Just Images

Some images from my backyard….

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I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for……Pizza!?

No, it’s not ice cream.  It’s Pizza – Pizza. Pizza. Pizza.  There is a universal taste appreciation for that crisp, flat dough topped with veggies, meats, cheeses and baked till golden brown and bubbly.  My mouth waters just thinking about it, and I “scream” for it.

And when it comes to pizza, everyone has their preferences – thin and crispy, thick, deep, meats, veggies, fruits, sauces, and so on.

Pizza is one of my favorite things to make.  It is seriously an art because one can be so creative with its toppings, and when you need to “use up” things from the produce drawer or the back of the fridge? Throw it on a pizza.

When it comes to pizza, my preferences are thin and crispy, and unconventional (no thank you to plain pepperoni and sausage).

Pizza has been around for a long, long time. According to Wikipedia (the most accurate and truthful site ever) pizza had appeared in Medieval Latin by 997 AD, and in 16th century Naples, a galette flatbread was referred to as a pizza.

And here’s a little fun fact about the oh-so-classic Pizza Margherita:

In June 1889, to honor the Queen consort of  Italy Margherita of Savoy, the Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito created the “Pizza Margherita,” a pizza garnished with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil, to represent the colors of the Italian flag. He was the first to add cheese.  Throughout the years to come, pizza had undergone many changes and even today across the world, pizza exists in many different forms (Chicago style, New York style, etc).

Like I said earlier, I personally prefer thin crust.  I roll my dough out nice and thin with a rolling pin creating a very crispy crust.  In the past I have put such things on pizza (not necessarily together though) as leeks, potatoes, shrimp, walnuts, mangos, eggs, mixed greens, and the list goes on and on.  I must say, one of my favorites was a roasted red pepper, basil and mango pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese.  Try it.  You won’t be disappointed.  Oh and for one of my favorite pizza dough recipes that’s been used time and time again (it’s simple, classic, basic) go HERE.  Add some fresh herbs to the dough for an added treat!!

So, I’m curious, what’s your favorite kind of pizza and pizza topping?


Apple Ginger Cardamom Jam

So, my oven broke.  And since I’m living in a so-called “developing” country, and eeeevvverrrrything takes longer to get done, it might be awhile before I can post anything that requires an oven.  SADness.

Soooooooo, I decided to can, since I have a plethora of jars.

Has anyone out there made apple jam before?  With an abundance of apples in these parts, I figured why not give it a try.  I know it’s not your typical fruit to be used in jam, but it actually turned out quite delightful!  And paired with cream cheese on whole-grain, homemade bread?  You can’t beat it.

Apple Ginger Cardamom Jam

*Note: this recipe doesn’t make very much…about enough for 4-5 small mason jars.  If you wish to make more, double it!

6 cups grated, peeled apples
Juice of one lemon
2 cups sugar (or more if you prefer it more sweet)
3 tsp ginger (more if you want more kick)
15 green cardamom seeds

Place peeled, grated apples in pot with lemon juice, sugar, grated ginger and cardamom pods. Cook all on medium-high heat for about 25-30 minutes, or until you get a nice jam-ish set. The temperature should be around 240 degrees.

When slightly cooled, place in prepared, sterilized jars, and following hot water bath canning procedures.


On Cupcakes

Cuuuuuuuupcaaaaaaaaaaaakes!

Who doesn’t love them?!?!

In the past few years there has been a huge influx of cupcake-only bakeries where those delectable, trendy, perfect little servings of cake with a perfect size dollop of frosting on top are the main feature behind pretty glass cases.  It’s almost like they are works of art waiting to be devoured by serious gourmands and Betty Crocker mix lovers alike.  Google the terms ‘cupcake bakery’ and it yields nearly 12 million results of places where cupcakes are the main feature.  This place in Portland, Oregon for example serves up such flavors as malt ball, pumpkin spice, and peanut butter cookie.  In Beverly Hills flavors such as chai latte, lemon coconut, cinnamon sugar, ginger lemon, mocha, and red velvet are featured at this place.  Not only has the craze taken to cupcake-only bakeries, but also exist thousands of websites and blogs devoted just to those who are fanatic about cupcakes.  Even SIGG has picked up on this recent craze, offering this in their new product line.

I mean, how could you not love cupcakes?  They come in all flavors and different sizes, and It’s your own perfect little size piece of cake!  I’m sure wherever you live, there is a cupcake bakery somewhere close.  Look it up and go buy a cupcake.  Right now!

These are some of my latest creations (though I do not claim to be a cupcake artist nor strive to create works of art like those in the cupcake bakeries, and my seriously gourmand sister would probably claim I have no idea how to make red velvet cupcakes).


Rainy Day Kitchen Inventions

Sometimes in life there are things so unique, so wonderful, that they simply cannot be recreated and be exactly the same nor exactly as wonderful.  That’s what happened last night in my kitchen.  A very, very, rainy Saturday night and I decided to bake something (what I typically do many times with rainy days or bored days).  Lately, I have been exploring with other ways to use avocados with the abundance of them I have in my backyard.  Besides previously tried and tested recipes of avocados in cakes, avocados in smoothies, I thought I would try a bread – a quick bread.  And as I write this, I am enjoying this bread that was merely invented, created, and not noted on paper.  Nor can I even remember what I did.  I mean, I could try, and I would probably most likely succeed, but I just fear it won’t taste as darn good as it does (But, if someone really wants it, I’m pretty darn sure I could remember it to almost a T, so let me know).  But for now, better to just enjoy it thoroughly and cherish it’s uniqueness.

So this bread, is an Avocado Banana Bread with chunks of Dried Pineapple (and it’s made with whole wheat flour).  It is loosely based on my mother’s long-standing, ever-so famous, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (which, she may disown me if I post the recipe for that), with many substitutes to make it weeeeellll..….a bit healthier.  But the good flavor isn’t compromised much at all!  The avocado is the fat used in place of melted butter and gives the bread a nice, smooth texture.  Some of the sugar is substituted with honey, giving it a hearty sort of nutty, sticky flavor, in addition, so does the whole wheat flour.  And the chunks of dried pineapple give it a little tart kick every bite you take. It is just perfect.

And so as I sit here with the rain pouring down on the tin roof above, I think how there is nothing more satisfying when I go into the kitchen, with just an idea, without a recipe, with whatever ingredients I have on hand, and the product that comes out of it all is successful.  It is just like any art, where the separate paints make an eye-catching picture, or little pieces of clay make a life-size sculpture, or individual dancers make up a ballet.  You can’t quite know how it will turn out until you just do it.  And when you do, there is nothing more satisfying.


Something savory….soup!

When it comes to food, everyone has their tastes.  Savory, sweet, bitter, you name it.  And on that spectrum of tastes, people seem to lie far to one side or the other.  On my spectrum, I have a propensity to be faaaaaar beyond the sweet end.  It’s true, I crave healthy sweet treats – honey in my tea, marmalade on my toast, a bite of organic, dark chocolate here and there, and home-baked sweets constantly, and I’m known to always have some home-baked goods on hand (great for those unexpected visitors).  Every breakfast of mine includes something sweet like honey, marmalade, cereal, smoothies.  Give me oatmeal and pancakes over eggs any day, unless of course they include a sweet, creamy cheese.

I’ve realized that nearly every post on this blog thus far has been something sweet, breakfasty, desserty, snacky.  So, for this post, I’m going to give you a bit of my savory side of life…something I create daily for lunches and dinners, but never quite feel the urge to post.  A friend inspired me to do so.

I know we’re coming into Spring and most people aren’t thinking about soup – frozen life is no longer blanketed in snow, the flowers are beginning to bloom, the sun is showing its face after being in-hiding for 6 months, the birds are singing, and drops of rain may be falling here and there.  But I am thinking about soup these days.  I love soup any time of year.  It is pure comfort food that warms the body and soul.  So, I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do.

Ginger Red Lentil Soup with Basil Cream

20 large basil leaves, very finely minced
1/3 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
pinch of salt

To make the Basil cream, mix all in a small bowl, let sit, chilling until ready for use.

2 cups red split lentils
7 cups water
2 vegetable bullion cubes (for 4 cups of H20)
3 Tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium carrot minced

2 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 small can tomato paste
2/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper

Rinse lentils until water until water is no longer murky.  In a large saucepan brings lentils and water to a boil.  Add bullion, ginger and carrot and reduce to a simmer, covered for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in separate pan, toast curry powder until fragrant over medium-low heat.  Set aside.  Add butter to same skillet, add onions and garlic and saute until translucent.  Add tomato paste, then toasted curry powder.  Mix well.  Add yogurt until thoroughly mixed.

Add onion mixture to soup.  Stir well. Can add more water to your liking (I liked it rather thick).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Top with a dollop of basil cream, and enjoy with warm crusty bread.


That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

It’s not very often food bloggers write a post about a failure – a recipe gone awry, a kitchen disaster of sorts.  But I am going to do it.  Go ahead, judge me, and my baking skills.  But I’m sure even the greatest of cooks had many failures before creating that perfect recipe.  And since lately I have been getting into creating my own recipes and adapting from others, this is one lesson learned.  So here it is. Okay so maybe it’s not thaaaaat bad. in fact it was quite good.  Just not perfect.

I attempted to make a chocolate-dipped lemon almond cookie (inspired by Cannelle et Vanille’s Lemon and Almond Meltaways), which also happens to be gluten free.  And for me there’s nothing more delectable than the combination of almond and chocolate (hence why I made them chocolate-dipped).  That’s where I think I went awry, an unexperienced gluten-free baker attempting to fuss over new recipes…what was I thinking!?  But I’m not going to lie – although these cookies still taste delicious, they wouldn’t pass any beauty contest nor texture contest.


Now, like I said, I’m no gluten-free baker, so perhaps AAANNNNNYYYYONE out there who knows anything about gluten-free baking would be so kind to enlighten me.  The problem with these cookies is that they were a little too dry and crumbly, and I think that may be due to the rice flour combined with the almond meal.  When attempted to be chocolate-dipped, they nearly fell apart, in the chocolate.  However, after they had cooled a bit in the fridge, they seemed a bit more substantial, but still dry when bit into.

I know it appears that half of these cookies have had a bite taken out of them.  Well, they haven’t, that’s just my baking mistake of crumbly cookies.   A few strong survivors made it….far enough from the oven to the chocolate to the plate to someone’s mouth.

So there you have it – I learned my lesson in gluten-free baking.

Inexperience of gluten-free baking+creating and adapting recipes=dry cookies.

I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

I’m going to post the recipe anyway for those brave souls out there that want to try and alter it to make it a tiny bit better.  And like I said, they are quite delicious!  If I were to make these again (and I may one day to perfect them), I would just cut out all the gluten-free stuff and substitute regular flour (it’s not like I need gluten-free).  Perhaps this recipe also needed an egg??

Chocolate-dipped Lemon Almond Cookies

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Zest of 2 large lemons
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup very finely ground almonds
1 1/3 cups rice flour (more if needed)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup finely chopped, good quality chocolate
2 Tbsp butter

Cream together the butter, powdered sugar and lemon zest. Add the lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well.  Place almonds in food processor and ground until a very fine powder. Combine all the dry ingredients (including the almonds) and add them to the mixer. Cream until all comes together to a semi-hard dough that no longer sticks to the bowl.  If not hard enough, add more rice flour.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment and shape it into a log that is about 2 inches in diameter. Use the parchment to tighten the log and form a long cylinder.

Refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours until firm.

Cut the log into 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake at 350F for about 16-18 minutes until firm and not quite golden brown. Let them cool on the baking sheet.

Melt chocolate over a double broiler with butter, until smooth and creamy.  Dipped cooled cookies in chocolate halfway and place on parchment paper until hardened and cool.