Strawberry, Vanilla, and Red Wine Sorbet

What’s a girl to do with four bottles of opened red wine? Well for one, drink it. Though I don’t drink that much to begin with so the thought of finishing four bottles of wine is not appealing. OK, so drink one, share two, and make sorbet with the last one. YES! Sounds like a plan.

This strawberry, vanilla, and red wine sorbet is so refreshing and just perfect for a summer treat.

Our friends Courtney and Steve were taste-testing wines for their upcoming wedding and I was able to get the remaining leftover, unwanted bottles. Free booze – woo! Oh wait, not woo! – opened bottles of wine usually go bad in a few days because of oxidation. Ack! Chris and I enjoyed a bottle to ourselves and then brought two up to Calistoga while we were there last weekend for 4th of July.

I wanted to use the last bottle of wine for cooking or baking. So I used half to make a mushroom and bacon ragù and the other half for this amazing sorbet. Red wine and strawberries make the perfect pairing. This recipe is so easy, and simple with only five ingredients. You mix everything together, blend, and freeze. And ta-da!

This sorbet is great dessert on a hot summer’s day! Its smooth and soft and bursting with strawberry flavor. The red wine taste is nice and subtle and mellows out the sweetness of the strawberries. Plus who wouldn’t enjoy a dessert packed with a double dose of antioxidants?

Strawberry, Vanilla, and Red Wine Sorbet
Makes about 1 quart
Recipe from Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges by Jean-Georges Vongerichten


  • 2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
  • 1 cup dry red wine (I used Zinfandel, the 2011 Crooked Path to be specific)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus more to taste (I ended up only using 1 cup)
  • 4 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

*Put the strawberries, wine, sugar, and vanilla (both seeds and pods) and lemon juice in a large bowl and set aside for 45 minutes.
*Remove the vanilla pods, transfer the mixture to a blender, and purée until smooth. Taste and adjust the sugar, if desired. Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.



There’s Nothing Wrong With Excess

You know how they say “necessity is the mother of all invention?” Well to translate this into my world, “excess items in pantry is the mother of baking.” Okay, Einstein’s quote is a bit catchier but you get the gist.

I have lots, LOTS of peanuts and more strawberry jam than two people really need. So I’m playing with the two to develop some recipes and of course test them! The yummy and dangerous part of baking (which reminds me I should go to the gym).

First up are these Browned Butter Milk Chocolate Coconut Cookies with Peanuts and Strawberry Ginger Jam. (Title needs some work and a copy editor). I simmered the jam with whole pieces of smashed ginger to infuse the spiciness of the root. I also browned the butter to add to the nutty flavor of the roasted peanuts. I added coconut milk to the butter to add another layer of complexity. (Though in the end I didn’t really taste the coconut flavor. Next time I might use coconut cream instead for a more pronounce coconut taste.) Then I combined some of the flour with the roasted peanuts in the food processor which smelled really awesome. Next, I mixed the wet with the dry and then at the end, I added chocolate just because. Lastly I swirled in the jam and ginger mixture and spooned the dough onto the baking sheets. Into a 325 degree F oven and 10-12 minutes later, I came out with this:

Chris really liked the cookie and so did my coworker who I gave some to. She’s pregnant and will eat anything but I think she really meant it when she said she liked it. The cookies had a nice peanut butter taste to them despite the lack of actual peanut butter. Also, the ginger flavor was subtle and balanced the sweetness of the jam well. The one complaint from Chris was to improve the appearance. And I agree. The cookies look hand-crafted and rustic, but not in a good way. It looks like they just rolled out of bed after a night with Ke$ha and then attempted to fix itself up in a dark room. But you know what, it tastes really good. I made another batch but with jam just in the middle like a thumbprint cookie.

They look a bit better – like the cookie put a comb through its hair. I’m going to continue working on making them prettier and will report back. Next I made muffins. With the edition of an egg and replacing the baking soda with baking powder, not much of the recipe changed. I finished them off by sprinkling crushed peanuts on top.

They were really moist and delicate. I might add some cinnamon to them next time for more aromatics. Recipe developing is fun! I wish I had more time (and supplies) to do it.

I’m preparing to go to Manila soon. Super excited for some good chicken adobo! In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the nice SF weather. It’s been gorgeous here lately which is rare since this city is mostly covered in a blanket of fog. Indian summer is not a myth after all 🙂

Project M + A Wedding Cake: Cake Tasting

Baking has taken over my life! I’m not complaining. I enjoy baking and even getting up at 6am to say, make croissants, but baking a wedding cake is exhausting on a whole other level. As I said before I am making a friend’s wedding cake. I am absolutely thrilled and slightly terrified at the same time to be doing this. That’s where planning and practice comes in hand. I’ve been baking a bunch of cakes to get a feel for the right recipes and also to practice my frosting and decorating skills. A couple weeks ago, I held a tasting in my teeny apartment for Michelle and Adam, and our two other friends, Chris and Lorie.

Research (and commonsense) told me that cake tasting should come with food. Otherwise, we would all be on a crazy sugar high and probably get diabetes. For dinner I made a light pasta with shredded zucchini, tomatoes, ricotta, lemon zest and chives – no sauce necessary! The lemon zest and chives were bold and fragrant enough to flavor the dish. I also served some baked polenta fries (recipe coming soon). We also had some cheese, salami and salad. I wish I had a picture of dinner but we ate it too fast.

After filling our stomachs with some calories, I cleared the table, got out new plates and shiny forks to begin the real festivities. I was adamant about everyone not filling up too much during dinner. Though there is always room for cake, let’s be real.

I made four different (mini) cakes: a vanilla cake with mango-lime curd and blueberries and vanilla buttercream, a spice cake with strawberry filling and buttercream, a chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream, and a pineapple carrot cake with cinnamon (American) buttercream.

They were all super fun to make. Though it was a lot of work. I think I have purchased more butter and eggs in the past month than in my entire life combined. The biggest cake I have made before all of this was Ina Garten’s Coconut Cake which is a 2 9-inch layer cake. And I probably have made that cake a handful of times but it’s always been for my family, an easy crowd to please. Much to my relief, everyone liked all the cakes. Even when we went around and ranked the cakes from our most favorite to least, each cake was number on someone’s list.

The winner of the night for Michelle and Adam was the first cake, the vanilla with mango-lime curd and blueberries:

(Photo taken the next morning.)

I tried out three different vanilla cake recipes and although I liked the one we had that night I will ultimately use this Martha Stewart recipe. I like the texture and color better of that cake (it’s the one I used for my birthday corgi cake). The mango-lime curd here got a little soggy. For my birthday cake, I whipped in some buttercream to the curd and that helped hold it better. It’s been a lot of trial and error so far. I also have found a favorite Swiss meringue buttercream recipe which I will share in a later post.

Chris’ favorite cake was this pineapple carrot cake:

I kind of made up this recipe by combining two different ones. And the cake is vegan! Though unfortunately the buttercream is not. I pulled a MacGyver in the kitchen that night since we ran out of eggs (catastrophe) and I had to improvise on the original pineapple cake I intended to make (yay, day saved). There was an episode where MacGyver made up a cake out of thin air…and baked it with two paperclips, I think. 

And my favorite was the chocolate cake:

Some pineapple carrot cake got on this somehow…opps!

Coincidentally this cake is also vegan. There were two vegan cakes that night and this cake was intended to be vegan. I used Joanne Chang’s recipe and it was so easy to make. I loved the flavor of espresso in here and it paired really well with the caramel buttercream.

The last cake was a spice cake:

It was kind of like a gingerbread cake without molasses. If I make this cake again I would amp up the spices. The taste of cinnamon, cloves, and allspice were too faint for me. For this cake I paired it with a strawberry buttercream. Michelle and Adam can their own strawberry jam so I wanted to play around with that and incorporate it somehow in one of the cakes. The sweet strawberry buttercream went really well here to balance the spice of the cake.

And that was the night of the cake tasting. Of course there was lots of cake left over. Fortunately I seem to always have willing volunteers to take them off my hand. The wedding is about two weeks away! More cake to come!

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream


Yay, I just got an ice cream maker!

OK, more accurately it was six months ago and it was a Christmas present. But yay, I finally made ice cream with it!

I think part of me waited so long to open the box because I knew it would be like opening Pandora’s box. And in place of evil would be loads of ice cream pretending to be your friend, acting all pretty, sweet and comforting and then one day you wake up and you can’t fit into your jeans anymore. Yes, I know. It’s not the ice cream’s fault. I am slowly learning about this “self-control” thing.

Truthfully, this ice cream is not that bad for you considering what you find in the supermarket. That’s probably like saying, “This homemade crack is much better for you than the crack you would buy on the streets.” But hear me out. You will not find any corn syrup, xanthan gum, weird dyes, etc here. The ice cream is as pure as you can get. That has to count for something! It is light, not too sweet and bursting with strawberries. The Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker recipe booklet where this recipe comes from says this is only 192 calories per serving! Ice cream can be our friend after all, in moderation of course.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream
Recipe from Cuisinart Recipe Booklet
Makes about 5 cups (ten 1/2 cup servings)


  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

*Put the strawberries into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse strawberries until rough/finely chopped (depending on preference). Reserve in bowl.
*In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed or whisk to combine the milk, sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Stir in reserved strawberries with all juices. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or overnight.
*Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the according to the manufacturers’ instructions. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.