Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you're having a great Thanksgiving day filled with family, friends, love, and, of course, food! This year, I was in charge of "re-vamping" our traditional family feast. I'm trying out new recipes, and so far (fingers crossed) everything has turned out great! Here's the menu:

Emily's Baked Brie with Cranberries
Artichoke Dip
Salted Nuts & Grapes

Yiayia's Salad

Diestel Turkey
Homemade Wheat Bread
Herbed Oyster Stuffing
Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Chives
Sweet Potato Puree with Brown Sugar and Sherry
Green Beans with Ginger Butter
Traditional Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Ambrosia Macaroons

Here's a little preview:

I'll put up recipes for all the dishes tomorrow!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Girls' Night Out: Father's Office & Ugo Wine Bar

Since it's my roommates and my last year of college, we decided to make a list of everything we absolutely must do before we graduate. Things that we've wanted to do since freshman year, but just haven't found the time. Things that we're old enough to do, now that we're all 21. Things that anyone and everyone living in Los Angeles should do at least once. So, now that our time together is quickly approaching (sadly), we're going to do it all!

Having a burger and a beer at Father's Office was one of the first things on our list, so last weekend, we went out for a much-needed girls' night. And, in an effort to cross everything off the College To-Do List as efficiently as possible, we looked up the closest wine bar in the area. We found Ugo, an elegant yet unpretentious wine bar with plenty of delicious choices.

Father's Office is a bar with two locations (Santa Monica and Culver City) that's famous for its wide selection of beers on tap - there are probably about 30 at any given time. When we arrived at the Culver City Office for a late dinner, we were quickly ushered inside by a bouncer who first asked, "Have you been here before? (Yes for Emily and Christina, no for Jamie and me) Do you know how this works? Order at the bar, no waiters, seat yourself." We all ordered the famous Office Burger, and each got a different beer (after sampling a few each). Then came the daunting task of finding a table for four. We did a few laps around the restaurant, and decided that the picnic-type tables on the patio were our best bet. When Christina got her food and was worried she'd have to eat it standing up, we decided to get a little more aggressive and ask to share one of the tables. Fortunately, the people we asked were really nice and we squished in next to them (we paid it forward at the end of our meal when another group asked to sit down at our table)!

Jamie and me

Emily and Christina

Our burgers, hailed as the "best in Los Angeles" by many credible sources, were incredible, if a little expensive (around $12). Topped with blue and gruyere cheeses, carmelized onions, and arugula, this burger is the definition of gourmet. Yum! Unfortunately, I couldn't get a decent picture with the dim lighting. Personally, I thought the garlic fries were a little disappointing, but others thought they were fantastic. These fries were very thin and crunchy; I like mine a little meatier. The garlic aioli dip served on the side was tasty, but rich.

Our beers of choice, light to dark

A close-up of my beer... I forget the name!

After dinner and a beer, we took a cab less than a mile to Ugo Wine Bar. Once there, we loaded up "wine cards" at the bar with $10. With a wide selection of wines from all over the world, you can use your card to sample an ounce of wine from a bottle under nitrogen pressure. Each bottle of wine is marked with a different price per ounce, ranging from less than a dollar to over twenty dollars (yikes!). We were all able to sample about four different wines that caught our eye. It's a really fun idea for low-maintenance wine tasting with friends (or on a date!).

Wine dispenser, presented by Christina the hand model

Emily and Jamie

Me and Christina

My glass of wine and wine card

Monday, November 10, 2008


I fell in love with chilaquiles after ordering them for my very first time at Novel Cafe in Westwood. I don't think I've ordered anything else from Novel since - and I go there often. I've made chilaquiles twice, using very different recipes each time (one was made with chicken, the other was an appetizer for a dinner party). This time, feeling ambitious, I decided to cook up my very own version.

Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish so delicious that it has its own Wikipedia page. It's often made to use up tortillas (or tortilla chips) and tomatoes, and is (I've heard) a great hangover cure. Oh, which reminds me - this is generally a breakfast or brunch dish, but it's great for dinner as well.

Makes 2 main-course servings.


For sauce:
1 14-oz can stewed tomatoes, drained
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Tapatio (or more for extra spice)
1/3 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

4-5 handfuls tortilla chips
4 eggs
1 14-oz can black beans
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese
2 tablespoons sour cream, divided

Add first seven ingredients to blender or food processor. Blend 30 seconds, or until smooth. Pour into heavy, large skillet and simmer on low heat for five minutes. Add crumbled tortilla chips to tomato sauce and simmer for five additional minutes. Tortilla chips should be soft, but still intact (not too mushy).

Meanwhile, scramble eggs (with milk or water if you'd like) in separate skillet. Heat black beans in medium saucepan (three burners at once!).

Assemble on plate: first, scoop on tomato-tortilla mixture. Add eggs and beans on top, or to the side. Sprinkle on feta cheese and onion; spoon a dollop of sour cream on each plate.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Apple Oatmeal Muffins: An Experiment

After making my apple pie, I had lots of cinnamon-sugar coated apples left over (apparently six apples was two too many...), but didn't want them to go to waste. I wanted to somehow integrate the leftover apples with some leftover oatmeal I had from the Fall Fruit Crumble I made recently, so I put my Googling skills to the test. I found an Apple Oatmeal Muffin recipe on, and adapted it to work with my sugary apples. The result was very good, and my roommates will back me up on this one. These muffins are more dense than fluffy, and make a great breakfast treat. Brown sugar sprinkled on the top of each muffin before baking puts them over the top!

Adapted from


3/4 cup skim milk
2 egg whites
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 apple, finely chopped
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (more or less to your own taste)
1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix all ingredients just enough to moisten. Pour into muffin cups 3/4 full; either well greased or with cupcake liners. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of each muffin. Bake at 400 degrees 15 to 20 minutes.

Apple Pie

This is a classic apple pie recipe, both easy to make and insanely delicious. Four ravenous frat boys "reviewed" (a.k.a. devoured) this pie, and they all loved it.

I started with six Granny Smith apples, which turned out to be too many for the shallow pie tin I had. I used the extras in the Apple Oatmeal Muffin recipe above! Many apple pie recipes suggest using half tart apples (like Granny Smith) and half sweet apples (like Fuji or Jonagold), but using all tart apples turned out great in this pie.

For Erik...

From Gourmet, September 2002


3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and each cut into 10 wedges
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Two frozen pie crusts (yikes! I know, not "Gourmet"... I cheated)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Put a large baking sheet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

Whisk together flour, zest, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and 2/3 cup sugar and gently toss with apples and lemon juice.

Spoon filling into pie shell, then cover with second crust. Press edges together, then crimp decoratively. Lightly brush top of pie with egg and sprinkle all over with remaining tablespoon sugar. Cut 3 steam vents in top crust with a small sharp knife.

Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes more. Cool pie to warm or room temperature on a rack, 2 to 4 hours.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fall Fruit Crumble

In the spirit of the season...



2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
2 firm-ripe pears such as Bartlett, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 apples such as Gala, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle.

Stir together fruits, 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla and place in a buttered shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Stir together oats, flour, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps. Scatter over fruit and bake until juices are bubbling and topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Santa Fe Salad with Grilled Salmon

This salad is based on one of my roommate Jamie's favorites from BJ's Restaurant. We happened to run into each other at the store and were both in the mood for something healthy for dinner. Not surprising, since we'd just gotten back from a roadtrip to Norcal on which we ate In N Out TWICE!

At the store, I decided to buy one each of practically every vegetable in the produce section with the intention of grilling most of them to use in meals throughout the week. So, along with the veggies mentioned below in the list of ingredients, I grilled asparagus, zucchini, and a portabella mushroom and used them for other things. It was a great way to save time and encourage myself to eat healthy during midterms week.

Makes 4 servings.


1 pound fresh salmon fillet
Mixed baby greens
Cilantro, chopped
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 can sweet yellow corn, drained and rinsed
1 red onion, halved
1 sweet red bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2 inch thick slices
1 avocado, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
Crisp tortilla strips
Jack cheese, grated
Cheddar cheese, grated

Ranch dressing and/or BBQ sauce

Heat grill. Season salmon with salt and pepper to taste. Grill salmon, skin-side down, until flaky and just cooked through. Grill onion and bell pepper until soft and blackened. Meanwhile, toss lettuce with cilantro, beans, corn, avocado, and tomatoes. Divide salad equally onto four plates. On each serving, sprinkle on cheeses and tortilla strips. Roughly chop onion and bell pepper; cut salmon into four pieces. Top salad with grilled onion, bell pepper, and salmon. Dribble ranch and BBQ sauce over salad, or serve on the side.

Black Bean and Corn Quesadilla

Ralph's 88 cent special on ripe Haas avocados inspired this recipe. I absolutely love avocados, but usually don't want to pay $2.99 for one small avocado. The rest of the ingredients were just waiting in the refrigerator to be used; I'd already made a few other things with the beans and corn, and there was just enough left for one delicious quesadilla.

I have a cold :( so my senses of taste and smell are a little off, but I've made this recipe before so I know for a fact that it's very good! I don't have the exact measurements for the ingredients, but you can just estimate - quesadillas aren't an exact science.


Black beans, drained and rinsed
Sweet canned corn, drained and rinsed
Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Mozzarella cheese, grated
Cilantro, chopped
1 large flour tortilla

Sour cream
Mixed baby greens

Heat medium-sized heavy skillet, or George Foreman grill. Toss together beans, corn, cheeses, and cilantro; spread over half the tortilla. Fold tortilla in half. Cook quesadilla, turning over once, until golden brown and cheese is melted (use minimal amount of oil if cooking on stovetop).

Serve on bed of baby greens with a dollop each of guacamole, salsa, and sour cream on top.