Wednesday, December 15, 2010


"The taste of dutch chocolate and fine red wine." It is what it says it is.

I have mixed feelings about this. What do you think? Pairing chocolate and wine has gained popularity as of late, but actually combining the two into one bottle is unusual...isn't it?

We saw this at Cost Plus World Market for under $10 a bottle, so we decided to try it.

I'm not a huge red wine fan to start, so I was hesitant to try this at first. But try it I did! And really, it just tastes like boozy chocolate milk. Red wine connoisseurs, take note: this tastes nothing like any kind of red wine I've ever sipped. This is indeed surprisingly chocolatey, and surprisingly boozy, with 14% alcohol by volume. It's reminiscent of malt beverages where the type of alcohol used is indistinguishable.

Overall, it's a fun dessert drink that's worth a try. It would make a great hostess gift, and would be a great conversation piece, too. If you try it, let me know what you think!     

Monday, December 13, 2010

Where Did Summer Go?

Time has escaped me, and all of the sudden it's the middle of winter. I think we even skipped fall. What happened? Where did grilling season go?

Or did we even have a grilling season this year?

Those who live in Seattle know that warm, sunny days are few and sometimes far between. This year, they were definitely far between. But we did take advantage of those rare, gorgeous Seattle days.

On this cloudy, rainy day, let's reminisce about one of those aforementioned days of sunshine. On a beautiful August evening, we fired up the grill and threw this meal together:

That's lemongrass-marinated grilled chicken thigh, simple garlic-grilled zucchini from the garden, and a savory coconut rice alongside.

Oh, and a mojito (with mint from the garden, of course!) for summer-sipping pleasure.

Now that summer days are long gone, and Thanksgiving whizzed past (future post about that feast!),  it's time to look forward to holiday baking, warm kitchens, and stuffed bellies.

Until next time, summer. May the rains of the current season nurture the sleeping foliage and landscapes that we enjoy so much during your warm days.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sundae of All Sundaes

The BF and I took a walk around the 'hood one weekend, and stopped at Old School Frozen Custard on Capitol Hill. They have the creamiest, smoothest ice cream (I mean custard!) I've ever experienced. It's different from other premium ice creams. It's dense, but also soft, velvety, oh-so-smooth.

They always have the two basic flavors: vanilla and chocolate. They have a third flavor that changes daily. It may not sound like a lot of choices, but it's enough. Various candies and cookies can be purchased as a topping or for "mix-ins" if the plain vanilla and chocolate doesn't do it for you.

They also have several sundae and shake concoctions. This is where it's really at! The BF and I shared the Muddy Buddy sundae, which had two scoops of vanilla frozen custard, hot fudge, and a warm fudgy brownie shmeared with peanut butter. And whipped cream. It's over the top.


Why have I not thought of this before? Peanut butter in an ice cream sundae is delicious! And obviously, the brownie. But it was the peanut butter that was key for me. I mean, I've had peanut butter ice cream before, which can be good, but what really did it was having a huge SLATHER of peanut butter cradling the frozen custard.

So I set out to make it at home. And I did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself.

I made the fudgy brownies, studded with dark chocolate chips. Once cool enough to handle, I shmeared a good load of peanut butter onto it. I opted to leave the whipped cream off (this time) and added some chopped roasted peanuts instead.

I used store-bought hot fudge which worked just fine for the moment. I'll try making my own next time.

For the days when I can't make it out to Old School Frozen Custard, this homemade version will suffice. But then I'll have to go out to walk off all those calories.


Maybe I'll take a walk to Old School Frozen Custard.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Baker's Edge Brownie Pan

I've been thinking about getting one of these pans for a while. I resisted, thinking I don't NEED another baking accessory. I have plenty of adequate pans to bake brownies in. But I'm one of those people who absolutely love the crusty, chewy brownie corners fresh from the oven.

So when I saw that this pan was available on Think Geek for Geek Points (and I had enough points saved up!) I had to get it.

I waited patiently for its arrival. I occupied my time thinking about what goodies (besides brownies) to bake in this pan.

And then the pan arrived! The pan is much sturdier than I expected, and came with a small spatula.

Here's my first brownie attempt:

I actually overbaked them a bit. The directions that came with the pan say that baking time doesn't need to be adjusted for this pan. But doesn't that depend on the recipe yield? Not all brownie recipes yield the same amount of brownie.

But I wasn't disappointed. The brownies came out delicious. And every brownie had a chewy, crusty edge on it.


Brownie-making tip: Add a packet of instant Starbucks Via to the brownie batter. Coffee always enhances the flavor of chocolate, and the Via packets make it super easy to do just that.

Now what to make in the edge pan next...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

White Nectarine Deliciousness

Yet another taste of summer.

White nectarines have a milder and sweeter flavor than yellow nectarines; and I love sugary, juicy, really ripe fruit. These white nectarines taste like peachy honey.

Look for them at the local market mid-July through August. They tend to be a bit pricier than their yellow counterparts, but they're totally worth it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Guacamole Goodness

When avocados go on sale, I can't resist buying a few. When perfectly ripe, I love their soft, buttery flavor and velvety texture. They're also a superfood, high in various nutrients that are good for the body, and high in monounsaturated fats, which helps to lower bad cholesterol.

Of course, the nutrition changes when the avocados are mashed into guacamole and then eaten with countless fried corn tortilla chips...but that's beside the point.

The point is, avocados are yummy, and my favorite way to gobble it up is in guacamole. I don't follow a recipe for it. It's one of those dips that can be totally adjusted to suit your taste.

For me, the essential ingredients always include a large avocado (obviously), a bit of minced onion, a couple cloves of minced garlic, one or two seeded jalapenos, and lots of lime juice. If I have cilantro on hand, I'll toss in some of that. Some people add diced tomatoes, but I feel like they muck up the pretty green color of the avocados.

Mash all the ingredients in a bowl with a fork, and devour with the aforementioned tortilla chips!

If I'm not making guac, I also love avocados diced up and tossed in salads, or as a garnish on tortilla soup. Or just eaten plain, maybe with a sprinkle of Bacon Salt. Mmmm.

How do you eat your avocados?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thanks for Growing, Mint!

I've been waiting for the mint in the garden to grow for some time now.

Then, one sunny weekend, I noticed this:

Yay! There's plenty to make mojitos (and then some), my favorite summertime beverage for lounging around on the rooftop deck.

On a hot, sunny day, there's nothing like a little lime, sugar and mint all muddled together in a glass full of ice and club soda (granted, hot sunny days are pretty few and far between here in Seattle, but I'll take what we get) .

So refreshing!

Now what do I do with the rest of that mint?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Diaper Cake

Okay, so this isn't really food, but it sort of resembles it. Sort of.

I broke out my crafty-hat a few months ago and made a diaper cake for a friend's baby shower.

I'd never made one before, but I've seen lots of pictures and figured it couldn't be that hard. It wasn't! It was just a little time-consuming, but totally worth it because it was totally fun to make.

And the mommy-to-be loved it! Here's what it looked like finished:

front of "cake"

It was a hawaiian-themed baby shower, so I decorated the "cake" to look tropical. I found silk hibiscus flowers and palm leaf-shaped coasters to decorate. And since I knew in advance that the baby is going to be a boy, I found cute blue polka-dotted ribbon to surround each tier of the "cake."

back of "cake"

Here's how it began: I used all-natural unbleached Seventh Generation size 1 diapers. I rolled each one and secured them with rubberbands. I lost count of how many I used total, but I think it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 120.

numerous, numerous rolled-up diapers

For the core, I found a fun, colorful rainstick that I'm sure will become a useful toy (a distraction, perhaps) for the baby.

first tier of the "cake"

I used cable ties to secure all the diapers together. The use of sticky tape isn't an option for a diaper cake since the goal is for the parents to take this apart and be able to use the diapers (which will be much needed, I'm sure).

I also randomly place Burt's Bees baby products, small toys, bibs and socks throughout the "cake" to add visual interest (and of course for the parents to use for their baby).

all the tiers complete, before ribbon and flower application

The toy rainstick core was crucial in holding all the "cake" tiers together. I managed to travel with this "cake" and get it to its destination intact.

It was so fun to make and show off, and the expression of delight on the mother-to-be's face when she saw it made the work all the more rewarding for me.

I hope to get the chance to make more diaper "cakes" in the near future! Hear that, friends? Breed on!

P.S. Congrats to the new mother, who, by the way, delivered a healthy baby boy on August 5, 2010. Welcome to the world, baby Jackson!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Great Grill Marinade

I was on a quest for a good poultry marinade. Something with bold flavor that would stand up to the grill.

And I found it! This is Emeril's Essence. You can buy the stuff premade in the spice section of the grocery store, but it's just as easy to make at home. The ingredients consist of spices and dried herbs that I typically keep stocked in my spice drawer anyway.

before the shake

You can find the recipe here.

For the marinade, I use some of this mixture combined with equal parts fresh lemon juice and olive oil, and some chopped fresh rosemary. This is the perfect marinade for boneless skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts.

after the shake

After a couple hours in the marinade, the chicken's ready to toss onto the grill. It's perfect served with a side salad of greens or pasta, or couscous. Or grilled potatoes. Maybe a rice pilaf. Grilled veggie skewers...oh, the possibilities!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Orondo Ruby Cherries

It's another taste of summer.

It's also the first time I've tasted this variety of cherry: the Orondo Ruby.

In my taste opinion, these Orondos taste something like a Bing and a Ranier variety mixed together.

Most importantly, they're juicy and yummy. If you can find them, try them.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer in a Pie Dish

I recently found limes on sale at the local market. They were abundantly-sized, too. And speaking of abundance, they were 5-for-a-dollar. That's a steal in my neck of the woods, so naturally I bought 15 of them.

And as much as I'd like to think I can drink that many mojitos, I opted to put these limes to another use.


Technically, the recipe is called Icebox Key Lime Pie, but I didn't actually use key limes. America's Test Kitchen states the taste tester's reviews between real key limes and the more common Persian variety were mixed, and therefore interchangeable. Thanks for the knowledge, ATK!

Off to make a fresh, buttery graham cracker crust.

The filling recipe comes from Cook's Country, which is part of the ATK family of websites. ATK offers a wealth of kitchen knowledge, including equipment reviews and taste tests. Can you tell I'm a fan? A subscription is worth it.

I digress. The filling is a blend of a lot fresh lime juice and zest, sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese, a bit of unflavored gelatin to set the whole pie. After blitzing all the ingredients together in my trusty Cuisinart and spreading the filling into the graham cracker crust, it looks like this:

Then it goes in the fridge and my patience gets tried.

After that trying period, my patience is rewarded! A little garnish of some freshly whipped cream, mint, and lime, and it's a perfect day on the deck with a summery desert.

And just so you know, the recipe didn't actually call for all 15 limes, so I still had a few leftover for plenty of mojitos.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gardening & Grilling

Summer is upon us, and that means it's grillin' time. And gardenin' time, too!

The BF and I have a great relationship for many reasons, one of which is that he loves to garden. He has a natural green thumb and has been more than successful at urban rooftop container gardening. This is one of his fruits (or should I say veggies?) of labor this season:

That's baby romaine ready to harvest. Once harvested, it's my turn to take over. I make sure to wash the leaves thoroughly and then take them for a spin in the OXO salad spinner (love that thing!).

And this is the start to a delicious summer meal.

I marinated boneless skinless chicken breasts in a fresh lemon and rosemary (also from the garden) marinade for a couple of hours and threw them on the grill, along with some buttery garlic bread. To dress the salad, I made a creamy Caesar dressing, tossed it with the newly-grown leaves, and adorned it with some real parmigiano reggiano (there's no substitute).

Ta-da! A yummy, classic but elegant, dinner in a flash.

I'm looking forward to cooking up (or devouring raw) the other produce growing in the garden: various tomato varieties, including yellow and heirloom; other lettuce varieties, including endive; carrots; celery; leeks; broccoli; edamame; zucchini, any culinary herb you could possibly think of, and the list goes on.

Thanks for having the green thumb, BF, and here's to a bountiful summer!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Version of Strawberry Shortcake

This was an impromptu dessert I made. I had leftover cake scraps from my cake in a jar recipe and thought this would be a great use.

It was!

When I thought about making this, I considered myself lucky to have fresh strawberries and heavy cream in my fridge already waiting for me.

I sliced the strawberries and macerated them in a bit of sugar to create a sauce that could soak into the cake. I whipped the fresh cream with some sugar, vanilla extract and a splash of Grand Marnier to make a luxuriously sinful accompaniment to the strawberries and cake.

I don't think anyone would guess that the base of this dessert was born from leftovers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (in Jars!)

Who doesn't love cake, especially when it comes in jars? I wish I could take credit, but the concept isn't original. Nonetheless, people are wowed when they see them.

Some know that traveling with a whole cake isn't the easiest thing to do. The cake might slide around in whatever vessel it's being stored in, and the frosting might get mangled. If it gets to the destination intact, then there's the messy cutting, portioning, plates and utensils to deal with.

Hence, the jar! With a little easy work at home, these cakes are easy to transport, the portioning is already done, and people can easily take them home. And no cake vessel to take back home and clean, either!

This is the recipe I used: Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake (sans glaze; substitute 6 cans of Mountain Dew).

Here's how mine started: Lots and lots of lemon zest. And a Mountain Dew. I made this cake late the night before the party where I served this, so I had plenty of Mountain Dew to help keep me awake.

After my first sip of the unnaturally neon green bubbly beverage, I added the zest and sugar into the mixing bowl.

This gets mixed with plenty of butter (and another sip of Mountain Dew).

Once that's creamed together, I alternate mixtures of buttermilk and cake flour (and a gulp of Mountain Dew).

Then the batter is done! I made a double recipe and spread into two different 13x9 prepared pans. I gulped more Mountain Dew.

After baking for 35 minutes, the cakes look golden brown and delicious. I rewarded myself with more Mountain Dew.

After cooling, I cut out the cake circles (using a round cookie cutter) to fit in the jars (I used wide-mouth pint jars). Chugged another Mountain Dew.

Then I made the frosting (I opted for frosting instead of the glaze that's suggested for this recipe). I suppose you could make the frosting while the cake is cooling, but I got preoccupied with a nap first (not enough Mountain Dew). When I woke, the frosting went like this:

I mixed the zest of three more lemons, a whole stick of butter (then drank another Mountain Dew), a pound of cream cheese, two pounds of confectioner's sugar, two teaspoons of pure vanilla extract, and a couple toothpick shmears of summery lemon yellow gel food coloring. This makes a LOT of frosting. Keep in mind that I made two recipes of cake.

I put all the frosting in a zip-top disposable bag, snipped a corner and piped the frosting into the jars after placing a cake round in each one.

Another cake round goes on top of the thick layer of frosting. Then on top of that (and another Mountain Dew later), a thin layer of frosting goes on top before placing the lids. Voila! Cake in a jar. The only additional accessory I needed to provide was a plastic spoon with each jar.

Here they are at the party:

They were a hit. I hope I didn't accidentally pour any Mountain Dew in the cake batter or frosting. No one mentioned any "off" flavors. Or maybe it just added to the flavor. Hmmm.

Regardless, this is a fun concept for any party. And they're fun to make! I'll definitely do this again.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dining Out #7: Umi Sakehouse

Yet another Japanese dining experience (done locally in Seattle -- the belltown neighborhood, to be exact). This one is brought to you by Umi Sakehouse. I'm not a fan of the late-night club-vibe neighborhood, but I am a fan of this modern Japanese restaurant. They have a great happy hour menu.

The BF tried the sake flight, which included a rose-scented sake (I tried it, and it was delish!):

We also sampled the sashimi plate, which had two different kinds of grade-A tuna, salmon, and shrimp (the shrimp was cooked).

My favorites are the rolls. The Spider (tempura soft-shell crab, avocado and mayo wrapped in sushi rice and nori):

And the First Ave. roll (shrimp tempura, avocado, tobiko topped with spicy tuna and spicy mayo wrapped in sushi rice and nori):

We had a great time in the dining area of the "back porch" of the restaurant, where the ambiance is traditional Japanese with large skylights and bonsai. The entire restaurant is designed in a way that mirrors a Japanese country house, with both a front and back porch.

Give Umi a try if you're in town. Two thumbs up from me!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mmm, More Coffee

Espresso Vivace is one of my favorite coffee establishments in Seattle. We take our coffee-drinking seriously here in the Northwest, and Vivace doesn't dissapoint.

They roast their own beans and have creative drink concoctions on their menu, including the Cae Nico (in the small cup pictured above). It's a 4-ounce blend of espresso, steamed half-and-half, vanilla and orange essences, sprinkled with cinnamon.

Close your eyes and inhale the aromas. Now sip and savor the magic on your taste buds.

I think I need to get another one now.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mojitos in the Making

Grow, mint, grow! The rum and limes are getting restless.

And I'm getting thirsty.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Herbed Spinach Dip

I found a great Herbed Spinach Dip recipe from that doesn't involve dried soup mix. It's fresh and herbalicious.

Ingredients include fresh flat-leaf parsley, scallions, dill (fresh from the garden!), garlic, and of course, spinach. Equal parts of mayo and sour cream (I use light) makes everything creamy. Everything gets blitzed in the food processor. So easy! Finely diced red bell pepper gets folded in at the end to provide a crunchy contrast to the creaminess.

I love this dip with pita chips or bread.

This recipe is worth seeking out. Try it. Let me know how you like it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Classic

Peanut butter and celery. A match made in heaven!