Summer Memories & Cupcakes


IMG_3203.JPG

When I think of summer desserts, my mind is always drawn to a cake my family used to purchase every summer growing up in New Hampshire. So simple but so addicting–just layers of white cake with fresh whipped cream and berries. Every year I looked forward to enjoying that cake and every year I ate my body weight in it. πŸ˜‰

Since I am no longer living in New Hampshire, I could not have this specific treat but I wanted to recreate something that would satisfy the craving. Luckily, Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe for Raspberry Cream Cupcakes did all of the work for me. And it may have been the easiest dessert I have ever made. You get to cheat by using boxed cake mix with some little extras like vanilla and almond (!!) extract. Then you whip some fresh cream and fold in some smashed fresh raspberries. So simple and incredibly delicious.


IMG_3184.JPG


IMG_3185.JPG



IMG_3191.JPG


What is your favorite summer dessert?


xo,


Jenna

Advertisements

Hello I Love…Starling Diner

First of all, I want to apologize for the large gap between posts. Short version of a very long story=we had to move very fast because the water in our old apartment turned out to have a toxic level of bacteria. Ew. I know. Luckily, Reg and I are both healthy and we are now living back in Long Beach.

I love Long Beach and I must say it really feels good to be home. We have moved several times over the last 7 years and Long Beach is the only place we lived for more than a year and I think we will be staying here for a long time. Naturally, my favorite part of Long Beach is the food, particularly the breakfast. For some reason, I have found that Long Beach houses some of the best breakfast restaurants and they are always crowded.


IMG_5015.JPG

Case in point–Starling Diner. This place usually has a wait and for good reason. You get fresh, creative dishes in a quaint cozy house turned restaurant served with a smile.

IMG_4993.JPG


IMG_4995.JPG

Free coffee always makes the wait more tolerable.


IMG_4998.JPG

In fact, Starling takes waiting area entertainment to a whole new level with the composition notebooks that are scattered around the restaurants for people to write, share their thoughts (about food and life)… or maybe just doodle.


IMG_4999.JPG

I thought this entry was awesome. I loved the chain of responses between people who stumbled upon this particular notebook over what to order.


IMG_5008.JPG

We started with some old favorites. I missed these Cream Scones so much. They are especially good when topped with the homemade orange butter and homemade lemon curd. They only bake so many each day so it is first come first served. They are brought out immediately after ordering and are perfect to nibble on while perusing the menu.

IMG_5011.JPG

I chose the scramble with roasted mushrooms, spinach, and jack cheese. The roasted mushrooms’s deep flavor made this scramble really special. The roasted potatoes and fresh baguette were a great added bonus but I pushed them aside to share Reg’s breakfast.


IMG_5013.JPG

Yes, this would be their sourdough baguette stuffed french toast filled with Mascarpone cheese and topped with fresh whipped cream, berries, and Creme Anglaise. Unbelievable! I cannot believe I have been to this restaurant at least 20 times and never once tried the french toast. Now, I don’t think I could order anything else. This is a must try my friends.

As usual, everything was fresh and delicious. The serviced was equally spectacular. Before leaving and walking home (love that I can do that now), Reg had to grab one of the notebooks and write a little message of his own. Do you want to see?


IMG_5006.JPG

I guess you will just have to visit Starling Diner yourself to find it! πŸ˜‰

xo,

Jenna

Feels like Fall

It is official. June Gloom has become July Gloom.

Okay, I know I live in a place where the weather is, generally, really sunny and beautiful. But the last few days have felt a lot more like Fall, which is fine by me. πŸ™‚


IMG_4626.JPG

I love the warm, comforting foods of the Fall and the Winter so I took this little June Gloom extension as an opportunity to make one of my favorites–Chicken Pot Pie. Well, sort of. Let’s not get crazy here. As much as I would like to, I was not making my own pie crust from scratch. I did use a filling, though, that I really love and then took a shortcut on the “crust.” I will get to that in a bit.

For the filling, I used this recipe from Cooking Light as a guide but diverted a bit. I did not have any Tarragon on hand so I made a quick substitution…


IMG_4622.JPG

Perfect!


IMG_4620.JPG

I also substituted some beautiful green beans for zucchini because that is what I had on hand. While the filling was simmering, I contemplated crispy topping.

For once, I am happy I went grocery shopping on an empty stomach because I came home with these…



IMG_4625.JPG

Biscuits! From Trader Joe’s! Ahh I love Trader Joe’s but when I go in there before I have had a snack, I always manage to buy everything in the store!


IMG_4627.JPG

Buttery, doughy…just great! Try this next time you need some simple, veggie filled comfort food.


xo,


Jenna

Red Velvet Pancakes

Good morning!

IMG_4428.JPG

Ever since my visit to the Buttermilk Truck I have not been able to stop thinking about those Red Velvet Pancakes. I loved the hint of richness in pancake form top with the perfect dollop of cream cheese icing. So when I stumbled upon this recipe for Vegan Red Velvet Pancakes I instantly jumped at the opportunity to replicate those flavors.


IMG_4515.JPG


IMG_4517.JPG

I needed to really replicate the experience so I dotted my pancakes with chocolate chips.


IMG_4519.JPG

And then I promptly de-veganized them by adding a little cream cheese on top. Oops! And a few drops of maple syrup just because.


IMG_4524.JPG

Perfection. I think I am going to buy these and make them again for Reg. ❀


Have a beautiful weekend!

xo,


Jenna

Off to the Market

IMG_4035_2.JPG

I have been trying to visit Market in St. Helena since my last trip to Napa. I love swanky restaurants with creative meals but at the end of the day I really love simple, fresh food cooked spectacularly. Plus, supporting any restaurant that uses local ingredients makes me smile. Market does all of these things. πŸ™‚


IMG_4004.JPG

We started with some cocktails. Mine was the fizzy gin drink in front. Perfectly refreshing for a warm summer night in wine country.


IMG_4000.JPG


We started with some laughs and some appetizers.

IMG_4005.JPG

Farmer’s Market Chopped Salad. Alfie, our server, told me this was the most popular salad on the menu. For this salad, the Chef picks whatever is best at the morning Farmer’s Market so the ingredients change every day. This one had broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bacon, blue cheese, and lettuce. The veggies were cooked just slightly which some people may prefer, but I would have rather them be chopped more and left raw because cooking them only intensified the dressing, which I was not a huge fan of. Also, there could have been more cheese. This little hiccup was okay though because the other dishes we ordered were spectacular.


IMG_4007_2.JPG

This is one of the best Crab Cakes I have ever had. This baby was huge and stuffed with quality Dungeness crab meat. Paired with the coriander lime sauce and what had to be the most fresh grilled corn of all time, this dish was epic! I could have ate this as my meal. Only downside was that the cake itself was deep fried. I really think it would have been just perfect if it was less crispy on the outside.


IMG_4010_2.JPG

Fresh Cream of Corn Soup. Again, the corn had to be one of the best veggies at the Farmer’s Market because this soup was perfectly sweet only needed a hint of cream and a splash of chili oil. We were all really pleased with this soup and jealous of Reggie who had been smart enough to order it. πŸ™‚


IMG_4014.JPG

I ordered the Organic Fried Chicken for my entree. I LOVE fried chicken. This one was perfectly seasoned and crispy. The whipped mashed potatoes were so fluffy and buttery.

What stood out for me was the portion size. Sometimes you order Fried Chicken for your entree and you literally receive an entire chicken. Yea, if I order that just for me there is no way I am finishing the dish. I was pleasantly surprised when only two pieces were served with my dish. Perfect amount for me to devour. πŸ˜‰


IMG_4018.JPG

Macaroni & Cheese with Aged Fiscalini Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Bacon and Fine Herbs. I am only going to say this once because I pride myself on having the best homemade macaroni & cheese but this is better than my version. My sisters both ordered the M&C and they are not what you would call “plate finishers” but this was done. Between the six of us at the table, we could not stop “oooohing” and “ahhhing” over this dish. Well played Market, well played.


IMG_4020.JPG

My father ordered Zinfandel Braised Lamb. I managed to steal a bit–for the blog, I argue– and wowza, this meat was tender. The jus served with the meat was light and had the perfect essence of zinfandel. My father is not one to rave about food like me (unless it is dessert) but he had a hard time keeping quiet about this one. He said this was the best lamb he has ever had. Period.


IMG_4026_2.JPG

The Filet Mignon came from a local farm and was truly spectacular. Served with homemade au gratin potatoes, haricot verts and a porcini butter, this whole dish was cooked and seasoned to perfection.


IMG_4027.JPG

Post-dinner cappuccino for me.


IMG_4031_2.JPG

Butterscotch Pot du Creme for the table. Very rich and creamy. If you are a fan of butterscotch, you will love this. But is this definitely a dessert to share because a few bites is just enough.


We loved visiting Market. The food was incredible and the service was fantastic. Our server, Alfie, was knowledgable about the dishes, having tried everything. Above all, he loves to eat and he is passionate about local, sustainable food. At the same time, he did not bombard us at the table. He allowed us space to talk about enjoy our meals, offering any assistance when necessary.

He told us that he used to live in Southern California and then recently moved up to St. Helena with his wife and their 4 children. Now, they have a larger place on more land and my dream…chickens! I actually let out a little cheer when he told us this (I am such a nerd…) because my dream is to have an old farmhouse with chickens in the back yard and maybe a cow….okay, maybe a goat too. A girl can dream, right? Mostly, Alfie told us he is living the dream up there and you could see it on his face through his beaming smile.

I walked out of this place with a full belly and a full heart.

xo,
Jenna

Cooking with Julie: Part 2


IMG_3939_2.JPG

First, how can you not LOVE someone who has a framed picture of Julia Child in her living room?

Above all, Julie is also a really gifted chef and a gifted teacher.

“Classically trained by some of the world’s most accomplished French Masters, Julie has been teaching for more than 20 years and is a Certified Culinary Professional. She apprenticed with former White House pastry chef, Roland Mesnier — and worked and studied in France at Hotel de France in Auch with AndrΓ© Daguin, Paula Wolfert, Gaston LenΓ΄tre and Ecole Ritz Escoffier. Julie was director and teacher at L’Academie de Cuisine, one of the top ten cooking schools in the United States, where she teamed with Francois Dionot for five years. She also had the opportunity to work with Jean-Louis Palladin and Giuliano Bugialli. Julie is a graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland, and has taken numerous classes at the CIA-Greystone β€” and around the world.

After living and working many years abroad in Asia and Africa, she now makes her home in Napa and started the cooking school COOKING with JULIE. In her free time she volunteers at the Food Bank and C.H.E.F.S. (Conquering Homelessness Through Employment in Food Service) as an instructor.

Member of International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), *Certified Culinary Professional (CCP), San Francisco Professional Food Society, and Slow Food.”

  (Source)



IMG_3947.JPG

We spent the beginning of class reviewing our recipes. Julie always emphasizes the importance of reading recipes from beginning to end BEFORE starting to cook. This way, you know what is coming next and there is much less stress in the kitchen. Now that is something we all want, right? Cooking is supposed to be fun! πŸ™‚


IMG_3948.JPG

There were 8 people total in the class which really allowed Julie to give us individual attention. We were grouped into pairs and each pair was assigned a dish. I wanted to prepare something I had never cooked before so Gingi and I chose the Strawberry Gelato and Langues de Chat (Cat’s Tongues). Truthfully, we were moving so fast in the kitchen that it was not very easy to take pictures of each step of the process. I did manage to snap a couple action shots though.


IMG_3949.JPG

Gingi and I received some great experience learning how to pipe and I have to say I really love pastry making. My dream is to go to culinary school and learn baking and pastry in more detail. πŸ™‚

IMG_3954.JPG


IMG_3962_2.JPG

Once everything was prepared, we sat down outside for a lovely lunch paired with the wine we tasted earlier in the day. Everything as fresh, flavorful, and incredibly light. The perfect summer lunch.


IMG_3979_2.JPG

Sorrel & Mint Buttermilk Soup


IMG_3969_2.JPG

Vegetables Grilled Spanish Style with Picada


IMG_3982.JPG

Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil, and Goat Cheese


IMG_3990_2.JPG

Strawberry Gelato with Balsamic Vinegar

IMG_3973.JPG

Langues de Chat (Cat’s Tongues)


IMG_3993_2.JPG

Cooking with Julie is an amazing experience and I highly recommend her to anyone who visits the Valley. My mom loved the experience and she cannot wait to do it again! πŸ™‚

Have you ever taken a cooking class? If not, what would you want to learn?

xo,

Jenna

Cooking with Julie: Part 1

IMG_3857_2.JPG

This year, for my mom’s birthday, my sisters and I bought her a very special cooking class in Napa. Cooking with Julie is an experience that cannot be matched. This was actually my second time participating in her class and I was so happy to be back. What makes this day so special is that you start your day at the Farmer’s Market buying the vegetables, fruits, cheese, and other ingredients we would be using during the class. Chef Julie really believes that good food starts in the picking of ingredients. Makes sense too, right? If you have beautiful flavorful ingredients, you can cook them simply and their flavors shine through.

This particular Farmer’s Market was one of the best I have ever seen. The colors were dynamic but what makes this market is the people. They were so knowledgeable and friendly!


IMG_3854_2.JPG


IMG_3849_2.JPG


IMG_3869_2.JPG


IMG_3874_2.JPG


IMG_3918_2.JPG


IMG_3895_2.JPG

I loved talking to the people in each booth. Their passion for what they are growing and selling is contagious. Besides how good food taste, I think that my absolute favorite part of food is the community.Throughout the entire day when our small group was cooking, I could not help but pause and think about where this food came from and the hard work it took to create such beautiful products. I was grateful.


IMG_3925_2.JPG


IMG_3921_2.JPG

After buying our ingredients, we headed to Back Room Wines in Downtown Napa to taste the wines that Julie’s friend, Dan, had selected to pair with our food. Dan was so friendly and you could tell he enjoyed talking about wine and pairing wine with food. Everything was delicious and I ended up purchasing the 2009 Copain Rose (perfect for a hot Summer day) and the 2007 Salvestrini Rettagio.


IMG_3933.JPG


IMG_3936_2.JPG


IMG_3930.JPG


IMG_3937_2.JPG

After the tasting, we headed back to Julie’s beautiful home to start cooking!


To be continued…


xo,


Jenna