Saturday, February 28, 2009

//Saturday Morning Wake Up Call


The cornucopia of carbs served during last night's dessertfast left me wanting to make some kind of palette refresher meal for breakfast. Blood oranges are nearing the height of their season right now, while Cameo Apples are becoming more difficult to find now that spring is almost here. Moro variety blood oranges (featured above) are sweet, but I find their berry-tart undertones make up the bulk of their flavor. Cameo Apples have a delicious crisp texture, and are my favorite of the pomaceous varieties. Mixing these two fruits together with a small amount sharp cheese (e.g. Stilton cheese with cherries, Parmesan, or even goat) is a great way to revitalize and wake up your taste buds after eating some serious sweets the night before.



Friday, February 27, 2009

//Sliders, Three Ways

Left to right: An updated take on the traditional shrimp po boy, blackened cod, and a curry burger.

I'm telecommuting today. Translation: An opportunity to use my lunch hour to fix me a proper meal. On Monday I happened to stop by Williams-Sonoma for quick looksie following work, and ended up flipping through their New Flavors for Appetizers cookbook. Inside there was a recipe for sliders (admittedly I don't remember it), and that got me thinking I could very easily make my own. The idea stayed with me and eventually morphed into a craving.

Coming up with the recipes involved taking a quick inventory of what I already owned, thinking for 10 minutes, and then hitting up the grocery store last night to get the additional victuals needed. I knew ahead of time that I was only going to have an hour to cook, broil, chop, and assemble, so I did a hefty amount of prep work late Thursday evening. Speaking of time: I can't post the recipes right now, but I will later! Until then, here's a quick-and-dirty rundown of what's in between the buns.

Updated shrimp po boy: Chinese five spice dusted shrimp over roasted red peppers with a ginger-cilantro-Serrano chile aioli.

Blackened cod: Blackened cod with homemade black bean hummus and broiled bananas.

Curry burger: A patty mixed with curry powder, served over pearl onions and topped off with blue goat cheese (available at Bristol Farms) and orange marmalade.



I had just enough time left to take a bite out of each one, and then I had to get back to work!

//Green Tea Tiramisu, Take Two


This is an adaptation of a recipe from House of Annie. I originally made it a while back for a few friends who work at Touché. The staff at the restaurant said that they really enjoyed the dessert, and it just so happens that I really enjoyed making it. Now a couple of friends are throwing a small party this evening, so I thought I'd go ahead and bring green tea tiramisu as a sweets offering. Plus, I recently aquired a trifle bowl for $10 from Bed, Bath and Beyond and wanted an excuse to use it.

My adaptation is as follows:

* I added 1/2 cup melted white chocolate and 1 teaspoon caradamom during the first phase of the process.
* For the cooled green tea, I brewed two bags of Tazo ginger-pear green tea.
* The first time I made the tiramisu, I used lady fingers. This time, however, I used 3 boxes of mini-donuts (halved) because the grocery store nearest to me wasn't selling the right kind of puff wafers.
* The teapot streaming green tea into the tiramisu in the above photo is totally edible. I melted white melting chips (not the same thing as white chocolate!) in a plastic ziploc bag, snipped off the tip, and drew a teapot onto wax paper. I then laid the paper in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up. To paint it, I mixed food coloring with a scant amount of powdered sugar.




//For our sweeties


Cause sometimes you run out of cookies and you don't have time to go through the process of creaming butter.

Should you promise to send a certain someone a batch of s'mores cookies, and then discover shortly thereafter that you were low or out of of them altogether, these bars make a nice alternative. And they're a lot easier to make. Now I know you're going to take one look at the ingredients and go "But Lindsay, these bars have all the ingredients necessary to make more s'mores cookies!" Right; I know this. I also know what it's like to experience baking-related trauma. Sweeties were a snap to make; and since everything was mixed in the pan, cleaning up was eaaaaaasssy.


* 1 stick butter (or non-dairy alternative), melted
* 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
* 3/4 cup molasses or sweetened condensed milk
* 10 ounces of chocolate chips (white, dark or milk)
* 1/3 cup shredded coconut
* 2 cups marshmallows
* 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350°

In a 9 x 13 baking dish, spread the butter or non-dairy alternative over the bottom of the pan, turning it to coat. Press the 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs into the base; drizzle the molasses or sweetened condensed milk over the crumbs. Sprinkle the chocolate chips, followed by the coconut. Stack the marshmallows over that layer, and then add a liberal amount of chopped pecans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Set on a rack to cool and then cut into squares.

P.S. To the aforementioned certain someone: Don't worry — there were plenty of snickerdoodle cookies leftover.




Wednesday, February 25, 2009

//Muffin Day


Oh, hi! So glad you've stopped by. The weatherman reported that the city was going to get an additional 6 inches of rain over the next 10 days, so I thought it'd be best if I got started on my early spring gardening before the skies changed.




Muffins From the Garden

I used the standard chocolate chip muffin recipe available at Joy of

Additional notes: Because the muffins were baked in clay pots, the total cooking time was closer to 40 minutes. I also substituted yogurt for buttermilk because that's what I had in the fridge. Lining the pots with wax paper made pulling them out a cinch!

For the "Greens" I pureed 3 passion fruits with 1 block cream cheese, 1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, and 1/4 cup honey. Once the muffins cooled, I scooped out their innards and piped in the filling.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

//A plate of many cookies

Left to right: peanut butter and jelly, s'mores (success!) and snickerdoodle.

The recipe card said that the best cookies are the homestyle, feel good, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind that your mother used to make, and it was right.

Last night I made 7 dozen cookies, which might explain why the cow looks nonplussed.

I think she wants to know how I plan on dunking all those cookies when we're almost out of almond milk. What the heifer does not know is that I've got a list people I want to send mini-care packages to. Net number of cookies leftover for Lindsay = 10. No need to worry about the quantity of almond milk in the house.

Snickerdoodle Cookies

For Cookies
* 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Coating
* 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.

Shape the dough into 1 inch round balls. In a large shallow bowl mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Roll the balls of dough in the cinnamon sugar and place on the prepared pan, spacing about 2 inches apart. Then, using the bottom of a glass, gently flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch thick. Bake the cookies for about 8 - 10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown around the edges.

S'mores Sandwich Cookies

Follow the Snickerdoodle Cookie instructions, but substitute roughly half of the flour mixture with crushed graham crackers. Make sure you round 1 inch balls, and only add the marshmallows and chocolate chips after the cookies have baked, otherwise you'll end up with with a flattened, gooey, unappetizing mess.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

For Cookies
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
* 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
* 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
* 2 large egg
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For Coating
* 1/3 cup granulated sugar
* 3 tablespoons grape jelly

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. In another bowl whisk together peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar until smooth and whisk in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, stirring until blended.

Roll pieces of dough into 1-inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. On a large baking sheet arrange balls 2 inches apart and bake in middle of oven 10 minutes. Working quickly, with the back of a 1/4-teaspoon measuring spoon make an indentation about 1/2 inch in diameter in center of each cookie. Fill each indentation with slightly heaping 1/4 teaspoon jelly and bake cookies 10 minutes more, or until golden. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.


A picture worth a thousand noms. The snickerdoodles in particular are cookies par excellence: perfectly round, not too thick, bite-sized, airy, firm but moist... I could go on.



I need to get these mailed ASAP! There won't be any left to be sent if I keep this bag around.

//Monday... why did it have to be Monday?

Just when I started to like it, something happened on Monday that caused me to loathe it all over again.

° It really began when I forgot to add coffee to Darth Maker, a variation on a theme of never ending java-related goofs in my life.
Yesterday was one of those rare days when I actually needed caffeine to keep my eyelids open, as opposed to my normal reason for drinking caffeinated beverages (that being I'm an addict who refuses to suffer through withdrawal symptoms). Had this been one of those days, I would have merely started the coffee making process over. No biggie. But an ongoing project at work necessitated that I go into the office early on Monday, which meant getting up earlier as well; or in my case, staying concealed in the warm, womb-like comfort of my bed for the longest possible time. The consequence of this decision is that I hurried through my normal routine, which likely caused the java goof, and also meant that I didn't discover that my to-go coffee cup was filled within nothing but hot water until I was only 5 minutes from work. So not only was I coffee-less, I was also, for lack of a better term, a zombie until I hit up the nearby Starbucks. All this and it was Monday.

° Then before 1:00 P.M., the Dow dropped to levels not seen since 1997.
It appears that the stock market always dips while I'm in the office... how interesting. Could it be that my working is causing the current economic crisis?!? Clearly the only way for me to prove whether this correlation is positive or negative is for me to go on vacation. Possibly to Hawaii. It's for the good of the country. I'm just looking out for everyone. Really, I promise.

° News that several hundred more people were going to lose their jobs at various companies around the city made for a sobering afternoon.

° The combined frustration from the many little glitches, oopses and oh noes that occurred earlier in the day made me want to bake. While scarfing down a Power Bar during my brief lunch break, I came up with a new take on s'mores cookies that looked good on paper. Fast forward several hours: It was bold, brilliant... and a complete mess!

Given the choice between repeating a process that's been practiced several times over, or trying a new method just once to see if you can improve upon an old idea, I would choose the latter (ain't it obvious?). Of course, context is important here. I wasn't trying to revolutionize the way we perform bypass surgery; I was baking on a whim. I wanted to make s'mores cookies, but the complex process I created resulted in fewer cookies and more goop. Sometimes my futzer tendencies pay off, and sometimes they don't. (I can already hear my boyfriend saying "Mmmm hmmm.") So I cleaned up and reminded myself that if the above results were the norm and not the exception, I probably would have chosen a different hobby a long time ago.

Pity party over.


Monday was by no means craptacular, but it was off just enough to necessitate some correction. By which I mean, some self-care was called for. Having gone through a graduate program in psychology and completed a 2 year clinical practicum, self-care and I are no strangers: It's lectured about in addition to, alongside with, and sometimes more often than a lot of the topics that get brought up in class. In fact, not practicing adequate self-care as a therapist is considered to be unethical in some circles. Understandably so, as a therapist can't be a very effective listener if they themselves are coming apart at the seams.

But mental health practitioners aren't the only individuals who need to honor themselves; we all do. No matter the profession, it's important to have designated "me time" on occasion. When I was an art history major in undergrad, I managed to let an entire semester slip by before it dawned on me that I hadn't rewarded myself for taking on as much as I had, academic-wise, work-wise, and overall life-wise. The was the day when Muffin Day was born. From then on I promised to treat myself better and indulge every so often.

So what do I do when I need a time out? Oh, any number of things. I try not to have an established routine when it comes to self-care, because then it starts to feel more methodical and planned, like a chore almost, instead of spontaneous and fun. As we all continue to have suboptimal days, and as we all continue to try and muddle through them, I hope you'll care for yourself when you need to the most. Detailed below are the easiest ways I'm able perk myself up.

° I might go run 6 miles. I'm a recovering asthmatic who's been running long distances for 4 years now. Nothing brightens my spirits faster than remembering the days when I could scarcely run at all and then comparing those memories to today.

° I might write a letter to my Gama so she can know about my most recent shenanigans. Long letters, short letters. Half the fun is picking out the card stock.

° Sometimes it's necessary to put down the spatula, turn off the oven, and let someone else do the cooking for you. It may not be Masu Sushi, but Kabuki does sell unagi and tuna bacon (a.k.a. toro). And really, you can't help but smile when you say "unagi!" really quickly.

° I might surround myself with beautiful things (loved ones, friends, art, scenery). This is Tim the basil plant, and I acquired him on Sunday.

° In all likelihood, I will put on one of the 300 CDs in my possession and either relax, or dance around in my living room.

° And yes, sometimes baking is more about self-care than it is experimentation. Last night, however, was not. Nope. Definitely not self-care.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

//On cooking

I didn't become a decent baker until after I designated all Wednesdays as Muffin Days; that was just 3 years ago. In actuality, my culinary talents lie in cooking. A cursory glance at this blog might give you a slightly skewed view of my abilities and preferences, though. There's a good reason why it might appear that I'm just two tablespoons away from getting a cavity1, and I'll just say upfront it's not because this operation is a front for the "Illuminsweetie."

The house I live in was designed to receive lots of natural light, which does a lot to help create the startling realism in some of my photos. I don't own a copy of Photoshop, and my current digital camera is a Nikon Coolpix L18 I got on sale for $175 early last year. So if you find yourself pleased with the visuals, you can thank el sol for that. Another thing to take into account is that I tend to bake in the early mornings, or late enough at night that I don't have the energy to scarf down what I've made, which means it'll still be around to be photographed the following day.

Dinner is a different matter entirely. Sadly, the indoor lighting of this place sucks. I mean it really does. And no matter how much I futz (I'm a big futzer, just as Mr. ProNerd) with the position of the lamps or lights, or the flash settings on the cheap-o Nikon, the nighttime photos are generally of poor quality (IMO). A digital SLR camera has been on my list of Things I Want since I started to photo document my creations a number of months ago; but it'll be some time before I have one in my possession. That's the real reason why I don't post many photos from dinner. And lunch? That's usually eaten out, or in the office... except on the weekends.


Mung Bean Seafood Green Curry with Papaya

* 1 can light coconut milk
* 2-3 tbsp green coconut paste1
* 1 tsp cardamom
* 2 tbsp brown sugar
* 1/2 an onion, sliced length-wise
* 1/3 cup chicken stock
* 1 cup mung beans
* 1 cup shrimp
* 1 piece of rock cod, peppered and lightly salted
* 1/2 a papaya, sliced

Bean Prep
If you're using dry mung beans, you'll need to soak them overnight, covered, in a pool of cool water. Make sure you discard any floaters before cooking the beans. Add 2 cups water to a small saucepan and cook the beans over medium-high heat until the skins start to float off. Remove from heat.

In a separate saucepan, add the coconut milk, green curry paste, cardamom and brown sugar and simmer for 5-10 minutes.3 Add the sliced onion, 1/3 cup of chicken stock, shrimp, rock cod and papaya and continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.


Three Citrus Blackened Broccoli

* 1 tbsp sesame oil
* 10 cloves of whole garlic
* 1 head of broccoli, broken into bits
* 5 pieces of sliced ginger
* 3 tablespoons of lemon, lime and orange zest
* Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet; add the garlic after 3 minutes. When the garlic begins to "dance," add the broccoli, ginger and citrus zests. Continue to cook on high heat until the garlic begins to brown and the air becomes redolent with its fragrance. Stir the mix every so often, making sure the broccoli browns and blackens evenly.



1 Actually, I've never had one. Chock that up to years of good oral hygiene.
2 You can make your own by combining green chiles, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, garlic and salt. Thai Kitchen also sells a variety as well.
3 I like my curries on the spicy side, so 3 tablespoons of paste might be too much for some. However, the addition of the papaya not only provides a great flavor contrast, it also protects your mouth from the heat of the chiles without totally killing the rest of the curry taste.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

//Sweet Lady Marmalade


Milk-Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Marmalade Chocolate Cream

* 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
* 1/2 cup light brown sugar
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 6 ounces milk chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
* 1 tbsp vanilla extract
* 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
* 1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa mix (Godiva, again)
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 cups powdered sugar
* 1/4-1/2 cup orange marmalade

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Line 2-4 baking sheets (depending on their size – you'll likely need 4) with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with the two sugars until smooth. Add the melted milk chocolate and vanilla and continue to beat until it reaches a smooth consistency. In a separate smaller bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together until just barely incorporated. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a scant 1/4 inch thickness and then promptly refrigerate until firm, about 15-20 minutes.

Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out as many cookies as you can get, and then carefully transfer them to the baking sheets. Reroll the scraps between the same two sheets and refrigerate again for another 15 minutes. Repeat the process until all the dough has been used or you're sufficiently tired from the repetition, whichever comes first.

Bake the cookies in the lower and middle thirds of the oven for 10 minutes, until dry, but not burnt brown; make sure you shift the pans halfway through the baking. Transfer them to a rack or cutting board 5 minutes after pulling them from the oven, and let them cool complete.

To make the filling you'll want to beat the butter with the dark chocolate cocoa mix for about 3 minutes. Add the marmalade, vanilla and powdered sugar and beat at low speed until combined. Use an offset spatula or ersatz pastry ziploc bag to spread or pipe the filling over half of the cookies. Press the remaining cookies over the filled ones and serve.


Oh, the painting? Tis by me... and it was a hell of a lot easier to make that than it was to make sure the cookie dough circles came off the parchment paper without getting smushed.


All wrapped up and ready to be delivered!


//You down with OPP?


The inspiration for this little concentration of edible sunshine came from the masters at Ottolenghi, one of my favorite pâtisseries and gourmet food shops in London. I deviated from the recipe, somewhat: I added a D'Anjou pear to the mix and used a dairy-free butter substitute. I know, I know. Not using butter in a cake is sacrlicious for some, but one of the recipients of this cake can't eat dairy. The recipe below lists how much butter one ought to use, though.

Orange Pear Polenta Cake

Caramel Orange Layer
* 1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar1
* 2 tbsp water
* 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits
* 2 navel oranges
* 1 pear

* 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
* 1 cup superfine granulated sugar
* 3 large eggs
* 2 tsp orange-flower water2
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 2 cups ground almonds
* 2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta

* 1/4 cup orange marmalade
* 1 tsbp water

Make sure your rack is in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°3. Take out a 9-inch round cake pan, butter it, and line the bottom with a thin layer of parchment paper.

Bring 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbsp water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once that happens, brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush that's been soaked in cool water. Continue to let the caramel to boil, without stirring, swirling the pan every 3 minutes, until the color turns an even dark amber. Remove from heat, add the bits of butter, swirl until well incorporated, and then immediately pour the sauce into the cake pan, careful to tilt the pan to evenly coat it.

Grate the zest from the navel oranges and reserve it for the cake batter. Cut the remaining peel, pith and seeds from the fruit and arrange 1/4 inch segments in a single layer on the bottom of the cake pan. Cut the pear into thin slices and fan them in the middle of the bottom of the pan.

Beat the butter with the 1 cup remaining sugar until just combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir together the orange zest and orange-flower water, then add it to the butter-sugar-egg mixture.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer set at low speed, mix the ground almonds, polenta, and flour into the wet ingredients until just combined.

Spread the batter evenly over the oranges and pears (preferably with an offset spatula). Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean... about 1 - 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cake stand or plate, and discard the parchment.

To make the marmalade glaze, heat the jam and the 1 tbsp water in a small saucepan until melted. Strain through a sieve4 into a small cup. Brush the top of the cake with the glaze.


I candied some navel orange slices in the leftover marmalade orange peel threads, 2 tbsp of sugar, and 1/4 cup water.




1 You can make superfine sugar at home by putting regular granulated sugar in a food processor, blender, or chopper and pressing "pulse" for about 20 seconds.
2 Orange-flower water is available at most gourmet and Middle Eastern markets. The A. Monteux brand I own came from Bristol Farms.
3 I initially turned up the dial to 375°, and then down to 350° just to make sure there weren't any cool pockets in the oven.
4 No sieve? No problem. Just pop open your mesh tea strainer and pour the marmalade glaze through it. That's what I did.

Friday, February 20, 2009

//Jentacular, jentacular! Morning meals can truly be spectacular.


Question: If one eats yogurt panna cotta first thing in the morning, does that cancel out the negative effects of the dish's purported heart-damaging ingredients? My reasoning is that since it's a.) breakfast, the most important meal of the day; and b.) the main ingredient is yogurt, it can't be that bad for you. No, you say? What about if one adds homemade granola that's rich in soluble fiber from oats, chock full of heart-healthy fats from nuts, and has antiviral/antifungal properties from ginger and coconut? Maybe? Yes, please?

Regardless, yogurt panna cotta has become one of my favorite alternative breakfast meals. It is particularly rich, so I don't eat it with abandon like I might eat tomatoes right off the vine. First seen and sampled at Everett Street Bistro back in October, I credit this creative spin on the tried and true method of serving up yogurt with breaking me out of a jentacular specific rut that had been going on for six months.

In thinking about something as abstract as the concept "breakfast," various and multiple associations will come to mind. Probably the No. 1 image to pop up for most people are eggs, a favorite for old and young people alike. But you see, unlike most of the population, I am not a card-carrying member of the Egg Appreciation Club (though I do on occasion find myself longing to belong, especially during Sunday brunch, which is when I tend to feel the most left out). Really, it's the yolk of an oeuf that turn me off from omelets, ooey gooey eggs over easy that are so runny the yellows have to be sopped up with crusty bits of toasted wheat bread that's been slathered in velvety whipped butter, bright chilaquiles, and mounds of benedicts.

For the first 15 years of my life I loathed breakfast like a vegan loathes being taken to In 'N' Out by their friends during a late-night food run. Morning meals eaten out with my family were avoided at all costs for the mere reason that I couldn't just have my plate of various sides and eat them too: If I wanted ham, hash browns and toast, I had to order the meal because it was more economical, which meant getting eggs, and eating said eggs. The years of trauma I endured as a consequence of my parents' (well-meant) belief that one ought not to waste food are now behind me; the sensory memories of my drowning the eggs with ketchup, ranch dressing, A1 or maple syrup are now sufficiently repressed enough that I don't gag whenever I think about those Dark Days. Instead of stressing about whether my mother will uncover my secret plan to nonchalantly slip half-chewed scrambled eggs out through my paper napkin, and, oh god, the torture of having to then reeat the now cold, rubbery, glistening with saliva bits as punishment for my tricksiness, now I enjoy breakfast... possibly because being adult also means calling the shots on what you want to eat.

And that's pretty much been the way of things since my mid-teens. My inner chemist recognizes that yolks play a vital supporting role in the creation of many delectable dishes; still, I can't quite bring myself to eat whole eggs by themselves. I wish I could, though, because then I'd feel more in tune with the rest of the world. Until such a day comes, if ever, at least I'll have dishes like my yogurt panna cotta to see me through the mornings.

Yogurt Panna Cotta

* 2 Tbsp water
* 1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
* 2 cups whipping cream
* 1 1/4 cups yogurt (fat-free, whole milk, regular or Greek; I used fat-free)
* 1/6th of a vanilla bean pod, scraped (or 1 tsp of vanilla extract will do)
* ~ 1/3 cup sugar (I used less sugar than the standard recipe because I don't like sweet yogurt)

Put water into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let stand for 10 minutes or until gelatin softens. In a large bowl combine 1 cup cream, yogurt, and vanilla and whisk until smooth. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the remaining 1 cup of cream with sugar and bring to a simmer while stirring. Remove from heat, and add softened gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves.

Pour the hot cream mixture into the cool yogurt cream mixture and whisk until smooth. Divide the mixture among 6 ramekins, tea cups, or small bowls, pouring 1/2 cup into each. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. You can serve panna cotta right in the ramekins, or invert each ramekin onto a plate. To invert panna cotta, set the ramekins into a pan of hot water for 2 minutes. Make sure the water does not get into the ramekins. Run a knife around the edges of ramekins and invert them onto plates. Remove the ramekins.

Ginger Coconut Granola

This was my first time making granola. The taste buds reported back to me early yesterday morning that I definitely did something right. As a result, I've had to keep the Pyrex class dish containing a week's worth of mix out of sight so I don't eat it all before the weekend's through. If you don't have the time to make it, you can find good granola at the sister Aroma and Alcove Cafes in Los Angeles (it might be made by the La Brea Bakery; I'm not sure). Buster's in Pasadena also gets an enthusiastic nod of approval from moi. Besaw's serves up an amazing variety that's made in house. What I toasted on Tuesday evening is less sweet and more zingy. I also used whatever was already in my cupboard.

* 2 cups old-fashioned oats
* 3/4 cup whole almonds, halved
* 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
* 1/2 cup pecan halves
* 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, diced
* 1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon cardamom
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 300°F. Mix first 9 ingredients in large bowl. Melt butter with honey in heavy small saucepan over low heat. Pour over granola mixture and toss well. Spread out mixture on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add dates; mix to separate any clumps. Continue to bake until granola is golden brown, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes longer.