Thursday, October 27, 2011

TGIF: tastes of fall

This week, my best friend moved into her new place, and I went to help her take her kitchen out for its inaugural spin.  Upon arrival, what do I discover but a beautiful house and a gorgeously laid-out kitchen, complete with a Viking range and a cabinet full of Heath Ceramics tableware!  I think I was ready to move in with her right then and there.  The house itself is full of rustic old-Berkeley charm and light that I grew up loving, and the backyard boasts so many wonderful fruit trees.  For dinner, we made a simple menu inspired by what's currently in the markets:

A Fall Housewarming Menu

Pomegranate, crisp Bartlett pear, and wild arugula salad
with lemon-balsamic vinegar dressing

Chanterelle and sage risotto
with mascarpone, parmigiano reggiano, and red pepper flakes

Sauteed young ginger-honey figs
with young ginger, honey, and a Palmier cookie

The combination of fried sage and chanterelle mushrooms--all earthy and slightly smokey--was so good in an ultra-creamy mascarpone risotto!  Plus, I love making risotto because it forces you to stand there and stir patiently, ladling broth and watching the rice slowly plump up to al dente perfection.  It's a perfect breather, analog moment in an otherwise hectic, wired life.

I hope you all have wonderful weekends planned!  What are you making with fall fruits and veggies?  Share below!

P.S.  Help me support breast cancer research!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lemon Fritter-sticks and Nutmeg Pudding

It takes me a lot of time and hard work to maintain my 'geek' street cred.  Take, for instance, what I spent my summer doing (when not traveling): watching the entire rebooted series of Doctor Who, beginning to end.  I felt that it was my duty and obligation as a self-proclaimed, card-carrying geek to fill myself in on the cultural phenomenon that is the Doctor.  (that, and Star Trek: Deep Space 9 hadn't been released on Netflix on-demand yet.)  And I have to say, Doctor Who. is. awesome.

The one sad part about the show is that it doesn't seem to be quite as ubiquitous here as in the UK, so it's difficult to find people who "get" the Doctor Who references that I drop.  Laughing silently with yourself is just not the same.  So imagine my surprise and delight when my Doctor knowledge actually came in handy one day in class, of all places!  [warning: geeky story starts here]  One guy in class was joking around about true 'universal' statements in language, having come up with the seeming universal "All language must occur in time." (Backstory: universal statements about languages are really hard to prove and are constantly being debunked.  For instance, think all languages have numbers?  Some linguists have claimed that certain languages don't have numbers like we do, only concepts like "one, a few, many.")  From across the room, a girl in the class suddenly shouts, "Not the Doctor's language!  If he occupies the same point in time twice, then his language is occurring out of time!"  Now, it will immediately occur to all of you detail-oriented Doctor fans that this statement is blatantly untrue, because the Doctor cannot cross his own timeline, a fact which I quickly pointed out to the class.  Finally, in a coup de grĂ¢ce, my friend in class leaned over and made a time-traveling and theoretical phonology joke that is just far too geeky to print on this blog.  #win.

So it seems that I am slowly discovering a hidden world of Doctor fans around me.  In reporting this incident on my facebook wall, I proceeded to learn that one of my advisors is an even bigger (and detail-oriented) Doctor fan that I am.  ... Here's a mystery of the universe for you: why is it that your advisors are always better than you at everything??? (And please don't say it's because they're doctors....!)

[click photo for larger image]

In my Doctor Who-craze, I really wanted to be a character out of the show for Halloween.  If I had the means and time, my first choice would be a Weeping Angel, because they are some of the awesomest and scariest villains on the show.  But, in lieu of a costume since I won't have much time this year, I thought I would dress my dessert up as something Doctor Who -inspired: fritter-sticks and pudding, a reference to the favorite (and disgusting) fishsticks and pudding combination of the latest Doctor incarnate.  This non-savory version is much, much more appetizing than fish and sweet pudding--I assure you--, consisting of lemon yogurt fritters and vanilla nutmeg baked custard: subtle spices of nutmeg and vanilla in the smooth cream, and a sweet tang of lemon in the deep-fried dough.  Eat it as the Doctor does: dipping the fresh, sugar-coated fritters into the pudding!

Even if you aren't a Doctor Who fan, or you have now decided to stop reading this blog because I have betrayed how much of a geek I am, at least try this recipe before you go.  No geek street cred required!

P.S. Favorite Doctor moments?  Share below!  Here's mine.
P.P.S. Also, my how lucky that I happen to have a Tardis-blue table on hand! :)

Read on for recipes....

Thursday, October 20, 2011


You!  Please help me support Breast Cancer Awareness Month!   Read about it here.  And thank you to those of you who already have.  :)

If we survive the weekend here in the Bay Area (after a couple of small earthquakes today, who knows what's gonna happen?), see you all next week!  In the meantime, this looks like a weekend of work for me.  *sigh*.  Share your weekend plans below!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Think Pink! Strawberry and Cinnamon Cupcakes

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month!  This is one of the causes I feel strongly about, having had close family members and friends fight and survive breast cancer.  It's true what they say: you never really think cancer can happen to people you know until it actually does happen to people you know.  So please. Be aware. Get tested. Spread the word. Support breast cancer research.

One of the reasons I always dedicate time on this blog to talking about breast cancer is because I feel like it's something that I can actually do to help.  When my family member was going through her fight with cancer, I never quite felt like it was real.  I think it was just hard for me to imagine or relate to what she was going through, and, being a person of action who possesses absolutely no patience, it was incredibly frustrating to me that there was nothing I could do to just *fix* it and immediately make everything better again.  I also found it really difficult to imagine the possibility of a world without her in it, and I'm very glad that I never had to actually face that situation.

(hm... I apologize if that sounded clunky.  It's difficult to articulate these thoughts and feelings while respecting the privacy of everyone involved....)

[click on image to enlarge]

This year, I wanted to ask you all for help in doing what we can to fight breast cancer.  To this end, I've created two limited edition "Think Pink!" greeting card collections of pink-inspired photography that's been featured here on desserts for breakfast.  Each collection has five greeting cards (they're blank inside): one set features "light" images and one set features "dark" images.  All of the proceeds of the sale of these cards will be donated to the American Cancer Society to support breast cancer research, so please help me in this cause!

These are limited edition, so once they're gone, they're gone and won't be back, so make sure to get your set today!  Single cards may also be available sometime soon, or you can contact me if you have any special requests for larger orders, etc.  Please note that due to some printing delays, the dark collection won't ship until next week.

To thank you in helping me support the breast cancer awareness cause, here are "Think Pink!" strawberry and cinnamon cupcakes, also known as re-imagined "pink lady" cupcakes--sweet, very strawberry-y, and with a bit of tart and spice in the cinnamon-cream cheese frosting.  Oh, and I think you should definitely eat these while watching Funny Face on Girl's Night!

Read on for recipe....

Friday, October 14, 2011


Current food obsessions include sweeter-than-sweet farmers market tomatoes and fresh, creamy, and milky mozzarella cheese.  To enjoy: Whisk 1 part honey and 2 parts cherry wood-aged balsamic vinegar.  Drizzle atop thick slices of tomatoes and mozzarella.  Add a few leaves of fresh Italian basil and a quick dash of sea salt.  Savor the perfection that is a really good, in season tomato.  Mop up leftover juices with crusty, fresh-baked baguette chunks.

List your current food obsessions in the comments below!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Postcards from Summer: Hawai'i, part II

I had an exciting post planned for today, but unfortunately due to powers beyond my control, that post had to be postponed for a week. :(  But! That gives me time to finish telling you about my Hawai'i trip from the end of this past summer--about high time, too, since it's not really summer anymore.... *sad face*

(If you missed it previously, catch up on Part 1 of the trip here.)

First off--the food!  Oh my, I was in tropical fruit heaven.  Having spent good portions of time growing up in a tropical country, I know that there's just nothing like the fruit available in tropical locales, and I *loved* being back in a place where I could eat passion fruit all day every day without breaking the bank!  Not to mention the apple bananas, and the sweet pineapple and the mango and dragonfruit and starfruit!  (Hold the papaya, please.  I've never been a big fan.)  Also, I noticed one morning that all of the fruit I'd been eating was yellow.  Huh.

Tip: fresh passion fruit mixed with lightly sweetened iced green tea = divine.

Then, there were the desserts:  (No, we didn't eat gecko--this little guy was just hanging out on my chair at the donut shop.)  For one, the malasadas--Portuguese donuts filled with oozy and jammy fruit fillings (our favorite was the blackberry).  We tried a couple malasada places, but we thought Baker Tom's was by far the best.  It's half malasada stand, half autoshop garage, which makes for quite an interesting roadside vibe.

Also, mochi!  Like, some of the best mochi I have ever had, from Two Ladies Kitchen--soft and fluffy, some stuffed with red bean and juicy fresh strawberries, some lightly flavored with passion fruit or peach--made pretty much on the spot for you as you wait.  So deliciously subtle and melt-in-your-mouth-y.  I was sad that the mochi wouldn't stay fresh enough for me to bring some back for my dad, a huge mochi fan.

And how could I forget the shaved ice!  Trying this famous shaved ice place took us five tries! Every time we drove by, it was closed.  And then it just so happened that the next time we tried, it was Memorial Day, and they were closed.  Then, we went and the store was actually open, but they didn't start serving shaved ice until 2pm, so we got a "please come back later."  Finally--finally, we got our Itsu's shaved ice.  I got passion fruit and pineapple, of course.  As much as I adore passion fruit though, I think I've discovered that pineapple is the superior shaved ice flavor!

When we weren't stuffing our bellies full of any and all famous island desserts we could get our grubby little hands on, there was--of course--the ocean.  This is where the Big Island definitely was not like what I expected Hawai'i to be.  Where there were beaches, they were made of jet-black sand or porous black stone, made when hot lava hits the cold ocean water and cools so quickly that it shatters.  Not all of the beaches on the Big Island were like this, but most of the ones where we were on the eastern side of the island were.

The same forces (read: volcanoes) that made the black sand also created these wonderful areas packed full with deep, wide, and geometrically-heated tidepools that made for some wonderful snorkeling.  My favorite, favorite, favorite part hands-down of the entire trip was swimming with the magnificent (and large!) sea turtles that frequent these warm spots.  It's amazing to see a turtle serenely glide past you underwater just bare inches away while looking at you warily out of the corner of one eye.  I think the one I encountered was probably wondering what bizarre and awkward creature I was flailing alongside him.

There were so many other really cool creatures and coral in the tidepools.  It was my first time snorkeling, so seeing all of the life underwater was just nothing short of spectacular.  If only the lap pool I usually swim in were so interesting, I might actually go work out more!

The last day we were in Hawai'i, we splurged a bit and did the whole "resort" thing, just to have had that experience.  Mauna Lani, the resort we stayed at, also had good open-ocean snorkeling, so I got to see some unimaginably giant coral out there.  At one point, I even saw a huge glittery rainbow fish that reminded me of this book that I used to read when I was little, but he swam off way too quickly for me to point him out to my snorkeling companion.

Finally, the last night, I was walking out on the beach on my own when I was rewarded with a gorgeous, traditionally-Hawai'ian sunset.  Mostly I just stood there gaping at it, not even taking any Instagram photos on the phone to live-tweet, but of course, I couldn't help but sneak one last shot with my camera.....

...And that's it for Hawai'i and the summer.  It's been a wonderful one!  'Til next year....

more Postcards from Summer 2011:

Friday, October 7, 2011

TGIF: a moment of silence.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Get Well Soon Cakes

Pinch me, because I cannot believe it's October already!  *rubs eyes*  Outside, we're getting our first serious rain of the season, which I'm loving, and I'm already drinking large amounts of hot tea indoors.

Actually, this weather is a little difficult to believe because last week, we had our first real summer temperatures all summer, hitting 90+ degrees F in San Francisco proper for a few days on end--which is quite the rare happenstance!  Unluckily for me, however, my body decided that it was also the week to give myself a cold and a fever, so there I was, running around between meetings and work, in hot, hot weather, made all that much hotter from burning up from the inside.  (and to make matters even worse, it didn't help that I was wearing a sweater with no option to go home and change for the entire day either! ><)

At least now, the weather has decided to go back to the normal grey San Francisco status quo that I know and love, and I'm nearly 100% recovered from the cold.  Thank goodness.  But, I'm still obsessed with hot tea--and especially for colds, with chamomile tea, a drizzle of sweet honey, and a thin sliver of lemon--to nurse me slowly back to health.  Oh, that, and I've been chugging orange juice like there's no other liquid on earth for as much vitamin C as my body can handle (plus some).  Whatever works, I say!

Thinking about what we usually drink and eat when we're sick got me to thinking about whether or not I could pack the same complimentary flavors into cake form, since cake makes everything better, too.  :-P  (yes, I know I must be slightly delusional here, but let's just blame it on the fever, okay?)  I decided to go with a simple honey and meyer lemon pound cake, coated with a thin, subtle, and ever-so-slightly crunchy chamomile sugar glaze.  It's a cake that's moist and dense and lemony! but not too sweet, even with light flavor of honey wrapped inside. And, the mini bundt molds that I decided to use were so cute that I immediately started feeling better upon taking these cakes out of the oven.  :)  It's the small things!

[click on photo above for a larger image]

Anyways, welcome to October, all!  If it's truly going to be a long fall with rainy days and hot tea (and beautifully diffused light from the clouds), keep this recipe on hand--it's perfect for the occasion.

Oh, and go get your flu shots now!

Edit: My good friend reminds me after reading this post that these honey cakes are actually well-timed for Rosh Hashanah, too, when it's customary to eat honey cakes and the like. I guess so many people had been talking to me about making and eating honey cakes this week that it sort of just sunk into my subconscious!

Read on for recipe....