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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Getting back to it

It's been a long time since my last post but I am back now! We moved again which disrupted my cooking routine but we are finally settled just in time for the best time of the year: autumn!  Ok, well, officially it is still late summer but it has been feeling very fall like around here...great sleeping weather!

When I first move into a new place, I am always a little weirded out that I am using space that was just occupied by someone else. I am sure most people feel that way. It takes a little while for it to feel like yours...especially in the kitchen. We have been in our house about 2 months now and truth be told, I have yet to use the oven.  I have been baking stuff but using our table-top toaster/convection oven instead of the regular oven. I have probably held out christening the over a little longer than usual this time but only because it's was summer when we moved in and the table-top oven doesn't heat up the entire kitchen like the big oven does. Another thing that delayed me using the oven initially was a gas leak! It is fixed now, but it dragged out over a two week period due to inept repair companies.

The above picture is some pasta salad I made for a family party this weekend: Tri-colored pasta, red onions, celery, cucumbers, black olives, pepperoni, feta and Kraft Italian dressing. Delicious if I do say so myself...the veggies added a great crunch and the pepperoni and onions supplied just the right kick.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Treat

To get in the Valentine's Day mood this past weekend,  I made some lemon cupcakes with tea infused buttercream frosting.  A sort of Arnold Palmer cake...The cake was just a box cake but I did make the frosting from scratch.  The frosting was really just an improvisation but it turned out pretty nice.  I really liked the consistency.  The  tea flavor was subtle.  I think I would try to go a little heavier on the tea next time.

Tea Infused Buttercream Frosting
2 Black Tea Bags soaking in a about 1/4 cup of boiling water to make a strong tea flavor
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
Approximately 2 - 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

Cream the butter with an electric mixer.  Add in the tea.
Slowly add the powdered sugar (about 1/2 cup at a time).

Honestly, I just poured the powdered sugar out of the bag, so I am not sure how much I used.  Just keep adding the sugar until your icing is the desired consistency.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl Roll Ups!

Whenever I think of Super Bowl party foods, I think of some sort of taco dip creation which typically involves cream cheese and some chili/taco flavoring.  This year I decided to make some salsa rolls up inspired by a recipe I saw on the Kraft Foods Recipe website. Of course, I improvised a bit to make it fall more in line with my "taco dip" theme.

Note that this is a party food recipe, so it makes a decent amount.  I got about 35 nice slices with about 10 uneven end pieces.  If you want less, just cut the recipe in half....

1 package of Burrito size flour tortillas
2  8 oz packages of cream cheese
1 package of shredded cheddar or mixed cheese (cheddar, colby, jack, etc...)
10 tablespoons of medium Pico de Gallo
1 package or taco seasoning mix

Put the cream cheese in a medium sized bowl.    Add the pico de gallo and taco seasoning.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Spread a layer of of the cream cheese mixture onto a tortilla and sprinkle with the shredded cheese.  Although it is not in the "preparation" photo, I also added a bit of shredded lettuce for crunch...I think chopped onions would also work well in the regard.  Anyway, once your ingredients are on the tortilla, roll the tortilla as tightly as possible.  After it is rolled, simply cut into about 1 -  1 1/2 inch sized slices.  Continue until you run out of the cream cheese mixture.  I ended up using 5 tortillas.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mission Coffee Cup - La Jolla

Victor and I had breakfast at the Mission Coffee Cup in La Jolla a few weeks ago.  It is just a small place with a few seats was a bit cold and foggy the morning we were there, so we opted to wait for an inside table.  The tables are really packed closely together, so it's a bit of challenge navigating around.  Although Yelp says the place is wheelchair accessible, the only way I could see getting a wheelchair in there is if they temporarily moved some tables out.   There was a woman in a wheelchair eating there at the same time as us, but her party opted to eat outside on the patio which is saying something since it was about 60 degrees or so outside.

Given the name, I would love to say the coffee was outstanding, sadly I had to skip coffee since we had a 2 hour car ride back to LA after we ate.  Coffee and long car rides don't mix for me.  Their orange juice, however, was fresh squeezed and delicious!

This is definitely not your "greasy spoon" diner fare...the majority of the dishes had a healthy tofu/brown rice/egg white thing going on.  Victor got the Banana Honey Oatmeal pancakes and I got some sort of egg scramble thing.  The eggs were good but the absolute standout of the meal was the rosemary toast.   This toast made me want to drive straight home and try to make my own....I just could not get enough of it!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cork Factory - Lancaster, PA

Over the holidays, Victor and I hit another hotel listed on the Historic Hotels website.  This time, we were in Lancaster, PA...better known to some folks as the locale for Discovery Channel's Amish Mafia.

Anyway, back to the hotel:  It is called the Cork Factory Hotel and it's located in Downtown Lancaster.   Built in 1865 and used as cork factory from 1875 through the 1960s when bottles and caps began to be produced there.  In around 2004,  the building and those surrounding it where purchased to be re-purposed as a mixed use community.   The hotel debuted in it's current form in 2009.  

The Hotel's decor is is beautiful with exposed red brick and wood framework.  The walls are adorned with antique cork presses.  The rooms, especially when compared to some we have stayed at in NYC, are huge! The included continental breakfast included the typical fare (individual yogurts, bagels, granola bars, cold cereal) as well as some local pastries...but really, give me a good cup of coffee with cream and I am in heaven... the sticky bun was an just an added bonus!  The hotel's only negative is the sound proofing between the rooms but bad acoustics seem to be the norm in the historic hotels.   With some ear plugs, we had a sound night's rest.

The Lancaster Brewing Company was located around the corner from the hotel, so we walked over there for dinner.  Victor had bbq chicken pizza and I tried the veggie burger...both very tasty.  In terms of the beer, I enjoyed my Milk Stout but Victor was just lukewarm on his Strawberry Wheat.  He wanted some sort of wheat beer but the "strawberry" part just made it a little too sweet.    According to Yelp reviews, the service here can be a spotty but our overall experience was great.

Diwali and my first foray into Vegan territory

Per Wiki, Diwali, also known as Deepavali or "festival of lights", is a five day Hindu festival celebrated in India, Nepal and a number of other countries where Hindis gather with their families to celebrate the end of the harvest season. I am not an expert on Diwali by any means...but through the years I have worked in many multi-cultural environments and had the pleasure of learning about different customs/holidays many of which have delicious foods that accompany them.

This year, Diwali began on Tuesday November 13th.   My co-worker organized a "Diwali Potluck Lunch" the Friday prior for our work team. I knew I could not make any Indian cuisine that would stand up against the dishes my Indian co-workers were going to bring, so I made some vegan coconut cupcakes.    I used the recipe on Chef Chloe's website for the cupcakes themselves and improvised on the icing since I did not have any coconut oil.

Vegan Coconut Cupcakes (adapted from Chef Chloe's recipe)
1 3/4 unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of coconut milk
1/2 cup oil (I used olive oil since that is what I had on hand but original recipe stated canola oil)
2 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350, prepare cupcake pan with cupcake liners (I ended up with enough batter for 19 cupcakes).

In one bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt). 
In a second bowl, mix together all of the wet ingredients (coconut milk, oil, vanilla, vinegar).   
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing (by hand) until just combined.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for about 15 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks.

Coconut glaze icing (my own creation)
To ice the cupcakes, I made a quick glaze from 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of coconut milk.  These measurements are simply a guide...feel free to add more or less powdered sugar depending on how thick you want the glazed.   Drizzle on top of the cupcakes and then sprinkle with coconut.