Classic Cranberry Sauce

Classic Cranberry Sauce

One of my favorite holidays is just around the corner. Yep, Thanksgiving! As someone who loves to cook, it’s probably no surprise that a holiday centered around cooking and sharing a big meal together is at the top of my list. But what I truly love is that it’s about quality time with family and friends, rather than buying material things.

Thanksgiving is also a very sentimental time for me and my family. Every year, my parents cook a full-on Thanksgiving meal and for as long as I can remember, I was in the kitchen with them. I played sous chef, grocery runner, table setter, you name it. When I was old enough to graduate to cooking duties, I started off with cranberry sauce – relatively foolproof and quick to make. I remember feeling so proud to have my very own contribution to the Thanksgiving spread. Since then, I’ve added a few more foods to my list, but I always make cranberry sauce.

Over the years, I’ve tried many variations of cranberry sauce, but ultimately come back to my Classic Cranberry Sauce recipe. This last weekend at Friendsgiving, I tried a different take on this recipe…and it was just OK.  Lesson learned: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Classic Cranberry Sauce recipe

My Classic Cranberry Sauce recipe balances the tart flavor of the cranberries with the sweetness of the orange juice (and of course, some sugar). I also throw in a cinnamon stick to spice it up and a pinch of salt. I know it sounds odd, but trust me, the salt really brings out the sweetness. In recent years, I’ve made my sauce a bit more grown up with a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier, an orange-flavored cognac liqueur. This recipe takes less than 15 minutes to make from start to finish and can be made days ahead of serving. Just store in the refrigerator then leave out a few hours before serving to bring it to room temp.

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Potato Gnocchi with Pesto

Gnocchi with Pesto

Let’s just say I can get a little obsessive when it comes to finding the perfect recipe. I love finding (or creating) that trusty recipe that I can go back to time after time, knowing it’ll yield delicious results consistently.

Now that we’ve laid that out on the table, it shouldn’t be too surprising to know that I’ve made potato gnocchi no less than 3 times in 3 weeks. My freezer is stocked with different batches – one batch with no egg, another batch with Yukon Gold potatoes… It wasn’t until last weekend that I finally nailed the recipe for light and fluffy potato gnocchi with a pesto sauce. And guess what? The recipes aren’t mine.

When I started The Simple Fare, I always thought of this blog as a place for me to share the best recipes I’ve stumbled upon, either in my own brain or through trial and error of existing recipes out there. My favorite recipes combine quality ingredients with simple, scratch cooking techniques. And let’s face it, there’s no shortage of great recipes out there. While I could change a few ingredients and tweak some directions in a recipe, the adaptation would be for the pure sake of calling a recipe my own. I prefer a more organic approach to creating recipes and will continue in that direction. In the meantime, I think there’s definitely value in testing existing recipes and helping promote the best. Note that I won’t post the actual recipes on my blog since I didn’t create them. But, I’ll share links to the recipes and provide commentary, photos, tips and more in my blog posts.

Alright, now back to cooking! After trying a few different gnocchi and pesto recipes, I arrived at possibly the most perfect combination:

Potato gnocchi and pesto sauce

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Conquering Pie Crust with Joy the Baker

Cynthia with Joy the BakerIngredients can smell your fear.

That’s what Joy’s pastry instructor once told her. And now I can say that Joy the Baker once told me that. I totally believe this to be true, especially when it comes to homemade pie crust. I won’t even attempt to make pie dough unless I’m in a really good mood and perhaps on a lucky streak. And when I do make it, I work in complete silence until the pie is in the oven. I wish I were kidding. But honestly, homemade pie crust can be a total pain.

Joy Wilson, aka Joy the Baker, is quite the celebrity among the food community and deservedly so. As a self-taught baker, she first shared her passion for sweets in 2008 when she started the incredibly popular food blog, Joy the Baker. Today, Joy also co-hosts Homefries, a food and lifestyle podcast and has authored two cookbooks.

Joy recently gave a talk at the JCCSF in San Francisco to promote her new cookbook, Homemade Decadence, and give a demo of her Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Praline Glaze, which can be found in the book. Right off the bat, Joy won me over with her witty sense of humor and down-to-earth personality. She’s that really cool girl next door you just have to be friends with. After meeting Joy and hearing her speak, it’s obvious why her blog is loved by so many people.

During the demo, Joy made a pie crust from scratch right on stage and offered some great tips so that we no longer have to fear making the dreaded homemade pie crust anymore. The recipe for Joy’s Buttermilk Pie Crust can be found here on her blog. There are 5 ingredients: unsalted butter, all purpose flour, sugar, salt and buttermilk. As for the pumpkin filling, you’ll have to get your hands on Joy’s new book to see the complete recipe for her tasty Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Praline Glaze. She brought samples for the audience, and I can honestly say that this pie was pure bliss. I’ll be making it for Thanksgiving this year, no question.

10 Tips for a Perfect Pie Crust

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Asia Scenic Cooking School: Not Your Average Thai Cooking Class

Asia Scenic - Green and Red Curries

“Harder! Faster! Don’t slow down!”

It was impossible not to laugh as “A”, our instructor, was playfully shouting commands at the three hardworking male students, as they powered away with a mortar and pestle to make various curry pastes. I was hoping that my boyfriend would forgive me as he was working up a sweat while I was enjoying an ice cold Singha. Trust me, I really wanted to help out but couldn’t because of a minor injury (that’s a whole story in itself). Needless to say, Thai cooking lessons at Asia Scenic Cooking School are a bit more colorful than your average class back home.

So what brought us to a cooking class…in Thailand? I had just wrapped up two weeks of work travel in Indonesia, and decided to extend my trip an extra week to explore Thailand with my boyfriend. (Take a peek at my Instagram to see some highlights from the trip!)

One of the places we visited was Chiang Mai, a town in the lush countryside of northern Thailand, bordering Burma and Laos. As I was researching popular things to do and see in the area, one of the top activities was a Thai cooking class. Yes please! It seemed pretty rare for a cooking class to be one of the touristy things to do, but I was obviously up for it. I heard about Asia Scenic Cooking School through a friend who had recently gone and had great things to say about it. We signed up for the 4 hour evening class, which was the perfect length of time and worked as our dinner plans too.

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A Food Photographer’s Disneyland

Blueberry Muffins

In mid-September, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the White on Rice Couple’s food photography and styling workshop. I had booked the class months prior, as soon as I got their email announcing the class date. I rushed to sign up that very same day, because their workshops often sell out since they limit the class to 12 students.

I made a mini-vacay out of the trip by spending a full day in Newport Beach, just a 15 minute drive from the photography studio in Costa Mesa. While this post isn’t about Newport Beach, I highly recommend a few activities if you make it down there. Definitely spend some time on the beach; the ocean was pretty warm when I was there, so I rented a boogie board and had some fun with the waves. I also did an evening Glow in the Dark SUP tour which was really chill and relaxing after a day in the sun. Now back to the workshop…

Todd Porter and Diane Cu, the husband and wife team behind White on Rice Couple, are simply amazing. It was so apparent from the first minute of the first day that they absolutely love what they do. They’re also gracious workshop hosts, warm and friendly, and even cooked us all an amazing breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. They just published their own cookbook, so I should have known the food would be delicious!

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