Fall Baking: Pumpkin Bread

Fall – the time of year when the leaves change, you dig out sweaters from the back of your closet and Trader Joe’s (finally) releases its pumpkin products. If you live in LA though, it’s hard to imagine fall is here, what with the 88 degree weather and clear blue skies. Every time fall rolls around, I find myself missing home where there is some semblance of seasonal change.

Every fall since I’ve lived away from home, I find time to make pumpkin bread. Thankfully, my good friend Jordan has joined me in this tradition because she loves pumpkin bread too. This past weekend we got together and baked pumpkin bread using this wonderful recipe from allrecipes.com I took my loaf to a friends house and between the 3 of us, it disappeared quickly. The cake is moist, spicy and lightly sweet… the perfect home baked treat.


1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
3 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


Quick & Easy Cooking with Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Last Friday I attended a food event at Traveler’s Bookcase, a precious, whimsical bookstore full of globes and literature about every place you could imagine. Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, author of Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking, talked about her cooking and travel experiences.

Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee writes about food, travel, arts and culture. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Cecelia was raised in Los Angeles and graduated from UC San Diego. After college, she lived in Mexico where she learned about the regional cooking. She even wrote the Frommer’s Guide to South Korea, during which she visited every single place she wrote about during her seven month adventure. After hearing about her traveling experiences and opportunities, I’m convinced she has one of the coolest jobs ever.

Besides exploring the world, Cecilia also develops simple, easy to follow recipes. During this event, she featured her latest book – Quick and Easy Mexican Cooking. Oftentimes I find recipes that claim to be simple and easy only to discover that they involve 15 ingredients and time I just don’t have. Thankfully, Cecelia’s book doesn’t deceive, the recipes are actually very quick and easy. She even timed herself when cooking the food – if it took her over 30 minutes, then she revised the recipe to fit the time limit.

I walked away from the event with some interesting food facts:

1. To determine the heat level of a chile, simply cut the top portion off, swipe your finger along the inside and touch it to your tongue. The heat level of that quick taste will tell you the heat of the overall chile.

2. Korean and Mexican food are similar in that both are regional and seasonal. The ingredients are based on the spices, vegetables and other ingredients available to the region. Also, both have bold flavors. The main difference is that Korean cooking does not involve baking and the food, because it is eaten with chopsticks, must be bite sized.

3. Casita Mexicana, is indeed the best Mexican food in Los Angeles. Everyone at the event seemed to agree!

After the event, I drank wine and ate several light and subtly sweet Mexican wedding cookies… and to add to the food bliss, the store owners served up a dish from Cecelia’s book – vegetable quesadillas with a cilantro sour cream sauce. The food and good conversations were a wonderful way to end the evening.

I can’t wait to attend more events at Traveler’s Bookcase!

Traveler’s Bookcase | 8375 West Third Street | Los Angeles

Facebook: Travelers-Bookcase

Twitter: @travelersbooks

The Top 5 Reasons To Attend SXSW 2013

Step aside Sundance and Tribeca, a younger, hotter, cooler version of you has arrived. Nestled in the conservative mass of Texas lies an oasis named Austin, home of the South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival. Next March marks the 26thanniversary of the festival, which grows dramatically every year.

Photo by Katie Lemon

Artists and innovators flock to SXSW from around the world to showcase projects and share ideas. After experiencing the festival multiple times, here are the reasons why I think you too should attend SXSW:

1. You’ll get a sneak peak at upcoming hot mainstream and indie films.

In the past, SXSW was known as a hub and launching point for indie films, but recent program lists have included Hollywood hits such as 21 Jump Street and The Cabin in the Woods. Though some loyal festival fans shake their heads at the new blockbuster trend, SXSW programmers leave plenty of room for indie films, which make up a majority of the festival.

2. The networking opportunities are unmatched.

Most SXSW attendees hail from New York or Los Angeles, and are the big wigs in journalism, public relations and entertainment. During last year’s festival, I was fortunate enough to have a random coffee meeting with a film producer and a popular writer from the Huffington Post and had a casual conversation while waiting in line for a film with the writer behind the major LA food blog Consuming LA. The friendly atmosphere of the festival makes networking fun, easy and casual.

Photo by Katie Lemon

3. Austin is totally cool.

The city’s slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” says it all. Don’t expect Austinites to do a double take if they see a naked guy biking on a city street or an art car clad in creative garbage. The strange, eclectic culture of Austin makes it the perfect destination for a hip film festival. In between screenings, hop between the multiple bars on 6th street, such as the locally famous Casino El Camino and Maggie Mae’s. Downtown is rich with theaters, coffee shops, sidewalk cafes and art museums… and you thought Los Angeles was hipster!

4. Interactive conferences give you the inside info on the latest in social media and the arts.

Interactive Panel at SXSW 2012 / Photo by Katie Lemon

Last year’s interactive lineup was stellar – from the founders of Pinterest to the editor in chief of the New York Times, there was something for everyone. The 2013 lineup will not disappoint. The list already includes Chuck Lorre, executive producer of The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, along with Dennis Crowley, co-founder of foursquare.

5. You’ll be inspired.

The sheer diversity of programming guarantees that everyone will find something exciting. If you’re looking to expand your cinema repertoire, check out the documentary and short film screenings.  Do you love emerging music artists? Attend a showcase for a band you think sounds interesting. If social media and the digital revolution is what makes you tick, check out the wide variety of panels on those topics. There’s so much to do that you won’t want (or have time) to sleep.

Have you ever been to/heard of SXSW? If you’ve been to any film festival, what was your experience?

For more information about SXSW, visit www.sxsw.com

Pizookie (Chocolate Chip Cookies)

I remember when I first moved to L.A. I heard about Pizookies from multiple locals. I remember thinking, what the heck is that? But it’s very simple – a half-baked, warm cookie served in a tin pan (like pizza) with ice cream on top. The restaurant BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse made the dessert famous.

I found a wonderful Pizookie recipe from WhipperBerry, and got lots of praise when I took them into work the next day. Everyone commented on the fluffiness of the cookie and how it wasn’t too sweet. I take no credit, the WhipperBerry blogger has made a perfect cookie recipe. Even though it’s not technically a Pizookie because the cookies are not served warm nor with ice cream, the cookies still taste light and perfectly sweet.

Vera Bradley Birthday Discount!

Vera Bradley has whimsical, feminine designs and I’ve always loved their products. From passport cases to backpacks, you can find a cute design for pretty much any essential item you need in your life!

Did you know that Vera Bradley gives a birthday discount? Sign up on their website and you’ll receive a $20.00 credit to spend during the month of your birthday! For my birthday, I ordered this adorable passport case and can’t wait to take it on my trip to India in December!


Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

After a long day of work, all I wanted was comfort food. Cut to me driving straight from work to Ralph’s to buy pie crust.

You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the girl.

Chicken pot pie was the first dish I ever cooked on my own at college. I remember calling my mother asking her how to cook the chicken…I feel like I’ve come so far since then!

Here is the recipe I used, courtesy of my mom:

1. Cook two large chicken breasts by lightly boiling them in a covered pot in about 3 cups of water. Cook them for at least 1/2 to 1 hour, until they are tender and well done. Shred the chicken into small pieces and make sure to remove all of the bones.

2. Separate the crusts, one crust from each unit will stay in the pie plate (Buy two packages of pie crust in the pie plate. Each package usually has two crusts, and these are usually found in the upright freezers at the grocery store.). Carefully, poke holes in the two crusts, but be careful not to puncture the foil pie plate. Poke holes with the fork on the sides and on the bottom. These holes let the air out when the crusts cook. If you don’t poke the holes, the crust will bubble and break. Put these empty pie crust shells in the oven at about 350 degrees until they are lightly toast brown.

3. While they are in the oven, remove the other pie crusts from the shells and lay them flat somewhere, you might want to put flour under them so they do no stick to whatever you put them on.

4. In a bowl mix:
2 cans of Cream Of Chicken Soup
2 boxes or one bag of mixed veggies , ie..corn, peas, green beans
The shredded chicken breasts
salt and pepper

5. Add this mixture to the cooked pie shells.

6. Put the uncooked pie shell on top of the mixture in the pie plate and try to seal around the rim. Poke holes in the top of the pie crusts.

7. Put the pies in the oven at 350 or 425 degrees for about 45 minutes. The top will be toasty brown.