VANILLA LATTE is a blog dedicated to food & travel with occasional random stuff thrown in. It is managed and written by me, Maggie Ha.

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Dîner en Blanc 24Aug12

Dîner en Blanc

What a week it’s been! Monday was a super extraordinary day. First, I wake up to a lovely little feature on Refinery29. And then my afternoon was spent cooking and prepping for this year’s Dîner en Blanc in New York.

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Vanilla Latte Baby Bundt Cakes 24Jul12

Vanilla Latte Baby Bundt Cakes

I think I’ve found my signature Vanilla Latte baked good! I love vanilla lattes and I love baby bundt cakes. The shape allows for more surface space for more browning along the side and it leaves a little bowl in the middle for extra icing to hide in. And it sorta kinda tastes like a donut!

Let’s talk flavors for a second. I’ve been tweaking this recipe for a while to get the right amount of vanilla without overpowering and just a slight hint of espresso throughout. By golly I think I’ve done it! Vanilla, while so delicious, can ruin a dish if over do it. I have been using vanilla bean paste in a lot of my recipes because its slightly milder than the extract. So many test batches later… I’ve found that using a whole vanilla bean for this cake is exactly the perfect amount of vanilla.

Espresso on the other hand, I feel like I always want more of but the flavor doesn’t aways come through. I like adding espresso to brownies and chocolate cakes to give it that extra depth. The cocoa and coffee bean are just made for each other. Doesn’t always quite work with non-chocolate recipes. With this recipe, I think I’ve found a nice balance. Hope you like it!

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Pan-Seared Cod with Herb Pesto 17Jul12

Pan Seared Cod with Herb Pesto

Summer has this lovely way of making me eat healthier. It’s 100% due to the fact that I might have to be in a bathing suit. Maybe I’ll actually make it to the ocean or perhaps a pool party! You never know! So many things in season, it’s hard to balance all the ice cream and lobster rolls. I’ve been filling my weeknights with quick healthy meals like this one and totally splurging on the weekends.

One of my favorite weekday go to meals: pan-seared cod with chopped blanched broccoli topped with some fragrant cilantro basil pesto. Tons of flavor, perfectly healthy and totally filling. It’s so easy to make and you can keep the sauce on hand for a few days to go with other meals. Hope you like it!

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Prosecco Elderflower Cocktail 14May12

Prosecco Elderflower Cocktail

Ah springtime. The sun is shining, leaves are back on the trees, flowers are blooming, and best of all, outdoor seating, patios and rooftop bars are back! Sipping on refreshing cocktails is a nice way to spend any afternoon but there’s something special about drinking outdoors that makes drinks that much more delicious. Whether it’s sangria, mojitos, margaritas, wine, beer or even water…. it just tastes better outside with the sun shining down.

And on the topic of cocktails, I recently threw a bridal shower where I featured six different signature drinks, each named after a Disney princess. It was my little way of incorporating the bride’s love for Disney without breaking out tiaras. The drinks were a HUGE hit! So much so that I’ve gotten several requests for the recipes. Well ladies, here you go! This is the Aurora drink… Prosecco with berries, mint and elderflower liqueur. Aurora is Sleeping Beauty for those of you who don’t know your princesses. Okay, I know very little about her as well. Wikipedia tells me that she’s got 3 fairy godmothers and I think there’s some reds, purples and greens going on. Tada! Reds, purples, green… and delicious!

Now to be totally honest, I’ve had some variation of this drink before. Some friends of mine made a big pitcher of something simliar at a Sunday brunch. Champagne with St Germain is a favorite combo of mine so when I see it on a menu, I am most likely going to order that. I’ve had the berries and mint combo with rums and vodkas. I’ve tried different versions of all these ingredients but this is the recipe for my favorite combo. And yes that little hint of lemon makes the biggest difference. Don’t forget the lemon!

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Salsa Verde aka Tomatillo Salsa 4May12

Salsa Verde aka Tomatillo Salsa

That’s right, tomorrow is one of my favorite holidays… Cinco de Mayo! Who does not love Cinco de Mayo? Okay quick disclaimer: I realize it’s not a holiday that many people celebrate. The day doesn’t actually commemorate Mexican independence either (that’s in September day before my birthday), we’ve just adopted it as a day to celebrate Mexican heritage… which means mariachis, tequila and tacos for all. Having spent most of my life in LA, celebrating Cinco de Mayo is no different to me than the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Chinese New Year.

I learned how to cook most of my Mexican dishes as a kid growing up in a hispanic neighborhood. There was always a mom, aunt or grandma telling me to stir, chop or mix something. This Salsa Verde recipe was picked up somewhere along the way. It’s super simple and easy to make. It’s a nice mild and tangy salsa made with tomatillos (husked green tomatoes). It’s great with chips or on top of pretty much anything. I usually have this, a traditional Pico de Gallo, and 7 different hot sauces on hand in the fridge at all times. What? A girl needs her choice of sauces!

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Zucchini & Squash Ribbon Salad 19Apr12

Zucchini & Squash Ribbon Salad

Since I’ve been on a raw food health kick lately, I’ve been experimenting a lot with different vegetables: cabbage, kale, carrots, beets, chickpeas, sprouts, and zucchini. I mean practically anything can be a “salad” if you want it to. I’m more excited about playing with their textures. I love the firmness of the raw zucchini, it’s almost like al dente pasta. I’ve done zucchini pasta before, by shredding the zucchini to be like spaghetti and then mixing in some tomato sauce but ribbons are different! Ribbons are like… pappardelle!

Okay, who am I kidding? Zucchini will never replace my love for pasta, but when you want something light, super refreshing with a little more bite than a piece of lettuce… this is the salad for you. Oh did I mention, it’s also delicious? I think the best part about this salad is that it took me about 15 minutes to make. It doesn’t even involve the stove! This recipe will come in really handy this summer. Hope you like it!
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And I’m back! 19Apr12


Where does the time go?! I cannot believe it’s been so long since my last post. But to be totally honest, I had planned on taking a little break from Vanilla Latte at the beginning of the year. What was supposed to be one month off to redesign the website turned into… gasp… 4 months! And I still have no new design to show for it.

So what have I been doing? Well, I took a little “me” time after being sick for most of January. I decided to slow down on the work front and dedicate more time to friends and family. That did not quite happen, but I’m slowly getting there. How amazing was winter this year? I don’t even think I wore snow shoes at all. Next thing I knew, it was March and I was getting ready for the start of  wedding season. Spring rolled around and it’s been gorgeous in NY. A little sunshine was just the jumpstart I needed to get back to sharing my food adventures with you.

And on the topic of food adventures, I have been a little more adventurous in the seafood department. I think I can officially call myself a pescatarian, but I still generally stay more towards the plant based stuff. I am currently experimenting with a diet that has me eating veggies (mostly raw), fish (mostly raw), and tons of beans. I’ve  mostly cut out dairy, white carbs, and sugar. It’s been hard but with one cheat day a week, I still get to enjoy a burrito and scarf down a slice of pizza occasionally. We will see how long this lasts, but it has inspired me to post about all the salads and vegan dishes I’ve come up with. So stay tuned for spring health kick 2012!

And for those of you who didn’t know already, you can become a fan of Vanilla Latte on Facebook! And if you’re on twitter, you can find me follow @VanillaLatteCom.

Sweet Potato Hasselback 21Nov11

Sweet Potato Hasslebacks

It’s almost time for Thanksgiving!!! As soon as I decided to cook this year (about 2 months ago) I have been fine-tuning the menu and trying new takes on old favorites. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s pretty much the best excuse to cook all day long. So on top of the traditional Roast Turkey, Stuffing, Roasted Garlic Potatoes and Gravy, I am making my Jalapeño Cornbread, a variety of salads, and my alternative to candied yams or sweet potato…. sweet and savory sweet potato hasselbacks!

I love yams and I love sweet potatoes. I’ll eat them mashed, baked whole, french fried, in risottos and pretty much any other way to cook them. Except with marshmallows on top. I think it’s just a little too sweet for me. Hasselback Potatoes are baked potatoes with slots cut in and stuffed with garlic or breadcrumbs. It’s a Swedish dish… gotta love Swedish design, even in food! So I’ve tried a few variations of this recipe but this is the perfect balance of sweet and savory. You can use both yams and sweet potatoes for this recipe. Yams are generally a little more narrow than the sweet potato so make sure you don’t over cook, they will tend to mush together.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Provolone 17Nov11

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Provolone

I’ve been meaning to post this dish for a really long time. It is quite possibly my favorite go-to pasta dish. I would say it’s the pasta dish of all time but Mac n Cheese will always win that fight. But since Mac n Cheese, to me, means making a béchamel, using 4-5 cheeses, and patiently waiting for the baking part to be done…. this simple orecchiette dish wins for being quick, easy and so delicious!

I absolutely love Broccoli Rabe, aka Rapini. I love it’s nutty bitterness and vibrant green color. It’s also jam packed with good for your vitamins. As a side dish, I like to sauté with a little olive oil, so you really keep the flavor of broccoli rabe. Maybe a little grated Pecorino on top. Mmm. Okay so say you don’t love Broccoli Rabe as much as I do, you can easily substitute with other hearty greens like broccolini, spinach, or kale. I’ve tried the variations, nothing beats the rabe with this recipe! The provolone is a perfect sweet balace to the bite of the rabe. You’ll have to just trust me and try it. Bon appétit!

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Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting 18Aug11

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

Quite possibly one of my favorite ways to consume bananas… in cake form and with chocolate! These cupcakes are so fragrant and scrumptious looking just sitting on my kitchen counter, I had to have one with my cuppa tea this morning. Okay I guess the tea was more meant to go with my cupcake than the other way around. I mean it’s a hearty breakfast right? There’s bananas in them!

I pretty much buy bananas with the intention of eating about 2 and then patiently waiting for the remainder of the bunch to ripe for a few days so I can make banana bread. I associate banana bread with breakfast because the cafe’s in Sydney served them as a breakfast menu item. Mmmm, toasted with a little bit of butter melted on top. Wish my local cafe here had banana bread as an option!

I adapted this banana cupcake recipe from Martha, adding a little here and there. I used my go-to simple chocolate frosting recipe because to me, banana goes with chocolate like peanut butter and jelly. Hope you like them as much as I do!

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Latest Latte

Ground Support

My local favorite is currently Ground Support in SOHO. I go there almost every day for a smooth creamy soy cappuccino or if it’s hot out an iced soy latte. When I’m not in a hurry to run out, I try to take a few extra minutes to enjoy the coffee in the shop… you know, chat with the staff, catch up on some calls and best of all… people watch. Always some interesting characters in NYC!

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  • Inspiration

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