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Monday, May 9, 2016

Coffee Cardamom Walnut Cakes

Coffee Cardamom Cake Every once in a while, I come across a cookbook that I absolutely love. A cookbook where I want to make every recipe in the book, where I want to step into the book and join their kitchen, where I want to curl up on the couch and read the book all morning.

For about a year now, The Violet Bakery Cookbook has been on my radar. I heard about the delicious less-sweet desserts filled with fruits (loganberries! blueberries!) and unique flours (oats! rye!), but I wasn't ready yet to commit to the cookbook. Food52's Piglet, aka March Madness style cookbook competition, left me cheering for The Violet Bakery Cookbook.

Coffee Cardamom CakeCoffee Cardamom Cake

The author, Claire Ptak, founded The Violet Bakery in London after training at Chez Panisse. A San Francisco lady who opens up a bakery in London, serving the cutest violet cupcakes and coffee cakes...where I can sign up? 

One of my favorite aspects of this cookbook is how easy-going the recipes are. No fancy yeast pastries that take all night to rise, no finicky flaky pastries with thousands of steps to assemble. Given The Violet Bakery's small space, they veer towards homier, cozier pastries that are more straightforward for the home chef. 

Coffee Cardamom Cake

A few weeks ago, we went to a fun Indian-themed brunch--dosas, samosas, and mimosas! I loved the theme and wanted to contribute something sweet to share. These coffee cakes not only looked cute as a button, but also matched the spicy food with a kick of its own thanks to cardamom.

Coffee Cardamom Cake

Coffee Cardamom Walnut Cakes

Makes 12 individual cakes

melted butter, for greasing the pans
2 1/2 ounces walnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground pink peppercorns
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly brewed strong coffee or espresso

Preheat the oven to 340 degrees F. Brush a 12 cup muff pan with the melted butter. 

First, warm the walnuts through on a baking sheet in the oven. Do not toast them; you just want to bring out the fragrant oils/ This should take less than 5 minutes. Let the nuts cool slightly, then chop fine. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices, then whisk this mixture through the chopped nuts. Set aside. 

In a stand mixer, whisk the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each one is fully incorporated, then add the vanilla extract. Mix in the flour and nut mixture and then the creme fraiche. 

Divide the batter among the 12 wells and bake for 20 minutes until the cakes spring back to the touch. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then gently pop them out (you may need to run a small paring knife around the insides of the wells to ease the cakes out). Place the cooled cakes upside down on a wire rack. 

Whisk together the ingredients for the icing and spoon it over the cakes. Use the back of a spoon to gently guide it to the edges so that it willingly drips down the sides. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili Recipe I promised Z healthier and easier meal this year, particularly meals that are easy to clean! Z is responsible for washing dishes each night (since I do the cooking), and to be completely truthful, I'm often not very conscientious of how many dishes I use while I cook. Most days, I leave Z with a big pile of dishes.

With a new year, and some big life events to shop for, I am also looking to eat healthier and work out more. A growing Classpass addiction means nights spent at barre classes and spin studios, and a late dinner. Dinner after 8pm has become our norm recently.

Given the late dinner schedule we're on, Z and I have been reaching for meals we make over the weekend, and reheat during the week. We bought a slow cooker over a year ago, but we've only used it for a handful of recipes. With our new schedule and desire to use fewer dishes, slow cooker recipes seemed to be the way to go.

This white chicken chili is perfect for the transition from winter to spring. It's hearty and warm thanks to the hominy, but lighter then its red companion. The avocado, lime, and pickled jalapeños add brightness.
White Chicken Chili Recipe

The recipe makes enough for 8 servings, which means you should make this on Sunday, and then eat the leftovers all week long when you race home covered in sweat and barely able to stand up straight energized after work.

White Chicken Chili Recipe

White Chicken Chili

From America's Test Kitchen

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 15-ounce can white hominy
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, minced
4 jalaepeño chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced jarred pickled jalapeño chiles
1/4 cup minced cilantro
2 avocados, pitted and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Puree 2 cups broth and hominy in blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Add liquid to slow cooker. 

Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, jalapeños, garlic, cumin and coriander, and cook until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in remaining cup of broth, scraping up any browned bits; transfer to slow cooker. 

Stir beans into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4 to 6 on low. 

Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces, discarding bones. Let chili settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon.

Stir in shredded chicken and pickled jalapeños and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with avocado. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Engagement Weekend!

Engagement Weekend
I apologize for the lack of posting recently, but I hope the title of this post helps fill you in on the exciting news. During our 6 year anniversary getaway, Z proposed!

For our anniversary, we decided to take a weekend trip to Napa, like last year. The plan: hike Mount St. Helena and spend the night at the Hampton Inn on Saturday, and then do wine tastings and stay at the Carneros Inn on Sunday.

Addendum Fried Chicken

After a late start on Saturday, we made our way to Addendum, a shack outside of AdHoc serving their famous fried chicken for only $16.50. It was the most delicious fried chicken I have ever had in my entire life. The key: great coating on the outside that was flavored with rosemary.

Z was starting to get a cold, so we skipped the 4 hour hike in favor of a shorter one at Lake Berryessa. Z blatantly asked me if I wanted to change into something "cuter" for the hike, which of course I said no to. Who wears a dress on a hike?

About 15 minutes in to the hike, he proposed! We spent the rest of the hike hearing about all of his secret plans to surprise me. Our hike included some unwelcome visitors including a rattlesnake, but we eventually made it back to our car to call family and friends.

Z's plan to have us stay at the Hampton Inn was all a ruse; he arranged for us to stay at the Carneros Inn both nights. He knows how to spoil me!

Engagement Dinner

We drove to the Meadowood for dinner, and Z seemed extremely calm even though we were running 20 minutes late for our reservation. When we checked in, the host led us to a private room, where our family (including my sister from DC) was waiting. I didn't cry when Z proposed, but seeing our families together made me tear up.

We spent the rest of the weekend celebrating, eating, and visiting wineries. Look out for some posts on favorite Napa restaurants soon!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Spring Bucket List

Shed Healdsburg

With the start of March and San Francisco's temperamental weather fluctuating between rain and 70 degrees and sunshine, spring has been on my mind. Here's a list of all the things I am looking forward to this season....


Hiking Mt. Tam, finally! Can't believe I haven't done this yet.

Visit the farmers' market every other week. I haven't been in such a long time.

Take a weekend trip to Napa with Z. Hello, wine country!

Host a cocktail party on the roof with close friends.

Walk along the beach to Pelican Inn for brunch.

Spend an afternoon in the Filoli gardens.

Baking new recipes from The Violet Bakery Cookbook....rye chocolate brownies are calling my name.

What's on your spring bucket list?


Friday, February 26, 2016

Weekend Explorations: Outer Sunset in San Francisco


Andytown Coffee Roasters

One of my favorite things about San Francisco is the distinct personality of each neighborhood.  Z does not really care what we do on the weekend, but I have made it a point to start exploring more neighborhoods, and Z is kind enough to come along for the ride (and often drive!).

We visited the Sunset a few times over the past month, and both times we found great spots that we had to share.

Devil’s Teeth Baking Company: San Francisco sure does love its bakeries, and the Sunset has its own claim to fame with Devil’s Teeth. They are famous for their breakfast sandwiches of egg, bacon, cheese, avocado and lemon aioli on a freshly baked biscuit. We also tried their donut muffin and cinnamon roll, which were both delicious. Come willing to share the baked treats!

Devil's Teeth Baking Company
Devil's Teeth Baking Company
Devil's Teeth Baking CompanyAndytown: I heard about this coffee roaster from colleagues at work. I particularly intrigued by the "Snowy Plover", an iced coffee drink named after a small bird. The drink is actually espresso, tonic water, and brown sugar over ice, topped with homemade whipped cream. It's delicious -- perfectly sweet and refreshing. They also have delicious scones and soda bread. Z and I shared the cheddar and scallion scone. Despite the line out the door, we would go again in a minute. Plus, one can't help but love their succulents.

Andytown Coffee RoastersAndytown Coffee Roasters

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Crème Brûlée French Toast

Creme Brulee French Toast

I hate to say it, because I love myoriginal French toast recipe, but I found the best and absolute easiest French toast you will ever make in your life.

This is a recipe that I made and then immediately wanted to tell every single person about it: my dad, Z’s mom, my neighbor with the cute adorable toddler, the barista who never smiles when I order my cappuccino.

You see, this is no ordinary French toast. This is crème brûlée French toast. It’s a custardy, nutmeg-flavored custardy piece of challah where one side has a crispy sugar coating reminiscent of the shell on top of crème brûlée.

Creme Brulee French Toast

Oh, and did I mention that you can make this even if you don’t know the first thing about anything? You soak challah in a nutmeg-infused mixture of eggs, cream, and whole milk overnight (no wonder it’s good), and then you cook it in the oven on a sheet of melted butter and brown sugar.

Creme Brulee French Toast

It’s a perfect brunch meal—prep the night before, pop it into the oven the day of. By the time you cook up some sausage and make a pot of coffee, your French toast is ready.  I was overly ambitious and served it with an eggs poached in tomato sauce dish that I overcooked (see, no one is perfect!), but it didn’t even matter because this crème brûlée French toast is JUST THAT GOOD.

Creme Brulee French Toast

Crème Brûlée French Toast

From The New York Times

5 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
2 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons dark rum or orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 loaf challah bread, sliced 1 inch thick, preferably stale
1 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, rum, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Spread bread out in 1 layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Pour custard over bread, cover with plastic wrap, and let soak in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight. Flip bread slices over once while they soak (either halfway through soaking or an hour before baking). 

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and melted butter. Pour mixture onto another large rimmed baking sheet, using a spatula if necessary to spread into an even layer. 

Transfer soaked bread to sugared baking sheet, placing slices on top of the brown sugar mixture. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and sugar is bubbling. 

Serve immediately while still hot, with the crunchy brown sugar side up, spooning more of pan syrup on top. 

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Peanut Butter Brownies for Valentine's Day

Peanut Butter Brownies
It’s only fitting that for Valentine’s Day, this post includes two of my long-time loves, peanut butter and chocolate. The two are a perfect pair, like rainy days and a great book, Kate and William, and bagels and lox.

Both ingredients are heavy players in my diet; peanut butter and bananas, peanut butter on toast, hot chocolate, dark chocolate before bed; there typically isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t have either chocolate or peanut butter.  

I typically eat chocolate and peanut butter separately, but admittedly Reese’s are my favorite drugstore candy item, and I recently fell in love with McConnell’s Double Peanut Butter Chip ice cream. Why not combine the two into brownies?

Peanut Butter Brownies

These peanut butter brownies are perfect for sharing at work, sharing with your Valentine on a hike, and turning into a hot fudge brownie sundae for eating by yourself (which admittedly is me this year as Z is out of town skiing).

My Valentine’s Day will start with laying in bed all day a springboard Pilates class (I’m slowly but surely becoming stronger) and hopefully a massage (thanks to the amazing company Soothe). In the afternoon, I’ll whip up a batch of these brownies again for post-dinner ice cream sundaes.

The first time I made these brownies, I checked to see if they were done, but I was more focused on Downton Abbey  multi-tasking and accidentally dropped a pan of half-cooked brownies on the floor. Oops. So, don’t make the same mistake I did and try to keep up with the Crawley Family while making peanut butter brownies.
  

Peanut Butter Brownies 

From Cook’s Illustrated
Makes about 16 brownies

Note: do not use a natural peanut butter (one where the oil separates from the butter itself). While I never eat Skip or Jiffy, this is the recipe to use it in.

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup peanut butter, room temperature

Adjust oven rack to middle position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 8-inch baking dish with foil and coat foil with cooking spray. 

Melt the chocolate and butter in small bowl in microwave, or in heatproof bowl set over pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally to combine. Cool mixture for several minutes. 

Whisk sugar, baking powder, table salt, eggs, and vanilla together in medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk in chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in flour until no streaks remain.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Drop peanut butter in 10 small dollops spread out evenly across the batter. Without touching the foil lining, run pairing knife through batter to create swirls.

Peanut Butter Brownies

Peanut Butter Brownies

Bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center of pan comes out clean, 25 to 27 minutes. Cool brownies on wire rack for 1 hour. 

Peanut Butter Brownies

Using foil, lift brownies from pan to cutting board. Slide foil out from underneath brownies, and cut brownies into 2-inch squares.  

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Super Bowl Nachos

Loaded Nachos My favorites foods for the Super Bowl (and really any football viewing party) are all classic game-day recipes, and today's recipe is no exception.

Here's a little secret though: I don't care about the Super Bowl. Yes, it's in San Francisco Santa Clara, and yes, I did go to watch fireworks at Super Bowl City, but don't count me in for watching the game. I'm actually going to be on a plane flying from Dallas to San Francisco (we're celebrating Z's mom's birthday this weekend). Given I have no attachment to either team, or really any pro football team for that matter, I am just going to finish reading the Nightingale on the plane.

Loaded Nachos

That being said, there is something delicious about traditional football party food. Onion dip, wings, BBQ--all of it is so so delicious (and dangerous for the waistline). Nachos in particular are my weakness.

Loaded Nachos

I like this recipe because a) it's vegetarian. Any vegetarian meal I can get Z to enjoy is a win in my book; b) it requires no specialty ingredients. You can buy everything at the normal grocery store and c) it looks great when you serve it directly from the cookie sheet, so no extra dishes!

Hope you have a great Super Bowl Sunday, whether you watch the game or not! Just make sure to eat a plate of nachos for me.

Loaded Nachos

Super Bowl Nachos

Inspired by Bon Appetit
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 red onion
1 clove garlic
1 jalapeño
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

6 ounces tortilla chips
2 cups shredded cheese, Mexican blend
Sour cream
Salsa
Lime wedges

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, jalapeño to skillet and stir until softened. Transfer to a food processor, add black beans, lime juice, 1/4 cup of water, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth.

Loaded Nachos

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange half of chips on a baking sheet. Top with half of beans, then half of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining chips, beans, and cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Add the sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and lime wedges to the sheet (one in each corner), then serve.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Favorite Tropical Smoothie Recipe

Lava Lust Smoothie
New year, new resolutions, new smoothie recipes.

Z and I went traveling to Hawaii this past fall, and one of our favorite spots in Kauai was a small little cafe with great smoothies and coffee. We must have tried four or five different smoothies during our trip there, and my all time favorite was called the "Lava Lust" smoothie. 

The smoothie was creamy thanks to coconut milk, and had a tart taste from raspberries, pineapple, and mangoes. As soon as I tried this tropical smoothie, I knew I found a winner. It was so delicious and refreshing, and maybe it was the Hawaiian weather and locale, but to me, the smoothie was perfection. 

Lava Lust Smoothie

Now that its a new year, I'm trying to be healthier. I recently signed up for Class Pass, and I've been enjoying the variety in my workout routine. When it comes to food, I'm cutting out the kettle corn I munch on at work, and reducing the number of desserts I eat during the week. To be completely honest, it wasn't until very recently that I learned that the average person doesn't eat dessert every day. Oops. Thanks best friend V for pointing that out.

Smoothies are my go to during the week, when I want something sweet and creamy, but without processed sugar and flour. Thanks goodness our Nutribullet is easy to clean.

Here's another one of my favorite smoothie recipes in case you're looking for some variety!

Lava Lust Smoothie

1/3 cup frozen pineapple
1/3 cup frozen mango
1/3 cup frozen raspberries
1 1/2 cup coconut milk

Add all ingredients to blender. Blend until smooth. 

Enjoy!
 

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