Archives for the month of: September, 2011


Dear wonderful reader,

It’s Monday night and I’m drunk. Not super drunk, just tipsy. I haven’t had dinner yet and beer always goes straight to my head when I haven’t eaten. There’s a pizza in the oven and It’s smelling pretty good… While I’m sitting here cruising the internet while dinner cooks, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want Illustrated Bites to be. All summer I’ve been distracted with illustration work and playing outside, so I haven’t done much cooking. The blog has definitely gone downhill in that time. At least, I feel like it has.

Time for confessions. I’m not an awesome cook. I think I’m better than most people my age but I’m still learning. I feel like I’ve been putting up a front, like I’m this amazing chef and you should listen to all my insight and knowledge. But I’m not!  In this way I feel like I haven’t been very connected to my blog and therefore not very motivated to do it. My writing has also been really guarded…so I’m just going to fucking cut that out (sorry, Mom!)


It’s time to get real, y’all. I’m 24, learning to be a real life grown up, an aspiring illustrator, and a budding chef. I like to cook,  I love to eat, and I love to draw. And this blog is now going to be more about all of those things, not just recipes. It’s going to be illustration, bites about life, illustrated food, eats and bites, and much more. But don’t worry,  there will still be recipes.


Whew, that said… let’s move on.


Heather Diane

p.s. If you’re wondering (and rightly so) what’s with all the fish; the topic of this post was originally going to be about which fish are the most sustainable and ecologically friendly to eat. But I had to get some things off my chest. However, I do think it is a really important topic and you should check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. You can download guides specific to your region and easily search different seafood so you can make the best consumer choices.


challah I was first introduced to challah bread while working in the after school program at Tehiyah Day School, a Jewish elementary school here in the Bay Area.  Challah is an eggy, slightly sweet, and very tender bread that is the traditional Sabbath bread of European Jews. We would often serve it to the kids as snack on Fridays and they absolutely love it. I developed a taste for it myself, it’s excellent with a little cream cheese and it makes amazing french toast.

Every Friday the kids take home a loaf of challah for the Sabbath dinner. It’s really adorable to see hoards of little kids running to the bus, each with a braided loaf in tow. With some of the smaller kids, the loaf of bread seems almost as big as they are.  I often wondered how many of those loaves survive the ride home and actually make it to the dinner table intact. I’m guessing not many.

A little perk that came with working on Fridays was that inevitably someone was going to forget their bread and I got to bring it home. These days I’m only working at the school twice a week and Friday isn’t one of my days.  I’ve been missing my challah french toast so I decided to try and bake it myself. It took about three hours but most of that time was passive. It was actually easy to make and it turned out great!


  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 eggs plus one egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/3 cup of warm water
  • 1 teaspoon neutral oil for greasing
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Coarse salt (optional)
Step one, Mix

Step one:  Dissolve the instant yeast in the warm water, letting it sit for a few minutes. Then mix half of the flour with the salt and add all of the yeast water.  Stir to combine with a wooden spoon.

Step two: Mix in 3 eggs and the honey and blend until smooth.


Step three: Begin adding the remaining flour, a little at the time. When you can no longer stir with a spoon begin kneading the dough. Repeatedly fold and press to combine. Add just enough flour to keep the dough from being a sticky mess. Knead for about 10 minutes.


Step  four: Grease a large bowl with a neutral oil. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for one and half hours.

roll out dough

Step five: Deflate the ball and divide into three equal pieces. Let them rest for 10 minutes, then roll each ball into ropes about 15 inches long.


Step six:  On a greased baking sheet, or a baking stone,  smash the ends of the dough ropes together and braid the dough, just like you would hair.

Step seven: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cover and let the dough rest while you preheat the oven.

brush with egg

Step eight: Right before you put the bread in the oven, beat the egg yolk and brush the top of the bread with the yolk. Sprinkle the bread with the poppy seed and the optional salt.  Place it in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes. The bread is done with you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow. Cool before slicing.

This makes a fairly large loaf. I gave half away to our neighbors because it really is best if eaten in the same day it was baked. If you don’t like poppy seeds, a tasty option is to sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar. Happy baking!

If I had to sum up my favorite style of food  it would be rice with goop on top.  I know that isn’t an appetizing way of putting it. But think about it, rice with goop on top encompasses thai curries, indian food, lots of middle eastern dishes, beans with rice… Basically some of the best spicy & saucy dishes of the world come in the form of rice with goop on top. That being said, I don’t really know how to make many of these dishes. I’m a southern girl and I was raised on collards, fried chicken, and pulled pork. My mom made lots of spaghetti and cooked lots of vegetables but family dinners never strayed far from our southern roots. It wasn’t until I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago that I was even introduced to many of the ethnic foods that make the Bay Area food scene rock so hard. Lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate some of these dishes into my small but growing repertoire of culinary know-how.

On a typical San Francisco summer night last week, typical being cold and foggy, I wanted something warm and spicy for dinner. I wanted rice with goop on top. I wanted some indian food.  I found a good looking recipe for Chana Masala on Smitten Kitchen and to my delight it turned out to be simple to make. I put my sweetie on vegetable chopping duty and I got together the necessary spices and it quickly came together. Best of all, it was damn good.

Ingredients I changed my recipe a little from the one on Smitten Kitchen, the main difference was that I used butter instead of oil, ginger powder instead of fresh ginger, and a little more salt.


2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger root powder
1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon (juiced)

Step one: Prepare all of your vegetables. Mince the onion, Chop the garlic, and chili pepper and get your tomatoes ready to go. Once everything is chopped and prepped, get your spices together. Gather the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, ginger powder, paprika and garam masala into a small cup or bowl. Prepping everything before hand makes cooking much easier and cuts down the probability that you’ll accidentally leave a spice out.

Step two: Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes.

Step three: Turn the heat down to medium low and add the spices.

Step four: Cook the spiced onions for two minutes, then add the tomatoes, chickpeas and water.

Step five: Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Then add the lemon juice and salt.

Serve over jasmine rice and enjoy!





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