June 2011

I spent this past weekend in my favorite city — San Francisco.  I love the people, atmosphere, culture, shops, and food there.  Too bad I live on the opposite coast, which makes visiting more difficult.

Most of the weekend was actually spent in Monterey, a few hours south of San Francisco.   Although it was cold there, it was a nice getaway.  Plus, the clam chowder was amazing there.

There were some nice vintage finds:

We had brunch at First Awakenings, which was a great.  No wonder there was a 30-minute wait.  They had a huge menu full of different breakfast options, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and entrees.  The portions were big and everything was delicious.

Their hot sauce was amazing!  We literally finished half this bottle during our meal.  There was only four of us.

I got the Bombero Burrito (ham, bacon, sausage, onions, and mushrooms) and home fries – all for less than $10.

The potatoes were my favorite part.  I want some now.

Even though we were completely stuffed from brunch, we could not say no to some candy/caramel apples.  We had passed by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory a few times before brunch and had been eyeing their massive selection of candy apples.  I got the caramel apple with almonds.  Sooo good!  It had the perfect amount of sweetness, tartness, and nuttyness.

Their assortment of peppermint bark was also amazing.

After all the food, naps were in order.

While we slept, Fleecie, my friend’s [child] lamb, entertained herself with the meditation box in our hotel room.  Looks like she’s spelling out her name.  So clever.  (She’s not even 11 yet!)

Oh, and she knows she’s cute.

Back in San Francisco, we had a nice relaxing picnic in the Alamo Square park.  You can see the beautiful SF skyline, as well as the iconic “Painted Ladies,” a number of distinctive Victorian-style mansions along Steiner Street.  The “Painted Ladies” may look familiar to you — they were featured in the opening sequence of the 1980s-90s show, Full House.

I also got a chance to visit Miette, a famous pastry shop in SF.  I had been eyeing Miette’s Recipe Book on Amazon for weeks.  Now that I know it’s good, I’m definitely getting it soon.  :)

All in all, a great weekend full of great friends, memories, and food.  :)

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Happy Father’s Day!  For my dad, I made this easy blackberry cheesecake bars with an added twist — I incorporated some sweetened condensed milk into the cheesecake batter to add a new layer of creaminess.  Something special for one special dad :) .

To start, in a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it’s light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs, one at a time.

And, here’s the twist to this cheesecake:  condensed milk.  If regular milk tasted like this, I know I’d easily get my daily dose vitamin D (sadly, that is not the case).

Slowly add in the condensed milk to the cream cheese mixture.  Beat until the mixture is well-blended.

In a bowl, crush about 5-6 pieces of graham crackers.

Mix in some sugar.

Then, pour in some melted butter.  Mix well.

Press the mixture into  a baking pan.

Pour the cream cheese mixture onto the graham cracker mixture.

Now for the blackberries.

Place the blackberries evenly on the cheesecake mixture.

In the oven it goes …

Here’s what it looks like coming out.  Some of the blackberries have disappeared into the cheesecake.  Poor things.

The creaminess of the cheesecake compliments well with the sweet and tartness of the blackberries.

If you like your cheesecake on the thinner-layer side, you can reserve about 1.5 cups of the cream cheese batter and 3 tablespoons of the graham cracker mixture for a half dozen cupcakes.  Each cupcake liner will get about a 1/2 tablespoon of graham cracker mixture.

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour in a cupful of cream cheese batter to each cupcake.

Dress each with a blackberry on top.

Viola!

Blackberry Cheesecake Bars

Print this Recipe!

Makes 16 bars
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Ready in: 8 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 3 cups crushed graham crackers (about 5-6 pieces)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 large eggs
  • 14 ounces can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 pint fresh blackberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C).
  2. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended.
  3. Gradually add sweetened condensed milk, and continue beating until blended.
  4. In a bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter.  Once the mixture is evenly blended, press the mixture into the bottom of a 9×9-inch baking pan.
  5. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the baking pan on top of the crust.  Sprinkle the blackberries evenly on top of the cheesecake batter.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Turn off oven, and let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes.
  7. Remove cheesecake from the oven, and let cool completely.
  8. Cover and chill for 6 – 8 hours before serving.

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Aside from my giddiness over vintage typewriters and vintage pyrexes, my heart gives a little jump when I see vintage suitcases.

photo courtesy of http://theneotraditionalist.com

I love seeing all the things people do with their vintage suitcases.

photo courtesy of http://theneotraditionalist.com

Some suitcases are decoratively stacked.

photo courtesy of http://calderclark.com

photo courtesy of www.apartmenttherapy.com

photo courtesy of www.mysparrowblog.com

I’ve also seen some creative ways to make vintage suitcases functional while still adding character to a home.

Isn’t this just adorable and ingenous?  With some wheels and plywood shelves, you have a vintage suitcase turned rolling bar cart.

photo courtesy of www.readymade.com/

Here’s a creative twist to using vintage suitcases for its original purpose of storage.

photo courtesy of www.diyideas.com

Cat (and small dogs) get the royal vintage treatment with these adorable suitcase beds.  Maybe I should make Tigger one.

photo courtesy of www.re-nest.com

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I’ve always had a bit of a crush on dulce de leche — its rich and creamy goodness makes me happy whenever I’m eat it.  Until recently, I had no idea how unbelievably easy it was to make this yourself!

Dulce de leche is basically a milk-based caramel sauce.  You can make it with whole milk and sugar, but this process takes a little more work.  Instead, I opted for the lazier version, which requires just a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Start with a can of condense milk.  Either poke two vent holes on the top of the can or open the can halfway with a can opener (as I did above).  This is important because as the milk simmers inside the can, it will need some room to simmer.  Keeping the can completely airtight may lead to a potential explosion.  And we don’t want that.  No, we want smooth and yummy non-explosive dulce de leche.

Put the partially opened can in a pot, and fill the pot with enough water to cover  3/4 of the can.  Heat the pot on the stove on low to medium heat, enough for the water to simmer, but not boil.

Let the pot and can simmer gently for about 2 hours for runny dulce de leche, 3 hours for thick dulce de leche, or up to 4 hours for solid dulce de leche.

Be sure to watch the water level during the simmering process, and add more water whenever the water level boils down too much.

When it’s done, let it cool for a while before opening up the can completely.  The condensed milk should now be colored tan or brown.  Using a spoon, stir this condensed milk/dulce de leche until it is well-blended — the bottom layers should be darker in color than the top layers.

The delicious dulce de leche can be directly eaten, or used as a part of a dessert (I’ll post a recipe for some cupcakes using this dulce de leche shortly).

[UPDATE]  Dulce de leche is a key ingredient in this “Better Than Sex” cupcake.  This is definitely a must-try cupcake!

Dulce De Leche

Print this Recipe!

Makes 1 Cup
Cooking Time:  2-4 hours

Directions

  1. Partially open with a can opener (or poke two holes on the top of) a 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk.
  2. Put the partially-opened can in a pot, covering 3/4 of the can with water.
  3. Simmer the water and can on low to medium heat for 2-4 hours, depending on the consistency of the dulce de leche you want.  Simmer for 2 hours for runny dulce de leche, 3 hours for thick dulce de leche, or up to 4 hours for solid dulce de leche.
  4. Periodically add more water when the water level boils down too much.
  5. Remove from stove and let the can cool before opening the can completely.
  6. Stir to blend and even out the consistency of the condensed milk.
  7. Eat directly, or use as a part of a dessert.

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Now that summer is in full swing, my small herb “garden” on my windowsill is really florishing!  Don’t laugh, but this makes me really excited.   I thought I’d use the dill to make some refreshing potato salad with lemon and cumin.

This is a simple side dish, and you can vary the ingredients based on your personal taste preferences.

You start off with chopping some red onions, cutting up some potatoes, and zesting and then juicing a lemon.

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender.  Drain when done.

In some hot olive oil, sautee the red onions with some cumin powder.   You can also use cumin seeds if you have them.  Mmm, you can smell the cumin within seconds.

Pour the red onion mixture over the potatoes.  Mix in the lemon juice.  Season with some freshly ground black pepper and salt.  Garnish with the lemon zest and chopped dill.  Chopped parsley also works great if you prefer it over dill.

Simple Potato Salad with Lemon and Cumin

Print this Recipe!

Makes 4 servings
Prep time:  10 minutes
Total cooking time:  30 minutes
(adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • small handful of dill and/or parsley, chopped
  • kosher salt & pepper

Direction

  1. Scrub and rinse potatoes, cutting them in bite size portions.
  2. Boil in salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat olive oil until hot.
  4. Add in cumin powder and red onion over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  5. Pour oil mixture over drained potatoes, and add lemon juice.
  6. Sprinkle with a good amount of freshly ground pepper and kosher salt.
  7. Toss in chopped dill or parsley, and toss gently to coat.
  8. Serve warm or cold.

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