Monday, October 29, 2012

Baked Mango-Orange Custard

I have been skipping The Food Matters Project for a few weeks now due to some life circumstances. But now that things are winding down, I am back into this! My Food Matters Project friends, I missed you all and am looking forward to the weekly FMP post check-ins with each other.   

It is just perfect that this week’s recipe, Baked Pumpkin-Orange Custard, chosen by Sandra of Meadows Knits, is so fast and easy to make. I love how this recipe is so in season and festive too! Check out her post for the original Mark Bittman recipe.  

As much as I loved the idea of a pumpkin-orange custard, I wanted to take a break from my squash obsession these days. There’s the Butternut Squash Tikka Masala and the Kabocha, Pear, Fontina Sandwich, and a Kabocha Soup recipe coming up this week. For the rest of fall and all throughout winter, squash will be hanging out in my kitchen. So, I decided to go for some exotic and tropical custard. Something that reminds me of home, especially during these cold, dreary days… Baked Mango-Orange Custard.

The traditional custard base is usually a mixture of milk or cream and egg yolks and is cooked in a double boiler. However, this particular recipe veers from that and uses silken tofu instead of milk or cream and includes the egg yolks. Since I used more tofu than Mr. Bittman requires and also substituted mangoes for the pumpkin (which is not as creamy when pureed), the result is not the expected melt in your mouth smoothness that traditional custard lends. My custard is a little on the watery side and slightly lumpy.

In spite of the lack of silkiness that I love in traditional custards, this one is a wonderful low-fat and low sugar alternative. A trade-off that I am willing to take because of my dessert addiction. This delightful custard reminds me of a zesty flan. The orange flavor really stands out and the mangoes give it a lovely, sweet and tangy taste.    


Baked Mango-Orange Custard
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Baked Pumpkin-Orange Custard from The Food Matters Cookbook

a tad of butter to grease the baking dish
1 lb silken tofu, drained of extra liquid
1/3 cup brown sugar (the original recipe required ¾ cup)
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 ripe mangoes, seed and skin removed
¼ tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp ground allspice
a pinch of salt
2 large eggs
Place a rack in the middle slot and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a glass baking dish with butter. (Note: If you are not using a glass baking dish, reduce the heat to 350 degrees F.)  

Put the silken tofu, brown sugar, orange zest, and orange juice in a blender. Cover and blend on low for about 30 seconds until smooth. Add the mango pulp into the blender, cover and blend on low for about a minute, until the mango is pureed. Make sure the blender is OFF when you stir in the ginger, allspice, and salt. You will want to use a plastic spatula to stir these in initially, otherwise the powders will just sit on top. Remove the spatula, cover, and blend for about 20-30 seconds. Add the eggs and blend on low for about 45 seconds until everything is well mixed.

Bake for an hour. The top should turn a light, golden brown and appear to look set, but still jiggly in the middle. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack. Let the custard cool completely or refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.         

Enjoy a guilt-free treat!

P.S. Head on over to The Food Matters Project website and check out the creations that the rest of the FMP members came up with!

P.P.S To all friends in the East Coast, stay safe and take care… you are in my thoughts!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

These Days

Life is hectic these days… having a full time teaching job, a marathon of parent meetings after school, physical therapy appointments for my shoulder, squeezing in time for workouts, carving out a good 30 minutes for shoulder strengthening exercises every single night, and weekend trips to Portland to see my family, leave me with just barely enough time to cook or bake.

DFJ has been really sweet and has taken on cooking for us and doing dishes and all those other things that I just have no energy left for. So the other night, I offered to make dinner. However, he ended up doing the biggest part of the job that my broken shoulder, scrawny arms, and short height would not allow me to do… cutting open this Kabocha squash.

I had great big plans of making soup, but after we got home from the gym, I couldn’t muster up the brain power needed to come up with a good recipe. Furthermore, I did not have any patience for chopping and peeling an entire Kabocha squash into cubes. After a very small part was cut into cubes, I gave up and just proceeded to slice another small part into big Cs. The cubes went into a delicious soup that I just threw together and because it was so good, I recreated it last night (recipe share for the soup will be on the next post).

The few squash slices were tossed with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasted in the oven for a couple of minutes. They barely made it on top of this delightful open face sandwich because all I wanted to do was eat them right off the pan. Kabocha squash has a sweet flavor and is earthy and rich, reminiscent of sweet potatoes and butternut squash. The roasted slices turned slightly crispy on the bottom but remained tender on top and were so good! They reminded me of sweet potato fries.

This fall sandwich is more of an idea rather than a precise step by step recipe. I used Fontina cheese but also encourage you to try different kinds: Brie, Gruyere, goat cheese, or maybe some sharp cheddar would be good. Add some fresh herbs too, if you want, perhaps some sage or basil. It is key to use good bread... sourdough, French bread, Pugliese, whatever you pick, make sure it's good quality. Life is too short to eat crappy bread! I got these gorgeous baguettes from Ken's Artisan Bakery when I was in Portland this weekend. That bakery is just lovely!

I love the savory and sweet flavors of this sandwich. The mild and creamy melted Fontina cheese, flavorful Kabocha squash, and sweet and juicy pear slices rounded up the sandwich beautifully. This is the kind of sandwich that will make you smile and think of all the simple things that give you pleasure…      


Kabocha, Pear, Fontina Sandwich

a small section of a Kabocha squash
olive oil
pepper, freshly ground
good baguette
pear, sliced thinly
Fontina cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut a quarter off from an entire squash. Slice that section into Cs about 1/8 of an inch thick. Toss the slices with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15-18 minutes until the bottoms are slightly browned.

Cut 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices of bread. Lay the cheese and then the pear slices on top of the bread pieces and place in the oven. Bake for a few minutes, about 5 or so just until the cheese melts. Top with the roasted squash and serve warm.

Eat the sandwich in front of your favorite show and just enjoy your evening!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Food Diaries

I keep a journal for my recipe ideas. This is the special notebook that I use to write down food ideas and ingredient combinations that come up in my head at random times… while driving, running (it makes me forget that I don’t like running very much), taking a shower, right before falling asleep or in the morning, during TV time, or even during savasana.  
There are rare moments when I actually have the luxury of time to indulge in my food fancies. This is when I pull out my food journal, sit down, and write down the recipe coming to life in my head. I list the ingredients and then write down the cooking process and approximate cooking time for each ingredient. My excitement builds up and I have the urge to start cooking or baking right then or go to the store to pick up an important ingredient or two that I don’t have around. For the most part though, I try to think up recipes for food ingredients that are already in the refrigerator or pantry.
Most of the time, my food turns out great. Sometimes, my food turns out fabulous and worthy of sharing and that’s what I share in my blog. Sometimes, it turns out ok and is nothing to rave about. Sometimes, I just happen to whip something together and it turns out really good, but I didn’t take the time to write it down and those are the times when I say “Darn it, I should have written this down so I can share it on my blog.”
Over the past couple of months, I have been cooking a lot. Some recipes come from my favorite cookbooks or food blogs, and some just came together because of the need to use up all the food ingredients that I hoard. Hopefully this post will serve as an idea bank for you. Some of the combinations may sound weird, but they are really good. Cooking is chemistry… It is important to make sure that ingredients complement each other, one ingredient that does not go well with the others could ruin an entire dish. When your purpose is to showcase a particular ingredient, adding seasonings that enhance its flavor is good, but make sure that the essence of the main ingredient is not covered up with too much seasoning. The trick is to start with less, taste as you go, and then add a little bit at a time until it tastes perfect.
Let’s cook on friends…!    
Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Nectarines
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango recipe from Plenty

I have made this recipe thrice. Each time I used different proportions of the ingredients for the sauce and garnishes and substituted a couple of ingredients. What I learned was the following: this dish is really best with mangoes; use jalapenos if you’re a fan of spicy food, use the milder poblano peppers if you’re not; it is best to follow Ottolenghi’s suggested amounts for sauce ingredients; and Thai basil tastes way better than the regular basil as a garnish for this dish.
Plum Greek Yogurt Cheesecake
I wanted proof that cheesecake can still turn out good without actually using cream cheese and this recipe proved that true! I shared this with my book club members and they loved it. However, I didn’t use Jenna’s dough recipe here and regretted that decision because my own dough wasn’t so great.  
Fussili with Creamy Corn, Green Beans, and Tomatoes

This pasta dish turned out so wonderful! It was so simple too… I cut off corn kernels from the cob and stir fried it in olive oil and garlic, added fresh green beans, poured a good amount of heavy cream, and added handfuls of cherry tomatoes. Good stuff!
DFJ’s Roasted Zucchini with Bread Crumbs and Parmesan
This is one of the many uses for zucchini that I absolutely love. It is a DFJ special and is super simple and easy. First, prepare the topping, which consists of bread crumbs, freshly grated Parmesan, and maybe some brown sugar. Top this on zucchini sliced into coins, pop it into an oven preheated to 400 degrees F, and roast for 10-15 minutes. The topping should be slightly browned but not burnt. Makes for a quick and crowd-pleasing appetizer!
Summer Skillet Stir-Fry

When corn is in-season, it is so freakin’ good with anything and everything. This simple sauté of fresh corn kernels, eggplants, and bell peppers seasoned with cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper was crazy good!  
Chocolate Coated Strawberries

Uh, I don’t know why I was so late to the chocolate covered berry party??? My first time ever to make these decadent babies. Just you wait strawberries of 2013! I will be coating every inch of you with dark chocolate!
Dressed-Up Spaghetti Sauce

Prego Italian Sauce boozied up with wine and loaded with chopped eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and kale. Yes, please!
Beets with Carrot Greens on a Bed of Mashed Potatoes

Do not throw away those carrot greens, they are delicious. This is a simple stir fry of garlic, onions, beets, carrots, and carrot greens! This sweet, earthy stir-fry is even better when served on a bed of rich and creamy mashed potatoes.
Zucchini Veggie Loaves
Inspired from Susan Branch’s Stuffed Zucchini recipe from Heart of the Home

My coworker, Diana, has been giving me giant zucchinis from her garden. This was one of the ways I made use of them: turning them into veggie loaves. I just cut the giant zucchinis in half, removed the core, and chopped it up to add to the vegetable sauté. Then, I chopped up an onion, a large mushroom, a carrot, a bell pepper, tore off chunks of stale bread and sautéed them all in olive oil and garlic. After seasoning the sautéed vegetables with salt and pepper, I placed them on the zucchini boats and baked them in the oven. When they were ready, I garnished the tops with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Delicious all-in-one meal!   
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
This sauce is as simple as it can get and very good! I was so proud of myself for following Olga’s recipe as closely as I could when I realized that I missed the very first step, which was to prepare tomatoes for the sauce by boiling and then pureeing them. I ended up just boiling the tomatoes and mashing them, but the sauce still turned out wonderful. Try it and experience real Italian style tomato sauce. 
Beef Bourguignon
One Sunday afternoon, I opened my Mastering the Art of French Cooking book with full intentions of following Julia Child’s recipe for beef bourguignon. However, when I read the directions, I got more and more overwhelmed by the whole process. It just seemed too tedious! So, I searched online and came upon Jenna Weber’s take on this French dish. This recipe has a much simpler process and produced a really wonderful beef bourguignon worthy of praise! Thank you Jenna! 
Homemade Pad Thai
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Pad Thai recipe from Essentials of Asian Cooking

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to make pad thai at home. It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be! This pad thai was good but I want to make it again with less fish sauce and tamarind paste. There was a little too much of both and I found it borderline overwhelming. DFJ thought it was perfect though, but it didn’t taste quite right to me. I will have to remake this and share the recipe when I get it right.   
This post was quite a mouthful, but I hope you guys enjoyed reading it!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Butternut Squash Tikka Masala

Autumn is beautiful…

A long time ago, I read a letter from my special friend, Sally, describing the glorious beauty of leaves changing color. Looking back on that moment, I remember the deep sense of longing and despair that I felt when I thought that never in my life will I ever get the chance to see autumn leaves falling. But I was wrong. Sally made it happen for me and helped me come to America.

Now, this is my sixth year of experiencing fall and my breath still catches every time I see how beautiful everything is. The leaves changing from green to different shades of fiery yellow, orange, or red; the crunch of dried leaves on the ground; and the cold nip in the air during early mornings and evenings make my heart skip.

Fall outfits are awesome too, especially scarves! I love the warmth that these soft pieces of cloth bring around my neck. Back in the tropics, scarves rarely belonged in anyone’s wardrobe. It would be utterly ridiculous to wear scarves when it’s 80 degrees F year-round. Tucking skinny jeans into my boots is my other fall standard… boots are definitely way more comfortable than heels or even ballet flats.

This special season brings warmth to my heart. It makes me want to hide in my kitchen and dig my hands into soft dough , stare inside the oven to wait for cookies to bake, or stand in front of the oven stirring a pot of soup.

So, with all that said, I bring to you my first autumn recipe to celebrate and welcome the season… Butternut Squash Tikka Masala. The butternut squash is cooked in a hearty and creamy, Indian spiced cream and yogurt tomato sauce.

Butternut squash is top among my list of favorite fall produce. It is versatile and can be added to any dish, savory or sweet, and is just as good by itself. That is why I decided to showcase it in this dish and have it be the main star with no competition (save for the husk cherries).

Husk cherries are so awesome! I found them at the Hillsboro Farmers Market in Portland last weekend and they are a treasure. They look like little tomatoes underneath a dry husk but taste surprisingly like a tropical, slightly acidic, sweet fruit. They vaguely remind me of ripe mangoes.
So delicious and addicting. These husk cherries added sweet bursts of flavor in the Butternut Squash Tikka Masala.

The masala (spices), which consisted of garam masala, cardamom, cinnamon, chili powder, and paprika, added a depth of flavor to the dish. I love how the combination of these warm spices made for an earthy, smoky, and flavorful sauce. It also made our kitchen smell like an inviting, Indian restaurant. 

Lime, cilantro, and Thai basil play an important role in the dish as well. The lime adds a nice, zesty tang; the cilantro brings an earthy-peppery flavor; and the Thai basil gives an aromatic and sweet, herby flavor. This trio of garnishes makes the dish come together perfectly, so don’t forget them!   

Exotic and familiar at the same time, Butternut Squash Tikka Masala, is the kind of food that brings you warmth and comfort. It serves as a reminder that fall is a great season… a time to harvest, to celebrate the bounty of the year, and to share good food with loved ones gathered around.


Butternut Squash Tikka Masala (Makes 8 servings)

Masala (Spice Mixture):
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp brown sugar
cardamom seeds from 3 pods
¼ tsp cinnamon, ground
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp paprika
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 and ½ inch nub of garlic, crushed and minced
2 and ½ lbs butternut squash, chopped into ½ inch squares
masala (see mixture above)
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ tsp salt (or more to taste)
½ cup husk cherries (cherry tomatoes may be used as substitute)
1 lime, cut into wedges
fresh cilantro, leaves chopped with stems removed
fresh Thai basil

Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, sauté the garlic until it turns golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the onions and sauté until shiny and translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the ginger until fragrant, about a minute. Mix in the masala and stir for a minute.

Add the tomato paste and stir until everything is coated, about a minute. Pour in the water and stir continuously as it fast boils within a minute. Stir in the heavy cream and allow it to boil gently, just about a minute. Add the yogurt and stir for another minute.

Gently mix the chopped butternut squash into the sauce. Stir everything well until all the squash cubes are coated with the sauce. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until the squash is just tender. If it starts to boil over before the 15 minutes is up, partially open the cover.

Remove the cover after 15 minutes and season with salt. I found that ¼ teaspoon was just right, but you may add more to taste. Keep the cover off and cook for about 8 more minutes, until the sauce thickens. Be careful not to overcook because you don’t want the squash to get too soft. Toss in the husk cherries and cook for another minute or two, uncovered.

Turn off the heat and serve warm, garnished with a lime wedge, cilantro, and Thai basil.    

Best when served warm on top of hot rice!

Based on personal experience, this dish is more even more enjoyable when savored while sitting on the couch with your toes tucked under a blanket. Make it and allow yourself to feel loved and comforted!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Family Weekend and a Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe

The fulfillment of the American Dream is a goal for many Filipinos, including mine. I have many goals in life and the first step towards these goals was to get my feet in the country. The first step has been done and I am currently in step two, which is having a job. However, my work visa is expiring soon and that has to be taken care of way before the deadline for all the papers to get to USCIS and get processed. Some people may think this is an easy procedure but unfortunately, it isn’t. It takes time, money, a generous employer who is willing to sponsor, and a good lawyer who is on top of things and up to date with current immigration law. Please wish me luck you guys… I want to be able to stay here in the US for good. 

This weekend, I went to Portland to welcome my Aunt to the country. She arrived in New Jersey a month ago, got her Greencard two weeks ago, and came to Portland to check out a prospective job. My Aunt’s American dream is starting to come true, all because of my Lola (grandmother) who persisted in filing for a Greencard for all of her unmarried children. My Lola religiously followed all the immigration protocol and did everything she could to be a legal immigrant in the country and include some of her children in the process. She waited and worked on papers for years and years (maybe 10 years) to make this happen, and now her dreams for her own children are finally coming into fruition.

It was a nice family reunion. The last time I saw family from the Philippines was when I went home in 2008… forever ago. My Aunt is like an older sister to me, she moved in with us when I was in high school and we always got along well. For a long time, she has tried to come to the US but to no avail. When she finally gave up this pursuit and found happiness and content in what she had going back home, this opportunity came up and it would be a shame to pass it up. So she’s here and is all nervous, excited, scared, and unsure about things… much like I was when I first came. Her wide-eyed look and timidity reminded me of how I felt five years ago. She will be fine though… the homesickness and the newness will pass, replaced by familiarity in a newfound home, new friends, and a sense of adventure in every day experiences.

My Lola though is old. She has aged so much since the last time I saw her, moves slow, and is not up for talking much anymore. We have never really been close but she is my family and my history and I do love her. Most of the time though, I just really wonder what she thinks of me.

Because of the busy weekend, I was unable to make this week’s Food Matter’s Project recipe, Tofu Mayo and Bread-and-Nut Mayo, chosen by the lovely Sophie of Biographie de ma Faim. Please check her website for the original Mark Bittman recipe.

Even though I didn’t get to make this week’s recipe, I would like to share the Homemade Mayonnaise that I made this summer. Head on over to that post because I have great recipes for coleslaw and hotdog buns too. Homemade mayo is so wonderful and tastes a hundred times better than what you get at the store. I don’t even really like mayo, but after I made my own and realized how easy and simple it is, I was sold! When you make mayonnaise at home, it is not bad for you at all. Each ingredient is something that most of us already have and also ingest on a regular basis. Let’s do this, you guys!


Homemade Mayonnaise
Adapted from a combination of Julia Childs (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) and Mollie Katzen's (Moosewood Cookbook) Mayonnaise recipes

1 egg (please use a farm fresh egg and let the egg sit at room temperature)

2 tbsp + 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
3/4 cup olive oil

Place egg, lemon juice, salt, dry mustard, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a blender. Blend for a few seconds until everything is well combined.

Turn the blender back on and slowly pour in the rest of the olive oil. Blend for a couple of seconds until the olive oil is well incorporated and the emulsion thickens.

Scrape the mayonnaise into a container with a tight seal and refrigerate.

Hope everyone is having a great week so far!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Where We Ate in Seattle

This post is long overdue and is all about the second leg of our big trip this summer. After DFJ and I had an amazing trip at the Olympic Peninsula National Park (Part 1 and Part 2), we made our way to Seattle on a Sunday.

It was a rushed trip to get there and it seemed like fate was telling us not to go. When we were leaving the Olympic Peninsula area, we got stuck on some freeway because there was a big accident. A biker got hit by a car and I only hope that he survived the accident. After the traffic jam, we sat and waited for the ferry to Seattle for a very long time. Normally, I wouldn’t have worried but I wanted to go to Delancey so bad. They are only open from Wednesdays to Sundays and since we wanted to leave for home on Wednesday afternoon, there really was no other day to go there but that night.

Right after we got off the ferry, we called Delancey and asked them what time they close. Turns out, it was their third year anniversary and opening night of Essex (their bar). Sooo… they were closing late that night! I thanked my lucky stars! We got there smelling stinky, looking dirty, and ragged from days of camping and hiking. The hostess gave us a friendly greeting and told us that the wait time was 30 minutes. Just enough time to drive to our bed and breakfast nearby, take showers and head back to the restaurant. Whew! We both looked markedly better that the hostess made a remark and told me I looked really nice. LOL!  

Delancey’s interior is very hip: pretty basic with a family-style charm that is both modern and rustic. Everything in their small pizza selection looked promising and we settled for the Sausage Pizza (tomato sauce, mozzarella, Grana, and delicious housemade sausage) and Romana Pizza (tomato sauce, garlic, anchovies, kalamata olives, chile oil, and oregano). The topping combinations on both pizzas were very good. However, the crust didn’t impress me very much… I have had better wood-fired pizza before at Ethos (a local place in my town) and their crust is definitely better than Delancey’s. If I am in Seattle again, I would still go back to Delancey. The thing with wood-fired pizza is that they can either be good or great (never bad). Maybe ours just happened to be good and not great that night because the fire wasn’t going right. Who knows? I would definitely be up for going there again though. On another note, since they were celebrating Delancey’s third birthday that night, we got some free cake and that was pretty darn good cake!

The best part about the whole experience though was getting to meet Molly Wizenberg. She is a real person! I got the chance to shake her hand, gush about how much I love her book and recipes, told her about the email I sent her to which I got an automatic reply (I don’t know why I mentioned that to her, I totally understand how busy we all get) and to which she had a very gracious reply. Anyway, she was very pregnant (BTW, she just had her baby), adorable, nice, friendly, and totally real! Such an inspiration especially with all the things she has accomplished at such a young age.

Aside from Delancey, here are the other restaurants we visited and my thoughts on them:

Jade Garden (located at the International District) – an authentic Chinese dim-sum restaurant with fantastic and super affordable food! Expect some wait time, especially during dining hours, because the food is good and the restaurant gets busy. However, once you get a table, the food comes so fast it gets there before your bottom is seated on your chair. The food here is excellent! Everything we ordered was delicious: sweet pork buns, beef shumai, shrimp shumai, shrimp wrapped in a soft white roll, and spring rolls (this one was just ok). All this with some rice and tea for a grand total of $18.50. Can’t get any cheaper than that!


Top Pot Doughnuts (Queene Anne) – there are 5 Top Pot cafés in Seattle and the one on Queen Anne is very cute. I love the location and this particular branch’s bright and cozy atmosphere. The idea of donuts and coffee together is awesomely old school, just the way it should be! DFJ and I just had enough time to enjoy a late afternoon cup of coffee and donuts with our books and I wish the moment could have lasted longer. They were almost closing when we got there. The donuts were good and so was the coffee. It is definitely a fun place to hang out mid-day if you need some quiet time. Move to my neighborhood please?  


Ten Mercer – we happened upon this resto-bar as we were walking along Mercer Street. It is located in a hoppin’ place closer to the water. This restaurant has a lot of seating with very unique décor that is a cross between country and modern. There are wooden chairs everywhere, a wrap-around bar, and a really awesome liquor shelf, accessible only by an impressive rolling ladder. We just had drinks and I liked my Pimm’s Cup (cucumber lemon with ginger ale). This is a good place to chill for happy hour and people watch (if you’re weird like me).


How to Cook a Wolf – DFJ and I got sick of the crowd in downtown Seattle, so we went over to my favorite Seattle neighborhood, Queen Anne, to find a place to eat. There were so many choices and we had a hard time deciding until we walked by How to Cook a Wolf. The interior was very hip in a casual meets fancy kinda way: low lights, a brick bar, wooden planks on the wools, and open windows (during the summer). It is pretty small so the tables were snug, which makes the place seem cozy. The restaurant was full when we were there, the vibe was positive, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

They have a small menu that changes quite often since they serve lots of fresh stuff and ingredients that are in season. My kind of restaurant! We ordered chicken liver mousse with strawberry and honey crostini. That was very impressive. The combination of salty liver fat turned into cream on a buttered crostini with sweet strawberries drenched in honey was heaven. We also got the corn ravioli, which was good. Everything in it was fresh, the pasta, corn, tomatoes, and drizzles of basil-infused olive oil. It was simple and delicious.

As great as I think this restaurant is, I have mixed feelings about it. The ambience is great and they have delicious food, but it is pretty spendy. I love to cook so I know how much food ingredients cost and with simple ingredients thrown together, prices shouldn’t be too high. Such a turn off! DFJ was not too impressed with the ravioli and he thought the restaurant was a bit pretentious… I don’t agree with his feelings toward the ravioli, but he’s right about the pompousness of How to Cook a Wolf.

Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream – this Seattle born ice cream shop serves good quality and wholesome ice cream. We ordered the flavors that were in season: strawberry balsamic, honey lavender, roasted apricot, and raspberry lemon-thyme. Everything tasted fresh but I have to say that I was a little disappointed. Their ice cream was good but not as great as what everyone else in Seattle (that we talked to) makes it out to be. Nothing too special other than the quality ingredients.


Saigon Deli – a hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant at the University District. We ordered some Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi) on crusty baguettes and rice wraps to go so we could have a picnic at Green Lake Park. DFJ and I both loved the tasty, huge banh mis and delicious rice wraps with some awesome spicy-peanut sauce. If you’re in the area and looking for something quick, simple, delicious, and cheap, go get some Vietnamese sandwiches at Saigon Deli.

Ras Dashen – this is a very nice Ethiopian restaurant on Cherry Street. I liked the large open space and the bright and sunny interior. The authentic decorations everywhere in the restaurant, from the tablecloths to the wall paintings, added a cheerful touch to the place. The food was really good too! DFJ and I both loved the veggie combo. I can’t tell you exactly what was all in there but everything served on the injera in that huge plate was a delightful surprise. They have good injera too, soft with just the right amount of sourness. The lamb shifinfin was not too great though, but don’t take my word for it since I am not a big fan of lamb. When you have taken a look at the menu and are in doubt, get the veggie combo, you will absolutely love it and you will eat every single thing on the platter!


Cupcake Royale – another Seattle born dessert bar. They have branches all-over Seattle but we went to the one on Capitol Hill because we wanted to check out the interesting, mostly young crowd, who love to dress in funky-out-of-this-world outfits! Cupcake Royale has coffee shots, ice cream, and of course, cupcakes! Everything is made fresh daily from organic and locally sourced ingredients. Awesome, right?

Their cupcakes are amazing, made with only the finest ingredients and lots of love. Rich and moist cupcakes with a perfect touch of sweetness. To me, the best part about the cupcakes is the 70:30 cupcake/frosting ratio. There’s nothing more I hate than too much frosting on a cupcake and there’s nothing worse than terrible and cheap frosting. Cupcake Royale sure knows how to make cupcakes and frosting, they do it right!

Their ice cream is also to-die for. Seriously! So many Seattlelites recommended Molly Moon but the Cupcake Royale ice cream is waaaaaaaaaaay better. Creamier, more flavorful, a tad sweeter, and just wonderful! Get your cupcake and ice cream fix there and while you’re at it, some coffee on the side. It’s worth every penny!


Red Mill Burgers – this is a good burger place close to the Ballard Locks. DFJ and I had a nice lunch there with my friend, Betsy, and her daughter, Emily. Thank you Betsy and Emily for the lovely time! Don’t forget to check out the water level changes at Hiram Chittenden locks when sailboats and huge cargo boats that pass through. And of course, have fun watching salmon swim through the fish ladders as they pass between fresh and salt water. It is pretty amazing!     

Whew, I know that was another long post. So, here’s the gist. DFJ and I enjoyed our dining experiences in each of these places, but there are three that are absolutely worth checking. I highly recommend you to treat yourselves to these places:

Delancey – an urban foodie, wood-fired pizza place in Ballard. Keep your eye out for Molly (the owner), she’s cool and she has an awesome book!

Jade Garden – delicious dim-sum restaurant in Chinatown. The wait might be long, but the food comes fast once you’re seated. Trust me, you will want to come back to this restaurant over and over and over. Super cheap and super awesome food!

Cupcake Royale – amazing cupcakes and delicious homemade ice cream. One bite of their cupcake and ice cream will tell you how much care these guys put in their products. Definitely a place to stop by!

 Enjoy your stay in Seattle!