Winding Down Summer

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Like a true Californian, I want all the perks of fall time without the weather becoming too much colder. We have some exiting things coming up like : a double date with our friends, an Ohio State football game, and apple picking. I’m looking forward to these events, though still wishing that the warm weather won’t be leaving us.

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Even though I have grown quite fond of the Buckeye state, it is hard for me to reconcile with the impending doom of winter. Earlier in the week, my mom sent me a picture of a shirt that said: “I bake because punching people is frowned upon.” I, of course, laughed… but then I thought a little deeper about it and my love for baking. When the weather changes, I really do go into baking mode, and you can find me in the kitchen almost every day working on a new treat. I always thought that it was because I liked to be by the warm oven while it is cooling off outside. Here is my new theory though, the kitchen is where my expertise in baking collides with irreconcilable mourning of summer.

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I don’t know how or when I will stop longing for sunshine. Of course, I am the one who made the decision to stay out here in Ohio, so there must have been a good reason for leaving California. But like most decisions, we forget why we make the changes we do. We choose to see the past through the most flattering of lenses. Even though I know this, the weather still tugs on my heart strings and makes me question where I live and why I can’t go back to the golden state. So, I bake. I measure, I read recipes, I focus… it is where what I don’t know collides with what I do know.

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My mind is clear when I am in the kitchen. I carefully read instructions, take care when using specific tools, and improve my technique when I can. Baking is some thing that, when you follow the instructions and do the best you can, you will always get a perfect result. In life, [or at least in my own life] the reaction is almost always opposite. You can try your best, do every thing “right” and things may still not work out. I can control the speed on my mixer, but what I can’t control is every element affecting my everyday life. And so, I bake…

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DIY Cold Brew Coffee

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I won’t lie, I love Starbucks… and I was watching a new commercial for their cold brew coffee, where they boasted that they steep their coffee in cold water for 20 hours. Then it dawned on me: cold brew coffee only involves steeping the beans in cold water for 20 hours.

In fact, it doesn’t even have to be 20 hours. Most recipes say 11. So, to beat the heat I decided to try making my own cold brew coffee. The only thing I needed was the correct coffee-to-water ratio which I got courtesy of Martha Stewart. Add some almond milk and viola! Cold brew coffee, without the price of a coffee shop.

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What you need:
-1/2 pound of ground coffee
-6 cups of cold water
-a strainer
-paper towels or coffee filters
-2 Tupperware containers
-a container to put your delicious coffee into

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Fill 1 of the Tupperware containers with 6 cups of cold water. Dump in your coffee grounds and gently stir, so that all the grounds become submerged and steeped into the water. Put it in the fridge for 11+ hours. After time has passed, grab your second Tupperware container and place [or stack] your strainer on top of it. Line the strainer with your paper towels or a coffee strainer, and then slowly pour the other container, containing the coffee, through the strainer. You may not be able to dump the entire contents of your steeped coffee into the strainer all at once, depending on the size of your container and how quickly the coffee drains from the grounds. I started with half, then threw out the grounds and started with a new paper towel [or filter] in the strainer for the second half. After straining, funnel your coffee into an airtight container and store in the fridge! Serve over ice with vanilla almond milk for a tasty summer drink!

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Back in the Kitchen

 

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Unfortunately, it had been a couple weeks since I cooked an entire meal from scratch. This week we ended up with apples, onions, and pork chops that needed to be used, so what a perfect storm for Martha Stewart’s Pork chop recipe with apples and onions! I’ve posted the recipe before, so I won’t waste your time with a repeat post… but as I was cooking in the kitchen, I genuinely felt happy.

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For most people, cooking is a chore and some thing to dread at the end of a day. It seems for me, that the more exhausted I am, the more I seek solace in the kitchen. In a lot of ways it is a creative outlet, as well as being an opportunity for me to provide some thing for my family. Plus, I love cooking infinitely more in my new, gorgeous kitchen. I am particularly fond of my ovens [now that I learned how to use them]. I mean, check out these beautiful golden-brown potatoes… Thank you, broil! 13567395_10153734747861239_721275762438517242_n

It has been an exhausting week. I started taking Zumba classes, I have been running errands with the girls, going to doctors appointments, and every thing else life throws at us on any given week. Cooking and working out have really helped me from feeling overwhelmed. Photography has helped, too, especially when I have such an adorable model. J surprised me with tickets to see The Shallows tonight, so I have an unexpected date to look forward too. Yes, this week has been tough but also rewarding in so many little ways. I hope yours has been too!

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Honey Garlic Chicken

 

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This is the easiest dinner ever, yintz! I put all the ingredients in a bag ahead of time, before Cora was born, so that I had it on hand for a night when I didn’t know what to cook. The best part of this recipe, is that it actually doesn’t require you to do any cooking. You dump these chicken thighs into a crock pot for 6 hours, and you’re ready to go!

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It has been tough trying to narrow down Cora’s allergy, and while I think it’s mostly a sensitivity to dairy that upsets her tummy, I have been eating meals free of: wheat, dairy, eggs, fish, soy , and peanuts. It has really limited my options of meal helpers and other processed foods that I used to be able to quickly throw in the microwave as a side to a meal. Luckily, this meal met all my requirements and was also delicious! I paired it with “fried rice” only I substituted the actual rice with quinoa I had leftover from another meal that was in danger of expiring. This chicken is also fantastic with green beans, and while it can be made in the crock pot, it’s also a fantastic stove top recipe.

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So, here’s what you need:

Spray your crock pot with non-stick spray (I used Trader Joe’s coconut oil spray) and lay the chicken thighs on the bottom. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour over the chicken. Put the crock pot on high and cook for 6 hours. SO EASY. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can cook the chicken in a skillet on the stove, and pour the sauce over it once the chicken has cooked thoroughly. This is also a tasty variation!

So tender… ENJOY!

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Easter Treats

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Some of you, still in the deep throws of Lenten penance, are cursing me for posting a tasty treat recipe ahead of Easter. I’m sorry! But as I said Monday, some preparations need to be done ahead of time, and I plan on bringing these truffles to Easter dinner. If you want to also, they are super easy to make.

I have prepared 2 versions for you lovely readers. Oreo truffles, and cake truffles.

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Oreo Truffles:
1 package of oreo cookies
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 package of almond bark [I picked the white chocolate]

Place all the oreo cookies in a large ziplock bag and crush (or if you’re fancy, blend in a food processor). Blend crushed oreos with cream cheese in a medium sized bowl. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Roll the oreo-cream cheese mixture into walnut sized balls, and set on a baking sheet lined with silicone or parchment paper. If the mixture has softened at all during the rolling process, stick the baking sheet back into the fridge for an additional 20 minutes. Next, melt your almond bark according to the instructions on the package. Roll each truffle around in the chocolate mixture, and transfer back to baking sheet. If you want to decorate with sprinkles, be sure to use them before your chocolate hardens!

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Cake Truffles:
1 prepared cake unfrosted (or 1 dozen cupcakes or muffins)
1 container of chocolate frosting, divided
1 package of almond bark (white or dark chocolate)

Smash the cake in a medium bowl, then add frosting (starting by only adding half of the container). Mix together, occasionally adding frosting, until you have a dough-like consistency. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and roll into walnut sized balls, placing them onto a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or silicone. If the mixture has softened at all during the rolling process, stick the baking sheet back into the fridge for 20 minutes. Next, melt your almond bark according to the instructions on the package. Roll each truffle around in the chocolate mixture, and transfer back to baking sheet. If you want to decorate with sprinkles, be sure to use them before your chocolate hardens!

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The truth is, I had a dozen or so gluten free muffins that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat by myself. Sophie didn’t take a liking to them, and J isn’t crazy about the texture of gfree goods. Mashed together with frosting and dipped in chocolate, no one would know that my cake truffles were actually made with chocolate chip muffins! Always try to use ingredients that you have on hand. This habit has helped me to become less wasteful as well as helping me to learn more about substitutions in my cooking. Get creative! You can even mix it up by doing half a batch in white chocolate and half a batch in milk chocolate. Both are equally delicious! Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Crumb Cake

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I wanted a coffee cake, but I also wanted some thing a little more seasonal, and so I birthed this little recipe. It’s great to use your leftover pumpkin in, or you can take advantage of all the pumpkin your local grocery store has most likely marked down since it is after the Thanksgiving holiday.

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What you need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin (I use Libby’s)

I begin by heating my oven to 350 degrees, and greasing a pan with some butter. I used a 9×13 dish. In a bowl, I mix all the DRY ingredients together [flour, salt, powder, soda, and spices… NOT sugar]. In a mixer, on medium speed, I mix softened butter with the sugar until beat together. I add the eggs to the mixer one by one, then I add the can of pumpkin. The texture of this mix will be some what chunky, that’s fine. Add half of your flour mixture to the electric mixer. Once it’s blended, add the other half of the flour and stir until completely mixed. Pour into the baking dish and set aside.

Crumb topping:

  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick COLD butter, cut into cubes 
  • 1/4 c. oats
  • 1 and 1/4 cups of flour

Combine all the ingredients in an electric mixer, until the cubes of butter have broken down into smaller balls, and all the cinnamon sugar is sticking. Sprinkle this mixture on top of your UNBAKED pumpkin cake, slightly pressing the sugar into the batter. Bake the entire cake for 60 minutes. Enjoy!

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Food of SoCal

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It’s no secret that I’m a foodie. The intention of this blog was to focus on the 2 things I love most, food and babies.

I lived in Southern California for 20 years before I moved permanently to Ohio to be with the love of my life, so I know the food scene pretty well. Our Mexican food is superior to any other state, that’s no secret, and I would love to debate anyone who says otherwise! [Not really] But there are a few other joints that might surprise you.

Any way, I wanted to do a round up of all my favorite places AND throw in a few extra foods that I think are ESSENTIAL for anyone to eat when they visit the golden state.

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First, what we ate on this trip: [don’t judge me, it’s a long list…]

IN N OUT – Burgers and fries done RIGHT.
Food Trucks – Ok, so in Huntington Beach, the food trucks all congregate in a parking lot once a week, and we got lucky enough to have come in on the day that this special foodie event happens. Justin got an amazing pork quesadilla, I had bacon wrapped dates and street tacos, my dad got tater tots smothered in cheese sauce and sloppy joe, then we all finished off with ice cream from Longboards.
Panera – This is a bigger chain that can be found all across the USA. Their salads are phenomenal, but if you’re up early [like, before 8 am] you can get a delicious breakfast souffle.
Mimi’s Cafe – J ordered some breakfast tacos that I seriously envied, but this little restaurant has a great specialty coffee drinks, desserts, and pastries. I had a breakfast sandwich, while my mom split her California omelette with Sophie. This is also a bigger chain though, I’ve never seen it outside of California.
Disneyland – Inside the park are some pretty classy restaurants! I usually just grab a hot dog or churro from a cart when I’m there, but since I was pregnant this time, and not running off to any rides, I asked if we could sit down to one of the park’s restaurants. I chose Cafe Orleans, mostly for their pumpkin beignets.
Mod Pizza – This just opened up across the street from my parents in Huntington Beach. It is basically the Chipotle of pizza. You choose your crust, toppings, cheese, etc. All the ingredients are high quality and the final product is delicious.
Old Town Mexican Cafe – This is exclusive to San Diego and it is[hands down] the best Mexican food. There are wonderful ladies making the tortillas from scratch at the front of the restaurant. We went during their Dia De Los Muertos celebration, which felt extra festive.
Whole Foods – Again, this is some thing that you can find in all 50 states [I think…] but we grabbed these little ham and swiss muffins from the bakery before going to the wedding and they were delicious!
Einstein Brothers – Another big chain, I know, but I live in a more rural part of Ohio so I still don’t get to eat this stuff that often. Aside from a New York deli, these are the best bagels! Plus their honey almond “shmere” is to die for.
Lazy Dog – This restaurant can be found in Huntington Beach or San Diego. They have the best sweet potato tots with jalepeno creama. I’ve gotten tacos from there, salads, and sandwiches… never had anything I didn’t love.
Roppongi – This is a little sushi place in La Jolla. Their sushi is pretty standard, but what blew me away were these short rib sliders they had! So delicious and unexpected from a place specializing in sushi!
Sprinkles – Yes, the first cupcake shop. I’m torn on whether or not I love them. I’ve had more consistency and better flavor from some smaller chains then from the original cupcake giant, but Sprinkles s’mores cupcake is definitely the best EVER.

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Rubio’s – Also a big chain, but I think it is pretty exclusive to the west coast. If you want good fish tacos but are on a low budget, Rubio’s is perfect! We used to get these fish tacos almost every Friday during Lent, when I lived at home. Rubio’s fish taco’s are what opened the gateway to me actually liking fish. If you are a sworn fish hater though, their street tacos are also surprisingly authentic!
Hash House A Go Go – A location in Vegas and in Hillcrest (Down town San Diego). The portion sizes are out of control, but they do fin twists on farm fresh food, My brother and I shared a platter of chicken and waffles, but their more savory scrambles are good too.

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California essential foods:

California Burrito – Roberto’s is a bigger chain that you can find throughout the bigger city of San Diego, but if you’re in East County, Estrada’s has the best California burritos!
Sweet potato fries – Most probably don’t think of sweet potato when they think of SoCal, but SHADES in Ocean Beach is the first restaurant I can recall to push the sweet potato fry craze. The Spot in La Jolla is another place that has fantastic fries (in fact, I’ve never had any better!)
any salad, anywhere – our seasonal produce is awesome. Order a salad at any restaurant and you can expect awesome produce that tastes in-season.
guacamole – I don’t have a location for this one either, but your trip tp California just isn’t complete unless you’ve had chips and guac from some where. Since avocados thrive in the SoCal sun, California guacamole isn’t really something you can “mess up,” it’s good anywhere
frozen yogurt – Yogurtland is a classic that can be found anywhere in CA, but if you’re in San Diego, the yogurt mill is an iconic place to get frozen yogurt. The portions are extremely generous though, so you may want to share!
fish – again, I don’t have a specific place to go, but if you don’t have a large budget, the Rubio’s baja grill I mentioned above has great fish tacos. If you have a more refined palate (and budget) definitely look into some of the nicer, sea-side restaurants up and down the coast. You won’t taste fish as fresh, anywhere else!
IN N OUT – I love this joint so much, it just has to be on both lists. This chain is a California landmark and is almost exclusively a CA chain [there is a location in Texas now, and one in Vegas]. The fries are the freshest potatoes you’ll ever have and the burgers are plain DELICIOUS. I always get mine with grilled onions, but if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can get your burger OR fries “animal style” which includes the grilled onions, secret sauce, and cheese.
Extraordinary Desserts – This is a small chain in San Diego with only a few locations. Whenever my family had a big party though, we’d get a fruit tart from here are they are divine! I’ve also made trips down there with friends for late night dessert runs. Their Bailey’s ice cream is also a fantastic treat. It’s on my list of must-go places for SOCal, mostly because its nostalgic for me.

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I know many other SoCal native who have completely different tastes than I do, so feel free to ad your CA-must-haves in the comments! Those are definitely my top picks though.

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