Cherry Blossom in Portland

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My friend Deb and I flew up to Portland, Oregon, last weekend and stayed with my BFF Maya, and had an ah-mazing time.

We were incredibly blessed that it was sunny and warm (even hot at times) during our stay, despite the heavy rain the city experienced only few days prior. We were told that this was, hands down, the best weekend there in many, many month! Even the cabin attendant had to make a disclaimer that it’s not an April Fool’s joke that we can expect an unusually pleasant weather once we land in PDX.

We didn’t do much, other than eat good food and vegged out at home, which is exactly what Deb and I needed to relax and unwind. My favorite part of the trip, aside from catching up with my girl friends, is seeing rows and rows of Sakura trees and their lovely, pink petals dancing on the streets of Portland.

We went into this little speciality beauty shop called Blush Beauty Bar on the trendy NW 23rd Street (aka “trendy” third) and I fell in love with a bottle of this Cherry Blossom scent from Demeter.  I’ve tried different Cherry Blossom fragrances, including ones from Jo Malone, Bath and Body Works and L’Occitane, but this has to be my favorite I’ve tried so far.  It’s light and floral, and you immediately transport yourself to spring with just one spray.

And even more spring-y, are these designer chocolate bars from Moonstruck.

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You’re So Sweet: March 14

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March 14 is quite a busy day for sweets on both ends of the Pacific Ocean.

In Japan, the day is called, “White Day.” No, it has nothing to with race, of course, but it has a lot to do with love and sugar. You see, Valentine’s Day, on February 14, is the Japan’s equivalent of Sadie Hawkins Day where a girl gets to ask a guy she likes out, or at least tell him how she feels about him, by giving him chocolates.

It’s a clever marketing ploy by a chocolate company, I tell you, but it’s a big deal for them gals!  Some of them wait an entire year for this special day and wait patiently until the 14th of the following Month, on White Day, to receive a response from the guy via white chocolate or marshmallow, hence the name.

Here, in the U.S., it’s National Pi Day!

The two events occasioned me to bake something sweet and because I wasn’t in the mood for pie, I went for some good old brownies, courtesy of Martha Stewart.  I know brownies have nothing to do with White Day or Pi Day, but I say sugar is sugar!

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I used the Godiva dark chocolate bars that I received as a birthday gift a few months ago, and added one cup each of dried cranberries, chopped almonds, and white chocolate chips, in an attempt to clear out the freezer. I think these made the brownies extra decadent, perfect for the sweet March 14.

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

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Are you looking for an ice cream with a little twist for summer? Try this grown-up version of the traditional chocolate ice cream, with a fire-ry heat from Cayenne pepper! It uses 2% fat milk and no cream, so it’s a slight healthier version of the popular treat. And you don’t need an ice cream maker to make it.

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
(Makes 1 quart)

3 cups milk (I used 2% and it still came out creamy)
3 egg yolks
140 g (5 oz) dark chocolate (I used 70% cacao)
½ cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt

① Heat milk in a saucepan, over low heat. Mix in cocoa powder, chocolate and sugar and stir with a whisk until they dissolve completely. Be careful not to boil the milk.

② In a small bowl (I used a measuring cup), separate the eggs. You’ll only use yolks here. Mix the yolks. Temper by pouring a ladle-full of hot milk into the egg yolks. Once mixed, pour the eggs and milk mixture slowly back into the saucepan and stir. Add vanilla extract and salt. Stir until the mixture thickens (you know you have the right consistency when the mixture thinly coats the spatula).

➂ Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the mixture into a separate bowl. Set aside for about an hour, covered with plastic wrap, until the mixture cools to room temperature.

④ Once the mixture has cooled, pour it into a one-quart container and put it in a freezer. Take the container out of the freezer every hour, three times, and stir the ice cream. Enjoy!

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I think the bitter chocolates work best for this ice cream. The not-so-sweet lusciousness can stand up to the powerful heat of cayenne pepper. I used the Trader Joe’s chocolates bars that I received as a gift from my friend Mary Lee.

Just to note — because no heavy cream was used, this version doesn’t have the creaminess that you might be accustomed too in ice cream. But it has a really refreshing icy texture that’s simply wonderful. I love cayenne pepper but definitely reduce the amount if you’re not a huge fan of the tingling heat.

Happy June, everyone!

Dark Chocolate Covered Acai

My sister introduced me to this amazing chocolate snack the other day. It comes in a two-pound bag and inside are little acai fruits and blueberries covered in luscious dark chocolate.

I’m crazy smitten with acai ever since I discovered the palm-tree fruit in Brazil several years back (at a place appropriately called “Acai”) so I knew I would fall in love with this snack the second I pop one in my mouth … and I was right. It was chewy and decadent.  I was head over heal at first bite.

She told me that I can pick up the bag at Costco but I decided to order it via Amazon instead since I don’t have the membership to the store. Two days later, the box arrived at my doorstep. To my disappointment, the chocolate arrived in one, large block, instead of little chocolate nuggets! eek I had to put the chocolate block in the refrigerator immediately so that it won’t pour out of the bag.

I was bummed but I don’t blame Amazon … it’s been stupid hot lately and it’s inevitable that it would melt away completely. I guess I need to pay the membership to Costco to pick up another bag or wait until the weather cools off to order again.

I think I’ll just wait. Besides, it’s too hot to get in my car and fight for a parking space at the nearby Costco.  It’s a jungle out there.  So, until the arrival of autumn, I will be “sawing” the block with serrated knife in hopes of chipping away a small piece.

Thanks, Amazon, for another great customer service.  I received a full refund and got to keep the product.

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On a completely different and more serious note, a tragedy struck the hockey world today. A plane carrying a Russian hockey team crashed, killing 43 people, including Pavol Demitra, who played for the LA Kings a few years ago.

I really enjoyed watching Demo play and he was one of my favorite players during the 2005-2006 season when he was a King.  Here’s me and Demo at Tip-A-King in 2005.

This breaks my heart.  My thoughts and prayers are with their friends and family, and everyone who’ve lost their hero today.