Monday, April 15, 2013

Thoughts on Boston

I just got back from a run that I needed to take in order to clear my head after the horrible bombings today at the Boston Marathon. My mind keeps wandering back to all of my finish lines, for marathons and shorter runs and triathlons, and I keep thinking about all of my friends and family who have waited for me at those finish lines. Today, some runners had their friends and family injured or taken away at the race today and I can't imagine their pain and sorrow. And some runners, who have been dedicated to their training for this race are injured and many are emotionally wrecked.

The feelings at the end of any race are exhaustion, utter elation and every other emotion that you can think of. But the vibe at every race is always overwhelmingly positive. The running community has to be one of the most supportive, encouraging and positive groups of people out there. Every person around you at a race is cheering you on and pushing you to do your best. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that some horrible person (people) felt the need to destroy such a beautiful day and event. Marathons aren't political or controversial, they are a gathering of people dedicated enough to finish a marathon and the people that support them. The only reason to attack a marathon is hatred of humanity and the desire to destroy it.

These people must be brought to justice, but no matter what the outcome, I know one thing. The running community will get together and support Boston, the lives lost and those injured will be remembered and this beautiful community of people from all different countries, backgrounds and athletic abilities will continue to be a positive place for anyone with a desire to move their feet.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Easy & Casual Dinner Party

The other night we had friends over for Bad Movie Night. We played a round of Apples to Apples and then settled in to watch Re-Animator. It was definitely a hokey, bad B-movie classic. Bad acting, bad effects and an over-the-top plot.

Because we were hosting on a Friday night, after a full day's work, I wanted to keep the menu simple and easy to do ahead. Five spice pork lettuce wraps and raw veggies for dinner followed by chocolate black-pepper cookies and homemade salted caramel sauce with vanilla ice cream.

Five Spice Pork Lettuce Wraps

My aunt and uncle have made this for us a few times and it's so good and perfect to make ahead, I think it's even better than cooking it on the same day.  Making it the day before means you can refrigerate it, and skimming cold fat off of a recipe is always much easier than tediously spooning off liquid fat.

I used homemade hoisin sauce in the pork recipe and to serve the wraps with.
I subbed almond butter for the peanut butter and used honey instead of molasses, and it turned out quite well.

For dessert, I made Chocolate Black-Pepper cookies from Martha Stewart's Cookies.  I made the dough the weekend before and froze it until the night before the party, so I could bake them off for the next night.  For the salted caramel, I used another Martha Stewart recipe from The Best of Martha Stewart Living Cakes & Cupcakes, it keeps for quite a while in the fridge, so it's another easy thing to make ahead.  Then I just served the two with good vanilla ice cream to round everything out.

Chocolate Black-Pepper Cookies
Yield: 3 dozen

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. finely ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling
1 Tbsp., plus 1 tps. instant espresso powder (I used a Via packet)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsps. pure vanilla extract
Coarse sanding sugar, for edges (I used gold sanding sugar, for extra fun)

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, pepper, espresso powder and cinnamon into a large bowl.

Cream butter and sugar in your stand mixer on medium until pale and fluffy.  Add in egg and vanilla.  Reduce speed to low and start adding dry ingredient mixture.  Mix until combined.

Turn out dough onto parchment paper and roll into a log and roll up in the parchment.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or freeze for a week, like me).

If you've frozen your dough, remove it from the freezer a couple of hours before you want to bake the cookies, if it was in the fridge just set it out for about 5 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll log in sanding sugar and slice into 1/4 inch slices.  Place on baking sheets lined with parchment or silpats.  Sprinkle with black pepper.

Bake cookies until the center is just set, about 10 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.

Salted Caramel

4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan.  Cook over high heat, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming.  Keep brushing until sugar is dissolved and then continue to cook without stirring.  Seriously, don't touch it.  Cook it until it is dark amber and then remove from heat.  Carefully pour in the cream and stir until smooth (it will spatter and steam, so watch out).  Put back on heat and cook until it reaches 238 degrees (I didn't have a candy thermometer, so I just put in for a couple of minutes, until it bubbled for a bit).  Pour caramel into medium bowl, stir in salt and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes.  Stir in butter, 1 cube at a time and cool completely.

This makes quite a bit of caramel sauce.  I've used it as a filling for a cake and the sauce for this party and on random things for a couple of weeks, and I've still got some left.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

So, I'm 30 Now...

I turned 30 about a month ago, and so far, it's been pretty great.  I decided to update my 30 before 30 list and, I've also decided to revise the list to my 30 before 30 is over.

  1. Run a half Iron Man I just finished this one on 03/30.  I didn't really train enough, so I wasn't sure I would finish, but I did and it felt amazing.  I'm currently scheming for my next one.
  2. Run a half marathon in 2:11 (10 minute miles) I did this one last June, I even got it down to 2:06:35!
  3. Run a full marathon in 4:45 (I never said I was a fast runner) I did run a full marathon last summer trying to attempt this, and it took me a little over 5 hours, but my hip was hurting so much that this one may never happen.
  4. Complete my ARE (architect's registration exam) Finished up this one by the end of 2012!
  5. Make croissants from scratch Totally tried this and they were gross, will have to try again, though I've technically done it.
  6. Make a new quilt for our bed I'm currently making one, it's in the early stages, but it's going.
  7. Go to New York This may happen this year as a 30th birthday celebration for the hubs and I.
  8. Develop remaining black/white film No progress on this front
  9. Make a legitimate wedding album I made a test album with adorama pix to see the quality, so I've decided on a company
  10. Go to either Central or South America This is the other option for 30th birthday celebration with the hubs and I, looks like only one will get done this year though.
  11. Make macarons from scratch I've done these a couple of times now, and may I just say, yum.
  12. Sell something on Etsy I've set up a store, but haven't added anything to it yet, maybe soon.
  13. Design and purchase fabric from Spoonflower Agh, I really just need to do this already, I have so many viable designs.
  14. Get my IRA into a proper mutual fund Adult goal: achieved
  15. Add something every month to my IRA for at least 6 months Ditto!
  16. Paint something worth framing I just realized that I did this last year, I painted a portrait of my husband for his parents and they framed it
  17. Ride a century So far my furthest ride is the 56 that I just did in the half ironman, but this is still possible
  18. Fill a sketchbook with drawings, not to do lists Check!
  19. Learn some French What's your definition of 'some', I listened to some language cds before I visited there, counting it!
  20. Help and encourage T to make a short film Well, he's a little busy with his master's degree in the evenings, but I guess it's still possible.
  21. Have a vegetable garden I grew exactly one tomato on my balcony last summer and basil and mint, I'm calling it.
  22. Get licensed (the architectural variety, I can already drive) I just have the California Supplemental Exam left, it will happen.
  23. Learn Revit Absolutely no progress has been made on this front.
  24. Learn how to use manual settings on my camera I'm about 60% there
  25. Make 2 new dresses I need a sewing room
  26. Make a pair of pants (or shorts) See above
  27. Read 20 books I've finished this one many times over, I should have been more ambitious on this item
  28. Blog every weekday for a month Did this one, though it was clearly a while ago, it's been crickets around here lately
  29. Write a short story Not done yet
  30. Photograph something every day for a month Again, done a while ago, haven't pulled out my real camera much since the iPhone cameras have gotten so much better.
So, the list is almost half done, I have got to get my butt in gear on some of these items.

I think I was high off of the endorphins from this race for days!

And for my 30th birthday, I decorated cakes at Duff's Cakemix, like 30 year-olds totally do.   I made flowers, out of fondant this time!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Interpretation of Grandma's Dressing

My grandma grew up in New Orleans and her dressing is herbaceous and buttery because of this.  I've been making it for a few years myself now, so I've altered the recipe a bit, but the mix of poultry seasoning, butter and bread just makes me happy.  I thought it might make you happy too.

Creole Dressing
Makes 1: 9x13 pan

1 1/2 boules of good sourdough, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped (white parts only)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 pint of crimini mushrooms, sliced (Grandma uses oysters, I didn't grow up in New Orleans, so that's not my thing, but if it's yours, go for it)
2 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme 
1 stick (or 2) of unsalted butter
Salt, pepper and poultry seasoning* to taste
1-2 cups of chicken or veggie broth

Cube the bread the night before and leave it in the oven on a sheet pan to dry out overnight.  If this isn't an option, you can turn the oven on the lowest temperature (mine has a 'warm' setting) and dry the bread out for  an hour or two.

Think of the bread as a sponge, the more of the bread's moisture that you can remove, the more it can be filled up with butter and broth.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter your pan.

Dice and chop all of the veggies and herbs and get your biggest pot/pan ready with about 1/2 stick of butter. Start sweating the veggies, onions first, adding salt, poultry seasoning and pepper with each addition.  Celery second, then mushrooms, green onions, and finally the herbs.  In total, I probably end up using 1 Tbsp. of poultry seasoning, 1 tsp. of salt and a 1/2 tsp. of pepper.  You just want everything limp, not totally browned.

Set aside all of the veggies in a bowl and add 1-2 Tbsp. butter to your pre-flavored pan.  The next step is to brown the cubes of bread in some butter, you just want them lightly toasted.  It takes a few batches to get through all of the bread, just set aside each batch and keep on browning until you're done.

Now mix the veggies with the bread and add broth throughout the mixing until the bread has soaked up as much as it can, but you don't want it soggy and dripping, everything just needs to be moistened.  Then pat it all into the pan and bake for about a half hour.  You want a little brown on the top and everything warmed up, but you don't want it to fully dry out.

If you're taking it to a dinner party, bring some broth with you to pour on the stuffing for re-heating, so that it doesn't get dried out.

*Side note: I get my poultry seasoning from Penzey's spices, and I like it a lot.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Late this summer, my friend had her 'golden birthday' and her husband scored a million husband points by throwing her a party at EATZ LA.

Love the pomegranate apron!

She knew they were going to a cooking class, but she didn't know that all of the other attendees would be her friends until they arrived.  Sneaky and amazing!

The menu was French, the chefs were so fun and I learned some new stuff.  When you arrive, there are drinks and appetizers for everyone and you quickly get started with the cooking.

This is called 'bathing the baby', it's the totally technical way to poach an egg.

Then you put lardons on it and call it the salad course, mmm!

Apple slices, sage mayo, ham and cheddar grilled up to perfection.  

Things I don't like: mayo, ham, cooked or warmed fruit.  Things I love: this sandwich, which combines all three of those things.  It's a conundrum.

Main course: ratatouille and porcini crusted filet.

Apparently the trick to a perfect steak is high heat and finishing off your steak by basting it in butter, then you top it with more butter to serve.  It's worth the calories.

Dessert was raspberry white chocolate creme brulee, and you get to use a blowtorch, which is key.

I'd totally recommend EATZ to anyone looking for a fun cooking class that results in a fantastic meal, some great drinks and a good time.  The staff are professional, but super laid back and very fun.  And you get all of the recipes e-mailed to you later so that you can re-create your favorites.

Now, my 30th birthday is coming up next year and the hubs has a major celebration to match.  Just kidding, sort of.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mini Chocolate Waffles

Sorry about the hiatus, been busy since I got a job!  Yeah, that's been great, and as the weather has cooled down, I've felt like getting back into my kitchen and making yummy stuff.

Today's goodies are mini-chocolate waffles with a dark chocolate glaze.

Mini Chocolate Waffles
Adapted from a recipe in Martha Stewart's Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
8 Tbsps. of unsalted butter
1/2 c. applesauce
4 large eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour

Dark Chocolate Glaze

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/4 c. confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. milk

For the waffles:

Melt chocolate, butter and applesauce in saucepan over low heat.

Mix eggs, vanilla and granulated sugar in large bowl of stand mixer, mix for 4-5 minutes until thick and pale yellow.  Mix in chocolate mixture, salt, cinnamon, cocoa powder and flour.

Heat waffle iron until hot (with my waffle iron, I use the 6th highest out of 7 settings).  Place 1 Tbsp. batter onto center of each waffle iron square and cook until your waffle iron beeps.

Transfer to wire rack or paper towels to let cool.

For the glaze:

Melt butter, then add remaining ingredients.  Stir until smooth.

Once the waffles have cooled, dip one side halfway into the glaze.  Just the raised edges of the waffles should be covered in glaze.

These are super quick to make and come out nice and cakey.  My favorite adjective in a cookie recipe, if I do say so.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Birthday Boy

My cousin's littlest boy is turning TWO!

His nickname is BOO!

We made him a cake that goes CHOO CHOO CHOO!

That is all.