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Star Anise Panna Cotta

Star Anise Panna Cotta

Star Anise Panna Cotta

Star Anise Panna Cotta is a great recipe for an indulgent breakfast treat or late day snack.  It’s also my entry for February’s Food ‘n Flix for the movie Pan’s Labyrinth.  (Food ‘n Flix is hosted this month by Katharina at Pretty Cake Machine).  Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fairy tale directed by Guillermo del Toro.  The story takes place in post-civil war Spain in 1944.  There’s an undercurrent of political unrest and distress, and the film itself is a dark telling of a young girl following mythical creatures into the labyrinth.  I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, it doesn’t end well.  It’s one of those films that’s incredible for its filmography and story, but probably best not watched if you are depressed.

Both times I’ve watched this movie, I’ve done so kind of between my fingers – yep, I’m a wimp when it comes to dark movies.  Still, I was inspired to create my star anise panna cotta.  The inspiration came from the scene in which Ofelia encounters the Pale Man at a banquet.  Of course, much like Persephone going into Hades, Ofelia shouldn’t be touching any of the food at the banquet – and of course, all the food is beautiful and alluring (and of course, she eats something, thus jeopardizing her very future).  I was particularly drawn to the molded desserts, which got me to thinking about jello molds and the like – very old fashioned desserts.  The whole temptation and desire thing came to mind, too, especially since we are moving swiftly toward Valentine’s Day.

All of this led me to making panna cotta.  Panna cotta is a rich, creamy dessert that has that air of old-fashioned about it.  At first, I thought I might aim for a bright sauce for my panna cotta, but then decided to go a bit darker, landing on a star anise caramel for the sauce, which complements the star anise panna cotta nicely.

star anise panna cotta

star anise panna cotta

star anise panna cotta

Just in case you don’t want to try to get the panna cotta to cooperate coming out of its mold – this tastes just as good in a small jar.  It sets nicely, and you can just drizzle the sauce over the top, throw a lid on it, and call it an afternoon snack.

Star Anise Panna Cotta


    Brown Sugar Star Anise Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 star anise pods
  • Star Anise Panna Cotta
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 star anise pods
  • Star anise caramel
  • 1 cup sugar (either white or brown)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar star anise simple syrup


  1. Make the brown sugar star anise simple syrup first. Combine the brown sugar, water, and star anise pods in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool for at least an hour (though for more intense flavor, refrigerate overnight). Remove the star anise pods.
  2. Make the star anise panna cotta. In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Bring the gelatin/water mix to a simmer and fully dissolve the gelatin. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream and the star anise pods and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for five minutes. Add the milk and sugar, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Take the mixture off the heat and add the gelatin (it will have formed a gelatin pancake - just scrape the whole thing into the heated milk and cream and mix until dissolved). Remove the star anise pods and pour the panna cotta into individual ramekins or half-pint jars. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or over night.
  4. As the panna cotta sets, make the star anise caramel. Combine the sugar, heavy cream, and butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat and stir occasionally for 7 minutes. Take off the heat and add the simple syrup. The caramel will thicken as it cools. If it gets too thick, microwave for thirty seconds or so.
  5. To serve, drizzle the caramel over the panna cotta and enjoy!
  6. Makes four servings.
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Avocado Burrata Toasts

Avocado Burrata Toasts

avocado burrata toasts

Avocado Burrata Toasts were just what I needed today to cheer myself up.  We had a historic snowstorm here in the Portland area on Wednesday with equally historic low temperatures, so the snow and ice is still on the ground.  I’d already been dreaming, for weeks, about spring.  Four daffodils were already poking out of the ground in the front. Now, they are buried by eight inches of snow that refuses to melt.   I just desperately need to get my hands in dirt and plant something.  I keep wandering around the house, asking Clay if it is asparagus season yet.  January and I are not friends.

When we got back from the grocery store this afternoon, I decided it was time to make a cheery snack.  I still had a ball of burrata left from last week’s pasta dish, so opted to pair it with a very ripe avocado.  If I was a football watcher, avocado burrata toasts are something I would totally go for as an appetizer for the Super Bowl – maybe paired with a ginger cider or an ale.  But since I’m not, I’ll just eat these while curled up on the couch with a good book.

avocado burrata toasts

I opted to use two kinds of salt on the avocado burrata toasts.  My wonderful husband gave me a salt sampler for Christmas (he knows the way to this blogger’s heart).  I used a little bit of fleur de sel and some black lava salt for contrast.  Just a bit goes a long way.  It didn’t hurt anything that I also used a generous amount of unsalted butter to toast the bread.

The avocado burrata toasts did the trick – I felt a little sunnier after I’d snacked on them.  I still resent the snow and would like to push a fast forward button on what’s left of the winter.  I’ll just bury my winter blues in these toasts and know that somewhere under that snow, the daffodils are on their way.

avocado burrata toasts

avocado burrata toasts

Avocado Burrata Toasts


  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 ball burrata cheese
  • 8 - 10 slices of French bread
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • Fleur de Sel salt
  • Black lava salt


  1. Preheat the broiler. Butter each slice of French bread generously and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil for 5 - 7 minutes or until toasty brown (time will depend on your oven).
  2. Once the toasts are golden and crisp, mash a little bit of the avocado on each toast. Top with burrata cheese (use a combination of the creamy inside as well as the outer part of the cheese). Sprinkle with salt and enjoy!
  3. Serves 2 as a snack and 4 as an appetizer
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Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries are one of my new fall obsessions.  I’m always trying new ways of using up the winter squash that I so diligently buy too much of and have to figure out how to use up before spring shows up again.  Coupling that with a desire to eat healthier, I thought using at least one of the winter squash I’ve gotten stashed in the garage as a side dish to my lunches this week would be a good idea.  I started out thinking I’d use the red Kuri squash, but honestly, I’m currently hoarding that one for the perfect recipe and squash fries just aren’t it, so I used the last of my honey nut squashes instead.  The advantage of using something like a honey nut or butternut squash for this is that they are pretty easy to peel and slice and you won’t be in danger of a major knife accident.

Smoked paprika is my other new fall obsession.  I love the dark red color it lends to food and the very smoky and peppery taste.  I’ve been using it to flavor everything, from soup to baked chicken to these smoked paprika winter squash fries.  I’m eyeing several of the other squashes that are currently on the shelf to make even more of these.  They are a great accompaniment to the mini baked “fried” green cherry tomato recipe I posted earlier this week, especially if you make po boys with the tomatoes.  These would also be lovely served with a homemade ketchup, especially if you have any green tomato ketchup sitting around.

Baked Winter Squash Fries

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries
1 whole winter squash, peeled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the squash into sticks or wedges.  Place in a bowl and add the smoked paprika, salt and olive oil.  Combine.  Turn out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, flipping the fries half way through.


Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce

Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce

My new fall motto is when the garden leaves you with hundreds of green cherry tomatoes at the end of the season, make them into something wonderful: Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce.  Somewhere around the end of June last year, Clay and I were at the Vancouver Farmer’s Market and I was looking for one more tomato (I’d already planted three) and preferably an heirloom variety.  We found a plant that was looking a bit beat up, but it was an heirloom cherry tomato and I decided I’d chance it and see how it would do.  It was a champion grower, rapidly taking over the space vacated by the cucumber plant the dog pulled up, smothering the lemon thyme that was on the cucumber plant pot and then tangling itself up with the chard in the pot on the other side.  It developed hundreds (no exaggeration here) of cherry tomatoes and then it felt like the tomato decided to just be done.  The green tomatoes just sat there…and sat there…and sat there, staying quite green for months.  Toward the end of August, the tomato sort of woke up and a few of those green tomatoes turned a lovely bronzy shade of red.  By that time, I had been assaulted by the hundreds and hundreds of cherry tomatoes from the Sweet 100 vine and I was kind of over tomatoes.  We harvested a few more though and dutifully ate them on salads and on sandwiches.

Meanwhile, there were still many, many green cherry tomatoes on that vine.  I’d look at them and say “soon – I’ll get to you soon.”  September was a busy month and started the glut of winter squash.  October came and I cleaned out all the other tomato plants, but left the behemoth plant where it was.  Finally, yesterday, at the very end of October, I got around to harvesting both a few ripe cherry tomatoes from that plant and a whole bowl-full of green cherry tomatoes.  There are still more out there, but I think I’ve given up.  (I type that and then start fantasizing about all the other things I could do with green tomatoes, so maybe I’ll harvest the rest this weekend after all.)

From late August on, I’d been creating a recipe in my mind – mini baked “fried” green tomatoes.  My resolve to try this out was strengthened by my trips to the South this year – I had some really amazing fried green tomatoes in both New Orleans and Atlanta.  I’d originally had in mind that I would make these baked “fried” green tomatoes to go on a salad, so the remoulade was conceived more as a salad dressing than as a dipping sauce.  However, while I did create the salad, I also decided to use my leftover tomatoes for a po boy, and the remoulade was thick enough to use for the sandwich.  I could also just as easily sit and eat these as a snack and dip them in the remoulade and not feel guilty about it, as the remoulade has a base of Greek yogurt rather than mayonnaise.

baked-fried-green-tomato-salad baked-green-cherry-tomato-po-boy

On the left: mini baked “fried” green tomatoes on a salad (which was lunch on Monday)
On the right: mini baked “fried” green tomatoes on a Po Boy

If your garden is over for the season and you don’t have any late hanger-on green tomatoes, pin this recipe for next year.  It’s worth it.


Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce
Serves 4 – 8 (depending on use)

Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes
20 green cherry tomatoes, sliced into thirds
½ cup flour
2 eggs
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Siracha or hot sauce
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper, freshly ground to taste
Olive oil to grease baking sheet

Remoulade Sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Siracha or hot sauce (or to taste)

For the baked “fried” tomatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil.

Sprinkle the salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper over the cut tomatoes.  Put the flour, eggs and bread crumbs in three separate shallow dishes.  Add Siracha or hot sauce to the eggs and beat them until they are fluffy.  Dredge tomato slices in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.  Do this with all the tomato slices (these are so small, I found it easier to do this to five or six tomato slices at a time).  Place the coated tomato slices on the baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, flipping the tomatoes about half-way through the baking time.

For the Remoulade
Combine all ingredients for the remoulade in a jar.  Close tightly and shake vigorously (or use a whisk and stir until all ingredients are combined).



Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadilla

Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadilla

If you are looking for a quick snack to accompany the Black Garlic Tomato Soup from yesterday, look no further than these Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadillas.  I’m starting the process of using up the winter squash I’m hoarding – I mean, storing – for the winter.  I roasted one of the honey nut squash from Trader Joe’s for this recipe.  These squash look like a small butternut squash, but the flesh is a darker orange.

My tip for roasting winter squash is to cook them whole – I posted a tutorial on how to do this with a pumpkin a few weeks ago, but it works for any winter squash.  I have been puncturing a few wholes in the squash before I put it in the oven, mostly because I’ve had a few small potatoes burst in the oven in our rental and don’t want to risk it with a much larger squash.

The quesadillas are great to serve with a soup for lunch.  They can easily be heated up in the microwave and are quick to make the night before.


Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadilla with Black Garlic Soup


Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadillas
Serves 4

1 small winter squash, roasted (or 1 cup of already prepared winter squash puree from a larger squash)
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 tortillas
4 slices of cheese (Monterey Jack or similar)

Spread several tablespoons of the winter squash puree on half of a quesadilla.  Spread 1/4 cup of the black beans on top and then layer with a slice of cheese.  Fold the tortilla in half over the squash, beans and cheese.  Cook in a preheated skillet, flipping once to ensure both sides are golden brown.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.



Spooky Halloween Onigiri

Spooky Halloween Onigiri

Halloween is almost here!  This year, I’m feeling particularly inspired – I think it started with our neighbors decorating their yard with tombstones and skeletons, and I realized I’ve been sad that I haven’t done anything Halloween-y for the past two years (lots of reasons – but mostly around a work life that just ate all my enthusiasm).  It helped, too, that the movie for Food ‘n Flix for October was Beetlejuice hosted by Deb at Kahakai KitchenBeetlejuice is one of my favorite Halloween movies.  First, it’s a Tim Burton film and I love the Burton universe with its over-the-top weird. Second, it’s not a scary, slasher film – I’m not a fan of those.  I also discovered, as I was writing this post, that there is another Burton related challenge this month (Fandom Foodies) hosted on Witchy Kitchen.  It’s #Burtoween!

So in honor of all things beautiful and strange and Burton-esque, I made Spooky Halloween Onigiri for my Beetlejuice inspired post.  I love onigiri – they are such a simple lunch snack to make, consisting of sushi rice, filling and nori.  I did a Fubonn run after work on Friday (Fubonn is the spectacular Asian grocery store on 82nd and Division in SE Portland) and bought umeboshi, which are very tart, salty and sweet plums that are used as a filling for onigiri.  I used both umeboshi and tomolives (pickled green tomatoes – more about these later this week) as my fillings.  The Spooky Halloween Onigiri get their shape from some Wilton Halloween molds from Amazon.  These onigiri make such a good lunch.  They are perfect as part of a bento box and would be great served with some roasted squash or a small salad.  Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, they survive fairly well for a day or two in the refrigerator, though if you are planning to store, I recommend keeping the nori separate until you are about to eat (it can get soggy).

I can completely see dancing sushi rice in the Burton universe, as well as onigiri decorated as spooks, bats, and Jack-O-Lanterns.  Nori is a perfect decorating tool for these onigiri.  I also realized belatedly that onigiri could so easily be decorated as Jack Skelington – I can just see it and probably ought to go make it.  I love having fancy onigiri in my lunchbox – it makes me smile in the middle of the day.


These are the molds I used for the onigiri.



That bottom thing is a bat – probably not the best mold for this purpose

Spooky Halloween Onigiri
Serves 2

3/4 cup sushi rice (be sure to use sushi rice – any other rice will not stick together as well)
1 cup water
1 sheet nori
Filling – umeboshi, tomolives, smoked fish, olives, etc. (the best fillings for onigiri are salty or tart – or both)

Combine the sushi rice and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover and turn heat to low.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 10 minutes.

Cut the nori into various shapes to decorate the onigiri.  If you are using molds, the nori can be used to make eyes, mouths, etc. or can be used in one long strip to ring the onigiri.  Set the nori aside.

When the rice is slightly cool (but still warm to the touch), moisten your hands to keep the rice from sticking to them and shape the rice into the desired shape.  Create an indent in the middle of the rice and fill with your chosen fillings.  Cover the fillings with more rice or shape the rice around the filling.  Decorate with nori and enjoy!

Food 'n Flix Club Logo



Tropical Granola with Apricots and Ginger

Tropical Granola with Apricots and Ginger

I made tropical granola today, because it rained all day today, and I’ve been having dreams of traveling to the tropics.  Instead, I have two full weeks of travel on my schedule – with one trip to the Midwest and one to the South and both because I’m presenting at conferences in my field.  I’ve been absent from the blog because of this (follow me on Instagram to see photos of my travels and, more importantly, my food on my travels).  I’ll be posting a foodie travel update in a couple of weeks to share and review some of the restaurants I’ve been to and the food I’ve eaten.

In the meantime, I have a few days between trips and decided to make some granola, which makes a great travel snack.  I used a combination of almonds, coconut, dried apricots, and chocolate covered ginger to spice things up.  It’s also a quick recipe to make – thirty-five minutes from start to finish.



Tropical Granola
Serves 10

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger (chocolate covered ginger is optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the oats, almonds, coconut flakes, olive oil, honey, and maple syrup in a medium sized bowl.  Make sure the oats are fully covered with the oil, honey, and syrup.  Pour the oat mixture onto a parchment covered baking sheet and spread so that it covers the sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes and stir.  Bake another 10 minutes and stir again.  Bake for a final 10 minutes and then set the granola aside to cool.  Add the apricots and ginger when the granola is cool to the touch.  Store in an airtight container.

Easy Tomato Bruschetta

Easy Tomato Bruschetta

I’ve been on an easy snack food kick all weekend long, which isn’t unusual for me in the summertime.  We are starting to see an abundance of tomatoes in the farmer’s market and in the grocery stores finally, and I even think some of our home-grown tomatoes are considering ripening.  This tomato bruschetta takes advantage of that summer abundance – it’s a great way to use up both tomatoes and basil.

My inspiration for this recipe comes from the movie Juile and Julia, which I admit to watching during a hotel stay recently.  I particularly love the scenes in the movie in which the only reader of Julie’s blog is her mother – I’ve had my own moments starting out with my food blog when I’ve wondered if I have any other readers out there beside my mom and a couple of loyal friends.  But I digress – what really stayed with me was a scene in which Julie is making bruschetta by toasting slices of bread in a pan in a lot of butter.  The golden browned bread is then laden with tomatoes and basil – and dinner is served.  The key here is the butter.  Don’t skimp – it’s not worth it to try to be healthy on this recipe.  The tomatoes are plenty healthy, anyway.

Pair with a light, fruity white wine.  I finished off a bottle of Semillon with this.  It would pair well with a Vinho Verde or similar.

easy tomato bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta
Serves 2

8 slices of a baguette or similar
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 heirloom tomato
1 small bunch basil (about 8 – 10 leaves)
Olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half

Melt the butter in a non-stick or cast-iron pan over medium heat.  When the butter is melted, add the bread and toast on each side until it is golden brown.

Meanwhile, chop the tomato into a small dice.  Chop the basil finely and mix basil and tomato together.  Drizzle with olive oil.

Rub the garlic clove half over each slice of toasted bread.  Spoon the tomato and basil mixture on the bread, and sprinkle with a bit of salt.  Enjoy!

Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Aioli

Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Aioli

Steamed artichokes are another spring favorite food.  Along with asparagus and strawberries, this is one of the foods I recall being truly seasonal when I was a kid.  If you didn’t get a feast of all during a short time period in the spring, it was a long time coming to taste these again.  Now, of course, all are available year round, though as far as I can tell, they only truly taste good in season, in the spring and early summer.  We’re lucky here in the PNW that all three grow easily and readily and are available in both the grocery stores and at the farmer’s market.

Artichokes are a wonderfully messy food – they require some sort of dipping sauce to complement their meaty goodness.  I’m a fan of lemon juice, butter and garlic powder, as this is essentially the only dipping sauce I ever knew to accompany artichokes when I was younger.  This week, though, I decided to branch out a bit.  I’m a huge fan of the garlic aioli that comes with fried asparagus at Burgerville, the happy, local meat fast food place here in Oregon.  I thought it might be good with artichokes, so made my own variation.  This is a wonderful afternoon snack and I’m totally in favor of eating it at my desk, messy though it may be.  My only advice about this is to bring an ample supply of napkins.  The only thing that could make this better would be to be on a picnic, drinking white wine and lounging on the bank of a river.   Either way, enjoy!

four artichokes


Steamed Artichokes with Garlic Aioli
Serves Four

4 artichokes, stems trimmed and tips of leaves trimmed

Garlic Aioli
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of salt

Place a steamer basket at the bottom of a large saucepan.  Fill the pan with water up to the base of the steamer basket and bring the water to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, add the artichokes and cover, steaming for 30 to 45 minutes.  You can check the artichokes for doneness by pulling on a leaf – if it comes off easily, the artichoke is done. 

Garlic Aioli

Add all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until combined.

Serve the artichokes with garlic aioli on the side.

Roasted Artichokes

Roasted Artichokes

This week has been all about the easiest route to fresh, good food.  I believe in elaborate snacks at my lunch – the best way for me to get through the day is to have good food to look forward to. Given the time constraints this week, I didn’t have hours to prep this weekend.  I had a few vegetables languishing in the vegetable tray and I wanted to make sure I used them before they became compost.  One of those vegetables was a pair of sangria artichokes we’d picked up last week at Trader Joe’s.  I love artichokes – whether they are designer or not.  I’ll eat them, I’ll grow them and I’ll even let them go to full flower, because they are so lovely (in addition to being tasty).


But back to the sangria artichokes.  In addition to being a beautiful deep purple hew, these are named after sangria – and since I also love sangria, I figured the artichokes must be good.  I did a bit of research to find that these are a new kind of artichoke, coming exclusively out of California. I didn’t notice a particularly significant different taste, though they did roast up perfectly with all leaves being very tender.  I think they are just pretty – and what’s the harm in enjoying a pretty, in addition to tasty, snack at work?


Roasted artichokes take about an hour, but the prep time itself is minimal.  I didn’t do anything to these to eat them other than toss on a bit of salt.  If you are going to eat these at work, be sure to have a spoon or knife with you to remove the fuzzy parts from the heart.


Roasted Artichokes
Serves 2

2 large artichokes, stem trimmed and leaves gently spread out
1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place each artichoke in a large piece of aluminum foil (large enough to fully wrap the artichoke).  Before you wrap it up, drizzle the artichokes with lemon juice and olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Wrap up the artichokes in the foil and put in a pie pan or on a baking sheet.  Bake for 75 minutes or until a knife can easily pierce the base of the artichoke.  Serve as is or with melted butter with garlic salt.