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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In memory

Clearly, I've been away from this blog for a while.  Without question, this semester of the nursing program (Advanced Med-Surg) has been the hardest semester of school in my life...in fact, I think it's one of the hardest things period that I've ever done in my life.  I'm constantly up to my ears in paperwork, books, care plans, etc. so I apologize that my blog has been inactive lately.

However, I wanted to pay a visit here just to highlight a previous recipe from a couple years ago:  Scandinavian Almond Bars.

The reason why I wanted to re-share these cookies is because they were Grandma's favorite.  My grandma passed away yesterday morning.  I was in class, in the middle of taking an exam, when it happened.  8:45 am.

I didn't know until I finished my exam, and went to turn my phone back on and saw several missed calls and texts from my mom and sister.  I immediately knew why they were calling, but didn't really want to believe it until I heard their words.

My grandma had been in the hospital since last Thursday, when she recently fell and fractured her femur right above her knee.  They did not perform surgery because of her age (91) and the risk involved, so they provided local anesthesia to reset the bone and stabilized it with a brace to heal.  While she was there, her oxygen levels dropped, so they transferred her to ICU to monitor her O2 more carefully and give her oxygen supplementation with a breathing mask.  Her oxygen did rise back to normal levels, but the doctor reported that her lungs and kidneys were failing.  There was nothing more to be done at the hospital so on Sunday, they transferred her to the local rehab facility, for "comfort care."  As a nursing student, I knew what comfort care meant...

My sister and mom went to visit her that evening after her transfer and noticed her labored breathing and decreased level of consciousness.  I started thinking about plans to drive up to visit her at the rehab center this week, but unfortunately, she passed the next morning.  The nurses at the rehab center said she died peacefully in her sleep, without any suffering

It's almost unreal to think about her actually being gone, because she has been in and out of the hospital so many times in the last 5 years it almost seemed routine.  A visit to the hospital, followed by a month or so in the rehab center, and then back home...except this time she won't be home.

I have so many good memories of my grandma.  I feel as though my sister and I have had a closer relationship with our grandma than most people do.  We lived at our grandma's house for a period of time, during our childhood, and she ended up living with us in the more recent years.  She spent so much time with my sister and I growing up, taking us to and from school almost every day while my mom was at work.  Every day when we got out of school she was there sitting in the car or sitting in front of the school on the bench, with a comic book, toy, or candy for us.  She always took us to Home Video every Friday, the local video rental store, where we could pick out a video game or movie of our choosing.  Whenever we went to the mall, it was always my mom, sister, myself, and my grandma.  Sometimes after school, she'd take my sister and I to the local pizza buffet, and gave us a few quarters to play in the arcade.  All of our friends got to know my grandma because she was always there, and they always called her "Grandma" too.  I could go on and on about my grandma, but basically she spoiled us...in the best way, the way any grandparent should.
I'll be headed north next weekend to help my mom prepare for and to attend my grandma's memorial service.  While there, I am definitely making these almond bars.  I'll always think of my grandma whenever I make them because they were her favorite.

Click here for the recipe

I'll miss you, Grandma.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

*I was supposed to post this yesterday, but forgot.  Whoops!  Well, Happy Friday, and here you go!

As you all know, at the end of August I will be resuming my studies in the nursing program to complete my second and final year.  It's amazing to think that I'm only a year away from being able to call myself a Registered Nurse.  While that's exciting and all, it still means another year of grueling, stressful days of clinicals, and countless sleepless nights studying for exams...and I imagine this second year will be even harder than the first.

I've already spent the day today at the medical clinic, getting poked and prodded to satisfy my program's health requirements, and I still have to go back few more times throughout the week for my 2-step tuberculosis (TB) test.  I also have to attend a CPR class this week to renew my CPR certification for another year.  Later this afternoon, I also have to go to school for my annual respirator fit-test appointment.  So much to do...and I've already spent so much time in the waiting room today.  I know that when I finally get home, I'll be in need of a treat.

Luckily, I made this ice cream earlier in the week, so it's currently waiting for me in my freezer.  A few months ago, before my wedding, I received a Cuisinart ice cream maker as a wedding shower gift from one of my relatives.  I was incredibly excited when I received it, and am now so thankful to have it during this hot summer season.  Out of all the sweet treats I could enjoy, ice cream is always near the top of my list.  There is a multitude of recipes I've collected that I can't wait to try using my new ice cream maker; however, when I saw this recipe from Annie's Eats, I knew I had to try it immediately.  

Salted Butter Caramel?!  What could be better?  I was already hooked just by the flavor, but Annie's praise of this ice cream really sealed the deal.  This ice cream is made with a custard base, which requires a little more effort, but a custard base also results in a smoother, creamier ice cream, so it's absolutely worth it.  To make this ice cream, the sugar is cooked down into a caramel, then gradually combined with cream, butter, egg yolks, milk and vanilla. 

Take note that hot, melted sugar is incredibly delicious, but also dangerous if you're not careful.  So please stir carefully, and have the other ingredients prepped beforehand, such as the yolks already separated from the whites and in a small bowl, cream and butter measured out, etc.  I prepped my ingredients, but by sheer clumsiness, I splashed a couple drops of hot sugar on my foot and thigh (also probably not a good idea to wear sandals and shorts), so now I have some nice little burn spots to carry with me forever.  They're incredibly small though, so no big deal, but still hurt like heck at the time!  Tony, who first started his business career in the food and beverage industry, says that most serious cooks have burn marks...so hey, I'll take it.  It was only a matter of time, and I'd do it all over again anyway just for another batch of this heavenly ice cream!


Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
Yield:  about 1 quart
Recipe from:  Annie's Eats

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
4 Tbsp salted butter*, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cups whole milk, dividied
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract.

*If using unsalted butter, increase the sea salt to 3/4 tsp

Add the sugar to a medium saucepan in an even layer.  Heat over medium until the sugar at the edges of the pan begins to melt.  Use a heatproof spatula to stir the melted sugar from the bottom and the edges to the center, until all the sugar is dissolved.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the caramel reaches an amber color (test a drop on a white plate if needed).  Once the caramel reaches the correct color, immediately remove from the heat--caramel can go from perfect to burnt in seconds!

Add a bit of the warmed cream in a slow drizzle down the inside edge of the pan, whisking to incorporate before adding more, to prevent seizing.  Once all the cream has been added, whisk in the butter.  If the mixture has seized, return the pan to the burner over low heat and stir gently, breaking up lumps, until the mixture has returned to a liquid state.  Whisk in the salt and 1 cup of the milk.

Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup and whisk to blend.  Slowly pour a bit of the warm caramel mixture into the bowl with the eggs, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.  Continue to add slowly until most of the caramel has been mixed in.  Return the custard to the saucepan over medium-high heat.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent the mixture from burning, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 170-175 degrees F).  

Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl or storage container.  Stir in remaining 1 cup of milk and the vanilla.  Let cool slightly (set bowl on an ice bath, stirring occasionally, to speed this process), then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.  Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions--I churned my ice cream for about 20 minutes before transferring to a freezer-safe container to finish freezing.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Perfect Lemon Bars

True story:  I ate one of these for breakfast this morning. 

Trust me, these are THAT good.

I really can't stop eating them.  I ate a couple yesterday after my run.  Yep, that's right, I actually went for a run yesterday with Tony along the beach path near our home.  I'm working on getting in shape before we head to Hawaii net month.  Although I do want to be "bikini-ready" when I go, the main reason why I want to get in shape is because I want to be able to keep up on all the hikes we go on while we're there:  Diamond Head and Manoa Falls, to name a few.  

I also ate another one last night, while we watched our new addiction and favorite show:  Game of Thrones.  Although I had heard about it, I never really felt the need to watch it until our last trip to San Diego, when Tony's step-mom told us about how good it is, and gave us the first season on DVD to borrow.  After that, we were curious, so we watched the first episode...then the next...and the next...until we were done.  Then on to season 2, and now, we're right in the middle of season 3.  I admit it, I'm hooked!  It's so good, and I can't help but love the character, Daenerys Targaryen, "Queen of Dragons."  In my opinion, she really is the star of the show.  Well...her and Tyrion Lannister.  I love his constant witty, sarcastic remarks.  If you don't watch the show, I highly recommend it, if you don't mind the sex/nudity/language that is pretty common for any HBO show.  :)

Now let's talk lemon bars.  The original blogger who posted this recipe, Mel from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, described this recipe as the perfect lemon bar recipe, hence the name, Perfect Lemon Bars.  I was a little skeptical, because using the description of "perfect" truly sets the bar pretty high, but after making these, I have to agree with Mel.  These are perfect!  The crust of these bars is so butterfly and flaky; just what you would desire in a shortbread crust.  The lemon filling has a sweet, yet tart flavor that any lemon lover (like me) would absolutely love.

If I could report any downside to this recipe, it would be the fact that part of this recipe requires patience.  I struggle with recipes that require chilling time, so it was difficult for me to wait for the shortbread dough to chill in between blending and pressing in the pan, but trust me, the wait is so worth it!  The chilling time is necessary to be sure that the butter stays cold and solid after blending the shortbread dough and again after pressing in the pan.  The cold, solid pieces of butter are what makes the crust stay light and flaky while baking.  As the butter melts during the baking process, it leaves little pockets throughout the crust, giving it that crispy texture that everyone loves.

Perfect Lemon Bars
Yield:  one 9x13 inch pan
Recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

For the crust:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on bars
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
12 Tbsp. butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1-inch pieces

For the filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. grated lemon zest, from 2 large lemons
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 3 to 4 large lemons
1/3 cup milk
Pinch of salt

Place an oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with  parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment paper.

Stir together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Add the butter and cut the butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender (for best results) or using two knives, or process in a food processor for 8 to 10 seconds and then as needed until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.  Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer on the bottom and about 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan.  Refrigerate again for 15-30 minutes.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl and then stir in the lemon zest, juice and milk to combine.

Pour the filling onto the warm crust (it's important that the crust is still warm) and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until the filling is solid and feels slightly firm to the touch.  Cool the bars to room temperature, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and cut into bars.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Vietnamese Pork Chops

Happy Friday!  Another week gone...but another week closer to Hawaii!!  

(...I'm just going to ignore the fact that that also means another week closer to school starting again.)

I have not shared here yet, but on August 10th, Tony and I are taking a trip with our friends to Hawaii!  I can't wait; I've never been to Hawaii before so I'm looking forward to foodie finds, hiking, sightseeing, and just relaxing!  We're going to visit one of our good friends, who moved there a little over a year ago, so at least we will have a local with us to show us around.  We'll be staying on Oahu, since that's where our friend lives and works, and I've already been doing plenty of research to find the best food spots.  I have quite a list with all of the must-eats, such as Leonards malasadas and Liliha Bakery's famous coco puffs.  If you've been to Oahu and have any suggestions, please feel free to share!

I hope you all don't mind that I'm posting a lot of savory dishes, as opposed to baked goods.  I've been doing a lot more cooking than baking in the kitchen lately, mostly because the summer heat has made me reluctant to turn on my oven.  However, just because the food isn't sweet doesn't mean that it's any less enjoyable.  In fact, I've thoroughly enjoyed cooking AND eating all of these savory dishes.  

This recipe comes from my go-to food magazine, Bon Appetit.  I loved the simplicity of the dish along with the fact that it did not require me to turn on my oven.  It also had an interesting twist, using lots of Vietnamese flavors such as rice vinegar and nuoc mam (fish sauce).  I really didn't know what to expect when I decided to make this dish, but I was very pleased with how it turned out (like most Bon Appetit recipes).  The pork chops were very flavorful and the lime wedges were the perfect accompaniment to the sweet and savory flavor of the chops.  Best of all, this was another simple dish to make...perfect for a weekday meal.

Vietnamese Pork Chops
Print this recipe
Yield:  4 servings
Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, June 2013 issue

1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nuoc mam or nam pla)
2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 1" thick-cut bone-in pork chops (about 2 1/2 lb. total)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Kosher salt
Lime wedges, for serving

Whisk shallot, brown sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and pepper in a shallow dish.  Using a fork, pierce pork chops all over and add to marinade in dish.  Turn to coat.  Cover and let pork marinate at room temperature, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes.

Remove pork chops from marinade, scraping off excess (reserve marinade for sauce).  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Lightly season pork chops with salt.  Cook until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.  Let pork chops rest 10 minutes before serving.

Meanwhile, bring marinade to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 4 minutes.

Serve pork chops with reduced marinade and lime wedges.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Panko Crusted Salmon

These last few weeks have been going by way too fast.  I can't believe my summer is halfway over and to be honest, I'm dreading my eventual return to "normal life." Seriously, can't I just live in my kitchen FOREVER? Because that's exactly what I've been doing these last few weeks; making dinner every night, trying out new recipes, and baking here and there.

During my last semester of school, I was so busy I didn't have time to cook or bake, or even have the time to think about missing it, but now I am so immersed in my kitchen routine I don't know how I'm going to adjust when late-August rolls around.  While I dread the inevitable, I will try to be better at posting my food sooner, although I definitely have some catching up to do!

This salmon is a simple yet healthy dish that can be easily prepared within 30 minutes.  As I may have mentioned before, Tony and I both love salmon, so last week when I needed to make something quick and healthy for dinner, this recipe was a no-brainer.  This was actually the second time I've made this recipe so that should speak for itself--I don't repeat recipes very often unless they are exceptionally pleasing, and this one pleased us both.

This recipe, originally from Ina Garten (LOVE her), consists of a salmon filet lightly brushed with Dijon mustard and then coated with a panko-lemon zest mixture.  The salmon is then seared on a skillet and transferred to the oven to finish cooking.  The results?  A piece of salmon that flakes perfectly, with a toasted crunchy panko coating, with a bright kick of lemon.  It's simple, but in the best possible way.

I must also mention that this has mustard, and Tony, the biggest mustard-hater I know, eats it!  That in itself is a miracle, although I never actually told him so I don't think he even knows...but I think I'll keep it that way. ;)

Panko Crusted Salmon
Print this recipe
Yield:  4-6 servings
Recipe from How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten

2/3 cup panko
2 Tbsp. finely minced fresh parsley
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 (6-8 oz.) salmon fillets, skin on
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In a small bowl, combine the panko, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Drizzle with 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil and toss with a fork until the crumbs are evenly coated; set aside.

Place the salmon fillets skin side down on a work surface.  Generously brush the top of each fillet with the mustard and then season with salt and pepper.  Press the panko mixture thickly on top of the mustard on each fillet to help the panko adhere.

Heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch oven-safe skillet.  When the oil is hot, add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and sear for 3-4 minutes without turning to brown the skin.

Transfer the pan to the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes, until the salmon is almost cooked through and the panko is browned.  Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest 5-10 minutes.  Serve warm with fresh lemon wedges.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cajun Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Southwestern Slaw

Every year since living in Long Beach, I always look forward to July 4th.  Growing up, I always enjoyed the barbecues and fireworks, but in a beach community, Fourth of July results in so much more.  One great thing about Long Beach is being able to watch the firework show at the beach.  Every year we can walk just a few blocks down to the beach, where we have a great view of the fireworks show at The Queen Mary.  A few other firework shows, such as Seal Beach's, can also be seen in the distance.  Unfortunately, we can't shoot of any of our own fireworks, other than a few measly sparklers, but there are always a few "rebels" in the area who shoot off the big ones.

Also, everywhere I look people will be decked out in head-to-toe red, white, and blue.  Not only in their clothing, but their bikes, cars, etc. will be decorated too.  There will be plenty of parties and barbecues going on, which will ultimately result in a lot of drunk people roaming the neighborhood.  This year, we will not be a part of that.  We recently returned from a long weekend in San Diego (more about our trip in the next post) so we are still recovering, and are planning to enjoy tomorrow at home with just a few friends and neighbors, relaxing on our porch with a cocktail or beer, and simply enjoy the beautiful weather and "entertainment" provided by the other festive neighbors walking down our street. :)

Since we are now well into the season of summer, I though now would be a good time to share a great recipe for pulled pork sandwiches.  This recipe was featured on the front cover of the June issue of Food Network Magazine.  As soon as we received this issue in the mail, Tony took one look at the cover and asked me, "Will you make THAT?"  Of course, I pretty much always oblige to any of Tony's requests, so I immediately made a mental note to put this on the next week's menu.  

This post actually consists of two separate recipes which are used to make the complete pulled pork sandwich.  The first recipe is for the slow cooked Cajun Pulled Pork, and the second is for the Southwestern Slaw.  Technically, you could put regular slaw or simple lettuce on your sandwich if you're not feeling up to the two-part process, but in my opinion, the Southwestern Slaw really made the sandwich shine.

The slaw consists of a few special ingredients:  corn, avocado, and lime juice.  These things really add a cool, bright flavor to the sandwich, which balances perfectly with the spicy tang of the Cajun Pulled Pork.  I absolutely loved the pulled pork, because it was moist, flavorful, and the meat was so tender from the slow cooking process.  The addition of the chopped andouille sausage also gave it an amazing complex flavor that left Tony and I wanting more.

I've made pulled pork before, but I can honestly say that this was the best pulled pork recipe I've tried so far, and these two recipes made an amazing pulled pork sandwich.  Since this recipe makes a lot, this would be a perfect option for a summer get-together, especially if you don't really feel like heating up the grill.  It still   has great flavors for the summer, so this would be sure to satisfy.

Happy Fourth of July!

Cajun Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Southwestern Slaw
Print this recipe
Yield:  8 sandwiches
Recipes from Food Network Magazine, June 2013 issue

For the Cajun Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork:
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp Creole or spicy brown mustard
1 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
2 tsp paprika
Kosher salt and ground pepper
1 3-4 pound boneless pork shoulder
2 links andouille sausage
1/3 cup mayonnaise
8 soft sandwich buns

For the Southwestern Slaw:
3 cups shredded green cabbage
3 cups shredded red cabbage
1 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 avocado
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup corn
1 poblano pepper, thinly sliced
1 small bunch chopped scallions

Directions for the pulled pork:
Whisk 1 1/2 cups water, the vinegar, ketchup, 1/4 cup mustard, the molasses, and 1 Tbsp brown sugar in a 7-8 quart slow cooker.

Combine the remaining 1 Tbsp brown sugar, the paprika, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a small bowl.  Rub all over the pork, then add to the slow cooker along with the sausage.  Cover and cook on low, 8 hours (or according to your slow cooker's directions).

Remove the pork and sausage and set aside to cool slightly.  Skim off the excess fat from the cooking liquid, then strain into a large skillet and bring to a boil.  Cook until reduced by one-third, about 15 minutes.

Shred the pork with a fork and coarsely chop the sausage.  Toss the pork and sausage with enough of the reduced cooking liquid to moisten; season with salt.

Directions for the slaw:
Toss red and green cabbage with 1 Tbsp kosher salt in a colander; let sit 1 hour, then rinse and dry well.  Meanwhile, puree avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, and water, and 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  Toss mixture with the cabbage, corn, poblano pepper and chopped scallions.

To assemble sandwiches:
Whisk the mayonnaise and the remaining 2 Tbsp mustard in a small bowl; spread onto the buns.  Fill with the pulled pork mixture and slaw.  Serve with potato chips if desired.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Apricot Cakes

Happy first day of summer!  I'm trying hard to mentally prepare myself for the hot, sticky summer weather, but honestly, I'm not looking forward to it.  I find the high temperatures to be extremely uncomfortable, and might I mention, it makes me very reluctant to partake in my love of baking.  Living in Southern California with no air conditioning means I have to be very selective when it comes to turning on the oven.

However, although there are things I clearly don't enjoy about the summer, there are plenty of things that I am looking forward to!  I can't wait to spend days at the beach, and hopefully get a nice summer tan.  I also hope to do a bit of traveling this summer, with Hawaii being the first destination on our summer to-do list.  Most importantly of all, I'm looking forward to enjoying all of the fresh summer produce.  I especially love all of the delicious fruit that summer brings; berries, peaches, plums, and apricots, to name a few.

That's why I'm so excited to share this recipe with you all.  I actually had a few other recipes lined up before this one, but since today is the first day of summer I thought this would be most appropriate.  I baked these little cakes yesterday afternoon, after enduring a leisurely day of running errands, walking the dog, and doing some things around the house.  I saw this recipe in the most recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine, and have had my mind on these cakes ever since.

This recipe was a part of a picnic themed segment in the magazine, and I agree, these would be perfect little cakes to wrap up and bring along to a picnic.  However, I don't have any plans to go on a picnic anytime soon, so I whipped these up for a simple afternoon snack.  These cakes were much better than I could have ever anticipated.  I immediately knew I was in for a treat when they were baking in the oven, because the smell that filled my home was amazing.  The buttery, sugary, vanilla-y aroma made me anxious for these to finish baking, and when they did, I was not disappointed.  I love the crusty edges and tops, which have a hint of crunch from the raw sugar.  The apricot slices lend just enough flavor and sweetness to offset the smooth buttery vanilla flavor of the cake.

The cakes are great by themselves, but I've already started thinking about how they would taste with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Unfortunately, I don't have either on hand.  At the rate I've been eating them, I have a feeling I may run out of these cakes before I can make it to the store to buy whipping cream or ice cream.  I guess I'll have to make these again.  Darn...  ;)


Apricot Cakes
Print this recipe
Yield:  12 cakes
Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, June 2013 issue

Nonstick baking spray (or vegetable oil spray)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
2 apricots, halved, pitted, cut into 1/4" wedges
2 Tbsp. raw sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat muffin cups with nonstick spray.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another medium bowl, occasionally scraping down sides, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add egg, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until combined.

With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Divide batter among muffin cups (cups will be only 1/3 full) and smooth tops.  Top with apricot slices and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack; let pan cool 5 minutes.  Transfer cakes to rack and let cool completely.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Goat Cheese Cake with Mixed Berries

Hello!  Finally, summer is here!

Well...almost here.  This Friday, June 21st is the first official day of summer, so I figured I'd begin my "return" to this blog by sharing an amazing summer dessert:  Goat Cheese Cake with Mixed Berries.

Clearly, it's been quite a while since my last post, and A LOT has happened in my life.  Let's see....in the past few months I:

Got married

Quit my job to focus on school (and had a special happy hour for my last day)

Completed my mental health and med-surg rotations in nursing school (1 year down, 1 more to go)

Went out a few times with fellow nursing classmates, to celebrate being halfway done with the nursing program, making it to our summer break and actually having a social life again!

Won a scholarship

Went to Disneyland

Went to a Dodgers game (Boo Dodgers)

Took a few trips to San Diego

Spent Father's Day with Tony's dad (and now my father-in-law)

And throughout all of this,

Roy's Restaurant in Anaheim, CA

ate a lot

Creole Crawfish Crabcake from The Palace Grill in Santa Barbara


Thai Chicken Empanadas from Zengo in Santa Monica


Now that I'm officially done with school, I'm going to have a lot more free time to bake and cook until school starts up again on August 26th.  I've already tried quite a few new recipes last week in preparation of my return to this blog, so I hope you're ready for a food-filled summer!

There were several recipes I could have used for today's post, but I decided on this goat cheese cake, because not only is it a great dessert utilizing some delicious seasonal berries, but its presentation is gorgeous!  This would be a perfect dessert to make for a summer get-together, because the arrangement of fruit on the top makes it so impressive.  It looks professionally done, but in reality, it is extremely simple to make.

I found this recipe in the June 2013 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  Even though it did not have a photo in the magazine, it STILL caught my eye because....hello?  Who doesn't love cheesecake?  I've been craving cheesecake for the longest time, and was intrigued with this goat cheese variation.  The fact that it uses goat cheese instead of cream cheese makes it seem a little healthier, and makes me feel a little less guilty eating it.  It may have even convinced me to cut myself some extra large slices....

The final result of this recipe is a cheesecake that has a much lighter, fluffier texture than traditional cheesecake.  It also has a flavor that is slightly creamy but not too sweet, allowing for the berries on top to really lend their own delicious flavor to the cake.  I topped my cake with strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, but you could use any type of fruits or berries that you prefer.

I'm glad I took a chance on this goat cheese cake, because not only did I experience a new type of cheesecake, but I satisfied my cheesecake craving....for now.

Goat Cheese Cake with Mixed Berries
Print this recipe
Yield:  8 servings
Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, June 2013 issue, originally from Waterbar in San Francisco

Unsalted butter (for pan)
3/4 cup sugar plus more for pan
12 oz. fresh soft goat cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pints mixed berries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9" springform pan and dust with sugar, tapping out any excess.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat goat cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.  Add egg yolks two at a time, beating to blend and scraping down sides of bowl between additions.  Reduce speed to low, add flour, and mix just until blended.

Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form.  Fold 1/4 of egg whites into goat cheese mixture just until blended; fold in remaining mixture just until blended.  Scrape into prepared pan and tap pan to level batter.

Bake cheesecake until top is set but still jiggles slightly in the center, and edges are golden brown, 30-35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack; let cool in pan; unmold cake.  Serve topped with berries.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Irish Beer and Cheese Bread

Hello all!  I apologize for the lack of posts.  I'm still here, but with my crazy life I haven't been updating this blog like I should.  So again, I apologize.  The posts here will be irregular and infrequent as I continue to juggle wedding planning, work, and nursing school, but I can guarantee I will always keep The Beachside Baker up, so recipes can be available for you to access at all times.  Hopefully, with our wedding just weeks away, I can eventually take "wedding planning" off my to-do list and return my baking/blog posting to it's original spot on my weekly to-do's. 

Before I share my new recipe with you, I can update you on the last few months.  Our wedding is so soon, and we only have a few minor things left to plan!  The last few weekends have been devoted to accomplishing more for our wedding, with last weekend being the date of our cake tasting.  We've picked out a cake with several different flavors (which I will refrain from mentioning for now) that I think the guests will be pleased with. 

Also, last month I enjoyed a fun bridal weekend back in my hometown, Manteca, CA.  We started the weekend off with a bridal shower, hosted by my sister (maid-of-honor) at her home.  It was a beautiful day for the shower, and many of my friends and family attended.  We played games, ate food, and I received many wonderful gifts that I am so thankful for....many of those are kitchen items which I will definitely use as I add more recipes to this blog! 

I can't wait to use this ice cream maker!

More things to use in the kitchen!

Sis and I

After the shower, we had a few hours to rest and freshen up before the bachelorette party!  The bachelorette party was definitely the highlight of the weekend.  Many of my friends came to join in on the fun, and we had a great time.  Our night included dinner, drinks, karaoke, AND dancing.  What more could I ask for?

I love each and every one of these girls!  I'm so glad they all made it out.

Besides wedding-related news, I also am well into second semester in my nursing program.  The first 8 weeks of this semester we're studying mental health, so I'm busy learning about mental illnesses, medications, pathophysiology, how to remain safe around these unstable patients, and how we can be therapeutic for these patients.  We're currently dong our clinical rotations in the psych ward of a hospital, so it's definitely been interesting, yet exhausting at the same time.  I'm currently running on coffee.  Lots of coffee.....

My view every night.
 Now that you're caught up with my news, let's move on to the highlight of this post:  Irish Beer and Cheese Bread.  I've had this recipe saved as a draft for a while now, but since St. Patrick's Day is coming up in the near future, I think it's the perfect time to share it.

This bread recipe is a very easy type of bread to make.  It does not require any yeast or kneading dough, so it's perfect for beginning bakers.  This recipe does, however, call for Irish ale and Dubliner cheese, hence the name, "Irish" Beer and Cheese Bread.  Since March 17th is just around the corner, many of you may be drinking popular Irish ales, such as Guinness, so just keep a bottle aside to use for this bread.  If you're looking for any other St. Patrick's Day recipes, I also highly recommend Irish Cupcakes.  These are extremely popular among my coworkers, and are absolutely delicious any time of year.  Wash down that cupcake with a Shamrock Shake and you're all set!

I originally found this recipe off of one of my favorite food blogs, Brown Eyed Baker.  Michelle, the blog author, always posts a round-up of recipes for each holiday season, which is one of the main reasons why I love to subscribe to her blog.  If you're ever in the need for a recipe for a specific holiday occasion, whether it's St. Patricks Day, Easter, or maybe just for a summer BBQ, I highly recommend browsing through her recipe collection first!

I found this recipe on her blog a few years ago, and this bread immediately caught my eye.  I had some extra bottles of Guinness and needed a simple way to use them up, and these was a perfect recipe to use them in.  I like pretty much anything that involves cheese, but the combination of the Dubliner cheese, Guinness, Worcestershire sauce, and spices made it much more savory and satisfying than most breads I'm used to.  If you're a carb-a-holic like me, this bread is just the thing for you, so give it a try!

Irish Beer and Cheese Bread
Print this recipe
Yield:  1 loaf
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, originally adapted from Make it Naked

8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
8 oz extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
4 oz Dubliner cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups Irish ale (I used Guinness)
3/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan and set aside.
Measure out 1/4 cup of the sharp cheddar, 1/4 cup of the white cheddar and 2 Tbsp of the Dubliner and reserve for topping the bread later.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining cheese, the flour, baking powder, dry mustard, salt, cayenne, white pepper, and garlic. Stir to ensure that all of the cheese is coated with flour.
In a small bowl, whisk together the beer, sour cream, egg, and Worcestershire sauce.
Pour the beer mixture into the cheese and flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix the dough until just combined. Spoon the dough into the prepared loaf pan, using a spatula to even out the top. Mix together the reserved cheeses and sprinkle evenly on top.
Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean (or, if you have an instant-read thermometer, the middle of the bread reaches 190 degrees F).
Remove bread from the oven, place on a wire rack, and cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edges of the pan and continue to cool. When the bottom of the pan can be touched, turn the bread out and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.