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November 15, 2017

Something about the cold weather makes me want to spend all my time in the kitchen. When the air gets chilly, all I want is to snuggle up with a good book and put yummy things in my belly. I recently found a new (old) favorite comfort food combo: grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup! And I can’t stop making it. I crave it daily and have never had so many large 28 oz cans of tomatoes in my pantry. Not only does this meal combo essentially require only six ingredients altogether, but they’re all things that keep pretty well so you can cook it up whenever it strikes your fancy.

I was inspired after thumbing through The Magnolia Journal, which encouraged readers to have simple soup gatherings. I could tell they were really trying to hammer in the message that it’s not so much about making a big fuss with lots of food, but just enjoying good company with a warm and comforting meal. Even if that meal is just a pot of soup. Comforting doesn’t have to mean fussy, and I tried to take that message in and allow myself the possibility of serving a one (!) course meal with friends over. Could I really do it? Just soup? Would people feel like it wasn’t worth the effort of coming over if it were… just soup? Hm.

I can’t really see myself doing it, but it wouldn’t be too hard to throw in a grilled cheese sandwich. And I’m pretty sure no one would be complaining if I did it the way the magazine recommended (in a different section)- literally grilling the cheese on the skillet first. Ohhh yeah. I tried it last week and just KNOWING my cheese got some of that crispy browned cheesy crust from my seasoned cast iron made me feel like I was eating something special. I also looked up an easy tomato soup recipe to go with it, and found a one of those awesome recipes that is not only easy (and essentially 3 ingredients!), but SO DELICIOUS. As one person had commented on that site,

…this is the best homemade tomato soup that I have ever had, at my age (old) I have a lot! Add to its simplicity and the reason for its winning nature, no flavor competing and muddying the pot, becomes clear. Simply delicious is pure decision. Thanks to you for this final and only recipe in my tomato soup ‘collection’.

That was the comment that made me commit to this recipe, and turns out it was so true! This soup wins because of the simplicity of the recipe- no sugar, spices, herbs or cream. This allows the tomato flavor to truly stand out! It’s delicious. I made it for my husband and left the house before he had a chance to eat. He wolfed it down and promptly texted me, “Lunch was amazing” followed by “!!”

That made my day!

So I have and will make this again and again. Who wants to come over? Sunday lunch anybody? 🙂

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November 6, 2017

Some of my favorite traditions take place in the fall: pumpkin patches, spiced cider, caramel apples, pumpkin pancakes, and pumpkin spice lattes. I’m looking forward to adding Dorie’s Chocolate Pecan Pie and the Fall Lantern Walk to that list this year! There is something warm and comforting about these traditions as the weather cools, especially since you can eat a lot of them :] YUM!

A couple years ago, I bought a donut pan, and for some reason I only ever feel like putting it to use in the autumn. I’ve made spiced cider donuts in the past, but picked up the 4-pack of canned pumpkins at Costco recently so I decided to try pumpkin donuts this time. I originally meant to keep it simple with this pumpkin doughnut recipe dipped in cinnamon sugar. I could just imagine biting into the sweet cinnamon sugar coating and the recipe seemed simple enough. When I coated my warm donuts in my own cinnamon sugar mixture, though, all I got was a very brown donut (not pretty and sugary like the photo!). I accidentally inhaled as I took my first bite and choked on cinnamon-sugar dust. Bleh. It was not an enjoyable eating experience, and I was not about to share that with friends.

Hmm… let’s do a glaze instead, I thought. What’s a good autumn glaze that would work with pumpkin? Apples… no. Maple syrup…? Yes. Maple is super autumny. Let’s do it. 

I looked up a maple glaze recipe, groaned inwardly as I poured 1.5 cups of maple syrup ($$$!) into the saucepan, and spent the early afternoon baking and glazing donuts. Thank goodness the kids were having one of those afternoons where they were playing nicely alone AND with each other… for the most part. Maybe they instinctively knew that when they gave Mommy space to bake, their kindness would later be rewarded *omnomnom*.

The donuts turned out pretty yummy and my friends seemed to like them! People kept asking where they were from and remarking that they looked and tasted professional :] Bonus points for being baked, not fried! I think we’ll do them again next year, so here’s the recipe for future me, and anyone else who might want to give these a go!

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August 28, 2017

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have a new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Coffee toffee chocolate chip cookies will always have a special place in my heart, but if I’m going to take the time to triple a cookie recipe and freeze it, it’s gonna be this one. It’s not just a passing crush; this one’s here to stay. I know this, because even though I posted my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe two years ago, something in me kept searching for The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. I was trying to satisfy a very, very specific cookie spot in my tummy: Crisp outer edges giving way to a soft inside, with gooey melty chocolate chunks and a hit of nuts for texture and balance of flavors. Not too sweet, big, chunky, and soft.

I was baking up a new chocolate chip cookie recipe almost every week for a while. Ben couldn’t understand my incessant experimenting, because I already had my favorite… right? I mean, it was official on my blog and everything. Favorite.

But I couldn’t stop.

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July 13, 2017

Bacon, brie, and basil waffle at The Waffle Window

After years of watching my friends eat their way through Portland, I got the chance to go up this past weekend with a good friend to enjoy a sunny and delicious weekend there!

Multnomah Falls. Pro tip: Get there early (by 9am) for parking, and go for the hike to the top! It’s a little over a mile and mostly uphill, but there’s a fun creek with climbable rocks to reward you at the top.

We hiked and shopped and even stopped to smell the roses (literally), but one of my favorite activities was definitely the food. Yes, eating is one of my favorite activities :]. Here are some of the tastiest places I’d love to recommend to anyone else who is thinking of planning their Portland trip around their tummy, too!

Gorgeous croissants with fun flavors at Nuvrei.

While I was gone, my parents and Ben watched the kids back at home. That’s when he discovered, through trial and error, that I made a crucial error on my recent recipe for delicious pan-fried chicken. I accidentally wrote 1/3 tablespoons cornstarch instead of 1/3 cups, which matters since there are only four ingredients! If you tried making it, PLEASE TRY IT AGAIN with the correct amount of cornstarch! It will totally change the texture, and you will love it!

Okay, back to Portland eats :D. Warning: This is going to make you hungry!

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June 21, 2017

This dish is a winner, and has been in the rotation on a near-weekly basis for the last few months. It’s tasty enough to earn such frequency, but simple enough that you don’t get tired of it. (I know, that doesn’t really make sense, but somehow it’s true). The ingredients are few and super basic, but the flavor and texture will keep you coming back to it again and again.

I was always excited for dinner when my Dad had this sizzling on the pan, and decades later, I finally gained some cooking confidence and decided to follow his very simple instructions to make it: “Mix chicken with cornstarch, salt, and soy sauce. And fry.” Wish I hadn’t waited so long. This stuff is so good.

Now, I get to see that same mouthwatering excitement on Ben’s face when he sees what I’m cooking up, “YUM. YOUR DAD’S CHICKEN.” My daughter never fails to savor it, “Mmm, Mama, I LIKE this dinner!” And the cherry on top? IT’S SUPER DUPER EASY TO MAKE. And last-minute friendly, which is part of the reason why I make it so often.

You simply marinate chicken thighs in a mixture of salt, cornstarch, and soy sauce.

Heat up and oil your pan, fry it for a few minutes on both sides, and serve with a couple lemon wedges. We use kitchen shears to cut it into strips and eat it with rice and a side of veggies. Yum yum, it’s easy peasy and scrumptious comfort food everyone will love!

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June 9, 2017

We love salmon. A lot.

We like it raw. Baked. Pan-fried. Poached. Pretty much any way you can imagine! The other night, as we dinnered over mirin glazed salmon and napa cabbage, I remarked to Ben, “You know, I think I’m always going to cook skinless salmon fillets this way.”

“Really? I really like your panko-crusted salmon, though!” he said, afraid I was nixing one of his favorite dishes.

“Me too! But it’s a totally different flavor and feel- and you have to have salmon skin on for that one to really shine. So if I have skin-on salmon fillets, I think I’ll keep making it that way. But if it’s skinless, like these, then I think something delicate like this Mirin glaze is the way to go. And if it’s salmon steaks, then I like it best cooked with lemon and garlic the way you do it.”

Ben makes the best lemon and garlic salmon steaks. (Recipe below.)

Ben: “That’s an interesting point. Different ways to cook salmon depending on the cut. You should blog about that.”

Me: “Okay.”

So here ya go! Three of our favorite ways to enjoy salmon, depending on what cut you get: fillets with skin, fillets without skin, and salmon steaks! Yum! Feast on, friends.

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May 25, 2017

Is it just me, or are the measuring lines in the Instant Pot off for liquid measurements? Here’s what happened. A couple months ago, I shared this recipe with an exciting tip for making Chinese rice porridge, known as “jook” or congee, here on my blog. My good friend and faithful recipe tester Wendy tried it right away… and it didn’t work. That was very strange, because she is known for her amazing turkey congee, so it was definitely unsettling to learn that not only was it not better, but it was worse.

She said the problem was that her congee was really soupy. The rice and the liquid were just not coming together and it was definitely not the thicker consistency we know and love. She tried cooking it longer. And longer. And longer. I checked if she used a different grain of rice (but should it matter?), or if she had really frozen the wet rice long enough (but again, she made it fine before- why was it WORSE now?!), or maybe she didn’t set her Instant Pot correctly?

It was none of those. A while later, I made my jook again, and as I measured out my seven cups of chicken stock, I noticed something odd. The liquid was not measuring correctly on my pot. Wait. Was that just me? Did I just do a sloppy measuring job? I did it again, and sure enough, my seven cups always seemed to fall short of the Instant Pot’s measurement of seven cups.

If you’re wondering, I usually use the Oxo Good Grips 2-Cup Angled Measuring Cup:

Now, you might be thinking, “Okay okay, I see your point, the Instant Pot is off by a little bit for liquid measuring. But it’s not that big of a deal, right?”

Actually it can be, especially if you are pulling your hair out trying to figure out why your congee is so SOUPY and not thick and PORRIDGEY. Congee is supposed to be an easy and comforting food, and spending all evening trying to figure out why you are failing at what is supposedly one of the easiest recipes in Chinese cuisine is far from comforting.

So I just went and filled up my Instant Pot with water up to the “8 cup” line, measuring out two cups at a time. Guess how many liquid measuring cups I actually had to put in to get it to the IP’s 8 cup line? 11.5 CUPS!! I was so surprised by this that I poured the water back out, two cups at a time, to make sure that was really the case. It was. That 3.5 cups is significant- almost 150% the amount you’re supposed to be adding! No wonder the congee was coming out soupy!

I shared my findings with Wendy, and soon after she tried making congee again- using a liquid measuring cup this time instead of the lines in the Instant Pot, and she said it worked! WOOHOO!

So what do you think? Is it just me, or are the lines off for liquid measurements? Well, if you have also been frustrated with soupy congee in your IP, try measuring your liquids with a measuring cup next time and let me know if you have more success!

May 4, 2017

I’ve always thought of bread as a labor intensive process, or at least a time consuming one. I remember early attempts of bread making that involved creating warm spaces, punching dough, kneading, and a lot of setting timers… only to be met with a lot of, “Meh, I can get a much better loaf for a lot less effort at the bakery.”

So I decided to leave the crusty bread loaves to the experts. I would stick to cookies and brownies in my bakery.

Then my friend Sandley shared an exciting find on her blog: Jim Lahey’s no-knead dough. As convincing as her bread story was, it was the photos that did me in. That, and this line: This bread has a wonderful crusty exterior, soft air-punctuated interior, and looks amazing.

Well, then.

Last year, she moved away (sniffles!) and left me with the rest of her instant yeast. There was a lot, so I decided to give the recipe a go, and I haven’t looked back since. Actually, I have looked back a lot. I have looked back at her blog and the recipe many times and decided it’s time to get this well-loved recipe onto MY blog for ease of use (and to share with all of you!). It is now a staple at our dinner table and is perfect for sopping up sauces or enjoying alongside a carby pasta dinner.

Some other things this recipe has going for it:

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March 28, 2017

I love croissants. I love chocolate croissants, I love almond croissants and I love chocolate-almond croissants. I love butter croissants, I love kouign amanns (which are made from the same laminated dough as croissants) and I love coffee and tea twice as much when it is paired with a good croissant. When the day is feeling long and I need a pick me up, one of my go-to treats is a fresh baked croissant from a local bakery. Something about those flaky, buttery layers just brings a smile to my face, my tummy, and yes- my heart.

Croissants might be one of my love languages (or maybe just one of my favorite gifts/acts of service to receive :)). When my friends go to Napa (Bouchon!) or SF (B. Patisserie!) or Marin (M.H. Bread and Butter!) and text if I want anything, I drop EVERYTHING to quickly text back as I try to remind myself that it’s probably rude to ask for a dozen croissants. Seriously. I’ll be like, “OOH BEN! JOYCE IS GOING TO BOUCHON TODAY-” and he knows that means I will be oblivious to the world around me for the next minute as I scurry to text back my request.

And when the yumminess is in my hands, I melt a little (a lot) and feel so so loved. THANKS GUYS. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. My suppliers <3. Sigh.

The original recipe with powdered sugar and almonds sprinkled on top.

Almost a year ago, my fellow croissant-loving friend Tiffany sent me a recipe to make almond croissants at home. I was a little skeptical of the recipe at first, but when I finally gave it a go a month ago, I was blown away! It was SO GOOD! WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO TRY IT?! I have since made them again and again, a dozen at a time, and found a delicious recipe that I know I will be looking up a lot in the future. So it definitely belongs here on my blog!

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March 1, 2017

In the beginning…

It all started at Alinna’s house. She inspires me to try new things a lot, like CSAs, hosting friends more frequently for dinners, baking bread, co-op preschools, and Dorie Greenspan. This visit was no exception. They had us over for dinner, and on the menu: grilled pizzas. By the time we left, I was determined to learn how to make artisan pizza at home, too.

When this family does food, they do food, and their pizza was no exception. Their sourdough pizza dough recipe came straight out of The Cheese Board Collective and I wouldn’t be surprised if they grew the kale in their own yard. I mean, they already have chickens back there.

Ben liked the pizza so much I decided I was gonna learn how to do it. Pizza nights were gonna be a thing in our house. I would sit back and drink some wine while the pizza baked, and we would have something DELICIOUS at the end of it. So I asked Alinna my 131 questions, studied as she built her pizzas, and tried to figure out how I was going to replicate this without a grill in the backyard.

Long story short, after much research and many rounds of improving my oven version, I am ready to share my Friday Night Pizza routine with you!

It does not involve sourdough starter.

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