Monday, June 6, 2011

Let them eat JAM!

Who needs cake, when you have Jam!?

Strawberry Jam, to be precise.

I spent the better part of the weekend making 3 batches of Strawberry Jam with my family (Hi Mom!)

This stuff is good. I know I've posted MY "Jam" recipe on here before, but this was the traditional, real-deal, boil-the-jars, makes 16-of-'em, type of Jam making. Have a look:

3 cups crushed strawberries
3/4 cup water
1 box Sure-Jell
1/2 cup sugar
Yield ~4 cups Jam

1. Hull a boat-load of strawberries

2. Process in Cuisinart until chunky (do not overprocess, unless you want a jelly consistency)

3. Measure out 3 cups

4. Pour crushed strawberries, water and Sure-Jell into saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Boil for exactly 1 minute. Add sugar and stir for 1 more minute.

5. Remove from heat, skim any foam from the top, and pour immediately into jars*. Fill to within 1/8 inch of top.

6. Close securly, and submerge jars in boiling water (you want the jars covered by 1-2 inches of water. It is a BIG pot with A LOT of water) for 10 minutes.

7. Remove jars from water, let cool, and decorate to your hearts content!

* Before we started, we sterilized our jars.
** IF you are planning to store the jam in the fridge, you don't HAVE to boil the jars. But, if you boil them, the jars will be shelf-stable for about 1 year. Up to you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Uh oh

So. For those of you who don't know me in real life, I'm a bit of a klutz.




Whatever you want to call it.

But, let's just say, I make a lot of careless mistakes.

Like, knocking over wine glasses on the dish-dry rack, and then foolishly thinking I could vacuum up the shards. (<-- BAD IDEA. Think - teeny tiny glass pieces flying EVERYWHERE. One month later, I am still picking them out of the carpet in the NEXT.ROOM)

Or my latest caper - thinking I could figure out how to use the hubs Soda Stream while he wasn't around, and not realizing that you have to screw the bottle in, not just hold it up to the nozzle real close.

Not-so-carbonated-water EVERYWHERE.

Which, you know, isn't the end of the world. It's just water. Unless you happened to be mid recipe-blog-photo-shoot, and your camera also happens to be sitting on the water soaked counter. And, in your haste to clean up the mess, it doesn't dawn on you that, hey, maybe a camera sitting in a PUDDLE of water overnight is NOT the best idea.

So, all of that to explain (albeit long-windedly) why there are no pictures in this post, and may not be any pictures on this blog for some time to least not until I can outgrow my carelessness enough to let myself buy nice things again...


Thursday, April 28, 2011


This past month, our cooking club put on a pre-Cinco-de-Mayo fiesta, and ever since, I CAN NOT shake the craving for Mexican food!

The weather was perfect for a little al fresco dining, and we had a blast sitting by the fire and eating some AMAZING Mexican food.

I may have since started frequenting Baja Ranch Market and buying avocados, limes and cilantro in bulk. Perhaps.

(What, you don't have coffee mugs filled with cilantro in your fridge?!)

On The Menu:

Margaritas (of course!)
Pico de Gallo and Guacamole
Agave Cornbread Muffins
Pinto Bean Salsa Salad
Zucchini Black Bean Casserole
Spanish Rice
- 1 c. rice
- 2 tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 c. tomato sauce (the kind that comes in a can - not pasta sauce)
- 1/2 c. canned, diced tomatoes
- 1 1/4 c. water
- 2/3 c. frozen corn
- 2/3 c. frozen peas
- salt, pepper, and oregano to taste

In a cast iron pot, combine rice and oil. (If you don't have a cast iron pot, any pot will do!)
Turn the heat to high. Stir the rice constantly. As the rice heats, it will start to turn golden brown and start popping in the pot. Keep stirring and don't let the rice burn!
When the rice is a deep golden brown, and before it gets burned, add the liquids, veggies, and spices.
Bring the mixture to a boil.
When the mixture is boiling, cover the pot, and let simmer for 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes, remove from heat.
Fluff with a fork and serve!

Chicken Enchiladas
-Pulled Chicken
- Tortillas
- Enchilada Sauce (I used Trader Joes)
- Grated Mexican Cheese

Pour about 1/3 cup sauce in a shallow dish.
Heat tortilla in a dry pan, about 15 seconds each side.
Dip tortilla in sauce to coat.
Fill with about 1/4 cup chicken.
Roll up and place seamside down in casserole dish.
Sprinkle cheese on tip, and bake about 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Veggie Enchiladas
- 1/2 lb sweet potato, cubed and steamed about 15 minutes
- 1/2 cup corn kernels
- 1/2 cup black beans
- 1/2 cup + 1 jar salsa verde (I used Trader Joes)
- Grated Mexican Cheese

Combine potato, corn, beans and 1/2 cup salsa.
Follow the same method as for Chicken Enchiladas, using the Salsa Verde as the 'Enchilada Sauce'.
*Note - do NOT skip the heating of the tortillas as I did. Turns out this is an integral step, as it makes the tortilla pliable. Otherwise your 'enchiladas' will be more like a 'broken tortilla casserole'...oh well.

And let's not forget about dessert:

Chocolate Chipotle Brownies
Chocolate Flan Cakes (with some adaptations from here and the chef...)

So delicious!

I can't wait to see what we cook up next month!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Recap

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend!

We started our day with the BEST cinnamon rolls:

And then after church, and despite the cold temps and dreary skies (drizzle at times!!!) we braved the back yard to grill for the first time this season:

Thanks to my Mom and Dad for hosting. We may have gone a leeeettttle bit overboard - what, you guys don't have more types of vegetables (7) and desserts (6) than you do people (5)?


Sadly, I didn't get any pictures of our awesome desserts. But here's one of A & me. Hopefully that's good enough!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trail love

The weather here in Southern California the past couple weeks was absolutely beautiful, and what better way to take advantage of the sun than HIKING!

I first hiked the Mt. Wilson trail about 2 weeks ago.

To say I love this trail would be a HUGE understatement, considering I've already been back to hike it 3 times since then.

But really, how could you not love a trail that starts out with this adorable little place:

Has stunning views:

Fun hiking companions (hi Kiki!):

Frequent scenery changes:

And ample shade:

Oh I know. The BOULDER that stopped me in my tracks! Exhibit A:

I was too chicken to go bouldering over this bad boy. (Actually, that is not entirely true...I tried, and then cut my hand in the process. THEN I chickened out).

It was FREEZING this day, and we were ~5 miles in already. The altitude gains on this trail are significant, so it was MUCH colder at the top - about 50 degrees, compared with the 65 at the trail head.

Although the weather has reverted back to gloom, you can bet that as soon as the sun pokes itself out again, I will be back at Mount Wilson.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Carrot cake bites

A couple weeks ago I stumbled upon this awesome recipe on Angela's blog.

Being the sucker for all things 101 Cookbooks, and actually having all the ingredients for one recipe on hand, I decided to go ahead and whip up a batch of these awesome carrot cake bites:

I just made a second batch last night (with a couple modifications) and A thinks these turned out even better than the 1st batch (I go try them both ways for yourself, and see what you think!)

Carrot cake bites: (Inspired by 101 Cookbooks, Oh She Glows)

1/2 cup buckwheat flour (I made this by grinding untoasted buckwheat groats in my VitaMix.)

1/4 cup multigrain cereal (TJ's brand)

1/4 cup shredded coconut (I used partially de-fatted)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger (dried)

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup raisins (soaked in HOT water for about 1/2 hour <--This is KEY. Do NOT skip!)

1/2 cup carrots

1/4 cup maple syrup (I used sugar free)

2 tbsp coconut oil

3 tbsp almond milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl

3. Stir in fruit and nuts

4. Combine wet ingredients in measuring cup (a la Mama Pea - I love this method, do it all the time!)

5. Add wet to dry and mix to combine. Per Angela's recipe, the dough should be pretty wet. I needed to add more Almond milk to my mixture to acheive that consistency, but I think it is the key to a softer, crumblier cookie

6. Drop by the tbsp onto a silpat (or parchment) covered cookie sheet

7. Bake for 15 minutes at 350, let cool on cookie sheet another 10 minutes

So - what do you think? Do you like the orignial version better? Or my modification?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


*Warning - this post contains pictures of FEET. So, if you're one of those anti-feet people who get creeped out by other peoples feet, well, browse-along now.*

It's been awhile since I posted a running update, in part, because there has not been a whole lot of running going on around here. But, I'm slowly easing my way into the world of barefoot running, so I figured it was a good time for a progress report.

I finally got a pair of these for my birthday:

Unfortunately they were a leeeetle bit too small, so I sent them back for the next size up. Which should be arriving....any day now...

So, since patience is not my strong-suit, I decided to take matters into my own hands, err, feet, I guess...

That's right. I've been running completely barefoot on my treadmill a couple times a week.

I worked my way up to 2 miles last week, and when I stopped, what I thought were calluses on my feet turned out to be blisters. Ouch.

So I'm back down to 1.5 miles at a time now.

But here is the strange doesn't hurt! Based on all my research, I was expecting calf pain, soreness in my shins, etc. Maybe because I'd been running in the Nike Free for quite awhile before ditching the shoes altogether...or maybe because I'm a forefoot runner. Whatever the reason, the only thing holding me back at this point is lack of calluses on my feet.

So I'll get there.

In the meantime, my heels are still KILLING me during pretty much every standing/walking related activity, even during Spin. So, I've mom'd-up and ordered a pair FitFlops.

If I promise not to wear them in public, can we still be friends?

In the mean time, more often than not, I can be found sitting at my desk like this:

(Yes, those are frozen water bottles under my feet.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mmm. Jam.

I love peanut butter. LOVE. Eat-it-every-day-loooooove. But sometimes, the peanut butter - it needs a little help. I tend not to buy jam (in part, because I don't like all the added sugar, and in part, because I don't like all the additives.) But last week, I tried making Ashley's buckwheat bakes for breakfast (which, BTW are super yummy!) and it was calling out for some peanut butter and jelly.

I accidentally stumbled on this jam making 'method' (if it is even formal enough to be called that...?) back around Thanksgiving time, when I had a few too many bags of fresh quickly fading cranberries on hand.

Here is my favorite way to make jam that I can feel good about:

Stovetop Jam:
1 lb fruit of choice (I used a frozen berry-blend, but you could also use fresh.)
1/2 cup fruit juice (I used no sugar added cran-pomegranite, but you could do fresh squeezed orange, depending on your fruit, or even water.)

Combine fruit and liquid in a small saucepan. Cover and let simmer on medium heat ~15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Remove cover and continue to reduce, until what's in your pan resembles jam, ~10 more minutes.

That's it. If you don't like lumps, you can blend with an immersion blender, or mash with a fork.

A word of caution - it splatters. And if you use berries? Then it stains. So wear an apron, or stand back! Also, it burns quickly once the lid is removed, so stir frequently, and/or keep an eye on it. Do NOT, go check blogs and 'forget' that you're cooking. (I'm just saying, you might be adding more water and muttering under your breath if you do.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Amazing deal

Run, don't walk to your nearest Whole Foods!

"Why" you ask?

Because look what is on super-sale:

Want to see what's inside?

Curious how much it costs? $14.99! No, seriously. According to the shelf tag, regular price = $32.97. The deal is on until 4/27/11.

What kind of crazy good deal is this? Well, put it this way...there are 15 packets inside the bottle. Usually, these single serve packets sell for $2 in my Whole Foods.

So basically, this package is like getting each of the packets for 1/2 off, and getting a FREE shaker cup. I love my shaker cups!

And lest you think all we buy at Whole Foods is the healthy green stuff, here is why we REALLY walked over there last night:

Yummy Colorado beer. Seriously, highly recommend. Besides, you can wash it down with a chaser of greens. Which most definately balances out the nutritional effects of the beer...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

We're buying a HOUSE!

After what feels like YEARS of looking at literally EVERY house for sale in Pasadena, we have found THE ONE.

From the first second I stepped foot in this house, I just knew we had found our home.

After a couple rounds of negotiations, we settled on a price and heard the great news on Saturday - WE GOT THE HOUSE!

We aren't moving quite yet - the seller's have 3 young girls, and want to finish out the school year before moving out of state. So at this point, the plan is to close escrow in May, rent the house back to the seller's for a month, and move in somewhere around the first of July.

Yesterday we conducted our home inspection, and aside from a few minor plumbing issues which we will need to get cleaned up, the house passed with flying colors!

I snapped a couple pictures of the house while we were over there, but I felt a little weird about taking pictures of someone else's "stuff" so I mainly stuck to the exterior.

The house is bordered by Cal Tech, Pasadena City College and the Huntington Gardens. It is in such a beautiful neighborhood!

The house was originally built in 1931, but when the current owners moved in they
did an extensive remodel, adding on a front bedroom and bathroom, completely gutting the kitchen and renovating all the bathrooms and bedrooms.

We were SO fortunate the owner was there yesterday and showed us her photo albums of when THEY moved into the house (pre-renovation) and walked us through all the pictures from the renovation. We could barely believe it was the same house.

And we feel SO lucky to be buying from them. Their painstakingly beautiful renovations and preservation of the house is completely to our benefit, and we are SO thankful for all the hard work that they put in.

Now, if only July would hurry up and GET HERE. We can't WAIT to move into this gorgeous house.

(And now for my disclaimer: I am PETRIFIED that something will come up in the Escrow period and prevent us from closing on our house. So please please, think a few positive thoughts for us. Escrow should close in May....)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pasadena Cooking Club

As much as I loved my first cooking club, schlepping warm food 45-60 minutes across town just wasn't working out for me anymore. By the time I'd get there, everything would be cold, and sometimes, reheating just doesn't cut it, you know? (I felt like I was bringing leftovers every time!)

So, around the beginning of the year, I decided - why not get a similar group together on this side of town? At first, I was a little bit afraid that I didn't know enough people, but to my great surprise, after only 2 months we have ~15 members! (No, all 15 don't come to dinner every time...that would be INSANITY. Although, we'd probably have enough food...!)

Last month's theme was "favorites". Everyone brought a favorite dish, and it was delicious!

I didn't do such a great job collecting the recipes, but I did take pictures:

The starters: Roasted garlic soup, and Seared Scallop Salad. YUM!

And 2 of the main courses (Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken and Bread Salad):

Also on last month's menu:
Pretzel Rolls (similar recipe)
Caramelized Onion & Prosciutto Pizza

This time around, our theme was "bottleluck". Everyone brought a dish which included some type of alcohol in the ingredients. YUM!

I did a MUCH better job collecting the recipes, but, alas no pictures. (Click for links to recipes.)

Sparkling Meyer Lemon Cocktail
Beet & Avocado Salad with Champagne Vinagrette
Jalapeno Cheese Beer Bread
Penne a la Vodka
Meyer Lemon Chicken Piccata
Ginger Chicken & Yams
Chocolate Bourbon Truffle Tart (A few chef's notes on the tart...)
For the crust:
- I used an 11'' tart pan and increased the recipe by 1.5x.
- It helps if the butter is super cold and cut into small cubes.
- I only needed to bake it for 15 minutes; the crust would have been burnt by 20.
- If you don't have a tart pan, you can use a pie pan instead.
For the caramel:
- I cut the pecans to 1/2 cup since 1 cup seemed too pecan pie-like.
- I added a vanilla bean to enhance the flavour.
- Since I don't have a candy thermometer, I used the cold water method to check if it was at the soft-ball stage
For the chocolate:
- I substituted half-and-half and added a bit of sea salt.
- I cut the bourbon by half because I thought it would taste too boozy with the full amount.
- I whisked up the leftover heavy whipping cream and added approximately 1 tbsp bourbon per 1 cup of whipped cream.

Baked Brie with Grand Marnier

1 (8 ounce) round Brie cheese
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Cut slits about 1/4-inch deep in a crossing pattern across the top and along the sides of the Brie wheel.
Place the brie in a baking dish.
Bake the Brie in the preheated oven until softened, about 5 minutes.
While the Brie bakes, stir the brown sugar, pecans, and alcohol in a small bowl; pour onto the top of the Brie and return to the oven another 10 minutes.
Serve immediately with crackers, grapes, or green apple slices.

Chocolate Mousse
(From: J. Rosso & S. Lukins. 1989. The New Basics Cookbook)

1 ½ pounds Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate morsels
½ cup brewed espresso
½ cup Grand Marnier
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
¼ cup sugar
8 egg whites
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 cup (additional) heavy whipping cream (optional)

1. Melt the chocolate in a heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly. Add the espresso, then stir in the Grand Marnier. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
2. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
3. Whip 1 cup of the cream until thickened. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the cream is stiff.
4. Beat the egg whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the whipped cream.
5. Stir about one third of the cream mixture thoroughly into the chocolate mixture. Then scrape the remaining over the chocolate base, and gently fold them together. Pour the mousse into individual dessert cups or a serving bowl and refrigerate until set, 2 hours.(Optional) At serving time, whip the remaining 1 cup cream until thickened. Add the vanilla and whip to soft peaks. Top each portion with a dollop of whipped cream.

Here's to getting it right next month: recipes AND pictures! Until April...