I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the week before Christmas is the most INSANE WEEK IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. We’re all bustling, hustling and working (and werking) to get everything wrapped up and done before everyone peaces out for the rest of the year.
Next week I have a massage booked. I’m going to Palm Springs for a few days to rest up and do absolutely nothing. During this time, I plan on writing a few things down: my goals for 2015 (proof I’m getting older, I never used to do this), things I learned in 2014 and a few things I’m grateful for. It sounds like a cheesy little thing to do, but these tasks organize my thoughts. It’s like going to The Container Store for my brain.
Next week, there will be pie. Because, pie. And because there always should be pie.
There’s also a chance I might listen to the last episode of SERIAL again because OMG Ronald. NO! I’m not buying that, attorney-who-I-respect. UGH! Jay did it.
I do things at the holidays I don’t always do during the year: I (attempt) to decorate every corner of my apartment; I bake any chance I get; and I put antler ears on Amelia and force her to take pictures with me. Basically, what I’m saying is that I embrace the season and try and make the most of it. A big part of taking advantage of the season is creating things, arranging things, and making my home look as pretty and magical as possible.
Today I teamed up with Target to show you a pretty and fuss-free dessert table. Treat-making is my favorite thing to do but I do know that during the holidays it’s tough to tackle a gigantic project for a party (I tackled a buche de noel on Saturday, more on that later!), so I wanted to give you something super easy: Cappuccino Truffles! The best part about this recipe is the fact that it requires a lot of downtime, allowing you to turn your attention to making the dessert table look as cute as possible. I wanted the dessert table to feel cozy (I know, surprising), neutral and natural, and rely on gold and silver to bring some sparkle.
The recipe starts with heating cream and pouring it over chopped chocolate, after a little stir action, it goes in the fridge to chill.
During this time, I hung this cute tree garland around the table. I also hung this wall garland I made a few days prior that consisted of some cedar, pine cones and tallow branches. All you need a bit of floral wire and a few nails! Super easy.
I hope you’re inspired to make some treats and make your space cute and cozy. ’Tis the season!
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: 16 truffles
Serving Size: 16
1 cup heavy cream
16 ounces bitter-sweet chocolate, chopped (chips are also fine!)
1/4 cup coffee granules, finely ground
1/4 cup instant milk powder
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, plus more for garnish
In a small saucepan, heat heavy cream until it reaches a light simmer. Pour the hot heavy cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate into a shallow dish, such as a 9-inch pie dish, and transfer to the fridge to chill for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, add the coffee, milk powder, salt and powdered sugar. Pulse until finely ground and mixed. Transfer to a shallow bowl and set aside.
Using a #20 ice cream scoop (or a melon baller), scoop out mounds of the chocolate mixture onto a piece of parchment or wax paper (they’ll look a bit like wonky circles—don’t worry!). Transfer to the fridge to chill for an additional hour. Remove from the fridge and using your hands, roll the mounds of chocolate to form a circle (don’t worry if they’re not perfect circles) and then immediately transfer to the fridge to chill for an additional 15 minutes. Roll the chocolate balls in the coffee mixture and place in mini cupcake liners. Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve, at which time, allow to stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, just to take off a bit of its chill. Garnish, if you like, with a teeny dusting of powdered sugar.
I feel like we all might need a bit of a sugar break. Not for like FOREVR, but for today. This recipe is one of those one-pot situations my mom cooked for me us all time back in the day. It’s completely stress-free, fuss-free and even gluten-free, if you’re into that sort of thing.
It’s cozy, too, as most meals should be in the month of December. I know we’re sort of in that frenzy right now, just trying to reach the calm of Christmas day when we all wish time could stand still. I can’t wait for the quiet of the holidays. I need it, this year especially.
I have turned into a full on holiday baking psycho woman. It wasn’t my intention but there’s something about a cold drafty apartment, a twinkling Christmas tree in the living room and sticks of butter in the fridge calling my name, that gets me in the mood to bake.
I spent the better part of Saturday, baking, sculpting and arranging a bûche de noël with my friend Hourie. It was a bit of a challenge. There were a few mini meltdowns (the recipe we were using wasn’t foolproof) but at the end it was really pretty. And I remembered why I love this season. Why I love baking with friends. Why I do what I do.
I may sound super ignorant about pound cakes but it was just a few months ago that I learned a pound cake is supposed to have a pound of butter, a pound of sugar and no leavening. Those two work wonders with one another and create a dense cake that isn’t too, too dense. I dunno about you but that’s a lot of damn sugar.
Invites for holiday parties are started to sprinkle in. I’m always surprised when people invite me to their parties. Is that weird? I’m always like, Oh, I guess they like me? I’m a lil’ weird, I know.
Social situations where I barely know anyone make me super nervous. They make my palms sweat and they make me even more shy than I should be. For this situation I need party ammo. Things I can bring into the maybe-awkward-social situation that will work as lovely conversation starters.
“How ‘bout them nuts?! I made them!” That line will definitely make it more awkward but hopefully the person I’ll be speaking with has a sense of humor and will laugh and I’ll be fast friends.
For this post, I teamed up with McCormick Gourmet. These nuts are all super easy to make, take under 30 minutes combined and make good presents, too!
The first variety is Sweet and Salty Rosemary Marcona Almonds. If you’ve never had a Marcona almond, you’re in for a treat. They’re very different from a traditional California almond. They’re softer in texture, lighter in flavor and are a bit sweeter. You can find them in the bulk bin at your local Whole Foods or (possibly) health food store.
The savory and herbaceous rosemary is lovely with the sweet and saltiness. It’s a no-brainer. And very very holiday-esque. Super into them.
The second nut situation we have are Honey Sesame Cashews. They’re sweet and salty and the sesame adds a nice nuttiness to them. If you’re feeling fancy and dramatic, use black sesame seeds. They’ll look really pretty.
No one, and I mean no one, loves cheesecake more than my dad. I have no idea why because the man doesn’t even like cheese. WHA!! Yes, I know. He doesn’t like cheese. It’s the oddest thing in the entire world, but his favorite dessert of them all—and he loves mostly everything sweet—is cheesecake.
He’s extremely critical about cheesecake because he eats a lot of it. As I was recipe testing this here cheesecake, I’d send him photos throughout the process and he’d remark skeptically, giving his harsh criticisms and recommendations. Mostly I think it’s just funny that he takes cheesecake so seriously.
I’m not sure how this will live up to my dad’s cheesecake expectations, but I loved it. It’s perfectly tart; the texture is smooth; and the chocolate crust gives it a nice decadent element. The marble topping is kinda pretty, quickly making it the favorite at a holiday dessert table…or, to you know, eat by yourself by the Christmas tree. And while marbling anything may seem a bit difficult, it’s actually pretty easy.
The one thing I hate about making cheesecake is a using a damn springform pan. They’re insanely frustrating, flawed in how their made. Most of them leak, which means, water comes in when you bake it in a water bath. The solution to this for many, is baking a cheesecake in a cake pan. With this though, because of the pretty top, I needed to use a spring form pan (I had one anyway). The solution was to wrap the entire bottom in a few sheets of foil. No water seeping through!
One thing I learned about marbling is this: if you want tighter swirls, use a smaller skewer to swirl the cranberry sauce around. If you want bigger swirls (I did), use a larger skewer and get messy with it. I promise it’ll look pretty regardless.
And that’s really it!
My dad is making this recipe this weekend. Hopefully he’ll leave a comment with the results.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon orange zest (from about 1/2 naval orange)
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs, sugar, salt and melted butter. Dump the crust mixture into a nine-inch (10-cup) springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan until packed tightly. Transfer to the oven to bake for 8 minutes (unfortunately since the crumbs are so dark you can’t really tell when they’ve toasted so it’s important to pay attention to the clock). Remove from the oven and cool completely before adding the filling. Wrap the bottom of the spring form pan in a few sheets of foil and set aside.
To the bowl of a stand-up mixer, using a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese and goat cheese. Whip until smooth and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Next, mix in the sugar. With the machine one, add the eggs, one at a time, waiting until each egg is incorporated before adding the next one. Lastly, mix in the salt and vanilla extract.
In a small saucepan, add the cranberries, white granulated sugar, water, orange zest and salt. Cook over medium heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the cranberries become soft. Press the cranberries with a back of a spoon or spatula and cook for an additional minute until they’re softened. Pour the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve, pressing the cranberries to release any excess juice. The mixture should resemble a loose jam—it’ll thicken as it cools. Transfer to a squeeze bottle. (If you don’t have a squeeze bottle, then no biggie, just transfer it to a measuring cup with a spout—it’ll be easier to pour.)
Pour the cream cheese mixture into the springform pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Make sure it reaches the edge of the pan. Make little dollops of cranberry sauce all over the surface of the cream cheese. Take a skewer or popsicle stick and run it through the dollops creating a marbling effect. Make it as messy or neat as you like. Place the springform pan in a roasting pan, or another pan that’s as big. Transfer to the rack of the oven and fill up the roasting pan with about 2 inches of water. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until it looks set, yet it’s still a bit wobbly in the center. Place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes and then place it in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours. (I let it set overnight.) Slice it up and serve.
*I used Nabisco famous chocolate wafers, found at most grocery stores. I blitzed them in a food processor until totally crumby.
It’s that season when time moves at lightening speed, when all I want to do is sit around wrapping presents and listening to George Bailey monologues…all while eating cookies.
If any cookie will become your main bish this season, let it be the brookie, please.
It’s a cookie that tastes like a brownie! It’s chocolatey yet thin and light, there are walnuts and you can eat like 15 and still feel great. (Probably not.)
I didn’t come up with the clever lil’ name of brookies all by myself, Whitney did and she actually got it from some British beauty YouTuber she was watching so basically it just goes back to that old adage that no idea is original and it’s all just recycled stuff.
I’m not really sure what’s up with me but for the past four months I’ve been on a brownie kick. I’ve tried sooo many mixes at the store and all of them are kind of a bummer. They have way too much leavening, the cocoa powder doesn’t add enough chocolate in there and the texture always seems to be a bit off. But I want to like a mix. I do. I can understand why people love them. I can literally have mediocre brownies in the oven in like 5 minutes. Pretty remarkable.
Luckily these don’t take too much longer than 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes?
I used fancy chocolate but honestly you don’t have to. Chips are totally fine. Just not Trader Joe’s chips because they seize and they’re the absolute worst quality chocolate. But Ghiradelli, Nestle, Whole Foods brand, all ok.
These cookies took me a good minute to get right. I’m not going to bore you with what went wrong every single time, but let’s just say I kept putting the batter in the freezer to chill, only to find that less wait time (no freezer time!) yielded the best cookie.
It’s a win-win situation.
I’m not a big milk drinker. Never had the stuff at dinner like all my friends growing up, but these cookies NEED milk. At the very least a glass of water. They need something to quench the thirst because they’re rich and chocolaty and salty and sweet. AHH! And there are walnuts.
Walnut Chocolate Brookies (Brownies + Cookies)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 17 minutes
Yield: 16 cookies
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (if chips, no need to chop)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Maldon sea salt flakes, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. To a medium bowl, set over a saucepan of simmering water, add the chocolate and butter; allow to melt and then stir until smooth, about 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, using the paddle attachment, add the eggs and sugars. Beat until the powdered sugar is completely incorporated and the color of the mixture turns a light yellow. Add the vanilla and salt. Next, with the mixer on low, add the reserved melted chocolate and mix until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the flour and baking powder. Scrape down the sides once more and give it one last mix. Lastly, fold in the walnuts. The mixture will resemble more of a batter than a dough. It should be shiny and wet.
Using a #20 ice cream scoop (essential two heaping teaspoons worth of batter or 2 ounces), drop mounds of dough, spacing them about 2 inches a part. If the mound doesn’t seem like it will spread into a perfect circle, don’t be afraid to shape it with your finger. I did this and was glad I did. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven for 5-7 minutes, until the cookies appear crackly and wet in the center and slightly puffed.
Leave the cookies on the baking sheet to cool, about 10 minutes, and then using a very thin spatula, such as a fish spatula, move the cookies to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough/batter until all the cookies are baked. Sprinkle the cookies with sea salt for garnish. If you’re transporting the, be sure to put a sheet of parchment between stacks since these cookies do like to stick together a bit when you piled them.
This recipe works best with a silicon baking sheet. If you're using parchment, be sure to get under the cookies with a thin metal spatula, such as a fish spatula.
You know when you’re hungry but the idea of cooking and actually having to deal with yourself and said hunger seems like SO much work that you feel like you might die? Not actually die, but being super hungry makes everyone melodramatic. You know what I mean. You feel me!
This dish is perfect for the moment I’m describing. It is the simplest of simple dishes. It’s cheap, CHEAP to make. Every poor college student should have this recipe in their repertoire. And it’s COZY. It’s sweater-weather soup.
If you’ve never heard of this soup, let’s discuss. Let’s gossip about this soup.
It’s an Italian egg-drop soup. Stracciatella is what you’d consider peasant food, only requiring a few ingredients in its purest form: water, Parmesan, spinach and egg. Of course, I think adding a bit of chicken broth, lemon juice and a teeny bit of pasta make it a bit more interesting and filling.
But really even this version you see is only slightly more complicated than the original. There’s nothing fussy about this soup, which is exactly what you want when you feel like you’re on your ‘hangry deathbed’.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serving Size: 4
*1/2 cup mini fussili pasta
1 cup water
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Juice from 1/4 lemon
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach
Bring a medium saucepan filled with salted water to a boil. Add the fussilli and cook until very al dente, about 5-7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set it aside.
To the same (empty) saucepan (no need to clean it out), set over medium heat, combine the water, chicken broth and lemon juice. Bring the broth mixture to a simmer. Salt and pepper the broth to taste. I used very low-sodium broth so I had to add a pretty generous amount. Also, take note that Parmesan is salty so keep that in mind.
Turn the heat to low. Just a heads up: the next few steps go very quickly so be sure to get ready. Mix in the finely grated Parmesan. Next, create whirlpool with a spoon in the broth. In one slow and steady stream, pour in the beaten egg. Mix in the fresh baby spinach and give it a good mix. You should see the eggs in little cooked bits. Add the reserved fussili pasta. Give it one last taste and adjust the salt according to taste.
Divide amongst bowls. Garnish each serving with more black pepper and additional strips of Parmesan.
*Use whatever pasta you like! For this dish, I prefer pasta that's small in size. Just a personal preference.
*Use other greens besides baby spinach, if you like. I've thought about playing around with dandelion greens, mustard greens and kale. I bet they'd all be amazing!
It’s my favorite time of year! WOOHOO! Fall has finally decided to arrive in full force in Los Angeles. There will be a Christmas tree in my near future. And this week I’m going to try my hardest to send out my holiday cards. I’m also knee-deep into planning holiday gifts. I decided to conquer one of the most important ones first: this coffee tray.
This year work has been busy, busy. And behind the scenes with this lil’ blog there are projects and collaborations, which in many cases means there are contracts that I usually don’t understand. This stuff is not fun, but luckily I have my boyfriend’s dad, Michael, help me.
He reads contracts over, explains the details to me in an English I can understand, is so ridiculously patient when I ask the same question a million times, and he makes sure I’m not signing Amelia away in the process. (I’m not that stressed about it, I guarantee they’d return her after a few weeks!)
He just opened his new law office in downtown LA and I wanted to get him something really nice for it. Like every person who has to focus for long periods of time, he loves coffee, especially espresso.
This coffee tray is streamlined and simple, he can move it around his office if he likes, while still giving him exactly what he needs to make delicious espresso or coffee any time of the day.
The tray I picked up at Target (it’s actually from Oh Joy’s line). Oh and there are a few good-quality napkins in case he spills stuff. The colors are sort of holiday-esque but at the same time it won’t look THAT much like Christmas in June.
I also included a set of capsules from Nespresso. Maybe Amelia got a hold of one and chewed it a lil’ bit. Whoops!
I hope he likes this coffee tray (I think he will).
November, November, November! One of my favorite months of the year, every year. I love that it stops being hot. I love that I can wear sweaters and drink tea and wrap a blanket around myself. I love turkey and mashed potatoes and the anticipation of the impending holidays.
November began with a restful weekend. There were clear skies and lots of walks.
I headed to the newly opened bakery, Gjusta and was so overwhelmed I didn’t get nearly as many things as I had hoped. But I did get to eat this lemon poppyseed cake and drank a cappuchino. Must go back!