Pumpkin Ice Cream and Pumpkin Chai Tea

I just survived hosting my first Thanksgiving and roasting my first turkey.  I had so much fun preparing and making everything and everything was very well received.  However, spending an extended period with my in-laws was very stressful (my husband’s grandmother asked me during dinner if my teeth were real) and after all our guests went home, I rewarded myself with my favorite pumpkin treat, a pumpkin chai tea.  I love all things pumpkin and I recently made some pumpkin ice cream and from there discovered pumpkin milkshakes and pumpkin chai tea.

Pumpkin Chai Tea


3 tablespoons Pumpkin ice cream (available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s or make your own with the recipe listed below)
1 cup Milk
2 tablespoons Chai tea mix


Combine ingredients in mug and microwave on high for about 90 seconds.  Or heat in small saucepan until warm.  Stir and enjoy!

Pumpkin Ice Cream


5 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin puree


Whisk the egg yolks together in a bowl and set aside. Combine the milk, cream, sugar, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, cinnamon stick, ground nutmeg and salt in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook until the edges begin to bubble.

Slowly pour the warm liquid over the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (between 160º and 170ºF on an instant read thermometer).

Set a mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour the mixture through the strainer and then whisk in brown sugar until dissolved. Place bowl in an ice bath and stir until cool, then chill completely in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Once chilled, whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin. Press through the strainer once more and then freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze for at least an hour before serving.

Adapted from:  David Lebovitz

No-Knead Bread

Happy Halloween! Due to all the panic before Hurricane Sandy came along, I decided to be prepared for extreme conditions and for the power to be out for several days and possibly even the rest of the week. Since Pepco went ahead and warned everyone on Friday that we would most likely not have power for several days and our power always goes out with any inclement weather, I spent Sunday afternoon in the kitchen cooking and baking bread to prepare for the hurricane and power outage.  After hearing so many things about Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, I finally decided to give it a try and I was shocked by how great the bread turned out with such simple preparations!  The bread is chewy and delicious on the inside and nice and crusty on the outside, just the way I like it!

We were very blessed to survive through the hurricane without losing power and were even able to make it to work both Monday and Tuesday without difficulty. I will be keeping those impacted by Hurricane Sandy in my prayers. And I urge you to make this bread as soon as possible! It does require some planning ahead, but you will be rewarded for your planning! Have a safe and happy Halloween!


3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups water


In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450°F. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats.  I used my 7.25 quart Le Creuset dutch oven with the original handle and it held up fine in the 450 degree oven.  When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is what it’s supposed to look like. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Adapted from:  Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery via The New York Times


Sugarloaf Mountain

As the DC area prepared for Hurricane Sandy, this weekend, my husband and I decided to go for a hike on Sugarloaf Mountain in Dickerson, MD (7901 Comus RoadDickerson, MD 20842) this weekend before the hurricane blew away all the pretty autumn leaves.  Unfortunately, most of the leaves on Sugarloaf Mountain have already fallen, but it was still a beautiful day for a hike and we both enjoyed spending the time outside.  We parked in the Westview Parking Lot and took the blue blazed Northern Peaks Trail until the intersection with the red blazed trail Monadnock Trail to go up to the summit.  We spent some time at the summit admiring the views and then we backtracked down the red blazed trail back to the intersection with the blue blazed Northern Peaks Trail and continued hiking along the 5 mile Northern Peaks Trail and ended right back in the Westview Parking lot.  Since most of the leaves have already fallen, it was difficult to see the trail at some points because the trails were entirely covered with leaves, which also made it slippery in some areas (there were some near falls).  There were several nice overlooks like the one at White Rocks along the Northern Peaks Trail.

I’veheard that the orange blazed Sunrise Trail to the summit was the most challenging, but we opted to go on a longer hike this time and will likely try the orange blazed trail next time.  The summit was very crowded with most people taking the steps (yes, actual stairs) up on the green blazed A. M. Thomas Trail.

View from the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain

On our way home, we stopped by Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard (18125 Comus Road Dickerson, Maryland 20842), which was also pretty crowded.  They have a nice outdoor area with tables and seating along with an indoor area for purchasing and enjoying wine and crackers and cheese.  For $10, you can sample 8 of their wines in the outdoor patio before going inside to purchase wine.

Next, we stopped by Comus Market (23830 Old Hundred Road Dickerson, MD 20842) to take a look at their many varieties of pumpkins and winter squash.  They had a large selection of different kinds of pumpkins including Cinderella pumpkins, sugar pumpkins, blue pumpkins, peanut pumpkins, Fairytale pumpkins and much more.  They also had a large selection of winter squash like butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, turban squash and much more.  We both had fun learning more about the different varieties of pumpkins and winter squash and how to cook them.  My favorite was definitely the Cinderella pumpkin because it was so beautiful and also because it has a magical quality for me since I’m still a big kid who loves Cinderella and hasn’t outgrown Disney.

Comus Market


Winter Squash

Cinderella Pumpkin

It was another wonderful autumn Saturday before Hurricane Sandy!

Sichuan Cucumber Salad

My husband absolutely adores cucumbers.  He can just wash a cucumber and start munching away.  So keeping in line with my recent goal to learn to cook more Chinese food for my husband, I found this great recipe for Sichuan cucumber salad and made it for dinner one night.  I was surprised by how quick and easy the dish was to make and it tasted like something I could order at a Chinese restaurant.  We both loved it and I will be making this dish many more times in the future.


1 large or 2 medium-sized cucumbers, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablepoon sugar
2 teaspoons chili garlic paste

Cut the cucumber(s) in half lengthwise, then cut each half again so you have quartered strips.  You can cut or scoop out the seedy middle section if  you like or leave it if you want. Slice each strip into 3cm (1 inch) cubes.  You can also slice the cucumber into longer strips, but that is just personal preference.  Put the cucumbers in a bowl, and toss with salt. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, as the salt draws out excess moisture from the cucumbers.

Heat a small pan on medium-low heat. Add vegetable oil, then add minced garlic and red chili flakes. Cook until fragrant, but careful to not to let the garlic burn. Set aside in a small dish to cool.

Drain the cucumbers through a strainer, and return them to the bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and chili garlic paste. Pour the mixture over the cucumbers. Add in the garlic and pepper that was cooling, and mix well. Serve at room temperature, or chill in the fridge for up to a day to serve cold.  Enjoy!

Adapted from:  Appetite for China

Harpers Ferry

Last weekend, my husband and I went to Harpers Ferry, WV for the first time. It was a beautiful autumn day and we were looking forward to hiking and enjoying nature for a few hours.  Harpers Ferry is located at the intersection of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and is well known for John Brown’s raid on the armory during the Civil War.  We decided to go on the popular Maryland Heights trail. We arrived in Harpers Ferry around 1:00 pm and parked in the main parking lot and took the shuttle down to historic Harpers Ferry. There was a $10 admission for a single vehicle. We walked through part of the town and crossed the footbridge, turned left and walked along the canal before crossing another footbridge to the beginning of the trailhead. As we walked across the main footbridge, we could see the old stone piers that contained a railroad and bridge. John Brown crossed this bridge for his famous raid in 1859.

John Brown’s Fort


Maryland Heights is made up of 3 trails: the Combined Trail, the Stone Fort Trail and the Overlook Trail. From the trailhead, we hiked along the Combined Trail passing the Naval Battery from 1862. Most people go directly to the Overlook Trail from the Combined Trail to the popular overlook over Harper’s Ferry, but we decided to first hike the Stone Fort Trail and then going to the Overlook Trail. The Stone Overlook Trail involved a steep uphill climb as we approached walls of the Stone Fort. There are some lovely views from the summit at the Stone Fort. Descending down from the Stone Fort, we passed the 100 Pounder Battery and 300 Pounder Battery.

Interior wall of the Stone Fort

View from from Stone Fort summit

As we walked down a pretty steep trail, we turned right and went on the Overlook Trail down to the popular cliffs to enjoy a beautiful view of Harpers Ferry where the Potomac River joins the Shenandoah River. Then we started hiking back down to the trailhead and went back across the footbridge to the town. The hike took about 4 hours including several stops to enjoy the view. Without stopping, the hike probably would’ve taken 3 hours. As a treat, we stopped by Scoops Ice Cream (173 Potomac Street, Harpers Ferry, WV).  where I had a delicious pumpkin shake and my husband had a hot chocolate. Then we went back to the parking lot via the shuttle. I wish we could have explored the town a little more, but it was getting late and we needed to start heading home.

View of Harpers Ferry from the cliff

Scoops Ice Cream

Pumpkin Shake from Scoops Ice Cream

It was the perfect way to spend a beautiful autumn day!

Key Lime Cupcakes

I made these adorable cupcakes for the first time over the summer for my coworker’s birthday and they have quickly become the most commonly requested cupcakes from my friends and coworkers.  As a result, I find myself making them pretty regularly for birthdays, potlucks, bridal showers and baby showers.  Before making them for the first time, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like them because I don’t particularly like key lime pie, but my coworker loves key lime pie and she also loves cupcakes, so I thought these would be just perfect for her.  And I was shocked to find that I absolutely adore these cupcakes!  I’m so glad that I have friends to share these with or else I would eat them all!  I decided to frost the cupcakes with cream cheese frosting instead of the recommended whipped cream that Annie of Annie’s Eats recommends and I love the combination of the key lime flavor with the cream cheese frosting.

If you or anyone you know enjoys key lime pie, make these right away and you won’t regret it!

For the crust:1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, meltedFor the cupcakes:

3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
16 tbsp. (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
Zest of 1 lime (or 2-3 key limes)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1¾ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. coconut extract

For the key lime curd:

3 large eggs
¾ cups sugar
¼ cup key lime juice
4 tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

For the frosting:

10 oz. cream cheese, chilled
6½ tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 tsp. clear vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter; mix well with a fork.  Drop about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom. (Note: the bottom of a squeeze bottle or shot glass works very well.)  Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, and maintain the oven temperature.

To make the cupcakes, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.  Beat in the lime zest.  Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla and coconut extracts in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the key lime curd, combine the eggs and sugar in a saucepan.  Whisk together until well blended.  Whisk in the key lime juice.  Place the pan over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring or whisking constantly, until the mixture is warmed through.  Be careful not to heat the mixture too quickly to avoid curdling the eggs.  Whisk in the butter a little bit at a time, stirring in each addition until completely incorporated before adding more.  Continue to cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens and a spoon or spatula leaves a path when drawn through it (no higher than 175˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.)  Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.  Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.  (This keeps up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.)

To assemble the cupcakes, use a paring knife to make a well in the center of each cupcake.  Discard the core of the cupcake from each well.  Fill each well with about 1½ tablespoons of the lime curd.  I used a piping bag to pipe the key lime curd into each well.

To make the cream cheese frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat 2-3 minutes more.  Blend in the vanilla. Using a piping bag, pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.  I used the Ateco 825 tip.  Garnish with key lime slices if you would like and enjoy!

Adapted from:  Annie’s Eats

Bistro D’oc

I love French food so whenever I go out to dinner with my husband, I always want French food.  Last weekend, we decided to try Bistro D’oc in DC.  Bistro D’oc specializes in food from the Languedoc region of French along with casual French bistro cuisine.  It is conveniently located across the street from Ford’s Theatre and is easily accessible by metro by using the Metro Center or Gallery Place/Chinatown stops.  We decided to drive since it was a bit late, but we had to drive around in circles before we found a spot on the street 4 blocks away on F Street .  Next time, we’ll probably take the metro.

We started off with the 6 escargot appetizer ($8), which was presented like traditional French escargot in the shell.  I had read some reviews on Yelp that said that the escargot was overcooked and rubbery, but we took a chance and decided to try it out.  The risk paid off and the escargot were cooked perfectly and were nice and buttery.


My husband ordered the Steak Frites Sauce Roquefort ($21.50) and I had the Crispy Duck Confit ($21).  My husband’s steak was very flavorful and the fries were very good as well.  We’re not big fans of bleu cheese, so we didn’t try the bleu cheese sauce that accompanied the steak.  I was pleasantly surprised by the duck confit.  It was delightfully crispy on the outside and juicy and succulent on the inside.  The duck, which was served bone-in, was accompanied by a mushroom fricassee and house French fries.  I thought the mushroom fricassee was a bit too salty for my taste and the house French fries were like thin potato slices, which not what I expected.  I didn’t mind though because the duck fell right off the bone and was simply delicious.

Steak Frites

Duck Confit

The restaurant has a bistro style dining room that is dimly lit and cozy. We were seated on the first floor by the window with a nice view of Ford’s Theatre.  Our server was very attentive and the service was very fast.  I was also impressed that our server spoke fluent French.  One awkward thing to me was that the specials were listed on a giant dry-erase board that the servers lugged around and mounted on easels by each diner.  It was strange to be sitting so close to a giant dry-erase board listing the specials.

Overall, the food was excellent and we hope to be back some day to try some other dishes!

518 10th St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 393-5444