Coffee Creme Brûlée

CremeBrulee2I’m fancy.  Oh, I’m fancy.  Because I made creme brûlée.  At home.  From scratch.  And it was delicious.

Here’s my silky smooth, simple but chic recipe for coffee creme brûlée.

Ingredients:

(This recipe makes enough for about 3 people, depending on the size of your ramekins):

2 cups whipping cream

1/2 cup + 4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder (I used 1.5 single-serve packages)

sprinkle of cinnamon

1 egg

3 egg yolks

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Get a large sauce pan and combine the cream, 1/2 cup of sugar, a dash of cinnamon and instant coffee powder. Bring it to a boil, whisking to combine and dissolve everything.  Once it’s come to a boil, remove the pan from heat and cover it for 30 minutes.

Then you need to strain it.  If you have a sieve, that’s perfect.  If you don’t, you can use a colander and coffee filters.  It works- I tried it.

Preheat the oven to 325 and whisk your eggs and egg whites in a medium or large bowl.  Add some of the cream mixture, whisk it a bit, add some more cream mixture, whisk again, and repeat until fully combined.

Find a baking dish with high sides and place the large ramekins or custard cups in it.  You’ll need to add water, so that the ramekins are in a water bath.  The water should be about half way up the side of the ramekins.  Divide the custard mixture into the ramekins and bake for 55 minutes.  You can tell they are done because the middle will barely move when you jiggle the cups a bit.

Cool and refrigerate (overnight, ideally).

Everyone knows that the best part of creme brûlée is the sugary shell on top, and there are two ways to achieve it.  The first requires a blow torch (not something this single 20-something woman has handy) so I went with the broiler method.

Start by sprinkling about 1 teaspoon of sugar on top of each creme brûlée.  Turn on the broiler and put all the creme brulees on a baking sheet.  Place them under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, rotating if necessary for even cooking.  Remove from the oven, cool for about 30 minutes, and enjoy!

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Breaking into the sugar shell is even more fun when you’re the chef! And the inside is silky smooth.

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So fancy.

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Torrey Pines

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This past weekend my brother visited from Colorado.  It was a short overnight trip but I was determined to show him the best of SD.  Our first stop was a local taco shop for some authentic Mexican cuisine, and our second was Torrey Pines.
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These pictures are from the state park.  It’s located just South of the famous golf course and has miles of trails to explore.  We spent a few hours winding our way through the cliffs, up and down the rocks.IMG_6641_2

There are breathtaking views in every direction.  You can’t take a bad picture.IMG_6642_2

And at low tide you can walk on the beach below the cliffs.  The first time I went, the tide was in and I had to carry my shoes.IMG_6645_2

IMG_6647 IMG_6648After hours of walking around in the sun we headed to another California favorite – In N Out Burger for some animal style fries!

IMG_6656Tired and satiated, we headed home for gnarly Cali naps.  It’s all part of the experience.

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Basic Waffles

DSC_0157My 23-year old brother is a surprisingly good gifter.  Every Christmas and birthday, I intentionally don’t give him any gift ideas because he does so well when left to his own devices.  And this Christmas, per usual, he delivered.  He got me a WAFFLE MAKER.

This weekend, I made my maiden batch.  I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but it was an epic success.

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To be honest, the recipe is just good.  I’ve had better waffles in restaurants,  but this was a great beginner recipe that would be a good springboard for things like chocolate chip waffles, cinnamon waffles, or even chocolate waffles.

I preheated the waffle iron, grabbed a whisk, and got to work.

I beat 2 eggs, and 1/2 a cup of vegetable oil with 2 cups of all-purpouse flour and 1 3/4 cups milk.  Then added 1 tablespoon of sugar, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  

Then I scooped about a cup at a time of the batter into the waffle iron.  I trusted the little green light on the waffle iron to tell me when it was done.  It made about 4 waffles.

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I was thrilled with how beautifully they came out.  They were light and spongey and they soaked up the syrup beautifully.

DSC_0163I can’t wait to get more creative with this recipe.  Waffles are the new cupcakes. You heard it here first.

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Iron Mountain in Poway, California

Iron MountainWhile the rest of America huddled in front of their televisions binging on nachos and cheap beer this weekend, I did the complete opposite.  I grabbed a friend and a bottle of water and headed out to Poway to hike Iron Mountain.

Considering the number of hiking enthusiasts in the general area, there are a surprisingly limited number of trails in San Diego.  They each have their respective perks- Cowles Mountain is quick and convenient, Torrey Pines wins hands down for views, and of course no online dating profile is complete without a photo on Mt. Woodson’s Potato Chip Rock.  But Iron Mountain is my personal fave.

Unlike Cowles and Torrey Pines, Iron Mountain has adequate free parking.  It’s also far less crowded, since it’s a little farther away.  If these two perks alone don’t sell it, I should also mention that it’s a really fun hike with spectacular views.  It’s well-marked, excellently maintained, and suitable for a variety of abilities.

But in case you never get a chance to visit for yourself, you can come along with me on this virtual trip.  The only downside is not rewarding yourself with a nice greasy meal afterwards (OK, you can if you want, I promise not to tell!).

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The first few hundred feet are my favorite part of the trail.  After being welcomed through these iron gates, you’re treated to a romantic tunnel of trees.  I always want to linger through this portion, as I’m flooded with waves of childhood memories and East Coast nostalgia. It’s utterly beautiful but over too soon as you emerge on an open and dusty trail.

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The trail alternates between short steep climbs and slow gradual inclines as you weave your way through the rolling hills and up the back side of the mountain.  You’ll quickly notice the change in geography from soft and green to brown and rocky.

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image3MtnPoseIt’s fun to play the cloud game (where you say what the shapes resemble) with the bizarre boulders that look like they’ve been carelessly tossed around.  This was my favorite- a rocky fist fighting to emerge from the Earth’s rocky surface.

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Others are just fun to climb and ponder life for a while.

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In no time at all, you reach the summit.  It’s only about 2,000 feet in elevation, but the views are spectacular in every direction.  To the West, you can just make out the outline of downtown.  Looking South, you can see parts of Mexico.  And East, the beautiful mountains continue for miles.

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I had to climb to the highest point for a proper 360 view… but it was scarier than I thought and I climbed back down almost immediately!

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After resting a moment, we headed back down.  We went cautiously, since it’s easy to trip or slip.  Fortunately we both arrived unscathed and made it back to the trees just as the sun was setting behind the mountains in front of us.   We’d done the whole six miles (about 10 kilometers) in about two and a half hours (including a rest at the top and a couple of scenic detours).  And according to the app on my phone, I burned just over 1200 calories- which is what I probably would have consumed at a Super Bowl Party.  Patriots, smatriots… I think the real winner yesterday was me.

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Spanish Tortilla

SpanishTortilla1Back in 2006 I spent a semester studying in Barcelona.  I opted to live with a local family rather than in an apartment with other foreign students for a more immersive Spanish experience.  I thought I’d be welcomed into someone’s home, treated like family and we’d all share paella dinners and laughs every Sunday afternoon.  It didn’t really turn out as I expected.  My “señora” was a starving artist type, Buddhist, young at heart, you get the idea.  I didn’t see much of her but she always left my roommate and me something to eat.  Unfortunately, it was always the same something: store-bought tortilla or freezer pizza (with a side of iceberg lettuce).

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By the time I returned state-side in April, I cringed at the sight of tortilla.  But now, almost a decade later, I see it in a more sentimental light.  It takes me back to that exciting, carefree time of my life.

And the homemade version is much more delicious than that store-bought crap I lived off.

Here’s what you’ll need to make one:

– 1 large potato, thinly sliced

– 1/4 white onion chopped finely

– about 1 tbsp italian parsley

– Olive oil

– Salt & Pepper

– 5 eggs

– butter, approximately 1 tablespoon

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You’ll want a frying pan about 6-8″ in diameter. Cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of oil and add HALF of the potatoes, onions, and parsley.  Saute until the potatoes are soft then remove them from the pan and repeat with the other half.

Once they’ve all been sautéed, I recommend washing your pan.  Mine had a lot of crispy bits that would have added a challenge in the next step.

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Add salt and pepper to the potatoes to taste.

Now melt a pad of butter in the clean pan, making sure to coat the bottom and sides.  Beat 5 eggs and pour a thin layer of egg into the pan.  Add the potatoes mixture and distribute it evenly across the pan.  Now add the rest of the egg and cover, cooking over low heat.

Low heat and the cover are important because it will cook the egg thoroughly and evenly, rather than burning the bottom layer and leaving the middle runny.  I also used my spatula to lift the edges a couple of times and let the raw egg run under.

Once it’s fairly firm, it needs to be flipped.  I did this by sliding it onto a plate, coating the frying pan with another layer of butter, then flipping it back over into the pan.

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It was a little messy, but I made do.

Then I let it cook another 5-10 minutes until the egg was cooked through.  Cut into wedges and serve.

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It’s an authentic Spanish tapa, found in restaurants across Barcelona that can be recreated in your own kitchen for about $5.

This post is dedicated to my roommate Kelly, mi esposa de espana siempre en mi corazón.

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Sauce Poached Cheesy Eggs and Ranch Potatoes

SauceEggs1They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I hope that Alyssa from The Glossy Life takes it as compliment that I replicated one of her delicious brunch menus.  And I have to say, that girl knows her stuff!  I woke up, half in a daze, and threw this together in a snap.

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Here are the ingredients I used:

  • Jar of tomato sauce (or your own, if you fancy)
  • herbed goat cheese (as much or as little as you please… but I recommend lots!)
  • 3 eggs
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Bread for dipping (I made mine using this recipe)

And for the side of potatoes:

  • Potatoes (I’d recommend baking potatoes)
  • 1 packet of powdered ranch dressing
  • Olive oil (approximately 1/3 cup)

Get started by preheating your oven to 400°F.

The potatoes take much longer to cook, so I suggest starting off with them.  Chop them into bite size cubes, mix in the ranch and olive oil, and pop them into the oven stirring occasionally.

Then just pour the sauce into the skillet, hallow out space for the eggs and then crack them in.  I added some basil and oregano to my sauce for extra flavor, but it’s not imperative.  Then I added my goat cheese around the edges.  Before baking, it looked like this.

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After about 20 minutes in the oven (Alyssa’s smaller version only took 10), my egg whites had hardened and it was ready.  The yolks were still nice and runny, creating a deliciously drippy bite with every dip.

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The whole thing is easy and hearty- it kept me full through a 9 mile hike!  I’m quite sure this will become a weekend staple at my place.

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The Perfectionists’ Cafe

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Heston Blumenthal’s ahead of the curve, yet again

Heston Blumenthal has always been a trailblazer in the world of culinary arts and someone I have always admired from afar. Revered by many as one of the most creative chefs on the planet, Blumenthal has many restaurants, television shows and his global stature has made the British chef a household name across the world. And although his Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck in Berkshire, England slipped in last year’s ‘World’s Best Restaurants List,’ he still has a portfolio brimming full of interesting ventures that excites me, if not foodies across the world.

I recently found a blog post from Parking4Less, a UK-based company remarking on his latest venture this year during the renovation of the UK’s flagship airport. As we all know Blumenthal is known for thinking outside the box and has decided to launch his new restaurant in London’s Heathrow Airport. The restaurant, which is named the Perfectionists’ Café is located in the newly renovated Terminal 2.

The restaurant features many of the innovative dishes that took pride and place in the wonderful ‘In Search of Perfection’ TV series that Blumenthal starred in. It was launched in July of this year and is said to offer customers a very British menu built on nostalgia and celebrates British culture to its fullest.

I think Blumenthal had many reasons to launch his new restaurant in Heathrow airport, even though people initially scoffed at the idea. Firstly, Heathrow services approximately 191,000 people daily, so the customer base is huge, and I think this was at the forefront of his thinking. The way in which, airport food is being offered is improving rapidly, and for Blumenthal to be at the head of this has allowed him to gain a lot of exposure for the Perfectionists Café.

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The newly renovated Terminal 2 is also said to feature many groundbreaking engineering, architectural design and art. So, it seems Blumenthal and his unique take on culinary creations was a perfect fit for the terminal’s newfangled surroundings.

Since its launch in July, unsurprisingly the Perfectionists’ Café has been a success and it is slowly helping change the dynamics of how airport food is perceived and served. Where will Blumenthal’s next venture pop up? Only time will tell…But one thing is for sure, I’d love to sample the delights the Perfectionists’ Café has to offer.

Written by: Ashley Nixon

Photos from The Perfectionists’ Cafe.

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