Pistachio Eclairs

For me, growing up, Valentine’s Day was something special. Not because of all the valentines I would receive from my many admirers—that goes without saying. I was pret-ty popular as a kid. I’m totally kidding. You caught me. I didn’t have any admirers, and what’s more, I’d get just the same amount of cards as any other boring Joe at school. The bare minimum. It was sad and depressing. I don’t want to talk about it. No, it was a special day because of the crafts we’d do at home. The coloring of cards and cutting of construction paper and gluing of pipe cleaners. My hearts were always cut lopsided, unlike my sisters’, but that’s okay. I think we all know which were better (mine). The youngest child can practically make a pile of crap and it would still be considered cute. The best part of the day, however, was when we’d get to decorate cookies, and then eat them, of course. Mamma would make a batch of heart-shaped sugar cookies for us. Then we’d proceed to dump globs of pink, red and white colored icing on them, and make it rain nothing but sprinkles. I’d make it rain sprinkles—in my mouth. It was awesome! Sure there would be a gigantic mess at the end of it all, not even worth the cookies that came out of it, but the memories were totally worth it. Now don’t get me wrong. Mamma, bless her soul, isn’t a baker at all. She didn’t spend hours in the kitchen making said Valentine’s Day cookies. Nope. Instead, she would take a few minutes to open up a package of store-bought dough and plop them on a baking sheet and call it a day. We never complained. I mean after all, a cookie is a cookie.

There are only a few things in life, when it  comes to food, that I really enjoy. Okay, who am I kidding? I don’t even believe that myself. There are a lot of food things in life I can’t get enough of, like Valentine’s Day cookies for instance. Also, doughnuts are definitely on the top of that can’t-get-enough list. Come to think of it, I don’t think there is a list out there where doughnuts don’t make an appearance. Freshly popped popcorn doused in a generous amount of questionable white cheddar cheese powder, add that to my “food I really enjoy” list also. Powdered popcorn cheese? Yes, please! 100% yes. I don’t even give it a second thought, yes. Of course there are more reasonable foods I absolutely go nuts for like, french fries, tater tots, hash browns (I promise you it’s not all potatoes, but really it is), potato tacos, and garlic mashed potatoes. I was a potato in my past life, remember? Dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets—you’ll forever have my heart. Croutons on an iceberg salad. Hard boiled eggs in the evening. Whipped ricotta on crusty bread with a drizzle of good olive oil. Pistachios in pretty much ANYTHING (especially ice cream). Yeah, I could go on and on but you catch my drift, I love food. Especially themed food.

I think the best part of any holiday is the themed food, snacks and desserts you can make and eat. What makes Valentine’s Day so special? Is it all the love that is going around? Sure that’s nice, but no that’s not it. Is it the fact that you can spend the day with your loved ones? Uh I don’t think so. That can happen any day of the week, if you think about it. Perhaps it’s all the heart shaped chocolate, brownies, cookies, love-inspired desserts and meals out there? Yeah that’s definitely it. Think about it, what other day of the year is it perfectly acceptable to dive, mouth first, into a heart-shaped box of chocolate and not even feel guilty about it? What other day can you pretend to make something decadent like pistachio eclairs for your “significant other,” when in reality, we all know it’s really just for you? There is no other day. This is the only chance we get. So let’s stop fighting it and do nothing but eat chocolate and candy and pistachio eclairs on this day of love. That’s what February 14th is all about, right? Well that, and chubby naked babies flying around, flinging arrows at people.

[Read more...]

Baked Blueberry Crumb Doughnuts

I was originally going to act like this recipe and post is no big deal. Yeah, blueberry baked doughnuts. So what? Oh yeah, I totally put a cinnamon crumb topping on them, doesn’t everyone? Scoff scoff. I was going to pretend to not even be excited about them, because that would be much cooler, right? The reality is, I’m not that good of an actor. Also I underestimated my love of doughnuts. I’m not even going to pretend that I don’t like those pillowy delicious treats and that this post isn’t a big deal, because it is in fact a very big deal. Monumental actually. Let’s all take a moment to ponder and comprehend the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in at the moment. The situation being that we’re all going to have to stare at these doughnuts for the next several minutes, and have to deal with the fact that they aren’t right in front of our faces. Why aren’t they right in front of our faces? Why aren’t we devouring them at this very moment? I mean, this is the stuff that dreams are made of. I’m convinced that blueberries and cinnamon are up in heaven, for sure. Just between the two of us though—you and I, don’t tell anyone else—I’m still very surprised that I was able to come up with such a delicious recipe, almost overnight. Sometimes I surprise myself, like whoa.

Right from the beginning, I knew I wanted to make another baked doughnut recipe, like the one before, if you recall (Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Doughnuts) because that one actually changed my life forever. Maybe even in ways that I could never have dreamt of. So there I was one day last week, scratching my head and pondering as hard as I could, “What should my next post be? What can I make, but really what do I feel like eating?” Then BAM it all sort of made sense to me in an instant. It came to me in a vision-like dream. It hit me hard like a bullet (slight dramatization). I knew I needed to make these doughnuts because in reality my all time favorite doughnut is the cinnamon crumb doughnut. You know the kind? The yeast variety rolled around in a cinnamon crumb topping. It’s the best. I could go for a few dozen right now actually, but that’s a whole other story. They’re delicious and completely addicting. Like wake up in the middle of the night and eat about ten of them without realizing it, addicting. Then wake up in the morning and proceed to have another ten like if your life depended on it and you were about to win a medal for it. That’s the best kind of addiction to have, in my opinion.

So a few days later I was getting ready to make a batch of baked cinnamon crumb doughnuts for you guys—but let’s be honest it was really for me—when I realized I had a pint of fresh blueberries in the fridge. The only thing on the top shelf actually, and it was almost as if someone was telling me to make blueberry doughnuts at that very instant. A sign sent from I don’t know where. Probably from me because I’m like seventy percent sure I bought those blueberries in the first place. Several hours later I was devouring the best doughnut I’ve had in a very long time. Turns out blueberries and doughnuts are meant to be together forever, and if you don’t believe me, I guess you’ll just have to find out for yourself. Be sure to let me know the moment you become addicted so that I can rub it in your face and say I told you so. I’m kidding, I wouldn’t really do that….I’d also throw in an “I Told You So” dance because that’s the way to do it.

[Read more...]

Cranberry Raspberry Pavlovas

Now that the holidays are long gone, I have no excuse but to jump back into work and start making (aka eating) a bunch of new recipes. All for you, of course, because that’s the type of person that I am. I’m willing to sacrifice everything by stuffing my face, day in and day out, just so that you can have something to look at. Something new to try out in the kitchen and something to look forward to. With the new year, comes a promise to post more because I know I’ve been slacking, somewhat. But believe me it’s all for good reasons and exciting new prospects—both in my personal and professional life. I think that this year should be all about breaking out of our comfort zones in the kitchen and trying out new recipes and techniques. Let’s stop being scared of certain dishes or ingredients and just dive into a new us. That new us being fearless cooks and bakers because this year, we’re going to be the best cooks and bakers we can be.  This year, we’re going to wow our friends, family and loved ones with dishes that aren’t only delicious but look incredible as well. This year, is going to be a great year because we’re going to make it a great year.

It was difficult for me to think of the first post for the new year. Well, if I’m being completely honest, it was hard for me to jump back into work altogether. My brain was still on holiday mode and the yearning to continue doing nothing at all. Bowling, museums, movies, drives through the coast for Friday morning hikes, spontaneous homemade meals and lounging around on the couch watching movies with that special someone, makes it somewhat difficult to want to do anything else. Am I right, ladies and gentlemen? It wasn’t until I actually got back to working that I realized how much I missed it. “Welcome back, Jonathan,” I told myself. To which, I of course responded, “Thank you! It’s good to be back.”Sometimes I have conversations with myself because I’m weird like that, but we’ve already established that, haven’t we? Don’t judge.

Anyhow, enough about that. So here we are, the first post of January 2014. A dessert post at that, because I know how much you all love dessert posts. I wanted to share one of my favorite desserts with you but with a winter twist because although it might not seem like it’s winter here in Los Angeles (80+ degrees and all), I know for a fact that it feels like winter has taken over all around the midwest and east coast. It’s not a winter dessert in that it’s warm and comforting but more so about the ingredients we’re using. If you’ve ever had a fear of separating eggs and whipping the whites to make meringue, well then you’re in luck because this recipe is all about that. Let’s take a step towards that 2014 resolution we were talking about earlier. It’s time to get over that fear and conquer it like no one’s business. Like we’ve been conquering fears all our lives, and to a certain degree I guess we have been. We do it every day, even when we don’t think we are. It’s the way of life. Just like it’s the way of life for me to eat a dozen pavlovas and not feel any guilt whatsoever. Come on, let’s make some pavlovas together and then we’ll eat them all because that’s the way life wants it to be.

[Read more...]

Gingerbread Cookies

When I was a kid all I really wanted to do was eat gingerbread cookies. Like all the time. Gingerbread cookies, night and day. It wasn’t because I loved gingerbread cookies so much that I just had to have them. The truth was, I just wanted to bite their heads off. And then eat them. But definitely not in the weird way that it sounded just now. Sometimes I’d go easy on them (I was a reasonable kid) and start with an arm, or a leg and then work my way up. Okay, that does sound weird, now that I think about it, but come on, I was a kid. You can’t blame me. What child doesn’t get pleasure out of torturing cookies by eating them, limb by limb? I think that’s totally normal, right? Doesn’t everyone do that? Nothing screams “Happy Holidays” like a cookie massacre, and by massacre I of course mean feast. A cookie free for all. A buffet of cookies. A never-ending supply of cookies. I envied Santa Claus (maybe because of his red suit) but it was mostly because of the fact that he got to eat cookies and drink milk all night long. ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Talk about a dream job. Professional cookie eater sounds like the kind of thing I would be great at. I can eat cookies for a living. I would’t mind. I’d do it like my life depended on it, and as if every cookie I ate, saved a life. I’d save a million lives, in that case. It would be a tough job, but one I would hesitantly excel at, you know, for the good of the people. I’m saving lives after all.

It’s fun sometimes to just forget about everything and decorate some cookies. Especially during the holidays. There’s something about gathering everyone together in the kitchen and getting all those creative juices flowing. The holidays can be so stressful at times, brought on by the pressure of fighting the crowds and purchasing gifts, but if you really think about it, it isn’t about the gifts but rather the good times and the memories you create with those you love. Those are the things we carry with us throughout our lives. Material items come and go, but memories, those will last a lifetime. No assembly or batteries required. Just the willingness to have fun. It doesn’t even matter how old you are, you can still have a good time at any moment of your life. I mean, I’m a quarter of a century and I still get a kick out of biting the heads off of gingerbread men. Some things never change. Especially my love for gingerbread. That will always be there.

As a child, I often wondered if Santa Claus had a favorite cookie. It would keep me up at night. “What if he doesn’t like sugar cookies?” I would ask my mom, (which were the ones we always left for him). I felt bad, as a kid, for forcing him to eat just the one type of cookie, year after year. What if the man loved gingerbread and I had no idea? Of course it was impossible to leave a variety for him because my mom wasn’t much of a baker, and the cookies we left Mr. Claus were from out of a tube. It wasn’t until I was older when I saw the red markings left behind on the glass of milk and the leftover cookie pieces one year and I thought to myself, “Santa Claus wears lipstick?!” Who am I to judge? Whatever floats your boat Santa. Whatever floats your boat. Of course it was then that I realized it didn’t matter what cookies we left behind because my mom (aka the best Santa in the world) was just like me. We don’t discriminate against a cookie. We welcome each and every one of them. I’ll never say no to a spicy gingerbread cookie that’s for sure, and something tell me, Santa wouldn’t either.

[Read more...]

Lemon Raspberry Plum Galettes

I’m going to paint you a picture here, so let’s visualize together. I want you to pretend for a second that this post has no butter or sugar in it. Take those two ingredients away, and we’re left with nothing but fruit. Healthy, unadulterated fruit. Well, if we’re getting technical, we’d also be left with flour, salt, a few almonds and some ice water, but that’s neither here nor there. That’s if we’re getting technical, which we’re not. So we’re just left with fruit. Delicious, guilt-free fruit. That isn’t so bad right? The point is that this is a healthy post. Or as healthy as it’ll get around this here parts. This isn’t a rich dessert by any means. It’s not too sweet, heavy or decadent, which is the kind of desserts my mamma loves. She tells me all the time, “Jon I really like this. It’s not super sweet, heavy or decadent, which you know I love.” Yeah I know that (because she tells me all the time) and because I don’t really like sweet desserts myself. She must get that from me. She also tells me, every time she eats anything I make, “This is why you’re my favorite son!” I have to remind her that I’m her only son, so it totally doesn’t count. I guess what I’m getting at is that you should take advantage of this sort of healthy-ish dessert while you can. They don’t come by too often but when they do, they look something like this. And if they don’t, they should.

Now I’m no fool. I’m not saying that this recipe is so healthy it will cleanse you and make you lose weight. No dessert has that sort of magical power, or else I don’t think it would be considered a dessert at that point. Don’t go around telling people that Jonathan created a healthy weight-loss dessert. Although how cool would that be? Don’t get me wrong, this is still a treat because of the butter and sugar and flour all up in it. But when you look at it in perspective to other things in life, like cookies and cakes and doughnuts and ice cream. Well this here galette is a diet drink compared to all that. So I reiterate my statement from earlier, this is a healthy dessert. I strongly believe that everything should be eaten in moderation. We should be able to eat what we want, when we want. Granted, just as long as we can control ourselves. It shouldn’t matter whether something is too rich or decadent. Don’t go into it asking, how many calories is in this? Go into it with the mindset that that you’ll enjoy just one or two small pieces and not feel guilty about it. Life is worth enjoying every now and then with a few guilty treats. When you deprive yourself from something, that’s when you want to eat it all and all at once. So if you have a small sliver of something rich and decadent that you love every now and then, you’ll learn how to have self-control because you won’t want as often. Food is too good to have a bad relationship with. We already overthink and worry too much about so many other parts of our life, like dating. Food shouldn’t be an added stress to your life on top of everything else. So that’s my two cents on the entire matter. I know you were just dying to read about it. I’ll get off my soapbox now. Arms raised in the air; union union UNION! Oh wrong demonstration.

The other day I was sitting around thinking to myself, “Self, you really need to have more fruit desserts on your blog. I’m sure people would enjoy it. Give them some variety.” So I decided to listen to myself. I’m very smart, what can I say? I took a step back from all the chocolate and peanut butter and frosting and cookies and cake, as of late, and came up with this not-too-sweet-not-too-rich-not-too-decadent dessert. Did you know that’s my mamma’s favorite kind?

[Read more...]

Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Doughnuts

I’ve been in a funk lately. An unexplainable funk. I was recently on a mini vacation, visiting a friend in Michigan and I had the best time ever. Of course the company I shared, definitely helped with that. Can I just take a moment to tell you how beautiful Michigan is during this time of year?! I mean seriously, it really is. It was my first time there and I was blown away by everything. It’s the type of beauty that takes your breath away. The kind you only see in movies and certainly not the type you see in Los Angeles. I mean sure LA is awesome in it’s own right. We have the beaches and sun and pretty consistent perfect weather. A few palm trees here and there. Just a few. It’s a different kind of beauty all together. I was born and raised here and I’ll forever consider this place my home, even if life takes me somewhere else. However, to experience a real autumn where there are actually colors on trees and leaves on the ground with a chilly air clinging to everything, now that’s something everyone should experience at least once in their life. How do people do it in the East Coast? I wouldn’t get any work done at all. I’d find any excuse to go outside. Anyhow, needless to say it’s been hard getting back into the groove of things. I was so sad when I had to leave, even threatened to stay. I haven’t been able to shake off the good times I had there and jump back into the mindset of doing the things I have to do. Does that happen to anyone else when you’ve come to the realization that the good times have come to an end? How do you go back to work and your daily routine when all you want to do is go apple picking, wine tasting, nature-seeing, antique shopping and cuddle up in a warm place with someone special? That’s been my dilemma lately, which is why I’ve been slacking on my work on here. I apologize. I’m back though (slowly but surely) trying to remind myself I’m not on vacation anymore and daydreaming about the possibility of going back. I snapped a few pictures here and there with my phone and those are definitely helping with my blues. I thought I’d share a few with you here. You can also see more on my instagram. Are we friends on instagram? If we’re not, we should be. What are you waiting for?

I started thinking to myself, wondering what would be the best way to get back into work. This is my 100th post after all (no big deal) and so I wanted it to be special. Or at least special to me. I began to brainstorm all of my favorite things. That wasn’t easy because when it comes to food, it’s all my favorite. In the end it sort of made sense to make this big one hundred a doughnut recipe because doughnuts are my life. I mean seriously, I can’t get enough of them. Remind me to tell you about the one year my family didn’t give me a birthday cake and instead a tower of doughnuts with candles. Best birthday ever? Yes. It’s really a short story that involved me eating them all. I also thought a doughnut recipe would be perfect to share because it was super cold in Michigan—like freezing cold although everyone there thought I was crazy all bundled up while the locals are in shorts, tees and flip flops—and doughnuts are perfect on cold days with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee or tea.

Now, I’ve already professed my love—some might call it an obsession but let’s not go there okay?—for doughnuts on this blog before. Yeah it was a good celebration in honor of my favorite snack/breakfast/dessert/treat. If you recall, that recipe involved blueberries, bourbon and basil. What?! Crazy I know, but boy oh boy were they delicious. This time around I thought I’d honor my most favoritest (totally a word) of favorite doughnuts. It’s common knowledge from anyone who knows me so well that I always make an instant jump for any and all cake doughnuts more than the yeasted ones. Not that I don’t care for yeasted doughnuts because I do, I don’t discriminate. I just happen to really love cake doughnuts. Especially the kind with the chocolate glaze and chopped nuts on top. Forgive me for a second while I drool over the thought of those. Okay, I’m done drooling. Normally those doughnuts are just plain ol’ vanilla. I wanted to switch things up a bit by making my doughnuts with a peanut butter cake base because we all know that peanut butter and chocolate were meant to be together until the end of time. Old friends that go way back. And we all now know that I need those doughnuts in my mouth.

[Read more...]