A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to get myself a spot in Darling Magazine's Craft of Coffee evening, hosted at Blacktop Coffee in the Artists' District of Downtown L.A., and today I'm really excited to share some of the pictures from the evening! Blacktop is side by side with one of the District's most distinct landmark shops, Alchemy Works, which made for a gorgeous backdrop for the night's lessons!
We even received some coffee vouchers, along with gorgeously designed study guides and a poster from Alissa Bell Press to help us remember what we learned.
The evening was centered around the idea of being the hostess who can offer her guests not only a cup of coffee, but a delicious one at that. We learned about different preparations and styles, and got to have hands on experience working with the espresso machine, as well as being walked through the process of Chemex brewing.
I absolutely love the method and results of Chemex brewing, and it's definitely something I would recommend trying out if you've been interested! I wish I could explain the whole process to you, but I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to do it justice through text. So, I found this Youtube video which I think does a great job (plus, the dude's beard is incredible). I will pass off a couple tips I learned, though! The recommended ratio of coffee to water is 1:15 (though I'll admit, I like mine a bit stronger). If you're using a light roast and brewing it right, it should have a natural sweetness (because coffee isn't real a bean, it's a fruit!). Also, a goose neck tea kettle is amazingly helpful. Finally, if you're not using one of those fancy shmancy kettles that tell you the water temperature (I'm not), bringing your water to a boil and then allowing the water to cool for about 30 seconds to 1 minute will bring it to the correct temperature.
Happy brewing loves!
As much as I love Pinterest, there's something undeniably wonderful about a real-life, pages and binding cookbook. So when I passed Ceviche while supposedly "window-shopping" at Anthropolgie (like that's even possible), I couldn't resist it's subway tile-esque cover and pages of brilliantly colored photographs showing me all of the delicious Peruvian dishes I could be making. So, I bought the book, picked my recipes, called a couple friends, and got down to cooking.
I had never eaten Peruvian food, let alone cooked it myself, prior to this; what I really fell in love with about it is all of the fresh, beautiful ingredients that are involved in these meals. I'm going to be sharing about the things I cooked and what I learned from the cookbook, but I won't be copying the recipes. This is a really beautiful volume of original recipes from Martin Morales, and one that would be a great addition to your cooking library.
For this evening with my girlfriends, I chose the Don Ceviche (page 19) for a starter, Pollo de Mi Tia Carmela (page 99, now splattered lovingly with oil in my copy) as the entree, and Encanelado de Pisco (page 185) for dessert. I have no complaints about any of these dishes, each with unique bold flavors. One thing I will say, if you are a beginning chef, I might hold off on this book. It makes a great intermediate choice, with clear directions but an assumption you know what you're doing; there are few times given, just what stages to look for. If you're confident with your caramelizing, sautee-ing, and some pan frying skills, you're set.
The chicken was delicious, tender and falling off the bone. I served the sauce over gluten-free corn pasta, but you could easily nix the pasta all together.
The ceviche itself calls for Sea Bass, an amazing fish with a price tag to match. If you're looking for something a bit more economical (like myself), try nice fresh cod instead. However, I recommend you allow the fish to "cook" longer in the lime juice mix than the recipe calls for, in order to allow more thorough marination and tenderizing.
The cake was definitely a crowd pleaser. A delicate sponge cake soaked in a pisco and cinnamon sugar glaze, it's an especially great choice for Indian Summer days since you refrigerate it for at least an hour. This also makes it a great party dessert since you can prepare it ahead of time! We had the leftover for breakfast the next day... and I think it was even better after soaking overnight.
And what would a Peruvian dinner be without a Pisco sour? Certainly not a party, I can tell you that.
I made a few tweaks to the Ceviche recipe, making the proportions better for preparing. I'm going to share my version with you, but the book has a lot more cocktail recipes and has ideas for pisco infusions.
Pisco is a type of brandy produced in South America, commonly tied to Peru (though the brand we're drinking here is Chilean). High end piscos will cost you upwards of $40 and are meant for sipping; for cocktails, a less expensive brand works just fine.
1 1/2 ounces pisco
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white (Use fresh eggs that have been properly refrigerated. You can look for pasteurized eggs as well. You can also use powdered egg whites if you prefer)
Dash Angostura bitters
Place pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously to a slow count of 10. Pour through a Hawthorne strainer to allow the most foam to pass through. Add dash of bitters.
Make sure you give this one a good hard to shake to create that signature foam!
I know little other way to describe pisco sours besides 'delightful', but that is the opposite of what you're going to feel in the morning if you partake in a few too many of these... so take it easy slugger.
Happy to finally share this fun experience with you guys! Curious to know if anyone else has tried anything from this cookbook, would love to hear about your experience!
A couple weekends ago, I had the great fortune to be able to attend the 2014 Create + Cultivate Conference, hosted by (No Subject) and Darling Magazine. Jaclyn Johnson, (No Subject) and C + C's founder, explains the conference started as a way for all of her creative friends that were stuck behind computers all day to get away from the screen and connect with their creativity and each other. Years down the line, the attendance has swelled but the intent hasn't changed; it's still an opportunity for (mostly!) women to gather to talk, listen, and create.
Photo via Create + Cultivate. Unless otherwise stated, all photos are my own.
The conference hosted one hundred people with 6 speakers, ranging from bloggers and photographers to academics and entrepreneurs. Set in the beautiful Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, it made a remarkable backdrop for the event. Not to mention, having a view of Banksy's swing girl from my room wasn't bad, as far as parking lot views go!
(The Ace Hotel inhabits the old United Artist building, and hosts lots of sweet live shows as well as boasting some great Spanish Gothic architecture.)
Upon arrival, we were greeted with coffee and mimosas... and a photobooth. One of the coolest things about attending the conference was the chance to meet people I had previously connected with on Instagram, including this lovely lady, Ellie!
Good times with our table mates! Photobooth pictures via Create + Cultivate
During our mid-day break, a few of us went to brunch at an awesome downtown brunch spot, called Wood Spoon. Serving a Brazilian brunch and some bomb diggity Sangria in a charming environment, it's definitely a spot to hit if in the area!
There's that Sangria I was talking about. YUM.
That evening, we joined again for a delicious dinner, served family style in long tables, giving us an opportunity to connect and laugh over a shared meal. You know how I'm big on that kind of thing.
We received a lot of awesome goodies from the event sponsors, including a copy of the summer edition of Darling!
Photo via Create + Cultivate
After our dinner and a night out on the town (the next morning...kinda rough! But totally worth it), we woke up in the morning to attend a floral workshop led by Melanie Abrantes. Under the view of the iconic Eastern building, we designed fresh flower combs, heard about each other's evening adventures, sipped and snacked on breakfast goodies. These are definitely my favorite pictures from the weekend!
Here's Melanie demonstrating some techniques for us!
Here are a couple of the creations my talented companions put together!
It's so fun to get to share these images! It was an amazing experience and I hope I get to participate in more events in this vein soon. I hope everyone has an awesome weekend ahead!
While summer drawing to a close hasn't signaled a significant change in the weather here in sunny Southern California, the footsteps of fall approaching can be heard in the aisles of the grocery store and between the stalls of the farmers' market. The lovely stocks of peaches and nectarines are starting to decline, the berries diminishing. These tremors of autumn were felt in my own home, when I glimpsed in the refrigerator and noticed with terror that my large container of raspberries were beginning to turn a bit... fuzzy about the edges. Not what I like to see.
So, I figured that the next best thing would be to make an easy simple syrup in order to enjoy the fruits of the season a little longer! Simple syrups are one of my favorite things, easy to make and customize, and remarkably easy proportions: everything equal (hence the simple part!).
I used one cup of (non-fuzzy!) berries, one cup of sugar, and one cup of water, but you can use whichever base proportion you like. Over medium heat, bring all of your ingredients to a boil. As the berries warmed up, I broke them down a bit with my wooden spoon in order to create more surface area to cook.
Once you've reached a boil, bring the heat down to a nice low simmer and let them cook for a bit longer. With basic simple syrup (just the sugar and water), you want to wait until the liquid is no longer cloudy, usually just a matter of minutes. With this I cooked it longer, closer to 10 minutes, in order to get a strong flavor profile. Pay attention to the color of your syrup and taste it along the way to see how it's coming along, as well as making sure that your fruit has cooked down sufficiently.
Once your syrup is finished, take it off the heat and strain out the seeds and flesh. I used a regular strainer, but if that doesn't cut it, try it with a couple layers of cheesecloth instead. Let your syrup sit until it has reached room temperature before refrigerating it, where it can be kept for a few weeks.
This syrup works as a great replacement in cocktails that call for basic simple syrup (a raspberry Southside? Yes please), and adding a splash to champagne is utterly delightful, if I do say so myself. I drizzled a little over my rice pudding from earlier in the week, which was absolutely a great idea and I highly recommend it.
Try this with your other favorite fruits in order to prolong their stay! It works best with produce that is just over the hill, which will be higher in sugar and break down more easily, so it's perfect for that last crop of the season.
Here's to summer, and to autumn,
This isn't the easiest post for me to write. To be perfectly honest, it wasn't that easy to get myself together to prepare this week's posts. After being gone for so long, not updating here for over a month, part of me certainly wondered why I was even bothering at all. I considered it might be easier to just let Little Den drift into the place where un-updated blogs go to languish, and stay in bed instead.
A little over two weeks ago, my boyfriend of almost three years left for Notre Dame Law School. With this huge change headed our way, it was easy to dismiss my blog for the time being, thinking I'll get back to it! and devoting myself to enjoying the last month of him being at home. But I discovered that after he left, I still didn't feel like doing, well, much of anything.
In our era of such female empowerment, can-do-anything attitude, I think it can be hard to admit that we need someone, particularly when it comes to the absence of a significant other. When some people hear about my new long distance relationship status, it's met with statements like you'll have time to do whatever you want! and but you're going to get to see him on all of his breaks! Both of which are true, so I found myself nodding in agreement instead of saying what I really felt, which is something a lot more like but I'm lonely.
I truly do feel as though I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to, and I know that I can do it on my own; I have learned, however, that those abilities don't negate the importance of a significant bond. For some time, I felt ashamed of needing someone, like I wasn't doing something right. I was embarrassed to admit that I wasn't totally okay with going it alone, and that made me feel even more powerless. Then, I had the great fortune of reading an article in the most recent Darling magazine which struck a chord with me, illuminating a giant light bulb over my head.
The moral of the story? Needing someone and being needy aren't the same thing.
By realizing that I could cop to my desire to have my boyfriend back home while simultaneously being incredibly proud and happy for him, I felt remarkably released from this sort of bad-feminist-esque guilt trip I had sent myself on. I figured out that as long as I wasn't whining, complaining, not meeting up to my duties, or making things more difficult for the people around me (ie, making my boyfriend feel bad for moving to Indiana), I was doing okay. It's normal to be bummed out.
Today I will... do good work, not waste time, be kind, let it go, make it happen, love one another.
I keep this print by the door now, to remember what doesn't get sacrificed in my times of being bummed out. While I may be allowed to stay in on a Friday night or binge watch episodes of the X-Files instead of getting all of my laundry done and even get sad when cooking breakfast for one, it doesn't mean I'm allowed to become a slave to my emotions. That's being needy. I can say I need some girlfriend time without being needy; I don't get to mope about my issues the whole time, because that's definitely needy.
This flag is another reminder I love having in my home; while I can't wait to take it out on an adventure, I equally love having it because it reminds me not to remain stagnant. It reminds me to get my butt out of bed in the morning, to try cooking new things, to catch up with friends; it reminds me to keep growing, to keep exploring.
In short, it means I'm not going anywhere soon.
See you tomorrow & keep exploring,
Holy moly guys, I'm back. Definitely had a moment of panic, thinking, oh no I'm pretty sure I have no idea how my blogging platform works, but I think I've got it! I'm pretty stoked to be back at it, and bringing you one of my new favorite desserts, no less.
On a late evening not too long ago, I was dying for something sweet. My first instinct was a cookie, but unfortunately there were no cookies in my vicinity, nor did I have all of the requisite ingredients to make myself one. While foraging through my cupboards, I did find a bag of rice.
I've never been a huge fan of most puddings, but I was desperate here people, so I started looking up recipes for rice pudding. I could never recall having ever eaten in, so I thought, what the heck? But as I was going through the many different ways of making this dessert, I was struck by how often it involved a long cook time and/or really specific ingredients, not to mention more sugar than I really wanted to eat.
I was initially disappointed by these findings, but I was determined to make a recipe that worked for me; after a few trials, I've landed on this version that I really enjoy!
Here's what you will need for a batch that's the perfect size for a couple people, or to save and enjoy for a day or so:
Place your rice, milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a pot or sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring consistently so that your grains don't stick to the bottom of your pan. When the liquid starts to boil, make sure that your sugar has dissolved and that your rice is tender. You should be able to squish them with your spoon, or bite into one to test. If the grains are still hardish, bring the liquid just below a boil and continue to stir until grains are properly tender. If they are not soft at this stage, you are likely to get crunchy pudding (which is kinda gross, I found out the hard way).
Once the rice is properly cooked, lower the temperature to the lowest setting possible and continue to cook for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently so that the grains don't stick and the liquid is fully incorporated. When it's ready, the liquid should be quite heavy and stick to the rice, not puddle in the pot.
At this point, you can stir in a splash of vanilla or any other of your desired ingredients. This would be a fun dessert to serve in a "bar" style, allowing your guests to add their favorite toppings. My favorite concoction is with vanilla stirred in, with a sprinkling of cinnamon and fresh berries on top!
Not gonna lie, it's pretty divine.
With much love,