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Peanut Butter Blondies

3 Jan

At the beginning of January, most food blogs share healthy recipes to help you recover from holiday indulgences and commit to your New Year’s resolutions. Even though I am all about kale salad right now (because it tastes delicious), maintaining a truly healthy diet requires balance. An article I read in the New York Times re-affirmed this belief. I love to bake and consume sweets almost every day, but in moderation, which is key. If my diet centers around fresh produce, whole grains, and lean meats, there is nothing wrong with enjoying quality, homemade baked goods. Which leads me to these peanut butter blondies.

Peanut butter is a quintessential American food. However, despite its ubiquity, most people either love it or they hate it. My dad was of the latter camp, and for years, I tried in vain to convert him. I slathered peanut butter on brioche toast, sandwiched it between shortbread, and even sacrificed some of my beloved Girl Scout cookies to the cause. These magical little bars finally inspired him to see the light.

The blondies have an undeniable peanut flavor without being too rich or overpowering. The saltiness of the roasted peanuts contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the chocolate chunks, and best of all, the batter takes minutes to mix up in a saucepan. My dad ate two in a matter of minutes, and was disappointed when they were all gone. So, what are you waiting for? It’s 2014. Let’s celebrate with some peanut butter blondies.

Recipe courtesy of Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 tblsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup well-stirred natural, salted peanut butter (smooth)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup (3 oz) semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

Yields 16 blondies.

1. Line the bottom and all four sides of an 8-inch square pan with foil. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350° F.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the brown sugar and peanut butter. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to beat in the egg, vanilla, and half of the peanuts. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

3. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining nuts and chocolate chips evenly over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the nuts have toasted, the top is golden brown, and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan. Cool the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then lift the ends of the foil and allow the blondies to cool completely on the rack. Use a long, sharp knife to cut into squares. The blondies may be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Weekly Snapshots

8 Nov

Lunch at one of my favorite places in L.A. I have an entire post dedicated to this lovely spot coming up. In the mean time, can any locals guess where this is?

As the end of my first semester of college draws near, I have been swamped with endless reading assignments and essay deadlines. I cannot believe time has passed so quickly–my weeks spent mostly in the library, nose buried in a pile of books. My workload has not allowed for much experimentation in the kitchen, nor have I longed to do so, quite honestly. While I maintain a healthy diet, my meals have slipped into a monotonous pattern dictated by simplicity and efficiency.

This past week, anything that I could pile onto whole wheat toast (homemade tuna salad, almond butter and bananas, and scrambled eggs with basil) qualified as dinner. My breakfasts have been sad repeats of a granola bar and fruit, usually wolfed down while power-walking to class. So this weekend, I look forward to indulging in foods I crave during the school days. This means obligatory visits to my favorite breakfast café and the newly opened Din Tai Fung Dumpling House in Glendale. That’s what weekends are for, right?

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Every week, my mom surprises me with a different, hand-made flower arrangement in my room. One of the top three reasons I love coming home (after a good, long shower and clean sheets).

Flatbread pizzas from The Bread Lounge in the Downtown Arts District.

Homemade salad topped with the most perfectly soft-boiled egg. Eggs add richness and satisfaction to any vegetarian meal.

My family and I went out to our first dinner in months at Connie & Ted’s in West Hollywood. It doesn’t get much better than classic American desserts, done right.

Cardamom-Almond Pound Cake

2 Oct

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I have never been a picky eater. Even though I ate just about everything as a child, certain foods made more appearances than others. I enjoyed tomato sauce pasta, white rice, and grilled chicken multiple times per week. Sometimes multiple times per day, if my grandmothers were babysitting me.

This same idea applies to dessert. I cannot recall how many chocolate cakes and chocolate chip cookies I have sampled in my lifetime. Too many. Cakes spiced with cardamom? Just one–a buttery Armenian Easter bread that I look forward to every year. Despite my love of this bread, I had never thought of using cardamom in any of my own baked goods. So when I saw this recipe for cardamom-almond pound cake in the August issue of Bon Appétit, I knew I had to try it. Cardamom has an awesome nutty/spicy quality that gives this sturdy pound cake an exotic flavor. My favorite part of any loaf cake is the crunchy top, which, in this case, is studded with golden brown slivered almonds.

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appétit 

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche (I used full-fat sour cream instead)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350° F. Butter a 9x5x3” loaf pan; line bottom and long sides with a strip of parchment paper, leaving overhang.

2. Whisk baking powder, cardamom, salt, and 2 cups flour in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk milk and ½ cup crème fraîche in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat sugar and ¾ cup butter on high speed until light and fluffy–about 4 minutes. Do not rush this step as it gives the cake its light texture. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula. Then add vanilla and almond extracts.

4. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with crème fraîche mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; beat just until combined. Do not overmix. Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

5. Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55–65 minutes. (Tent with foil if browning too quickly.) Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes. Using parchment overhang, gently remove cake from pan and transfer to rack; let cool completely.

Easy Yogurt Popsicles and Preparing for College Life

17 Aug
Dorm food has a bad reputation. Pizza, chips and candy, energy drinks, and Cup Noodles constitute the four major food groups of the college diet. So how does a teen food blogger, one who considers the Saturday morning farmers’ market the highlight of her week, navigate this daunting new environment?  
Well, for starters, I will live in an apartment-style dorm this fall. My two roommates and I share a kitchenette equipped with a refrigerator, stove, and (hopefully) a small oven. I have access to fresh produce and pantry staples from an on-campus grocery store, but everything I cook must be quick and simple. Healthy snacks are especially important because they keep me going throughout the day and dictate my energy level. 
 
Enter yogurt popsicles with granola and fresh figs. 
This recipe allows you to use whatever you have on hand, mixing and matching flavors, with no fancy equipment required. Layer granola, mixed nuts, and ripe fruit with dollops of yogurt in a glass vessel, pop the glass in the freezer for a few hours, and enjoy a specially-designed, portable snack.
 
Some of my favorite combinations include toasted coconut and blueberries, almond butter and banana, and mixed berries with jam.
In the coming weeks, I will chronicle every chapter of my dorm food adventure. I invite you all to share any recipes and tips with me in the comments box. I look forward to discovering creative ways to enjoy fresh food within the parameters of college life.
 
Ingredients 
1/2 cup yogurt (I like the tanginess of Greek yogurt)
3 tblsp granola 
2 ripe figs 
2 tblsp fig jam 
Drizzle of honey 
 
Drizzle the sides of the glass with honey. Cover the bottom with a dab of yogurt. Layer bits of jam, figs and granola with the yogurt, sealing the top with yogurt. Stick a spoon through the center of the “parfait,” and freeze for at least five hours. To release the popsicle, run the glass under warm water and twist the spoon.  

 

Semisweet Bakery

17 Jun
The 7 Up pound cake is moist and tender, dusted with a thin layer of powdered sugar.  


Food makes memories. Some of my best meals involve gathering around a table with friends and family, talking and laughing for hours, and sharing incredible dishes. I love to cook and bake because great food creates the most enjoyable experiences. 

Whenever I eat grilled fish, I remember my family’s trip to the Mediterranean, where our lunch was sourced fresh that very morning. Macarons and croissants transport me to the streets of Paris, strolling leisurely and peeking into the display window of every patisserie I passed by. The desserts at Semisweet Bakery in Downtown Los Angeles bring me back to my childhood, with classic American favorites like chocolate-banana bread, decadent layer cakes, and strawberry pocket tarts.

A generous slice of blueberry cornbread- 
the perfect balance between sweet and savory. 

Semisweet is a charming shop nestled into a bustling Los Angeles street. The decor pays tribute to the 60’s, with checkered tile tables, baby blue walls, and vintage accessories. Peering at the menu offerings made me nostalgic for the types of desserts I used to love as a kid- Oreos, Thrifty ice cream, and molten chocolate cake. 


After much deliberation, I ordered the 7 Up pound cake, blueberry cornbread, Samoa macaron, and the traditional and PB Crunch Ding a Lings. All were excellent, but the pound cake and the PB Crunch Ding a Ling definitely stole the show. A Ding a Ling is Semisweet’s rendition of the iconic Ding Dong- a chocolate snack cake filled with cream and dunked in chocolate glaze. You must try the peanut butter version, which satisfied my sweet-salty-crunchy-chocolately craving all at once.

Semisweet’s prices are also very reasonable given the top-notch quality and generous portions, a major advantage for someone who can never make up her mind on what to order. So visit this quaint bakery for delicious American treats that will make you smile. 


Semisweet Bakery 
105 East 6th St. 
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 228 9975
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Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.