Kale and Avocado Salad

I’ve been trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle lately by eating lighter and more nutritious foods as well as resuming my exercise routine.  I don’t really believe in diets–just slight food control along with making sure to exercise.  It feels great since I love fruits, vegetables, and grains anyway; it’s just the working out part that’s more of a challenge for me.

Yesterday I made a kale and avocado salad.  I’ve never even heard of kale before my co-worker kept raving on about it’s nutritional benefits so it was my first time eating the leaf.  This recipe is from Sauveur.  The tough kale leaves and soft avocado are a wonderful combination.  In addition, the citrus-soy dressing is so tasty when tossed in!  (I substituted sunflower seeds for hemp seeds because I couldn’t find it at my local grocery store.)

Taken with a Nikon D90

Kale and Avocado Salad Recipe

1⁄2 cup fresh orange juice
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped into a paste
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
2 tbsp. raw hemp seeds (optional)
1 bunch kale (about 3⁄4 lb.), stemmed and finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Whisk together juices, soy sauce, and garlic in a bowl. Slowly whisk in oil; set dressing aside.

2. Cut 2 avocados into 1⁄2″ cubes and thinly slice the remaining avocado. Put cubed avocados, half of the hemp seeds, and kale into a serving bowl. Toss kale mixture with dressing and season generously with salt and pepper. Divide salad between plates and garnish with sliced avocado and remaining hemp seeds.

SERVES 4 – 6

M. Stewart’s Biscuit Sandwich Cookies

This chocolate filled biscuit recipe was found in the book Martha Stewart’s Cookies, gifted to me and my sister and by my cousin.  I went a little overboard with the egg yolk-cream brushing for the top of the cookies, so the colors came out uneven and darker than the picture in the book.  However, I really like that the colors came out looking like this!

Result: crunchy, chocolate-y, and slightly salty.  Mmmm I love that course salt in cookies.

Taken with a Nikon D90

Pasta Alla Norma

I’ve been in a cooking mood lately probably because I’ve been watching too much Food Network- especially the show Chopped.  I really wanted to cook for my family last night, so I decided to make pasta alla norma (pasta with tomato sauce and eggplant.) The recipe is from Saveur which can be found here.  I feel it’s been ages since I’ve cooked! I used to cook all the time and then I guess college happened and I downgraded to instant noodles and cereal.

Here are some photos of a way too small portion of the dish.  Overall, this was a pretty simple recipe. The eggplant and the red pepper flakes were the key ingredients to giving this dish a nice kick.

Taken with a Nikon D90

I really hate artificial lighting and really wish it could just be sunny every time I want to photograph my cooking and baking.  It’s too bad I have a 9-5 job with a three hour commute!

Sutro Baths with the Diana Lens

Over the three day weekend, my boyfriend and I also explored Sutro Baths and the surrounding area.  I’ve never been around Cliff House before but have always wanted to see the Giant Camera.  It was SUCH a beautiful day out and was nice to climb around and explore the burnt down Sutro Baths.  I brought both my normal lens and my Diana Lens.  The Diana produced much more interesting photos–enjoy!

Taken with Diana lens on Nikon D90

I’m falling more and more in love with San Francisco each day!

Flea market treasures

Over the lovely three day weekend, my boyfriend and I decided to explore the Alemany flea market.  We loved going to the flea market in San Luis Obispo and were both excited to see what San Francisco had to offer.  Turns out, I found a TON of awesome items that I thought would be nice for my future apartment.  I really love vintage finds and the Alemany flea market had a wide variety of trinkets and treasures.

My “treasure box” with vintage matches, old pamphlets, a Fentons milk bottle, and some cool keys.

Red tool box, an SF welcome map, and old baking and cooking pamphlets that I absolutely love.

Cool toolboxes that my boyfriend found.

My favorite find- old matches. The designs and fonts on these are too cute. I seem to have a blue and pink theme going.

Awesome camera that still had half a roll of unused film!

Taken with a Nikon D90

Overall, the flea market was a success!  We are definitely going back.  I can’t wait to find more cool stuff (and not junk!) for my hopefully near future SF apartment.

Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread

I was excited to come back home today to find that my Tartine cookbook had been delivered. I flipped through the book and was in awe with the beautiful photographs and the seemingly simplicity of the ingredients involved in each recipe. Since I didn’t have too much time to bake today, I chose a less complicated recipe to try out earlier this afternoon. I decided to bake the Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread. This was my first time making lemon bars or any kind of custard, and I found the process wasn’t too difficult. The hardest part for me was probably figuring out what pie weights were and franticly trying to find as many coins around the house as I could to use instead.

The result?  A little too sour.  The recipe called for 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of lemon juice plus some lemon zest.  In addition, you have to add a ton of sugar to balance with the lemon, but maybe I just had a too-sour batch of lemons.  Overall though, I thought this was a successful first time for lemon bars!  I still gobbled down two of these despite how sour they were (:

Taken with a Nikon D90

Lake Tahoe with Camera+

Over the weekend, I went snowboarding in Tahoe with my sister and our two cousins from Texas.  I’ve gone snowboarding almost every year since high school, but this was by far the most gorgeous weather I have ever seen in Tahoe.  As I was driving towards the mountains, I noticed that the clear blue sky and the sunlight along with the bright snow and green trees all created such a beautiful scene.  I was so fortunate to have an easy snow-free drive as well as beautiful scenery to snowboard in.  Of course, I wanted to capture all of the beauty, so I busted out my iPhone whenever I could and used my favorite post-processing app, Camera+.

My sister on the mountain.

Random snowman we found.

Absolutely gorgeous in Tahoe.

All taken on iPhone 4 with Camera+ app

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

A few days ago, I baked peanut butter cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and chocolate ganache, a recipe I found from the website Ming Makes Cupcakes.  I’ve tried baking a couple of Ming’s cupcakes and they’re all wonderful.  My favorite so far however is this peanut butter cupcake.  Both the cupcake and the frosting are so rich and full of peanut butter flavor.  The addition of the chocolate on top really compliments the rest of the cupcake.

If you are looking to bake something from Ming’s site, I suggest Cupcake 5 for a very very chocolate-y treat, Cupcake 10 for a tasty apple-caramel combo, Cupcake 6 for a banana-maple delight, and of course, Cupcake 17 if you are a peanut butter lover.  I plan to try many more of her recipes and hopefully will share my experiments and photos here!

I didn’t realize my camera was set on the vibrant setting so the chocolate looks very dark, but here are some photos along with the recipe.

Taken with a Nikon D90

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate Ganache
from mingmakescupcakes.yolasite.com
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of cinnamon
3/4 stick butter, room temp
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar until blended. Add vanilla and egg. Add milk and flour mixture alternately while still mixing. Pour into lined cupcake pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out almost clean.

3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream

Melt chocolate and cream in metal bowl set in simmering water.

1 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
6 T milk

Beat peanut butter and vanilla until blended. Add 3 T milk and sugar while beating. Add the rest of the milk and sugar and beat until smooth.  If needed, add a couple more tablespoons milk.


Here’s another picture of this cupcake that I took back in May when I first tried this recipe.

Taken with a Nikon D70s

Diana Lens

I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with different types of cameras.  From disposable to polaroid to smart phones, I find it fun to try out new types of photography.  For Christmas, my boyfriend gave me a Diana lens for my Nikon DSLR.  I’ve been eying the Diana film camera for a while, but kept having second thoughts because of the lack of my Holga camera usage.  Even though there is a completely different experience when using film cameras, I still like having my photos easily available and having no limits when using a digital camera.  The Diana lens is a perfect fit for me to still experiment with the toy camera effect without having to go through the process of developing film.

Here are a few photos from my first test run.  The lens creates very soft and dream-like photos.  For these, I inserted a piece of construction paper with a small hole between the lens and the camera to create the vignetting.  It’s challenging to get the lighting and focus correct, but I love the effect! I can’t wait to take these lens out again!

Taken with Diana lens on Nikon D90