Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie in a Pretzel Crust

This blog post was original a dramatic complaint about how my life isn’t perfect.  I just re-read it, and I feel dumb, capricious and immature.  Because I realize all the things I worry about are trivial.  There are far more serious things in life than the fact that I have a pile of student loan debt, a mean comment from a reader or a little bit of back pain.

Last week, I thought I was having a terrible week.  Things kept going wrong, or so it seemed.  But I was wrong.

This week is far more terrible, because terrible things didn’t happen to me.  They happened to my loved ones, and that is a million times worse.

So in those moments when I feel like my life is crumbling, like a pie crust that doesn’t have enough water to help it stick together, food is important.  Those moments are when pie is essential.

pbandjpie2

Really though.

Even if you don’t eat it, because by now I know turning to food when things aren’t going well is wrong, make the pie and give it away.

Give it to a loved one who isn’t having the best day, or a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time.

Pie doesn’t heal all wounds, but it helps.

pbandjpie5

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie in a Pretzel Crust

1 1/4 cup of pretzel crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth natural
4 oz cream cheese, softened
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp strawberry jam

First make your crust by mixing together pretzel crumbs, butter and sugar.  Press into a 9” pie dish and place in the freezer until ready to use.

pbandjpie1

Next, beat together peanut butter, cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk.  Beat 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream until if holds firm peaks.  Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture until combined.  Set aside.

Beat remaining 1 cup of whipped cream.  Once it start to form peaks, add in 3 tbsp of strawberry jam.  If you want to avoid clump, blend your jam before adding it to the whipped cream.  Set aside.

Next assemble the pie.  Spread half of the jam on the bottom of the pie crust.  If it’s hard to spread, feel free to add a little water or blend it to make it smooth.  Next spread on half the peanut butter mixture, then another layer with remaining jam. Top with remaining peanut butter mixture.  Transfer whipped cream to piping bag and pipe strawberry whipped cream onto the pie, alternatively you can just spread it.

pbandjpie4

Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight and serve cold to someone special.

This is comfort food to the max, because sometimes we need a little comfort and a big hug.

Advertisements

Strawberry Basil Gin & Tonic and The Weekend

After a long week, sometimes you need a drink.  This week was pretty rough.  On Thursday, I pulled a muscle in my lower back while working out.  Someone suggested I have a drink to relax the muscles.  Worth a try.

gin

I’m not a big drinker, but I love a good gin and tonic.  And you know me, I love to spice things up.  So I decided to give give it a few little tweeks and this is what I came up with:

strawberrybasilginandtonic1

Strawberry Basil Gin and Tonic

2 oz gin
2 strawberries, sliced1-2 basil leaves, chopped
4-6 oz tonic water
twist of lime

Muddle together the strawberries and basil.  Add the gin and mix together.  Pour over ice.  Squeeze in some lime juice, top with tonic water and serve.

strawberrybasilginandtonic2

Serving it in a mason jar is totally ok.  This is about relaxing.  Mason jars are laid back.  They’re also for hipsters or people who are too cheap to buy real glasses.  Glasses are also allowed.  They’re fancier.

Either way, get your sip on.

So that was Friday.

Saturday, I met up with Allie from Sweet Potato Bites.  We realized we live like 2 miles away from each other and thought we should probably meet up for a doughnut.

allie

Because that’s what foodies do.  So we headed to Sidecar Doughnuts and I had a tasty yeast doughnut with chocolate and salt.

Sooo good.  Allie was awesome!  I’m excited to have made friends with a cool blogger.  After our 2 hour chat session, I headed to a thrift shop where I bought exciting things for my upcoming Chicken and Waffle party.

You heard that right.  Chicken and Waffles party.  It’s going to be epic.  I’ll tell you more about it when it rolls around.

Sunday, was also awesome.  Well that’s today.  Jesse and I are celebrating our 1.5 versary, because we’re cool like that.    So we had brunch at Public Kitchen in The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.

roosevelthotel

I bought a Travel Zoo deal for brunch for two.  While it was nice scenery, and the bathrooms were awesome…

rooseveltbathroom

Brunch was meh.  It ended up costing $55 for a glorified continental breakfast.  It probably doesn’t help that I don’t really like buffets.  I’d much rather just get a plate of food.  Jesse and I both don’t eat enough to feel like buffets are worth it.  Nothing was omg-amazing-must-have.  But oh well.  It was still a nice time.

After brunch, we headed back to OC.  Jesse needed to work and I did arts and crafts…

artsandcrafts

Now we’re enjoying cucumber-basil water and trying to figure out what to have for dinner (or am, while Jesse works).

Overall, it’s been a great weekend.  Can’t complain, not even about the fact that my back hurts.  Maybe I need another drink? What do you think?

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Brie Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese Sandwich and My Top 5 Tips for the Perfect Grilled Cheese

So remember when I finished the Paleo Challenge, I learned I needed to eat actual meals instead of snacks for dinner?

Well I’m trying to get better at that.  I’ve been trying to incorporate more salads into my dinners, like the Roasted Beet Asparagus and Arugula salad in my last post.   But today and yesterday were long days.  I’ve been stressed and I’ve had a headache since I woke up today.

To remedy all that, I did two things:

1. Went to the Good Will

Thrift shops in Orange County aren’t as cheap in the song, nor are they as cheap as they were in Central NY.  But I still managed a few good finds.

thriftfinds

A tart pan for $2.50, a lovely oval shaped plate for $4.99 (over-priced in my opinion) and a cake plate for $2.50.  I also managed to find a rotating cake stand that will be great for frosting cakes.

2.  Grilled Cheese

brietomatoebasilgrilledcheese3

Let’s be more specific.  Brie Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese.

Now don’t get me wrong, traditional caprese with mozzarella is lovely, but seriously.  This sandwich is out of this world.

Last week someone asked me for tips on a good grilled cheese.  Obviously it’s all a questions of taste but here are…

My Top 5 Tips for Making the Perfect Grilled Cheese

1. Good Bread.  If your bread sucks, your grilled cheese will too.  Don’t you dare you sliced white bread.  Invest in some good bread.  I used Trader Joe’s Italian Bread.  Tasty enough.  Orange County is seriously lacking in good bread bakeries.

2. Make sure there’s cheese on both sides of the bread.  If you’re putting something other than just cheese, you need to make sure the cheese is on both sides.  The cheese is the binding agent.  If you don’t have it on both sides, it’ll all fall apart.

3.  Use Real Butter.  If you’re going to make a grilled cheese, now’s not the time to be healthy by avoiding butter.  No.  You’re choosing to make grilled cheese.  If you wanted a healthy meal, you’d make a salad.  Use butter.  It makes your bread golden, toasty and delicious.  Don’t skimp.

4. Mustard.  Unless you’re making a grilled cheese sandwich with some sort of jam, mustard almost always makes a grilled cheese taste better.  Cheese and mustard just go together.  I’m not talking about yellow mustard.  I’m talking tasty dijon-style mustard or the kind with the wonderful mustard seeds in it.  If you hate mustard, you can ignore this comment.  But if you like mustard, trust me.  Give it a try.

5. Low and slow.  Don’t turn the flame on high! Heat your pan to medium/low.  It might take a few minutes for it to get golden and for the cheese to melt, but that’s way better than a burnt piece of bread with hard cheese in the middle.  Be patient.  It’ll be tastier.

That’s pretty much there is to it.  Oh and if you use sliced Kraft American Cheese or Velveeta… You’re dead to me

Brie Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese

2 slices of amazingly tasty bread of your choice
a big pat of butter
1-2 oz brie, sliced (keep the rind! it’s tasty!)
3-4 tomato slices
1-2 basil leaves, chopped

Spread each slice of bread with butter on one side.  On the other side, layer cheese tomatoes and basil.  I try not to use too much cheese because brie is pretty strong, so I put half the cheese on one side and the bread and the other half on the opposite half of the other piece (does that make any sense?  See the pic below)

brietomatoebasilgrilledcheese2

Heat pan to medium/low heat.  Place sandwich, butter side down on pan.  Cook about 3 minutes per side or until golden all around and cheese in the center has melted.

brietomatoebasilgrilledcheese1

Serve with a bowl of soup and enjoy!  I had it with a bowl of Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup.  Tastiest soup from a box ever.  I promise!

Added bonus: This month is National Grilled Cheese Month.  I have no idea who decided that but I support, and so should you.  Eat Grilled Cheese Today!

P.S. Dunking is encouraged.

brietomatoebasilgrilledcheese4

Roasted Beet, Asparagus and Arugula Salad

As much as I advocate cake and pie eating, I really want you to eat vegetables too.

Lots of vegetables.

They’re good for you.  Sometimes sugar and butter need to take a back seat and we need to have something good for you.  Like this salad.

Salad1

Roasted Beet, Asparagus and Arugula Salad

2-3 fresh beets
3-5 cups arugula1/2 lb asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
1 tomato, sliced
2 oz goat cheese
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
2 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
fresh chopped parsley (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 400F.  Thoroughly wash beets, then wrap beets in aluminum foil.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 mins to 1 hour, or until tender.  Allow to cool.  Peel and slice. (Note: You can roast a bunch of beets and once and store them in the fridge for about a week in the roasting foil.  Peel and slice when you’re ready to serve them)

Steam asparagus for about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and rinse with cold water.  Set aside. (You can do this while the beets roast, or you can plan your next vacation)

Make dressing by mixing together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, dijon mustard, salt and pepper.  Whisk until well combined.

Lastly, assemble the salad.  Start with a bed of arugula, layer on the tomatoes, asparagus, beets and goat cheese.  Drizzle with dressing and serve!  This salad will feed 2 very hungry people or 4 as a side salad.

Salad2

Eat it up!

Weekend Scenes

Friday afternoon snack, beer and Persian flatbread
20130421-133716.jpg
And kept it healthy with bacon waffles with bananas for dinner
20130421-133734.jpg
The weekend wouldn’t be complete without a pie. That’s a peanut butter and jelly pie on a pretzel crust. Want to know how to make it?

20130421-133752.jpg
Last week, I planted some tomato seeds. They sprouted!!!

20130421-133808.jpg
And then I hung out with this guy. He was super fussy, but he just wanted to be held.

20130421-133818.jpg
Later today… More waffles!!
How was your weekend? Any highlights?

Traveling: Planning a Trip to Peru

My blog is a food blog.  I know this, you know this, we all know this, but it’s also a little bit about me.  And you want to know something about me?

I love to travel.

To me, traveling is more than just a set of experiences.  It’s an enormous privilege that I’ve been lucky to have a large part of my life.  Starting with going to Guatemala every summer as a kid, then having my parents tote me around with them on various trips (Brazil, Europe, Caribbean), then learning to go places on my own (like Argentina and India).  Even just since I’ve had this blog, you’ve followed me to:

Mexico:

  • I went to Chiapas for a week to work on a project while in Grad School.  I didn’t tell my parents I was going, because I thought they’d freak out.  That’s one of my biggest regrets.  Not the trip, but the not telling my parents part.

Rome:

  • I went to Rome from January til June of 2011.
    IMG_0104
    I worked at a UN Agency and ate too much pasta and Nutella.  There were also a few side trips, like Amalfi
    IMG_8963
    Tuscany
    windey road

China:

IMG_0954

Last year I took a 2 week trip to China, and it was pretty awesome.

This time, I’ve got the travel bug again.

Two weeks ago, I bought a plane ticket to Peru.  Last week, I booked a 4-day trip on the Inca Trail.

So this time, instead of just giving you a lighting recap like I did with China.  I’d like to document the trip planning experience for myself to remember and for the world to know.

I think a lot of people have this idea that traveling is too scary, or too expensive, but honestly with some saving strategies, I think anyone can take a fun trip.  I’m not Mr. Money Bags.  If I can take a trip, you probably can too.  It just takes some planning.  So ready for some tips?

Where was your last destination?  Where are you going next?

Epic Banana Bundt Cake

I’ve rewritten this post about three times, trying to come up with something as epic as the recipe to come.  But I can’t.  My brain is asking me for a rest.

Between work and blogging, my creative juices are dried up, in terms of writing that is.  Because recipes… I’ve got sooooo many for you to look forward to.  But first let’s talk about bananas.

I’m a banana fiend.  I eat one daily.  I learned it from my mother, she probably eats two daily.  That’s ok.

Bananas are on the top of my list of things I think are out of this world, let’s talk about my other favorite thing on the planet: cake.

And combine the two… Banana Cake! Why not?  In fact, this cake was so good it had to be made twice.  It really was THAT good.

bananabundtcaketextjpg

Ok I’ll be honest.  I really made this twice, because the first time around I hated my pictures.  It was a labor of love (or gluttony or vanity?) to make it again, but that just means I know the recipe is extra perfect for you.

I know everyone and their mother has a recipe for banana cake (and no, this is NOT banana bread).

Even if you think it looks similar, trust me.  This is definitely banana cake.  What’s the difference?

Texture.  Banana bread is dense.  This is lighter, and it has an icing.  Icing goes on cake.  True story.

bananabundtcake8

Epic Banana Bundt Cake

2 cups + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp corn starch
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon plus pinch of salt
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 bananas, very ripe and mashed
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 package vanilla instant pudding (3.4 oz)

Icing/Glaze:
3 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp heavy cream (or milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
1-2 tsp of water for thinning, if necessary
Pre-heat oven to 350F.
In a bowl, sift together flour, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Grease and flour a bundt pan (or any other pan you choose to make this in, I’ve also made this in two 9 inch pans, baking times adjusted).
Using a mixer beat together sugar and oil.  Beat in eggs, one at a time until fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Beat in vanilla and bananas.  Start adding some of the flour mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time, alternating adding milk.  Once all the flour is in the batter, beat in the instant pudding.  Once combined, pour batter into prepared bundt pan.
Bake 45 minutes.  Then turn the oven down to 325F and continue to bake until golden and cooked through (usually another 15-20 minutes, but this will depend on your oven).  Once fully baked, remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Once cooled, make glaze by combining all ingredients.  The pour glaze over cake.
bananabundtcake7
I didn’t actually pour, I did the spoon/drizzle method, because I think it looks better than pouring.
Serve and enjoy!
bananabundtcake6
This cake goes great with a cup of coffee and a good book.  It’s also fantastic served to a friend with a little bit of gossip.
Truth be told, I’m not sure if I’m half monkey or something, but I want to keep making this cake, over and over and over.  It’s a good idea, because I seriously think this might be my new favorite cake.
Stay tuned for lots of good new recipes and other fun things… like maybe some trip planning.  How does that sound?