Tag Archives: food

Millionaire’s Shortbread (Chocolate Caramel Shortbread)

20141012_192116I learned about this treat when I lived in Scotland: a layer of fresh shortbread, a layer of homemade caramel, and a layer of chocolate, cut into a square. I didn’t get the recipe until I moved back to the States, but it’s been one of my favorite dessert recipes for a long time. Living in NYC, the ingredients were always just expensive enough that I’d find a reason not to make it, but now that I’m living the country life I decided it was time to treat my office-mates.

Because each layer needs to cool, this can be a time-consuming recipe, but I’ve gone so far as to wait overnight with the trays in the fridge between layers. You don’t have to attend to it constantly, so you can take it easy and make it over the course of the day.

What you’ll need:

2 cups flour
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1/2 cup “caster” sugar (in quotes because I’ve always just used regular granulated sugar, and never had a problem)

Caramel Filling:
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 stick butter
3-4 cups brown sugar (my recipe calls for much less, but I’ve always had to add up to this amount to get the caramel to thicken properly)

Chocolate topping:
Chocolate chips (at least 1 bag, more if you want a thicker chocolate layer.


  • 20141012_140751Rub the margarine and flour together in a bowl until you have a mix which is similar to breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the sugar.
  • Spread the mixture evenly into a 9″ (23cm) square tin which has been lined with baking parchment. (I just rub Crisco vegetable shortening over the pan.) 
  • 20141012_144814Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170C/340F (160C/320F if fan assisted) for approximately 35 minutes until it is golden brown.
  • Allow the base to cool.
  • 20141012_16494520141012_171717IMG_20141012_17224620141012_173748Heat the filling ingredients together in a pot, making sure that you stir it constantly (otherwise it will stick!) until it begins to simmer.
  • Continue stirring until it thickens (which it should do in a few minutes).
  • Spread the filling evenly over the base and again allow to cool. (At this point, there is usually leftover caramel – put it in a jar and use on ice cream, in your coffee, or to eat with a spoon.)
  • 20141012_19125620141012_192123Melt the chocolate so that you can spread it over the filling. (I use a double boiler)



  • When it has cooled and you are ready to eat it, cut up into squares or rectangles with a sharp knife

Millionaire's Shortbread

Bon appetite!

Weekend of Epic, Part 1: Bagels, Lox, Braised Short Ribs, Gelato, Italian Ice & More

So. This time last week, I was sleeping. Why was I sleeping? Because I’d been up till 9:30am getting ready for the reading I was hosting at the Cornelia Street Cafe, for my book, Hot Mess. You can read all about that experience here, if you missed it last Friday morning. Suffice to say, fun was had, it was a late night, and everything was awesome. Sare had to leave early on Friday morning, so unfortunately wasn’t able to take part in the rest of the weekend’s festivities – but it was still great to have had her for as long as we did!

Shortly after writing that post, my parents,  who were still in town, took me and Miranda to an absolutely gorgeous breakfast at Barney Greengrass, which is one of the few places where even I will devour a bagel with cream cheese and lox. It was incredible. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

From there, we got a lift back down to Midtown, where we met up with Eric and Erin at the Disney store. I haven’t been in a Disney store in q-u-i-t-e a while, and I have to say, it freaked me out a little bit. Brought back all sorts of memories of the time my parents took us to Disney World when I was in first grade.

We didn’t stay there long, as Eric and Erin were done shopping and we wanted to show Miranda the famous Naked Cowboy of Times Square. That accomplished, the four of us tromped over to Bryant Park and sat and chatted and generally had a relaxing hour or so just hanging out in the park.

Eric and Erin headed off pretty soon then, and me and Miranda wandered over to the big library on Fifth and 40th/42nd. As it happened, they were having an exhibit on Percy Shelley. It said free. We went in. As we walked into the huge old building, admiring the architecture, we saw a sign: free professional calligraphic inscription with the purchase of any of the journals on sale in the gift shop.

So much for free. Part of the conversation in Bryant Park was about art supplies, journals and pens (this is what writers get excited about, you know?), so we made a beeline, picked out journals, and got inscriptions.

Then we headed downtown, where we were going to meet with my parents for dinner at Lotus of Siam…sadly, Lotus looked to be under construction.

Market Table was not under construction. We went to Market Table instead. Totally different kind of cuisine, but, as always – completely delish. I had some kind of braised short rib thing with horseradish crust (not spicy at all); my dad had lamb, mom had salmon and Miranda got garlic soup. I’ve only been to Market Table twice, now, but absolutely everything there is consistently amazing. As is the service. Highly recommended.

After Market Table we went on a mini ice-cream tour. It involved goat’s milk ice cream with goat’s milk caramel, for the lactose-intolerant among us, as well as Gelato, and then an Italian ice. Then me and Miranda took my parents back to their parking garage. And then we went and got cupcakes.

The leather skirt diet was clearly over.

Coming next week:
Weekend of Epic, Part 2(A): Babeland, Fast Cars, Fast Tattoos & Not-So-Fast Burgers

Year 2 Start – Low Sodium Living in NYC

Three years and over sixty pounds ago, I rocked up to New York City on the chilly, bright morning of January 14th. Over the course of the next three years I got a trainer, learned how to work out, and started my first successful campaign against an unhealthy body – my own Battle of the Bulge. But it’s been so much more than that, not the least of reasons for which is because of a series of health-related factors that have started to come into play.


Over a series of posts in this blog, I’ve detailed my progress over the last year; after hitting a low weight back in October on the heels of a two-week trip to New Zealand (it’s amazing, how not knowing what you can and can’t eat can lead to dropping weight like it’s going out of style) the number on the scale has crept slowly upwards throughout the holidays. It got so bad at one point in October that I stopped using the weight-tracking software I’d sworn by for three months; day after day of seeing the revised calculation for the day you’ll hit your “goal weight” become further and further in the future is not, even for a few months’ time, my idea of good motivational practice.

And so I arrived at the end of December having gained about 10 pounds since my adult-low back in October…and then I put on another 10 pounds over the final week of the year. I don’t know how I do it (well, I have some inkling, but that’s for another post) but I manage to weight on like nobody’s business the second I stop paying attention. I wasn’t too worried about it at the time. “I’ll do what I did last January,” I told my roommate, “and just be really serious for the first two weeks of the month about going to the gym and eating healthy and all that.”

Having reached the two-week mark today, on the same day as my three-year anniversary in the City, I’ve decided that I’m going to have to spend the rest of January and most of February being “really serious…about going to the gym and eating healthy and all that.” The weight’s going down, but in order to get back to that post-New-Zealand weight – and then go even lower – it’s going to take more work.

Thus begins year two. Book two, stage two, chapter two, whatever you want to call it. The goal is to emulate what I did right last year while at the same time learning from the mistakes and the weight-bubbles of the last 12 months. So I’m back to shopping carefully, checking the nutritional information on everything, putting thought and effort and planning into when and what I eat, exploring even more low sodium recipes and healthy cooking techniques, and dedicating myself to spending more time and effort on productive exercise.

Any tips?


Cookin’ up some low sodium wasabi salmon burgers…

Now that we’re nearing the end of the year, I’m once again taking stock of how things are going with my low sodium diet. I’m trying to branch out into tasty items that I can enjoy and still feel like I’m treating myself…so I was glad to find this ready-to-buy recipe for low sodium wasabi salmon burgers on Fresh Direct’s website.

Read the recipe and you’ll notice that it features no salt, just some reduced-sodium soy sauce. Now, if you’re like me and prefer to taste the actual fish rather than mostly soy sauce, you can actually cut this WAY down – or replace it with a small amount of honey with balsamic vinegar, which I’ve used in stir fry recipes to cut the sodium but retain a similar tang.

Note that I screwed up and threw the ginger in with the burgers – but I wouldn’t say it had any kind of ill effect on the final product, which I threw on a brioche roll from Trader Joe’s, lightly coated with some of the recipe’s wasabi mayonnaise (realizing later in the afternoon that I could have just bought wasabi mayo from TJ’s later on) and blanketed by a leaf of romaine lettuce.

YUM. And there are three more waiting in the fridge. The one thing that was aggravating was that they don’t stick together well, but then again, we don’t have a food processor so I was chopping everything quite fine with a knife. (I’m not one of those girls who owns everything in the kitchen, though if you feel like sending a gift certificate for Amazon I’m happy to check out their appliance section)…

Anyway – this may not be a low sodium pizza recipe handed down from my grandmother or a healthy nacho recipe discovered by me and my roommate, but it was the best salmon burger I’ve had in ages and could probably double nicely as fishcakes if you so desired. I plan to have tomorrow’s salmon burger protein-style wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Again, I say – YUM.


Training Your Willpower?

I was just reading this article from NPR; an experiment was done (details in the article) and it was determined that when people had seven digits to remember, instead of two, they were more likely to choose cake over salad (it sounds kind of weird, but check out the article, which talks about the part of the brain that’s used for willpower).

“This helps explain why, after a long day at the office, we’re more likely to indulge in a pint of ice cream, or eat one too many slices of leftover pizza,” Lehrer writes.

My own diet modification over the last six months or so makes me wonder how much it’s possible to work at training your brain and body with healthy food, so that when it comes time to choose between the “cakes” and “salads” of my own life, my body naturally gravitates toward the salad.
Easier said than done, I guess!

Small Portions, Big Results?

I love food. I love making food, smelling food, eating food…as I wrote in a job application letter two years ago, “I like food so much I’ve been forced to start exercising.” (And for the record, I got offered the job, though I turned it down in favor of my current position.) When I was a kid, my mom would get frustrated because I’d keep asking her what was for, not the next meal, but a meal three or four meals ahead of the meal we’d just eaten. For me, this has meant that the biggest problem I had to address was portion control.

Like many people, I don’t pay much attention to what the label says is a “serving size.” To me, a serving size is the amount of food I’m going to eat. In the case of Boursin (180mg sodium per serving), that means calculating the content of the entire cheese round, because you know, if I’m being honest, the thing isn’t going to last the day. There’s no point lying to myself about what I’m eating.

So portion control has been the biggest question mark in my daily #lowsodium plan. One place where portion control can either be made or broken is when eating out at restaurants. (One day, I’ll do a post about just what a pain in the ass a low sodium diet is when considered at the same time as a social life.) Today, I had an unexpected dinner with a friend of mine, which happened after an unexpected cupcake with a friend of mine. Which happened after a completely expected Boursin splurge. So delicious and so worth it, and so putting me over my 1500mg for the day. (However, I’d like to point out that due to all the other healthy choices I make in a day, my full intake is probably still below 2500mg, which is FAR below the daily average I was probably taking in before I started aiming to eat a low-to-no sodium diet all the time.

The nice thing was, I was able to try plenty of different tastes without over-indulging, because first my friends and I split two cupcakes between three of us, and then my friend and I split two simple plates at a tapas place. While each individual item would likely have put me well over the daily recommended intake of sodium for someone without high blood pressure (2400mg/day), splitting the items and not worrying too much about being hungry afterwards meant that I could enjoy small bits of food.

The thing I keep reminding myself is that at the end of the day, I want to know what lots of things taste like, and that’s part of why I like food so much. But once I’ve tasted something, it’s enough – I can relax and not worry too much about finishing all of it that’s left on the plate. This makes for a more social and relaxed mealtime, healthier snacking after I get home (if I’m hungry, which at the moment, I’m not) and overall far less food being taken in.

Oh – and of course I’m also following up by drinking plenty of water, as (for me) that seems to help keep my system flushed out.