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July 24, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

bringing back the candy dish…

glass candy bowl
I have been traveling quite a bit this summer, hence the three weeks of quiet on the blog. On one of my trips to the Midwest, I stopped at my parents’ house to visit for a few days. Before arriving, I mentioned to my mother that I wanted to go through our family pictures and perhaps take some back with me. I had a vision of creating a family picture wall in our dining room, collage-style, and wanted to include some of my childhood pictures.

One afternoon, my mother and I headed down to the basement to fish out the pictures I had requested. Upon reaching the large storage room filled with holiday decorations, folding chairs, coolers, old clothes, and yes, family pictures, I was distracted by several boxes of items from my Grandma and Grandpa Lauritzen. I began going through the boxes and unearthing treasures from my family’s past, childhood memories flooding over me.

My grandparents lived in a big, happy family house about twenty minutes from where I grew up. We spent most holidays there, the house filled with cousins, laughter, and lots of fantastic food. My grandparents’ house served as the family meeting spot, and my grandmother was a well-prepared hostess. One thing she always had on hand was a dish filled with candy.

I have vivid memories of going to my grandparents house and helping myself to a treat, always displayed in a beautiful dish. My grandmother had a never-ending rotation of candy dishes sitting out in her house, I assume just in case one of her grandkids happened to stop by looking for a treat. Finding her candy dishes was a little bit of a treasure hunt, as I don’t think she ever kept them in the same spot. They weren’t difficult to find, just cleverly moved around to keep it interesting for us.

Going through the boxes in my parents’ basement, I unearthed two of my grandmother’s candy dishes: a footed glass bowl and a hand-painted piece made of china. I carefully wrapped them in layers of t-shirts and cotton shorts and carried them back to the West Coast in my suitcase. I’m happy to report that they both survived, not a scratch or chip on either one of them. Now that they’re completed their journey, I’ve decided to resurrect the candy dish in my own home, in hopes that guests visiting the bungalow will remember that there is always something sweet here, a treat waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.

The glass bowl in the first photo balances on three little feet, giving it a tiny lift that makes it feel just a touch on the fancier side. My grandmother used to keep Werther’s candies in that dish, and we would open the gold wrappers and pop buttery candies into our mouths, daring each other not to bite through the hard toffee. In adulthood, I confess I’m not longer as big of a fan of Werther’s candies, perhaps because I ate so many of them as a kid. Instead, I’ve filled this dish with Godiva salted caramel chocolates, a special treat indeed!

Below is a photo of the second bowl, with pastel colors that feel summery; I love the scalloped edges. I filled this dish with salted caramels as well…notice a trend here?!

pretty candy dish

Here are two dishes of my own that I’ve turned into candy dishes. The yellow footed dish was a flea market find, the warm amber color being a favorite of mine. I have an affinity for footed dishes and platters, and simply could not pass this one up. The second dish is actually from Ikea. I love the texture on the outside, and the way the color barely conceals the contents, teasing you to lift the lid to see what’s inside. Peanut M&M’s and Hershey’s Kisses are two of my favorite treats, and I look forward to sharing them with anyone who comes to visit the bungalow.

July 24, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

how to make the most of fresh summer corn…

corn at fm

Corn on the cob is hands-down one of my favorite things to eat in the summer.

Over the weekend, we walked to the farmers market in our neighborhood. My sister and her family were in town visiting, and we had plans for a family dinner out on the patio. We invited them to come along with us to the farmers market, where we encouraged my 9 year-old niece to pick out her favorite summer veggies. Because we left her in charge, I tried to keep my opinions to myself (“Look at these beautiful squash,” and, “My, the eggplant looks especially good this morning!”) and instead let her survey the wares on her own time. She wandered over to a large stack of fresh sweet corn, declaring her choice. I was secretly jumping up and down inside, and very pleased with her choice. I couldn’t wait to get home and throw it in a pot of boiling water.

After dinner, I asked that everyone save their corn stalks in a large container. I was met with a few quizzical looks, so I went on to explain that after removing the corn kernels, the stalks actually have a lot flavor. “Corn broth” is like any other veggie broth, and can be used instead of water to add flavor to soups or grain dishes. When I was a private chef and would cater summer parties, I would usually cut the kernels off the cobs, as it can be challenging to gnaw corn off a cob while simultaneously holding a conversation with another dinner guest. Left with a pile of cobs, I would turn them into a beautiful, slightly sweet corn-flavored broth. Over the course of the summer, I made a lot of corn dishes, and always seemed to have some fresh corn broth on hand for a quick veggie soup, or to add a pop of flavor to my quinoa or farro. Nowadays I can’t imagine throwing the cobs away without squeezing every last bit of flavor out of them.

Read on to learn how to reuse your corn cobs to make a flavorful broth. Once you make your own corn broth, you’ll never throw your the cobs away without first turning them into a delicious, flavorful broth.

July 24, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

recipe: homemade corn broth

fresh corn stock

After eating and enjoying corn on the cob, don’t throw away your corn stalks! By simmering leftover stalks in a pot of water, you can make flavorful corn “water,” which you can use to make soup, cook grains, or in any other dish that calls for veggie or chicken stock. Simply simmer the stalks for 45 minutes or so, then strain off any fibers to yield a smooth, flavorful liquid. Use in place of water or another stock, keeping in mind that it will impart a faint corn flavor in whatever dish you’re using it for. Adding carrots, celery, and onion to the water with the corn cobs creates an additional layer of flavor, the veggies lending their nutrients to the liquid as well.

The corn broth featured here is only slightly more involved than adding corn cobs and veggies into a pot of water. I wanted to develop the flavors a bit more, and to use the broth as a base for corn soup, so I took an extra step to create a deeper flavor base. Instead of simply adding carrots, celery, and onion, I caramelized them first in olive oil to develop their flavors.

Here is a step-by-step description of how to make a flavorful corn broth:

Heat a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, drizzle with olive oil, then add carrots, celery, and onion. Because the veggies will be used for flavor and strained off later, a rough chop is sufficient. Add a giant pinch of salt to help draw the moisture out of the veggies.

mirepoix

Cook the veggies down until they begin to caramelize and brown. You’ll notice the color developing on the bottom of the pan. At this point, you need to watch it a little more closely so that you don’t turn your caramelized flavors into something burnt (which would make your entire stock taste burnt).

caramelized veggies

Once the veggies are caramelized, add corn cobs, veggies scraps (like onion peels and carrot tops), and enough water to cover all the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer, partially covered, for 45-60 minutes to allow the flavors to release from the vegetables.

veggie tops

Set a large strainer or colander over a bowl in the sink, then slowly separate the solids from the flavorful liquid. Discard the solids. At this point, you can use the stock, especially if you’re going to make a chunkier soup, like a chowder, as the solids and fibers will simply blend into your soup.

pull out the veggies

However, I like to strain it again, resulting in a clear, flavorful broth that I can use later on. To achieve a clear broth, line a fine sieve with several layers of cheesecloth or paper towel or even a coffee filter. Here I used unbleached napkins because I was fresh out of paper towels. This step will likely take a little more time, as the liquid needs to drain through the filter, separating out fibers and impurities.

fine sieve

At this point, your stock is ready to be used, or transferred into a container for storing in the fridge or freezer.

Check back in next Tuesday for a corn soup recipe using our homemade corn broth.

corn broth

July 22, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

kitchen tip: display your trays

tray with plates
Okay, I’ll admit it: I like trays, and I own a few of them. I find trays useful and pretty, two characteristics that bode well in a working kitchen. I use trays for all sorts of things, from displaying farmers market goodies to serving drinks, and to keep the ice bucket from sharing its condensation with my kitchen table (which is made of wood). Trays are useful for transporting food to friends’ houses, as well as for helping to organize silverware for a dinner party.
bird tray
Truthfully, none of my trays are fancy. Most are made of melamine, which is a shatterproof material similar to plastic but a little more sturdy. Melamine works well outdoors, which is why I’ve been using my trays more often lately. We’ve been busy inviting friends over for casual dinners, hosting family visiting from out of town, and enjoying the beautiful summer weather. I’ve been using my trays to arrange crostini, pile crudites, and serve glasses of iced tea out on the patio.
chicken tray
Today’s tip is as useful as it is clever. I may have mentioned this before, but I don’t have a lot of extra cupboard space in the bungalow kitchen. I love a small kitchen because it’s easy to work in, and I don’t wear myself out running from one end to the other. However, the compact space forces me to be creative with how I organize it.
butterfly tray
I came up with this idea when I needed to make space for more baking pans, forcing me to move my trays to another location. Instead of moving them outside of the kitchen, where I’d likely forget them, I simply began “filing” them into various cupboards, leaning them against the wall inside. What I realized is that displaying the trays inside my cupboards not only saved space, it made the insides of the cupboards feel more inviting. The charming trays, each with its own story and individual style, are a welcome splash of color in an otherwise boring cupboard.
west elm tray
I welcome you to pull out your trays, dust them off, and perhaps “file” them into your cupboards (and pantry if you have one!). Not only will your cupboards be more beautiful and inspiring to open, you’ll be constantly reminded of the beautiful pieces you can use to make your meals feel more special.

July 19, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

how to: succulent clippings…

succulent clipping...
“Succulents really confuse me,” my friend declared, causing me to laugh out loud unexpectedly.

I had stopped into her office to get some technical help (not my strong suit), and complimented the pretty succulent clipping that graced her desk. “Unfortunately none of my succulents ever survive, so my friend clipped a stem from one of her plants and gave it to me.”

She had taken the clipping and stuck it in a glass of water, and brought it to work where I’m guessing she could watch over it more closely. Over time, the branch had grown a beautiful, elaborate root system, visible through the glass. It looked pretty sitting on her desk, a welcome distraction from all the piles of papers and books strewn about her work area. Her friend had encouraged her to plant the clipping, allowing the root system to establish a completely new plant.

A few days later, I was sweeping the sidewalk along the side of the bungalow and accidentally broke off a few branches from a large potted succulent. I knew instantly that I had a new project on my hands. I brought the stems inside and began looking for something to store them in while I waited for them to (possibly) grow roots, creating a whole new plant. I found this beautiful footed goblet, its jeweled-green glass blending perfectly with the green hue of the leaves. I arranged the broken stems into the goblet and quickly found a resting place for it on the windowsill in my office.

The succulent clippings have been there for over a week, still green and beautiful and happily soaking up the sun that comes through the window. I think I’ve noticed the tiniest, faintest hint of a root growing from the bottom of the stem. It could be real, or simply a product of my wishful thinking.

Either way, I’m going to enjoy them for as long as they last.

July 18, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

delicious homemade nut butter…

chocolate nut butter
Yesterday I planned a picnic for my sister and her family, and shared the story about how and why I created the menu: to welcome them on their first evening in California with a meal that was delicious, familiar, and healthy.

The picnic was a huge hit!

At the end of my post, I promised to share recipes in the coming weeks. I will keep that promise, but first I thought I’d share where some of the inspiration for that meal came from.

I make a lot of things from scratch in my kitchen but I confess I’ve never made my own nut butter until yesterday. Like most people, I pick up a jar of peanut or almond butter at the grocery store without considering making it myself. Peanut butter is an essential pantry item at the bungalow, and almond butter is not too far behind it. Aside from a generous schmear on fresh bread, I use nut butters for cookies, granola bars, and in my morning oatmeal.

The idea to make my own nut butter came from my friend Amelia Winslow, who posts to blog I follow called Eating Made Easy. Amelia is a good friend of mine as well as a culinary colleague. Aside from being gorgeous, smart, and really funny, Amelia shares her common-sense nutrition advice, very patiently I might add, whenever I need it. But because she is also a chef, she puts a very high value on flavor, creating delicious dishes that have a myriad of nutritional benefits as well.

Amelia makes sunflower butter in her food processor each week. I’ve never made (or eaten, to be honest) sunflower butter, but her post got me thinking about the mason jar of mixed nuts in my pantry. They’ve been hanging out in there for a while, and I knew that I needed to use them up. I also knew that I had forgotten to pick up a fresh jar of peanut butter when I stopped by the store the other day, so I figured I would give it a shot. My sister had, after all, asked me to put PB & J sandwiches on the picnic menu.

Boy am I glad I did.

Making your own nut butter is CRAZY SIMPLE. Throw nuts into your food processor, pulse a few times, and then let it run until the butter is as creamy as you like it. I wanted mine to be really creamy, and also a little chocolatey, so I added some cocoa and vanilla extract. The mixed nuts I used were already roasted and salted, which was ideal in terms of making it easy for me but also made the nut butter a little too salty. So I added some honey to balance it out, a step which simply required me to dump some honey into the food processor and let it whirl a bit longer.

It was so simple. And delicious. And fun to make!

Check out the recipe for sunflower butter on Eating Made Easy. While you’re there, I’m guessing you may get distracted by all the great recipes and advice that Amelia shares.

Yep, happens to me too…

July 17, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

summer is for picnics…

picnic basket

My sister arrives today with her family after catching an early morning flight from Chicago. By the time I pick them up at the airport, they will be ready for dinner, mostly thanks to a 4+ hour flight and a two hour time difference.

My young nieces will be anxious to stretch their legs after a long day of travel, so I opted to pack them a picnic dinner to enjoy at the beach in lieu of taking them to a restaurant where more sitting would be required.

When I asked my sister what they might like me to pack for dinner, she said, “Nothing fancy. PB & J is fine.” I’m guessing that her strategy was to be as unfussy as possible in an attempt to make it easier on her sister who will spend the weekend hosting.

Nonsense.

It has been close to three years since my little sister has come to visit us on the West Coast, her life busy with raising children while working full-time. Therefore a “simple PB & J” was not going to cut it in my book, er, kitchen. Packing a “fancy” picnic also felt silly, as this crew will undoubtedly be craving something healthy after a day of airport food, hungry for something familiar and comforting in a far-away land.

So I set out to create a picnic menu that felt special, was healthy but also comforting, a way of saying “Welcome to California” and “get ready for a fun (and delicious!) trip.”

Here is the menu I packed for them:

“Cadillac” PB & J: homemade nut butter swirled with cocoa, honey, & vanilla, sandwiched between two slices of honey whole wheat bread and stuffed with slices of banana and chunks of fresh strawberries

charcuterie & cheese nibbles

homemade hummus with crudites & pita chips

fresh melon chunks

Tonight we’ll dine on the beach and watch the sun set over the Pacific. The girls will run around and play in the sand, expending some energy before the last leg of their trip.

Final stop: Disneyland.

Recipes to follow in the coming weeks ~

July 17, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

a smoothie recipe worth sharing…

bowl of melon and avocado
I used to be an expert melon picker.

Don’t laugh. It’s a true story.

Okay, you can laugh a bit…it’s kinda funny.

A few summers ago, I volunteered at a farm stand to keep busy while my clients were traveling. Although I was working full-time as a private chef, I was still pretty new at it and figured that I should make the most of my down time by expanding my culinary skills. The farmers market seemed like a great place to start. We lucky Angelenos have at least one farmers market every day of the week, including my favorite in Santa Monica each Wednesday. While my clients were out of town, I began working at Weiser Family Farm’s stand at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.

Weiser Farm sells a variety of produce, including potatoes, carrots, beets, snap peas, onions, and garlic. During the summer, however, their heirloom melons steal the show. They grow several varieties of melons and truth be told, they are all excellent. I used to be able to pick the best melons, and stagger them so that they would ripen gradually over the course of the week, or at least until my next visit to the farmers market. When I worked at the stand, I would strategically collect melons over the course of the day. I’d choose one really ripe melon to enjoy after market or after dinner that evening. Then I’d pick another melon that would be perfectly ripe after spending one evening out on the counter. I’d round out my order with maybe 2 more melons that were really green; the trick was to let the green melons sit out on the counter for a couple of days. Green stripes turn to a golden yellow when ripe, which was usually just about the time we’d be ready for more melon.

Last week, I learned that I am no longer an expert melon picker.

As I mentioned in my previous post, our fridge was empty and well, I went a little overboard in replenishing it. My first trip back to the farmers market in weeks yielded an entire case of melons, which involves somewhere between 7-9 melons. Some of the melons are smaller than what you might find at the grocery story but in any case, 7-9 melons is a pretty big commitment for two people.

Back at home, we began eating melon like it was going out of style: yogurt parfaits with melon and granola for breakfast, melon with cottage cheese and salt for lunch, melon with proscuitto for dinner. I cut up melon after melon but we couldn’t keep up; there were too many melons and not enough of us. If I had staggered them better, buying some ripe and others that were still green and needed a few days, we would have had a fighting chance. In my excitement and haste, I bought an entire case of ripe and ready to eat melons. We were overwhelmed.

After a busy weekend, I discovered a tupperware of melon in the back of the fridge that was slightly over-ripe. I realize this is a bit of a snotty thing to say…”the melon was slightly over-ripe…” but since you know my background and experience with melons, I feel I’ve earned the right to judge a melon on its ripeness. This discovery put me in a bit of a conundrum: do I toss out my investment and fully accept defeat? Or were there options yet to consider? How could I use up this (slightly over-ripe) melon?

I did what any sane person would do: I tossed the entire bowl of watery melon into the Vitamix, added some kefir to balance out the sweetness (adding probiotics and protein to boot), and had myself one delicious breakfast. It was sweet and tangy, creamy and zippy, cold and refreshing and satisfying…all at once! The added bonus is that it’s pretty to look at too; not essential but always a nice touch when you can turn your leftovers into something beautifully delicious.

For the most part, I never use a “recipe” when I’m making a smoothie. I just throw a bunch of things into a blender and hit the power button until it’s liquid-y and well-blended. This strategy works out for me about 95% of the time, resulting in a delicious smoothie. More often, though, I lack inspiration when creating a smoothie. I’m not inspired by the ingredients on hand, or I’m unsure of whether I’ll like all of their flavors mixed up together. I tend to stick to what I know I like. And so when this one turned out so darned good, I felt I needed to share it because it’s an instant classic I’m adding to our repertoire at the bungalow. So read on for the “recipe,” although I would not concern myself with strict measurements. Instead, use my silly discovery as a source of inspiration, or at least as a way to use up a bowl of really ripe melon in your fridge. Your stomach – and maybe even your wallet – will thank you.

And when I go to the farmers market this week, I’ll leave the melon picking to the professionals.

melon vitamix

July 17, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

recipe: melon smoothie

melon smoothie

ingredients:
3 cups of cubed fresh melon, any variety
1 cup kefir

instructions:
Place ingredients into blender and blend until smooth.

Enjoy ~

July 15, 2013 / theyellowbungalowla

the fridge tells all…


Before leaving on a long trip, I try to clean out the fridge as well as I can so that I don’t come home to funky smells or unwanted biology experiments. I use up every morsel possible, and resist buying anything that was not absolutely necessary.

The flip side is that coming home to an empty fridge is, well, quite depressing in my book. A house without anything to eat is a sad state of affairs, so I try to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.

This time I might have gone a little overboard.

My first trip to the farmers market yielded an embarrassment of riches in the form of delicious edibles: farm-fresh eggs, a case of melons, a case of assorted peaches and nectarines, a large bag of baby romaine, and an assortment of fresh herbs.

Our first week back was a happy whirlwind of cooking and eating out on the patio, enjoying summer’s bounty as provided by the local farms that populate the areas just outside of Los Angeles.

It’s nice to travel, to visit friend and family and far-off places, but it’s always nice to come home.

I’m very happy to be back home in the bungalow…