Monday, June 9, 2014

California


California. How to describe one of the best trips in my life? When my friends ask me how my vacation was, I frequently respond, "Amazing! Awesome!", when really, I want to scream, "OMFG it was beauuuutiful! I want to move there." There were so many unforgetable moments shared with my travel companion (who is also my bestie), we were sad to leave. We were there for 11 days, hung out in San Francisco for a few days, Napa for a night, down to LA for for three days before driving back to San Francisco for our last night. Here are some of my favourite things of the trip:


Driving down Highway 1 in a Mustang convertible. I had seen pictures of Big Sur and the Pacific coast, but I had never expected it to be even more beautiful in 'real life'. The mountains, the azure sky, the clouds hovering over the mountains, the blue ocean and the waves crashing onto the rugged shore, it was like a painting come to life. These photos don't do it justice. Hayley and I were giddy with excitement once we passed Carmel and finally saw the glistening water. While we were doing research for our trip, we knew we wanted a convertible, because what better way to drive through California than showing off in a car with the wind blowing through (making a mess) in our hair? (By the way, we stopped by Big Sur Redhouse for lunch, I had amazzzing kale salad)


Exploring San Francisco. I've been to California before when I was younger with my parents and though there's nothing bad about travelling with my family, it's nice to have more flexibility when traveling with a friend. We woke up whenever we wanted, ate whatever we wanted. With my parents, my dad usually decides on our schedule. 

Hayley and I rolled out of bed when our circadian rhythm said so, and walked everywhere: Fisherman's Wharf, Union Square, Lombard Street, the Mission, Ghirardelli Square, Golden Gate Park, the Marina, Ferry Building, Crissy Field. On our first Friday night, we had dinner at The House, picked up cheap wine at a convenience store, went dancing in SoMa, and drank some more at Terrior. The following night we went to a drag show at Aunt Charlie's, both nights were equally memorable for years to come.


The beaches. We went to three beaches in LA: Venice beach is a nice to chill and people-watch, Santa Monica is in a beautiful area, we walked along the pier and did some shopping. Huntington was our favourite though. We stayed with a friend and after a long night of partying, we were tired and quite frankly, hungover. Sunbathing at the beach makes for a good cure. I felt refreshed after a brief nap and jumped into the cold ocean for a swim. We were blessed with good weather, it was chilly in the morning and at night, but it was otherwise, gorgeous everyday. 



Save for a few meals, we ate very well too. We treated ourselves to a fancy schmancy meal at Angele in Napa. We also had a lovely brunch at Sweet Maple in SF and shared the the popular Millionare's Bacon. We had decent fish tacos at Calle Taco in Hollywood and some of the most delicious sushi at Long Beach. I brought back dark chocolate from Trader Joe's, white pineapple balasmic vinegar and traditional balasmic vinegar from Lucero in Napa (both were thick and syrupy, I can't wait to try them drizzled on vanilla ice cream).


Now all I can think about is my next big trip. What do you think of Spain, Portugal, and France next year? I'd love to watch the French Open at Roland Garros, that's always been a dream of mine. Besides, Paris is always a good idea. More pictures here.
Recipe here!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mussels Steamed in Beer with Fennel


I have an agreement with my boyfriend that for every beer we open together, I get the first sip. On our first date, we shared a beer at the Beaches Jazz Fest and he said, “the first sip of beer is always the best.” Since then I’ve taken the first sips of all the beers we’ve had, and that’s a lot of beer. One of my favourites is Sam Adams, in fact, I wouldn’t even share it, I’d make sure that we each have our own beer to drink. Good thing it's at the LCBO we can easily split a six-pack.



Mussels in beer have always been a special dish to me. Maybe it reminds me of a summer when I visited Montreal, a city that awoke my taste buds and bolstered my deep-seated interest to cook and bake. There was a restaurant that served mussels in beer with fresh cut fries, a classic Belgian dish. It was delicious, I wanted to slurp up the briny juices from my bowl. 


This dish can be made in less than 20 minutes. All you need to do is chop up fennel and onions, toss them into a pot with butter until softened, add the cleaned mussels, pour over the Sam Adams, and let it steam for about 5-8 minutes and viola! Dinner! 




My home smelled like hot butter, seafood and malt. Mom and I had these for dinner the other day, there was plenty of bread to mop up the salty juices. The mussels were plump and juicy, the fennel and onions had absorbed the hoppy flavours of the beer, the acidity from the lemon brings it all together. It was a beautiful meal, especially with a cold bottle of Sam Adams.

“This post is sponsored by Branding & Buzzing"

Recipe here!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mini Pistachio Pound Cakes


Finally, it what has seemed like dinosaur ages, spring has arrived! I forgot what it felt like to have the sun on my face. I forgot what it felt like not to wear boots, a heavy down jacket, mittens and bitter cold gusts of wind hurting my face. Hey, I can drive with the windows down and not risk getting pneumonia. It’s a miracle!

Another thing to be excited about, my countdown to my vacation: T-7 days! I’m heading to California with one of my best friends for 11 days. We’re going to San Jose, San Francisco, Napa, and then LA. Also part of our itinerary: tons of eating, drinking, dancing, picture-taking, tanning, and repeat it all over again. We’ve been planning this for more than half a year and we’re absolutely stoked! We made reservations for Angele and Tartine. Omg!Can’tfreakingwait.



I’ve been good at keeping up my workout routine, swimming a few days a week along with high-intensity interval training. I’ve been eating fairly healthy, lots of fruit and vegetables and my protein shakes in the morning (except on weekends when I just can’t refuse beer and pizza). My motivation is California, I keep daydreaming about frolicking on the beach, running like a madwoman and diving into the ocean. But that hasn't kept me from baking.

Orangette shared this recipe and it caught my attention right away (she has a new book coming out, I've already pre-ordered it, can't wait!). I looked up other pistachio-worthy desserts, like a chocolate pistachio tart or pistachio sables, but I kept coming back to this pound cake. 


These cakes are dense and dotted with pistachios inside and out. The nuts give a beautiful floral flavor and with plenty of citrus, they make for an excellent snack. The top of the cakes have a lovely shell, similar to the crusty muffin tops that I love so much. I ate these for breakfast with a smear of apricot jam. I gave them away to my coworker who texted me the next day raving about them. I love compliments.


Recipe here!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Peanut Butter Sandies


If you asked my boyfriend, Jacques what his favourite cookies were, he’d say “Peanut Butter Cookies!” with the enthusiasm of a six year old. He’s very good at dropping hints for what I should make for my next baking project. It was his birthday last week so instead of making them alone, I thought it would be more fun to boss him around make it together.



Most of the peanut butter cookies I've had are crisp and dry, not that it’s a bad thing, but they’re predictable. These cookies on the other hand, will blow your mind. Dense and buttery, they are reminiscent of shortbread. The marriage of brown and granulated sugars gives it a sandy texture and the peanut butter adds a wallop of flavour. Not to mention the sprinkle of salt on top makes them freakingly irresistible. For those who live for sweet and salty desserts, these are for you.


Recipe here!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Coconut Bread


I feel guilty for how much I've ignored my blog. My dad came to visit from overseas so I was busy spending time with him. My parents taught Jacques, my boyfriend, how to play mahjong (not the computer game) the real deal, using tiles engraved with various shapes and colours. A week later, I went to see Kings of Leon in concert with my girlfriends (featuring Gary Clark Jr., who is frequently on repeat on my Ipod) and spent the following days belting out this song.


I haven’t baked much lately, but I did cook for my family. I made lasagna and layered fresh pasta sheets with white sauce and meat sauce simmered with plenty of wine and topped with mozzarella so that after 30 minutes of oven time, the edges were crispy and just a couple of minutes away from being burnt. It was perfect. The insides were squidgy and the flavours melded together. What a difference fresh pasta makes! Lasagna-epiphany never felt so good!

On another night, I made pavlovas, something I've been meaning to make for a year or so. I folded in dark chocolate chunks into whipped egg whites and sugar and before serving, laid slices of fresh pears and generous scoops of ice cream. We all dived into them, quiet and eager to stuff our faces with crisp and pillowy goodness.

I also went to a Fabulicious lunch. It’s an event where wineries in the Niagara area get to show off their culinary talents with meals at a set price. My mom and Jacques arrived at Peller Estates an hour late but they were thankfully accommodating. 




There was arugula salad with quail, pan-fried salmon with curried butternut squash, wild boar panini, duck confit with truffled fettuccine carbonara and of course, the best part was when we shared our desserts: sticky toffee pudding with oatmeal ice cream, cranberry and apple crumble, and the best one of all: chocolate cream pie with macerated cherries. I wish I had worn my stretchy pants.



As if all that food wasn't enough, I still felt like eating something sweet. I wanted to make something simple, with the preparation done in less than 20 minutes. I had my eye on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen in a while and it looked doable for my lazy mood. You really can't go wrong with the mixture of toasted coconut, sugar, browned butter, just thinking about it makes my mouth water. This bread can be mixed by hand and comes together easily, I reduced the amount of sugar a little and it turned out fine. Like Deb describes, it has a drier crumb than banana bread and is just as good. You can add nuts, grate citrus fruit into the batter, add chocolate chips, whatever suits your fancy. I like it plain, toasted with Speculoos. 



Recipe here!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chocolate Pecan Torte (again)


I made a mistake. I baked something, took pictures of it while standing over the table and getting really really excited to share it with you, only to realize days later when I was getting ready to blog it, that I had already done it in 2012It's no big deal, besides, it's a delicious idea for Valentine's Day if you're into that sort of thing. If not, it's still a fabulous cake to share with your friends and family, it's full of chocolate and still delicately sweet. My parents loved it, we each had a slice with a scoop of cookies and cream ice cream while watching tv. 




Recipe here!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Alice Medrich's Ginger Cookies


I’ve been ignoring my blog. I’ve been procrastinating this post for the longest time. I’ve typed up many drafts, then stoped mid-sentence and decided what I’m typing is stupid and no one is remotely interested in my shopping adventures in New York City or the fact that I failed as a food blogger and only went to two (!!!) bakeries in one of the greatest cities of the world (though I did have an amazzzing ogre-sized chocolate chip cookie and a salted pecan butter cookie). 




I haven’t been motivated to do anything. I even have pictures from an ice cream circa November 2013 that I haven’t bothered with. I blame work, it’s exhausting mentally and physically. I can barely keeping my eyes open Monday to Friday (sometimes Saturdays too), when I finally come home after my 90 minute commute, I just want to pass out in my bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep till the next day.



Thank god for cookies. There's no going wrong with butter and sugar, and the magic that happens when you blend them together with some flour with fresh ginger and add a large pinch of cinnamon. These cookies are soft and chewy on the inside, without the crystallized ginger, they are mildly spicy and go well with a glass of milk in one hand. My friend had a birthday party and as usual, I baked. I gave her a batch of these cookies wrapped in tissue paper with a homemade card tucked into it. I saved a few for myself to get through the cold winter days. I’m advocating cookies increase work morale and productivity. 



Recipe here!