I bet summer is the #1 favorite season for most people. After all it’s associated with enjoyable things like 3 month long school breaks, family vacations, and pool parties. For the food obsessed, summertime is when stone fruits, summer berries, and tomatoes are in season and at their peak of flavor. One of my favorite things about the Pacific Northwest, is the close proximity to produce farms and orchards. Which means…summer berry picking! So two weeks ago I went out to a U-pick strawberry farm and not to sound like a snob, but I don’t think I’ll be going back to the store bought ones.
So what makes a fresh picked strawberry so much better than its grocery store brethren? For starters, they don’t have that thick white-green ring around the leaf top, which is one indicator that it’ll be sour and unripe. (Note: It’s ok for a berry to have a bit of white directly underneath the leaves.) Fully mature and ripe berries will have a mostly solid, ruby red coloring all throughout. This translates into amazingly sweet and juicy fruit! But I get it, it’s not like we all live next to farmers markets or have backyard gardens. After all I grew up in Ohio, surrounded by corn and soybeans fields. It’s not exactly a cornucopia of produce like California is.
Another thing that I learned from my trip is how raspberries get their hollow centers. Obviously I could’ve Googled this, but it’s not something that normally comes to mind when I shop for groceries. So the same strawberry farm also grows raspberries for self-picking. There I learned the secret behind it. For starters, they look like your typical berry when still attached to the stem. However, when you pull on them, the outer fruit shell slides off, leaving behind the core and you with a hollow berry! Mind blown.
Now that summer is here, no one wants to be slaving away in a hot kitchen. When you can be out frolicking through berry fields or grilling with friends. It’s why I love summer recipes as they’re little to no fuss. But incredibly flavorful by taking advantage of seasonal fruit or veg like this grilled pizza does.
Quick intro, this pizza is basically a caprese salad on top of grilled pizza dough. It’s an easy recipe as you only need to make the dough. Heck, you can even skip that step and just buy pre-made dough! I used a variety of heirloom tomatoes to achieve that beautiful rainbow effect, but they also added an amazing depth of flavor and sweetness. So fire up that grill, grab a drink and a few friends to enjoy this pizza party with!
So a guilty pleasure of mine is buying cookbooks. Mainly because I like to drool over the pictures. Because let’s face it, you can easily find so and so’s recipe for a mind blowing hummus somewhere on the Internet. So I obviously don’t buy them for the recipes. But oh how I adore flipping through page after glossy page of artfully arranged pastries and desserts. It’s like walking through an art gallery to me. However, on the rare occasion that I actually attempt to bake a recipe from a cookbook, I like to use these “food porn” photos as a guide. You’d be surprised what clues you can gleam from them, aside from what the finished product looks like ideally.
So this week I tackled Dominque Ansel’s Paris-New York. It’s a take on the classic Paris-Brest pastry, a choux pastry ring filled with praline cream and topped with almonds. Ansel’s version uses peanut butter and dark chocolate fillings to mimic a Reeses Cup, but in a more grown up, sophisticated way.
As experienced as I am, I’m not a pastry master like Dominque Ansel. So I took a few liberties with the recipe and made my own modifications to preserve my sanity. His version is topped with caramel fondant and glazed peanuts. Isn’t it enough that I’m making the pate au choux and two mousse fillings from scratch?! So I substituted dulce de leche for the fondant, and store bought roasted, salted peanuts for the glazed ones. In the end the peanuts were an improvement on the original as it gave a nice salty contrast to the sweet fillings and provided texture as well.
So I need to make another confession. This recipe took a few tries to get right, more so than usual. Which is why this post is so delayed. One attempt I accidentally mixed up the cream and milk between the two mousses and that ruined the texture. The peanut butter mousse came out stiff and un-pipeable, while the chocolate one was too loose. Then in another attempt, I didn’t use piping bags and tips when it was time to pipe the fillings. As a result, they came out as sad, lumpy and uneven blobs, when what I wanted was uniform dollops of mousse. It made me question (aka scream and curse) why I was trying so hard to make something that looked like a fancy donut!
Once everything was said and done, I made a tasty pastry. I guess the moral of this story is, to don’t be too hard on yourself if you screw up or make a mistake. Sometimes it can be fixed, while other times you’ll have to start all over again. Whether you bake for fun or for others, whoever eats it is going to appreciate the effort despite how it looks or tastes. I like to think that if Yeti could eat sweets he’d enjoy the leftovers from my Pinterest fails, but like all other rabbits he’s a pure vegan lol.
After finishing my second year of high school my family and I took a road trip to Disneyworld. Since my little brother had finally reached the minimum height requirement for the fun rides and was old enough to enjoy the park more. When I got tired of listening to the same ten top 40 songs on the radio I popped in Daft Punk’s Discovery album. After the third song in I fell asleep. When I woke up, my dad who was driving then said “How on earth can you sleep through this music?! It makes my heart race like I’m about to have a heart attack!”
While EDM isn’t everyone’s idea of a lullaby, for me it’s exuberant and uplifting. Or if you’re a Kygo fan, you know it can also be chill and relaxing. And while I’m not a college-educated white dude with Beats headphones, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it. I love the upbeat lyrics and the driving beat that makes you unconsciously tap your foot. It’s exuberant and uplifting. Honestly though, it just helps get me those THOSE days. Days where it I just don’t want to deal with it. Days where I’m as moody as a teenage anime protagonist piloting an ultra powerful mech suit.
Listening to helps me get pumped and motivated to tackle those onerous tasks, like pushing myself out of my comfort zone. So one of the reasons why I moved to Seattle was to press the reset button and change careers. The process has been more difficult and frustrating than I initially expected. Whether it’s from interviewers grilling me to the point where I feel incompetent or the depressing thought that I’m completely unqualified for any of the roles posted online. But I am making progress albeit it’s small and incremental, at least it’s a step forward. That’s what’s important. To always be looking ahead and working towards that ideal future.
So this week I tackled the Honey Toast Box. It’s a Taiwanese dessert that’s fun, whimsical, but splendid like EDM. Where it’s basically a sundae plus all the trimmings piled atop a “healthy” chunk of white toast. It’s like the sweet version of a bread bowl but stuffed with fruit, candy, and biscuits. The main recipe is for Pain de Mie, which is a basic fine crumb bread that serves as the base of this dessert. The remaining the toppings were bought from your typical grocery store or Asian market. It’s a fun and crazy dessert! Go wild like a child building their own yogurt cup!
As a bonus, here’s a small sampling to what I listen to :)
Recently I took a quick day trip to the RoozenGaarde’s display garden and tulip farm. Since the weather was starting to transition from short dreary days to being bright and sunny long past 5pm. Despite the muddy fields and masses of other sightseers, it was definitely a sight to behold. To see the expanse of flowers in full Technicolor, really brightens your day and makes you want to run around like Maria from the Sound of Music. Later, I even took Yeti out for a quick “walk” at a grassy area near my apartment. After a brief hop around he quickly settled next to his carrier. Which is his way of saying “I’ve had enough nature for one day, take me back home!” Sigh, he’s definitely not an outdoorsy rabbit. For a peek into my flower frolicking adventures check out my Instagram.
I know I’ve been harping about spring and this seasonal change thing but it’s one of my favorite things about the Seattle area. I get to swap out my sweaters and boots in exchange for loose tees and sandals. Plus, I start to see the changing variety of fruits and vegetables at my local market. Where citrus and root vegetables make way for rhubarb and fiddlehead ferns. Changing your menu with the season isn’t just a posh-farm-to-table restaurant thing. I do it because those ingredients taste their best during that time and it pushes me experiment with different recipes.
With this in mind, I decided to get a head start on winter and start preserving the flavors of spring through jam making. What better way to celebrate my inaugural jam making venture with a tea party! Complete with fluffy scones and tea. The jam making process itself is stupidly easily. You literally just dump everything into a pot and boil it till it’s thickened and jam-like (duh!). The tricky part is the canning process, as you need to kill any pesky microbes that can ruin your jam. This is super important if you plan on keeping and storing the jam for the long term. Otherwise you’re going to have to quickly consume it within a week. Nothing is too labor intensive which is great as I want to spend most of my time outdoors than slaving away over a stove!
It’s finally spring! Flowers are blooming, the weather is warming up, and everyone is agonizing over their March Madness bracket. Especially if you didn’t expect that Michigan State upset. So to celebrate the season, I wanted to use citrus for one last time.
French pastries have a knack for looking deceitfully simple and graceful. However, once you start looking deeper you soon learn it’s ALL about the technique and less about the ingredients working for you. Now as you scroll down, the recipe and instructions look dauntingly long, but take a deep breath before panicking! To make things easy (I hope) I’ve separated each component and its steps and in the order I would prepare them. Remember you don’t need to tackle all of these in one day and things like the citrus filling can be made a day ahead.
I know what you’re thinking, ANOTHER food blog?! But bear with me here. I created Lionhead Eats in order to inspire and encourage others to tackle challenging baking projects.
Have you ever had that crazy thought, “I can totally make that multi-layer cake on the cover of Bon Appetit…from scratch!” But when you started reading the recipe you didn’t feel quite as confident anymore? Maybe because the directions were too vague or it required a million ingredients. Now you’re thinking: Oh shit, what have I gotten myself into?!
Like many others I’d see pics of beautiful layered cakes and flaky croissants all over blogs, recipe sites, and food magazines. Bookmarked them thinking I’ll get to it one day, but somehow got “distracted” by other things. The reality was, I made excuses like there’s too many ingredients or I don’t have the time or my pet (Yeti) needs me to feed him a treat right now.
For my first post I decided to tackle Craftsmen & Wolves’ infamous Rebel Within. Which is the food equivalent of Kim Kardashian on Instagram (Except it doesn’t stand naked in the bathroom and take pictures of itself). Because recently Eater published an article revealing the secrets behind this modern day Easter egg hunt. Rather than coloring eggs and hiding candy in plastic shells, why not hide them inside a savory muffin this year?
When I first started this adaptation I figured it’d be an easy slam dunk. But I was to be proven wrong. My first speedbump came when I learned that not all muffin pans are equal. Which meant that baking time will be different than egg-pected. It took several trials and many sacrificial eggs to find the egg-act cooking time. One that not only preserved the still gooey yolk but gave enough time for the batter to set.
After going through this egg-ercise, I won’t be adding the Rebel Within into my usual baking rotation. While I like the idea of a savory breakfast muffin, these rebels were egg-spensive. Not only did it require close to a dozen eggs, but also three types of cheeses! It’s creator even uses crème fraiche, which is egg-stravagant and unfortunately reminds me of Randy’s obsession with it in South Park. Also by the end of all this, I couldn't stand to see let alone eat another soft-boiled egg. At least for awhile.
Verdict: Like any Internet celeb this one is better left admired from afar.