Tag Archives: orange

Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti for the Holidays

pistachio cookies Melissa Iwai 4

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Wow, Chanukah has already passed and Christmas is just days away!

I haven’t had a chance to bake much this season because of all my art projects, but managed to combine my two loves for this batch of Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti.

I’ve been making these biscotti pretty much every year, but this time I changed it up by adding orange zest and a 1 tablespoon of orange juice to the batter. I thought they’d be pretty with some white, so I drizzled melted white chocolate over the biscotti.

I mentioned combining my art and baking — this is what I created — an illustrated recipe for They Draw and Cook. 🙂

cranberry pistachio biscotti Melissa Iwai 2015

It is featured on their site this week as a Red and Green recipe.

I know it is hard to read the recipe so small! Here it is for your printing purposes (note: the white chocolate part and orange juice is not in the illustrated recipe because I didn’t have enough room!):

pistachio cookies Melissa Iwai 2

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice

1 cup salted shelled pistachio nuts

1 1/3 cups dried cranberries

1 large egg, or white, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water to  make egg wash

1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted (optional)

pistachio cookies Melissa Iwai 5

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line baking sheet with parchment.

2 Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda &powder &salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, vanilla, orange zest and beat with mixer  just until a dough forms.

3. Add cranberries and pistachios and mix at low speed.

4. Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead several times. Halve dough, then form each half into a 13 by 2 inch slightly flattened log on baking sheet, Brush logs with egg wash.

5. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet on a rack 10 minutes.

6. Transfer to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices with a serrated knife. Arrange slices, cut side down, in 1 layer on baking sheet Bake in middle of oven turning once until golden and crisp. 20 – 25 minutes total.

7. Cool completely and drizzle with melted white chocolate if you’d like.  Put the melted chocolate in a sandwich bag, seal, and snip a hole in one corner. Squeeze and drizzle chocolate over cooled biscotti. Chill in the refrigerator to set chocolate.






Filed under Art Related, Desserts

Orange Infused Goji Berries and Yogurt


Goji berries are said to be one of the most anti-oxidant rich foods on the planet. Some claim that it boosts one’s immunity system, improves one’s brain function, and even extends one’s life expectancy! They are high in vitamins C and A and are also a good source of iron and fiber, and have some protein. I buy them in bulk at a local market, but they are also readily available at health food stores.

The dried berries are quite hard in their dried state. Unlike dried cranberries, they are not very chewy either. In Chinese cuisine, they are used in cooked dishes, so I decided to reconstitute mine in very hot orange juice. I heated 1/4 cup of orange juice and soaked about 1/4 cup of goji berries in it for about 10 – 15 minutes. This really softened them up and made them much easier to chew. I then mixed them in a 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt and sprinkled with reserved berries, toasted almonds, coconut, and cinnamon for garnish.  Such a delicious, quick, and healthy snack!


Orange Infused Goji Berries and Yogurt

1/4 cup orange juice, gently heated

1/4 cup dried goji berries

1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)

toasted sliced almonds, dried coconut, and cinnamon for garnish

1.  Soak goji berries in heated orange juice in a small bowl for about 10 – 15 minutes

2.  Reserve a few berries for garnish.  Mix the rest along with orange juice into the Greek yogurt and stir until combined.

3.  Sprinkle toasted sliced almonds, dried coconut, cinnamon, and reserved berries on top and serve.



Filed under Breakfast, Snack, Vegetarian

Citrus Tonic and My Sketchbook

citrus tonic

I’ve been sick AND busy, and this is about the extent of my experimenting with recipes!  I made this in my Vitamix:  One whole orange and one whole lemon.  You can add honey or sugar for sweetness, but I like it tart and left it out.  I had such a sore throat and was congested, and this really hit the spot — kind of like an epic Vitamin C kick in the pants.

Then I decided to paint it:


Recently, I’ve begun painting every day in my Moleskin sketchbook as a daily routine.  At first it was really hard, and I felt super self conscious about what I was painting, but I’ve finally found a certain level of comfort with it.  I don’t really care how they will turn out — it’s the process that counts — or rather, the practice– a kind of meditation.  Sometimes I am so tired and exhausted at the end of the day, especially when I was really sick, I only spend ten to fifteen minutes on them!

To read more about the development of this practice, go here.

To see my daily sketch paintings in the future — I plan to do continue to do one every day — right now they have been focussed on street life in Brooklyn — follow me on Instagram! 🙂

Citrus Tonic (really nice for when you’re feeling the cold bug taking over your face!)

One navel orange, peeled

One lemon, peeled and seeded

Honey, agave, sugar, or other sweetener if desired

1.  Process in blender and drink up!



Filed under Art Related, Beverages

Winter Citrus Pound Cake

January 2014_melissa3

This is pretty much what our January is looking like!

Even after living in NYC after more than sixteen years, seeing trees shed all their leaves in autumn and snow fall in winter is still a novelty for me.  Hey, it beats mudslides, wildfires, and earthquakes.

One thing I miss about California, though, is the fresh produce year round.  Here, on the other hand, I usually only buy apples, pears, and grapefruit regularly during the winter, because they are plentiful and reasonably priced.  At our local green market, grapefruits are three for a dollar, which is a great price for the city.  And who doesn’t love a burst of fresh citrus in the morning?


Denis likes his with sugar, and I like mine with salt (I know–weird, but maybe it’s a Hawaiian thing passed down from my parents?)  Jamie doesn’t like grapefruit, which works out fine, because then I only have to cut up one.


I decided to experiment with grapefruit in my baking. It’s usually not the first fruit you think of it — it has some sour, bitter notes.  But I love lemon and orange poundcake, and I thought, maybe it would be a good candidate for it.  I made one  based on Ina Garten’s Orange Pound Cake, halving the recipe and substituting grapefruit juice and zest.  We brought the cake to Shelter Island and I iced it there.

Denis took these photos. Ahh, natural lighting!

Denis took these photos.
Ahh, natural lighting!

Denis’ mom wrinkled her nose when he told her it was a “Grapefruit Cake”, as she’s not a fan of grapefruit.  I told him I was going to tell her it was  “Winter Citrus Cake” but he beat me to it.  Luckily, she tried it anyway, and guess what– she loved it!  So did our non-eating grapefruit son.

loaf slice

The cake doesn’t actually taste anything close to fresh grapefruit.  It has a “lemony” “orangey” “citrusy” flavor.  I think if you gave someone a taste of this, they wouldn’t even guess it was made with grapefruit!  Just tell them it is a “Citrus Cake” — it sounds better.  Grapefruit lovers and non-grapefruit lovers alike can enjoy this is nice winter treat. 🙂

slice 2

Winter Citrus Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup freshly squeezed and strained grapefruit juice, divided

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick of butter

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons grapefruit zest (about two grapefruits)

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a loaf pan bottom with parchment and grease or spray sides with non-stick spray.

2.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.  In another bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the grapefruit juice, the buttermilk, and the vanilla and set aside.

3.  Cream the butter with 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and the grapefruit zest.

4.  Add the flour and the buttermilk/grapefruit juice mixture, alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour while mixer is on low.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

5.  Bake for 40-50 minutes , until a cake tester come out clean.  While the cake is baking, heat the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup grapefruit juice in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves completely.  Set aside.

6.  When cake is done, let sit in the pan to cool for 10 minutes.  Then remove, and put on a rack with a baking sheet underneath.  Pierce top of cake with a knife and pour the grapefruit juice sugar mixture on top.  I also make piercings while pouring slowly so that I can get as much of the syrup into the cake. Let cool completely.

7.  When cake is cooled, whisk sifted confectioner’s sugar with a bit of the remaining grapefruit juice until it can pour easily.  Pour over the top of the cake and let glaze set.  I did this step after traveling to our destination, as the icing would have gotten mashed if I had wrapped it tightly and carried it.


Filed under Breakfast, Desserts, Snack, Vegetarian

Guest Post: Tips for a Healthy Vacation and High Fiber Orange Spice Mini Muffins

High Fiber Orange Spice Mini Muffins

High Fiber Orange Spice Mini Muffins (recipe below)

Hope everyone had a Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

I have a guest post today from Cole Millen on Tips for a Healthy Vacation.  Check out his blog, Cole’s Mill – Unique Thoughts and Healthy Perspectives about Health and Travel where there are many articles on eating well, health and travel tips!

Tips For a Healthy Vacation

Going on vacation can be a great way to get away from the stresses of everyday life and take some time off. However, many times, when we go on vacation, we also take a vacation from living healthy. Just because you’re on a trip, that doesn’t mean that you have to live unhealthy. Here are a few tips on how to have a healthier vacation that what you might ordinarily have.

ColeBeing Healthy on Travel Day

If you are flying to your vacation destination, it might be difficult to eat healthy along the way. You have limited choices at the airport, and you might be tempted to grab some fast food. Eat a large healthy meal at home before you head to the airport. This way, you won’t be hungry for a while and you might be able to make it to your destination without needing to eat again. If you need to eat, see if you can find a salad or a fruit cup at the airport.

At the airport, consider taking the stairs with your luggage instead of riding the elevator or escalator. You might also want to pack some of your own healthy snacks to eat while you’re at the airport instead of buying something unhealthy. Snacks such as dried fruits, vegetables, and nuts are great alternatives that will keep your body nourished and feed your craving.

At the Hotel

When you’re at the hotel, it may be difficult to live healthy because of you might not have a kitchen to cook in. It is probably in your best interest to not even get the key for that mini bar in your room. This way, you can avoid any urges to eat junk food. Get healthy snacks like fruit and nuts from a local store instead. You can cook soup or oatmeal in the microwave in your room, if you have one. At the Continental breakfast, try to stay away from the high sugar items such as cereals and muffins. Instead, have foods that are full of healthy nutrients that will help you through the day such as eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, fruits, and whole-wheat toast.

Eating Out

While on vacation, you will probably have to eat out quite a bit. Before going out, look online for a local restaurant that has healthy options. Look at the menu online so that you know exactly what they offer. Also, reading reviews from travelers that have been to the same area can greatly help in finding healthy restaurants. Customer reviews provide honest feedback and can help you locate a healthy restaurant. On a recent trip out to Sin City, I found a great site that listed reviews for hotels in Las Vegas regarding both the hotel and the restaurants in the area. This made it extremely easy to find a great hotel as well as to plan out the great and healthy restaurants to visit. Look for foods that aren’t fried, don’t have a lot of carbohydrates, and involve minimal preparation. Try to avoid all you can eat restaurants, as they usually lead to unhealthy choices.

Going on vacation doesn’t mean that you have to gain weight and be unhealthy. With a little bit of work on your part, you should be able to make it work.

-Cole Millen


better spice muffin

Thanks, Cole, for sharing these tips!  I also try to have healthy snacks on hand while we travel, so we are not stuck buying junk food while in transit.  These high fiber mini muffins are great for travel. They are perfect for breakfast on the go or a healthy snack.  We ate some on the train during our travels over the weekend. 🙂

High Fiber Orange Spice Mini Muffins

(Note:  If you prefer to make regular sized muffins, this recipe should make 1 dozen, but you have to bake for 25-30 minutes probably! Check with a toothpick or skewer after 25 minutes.)

1 large navel orange

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup flour

3/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/3 cup rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped prunes (if you don’t have these, raisins might work)

Optional Cinnamon Sugar Topping:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line mini muffin tins with liners. Set aside.

2.  Grate half of orange until you have about 1 teaspoon of orange zest.  Set aside.  Then section the orange segments (I remove the membrane) and chop into little pieces. Pour juice that gathers on cutting board back into a bowl with the orange pieces.  Set aside.

3.  Melt butter and honey together (I used a microwave at 15 second intervals).  Stir together until incorporated.

4.  In a large bowl, whisk together flours, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom.  Set aside.

5.  Whisk together buttermilk and egg.  Then stir in butter and honey mixture.

6.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in bowl and pour the buttermilk mixture in.  Mix together until everything is incorporated.
7.  Spoon batter into muffin lined tins.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  Check centers with a toothpick or skewer.  If it comes out clean, they are done.

8.  Remove mini muffins to cool on a wire rack.  If you want the cinnamon topping, make it now!

9.  For cinnamon topping, stir together sugar and cinnamon.  Melt butter.  Brush tops of muffins with butter and dip tops into cinnamon sugar mixture.

Cool completely before storing.

Makes 36 mini muffins.


Filed under Breakfast, Snack, Travel, Vegetarian

The Sketchbook Project and Cinco de Mayo Whole Fruit Margaritas

What better way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than a freshly made margarita?

What better way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than with a freshly made margarita?

This past weekend marked both the advent of Cinco de Mayo and the day the Sketchbook Project Mobile Library was in NYC at Street Fest! The Sketchbook Mobile Library houses sketchbooks created last year via the Brooklyn Art Library and travels to cities across North America for people to view.

Jamie is the kid on the scooter.

Jamie is the kid on the scooter.

It was of special interest to me and Jamie because we took part in the Sketchbook Project and our sketchbook is included in the tour!

Sketchbooks in the mobile library.

Sketchbooks in the mobile library.

Checking out books.

Checking out books.

Our sketchbook!

Our sketchbook!

Looking at the sketchbook traveling with ours -- artist is a 14 year old girl.

Looking at the sketchbook traveling next to ours — the sketchbook artist is a 14 year old girl.

I first heard about the Brooklyn Art Library that houses the permanent collection in the New York Times.  I brought Jamie to the library located in Williamsburg last summer during a visit with my friend, Kaori, who used to live in the neighborhood.

Various stationery items for sale.

Various stationery items for sale.

A wall of sketchbooks.

A wall of sketchbooks.

Some rules.

Some rules.

library 1

We loved the vibe and the creative spirit of the venture.  You can go there and buy a sketchbook and fill it and add to the collection.  You can also check out other people’s sketchbooks.  There are so many wonderful ones.  Of course Jamie wanted to do a sketchbook. And me being a softy for anything creative, said yes.  I paid the $25 fee to get started and we were given a blank sketchbook to fill.  As always, Jamie wanted to do a food theme.  Trust me — it wasn’t my idea!  We took turns filling up the pages and deciding on what kind of food to highlight. It was a really fun collaboration. Sometimes his idea would inspire me to do something and vice versa:

Evolution of Sushi and Yaki Onigiri Recipe

Evolution of Sushi/Yaki Onigiri Recipe

Fish for sale and Japanese Breakfast at Inn

Fish Market/Japanese Breakfast at Inn

Mochi Cakes

Mochi Cakes/Make Your own Mochi!

Then the cuisine turned all-American….

Burger Party!

Burger Party!/Hamburger Game

Breakfast Smoothie

Breakfast Smoothie/I Love Strawberries

BBQ Ribs/Slow Cooker Pork Recipe

BBQ Ribs/Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe

Our sketchbook will be on tour for 2013.  Anyone in the world is welcome to participate in the next Sketchbook Project.  Sign up here if you want to take part!  To see more sketchbooks online, you can view them here.  There are so many amazing ones!!

The next day was Cinco de Mayo so….

It was Margarita Time!
margaritaI found the best frozen margarita recipe made from whole fruit!  What a great idea, right?  I love frozen margaritas, but they tend to be overly sweet.  This one isn’t and it is FULL of fresh fruit flavor.  Next time, I will add twice as much lime and halve the orange amount for a tarter lime flavor.  But this one was great.  I even made a virgin one for Jamie, which he loved. 🙂

Whole Fruit Margarita (adapted from Better Recipes — here is the original recipe)  Mine is for 2 servings and I changed the ratio of fruit

Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups ice cubes

2 tablespoons water

1/4 orange, peeled

1/4 lime, peeled

1/4 lemon, peeled

1 1/2 ounces tequila (or more if you like!)

1/2 ounce Triple Sec

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1.  Chill margarita glasses.

2.  Run a wedge of lime around rim of glass.  Spread salt on a plate.   Coat rim of glass with salt by placing upside down on plate.    Set aside.

3.  Crush ice in blender.

4.  Add remaining ingredients.  Pour into prepared glasses.  Garnish with lime wedge. Serve immediately.

margarita 2


Filed under Art Related, Beverages