Midnight Macaroons

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

INGREDIENTS
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

METHOD
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.

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

General Custard

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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 AllRecipes.com

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

METHOD
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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

How To: Guasacaca Salsa

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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.

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Guasacaca 
Yields 1 quart
Recipe via Mami Talks

INGREDIENTS
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

METHOD
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.

Hot Noods

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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.

Weird.

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.

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Spicy Thai Noodles with Almond Butter Sauce
Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS
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

METHOD
Cook the noodles according to the manufacturers’ directions.

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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.

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

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

Dining In…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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

She Likes Starch!

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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.

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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.

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

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE RISOTTO
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

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

METHOD
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!

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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).

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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.

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Return to the full story HERE

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

Cookie Mom-ster

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

INGREDIENTS 
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

METHOD
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.

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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.

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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.

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Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh

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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.

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

INGREDIENTS
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

METHOD
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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Khaki Wishes and Cookie Dreams

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

INGREDIENTS
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

METHOD
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.

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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.

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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.

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(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)

Let’s Cross Over

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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.

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

INGREDIENTS
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)

METHOD
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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Return to the full story HERE

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