Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar

Thinking of a gift to make for my dear Stumpf family, I came across this recipe for Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar and gave it a try. It reminded me of the time I made Fig Bread Pudding with Balsamic Drizzle, and how good the balsamic was paired with the sweetness of the bread pudding. Next time, I will try drizzling chocolate balsamic on the bread pudding instead. Yum. But, for those of you who wonder what else this could go on, try some fruit. Or ice cream. Its meant to be paired with something sweet, not to go into a salad.

This recipe makes about 16 ounces of chocolate balsamic

2 cups balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Reduce the vinegar by half (from 2 cups to 1 cup) over low heat. This will take approximately 20 minutes, stirring often. The vinegar will thicken and coat its pan. Set aside to cool once reduced. *If you start with a better balsamic vinegar, you can skip this step and simply use 1 cup of balsamic straight from the bottle*

UCLA Gymnastics at The Blue Dog Beer Tavern

Looking for something to do in the Sherman Oaks area right before you leave for the New Year? How about meeting an amazing group of women that kick some serious tail. That's right, the UCLA Gymnastics team, who enter their season ranked #1 in the COUNTRY, will be at the Blue Dog Beer Tavern for a team meal tonight. Gymnastics fan, burger fan, and UCLA enthusiast, you know I will be there. Congratulations again to the UCLA Gymnastics team on your #1 spot.

Flyer courtesy of Paul Scrivano, owner of the Blue Dog

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Almond Butter Balls

One of my favorite cookies every year during the Holidays are butter balls rolled in powdered sugar. Most usually they are made with pecans or walnuts. This time around, I made them with almonds, which happen to be my favorite nut. If you need to make a Christmas cookie this year, this is the one. And don't worry, I won't be offended if you use walnuts instead ;)

1 cup butter, softened
5 tbs granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sliced almonds
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the sugar and butter. It may seem like not a lot of sugar in the dough, but you will be rolling the cookie in sugar. Next, add the vanilla extract

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tomato and Cornichon Balsamic Salad

I accidentally made something delicious the other day while I was snacking. And ever since, I have been craving it. So last night's dinner was a repeat of this Tomato and Cornichon Salad I made with the sweet fig balsamic I have still from my mom's gift basket to me a few months ago. It is so good and refreshing and fresh. You could put it atop a bed of lettuce, probably arugula would be best, or make sourdough crostini, like I did.

2 large Roma Tomatos
1/4 cup sliced white onions, cut into quarter slices
10 cornichon pickles
3 ounces sharp, hard white cheddar
3 tbs good olive oil
3 tbs thick, sweet, good balsamic vinegar
(I used a fig balsamic)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Start by getting out a large, lovely bowl to put your salad in. Pour in the olive oil. Next, add your sliced white onions. Season aggressively with salt and pepper. I do this step first to have the olive oil pick up the flavor from the onion, so it flavors the entire salad.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Butter Cake with Semi-Sweet Strawberry Chocolate Drizzle

This past Saturday, I relived some of my favorite things I remember about college. Birthdays with friends, various debauchery, and an impromptu Undie Run with the original crew. All in all, I think Janene's birthday was an overall success.

Not wanting the lady of the hour to go without something delicious to eat, I decided to make her a Birthday cake. Her roommate Shannon, whom I have mentioned before, made her these insane black bottom cupcakes with a cream cheese center for her actual birthday. Attempting to go the polar opposite, I opted for a butter cake. But this one is extra special. Making a homemade strawberry puree, I swirled that into the bottom layer and then added a chocolate strawberry drizzle over the top. Oh yes... It was SO GOOD! And here is how it's done...

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup butter, plus 2 tablespoons
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk (I use 2%)

Glaze and Strawberry Puree
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs hot water
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Desert Item on the menu at the Blue Dog Beer Tavern

I have some phenomenal news!

One of my favorite restaurants has asked me to design a seasonal desert for their menu!!!! Thank you Blue Dog Beer Tavern!

The Blue Dog Beer Tavern, which is close to my house and has seriously some of the best burgers around, is promoting me and Things I Make in My Kitchen this season. I am over the moon!!! Friday Dec 16th the desert will be pushed by the waiters and staff by word of mouth. And on Saturday, it makes its actual debut on the menu. The desert is inspired after my puppy, Brody. He is a spunky, devilish, caramel colored mutt from the pound and I love every second I get to spend with him. His playful nature brings out my inner child, and I thank him for always loving me, even on my toughest days.

Name: Santa's Little Helper

Description: Remember the smells of Gingerbread baking in your family's kitchen during the holidays? I know I do. Take a bite into a spicy cookie that will send you soaring back to adolescence, coupled with a creamy vanilla ice cream. The inspiration? My pup Brody, a fan of The Blue Dog, who reminds me its oh k to be a kid once and a while.

I would love it if you would go and support me by getting my desert. It would be amazing for me if the turn out for my item was high. But not only that, I promise you will have a great meal at The Blue dog. To read my review of The Blue Dog, Click Here!

Thank you for everyone who made this possible, especially, Paul Scrivano, owner of The Blue Dog. And of course, his lovely staff who made me feel incredibly welcome yesterday while designing my item, with a big shout out to Luke and Ray.

Want to make the cookies yourself? Check it out here!

Location of The Blue Dog

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rich, Creamy Hot Chocolate

You know what I hate? Hot Chocolate packets.... Yuck. I mean honestly, who wants powdered fake chocolate and water to drink anyways.

If you are a packet person, let me save you. I give you the richest, most perfect, hot chocolate in the world. 4 simple ingredients, thick, delicious, and a perfect vessel for mini marshmallows.

The recipe below was made for my Christmas party, so it is done in a large batch. It is how my mom used to make it, with a little twist. If it is just you and the family, using some math you can cut this recipe down :)

2 cups heavy cream
3 cups 2% milk
8 heaping tbs dutch cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Mini Marshmallows, optional

This cocoa is simple, thick, and creamy... but also customizable! If you want a thinner cocoa, I say try 5 cups of whole milk instead. Also, if you want a richer chocolate flavor, add more cocoa. Not as much of a chocolate fan? Put a little less. Or how about wanting to spice things up?... add some cinnamon for a Mexican Hot Cocoa. This would be great to do with leftovers from the above recipe.

Start by heating a medium pot on low. Pour in the cream and milk. Heat for 3 minutes. You never want the temperature too high or you will burn the milk. Next, add the cocoa powder. Whisk the mixture a bit to start incorporating the chocolate.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Gingerbread Cookies

The smell of gingerbread baking is one of the best (!!!!!!) smells ever. I sometimes keep dough in my freezer so I can make cookies past the holidays because they are so good. My favorite gingerbread recipe is an adaption of this one: Big Soft Ginger Cookies. My variation makes this crunchy crust all over the cookie, but leaves a warm, soft, inside. You can make these as drop cookies, or refrigerate them for an hour to roll out and cut into shapes.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (if rolling out the cookies, add 1/4 cup more flour to the dough)
2 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
1 1/8 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar, separate 

Mulled Wine

I am dedicating this post to two amazing women who converted me into a mulled wine lover a few weeks ago. The thought of drinking hot red wine was a little odd to me. I do love sangria, so it wasn't so much the spicy factor, more the temperature the wine would be consumed at. Janene and Shannon have known each other forever, and I was blessed to go to UCLA with the both of them. Janene and I were roommates for two years. She is now studying to be a psychologist and is one of the brightest people I know. Shannon is currently studying at Le Cordon Blue culinary school, and is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen. I mean, their fridge alone contains the most amount of butter I have ever seen! Which is a great sign of true food lovers. And their Christmas gifts to each other usually consist of bacon or Costco size containers of hot sauce. I mean, how could you not love them. Shannon and Janene, this post goes out to you.

For this recipe, you can use good wine if you want. BUT... the best part about mulling the wine, is that you are adding flavor, so a cheaper wine will also work. Tonight I have a Christmas tree decorating party, and made this ahead of time for those people that want their wine cold. I also have 3 more bottles for tonight that I will heat and do on the spot for those people who are more adventurous.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sol y Luna

Sol Y Luna 
 19601 Ventura Blvd
Tarzana, CA 91336

I mentioned in my review on Mexicali that Ventura Boulevard has a bevy of places to eat that I have not yet discovered, and yet really want to. One of these places was Sol y Luna, which I have driven past many times, but not eaten at, stating each time "I want to go there!!!" 

Well I did on Friday. And it was so good they now probably have one of my favorite Mexican dishes of all time, the Macha plate. But I will get to that in a second.

Toasted Almond Banana Bread

With much sadness, I will be saying goodbye to many friends of mine in the football department within the next month. I hate to see so many of the people that brighten my day leaving UCLA Athletics. What better way to send them off than by making them a treat... of banana bread. This breakfast loaf - desert- #1 way to eat fruit- kind of food item is the homey comfort we all need.

*Recipe adapted from the Kona Inn Banana Bread in Fannie Farmer Cookbook*

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsps baking soda
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
4 ripe bananas, about 6-7 inches long
4 eggs
1 cup toasted almonds (pre-bought or you can toast them yourself)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour the loaf pan. Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mexicali in North Hollywood

The valley gets a bad rep sometimes, but it is an amazing place.Some of the stereotypes are true, but that goes without exception anywhere. I live in Sherman Oaks, and I love it. If you live in the valley, you know the awesomeness that is Ventura Boulevard. It spans all the way through the valley, and along the way, you can find amazing places to shop, eat, and explore. A lot of the time, when I don't know where I want to go eat on a night out, I just drive down the Boulevard. I always find somewhere new and absolutely delicious.

One of those places is Mexicali. From their atmosphere, to their late night happy hour, to their servers who are all pieces of eye candy, it is the place to be. I mean, who doesn't want to drink a pitcher of margaritas with their girlfriends while eyeing the view. You'd be lying to yourself if you said you didn't. And gentlemen, there are plenty of good looking ladies too.

I think by now, you all know about my addiction..... to cheese. Its incurable, insatiable, and downright sinful. My addiction brings me to Mexicali frequently for their Queso. Notice its not say Queso Dip... because it isn't a dip. It is a plate of 4 cheeses, melted together, broiled with jalapeno strips on top, that comes with quacamole, salsa, flour or corn tortillas, and chips. For $7 on their normal menu. Yes, it is a plate of melty, broiled cheese.... the cheese addict in me is drooling right now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roasted Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is one of those vegetables that can easily be transformed into a main dish in replacement of meat. Don't get me wrong, I love meat. BUT a well made vegetarian dish can be just as satisfying. This recipe is super simple, super delicious, and it perfect for a cold night.

1 Acorn Squash
4 tbs salted butter
olive oil
black pepper
garlic powder
seasoning salt (I use Tony's creole seasoning)
cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Get out a baking dish that has raised sides in case the squash need a little propping up. Take your squash and cut it in half. Gut it thoroughly. You want to make sure there are no seeds and no stringy parts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Department of Kinesiology in the CSULB Graduate Program in Sport Management

I GOT IN!!! That is right... I got the email with the big, old Congraulations in the first sentence.

I am on cloud nine... hard work really does pay off!

The Best Vegetable Quiche

So, I am allergic to egg whites. I know...

But my allergy is only a 2 out of a 4, meaning I won't die, but I may feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, eggs are one of my favorite things and I still eat them all the time because I just can't help myself. One of my favorite egg dishes is a good quiche. You don't want an overwhelming, dense, cheesy block. A quiche should have flavor and be light and fluffy.

For this dinner, I made quiche the main dish. Because why can't it be my night time star? If you want to add meat to this, it would also work. I suggest pork; bacon, ham, or pancetta. Make sure to cut down on the salt in the egg mixture if you are adding a salty, fatty meat.

This recipe is adapted from, Easy Broccoli Quiche.

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced (you really benefit from fresh garlic here)
1.5 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
1.5 cups diced tomatoes
1 unbaked puff pastry
1 1/2 cups rough chopped colby jack cheese (or mozzarella)
5 eggs, well beaten
1 cup 2 percent milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Bustle and Hustle

During this time of year, everything gets busier for me. UCLA Basketball season will end in April, giving me time to breathe. However, December also means holiday baking.

I like to make a lot of my gifts for coworkers and parents' of friends, which means recipes will be coming soon. Expect to find delicious sugar cookie recipes, a killer gingerbread, and one of my favorite holiday homemade gifts, chocolate balsamic vinegar. Unexpected but so delicious. I also wanted to try something I have been seeing online; hot chocolate on a stick/ in a spoon. These could make some amazing gifts for the gentlemen in my office.

Before I go, I wanted to share a video I took of Brody. I have bought this dog countless toys and things to play with. He does not play fetch. Will not nibble on his stuffed animal. He won't even drag around his squeaky toys. No, Brody instead stole the top of my turkey baster... and will not let it go. If I had known that was all it took, I would have gotten him a baster a long time ago. See the cuteness for yourself :)

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