french onion soup

Whenever the days get a bit cooler, I naturally start craving foods that are warm, rich and comforting. Don’t you? A nice bowl of soup always does the trick and the perfect soup that came to my mind was the classic French Onion… so rich in flavor from both the caramelized onions and beef stock and so warm and inviting with the toasted baguettes slices topped with melted, bubbling Gruyère cheese… just the right slightly sweet, salty and nutty complement to the soup. It’s real comfort in a bowl.

Of course, this all came to me last week, when I actually felt cold enough at night to wear a sweater to bed. I wrote down my shopping list and picked up all the ingredients I needed. All I wanted was to cozy on up next to Anthony on the couch with a blanket and my bowl of French Onion Soup, but instead, what happened?
A heat wave came to LA and brought record high temperatures since records even began… way back in 1877! As Homer Simpson would so eloquently and frequently say, “D’oh!”

Oh wells. Stuff happens, right? I wasn’t about to let my beautiful yellow onions go to waste, nor my cave-aged Gruyère, and so what if it was raging hot outside? =P Yellow onions are so full of flavor; they caramelize beautifully and only get better with cooking time, making them the ideal onion to use for a classic French Onion Soup. So when life gives you onions (or in my case, when you purposely go out of your way to buy the onions), make onion soup!

I did just that and even though I normally wouldn’t care for hot soup on a hot day, it was just so comforting in a way that calmed all my senses. All I had to do was close my eyes and imagine a cool, crisp autumn day and poof! I was there… comfort and ultimate satisfaction in a bowl, indeed

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homemade strawberry conserve with cinnamon

If you’ve ever had jam made by Christine Ferber, then you know just how perfectly wonderful a simple jam can be. I was doubtful at first, having been a child that grew up on Smucker’s, but I figured since Pierre Hermé, the macaron king, had it on display in his store, it was worth a try. I ended up bringing two jars of Christine Ferber jam home from Paris… one for a dear friend and one for keeps ;) I would have brought back more if I could, but I was moving back home from living almost a year in Paris and my suitcases just couldn’t hold anything more… what with my recipe binders from school, my chef’s uniforms, and oh yea, my entire knife set that really weighed everything down. On top of those were books, kitchen tools and gadgets I just couldn’t leave Paris without, and more gifts to bring back for friends and family.

Our jar of apricot jam disappeared much too soon and oh, how I miss those morning of waking up to toasted bread and apricot jam with a nice cup of tea. I think it was that whole vanilla bean in the jam that made it so special. It was as if I were back in Paris in my little apartment, looking outside the window with a view of the Eiffel tower.

Now that reality has struck and my Christine Ferber jam is long gone, I’m left with no choice but to make my own jams… store-bought jams just won’t do anymore =P

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sirloin beef sliders with taleggio & pancetta

It’s a burger, loaded with all the goodies and packed with flavor, made small enough to fit in the palm on your hand and destined to be devoured in two bites. Need I say more?

These super sliders are so irresistible, you seriously can’t eat just one. The burgers are made with ground sirloin and get an extra flavor punch from the garlic, parsley, tomato paste, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s grilled and topped with a generous slice of Taleggio cheese, a light drizzle of sweet, reduced balsamic vinegar, crisp pancetta, a dollop of creamy avocado purée and some fresh baby arugula for that little extra bite. It’s a mouthful of flavor, no doubt.

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petite brioche

Every now and then I come across something that tastes so good, I just know it can’t be good for me. I try to convince myself that I really shouldn’t know how it’s made or what goes in it, cause after all, ignorance can be bliss. Do I really need to know how much butter goes into a croissant? or in that slice of red velvet cake from my favorite bakery? or how much cream is in that heavenly chocolate mousse? For better or for worse, culinary school didn’t give me an option =P

After surviving almost a year in Paris and who knows how many pounds of butter we went through, there were really only two moments in pastry class that fazed me… both occurred during first term. (I suppose after we got through the initial shock, adding butter by the brick became second nature to us.) The first moment came on the day I used almost an entire pound of butter to frost a cake. Seriously, since that day, I haven’t been able to go near buttercream, and I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy buttercream frosting ever again. I’m thinking though, it’s a good thing ;)

Now, I hate to have to admit it, but the second moment came on the day I learned how to make brioche by hand. Yea, apparently I didn’t know that brioche meant butter bread =P There was so much butter involved and since we were kneading it by hand, it got so messy that it really really did not look appetizing at all. But of course, the French do know a thing or two about butter and at the end, we were left with a dough so soft and smooth, just like a baby’s bottom =) On top of that, when we finally got the brioche baking in oven, the entire room smelled as good as a bakery and in less than half an hour, we had freshly baked brioche of all shapes and sizes ready to be devoured!

I ate one (cause who can say no to freshly baked brioche?) and ended up freezing the rest =P When one of my fellow classmates asked if I would ever consider making brioche at home, without any hesitation, I said no. I had two very good reasons… I knew exactly how much butter goes into it and working the butter into the dough is a dirty job and near impossible! So, why in the world would I make brioche again? Well, that night right before I went to bed, I had a quick chat with Anthony, who was thousands of miles away, and when I told him we made brioche today, his immediate response was, “Make it for me, please!” I couldn’t say no to him, even over the phone… the things we gotta do in the name of Love =P

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