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!
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,
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,
I work full time, and I commute close to an hour and a half each way, every day.
For those of you living in LA or any other traffic congested city, that probably comes with little surprise, though I can already feel the winces from those who are blessed by a non-traffic existence. I have a lot of reasons why it's worth it to me to drive so much for work, though I will admit that sometimes I wonder if they are good enough reasons (usually this happens when I'm staring at brake lights on the 405). Regardless, I'm living with the reality that nearly 3 hours of each weekday I spend in the car, which leaves even less time for my non-work life.
Because of this, there are certain things that get sacrificed, like how regularly I vacuum or put my shoes away in the closet. Another thing that can easily become overlooked, and I think is felt by most people who are leading hectic work or family lives, is cooking or just eating healthy in general. I'll admit, that when I get home at 7 o'clock at night after sitting at a near stand still on the freeway, all I really want is drive-thru french fries and cold beer from the fridge. Well, at least that's what I think I want.
For as many times as I've thought "I'm too tired to cook," I've also been really glad I put on my big girl pants and made myself a proper meal. Through trial and error, I've discovered a few things that make it much easier for me to prepare better, healthier meals without the hassle.
Shop more regularly. This is something I learned while studying abroad in Italy, where I shopped a couple times a week instead of a huge once a week mega-shop. This was necessary since I didn't have a car to transport 50 pounds of groceries back to the 4 story walk-up of my apartment, and it also guaranteed I was eating the freshest food. While I know it may sound daunting to be heading to the grocery store after work, smaller shopping trips are less stressful and your diet more varied. I'm less likely to cook if I'm eating the same bulk thing every night. Having new, fresh items in the house motivates me to eat what I have and waste less.
Find shortcuts that work for you. I'll admit, I don't make everything from scratch. My biggest trick is buying pre-cooked meat to add to whatever else I'm preparing. One of my favorites is grilled chicken breasts from Trader Joe's, which come several to a package. I chop them up to put on salads, mix in with grains or pasta, or make sandwiches. Cutting out that one step makes more time for me to cook, eat, and enjoy my evening.
Make enough for two meals. Now you have a lunch on hand (less eating out!) or another dinner; leftovers are an awesome time saver! I don't like to make more than one extra meal, since your produce won't be as fresh (and I get tired of it after a day and a half!).
Pick a base ingredient, and cook around that. Good base ingredients include things like grains (for example, couscous or the polenta shown above) and meat, elements that can be easily diversified by using a variety of preparations, produce, and herbs. This night, I baked my polenta and added fresh mozzarella cheese, a tomato from a friend's garden, and basil from my new little plant. Another night, I'll fry it and top it with pasta sauce and garlic olive oil (and polenta can make a great breakfast dish too!). Cooking this way makes it easy to use a variety of seasonal produce (and to try out new cooking skills!).
Here's a bad selfie of me and my new basil plant. Yes, we are very happy together, thank you.
Ready to get radical? Ditch your microwave. The only time I've ever lived with a microwave was for two years in college when my roommate had one. You know what I made in it? Frozen dinners. Having a microwave makes it easy to fall into a processed-food-fueled eating routine, given how quickly meals can appear on your plate. Give your microwave the heave-ho and those excuses go with it. Really don't have the time? It's okay to cheat and eat a drive-thru burger or burrito on occasion! I'll admit to a mean weakness for Del Taco.
I closing, here are few of my favorite easy, post-work dinners!
Hope that gives some of you busy working ladies out there some ideas!
Happy cooking, Rachel
The first (and only time) I had ever had aebleskivers (Danish pancakes) was in the 4th grade, when I went with my family to Solvang, CA. We were visiting the Sana Ines Mission for a school project (if you're from California, this probably sounds familiar), and I'm pretty sure the aebleskivers were my favorite part of the trip. It certainly wasn't the scale model of the mission I crafted in paper mache afterwards, I'll tell you that.
While shopping in Goodwill (which competes with Target as the largest recipient of my retail expenditure) a few weeks ago I discovered, lo and behold!, and aebleskiver pan! It was brand new and cast iron, with it's signature seven half spheres, and absolutely calling my name. So of course, I bought it and immediately brought it home and started seasoning it (aka baking off a couple of different oils to coat the cast iron).
The recipe I'm using is a modification of this one, making it gluten free and scaled down to make nice sized portions for two people.
You ready for all that fluffy, golden, spherical, Danish deliciousness? Okay, here's what you'll need:
1 egg, divided (you'll need both the yolk and the white!)
1 cup gluten free flour (I used a premixed one, but you can make your own too. Whether you're buying or making, I recommend using multiple types of gluten-free flours [ie almond, brown rice, potato, etc.] and xanthum gum. Having tried several different things, those tips usually make for the best, fluffiest results!)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter (plus a little extra to grease the pan)
1 cup buttermilk
Step 1: Beat your egg white until it holds stiff peaks. You can use an electric hand mixer if you've got it, but I did it with a traditional egg beater with no issues.
Step 2: In another bowl, mix your egg yolk, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and buttermilk. Once mixed, slowly add the melted butter to ensure you don't cook the egg!
Step 3: Gently fold in your egg whites, making sure that they are evenly incorporated, but they're still fluffy. The best way, I think, is to scoop from the bottom to the top, and then cut through the middle (let me know if that doesn't make sense!).
Step 4: I find it easiest to transfer my batter into a liquid measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring. Heat up your aebleskiver pan over medium high heat with butter coating inside of each sphere (you can use a pastry brush if you have one, but I simply used a paper towel). Once the pan is nice and hot, pour enough batter into each pod to fill about 3/4 of each sphere. If you overfill, they will overflow a little, which just makes them a little harder to turn!
Step 5: Much like normal pancakes, you're waiting for bubbles to form over the top before you turn them. In Danish tradition, a knitting needle is the preferred rotating tool, but I just used a regular old skewer. Slide your tool around the outside of the aebleskiver to test if it's ready; it will be able to move a little on its own when it's ready to go.
The first one you flip is probably going to come out messy, but you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly! Sometimes I use my finger to help rotate them, but be careful not to burn yourself because the cast iron gets REALLY hot (ouch!). Because of this, you may find that you'll want to turn down your heat after a bit, so the outside of your aebleskiver doesn't get totally scorched. It will really depend on the placement of your jets, since each stove cooks a little differently!
This recipe will make somewhere between 2 and 3 pans, depending on how full you make your spheres.
Woot! All done! Serve 'em hot with jam or syrup (and more butter, if you're like us!).
Eating with my mom, who helped with my cooking photos. Thanks!
Look how fluffy those bad boys are! We are so far from the days where "gluten-free" meant "hard like a rock, if rocks were chewy". I made them for my boyfriend and simply didn't mention that they weren't wheat, and he never noticed the difference.
These are a perfect weekend treat!
Happy breakfasting, Rachel
My cousin recently graduated with her biology degree, and as my family is prone to do, we threw a party. A mix of friends and lots of family made for an awesome day to celebrate her hard earned achievement!
We're blessed to have such a lovely space as my mom's backyard to hold these functions. There's a table on the lawn, sofas for sitting, and even a cot for napping (should the need strike!).
When making food for a crowd, plan ahead and come up with a menu that can be partially made the night before, or easily put together the next morning. We chose potatoes and bacon we could pop in the oven, along with ham and egg cups that could be easily prepared and baked too. No matter the menu, I think oatmeal is such a brilliant brunch choice. You can make a large batch in a slow cooker, giving you a food item you really don't have to think about! Plus, it's perfect for any of your vegetarian or gluten free guests. Put out bowls of brown sugar, slivered almonds, fresh fruit, and butter pats for a whole oatmeal bar.
A new innovation to our bar repertoire was the addition of a margarita snow cone station! It was a fun addition to the standard champagne and beer options, and perfect for summer weather ahead.
Using a cleaned and de-labeled champagne bottle makes the perfect dispenser (this nice frosted one is from a Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut bottle). You can buy liquor pour spouts at kitchen or restaurant supply stores, as well as online, and I definitely recommend using (so much easier to control how much you're getting!). You can buy snow cone makers at stores like Target or Walmart during the summer months, but can also be found online. Go for one that grinds regular old ice cubes, instead of using a special mold. It takes much longer to freeze a whole ring of ice as opposed to picking up a bag at the grocery store!
Our "margarita juice" blend is 2 cups mixer, 1 cup tequila, and a 1/2 cup Triple Sec (this makes just a touch more than will fit in the bottle, so you have some backup!). Our bar also included Torani syrups in coconut, mango, and lime, as well as fresh limes to squeeze on top! Keep some salt on hand, and you're good to go!
One of my favorite things about serving snow cones is the fact that we have the paper cones and those awesome straw with spoon scoops at the end! You can buy them at restaurant stores, but be warned, they come in colossal amounts... but I guess that just means you'll be having snow cones all summer (and maybe next summer too. And the one after that).
Admittedly, after we had all had a few snow cones, we skipped right ahead to the tequila shots...
Good times, good times. It had probably been since my great-grandmother's passing, about 10 years ago, that this particular group of people had all been together (along with the additions of boyfriends and pals), so we sat down in the evening and shared another meal together, with gifts and laughter and memories, and a big box of popsicles.
In closing, I'll say again that it's the memories you make in the presence of the ones you love most which are the most important of all. No matter where you gather or what you eat, I believe it is one of the best, most fulfilling things you can do for yourself and others.
Gather and be joyful!
As you may or may not know, I am a long time resident of Long Beach, CA. Yes, the one from Snoop Dogg and Sublime songs. And before you ask, no, I've never hung out with any of them. But despite bands of dubious reputations, Long Beach also has a lot of other great stuff, which I'm excited to share with you guys in Long Beach Love! Not gonna lie, it's mostly going to be food.
I hit up a couple of my favorite locales this past Sunday while brunching with my cousin and her boyfriend, and I figured this has to be the best place to start!
The Federal Bar
You probably won't be too surprised when I tell you that this place used to be a bank. For awhile in my college years, it was a fleeting, ill-fated nightclub of the same bank variety theme. This reiteration, however, has been quite successful. With speakeasy styling (and an underground concert space), the Federal has become a downtown hot spot for late night drinks and brunch alike.
With high ceilings, ornate wood work, lush banquette seating, chandeliers, vintage details, and some of the original bank features in place, the Federal's best element is perhaps the ambiance. But that's followed shortly by the food. And the bottomless mimosas. Oh, and the service (thanks Tessa for keeping our glasses filled!).
I think I've mentioned this once (or twice), but I really love french fries. So of course, when the menu included a hash of fries with pork, eggs, and tomatillo sauce, I couldn't say no. So glad I didn't, because it was so good I kept eating even though I was so full I thought I was going to pass out. I have a problem, okay?
And nothing improves ambiance quite like a guy and gal playing a little jazz! Since we had just indulged in many (many) glasses of mimosas we thought it was obviously a good idea to head to another bar, so were' doubling up on the Long Beach Love!