Category Archives: Uncategorized

She’s baaack! (so let’s eat pie)

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One small excuse for not sharing our culinary adventures in some time: half of our esteemed enterprise, Joni, decided to pull a full Eat Pray Love on us and travel the globe for 5 months. She left us with another delightful blog during this time, which provided some comfort, but I still found myself with an empty hole/crippling inability to post anything. But all’s well that ends well y’all – SHE’S BACK. And within a week she was in San Francisco visiting me, and within about an hour of that, we were baking.

Being reunited with your best bud of 25+ years is an extremely chill experience that only decades of “we cool” can cultivate. Joni showed up in my city, brought me chocolate, I ate it, said I was tired, and she sent me to my room for a nap. When I got up though, I was really stoked and we ate pie. Chocolate bourbon pecan pie, to be more specific.

This pie was originally just another vehicle on which to put whipped cream, because I’m on a serious home-made whipped cream kick these days (more on that later). But this ended up being a lot more than that because chocolate, bourbon, buttery dough…you get the picture.

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Whipped cream on erry’thang

As many of you know, I have struggled over the years with a serious case of culinary F.O.D. (fear of dough), but I’m working through it with the help of good friends, a pastry blender, and a bottle that I use as a rolling pin (Hey, I may be visiting the world of baking, but I haven’t moved in). But you know what? I’ve realized that even when you make the seemingly unspeakable mistakes they warn you about in all the Super Uptight Baking Recipes, what you get is still pretty damn good. All this “careful not to let the butter melt or your crust won’t be flaky!” – I mean, it is true, but not-as-flakey-as-it-could-be pie dough is still pie dough, knowwhatImsayin?

This recipe is a bit time consuming, but overall straightforward if you go by the book. I paired it with maple whipped cream, but you could easily do vanilla ice cream, cool whip, silly string…hey, I don’t judge. Just add best friend and serve.


Chocolate bourbon pecan pie
Adapted from Food&Wine

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, in pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water

Filling

  • 2 cups (about 7 ounces) pecans
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chip


Whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup


Directions

  1. In a food processor or by hand with a pastry blender, blend the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and combine until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the ice water. Knead the dough 2 or 3 times on a lightly floured surface and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round. Fit the dough into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch, fold the edge under itself and crimp to decorate. Refrigerate until firm (maybe 20 minutes).
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°. On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the pecans for about 8 minutes, until just toasted, and coarsely chop. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, melted butter, bourbon and salt until blended. Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
  4. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for about 55 minutes, or until the center of the pie is set. Tent the crust with foil if the edge is browning too quickly (it didn’t for me). Transfer the pie to a rack and let cool before serving.
  5. To make whipped cream: combine cream and maple syrup and beat until firm peaks form, about 8-10 minutes. It’s easier with a small amount of cream, a big bowl, and a healthy level of confidence.

 

 

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Let’s get poppin’

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It’s been so fucking hot in LA, so to cope I’ve jumped on the popsicle bandwagon HARD. Like, my freezer is rollin’ DEEP with pops. It’s fucking fantastic.

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You guys, this shit is a total crowd pleaser. And SO easy. I mean, talk about ultimate lazy-mom snack! Minimal work, HUGE payoff. Good serving size, too. I brought a few to a bachelorette party in Palm Springs last weekend, and they were a total hit. What can I say, BETCHES LOVE POPS!

It literally it couldn’t be easier. Here’s the basic play-by-play:

  1. Create sweet liquid aphrodisiac concoction
  2. Pour in molds
  3. Shank with a stick
  4. Put that shit on ice

Cue slow clap, you’re just 6 hours away from paleta nirvana. (Patience, grasshopper.)

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Of course, there are bougie options abound: perhaps a dash of homemade mint simple syrup, dollop o’ espresso, booze of any kind, or ginger-basil-prosecco-rosé-peach-sangria-white-privilege. Go forth and paleta as you see fit.

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It’s time dust off those Pinterest boards y’all because these are the pins you’ll actually succeed in creating.

Stay cool my friends and get poppin’!

Popsicle Recipe Starter Pack:

Honeydew Cucumber Margarita

Coconut Blueberry

Espresso + Brownie

Watermelon Mint Mojito

Good people

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You know how some people say that the best way to test for a good chef is to have them make you an omelette? Well, I think the best way to test for a good person is to talk to them about breakfast sandwiches. I fundamentally do not trust anyone who isn’t at least a little bit passionate about a good breakfast sandwich.

A breakfast sandwich is just one of those things where when it’s good, it’s good, so part of being even a little excited about breakfast sandwiches means you are probably on The Quest For the Best One. I’m not so egotistical as to say I’ve found The Best One and that it’s in fact my own creation, but I am here to tell you that on this quest, a major milestone has been achieved.

I recently bought a smoker and have spent a fair amount of time testing it out with a friend – and if you know anything about cooking meat at 200 degrees, you know it takes a long time. It involves eight solid hours at home, divided into 30 minute increments where you check in to dote on your smoker, check the temperature of your fire, and add charcoal as needed. It’s kind of like having a baby – probably.

Having this much downtime with a fellow food enthusiast has inevitably yielded extra cooking projects (“Hey, let’s make french toast and then make a PB&J out of it.”) And typically, after first getting the meat into the smoker around 8am, making a kickass breakfast sandwich. That’s how this beauty came to be.

There are no big surprises that make this sandwich awesome: english muffins. bacon. avocados. sriracha…wait for it…mayo. But there is one thing that moved this to the next level, and that is the patented technology we call SFP (Same F***ing Pan). That is when you cook your bacon, pour out the oil, assemble your sandwich, and ultimately return your sandwich to grill for a few delightful moments in, you guessed it, the same f***ing pan. You end up with a gorgeously crusted outside with a still soft inside. Like many famous inventions, this happened by necessity when the toaster was broken. Hey, the path to breakfast nirvana is winding. Good people of the world, rejoice.

                                                                    Guts and glory

The Best Friggin’ Breakfast Sandwich
english muffins (I actually used whole wheat)
bacon
avocado, sliced
cheddar cheese, sliced
mayo
sriracha

Cook bacon in a skillet. Pour out the oil and wipe the pan to remove most of it. Add some butter, melt it, and fry up an egg. Transfer the egg out. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise and sriracha, until light pink (or however spicy you like it). Take lightly toasted english muffins and assemble your sandwich with mayo, bacon, eggs, sliced avocado, and cheddar. Butter both sides of the sandwich, then return your sandwich to the SFP for a final grill, until the cheese is melted and the bread is nicely browned on the outside. Cut the sandwich in half, but be decisive and show no fear – that’s how you keep it from falling apart.

Muffin Man

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I am obsessed with this recipe. My food-neurosis typically associates muffins with guilt, the necessity to run 40 miles and eat solely kale for the next 4 weeks (that’s normal, right??), but no more! These guys are so yummy: made with whole-grain flour, have a healthy dose of flax, and aren’t super sweet since they’re sweetened up with just maple syrup and a banana. They are basically a blueberry pancake in muffin form. Not to mention the recipe is SUPER easy and CRAZY quick. Naturally, they have become my Sunday morning go-to and subsequent grab-and-go breakfast throughout the week. I may or may not fantasize about feeding them to my future children as the granola / tiger mom hybrid that inevitably awaits me in my life arc. Let’s just say I have big plans.

I mean, come on – isn’t this how you’d like to start your mornings:

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Hellooooo mister! (Am I getting too creepy with this muffin? Don’t answer that.) Anyways, this is the kind of breakfast that I guarantee you are going look forward to. Also, I highly recommend consuming with a healthy dose of almond butter!
 
Vegan Whole-Grain Banana Berry Muffins
(adapted from here, great healthy recipes FYI)
 Makes 1 doz muffins
 
Ingredients
1 c non-dairy milk
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1/4 c ground flax seed
1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c grapeseed oil
1/4 c maple syrup
1 ripe mashed banana
1/2 tsp vanilla ext
1/2 tsp almond ext
1 1/2 c frozen berries (blueberries, rasberries, or blackberries)
 
Directions:
  1. Preheat to 375F and line muffin tin with liners.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together milk and vinegar.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flax, flour, soda, cinnamon, salt).
  4. In another medium-sized bowl, mix together the wet ingredients (oil, syrup, banana, extracts, milk/vinegar mixture).
  5. Add wet to dry and stir until just combined.
  6. Mix in berries and spoon into paper liners.
  7. Bake for 15 – 20 mins, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for a bit and then devour!

Off the deep end

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Ok, we admit it. When it comes to cooking and baking, we can both get a little carried away. So when duty called to throw a dinner party for our best friends on New Year’s Eve (ok, maybe it was our idea), we knew things would get just a little out of hand. Actually, really out of hand. This event was the perfect storm of neurotic culinary adventures – a special occasion, a group of 12, a theme, hosted by us. The result was inevitable.

It started innocently enough, with a casual text message chain the whole week tossing around ideas like “should we make gnocchi?… I think I have a ravioli stamp…wait, what about flatbread?” Then came The Pitcher – a giant mason jar with a spout that came into Joni’s possession through divine intervention (thank you, dear cousin). Over the course of the week it whispered ever so softly (in that way pitchers do) “Sangria, Sangria, Sangria.” And that’s where the idea came from: Spanish food.

And so began the culinary spiral. Obviously, a Spanish theme necessitated paella – a hearty filler was going to be necessary for a night like New Year’s eve.  We went with chicken, chorizo, and shrimp, but the best way to tailor your paella is by the best proteins you can get your hands on. This was our first paella-making experience, but we knew where to go. Anytime there’s a precise or dicey new recipe to tackle, one must turn to Mark Bittman, and he didn’t let us down. His master Paella recipe is a great starter. Then came the albondigas, spanish meatballs that make for a killer tapa. We used a traditional gravy-like recipe with blended sauteed leeks and broth, and added in a tomato and red pepper sauce to give it a some more color.

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We tacked on a tried and true Spanish tortilla recipe I used to live off of, but spiffed it up with some slow-roasted cherry tomatoes and caramelized onions.

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We threw in a kale salad and grilled veggies for some much-needed presence of greenery.

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Things got a little out of hand with the appetizers. Joni went on a spree the day before and felt the need to make multi-seeded crackers with dried figs and nuts in them. From there, some jamon and good cheese were in order. Then we threw in a slow-roasted nut recipe that makes for a great table appetizer, with a Spanish kick of red pepper and herbs.

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No event menu would be complete without an explosion of Jo&Jo’s beautiful flowers and baked goodness, which is how we ended up with some seriously gorgeous centerpiees, a pear custard tart, caramelized apple tart, alfrajores (Argentine, we know but roll with us here) and some brownies tacked on for good measure. Yeah, 4 desserts for 12 people. That’s not overkill, is it?

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As with any overblown cooking adventure, it was a an emotional roller coaster. I woke up at 8:15am on New Year’s to Joni’s minor meltdown of “We don’t have enough chairs, and I’m way behind on baking…but I went crazy and made these crackers and haven’t left the house in a while. We need to get to the farmer’s market, I’m picking you up now.” But I have to say, starting bright and early and pacing out the dishes made for a really smooth cooking process. The meatballs can be made a head of time, and the tortilla can easily get reheated in the oven. Paella doesn’t take long and can be made an hour before everyone shows up. And that’s how you pull off a Food is Bomb New Year’s.

In reflection, was this a lesson in scaling back and keeping it simple? Probably not.

Until next time,
Sam & Joni

Spanish Tapas Extravaganza
Base recipes are below – but the fun part is to customize the add-ins

Mark Bittman’s master Paella recipe
Basic Spanish Tortilla recipe
Spanish albondigas
Rosemary nuts
Kale salad
Pear Custard Tart

Back in the saddle

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Ok, the first step is admitting you have a problem. I haven’t posted to this blog in…a while. It started off innocently enough – I was still cooking, but just didn’t have time to post and also had a brief lapse without a Photoshop license. Then that thing happened that always happens to me – where it’s so hard to come to terms with being behind that I ignore the issue and get way, way more behind. And then there’s no point in coming back from being way, way behind if you’re not going to have some perfectly epic comeback, right? Well, that doesn’t exist, so more time passes. This phenomenon is how I managed to not pay for a physical therapy appointment for a year and also part of my tortured relationship with guitar playing. Anyway, another confession I’ve avoided is that I get 3 meals a day at work. So, yeah. I’m not one of the people anymore. I’m a weekend cook. There, I said it.

Anyway, coming to terms with all this, I’m back. And I have lots of cooking to write about. Here’s one I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I actually made it while feeding a recently wisdom tooth-less boyfriend. It’s healthy, and filling, and yes, easy to chew if you’ve recently been through a dental procedure, but grownup enough for someone who hasn’t. If you live in San Francisco, soup is still a perfectly appropriate thing to crave in late March. No shaved asparagus salad yet! This one is actually very springy, with wilted spinach, bright green peas, a squeeze of lime, and fresh cilantro. It’s got a little curry to keep things interesting, but it stays squarely in the background and lets the veggies take center stage.

Friends, I challenge you to face that thing that you’ve been meaning to do. Here’s to being back in action!

Sweet Potato Soup
Adapted from loveandlemons.com

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 cup peas (frozen is fine – is anyone not going to do frozen? no.)
  • 1 can lite coconut milk (2 cups)
  • 2-4 cups veggie broth
  • a pinch of brown sugar
  • squeeze of one juicy lime
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  • salt
  • handful of chopped cilantro, for garnish

– In a large pot, heat coconut oil. Add onion and some salt salt. Cook, stirring, until onions become soft, about 5 minutes
– Add curry powder and garlic and cook for another 30 seconds while stirring.
– Add a squeeze of lime, coconut milk, veggie broth, chopped sweet potatoes, brown sugar and a little more salt. Turn heat down and simmer, covered, until the sweet potatoes are soft (20-30 minutes).
– At the end, stir in the peas and spinach and cook for another minute or two.
– Top with cilantro and serve.

 

 

 

 

It’s here!

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Fall has a funny way of showing up in San Francisco. Famous for truly frigid summers and then spontaneous heat waves in September and October, it can leave us San Franciscans feeling a little confused. It’s hard to say when fall actually starts here, except to say that one day it just hits you over the head. This week it seemed like the city was still trying to decide where it stood,  hitting 75 every day but with mornings cold enough to make me bust out the space heater again. After spending a particularly hot Saturday north of the city and heading back for an early dinner where pesto was still on the menu, I went outside to find thick swirling fog and a gusty breeze. I drove through the haze as my window fogged up for the first time and went past a pumpkin patch – and that was it. It’s suddenly but definitely fall.

This prompted me to think of all things pumpkin of course, but first thing’s first: wrapping up those end of summer produce recipes. We’re still getting summer squash in the farmers’ markets, after all, and there will be plenty of time for doing anything and everything with their heartier gourd-like cousins. Finding myself with lots of squash that needed cooking and a half block of Gruyere leftover from the week before, I went to the person I knew could whip up something wholesome and easy with this – Heidi. Heidi Swanson’s 101cookbooks is my go-to for farm-to-table cooking that isn’t afraid of using butter. And of course, she had a Summer Squash Gratin recipe that was exactly what I was looking for.

This recipe is liberal with breadcrumbs, cheese, and oils – but hey, it’s a pan-full of zucchini and it’s almost hearty enough to be its own meal (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a big plate of this for lunch on its own). Heidi’s recipe included potatoes but I had enough squash that I didn’t need it, and besides, the squash cooks so much faster than potatoes anyways. I also was too lazy to make my own whole wheat breadcrumbs (sorry Heidi), but Panko breadcrumbs from the store worked great. This recipe freezes and reheats in the oven a lot better than you’d expect, so make a whole pan!

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Summer Squash Gratin
From 101cookbooks.com

zest of one lemon
1 1/2 pounds summer squash or zucchini, cut into 1/6th-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups panko breadcrums
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese

Place the zucchini slices into a colander placed over a sink, toss with the sea salt and set aside for at least 10-15 minutes (to drain a bit). Gently squeeze and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 400F degrees and place a rack in the middle. Rub a 9×9 gratin pan (or equivalent baking dish) with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with lemon zest, and set aside.

Make the sauce by pureeing the oregano, parsley, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a food processor or using a hand blender. Set aside.

Prep the breadcrumbs by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until the butter is wonderfully fragrant, and has turned brown. Wait two minutes, then stir the breadcrumbs into the browned butter.

Transfer the squash to a large mixing bowl. Add the oregano sauce and toss until everything is well coated. Add the cheese and half of the bread crumbs and toss again.

Transfer the squash to the lemon-zested pan, top with the remaining crumbs, and bake for somewhere between 30-45 minutes, watching the breadcrumbs. Let cool a little and serve.

March of Salads

saladsBeyond the obvious reason that they’re good for you, salads are the most convenient way I have found to bring lunch to work and actually stick to eating what I bring. They usually require no cooking, and they don’t require tupperware that you have to take to work and take home to wash. You can just bring a big bag of lettuce, your fixin’s, a bottle of salad dressing that you guard against coworkers mice that somehow devour it before you – and you’re set for the week.

But just any old salad can be, well, depressing, and this is Food is Bomb after all. For just a little extra effort – say, maybe cooking one thing in your salad and sticking to some coherent theme –  you can make a Bomb Salad. A Bomb Salad has a few key characteristics –  a) filling, b) it has a ton of stuff in it to keep you interested, and c) delicious. Related to c, it has to be really fresh – so use heartier lettuce like romaine, spinach, or arugula that keeps for a week. It has to be as easy as possible – so opt for grape tomatoes to avoid cutting up and storing a tomato and yes, spring for pre-washed lettuce.  I’m sharing  a salad medley of a few of my favorite ideas – southwestern, nicoise-light, sesame chicken, and beet & walnut.

Southwestern Salad | Old faithful
Fixin’s ideas (there are so many – just pick a few):

romaine (non-negotiable in my opinion, but of course, do what you want)
black beans
avocado
broken up pieces of tortilla chips (little crispy things make life worth living)
corn (this makes it sweeter – highly recommended. I made an extra grilling one night and threw it in – life-changing)
grape tomatoes (easier than cutting tomatoes)
parsley or cilantro
dressing: ranch or a red wide vinaigrette

Nicoise-Light | Flavor punch
Fixin ideas:
mixed green lettuce
boiled baby potatoes (I use a mix of white, red, and purple they sell at Whole Foods)
blanched green beans
grape tomatoes
olives
tuna salad (instead of adding tuna, I buy tuna salad from the store and and scoop a little onto the side of each salad)
dressing: balsamic

Sesame Chicken | Lean with protein
spinach
shredded carrots
chopped green onion
chicken (I marinate it in a ginger soy sauce and broil it)
sesame seeds
fried wonton strips (see above re: crispy things making life worth living)
thai spicy cashews (sounds specific but most grocery stores have cashews that are in some way awesomely spiced)
dressing: sesame oil, rice vinegar, and a little sugar/agave

Beet & Walnut Salad | sweet but substantial
mixed greens or arugula
chopped, boiled beets
walnuts – raw is fine but I’m sure toasted or candied is way more awesome
grape tomatoes
crumbled goat cheese
dressing: balsamic

ITS A GIRL!

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I’ll take any excuse to bake. Any family event, obscure holiday or (even, on occasion) less cryptic conventional birthday – I’m your girl to stock up the dessert table. Qunceñera? Bar Mitzvah? Filipino Debut? Holler! (I happen to specialize in celebrations of acute cultural rites of passage.) Just give me a reason to party and I’ll whip up 10-20 of my most crowd-pleasing sweets, no questions asked. I lived up to this promise this past weekend, and was promptly schooled in the most recent craze to hit the Pinterest boards of mothers-to-be across America: the Gender Reveal Party.

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I’ve been lucky to have been informally adopted by the best Mexicans this side of the border (if I’m an honorary Mexican, I can say that right?), one of whom which is expecting! To commemorate such an exciting event, we decided to kick off the second trimester with a Gender Reveal Party, á la chic-mama-of-2013. Here, the doctor contacts a third party while the mother- and father-to-be are kept in the dark about the baby’s gender. That third party (a very responsible, extremely reliable, and incredibly trustworthy person) creates some type of big reveal shrouded in blue or pink to announce the gender amongst friends and family at said Gender Reveal Party. I (naturally having all the qualities listed above) was honored to be chosen to create the big reveal.

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Typically, the parents-to-be cut into a deceivingly iced cake that is blue or pink on the inside, so I was the clear Panadero China for the job. This was my first attempt at making a layered cake, so being the neurotic baker that I am, I did my research. Turns out you just need to utilize your freezer and channel your inner zen: lots of patience and lots of taste-testing. Its really not that difficult, actually – especially when you’re baking for such a momentously fun event. I was just a little off-put by the radically saturated food coloring, but the damn thing still tasted pretty bomb, if I do say so myself.

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I ramble like the cake was the centerpiece of the party, but it was really just a vestibule to announce the greatest news thus far in 2013. I am so insanely excited for the parents-to-be and their new baby girl, and was just so happy to be included in their fabulous celebration! I also designed the invitations, baked three types of brownies, two types of shortbread and got my mom to bake for the event – but that’s all small potatoes, really. I CAN’T WAIT TO MEET YOU, BABY LEE!

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Strawberry White Chocolate Layered Cake
Adapted from Joy the Baker and Smitten Kitchen

For the Cake:
4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks
1 lemon’s worth of zest
Optional: pink food coloring

For the Filling:
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 lemon’s worth of zest
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped white chocolate chunks
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

For the Icing:
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 lemon’s worth of zest

Butter and flour three 8-inch round cake pans.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Beat in vanilla extract.

Turn the mixer speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients. Add half of the buttermilk and beat until just combined.  Add the remaining flour and buttermilk and beat until just  combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and finish incorporating the batter with a spatula. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure there is no butter or flour hiding down there. Fold in the chocolate chips. Add any food coloring if need be.

Divide the batter among the cake pans. Spread batter evenly in each pan then rap each pan on the counter top to help the batter settle and eliminate any air bubbles. Bake until bubbled and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Insert a skewer into the center of the cake. Cool cakes in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. When the cakes are cooled completely, place on cake boards, wrap in saran wrap and freeze for 30 mins to an hour.

To make the frosting, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, cream cheese and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Once soft peaks form in the whipped cream, keep an eye on it. Continue beating just past the soft peak stage.

To assemble the cake, place three strips of parchment paper onto a cake plate or cake stand. Place one cooled cake round atop the parchment paper. Level with a large knife. Spread a generous amount of whipped cream atop the first layer. Arrange half of the sliced strawberries atop the whipped cream and sprinkle with half of the finely chopped white chocolate.

Level the second (middle) cake layer and place atop the frosted layer. Top with more whipped cream, the remaining sliced strawberries, and sprinkle with the remaining white chocolate. Top with the last cake later. Spread whipped cream across the top of the cake and smooth along the sides. This is your “crumb coat.” Freeze the entire cake for 30 minutes.

Make the icing: In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar and lemon zest. Take the naked cake out of the freezer and gently smooth the icing over the gently frozen crumb coat? Wasn’t that easy?

I decorated with shaved white chocolate and fondant flowers brushed with edible gold powder. NBD.

Sunday kind of love

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My favorite recipes to post aren’t the special dinner party kind, or the “this was really healthy of me today – maybe I’ll do Chinese takeout tomorrow then” kind. They are the awesomely delicious, easy, and cheap things you can make any day.

This recipe is my old faithful. My main squeeze. My ball and chain. I make it all the time, recommend it to everyone,  and the love hasn’t faded.  It’s comfortable and cozy and still interesting. And once you get the hang of it, making a big pot of this golden deliciousness is super easy on a Sunday night.

Yeah, they’re lentils, so maybe you’re thinking, “her?” I know, I know. First of all, they’re yellow split peas, which is actually a little higher maintenance but totally worth it. Second, this recipe will surprise you. All I can say is just try it. The slow cooked onions with lots and lots of spices, with simmered tomatoes mixed in and finished with a nice pat of butter – sounds good, but somehow it all comes together as more than you would expect. Make double the recipe and freeze it!

Everyday yellow dal
From the one, the only, Smitten Kitchen

1 cup yellow split peas, soaked in cold water for 1 hour (if you’re in a pinch, you can use red lentils – they turn yellow when they cook and don’t need to soak – but use less water).
1 large tomato (about 8 ounces), chopped, or canned diced tomatoes
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
5 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, finely ground
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne (I use 1/4 usually.)
minced cilantro  – optional
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt

Instructions: Drain the dal (split peas) and place in a large saucepan. Add the tomato and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until peas are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Pick out any tomato skins and whisk dal to emulsify it. Keep warm over very low heat.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When the oil begins to smoke, add the cumin seeds, covering the pan with a lid or splatter screen. After the seeds have stopped sputtering, add the onion and saute over medium heat. About 3 minutes later, add the garlic and saute until most of the onion has turned dark brown, about 5 minutes altogether. Add the coriander, turmeric and cayenne, stir and pour mixture over the dal. Add the butter and salt to the dal and simmer for another 5 minutes. Finish with cilantro. Serve over white or brown rice.