Archive for February, 2014

RECAP // February 2014 on Dig This Jive

| February 28, 2014

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While sitting on our couch one evening last week, my husband pinched the little bit of roll at his waist. He sighed, looked up at me and said, “This is your fault.”

Over the last four weeks, I baked two types of brownies before I decided to run with the recipe for Rich Cocoa Brownies with Salted Caramel. I made three batches of Lemon, Lime, and Mint Cookies to get the process and timing down. I also bought macaroons from Big Joy Family and a Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Tart from Bread & Cie so that I could take photos of them for the San Diego Pastry Spots post. Even though we brought a lot of the treats to our respective offices to share with co-workers, there were still days worth of dessert waiting for us at home.

So, yes: I suppose I am to blame for the extra bit of weight we’re both carrying into next month. But I’m not worried about it. We’re active people who normally eat a lot of organic fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, so I’m sure we won’t wear the supplementary sugars from this past month for long. Until the handful of pounds melt away, there’s a little bit more of my husband to hug and a little bit more of his cheek to pinch. Such truths may not help his body image, but they sure as heck add to his cuteness.

Beyond the sweets, this month was dedicated to appreciating the people in our lives, whether it by spending time with them, cooking for them, giving them a gift, or rooting for their well-being. I hope at least one post this month inspired you to take advantage of the time you have with the people you love.

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DATE IDEAS IN SAN DIEGO | While you can’t lose with a fancy dinner, there are plenty of others places to take a date San Diego.

4 FAVORITE SAN DIEGO SPOTS FOR FRESH BAKED PASTRIES | Where I like to go in San Diego for delicious baked goods, from macaroons and tarts to doughnuts (which are technically fried) and bread.

10 THINGS: LOVE | Here’s to reserving the word “love” for the times when I truly mean it.

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100 HAPPY DAYS: AN INTRO | For the next 100 days, I’m going to take and share a photo of something that’s made me happy. Join me!

HAWAII: TANTALUS AND ROUND TOP DRIVE | What it was like to see Honolulu from the back of a scooter.

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RICH COCOA BROWNIES WITH SALTED CARAMEL | For when you want to get real about baking brownies.

LEMON, LIME, AND MINT COOKIES | My variation on a delicious cookie recipe from Bon Appétit.

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FREE VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT TAGS | Top any present you give to your S.O. with any one of six gift tags, all of which can be printed for free from your home computer.

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CORAL COLLECTIVE | A catalog of coral-colored clothes, accessories, and home goods that caught my website-wandering eye.

VALENTINE’S DAY GIFTS FOR THE FELLAS | All of the items on this gift guide, from a Ron Swanson print to bow ties and pocket squares, are priced under $50 before shipping.

VALENTINE’S DAY GIFTS FOR THE LADIES | Give the woman in your life something classy without breaking the bank.

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BECAUSE WOMEN GET HEART DISEASE, TOO | How to raise awareness about the ways women can prevent, and survive, heart disease.

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RECIPE // Lemon, Lime, and Mint Cookies

| February 25, 2014

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One Friday last month, friend and singer-songwriter Jane Lui posted a photo collage of cookie dough and the baked results on her Facebook timeline. The dough had bits of something leafy in it which added flecks of green to the baked cookies. The photo caption read: “Lemon-Lime Basil Shortbread cookies baked! Happy friday monsters.” (Her fans are regarded as Janiemonsters.)

It was a gesture that was sweet and also a tease. I’m no Hogwarts wizard, so reaching through the computer screen to nab one of the freshly baked cookies wasn’t an option. To have one, I would have to bake my own batch. So I asked her for the recipe and she shared a link to Bon Appétit’s Lemon-Lime Basil Shortbread Cookies.

Fresh herbs baked into a cookie? I’d never heard of the concept before, at least not in a legal sense, but I like a good food adventure. So I thought I’d bake a batch with basil and another with mint just to see if one was better than the other.

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The verdict: The basil batch was slightly sweeter than the mint batch in a blink-and-miss-it kind of way. In fact, outside of giving the cookies freckles of green color, I think the role of a fresh herb, be it basil or mint, is to cut down the dominant lemon-lime flavor to a palatable level. It was a fun experiment, one that rewarded me a week later when I was on a run to replenish my herb stock in preparation for this post: the supermarket ran out of basil, so rather than drive to another market, I picked up a pack of mint.

The other ingredients needed are all-purpose flour, powdered sugar, chilled unsalted butter, a medium-sized lemon, a lime, and kosher salt.

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Preparing the dough is easy: Measure out a cup of flour, a ½ cup of powdered sugar, and a ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt and dump them into a food processor. Cube the chilled unsalted butter, zest the lemon and lime to yield one teaspoon each, squeeze the lemon to yield one tablespoon of juice, slice enough mint leaves chiffonade-style to yield two packed tablespoons, and then add them all on top of the dry ingredients.

Lock the top of the food processor into place, wrap a dish towel over the food chute (to prevent puffs of flour), and pulse the mixture until large, moist clumps form. And just so you know: The clumps don’t form right away. The mixture will go from floury, to granular yellow clumps, and eventually to the big clumps you see below.

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Set a rack in the middle of your range, then heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

As the oven heats, remove the food processor bowl from the base. Using a regular spoon, measure about a tablespoon of dough, roll it up between your palms to form a ball, and set the ball on a nonstick cookie sheet. Continue until you form 16 balls. If you end up with extra dough, roll bits into dough balls that look smaller than the rest.

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Next, sprinkle a tablespoon of powdered sugar into a shallow dish to dust the bottom of a flat ⅓-cup measuring cup. Press the dusted bottom of the measuring cup onto each dough ball just until the dough peeks out around the circumference of the measuring cup. Continue to dust the bottom of the measuring cup as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.

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Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes or until their edges are golden brown. Transfer the baked cookies to a wire rack and let them cool.

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These cookies, which give off a sweet scent much like a lemon tree ready for harvesting, are crisp and an ideal partner to a cup of hot or iced tea. Bites first taste like lemon, then lime, then surprising flecks of salt, all set within a buttery context. Though the mint isn’t pronounced, it plays its role of subduing what would otherwise be a tyranny of citrus. I especially like these cookies the day after they’re baked, when they’ve slightly softened and taste creamier.

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***
Lemon, Lime, and Mint Cookies
(a variation of Bon Apéttit’s recipe for Lemon-Lime Basil Shortbread Cookies)
Makes 16 cookies // 20 minutes to prep, 15-18 minutes to bake

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar, plus 1 tbsp for pressing dough balls
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 tbsp sliced fresh mint leaves
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated lime zest

  1. Add the flour, powdered sugar, salt, cubed unsalted butter, sliced mint leaves, lemon zest, lemon juice, and lime zest in a food processor. Lock the cover in place, loosely cover the food chute with a dish towel, and then pulse the ingredients until large, moist clumps form.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees F, making sure a rack is set in the middle of the range.
  3. Remove the food processor bowl from the base. Using a regular spoon, measure out one tablespoon of dough. Roll the dough between your palms to form a dough ball and set the ball on a nonstick cookie sheet. Continue with the remaining dough until you have 16 balls. If there is any dough left over, roll bits into any dough balls that look smaller than the rest of the batch.
  4. Flatten each dough ball using a flat-bottomed ⅓-cup measuring cup, pressing just until the dough peeks out around the circumference of the cup. To prevent the dough from sticking to the measuring cup, dust the bottom of the cup with powdered sugar in-between each press.
  5. Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes, or just until the cookie edges are golden brown.
  6. Move the baked cookies to a wire rack to cool.
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ABROAD // Hawaii: Tantalus and Round Top Drive

| February 21, 2014

When my husband got his motorcycle license a couple of years ago, I never expected I’d be able to experience the freedom he feels when he’s on a ride. His electric blue Kawasaki Ninja 250R is adequate for what he got it for–to commute to work–but it’s on the smaller end. Even though there’s room for a passenger to ride along behind him, the bike just seems like it wouldn’t be powerful enough to carry us safely around our car-dependent city.

Then, while we were in Hawaii on vacation that spring, he came up with a brilliant idea: to explore Honolulu on a two-passenger scooter. So, he rented one for a full day from Hawaiian Style Rentals, which was conveniently located just behind our hotel. We were outfitted with helmets, given a map of the island with recommended routes, and sent on our way.

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My husband took us for a couple of loops around the nearby Honolulu Zoo to get used to driving the scooter with me on the back and to give me a chance to decide whether or not I liked the feeling of riding on a vehicle that leaves me vulnerable to everything around me, from flecks of gravel to delivery trucks. I was stiff at first, but I trusted my husband and I knew that I had a responsibility as the passenger to make the driving and wielding of the vehicle easy on him. So I started to think of the excursion like a partnership in which my cooperation was crucial to our safety and, slowly, I replaced feelings of panic with calm and awareness.

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On hindsight, we could have dressed a little safer, just in case. Sure, we wore helmets, which we soon came to realize was a one-up on most locals. But we could have also worn jeans instead of shorts. It would have been better if I wore shoes instead of black strappy sandals. Sporting light jackets would have made us overly warm, but would have offered better arm protection.

But I guess common sense is muted for the blare of excitement when you’re on vacation. We wanted to feel the tropical breeze whip over our bare arms and legs as we toured the southwest coast and then weaved up, up, up above the city, through peaceful manicured neighborhoods, to the lush trees and plants that grow without much restraint on the mountains, where there are many moments when the blue sky overhead is replaced with the deep green of leaves that are as large, if not larger, than my torso.

It was a breathtaking adventure, one that came my way thanks to my wonderful husband. I’d gladly do it again.

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4 Favorite San Diego Spots for Fresh Baked Pastries

| February 20, 2014

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These are my personal picks of places in San Diego to buy a fine piece of pastry, something sweet that can be eaten at breakfast, at tea time (if you observe it), or saved for dessert. And Extraordinary Desserts isn’t one of them. I’ll leave Ms. Krasne’s places of business to those who want to dine at an attraction and get noticed for doing so. Give me gourmet in no-frill settings, where I can be comfortable being myself as I eat my way through something I’ll need to work off on the weekend.

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Located next door to Phuong Trang on Convoy Street, Big Joy Family bakery offers everything from cakes and tortes to cookies and breads. I especially like their macaroons, so much so that I told readers of San Diego Magazine all about them in the 2011 “Best of San Diego” issue. As of this posting, four types of macaroons are baked fresh daily from Wednesday through Sunday, the flavors of which are rotated each day; the photo above features rose (pink) and French vanilla (Tiffany blue) macaroons. The going rate for one of these lovelies is $2. Yes, for one. But, actually, it’s a fair price when compared to other macaroon-toting spots in San Diego. (BTW: The photo with the fork is supposed to give you an idea of the size of the macaroons. I didn’t mean to imply that they should be eaten with a fork.) 4176 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa // bigjoyfamily.com

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(Photos from Donut Bar’s Facebook album)

The doughnuts put forth by Donut Bar’s head baker Wendy Bartels are anything but traditional. And although they’re technically fresh fried, not fresh baked, I wanted to include them on this list. There’s the Nutella-glazed yeast doughnut that should come with a finger licking warning. The delicious (and my favorite) Blueberry Meyer Lemon cake doughnut is made with real blueberries and finished with a glaze made with fresh-squeezed Meyer lemons. And now you can place doughnut orders online the night before! It’s just another service that makes this spot a gem, perfect for a morning when you want to treat yourself, even when your name is Brad Pitt (rumor has it that he fell for Donut Bar’s apple fritter, which has since been known as the BRAD Fritter). So, it’s no surprise that this San Diego-born shop will soon have a SoCal sister: The Donut Bar is set to open in Orange County in the next few weeks. Lucky for Mr. Pitt. 631 B Street, Downtown // donutbarsandiego.com

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When it comes to this patisserie-you-shouldn’t-pass-up, I’m all about the tarts: Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, which is served individually like a mini pan pizza and truly is all raspberry-flavored dark chocolate truffle before you get to the shell; Raspberry Apple Rhubarb, a bright, fruity blend encased in a pie-like crust and served by the slice; and the Blackberry Mirroir, a mascarpone cheese tart set in a hazelnut crust and topped with a glaze of blackberry-apricot purée. During the times I’ve been able to resist my default Bread & Cie desserts, I’ve shared slices of Pecan Pie and Chocolate Cream Pie. And when I’m looking for something fit-in-my-purse portable, I’ll get a sweet and buttery palmier. Not once have I been disappointed. Not. Once. 350 University Avenue, Hillcrest // breadandcie.com

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What with featuring this bread in my spotlight on Pangea Bakery and in my Chocolate Chip french toast recipe, it’s only fitting that I list it here. The doughy delight doesn’t need help from jams or jellies, but it isn’t hurt by them either. I enjoy this bread as is at room temperature, toasted, pan-fried, or grilled. And I’m not the only one: a loaf hardly lasts a weekend when my godson is in town. Beyond the Chocolate Toast, I like to eat Pangea’s almond puffs, almond cookies, coconut buns, apple turnover, and Raisin Toast–not all together, but maybe one day. 4689 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa // pangeabc.com

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100 Happy Days: An Intro

| February 18, 2014

Television commercials are useful in that they give me a break in-between what I’m actually interested in watching to check other things I’m interested in, like my Twitter feed. This, in turn, can lead to fun opportunities, such as this tweet I read last night from GOOD Magazine (@GOOD):

I thought to myself, “Yes, I can post a picture of something that makes me happy for 100 days in a row.” So, I’ve taken on the challenge of tweeting and instagramming (are those verbs, now?) a daily photo of something that’s made me happy, beginning with this picture of yesterday’s healthy take on breakfast:

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As I make progress, I’ll summarize bunches of days in posts right here, but to stay fully up-to-date, you should either follow @digthisjive on Twitter or christine_pasalo on Instagram.

What will make this project more worth it? If you join it! There’s no official start date for the project. Day 1 is whatever day you begin and the only requirement is that you share a new picture of what makes you happy for the next 99 days in a row. Come play!

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