Saturday, June 30, 2012

Savory Bread Pudding with Aged Gouda & Cheddar Cheese, Plus a Sun-Dried Tomato Giveaway

This past weekend I was lucky enough to have my brother come to Los Angeles for a brief visit after graduating from University of Oregon with his Bachelor's degree. Words cannot express how proud I am of him, especially since, these past few years, he has been balancing school with a part-time job and his blossoming music career. It was an accomplishment indeed.

And an accomplishment that did not go unrewarded, as is evidenced by this pile of warm, cheesy, bread. I wanted to make something simple since he was only in town for a week and I didn't want to spend the whole day in the kitchen instead of spending time with him. I had some beautiful sun-dried tomatoes from the Mooney family farm since I wanted to do a giveaway with them and they sent me some products to sample as a part of it. So I decided to use the bright red slices in a quick and savory Bread Pudding. Using ingredients I had around the apartment, I grated the cheese until I went into a zen-like trance and then tossed everything into a pot and baked it in the oven. Easy peasy. And, it was quite tasty too. But how could soft cheesy bread with sausage bits and herbs not be?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cherry Jam with Honey, Black Pepper, and Orange Blossom

While Jeremy was out of town a few weekends ago I went on a cherry-picking adventure with my friend Amanda (the author from the Buttered Rum Pirate Cupcakes post). We drove a little over an hour outside of the city to the quaint little town of Leona Valley, a hot and dry place dotted with about a dozen different cherry orchards on either side of the main street. Neither of us had ever been cherry-picking before, nor had we seen a cherry tree up close, so it was quite a new experience, especially when we learned that tiny ants liked to crawl on the branches, and that our short Greek arms were not meant to reach the ripest cherries up on the high branches at the tops of the trees. Luckily, Greek ladies are also quite clever, and we quickly learned that the branches were very flexible and could be pulled down so that the ripest cherries were within our grasp. So we left the cherry orchards with a bag of cherries each and a few already in our stomachs (I can never keep myself from eating some of the fruit while I'm picking it, no matter how un-hygienic it might be).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Afternoon on the Barbie: Grilled Jalepeno Poppers with Cheddar Cheese & Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Brown Sugar Peaches with Cinnamon & Vanilla Ice Cream, Plus a Giveaway!

Jeremy was out of town this past weekend, leaving me to kick around the apartment all alone. And after some thorough kicking took place, I decided to do something productive. And that productive thing was grilling. The last time I grilled was my first time doing it *mostly* by myself, I still had Jeremy help me start the coals since I had the hardest time getting them to light and was afraid of handling lighter fluid. But now that he was gone the true test of my grilling competence would begin. I used these coals from home depot which lit like a charm (hurray for coals pre-soaked in lighter fluid!) and when I made the Jalepeno Poppers I tossed some of these apple wood smoking chips (got them at home depot too) onto the hot coals which gave them a rich and intense smoky flavor. I was also particularly excited to get grilling so I could test out my sleek new grilling tools from The branch skewer proved to be perfect for skewering the Jalepeno Poppers and cooking them over the coals, and it was amazing to have a pair of grilling tongs that were actually sturdy and durable, unlike the flimsy thin pair I had been using before. It made grilling a more pleasant and simple experience when I wasn't having food items accidentally slip out of the grasp of my tongs and onto the grass. Hurray for quality!

The Jalepeno Poppers were terribly addicting. Spicy, smokey, cheesy, and with a nice fluffy texture inside from the garlic mashed potato flakes. But, I wanted something sweet to finish off with, so I plodded ahead and gathered what sweet ingredients I had handy. Peaches, honey, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Nice and simple ingredients that gained a good deal of complexity when they were cooked over the grill. Sweet, warm, soft inside, a hint of crispness on the skins, and a slightly smokey tang from the charcoal. Top it off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, allow it to melt for a few seconds, and you've got a pretty amazing summer dessert. I wish you all the best of luck with your grilling endeavors and hope you cherish the smokey flavors of the grill while the season lasts!

The wonderful people over at have offered to giveaway a set of grilling tools to one of you as well! To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below about the barbeque dish what you would make with the grilling tools. For additional entries you can:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pie Pops & A Shabby Apple Giveaway

I saw pie pops for the first time about a year ago on a wedding blog; someone had them out on their dessert table at their country-chic wedding and they were, simply put, adorable. My heart kind of melted just looking at them. So at that point I knew I wanted to have them at my wedding as a fun and unique treat, but have been putting off actually experimenting with making them up until now. All the wedding planning I've been doing lately renewed my vigor and I finally made a list of all the tools I needed, ordered them all, and then spent a couple hours putting it all together. I bought linzer cookie cutters to use for the pops because I loved the idea of having a little peek-a-boo into the flavor of the pie, and especially having the fruit shape on the outside match the filling on the inside. I got a lattice cutter too, which was tricky to use at first but eventually I got the hang of it (I write about my conundrums and advice when dealing with it in the recipe below). I kept it simple on my first attempt and used store-bought jams as filling, but I've been daydreaming about other fun fillings to make for the big day, like lemon curd with a small marshmallow to make a lemon meringue pie, or pumpkin butter with a cream cheese smear for pumpkin cheesecake...That's part of what I love about these, the creativity that they allow you is almost endless. And the other part I love is that they're delicious. Seriously. Delicious. This is my favorite crust recipe, rich without being too buttery, not too soft, and that hint of nutmeg adds a soft spiced flavor that you appreciate, but wouldn't be able to identify because of its subtlety. I hope you have as much fun eating (and staring at) these as I did.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Vanilla Rice Pudding with a Strawberry, Balsamic, & Rhubarb Compote

After a cloudy and relaxing nine day stretch in Oregon, I touched backed down in Los Angeles on Monday morning. While up north, I went to a wedding of a close friend for the first time, got a lot of my own wedding planning done, and made this dreamy little number. I'd hadn't tried rhubarb until very recently (lame, I know), and when I did I fell in love with its tart flavor, beautiful crimson coloring, and the way it gently complements sugars and fruits. I decided to make a simple vanilla rice pudding using an old Greek rice pudding recipe my parents have, and boiled up a compote of rhubarb, strawberries, and balsamic vinegar to top it off with. The complexity of the fruit and balsamic balanced out the rich and creamy pudding very nicely, and ended up making me eat a good deal more sugar and whole milk than I probably should have. But what is a vacation without a little indulgence? Not a vacation I want to partake in, that's for certain. And now I am off to pamper my growing garden and sneak some peaks out of the corner of my eye at the new hummingbird feeder my mother so generously donated to my patio, in the hopes of seeing our fluttery little neighborhood friend. Wishing you all a lovely ending to your spring!