Pretzels for 2014


I know it’s February and I should stop wishing people “Happy New Year!” and that I desperately, desperately need to drop those Christmas Thank You notes in the mail. I sincerely do apologize to 2014 for dragging my feet, but what is it about this year that has just not quite yet felt like an appropriate fresh start? I can’t be the only one feeling this way. January in Los Angeles typically consists of packed gyms (lots of neon Lululemon to break in), juice cleanses (both master and minor) and strictly regimented dental hygiene upkeep (what – flossing isn’t at the top of your resolution list??) Maybe it’s just me, but none of that has felt appropriate yet. There’s usually a newness in the air that is optimistically cutting through the city smog, but this year it’s felt like we’ve had to push, pull, heave-ho, pray, manhandle and pray again just to get the ball rolling. The crap from 2013 just will not be left behind!

With all the work to clean up last year’s atrocities, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve allowed many things to fall by the wayside to make time for important activities such as sleep and meal eating. Sometimes life gets ahead of you, and you’re forced to run to catch up. It happens.

So last weekend, I made a point to step off the hamster wheel and regain some sanity with a good long run, a little baking, some good wine, and some great friends. It was just what I needed.

Simultaneously, something called “The Superbowl” ignited Pinterest boards and food blogs across America with posts of snack stadiums (here’s my personal favorite), wing recipes and odes the infamous nipple slip of ’04. Also quite popular this year were recipes for soft pretzels, so I thought I’d have a go.



I decided to try a batch of cinnamon raisin pretzels as well, since that was my go-to flavor at Auntie Ann’s back in my mall rat heyday. (I was a frequent buyer at the Santa Monica Place circa 1995) The pretzels turned out great! All were gobbled up within two days – and I swear not just by me.


Sometimes it just makes sense to stop and bake!

Soft Pretzels

Recipe from here. See additional video tutorial here.

The Stuffed Squash Project


Before my roommate took off on a 4-month Southeast Asian adventure, we were in our San Francisco apartment on a typical lazy Sunday. With no particular plans other than avoiding a rainy San Francisco day and the gnawing feeling that we needed to clean, we decided to make the most by being as domestic as we could, and incorporating as much pumpkin into the day as humanly possible. This left us with a clean apartment and a lot of food to write about. It became the day of our second annual Stuffed Squash Project. This is where we decide to get fancy and with no recipe in particular, hollow out a squash of some sort, and stuff it with something delicious. For those of you who watch Portlandia, stuffing anything into a squash is the “put a bird on it” of San Francisco. It’s pretty much a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, but sometimes it can end up flavorless or tiring. I have to say, our first annual attempt ended up this way. We had some mushy quinoa with sparce toppings, and it was a noble, but anticlimactic end result. Most hollowed out squashes are pretty big, so you risk ending up with mostly dry, flavorless grains. This is no good. You need to stay entertained for the full squash. The goal is to have a completely satisfying meal in one edible bowl.



So instead of going with a recipe, we decided to pick what we liked. We bought some acorn squash, and a handful of other yummy things – a wild rice medley, sautéed mushrooms and onions, kale, pecans, parsley, and feta cheese. This is my favorite combo I’ve had yet. The wild rice holds up well and keeps from getting mushy. Browning the mushrooms beforehand gives them a rich flavor and color. The kale adds a little heft and makes you feel healthy. The crunch of the pecans and plenty of salty feta keeps things interesting the whole way through.


I recommend combining this with a hefty dark beer, the heat turned up, and an easy desert baking in the oven – we made pumpkin brownies from a Trader Joe’s mix (hey, not everything is a blog post). Happy holidays!

Ivy Street Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 cup of a wild or brown rice medley , cooked (Trader Joe’s has good ones)
1 bunch of shredded lacinato kale
1 package of button mushrooms
1 white onion, chopped
spices: thyme, salt and pepper, and anything else you want to add 1/2 a cup of pecans
container of crumbled feta cheese
1 bunch of fresh parsley or chives

Halve the acorn squash, hollow out, pierce with a fork, and rub with olive oil. Salt on the inside. Heat the oven to about 400 degrees and roast the acorn squash until soft, about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. While the squash cooks, cook the rice according to package directions. In a pan, add olive oil and butter and brown the mushrooms, a la Julia Child (aka, don’t crowd the mushrooms or they don’t brown!). Transfer to a large bowl. Next, sautee onions in olive oil until soft and browning, about 10 minutes. Add in shredded kale and cook until soft, another 5-7 minutes. Add these to your bowl. Mix in chopped parsley, most of the pecans, most of the feta, and seasonings. Combine thoroughly, and then stuff the acorn squash as full as you can. Bake together for another 15 minutes. Remove and garnish with more pecans and feta.

It’s here!


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

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.


I recently found myself in between jobs and with 12 whole days off of work. I hadn’t had that much time off since I was unemployed almost 4 years ago, and I was determined to do it right. Daily workouts, long walks, sun-tanning on the roof, busting out my juicer again – you get the idea. That kept me going until about the third day, before the darker forces set in – sleeping late, starting Breaking Bad, not putting on pants, watching more Breaking Bad. Finding myself with suddenly only a few precious days left of funemployment for who knows how long, I finally remembered that I really should have been cooking all week. I tried to think of the countless recipes I’ve looked at and thought “oh, that’s the kind of thing you do when your only job is to cook and blog about it.” Hmm…

That got me going. I headed down to the farmer’s market and, finding an impressive end-of-summer bounty, bought 3 pounds of early girl tomatoes . At $1 per pound, these guys are for nothing but a fresh pasta sauce, and this is exactly the time to do it. The tomatoes are extra delicious and on sale, and it’s about to be time for stick-to-your-ribs food.  So tomato sauce it was.  Well, two days later, because a) there was a lot more Breaking Bad to watch and it felt like a lot of work, and b) I tend to get really domestic when I’m nervous about something coming up. Whether it’s the need to creatively use up everything in the fridge before a big trip, or cleaning my room at the very moment things feel the most disorganized. That’s how I found myself spending all night making fresh pasta sauce on the eve of starting a new job where I knew I’d be fed three meals a day. But in addition to being some kind of cathartic exercise, this was a really delicious and fun challenge.

This sauce is truly from scratch – no place to cut corners here. You have to blanch the tomatoes, peel them, then cut and seed them. You have to cook down some finely diced onions, carrots, and celery, and then simmer it all for a good hour. Then you have to  run the whole thing through the immersion blender. But by going on this journey, you reach what Smitten Kitchen calls “tomato sauce nirvana.” The good thing about this recipe is that it’s effort-intensive in a blunt kind of way. It’s pretty hard to mess up. It’s also really basic, meant to be a base for any number of future recipes, from simple pasta to something baked and cheesy to eggs. Making extra and freezing it obviously a must.


Fresh Tomato Sauce
Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

3 pounds of early girl tomatoes (if you can find San Marzanos, I’m sure that will be amazing too)
A glug of red wine (yes, that’s the technical term)
1/4 cup olive oil
Small onion
2 to 3 small cloves of garlic
1/2 medium carrot
1/2 stalk of celery
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
A cup of chopped fresh basil

The tomatoes: Bring a pot of water to boil. Cut a small X at the bottom of each tomato. Blanche the tomatoes in the boiling water for 10 to 30 seconds, then either rinse under cold water or shock in an ice water bath. Now peel the tomatoes. Net,  halve your tomatoes, or quarter them if they’re on the bigger side. Squeeze the seeds out over a strainer over a bowl and reserve the juices. Coarsely chop the tomatoes.

The vegetables: Finally chop the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic.

The sauce: Heat your olive oil in a large pot over meduim. Cook your onions, carrots, celery and garlic, if you’re using them, for at least 10 minutes (I did this while I was finishing up with the tomatoes, and it was more like 20). Add your tomatoes, tomato juice, and wine, and bring to a simmer, lowering the heat to medium-low. Let simmer for at least 45 minutes. If the sauce still looks a little chunky, which mine did, throw the immersion blender in it or gently blend in batches. Add in your fresh basil once the heat is off and season with salt.

Let them eat…

Title_Image_1Although I definitely have a complicated relationship with my own birthday, I am totally down with O.P.B. [YEAH YOU KNOW ME] For those of you who don’t appreciate the Naughty by Nature reference, I think we can all agree that the beauty of celebrating Other People’s Birthdays is that we are all able to partake in the merriment without the burden of the spotlight. (Unless you’re into that sort of thing, weirdos)


For my fellow introverts, I’m sure you appreciate the following:

  1. The sadistic enjoyment of watching the Birthday Boy/Girl’s comfort level plummet as he/she is obnoxiously sung to and clapped at before receiving a mediocre, but hopefully comped dessert. Usually in the form of: a) “Molten” Lava Cake (Chili’s), b) créme brulée (Upscale Chili’s), or c) ice cream scoop with candle (Japanese restaurant).
  2. Reveling in the continuity of your own youth while family members or co-workers around the water cooler repeatedly ask the Birthday Boy/Girl “So, HOW old are you NOW??”
  3. Cashing in on the comp’d lunch and cake at work while the Birthday Boy/Girl wishes they were a million other places.
  4. The Pay-it-Forward feeling when signing that “Hope all your wishes come true! XOXO” card.


Ultimately, we get to sing off-key, stay “x” years young, eat cake, and revel in the celebrations at the expense of the celebratee. Bystanders’ win. Of course we don’t get presents or anything, which kind of rock, but cake! We get cake!


And on that note, a chocolate cake and a cheesecake: 

Fudgy Chocolate Cake:
(Adapted from Emandal Farm Celebration cookbook)

1.5 C sugar
1.25 C Flour
.75 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp salt
1 C buttermilk
3 eggs
2.5 tsp vanilla
6 tsp butter
1 C hot coffee

.75 C half and half
dash of salt
2/3 C sugar
.25 C butter
1 egg
1tsp vanilla
1 1/3 unsweetened coconut
.5 C walnuts or pecans (chopped)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 3 8″ round cake pans.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Whisk buttermilk, eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl. Melt butter in the hot coffee in another small bowl.

Beat half of the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients. Beat in half of the coffee mixture. Scrape the batter down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the remaining buttermilk and coffee mixtures.

Evenly pour batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 mins, or until the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 mins. Cool completely (or freeze) before frosting.

To make filling, combine all ingredients (except vanilla, coconut and walnuts) in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until thick and bubbly – about 12 mins. Cool lightly and add the rest of the ingredients. Let cool completely before spreading on cake.

Courtesy of the Miette Cookbook. Buy it- you’ll thank me later. (Thanks Sam!!)

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
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
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
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



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.

photo (9)

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.


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.


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!


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


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.

Ivory & Ebony


I appreciate diversity. I actually require diversity in every facet of my life – e.g. demographically, culturally, dietarily, in social circles, trail mix, and (of course) in dessert options. Following suit, I recently made these two flourless cakes for a dinner party and then subsequently to celebrate a lovely coworker’s birthday the next day – a total multitasking baking win for no leftovers! The first is a chocolate lover’s dream: a deceivingly light Nutella cake with hazenut dark chocolate and a rich ganache. The second: an airy cinnamon snacking cake made with almond flour, then topped with roasted almonds and dusted with spices. Both are gluten-free (’tis the craze these days, so let’s hop on that bandwagon), using nut flours that I whipped up in my mighty mighty Vitamix. All hail the all-powerful Vitamix!


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The importance of diversity is really about balance – anything too homogenous automatically becomes uninteresting (and unappetizing – 50 filet mignons in an aluminum vat, gross). Also, I firmly believe that as a baker we can adopt the model that too much of a good thing – when accompanied by other good things – is never a bad thing. People appreciate their options!

Cake #1: Almond Cinnamon Cake

Adapted from Nigella’s iphone app Nigellissima (beautifully done, btw), also seen here.

8 egg whites
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Zest of 1 orange
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing tin
1 ½ cups almond meal
1 teaspoon
1 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Powdered sugar, to decorate

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease the springform cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
  2. In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are opaque and start to hold their shape, then slowly add the sugar, whisking until it’s all incorporated and the mixture is thick and shiny. Add the almond essence and the clementine or orange zest. Then, in about 3 goes each, alternately whisk in the oil and the almond meal (mixed with the baking powder) until they are both smoothly incorporated into the meringue.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, then mix together the flaked almonds and cinnamon and sprinkle them over the top of the cake.
    Bake for 35-40 minutes (though start checking at 30), by which time the top should have risen and be set and the almonds become golden, and a cake tester should come out clean, barring the odd almondy crumb.
  4. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in its tin on a wire rack. Once it is no longer hot, spring open the sides of the tin, but don’t try to remove the cake from the base until properly cool.
  5. When you are ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar.

Cake #2: Nutella Cake

Adapted from here.

For the cake
6 large Eggs
1 pinch of Salt
125 g Unsalted Butter (softened)
400 g Nutella (1 large jar)
1 Tbsp of Frangelico liqueur
100 g ground Hazelnuts
100 g Dark Chocolate (melted)

For the icing
100 g Hazelnut (peeled weight)
125 ml Double Cream
1 Tbsp Frangelico liqueur or Water
125 g Dark Chocolate (chopped)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (degrees Celsius).
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and Nutella together, and then add the Frangelico, egg yolks and ground hazelnuts and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until stiff but not dry.
  4. Fold in cooled, melted chocolate to the Nutella mixture, then lighten the mixture with a large dollop of whisked egg white before gently folding the rest, bit by bit.
  5. Pour into a greased 23cm/ 9 inch round and lined springform tin and cook for 40 minutes or until the cake’s beginning to come away at the sides, then let cool on a rack.
  6. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until the aroma wafts upwards and the nuts are golden-brown in parts: keep shaking the pan so that they don’t burn on one side and stay too pallid on others.
  7. Make the ganache: put a heavy-bottomed saucepan onto the stove and add the cream, Frangelico (or water) and chopped chocolate. Stir continuously until the chocolate has melted.

  8. Take it off the heat and whisk until it reaches the right consistency (should be a smooth cream like texture).
  9. Release the cooled cake from the mould carefully, leaving it on the base (as it is wet and heavy and will break). Slowly glaze the top of the cake with the chocolate ganache.

  10. Finish it all off by placing the toasted (and cooled) hazelnuts onto the cake.

Bachelor Pasta

pasta pic

I’m not one to throw some red sauce on a pasta and call it an achievement. I usually see people doing that to a pasta and writing about, taking a picture of it, or charging $16 for it, and think “really, that’s it?” Maybe I’m not a pasta purist – although I had no problem living off of spaghetti pomodoro for a month in Italy. But outside of the Old World, where all tomato sauce usually starts in a jar, it leaves something to be desired.

Let me tell you right now, that’s not what this is. To start, it comes from whole canned San Marzano tomatoes, so  friends and neighbors, put your Bay Area tomato snobbery minds at ease. Second, this is Spaghetti All’Amatriciana, which means it’s really about slow cooked onions and pancetta. I had this in Rome and it’s never left my consciousness since. Lots of salty deep flavor from the pork, not to mention a hefty, hefty dose of red pepper, makes this surprising in addition to being no-brainer delicious.

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I got this recipe out of some sort of Bachelors cookbook made by Esquire, which is easy enough as it is…then cut the time by about half. I found it long enough to develop those deep flavors, but I’m sure going the whole way with it is even more awesome. I also used regular bacon out of necessity (really Whole Foods? If you can’t find a market for pancetta in San Francisco, where can you?). I thought it would be a bigger deal than it was, but nice thick-cut smoky bacon does work quite well. The recipe actually calls for guanciale, but unless you’re a bachelor trying to impress someone you probably don’t have to worry about pulling out all the stops.

Spaghetti All’Amatriciana – Bachelor’s Style

6 0z pancetta or good bacon
1 large onion
2 1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
two 28 oz cans of San Marzano tomato puree (or buy whole tamatoes and chop or puree)
1 lb spaghetti

Heat a skim of oil (about 2 tbsp) in a large pot over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat begins to render and meat is no longer pink, about three minutes.

Add onion and stir, coating onions with the rendered fat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, about ten minutes.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is aromatic, about ten minutes more.

Add the tomato puree, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it reduces and thickens slightly, the flavors blend, and the fat floats to the surface, about 40 minutes (or as long as you can stand it before it just looks too good and you’re just too hungry).

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain but don’t rinse, return spaghetti to hot pot, and toss with the sauce.