Gianduja (Homemade Nutella) & Happy New Year!


Every year I hand make gifts for the holidays. Whether it’s homemade vanilla extract, cookies, truffles, ornaments, or even bread, I think that the extra effort and thought that goes into making something yourself is priceless.

This year, while looking through the Bon Appétit Holiday Issue for possible Christmas cookie inspiration, my boyfriend said “you should make this.” I looked at the recipe and agreed – I would absolutely have to make this delicious looking homemade nutella.


The recipe was very straight forward (though if skinned hazelnuts existed in my area, I’d be much happier) and I made cute little recipe cards to go along with the gift. I only send recipe cards with edibles when I know they taste delicious and the recipient most definitely will be recreating on their own. Which they will, because this spread is delicious.  It might taste better because I skinned those hazelnuts with my own two hands, and worked my biceps while attempting to whisk the thickening ganache. But I think it tastes better than the stuff in the store because I know exactly what’s in it. Cream, butter, nuts, good quality chocolate, sugar, and a dash of salt. Not to mention that my packaging is super cute.


Here are some pictures that went out with my family’s holiday card this year. Every year it takes us a while to figure our how to use the timer on my mom’s fancy camera. Every year we have to take a bajillion re-takes while trying to pretend it’s Christmas even though it’s Thanksgiving. But it’s tradition, and it’s worth it. Just like these precious bundles of perfection.

It’s also my sister’s birthday today – Happy Birthday Ariel!

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes With a Secret Ingredient


I made these cupcakes last year and they were gone so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to take pictures. Luckily, everyone loved them (some people ate two!), so I knew what I was going to make when it became peppermint season again this year. I love peppermint mocha lattes and get them whenever I get a chance. I’ve had the version from Starbucks, but I actually prefer one made by a local smoothie shop called South Block where they have tons of alternative milks. I get my peppermint mocha with almond milk and Intelligentsia espresso and it hits the spot.


This year I upped the decadence and dipped the cupcakes in a dark chocolate mint ganache before frosting them. The secret ingredient in these cupcakes is the type of coffee I used in it. Instead of using regular coffee, I used some very special Kopi Luwak that my friend Elly gifted me. For those that don’t know, Kopi Luwak is a rare and expensive coffee that is made from coffee berries that a tropical jungle cat has digested. Some people were a little put off by the idea of cat-poo-treated coffee, but surprisingly, most everyone embraced it and loved the quirkiness of it.


I used a few different recipes combined together, and the end result leaves nothing to be desired – this really is an edible peppermint mocha! Coffee-infused chocolate cake with mint pieces folded in, dark chocolate mint ganache, a mint cream cheese frosting, and a chocolate drizzle. Some lucky snackers picked some out that had mint chocolate penguins on them that I purchased from my Girl Scout troop.

I also tried something new with my Martha Stewart cupcake liners. The liners look pretty, but bake horribly! To solve this problem I lined them with a white liner before putting the batter in and was very pleased by the result.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes (Bento Stash)

I’ve only made this batch of Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes from Cannelle et Vanille once, but they’ve lasted for a very long time. My boyfriend wasn’t interested in eating them since they contained coconut oil so I had them all to myself. I ate some right away with tzatziki sauce (above) and stored the rest in the freezer to be used for meals in the future.

One such meal was this, made when I was working from home one day. Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes topped with some mustard seed cheese, hot pepper jelly, an egg, all atop some pita crackers.


Other meals were compiled last minute or just needed a little something extra.
Left: Curried Potato Gratin, Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes, Edamame

Right: Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta (dinner leftovers), sweet potato quinoa cakes, edamame, homemade apple/asian pear/ginger applesauce with  granola

See how the quinoa cakes just fit perfectly in to a lunch box? More curried potato gratin, quinoa cakes, a japanese wagashi jelly, and some peaches and blackberries we picked at Hollins Farm.

Little Serow


Our menu when we went (March 2012) $45:

  • nam prik makheua: eggplant / crispy pork skin / shrimp paste
  • ma hor: sour fruit / dried shrimp / palm sugar
  • koy pa: cobia / lemongrass / chilies
  • laap meuang: pork / shallots / sawtooth
  • nam tok tow hu: tofu / mint / rice powder
  • khao soi: chicken / fresh turmeric / fermented cabbage
  • si krong muu: pork ribs / Mekhong whiskey / dill

The line starts at about 4:45 or 5 for their 530 opening on Saturdays. I got there once a little late and was quoted a 10:15 seating time! I’ve heard it’s much easier to get seatings during the week, especially the earlier ones since a lot of people are still working.

The decor is sparse with limited lighting and bright green splashed on nearly all surface and a loud country soundtrack playing. The Modcloth-clad staff was very friendly and explained all the components of the dishes and Little Serow as a whole.

I was a little underwhelmed by the entire experience. The quality of the dishes are good, though at times a bit unbalanced, but none of the dishes were memorable enough for me to want to go back. I’m glad I went to see what the hype was about and had a delicious meal comprised of food and dishes that I’ve never had. I wish there were cocktails too—though the hibiscus tea and salted pineapple soda were refreshing (even though the hibiscus tea was too sour for me), a nice cocktail would’ve sealed the deal. After glimpsing menus from other weeks, I was hoping for some interesting ingredients and combinations, but all of our dishes had either pork or shrimp in them. No duck, which is my favorite protein!

I had the same type of experience at Komi — slowly started getting full after a few courses, then all of a sudden it seems the courses get bigger and bigger! Thankfully, just like at Komi, we were able to take leftovers (and the cucumber and thai basil made excellent pimms cups no. 13 later that night), but I just wish the meal was a tad more balanced in size and flavor. I also asked if we could take pictures since I had an awkward (& painful) experience earlier at Komi.

I have a horrible memory, so like to take pictures so I can look back and remember experiences (I’m not one of those that uses the flash or lets the food get cold while I set-up the shot; it’s purely documentation). I’m not intrusive to others at the table, let alone others in the restaurant.

Patriotic Cheesecake Delight (Happy Election Day! & Hello Kitty for President 2012)

Happy (Early) Election Day!

My sister was craving Cherry Delight pie and requested a red, white, and blue colored dessert to go with the occasion. Most patriotic desserts involve strawberries which my sister is allergic to, so I had my work cut out for me. The Cherry Delight pies my sister was thinking of consisted of canned cherry pie filling. Instead, I went to the grocery store and picked up what red and blue fruits I could find – Bing cherries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

I did take a shortcut and used a pre-made graham cracker crumb crust, but didn’t skimp out on any other steps from this Martha Stewart recipe.  It’s good that I skipped the crust because I had forgotten cherries needed pitting! Red hands and pulverized cherries later, this cheesecake was cooling in the refrigerator waiting to be eaten. This cheesecake was a bit on the sour side since it has sour cream and cream cheese paired with the tart fruits. It was fun making this cheesecake “delight”, but I don’t think it’s worth making again, especially if you don’t own a cherry pitter!

Also, for the past couple of days, Hello Kitty has made her campaign headquarters for the 2012 Election DC! You didn’t know she was running? Well Tuxedo Sam is her Vice President and she’s not running for any traditional party and entered the race late.

I went with my sister this past weekend to her headquarters to show my support for her cause and to have some cheesy good fun.