Mint Condition


Quick question! What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?


Mint + Chip.


‘Cause it’s double the coolness factor. Frozen in temperature and cooling in flavor. It’s next-level sensory overload. All of your senses are tested:

You SEE the bright green color
You SMELL that crisp scent of mint
You FEEL that cold, refreshing cream melt in your mouth as you bite into those chocolate chunks
You TASTE that creamy delicious mint packed with that bittersweet chocolate

And well, HEAR? If you’ve ever sat next to me while enjoying said ice cream (or pretty much any food I thoroughly enjoy), you’re sure to hear lots of “MMM” sounds. Sorry not sorry.

This year we started a garden on our balcony. It’s taken off and has done considerably well. Even with the sudden drop and rise of temperatures all summer long, most of our plants have been pretty happy. Our mint plant, which we originally planted next to thyme and lavender, took off immediately and spread throughout the entire planter within a week! That was an amateur mistake on my own part ’cause I knew that mint likes to take over EVERYTHING. And she did. So we uprooted her and placed her in her own good-sized planter where she was able to stretch and relax without bothering her next-door neighbors.

Having an abundance of mint isn’t a bad thing, either. I decided to harvest a few bunches and steep them into heavy cream as a base for this amazing ice cream recipe I found through David Lebovitz’ book, The Perfect Scoop.

The recipe was originally written for a Chocolate Malt Ice Cream flavor, so I made some adjustments to the recipe, and omitted the cocoa powder, replacing it with a snack-sized box of crushed Whoppers candy and chocolate sandwich cookies like OREO’S. I also added more heavy cream (using one of my local favorites from Sunshine Dairy). The resulting flavor is intensely rich, creamy and so silky smooth. Try it.



Malted Mint Whopper Cookie Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart
Recipe via The Perfect Scoop

3 cups heavy cream, divided
2 cups fresh mint leaves, packed
1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup malted milk powder

Heat 1.5 cups heavy cream with the mint in a medium-sized saucepan. Once brought to a boil, whisk vigorously and lower heat to a low simmer, continuing to whisk. Remove pan from the heat and strain into a large bowl the rest of the heavy cream into a large bowl, combining the steeped minty cream together.

Gently warm the milk, sugar and salt in the same saucepan. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the yolks and temper the eggs by slowly adding the warmed milk to the  yolks, continuously whisking and scraping the now tempered egg yolk/milk mixture back in the pan.

Using a rubber spatula continue to stir and scrape the combined mixture over medium heat, making sure not to “cook” or “curdle” the eggs. Once the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spatula, immediately remove from the heat and pour through a strainer and into a shallow pan or bowl. Add the vanilla extract and malt powder. Cool the mixture by placing it into the refrigerator till chilled, overnight is preferred.

Once ready to churn, operate your ice cream maker and add the crushed Whopper candy and cookies toward the last five minutes of the churning process. Place the ice cream in the freezer to further freeze. Enjoy! (Or have a quick milkshake. Your call.)



Bagels for Days


Bagels are such a versatile treat–you can pretty much top them with anything and they’ll be delicious. Cream cheese, jam, peanut butter, avocado, lox, pesto, seriously anything.

Here’s a super-easy recipe via Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Homemade Bagels
Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Yields 6-12, depending on size

1 and 1/2 cups warm water
2 and 3/4 teaspoons Instant Yeast
4 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt

2 quarts water
1/4 cup honey

2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon + 3 teaspoons white sugar
3 Tablespoons raisins
egg wash: 1 egg white beaten with 1 Tablespoon of water

Quickly whisk in the yeast into the warm water till completely
dissolved. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed the flour, sugar, and salt for about 30 seconds. With the mixer continuing to run on medium speed, slowly drizzle the bloomed yeast mixture, making sure to scrape out any undissolved yeast with a spatula, getting all of the yeast into the dough.

Turn down to low speed and mix until all the flour has been well incorporated into the dough. The dough will look choppy; once you get it to this point, bump up the speed to medium and mix for 8 minutes. Once done mixing, the dough will be super stiff, that’s OK.


(Mine somehow managed to resemble the mandrake root in Pan’s Labyrinth. Creeeeepy.)


(Note: If you’re making cinnamon and raisin-flavored bagels, section off about 1/3 of the mixture and hand-mix the raisins into the dough.)

Otherwise, remove from the mixing bowl and shape the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil and place into the bowl, turning the dough ball to coat all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and place in a warm area of your kitchen to allow the dough to rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The dough should to be noticeably larger.



Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or SILPAT mats if you have them. Place a wire rack over a third baking sheet.

To shape the bagels, gently punch down the dough if you notice any air bubbles. Turn it out onto a clean surface and divide the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces.


Shape each piece into a ball and place 4 balls onto the two lined baking sheet. Then, hold up one dough ball and press your index finger through the center of each ball to make a hole, widening it. Cover the shaped bagels with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest as you prep the water bath.




Preheat your oven to 425°F.

To prepare the water bath, fill a large, wide pan with 2 quarts of water. Whisk in the honey. Bring the water to just-simmering. Once simmering, add in the bagels, about 2-3 at a time, making sure not to overcrowd them. Cook the bagels for about 1 minute on each side, then transfer each bagel to the cooling rack.

To prepare your optional toppings: Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash on top and around the sides of each bagel, then sprinkle each with your desired toppings.




Place the bagels on the lined baking sheets, and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through to get an even coloration. The bagels should be golden brown and delicious.

Remove the cooked bagels from the oven and to cool for about 20 minutes before enjoying.


(Cook’s Note: You can freeze your bagels in an airtight bag. Refrigerated bagels will keep for about 7-10 days.)

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Estudios Picasso, Tequila Gang, Esperanto Filmoj, Sententia Entertainment and Telecinco.)

A Miracle Worker

I don’t get sick too often. Maybe once or twice a year, tops. So when I do get sick all hell breaks loose. I simply hate getting sick and avoid it like, say, the plague.

Blame it on over-exhaustion, not getting enough sleep, working too much. Whatever week-long illness it was, it was completely unbearable. I had this unstoppable cough that seemed to worsen at night while in bed trying to sleep. The incessant coughing led to a sore throat and muscle pains in the abdomen; it was like I was doing nonstop crunches, but no 6-pack to show for.

What I needed was a miracle. Or Miracle Max.


My regimen to nurse these ailments included daily vitamins, Emergen-C, so much orange juice, a hot elixir comprised of honey, fresh lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne and turmeric. (It does the trick and nicely coats the throat.) But what really helps is a chicken soup of some kind. I had purchased a whole chicken and decided to make this Peruvian Aguadito soup quite reminiscent of the ones I used to enjoy at the L.A. Peruvian mini-chain, El Pollo Inka, that I used to frequent. The soup only gets better with a squeeze of the restaurant’s cilantro-chile sauce.

This Aguadito is a miracle worker, a magician, or brujo–the Miracle Max of soups. It has magical powers, I think, bringing you back to life. So much so that I felt increasingly better every time I consumed it (I ate the whole thing over the course of a week).




I butchered the whole chicken into 10 pieces (halving the breasts) and kept the leftover bones to make stock for another time. The base of the recipe is usually mild, but I needed an extra kick of heat to help clear my nasal passages, and replaced with whole jalapeños for the typical serrano.

Make this the next time you start to have the ill feels. And once you start feeling better, have fun storming the castle.


Peruvian Aguadito Chicken + Rice Soup
Recipe slightly adapted from A Cozy Kitchen
Serves 4-10

2 bunches cilantro, stems discarded
12 garlic cloves, peeled
2 medium-sized jalapeños, stems discarded
10 cups chicken stock
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole chicken, skin-on and bone-in, butchered into 10 pieces (2 drumsticks, 2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 breasts halved into 4 pieces)
1 medium-sized red onion, julienned
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/3 cup long grain rice
1 can corn, drained
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Purée the cilantro, garlic, jalapeños, and 1/2 cup of the chicken stock in a food processor or blender.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down and season with salt and pepper, cooking for 5-10 minutes or till lightly browned. Turn and sear the other side for an additional 5 minutes. Once all sides are nicely seared, remove from the pot and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and add the onions and sauté till translucent. About 5-7 minutes. Add in the cilantro-garlic and jalapeño purée. Stir for 3 minutes to incorporate. Add in the rice, cumin and cayenne, stir for 2 minutes.

Slowly pour in the stock, stirring to incorporate. Bring to a boil, then add in the chicken pieces. Turn down the heat to low, add the corn and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Finish with the lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.



(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Act III Communications and Twentieth Century Fox.)

Pie, Actually


The first time I had heard the words “Banoffee Pie” were when Keira Knightley’s character, Juliet muttered them in the 2003 film, Love Actually. 


“Banoffee pie?” she asked.

“No, thanks.” said Mark.

“Thank god. You would’ve broken my heart,” she sighed.

Such irony in that scene, as he was so secretly in love with her.

After watching the movie for the first time in 2004, I immediately investigated this “banoffee pie.” Ban (banana) offee (toffee). What I discovered, a British treat with a crisp, buttery crust, tender bites of banana and dulce de leche, and a soft, pillowy whipped cream topping. The combination is all too irresistible.


Banoffee Pie
Recipe slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver
Serves 4-8

4.1 ounces butter, melted
8.1 ounces Speculoos cookies (or digestive cookies), crushed into fine crumbs
1 can (10.5 ounces) condensed milk
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 large bananas, sliced 1 1/2 inches thick, on a bias
pinch salt
1 small bar of dark chocolate, finely chopped

Make the dulce de leche. First, remove the label on the can. Take the upopened can and place into deep pot and completely immerse the can in water. The can must be completely submerged in the water or it will explode.

Turn the heat on the stove to medium-high. Cover the pot and once the water begins to boil, turn down to a gentle simmer. Set a timer for 1.5 hours, checking frequently to make sure the can is completely covered in water, and pouring in more water if needed.

After 1.5 hours, using a long pair of tongs, carefully flip the can upside-down and return back to the simmering water. Add more water to the pot if needed. Set another timer for 45 minutes. When done, carefully remove the can from the water and allow to cool in room temperature for about 30 minutes before opening. Set aside.


Mix the melted butter with the cookie crumbs in a bowl. Place the mixture into a pie tin, pressing down to ensure the crust is evenly distributed. Place into the refrigerator for 1 hour.




While the crust sets, whip the cream in a mixing bowl with a whisk till soft peaks form. Don’t over-mix. Set aside.

After the crust has set for 1 hour, spread the dulce de leche over the base of the crust evenly.


Layer on the sliced bananas. Add a pinch of salt to the bananas.



Then frost the top with the whipped cream.


Sprinkle the top of the pie with the chopped chocolate. Place into the refrigerator to set for at least an hour. Serve.


IMG_7592 IMG_7593 IMG_7595

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Universal Pictures.)


A pet peeve of mine: When stores begin selling their holiday decorations months before the holiday has even come close. (Can we just celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving first, please?) It’s annoying, really. I don’t even want to think about Christmas in October when I’m trying desperately to put together my last-minute Halloween costume. Let’s keep them separated, people.

Another pet peeve of mine: Playing Christmas music in October. Or November.

Just stop.

I appreciate the wanting to get into the holiday spirit deal, but I just can’t justify listening to Bing Crosby singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” 100 times before Christmas. I just can’t. And as much as I love Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, I don’t want to hear it every single day leading up to Christmas.

I can’t.

I like to wait a good four to three weeks before the holiday to get everything done. That includes shopping, getting the tree, decorating, and watching all of my usual holiday favorites (The Holiday, Love Actually, Home Alone, Hook, Bad Santa, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and While You Were Sleeping).

And The Family Stone. With an all-star cast–Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, and Craig T. Nelson, to name a few, The Family Stone circles around the Stone clan during Christmastime.


The story starts off with the Stone’s prodigal son, Everett, (Mulroney) who brings his uptight, conservative girlfriend, Meredith Morton (Parker), with him to his family’s New England home for the holidays. Everett intends (albeit a bit skeptical) on proposing to her with his mom Sybil’s ring (Keaton), but is met with a bit of resistance from Sybil, who also has a terminal illness, and disapproves of her eldest son’s choice for a wife. None of the family approves of Everett’s girlfriend, either, and gives her a hard time at every opportunity they can. (Except Ben, played by Wilson, who shares a connection to Meredith.)

When Meredith sends an emergency SOS to her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to come stay at the Stones’ home with her for support, things get interesting when Julie arrives, and her growing mutual attraction to Everett cannot be denied. These star-cr0ssed siblings endure a few fights, misunderstandings and an engagement ring stuck on someone’s finger. Uh-oh.



One of the more pivotal scenes in the movie is when Meredith plans to make her family’s traditional “Morton Strata”, a savory bread pudding, on Christmas Day for the Stone’s. But things quickly turn upside-down, quite literally.





Without further giving away anymore spoilers, I encourage you to watch this heartwarming movie.






This week’s post is dedicated to Meredith’s Christmas Strata, which includes mushrooms (even though Everett is allergic to them…oops!). Perfect for Christmas morning, make this recipe a day-ahead, as it’s important for the bread to absorb all of that custardy goodness.

Meredith’s Christmas Strata with Swiss Chard, Mushrooms and Gruyère

Recipe slightly adapted from NYT Cooking
Serves 6

½ pound stale bread, sliced about 3/4 to 1-inch thick cubes
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pats
2 1/2 cups milk
1 ¾ cup mushrooms, quartered
1 cup cooking greens stemmed and cleaned (Swiss chard, kale or spinach)
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
½ cup Gruyère cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme, picked and chopped
 3 Tablespoons Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon red pepper flake
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt

Lightly butter a 2-quart baking dish.


In a large pan, toast the bread cubes lightly in 2 Tablespoons of the butter. Place in a large bowl, and toss with 1 cup of the milk. Set aside.

Sauté the mushrooms in 2 Tablespoons of the butter, then add in the thyme. Remove from the pan and into the bowl with the bread and milk.


Using the same pan, heat another 2 Tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat, and add the cooking greens.

Stir for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cover the pan, and allow the steam to cook the greens till it has completely collapsed, about three minutes. Uncover and stir, season with salt and red pepper flake.


Remove from the pan, roughly chop and transfer to the bowl with the bread and mushrooms. Add the cheeses, and mix to incorporate. Arrange in the buttered baking dish.


Beat together the eggs in a separate bowl, add in the remaining milk. Then pour over the bread mixture. Press the bread down into the custard mixture. Cover with foil and place into the refrigerator overnight.

On the next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place in the oven, and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven, and serve hot.







(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Twentieth Century Fox.)

Midnight Macaroons






Chocolate-Covered Hazelnut Macaroons
Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
Yields about 8 cookies

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large egg whites
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Fill a sauce pot with water and heat to boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to just simmering. Fill a large metal (or heat-resistant) mixing bowl with the chocolate chips and place over the hot water bath. Allow to melt, stirring with a spatula every few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg white. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Form the dough into eight, 2 tablespoon mounds and drop each onto the sheet pan about 2-inches apart.

Bake the macaroons until golden brown on the edges, about 15 minutes. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool. Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over the cooled macaroons. Serve.

Macaroons will keep in a sealed container for up to one week.



Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Sony Pictures.)

West Toast


It’s so crazy to think about how much of your life can change in one year. 1 year. Last Thanksgiving I spent the entire night working as a cocktail waitress at a thankless job. It was by far the WORST job I have ever had. Luckily, I only stuck around for a month.

At last week’s Thanksgiving, I spent it with some truly awesome friends. We had a delicious meal and plenty of libations. Being away from your family during the holidays is oftentimes hard, but when you have amazing friends, it’s not that bad at all.

My contribution to our Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving meal are these mini Guava and Cream Cheese Tartlets (Pop Tart knockoffs), but they’re soooo good. The filling was inspired by this AMAZING Cuban bakery in LA that I used to frequent, called Porto’s. Their Pastelitos de Guayaba (Guava Pastries) are a reason in itself to visit if you’re ever in LA.

The guava filling can be made at home, but I was a bit lazy this time around, and just visited my local Latin American food market and purchased this GOYA Guava Paste package. For $3 it’s a steal. And it’s so good, guys.


Guava Cream Cheese Tarlets 
(Pastelitos de Guayaba)
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg (plus 1 egg for egg wash)
2 tablespoons milk

Using a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt, working the butter in till the mixture holds together when you press it with your fingers. The mixture will be just a tad bit lumpy, with specks of butter still visible. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and add the egg and milk, mixing till everything is cohesive.


Split the dough in half. Shape each half into a rough 3″ x 5″ rectangle, smoothing the edges. If making the dough ahead of time, you can refrigerate for up to 2 days; allowing the dough to rest for 15 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.


Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Place the first half of the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″.


Trim off the edges; save the scraps and set them aside, along with the 9″ x 12″ rectangle of dough.


Proceed by rolling out the other half of the dough, and cut it as you did with the first half.


Place a rectangle slice of the guava paste and cream cheese onto the center of each marked rectangle.


Lightly beat the last egg, and brush the outer corners of the surface of each pastry dough. Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using the tines of a fork to press firmly around each pocket, sealing the dough on all sides.


If you have dough scraps, press them together into a ball, then re-roll them out. Repeat the rolling and cutting of the dough according to the size of the dough and fill them if you’re able to.

Gently transfer the tarts to a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet tray. Lightly brush the tops of each tarlet, and then place into your oven.

Bake the tartlets for 15 to 23 minutes, or till they’re a light golden brown.



No Contest


Thai food has become my comfort food. It’s the cuisine I crave on the regular. It’s become a big problem.

At work we had an open call “Salmon Chowder Contest” that would run on our menu at the restaurant if it was chosen to be the winner. This is the soup I made for the contest.

I decided to base my recipe off of one I made last year for my Tom Kha Gai soup. It’s not your traditional chowder, but it’s crazy delicious. Like, it’s really good. Trust me.

Forget tradition and try this! You won’t be disappointed.

Coconut Salmon Chowder
Yields 2 quarts


2 nubs medium-sized galangal, peeled and sliced*
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, sliced thin
5 kaffir lime leaves
6 Thai bird chiles
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 yellow onion, julienned
2 cups Yukon potatoes, peeled and medium-diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans coconut cream
2 cups vegetable stock
1 pound salmon, skin-off, cut into medium-sized cubes
1/8 cup fish sauce
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup Thai basil, picked and minced
1 cup cilantro, picked and minced
1 lime, zested and juiced
salt and pepper, to taste
*galangal is a rhizome from the same family as ginger, used primarily in Thai, Lao and Vietnamese cooking. Find it at your local Asian supermarket.

Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and process to a paste. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the paste, stirring till fragrant; about 5 minutes. Add the onions and saute till lightly browned. Add the potatoes and garlic and stir for a minute.

Turn down the heat and add the coconut cream and stir. Stir in the fish sauce and sugar, and bring to a gentle simmer, then add the salmon and simmer for an additional 5 minutes or till salmon is cooked.

Add the cilantro, Thai basil, lime zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a healthy drizzle of Thai basil oil. (Recipe below).


Yields 2 cups

2 cups Thai basil, packed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 3/4 cups olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Blanch the basil leaves in boiling salted water for 20 seconds. Remove the basil and shock in an ice water bath. Add in the garlic and olive oil. Process in a food processor till fully combined.

Store in an airtight container overnight in the refrigerator. Not he next day, strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the leaves.



Eat Like a Viking

Much of the history surrounding the origin of the Danish aebleskive is shrouded in mystery—and to some, in ancient Scandinavian folklore. Legend has it that during the days of the Vikings, after the warriors returned home, hit hard in battle (many poorly wounded and hungry) mixed together flour with milk, and cooked the batter inside the hollows of their iron shields and horned helmets (which, too, were dented and broken) over an open fire.

The result: A delicious golf ball-shaped cake, golden on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Today, aebleskiver (plural) which roughly translates to “sliced apples” are enjoyed by just about anyone in every corner of the world. Topped simply with powdered sugar, filled with delicious lingonberry jam, or dipped in a creamy lemon curd—the possibilities with these apple-shaped delights are endless. For my first solo (and best!) attempt at aebleskiver-making (I can briefly remember a short lesson on making them in culinary school), I decided to pair a simple aebleskive recipe with an of-the-moment curd. While we’re still in a weird transitional season from late-fall to winter fruits, I made a delicious pomegranate-lemon curd that pairs perfectly with this recipe.

Cooking with a special aebleskiver pan makes this recipe so much easier, but I used a mini muffin pan, and it worked out PERFECTLY.

Aebleskiver (Danish Pancakes)

Yields 16
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup half and half
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Aebleskiver pan (found in select cooking supply stores, like Sur La Table)
or, use a mini muffin pan (which I did.)

Whisk together the AP flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter until just-combined. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, don’t overmix, as it should be slightly lumpy.


In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form,  about 5 minutes. Then fold in the whipped egg whites into the lumpy batter.


If you have an aebleskiver pan, place the pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter evenly to each well of the mold, and once the butter starts to bubble, add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter. Allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 4 minutes, then flip and continue cooking till the tops are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer cooked pancakes to a plate covered with foil to retain heat. Repeat steps till the rest of the pancake batter is used.


If you DON’T have an aebleskiver pan, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place a mini muffin pan into the oven to heat up. Once your oven is up to temperature, remove the muffin pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into each mold well, then add about 2 heaping Tablespoons of pancake batter into each well. Place into the oven and allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 3 minutes. Once you see that the bottoms are golden, remove from the oven and flip each pancake onto the other side.


Raise your oven’s temperature to 425 degrees, and once heated up, place the aebleskivers back into the oven to finish cooking for another 3-5 minutes, till golden brown. Once done, immediately transfer the cooked aebleskiver to a plate covered with foil to retain heat, and repeat the steps till the rest of the batter is used.

Garnish with Pomegranate-lemon curd. (Recipe here)




Curd UP!

Pomegranate-Lemon Curd
Yields about 2 cups
Recipe Slightly Adapted from Baking A Moment

1/8 cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon water
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pomegranate, juiced
3/4 cup water
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Whisk together the first five ingredients into a small bowl till smooth.


Place the juice from the pomegranate, water and the lemon juice in a pot over medium-low heat, and bring to a simmer.


Slowly pour in about a 1/4 cup of the heated juices into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to combine. Add another 1/2 cup of the hot liquid, whisking till the egg mixture is warm to the touch.

Carefully pour in the tempered egg mixture into the pot with the remaining hot liquid, whisking constantly. Cook the mixture gently, stirring constantly to avoid lumps and adjusting the heat temperature accordingly.


Whisk in the cold butter and lemon zest, then transfer the mixture into a bowl to cool.

Serves well as a filling for cake or this Aebleskiver recipe.

Bao Down

Gua Bao
is a Taiwanese street food, comprised of a steamed bun, braised meat, and other fillings. I was first introduced to these teeny-tiny bites of delight while I worked for a food truck in San Francisco. Every weekend our truck met with other food trucks at Fort Mason hosted by Off the Grid, a Bay Area-based food and music event planner of sorts, bringing together only the best local food trucks at different venues weekly throughout the Bay. Off the Grid events were super fun to work because we were always busy and we got to meet some really awesome and talented people in the food truck community. One of my favorite trucks that I became a huge fan of was Chairman Bao, food truck that specialized in gua bao. A light and fluffy steamed bun with a tender, crisp slice of pork belly, with a nicely pickled crunch of daikon. So many excellent flavors all in one bite. You can’t help but want more.

This week I put my own spin on gua bao with braised pork belly, sweet pickled papaya and spicy pickled cucumbers.


Recipe slightly adapted from Food52
Yields 16

1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup water, room temperature
2 1/8 cups flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup reserved pork fat, room temperature (you can use bacon or pork belly fat)

Set up a stand mixer with a dough hook. Place the yeast and water together and mix just to incorporate to activate the yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Then add in the flour, sugar, milk powder, Kosher salt, baking powder, baking soda and fat and mix on low for about 10 minutes. After the mixing cycle, your dough should be gathered into a ball. Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled medium-sized bowl, wrapped in plastic wrap. Keep the bowl in a warm area of your kitchen and allow the dough to rest for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.


Once the dough has rested and risen, transfer it onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a sharp knife to divide the ball in 2 equal-sized pieces.


Then divide each half into 4 equal-sized pieces, making 8.


Roll each piece into mini logs, then cut each log in half, making 16 pieces total.


Each piece should weigh about 25 grams each and be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Then roll each piece into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Loosely wrap the sheet tray with plastic wrap and allow to rise for a half-hour.


After the buns have rested, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 4-inch-long oval. Brush each bun lightly with oil, and lay a chopstick horizontally across the center of the oval and fold it over onto itself to form a bun. Gently pull out the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and place it onto a sheet tray, allow all the rolled out buns to rest for another 45 minutes.


Set up a steamer on top of your stove. Steam your buns in batches so the steamer isn’t overcrowded, and steam them for about 8 to 10 minutes. Quickly remove each bun and place on a sheet tray to cool.


The steamed buns can be used immediately or kept frozen in Zip-Lock bags for up to 2 months. Reheat the frozen buns on a stove top steamer for about 3 minutes, or until soft and warmed all the way through.

Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4-8

1/2 pound slab skin-on pork belly
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stub ginger, peeled and minced
3 each star anise
2 each Thai chili
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup Asian rice wine
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3 cups water

Heat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet on medium-high. Once hot, place the pork belly into the pan and allow to sear for 5 minutes (or until light golden brown) before turning the belly onto the other side. Allow to sear for another 5 minutes, flipping the belly till all sides are seared nicely.


Remove the belly and place onto a plate. Lower the heat to medium, then add the oil, garlic, ginger, and chilis. Toss for 2 minutes. Then add the star anise and brown sugar. Stir for a minute then deglaze with the wine. Stir till the sugar is melted.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly. Return the belly to the pan and turn down the heat to low. Carefully cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil. Allow to braise for at least 1 hour. Check the belly for tenderness after 1 hour. Cook till fork tender.




Spicy Pickled Cucumbers
Yields 1 cup

1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Thai chili, julienned
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

Heat the vinegar, sugar, chili, salt, pepper flake and sesame seeds in a small pan till boiling. Place the sliced cucumbers in a Mason jar or deli cup, then pour the boiling brine into the jar then cover. Allow to sit in room temperature for an hour, then keep in the refrigerator.

Sweet Pickled Papaya
Yields 2 cups

1 small green papaya, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Bring the vinegar, sugar, water and salt to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine into a Mason jar or deli cup with the papaya. Cover tightly and allow to sit in room temperature for 1 hour. Then keep in the refrigerator.

Pickles can be used once cooled, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.


16 steamed buns
braised pork belly, sliced into 16 pieces
hoisin sauce
spicy pickled cucumbers
sweet pickled papaya
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Place a slice of the pork belly into the bun, smear a little hoisin sauce on the pork. Put 3-6 cucumber slices and about 3 tablespoons of papaya on top of the pork. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Enjoy!




Sir Mix-Mix A-Lot


My first memory of devouring halo-halo (pronounced hollow-hollow, and Tagalog for “mix-mix”) was at an early age at Magic Wok, a Filipino restaurant in L.A. close to where I grew up. (The restaurant is luckily still around, but it’s now called Crispy House, I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in L.A.) The food was soooo good; the best Filipino food I’ve ever had–crispy pata (fried pork belly), Shanghai lumpiang (Chinese-style deep-fried egg rolls), chicken adobo (braised chicken in herbs, vinegar and soy sauce), pancit bihon (stir-fried rice noodles), and of course, the house special halo-halo, a shaved ice/ice cream dessert with milk, Spanish flan, and various beans. Yes, beans. As in, frijoles.

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

Anthony Bourdain tried it for the first time on his show, Parts Unknown, and described it as, “It makes no goddam sense at all; I like it,”  and “it’s oddly beautiful.”

The standout part of halo-halo is the bright purple scoop of ice cream gracing the top of the ice-cold glass, called ube, a naturally-hued purple yam. Yes, yam. Yes, it’s purple. And it’s delicious.

Alone the beans, milk, ice cream, flan, shaved ice, and chunks of jackfruit and various jellies, are odd, but once mix-mixed, the blend of savory, sweet, creamy, caramel and sometimes tangy work perfectly well together. It actually works.

The key to enjoying halo-halo to its fullest is doing exactly what its name asks: mix! And mix! Use a long spoon to mix all the layers of ingredients together.

I haven’t had legit halo-halo in a few years, but during a recent trip to the local Asian market, I stumbled upon a quart of Magnolia’s Ube ice cream. I quickly added it to my basket and enjoyed it at home. I wanted to recreate the halo-halo that reminds me of the ones I had at Magic Wok with my family. Here’s my take on Filipino halo-halo, with homemade ube ice cream and Spanish-style flan!




Ube Ice Cream
Yields about 2 quarts
Recipe slightly adapted from Rot In Rice

16 ounces (1 package) ube, grated purple yam*
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
(*Cook’s Note: Ube/grated purple yam can be found at your local Asian market.)


If your ube is uncooked (as most are in the package) steam it in a double boiler for about 20-30 minutes.


Carefully remove the cooked ube and mash it with a fork.


In a large sauce pot, heat the sugar and milks over medium-low heat till just-summering. Add in the mashed ube and mix till completely incorporated.


Place the mixture into a blender or stick blender and purée till smooth. Mix in the heavy cream and salt.


Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove the grainy bits. Discard those bits. Place the ice cream base into the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.


Place the ice cream base into your ice cream maker bowl, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.





Serves 4

Spanish flan (recipe HERE)
Ube ice cream (recipe above)
1 can evaporated milk
4 cups crushed or shaved ice
1 jar Halo-Halo mix*
(Cook’s Note: Halo-Halo mix can be found at your local Asian market.)




Gather 4 sundae or chalice glasses (I used a tulip-style one). Add a scoop of the ice in each, then add a layer of the halo-halo mix.



Layer on another scoop of ice and halo-halo mix after that till you reach about 1/3 to the rim.


Cut the flan into quarters and place a wedge on the top of each glass with 1-2 scoops of ube ice cream. Top with enough evaporated milk to cover a 1/4 to the rim.



General Custard


This Spanish-style flan recipe is super easy to make. I love using this recipe to accompany this Filipino Halo-Halo dessert recipe.

Spanish Flan
Serves 4
Recipe slightly adapted from

1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
kettle of boiling water

Preheat your own to 350 degrees F. Place your ramekins (or whatever vessel you’ll be cooking your flans in) into the oven on a sheet tray to warm up.


Heat a medium-sized sauce pan to medium-low, then add the sugar until it’s caramelized and brown.

While your sugar heats up, mix together the eggs and milks in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.


When the sugar becomes syrupy, turn off the heat and immediately pour into your warming ramekins.

(Cook’s Note: Heating the ramekins beforehand helps the caramel maintain its heat and not harden immediately.)


Carefully pour the custard mixture into the filled ramekins. Then place the ramekins into a large, shallow ovenproof pan. Fill the pan with the boiling water about 1-inch from the base of the ramekin. Cover with foil and place into the oven for 40 minutes.


Check for doneness, then allow to cool completely. When serving, completely trace the outside of the flan with a knife and then invert the ramekin onto a serving plate.

The Little Lowboy That Could


I’ve been really getting into the whole DIY-decor movement lately, thanks to my amazing interior designer friend, Mel, who I work design jobs with frequently.

A few weeks ago while I was working with Mel, we were driving back from a shopping venture for a client, and I complained how I have been looking arduously for the perfect vintage-style lowboy dresser to no avail. And then, two blocks later, Mel pointed to the street, “Look!” and there it was, like the heavens had heard my prayers–an abandoned lowboy dresser.

We immediately pulled the truck over. And then I exclaimed,
“And I want 100-million dollars and a hot young boyfriend!”

(Can’t knock a girl for trying, eh?)


The dresser, clearly in bad shape, was an icky deep grape purple color with dated drawer pulls and scratches all over. The top of the dresser was warped and disconnected from the rest of the piece, and the inside of the drawers were lined with a 1960s-style floral print. But what made the dresser so beautiful to us was the base; it was clearly one-of-a-kind.


It had beautiful bones and I wanted to take it home. At the risk of sounding cliché: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?


So Mel and I loaded up her truck (thank god she has a truck!) and headed to my apartment to drop of my little orphan lowboy.

A few days later, I headed to the hardware store and picked up some supplies: a roller, angled paintbrush, tinted primer, a water-based semi-gloss paint from Benjamin Moore (Caribbean Azure) and some plastic floor linings in case of spillage. My friend, Chris let me borrow his power-sander, so I immediately got to work on sanding down the entire dresser.

After removing most of the paint and sanding out the rough edges, I wiped off the excess paint residue bits and put on a coat of the tinted primer. (My paint guy and I decided it was the best bet for me to achieve the color I wanted, as the former base color was very dark.)



I let the primer dry overnight and then got to work on putting on the base coat. I used the roller mostly, and touched up the hard-to-reach spots with the angled paintbrush. I allowed the paint to dry overnight before adding the second coat. After painting on the second (and luckily, final!) coat, I allowed it to dry one more night.

After Mel’s recommendation, I headed down to Hippo Hardware, this super rad three-story building that houses hundreds of vintage hardware pieces: from drawer pulls, vintage doorknobs, porcelain bathtubs, and lighting fixtures. (If you didn’t already know: Hippo Hardware is also the site of the infamous scene in the Jackass movie where Dave England goes inside the store and takes a dump in one of the vintage toilets on display.)

Anyway, the store has an entire section with drawers and boxes full of vintage drawer pulls. I knew I wanted them gold ’cause how well the blue and gold would look together. After scouring through every box of pulls they had, I finally found 13 gold, mid-century, hexagon-shaped pulls. They were GORGEOUS! Finding the same type of drawer pull wasn’t an easy task, but I was thrilled when I found these. I needed two more pulls and found a pair of contrasting yet cute gold pieces.


I then headed to Target to grab some cleaning supplies, wood surface cleaner, and snagged a roll of Con-Tact paper to line the insides of the drawers. The print I found was adorable, and contrasted well with the color of the dresser.


After thoroughly cleaning the inside of the dresser, the drawers, and lining the insides of the drawers, I put in the new drawer pulls. It turned out PERFECTLY. I’m so happy with the result, and the final price tag: $104! Not too shabby for a vintage dresser found on the side of the road, huh?






Call Me Miss Honey Lavender Stracciatella


I’ve been binge-watching LogoTV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race for the past month. All seven seasons. It’s an addiction I’m very happy to admit. I love me some drag queens and especially love me some RuPaul.

(PS: How has she not aged an ounce?! Get it, mama Ru!)








I remember watching RuPaul’s talk show (The RuPaul Show) on Vh1 in the late-90s. I was in middle school when it aired, and was so enamored by Ru. What a talent, I thought; you couldn’t keep your eyes off her. I was a fan of hers then and am an even bigger fan of her now. The Drag Race competition show is such a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch it while I’m getting dressed for work, while I’m cooking, and when I unwind after getting off from work. And while most shows lose their luster after each season, Drag Race does quite the opposite: it gains more fans and attention with every year.

When I was deciding to make a new ice cream for this week’s post I immediately turned to my mini garden I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. One of my favorite things I’m growing right now is lavender. The aroma is so soothing and delicious; I so desperately have been wanting an excuse to cook with it.


My idea was to create a honey lavender ice cream with a twist–add some chocolate. Dark chocolate and lavender go so well together, I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity to pair these flavors for this ice cream flavor. And instead of simply adding chips, I wanted to make a stracciatella-type ice cream. The soft, mellow taste from the lavender ice cream immediately reach your taste buds, and then these quick yet small bursts of chocolate melt in your mouth and add a lasting finish. Both flavors are undeniably perfect together, much like RuPaul and Michelle Visage!

And how great of a drag queen name is Honey Lavender Stracciatella? It’s mine now!


Honey Lavender Stracciatella Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart

4 cups whole milk, divided
3 Tablespoons lavender buds, dried
6 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup 60% dark chocolate chips (or bar cut into chunks)


In a small pot, heat 2 cups of the milk till just-scalding.


Place the lavender buds in a separate medium-sized pan (preferable shallow).

When the milk is scalding, quickly remove from the heat and pour into the shallow pan with the lavender buds. This will “shock” the lavender and immediately extract all of the essential oils you want to obtain to get the greatest amount of flavor. Turn on the heat to medium-low and whisk occasionally to avoid scorching. Add in the honey and salt. Allow flower buds to steep in the heated milk for about an hour, adjusting the heat if it gets too hot or cool.


In a separate mixing bowl, place the egg yolks and whisk rigorously till thickened. Add in the sugar and continue to whisk to thicken.



After the lavender/milk mixture has steeped for about an hour, strain the milk with a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the flowers. Return half of the milk into the shallow pan, turning the heat up to medium. Place about 1/4 of the strained milk slowly into the egg/sugar mixture. This is called “tempering” the eggs. You’re essentially heating up the eggs very slowly avoiding to curdling them. Whisk and slowly add in more of the lavender/milk liquid until the mixture is warmed.


Then add the egg yolk/milk mixture into the shallow pan, incorporating it with the rest of the heated lavender/milk base. Whisk the mixture constantly, making sure not to overcook the eggs. Adjust the heat and/or remove the pan from the heat to maintain an even cooking temperature. Once the mixture has thickened to the point where the mixture coats the back of a spoon, it’s done. Immediately transfer to a shallow bowl and place on top of an ice bath to cool down.


(Cook’s note: If you see the sides of the pan start to “cook” you’ve overcooked your eggs and must immediately remove from the heat and strain the mixture and place in an ice bath to cool down. When you overcook the mixture you’ll end up with a scrambled egg-tasting ice cream base, or even worse, scrambled eggs!)

Once the mixture has cooled down, remove from the ice bath. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator to cool down for an additional 3 hours, overnight if possible.


Pour your ice cream base into your ice cream maker when you’re ready to churn it. Follow churning process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

When you have about 30 minutes left of churning, set up a double boiler, and place the chocolate chips into a heat-resistant bowl to melt the chocolate.



While the ice cream is churning, slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate. The circular motion from the churning will create “shards” from the chocolate once it’s frozen. Which is exactly what “stracciatella” means in Italian:,“little shreds” or “little tears.”




Cover and place the ice cream into the freezer and allow to firm for at least 3 hours.




(Editor’s Note: All TV show screenshots in this story are property of World of Wonder Productions.)

Recreating: Pica Pica’s Arepas

arepas lede a streetcar named devour
The Mexican Gordita.

The El Salvadorian Pupusa.

The Venezuelan and Colombian Arepa.

Each are comprised of a corn flour-batter mix, shaped into a disc, fried in oil and stuffed with various fillings.

They all sound strikingly similar, but most will argue, are quite different. (Just ask a Venezuelan how their arepas compare to that of a Colombian’s, or vise-versa, and you will get strong disagreements from each party.)

While in the past I’ve enjoyed a Gordita or two or 10, and have had quite the experience being a human pupusería, I hadn’t stumbled upon Arepas until my recent trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago. My awesome, longtime friend  and hostess Amber, took me to this amazing Venezuelan restaurant in the Mission called Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen. It is FAN (freaking!) TASTIC. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious the sweet corn, cake-like arepas, filled with hearty shredded beef pabellón, fried plantains, black bean purée and queso fresco were. I was in Arepa heaven. If such a heaven exists, I was definitely in it.

arepa inspo a streetcar named devour

The sweetness of the yellow corn viuda (Spanish for “widow” referring to an unfilled arepa) is most excellent on its own, but when paired with the various fillings, it becomes this flavor explosion in your mouth–the sweetness from the viuda and plantain, the salty from the pabellón and queso fresco and the gentle acidity from the guasacaca. Every inch of your tastebuds are satisfied, wanting more and not knowing when, (or how) to stop.

I had long (actually not quite that long, more like a week after) daydreamed of my rather virginal Arepa experience, wanting more. So I made my best attempt at recreating these delicate bellezas del cielo.

arepas 2 a streetcar named devour

Venezuelan-Style Arepas
Serves 3-6
Arepa dough recipe slightly adapted from Mommyhood’s Diary blog

4 cups of water, room temperature
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 cups Harina P.A.N (precooked white corn meal. Look for the “P.A.N” as it’s very different from the harina used in pupusas and gorditas.)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

In a medium-sized bowl add the water, salt and sugar. With a whisk, mix until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Slowly add in the Harina P.A.N. Using your hands, mix the dough, breaking any clumps with your fingers. Allow the dough to rest 5 minutes to thicken up.


While you’re waiting, heat a non-stick griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Then add the oil to the dough, working the dough with your hands for about a minute. The arepa dough should be firm but not cracking when formed. If the dough is too soft add a little more of Harina P.A.N or more water if it’s too hard.


Form dough balls and flatten them gently into discs until they’re about 1/2-inch thick. Immediately place the discs over your preheated pan and cook the arepas for 5-7 minutes on each side or until lightly golden brown. Repeat till all dough has been used. Serve immediately with your choice of fillings.


2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, julienned
2 1/2 pounds flank or flat iron steak
1 cup (8 ounces) canned tomato sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large ripened plantain, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces on a bias
6 Arepas vuidas
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 of small wheel Queso Fresco, crumbled
1 cup Guasacaca Salsa*

For garnish
2 small green onions, julienned (green and whites)

Rub a generous amount of salt and pepper to both sides of your steak. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add in the oil, and when the oil begins to slightly haze, add the steak.

Cook each side for about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. When both sides are gently seared, using a pair of tongs, remove the steak and place onto plate to rest. Keeping the heat still on medium, add the onions  and sauté till onions are translucent. Then add the tomato sauce, stirring well. Add the oregano and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20-25 minutes to thicken.


While your sauce is simmering, and after resting your steak for at least 15 minutes, slice your steak into even 1/4-inch slices. The steak should be at a nice rare pink.


When your sauce has thickened up, immediately turn off the heat and throw in the sliced steak. The residual heat of the sauce will further cook the meat just a tad.

In another medium-sized non-stick pan or skillet, heat a Tablespoon of oil on medium.



Place the sliced plantains in the skillet, cooking each side for about 3 minutes each or until nicely browned and caramelized. Immediately remove from the pan and into a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.


Next, gather all filling ingredients together.


When ready to assemble, split each arepa in half horizontally with a knife. Butter each side of the still-warm arepa. Fill the bottoms of each arepa with the plantains, then layer on the steak, and a heaping spoonful of guasacaca salsaqueso fresco crumbles and green onion garnish.

Serve immediately. (Knife and fork optional, but highly recommended!)

a streetcar named devour arepa lede 3

a streetcar named devour areas lede 2

How To: Guasacaca Salsa


The guacamole of Venezuela, guasacaca is the green condiment that almost every Venezuelan household has in their fridge. Instead of lime juice, the salsa uses red wine vinegar, giving it heightened acidity, much similar to an avocado relish. The salsa is excellent for dipping (taro chips? plantains? yucca fries?!) or as a condiment spread for Arepas. It’s easy-to-make and stores well in the fridge for about 2 weeks.


Yields 1 quart
Recipe via Mami Talks

1 avocado; halved, pitted and flesh removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper; deseeded and finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped (the white and the green part)
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Place all ingredients, except the oil, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend till fully incorporated. Turn off. Use a rubber spatula to scoop the excess bits on the side of the machine’s bowl, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Blend on medium for 30 seconds. Season to taste.

The Horchata Made Me Do It!

a streetcar named devour horchata

Well, summer is officially here, and temperatures are continuing to rise in Portland. It’s warm at home and it’s doubly horrendous when you work in a hot kitchen all day.

Horchata (or Orxata de xufa, depending upon the flavors and Spanish or Latin American region) was originated in Valencia, Spain, where they traditionally use tigernuts (chufa nuts). In Mexico and Guatemala, they use rice as the base of the drink. The Mexican version is what I grew up drinking. (I have also, however, had the Spanish version a few years ago when I vacationed in Spain. It is also, very very good.)

On my day off last week, I made these Mexican Horchata popsicles to help cool down. (And who doesn’t like horchata? It’s so freaking delicious!) I had some leftover horchata base at home and decided to bring it to work to treat my fellow co-workers.

When I started pouring glasses of the Horchata and distributing them to the prep kitchen, more of my fellow cooks came up to me, asking for a glass. Unfortunately, I hadn’t prepared for such a demand and only had enough to feed a few of my co-workers, so I had to think fast and bulk up the batch I had made on-the-fly.

I slowly went down the line and passed glasses of the ice-cold Horchata I had made to all the line cooks. Even in 100-degree weather and a full house of diners (in arguably one of the busiest restaurants in the city), the guys didn’t hesitate to take a second and gulp down that ice-cold cinnamon sweetness. In just a matter of seconds–faces full of sweat, and urgency turned into big smiles of pure delight and relief.

When I returned to my station and went back to work, in a matter of moments I heard calls for more Horchata.

“I’m gonna need more of that cinnamon drink,” said one.

“That was the best Horchata I’ve ever had,” said another.

“This is my first Horchata and I know it’s the best one I’ll ever have,” exclaimed another.


And then my sous chef came up to me and pleaded that I make Horchata for all the Back of House once every week.

OK, alright. That’s a deal.

While this Horchata mix is clearly delightful on its own, freezing them into popsicles makes them even more appealing, especially in 3-digit weather.


Mexican Horchata Popsicles
Recipe adapted from The Candid Appetite
Yields 10-20 popsicles (depending on the size of your molds)

1½ cups long grain rice (uncooked)
4 cups hot water
1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup coconut milk
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons dark rum

a streetcar named devour mep horchata

Place the rice, hot water, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, and cinnamon sticks into a large bowl. Stir the mixture to combine well.


Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap at room temperature for about 1½ hours. Discard the cinnamon sticks and strain the rice, reserving the liquid in a separate container.



Place the rice in a blender or food processor. Blend on medium-high till the rice is pureed and smooth. Slowly add in the reserved liquid. Once all of the liquid has been pureed, strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard rice paste remnants.


Stir in the ground cinnamon, sugar, salt, and rum to the strained mixture. Place the horchata mixture into popsicle molds.

Set popsicles in the freezer for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight before serving.


When ready to serve, gently run cold water on the outside of the mold to loosen and release popsicle.




In Living Color


Um, so summer got here way too quickly, wouldn’t you agree? I had a big reality check when I decided to weigh myself the other day: I had maintained the 25 pounds I had gained last fall. Last fall. I never lost the weight during the winter. (Who does?) Shit happens.

But now that temperatures are reaching the mid-80s and low-90s, I simply cannot hide underneath a flannel or sweatshirt anymore. I’ve begin to notice that certain items in my summer wardrobe aren’t fitting the way they used to. You know, when skirts and shorts are tight (and not in a hot way).  So I have decided (yet again!) to go on a serious health cleanse. Meaning, I’m cutting out the sweets and other bad things from my diet.

I was doing a little research and stumbled upon The Color Diet: The simple rule to follow is getting a lot of color in your diet. And no–chocolate chip cookies and bacon aren’t valid colors. Neither are doughnuts.

The cuisine I crave most is Thai. It’s my fave. While there are so many wonderful Thai restaurants here in Portland–sometimes I’m too lazy to venture out, and just wanna make something in the comfort of my own home. (Sounds counter-productive to some, but it’s actually easier for me this way.)

This dish is my take on Gai Pad Krapow (Chicken with Thai Basil) with the addition of some fresh veggies. And you can add whichever veggies you have in your fridge. I opted for some red bell peppers, jalapeños, and carrots. Doesn’t hurt they add a splash of color, eh? (Hence, the Color Diet.) This dish goes perfectly with these Spicy Thai Noodles and Jasmine Rice.


Gai Pad Krapow
(Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry)
Serves 2-4

3 Tablespoons olive oil
24 fresh Thai chile peppers -or- 2 jalapenos, sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 red bell pepper, julienned
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced on a bias
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons Fish sauce
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Sriracha
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup fresh Thai basil, picked

Heat a skillet or wok with the oil over medium-high. Add in the garlic and chiles, stir-fry for a minute.


Add in the chicken, toss to coat. Cook for about 3 minutes then add the chicken stock and the vegetables. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer a pinkish hue and the vegetables are slightly tender.

Add the fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce and Sriracha. Turn off the heat and fold in the Thai basil. Serve with Jasmine rice and Spicy Thai Noodles.




Hot Noods


I eat more ice cream in the winter than in the summer. I enjoy a good bowl of ramen or pho on a hot summer day. I bake more in the summer than in the winter.


I don’t know what it is (maybe my body is calibrated to the opposite side of the hemisphere?), but I tend to eat atypical foods seasonally. Am I the only one here on this?

So it’s summer and it’s HOT. And this is coming from a girl who was born in LA. I LOVE the cold. While I lived in New York, most of my friends complained about the snow storms and low temps, I relished in it. So when the temps jump to above 80 degrees, I’m not too stoked.

Yet I crave hot things. And that’s not limited to the spicy-hot variety. I make this Thai-style noodle dish a lot in the summer. Instead of the standard peanut sauce, I swap it for almond butter, which is just as good. This time around I opted for a vegetarian version, but I’ve made this dish with shrimp, chicken, pork and tofu. All of which tasted excellent. Love pairing these noodles with this Thai Basil Chicken dish.


Spicy Thai Noodles with Almond Butter Sauce
Serves 2-4

6 ounces Pad Thai noodles
4 Tablespoons almond butter
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup chicken stock, plus 1 cup if needed
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons Thai Chile Garlic Sauce
3 Tablespoons Sriracha
1 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

Cook the noodles according to the manufacturers’ directions.



As the noodles are cooking, whisk together all of the ingredients in a shallow skillet or pan. Cook over medium heat until the almond butter is completely melted and the sauce is smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add in another 1/2 cup of chicken stock to thin out. Adjust spice accordingly. Turn off the heat.


In a large bowl, place the drained noodles and mix in the almond butter sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.


(Bowie really liked the shrimp version I made of this recipe a few months back.)

The Best Diet

cemita a streetcar named devour

So I’m on this Cemita Diet. And it’s working out pretty well so far. You see, I am constantly recipe testing everything I make for this blog (and for my full-time job as a cook). Most of the things I note while I’m recipe testing, is of course, the taste of the products I’m making, the shelf-life of the food, and if it’s so good I can eat the product repeatedly. This tested true for this Cemita recipe, which I ate 4 times within the last 2 weeks. Hence, the Cemita Diet. And it’s not a bad diet to be on.

And what makes this sandwich even better? The FRESH BREAD I made. That’s right, fresh sesame seed buns. As Sir Mix-A-Lot protested: My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun. Clearly he was talking about bread buns, AMIRITE?

I can attest that this sandwich, a Mexican torta, native to the Pueblo region, is as tasty as it is beautiful. Layers of your choice of meat (in this case, I made shredded chicken), Panela cheese (a Mexican soft, white cheese, similar to Queso Fresco and Mozzarella), ripe avocado slices, chipotle aioli, crisp butterleaf lettuce, tomato and red onion, and a pápalo* salsa roja on a sweet and soft sesame seed bun. If you’ve never tried a Cemita, you’re in for a real treat–every bite is tastier than its predecessor. Perfect with an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day, I’m almost positive the next Big Diet trend, is gonna be that of the Cemita.

(*Cook’s Note: pápalo, also known as Bolivian Coriander, tastes a bit like cilantro, but isn’t actually related to either herb. It’s a relative to the daisy plant, and has a very astringent, floral and minty taste. All the reasons certain people who hate cilantro, are all the qualities that make the pápalo plant so refreshing and delicious.)


Cemita Poblano de Pollo
(Pueblan-Style Chicken Torta Sandwich)
Yields 2-4 sandwiches

2 each Cemita rolls (recipe HERE)
1/2 cup prepared chipotle aioli (aioli recipe HERE)
2 avocados, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
5 ounces Panela cheese (about half a wheel), cut into batonnets
1 cup shredded chicken (recipe HERE)
1/2 cup pápalo* salsa roja (24 ounces canned tomatoes; 2 cups papalo leaves; 1 sprig fresh oregano, picked; 2 jalapenos, tops cut off; roughly chopped; 2 garlic cloves; 1 small red onion, peeled and roughly chopped; 1 lime, juiced, salt to taste)
4 pieces butterleaf lettuce
1/2 tomato, thinly sliced into 4 slices
1/2 small red onion, sliced into a fine julienne


Make the chipotle aioli. Add 1/2 cup of canned chipotles (with sauce) into 2 cups of aioli. Mix together. Place in refrigerator.


Make the pápalo salsa roja. In a food processor or blender, combine all of the ingredients till well incorporated. Season to taste. Place in refrigerator.

Slice each roll in the center horizontally. Place into a toaster oven or oven at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes, or until lightly brown.

Liberally spread both inner sides of the rolls with the chipotle aioli.


Add the avocado slices and Panela cheese to both sides.

Place about 1/2 cup each of shredded chicken on the bottom halve of the cemita roll for each sandwich.

Spoon 1/4 cup each of the papalo salsa over the chicken.



Add the lettuce, tomato and onion.

Cover with the top halve of the cemita roll. Slice the sandwiches in half. Enjoy



El Pollo Loco


I go crazy over this chicken. This is a very easy (and delicious) recipe I use all the time. Perfect for tacos, burritos, cemitas, and nachos, this is one recipe staple you’ll find you’re using on the regular.


Shredded Chicken
Serves 2-4
Recipe slightly adapted from The Food Network

3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds rib-in chicken breast
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups thinly sliced red onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/8 cup lime juice

Place a large shallow pan or cast-iron skillet with a lid over medium-high heat and add the oil to the pan. Season the chicken pieces with the spices and salt, tossing both sides evenly to coat. Add the chicken to the pan (skin side first) and sear for 3 minutes per side. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté for a minute. Add the chicken stock over the chicken and slowly bring to a boil. Once the stock is boiling, lower the heat to low and cover with the lid.

Cook the chicken till tender, about an hour. Once fully cooked, turn off the heat, and allow the chicken to cool for about 15 minutes. Once slightly cooled, add the lime juice to the pan and over the chicken, then shred the chicken with your hands, discarding the bones. Season with salt.

On a Roll

The signature component to a Cemita (a torta/sandwich native to the Pueblo region of Mexico) is its sesame seed bun. Much similar to the Brioche, the Cemita roll is soft, with hint of sweet on the inside and has a nice hard outer crust. I love using this bread for burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, too. But of course, it’s best utilized with this awesome Cemita recipe here.

Cemita Rolls
Yields 2-4 rolls
Recipe adapted from The Homesick Texan

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon milk
1 Tablespoon water
1 cup sesame seeds

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar and yeast. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, eggs and oil. In a small saucepan, warm up the buttermilk over low heat until it’s just-warm…don’t let it boil! Slowly stir the buttermilk and egg mixture into the flour mixture till the liquid is just incorporated. Allow the mixture to rest for about 15 minutes.

After the dough has rested, knead the dough on a lightly floured countertop till smooth.
(Note: the dough will be sticky. In this case, rub your hands with extra flour to keep from getting dough stuck on your fingers.)

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for about 1- to 1-1/2-hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Once rested, divide the dough into two or four equal-sized balls. Again, cover the rolled out balls and allow to rest for an additional 15 minutes. unnamed-9
Flatten each dough ball into a disc and place onto a sheet tray. Cover the sheet tray with a damp towel and allow the rolls to proof for a final half-hour. While the dough rolls are proofing, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. When the dough is done proofing, stir the milk and water in a small bowl and brush the tops of each roll and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake the rolls until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Dining In…


One of my all-time favorite movies is the 1996 film, Big Night. But it wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I was introduced to this foodie classic by a roommate who told me about it after I had made a dinner of risotto and chicken. (We then watched the movie together later that evening.)

The film centers around two brothers, Primo and Secondo, immigrants from Italy, who own “Paradise” a restaurant in 1950s New Jersey. The restaurant is in danger of closing as its competing restaurant, another Italian-owned restaurant, “Pascal’s” is taking all of its business. As popular as their competitor’s restaurant may be with locals (think Bucca di Beppo-style decor) the restaurant does not have the heart and soul of the true Italian cuisine that the brothers’ restaurant embodies.


The chef, Primo (beautifully played by Monk star, Tony Shalhoub) is the soul of the restaurant–preparing special dishes he brought from Italy to the States. While Secondo (played by Stanley Tucci, doing triple duty as actor, writer and director of the film) is the businessman of the restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant has to close, but a chat with Pascal leads Secondo to believe that he has set up a final dinner, a “Big Night”, where famous Italian-American singer, Louis Prima is supposedly invited to dine at their “Paradise.” The dinner is meant to be something special, a final goodbye to the restaurant and its roots. Cooking for a big-time star like Louis Prima not only excites Secondo, it pushes him to encourage  his brother to create a special, final meal.


And the meal, well, it’s definitely something memorable. With about 6 courses, the Big Night meal is a culinary adventure that shoots to inspire any foodie, chef, student, and home cook alike. I often dreamt of recreating my own Big Night meal, and I thought that my (belated) housewarming dinner with a few friends would be the perfect opportunity to do just that.


Instead of 6 courses, I opted for 4. The dinner centers around pivotal scenes and dishes in the film. I tried to be as ambitious yet realistic as possible. I had a day and a half to create this meal by myself, so I definitely had my work cut out for me. After pulling an all-nighter and waking up early the following morning to get this meal prepared before my guests arrived, I am incredibly happy with how well the dinner went. By the time my guests arrived, I already had the timpano in the oven, the sorbetto in the freezer, and I was able to cook the stracciatella and the risotto a la minute, right in front of my guests. The reveal of the timpano and slicing it at the table, and then pouring the Prosecco over the sorbetto was another visual treat my guests enjoyed. It appears, we, too, had our own Big Night.



Big Night-Inspired Menu

zuppa: stracciatella (Italian Egg Drop Soup)

primo: risotto con capesante (Seared Scallop Risotto)

secondo: timpano (Baked Pasta Pie)

dolce: sorbetto alla fragola con prosecco (Strawberry Sorbet with Prosecco)


(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Rysher Entertainment and Timpano Productions.)

A Delicious Start


In the Big Night dinner, the meal starts off with the zuppa (soup), although the film didn’t specify what type of soup was served, I opted for lighter fare. A light, clean-tasting soup felt like the best way to begin a four-course meal.



This stracciatella (Italian for “to tear”, or “to shred”, the term is used to describe other foods, including stracciatella ice cream with its shreds of chocolate.) is so easy to make and requires only 5 ingredients–so convenient when you’re preparing a four-course meal for four people all by yourself! But remember: don’t stir the mixture in too much–the clumps cooking in the hot stock will create lovely little semolina dumplings once set.



Stracciatella (Italian Egg Drop Soup)
Serves 2-4
Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups spinach leaves, stems removed and chiffonade cut (kale, chard and arugula also work well)
1 Tablespoon semolina flour
3 Tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (use a Microplane if you have one)
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat the chicken stock in a stock pot and bring to a boil.


While your stock is heating up, in a medium-sized bowl whisk together the egg, Pecorino Romano and semolina flour.


Stir in the chiffonade-cut greens into the boiling stock. Lower the heat to a simmer. Slowly pour in the cheese/egg/flour mixture into the stock. Do not stir the mixture, allow it to sit in the simmering stock for about 2 minutes.






Once the batter looks set (it will cook rather quickly) give the mixture a gently stir to incorporate all of the ingredients. The clumps of batter have now turned into mini dumplings. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve!



Return to the main story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Rysher Entertainment and Timpano Productions.)

She Likes Starch!


In one of my favorite (and famous) scenes in the movie, Big Night, a customer at Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo’s (Stanley Tucci) Italian restaurant is upset because the Seafood Risotto she ordered appeared to have “nothing that looks like a shrimp or a scallop (anywhere).” The customer then asked for a side of spaghetti and meatballs. Upset, Secondo then goes into the kitchen to tell his brother, the chef, Primo, that he needs to make an order of spaghetti and meatballs. Primo is not happy with this request, as he believes in the integrity of the food. The two argue about the customer liking too much starch. Primo then barks back with, “Maybe I should make her a mashed potato on the other side!” The scene is pure comedy and sets the tone of the movie.





For the Primo (first) course of the meal, I wanted to recreate the Seafood Risotto to my own liking. I wanted the caramelization of the seared scallops to shine, so opted out on not adding any other seafood to the mix. The brightness of the spinach greens and basil work well with the creamy risotto, allowing the scallops to take center stage. Adding a splash of fresh lemon juice finishes the dish perfectly.



Risotto con Capesante (Seared Scallop Risotto)
Serves 2-4
Recipe slightly adapted from Barbells and Bellinis 


5 cups chicken broth
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups arborio
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
1/2 cup shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups of fresh spinach or other leafy green (chard and kale work well, too)
1/2 cup basil, chiffonade cut

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound of scallops (I used diver)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil.  Reduce to medium-low to keep warm.

In a large shallow skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots till translucent. Turn down the heat to medium and add in the garlic and stir till aromatic–don’t burn the garlic!


Add in the rice, stir to coat with the butter and cook for about 3-5 minutes.  Deglaze the pan by adding the wine and cook till the liquid is evaporated, stirring constantly.  Start adding your hot chicken broth in 1 cup-intervals and cook until mostly absorbed, stirring constantly. Continue to add the broth 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until broth is almost completely absorbed (this should take 20-30 minutes).


Stir in the spinach and basil after the final 1 cup of broth has been added.  Remove risotto from heat and add the Pecorino Romano. Cover and allow to stand for about three to five minutes (or until scallops are finished).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To cook the scallops, heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat.  Add in the olive oil and allow oil to heat for a minute till hazy. Just before adding the scallops, pat them try with a paper towel; any excess water will create a splattery mess. Add the scallops to the pan, giving each scallop enough room to cook evenly without crowding the pan. Let the scallops sear without disturbing them for about 3-5 minutes. Once you’ve got a good dark, caramelization on one side, flip it over to cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the cooked scallop and top with the risotto.




Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Rysher Entertainment and Timpano Productions.)

Save this one for Louis Prima




“This is so fucking good, I should kill you!” screams rival restauranteur, Pascal (Ian Holm), as he takes his first bite of the grand, drum-shaped Timpano. 


In what is truly a labor of love, the Timpano is a very special Italian dish–best explained by Primo to have, “a special crust, that is shaped like a drum, and inside…all of the most important things…in the world.”







There are several components to the dish. First, the pasta crust. Then the meatballs. Then the marinara sauce, and everything else in between. Unfortunately, because of time restraints, I wasn’t able to make the pasta by hand, so I decided to cheat a little bit (just one cheat!) and topped the Timpano with lasagna sheets. The result is not as good as its original, but boy, the inside of the pasta pie well then makes up for it!

If you’re ready to wow your guests (and impress yourself, for that matter!) roll up your sleeves, and prepare to make this very special, timely dish.



Italian-Style Meatballs
Yields 14-18 meatballs, depending on size
Recipe via A Streetcar Named Devour

1 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 small onion, finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 egg
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flake
olive oil

In a medium-sized skillet, heat the oil till hazy. Add in the onion and shallot, saute till translucent. Add in the garlic, stirring for one minute. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the ground beef and pork, egg and cheese. Once the onion mixture is fully cooled down, add it into the mixture. Finish with the rest of the ingredients, mixing till just incorporated.

Roll the meatball mixture into 2 1/2 Tablespoonfuls-sized balls. Set aside.

Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat, adding just enough oil to reach about 1 1/2 inches of the skillet.

Load the skillet with the meatballs, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook all sides of the meatballs for 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and place onto a baking sheet.

Once all of the meatballs have been cooked, place into a 350-degree oven and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the center of the meatballs are cooked through.

(This can be done a day ahead.)


Italian-Style Marinara Sauce
Yields 3 1/2 quarts
Recipe via A Streetcar Named Devour

24 ounces of canned whole tomatoes
3 Tablespoons dried oregano leaves
1/2 cup basil, torn
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt

Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender. Puree till all ingredients are completely blended together. Set aside.

(This can be done a day ahead.)



Timpano (Baked Pasta Pie)
Serves 4-6 people
Recipe slightly adapted from LA Mag


1 1/2 cups Genoa salami pieces
1 1/2 cup sharp provolone cheese chunks
6 hard-cooked eggs, shelled and quartered lengthwise, each quarter cut in half
2 cups small meatballs* (Recipe above)
3 1/2 cups marinara sauce* (Recipe above)
1/2 pounds ziti, cooked al dente (about half the time recommended on the package) and drained, tossed in olive oil
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Romano
3 eggs, beaten
8-10 sheets of lasagna, cooked al dente, drained, tossed in olive oil


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Make sure salami, provolone, hard-cooked eggs, meatballs and marinara sauce are out at room temperature. Toss the ziti with 2 cups of the marinara sauce. Place 4 cups of ziti onto the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of a 1/2 cup salami, 1/2 cup provolone, 1 1/2 eggs, 1/2 cup meatballs and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese after that. Pour another 1/2 cup of sauce over the ingredients, repeat this step, adding layers of ingredients until the filling comes to about 1 inch of the top of your timpano pan. The last of the marinara sauce should be the top layer. Then pour eggs over the filling. Fold the lasagna sheet layers over the filling to seal it completely.



Cover with aluminum foil and bake until lightly browned, about 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake the timpano till it’s cooked through and is golden brown (and reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees), an additional 30-45 minutes. Once done, remove from oven and allow the timpano to rest for another 30 minutes to allow it to cool and contract before attempting to remove it from the pan. Failing to do so, will result in a broken pasta pie. Once it’s fully cooled down, the baked timpano should not adhere to the pan.


Place a baking sheet or a large, thin cutting board that covers the entire diameter on the pan on top of the timpano. Grasp the baking sheet or cutting board and the rim of the pan firmly and invert the timpano. Remove the pan and allow timpano to cool for 10 minutes. Using a long, sharp knife, gently slice the timpano like slicing a pie into individual portions. Serve!


Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Rysher Entertainment and Timpano Productions.)

Un Dolce Finale


To complete a rather heavy (yet balanced!) Italian feast, inspired by the glorious meal shown in the classic film, Big Night, I wanted to incorporate a light and fruit-forward dessert. When planning the final course for this special meal, I consulted with my good friend, Brett, who is the pastry chef assistant at a superb Italian restaurant in Oakland that I used to work with him at. He immediately suggested a strawberry sorbet topped with some Cava or Prosecco. It was pure genius. This recipe of my Strawberry Sorbet from a few years’ back is my go-to. Just make the sorbet a day-ahead and pour a bit of Prosecco tableside and just see how delighted your guests will be!

Sorbetto alla Fragola con Prosecco (Strawberry Sorbet with Prosecco)
Serves 4

1 quart strawberry sorbet (recipe HERE)
1 bottle Italian Prosecco




Make the sorbet at least 1 day before serving.

When ready to serve, leave the sorbet out in room temperature for about 20 minutes to soften a bit. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop 2-3 scoops of sorbet into each bowl. Pour enough Prosecco over sorbet to just cover. Repeat for all bowls. Serve!






Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Rysher Entertainment and Timpano Productions.)

Cookie Mom-ster


For this Mother’s Day I wanted to dedicate this post to my mom. She is an amazing, smart, strong, beautiful, hard-working, loving, and resilient woman. I like to think (and hope) that I inherited all of those beautiful qualities from her.  Happy Mother’s Day, mama!



Unlike me, my mom is very particular when it comes to sweets. She loves desserts with fruit, whereas I love rich desserts with chocolate. Remember this post? But one of the desserts my mom and me can agree on are Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They’re her favorite cookie because they have a form of fruit in them, I imagine.

So when my parents came up to visit me a couple months ago, I asked my mom what kind of snack she wanted me to make for their trip back home. She mentioned oatmeal raisin cookies, so I put this recipe together that I thought she would love. I had a bottle of rum on hand from a rum cake recipe I always make for her, and decided to use it to rehydrate the raisins. I love the rich, caramel-like flavor the rum gives after they’ve been soaking with the raisins, so I added them to the dough. The recipe isn’t too sweet, so I also rolled the dough in sugar to create a pretty sugary crust. The end result is a not-too-sweet, spicy, (a bit boozy) oatmeal raisin cookie with a great depth of flavor.


Snacks intended for their voyage back home, my parents confessed to me that the cookies were all gone way before they even got home. Apparently, my dad was a fan of them, too!

What are your favorite cookie flavors? What recipe reminds you most of your mom? Share your stories in the comments below; I’d love to read them!



Mom’s Favorite Oatmeal Rum Raisin Sugar Cookies
Yields 1 dozen medium-sized cookies

1/3 cup dark rum, more if needed
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar, for dusting

To rehydrate the raisins, place them  into a small bowl and pour the rum into the bowl. The raisins should be completely immersed in the liquid. Add more if needed. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium-speed till incorporated. Add the egg and vanilla and mix till combined.

Drain the excess rum from the rehydrated raisins, reserving the rum. Set raisins aside. Fold in the rum into the mixture. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are mixed well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and rolled oats. Slowly add the flour mixture into the sugar/butter mixture on low till just combined. (Don’t over-mix.) Fold in the rehydrated raisins to the dough. The dough will be slightly sticky—that’s OK.


Place the dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is solidified. (Cook’s Note: If you’re making these a day ahead, wrap and place into the refrigerator overnight.)

While your dough chills, preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Place about a half-cup of sugar into a small bowl. Set aside.

Roll a small ice cream scoopful (or 2 Tablespoonfuls) of dough and place into the bowl of sugar and fully coat the cookie ball. Place the dough ball onto the sheet tray, leaving about 2 1/2 inches of space between each cookie.


Bake for about 14-17 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.





The Cookie Strikes Back


One of my favorite ice cream sandwich memories were in the early-2000s, in the countless times I waited in a line that curved around the corner of a bakery in Westwood (close to the UCLA campus) called Diddy Riese for a sweet treat. Their ice cream sandwiches were a big deal to Angelenos and UCLA students alike. It was a #treatyoself moment every time my friends and I would drive over and grab a sandwich. Back then the cookies sold for .25 each and $1 for a scoop of ice cream to make the sandwich, and you could mix-match whatever cookie and ice cream flavor you wanted. I’d always take an extra bag of cookies back home for sharing and snacking.

I haven’t been to Diddy Riese in years, but I always enjoy a good ice cream sandwich when I can get one, or better yet, make one. The following cookie and ice cream sandwich combo was with some ingredients I already had in my refrigerator and pantry. Tart blueberries and rich white chocolate chips just go so greatly together, and I love the idea of a rum-coconut ice cream with a nice salty macadamia nut note.

Brown Butter Blueberry White Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from Keep It Sweet Desserts
Makes about 12 large cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large whole egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon Kosher sea salt
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried 

Brown the butter by heating in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the butter turns a medium brown color, remove from the heat and pour into a small bowl. Allow to cool.

Once the butter has cooled completely, place into a large bowl of an electric mixer with the sugars; beat on medium-high speed till well combined. Add in the egg and vanilla extract, mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined.

In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; slowly add into the wet ingredients with the mixer on low speed till just combined.

Turn off the mixer and with a spatula, slowly stir in the white chocolate chips and then gently fold in the blueberries. Wrap the dough into a container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, overnight if possible.


When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. With an ice cream scoop, scoop the dough (about 4 tablespoons) onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet tray. Bake the cookies till medium golden brown, about 17-20 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.




Macadamia Nut-Rum-Coconut Ice Cream
Yields 1 pint

3 cups coconut milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, roasted and roughly chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons coarse sea salt

Heat the coconut milk in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring the bottom every few minutes to avoid scorching.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks till slightly thickened. Set aside.

When the coconut is heated and it begins to haze, take a ladle or 1/2 cup measuring cup and slowly add in the heated milk into the egg yolks. Whisk quickly to incorporate and to avoid curdling. Slowly add in more milk until 1/2 of the milk is incorporated, then add in all of the egg-milk mixture back into pot and turn the heat down to medium. Whisk the mixture to avoid curdling.

While the mixture heats up, set up an ice bath in a large bowl.  Wait for the custard to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. When the custard is thickened, remove from heat and place into a shallow pan or bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Place the bowl over the ice bath and whisk the custard to cool down. Allow ice cream base to fully cool down in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Place ice cream base into your ice cream maker and operate using the machine’s instructions.


Cookie Sandwich Assembly
Pair the cookies according to likeness in size. Scoop the ice cream onto the bottom side of one cookie and top with the other. Place into the freezer for about an hour to finally set. Enjoy!



Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh


I first discovered Bánh mì sandwiches in Little Saigon–an area in the city of Westminster, California, where a large population of Vietnamese Americans live. The Asian Garden Mall, “Phước Lộc Thọ”, had several Vietnamese-owned restaurants, clothing, jewelry, electronic, and beauty shops. My family would go there often when I was a kid because my mom enjoyed shopping there, and the mall was only a 30-minute drive from where we lived.

Bánh mì translates to “bread.” The French-style baguette was introduced to the cuisine during the French colonization in Indochina in the late-1850s early-1860s. The sandwich is traditionally made with pork liver pâté (also from the French), cold cuts, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and mayonnaise.

For this recipe, I decided to go with a throwback recipe from Bon Appetit from 5 years ago. I loved the recipe then and I love it even more now. With a few tweaks and the addition of crispy shallots and a homemade French baguette recipe, this is definitely one of my favorite sandwiches. This sandwich is so good it makes my heart beat like Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh.


Pork Meatball Bánh Mì Sandwich
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 4 sandwiches

For the spicy mayonnaise
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)

For the Pickled Carrot
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

For the Pork Meatballs
1 large shallot, minced and sautéed in oil till translucent
1 pound ground pork
1/8 cup basil, picked and finely chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, picked and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as Nam Pla or Nuoc Nam)
2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
oil for frying

For the Sandwiches
4 each French baguettes (recipe here)
1 each jalapeño chile, sliced thinly
1/2 cup cilantro, picked
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
oil for frying

To make the Spicy Mayo, stir all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt. This can be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

To make the Pickled Carrots, mix together the first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour, mixing occasionally.


To make the Pork Meatballs, stir all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form the mixture into scant tablespoonful balls, rolling the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. You should have 12 meatballs. Arrange them onto a baking sheet. This can also be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in half of the meatballs. Sauté until browned and cooked through, turning the meatballs to evenly sear all sides lowering heat if they begin to brown too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to another rimmed sheet tray. Place into the oven. Repeat searing and baking with the remaining meatballs.


In a small sauce pot, add 1/4 cup of oil. Place the sliced shallot rings into the pan. Turn on the heat to medium and wait for the oil to heat. (Allowing the shallot rings to fry in cold oil makes it easier to control the heat and to avoid burning them.) Once the oil begins to heat up, toss the shallot rings until a light golden brown. Transfer rings to a paper towel-lined plate.


Cut each baguette horizontally in half. Spread spicy mayo over each bread halve.


Place 3 each meatballs onto the bottom halve side per sandwich.


Arrange the jalapeños one one side, then adding the (drained) and pickled carrot, crispy shallots, and cilantro. Gently place the top on baguette tops. Repeat with all sandwiches.








Roll Out!


This is a great beginner’s recipe for making bread. I haven’t made baguettes since my Breads and Pastries class in culinary school, so this was a great refresher course. I made this bread specifically for this recipe. 


Vietnamese-style French Baguette
Recipe adapted from Vietnam Online
Yields 4 small baguettes

4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons melted butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 Tablespoons softened butter
extra flour for coating

Dissolve the sugar and 3/4 cup of the lukewarm water, add the yeast and dissolve.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, melted butter and salt. Add the sugar water yeast mixture and beat slowly with an electric mixer. Add the rest of the lukewarm water gradually if the mixture is still dry. Beat and mix well until the dough has a smooth surface.


Butter a large bowl and place the dough there, cover with a damp towel and allow to sit for about an hour or until the dough doubles in size. Once doubled, beat the dough slightly and knead well. Divide the dough into 4 equal-sized portions. Slightly deflate the dough to even out the flour and roll back into mini baguettes.

Place the rolls onto a sheet tray. Preheat the oven to 212°F. Allow the rolls to proof in the oven for 30 minutes, turning off the heat after 10 minutes. (You can spray a little water onto the rolls to give the bread some moisture.)


After proofing, the rolls should be doubled in size. Remove from the oven and preheat the temperature to 375°F. Using a sharp razor, make a vertical slash onto the top of each roll. Smooth a tiny bit of water on the surface of the bread and dust with flour. Use the leftover butter to fill in each slash.

Bake the rolls for about 15-20 minutes until the bread turn light yellow and toothpicks come out clean. Remove and set aside to slightly cool.

You Can’t Have the Mango!


Why is it that every time I hear this song by Everything But the Girl, I’m reminded of Chris Kattan’s Saturday Night Live character, Mango? Does it give you flashbacks, too?

I digress. So the whole thing with mangoes started when my parents came to visit me in Portland recently (yay!). I was so excited to host them in my new apartment. We went on a road trip and visited our family in Idaho. It was such a lovely week, I’m so glad to have spent some quality time with my family. Working in the hospitality industry, it’s hard to get the time to take long vacations and spend time with loved ones. I really want to (and will!) make an effort this year to work less and spend more quality time with the special people in my life. Promise.

Back to the point of this story: My mom brought me a bunch of mangoes (it’s her favorite fruit), her reasoning being that I “need to eat more fruit.” (She thinks I don’t eat enough fruit, which is pretty much true.) But I somehow forgot about them, and when I finally remembered that I had them (in actuality, a telephone conversation with my mom asking me if I had eaten said mangoes) I found them overripe in my fridge. I was bummed; they were too mushy to eat raw. And I’m really hesitant to eat things with weird textures. (Random fact about me: I don’t care for eggplants or bananas because of their weird mushiness.) Yet I tasted the overripe mangoes and figured they were still salvageable, so I made this delectable Mango Coffee Cake instead.

The Martha Stewart recipe I adapted it from called for a glaze, but I decided to top the cake with my Vegan Caramel Sauce that I upgraded by steeping the coconut milk with star anise for about an hour.


This recipe is best served warm and with coffee. (Duh.) Store the cake in room temperature wrapped in plastic. Upon serving, just reheat it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. It still tastes really good even after a week.



Mango Coffee Cake with Coconut-Star Anise Caramel
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for your baking pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
5 overripe mangoes, flesh scooped and mashed lightly

Vegan Caramel Sauce

First make the streusel topping. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small to medium clumps form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the streusel center: Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. For the cake: Butter a 9-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl and mix together.


Beat the butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed till fluffy, about a minute. Add in the egg and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream and mashed mangoes, beginning and ending with flour. Continue to beat until well combined.


Pour half of the batter into the greased pan. Sprinkle the streusel center mixture evenly over the batter. Pour in the remaining batter, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Sprinkle the rest of the streusel topping.


Place into the oven and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to parchment.


Make the caramel sauce. While still warm, drizzle over cake and let the sauce drip down to the sides. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.





Marta! Marta! Marta!


And now a scene from one of my favorite movies:

(This scene in Clueless always makes me laugh. Cher is so ignorant clueless, she doesn’t realize that her maid, Lucy, is from El Salvador, not Mexico. And that they are, in fact, two different countries. Luckily, hunky Josh sets the record straight.)

I first learned how to make traditional El Salvadorian pupusas with a very fiesty 50-something-year-old woman named Marta. I worked with Marta at a restaurant a few years ago; she was our dishwasher who’d come into work every day with the reddest lipstick and a full face of makeup and her curly hair all styled perfectly. You wouldn’t think she came into work to wash dishes by the way she presented herself. She took pride in the way she looked, and always joked to me and the other cooks that she was a “hot mama.”

Marta didn’t speak a word of English, so we communicated with each other in Spanish. Marta called me “Selena” because I would often belt out a song by the Tejano singer when I’d bring dishes to the dishpit, and she would be there, smiling brightly as I sang the words to “Como La Flor” with such passion and conviction. (Marta was one of my biggest fans.)

I learned in our conversations that she owned a pupuseria in El Salvador. How fortunate was I to work with a real pupusa expert?! “Mira, Selena,” she’d say, as she brought me and the staff pupusas con chicharones (shredded pork) and share them with the staff. I wanted so desperately to pick her brain and learn how to make the pupusas myself. So after a while we began serving her pupusas once a month in the restaurant, and guess who made them with her? Yep, me. Working next to her as she formed and shaped the pupusa balls at lightning speed was so impressive. It was, at first, quite difficult catching up to her. (She had been making pupusas for 40+ years.) But I was determined to be well versed in pupusa-making. And after a while, I got pretty good at it! Here are the recipes I remember making with Marta.



El Salvadorian Pupusas with Curtido and Salsa Roja
Yields 5 pupusas; 1 quart curtido; 1 pint salsa roja

1/2 head of small green cabbage, julienned thin
2 each carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 white onion, julienned thin
1/2 cup white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 each canned tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 bunch fresh oregano, picked
1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño, tops cut off and deseeded
1 each lime, juiced
Kosher salt, to taste
splash olive oil, to taste

2 cups masa harina (corn flour, I used Maseca)
2 cups water
1 cup shredded habanero jack cheese
2 jalapeños, minced
oil for frying

FOR THE CURTIDO (cabbage slaw)
Mix the shredded cabbage, onion, carrots in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt and add in the vinegar and herbs. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Set aside for at least 1 hour to allow the cabbage to break down.




Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor till fully incorporated. Add salt to taste. Set aside.


In a large bowl and with your hands, mix the masa, salt and water till the dough is thoroughly mixed and feels like slightly wet clay or Play-Doh.


Divvy up with dough and form into large balls. You should have about 5. In a small bowl add the minced jalapeños and shredded cheese. Add a splash of water to help bind the cheese-chile filling together.


Fill a small bowl with lukewarm water. This water will help you when working with the pupusa dough, as it may harden and may become difficult to shape. Take one of the masa balls into your hand and flatten it onto your palm, creating a plate-like shape. Place a dollop of the cheese-chile mixture into the middle of the masa ball.


Bring the outer sides of the masa to the other side to close the filling. Press down on the sides together to seal the seams. Shape the pupusa balls into a saucer-like shape. Dip your hands into the water bowl to add moisture to the dough if needed. Using some of the water also helps to close the seams and any cracks the dough may create.


Fill a cast-iron skillet or shallow pan with about a half-inch of oil and turn the heat onto medium. When the skillet is hot and a little haze is over the oil, slowly add in the pupusas without overcrowding the pan.


Allow the pupusas to cook for about 5 minutes per side. Using a heat-resistant spatula, place the fried pupusas onto a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat till all pupusas are cooked off. Serve with curtido and salsa.






Seoul For Real

Who remembers this song?

I do! I do!

Soul for Real was a very talented R&B singing group that I listened to as a kid. And I admit to having mix tapes with “Candy Rain” that I still listen to today. Great record.

Anyway, my first introduction to Korean cuisine was less than great. My family and I were headed to the Philippines for vacation. (Keep in mind I was 13 years old at the time and my palette wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today.) We flew via Korean Air and had an 8-hour layover in Seoul. (Despite how long the layover was, the shopping at the airport, however, was very exciting!)

Our mid-flight meal consisted of a menu I honestly cannot remember in great detail. But the food that me, my brother and cousins ordered was what was labeled as, “Pancakes and Sausage.” Of course, to kids we were overwhelmed with excitement. “Pancakes?! YESSSSSSS!” <hands in the air> Little did we know, the airline’s interpretation was not what we had imagined. I remember the pancakes being super thin and pale, and the sausage being white in color. “White sausage?!!” Us kids complained. We didn’t know any better, of course. Remember, we were just kids. So we refused to eat it. Looking back now, I really do wish that I did at least try it.

So now that I’m older and wiser (haha) I’m lucky to have been exposed to several different cuisines and foods that I would have never tried before. Culinary school and my genuine curiosity is to thank. But my favorite current Korean-style meal right now is Beef Bulgogi (Korean bbq) and Hobak Jeon (savory zucchini pancakes). Check out the following links for these very delicious and worthwhile recipes!




Seoul Food


Beef Bulgogi
Korean-Style BBQ
Recipe adapted from A Spicy Perspective
Serves 1

1 lb. lean steak, frozen
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2  tablespoons sesame seed oil
3 ea. cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1 bunch green onions, chopped, whites and greens separated
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted


While the steak is still frozen, trim the excess fat and slice into thin strips.
(Cook’s note: the steak is easier to cut through when it’s frozen.)


Place the steak into a large bowl with the next 7 ingredients. Toss all of the ingredients to coat, and then adding the white parts of the onion. Allow the steak and marinade to thaw for about 1 hour.


Heat a large skillet or wok to medium-high heat. Using a pair of tongs, place the meat onto the heated skillet. Spread the pieces of meat evenly to allow all pieces to cook evenly. After about a minute, add the marinade onto the pan. Toss to coat and allow the sauce to caramelize.  Once the marinade is cooked down and the steak is cooked to desired temperature, turn off the heat.

When ready to serve, garnish with sesame seeds, green onion.


Pancake Haus


Hobak Jeon 
Korean Zucchini Pancakes
Recipe adapted from Insanity Theory
Yields about 6 pancakes

1 ea. zucchini and yellow squash
2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 ea. medium onion, peeled and minced
2 cups AP flour
2 large eggs
2 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste


Cut off the ends of the yellow squash and zucchini, and then slice into 1/4-inch rounds. Then julienne the rounds.

Toss the squash with the salt, and then place into a bowl for about 30 minutes to drain out the water from the squash.

While you’re waiting for the squash to soften, beat the eggs together till combine. Slowly add in the flour and whisk till incorporated. Then add in the water slowly to thin out. You want the mixture to resemble pancake batter. Add in more water or flour accordingly.

Place the shredded squash into a kitchen towel or cloth, and squeeze out the excess water. Add the squash into the batter, discarding the water. Add in the minced onion.


Heat a cast-iron skillet or non-stick frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat. Once the oil starts to haze, add in a scoopful (I used a 1/2 cup) of the pancake batter to the pan. Swirl the pan to evenly coat.


Cook the pancake till light brown on one side (about 2-5 minutes, depending on your pan), then carefully flip over using a spatula and finish cooking, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer the cooked pancake onto a paper towel-lined plate, then repeat till all batter is used. Reapply oil as needed. Serve with hot dipping sauce. (I mixed 1 part Sambal 1/2 part soy sauce.)


Khaki Wishes and Cookie Dreams


I was never a Girl Scout. In lieu of those activities, my mom encouraged me take ballet and tap dance classes, piano lessons and vocal coaching. I was a bit of a singer/dancer as a child, taking any chance I could to steal the limelight to sing in front of an audience (large or small). I loved singing and dancing so much that I didn’t miss or even notice the other activities I could’ve been doing with other kids my age. It wasn’t until I was about 12 years old when I first saw Troop Beverly Hills, a movie about a group of Wilderness Girls from the 90210, led by the fierce (and amazingly dressed) Shelley Long.




Troop Beverly Hills is one of my favorite movies, and after re-watching it in my 20s I immediately recognized one of my favorite artists, a young Jenny Lewis. In fact, the movie is flooded with young stars you may recognize.


Looking back, I kind of wish I would’ve been a Wilderness Girl, just so that I could sing the “Cookie Time” song.

So right now (with all of my social media channels flooded with posts of Girl Scout cookies) I’m craving Thin Mints so very much. But no such luck on finding any Girl Scout cookie sales booths. Being the proactive and slightly impatient person that I am, I decided to create my own. The resulting recipe is vegan-optional (if you choose to use margarine instead of butter) and has a very subtle coconut flavor. ‘Cause mint and coconut go together like khaki and green, right? I’m calling ’em “Thick Mints” for obvious reasons.



Homemade Thick Mints
Recipe slightly adapted from
Yields about 2 1/2 dozen

For the cookies:
8 ounces butter (or margarine)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup rice flour (I used Mochiko)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups all purpose flour

For the dipping chocolate:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
1/8 cup canola oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter (or margarine) and sugar till fully incorporated. Stir in the salt, extracts, coconut milk and cocoa powder. Mix until the cocoa powder is integrated and the batter looks like chocolate frosting. Add the flours and mix till just combined, making sure to not over-mix.



Form the dough into a cylinder-like roll (think rolling pin-sized). Wrap the dough completely in Saran or other plastic wrap tightly. Place the dough into the freezer for at least 3 hours or overnight.

After properly resting, remove dough from the freezer and carefully discard plastic wrap. Using a sharp serrated knife cut dough into 1/2-inch discs, slowly cutting so as to not break the dough.


Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack, about 5 minutes.

While the cookies bake, make the peppermint coating. Heat a sauce pot of water till boiling. Place the baking chocolate into a heat-resistant bowl over the boiling water, making sure not to get water  into the chocolate.



(Cook’s Note: I have read recipes online instructing to place chocolate into a microwave. Please, I repeat, please don’t do that. Heating chocolate in the microwave will oftentimes scorch it. Chocolate is a temperamental food that needs to be treated carefully. On that note, please don’t ever heat chocolate over a direct flame. Melting chocolate over a double-boiler creates a more controllable heat source.)

Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the peppermint extract. Then slowly add in the oil to thin it out.

Slowly drop the cookies into the melted chocolate. Turn to coat the cookies entirely, then lift the cookie out of the chocolate with a rubber spatula.

Place the dipped cookies onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Place the cookies in the freezer to set for at least an hour, preferably overnight if you’re patient!

Now it’s “cookie time, it’s cookie time, it’s cookie time!”

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Weintraub Entertainment Group)

Don’t Mess With Cookie Lyon




By a show of hands, who’s also obsessed with Fox’s television show, Empire? I just can’t get enough. I was introduced to the show via some friends at work who also share my love for VH1’s Love and Hip Hop.

“Oh girl, you think Love and Hip Hop is good, you definitely need to watch Empire. You’ll thank me later,” one friend said.

“You’re not watching Empire yet? Get on it, girl! It’s like a scripted, well acted version. But 1000-plus times better. Trust me,” another friend exclaimed.

So I gave in to the peer pressure and watched the pilot that night. My expectations were exceeded. Are you kidding? This show is phenomenal. (Know that I don’t use that term lightly.) My girl Taraji P. Henson is KILLING IT as the lead heroine, Cookie Lyon. Mama is fierce! And I just can’t get over how gorgeous Jamaal (portrayed by actor Jussie Smollett) is.

(Side note: Did anyone realize a young Jussie was in THIS movie?) The relationship he and Cookie have is so beautiful to watch, like how a mama lioness watches over her cub. This show proves that a mother’s love is stronger than just about anything.

With all this talk about Miss Cookie, I got to thinking: It’s been a few weeks since I’ve made some actual cookies at home. So I got to the kitchen and started baking away. These cookies are such a great twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie. The brown butter deepens the flavor and the pecans add spice with a nice bit of crunch.

(Editor’s Note: All television show screenshots are property of 20th Century Fox.)



Brown Butter Spiced Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cookie recipe slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
Spiced pecan recipe by A Streetcar Named Devour
Yields about 3 dozen cookies


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup pecans, whole

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl and thoroughly coat the pecans.  Spread the pecans into a single layer onto the sheet tray. Place into the oven for 15 minutes. Once done, remove and allow to cool.


1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (recipe above)

Place half of the butter into a medium skillet. Melt the butter over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally to avoid burning. The butter will begin to foam while cooking. Once the butter starts to smell nutty and the color is light amber, it’s done. Carefully remove the butter and pour it into a small bowl to cool down.

While the brown butter cools, mix the other 1/2 cup of butter with the sugars, until the mixture is well incorporated. Add in the vanilla and the egg. Once cool, pour in the brown butter. Mix until smooth. Slowly add in all the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Place the dough into a sealable container and into the refrigerator to cool for at least an hour. Even better if it’s overnight.



When you’re ready to bake the dough, preheat the oven to 350°F. Scoop the refrigerated dough in 2-tablespoon scoops onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet tray, lining them so that they have plenty of space as they will spread considerably once baked. Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, or until they’re a pretty golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow them to cool for at about 5 minutes.




Starting Over




“You know what’s funny? This is the first time in my life there’s no one waiting at home for me. I don’t even have a home to come back to.” -Liz Gilbert in Eat Pray Love

After re-watching that scene, I can’t help but feel the jolt of goosebumps travel from my shoulders, down to my toes, and back up again. The feeling is eerily familiar. I had just experienced my own similar Eat Pray Love journey not too long ago. Liz was leaving behind everyone she loved; everything she knew. I, too, left behind everyone I loved and everything I knew.

I had reached a point in my life back in California, where nothing felt right. 

I began to feel the pangs of every decision I had made up to that point. Wasn’t this the life I had procured for myself? I (just like Liz) actively participated in creating this life, so why wasn’t I happy? I began to accept something I knew deep down inside for a very long time–I needed to start over. I wanted to move somewhere where I could become inspired again. I wanted to go to a place where I didn’t know a single person. After telling my story to a well known astrologer/medium in the Bay Area, she agreed and told me (as Ketut Liyer prophesied to Liz in Bali) that I needed to move and start over somewhere new. Together we consulted the spirits, and of all the cities and countries we examined, they (we) chose Portland. That was the moment I decided that I would have to figure out a way to move out of Oakland, and then save up enough money to make my way up North.

I didn’t have any housing planned, nor job lined up. Just the sheer determination and faith in the process that I would make it work. The only thing that had kept me in Oakland for as long as it did, were the friends I made within the four years I lived there. Saying goodbye to those friends truly was the hardest part; my friends are an extension of my family. After four years, I guess you can say I fell out of love with Oakland, as Liz fell out of love in her marriage. So she ended it. And I did as well.

I admit, it wasn’t an easy process, but thanks to my willingness to never give up, and meeting a group of truly amazing people (the new friends I’ve made here have been such a blessing and have helped me get through the many obstacles I encountered) I managed to set out and do exactly what I intended to do: start a brand-new life. The rush of being inspired again gives me goosebumps. The good kind. So while my journey here is far from over, I believe that I’ve started a new chapter in my own Eat Pray Love story.

Because it’s February (with the Hallmark holiday of Valentine’s Day just a few away) I thought I’d partake in the festivities and create a menu of Eat Pray Love-inspired recipes, featuring cuisines from the countries Liz visited.

I hope my story (or Liz’s) inspires you to partake in your own Eat Pray Love journey.


ITALY:  Roasted Asparagus with Black Olives, Lemon Vinaigrette, Pecorino Romano and a Soft-Cooked Egg

INDIA: Butter Chicken with Rice and Homemade Naan

INDONESIA: Gemblong Sweet Rice Fritters with Coconut-Caramel Sauce


(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)

Dolce Far Niente





When brainstorming recipe ideas for the “EAT” section of this story, I had so many dishes to choose from. I mean, Liz ate such wonderful food in Italy–what to choose? Pizza in Napoli! Spaghetti in Roma! Tacchino in Toscana! But I was so enamored with the whole idea and simplicity of dolce far niente, as described by the character Luca Spaghetti, which means “the sweetness of doing nothing. So I went with it. As Americans, we do tend to live a lifestyle in which we feel that we have to “deserve” a break or a reward. I thought the approachability and charm of Liz’s dish with the hard-cooked egg, olives, cheese and roasted asparagus that she made (while dressed in a beautiful silk négligée at that) in a scene in the movie was perfection. Here’s my interpretation of the dish below.


Roasted Asparagus with Black Olives, Lemon Vinaigrette, Pecorino Romano and a Soft-Cooked Egg
Serves 1

7 each asparagus spears
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/2 lemon, juiced (peel reserved for grating)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup black olives, drained, pitted and lightly smashed
1/8 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
1 each egg


Preheat the oven to 350º F degrees. Wash the asparagus and snap the ends to remove the tough edges. Place the asparagus spears onto a baking sheet, giving each spear enough space between each other. Drizzle the 2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle the salt. Roast the asparagus for 7-10 minutes, till slightly tender.

While the asparagus is roasting, add the dijon, garlic and lemon juice into a small bowl, stirring together to incorporate. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil into the bowl. Set aside.

Fill a small saucepan with water and heat to boil. Slowly add the egg into the boiling water. Set a timer for 6 minutes. Turn the heat down to low. After 6 minutes, turn off the heat and set the timer for an additional minute, then place the egg in an ice bath. Let the egg sit in the ice water for another minute. Remove the egg and lightly crack the top and base, gently removing the shell so as to not break the egg yolk. Set aside.


Place the asparagus spears onto a plate. Add the black olives. Lightly drizzle the vinaigrette over the asparagus and olives. Using a Microplane, grate the Pecorino Romano and lemon peel over the plate. Gently place the egg over the asparagus and break that yolk upon serving!


Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)








The second part of Liz’s spiritual journey of self-discovery continued in an ashram in India, where she meets pivotal characters like Richard from Texas. The meals were simple, but I thought something as comforting as a big bowl of yummy butter chicken and rice with fresh homemade naan would be the perfect meal. (Especially right now, since it’s been cold and raining here in Portland for the past week.)


Butter Chicken
Recipe slightly adapted from Foodess
Serves 2-4

FOR THE MARINADE (do a day ahead)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 cup small diced white onions
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 can diced (no salt added) tomatoes
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
3 cups cooked basmati, brown or jasmine rice

Homemade Naan (recipe HERE)

Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and thoroughly combine with a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions, cooking till tender. About 20-25 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the spices and salt, tossing to coat the onions. Cook for five minutes. Add the tomatoes, milk and butter. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

(Cook’s Note: I do this step overnight because I feel that the flavors develop even more after a day.)

The next day: Drain the excess oil from marinade and set aside. Return the sauce to the stove and reheat till boiling. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and add the chicken, slowly stirring to cook. Add the cilantro. Cook for about 10 minutes (or until done). Turn off the heat and serve.



Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)

BReaking BRead



This delicious bread is best served with THIS recipe for Indian Butter Chicken.

Homemade Naan
Recipe slightly adapted from Baking Steel
Yields 4 pieces

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 425º F degrees. In a medium bowl sprinkle yeast over the lukewarm water, then sprinkle sugar on top. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes or until foamy.

Whisk in the olive oil and yogurt. Add the flour and salt, mixing till combined.

(Cook’s note: Dough will be rather wet and sticky. That’s OK.)

Cover the bowl with a damp side towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot in your kitchen. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is. About 30 minutes before baking, place a baking steel (if you have one) or cast-iron skillet into the oven to heat the pan.

Put some flour on your hands and turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface, sprinkling the dough with the flour as you work with it. Divide the dough into 4 equal-sized pieces. The dough will be rather sticky, so attempt to work the dough as minimally as possible, using as much flour as needed to keep it from sticking to your hands. Shape each section into a ball and let rest for about 20 minutes before shaping. Cover the dough balls with a damp towel.


To shape the dough, use your hands to gently stretch the dough, lightly pulling the edges to stretch evenly, using all of your fingers to elongate it. Wet your fingers and lightly rub the surface of the dough with a bit of water. Using an oven mitt, remove your cast-iron skillet from the oven and then gently place the dough (water rubbed side down) onto it. Bake for 3-4 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, check to see if the side has gotten golden brown, if so, flip it over and bake for another 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and repeat the process with remaining pieces of dough.



Return to the full story HERE

Let’s Cross Over







For the last leg of Liz’s journey, she finds “LOVE” in Bali. Meeting her future husband, Felipe (real name: Jose Nunes), helped change her way of thinking. She discovered that she can find balance with love and spirituality. She not only found love in the form of her soulmate, but she also found love in the friends she met (not just in Indonesia, but throughout her journey) like Ketut Liyer, Wayan Nuriasih and Tutti.

I felt that a sweet dish would be the best representation of Liz’s time in Bali. I could just imagine young Tutti making these fun and easy-to-make sweet treats with her mom.


Gemblong (Indonesian Sweet Rice and Coconut Fritters)
Yields about 14 fritters

2 cups sweet rice flour (I used Koda Farms Blue Star® Mochiko)
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut milk, heated
1/4 cup water
2-3 cups oil, for frying
1 pint coconut-caramel sauce (recipe HERE)

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk and water till almost boiling. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching. Set aside.

Place the oil in a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat till oil is shimmering (not exactly boiling but very hot!).


Mix together the rice flour, coconut flakes and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
Slowly add in the heated liquids, using a rubber spatula to mix it all together. Once all of the liquid has been added use your hands to finish incorporating the dough. The dough should be slightly damp, like cookie dough.


Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or scoop, portion out 12-14 balls of dough. Form the dough balls into about 1/2-inch thick, cylindrical patties.


Place one of the patties into the frying oil to check for proper temperature. The patty should start frying immediately but not so much that the fritter begins to burn quickly. Adjust temperature of oil as needed. Fry the dough for about 2-3 minutes then flip, cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the oil using a pair of tongs and place onto a paper towel-lined platter to cool down.


Once cooled down (about 10 minutes), dip into the caramel sauce (recipe HERE) and shake off the excess sauce, and place onto a Silpat- or parchment paper-lined sheet tray to dry.


Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)

Smooth Operator


This vegan caramel sauce–I dare say–tastes even better than its dairy counterpart. Perfect for topping an ice cream sundae or to add some flavor to your cuppa Joe, this caramel sauce goes with just about any sweet recipe, just like these Indonesian Sweet Rice Fritters pictured above. Did I mention that it’s vegan?


Vegan Caramel Sauce
Recipe adapted from Eff Yeah It’s Vegan!
Yields about 1 pint

1 can coconut cream, separated from water
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Place the thickened part of the coconut cream into a sauce pan on medium-low heat, whisking in the dark brown sugar. Continue to cook the mixture for 20-25 minutes, stirring constantly, and lifting the pan off the heat if it begins to bubble to the point that it might overflow. Reduce the heat if it starts to bubble rapidly. The appropriate cooking temperature should be at a full, rolling boil but not boiling over.

Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and salt. Pour it into a glass bowl or pan to cool. This creates a very thick but pourable caramel sauce.



Return to the accompanying recipe HERE

Return to the full story HERE


I’ve been a little homesick lately. Now don’t get me wrong–I LOVE my new city. I first publicly declared it here. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss my old home. Oakland was my residence for over 4 years. Perhaps not a long time for some, but for me, (the type of person who can’t sit still in one place for too long) Oakland was the closest thing I had to a permanent home in my adult years.

When I decided to move out of the Bay Area, I left behind a group of friends I like to call my second family. The faces I met at the various jobs I worked, the classmates I met in culinary school, and the friends I was lucky to reconnect with from high school. Those people are my family. I hold them so dearly to heart, I miss them every day.

Another big part of Oakland that I miss is the food. The Bay Area has a plethora of amazing restaurants. I was lucky enough to work in a few of them, as well as befriend some folks who did as well. One of the best restaurants in Oakland (in my humble opinion) is Ramen Shop. The restaurant hosts some of the best ramen I’ve had in the States. But one of the menu items I still can’t get out of my head is their dessert. Particularly, their Black Sesame Ice Cream Sandwich (with brown sugar cookies).

It’s a delicious pairing–like a vanilla-hued, silk-blend Stella McCartney pantsuit with nude strappy leather Céline heels. It’s a delicate match of toasted and creamy.


I’ve made a few attempts at recreating this recipe, and the one I’m sharing with you tastes as close to the original that I could construct. If you ever find yourself in the East Bay, you’ve got to try out Ramen Shop. And for those of you (us) that aren’t, test out my recipe below to hold you over until then.


Black Sesame Ice Cream Sandwiches
Yields 6 sandwiches

Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream
Brown Butter Sugar Cookies

Turn 12 cookies face up onto the countertop. Using an ice cream scoop, take 1/2 cup of ice cream and place each scoop onto 6 of the cookies. Using an offset spatula, spread evenly to the edges. Top the ice cream with a second cookie and press down to adhere. Freeze until solid, about an hour.

6 Shades of Grey


This recipe is so amazing on its own. But with the addition of the Brown Butter Sugar Cookies it packs a punch full of delicate, creamy, and nutty flavor.

Black Sesame Seed Ice Cream
Recipe slightly adapted from My Second Breakfast


1/2 cup black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons honey

black sesame paste
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small, dry, non-stick pan or cast-iron skillet, toast sesame seeds over medium heat until they start to pop and you start to smell a subtle nutty aroma.

Set aside to cool.

Once cool, grind in a spice grinder until a paste begins to form. Add honey. Grind until the sesame seeds are in a paste-like consistency and hold together when the mixture is squeezed between your fingers.


In a small pot, heat up milk, sugar, sesame paste, and salt, stirring until sugar dissolves. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until they start to turn light in color. Slowly add the warmed milk mixture to the eggs, whisking all the time (need to add a bit at a time so that the eggs don’t curdle).

Once the milk is fully incorporated into the eggs, return the mixture to the pot and heat over medium heat, stirring, until thickened. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon and hold a line. Pour mixture into cold cream and add vanilla. Mix until combined.


Place into the refrigerator to cool down for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. If you want to speed up the process, you can place the bowl with the ice cream mixture into an ice bath and stir, but will still need to store in fridge till fully cooled down.

Churn the ice cream in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream maker (mine is still in California…insert sad face emoji here) you can line a loaf pan or other freezer-safe container with plastic wrap and place the ice cream base in it. You will need to mix it with a spoon after the first 2 hours, then return it back to the freezer. Mix it second time after 2 more hours, spreading the top surface evenly with a rubber spatula. Then, place another piece of plastic wrap onto the top, lightly touching the surface. This way, the ice cream won’t have ice crystals at the top once fully frozen.


Return to the full story HERE

Must Be a Full Moon


Let’s take a few minutes to watch this before we continue.

Got it? Good. ‘Cause I’d totally eat the moon if it was made of these chewy cookies. (And heck, I’d have seconds. And thirds.) Although they’re perfect on their own, I strongly suggest you make the Black Sesame Ice Cream to go with. They are so good together. Kinda like Will Ferrell and Jeff Goldblum in that SNL skit.



Brown Butter Sugar Cookies
Recipe adapted from Food Network
Yields 12 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Melt the butter into a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until the butter is a deep golden brown. Remove from the heat and place the butter into a large bowl to cool.

Once the butter is cooled down, add the brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and stir until smooth. Stir in the egg and vanilla extract, mixing until well combined.

In another medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ground ginger, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture and stir until well incorporated and smooth, about a minute.

Add the rest of the granulated sugar to a plate. Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized balls and roll them in the sugar. Arrange the dough on the parchment paper lined sheet tray at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Cool the cookies on the sheet tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10 minutes.



Return to full story HERE

A Sweet and a Meat

I last travelled to the Philippines over 15 years ago with my family. My aunt and her husband were renewing their vows on their 25th wedding anniversary in the Philippines where they met as teenagers. At least, that’s how I remember the story. Our entire family on my mom’s side went to the islands to celebrate this beautiful occasion.

My mom, born and raised in the Philippines, had not been back to the homeland since she was about 20 years old.  My mom was really excited to show me, my brother and father, where she grew up. We got to see the grade school she attended and the house she lived in as a child with her other nine siblings. It was a sweet and humbling experience.

Being half-Filipino, I was only exposed to, I guess you can say, half of the cuisine. While my other half was exposed to the Italian-Spanish-German American cuisines my dad was brought up with. When we stayed in the Philippines for the month we were there, my brother and I had the same breakfast every day: longanissa (Filipino sweet pork sausage) or beef tapa with garlic fried rice and a fried egg (a longasilog) with ube ice cream. (We indulged. We were on vacation!)

A recent trip to the local Asian food supermarket gave me flashbacks to my childhood and that family vacation, where I found longanissa and ube ice cream in the frozen food aisle! I was giddy with excitement. For this week, I posted a recipe on homemade English Muffins. Then I thought afterward, why don’t I make my own sausage breakfast sandwich with the muffins and longanissa? Why not add an egg and cheese, too? This dish is a sweet little mish-mash of my Filipino-American heritage. And I’m happy to share it with you!



Filipino-Style Breakfast Sausage Sandwich
Yields 1 sandwich

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 links longanissa sausage, casings removed
1 slice sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste
1 ea. sandwich-size English Muffin
butter, for spreading

Defrost the sausage (if frozen). Remove the sausage from the casing by using a knife to cut a small slit. Shape the meat into an equal-shaped patty. Heat a non-stick skillet or cast-iron to medium-high heat. Drizzle the pan with the oil and place the sausage patty onto the skillet, creating a nice sear on the side. Cook it for about 4 minutes. Flip the patty and cook for another 4 minutes. Check the center for doneness. Cook further if needed. Turn off the heat and place the cheese on top of the sausage patty. Use the skillet’s lid to cover the patty, allowing the residual heat to melt the cheese.

In another skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, making sure the entire base of the pan is coated evenly. Crack the egg into the pan, allowing the egg to cook fully. Swirl the pan a bit to make sure the white is entirely cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

Cut the English muffin in half and place into the toaster to re-heat. Spread some butter on the inside of the bread and place the sausage with cheese onto the base. Top with the egg and cover with the other half of the muffin. Easy.