"Mmm...bacon."- Homer Simpson

Sunday, August 29, 2010

One of my dear friends, Emily, has recently started a food blog about bacon. Bacon is one of my favorite foods and a guilty pleasure.

When I came across this recipe, I thought it would be a great addition to both our blogs.

For those of you who don't like bacon, you can substitute chopped pecans for the bacon. I haven't made this recipe yet. Perhaps I will once the weather cools down considerably.

This recipe is dedicated to all adventurous and curious foodies, bacon lovers, and dessert lovers.

Pumpkin Caramel Bars with Bacon

Makes 24 bars. Total time: 1 hour + cooling

For the bars:
  • 8 oz. bacon, diced
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)
 For the Frosting:
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Sea salt, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray.

Cook bacon in a saute pan over medium heat until crisp; drain on a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside. Reserve 2 Tbsp. drippings.

Whisk together pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, egg, melted butter, bacon drippings, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Stir in flour mixture and pecans, if using.

Spread pumpkin batter evenly into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick comes clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Boil 2 cups brown sugar, water, and a pinch of salt for the frosting in a large saucepan over high heat, 5 minutes, gently swirling occasionally to prevent scorching. Whisk in cream and butter pieces. (Mixture will bubble furiously; keep whisking.) Boil 2 minutes more.

Transfer caramel to the bowl of a stand mixer; whip on high speed until sides of bowl are cool to the touch and caramel is thick, 8-10 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add cream cheese, 1 cube at a time, until frosting is smooth. Frost cooled bars.

Finely chopped cooked bacon (or pecans) and sprinkle onto frosted bars with sea salt. Store bars in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

Recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine, October 2010, Issue 83.

Birthday calories don't count

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." ~James Beard

 Yesterday was my birthday. It was a time of reflection, gratitude, and of course, good food. Although my life is quite different now, I have different blessings and new friends. 

My parents came into town to visit me. The hubs was working so it was the three of us. We went to one of my favorite restaurants, Cheesecake Factory, where portions are huge and the menu is long. I was super excited to see more dishes added since my last visit. 

One of my new friends, Orange Blossom, wisely said at her own birthday party, "Birthday calories don't count". I wholeheartedly agree. I had fun looking at the menu both online and in-person. One of my absolute favorite appetizers is Ahi (Tuna) Tartare.

I'm not sure when I started enjoying this refreshing dish but I've been hooked ever since (pun intended).

I can sum up this great dish in this equation: Ahi + avocado = bliss.

They had some special items that weren't featured in the regular menu. I had this wonderful dish called Chicken Bellagio. It had parmesan crusted chicken, angel hair pasta in a cream and basil (?) sauce, topped with arugla and prosciutto. 

For dessert, I already had chosen my cheesecake: Wild Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake. It was light, smooth, creamy, and wonderful.

After my parents left, I decided to go to Nordstrom for some new makeup. I had just enough time to change into my new dress and heels.

I had invited several friends to an outdoor Mexican restaurant called Hacienda De Vega. I had discovered this restaurant online and decided it would be fun to try someplace new. It is a beautiful, tranquil place. 

My friend, Freesia, and I ordered Mango Mojito Margaritas were as fun to say as they were to drink. My other friends, Peony, and Orange Blossom, got a Strawberry Margarita, and a Mojito Clasico. 

After much (inner) debate, I had decided to try the Enchiladas Tlaxcala. I have to admit I was clueless about the pronunciation. Four years of high school Spanish doesn't quite cover foodie terms. The food was good although their tomatillo sauce was not mild in my opinion. I probably will try something else next time.

We had a great time, filled with stories, "me too"s, and laughter. 

All in all, it was a vast improvement over last year's disappointing dinner elsewhere.

San Fran Pics

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hi everyone,
    As promised here are the pictures to accompany my recent SF post.

Bay Bridge

Not sure what "neighborhood" this was

My Mint Bliss sundae from Ghiradelli. (Sorry, I'm not sure how to flip this pic around.) It was SO good!

Alcatraz Island/ Pier 39

Inside the Westfield San Francisco mall. The picture hardly does it justice.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

**I apologize for the lack of photos. As soon as my replacement USB cord comes, I'll post photos.

A few weeks ago, my best friend, Tulip, invited me on an impromptu road trip up to San Francisco with friends. She insisted that I go and would not take no for an answer. The trip would be about 3 days and she and I would not have to drive. Concerned about my finances, she made the very generous offer to pay for most of my food.

Finally out of excuses, I agreed. She said we would be on our own as the friends would be busy at a conference for the 2 days. San Francisco is a fantastic walking town. So, no heels for this trip. It was the first time ever that I had gone on a trip without an agenda or a lot of information. The only thing I knew was we were staying in a motel room in Berkeley and would be driving to the city.

Unable to plan as I typically would do, I felt a little lost. Tulip and I didn't have so much as a map or a clue of where we would go on our own. We were dropped off around the Moscone Conference Center and would make our way around. Although I was born in SF, I was not raised there. It's been over a decade since I had last been there. I also have only gone to see family and I would be at the mercy of their schedules and interests- busy and very predictable.

Tulip assured that we would be fine with her phone (as long as there was wi-fi) and asking the locals. (I definitely don't operate that way. But it worked out.) We decided to go ask a few locals about some places of interest to go within walking distance. Our first stop was the San Francisco mall. Bloomie's drew me in where I spied some truly beautiful (and very pricey) designer shoes. I had a Carrie Bradshaw moment when I saw the shoes- "Hello, lover".

One of the places someone had suggested was to go to Pier 39. We also heard about this wonderful cupcake place that we had to check out in or near Fisherman's Wharf. I'm not sure just how many miles it was from our Moscone starting place, but it was some serious hiking. We had munched on peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Before we reached Pier 39, I was starving.

I saw a cafe, Pier 23 Cafe, which was along the water. We decided to hang out there and give our tired feet a rest. I decided to order a cup of their New England Clam Chowder. Honestly, that has to be one of the most common and often disappointing dishes for me in restaurants. I have rarely eaten a remarkable clam chowder. Tulip confessed that she had never tried the soup before. I offered her first bite. She said it was ok. I agreed, ok but not outstanding.
I ordered the Ensenada Style Crispy Fish Tacos. It was decent but a bit disappointing. I probably should have ordered the Grilled Chicken & Bacon Sandwich. Full but disappointed, we trekked over to Pier 39 and then inquired about this cupcake place.

We had discovered a fun indoor market where free samples were everywhere. Most of the samples were delicious except for one exceptionally strong and unpleasant olive oil. There was no sign of the mysterious cupcake place. No one had heard of it and we had asked several people along the way.

We had fun roaming around in Fisherman's Wharf. We decided to go walk to the famed Ghiradelli Ice Cream Shop. Chocolate heaven!  I spotted a very cute tea shop, Crown and Crumpet. If I had known about the tea shop earlier, I might have been able to get us a reservation for their light tea. Perhaps another time.
We saw a different cupcake place, Kara's Cupcakes. However, not only was it empty, it was expensive. Then we saw a long line and figured it was Ghiradelli. While we were in line, we spotted an abandoned ice cream sundae. A hungry pigeon was having fun sampling the ice cream.

We finally got close enough to peruse the menu. I always have a hard time with desserts. I was torn between the Cookie Bottom Sundae or the Mint Bliss. Tulip is partial to berries in her ice cream and so she chose the Very Berry Sundae. The Mint Bliss consists of: "one scoop each of mint chip ice cream and chocolate ice cream, topped with freshly homemade dark chocolate hot fudge, whipped cream and an Intense DarkTM Midnight Reverie® 86% chocolate".
The Very Berry Sundae had "Strawberry cheesecake ice cream topped with sliced strawberries, under a layer of vanilla ice cream with blueberry topping, whipped cream, chocolate-covered blueberries and finished
with a homemade, chocolate-dipped waffle roll".
Mine was flawless, decadent, and amazing. I had a sample of her sundae. It was almost perfect, save for the odd chocolate-covered blueberries. Fresh blueberries would have been tastier.

Like most women, we figured we had walked off our calories and then some. It was already late afternoon and we had to head back to Moscone. We never did find the cupcake place. We ended up going back to Moscone by passing by Chinatown and Little Italy.  Too bad we were full from the ice cream. I happen to love Chinese food and Italian food.

We met up with our friends. Tulip wanted to take us to the Belgian fry place that she went to 5 years ago. I was excited by the idea of Belgian fries with different dipping sauces. It's called Frjtz. It was also over an hour walk from Moscone. My poor legs, feet, and back truly ached but I obediently went along for the long walk. Our friends said we would take the BART back to the car. Turns out it would take approximately 12 minutes to get back.

Now, the fries were truly delicious. I ordered a large order of fries with pesto mayo and white truffle artichoke ketchup. Tulip is a spice fiend so she had to ask what were the 2 hottest sauces: jalapeno ketchup and chipotle remoulade. Choosing the sauces was somewhat of a challenge. These were the sauces to choose from:
Pesto mayo
Curry ketchup
Thai chili ketchup
Ginger Orange mayo
Kalamata ketchup
Creamy Wasabi mayo
Parmesan peppercorn ranch
Jalapeno ketchup
Chipotle remoulade
White truffle artichoke ketchup
Bacon mayo
Grilled eggplant mayo
Strawberry mustard
Miso mayo
Spicy yogurt peanut
Balsamic mayo
Smokey honey mustard
Roasted pepper mayo
Ponzu ketchup
Tamarind cashew ketchup

Frjtz had a wide menu: mussels, sandwiches, crepes (savory and sweet), burgers, and salads. If I ever get to go back, I'm getting a crepe. We headed over to the BART station and headed back to Berkeley.

The next day, Tulip and I were in no mood for long hikes. We returned back to the SF mall and hung out in their food court. I have to say that I am highly impressed with their food court, very clean, gourmet, and impressive. We saw a special for Fish & Chips for $5. SF is an expensive town with cheaper meals hovering around $10 and up. The eatery is called Catch Isle. It was bright, clean, sleek, modern, and friendly. I was expecting a paper boat filled with 2 pieces of fish and a handful of fries. What we got was a large plate covered with crisp skinny fries, two large beautifully golden fried fish, and a paper basket of cole slaw and a paper cup of tartar sauce. It was truly a glorious meal. I prefer my cole slaw to be more mayo based than vinegar based (Catch Isle's version) but it was still good. It was actually the best seafood dish I had there and the cheapest.

Before we left the mall, Tulip wanted to surprise her guy, Apollo, with gourmet chocolate. Apollo loves root beer. Cocoa Bella Chocolates happen to have root beer chocolate. It's caramel infused with root beer in dark chocolate. Artisan chocolates are pricey but exquisite. If I had extra money, I would have bought some fleur de sel caramel, passion fruit, Laderach cappuccino, Marquise de Sevigne Hazelnut Champignon (mushroom), Tarte Tatin (French apple pie), etc.

We ended up having a late-night dinner in Livermore at Strings Italian Cafe. I ordered spaghetti and meatballs as it was one of the cheaper dinner items. I couldn't believe I only got 2 large meatballs. I fell asleep on the way back.

I hope that I will get to return to San Francisco soon, only this time with an itinerary and BART fare.

Cookbooks I Love- Part 2

Monday, April 19, 2010

I don't own any of these but I would like to someday. For now, I can always check them out at my local library.

1. How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Bittman. I seriously believe that everyone should have this book. It has 2,000 recipes ranging from basics (e.g. Cinnamon Toast, Grilled Cheese) to the complex (e.g. pie crusts from scratch,  preparing lobster, etc.). The recipes tell you how many servings, how long to take, and an easy-to-follow step-by-step approach. Illustrations are few but very helpful. He also includes variations on basic recipes, like sandwiches, fried chicken.

2. Emeril 20-40-60: Fresh Food Fast by Emeril Lagasse. I think this book is one of his best. There are numerous dishes divided up to how long it will take to prepare, start to finish. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many dishes were in the 20 minute section. I had posted a 20 minute recipe in my last blog, the PB and Chocolate Chip cookies. Here are some sample dishes: Fish En Papillote, Bruschetta, Pasta Primavera, Steak Au Poivre, Orange, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Salad, Shrimp Etouffe, and Trout a La Meuniere.
I think this book would resonate well with home cooks.

3. Rose's Heavenly Cakes by Rose Levy Beranbaum. If you ever wanted to learn how to make beautiful and delicious cakes from scratch, take a look at this book. There are some tempting cakes: Heavenly Coconut Seduction Cake, Golden Lemon Almond Cake, and Devil's Food Cake with Midnight Ganache to Orange-Glow Chiffon Layer Cake, Mud Turtle Cupcakes, and Deep Chocolate Passion Wedding Cake. I consider this book great for intermediate to advanced bakers. I consider myself a novice cake baker so it'll be a little while before I feel like I can tackle on one of these recipes.

4. Martha Stewart's Cupcakes by Martha Stewart. The domestic diva has done it again. Who knew that there could be 175 ideas and recipes on cupcakes? These recipes are all from scratch (it is Martha, after all). But not terribly intimidating for home cooks. I plan on making several of these recipe later in the year. Her book is divided into 4 sections. Her book has more traditional cupcakes, such as Chocolate Chip, Carrot Cake, and Red Velvet to lesser-known cupcakes, Stout Cupcakes (Guinness in cupcakes? Can't wait!) and Snickerdoodle Cupcakes.

5. Cake Mix Cookies by Camilla V. Saulsbury. I adore Ms. Saulsbury's recipes. Each one of her books has a lot of helpful tips and information about baking/cooking. Each one of the recipes requires a standard 18.25-ounce box of cake mix with some embellishments (e.g. chocolate chips, nuts, etc.). There are more than 175 recipes in this book. She has her book divided into several sections: drop cookies, bar cookies, shaped and filled cookies. The recipes are straightforward and easy-to-follow. A must for novice bakers or anyone who wants great cookies fast.

6. The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. My mom has this book and she's a pro at making cakes from scratch. But every now and then, you want to make a great cake without all the fuss. I have made several cakes from this book and no one would even guess that the cakes were not made from scratch! My hubby's personal favorite from this book is the Boston Cream Pie Cake. Here are some other cakes: Deeply Chocolate Almond Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, Banana Cake with Quick Caramel Frosting, and Lemon Buttermilk Poppy Seed Cake.

7. Brownie Mix Bliss by Camilla V. Saulsbury. Similar to the cake mix cookie book, you just need a regular box of brownie mix. The book ranges from sophisticated biscotti, soufflé cakes, madeleines, and cheesecakes to nostalgic drop cookies ice cream novelties, gooey layered bar cookies, etc.

8. America's Most Wanted Recipes by Ron Douglas. If you ever wanted to have some restaurant meals for a fraction of the cost at home, try this book out. There are over 200 recipes from 57 of popular American restaurants: Benihana, The Cheesecake Factory, KFC, Olive Garden, P.F. Chang, Red Lobster, and Outback Steakhouse. The recipes are easy-to-follow, many are on one page. Personally, I can't wait to make Benihana's fried rice.

I may never buy cookies again

Friday, April 16, 2010

I am working on a couple food blog projects. One book that I picked up from the library and will be discussing in a future blog is Emeril's 20-40-60 Fresh Food Fast book.

I noticed in the 20 minutes or less section there was a recipe for peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies. Cookies from scratch in 20 minutes?! I was skeptical but decided to give it a try today.

Here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 10 minutes, Total: 15 minutes

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Position two oven racks in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  3. Divide the dough into 24 portions, about 1 heaping tablespoon each. Roll each portion between your hands to form a smooth bowl. Place the balls of dough on ungreased cookie sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. You should get about 12 cookies per sheet. Using a fork, press on the dough in two directions to form a crosshatch pattern.
  4. Bake the cookies, rotating the sheets between oven racks and turning them back to front midway, until the cookies are puffed and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool on the sheets. Then remove them with a metal spatula.
About 24 cookies

I actually didn't have light brown sugar so I looked up what substitutes. Apparently, you can use dark brown sugar and granulated sugar. I realize now that I also forgot to beat the egg separately before incorporating it into the mix.

Maybe this is why I ended up with 18 cookies rather than 24. Oh well. I had a few and they were so good!

I wonder if Emeril has other easy cookie recipes. If I can find more easy peasy cookie recipes, I may never buy cookies again.

Upcoming projects

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hi readers,
     I have a few blog projects that I'm currently working on. I went to the library today and got lots of great cookbooks for research.

New blog layout

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hope you like the new layout. I felt it was time for a little change.

Prepping for a Potluck

My personal life has been chaos so I apologize for the lack of recent updates this year. Can I just say that, so far, 2010, has NOT been my year?

My temp job ended recently so I find myself with the challenges of A) finding a new job, and B) what to do with my ample free time.

As I continue to work on the job, I decided to start cooking again. It has been months since I have really cooked or baked except for my cheesecake debacle. My last job was over 20 miles away from home and I would spend 2 hours a day driving to and from work. This, as you can imagine, leaves little energy and time for home-cooked meals.

Enter Trader Joe's. What did I do before I rediscovered them?

Last week, I paid a visit to a friend and former co-worker, Iris. Iris is also a fellow foodie and baker. We bonded quickly over lunches out of the office together. She's still looking for work as well.

Tulip's potluck had me in a dilemma. What on earth was I going to bring to the potluck? Even though Tulip is one of my biggest culinary fans, it's different cooking something for complete strangers. Potlucks are a special challenge: food needs to be in larger quantities and portable.

I narrowed down my choices to either an appetizer or a dessert. I figured, why not a cake?
Iris gave me a chocolate cake recipe to try.

I had fun making the cake although I need to learn how to frost a cake properly. You can tell it was homemade, huh?

I also need to learn how to take good food pics. Any food stylists and food photographers out there- please feel free to share some tips with me!

My hubby came for a visit from a job in Fresno. I gave him about half of the cake to take with him. He really enjoyed it and said that it was the best thing he's eaten in months. (Of course, since he's been on the road, he's been eating fast food. So I have to take that comment with a little grain of salt.)

I am looking forward to making this cake again Friday night and frost it on Saturday before the potluck.

Cooking with a friend

Monday, February 8, 2010

Happy 2010! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season. Can't believe it's February already.
My friend, Begonia, had purchased a new house a few months ago. She admitted she's not much of a baker (*gasp!*) and found a recipe for a dessert that she wanted help in making. I think what she meant was I'll help by providing the use of my kitchen. I went over there on Saturday.

The recipe sounded unusual but in a good way,
Coconut-sweet potato cheesecake. It sounded fairly ambitious with a comment from a newspaper reporter who attempted this recipe. I found the suggestion of doubling the crust to be very helpful.

Prep time: 1 hour, 10 minutes; cook time: 2 hours. Not in our experience! Cooking in someone else's kitchen is always a challenge. I love her kitchen but I would have to bring over a lot more things.

The recipe has 28 ingredients, a few were repeated: butter, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon juice. The only ingredient I wasn't familiar with is the Coco Lopez, which is sweetened cream of coconut. I am sure they keep in the liquor section of grocery stores but Begonia had to go to BevMo for a can.

It would have been nice if I had a food processor for the sweet potatoes. We used yams instead. The recipe didn't make any distinction and I wish the recipe author had. I learned last year that there is definitely a difference between a sweet potato and a yam.... but I digress.
I had the idea of using a blender to puree the yams. However, several of her kitchen outlets weren't working. Begonia said her blender was old. She went to her neighbor's house and borrowed one. This blender didn't work either.

We were able to get the blender going although I decided not to use it but use a potato masher instead. I knew that it would not be the beautifully smooth puree as described in the recipe. My yams were going to be "rustic". I forgot to bring my hand mixer. Begonia didn't own one. We went to Target in hopes of finding a decent one that was cheap which we did.

About twenty minutes later, I am ready to move on to the filling. We had fun crushing (cinnamon) graham cracker crumbs in Ziploc bags. The crust was the only part of the recipe that I didn't struggle with. This was not my first cheesecake but I had to re-read the recipe at least 3 times. The crust had to be chilled for exactly 30 minutes.

Now, here comes the fun part. "
For filling: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, ricotta cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add cream of coconut, lemon juice, lemon peel and vanilla; beat until smooth. Fold in 1 cup flaked coconut and sweet potato mixture. Pour filling into prepared pan."

Now, Begonia didn't have a mixing bowl or anything close. So channeling my inner Iron Chef, I improved with the bowls that she had. I could not use the proper speed (4 was recommended on the blender). I had to use the lowest setting and immediately the batter started splattering. I had to use the blender in quick spurts and mix the batter with a wooden spoon.

I had started this project around 4:10 or so. I believe it was around 6 when the cheesecake was put in the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes. We were starving by the time the cheesecake was done and went to get food and come back. The cheesecake still looked a little raw in the center but I know cheesecakes tend to do that. It was actually 'set' in the center when we returned.
I didn't get to eat the cheesecake Saturday night. The recipe stated that the cheesecake needed to chill overnight. So I went back yesterday afternoon. I had to top off the cheesecake with toasted coconut. (You can use a toaster oven or oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or so, frequently stirring. When it's golden brown and fragrant, it's done.)

As you can see from the first picture, my cheesecake was not flawless. I had a crack in there and I will have to ask my mom to figure out what happened. (Then again, with as many mishaps as we experienced, I am thankful that it turned out well at all.)

The second picture has the toasted coconut topping. Begonia promised the neighbor who lent us the blender a piece. He came over with his 4 year old son and they both had slices. I hope he wasn't just being polite because he ate the whole slice and said how much he liked it.

All About the Food Copyright © 2009 Designed by Ipietoon Blogger Template for Bie Blogger Template Vector by DaPino