I spent my holiday vacation back home in San Diego making memories with family and old friends.
Just after Christmas, my cousin and her family were involved in a devastating house fire that took the life of her daughter and everything they owned. It has been a difficult year for my family in general, and this tragedy solidified 2015 as the worst year ever! Hopefully 2016 is kinder to us all. A friend of the family set up a GoFundMe account if you would like to make a donation to help.
My dear friend, Jay, also lost his mom over the holidays, and I met up with him and friends I haven’t seen in forever at her memorial. I love seeing these guys, because no matter how much time has passed, we can all still pick up right where we left off. The highlight of my day was when Pammie and I walked into the chapel and Jay’s brother greeted us with arms wide open and a simple, “Bitches.” Classic Rome. Jay trying to give me dating advice was a very close second. The lowlight of my day had to be when my ex-boyfriend brought his fiancé and his parents to the memorial, and all I brought was my extra holiday weight. LOL. Just kidding. (I brought my sister, too.)
My resolution this year is to be better about staying in touch with family and friends. I have a tendency to close myself off, and I’m trying to work on that. You really never know when you’re going to lose your loved ones…
FOR THE COOKIES:
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries
FOR THE FROSTING:
1 (8 oz.) bar cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted in the microwave or double-boiler
2 tsp. orange extract
3 cups powdered sugar
FOR THE TOPPING:
1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup white chocolate chips, melted in the microwave or double-boiler
TO MAKE THE COOKIES:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt until well-blended. Set aside.
Using an an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and the eggs one at a time, beating in between to incorporate. Then reduce the speed to low, and slowly add in the dry ingredients. Increase the speed to medium, and continue beating until well-combined. Fold in the white chocolate chips and cranberries, and mix until just-combined. (Do not overmix.)
Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour. Then place dough by rounded tablespoon-fulls onto a baking sheet that has been prepared with parchment paper, at least 2.5-inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges. Remove pan, and transfer the cookies to a cooling rack until cool. Repeat with remaining dough until all cookies are baked. Wait until cookies reach room temperature before adding frosting and toppings.
TO MAKE THE FROSTING:
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the cream cheese and melted white chocolate until combined. (**Be sure that your cream cheese REALLY is at room temperature before adding the white chocolate. Otherwise the chocolate could seize up.) Add in the orange extract and mix until combined. Then reduce speed to low and add the powdered sugar. Mix until incorporated. Then use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat once more for 1 minute on medium speed until the frosting is smooth. You can add more powdered sugar for a thicker frosting.
Spread the frosting on the cooled cookies. Then immediately sprinkle the frosted cookies with the chopped dried cranberries. And use a fork to drizzle on the frosting, swishing it back and forth over the cookies.
For Friendsgiving this year, I made an oxtail ragu that would bring you to your knees. It took me five hours to cook, and I didn’t finish until three in the morning! It was worth it, but I’ll probably never make it again (just like the chocolate babka I made in 2012). I hope you enjoyed my tender meat, because that’s the last time you’re ever gonna eat it! Ha.
My trip was cut short due to my grandma’s passing, and Anthony had the time of his life those first few days without me. He hit up the Dirty Sixth with Austin locals he made friends with and ended up giving one of them my Friday wristband. They saw all the bands I wanted to see. I’m bummed I missed Tame Impala and Leon Bridges among others, but luckily I didn’t have to wake up at an ungodly hour on Saturday and wait with him in that 4-hour line for Franklin. Day-old brisket reheated in a hotel microwave and eaten in my chonies still tasted better than any BBQ I’ve ever had in California!
I flew in Saturday night and met up with Anthony at an Irish pub downtown. Fado is the official US soccer bar in Austin, and it’s surrounded by gay bars on 4th Street. My uber driver was convinced he was taking me to see my gay friend once I told him where I was headed LOL. I mean, it would explain so much… After US lost to Mexico, we hit up Firehouse (a cool little speakeasy inside a hostel) and Rainey Street. I loved, loved, loved it there. Rainey Street is a block of old houses converted into themed bars. We stayed till last call, and all I remember from that night is a lot of Ludacris and stanky legs. You don’t realize how drunk you are until you’re walking the hotel halls in nothing but your dress slip looking for a beverage machine so you could wash down some tylenol at three in the morning.
We didn’t wake up early enough to stand in line for BBQ before the festival on Sunday, but we stopped by Torchy’s Tacos before we made our trek to Zilker Park. There was a lot of walking. Like. A LOT. Before, during and after the festival. In nearly 100 degree heat. And in sandals that had 0% arch support (but were 100% cute, obvs). This was definitely not Portland where we had a local friend with a car, ample public transportation, and weather that was 50 degrees cooler. The highlight of my day happened just before BØRNS’ set when the sun disappeared behind the only cloud in the sky for half a minute and everyone cheered. BØRNS, Sylvan Esso and Hozier’s sets were very close seconds. So were those two snow cones we each had.
Before I knew it, it was Monday and time to check out. Anthony hit up the gym in the morning while I stayed my ass in bed. We ate lunch at Valentina’s Tex Mex where Anthony had brisket tacos and I had a beast of a beef rib with the most beautiful smoke ring. We strolled down South Congress afterwards and drank micheladas for three hours at a bar inside Hotel San Jose. We got to the airport early to watch the Chargers lose, and I asked the TSA guy if the Starbucks was before or after the security gate. He ruined my mom’s life and told me that there’s no Starbucks at all, because Austin is all about supporting local businesses. I get a Starbucks mug for my mom whenever I travel, and she’s just gonna have to be happy with the mug I got her during my layover in Phoenix!
All things considered, I’m glad I was able to take a break from life and escape for a couple of days. I’ll def be back to explore this weird little town again.
My mom and my sister visited me in LA this weekend, and we had Filipino, Chinese and Vietnamese food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And since that wasn’t Asian enough, we took pictures of our food and posted it on instagram.
At lunch today, our waiter told me he really liked my glasses when we first sat down, and later brought me some hot water, lemon and honey because he said he heard me sniffling. Deane said he wanted my dick, but I’m pretty sure he just wanted the tip ;)
I don’t know what’s sadder—is it that part of my job as a web designer at Skechers involves creating e-blasts for the cafe inside our office building (how else would you know that tomorrow’s special is chicken tikka masala?!), or that while googling BBQ photos to use for their 4th of July special, I immediately recognized this spread from Smoke City Market???
If you’re looking for the key to my heart, a platter of smoked BBQ beef ribs will unlock all the mysteries.
Highlight of my day: After lunch with my coworkers @ Pitfire, the cute cashier slipped me a free jumbo chocolate chip cookie on my way out.
I met up with my coworkers outside afterwards, thrust my cookie in the air and was all like, “FREE COOKIE, BITCHES!” Our excitement was short-lived, though. When we got back to my car, I had two parking tickets—one for an expired meter (my friend paid the wrong one) and another for not having a front license plate (I mean, if my car was meant to have one, it would have come with holes drilled in it).
I owe the City of Manhattan Beach $96 for that free cookie!
The last time Deane and I tried to eat Churro Borough, they sold out at the pop-up they were having at our beloved Ramekin (RIP!). Now that they’ve set up a brick and mortar at Ramekin’s old spot, they’re even more popular! Hopefully we’ll get to have churro ice cream sandwiches again before we’re on social security.
You can donate HERE. Please put your address in the “Personal Note to Walk Participant” field if you want dog treats. If you’re in LA or SD, I can probably just meet up with you :)
I battle my obvious love of dogs on a daily basis.
I can’t watch a cute puppy video on youtube without clicking on all the related videos. Next thing I know, I’ve lost three hours of my life watching 103 videos in a puppy surprise playlist and have been crying for at least two of those hours. Just kidding. (I cried for all three.)
When Pammie asked if I wanted to do a walk for animals, I immediately said yes without knowing any details other than dogs were somehow involved. Her office organizes this huge fundraiser that includes a bake sale where homemade dog treats are sold for donations, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to combine my love for dogs with my love for baking and get involved.
I reached out to some local LA craft breweries, and Progress Brewing in El Monte was generous enough to donate some spent brewing grain towards my cause. I drove out to what the dude described as “east of east los” with nothing but a 5-gallon bucket and a friend to witness my death in case the dude chopped me up into little pieces and dumped my body in the mash tun (I did meet him on the internet, after all).
Kevin, the co-owner of Progress Brewing, was actually a really nice guy. He asked if I preferred “Black IPA” or “American Red” doggy biscuits! Ha. I went with American Red, obvi, since I’m not a fan of IPAs. Dogs are also allergic to hops, so if you’re going to repurpose spent grain, make sure the brewery didn’t mash hop the batch you’re getting.
It’s best to use the spent grains within the first few days after brewing, otherwise they’ll go bad. I used a FoodSaver and froze them in portion-sized bags for storing and later use, since they gave me around 40 pounds of grain.
Here’s a simple, all-natural recipe if you want to try making these at home:
4 cups spent grain
2 cups organic barley flour
1 cup natural peanut butter
2 organic eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the ingredients and mix with your hands until a thick dough forms. Roll out the dough on a generously floured surface and cut out shapes with cookie cutters like this cute dog bone.
Line the biscuits on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 225 degrees and continue baking for 2 hours. Cooking them the additional time at the lower temperature will help ensure they dry completely, extending their shelf life.
The dried biscuits will keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container and even longer if you freeze them in zipper bags. You can give them to your dogs straight from the freezer as a cool summer treat, or, if you’re in LA, in the dead of winter when it’s 90 degrees out!
My favorite place in LA is closing for good this weekend, so I had to go there one last time before I went home for the holidays. Deane and I cried into our last chocolate bread puddings ever, and then we ate our tears (@ Ramekin)
I suggested we have our first friendsgiving this year, partly because I wanted an excuse to make dessert, but mostly because Anthony owed me smoked wings for telling me he was gonna come up for the Rose Bowl flea market the other weekend, having me drive back up to LA at 2am, and canceling via text at six in the morning!
There were no smoked wings (he made a pot roast instead), but there were tons of laughs and surprisingly delicious healthy food from Shi. Haha. Till next year, clowns!
Anthony visited before his BBQ class in LA, and we tried one of LA’s best burgers. It was meh, felt more like a sandwich because it was served on a french roll, but the beers were excellent. My favorite burger in LA (and in life) is still from Plan Check!
Hopefully he learned some new skills from the BBQ Pitmaster for the next party he unwillingly lets me throw at his house.