Traditional English Sticky Toffee Pudding

For best results, read with a British accent

News of the royal wedding is everywhere these days. From William and Kate’s Lifetime movie, to their rumored passed canapés, to the tacky royal heirloom replica ring that can be yours for just $19.90, I am eating it all right up. I’m not afraid to say that I have been hit by Middleton Mania. Who didn’t dream about being a princess, right? Since I hadn’t yet been born to witness Diana and Charles’ wedding day, I plan to forfeit my DVR capabilities and wake up at an ungodly hour to celebrate with the royal family on this side of the pond. But to sweeten the deal, I will need a jolly good treat to serve as my waking motivation. I want to say “Cheerio!” to something other than a bowl of Cheerios.

In honor of Kate and William’s upcoming royal wedding, I decided to make a traditional English sticky toffee pudding. The last time I was in London, I had dinner at the oldest restaurant in the city, Rules Restaurant, where I enjoyed the best sticky toffee pudding I have ever had. Puddings in Great Britain are completely different than in the US as they are more of a dense, spongy cake than a custard-based dessert. Puddings, such as black pudding, can also refer to a type of sausage that features all kinds of animal bits, bobs, and blood, but we won’t go there. What made my date-filled dessert at Rules Restaurant so spectacular was how the cakey pudding was completely drenched in rich toffee sauce. I used this recipe with the hopes of recreating the amazingly gooey English treat.

Although I am quite certain that Kate and William are serving a much more sophisticated and posh dessert at their royal wedding, this sticky toffee pudding is just perfect for curling up to the telly and watching Kate become a princess. Plus, since I made it ahead of time, the toffee sauce will have even more time to soak into the cake, making it even more delicious. I’m sure that when I wake up so bloody early on Friday morning, I will be happy to have this sticky toffee pudding ready to greet me...

That is, if I can wait that long. Maybe just one little bite…

Brilliant! Fit for a queen...I mean princess!


Crystallized Spearmint Leaves

You can’t celebrate Earth Day without something green. My crystallized mint leaves are green in every sense of the word. Not only are the mint leaves certified organic, but they also require absolutely no cooking time, making them environmentally friendly and energy free treats. Try these crystallized mint leaves with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, fresh mixed berries, hot cup of tea, or simply on their own as an after dinner mint. Have a happy Earth Day!

Organic Ingredients

Mint leaves
Egg white
Evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar (as much as you want to coat the leaves)


Brush egg white on mint leaves with your fingertips to lightly coat on both sides. Gently toss the leaves with sugar in a small bowl. Let leaves stand at room temperature for a few hours, or until crisp and dry.


Springtime Green Eggs and Ham – Asparagus, Green Pea, and Goat Cheese Quiche in Prosciutto Cups

In Dr. Seuss’ classic tale, Sam-I-Am’s preparation of green eggs and ham is not the most appetizing to say the least. With persistence, he tries to make his friend sample his strangely colored eggs, knowing that he will love them once he tastes them. His friend resists at first, but after much convincing, he tries and actually enjoys the dish. With the “Don’t knock it until you try it” moral of this story being all well and good, I think that Sam-I-Am maybe needed to spice things up a little in order to sidestep his unrelenting questioning. My take on this fictional fare involves lots of springtime vegetables, goat cheese, and prosciutto. Thankfully, I did not have to chase my husband all around the house, car, train, and boat or introduce woodland creatures into the equation to make him try my version of green eggs and ham. This quick and fun dish makes for an appetizing addition to your Easter brunch!

Springtime Green Eggs and Ham

Yield – one ramekin

3 slices prosciutto, fat trimmed
1 egg
1 egg white
Crumbled goat cheese
2 spears asparagus, chopped
1/3 cup green peas


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat ramekin with cooking spray and then line with slices of prosciutto to form a cup at the bottom. Make the prosciutto edges overflow a bit so that they can get crisp and browned.

Whisk the eggs until smooth, and then crumble in goat cheese. Blanch the chopped asparagus and peas and add to the beaten eggs once cooled. Season only with pepper since prosciutto is usually very salty.

Pour the mixture into the prosciutto-lined ramekin. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the egg has set. If using cupcake tins, reduce the amount of prosciutto and cooking time.


Fava Bean and Goat Cheese Crostini

I believe that people generally make two associations with fava beans: (1) They are incredibly labor intensive to prepare, and (2) Hannibal Lecter likes to eats them with human livers and a nice Chianti. While unfortunate yet very true, these aren’t exactly the best associations to be made with a dish. Personally, I love fava beans. I jumped up and down in the market yesterday when I discovered that the huge green pods were finally in season - a very brief season at that. I snatched up as many as I could and started brainstorming fava bean recipes, vetoing any featuring liver.

I decided to make a crostini mainly because I couldn’t stop thinking about the meals we recently had in Italy. In Rome, we enjoyed our fair share of toasted bread topped with a variety of cheeses, meats, vegetables, and fish. I kept my crostini pretty simple (as it should be) with just a few ingredients. The only difficult part of this recipe is the preparation of the fava beans themselves.

Now, how do you prepare these demanding beans? It is a bit of a process, so enlist the help of some hungry friends (or kids), and be sure to supply them with plenty of wine (or fruit juice). First, peel open the large pods and pop out the individual beans. Either boil or steam the beans for a few minutes, and then peel their waxy skins once they have cooled. That wasn’t so bad, right? My recipe for fava bean and goat cheese crostini is below. Enjoy this dish with a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc, or you can go the more Italian or Hannibal Lecter route and sip on some Chianti.


Baguette or ciabatta
Olive oil
Fava beans
Goat cheese
Lemon juice and zest
Chives or basil


Mix room temperature goat cheese with lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper. Brush baguette slices with olive oil and then toast under the broiler until crisp. Top with goat cheese, shelled fava beans, lemon zest, and chopped chives or basil.


Fried Plantains with Brown Sugar Rum Glaze

Over the weekend, I visited my family in Maryland and enjoyed a wonderful home-cooked meal. In typical fashion, my husband, father, and brother parked themselves in front of the television to watch the Masters, as my sister, mother, and I slaved over the hot stove in the kitchen all day. Truth be told, my mom did most of the work though, while my sister and I watched just like we were little kids again. She made us an incredibly authentic Trinidadian feast. My mom truly knows her stuff as a Trinidad & Tobago import. She moved to the States when she was a teenager and brought with her some delicious recipes which she thankfully whips up for us quite often. I feel very proud of my mother's roots. In fact, back in school when teachers would ask the students to name one fun fact about themselves, my fun fact was that my mom was from Trinidad. My teachers never believed me though since I inherited my German dad’s fair skin, so it was always fun to play with them.

The menu for our Sunday family dinner included the following Trinidadian specialties: stewed fish with tomatoes, peppers, and coconut milk; black beans and rice; macaroni pie; hot pepper sauce (or Death Sauce, as my brother calls it); and fried plantains. My mom even broke out the special pimento peppers, which she recently smuggled back from Arima (shhhh!) and stores in the freezer. Although I would love to share the recipes for all of these amazing yet labor intensive dishes, I’m afraid that I can only focus on the fried plantains for simplicity’s sake.

Plantains resemble bananas in appearance and are best used when their skin has blackened. They can be steamed, baked, grilled, or fried, as they typically are prepared in Trinidad. You can see in my photo that our plantains weren’t totally ripe as they were still quite yellow, so I decided to create a sweet glaze to drizzle over them. I came up with a brown sugar rum glaze to bring out their natural sweetness. With plantains being an island food and rum being an island drink, I thought that the two would get along famously. My mom was a bit skeptical of my rum sauce at first, but thankfully her first bite won her over. I had a great time cooking with my mom, who allowed me to apply some of my cooking ideas to her classic Trinidadian dishes. I truly feel blessed that my sister and I can carry on the traditions that our mother and grandmother started years ago in their kitchen back in Trinidad.

Fried Plantains with Brown Sugar Rum Glaze


2 plantains
Canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ounce Rum
Dash salt
Splash lime juice


Peel and slice the plantain in half and then long ways. Fill a saucepan with about a half inch of canola oil. Fry the plantains on each side for just a few seconds, until brown. Set on some paper towels to drain.

For the glaze, melt the butter with the brown sugar and whisk until it dissolves. Add the rum and allow to boil until most of the alcohol cooks out, about 2 minutes. Swirl the pot or whisk the mixture so that it does not burn. Season with a sprinkling of salt and a splash of lime juice.

Drizzle over the plantains and enjoy.


DC's Red Hook Lobster Pound

Over the past few months, I had been hearing a lot about a food truck that was winning over foodies all over my old stomping grounds in the DC area. As food trucks lead the way in the next fast food revolution, the guys behind the highly praised Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck remain current and competitive by driving down from Maine every week with fresh caught lobster. Then, via Twitter, they announce their location daily, where hungry Washingtonians will wait in line for hours for their famed lobster roll.

Lobster has never been at the top of my list. Being a Maryland native, I've always remained loyal to my favorite crustacean – the crab. As I dug into my Bon Appetit magazine on my flight to DC, though, I stumbled upon an article about the famous lobster truck. The featured picture of the lobster roll alone made me more than willing to kick my long loved crab to the curb. Speaking of curbs, I waited on the sidewalk for 30 minutes in rain and high winds for my little piece of Maine.

The lobster roll was totally worth the wait! The pieces of lobster are enormous, and I mean all of the pieces! They don’t skimp and just arrange large pieces on top of shredded lobster; they go all out, and rightfully so at $15 a roll. Plus, you cannot beat the freshness of the lobster. I absolutely can’t wait for my next visit to DC so I can track down the lobster truck. I applaud Red Hook Lobster Pound for sharing their delicious creations with the District, steadily clawing their way into the city’s vibrant food scene.


Lavender Simple Syrup

If I could go back and live in another time, it would definitely be during the Prohibition Era. Besides the bootlegging and racketeering, I love the music, fashions, and excitement of these seemingly wild times, and needless to say, I find the show Boardwalk Empire absolutely fascinating. I also love a good speakeasy. From NYC’s Milk & Honey to PDT to Raines Law Room, I am more than willing to overlook the elitism, pretentiousness, and absurd prices in order to enjoy their impeccable mixology. Some of the cocktails that these elite establishments engineer seem to defy the laws of physics, and once concocted, look like true works of art.

I had one of the most memorable cocktails ever at The Gibson in DC. For the life of me, I cannot remember the exact ingredients, but I do remember that the bartender (or mixologist) included gin and some delicious lavender simple syrup and then set the drink on fire! To take the first steps towards recreating this mysterious cocktail, I decided to make some lavender simple syrup. I will figure out the rest of the ingredients some time or another, but for now, I will just focus on the syrup. Sorry to say, but I chose to sidestep the pyrotechnics as well. Maybe next time.

Lavender Simple Syrup


1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dried lavender buds


Bring the water and sugar to a boil, so that the sugar fully dissolves. Add the lavender buds and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drain and let the syrup cool. I left a few buds in the syrup because I think they make a pretty presentation. In addition to mysterious cocktails, this syrup is wonderful in teas or over vanilla ice cream. If anyone has a yummy martini recipe including lavender simple syrup, please let me know!


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sherry-Dijon Caramelized Onions

No doubt about it, brussels sprouts get a bad rap. Poor little guys. When I asked my parents if I could prepare brussels sprouts as a side dish for Thanksgiving last year, my dad put his foot down and let out a loud and disgusted “Bleh!” It must be a generational thing because whenever I go out to dinner with my girlfriends and we see brussels sprouts on the menu, we undoubtedly place a few orders for them. I love everything about the adorable miniature cabbages. I love their color, structure, taste, and their many nutritional benefits – they are a superfood, you know? So before my favorite veggie goes out of season, I decided to have one last hurrah.


Olive oil
Brussels sprouts – don’t you dare use frozen ones!
Grain Dijon mustard
Sherry cooking wine


Cut the sprouts into halves and quarters, coat in olive oil, and then roast them in the oven. In a saucepan, caramelize a sliced onion for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle in some thyme, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard and crank up the heat. Deglaze the pan with some sherry cooking wine, and cook the onions until the liquid evaporates. Once the sprouts are browned and roasted, combine them with the caramelized onions and toss. Throw in some pancetta to make this dish even yummier. These brussels sprouts are truly fantastic, and I double dare my dad to even try rejecting them next Thanksgiving!


"Carrot Cake" Palmiers

I didn’t become an actual coffee drinker until about two years ago. I would consider myself a coffee novice as I am still discovering which types of beans and roasts I enjoy the most. Other than its intoxicating aroma, what I love most about coffee is learning which foods pair the best with it. My favorite pairing at the moment is anything with cinnamon. I adore cinnamon and add it to just about everything. It’s like Seinfeld said, “People love cinnamon. It should be on tables at restaurants along with salt and pepper. Anytime anyone says, ‘Oh, this is so good. What's in it?’ The answer invariably comes back, cinnamon. Cinnamon. Again and again.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Back in January, I made an incredible carrot cake loaded with cinnamon for my husband’s birthday. Amazingly, there was some left over the following morning. As I ground my coffee beans in a sleepy haze, I noticed that my regular morning oatmeal paled in comparison to the tempting leftover carrot cake. I also decided that if I was going to eat an unhealthy breakfast, I was going to go all out. I poured myself some piping hot Columbian roast, sat down at the table, and proceeded to dunk the carrot cake into my mug. The coffee left no nook or cranny behind as it completely saturated the luscious carrot cake. This was, without a doubt, the breakfast of champions.

To relive that winning combination of flavors, I decided to make a lazy man’s version of carrot cake to nibble on with my coffee. To be fair, it’s not really a cake, but it shares similar ingredients and flavors. Carrot cake palmiers look fancy, however they are incredibly easy to prepare. You can get creative with palmiers too, as you can make them sweet or savory. These tasty little two-bite treats will happily dive into a comforting cup of joe to make a simple and sweet dessert, afternoon snack, or if you are feeling sassy, an extraordinary breakfast.


Puff pastry
¼ cup carrots, grated with a box grater
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup walnut pieces
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grate carrots with a box grater and then set to drain on some paper towels. Roll out the puff pastry onto a board, and sprinkle with dried carrots, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, and salt. Press or roll the ingredients into the puff pastry.

Bring the left and right sides of the puff pastry to meet in the center. Then repeat with the folded sides, so they too meet in the center. With a very sharp knife, cut the dough into ½ inch pieces, being careful not to mash the palmiers.

Place palmiers on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the sugar has caramelized. Cool and then serve.


German Soft Pretzels with Hefeweizen Horseradish Mustard

I grew up in a German household. I’m fortunate enough to have visited Germany a few times. My mom makes a mean spätzle. My dog growing up was, you guessed it, a German Shepherd. I’ve never been late for anything in my life. My parents threw a huge Oktoberfest party a few summers ago, complete with a large assortment of wursts (that’s sausage), soft pretzels, kegs of Spaten, and a full Bavarian Oompah band decked out in lederhosen. The band, of course, got drunk at the party. Some may think that a German household is a strict household. And, yes, while that may be true, a German household it also one that appreciates great food and even better beer!

After reading Smitten Kitchen’s recent post about spätzle, I decided to let my German roots shine and make classic soft pretzels. I didn’t want to make just any old soft pretzel that you can find at the mall, though. I was determined to make the monster-sized ones that are served at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. There, you have to hold onto the giant beer steins with both hands and the pretzels are larger than your head. It’s pretty much my favorite place in the world.

I can honestly say that this was the most fun that I have ever had while baking, and it was not because I was swigging Hefeweizen while I waited for the dough to rise. I found kneading and rolling dough to be quite therapeutic. I used this recipe from The Fresh Loaf and am very happy with the results, even though the finished product did not turn out larger than my head. The exterior of the pretzels were crusty, while the interior remained soft and chewy. I also concocted a dipping sauce that complimented my pretzels perfectly. Who needs to wait for October when you can make these year round?

Hefeweizen Horseradish Mustard

3 tablespoons course grain mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon grated horseradish
1 tablespoon Hefeweizen