Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chocolate Peppermint Wafer Cookies

These are the most delicious cookies. Chocolate wafer cookies flavored with peppermint extract then dipped in white chocolate and topped with crushed peppermint candies. The taste of Christmas in a cookie!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gluten-Free Flavors of the Subcontinent

A client of mine has Celiac disease and can't tolerate any gluten or dairy in her diet. I'm catering her birthday party this weekend and came up with a wonderful menu of her favorite foods that are both gluten and dairy-free. As with all gluten-free items it's necessary to try the recipes to make sure the flavor is just as good as the original because sometimes the gluten-free flours have a weird flavor. So I tried everything and it all tastes great!

Most of these recipes are from a wonderful cookbook, Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Every recipe from this cookbook is incredible and they are always a hit. This book is a great coffee table book and the pictures are amazing. I made a few modifications to the recipes and ended up with very flavorful food.

The Lamb & Potato Samosas were encased in a fennel-flecked dough and served with a Cilantro Chutney. Garbanzo Bean Flour and Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour were combined with flour to make the Chapati. The Akki Rotti (recipe here) was brimming with spices and herbs. Karnata Chana (Chickpea Dal) had a good flavor.

The Lamb Slipper Kebabs were flavored with cilantro, ginger, chile's, tomato, onion, and garam masala. Incredible!

I know that she is going to enjoy everything and it makes me happy knowing I can prepare her favorite foods without worry of getting sick!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hearty Fall Minestrone

Last week I went to the Santa Monica Farmers Market and picked up some wonderful produce. I was in the mood for lots of vegetables, fall flavors and soup and it was the perfect place to get the ingredients for a wonderful Fall Minestrone.

The soup was loaded with vegetables: butternut squash, green beans, carrots, potatoes and kale. The potatoes made the soup thick and creamy, had a little bit of sweetness due to the butternut squash, and was very hearty and filling.

I made a large batch of the soup and froze individual portions for later. So now when I'm craving this soup I just have to take it out, heat and enjoy!

Chocolate Confections

I was in the mood to make chocolate confections and decided to try some recipes from a new cookbook by pastry chef Francois Payard. A few of the recipes just didn't work (chocolate marshmallows and chocolate popcorn) and I'm not sure why...so I tried a few others and was happy with the results.

Chocolate mendiants are both delicious and easy to make. Use your favorite, good quality chocolate for the best flavor. I had semisweet (Sharffenberger) on hand so that is what I used but you can use bittersweet, milk chocolate or white chocolate as well. You temper the chocolate, spoon it out onto prepared baking sheet and top with assorted items. Let set for an hour then savor the smooth, flavorful chocolate. The mendiants were topped with caramelized walnuts and almonds with fleur de sel. I love fleur de sel with chocolate, such a wonderful combination!

The chocolate popcorn was one of the items that didn't really turn out the way it was supposed to but I tried it anway and the flavor was really good. Cocoa powder and salt mixed into a hot honey syrup then tossed with the popcorn. The syrup didn't end up being a pouring consistency so it clumped on the popcorn instead of coating all the kernels....I will try it again and try to see what went wrong.

One of my favorite chocolate snacks from Trader Joe's are their cocoa almonds. I found a recipe that seemed easy enough so I tried it out. The almonds were coated in a sugar syrup, melted chocolate to coat and tossed with cocoa powder. The concept is good but these were a little too sweet for my palate. Next time I think I will reduce the amount of sugar syrup used and try again. If I can get it right these will be wonderful!

More chocolate confections to come!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pine Nuts, Pignoli, Pinon

"I used to be able to name every nut that there was. And it used to drive my mother crazy, because she used to say, "Harlan Pepper, if you don't stop naming nuts," and the joke was that we lived in Pine Nut, and I think that's what put it in my mind at that point. So she would hear me in the other room, and she'd just start yelling. I'd say, "Peanut. Hazelnut. Cashew nut. Macadamia nut." That was the one that would send her into going crazy. She'd say, "Would you stop naming nuts!" And Hubert used to be able to make the sound, he couldn't talk, but he'd go "rrrawr rrawr" and that sounded like Macadamia nut. Pine nut, which is a nut, but it's also the name of a town. Pistachio nut. Red pistachio nut. Natural, all natural white pistachio nut." Harlan Pepper, Best in Show.

Best in Show is a great movie and that is a fitting quote for this post. My husband loves all types of nuts. Just the other night he told me, as we were eating pesto pasta with pine nuts and chicken, that pine nuts were his favorite. I had a bag of them so I decided to try a few dessert recipes.

I know that pine nuts are very popular in Italian dishes so I searched for an Italian cake and found a great one on Epicurious.com. The ingredients were simple and it was easy to make and smelled incredible! I'm not a fan of pine nuts but wanted to eat the entire cake after I took it out of the oven.

Another recipe was for pine nut tarts, flavored with honey, brown sugar and vanilla. I bought fresh wildflower honey from the farmers market and was excited to use that in these tarts. These were so fragrant and lovely. Tartelette posted the original recipe for these Pine Nut Tartelettes.

A few things about Pine Nuts:
  • Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines
  • Contain between 10-34% protein
  • Source of dietary fiber

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall Flavors: Pumpkin

This past weekend was my mom's birthday and we had the family over for dinner. I decided to make a few pumpkin desserts since it finally feels like fall! The first dessert was a pumpkin pot de creme which was flavored with pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cream, eggs and sugar. The custard was baked in a water bath and topped with fresh whipped cream.

I had some ladyfingers left from a party the night before so I thought pumpkin tiramisu would be great. I layered the ladyfingers, pumpkin mascarpone and brandy in shot glasses. Both these desserts were the perfect amount of pumpkin tasters!

I also tried to make pumpkin macaroons but those didn't turn out...the second time trying macaroons and I still can't get it right. Hopefully they will turn out one of these days!

Friday, October 31, 2008


I've been thinking about homemade marshmallows and new flavors of hot chocolate lately, anticipating the fall weather that is on its way! I found a few marshmallow recipes and love the combination of peppermint and chocolate so thought I would combine the mint marshmallows with homemade hot chocolate.

The marshmallows were so easy to make (recipe found on epicurious.com) and the flavor combinations are endless! I used peppermint extract for my first batch and the flavor and texture were perfect.

I coated the rim of the espresso mug with sanding sugar for a little crunch and even more sugar. It not only looked pretty but tasted great. Next time I will use crushed peppermints or maybe even melt an Andes mint into the hot chocolate. I can't wait to try even more marshmallow and hot chocolate combinations!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Just wanted to share a few pictures of some cupcakes I made for an event.

Cupcake toppers made with different paper, shapes and stickers.

Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and topped with fondant pumpkins and bats.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blueberry Muffins

In my efforts to find and make quick, healthy breakfast items that we can eat on the go I came across a blueberry muffin recipe that appealed to me. The key words that stood out were "make ahead" and "freezable!" I have to wake up pretty early in the morning so I need items we can just grab and get going.

These muffins are loaded with vitamin B, calcium, antioxidants, omega 3 and protein.

I made a few adaptations to the original recipe based on the ingredients I had on hand and trying to make these more nutritious. For a "healthy" muffin these are very good. They are light, not at all dry or dense like so many store bought blueberry muffins. And I love the nutty flavor the flaxseed and walnut oil added. I also prefer fresh blueberries that way they don't bleed into the batter and make the muffins blue.

Blueberry Muffins with Almond Streusel
adapted from Cooking Light 2004

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup oats
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups vanilla low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup reduced fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons walnut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Cooking spray

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup slivered almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray muffin pans with cooking spray
2. Combine flours, flaxseed meal, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in the center of mixture. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, milk, oil, vanilla and egg, stirring with a whisk. Add yogurt mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until moist. Fold in blueberries.
3. Spoon 2 rounded tablespoons batter into muffin cups.
4. Combine 1/4 cup flour, almonds, brown sugar and butter. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes.

Makes approximately 30 muffins.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Snack Bars

Snack Bars. Something quick that you eat on the run. So many of the bars you find in the store are either so hard you feel like your teeth with bread or overly sweet. In my search to find the right bar I decided to try a few recipes. It is so easy to make a bar, you can add lots of healthy items and adapt the ingredients to your favorites.

I made two different bars this morning and it took me less than 1 hour. The first is more of a breakfast bar (recipe from Cooking Light). The main ingredients are 7-grain cereal puffs, wheat germ, applesauce, dried fruit, cinnamon, and egg whites. You mix all the ingredients in the food processor until combined and bake in the oven for around 30 minutes. These bars freeze very well so you can make a large batch and freeze for longer storage.

The other bars are my best bars (adapted from a recipe in Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson). Ingredients include: brown rice crisp, granola, oats, flaxseed meal, assorted nuts, dried fruit, brown rice syrup. Just chop the nuts and fruit, add to other ingredients. Heat syrup then mix well. Place in baking pan and let cool until set. These are delicious!!

Both of these bars are healthy and are great snacks to have on hand when you just need a little something. The bars in the stores will pale in comparison to these fresh, healthy flavors!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Birthday Cupcakes

My friend's daughter turned 1 a few weeks ago and I had a fun time making and decorating cupcakes for the birthday party. The color scheme was white, pink and purple so I incorporated the colors into the topping for the cupcakes.

The first of the cupcakes were chocolate with chocolate buttercream frosting and topped with pink fondant shapes. The second were vanilla with buttercream frosting decorated with purple fondant shapes. The last were lemon with cream cheese frosting decorated with pink & purple sprinkles (not shown).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Slow Food Nation in San Francisco

The Slow Food snail made entirely of bread, featured in the Bread Museum at the Taste Pavilion.

Last weekend San Francisco hosted the inaugural Slow Food Nation event. My friend and I flew to SF on Friday and got an adventurous start while en route to the Victory Garden. The entire event featured food from local restaurants using products sourced locally, a farmers market, victory garden, concert, films, lectures, taste pavilion, cooking demonstrations...am I forgetting something? The food was amazing, as expected, and we really enjoyed being there.

Pink & yellow tropical mushrooms. I've never seen such beautiful mushrooms! There were so many wonderful foods at the market and I was too busy eating to take many pictures!

Entering the Taste Pavilion. We each had our "Slow Dough" and after 3 1/2 hours we were stuffed and had some dough left over!

This oven was made just for this event and took around 45 minutes to put together. It was a nice bit of warmth on that windy evening.

Just a sampling of the ornate decorated bread that was featured in the Bread Museum.

Each area of the Taste Pavilion was designed with the help of architects. They were all unique and it was fun to see what they were able to do on a small budget. This pictures above were for the Spirits Pavilion.

Drawings of animals for the Charcuterie. We tried jerky, pork fat with garlic and a few other items. They were very good and very rich.

The Fish, of course. And the fish trio was great.

A few notable things we tried that we didn't take pictures of:
Beer Pavilion--I tried the Rogue Juniper Pale Ale. Wonderful!
Pizza/Bread Pavilion--Broccoli Rabe Pizza, Indian Naan. So good that we went back for more! Pickle Pavilion--Pickled items I would have never thought to try...fiddle head ferns, cumin green beans, asparagus. Oh and they had a pickle barrel where you were able to take a self-portrait. I need to find the website so I can find our picture!
Wine--There were around 500 different varieties of wine to choose from and I tried a Pinot Noir that was great!
There was quite a lot more that we tried but these are the ones that stand out the most for me.

And of course we had to stop by the Ferry Building Marketplace to eat more delicious food!

I can't wait until the next Slow Food Nation event. Definitely worth a fun trip to SF!


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