Monday, December 02, 2019

All About Simple Syrup & No Oil Added Granola Recipe

Simple syrup is one of the most classic cocktail ingredients. Even though simple syrup is extremely basic and true to its name, simple, it is also incredibly versatile and can be used in so many ways other than just for cocktails and coffee drinks. I became fascinated with simple syrup thanks to Karin Campion, the founder of Sonoma Syrup. Her company grew out of her experiments developing high quality handcrafted simple syrups infused with ingredients from her garden in Sonoma.

I use Sonoma Syrup simple syrups because they come in a wide variety of flavors making them more suitable for recipes and because unlike homemade simple syrup, they don’t require refrigeration and last a very long time, even though they don't include any artificial preservatives, colors or flavors. After Karen shared her products with me, I discovered that in addition to using simple syrup in cocktails, and in hot and cold beverages, it could also be used in cooking. 

While I rarely see recipes using it, I reach for simple syrup often to add a hint of sweetness to vinaigrettes and marinades and to round out any harsh acidity or saltiness in sauces. It adds flavor but also provides the smooth texture I prefer over white or brown sugar. Sonoma Syrup infused simple syrup provides an additional layer of flavor and can often be used in place of sugar, honey or maple syrup. I’ve even adapted an easy and no-oil added recipe for granola using it.  

Ways to use flavored simple syrups

* Pour on sweet potatoes before or after cooking

* Combine with fruit and yogurt to make popsicles

* Use in place of sugar to make glazed nuts (1 cup nuts, 2 Tablespoons simple syrup)

* Blend with butter to spread on biscuits

* Add to fruit salads

* Mix into cream cheese and spread on banana bread or pumpkin bread

* Add to water when poaching fruit

* Freeze with water in ice cube trays and use to chill drinks

* Drizzle over plain yogurt, waffles, pancakes or hot cereal

No Oil Added Granola Recipe


1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped nuts, such as pecans, walnuts or almonds
1/4 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or a combination of both
1/4 cup Sonoma Syrup vanilla syrup (or try another flavor)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup chopped dried fruit, optional 


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the oats, nuts, seeds, syrup and salt in a bowl and mix with a spoon or flexible spatula. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly distribute the mixture on top. 

Bake for 10 minutes or until golden, stir 1/2 way through the baking. Add dried fruit if desired and store in an airtight container. 


Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. My thanks to Sonoma Syrup Co. for partnering with me. 

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Fall Fruit Salad Recipe

I love the Thanksgiving meal as much as anyone else if not more, but I admit, it’s heavy. It needs something light, bright and frankly refreshing. I know fruit salad isn’t traditional but my mother often decorates the holiday table with seasonal fruit that makes the table pop with color, and I was inspired by her tablescape to make a salad using Fall fruits. The main fruit in the salad is Fuyu persimmons. Fuyu persimmons are the rounder ones with bright orange skin and a very firm crunchy texture. They are incredibly sweet and have a very unique flavor. Hachiya persimmons are delicious as well, but too soft to use in this recipe. 

While Summer fruits are probably my favorites, Fall fruits are pretty compelling too. In addition to persimmons, I used grapes and pomegranate which each provide a pop of sweetness along with acidic and sweet tangerines. Apples and pears are in season too, but they have a tendency to brown. Kiwi fruit is another fruit that is in season starting in October in California. The surprising thing about this fruit salad is how sweet it is! I thought I was going to make a dressing from honey and lemon, but the salad really didn’t need any additional sweetness. In fact, the salad needed more acidity.

In Italy balsamic vinegar is used on strawberries and so I tested it with the salad and it was a hit. You could serve the salad without any dressing, but I think the vinegar helps to balance the sweetness and adds a pleasant tangy quality. The fruit salad will keep at least a day or two, but dress it as close to serving as you can. It’s good on its own or served with ice cream or yogurt.

Fall Fruit Salad
Serves 8-10


4 Fuyu persimmons
3 tangerines
3 kiwi fruit
1 pomegranate
1/2 lb grapes, red or green
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar


Remove the stem, peel and cut the persimmons into small bite-size pieces. Peel the tangerines and cut them horizontally into rounds, and then into quarters. Peel the kiwi fruit and cut into round slices, then cut each round in half or quarter. Remove the arils from the pomegranate and wash and remove the stems from the grapes.

Combine all the fruit in a bowl and toss with the balsamic vinegar.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Taste of Travaglini Gattinara

The Travaglini family is obsessed with Nebbiolo and I don’t blame them. Nebbiolo is a grape native to the Piedmont region of Italy and it’s the grape in wines from Barolo and Barbaresco. But the Travalglini family is from Gattinara, a region of Piedmont that received a DOCG certification for wine in 1967 and wines produced there must be at least 90% Nebbiolo (a tiny amount of Bonarda and Vespolina are also allowed). In Gattinara the grape expresses itself in a way that is extraordinary—it has incredible minerality and earthiness, but also freshness, with spicy, fruity, floral and herbal notes, terrific acidity and elegant silky tannins. Imagine a wine with raspberries, cherries, violets, roses, and even a bit of licorice and sometimes tobacco. I’d say it’s a great wine for Thanksgiving because it pairs with just about everything. Drink it with pasta, with cheese, with game, with turkey, with beef, even with fish. 

Nebbiolo is named for nebbia, the Italian word for fog. But it’s not just named for the climate, but rather poetically for the opalescent cast on the grapes that resembles fog. The very small Gattinara appellation is in the rocky alpine foothills of the Monte Rosa mountain range where cold winds blow down from the alps and the volcanic soil is rich with granite and iron. The family-run Travaglini Gattinara winery owns 146 of the 247 acres of Gattinara production so it's the label you are most likely to find. 

The Travaglini bottle makes quite an impression. Literally, the bottle. It is “twisted” and was designed by Giancarlo Travaglini in 1958. While there is charming mythology about the bottle—that it was formed accidentally by fire, or designed to fit the hand of a left-handed pope, the truth is much more practical. As you might imagine, Gattinara is a wine that ages very well, but with age comes sediment, so the dip in the bottle collects any sediment when the wine is poured. I hope you get a chance to experience this exceptional wine, entry-level bottles cost around $30.  

Disclaimer: My thanks to the Taub Family Selections for including me in an event where I got to meet the Travaglini family and enjoy their wines. 

Friday, November 01, 2019

The Art of Escapism Cooking Cookbook Review

Lady and Pups is a blog by Mandy Lee an expat living in Hong Kong. But perhaps living is not the best word to describe it. She is suffering in Hong Kong, and before that, she suffered in Beijing. Cooking is her refuge and her blog is a chronicle of how she throws herself into cooking as an escape, hence the cookbook title, The Art of Escapism Cooking. In many ways, her blog and cookbook, are like any others — lots of great photography, impressive recipes and personal stories. Except for one thing, Mandy Lee is unapologetically negative and dark. She does not try and sell some happy vision — real or imagined. She wallows. The politics and pollution are major downers in China, I totally get that. Though I could be wrong, I am fairly certain she does not work outside the home. Her recipes are not the “quick and easy” type, but rather the type that relies on ingredients many Americans are unlikely to have on hand and take a degree of preparation and time that is at times daunting. That isn’t to say her recipes aren’t worth cooking or at very least, using as a jumping-off point. The book includes recipes for things like Poached Eggs with Miso Browned Butter Hollandaise, Buffalo Fried Chicken Ramen, Cumin Lamb Burger and Mochi with Peanut Brown Sugar and Ice Cream. Most of the recipes are very rich and indulgent, not terribly healthy and with very little to no vegetables. 

I spent quite some time looking through the recipes for something I could cook that wouldn’t take too much time or shopping and I ended on a recipe with a rather unpleasant name — Saliva Chicken Meatballs. As Lee explains the Chinese have a quirky sense of humor when it comes to naming food. I would say the name does not translate well into English. While I love the recipe, I don’t love the name. I also have to admit, I needed to adapt the recipe to make it work. Lee cooks the meatballs in a takoyaki pan. Surprise! I don’t have a takoyaki pan. She says you can broil them for 12-14 minutes, but I would certainly recommend baking them instead. If you broil them, they cook too fast on one side and have to be rotated to cook evenly, which is a bother. 

The meatballs are made from chicken and seasonings and no filler ingredients, the sauce is an emulsion of tahini, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar and ice. The finished dish also includes some of her ultimate chili oil but frankly, making two recipes was enough for me, so I substituted a chile oil I already had and that worked fine. Speaking of which, I would recommend adapting the recipes to your liking and using them for inspiration, rather than following them exactly as written Would I make this recipe again? Absolutely. While Lee says it's a popular appetizer, I found with rice and some quick pickled cucumbers the tender meatballs with a boldly flavored and creamy textured sauce made a great weekday dinner. I look forward to using up the rest of the sauce soon.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Author Links: Lady and PupsInstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me as part of TLC Book Tours, this post does not include any affiliate links.