. I cooked a turkey breast and skipped the whole turkey (for 2 to 4 people this is the perfect option), I forgot to add cranberries to my cornbread stuffing (but added a tablespoon of sambal olek, which made it even better), I made my sweet potato pie (and sprinkled it with Persian saffron sugar crystals) and my beer and honey flavored pumpkin pie. And, before I forget, a green bean casserole with lots of crunchy fried onions and cashews. I've learned that if I can't find everything at the store, forget to add something to my list or run out of it at home, it's possible to make it through without panicking by either substituting or "faking it till I make it".
Last weekend, amidst moving and a few last minute painting mishaps, we decided to drop it all and drive up to Napa for a fall harvest festival hosted by Tillamook Cheeese at the Charles Krug winery. I've been to Napa and Sonoma counties in almost every season of the year but autumn and if you're a fall person, it's probably one of the prettiest time to visit. The vines are changing color and the larger walnut and oak trees are all sorts of shades yellow, orange and red.
We learned how to taste cheese like the pros do at Tillamook (and M took active part in his cheese training, I think this is as fascinating as people who get to taste chocolate for a living). To start you take whiff of the cheese and then you use a cheese-borer to drill a hole deep into a humongous disc of cheese and then you get to characterize the flavor in terms of different features that you notice such as lactic acid, sweetness, umami etc. Cheese was included in every portion of our lunch menu (pumpkin mac and cheese, grilled cheese and pear sandwiches, etc.) and ice cream made from Tillamook's milk. M got the vanilla bean with caramel sauce while I got the marionberry. That meal made the thought of going back home to pack and move now seemed much more bearable.
Now obviously, if you're going to pass through Yountville, you have to make the mandatory stop by Bouchon Bakery. You need something sweet to get absorb all that cheese and wine! (Pictured are the sticky buns, hazelnut eclair, TKO cookie and pumpkin spice macroon.
There are many things I love about the Thanksgiving dinner menu and, to be honest, because of the nature of my pastry loving heart, a huge portion of my affection is dessert-oriented. Yup, I’m referring to pies because those are the first things that cross my mind when I hear the words “Thanksgiving food”. Why do I love pies so much? It’s comfort food at its best. Simple and unapologetic yet still sophisticated enough to balance tradition with change.
A few months ago we thought about spending our Thanksgiving weekend in Portland but the house happened and the more I thought about it, it would be silly for me to not celebrate the holiday in our new home. So while I plan my menu, there is one addition this year that I’m confident will make it to my dinner feast. It’s going to be a sweet beer pumpkin honey pie that’s infused with a deep caramel malt lager from Negra Modelo.
This medium-bodied lager made by Negra Modelo is absolutely perfect, it’s got a delicious caramel flavor that’s built into the beer by subjecting the malt through a slow roasting process. Once you fold these caramel notes into the pumpkin purée and bake it, you will end up with a delicious smooth pumpkin pie that bursting with deep sweet malt flavors.
A big slice of pumpkin pie and a chilled glass of Negra Modelo’s lager after Thanksgiving dinner or for that matter at any dinner sounds simply perfect!
Some kitchen tips that you might find useful when you prepare this pumpkin pie;
- When reducing the beer, stir it constantly as the heat will cause the foam in the liquid to rise and it could spill out of the pan.
- Always use unsweetened pumpkin purée for this recipe as I’ve standardized the amounts of honey and sweetener accordingly.
- Ginger is an optional spice in this recipe but do use turmeric, it will bump up the brightness of the pumpkin in the pie.
- Use whatever pie crust you love the most!
pumpkin honey beer pie
yields: serves 8
1 bottle (335mL) Negra Modelo beer
15 ounces can unsweetened pumpkin purée
3 large eggs + 3 yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ginger powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup (150gm) packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 pre-made pie crust shell of your choice
- Pour the Negra Modelo into a medium-sized thick-bottomed saucepan. Heat on medium-high heat with constant stirring to bring the beer to a boil and then immediately reduce to medium-low heat. Reduce the volume of the beer to about 1/4 cup which should take about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool to room temperature before using.
- Place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven and preheat to 350F.
- Place the reduced beer and all the ingredients from the pumpkin purée to the heavy cream in a large mixing bowl and whisk by hand until completely combined. Then prepare a slurry of the cornstarch with the water and whisk this into the liquid in the large mixing bowl. Transfer the pumpkin filling to a large thick bottomed saucepan and heat on medium-low heat, gently whisking it to prevent the formation of any lumps. Cook the liquid until it acquires the consistency of a thick custard and coats the back of a wooden spoon. The liquid should thicken after about 12 to 15 minutes.
- Place a pie dish containing the pie crust on a baking sheet and pour the pie filling. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for at least 55 to 60 minutes, rotating it halfway through the baking process. The pie is done when the center of the filling barley jiggles. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool completely (about 4 hours) before serving. Serve with a little sweetened whipped cream and a bottle of chilled Negra Modelo.
This is a sponsored post, developed in partnership with Negra Modelo. All thoughts, opinions and recipes are my own.
November has been a month of change. For one, we had some big weather changes, it finally cooled down and we had a nice big shower of rain (a much needed one at that and I hope we get several more). Second, I learned that I can spend a lot of time at hardware stores as much as I do at kitchen stores and at the cookbook aisles in bookstores. And I dread the thought of packing and unpacking when it's a move that's only a few miles away. But as time proceeds and I see my ideas actually materialize, I find the stress of renovating worth it and exciting. The kitchen is painted and the garden fence is finally up and the move date moves closer and closer.
By the way, I feel that the holidays are making their appearances even faster than usual, I was hoping to catch a few horror flicks last weekend during Halloween but I found myself flipping through four or five different tv channels that were filled Christmas movies! Way too soon...
Chocolate bark is one of my favorite sweets to look forward to during the holidays. It's perhaps one of the easiest things to make and to be honest, it's versatility is understated, you can adapt it to whatever season or festivity that you want to and this time, I'm making a holiday version. This bark is scented and spiced with a little cinnamon with a few dried cranberries, pistachios and maldon salt flakes embedded to add sweet, tangy, nutty and salty flavors to each and every bite of chocolate you eat.
After I painted the rooms in the last house in DC, I swore I'd never paint walls again but here I am now, knee deep in paint and stained. Not to say that it isn't fun and a good arm workout but a couple of hours through and I keep considering my sanity and life choices when it comes to painting. The prospect of cooking in the new kitchen has me very, very excited. It was one of the things that immediately blew me away when we looked at the house and I feel fortunate that we were able to get it. Snoopy on the other hand has found it to be an exhausting experience, he spends most of his time running around the house while we work but he makes sure he gets his nap time, in and out of the sun.
Between wall painting and backyard cleaning, there was a mini blogger reunion last weekend and I got to spend some time with the lovely Molly and Lindsey who were visiting the San Francisco Bay on a quick trip for work. Oddly enough, it was also a reunion of sorts for those of us that live in the Bay but don't get a chance to meet each other as often as we'd like to. Our little party also included my local fellow bloggers and pals, Michelle, Phyllis, Todd and Phi, we met up for drinks at Prizefighter.
Speaking of bars and drinks, I'm a huge fan of serving drinks with a few small bites. Cheese is usually a good accompaniment to most drinks and with so many varieties to choose from it makes it an ideal pairing option. There are cheese slices and cheese balls, and cheese balls are an amazing invention. The first time I tasted a cheese ball, was several years ago during an Easter dinner in Virginia. We were visiting M's family and his mother made two large cheese balls coated with all sorts of delicious things. She prepares them in the afternoon, the first one disappears by the time its made, the second one disappears by dinner. Taking some inspiration from her, I've made a fall themed, herbed coated cheeseball that has sweet cranberries and pumpkin seeds and a dash of hot sriracha sauce for a kick. http://blog.westelm.com/2015/10/30/herbed-goat-cheese-balls/
Disclaimer: Thank you to West Elm for sponsoring this post. All opinions expressed are purely my own.
This week has been busy, we've been trying to get contractors lined up for all the different projects for our new house. Apparently, all contractors in the Bay are busy until next year so there's that but we finally managed to rope a few people in after a lot of googling, yelp research and asking people. With all the chaos that is to ensue, I'm super excited about the prospect of all the fun aspects of working on a home and making it my own.
My first cover in print just came out last week. Every issue of the Edible Silicon Valley magazine features the work of one local artist (from the food industry) and this time the lovely folks at Edible SV did a little feature on my work and also asked me to share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. You can find this issue at most stores in the San Francisco Bay Area and also online at their website.
A lot can be said about a sandwich, in many ways I think of it as a gateway to my heart because a good sandwich can take me to my happy place. I like mine toasted and grilled, stuffed pretty full, yet pressed down and to compact and hold everything inside together. Most of the time, my sandwiches have cheese and if there's cheese, there'd better be some amount of heat involved to melt it.
These sandwiches have two stages of grilling. The first is when big, fat thick slices of garam masala seasoned sweet potatoes go on the grates and the second time it's the panini stuffed with kale leaves,cheese and crispy bacon. And along with this panini there's a hot and spicy Sriracha flavored mayo to dip and enjoy every bite! I also like to top each sandwich off with a fresh fried egg which also works perfect for a weekend brunch item.
Disclaimer: Thank you to West Elm for sponsoring this post. All opinions expressed are purely my own.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, things start to get busy. It's the same theme every year, there's the excitement of the holiday and the food but the anxiousness of the impending crazy that might rear its ugly head. A good example of this is shopping during the holidays, it's drives me absolutely nuts, it tests my patience and I hope makes me a better person for weathering through it. Don't get me wrong, I love going to stores at this time of the year, they're all gorgeously decorated for Christmas (those ornaments keep popping up earlier and earlier, each year!) and there are a lot of fun things to try (new holiday flavored teas at one of my favorite tea stores) and the strollers, yes the strollers! Strollers make nervous, they keep getting wider and larger with time, they can even take up entire sidewalks but in a mall that's already packed they can become a tool of danger. While trying on a couple of pairs of sneakers, I had two encounters within a short span of time, the first involved a bump to the head and the second, my toes. I'm going to go with the notion that these could be considered "war wounds" of the holiday season and a reason why I prefer to shop online during the holidays! What do you prefer, online or in-store?
Let's talk about holiday meals and ingredients, though I love both of them, I love sweet potatoes a little more than pumpkins. They are simply perfect, I always get a slice of sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving and if I can manage, there'll even be a pie after the holiday. But sweet potatoes also make wonderful savory dishes and I can never have enough! So when the folks at The Society asked me to share a Thanksgiving recipe at their site, I knew I'd be giving a shoutout to my favorite tuber with this simple and easy soup that's served with some Indian-inspired cauliflower croutons. The sweet potato soup is lightly flavored with coriander with a smooth and velvety texture. It helps take the craziness away and comforts and calms. So go ahead and make yourself some soup, the recipe is available here!