27 May, 2010

eat: dessert edition: cookie monster's favorite

In the heart of Westwood near UCLA there lays a shop that is always filled with people and has a line pouring out of it and down the street. Diddy Riese is a well known cookie shop that college students love because you can buy 3 cookies for $1 or get an ice cream sandwich for $1.50. The cookies are always fresh and have that right out the oven taste to them. They have so many options to choose from that one has to get 3 just to have a taste of them all.

The ice cream sandwich is my favorite because you get to choose the two cookies and the ice cream that goes inside. I tend to go for a chocolate chip, snicker doodle and mint chip ice cream. Yum! The sandwich is one of the best I have ever had. Because the cookies are warm it melts the ice cream a little and it is the perfect amount of ooey gooey yumminess.

If you live in LA and have never been, you must go! If you come to visit LA, mark this down as a place you must visit. I promise it is worth it. Don't get frightened by the line either; it usually moves pretty quick.

24 May, 2010

bake: hot fudge sundae cupcakes

I had a dinner party over the weekend and of course I had to bake something fun and so I chose to bake hot fudge sundae cupcakes. It was my first time making them and I got the idea here. They turned out to be so yummy and needless to say my friends devoured them.

A couple of things I noticed though:
*Veer to the underbaking them side. Do not over bake them because they will be dry.
* I will add a 1/4 cup heavy cream next time to get them a little more moist.
* Do not over mix the batter. Very important.
* When the ganache has set and hardened, they are quite tasty.

Other than that have so much fun!

hot fudge sundae cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

a scant 3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or use a handheld beater and beat on slow speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half of the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

Whisk the egg, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated. Scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side or the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue mixing until the batter is smooth. Just a few minutes. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into paper lined muffin tins, dividing between the 12 cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Ganache:

3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks)

1/4 cup heavy cream

Put chocolate chips in a small bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan. Pour cream evenly over chocolate. Let stand for one minute to soften, then stir until smooth. If frosting is too loose to spread, let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, frosting will continue to thicken as it stands.

Top vanilla cupcakes with chocolate ganache, slightly sweetened whipped cream, slivered almonds and a cherry.

Serve immediately.

21 May, 2010

Shop: Polka Dots and Spots

Polka dots are a perfect addition to any summer outfit. I personally am not a fan of busy patterns so when things like polka dots are in for the season I get excited because they are simple yet provide enough flare for my solid attire. These polka dot choices are just a couple selections for a spicy incorporation to any wardrobe.

Clutch- French Connection

Jean Shorts- Topshop

Straw Hat - Miss Selfridge

Silk bra & briefs- Marni

Spotted Sandals- See by Chloe

Blazer- H! by Henry Holland

Denim Polka Dot Platforms- Robert Clergerie

20 May, 2010

Eat: Quest for the Best Burger in LA

Yesterday I decided that I wanted to embark on a quest to find the best burger in Los Angeles. I am a total burger girl and while I'd love to and have been a vegetarian I just crave burgers. The funny and ironic thing is is that one of my daily blog reads (Eaterla.com) posted that it is national burger month and there is a poll on facebook for the best burger in LA. Well, I am gonna visit some of these places and test them out for myself and let you all know my personal experience with them.

Last night I went to the first contender: The Counter.

I had been there once before with my boyfriend and only had the sliders (we were on our way to dinner and were so hungry that we couldn't wait). I think it is quite easy to make a good slider; they are small and compact so all the juices and flavors are kept in. Now to make a great burger, in my opinion, is a lot harder. The cool thing about The Counter is that you get to build your own burger from top to bottom.

They have tons of options to choose from, which I appreciate cause I am a picky eater. They also have sweet potato fries; my favorite! Anyhow, our burgers came and after I took some photos I dove in. I was a bit disappointed. The grilled onions were soggy and the meat was dry. The bun tasted like it was a couple of days old and the dressing was a bit flavorless. I was surprised because the sliders I had before were great and I hoped the burger would be the same.

The fries were delicious and cooked just right, but seeing as I am searching for the best burger they aren't a part of my decision. I do have to say though that in order to truly appreciate a burger, I need to have perfectly cooked and seasoned fries.

I was a bit disappointed, but it wasn't a completely awful burger. It just wasn't great. I definitely wouldn't put it in my top 3 best burgers and so The Counter is out.

19 May, 2010

Bake: Chocolate Coffee Bundt Cake

Let me just preface this whole adventure with I am not a big chocolate fan. I enjoy some chocolate here and there and of course I'd never say no to the offer, but it is never my first choice. So, for the past week I have been taking a poll on what I should bake next and one of my daily blog reads posted this on her blog. It'd looked so good I thought I'd try it and then my boyfriend insisted I make this chocolate heaven. And so late last night (since I haven't posted all week) I decided to gather up my energy and set out to make my first bundt cake. Let's just say it did not turn out very pretty, but it tastes so darn yummy. I'm gonna make the excuse for it's lack of beauty that 1. it was late and 2. I'm not a chocolate fan. Also, just note to all those non-professional bakers out there: let the bundt cake cool completely before removing it from the pan. The cake will stick to the pan if not completely cooled and the you will have a Frankencake like me. Most of all, have fun!

It makes a 10-inch bundt cake

For the Cake:

1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon brewed coffee

3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 whole eggs

1 egg yolk

1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tablespoon buttermilk

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoon canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups, plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted

For the Glaze:

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate

3/4 cup unsalted butter

3 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1/4 cup brewed coffee, cooled

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.

To make the cake batter: Put brewed coffee and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat and let come to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk on low speed for about 1 minute. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract and mix on low again for another minute.

Add the flour and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the cooled cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. The batter will be very loose. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack.

To make the icing: Chop the chocolate into small pieces, put them in a heatproof bowl (or a double boiler), and set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Be sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the boiling water. Remove the bowl from the heat when all of the chocolate bits have melted.

Melt the butter in a separate pan or in the microwave. Whisk the melted butter into the melted chocolate until thoroughly incorporated. Sift in half of the powdered sugar. Add the sour cream and whisk to combine. Sift in the remaining powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. The glaze should be thick and shiny. Lastly, add the coffee and whisk to create a glossy glaze.

Pour the glaze over the Bundt cake, covering it completely. Leave at room temperature until ready to serve.

13 May, 2010

shop: summer sandals

If you are anything like me then you have to have all sorts of sandal options to pair with your spring/summer wardrobe. They must range from simple and dainty to bulky and complex. Sandals are the one item in my closet that I must have a wide color variety of. I want to have a pair for all my different skirts and dresses, but also I feel that shoes are a way to lighten up my dark color palette. This seasons selection of sandals are hardly simple and I am loving it. I tend to veer towards big and gaudy when it comes to my shoes. These sandals below are on my "to get" list and I will be checking them off one pair at a time.

Rag + Bone Farringdon Sandal $298

Rag + Bone Farringdon II Sandal $235

Matt Benson The Sherpa Buttermilk $168

Promised Strappy Sandal $132

Sophie Sandal $98

Just wondering... when did sandals get to be so darn expensive. I don't consider myself to be cheap when it comes to shoes, but geese. It's crazy what people pay to be fabulous. I am one of them though.

12 May, 2010

Shop: The Rose Bowl Flea Market

This past Sunday was the Rose Bowl flea market. As most know, it is the one thing I always look forward to each month. I woke up Sunday morning to a grey sky and a large smile appeared on my face. Hot sunny days are never ideal conditions for the Rose Bowl because of the black top that reflects the heat and the sun. I picked up my Coffee Bean on the way and arrived at 8:30am. I usually go over to the clothing section first because I like feeling that I am getting early glances at the selections of clothing. I have a method when shopping at the Rose Bowl:
* I never go to the vendors that also have stores (i.e. American Vintage). I will just go to their store another day.
* Depending on my mood, I tend to avoid any vendors that just have rows and rows of compacted clothing racks. I definitely have to be in the mood to dig through them.
* I stay far away from the vendors that have piles of clothes on the ground. Gives me anxiety.
* My ideal vendors are the ones that have accessible racks that I can actually see the pieces and is manageable to browse around.

I have my favorite vendors. The girls whose tent this is are among my favorites. They always have great pieces, but early in the morning they don't bargain and are overpriced for vintage. This is something first time flea marketers need to be careful of especially at the Rose Bowl. For some reason vendors think it's okay to overcharge for their vintage because it's the Rose Bowl flea market; well it's not. For example, I found a pair of vintage Cole Haan leather Oxfords that I needed to have. (I use "needed" loosely). Now, seeing as Oxfords are very in right now I could find a brand new pair for anywhere between $40 to $200 depending on the make. These girls were trying to sell them to me for $35; crazy! I told them I'd give them $25 and they refused me and so I walked away. Bargaining skills are key at the flea market. EVERYTHING is negotiable. I went back at the end of the day when I was done perusing the furniture section and offered them $25 again and went home with my new vintage oxfords!

I also scored a great summer skirt, another army jacket, two vintage tees for the boyfriend and an entertainment table for our spare bedroom. I don't always come home with this much stuff. There are times when I come home with just a shirt and sometimes even empty handed, but I never come home a sad girl. I love walking around and just observing all the different people, chatting with different friends that join me, running into people, and even "window" shopping. It is so therapeutic for me.
Flea marketing is definitely a skill though and lucky for me I have had great teachers. It's funny to think back and remember how overwhelmed I was on my first trip. I got so disappointed when I didn't find anything. Now I embrace the abundance and love the experience (even if I come home empty handed).

10 May, 2010

Eat: Dinah's Fried Chicken

I look forward to the second Sunday of every month all month long. It is like a monthly holiday for me. It is the perfect day for two reasons: 1. the Rose Bowl flea market and 2. going to a new delicious restaurant with my foodie guru. Yesterday we veered from our usual brunch and went for fried chicken. Now, I am not a huge fried chicken fan. The grease freaks me out and there is no hiding that it in no way is it good for you, but I figured I'd branch out and give it a whirl. When the guru tells you it's amazing, you don't ask questions you just go. And so we went to Dinah's Chicken in Glendale. It is a little restaurant that probably seats 25 at most. It is very old school as you can tell by the sign above. They do a lot of take out and from what the guru says, the line can be wrapped around the restaurant.

We had no problem getting a seat and so we ordered fried chicken of course. I decided to go with mashed potatoes and macaroni salad for my sides. You get a roll as well that you spread their homemade apple butter over. The chicken batter was so flavorful and perfectly seasoned. I will say that it was better than any fried chicken I had when I was in the South. The sides were good (definitely not great), but the chicken was well worth it. My chicken was perfectly fried and so crispy. When all the meat was gone I was just picking at the skin.

The service was great and our server friendly. The decor of the small restaurant was country and warm. One would easily be able to spot that they have kept much of the original look. There was a small pie fridge on display filled with fruit and cream pies that are made in house. Dinah's reminded me of being young and going to old diners with my Mom. If ever you are craving fried chicken and don't mind the adventure, I recommend giving Dinah's Chicken a go. It is well worth it.

(My server didn't understand why I wanted to take a picture of the chicken bucket. She laughed at me actually. I just had to capture that Dinah's still has it's original charm somehow).

06 May, 2010

Bake: Oreo Cheesecake

I've been taking all of the leftover goodies to work with me lately and letting everyone else enjoy them so they don't tempt me at home. Because of this the pressure is on and I get requests for specifics. This week the request was for Oreo Cheesecake. I used to make cheesecake all the time because it was my favorite. Now I can't eat dairy, so it's only made around the holidays or when someone requests it because the temptation is too much for me. That being said, today I made my first oreo cheesecake and I am hoping it turns out well. The only bad thing about me making cheesecake is that I can't taste it anymore to see what is lacking or what is too much and so I don't get the chance to perfect the recipe and have to rely on others. The hardest part of making this cheesecake is the oreo cookie crust cause I had to crush them enough to make an even crust. Oreos are a lot harder to crush than one would think.

Here is the recipe I followed:


1 1/2 cup Oreo cookie crumbs (about 25 Oreo cookies finely chopped)
2 tablespoon melted butter
9″ spring form pan (buttered on bottom and sides)

Mix melted butter with Oreo crumbs and press in the bottom of the spring pan and 1 1/2″ up the sides, set aside.


1 1/2 pound cream cheese
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup flour
8 ounces sour cream
5 Oreo cookies (coarsely chopped for the batter)
10 coarsely chopped Oreo cookies for the topping

All Ingredients must be at room temperature before beginning. Beat cream cheese with a mixer on low until fluffy. Slowly add sugar and continue beating cream cheese until mixed well. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat until blended. Measure the vanilla, salt and flour, pour into cream cheese and egg mixture and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat. Stir in the coarsely chopped oreo cookies with a spoon. Pour cream cheese into the spring pan and place the nine coarsely chopped Oreo Cookies on to of the cream mixture. Place pan on the top rack and in the middle of a preheated oven at 325 degrees F and bake for one hour and 15 minutes. After that time, keep oven door open and let the cheese cake stay in the oven for one hour. Remove from oven and let cool enough to place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Since I cannot eat dairy, I took this to work and everybody absolutely loved it and now the requests for different goodies are coming in. Enjoy!

04 May, 2010

Shop: Flirty Floral Summer Dresses

Summer is quickly approaching and it is time to pull out all my lightweight dresses and shop for new additions. I am really loving all of the floral prints that are in stores right now. I am not big into patterns, but I feel that floral prints are so versatile and you can either dress them up or down and wear them day or night no matter the cut. I am also loving the floral patterns because they put a girlie touch on my current style mood that consists of flannels, army jackets, army boots, and oxford flats and heels. Pairing shoes with these dresses will be easy because you could wear anything from Tom's, simple sandals, wooden heels, oxfords, platforms and even army boots. Here are some that I want in my closet:

Kissaria Ruffled Dress $118

Yumi Kim Camila Dress $182

Mcginn 'Adriana' One Shoulder Chiffon Dress $270

Dolce Vita Hope Dress $176

Eat: Langer's Deli

I went and met my food guru yesterday for lunch downtown. He had been telling me about Langer's for the longest time, but for some reason we just never made it there until yesterday. Langer's is a Los Angeles landmark and has been around since 1947. On their website they claim "the world's best pastrami" and so of course I had to order the famous # 19.

It was so full of flavor from top to bottom. The pastrami was tender and mouthwatering, the coleslaw was ideally dressed and crunchy and the rye bread had the perfect thickness and the flavor matched the rest of the sandwich. It was definitely the best pastrami I have ever had.

The restaurant itself still has it's original charm. It has counter seating and of course had a wait. The booths are the same as they were when it opened and the waitresses are adorable older women who, I would guess, have been there for a while. If you haven't been to Langer's yet or on your next trip to LA, this landmark is a must. I promise it will not disappoint.

03 May, 2010

Bake: Key Lime Pie

Friday night I had my best friend and her fiance' over for dinner. I made soda chicken and some other delectable side dishes. For dessert I baked a Key Lime pie. A bit of back story... I used to spend quite a bit of time in the Florida Keys a couple of years ago. Every time I was there I'd always be on the search for the best key lime pie. I'd always find tasty ones, but it wasn't until one Thanksgiving I spent there that I decided to give it a whirl and see if I could bake a better one. To my delight the recipe I found was absolutely delicious and the best key lime pie I have had to date. Since it is Spring I decided to dust off the old recipe and bake it again. My boyfriend says that it's the best thing I have baked to date and my best friend's fiance' had a second helping. It is easy to make, so even the beginning bakers can make a perfect key lime pie. You can find the original recipe here, but I added a couple of ingredients to the whip cream topping.

For crust
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key lime juice (if using bottled, preferably Manhattan brand)

For topping
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
2 tbsp confectioners sugar

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate.
Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie:
Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).
Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 15 minutes.

Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Make topping:
Just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream.