Tuesday, May 29, 2012

best cake I ever ate {mocha marble cake}

It was around 1 in the morning, and the pantry was a bit sparse: a box of instant coffee, half a bag of chocolate chips, and a tin full of Pirouette cookie crumbs. My friend Veda and I decided to bake a cake – and that’s how this mocha marble cake was born.  This was not just any old cake, this was the best cake I’ve ever eaten.
Not that it’s surprising, as I love coffee in my desserts almost as much as I love cinnamon (tiramisu, affogato, coffee milkshakes… I could go on and on!).  But something about the combination of sleep deprivation, Nestle coffee granules, and a tin full of cookie crumbs made this cake absolutely magical. It is a buttery marble cake, with beautiful, billowing swirls of mocha (as opposed to traditional chocolate) slathered in a rich, fluffy icing with rich notes of both chocolate and coffee, and coated with crushed up Pirouette cookies (those delicate, pastry cookies filled with hazelnut crème). Everything from the moist, rich, buttery crumb, to the creamy, coffee-infused frosting is pure perfection.
So tell me, what is the best cake you've ever eaten?
With love,

erica's mocha marble cake with pirouette cookies:

1 stick unsalted butter
1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup boiling water + 3 tsp instant coffee granules (or 1/4 cup freshly brewed coffee)
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup chocolate chips

mocha icing:
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
4-4 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp cocoa powder
Optional: Hazelnut Pirouette cookies to decorate

Preheat oven 350°F, grease and line the base of two 18cm round cake tins with baking paper (I used mini cake tins and altered the baking time). Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and use a whisk to combine, set aside. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add eggs one at a time until combined. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Place 1/3 of the mixture in a separate bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the cocoa, instant coffee granules and 1/4 cup of boiling water, whisking until it is smooth add the chocolate chips (it's OK if they don't entirely dissolve). Gently mix into the separated bowl of cake batter until combined. Spoon half the vanilla batter and half the mocha batter into the prepared cake tin, and the other half of each batter into the other prepared tin, alternating spoonfuls of vanilla and mocha to simulate a checkerboard. Run a table knife through the batter in each tin to create a swirl effect. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Cool in tin for 10 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack. They can be made the night before assembly, wrapped in plastic and put in the fridge

Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat on high with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the coffee granules, cocoa powder, milk and vinegar. With the mixer on low, gradually add icing sugar until combined, then increase speed and gradually add coffee mixture. Beat on high until fluffy and well-combined. You may need to add more sifted icing sugar if your icing is too runny. It should be easy to spread but stiff enough to hold its shape.

assembling the mocha marble cake:
If the cake layers are domed in the center, use a serrated knife to level the tops of the cake.you Place one cake layer on your cake stand and use a spatula to smooth a layer of icing over the top of it. Sandwich other cake layer on top and then crumb coat the whole cake with more icing. Chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to set the crumb coat. Frost the cake evenly with the rest of the icing, using an offset spatula to smooth the surface (running the spatula until hot water will help with smoothing it). Decorate as you like (I coated mine entirely with crushed up Pirouette cookies, I absolutely love their hazelnut cream flavor!).
inspired by Raspberri Cupcakes

Saturday, May 26, 2012

lemon yogurt pound cake

This simple cake embodies summer -- from its energizing citrus-y aroma to its fabulous, vibrant yellow color. Unlike a traditional pound cake, this cake does not have butter -- but personally, I like the fruity, exotic notes of olive oil and the tang from Greek yogurt (although this might not be the cake for you pound cake purists!).

Just like a wheel of Gouda or a pair of jeans, this cake actually gets better with age. It is delicious straight from the oven, but it is out-of-this-world after sitting on the counter for a few days. Time really lets the succulent lemon syrup sink in, making the loaf super rich and super moist. So, if you can resist, keep this loaf on the counter for a day or two, and then indulge -- the wait is worth it!
This would be a perfect easy, elegant dessert for a brunch, served with berries and whipped cream -- or even better all by itself with a nice cup of tea. This loaf freezes up beautifully, so luscious, velvety lemon-y goodness can always be at your fingertips.
With love,

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan (either regular or mini). Grease and flour the pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean. (35 minutes for mini loaf, 50 minutes for regular loaf)
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe on the Food Network

Friday, May 25, 2012

milk chocolate cupcakes

These are best chocolate cupcakes I've ever had. No tricks, no gimmicks, just really good chocolate cake. I have made many mediocre chocolate cupcakes (as well as a few fails here or there). This is my perfected recipe -- one that I love to have in my pocket for parties, bake sales and other events, because who doesn't love a perfect chocolate cupcake?
oozing with creamy chocolate sauce.
As much as I love to experiment with snazzy cupcake flavors, time will tell that these chocolate ones never fail to impress. In fact, at the cupcake tasting contest I hosted, these cupcakes disappeared way before their fancy counterparts such as strawberry cheesecake, or lemon blueberry. It goes to show that nothing beats a good chocolate cupcake.
However, I have to admit that plain chocolate cupcakes seem a bit boring to me. That's why I took these chocolate cupcakes to the next level by filling them with my favorite chocolate sauce, frosting them with rich cream cheese icing, and topping them off with a luxurious little triangle of high-quality, melt-in-your-mouth Lindt chocolate (because who doesn't love Lindt chocolate?). So although quite simple, these milk chocolate cupcakes are far from ordinary.
With love,

erica's chocolate cupcakes 
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil (I usually use olive)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

cream cheese frosting: *you will have leftovers (but this can be saved and used in countless other confections)

16 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 tablespoons shortening
6 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

chocolate sauce for filling (either homemade or store bought)

Lindt (or other fancy, good quality chocolate for topping)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size muffin pan baking liners. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool to room temperature before frosting.

In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together, cream cheese, shortening, and butter until well combined.
With the mixer of low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until thoroughly incorporated and smooth. Add vanilla and mix to combine.

assembling the cupcakes:
Core each  cupcake with either a small ice cream scoop or cupcake corer.
Fill generously with chocolate sauce.
Top with a swirl of cream cheese frosting, and a piece of chocolate.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

lemon lavender cupcakes

Moist lemon cupcakes, filled with lemon curd, with a big swirl of lavender buttercream, topped off with a lemon-lavender shortbread cookie. These cupcakes came together beautifully with layers of these subtle, refreshing summer flavors.
In America, lavender is something more commonly found in a bar of soap than in a cupcake; however, the familiar taste of simple lemon cake pairs so beautifully with the slightly unfamiliar, yet pleasing taste of lavender (which is frequently used in French cooking).
These cupcakes were so much fun to bake, and my kitchen was filled with the sweet, calming aroma of lavender as well as the energizing aroma of lemon zest for hours after these finished baking- it was like free aromatherapy!
I brought these to my cupcake tasting contest, and they were a huge hit (although the lavender was a bit tricky to guess!)
With love,
filled with lemon curd

lemon cupcakes
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour, sifted
1-1/4 cups  sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon  baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon  salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
Finely grated lemon zest (rind) of two lemons

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Prepare two standard muffin pans with baking liners.
In a medium bowl combine the eggs, 1/4 cup of buttermilk, and vanilla. Set aside.
Sift the cake flour
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low speed.
Add the butter and blend on low speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for two minutes.
Begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Stir in the lemon zest.
Divide the batter into your prepared baking cups, filling each one about 2/3 full.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cupcake.
Carefully remove the cupcakes, place on wire racks and let cool completely before frosting.


3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tsp cooking lavender
purple food coloring (I just used pink and blue)

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, beat together butter and shortening until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Gradually add in the powdered sugar while beating until fully incorporated.
Add vanilla, lavender, and coloring and beat for another minute or two. Add cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for desired consistency.

lemon lavender shortbread cookies
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dried Culinary Lavender
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (rind)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat for another 2 minutes.
Beat in the vanilla extract, then stir in the dried lavender and lemon zest.
Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until they are incorporated. Make a ball of the dough and seal in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a disk and chill for at least one hour.

When you’re ready to roll and cut the cookie dough, preheat oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
Roll the dough 1/4″ thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut desired shapes, place on baking sheets.
Bake until very light golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets on wire racks.
*Cookies will keep in an airtight container for about 1 week, or can be frozen.

Assembling the cupcakes
1. Core each cooled cupcake (I use my handy cupcake corer!) and fill with lemon curd (you can make your own, but I used store bought).
2. Fill a small pastry bag fitted with pastry tip of your choice with frosting and pipe a generous swirl on top of the cupcake.
3. Top with a lemon lavender shortbread cookie.

Inspired by Sweetapolita

Monday, May 21, 2012

perfect cream puffs

My mom has a thing for cream puffs. That is why I chose to take on the challenge of making my own fresh cream puffs at home for Mother's Day.
Whenever we go to visit family in Hawaii, we always set aside a moment to share a delicious Beard Papa's puff together. When we were in New York City this past Spring, we savored some of the most delicious cream puffs ever -- made by a little Japanese woman behind at a tiny counter in a busy market. I guess you could say that sampling the world's cream puffs has become one of the special things that we do together.
When I took on this challenge of making these simple puffs at home, I realized that a lot of the recipes out there were quite complicated, with various rituals such as leaving the oven open to let the puffs dry out, or with complicated recipes for french pastry cream. However, cream puffs don't have to be this complicated -- with a good pate a choux recipe up my sleeve, and a fool-proof recipe for fresh whipped cream, I was able to create these beautiful, fluffy, eggy pastries with ease.
With love,
after being popped out of the freezer
fresh from the oven, before being piped with cream


  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting) 
Recipe Notes:
You can freeze the piped dough rounds on the baking sheets, then transfer to resealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 1 month. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing apart (do not defrost) and continue with recipe (brushing with egg wash and baking at 375F). This is especially helpful because cream puffs are best when freshly baked, and do not keep very well after being piped with cream.  
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit 1 large pastry bag with plain 1/2-inch tip (I usually use a plastic freezer bag with 1/2-inch cut from one bottom corner.

Bring milk, butter, 1 tsp. sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium sauce- pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add flour all at once; reduce heat to medium-low. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a dough forms and pulls away from sides of pan, 1–2 minutes.
Continue beating vigorously for about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium sized bowl.

Add 1 egg and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until egg is incorporated and dough looks dry again, about 2 minutes. Repeat with 4 more eggs, adding one at a time and stirring vigorously to incorporate before adding the next. Dough should be smooth, shiny, and thickened.

Scoop dough into prepared pastry bag; pipe out rounds about an inch high and with a 2 1/2 inch diameter on prepared sheets, leaving 2 inches between rounds.  (now would be the time to freeze the rounds if you plan to bake them later)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk remaining egg with 2 tsp. water and brush each puff all over with egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes until puffs turn a deep golden brown.

Prepare a second bag with 1/2-inch open-star tip. Beat heavy cream and remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form (I flavored the cream with a fresh vanilla bean, but feel free to flavor it however you please). Place whipped cream into prepared pastry bag. Puncture a small hole in the side of each puff, and fill each puff with cream. Dust tops of cream puffs with powdered sugar.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

everyday apple upside down cake

There are few flavors I love more than cinnamon and apples. This weekend, the local farmer's market was full of fresh apples -- nearly every stand carrying bushels and bushels of crisp, juicy goodness.  This everyday cake is not overly sweet, nor overly fancy. It is perfect for a snack or tea with friends -- and is absolutely luscious with notes of olive oil (tinting the cake a rich yellow color), walnuts (adding a savory crunch) and Greek yogurt (giving it a nice tang). It has a rich aroma of cinnamon and vanilla, and a lovely light texture. I love the apple pattern on the top, and the surprise of popping it upside down out of the pan is so much fun. Plus, as an added bonus, this cake has absolutely no butter, but still tastes succulent and rich -- with the added health bonuses of good quality olive oil, walnuts (full of omega-3s!), and hunger-fighting Greek yogurt! Have your cake and eat it too!
With love,

 Inspired by La Tartine Gourmande

  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 3 apples
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons (for apples)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (One individual container will do)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 Tablespoon good quality, fruity olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons almond flour
Preheat the oven at 350 F. Spray a 9 inch cake pan — preferably non stick.
Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast them (about 5 to 7 minutes). Remove and cool them; chop coarsely and set aside.
Wash the apples and slice them finely (either do halves or wholes, depending on the design you want on your cake -- I did a mix of the two).
In a non-stick frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter on medium heat, and add the apple slices with the cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar. Toss well and cook for about 4 minutes, or until slightly tender.
Arrange the apple slices at the bottom of the mold (this is going to be the pretty top of your cake).
In a large bowl, mix the yogurt with the sugar. Add the vanilla seeds, and mix well. Add the eggs, and then the olive oil.
Finish with the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nuts.
Pour this batter over the apples and bake the cake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the blade of a knife inserted in the cake comes out dry. Let the cake cool and then unmold on a rack. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

baked donuts

Baked donuts -- I've attempted them before, and they have always been a disappointment compared to their deep fried counterpart... until now! These are moist and dense-- with a cake-like texture that comes pretty close to that of an old fashioned donut, and absolutely delicious no matter how you  decide to top them.
The glazed varieties looked absolutely adorable -- but my personal favorite was the "cinnamon toast crunch" donut (although I may be a bit biased due to my cinnamon obsession!). I dipped the soft donut in melted butter, and then quickly rolled it in a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, and crushed up Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. Really the possibilities for toppings are endless -- I'd love to see what some of you all dream up! (and now that I'm officially a baked donut convert, expect to see more posts... things are gonna get crazy!)
The dance ensemble at my school had performances this weekend, and I brought these to sell at the bake sale that they hold at intermission. These were perfect for the occasion, as unlike their fried counterparts, they kept really well in an air-tight container overnight and transported beautifully. In fact, they taste even better the next day because the flavor and moisture really sinks in. So keep these in mind for your next bake sale or potluck!
With love,

         1/2 cup butter + 2 tablepoons (or margernine)
    •    1 cup sugar
    •    2 eggs
    •    3 cups flour
    •    4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    •    1/2 teaspoon salt
    •    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    •    1 cup milk
    •    1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your donut pan.
Blend 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter with 1 cup of sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter and sugar mixture. Blend in the milk and mix together thoroughly.
 Put batter in a large ziploc bag and cut the corner to a 1/2 inch hole. Pipe the batter into greased donut pan about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes, or until doughnuts are golden. Top/decorate as you please -- here are a few suggestions:

"Cinnamon Toast Crunch" 
  Combine 1/4 cup of sugar 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon. Add about a half cup of crushed Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter.
While doughnuts are still warm, roll them in melted butter; then in Cinnamon Toast Crunch mixture.

Classic Vanilla Glaze:
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Gel paste food coloring (if using)
Warm the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan set over low heat.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk slowly until well combined.
If tinting glaze, using a toothpick, add a drop of gel paste at a time, whisking to combine well, until you’ve reach the desired color.
Dip the donuts into the glaze while warm (or cool).
Add sprinkles or other extras at end as desired.

Classic Chocolate Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon water
In a small microwave-safe bowl, mix the chocolate chips, oil, corn syrup, and water. Microwave for 30 second increments, stirring in-between, until melted.
Dip the donuts into the glaze while warm (or cool).
Add sprinkles or other extras at end as desired.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

caprese breakfast tartines and zucchini fries

 These caprese breakfast tartines speak for themselves: crunchy herb bread from the local bakery, slathered with homemade herb butter, fresh basil, juicy tomatoes, golden, bubbly melted cheese, and topped with a perfect sunny-side-down egg. I like to serve them with a side of perfectly crunchy, herb-y, Parmesan-y baked zucchini fries (one of the French-fries classier cousins...). Instead of explaining to you all how good these are, I'll let the pictures do the talking.
With love,

cheese= bubbly, melted perfection
parm + panko
caprese breakfast tartines
  • good bread (I used herb)
  • herb butter (this is my favorite recipe)
  • basil
  • tomatoes
  • sundried tomatoes
  • cheese (I used white cheddar, but mozzarella or Gouda would be very yummy too!)
  • eggs
Heat the broiler to 500 degrees. Slice the bread into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch slices. Butter the bread and place on a baking sheet. Bake until butter melts (2-3 minutes).
On the non-buttered side, assemble the basil, tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes.
Grate the cheese and sprinkle on the tartines.
Return them to the oven, and broil until the cheese becomes golden and bubbly (keep your eye on them! mine usually take about 5 minutes).
Cook the eggs however you like them best (I like mine sunny-side down) and place one egg on each tartine.

parm-zucchini fries
  • 3 large zucchini
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups panko (other bread crumbs would be fine too)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped rosemary (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut zucchini into thick French-fry-size sticks.
Now make the assembly line. Arrange 3 shallow, wide bowls or pie plates in a row. In the first bowl, mix flour, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper. In the second bowl, whisk together eggs, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. In the third bowl, combine panko, Parmesan, rosemary (if using), and 1/2 tsp. salt.
First dip zucchini in flour, shaking off excess. Transfer to egg mixture and toss until coated, then coat zucchini in bread crumb mixture.
Arrange fries, in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes and then rotate the pans. Continue to bake until panko coating is golden and crisp, 7 to 12 minutes more.
inspired by Oprah.

Friday, May 11, 2012

tropical hawaiian granola

All of this delicious Spring weather has put me in the mood for a vacation! Luckily, I have family in Oahu who always bring us bags full of delicious, macadamia nuts and dried tropical fruits when they visit. One of my favorite things to do with these nuts (besides eating them plain) is throwing them into this luxurious granola recipe. I absolutely love fresh granola. Making homemade granola is a lot healthier and a lot tastier than any store-bought variety because it can be made without all of the scary preservatives used even high-quality store bought granola, not to mention its a whole lot cheaper! This granola is nutty, hearty, sweet, and tangy -- filled to the brim with the flavors and nutritional benefits of tropical fruits and nuts. This recipe could not be easier and the results could not be more satisfying. I love to eat it with my favorite Greek yogurt, some cold milk, or even just straight from the jar.
With love, Erica

   Erica 's Tropical Hawaiian Granola


  • 3 cups organic rolled oats
  • 1 cup multigrain square cereal (like Chex) -- nicely crushed up!
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup veggie or olive oil (or 1/3 cup applesauce -- sometimes I like to use other fruit preserves)
  • 1/3 cup good honey
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup dried banana chips, dried mangoes, dried pineapple (or any other dried fruits you like!)

Heat oven to 350º.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, cereal, nuts, flax seeds, coconut, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Whisk the oil, honey, and juice in measuring cup.
Pour the liquid mixture over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated.  Spread onto a large sheet pan.  Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, around 30-40 minutes, depending on oven.
Remove granola from the oven and allow to cool completely, stirring occasionally.  Add dried fruit.  Store cooled granola in an airtight container.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

erica's lemon herb pasta

This recipe is so simple, yet so perfect in every way. All you need to prepare this heavenly dish is a box of pasta, some lemons, and a few handfuls of fresh herbs. The butter melts onto the noodles perfectly, and the lemon and fresh herbs give it that extra special zing. You can use any type of long pasta noodle to make this dish -- I decided to make it extra lemon-y with Trader Joe's lemon pepper infused pappardelle pasta, but any variety will do. It's easy to make a meal out of this dish with a nice piece of grilled fish (I love the succulent combination of fish and citrus), or some sauteed mushrooms and onions to add a little bit of earthy meatiness. This pasta is a sure crowd-pleaser, perfect for kids and grown-ups alike. My dad even deemed this his favorite pasta dish ever. Sometimes the simplest things really are the best.
With love,

Trader Joe's lemon pepper pappardelle makes this even more lemon-y!

Succulent lemons and fresh herbs on my cutting board.

  • 1 package pappardelle pasta (I used Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper Pappardelle)
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • a few sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 tablepoons olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I use Balade light butter)
  • ground sea salt 
  • ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  1. Boil a pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions
  2. Chop up the herbs.
  3. When pasta is al dente, drain and toss in the herbs, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and butter. 
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

churro cupcakes (the perfect cinco de mayo treat!)

Cinco de Mayo, or "Fifth of May", is right around the corner! Ay Dios Mio! Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday we celebrate here in the United States. What better way to celebrate than with my favorite Mexican treat: churros.
Churros are deep fried dough rolled in cinnamon sugar. What's not to love? I have never met anyone who doesn't like churros.
When I was little and we lived in San Diego, my dad and I would go to Sea World almost every weekend to walk around and see the animals. One of my favorite memories of these trips was getting a big, fresh cinnamon churro at one of the little snack stands around the park. As you can imagine, I was obsessed with cinnamon even back then!  They were crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. What made these churros super delicious though, was the fresh, warm dulce de leche that the churro man would pipe into to fried doughnut. Perfection.
Alas, the thing about real churros is they are only good fresh, right out of the fryer, when they still have that irresistible crunch to them.
These cupcakes are the perfect solution -- as they have that delicious, churro taste, and are portable and keep well.
My dad loved these cupcakes and said that they were even better than our much loved Sea World treat, can't get much better than that!
Feliz Cinco de Mayo to you all!
With love, Erica
Being filled with luscious dulce de leche

To Assemble:
Make my favorite, fluffy vanilla cupcake recipe (and add a teaspoon or two of cinnamon to the batter). (recipe follows)
Core each of the cooled cupcakes and fill with store bought dulce de leche. 
Make the cinnamon buttercream frosting (recipe follows)
Top with fried cinnamon sugar tortilla chips (recipe follows)

For the cupcakes
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk
(or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice- add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using)

* Preheat oven to 350*F.
* In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together with whisk, and set aside.
* In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds.  Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds.  Add vanilla and oil, beat.
* Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture.  Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk.  Beat until just combined.  Scrap down the side of the bowl.  
* The batter will be thin.   Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners.  Fill liners about 2/3 full. 
* Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes. 
* Cool in pan 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.  

 For the frosting:
1 stick unsalted butter (softened)
8 tablespoons margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the margarine and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and cinnamon until well combined.
Reduce the mixer to low speed, and gradually add the powdered sugar until mixed.  Add the milk or heavy cream until you get your desired consistency.

For the fried tortillas:
Two or three 8-inch flour tortillas, cut into desired shape (I used a star shaped cookie cutter)
Oil, for frying
1 cup mixture of ground cinnamon and granulated sugar, mixed to your liking of desired sweetness (I do 1/2 cup of each.)

In a deep frying pan, heat the oil (about 3/4-inch in depth) on medium heat until very hot. I tested this by putting in a small piece of tortilla to make sure it would fry.  I did not try to aim for a specific temperature.
Fry a few of the tortilla strips at a time, turning them with tongs until lightly browned on both sides (about 5-10 seconds on each side).
Place the strips on paper towel, and, while they are still warm, sprinkle both sides generously with the cinnamon-sugar combination.
Repeat with the remaining tortilla strips.