I was fortunate enough to enjoy an early Thanksgiving meal with family earlier this week. We were celebrating my nieces' birthday as well as having our own Thanksgiving with them before they scattered to other family members and the families of their respective boyfriends.
At my nieces' request, my mom made Pancit Palabok - a Filipino noodle dish, similar to spaghetti only that it has (rice stick) noodles and a sauce. Palabok also had add-ons such as toasted garlic, hard-boiled eggs, shrimp, green onions and ground up pork rinds. Being the plain eater I am, yup, you guessed it, I only add the sauce, shrimp and eggs.
Rice stick noodles for the palabok
Lumpia is always a family staple. The picture only shows a few but that's because we kept eating them faster than my niece could fry them, ha.
My mom also makes the best ribs. Seriously, fall-off-the-bone tender with a delicious barbecue sauce. I'd get the recipe from her but let's face it, I wouldn't be able to make them like she does so I'm not even going to try.
Broccoli salad which my nieces loved but, and let's not kid ourselves, as a non-veggie girl, I left this one alone.
Dessert was both my traditional apple cobbler plus I made another attempt at banana cake (not picture, future post to follow).
Another excellent Thanksgiving meal and much to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving!
The holidays are coming up fast and I’m inevitably
getting pulled back into the kitchen. I haven’t even really been gearing up for
my usual baking so this isn’t even the start of my holiday baking. I’m still
debating how much of my “usual” I’m actually going to do now that I’ve gotten
out of the habit of baking during every moment of my spare time.
But I am getting requests, namely from my nieces as they
head for their holiday gatherings. One of my nieces is more of a cook and she
doesn’t bake while the other one is the baker and doesn’t cook. But they each
asked me for cookie dough to bring down to their respective gatherings and I
was happy to oblige. For my niece who’s the cook, she wanted oatmeal chocolate
chip cookies for her boyfriend’s family. Actually, we had to compromise since
she wanted the traditional oatmeal raisin cookies and we know how I feel about
raisins. Not that it should’ve mattered to me since all I had to do was make
the dough and I wasn’t going to be the one eating them, raisins or not. But
still. You know, because raisins.
I have bags upon bags of chocolate chips (thanks, Costco)
so I had to make oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough. I don’t have a go-to
recipe for oatmeal cookies so pinterest was once again my friend. I went with
this recipe based on the picture alone and because it met my criteria for
oatmeal cookies: more oatmeal than flour and it had more brown sugar than
granulated so I knew it would provide the right caramelized/brown sugar
overtone I look for in a good oatmeal cookie.
I baked a taste test cookie in my little convection
toaster oven and it turned out fairly well. I think I took it out a minute too
soon and ate it at slightly warm temps when I would’ve been better off baking
it a trifle longer and waiting until it was almost fully cooled. Despite that,
this was still a good cookie if you like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Not
sure I’ll remember it in a month as it doesn’t stand out to my jaded taste buds
but it was still good. And my niece liked it too.
1 cup butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 small package Jell-O instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups flour
3 cups oatmeal, old-fashioned or quick
1 cup chocolate chips
In stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Add Jell-O and mix until combined.
With mixer still running, add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla.
Pour in dry ingredients and blend until no streaks of flour remain.
Add oatmeal and chocolate chips, stirring in by hand or using the lowest setting on the mixer.
Using a cookie scoop, portion dough into golf-ball size balls. Cover and chill or freeze for several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Space frozen cookie dough balls evenly on baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges just start to brown and middles no longer look raw or shiny.
Before I became such a cookie snob, I actually did at one
time eat Samoa cookies from the Girl Scouts. During that time period when my
nieces were little and were selling them for their troop. I like the flavor
combination of shortbread, caramel, chocolate and coconut but as for the
cookies themselves….well, cookie snob here.
But my snobbery is turned to advantage when it means I
make my own version from scratch. I got this one from Crazy for Crust and it’s
a simple, straightforward recipe. It’s a combination of a samoa bar cookie and
a magic cookie bar. The magic cookie part being the coconut, chocolate chips
and sweetened condensed milk and the samoa part being the shortbread crust and
the caramel bits as well.
The only thing I changed is I went with only 1 ¼ cups of
flour rather than 1 1/2, mostly because at 1 ¼ cups, the dough was still
crumbly and even though it stuck together when I squeezed handfuls of it, I was
afraid adding another ¼ cup would make it too dry. But there was still enough
crust mixture to make a credible bottom layer. It was more like loose crumbs
than actual dough but that just makes it easier to spread evenly in the pan and
pat down. The crust does come together in baking so don’t worry if it doesn’t
go down as a fully combined bottom layer.
The caramel bits were a nice touch although be warned
that once they’re baked and cooled, they do become really chewy caramel. If you
have dessert consumers who don’t have strong teeth or jaws, you might be better
off melting the caramel with a little milk and making that the layer directly
on top of the shortbread crust then covering that with coconut and chocolate
chips before pouring the sweetened condensed milk on top. The only thing I
would do differently next time is I think I would bake the bottom crust a
little longer than 10 minutes. At 10 minutes, they were still rather
pale-anemic looking and not even the edges were lightly browned. Subsequently,
I ended up baking the whole thing a little longer after I’d added the rest of
the ingredients because I wanted to make sure the bottom crust was done. But
that meant the caramel baked longer as well, hence the chewiness after it had
cooled. So I think it’s better to bake the crust an extra few minutes then cut
a few minutes off the baking time for the second baking.
I thought this was a good homemade version of the Samoa
cookie; it’s easy to make and serve and honestly, my snobby taste buds say they
taste better than the GS Samoas.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (adjust based on feel of the dough)
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup Kraft caramel bits
1 can (14 ounces) regular sweetened condensed milk
Line a 9x13” pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Beat butter in a stand mixer until smooth. Mix in flour, sugar, and salt. Beat until the mixture is crumbly. It’s done mixing when you can press it together between your fingers and it sticks together.
Press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove hot crust from the oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips, coconut, and caramels.
Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden around the edges. Cool completely before cutting.
I confess, I’m not discerning when it comes to pancake
recipes. I like a good pancake as much as the next person but I’m not super
picky about them. As long as they’re light and fluffy and have good flavor,
that is. So I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to trying out pancake recipes. I
typically only make them on weekends because that’s when I wake up and realize
I don’t have any food in the house because I mostly eat at work or out with
Fortunately, though, I have enough baking stock that I
usually have the ingredients needed for most pancake recipes so it’s only a
matter of minutes to find a new recipe and whisk it together. This time around, as someone recommended on
my last pancake post, I also tried not overheating my frying pan so I can get
that smooth golden look for each pancake. Turns out how hot my pan was or wasn’t
didn’t matter when it came to creating or not creating the vein-y looks in my pancakes. What mattered more was
how the butter melted in the pan before I poured the batter over it. Same if I
tried nonstick cooking spray.
Ultimately, the one way for me to get that smooth golden
look all over the entire pancake was not to spray the pan or melt butter into
it. Fortunately I had a nonstick frying pan so the results weren’t too
disastrous and the pancake didn’t stick but it also didn’t flip over as
gracefully as I might’ve wished. Regardless, once I was done obsessing about
how to make it look a certain way, I was able to eat a couple. They were good.
I don’t think they’d necessarily stand out in my mind as a go-to pancake recipe
but only because I’m not that snobby about my pancakes. They’re good, they
helped use up some buttermilk and they were easy to make. That’s all I ask of
I’d heard about Smashburger from other foodies so like
any good foodie lemming, I wanted to try it for myself. Much as I like burgers,
I only like certain places for burgers, namely the ones that let me build my
own. Because I’m such a picky eater. As in, a good burger to me is the burger
and the bun. I add a slice of cheese if I want to get really crazy. Do not put
condiments on my burger or I’ll never eat it. No pickles, no onions, no
tomatoes either. Nothing but meat and bread. I’m okay with leaf lettuce as long
as it’s not chopped like coleslaw.
You can imagine the inner eye rolls I probably get
whenever I order a burger off the menu and ask for it “plain”. So I’m always
pleased to find a place where I can build my own burger and don’t feel like I
have to defend my plain choices. Plain eaters, rejoice, because Smashburger is
such a place. They have pre-built burgers you can order but, similar to the
Counter, they also let you pick and choose what you want on your burger. Or in
my case, ensure they leave off what I don’t want.
For this inaugural visit, I went with the brioche bun, a
1/3-lb burger, a slice of cheese, a slice of leaf lettuce and a fried egg.
That’s walking on the wild side for me. But it had everything I liked and
nothing I didn’t like. Consequently, I enjoyed my burger a lot. It’s just the
right size if you’re hungry, not too big or too small, and the burger was
tasty. Not thin like a fast food burger but not so thick that you couldn’t eat
it without feeling like a pig.
Smashburger also offers sweet potato fries which
naturally I had to get. I always like sweet potato fries better than regular
fries. Unfortunately, their sweet potato fries weren’t as good as their burger
though. They weren’t quite cooked to mealy perfection and needed a couple more
minutes in the deep fryer. They were still good but could’ve been better.
Still, this is a good place to go to for burgers and
quite reasonably priced. I walked out with a burger and fries for just over
These desserts are part of our Thanksgiving tradition but
they’re each a spinoff from what might be most people’s traditional dessert
bounty. If you’re already planning ahead to what you want to serve next week
and are looking for something a little different, you might want to give these
Instead of pecan pie, I make butter pecan tartlets –
easier to consume and serve and, after a full turkey meal, much better portion
control than a piece of pie without sacrificing the good elements of a pecan
I’ve never liked pumpkin pie but that’s no reason not to
have a pumpkin-based dessert like this Pumpkin Upside Down Cake with
caramelized pecans and cranberries.
I’ve nothing against apple pie but when there’s a lot of
baking going on and I don’t want to deal with the intricacies of pie crust, I
go with apple crumble bars made as apple cobbler and it’s always the biggest hit at the post-dinner table.
If you can’t bear to have dessert that excludes
chocolate, this Black & White Pudding Cake is super easy to make, served
warm, is decadent and goes beautifully with vanilla ice cream. In fact, the ice
cream might be mandatory.
So when you’re already full from pizza, the thing to do is
go out for ice cream cookie sandwiches nearby. At least it’s the thing to do if
you’re me and my cousin Christine. Especially since Icebox was on the Top 10
list of ice cream places in the South Bay. Yes, I know, me and my foodie lists.
But with the plethora of places to eat around here (lucky me), you have to have
some kind of criteria because there isn’t enough time, money or waistband room
to go to them all.
If I thought Cicero’s was in a weird location by being in
a strip mall, Icebox is even more peculiarly located by being at the corner of
an office block attached, semi-attached or just in front of an apartment
building. Super weird! It’s not like you’d get a lot of shopping mall traffic.
But hey, they made the list so off we went.
Their retail concept reminds me of Cream in that you can
pick your cookies and your ice cream flavors and they’ll make you an ice cream
sandwich. The girl behind the counter even asked if we wanted our cookies
warmed up. (YES!) Or, if you want something smaller, you could opt for macarons
instead of cookies for your ice cream sandwich. Novel idea. But since I don’t
like macarons, I stuck with the cookies: chocolate chip on one side and
snickerdoodle on the other.
They offered some standard ice cream flavors like
chocolate and vanilla but there were also Filipino flavors like ube (purple
yam) and mango, making me wonder if the owners were Filipino. I went for one of
my classic favorites: coffee almond fudge.
Having a full-size ice cream sandwich after eating pizza
was not my smartest decision because I didn’t have enough room for it. In
hindsight, I should have also gone with vanilla ice cream as the coffee almond
fudge was more chocolate than coffee so it was a little too rich for me.
Vanilla would’ve been a little less overwhelming to my taste buds. Lastly, next
time I’d get the snickerdoodle for both cookies in the sandwich because it was
softer, easier to eat and went better with ice cream.
Overall, Icebox was good. I don’t know if they would
stand out against Cream but if you’re not like me and want a macaron ice cream
sandwich, they have something Cream doesn’t offer.