Thursday, July 6, 2017

Raspberry Balsamic Ice Cream

Pretty in pink
I scream! You scream! The police come! It's awkward!

But, seriously, I love ice cream, even though it doesn't tend to love me back. B has a pretty severe lactose intolerance, so out of laziness, I just flat-out don't buy dairy products anymore. Yes, you read that right; I don't purchase dairy products because I'm lazy.

Yeah so we're a family of lumps. Wanna fight about it?
See, I don't want to make the effort of cooking two separate meals at night, and dirty two sets of pans, just because I might feel like having a little butter on my pork chops. Frankly, now that veganism has made so many demands of food companies, I'm reaping the benefits. I can have cheese that melts and stretches and tastes like cheese. I can have butter that's not butter at all but still tastes like and behaves like butter when I bake it. Finding milk has been the actual struggle, but I find that the almond-coconut blends from SO Delicious and Blue Diamond have been the best matches for us. They're drinkable and tasty, and act quite similar to dairy milk in baking and pastry applications. I use the SO Delicious brand of coconut milk when I make ice cream, and it hasn't failed me, yet!

I made this flavor of ice cream because of a serendipitous find at the Overland Park Farmer's market in Kansas City, where I live. I like to go to the farmer's market on Saturdays and walk around, get fresh fruit, people watch, and maybe get myself a new bouquet of flowers from the very nice Vietnamese family at the end of the line. I'm extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful farmer's market near me; not a lot of people have it, and for that I'm truly grateful.

Plus, like, you'll occasionally see THE BIGGEST CABBAGES EVER
There's a shop I sometimes partner with called The Tasteful Olive. They specialize in artisanal oils and vinegars, in just about every flavor you can imagine. Lemon olive oil. Blood Orange White Balsamic Vinegar. Chili Almond Oil. Oregano White Balsamic Vinegar. The list goes on and on, and I frankly couldn't even begin to fathom how they keep track of it all - but I'm grateful that it's there and I'm grateful that they do. As it just so happens, the lady that I buy my berries from had fresh raspberries, and the raspberry balsamic vinegar I'd found at the end of the market was just too perfect-sounding to pass up. Now, I could make a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette for all of my salad greens when I got home, but where's the fun in that?

Raspberry Balsamic Ice Cream

Yes. You have to weigh the berries.
  • 150 g white sugar
  • 45 g coconut milk powder
  • 600 g SO Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage, divided
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 15 g powdered gelatin
  • 170 g fresh raspberries
  • 32 g Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar(Aged Balsamic works, too!)
Measure the coconut milk and then sprinkle the gelatin over the top in a single layer to allow it to bloom. Combine the egg yolks and sugar via whisk in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Whip until fluffy by hand, and then add in the bloomed gelatin along with half the coconut milk. 

Bring to 185 degrees F, whisking constantly, then remove from heat. Add the remainder of the coconut milk and the balsamic vinegar. Add in the raspberries and then puree everything in a blender. You may strain it, if you like, but I don't mind the seeds. 

Transfer the blended mixture to a plastic container and chill in an ice bath. You can also set it in the fridge overnight, but it's up to you on how long you'd like to wait. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I used an ice bath and stirred constantly to cool down as quickly as it could. Once chilled enough so that it's - at very least - room temperature, process in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. My machine took about 30 minutes to process the dessert, and it took an additional 2 hours for my freezer to harden it enough to eat. (This is also because my freezer is crazy-strong and it’s brand new. If your fridge is a little more seasoned, let it hang out for at least 4 hours or so, ideally overnight.)

I love this ice cream because raspberries epitomize the absolute height of summer flavors for me. The tangy brightness of the raspberries and the deep and mouth-watering tang of the balsamic vinegar somehow made this ice cream the absolute ideal for me. I can’t quite explain it, but something about the ice-cold creaminess plus the fresh raspberry taste plus that tangy mouthfeel a good aged balsamic vinegar gives you on the inside of your cheeks is just so well-rounded and satisfying. It’s as if you reach the zenith of tasty mouthfeel and think to yourself: “Ah, yes. There it is.”

Oh, and if you're not following me on Instagram, please feel free to! I show a lot of neat stuff on there, both from work and from home life.
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and please let me know if you try out this recipe! Happy cooking and happy eating! 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Date Mint Scones

I'm currently in the middle of rebranding my Instagram to reflect my blog versus my business page. I've come into a different job that requires 100000% of my attention, so my farmer's market stall has taken a back seat. I'll still take orders, of course, but when one is called to service, one serves. That being said, pushing things more towards my blog allows me to do this at leisure, which will put me in an entirely different mentality; it's for fun! When things are done for fun, I'm far more motivated to keep up on the maintenance of it. (Piscean attention spans, amirite??)

On a personal note, I've been pushing away my "Yes Man" tendencies and practicing more realistic goals for myself. This means letting go of the farmer's markets so I can have my weekend off, to relax from work. This also means that I have much more time on my hands, and when I bake for fun instead of production, I get to goof around a little more without worrying about breaking even. Just yesterday I got the urge to bake, and so I did! I have, after all, a fully-stocked pantry of goodies to use...

B was going to his grandparent's new apartment to help them set up their new TV. I knew about it late Friday night, but since it was our gaming night, I didn't think to make something for them until that morning. What's quick, though? Why, quickbreads!

Quickbreads are categorized by the speed in which they can be thrown together, without the need for yeast to rise them. Muffins, scones, biscuits, etc., all count as quickbreads. I didn't feel like muffins, so I thought scones would be a nice thing for me, for them, and for later. I ended up making enough for B to take to his grandparents' place, for us to keep, and for me to take some to my friend's birthday party later that evening.

A scone is a wonderful vessel can be sweet or savory, and you can put virtually anything in them. Being the responsible wannabe-homesteader that I am, I wanted something to use up some of the stuff that I might have a little too much of, and when I saw the container of dried dates in my cabinet, I just couldn't resist.  Using what you have is not only being financially smart, but it makes you sometimes be a little more creative. Trying new things in the kitchen and figuring out if something works or not is a sort of exciting gamble that lets you eat your experiment. So what if it fails? You only lost a little flour and sugar; not your house.

I love peppermint!
Dates are a wonderful fruit that have a ridiculous amount of sugar. There's a wonderful company that I've worked with called The Date Lady which makes caramels, syrups, sugars, chocolate spreads, and more from dates! I simply adore their date syrup on pancakes, because it's just as sweet as maple syrup but has so much more depth...and I can feel a little better about it because it's made from fruit. Seriously, check them out!

What goes with dates? Why, mint, of course! Mint grows like a weed, and I've got an honestly ridiculous amount all around my garden, in various locations on my property, too, as I've planted it, forgotten about it, and then seen it pop up randomly the next spring. Mint is a perennial, which means it comes back every year. Mint flowers are also extremely popular among foraging honeybees, so you can definitely feel good about having it in your garden, be it for tea, for baking, for making oils, natural shampoos and air-fresheners...the list goes on and on. Anyway, time to bake!


Date Mint Scones with Honey Glaze

yields 12 scones
Adapted from "The Afternoon Tea Collection"


  • 30 g coconut oil
  • 55 g honey(you can use date sugar, though!)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 375 g AP flour
  • 7 g baking powder
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • 250 ml coconut milk
  • 115 g chopped dates(this is an estimate, as I just grabbed a handful)
  • 10 mint leaves(I used peppermint, but spearmint or apple mint would be fine)
If you can invest in a marble slab, do it. They keep doughs cool
when you need them to be (Hello pie dough) and you can even find them at reclaim stores.
Honey Glaze
  • 120 g powdered sugar
  • 15 g coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tbsp honey

Combine your flour and baking powder in the bowl of a standing mixer and fix with a paddle attachment. Mix for about 30 seconds, just enough to make sure everything is combined. Add the honey and the coconut oil, and mix until the mixture looks just crumbly. Add in your chopped dates and fresh mint, then stir for about 10 turns, just to coat everything with flour. Add your coconut milk and that's it! This is an extremely quick recipe that produces a rather wet dough, but you can use a nice ice cream scoop or two large tablespoons to make dollops on a baking sheet, lined with parchment or a silpat mat. You can attempt to roll it out and just cut off pieces that you think you'll want for the size, but I didn't want to risk over-working it with a floured surface. Quickbreads should be just that: quick!

Bake at 425 for about 17 minutes, or until the bottoms are crisp and color on top is set. You can also give the tops a bit of an egg wash, but that's up to you. While everything is baking, clean up and make the glaze. If you're feeling a little crazy, you can even add some fresh mint in to the glaze, for some of that pretty color! Garnishing with candied mint leaves, as well, is a good way to use up that quick-growing mint.

All you do is combine everything with a whisk until it's smooth, and then set in the fridge to chill just enough to be pourable but not solid. Simply let your scones cool for about 10 minutes before you ice them, and you're good to go. 

I hope you've enjoyed the recipe! Follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and look for my tags, #wannabgourmande! Of course, you can get more info and more fun content on my Facebook page. Thanks for hanging out with me! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spicy Garden Pesto Pasta

I love pasta. I am safely pro-pasta. In fact, if I were to run for President of the United States of America, I'd say "Hello, I am WannaBGourmande, I am pro-pasta, and I am running for president." I'd clearly get elected because there are literally zero qualifications at this point to run the arguably most-powerful country in the world. (I hope I get to look back on this post and laugh.)

I'm an avid gardener, and wannabe homesteader. I sometimes think about changing my name to Wanna B. Homesteader, but that doesn't quite have the fun ring to it as 'gourmande' does. Plus, if my initials ended with "H", I couldn't call myself "Notorious WBG." Ultimately, I don't feel truly right calling myself a homesteader if I'm still living on the grid, but I try every day to live a better, more wholesome life through my food, through the ways I consume products, and the ways I live. I've sort of decided to call myself a lifestyle blogger, without the excessive posts on pinterest and falling into the trope of 'rich girl pinterest'. You know, chia seed smoothies in mason jars with organically-grown kale from the co-op? I want to write about cooking and being a chef and eating well on a tight-ass budget, because that's the truth that I know and have lived. Anyway, on to the eating.

Easy Homemade Pasta

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • Cool water, as needed

Making your own pasta is rewarding in both the culinary sense and the emotional sense. When making pasta, you can use the dough as a sort of worry stone. You'll have to knead the dough to be quite glutinous(no gluten-free pasta here; sorry, guys) and chewy, so you can use this moment to have your own version of tactile therapy. Go ahead; take the opportunity to imagine strangling your annoying coworker as you work the dough into the counter...because yes, Janet, I'm sure in your day you did just 'deal with it' even though the reality of anxiety and depression is that nobody ever got diagnosed properly, but sure, my generation totally invented mental illness.  But, seriously, there's no Netflix in prison, so just take your frustrations out on the dough and it'll be ready in no time.

You can combine this dough in the bowl of a standing mixer or do it the old-fashioned way, which is what I prefer. Simply pile your flour in the middle of your impeccably clean counter and make a well in the middle. Dump your eggs and oil in the center of the well, and use a fork to sort of break it up and beat it together. Using a dough scraper and your hands, fold the flour over and over each other to mix, then knead. Knead this for a solid five minutes, and remember that it's totally okay that you skipped arm day at the gym because of this.

Wrap your dough and let it rest for about ten minutes. If you have a pasta machine, take the time to set it up now. If you don't, you can easily just use a rolling pin to create long sheets of pasta and cut tagliatelle strips with a knife that you've rubbed with flour. Otherwise, once your resting time is up, roll and use your pasta machine as needed. Don't have these neat beechwood pasta racks? You can use plastic coat hangers(no seriously) or just pile them in 4 oz nests like these for easy portioning. If you don't intend to use them that evening, simply allow them to dry overnight, pop them in plastic bags (with a silica gel pack if you're feeling fancy), and then store them for up to 6 months in your pantry.

Green Garden Pesto
(rough estimates; use what you have!)
  • 2/3 fresh basil
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup nasturtium leaves
  • 8 sprigs parsley
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 9 small hot chile peppers, pan-roasted and seeded
  • 1/3 cup raw pistachio nuts, shelled
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
So here's the only bit of cooking that you have to do for this recipe: blister the peppers. I have so many tiny cayenetta peppers from my hanging basket planter, it's not even funny. You can wait until they turn red or use them green(which I like to do for this recipe), but be advised that they are spicy, so use with discretion if you're sensitive to that! I like lots of peppery bite, so I used plenty. This is easy: just take a saute pan, heat it up - without any fat in it, mind you - and blister the skin of the peppers. Just cook them until they're soft inside, and then remove the seeds by popping off the tops and just squeezing the insides out, like you might for a tube of toothpaste. 

This is the easiest pesto ever - just pop everything in a blender and blitz until smooth. You can add more mint, more basil, more parsley, whatever! I like lots of spinach in this because it gives such a nice sweetness and a bright green color to it. The nasturtium is used because I have lots of it, and it has a nice peppery bite to it. I've got more mint than I have basil, so I used that, as well, but not too much as to prevent it from overpowering anything. You can substitute the nasturtium for tarragon, chives, or olive oil instead of coconut/grapeseed. Use what you have; this recipe is meant to be easy!

For this recipe:
  1. Cook your pasta in boiling water. (90 seconds for fresh, 7 minutes for dried)
  2. Drain your pasta.
  3. Toss your pasta in a spoonful of pesto sauce and a dab of butter.
  4. Serve.
Thats. It. 

I served mine tonight with a center-cut pork chop, and some braised swiss chard with corn and leeks. It was a simple meal, and the only thing I really had to buy was the pork chops, which were from a BOGO(buy one, get one free) sale at the Hen House down the street. You don't even need the extra stuff; just a few shaves of parmesan or even a poached egg will do for a light dinner.  This, obviously, can be very easily made vegetarian, and even the most-discerning guests will appreciate something that you grew and made by hand!

A post shared by Kolika of Pistachio Bakehouse (@wannabgourmande) on

In reality, I spent about $5.49 for a nice meal for two people, considering everything else was already available in my home and garden. I know you won't be able to buy a house with that kind of savings, but you can certainly splurge on one more avocado toast at brunch when you're only spending roughly $2.25/per person, per meal, in your own home. The only real investment here made was time, which took - roughly - 40 minutes from start to finish. It might take the average home cook a hair longer, but it's still a simple meal that's economic, has a teeny-tiny carbon footprint in comparison to going out to a restaurant, and is very tasty. 

Oh, and you don't have to have a big garden to grow the herbs in this recipe; a sunny window box with mint, basil, nasturtium, etc., in it will do just fine. You can garden. I believe in you. You can empower yourself and homestead in a tiny apartment, in your own quiet way. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pan-Asian Burgers

I make no qualms about my ethnic background, especially because there's no use hiding it. I've got a big round face and slender, almond-shaped eyes, and high-ass cheekbones. Strangers have always made it a point to remind me of my ethnicity, often before introducing themselves or asking me my name, so I've used my ethnic make up as armour since a young age. It doesn't help that I was the product of an Asian woman and a white man, and then later raised by the white half of my family, so I had absolutely zero cultural identity growing up, aside from Catholic church services on holidays, golf, and passive-aggressive comments about each other's life choices behind each other's backs.  You know, standard stuff.

Anyway, I love burgers. Like most Americans, the classic ground beef base for a burger is my go-to. I am, however, of a multicultural persuasion, so I always feel the need to give everything a simple twist here and there. Coming into my own brand of adulthood, one of the most-liberating things I've discovered is just not giving a damn about what anyone thinks of me. It especially comes in handy when people make offensive comments about race, especially mine. I've stopped being self-conscious at making a "what the actual fuck" face when someone implies that the burgers from the McDonald's in Japan are made from dog meat. I don't give a frog's fat behind in calling someone out on offensive behavior. I am alive in the time of an American revolution; I feel lucky to be here, and - as the great Lin-Manuel Miranda said: "I am not throwing away my shot."

I'll stop now. On to the burgers.

Pan-Asian Burgers
(yields 5)

  • 1 lb 86% ground beef(I like loin, but chuck is fine, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 3 Tbsp wasabi sesame seeds(or just 1 tsp wasabi powder and 2 tbsp sesame seeds)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 scallion, diced fine, all the way up to the greens
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Cheddar, shredded(B & I are both lactose intolerant, so I used Daiya cheddar shreds for mine!)
Combine all ingredients (except for the cheese) in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Cover a piece of your counter with plastic wrap and take out a round cookie cutter of your desired size. It can be small for sliders, or large for big jumbo-sized quarter-pounders. I had a nice 3.5" round and it worked fine for my needs. 

Using a spoon, fill the mold you've chosen full of your burger mixture, and tamp it down well. These will help you create perfect portions for yourself, get that nice restaurant shape, and ensure that everything will cook evenly. Plus, it's fun for kids to help you with, if you have those sorts of little dudes in your house. 

Protip: If you have picky eaters in your family, invite them to help you cook! A sense of ownership will ease their troubled minds(and tummies) and they'll be more-likely to try something new.

Damn. Look at that sear. 
Heat your saute pan and turn your oven to broil. Lubricate your pan with grapeseed or coconut oil, and let get hot. Salt your patties with kosher salt while the pan is heating; waiting and letting it draw out a bit of moisture is how you get a nice crust on your burgers, so long as your pan is - again - crazy-hot. Once your burgers are in the pan, seasoning side down, season the other side so that you'll get the same effect when you flip them. 

I like a medium-rare burger, so that means about 3 minutes per side. Once all of the burgers are cooked, pop them on a small sheet pan and top them with a sufficient amount of cheese. I'm with a severely lactose intolerant partner, so I use Daiya's products for my cheese substitutes, which are honestly some of the best I've come across thus far. Despite the fact that I am an Asian woman, I am - oddly - not lactose intolerant. (About 90% of East Asians are lactose intolerant.) I can have cheese when I'm alone, but it's basically my dirty little secret that makes me only mildly bloated from time-to-time. Anyway, go ahead and pop those bad boys underneath your broiler for a nice melt.

I make bread for my bakery, so I had a wheat loaf lying around. I cut 1/2" slices and toasted them for strength and crunch. I've got a fully-working garden, so I grabbed some red leaf, nasturtium and curly green varieties for my burger situation. The rain has been crazy lately, and combined with the nice warm sun gives me the biggest nasturtium leaves I've ever seen. Seriously, it covered the whole burger patty! I just love its peppery zing, and it's so visually stunning. I'm in love with its hydrophobic qualities, as well, and take every opportunity that I can to photograph it. 

I mean, seriously. Look at that gorgeous nonsense. 
Burgers are a perfect canvas for doing anything you want. You can make this even more ethnically flavored by omitting the cheese and topping with some kimchi. Turn this burger around by exchanging the oyster sauce for white miso paste, or maybe adding some fresh ginger and fish sauce instead. I promise you that it'll taste great; the majority of the world's population seems to adore these flavor profiles, so there's certainly no harm in giving it a go.

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Gardening: Building A Rain Barrel

Spring has fully sprung here in the Midwest and I feel fantastic about it. Not only am I in possession of a beautiful home, but with that home comes a beautiful tiny piece of the earth which sustains us. It is upon this earth that I grow a garden with which to sustain me, my family, and my soul(of course).

I truly love gardening; it's like therapy, only you get potatoes, and usually lots of them. I grew a potato tower last year, and though it was a rather short one, I still got over 50 lbs of potatoes in one crop. I also grow corn, squash, melons, spinach, and cabbage. Melons and squash are thirsty little babies that require a lot of water and sun, so anything to make it a little more sustainable to grow, I'm all for.

I grew up in Tucson, AZ, where a rain barrel is absolutely essential if you want to have any sort of garden other than caci, and even those need a little something here and there if you want them to thrive. I remember the two rain barrels in my backyard, always full of mosquitos, and getting eaten alive. In spite of that, I remember liking them. I remember being barely tall enough to see the top of it, and pretending that the reflection in that black barrel's waters was a portal into another world. I used to think I was a princess that was from a hidden mountain kingdom, trapped in the desert, and that my only way back was by looking into my magic black mirror, which was the water in the barrel. I think I made up this whole fairy tale about myself, and how the spirits of the mountain streams were trying to tell me how to get home, and sending messages in far-travelling rain clouds, collected by the rain barrel. I'd spend longer than I care to admit, just wishing to hear the voices of my people again, staring into the black waters of that rain barrel.

In reality, I was a bored child with an overactive imagination that was likely suffering from some form of heat stroke from staring at a rain barrel in the Arizona heat, possibly hallucinating. Oh well. Maybe I'll write that novel someday. Who knows? In the meantime, here's a few fun facts about rain barrels and using them:
  • Rainwater is better for your plants and soil
    • Highly oxygenated and free of softeners, flourides, etc., that might be in the water you get from the city.
  • Rain barrels help control the moisture level in the foundation of your home, which is a very good thing if you have a basement!
  • Rainwater is thifty! 
    • In Kansas City, water is roughly $0.49/gallon. My rain barrel holds 50 gallons of water, and that means, per barrel, I save $24.50. It's not much, but if it were to save me $24.50 per month, then that's a spare $294 per year.
  • Rainwater is the eco-friendly alternative to keeping compost moist
    • Tapwater isn't always the best for the sustainability practice of composting, in practice or in ideology
  • You can paint a rain barrel! 
    • Good luck painting your water bill...

On April 13th, I attended a rain barrel workshop, hosted by my neighborhood association. It was a lot of fun, and I even convinced B to get out of the house and attend with me. I came, took notes, took pictures, and we went home with our very own rain barrel. The barrel itself was a 50 gallon drum that - I can only assume - once housed chilies, considering the smell. For $30, we got the supplies, and were able to assemble the entire thing in about 20 minutes using a drill, a saw, and some glue. Here's what we used:

  • A 50 gallon drum
  • Female adaptor(to go into the barrel wall)
  • Male adaptor
  • Stubby bit of PVC pipe
  • Another Male adaptor
  • A threaded ball valve
  • Metal adaptor for the hose
 These parts were pretty darn inexpensive, and the paint, brushes, and sandpaper we used to decorate the barrel weren't much more, either. I think I spent $20 on the paint and brushes, but I already had the pans, paint remover/mineral oil, and every other bit of stuff I needed.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that this is a perfect project for those that are already set up to do some handiwork of their own. B has a workshop in our garage, so tools are no problem for him. I don't know if I could have done this as easily as I did without him. Basically, I'm a strong, independent woman until I'm not.  I just figured I'd throw that in there, just in case my lifestyle blogging is giving you that false sense of ease.  I don't like to make any bones about how easy or how difficult something is. It just feels dishonest, you know? So maybe do this one with a friend, if you - like me - aren't handy.

You know what's not dishonest? Dat ass. (Don't objectify men. They probably don't like it.)
Once the supplies were gathered, we drilled a hole about an inch off the ground from the bottom, into the side of the barrel. The female adaptor went on the inside, and then we screwed the male adaptor in. (That's what B was doing in that photo.) Next, sand the inside of the other two male adaptors and the outside of the pvc pipe, then glue them in. Connect everything normally and boom! You've got yourself a spigot! All that's left now is to figure out the placement...but while you're thinking on that, you may as well decorate it.

Even though cerulean is my favorite color, I didn't think B would like a big, blue, industrial-looking barrel outside of our nice house. (I don't think I would, either, as it is a little industrial-looking.) We decided to paint it, together, and boy was it fun! It only took us a single afternoon to do, so here's how we did it.

To your left is the base coat. We lined the floor of our garage with an old tarp that we had lying around and left the door open to let any fumes out. The base paint we chose was a nice cool gray, and the accent color was called "toasted almond", but it was a creamy white color. I won't mention the brand, but it was an oil-based exterior paint that had primer in it already. Here are the supplies I used to paint the barrel:

  • 3" fan brush(the kind used for oil-based paint)
  • 4" plain paint brushes(also the kind used for oil paint)
  • 80 grid sandpaper
  • Exterior oil-based paint-primer in cool gray
  • Exterior oil-based paint-primer in warm white(almond)
  • Cloth paint tarp
  • Buckets
  • Odorless mineral spirits
  • Scrap rags for cleanup
Even though the mineral spirits(which are used to removing the paint) are odorless, they still smell. The paint smells, too, so be sure to work in a well-ventilated area. I actually love the smell of paint - I associate it with creation and renewal - but I don't want to die from paint fume inhalation. I'm certain you'd like to not die from paint inhalation, as well.

 We sanded the outside of the barrel and painted two coats of the base color for a nice matte finish. The can said to let the paint dry completely, which should take 6-8 hours, but ours dried to a relatively dry finish within a mere one hour. We also didn't care too much if it was perfect-looking, so we fudged it a little. I think we waited about an hour and a half between the two base coats, and then about 20 minutes for the next step, which was to add the trees.

I spent a good portion of my childhood watching "Painting with Bob Ross" on PBS along with my granny. She was a wonderful artist and favored pastels over paints, but I was addicted to everything he did with acrylics and oils. One of the things he said with many of his episodes was to paint on a wet surface. As the paint colors raced in yellow text along the bottom of the television screen, he would mention that he'd already coated the canvas with a liquid white in preparation...thus my reasoning for rushing through the job! The paint on the barrel wasn't necessarily wet, but it was tacky, so it took the accent coating nicely! 

Let's paint some happy little trees!
I used the fan brush to make trees using Bob Ross's technique!

I started the video at 17:03, where the particular piece of technique he uses came in handy for my own work. See, my own happy little trees?

I know they're not perfect. I don't mind so much; after all, we don't make mistakes - we just have happy accidents! My own happy little trees remind me of a picturesque scene of winter against that cool gray. I just love the birds that B painted on, and the clouds were a nice fun touch, as well.

I hope this has inspired you to do your own wonderful version of a painted rain barrel in your own home. I personally think that it's a better thing to spend an evening with your partner making something than simply just going out to dinner. Having something tangible, something that you made, some proof that you were there...well, hey, there's just something special about that, isn't there?

Happy crafting and happy gardening!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Flour Tortillas

You can take the girl out of Tucson, but you can't take the Tucson out of the girl. Sometimes, you just get a hankering for the good food of your childhood, and though you may not be hispanic, the latinx food of your upbringing and formative environment sings the siren song to your stomach. Yeah, yeah, I know, they're just tortillas, but once you've had a good tortilla, you'll understand. Here's how!

Flour Tortillas

  • 8 oz bread flour(my own adaptation; I just prefer it)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 oz warm water
  • 1 Tbsp lard(yes, LARD. Don't use shortening or oil. Use lard.)

Dump the flour, baking soda, and lard onto a cool marble surface. Cut the lard in using two butter knives. You can also put this in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment, but this is the way I learned how to do it, so I prefer it by hand.

Yeah, yeah, I've got a marble slab in my kitchen. "Check your privilege, Chef". Right...
If doing this on a cool surface, make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the water. Using a dough scraper(or your hands, if you like), pull the flour over the water, over and over again until everything is combined. Knead the dough until it's very smooth and elastic, about five minutes. You could save yourself the arm strain and do it in the standing mixer, but I like getting the workout in.

Once the dough is pulled together and feels quite tight, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it hang out on the counter for about 10 minutes to rest. This lets the glutens relax a bit so they're easier to work with and roll. After that time is up, divide the dough into eight equal portions and begin to roll.

 Cover the little dough balls with that same sheet of plastic wrap to keep them from drying out while you roll. I roll my dough out flat into discs using a rolling pin, then stretching them by hand just a little as they relax. I keep track of which discs I have rolled first, and then go back over the sequence once or twice, to get them super-thin.

At this point, I like to dust mine with just a little bit of flour, and then let them hang out for a few minutes while I get my griddle ready. You might also want to think about any meat or veggies you're prepping for the meal that's actually going with these puppies, as - in a perfect world - you'll want to eat your freshly-cooked tortillas with your freshly-cooked meal... My point is: timing. Timing is everything.

Get a thick-bottomed skillet or griddle nice and hot on the stove. I prefer a fairly high heat for my tortillas, to do them quickly, but if you'd like to do a medium heat, just until you're confident, then that's fine, as well. All that must be done is to cook them until they bubble up and get golden, then flip over.

If you have an actual tortilla warmer, then dear Gods, use it. If you don't, simply get a ceramic plate and clean tea towel to keep them nicely wrapped until it's time for dinner. The tortillas will keep for at least a week, but I promise you that they won't last that long.

I love fresh tortillas with carne asada. You can also have them around to make quesadillas, cheese crisps...whatever! If you have avocados, make some guacamole... Or just eat them as simple tacos with some grilled meat, peppers, and corn. Few things in life are as lovely as a warm tortilla, so I highly recommend you trying these. Also: please grill corn inside its shuck. Not only is it the easiest cleanup ever, but it steams and grills at the same time! If you really want a southwestern flavor profile, squeeze lime juice, cotija cheese, and mayo over your corn before eating. I know the mayo part sounds weird, but don't knock it til you try it.

Boys be texting you like
Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Vegan Banana Pancakes

Surprise, bitch. Thought you'd seen the last of the #MUGLIFE mug.
Everything I cook at home for B and myself is dairy-free. He's got an extreme intolerance to any sort of dairy, and I'm Asian, which means I'm (generally) mildly lactose intolerant. Did you know that 90%-100% of East Asian people are lactose intolerant? I'm only half-Asian, though, so I guess that's 50% for me. I, thankfully, don't get extreme discomfort when I consume dairy products, but it does make me farty, which is definitely unpleasant for all.

Breakfast is the most-important meal of the day, and it can be sometimes difficult to make things dairy-free or vegan, especially when you think about fluffy pancakes. I don't often eat vegan food, but I do know how to substitute for eggs, should the need arise. This morning, for example, I did have eggs in the fridge, but I also had a bunch of overripe bananas, which are a perfect substitute for making yummy vegan pancakes. Here's how to make mine, without dirtying a single bowl:

Vegan Banana Pancakes

  • 5 ounces(by weight) AP flour
  • 1 oz baking powder
  • 7 oz coconut milk(almond-coconut milk blend works, too!)
  • 1 medium-sized, overripe banana
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 oz grapeseed oil(canola or olive work fine, too)
In the pitcher of a blender, weigh out all of your ingredients and blend until wholly combined and very smooth, about 30 seconds Scrape down the sides and up the bottom, and blitz again for about 5 more seconds. Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat, just until hot, and then turn the gas down to low to simply maintain the heat. Turn your oven to 200 degrees, and place a ceramic or glass dish or pie tin in the oven for holding. Save the banana peels for your garden to help give some well-needed nutrients!

For the pancakes, simply pour out of the pitcher and let cook until the bubbles keep their shape. Flip, and cook for another minute or two, then pop in the oven to hold. This makes a nice batch of 8 pancakes, which is perfect for 3-4 people. If it's only you, simply make all of the cakes and freeze the rest for a quick microwaveable breakfast. 

No, really! Individually wrap each with plastic and freeze. You can heat them in the toaster or 30 - 45 seconds in the microwave for an on-the-go breakfast. You can also make jam sandwiches with the frozen-reheated ones for a really on-the-go breakfast!

Or, you know, enjoy with maple syrup. Whatever.

"THIS ISN'T LASAGNA YOU PIECE OF SHIT" - Also my cat, probably
Happy cooking and happy eating! Be sure to check out the WannaBGourmande Facebook page for more content between posts, and follow me on Twitter for more.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Dubliner KC

I've been exchanging some tweets with The Dubliner, a pub in Power & Light District in Downtown Kansas City over the passed few days. As you can see from above, they asked if I'd ever given them a try before, and the answer was no. This is our story...

I, admittedly, don't tweet a lot on my personal life. I spend a good portion of my Instagram time promoting my business and my life as a chef, and my twitter is basically reserved for Foodiechat Mondays. I'm frankly having a rough time balancing personal and business time, considering I'm burning the candle at both ends. This is why I cherish the time I get to spend alone with B., and be out and about having fun.

I tweeted at The Dubliner, telling them to gird their loins, at about 5:45 pm on a Thursday night. When we entered, the place was completely empty, save for an adorable blonde server that took care of us promptly. We sat up in a booth, away from where the crowds would likely be, so we could enjoy our meal and conversation. Eating out is sometimes difficult, as B has a pretty severe intolerance to dairy, We tend to stick to most Asian places when we eat out, as it's almost a guarantee that dairy isn't on the menu anywhere except for crab rangoon. That being said, we found something to eat.

Between the time it took for us to place our order and get our food, the Dubliner filled up to the rafters, and our poor server was running around like a madwoman - not surprising, considering she was the only one on the floor. We later found out(after a 30 minute wait for our food) that the manager had sent the other two servers home, thinking that they wouldn't be busy on the Thursday before First Friday. Unfortunately, all of the Downtown office scene had decided to stop in for a post-work drink and some food. Oh well. Such is life.

Remember: in the UK, their chips are our fries, while our chips are their crisps.
B ordered the Fish & Chips, and got it with malt vinegar, only because I told him to try it. The fish was moist, the chips were good, and the portions were nice. All and all, it was a really solid fish and chips. I liked how it was served on a nice plate, yet still seemed 'homey' and 'bar food'y. Yes, there's a great bit of virtue in those gastropubs that I'm such a huge fan of, but it was certainly refreshing to just have a real honest-to-goodness regular pub meal.

Chicken & Rashers was my meal of choice, and boy howdy was it good. It was a hair underseasoned, and the cream sauce was barely reduced and tragically runny, but the roasted carrots and potato puree was very good, and the meat itself was nice. Oh, and in case you didn't know, a 'rasher' is just Irish bacon! Super good, house-cured, and decently executed. I have to say that, again, it was nice to skip the 'gastro' and just eat the 'pub.' The portions were great, filling, and pretty good. I imagine that if I were drinking, this would be an excellent drunk food for me.

The dessert was a yummy apple cake with vanilla ice cream on top, which was super sweet, and very stick-to-your-ribs. I know that the butterscotch sauce was made in-house because it was really grainy; this happens if you stir the sugar at the wrong time during cooking, and is an easy mistake to make, especially since one often doesn't go into a pub for something sweet. It's 100% understandable that they wouldn't have a dedicated pastry chef, and put this on the pantry cook's shoulders, so I'll absolutely give them a pass on this.
The Dubliner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
All in all? A pretty solid meal. I'm not a big drinker, but I can see the appeal of being at a nice, solid Irish but after work. I saw a ton of young professionals from offices nearby in downtown, meeting for an after-hours drink. The Dubliner has its demographic down, and make no apologies about it. Honestly, it's sort of nice to see something un-ironic nowadays.

I won't say the Dubliner is great, but it's good. It is a solid, good pub, that makes no apologies about what it is. Will I be by again? Possibly, since I don't drink often. If I am bumming around downtown, however, I'll absolutely stop in for a sandwich or some sort of lunch.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Birthday Cake

There are few things in this world as satisfying as a nice slice of birthday cake. For me, cake is synonymous with celebration, and I am 100% pro-celebration. The world is nasty enough as it is, and I don't see anything harmful in celebrating the day you(or anyone else) was born.

Disclaimer: It does not have to be your birthday to bake a cake. Bake a celebration cake for yourself because you didn't punch a guy today. You deserve it. 

I ended up making three birthday cakes for myself(and my friends) this year. I did one for work, one for a small private party with my D&D group, and then one with my Circle while we celebrated the esbat. The first one was this chocolate espresso cake with a marscarpone frosting(seen above). The second was a lemon zebra cake with dairy-free cream cheese frosting. The third was a pinwheel rum sponge with a dark chocolate ganache filling. How I did this in three days I will never know. I must be insane.

This cake is entirely dairy-free, so my boyfriend can also enjoy it!
Dairy-Free Lemon Zebra Cake with "Cream Cheese" Frosting
yields 2 8" layer cakes

  • 6 oz(6 each) large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 12 oz can coconut milk
  • 16 oz cake flour(or 14 oz AP flour + 2 oz potato/corn starch)
  • 14 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 8 oz grapeseed oil(good quality olive oil works nicely, too!)
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Pink food dye, A/N*

  • 16 oz(2 pkg.) Daiya non-dairy cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 oz shortening
  • Powdered sugar, A/N(this may vary depending on humidity, how stiff you like your icing, etc.)
Measure out all of your ingredients and preheat your oven at 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8-inch cake pans by greasing the tin and lining with parchment paper. Combine all of your dry ingredients into the bowl of your standing mixer, fixed with the paddle attachment. Stir the dry ingredients with the paddle and add in the grapeseed oil. Let that stir for about 30 seconds, then add the egg whites, one at a time, until all incorporated. Add the coconut milk and extract and stir until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Divide the batter into two bowls equally and dye one of the portions pink. You can also dye it purple, black, brown, blue, heliotrope, what you like! I just personally like pink...

Cake is best-paired with a late-night D&D session with your best buddies...
Using ice cream scoops of equal sizes, alternate the colored scoops of batter with the plain scoops of batter in the pan, dropping each one in the center, atop each other, to create sort of a target-looking mass. If you want even stripes, I suggest not shimmy-shaking the pan after each addition. Simply let your batter settle on its own, even if it does take a few minutes per layer. Trust me, it's worth it!

Bake at 350 until done, about 24 minutes, or until a toothpick is safely inserted and has come out clean. Cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, on cooling racks, before removing. 

Simply make the buttercream as you would make any cream cheese frosting. Add as much or as little powdered sugar as you like, depending on your preference for soft vs stiff. No matter what, however, make sure that your frosting is chilled, and make sure your cake is chilled, before assembling. 

Trim up the cakes to have nice flat tops and even sides. Feel free, of course, to set these scraps aside for snackies; after all, it's your (un)birthday! You can also freeze your cakes, if you like, to ensure that they won't melt your delicate frosting. Both items should be quite cool before proceeding to decorate, just like all other cake decorating pursuits. 

You can never have too many sprinkles...
I decorated my lemon cake with candied pansies(grown by myself) and organic sprinkles. This was the cake for my actual birthday party, which was celebrated with my friends. The chocolate cake, seen above, was made for work, and I was just feeling like making a nice chocolate cake. 

This third cake was an experiment, made for a for Circle of Fountains meeting, my wonderful sisters. We try to get together several times per month, be it for circle meetings, esbats, or just hang-outs. Abby's birthday was a bit before mine, so I thought it would be fun if we could share a birthday cake. I decided to make something a bit more fun...

Abby: "Only you would decorate it with a big-ass bow..."
I'm sure you've seen a jellyroll cake. It's basically a spongecake that's baked in a sheet pan and rolled while it's still warm, filled with jelly, jam, or ganache, If you watch the Great British Bake Off the way I do, I know you've seen people go nuts over them! You can also use swiss rolls to make fancier things like Charlotte Royales, like this one here, at SugarHero, a blog I very much enjoy. 

Charlotte Royale (Swiss Roll Cake) | From

My own experiment was a simple butterscotch flavored sponge cake, filled with a dark chocolate cream, stood up and rolled. How did I do it? Simple!

Bake a spongecake in a sheet. Cut your sheet in FOUR EQUAL STRIPS crosswise. Fill each with a bit of your filling of choice. Roll the first one with a nice tight spiral, as normal and stand up on a cake board. Add your next sheet around it going in concentric circles until you run out. You may cover the outside with more ganache/filling/frosting, or just leave it plain. I kept it simple, since it was an experiment, and wanted the opinions of my friends. 

It's a little janky-looking, but still tasted good!

They liked it, even though it was a bit messy. I kind of slapped it all together at once... Here's how I made it!

Butterscotch Sponge(adapted from my Vanilla Sponge, here!)

  • 7 eggs, separated
  • 2.5 oz cake flour
  • 5 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 - 5 drops butterscotch essence(or 1/2 tsp butterscotch extract)
Combine the butterscotch flavoring, a pinch of salt, the egg yolks, and half the sugar with a whisk. Add in the flour with a spatula to create a smooth paste. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whip the egg whites, powdered sugar, and remaining granulated sugar to stiff peaks. Fold in the whites, about a third at a time, until fully incorporated. Spread in an ungreased half-sheet pan lined with a parchment sheet. 

Bake at 375 until set, about 12 minutes. When the cake is still warm, tip out into a clean tea towel(dusted with powdered sugar) and gently pull away the parchment. Roll your cake up, nice and tight, and leave for about five minutes, just to get it to about room temperature. Spread your cake with your filling of choice, be it jam or ganache, and roll up again. This is, of course, making a regular roll, instead of my stand-up roll above. You can do whatever you like. It's you that's eating it, right? Decorate your cake with cream. Decorate it with berries. It's cake. It's all your decision. Right? Right. 

Just felt like showing off this one. It's fun. 
Happy cooking(baking) and happy eating!