Friday, December 30, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Bread

I quit my corporate job this week.

I feel like a free bird and God has answered my prayers.  Hallelujah.  I cannot say that enough.  I didn't know when this day would ever come and I'm finally working for myself.  I actually put those type of thoughts at the back of my mind in a deep dark well never to be resurfaced again.  However, the opportunity presented itself unexpectedly and I am so incredibly thankful.  I get to start 2012 completely anew.  My new role is going to be super demanding so my upcoming challenge will be how to manage my time and find balance.  I have had a lot on my mind the past few weeks so I decided to take a little breather and bake this bread.  I got this recipe from my coworker and adjusted it for less sugar and whole wheat.  It is still really yummy and satisfying without all that sugar and saturated fat.

I took the image below on my new desk for my home office which isn't finished yet (I blogged about ideas a couple weeks ago here).  I love my new desk and will post pics when my office is all done.  Thanks to my husband for finding it!  I have the best, most supportive husband.  Just wanted to say that!

Makes 2 loaves (one for you and one for a friend)

2 cups pumpkin
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (if you want it to be sweeter, I recommend adding 1/2 cup of sugar)
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup room temperature water
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup toasted walnuts
Butter for greasing the pans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 9 by 5 loaf pans with parchment paper and grease with butter.  Mix together the dry ingredients (the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and baking soda) in a medium size bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, sugar, oil, eggs, and water with a whisk.  Gently fold in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Add in the walnuts and mix 'til combined (do not overmix).  Pour batter into the pans.

Bake for 60 minutes or 'til an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans.

I always do half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour.  If you do 100% whole wheat flour, it tastes a bit dry and grainy so the half and half strategy works for me.  Otherwise, I do 100% whole wheat pastry flour.  It doesn't taste so whole wheat-y if you know what I mean. 

My trick to getting the loaves out of the pans is to line the pan with parchment paper.  Trust me it works! I line the pans with the parchment paper, lightly grease the sides with butter, fill the pans with batter on top of the parchment paper, trim the long edges of the parchment paper with scissors, and bake.  I use the sides of the parchment paper to pull the bread out.  It is so much easier this way.

The loaves came out and they made my house smell delicious in the process.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Just in case you are curious about what I put away in my giveaway boxes I thought I should post this.  Homemade gifts are great, thoughtful gifts for friends and family...well, at least I think so.  I try to do it every year when I have the time.  All the people who ended up signing up for the giveaway were my personal friends so I decided to give away the boxes to everyone who signed up. 

I finalized on these three recipes to put in my cookie tins.  They were tested by my kitchen and passed.  =) 


Here are the links for the recipes!

Lemon ricotta cookies seemed to be everyone's favorite!  It is one of my favs and I don't have a sweet tooth so I love the lemon-y lightness of the cookie.  Plus, the texture is soft from the cheese. 

These chewy chocolate chip cookies are totally scrumptious and my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Just how I like my chocolate chip cookies....perfectly soft and chewy!  They are semi-technical to make because the recipe has weight measurements so you have to use a food scale.  You also have to refrigerate the dough for an hour before you bake it but it is so worth the effort!  I cannot say that enough.  The results are awesome.  You won't believe you even made these yourself after you have a bite.

Last but not least, I put ancho chili rosemary roasted nuts in tin because not everyone has a sweet tooth so nuts were an easy choice. Definitely check this recipe out! 

If you are curious, I purchased these non-toxic cookie tins from The Container Store.  I found the velvet ribbon from MJ Trim.  And, I got the cellophane bags at Sur La Table so the contents inside the tin wouldn't be a total mess by the time the receiver got the box in the mail.  

So 'til next year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

DIY Holiday Flags from The Sweetest Occasion

I stole this fabulous idea from The Sweetest Occasion and they were designed by Belletristics.  

How cute are these flags?  

They will help guests to keep track of their own drinks and they are FREE.  I used the grey and white striped straws leftover from my wedding but you can use bamboo skewers too if you don't have straws.  The download is here.  Act quick!  You still have time to do this one before the weekend is here!


Christmas is almost here

Christmas is just around the corner and I feel like I have a million things to do.  We are hosting dinner this year which is starting to become a family ritual because we happen to have a lot of space and we just love having people over at our house.  It makes our house seem so much cozier.  

image sources left to right: 1 unknown / 2 unknown / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7

This is my checklist of all the things that will be on the menu this year.

Prime Rib....check!
Butternut Squash and Broccoli Soup...check!
Creamed Corn...check!
Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread...check!
Roasted Cauliflower with Mint and Pine Nuts...check!
Whole Wheat Mac and Cheese...check!
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes...check!
Chinese Sticky Rice...check!
French Green Bean Casserole...check!
Dessert by 85C Bakery....check!
Mango Rosemary Cocktails...check!
Blood Orange Mimosas...check!

I think
this is
enough food.....

Friends... please come by if you are around and hungry on Christmas Eve.  Our house will be fully stocked!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Giveaway Boxes

For those of you who participated in the holiday giveaway, the boxes went out today!  I shipped priority so it should be there in 2 to 3 days.  I stayed home on Sunday and baked a LOT.  I feel a huge sense of accomplishment getting it all done.  It is still a surprise for what is in them but I tried to put a good mix of goodies in there.  Look out for your box! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dumpling Day

Over the weekend, we got together with all of our cousins on my husband's side and made pork dumplings.  It is an annual family tradition that we started doing.  The recipe is from my husband's grandma and it is perfect for a group activity because if you want to make traditional Chinese dumplings, it takes a lot of manual labor.  There were about 8 people working constantly for 5 to 6 hours to make 500 dumplings.  I'm not going to share the recipe today because it's one of those recipes that you add a little bit of this and a little bit of that in there and I didn't keep track of the measurements.  Sorry! 


However, I will share a secret to making them.  You have to churn the ground pork with chopsticks to tenderize the meat properly.  We grabbed 5 or 6 wooden chopsticks and held them together with a rubber band and the guys (you need major arm strength), churned the meat for about a good hour 'til the pork looked like tuna fish and thickens.

Wrapping the dumplings... try doing this 100 times!  It's better with a glass of wine and good company. =)

You can eat the dumplings steamed or fried.  We did both.  Totally delicious either way.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ancho Chili Rosemary Nuts

Well hello there!  I'm still alive over here.  I have been busy thinking about life and hibernating when I can.  It has been really cold in LA lately.  Don't laugh my Chicago friends.

Christmas is just around the corner.  Mat and I are hosting Christmas dinner for our family and I am thinking of all the things that need to be made... prime rib, cream corn, roasted veggies, jalapeno cheddar corn bread, mac and cheese... I'm getting excited just thinking about it!  I'm also making these nuts along with a couple other goodies so people can munch on them with wine and cocktails before dinner.  This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa's Chipotle and Rosemary Roasted Nuts.  This is a great recipe because you can make these ahead of time and you can also package them for little gifts to friends and coworkers. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Canola oil
4 cups nuts (use a mixture of your favorite nuts)
2 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice (you can use grapefruit juice too)
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, divided
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush a generous amount of canola oil on the bottom of a baking pan.  Toss nuts with 1 tablespoon of canola oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice, ancho chili powder, 1 tablespoon of rosemary, and 1 teaspoons of salt.

Roast nuts in the oven for 25 minutes.  Toss the nuts with a metal spatula or wooden spoon half-way through.  Remove from the oven and toss with 1 tablespoon of rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  

As the nuts cool, toss the nuts frequently to prevent them from sticking to one another and to the bottom of the pan.  

These nuts are addicting.  They are sweet, salty, smokey, and aromatic from the rosemary.  Perfect combination of flavors.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Home Office Design Ideas

I want to warn you guys in advance that I am not going to be posting as often as I used to.  I am considering a new opportunity (completely unrelated to this blog) and I have to take time off to think about it.  You never know what a little itty bitty blog can do which led me to this new opportunity.  I never did.  My husband never did......but God works in miraculous ways.  And here I am contemplating life and what I really want to or should do with it... what we should do with it (now that I am married, I have to do the "we" thing...haha).

In the meantime, I'm going converting one of our bedrooms into a home office between Christmas and New Years.  We always needed an office in the house and now is the perfect time to do it.  We currently have this spare room we use as a laundry room so our lazy selves do not have to fold laundry and we can leave it hanging around or in baskets everywhere.  Sounds lovely huh?  I think we can make much better use of it.

Here are some of my ideas....

I really want a Louis ghost chair.  What would drive me to spend $400 for an uncomfortable looking plastic chair?  Because it looks oh so pretty!  I have to run this by the husband (crossing my fingers).

Cool artwork.  I haven't decided if I want a big art piece hanging on the wall OR.....

Lots of various pieces hanging on the wall.

Can I please get a cool chandelier?  I'm obsessed with chandeliers.

Bookshelves for all my books too!  Yes, definitely need some of those.  I like how there is a mirror hung on the bookshelf too.  You know... so I can check myself out while I am working.  I'm totally KIDDING.  But it would look pretty if there was a mirror hanging or some type of artwork.

I probably have to figure out a way so that the whole office isn't totally fem so Mat can use it too but I haven't figured out how yet.  Still thinking.....

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower with Mint and Almonds

Through the images, I know this dish seems underwhelming but it is so incredibly good.  This dish is inspired by the roasted cauliflower dish I had at Girl and the Goat in October (I posted my Chicago visit in a past post here).  Before, I would actually categorize myself to be a cauliflower hater because I thought the texture was too crumbly and the taste was totally blah.... it even smelled a little off.  However, roasted cauliflower tastes nutty and delicious and the texture isn't crumbly and weird anymore.  Who knew?!?  This is definitely going on my Christmas menu.

Makes 4 servings

1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces with the hard core removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds
2 teaspoons lemon zest
3 fresh mint leaves torn
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons walnut oil

Preheat over to 450 degrees F.

Spread the cauliflower across a baking pan.  Drizzle the cauliflower with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 to 35 minutes and toss the veggies every 10 minutes or so.  The cauliflower should be nice and browned.

Toss the warm cauliflower with almonds, lemon zest, mint, and walnut oil.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Serve right away.


Toasting nuts on a pan over the stove is the easiest way to ensure that the nuts don't get burnt.  The crunch from the almonds add a contrasting texture to the dish.


The lemon zest and mint pair so well with this dish because they perfume the dish... do not omit these items out of the dish if you can help it.  With all the different flavors and textures, I bet you didn't know that cauliflower could even taste like this!

Friday, December 2, 2011

DIY Christmas Bubble Wreath

Please call me Martha from now on.  I don't even recognize myself and I don't know how this whole domestication thing came about.  I was one of those teenagers that had an insanely messy room with clothes strewn across the floor.  I never ever made my bed and had blond and blue highlights in my hair.  I would eat Doritos for lunch and sour watermelon gummies and ice cream for dinner.  Now, I cook at home and make Christmas decorations in my free time.  Hello, my name is Martha. 


This was my original inspiration from Pottery Barn.  It costs $79 and I obviously did not want to pay $79 for a wreath.

24-inch faux pine wreath
Glue gun & glue sticks
Variety of Christmas ornaments
Ornament ties or floral wire

Tie the ornaments around the wreath with either ornament ties or floral wire (you will need wire cutters if you use wire).  Start with the big ornaments first and then the smaller ones.  Glue the ornaments to the wreath and let it dry overnight.  Trim the ties with scissors. Check on the wreath the next day to ensure that the ornaments are secure.  Tie the ribbon on the top and you are done! 

 1 1/2 to 2 hours

24-inch faux pine wreath - $4
Glue gun & glue sticks - $7.50 (I bought it from Michael's and had a 50% off coupon)
Variety of Christmas ornaments - $20
Ornament ties or floral wire - Free (the ties came with the ornaments)
Ribbon - Free (I had some leftover from another project)
Scissors - Free
Total $31.50

These are the supplies.


I was originally going to buy wire to do this but then I noticed that the ties were included in the box of ornaments so I decided to use that instead.  I bought the ornaments and faux pine wreath at Target.

I went a little crazy with the ornaments.  It looks like a big bubbly Christmas wreath to me now but I like it :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Whole Roasted Balsamic Chicken with Fennel and Brussels Sprouts

My husband requested balsamic chicken a couple weeks so this is where this recipe came from.  I used Giada's marinade as my base and I modified the recipe to accommodate a whole chicken.  I also wanted to show you guys a way to cook a whole chicken in half the time by removing the backbone and thigh bones because usually a whole roasted chicken takes 1 1/2 hours to cook through.  It is extremely useful to know how to do this.  If you are feeling a little ambitious, you can easily do this on a weeknight too. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings

for the chicken:
1 4-pound chicken (giblets and neck bone removed), washed and scrubbed
Coarse kosher salt

for the marinade:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

for the roasted veggies:
2 fennel bulbs, outer layers removed and chopped (keep the core in tact so the fennel chunks stay together)
2 cups Brussels sprouts, outer layers removed and cut horizontally in half
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

for the gravy:
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot

for finishing:
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Place the clean whole chicken in a large bowl or baking pan.  With sharp kitchen sheers, remove the backbone and thigh bones.

For the marinade, mix together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Rub the marinade all over the chicken and let the chicken rest for at least 1 hour.  With a spoon, scoop the marinade over the chicken from time to time.  In the meantime, put the fennel and Brussels sprouts in a big bowl.  Lightly season them with salt and pepper and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On the bottom layer of the roasting pan, evenly distribute the fennel and Brussels sprouts.  Place the chicken on top of veggies and cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Reserve the leftover marinade.

Roast the chicken for 25 minutes.  Take off the foil and roast for another 20 minutes or so.  If you see the chicken browning too fast, place the foil back over the chicken.  The internal temperature of the chicken thighs should reach 165 degrees F.  When you take the chicken out of the oven, cover it in foil and let the chicken rest for 20 minutes before serving to let the juices redistribute throughout the chicken and finish cooking.  Sprinkle the roasted chicken and veggies with parsley.

In a small saucepan, add the reserved marinade and water.  Whisk in arrowroot and simmer the mixture for a few minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.  Serve with chicken.

To wash and scrub the chicken, I used coarse kosher salt to rub all over the chicken.  Rinse him off with fresh water.  Now to butcher the chicken I wanted to show a picture of the backbone.  I am cutting the backbone out with sharp kitchen shears.  This is the easy part because the backbone is easy to find.  

The harder part is finding the thigh bones.  The thigh bones connect the drumstick to the rest of the body.  In the left picture below, my thumb is pressing against the thigh bone.  You can see the top of the thigh bone in the image (I guess that is the knuckle).  I used my kitchen shears to carefully cut the flesh and remove the thigh bones.  There will be tendons and fibers you will have to cut away at but it is totally doable.  I reserved the backbone and thigh bones for later use.  These scraps are great for making chicken stock.

I marinaded the chicken at room temperature for about 1 hour but you can also refrigerate him for up to a day, if you don't plan on roasting right away.

I love a lot of vegetables but I adore fennel and Brussels sprouts so this was an easy choice for me at the grocery store.  You can use anything you want for example potatoes, onions, carrots, etc.

I poured the leftover marinade into a saucepan.  I didn't want all that flavor to go to waste!  When you serve the roasted chicken and veggies, drizzle some extra sauce on it to keep everything extra moist and flavorful.

I love me some roasted chicken!  I also love fried chicken but if a chicken is roasted well, it is super moist and totally delicious.  I don't know what I enjoy eating more.... decisions, decisions.... 

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