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 #brownies  #brownie  #recipegirl  #brownbutter  #kahlua  #dessert 

This agression will not stand.

Kahlua brownies with browned butter Kahlua icing.



Sorry Dude, no white russians over here. I baked with my Kahlua.

I want to take a bath in that icing. I mean, anything with browned butter is delicious, but this stuff is bananas good. The brownie is super dense and fudgy. The icing is sweet and rich. I can’t think of a much better combo. I’ve made these twice and can report they were a hit *both* times!

Recipe is at recipegirl

Tamale Day

My family makes tamales every year for Christmas. We’ve been making them since I was eight years old, so yeah, we started somewhere around 2000. I kid! Tamale Day is a Herrera tradition that I can’t live without. I’ve only missed it twice in 35 years which should tell you how fun it is. We’ve had a crazy cast of characters over the years, but the constant has always been my mom, aunt, me, and my grandma before she passed away. I love that time with these ladies. We just sit around chit chatting while we work. My mom makes them so we can eat them for Christmas and to give away as Christmas gifts. I help not only because it’s my family duty, but also so I can eat them for weeks and months afterward!

Mom learned from her Mexican sister-in-law back in the day and had tweeked her recipe over the years. If there’s leftover masa and/or husks, I take them home and make a mini batch for hubby and I. The photo above shows a small batch of chicken tamales I made last December. I make my homemade enchilada sauce and throw in rotisserie chicken, making them both easy and good! I’ve even attempted to show a friend or two how to make them, but that’s ended up drinking too much wine and not making too many tamales. Every Christmas we also get tamales from our gardener/second dad and from the aunt who taught my mom. Christmas might get a new name next year – Tamale Fest!

 #science  #grow  #fridge  #scary onion 

I f*cking love science

This happened in my fridge. Unintentionally. Hidden in the depths of a vegetable crisper drawer. I’m taking this as a sign I need to clean out my fridge drawers more often. Eeesh.

 #Grandma  #kitchen  #memories  #second life 

Tools that live on in my kitchen

These are from my Grandma’s kitchen. She’d given me items from her kitchen over the years, including solid cookie sheets, ancient mixing bowls and even her wedding china – the most amazing gift ever. These small utensils are the things I use almost daily and bring back fond memories of being a kid in Grandma’s kitchen.

She used the orange handled spoon for ice cream. Remember the blocky carton of Foremost or Thrifty’s ice cream? We’d grab them from the freezer and wonder if the flavors inside would match what the box said. Grandma was famous for consolidating two or more flavors into one carton. And the orange handle would always be there to scoop out thick slabs of ice cream into our bowls and hungry mouths.

The whisk mixed pancake batter and sifted the dry ingredients for her oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I have a pristine whisk that I bought at Crate and Barrel, but this one is perfectly imperfect. Its wood handle is chipped and the wires unbalanced, but it works just fine. I find myself reaching for it more often than the new one – very possibly due to the thoughts it brings up.

And the salt and pepper shakers were staples in her kitchen. They sat on top of her stove and were used constantly. Grandma later filled them with sugar and flour, labeling them with masking tape and ball point pen. She used them to sprinkle flour and powdered sugar when she baked. I took great care to make sure the labels didn’t come off when I washed and refilled them after they came to live with me. I love that every time I pick them up, her cursive handwriting is looking back at me.

I’m the kitchen freak that has every gadget, pan and utensil known to man. Some I bought when I had the need (pastry blender, microplane zester), some I found at yard sales or thrift stores (mini cupcake pans, vintage sifter) and some were handed down to me (scroll up, baby). I love all my kitchen gadgets, but the ones that came to me from my baking idol are my favorites. When she passed away and we were cleaning out her kitchen, everyone laid claim to things they wanted. I took everything that was left because 1.) I’d use it and 2.) it belonged to a fabulously sassy lady who would want it that way.

 #kitchen  #friends  #cooking with friends  #baking lesson  #wine night  #get together  #my house 

kitchen + wine + food + friends = happy

A kitchen full of friends makes me the most happy. I’m lucky to have a large kitchen and am able to host gatherings often. My last kitchen was a galley and it was hard having guests over because I never got to see them. No fun! This kitchen is very open and begs for company, so I give her what she wants.

Fridays have become “wine night” at my house. As in, “Let’s have a _________ wine night on Friday”! The blank can be yoga, U-JAM, writing group, cookbook crew, couples, family — you get the idea. If you bring out wine, they will come. Of course we serve lots of other things too, but vino seems to be the constant.

And with wine, you need food. And guess what? I love to cook, so it’s a win-win. I’ve ditched the big dinner in favor of munchies and cocktail food, as it’s more fun to graze and it’s easier on the host. Yeah, that would be me. I learned the hard way that it’s tough to enjoy your company when you’re trying to get food ready to serve all at once. No thanks.

I love the noise, clutter and frenzy of having guests in my house. I truly enjoy bringing people together and then stuffing their bellies. I’ve also taught friends to bake and cook, but letting friends relax in my home is what makes me smile. Your glass will never be empty up in here!

Here are a few recent glances into my kitchen…


U-JAM wine night


yoga wine night (we posed all pretty-like at some point)


baking lesson with Sreya


Jinxie and Sharon snuggling (no wine or food that day, just fun!)

…and I can’t forget my daily kitchen companions, Jinx and Fred! They are always nearby in case I need taste testers. ;)

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 #tomatoes  #garden  #pasta sauce  #gravy  #basil  #garden tomatoes  #home grown tomatoes  #the earthbound cook  #summer 

Garden tomatoes and gravy

Here I go again with the garden. I’m telling you, it’s been one of the best parts of this summer! Fresh tomatoes on the regular. What’s not to love about that?

The hubby picks tomatoes every day and we started to get too many. I can’t believe that phrase is exiting my mouth, as you can never have too many home grown tomatoes. For reals. The thing is, we’ve been eating them almost daily, plus I’ve been giving them away and we STILL had too many. Afraid they’d go bad, I had to make a big batch of something to use them up this week. Guess what I made?

Pasta sauce! We’re ‘Goodfellas’ fans in this house, so we’ve taken to calling it gravy. As in, “I had a lot of stuff to do today, so I had my brother Michael stay home and stir the gravy so it wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pot” (paraphrased, but you get the gist). I found a recipe that seemed easy enough and went for it. Boy, was that ever a good idea!

First I weighed out the 12 pounds of tomatoes the recipe called for. We have a variety, so there were different sizes, shapes and colors going into the mix.

I used the process of cutting an ‘x’ on the bottom and then dunking them in boiling water for 30 seconds to peel the tomatoes. Easy breezy! The larger ones needed a bit more time, but the skins peeled right off. See?

Then everything gets chopped and put in the pool. Sweat the onions and add garlic and the tomatoes and let it all get soft. Eventually you mash the cooked tomatoes with a potato masher (again, easy!) and let it reduce to your desired consistency. I added basil to finish and put it into containers for the freezer.

We’re having some tonight with pasta and I can’t wait! The flavor is fresh and light. The tomato flavor really intensified with cooking and is going to hold up nicely to pasta and the lasagna I’ll eventually use it for.
The original recipe came from The Earthbound Cook, but I did doctor it a bit for my own taste.

If you have extra tomatoes and need to make a batch of something big to thin out the herd, I recommend gravy. You can freeze it, give it to your neighbors or just enjoy it fresh out of the pot!

 #nuts  #cashews  #tamarind  #coconut  #tamarind spiced nuts 

Awww, nuts!


Are you planning on some backyard time this weekend with a glass of wine or a cocktail? If so, stop what you’re doing and make a batch of these Tamarind Spiced Nuts with Mint. I found the recipe on New York Times website and was excited to give them a whirl. Super easy to make and won’t take up much of your time. I forgot the mint the last time I made them and they’re just as good. I use extra coconut than the recipe calls for, but that’s me. These nuts are savory with a touch of sweet and sour that will make you want to munch a bunch!

PS- I found both unsalted cashews and unsweetened coconut flakes (bulk bins) at my local Whole Foods.

 #tomatoes  #garden  #backyard  #pico de gallo  #salsa 

Tomato time


Remember the garden I told you we planted back in May? Well we are now up to our knees (okay, maybe ankles) in gorgeous, ripe tomatoes! We’ve been using them in different ways, but my current favorites are caprese salad and pico de gallo. I love salsa and this is the best in my book. Juicy tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, lime juice and cilantro are all you need to make this flavorful bowlful of goodness. Just chop up everything to taste, grab your favorite chips and get ready for a tastebud party!

Fresh pico de gallo ala FG

• tomatoes
• red onion
• jalapeno pepper
• fresh lime juice
• cilantro

I just start chopping and tasting as I go, adding more of whatever is needed. Omit the cilantro if you hate the stuff and think it tastes like soap. (I do not understand this notion, but know it exists!)

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 #honolulu  #hawaii  #oahu  #restaurants  #malasadas  #townkaimuki  #saltkaimuki  #sidestreetinnondastrip  #diamondheadgrill  #asuka  #imanastei  #bigcitydinerkaimuki  #tenkaippin  #leonardsbakery 

Forget Maui. Oahu is where da food is.


We used to inhabit Kauai every year cos we had a sweet deal. A great little rental across the street from a quiet beach, we could cook our own food and it was relaxing. We’d also gone to Maui, which is a step above Kauai in the crowded department, but not anything crazy. I’d heard of people vacationing on Oahu and thought they were nuts. It’s a big city, crowded and congested, so why would anyone go there? I’ll tell you why – because of the food!

This was our third trip to Honolulu and we don’t stay in Waikiki. We stay in a hotel off the main strip, where it’s tranquil and relaxed. It’s a place where everybody knows your name and they remember it even if you haven’t been there in a few years. It’s still in Honolulu, so it’s just a 10-15 minute drive to most restaurants in the area. We became friends with a valet who works at the hotel and he’s guided our Hawaiian culinary adventures. I truly have to give him props, because he knows the real deal. When we eat, we’re not looking for fancy, spendy, high-end places – we’re looking for hole-in-the-wall, tiny, funky joints that make you think, “Ummm, is this the right place?”, when you drive up. He knows this fact and always has great suggestions.

We’ve enjoyed foods new to us, such as shabu shabu and ramen, while going back to our old favorites like Hawaiian plate lunches (complete with a scoop of mac salad!), fried rice with Portuguese sausage and pan-fried pork chops. This vacation was definitely indulgent with food, but we’ll work hard at the gym now that we’re home. In fact, we’re doing a two week vegetarian stint right now to cleanse ourselves from all that meat. We also said no booze for a week, but that ended exactly after one week had passed. I can go forever without meat, but not wine!


We drove almost an hour for this shave ice. Nutty? Yes. Good? Yes! Plus, we wanted to see a part of the island we’d never been to, so what the heck? This is from Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in Haleiwa on the North Shore. Hubby got coconut and mango and I went for root beer with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was an icy root beer float! We snuggled on a bench with a family from Arizona who also made the drive from Honolulu and none of us were disappointed.


And then there are the cocktails. You probably think pina colada, mai tai or lava flow when you think Hawaii, but branch out next time you’re in the tropics. Town in the Kaimuki neighborhood offers cool cocktails that use herbs and their own special blends of spirits. Their entire menu is full of local ingredients and the drinks are no exception. We sat at the bar on our second visit and the bartender Jordan told me he came up with the “mai thyme” idea when he was growing thyme and lemongrass in his backyard. Doesn’t get more local than that! I love the traditional mai tai at Side Street Inn, but this is amazing in it’s own way. Rum, ginger beer, pineapple, thyme and lemongrass. Wow.


No trip to Oahu would be complete with at least one trip to Leonard’s Bakery for hot malasadas. We went twice in 2.5 weeks, which I thought showed serious restraint. Malasadas are similar to donuts but way better. WAY. Rolled in sugar while still hot and sometimes filled with custard, they are a Hawaiian staple. I’m sure Leonard’s sells other delicious desserts, but I wouldn’t know because I can never leave the malasada train. We brought some back for the night valet crew and as I handed over the box I thought, “Do the locals get sick of these?”, but decided that was a crazy thought. Tire of those warm, yeasty, sugary buns of joy? Never.

I didn’t take any food photos this trip, but will leave you with a list of our favorite Oahu haunts. Most are in Honolulu, since that’s where we stay and we don’t like driving far for grub.

Side Street Inn
Diamond Head Grill
Asuka Nabe & Shabu Shabu
Imanas Tei
Big City Diner
Tenkaippin Ramen
Leonard’s Bakery

 #chip and dip  #white bean dip  #whole wheat pita chips  #homemade pita chips  #picnic  #rosemary  #cheryl sternman rule  #ripe  #ripe cookbook 

No ordinary chip and dip


Do you see this? It’s the remains of something wonderful. I didn’t take a before photo, but now that I see this one, I realize it has more impact. It shows how much everyone enjoyed this and ate it all up!

I made a roasted garlic white bean dip and homemade pita chips for a picnic I was going on with my food writing pals from Stanford. We had salads, wine, chip/dip and sweets – all on real dishes over a colorful tablecloth on a sunny Saturday. It was very civilized and lovely!

The dip looks like hummus, but is much lighter and has a fluffy quality. You blend cannellini beans with roasted garlic, rosemary olive oil (that I also made myself) and lemon juice. It’s easy and delicious. The recipe also shows you how to make your own pita chips, which I did. One of the girls remarked on how these pita chips weren’t oily like most and when I replied that I made them, she said, “That’s why!”

The dip and pita chip recipe is from Ripe, the gorgeous cookbook by Cheryl Sternman Rule. Cheryl was a guest speaker in our class last year and I bought the book from her then. She’s friends with our instructor, Tori Ritchie, and was invited to discuss her blog, 5 second rule, as well as her process for all the food-related things she works on. Ripe is chock full of amazing recipes for fruit and vegetables, all listed in sections by the produce’s color. I got my copy last October and it’s been mostly out on the counter because I just enjoy looking at it!


Here were are, the cookbook crew (we should give our group an official name!), in the middle of our glorious picnic lunch. We’re easy to spot if you’re out and about. We’re the foursome eating about food, talking about food and having way too much fun! I’m lucky to have met these beautiful women and be able to spend time with them – eating, of all things!

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