Ooh, my favorite!

14 Pantry Essentials
October 2, 2013, 11:58 am
Filed under: Chocolate, Food, My favorite things, Organic, Recipes, The Finer Things


It seems that everyone is talking about how much they love fall lately. The changing leaves really are lovely, and the crisp, gloomy weather is a nice change of pace from the summer heat, but I’ve always loved the arrival of fall because that’s the time when I prepare to hibernate. And no hibernation would be complete without the addition of a few pounds around the old midsection and a well stocked pantry because regular trips to the farmer’s market and grocery store just ain’t happening.

Here are some of my very favorite pantry staples:

1 Arvum finishing vinegar  This family of vinegars are perfect finishing vinegars for soups and salads. Throughout the autumn and winter drizzle a little bit over a kale salad or a nice bean soup to add a little zip.

2  bionaturae organic pasta  One of our favorite pasta brands for spaghetti, shells, or these papardelle’s we keep a variety of shapes on hand just in case there are cravings for Carbonara.

3  Askinosie chocolate hazelnut spread  Oh my god, I love this stuff. Askinosie’s chocolate hazelnut spread is my favorite for sweet tooth cravings and snacks. No weird ingredients and no cheap chocolate here, just Hazelnuts from Lynden, Washington and the same cocoa powder and nibs used in their bars. They’re the only chocolate maker in the US making this from scratch! I like it on toast or in Andrew’s pastry dough as a pop-tart.

4  Cento San Marzano tomatoes  San Marzano tomatoes are the shit, but you have to make sure what you’re buying has been certified. There are (expesive!) brands stateside that are not authentic, and therefore not nearly as good or as sweet. Our favorite Cento brand is grown in the ashes of Mount Visuvius where the rich soil makes for sweet tomatoes. Such a bright spot in the middle of a cold winter we use these for pasta sauce and soups. Though the organic is hard to find, the conventional is easily found at Trader Joe’s and other grocery stores.

5  Red Boat fish sauce  Artisan fish sauce, finally! Made using a 200-year old process free of chemicals or added water this fish sauce really is wonderful. Having grown up on fish sauces there really is something about the clean flavors and finish of Red Boat. It’s not cloying or sharp,  so whatever you’re using it in is that much better. Perfect for a nice bowl of Jok.

6  Olo’s Chipotle paste  Chipotle paste in a tube is genius. My friend Tessa created this amazing paste and it’s one of my very favorite pantry staples. We use it to spice up condiments (like ketchup or sour cream), or in soups for a bit of smoky spice. Tessa does this as a hobby in addition to work and two kids, and somehow that makes this even better. Give it a go and you’ll absolutely love it.

7  Bob’s Red Mill organic steel cut oats  Love Bob. Love steel cut oats. These award-winning organic guys are great for oatmeal with a little texture. I like mine with butter, milk, brown sugar, and almonds.

8  Matiz Espana sardines and pulpo  These are probably our most essential pantry items because they’re so easily converted into great snacks or meals. Both the sardines and octopus are easily dressed into salads and served on toast or crackers. Also, sardines have more omega-3′s and fewer toxins since they’re lower on the food chain.

9  Aptera olive oil  This olive oil from the island of Crete is not only one of the best olive oils in our collection, but the pricepoint is crazy affordable. It is also naturally organic as it is illegal to spray pesticides on the island. We use this as our everyday oil for cooking, but it’s still good enough to use in salads and finishing too.

10  Arroyabe Italian tuna in olive oil  Italian tuna packed in olive oil, the best tuna ever. Like the sardines and octopus we love this guy for emergency snacks and sammies.

11 Rancho Gordo heirloom beans  The heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo are so badass. Have you ever seen such beautiful beans? We use any variety of their beans for soups, chilis, and stews.

12  Wakame seaweed  Andrew’s lamb seaweed soup is one of our favorites, so we have wakame seaweed by the pound in our pantry. Aside from soup we like it as a cold salad and we use the water for spa-like purposes.

13  Raw organic almonds Also on-hand by the pound in the pantry, we use these raw almonds for almond milk for smoothies and almond cake for sweet cravings. Briden WIlson Farms has beautiful almonds so we get our almonds directly from them. Their fall harvest is available now.

14  Organic saltine crackers  Sometimes you just need a saltine. My favorite is with an application of almond butter and jam, but then there’s also the times we use these as a crust for fried chicken thighs.

The perfect chocolate chip cookie
June 24, 2013, 10:19 am
Filed under: Chocolate, Sweets


Have you heard of the infamous New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe? The one adapted from master pastry chef Jacques Torres? The one with two different types of flour? The one whose dough has to “cure” in the fridge for 36-hours?

I’m not saying these things to scare you away, I’m actually trying to entice and convince you that this undertaking is worth every extra step and every restless hour that you must wait. If you’re skeptical I totally understand, because I was too. But I promise that with the cake flour and all the patience you can muster, this cookie recipe is, indeed, worth the extra effort. The end result is a gooey toffee-like center with crispy candied edges. Oh, and with the light dusting of sea salt the cookie is…transcendent.

I will be making a few tweaks on my next round, but as-is these really are the best cookies ever. The original recipe is here. Try it and let me know so we can gush.


Flour / cake flour / chocolate chips / baking soda / baking powder / brown sugar / butter / salt / eggs / sugar / vanilla / sea salt

I should also mention that my baking game has suddenly become pretty badass and it’s all because of the sexy kitchen scale. After all these years of dismissing my less than stellar baking ability as the result of “missing the skill of precision” (which is why I’ve always preferred cooking), I have to say that the game completely changed for me when I started measuring by weight and with mise en place set. The cookies will be fine without the scale, but if you’re looking to elevate your baking, which this recipe can help you do, give the scale a go!

Askinosie Tableya
June 11, 2013, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Chocolate, Compassion


My very favorite chocolate maker and all-around socially responsible company (I’ve written about them here and here) has a really great product/project. And, of course, it’s made of chocolate.

Tableya is a traditional beverage from the Philippines and is a rich hot chocolate drink that’s made from chocolate tablets. This version from Askinosie is crafted and packaged by the PTA at the Malagos Elementary School in Davao, Philippines where Askinosie has direct relationships with the cocoa farmers. Each $10 package of Tableya that’s purchased provides enough money for 225 meals. In total, the project totals to 140,000 meals for 700 students–lunch for every student at Malagos for one school year.

Askinosie buys the Tableya for $1 and sells it to us for $10. The $9 profit is used by the Malagos PTA to source, purchase, and prepare local food for the students.

More from Askinosie:

During a visit to Malagos Elementary School in 2011, Shawn Askinosie met with the principal and teachers and asked about their greatest needs– hunger was the biggest issue. He learned from the school administrators that 20% of the children at Malagos were on the malnourished “watch list.” So together, Shawn and the Malagos PTA created the Askinosie Chocolate University Malagos Elementary Lunch Program. The PTA makes the Tableya and ships it to the factory and 100% of the sales of this product fund the program.

We monitor height, weight and arm circumference of every student, along with attendance and graduation rates to measure the success of this program.  We are in constant contact with the school administrators.  Since the program began, with your help, we have provided 185,000 meals. 90% of the students have gained weight and the school attendance rate has increased.

Askinosie, their beautiful chocolate, and this wonderful project all make me so very happy. Get your bar of Tableya from Askinosie. $10 for a great cause, and great chocolate.

Askinosie White + Cocoa Nibs
March 27, 2013, 11:42 am
Filed under: Chocolate, The Finer Things


White chocolate’s not chocolate…whatever. This bar of Askinosie white chocolate is everything: single origin, direct trade, small batch, cocoa butter made in-house, four quality ingredients, and farmers with a stake in the outcome. Even farmer Peter Cruz is featured on the package. Yay for socially responsible chocolate.

Askinosie3But more than the bean to bar production the ingredients in this bar make me giddy. Giddy like skipping down the street or tap dancing around the kitchen (which is exactly what I do). There’s the rich and earthy tang from goat’s milk (such a sexy pairing!), the layer of roasted cocoa nibs on the bottom, and the micro grains of sugar bits that you savor as the chocolate melts in your mouth. I’m basically saying that this white chocolate in no way resembles the horribly waxy bunny-shaped bars we’re all used to. It’s the perfect balance of white chocolate sweet, goaty-milky tang, and a satisfying-crystally crunch.

Askinosie2Grab a bar online here. Or if you’re in Seattle check in with Karyn at Sugar Pill Apothecary or Chocolopolis at the top of Queen Anne.

My other favorite version of this bar has pistachios in place of the cocoa nibs! Don’t be shy. Try them both.

INGREDIENTS: Organic cane juice, cocoa butter (made by Askinosie with Trinitario Davao cocoa beans), roasted cocoa nibs, goat’s milk powder.

CollaBARations by Askinosie
December 19, 2012, 11:45 am
Filed under: Chocolate


Askinosie is one of my all-time favorite chocolate makers, and their CollaBARation bars have been quite a special treat. Like Askinosie, the collaborators focus on small-batch, artisan, direct sourcing, and all-around goodness. Learn more about each bar here and perhaps pick up a set of all four for the gourmet chocolate lover in your holiday circle.

I’ve declared my love of the Malted Milk + Dark chocolate collab with Jeni’s, but just last week I enjoyed the Vanilla bean and sugar crystals bar from Zingerman’s (one of my favorite stops in Michigan last summer). The bits of vanilla bean on the back of the bar were really interesting.

Order online from Askinosie, $35

[For my Seattle friends try stopping by Sugarpill. She is expecting more Askinosie bars very soon. (And also try their White chocolate + pistachio bar while you’re there.)]

The Anti Gift Guide
December 12, 2012, 7:22 am
Filed under: Beauty, Bubbly, Chocolate, Clean, Health, My favorite things


François Pinon Vouvray / François Pralus Barre Infernale / White Coconut Crème tea / Josie Maran cream blush / Aquasana coutertop water filter / BibBon luxury eye mask (here too) / Abbaye de Belloc cheese / Organic cold pressed coconut oil

I’ve really been struggling with the whole Gift Guide thing this year. I started pulling some lists together back in November (as it’s usually one of my favorite projects), but seeing how things have unfolded this season, I can’t help but feel that it’s all gotten to be so painfully contrived. I’m no stranger to extravagant window shopping fantasies and trend alerts (and posts about them) but in this age of blog sponsors and affiliations I feel that so much has become so one note and disingenuous.

At first it made me sad, but then I settled on the best way I could think of to share the most genuine list of goodies that I could…and that was by listing some of my all-time favorite things in one post. Not a gift guide, but a collection of health and happiness in small and meaningful packages. Everything here I own, I use, I love. No wishlists, no trendy gift o’ the season: just my favorites from me to you, and maybe even someone you love.

So in an attempt to not sound too much like a Grinch…

here’s hoping you have a lovely holiday full of gifts and gift-giving that makes you feel happy and healthy.

Sugarpill Apothecary Seattle
November 13, 2012, 7:48 am
Filed under: Beauty, Chocolate, Green, Health, My favorite things, Seattle

I’ve gotten a few inquiries about where I find chocolate to satisfy my weekly daily cravings and somehow I could have sworn I’d posted about my very favorite chocolate, flavored sugars & salts, custom tinctures, natural health products, and vintage goodies store before. And yet somehow I missed it.

Sugarpill Apothecary (or just Sugarpill as we call it) was one of my very first discoveries after moving back from San Francisco, and while I needed time to settle in to my new adventure at home, this was the place that made me feel at home here while recalling happy memories of SF. I take all of my out-of-town guests here after brunch at Sitka for the perfect “Seattle experience”. (And come on, is that not the coolest branding logo ever?)

The proprietor Karyn has an amazing array of the most wonderful goodies and everything is just so me. I love her natural health and beauty section (of course), but then there’s….


 …the wall of barware bitters and syrups…

…flavored sugars and salts…


…gourmet pantry items and so much more.

But perhaps the most wonderful resource in Sugarpill is Karyn herself. With extensive knowledge of herbology and homeopathic remedies (right up my alley!) I often come to Karyn for a custom-made tincture for whatever may ail me: fatigue, stress, cold remedies…anything. (And even if you don’t quite know what’s off, she has a wonderful way of helping you identify and articulate how you might be and feel better.)

As I tell all of my visiting customers at the restaurant, for the perfect one-stop-shop that is oh-so-Seattle, be sure to visit Sugarpill.

Sugarpill Apothecary Seattle | 900 E. Pine Street, Seattle, WA 98122 | 206.322.7455

François Pralus Barre Infernale Lait
May 31, 2012, 10:25 am
Filed under: Chocolate, The Finer Things

François Pralus Barre Infernale

Like coffee, chocolate is a luxury item that’s become so easily accessible that it’s easy to forget that for about $20 we have access to the best the world has to offer. Seriously, this is mind blowing! In a time where faster, cheaper goods reign supreme we have the ability to reallocate a few dollars here and there to appreciate the finer things and indulge in excellence…like, for example, this epic bar of chocolate.

I use the term chocolate bar only in the most literal sense: it is in the shape of a bar, and it is made of chocolate. In terms of the conventional sense, trust me when I say that there is nothing conventional about this chocolate.

This is the François Pralus Barre Infernale Lait. I’ve been struggling to find the best way to characterize this, but it’s been really tough. In the classic sense (and according to François Pralus) it’s a praline, but I think it might help most people stateside to think of this as a bon bon of sorts, with a truffle-ish center. (Did you catch that?)

The progression of textures and tastes is euphoric. The outer chocolate shell boldly encases and yet blends into the most sumptuous, buttery, and decadent chocolate hazelnut center. In short it’s the perfect fat: as it hits your palate it’s one cohesive bite, but almost immediately it coats your tongue and oozes sexy hazelnut chocolate. The addition of the toasted whole hazelnuts is the perfect bit of tannic crunch.

This is NOT excessive-cocoa-butter-waxy-bland, just pure decadence. I’m not saying this is an exact comparison, but when talking about this with my guy the word foie gras did come up. So yeah…there’s that.

I purchased this from Cacao in Portland for $22. It’s worth every cent not just because of its artisan craftsmanship and quality (and size), but also because it’s so decadent it’s meant to be savored. You’ll just want to slice a few pieces off at a time and store it away from anything too warm or cold. If you’re looking for this in Seattle, check out Chocolopolis in Queen Anne, they also have it online for $19.

UPDATE [December, 12]: This guy is getting hard to find. Try here.

In case you’re curious here’s a cheeky little how-to:

If this wasn’t enough to convince you I’m not sure what else there is! All I can do is beg you to skip the chocolate from Trader Joe’s and indulge in something better every now and then. Trust me, the endorphins you’ll get from this are priceless!

Lick, Lick
March 19, 2012, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Chocolate, My favorite things, Sweets

Askinosie’s Malted Milky Dark Chocolate

It seems extra gloomy today, and even with the spring blossoms peeking out it’s one of those graze-on-an-entire-bar-of-chocolate kind of days. It’s actually perfect timing because we came across this awesome bar of Askinosie chocolate yesterday. My friends, this bar (a collaboration with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams) is uh-may-zing! The dark chocolate with malted milk makes this the perfect bar for milk chocolate lovers looking to enjoy dark chocolate without so much of the strong, chalky taste. The texture is also complete perfection, first the chocolate taste with just enough cocoa butter to make it creamy-not waxy.

For me, making enjoying the chocolate that much better is how they work. All of the chocolate is made in small batches using single-origin cacao beans (sourcing directly from the farmers), each of the cacao farmers has a stake in the profits, and interestingly enough, the cocoa butter is made in-house. Who’d have thought that’d an artisan chocolate maker actually making their own cocoa butter was a big deal…but it is! Askinosie is the first small batch chocolate maker in the U.S. to press their own cocoa butter.

Gorgeous chocolate and direct trade with farmer’s makes for a lovely (and meaningful) indulgence. Please, please, please give this a try so we can talk about how awesome this chocolate is!

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