<![CDATA[SoCal Southern Gal - Blog]]>Wed, 17 Feb 2016 15:18:06 -0800Weebly<![CDATA["Berry" Delicious Pie]]>Fri, 18 Dec 2015 21:54:13 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/berry-delicious-pieI confess that I have a slight problem with purchasing kitchen ware more than I probably need. In my stumbling around for a yummy lemon tart, I found this post over at A Cup of Jo, and I've been eyeing beautiful pie and tart pans ever since.  To my surprise, I found this beautiful ceramic dish at Target well below my price limit, and I've been very excited about using it since.

Normally, I'm a huge fan of pumpkin pies, but the fall season has become so inundated with pumpkin spice everything that I didn't really want to make one (another factor was that I didn't have any graham crackers on hand, and there's something so wrong to me about a pumpkin pie in a regular crust).  So despite it not being quite in season, I decided to make a super berry-licious pie. 

Serving this pie will be quite messy, but it is a most delicious mess! I suggest serving with vanilla bean ice cream.
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Drinking tea while making this pie was the perfect end to my work day.
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Before going into the oven
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Ready to be taken out of the oven!

"Berry" Delicious Pie

Yields: 9" pie (about 12)     |     Prep Time: 60 minutes (including resting time)    |     Cook Time: 45- 55 minutes
Ingredients:

Crust
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Shortening
  • 1/2 Cup (2 standard- size sticks) butter + extra to coat sides and bottom of pan and brush on top
  • Ice water
Filling
  • 4 Cups of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, washed and dried
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1/3 Cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Instructions:
  1. Butter your 9" pie pan and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine your flour and salt. Gradually add in your butter and shortening and combine using a pastry cutter, two forks, or your hands (I tried using the pastry cutter again and still think using my hands is more efficient, but it's a personal preference!).
  2. Slowly add ice water by the tablespoon to your mixture, until you can form a ball with your hands as you mix.  In total, I used about 10 tablespoons, but it may vary.  Don't make your dough too wet or it'll be hard to work with!
  3. Cut about 3/4 of your dough out.  Reform into a disk and place between two sheets of parchment or wax paper.  Using a rolling pin, roll out from the middle to the sides until your dough is about 1/4 of an inch thick. Gently place over your pie pan and press very gently into the bottoms and sides of the pans, cutting off the excess dough and adding back into the 1/4 you had set aside. Place the bottom crust piece in the freezer and freeze.
  4. Mix together sugar, cornstarch, and ground cinnamon together and pour over berries, mixing well without crushing the berries. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350ºF and roll out the remaining dough and cut designs as you desire.  I personally like the combination of the lattice top and the braid, but you can cut out designs using a small cookie cutter (or free handing if you are much more talented than I!) and place on top. 
  6. Pour berries into cold crust and decorate the top as you wish. Melt butter and brush some on the top crust to facilitate a nice, brown crust.  Sprinkle some Turbinado sugar on top for an added extra crunch.
  7. Put pan over a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil (to catch any excess dripping for easy cleaning), and bake for 50 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the filling starts to bubble.
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<![CDATA[Holiday Season Thoughts]]>Mon, 07 Dec 2015 00:04:52 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/holiday-season-thoughtsThe past couple of months have flown by so quickly! I completed my first "busy season" and it seems like those three months flew by before I knew it. All of a sudden, Christmas is around the corner, and I feel sorely unprepared (as can be evidenced by the fact that my tree has more stuffed animals than presents underneath it).  In this holiday season, I reflect on all the blessings God has given to me, and I can't help but be so thankful.

One of the things I was most thankful for this Thanksgiving was the opportunity to go home to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. In the past four years, I have not been able to go home for Thanksgiving due to the short break.  One of the best things about working full- time is vacation and holiday days, allowing me to go home and spend time with my parents and younger brother. And getting to see autumn after all of these years of a SoCal winter and fall was delightful, even if it was mostly over by the time I made it back home.

Another thing I'm thankful for is having a job. There are moments of frustration where things don't seem to go the way that I would like for them to go, but overall, I'm very grateful that PwC decided to take a chance on me and hire me straight out of college. Every day is a new learning opportunity, and I hope that I can live up to their expectations of me. I'm thankful for great co-workers and the best first team I could have ever hoped for.  Working with and getting to know everyone on my team these past couple of months has been so valuable, and despite the fact that we are no longer working together daily, I love that we still text each other. 

Not having a permanent address means that there are a lot of things I can't do, but thankfully, I was able to have a tree up this year.  I know that Christmas trees add very little to the true meaning of Christmas, but coming home to the smell of my pine tree and seeing the twinkling lights always makes me happier when I get home from work.  And of course, my tree has one of my favorite things in the world: Toy Story's Little Green Men! The past couple of years, several of my dear friends have given me LGM ornaments, and I've added all my key chains and small stuffed animals into the tree as well to make it "me" (shout out to the best roommate for letting me decorate our tree like this!).
During my time at Claremont McKenna College, one of the places I was most involved in was the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum.  While there, I served on the Athenaeum Advisory Committee, Athenaeum Director Search Committee, Student Manager, and helped out in the kitchen. In fact, one of my biggest accomplishments of my college career is the gingerbread village I built that is still on display every Christmas season.  The Ath holds a very special place in my heart and is where I got my love for baking and cooking.  This Christmas, the Ath and the Development Office partnered with the very talented Anne Marie D'Agostino '91 to create a free Athenaeum Cookbook so that anyone can cook the food that the Ath prepares.  Enjoy!
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<![CDATA[Roasted Pecans]]>Sat, 28 Nov 2015 23:40:26 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/roasted-pecansFor some reason, despite the fact that I love pecans all year round, the Christmas season inevitably makes me think of them.  Maybe it's the chestnuts roasting in the "Christmas Song," or maybe it's that I always see the roasted nuts in the mall around this time, or maybe it's simply the warmth radiating from my oven that's always a nice change from the cold weather.  I had the most delicious roasted nuts on my pancakes at Tupelo Honey Cafe when I was home visiting my parents, and I knew that my next project would be to make roasted pecans at home.  After scouring Pinterest, Google, and my mom's recipes, we found this recipe from Cooks with Cocktails that was a mix of everything I like in my pecans, sweet and a tiny bit spicy.

Mom didn't have cayenne in her house, so we substituted it with paprika, which did not bring out the flavor that I was hoping for.  Maybe it was the type of syrup we had on hand, but I thought the nuts were also a little lacking in sweetness.  So when I got back to LA, I decided to tweak around the recipe until I found something that I loved, and I think these nuts are just the thing! They're marvelous as a snack on the go (I took a bag with me to Disneyland), as a homemade Christmas gift, in salads, etc. The possibilities with these little beauties are endless.  And with that, I present my new favorite pecans*!

*This recipe can also be used with almonds instead of pecans, and solely depends on your nut preference.
Note: I tried to use aluminum foil and the mixture stuck to the foil much more than the parchment paper I used when I was at home.  I would strongly suggest using parchment paper, even if it means you have to run to the store and get some at the last minute!

Roasted Pecans (or Almonds)

Yields: 2 cups     |     Prep Time: 5 minutes     |     Bake Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients: 
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons Turbinado sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons 100% maple syrup
  • 1/2 Teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 Cups pecans

Instructions:
  1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan or microwave.  Add the Turbinado sugar and stir well.  Keep microwaving/ cooking the butter and sugar mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in maple syrup and cayenne pepper.
  3. Gently coat the pecans with the sugar mixture until they are completely coated. I found that using two forks to turn over the pecans in the mixture worked best for me, but a spoon could coat as evenly. 
  4. Place pecans on pre- lined baking sheet with the pecans no more than one layer deep.
  5. Bake for 5 minutes and remove.  Stir the pecans so that they can evenly bake on all sides. Bake for an additional 5 minutes and remove to cool.
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<![CDATA[Scones]]>Sun, 20 Sep 2015 20:58:28 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/sconesOne of my former roommates gave me a scone pan for my birthday last year, and it is among my favorite kitchen implements by far.  I love scones when done right, and with this pan, it's pretty much impossible not to have perfect scones. I've listed the pan I have (except mine is in eggshell. I'm tempted to get the blue one too though! Who doesn't need two scone pans?!) at the bottom in case you want to make perfect scones too.

​For church this morning, I baked two types of scones: Strawberry Lemon Poppy Seed and Chocolate Chip and Cinnamon. 

Strawberry Lemon Poppy Seed Scones

Yields: 16 scones     |     Prep Time: 30-45 minutes*     |     Bake Time: 15-20  minutes
*Prep time depends on how quickly you can get your ingredients together; it takes me a REALLY long time to zest lemons. If you know of a quick/ better way to zest a lemon than with a zester or a grater, please let me know!
I originally came across this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction, and was immediately inspired to make my own.  I'm not a huge fan of icing on my scones, but I love the tanginess of lemons, so I adapted it a little so that it was a bit sweeter and lemon-y enough. My scones did not turn out as pretty as Sally's, but I think they taste pretty darn good, and that's what really matters!

Ingredients:
  • 2 Cups of all- purpose flour
  • 1/2 Cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Zest of two large lemons
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 standard- size stick) of frozen unsalted butter
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Cup fresh, washed, and dried strawberries
  • Turbinado sugar to taste

Directions:
  1.  Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Spray your pan with a non-stick cooking spray or butter, depending on your preference.  (Note: I only have one pan, so I bake my scones in batches of two).
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds) until mixed well. Add in the lemon zest and stir until combined. Grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture and mix with your fingers (I've tried a pastry cutter, knives, forks, etc. and I still like using my fingers the best.  Of course, make sure your hands are clean before you start putting your hands in the food!) gently.  While you want the mixture to be mixed together well, it's not imperative that you mix the butter in so much that every grain of flour is buttered; rather the meal should resemble sand, with clumps of butter sticking around. This will make your scones fluffier when baking.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients (cream, egg, vanilla) together until combined. When you are done, pour one third of the liquid mixture into the flour mixture.  Fold gently with a rubber spatula and repeat until everything appears moistened.
  4. Add the dried strawberries and fold with spatula gently. Make sure that your strawberries are dried completely (sometimes I even bake them for a little bit before- hand to let out some of the juice) or your dough will be wet!
  5. Pull bits and pieces from the dough and stuff them into the scone compartments of the pan.  I generally eyeball the amount of dough that I'm going to put into the pan, but I find that about 3/4 full works pretty well for me. Sprinkle some Turbinado sugar on top of the scones, to taste.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the scones are lightly golden.  

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Scones

Yields: 16 scones     |     Prep Time: 30 minutes     |     Bake Time: 15-20  minutes
In my quest for more delicious scones, I came across this recipe and adapted it to my tastes as well.  Since I'm using a baking pan and my scones are less deep than hers, I cut the baking time a bit and tweaked the recipe a bit to my tastes (I have a much bigger sweet tooth apparently!).

Ingredients: 
  • 2 Cups all- purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (as much as I love Turbinado sugar, you want something less coarse that will melt completely.
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 standard- stick) of frozen unsalted butter
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Turbinado sugar to taste

Directions: 
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Spray your pan with a non-stick cooking spray or butter, depending on your preference.  (Note: I only have one pan, so I bake my scones in batches of two).
  2. In a large bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients (flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon) until mixed well. Grate the frozen butter into the flour mixture and mix with your fingers (I've tried a pastry cutter, knives, forks, etc. and I still like using my fingers the best.  Of course, make sure your hands are clean before you start putting your hands in the food!) gently.  While you want the mixture to be mixed together well, it's not imperative that you mix the butter in so much that every grain of flour is buttered; rather the meal should resemble sand, with clumps of butter sticking around. This will make your scones fluffier when baking.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients (cream, egg, vanilla) together until combined. When you are done, pour one third of the liquid mixture into the flour mixture.  Fold gently with a rubber spatula and repeat until everything appears moistened.
  4. Add the chocolate chips and fold with spatula gently. 
  5. Pull bits and pieces from the dough and stuff them into the scone compartments of the pan.  I generally eyeball the amount of dough that I'm going to put into the pan, but I find that about 3/4 full works pretty well for me. Sprinkle some Turbinado sugar on top of the scones, to taste.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the scones are lightly golden.  

In case you want a scone pan as well, here is the pan that I use and another in a pretty blue color. I'm extremely tempted to get the blue one too, partially because it's a lot easier to bake a second batch in a pan that's completely cool, but mainly because I love the color! 
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<![CDATA[Turkey Meatballs]]>Sun, 13 Sep 2015 21:57:37 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/turkey-meatballsHave I ever mentioned that I don't eat red meat? Both of my parents have high blood pressure and a lot of my dad's side of the family have diabetes, so I'm doing everything I can, diet- wise, to prevent myself from having to deal with this myself.  While some studies have shown that red meat may have a link to high blood pressure and diabetes, other studies have found that eating unprocessed meat is the most effective.  Given that I live in an urban setting, completely unprocessed meat is impractical, so I generally buy organic.  

Despite attempting to eat healthier, I really love Ikea meatballs. They're so quick and easy, and they make a quick and delicious appetizer since all you have to do is plop them, frozen, on a baking tray and bake for a couple of minutes.  I decided, however, to go on a quest to make turkey meatballs I loved as much as turkey burgers and with this recipe, I think I've found it.  After they're completely cooked, they can be frozen and popped into the oven (I put them in for about 5 minutes at 425°F) for a quick meal or served as an appetizer!

Turkey Meatballs

Yields: 36 meatballs     |     Prep Time: 30 minutes     |     Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients: 
  • 1/4 well diced onion
  • 2 Cloves garlic
  • 1 Pound ground turkey
  • ​2 finely chopped green onions
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

Directions: 
  1. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil, add the onions and bring to a medium-high heat. Season the onions to taste with salt and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. The onions should become translucent in color. Add the garlic and sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, green onions, parsley, breadcrumbs, and large egg. Using your hands, squish the mixture together to mix well. Add some salt and pepper to taste.  If you are unsure about the taste, this would be a good time to pan fry a small amount and try the meatball,
  3. Coat the bottom of a fry pan with some olive oil and bring to heat.  While waiting for the oil to heat up, roll small meatballs out of the meat mixture you have made using your hands.  Personally, I'm a fan of smaller meatballs in my spaghetti/ as appetizers, so I made mine with about 1" diameter each.  Once you have enough rolled, gently place them on the oil (be careful of popping oil!) and fry until the side is completely cooked.  You may rotate the meatball if you choose to do so, which is much quicker, or you can bake them.​
    1. If you choose to continue pan frying, you can rotate the meatball until all sides are cooked. In total, I rotated the meatball two times for a total of 3 cooked sides.
    2. If you choose to bake the meatballs, make sure you preheat the oven to 350°F prior to step 1.  At this point, gently use a spatula to pick up the meatballs from the cooked side, and place them gently on a foil- lined baking sheet.  Bake the meatballs for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
If using immediately, add them to a marinara sauce, and serve! I ate about 5 immediately with my pasta (and wanted more!) and let the remaining meatballs cool before putting them in a freezer bag and freezing for a later day.
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<![CDATA[Carpinteria + Solvang]]>Sun, 06 Sep 2015 05:55:51 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/carpinteria-solvangFor Labor Day (my first as an adult with a day off), one of my friends and I went up to Carpinteria to meet up with another friend. For them, the weather was perfect, as it was actually warm enough to go into the water.  For this SoCal acclimated girl, the weather was quite cold, but it was nice to go to the beach.
In the evening, we decided to drive to Solvang (actually, it was mostly I that wanted to go), which is known for its Danish style, including some sculptures that are modeled after Hans Christian Andersen and the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen.  While very tourist-y, it was a fun and everything I expected it to be.

I think, for now, my wanderlust and desire to go to Denmark is temporarily fulfilled. I will, more likely than not, be back to looking at flight deals in a week or two though!
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<![CDATA[Perfect Marinara Sauce]]>Wed, 02 Sep 2015 19:59:43 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/perfect-marinara-sauceI've always loved Italian food, but after going to Italy and sampling gelato in the best places, I've decided that I really love Italian food.  With that in mind, I've been setting out to make the best Italian food from home.  I generally don't love pizza, but maybe that'll be my next project: discovering a pizza that I love.  Who knows? Maybe I just haven't discovered the pretzel pizza or something of that variety.

Marinara sauce is always a comfort to me.  There's something so versatile about tomato sauce that you can make it with just about any type of noodle and meat.  You can make spaghetti and turkey meatballs, in a lasagna, or as a dipping sauce to go with zucchini fries. It's easy to freeze it (and just as easy to reheat!) and is so relaxing to make! With all that said, here is my take on my new favorite marinara sauce!

Note: There is quite the debate about whether or not carrots belong in marinara sauce.  I, personally, love carrots and think that the sweetness of cooked carrots takes away some of the tartness that tomatoes can have.  My former roommate, despite not liking carrots in anything else, also puts carrots in her sauce. Nevertheless, if you truly despise carrots, you can leave them out, but I would suggest adding a little more sugar to your recipe.

Hester's Marinara Sauce

Yields: about 10 cups     |     Prep Time: 10 minutes     |     Cook Time: 90 minutes
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 1 Large onion (any kind; I prefer Vidalia because they tend to be sweeter)
  • 5 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Large carrots, finely grated (optional)
  • 6 Stalks celery, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 28 Ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Salt to Taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Chopped fresh basil
  • 2 Tablespoons Chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste (when served)

Instructions:
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook olive oil until it easily slides.  Add onions, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring often, until the onions become slightly translucent and the carrots appear softened.  
  2. Pour tomatoes into the pot and stir.  Add salt, pepper, sugar, basil, and parsley to the mixture and stir. Reduce heat to low, and simmer over the stove uncovered for about an hour to an hour and a half.  Your sauce should be quite thick when it is cooked, but if you prefer more watery sauce, you can cover the sauce for the first half of the cooking time and remove the lid for the last half.  
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<![CDATA[Decorating my room]]>Tue, 25 Aug 2015 00:00:39 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/decorating-my-roomI'm still slowly decorating my room and figuring out what I want it to look like. I wanted to make a bedskirt out of a blue or mint color to match the rest of my room, but I loved the peach lace on orange (and I will always be a Volunteer fan), so orange it is!
Much of my room is meant to be practical; I primarily furnished my apartment with Ikea articles, and I tried to use things I already had to decorate with, like all of my sweaters and cardigans to bring a pop of color on an otherwise bland dresser top.  It was also a way for me to store all of the clothes that couldn't fit in the dresser.
It's still strange to have my own room that I get to make all the decisions regarding.  My entire college career, I shared a room with someone else, and though I had my own room growing up, my parents had the ultimate say in the decorating. Hopefully, I'll soon finish decorating soon!
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<![CDATA[Reflections on 21.]]>Fri, 14 Aug 2015 13:33:02 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/reflections-on-21In a matter of hours, I will be in the process of getting used to telling people that I am 22, instead of 21. 21 was a good year for me, and saying goodbye to it will be sad.

Highlights of 21 include:
Academically, I graduated from Claremont McKenna College.
Professionally, I have begun my first full- time job with Pricewaterhouse Coopers.
Culturally, I traveled to Europe for the first time, and stepped outside my comfort zone by going to new cities (Madrid and Lisbon) by myself.
Spiritually, I was challenged when walking the Camino de Santiago to trust God to provide and to always enjoy the journey.
Physically, I completed my first Disney World marathon (and a half marathon the day before that!)
Being 21 has not been without challenges, and God knows it has not been the constant highlights that Facebook sometimes shows it to be.  But it was a pivotal chapter in my life, and with God's grace, I hope that I have learned a lot in the past year and that I've grown during this time. Tomorrow, to quote Scarlett O'Hara, is a new day.  And this new day begins my next chapter. Here's to 22, and where life will take me in this next year!
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<![CDATA[panda checklist]]>Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:00:11 GMThttp://www.socalsoutherngal.com/blog/panda-checklistBeijing Zoo - Beijing, China
  • Ya Ya
  • Ei Mei
Memphis Zoo - Memphis, TN
  • Ya Ya
  • Le Le
Ocean Park - Hong Kong
  • Ying Ying
  • Lok Lok
San Diego Zoo - San Diego, CA
  • Shi Shi
  • Hua Mei
  • Bai Yun
Smithsonian National Zoo - Washington, DC
  • Mei Xiang
  • Tian Tian
  • Bao Bao
Zoo Atlanta - Atlanta, GA
  • Yang Yang
  • Lun Lun
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