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Easy Homemade Breakfast for Weekend Guests

Hooray, I survived this very long but fun weekend. My friends from San Jose visited, as well as my sister. I love to have people over because it gives me the motivation to cook something new and explore areas of my city that I don’t go to nearly enough on my own. We definitely feasted this weekend and enjoyed the warm, sunny California weather. 80 degree weather in the winter time? I’ll take that any day. We were seriously wearing t-shirts and shorts in the middle of February! As a farewell breakfast for our friends who visited, I decided to go to my trusty cookbook from Pioneer Woman. Knock on wood but none of her recipes has failed me yet. What I also like about her is that I don’t have to special order ingredients that are hard to find in your local store. In her original recipe here, she made a berry butter to go with the french toast but I found it just fine without making that part of the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 French loaf of bread (Trader Joe’s has a presliced French loaf that was great in this recipe)
  • 4 whole Egg Yolks
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Maple Syrup For Serving – I used plain ol’ honey
  • Sifted Powder Sugar, For Serving (optional)
  • In case you want some berries on top, grab one cup of frozen mixed berries (Costco sells a nice big bag)

Instructions:

  • Cut bread into 1/2 inch thick slices (unless you already purchased presliced bread like I did).
  • In a dish that has about 1 inch in depth, mix together egg yolks, half-and-half, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
  • Dip bread slices in mixture, coating both sides, then remove from dish and set it aside. Repeat this step until all bread is coated.
  • If you want to put some berries on top, do this following step. In a small saucepan, boil about 1/4 cup of water with a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Once the sugar dissolves, pour the frozen berries into the pan. Let it simmer for about two minutes and then turn off the heat.
  • Heat iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook French toast on both sides until golden brown, being careful not to burn. I liked it a little brown on both sides. Once done, set it aside.
  • To assemble, just stack your French toast bread and then pour the berries on top (with or without the liquid) and drizzle lightly with some honey and dust it with some powdered sugar. Bon Appetite!

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20140219-120811.jpgToasty bread!

20140219-120819.jpgYummy berries!

20140219-120828.jpgDeliciousness!

A pocket full of goodness

This weekend was GREAT. I was able to craft, hang out with my sweet fiance and make good food. I appreciate any time that I can get to cook a great meal. Daniel got me subscriptions to Rachael Ray and Real Simple magazine and I have been eye balling many recipes for the past month. There are just too many dishes to make and not enough time. As time seems to fly by, I find myself resorting to the easy to make dinners (like grilled chicken and rice) instead of making elaborate meals. Although I didn’t make anything too elaborate this weekend, I’m glad I used three recipes I found in my food magazines and book.

The pocket full of goodness that I made this weekend was the empanada. Real Simple magazine features an area where they focus on one ingredient that you can use in ten recipes. Two months ago, they featured turkey as one of the main ingredients. We tend not to cook with turkey because it’s ground meat but the recipe looked easy and good. After going to Trader Joe’s, I found out that they didn’t have any pie crusts for the empanadas. I ended up making dough from scratch! So because of all the hard work I put into the dough, I found this was worth blogging about.

Dough recipe

Ingredients (makes about six large empanadas. I cut the recipe in half and ended up with three big enough to share empanadas)

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water (measure 1/3 cup of water and then throw an ice cube to chill in it for a bit to get ice water)
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Preparation

Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look brittle and break apart easily.)

Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour. As you are waiting for the dough, you can start prepping the stuffing.

Empanada Filling Recipe (by me with some inspiration from Real Simple)

Ingredients

2 carrots (diced)

2 celery sticks (diced)

Half an onion (diced)

Dash of cumin (or as much as you’d like)

1 pound of ground turkey

Cheese (optional)

Directions

Saute all of the vegetables together on low heat for about three minutes. Once the vegetables start to look soft, add the turkey and cumin powder. Cook the turkey thoroughly and then allow the meat to cool down.

Preheat the over to 325 degrees.

Once the dough is ready, pull it apart to create small spheres of dough. You can then roll it out into circles. Place a handful of meat stuffing on one half of the circle, add cheese if you’d like and then fold the circle over and seal the empanada with a fork (to create the crinkles in the closed area).

Place the empanadas on a cookie sheet and spray them with some olive oil or canola oil. Bake for about 20 minutes then enjoy.

Now it’s time for some dessert. I’ve never been a fan of carrot cake (usually because it is ruined by raisins!). However, after reading Gesine Bullock’s book and drooling over her recipes, I decided that since it’s Easter, I should make a cake. Here’s the recipe for Gesine’s delish carrot cake. I didn’t put the effort into decorating it because I feel like the characteristic of carrot cake is to be more rustic looking with frosting slathered on it in a non-uniform manner. Someone at the pot luck I attended on Saturday decided to Easter it up a bit by adding a chocolate bunny.

People at work were afraid to decapitate the bunny so they cut around it. I was left with the large chocolate bunny and the cake that was left beneath it. Time to whip out fondue kit to make chocolate fondue :D.

LA Adventure

Every year there is the International Championship of A Capella which brings together college a capella groups from across the U.S. Daniel and I try our best not to miss it because we love to watch the best of the best sing their heart outs for a chance to make it to New York for the national competition. Even though I can’t carry a tune, I do enjoy hearing those that can. Before going to the show in LA, Daniel and I decided it would be a good opportunity to explore the foodie areas of LA. We don’t make it out to that area very often because the traffic just annoys us so when we do, we make the most of the day or two that we usually spend there. Daniel decided to take charge of the day’s adventures by planning out our site seeing and eating itinerary.

Daniel’s reason for picking the two places we ate at were because they ranked in the top ten Yelp places to eat in 2011 in the nation. We ate at Wurstküche and animal (yes, with a lower case a). I was surprised to find a long line of people at Wurstküche at 3 in the afternoon. Who eats lunch at that time? We were just getting a snack, so it was totally reasonable for us to be there ;). This place totally gets me. They specialize in German sausage and great beer. The combination is FANTASTIC. I don’t usually have a beer in the afternoon but this was a special occasion. When I read the menu, I didn’t even know where to begin. There were about ten different kinds of sausage that I could pick from but I was only hungry for one (so sad) that I felt like I had to pick the best one! I chose the mango, jalapeno and chicken sausage while Daniel went for the exotic rabbit and snake combo. I couldn’t bring myself to take more than one little bite of the one that he chose as I kept imagining the face of a snake staring me down. They are just really unattractive animals… I was quite content with my chicken sausage.

After stuffing ourselves with the sausages and beer, we headed to what we thought was LACMA but it was really the MOCA. They are two different places… but since we took a wrong turn, we ended up going on the Angels Flight trolley up to Angels Knoll park. This is the park where they filmed one scene from 500 Days of Summer. It had such a nice view of the downtown area so we took a moment to take it all in. Afterwards, we  headed to LACMA (the real one) and stumbled upon the La Brea Tar Pits. The eight year old in me yelped as I have never had the opportunity to go there when I was a child learning about it. I was really excited and explained to Daniel why all the excitement was there. We took some time walking around the park to look at the large art pieces. I’m glad to say I officially went to the Urban Light display and the tar pits. The Urban Light area was a lot smaller than I imagined it to be but it was still nice to see in person.

Interesting “spaghetti” like string display at the museum

After our sightseeing adventure, we headed over to animal. I had read about animal before on a blog but I still wasn’t sure what to expect. We went in to find a menu filled with lots of interesting animal parts from pig ears to veal brain. I like food but I don’t think I like it to the extent that I am willing to try weird animal parts (hence why I did not eat snake earlier in the day). I decided to go semi-vegetarian (still working on this in my every day lifestyle) and order the kale, baby broccoli and then quail (it’s very little meat!). The two green dishes satisfied my palette but I have to say, I wasn’t too fond of the quail. The quail was cooked well but I had a problem with the presentation. I just don’t think Greek yogurt should be used with any kind of meat type dish unless it was curry. The Greek yogurt was the foundation for the fruit that the quail laid on. Fruit and yogurt = parfait. My other two cents – this place is a bit steep on the pricing and hipster to the max.

Last thing of the LA day – acapella! Congrats to UCLA (my alma mater’s enemy) for making it to New York! They definitely deserved it. Daniel and I have watched them for the last three years and have seen them grow tremendously. They have the energy and the vocal chords that earned them the first place spot.

Weekend Recap 3/11/12

Are we really almost halfway through March? Time has really flown by since I launched this new blog. This weekend was another action packed weekend. My awesome friend came to visit and we went to the House of Blues on Friday where we saw a great performance by Trevor Hall. Although this video is quite old, I started to send it to some friends to tell them about who I saw this weekend and they all said “I never imagined he would have that kind of voice.” Remember, never judge a book by its cover. What lies beneath may shock/amuse you.

After hanging in the Hollywood scene (which is totally different from my old hood of San Diego), we spent the next day lounging at the pool. Again, it’s still ‘winter’ and we are tanning pool side. Number one reason why I cannot leave California (southern, that is). After the pool festivities, I got crafty. Daniel and I were planning on taking our engagement photos on Sunday so I had to make sure all of our props were ready to go. Props included a picnic basket, blanket, large piece of burlap, several dresses, an old milk jug, a stitched piece of art and wooden signs. I had collected old pieces of panel wood from random places (like the street) and re-purposed them for wedding decor. Since we are country music fans, I wanted to include one of our favorite lyrics in our photos on the wood. It’s from Blake Shelton’s Honey Bee where he sings about how two people compliment each other.

Although the font didn’t come out the way I imagined it (in classical handwriting), I think my handwriting fit the theme of the session which is rustic country, not fancy elegant.

Our photo shoot was the focus of my Sunday. I was trying to get chores done, make some chili for work for our potato bar and Daniel wanted to make lunch for his family. He’s a great sous chef and this weekend, he was a sushi chef. He made us some rolls with dried pork, fish cakes, carrots and cucumbers.

Right after making lunch, we went to our fun photo shoot at the Huntington Beach Equestrian Center. I never knew directing a horse was difficult or that when they step on your toe, they are quite heavy… Luckily, I saved my toes and none were broken even though the large toe suffered a five second horse stomp. Our photographers were so great! They made the whole event really fun and they were great with incorporating my ideas into the photos (soft glowing light, horse, ranch, dirt areas, flowers). I can’t wait to see them! My face totally hurt after smiling for three hours. I hope I don’t have an awkward grin :D.