Monday, December 6, 2010

'Tis the Season for Chocolate, Peppermint and More Chocolate

As my first semester as a graduate student comes to an end, my Education Psychology Professor announced we would be having a potluck for the last class. Since I haven't baked in a while, I thought this would be a nice time to do it. So I made a triple-chocolate cake with chocolate-peppermint filling (Bon Appetit 2001).

Maybe I'm still tired from the weekend or a little brain-fried from the semester - working full time and being a full-time student is no easy task I've discovered, but I missed some steps in the recipe. I think the cake will still taste ok, but I guess my Education Psychology class will find out tomorrow. I completely forgot to put vanilla in the cake and I failed to notice that the cake should be baked as one layer and divided in half (I used two pans). Whoops! With three types of chocolate and almost three sticks of butter, how could this taste wrong?

This recipe is a little high maintenence, but it looks awfully festive and from what I tried of the glaze, it is going to be delicious.

8 ounces imported milk chocolate (such as Lindt) finely chopped
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 cup sifted all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup (1 1/2) sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

12 whole red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies, chopped (I used candy canes)

For Filling:
Place chocolate in medium bowl. Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan. Pour hot mixture over chocolate; add extract and let stand 1 minute. Whisk until mixture is smooth. let filing stand at room temperature while cake is baking and cooling.

For Cake:
Position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 350F. Butter 9-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch high sides. Line bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment. Dust pan with flour. Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in both sugars, then vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions each. Mix in chocolate chips.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 5 minutes. cool cake in pan on rack 5 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack. Peel off parchment. Col completely.

Using electric mixer, beat filling until fluffy and lightened in color, about 30 seconds. Using serrated knife, cut cake horizontally in half. Place 1 layer, cut side up, on rack set over baking sheet. Spread filling over. Top with second layer, cut side down. Chill filled cake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze:
Stir chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in heavy small saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Mix in extract. Cool glaze until just lukewarm but still pourable, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Pour 1/2 cup glaze over center of cake. Spread over top and sides of cake. Chill until glaze sets, about 15 minutes. Pour remaining glaze over center of cake, then spread quickly over top and sides. Chill until glaze sets about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; chill. Before continuing, let stand at room temperature until softened, about 4 hours.)

Sprinkle candies around top edge of cake.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hey Mussels, I love you.

Moules et Frites is one of my favorite items to order while dining out at the moment. While I claim to be a veg-head in some of my posts, that isn't entirely true. I try to stick to the fruits and veggies most of the time, but ultimately, I am a pescatarian and I do enjoy mussels.

In the planning stages of this meal we started with the mussels and added sweet potato fries with truffle salt. Then came garlic toast and sauteed kale. It was our first time cooking mussels so we did some research. We went with Ina Garten's Mussels in White Wine recipe. Although we were a little confused about soaking the mussels in water with flour, we followed her recipe and they came out beautifully. When I discussed the recipe with my Dad, he said that due to the fact that they are bivalves, the soak in water & flour helps clean out any sand left inside (good to know...thanks Dad).

For the sweet potato fries we sliced raw sweet potatoes and covered the slices in olive oil, salt & pepper and baked them at 500 degrees on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes. Perhaps I cut the fries too thin, but 500 degrees for 30 minutes turned out to be entirely too much time and some of the fries came out a little toasty. I'd recommend 450 at the most and keep watching and turning those potatoes. Truffle salt was sprinkled on the fries - ultimate decadence.

I had a loaf of La Brea Bakery rosemary bread and I followed the recipe for garlic toast on the packaging. A mix of butter, garlic, shallots, salt and red pepper flakes was spread on the slices before a dusting of grated Parmesan cheese. I put the toast in the oven with the fries 10 minutes before the mussels were finished at 450 degrees.

The kale was made Kind Diet style. Sauteed in olive oil with minced garlic and tossed in balsamic vinegar before serving.

Dipping the toast and fries in the white wine sauce from the mussels was incredible. All of the flavors complemented each other so well. Truffle salt, red pepper flakes & Parmesan cheese on rosemary bread and white wine with garlic and butter...need I say more? This meal was amazing. I can't wait to make it again.

Farm Stand Dinner

Visiting Long Island on the weekends has brought back a ton of childhood memories from the times my parents would take me on weekends to visit my Uncle at the family beach house in Sag Harbor. Farm stands with sweet corn and cantaloupe were a part of every one of those visits and I’m thrilled to revisit them.

When I left Los Angeles, I knew I’d miss the fresh produce and farmers markets, but these Long Island farm stands are filling that void. For our first dinner at Roman’s new place we made roasted corn on the cob, sauteed zucchini, roasted tomatoes with basil and stuffed baby bella mushrooms. I have to admit, we cheated on the mushrooms…they were pre-made from Wild by Nature. They were pretty good, but more breadcrumbs than we wanted. I sauteed the zucchini in olive oil until it browned and the corn was roasted in the oven (husk and all). I got the tomato recipe from Ina Garten via the Food Network. Since Roman just moved in, he didn’t have sugar, so that was missing from the recipe but otherwise I followed it completely.

Roasted Tomatoes (via Ina Garten/Food Network)

  • 12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, cores and seeds removed
  • 4 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (I didn’t use the sugar since we didn’t have any and they came out well without it - I’m sure this would help them caramelize more)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange the tomatoes on a cookie sheet, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the garlic, salt, and pepper over the tomatoes. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are beginning to caramelize.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fancy Dinner

When your boyfriend moves away, you must cook him a fancy dinner. I guess it isn’t an obligation, but when you care about someone as much as I care about Roman, it is kind of a no-brainer. Not to mention, the excitement of a fancy cheese plate can almost help you forget the sad occasion.

Roman mentioned filet a couple of times in the month or so leading up to his departure from Los Angeles, so I decided that beef wellington would be a good start (portobello mushroom wellington for me). I had some asparagus from my CSA delivery and purchased some potatoes to roast.

I heard that I had to try McCall’s Meat & Fish Co. and thought this would be the perfect time to do it. The rumors are true, this place is great. So great that it almost made me want to turn meat-eater again. The employees (and there are only a few - McCall’s is small) are knowledgeable. They know what the animal was eating when it was alive and exactly where it came from. When the cut of filet was slightly lighter than I asked for, the woman behind the counter apologized “I’m sorry we’re coming up short for you today!” I accepted the unnecessary apology. I was more than pleased with what I was getting. Although I hadn’t planned on it, I picked up some white shrimp when I was there. They looked great, so I bought them all.

Next stop was Say Cheese in Silver Lake (right next to Trader Joe’s). I love Say Cheese, but that place is dangerous! I told the guy behind the counter that I wanted to make a cheese plate for a nice dinner and he gave me four cheeses to try, thinking I’d select three. I loved all four and couldn’t choose, so I bought them all. The Gouda (aged 6 years) and Humboldt Fog were my favorites. To compliment my cheeses, I also got some sea salt crackers and fig quince.

While my wellingtons were cooking (recipe adapted from Food Network / Emeril Lagasse), I tossed the shrimp in olive oil with fresh dill and garlic before grilling. I made a dill, paprika butter as a dipping sauce for the shrimp. The asparagus were lightly tossed in olive oil with lemon juice, salt and pepper and the potatoes were coated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary before roasting. When everything was cooked and plated, I topped the wellingtons with a bearnaise sauce. Dinner was served with delicious wine from Jaffurs and Ledson.

Ice Cream Cake for dessert. Mint chocolate ice cream cake.

Although I overcooked the beef wellington slightly (Sacrilege, I know!), everything turned out wonderfully. I hope I can cook another dinner like this for us sometime soon. In the meantime, I’m seeing him this weekend and we’re going to San Francisco, Berkeley and Napa. Maybe we can let Alice Waters do the cooking for us this time around.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I’ve been hearing about Mozza for about three years now. Everyone who went raved and insisted that I go. So when I was down to just a couple weeks with Roman in L.A. I wanted to try Mozza with him. In an effort to be slightly more frugal, I opted for the Pizzeria instead of the Osteria. I also couldn’t get a reservation so last minute (and by last minute I mean two weeks prior) at a normal time for the Osteria. I heard plenty of good things about the Pizzeria, so I was happy with my choice.

We were seated promptly and the tables had Mozza envelopes with silverware inside. The service was excellent and although the wine list was very tempting, we decided to skip the wine and splurge on dessert instead. To start we had the Mussels al forno with Salsa Calabrese and the Fried potatoes ceci with herbs. The Salsa Calabrese from the mussels was to die for. I could have dipped bread in that and called it a night. The potatoes were good too, but I’m told I should have picked the fried squash blossoms. Next time…

Roman ordered the Coach farm goat cheese, leeks, scallions, garlic & bacon pizza, which lived up to the hype. He gave me bites without bacon, but I can see how this would be an excellent combination. As soon as I saw burrata on the menu, I knew which pizza I wanted. My pizza had squash blossoms, tomato & burrata. While the blossoms made for a beautiful pie and the burrata was tasty, I don’t think I’ll get this pizza if I return to Mozza.

Dessert was the best part of dinner in my opinion. Roman got the Espresso granita with espresso gelato & chocolate dipped honeycomb and I got the Butterscotch budino, Maldon sea salt & rosemary pine nut cookies. I often use the word complex when describing wine and beer and on occasion for exceptional food, but never for dessert. This dessert was complex. Each bite was sweet, then salty and had a creamy finish. The rosemary pine nut cookies offered a break from the decadent texture of the budino. I think Roman got two bites before I polished off the entire thing.

Overall, I was impressed with Pizzeria Mozza and glad we ended on such wonderful desserts. Their pizza is much prettier than this picture. We were told by a seasoned Mozza diner that pictures are not allowed…we had to sneak one by phone.

Pizzeria Mozza (Open Noon - Midnight)
641 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Frankies for Dinner

Earlier this week, I headed over to the Eagle Rock brewery to try out their beer and was happy to be introduced to Sumant, the chef of the India Jones food truck. Beer was supposed to be the main event of the evening (and Eagle Rock Brewery was very enjoyable - will definitely go back there) but discovering the India Jones truck trumped our new beer excitement.

We shared the Samosa Spring Rolls, Veggie Tikka Masala, the Potato Paratha and the Mushroom and Cheese Frankie. The Frankie was my favorite and I’m hoping to happen upon this truck a lot more. Complimentary Aranciatas from Sumant and Dave (or maybe Gabe ?) washed down our dinner perfectly.

Support India Jones at tomorrow’s LA Vendy Awards.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes

(via Love and Olive Oil)

My friend Allyson and I do a lot of internet food browsing. Most of our e-mails and IMs to each other are recipe exchanges and we have an endless list of dishes we want to try. One such dish was Skillet Gnocchi with Chard and White Beans from Eating Well. Of course I neglected to take a picture of this delicious dinner, but managed to snap a photo of dessert.

These mini chocolate cheesecakes from Love and Olive Oil were also on our list and they came out beautifully. They are the perfect amount, easy to make but look and taste impressive. Next time I make these I will be adding more raspberries. One was elegant, but not quite enough.

Two checks on our food list and happy bellies. YUM!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Square One Dining

Roman and I woke up early yesterday and decided to go to Square One for breakfast. Their amazing french toast had me wondering why I don’t go there more often. When I was visiting Square One on a more frequent basis, I would go with the bourbon-pecan topping with vanilla whipped cream, but this banana hazelnut special was calling my name.

We split the french toast and the veggie omelet with asparagus, squash, basil and goat cheese. Our omelet came with breakfast potatoes and delicious whole grain bread from Bread Bar. Their coffee is always perfect and service warm & friendly.

4854 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 90029

Open everyday from 8AM - 3PM.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From the Artful Vegan

My friend Liz gave me The Artful Vegan for my birthday. The pictures are gorgeous, ingredients enticing and it is a challenge. I don’t have a lot of cookbooks containing recipes that intimidate me, but this one certainly does. They are recipes for weekends only, with ingredients that even challenge the knowledgeable employees at Whole Foods.

So here it is, Creole Sauteed Mushrooms and Kidney Beans over Pecan Dirty Rice.

Serves 6.

Creole Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 cups 1/4-inch-diced celery, 2 cups 1/4-inch-diced carrots, 1 red onion cut into 1/4 inch dice, 4 cloves garlic minced, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon espresso ground, 2 teaspoons Spanish paprika, 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more as needed, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast, 2 cups dry red wine, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed, 1/4 cup tomato paste, 3 cups mushrooms stock (I used veggie stock), 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon tamari, salt

Begin with a roux. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small saute pan over low heat Whisk in the flour. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, whisking almost constantly, to make a deep nut-brown roux. Remove from the heat. Let cool to close to room temperature before using.

Heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, until soft and starting to brown. Add the thyme, bay leaves, espresso, paprika, cayenne pepper, and oregano. Saute, stirring often, for 2 minutes to toast the spices. Add the yeast, and then add the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the black pepper, tomato paste, stock, vinegar, and tamari. Decrease the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until reduced by one-third. Slowly whisk in the roux, decrease the heat to low, and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Add salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.

Pecan Dirty Rice

2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 red onion cut into 1/4-inch dice, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 cup pecans toasted and coarsely chopped, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, pinch of freshly ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup brown basmati rice, 1 1/2 cups water

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Add the pecans, thyme, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, and salt. Saute for 1 minute. Add the rice, and saute for 2 minutes, stirring often, to toast the rice. Add the water and bring to a boil.

Cover the saucepan and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. (Alternatively, cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and let steam still covered for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork. Serve or keep covered until needed.

Braised Kale

1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 bunches Red Russian or Lacinato kale, washed, stemmed and cut into 1-inch strips, 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 yellow onion halved crosswise and then sliced into thin crescents, 2 cloves garlic minced, 2 teaspoons of umeboshi vinegar

Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the salt. Place the kale in the boiling water and blanch for 3 to 7 minutes, depending on the variety, until just tender. Drain the kale in a colander. If not using immediately, rinse with cold water.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes, or until just softened. Add the drained kale and the vinegar and saute for 2 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from the heat.

Last, but not least…

Creole Sauteed Mushrooms

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves garlic minced, 8 oz. cremini mushrooms halved, 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms stemmed and halved, 8 oz. oyster mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more as needed), 1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans, cayenne pepper

Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, or until just starting to brown. Add the cremini, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms and the salt. Saute for 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms are just softened. Add the kidney beans and the Creole sauce and heat through. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

To Serve

You also need: Cornbread (this book has a recipe for that as well), 6 lemon wedges, 12 chive sprigs, plus 2 tablespoons chopped chives, 1/2 cup roasted pecans

For each serving, place a ring of kale around the inside perimeter of a large shallow bowl, such as a pasta bowl. Follow with a ring of rice. Fill the center of the bowl with a portion of the Creole mushroom mixture. Place a wedge of cornbread and a wedge of lemon on the side. Sprinkle the plate with some chopped chives and roasted pecans. Put 2 chive sprigs upright in the center.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Kind Dinner

My friend Allyson got me The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone for my birthday. I was so happy she found a copy for me since the book was sold out after Alicia’s appearance on Oprah. I heard about her book at least a year ago and was curious, but never made the purchase. Well, I am so glad I have it now.

On my drive home from work today I was tired and craving comfort food, maybe pizza? And then I remembered that I have a nearly full box of vegetables from my CSA delivery. How could I forget? I decided to see if I could use anything in the box and Alicia’s book to make a delicious dinner. No grocery store visits, just cook from what I have already. The result was wonderful: Sicilian Collard Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins (only I used cashews and craisins) and Cuban Style Roasted Sweet Potatoes. I added in some roasted carrots and had a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup for dessert…Alicia’s version that is. Thank you Alicia Silverstone for great vegan recipes. I can’t wait to try them all.

Sicilian Collard Greens with Pine Nuts & Raisins

1 bunch of collard greens, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts (I used cashews), 3 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped - I used a red onion from the CSA instead), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 3 tablespoons raisins (I used craisins), 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Use a sharp knife to cut out the central rib and stem from each collard leaf. Rinse the leaves in a sink of cool water, lifting them into a colander to drain a bit (you want some water to remain on the leaves).

Toast the pine nuts over a medium heat in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes or until golden. Shake the pan often to keep the pine nuts from burning. Transfer to a plate, and set aside.

Place the garlic and oil in a large skillet, and saute over medium heat for 1 minute or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the damp collards and stir, then cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the raisins and pine nuts, and stir. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, cover and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Cuban-Style Roasted Sweet Potatoes

3 large sweet potatoes (peeled and quartered), 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, fine sea salt to taste, freshly ground pepper to taste, 1 large garlic clove minced, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

Place the sweet potatoes in a medium bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet, and roast until they can be pierced easily with a knife but still offer some resistance, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes or so.

Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl, and toss with the garlic, lime juice, parsley, adn remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you want the chocolate peanut butter cup recipe, you’ll have to buy the book ;) Trust me, it is worth it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Baby Brownies (for Administrative Assistant's Day)

I know my New Year’s resolution was to take better pictures of my food, but I was kind of in a bind here. Slept a little later than I should, brownies weren’t cut and arranged yet, had to make a quick stop on my way to work AND it seems that every road I take on my commute is being repaved (= major delays). I didn’t want to be too late this morning, so here it is, another poor quality picture.

Baby Brownies in honor of Administrative Assistant’s Day. This recipe is from a book my Mom got for me when I first moved away from home. Other than my McCall’s Cookbook, this is my go-to resource for basics and I guess it should be since the title is The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. I doubled the recipe since I made them for a department of 15 people. I’m reciting this recipe from my memory of making it last night at 11:30, so apologies if it is missing anything major. If they don’t come out right, just buy the book or send me an angry e-mail.


6 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I used semi-sweet), 1/4 cup of chocolate fudge (I used Mrs. Richardson’s), 1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature), 2 eggs, 1 tsp of vanilla, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup flour, a pinch of salt.

To Make:

Generously butter/grease a 8x8 pan (I doubled the recipe and did 9x13) and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate pieces in a saucepan over low heat and stir constantly. Once chocolate is melted, add chocolate fudge and stir until smooth. Remove chocolate mixture from heat and whisk in butter. Once combined stir in eggs (slightly beaten) and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together sugar, flour and salt. Gradually combine dry mixture with the chocolate mixture until smooth.

Pour in the pan and bake for 30 minutes (or until tester comes out clean). Allow your baby brownies to cool before cutting.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Inaugural Panini Party

Since my friend Alison was housebound last Friday with a bum foot, I went over to her house to make paninis with her roommates Amanda and Andrew. I brought my dog Rusty along for the fun too. He didn’t get to enjoy paninis, but I think he is now thoroughly traumatized by our visit to Chat Roulette. Although he did meet a cute pup from West Hollywood during our adventure.

I’m getting off topic…back to paninis. We chose to make mushroom fontina paninis. I purchased baby bella and cremini mushrooms from Trader Joe’s along with some shallots, french rolls, baby spinach, sweet potato fries, garlic fries, and chocolate bonbons for dessert. I also got some red zinfandel from Cline Cellars (also at Trader Joe’s).

To make the delectable melted sandwiches, we first sauteed the shallots in butter over medium heat and then added the mushrooms and about a tablespoon of tarragon. We cooked the mushroom/shallot mixture until softened. We brushed melted butter on the top and bottom half of the french rolls and then put a layer of fontina cheese slices on the bottom half of the roll. The cheese was covered in the mushroom mixture, followed by a layer of baby spinach and then some more fontina cheese. The sandwiches then went in the panini press at medium heat for about 7 or 8 minutes. The rolls were thick, so the cooking time was a little longer for these guys.

When I first took my fancy Breville panini press out of the box I thought, this isn’t much different from the George Foreman grill I purchased a couple years ago and I suddenly felt buyer’s remorse (even though it was a Birthday gift from my family - thank you FAMILY!). After our inaugural panini Friday, I know the panini press was well worth the purchase and I hope this becomes a weekly tradition. Melted, buttery goodness.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Epic Easter Feast

I had fifteen people over for brunch on Easter and made a feast. I love cooking big meals for my friends, but I think I’m going to be resting for a while after this one. It sent me on an unhealthy food jelly-bean bender from which I’m recovering.

Not much to say other than I will be making the french toast casserole again. Definitely a winner. I’ll let the menu to the rest of the talking.

French Toast Casserole — via from Paula Dean. Butter, butter, butter.

Vegetable Frittata with Asparagus Salad — The frittata was loosely based on a couple recipes, but basically, zucchini, asparagus, shallots and grated asiago cheese. Got the recipe for the asparagus salad on

Bacon and Cheddar Frittata with Rosemary — The boyfriend manned this one and from what I hear, it was delicious.

Sweet and Spicy Potatoes — Had this dish for the first time at a friend’s brunch a couple years ago and had to make it myself. Tons of seasoning with sweet potatoes, roasted at over 400 for at least 45 minutes. YUM!

Breakfast Herb Potatoes — Regular potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh parsley and rosemary. Classic perfection.

Banana Crunch Muffins —An Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) recipe from I will be making these again and I have two bananas that are ready for it!

Amish Friendship Bread — Got my starter from Katie and the bread turned out delicious! More like a pound cake than a fluffy, airy loaf, and went perfectly with the next item.

Strawberry Butter — I made this to go with the croissants that Andrew brought along with the Amish Bread and Banana Crunch muffins. It was a big hit, but thankfully I made enough for leftovers. Got the recipe from my Heidi Swanson book, but basically just use room temperature butter (or maybe a little bit warmer) and combine with strawberry preserves. After the two were combined, I put the butter in red ramekins and refrigerated overnight.

Carrot Cake & Lemon Cake Cupcakes — Refer to my last post to see recipes and close-up photos of these.

In addition to my creations, my roommates made tasty looking bacon and sausage, others brought, cheesy grits, colored eggs, croissants, fruit salad, key lime pie, cinnamon rolls, ham/pineapple/cherry skewers, Bloody Mary mix and of course champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice for mimosas.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter Cupcakes

I plan on writing about Easter brunch, but let’s skip to dessert first. I made cupcakes of the carrot and lemon variety. I used my standard carrot cake recipe and then (since the lemons in the backyard were begging to be zested) I made a new lemon cupcake recipe. Both had cream cheese icing on top.

Carrot (adapted from Bon Appetit 1994 via Epicurious):
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots.
Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 25 minutes.
Lemon (from

1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) of REAL butter3 c. cake flour (no substitutions here—you really need the lightness of cake flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons (just zest the other lemons before you squeeze them)
1 c. buttermilk
Preheat oven to 325. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners (I used yellow, although white would also be cute).In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Don’t go skimping here—you want the mixture to be almost white and super fluffy. This is absolutely essential to the outcome of the cake.While butter and sugar are mixing, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside. After butter and sugar have mixed sufficiently, With the mixer running, add eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Beat in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest.With mixer on low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until fully incorporated.Using a standard cookie scoop, place about 2 scoops of batter into each muffin cup. Fill these almost to the top—due to the final texture (again, think super-moist and light pound cake), these cupcakes won’t have a nice, curvy crown, but that’s okay—no one will ever know or care.Bake about 20-25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. You don’t want to overbake these even a bit, or they’ll start to lose their delicious moisture. Remove from oven and cool completely.
4 cups powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sunday, March 21, 2010


It is Los Angeles Marathon Eve and I am up baking. My boyfriend is running the 25th Anniversary race from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica Pier. I am now wishing that I stuck with my training all year so I could run as well, but I’ll just have to live vicariously through him.

I don’t know if he told me he was running the LA marathon or if I saw the recipe for these cookies first, but I knew I wanted to make them as soon as I saw the post (surprise, surprise, it is one from 101 Cookbooks). Heidi Swanson calls these Marathon cookies because she baked them for her husband’s 2nd marathon. I was intrigued by the addition of white beans to cookies. Anise is not a favorite flavor of mine, so I subbed that with Cardamon. I thought rolling the cookies in almonds would go better than sesame seeds with the Cardamon flavor.

When I went to get the Marathon Cookies recipe, I saw that Heidi had a link to another “healthy cookie” recipe. I thought I’d try those too, just in case the Marathon ones didn’t turn out as planned and you know…who needs sleep? Nikki’s Healthy Cookies are a must try. SO DELICIOUS and practically guilt free. Although after 26.2, you can eat whatever you want.

If you’re watching the marathon in LA, be sure to cheer for the people in the Homeboy Industries t-shirts. My favorite runner will be among them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Corned Beef & Cabbage Alts

Since my veg-head status keeps me from celebrating my Irish heritage with corned beef and cabbage (and just cabbage doesn’t sound as appealing) I had to find some green alternatives for yesterday’s holiday.

I’ve been eying 101 Cookbooks broccoli and cheddar cheese soup and I conveniently had a head of broccoli leftover from my CSA delivery (can’t wait for next Tuesday’s installment!). Purchased some Cabot extra sharp cheddar, fingerling potatoes and some fresh bread (for a garlic bread side) and I had the rest of the ingredients at home.
Roman had some red potatoes that he mashed up with some lemon zest, butter, milk, pepper and our green ingredient…pesto!
Made the garlic bread with butter, garlic, Parmesan cheese, dried marjoram and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Everything was delicious and I got my fill of green. Happy St. Patrick’s Day indeed.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine’s Day from Big Body!

To celebrate Valentine’s Day Roman and I had banana pancakes with macademia nuts and coconut with smoothies and french press coffee. I used a recipe from my Heidi Swanson Vegetarian 1.0 cookbook and made a couple alterations. The pancakes were delicious!

Our smoothies had fresh strawberries, fresh squeezed orange juice, coconut pineapple ice cream and raspberry yogurt. Roman got me an immersion blender for my birthday and lets just say, I’ll be making a lot of smoothies. Hopefully as good as the one this morning.

Banana-Macademia Pancakes:

In a large bowl, combine: 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/3 cup sugar, pinch of salt, 1 t. nutmeg

To the dry ingredients, add: 2 cups buttermilk, 2 large eggs slightly beaten, 2 T. unsalted butter melted, 1 big handful of sweetened shredded coconut, 1 big handful of macadamia nuts, crushed, 3 ripe bananas

Stir all the ingredients together until they are just combined. It’s okay if the batter is a bit lumpy. Don’t overmix.

Heat a skillet or pan to medium-hot and brush with a little bit of butter. Pour 1/2 cup batter onto the pan and cook until the pancake bottom is a deep golden color, flip and repeat. Top with maple syrup, chocolate pieces and strawberries.

Toppings aren’t necessary, the pancakes would be great with just syrup or butter, but indulgence was necessary for Valentine’s Day.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

LUNCH for Lunch

My lunches at work have consisted of three ingredients as of late: whole grain bread, peanut butter and jelly. While PB&J remains one of my favorite sandwiches, sometimes it is good to get out of the office pantry and meet a friend for lunch outside of the office.

LUNCH just opened up on Main Street in Culver City and they were offering Sony employees a 10% discount, so my friend and I decided to try it out. It was a great one to try, and I'll definitely go back. On my next visit, I'll have to find out if they will make their meaty sandwiches sans meat, but for my innagural visit: grilled cheese.

I went with the additional tomato and brie variety for $1 but normally you get cheddar melted on white sourdough with a side of fruit, vegetables or chips for $7. Pretty darn good. I satisfied my craving for sweets after my sandwich with three of their cookies. I got peanut butter, double chocolate and chocolate chip. The cookies were just how I like them...crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.

The waitstaff was friendly, the atmosphere comfortable and my friend and I wolfed down our sandwiches in no time.

I'll be having PB&J all next week, but look forward to my next visit to LUNCH.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Roman and his roommate Christina treated a couple of friends to dinner last night. It was delicious. Roman made mac and cheese in a crock pot using sharp white cheddar, brie, gruyere and smoked gouda. Christina made a herb crusted pork roast, blanched green beans with pumpkin seeds and spinach salad with bosc pears and roasted hazelnuts (yes, the salad I’ve been making, and blogging about a lot lately). I’m so glad Christina found that recipe on Epicurious as well - everyone should know about it.

For dessert I wanted to bring something special since I was treated to such a nice dinner. I decided to make my grandmother’s coconut cake. On visits to Florida, other than seeing my grandmother and making trips back and forth between the ocean and the beach, her coconut cake was one of the things I looked forward to most. Now that I’ve made this cake twice, I’ve decided that it does taste best one or two days after making it. The flavor of the coconut has a chance to develop and the cake gets more moist. Nonetheless, my homemade coconut and pineapple ice cream made it work.

This recipe is not quick and easy, so make it only if you have a lot of time on your hands. And whatever you do, do not use pre-cut sweetened coconut. You gotta use the real deal for this cake. Try to find a scored coconut at the grocery so you don’t have to be so violent with the hammer.

Coconut Cake:

Cake: 2 cups cake flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 8 tbsp unsalted butter, 3 egg whites, 3/4 cup milk, 1 teas. vanilla

Cream butter until soft, add sugar until well mixed. Sift flour, add baking powder. Add flour to butter & sugar mixture alternate with milk and vanilla. Beat egg whites until they are lightly peaked. Fold egg whites into flour mixture and grease and flour 2 eight inch cake pan. Divide batter. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Frosting: 1 1/2 cup sugar, 5 tbsp water, 2 eggs whites, 1 tsp white corn syrup, 1 tsp vanilla

Cook all ingredients (except vanilla) in top of double boiler, beating with electric beater until stiff speaks form. Add vanilla, continue beating until stiff. Frost bottom layer, add around fresh coconut. Top cake with second layer, frost and cover sides and tops with remaining shredded coconut.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blogs I Follow: Love & Olive Oil

Although I don't think I could ever come close to how adorable this blog is, it is certainly a source of inspiration. Love & Olive Oil posts great recipes and recently Lindsay shared her secrets on cupcake decoration.

I recommend subscribing to this one, but if you don't want to commit, at least read about her decorating tips to make your desserts look pretty.

(photo courtesy of Love & Olive Oil)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Production Tradition: Baked Ziti

My friend Dan is directing a short horror flick called "NIGHT OF THE PUNKS" this weekend. For the last two shorts he has directed, I've made baked ziti for the cast and crew to eat. It might just be a couple steps up from ordering pizza (the ingredients are mostly the same), but it is homemade and it makes a big difference. I use the recipe that my Mom used to use for swim team pasta dinners. It is from The New McCall's Cook Book. I have the 1973 edition and it is a must have. You'll have to shop for it on Ebay or in used book stores is sadly out of print.

Here is the recipe, in case you can't get a hold of McCall's:

Baked Ziti Casserole

Sauce: 1/4 cup olive oil; 1 cup finely chopped onion; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1 can (2lb, 3 oz) Italian tomatoes, 1 can (6oz) tomato paste, 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley; 1 Tablespoon salt; 1 Tablespoon sugar; 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves; 1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaves; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 1 package (1lb) ziti macaroni

Cheese layer: 2 carton (15 oz. size) ricotta cheese; 1 package (8oz) mozzarella cheese, diced; 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese; 2 eggs; 1 tablespoon chopped parsley; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1. Make Sauce: In hot oil in 6-quart kettle, saute onion and garlic until golden-brown - about 10 minutes. Add undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, 1-1/2 cups water, 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 tablespoon salt, the sugar, oregano, basil and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; mix well, mashing tomatoes with fork.
2. Bring to boiling; reduce heat; simmer, covered and stirring for 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook ziti as package label directs.
4. Make Cheese Layer: In large bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, 1/3 cup Parmesan, the eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Beat with wooden spoon until blended.
5. Spoon a little sauce into a 5 quart casserole. Layer a third of ziti, cheese mixture, and remaining sauce. Sprinkle sauce with 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Repeat twice.
6. Bake uncovered, 45 minutes, or until bubbling in center.
Make 8 to 10 servings.
Note: If desired, make the casserole ahead and refrigerate. Remove from refrigerator while preheating oven. Bake 60 minutes or until heated through.