Monday, August 22, 2011

Zucchini with Garlic Fritters

 Between work and family functions, it has been crazy busy… and I mean crazy.

Before starting my own business, I used to miss a lot of family functions and gatherings. I used to work crazy hours and at times I barely even saw my husband; especially, during the holiday seasons. I can’t really say that the crazy hours stopped since I started my own business, but at least now I am able to attend family gatherings.

Anyway… enough with the business talk. That could be a post in itself for another day. Maybe, I’ll save that for a rainy day.

Last year my brother-in-law got engaged to his longtime girlfriend and last Friday was the rehearsal dinner. The rehearsal dinner was very relaxed, easy going and jam packed with friends, family, and family-to-be.

The highlight of my evening was actually getting to see my nieces and nephews. I don’t get to see those little munchkins very often. A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law moved a state away in order to leave the city life behind to experience life on a farm. 
 My nieces and nephews couldn't be happier. Those little munchkins love telling me stories about their new family members/farm animals. I think now farmer B (my sister-in-law) has something like two horses, 30something chickens, goats, ducks, cats, dogs and other animals that I’m sure I left out; I really need to go on a road trip with my husband and visit the farm.

In the risk of sounding spoiled, farmer B always visits bearing gifts from her farm. Tomatoes, summer berries, peaches, squash, corn… you name it. She grows it! This time around, she gifted us with tomatoes, cantaloupe, zucchinis and summer squash.

After a weekend of family packed festivities and eating, I honestly didn't feel like cooking Monday night. Since farmer B’s zucchinis were staring at me, I decided to make zucchini fritters. My husband and I enjoyed these little fritters with a salad and a glass of wine.  

Zucchini with Garlic Fritters

Recipe: inspired by Sunil Vijayakar's recipe for 'Courgette and Parmesan Fritters with Garlic and Mint' from his book "Deep Fry"

1lb 10oz/750g Zucchini, trimmed and coarsely grated
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 Garlic Clove, minced 
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
pinch of Sugar
Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper to taste
Oil for frying, I used corn oil

Place the grated zucchini in a large sieve and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to remove any excess moisture/water from the zucchini. I used a potato ricer instead of a sieve. I find that using a potato ricer gives you the best result. {I also use this method for potatoes when making hash browns} In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients until mixed thoroughly. 

Pour about 3/4 -inch to 1 -inch of oil into a large heavy frying pan. Heat the oil to 350F. Working in small batches, drop spoonfuls of the zucchini mixture into the hot oil. Fry the fritters until golden, turning once {about 3 - 4 minutes total}. Remove fritters with a slotted spoon and drain on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with Himalayan pink salt {optional} and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Part 2: Wedding Anniversary and a Road Trip

Do you know what's better than a spur of the moment road trip? Having Le Pain Quotidien located directly across the street from your hotel. I’m in love with this bakery and wish I had one across the street from my house. No actually, make that two blocks away; I have to at least squeeze in some kind of exercise after eating all that bread, tartines, tarts and pastry I would eat there regularly.

I am completely jealous if you happen to have one near you. By the way, still kicking myself for not trying their Pain aux Chocolat… Agh, totally craving one right now!

As I mentioned before, hubby and I have never visited DC. So, we were pretty excited to see our nation’s capital. We each had a list of places, museums and monuments we wanted to see before we left. We were armed and ready with camera, cellphone, and maps in hand.

Isn’t it silly being tourists? You’re always confused, lost or all of the above. I have to admit, even with map in hand and directional signs everywhere pointing you to the right direction; we got lost. LoL… I’ll blame it on dehydration. We were there during a heat wave, but we sucked it up. We braved the sun and sunburn later that evening. We’re troopers, at least in my mind. :) After all, we only had 24 hours and everything to see

Friday, July 22, 2011

Part 1: Wedding Anniversary and a Road Trip

Last weekend was my 7th wedding anniversary… time flies. It seemed like it was just yesterday that I was stressing out about putting a wedding “reception-ish” together in less than a month. My husband and I wanted to elope, but in the middle of making plans to Vegas to get married by Elvis (I know that sounds super corny, but I love Elvis!) word got out.

Needless-to-say, our family wasn’t really happy about that. So… they convinced us to get married at the courthouse and have an “intimate” family dinner. The dinner guest list started getting bigger and bigger… and bigger. I think you know how it goes; “Oh, you have to invite so and so, they will be really upset if you don’t.” The small intimate family dinner became more of a reception with about 85 guests. It was very stressful, but it was fun.

Since that day, we don’t really plan anything for our anniversary. We just go with the flow…

After our Saturday morning breakfast; hubby asked me if I wanted to have dinner at Chef Todd English’s newest restaurant, Crossbar at the Limelight. Of course my reply was, “heck yes!”

By the afternoon, I started craving Southern BBQ. I asked the hubby if he wanted to go on a road trip searching for some Southern BBQ. Without skipping a beat, he Googled BBQ pits around the area. As he searched, he found out that DC was having a Summer of Food Month and that weekend was Belgium Food Week.

We looked at each other… DC it is! As I packed a weekend bag, he booked the hotel. By early Saturday evening, we were in our car trucking from Jersey to DC. I love being care free! As sad as this sound, we have never been to Washington DC. So, we were super excited.
Our commute was perfect until we hit Baltimore, MD and bumper to bumper traffic. We were stuck in traffic for hours during a heat wave; oh, did I mention our air conditioning isn’t working. Yup! Gross…

We arrived at the hotel at 10:00PM exhausted, but excited to start our morning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lemon Scented Cake & Farm Fresh Strawberry Sorbet

About two weekends ago, my husband and I went to a local farm for their annual Strawberry Festival. I am ashamed to say this, but we had no idea that this farm existed; not to mention that they are located basically around the corner from where we live. I was so giddy when I found out that they have an old-fashioned country farm market.

Yes! Local tomatoes, peas, corn… Not to mention that you can buy plants and flowers directly from their greenhouse. Geez! Where have I been for 8 years of living in this area?

I couldn't wait to start picking strawberries. As we were picking, my mind started racing… Oh gosh; “pavlova, sorbet, ice cream, jam, strawberry charlotte” I said to my husband as each strawberry collected into our basket. What to do, what to do. What will I do with these beauties?

I was in awe of the bounty and beauty of these strawberries. With so many things I wanted to make, I just couldn’t decide. Honestly, I just wanted to eat them all before I got home. So, I took to the twitter world for ideas. I had lovely advice from a twitter buddy from Cape Town, South Africa; “I think because they are so fresh, to keep it simple,” she said and that is just what I did.     

I made a simple lemon cake to be served with fresh strawberries, but because we had a horrific heat wave; I decided to make sorbet. 

The lemony goodness of the cake with the sweetness of the strawberry sorbet danced together perfectly. I also serve this cake with macerated strawberries.  

Lemon Scented Cake

Lemon Sugar
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
Zest of 1 Lemon

In a small bowl, add sugar and lemon zest. With your finger tips, rub the two ingredients together until moist (the zest will release its essential oils into the sugar) and fragrant. Set sugar mixture aside.

6 tablespoon Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Lemon Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 large Egg
1/2 cup Milk
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice, fresh

Pre-heat oven  to 350°F. Grease a 8" cake pan with butter. 

Sift flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  

In the bowl of your electric mixer, add butter and lemon sugar. Mix on medium-high with a paddle attachment until pale and fluffy (about 3 - 4 minutes). Reduce speed; add egg, milk and lemon juice; mix until combined.

Gradually mix in the flour mixture until combined. Transfer batter to prepared cake pan. Bake until cake is pale golden and firm to the touch (about 15 - 20 minutes, depending on your oven). Let the cake cool completely.

Farm Picked Strawberry Sorbet      

Simple Syrup 
2 cups Sugar 
2 cups Water

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the saucepan and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer until sugar dissolves, about 3 - 4 minutes. Allow the syrup to cool and keep refrigerated until ready to use. 

Strawberry Puree
1 quart Fresh Strawberries, cleaned, stems removed and quartered
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed

Combine the strawberries and lemon juice in a food processor or a blender. Pulse for about 3 - 4 minutes, then process until the strawberries are completely pureed, about 1 - 2 minutes. If you desire, press the strawberries through a strainer to remove the seed. I actually like the seeds, so I do not stain the puree.

1 1/2 cups Strawberry Puree
1/4 cup Simple Syrup*
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice, fresh
splash of Vodka
pinch of Salt

In a medium bowl, stir in simple syrup, strawberry puree, zest, lemon juice and vodka together. Chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. Process the mixture in an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

*You can add more simple syrup to your liking. These strawberries were sweet on their own. 
I used a 2" cookie cutter to cut the cake. You can also use mini round cake pans. Perfect for individual desserts. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poached Rhubarb Tart

Spring is here and so is rhubarb. I am sure I mentioned this before; but at our house, we love rhubarb. My husband and I count the days until we see rhubarb at our local farmers' market. As soon as we see the first rhubarb of the season we usually make Strawberry-Rhubarb.

Since the rhubarb we came across at our local farmers' market was a still a little green, I decided to poach them instead. As I poach the rhubarb, I remembered a tart recipe. My mom bought a cookbook at her local discount retail store, Bake by Allyson Gofton and lent it to me. I ran to my cookbook shelf... Yes! I still have the borrowed cookbook (ssh... don't tell her I still have it).

The tart was super easy to make and quite delicious. The dough is very reminiscent of a shortcake.


 Poached Rhubarb Tart

Recipe adapted for Allyson Gofton's No-Fuss Plum Tart

Poached Rhubarb
3 Rhubarb Stalks, sliced 1/2 -inch thick
2 tablespoons Honey, I used Orange Blossom Honey
1/2 cup Water
1 large Lemon, zested and juiced (save the zest for the tart)
2 teaspoon Orange Blossom Water

Combined honey, water, lemon juice and orange blossom water into a saucepan. Over medium-low heat bring the liquid to a boil. Add rhubarb slices to the poaching liquid and allow to simmer for 3 - 4 minutes. Gently remove the rhubarb and set aside, the rhubarb will continue to soften as it cools.

(optional, but I completely recommend this) Over medium-low heat, allow the poaching liquid to reduce to a syrup. It's great over ice cream, whipped cream and just about anything. You can continue to reduced the poaching liquid after the syrup state until it becomes jelly consistency. I love doing this. This is a quick yummy jelly that is just perfect on over cheese or on crackers. *yum*


2 sticks Unsalted Butter, room temperature
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 Egg
Lemon Zest
2 teaspoon Orange Blossom Water
1 teaspoon Vanilla Paste
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/8 teaspoon Salt
Reserved Poached Rhubarb
Confectioners' Sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease and flour a French tart pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and set aside. In the bowl of your electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. mix in orange blossom water, egg, lemon zest and vanilla paste until combined. Add in the flour mixture until just combined, don't over mix.

Press 2/3 of the mixture onto the base of your tart pan. Arrange the poached rhubarb on top the dough. With floured fingers, dot the remaining dough on top on the rhubarb.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the tart to cool for at least 10 minutes ;) and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bake Sale for Japan

As you know, Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami March 11, 2011. I personally do not know anyone that was hit with the devastation in Japan, but to look at what happened and not do anything to help is just... well, inhuman. I needed to help in some way.

Around mid-March, I found out about Bake Sale for Japan and knew right away that I wanted to contribute. On April 2nd, the Bake Sale for Japan was a nationwide event. From NYC to Maui, artisans and artists came together to raise money for Peace Winds Japan.

The hubs and I woke up pretty early after a late night of baking for the event. We packed our baked goods into the family car and trucked our way into Brooklyn. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, even though it was snowing the day before (oh, Spring... you are so fickle). Once there, I was just in awe to see all of the volunteers and supporters.

After dropping off our baked goods, the hubs and I decided to stay awhile and peruse the Brooklyn Flea. So glad we did. Man, did we eat our way through the flea market. From hot dogs to pupusas... ate it.

Pupusas are basically grilled cheese instead of bread, corn tortillas are used. Not only can you have them with cheese, but it can also be stuff with veggies and pork. The pupusas are typically served with curtido (cabbage slaw) and watery tomato salsa, but we also got pickled jalapeƱos. So good...yummy! For those of you out there that haven't had a chance to eat pupusas, you MUST (that's right, caps... it's so good).

We walked by a hot dogs stand and of course we had to have one. The hubs had a kielbasa dog with caramelized onions and I had a hot dog. Not just any old hot dog, a brisket hot dog with mustard relish. One thing you need to know about me is... I love meat, especially sausage. Grilled, broiled, stewed, grilled... I eat it. Meat on a stick... yup, love it. Yeah, I was in heaven.

{Update} The money raised at the Bake Sale for Japan in Brooklyn was $4,644.00. The national total is now $124,120.38 and counting! Can't wait to hear the final count...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Part 2: Ice Wine and Lost in Canada

Okay, enough with the gibber-gabber. Let's talk ice wine. We decided to take the Ice Wine Tasting tour. The tour though the winery was actually quite lovely. We enjoyed stories about picking the fruit in the dead cold of winter at dawn and the process of pressing every single drop of juice from each frozen grape.

The process is so interesting. The sugars of the grapes does not freeze, but the water does. This allows a more concentrated juice which gives you a surprisingly very sweet wine, almost a dessert in itself. The highlight of the tour of course, was tasting ice wine. We got to taste tree different types from sweet to sweetest. My favorite is the Vidal Icewine BF. Everything else was too sweet for me. My husband in the other hand, loved all three. The Vidal Icewine BF had a wonderful honey apricot flavor.

Guess what? We got lost on our way back to our hotel. Yup, I mean super lost. Ugh... Nope, he (my wonderful husband) wouldn't ask for directions. We continued to head into the woods. It was dark and cold. The only good thing was, it stopped snowing. Did you ever get so lost that everything starts to look like a B-flick horror movie? It's the worst.

Apparently, light posts doesn't exist here. The street signs are nonexistent and covered by trees that looked like they were from the Paleozoic era. All kinds of bendy and crooked into the road. At any moment, we excepted a yeti to appear out of the woods and in front of our car. Kind of like that creepy scene from "Signs" when the UFO appears out of nowhere at the kid's birthday party. Creepy, right?

This is us in the blizzard right before we got lost. Oh... and before night fall and dirt roads. Yeah, we were soooooooooooo lost.

Also, wanted to wish everyone a happy Saturday and enjoy Super Bowl Sunday.

Go Steelers!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Part 1: Ice Wine and Lost in Canada

We made it home from our Amherst,NY/Canada and there's nothing like sleeping in your own bed. With your own sheets and pillows. I'm so glad to be home. By the way, when I say "we made it," I really mean we made it; "ALIVE." We decided to drive to Canada (Yeah, I know. Dumb, but the idea looked pretty good on paper) from New Jersey. Oh... Did I mention the blizzard?! No?!? Yup, huge blizzard. Yikes! Don't think I'm doing that again.

Nonetheless, we're home and I wanted to share my time in Canada and first time sip of ice wine. As I mentioned in my previous post; I was pretty sick, but I needed to get out of my hotel room. I'm still not quite sure if it's food poisoning or some weird stomach bug. All I can say is... it's not pleasant. Not at all!

We made plans at the beginning of the week to go Canada for the Ice Wine Festival. I really wanted to go, sick or not I was going. We researched the area ahead of time and found Hillebrand Winery. Hillebrand is the birthplace of fine wine making in Niagara, they are open all year-round and about an hour away from Amherst, NY. So, it seemed to be the perfect place for our first sip of ice wine.

We made our way to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario and of course we got lost. On top of being lost, I needed to use the restroom (sick, remember) and nothing, but trees and dirt road for miles. Oh, did I mention the blizzard?! Yup, a blizzard. And it wasn't a blizzard with ordinary snowflakes, they were huge snow-flocks.

After two hours of being lost, the snow stopped and we finally see Hillebrande Winery. The winery in nestled between Lake Ontario and the Niagara escarpment and it looked like a winter wonderland. The snow gleamed and glittered in the sunset. Just breathe-taking, suddenly being lost and sick seemed completely worth it.


You could see snow covered vineyards that gleamed for miles. Each vine was draped with icicles, almost like Christmas ornaments. The estate looked like a scene from "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Christmas in Connecticut." (By the way, I love this movie. I can watch this movie anytime of the year. It's great and Barbara Stanwyck is one of my favorite actors. She's amazing, hilarious and beautiful.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Floral & Spice Gift Box

Can you believe that Valentine's Day is around the corner? It seems like we just had Christmas dinner. To be honest, I still have my Christmas decorations up... Ugh, just the thought of taking it down makes my head hurt. It's not some much the taking the decorations down that bother me. It's trying to cram those heavy Rubbermaid containers back into the closet, but it has to be done.

We've been busy taste testing recipes for Valentine's Day. Our gift box this year is a collection of floral and spice infused sweet confections. In the box we have the following flavors; Rose Water Infused Pink Peppercorn Sables, Hibiscus Sables Breton and Raspberry Sables with Chocolate Drizzle. You can buy them here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy Blogiversary!

Today over coffee, I realized that exactly one year ago yesterday; I posted my first blog post. Anyone who knows me, were completely shocked that I started a blog. I must admit that it is a challenge for me. I am not one to share, I am an extremely private person. 

I was never the kid with the "secret" diary. I kept my feelings to myself and rarely shared them. I had a coloring book (Strawberry Shortcake Coloring/Activities Book) and as I got older, my coloring books evolved into sketchbooks. Drawing and painting was my escape as a child and quite frankly, that hasn't changed much. So, "writing" about my feelings and thoughts is very, very new to me.

I must admit, the idea behind this blog was to promote my business. As I started posting, I felt kind of weird about hammering on and on about my business. With each post I started sharing a little more about myself, family, travels, and recipes. So, Sugar 'n Pickles became more of a visual journey of my business ventures (mistakes included) and family. Later, I found out that my aunt in Brazil starting following my blog. Again, this little blog involved into a way to communicate with family across the globe.

Like I mentioned before, my 2011 plan is judge less and share more. I will do my best to continue on that plan.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Home Sweet Home

For the past few days, we (my husband and I) have been in Amherst/Buffalo, NY and I kinda no, no...I truly miss home. It's not that I don't enjoy traveling because I do, but my husband is here for work. I'm stuck in our hotel room because it's been snowing, not to mention that I have a stomach bug/food poisoning. The sheets in the hotel room feels and sounds like I'm sleeping in a paper bag. So... yeah, I miss my bed (6 days, 2 hours, 45 minutes and 29 seconds), but who's counting.

I shouldn't make it sound like it's all that bad. Providing that this stomach bug/food poisoning goes away, I am actually looking forward to Saturday. We are going to an Ice Wine Festival in Canada. Did you know ice wine existed? I sure didn't and I'm excited.

The pictures are quick cellphone snapshots from my hotel window.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The First Day

It's Saturday morning (okay, it's really noon), and I'm sipping my first cup of coffee of the new year. Can I just say one thing...Wow! What a year. Sometimes it's hard to be retrospective, but the whirlwind of 2010 is over. Gratitude is what I feel as I reflect. There were some good moments and some bad ones, but nonetheless they were all great moments.

There were big changes and great adventures in 2010. Zugar Haus was just a thought a couple of years ago and a part-time adventure. In 2010, I completely left the rat race to focus on Zugar Haus full-time. It was a scary leap, but worth every unacquainted moment.

My husband and I, also had an amazing opportunity to travel to Europe. Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany and was almost surreal. I was forever changed by the people I met, places I got to see and food I got to eat (lots and lots of Brie...oh, I do miss the Brie from Liechtenstein). Most importantly, I was able to share the experience with my husband.

In a nutshell, there were accomplishments, adventures, mishaps, disappointments and travels. I don't know about you, but I never really make resolutions; I plan. For 2011, I plan to be true to myself, judge less and share more. What's your 2011 plan?

Oh, the pictures are from the December 26, 2010 blizzard. These were quick snapshots that were taken with my cellphone. Thirty-two inches of snow...yikes!

Happy New Year!
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