Posts in Category: Outside of the Kitchen

Affordable Gift Ideas 2017

Hi everyone – December is already here so let’s just cut to the chase. I’ve gathered all my gift ideas and put together a list of my favorite affordable holiday gift Ideas for 2017. Enjoy!

1) Serene House Ultrasonic Cool Mist Aromatherapy Diffuser

We’re all looking for ways to relax and unwind these days. Unlike other aromatherapy diffusers out there, this one has a handy automatic shut-off timer. Purchase online at Nordstrom.


2) Lands End Natural Canvas Tote Bag

This durable tote bag can be customized to your (or your recipient’s) liking – everything from color scheme to bag capacity to handle length! Perfect for everyday errands, grocery shopping and beach trips, this tote will quickly become your go-to bag.




3) Windowbox Herb Planter

This Windowbox Herb Planter from the Tasteful Garden is a great gift for a cooking enthusiast. The planter comes with 3 herb plants of your choice(!), soil and they are perfect for indoor growing. Planter colors include taupe, brown marble, or charcoal.

4) Escali Chrome Digital Kitchen Scale

This handy scale is making its appearance again on my affordable gift ideas list. I think this scale is the most reliable, economical kitchen scale around. I use them at my bakery as well as at the beach loft. It is readily available on

5) COCO Eco-chic Candles by Stone Candles

I love the COCO line of candles by Santa Monica based Stone Candles. The COCO line is comprised of eco-chic coconut wax candles that come in a wide range of scents and start at $6,99. Handcrafted and clean burning, the Honeysuckle candle is my favorite scent so far!


6) Farm to Table Desserts Cookbook

Well of course I had to recommend my cookbook Farm to Table Desserts: 80 Seasonal, Organic Recipes from your Farmers’ Market! It’s perfect for anytime of the year as the recipes are presented by seasons. Purchase my book on Amazon.

7) Heart of Glass Choker by Frasier Sterling

Like them or not, chokers are back in style. Handmade in Los Angeles, Frasier Sterling creations are beautiful and affordable.

8) QUIP Electric Toothbrush

So this gift is probably more for family than friends 🙂 Called the “iPhone of toothbrushes”, this sleek electric toothbrush is getting rave reviews for its sleek design, portability, ease of use and performance. Starter sets begin at $25 with 3-month refills starting at $5. Check it out!

9) Alex and Ani Friend Charm Bangle

The ultimate emblem of friendship, the periwinkle, symbolizes eternity and the power of camaraderie. Enough said.

10) Textured Plaid Square Scarf by J.Jill

I love getting scarves from J. Jill. They have such a nice assortment of designs at reasonable prices. I’m loving this textured plaid scarf because it’s a classic design that’s not too showy yet still eye catching.

Happy Holidays!

beach town baking

Holiday Gift Ideas 2016

I can’t believe it’s that time of the year again. I decided to start Holiday gift shopping as soon as possible this year and spent the weekend finding fabulous and affordable gifts that I’m going to get my friends this season. I’ve gathered all my ideas and put together a list of my favorite Holiday Gift Ideas 2016.

1) Bombas Ski and Snowboard Socks

If you’ve never heard of Bombas, take note. Bombas is all about comfortable socks and paying it forward. For every pair of socks purchased, a pair is donated.  Cool, right? They also have an awesome ‘happiness guaranteed’ return policy. I’m in love with these ski and snowboard socks designed by Olympic Gold Medal snowboarder Hannah Teter. They are midweight performance socks made with high-grade merino wool. Buy a pair for your best girlfriend and while you’re at it, pick up one for yourself.

2) J.Jill Textured Wrap Scarf

092761_essThis lightweight fashionable scarf comes in 3 colors to choose from and is sold online at J.Jill. With chunky stitching and an oh so soft texture this scarf will keep you cozy through the winter months.




3) Kate Spade Thermal Mug

Save some paper cups this season and buy your friends this gold stripe thermal mug from Kate Spade. Made with  BPA-, phthalate-, and lead-free construction, this beautiful mug allows you to sip and savor safely. I love that the lid has an open/close feature!



4) Escali Primo Digital Kitchen Scale

I think these scales are the most reliable, economical kitchen scales around. I use them at my bakery as well as at the beach loft. They come in a variety of colors and are readily available on




5) Voluspa Spruce Cuttings Candle

This is one of my favorite candles to burn over the Holidays. I love the Spruce Cuttings scent and the two wicks. Not only is it pleasant, but it really permeates nicely throughout my loft.


6) Beach House Brunch cookbook

Beach House Brunch 9781510702899

Well of course I had to recommend my cookbook Beach House Brunch! It’s perfect for anytime of the year – whether you’re dreaming of warmer weather or wanting to bake up brunch favorites like Italian Sausage Casserole, Blueberry Pancakes, Omelets, and Cranbery Walnut French Toast. Purchase my book on Amazon.

Oh and while you’re on Amazon, pre-order my third cookbook Farm to Table Desserts!


7) Ellie Alexander’s Caught Bread Handed

I recently came across this fantastic bakeshop mystery series by author Ellie Alexander.  Ellie currently has four titles out, Meet Your Baker, A Batter of Life and Death, On Thin Icing, Caught Bread Handed, and soon to be a fifth with Fudge and Jury (January 3, 2017). The story’s protagonist is Baker Jules Capshaw. Looking for some reprieve from a busy career as a cruise ship pastry chef, Jules retreats to her hometown of Ashland, Oregon to help out at her mother’s bakery Torte. But her dream of peace and quiet quickly dissipates into a cloud of murder, mystery, drama and love.


8) Chewbacca Slippers with Sound

Okay, okay, I know this one’s a bit silly but gosh it’s fun. These Chewbacca slippers emit two different Wookiee roars when you walk. Stay warm and entertain your friends and family at the same time! These are available on



9) Alex and Ani Personalized Charm Initial Bracelet

These personalized charm bracelets make such a nice gift because of their distinctive quality.  Offered by Alex and Ani, they are available in gold or silver finishes. The charms are stamped with script lettering giving the bracelet an elegant, timeless look.



10) Holiday Gingerbread Leggings by ModCloth


One of my favorite online clothing shops is ModCloth. I’m a big fan of all their clothes, but especially their leggings. These Holiday leggings have super cute gingerbread printed on them making them perfect Christmas morning attire. Your friends will love them!




Happy Holidays!

beach town baking

Beach House Brunch officially out today!

Hello Beach and Food Lovers! My second cookbook Beach House Bruncis officially out today!

You can order copies online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Beach House Brunch 9781510702899

There are 100 summer-licious brunch recipes for you to enjoy this summer. Here are some pics of the recipes in this book. Yummm!

NUTELLA POP TARTS (3)BROILED GRAPEFRUIT WITH BROWN SUGAR AND TARRAGON (3)bananasfosterpancakes (6)roastedbeetbloodymary (4) BAKED EGGS MILANESE (3) Breakfast TACOS (1) chive and cheddar omelette (2) EGGS SAN CLEMENTE (3) SOUTHWEST SCRAMBLEheirloom cherry tomato salad (1)warm cashew chicken salad (2)maple pecan waffles (6)baked prosciutto crepes (1)CRANBERRY WALNUT FRENCH TOAST (1)Cinnamon Raisin Loaf (2)sunflower and flax seed bagels


beach town baking

Holiday Gift Ideas under $25

Every year, I find myself frantically searching the internet to try and find last minute, affordable yet fabulous holiday gifts for my friends and family. I figure I must not be the only person who faces this Herculean task so I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite Holiday Gift Ideas under $25.

1) Sees ‘Holiday Fancy’ Chocolate Box


Oh how I love chocolate and Sees never disappoints. I sample many     brands of chocolates, and I always come back to California’s own Sees Candies. Their Holiday Fancy box is an assortment of fruit and chocolate truffles and brittles. And since it comes in a decorative box no wrapping required.



2) BP Popcorn Stich Infinity Scarf


This lightweight fashionable scarf comes in 3 colors to choose from and is sold at Nordstroms Juniors. With chunky stitching and an oh so soft texture this scarf will keep you cozy through the winter months.



3) Personalized Bamboo Bar Board

bamboo board

This is one of my favorite gifts. The personalization makes it look like you made that extra effort and who doesn’t like that? Find this gift on




4) Paddywax Apothecary Candles



Based in Nashville, Paddywax specializes in hand poured, fragrance-infused, soy wax blended candles. I love their Apothecary line consisting of old world apothecary bottles in deep amber. The Verbena & Eucalyptus is my favorite. And at $19 a piece these candles are a steal.




5) Kuhn Rikon Small Santokus

santokusHigh carbon Japanese steel makes these knives perfect for slicing, mincing and dicing. The various colors avoid cross contamination and an ergonomic handle design makes prep work a breeze. The knives come with matching sheaths that help keep blades sharp. You can find these awesome knives at Sur La Table.


6) Beach House Baking bake book

Beach House Baking_FINAL


Well of course I had to recommend my book Beach House Baking! It’s perfect for anytime of the year – whether you’re dreaming of warmer weather or wanting to bake up winter favorites like apple cider donuts, apple pear ginger pie and s’mores cupcakes. Purchase my book on Amazon.



Happy Shopping!


beach town baking

Sailor Jerry Rum Laguna Beach Bungalow

photo 5

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Sailor Jerry Rum Bungalow launch party for the new ‘Sailor Jerry’ Bungalow at the beautiful Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach.

Who is Sailor Jerry, you ask? Norman ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins was an actual sailor living in Hawaii whose original tattoo artwork made him popular in the 1940’s and 50’s. Some of you may be more familiar with his protégés, Ed Hardy and Mike Malone. These two artists went on to create a rum inspired by their mentor and named it ‘Sailor Jerry’ Rum, a 92 proof spiced rum featuring a quintessential ‘Sailor Jerry’ hula girl on the label. I had the chance to try it for the first time at the party and dang was it delicious!

photo 1

The bungalow is a great way to enjoy the beach when you’re in Laguna. Day rentals are around $500 – $600. The bungalow which sits right on the beach includes its own tiki bar, full beach access, a pinball machine, private bathroom, comfy lounge-like sitting area, and a large outside deck with stunning ocean views. Bottle and food service is offered as well.

photo 4photo 1 (2)

Small bites that evening of grilled cheese sandwiches, crab cakes, lamb chops, pork belly and pepper-crusted grilled ahi tuna were provided by The Deck, the hotel’s restaurant. Bravo to the Chef!

photo 3 (3) photo 2 (2)

Guests drank ‘Sailor Jerry’ Rum-based drinks and enjoyed the tasty bites while live acoustic music played in the background.

photo 4 (2) photo 3

The evening ended with a stunning sunset along the Laguna Beach coast. It was the perfect end to a truly fun evening.


photo 3 (2)



beach town baking

Beach House Baking Release Party

book on table

Happy Summer everyone! Last week was the much anticipated Beach House Baking release party held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach.  After a month full of emails, phone calls and taste testing, the Beach House Baking Release Party went off without a hitch.

I’m thrilled to share with all of you some memorable shots from the party. And if you haven’t checked out my book yet, Beach House Baking is now available for purchase on Amazon here. It’s full of great summer and beach-inspired recipes for everyone!

First up – dessert! I baked up a variety of sweets from my book and created a beachy dessert table for guests to pick and choose from. The recipes I made from my book included: PCH (pina colada highway) cupcakes, Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes, Blueberry Lavender Pie, Tsunamis and Coco Hut Macaroons.

dessert table dessert table 2 dessert table_1

The reception was held at Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern in the St. Regis Monarch Beach, where I was the former pastry chef. Below are just some of the delicious canapés they served: avocado spheres filled with Dungeness crab, fried chicken bites, crispy kale chips, kobe beef sliders.

canapes 2 canapes 1 canapes 4 canapes 3

I was thrilled to have some very special guest bloggers and editors on hand. Anita Lau of Mad Hungry Woman, Valerie Mitchell of Mama Likes to Cook, Shelby Barone of OC Mom’s Blog, Caryn Bailey of Rockin Mama, Angela Saldana of Momfluential, Priscilla Mayfield of Orange Coast Magazine and Cathy Thomas of OC Register/ Cathy Thomas Cooks.

media media 2

Guests spent the evening perusing through my new book in between sips of champagne and my Berry Sangria.

looking at book looking at book 2 dan reading bookamanda and daniel reading book

Lots of friends came out to partake in the celebration, too!

val and justin 1 kate, lei and seyie christina and lei mac at dessert tablejustin amina and moval and justin_3 tracy, val, christina, george dr o and lei allie, heather, lei   seyie, kate, lei

All in all, it was a hugely successful event that was enjoyed by everyone!


beach town baking

A visit to Memphis Cafe for Fried Chicken

It was 6pm Sunday night when the fried chicken craving hit hard. But it was a little too late to drive to Chateau Marmont in Hollywood for their amazing fried chicken Sunday dinner (sad face).  So I jumped online and started doing some research with the hopes of finding an alluring Orange County restaurant serving up this classic Southern dish.

It didn’t take too long before I stumbled upon Memphis Café in Costa Mesa in north Orange County. I made my reservation, jumped in the beach mobile and headed north.

photo 2

About 30 minutes later, we landed in Memphis. I would’ve gone right past it had I not been carefully following the Maps app.  The restaurant is in a discreet, non-distinct building and I began questioning whether I had made the right decision for dinner.

We decided to sit in the backyard patio to enjoy the  beautiful cool evening weather. I felt like we were in Memphis sitting in someone’s backyard – plastic chairs and all. Yeah, it was pretty cool. (sidenote: those empty tables were packed when we arrived).


photo 4

We were stoked to learn that Happy Hour was still going on when we arrived so we immediately ordered their $5 margaritas to start the evening off right.

photo 5

After ordering, we were served their homemade cornbread. It was hearty, moist and flavorful. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but trust me, no butter is needed on these delicious treats. I LOVE butter so you gotta know that this cornbread must have been THAT good.

photo 4

We decided to start with two items off their Happy Hour menu: fried okra and Dungeness crab cakes. The fried okra passed with flying colors. The corn meal coating was super crispy and the accompanying spicy aioli took this dish over the top. Hands down, the best fried okra I’ve had to date.

Regarding the crab cakes: a valiant effort, but if you want to get blown away, head to Wildfish in Newport Beach.

photo 1photo 2

Now for the reason I came: Buttermilk Fried Chicken. The chicken was moist and the skin super crispy. It is served practically deboned which makes eating it somewhat less authentic. I wanted to get my hands greasy, folks! The collard greens had a nice vinegary tang. That huge fried round thang you see is a hush puppy. They were good although a little too large for my liking.

photo 5

If you feel like you need a little more something-something to fill your tummy, order a side order of Hoppin’ John. It’s a classic Southern dish of rice and black-eyed peas with a hit of tabasco.

photo 3

Must’ve been a pretty darn good meal since I ate everything on my plate.

photo 3

I will be going back to  Memphis Café for sure. It had a welcoming laid back atmosphere, friendly attentive service and delicious food.

photo 1

Oh and in case you were wondering, we left PK on the car roof while we ate so he could watch the planes take off from John Wayne Airport.



beach town baking

Barnes and Noble Hopping for Beach House Baking

book on table

It seems like it was a year ago that I began writing my book Beach House Baking. Wait, it was a year ago! Well, all that time and effort has finally paid off and Beach House Baking was finally released just over a week ago. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to hit every Barnes and Noble (B & N) in the LA and OC area and sign the copies of Beach House Baking on their shelves. It was news to me that any author who has a book there is welcome to sign their books. B & N applies an “autographed copy” sticker on the cover and places them in high visibility areas.

signing books

By far the biggest thrill for me has been walking into a B & N and seeing my book front and center, face forward on the same shelf as my favorite chefs such as Ina Garten and David Lebovitz.

book at b and n

And so my friends, the journey continues next week as I head down the coast to San Diego, sharpie in hand!

beach town baking


Beach House Baking now available for pre-sale!



Beach House Baking cookbook

I’m proud to announce that my long-awaited cookbook, Beach House Baking, is now available for pre-order on Amazon! This project has been my baby, and I’m ecstatic that my dream of writing my very own cookbook is finally coming true. And if you’re wondering about the discrepancy between the blog and book title, we (the publisher and I) decided to change our minds about the name midway into this process, but fear not, the concept is still the same: Beach House Baking chronicles my baking adventures in some of my most favorite places to be– beaches!

The book includes some of my favorite recipes for cupcakes, cookies, frozen pops, ice cream sandwiches and pies. The last chapter is called Classics, and includes some of my all-time favorite recipes that I make over and over again, like my Apple Cider Donuts and my Berry Trifle. These are my tried and true favorites that have been hits with my family and friends, and I can’t wait for other people to share it with their loved ones now. Yummm!

Beach House Baking won’t officially release until May 6, but you can pre-order it now to make sure you get it hot off the presses and receive it just in time for Mother’s Day. If you order 2–one for you and one for your mom– shipping is free!

For those of you who may not be that into baking, you’ll still enjoy the beautiful photos of the beach and sweet treats taken by my photographer Chau Vuong. Her photos are exquisite and will make you want to try out all my recipes!

Click here to pre-order your copy now!


beach town baking

Piña Colada Cupcakes


After weeks of anticipation, here it is: my Piña Colada Cupcake recipe! This is one of my favorite cupcake creations at my bakery, Sugar Blossom Bake Shop, and I’m so excited to share this recipe with you.


My Piña Colada Cupcake was inspired by a Puerto Rico trip my girlfriends and I went on together. Every time I bake these cupcakes, memories of sipping on piña coladas under an umbrella shade with my feet buried beneath the warm Puerto Rican sand come flooding back to me.


The cupcake is super flavorful thanks to the rum and coconut milk in the batter. You can use any rum of your choice, but I highly recommend using Ron del Barrilito rum; This full-bodied Puerto Rican rum is exceptional and will give your cupcakes an excellent flavor. It’s a bit of a challenge to locate here in the United States, but well worth it if you manage to get your hands on a bottle.

I frost the cupcake with cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut. I find that the cream cheese complements the flavors well and the toasted coconut adds a welcome crunch. See my blog post for how to toast coconut.

The “piña” is in the form of a caramelized baby pineapple ring. Brover sells canned baby pineapple rings of excellent quality. See my blog post for how to caramelize pineapple.

Beach House Baking’s Pina Colada Cupcakes 

1½ cups cake flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1¼ cups sugar

½ cup coconut milk

¼ cup Ron del Barrilito rum

2 large eggs

¼ cup sour cream

2 cups toasted shredded coconut for garnish

14 caramelized baby pineapples (Brover brand) for garnish

14 maraschino cherries with stems for garnish


Cream Cheese Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar

6 ounces cream cheese, cold

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Make the cupcake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with 14 liners.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter, sugar, coconut milk, and rum on low speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Scrape bowl. Add the sour cream and dry ingredients alternately, beginning with cream and ending with the flour.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them just below the rim. (I use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop.) Bake for 16 to 17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Make the frosting:

Sift the powdered sugar and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla on medium speed until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl well and mix for another 2 minutes to ensure no lumps remain.

Add the powdered sugar all at once and beat on low speed just until sugar is incorporated. Then beat at high speed for 10 seconds. Scrape down sides well. Beat the mixture again on high speed for 10 seconds.

Frost the cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting, crumb the edges with the toasted coconut, and top with a caramelized baby pineapple and maraschino cherry.


beach town baking


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: