Thanksgiving 2013


After a week of working hard, teaching yoga and witnessing the effects of the holidays on children in my classes, it was really interesting to see the shift in their attention and mood, as well as in their parents’ or caretaker’s moods. When the holidays come up, energy is either very low or extremely high and temperament can be extremely unpredictable. It’s been a good beginning of the holiday season, as I remember to carry a heightened sense of awareness, a commitment to staying with change and constantly reminding myself to embrace the present moment in my teaching, practice, and life.


I am so grateful that I was able to take time to cook a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for my family. Sometimes we don’t really get to all spend very much time together but it’s always nice to share the holidays with my family because they mean so much to me. I took on the cooking. We had our traditional spread of dishes and mom and dad took care of some of the other big items so my oven didn’t have too much wait time between sides. Granny, Maleeya and my sister did an amazing job with decorations and clean up. It’s always a team effort with everyone and I’m so grateful for my awesome family. My brother and sister-in-law brought a delicious pumpkin pie for all of us to share.

My kitchen is a place for me to be completely in tune with what ingredients, ideas and delicious dishes that are produced and I love that. Though I’m not cooking as much as I used to, Thanksgiving was a nice reminder of what I can still do in there. Dinner was ready in no time at all and all of us were able to sit down and eat without too much excess running around. It was Amaya’s first Thanksgiving and Maleeya had a great time feasting on pumpkin pie and everything else we normally save for special occasions. It’s so wonderful to have my little nieces here with us to celebrate our family traditions and make new ones for them to share in.

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving with their families and friends. I am so grateful for everyone that has shared their time and love with me on Thanksgiving and to all of you! May the season of gratitude carry you into the rest of the holiday season and throughout the New Year!

Happy Holidays everyone!


Roasted Turkey with Lemon and Herbs

Granny’s Stuffing

Roasted Zucchini and Cauliflower Gratin

Roasted Asparagus

Sausage and Spinach Sautéed Kale

Candied Spiced Yams with Roasted Marshmallows

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Roasted Apple, Pineapple and Golden Raisin Cranberry Sauce

Pumpkin Pie with Graham Cracker Crust

Candied Yam Bread Pudding with Fresh Whipped Cream

Mom and Dad’s Contributions

Honey Ham

Green Bean Casserole

Pumpkin Muffins

Bachan Jello

Spinach Dip

Granny’s Deviled Eggs

Auntie Linh and Uncle Kyle’s Homemade Pumpkin Pie

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Granny’s 80th Birthday Celebration and Catering



My grandma is a very special woman. She’s such a loving, kind, strong and wonderful person and we were very happy to host her 80th birthday celebration for all of her friends and family. Granny has always been the talk of the town and never met someone she couldn’t charm or take a photograph of. Her personality is best displayed when she played Choco, the adorable little bear mascot for Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Her dancing and friendly waves along with blowing kisses to all the children, led her to be requested put on the suit well into her late 70s.

My sister, my brother and I spent countless hours with grandma when we were little. We’d get picked up and taken all the way out to Huntington Beach to stay with grandma for the weekend; some of my fondest memories as a little kid are feeding the ducks at the park, eating toast and tea for breakfast and having French bread and string cheese for snacks. I associate a lot of joyful activities with food as you can see. Grandma was never short on hugs and kisses or presents and spoiling and she’s passed down the fun to my little niece Maleeya. Grandma has the biggest heart and the attitude of someone half her age. Believe it or not, she still cruises out to Vegas in her Corolla on a whim and vacations whenever she can, all between traveling back and forth to come to visit all of us (over 100 miles away roundtrip).

Brandon and I put on a very special catering for all the guests and we were very happy with the outcome. Brandon was in charge of pastries and I helped him assemble some of them, while I took on the savory options, which he lent a big hand in helping with as well. My mom was assigned the snacks department and made our family’s favorite macaroni and potato salad, homemade beans for the chili and mini lemon cupcakes. My sister made the beautiful flower arrangements, all the gorgeous decorations and photo collages. My dad, brother, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and everyone else helped out so much to make this a beautiful, delicious, smooth event for everyone involved. I’m so glad I have this amazing family to call my own. I want to thank everyone who came, who helped, and who made this amazing event happen.
Happy 80th Birthday, Granny! We all love you so much!
Ruthie’s 80th Birthday Party Menu

Fruit Platter
Vegetable Platter
Chips and Dip

Macaroni Salad
Potato Salad
Baby Mixed Greens with Shredded Cucumber, Mozzarella Cheese, Diced Tomatoes, Pickled Red Onions and Blue Cheese Dressing

Entrées: Served Family-Style
Roasted Pulled Pork
Country Spiced Fried Chicken
Homemade Chili Beans

Mashed Potatoes and Chicken Gravy
Peanut Coleslaw with Red and Green Cabbage, Shredded Carrots, Green Onions and Asian Dressing
Roasted Corn on the Cob
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Orange Honey Glaze and Marshmallows

Bread Basket
Corn Bread Muffins

Dessert Bar
Lemon Meringue Pie
Banana Cream Pudding
Lemon Cupcakes
Cream Puffs

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Carrara Pastries

case pastry
esspresso semi fredo

Years ago, I had a conversation with Damiano about his vision of bringing his family to the United States to build an Italian pastry business in California. Even then, as we spoke I knew that I would see his idea come to full fruition. Damiano is one of the hardest working and most driven persons that I’ve ever met. His passion for flair bartending, all things Italian, his family, and his business is exemplary. When I first met him, he was a bartender, but he’s put that passion on hold to build a family Italian pastry business called Carrara Pastries located in Moorpark, CA. With the help of his brother, Massimiliano Carrara, who is the Pastry Chef, the success of their business has lent to the expansion of a second location in Agoura, CA.


On 05.05.13, Carrara Pastries opened its doors to the Agoura community at their location on Roadside, just off the Kanan exit of the 101 freeway. Both new and old customers flocked to the beautiful and elegant modern storefront in Agoura to enjoy friendly company and beautiful Italian pastries and espresso. Large glass cases of freshly-made delicious pastries line the back of the store. Beautiful photographs and mirrored walls offer a modern, but warm atmosphere.  Not only do they have mouthwatering desserts, everything is prepared fresh with the finest imported Italian ingredients and to accompany your sweets, you can choose from a variety of Italian refreshments and espresso drinks. As the community welcomed Carrara Pastries with open arms, I’m delighted that such hard work can and has developed into this beautiful reality for the Carrara family. As they cut the ribbon and served the deliciously large and gorgeous white cake with fresh fruit and white chocolate, everyone lined up for a slice.


While Brandon and I were there, we couldn’t help but pick up some delicious profiteroles with light pastry cream, a delicious cheesecake and a beautiful hazelnut chocolate cake. Carrara Pastries has something for everyone: large cakes for special occasions, small bites for an after-dinner sweet tooth and everything in between. Massimiliano and Damiano were born and raised in Lucca, Italy. There, Massimiliano studied with top pastry chefs in Italy and trained in the exquisite art of fine Italian pastries. As you take a look at the various pastries, you’ll see things you’ve never seen before and others that you’re very familiar with; this is all part of the charm of this lovely new bakery. The Carrara family is a model for the American dream and with lots of sacrifice, time and effort, they’ve manifested their dreams into reality. Please visit the Carraras at either of their lovely locations and explore the sweetness they’ve created.

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476 West Los Angeles Ave, Unit A-13
Moorpark CA, 93021
Contact: 805.552.4250

28914 Roadside drive, Ste #107
Agoura Hills CA, 91301
Contact: 818.661.9006




Coconut Cream Pie

I haven’t written about anything sweet in a little while. I’m a pretty savory type of person, but I won’t say that I don’t have a couple of sweet teeth in my mouth; okay maybe more than a couple. My family really does love coconut cream pie. I’m not really the most savvy of bakers with crust and all that, but I can make something simple and with a little help from the grocery store, I’m sure others could make this easy as pie. So, I’m a big fan of Jello Pudding.  It’s probably the least expensive way to make pudding, because cream is expensive, eggs, and everything else. Not to say I don’t enjoy a lovely custard or homemade butterscotch pudding, but when you have yoga and homework and everything else life throws in your face, maybe a little box can give you peace of mind and no one will ever know! I’ve already shown you my Banana Vanilla Creme Wafer Pie  and Simple Whipped Cream Pistachio Pie so let’s add this easy Coconut Cream Pie to the mix. Try one out; even the less experienced pie putter- together-person can put this one together.

Coconut Cream Pie

1 large box of vanilla jello pudding

1 14 oz can coconut milk

2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1 ½ cups sweetened coconut flakes

1 graham cracker crust


In a pan, on low heat, toast 1/2 cup of the coconut flakes till lightly browned. Set aside and cool.

In a large bowl, place contents of pudding package. Place coconut milk inside pudding and mix together till incorporated. Fold in 1 cup of coconut flakes.

In another bowl, place cold heavy whipping cream and add powdered sugar, then mix with a hand blender till whipped cream becomes stiff, about 6-7 minutes depending on your mixer.

Add about ¼ cup of pudding to your whipped cream and fold in with a spatula.

Using the toasted coconut, place a small sprinkle of coconut on the bottom of the crust and layer the pudding in the bottom of the pie shell, about ½ way up, sprinkle some coconut between, then layer about ½ of the whipped cream, then the rest of the pudding.

Clarification – When using the toasted coconut use about 1/4 cup it in the pie and reserve  1/4 cup for the top of the pie as desired. This will not effect the taste just the look if you happen to use more or less in either place.

Finally, add the rest of the whipped cream and smooth out over the top, so the pie is a large mound. Press the remaining toasted coconut into the whipped cream, and refrigerate about 1 hour till set.






Chicken and Biscuits

I have a great love for American comfort food. I know most people tend to think of comfort food as just southern style but what I’m talking about are the dishes that comfort us in our own way. My mom fried chicken that she shook in flour and the smell of the crispy skin coming out of a paper bag she used to drop the chicken in, to take the oil off, was mouthwatering every time. Maybe this fried chicken isn’t my mom’s chicken, but it’s still pretty damn good. I love the addition of smoked paprika, parsley, garlic and lots of black pepper, making this chicken a different style of excellent. I served my chicken with a very simple homemade buttermilk biscuit along with honey or strawberry jam. I hope everyone has a little fried chicken in their lives.

Fried Spiced Buttermilk Chicken

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces for frying or buy a package of pre-cut pieces

3 cups buttermilk

Approx. 2 ½ cups – 4 cups all-purpose flour (depending on how much dredging you do)

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons garlic powder

vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, pour buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon dried parsley to the buttermilk and then add chicken and cover. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.

Take chicken out of the buttermilk and shake off excess buttermilk.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Place flour in a large Ziploc bag with smoked paprika and teaspoon of dried parsley and then shake together till well incorporated.

Add chicken to flour, a couple of pieces at a time.

In a large heavy bottomed pan or cast iron skillet, pour vegetable oil to about 1/3 of the way up the pan.

Heat oil until about 325 degrees.

Place chicken in hot oil after excess flour is shaken off (make sure not to overcrowd chicken).

If necessary, cook chicken in two batches; skimming oil after each batch.

Cook about 10-12 minutes on each side. The internal temperature of your chicken should be around 175-180 degrees.

Drain on a rack over a sheet pan sprinkling with a bit of salt just after taking out of the oil  and consume or keep in foil in a warm oven till ready to eat.


Buttermilk Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour sifted and extra for rolling out dough

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 stick butter, sliced into 8 pieces and frozen

Plus 1 tablespoons of melted butter

3/4 cup buttermilk


Heat oven to 475 degrees.


In a large bowl, place sifted flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and incorporate well.


Add one piece of frozen butter at a time to the dough, either with a pastry cutter or a fork. Mash the butter into the flour mixture to create coarse dough.


Add buttermilk a little at a time till everything comes together well. Do not over mix.


Take the dough and place on a floured surface. With your hands, gently press the dough together to form a medium-sized rectangle, then cut it into about 11-12 biscuits, which are about 1/2 inch thick.


On a sheet of parchment with flour, place the biscuit and freeze for about 25 minutes.


Transfer the parchment to a baking sheet. With a brush, paint the tops of the biscuits with the tablespoon of melted butter and cook in preheated oven for 20 minutes or till golden brown.


Serve right away.





Cyrus’s 2nd Birthday… The Candyshop and Red Velvet Cupcakes

Today is one of my favorite little boys very special day. I remember the day my friend Katie called me to tell me she was expecting and thereafter, all the midnight to 2 a.m. phone calls and text messages with horrible stories of pregnancy woes, the countless boxes of Little Debbies, and the joyous call and messages on the day he was born. I was over the top involved with work at that time, but I knew, as soon as I saw this little man, I was in love. His name is Cyrus and he is one of the most precious boys I’ve ever met. He stole my heart and made his mom and I retire our dancing shoes and exchange them for baby clothes. We wouldn’t change it for anything. I love this family and I’m so glad I can be a part of their lives.
Best friends! :)
Happy 2nd birthday my sweet little (or, rather, not so little anymore) Cyrus! I love you so much.
We had a sugar coma inducing party, with all things rich and delicious. A full range of soda pops, lollipops, candy and Elmo cupcakes adorned the table, along with other fun foods for all the kids to enjoy. Our theme was a candy shop with tons of fun balloons and little lollipop crazy straws for the sodas.  I have no idea how these kids slept that night, but a little extreme spoiling is what Katie always wanted for her son.
Here are some of the pictures of the festivities.

The cupcakes I made were a red velvet recipe that is a mixture of vegan red velvet and a southern style red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I love vegan cupcakes because they stay moist for a long time and travel well.
I made red and blue velvet cupcakes and topped these with lollipops and little Elmo faces because he’s one of Cy’s favorite characters.


Red Velvet Cupcakes

4 teaspoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Makes 16 cupcakes
Pour soy milk in large bowl with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar and stir until incorporated.  Let stand for at least 8 minutes.
In a separate bowl sift together cocoa, AP flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix together till incorporated with whisk.
After the mixture of soy milk has incorporated, add sugar and oil to mixture and beat on high with hand mixer for 5 minutes until sugar is dissolved.
Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat on medium until incorporated, about 4-6 minutes.
Fill cupcake cups 2/3 of the way full and cook for 16-18 minutes on the middle oven rack. The cupcakes are done cooking when a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool and then frost with cream cheese frosting or vegan frosting for full vegan cupcakes or any other desired frosting.
Be a kid at heart.