Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ellis Turns One!

Boy it has been a ridiculously busy Fall and Winter. Between residency interview season and the holidays, time has flown by---I can't believe Christmas is already gone and we are only 2 days away from 2017. Well, just as fast as this season has passed, it feels like just yesterday that Dulce and Luis hosted their Little Man baby shower. Yep, that's right! Their little man is now one! Sweet, adorable, and stylish, he makes everybody want one just like him (and since you're probably wondering right now, no, we're not there yet 😉). And of course, another Rodriguez party means incredible style and decor. Dulce worked her magic again--this time with a woodlands theme. Check out that pallet backboard they put together! I was enlisted to help with the dessert spread (cupcakes and cake-pops). 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

It's That Pumpkin Season Again

Oh how I have looked forward to Fall. It was barely the end of September and I had already pulled out all my Fall decor in efforts to convince myself that it was truly the beginnings of Autumn despite the sweltering weather. 

In addition to boots and jackets, Fall is the season for pumpkin spice everything. Last year I shared a recipe for pumpkin spice bundt cake, but this year I wanted to try something a little less traditional, a little more fun. And what could be more fun than pumpkin spice donuts? Recipe adapted from Baker by Nature

The wonderful thing about these donuts is their light cakey texture, the best kind in my opinion. Not to mention that cinnamon sugar coating just brings out the pumpkin flavor in every bite!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Lemon Lavender Tea Cake

It's been over two months since my last post! Boy does time fly. I honestly cannot believe that I am already a third of the way through my chief year. This year has had its challenges for sure, but has been incredibly rewarding in so many other ways. Aside from working along side some of my best friends and colleagues and having the opportunity to both teach and learn from my residents, I get the wonderful opportunity of trying out new recipes! 
Earlier this summer, the Boy and I had a weekend off together (I know, weird, right?) and spent it at a lavender festival in Highland Springs. I had been DYING to go to a lavender festival ever since this tiny little lavender obsession of mine started and was thrilled that this was only 30 minutes from home. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Black and White Affair: Cookies and Cream Blondies

What do you do when you have 10 packs of left-over Oreos? Make blondies of course! Combined with Hershey's cookies and cream chocolate chunks, these blondies are rich, decadent, and truly a guilty pleasure. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Blueberry season is coming to an end, but not before I get one more recipe out of them! This recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen is simple to follow, uses basic ingredients and will stay good for a couple days in the fridge. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Let's Talk Peaches and Poultry

Amazon prime day rolled around the corner a couple weeks ago and I was able to get my hands on a much awaited Instant Pot. I've had my eye on this thing since my friends Marilyn and Wesley got one a few months back. They are some of the biggest foodies and best cooking couples I know and so if they have one, you know it's gotta be good. And as expected, this new gadget was magical--it can do 7 different things but is the size of a simple rice cooker!

The first recipe I wanted to try out was peach balsamic chicken. With fresh peaches from Jen's garden and fresh basil from my own kitchen bay window, this recipe came out wonderfully, thanks to my trusty instant pot of course. While I made this recipe in the instant pot it can easily be made in a skillet on the stove as well. 

Nectarine and Peach Pizza

Summer is here and nectarines and peaches are dropping faster than we can pick! My friend Jen's house had literally HUNDREDS of delicious nectarines and sweet as can be peaches. After a couple hours of picking we ended up with boxes overflowing with beautiful stone fruit. Now what to do with them. We were making nectarine and peach everything for days. From pies, to jam, to cobbler and ice cream we tried it all! I even tried making nectarine ravioli but the flavor was overpowered by the goat cheese :D. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make a Lemon Tart

Hooray! It's our last month of residency! While we are overjoyed to be done with training, it also means that some of the wonderful friends we have made over the past three years will be moving away. It made me think of the saying "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Although being sad your friends are moving is hardly a lemon compared to the horrific recent events, I'll consider it a relative lemon. But why stop at lemonade? Our friends Jen and Curtis were celebrating their housewarming this weekend so we went ahead and turned our lemons into a lemon tart  to share. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Hello Summer, Watermelon Here

Although Summer isn't quite here just yet, she sure sends her greetings with scorching hot temperatures. The last two weeks have been horrendously hot with temps as high as 107F last weekend. With heat like this it's hard to get myself to cook or bake anything. Turning on the oven is taboo around this time of year. So instead, we've been living off of salads and paninis pretty much daily. To change it up a little I decided to try making a Mediterranean style watermelon salad. Cold, crisp, juicy-sweet watermelon tossed with feta cheese, sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes and mint, and topped with a balsamic glaze is the perfect salad to cool off with. Not to mention I love the colors!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Boy Takes the Spotlight: DIY Farmhouse Table

Last week Nhan and I flew out to New Jersey and Philadelphia to visit his family and a few of our friends. We got to meet our new 1 week old baby niece Hannah and spend time with her wonderful big sister Gabriella. It's been quite a while since I've played with Legos and Play-doh but boy we had so much fun! 
Towards the middle of our week there, Nhan thought, why not work on a small 4 hour project that we could give to his family before we leave. We decided on a farmhouse table and benches that we saw on Pinterest. With detailed plans from Ana White and a step-by-step tutorial by Whitney and Ashley from Shanty 2 Chic we managed to complete the table over two days (not quite the 4 hour project we aimed for, but a great starter weekend project nonetheless). We bought all the wood for the benches too but never got around to that. We'll save that for our next visit I guess. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mini Fruit Tarts for the Summer

This recipe deserves a shout out to my friend Andrea Nguyen for teaching me how to make these delicious fruit tarts 10 years ago. And every since then, they have been one of my go to dessert staples. Cute and tasty, these bite-sized tarts are absolutely perfect for any party. With summer rapidly approaching, this is an easy recipe to whip up for your next BBQ, pool party, picnic etc. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

7 Days in Japan -- Part 2: Tokyo and Nagano

After two wonderful days of temple hopping and exploring the old capitol of Japan and one day eating until we dropped in Osaka, it was time to head onwards to Tokyo, the largest city in Japan. While we experienced some of the city life in Osaka, Tokyo was a whole different ball park. It reminded me of New York City with its multiple prefectures, tons of sky scrapers, high end fashion sense, and bustling people and nightlife. The city itself was far too big for us to be able to even skim the surface of in the two days we had available to spend there so we had to pick and choose what we wanted to see most. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

7 Days in Japan -- Part 1: Kyoto and Osaka

Only 3.5 hours away from Guam, Japan was an ideal vacation destination, especially as we only had 7 days and didn't want to spend a large part of it on a plane. After three amazing weeks on the beautiful island, we hopped on a flight to Tokyo bright and early. From Narita airport we took the bullet train to Shinagawa station in Tokyo to meet my parents and my brother. Now I have not been on a family vacation in YEARS. Between studying for MCATs or boards, I have unfortunately missed out on the last few international trips. So imagine how excited I was to travel with my family again. Worst part? My sister was now in the same boat I was in and could not join us, even though Japan was always "her thing," and probably one of the top items on her bucket list. Vicky, we missed you dearly on this trip but don't worry, we'll be back there again some day. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Getting to Know Guam: Letting our Tastebuds Lead the Way

While it is considered a US territory, Guam's history dates back centuries before Magellan ever landed on the island. It's culinary scene is both native Chamorro food and a mix of Asian cuisines (given it's proximity to Southeast Asia) in addition to your classic "American food," aka McDonalds, Papa John's and other fast food joints along those lines. Produce in Guam is unfortunately horrendously expensive as most of it is imported. Agriculture is not a big part of island life. The first day we arrived in Guam, we headed for the supermarket to buy groceries for the week and boy, was the sticker shock just that--shocking. Used to cheap produce from Southern California, we could not believe our eyes when we saw a bag of salad for $6 that we were used to paying $3 for at home. However, on the flip side, meat is cheap and easily accessible so the local diet consists mainly of beef and pork with red rice (white rice dyed red with achote seeds along with some seasonings). 
Chicken BBQ Skewer

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Galavanting through Guam: a Three Week Adventure on a Beautiful Island

Last month, the boy and I were privileged with the opportunity to visit the beautiful island of Guam. A tiny island, but largest in Micronesia, Guam sits in the Pacific ocean just 3.5 hours away from Japan. With tropical weather in the 80s year round and warm blue seas, it was the perfect place to be after a two month stint of wards and ICU. We spent three wonderful weeks at the Seventh Day Adventist Guam Clinic in Tamuning on a Wellness Rotation, working with dedicated doctors, nurses, and volunteers to study the effects of education classes and intensive lifestyle changes on diabetes and obesity, two conditions with very high prevalence in Guam. We even got to run our own diabetes education class one of the evenings and performed wellness consultations, both truly educational experiences. Thanks to Drs.Arakawa, Clark, and Ursales, we had a productive three weeks.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Happy First Day of Spring! Lemon Macarons

Happy first day of spring! With flowers beginning to bloom, despite allergies popping in to say their first hello of the season, I can't help but be excited for the change in weather. Warmer temperatures mean putting away those winter jackets and boots and pulling out the spring dresses! 

It's funny how easily we can adapt and how perspective can change when you are put into different situations. 3 years ago, in the beautiful city of Philadelphia, "Spring" would mean 50 degree weather and no more snow, at which time we really did pull out the spring dresses. We would even see sunbathers out on the lawn on the warmer days at a nice and hot 60 degrees farenheit. But after moving back to good old SoCal, I've become quite accustomed to the dry California sunshine, where 50 degrees in the winter is chilly and if it ever drops down to the 40s or dare I say 30s, we are bundled in winter gear: layers, coats, boots, scarves...the whole shebang. The Philadelphia girl in me would be ashamed if she saw me now. "Spring" now means beautiful 70s-80s sunshine. Unfortunately it's usually short lived as Summer rounds the corner at breakneck speed with 100+ heat even before he's called for. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and just focus on the beauty of Spring.  

Spring makes me think of bright yellows and greens and now with Easter just around the corner, pastel pinks and purples. So as a tribute to spring, this post is going to be on something bright, something yellow, something spring: lemon macarons!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Chocolate Lavender Macarons

Since we're on the topic of lavender, I figured I might as well throw in another lavender inspired recipe. This one in particular was inspired by A La Minute's chocolate lavender ice cream. Now if it works as an ice cream, why not turn it into a macaron? With a chewy chocolate shell and a lavender infused chocolate ganache, this macaron is nothing short of decadent goodness. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Honey I'm in Love with Lavender

I'm not sure when it happened, but it happened. It hit me with a fervor I can't even begin to describe. The calm and soothing aroma of lavender filled my nose and wrapped me in a blanket of peace and happiness. But it didn't stop there. As soon as that delicate flavor danced across the tip of my tongue, it invaded mind. There it was--I had fallen in love. It developed into somewhat of an obsession, really. I became drawn towards anything and everything that had even the slightest hint of lavender. Just a touch of that floral note and I was sold. From chocolate lavender ice cream to lemon lavender short bread to lavender tea, I could not get enough. My latest discovery was honey lavender ice cream from Carmela, a tiny little ice cream shop in Pasadena. There on a belated Valentine's Day date with my (other) love, I was ecstatic to find that they offered this wonderful flavor and needless to say, I knew it was going to be my next project. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Strawberry-Rose Valentine's Macarons

Last month had been a little busy, hence this belated Valentine's day post. The hubby and I were both working on Valentine's day this year, but I was able to whip up a batch of strawberry macarons for the occasion, and of course they were heart shaped! Made with crushed freeze-dried strawberries and filled with rose buttercream, these macarons were a perfect little mini-celebration. We did eventually make it out to Pasadena the following weekend for a day-date and had delicious honey-lavender ice cream at Carmela. The ice cream was so scrumptious that it inspired me to make my own. Click here for my version!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies

Although I have never been huge fan of oatmeal raisin cookies, I absolutely love cranberry oatmeal cookies. This recipe uses just a hint of orange along with white chocolate chips and pecans for some added depth and texture. Adapted from original recipe from Running with Spoon

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Bring out the beets

Inspired by the classic beet, goat cheese, and walnut salad, this recipe combines these same ingredients to make a savory tart. Much like a quiche, this tart has an egg based filling with a flaky pastry crust that really brings out the beets. What I loved most about this tart was its colors - a beautiful blend of purple from the beets, white from the cheese, and topped with chopped kale for an added touch of green. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

While I still have one blueberry recipe left up my sleeve, I figured it was time for a little change of pace, or change of ingredient in this case. As January draws to an end, we are once month closer to the end of winter and therefore the end of pumpkin spice everything, at least until next year. Trader Joe's is the absolute king of pumpkin spice. Starting in late September every year, they begin to stock their shelves with pumpkin spice flavored granola, pumpkin spice chai lattes, pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds, and honestly anything you can think of probably comes in pumpkin spice flavor around this season at TJ's. While we are already two months into winter, I realized I hadn't made anything in that category this year. So for my last and final call on MOD (inpatient ward month) I figured it was the perfect time to whip out the spice and make something nice. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Blueberry Grilled Cheese

So I found some french loaf bread and remade the sandwiches (pictured above) - so much better with thick bread! 

I'm going to say, I'll probably be sick of blueberries soon,  as much as you will be sick of hearing about blueberries.... but not yet! Here's another blueberry inspired dish, in sandwich form. And once again, a guest appearance by Goat Cheese (one of my favorites :D). I saw a picture of a blueberry grilled cheese on Pinterest and was dying to make one. With that giant flat of blueberries I got from Trader Joe's, there was plenty of berries to go around. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Blueberries and Cream Cookies

I've been on a bit of a blueberry craze recently if you couldn't tell already. And while the blueberry lemon muffins were quite delightful, I was looking for something more along the lines of a cookie -- a blueberries and cream cookie to be more exact. I fell in love with this cookie the first time I went to Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City. It easily became my favorite cookie of all time, to the point where my sister and my friends were bringing me dozens of frozen cookies all the way back from NY as bridal shower and christmas gifts. One of my friends had recently been making batches of these cookies so I figured I'd give it a go myself. I'd have to admit that these aren't exactly like the bakery's own cookies but they come pretty close and are pretty darn good regardless. Although they turned out a little flatter than I would have liked they are mighty chewy and delicious - a nice quick fix as opposed to spending $600 on a flight to NYC. Recipe adapted from Christina Tosi's Momofuku Milk Bar. Note I have tried this recipe using cups vs grams and using a kitchen scale definitely made better cookies so I have listed the recipe in grams below (with US measurements next to it). 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

It's not exactly spring yet, but I couldn't resist picking up a beautiful box of blueberries at Trader Joe's last week. Outside of making a blueberry grilled cheese sandwich, what better use for them than for some call day blueberry lemon muffins. Moist yet crispy on top, these will melt in your mouth. I also had a few lemons left in the fridge that needed to be used up hence the blueberry lemon muffins. Not to mention it was the perfect excuse to use these absolutely adorable silicon baking cups by "Fred and Friends" that have been sitting in the cabinet for months now. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

Which ever wonderful soul came up with nutella should get some major props for such an ingenious combination of chocolate and hazelnut. You can seriously eat this stuff out of the jar, it's that good. So why not mix it into a cookie? Toss in some chocolate chips and chopped up hazelnuts and you will have the ultimate nutella cookie. But beware, you won't be able to stop at one so by all means, please share! I would be willing to taste test :D.  This reminds me of a magnet I once saw at a small little gift shop in Solvang: "God, if you can't make me skinny, please make my friends fat."

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rose Apple Pie

I'm running about 2 weeks behind on all of my blog posts and here is yet another late post on my end of the year baking and cooking adventures. This recipe is a twist on your classic homemade apple pie combined with a touch of pecan pie and a bit of flare to top it all off. The pie itself is not hard to make, but will take some time to assemble all the roses. I like to call this the "mother-in-law" pie, a dessert that's dressed to impress even the toughest critics. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Feast for the Holidays

Last month around Christmas weekend, we celebrated my parents' 28th anniversary. My mom had wanted me to make reservations at a nice restaurant for dinner, but the holidays just would not be the same without a home cooked meal. And what better way to spend time with family than by bonding in the kitchen over pots, pans, and pasta. It was a perfect excuse to try out my new Le Creuset dutch oven that the boy got me for Christmas! Recipes included - click on links below for recipes and more pics.  (Too many recipes to fit in one post!)

Short Rib Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta

Pappardelle pasta is my FAVORITE pasta of all time, which explains why I always order it when we get Italian. While in Del Mar a few times last year, we stopped by Cucina Enoteca and tried their short rib ragu over pappardelle pasta -- it was love at first bite. I usually shy away from red meats, but after going to Spain for our honeymoon last year, I've learned to make a few exceptions for special occasions or when we eat out; we can call those "cheat" days. And of course, when eating something so delicious, what more reasonable thing to do than to try to create it ourselves? I'm sure the boy is excited I've started venturing into the red meats realm since for the last six years he has been stuck with chicken or fish when I'm ambitious but for the most part vegetarian on the day to day basis. This was my second attempt at cooking red meat (the first was an absolute flop). But this time, I had a weapon - my brand new Le Creuset dutch oven the boy got me for Christmas, and oh do I love it so.  
Recipe adapted from OC Weekly 

Winter Pomegranate Salad

It's the end of pomegranate season and boy am I glad I did not miss it entirely. I stopped by the local San Jacinto Farms fruit and vegetable stand and picked up a few very ripe end of the season pomegranates. As dried up as they looked on the outside, the inside could not have been more beautiful with plump red seeds that were much more sweet and didn't have a bitter after taste that you can get with pomegranates that have not ripened enough. 

Rosemary Onion Focaccia Bread

Nhan gets all the credit for this beautiful loaf of focaccia bread. It has just the right amount of herbs to give it a beautiful scent and delicate flavor. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are a wonderful accompaniment. What's most impressive is this was his first time baking bread! Hooray! The boy is now the baker.... well, for a day at least. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates

Prosciutto and basil wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: 20 pieces

20 dried pitted dates
3oz goat cheese
20 basil leaves
5 slices of prosciutto
20 toothpicks

1. Open each date up lengthwise (usually pitted dates will already have a lengthwise incision down the middle
2. Stuff each date with a small amount of goat cheese distributed evenly amongst the dates
3. Wrap each date up with a basil leaf
4. Cut each slice of prosciutto lengthwise into 4 pieces. Wrap each basil wrapped date in prosciutto.
5. Place on a baking sheet and broil on high for 7 minutes until prosciutto starts to bubble.
6. Insert a toothpick into each date and serve warm

The Boy Bakes: Butternut Squash Empanadas

Despite living in Philadelphia for 4 years, we unfortunately were never able to make it out to Vedge, one of Philly's vegan fine dining restaurants. We did, however, buy their cookbook as we have friends who will swear by it. The boy decided he wanted to try making squash empanadas from one of the recipes in the Vedge cookbook. The first try was edible but far from perfect, mainly because the dough was just too thick and salty and whether that was due to the recipe itself or the baker, we just can't say >.<. The second, however, was delicate, light, and just down right delightful -- taste testers approved! We made a few alterations to the original recipe and actually ended up using a different crust recipe we found online the second time around, courtesy of Epicurious and listed below.