Category Archives: food

5 ideas to make your wedding rock

Recently I was asked to help coordinate a friend’s wedding. While very exciting, it’s an obviously overwhelming task for many brides. I’m so glad she asked for my help.

Here are some thoughts on how to keep it simple, and why you’ll be so much happier for it.

  1. Don’t be lured into DIY hell. With Pinterest and DIY craft magazines galore showing you just how “easy” it is to make everything for your day of, is it something you really want to do? You’re probably having friends and family from out of town visit for your big day, and the 24-48 hours before your event do you really want to be stressing out if all your special handwritten quotes are elegantly wrapped around each table setting? The thought is lovely, and I’m sure there will be a handful of people who will be delighted to unwrap their unique setting, but that extra stress isn’t worth it if you’re doing it all yourself. Instead sip cocktails by the pool and enjoy the friends and family you rarely get to be with.
  2. Comfort first, for you and your guests. Will you want to walk all night in those satin heels? Will your guests be warm enough once the sun sets? Are there enough places to sit before dinner is served? Is the setting inviting? Are the toilets easily accessible? Does the layout promote laughter among strangers. Will your guests feel comfortable if they don’t know anyone but you and their plus one? Small steps like providing guests blankets, fans, appropriate seating, and a welcoming ambiance go a long way to make sure everyone remembers what a fun party it was.
  3. Delicious goes a long way. Ok so you’re budget isn’t French chef worthy, that’s ok. Don’t try to do too much within a limited budget. Think about what’s really important to you. Would you rather serve special drinks or yummy champagne instead of a 3 course meal? No problem, select heavy pupus (appetizers) instead. No food budget? Thats ok, how about just cake and champagne? Or maybe having a live band is how you’d rather focus your funds. Whatever you serve, just be true to your intentions. Your guests are bound to have fun and leave with satisfied tastebuds.
  4. Logistics matter. The devil is in the details of the event, not the decor. Where will guests park? Does it make sense for folks to drive between the ceremony & reception if they’re not at the same place, or does a shuttle make more sense? Think through the timeline too. Add an extra 30mins at least to every activity to make sure you don’t rush the event. Welcoming guests, champagne toast, eating, cake cutting, dancing, everything takes longer than you think…unless you’re an experienced planner.
  5.  Take pictures before the ceremony, not after. Save your guests from that awkward 2 hour window where the whole bridal party is MIA from the post ceremony bash. You’ve got everyone together, so enjoy it. Either skip the posed picture setting and just hire a day-of event photographer, or do those posed shots the morning of. Save yourself a preventable headache.

Cashmere for the mouth: My Mother’s Flan

My mother spent some of her formative years abroad in Bolivia and Costa Rica before moving to Hawaii in 1967. With that time in South America she spoke Spanish tasted authentic Spanish influences including flan. One thing my mother was always good at has been baking. Her creative endeavors didn’t end at the canvas, she has quite the knack for anything elaborate, chocolate, and above all heavenly on the tongue. Anything custard holds an especially dear place in my heart for sweets, long johns anyone? I don’t recall the first time I ate my mother’s flan, but every time we ate out and ordered flan, my mother would always say hers was better.

Around the house when I was young it was a common sight to have dessert for dinner. We often stopped by Craig’s bakery in Kailua for their day-old specials, including their delicious custard pie. I now understand how absurd it was to be eating whatever I wanted to for dinner as a kid, including dessert, but my mom always said, “eggs, flour, milk, well why not it’s healthy?” I now suffer from an insatiable sweet-tooth that was earned from many of these “dessert for dinner” nights.

Recently I asked my mom how to make her delicious flan. She likes her caramel a little bit towards the dark and almost burnt side. Turns out I do too. I was always afraid to try making this dish fearing it was much too difficult. A bit tricky, but it turns out not too hard at all. We have our own hens and ducks, and if you can get your hands on some duck eggs it’ll make your custard divine.

My Mother’s FLAN


  • 2/3 cups granulated raw sugar for caramel
  • 5 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk plus 1 can condensed milk or evaporated milk plus nonfat milk to equal 4 cups.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or almond extract if you prefer)


  1. Have your baking dish/es ready, and be sure it is dry.
  2. Melt and caramelize the 2/3 cup raw sugar in a heavy skillet. (I use my 2qt le creuset)
  3. When sugar melts and turns a light golden color (or darker if you prefer, but make sure not to burn it), which takes about 5 minutes, quickly pour in the pudding dish/es and tilt back and forth with a swirling motion to cover bottom of dish. Set aside and cool.
  4. Beat eggs and yolks into the cream mixture and add salt. Stir. Add vanilla. Strain over a fine mesh strainer and pour into prepared pudding dish/es.
  5. Set dish in pan of hot water and baker covered with foil in preheated 325 degree oven for 20-30 minutes for small ramekins, to 1 1/2 hours for a large dish. Note: Depending on the size of the pudding dish you use, a 2-quart dish or individual ramekins, your cooking time will vary.
  6. Insert knife in center, if knife comes out clean flan is done. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  7. Place a round, rimmed plate/platter over flan to flip over slowly. Flip carefully as the caramelized sugar syrup will pour out along with the flan. Enjoy warm or chilled.

I hope you enjoy this flan as much as I do!

A walk on Boston’s Freedom Trail

With Thanksgiving this week, I thought I would share my memorable 36 hours in Boston last month. I was impressed with how beautiful the city was, and just how old many parts remain. Boston’s T (light-rail) makes it impressively easy to get around. My childhood friend from Hawaii lives in Cambridge with her husband, and it was a delight to see Boston’s famous North End with her. After an amazing cannoli at Mike’s pastry and a pit stop at a delightful Italian grocery, I made my way along the Freedom trail. Exploring  on foot I was able to take my time, and really take in the history evident before me. Placards are all over the trail, with lots of great information. I didn’t bother doing a tour or downloading the audio tour, though I’m sure for some they add to the experience. If only the government shutdown hadn’t been happening the day I was there, I would have enjoyed walking up the Bunker hill monument to take in the views of the city. On my way back I had amazing fresh squid ink pasta with little necks and shrimp at the Daily Catch. If you have a chance, and don’t mind waiting for one of just 20 seats in this itty bitty restaurant, it’s absolutely worth it. Delicious!

This country hardly has a perfect past, but history is what it is, and it’s an impressive sight to see no matter where you stand. I’m still proud to be an American. Happy Thanksgiving.

Heaven in a jar: Lilikoi Curd

When you’ve got a little bit of land, and decide to plant a Lilikoi (aka Passionfruit) vine, your first year’s harvest is incredibly productive. Lilkois  are round yellow almost egg like fruits that beneath it’s foam like and waxy exterior are full of clear orange capsules with big black seeds. Their tangy sweet juice is yummy in savory and sweet dishes alike. Extracting the juice from these pods can be tricky, it’s best to macerate the pulp with either the back of wooden spoon onto a fine sieve, or if you’ve got a rubber blade for your Cuisinart machine, separate the pods from their juice that way. I actually used a flour sifter of all things, and besides being a mess to clean out afterward, worked great for freeing the juice with little effort.

I took a typical recipe for lemon curd and adjusted the sugar for the sweeter lilikoi juice. Labor intensive, but worth it for it’s delicious and luscious flavor, this curd is perfect just on toast, or as a topping to yogurt or ice cream. It also makes a nice topping for my lemon currant scones.  I like my curd a little more on the tart and runny side, so just make sure not to over cook the egg mixture on the stove and watch closely for when it just coats the back of the spoon, or 180 degrees on a candy thermometer. Have fun in the kitchen!

Lilikoi Curd Recipe

6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 freshly harvested lilikoi juice

1/4 lb (1 stick) of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon grated lime zest (optional)

1) Strain the egg yolks through a sieve into a medium non reactive bowl over low heat.

2) Stir in the sugar and lilikoi juice, and cook stirring constantly with a flat bottomed wooden or silicone spoon, for about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon.

3) Remove from heat and whisk mixture slightly until cooled. Stir in the butter, a piece at a time, until fully incorporated. Add the zest if you are doing so.

4) While still warm, pour the mixture into sterilized, hot jars, cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use.

Mango bread bursting with flavor

End of Summer and we’ve still got mangos dropping from the trees here in Hawaii. So what to do with all the not so perfect ones? A little bruise won’t hinder the taste when baked. Heat turns wet mango chunks thick and sweet like jam. In a fruit/nut bread the taste is true and delicious. I like my fruit to be chunky and not fully mashed or mixed in so it’s like taking a bite out of the fruit itself. A really important note:  the trick to a tender crumb is to not over-mix the batter once you combine the wet and dry ingredients. Otherwise what you get is a tough dough when the gluten is activated. I’ve not tried cake flour, but that would work too, or pastry flour (as it contains less gluten). This basic recipe works well for other fruit/nut combos too such as banana-walnut bread.

Here’s the basic recipe. Happy Baking!

Chunky Mango-Macnut-Coconut bread.

1 1/2 cups chunky mango fruit, from about 2-3  large ripe mangoes (I used Hayden variety).

1 cup raw unsalted macadamia nuts, toasted then chopped coarse.

1/2 cup unsweetend shredded dried coconut, toasted.

1 1/2 cups flour, all purpose or pastry flour works

1/2 cup almond flour/meal

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

3/4 tsp. baking powder

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup plain yogurt (sour cream works too)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (optional topping)

1) Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2) toast nuts and coconut in oven for about 5-7 minutes. Check frequently as they are prone to burning. Should be a nice shade of caramel brown.

3) If using a loaf pan, grease bottom of pan only with butter, then lightly flour, tapping out excess. If using a non-stick pan grease and flour all sides. This recipe also works for muffins, and I use muffin tin liners, preventing me having to do this step.

4) whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, nuts and coconut flakes).

5) Mix chunky cut mango, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl.

6) Lightly fold mango mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until JUST COMBINED. Should be thick and chunky, and ribbons of flour are ok. It’s important to not over mix, otherwise it’ll be tough by activating too much gluten.

7) Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan or muffin tins. Top with turbinado sugar for a glistening look post bake.

8) Bake until golden brown, and when a toothpick comes out clean from center. Depending on your oven, and size of loaf (55-115 mins) or muffins (25-35 mins). Once done, remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Then remove from pan and let cool 10-15 minutes on wire rack (this will help keep the bottom crusty and not soggy).

Summer Fruit Standout: Brown Butter Nectarine Cobbler/Cake

Two summers ago Melissa Clark from the New York times published this awesome recipe. It’s still one of my favorite ways to use nectarines that are a little too ripe to eat plain. Its so delicious and easy. I recommend doubling it as it is so delicious everyone wants seconds!

Here’s the original recipeIMG_5867


  • 3 cups fresh nectarines or peaches in 1/2-inch slices, or a combination (about 1 pound)
  • 5 ounces sugar (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons Demerara sugar.


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large pan over medium heat combine the fruit slices, 1/4 c sugar and lemon juice. Stirring constantly until mixture comes to a simmer. Take off heat.
  3. In another small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat, melt the butter, swirling the pan occasionally, until it smells very nutty, and turns golden, and flecks of brown appear, 2-3 minutes. Pour into 8 x 8 baking dish.
  4. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, the remaining 1/2 c sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients. Mix until just moistened.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan with the butter. Scrape to make sure the batter is evenly distributed, but careful not to mix the butter into the batter.
  6. Scatter the nectarines/peaches and juices on top of batter without stirring.
  7. Sprinkle with almonds, nutmeg, and Demerara sugar.
  8. Bake until golden brown, 50-55 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Serve warm.

How to throw a stylish cocktail party … in a small apartment!

‘Tis the season people come indoors to party. What better opportunity to have a fun time with friends than over simple nosh, great drinks, and introducing friends to new people.

Hosting takes skill to do it right, but with the right prep work you can throw an elegant, simple, and fun get-together everyone (even you) will enjoy.

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  1. Know your audience. Standing-room-only style parties are more intimate and ultimately more fun. Invite anyone you like, the more the merrier. On average if you invite 20 people maybe 8 will come. So invite more than you think you can comfortably fit in your apartment.
  2. Make it festive, dress it up. I always request my guest wear something chic or cocktail attire. Not everyone gets it, but somehow the more festive the dress code, the more amped up the party. I always buy sweet snacks based on how cute they look. A little bowl of colored ribbon candy does the trick.
  3. Nosh. Make it simple without being boring. I like the basics, a bowl of not your typical grapes or figs, some sort of homemade dip with pita chips, crudités that’s hand cut by me, and easy bruschetta. I love brownies or little sweet bites like macaroons too. Make sure if you’re serving drinks, that your bites are truly bite-sized. You can’t give guests a glass, a plate and a fork without it being awkward.
  4. Libations. Easy rule of thumb for drinks: supply the mixers, the garnishes, and one bottle of hard liquor like vodka or gin. You could also alternatively have a simple punch or sangria on hand too. Always have something special for those non-drinkers like pelligrino or lavender soda, you never want to add to the awkwardness. Having a couple bottle of prosecco or cava or white wine on hand is good too. Save costs by asking people to BYOB, it’s totally appropriate these days.
  5. Set the stage. The magic is in the details: lights, music, pretty. Make sure your place is clean, especially the bathroom. Add candles, and turn off the overhead lights. Think about where your guests will put their coats, bags, boots. Make cute signs if you have to, that way you’re not interrupted with the same questions over and over again. And don’t forget the music. Pandora works, but the commercials suck. Ask friends to bring their ipod or mix, and let the mood take hold.
  6. Remember whom your guests came to see: You. Don’t hide in the kitchen. Welcome each guest, introduce them to someone you’d think they’d find interesting and tell them why you think they should chat. The best hosts always make the party about their guests, not about them. Make sure everyone is having a good time. The rest is a piece of cake!

Secret Breakfast Weapon: Tartine’s Buttermilk Scones

I absolutely love breakfast. And I love hosting even more. Want to host a simple champagne breakfast? Make these scones and you’ll be one fashionable host.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to frequent Tartine bakery in the Mission in San Francisco on numerous occasions. It truly is my favorite place to eat, no matter what time of day. So when I came across Tartine’s cookbook I was overjoyed to try to make her delectables at home.

The first thing I tried was this recipe for lemon currant scones. More than any other pastry, I love scones. The trick is always cutting/mixing the butter with the flour. It is the #1 most important thing you do right to get the right texture. I find most scones at shops too cakey or too dense. These are more like sweet biscuits. Don’t like currants? No problem. This basic buttermilk recipe works fabulously with other tart dried fruit. I added hazelnuts and dried cherries instead. Go wild, here’s the basic.

Tartine’s Buttermilk Scones

makes 12 large scones

4 3/4 cups of flour

3/4 cup of dried currants
(or other tart dried fruit)

1 tablespoon of baking powder

3/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 cup of sugar

1 1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 cup (2 sticks) very cold, unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups of buttermilk

1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest

Topping: 3 tablespoons of melted butter,
turbinado or demerara sugar for sprinkling.

Tools: A food processor, sifter or whisk, large bowl, wooden spoon, chef’s knife.

Prepare: You’ll want your butter as cold as possible. I like to cut my butter first, then wrap it in plastic and place it in the freezer while I prepare the rest of the ingredients.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Soak the currants in hot water for about 10 minutes or until they are plumped.  Drain well.

3. Sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder into a large bowl. Alternatively use a wisk to aerate vs using a sifter. Add the salt & sugar and combine. Place ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.

4. Cut the butter into small cubes (or removed the cut butter from the freezer) and distribute them on top of the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixer to combine, without breaking down the butter too much (you should see pea-sized pieces of butter). Alternatively you can cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter. Make sure you still see LARGE chunks of butter (this is essential to keeping the dough flakey).

5. Pour the mixture into your large bowl. Add the buttermilk, lemon zest and currants all at once, and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together (you may need to add a bit more buttermilk if too dry).

6. Dust a large cutting board with flour and place the dough onto it, shaping it into a long rectangle (about 5” wide, 1 ½” thick, 18” long) without handling it too much.

7. Brush the dough with melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado or demerara sugar. Cut the dough into 12 even-sized triangles and transfer them to your parchment-lined baking sheet.

8. Bake the scones for approximately 25 to 35 minutes (until the tops are lightly browned).  I’ve found that 375F convection for 25 minutes is perfect. However everyone’s oven is different.

9. Serve warm, with lemon curd or jam.

Adapted from the Tartine Cookbook

Drink Chocolate

At Cacao. You can’t go wrong. For just $2, a shot of delicious drinking chocolate can be yours. Spiked with cinnamon, mexican spices, or extra creamy, they’re all so yumm.

It’s a purely decadent bargain. Stop in the next time you’re in town. 

Sabrina enjoying the cinnamon chocolate shot at Cacao on 13th Ave, Portland.