They Say It’s Your Birthday! It’s Her Birthday Too!

How did we go from August to April???

I feel like ever since I turned 30, life just keeps moving faster and faster.  The weekdays drag on.  The weekends fly by.  Next thing I know, I’m in April celebrating two good friends’ birthdays with my lovely book club!  Check out the fancy spread courtesy of my lovely buddy, Karin.


Doesn’t that just make you want to read, eat, and hang out with awesome women?  Yes, yes it does!

Two of my favorite gals, Jenn and Sandy, happen to be April babies.  I thought it’d be a nice surprise to make a cake for book club as well as make a successful attempt at a two layer cake.

The first time I made a layer cake was for Kelson’s birthday.  EPIC FAIL.  Isn’t it always when you’re trying to cook or bake something new and special that it somehow turns into a hot mess?  Let’s just say my grand plans for making a beautiful chocolate cake with chocolate ganache looked like a big pile of hot… well, you catch my drift.

First lesson: When working with ganache, you are not supposed to just start icing immediately off the stove.  You would think this is totally logical, but when you’re a happy fiancee dancing around thinking you’re Martha Stewart who is about to surprise her pal, Snoop Dogg with an awesome cake… well, let’s just say it’s important to take your time and READ CAREFULLY.  Especially when it’s your first time.


Fast forward a few years later and many cupcakes, it was time to try again and do it right.  Did I mention it’s TWO of my dear friends that are celebrating a joint birthday month AND they’re a part of my book club.  Tis’ a sign to try again and make an awesome cake that I highly recommend to you all first time cake layer bakers.

Moist Chocolate Cake with Nutella Frosting (Serves:  Plenty!  10-12)


Ingredients (for the cake):

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbl Dutch cocoa powder
  • 12 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbl white vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups water
  • Pam spray


Ingredients (for the frosting and decorating):

  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 4 Tbl room temperature butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 Tbl heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

*I only have one square and one round cake pan.  If you’re like me just make two batches.

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Add into a medium bowl; 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of cake flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, and 6 Tbl cocoa powder.

3.  Sift the contents of the medium bowl into a large bowl.  Mix it up.

4.  Make three holes with your finger and then pour 4 tbsp vegetable oil in each hole.

5.  Pour 2 Tbl white vinegar, 2 tsp vanilla extract, and 2 cups of water.  Whisk everything together until smooth.

6.  Spray the cake pans with Pam and divide the mixture evenly between the two pans.  Bake the cakes for 35 minutes.

7.  When cake is ready, let it cool in the pan for half an hour before letting the cakes pop out.  If you try to pop them out too early, the moist cake will break apart.  *If you’re planning to frost, then put the cakes in the fridge for 15 minutes.

8.  Frosting time!  Whip out that KitchenAid mixer or use a hand beater to whip the 3/4 cup nutella and 4 Tbl. butter.

9.  Add the 3 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and 8 Tbl heavy cream.  Add the cream Tbl by Tbl until you get the right consistency.  I start on a lower speed and slowly work my way to the highest setting.  Once it’s whipped up, get ready to frost!


Frosting is hard.  My cake was pretty moist and I felt like my delicious Nutella frosting was just tearing into my beautiful cake.  I vote to dump globs of it and spread it out.  Start from the center and work your way to the edges.  Remember, you can always decorate it with slivered almonds.  Adds some texture and design.  Plus, throwing in a few marshmallow chicks and a cute little banner helps.  Enjoy!


The Simple Joys of Life


Sometimes you have to remember to stop, smell the roses, and count your blessings.  It’s so easy to get caught up with the day to day.

A few things I’m thankful for today…

  1. The hubby.
  2. The family.
  3. Awesome friends.
  4. Having a job.
  5. Having a roof over my head.
  6. My iPhone.
  7. Coke Zero.
  8. Christopher Nolan- I LOVE that man’s ability to direct!

9.  Mochi.  I really love my cat. 

I don’t care if I sound like some crazy cat lady.  I love my cat.

For those of you who have never owned a cat, they are not the evil nemesis of dogs.  They are not plotting to kill you.  And if they could speak, they would not have bad grammar.  Well, maybe some of them would….


They are amazing.  They are loyal.  They are loving.  They are clean.  They are smart.  They are the best.

I mean, have you see Maru the Cat?  If not, please go on YouTube now…

*Kelson wants me to preface that I’ve never owned a dog before.  I don’t think that makes any of these statements less valid.


10.  Quinoa

I love the weird spelling.  I love saying “keen-WAH!”  I love the nuttiness.  I love that it’s protein filled.  I love the texture and the fact they’re little balls.  I love quinoa!

And to make room for you to just relax, enjoy end ends of summer, and count your blessings… I bring you a quick quinoa vegetarian meal to enjoy.

Quinoa Summer Salad (serving 6-8 people)


  • 2 cups dry quinoa
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • pinch of salt


1.  Follow the instructions on the quinoa packaging and cook up the quinoa.  *My instructions ask me to rinse the quinoa in a mesh strainer until water runs clear.  Then cook in 4 cups of water and bring to boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer until water is absorbed and you’re left with a pot of lovely quinoa- approximately 25 minutes.

2.  Get a large bowl and throw in the quinoa.  Mix in the dried cranberries and golden raisins.  Mix in the bell peppers and cilantro.

3.  Dressing!  Get a small bowl and mix in the extra virgin olive oil, lime juice, mustard, garlic, and salt to taste.  Mix well.

4.  Pour the dressing onto the quinoa mix and toss lightly.  Get ready for some light, fresh, deliciousness for dinner!  Enjoy!

Don’t Overthink It…

When Kelson and I first lived together in our tiny one-bedroom L.A. apartment, I wanted to make him a delicious dinner.  One of the things I had mastered from my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook was Spanish rice.

I threw in my ingredients.  I barely looked at the cookbook, because I was confident!  I was cooking for my man!  Threw everything together.  Stopped.  Re-read the sections.  Looked at my pot of goodies.  Suddenly, felt less confident.  Re-read the sections.  Looked again at my pot.  Breathed.  Trusted my gut… but then double checked that I read the recipe correctly.  Cover the pot and wait.

Do you smell burning?


Between swearing and crying, I was horrified… sad… and ashamed.

Kelson was a cook.  His idea of making dinner for his girlfriend (a.k.a. me) was a shrimp risotto with roasted red bell peppers and white wine.  Say what?!?  I couldn’t even cook without a recipe!  Even with a recipe, it wasn’t guaranteed it would turn out right or edible.  So what was I doing wrong?

This leads to our gap in blogging.  I started to wonder what exactly I had to say about cooking.  What did we have to say about cooking?  Or food?  Or anything.

I have the bad habit of over-thinking things.

Don’t overthink it…

Food nourishes us and sustains us.  Food was always a part of growing up… whether it was trying to stick chopsticks at fresh clams in a bowl to see if they take hold… or whether it was remembering Kelson’s grandmother making moonshine in the bathroom (true story).  Food takes us to places that are physical as well as our childhood memories.  Food brings us another sensory experience in life.  Food ties us to our identity whether it is our ethnicity, our homes, our families, our friends, and our memories.

Food is the deliciousness of life.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Kitchen lessons…

1.  Trust your gut and know that everything can be fixed… or you can always go out to eat.  🙂

2.  Trust your taste buds… TASTE YOUR FOOD!  Never serve a meal you have not tasted yourself!

3.  Eating and cooking go hand in hand.  Broadening your palate helps your cooking and your sense of what you think is “good”.

4.  Cook with love and for those you love… it really comes through in your food.

5.  Keep it simple, stupid.  This can be applied to more than just cooking.

Quick and Simple Baked Camembert *

*there’s no returning to cold cheese!


  • 1x 8 oz. Camembert cheese (brie works as well)
  • 6 Garlic cloves
  • 2 TBL Rosemary (fresh or dried)
  • 2 TBL Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lay out some parchment paper on a baking sheet and place the camembert in the center.
  3. Use a knife to slice some holes in the camembert.
  4. Slice up some lovely, fresh garlic cloves and place them in the holes you made.
  5. Sprinkle some fresh or dried rosemary.
  6. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil.
  7. Bake that lovely deliciousness in the oven for 25 minutes.
  8. Take it out and let it cool.
  9. Plate it with some apple slices or some fresh croutons… enjoy!

Let it cool for a bit when it’s done.  I know it’s hard to resist, but piping hot cheese is not a good idea to put into your mouth.  BURNING.  But once it’s cooled, you’ll enjoy one of the most delicious cheese appetizers ever!  You’ll wonder why you ever ate cold cheese!

Easy Soy Chorizo Enchiladas = AH-MAZING!

Sandra Lee and soy chorizo enchiladas.  These are the things that came to mind as I’m writing this entry.

First, do you know who Sandra Lee is?

When I first heard her name, I thought that Sandra Lee was an Asian-American female Food Network star.  I’m thinking, “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”  Granted, I love me some Food Network and PBS cooking show stars.  I love Julia Child.  I thought Tyler Florence and Ming Tsai were hot.  I want to give Jamie Oliver a big hug.  I was all about appreciating my food stars, but I was waiting for an Asian-American Food Network female star to identify with.  I thought Sandra Lee was it.

So you can imagine my surprise (and slight disappointment) when I tuned in and discovered Sandra Lee was not Asian.  Granted, this did not stop me from watching the rest of her show.

Now, I know she’s notorious for “home-made” recipes that involve pre-packaged goods.  My response?  There is nothing wrong with that!  Sandra Lee helped the average person see that cooking is not that scary.  You do not have to own fancy knives, know what foie gras or amuse-bouche is, or have all the time in the world to cook from scratch.  She helped make cooking less intimidating.  Good for her!

And how does this relate to soy chorizo enchiladas?

I love enchiladas, but I find making “real” enchiladas labor intensive.  There are a lot of steps, people!  The results of “real” enchiladas?  Let’s just say it got the boyfriend to become the husband.

So the other night, the hubby was craving enchiladas.  We had a lot of crazy work days that left me wanting take-out or variations of pasta.  Enchiladas were out of the question.

Then I discovered soy chorizo.  Oh my goodness, I LOVE CHORIZO.

Chorizo, like bacon, is not exactly the best thing to have all the time.  Sad face.  So what’s a good substitute?  Shockingly, soy chorizo from Trader Joe’s is AH-MAZING.

There are few vegetarian or vegan versions of food that I think actually taste like the real deal.  Granted, it’s not really fair for me to assess fake bacon when I’m still eating real bacon.  Nothing can substitute real bacon, people!  Soy chorizo on the other hand is AMAZING!  It’s just as flavorful as it’s pork friend and has the right texture.  Perfect substitute if you’re cutting back on the meat or the fat.

Easy After Work Soy Chorizo Enchiladas

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • Whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 can unsweetened corn (rinsed)
  • 1 can black beans (rinsed)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro- chopped
  • Shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican blend)
  • Trader Joe’s soy chorizo
  • Minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Tapatio or hot sauce (optional)
  • Las Palmas green chile enchilada sauce (when I first learned to make enchiladas, my friend SWORE by this brand.  I find it at Safeway and ethnic markets.  I aways load up when I see it.  The red sauce is NOT the same.  Trust me, this is delish if you’re not doing it from scratch.)


1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a pan with extra virgin olive oil on medium.  Once hot, throw 4 cloves of minced garlic.  Squeeze the soy chorizo out of the casing and into the pan.

2.  Break up the chorizo into smaller pieces and toss around the pan.  Heat for a few minutes to get the essence of the garlic mixed in.  Once fragrant, throw in the can of rinsed corn and rinsed black beans.  Mix it up.  Once the mixture is hot, throw in some chopped cilantro.

3.  Once the mixture is hot, turn off the stove.  Spray a baking dish with Pam or put some olive oil in to coat the dish.

4.  Time to assemble the enchiladas (the ones we made were more like fat, wet burritos).  Take a tortilla and lay it on your cutting board.  Take a large spoon and put some filling onto the tortilla.  Add about two spoonfuls of the enchilada sauce.

5.  Wrap it up as tight and long as you can.  Or if you were hungry like us, we wrapped little fat burritos.  Place them into the baking dish next to each other until you fill the dish.  Once full, pour the enchilada sauce over them.

6.  Once the sauce has covered the enchiladas, add the shredded cheese.

7.  Cover it with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.  Take them out of the oven, add some cilantro and tapatio, and enjoy!

The hubby was quite the happy camper after this.  What’s great is that it didn’t take very long to put together.  You can also prepare this ahead of time and put it in the fridge to bake during the week.  Leftovers made for a very yummy lunch the next day.

Also, if you’re in the mood for a breakfast burrito, I highly recommend using soy chorizo.  Toss that with some scrambled eggs and tapatio and you’ve got yourself a breakfast full of delciousness!  Enjoy!

A Little Bit of Summer Pie in Winter…

It’s February in SF and I am cold.

I know there are people out there who are living in climates that are dealing with real winters.  Real winters that involve shoveling snow.  Real winters involving snow chains and parkas and negative degrees.

It’s about 55 degrees in San Francisco and I’m cold.  I sit in my house and rock my animal knit hat.  Not ashamed, just cold.  (Thanks Jason H. for my KnitWit!)

On the other hand, the hubby LOVES this weather.  He rocks the SF uniform that involves jeans, a t-shirt, and Northface fleece.  He can still sleep in a t-shirt, while I opt to rock the Northface fleece IN BED… because I’m that cold.  Yes, I am a wuss.  A wuss in a knitted giraffe hat.  Again, not ashamed.

A Little Bit of Summer in Winter

When I think of summer, I think of lemons.  I think it’s because lemons are in a lovely, happy shade of yellow.  They’re… er, round like the sun?  No?  Sweet or tart like summer?  No?  Okay, well anyway lemons make me think of summer.

So… why not add a bit of summer in the midst of the cold?  Why not make some lemon ice box pie?  Just typing pie makes me happy and warm.  Even though I did just write “ice box” and that doesn’t really lead one to think of warmth.

There’s a bunch of recipes out there that are variations of this, but this has been my tried and true.  I credit Ms. Lynne R., a former co-worker and lovely friend, for sharing this recipe with me.

Lemon Ice Box Pie (with Vanilla Wafer Crust!)

WARNING:  You will be making crust AND meringue!  I swear, this is easy!

Make sure you have time… the crust needs to be refrigerated overnight.  Also, after the pie is baked (15 min.), it’s another 5 hours to chill.  It’s easy, but will definitely take some time!


  • 3/4 cup real lemon juice (4-5 lemons)
  • 1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 eggs, separated (toss out 1 yolk)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 6 Tbl of white sugar
  • 3/4 box of Nabisco Vanilla Wafers (*if you don’t have time to make the crust, feel free to use a pre-made graham cracker crust)


1.  THE CRUST:  Put the wafers in a zip-lock bag and start crushing them with a rolling pin.  We usually do a few wafers at a time.  Roll them out or use the back of the roller.  Crush them well!

2.  Once crushed, poor the contents into a bowl.  Keep crushing until they’re fine, but not turned to dust!

3.  Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat.  Once melted, add the butter to the wafers.  Stir until the wafers are well coated.  Pour into a pie pan.  Shape it into a crust and then refrigerate overnight.  Bye-bye pie, see you tomorrow!

The next day… Start by setting your oven to 325 degrees.

4.  THE FILLING:  Separate your eggs.  Keep the egg whites in a bowl.  Beat the egg yolks in another bowl and set aside.

5.  Pour the condensed milk into a bowl.  Stir in the lemon juice gradually.  Add beaten egg yolks and stir well until blended.

6.  Take the crust out of the fridge and add the filling.  Set aside.

7.  THE MERINGUE:  A Kitchen Aid mixer is not required, but will be EXTREMELY helpful.  You can also whisk like a mad person by hand.  For the meringue, pour the egg whites into the mixer.

8.  Add the sugar.

9.  Start the mixer on the lowest setting and work your way to the highest.  Continue to mix until you see firm peaks.

10.  Once the meringue is “peaky”, carefully place the meringue on top of the filling with large spoonfuls or use a cake knife to shape peaks.  Meringue is a finicky friend.  Some days you’ll have great peaks… today was not a peaky day…

11.  Bake the pie for approximately 15 minutes (or until the meringue has browned). Cool the pie before refridgerating.  Chill for 5 hours before serving.

Get ready to gobble this baby up!  I don’t think I’ve ever had a chance to have a second helping on this pie, because it disappears so fast.

It’s easy.  It’s lemony.  It’s a little bit of summer during your winter.


P.S. Don’t forget Pi(e) Approximation Day (March 17th) is coming… Great time to try a new pie recipe!  😀

Happy New Year! Happy New You! Happy New Stew!

A new day in a new year and a new stew recipe… what more can you want to start off a great new year?

Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2012!

With all new years comes great resolutions.  Resolutions that get us all to try to be better people, work for better things, or promise to go the gym more this year.  This year, we have a few resolutions up our sleeves.  One stands out to share and that’s the resolution to want to cook more delicious meals at home and find great recipes to share.

Beef + Jamie Oliver + Good Beer = Delicious Stew!

We love stew!  I love how the meat breaks down and becomes so tender.  I love the aroma that fills the house.  I love the fact I can whip out the dutch oven.  Nothing warms the soul the same on a cold day, then a really well made stew (and maybe our chilli… and just like the chilli, this stew is AMAZING REHEATED!  Crazy?  I know!).

Making stew sounds simple, right?  Just throw in some tough cuts of meat, tomato sauce, carrots, celery… and boom!  Awesome and delicious stew, right?  Possibly for some, but a bit of a failed attempt for us.

Maybe my grandmother had the magic touch of just throwing things together to make a delicious beef and potato stew.  Maybe one of my best friends secret addition of V8 tomato juice added the missing ingredient to a great beef stew.  One thing is for sure, stews become less intimidating when you have a basic recipe to start from and we have one man to thank for that.  Jamie Oliver.

Oh Jamie Oliver!  I love your goal to change the way people eat and to become more aware of what goes into food.  I love your lovely lisp.  Furthermore, I love your Jamie’s Food Revolution cookbook (thanks big sis and bro for the gift!).  It’s basic.  It’s not intimidating.  And it’s definitely inspired us to cook more.  It pretty much does all the wonderful things a cookbook should.

Thus far, my favorite recipe is the basic stew recipe.  He offers some variations in the cookbook, but we’re focusing on the deliciousness that is a really great beef stew.

Basic Beef Stew


Serves 4-6  (*photographed double the servings)

  • 3 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 1 pound diced stewing beef
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 carrots
  • half a small box of mushrooms (*altered from the orig. recipe)
  • olive oil
  • 1 TBL all purpose flour
  • 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups brown ale, Guinness or stout (*We used one of our favorite stouty beers for this recipe and I recommend you do the same!  Something strong and good!)

1.  Rough chop the celery, onions, and carrots.

2.  Put the dutch oven on medium heat with some olive oil.

3.  Put all the vegetables and the bay leaves into the pan.

4. Add the meat and flour.

5.  Pour in the booze and canned tomatoes.

6.  Mix it up and season with some salt and pepper.  (Be light handed with the salt!)

7. Bring to a boil and put the lid on.  Simmer slowly for about 3 hours. Remove the lid for the final half hour of simmering and add a splash of water if it looks dry.

8.  Before serving, remove any bay leaves and add salt and pepper to taste.

Play with the recipe.  Add some potatoes or any other goodies that might make it more wonderful for you.  Prep some rice or have it on it’s own and get ready for some delicious eats.  Enjoy!

This month is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Happy November, folks!

Another month, another day, and another set of holidays just around the corner!  You know what that means?  Food, food, food!!!

Halloween has come and gone.  Leaving us a huge pile of candy and fruit snacks.  Sadly, we had a total of ZERO kids the other night.  ZERO!  Crazy, huh?  Where were all the kids of San Francisco trick-or-treating???

In any case, the holidays lead to a LOT of eating and a LOT of deliciousness… and unfortunately, a lot of wasted food.

Wasting food is probably one of my biggest pet peeves.  I hate throwing things out of the fridge.  I am always trying to buy just enough to not lead to too many left-overs or try to find ways to utilize it in another way.

Bananas, baby!  Bananas!

My friend once described bananas as the perfect fruit.  They’re packed in their own compostable casing.  They’re easy to peel.  And if you are suffering from leg cramps, then you’re probably not getting enough potatssium and should go gobble up some bananas!


BUT… these yellow beauties can turn quite quickly.  Suddenly your beautiful, ripe, and yellow banana have turned into this…

Not so pretty.

But remember what your folks said about not judging a book by the cover… these ripening babies may be turning a lovely shade of black, but are also getting sweeter and softer by the minute.  What does that mean?


My mother in-law, my friend, and my sister’s sister-in-law make mean banana breads.  Delicious.  Moist.  Sometimes chock full of nutty goodness.  Therefore, being surrounded by delicious banana bread makers has left me without a good banana bread recipe for a long time.  That and being very intimidated to make banana bread.

Unfortunately (and fortunately), I cannot keep forcing myself and Kelson to eat bananas once they start going brown… so it’s time to bust out the recipes and find an easy go-to banana bread recipe.

Easy and Brilliantly Awesome Banana Bread Recipe

*This recipe is adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book.


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 3/4 stick salted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

3.  In a medium bowl, mash the bananas.  (Bust out the potato masher if you got one!  If not, a whisk works just fine.)

4.  Then mix in the melted butter, eggs, yogurt, and vanilla together.

5.  Gently fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture with a spatula.  If you are adding nuts, then fold those in as well.  DO NOT OVERMIX!

6. Time to bust out the PAM or whatever you’d like to use to grease the bundt pan.  I love bundt pans.  I also love the word “bundt”.  Bundt.

7.  Scrape the batter into the bundt pan.  Smooth the top.  Bake for about 55 minutes.  Rotate the pan halfway through to make sure it cooks evenly.  If you’re not sure the banana bread is ready, do the toothpick test.  Stick a toothpick in the middle and pull it out.  If it comes out clean, then you’re good to go.  If you still see some batter stuck on, then bake it a little longer.

8.  Let the banana bread cool for about 10 minutes.  If you have greased your bundt pan well, the bread should pop right out.

Folks, you can now be that mother-in-law or friend or sister’s sister-in-law who makes the awesome banana bread.  All the while, preventing your rotting bananas from ending up in the trash.  Enjoy!