Category Archives: Kitchen Adventures

Kitchen adventures: festive rice krispies treats

Up until last week, I was pretty much a rice krispies treat hater. I’ve always sworn by the fact that stirring cereal into melted butter and marshmallows is a poor excuse for “baking,” and considering they’re chocolate-free, a bite of one of these can be completely forgettable. Then, my friend Natalie gave me the genius idea of switching up the original recipe for Smitten Kitchen’s salted brown butter rendition, using Cocoa Krispies instead of Rice Krispies, and adding orange candy to make something festive for Halloween. When my friend Katie turned to me to say “these are different, and they’re really f*ing good” at the Halloween potluck where I unleashed the finished product, I knew that this American-born baked good and I had turned a new leaf. The opportunities to elevate this simple, three-ingredient classic into a creative and delicious dessert are surprisingly endless. I was blind, but now I see.

Halloween treats!

Halloween treats!

After the epiphany, I couldn’t wait to try a different variation of the recipe for my friend Leah’s birthday this weekend. And I have to admit I got the inspiration from the adorable ones I saw at SusieCakes, which had specks of fall leaf sprinkles. I altered the Smitten Kitchen recipe only slightly, adding 6 tablespoons as opposed to an entire stick of butter (the original recipe on the cereal box calls for 3), and throwing in festive birthday sprinkles with the cereal. Within minutes I had whipped up a treat that was adorable and absolutely addictive.

mixing in the krispies and sprinkles

mixing in the krispies and sprinkles

perfect birthday treats

perfect birthday treats

The recipe can be found here, is very easy to follow, and upgrades the original in a MAJOR way. Any mix-ins should be added with the Rice Krispies so they don’t melt. I suggest cutting with a thin sharp knife, and if you’re really obsessive like me, cutting a millimeter of the outer edge to outfit each square with four perfectly straight edges. I’m so glad I discovered a new go-to, simple recipe for potluck events – I hope you’ll try this!

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Kitchen Adventures: Ina Garten’s coq au vin

my fave.

Ina, my fave.

My cooking instinct leads me to assemble meals that are fresh and easy, not ones that take a lot of simultaneous action, prep-work, cook time, or dirty dishes.  Life is too short and I’m already 27! With the recent delivery of all my New York apartment kitchenware, however, I couldn’t stand leaving my cherished Le Creuset dutch oven (gifted by my friend Ashley) lonely and abandoned in a box – I needed to use it for a dish worthy of such a traumatizing move. So, I sacrificed my fuss-avoiding tendencies to prepare coq (pronounced “coke”) au vin, a French classic that requires a tiny bit more love and care than what I’m used to.

That said – coq au vin is still a relatively simple one pot dish, but the most tender versions of it require a generous amount of cooking time. The dish is great because it satisfies those who prefer lighter meat (chicken) as well as those who are in the mood for a heartier meal with a belly-soothing sauce. The taste of the reduced red wine and bacon laden sauce can warm a body better than a blanket, and for that reason it’s one of my favorite cold-season dishes.

When cooking classics, I look to my three closest friends for help: Julia Child (duh), Ina Garten, and Martha Stewart. Julia always tells me how it should be done traditionally – short cuts don’t exist. Ina tells you how it should be done, but leaves out tedious steps that don’t necessarily elevate the dish. Martha tells you how her many test kitchens have discovered it to taste best – a mix of tradition and modernity. So, this time, I went for Ina, mostly because the Food Network site had an accompanying video that helped to answer some of my questions.

The general breakdown of coq au vin is this: fry pancetta, remove it, use the fat to brown the chicken pieces, remove them, cook down root vegetables and garlic, deglaze pan with cognac, add wine, chicken stock, and all the rest. Put pot in the oven, remove and do a few last minute things. I like to serve mine over egg noodles with a green salad and a glass of the red wine I used for cooking. Ina’s recipe turned out great, but the video actually had a longer cooking time than the written recipe, and I should have gone followed the video, because the chicken wasn’t as tender and the sauce wasn’t as thick as I wanted it to be. Another note – the chicken takes longer than 5 minutes to brown, and that’s okay. So stick to what looks right and not what the recipe says and you’ll be fine.

rendering the pancetta

rendering the pancetta

brewing the coq

brewing the coq

voila!

voila!

Overall, I am very pleased with the turnout. You can find the recipe for Ina’s Coq au Vin here.  And, if you want to replicate the EXACT meal I prepared, click here for Bon Appetite’s awesome (and super easy) horseradish cheddar dip that I served as an hors d’oeuvre. Highly recommended for any occasion.

cheddar dip

cheddar dip

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Kitchen Adventures: crispy, crunchy, good for you granola

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One of my newest food obsessions arose over a series of many breakfasts at the YouTube office in San Bruno. Every morning at work, I found myself looking SO forward to dousing my oatmeal in the gooey, buttery granola that the very experienced YouTube chefs never failed to serve in a big black bowl. I then went on a rampage. I wanted granola every chance I could find it. I bought it at Jane down the street. I started ordering it at brunch. I am now, as cliché as it sounds, a full-blown granola-eating San Franciscan.

But I also discovered that some granolas have way too much sugar or fat than necessary – I don’t need to pack on pounds in an attempt to eat whole grains. And, a bag of good granola is hecca expensive! So, I set out to make my own.

I don’t like anything that is overly sweet – even my dessert. So, I looked for a recipe with very little sugar and only a touch of fat to act as a base to the “mix-ins” I love. I stumbled upon that of Smitten Kitchen, but her version includes coconut and dried fruit, which I don’t like in my granola, so I copied her oat-sugar-oil measurements, along with her genius addition of a whipped egg white, and threw in what I wanted. The result of this oat, wheat germ, slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, flax seeds, olive oil, maple syrup and egg white combination? Absolutely crisp, nutty, and amazing granola to eat alone or top on whatever I please. And the best thing about it is that all of the ingredients (aside from the oil, oats, and sugar) are optional, so you can get creative! Highly recommend making this to fulfill your next domestic craving.

tossed granola

tossed raw granola

cooked granola!

cooked granola!

Ingredients:
3 Cups old fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 cup of maple syrup (more if you like it sweet)
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup toasted wheat bran or wheat germ
1/4 cup of flaxseed
1 large egg white
Dried fruit, if you wish

Directions: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss all ingredients (aside from egg white) in a large bowl. Once well mixed, add a frothy whipped egg white and mix. Lay on a cookie sheet with parchment and cook for 25 minutes. Then, flip all granola over with a spatula and cook for another 20 minutes. Cool and store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for a long while!

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Kitchen Adventures: the best chocolate chip cookies

As I was browsing Amateur Gourmet, I stumbled upon a recipe entitled “The Best Cookies of Your Life” and became immediately became intrigued – what a bold statement from a very advanced recipe and food blogger! A die hard chocolate chip cookie fan, I went out to the store the next day, purchased all the essentials that were missing from my cabinet and set out to bake 4 dozen of these puppies to see if they are really what the Amateur Gourmet claimed them to be.

Chocolate chip cookie recipes are  intriguing because they typically only vary by 1 or 2 ingredients. They are all eerily similar but can taste drastically different. More flour and egg tends to turn into a fluffier cookie, more brown sugar a browner, more molasses-like cookie. This one, taken from Martha Stewart, interestingly calls for an egg plus an egg white, but is no more difficult to make than the standard Toll House recipe. In terms of taste, however, it is SO MUCH BETTER. I can’t believe how such slight changes in ratios of flour to sugar and a simple egg white can improve a recipe I’ve been using for years.

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perfectly golden

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how to eat all of these in 4 days?

These cookies are perfectly crispy on the edges and the outside, soft and melt in your mouth on the inside. They are a little flat like I like them, but if you heavy up on your rounded tablespoons you can get a plumper cookie. I added milk chocolate to the bittersweet chips to give it more of a creaminess.

Toll House, I’m sorry to say I’ve found another. This will be my go-to recipe until I’m convinced there’s a better one out there.

 

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Kitchen Adventures: The City Kitchen Cooking Class

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communal dinner after communal cooking

A while back, I took a cooking class at ICE in New York and swore off professional courses for a long, long time. It’s not that the class wasn’t educational, it just simply wasn’t fun. The teacher instructed us like a slave driver, the air conditioner broke, and I was tasked with chopping onions for two hours for a 20-serving dish. By the end of it I was starving, my eyes were burning, and I smelled like onions for days. To ICE’s defense, we received a refund to make up for almost dying in the boiling kitchen, but the experience forever tainted my romanticized view of cooking school.

Fast forward to last week, when I signed up for The City Kitchen‘s “Fall Farmers Market” cooking class in SF to see my bff Sarah’s sister in action as one of the Head Instructors.   The 3.5 hour time commitment made me nervous, but upon being greeted with a massive cheese board in a beautiful loft space, my flashbacks of scary cooking teachers subsided. I could at least drink freely here without getting my hand slapped (yes, this happened). The City Kitchen’s classes are perfect – their beautiful North Beach event space makes for a comfortable and homey environment, and the instructors take care of all of the grueling and boring prep work to leave participants with the fun stuff – drinking, socializing, some cooking, and assembling. There’s just enough hands-on work to really feeling like you’re contributing, but not so much that you’re sweating like a sous chef at a 5-star restaurant by the end of it. Most importantly, every dish we learned to make – baby kale salad with persimmons, quail with wild rice risotto, halibut with celery root pureeapple tarte tatin – was hearty and awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I just made a family-sized portion of the apple tarte tatin tonight. I must have learned something, because it was crispy, buttery, sweet, tart, and plain and simply dee-lish!

Chef Meghan teaching us how to cut bacon

Chef Meghan teaching us how to cut bacon

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Sarah and I working on the tarte tatin

Tarte tatin ramicans

Tarte tatin ramekins

quail and wild rice risotto appetizer

quail and wild rice risotto appetizer

halibut with realllly crispy bacon

halibut with realllly crispy bacon

Sarah and mommy

Sarah and mommy

Individual rosemary tarte tatin. How amazing does this look?

Individual rosemary tarte tatin. How amazing does this look?

my skills put to test at home

my skills put to the test at home

If you’re ever in SF and looking for a fun and unique after-work activity, or want to plan a customized event for your team or for your friends, I highly recommend The City Kitchen. They’ve got the recipe for the perfect class experience down (Always accessible cheese plate + Wine + Short Lecture + Assisted Cooking at Station of Choice + Family Dinner), and their classes are only $90 – far cheaper than the horrible ones I’ve tried in New York.  And if you aren’t able to make it to Sf for a class, check out their videos, which are fun to watch as well.

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Kitchen Adventures: Sister Justyn in The House

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Growing up, I was known as the house cook and baker, second to my mom who dominated our kitchen with her fried chicken and Filipino masterpiece skills. But times have changed. Marriage has got my sister determined to be the best possible domestic wife she can be, and I’m no longer Bellsey chef #2. Because I live across the street from her and can often reap the benefits of her developing craft, it’s fine by me!

Last night I had a JB favorite, inspired by her father-in-law’s very own recipe: Tex Mex tacos with simmered marinated chicken, finely shredded cheddar cheese, and all the fixings you could ask for. The secret behind these tacos is the butter-pan fried corn tortillas, which of course I hate to watch being made but make all the difference with every crispy, stomach warming bite. With a sprinkle of lime, a dollop of sour cream, a BAM handful of lettuce, and a side of buttery Spanish rice, Justyn’s tacos bring me back to the days of my mama’s cooking. Fortunately I have no shame in inviting myself over!
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Kitchen Fun: The Turkey Feast Recap

This year’s Thanksgiving, like every year’s, was a wonderful story of endurance, perseverance, and uncontrollable indulgence. Endurance because I was forced to watch the clock tick as I starved myself in anticipation of the feast, perseverance as I resisted the surrounding temptations of resting turkey breast and stuffing trays before our guests’ arrival, and ridiculous indulgence once the cheese plate hit the living room table, indicating the commencement of the feast. It was quite a ride, and the second I popped that first brie cracker in my mouth with a swig of champagne, I knew there was no turning back. The night expectingly ended in food-paralyzation, wine head-aches, and a deep slumber.

The 4pm onward feast may have been a food flurry, but I undoubtedly appreciated every single bite. It’s not necessarily the individual side dishes or turkey chunks that make a Thanksgiving plate so special, it’s the huge mix on your fork that screams HARVEST FEAST when taken down. It’s all items combined. That doesn’t mean that each dish isn’t uniquely significant, however, and it’s always fun to experience the tradition of other families (and the contrasts to your own). We started with a Serbian “gibaniza,” essentially a sheet pan version of the Greek spanakopita, which I could have easily bum-rushed had I not been thinking about the stomach room I needed to save. After endless cheese, carrot soup with creme fraiche, and shrimp and beans (quite a tangy deli-style salad), we finally moved on to the real goods. I filled my plate with crispy stuffing, barbecued turkey, string beans and pancetta, roasted vegetables, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and salad. The stuffing as usual was my favorite – salty, buttery, and of course, made with Pepperidge Farm cubes (they’re the best, as my mom agrees).

Just when I think I’m too full to move, dessert comes out. It happens every year. After waiting two days to stick my fork into Sonia’s mom’s Sweet Potato Cheesecake that you may remember from my blog last year, I couldn’t help but take a small slice of that, a sliver of the flourless chocolate cake, and a teensy chunk of pumpkin pie (only because the crust looked so good, as I really don’t like it). That moment was essentially my doom, but I was fully conscious of the end result, and Sonia and I essentially snuck upstairs in the middle of table conversation to pass out, fully clothed, on her bed. Stuffed and in bed by 9pm – there’s no better manifestation of a successful Thanksgiving feast. I am thankful for – yup you guessed it – my family and friends, especially the ones who host me as an adopted child for special holidays.

Thanksgiving sunset

the cheese unwrap…minutes before I was allowed to finally eat something

wonderful starvation savior…Affinois was the best

first bite of the day!

Murphy, the Cheese Guard

awaiting the storm of people

Finally eating!

gabanitza

ta daaaaah!!!

my favorite!!!!

Here’s to fall and the unstoppable progression of winter holiday (fat-adding) events!

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Kitchen Adventures: Pre Thanksgiving Grub

In light of the biggest food (and absolute best) holiday of the year, I feel compelled to report on the wonderful pre-Thanksgiving, stomach-expansion carb and wine fest I took part in last evening. This year, I decided to take a breather from my bi-weekly cross-country flights and spend Turkey Day with Sonia at her beautiful beach side home in Black Point, CT. And I wouldn’t just spend it with any of my “families away from family” – Sonia’s family just happens to have some of the best home chefs around, and the entire clan loves to feast as much as I do. So, thousands of miles away from my west-coast parents in beautiful Black Point, Connecticut, I feel right at my food-loving home.

After arriving from Grand Central yesterday afternoon, stopping by a local cheese shop, settling in and sipping chugging wine, Sonia’s brother Austin whipped up a fresh pasta of charcoal-grilled kale, leeks, and asparagus for dinner. By 8:30pm we were stuffed to the brim with pasta, warm asiago focaccia, and the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I had transported from my Manhattan Kitchen. The cookies were a hit, but that didn’t stop Austin from slathering them with sweet cream butter to give them that extra “za-za-zoom.”

gearing up for the big day

the usual activity of…waiting for dinner time

Editor in Action

sunset at Old Black Point

Chef Austin (Sonia’s bro) tossing pasta

pre-sauce

Final product: farfalle with barbecued leeks, asparagus and kale

butter slathered cookie

I woke up with my usual “I ate too much” stomach and “what was I thinking the night before Thanksgiving” feeling, but after a morning seaside run and a coffee, I am ready to conquer another day of feasting. Obviously. Stuffing and sweet potato cheesecake, here I come!!

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Semi Kitchen Adventures: Mad Men Viewing Party

Who else was as excited as me to watch the long awaited Season 5 Premiere of Mad Men? I was ecstatic, so to ring in the momentous event, I went to my friend Ashley’s for a sixties-themed feast of all boxed good, declasse staples: pigs in a blanket, fried mac & cheese, carrot sticks, Shake ‘n Bake chicken, regular mac & cheese, and a modern take on twinkies.

I’m not generally a fan of fried mac & cheese, but the Trader Joe’s frozen version had an interesting flavor, and a thin, soft crust that made them easy to bite – actually quite tasty for a pre-made rendition. The pigs in a blanket, surprisingly, were stellar. I am a huge fan of this bar-mitzvah hors d’oeuvre staple – probably taking after my dad – but a crispy wiener and flakey puff pastry are essential to a good one. As always, Trader Joes executed beautifully. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for my next @home rendez-vous.

trader joe's mac & cheese balls

you know what this is

Right around the time when Don Draper’s new wife began to awkwardly perform “Bisou Bisou Bisouuuuuu,” the crispy Shake N Bake drumettes and fool proof boxed Annie’s Mac & Cheese arrived to the table. In my opinion, nothing can replace Kraft’s good ol’ blue box, but Annie’s is the next best (and healthier) thing. I was blown away by the Shake & Bake. Who knew a little flavored bread crumb fairy dust could make a chicken leg so crispy and flavorful? I can’t say that I’ll make these boxed flavor pouches a house staple moving forward, but I won’t deny that I’d be tempted…

Lindsay with the magic dust

Dessert brought us into the future with beautified, glorified lemon, chocolate, and red velvet twinkies from Empire (formerly Lulu) bakery on 8th and 16th street. These little cakes are filled with delicious cream and dipped in either white and dark chocolate, forming a sweet, crunchy crust that seals in all of the moisture.

twinkies!!

Fortunately, Mad Men episodes air weekly, so I have no fear that this meal won’t make a frequent appearance for dinner. Mark my words!

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Kitchen Adventures: First Class Feast a la Chef Nicole Gonzalez

I love restaurants, but nothing can replace a feast with friends in a beautiful home. This weekend, my family’s long time friend Nicole was in town from Miami and invited a few people over to share the plethora of incredible food items she had been collecting since Friday. Nicole isn’t just any food lover – she’s a trained and experienced chef who, like me, can make a weekend out of researching quality food spots and navigating the city to find them. She definitely showed me up last night.

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When my sister and I arrived to Nicole’s New York home-away-from-home last night, I was stunned by the overwhelming sight of plate after plate of my favorite foods. I was there to meet her children, but my priority soon shifted to eating the bright white globe of fresh buratta surrounded by basil, and a salad of golden yellow and deep red heirloom cherry tomatoes marinated in fragrant extra virgin olive oil. A stack of Amy’s nut bread and the softest, freshest Frech baguette from Fairway Market lay next to a plate of Murray’s cheeses – one of which was a deliciously creamy, mild blue called “Caveman” and was instantly added to my brain’s subconscious list of “favorite cheeses”. An inch to the left, there lie a platter of beautifully transparent slices of fresh Scottish Salmon placed on crispy bialys. Delicately sliced italian meats, a bowl of sheep’s milk ricotta with truffle honey, a refreshing cucumber orange avocado salad, and a thinly sliced apple salad with blue cheese and crushed candied almonds covered the rest of the little available space on the table. I arrived full from brunch, but all bets were off the second I saw this array.

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My jaw dropped in disbelief when Nicole alerted me to the three pastas she planned to prepare after I had stuffed my face with buratta – a raviolini with Hen of the Woods mushrooms, a butternut squash ravioli simply prepared with butter and freshly grated parmesan, and a long pasta with rock shrimp, crab, and a simple sauce made of onion, garlic, tomato paste, cream, and thyme. I knew that I couldn’t let my stomach stop me from tasting her creations made with the freshest noodles (stuffed pasta from Eataly, noodles from Murray’s) and ingredients (rock shrimp and crab from The Lobster Place). They were all astoundingly good – professional quality in a layman’s kitchen – and demonstrated her preferred method of cooking, which is my preferred type of eating: a few high quality ingredients that result in a masterpiece of simple and heartwarming food.

The thought of dessert was frightening, but when I saw the stacks of pastry boxes adorning the labels of the city’s best bakeries, my will-power dissolved in thin air. As Nicole unveiled each box, I grew more and more impressed by the fact that not only did she have the heart to share this all with her friends, but that she also managed to gather these things from all corners of Manhattan in two days while lugging around grocery bags and her two kids! The amount of dessert was endless, but I was in pure bliss: my favorite Jacques Torres chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip, and chocolate chocolate cookies; a coconut cream pie, an award-winning Brooklyn Blackout cupcake, a peanut butter chocolate cupcake, a key lime angel food cupcake, and a moist square of gingerbread from Two Little Red Hens; a custardy, light mille crepes cake from Lady M; banana cake, pineapple upside down cake, and a pistachio cupcake from Billy’s Bakery; italian rainbow cookies and ricotta cheesecake from Veniero’s Bakery; and my new favorite discovery – banana pudding and coffee pudding from the new East Village spot Puddin’. I surprised myself with what I gravitated toward – instead of my usual chocolate frenzy, I was in bliss over the creamy concoctions: coconut cream pie, mille crepes, and the banana pudding. After a bite of almost everything that lay before me, I had no other choice but to force myself to stop in fear of spontaneously combusting.

the crime scene

No, this is not a series of lies. Nicole truly purchased and prepared all of these things, and we really ate all of these things. The cab ride home and the remainder of the night was a painful one of belly rubbing and swearing off dessert for the rest of the week. Sadly, after my peanut butter bar snack today after lunch I’ve already failed at my own game, but the feeling of gluttony was 100% worth all of the amazing food I was able to try. Nicole, you’re welcome back to New York anytime – but warn me in advance so I can work up the stomach space.

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