Nostalgic Connecticut Blueberry Crisp

Dhiren and I got a knock at the door at 11am a couple days ago to find a huge package from his mom in Connecticut waiting for us. We quickly opened it, and inside we found pounds and pounds of organic blueberries from his grandmother’s farm in Kent, CT, freshly picked by his mother less than 24 hours ago.

These berries are extremely nostalgic for Dhiren.  Since I’ve known him he often talks  about how he used to work on his grandmother’s farm, setting up tents (I don’t know the actual term) and picking them (most likely eating more than he picked). The farm also produces equally-as-delicious peaches and maple syrup.  When we visit, it’s always fun to wander through the orchards and see how things used to be done, before mass agricultural industrialization and pesticides came to town. (Produce just doesn’t taste as good when it’s plumped with water, genetically modified and then sprayed down with gallons of chemicals.)

Berry bushes from 2009 on his grandmother's farm

Farm boy at heart

So Dhiren glowed when he opened the package. What a crazy, but amazing birthday present! I quickly got to work researching some recipes for the berries. Martha Stewart has some great slide shows of berry recipes, and after a good amount of drooling, I finally decided to go with a simple crumble, which highlights the fresh berries better than something with lots of flour and ingredients.

I used good ol’ Martha’s recipe, along with a tasty, homemade whipped cream and it was fantastic. I even cooled the crumble by the window to make the neighbors jealous…

If you want the recipe, go HERE. I’m too lazy to type it out, especially since I didn’t modify it (actually I only used 5 cups of blueberries, not 6 of them)

Simple recipe, but SUPER delicious.

Thank you Wendy!!! From Dhi & Dee

A Bakery Story & Ciao Cupcake

I like to share good recipes with friends and family, which is kind of the main point of this blog. I figure, if I can cook something well,  some of my family and friends can too. Well, this isn’t one of those “sharing a good recipe” posts. Don’t be deceived by the photo above- these cupcakes were HORRIBLE. Dhiren was too nice to say otherwise, but they came out dry and crumbly and there were 30 of these sitting on my kitchen counter for 3 days before I finally dumped them all in the bin.

I am a huge fan of from-scratch cooking (when time and money allows), and so I took the Joy of Cooking Devil’s Cake recipe (or something like that) and devised it for cupcakes. Maybe I over-beat it. Maybe I should of used oil or a pudding mix. Maybe I need to buy new tins. Maybe I shouldn’t have used a cake recipe for cupcakes. Who knows!?

But anyhow, they were crappy, and I was only able to salvage them by chopping them in half, putting heaps of creamy ice cream and butter frosting on them and decorating the plate with caramel sauce (to distract the eater…) Oh, and milk. These needed milk.

Such a shame- they looked so pretty!

I got inspiration to make these on the 4th from one of my recent obsessions:

Bakery Story.

Please don’t judge me… too much. This is honestly part of the reason I haven’t posted much this past month. I’ve simply been too swamped at my virtual bakery to worry about REAL food. Gosh, give me a break.

In the words of my mother, “Oh, isn’t Bakery Story just the same as Cafe World? That came out two years ago… SO 2009.”

But I’m addicted, and I’ve sadly gotten Dhiren to join the family with the seemingly more masculine and less pink game, Restaurant Story. (He’s on it right now, needing to stay up because his “scallops will be done cooking in 40 minutes…”)

We’ve reached a whole new level of crazy & antisocial this month.

Speaking of cupcakes though, you gotta check out Ciao Cupcake based in San Diego! Run by Dhiren’s sister Chrissy (and the fam!), the green, eco-friendly mobile bakery serves up the most AMAZING cupcakes ever. Puts the over-hyped Sprinkles to shame.  I’ve had Chrissy’s cupcakes on numerous occasions, and numerous cupcakes on each occasion. They are amazing, original and scrumptious. Check them out if you are a foodie in So. California looking for the “next big thing.”

(just do it)

—->Ciao Cupcake on Facebook

Revision: How to sabotage your diet with a delicious coconut cream pie

Based on a true story. I’ve completed seven days of SBD Phase 1, not counting two days of cheating caused by this recipe (and some other delicious food… more on that later).

This is one of those, oh-my-god-I-never-knew-I-liked-pie kind of pies.

Wish I had taken a better photo of this, but the family was hungry and waiting.

  • 1 can coconut milk/cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cups flaked coconut, toasted
  • 3/4 cups flaked coconut, not toasted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked (or make your own if you’re feeling Martha Stewarty)
  • 2-3 cups whipping cream (depending on how much topping you want)
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, half-and-half, eggs, sugar, corn starch and salt. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly (should take about 15-20 minutes). Mixture should thicken to a pudding. Remove from heat, and stir in 3/4 cup of the grated coconut and 1 tsp. of coconut and vanilla extracts. Pour into baked and cooled pie shell and chill 3 to 4 hours, or until firm (leave it in the fridge covered overnight if you really want a flavorful pie).
  2. When ready to serve, beat the whipping cream on medium-high speed with an electric or stand mixer in a large bowl. Beat for 10 minutes until it thickens and holds soft peaks on a spatula. Add 1 tsp. coconut extract and resume beating until stiff peaks form. Top the pie with the whipped cream and toasted coconut.
  3. To toast coconut, spread it in an ungreased pan and bake in the oven on 350 degree until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

This is probably one of my favorite desserts and I’m getting cravings just thinking about this recipe… I’ve been in a coconut mood lately and am thinking of baking some South Beach-friendly coconut macaroons tomorrow, especially since I have a fresh coconut sitting on my counter.

The dinner with the family last weekend was a great success. The ribs came out tender, my first stab at mashed potatoes got the approval of my Dad, and Nana’s macaroni & cheese was delicious, even though I forgot the salt.

I will update tomorrow about the South Beach Diet itself. I’ve had a couple people ask me what it’s all about, and I think it’ll be good to shed some light on what I think is one of the healthiest “diets” out there.

Enjoy!

Mañana is good enough for me

In my last post I mentioned that I would be taking a hiatus from sweets and decadence. Well, that didn’t happen for long. We had some friends over for dinner last night and decided on a Mexican feast, which of course means margaritas, carne asada, tostada bar and tres leches as the finale.

The boyfriend was ridiculously nice and went out to buy all the fixings and ingredients at El Metate Market, which was introduced to be by Iris last month. Their carne asada is uh-mazing and cheap! I got the approval from our friend Sabrina, whose family comes from Mexico City and her boyfriend Terry, who is half Mexican and… Dutch? Being half Mexican myself and raised in a family that almost opened up a taco chain called California Taco Company, I know a little about good carne as well.

Anyhow, my poor vegetarian boyfriend went to El Metate, and in broken Spanish ordered 2lbs of carne asada, which was delivered to him in a nice, juicy plastic bag. Many thanks to him for this sacrifice.

To make a delicious tostada bar, you can use: cheese, carne asada, tomatoes, homemade pico de gallo, refried beans, cilantro, onion, a spicy salsa (El Metate has a great one), guacamole, extra avocado and some rice. I made cilantro rice, with a little butter, cilantro and lime added in. Have all the fixings out so everyone can top their tostada with their choice of toppings, and that’s that.

This is a vegetarian tostada for lunch since I packed up the left-over meat for our guests. I personally think the vegetarian version is just as good. The boyfriend loves these.

Pair it with some Jarritos (and tequila) and some colorful flowers in a plastic water bottle, and you’ve got yourself one tasty and colorful lunch.

Now, onto the pastel:
I could not find my beloved Joy of Cooking (hint, hint: gift idea) which is sad since I love their version and have made it many times with success. Instead I used a recipe from Pati’s Mexican cooking blog, which seemed pretty legit, but it came out really dense. I normally like my tres leches to be super moist and soggy, but this was quite cake-like and spotty with dry spots even though I doubled the milk. A perfectly textured tres leches requires a really light sponge cake. If you’re tempted to try this dessert be careful when scouring the internet for a recipe: tres leches should NOT have oil or butter in it, and AllRecipes top pick is not doing justice to this dessert.

The cake is simple enough. Beat nine egg whites until soft peaks form. Then, add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down with the egg whites not moving). In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are creamy and light in color. Add 1/2 cup of sugar to that along with a teaspoon of vanilla and beat for 3-5 minutes. Slowly add the yolks to the bowl of whites with a spatula, folding them in. Add 2 cups of flour (I might add less next time) and fold in until incorporated. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 360.

Once it is finished, poke holes in the cake with a chopstick or skewer. Mix together 2 cans of evaporated milk, 2 cups of heavy whipping cream and 2 cans of condensed milk with a whisk. Pour over the cake slowly, trying to get the middle drenched first. If you double the milk you will probably have extra, which is always nice to serve on the side. Let the cake soak for at least an hour in the fridge, if not overnight.

You can top it with fresh heavy whipping cream and cherries. Someday I’m going to make a coconut version of this with coconut milk, maybe for my step-mom who loves coconut and tres leches.

I’ll leave you with this lovely, semi-racist song by my all-time fav, Peggy Lee. I’m definitely waiting until mañana to put desserts and refried things behind me.

One last dessert (for now…)

I’ve been whipping up way too many desserts lately, and it’s gonna stop. Yesterday I taught the boyfriend how to make brownies. We made a 9×9 round pan of them, and they were shamefully gone by the following morning. They were probably the best brownies I’ve had in years, but no– this honeymoon from health has to come to a stop for a while. I’ve noticed an unwelcome change in circumference and so I think I best lay off the dessert recipes in exchange for the healthy ones. BUT, before we delve into weeks of healthy eating, let’s have one more indulgence: Affogato, otherwise known as the adult version of a root beer float.

Make about 1/4 cup of DARK & BOLD coffee or espresso. I used a cloth tea strainer filled with finely grounded espresso bean and piping hot water, and it worked like a gem. Then pour that over a high-end vanilla ice cream or gelato and top with whipped cream if you have it lying around (or make it yourself if you’re feeling especially snazzy!)

It tastes better if it’s in a Morris cup too… none of this pretentious martini glass BS that you get in Italian restaurants.

Enjoy! Next up: healthy dinner, a special guest entry AND for an off-topic post, how to give yourself a rockin French manicure at home.

crème de la crème brûlée

I decided to make crème brûlée today, despite my better judgment. It’s not that it’s a horrible dessert for you, aside from the crippling cholesterol of 8 egg yolks, 3 cups of heavy cream and a cup of sugar… Back in the day I used to make crème brûlées for staff at my old high school, charging them $50 for a platter. I used to get a lot of raves over my crème brûlée, but not having made it in two years I wondered if I still could produce a decadent batch. Back then I used to use The Joy of Cooking recipe, but since I couldn’t find my good ol’ JOC I used Parisian chef Paule Caillat‘s recipe, sans real vanilla bean because TJ’s didn’t have it. You need 7 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3 1/2 cups heavy cream, 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, brown and white sugar for the sugar coat.

The endeavor was in short, sloppy.  I am a REALLY messy and impatient cook, which is something that must change because it makes the process chaotic and difficult. My small kitchen was filled with a day’s worth of dishes and all the pans and ramekins I needed were dirty. Odd papers, books and groceries cluttered the island, and stains from last-night’s pasta dish still clung to the counters. I should have prepped like real chefs do, but instead I just started separating egg yolks like crazy. I even forgot to cover the separated egg whites and they fell over in the fridge. It was a mess.

Crème brûlée is really simple though it has a lot of steps. People get intimated because it has three accents and is often listed in overpriced restaurants. In short:

1. Separate egg yolks from egg whites and save egg whites for a healthy scramble the next day.
2. Beat the yolks with sugar.
3. Heat up the cream with vanilla in a large pot until hot, but don’t let it boil. Pour the cream carefully and gradually into the egg mixture and whisk it together.
4. Let it sit for 15 minutes to an hour t let the flavors fuse together.
5. Put into a water bath of hot water.
6. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350. It should be firm around the edges, but jiggly in the middle.
7. Let stand at room temp. for 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours until cold and firm (this dish is best cold- not lukewarm, in my opinion)
8. When ready to serve, sprinkle with a combo. of brown sugar and granulated sugar and then place in the broiler for one or two minutes, close to the heat or flame. Alternatively, you can torch it with one of these.
9. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes to cool off.

I am about to undo three miles of walking and a group yoga session from this morning, but it’s totally worth it.


A cookie is worth a thousand… calories?

I’ve finally mastered the art of the chocolate chip cookie after countless unreliable, burnt batches these past few months. I always thought that a perfectly crafted cookie was the result of finely measured ingredients and… luck. I never knew how to get consistently delicious, evenly-baked cookies. Well I’ve learned the secret, and it only cost $21 at Target: an AirBake sheet and an oven thermometer.

My Dad was the first one to suggest that I buy an oven thermometer. I guess I’m naive; when the oven said it was cooking at 350, I assumed it was actually cooking at 350. So I tested the oven at 350, and I came back and it was actually at 450! I was probably a little too excited about the discovery. (We now realize that we’ve been scorching our pizzas at a whopping 575 degrees each time… no wonder the fire alarm used to go off every time we made pizza…)

The AirBake sheet is AMAZING. The cookies are evenly baked and not burnt on the bottom. Everything I could ever hope for.

Here’s what I did to make an incredible cookie, tested three times for quality control:

The recipe is stolen from here.

1 cup butter (room temp.)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar packed down
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla (I use real vanilla- none of this fake imitation stuff)
2 1/2 cups flour (modified from 3 cups)
1 tsp baking soda mixed in 2 tsp of hot water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups of chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (USE AN OVEN THERMOMETER!)

2. Cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Add the water with the baking soda along with the salt. Stir in flour (do not over-mix) and fold in the chocolate chips, and nuts. Drop a tablespoon amount on the pan (I greased the AirBake pan).
3. Bake for 15 minutes (check it often, but try not to open the oven because it’ll cause the temp. to drop)
4. Eat and/or share them with others.

PS: I’ve had three cookies while writing this entry.

Here’s a hilarious video to round-off the cookie segment. Notice how uncomfortable Martha is… LOVE IT!


“You know what? Me have no idea what you talking about.”

Phase 1: Day 2

Artificial sweeteners= digestive hell.

But at least I resisted Monica’s double chocolate dulce de leche cake and lots of pizza at Christian’s birthday party today.   I ate about two pounds of veggies and guacamole.  I’m too tired to post my food intake today, so instead it’s Recipe Time with Danielle at Nummy Nums.

Before my diet I made delectable 6 layer “Dream Bars” for a potluck.  They came out really, really rich but were a hit.  I’m a messy cook though– I literally thought I was retarded at one point because I kept opening up the packages of chips and graham crackers and each time they would fly across the room everywhere.  This happened about 5 times total.

Heat up one stick of butter in a large 9×13 baking tray.  Once melted, top with 1 ½ cups of graham crackers.  Add a bag of chocolate chips, a bag of butterscotch (or any other type of melt-able chips) and 1 ½ cups of sweetened coconut.  Then drizzle one can of condensed milk over it and bake for about 20 minutes on 350 or so.  Enjoy the heart attack and indigestion.

On a more healthier note, last night I made myself a delicious turkey “burger” topped with onions, tomatoes and Goddess dressing along with some grilled, seasoned turkey-wrapped asparagus.  I actually really, really liked asparagus.

God bless the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Grilling Machine.  This whole meal took about 15 minutes.