Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review of Costco Hawaiian Poke in California

Poke Bar hawaiian california costco bay area san jose
Hawaiian Poke at California Costcos
By now most of you in California (at least in the Bay Area, Orange County, or San Diego) have probably noticed Hawaiian Poke making appearances at your local Costco.  The list of stores seems has been growing since my initial sighting in April and it sounds like their test period has been successful - the poke bar may be here to stay.  A recent trip revealed that poke prices run around $16.99/lb to $17.99/lb for varieties of ahi tuna poke and $11.99/lb for shrimp poke.  The poke bar may or may not be a stable addition to your local Costco.  I've seen some places carry it consistently each week and other places carry it only occasionally whenever the blue seafood kiosk is in the store.
Poke bay area costco
Poke in the Bay Area
So, how does the poke compare?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Roasted Carrots & Carrot Top Pesto

Lately I've been picking up bunches of organic carrots at Sprouts that still have their leafy tops attached to them.  After a quick search to check that carrot greens are indeed edible (though somewhat bitter if eaten alone), I decided to make a pesto out of them.  I've been using this pesto on pasta, scrambled eggs, veggies, pork - so many things can go with pesto!  Be sure to wash your carrot greens well since they tend to be quite sandy.

carrot greens carrot tops make pesto
Keep your carrot greens and make pesto!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Basic Biscotti

Biscotti cookies twice baked chocolate cranberry almond
Basic Biscotti Recipe
Biscotti are oblong twice-baked cookies or biscuits, originating from Italy.  Their dry texture makes them the perfect dunking companion for a cup of coffee.  I picked up this recipe from an old roommate several years ago and since then have modified it only slightly.  This is a pretty simple and basic biscotti recipe.  I like that the base has only a hint of sweetness and it's incredibly versatile with your choice of mix-ins.  I typically make my biscotti with chocolate chips, toasted almond slivers, and dried cranberries - simply because those are staple ingredients in my pantry.  It's important not to get overly ambitious with your mix-ins or else your dough won't hold together. Try to keep your mix-ins to a total of 1 cup.  Some other combinations that would work well include:

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Favorite Lemon Bars

Favorite Lemon Bars dessert
Favorite Lemon Bars
I've shared this recipe before with a coconut variation, but here it is again in its pure and simple form. After making these for work, I'm reaffirmed that they really are my favorite lemon bars.  I doubled the recipe this time and baked it in a 9x13 pan.  The crust to filling ratio comes out to 1:2 and I think it's a great balance.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Healthier Furikake Chex Mix

Snacks furikake chex mix
Furikake Chex Mix
One of my favorite snacks to make and eat is Furikake Chex Mix.  It takes some babysitting to make, but the result is a deliciously addictive snack that meets my salty, crunchy, and sweet cravings all at once.  I've posted a recipe for this in the past and since then I've been tweaking it here and there to my liking.  This past week I made two batches for a large hangout with friends and I was left with practically an entire batch afterwards.  It's been a great snack in my lunchbox this week and especially with July 4th coming up it'll be a great addition to any bbq or picnic.  Easy to grab a handful, relatively clean, and packed with the right punch of umami flavor to keep you coming back!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Baked Honey Chili Chicken Thighs

Honey Chili Chicken Thighs feed a crowd baked chicken
Honey Chili Chicken Thighs
Chicken thighs are a great item to cook for a crowd.  They're cost efficient, time efficient when baked or bbq-ed, and pretty forgiving since dark meat tends to be moist even if you overcook it a few minutes.  I was looking for a recipe for an 8 person potluck and found this one after browsing one my favorite food sites, The Kitchn.  The name is a bit misleading since it wasn't spicy at all, but that's probably because I used mexican chili powder instead of red chili powder.  The honey and beer caramelized while baking and added a subtle sweetness to the dish.  I couldn't really taste the beer, so just open up whatever you may have on hand.  The accompanying cilantro sauce goes great with the chicken, with vegetables, and even by itself over rice.  I made the sauce once with sour cream as the original recipe called for and once with plain yogurt.  I liked my yogurt version better since it's healthier and has more of a tang to it.  This reheats pretty well so if you're like me you'll make a big batch to send some home with your guests or have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pain de Sucre Bakery

It's hard to believe it's been nearly 3 months since we returned from our Paris vacation.  Time flies and I feel like there's still so many yummy spots I haven't shared!  Pain de Sucre was a bakery at the top of my list.  One day as we were meandering the streets, we had some extra time before our dinner plans and we pulled up Pain de Sucre on Google Maps.  Walking up and down the street that Google Maps led us to, the bakery was nowhere in sight.  Could Google Maps have led us astray?!  As my spirits dipped at the lost opportunity, my husband spotted the store:

Pain de Sucre Paris Swimwear
Pain de Sucre...not the bakery one.
It was the right name, but not exactly what I had in mind.  What a sad realization!  Even more sad when my husband couldn't stop laughing at how disappointed I was.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cranberry Crumb Bars

Cranberry Crumb Bars lemon berries dessert
Cranberry Crumb Bars
Crumb bars are another one of my favorite go-to recipes for a quick and easy dessert.  These work well with berries though I'd be interested to try peaches one day.  I've used blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries before and they all turned out great.  This time I had a bag of cranberries that I froze way back when so those came out of the freezer and straight into this recipe.  No defrosting necessary!  I paired cranberries with lemon here, but it was kind of tart so I'd substitute orange for the lemon next time.

Once again these made their way to work and fared much better than the coffee cake!  Perhaps the notion of fruit makes it seem "healthier"?

Cranberry Crumb Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces), cut into pieces
1 egg

1 12-oz. bag cranberries, fresh or frozen (or 4 cups berries or other fruit)
1/2 cup white sugar
4 tsp cornstarch
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together 3/4 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork, pastry cutter, or your fingers to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be quite crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan, pushing down to make sure the crust is compact.
  3. In another bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the cranberries. Sprinkle the berry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough evenly over the berry layer.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely then cut into squares. Makes about 28 squares.
Other variations:
Blueberry and lemon
Blackberry and lime
Raspberry and lemon
Peaches and orange (possibly with grated ginger)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Chocolate chip coffee cake dessert breakfast
Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake
I made this coffee cake for the first Friday of my first week of work.  As the newbie, I will admit that my intention was to lure people to my desk so I could meet more people.  It worked to some degree, though I soon learned that many people at work are quite disciplined about eating healthy.  I did meet a few new faces but at the end of the day I was still left with a third of a pan of coffee cake.

chocolate chip coffee cake breakfast dessert
Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
I cut the sugar from the original recipe and I'm glad that I did since I still found it a little sweet for my liking, though it does pair well with a cup of coffee. The top crust had a fragile, sugary crunch where the batter had caramelized but you can still spot the sprinkling of sugar granules that I could have done without.  I might have also thought it was too sweet since this was the first time I used Kirkland Semisweet Chocolate Chips (surprisingly, I just bought this for the first time) I usually use Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Pound Plus bar since I like my chocolate dark.  After falling in love with dark chocolate for so long, it's hard to go back to semisweet and milk chocolate!  Give this dessert-for-breakfast a try - I'll admit that I wasn't that bummed that I had a third of the pan left and it sure didn't last long at home.

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) at room temperature
1 cups (200 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

Filling and Topping:
2 cups or 12 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate bars
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour a 9x13 baking pan or glass Pyrex pan. 
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cinnamon for filling and topping.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together.  
  4. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Alternately mix in sour cream and then dry ingredients into butter mixture until both are used up and the batter is smooth and very thick.  
  5. In a separate bowl, beat eggs whites until stiff and then fold into batter.
  6. Spread half the cake batter in the bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and 1 cup of chocolate chips. Spoon remaining cake batter over the filling in the pan. Use an offset spatula to gently spread batter evenly over the filling and smooth the top. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture and chocolate chips.  Using your palm, gently press the chocolate chips into the batter a bit to make sure they stick. 
  7. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Let cool, slice, and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Strawberry Summer Cake

strawberry summer cake lemon smitten kitchen
Strawberry Summer Cake
Inspired by another baker friend, I bookmarked this strawberry cake recipe to try out since strawberries were on sale recently.  I'm usually not a fan of baking cakes, particularly because it's hard to taste test a cake before serving it to others.  Previous times I've shown up somewhere bearing cake with a missing piece, or I just give the disclaimer that I hoped it turned out okay since I didn't get to taste it yet.  I guess a good comfort level among friends doesn't hurt.  Thankfully, everyone liked this cake and agreed that it was a great recipe - flavorful yet not too sweet, with a texture more dense and crumbly than a regular yellow cake.  I added lemon zest to the batter and I think it added a nice touch.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hawaiian Poke at More California Costcos!

Since my original sighting of Hawaiian ahi tuna poke at a Bay Area Costco last month, many more Costco locations have started selling poke.  Today I even saw it at my local Costco being sold alongside other fresh seafood like shrimp and crabs.  The employee said he wasn't sure how long they'd be there, but that it would make a regular appearance at least a couple times a month.  I'm guessing it'll be there whenever they have the fresh seafood counter.  Is there a set schedule for the seafood counter?  Friends and readers have also spotted poke at their local Costcos, though the exact schedule for the locations listed below is still unconfirmed.

Friends in Orange County have also sighted the poke at the District Costco in Tustin where it is being sold on the weekends.  

See the original list of Bay Area Costco warehouses carrying poke!

Newly spotted locations:
Costco Northeast San Jose (possibly twice a month)
1709 Automation Parkway
San Jose, CA 95131

Costco Danville
3150 Fostoria Way
Danville, CA 94526

Costco Sunnyvale
150 Lawrence Station Rd
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

Costco Mountain View
1000 N Rengstorff Ave
Mountain View, CA 94043

Costco Fremont
43621 Pacific Commons Blvd
Fremont, CA 94538

Costco Tustin (weekends only)
2700 Park Ave
Tustin, CA 92782-2708

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mille Feuille in Paris

As we were nearing our last days in Paris, I started making a list of items I still wanted to eat.  This probably would have been more helpful in the beginning, but with 9 days I thought I'd have plenty of time.  Oh, how naive and wrong I was!

Mille fueille Pain de Sucre Paris France Napoleon dessert
Mille feuille dessert from Pain de Sucre
Near the top of the list was a mille feuille dessert.  Also known as a Napoleon, mille feuille means "1000 leaves" and is typically comprised of three layers of puff pastry filled with two layers of pastry cream.  The patisserie Pain de Sucre was already on my list and I was even more eager to go after I read this post about their mille feuille.  Sadly I didn't have time to try several mille feuille desserts to pick my favorite, so the next best thing was to take the word of someone else who's done all the research!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dinners in Paris

cheese, baguette, flan, paris, dinner, eric kayser
Dinner Night 1: cheese, baguette, flan
Paris is a city full of decadent food. Restaurants usually have prix fixe menus and meals can easily take up to 2 hours as you enjoy three or four or more courses. Most prix fixe menus are actually a pretty good deal compared to ordering à la carte, but can quickly add up as lunches run from €15 up and dinners average €30 on the low end.  Since we were staying in Paris for 9 nights, we decided to rent an apartment studio with a kitchen so we could eat the majority of our dinners at home.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Award-winning Bakery Du Pain et des Idée

Du Pain et des Idée L'escargot chocolat pistache Paris France
Du Pain et des Idée: L'escargot chocolat pistache
Du Pain et des Idées is touted by many, including David Lebovitz, as one of the best boulangeries in Paris.  Winner of the 2008 Gault Millau award for the best baker in Paris, owner Christophe Vasseur is known for his pain des amis, which are giant, flat, crusty loaves of bread.  The bakery is also known for its innovative and delicious pastries, such as the matcha tea croissant and escargot pastries.  Escargot pastries are named for their spiral shape, not for the presence of any escargot snails.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Bordier Butter

French Butter Bordier Smoked Sea Salt
Bordier Butter with smoked salt
I never knew butter could be so rich and flavorful until I had Bordier butter in France.  Sure, butter always makes everything taste better, especially in the form of browned butter or caramel or buttered anything.  Take what you know about butter's flavor and fragrance and elevate it ten levels higher.  That's what Bordier butter is like.  It has an amazing flavor even when cold or at room temperature.  This butter is not a condiment, but the main attraction.  I would eat more bread just so I could eat more butter!

Le Beurre Bordier is made by Monsieur Jean-Yves Bordier in the Normandy region of France.   People say his butter is the best in France and possibly in the whole world. Good butter (and cheese) comes from happy cows, like the ones that feast on French pastures with rich soil. Bordier takes 3 days to slowly make his butter, including a 36-hour maturing process for the cream, hours of churning, and then beating the butter with wooden paddles to relax it into the proper texture. He supplies butter to many of the top restaurants in France, molding them into unique shapes for each restaurant. His butter is also available for purchase in small slabs from several shops around Paris.  A small slab approximately 4"x2.5"x1" costs roughly €2.30, about the price I'd pay in the US for a pound of butter. It's not cheap, but totally worth it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Galettes & Crêpes in Paris

Little Breizh Paris France Sea Chic Galette
Little Breizh: Sea chic galette, butter galette, & side salad
I researched beforehand and knew I wanted to try traditional Breton galettes and crêpes in Paris.  Galettes are made out of buckwheat flour while crêpes are made of white flour .  Galettes, such as this plum one, are also freeform pies that make for an easy, rustic dessert.  The two can be quite different though equally delicious.

Breton galettes, which hone from the Brittany region of France, consist of just buckwheat flour, water, and salt.  The galettes come out browned and crispy with a nutty flavor from the toasted buckwheat flour.  Fillings are simple, often consisting of emmental cheese, ham, and a sunny-side up egg.  I wasn't used to seeing savory crêpes/galettes like these.  The ones in the US are often folded into cones and stuffed with a variety of ingredients and sauces.  I loved the simplicity of these galettes and especially how crispy, buttery, and flavorful they were.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday in Paris, Part 2

This is the continued recap of our first Sunday in Paris, a day when most shops and restaurants are closed but some neighborhoods, like Le Marais, remain open.  Catch up on Part 1 of our day to read about the other stops we made along our foodie afternoon walk.    

Pierre Hermé Macaron Yogurt Lime Paris 2014
Pierre Hermé: Yogurt & Lime Macaron
We continued our walk around Le Marais and found ourselves at Pierre Hermé. They were celebrating Macaron Day (March 20) and customers got a free macaron with a donation of spare change. We selected 4 macarons to try out: yogurt/lime, chocolate/fig/foie gras, fresh mint/red berries, and pistachio/strawberry. I first tried Pierre Hermé macarons in Tokyo and then again when my parents brought a box back from their Paris trip. I loved how among the typical flavors (pistachio, lemon, chocolate, salted caramel, etc.) there were also very unique flavors with atypical ingredients (foie gras, yogurt, truffle, etc.) that seemed to change throughout the years. People often say there are two camps of Parisian macaron eaters: Pierre Hermé or Ladurée. I will expound further on this in a future post, but for now I'll say that of all the macarons I tried in Paris, the ones from Pierre Hermé are my favorite.

Our next stop at Rose Bakery was our original late lunch spot, but by the time we got there we were still full from our previous snacks. Rose Bakery is a British-themed cafe opened by a Franco-British couple. They're known for their quiches, salads, and baked goods, all of which are sourced from local and organic farms. We picked up an aubergine (aka eggplant) quiche and lemon polenta cake to save for dinner.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sunday in Paris, Part 1

Pasteis de Nata Portuguese egg tarts Comme à Lisbonne Paris
Comme à Lisbonne: Freshly baked pasteis de nata
I've been wanting to recap and share some of our Paris highlights but I've been stuck on how to best organize all the information and eats we had. Do I share our daily walking tours or compare similar food items we had throughout the trip? I may end up doing a bit of both, but for now I will share about what we did our first Sunday in Paris.

On Sunday, the majority of shops, grocery markets, and restaurants are closed in Paris. This may be unwelcome news for those visiting Paris for only a few days. Thankfully, a few neighborhoods remain open including the lively Le Marais district, which spreads across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements on the Right Bank of the Seine River. You'll still find some shops closed here, but the majority of them will be open catering to the crowds of locals and tourists. It was neat walking around the narrow streets, seeing locals walking their dogs or pushing baby strollers.

A quick disclaimer before we start: my main interests when I travel are eating and walking. I don't mind walking instead of taking the metro and I often walk so I can eat more. It's a happy balance.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Farewell and Bonjour!

no fog great view flying out of San Francisco SFO
Flying out of SFO - a pretty cool sight when there's no fog!
Our flight to Paris was overbooked, as United Airline flights are notoriously known for.  When we checked in online, we selected that we'd be willing to volunteer our seats if necessary.  We were somewhat flexible with our schedule and open to a delay, depending on the terms and compensation.  At the airport counter when we checked our bags, we asked further about it and the staff didn't know anything but said the gate counter would probably make an announcement if seats were needed.  While waiting at the gate, we saw a list of standby passengers, but no announcements were ever made.  We figured they didn't need volunteers or there must have been people who volunteered before us so we proceeded to board the plane.

After we settled into our seats, a United representative walked down the aisle looking for two volunteers to give up their seats, offering 1 night free accommodations and a $200 travel voucher per person.  As we considered whether it was worth the trouble, one person had already volunteered.  Ten minutes later, the United rep comes around again looking for one more volunteer.  It was a hard sell for all of us eager to get to Paris.  He raised his offer to a $300 travel voucher and the promise of a better seat - still no response.  Then he offered a $400 travel voucher.  This was getting interesting!  I felt my heart rate increase as we raised our hands and asked if he would take two volunteers at that offer.  He gave us an unsure look, asked through his radio, and signaled that he'd get back to us.  A few minutes later he came up our aisle and asked if we had checked in baggage (we did) and told us he needed someone without checked bags.  Oh well, I guess we were back on track to go to Paris that day, which is not such a bad thing either.  It was quite a rush those few minutes as we considered something spontaneous and plan-altering!

Anyway, our flight ended up being delayed 2.5 hours with all the passengers sitting on the plane, waiting for a crew member issue.  During those hours I wish we had taken the first offer to give up our seats.  But it wasn't all too miserable.  After the first 1.5 hours, the crew gave us emergency snacks (Biscoff cookies).  When we finally made it off the ground they offered free beer and wine with our in-flight meal.  Even more, they sent an email for passengers to claim extra bonus miles or a $100 e-certificate as a customer appreciation.  Plus, it's hard to be upset when you're on your way to Paris, late or not.

Plane view french countryside france
Hello France! You're so green!
A few lessons learned that day:

  1. If you know your flight is overbooked and you want a chance to volunteer your seat, don't check in luggage.
  2. Flying out of SFO in the daytime when there's no fog is not only rare, but also a beautiful sight.
Have you ever volunteered your seat on an overbooked flight?  What kind of compensation did you get?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Poke bar @ Bay Area Costco

Poke bar bay area california costco
Poke spotted at Costco in California!!
Imagine my surprise as I walked into a Bay Area Costco this week and saw a poke bar!  Usually found only in Hawaii, they carried all the same varieties of wasabi, shoyu, and spicy ahi poke - albeit at slightly higher prices.  The Costco employee didn't know if it would be a permanent counter but said it was there for at least this week.  Maybe they are doing a test run to see if it's popular enough to keep around.  I had to try it, even if just for the novelty of seeing the poke bar in California.  I got the Wasabi Poke at $17.99/lb and it was good but could have had a stronger wasabi flavor.  There was a 1/2 lb minimum purchase so I ended up eating all of it for lunch since I had other errands afterwards.  Given the warm weather lately it wouldn't have made it home anyway, right? ;)

As an avid Costco lover, one of the highlights of my trip to Hawaii a few years ago was visiting Costco.  We love visiting Costco when we travel, even within California, just to see the different, local products they may carry.  We've found beer from local breweries, new snacks, and even different food court items.  In Hawaii, one locally made product we tried was a tray of fresh mochi with different flavors ranging from green tea to blueberry to peanut better and jelly.  The mochi was so soft and pillowy!

costco hawaii honolulu poke mochi
Costco Hawaii, 2010: Poke bar and fresh mochi
The other notable Costco item was the poke bar - different varieties of freshly made poke sold by weight. Poke is a raw seafood salad typically made with tuna sashimi marinated with things like soy sauce, sesame seeds, furikake, and wasabi.  It's a common appetizer found throughout Hawaii and something I wouldn't mind eating as a main meal mixed with some salad greens.

Has anyone else seen poke at their local Costco lately?
UPDATE:  Flown in from Oahu weekly. Available Tuesday-Sunday.
UPDATE 2: See more Costco locations where Hawaiian poke has been spotted!

Spotted at:
Costco Almaden
5301 Almaden Expy
San Jose, CA 95118

Reportedly at the following Bay Area locations as well:

Costco Redwood City
2300 Middlefield Rd
Redwood City, CA 94063

Costco Downtown San Francisco
450 10th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Costco Concord
2400 Monument Blvd
Concord, CA 94520

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Dried Cherries

breakfast pancakes with cottage cheese and dried cherries
Fluffy and moist cottage cheese pancakes
I was looking for a new recipe to add to the rotation of single-serving, freezable breakfast items I stock away for our weekdays.  I had been craving pancakes for a while so it seemed like a good time to try this recipe.  I added in dried cherries and it gave a pleasant tart contrast to the rest of the pancake.  Two conclusions:
  • Pancakes take way too long to cook.  Especially when you can only fit one pancake at a time on your single nonstick pan.  I must've been standing there for 45 minutes cooking these.  By the time I was done, I had already eaten 4 of them while cooking and just proceeded to cleaning up.
  • I would make this again.  The cottage cheese adds a somewhat creamy component and the beaten egg whites add fluffiness when the pancakes are fresh out of the pan.  They deflate a bit if you let them cool, but they're still tasty.  I love that the cottage cheese is a good source of protein so hopefully 3-4 of these will keep us full enough through the morning.  I've frozen and re-toasted these in the toaster oven and they still taste good.  For those that dislike cottage cheese, it's noteworthy that the typical texture of cottage cheese is unnoticeable in pancake form.
Cottage Cheese Pancakes  
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup milk (I used 1% milk and it seemed to work fine)
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
3 Tbsp butter, melted
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cups chopped dried cherries, optional (or other dried fruit or nuts)
2 large egg whites

  1. Lightly butter, oil, or spray a nonstick skillet and preheat it over medium heat. If you are using an electric griddle, preheat it to 350F. Preheat the oven to 200F if you do not plan to serve the pancakes hot off the griddle.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, cottage cheese, butter, egg yolks and vanilla.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until combined. Try not to over-stir the batter. Stir in the dried fruit or nuts.
  4. Beat the two egg whites until they are stiff but not dry and fold them into the batter. The batter will be thick and bubbly.
  5. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into the skillet for each pancake, nudging the batter into a circle. These are thick and might take a little longer to cook than most other pancakes.  Cook until the top of each pancake is starting to dry around the edges and a few bubbles form.  Then turn and cook until the underside is lightly browned. Keep in the 200F oven while you finish making the rest, but these pancakes are best served immediately.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

World Peace Cookies

double chocolate shortbread sable cookies
World Peace Cookies
My favorite chocolate chip cookie comes from Dorie Greenspan, who originally got the recipe from Pierre Hermé.  Supposedly the cookie's name arose from Dorie's neighbor who commented that a daily dose of these cookies would be enough to ensure world peace.  The name stuck since then and I can attest that these cookies have brought much joy (and peace offerings) to those around me.
This cookie doesn't have the texture of your typical chewy or crunchy chocolate chip cookie.  It's actually almost like a shortbread, but kind of sandy as it crumbles and melts in your mouth with each bite.  It's important to know this as I've had a few friends wonder if they followed the recipe wrong when their cookies fell apart more than they expected.  It's also quite a buttery cookie but don't be scared off by the buttery footprints on your cookie sheet - it's totally worth it.

double chocolate chunk sable shortbread cookies
Look at all those chocolate chunks!
Reasons why I love this recipe:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New York City Eats

central park nyc new york city bridge spring 2010
Central Park in NYC (Spring 2010, I forgot to take a picture this time!)
Last fall we were in New York City for my good friend's wedding. We stayed a few extra days to see some sights eat and it was certainly worthwhile. We had all the old favorites: Levain Bakery cookies, Shake Shack burgers, Sugar Sweet Sunshine banana pudding, Halal cart chicken and rice, Joe's Shanghai dumplings, Del Posto lunch, and Momofuku pork buns. We also hit up some new spots we hadn't been to before: Marea, Tabata Ramen, Yuji Ramen, Motorino Pizza, wd-50, Mamoun's Falafel, A.B. Biagi gelato, and Domnique Ansel bakery.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Olive Oil Flatbread Pizza

Flatbread pizza with brussel sprouts, prosciutto, and mozzarella
Flatbread pizza with brussels sprouts, prosciutto, and mozzarella
This pizza dinner was inspired by several factors: 1) we had just bought a bag of brussels sprouts from Costco, 2) on the same Costco trip I was craving cheese and charcuterie so we picked up mozzarella and a mix of salami, prosciutto, and coppa, and 3) we had recently returned from NYC where we ate a delicious brussels sprouts pizza at Motorino.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture from Motorino to show you for comparison (I was too engrossed in partaking in the deliciousness), but my memory tells me it must have looked pretty similar to the pizza we made.

Instead of adding sauce to the pizza, we just drizzled some olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.  I prepped the brussels sprouts the same way I do my oven roasted brussels sprouts, peeling off some individual leaves so they get nicely browned and become like veggie chips in the oven.  I actually roasted the brussels sprouts on their own first to make sure they were fully cooked and crispy.  I love flatbread and thin crust pizza for the extra crunch in the crust.  Plus, thin crust doesn't fill me up as quickly so I can eat more pieces!  I've tried this flatbread recipe several times lately and it's worked out well for pizzas, as an accompaniment to dips, or a snack on its own.  Keep in mind that it will not be a chewy, doughy pizza crust but more of a thick cracker.

Olive Oil Flatbread (and Pizza)

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 450F and place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet on the middle rack.
  2. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl or mixer bowl.  
  3. Make a well in the center, then add water and oil.  With a wooden spoon or dough hook attachment, mix the ingredients on low until a dough forms.  Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and keep the dough together.  Knead dough on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.  
  4. Divide dough into 3 pieces.  Working with one piece at a time while keeping the remaining dough covered, roll out dough on a sheet of parchment paper into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.  
  5. Lightly brush top with additional olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  If making pizza, add your pizza ingredients at this time.   
  6. Slide the parchment paper with the flatbread onto the preheated pizza stone or baking sheet.  Bake until pale golden and browned in spots and pizza cheese is melted, 8 to 10 minutes.  While each flatbread is baking, work on rolling out the dough for your next flatbread or pizza on a new sheet of parchment paper. 
  7. Remove finished flatbread from the oven by sliding out the parchment paper and keeping the pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven for the next batch.  Let flatbread or pizza cool on a rack for a few minutes before slicing and eating.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Stone Fruit Galettes

Last summer our neighbors gave us a bag of plums and peaches from their backyard.  I wish we had something to exchange with them in return, but our poor fruit trees have been barren for many years.  In the peak years, we actually had some pretty tasty asian pears and white peaches, but they were often smaller than tennis balls.  Thus, I'm thankful to share in the bounty of others who have greener thumbs.

stone fruit plum galette
Plum galette with a flaky crust
I'd always read about galettes and was drawn to their rustic nature and simplicity compared to a formal pie. I found them relatively easy to make and impressive-looking despite the imperfections.  It's probably one of the few desserts that actually embraces imperfections!  I'm usually deterred from making crusts from scratch just because working with butter can get so sticky, messy, and bothersome to clean up after.  I'm hoping that the more I try it out the less bothersome it'll become.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hello, again!

I've unintentionally taken a hiatus from this blog for nearly a year now.  A lot has happened in that past year, but in all honesty it has been pure laziness and distraction that has kept me from new posts.  Life distracts me somewhere between cooking, snapping pictures, transferring pictures to the computer, and coming up with something interesting to write.  Some highlights from the past year:
  • Job searching.  Since moving to the Bay Area a little over a year ago I have been searching for a new job.  It's been quite an emotional and mental roller coaster, often overflowing into other areas of my life.
  • Becoming a homeowner!  The process towards our new condo was horrendous but we are extremely grateful for our new place.
  • Taking far too much time to paint our dining table and chairs.
  • Discovering how much I love the Showtunes station on Pandora.
  • Taking new food adventures around the Bay Area.
  • Visiting NYC for a high school friend's wedding and food.
  • Visiting SoCal over Christmas time and eating our fill in Las Vegas, LA, OC, and SD.
  • Spending 9 glorious days in Paris!  Yes, it was all you'd expect it to be - simply amazing and full of deliciously baked breads and stinky cheeses. 
I'll elaborate on some of these highlights in future posts, but for now I leave you with some favorite memories from the past year.