Category Archives: How To

S’mores Baked Alaska

S’mores Baked Alaska is a recreation of a delicious dessert we have had several times at Waypoint Public in North Park. A meringue top is toasted, like a perfect campfire marshmallow, covering a scoop of chocolate ice cream and a crunchy graham cracker crust.

S'mores Baked Alaska recipe

This recipe was also the perfect excuse to try out the blowtorch Papa Bird gave me for Christmas. Being a food blogger, cooking gadgets are always a good call for gifts. As usual, Little Bird helped out on every step, except maybe the blowtorching. The recipe is actually pretty easy. The crust is just graham cracker crumbs with melted butter, pressed into pans. You could make crumbs easily with a food processor, but giving a three-year-old license to whack anything is fun. It’s also a good emotional outlet, as I learned during a school social work internship.

I thought about making something more like homemade marshmallows for the top (like this David Liebowitz pie), and thought I had gelatin leftover from the last time I made pumpkin cheesecake with cranberry gelee, but I was out. I might try marshmallow next time, if I’m feeling ambitious, but a simple meringue totally worked. We topped it like the restaurant with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and graham cracker crumbs. Yum!!

S'mores Baked Alaska recipe from Waypoint Public

Our whole family has always enjoyed Waypoint Public. It is one of the few places with an indoor play area. That’s not McDonald’s. But an actual restaurant with tasty food. In fact, their executive chef, Amanda Baumgarten, was a contestant on Top Chef. Tip: They have a back room for private events. We hosted my sister’s baby shower there in December. All of the staff were very accommodating.

S'mores Baked Alaska
 
Author:
Recipe type: Restaurant Recreation
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 3 4-inch pies
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
This a recreation of a dessert from Waypoint Public restaurant in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, CA.
Ingredients
  • 8 graham crackers
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups chocolate ice cream, slightly softened
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional but helps hold peaks)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • chocolate syrup
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Place 8 graham crackers in a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and seal. Use a rolling pin to crush the crackers until they are broken into uniform crumbs. See video above. (Or pulse in a food processor.) Place ½ cup of graham cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl with the melted butter. (Reserve the rest of the crumbs for decorating.) Stir the crumbs and butter until combined and then press into three four-inch tart pans or ramekins. Put the mini pans on a baking sheet and bake for about 6 minutes. Allow to cool completely, but leave on the baking sheet.
  2. Place a scoop of ice cream in each cooled crust. Leave a rim of crust around the edge uncovered. This will allow the meringue to completely surround the ice cream and make a good seal with the crust. Place the baking sheet and pans in the freezer to chill a bit while you make the meringue.
  3. Separate the eggs and place in a clean bowl of a mixer with the vanilla and cream of tartar. Using a wire whisk attachment, beat until soft peaks form. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar a little at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form.
  4. Pipe or spoon the egg white mixture over the ice cream, making sure you bring it all the way down to the edge of the pie. Using a kitchen blowtorch, carefully toast the outside of the meringue.
  5. Decorate with a little chocolate syrup and graham cracker crumbs and eat right away.
Notes
You can refreeze any leftover pies.

 Continue for step-by-step photos and a video of the blowtorch in action. Continue reading

Home Smoked Salmon

I’m happy to share one of my husband’s specialties: Smoked Salmon. After we enjoyed my uncle Bobby’s homemade smoked salmon so much, I gave my husband what we call a “Bobby grill” for his birthday. The Bobby grill is actually a Portable Kitchen Cast-Aluminum Grill and Smoker (Amazon link) but in my family, everything gets named and claimed!

how to make smoked salmon at home

This post was sponsored by Whole Foods La Jolla, who generously provided all the ingredients for this Smoked Salmon recipe and the following “latkes and lox.” Papa Bird points out that this recipe makes a “hot-smoked” salmon, even though it uses indirect heat. True lox is made with a cold-smoking process.

smoked salmon on the pk grill

Although I usually seek out wild salmon, I found myself gravitating to the fresher-looking farmed salmon at Whole Foods. The woman at the counter explained that all of the wild salmon was previously frozen, as the Alaskan season has ended. The farmed salmon was fresh and had never been frozen. Usually I avoid farmed salmon as a big “no no,” but again I was educated. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (my go-to source of info) writes: “Most farmed salmon is on the “Avoid” list due to concerns such as the use of antibiotics important to human health and the potential for parasite and disease transfer to wild salmon populations. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies some salmon fisheries as sustainable.” Whole Foods lists which fish meets Marine Stewardship Council criteria. Their salmon farmers use recirculating aquaculture systems, which is a “Best Choice” for consumers. It is also a more affordable choice!

Papa Bird's Home Smoked Salmon
 
Author:
Cuisine: Jewish-American
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Ingredients
  • 1-2 salmon fillets (2-3 pounds)
  • 1 cup dark, spiced rum
  • 1¼ cup organic brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup honey
Instructions
  1. Remove the skin the salmon and remove any bones. Rinse the salmon in cold water and blot dry. Place the salmon in a baking dish and pour the rum over it, covering completely. Let sit for 30 minutes in the fridge. Then drain the salmon and blot dry.
  2. Mix the brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Spread one third of the mixture in a clean baking dish. Lay the salmon on top and sprinkle the rest of the cure on top, patting it into the fish. Let cure in the fridge for 4 hours.
  3. Set up grill for indirect cooking. The coals should be off to one side and the fish will go over to the other side. Place 4 cups of wood chips in a pan of water to presoak. Place a drip pan under where the fish will go, and preheat grill to 325*.
  4. Rinse off the cure off the salmon with cold water and blot dry. Rub honey into the salmon on both sides. Toss 2 cups of wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Place the salmon on the opposite side as the coals, and over the drip pan. Toss 2 more cups of wood chips on the coals and cover the grill. Smoke the fish until cooked through, about 20 minutes. The fish should feel firm and break into clean flakes.
  5. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm, room temperature or cool. Keeps in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Notes
Papa Bird notes that salmon fillets work better than steaks. He prefers thinner fillets over thick, meaty ones. More surface area to come into contact with the cure and the smoke.

Click on any image in this gallery for step by step photos on how to make smoked salmon at home.

Many thanks again to Whole Foods La Jolla! They provided me with all of the ingredients, free of charge. (The recipes and opinions are all mine.) Follow them on Twitter at  and . (Follow my tweets @BabyBirdsFarm). You can pin this recipe on Pinterest here, and follow my Jewish Food board for more noshing.

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Zucchini Noodles

Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls, or gỏi cuốn, are also called salad rolls or summer rolls. They are light and refreshing, and much healthier than fried spring rolls. Over ten years ago my friend, Quentin, invited me over to dinner at his mother’s house. She is originally from Vietnam* and put out a spread of delicious ingredients for us to roll our own fresh spring rolls. I’ve never forgotten it. (*Similar to how I’ve learned a lot of Mexican sweets living in San Diego, we also benefit from a large Vietnamese population here.)

how to make fresh vietnamese spring rolls

I think “Salad Rolls” is a better description for fresh spring rolls, as they are light and fresh with lot’s of greens, herbs and lean proteins. Many restaurants also put in rice vermicelli noodles. I took it one step healthier and used raw zucchini “noodles” made from cutting an enormous garden zucchini with a julienne peeler. Handy gadget. The wrappers are made from rice. The rice paper comes in hard discs that are softened in a few seconds in warm water.

How To Make Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

You can’t get more straightforward instructions than the back of the packaging!

fresh spring roll instructions

Here are my suggested fillings, feel free to only use what you like and to get creative:

  • Grilled Shrimp, Leftover Chicken, Steak or Tofu
  • Salad Greens
  • Fresh Herbs including Thai Basil, Mint, Cilantro , Scallions and Lemon Basil (use a LOT of herbs)
  • Cooked Rice Vermicelli or Raw Zucchini Noodles
  • Chopped Peanuts
  • Bean and Pea Sprouts and other raw veggies

Dipping Sauces for Salad Rolls:

  • The most common is a peanut sauce, easy recipe follows.
  • Another traditional is called nước mắm phawhich is a clear, sweet and sour with a little fish sauce. A girl I once worked with gave me her mom’s recipe, I’ll have to hunt around and see if I still have it.
  • You can’t go wrong with Sriracha!

fresh vietnamese spring rolls with zucchini noodles

Easy Peanut Dipping Sauce for Fresh Spring Rolls

That’s it! Warm in a sauce pan over low heat to mix easier. You can add a little water to thin, if needed.

True story: When I first made these rolls at home, I went to a Vietnamese market in search of peanut dipping sauce. I asked the young man stocking where it was. He didn’t think they had it and asked his grandmother. She laughed and (with her grandson translating) explained they always made it. She swore all you needed was these two ingredients. I usually can’t restrain myself from throwing in a little sriracha and nước mắm, but try it as is!

Shopping Notes:

The best prices are in Asian markets. These ingredients are pretty common, so you can usually find them on the “ethnic” aisle of big grocery stores. If you can’t find them easily, I’ve included some affiliate links to Amazon. Have fun and let me know if you have any questions!

More Ways to Stock Up On Food Before Baby Comes

Hopefully you saw my recent post on The Best Meals to Freeze Before Baby Arrives. I had so many ideas that I wrote up a follow-up post for the Ergobaby Blog. Please hop over there to read up on my favorite way to nest: with food! My article on Stocking Up On Food Before Birth is now live.

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Click on the image above to read about:

  • Easy high energy snacks
  • Making double to freeze
  • Freezing meals ready to cook
  • What ingredients to stock up on
  • and more!

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Strawberry Picking and Green Strawberry Pickles

Strawberry Picking

Last weekend we celebrated Papa Bird’s birthday with a fun family day at Suzie’s Farm. They held their annual “Strawberry Jam” last Saturday and we all had so much fun, picking strawberries and eating yummy food. Little Bird loved apple picking as a tot and felt right at home with the plants and chickens.

strawberry picking

We started off picking organic strawberries. Every plant was filled with the most perfectly beautiful, sweet and flavorful berries. (At home, Little Bird tends to pick all of our strawberries while they are still green and small.) I did get some temporary hives from stinging nettles, but they went away.

strawberry picking

Next I sampled strawberry chutney, drank a strawberry and basil kombucha, and made green strawberry pickles with Austin from the San Diego Fermenter’s Club. Little Bird loves them. They are mild, slightly crunchy and have a hint of strawberry flavor. You can find the recipe for Green Strawberry Pickles here.

green strawberry pickles

Green Strawberry Pickles Recipe

After all that hard work, I was ready for a grass fed burger made with strawberry jam, and a beet and quinoa salad from Green Truck. The cold and windy weather discouraged our plans for eating ice cream from our friends’ Calexico Creamery, but we took home a pint of (what else?) Fresa and a pint of Mexican Cocoa. Little Bird and I hid out from the wind in a teepee and she gathered twigs and sticks to build a play fire.

organic strawberry jam

Check back tomorrow and I will share the best recipe for strawberry jam! It has hardly any sugar in it and no pectin. The only other ingredient is a lemon…

–> Update: Strawberry Jam now posted HERE.