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Bourbon & Cardamom Whipped Cream

July 31, 2015

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Like most people in today’s world, I have a serious technology problem.  My phone is literally never not by my side or on my person, for the totally ridiculous concern of missing a text/email/Instagram photo of your dog dressed in a tutu. I really don’t want to be that person, but it’s become such a cultural and personal norm that it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep myself in check.

 

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Is it just me, or is there a direct correlation between advancements in technology and reduced social connection?  The point of being “plugged in” is to maintain social connection and awareness, but ironically these are the very things that are suffering most. When my eyes and attention are on my phone, I’m missing out on the opportunity to make eye contact and share a smile with a stranger. I’m too busy checking my email to notice the homeless man on the corner or help the mother struggling to get her two children and stroller onto the bus.

I like myself so much more when my phone is down and my eyes are up.

 

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Like so many other things that are easier said than done, it’s not easy to unplug ourselves and live offline… even when the price that we pay includes social disconnection and stress.  As our phone usage increases, so does the universal expectation of a timely response.  When we don’t ever put our phones down, we welcome the assumption that we’re accessible.  On the flip side, when I do put my phone away for a couple of hours only to later find a slew of missed calls/emails/texts/winks, the momentary stress I feel almost negates the peace I experienced in its absence. This is (and should be) a HUGE warning sign that something is terribly askew.

 

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I know my behaviors won’t change overnight, but I’m making a commitment to practice greater awareness. To view the world around me through my eyes as opposed to the lens on my camera phone. To see, feel and appreciate more of the little things in life.

 

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I hate that they are called the “little things”, by the way.  I sincerely hope that we are in agreement that the so-called little things pack the biggest punch.  Don’t get me wrong: the great moments can be magical and breathtaking, but they aren’t enough to sustain a solid foundation of happiness. In fact, when we lack an awareness and appreciation for these everyday moments, we are easily courted and even dominated by feelings such as frustration, anger and insecurity.

 

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Imagine a day or a life without the simple pleasures like access to clean water and healthy food.  Without fresh air, safe transportation, the opportunity to share a meal with your family, or taking a walk and laughing with a friend.  Imagine not being able to hold and comfort your toddler when they fall and cry.  When I think about what I miss most about my dad, I can without hesitation say that I miss the feeling of his smooth hand on mine.  I miss his smile, the twinkle in his eye when he told a naughty joke, and the smell of his cologne when I was standing on a step stool helping him fasten his cummerbund and black tie for a formal affair. These moments that once seemed so little are in fact my life’s greatest treasures. 

 

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Today (and every day), I encourage you to unplug yourself for a period of time.  Step back and realize that the incessant Facebook and Instagram scrolling doesn’t “fill” time, but instead drains our happiness and opportunities for connection.  Look up.  Look around.  Make eye contact without immediately darting your eyes away once contact has been made.  Allow for your mind and senses to be saturated in this crazy, beautiful world we live in.

 

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And take a moment to enjoy the ‘little things’, like this bourbon & cardamom whipped cream :)

 

Ingredients:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp confectioners sugar

2 tbsp bourbon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

 

Directions:

Whip the heavy whipping cream using an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (approx. 2-4 minutes)

Add sugar, bourbon, vanilla and cardamom.  Continue whipping for approximately 2 minutes

Use immediately

 

**Side note:  I mixed the whipped cream for an additional 2 minutes which results in more of a clotted cream consistency which is delightful for spreading.  If a softer texture is preferred, the directions above should be followed closely. 

 

Lemon & Rosemary Shortbread Cookies with Sea Salt

June 25, 2015

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Several months ago, I found myself enjoying a {borderline concerning} addiction to shortbread cookies. While I’ve embraced a long-standing appreciation for cookies of all flavors and varieties, shortbread always just seemed too… plain.  After sampling a particularly buttery batch sold at a local market, however… I realized how misguided I had been.  Shortbread isn’t uninteresting or boring because of its simplicity… it’s simplicity, I now understand, is what makes it so darn amazing.

 

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One of the most beautiful things about shortbread is its versatility. With butter and sugar representing 95% of its flavor profile, it’s easily adaptable to fun flavor additions such as lavender, lemon, chocolate, espresso, cinnamon, or your personal preference of fruits or herbs.

 

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For my first batch ever, I decided to take advantage of the rosemary plant that is part of my makeshift *garden* on the fire escape outside of my bedroom window (welcome to city living, folks).  I also always have lemons on hand and incorporate them into anything I possibly can, so I was naturally looking to complement the earthy rosemary with the fresh pop of citrus.

 

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Having never attempted shortbread, I Googled a few recipes online including one from Two Peas & Their Pod that featured the exact flavor profile I had in mind.  I then did what I often do when working with a new recipe, and used it as more of a guide while tweaking it here and there to align with my gut instincts of what would work. (In full disclosure, my “gut instincts” are less driven by experience than acute & random hunger cravings).

 

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Luckily, this time my guesstimates were right on the mark… and these cookies swiftly became my new favorite staple. While they aren’t as thick or crumbly as many other varieties, I think they are perfect in their own beautiful way… and received enough positive feedback from taste testers to lead me to believe that this recipe should be left as is.

 

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I hope that you have as much fun making them as I did… and that your tastebuds are pleasantly dazzled by their salty, buttery goodness!

 

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tsp Maldon salt flakes, plus more for sprinkling

2 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest

3 tbsp freshly pressed lemon juice

1 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary

1 tbsp vanilla extract

 

Directions: 

In a small to medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 tsp Maldon salt flakes, lemon zest and rosemary

Using a stand mixer, beat the powdered sugar and butter at a medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth

With the mixer still going, slowly add the vanilla and lemon juice

Once the liquids are thoroughly mixed in, slowly add the flour mixture and mix until all ingredients are combined

Remove the dough and place on plastic wrap, forming it into a round, flat disk.  Wrap the disk and refrigerate for at least 1 hour

When dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 325 degrees

Remove dough and set on a lightly floured surface, using a rolling pin to roll the dough out until it’s about a quarter inch thick (add flour to the rolling pin and top of the dough when needed, sparingly)

Using a cookie cutter of choice, cut the cookies and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Combine the remaining dough scraps and roll out as many times as necessary to use all of the dough

Before putting cookies into the oven, sprinkle them lightly with additional Maldon sea salt flakes

Bake cookies for about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack

 

**Makes 2 dozen or more cookies (using a 2 inch cutter)

Watermelon Bites with Grilled Halloumi, Balsamic Reduction and Mint

June 11, 2015

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Happy Thankful Thursday, my fellow foodies! What a month it has been. In the past few weeks I’ve moved into an amazing apartment in the heart of my beloved city by the bay, and started an exciting new job with a really fantastic group of people.  Between getting settled in my new digs and learning the ropes in the office, I’ve had my hands full and then some.

 

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Although I definitely fell off the grid for a little while there, I’m excited to be back with what has to be my favorite bite-sized taste of Summer. I’m not sure if something with only four ingredients and minimal preparation can be called a recipe, but nevertheless I’m super excited to be sharing it.  For those unfamiliar with halloumi, it’s a cheese native to Greece that is famous for its high melting point.  As such, it’s perfect for frying, or in this case grilling.  Halloumi is delicious on it’s own or paired with a simple baguette, but its salty flavor also pairs beautifully with fresh Summer fruit.

 

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I don’t think that Summer would be complete without watermelon. Childhood Summer barbeques were never without an abundance of bright watermelon wedges peppered with black seeds, and I remember countless hot afternoons splashing in the pool playing “Greased Watermelon Polo” with a massive, heavy melon covered in Vaseline. While the Summer weather in San Francisco makes its lazy debut around September, watermelon season is in its prime.

 

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These bite sized morsels are easy enough to prepare for a casual picnic, while sporting an aesthetic appeal appropriate to passed hors d’oeuvres at a nice dinner gathering. While the halloumi is definitely the star of this dish, it wouldn’t be complete without the addition of the balsamic glaze. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have struggled with making my own balsamic reduction. Timing is everything when attempting it as home, and while it’s not necessarily difficult to do, I could never get the timing or the consistency just right. Thanks to TJ’s, problem solved. If you thought Joe Joe’s or Cookie Butter made Trader Joe’s your local supermarket hero, just wait until you try this stuff.  (Side note:  it also makes the perfect, solo-ingredient salad dressing).

 

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Cheers to Summer, sunshine, and the simple pleasures in life.

 

 

Ingredients:

1 small watermelon, cubed

1 package Halloumi cheese (found at Whole Foods or a similar specialty grocery store)

1 bunch fresh mint, rinsed

1/4 cup balsamic reduction (or Trader Joe’s balsamic glaze)

 

Directions:

Take Halloumi out of packaging.  If thicker than 1 inch, slice lengthwise creating 2 “slices”

Heat a grill or a cast iron grill pan, and add Halloumi.  Grill the cheese until grill marks appear (timing will vary, so watch closely)

When grill marks appear, flip the cheese and grill on the other side

Remove cheese from the grill and slice into small pieces

Place cheese on top of watermelon cubes, and drizzle with balsamic reduction

Garnish with mint

 

Sourdough Crostini with Ricotta, Spiced Honey and Basil

May 16, 2015

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Despite my best laid plans to maintain my weekly posts while abroad, I’ve fallen a bit behind. I could blame it on the touch-and-go international Wi-Fi connectivity, but the truth is that I was distracted by laughter, sunshine, amazing cuisine, and making lifelong memories with incredible friends. Of course now I’m home and settled back in the San Francisco Bay… and while I’m sad that my travels have come to an end, I’m happy to be back in business!

 

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Before embarking on my travel adventures over a month ago now, I restricted my food consumption to that which was already in my refrigerator with the intention of keeping food waste to a minimum.   It also gave me the opportunity to mix and match unique flavors and ingredients, which resulted in some surprisingly tasty recipes (along with a few that…. well, won’t be posted here). In perusing the contents of my fridge one day, I came across a container of ricotta cheese that I’d purchased on a whim a few days prior. That spontaneous purchase turned out to be a home run… it was one of the creamiest ricottas I’d ever tasted, and after thoughtful deliberation I paired it with slices of sourdough, honey and basil to create a sort of sweet crostini.

 

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As remarkable as the cheese was, what really made this dish a winner is the chile infused honey by TheraBee.  I discovered the company about a year ago at a winery boutique in the Central Valley, and after tasting several of their varieties (including Herbs de Provence, Sea Salt and Ginger & Hibiscus), TheraBee products quickly became a staple in my kitchen.  (Side note: they also make the perfect holiday or hostess gift).

 

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While you can use any type of honey in this dish and don’t have to use this particular variety, I found that the kick in the Thai Chile perfectly complemented the creamy ricotta and sweetness of the honey. The ingredients in this recipe are uber-simple, but the results are extraordinary.  It makes for the perfect (albeit indulgent) breakfast, afternoon snack, or even dessert.

 

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Enjoy! xx

 

Ingredients:

1 loaf fresh sourdough bread

8 tbsp honey (click here for Thai Chile)

12 oz fresh ricotta cheese

1 bunch of basil

1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

 

Directions:

Slice and toast the bread

Spread a healthy layer of ricotta cheese over the toast

Drizzle honey and sprinkle hazelnuts over the ricotta

Garnish with fresh basil

 

**To toast hazelnuts, first chop them coarsely.  Then put them in a skillet and stir over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Remove to cool.

 

Whole Roasted Carrots with Cumin and Honey

April 30, 2015

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Allow me to introduce you to your new favorite side dish. Not a carrot fan? Give these a shot. They aren’t too crunchy nor too mushy, and I can almost certainly guarantee that the seasonings will transform these bad boys from something you once tolerated to a vegetable you crave.

 

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I personally have always loved carrots, but their high sugar content makes them a bit too sweet for regular consumption. Every now and again however, they have served as a healthier means to satisfying my sweet tooth.

 

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Although they weren’t on my list when browsing the produce section at the market a few weeks ago, I couldn’t pass on coming home with a couple of bunches of these beautiful multi-colored carrots. I honestly believe that the flavor and enjoyment derived from food is heightened when it’s colorful and aesthetically presented, and these were simply too gorgeous to pass up.

 

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One of the reasons this recipe is a true winner is that it offers the perfect balance of savory and sweet. The carrots are roasted with a whole chopped onion, and tossed in an intoxicating mixture of vinegar, honey, olive oil, and spices. In addition to the dependable seasonings of salt and pepper, cumin adds a certain exotic essence that most definitely provides the “wow factor” of the dish.

 

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Inspired by this recipe, I substituted a few ingredients for ones I personally appreciate and felt would compliment the other flavors. The final product is perfect for both casual family dinners and more formal gatherings alike.

 

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I sincerely hope you give them a try, and I look forward to hearing your feedback!  Bon appétit!

 

Ingredients:

2 bunches whole carrots, peeled and tops removed

1 large or 2 small red onions, cut into wedges

4 tbsp red wine vinegar

6 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp sea salt (preferably Maldon)

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Sprigs of mint for garnish

 

Recipe:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, cumin, salt and pepper

In a medium-sized baking dish, toss the carrots and onion wedges with the olive oil mixture

Roast the carrots and onions until they are tender, but still offer a bit of a crunch (about 30-40 minutes)

Remove from oven and serve warm, with springs of mint for garnish

 

 

Ooey Gooey Chocolate Lava Cakes

April 23, 2015

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Within the culinary world, there are few things more gratifying than chocolate lava cake. Between the soft, spongy exterior and the gooey, warm, rich center… adding a creamy scoop of cold vanilla bean ice cream would almost be too much if it didn’t serve as the perfect accompaniment to this mind-blowing sweet indulgence.

 

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I’ve always loved chocolate, but only experience a real craving for it on rare occasion. When the urge hits however, this girl doesn’t mess around. Rather than unwrapping a Hershey’s bar, I’ll whip up my favorite flourless chocolate torte, or these mouth-watering chocolate lava cakes.

 

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It will be love at first bite.  They’re simple as can be to make, and will scratch even the most intense itch for anything and everything chocolate.

 

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The other great thing about this recipe is that the sweetness level can be easily adjusted.  If you’re looking for something that will take care of your sweet tooth without tasting like it’s sending you into a full-blown sugar coma, go for a chocolate that features a higher cocoa content.

 

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I prefer to tap into my creativity in the kitchen by formulating my own recipes, but life has been a bit more hectic than usual.  As such, I’m delighted to share this recipe as created by Jenny Hobick.

 

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Enjoy!!

 

 

Garlic Roasted Chickpeas with Feta and Mint

April 16, 2015

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I’ve always loved chickpeas in their “hummus” form, but it took me decades to appreciate them in their natural state.  Growing up, I remember my mom making mixed bean salads showcasing chickpeas as the featured ingredient.  I would always, always scrunch up my face and make some kind of “eeeeeww” noise whenever she’d make it.  I never understood their appeal… they were just kind of blah.

 

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It wasn’t until my adult years that I thankfully discovered that chickpeas (or garbanzo beans to some) are awesome.  They offer great nutritional benefits (high in fiber and protein) and are incredibly filling.  And that flavor?  Well, it’s grown on me.  Chickpeas on their own boast a bit of a nutty kick, but they are mild enough that they can take the back-seat when mixed with more dominant spices and seasonings (making them perfect for the Middle Eastern dishes they so often populate).

 

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A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this recipe while perusing Pinterest.  I was curious, and a few nights later decided to give it a try.  I’ve pureed chickpeas, boiled them in a tomato base and eaten them raw, but until now had never roasted them.  Roasting the chickpeas with garlic, salt and olive oil added a ton of flavor.  And while the chickpeas maintained their texture, there was a slight added crunch to their outer shell.

 

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This is a great dish that can be enjoyed on its own as a salad, and would also be a great side offering for a picnic or potluck.  It holds well at room temperature, and tastes just as great hot as it does right out of the fridge.

 

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On a completely separate note, I’m beyond excited to be leaving for my month-long vacation to the East Coast and Europe in just a couple of days!  In preparation for my absence, I’ve whipped up several recipes in advance to showcase while I’m away.  And I’m sure I’ll pepper in a few photos here and there of my travels, as well :)

 

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Happy Thankful Thursday, and bon appétit!

 

Ingredients:

2 cans chickpeas (rinsed, drained and patted dry with a paper towel)

2 tbsp olive oil

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup crumbled feta

1/2 cup chopped mint

1 lemon

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

salt and pepper, to taste (approximately 1/2 tsp of each)

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Add the chickpeas to the olive oil mixture, and toss until thoroughly coated.  Transfer to a baking dish, and roast for 18-20 minutes. Chickpeas should be slightly browned and crisp.

Remove the chickpeas from oven and allow to cool.  Transfer to a serving bowl, and toss in the feta and mint.

Using a grater, finely shave the lemon skin over the salad and then squeeze the juice of the lemon into the mixture and toss again.

Serve and enjoy!

 

 

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