Monday, July 29, 2013

Lavender Orange Granola

I have been wanting to get my hands on some culinary lavender for a while now. This weekend, my parents and I were on our way to the Indian Festival in Redmond (I know, another festival, but families that festival together stay together), and we stopped at a lavender farm. We were instantly charmed by this farm, just picture beautiful rows of vibrant lavender and families gathering around picking some lavender for themselves. The farm had a gift shop and they were selling some wonderful culinary lavender. I had to get it. I decided to make lavender granola. Although I plan on making something more elaborate with the lavender one day, I have been wanting to try lavender granola for months now! The recipe for the granola is the same one I posted earlier but I added a tablespoon of edible lavender buds, added some raw cashews and about 1/2 teaspoon of orange oil. All I can say is that the smell of the granola as it was baking was incredible. Every time I smell lavender, I instantly think of my trip to Provence. What is better than when your breakfast cereal transports you to France?! I am looking forward to experimenting with additional lavender flavor combinations. I did lavender orange for this granola, but I bet lavender lemon, lavender honey and lavender hazelnut would also be awesome! I realized that the reason I love baking so much is because it is the perfect combination of science and art. The science part comes from the precision of ingredients and it is true that sometimes recipes turn out to be disasters (remember that 2 pound brown sugar cake that I made mom). However, once you get a grip on the correct proportion of ingredients, then you can start being creative and makeover recipes to become one of a kind. Often, I hear many people say that they don't like baking because it is too difficult, but I invite all you with a baking phobia to just experiment and not take it too seriously. Plus, if and when you succeed, you can tell people, "Pshh yeah, I made that recipe up." You will look like a very cool cat. Oh, p.s. I just bought some cocoa nibs, so stay tuned for a recipe with those!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Good Ol' Banana Bread and Some Homemade Jam, In Case Your Bread Gets Lonely

Hello friends!!! I'm back!! Sorry for the long delay between posts...I wish I had a good excuse like, "I have been volunteering" or "I just came back from Italy", but really my excuse is that I have been obsessed with the new show, "Orange is the New Black" on Neflix. And crocheting. I like crocheting. But this show is so good, and I am so bummed that I have to wait a whole year for the next season. Damn you Netflix! But you want to know the good thing about not updating a post in a while?! I have a lot of interesting tid-bits to share. The first being that I recently got a postcard in the mail from my friend Nicole, and it was the best postcard ever received. Nicole is one of those high energy, super hilarious people and I am so lucky to call her a friend. Nicole has been traveling to Sydney and Indonesia this summer and she sent me a postcard from Sydney. On the back of the postcard she wrote..."All the street signs in Sydney are delightfully stern-'Do the right thing, put your rubbish in the bin!' They are all quite matronly and emphatic. They also take the preservation of their local agriculture VERY seriously. They wouldn't let me bring my dried mangoes off the plane. I was stopped by Pickles, the police beagle, who wears a tiny red vest and sniffs bags for fruity concoctions." I love this girl. And on another note, maybe this was one of those "you had to be there" kind of things, but the other day I was taking my two dogs out for a walk. Now normally, I won't walk both my dogs by myself because they are a lot to handle, but that day I was feeling gutsy. Well, as we were walking, one of my dogs decided that it would be a good time to know what I mean. Grudgingly, I picked it up with a bag and tied the bag to my dog's collar (my mom's trick, in her own words, "She chose to do it, so now she has to carry it"). So my dogs and I were continuing to walk when I noticed the bag wasn't attached to my dogs collar anymore. The bag had fallen off a couple yards back into the middle of the street...and a car was coming towards it. So I ran as fast as I could with my dogs as I was yelling (excuse my French) "All of this for a stupid bag of s***!" Luckily, I got the bag in time before the car ran over it and secured it onto my dogs collar again. At first, I was livid, but then I just burst out laughing. So I know talking about know, is kind of gross on a food blog of all things, but the point to my story is that in sticky situations, you can either get mad and let it bring you down, or you can laugh at the humor in it. The people in my neighborhood probably think I'm weird though. Anyways, thank you for enduring my rambling. I had to share that story. And now the recipe. I love banana bread. I have yet to meet a single American that doesn't like banana bread. It's like mac n' cheese, super comforting. I whipped up a batch of banana bread that is much healthier and still very delicious, and its vegan!
Banana Bread (Recipe adapted from My New Roots)
1/4 cup almond milk
6 tablespoons of coconut oil
6 tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups mashed ripe banana's (approximately 5 medium banana's)
2 cups spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
A large handful of dried unsweetened coconut chips (optional)
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Line the bottom of an 8''x 8'' cake pan with parchment paper and coat the parchment with oil.
3) Put the milk, oil, honey, vanilla and banana's in a blender and blend until smooth.
4) In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Add banana mixture and combine using as few strokes as possible. Fold in nuts, chocolate and coconut.
5) Pour into prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. My loaf took around 65 minutes to cook completely, but I would set the timer for an hour and then add more time as needed (usually takes around 60 to 75 minutes to be cooked all the way through).
6) Enjoy!!!

I also made some homemade jam to go along with the banana bread. I am not going to post a recipe for my jam because I would not say that I am an expert jam maker by any means, and I am still experimenting when I make it. However, I will make a few notes about what I put in my jam. I bought a flat of both raspberries and blueberries and made raspberry and blueberry jam. For each flat, I added a cup of sugar and a teaspoon of pectin. I also added a vanilla bean, the zest and juice of an orange and a splash of Grand Marnier liquor. I cooked each jam for about an hour and a half until it had thickened enough where it was sticking to the spoon but still a bit runny.
*A good trick I learned is to put a plate into the freezer for a while and to test if your jam is thick enough, to put a small amount of your jam on the plate, and if the jam holds it shape as you tilt the plate, its done.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Don't Worry

Hello all! I just wanted to reassure you that I have not forgotten about this blog:) I have a lot of recipes to post but it's simply a matter of organization. So please stay tuned for more! The good thing about having a food blog is that you get to make a lot
of food and call it "research". The other day I went to the library and checked out three giant cookbooks. When I went to go pick up some coffee, the Batista told me "Have a good day, and happy studying!" as I was gripping three giant cookbooks in my arms. I didn't have the courage to tell her that they were just cookbooks, but later I thought to myself that cookbooks were my form of studying. So yes, thank you nice Starbucks Batista, I will be happily studying! On a final note, who knew that Washington state had so many festivals?! Last weekend, I went to three festivals in one weekend: the Bastille Day Festival, the festival in International District and the Seafood Feast in Ballard (which was not very seafood-y at all; they had fried alligator on a stick?..) And the festivals have yet to come to a close, this weekend I am going to the Strawberry Festival in Vashon Island. I requested that my family and I go to the mushroom festival but my mom was not too excited about the idea. I don't know why, it's a festival about mushrooms...that's awesome to me! Anyways...I hope you all are having fun in the sun, and especially to all you Washingtoni-ians, make sure you get your Vitamin D! I will leave you with some random pictures:)

Blackberry Bushes
University of Washington Campus...Janani Arangan, you know when this was

My bed has been taken over by my cats

Pensive at the lake

Friday, July 12, 2013

Swiss Chard Pasta

One of the many things that I love about Washington state is the selection of farmer's markets. In Orange County, I remember there was only one farmer's market that was located near the grocery store my mom shopped at. The only thing I remember of that farmer's market was the stand that sold really good rum cakes with bows and flowers wrapped around them. My mom sometimes let me pick out the cake I wanted and I would always go for the one that had the nicest ribbon. Okay so maybe I am a little bit more mature now (I still like nice ribbon though) but I have fallen in love with the farmer's market scene. All the beautiful produce, the food and ice cream trucks and the conversations between customer and seller. I love it all. Yesterday, my dad and I went to the Bellevue Thursday Farmer's Market, and I had a wonderful time. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I wasn't able to take pictures (Damn!). I like to think of myself as a good little shopper, and for twenty dollars I bought a bag of fresh basil, two heads of kale, a seeded baguette and a three pound bag of cherries. I figured the baguette would go well with the Swiss chard pasta I was planning to make for dinner that night. I picked the Swiss chard from my garden as well as some of my Italian parsley and used it for a Swiss Chard pasta that has red onions, wine, tomatoes, kalamata olives, walnuts and pecorino. It was so good! Alongside the pasta I made a romaine and kale salad that had flaked almonds, raisins, chopped red bell pepper, olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar. I also cut up the baguette, and rubbed a garlic clove on each slice and drizzled some olive oil on top and baked the pieces in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes (nice crunchy garlic toasts). For dessert? Some of the sweet cherries that I got at the farmer's market.
Swiss Chard Pasta (Recipe from Giada de Laurentiis)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 bunches of Swiss chard, trimmed and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I like spicy so I used around 1/2 teaspoon)
Salt and pepper
Whole wheat spaghetti (I used Barilla Multi grain Angel hair-It was perfect)
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
2 Tablespoons pecorino
2 Tablespoons pine nuts (I used some toasted walnuts instead)
1) Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the onions and saute until tender (about 8 minutes). Add the chard and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, wine and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cover and simmer for 5 minutes and season with salt and pepper.
2) In the meantime, cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente (about seven minutes).
3) When the pasta is done, drain it and transfer it to a big bowl. Add the Swiss chard mixture on top and add the olives, walnuts and pecorino. Mix well and serve.
*I sprinkled some chopped Italian parsley on top (yum-tastic)
Seeded Baguette

Colorful Swiss Chard

Final Product

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Too Good to Pass Up...

Rosemary in garden

Basil in my garden (all garden pics taken by my dad)

I'm back! And I have something wonderful to share with you all! Today I was making myself lunch, and the components of my lunch just came together beautifully and I felt like I had to post it. I had made myself some potato tacos last night and had some left over roasted potatoes. I also hard boiled some eggs and found some veggies lying in my fridge. So I put together a makeshift salade nicoise. Yesterday, I bought a bottle of fig balsamic vinegar (my new obsession, so sweet and rich), and I drizzled some of that along with some extra virgin olive oil on top of my salad. For the final touch, I added a small amount of herbed goat cheese. So simple and yet so delicious. For dessert, I cut up a ripe peach and drizzled some honey and sliced almonds on top. The lovely Mireille Guiliano, author of the book "French Women Don't Get Fat" has inspired me to adopt a French approach to cooking and eating. I experimented with veganism for a short period, and although I felt healthy, I also felt deprived. I remember having breakfast one morning and I got the strongest craving for eggs, and as I saw others eating their scrambled eggs and cheese, I was jealous of them. Then I thought, "This is crazy! If you want to eat those things, then you should. Eggs and cheese are not bad for you. Just like everything else, they are beneficial in moderation. This is the French approach that Mireille writes about, "the French way of enjoying those foods that can be friend or foe depending on how we treat them. The keys are sensory awareness, portion sense, quality, and an eye to the big picture of overall wellness". She also says, "If you really enjoy something, as I adore chocolate, there is a place for it in your life." And so I went back to being just a vegetarian, and although the majority of my diet is vegan, I find that when I no longer have that label of "vegan", I am much happier; there is no restriction to what I can and cannot eat. I think many people today focus on what they should and should't eat, and I have been trying to move myself away from that mindset. It is more important to focus on how food nourishes your body and looking at the benefits rather than the negatives. After all, food should feed the body as well as the soul. I enjoyed my lunch in the peace and quiet of my backyard/garden. Pure bliss. So in the words of Jamie Oliver, "If your gonna eat three meals a day, you might as well be good at it and make the most of it." So go out there and have a fan-tabulous lunch!
Marissa's Makeshift Salade Nicoise
2 hard boiled eggs
Small handful of fresh haricots verts
Small handful of chopped sweet red bell pepper
About 2 tablespoons of chopped red onion
Shredded fresh Romaine lettuce
Roasted Potatoes (Roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper at 375 for 40 minutes)
Small crumble of herbed goat cheese
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

Buckwheat Granola

Hello friends! I hope you all are having a wonderful summer! I went for a ride with my dad yesterday, and realized that I am becoming less Californian and more Washingtonian every day. While in my dad's convertible, I felt like I was burning 80 degrees. I grew up in Southern California and when my family and I moved to Washington state, I remember telling my family that people in Washington can't handle heat...and now look at me. Speaking of California, I am currently watching "It's Complicated", and as I am sure my family is well aware, this is one of my favorite movies. I am completely in love with Meryl Streep's bakery and chic Santa Barbara home. I like to daydream about having my own bakery... I will stop talking about daydreaming and get down to business: the recipe. I love love granola, and I have it every morning with some Greek yogurt and fruit. Not only is this breakfast delicious, but it is healthy and keeps me satiated for a long period of time. Granola is one of those things that is definitely worth making at home versus buying in stores. Store bought granola is usually way too sweet and incredibly expensive. I recently discovered adding buckwheat groats to granola, and it adds a wonderful crunchy component. Home made granola brings people together, I know this because when I first started Western Washington University and was trying to make friends with people on my dorm room floor, I invited a bunch of people over to my room to watch a movie and fed them some of my home made granola. People were eating it in handfuls like popcorn and kept asking me how to make it. So shout out to all you students starting a University this fall, just make some of this granola and share with potential friends, and you will be very popular:) I hope all of you will continue to have a very sunny and happy summer! P.S. My dad's birthday is coming up, so stay tuned for a post about his cake! I will give you a hint...okay it's more than a hint, but carrot and coconut cake!
Buckwheat Granola
(Recipe modified from:
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
3/4 cup buckwheat groats
3/4 cup puffed millet
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup dried fruit (I love cut up dried apricots with a mixture of golden raisins)
Optional addition: 3/4 cup coconut
 1) Combine all of the ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl. Transfer the mixture to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for an hour at 300 degrees. Stir the granola after the first 30 minutes, and then I like to stir it every 10 minutes after that so that the granola gets browned evenly.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Chocolate Heaven

I have to admit something. I don't really like chocolate cake. I love chocolate and I love cake, but I always felt like most chocolate cake's are not chocolate-y enough and too sweet. One day, I was in the mood for making a cake (what else is new) and was exploring my baking pantry to get inspired by something. I grabbed the box of Hershey's cocoa and looked on the back of it and low and behold, there was a recipe for a "perfect chocolate cake". I decided to give the recipe a try and I have to say, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. This cake is amazingly moist and has a very deep chocolate flavor, it is simply the best chocolate cake I have ever had. My mother, a self-confessed chocolate lover had one bite of this cake, and instantly fell in love. Now, this is my go-to recipe for whenever I crave chocolate cake. My sister's husband (Julien) loves chocolate and this past Friday was not only the day of the party for my sister and husband's wedding but it was also Julien's birthday. My mom came up with the idea of surprising Julien with chocolate cake for his birthday and presenting them at the party. I made this chocolate cake into cupcakes and placed little duck figurines on top (Julien loves ducks). These cupcakes were a big hit for Julien and kids alike. If you are a chocolate cake lover, I beg of you to give this recipe a try. You won't be sorry. Oh, unfortunately I don't have any pics of the cupcakes...they sort of got eaten before I could take pictures of them.
Hershey's Perfect Chocolate Cake
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup boiling water
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1) Heat oven to 350 degrees F and grease two 9-inch round baking pans.
2) Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
3) Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Devil's Food Cake Frosting (Recipe by Nigella Lawson)
4 fl oz water
1 oz brown sugar
6 oz unsalted butter, cubed
10 oz good quality dark chocolate (I like Ghiradelli's semi-sweet chocolate chips)
1) Put the water, brown sugar and butter in a pan over low heat until melted.
2) When this mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add the chocolate and swirl the pan until all of the chocolate is melted. Once melted, whisk until smooth and glossy.
3) Put the frosting in the refrigerator for at least an hour for it to harden a bit.

I feel bad that I don't have any pics of the chocoale cake/cupcakes. So, I will leave you with pictures of my golden retriever Sophie (after Sophie and Emerson):)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cheers to Nats and Julien!

I am currently listening to Daft Punk's "One More Time" as I fondly recollect all of my memories of yesterday's party for my sister's marriage. That's right folks, my big sissy is now married. I remember when we were little and we would talk about our future wedding. I told my sister that I would have pie at my wedding and my sister stated that cake is way better than pie. Although I am still a firm believer in pie, I had the privilege to make my sister's wedding cake and it was an amazing experience. Okay yes, a little stressful, but still amazing (thank you mom for being patient with me when I was freaking out that my stand mixer was not big enough). I had been mentally preparing myself for making the cake for a few months now and at first my plan was to make a mix of chocolate and vanilla cake, but after several trials, I decided that the final product would be a vanilla buttermilk cake with lemon curd and raspberries in the middle and Swiss butter cream frosting (by the way, I love saying Swiss butter cream frosting, it makes me feel like an expert baker). I baked the cake layers in advance and froze them so that all I had to do was make the frosting and assemble it the day of the party. I kept a level head until a few days before the party people were asking me about the cake and complementing me on the sample cake I had made. Although I was flattered, I also felt a great deal of pressure. It's like when you get an "A" on a test and then there's this pressure for you to get an "A++" on the next test. However, I persevered and the final product turned out wonderful! During the party, people would come up to me and tell me that the cake was amazing. All those complements meant so much to me, because it reassured me that a career in the culinary arts is a not too distant possibility. More importantly, I saw how touched my sister was that I had done this for her. Natalie, I want you to know that I wouldn't have it any other way. You are hoops and I am yoyo, you are my best friend, my role model and I am so so happy for you. I love you beautiful and I wish you a lifetime of happiness in your new life! So without further ado, here is the recipe of the cake as well as some photos. So in the words of Daft Punk, "One more time, music got me feelin' so free, we're gonna celebrate"

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart
(Makes 4 dozen mini cupcakes, but this can also be divided amonst two 8 inch pans)
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
2) Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a mixer bowl. Transfer bowl to mixer and add egg, yolk, water, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat on low speed until mixture is well combined, about 3 minutes.
3) Divide batter among liners, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire rack for about 30 minutes. Invert cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.
*Note, I learned that in order for cakes to rise flat for a wedding cake, it is important to line the bottom with parchment and spray the parchment but to not spray the sides of the pan. Forget everything you learned from Food Network. (Mind Blown)

Swiss Butter Cream
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
For a wedding cake (or most of one, depending on the size)
2 cups of egg whites (approx. 12 large)
3 cups sugar
5 cups butter, softened (2 1/2 pounds, 10 sticks)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For a 9-inch cake (plus filling, or some to spare)
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
26 tablespoons butter, softened (3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the tiniest amount, if you’re just practicing
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg white
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.
Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (Here’s a tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly.)
Add the vanilla.
Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip.
Note: Do not have a panic attack when this takes a while to come together (though I did every time). One super-large batch took 15 minutes, but it did and will come together. Patience, young Jedis.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

Hello, and welcome to my blog! I live in Seattle and am a student at Western Washington University. I have a passion for cooking and baking and I love to share my creations with friends and family. In fact, when I was in high school, I would bake something new every day. My baking addiction reached a new level when my parents had to sit me down and tell me that they love my food but that I needed to stop baking everyday because they didn't have enough room in their bellies to eat all my food. I resorted to using my surplus of baked goods to feed my friends every morning with all of my healthy quick breads and muffins. There is nothing I love more than staying indoors on a rainy day, drinking tea and watching a movie while I whip up a yummy and healthy concoction and subsequently giving it to a friend or family member. I recently baked my very first wedding cake for my beautiful big sister's wedding. The cake was a big hit and my sister and her husband were truly touched. The joy I got from baking the cake and pleasing people inspired me to start a blog where I would share all of the food I make. I plan on sharing recipes and photos that I hope will connect with you and perhaps inspire you to make these recipes for yourself or for your family and friends. I am looking forward to a lovely adventure with you guys! Stay tuned!
XOXO, Marissa