Chai pumpkin bread with Chai tea icing

While some wait all year for the warm tastes of nutmeg and pumpkin, I get exhausted by the pumpkin spice everything on fall everything, and everything food in fall. However, I too drank the pumpkin Kool-Aid and embraced the season I like the least–my ‘Making peace with fall’ entry explains.

This Chai pumpkin bread is my contribution to the pumpkin everything marathon 2017. It’s so good that I’ll consider baking this again…in summer. And this Chai tea icing is everything! Everything!

Pumpkin bread with Chai tea icing

Ingredients

For the bread

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup brewed chai tea (brew 2 bags on one cup of water to be concentrate)

For the icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brewed chai tea
  • 1 drop of vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Start by brewing 2 bags of Chai tea on 1 cup of water. Reserve.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter/baking spray a 9X5 loaf pan.
  3. Stir together sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin, and Chai tea in that order.
  4. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add dry ingredients into wet mixture slowly.
  5. Place batter in the loaf pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on baking rack.

For the icing

  1. In a bowl whisk together the powdered sugar, Chai tea, and vanilla. Add some milk to smooth mix up if necessary. Drizzle the glaze over the top, slice and serve.

 

 

7UP lemon cake recipe

Baking is usually not fun for me, but when my daughter asked to bake something fun together I caved in. It was her free afternoon Friday and she wanted to bake with me. No musical.ly. No YouTube. The kid wanted mom and daughter bake time!

So, I started scrolling the baking recipe index in that corner of my brain that I don’t normally go to very often. What was that soda cake? Fanta or Coke cake? She doesn’t like Coke. Or Fanta. Wait, was it 7Up? Yeah…it was. We are making 7Up cake! Fun enough, right?

Now, I’m not a big fan of making things ‘not from scratch’ but when it comes to baking, the easier the better. This recipe is definitely easy, quick and so tasty you forget all the artificial flavors and ‘who knows what’ ingredients in a cake box, pudding box and 7Up alone. But I figured we eat pretty healthy around here so opening a box once in a while won’t kill us. We did it. It was fun and pretty delicious.

7UP lemon cake

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 1 box of yellow cake (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 box of lemon pudding 4oz
  • 3/4 cup 7UP
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil

For the icing

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar (for thicker icing use 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon 7UP
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F degrees.
  2. Spray 10-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray (I used a bundt cake pan)
  3. Combine all the cake wet ingredients thoroughly than ad cake+pudding mix.
  4. Mix by hand or at low speed with a mixer until fully combined.
  5. Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for about 40-50 minutes
  6. Let it cool off completely before removing cake from the pan

Icing

  1. In a small bowl, combine sugar and 7UP. I made the icing a bit runny so it would further moist the cake. For thicker icing use an extra cup of confectioner's sugar.
  2. Add milk in little by little until you've reached desired consistency.
  3. Pour icing over cake and serve.

Roasted Brussels sprouts recipe

This is how you clean up Brussels sprouts bad reputation. Roast them with some sage infused brown butter, add chopped hazelnuts, finish with a drizzle of honey. There you have it! Crunchy, nutty, salty and sweet, full of texture and flavor!

Start by browning the butter. Melt it slowly over medium heat swirling occasionally to brown it evenly. When the butter starts to foam and turn tan throw the sage in. Let butter turn brown lightly and remove.

Dress the sprouts with the brown butter, salt, pepper, and chopped hazelnuts and they are ready to roast.

Roast at 400F for 15 minutes. Toss them around halfway. Place it on a serving plate. Drizzle with honey. Heaven!

Roasted Brussels sprouts with sage infused brown butter, hazelnuts and honey

  • Prep Time: 30m
  • Cook Time: 15m

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts slightly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 small leaves of fresh sage (the more you like sage the more you can add)
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Clean and trim Brussels, then halve them. If they are small you can leave them whole. Place Brussels sprouts and chopped hazelnuts in a mixing bowl.
  2. Place butter on a fry pan and brown it+infuse with sage as per blog post.
  3. Add butter to Brussels and hazelnuts, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place Brussels on a baking sheet and roast for about 12-15 minutes minutes, tossing them halfway to roast evenly.
  5. Once Brussels are tender and lightly toasted remove from the oven, place in a serving plate/bowl and drizzle with honey. Add salt or pepper to taste.

Venice Biennale: Viva la arte Viva

As if Venice isn’t mesmerizing enough, it also holds the Biennale known as the ‘Olympics of the art world’, showcasing the work of what seems thousands of international contemporary artists. Art porn at its best in the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s mind-blowing even for those who don’t dig art.

Here is a glimpse of what we saw at the 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

Lee Mingwei; The mending project. The art project started after 9/11 when the artist used mending as a way to transform negative into something positive. Mingwei invites visitors to bring in a damaged clothing item who the artist himself or a volunteer repairs with random colorful threads.

Martin Cordiano; Common Places. I think this shows some sort of space and volume relationship or conflict, but all I could think is how much I wanted to touch these giant balls of chalk.

Maha Malluh; Food for Thought “Amma Baad”  From far away this work looks as if it was made with tiles, but once you get closer you can see the 2,400 colorful audio tapes arranged in a way to spell the Arabic words for temptation, forbidden and struggle. Apparently, those are religious tapes, made for women by religious leaders and containing speeches on how women should act. 

Mind-blowing hyperrealist sculpture by Carole A. Feuerman

Davenport “Giardini Colourfull”

Zilia Sánchez, Las Troyanas is installed in the Dionysian section of the Arsenale, a space dedicated to celebrating the female body and its sexuality.

Werken by Bernardo Oyarzun at the Chile pavilion. More than 1,000 Mapuche kollong masks used in Chilean ceremonies.

No idea who this was but it was all about perspective and it was super cool.

This was complicated, grotesque, and disturbing to me. E.T. meets The Martian at Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi and Adelita Husni-Bey.

“Horse problem” by Argentinian artist Claudia Fontes. Notice the rock looking sculptures in the floor around and behind the main piece. One of my kids interpreted them as being horse poop.

Italy family trip: Some of our favorite eats

Rome

Avoid tourist menus, they say. It was definitely easier to stick around the big landmarks and eat in the historical center, but our favorite places were away from the multitudes where “menu turistico” is considered an abomination.

We found out about the Testaccio area the day before we left Rome and we literally went to town. Testaccio is a foodie’s dream where you come to eat real Roman food, with real Rome locals, made by real Romans.

Links: Pasticceria Barberini in Testaccio, Gelateria Millenium, Mordi e Vai.

Venice

Venice is the most beautiful, picturesque and unique place I’ve ever seen. It’s magical and mesmerizing. I heard about the Venetian rat-swimmers, the rotten smells of the canals and the mediocre overpriced food. All myths, except for the food.

We were deliberately ripped off almost everywhere–but I didn’t care. Venice is Venice. Even still, we managed to eat some traditional specialties and have some euros left to spare on gelato.

Links: Trattoria alla Madonna, Gelatoteca Suso

Florence

Florence is simply beautiful. The art. The Duomo. The history. The food. It seems practically impossible to have bad food in Florence. Maybe we got lucky–which makes me love Florence even more– because anywhere the tourists outnumber the locals the odds are stacked against you.

My short love affair with Florence started at first bite. Call me crazy but all the Michelangelos and Boticellis had nothing on the Fiorentine food.

Link: Acqua al 2

Somedays we were just too tired, too hot, too cranky and we ate dinner in our Airbnb home! Shopping local ingredients and prepping some of our meals was one of the highlights of this trip to me. Sure Italy was memorable but nothing made me happier than sitting at the dinner table after an adventurous day, sharing memories and food with the people I love the most!

Italy family trip: Highlights of a dream

As I sit here, scrolling through thousands of pictures from our trip to Italy, I feel like it was all just a dream. Fourteen days that lasted a second. In a blink of an eye. I want to go back and do it all over. I want the tastes, smells, foot blisters, curiosity and magic of all again and again.

I feel this family trip deserves a series of posts. The food alone can be anything from a love letter to a novel—and I want to write both in half-ass Italian.  Beyond words, it was a pretty visual trip. Here are some of the highlights:

 

Summer Eats: Almond Romesco Pasta Salad

If you’ve never tried a romesco sauce, you haven’t lived yet.  This smoky-garlicky-peppery sauce can be put on basically everything: toast, chicken, roasted potatoes, sandwiches, pizza and pasta!

This romesco pasta salad is one of our family favorites — a perfect summer’s eat!  It’s pretty easy to make (see recipe below) and it can be even easier if you ditch the oven heat and substitute roasted peppers for one small jar of roasted peppers. It tastes even better when eaten ‘al fresco’!

Almond Romesco Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 medium red bell peppers (roast it with 1 tbsp of olive oil for 10 minutes at 400F)
  • 1/2 cup no skin almonds (I used salted/roasted marcona almonds)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (I used Spanish sweet pimenton)
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pound medium pasta shells
  • 1 10oz package fresh baby spinach

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions but shorten 2-3 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile add all remaining ingredients except the spinach to a blender or food processor. Purée until smooth. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Place spinach on a large bowl. Drain the pasta well and place it over the spinach, turning it with a drizzled of olive oil in order to wilt it.
  4. Add the romesco sauce and toss it well.
  5. Refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes before serving. If you have any leftovers store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Smorgasburg LA for Mother’s Day

I can’t believe it took me so long to get to Smorgasburg but it finally happened, and ON Mother’s Day! This little piece of foodie heaven has been in LA since last summer and all I’ve done since then is drool over their Instagram pictures, dreaming of the day I’d have a bite of this place.

It was the perfect experience gift for this mom! Yup…I ate like a mother and can’t wait to do it again. No regrets. No shame. Only a thankful heart and expanded waist.

My orders, in order of consumption.

Caramelized bacon and avocado musubi from Mama Musubi.

Polar Berry Club from Donut FriendLemon glaze, fresh mixed berries, and mint on top of a traditional donut.

Empanadilla de Camarones from The Ricans Food; deep fried Puerto Rican turnover that reminded me so much of Brazilian pasteis.

I can’t even describe correctly all that it’s going on in this slush from Lade Slush Co. Basil watermelon pulp topped with 1/2 lemonade and 1/2 mint tea slushy. It was the best and most enjoyable brain freeze I ever had!

When I though I couldn’t handle anymore food there was Sticky Rice on Wheels and I somehow manage to eat this mango & coconut sticky rice treat.

And as I was on the verge of food comatose, I also tried small bites of my family orders of dumplings, fried chicken, weird tasting soda in a jar, and mandu–because it’s crucial that you try this head size Korean dumplings!

I think you should try ‘hard’ to check out Smorgasburg LA. Come hungry and leave guilt behind. Bring the kiddos but leave the fido–no pets allowed. They are open every Sunday from 10am-4pm. They offer 2 hrs of free parking. Most vendors accept credit cards but bring some cash too. New vendors are added frequently, so check their Instagram for updates.

Pear Mint Chardonnay Sorbet

Need I say more? It’s my favorite fruit paired with wine in a dessert form. It’s delicate, refreshing and a little boozy!

It was my first time making this so I based my proportions on basic sorbet recipes. I think I could’ve used one more pear–but who knows? Maybe it’s just my pear obsession talking! I went with organic green anjou pears but any pear will do.

I kept the skin on to get the most flavor and some color out of the pears. They were so ripe that it took less than 5 minutes for them to cook.

The most labored part of this recipe was straining the ingredients. I used a super fine mesh strainer–not the best choice. It took a while and the idea of throwing it all in the blender crossed my mind. Note to self and to you: use a strainer with larger perforation.

I used a buttery and slightly citrus Chardonnay to balance the sweet–Slow Press Chardonnay 2014 found at Costco for under 12 dollars.

 When using a ice-cream maker is important to let the mixture cool down–about 45 minutes in the fridge. If you don’t have a ice-cream machine you still can make this by placing it in the freezer and steering it every so often until it’s smooth–about every 15 minutes for hours and hours and hours. You can either go get a ice-cream machine (trust me, it’s worth it!) or you can sip on the leftover wine to help you cope with the the 132 trips you’re about to make to the fridge!

Pear Mint Chardonnay Sorbet

This Pear Mint Chardonnay Sorbet is delicate enough to be a palate cleanser in between courses and also refreshingly decadent to be served as dessert. Oh also remember: For adults ONLY!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium pears-peels on
  • 1 cup water (preferably filtered or distilled bottled)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 medium mint leaves chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat water, sugar, and pears in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat to a low boil, then reduce heat to low, partially cover pan, and gently simmer until pears are very tender, 5 minutes. Mash mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or large measuring cup. Stir in wine and salt. Let cool off in the fridge for about 45 minutes. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Add mint when sorbet is forming. If you don't have a ice cream maker keep the mixture in a 4 cup measure cup in the freezer and stir every 10-15 minutes until frozen (see blog entry for details) Store sorbet in an airtight container. Enjoy it often!

From Root to Leaf: Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Carrot Top Chimichurri

Why carrot tops are not eaten in our country has been a mystery to me. I grew up eating them in soups, stews and who knows what else. I was not a fan, but I ate them. A lot! And contrary to what some people may think, carrot tops aren’t toxic. I’m happy I lived to tell you about it!

Now, carrot tops texture and strong flavor may be a challenge to some people’s palates. It’s not the kind of greens I would use on a plain salad. However, when used as a herb–such as parsley or cilantro–it can add texture and flavor to any dish.

There are plenty of carrot top chimichurri recipes out there. All are pretty much the same with slight variations. Is what you do with your chimichurri that matters most. And because I believe on ‘what grows together goes together’, I topped roasted rainbow carrots with it. It tasted so good. Perfect combination of sweet, smoky and tangy flavors.


Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Carrot Top Chimichurri
 
Author:
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch of medium rainbow carrots
  • 1 cup carrot tops, chopped fine
  • ½ cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (can be replaced by 1 teaspoon of dry oregano)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 small shallot minced (can be replaced with regular or purple onions. Approximately 2 tablespoons)
  • ½ teaspoon of chili garlic sauce (optional)
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Some fresh ground pepper
Instructions
  1. For the carrots: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the green top and reserve for the Chimichurri. Wash and peel the carrots. Place them on a baking sheet. Toss the carrots with some olive oil and salt. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender.
  2. For the Chimichurri sauce: Wash and dry your carrot tops well before chopping them as they tend to have lots of dirt. Combine all the ingredients in the order they appear leaving the vinegar and olive oil for less. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Notes
Serve with roasted carrots, toasted bread, or over grilled flank steak.