CHEESY LOW-CARB ZUCCHINI TARTS

After a week of fun and over-indulging a bit in Colorado, it was time to get back into a more attentive approach to cooking for a few days. For my body, nothing works better than controlling carbs. I respond quite well to it, and don’t find it that hard to do. Whenever I feel like reducing carbs, I think of Kalyn’s blog, her site is a great source of wonderful recipes. I had this one saved in my Pinterest board for a while, and  even got the exact same pan she used. It was too cute to resist. And I must tell you, it works great, very sturdy, I can see it will be around my kitchen for many many years, and maybe it will find its way into Greenlee’s home one day. If you don’t know, Greenlee is my 2 and a half-year old grand-daughter. Yeap, that’s how sturdy this pan seems. But back to the recipe. If you like omelettes and frittatas, this one is for you. And, of course, you don’t need to splurge and get the pan, use a large muffin tin, or you might even pour it into a pie dish, I suspect you can fill two regular size pans, although not too deeply. You might have to adjust the baking time a little. It is easy to judge when it’s done – just a little jiggly in the center, and getting a nice golden brown look on the surface.

CRUSTLESS LOW-CARB ZUCCHINI TARTS
(slightly modified from Kalyn’s Kitchen)

4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled and softened
3 small zucchini, julienned or cut with spiral cutter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp. Herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes)
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup coconut milk (or heavy cream)
8 eggs, well beaten
6 T coarsely grated sharp white cheddar
1/4 cup sliced green onions, plus more for garnish if desired

Heat the oven to 375F/190C. Crumble 4 oz. of feta cheese into a large glass measuring cup or a bowl and let it come to room temperature.  Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the zucchini, sprinkle with Herbes de Provence, Aleppo pepper, a little salt and black pepper to taste.  Cook the zucchini a few minutes over medium-high heat, just until it’s barely starting to soften.

Spray the tart pan with olive oil  and divide the cooked zucchini among the tart wells. Top with a generous tablespoon of coarsely grated sharp cheddar and a pinch of green onions. Then use a fork to stir the now-softened goat cheese and add the coconut milk (or heavy cream) and whisk well.  Beat eggs in another bowl and add to the goat cheese/milk mixture a little at a time, stirring until fully blended.

Fill each tart well with the feta-cheese and egg mixture, being careful not to fill too full.  Bake about 30 minutes, or until tarts are firm and lightly browned. Serve hot.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am quite fond of frittatas and omelettes, but sometimes they can taste too eggy. I know, what kind of a statement is that?  But, there is such a thing as “too eggy,” at least for my taste buds. I find that using coconut milk mellows down quite nicely that flavor, making it more subtle, and the texture quite creamy. Heavy whipping cream does a similar job, but in my personal experience, coconut milk is the winner. The recipe makes six tarts, which means after Phil and I enjoyed two on a Sunday lunch, I still had four left. I kept them in the fridge for four days, wrapped individually in Saran wrap, and they were still excellent on the last day, warmed up for 60 seconds – exactly – in the microwave. I bet they freeze well too.

It is so nice to be able to have lunch at home, these tarts go well with just about anything.  Kalyn conceived them as breakfast items, but since I don’t normally have breakfast, they turn into a perfect lunch item.  Of course, the possibilities are endless as far as what other goodies to add… sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, maybe some prosciutto or diced ham. Just add whatever you like to the sautéed zucchini and proceed with the recipe.

Kalyn, thanks so much for your constant inspiration, and for “twisting my arm” (virtually at least) to get this great tart pan. Very nice addition to the Bewitching Kitchen

ONE YEAR AGO: Blogging Hiatus

TWO YEARS AGO: Apricots, Three Ways

THREE YEARS AGO: Up Close and Personal with Kale

FOUR YEARS AGOBlack Berry Cherry Sorbet

FIVE YEARS AGO: Asparagus Pesto

SIX YEARS AGO: Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Under the spell of lemongrass

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Greens + Grapefruit + Shrimp = Great Salad!

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KOUIGN-AMANN, FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE

When life shakes you down hard, cooking becomes iffy, at least for me. Being sick with the worst cold in 25 years didn’t make it any easier. From Brazil, apart from a very heavy heart, I brought a virus, one that clearly was a brand new acquaintance. I had to fight it from scratch from an immunological point of view. And my beloved was hit  too. We were in horrible shape for a week.  Anything you set yourself to do seems to demand a lot more energy. Simple tasks drain you. And a lot will go wrong. Like a tomatillo sauce, poured down the garbage disposal, much to my despair. Still puzzled by that one, as it was a recipe from a very reputable source. Only possible explanation, I grabbed a mutant jalapeno pepper with off-the-chart capsaicin levels. Trust me on that one. I love pepper, being the Daughter of my Dad. That thing could scare all three dragons from the Game of Thrones into hiding. Liquid lava.  But, after that fiasco, I decided to grab the bull by the horn and go for the kill. I would make something more involved than dumping things in a blender. I would make a concoction that has been sitting on my list of culinary goals for a long time. I would tackle Kouign-Amann.

OVERVIEW OF THE RECIPE
(from Sugar Rush, a great cookbook!)

First you make a simple dough from flour, a little yeast, salt, and a little butter. That goes into the fridge to rest from a couple of hours to overnight.  You will also make a slab of butter with a precise dimension and cool it until firm.

Then, the dough is rolled out, the cold layer of butter placed on one side, and the dough folded in the usual puff pastry making technique. A few differences, though: only four folds are needed. Sugar gets sprinkled over the dough before each fold. No lengthy refrigeration between folds, because you do not want the sugar to melt into the dough. That’s about it. After four folds the dough is refrigerated for only 10 minutes, then rolled out and 4 inch squares are cut to form the individual pastries. They sit for 45 minutes before baking so that the yeast has a chance to work its magic.

They are best baked in rings, although muffin tins can be used. They are baked for longer than you would expect, so that the sugar gets really dark. And utterly delicious.

I did not ask permission to publish the recipe, but my friend Karen has made a beautiful batch in the past, and the recipe is available on her site. She also talks about the origin of this interesting pastry from Brittany.

recipe available here

Comments: This one goes to the OMG files. With honors, with a red carpet rolled out for its entrance. My gosh, this is good. This is so good it should probably be illegal. Think of a croissant, but with sugary caramelized bites in between the layers. A croissant that married a muffin and had a beautiful baby. It won’t crumble into buttery pieces in your mouth. It is actually a lot more sturdy, with the butter tamed by sugar. Oh, yeah. Butter tamed by sugar. Perverse, isn’t it? If you low-carb, if you keto, if you Paleo, this is not for you. But let me tell you one thing. Life is short. The pleasure you’ll have by biting into one of these babies is worth a little restraint for a few days. A few more push-ups, one more mile on the treadmill. There. I hope I made my case.

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ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, Yin and Yang

TWO YEARS AGO: Chocolate Toffee Banana Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, June 2014

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

FIVE YEARS AGO: Baked Coconut and “The Brazilian Kitchen”

SIX YEARS AGO: Honey-Glazed Chicken Legs

SEVEN YEARS AGO: French-Style Rolls

 

 

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INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

Here I am to share with you not one, not two, but four recipes that are so simple you could make them in your sleep. Each delivers a lot more than you’d expect in flavor and you will find yourself making them again and again. Not necessarily in your sleep.

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From top to bottom, left to right, here they are:

CHEESE JALAPENO CRACKERS. Credit should go to Angela, from Divalicious Recipes.  Recently she composed a post with 50 ideas for low-carb appetizers very well-timed for a Super Bowl party.  These crackers are pure cheese, with a kick of Jalapeno. I made only eight for the two of us. There was a bit of an argument over the last one, we could not quite agree on who had the right to grab it. I won. Determination is everything.

crackerstutorial

My version, 50:50 Monterey-Cheddar & Parmigiano.
Baked at 350F for about 10 minutes.
Watched them like a hawk.

MARINATED CUCUMBER SALAD. I saw this recipe at FoodTV the other day, a show I don’t normally watch called Valerie’s Home Cooking. I admit to having a bit of a problem with Hollywood folks turned into FoodTV chefs. Maybe I should open my mind a little? Nah, I like my mind the way it is… Anyway, her recipe sounded great but I adapted on my second time around because she used too heavy a hand on the sesame oil. It pretty much overpowered the delicate cucumber.

cucumber

In a small bowl mix and whisk well:

1/2 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil.

Slice one cucumber as thin as you can make it, a mandoline could be helpful. I used a Persian cucumber, so I did not remove the seeds, but if you only find regular ones, removing the seeds is a nice touch. Delicately mix the cucumber slices with the dressing, refrigerate for half an hour if you have the time, but it’s good right away too.
So refreshing!

FRIED EGG OVER LABNEH WITH ZA’TAR. This is unbelievably good!  I confess I’m addicted and have it several times each week for my lunch.  I know you will find the combination a bit odd, but trust me, it is to die for. Just smear some labneh or thick Greek yogurt on a plate. Squirt a bit of lemon juice and a little salt (no need for salt if using labneh). Sprinkle za’tar all over, use a heavy hand if you are a za’tar lover.  Fry an egg whichever way you prefer, for this concoction I like a little bit of a crisp edge. Rest the egg on top of the cold labneh or yogurt mixture. Swoon!

zataregg

I use different spices sometimes.  Sumac goes well, Ras El Hanout is superb, but za’tar is hard to beat. There’s something about the mixture of the runny egg yolk with the cold seasoned yogurt, I never tire of it.  I first saw this combination at Maureen’s beautiful blog, she also included in her cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, which I own.

BLUEBERRY CHIA PUDDING.  I am usually pretty slow to jump on fashionable ingredients, and most of my adventures with chia seeds have been unremarkable. Not this one. It turned out so good I would serve it for company without thinking twice. It is creamy, sweet and tangy at the same time, the coconut flavor so subtle it would not offend those who are not too fond of it.  All you need to do is remember to soak the chia seeds the day before, or at least a couple of hours in advance.  A minute in the blender, and there you have, Nirvana in a bowl.  You can find the recipe here, but I highly recommend you get the book My New Roots, where you’ll find this one and a multitude of other interesting recipes.

blueberry-chia

for the recipe, visit Les Petites Pestes

Sometimes simple is all we need…

four-simple-recipes-from-bewitching-kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

TWO YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Valentine’s Day: The Finale

FOUR YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO: Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

IMPOSSIBLY CUTE BACON & EGG CUPS

Should I be embarrassed to blog about a “recipe” that is essentially two ingredients plus seasoning? Potentially, yes. But in reality I am not, because this non-recipe has a nice little unexpected twist to it: the bacon was pre-cooked sous-vide. WAIT!  Don’t run away, you can make it if you don’t have the Anova gadget sitting in your kitchen drawer. But I must say bacon cooked sous-vide and stored in the fridge waiting to shine in any recipe is a very nice item for the busy cook. Or any cook, actually, because this method gets quite a bit of the greasy “feel” of bacon out of the equation, and the texture will be superb.

bacon-egg-cups2

BACON AND EGG CUPS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

several slices of bacon, preferably cooked sous-vide
large eggs
salt
Aleppo pepper (or pepper of your choice)

If cooking the bacon sous-vide, place the slices in a bag and submerge in the water-bath set to 147 F (64 C) overnight. I left mine 12 hours, but you can do it longer if more convenient.  At the end of the cooking time, a lot of fat will have accumulated inside the bag. You can save it if you like to cook with it, or discard it.  Place the cooked slices of bacon over paper towels to dry them well. Store them in the fridge until ready to use. If not using sous-vide, cook the bacon on a skillet, but do not allow it to get too brown or crispy.  Drain them well in paper towels before assembling the cups.

Heat the oven to 375 F (175 C).

Cover the bottom of a muffin baking tin with bacon, making sure to come up all the way to the top. Gently break an egg and place it inside. Season with salt and pepper.  Bake according to your preference. I like the egg yolks to be runny, so 10 to 15 minutes maximum will be enough.  If you like your eggs fully cooked, go for 20 minutes, but pay close attention, you don’t want to over-dry the egg.

Remove to a serving dish, and dig in!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I made this recipe for the first time in July, and since then we’ve been cooking bacon sous-vide on a regular basis. To me, it takes bacon to a whole new level, cutting some of the harshness I find overpowering. If you get your pan screaming hot, you can get by simply searing one side of the bacon slice, as the whole thing is already perfectly cooked to start with. But, even if you crisp up both sides, the texture will be perfect.

compositebacon1

These little cups are perfect for breakfast, or a light lunch.  Having the bacon waiting in the fridge makes this preparation a breeze. All you need to do is warm up your oven (we use the Breville that heats up super fast), grab the muffin tin, and you are less than 20 minutes away from a nice meal.   I also made those using prosciutto and ham.  Both work very well, but the sous-vide bacon is my favorite. Keep also in mind that if you’d like a vegetarian version, cooked spaghetti squash strands can be a nice receptacle for the egg. I intend to blog about that sometime. The secret is to  be assertive in the seasoning, otherwise it can be a bit bland.

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For those interested, this is low-carb, Paleo-friendly, Whole30-friendly, but above all, it’s very very tasty!

impossibly-cute-bacon-and-egg-cups-from-bewitching-kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO: Pulling Under Pressure

TWO YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-vide: Two takes on Chicken Thighs

THREE YEARS AGO: Miso Soup: A Japanese Classic

FOUR YEARS AGO: On my desk

FIVE YEARS AGO: A must-make veggie puree

SIX YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Brazilian Pão de Queijo

POST-WORKOUT CHIA YOGURT BLISS

After blogging for more than seven years, every once in a while I wonder if I could be repeating myself?  Have I mentioned this before?  Have I said this in the past? Of course, a search in my own site could be helpful, but I prefer to go with the flow, if a thought crosses my mind and seems relevant enough, it becomes printed material.  So, if you’ve read before that I was probably the last person to join the Chia Seed Cheerleading Department, here I go with the encore. Truth is, the more I have it, the more I like it. They are gelatinous in nature, a bit slippery even, so if you have issues with some types of texture, they could be challenging for your taste bus. This texture thing bothered me at first, then a little less, and now I find chia seeds playful, fun, happy little beings. In this picture, you can see three variations of chia-yogurt concoctions that I like to have after working out.

compositeChia

 

CHIA-YOGURT BOWL OF BLISS

Basic mixture:

1/2 cup yogurt (full-fat)

1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds

1/8 cup of coconut milk, almond milk, or cashew milk

Optional additions:

Sweetener (agave, honey, brown sugar, date syrup)

Matcha powder

Mix it all together and leave in the fridge at least one hour, but overnight is best.

When ready to enjoy it, add the toppings of your choice. My favorites are toasted shredded coconut, toasted slivered almonds with a bit of cinnamon, toasted walnuts, blueberries, raspberries, diced apricots. I also love a little sprinkle of cocoa nibs. Every time I make it a little different, every time I tell myself I should make this exact version again “because this one is a winner.”   What can I say? I am easily amused.

to print the basic “recipe” click here

Something about this mixture of yogurt with chia seeds is quite satisfying after working out. During the week, I exercise before lunch or dinner, but on Saturdays and Sundays I really look forward to these little chia bowls. I make sure to get my basic mixture ready in the fridge the night before.  I once tried using store-bought blended yogurt with fruit, but decided it was too sweet for my taste. Full disclosure: very soon I will experiment with a different type of yogurt, a strike of genius from Sue. Take a look at her post, and be ready to be amazed! I can hardly wait to give it a try, but if you do it let me know in the comments (and of course, let Sue know too!).

😉

Chia-Yogurt Post-Workout Breakfast, from Bewitching Kitchen
ONE YEAR AGO: Tomato Tatin

TWO YEARS AGO: Best Thing I Ever Made: Chocolate Chip Cookies

THREE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

FOUR YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

FIVE YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

SIX YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

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TORTA DE LIQUIDIFICADOR

Come again? 

🙂


The best translation for this Brazilian recipe would be “Blender Pie.” First, let’s learn how to say it like a native. Repeat after me, three times:
.

Easy, right? I knew you could do it.

baked2
I have a sister in Brazil who is 16 years older than me. By the time I got into my teens she was already married, throwing parties, and pretty involved into cooking. One of the things she used to make was this blender pie, but her favorite filling was tuna with green peas, black olives and tomatoes. Being the mega picky girl I was, I never touched that kind, preferring instead more friendly (and austere) versions with ham and cheese, at most a touch of oregano. The basic process is always the same, a thick batter is made in the blender, half of it gets poured into a baking dish, the filling of choice scattered on top, and the rest of the batter spread all over. It is comfort food by default, or as we say in Portuguese, por definição. I won’t sugar coat the pill, it is a bit heavy. Accept it and move on. As an appetizer a couple of small squares will be enough for each guest. If you’d like to serve it as dinner with a salad on the side this full recipe feeds six hungry people.

Blender Pie

TORTA DE LIQUIDIFICADOR
(BLENDER PIE)
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the “dough”
1 cup oil (I used canola)
2 cups milk (full-fat)
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano cheese
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the filling
caramelized onions
sautéed mushrooms
shredded mozzarella cheese
diced tomatoes
(or any other filling you like to use)

Heat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease or spray with oil a baking dish (9 x 13 or slightly smaller is fine).

Make the dough: add to a powerful blender all the ingredients, and blend for 5 minutes until completely smooth. Stop the blender and clean its sides a couple of times during the process.

Pour half of the batter in the prepared dish, add all ingredients for the filling on top, pour the rest of the batter, spreading gently with an offset spatula to enclose all the filling.

Bake for 45 minutes or until all puffed up and golden on top. Let it cool until just warm before cutting in slices. It can be prepared a couple of days in advance, to re-heat use a low oven, microwave is not recommended.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositeblender

The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. You can pretty much use any filling you imagine: shredded barbecued chicken, ground beef with taco seasonings, roasted veggies, maybe some grilled shrimp, all doable. One popular version in Brazil uses corn and peas, green and yellow like the colors of the country. I do think cheese is pretty much mandatory in any kind of blender pie. If using shrimp or roasted veggies I suppose a bit of crumbled feta would be a nice option. No need to measure anything, just cover the extension of the baking dish with a hearty amount of filling.

I made this particular version for a reception we hosted. Keep in mind that in the span of two weeks we hosted three receptions for faculty and one pizza-party for our whole lab. After the pizza party we had some toppings leftover, so this Brazilian concoction of my past was a perfect choice to use it all up. But to make it more special, I prepared a batch of  caramelized onions, following this recipe from my friend Elaine. She used a clever method that allows caramelization to be an almost hands-free process, by making them in a low oven. I added a smidgen of balsamic vinegar to the onions, together with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Here they are, in a before and after shot…
caramelizedonions1caramelizedonions
I intended to add black olives to the filling too, but found the bowl with pitted Kalamata staring at me right after shutting down the oven door. Not the first time I pull this type of trick on myself, I believe it won’t be the last. Black olives would have been wonderful… (sigh)

The little pie squares are irresistibly gooey due to all the cheese…

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So there you have it, a Brazilian concoction from my teenage years finally featured in the Bewitching Kitchen. I hope I made my sister proud!  

ONE YEAR AGO: Lamb Meatballs with Toasted Orzo

TWO YEARS AGO: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

THREE YEARS AGO: Penne with Trapanese Pesto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Superman

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

SIX YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango

WALNUT-RAISIN BRAN MUFFINS

Every single time I type raisin it comes as raising instead. Pumpkin more often than not becomes pumpking. You could assume I have issues with words that end with “in”, but when sous-vide first gets written as sous-vice, and kitchen turns to chicken that hypothesis falls flat on its face. Oh, well. The mind works in mysterious ways. Even more mysterious, though, is what constitutes the perfect bran muffin as far as my beloved is concerned.  It’s been a while since I baked a batch, so it’s time to share my latest attempt at reaching his Bran Muffin Nirvana. Keep in mind that they have to be big, very bran-y, and loaded with nuts and raisins. I adapted a very popular recipe from Heidi Swanson and surprised Phil one early Sunday morning with six jumbo-sized muffins. Just a side benefit of waking up full of energy at 4:30am…

Bran Muffin

 

BRAN MUFFINS WITH WALNUTS AND RAISINS
(adapted from Heidi Swanson’s recipe)

1 cup bran flake cereal
12 ounces full-fat yogurt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup diced walnuts, slightly toasted

Heat the oven to 400, and line 6 cups of a jumbo muffin pan with paper liners or grease them with butter.

In a small bowl, combine the cereal, yogurt and melted butter. Stir together very well, and let the cereal soak while you work with the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flours, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Stir the eggs and honey into the bowl with the bran cereal, then stir in the dry ingredients. Gently add the raisins and walnuts. Divide the batter between the muffin cups and bake for about 22 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then move them to a wire rack to cool completely.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

muffincomp

Comments: Amazing what almost seven years of blogging can do. I knew I had bran muffins on the site, but was shocked to see that this is my sixth recipe for this delicacy. What can I say? They are Phil’s favorite kind and my goal from the start was to bake the bran muffin of his dreams. Did I get there?  The asymptotic curve is getting closer to the top, I am told. The resident critic thought the amount of walnuts and raising raisins were spot on. The size was adequate. The texture got a nod of approval too. So, what’s the improvement needed? More bran. Not bran-y enough. Some people demand “more cowbell“, others demand more bran.  The quest for perfection is still on. But, in a way it’s  nice to have something to strive for…

muffin crumb

I wonder if Christopher Walken would also request a little more bran?

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: A Star is Born!

TWO YEARS AGO: Chestnut Flour Sourdough Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Kinpira Gobo and Japanese Home Cooking

FOUR YEARS AGO: Walnut Sourdough

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thai Chicken Curry

SIX YEARS AGO: Zen and the art of risotto