Category Archives: FOOD-LIFE BALANCE

Butterscotch Apple Pie

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Nothing says “holiday classic” like old-fashioned apple pie. I must admit, this was my second attempt ever at baking apple pie from scratch. Although it may seem intimidating, baking a pie is easy if you follow the instructions exactly. That’s the most important part of baking — so you can never skip a step.

This recipe, adapted from Gourmet Holiday, is the perfect accompaniment to any holiday dinner party.  The best part: it only takes 45 minutes of active time, so you can spend the majority of your evening entertaining and relaxing. Also, don’t forget to wear a cute apron (mine came all the way from Sardinia) so that flour doesn’t end up on your new holiday dress.

Butterscotch Apple Pie

Serves 8

You will need:

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1/8 tsp salt

2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 1/2 lb mixed tart and sweet apples (about 7), peeled, cut into 6 wedges and cored

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Double recipe All-Butter Pastry Dough

1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits

1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbsp warm water

1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Extra equipment:

small pumpkin or leaf-shape cookie cutters (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425° with a baking sheet placed on middle rack.

2. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, then whisk in brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Gently toss apples with sugar mixture, lemon juice, and vanilla and let stand 5 to 15 minutes to macerate fruit.

3. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Roll out remaining dough into a 13-inch round.

3. Transfer filling to shell. Dot with butter, then cover with pastry round. Trim edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang (reserve scraps). Press edges together to seal, then fold under. Lightly brush top crust with some of egg wash, then cut 3 (1-inch-long) vents.

4. Roll out dough scraps about 1/8 inch thick and cut out pumpkin or leaf shapes. Arrange decoratively on top of pie, pressing gently to help adhere. Lightly brush top crust and cutouts with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 375°F and bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes more. Cool to warm, 2 to 3 hours.

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Just Like Martha (Apps and Crafts)

I recently had a birthday. You could say I’m a bit of a birthday brat, in the sense that I get pretty entitled with planning my birthday celebration(s). Basically, I love to celebrate with my friends, so birthdays are always an excuse to show your friends a grand ole time.

It’s not a birthday without appetizers and wine, but I knew I needed a mellow, weeknight activity since everyone had work the next day. I thought to myself, what would Martha do (this does not apply to insider trading).

I’ve always had a liking for craft projects, but wanted to tailor the birthday event around food (hello, have you met me?) so opted for DIY aprons. I actually don’t own an apron and found out most of my friends didn’t either! Voila, the concept for appetizers & aprons was born.

My friends showed up ready for a “surprise” craft, and to be quite honest, we had a blast. My friend Sarah took care of the dessert: deliciously satisfying raspberry apple crisp. I had a wonderful birthday celebration with friends and family, and was really humbled by how thoughtful people can really be (more to come on weekend wine tasting).

Appetizers:

Roasted Cherry Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil Bruschetta

Meyer Lemon Ricotto, Mint & Caramelized Fennel Bruschetta

Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs with Toasted Walnuts, Drizzled with Honey

Fresh Organic Strawberries

Quinoa & Corn Salad

Tabbouleh

Pitted Kalamata Olives

Selection of Cheese (Goat Brie, Goat Gouda, Pt. Reyes Blue)

Crackers

Falafel Chips

Hummus with Thyme

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Mediterranean Supper Club: Vegan Pistachio Tea Cakes

One of the many I reasons I love food is that it brings people together. I recently joined miss delightfulcrab‘s monthly supper club, which occurs on Sunday evenings. Different people take turns hosting the event, and the host chooses the theme: last weekend’s theme was Mediterranean (they have had other awesome themes like “favorite childhood meal” and “colors of the rainbow” and “thai feast”…the creativity goes on and on.)

Mediterranean basically means ANYTHING goes; as long as you can find it somewhere along the Mediterranean sea, you’re good to go! I decided to make Vegan Pistachio Tea Cakes from my favorite new cookbook (also featured in this recipe).

I knew it was a huge risk making something brand new for a group of people, but that didn’t stop me. As usual, it was a scramble to the finish (I felt like I was competing on Top Chef), but I made it on time and the cakes turned out pret-ty good. I bet you can’t tell they’re vegan. I totally recommend this for your next picnic/brunch/anytime. Snack away!

Vegan Pistachio Olive Oil Tea Cakes

You will need a mini-muffin or tea cake pan (makes cute mini bundt cakes), although a 9-inch cake pan works too.

For the cake:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan

2/3 cup shelled pistachios (3 oz), toasted

1/2 cup plain unsweetened soy yogurt

6 oz soft silken tofu

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the topping:

1 orange

1 lemon

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

1/4 cup shelled pistachios (1 1/4 oz), toasted and chopped

 

TO MAKE THE CAKE-

1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan, then line with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan and oil the parchment paper (or use baking spray with flour).

2. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios until finely ground. But don’t over do it, or they’ll turn into nut butter.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yogurt, tofu, sugar, olive oil, and vanilla and beat at medium speed until well combined.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a separate bowl. Add to the tofu mixture and beat until well combined. Add the ground pistachios and beat again until incorporated.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester, bamboo skewer, or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool briefly, then invert into a wire rack ,remove the pan, and let cool completely.

TO MAKE THE TOPPING-

1. Slice the orange and lemon in half, then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Remove the seeds. In a medium saucepan, combine the orange, lemon, water, sugar, and Grand Marnier. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat, cover and simmer until the fruit is soft and pliable and starting to break down, about 1 hour.

2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse repeatedly until thick and chunky. Spread the topping evenly over the top of the cake. Garnish with chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds (optional – I couldn’t find them at the store) before serving.

 

 

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New Traditions

Somehow, it’s Friday already. Celebrating a holiday during the middle of the week is pretty bizarre — it feels like two mini weeks sandwiched in between three weekends. I’m not sure why I’m complaining.

I spent Tuesday of this week at a brand-spanking-new bar, in the tenderloin (so take a cab), called Tradition. The occasion was a birthday celebration; the location couldn’t be more perfect to kick off an American holiday.

The bar is one of Bourbon & Branch‘s spinoffs, as it’s casual but maintains its strong reputation for serving classic, well-made cocktails. The dark wood finishing, lofty ceilings and suspender-outfitted hipster staff give the place a Brooklyn vibe. Overall, it’s a pretty cool spot and worth visiting at least once.

We started off with scorpion bowls, which were among an array of tropical cocktails. The best thing about Tradition: the menu has something for everyone, with different themed traditional bar menus on each page. Make sure to reserve a booth to get the maximum experience. Happy Weekend!

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Farmer’s Market: All Fresh and No Regrets

You know how you never regret working out? That’s also how I feel after a visit to the farmer’s market. Most of the produce is certified organic, locally grown, and wallet friendly.

I spontaneously walked to the Fort Mason Farmer’s Market the past weekend, and picked out versatile produce that can be prepared in multiple ways (so you get the best bang for your buck). Although it’s always best to shop with a list, I try to have a general focus and buy whatever looks the best at the time. Sometimes a lack of planning can be refreshing and add excitement to an otherwise over-cast, humid morning.

The best thing about the Farmer’s Market is scoring a week’s worth of produce for what you might spend on a champagne brunch (but we’ll leave that for another weekend).

This weekend’s loot (all organic):

fava beans

cauliflower

rainbow chard

lemon cucumber

sweet peppers

parsley

leeks

beets

assorted summer squash

nectarines

radishes

jumbo shrimp

Happy Cooking!

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5 Kitchen Gadgets You Need Right Now

If you’ve ever tried to chop anything, then you know prep work can be rough. It’s time consuming, requires 100% focus (or you could make a painful mistake), and can make cooking a drag – to be quite honest.

That being said, prep work is necessary when you cook with fresh ingredients. So, it’s basically here to stay; however, prep work does not have to be terrible, if you have the right tools to make your cooking life easy. Here are 5 Kitchen Gadgets You Need Right Now*:

*you do not need to buy brand new and spend a lot, although the unused quality and guarantee can be appealing. I pick up most of my tools at the flea market or garage sales…at a fraction of the cost.

1. Food Processor/Cuisinart 

This thing will chop anything and everything. You can make salad dressings, sauces or purees, and prepare any kind of vegetable no matter the size. You can use the attachments, which make it double as a mandolin or grater, and make homemade potato chips, slice root vegetables for a roast gratin, and grate massive quantities of cheese. The list goes on and on. I could not cook without this.

2. Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer

The baker’s go-to necessity. You can bake to your heart’s delight with this mixer, and with little effort. Whip up perfect, peaky egg whites and make meringues, or perfect your own chocolate chip cookie recipe. And then there’s the attachments…make your own pasta, ice cream, stuff sausages; the options can are overwhelmingly endless. Sometimes a day of baking is the best cure after a chaotic workweek. Try it, you’ll like it.

3. Lemon/Lime Juicer

Doesn’t need to be fancy, just needs to be functional. Freshly squeezed citrus juice is so multi-purpose — I probably use some kind of citrus in every other dish I make. You can bet this tool provides the most valuable return on investment. Or, kill two birds with one stone and buy a juicer attachment for your stand mixer.

4. Smoothie Machine/Blender

Unlike the food processor, this tool is best for liquids specifically. I use my smoothie machine to create nutritious green breakfast smoothies, and the other attachments are great for grinding coffee beans or whole nuts.

5. Pyrex Glass Mixing Bowls (in various sizes)

These bowls are great for organizing all of your different materials when cooking, and great alongside the stand mixer when baking. When you keep all of your ingredients organized, the clean-up is noticeably more manageable.

There you go! If you are an aspiring chef-to-be, then you must consider acquiring the above five kitchen gadgets as soon as possible.

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Paella Please!

My parents have had an affinity for Spanish paella for as long as I can remember; they used to host paella parties during the summer and were always excited by its endless possibilities.

This past Father’s day, my dad requested to dine outdoors and cook a lobster paella. The recipe is a family secret, of course (I’ll need it for a business someday)… but had to share the photos. Hopefully you will be inspired enough to try this paella recipe, which is sure to satisfy even the most discerning eaters. The best part about paella is the many different layers: the flavors are so robust and meld together like no other dish.

some serious sizzle

 

the saffron broth cooks the rice like a risotto (but it gets crispy in the paella pan)

add the colorful goodies: roasted pimentos, leeks, fresh clams, and pre-cook the lobster on the grill

add the lobster near the end

now, this is something to get excited about

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