Holiday Indulge

This summer I once again had to do articles for Zupan’s Indulge magazine.  The articles were for fall/winter edition of the magazine and let’s just say I had a lot to tackle :)  I had to cover in-season produce and also an article about food and travel in Indonesia.  Now, this wasn’t as easy as people would have thought because Indonesia has such diverse ethnicities and foods.  A  few weeks later, a breath of relief once everything’s all done and submitted.


I just received the issue in the mail and it was awesome to see the articles printed alongside the recipes.  And my crown roast photo for Carlton Farm graces the  back cover of the magazine :)  My 2012 was a productive year for me for sure.

If you live locally, you can pick up the Indulge magazine at any Zupan’s Market!


Kabocha Squash Muffins


Entering a blustery first day of November, the rain was relentless today.  But towards the late afternoon, the sun peeked for a few hours among the black clouds.  The color of changing leaves looks so pretty.  I’ve been observing the red, yellow, and brown of the scenery and I felt that autumn is a lovely time of the year.  It also helps that the temperature is surprisingly mild this year, I hardly need to turn up the heater at home.  And look, the moon is visible while I’m writing…

Just when I think that I will have time to savor the slowness of my life’s pace, I’m asked to do assignments.  Excited?  Sure.  Every assignment is a blessing and I like to do them when I’ve plenty of time to research, think, and execute.

Lately, I’ve grown to love kabocha squash for its naturally sweet taste and smooth texture.  My mom has cooked thin slices of kabocha and dipped them in tempura batter for a few times already.  They came out crispy on the outside and tender inside, and I could eat all of them; nothing for the rest of my family.  Yes, I’m selfish that way when it comes to food that I love.

Last Saturday I finally made a batch of kabocha squash muffins.  These are incredibly delicious, especially when they’re still warm because they’re immediately coated with melted butter and rolled in cinnamon-nutmeg sugar coating.  Oh, these smell not unlike snickerdoodles…  And no, I’m not selfish to have the recipe for myself, I’m happy to share it here.

Kabocha Squash Muffins

Yields 12 muffins


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup milk

1/2 cup kabocha squash puree

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature


Cinnamon-nutmeg coating

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350°; coat a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.  Blend buttermilk, milk, squash puree, and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

Cream butter and brown sugar together in a bowl with an electric mixer.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Alternately stir dry and wet mixtures into the butter, starting and ending with the dry; do not overmix.  Fill muffin cups 1/2 full and bake 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg in a shallow dish.  When cool enough to handle, yet still warm, remove muffins from the pan, brush them completely with the melted butter, and roll in sugar mixture to coat.  Serve warm.


Source:  adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine, October 2006.

Caramelized Plum and Rosemary Polenta Pound Cake


I’ve always loved Italian plums ever since I ate a handful of them off of someone’s homegrown tree.  They were ripe on the tree and that’s when it’s the best time to eat them.  I plucked one and bit into it, instantly I love how firm and sweet was the flesh.  Since then I’m always on the lookout for good Italian plum.  I found that those are sold in regular store are inferior to any homegrown plums.

Then while waiting for a plum fairy to come my way, I was given a surplus of Italian plums near the end of summer by one of my dearest friends, and to my joy, they’re from homegrown tree.  What a blessing…  I said yes right away not realizing that one couldn’t eat all 15 pounds of plums at one time.  I ended up freezing some of them and from a few, I made into this cake.  The cake was a wonderful juxtaposition of tender and crunchy texture of cornmeal, sweet and tart of plums.  The only thing I made different was the size of the pan, otherwise the recipe stayed the same.


Caramelized Plum and Rosemary Polenta Pound Cake

Serves 8-10


½ pound unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for buttering loaf pan

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup yellow cornmeal

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary

Zest of 1 lemon

1 cup sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons cognac (or any brandy)


Prepared plums (recipe below)


Butter a 5½x10-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter paper. Set pan aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder, cornmeal and salt.

Cream together butter, rosemary, lemon zest and sugar until very light and fluffy.

Add eggs to butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in flour mixture, alternating with cognac, just until well-combined. Spoon 2/3 of batter into pan. Evenly distribute one-quarter of prepared plums over batter. Add rest of the batter. Spread remaining fruit over the top and, using a spoon or fork, push pieces down a little.

Bake for 60 minutes or until done, testing with a toothpick after 50 minutes. Cake should be nicely brown, pulling away from the edges of the pan and not too dry. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto your hand or a rack and quickly re-invert it onto another rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature. (The cake is also delicious sliced and toasted.)

Prepared Plums

6 large plums, pitted and cut into 6-8 wedges each

1/3 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons cognac (or rum or any brandy)

In a medium saucepan, cook plums with sugar, salt, lemon zest and rosemary over medium heat until fruit is very soft but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cognac.


Source:  The Wall Street Journal, Food & Drink, by Gail Monaghan

Lavender Scones

I read the other day about the summer days being over; what that meant was we’d say goodbye to barbecues, picnics, beach outings, tank tops, long vacation, and lazy days.  The list is certainly long, isn’t it?  But I get it  and I’m certainly sad about leaving summer as well.  Yet a few days ago when someone gave me a couple of gingersnap cookies, I was left with a wanting of the fall to be here.  I suddenly crave for the flavors of fall: ginger, cinnamon, apples, pears, and pumpkin.  And the beautiful colors of turning leaves.

This post isn’t about fall flavors yet, this is about lavender scones that I made to complete a leftover lemon curd.  The scones were soft and tender, and they were required to be consumed warm, out of the oven.  There is a pot of a lavender plant just outside of my kitchen where they are still blooming right now.  Whenever I brush the flowers with a water hose, they exude this fragrant smell.  Faint but just right.  It’s the same with the scones; the lavender smell is faint in them but if I get a bite of the dried speck, there’s no question it is there.  The lemon curd was a leftover from a batch I made for Zupan’s fall/winter edition of Indulge magazine.  It tasted eggy, soft, and zingy from the lemon, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to post the recipe here yet.  I will update the post when the magazine comes out later.

Lavender lemon scones

Lavender Scones

Makes 16

3 cups all-purpose flour plus more for surface
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sanding or granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups store-bought or homemade lemon curd

Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 425°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk 3 cups flour and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter; rub in with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Whisk 1 cup buttermilk, zest, and vanilla in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until shaggy dough forms.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface; knead until dough forms, about 5 turns. Pat into a 10×6″ rectangle. Halve dough lengthwise. Cut each half crosswise into 4 squares. Cut each square diagonally in half into 2 triangles. Divide between baking sheets. Brush with 2 Tbsp. buttermilk. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.
Bake until scones are golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 13–15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with lemon curd.

Source: Bon Appétit, May 2012


I have stock photos of some recipes that I made this summer; one of the is this glutinous rice cake cooked in coconut milk with palm sugar or wajik.  This diamond-shaped cake is known as “wajik” in Bahasa Indonesia because it refers to the shape of it, and it’s traditionally made with lots of palm sugar to get the dark brown color. Screwpine/pandanus leaves are essential to get the right aroma for this dessert, but a little vanilla extract for substitution would be acceptable.  Mine was a little light in color because I used half palm sugar and half dark brown sugar to see if the wajik differed in taste.  So taste wise it was still delicious surprisingly!


Serves 4-6


½ lb. glutinous rice

1 cup coconut milk

¾  cup palm sugar, or dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1-2 screwpine/pandanus leaf, tied to knots; or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Wash and rinse the glutinous rice.  Soak in plenty of water overnight at room temperature.

Drain the rice and place in a shallow heatproof dish.  Steam rice over rapidly boiled water for 20 minutes or just until cooked.  Have ready another shallow heatproof dish, greased lightly with cooking oil on bottom and sides.

Put coconut milk, sugars, salt, and screwpine/pandanus leaves in a wok.  Heat the mixture to almost boiling over medium heat (the edges will start to bubble); stirring constantly to dissolve the sugars.  Do not boil completely because the coconut milk will curdle.

Lower the heat, and add the steamed rice.  Stir constantly until mixture is thick and sticky.  This process will take about 5-8 minutes, and the mixture should be quite gooey.  Turn mixture out onto the prepared dish.  Allow to cool and harden, then cut with oiled knife into diamond shapes or serving-sized pieces.


Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

I found these zucchini in my parents’ garden Monday afternoon.  Two plants grew healthy this summer in the sunny patch and they’re starting to produce yields big enough to enjoy.  My mom couldn’t contain her excitement when she saw these babies in her garden, she could hardly wait to pick more of them.


The day I picked those zucchini, I saw a post from King Arthur Flour‘s Facebook page about the double chocolate zucchini bread.  I was salivating looking at the picture that I determined I would make that the next day.  Even I couldn’t contain my excitement about making a zucchini bread!

There’re a lot of recipes using zucchini and chocolate but I have to say that this one is one of the best.  The amount of zucchini needed isn’t outrageous (I hate grating zucchini), the chocolate flavor is really there, the bread isn’t overly dry or wet, the crumb was tight, and the level of moistness is just right.  What I did differently were using half bittersweet chocolate and semisweet chocolate in the bread and save 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top of the bread; otherwise everything stayed the same.  Baking time was slightly reduced for my oven, it was around 60 minutes that the bread was done.  And I smeared some Nutella on my bread, mmm….

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

A bread like this makes me smile; it makes me think of a wonderful summer weather, the harvest from our own garden, and how connected we are to the food we grow ourselves.


Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Yield one 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf


2 large eggs

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional

1/3 cup cocoa powder or Dutch-process cocoa

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini, gently pressed on a colander over a bowl or sink to release some of its moisture

1 1/4 cups chocolate chips (a combination of bittersweet and semisweet), save the 1/4 cup for sprinkling on top of bread


Preheat the oven to 350°F; lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, honey, oil, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Add the salt, baking soda, baking powder, espresso powder, cocoa, and flour, mixing until well combined. Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Scatter the reserved 1/4 cup of chocolate chips on top of the batter.

Bake the bread for 65 to 75 minutes, until the loaf tests done (a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean, save for perhaps a light smear of chocolate from the melted chips).

Remove the bread from the oven, and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack.  Cool completely before slicing; store well-wrapped, at room temperature.

Summer Ice Pops: Strawberry Mint

So here’s the recipe for the strawberry pops. Made with mint simple syrup and fresh Oregon strawberries, the pops look so bloody red! They taste amazing though, the mint is very subtle, the strawberries really shine.  To mix two different flavors, freeze half of the first mixture about 1 hour, then add the second mixture.  Now I’m never gonna go back buying store bought ice pops anymore, this is way healthier and fresher!


Oregon strawberries

Mint simple syrup

Liquid state

Strawberry mint ice pops

Summer pops

Strawberry Mint Ice Pops

Makes approximately 10 3 fluid ounce pops

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1-2 pounds strawberries
4-5 fresh mint leaves

To make simple syrup, gently heat sugar and water, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Steep the syrup with mint, remove from heat; let cool.

Rinse and mash strawberries with a potato masher until smooth. Add 1/3-1/2 cup simple syrup for every cup of pureed syrup, taste as you go, adding more fruit or simple syrup as needed. Note: keep it a bit sweeter because the pop tends to lose sweetness when frozen.

Pour mixture into molds, add stick, and freeze.

Source: adapted from People’s Pops by Joel Horowitz and Nathalie Jordi

Summer Ice Pops: Pineapple Ginger Coconut


Okay, so when a grocery store had a sale on pineapples, what do you do?  If you’re like me, you’d run to the store and bought more than one pineapple for sure.  Fred Meyer had $1/pineapple this week so I had to have it; in my household, pineapple is a favorite fruit.  I bought one for eating fresh and another one for making pineapple pops.  I have ready a ginger simple syrup in my fridge, something that now I know it’s so easy to make, I must have some ready in the fridge for making something sweet.

ginger simple syrup-1

fresh pineapple-1

pineapple ginger coconut pops-1

pineapple ginger coconut pops-1-3

My flavor combo of this week for the pops is pineapple, ginger, and coconut.  The recipe is a very easy one:  I put one whole pineapple in the blender, then I combined it with ginger simple syrup to make it slightly sweeter than normal.  The sugar will mellow when the pops are stored in the freezer, so you should make your pops always a tad too sweet.  The recipe for the simple syrup here will be most likely used all because it’s thicker than a regular simple syrup.  Since I have not bought any popsicle molds, I had to resort using a 3-ounce paper cups again (like I did with this banana blueberry gelato).  I really don’t mind using the paper cups though I’m putting popsicle mold in my wish list nevertheless.  I see myself making pops every summer now.

I like to steep the ginger in my syrup for a day or two so the ginger really sings in the pops :)  There’s a bit of heat from the ginger that’s refreshing yet it’s still subtle enough, and with toasted shredded, sweetened coconut in the pops, these add texture and bring more of that tropical island kick to the pops.

frozen pineapple ginger coconut pops-1

frozen summer pops-1-2

strawberry pineapple pops-1-3

And along with these pops, I made strawberry pops that has been mixed with mint simple syrup which was also fabulous.  On some cups I put these two together and they came out very pretty and vibrant.  The recipe for the strawberry pops will be in the next post, don’t you worry.  Now, who don’t want to have these all summer long?!

Pineapple Ginger Coconut Ice Pops

Makes about 10 3 fluid ounce pops


Ginger Simple Syrup:

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

5-6 thin slices, peeled, fresh ginger

Combine water, sugar, and sliced ginger pieces in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Heat until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.  Keep syrup in a refrigerator after it cools down.  It is best to make this one or two days ahead because the flavor will be more pronounced.


Pineapple mixture:

1 medium size pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces


About 1 cup toasted, shredded sweetened coconut


Put pineapple pieces in a blender and puree until smooth.  Add syrup to pureed pineapple, 1/2 cup at a time; make sure the mixture is very sweet.  Pour pineapple mixture into cups or ice pop molds, add stick when partly frozen if using paper cups.  Freeze until solid.

For a variation:  add toasted coconut in the cup/mold and after the cup/mold is filled.

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