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I love books. So much in fact that my 5th grade teacher once ratted me out to my mom that I “read too much”.  I couldn’t help it – I had already finished the required reading book so what else could I do in class except read other books?

To this day, my love affair with books continues to grow. Whenever I find myself without social plans, my heart flutters with glee at the thought of spending an entire afternoon in Barnes & Noble or Shakespeare & Co.

So you can only imagine my elation when I found out that one of my recipes was selected by Foodista to be published in the first EVER cookbook to emerge from social media –  Foodista Best Of Food Blogs Cookbook.  I screamed, I cried, I did a little dance – something I wrote and created was going to be printed in a real book!

The beautiful volume boasts of 100 delicious recipes and tantalizing food-porn photos from bloggers around the world, many of whom I have become friends with through the Food Blogosphere. It is a great honor to be included amongst such talent, and I can say firsthand that this book has been my bedtime reading for the past few weeks. The recipes truly highlight the originality and diversity of the food blogger community.

To celebrate the book release, Foodista is offering a chance to win prizes for those who buy the book on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010 from the hours of 1-2pm (Eastern Standard Time).  See here for more details. This book would make an wonderful and unique Holiday gift for any foodie, so grab a few copies now!

PS: Can you find me in this montage of foodie photos? Where’s Shelly?

As a child, I could never contain my excitement every time Halloween rolled around. I loved the mystery of not knowing what candy “swag” I would find in my bag at the end of the night, visiting the houses with the most terrifying Halloween lawn decor, and the costumes lovingly (though perhaps not skillfully) made by Mom.

20 some odd years later, this excitement has not faded, but my anticipation for candy has been replaced by an eagerness to brew up new spooktacular recipes, the lack of horrific suburban lawns has been made up by my proximity to the NYC West Village Halloween Parade, and the role of costume seamstress has passed on to me, making me realize that Mom was a much better costume maker than I ever will be.

To get ourselves in the mood for the fright-fest, I conjured up a few savory Halloween delights to start our night:

Cauliflower Miso Mashed Skulls (the orange edition)


Eye of newt, and toe of frog:

  • 1 full cauliflower head
  • 2 carrot fingers (peeled)
  • 3 tbsp of miso paste “blood”
  • 1/4 cup milk of a cow
  • eye and lips of nori (a sheet of sushi seaweed)

Round about the Cauldron Go

  1. Chop the cauliflower head and carrot fingers into pieces and drop into scalding, boiling water
  2. Boil and torture the head and fingers until soft and tender.
  3. Drain liquid, and add salt & pepper. Mix with a spatula.
  4. Transfer the ingredients into a blender or food processor, add in miso paste and milk and puree until desired smooth consistency is reached
  5. Shape the mash into skulls and bones.
  6. Take the sheet of seaweed, and with a small knife, cut out circles (for eyes) and thin strips (for a “X” shaped lip).
  7. Serve warm

Hairy Spaghetti Squash Monster with Mozzarella Eyeballs

Double Double Toil and Trouble:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 3-5 fresh mozzarella balls
  • 3-5 green  olives, pitted
  • 3-5 black olives, pitted
  • 1 strip of roasted red pepper (or sliced fresh red pepper, or anything that is red and resembles a mouth, such as beets)
  • Morningstar Veggie Crumbles
  • 2 Tbsp Oil of Olive
  • 2 Tbsp Mixed Herb Seasoning (I used a blend of dried rosemary, marjoram, oregano, basil, and tarragon)

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble!

  1. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, rub with herbs and olive oil, and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 min.
  2. Using a fork, scrape off the meat of the squash (once cooked and tender, it will come off easily in strings)
  3. Mix 1/3 of the squash with veggie crumbles to create a worms/maggots in hair effect
  4. Cut off the edge of a green olive (it should be dome shaped with a hole in the middle). Stuff a bit of black olive in the whole and balance the olive on top of a mozzarella ball (repeat to make multiple eyeballs)
  5. Arrange the squash to create a round face, framed with worm-infested hair, stick a couple of creepy eyeballs on top and around, and garnish with a fiery mouth.

A Parisian Phototour

They say the best way to get to know a city is through food and photography. Well, we ate to our hearts’ desire in Paris which I wrote about in my previous blog post A Parisian Affair to Remember.

But while we were there, we also took a photography tour with the talented Randy Harris. Randy is a Seattle transplant who stumbled upon this business opportunity to give tourists a hands on experience of Paris through the lens of a camera, all the while giving a full lesson on photography tricks, and even tips on how to use your camera. He is now ranked as the #1 Attraction in Paris on Tripadvisor, and his success is well deserved; this was the best thing I ever did on a vacation!

So I wanted to show off share some of the awesome photos we took on that trip. He has since then expanded this business model to many other cities such as New York, London, Milan, Rome, and more. So if you ever find yourself on vacation, I highly recommend booking a tour with him – it has definitely improved my knowledge of how to better capture good photos. Hope you enjoy them!

A new perspective of the Louvre Pyramids - taken with the camera on the ground

The Palais Royal - a Geometric Paradise

 

It's all about perspective, and this is a great way to showcase the Eiffel Tower even when it's not in the forefront

This one is taken by Brian. By altering the shutter speed, he was able to capture the water drop from the Gargyle.

“Summer has come and passed/ The innocent can never last/ Wake me up when September ends”- Green Day

Sometimes I think the Southern Cali in me will never get used to the changing of seasons in the Northeast. If I could, I think I would wear flip flops and sundresses all year round. But the arrival of Fall, with its crisp refreshing chill in the air, was a wake up call for me. I’ve been immersed in my warm bubble of vacation-traveling and nest-building so long that I’ve neglected this little corner of blog haven.

But before I succumb entirely to Fall just yet, I want to share one more dish that to me, captures the essence of summer sunshine – the Ratatouille. Popularized by Remy the lovable rat in the Pixar film, this veggie-centric dish represents everything pastoral, natural, and simply honest about food. There is no fancy work involved, yet every bite bursts with nostalgic flavor that takes you back to that imaginary country cottage in Provence on a lazy summer’s day.

This is my favorite version after numerous experimentation, inspired by the layered aesthetics of the Ratatouille in the film, and incorporating my favorite ingredients.  Smoked mozzarella adds a subtle hit of the unexpected and creates satisfaction as you work your way through the stringy glory; my tomato mixture (which you can’t see) has just a touch of cream to sweeten and a kick of tarragon for warmth; finally the puff pastry crust not only provides a delightful crunch and but holds it all together nicely.

Sneak These Ingredients In:

  • 1 small to medium eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch
  • 2-3 large zucchinis, sliced 1/4 inch
  • 8oz “log” of fresh smoked mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch
  • 2-3 bell peppers, broiled, sweated out, and peeled, then cut into strips
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped (or 1-2 tsp dried tarragon)
  • 4-5 leaves of basil, finely chopped, plus some extra for garnish
  • 1-2 tsp of dried herb & spice mixture (thyme, oregano, cayenne, paprika) (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fat free half & half
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 sheets of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets
  • olive oil for drizzling and cooking
  • salt and pepper to taste

Smell it, taste it, devour the RATatouille!

  1. Preheat Oven to 350-375. Defrost the puff pastry sheets and spread over baking dish.
  2. Make the tomato sauce: Cook the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, and garlic over medium heat until sauce thickens. Add water or more paste as necessary. Add in salt, pepper, tarragon, basil and stir. Slowly incorporate the half & half and agave and adjust until you reach the desired balance of acidity and savory.
  3. Precook the eggplant. I find this step extremely important unless you’re using Japanese eggplants which cook more easily. Saute the eggplant slices in olive oil over medium to high heat and flip on other side until cooked and soft.
  4. Spread the tomato sauce into the baking dish on top of the puff pastry. Then layer the veggies and cheese on top (eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, cheese, and so forth).
  5. Drizzle or brush with olive oil and sprinkle the mixed herbs & spice mixture on top.
  6. Bake for about 40-50 minutes until puff pastry is golden brown and vegetables and cheese are bubbly without being overcooked.
  7. Be transported into the French countryside

And on this note, I give Summer one last forlorn glance and spring forward to welcome Fall in all it’s glory. Hello to pumpkins and squashes – can’t wait for what comes next!

It’s been an unusually hot summer in NYC this year, which is just fine by me.  As a native from Southern California, I welcome the bright sunny days and the warmth of the summer heat on my skin. But add in the humidity of the east coast, and I just can’t take the heat of slaving away over a hot stove all day. So we’ve been eating light to stay cool and and keep our tummies flat for bikini season.

But just because you’ve lightened up on your meals doesn’t mean you can’t still eat like a princess. Here are 2 wonderful, low calorie dishes that are still bursting with flavor.

“Drunken” Peaches & Strawberries Salad:
When I was about 3 years old, my grandmother took me to a fruit farm in the Taiwanese countryside, and I ended up stuffing myself with all the strawberries my 3 year old belly could fill. Through my berry stained lips, I exclaimed, “Strawberries are my favorite food in the world!” Since then, not much else has changed. Strawberry is still my favorite flavor for ice cream, candy, and jam. So when summer comes, I get giddy to savor them in their ripe juicy splendor. Its tangy-ness pairs well with the nectar sweetness of summer peaches, and together, they make for a delectable salad perfect for a summer evening on the porch.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4-6 cups of Arugula
  • 1-2 peaches, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 cups of strawberries, stems removed, and halved/quartered
  • 4 oz of fresh mozzarella, diced into cubes
  • 1 cup almonds (or pecans/walnuts/cashews)
  • beer (for carmelizing almonds)
  • cayenne pepper
  • rum (for soaking fruit)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar (Xagave brand makes a great one)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp good balsamic vinegar

The Sweet Taste of Summer:

  • Combine 2 oz rum, 10 oz water, and 1/4 cup of agave nectar. Soak peaches and strawberries for about 15-20 min
  • In a frying pan, toast the almonds for a few seconds. Drizzle in some beer over the nuts. Add the remaining 1/4 c. of agave nectar and a pinch or 2 of cayenne pepper. Toss until everything is well mixed and continue until nuts are carmelized and sticky and beer has evaporated. Set aside.
  • In a large salad bowl, toss together arugula, peaches, strawberries, mozzarella, and almonds.
  • Combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over the salad and toss until everything is combined.
  • Enjoy the salad with the remaining bottle of ice cold beer!

Spicy Chilled Avocado Soup:
Growing up in Los Angeles, we had many friends and neighbors who were lucky to have avocado trees in their yards. Every few weeks during peak season, they would drive over bearing a whole box of them, and because I had the privilege of eating them too often, I am embarrassed to say that I grew up not liking avocados. But after moving to NYC, all I wanted was avocados – I wanted them in my salads, I wanted them in my omelettes, and today, I want them in my soup! This soup is smooth, velvety, and luscious as can be, with robust flavors and a surprising spicy bite to it. Every spoonful reminds me of the lazy Californian summers of my teenage years.

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 avocados, coarsely chopped
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1-2 tsp of lime zest
  • 3 tbsp of curry sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Red Curry)
  • 4 oz of creme fraiche
  • 1 cup of milk
  • red chili pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper to taste

California Dreamin’

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Can’t get any simpler than that!
  • Tip: Avocados are quite creamy, so depending on how thick you prefer your soups to be, you can feel free to adjust the amount of creme fraiche/milk proportions. I ended up adding a tad more milk to thin out the texture.

Now stop sitting in front of your computer – go whip up some summer meals and enjoy it al fresca with a nice bottle of beer/glass of wine!

Working in the Premium Chocolate industry has its downside, believe it or not. It seems like these days, no matter how much I work out, I just can’t seem to burn off all the chocolate calories!  Combine that with summer food festivals, restaurant week in NYC, and a weeklong vacation in the Outer Banks filled with mindless munching of snacks beachside, and soon enough I find that my jeans are way too snug for comfort. I knew that it was time I took drastic measure.

Cooler Cleanse is the brainchild of Juice Generation and the ultra-glam and talented Salma Hayek. It’s also what I’d call the “cooler”, tastier version of the Blueprint Cleanse, from what all the reviews say. This great tasting juice cleanse rids your body of toxins so that you feel cleaner, lighter, and healthier. With only 1,110 calories/day, weight loss is also often a perk 🙂 In any case, consuming raw, organic juices does make you think more consciously about what you put into your body and helps kickstart a healthier approach to life.

To be honest, I never thought I would be able to give up cheese, wine, yogurt, and chocolates, but I barely cheated during this sort of difficult 3 day cleanse, and I reincarnate as a lighter, brighter being here to tell my tale and adventure.

The Regime:

Green Monster:

This green juice, rich in kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley, and the secret tempering ingredient – pear – was my least favorite. It wasn’t exactly terrible. It was grassy, fresh, and herbaceous. These green veggies are meant to sweep out toxins in the kidneys and liver. If this flavor was used as seasoning, I would’ve quite enjoyed it, but drinking 16 oz of herbs was trying, and it usually took me quite some time to finish a bottle.

Grapefruit Mint:

This Juice was quite the delicious jewel. It wasn’t too sweet and tasted like grapefruit juice + peppermint tea, refreshing and comforting at the same time. Grapefruit’s function in this cleanse is to fat-burn and antioxidize, whilst mint soothes your tummy. I definitely welcomed the touch of sweet after the green monster.

Red Ambrosia & Young Coconut Water:
The Red Juice and Young Coconut water were hands down, my 2 favorite stars of this cleanse, without which I would never have gotten through the day. The succulent red juice, made with beets, carrots, apples, and lemons, is packed with vitamin A to make your skin oh-so-glowy, and boost blood oxygenation to enhances cleansing. I could drink this everyday and enjoy every drop of it. It was deliciously sweet, with a touch of citrus from the lemon to balance, and the Trueblood fan in me fantasized about playing Vampire with this richly red drink.
The young coconut water, extracted straight from the freshly cracked nut, is full of electrolytes and minerals – like a more natural Gatorade. THE best coconut water flavor I’ve ever had, and I believe I’ve tried every brand. Imagine a Zico, but 10 times tastier.

Almond Joy:
The Almond Nut Milk was a welcome dessert at the end of the night – a creamy, rich drink sweetened naturally with dates and vanilla beans to nourish your body. The only thing was, I had already consumed so many liquids at this point that delicious or not, it was a challenge to finish the last of this, especially when the consistency is a bit thicker than the other 5 juices. Nonetheless, it’s a drink that few would find fault with, and a great way to end the night. It’s like having ice cream – kind of…

The Verdict:
Day 1 and Day 3 were definitely the most challenging, trying to discipline yourself to this routine and resisting all other temptation. I did end up getting a bit cranking at 6pm on days 1 & 2 and had to reach for a handful of raw almonds (note: you’re allowed to snack on raw fruit or nuts if your stomach needs it), and that’s what I meant by “barely cheating”. Day 3 was when the Mister flew home from work and started eating sliced just-out-of-the-oven baguette and creamy brie in front of me. I almost lost it then, but was able to stay on track 🙂
All 3 days, I woke up feeling fresh and full of energy, my skin glowed and felt great, and I acquired a healthy habit of consuming liquids more freqently (I’ve always been somewhat of a camel). My tummy did feel much flatter and less bloated, but I only lost 2 pounds, which was a bit of a bummer. Overall though, I definitely think this has put me back on track for healthier eating. After all, if you can survive fruits and veggies for 3 days, do you REALLY need to have that savory piece of Foccacia bread? I found a Juice Generation near me and look forward to my 2-3x weekly fix of my Urban Detox smoothie to continue this lifestyle. All in all, SUCCESS! Now…where is that bag of Pop Chips?…just kidding!

First off, I apologize…I have been irresponsibly neglectful of this blog (a space so precious to me), but I do have some good news to share and hopefully a good excuse for the neglect. I have landed a new job, one that has me waking up giddy every morning and skipping to work in joyful anticipation. That’s right, I am now in the Chocolate business! I go to work everyday cranking out the brand marketing work I love, and come home every night satisfied that I have contributed to the endorphin production of millions of consumers. Eat your chocolates everyone, because Chocolate = Happiness!

Since EC Pursuits was my means of expressing my repressed creativity during my old job, it was easy for me to save all my energy and inspiration for this blog, but it just means I will have no other choice but to indulge in extra chocolates during work to keep that inspiration and passion ignited for ECP 🙂

As long as I am riding on this happiness cloud, I’m going to post about the trip of a lifetime. For my official entrance into my “late 20’s”, the mister swept me away with a trip to Paris! Ah, Paris – the lights, the romance, the FOOD. It was there that I experienced “The best thing I ever ate” at Les Papilles.

Les Papilles is a small, unassuming, and cozily charming winebar/delicatessen/restaurant near Jardin du Luxembourg. The pleasantly unpretentious atmosphere with exposed bricks, enchanting orange glow, bottles of carefully selected wine collection, and jars of delightful gourmet condiments dotted all around made me feel like I was dining in the middle of food haven. The handsome owner Bertrand Bluy graciously tolerated our terrible (almost nonexistent) French, gave us excellent wine suggestions, and was more than happy to accommodate my vegetarian diet. For a mere 30 Euros, we enjoyed a relaxing four course “no choice” prix fixe meal. The menu varies daily, depending on the seasonal ingredients available, and the chef’s creative fancy, but you can trust that it will always be delicious.

The first course was a delicious Creamy Endive Bisque – pure silky perfection balanced with the impeccable crisp of toasted summer greens, croutons & bacon (optional), and an indulgent dollop of cream. It was a harmonious marriage of sweet, savory, & creamy. It tickled my senses and left me wanting for more long after we devoured it all.

The main entree was what I nicknamed “Sunset Glory” – A simple baked dish made especially for the vegetarian, consisting of fresh snowpeas, carrots, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes, broiledwith 2 sunny eggs atop. Such a simple dish should not impress, but I took one bite, and then another, and another, thinking, “How did they make this sooooo good? How can anything so simple possibly taste this heavenly?” The dish brought out the sublime unadulterated flavor of each vegetable as they swirled and danced around in my mouth. It was like visiting a French grandmother’s country home and being treated to a dish cultivated through decades of experimentation into a flawless masterpiece. With every bite, I was transformed into another world. I could visualize the stone walls weaving through the village, the sound of the nearby babbling brook, the aroma of the fresh herbs and vegetables harvested straight from the garden, and the view of the glorious sunset in the horizon, pops of intoxicating orange, pink and purple haze, signifying the culmination of a satisfying day. If you think I’m sounding a bit crazy right now, just wait until you hear that I spent weeks relentlessly trying to recreate these flavors back in my own little kitchen. I must have made 10 different versions before I finally found one that comes close (teaser – recipe to come!)

The meal then followed with a small cheese course and ended with a fabulous panna cotta with a frothy caramel emulsion, so light and airy it melted in my mouth and left it with only the sweet memory of the meal.

We had many more meals in that wonderful city, but Les Papilles occupied our minds the whole time and nothing was able to hold a candle to its glory. http://www.lespapillesparis.fr/EN_index.html

Here are some more fun highlights of the  Parisian Adventure. Stay tuned for another blog post about our Parisian Photo tour, where we received an amazing photography lesson from Randy Harris, and captured Paris from unexpected perspectives.

Musee D'Orsay

Tuileries

More Food Souvenir Purchases!

A Gourmet Discovery in an unexpected courtyard!

Yes, I am a lucky girl indeed 😀