Monday, August 18, 2008

#1 Rainbow Cake

Last weekend my sister Tiffany was visiting Santa Barbara from New York. My sister and her husband, Segundo, have two kids, my nephews...Felix is 3 years old and Luca is 1 year old. Luca turned 1 while they were in Santa Barbara. I was so excited to be able to be at his first birthday party and I got to make the cake. YIKES. I was looking for inspiration of Tastespotting and found it! I discovered a great blog called Ovenhaven. She recently blogged about rainbow cupcakes....they are so much fun. Great for a kids birthday. I decided to try her idea on a cake. It worked out.

I just used a box of white cake mix (gross, I know, but kids aren't very picky about their cake)

I also used Ivy's suggestion to throw in a little gelatin into the cake mix. I used about 1 TBSP or so).... AMAZING! I will never make cakes or cupcakes without utilizing this magic ingredient. It made the cake incredibly moist and bouncy. It was awesome. Thanks for the suggestion Ivy!

I separated the cake batter into four bowls and dyed each batter a different color. I poured the first colored batter(green) into the middle of the cake pan , the next color (yellow) I poured into the middle of the pan again, right on top of the other color and repeated this with the blue and yellow batter.

When it came out of the oven, the colors were really muted and dull on the outside of the cake. I carefully shaved off the sides to revel the beautiful bright vibrant colors.

I made this cake to look like a BIG cupcake....but you could frost the whole thing like a cake. The colors would be revealed when the cake is cut. The inside of the cake looked very cool, unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the cake after it had been cut :( The colors inside don't layered, instead it looks tie dyed. Ovenhaven's pictures show a great example of what the cake looked like inside.

This cake was made with the intention that Luca would put his hands all over it and dig in, so I made lemon blueberry cupcakes for the adults.

Luca was slightly confused by his cake

But he got the idea with help from Felix
It was a great 1st Birthday Party for LUCA !!!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Okay, I'll admit it, I have an unnatural obsession with Pinkberry. Have you had Pinkberry? What is a Pinkberry you ask, it's a frozen yogurt chain that is all over new York and Los Angeles. It is very different from frozen yogurt you may have had before It has a very distinct taste, it is very tart and tastes like plain yogurt. It only comes in three flavors, Plain, Green Tea, and Coffee. Then, there are tons of toppings to choose from, berries, kiwi's, mango, granola, chocolate chips, oreo's, it even gets as obscure as Captain Crunch and Fruity Pebbles.

My favorite combos:

-Green Tea with raspberries, mango, and fruity pebbles
(that's right, fruity pebbles...don't knock it till you try it)
-Coffee with coco pebbles.

The sad news is the closest Pinkberry is in West Lake Village in Los Angeles. The good news, that's where Mike's parents live. I have to get my fix every time I'm there.

So what is the point of this mindless homage to my beloved Pinkberry??? I was having a craving for Pinkberry the other night while I was watching Project Runway at home in Santa Barbara, what to do??? Then it hit me, I could make Pinkberry at home. I had recently seen a beautiful blog post from Vanilla Basil, she had made a delicious looking Raspberry & Cookies and Cream Ice Cream. YUM. I decided to feed my Pinkberry addiction and try a yogurt version of Vanilla Basil's ice cream. The result: Spectacular!

Raspberry Cookie's & Cream FRO YO

2 cups organic plain yogurt
2 tbsp milk
1 cup of organic raspberries
4 trader joe's jo jo's or oreo's
2 tbsp organic agave sweetener (or sugar)

Combine raspberries and milk and puree with an immersion blender. Pour puree through a strainer to strain out the seeds. Combine yogurt and raspberry puree and agave. Pour into ice cream maker according to manufactures directions.
Once it's done crumble cookie into frozen yogurt and stir to mix it up. Transfer frozen yogurt into a large tupperware and freeze for 30 minutes.

PS. I failed to mention the best news EVER. A few days ago I found out that Pinkberry is coming to Santa Barbara very soon. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I may have to survive on a strict diet of Pinkberry, I may put all my money into feeding my Pinkberry addiction and go broke. Wish me luck.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fresh Key Lime Tartlette

Mike and his best friend Jon are out sailing to Anacapa Island today. After a day of sun, fun & hard work, I thought it would be nice if they came home to a delicious summer dessert. Lucky boys.

Key Lime Tartlette with Roasted Macadamia Nut & Coconut Crust

1 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup organic unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
1 tbsp organic sugar
1 tbsp organic butter
2 free range organic egg whites

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toast macadamia nuts and coconut until both are browned, about 5 minutes. watch closely to make sure they don't burn. Combine nuts, coconut, brown sugar, sugar, and butter in a food processor. In another bowl whisk egg whites until soft peaks form, this will take about 10 minutes of continuous whisking. Slowly add egg whites to the nuts mixture, gently folding them to mix together.Press mixture into a lightly buttered small tart ramekin. Cook for 10 minutes. Let cool. Keep oven on.

Fresh Key Lime Filling
(adapted from Epicurious)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed key lime juice
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 free range organic egg yolks
1 tbsp key lime zest

While tartlette crust is baking. Squeeze key limes until you get about 1/4 cup of juice (about 20 key limes.) Strain to discard seeds. Combine condensed milk and egg yolk, mix together. Add key lime juice and mix till smooth. Grate lime zest into mixture.

Once the tartlette crusts are cooled, fill the crusts with filling. Bake for 15 minutes. The filling will begin to set in oven but will still be soft. Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. This will set the filling. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving. Top with coconut whip cream, a raspberry, and fresh lime zest.

Coconut Whip Cream
whipping cream
unsweetened shredded coconut
vanilla extract
vanilla bean seeds

Combine ingredients to match your preference of sweet & coconutty. Whip until soft peaks form. Cool.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

California Wine Festival

This weekend Mike and I went to the California Wine Festival in Santa Barbara on the beach. There were tons of wineries, breweries, and restaurants serving up tastings of their finest products. Bacara had a booth offering the most amazing petite four display I have ever seen. Little cakes, chocolates, nut brittles, profiteroles, it was the full spectrum of sweets. I am kicking myself for not getting a picture of these delectable desserts. I cheated and got in line twice for a double dose of the Bacara tasting. Shhhhhh, I couldn't help it. You can imagine my sheer joy when on Monday my boss told me that my going away party (I got a new job) would be held at Bacara. SWEEEETTTT. I am pretty excited, I'll let you know how it is.

I also enjoyed the Wilson Creek booth. They were serving a unique Almond Champagne with a splash of chocolate liquor. I couldn't drink a lot of it, but it was delicious. I may just order a couple bottles of the Almond Champagne the Wilson Creek website.

Mike was quite impressed by the tequila tasting...I stayed far away from that one...something about mixing wine, beer, and tequila doesn't sound appealing.

A wine, beer, tequila, appetizer, and dessert tasting festival on the beach in Santa Barbara, what a fantastic way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Vegan Blueberry Ice Dream

Blueberry Ice Dream

2 c. organic unsweetened soy milk
2 c. organic blueberries
3 tbsp organic agave
2 tbsp lemon, juiced

In a large skillet, heat blueberries, agave, and lemon juice until the blueberries are soft. Blend the mixture with a hand blender till smooth and slowly add soy milk. (you can strain the mixture to remove the blueberry skins, but the skins have tons of antioxidants, so i keep them in.)

Cool mixture in refrigerator for 1 hour.
Add mix to ice cream maker to manufacturers instruction.

This is a delicious fresh summer treat. I am seeing blueberry ice cream & gelato all over the place. This recipe at Coconut & Lime looked delicious and inspired me to try a vegan version of my own. I am still having difficulty using soy milk in the ice cream maker. It freezes like ice milk, instead of ice cream, but it is what it is and it is still yummy. I read recently that using coconut milk yields a creamier texture, I will try that next time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Strawberry Salad

I spent last weekend in LA catching up with old friends and spending time with my sister Tracy and her boyfriend Brian. Tracy and I made a healthy delicious dinner on Saturday night, Caprese Pizza on whole wheat crust and an Arugula Strawberry Salad... sadly, I didn't have my camera. Last night I recreated our fresh healthy salad for Mike to try. I didn't have arugula but i did have some frisee greens, yum. Thanks Tracy for this lovely salad idea.

Summer Strawberry Salad

frisee greens (or arugula or spinach)
organic strawberries, sliced
roasted almonds, sliced
organic avocado, sliced

Simple Dressing

2 tbsp organic olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
sea salt

Saturday, July 12, 2008

4th of July Surf & Turf

Mike and I spent the 4th of July this year in my hometown and Mike's college town...Santa Cruz,Ca. We had great day hanging out with our Santa Cruz friends and family. We started out the day at Harbor Cafe, no surprise there. It's our favorite Santa Cruz spot. Our friend Dan owns the cafe, he bought it from my Stepdad Jerry two years ago. This cafe is our version of Cheers. We run into so many friends when we are there, it's so much fun. they have a huge, beautiful patio and the best breakfast in the West. If you are ever in Santa Cruz, stop by Harbor Cafe for breakfast, you won't be sorry...tell them Jenn sent you.
We spent the rest of the day at the beach with friends. We went to our friends Chris and Caroline's for a Surf N' Turf BBQ. WOW. Amazing friends, Amazing food. We were lucky enough to get lobster tails and marinaded skirt steak for a great price from the Fish Lady. I don't have much of a recipe to offer you all for this delicious meal because it was so so simple.
Here's the menu:

4th of July Surf N' Turf
Steamed Lobster Tails
BBQ'd Skirt Steak
Fruit Salad

Caroline steamed the lobster tails, husked the shell off, squeezed some lemon over them, dipped them in browned butter, and ate them. It was our intention to serve the skirt steak and the lobster together, but the lobster was ready a couple minutes before the steak, and we couldn't resist eating them right then. It was decedent, so delicious.

As for the skirt steak, we threw it on the grill, and brushed it with it's marinade, that's it!

The fruit salad was simple too. It consisted of Mango, raspberry, blueberry, kiwi, and nectarines.

The end....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Corn Cakes with Grilled Shrimp & Roasted Guacamole

I love this blog. It has been so fun to post recipes and learn food photography. One of my favorite aspects of blogging is the amazing community of food bloggers. I had no idea there were so many people doing the same thing I am doing. It is my new favorite past time to look at the food blogs I have bookmarked and search for new fun food blogs. The other day I found this hilarious blog, Average Betty, she combines cooking with sketch comedy and she cracks me up. Her unicorn fritters jumped out at me...YUM, corn cakes with shrimp and mashed avocado...sounds like my perfect meal. I made them last night and they rocked my world. They were so good and really easy to make.

Corn Cakes with Grilled Shrimp and Roasted Guacamole

Corn Cake
(adapted from Average Betty recipe)
2 c. organic roasted corn, removed from cob
2 tbsp organic olive oil
1/4 c. organic cilantro
1/4 c. white onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeño, chopped
1/2 small organic red pepper, chopped
1/2 c. organic almond flour*
2 organic & cage free eggs
1/2 tsp. honey
dash garlic powder
dash cayenne pepper
dash chili powder
dash salt

Combined roasted corn, red bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, almond flour, and honey. Crack eggs into mixture and stir together until well blended. Add garlic powder, cayenne, chili powder, and salt.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Scoop corn mixture into small patties and place on skillet, let brown about 30 seconds and flip with a spatula.

*almond flour is a substitute for flour. Regular flour works great too, I'm just trying to stay away from white starchy food. You can make almond flour really easily by throwing almonds in your food processor and grinding them until fine, about 20 seconds. Be careful not to grind almonds for too long or it will begin to turn into almond butter.

Grilled Garlic Shrimp
10 jumbo raw shrimp
2 tbsp organic olive oil
1 large clove garlic
1 lime, juiced

Marinate shrimp for at least 30 minutes in a mixture of olive oil, pressed garlic, and lime juice, and salt. Skewer shrimp and place on grill until shrimp turn pink.

Roasted Guacamole
1 organic avocado
1/4 c. organic cilantro
1/8 c. roasted tomato salsa (I like Trader Joe's Salsa Del Cabo)

Mash avocado and mix in cilantro and roasted salsa

I absolutely loved this dinner, and so did Mike. I had two corn cakes left over and turned it into an amazing breakfast. I heated up the corn cakes, poached an egg, made some more guacamole and topped it off with a chipotle raspberry BBQ sauce. It was delicious. I love when leftovers become a whole new fabulous meal. Try this recipe out, you won't be sorry you did. Thanks Average Betty!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Raw Cookie

I saw this amazing recipe on the beautiful blog taste memory. I love the idea of the raw food lifestyle. I thought I didn't have the patience to put the time into preparing raw food meals. This recipe proved me wrong. It took me 5 minutes to prepare, that's it. What a treat. These cookies are healthy and delicious, not necessarily low-fat, but very nutritious. I love that you can virtually throw anything into these cookies. I'm not putting a measurements for this recipe because you don't really need to follow any sort of recipe, just toss in nuts, seeds, dried fruit, chocolate, virtually anything you have on hand in your cupboard. You can play around with the portions too, I'll just post what I used. Just know that honey and nut butter is what binds the cookies together, the honey especially. After you mix the ingredients together, it will stick together, but it takes chilling in the fridge for them to really set and bind together. Give them a good 6 hours or more to set. Thanks so much taste memory!

Raw Cookies
(adapted from the recipe on taste memory)

2 1/2 cups mixed nuts, seeds, & fruits
-flax seeds
-dried cranberries
-dried apricots
-dried coconut
approx 1/4 cup almond butter, crunchy unsalted
approx 1/2 cup honey

Mix ingredients together in a large bowl, add honey until the mix sticks together. Spoon cookie sized portion onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. The mix will be sticky but not firm yet. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours until cookies are nice and firm. It's best to chill overnight.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Mean Cookies

I hate these stupid cookies. I made these cookies as a part of my menu for my Grad BBQ last weekend. This recipe didn't work out so well. The flavor was good, although a bit sweet for my taste, people really liked them...but the consistency totally failed. Out of the 30 cookies that I baked, about 9 made it. The rest crumbled when I took them off the cookie sheet.
I found this recipe on Martha Stewart's website. I should have known better. Every time I make anything using a Martha recipe, it doesn't turn out right. I think the lady is a domestic goddess, don't get me wrong, but her recipe's don't ever seem to work out for me. It's strange. I think it's a conspiracy, designed to make housewives feel inferior to Martha. Jerks. Anywho, here's the recipe. If I ever venture to make these cookies again, I will try to remedy the crumbly cookie problem by adding the full egg, maybe even 2 eggs. Egg binds the ingredient together, it's weird this recipe calls for egg yolk conspiracy suspicion thickens.

Carrot Cake Cookies

(Martha Stewart)

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/4 cup organic sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup organic rolled oats
3/4 cup organic carrots, grated & peeled
1/3 cup raisins
dash of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grate carrots.
Whisk together butter, sugars, and egg yolk.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; stir together. Mix in oats, carrots, and raisins. Place dough balls on a cookie sheet and gently press each one down with your palm. Bake until edges are crisp, about 15 minutes.

Rice Crispy Treat Cake

I put on a Beach BBQ this weekend to celebrate my Grad School Graduation. I know it's traditional to celebrate milestones with a cake, but I am not the biggest fan of cake. I mean, it's good, but it's not my favorite treat. I thought to myself, "It's my party and I should have a dessert I LOVE." At first I thought about trying to make an ice cream cake, but figured it would melt. Then it occurred to me that my favorite thing in the world is rice crispy treats. So, my rice crispy treat cake was born. It was really quite simple. Making rice crispy treats is a very personal thing. Some people like them gooey, others like them firm. I like them to have the perfect balance of gooey & firm. If you decide to make this cake, use whatever recipe gives you the type of rice crispy treat you like.

Rice Crispy Treat Cake

13 cups rice crispy's
6 cups chocolate rice crispy's
1 1/2 sticks of butter
4 bags of marshmallows (mini's melt faster)

Line a large stock pot with wax paper.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a large stock pot with 2.5 bags of marshmallows. Stir until marshmallows are melted into a creamy paste. Stir in regular rice crispies and stir until rice crispies are fully coated.

Transfer rice crispy mixture into the large stock pot covered with wax paper. Press mixture down VERY firmly with your fingers and hands. It needs to be compact. The mixture will be very sticky, take a butter and lather you hand in it, like you are putting on's kinda gross, but it'll keep your hands from sticking to the rice crispies.

Melt 1/2 stick butter with 1.5 bags of marshmallows. Melt down then mix in the chocolate rice crispies. Transfer chocolate crispies into stock pot on top of the regular rice crispy mixture. Again, press down to make it very compact.

Let cool at least 30-40 minutes. Inverse the pot on to a cake dish. Cover in tin foil and refrigerate.

Everyone loved this rice crispy treat cake. It was awesome. I orgigonally wanted to make this cake 3 tiers with the bottom layer being strawberry rice crispy treats, but I failed miserably. I tried to puree 1 cup of strawberries and add the puree to the marshmellow mizture. BUT, when I mixed the strawberry marshmellow with the regualr rice crispies, the rice crispies got reallt soggy and teh marshmellows lost their elasticiy. It was wierd, the strawberry puree must have had too much moisture. OH WELL. The cake worked out well being only two layers.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Cookie a Day Keeps the Psychiatrist Away

YUM YUM YUM! These cookies are amazing. They blow the ginger molasses cookies out of the water. I found the recipe for Cherry & Chocolate Chip Cookies in the new Bon Appetit magazine. I loved that the cherries were soaked in cherry liquor, i thought that sounded chic. I've been in cooking land the past week preparing for my Grad school graduation BBQ. I made these cookies early in the week and froze them so they would be fresh when I wanted to serve them. I only made one batch of these cookies, and I regret it. If I could eat one of these cookies a day, I would be so very happy. The combination of cherries and chocolate is delectable. It may be difficult to believe but I actually followed this recipe almost was tough, but there was nothing I felt needed to be omitted or added. It was perfect just how it was.

Cherry & Chocolate Chip Cookies

(from bon appetit July 2008)

1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup cherry liquor
2 tbsp water
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 cups semisweet large chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Boil cherry liquor, water, and dried cherries in a sauce pan. Remove from heat and let cherries soak for at least 15 minutes. Drain cherries and pat dry.
Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Use an electric mixer or a small cuisinart to beat butter and both sugars together until creamy. Add eggs and both extracts and beat to blend. Add to flour mixture and mix to blend. Stir in cherries and chocolate chips. Scoop dough onto a buttered cookie sheet. Bake till browned, about 13-15 minutes.

Dive in!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summertime & the Livin's Easy

I make fish taco's at least once a month. I make them all different ways, but this Tropical Mango Mahi Mahi Taco just tastes like summer. The refreshing mango salsa is what makes this taco a hit on hot summer days.

Tropical Mango Fish Taco's
mahi mahi (or any white fish)
2 tbsp organic olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
1 organic lime, juiced
corn tortilla
green cabbage, shredded
organic avocado
mango salsa *see recipe below
sweet chili sauce

Marinate mahi mahi in olive oil, chili powder and lime for 30 minutes. Pan sear mahi mahi for 5 minutes on each side. Heat tortilla's in oven on low heat (200 degrees) for 5 minutes. Place mahi mahi inside tortilla on a bed of cabbage. Add 2 slices of avocado followed by a generous amount of mango salsa. Drizzle sweet chili sauce. Enjoy!

Mango Salsa
1 ripe organic mango
1/4 cup organic cilantro
1/4 cup organic black beans
1 TBSP fresh ginger, pressed
1/8 cup red onion, finley chopped
1/2 organic lime, juiced
*play around with the measurements to make this salsa how you like it. Just don't put too much ginger or the flavor takes over.

Cut mango into small squares. My Stepmom, Grace, once taught me to slice a grid on the mango half. It's an easy way to cut a mango. Toss mango with chopped cilantro, chopped onion, and black beans. To press the ginger, I use a garlic press. Mix in the pressed ginger and squeeze half a lime over the mango salsa. Stir together.

As a side dish for these taco's I made a Sweet Potato Salad. Sweet Potato's are my new favorite thing! I'm obsessed with sweet potato fries at restaurants. At home, I can't seem to reproduce a good sweet potato fry without a deep frier, so at home, I settle for roasted sweet potatoes. I love the way they taste when they are roasted and crisp. I made this salad last Thanksgiving and it was a hit. I've been thinking about making it for my Graduation BBQ Party this weekend, so I wanted to try it out tonight to make sure I had the recipe down.
It is actually VERY similar recipe to the mango salsa.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
serves 2
4 c. sweet potatoes
2 tbsp organic olive oil
1 cup organic black beans
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup organic cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
feta cheese, optional but recommended
salt & pepper

*again, play around with the portions. I never really measure this stuff, I just throw in what seems like the right amount. You want the sweet potatoes to be the "star" or the dish and the black beans, cilantro, and onions to be the "chorus."

To roast sweet potatoes, Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Skin sweet potatoes and cut into 1" squares. Mix sweet potato squares with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast in over for 30-40 minutes, until sweet potatoes are browned and crispy. You may want to stir sweet potatoes half way through roasting. Mix roasted sweet potatoes with cilantro, black beans, and red onion. Squeeze lime juice and mix into salad. Sprinkle with feta cheese. (I'm dairy free right now, but when I serve this for guests I always use feta.)


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ragin' Cajun

A few years ago Mike picked up this amazing spice at a local Santa Cruz market, Shopper's Corner. Cajun Dust Blackening Spice has turned out to be a magic spice. It makes anything it touches terrific. It goes great on chicken, fish, tofu, and shrimp. It's the only spice you need to make a flavorful dish. I love using this seasoning on shrimp and making a cajun shrimp & avocado salad. YUMMY!
I saw Tilapia at the store tonight and couldn't resist an opportunity to use cajun Dust. This is one of my go to dinner's. It's easy and quick to prepare. The ingredients are light, nutritious, and fresh. weighing in at less than 200 calories for the whole meal, there is plenty of room for dessert.

Cajun Tilapia with Broccolini & Cauliflower Mash

This recipe is so simple.
The tilapia is sprinkled with cajun blackening spice and pan seared in a skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side.
The broccolini is steamed for 5 minutes.

Cauliflower mash is one of my favorite side dishes, especially when i am trying to stay away from eating too many carbs. I originally tried it after seeing it in a South Beach Diet recipe book. This dish tricks me into thinking I am eating mashed potatoes. It's easy to make too. Steam cauliflower, add a tiny bit of milk or soy milk, a dash of salt & pepper, then mash it with a masher or use an immersion blender until you achieve a smooth consistency. You can add anything to this dish that you'd put in mashed potatoes. It is great with some butter, grilled onions, bacon, cheddar cheese, sour cream, or green onions....or all of that together. Tonight I made it simple, I used 1 slice of canadian bacon and green onions. This mashed Cauliflour idea may sound strange, but I'm telling you, it is delicious! Believe it or not, Mike asks me to make mashed cauliflower all the time, he loves it. I once brought it to a BBQ and it was a big hit with all my friends. Try it sometime, you just might like it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ginger Molasses Cookies

Ginger Molasses Cookies (recipezaar)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup brownsugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
white sugar

Combine flour, soda, and salt. Mix ginger, butter, and brown sugar in Cuisinart until creamy. Mix in molasses and egg. Gently fold in butter mixture into the flour mixture until combined. The dough will be very sticky. Chill dough for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into small balls and roll them briefly in white sugar. Place a small piece of crystallized ginger in the center of cookie and press flat with fork.
Bake for 12-15 minutes.


A true chef would surely laugh at this rice dish I am passing off as Paella. True paella is usually made in a paella pan, I used a skillet. Good Paella is baked at the end and has a thin crispy crust on the bottom. Yum! Paella has been on my mind lately, it seemed like a culinary challenge. I wanted to see if i could pull off. When I started looking for Paella recipe's I wondered what the difference was between Paella, Risotto, and Jambalaya. Despite the obvious difference in the region the recipe originated from, the three dishes seem quite similar to me. I think the differences lie in the staple seasonings used in the dish, and in the meats used. Spanish Paella traditionally uses saffron, Italian Risotto uses garlic and parmesan cheese (at least in my version), and Creole Jambalaya uses cajun seasoning and hot sauce. BUT I have had saffron risotto before, so that throws my whole theory out the window. In the recipes I looked through, it appears that Risotto's are stirred continuously where as paella's are left alone to simmer. I think this constant stirring releases the starches in the rice giving Risotto a creamier texture. Truth be told, I have NO IDEA what the real differences are, this is just a guess. Any way, I found this recipe for a 1 hour Paella on Epicurious. It turned out well, however, in true Jenn form, I barely followed this recipe. The paella needed liquid added every 5 or 10 minutes in order to cook the rice, I adjusted the spices and the proteins. Also, the traditional Paella "crust" never really materialized. I suggest using a base recipe and then letting your own taste buds be your guide to making your own unique paella.


serves 4

1 quart organic low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cup short grain brown rice
1 breast organic chicken
3 sliced canadian bacon, chopped
1 package of Trader Joe's mixed seafood blend (shrimp, scallops, calamari rings)
2 TBSP olive oil
1 red pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup peas
10 cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup green onion
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp italian seasoning
salt and pepper

Start by briefly sauteeing onions, peppers, and garlic, and olive oil in a large skillet. Stir in paprika, saffron, and red pepper flakes. Add 2 cups of chicken broth, 1/4 cup white wine, & 1 1/2 cups brown rice. Simmer for 1 hour. While simmering continue to add chicken broth at 1/2 cup increments when the rice mixture has absorbed the liquid. If chicken broth runs out, switch to water. When rice becomes tender add the remaining 1/4 cup white wine, pea's, and tomatoes, cook for 10 more minutes. In a separate skillet pan sear the lightly salted chicken breast. Chop up chicken and add to rice. Add chopped canadian bacon to rice mixture. Sautee seafood mixture in 1 TBSP olive oil and italian seasoning. Once seafood is cooked add to rice mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle spike as a final seasoning. Serve and sprinkle green onion rings on top of paella.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

For Father’s Day, Mike and I went to LA for a BBQ at his parent’s house. I spent the morning baking. YIKES! I made little blueberry upside down cakes. I was inspired by Mike’s recent birthday dinner at one of Santa Barbara’s finest restaurants, Bouchon. Our meal was AMAZING. I actually tried frog legs and it’s true, they do taste like chicken. For dessert we had blueberry upside down cake with fresh lemon ice cream. It was heavenly! It felt like the perfect summer dessert. I wanted to try and recreate it for the Father’s Day BBQ. Luckily, on Bouchon's website, they posted a recipe for a raspberry pear upside down cake. I used the basic recipe, but used blueberries instead of raspberries and lemon instead of pears.

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

2 cups of fresh organic blueberries
1 cup organic flour
½ cup organic white sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ cup butter
1 egg
½ cup whole milk
1 lemon
2 Tbsp organic white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour and baking powder. I don't have a sifter, so I put the flour and baking powder into a zip lock bag and shook it for 1 minute. Set aside. Combine 1/2 cup of sugar and butter together in a small Cuisinart and blend till smooth. Add one beaten egg and blend with sugar butter mixture. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, 1/3 at a time, alternating with 1/3 of milk each time. Stirring ingredients together with a whisk. Mix it the juice from one lemon. Set aside. Mix blueberries berries in 2 T. sugar. Grate lemon rind into the blueberries and sugar.

Butter 6 individual ramekins and layer each with berries.

Cover fruit with cake batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 35 minutes or until done.

Let cool 5 minutes. Invert ramekin onto a plate and top with Lemon Zest Ice Cream.

This cake got excellent reviews from the family, but it's family, they have to say they like it. Truthfully, Bouchon's version was much better. The flavors in my cake were very similar to the cake at Bouchon's but the texture seemed very different. The cake batter dripped down into the berries which gave the top of the cake a gluey consistency. I'm wondering if I should have used a thicker layer of blueberries. I also had a difficult time getting this little cakes to cook all the way through. This may be because I baked them for 25 minutes at home, and then baked them for 10 more minutes at Mike's parent house. Thankfully, the ice cream covered up the fact that the cake was slightly underdone. When the cakes came out of the over, I noticed that the cake on top cracked as it baked. If you look at the picture of the cake baked in the ramekin, you'll see what I mean. I'm not quite sure why this happnened, but I'm assuming that a proper cake does not crack. Anyone know why this happened?

For all this cakes imperfections, it was still delicious. McConnells lemon ice cream is out of this world. I am looking forward to trying this recipe again.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I've been wanting to try making granola. I love granola but all the good granolas are fried and bathed in sugar. This morning I decided to make my own. I found a recipe for vanilla scented granola on epicurious. As always, I didn't really follow the recipe, but it provided me a good base to start from. The recipe I came up with still has quite a bit of sugar but I'm hoping it has less then the average store bought brands. I tried to make it healthy by making some substitutions. I used a small amount of olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil. I significantly lowered the white and brown sugars and used blackstrap molasses instead of honey. Blackstrap molasses is still loaded with sugar, but it is full of iron, calcium, and potassium making it significantly more nutritious then white sugar. Blackstrap molasses is also a fantastic natural energy booster.

Plain Organic Granola

2 c. organic oats
1/4 c . organic brown sugar
1/8 c. organic olive oil
1/8 c. organic blackstrap molasses
1 tbsp. organic sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
a couple dashes of cinnamon
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet in tin foil and spray with olive oil spray. Mix together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together. Combine olive oil, molasses, and sugar in a small skillet. Briefly simmer over low heat. Stir constantly until it begins to bubble (you don't want the mixture to be too hot, a little bit of heat is enough to help the ingredients mix together.) Remove mixture from heat and add vanilla. Add mixture to the oat mixture and mix together with hands until oats are evenly coated.

Spread mixture onto cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Stir. Bake for 20 more minutes. Allow granola to cool.

This granola turned out okay. It isn't fabulous but I think it has potential. Mike tried it and thought it was a bit too sweet. I don't know if I agree, but I think next time I will decrease the brown sugar and add a bit more molasses. I like my granola really clumpy, and this one isn't very clumpy. This granola would be better as a sprinkling on yogurt then it would as a bowl of granola for cereal. I would also love to add almond slices or raisin's.
I will say that i keep sneaking into the kitchen to eat a little more. It's addicting. The molasses gives it an excellent flavor. This recipe needs a some tweaking, but I think it has potential and it is definitely is a healthier and nutritious alternative to store bought granola's.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Good Morning!

This is my idea of a "good morning." Acai bowls are just as delicious as they are healthy. Acai has the most antioxidants of any fruit and is filled with Omega 3's, protein, and fiber. I first had an acai bowl at Cafe Brazil in Santa Cruz, sometimes i would wake up craving acai bowls and head straight to Cafe Brazil. In March of 2005, Mike and I went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with his family. I started each morning with an acai smoothie from the local fruit stand. YUM! When I came home from Brazil I happened upon this fabulous product at my local health food store.

Now I make my own Acai bowls.

1 pack of unsweetened acai
1 scoop of soy base *
1/4 c. soy milk (you can use regular milk or apple juice)
3 strawberries, sliced
handful of blueberries
1/2 banana, sliced
I throw all these together and use my immersion blender to blend it all together, a regular blender would also work. Then I put it into a bowl and sprinkle some granola on top.

*I make my own soy base in my ice cream maker. I mix 2 cups of soy milk, 1 tsp of vanilla, sprinkle of vanilla bean, & 2 TBSP splenda (or sugar)... then i throw it in the ice cream maker for 25 minutes. Then I freeze it and use it in these smoothies. I do have a problem keeping the creamy consistency after I freeze it. It becomes a solid block. If anyone has any solutions to this problem, let me know. I end up having to microwaving the soy base for 30 seconds to make it soft enough to scoop.

You can also use a store bought soy vanilla ice cream, or regular vanilla frozen yogurt, if you don't want to make your own soy base. You can also opt not to use soy base at all, the acai will just be more liquidly and more like a drink.

**I use Trader Joe's vanilla almond granola...but I've really been wanting to make my own granola one of these days. If anybody has ever made their own granola, i would love a good low-fat granola recipe.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grilled Polenta with Veggies

Another quick meal. Grilled polenta with veggies and tomato sauce. This dish seems a little strange, but it is soooo yummy and quite healthy. I use Trader Joe's pre-cooked polenta, but it is easy enough to make too.

Grilled Polenta with Veggies

pre-cooked polenta
organic veggies; carrots, cauliflower, broccoli (any veggies you like)
organic tomato sauce (any kind you like)
raw walnuts

Cut polenta into rounds about 1 inch thick. Grill on a grill pan for 10 minutes or until warm all the way through. Steam veggies. Heat tomato sauce. Make a bed of arugula and put a small amount of tomato sauce in three spots on top of arugula. Lay a grilled polenta circle on each tomato sauce spot. Garnish each polenta circle with additional tomato sauce and a walnut. Top dish with grilled veggies and additional crumbled walnuts.

It is surprisingly filling and so easy to make.

Oh yeah, I forgot, feta cheese goes really well sprinkled on top of this dish. Unfortunately I am dairy free for a while and am not eating cheese. BUT, if you make this dish, sprinkle feta on top and it is 10 times yummier.

Hazelnut Crusted Trout Salad

We went to Trader Joe's today and didn't make it home till after 7:30pm. Whenever I go grocery shopping during dinner time, I never feel like coming home and cooking. It is not uncommon that Mike and I will go out to dinner after doing a huge grocery run. I'm trying to save money, so I knew I needed to use some of the groceries we had bought to make a quick dinner. This meal, literally took me less then 10 minutes to make.

Trader Joe's fresh hazelnut crusted trout
pomegranate seeds

Spray a pan with a little bit of olive oil spray. Pan fry the trout, skin side down, for a couple minutes till the trout is white and flaky. Flip trout over to briefly crisp up the nut crusted side. Put the trout on top of a bed of arugula and sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top.
Note: If you had fresh trout, it is easy to make the hazelnut crust yourself. Just throw some hazelnuts (or any nut for that matter) into a small Cuisinart or blender to make a gritty nutty mix. Dredge the trout in the nut mix.

2 Tbsp raw tahini
1 lemon, freshly juiced.
mix together and dress the salad.

Whoala! Dinner in 10 minutes!
Thanks Trader Joes!

Apple Crumble Pie with Oatmeal Crust

I am excited! This is my first post! I was inspired to start a food blog when I saw an old friend, Ivy, blogging about her baking and cooking adventures. I thought it was a great idea and decided to start my own food blog. Check out Ivy's blog.

It was Mike's birthday last weekend, the big 27. Mike loves pie, so I figured I'd take a chance and try and bake a pie. I am not much of a baker. A good baker follows the exact recipe, no matter how hard I try, I just can't help but add my own special twist. I tend to take 3 or 4 recipes and combined them, this was the case with my apple pie.

I started with making the crust, which doubled as the pie topping.

Oatmeal Crust and Pie Topping

1 c. organic flour
1 c. organic oats
1/2 c. organic brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
dash salt
1 stick of butter

2 tbsp organic apricot preserve
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk or soymilk

preheat over to 400 degrees.

Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together. Melt 6 tbsp of butter (3/4 of the stick) and combined it with dry ingredients mixture. I mix it all together with my hands. It should be a crumbly consistency. Take half of the mixture and set it aside, this will be the crumble topping.
Melt the last 1/4 of the butter and mix it in with the crust mixture. this should give it a little creamier texture.

Grease a pie tin, and transfer the crust mixture into the tin. Press it down firmly to make it fit into the tin. You can make the crust as thin or thick as you like.

Mix together the apricot preserve, egg yolk, and milk. Use a pastry brush to brush this mixture onto the entire pie crust. this glaze will keep the crust from drying out. Save the remaining glaze to glaze the topping.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Take out pie crust to cool and reduce the oven to 350 degrees. While the pie crust is cooking and cooling, prepare the apple filling.

Apple Filling
8 organic golden delicious apples
1 c. organic sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. bourbon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
dash salt
corn starch

Peel apples and slice them into thin slices. Mix sugar, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon and toss it with the apples. Pour the bourbon over the apples and simmer the apples in a larger skillet over medium heat (I had to do it in two batches.) As they simmer and soften, the apples will release their own juices. Slowly add corn starch 1 tsp at a time, this will thicken the juices. Do this until you reach the desired consistence for the apple filling. I probably added 3 tsp or so, maybe a bit more.

When the apples have soften but still firm, about 5-7 minutes, take them out of the skillet with a slotted spoon and arrange the apple slices in the pie crust (you want the juices to be on the apples but not so much that it drenches the pie crust.) Layer the apples in the crust until it reaches the top of the crust.

Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the apple filling. Brush the remaining glaze over the crumble topping.

Bake at 350 degrees. I checked the pie every 15 minutes or so. I ended up baking it for 40 minutes or so. I knew it was done when the topping was nice and browned.

Cool the pie. As it cools the apple filling will thicken a bit.

This pie turned out awesome! Mike loved it. I served it warm with McConnell's Cinnamon Ice Cream. I have to say, it was even better when we had the pie cold the next day. I was thinking next time I make this recipe, I will make it as apple pie bars. I may also increase the apples to make more layers in the pie.