Archives for the month of: October, 2011

i have always liked and known what quinoa is for a while now, but there is a certain recent video that i can’t quite say the word without singing the song…and laughing. granted not a bad thing…

last week i was working on a commercial, and they had to bring in a caterer last minute, because (shocker, i know) they didn’t finish by lunch like they had planned. well, this caterer had a salad that inspired this dish:

  • 3 ears of corn, roasted on a grill with oil and chili powder, then cut off the cob

  • 1 cup dry red quinoa, boiled in 2 cups of water, with a bit of salt for 10-15 minutes, drained
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped, stems included
  • 2 limes
  • olive oil
  • s+p

toss the corn, quinoa, onion, garlic and cilantro together. squeeze in the juice of 2 limes and drizzle some olive oil over the salad. toss to combine. add s+p to taste.

i am not often inspired by dishes from caterers that feed me on film/commercial/tv sets, but this one was really good.

note: all the above ingredients were purchased at a farmers market, with the exception of the quinoa and canola oil from trader joe’s and the spices from penzeys. i was nowhere near a whole foods parking lot during the creation of this dish.


obviously we are coming up to pumpkin pie season being that thanksgiving is around the corner. honestly, i have never been one to choose pumpkin pie over other options during this season, but i found myself going to a dinner party, and wanting to bring a pie. i happened to have a pumpkin on hand with which i intended to make soup, but thought i’d try my hand at a pie instead.

my biggest problem with pumpkin pies is that they are way too sweet, so i researched a few different recipes. they all had similar ingredients and spices: pumpkin, egg, cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg etc… most called for canned pumpkin, and a few recipes even called for sweetened condensed milk, which makes me think that was the type of pie i was used to.

i made three changes that i think made the difference; i used a real pumpkin, i substituted the sugar with a mix of brown sugar and honey, and i replaced the cream with coconut milk. the result was a not too sweet, very flavorful, real pumpkin pie.


  • 1 pie pumpkin, about 6-8 inches in diameter, cut in half horizontal, cored and seeds removed (reserved to roast)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground all spice


  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp butter, cold and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 3 tbsp cold shortening
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 2-3 tbsp cold vodka


roast the pumpkin halves skin side up at 350º for 1 1/2 hours on a foil lined pan and covered with foil.

the skin should come off easily, and then pureé.

let the pumpkin pureé come to room temperature while you make the dough for the crust. you can also make the pumpkin pureé ahead of time and refrigerate until this point. if so, take it out of the fridge and let come to room temperature while making the dough.

put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse quickly to mix. add the shortening and process for 10 seconds. add the butter and pulse 10 times. pour into a bowl and add 2 tbsp of cold water and 2 tbsp of cold vodka. with a rubber spatula using a folding mixing motion, press down with the broad side of the spatula as you turn the dough letting it stick together. add an additional tbsp of vodka if the dough doesn’t come together. form the dough into a 4-inch disk and wrap in plastic. refrigerate the dough for an hour.

pre-heat the oven to 425º about 10-15 minutes before taking your dough out of the refrigerator.

just before rolling your dough out, mix the all ingredients for the filling together very well with a hand mixer.

roll out and form the dough into the pie dish.

pour the filling into the uncooked pie crust.

bake at 425º for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350º until a knife comes out of the center clean, about 60-75 minutes.

i must say that my first pie after the disaster of the steve jobs pie incident was a complete success. i guess he was right…just move on after a mistake and ‘get on with improving your other innovations.’ pie and technology may not match up in your eyes as innovative, but it does in my mind.

note: i cleaned and roasted the pumpkin seeds with a little oil and salt, and topped the pie with several as a garnish. i also added a bit of cut out pie crust in the shape of a pumpkin and fall leaf and sprinkled it with salt.

when i started this blog months ago, it was during a down time for me work wise. i had the time to cook and write about it. the tag line to this blog is ‘the way to live life,’ and to no surprise julia child was my inspiration and motivator.

in my inaugural post ‘in the words of a genius…‘ i simply quote mrs. child:

‘find something that you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.’ –julia child

pie is something i am very passionate about. in fact something about the rainy weather yesterday urged me to make an apple pie, and as i was making it, i was completely in my happy space. it was beautiful going in and coming out of the oven.

sadly, when cutting into it i saw that the filling was soupy. my friends tried to console me by telling me it still tasted delicious and the crust was perfect. i was even bitchy to andrea when she asked ‘what did you do differently?’ the only thing i could think of was that normally i used some granny smiths, but they didn’t have them at the market. i was thinking perhaps the fujis or galas i had substituted had less pectin than the grannys? or they were more juicy? then it dawned on me from a question andrea asked, ‘what would make it more soupy?’ if it was the same cooking time, amount of apples, and ingredients, what would cause the moisture not to evaporate? ah ha! venting! besides the usual apple cut out in the center, perhaps i normally cut extra slits to allow more moisture to escape? instead, like andrea said, ‘i created a volcano that just hadn’t been allowed to erupt.’ upon further investigation from a previous picture of a perfect apple pie, there were indeed slits!

at my bikram yoga studio they have this quote up on the wall:

‘i have not failed. i have just found 10,000 ways that will not work. failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.’ –thomas alva edison

ironically, while i was making what was to be an epic apple pie failure (in my eyes), unbeknownst to me the announcement of steve jobs death was announced. i was truly saddened to hear this. i didn’t know steve. i have never met him. he was a visionary and a genius and changed how our world sees things. he died too young. i have used apple computers and products since the very beginning. i carry my iphone around like it’s an appendage. yet, i’ve been trying to figure out why his death has affected me so much. honestly, i don’t know why, but he has reminded me to love and live life, and to ‘think different.’

‘sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. it is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.’ –steve jobs

RIP mr. jobs. you will be missed.

on to my next pie…

as i sit at the starbucks in signal hill waiting for my car to be serviced having a grande drip coffee, i am reminded of a dirty ashtray. many people are aware that i am a snob about many things food related, and coffee is no different. i am often forced to drink swill at work, and obviously in situations like right now, but it also makes me remember just how wonderful coffee can be if made right.

i believe if the beans are good, roasted correctly and brewed just right, coffee is best black. no cream. no sugar. no additives.

several years ago i had to stop by my employer’s house to pick up a check, and he offered to make me a cup of coffee. we had talked about our mutual love of coffee, so i figured it would be good. as it turned out, it was the best cup of coffee i have ever had in my life. i’m kicking myself for not writing down the name of the bean, but i remember them being expensive and for some reason ‘blue mountain’ comes to mind. a quick google search later makes me think this just might be the one.

i am fortunate that there are several independent coffee shops close to where i live downtown, so if i run out of my organic black cat espresso from intelligentsia, i can hop on my trusty steed and head out for a jolt of caffeine nearby.

here are a few non-starbucks options in my hood:

made– located next door at the downtown women’s center. it has a lovely gift shop, some food items from tiara café, and their coffee is quite good.

coffee bar– this place sits smack dab in the middle of hip and happening spring street. the sandwich i had here was pretty good too.

harlem place cafe– their yelp page says they have closed, which if true, is a very sad thing. i must do some recon on this one.

spring for coffee– this tiny place is also on spring street, and although i usually get the coffee to go here, they do have a few tables. on occasion they even have intelligentsia coffee which is a plus.

urth caffé– though they seem a bit corporate, they have organic and fair trade beans, their food is tasty, and their in house baked goods make a perfect compliment to all drinks coffee and tea related.

groundwork– these guys are

one of the very first certified organic coffee roasters in southern california (as well as the largest organic coffee roaster in los angeles), while pioneering sustainable, relationship-based, and organic coffee sourcing.

one can only hope that the next time i bring my car in for service, that there will be some sort of competition to starbucks, and god willing it wont be a coffee bean + tea leaf.

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