Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bada BING Bada Bang—Cherry Clafoutis

Clafoutis (the “s” is silent).
Pronounced kla-foo-TEE.
It took me about 10 times before I sufficiently remembered how to say this correctly.

The name comes from the verb clafir, meaning "to fill up" as in to fill up the batter with cherries.

I bought a huge bag of cherries on sale for 99 cents! A few days later, I still had tons of cherries. Bada BING bada bang--time to make BING cherry clafoutis! (Pun very much intended). The cherries taste excellent after being baked!

A clafoutis is typically a French dessert, but as you already know, I am all about a hearty breakfast and I say, why not have dessert for breakfast?! The clafoutis is mostly fruit, and the batter is just flour, milk, and eggs with a touch of sugar.

Here is how it all went down for me:
1. Wake up at 9 am. Jump out of bed and head straight for the kitchen.
2. Whip up the batter, throw it all together, pop the clafoutis in the oven.
3. Head upstairs and get dressed.
4. Take the clafoutis out of the oven, enjoy a nice big slice.
5. 10 am. Off to work, feelin’ good!

Bada BING bada bang—Cherry Clafoutis
Adapted from

½ cup all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons granulated white sugar

¾ cup milk (I used nonfat because it is what I had on-hand)

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

roughly 2 cups of fresh cherries (I did not pit them)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons (or less) of granulated white sugar

• Preheat the oven to 425° F. Wash the cherries, remove the stems. I keep the pits in for two reasons:

#1 It is easier and…
#2 The pits give the clafoutis a subtle almond flavor when baked.

(NOTE: If you have a cherry pitter or feel like getting your fingers stained with red cherry juice, feel free to pit your heart out!)

• In your food processor or blender place the flour, salt, eggs, 2 tablespoons sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Process for about 45 - 60 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Once the batter is completely smooth, let it rest while you prepare the fruit. (Feel free to do this all by hand with a whisk or fork. I took the lazy way out this time!)

• In a large 9- inch heavy nonstick ovenproof skillet melt the butter over medium heat making sure the melted butter coats the bottom and sides of the pan. When the butter is bubbling, add the cherries, and cook until the cherries have softened a bit and are coated with butter (2 - 3 minutes).

• Sprinkle the cherries with the sugar and cook until the sugar has dissolved and turns into a syrup (1 - 2 minutes).

• Pour the batter over the cherries and bake for about 20 minutes or until the clafoutis is puffed, set, and golden brown around the edges. Do not open the oven door until the end of the baking time or it may collapse.

• Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar, crème fraiche, yogurt, or whipped cream.

Serves about 4.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Café Fanny: Start the Day Off Right!

Ah…poached eggs and café au lait in bowls!

The first time I ever tried a poached egg was at this quaint little café. Cooked on the outside, runny on the inside. Garnished with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Placed atop thick slices of toasted acme brand bread.

I have yet to poach an egg at home that tastes as good as the poached egg at Café Fanny. Maybe it is because of the whole experience of dining outside on wooden tables with a big bowl of milky, frothy coffee sitting next to me! I have a thing for holding a mug filled with hot liquid—it is just so comforting!

The homemade granola is famous! It will leave anyone satisfied for hours!

And the buckwheat crepes? Simple, beautiful, and scrumpdidiliumtious!

The orange juice is so fresh! The moment I sip it my eyes brighten up and I feel alert and ready to start the day!

The whole motto of this café is to evoke an ideal reality where life and work are inseparable and the daily pace leaves time for afternoon leisure. Eating together nourishes the spirit as well as the body.

It really makes a difference to take the time to sit down and casually enjoy a meal—I feel more satiated and complete. My body tingles with good sensations when I know I have eaten a good meal with good company.

I would definitely recommend this place to go have a laugh with friends, catch up with mom, go on a date, and/or fly solo for a bite to eat and a good ol’ people watching session!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summertime Haikus

Summer BBQ
Burgers on the grill
Fresh juicy watermelon
Heirloom tomatoes

Farmer’s market fun
Colors! Smells! Tickle my tongue!
Samples everywhere

Bonfire at beach
Flaming skewered marshmallows
Sand between my toes

The Good Life
Wine and merriment
Sunny days and ice cream cones
Hats and sunglasses

Rainbow Salad
Lemon cucumber
Colorful crunchy salad
Mmm! Cranberry beans!

The Fig
Sensual and sweet
Moist, deep-red interior
Luscious, full, and plump

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Morning Strawberry Scones

Flaky? Check.
Biscuit-y? Check.
Buttery (but not too buttery)? Check.
Fruity? Check.
Summery? Check?
Delicious? Check, check, check!!!!!!!

Sunday morning strawberry scones. Finally. I do not have to rush out to work. I can take the morning to bake in my pajamas and slowly sip tea.

Every day this week, I brought home boxes upon boxes of plump, summer strawberries and it has gotten to the point where I want to do something creative with them.

These scones have a very rustic, fall apart in your mouth texture that is more like a biscuit than a cake or cookie. Instead of heavy cream, I used a combination of nonfat milk and Straus brand nonfat plain yogurt. Milk and yogurt are more on-hand ingredients for me than heavy cream, and I can also feel a little more guilt-free!

Earlier this summer I was on a muffin verses cupcake quest, and now it has turned into the biscuit verses scone brigade. I saw this quote on by Dorie Greenspan: "[Scones] are made in a manner similar to biscuits and, in fact, share biscuits' buttery-layered texture, but their name, their shape, and the fact that they're served with tea rather than gravy, lift them to the level of fancier fare." Cute!

Please, PLEASE, do not over mix this dough. No matter how much you want to, no matter how good it feels to mush and wiggle your fingers the sticky dough, DON’T. Pour the wet into the dry and just mix until loosely combined. Done. Trust me, to achieve ultimate the flaky consistency, less is more!

These strawberry scones further confirmed that breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day! I can definitely see myself making these again and substituting different seasonal fruit (blueberries, peaches, FIGS!...) and maybe even adding some freshly grated ginger just for kicks? Due to lack of supply, I did not add any citrus zest to the scones, but if you have a lemon or orange lying around, definitely throw in some zest!

Sunday Morning Strawberry Scones

Adapted from

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour (approximate)

1/4 c. granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (or you can sprinkle with raw, turbinado sugar!)

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1 egg

1/4 c. yogurt (I used Straus brand plain, nonfat)

1/4 c. milk (I used nonfat milk because it is what I had on-hand)

2 tsp orange zest (I omitted this as I had not an orange in sight!)

1 c. fresh strawberries, diced

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a baking pan and dust it with flour.
2. In a small bowl, combine egg, yogurt, milk, and zest, and whisk to combine thoroughly.
3. In a separate large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine.
4. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into flour until all pieces are smaller than pea-sized.
5. Add strawberries, and toss to coat.
6. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix in lightly with fork until dough just comes together, and then STOP!
7. Turn dough out onto well-floured work surface and pat into large ball.
8. Cut dough in half. Shape half of dough into flat disk shape and cut into slices. Repeat with other half of dough and place on baking sheet.
11. Sprinkle tops of scones with sugar and place in the oven.
12. Bake until turn slightly brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, if you can wait!
13. Indulge!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bonjour! Now let's eat crepes!

I’m learning to speak French. Well, sort of.

So far, I have mastered how to say, “where is the bathroom?” and “did you sleep well?”

Although my French speaking abilities are quite limited, I am learning a thing or two about French cooking these days. What I am realizing is that most desserts are really simple—just eggs, milk, sugar, and flour. This is the basis for famous clafoutis (just add cherries), Moelleux au Chocolat (just add chocolate), and of course, crepes!

The French rarely use baking powder or baking soda, either. The key is to whip the eggs really well!

When I think of crepes, I imagine a burly man standing on the cobblestone streets with a cart, using his special tool to spread the batter very thinly over the hot pan.

Many different cultures have a variation of the pancake-like crepe—the Italians have crespelle, the Jewish blintz, Dutch babies, African injera, the tortilla, the Indian dosa, and the Mexican sope...

When making the first crepe of the batch, it is bound to get messed up, but have no fear! It still tastes great and the rest of them come out looking beautiful—very delicate, lacy, and lady-like, almost like an edible doily!

So for your next Saturday morning pancake and mimosa breakfast, why not impress your friends and family with some simple and light homemade crepes enjoyed on the porch with the shining morning sun?!

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

Makes about 5-8 large crepes depending on the size of your pan

Wet ingredients:
2 eggs, beaten well
2/3 cup milk
½ cup water
a pinch of salt

Dry Ingredients:
¾ cup flour
2-3 Tablespoons of sugar (optional)

1. Beat eggs. Add the rest of the wet ingredients, including salt.
2. Slowly sift the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients and whisk in a quick motion to be sure there are no lumps.
3. Let the batter rest. It is best to rest the batter for one or more hours in the fridge, but we did not have the patience and rested the batter for a mere 10 minutes! (the crepes still turned out great!)
4. Spray a nonstick skillet or crepe pan with cooking oil spray (we tried some with butter, but found that the butter burned too fast).
5. Place on ladle-full of batter into the pan and swirl quickly to cover the pan, getting the batter as thin as possible.
6. With a spatula, slowly check the under edges for doneness.
7. Flip the crepe over and cook a few more minutes.
8. Transfer to a plate and cook up the rest of the crepes.
9. Sprinkle a topping of your choice over the crepes, fold it up, and eat!

Sweet Topping ideas:
-butter and salt with a pinch of sugar
-fruit: strawberries, figs, bananas nectarines…
-lemon and powdered sugar
-Nutella spread

Savory egg and cheese crepes

1. Follow directions for crepe batter but omit the sugar.
2. Cook one crepe on both sides.
3. With the crepe still on the hot pan, add cheese and crack an egg in the middle.
4. Fold it over and let everything get gooey and melted!
5. Repeat with remaining batter.

More savory crepe ideas:
-Cooked spinach, onion, mushroom and cheese
-Add some pesto
-Fresh herbs and cheese
-Chicken with the works
-Artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes
-Scrambled or fried egg with crumbled sausage

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Extreme Granola

I told myself, “I will just have a little taste.”

20 minutes later, I am still snacking on the ultimate, sweet but not too sweet, crunchy and clustery, nutty and fruity, breakfast, dessert, and snack-worthy homemade granola.

: this wholesome granola recipe is dangerously addicting. I think I reached for at least four more handfuls on that same day.

There is something so utterly comforting about granola, and cereal in general. I can eat it for my main meal with a splash of milk or yogurt, I can eat it straight from the box, I can pack it up and eat it on the go, or I can put a little (or a lot) on top of ice cream. Granola can be added to muffin batter to give it that extra crunch, or used in a French toast recipe. You can also use it as a topping for a light fruit crisp.

Today I blended a frozen banana, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, and a ½ cup of nonfat milk and swirled in some granola for a finishing touch! This was a real energy-boosting treat!

It is so easy to go to the supermarket and buy granola, but making it yourself is easy and you can use all of your favorite add-ins. My personal favorites are walnuts, dates, and dried figs.

Extreme Granola
Adapted from

Yield: makes about 7 cups


1 ¼ cups of nuts of your choice (I like to use walnuts, almonds, pecans, and/or cashews)

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

¼ cup of seeds, sesame or sunflower

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/3 cup of pure maple syrup or honey (I like to use both!)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cup dried fruit mixture of your choice (I use raisins, cranberries, figs, apricots, dates)

a little handful of shredded coconut (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a large shallow baking sheet with foil.
2. Spread the nuts on the sheet and roast for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Transfer the nuts to a board, let them cool, and chop (I usually just break them apart with my fingers).
3. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
4. Pour the oats and seeds in a mound on the same baking sheet. Melt the butter and stir in the maple syrup/honey mixture and salt. Drizzle this on top of the oats. Stir well with a rubber spatula (aka a schmoosher!) and spread the oats out in an even layer.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes until the oats are lightly colored, stirring once with the spatula halfway through. Toss in the coconut for the last 5-10 minutes of baking.
6. Let cool; the mixture will crisp as it cools. Add the dried fruit, and reserved nuts and toss.
7. EAT and share a little, too!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dinner for One, Please

After a long day at work or school, it can be hard for many to think about messing around in the kitchen and cooking up a "fancy shmancy" dinner—especially if you are just cooking for yourself.

Often times I just end up toasting some bread, preparing a raw salad, and cooking an egg—poached, scrambled, or sunny side up. Simple, easy, nourishing, and tastes great!

Another no fail meal is chopping up whatever vegetables I have lying around—carrots, eggplant, peppers, green onion, garlic, spinach…and sautéing them in a peanut sauce with some tofu and spaghetti or rice. I top everything off with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and chopped peanuts or cashews.

Peanut Sauce
about 1 tablespoon peanut butter
½ a tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons milk (I usually use soymilk because it is what I have on hand)
A little hot water, if needed

Whisk it all up and voila—peanut sauce made for one! If you want to get real fancy you can add some red wine vinegar and grated garlic and ginger. Throw the veggie/tofu mixture in the sauce and cook in the skillet until the veggies are tender.


Tonight I had some zucchini and tomatoes on hand that were going to go bad if I didn’t do something with them soon! I assembled this zucchini, tomato, and corn bake in about 5 minutes! Boy was this yummy—the veggies were tender but the lightly cheesy breadcrumb mixture was crispy and comforting.

Feel free to use whatever vegetable you want and if Parmesan is not your thing, experiment with Gruyere, mozzarella, or a cheese of your choice. Paired with some cucumber sticks and shredded carrots, and a little leftover pesto sauce, this was the perfect meal built for one!

Tomato, Zucchini, and Corn Bake with Cheesy Breadcrumb Topping


Tomatoes (I used 2), sliced thinly

Zucchini or other summer squash (I used 1-2 small squashes), thin slices

Fresh or frozen corn kernels

A little less that ½ a cup of breadcrumbs

A little less than ¼ cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese (use a microplane to grate)

A pinch of salt

A dash of balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray or oil a baking dish.
2. Combine breadcrumbs and cheese.
3. Slice tomatoes and zucchini squash.
4. Arrange the tomatoes and zucchini in an alternating pattern on the bottom of a baking dish (I just used two loaf pans). Sprinkle with a small handful of corn.
5. Optional: sprinkle each tomato slice with a tiny pinch of salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar.
6. Sprinkle the breadcrumb and cheese mixture on top of everything.
7. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes. Cover with foil and bake for 10 more minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
8. EAT!

Hello impromptu curry!

Today at cooking camp, the kids were supposed to learn how to make tofu from scratch, but our tofu man never showed up. We had to come up with something to keep the campers cooking, entertained, and engaged. And we had to come up with this something quick!

Looking through the cupboards, we saw potatoes and left over veggies (bell peppers, celery, bok choy, green onion). We had some coconut milk and garbanzo beans on hand. Hello impromptu curry!!

This was a perfect way to get the campers chopping an assortment of colorful vegetables. Plus, they were able to exercise their creativity as they threw in a little of this and a pinch of that. If it looked good, smelled good, and tasted good, it went into this curry! This required no formal recipe—just an imagination and a hearty appetite.

We cooked up some rice and made a salad to go along with the curry dish. We washed our rice before cooking it and saved some of the milky rice water to add back into the curry!

Impromptu Curry

Onion, chopped or sliced thinly (whatever you prefer)

Garlic, minced

Roughly chopped vegetable assortment: potatoes (yams and sweet potatoes are great, too!), bell peppers, bok choy, celery, cauliflower, eggplant...

Tomato sauce or diced tomatoes in puree

Garbanzo beans (kidney beans would be good, too)

Spice mixture: tumeric, curry powder, cumin, cloves, cayenne, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves

Coconut milk

Water (you can use the water you used to wash rice)

Lime zest and juice

Cilantro or other fresh herb of choice

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Sautee the onions and spices until the onions start to soften (about 5-8 minutes).
2. Stir and add the peppers and other veggies.
3. Stir and add the potatoes.
4. Add the tomato sauce, beans, and coconut milk.
5. Add water if it gets too thick. Just eyeball it, no need for exact measurements.
6. Let everything simmer for a while until the potatoes are tender (may take about 20 minutes).
7. Taste and add some lime juice, zest, and cilantro.
8. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon sticks.
9. Enjoy over rice or with naan bread!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Crispy Chewy Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cupcakes

Once I start, I can’t stop.
I started making muffins (peanut butter and jelly muffins and banana crumb muffins) and cupcakes and now I’m on a roll.

Cupcakes are just so darn easy to make, they cook up real fast, and they are portion controlled (well, if you can eat just one)…

The kids go crazy over these little gems, too!

There are just so many options—traditional chocolate and vanilla, red velvet, filled cupcakes, coconut, banana, green tea…

And the frosting—cream cheese frosting, pink, purple, white, red, chocolate, vanilla, maple…

Don’t forget the decorations: sprinkles, a dusting of cocoa powder, crushed graham crackers, oreos, life savers, mints, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, fresh fruit, mint leaves…

I must say that today my cupcake of choice was the chocolate cupcake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting. The top of the cake has a melt-in-your-mouth texture with a slightly crispy yet delicate and chewy consistency. And these little treasures have just the right amount of chocolate to win a girl over!

Just for kicks, here is a picture of a vanilla bean cupcake with vanilla bean frosting that I made a few weeks ago…You can see the flecks of the bean which earn gold stars in my book!

Chocolate Cupcakes (makes 12, or less…) Adapted from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

a scant ¾ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

a pinch of salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup of whole milk

1 egg

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 recipe of brown sugar cream cheese frosting (or any frosting of your choice)

1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
2. Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in a bowl and whisk together until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. (feel free to use an electric mixer if you have the luxury to do so).
3. Whisk the milk, egg, and vanilla together.
4. Slowly add half the milk mixture into the flour mixture. Mix until no lumps form. Add the rest of the milk mixture and mix until the batter is smooth (but do not overmix).
5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. (warning: they may collapse in the center a bit so do not over-fill the tins).
6. Cool completely and frost!

Brown sugar cream cheese frosting (this makes a LOT of frosting but hey, the more the merrier!) Adapted from Joythebaker

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

8oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

4-6 cups powdered sugar

2-4 tablespoons milk

Beat the cream cheese until really soft. Add the butter. Add the brown sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract, and beat until incorporated. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar. Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency.