Supergrains and Paella

Am I mad?!  I’m pulling a full Jamie Oliver and I know it.  I’m even excited about it.  If you aren’t aware of the clamor from the entire nation of Spain after Jamie re-vamped a paella recipe to include chicken and chorizo, let me refer you to the incident here.  Jamie Oliver’s paella recipe blasted by Spaniards over inclusion of chorizo.  But, I’m American, and we are known revolutionaries, so I think I can get away with doing the whole re-vamping thing in a way that maybe a Brit can’t, right?

Well, I’m doing it anyway, and feel somewhat justified because I got the stamp of approval from David @ricepaella, a Spanish paella chef from Valencia. In all honesty, he was the inspiration for this dish when he posted MANY unique paella variations, including one that was “Quinoa en paella.”  I mean, it makes perfect sense to me to be honest.  Then again, I’m not Spanish but I do believe it lies in how one refers to it.  Note how David calls it “Quinoa in paella”.

Supergrain in paella, simmering on the stove. I didn’t feel like breaking out the gas ring burner. It can be done on the stove, you just have to move the paella around as it cooks.

We often think the word “paella” only means the  food, but it became that because it was always cooked in a round wide flat pan that was referred to as a paella (from Catalan, from Old French paelle, from Latin patella small pan).  The food and the thing it’s cooked in are the same word. MIND BLOWING. It’s like the chicken or the egg thing – which came first?  In this case, pan gets my vote! (Note to self: call the NPR radio program “A Way With Words” about this stat.)

I’m not exactly sure when I HAD to make this paella, but I know sometime between seeing the Instagram post with quinoa made in a paella pan and seeing the super grain mix  (red and white quinoa, millet, and buckwheat) at Whole Foods, it had to be done.  Why do I say “had to be done?”   Once I get something in my head that I want to make, if I don’t cook, bake, prepare, or otherwise fabricate that thing, it will stay in the perpetually un-made stage in my head and drive me nearly mad if I don’t excise it and cook the damn dish!   So…during a heart pounding and near vomit inducing Tuesday night workout  led by the Gayple female half, I decided that it was THE night to cook the supergrain paella.  I’m sorry…I mean supergrain IN paella.   On a Tuesday night.  It can be done.  Gulp.

Here’s how it goes down.  Run into house after workout, say hello to super cute cuddly newly adopted dog, pull two quarts of homemade chicken bone broth out of freezer and start to thaw it in hot water in sink.  Feed said cute dog.  Dice 1/2 green bell pepper, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 an onion,  and several cloves of garlic (ok, more if you’re like me – and I love garlic).  Cheaters version: use a food processor to save time.   Heat the paella (pan…implied in word as established above) with a generous amount of good quality olive oil in it.  Cook diced chicken (thighs preferably), and diced chorizo bilbao if you want to pull a full Jamie Oliver.  It adds a LOT of delicious flavor, so I’m in favor!  (Stop rhyming I mean it!  Anybody want a peanut?)

Add the sofrito (peppers, onion, and garlic) and cook, stirring often.  Grate the pulp of one large tomato and add to sofrito.  Cook mixture until most of the moisture comes out of it and the color darkens.  If you are afraid of overcooking the meat, you can take it out while the sofrito cooks.  Put the meat back in if it has been removed and add stock/bone broth/liquid to the paella.  The amount depends on the amount of quinoa/grain blend being cooked (2 cups for every one cup of grain blend).  I added a little more liquid because it was being cooked without a lid.   Add paella seasoning (I use a premixed blend of spices procured in Spain.  It can be purchased online or in Spanish food specialty stores.)  Once the liquid comes to a boil, taste and check for seasoning – adjust accordingly. Add supergrain blend, and while you’re at it add precooked garbanzos (or lima beans) and peas.   At this point, we’ve gone completely gone off the track so what harm will garbanzos and peas do?!  Indulge me and your creativity!  Put a sprig or two of fresh rosemary in the center.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed, adjust the heat as you go to prevent overcooking and burning.  Cover immediately with a lid or foil.

While the paella was simmering away, I jumped in the shower and cleaned up from the brutal workout that I was about to reward the instructor for inflicting upon me.  I still had time to make a kale and mandarin salad with some shaved goat cheese and a olive oil sherry vinegar dressing (make like a normal vinaigrette with one part acid to 3 parts oil …maybe a little less because sherry vinegar is INTENSE – but my secret tip is to not only season with salt and pepper, but a touch of smoked paprika.  Take that to the bank!)

The paella was resting nicely by the time 2/3rd of the 3 amigos arrived to be the guinea pigs in my latest experiment.  I was formulating back up plans should it all go wrong (pasta dinner at the local Italian joint anyone?), but judging by my doneness taste test, I was pretty sure it would work out for the best.  I opened a bottle of delicious Casa Dumetz Mourvèdre, and not only did I have some solid friends joining me for dinner on a Tuesday night, we had more than your typical middle-of-the-week dinner.  With a little willingness to experiment (and truth be told, buck tradition a little bit), we had a paella full of delicious grains that had the soul and spirit of a rice paella. I do like a good heaping mound of rice, but it’s nice to eat guilt free now and then and still get the feeling of having your favorite meal! Ok. OK, I know… We don’t have to discuss the wine consumed that night (after all, red wine is full of antioxidants).

Buen provecho!

Buen provecho mis amigos!!

Hit play below if you’d like to see a recording of the diners reaction, but only if you aren’t easily offended by a f-bomb (the good kind, of course)!!  Happy eaters, happy cook.

P.S. Spain – please let me back in next time I visit.  Gracias.





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Saag Paneer

Fresh from a trip to London and inspired by my penultimate meal of Indian food, I needed saag paneer.  Fresh, homemade, cheese made from whole milk, made golden brown with turmeric and a little caramelization in a pan, mixed with spicy green goodness of spinach.  Fresh.  (I just wanted to say that a third time.)  Yes, the unexpected vegetarian Indian meal I shared with a British goddess after a day trip to the very inspiring Bletchley Park (Alan Turing code breaking amazingness…look it up!)  DROVE me to curdle organic grass fed whole milk and compress it into a delicious disk of fresh cheese.  I’m glad it did!

Paneer is a  “… fresh cheese common in South Asia, especially in Indian, Pakistani, Afghan, Nepali, and Bangladeshi cuisines. It is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese or curd cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice, vinegar, or any other food acids.” (from  It doesn’t melt, so don’t get your hopes up if you want it for a meaty toast thingy.  Nonetheless, it is delicious if you are a cheese lover.

Paneer is super easy to make.  I was even out of fresh lemons (ok, I forgot to buy them) so I used apple cider vinegar.  It worked like a champ.  In no time flat, I was draining the curds of the whey and making cheese, on my way to the full saag, saag being the leafy spinachy part of saag paneer.

I’ve used Aarti Sequeira’s recipe several times for this dish. It hasn’t failed me.  Thanks Aarti!!  Instead of repeating it, I’ll include the link here:   I didn’t include the yogurt in the final step of cooking the spinach.  I was trying to keep the dairy to a minimum.

I’ll be much more likely to finish this post if I don’t have to re-type the recipe.  And I’ll be perfectly honest:  it’s been a while since I’ve posted so my main goal here is to get something up quickly and get back in the swing of things.  Hopefully more creatively will follow in future posts.


Heating the milk to 185 degrees while having a spot of tea. So civilized!

For now, think of this post as a creative picture essay with a link to a delicious recipe that I didn’t come up with. Regardless, you will enjoy it either way!!

This is what curdled milk looks like, FYI.

Draining the whey from the curds

Going for the press

Fresh paneer!

Marinating the paneer in tumeric and cayenne.

Toasting up the paneer!

The essentials – onion, garlic, ginger, and chili

Make sure they get nice and carmelized…10 min a least. And then toast those spices.

And the spinach…and boom, saag paneer!

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Spicy Pork with quinoa, mushrooms and kale

I am not lying when I say that this is the quickest meal that I’ve cooked, from scratch of course.  Yes, I am going on the record to say that heating something in the microwave does NOT qualify for cooking.  Shocking I know!  Regardless of expediency, this is also one of the tastiest meals I’ve thrown together, especially in 20 minutes.

So this is how this thing goes down:

  1. Stop at Target Express on the way home from almost debilitating workout at GFit (thanks Jules).  Ignore people looking at you walking funny. It was the workout people!!
  2. Grab mild italian sausage (not in the case), pre-cut baby portabello mushrooms, pre-cooked garlic quinoa (I did say this was a quick meal), and red onion.
  3. Get home before you start to stink and really gross people out.  Shower immediately.
  4. Put a pan on high heat with a tablespoon or two of coconut oil and brown the sausage.
  5. While the sausage browns, dice the onion.  After the sausage has nice brown color, toss in the red onion and mushrooms and stir often.
  6. Go to fridge. Get jar of sambal matah procured from Trader Joe’s a while back that’s been hanging out in the fridge waiting for a use.  What’s sambal matah you ask?  An Indonesian “salsa” that is amazing mix of peppers, lemongrass, garlic, and shallots. All the work is done for you already for a great flavoring!  Toss a tablespoon or two…or three in according to your taste.  Stir and let those delicious flavors soak into the pork and mushrooms.
  7. Add pre-cooked organic garlic quinoa.  This is shelf-stable pre-cooked quinoa.  It’s got a fair amount of sodium in it SO DON’T ADD ANYMORE SALT!  Between the heat of the sambal matah and the salt in both that and the quinoa, you are good to go.   A total cheat, but I did say this was a quick meal.
  8. And a handful to two of tuscan kale from the garden on top and stir to warm through.
  9. Eat a bowl full.  And then walk away from the kitchen to write the post to ensure you don’t eat the entire thing.
    A one dish delicious dish!

    A one dish delicious dish!

    Let's hope I can stick to one bowl of this goodness.  My mouth is tingling with delicious flavor sensations!

    Let’s hope I can stick to one bowl of this goodness. My mouth is tingling with delicious flavor sensations!

I’m definitely keeping this one in the repertoire.  It’s a great combination of something that could be Italian and something that could be Indonesian.  It was quick, full of healthy flavor, has great colors, and best of all I don’t feel guilty for eating it…if I can resist eating the rest of it before I get the leftovers in the

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Comfort food congee

Ok this gets written before I pass out completely from jet lag. I just got back from a trip to Amsterdam and Copenhagen with my sister and brother in law…and the jet lag is hitting HARD! But I had to extend the vacation goodness feeling and recreate this dish I had in Copenhagen.

We were in Copenhagen and went for lunch to Torvehallerne, an epic set of food halls, for the second day in a row. First day was smørrebrød, which usually consists of a piece of buttered rye bread, a dense, dark brown bread and various toppings. SO GOOD!

 But on day two, I wanted to try Grød, the elevated Danish porridge place I heard so much about.  My choice of porridge is congee, a rice porridge. ABSOLUTE comfort food for me!

 As I waited for my congee, I started a conversation with a woman, who was local to Copenhagen. We had a great exchange about what we did and why were visiting. Such a cool random thing to happen! She was so very nice as well.

As we were walking away, I noticed that Grød had their cookbook up and open to the recipe of the dish I had just had: congee with chicken, spring onions, coriander, peanuts, soy, and sesame oil. Snap goes the camera, and the recipe came home with me. We didn’t get far walking though; there was a cute pastry place on the next corner. Guilty as charged!

 After a long first day back at work, comfort food was calling me. I’ve made congee before but really liked this recipe. And I had some small batch soy sauce from my friend Julie Darling. Thanks Julie!!  In no time I was enjoying the taste of the congee I had in Denmark. Mmmm …. Now it’s time for bed. Zzzz

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Slow cooker chicken chili

Full disclosure: this will be a short post and mostly me raving about how great this recipe from Smitten Kitchen is.  In addition, if I didn’t take advantage of a short post,  I ran the risk of losing momentum and not keeping up the New Year habit of posting.  So quick post here I come…

Woke up at 0550.  I do not like waking up at this time for work. AT. ALL.  10 minutes later after I figured out what day it was, why my eyes were open, and where I was, I got out of bed and remembered I promised myself I would throw this dish in crock pot before leaving for work.  0605 – hot water and apple cider vinegar beverage in hand –  better get moving.

Truly this recipe is easy as it says.  Throw everything in the crock pot and run.  Well, in my case, shower for work and get going.  Why is it when the Today show comes on and I’m not out the door that means I’m late for work?!  It’s just. TOO. EARLY.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili Slow Cooker Chicken Chili

Truth be told, there is some dicing required.  Had I realized or fully thought it through, I would’ve diced the onion and garlic the night before.  Oh well…who doesn’t like a onion induced tear filled morning at 0620?!?!  FYI – my eyes do NOT react well to onions.  I think it’s because they are light colored and more susceptible for some reason and I’m supposed to chew gum or put a chopstick in my mouth or stand on one foot or something to reduce the pain, but it was was too early and never really works anyway.

Toasty whole grain baked tortilla chips, baked with coconut oil! Toasty whole grain baked tortilla chips, baked with coconut oil!

So onion and tears aside, all the ingredients went in.  I decided to add a few tablespoons of tumeric, because that stuff is good for you and it’s a new year right?!  I also had frozen pork bone broth in the freezer that I used for the liquid, a perfect use for this.  In all the ingredients when, 0630  – I have to shower because now I will be late.  Crazy talk…0630 and I’m late.  Isn’t the rest of the civilized world still in the fetal position asleep at that time?!  Yeah, I thought so. Wah wah.

The minimal results were all worth it.  The recipe calls for this to be cooked for 8-10 hours.  I got home after a work out at 1845, so it was a little more than 10 hours…but all was well and my house hadn’t burned down.  It just smelled delicous and all chili-like!   After cutting up some whole grain tortillas, spraying them with coconut oil spray and baking them for 10 minutes, and serving the delicious chili on a bed of arugula (it was too dark to go out to the garden and forage for tuscan kale even though I know it’s out there somewhere), it was dinner time. And all that minimal effort…totally worth it.  Thanks again Smitten Kitchen!!

Dinner is served! Add greens, onions, sour cream, or other toping of your choice Dinner is served! Add greens, onions, sour cream, or other toping of your choice

Recipe taken from Smitten Kitchen –

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Bonkers bread & butter panettone pudding tart

Jamie Oliver couldn’t have have picked a better adjective for this recipe…it is so good that indeed it is BONKERS, just as Jamie describes.    I have had this recipe tumbling

Mise en place, ready to go! I wish I was always this organized when I cooked or baked.

Mise en place, ready to go! I wish I was always this organized when I cooked or baked.

around in my head for a while, waiting for the perfect moment to make it only for it not to happen.  First off, it requires a panettone –  a sweet bread loaf from Italy, usually only available around the Christmas and New Year.  Secondly, you don’t just make and eat this thing on a Tuesday night.  I mean, it’s a LOT of pudding for just a regular ol’ Tuesday night.  Just saying.

Crushing the demerara sugar up for the crust in the handy mortar and pestle.

Crushing the demerara sugar up for the crust in the handy mortar and pestle.

As the new year approached, a dear friend of mine invited me to join her and two other friends to cook a meal together on New Year’s Eve.  I’m not a huge fan of the whole “It’s New Year’s Eve so let’s go party and spend lots of money and deal with drunk people and crowd and get yelled at for using my fingers to get the snack mix even though there wasn’t anything else in the bowl to get them with (seriously it happened…ranks up there with the worst NYE party ever)” thang so I jumped at her invitation and the opportunity to have a quite evening close to my house with good people and great food.  No…strike that, GREAT people and food!   Added bonus: I was warned the festivities might not go until midnight. SCORE! I like an early NYE celebration.

Tart tin crusted! I will make sure next time to not get any under the edge and bottom piece to avoid leakage.

Tart tin crusted! I will make sure next time to not get any under the edge and bottom piece to avoid leakage.

My contribution to the evening was to be the dessert.  It didn’t take long for Jamie’s BONKERS Bread and Butter Pudding tart to come to the forefront of my thoughts.  That was the dessert it was going to be.  Delicious, decadent, impressive, unique….and did I say delicious??  Or so I assumed it would be.  As I stated before, I’ve never had the chace to make it.  Either way, it would give me the chance to say “BONKERS Bread and Butter Pudding Tart” a lot like Jamie, even if I did it poorly.

Cutting the crust of the panettone

Cutting the crust of the panettone


The crust pressed into the tart tin

Melting the milk, cream, and butter for the custard base. Mmmm...dairy!!

Melting the milk, cream, and butter for the custard base. Mmmm…dairy!!

Let me digress a little about Jamie Oliver.  I thoroughly enjoy Jamie Oliver.  I enjoy his recipes, his style, his quirky way of talking (Have you ever heard him say, “Preheat the oven to full whack”?), his quest to bring healthier eating to schools in America, and his shows where he grows and hunts and cooks everything in and on his most awesome estate.

Whisking the eggs (backyard of course) with the sugar for two minutes. Should have thought about using the mixer for this...

Whisking the eggs (backyard of course) with the sugar for two minutes. Should have thought about using the mixer for this…

Most of what I do in my kitchen, yard, and garden is because I am just trying to emulate Jamie.  Raised garden beds?  Jamie.  Chickens?  Jamie. Making pasta by hand?  Jamie.   Running stream with shady tree to cook a leg of something delicious by with an antique rotisserie machine over a wood fire?  …. Ok I don’t have that, but if I did it would be because I saw Jamie do that on tv and he looked really really really happy doing it.


Whisking the egg and sugar with the custard base. Make sure let the milk base cool and add it slowly so the eggs don’t scramble!

Adding a third of the custard mix to the "crust"

Adding a third of the custard mix to the “crust”

Back to the dessert – this recipe is bang on simple (ok, ok…I just tried to talk like Jamie again)!  My only suggestion is to ensure there is a tight seal between the bottom of the tart pan and the rim.  When I greased mine and then dusted the crushed sugar around, some of the sugar got under the bottom of the tart bottom.  When I poured the custard mix, some of it escaped through the panettone “crust” and ooozed out the bottom.  To fix this, I’d sugar dust the tart edge and the bottom separately, then wipe the horizontal bottom lip of the fluted tart edge to make sure the bottom insert sits securely on it to form a good seal.

The pudding was a hit and was a dessert that was easy to make and worth doing, should you ever find yourself in the possession of a panettone and you don’t want to eat it straight up.  So GO BONKERS AND HAVE A HAPPY 2016!

Everything assembled and ready to be put into the oven.

Everything assembled and ready to be put into the oven.

Done and yum!

Done and yum!

(Recipe from:



  • 125 g unsalted butter , plus extra for greasing
  • 4 tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 750 g plain panettone
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 300 ml whole milk
  • 5 large free-range eggs
  • 100 g golden caster sugar
  • 60 g quality dark chocolate (70%)
  • 60 g bitter orange marmalade

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Lightly grease a 28cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Bash 2 tablespoons of demerara sugar in a pestle and mortar until fine, then mix with the remaining demerara so you have a range of textures. Tip into the tart tin and shake around to coat. Tap gently, then tip any excess back into the mortar for later. Slice the edges off the panettone in strips and use them to line the base and sides of the tart tin, pressing down hard to compact and create a pastry-like shell.

Halve the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds, then put both the seeds and pod into a pan on a medium heat along with the cream, milk and butter, and simmer for 5 minutes or until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the eggs and golden caster sugar for 2 minutes, or until smooth. Whisking constantly, add the hot cream mixture to the bowl until combined, then discard the vanilla pod.

Now it’s time to build this crazy comfort pudding. Pour one-third of the custard into the base of the tart and leave to soak in for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, tear up all the remaining panettone into rough chunks, soak them in the bowl of creamy custard for a minute or two (the more it sucks up, the better!), then layer up in the shell you’ve created, snapping up and adding little chunks of chocolate and dollops of marmalade between the layers – there’s no need to be neat about it, you want a range of heights, saturation and textures. Pour over any leftover custard, leaving it to soak in if necessary, then sprinkle with the remaining demerara sugar. Bake for around 25 minutes, or until set. Allow the pudding to rest for 10 minutes, then serve with cream, custard or ice cream, if you like – it’s delicious cold, too, if you’ve got any leftovers!



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Mad for Macarons!

If you haven’t noticed, I am a bit mad for macarons.  A bit obsessed one might say.  The delicate almond, egg white, and sugar cookies area  perfect nexus of my passion for cooking,

Tracing out circle guidelines on the parchment paper.  And yes, that is my Hello Kitty! mechanical pencil

Tracing out circle guidelines on the parchment paper. And yes, that is my Hello Kitty! mechanical pencil

making pretty looking things, and a engineering problem solving.   It really is a dangerous combination, but when the outcome is a macaron that looks picture perfect and tastes just as good, it’s all worth it.  Add to it that I’m usually making them for someone else, it makes it even more worth it.  And there’s no way I could eat an entire batch by myself!  Ok…well I could try but let’s be honest  – that would not end well.

First off – yes macarons are deceivingly hard to make for looking so simple with so few ingredients.  There are a LOT of factors: temperature of the oven, humidity, age of the egg whites, how much to fold in the powdered sugar and almond flour…  Let none of that stop you.  It’s all worth it.  Secondly – these are NOT macaroons.  Notice the subtle spelling difference one ‘o’ can make.  Add one and you are talking about coconut, condensed milk, egg white thing.  Take away that ‘0’

These 4 simple ingredients make up the macaron cookies - amazing!

These 4 simple ingredients make up the macaron cookies – amazing!

and you are transported to Paris, to the most beautiful Parisian bakery, picking out the most exquisitely colored and wonderfully flavored delicate pastery/cookie combination that I’m talking about.  Don’t get the two twisted. They are worlds apart.  Worlds, I tell you…

How do you get these little beauties to come out?  Use this recipe, watch LOTS of YouTube videos. And don’t give up. Never give up!  Keep trying, batch after failed batch, until magic happens and then every failed attempt will be worth it.  Doing it on a Sunday afternoon with a

Sifted powdered sugar and almond flour.  There are still some lumps to remove...otherwise the cookie will be bumpy. Sad face if that happens. :-(

Sifted powdered sugar and almond flour. There are still some lumps to remove…otherwise the cookie will be bumpy. Sad face if that happens. 🙁

Sunday afternoon with a bottle of champagne on ice doesn’t hurt either. Just saying.

I searched for a recipe that had everything measured out by weights and finally found a good one.  Apparently it comes from Sur la Table.Thanks Sur! I also combined several techniques and steps from other recipes that I tried.  So does that make it my own recipe now?   In any case, back to the weights.  It is SO worth getting a little kitchen scale for this.  Oh, and all the other baking you’ll be doing after this.  After all, you’ve mastered the macaron – nothing can be as challenging, can it?!  Then you’ll need the kitchen scale for portion control to help on the diet you’ll need to go on after all the baked goods you’ve been making…and eating.

Serves: About 20 assembled macarons
  • For the macarons:
  • 3.2 oz egg whites, room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days*
  • 2.8 oz granulated sugar
  • 5.6 oz confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3.2 oz almond meal, sifted
  • Gel food coloring of your choice
Beat those egg whites and add the sugar slowly!  (I add a touch of cream of tartar and use extra fine bakers sugar)

Beat those egg whites and add the sugar slowly! (I add a touch of cream of tartar and use extra fine bakers sugar)


  1. To make the macarons:
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites until they begin to foam, about 1 minute. Slowly add the granulated sugar to the egg whites while the mixer is set on medium speed. Continue to whip the egg whites until stiff peaks have formed. The egg whites should be thick and glossy (you should be able to hold the bowl upside down without the whites falling out).
  3. Put the almond meal and powdered sugar in a food processor with the blade attachment.  Pulse until thoroughly combined.  Sift and through out remaining coarse pieces.  Add the almond meal and confectioners’ sugar mix, sifting again and throwing out large pieces, and food coloring to the whipped egg whites. Using a spatula, fold the mixture into the egg whites until it
    Start folding in the sugar and almond flour.  This is the most crucial stage...look for a lava-like texture.

    Start folding in the sugar and almond flour. This is the most crucial stage…look for a lava-like texture.

    has the consistency of molten lava. To test, scoop up a spoonful of batter with a spatula and drop it back into the mix; it should flatten and disappear into the batter in about 15 seconds or so. If it doesn’t, continue folding the mixture. It should take about 50-60 strokes for the batter to reach the right consistency. (Sorry…totally forgot to take a picture at this step as I was getting a little anxious an frenetic to get the batter in the bag and piped out.)

  4. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with large round tip, and pipe small rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper with a template underneath. Top tip: put the bag in a large glass, vase, or something similar, and fold the edges down over the side.  Way less messy…  Another top tip: I trace 3/4″ circles on the parchment paper and then turn it upside down.  When piping, I put the tip right in the middle stop right before I fill the circle, pulling quickly up right after I release pressure.  The little peak should be small as possible and should disappear in the next step.

    Piped out and drying until a skin forms and doesn't stick when you touch with your finger.

    Piped out and drying until a skin forms and doesn’t stick when you touch with your finger.

  5. Gently tap the bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air, then let the macarons dry for 30 minutes until a skin is formed on the surface.
  6. Place the macarons in a 300F oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes until the shells harden. Rotate the tray half way through.
  7. Let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheets.
  8. Make your filling:  (could be caramel, chocolate ganache, lemon curd, raspberry jam, flavored buttercream….the possibilities are endless!!)
  9. To assemble, match the macaron shells in pairs. Pipe a small round of lemon curd (about half a teaspoon) on the flat side of a macaron shell and sandwich together with a matching macaron shell. Repeat with the remaining macarons.
* The assembled macarons can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.*Don’t age egg whites on the counter for three days, no matter what you read.  That’s totally dangerous!  Leave them in the fridge, covered and then bring them up to room temperature before using.

Cooling cookies!!

Cooling cookies!!


Lemon Curd filling!

Lemon Curd filling!

Eat your heard out Ladurée, you fancy and $$ Parisian bakery! Ok yours are good, but I don't live there...

Eat your heard out Ladurée, you fancy and $$ Parisian bakery! Ok yours are good, but I don’t live there…  Lemon meringue, chocolate ganache, and raspberry fillings, from bottom to top.


Look - you can even make them into a hat and wear them to serve at an Easter Bonnet Party!!!

Look – you can even make them into a hat and wear them to serve at an Easter Bonnet Party!!!

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Creamy Pumpkin Quinoa Risotto

I reached for the tri-color quinoa this afternoon and had no idea what was about to happen.  Truly I didn’t.  I thought I was going to make some quinoa, toss in some canned (line, sustainably, wild caught and all that of course) tuna but that is not what happened at all.  I was committed to using what is in my pantry, as I have a snowboarding trip coming up on Wednesday morning and I didn’t not want to do any grocery shopping unless I had to.   Nothing beats simple nutrition than tuna and quinoa tossed with some kind of a veggie (and maybe some sriracha) for a quick and nutritious lazy meal.  Well, at least for me, but there are endless variations on it to suit every taste, including adding peanut butter for a nutty version, mayo and grainy mustard for a pseudo-French take. It just makes itself practically!!

As I said, that did not happen at all this afternoon and I blame it all on the can of pumpkin that sat so innocently next to the tuna.  Both are pantry staples in my house, but that poor can of pumpkin had been neglected since the cold of fall, or cold weather of any type for that matter, passed us by.  Come to think of it, did we we even really even have any cold weather?!  I usually press it into service to liven up otherwise bland oatmeal, with Aarti Sequeira’s delicious pumpkin oatmeal recipe, but it is cold weather hearty fare, and we have not have much of that to speak of.  Well, there was New Year’s Eve and subsequent morning, but we shall not speak of that…  Anway, the problems of living in sunny San Diego, right?

So with the tri-color quinoa in one hand, my eyes paused on the canned pumpkin and I thought, “Is it possible?  Could I combine these two?  No….wait, yes!”  and an idea was born.  PUMPKIN QUINOA RISOTTO!!  Now to be clear, I am sure I am not the first one to think of this, but man…that moment of inspiration felt so exceptional I basked in it.  For about  a minute.  Until I realized my simple lunch wasn’t going to be so simple anymore and I panicked a little.  Could I do it? Did I want to make a mess?  I have taxes to do and I’m supposed to be cleaning things up for a trip on Wednesday.  Inspiration one out and the “to do” list was pushed aside.  And am I glad I brushed the momentary pause/fear/self-doubt off and started cooking.

A risotto is simple right?  Sauted onions or shallots in butter, toss in rice, wine, and slowly add warm chicken broth a cup or so at a time stirring until a creamy yet still loose consistency appears, through in some cheese and done!  Too bad I didn’t have any shallots or onions though.  I thought I was dead in my track, until I remember I had a garden full of green onions.  BIG GREEN GARDEN FRESH SCALLIONS!  This would do – onwards Kitchen Cooker!!

Cook until this consistency - the "risotto" should come back together like a quick lava.

Cook until this consistency – the “risotto” should come back together like a quick lava.

The ensuing recipe happened and all came together well, I hardly thought of taking pictures for the blog.  In the process though, I knew I wasn’t going to be satisfied with just the risotto.  I thought about putting some smoked canned sardines on top, but I thought…eeeyyyyyeee dunno…that’s pushing it.  Maybe if they were fresh, but canned ones have a certain strong quality, that while delicious would override what I was going on in the pumpkin quinoa risotto thing.  I do have lots of tuscan kale in my garden though and since I had the superfood thing going (pumpkin and quinoa are in on that right?!) I decided on tossing kale into the party as well.  Sautéed in olive oil, with some chicken broth, sherry vinegar, and smoked paprika of course.  I mean..duh.  I left the stalks in, to give that extra crunch texture the cream quinoa lacked, along with the smokiness from the paprika.  Just be sure to cook it a little longer if you include the stalks, otherwise they are tough and a little bitter.

Oh, and whilst I had a bottle of white wine open for the “risotto” I might as well pour a glass to enjoy with my lunch.  It sure beats uploading tax documents and folding laundry (my previous plan…gross). What. A. Lovely. Monday. Holiday.  Cheers!!!

Lunch is served - meatless, pantry friendly, and delicious!!

Lunch is served – meatless, pantry friendly, and delicious!!

Creamy Pumpkin Quinoa “Risotto”


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 green onions (scallions) finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups quinoa, rinsed well and drained
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine – ok, maybe a cup.  So sue me. Then drink some. 🙂
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and allow it to melt. When the foaming subsides, add the green onions. Cook, stirring often, for about 5-7 minutes. Once softened, add the quinoa. Cook, stirring constantly, allowing any of the excess water to evaporate.
  2. When the quinoa drys out, add the white wine and stir well. Allow the wine to cook down and almost evaporate.
  3. Add 2 cups of the vegetable stock and lower heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir every so often.
  4. Add another cup of vegetable stock, stir a few times, and let cook for another 5-10 minutes.
  5. Once that liquid has been absorbed, add the remaining 1 cup stock plus the pumpkin puree. Stir again and let cook, uncovered, until all of the liquid is absorbed. Add more stock if needed. The quinoa should be cooked through completely.
  6. Stir in the cheese in. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
  7. Top with diced kale that has been sauteed in olive oil, chicken stock, a splash of sherry vinegar, and a dash of smoked paprika. Drizzle with olive oil!



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Moules Frite are easier than you think!

Mussels – they seem scary.  They really do!  How do you know if they are good or bad?  How does one clean them?  What does a restaurant do to prepare them?  And do they even taste good?!  They fall into the “home cook unknown zone” that even otherwise seemingly cute old ladies will walk up to you while you are ordering all 7 pounds of them, DEMAND to know what they are, and then follow up with a prune face and proclamation that she would NEVER put anything like that in her mouth. Although, once when she was on a boat cruise in San Diego bay on a ship that some famous actor owned, a deck hand popped an oyster into her unwilling mouth and it was disgusting and she wouldn’t swallow it.  Seriously…I can’t make these stories up. I wanted to ask her to retell it so I could video tape her but she walked off mid-sentence.

Your moule frite await you.

Your moule frite await you.

I love LOVE ordering moules frites (mussels and fries) when I’m out.  I will admit it is because they seem exotic, but also because I wanted to eat enough so I could figure out how to duplicate this feast at home.    I’ve bought mussels for paella before, but never as the main course.  This would be a first, but it would be a dream come true.  I set off and did my research (thanks Internet!) and it seemed super easy.

A little P'tit Basque before dinner anyone?

A little P’tit Basque before dinner anyone?

Catalina Offshore Products has the BEST of the best in town so it was the logical choice to source the mussels from.  My friend and I BARELY made it there after at 13 mile hike that…ahem…took a little longer than I expected.  (13 miles take 4-5 hours…nah…)  7 pounds of black Mexican farmed mussels, almost all perfectly cleaned and debearded, and just a few that didn’t make it alive to cooking time.

The recipe?  Easy.  Chop up a whole bunch of shallots, saute them in a large pot with some olive oil.  When translucent, add a whole bunch of garlic and some chopped up spanish iberican ham left over from a previous party, and saute some more.  Add a bottle of dry white wine for 7 lbs of mussels.   While that is going, get a friend to wash the mussels off, make sure they are all alive (closed or when tapped, they close), and de-bearded.  Thanks Friend!  Soak them in some cold water for 20 min to get rid of any dirt or sand.   When the mussels are ready to cook, toss them in the boiling wine, close the lid and steam for no longer than 5 min. Stirring occasionally.  Pour the mussels and broth into large bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve immediately with bread or french fries.  Just remember, don’t eat the ones that haven’t opened!

A mound of mussels, mejillones, moules...a lot of MMMmmmmm!!!!

A mound of mussels, mejillones, moules…a lot of MMMmmmmm!!!!

Now for those french fries – precut frozen ones work well.  Deep fry em or bake em…your preference!  If you fry them though, get that oil up to temperature early on so they fries are ready when the mussels are.  And crispy.  Just saying.

Now, tuck into that bowl of mussels, dunk your bread in the sauce, and sip on your beer or wine.  Enjoy!!


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I <3 Lorraine and her Prawn linguine with chorizo & cabernet tomato sauce!

Thank you Lorraine Pascale.  Thank you for your beautiful self and your beautiful tv program with your beautiful food porn, done with music that is actually enjoyable and modern.  Thank you, because you have renewed my desire to cook delicious food and blog about it.  It has been a long, long, long time since I have done such an activity.  And how I missed it.  Not that I have missed eating delicious food.  I will NEVER give that up!

Cooking up chorizo, fennel seeds, garlic, rosemary, and chili

Cooking up chorizo, fennel seeds, garlic, rosemary, and chili

I was going to cook this for the first time for some friends, but I just keep craving it so much I could not wait.    So rationalization ensuing – I had to “test” this recipe out to make sure it was perfection for my guests.   And if it wasn’t perfection this time, it was pretty darn close.  I couldn’t stop eating.  Well … eventually I did, but only because I wanted leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Mine...all mine!

Mine…all mine!

So enough with the talk.  On to the food porn!  Oh … and a recipe.  God bless you beautiful Lorraine Pascale.

Ok, I only had a bowl.  With maybe a few fork full after. Yum!

Ok, I only had a bowl. With maybe a few fork full after. Yum!

Recipe: Prawn linguine with chorizo & cabernet tomato sauce


Time from start to finish: 25 minutes


  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, slightly crushed
  • 150g (5oz) spicy chorizo ring
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red chilli
  • olive oil
  • 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 glass of cabernet sauvignon, about 150ml (5 fl oz) or other red wine or a good fish or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste (or tomato purée if you don’t like it too hot)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 300g (11oz) linguine pasta
  • 225g (8oz) sustainably caught peeled prawns (preferably raw but cooked will work too)
  • 2 tsp caster sugar (optional)
  • small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, to serve
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put a large sauté pan on a medium heat (with no oil in for the moment). Bash up the fennel seeds using a pestle and mortar (or in a mug with the end of a rolling pin) until lightly crushed and tip them into the pan. Cook for a minute or two, tossing them from time to time, until they start to release their lovely smell.
  2. Meanwhile, slit the chorizo down the side, peel and discard the casing and cut the sausage into chunks. Pull your fingers down the length of the rosemary to release the leaves and then finely chop them. Peel and finely chop the garlic and deseed and finely chop the chilli. Add everything to the now sweet-smelling fennel with a little drizzle of oil and cook for 1–2 minutes, stirring.
  3. Next add the tomatoes, wine (or stock), harissa paste (or tomato purée) and oregano. Then whack up the heat and leave it to bubble away for about 15 minutes so the sauce can become nice and thick and full of flavour. Give it a stir every so often to prevent it sticking.
  4. As this cooks, put the kettle on to boil and then cook the linguine in a large pan according to the packet instructions.
  5. Add the prawns to the sauce for the last 4–5 minutes of cooking time. If using already cooked prawns, they will take a little less time as you are simply warming them through.
  6. Meanwhile, drain the cooked pasta well and return it to the pan, adding a good drizzle of oil and some salt and pepper, then pop the lid on to keep warm.
  7. The prawns should now be cooked in the sauce. They should be pink and white on the outside and white inside. Taste the sauce, adding some salt and pepper if you think it needs it and a little sugar if it tastes too sharp. If you add sugar, stir it in well and then leave to cook for another minute.
  8. Finally, tip the sauce into the pasta, stir well, then divide among four plates, scatter with the ripped-up parsley and serve.

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