August 31, 2016

Chocolate Chip Croissant Bread Pudding

This recipe was born out of a "waste not" moment of inspiration when I was staring at a half a carton of reduced fat buttermilk and some croissants that were starting to harden. Now every bread pudding recipe I have calls for heavy cream, but my speculative juices thought that buttermilk just might be a decent substitute. The result proved my speculation to be a worthwhile endeavor - buttery, moist and just as decadent as the bread pudding of my dreams... Don't tell me you don't dream of bread pudding?!

Chocolate Chip Croissant Bread Pudding


3/4 stick of butter, softened
1 cup of granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup of reduced fat buttermilk
2 tbsp Kahlua
1 tbsp vanilla extract
6 croissants
5 oz semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

1. Grease a baking pan on the bottom and sides.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add eggs until well mixed. Scrape down the sides.
3. Add Kahlua and vanilla extract and mix together.  Add the buttermilk last.  Mix well.  
4. Start tearing the croissants into small pieces and layer on the baking pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips all over, making sure they're evenly distributed.  
5. Pour liquid mixture over the croissants. Press the croissant pieces with a spatula to make sure that they soak up all the liquids.  Cover with tinfoil and let stand for an hour so that the liquid is absorbed as much as possible.
6. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Bake covered for 35 minutes.
7. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.  Best eaten when warm.

August 29, 2016

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Publication Date: September 6, 2016

Source: Vine

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.
I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone. 
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.
The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…
Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.

I had barely read a couple chapters of Labyrinth Lost when I felt an irresistible impulse to create the little tableau above. I felt excited, immersing myself in the world that Córdova has conjured up.  Reading it was a spicy, colorful breath of fresh air - it's like nothing else I've read in a long, long time.

The Latin American influences of El Dia de los Muertos and Santeria (as Córdova explains in her Author's Note) are what make Labyrinth Lost so vividly compelling. There are touches  here and there of Alice in Wonderland and even Dante's Inferno and Greek mythology, but Córdova has crafted a magical universe that is breathtaking in its uniqueness.  Add a Latina protagonist who's also bisexual and I don't even know where to start with how much I absolutely adore this book.

Alex is a reluctant encantrix whose strong and stubborn personality leads her to the dark and dangerous  world of Los Lagos to rescue her loved ones. Her journey, and this book, is foremost about family and how it is a powerful magic on its own. The romance(s) are subplots, secondary to Alex's magical coming of age.  The pulsing heart of the narrative is Alex's large, close knit family.  

"I wonder what it's like in other households during breakfast.  Do their condiment shelves share space with jars of consecrated cemetery dirt and blue chicken feet?  Do their mothers pray to ancient gods before they leave for work every morning?  Do they keep the index finger bones of their ancestors in red velvet pouches to ward off thieves?

"I already know the answer is no.  This is my world.  Sometimes I wish it weren't."

August 26, 2016

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz

The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, London
One activity on my must-do list for London was afternoon tea - the traditional English experience. While there are many venerable establishments such as Fortnum and Mason and Claridge's which were recommended to me, I was most taken with the idea of dining at the Ritz. As soon as I stepped onto the famed hotel's marble floors, I knew I had made the right decision. With the Union Jack proudly displayed everywhere, I felt assured that my afternoon tea experience was indeed going to be the height of Englishness.
The Palm Court is the stunning jewel box of the Ritz, all pink and gold with a glass ceiling that made the entire room glow.
Afternoon Tea is  £52 per person
I got the traditional afternoon tea service which comes with sandwiches, pastries and scones, along with your tea. Everything was scrumptious and the delightful wait staff refills your plate and tea every so often. You will leave stuffed with goodies. In fact, not only could I not finish everything that was served, I was so full I skipped dinner that night.

The Ritz is not cheap; however, I found that they were comparably priced with other famed establishments. The food was excellent, the service impeccable and I felt so pampered. This was a very special treat.

Make sure you reserve a table online as soon as you know your itinerary, as they do get booked fast.  
A plate of gorgeous sweet things
My first time with a pastry fork. 

The entire hotel is a vision of luxuriousness.
The pretty ladies room.

No paper towels provided - just immaculate terry hand towels.

August 24, 2016

{Healthy} Oat Cookies

No added sugar. Addictive. Sweet. Delicious.  And HEALTHY! I seriously have trouble keeping these puppies around past three days in my house. They're that good. 

I'm so happy I stumbled upon this recipe from Blueberry Girl.



1 1/2 cups regular rolled oats (use whatever type of oats you like)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup of almond meal 
1/2 cup mixed nuts, finely chopped (I used chopped almonds here.)
1 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries here.)

3 ripe bananas, mashed ( or substitute applesauce, or 2 eggs)
1/4 cup canola oil (or oil of your choice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

2. In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, almond meal, mixed nuts. Stir in allspice and cinnamon. Add dried fruit and stir until well and evenly mixed. Make sure the dried fruit do not stick together in big batches.

3. In another bowl, combine canola oil, mashed banana and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

4. Take a large cookie cutter and press spoonfuls of the batter into it. Remove cookie cutter.  Or simply form balls with your hands and flatten slightly. Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown.