Sunday, December 13, 2009


I wanted to find a yummy breakfast place to go to as a treat for hiking the previous day. Cheeky's had good reviews online and I was intrigued by the "flight" of bacon. We got there around 10:30 am on Sunday morning and easily had a prime outside seat. BTW, the weather is perfect in the desert right now. Water was promptly provided in a large sealed glass bottle, opened at our table and poured into iced glasses. Fancy.

Their menu changes weekly. I ordered the maple sage sausage hash, parsnip, carmelized onion, apple and poached eggs ($9.00), he ordered the Blondie's egg benedict with hash browns ($13) and a coffee and orange juice. The juice was freshly squeezed and also served out in a what looked like a lab beaker.

We split the flight of bacon. We should have had the waitress tell us which pieces of bacon were which because we weren't able to tell based on taste. Not that they weren't tasty -- they were definitely crispy (a bacon-MUST) but none had enough overwhelming flavor that we could easily determine the flavor. After looking back at the menu online, I'm surprised because none of them overwhelmingly tasted like jalapeno or espresso, and yet, that's what we had! The complete flight was:
- Nodine's Smokehouse
- Applewood
- Jalapeno
- Maple Crusted
- Espresso bacon

But like I said, I have NO idea which ones the jalapeno and espresso ones were.

I liked the hash. Carmelized onions, apple sausage, crunchy parsnips and different types of potatoes with a perfect poached egg on top. I swirled my potatoes into the egg yolk. Mmmmm.

He said he liked the eggs benedict but that the addition of the cheddar scone might have made the meal too heavy. You mean eggs benedict can be light?

Service was attentive, food was good, and we were pleased.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

San Francisco Food!

Koi Palace in Daly City for dim sum. Steph said it was the best... they had a lot of usual things in addition to the typical dim sum fare. You order both from the menu and the few carts that pass by. Although not as "fun", I kind of like the idea of ordering from a menu because then you're sure to get the items you want and they're fresh.

Some favorites were the red bean paste crepes (accidentally ordered because we thought they were something else) and the Shanghai dumplings (notice how there is only one left!).

Other unusual things were tried were the pumpkin red bean mochi:

and the durian puff pastry:

No one cared for this. I thought it was okay but you probably have to like durian to like this (I do).

The place is PACKED so it's a good thing we got there right when they opened at 10 am.


We went to The House for Jon's birthday. It's tiny so it's a good thing we had a reservation. Everything was presented beautifully and the service was great. They had 2 or 3 specials for the night but we ended up ordering off the menu.

ahi tuna tartare with roasted nori chips:

Jon had the wasabi noodles with angus flatiron steak and Kameran and Stephanie both had the grilled sea bass (no photos - they came out blurry!).

I ordered two "small" dishes, the deep fried salmon roll:

and the crab cake:

That's some crab cake! I'm not sure if it was supposed to be a pear or a volcano?

Everything was DELICIOUS. Seriously.


For dessert, Steph took us to Chaya for chocolate croissant bread pudding:

It was like creme brulee! Caramel ice cream slowly melting on top of a sweet custard dotted with pops of chocolate. Heavenly.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's not fall without apple pie!

Part of the Fall season means taking a trip to Julian for apple pie. Now add to the list of apple pies places I've tried: Apple Alley Bakery. Apple Alley is located in a small alley sandwiched between the Julian Drug Store and the Julian Cafe. It is a small shop serving lunch and pies. They also have a selection of other pastries, turnovers, tarts, and cookies. We got the lunch special which included your choice of 1/2 sandwich, soup or salad, chips, and a slice of pie for $8.95. The sandwich was just meh (I got the vegetarian) but it was just enough food so that I was still hungry for pie. They have several different types but these were the two we chose:

Apple Boysenberry

Caramel Pecan Apple

They were good, but I can't compare them to the others since they weren't traditional apple pies and it's been so long since I've had actual pie from Julian Pie Company or Mom's. This may call for a blind taste test in the future... you know, for "research purposes."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Persimmon Pickin'

I've recently been eating a lot of persimmons. It all started while I was having a conversation with a coworker in the kitchen at work. I was lamenting the loss of delicious summer fruits.

"But persimmons!" she said. "It's persimmons season!"

Another coworker overheard us, and told us you can go picking for persimmons here in San Diego. He sent me a link and we went this afternoon.

The place is called Bar 2 Ranch and it's in Pauma Valley near the base of Palomar Mountain. They hand you a large kitty litter container for use, shears, then off you go!

There are many rows of trees and plenty of fruit when we went. It wasn't too bad for a shorty like me to pick them either.

All the persimmons were Fuyu persimmons but the stand also sold the Hachiya type as well. We picked about half a bucket's worth which was almost 12 pounds. It was 70 cents per pound.

The stand also sold pomegranates ($1/lb!), limes, and these mysterious-looking things:

Can you guess what it is???

If you smelled it you would guess that it's a ...

L E M O N ! ! ! ! !

Yep. Never seen a lemon like THAT before. Crazy, right?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Presentation of Pumpkin

I love Fall. It is absolutely my favorite season. I love looking forward to cold nights, being able to layer my clothes and jackets and snuggle in with hot chocolate and a cat (or two). I also love being able to eat or drink anything with pumpkin. It absolutely makes my day.

And so, I bring you a pumpkin-y post!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Biscotti

I used a recipe from epicurious and modified it a little. Having no white chocolate or food processor, I replaced the chocolate with about 1/2 cup finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate chips. I added some more pecans and substituted 1/2 teaspoons each of ground cloves, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg for the pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice (I think it's about the same, but maybe a little spicier). I thought the recipe was fantastic, producing soft biscotti that didn't break my teeth eating them straight up but didn't crumble when dipped in coffee. The sweet/spicy combo was great.

"Spicy Holiday Muffins"

This recipe was nicked from “Just Muffins” compiled by Gaye Hansen, a small red book my parents bought on their honeymoon in Canada. I think they bought it from street vendor, it looks almost hand written and has apparently made some fantastic muffins over the years. This is no exception.

1c milk
1c pumpkin puree
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c oil
2c flour
1/4c sugar
3tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
1/2tsp ground cardamon
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/4tsp nutmeg

1tbsp butter
1/4c chopped nuts
3tbsp sugar
1/4tsp cinnamon

Mix all the wet, add all the dry. Fill tins 3/4 full and top with melted butter, cinnamon sugar and nuts. Bake for 20-25 min at 400 degrees.

Savory Three-Cheese Pumpkin Soup

As I have mentioned, I love pumpkin. And while it shines in sweet recipes, I have been disappointed with every over-sweetened store-bought box of pumpkin soup. Why can't we deviate a little from the norm and pair this squash with something savory? And delicious? Like cheese?
Pumpkin cheese soup, how could that not be divine? Surely someone has made it before and I should just find the recipe.
However, both AllRecipes AND Cook's Illustrated online let me down. I was bummed. Fine, I'll make it myself! So here's what I did:

4 tbsp butter
1/2 white onion, finely diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1.5 tsp kosher salt
2 15-oz cans Libby's Pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated extra sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup grated parmesean cheese
1 tbsp brown sugar
~1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh is best)

In a large pot, lightly brown the butter and saute the onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Add 6c of water and bring to a boil. Add the salt, pumpkin, and cream and thoroughly mix until homogenous. Whisk in each cheese, one at a time until smooth. At the end stir in the brown sugar and nutmeg (because I was grinding a whole nutmeg, I don't really know how much I actually added, but around 1/2tsp. Flavor to taste). Let barely simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes and serve hot.

This does leave little onion chunks in an otherwise smooth soup. I don't mind them, but maybe you could try pureeing it all before you add the cheese.

Anyway, this produced a rich soup that wasn't too heavy, cheesy or sweet. I've wanted this combination for years so finally I have a recipe!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Best Ever Jalapeno Poppers

I planted 6 jalapeno plants this summer and they have all thrived. I have a ton of jalapenos and didn't know what to do with them all. In my quest to find a recipe for jalapeno jam or pickled jalapenos, I came across jalapeno poppers. Perfect! Maybe a lot of work but I'm going to make them!

This recipe from All Recipes got 263 reviews with 4.5 out of 5 stars for the "Best Ever Jalapeno Poppers". They were right. Delicious!

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon bacon bits
3-1/2 ounces jalapeno peppers (about 14 jalapenos), seeded and halved
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon milk
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs
2-1/2 cups oil for frying

(I didn't measure the milk, flour, bread crumbs or oil. Just use what you need.)

1. In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, Cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Spoon this mixture into the jalapeno pepper halves.
2. Put the milk and flour into two separate small bowls. Dip the stuffed jalapenos first into the milk then into the flour, making sure they are well coated with each. Allow the coated jalapenos to dry for about 10 minutes.
3. Dip the jalapenos in milk again and roll them through the breadcrumbs. Allow them to dry, then repeat to ensure the entire surface of the jalapeno is coated.
4. In a medium skillet, heat the oil to 365 degrees F (180 degrees C). Deep fry the coated jalapenos 2 to 3 minutes each, until golden brown. Remove and let drain on a paper towel.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Apple Honey Challah

A new Martha Stewart magazine came out this week and she had a recipe for Apple Honey Challah. Let me say, it was a LOT of waiting. There are 3 times to wait for the dough to rise... I'm not sure if the rising was worth it all because I think some of the bread fermented during all the "waiting". Still tastes great but it took awhile.

1 stick butter
3.5 c bread flour, un-bleached
3/4 c warm water
2/3 c honey
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
2 tsp Coarse Salt
2 green apples, peeled and cut into ¼" thick slices

1) Butter a large bowl and melt 4 tbsp butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat; let cool.

2) Combine 2 tbsp melted butter, the flour, water, 1/3 cup honey, the eggs and yolks, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Mix until dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes.

3) Transfer dough to a buttered bowl and brush with 1 tbsp melted butter. Cover. Let rise in a warm place until dough almost doubles in size. About 1½ hours.

4) Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Pat into an 8½x14" rectangle. Top with apples; knead to incorporate. Return to bowl and brush with the remaining melted butter. Cover. Let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.

5) Pre-heat oven to 375°F

6) Butter a 9" round cake pan. Roll dough into about a 24" rope and coil in concentric circles and transfer to the pan. Cover and let rise again, about 45 minutes. (My bread, at this step, overflowed out of the pan. Next time I might use this recipe in 2 pans or 1 large pan.)

7) Heat remaining 4 tbsp butter and 1/3 cup honey a saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts. (This produced quite a bit of “sauce” so I would trim down on the butter and honey.) Brush the dough with the honey-butter mixture. Bake until golden brown and firm, about 30-35 minutes. (190°F internal temperature)

8) Brush the baked and warm challah with the remaining butter-honey mixture. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Turn out loaf from the pan and let cool.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Apple Bread

This recipe has been a big hit with everyone! I think I've made somewhere around 5-6 loaves in the past month. I can't get enough of how good it is. The picture doesn't do justice!

Apple Bread
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Granny Smith apples - peeled and chopped into big chunks

1. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat eggs, lemon juice and vanilla.
3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and stir until moistened.
4. Stir in apples.

2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar

6. Combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter until crumbly.

7. Spoon half of the batter into a buttered 9x5 loaf pans. Sprinkle with half of the topping. Spoon remaining batter into the pan and sprinkle with the remaining topping.
8. Bake for 55 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hazelnut Mushroom Rice Pilaf

I made this Hazelnut Mushroom Rice Pilaf for Kameran's birthday last year and I figured I'd make it again to go along with the Steak and Ale Pie. I really like this recipe. It gives a good balance of texture and taste. Me liking mushrooms so much though, I add more mushrooms and about a cup more rice to the recipe.

Steak and Ale Pie

Ever since I had Steak and Ale Pie in England over a year ago I've been wanting to try and making it. I looked at some recipes, and they all more or less looked the same. So I based mine off one at I used a Samuel Smith Imperial Stout for my beer after getting advice from other beef chefs. My recipe went like this:

2 short sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tbsp marjoram
A little less than 1/2 Imperial Stout
fresh ground black pepper

1 1/2 regular size steak, cut into cubes

flour (approx 4 tbsp)
1 medium sized onion - diced
2 cup beef broth
1-2 cup sliced mushrooms

garlic powder
onion powder

Phyllo dough

1) Mix ingredients together for marinade and let the beef sit for 3-4 hours. I think next time I'll try to marinate it overnight.

2) Take out steak and roll into flour, keeping marinade for later.

3) Cook onions and mushrooms for 3-5 min.

4) Add beef and marinade.

5) Add garlic and onion powder to taste.

6) Once the meat is ready to your liking, make yourself a meat pie with the phyllo dough!

Orange Julius!

I've been wanting to make this recipe from Top Secret Recipes for ages and I finally did this past weekend. Unfortunately the site doesn't let me copy and paste, but it's one of their free recipes if you search for Orange Julius. Anyway, it is fabulous! It looks kinda cool, and makes me think of butter beers from Harry Potter. Why pay $4 for an Orange Julius when you can make one at home?!

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's a jungle out there

They're like trees really...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cereal in a cookie?

I read about these cookies in a reader's request column in an online newspaper. They were intriguing because they contained cereal... and not just any cereal, but Frosted Flakes! I had to try them.

Also interesting was the lack of eggs or any kind of leavener. Maybe this keeps them crunchy? The cookies looked slightly puffy when they came out of the oven but set up better after cooling. They have a crunchy and slightly crumbly texture, but are not hard enough to scrape your mouth. The slight addition of chocolate chips (only 1/2 cup for the entire recipe) gives just a hint of chocolate without making the cookie overly sweet. Thumbs up!

Frosted Flake Chocolate Chip Cookies

4 cups Frosted Flakes
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

Crush frosted flakes lightly (until they compress to about 3 cups; don't make them too fine).

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla.

Combine flour and baking soda; gradually add to butter mixture and stir to combine. Fold in crushed frosted flakes and chocolate chips. Mixture will be crumbly. It's best to use your hands to make sure ingredients combine evenly. Roll 2-tablespoon portions of dough into balls and place on cookie sheet. Flatten slightly.

Bake about 20 minutes, until lightly brown. Cookies will be soft but will firm up as they cool. Don't overbake or cookies will become very hard. Makes about 2 dozen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

For the love of basil...

A friendly coworker lamented that his basil plants were producing way more basil than he knew what to do with. "Make pesto!" I told him. But what then? He was getting sick of pesto with pasta. "I'd be happy to take some off your hands," I told him. The next day he presented me with a gallon size zip-loc bag packed with basil.

Me: Wow, that's a lot of basil!
Him: Make pesto!

Hah. Okay fine. Pesto it is! As far as pesto recipes are concerned, I love Ina Garten's. But since everyone seems to be complaining about being fatties, I opted for a light version from Cook's Illustrated. I've made it before and though it is lighter in taste, it is still just as delicious.

Lighter Pesto
The New Best Recipe, Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine

1/4 cup pine nuts
3 medium garlic cloves
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1/4 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the pine nuts and garlic cloves on a baking sheet and place in oven for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the garlic is lightly browned and the pine nuts are lightly toasted. Put the toasted pine nuts and garlic in a food processor with the basil, parsley, chicken broth, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and salt and process until smooth. One tablespoon is counted as a serving.

Makes 2 cups

Of course I wasn't going to do pasta + pesto. That is so, like, 1995. I had scoured a few blogs and come up with... pesto bread! I was especially intrigued by the jellyroll-fashion of making the bread and the pretty swirly pattern it would become. Pretty pattern = pretty impressive.

This bread is delicious with a capital D. It is worth the effort of turning on the oven in the summertime!

Pain Pesto
Marcy Goldman

1 1/4 cups warm water (100 to 110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon rapid rise yeast
4 cups (approximately) bread flour
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 teaspoons sugar
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 (10 oz) jar of prepared pesto (I used the entire contents of the above recipe)
olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley and Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

Stack two large baking sheets together and line top sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixer bowl, hand whisk water and yeast together and let stand 2-3 minutes to dissolve yeast. Add 1 cup flour and stir briefly. Then stir in oil, sugar, salt and most of the remaining flour. Mix ingredients and then attach dough hook and knead on lowest speed 6-8 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if needed.

Remove dough hook from machine and spray dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover entire mixer with clear plastic bag. Let rise for 45-90 minutes or until almost doubled.

Gently deflate dough on a lightly floured surface. Let rest 10 minutes and then roll out to a 20 x 20 inch shape. If dough resists, let it rest a few more minutes then roll out gently. Drizzle some additional olive oil on the dough and then smear on pesto all over dough's surface. Roll up jellyroll style. Shape into an "S" shape and put on prepared baking sheets.

Drizzle oil on top and dust with salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese and parsley. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Gently press bread down slightly before it goes into the oven. Bake until it is well browned, about 35-45 minutes. Cool to warm on baking sheet before cutting.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Fruits Of My (non) Labor...

Now that I am unemployed I have lots of time to try new recipes. This week's theme? Fruit.

Cherry Apricot Galette
I bought a lot of cherries on sale this week. After washing, de-stemming and pitting enough fruit to make this galette + chef's snacks, I found I had enough leftover to dehydrate an entire tray of cherries as well.

My mom used to make this super easy and very tasty dessert during the summer because it's so light and infinitely adaptable to whatever fruits you have on hand, but cherry apricot is particularly tasty.
I made pie crust from scratch for the first time using Alton Brown's recipe but I used all butter. I think my kitchen was too hot and that I should have used an additional alternate fat because the pastry tasted more like a butter cookie than flaky pastry.
(as an alternative, nothing wrong with frozen pastry dough!)


nota bene: the amount of fruit, nuts, preserves etc all depends on how big your want your galette and how think a layer of fruit you'd like. I don't recommend too thick or much wider than 10" final diameter, or else your crust gets soggy.

Pie crust/pastry dough (fresh or frozen)
Fruit preserves (I used apricot)
Dried fruit is best, but fresh fruit that isn't too watery is alright too (I used cherries)
Chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans, something with a sweet, soft meat)
White sugar

1. Roll out your dough to make a rough circle, approximately 1/8"-1/4" thick.
2. Spread your preserves of choice on the dough, leaving approximately 1" of crust around the edge.
3. Sprinkle a moderate layer of dried fruits and an accent of chopped nuts into the center. Leave about 2" of crust around the outside.
4. Fold the edge of the crust into the center. You want to show off the fruits in the middle and the edges do not have to be pretty; think "rustic" style...
5. Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle with a few teaspoons of white sugar (brown sugar has too much moisture but will work in a pinch)
6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until your crust is pretty.

Cherry Pie with Coconut Crumb Topping

Did I mention I had a LOT of cherries? I had to get rid of a bunch- fast. Cherry pie was the obvious pick here. I snagged the recipe from epicurious and had so much leftover filling that I made four mini crumbles, one of which is seen here.

After reading reviews I added extra vanilla and a splash of almond extract to the cherry filling. I probably would have done way more oats to the topping because I love oatmeal and maybe would have added sliced or slivered almonds for extra substance. I didn't have quick cooking tapioca, just small tapioca pearls, which I threw in nonetheless.

Now, I haven't tried the actual pie with the crust bottom and crumble top, only a little ramekin which has just filling and some crumble. But based on that: The filling was really well flavored. The lemon juice adds just enough tart to keep it interesting and accent the sweet of the cherries The coconut in the topping was an excellent addition in both texture and flavor. My only complaint? My mouth was very, very sticky afterwards. This definitely required milk or ice cream or whipped topping to go with it. Or maybe if you added cranberries or raspberries to the mix to lighten it up a little... that would probably be delicious.

For asthetic (spelling?) reasons, I would use cornstarch in future. The little dots of uncooked tapioca pearls looked like pomegranate seeds, with much the same texture.

Orange Pecan Ice Box Cookies
(adapted from Sunset's Orange Refrigerator cookie recipe)

I was up late one night with a lack of ingredients, an urge to bake, and an old orange. Alas! What to do? Zest the orange, and find a recipe.
I found a Sunset magazine's "Best-Ever Cookies" issue hiding on my bookshelves from christmas and got the basic idea from the following recipe, then changed a few minor things to my liking.

1 cup butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
3 cups flour
1/2 cup minced walnuts (in this case, pecans)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
(and a splash of vanilla)

  1. In a bowl, beat butter, sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in egg, orange peel and vanilla until well blended.
  2. Add all dry ingredients and nuts, mix well.
  3. Spoon the dough onto a sheet of wax paper or saran wrap and form a 2.5" thick log. Wrap the logs in the paper or plastic wrap and freeze until solid, about 2 hours.
  4. Slice the logs into 1/8" inch slices and place on greased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 375 for 12 minutes until edges are barely browned.
I actually halved this recipe and made thicker slices. If you like cripy cookies, go for thin. Otherwise they stay a little softer the thicker they are.

I'm usually kind of hesitant on the orange + baking combo, but wow these were delightful. And they made my kitchen smell fantastic while baking. They remind me of tea cookies, thin and crispy, light flavor and not heavy at all. A nice buttery cookie with a more elegant twist.

Dehydrator-dried Cherry Tomatoes

Definitely doesn't sound as romantic as "sun dried", but remember these guys? Well, about 36 hours on the dehydrator turned them into red raisins. I tried one straight up and I think I actually overdid it or cherry tomators are just not good candidates for drying, it wasn't fantastic. It might be an ingredient that can only be used in combination with other flavors, but we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Mapo Tofu

Yum, yum, yum! I love Mapo Tofu.

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