Commencement Cookies Otherwise Known As Baking with Bacon

Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies


It’s time for some graduate school graduation goodies!

One of my college friends is graduating from his master’s program at Westminster Choir College this weekend so I drove down to Princeton with some of these tasty morsels. Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies.

Inspired by his love of bacon and his intense love for the chocolate chip cookies from Binghamton’s cafeteria, these cookies are chock full of semisweet chocolate chips and candied bacon.


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Dance & Dessert


One of my cousins is a high school senior about to go off to college. I can’t believe she’s already an adult! 

We drove out to the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts to see her last spring show. We hadn’t seen her dance since a performance of the Nutcracker in Manhattan many years ago. (I think I might have only been in middle school then!)

She was featured in three of the five upperclassmen pieces. Because she had solos, I was super excited to get some great photographs. I brought my usual lens, long lens and even some extra batteries just in case. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed. Apparently the school takes professional photos of the performance to sell. Grrr…


I might not have gotten any good shots but she certainly got a lot of flowers! In addition to bouquets from friends, my father brought a dozen roses. I however figured she would have plenty of flowers so I went with a rose water scented cake instead.

Originally we planned to take a train into the city so I needed to make a small cake sans frosting. A large cream cake decorated with chocolate ballerinas isn’t easy to transport but a mini loaf drizzled with white chocolate is definitely doable.


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Stepping Up to Plate Tonight Is…Spanakopita & Sidekicks



Tonight’s special Easter plate appearance was made by Spanakopita, a stalwart Greek who frequently hangs out at diners across the U.S. Somewhat breaking with tradition, a smidge of kale mixes with his ancestral spinach but it hasn’t made him bitter in the slightest. How could he be when joined by Greek Yogurt and Honey Blend? Sweet, creamy, flaky and hearty, the two make a great pair.

Next up are Kale Chips and Spiced Sweet Potato Fries, both crisped in the oven rather than deep fried. They may be health fanatics but they’re always up for a veggie party.

As a fruit-heavy dessert, Farmer’s Cheese and Apple Phyllo Cup managed to snag an invite. Her slightly tart Granny Smith apple center is balanced with a bit of creamy farmer’s cheese and a few layers of delicate phyllo.

Happy Easter from Allspice & Ally!
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The Initial Udon

Spicy Lemongrass Chicken Udon Soup


Spring may have already sprung but the weather is still cold enough to warrant Spicy Lemongrass Chicken Udon. Warm and comforting, this soup is good all year long but is best served on chilly nights when you can fully appreciate it.

My dad and I often order udon noodles at Japanese restaurants but never make them at home.

Lemongrass is a flavor my family loves but never has at home.

I like enoki mushrooms in ramen at restaurants but never have them at home.

What better way to embrace these ingredients than to meld them together in flavorful soup?

Happily, these ingredients were inexpensive.

Four stalks of lemongrass = $0.30

One pack of large enoki mushrooms = $1.99

One pack of dried udon noodles = $1.50

Thank you 99 Ranch. You may have just opened but I’m officially adding you to my usual rotation of Asian grocery stores. (Don’t worry Asian Food Market and H-Mart, I still love you both!)

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Chickpeas, Spice Ease and Five C’s

Chicken Chickpea Curry with Cashew Butter and Coconut Milk

Curry is one of my favorite takeout meals, especially Thai Red Curry and Panang Curry, but it’s something I rarely make from scratch. However my mother had some leftover cashew butter that she didn’t know what to do with so a five C curry it was— Chicken, Chickpea, Cashew Butter and Coconut Milk Curry!

Actually there are another two C’s if you count the cardamom and coriander seeds. I figured I would try my hand at making curry paste this time so I picked up some whole spices at the Asian grocery.

It was fun, although it would have been far easier if I had a mortal and pestle to grind the toasted spices. I suppose I managed well enough with a plastic ziplock bag and a glass.
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One Year Blog Anniversary!



It’s been a whole year since Allspice & Ally went live― can you believe it? I sure can’t.

It’s been a year full of recipes with a summer of five different strawberry cakes, broken fridges and Psych-inspired Cinnamon Pie. I discovered mushrooms aren’t so bad (sometimes) and how to make cauliflower taste like junk food. And how to turn lots of junk food into one crazy cake. I rode on a lobster boat, visited Gettysburg, became a level 33 Pokemon Go trainer (yes I still play) and hosted Halloween and Valentine’s Day parties.

From my (in)Famous Curry Cream Cheese Frosted Carrot Cake to this Lychee Guava Rose Cake, thank you for being here!

Now onto the cake

For my first blog anniversary, I wanted to do something special so I decided I would use rose water for the first time. Along with a homemade guava gel and lychee fruit, this is a cake perfectly suited for a special occasion.

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Got Milk(s)?


Cookies dipped in milk too basic for you? (blasphemy!) Try cake soaked in many milks― a.k.a tres leches cake for those of you who haven’t tried this Latin American favorite. My twist on this well-loved recipe? Plantain Tres Leches Cake.

Sliced plantains, pan-fried in sugar and spices, cover the bottom of a light sponge cake soaked in evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and 2% milk. Topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with a combination of cinnamon and allspice, you’ll be digging into this cake with a spoon.

Some recipes use a butter cake but many prefer a sponge cake. Various online sources claim a butterless sponge is more authentic but whether this is true, I’m not sure. Without butter or oil, the lightened batter is able to better absorb all that liquid without falling apart.


No milky mess here.

A self-saucing cake, yes. But never a milky mess.

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Some Super Bowl Sunday Spice

Vegan Thai Tofu Enchiladas

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, everyone!

Are you excited for the game?
The half-time show?
The commercials?
The food?

Chicken wings, nachos, pizza and the like are all good options but I whipped up something special this year, Thai Tofu Enchiladas.

Super Bowl LI is in Houston so Tex-Mex fare seemed appropriate and because I’m an overachiever (or maybe just plain crazy), I figured why not throw in a little more fusion.

Y’know, go for the whole enchilada.
Sorry, I know that was corny.
Get it?
…Because corn tortillas…like the corn tortillas that you use to make enchiladas…are you laughing yet?

Okay, now that I’ve sufficiently filled my daily food pun quota, I’ll stop.

So onto Thai Tofu Enchiladas and what makes them different from traditional enchiladas.
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The Kitchen Sink of Cake

(plus caramel kettle corn, malted milk balls, crushed peanuts, ritz crackers, potato chips)


If this cake doesn’t scream sugar rush, I don’t know what does.

My brother just got his braces off so what better way to celebrate than with a cake chock full of all the treats he couldn’t enjoy for the past year or so. Gooey fudge, sticky caramel corn, crispy potato chips, crackers and peanuts along with hard-as-rocks malted milk balls and two types of frosting― creamy peanut butter and salted caramel.

Oh and four layers of chocolate malt cake.

All covered with chocolate ganache.

Are you going into a sugar coma yet?

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An Urban Oasis

Holiday Melodies + A Mediterranean Medley


“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and Sahara Restaurant

May I return to the beginning
Last April, I wrote my second post on this blog Monster Pizza + The Man Who Sold the World after attending a concert at the NJ State Theatre. And so why not end 2016 back at the theater for a musical and Mediterranean food?

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” but it still remains one of my favorite musicals. The show might not be particularly long or dialogue-heavy but the songs are just so catchy! (The first time my parents saw JATD, they drove right to the record store to buy the soundtrack.)

And to complete our Christmas outing, we decided to go to Sahara Restaurant.

It was our second time eating at Sahara Restaurant and the food did not disappoint. The interior was just as cozy as before with candles and burgundy drapes but my favorite design element is the hot air balloon light fixture.



We started with the Vegetarian Combination appetizer— a delicious platter of hummus, eggplant salad, spiced ezme (mashed vegetables with walnuts and herbs) labhne (homemade sour cream with walnuts and herbs) and cauliflower dip.  Apparently it’s a very popular choice because while we were there, every table ordered one.


Served with warm pita bread, it’s a fantastic starter but at $22, it is definitely a splurge even considering the endless refills on bread.  The good news is that after sharing the combination platter with two or three other people and eating the red lentil soup that comes with most meals, you might be too full to eat your entrée.

Prepare for leftovers!


The first time I ate at Sahara, I ordered the Nile Chicken— a delicious concoction of chicken, eggplant, roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella in a pink sauce. Unlike some restaurants, Sahara cooked the eggplant perfectly without a hint of bitterness. It was a melt-in-your-mouth kind of eggplant that I still daydream about once in awhile.


As tempted as I was to get the Nile Chicken again, I decided to explore the menu. After all, the Sahara Desert is about the size of the U.S. so why not be a little more of an adventurous during this culinary expedition?

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A Summer of Strawberry Cake (September)



Welcome to the fifth and final month in my Summer of Strawberry Cake series. The strawberry plant I got in May has long ceased fruit production but my craving for cake has not. I’ve already posted about Maple Balsamic Roasted Strawberry CakeStrawberry Mango Shortcake, Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake and Strawberry & Apricot Almost Japanese Cheesecake so I figured it’s time to go big and bold. Or rather, bigger and bolder.

Hello Strawberry & Candied Fennel Cake.  I’ve been waiting for you 

I may not be enthusiastic about my birthday but I’m pretty great at other people’s, I must say. I conceptualized this cake months ago for my mother’s birthday and have been patiently awaiting September to serve her this crazy confection.


And I’m super happy to say it was worth the wait.

As the only person in my family that likes anise and licorice, I figured my mother would enjoy a fennel-flavored birthday cake.  Although I had never cooked with fennel before, I knew it had a similar flavor profile so I didn’t think I would be so taken with this cake.

This sweet, fruity, creamy cake with a touch of warmth from the candied fennel.

Oh fennel, like the popular girl inevitably falling for the bespectacled shy guy in a high school movie, you’ve won me over.
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Achin’ for Aachen



As the summer heat gives way to cool autumn breezes, so ebb my cravings for light salads and water ice. Forget pumpkin spice— I want chicken noodle soup and spinach lasagna and all manner of hearty foods as cozy as the snuggly sweaters I can’t wait to wear.

And now that I’m thinking of hearty food, you know what I’m in the mood for?  

German food.

One of the last German restaurants I went to was in Germany a couple years back with one of my best friends Ellie. During our European adventure, we took a day trip to Aachen, a border-town with a long tradition of spas that can be traced back to the Romans.

Aachen, Germany Read more

A Summer of Strawberry Cake (August)

Strawberry & Apricot Almost Japanese Cheesecake


Welcome to month #4 in my Summer of Strawberry Cake series. Summer may be coming to an end but the hot weather sure isn’t. If you want something delicious but not too decadent, you’re in luck.  This Strawberry & Apricot Almost Japanese Cheesecake is just rich enough but will still keep you in shape for swimsuit season— provided you don’t eat the entire cake!

If you’ve never had Japanese cheesecake, you need to run out to an Asian bakery right away. I haven’t had Japanese cheesecake in quite a long time but it isn’t the sort of dessert you easily forget. Unlike Western-style cheesecake, Japanese cheesecake is light and fluffy. Rather than dense and sinfully rich, it’s pillowy soft with a hint of tangy cream cheese.

Honestly, I may just prefer Japanese cheesecake on texture alone.

(Although its calorie-saving nature is definitely a bonus!)


And my strawberry-apricot version will save you even more calories because it uses less cream cheese and less eggs than most recipes. For that reason, I’ve characterized it as “almost Japanese cheesecake” rather than a proper Japanese cheesecake.

No worries. With its swirls of apricot jam and sliced strawberries, my take on this dessert is still wonderfully airy.

And what’s more wonderful than a sweet airy cake?


A sweet airy surprise birthday cake!
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A Summer of Strawberry Cake (July)



Welcome to month #3 in my Summer of Strawberry Cake series. If you’ve already checked out my Maple Balsamic Roasted Strawberry Cake and my Strawberry Mango Shortcake, it’s time for a bit of chocolate. Although in the case of this Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake, you’re in for more than just a bit of chocolate.

Are you excited?

I thought about making this cake for my birthday but baking your own birthday cake seems a little odd— especially if you’re not even having a party. Or am I the only one who thinks that?

So if someone in your life is a big fan of chocolate, strawberries and chocolate covered strawberries, this could be their perfect birthday cake.

And it doesn’t even have any food coloring. (Although if you want a more vibrant pink, feel free to use coloring.)


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The Patriotic Cauliflower

Buffalo Cauliflower Casserole

Buffalo Cauliflower

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! Hopefully your local fireworks haven’t been rained out and you’re enjoying plenty of barbecue favorites. While it’s hard to beat the classic hamburger and potato salad combo, I’ve whipped up a little something different this year— Buffalo Cauliflower Casserole.

It’s a red, white and bleu dish! 

With just the right amount of spice from homemade buffalo sauce, this cauliflower is highly addictive. Perfect for serving with fresh veggies and rolls.

(And if you’re feeling a tad lazy, it’s even good straight from the refrigerator. Although my favorite way is to eat it piping hot with celery sticks. Crisp celery and melty cheese— what more could you want?)

Buffalo Cauliflower Casserole
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The Sleepy Surprise “Party”


Savory Cheesecake Surprise Celebration

I’ve always had a penchant for throwing parties— especially themed parties. And although none were too elaborate, I’ve thrown a few surprise parties. It’s always fun to celebrate friends’ birthdays and it’s even better when you can surprise them!

This is Ellie. We’ve known each other since kindergarten. Not only is she one of my best friends, she’s also one of my sorority sisters.


Because we now live in different states and she’s in medical school, we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as I’d like. But for her short summer break, we decided to go on a three-day road trip.

To kick off this road trip, however, I decided to throw her a surprise birthday party the day before we left. Unfortunately she couldn’t arrive until late in the evening so there was much less food, fanfare and friends than originally planned. Read more

A Summer of Strawberry Cake (June)

Strawberry Mango Shortcake with Coconut Whipped Cream

Strawberry Mango Shortcake

Welcome to month #2 in my Summer of Strawberry Cake series. Since summer had just begun, last month I shared my recipe for Maple Balsamic Roasted Strawberry Cake but because the weather is heating up, I figured I’d give you a little taste of the tropics for June. Strawberry Mango Shortcake anyone?

Strawberry shortcake is one of my all-time favorite cakes. The crumbly shortcake, the juicy strawberries, the fluffy whipped cream, indescribably good. And I don’t even usually like whipped cream!

Like I mentioned last month, my family only eats strawberry shortcake every few years for my father’s birthday or Father’s Day because he doesn’t like chocolate. Occasionally we’d have fake strawberry shortcake at fundraisers or restaurants— otherwise known strawberries and canned whipped cream on angel food cake or any other kind of vanilla cake.

Strawberries and whipped cream on cake does not a strawberry shortcake make. A proper shortcake is made with a shortened dough resulting in a crumbly, biscuit-like cake. Calling a plain vanilla cake with strawberries a strawberry shortcake is like calling a waffle cone full of ice cream a Belgian waffle à la mode.

But never fear, when I say shortcake, I mean shortcake. And this shortcake happens to be made with puréed mangos for a tropical spin on a classic dessert.

Strawberry Mango Shortcake with Coconut Whipped Cream

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Taking Time to Smell the Roses…and Cake


Do you know what today is?

It’s National German Chocolate Cake Day! And Rose Day at Colonial Park in Franklin, NJ.

(Bet you didn’t guess either of those, did you?)


If you can’t make it out to see the roses, don’t fret— you can still celebrate by baking yourself this twist on a classic German Chocolate Cake.

Running through this lightly sweetened vegan chocolate cake is a ribbon of homemade salted pecan caramel. Sandwiched between the three layers is a gloriously sticky coconut milk frosting along with more caramel, pecans and toasted coconut.


And if that isn’t enough flavor for you, throw in some chocolate chips between the layers and top the cake shards of pecan brittle.

I repeat, glorious.


A word to the wise, don’t line your circle pans with wax paper. It works for carrot cake but not so much for this cake— unless you enjoy scraping wax paper with a variety of sharp implements. Use very well greased parchment paper instead.


Onto the million dollar question…

Did German Chocolate Cake originate in Germany?
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Ride Ride Ride & Rai Rai Ramen

IT’S NEVER TOO HOT FOR RAMENDuke Farms and Rai Rai Ramen

At Duke Farms and Rai Rai Ramen

So to continue celebrating my father’s birthday, we went for a bike ride, ate peanut butter cake and went out for ramen. It was a three day weekend of fun and food.

If you like bike riding, Duke Farms in Hillsborough has a couple nice trails that are worth checking out. We went a little earlier in the morning before it got too crowded. If riding behind young children isn’t your thing, try to get there before noon.

Duke Farms Bike Ride

Although I’ve been to Duke Farms a few times over the years, I’d never taken my bike there. Unfortunately Duke Farms has undergone major downgrades since I last visited, namely the demolition of the iconic Doris Duke Mansion. Learning that the Duke Foundation made this decision, well, it’s quite a loss for New Jersey. I’ll leave it at that.

At least the picturesque waterfalls and small orchid greenhouse remain. And of course, my favorite orchid was the one that smelled like chocolate. Yum.
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Classic Cars & Costa Rican Cuisine


Somerville Cruise Nights
At Division Café and Somerville Cruise Nights

If you had the choice between having a personal chef, housekeeper, butler or driver, which would you pick?

I’d have to go with the driver. I love riding in cars— especially with the windows down. (One thing I have in common with dogs is we both enjoy sticking our faces out car windows )

I also love looking at classic cars but I don’t know what I’d do if I actually owned one.  Unless there is no one else on the road, I’m not usually comfortable driving and that’s with an automatic transmission. Forget about stick.

Speaking of cars, I finally made it out to Somerville Cruise Nights last week.  Every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day for the past 27 years, Somerville NJ has run a classic car show.  Now 100+ classic cars regularly line Main Street on Friday evenings turning the event series into a nationally acclaimed classic car show.

Somerville Cruise NIghts Division Street
If you’re not in the mood for Costa Rican food, check out Origins, a French-Thai restaurant also on Division Street.

To celebrate my father’s birthday, my family ate in Downtown Somerville and then leisurely walked along Main Street enjoying all the cars.  There are a couple restaurants in Somerville that we enjoy but we decided to try Division Café, a small Costa Rican joint on a pedestrian-only side street.

Sliders from Division Cafe in Somerville

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