Tag Archives: cooking

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: 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 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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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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Kitchen Adventures: Kale Chips

I always feel accomplished when I turn my procrastination into being productive some other way, and cooking always seems to serve this purpose. Over the weekend I desperately needed a break from my computer, so I decided to play around with some of the fun ingredients stocked in my fridge for the hurricane.

There was an overwhelming amount of greenery in my vegetable drawer (thanks to my neighbor who offered me his organic delivery box) so I decided to start the brainstorm there. After discovering kale, I perused a few of my favorite blogs and decided to work on my easy adaptation of a popular tag: Kale Chips.

It took me only a few minutes to get the gist of the recipe because it involves a simple, well known process used for roasting vegetables. After thoroughly washing and drying the kale, I removed the stems, tore them apart, scattered them on a baking sheet, drizzled a few teaspoons of good extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled a generous heaping of sea salt, shook the tray, and threw it in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. I can’t say that the apartment filled with the most appetizing smell, but when I opened the oven and placed a delicate kale chip in my mouth, I immediately became a fan. These chips are flakey, crispy, light, and most importantly, they’re totally healthy – a great way to get your vitamin A&C!

1. Wash the kale

2. Cut or tear the kale

3. Bake it and eat it!

I would recommend serving these immediately, but if you want to save a little time, wash and toss in oil no more than a few hours in advance, preserve in a plastic bag in the fridge and bake when ready. Here’s to making vegetables taste sinful!

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Kitchen Adventures: Deviled Eggs

Last week two of my co-workers and I went out for drinks and got into a heated competitive discussion about our deviled egg recipes. As a result, we planned a deviled egg “cook” off to put the smack-talking to rest. The event was supposed to be light-hearted, but as the big day approached, I started getting pretty nervous that after a 5 year deviled-egg making hiatus, I may have lost my touch. I wanted to be creative. I emailed my aunt for her recipe for a solid egg stuffing-base, and went to the store for creative inspiration.

I arrived at our friend’s apartment, home base for the competition, with secret ingredients in hand. Fortunately, Google stocks hard boiled eggs in the fridge, so that removed an annoying part of the recipe. As my two opponents and I vigorously chopped, whisked together ingredients, and smack-talked, the crew of 6 judges anxiously awaited with drinks.

Finally, judgement day arrived. We outlined our eggs neatly on a tray, each marked by a letter (I was A) to ensure a totally unbiased taste test. The tasting began and inched along in progression. Being the competitive person that I am, my anxiety led me to leave the room so the judging could go on without me.

After minutes of consulting, the judges were ready to cast their vote. My attempts to block out the noise didn’t help, and I could hear from the kitchen: “first round…tie between….A and B!”

YES! I made it thus far and literally jumped up for joy. The judging panel yelled in excitement and angst along with me. One more round of voting…

Before I could think, the votes were cast, and the winner was professed…A! I won the competition! I screamed in excitement and called my mom after making my acceptance speech. It really was the best I’ve felt in a long, long time, especially because of the high caliber of my competitors’ eggs (one included bacon, butter, and feta cheese)!

tray of eggs (mine on the right)

So guys, here’s the recipe. Use it and abuse it – it takes about 10 minutes to make.

Ingredients:

6 eggs

1/4 cup of mayo (I know, gross)

1 tablespoon of mustard

About 2 teaspoons of finely chopped jalepeno pepper

1 tablespoon of finely chopped pickle

Smoked paprika for garnish

Chives for garnish

Directions: Peel eggs and remove yolks. Place into a bowl and mix with all remaining ingredients with a fork. Use spoon to stuff the eggs, covering all of the egg white with filling. Top with a light dusting of paprika and thinly chopped chive for garnish.

artistic deviled egg shot courtesy of Camille

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Kitchen Adventures: White Wine Sangria

My all time favorite year-round drink is white wine sangria, but I’m more often than not disappointed by the overly sweet, alcohol-bare restaurant renditions. Fortunately, once my college friend Amy whipped up a few batches of red wine sangria for our party, I finally saw how easy it would be to make a white-wine version of my own (considering my recent allergy to red). After a few iterations, I came up with a fool-proof, sugar-free white wine sangria that I take with me to almost every party, no matter what time of year. People rave about it. I brought it to last year’s Thanksgiving pot luck, my sister’s birthday party, my parent’s New Year’s party, and with the gorgeous weather last night, I couldn’t help but make it for my friend Princess’s birthday. The best part about it? Something that looks and tastes so complex actually only takes about 10 minutes to assemble.

white sangria

The recipe below is very flexible – use whatever fruit you like. I always include apples because they keep their texture, and the citrus really flavors the wine. Be careful of eating too much of the sangria soaked fruit – though it tastes deliciously non-alcoholic, I’ve had nights where I accidentally got drunk from eating the fruit alone.

Recipe (about 6-7 glasses):

Note: this can easily be doubled with 1 jug of wine if you’re with heavy drinkers – it goes quickly!

1/2 apple

1/2 orange

1/2 grapefruit

1/2 pear or nectarine

3/4 cup of vodka

1 bottle of white wine (I prefer pinot grigio but sauvignon blanc is second best)

3/4 can of Fresca or sugar free lemon-lime soda

Slice skin off of citrus fruit. Slice all fruit in half, then in quarters, and then in thin slices about the width of a coin across. Place in a pitcher (preferably clear glass), and top with the vodka.

skinned citrus fruit

sliced fruit

prep station

Follow with the bottle of white wine and mix with a wooden spoon. Place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, mix in 1/2 – 3/4 can of soda, depending on your preferences of sweetness. Serve in clear glasses, and you’ve got a masterpiece!

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