Top 10 Foodie Gift Ideas for 2014

BreadPot

1 – My Bread book by Jim Lahey & Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Jim Lahey is a bread genius. His “My Bread” book outlines, in great detail, his no-knead method of baking bread in a cast iron dutch oven. I made this last week and it literally took 5 minutes of hands on time to make it. Basically you mix the ingredients in a bowl, then let it ferment for 18 hours (I put mine in my oven because it was draft free), fold it over a couple times to make a circle, let it rise for another 2 hours, bake in the oven, let cool, and then dive in. Continue reading

Banchan, Burgers, & Banh Mi

Banchan

My latest foodie adventures at some LA restaurants are brought to you by the letter B.

Lets start with Korean food. This is my new favorite food territory to explore. Sure, I have cooked galbi short ribs, had lots of delicious kimchi, and I’ve eaten some Korean fusion at Roy Choi’s restaurants, but I had never eaten a full Korean BBQ before. I live in Los Angeles, shame on me. My friend recently took me to Genwa, located in the mid-Wilshire area. It was a crazy good Korean smorgasbord. We had galbi, bulgogi, and seafood pa jyun. The galbi was meaty and rich. The bulgogi is sliced so thin it just makes it so easy to go back for more. The seafood pa jyun was a pancake filled with scallions and tender squid accompanied by a spicy dipping sauce – this sounds so simple, yet the flavors were so complex that I couldn’t stop eating it. And then there was the Banchan! It was so much fun to try all the different flavors and textures: lots of pickled vegetables, fish cakes, and little crunchy fish that I loved. I cannot believe I waited this long to try all this delicious goodness. Can’t wait to introduce my kids to this – I know they’re going to love it. Next stop, Honey Pig in Koreatown, where they make fried rice with your leftover banchan that you can have as a late night snack. How cool is that?! I highly recommend you seek out some Korean food wherever you live.

burger

Next are Burgers and Breakfast from Hinano Café in Venice. Hinano Café is one of the last divey places around Venice. With Abbot Kinney nearby, full of overpriced, overhyped restaurants that are too cool to put a sign up with their name (a pet peeve of mine), Hinano is a gem. You can get a great burger with their special seasoning blend, along with chips, for 6 bucks. You can also get huge, satisfying breakfasts for 5 bucks (the Western Omelet with hashbrowns and sourdough toast = yum). And you can get beer, because it’s not only a café, it’s also a bar!   The burgers are good, the beer is cold, and the staff is friendly. One of the owners, Andy, recently coordinated donations of burgers and all the fixin’s to my kids’ elementary school for a fundraising carnival we were having. Their donation was so generous, down to every detail, and because we had Hinano Café headlining the food, swarms of people bought food and we raised more money than we’ve ever raised before! These are good people. If you live in the area, go and support them and eat some good food.   *You have to be 21 to enter, but if you want the kids to join you for some good grub, just get some food to go and walk to the beach for a picnic. They are located at the end of Washington Blvd., near the beach.

Banh2

Aptly named, Banh Mi, this new restaurant serves, you guessed it, Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. There’s not much Vietnamese food ‘round these parts, so this new place is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. I tried the Oink Mi: caramelized pork belly, golden-browned shallots, garlic country pate spread, pickled daikon/carrots/cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno, and chili mayo on a freshly baked baguette. The pickled veggies balanced the succulent pork perfectly. The sandwich wasn’t cheap at $13, but it was large. I should mention that I don’t really like sandwiches, mainly because I’m pretty picky about bread, and I think a lot of sandwiches are boring – with the exception of banh mis. The pickled vegetables, cilantro, and heat make them so interesting to my taste buds. Banh Mi has so many other versions of the classic – braised short rib, turmeric chicken, cod, and more. They also have savory coconut pancakes with prawn and mung beans and fresh spring rolls. Check them out next time you’re at the infamous Venice Whole Foods(if you haven’t seen this video, click on it if you want to laugh); they’re right across the street.

Banh

Fall Bake Sale Ideas

Donuts of Doom!

Donuts of Doom!

It’s that time of year for Bake Sales! For those that don’t bake or are short on time, here are some super easy and fun ideas. (For those that do like to bake, scroll down for some recipes).

Donuts of Doom! You can get a dozen donuts at the regular grocery store for about 5 bucks, pick up some plastic fang teeth and you are done. If you’re feeling fancy, add some chocolate chip eyeballs. No oven required.

Popcorn-Hands

Popcorn hands. Pick up some food handler gloves, candy corn, and popcorn. Salty, sweet, and a little creepy.  Popcorn hands. 

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Bugs and kisses. Hershey kisses and a plastic spider ring. Clever and fun.

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Chocolate covered strawberries that look like ghosts. Delicious and adorable.

For those that like to bake, here are some of my favorite recipes:

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Caramels. Okay, so this isn’t baked, but they are still delicious and different from the traditional bake sale items. You could also use the caramel to dip granny smith apples in, which would be big sellers. See recipe here.

Snickerdoodles. This is my favorite cookie recipe! Besides the fact that it’s fun to say “Snickerdoodle Dough”, they taste great, the kids love rolling the dough balls into cinnamon and sugar, and you can freeze the dough. Check out Emeril Lagasse’s recipe here.

Puffed rice treats. Who doesn’t like these? You can also make these with colored (fruity) cereal. Here is my recipe for Extra Marshmallowy Puffed Rice Treats:

6 T unsalted butter

1-16oz. bag of large marshmallows

6 cups puffed rice cereal

pinch of kosher salt

Melt butter and marshmallows over low heat. Turn off heat before marshmallows have melted completely. Stir in cereal. Using wet fingers, press into a 9 x 13 dish. When cool, cut into squares. Final step: Eat!

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Blueberry muffins. I may have mentioned this before, but these are the best blueberry muffins in the world. Nice to add something fruity into the bake sale mix. See recipe here.

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French apple cake. First of all, this cake is ridiculously easy. Second of all, it’s soooo yummy. Thank you, Dorie Greenspan. Recipe is here.

Pumpkin Pie. What would a fall bake sale be without pumpkin pie? Start off with a Trader joes pie crust and use the recipe from Libby’s, and you’ve got a pie that’s as easy as pie.

Happy Selling for your special cause!

10 Gift Ideas for People Who Love Food

Muddler

Hello there, I know it’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted.  There’s been a lot going on, but I am back in business and ready to cook, eat, and share…Looking for gifts for that favorite foodie of yours?  Or perhaps a gift for yourself?  Here are my top 10 Gift Ideas for People Who Love Food:

1 – Muddler, bottle of light Rum, & my Mojitos For a Crowd recipe.  This recipe has been tested many times and my family and friends can vouch for its addictiveness.  It’s a fun drink and it goes well with many menus.  Plus, muddling is easy, adds so much flavor, and you look like a mixologist!

Bacon

2 – The Original Bacon Kit – Only $22 for the kit and you are on your way to homemade bacon.  Available at Sur la Table.  Time slows down for me when I shop there.  Truly, anything from this store would be a good gift.

CookBooks

3 – The Lemonade Cookbook & The True Food Kitchen Cookbook– I have both of these cookbooks and love them.  From The Lemonade Cookbook: the mac and cheese recipe is to die for, and I can’t wait to try the Chinese long beans with plum vinaigrette and so many other inspiring salads, braises, down-home desserts, and of course, the different lemonades. From The True Food Kitchen Cookbook – even if the only thing you make is the kale salad, this book is worth it – it will transform any kale-hater.  The umami sauce is amazing and I can’t wait to try the Chicken Dumplings with Cilantro-Za’tar Sauce – international, healthy cuisine at its best.  If you’re in L.A., make time to visit both of these restaurants to sample some of their delicious delights.

Cheese

4 – Cheesemaking Kit – Ever want to try and make your own mozzarella?  Try this kit.  I just re-discovered it in my garage after reorganizing my kitchen.  Can’t wait for homemade cheese.  And it’s on sale for $20 right now at Zingermans.com!  Anything from Zingerman’s will bring a smile to your face – check out their other amazing offerings.

game

5 – Foodie Fight GameTrivial Pursuit, Foodie Style.  So much fun and really interesting.  I own it and highly recommend it.

mystery

6 – Murder Mystery Party Kit – Lethal luau?   Pasta, Passion, and Pistols?  They organize it all for you(invitations, menus, character descriptions) for under $20.  Help find Pepi Roni’s murderer!  Add some wine and you have a fun night ahead.

pops

7 – Silicone Reusable Yogurt or Ice Pop Squeeze Tubes, My kids love these – refrigerated or frozen!  And they’re BPA free.  If getting for someone with a baby, throw in some cute handmade bibs from Etsy.

8 – Farmers Market – Support your local farmers market and put together a basket with cheese and fruit.  Who doesn’t love cheese?  Just sayin’.

fine

9 – Cooking Magazine SubscriptionFine Cooking is one of my favorite magazines and it sort of flies under the radar.  It’s kind of like Cooks Illustrated, but there are color pictures and the cuisine is more worldly than CI.  It’s $30 for a year, but it’s well worth it.  Another one of my favorites is Bon Appetit – they always have good recipes and articles – and it’s only $12 for a year right now.  Subscriptions are the gift that keeps on giving.

salt

10 – Salts and a Salt Container – Ah, salt – it’s music to my ears.   There’s Hawaiian (perfect for poke), Fleur de Sel or Gray Salt (great for salted caramels or for a delicious finishing touch) – so many options, really.  Check out your local Whole Foods for a great variety.  Pair it with a cute and functional salt container (I have this one and love it) and you’ve got a great gift.

Happy Holidays, my food lovin’ friends!

“A man who was fond of wine was offered some grapes at dessert after dinner. ‘Much obliged,’ said he, pushing the plate aside, ‘I am not accustomed to take my wine in pills.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin in 1825.