vietnamese coffee ice cream in a cardamom, almond, and orange tuile

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

I guess I picked the wrong week to give up ice cream (see my last post).  My intentions were good, having recently acquired chef and cookbook author, David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, I told myself I would explore the somewhat lighter offerings from his granitas and sorbets sections. Blood Orange Granita…Champagne-Cassis Granita…Nectarine Granita…Tangerine Sorbet…Cherry Sorbet.  So many choices!  I settled on Pink Grapefruit Granita (again, see my last post).  It was light, zingy and refreshing.  I loved it and felt very satisfied with myself for avoiding most of the fat and some of the calories of full blown ice cream.  I was off to a good start.

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chocolate-almond upside-down cake

Chocolate-Almond Upside-Down Cake

The holidays are over and I’m back from my self-imposed hiatus from blogging.  I knew that with all of the holiday preparations and spending time with family and friends, I wouldn’t have enough to blog, so rather than feeling guilty about it, I decided to just take the time off.  I was feeling burnt out anyway, and the time away from the blog has really helped.  I’m excited to be back and I have lots of simple, easy-to-make recipes to share this coming year, including this Chocolate Almond Upside-Down Cake I adapted from pastry chef Gale Gand.

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almond bread

Almond Bread - 05

Just like many of you, I do a lot of baking during the holidays. Over the last couple of weekends, my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer has been in constant use and the sweet smell of warm vanilla, butter, and sugar has been wafting from the oven. I love to bake treats to serve at family gatherings, to take to work, and to give as gifts. I always make a variety of items:  a couple of my favorite cookies, a newly discovered treat or two, and a few special requests, all for the delight my family and friends.

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plum and peach galette

A galette is a French round, flat cake made made with pastry or yeast dough and topped with either a savory or sweet filling, such as fruit, jam, nuts, meat and cheese. It is quicker and simpler to make than a pie or tart.  Its deliberately free-formed shape eliminates the need for a pie tin or tart pan. A galette only requires a bottom layer of dough, so there’s no crimping or latticework, often done to finish pies. The dough is simply rolled out, the filling placed in the center, and the excess pastry pulled toward the middle to hold everything in.  It’s meant to be rustic and irregularly shaped, not at all fussy nor fancy.

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fig, almond frangipane, and orange tart

Right off the bat, I will say that this is one of the best things I have ever baked in my entire life. While I cannot take credit for developing this tart recipe on my own, I can acknowledge those who did – Paule Caillat, renowned French cook and cooking instructor for the tart shell and Anita Chu from Dessert First Girl for the frangipane. I did add my own tweaks to the recipe as well, as you will see. You might be wondering how I came about putting this recipe together. Well, read on and I will tell you the story of how this lovely tart came to be.

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olive oil muffins

These muffins, courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, sounded so good and unique that I just had to make them. The recipe called for both olive oil and balsamic vinegar, ingredients not commonly found in muffins. Don’t worry, these two flavors are subtle, not overpowering at all. The balsamic vinegar complements the sweetness of the muffins, and the olive oil imparts a fruity flavor. While vegetable or canola oil are not unusual in baking, olive oil is not often used because of its distinct flavor, but in this recipe, however, the olive oil is a great addition.
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tri-tip with romesco sauce


I was watching the Cooking Channel last weekend and saw Mark Bittman prepare this recipe on his cooking show, The Minimalist.  His enthusiasm for this recipe and the simplicity of his version of the sauce made me want to try it.  I had never heard of the romesco sauce and I found the combination of almonds and tomatoes intriguing.  Since I had a surplus of tomatoes and jalapeños and I have the pimentón, Spanish smoked paprika, in the pantry I decided to give it a try.

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