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Chocolate Brioche

I found this recipe for mini chocolate brioche several weeks ago and I had been waiting for a chance to make it ever since. On first glance the recipe seemed really involved, and since I’ve been busy getting ready for an art show, I didn’t think I had the time to make it.  So, I’ve been biding my time and dreaming of coffee and sweet bread. Last weekend, I needed a little break from all my art-makin’ and I decided it was time to treat myself to a sweet sunday breakfast.

This brioche dough needs to rise 8 to 12 hours, so you start by making the dough and then letting it rise overnight. There are a lot of steps, but since they are broken up, it turns out to take more planning than effort. The end result really is amazing, your efforts will yield a subtly sweet and tender bread with a dark chocolate center, finished off by hints of honey. I’m SO glad I found the time to make it. Seriously, I felt like a baking superstar. This recipe has definitely found a permanent spot in my cooking repertoire.

Baby Chocolate Brioche:

From: Patricia Wells At Home In Provence 

  • 1 TSP active dry yeast
  • 2 TBS honey
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk (105°F)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 TSP salt
  • 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces of good quality dark chocolate (I use 83% Cacao) Divided into 12
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 TBS whole milk
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • extra honey for drizzling (optional)

step one, make dough

1. Combine the warm milk, honey, and yeast and let it stand until it’s foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the olive oil, eggs and salt, and stir to blend.

3. Add the flour a little at a time, slowly mixing everything together. When the dough forms a ball, knead in the remaining flour. Knead until the the dough is soft and smooth, but still firm. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour.  This step can be done in a heavy duty electric mixer if you happen to have one (I don’t).

4. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let it rise 8-12 hours.

step two, divide into 12

5. An hour before you want to bake the rolls, remove the dough from the fridge, punch it down and divide it into 12 equal portions.

step three

6. With the palm of your hand flatten each ball of dough into a disk and press in a portion of the chocolate into the center. Then reform the ball around the piece of chocolate, so that the chocolate is completely covered.

step four

7. Place the rolls on a baking sheet, and cover with a clean towel. Let the dough rise another 30-45 minutes.

8. Preheat the oven to 400°F


9. Make the glaze by beating the egg yolk, then blending in a tablespoon of milk, and a tablespoon of sugar. Brush each roll with the glaze.  (Drizzle the optional honey on the rolls if you want a little extra sweetness… which, come on, you do.)

10. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the rolls are a deep golden brown.

Now, prepare yourself for a delicious and luxurious breakfast.

Scallops and AsparagusMy sweetie, Andrew, usually takes the role as dishwasher rather than cook in our kitchen. He rarely cooks, but when he does, its always awesome. I’ve been super busy the last few months and with the increased workload I haven’t been cooking as much as I usually do. In my culinary absence, he’s definitely stepped up his cooking game.

This past Sunday, while I was busy with a project, I asked Andrew to run to the store and grab something for dinner. Fully expecting him to return with pasta, I was super excited when came home with sea scallops, asparagus, fresh herbs, meyer lemons, and wine… I have such a great boyfriend.

More about the scallops in a minute, I just want to share with you the aforementioned project I’ve been slogging away at this year. I’m doing an Illustrated Bites art show!! I’m super excited to bring Illustrated Bites out of the internet and into the real world. The show is going to be at The Curiosity Shoppe starting April 13. I’m putting my sign painting skills to work to make hand painted recipes and food illustrations. There will also be a little screen printed work and an Illustrated Bites Zine.

If you’re in the Bay Area, I would love if you could make it to the opening on Friday, April 13th 6-9PM. If you can’t make it to the opening, the show will be open for 6 weeks.

Here is a little sneak peek of some of the works in progress:

painted signs EAT

More about the show later, back to those sweet sea critters:

When you’re buying scallops, buy either the larger sea scallops or the smaller bay scallops. Avoid the tiny calico scallops, which are most often too rubbery.  Also, try to buy scallops that are “dry,” meaning that they haven’t been soaked in phosphates.

This scallop dish is delicious and easy.  It pairs nicely with roast asparagus, tied together by the lemon but standing apart in texture and flavor. Both dishes are done in 15 minutes or less. This is a gourmet meal, literally in minutes.  So, if you’ve got a hot date you’re trying to impress, but not a ton of time… this would definitely be a good meal to go with.


Sauteed Scallops:

From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1TSP Minced garlic
  • 1-1.5 pound scallops (sea or bay)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 TBS minced fresh chives
  1. Heat your skillet over medium-high for 3 minutes, then add the oil &  garlic. After 30 seconds, add the scallops and cook on each side for 2 minutes. (Shorter for those under an inch across, slightly longer for those over one inch.)
  2. Season them with salt and pepper as they cook and remove them to a bowl as they finish.
  3. Add the lemon juice to the pan, and reduce the liquid to a glaze. (1-2 minutes)
  4. Return the scallops to the pan, add the chives, and stir to coat the scallop with the sauce.
  5. Remove from heat and serve immediately

Roast Asparagus:

  • 1.5-2 pounds of asparagus, with ends trimmed off.
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • lemon wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Place the asparagus in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.
  3. Bake until the thick part of the stalk can be pierced with a knife. About 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with lemon wedges.

FUN FACT: Did you know that scallops swim? I didn’t either!! I always imagined scallops just sitting on the sea floor, inactive and passive. Not so! Those little suckers can go. They look like a Mario Brothers character, or a little Pac Man. It’s fun to watch, I can’t get enough of these underwater videos.

Baby Back Ribs

My sweetie, Andrew, misses his Mama’s cooking. He regularly gets all glassy eyed, recounting some dish or dessert that his mom used to make. I feed him well but, frankly, I don’t blame the man. His mom, Nancy, is an experienced and gifted southern chef. She was raised in Alabama, and has lived in North Carolina for all her adult life, all the while soaking up the secrets of southern cuisine. Just to give you an example of the utter deliciousness that comes out of this lady’s kitchen: last time I was over at their house for dinner, Nancy made roast pork loin, turnip greens, mashed potatoes, black eyed peas, and cornbread all cooked to perfection. Just thinking about that dinner gets me droolin’.

One of the recurring fond remembrances Andrew has for his mom’s cooking is her baby back ribs. So, while we were home for the holidays, I asked her if I could get that recipe and try to make it myself. She was happy to oblige and she pulled out a well-worn recipe card that had faded to the point of illegibility. As I squinted and strained to read it, she easily recited it to me from across the room while I copied it down.

Let me tell you, this is a recipe you should commit to memory. Andrew and I made these ribs for ourselves and a few friends a while back and they were AAAA-MAZING. To say they were finger-licking good is an understatement. They’re more like scarf-um-down, lick your fingers AND the plate, then drink the sauce when the meat is gone-GOOD. The best part? You’re not even ashamed. The shameful thing would be letting one bit of these ribs go to waste.

So basically… you should give these a try. Plus, they’re easy to make. It’s only a three step process; boil the meat, simmer the sauce, then bake them together. Who knows, maybe this will be the recipe that makes your family and friends get all dreamy for your cooking.

Nancy’s Baby Back Ribs:


Makes 6-8 Servings

  • 4 pounds baby back ribs (2 racks)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 5 1/2 ounces tomato paste


1. Cut the ribs into serving sizes, 2-3 bones. Place the ribs into a large pot and submerge in water. Cover with a lid.

2. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, cook for 30 minutes, then drain.boil the ribs

3. While the ribs are boiling, measure the rest of the ingredients into a sauce pan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until the onion is soft.

simmer sauce

4. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Transfer the ribs to a baking dish, and pour over the sauce. Cover with a lid or tin foil.

5. Bake for one hour.


Growing up, I ate a lot of banana bread. My mom always kept bananas in the house for us to bring to lunch or have for breakfast.  But the thing is, we hardly ever actually ate them. So come the weekend, we’d have banana bread! I suspect the real reason my mom bought bananas was to make bread with them, and if one of us kids happened to eat one along the way, then great.

Now that I’m all grown up and buying my own food, I do the exact same thing.  I’ve just gotten used to always having bananas on the counter, because I really don’t like them. I try to eat them all, but inevitably one or two get over ripe.  So I throw them in a ziplock bag and freeze them until I have enough for a big batch of banana bread.

Banana bread is an awesomely straightforward breakfast to make on the weekend. When you’re all groggy in the morning you don’t want to make something finicky and complicated. For this recipe you simply mix wet ingredients, mix the dry ingredients, mix them together, then you throw it in the oven and go back to bed for an hour. Easy peasy.

This recipe is an adaption of a more traditional banana nut bread recipe. I use 2:1 ratio of flour to cornmeal and include dried fruit along with walnuts. The addition of the cornmeal and dried fruits makes this bread more substantial and a little less cake-like. I tend to like hardier breakfast over pastries and this is reflected in this version of banana bread.


Dry Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Wet Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut (optional)


  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Mix in the optional nuts and dried fruit at this point.
  4.  Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.

Mussels and Fries

While I was in Philadelphia over the holidays, I had dinner at a charming pub called Monk’s Cafe that served “Belgium’s national dish” – pots of mussels in savory sauce with fries. The combination of flavors, complemented by a good beer, was inspired.  I had many tasty bites while I was visiting Philly, but I kept thinking about this dish.

Since coming back to Berkeley, I happened upon a recipe for mussels that sounded very similar to dish I had at Monks. Still drooling at the memory of that dinner in Philly, I decided to try it out. I was a little nervous about cooking mussels for the first time, but this dish was surprisingly easy. I’m also happy to report that it’s just a good at as the mussels I had in Philadelphia. I’m generally not a fan of seafood but this recipe is a true exception.

The fries I made to accompany the mussels are probably the easiest at-home fries that you can possibly make. They take a little longer than traditional deep-fried potatoes, but they’re much less messy and a lot healthier.  The trick with these baked fries is the two-step baking process, which replicates the two-step frying process of truly delicious deep-fried fries. The fries are baked at a high temperature to cook and brown them, and then baked for another period at a lower temperature to dry them out because nobody likes soggy fries.

You’ll want the fries and the mussels to finish at the same time. To time everything perfectly, prep everything you’ll need to cook the mussels and when you have about 15 minutes left on the fries, start the pot of mussels.

Recipes from The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider

Baked Fries:

  • 2-3 large baking potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste

Baked Fries

Savory Mussel Stew:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 shallots
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbs. butter

Pot of Mussels

I found it quite good to pull the mussels out of the shell and let them soak in the broth. Don’t forget to enjoy this meal with good beer!


How to Roast Beets

Apple Crisp

Hello, Everyone! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas!

Personally, I’m glad to be on the other side.  Now that Christmas is over, I can actually relax and enjoy being home with my parents and sisters. We always do way too much on Christmas day. We visit both sides of the family, friends, and try to squeeze in a little immediate family time as well. I’m sure many of you do a similar holiday run around. Having many people that love you, and want to see you is certainly not something to complain about. However, it does make for a busy day. I can only see it getting even more complicated in the future, as my sisters and I get married, and eventually have kids… But let’s not to worry about that now.

This recipe is one I’ve been sitting on for a couple of weeks. I made an adorable little apple crisp for my sweetie and I right before I left for the holidays. It was the perfect amount for two people. It was an amazing not-too-heavy dessert. I actually debated about whether or not to post yet another dessert recipe after all the holiday indulgences. Since I already did the drawings, I figured why not?  I’ll start posting healthy recipes in the new year.

Sometimes, I feel self-conscience about my posts because they’re pretty revealing as to what my diet has been like. If you’ve noticed my recent posts have been all pies and desserts, it’s because that’s exactly what I’ve been eating. Again, I’ll start eating and posting healthier meals after the holidays, really I promise. Until then, ease into your New Year’s resolution of eating better with this slightly lighter treat. Enjoy!


Heather Diane

How to peel core and slice and apple


  • 2 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon all-purpose flour (for filling)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon water
  • 3 tablespoons quick-cooking oats
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (for topping)
  • 3 tablespoons  packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degree C).
  2. Place the sliced apples in a 8×4 inch pan. Mix the white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon flour and ground cinnamon together, and sprinkle over apples. Pour water evenly over all.
  3. Combine the oats, 3 tablespoons flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and melted butter together. Crumble evenly over the apple mixture.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes.

Chicken Pot Pie

ANNNND, now it’s almost Christmas. How the heck did that happen!? I know the theme of my last few posts have been “WHOA, whoa, whoa! Where did the time go!?!” But that’s really how I feel!  It’s been a good year and I’m trying to relax and enjoy my holiday travels but I can’t help but feel a little flustered.

I just arrived to my hometown of Jacksonville, North Carolina after visiting friends in Philadelphia and Raleigh.  It’s been a great trip so far and I feel grateful to be able to spend this time with friends and family. At this point I realize I’m not going to get much done for the rest of month, so I’m trying to plan for next year.  In the new year, I’m hoping to manage my time more carefully, so I can accomplish more and not feel like time is my enemy.  I’m even going to try this new thing, where I wake up early.

Anyways, I know I’m not the only one who finds the end of the year stressful. For those of you who need some serious comfort food, try this chicken pot pie recipe. It’s warm, flavorful, and really hits the spot on a chilly night.

I hope everyone who is traveling has a safe and lovely trip. To all my fellow end-of-year stress puppies, hang in there and have some pie.

Heather Diane


  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  1. Mix together the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Pour in the olive oil and mix until moistened.
  2. Stir in the warm water.
  3. Knead the dough until it’s soft and elastic but not sticky.
  4. Divide the dough into two portions, one for the top crust and one for the bottom. The portion for the bottom crust should be slightly larger.
  5. Set the dough aside while you prepare the filling.


  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cubed
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup french green beans, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)
  2. In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, green beans, and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
  3. In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Assembling the Pie:

  1. Select a pie dish about 2 inches deep and 10 inches wide.
  2. On a floured surface, roll out the the larger portion of the dough. Place it into the bottom of the dish and shape it so it comes up and over the sides of the dish.
  3. Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over.
  4. Roll out the second portion of dough and place it over the filling, so that it meets the edge of the dish. Shape and trim the dough as needed.
  5. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal.
  6. Puncture the center of the dough with an one inch X
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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