Friday, July 18, 2014

Chocolate & Cherry Chia Pudding: Breakfast of ch-ch-ch-chiampions

I've been having a fierce debate in my head about how to tell you this. Do I pretend like it's nothing? Just come out with it without even addressing the elephant in the room that may or may not double as a decorative planter?  Or admit straight-out that this is weird and now I'm weird, but then again I always was weird, so it's really not that shocking that I've become...

a chia seed-eater.

And, guys, it's not even because I'm an ignorant hipster who also happens to order her decaf cappuccinos with almond milk, or because I am fixated on how it's going to make my skin all glowy or tighten things up so I look better in my new denim shorts (50% off, bitches!).

It's because I actually like them.

Chia seeds!

The things that grow the ch-ch-ch-chia pets that my brothers and I used to mock and threaten to give each other for Christmas whenever the commercial came on the TV while we watched "Saved by the Bell" and "Full House" re-runs.

It wasn't an immediate like, of course. There were some failed attempts, some sad bowls of gelatinous fruit-topped goop that were consumed with the same level of enthusiasm I reserve for dentist appointments. I ate these experimental breakfasts hoping, but not really hoping, that I would begin to understand "the fuss."  The why behind the #chiaseed #superfood #omgyum Instagram photos that have been clogging my feed.

And while we're on the subject, kind of looked like feed.

So naturally I was shocked when I inadvertently stumbled upon a way to make them - the ch-ch-ch-chia seeds - not only palatable, but enjoyable! The breakfast that has been propelling me through my early morning workouts for the past three days as a genuinely perceived "reward" for my effort.

Obviously, it involves chocolate. And fruit - banana that's pureed and combined with the chia seeds to counterbalance the gelatinous texture, as well as cherries that are judiciously layered over the top. And lest we stop there, at a point where it's already far past the point of acceptability, toasted walnuts that bring further textural contrast into the picture.

So, basically, dessert. That you get to call a healthy breakfast. Maybe even the breakfast of ch-ch-ch-chiampions.

Chocolate & Cherry Chia Pudding
Serves 1

1 ripe banana
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghiradelli)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
6-8 ripe cherries, pitted and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts

Using an immersion blender or blender, blend the banana with the almond milk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or container that can be fitted and sealed tight with a cover. Stir in the chia seeds, the cocoa powder and vanilla. Seal and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning, remove the chia pudding from the fridge. Serve topped with the chopped cherries and toasted walnuts.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Charlie Bird's Farro: Reset, revisit

I've come to the conclusion that going on vacation is the worst possible thing that anyone can do ever. Particularly when it's someplace so far removed from your daily life that you forget that work and responsibility and laundry and things that are not pizza & ice cream even exist. They are the song you skip on Pandora, the garnish in your cocktail that you toss aside, the commercials you fast-forward through when catching up on "Mad Men" "The Bachelorette." 

Unnecessary interruptions to the life you actually want to be living.

So when you arrive home with a suitcase haphazardly stuffed with dirty clothes that you now have to unpack and wash, and are faced with things like the gym and your Outlook inbox after five days out of the office (!!!), returning to normal feels impossible. 

"You mean I can't just go eat doughnuts now?" You think when confronted with your first work crisis -- a mere hour into your Monday morning.

Because on vacation, there are no problems.

There are doughnuts.

I realize that doughnuts are not exclusive to one specific city or region, and, in fact, are perhaps more prevalent in Los Angeles than elsewhere, but "doughnuts" as an idea feels less accessible after a trip that revolved around what could be entangled on the tines of your fork.

By nature, that moment seems reserved for adding insult to the injury of your return -- a post-vacation "detox" whereby you are supposed to eat "clean" and "vegan" or whatever form of self-flagellation you're inclined to employ when hitting the reset button.

Perhaps it's a three-day juice cleanse. Maybe it's gulping down sparkling grapefruit Perrier instead of sparkling wine.

And maybe, it's a farro salad inspired by one of your favorite meals during your vacation. Wholesome without edging into the punishment territory, and a reminder of a brief period of time when you experienced a world without responsibility. 

Charlie Bird's Farro with Pistachios, Mint and Parmesan
Adapted from the NY Times
Serves 4

Notes: The original version of this salad contained fava beans, but as these are now a scarce commodity in Los Angeles, I opted for shelled edamame to no adverse effects. I also omitted the tomatoes (mostly because I am loathe to buy them at the grocery store and couldn't make it to the farmer's market that day), and added in some thinly sliced fennel for kicks rather than the arugula requested. (Yes, I do realize I get "kicks" from weird things.) Finally, I was a bit less liberal with the salt and application of olive oil, and a bit more liberal with the thinly sliced radishes, as this salad was meant to help me recalibrate after a trip filled with all the things you'll find documented here.

1 cup semi-pearled farro, rinsed well
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup roasted pistachio nut meats
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup mint leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced into thin ribbons
1/2 cup thinly sliced radish
1 1/2 cups shelled edamame, cooked
Freshly ground pepper, salt, to taste

In a medium pot, bring the apple cider and 2 cups water to a boil. Add the farro, salt and bay leaves, and simmer, uncovered, until the farro is tender (approximately 30 minutes) and the liquid evaporates. I found that the liquid actually evaporated before the farro was tender, so I added a bit more water as it was cooking along.

While the farro is doing its thing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a large salad bowl. Add the warm farro and then let cool to room temperature if serving immediately. If not, refrigerate until ready to use. (Just be sure to let it come back to room temperature prior to serving - it's best when not too cold or too warm. Like Goldilocks.)

Just before you're ready to serve, toss the farro with the herbs, radish, fennel, edamame, parmesan, and pistachios. Season with freshly ground pepper. Add additional salt if needed.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

25 Things to Do When Traveling Solo to NYC

1. Use airbnb to find a spare bedroom in an apartment with an insane view in your desired neighborhood destination, and spend the week (or 3 days) playing, the "I live in NYC" game, whereby you abide in extremely close quarters with a stranger, who could very well be your best friend, or just that person who you pass, blurry-eyed, in the living room on your way to bed after drinking too much Rosé during happy hour at the wine bar at Punch across the street.

2. Share a gene pool with someone who has airline points growing on his trees and get "magically" upgraded to first class, because going to New York all by yourself is "sad face." Drink lots of champagne and eat excessive amounts of the warm, salty, roasted cashews & almonds to make yourself feel less "sad face." Flying alone is hard.

3. While you're waiting for your luggage to arrive (you obviously packed ALL your shoes & special normal-sized beauty products since no one was around to complain), download the HopStop app on your iPhone to map out the best subway routes to get to your destinations restaurants while you're in town.

4. Once your suitcase is in hand, make a beeline for the taxi line. Direct the driver to take you to "Manhattan, please," all suave-like, and then totally flub up your super awesome, totally-with-it, fake New Yorker persona by leaving your black sweater in the back seat. Momentarily wonder if you can call Yellow Cab to get it back, and then picture the actually super-awesome, totally-with-it real New Yorker laughing in your face. Your very sad sad face. 

5. After checking out your vacay digs (and securing the Wi-Fi password), head out to nab a seat at the bar at one of the best new restaurants in the city, because when it's 10 pm and just you, getting into Estela is like #NBD. Order the mussels escabeche and eat it like a savage beastly human, with vinegar and mussel juices dripping down your chin. No date, no shame.

6. Since you are in NYC (!!!) and are feeling excited noises (!!!), walk back to your airbnb trying not to be the out-of-towner who looks up at all the buildings. Get smacked on the butt by a 20-something riding by on his bike and feel simultaneously violated and impressed by his audacity/strategy.

7. Even though you barely slept your first night in town (still too excited noises!!!), wake up the next morning to go for a run in Central Park. Accidentally stop your supposed "6-mile loop" at West 72nd instead of East 72nd, but figure out how to get back to your temporary home anyway, because HopStop saves the day!

8. Since you went running and obviously need to do some reverse carboloading now, find you way to the L train to Brooklyn for lunch at Roberta's (off the Morgan Avenue stop). Pony up to the bar, order a PBR, because when in Rome, and even if it's not on the menu, ask for the Bee Sting Pizza. Initially think it's far too big for one person, but after eating four slices of what is probably the best pizza you've had in your life, insist that the two hipsters sitting next to you finish the rest.

9. Feeling virtuous because you only ate four slices as opposed to six (bravo, you!), reward yourself with ice cream. Take the L train back into the City, get off at 3rd Avenue, and head to Momofuku Milk Bar to try the Cereal Milk Soft Serve (add the crunchy cereal bits for the extra .75 cents), and both the Compost and Confetti cookies for, uh, later.

10. A few licks into the Cereal Milk Soft Serve, decide that now that you've tried breakfast fro-yo, you're obviously ready to graduate to Brunch Ice Cream. Walk to Davey's and order a scoop (in a cup or their housemade waffle cones), and make the astute conclusion that you prefer cinnamony French toast chunks (!!!) and caramelized nubs of bacon better than cereal in your frozen, err, rewards.

11. Since you have 3 1/2 hours until you're going to be rewarding yourself with libations (see Punch), continue walking through the city, weaving your way down 5th Avenue to see if the Anthropologie in New York is different than Anthropologie in Orange County, Los Angeles, Carmel, Phoenix, Washington DC, Chicago…

12. Continue your solo dining adventures at Charlie Bird in the South Village. Fill up on the salted Grissini, because, obviously, but still finish your Octopus with Crispy Pancetta & Chickpeas; and Farro with Pistachios, Mint and Parmesan, because, obviously. Make friends with your neighbor who ordered the Roast Chicken. Or just make friends with the chicken.

13. Compost your Momofuku cookie in bed. 

14. Bypass the cronut line outside Dominique Ansel because you (or your savvy New York friend) had the foresight to place a pre-order for the coveted croissant-doughnut hybrid at 11 a.m. EST on a Monday precisely two weeks prior to the week of your visit. Order the kouign amann in real time, because you had the foresight to be…fat.

15. Put your sugar high to good use by taking a Bar Method class at the studio down the street. $37 a class is a small price to pay for… absolutely nothing.

16. Go sight-seeing in Greenwich Village.

17. Decide to give your body a break from the pastry-composting and stop at Hu Kitchen (the place on 5th Avenue with the giant black & white sign that says "Food for Humans") for quinoa & lentils and green juice. You know, food for gerbils. 

18. Bring your recovery lunch, sunscreen and a blanket to Washington Square Park, and take pictures of your outstretched legs & feet while you pretend to read your book. Aaaah, vacation.

19. Drink prosecco or a Sbagliato cocktail at the bar at Bar Primi while waiting for your party of five (or zero) to arrive. Order the burrata anchovy bruschetta, stuffed meatballs and spaghetti clams casino. Giggle at the visual of a casino filled with clams. Drink more prosecco.

20. Refuel with more ice cream at Morgenstern's. Mostly because you want to take an overhead shot of your salted caramel pretzel and chocolate oat scoops with the black and white tile in the background for Instagram. #sugar #dessert #payattentiontome

21. Have a nightcap at Eleven Madison Park. Do not take any photos for Instagram.

22. Pay $7 for a piece of smashed avocado toast with curry oil, lime and mustard seeds at The Butcher's Daughter for a wholesome breakfast. Decide it's the best thing since… sliced bread.

23. Pop into Ladurée in SoHo to pick up macaron souvenirs for your friends. Document the entire experience so they understand how expensive special and French these macarons are.

24. Eat the caramel with salted butter macaron you bought for yourself on a bench in Washington Square Park to savor one last bite in NYC before you leave on an Amtrack train. Try to look really pensive in case Brandon Stanton from HONY is there taking your picture. 

25. Hustle to Penn Station and have a minor panic attack trying to get through the bottleneck at the escalator after the track for your train posts on the schedule. When you finally get through and secure a window seat next to the outlets for your laptop/iPhone, comfort yourself with your Momofuku Confetti cookie. Congratulations, you've survived a trip to NYC alone!

Previously: 25 Things to Do When Traveling to NYC

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Creamiest White Beans & Leeks with Parsley Pesto

It seems odd to say that "I've been on a bit of a white bean kick." White beans are not exactly the type of food item that would seem to evoke any sort of "kick" type behavior, and yet here I am, once again writing on the subject with, admittedly, far too much enthusiasm for a humble legume.

I can hear the collective groan. Legume? It's a terrible word, isn't it? The "moist" of the dried food world, if I'm going to be unabashedly, and disgustingly ironic about it.

The thing is, I never really thought much of them either, gliding by them in the grocery store in pursuit of more compelling (?) proteins. At least as far as my palate was concerned. I far preferred chickpeas, edamame or, well, bacon, until I discovered the dried bean way of going about things. Like Columbus discovering America. New to him, not new to the Vikings or Leif Erikson.

And just like that… switches. Flipped.

This dried bean nonsense is serious business. You start by rushing the soaking. Perhaps even skipping it entirely, thinking, foolishly, that you can somehow hurry it along with mental telepathy. After the third hour of ferocious boiling on the stovetop, you decide to plan better next time, soaking it for a whole four (!) hours, feeling proud that you had the foresight to take 45 minutes off the ferocious boiling time. Never mind that perhaps the beans seem to break a part more than you'd like - the same qualm you have about their canned counterpart that has sat undisturbed in the back of your pantry for a rainy day that you secretly hope never happens.

What you are really looking for is bean with bite, that bit of resistance that almost makes you forget that you are eating… not bacon.

And suddenly, you become fanatical about how to make them taste better and better - monitoring how tiny changes impact the final product. Soaking them not just overnight, but for a whole 30 hours, intermittently changing the water, tending to the precarious bowl that's taking up far too much space on the second shelf of your refrigerator with far more attention than you ever paid to the rainbow fish you owned as a child.

Then you begin carrying on about the cooking process. Preparing them without the requisite onion, carrot, celery, garlic, a bay leaf, and sprig of thyme flavoring the water becomes an impossibility. You find yourself fretting about the precise moment to add salt lest the tenderness of the beans be compromised during their, now, much more succinct cooking time.  Even that is conducted with less ferocious boiling and more gentle bubbling to preserve the delicate shells.

Intact shells, you discover, are a very good thing.

So, naturally, when you spend all this time fretting and attending to some humble legumes, what you do with them has to be equally ambitious - a recipe that proclaims itself as the "creamiest," as though it were a blue Kraft box in the dried pasta aisle.

It, the recipe that instructs one to simmer white beans with white wine and sautéed leeks, is perfectly fine in its original conception, yet compulsion dictates further embellishment. Ribbons of parsley pesto stain the beans green, grated parmigiano reggiano and lemon zest graze the top, and when you finish the plate with a side of kokuho rose heirloom brown rice and roasted asparagus, you wonder out loud:

"All this for rice and beans."

A real kick, isn't it?

Creamiest White Beans with Leeks & Parsley Pesto
Adapted from Jamie Oliver via Serious Eats
Serves 4

For beans:
1 cup dried white beans
1 celery stalk
1 carrot, scrubbed clean and stem removed
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt

For parsley pesto:
5 cloves garlic, roasted in the oven, unpeeled, at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes
Leaves from 1 bunch parsley
Juice from half a lemon
2 tablespoons toasted, slivered almonds
1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Water, as needed to thin out

For dish:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 leeks, cleaned well, white & green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt, pepper
6 ounces dry white wine (a pinot grigio works well)
1/2 cup chicken broth + more if needed
1 cup dried white beans, prepared (as per the above)
Parsley Pesto (per the above)

To finish:
Parmigiano reggiano cheese
Lemon zest
Short grain brown rice (optional, but encouraged)
Roasted asparagus (optional, but encouraged)

To prepare the white beans:
At least 12 hours before preparing (and preferably more), rinse 1 cup of dried white beans, picking through to remove any stones or blemished beans. Transfer to a large bowl, and cover with a few inches of cold water. Refrigerate, changing the water out a couple times, until ready to use.

Drain the soaking water away, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the beans, the celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme. Reduce the heat to a low boil, and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Add the salt, and continue simmering for 15-30 additional minutes until at desired level of tenderness. Drain, discard the aromatics and set aside.

To prepare the parsley pesto:
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor (an immersion blender also works great). Pulse/blend until the ingredients blend together into a green sauce, adding splashes of water, as needed to thin out.

To prepare the dish:
Heat olive oil in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-hiigh heat. Add the leeks, and sauté for 7 or so minutes over medium heat, stirring every now and again. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt, pepper, and continue sautéing for another 3 minutes. Add the wine and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then add the prepared white beans. Simmer over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Stir in the parsley pesto to taste (you'll likely have some left over), and turn off the heat.

To serve:
Spoon the white beans over brown rice (preferably a short grain variety). Sprinkle with lemon zest and parmesan cheese. "Garnish" the plate with roasted asparagus.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

White Bean & Quinoa Salad: Repeat Offender

It hardly seems fair that one of my favorite salads - a quinoa salad at that! - was initially introduced to you as an afterthought. An "oh, by the way," rather than the star of the show, the meat of the matter, or whatever cliche you prefer to be inserted here.

It's been bothering me for the past few months, and increasingly more so with its recent revival back into my weekday lunch rotation. Every time I sit down in front of my computer, my shoulders hunched over my oversized tupperware as I brace myself to go into shovel mode, I feel it.

A nudge of guilt.

The whole thing is really quite ridiculous. It's not as though salads - and quinoa salads at that! - are even exciting to most people. At least not in the same way that strawberry buttermilk cupcakes and chocolate cookies are, because, you know, sugar. I'm very well aware that I'm part of a mere 0.005% of the population who actually looks forward to eating something this egregiously healthy, and the others populating that minuscule percentage point are probably secretly lusting after bacon.

So, of course, it's positively absurd that I would be bothered that you may have missed the memo about this quinoa salad. That you may not have noticed the key differentiators that make this so much more than the lunch you eat because you aught to - the use of dried white beans instead of canned; the quinoa that's lightly toasted in a skillet before preparing; the aggressive crunch of finely chopped celery, radish and red onion; the woodsy walnut oil & sherry vinaigrette that is far more interesting than the standard made with olive oil.

And then, lest we stop there, the triumphant application of toasted walnuts and avocado.

These things - walnuts and avocados! - are like cupcakes and bacon to people like me.

A very big deal.

The biggest deal.

And something worth repeating in case it wasn't explicitly clear the first time. 

White Bean and Quinoa Salad
Inspired by the Cranberry Bean Salad in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Serves 3-4

1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (preferably prepared from scratch - it makes a difference, I pinky swear!)
3/4 cup quinoa
4-5 radishes, sliced into thin pieces, then chopped into little nubs
1 stalk celery, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt, pepper
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 avocado, sliced and cut into small chunks

Thoroughly rinse the quinoa. Heat a large, nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the quinoa, and toast, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly brown, but not burned.

Bring just shy of 1 1/2 cups of salted water to boil in a medium-sized sauce pan. Add the toasted quinoa, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. Fluff quinoa with a fork and let cool to room temperature.

While quinoa is cooking, soak minced red onion in bowl of cool water for at least 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Whisk together the walnut oil and sherry vinegar.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, white beans, radish, celery, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss with sherry-walnut vinaigrette.  Top with walnuts and avocado just before serving. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Strawberry Buttermilk Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

It wasn't that long ago that boxed mixes and canisters of frosting were a thing for me. Eight years if I'm going to be precise about it. George Bush was President, "How I Met Your Mother" was in its second season (may it RIP), and I was harboring an arsenal of trans fat and complacency in my pantry.

It's all very shocking to me now - that I dared to not only buy cake mix and frosting that I had not personally whipped into delicate peaks, but that I would actually serve it to someone for their birthday. Proudly, my arms extending the 13 x 9 sheet cake with a greeting I'd spelled out in multi-colored flower-shaped sprinkles as if that would somehow make it spectacular. Or at the very least better than a baked bastion of trans fat and complacency.

This was, of course, back in the days when college was not too far away in the rear view mirror, and many of the memories I clung to revolved around the boxed mix. Triple chocolate brownies that would be consumed straight from the pan while my roommates and I watched "Center Stage" for the 22nd time that quarter, sometimes with the assistance of ice cream, and sometimes with the assistance of ice cream and hot fudge because we erroneously thought our youthful metabolisms could handle it.

And then there were funfetti cupcakes, capsized five at a time alongside tepid Miller Lights during birthday celebrations with nary a speck of guilt. Because we were in college and guilt-free living is what college students do best.

Naturally things have changed quite a bit in recent years - pride and passion eroding away my complacency in favor of fanaticism. First from-scratch brownies, then from-scratch cupcakes, and then a need to make each baked good that emerges from my kitchen the most superlative iteration that its consumer has ever, well, consumed.

I had a reputation to uphold after all.

Or perhaps, more accurately, a reputation to reconstruct from a past that is not too particularly far gone.

It's funny to think how quickly one's perspective changes. Something like homemade buttermilk strawberry cupcakes would have blown my mind back then, without even considering the white chocolate cream cheese frosting. I would have shouted it to the moon, danced around in giddy circles that I could be that clever without the assistance of a back panel breaking things down into carefully choreographed 1-2-3 steps.

And would you know that I was actually embarrassed to serve these? My cheeks burning hot as my colleagues began unwrapping their respective specimens, because I was convinced they were terrible. The worst ever. Too this. Too that.

Too not perfect?!

Ultimately, my embarrassment was all in my head (or rather, my cheeks, if we, again, must be precise about it). Because these cupcakes taste nothing of complacency. They taste like heart - like passion, and like the long, not particularly lazy summer stretching ahead of us.

Strawberry Buttermilk Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 20-24 cupcakes (my batch yielded precisely 20)

Notes: Because of the moisture content of the strawberries, these are best eaten the day they are baked. Fruit can often cause baked goods to take on a bit too moist a texture, so something to keep in mind! If you are concerned about this, you can use freeze dried strawberries, or perhaps swirl in a bit of strawberry jam into each cupcake before baking. Also, a note on the frosting - you'll likely have quite a bit leftover, but in my mind, extra frosting is never a bad thing.

Strawberry Buttermilk Cupcakes

From Taste of South Magazine

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup whole buttermilk
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Using an electric beater, whip together until light and fluffy. This should take around a minute or so, maybe longer if your butter isn't particularly soft and you are trying to rush it along like I've heard, ahem, some people do. Once at the appropriate texture, beat in the vanilla (adding it before the eggs will help it to better penetrate the butter, meaning more vanilla bean flavor in the final product). Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce speed to low, then add the buttermilk, beating until just incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flower, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

With the beater set to low, gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Beat until just combined, then carefully fold in the chopped strawberries with a spoon.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling each cup 3/4 of the way to the top. (Overfilling the cups will result in cupcakes that spill over the top… like, well, a muffin top.)

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out perfectly clean. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack to cool for a good 10 minutes before even attempting to remove. (Nobody likes a dented cupcake!)  Carefully use a knife to run around the edges of each cupcake and gingerly lift it from the pan and set on the rack to cool completely. 

Store in an airtight container - at room temperature if serving that day, or in the fridge if planning to keep around for a bit longer.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

From Carla Hall via ABC's "The Chew"

8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)
1/2 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup white chocolate chips (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, combine softened cream cheese and butter. Beat together with an electric beater until smooth. Beat in the vanilla, then the melted white chocolate. (Note: The melted chocolate should be allowed to cool a bit before adding lest you melt the butter in the process!)

Begin adding the powdered sugar a bit at a time, beating until the frosting is light and fluffy (this can take a few minutes, so be patient). Frost completely cooled cupcakes using a handy-dandy knife, or place the frosting into a piping bag, or, better yet, a frosting bowl bag, to add a bit more decorating pizazz to the final product.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sound Bites: I'm basically a hipster edition

Because there's not always time for a full meal…

1. The recipe I'm dying to make - Green Beans with Walnut-Miso Sauce via Mark Bittman/The New York Times - One would think that after another Lent without dessert, I'd be pining for chocolate-studded pastries and cookies the size and girth of my head, but instead all I really want is a giant bowl of these green beans. Served with tofu and the brown rice below. Because, I am the worst.

2. My new edible obsession - Koda Farms Organic Heirloom Kokuho Rose Brown Rice - I was introduced to this slightly sweet, mildly earthy rice via the sorrel pesto rice bowl at Sqirl, and since discovering its availability at my local gourmet market, Monsieur Marcel, cannot fathom cooking with any other type. The texture is unlike any rice I've had before - creamy like arborio, but with more heft and bite, so is perfect as a canvas for all sorts of things that weird people like me eat. You know, green beans and tofu; white beans with parsley pesto; and braised kale with a fried egg.

3. What I'm drinking - Kombucha Tea - It started innocently with a free sample of Better Booch's Apple Ginger at my Melrose Place Farmers Market last Sunday, a sample that led to a purchase, that led to a mid-week trip to Alfred Coffee + Kitchen to get bottles of Health-Ade's Pomegranate and Pink Lady Apple, that led to a subsequent inhalation of Kombucha Wonder Drink's Asian Pear & Ginger at Zinc Cafe on Saturday. My body is like pumped full of probiotics right now. I'm basically invincible, and two steps away from buying a Vespa and ceasing all hair-washing activity.

4. My new obsession - Buying myself flowers - I never really thought of myself as one of those girls who feels gooshy over a bouquet of flowers, but recently I've been feeling, well, gooshy over a bouquet of flowers. I blame this, again, entirely on my Farmers Market, which has made it far too easy to decide on a Sunday morning that I need to have a dozen pink roses as much as, if not more so, than I do that bushel of kale. And you know what? I really do. Everything feels just a little bit better when there's a vase filled with flowers to look at all week long.

5. Where I've been eating - Osteria Mozza - Even after 6 1/2 years, this is still my favorite place to be in all of Los Angeles - especially on a Saturday evening spent with two of my best friends from college. Mozza memories are the best kind. And the antidote to any weird kombucha-sipping, miso green bean-lusting, hipster-approaching behavior.