Apple Pie Bites

I make apple pie (maybe) once a year.

But it’s so good and I’d rather have it more often! So instead of making the whole pie, I made bites! I’m a fan of mini desserts because they satisfy the craving and don’t leave you feeling guilty.

All you need for this treat is a pie crust (I prefer homemade, like this wonderful and simple recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-pie-crust/), an apple, cinnamon, sugar and butter.

All you do is make the pie crust then roll it out and smooth melted butter over it and top it off with cinnamon and sugar, then slice it into strips about an inch and a half thick. Take an apple slice and roll the pie crust around it so that the whole mid section of the apple is covered. Then add more melted butter and cinn/sug. Done, very simple.

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Tamix and Balconi

I went to two wonderful spots tonight, both recommended to me by my dear friend and roomie, Kelsey.

First, Tamix on the corner of Pico and Westmoreland, right near downtown. Don’t ever go there alone, always bring a friend. It’s not in the best part of town, and well, it’s a taco truck in the middle of a car wash lot. Tacos are 1$, I repeat, 1$. Two tacos plus their deliciously sweet horchata = $3.50… you can’t beat this deal. The tacos are tiny, but definitely filling for a snack. Otherwise, about 3-4 tacos would make a meal, but still, that’s just a few bucks! I’ll recommend the al pastor taco, although next time I will definitely try the chicken. Also, they have a wonderful selection of salsas and extra things to put on your taco. This place is where’s its AT!

Next, headed to Balconi in West LA, an area I rarely frequent. But it’s nestled on a not-too-busy part of Olympic Blvd and is incredibly quiet… most people were there to study/read. A small but specialized menu of coffee, priced from 4.5 – 6$ depending on if you get a small or a large. The barista let’s you smell the coffee ground before he makes it with this really unique chemistry lab-looking coffee-making apparatus. The coffee is delicious and so full of flavors you can’t find anywhere else. Check out their website: http://www.balconicoffeecompany.com/
 
Tacos Tamix (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon
Balconi Coffee Company on Urbanspoon

“This is why I’ll only drink Intelligentsia coffee”

Ahhh this video is accurate in so many ways!

I am a huge fan of Intelligentsia… specifically the one in Old Town Pasadena, although I’m very sad my favorite cashier/barista no longer works there. The staff is very hipster, but surprisingly friendly. They all wear flannel / suspenders / ray ban glasses, it’s great.

My favorite thing at Intelligentsia is surprisingly not coffee. They have the most wonderful hot chocolate. As far as coffee drinks, I like their cappuccino – it’s very dark and rich. They also have wonderful cheesecake, extremely thick and not too sweet. The real draw of the coffee shop is the atmosphere…exposed brick walls, low lights, and a very industrial feel. Another plus – they put nifty designs in your coffee.

 

Rooney Mara

…is a badass.

Saw Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night. Ever since I saw the trailer – intense music, so much mystery – I’ve been dying to see this movie. It definitely delivered. More¬†particularly, Rooney Mara delivered.

“This is so obscene!”

“She’s such a badass…She’s such a badass!”

All comments I heard whispered by other people in the theatre.

The movie is “obscene” in a tasteful way. They show a lot of skin but all of it is intentional, as in, it furthers the story and is not pointless. I hear the Swedish version is even more explicit.

I’m pretty sure everyone knows what this movie is about so it’s pointless to go into those details. I think the storyline is great, but what MAKES this film is the acting and execution cinematically (lighting, sound,¬†cinematography…everything). Rooney Mara IS Lisbeth. Her accent is dead on. Even though she’s beautiful in real life, she strips down to this bare, genuine, raw human being and its spectacular to watch. Rooney, you have all my love and respect.

And I thought Carrie Mulligan had it all…

 

Cake Balls (Adventure 1)

Here’s the bottom line: I’m obsessed with baking.

I first encountered cake balls a few years ago at a friend’s party. Here were these adorable spheres of cake that were just enough sweet to satisfy a sweet tooth craving. Perfect! Now I don’t have to worry about stuffing my face with a whole piece of cake. Works out nicely.

When I first started experimenting with cake balls, the whole experience was more of a mess than anything else. My first mistake was adding frosting to the cake before forming the balls. The second was that I was stupidly heating the chocolate over the stove. And finally, my third mistake was that I was sticking a knife into the cake ball and dipping it (rather unsuccessfully) into the chocolate burning on the stove.

So when I visited the Lake Austin Spa this winter break and walked past the cooking class room where they just happened to have a lesson about making cake balls, it was like divine intervention.

The chef corrected my previous notions:

1) do NOT include frosting into the cake ball itself, just crumble the cake

2) do NOT heat chocolate on the stove, heat it in the microwave

  • another great tip was to not add water based food coloring to white chocolate for color, rather add an oil based food coloring so it does not dry out the chocolate. water and chocolate hate each other!

3) do NOT use a fork, use a spoon for goodness sake!

After receiving this formal training, I am working up to become a cake ball guru.

Here’s my process:

1) bake a cake

  • I would start out with something standard, like chocolate or vanilla. here is a lovely recipe from Magnolia Bakery:¬†http://www.food.com/recipe/magnolia-bakerys-vanilla-birthday-cake-and-frosting-139518?scaleto=.5&mode=null&st=true
  • don’t be afraid to add extra oil or apple sauce to the cake to make it moist!
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2) after letting the cake cool, crumble the cake in a medium sized bowl until the cake is in fine pieces (pictured below is a pumpkin cake, just before it is going to be fully crumbled)

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3) put on gloves and form balls with your hands, simply by grabbing a handful of cake and compressing it

  • if the cake is not staying intact, try adding some milk

4) set cake balls on cookie sheet and put them in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or so, until they are somewhat hardened/not looking like they will cave in after adding pressure with your finger

5) a few minutes before taking the cake balls out of the refrigerator, pour chocolate (white or dark) chips into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute. timing is so important here! take the bowl out of the microwave and stir. place it back in the microwave for 30 seconds.

  • optional: add a few drops of oil based food coloring
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6) place a cake ball into the melted chocolate, using a spoon to move it around so that it is covered on all sides with chocolate. Now, pick up the cake ball with the spoon and tap the spoon against the bowl to make sure that you get as much dripping chocolate off as possible. then, gently touch the spoon to the cookie sheet and shake it gently until the cake ball gracefully rolls off of the spoon.

  • if you want to add decorations (like sprinkles), put them on within 20 seconds of “frosting” the cake ball, otherwise the chocolate will dry and the decs won’t stick!
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7) the drying process depends on the chocolate. i’d say it takes about 30 minutes for all of them to be completely dry and ready to serve.

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There are so many flavor options with cake balls! Not only are they visually appealing, but they are the perfect bite size treat to take to a party or to enjoy yourself. xoxo

Elf Cafe – Echo Park

Elf Cafe is nestled in a stretch of shops near the corner of Sunset and Alvarado. The first time I went here, it was hard to spot since the restaurant is so quiet and concealed. There is limited outside and indoor seating, so reservations must be made before dining here. The staff is really great about responding to email reservations. I emailed for a 6 p.m. reservation around 3 p.m. and the request was processed in a matter of minutes. Elf is open Wednesday – Sunday from 6:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.

The food at Elf is top notch. All of it is vegetarian and there are many gluten free and vegan options. For starters, I would recommend the vegan fondue… it is absolutely delicious and is definitely enough for two to split.

The Moroccan Vegetable Tagine is to die for. The variety of vegetables and spices combine beautifully together.

Elf also has a wonderful bleu cheese macaroni and cheese… so rich and tasty. Suggestion: order the smaller bowl. The taste is so rich, this portion will be about all you can take in one sitting.

I have yet to try the desserts at Elf, but their espresso is wonderful and a nice way to end a dinner full of flavor. Oh, and their water is cucumber infused…just saying. This place has my heart.
Elf Cafe on Urbanspoon

Four Ingredient Quesadilla

Tonight I wanted to make something light because I know for sure that no matter how big of a dinner I have, I will still be hungry when my 4 hour cinema class ends at 11p.m. tonight. So, I simplified my mother’s wonderful spinach-mushroom quesadilla recipe. She normally uses ginger and mushrooms along with the spinach, but I lacked the first two ingredients.

So here’s an easy quesadilla recipe:

1. heat some olive oil in a pan

2. throw in some baby spinach, cover the pan

3. while spinach is cooking place whole wheat tortilla (or I prefer the whole wheat lavash from trader joe’s) on the stove (carefully!) and place some pepper jack cheese on top.

4. pour spinach, when done, on top of the first tortilla

5. add a second tortilla on top and eat!

Red Wine Marinated Fried Chicken… that’s a mouthful, literally

I always have chicken and wine in my kitchen, as do most people, I would guess. And after a long trail of boring dinners, I decided to combine the two using a recipe from epicurious.com

The marinade combines red wine, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard and garlic. Let the chicken sit in this overnight, although 5 hours sufficed when I made it this time. Take half the marinade and combine it with 1 egg. Dip the marinated chicken in the egg then into a bowl of flour, salt and pepper. Fry with vegetable oil and done! An absolutely wonderful, flavorful dinner.

Serve with steamed broccoli and carrots. And more wine… although mascato would have probably been a better idea.

Next chicken experiment… beer battered fried chicken!