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October 15, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

healthy breakfast on the go…

Avena, or agua de avena, is best described as drinkable oatmeal, but to me, it’s so much more than just oatmeal.

Warm and satisfying, avena is a drink that warms you up from the inside out. It’s exactly what I’ve been craving up here in Vancouver, as the mornings can be really chilly and it rains – a lot – which is something this California girl has had a difficult time getting used to (I did grow up in the Midwest but I’ve lived in sunny SoCal for almost 10 years;).

Avena is perfect for breakfast on the go, and also makes a hearty afternoon snack on a cold day. My Tia Julia first introduced avena to me, and I’ve been making it ever since, although not quite as well I must note. Drinking avena, especially if you’re lucky enough to have someone make it for you, is not unlike a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup: it is unmistakably comforting. I might go as far as to call it a “hug for your soul,” which some may say is taking it a tad too far. It’s only oatmeal, after all, so how good can it be? The truth is that this incredibly simple, satisfying drink is comforting in a way that is hard to explain, not unlike feeling your sore throat disappear after a steaming bowl of homemade soup.

I’m happy to share this video I worked on for Tastemade, which beautifully illustrates how to make avena. I like to make up a big pot and keep it in the fridge, just as Julia did, and warm up a cup whenever I need a hug by way of my stomach. I encourage you to make it in your own kitchen, especially as the days get shorter, cooler, and perhaps even a little rainy. I hope you also find comfort in this deliciously satisfying drink.

October 13, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

special weekend post: a whole lotta team spirit…

Granville Island. Vancouver, BC.

Granville Island. Vancouver, BC.

The Yellow Bungalow is spending some time in Vancouver, Canada. Each Thursday, I’ll be sharing a more personal account of my adventures there. Join me as I discover this delicious city!

As I begin this post, the conclusion to the riveting story about our adventurous first weekend in Vancouver, I have a confession to share: I took no photos – not even one – of the rib-off, our apple pies, anything. I am so sorry. Trust me, I’m more devastated by this than you are.

As a constellation prize, I’ll regale you with this photo of Granville Island!

Sunday began early as each couple scurried around town to pick up more supplies.  James and I went over to Granville Island again to pick up fresh buns and yes, more donuts.  We brought a “Kari dozen” back to our friends’ place (I intend to get a dozen but somehow always end up with more) to share sugary inspiration with our fellow teammates. Our large to-list included smoking and braising 6 more racks of ribs, assembling 75 hand pies (by hand) and frying them, then glazing the pies and stuffing them into homemade envelopes which we cut from wax paper. In keeping with our “Happy Meal” theme, the toys were to be divided up and placed into individual bags. Everything: the ribs, pies, bags, toys, and supplies, plus a fresh order of McDonald’s french fries, had to be at the park by 3pm.

On the drive over to the park, excitement filled the car: What was it going to be like? What were the other teams making? Surely no one came up with an idea as original as ours, right? We were confident in our idea, confident that our concept was well-planned and would be well-executed. Up to this point all the elements – the ribs, the BBQ sauce, the fresh buns, the secret sauce, the crunchy pickles – were all really delicious on their own, and had been really delicious when combined into our own version of the “McRib Slider.” The only questions left were: will our slider taste as good when we make it for the rest of the teams? And most importantly, will it be good enough to win?

We pulled up to the park and saw a large gathering of tables arranged in a circle, with grills peppering the space in between the tables. Then we began to notice a theme: the other teams had brought their team spirit and put it on display for everyone to see. Some of the teams were dressed in coordinating t-shirts while others had gone further and created costumes. Every table was decorated with custom-made signage, tablecloths, props, or all of the above.

Except for us.

Worried looks were exchanged, followed by encouraging statements like “we have the best tasting ribs,” our idea really is the coolest,” and “we put all of our time and effort into the food, and it will show.” Each of us tried to convince the others that our cool concept and delicious food would make up for our bare table and sad, handwritten sign.

We quickly shook off our doubts and got to work: some of us “sauced” the ribs and tended the grill while others began slicing the buns and creating an assembly line. We worked together like a well-oiled machine. Over the past few days, we had spent a fair amount of time together in preparation for this moment, and now it was time to perform. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time in busy kitchens, it’s worth sharing that this group found a comfortable rhythm almost immediately, like a crew that had been cooking together for years.

We served our ribs in the first heat, as the competition was so large that we had to be broken up into two groups in order for there to be enough space on the grills. Yes, you may be picking up on theme here: the rib-off is serious business. One by one, the teams began taking their ribs off the grill and sharing them with others. Some walked around to share their creations; others manned their tables and allowed contestants to come to them, creating a happy and chaotic scene.

The competition continued through the second of heat of teams, with more tasting and discussing and sharing of stories, and lots and lots of ribs. Ballots were passed around, collected and counted. Everyone gathered in the middle of the circle, eagerly awaiting the results. One by one, winners were announced: third place, second place, then first place. The winner was a team who prepared a lamb rib, which I confess I didn’t even get to taste! And then the awards continued, with awards for best table decor, best team spirit, then the award for rookie of the year. Laughs and cheers were exchanged as our team was named the rookie of the year. The awards continued on as almost every team was recognized, meaning that everyone who competed went home with an award and a belly full of yummy food.

Although there might have been a teensy-weensy feeling of disappointment that we didn’t win (or even place!) in the rib-off, we did walk away from the experience with one heck of a story. What a weekend we had, filled with good clean (if not sometimes sticky) fun, delicious adventure, and lots and lots of dirty dishes. Our team might have had a bare table and non-existent sign, but our team spirit was strong, even if we were the only ones who experienced it.

The rib off was founded by our friend Ben, a lovely man who has been known to wear a chef’s apron from time to time. We owe him a big thank you for creating such a delicious and spirited competition, making our first weekend in Vancouver a truly memorable one.

October 10, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

a spirited competition…

I think the photo says it all: Lee's Donut on Granville Island.  Vancouver, BC.

The photo says it all: Lee’s Donut on Granville Island. Vancouver, BC.

The Yellow Bungalow is spending some time in Vancouver, Canada. Each Thursday, I’ll be sharing a more personal account of my adventures there. Join me as I discover this delicious city!

As you may have guessed, the real reason behind our Vancouver scouting trip has to do with food. Of course I wanted to spend the weekend getting to know the town and checking out our new digs. More importantly, though, was an invitation to compete in a rib-off.

What is a rib-off, you ask?

A rib-off is a spirited competition among friends who love ribs…as in the kind you eat…pork, beef, and even lamb. The rib-off takes place in a park, grills are trucked in and lots of meat is cooked, eaten, and then voted on. There is a winner. Good reason to spend a weekend in Vancouver? I think so.

Before I share all the sticky, porky details (our team made pork ribs), I must first share the story of how it all came together. Trust me, the days leading up to the rib off are chock full of food adventures, brilliant strategy, and fried treats.

The story starts off where last Thursday’s post ends. That evening, we met up with our team (6 of us in total) to brainstorm ideas and discuss strategy for the rib-off. Over dinner and a Caesar (the drink, not the salad…it’s like a Bloody Mary but made with Clamato…it’s delish!), we brainstormed different strategies for our ribs. A (paper) placemat was sacrificed in the name of creativity as we settled on our own version of the McRib sandwich: we’d smoke pork ribs, cover them in homemade bbq sauce and caramelize them on the grill, then take them off the bone and stuff the meat onto a little slider bun which would also be layered with (real) McDonald’s french fries and our homemade “special sauce.” The two bite-sized sandwich would be served “Happy Meal style” in a bag with a homemade fried apple pie and a toy. Once this brilliant plan was hatched, we divided up duties and grocery lists, and agreed to meet back at our friends’ place the next day to get to work.

The evening ended with a walk over to Japadog, a local hot dog vendor that serves a donut version of the hot dog: a sweet, deep fried hot dog bun filled with ice cream. I’m not making this up! It’s true, and you too can experience a Japadog dessert if you come to Vancouver. Or New York. They’re expanding…

Hornby Aquabus Stop.  Vancouver, BC.

Hornby Aquabus Stop. Vancouver, BC.

In keeping with the donut theme established the night before, we boarded the Aquabus the next morning for Granville Island, where we indulged in a sweet treat before scouring the market for items needed to carry out our rib mission. While we munched on sweet, fried goodness, we wandered the Public Market in search of the items on our list. For our part, we needed to buy ingredients for the bbq sauce. I wanted to incorporate some local products into our homemade sauce and balance out the addition of McDonald’s fries. I figured that we could pick up some Canadian maple syrup. Instead, we found even more unique (locally made) options:

Edible Canada, a restaurant that specializes in local fare.  Headquartered on Granville Island.  Vancouver, BC.

Edible Canada, a restaurant that specializes in local fare. Headquartered on Granville Island. Vancouver, BC.

Edible Canada is a restaurant with a small marketplace located inside, where one can purchase local Canadian food products like maple syrup, jams, pickles, and a whole lot more. We bought pickles to add crunch to our sandwich, as well as birch syrup (like maple syrup but comes from a birch tree) and a savory onion & cranberry confit to incorporate into our bbq sauce.

Tacones from Go Fish! taco stand near Granville Island.  Vancouver, BC

Tacones from Go Fish! taco stand near Granville Island. Vancouver, BC

Granville Island is massive, so by the time we found all the ingredients we needed, we had walked for what felt like miles and were ready for lunch. Go Fish! is a local fish shack along the water that sells fish & chips, soup, and their famous tacones. Taco + cone = tacone, which you probably figured out without my help, but I didn’t realize until they were in front of me! One bite of the salmon taco and you won’t care what they’re called. Crazy fresh fish, crunchy slaw, and special sauce make these tacones some of the best and most unexpected tacos I’ve ever had.

That evening, our team gathered in the kitchen and began turning our vision into reality. We smoked the ribs indoors using lapsang souchong, a smoky tea, then braised them with apple juice to yield “fall-off-the-bone” tender meat. Meanwhile the homemade bbq sauce, created using local onion confit and birch syrup, bubbled away on the stove, reducing into a sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy sauce. The rest of the team produced pie dough by the pound, then made a small amount of apple filling to test out the fried apple pie. The evening carried on into the late hours and culminated with several tastings of our McRib sandwich, each version improving until we finally settled on the version we’d present at the contest the next day.

At this point, my fingers are starting to cramp and I’m guessing you might be antsy to move on with your day. A final installment will reveal how this trilogy ends! Please tune in over the weekend to find out the results of the 2013 Vancouver Rib-Off. And thanks for joining me on this delicious adventure. I assure you, this is only the beginning!

October 9, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

autumn afternoon snack…

baked sweet potato
I didn’t always love sweet potatoes.

Growing up, sweet potatoes did not make regular appearances at our house. Thanksgiving was the exception, though, as there was a sweet potato dish swimming in a pool of buttery brown sugar and topped with a mountain of marshmallows. My mother loves this dish. I do not.

When autumn arrives, I crave the hues of season, warm oranges and blazing reds, rich browns and golden yellows. I want to pull on a warm sweater and climb onto a hay bale-lined trailer, pulled by a tractor, and drive out into a field full of pumpkins. I want to pick out a pumpkin to sit on my front doorstep, and another to grace my kitchen table.

Naturally, I crave the flavors of the season as well: sweet-tart apples, caramel-y soft pears, and of course, fluffy sweet potatoes and their cousins, the winter squash crew. Autumn is in full force here in Vancouver, and for the first time in years, I’m surrounded by gorgeous trees, cool breezes, and yes, the occasional (or constant) autumn rain. It’s the perfect excuse to bake some sweet potatoes and call it a snack. Or a side dish. Or even breakfast, for that matter. But more on that another time.

This treat is warm and sweet, with a real commitment to cinnamon that says, “Excuse me, I’m not afraid to use a lot of cinnamon.” The kosher salt balances out all of that sweetness and adds a salty crunch. When simply baked in the oven, the flesh turns creamy and fluffy, and the natural sweetness steps forward, making it a perfect match for this salty cinnamon butter. A tiny pat is all you need to take a delicious sweet potato to a whole new level.

October 9, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

baked sweet potato with salty cinnamon butter

salty cinnamon butter

Mix ingredients together in a bowl.

Schmear on a warm baked sweet potato.

Enjoy.

Can be doubled or tripled.

In fact, I’d recommend it. You never know when you’ll need more. Probably tomorrow.

This butter is also delicious on toast, waffles, and pancakes.

October 8, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

well hello, creamy & dreamy…

avocado + almond milk shake

This is one thick shake.

Avocado. Dates. Almond milk. Honey. Vanilla. It sounds exotic because it kinda is. And yet, I almost always have these ingredients on hand, except for the avocados (which I keep around MOST of the time!). So maybe it’s not so exotic after all.

The avocado makes this shake incredibly thick and creamy. The dates lend a caramel-y note while the honey rounds out the sweetness. Homemade almond milk creates an intoxicating aroma, and vanilla brings it all together into one rich, delicious treat.

I like my smoothies and shakes really cold, so I always toss in a few ice cubes. Ice cubes aren’t traditional but even some Moroccan recipes call for ice.

Ice, no ice…it’s up to you. It’s darn good either way.

This shake makes a great afternoon snack, either to get you through a busy day or to make for little people who do homework after school. I’d serve it for dessert too, and I’d even call it healthy.

I had the pleasure of working on the video below, and wanted to share it with you because, well, I think it’s beautiful and a really fun way to “watch” a recipe come together. Thanks, Tastemade!

Like me, you might have never tried anything like it. Once you do, I’m confident you’ll agree that it’s pretty yummy. You might even find yourself making it again and again. I confess that is what happened with us…the avocado + almond milk shake is now on regular rotation at the bungalow.

October 3, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

scouting trip: i love vancouver!

almond bar

Almond Bar from Prego Coffee & Deli. Vancouver, BC.

The Yellow Bungalow is spending some time in Vancouver, Canada. Each Thursday, I’ll be sharing a more personal account of my adventures there. Join me as I discover this delicious city!

Here we go with the first round of notes from my journal…

Before making the official move, we decided to take a scouting trip, aka a weekend vacation. The scouting trip was planned for early September, and the goal was to check out our new place and get acquainted with the neighborhood.

The first item on my list: find a bakery. Luckily, I didn’t have to go far because there is a great little Italian bakery located right across the street, a local cafe with a little something to suit your needs at almost any time of day: coffee and pastries in the morning, savory sandwiches and soups for lunch, cookies and gelato if you have a sweet craving in the afternoon. I ordered coffee and an almond bar, a rectangular-shaped biscuit topped with toasted, sliced almonds, turbinado sugar, and a dusting of powdered sugar. The first bite yielded an intense almond flavor, with a faint sweetness that drew me right back in for a second bite. The texture is similar to a scone but more uniform, as scones tend to be shaped into a crumbly mound and this is more uniform in shape, as you can see from the photo. There is a lovely denseness about this shape, yet yields to a tender crumb when you take a bite. The lightly sweet, crunchy toasted almond topping is out of this world. I was careful not to waste any of the crumbs that toppled off with each bite, scraping them up with a dampened finger in the most unmannered way. Occasionally one must ignore proper manners in pursuit of gustatory bliss. Perhaps if the baker had witnessed my practically licking the wrapper, surely he or she would have he or she would have quietly approved of my behavior.

Coffee & pastries? Check!

sea wall

Sea walk along False Creek. Vancouver, BC.

With ample caffeine and sugar to satisfy our (my) needs, Marco and I headed out for a morning walk along the sea wall. The photo above was taken from the dog beach, looking out along False Creek. We took a very long walk along the water, watching runners and bikers pass by, greeting other dogs, and watching the geese stake their claim over a large grassy meadow facing the water.

marco watching ships

Sea Walk in Stanley Park. Vancouver, BC.

Out in the distance, you can see large cargo ships. The sun is shining, the mountains are glistening out in the distance, the air is crisp and fresh and clean. It’s breathtaking, and I am easily falling in love with our new neighborhood! The photo (pretty darn good for an iPhone) cannot do this view justice; it’s simply spectacular.

False Creek Market, our local grocer.  Vancouver, BC.

False Creek Market, our local grocer. Vancouver, BC.

After our long walk, I was famished and in need of real sustenance. I headed out on the opposite direction, this time in search of a local market. One short block away (cue choir singers), I came upon False Creek Fresh Market. Stocked with local organic produce, milk, yogurt, & locally-churned butter, and a small but quality selection of prepared foods, this market is a real gem. I grabbed a few items and kept walking in the same direction, toward the smell of freshly baked bread.

Tartine Bread & Pies, our local bakery.  Vancouver, BC.

Tartine Bread & Pies, our local bakery. Vancouver, BC.

Tartine Bread & Pies is the local joint that keeps the neighborhood smelling delicious on the regular. A quick scan of their offering yielded an impressive collection of pies, cookies, tiny tarts, stacks of brownies, and piles of fresh bread, all made in house. On the wall there is a chalkboard listing of all the “toast” they offer, which includes butter with homemade jam as well as peanut butter with banana & honey. Each day, they offer a new homemade soup; I spied two girls in the kitchen chopping onions and sorting veggies, presumably the beginning of tomorrow’s soup. The soup of the day was Thai coconut with chicken. I felt so overwhelmed by this discovery – what luck! fresh bread & treats only a block away! – that I walked right out before I bought the entire contents of the bakery case.

I’m going to break into the story right now to press the pause button. This journal is in its infancy, and I’m still a bit uncertain as to where I’m going to take it. What I’m realizing as I type is that I have a lot to share, as this long narrative doesn’t quite cover my first day in Vancouver!

With respect for your time, and to give my fingers a break from typing so quickly, I’m going to “press pause” so that we can both get back to reality and meet up another time very soon. Moving forward, my goal is to share enough for you to sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy these stories. At the rate I’m going, you’ll have to brew a whole pot of tea…and no one needs that!

In the next chapter, I’ll share the real reason behind the scouting trip. Hint: it involves creating and testing recipes with a group of friends, all in the name of a food competition!

Please join me again…new post coming soon!

View of the False Creek & the Burrard Street Bridge, taken from Granville Island and looking toward downtown.  Vancouver, BC.

View of False Creek & the Burrard Street Bridge, taken from Granville Island and looking toward downtown. Vancouver, BC.

October 3, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

some news from the bungalow…er…vancouver (!!)

vancouver coastline
I’m spending a few months in Vancouver. Canada. Vancouver, located in beautiful British Columbia, approximately three hours straight north of Los Angeles by plane…that Vancouver. A new city, a new kitchen, and endless food adventures to be had!

I’ll still be posting recipes, tips, etc, just from a different kitchen, and maybe with some new inspiration. After all, Vancouver is a very food-centric town! The Canadians are quite serious about their food, and I’m planning to bring you along with me on this delicious ride!

The bonus is that in addition to creating recipes at home, each week I’ll share a more personal account of my food experiences in this delicious city, including restaurant reports, bakery expeditions, and of course, adventures at the local farmers markets. I’ll be sure to include a few photos and the occasional dog story as well.

The Yellow Bungalow was born from the idea of a life well-lived in a tiny bungalow, which just happens to be located in the middle of Los Angeles. Our bungalow is a cozy place, where I cook delicious, seasonal meals for my family and friends, and share my adventures on this blog.

As I move forward in a new city, The Yellow Bungalow is beginning to feel a bit more like a state of mind than an actual place, at least as I put down roots to create recipes and write about food without the inspiration of my home, hearth, and life we lead there. I trust that the change of scenery will reveal inspiration around every corner, creating delicious opportunities to keep me walking, eating, and very, very happy.

We’ll be back in the original bungalow by the end of the year. Fear not, as it’s being well-loved and cared for while we’re away.

In the meantime, I’ll be eating my way through Vancouver, and I do hope that you’ll join me!

The first installment of Vancouver notes will post tomorrow…

October 1, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

food friends…

Lately I have not been a very good food friend: no posts to the blog, no sharing of delicious creations, plus I’ve really kept you in the dark with what’s going on inside the yellow bungalow. All of that is about to change.

To make it up to you, I’d like to introduce you to some new food friends I’ve been hanging out with recently. They have a very cool nickname: tastemakers.

The tastemakers are part of an online community for people who love food, called Tastemade. In fact, Tastemade’s motto is “connecting the world through food,” which I happen to think is a pretty good mission.

I was introduced to Tastemade earlier this year, and have been working with them on and off ever since. Tastemade started out as a channel on Youtube, but they’re so much more than that. This summer they launched an app and have also been hosting cool food events & competitions in Los Angeles and beyond. I think they may be on a path to change the way the world thinks about food.

No biggie.

One Tastemade series that is particularly near and dear is called “Thirsty For,” which is a video collection of drink recipes. It was created by a guy named Eric Slatkin, a tastemaker with an incurable curiosity of food and an eye to make it all look beautiful. I was lucky enough to work on a couple of these videos with Eric, and I’d like to share the first one with you today. In fact, it was filmed at the bungalow, so you can get a peek at what things look like on the inside!

I hope you’ll pour yourself a cup of tea, grab a sweet treat, and spend some time familiarizing yourself with what is going on over at Tastemade. There is a lot of cool stuff happening – shows about cooking, eating, & traveling, or some combo! – and this only the delicious beginning!

August 19, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

kitchen tip: cookie dough from the freezer

peanut butter stack
Question: What’s better than freshly-baked, homemade cookies?

Answer: Skipping the “stir, bake, do the dishes” steps and instead going straight to bake and eat!

One of my favorite freezer staples is cookie dough. Whenever I take the time to whip up a batch of cookie dough, I try to make enough to save some in the freezer for another time. We invited some friends for dinner last week, and my husband requested peanut butter cookies for dessert. Since there were only four of us, I decided to bake only a dozen cookies and save the rest of the dough for later.

mason jar cookie dough

You can save your dough in a number of ways, but both of these are super quick. Simply scrape the dough into a freezer-safe Mason jar, add a label, and throw it into the freezer (or place it gently!). When you’re ready for freshly baked cookies, thaw the dough in the fridge until soft, and then pull the dough out and bake.

cookie dough wand

Freezing leftover dough into a “cookie wand” is another easy way to enjoy freshly baked cookies. What I love about this method is that it allows you to decide how many cookies you want to bake. If you freeze all of your dough into a Mason jar, you need to use it all up, ie bake all the cookies at once, because you can’t re-freeze the dough once it has been thawed. However, freezing the dough into a cookie wand allows you to cut off as many frozen cookies as you like. The remaining dough goes back into the freezer to be enjoyed at a later time. Hooray!