Monday, April 30, 2007

Weekend Summary--Trying Some New Recipes

I enjoy having my little brother over for dinner. Even though he only lives 30 miles away from me, it's not often that we get together, especially on a Saturday night (he is after all a twenty-something bachelor with a very packed social calendar of his own). Well, this past Saturday my bro paid a visit to his big sis and her boyfriend and we all sat down and broke bread together. Okay, bread wasn't even on the menu, but nonetheless, we shared a wonderful meal. I was eager to test out several new recipes I came across recently. One was a panko encrusted chicken that a fellow blogger, the cookbook junkie, raved about some time ago. This was truly a hit with the boys. My boyfriend exclaimed that the chicken thigh he was devouring had to be one of the best he's eaten in a long while! My brother and I nodded in agreement. The chicken, with its tangy, crispy, crunchy coating, was indeed juicy on the inside and oh-so-delicious! This recipe is one I will definitely be making again in the near future.
I also made a sugar snap and green peas side that had some lemon and mint in it which I found on the culinary in the desert site.
Refreshing and light, I think the next time I make this I'll add a little more mint to make the flavor come out even more. My second side for the night was braised red cabbage with applewood bacon, one that my brother and I really dug, though my BF wasn't too crazy about it (he says he was concentrating so much on the awesomeness of the chicken so I forgave him). And finally, I prepared a lovely farfalle pasta dish with pistachio cream found here. I personally love pistachios and thought this pasta dish was decadent and rich without being heavy, if that is at all possible. I loved the flavor, the creaminess, and the texture.
Bon appetit!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Orange You Glad It's Spring?

It's been getting warmer in Southern California and feeling a heck of a lot more like spring these last few days. So with warmer weather coming our way, my idea of some comfort food comes in the form of an all-time favorite, Jello! Like many of us, I grew up with Jello. It was something we always had around the house, and so easy to whip up too. Colorful, sweet, cool, and really quite versatile if you think about it. Jello can be used in salads, pies, cakes, all sorts of goodies to satisfy a sweet tooth. It's also relatively healthy compared to other desserts which makes it even more of a go-to dessert.
This recipe incorporates neufchatel cheese, mayonnaise, carrots, and fruit. It's refreshing, light, and don't you just love the shade of orange? I lightened up the recipe a little by using a sugar-free jello and low fat mayo. Eat it as a side-dish or as dessert with a dallop of whip cream.
Orange Jello Surprise (adapted from
1 (6 ounce) package sugar-free orange flavored Jello gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 (3 ounce) package Neufchatel cheese, softened
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 cup fruit cocktail, drained
In a large bowl, pour the boiling water into the gelatin mix and stir until the powder is dissolved.
Stir in the Neufchatel cheese and mayonnaise until well blended. The gelatin should be slightly thickened and cooled.
Mix in the carrot, pineapple, and fruit cocktail.
Pour into a greased gelatin mold, or serving bowl. Cover, and refrigerate until solid, about 4 hours. To unmold, dip the mold into a large bowl of warm water for a couple of minutes to loosen. Then, invert onto a plate to serve.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lemons for LiveSTRONG Day

I'm somewhat of a new kid on the block (or should I say, blog), when it comes to participating in food blogging events. My site is only a little over 3 weeks old and I've yet to participate in one. Until now, that is. I was excited when I stumbled across the event called, A Taste of Yellow-For LiveSTRONG Day, to support cancer awareness, organized by Barbara of Like so many others out there, I too have known and loved people who have struggled with cancer. Some are still fighting the illness, others are in remission, and still others have passed away as a result, including my grandparents. I knew this was one food blogging event I wanted to become involved in. Tonight I baked lemon bars. So simple and yet they always put a smile on my face. These lemon bars were inspired by my younger brother, a wonderful cook in his own right, who suggested I create something with lemons when I told him about the Taste of Yellow event. The recipe is an old favorite of mine, found in my Cooking Light cookbook and one that I've enjoyed for many years.

Lemon Bars (from Cooking Light): yields 16 bars
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare the crust:
Beat 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the butter at medium speed of a mixer until creamy. Lightly spoon 1 cup flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Gradually add 1 cup flour to sugar mixture, beating at low speed until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Gently press mixture into bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes; cool on a wire rack.
To prepare topping:
Beat eggs at medium speed until foamy. Add 3/4 cup granulated sugar and next 5 ingredients (3/4 cup granulated sugar through salt), and beat until well-blended. Pour mixture over partially baked crust.
Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until set. Cool on wire rack. Sift powdered sugar evenly over top.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Not Just Your Average Joe

My boyfriend surprised me the other day with a brand new cookbook from the Nettle Creek School PTO titled, “50 Years of Fox Family Favorites.” Like other community cookbooks, it is very sweetly compiled with many recipes contributed by the teachers, parents, students, administration, school board and community that make up Nettle Creek District 24C. I love these type of cookbooks because they give a person a chance to peek inside a community that one may never have a chance to visit. It’s a wonderful example of how food is a universal language that can connect people from all over the country as well as the world.
I was eager to test out several of the recipes when I peeked inside, but my BF had a special request—he wanted me to make the Jurak Joes. These are basically a variation of your traditional “sloppy Joe” sandwich, named after the author of the recipe, Laura Jurak.
So, guess what we had for dinner on Thursday night?
This was probably one of the easiest and quickest meals I’ve prepared in awhile not to mention quite tasty. I cut back on the brown sugar and the taste was still on the sweet side. We ate these on toasted buns with plenty of accouterments for me, like shredded carrots, tomatoes, pickles and lettuce. My boyfriend doesn’t like having all these extras on his Joe’s so he kept his simple with just a slice of Havarti cheese.
Whichever way you decide to eat your Jurak Joe’s, I’m positive you will enjoy every bite.
Jurak Joes by Laura Jurak
3 lbs ground beef (I used extra lean)
1 onion (I omitted this)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 and 1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp soy sauce

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet and drain all the fat. Add all the other ingredients and heat thoroughly. Serve on hamburger buns, eat and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Maybe it was because of the cold, windy weather but tonight I felt like making something rich, sweet, ooey and gooey. Before I go on though, did you know that the word "gooey" is found in the dictionary meaning "covered with goo" and "sticky", but yet "ooey" is not? What's up with that? I mean, don't these two words go together, like, say, peanut butter and jelly? Anyways, I thought that was an interesting tidbit since the recipe I'm about to share certainly is just that...ooey and gooey. So in all fairness, I'll make up my own definition of "ooey"--how about decadently delicious? That's how I would describe these Blondies that I baked. Blondies are way up there on my list of a fun and easy dessert to whip up. This version, adapted from Cooks Illustrated, was especially cinchy to prepare because I didn't need to use my electric mixer AND, I only dirtied up two mixing bowls.

Now that's my kind of recipe! I decided to fancy them up a bit by chopping some of the pastel Fannie May meltaways I got for Easter along with white chocolate. I was hoping the pretty pastel colors of the mints would come through in the finished product but that didn't happen as they pretty much melted. The end result however were a batch of Blondies that definitely was not lacking in either the ooey or gooey factor. Blondies happen to be one of my boyfriend's favorite treats which is always a good reason to make them.
Minty Blondies (adapted from Cooks Illustrated):
1 and 1/2 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter (1 and 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled
1 and 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs lightly beaten
4 tsp vanilla
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used about 1 cup of Fannie May meltaways, coarsely chopped)
4 oz white chocolate chopped
1 cup pecans (or walnuts)--optional
1 cup shredded coconut--optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease an 8X8 baking pan
Mix the flour, baking pwdr, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
Mix the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined in a large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
Fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula until just combined. Fold in the chocolate, pecans, and coconut and pour into the prepared pan, smoothing top with a spatula.
Bake approx. 25minuts until the top is shiny, cracked and golden in color.
Cool to room temperature on wire rack before cutting and eating!
Makes about 28 bars.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thank-you, Mrs.Fields

Chocolate chip cookies are high up there on my list of comforting foods. Make that chewy, chocolate chip cookies with a mug of hot cocoa on the side, please. I've tried a couple different recipes including one called "The Chewy" by Alton Brown. I wasn't too pleased with the texture of this one however and renamed it "The Cakey." Sorry, Alton. I also tried a recipe from the William Sonoma website which was a little better but still, didn't have that mouth-watering-crispy-on-the-edges-chewy-in-the-center texture I was wanting. I came across this recipe on the back of a Mrs. Fields milk chocolate chip bag recently and wouldn't you know it? My search for the best chewy chocolate chip cookie came to a screeching halt. Chewy they are! And mouth-watering, and luscious, and...well, you get the picture. My boyfriend loved these too, and yeah, he's also a chewy fan. Give them a try and tell me what you think.
Mrs. Fields Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 and 1/4 cups AP flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 3/4 cups Mrs.Fields Milk Chocolate Chips (11.5oz pkg)--of course you can use semisweet if you wish
1 cup pecans chopped finely (optional and any other nuts will do too)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix well with a wire whisk. Set this aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer blend sugars at medium speed. And butter and mix to form a grainy paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add eggs and vanilla extract, and mix at medium speed until just blended. DO NOT OVERMIX. Add flour mixture, chocolate chips, nuts and blend at low speed until just mixed. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.
Bake 12-14 minutes. Transfer cookies immediately to a cool surface with a spatula. Cookies will be soft and moist on top but slightly crispy on the bottom. If you want crispier cookies then bake 1-2 minutes longer. Allow cookie sheet to cool between baking.
Makes 4-5 dozen cookies.

I'm So Lucky!

Last night my boyfriend made me dinner. Correction, last night my boyfriend made me a fabulous dinner! He lovingly prepared a flounder filet, and stir-fried some snow peas (a favorite of his), bean sprouts and mushrooms. All I had to do was pour the wine, pull up a chair and eat. What a wonderful way to end my not-so-wonderful Friday the 13th workday. He really knows how to take good care of me. I'm a lucky girl.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Souvenir from Chicago-Fannie May Chocolate

My first taste of a Fannie May mint meltaway happened this past Christmas while visiting my boyfriend’s family in Chicago. I’ve always been fond of the combination of mint and chocolate together so when my BF showed me the box of chocolates his mom had given him, I was more than eager to give it a try. And oh my, those bite-size chocolates sure were good! I mean, I thought a Peppermint Patty was already something pretty special but after one bite of a mint meltaway, well, let's just say, I melted. I must have achieved some sort of mint-chocolatey-nirvana because I haven't picked up a Peppermint Patty ever since. To put it bluntly, a Peppermint Patty simply does not compare to a meltaway. The meltaways really are just that...melt-in-your-mouth-delectable-creaminess without being overly sweet.
If you’re in the Chicago area, then lucky you because there are several Fannie May retail shops in the vicinity. If you’re like me however, and live out on the West Coast where there are no Fannie May locations, then plan a trip out to Chicago and stop by one of the shops (something I did just last month!). If that's not possible though, you can always order some minty goodness from their website:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pre-movie Peruvian in Hollywood

Living in the Los Angeles area, we are fortunate to have so many different options as far as food goes. Pardon the pun, but this town really is a melting pot. It’s not at all unusual to eat cuisines from several different countries within a one week time frame. Let’s see, last Friday night we had a fabulous Malaysian meal, the day before some Vietnamese banh mi, over the weekend it was Italian food, and last night? Peruvian.

Los Balcones Del Peru is a restaurant that has been frequented and written about by many Angelenos. It’s discreetly located on a busy corner in Hollywood near the Arclight Cinemas, making it a convenient dining destination for all us movie goers out there. After hearing so many good things about this place, I was more than eager to finally try it out. The menu at LBDP is pretty extensive and there seems to be something for just about everybody. Being a huge seafood fan, I pretty much knew that I wanted to try the ceviche. There are several on the menu to choose from but I went for the Ceviche De Pescado which the menu describes as "raw fish marinated in lime and peruvian spices." You also get to choose the degree of spiciness--I chose medium. My boyfriend who loves a good steak every now and again decided on a dish called Lomo Saltado, stir-fried strips of beef in a special sauce of tomatoes, onions and french fries.

While we waited for our meal, we were given a basket of warm bread and butter, and a green salsa on the side. The salsa was on the spicy side with just a hint of garlic. Eating the warm bread slathered with salsa was actually quite a delicious experience. So far so good.

Soon enough our plates came out. My ceviche was accompanied by a boiled potato, a boiled sweet potato, and corn. Everything looked beautiful. Though the degree of spiciness was a bit more than I anticipated, the firm yet tender white fish was tangy and flavorful. The potatoes were not too exciting, probably to balance out the strong flavors of the ceviche but I did enjoy the Peruvian corn with its oversized kernels.

My BF's dish looked and smelled wonderful too. The strips of beef sat in a slightly sweet sauce that was a little reminiscent of a Chinese stirfry. We found it interesting that the french fries were actually incorporated into the sauce itself but somehow, everything seemed to work.

We enjoyed our first experience at Los Balcones, though I'm not sure that it lived up to all the hype. Or maybe I just had very high expectations. In any case, one thing is for certain, Peruvian food sure has a lot of potatoes!

Los Balcones Del Peru
1360 Vine St, Los Angeles 90028
Between De Longpre Ave and Afton Pl
Phone: 323-871-9600

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Something Even My Trainer Would Eat!

I love oatmeal. I often eat it for breakfast, sometimes I even snack on it (straight-up, right from the box, just remember to chase it down with lots of water), and I particularly like cooking with it (as in, oatmeal cookies!).
Another person who really loves her oatmeal is my fitness trainer, S. I diligently meet with her once a week for our one hour work out. Even at 5am, she’s got to be the most bubbly and energetic person I know. She's a huge fan of oatmeal and for the last several years of knowing her, she has enthusiastically touted the wonderful health benefits that this grain has to offer. S ought to know too. She's a body builder with a killer physique and practices her philosophy of healthful living every day of her life. So, when I took out my trusty oats-only cookbook called Oat Cuisine (don't you just love that title?), I searched for something that would make S proud and something that would make my taste buds happy.
This recipe for Pumpkin Bran Muffins sang out to me. I substituted applesauce for the oil to make it even healthier and brought a batch of these to S one morning. She not only loved how they tasted but asked me for the recipe too!
So simple to throw together, they make a wonderful snack or a quick breakfast when you don't have time to make that big bowl of oatmeal.
Just bake a bunch and freeze them for the week ahead. Enjoy!
Pumpkin Oat Muffins (adapted from Oat Cuisine by Bobbie Hinmann)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 and 1/3 cup wheat bran
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinammon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup canned pumpkin--get the kind that has no sugar added to it, just plain pumpkin
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated fresh orange rind
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees; lightly grease 10 muffin cups with a nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, mix the first six ingredients together and make a well in the center.
3. Mix the pumpkin, applesauce, maple syrup, milk, vanilla, and orange rind together well.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the well of the dry ingredients and mix until blended (do not overmix the batter).
5. Stir in the raisins if using.
5. Evenly scoop the batter into each muffin cup.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.
7. Remove muffins to a rack and cool.
Yields 12 muffins.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Is It Pasta Or Is It Rice?

Orzo is an elusive pasta. First off, I literally had to search in several supermarkets before finding it in my local Pavillion's. I couldn't believe that even my ever-so-faithful Trader Joe's did not carry this item. What a disappointment that was. I soon got over it though and trekked on over to the grocer that would be my saving grace. I was so elated when I found the little box that I ended up buying two of them. I originally wanted to make a pasta salad using gnocchi. This was soon ixnay'd however because I learned that cold gnocchi doesn't do a pasta dish any good. It gets too "gummy" I was advised. So, several foodies recommended that I try an orzo salad or why not a tortellini salad? I chose the orzo. When orzo is uncooked it can very well pass for rice. Once it's cooked, it can very well pass for rice! It's not rice though. It's a pasta. In Italian it literally means "barley" and to make it even more confusing, it's known as the rice shaped pasta. In any case, my orzo pasta salad turned out beautifully. It had a lot of flavor to it and tasted even better the next day. I found the recipe on Epicurious. Easy to prepare ahead of time and perfect accompaniment to our leftover Easter ham.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Cheesecake on Easter Sunday

Happy Easter!
Today we celebrated the holiday with brunch at my brother's house in Orange County. Our menu consisted of cheesy grits, orzo salad, sweet potato hash, brown sugar-glazed ham and an Almond Rocca apple cheesecake. I woke up extra early Easter morning to finish preparing my dishes (the orzo, ham, and cheesecake were mine), and then BF and I carefully packed everything into the car for the 45 minute ride down to the OC.

This toffee apple cheesecake recipe is from the very talented Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. I didn't have the toffee bits though (can you believe I stopped at 3 different grocery stores and could not find this product?), so I settled for the next best thing, Almond Rocca. I also used half neufchatel cheese and half cream cheese in the recipe but this was not intentional. I didn't notice that I bought neufchatel until I was just about to mix the ingredients together. Not only that, but the recipe calls for 2 pounds of cream cheese and I only had one pound of neufchatel! Luckily my sweetie-pie was available to run out to Trader Joe's for me and got me a pound of cream cheese. I decided to not let the neufchatel go to waste and decided to use a combination of the two different cheeses.
The end result was a luscious creamy dessert with a slight bit of crunch from the Almond Rocca and a refreshing flavor from the apples. The neufchatel and cream cheese blended very well together and I certainly couldn't tell that the cake wasn't 100 percent cream cheese. I think I may have burned the caramel sauce just slightly though which gave it a very overpowering flavor. My BF called it "confusing" when he ate the caramel with the cheesecake. I rather liked the contrasting flavors though which sort of gave the dessert a smooth, balanced taste, complementing each other well.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Apples and Almonds--A Perfect Pair

There they were, a basketful of apples sitting on my kitchen counter. They were Granny Smith's and I bought a bunch of them a couple weeks back with the intention of making some fabulous dessert. The only problem was, I couldn't decide on a recipe. Days went by and still, what to make? I perused the stacks of cookbooks I have in my dining room bookshelf, the endless cooking magazines piled high on my bedroom floor, and even sought out other bloggers hoping to find "it". But nothing sung out to me. Finally, one Friday night I opened up my Bon Appetit magazine and found something that sounded so scrumptious and yet simple to prepare. Plus, I had all the necessary ingredients on hand. Twelve hours later, the apple almond crisp was born.

Yea, it's got a lot of butter in it and no, it's not low-fat by any means, but boy was this good! I love almonds and the fact that there are lots of them made me eager to make it and of course, consume it. Don't forget, almonds have a lot of heart-healthy benefits and we all know how good apples are for you, right? I shared this dish with my brother and his family and they all thought it was pretty yummy too. This is best eaten warm, with lots of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top.

Apple-Almond Crisp (courtesy of Bon Appetit, February 2002)
10-12 servings

1 and 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 tspn ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 and 1/2 sticks) chilled salted butter cut into 1/2 inch pcs (I used unsalted butter)
1 cup sliced almonds

3/4 cup sugar
3 tblspn AP flour
1 tblspn grated lemon peel
1 and 1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
3/4 tspn ground nutmeg
8 small Granny Smith apples (about 4 and 1/2 lbs.), peeled, halved, cored, thinly sliced
1 and 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
3/4 tspn almond extract

For the topping:
Whisk flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl and blend well. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture holds together in small, moist clumps. Mix in almonds; cover and chill until ready to use. (can be made up to 3 days ahead).

For filling:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to blend well. Mix in apples, then vanilla and almond extracts.

Spoon filling into prepared dish. Sprinkle topping over. Bake until apples are tender and topping is golden and crisp (about 1 hour). Cool at least 10minutes and serve warm.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Romancing the Scone: Maple Pecan Scones

Baking and cooking has taken on greater meaning to me these days because of my boyfriend. Cooking for him is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Not that he loves everything I make, mind you. Oh no. In fact, he's quite honest in his opinions about my latest creations from the kitchen. He's not only my best friend, but my best food critic! At first his thoughtful critiques were a little hard to take, but nowadays, I welcome his frankness. His feedback and encouragement is always helpful to me. So when I noticed that he loves eating the maple scones from Starbuck's, you know the ones that cost almost two bucks a pop, I was determined to bake him a scone that tasted as good as the Starbuck's one. I found this recipe off the internet while doing a very intensive search of THE ultimate maple scone. I can't tell you how many sticks of chilled butter I went through before putting a big smile on BF's face.

Maple Pecan Scones (adapted from a recipe found on
3 and 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour
4 tspn baking pwdr
1 tspn salt
2/3 cup chilled butter
1 cup finely chopped pecans (you can substitute with walnuts if you like)
1 cup milk (I used non-fat)
1/2 cup maple syrup (try to use REAL maple syrup if possible)
1/2 tspn maple flavoring (I omitted this)

Maple Frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tblspn cream or milk--you may need to add more depending on desired thickness or thinness
1 tblspn maple syrup

1. In a large bowl, mix the flour,baking pwdr, and salt.
2. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
3. Stir in the pecans.
4. In a medium size bowl, combine the milk and syrup.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until a dry soft dough has formed.
6. Flour a work surface generously and scrape the dough out of the mixing bowl onto the floured surface.
7. Divide the dough in half.
8. Gently pat each half of dough into a 7-inch circle about 7/8 inch thick.
9. Transfer the dough (it will be soft) onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.
10. Using a sharp knife or a pizza wheel, divide each dough circle into eight wedges.
11. Place the wedges about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.
12. Bake the scones for 15-18 minutes in a pre-heated 425 degree oven until golden brown; transfer to a rack.
13. Meanwhile, to make the frosting: mix the powdered sugar, milk and maple syrup together until creamy.
14. Drizzle the slightly-warm scones with the frosting and let stand until the glaze sets.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Rick's in Alhambra

Ahh, breakfast...did I mention that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day? Lately, we have been venturing out to Rick's Drive-In & Out for our Saturday morning fix of pancakes, hash browns, and my BF's all-time favorite, steak and eggs. Rick's is a modest, comfortable hang-out on Main Street in downtown Alhambra and actually isn't a drive-in at all. It's the kind of place where you order at the counter, pour your own cup of coffee, and find a cozy booth either inside or in the enclosed patio to indulge in a relaxing meal. The place serves homemade, cooked-to-order dishes all day from 6am til midnight 7 days a week. You know they must be doing something right because Rick's has been at this location since 1971. That's a darn long time especially in restaurant-years, don't you think?
Though the menu includes burgers, tacos, sandwiches, salads, and even pasta, we come to Rick's for their breakfast. The light and chewy pancakes are some of the best we've tried (and believe me, we have tried a lot of pancakes!), the hashbrowns are cooked with just the right amount of crispiness, and the steak is almost always tender and juicy. The prices at Rick's hit the spot too. (the most expensive breakfast item is the steak and eggs plate at a whopping $5.69). To top it all off, the employees are always friendly and go out of their way to please.

Rick's Drive-In & Out
132 W. Main St.
Alhambra, CA.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

An Apple A Day

Apples are a wonderfully versatile fruit used in both sweet and savory dishes. I enjoy eating apples raw (Fujis are my favorite), but I also like to experiment with them in recipes. It also helps that my boyfriend likes apples too. Actually, he's the inspiration to many of the recipes I've tried and he graciously volunteers to try practically everything I make at least once. Well, the first time I made this recipe was when my BF and I had a little dinner party and game night (we played Rummy Cube and I didn't win). These bars however, are a winner and oh so easy to throw together.

Frosted Apple Cinammon Bars (courtesy of the Land O Lakes website)
makes about 48 bars if cut on the small side:

Bar Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups AP flour
1 tspn salt
3/4 tspn baking soda
1 1/2 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup butter softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tspn vanilla
1 (10-ounce) package cinnamon-flavored baking chips (I used butterscotch chips)
1 medium (1 cup) apple, chopped with the peel left on (I used Granny Smith)

Frosting Ingredients:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter softened
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened (okay to use lowfat)
1 tspn vanilla

Ground cinnamon, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in medium bowl; stir in oats.Combine butter, brown sugar and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture. Beat until well mixed. Stir in chips and apple by hand. Spread batter into greased 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake for 33 to 38 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Combine all frosting ingredients in small bowl. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Spread over cooled bars. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired.

Cut the bars using a wet knife to get a clean edge.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Comfort Me With Pancakes

Breakfast is one of the most comforting meals of the day for me. During the week, I usually try to add some variety for my first meal of the day. I actually lull myself to sleep the night before with thoughts of what I'll be eating in 8 hours or so! Sometimes I'll fix myself a warm bowl of oatmeal mixed in with dried cranberries, raisins and almonds. Or maybe it'll be a toasted slice of homemade banana bread topped with peanut butter. On weekends though, I love making a batch of pancakes. I love pancakes and so does my boyfriend which makes whipping them up even more fun. One of our favorites is a buttermilk recipe that I found in an old Martha Stewart magazine. These pancakes have that slightly chewy texture that I'm particularly fond of with just a hint of sweetness to it. See what you think:

Best Buttermilk Pancakes (adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine)-makes about nine 6-inch pancakes:

2 cups AP flour
2 tspn baking pwdr
1 tspn baking soda
1/2 tspn salt
3 tblspn sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tblspn unsalted butter, melter plus 1/2 tspn for the griddle

1. Heat griddle to 375 degrees F. Whisk together flour, baking pwdr, baking soda, salt and sugar in a medium size bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tblspn butter; whisk to combine.
(do not overmix as batter should still have some small lumps)

2. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the pancake batter onto the buttered griddle. When pancakes have bubbles forming on top of them (approx. 2min), flip over the pancake. Cook until golden on the bottom.
Repeat with the remaining pancake batter.

3. Pour your favorite syrup over the pancakes, eat, and enjoy!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

April Fool's Day and is it REALLY Peanut Butter?

What better way to start my new site than with a review of one of my favorite foods in the whole guessed it, peanut butter!
Well, okay, I need to clarify this, it's actually a new product I came across recently called PB2. PB2 is made by a company called Bell Plantation in Tifton, Georgia. The product's description said that this peanut butter is "made with USA grown peanuts that are slow-roasted and pressed to remove fat. All natural with no additives. PB2 has the same consistency as full fat..."
Well, that was enough to sell me! I mean, peanut butter with the fat removed? How bizarre, I thought, but because I am who I am (the adventurous foodie type), I was more than eager and willing to try the stuff! The stats for the product are as follows:
Only 2.8 grams of fat and 54 calories for 2 tablespoons; ingredients-peanuts, sugar, salt-that's it. Another important point is that the product comes in a powdered form and the directions say you need to mix in 1 tablespoonful of water to 2 tablespoons of the powder to make it into the all familiar peanut butter paste that we all know and love. I excitedly placed my order, which by the way was $3.99 per 6.5 ounce jar (the company sets a 4 jar minimum however and a $7.00 flat rate shipping fee), and one week later I received my peanut butter in the mail!
I followed the directions on the jar and mixed in the recommended amount of water to the powdered peanut butter, stirred it up and voila!-I created peanut butter! I licked the spoon I was stirring with and paused for a second or two...the taste was indeed peanutty, and the consistency was quite creamy. I was amazed, overjoyed, and quite satisfied with my purchase. PB2 is a godsend. I'm not kidding. The all natural peanut butter that I so love and have eaten for most of my life packs about 16 grams of fat and 160 calories in 2 tablespoons. You do the math.
This food find is a keeper!