Chocolate Cherry Espresso Smoothie

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I’m not sure about you, but emerging from winter this year is going to be tough. I’m starting to get nervous about removing all of my layers and showing my hot new NYC bod…a body built from the accumulation of all of the wonderful treats NYC has to offer. In other words, I’m not exactly at my best right now.

 As I’ve mentioned before, this was my first real winter. Never before have I had this problem, since in LA you can be in shorts all year round. But the sun is coming out, and now is the time to get in shape. (Sidenote- this is partially why I haven’t been posting as much on this blog, but it can also be attributed to laziness!). I will be quitting my job in the next 6 weeks and embarking on a 2 month summer trip before enrolling in a full-time MBA program in August. This means swimsuits—lots of swimsuits! From the Full Moon Party in Koh Samui to Santorini to Ultra Europe in Croatia, the pressure is on.

 I will begin my journey with Cathy and some other college friends in Thailand. We will be leaving for Thailand on May 27th, and that is the timeline I’ve set for myself to eat super healthy and keep up my gym kick. This means the recipes I will post until then will be much more on the healthy side. My goal is to eliminate (but realistically minimize) carbs and refined sugar for at least the next month! Wish me luck…

This recipe was inspired by a smoothie I often get at Equinox after a workout. I love it because it has coffee and sort of reminds me of a frappaccino, but way healthier and without refined sugar. It makes the perfect breakfast after an early morning workout. Chocolate and cherry also happens to be one of my favorite combinations, so I hope you enjoy!

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Chocolate Cherry Espresso Smoothie

3/4 Cup Chilled Coffee

1/2 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

1 Frozen Banana

1/2 Cup Frozen Cherries

1 Tbsp Peanut or Almond Butter

1 Tbsp Raw Cacao Powder

3-4 Ice Cubes

Optional: 1 Tsp Honey

Directions:

Blend all ingredients together in a blender and enjoy!Cherry 6

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Blackberry Muffins with Oat Crumble

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 After a year (ish) of blogging, I finally bought my own camera. I know what you’re probably thinking: How did I get to this point without owning a camera? Answer: I have a very gracious friend who allowed me to borrow her DSLR for the year. And, while the DSLR is a great camera – I learned how to take food photography on it – I decided to buy a … wait for it … an Olympus digital camera instead. Before you go photo-purist on me, just look at some of the photos I shot on my new Olympus.

*Just a note: Most food photographers suggest shooting in natural light in the early afternoon. I took these photos at 6 PM and in very poor lighting; if that doesn’t sell you on my new camera, I don’t know what will.

Now on to the important stuff: The muffins.

This recipe has been in my back pocket for a few months now, and finally got around to testing it out last time Hailey was in town. The original recipe calls for gluten-free flour alternatives, but it works well (and is just as tasty) with regular flour. We also replaced the blueberries with blackberries, since Hailey isn’t a blueberry fan. (Insert shock!)

I can sum up my love for these muffins in three bullets.

  • The blackberries: While I’m a huge fan of any berry – I haven’t found one to date that I do not like – the blackberries not only add a tart kick to the otherwise sweet muffin, but are also visually stunning. They go into the oven almost black, and almost thirty minutes later, come out a delicious, dark raspberry color.
  • The size: My roommate Marta gave me this muffin tin from Anthropologie. Not only is the tin gorgeous, it creates huge muffins. One of these muffins is sure to keep you full for hours.
  • The oat crumble: With the perfect amount of sweetness and just the right crunch, the crumble is the cherry on top, if you will.

I hope you all enjoy this recipe!

Cheers!

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Blackberry Muffins with Oat Crumble (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Oat Crumble:

1/2 Cup of Oats

1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar

1/4 Tsp. of Salt

2 Tbsp. of Cold Butter

Muffins:

Nonstick Vegetable Spray

1 Egg

1/2 Cup of Milk

6 Tbsp. of Butter, melted

2 Cups of All-Purpose Flour

3/4 Cups of Sugar

1 Tsp. of Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp. of Baking Soda

1/2 Tsp. of Salt

1/4 Tsp. of Nutmeg

1/4 Tsp. of Cinnamon

1 Cup of Fresh Blackberries

Directions:

For the crumb, mix together dry ingredients until combined. Using your fingers or the flat side of a fork, work in the butter until the mixture is a crumbly texture. Set aside.

Coat the muffin tin (6 large muffins or 12 normal-sized muffins) generously with a nonstick spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, milk and butter together. In another, larger bowl, combine the dry ingredients: Flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture and, using a fork, fold in the two mixtures until just combined. Mix in the blackberries.

Divide the muffin batter evenly into the tin and top with the crumble. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Serves 6-12, depending on muffin tin size.

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Meyer Lemon Bars

Lemon Bar 1A few weeks ago I attended a “Dinner for 12 Strangers,” a UCLA alumni tradition. It’s exactly what it sounds like; alum in various cities host a dinner at their house for 12 strangers, all of whom share UCLA as their alma mater. It’s always an amazing experience and a way to meet and network with highly motivated and interesting individuals. This was a special one for me because it was my first on the East Coast, and the group very much enjoyed reminiscing about Westwood and discussing how much we miss SoCal weather and Korean Barbeque. Turns out I am not alone in my #eastcoaststruggles.

Our Dinner for 12 Strangers was potluck-style, and I volunteered to bring a dessert (of course). I wanted to make something seasonal, but I find winter a little hard for seasonal desserts since fruit is fairly limited. I settled on Meyer lemons as my main ingredient and went with a classic lemon bar. One of my main deciding factors was that I needed something easily transportable taking public transportation all the way to the UWS; these worked out well in that regard.

I had actually never made lemon bars before, but I pretty much love everything lemon-flavored so there’s no going wrong here. They turned out fabulous and I received quite a few compliments at my D-12 dinner.

Bon Appétit!

Lemon BarMeyer Lemon Bars (recipe from Treats)

Crust:

1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour

1/2 Cup powdered sugar, plus more to sprinkle on the finished bars

A pinch of salt

8 Tbsp unsalted butter, still cool and cut into 8 pieces

Filling:

7 large egg yolks

2 large eggs

1 Cup + 2 Tbsp sugar

2/3 Cup meyer lemon juice (from about 4-5 medium lemons)

Finely grated zest from the lemons

1/2 Tsp salt

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut in to 4 pieces

3 Tbsp heavy cream
Directions:
Take a 9″ x 13″ pan and cover in two sheets of aluminum foil, perpendicular to one another. Spray with non-stick spray and set aside.
Process flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor for several seconds. Add butter one piece at a time, pulsing several times after adding each piece. Process by pulsing until the mixture reaches a course meal consistency. Place the mixture into the pan and press down with your fingers into the the pan until there is an even layer of crust. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
While crust is cooling, make the lemon filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk together eggs egg yolks until combined. Add the sugar, meyer lemon juice, zest and salt until well combined, about 30 seconds.  Add the butter pieces and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the curd thickens to a thin sauce-like consistency, about 6 minutes.
Immediately pour the lemon filling through a fine-mesh steel strainer set over a medium bowl.  Stir in the heavy cream and then pour the curd into the warm crust. Bake about 10 minutes, or until the filling is shiny and opaque.  Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes.  Remove the bars from the pan with the aluminum foil and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into squares, wiping the knife blade clean between cuts as necessary.  Sift powdered sugar over the bars.

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A Taste of NYC: Otto Entoco Pizzeria

Otto2In my book, Otto wins best pizza in NYC. (Gosh, it may even be my favorite overall restaurant in NYC!) I’ve tried some of the more esteemed spots, like Keste in the West Village, but somehow I can’t let go of Otto. Otto is one of Mario Bartoli’s more casual (and cheaper) restaurants, but he certainly does not skimp on taste or quality. I first fell in love with Otto after a taste of their signature truffle honey, which comes with any cheese selection. Oozey honey with generous speckled black dots of truffle, I could not think of a better accent to a decadent cheese selection. (Side-note: the triple cream is my personal favorite in the cheese selection).

Once you get past the cheese, we come to the pizza. The crust is perfectly thin, with just the right proportions of cheese and sauce. The prosciutto arugula is one of my favorites, with deliciously thin slices of high-quality Italian meat that you see being sliced as you enter the restaurant. The white pizza is also one to try- I’m not usually a huge fan of white pizza, but man it’s good here. The monster of all Otto pizzas is the truffle pizza, which I have now found twice on the specials menu. It’s much pricier than others on the menu, but SO SO worth it. After all, I did say it was the best pizza in New York; for that I’m willing to dish out. Hefty shavings of white truffle dot the pizza, and you will find an egg cracked in the middle. The only time I’ve eaten something with this much truffle was a black truffle risotto at Melisse in Los Angeles. And on a pizza? Yes please.

Otto also has pretty good pastas, and the sides are great to even out your meal with some greens. The carbonara pasta is particularly good, but I wouldn’t make a trip to Otto just for the pasta. I’m a pretty big fan of the brussels sprouts as well, but be warned these are served room temperature (the waiters will “warn” you of this- I guess customers have complained in the past?). I’m still at the point where I try not to repeat restaurants too much, but this is one of my few staples, it’s just too good. One last warning: You may experience a “truffle hangover” the next day, that’s how decadent this place is. But absolutely worth it.

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Otto Entoca Pizzeria $$

1 5th Ave. New York, NY 10003

What to Order: Selection of Cheese with the truffle honey, truffle pizza, brussel sprouts, caprese salad

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Caprese Salad

 

Spinach and Feta Bread Pudding

imageOne thing I like to do when I have down time at work (which is not often nowadays) is search for quick and easy recipes. Titles like ” 7 Fifteen Minute Breakfasts You Must Try,” “One-Pot Meals Sure to Make Your Mouth Water,” or “5 Minute Dessert Hacks Better Than the Originals” are almost guarenteed a click from my mouse. I currently have probably 15 to 20 recipes bookmarked that I promised myself I would try. This is one of them: spinach and feta bread pudding.
I think I originally found this recipe under a title like “10 Easy Dinners Under 30 Minutes.” And though this recipe definitely takes more than 30 minutes if you count for the refrigeration time, I’ll forgive Food and Wine this once.
I love bread pudding if only for the fact that it’s so versatile. Not only can you make it with various types of bread — in fact last year I made a pretty tasty banana bread pudding for my boss’s birthday — you can add various mix-ins. And even though I love to experiment with dessert bread pudding, I never thought about making a savory bread pudding. So when Hailey came to visit a few weeks ago, I was super excited to try this savory dish.
The star of this dish is the feta so remember to use liberally. When mixed in the bread pudding, feta melts into a nice creamy, yet tangy, glue for the bread and spinach. When sprinkled on top, the feta browns and adds a slightly crunchy texture. This dish could really be called feta with bread and greens, and get along just fine.
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did.

Cheers!

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Spinach and Feta Bread Pudding (lightly adapted from Food and Wine)

3 Tbsp. of Olive Oil

8 Ounces of Bread (approximately 1/2 loaf)

5 Ounces of Spinach (approximately 2/3 of a cup)

1/2 Cup of Crumbled Feta Cheese

2 Tsp. of Dijon Mustard

1/2 Tsp. of Lemon Zest

1 Tbsp. of Lemon Juice

6 Eggs, beaten

2 Cups of Whole Milk

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions

Cut bread into cubes and spread over a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until dry. Let cool completely and then mix with the spinach and half the feta cheese. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with mustard, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add one egg at a time and beat until blended. Mix in the milk, salt and pepper. Pour the milk and egg mixture over the bread and spinach mixture, making sure to evenly soak the bread cubes. Transfer to a baking dish and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours. (I refrigerated over night, but a couple hours should suffice). After you let the mixture sit, sprinkle the left over feta on top and bake for about 45 minutes, of until the bread pudding mixture starts to solidify. Bake for 5-10 more minutes afterwards, or until the feta crumbles start to brown.

Makes approximately 4-6 servings.

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A Taste of NYC: ABC Kitchen

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Wow Jean-Georges, you’ve done it again. One of my favorite restaurants in NYC, ABC Cocina, has now been matched by ABC Kitchen. The Kitchen features the same fresh, top-notch ingredients, with a completely different menu. While Cocina has a small-plates/tapas-style menu with Latin flair, the Kitchen showcases a more traditional American-style dish using seasonal ingredients, all with their own twist.

I’m kind of a sucker for any “Farm-to-Table” restaurant that builds relationships with local producers. The first page of ABC Kitchen’s menu details all of the farms that the restaurant works with, which I find magnificent to learn where your food is actually coming from. Such restaurants strive to support the local ecosystems and small-time farmers in the region, which is very important in our globalized world in terms of both eating fresher ingredients and reducing overall carbon footprint.

Despite its sustainable, eco-friendly nature, ABC Kitchen is super trendy. The bar was poppin’ at 9pm on a Monday night, and the cocktail menu is fantastic albeit pricey. It also happens to be a hot celebrity-spotting site. Does anyone watch “The Big Bang Theory?” I don’t, but I recognized one of the main characters at the table next to us. After a quick IMDB search, turns out his name is Sheldon on the show.

ABC 1Ok shall we talk about the food? I took my Dad here while he was in town for business, and we started off sharing two appetizers; the crab toast and the roast carrot & avocado salad.  The hearty chunks of crab mixed with lemon aioli on a hearty slice of country bread was incredible. I also hear great things about their roasted kabocha squash toast, which I will be sure to try next time. As for the salad, I’m not sure what kind of marinade they used on the carrots, but my Dad and I both agreed they were some of the best we’ve ever had. Mixed with my favorite food in the entire world, avocado, I was in heaven with this salad. I went on to order the black bass as a main, and convinced my Dad to order ABC Kitchen’s signature fried chicken so I could have a bite. The bass was perfectly silky, light and flavorful, atop a wonderful cooked spinach mixture. The bite of the fried chicken I had was even more incredible, so moist and crispy, unlike any I’ve had.

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ABC Kitchen $$$$

35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003

What to Order:

Drinks: Big Apple, Concord Grape Mimosa

Food: Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad, Crab Toast, Kabocha Squash Toast, Black Sea Bass, Fried Chicken, Broccoli with Cheddar Cheese Sauce, Popcorn Crunch Sundae

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ABC Broccoli

 

Homemade peanut butter

IMG_0084Peanut butter has been a staple in my diet as long as I can remember. Do you have certain foods that trigger memories? For me peanut butter never ceases to remind me of summer camp. My friend Jennie was perhaps even more obsessed with peanut butter than I was; she was deprived for most of the year living in Dubai and France where peanut butter isn’t really “a thing.” Summer in California was therefore the time to stock-up. One summer we stayed for several “sessions” at camp, and the night between sessions all of the staff had off, so we were pretty much left unsupervised. Jennie and I would sneak into the kitchen and steal a big jar of peanut butter, and host peanut butter parties amongst the redwoods. Oh the life.

Flash forward almost ten years (wow, are we really that old?), and Jennie is a nut butter aficionado. The last time I saw her I think she brought me a lemon-lavender cashew butter, and it was spectacular. In the past couple of years I’ve started making my own nut butters as well (although not usually as fancy as Jennie’s concoctions), and I always have a fresh jar of homemade peanut butter in the fridge. With a good food processor, nut butters are super easy to make, and infinitely healthier than store-bought which add tons of sugar and oils. There’s really no reason not to make your own once you learn how easy it is.

Despite being great on a piece of toast, peanut butter is a great post-workout protein boost. I eat it with bananas or throw a spoonful into a green smoothie. It’s also a great addition to an acai bowl, or great for baking. Whatever you use it for, I promise you’ll be hooked on homemade after the first batch.

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Homemade Peanut Butter

2 Cups Shelled Peanuts, unsalted

2 Tbsp Honey

A Pinch of Salt

Optional: 1-2 Tsp Peanut Oil

Directions:

Place peanuts in a food processor and blend until smooth. Note that this may take up to 5-7 whole minutes. Add honey and salt into the food processor until combined. Add the optional peanut oil for a smoother, silkier butter.

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Easy Cinnamon Yogurt Scones

IMG_0081Greetings from frigid New York City. Last week I was in LA enjoying refreshing acai bowls in the 85 degree sunshine, and now it’s back to hibernating inside. (At least I have an excuse for tea and scones :/) Living in NYC for the past 7 months has been an absolute whirlwind. I haven’t felt bored, lonely or even nostalgic for my former life for even a second. Yet, going on a last-minute week-long trip to LA for work was unexpectedly difficult. I saw West LA from  a visitor’s perspective for the first time, and I felt the essence of a magical vacation land that doesn’t exist in real life. Granted, I happened to go during an anomaly of a week where temperatures reached the high-80’s, and I think I forgot that it’s not always like this in February. I had forgotten what it feels like to wake up to shining sun (NYC is overcast every day in winter, it seems), and how happy something as simple as waking up to bright day light can make me feel. I went on a short run outside one day and can barely describe how euphoric it felt to run amongst palm trees and feel the sun on my back. I felt pure joy, and kept thinking, “this used to be my life?”. I guess it’s just one of those things where the grass is always greener on the other side. Now that I’ve been back in NYC for two days, my mindset is Big Apple all-the-way.

Luckily I had the day off work for Presidents’ Day, giving myself another day to ease back into NYC winter. Because it was so cold, I treated myself to a cozy day indoors watching movies, catching up on work, and getting my life back together after being gone for a week for work. Sometimes we just need a lazy day to re-boot.

I’m trying to lay-low on the carbs these days, but winter calls for comfort food. Warm whole-wheat scones just sounded like the best addition to my holiday indoors. I really hope we don’t have too many more of these days, winter is starting to get rough for this California girl, especially when I just experienced what I’m missing.

I stumbled upon this recipe and was astonished how little butter (and sugar) these scones require compared to others I’ve made. The greek yogurt keeps them very light and fluffy, and low-cal despite their hearty, flaky taste. They’re also loaded with cinnamon, my favorite. The best thing about these scones is that they took me less than 30 minutes to prepare and bake, so they’re perfect for a quick weekend breakfast.

Bon Appétit!

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Easy Cinnamon Yogurt Scones (Recipe adapted from This Life Abundant)

2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

1 Tbsp Baking Powder

3 Tbsp Sugar

1 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

A Pinch of Salt

5 Tbsp Butter, unsalted and cold

1/2 Cup Nonfat Greek Yogurt

1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp Milk of choice

Topping:

1 1/2 Tbsp Sugar

1/2 Tsp Cinnamon

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 425 Deg F. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Cut butter into tiny pieces with a sharp knife. Press butter into flour mixture with a fork, or use your hands until combined. Place bowl in the fridge or freezer momentarily. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the milk and yogurt. Slowly combine the milk/yogurt mixture into the dry ingredient mixture using a spatula until no dry mixture remains. Knead dough into a ball.

Place ball on a lightly floured surface, and press into a flat round, about 1- 1 1/2 inches thick. With a sharp knife, cut the round into 8 pieces. Place the 8 slices onto a baking tray. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon for the topping, and sprinkle onto each slice. Bake for 13-15 minutes.

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Avocado Hummus

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If you guys didn’t know, last Sunday was the Super Bowl. (I may have called it “Super Bowl Saturday” in a conversation … oops). And, as you all know, the most important thing about the Super Bowl is the food.

This year, my friend Ana and her boyfriend Jon hosted a bomb.com Super Bowl viewing party. And, being the hosts they are, they provided us with a feast complete with cold Coronas, the best pulled pork sandwiches ever and the chewiest peanut butter cookies for dessert. Each of us contributed a food item to the list (including these cute football-themed deviled eggs), so needless to say, I left Ana’s place feeling pretty stuffed.

I’ve seen a few avocado hummus recipes floating across the web, so I decided to test my hand at making some. And though the hummus turned out pretty nicely, I do have a few notes for anyone who cares to try and make some.

  • This is a hummus, not a guacamole. Therefore it will taste more like hummus with a hint of avocado flavoring than your traditional chips and guac.
  • For smoother hummus, you will want to de-shell the garbanzo beans. (De-shelling the beans isn’t required, though it will make your hummus less chunky). To do this, place the garbanzo bean between your thumb and forefinger and roll gently. After the first five or so, I found my rhythm and de-shelled the rest in about 15 minutes.
  • I wanted my hummus to be healthier than the average store-bought hummus, so I added less olive oil than recommended. You can always drizzle more oil, though when I asked Marta to taste test, she approved. And, as you guys know, when something is Marta-approved, I don’t mess with it anymore.

Cheers!

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Avocado Hummus

1 Can of Organic Garbanzo Beans, de-shelled

2 Ripe Avocados

1 Tbsp. of Tahini

~½ Cup of Olive Oil

1 ½ Limes, juiced

A Handful of Cilantro

Directions:

Place all the ingredients minus the olive oil in a food processor and blend until combined. Slowly add the olive oil a quarter cup at a time and blend until smooth consistency is reached. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Makes approximately 3 cups.

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A Taste of LA: Gracias Madre

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Guatemalan-style tamale with black beans

The other weekend, Marta and I decided to try out a new restaurant: Gracias Madre. A few months ago, one of our Lyft drivers recommended it to us, saying that it was some of the best vegan options she’s tried in Los Angeles. And though we are both omnivores (I cannot say no to a steak or Korean BBQ and Marta’s protein of choice is fried chicken), we decided to check the place out.

Gracias Madre is a super busy restaurant located in the heart of West Hollywood, so making a reservation in advance is recommended. Headed by Executive Chef Chandra Gilbert, this restaurant boasts of various Mexican food favorites — all of which are organic, locally grown and farm fresh. And, if fresh ingredients was not reason enough to check this place out, you should definitely come here only to be wowed by the quality of their cheese and dairy substitutions. Really, the totopos con chile with the cashew crema (the vegan version of is queso fresco) is to die for. In fact, I’m pretty sure Marta and I stopped talking for a few minutes to enjoy our appetizer in silence.

And while I thoroughly enjoyed my entree (I ordered one of my childhood favorites: the flautas de camote), I’m going to skip right over to the dessert, which was so darn good! Marta and I ordered the fudge brownie, topped with coconut bacon and an orange cashew whipped cream. How they manage to make the whip so creamy without any dairy still amazes me –a definite must-try.

I really recommend that if you ever have the chance, you must try out this restaurant. Even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, Gracias Madre has something on the menu that caters to everyone — even if you just go for appetizers and drinks.

Cheers!

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Totopos con chile

Gracias Madre  $$

8905 Melrose Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90069

What to Order: The totopos con chile makes a great appetizer/something to munch on while you sip your cocktails. The tamale and flautas were tasty, but the fudge brownie topped with the orange cashew whip takes the cake (…or in this case, the brownie??)

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Fudge brownie

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Flautas de camote

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