Cinque Terre part 1

Two years ago I returned to one of my favorite places: the Cinque Terre. I visited these beautiful small towns on the coast of Italy when I studied abroad in Rome and wanted to go back ever since. This time, I got to bring Daniel along for the journey. We ate, we drank, we swam, we wandered, we hiked, we learned and we explored the local cuisine through our cooking class+Farmers Market tour.
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Endive Cups w/ Goat Cheese, Strawberries and Champagne Dressing

 

endive 1Two weeks ago I flew home to celebrate one of my best friend’s upcoming wedding. Getting ready for the bridal shower and thinking about all the bridesmaids made me realize that we have all known each other since kindergarten. Which is pretty impressive given the time, distance and challenges we have all faced since then. If you ask my friend, the bride, she would lovingly tell you a tale about my kindergarten “bully” self who apparently made her cry and then one day I was nice to her and she got so excited. We have been friends ever since.

endive 2We have served at several community service events together, traveled to Japan together freshman year in high school (bonded over missing our mothers), had a crush on the same boy (yikes!), went to countless dances together, “stalked” other boys by walking by their house just hoping that they would come outside (the things we do when we have crushes..), laughed, cried, shared, inspired, motivated, complained, supported each other through college and now we are here. At another momentous life event. I can’t wait to celebrate, laugh and cry with you. You are beautiful inside and out. YOU deserve a lifetime of happiness. I truly meant what I said at your bridal shower, hold each other accountable to your dreams and never stop adding to your LOVE STORY.

XOXO… two weeks and counting!

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Endive Cups w/ Goat Cheese, Strawberries and Champagne Dressing

Ingredients:

2 heads of endive, washed and dried (roughly 10 usable leaf per head, so 20 total)

5-6 oz of goat cheese

10 strawberries, washed and thinly sliced vertically (remove stem)

5 kumquats, washed and thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped pecans, raw, toasted or candied all work well

fresh thyme or other herb of your choice to garnish

Dressing:

2 tsp champagne vinegar

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tbs sugar

Directions:

1. Mix champagne vinegar, orange juice and sugar in a medium bowl. Soak the strawberry and kumquat slices in the dressing for about 10 minutes.

2. Cut each endive leaf from the head without breaking in the middle. Make a clean cut near the base of the head. Make sure all leaves are thoroughly dried.

3. Assemble leaves on a large plate. Crumble and distribute goat cheese evenly by placing the goat cheese in the bottom 2/3 of the leaf.

4. Mix the fruit in the dressing and then spoon the strawberries on top of the goat cheese. Next add 1-2 slices of kumquat. Spoon extra dressing over the leaves and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

5. Garnish with a small piece of thyme or other fresh herb of your choice.


Quick Roasted Carrots

Roasted Carrot Blog 1It was a bright and chilly morning when I woke up in Rome. I was sharing a room and an apartment with 11 other girls. I was taking risks (hello shaving the side of my head spontaneously), I was learning, I was growing, I was becoming even more of an adult. And my adult self felt inclined to get out of bed, go to the train station, look up inexpensive tickets, buy a ticket and explore somewhere new on my own. This was by far one of my favorite days I spent abroad. While the train was gliding through the countryside, I sat patiently waiting and reading. This has stayed with me for years and I often return to this passage.

“For the first time in my life i saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth-that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impact: the salvation of man is through love and in love”

– Viktor E. Frankl

Roasted Carrot Blog

Quick Roasted Carrots

Ingredients:

6 large carrots, washed, both ends trimmed

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil

Pinch of salt and pepper

Pinch of paprika

Pinch of cumin

1/4 cup of hummus to garnish (optional)

Roasted almonds to garnish (optional)

Fresh herbs to garnish (optional

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cut carrots into chunk of about 2-3″. Cut the thicker end pieces into half lengthwise.

3. In a medium bowl, toss carrots, olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika and cumin, making sure all carrots are coated well.

4. Place carrots cut side down on parchment paper and cook for 15 minutes or until they are tender and caramelized.

5. Let cool for 10 minutes and plate with hummus, almonds and fresh herbs if you desire.


Coconut Quinoa + Roasted Vegetables + News!

Coconut Quinoa 1I recently asked my friend Becky Reams if I could help out as her sous chef for her awesome pop up brunch, Bang Bang Brunch. It was so refreshing and fun to work alongside another chef and see their work flow, their vision and execution. I say this mainly because even though I work with people, I am the only chef at my company and sometimes it can get lonely when no one else is nerding out about the organic produce box that came in or my new kitchen tools. You should really check out Becky’s pop up brunch if you are in the L.A./Pasadena area. The location changes each month and is always in a cool space!

In other exciting news, I taught a cooking class this past Sunday to some of Daniel’s awesome co-workers! We made a 4-course brunch + hibiscus and grapefruit mimosas+ sparkling herbal tea and it was so fun. I love sharing my excitement for food and helping people feel more comfortable and confident in the kitchen. This class made me realize how much I miss teaching, in particular, teaching cooking classes. I used to teach high school students when I was working for HealthCorps and I think it’s the best way I know how to connect to people. So my friends, I will be teaching more classes in the near future! If you are in the L.A. area and want to know more, e-mail me or send a message via my contact form.

This quinoa recipe is an example of the way I like to eat: healthy grains+lots of veggies+fresh herbs+interesting sauce. I will make something like this for dinner and then it makes excellent leftovers for lunch either as a cold dish or reheated.

Coconut Quinoa + Roasted Vegetables: makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup red quinoa (or any quinoa you can find/have) + 1 Tbs of coconut oil, 1/2 tsp ground cumin and 2 garlic cloves (peeled) in the water. Cook according to package directions

1 small head of cauliflower, cut into big chunks, discard most of the stem

1 red bell pepper, cut into 4 big pieces

8 oz tofu drained

2 Tbs olive oil

Coconut oil spray or olive oil spray

1 large bunch of curly kale, cut into big pieces about 2″ in size

1 can of butternut squash soup (I used Amy’s organic brand)

1/4 cup of half and half

3 large handfuls spinach, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1Tbs coconut oil

salt and pepper to taste

Fresh herbs to garnish + avocado (I used basil and parsley)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay cauliflower, bell pepper (cut side up) and tofu on the sheet. Drizzle 2 Tbs of olive oil over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes, flipping the vegetables  halfway through.

2. Cook quinoa according to package directions + the coconut oil, cumin and garlic. Set aside with lid on top to keep hot. Discard the two garlic cloves.

3. Once the vegetables are done cut the tofu into cubes and the bell pepper into strips. Then lower the oven temp to 350 and place kale on the parchment paper. Spray with coconut oil spray and bake for 10-15 minutes until the kale gets a little crispy.

4. In a small saucepan, heat the butternut squash soup, 1/2 tsp cumin, salt and pepper, half and half and spinach on low heat until the spinach wilts a little and the sauce is hot.

5. To assemble in a bowl, put a base layer of quinoa. Layer the cauliflower, bell pepper, tofu and kale on top. Spoon about 1/2 cup of sauce over the vegetables. Garnish with fresh herbs and avocado.


Pomegranate & Herbal Sparkling Tea

Pomegranate teaYesterday afternoon I was so tempted to make cocktails for clients, but it was only 3:30 pm and I knew that they would not start drinking that early, sooooo I wanted to come up with something that still felt as special as a cocktail without the alcohol. This sparkling tea was the perfect compromise. It felt special, refreshing, not too sweet and wonderfully balanced between floral and herbal flavors. pomegranate tea 4I highly recommend making a big pitcher of this for any occasion. If you are having a party, this is a fabulous non-alcoholic drink to add to the mix and so much better than just offering your guest a glass of plain water.pomegranate tea 3

Pomegranate & Herbal Sparkling Tea: makes about 12 cups of tea

Ingredients:

8 Flowering Honeybush tea bags from Tazo or Numi brand. I found mine at Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, use another floral/fruity tea that you like.

4 cups boiling hot water

1/4 cup agave + more to taste

8 cups cold sparkling water

1 bunch fresh mint, washed and dried

6 sprigs fresh rosemary washed and dried + more for decorating if you want.

1 cucumber, washed and sliced thin + save a few slices to decorate the glasses if you want.

2 limes, washed, cut the skin off and set aside and save. Then slice the limes.

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds + more for decorating glasses if you want. I buy the seeds already prepped and cleaned from Trader Joe’s or another grocery store to save on time and mess.

Directions:

1. In a medium heat-proof pitcher, steep the tea bags for at least 10 minutes in the boiling hot water. Then take the tea bags out and throw them away. Add agave to the steeped tea and stir well. Add about 10 ice cubes to cool down. Set aside.

2. In a large pitcher, layer 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, the cucumber slices, lime slices+ lime skins, mint and rosemary. Pour the cold sparkling water over this mixture and let sit for at least 10 minutes.

3. Pour the cooled down tea into the large pitcher of sparkling water and stir well. Add ice and agave as desired. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

4. I decorate each glass with a sprig of rosemary in the glass, a few ice cubes, a few pomegranate seeds and a slice of cucumber on the rim.


Roasted Pepper & Mozzarella Toast

roasted pepper 4Dating Daniel has opened me up to a whole new world of cuisine. His family is Spanish and boy did I learn to enjoy seafood and embrace tapas. I understand, many people have been on board with Spanish food and I am behind the times. But before Daniel, I wasn’t the most adventurous eater.roasted pepper3 While preparing for our first trip together to Spain, he basically put me through Spanish food bootcamp (in a loving way) because he wanted me to be open to trying the amazing and unique cuisine. On the northern coast in Galicia, I encountered a ton of seafood I had never eaten before, which included razor clams. I’ll be honest, I didn’t love everything I tried, but I’m glad the experience helped expand my palette.roasted pepper 2roasted peppers One of our favorite things to do is make tapas together and I think this is a good introduction. These toasts are perfect as a snack or can be made into a dinner with some extra sides like an arugula salad, marcona almonds and pan-fried mushrooms.

Roasted Pepper & Mozzarella Toast: makes about 16 slices, depending on the size of bread.

Ingredients:

1 loaf rustic bread, sliced to desired thickness

12 oz fresh mozzarella, drained and pulled into large pieces

½ cup roasted pepper sauce (recipe below)

1 can sardines in olive oil, drained, deboned and cut into chunks (optional)

a few sprigs of fresh parsley to garnish

Directions:

1. Grill or toast slices of bread and set aside to cool.

2. Once cool, layer each slice of toast with a large piece of mozzarella, a spoonful of roasted pepper sauce, sardines (optional) and fresh parsley.

Roasted Pepper Sauce: yields about 1 1/4 cups of sauce

Ingredients:

20 mini bell peppers, washed and dried

2 tbs + 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

5 garlic cloves, skin on (do not peel)

pinch of sea salt and pepper

2 tbs water

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl mix the bell peppers, garlic cloves, 2 tbs olive oil, salt and pepper. Make sure everything is coated well with the oil and then spread out evenly on the baking sheet.

3. Cook for 10 minutes, pull out of oven, turn over the bell peppers and garlic. Cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. Pull out of oven and let cool.

4. Peel the garlic and take off the stems of the bell peppers. Open up each bell pepper and take out the seeds.

5. Place water, olive oil and lemon juice at the bottom of a blender. Then throw in the garlic and bell peppers and a pinch of sea salt. Blend until smooth.

6. Place in an airtight container in the fridge.


Pear and Buckwheat Muffins w/ Coconut Crumble

IMG_8656If I walk into a coffee shop, chances are I am not going to choose the muffin. They never seem interesting enough for me and there is always another pastry that looks way more enticing. If I had my own bakery, cafe, cool coffee shop, awesome-hangout-kind-of-spot, I would want every pastry to be this interesting.pearmuffin3pear muffin4My co-workers have said they would come to my store for the baked goods and especially for these muffins, so that is enough incentive to make them, right? Dreaming of a bakery and space where delicious and interesting pastries live and I get to eat them all the time.pear muffin foodgawker2 copy

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Pear and Buckwheat Muffins w/ Coconut Crumble

Makes 18  muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup buckwheat flour

1 cup rolled oats

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¾ cup lightly packed brown sugar

¼ cup coconut sugar or raw cane sugar

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

4 tbs unsalted butter, melted

2 eggs

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup Greek yogurt

¼ cup half and half

½ cup + 2 Tbs milk

2 large ripe pears, cut into small chunks (I used D’anjou)

Crumble:

1/ 4 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped

¼ cup shredded coconut

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ cup rolled oats

¼ cup brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line two muffin pans with 18 muffin liners and spray each liner with baking spray.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (both flours, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon) and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine the brown sugar, coconut sugar, melted butter and melted coconut oil. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
  4. In a small bowl combine the eggs, vanilla, Greek yogurt, half and half and milk. Whisk until well blended.
  5. Add the milk mixture to the sugar mixture and whisk until well blended.
  6. Fold the chunks of pears into the wet mixture and then fold in the dry ingredients until well combined and set aside.
  7. Make the crumble in a small bowl by mixing the seeds, hazelnuts, coconut, cinnamon, oats, and brown sugar. Set aside.
  8. Distribute the batter evenly among the 18 cups. Next add a large spoonful of the crumble to the top of each muffin and pat down slightly.
  9. Immediately TURN DOWN THE HEAT to 375 and bake muffins for 18- 20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the middle should come out clean.
  10. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes and then remove and let cool on rack for at least 15 minutes.

 

 


In My Kitchen: Superfood Smoothie

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI have given you Chocolate Stout Brownies and Rosemary Focaccia lately, so to even it out, I am giving you this smoothie recipe I have been making at work. I put it on the menu as “Superfood Smoothie”, but one client has renamed it to “Life-Giving Smoothie”! Whatever you call it, it is healthy, filling and starts your day off right. I make this as an individual serving, but it is easily doubled or tripled!

Superfood Smoothie

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 frozen banana, cut into chunks (you can use an unfrozen banana if you don’t have frozen. Frozen bananas have a creamier texture, so I like to keep a bunch in the freezer.)

1 heaping Tbs of hemp, cacao and maca powder blend (such as Navitas Superfood blend) *this should only be 1 Tbs TOTAL of the combined powder

2 tsp of unsweetened raw cacao powder

1 small handful raw cashews

1 tsp agave

3 ice cubes

Directions:

1. Put milk in blender first.

2. Add frozen banana, superfood blend, raw cacao, raw cashews, agave and ice.

3. Blend well. The cashews and banana should be fully blended into the smoothie.


Rosemary Focaccia

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetRemember when I told you about my hesitation to attempt yeast breads? Well, focaccia helped me get over my fears of making bread. I have made this recipe several times now and I use different toppings while keeping the same base recipe of this wonderful Rosemary Focaccia from The Kitchn. They clearly outline the steps and make you feel more at ease. I love using The Kitchn as a resource for recipes, inspiration, tips and tricks.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetOnce I have made a nice batch of focaccia, I use it to make our snack plates and cheese plates at the office. The one below has roasted artichoke, wine soaked cheese, truffle cheese, rosemary raisin crackers, asian pear, green apple and crumbled blue cheese. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Rosemary Focaccia from The Kitchn

Makes one large focaccia or two 9″ x 13″ small focaccia breads

What You Need

Ingredients
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 tablespoons (approximately) good extra virgin olive oil, divided
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Several pinches of Maldon salt (or other flakey sea salt)

* My notes: I like to add small fresh mozzarella balls or cherry tomatoes on top. If you using mozzarella, squeeze out some of the liquid so it is not soggy and bake until golden brown.

Equipment
11-cup (or larger) food processor (See Recipe Notes for other mixing options)
Measuring cups and spoons
Medium sized bowl
Large sized bowl
1 baking sheet (16″x12″ or similar size)
Wire cooling rack

Instructions

1. Dissolve and proof the yeast. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a medium bowl. Wait a few minutes for the mixture to start to foam up. This isproofing the yeast. (You can skip this step if you are confident that your yeast is good and strong.)

2. Make the dough. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flours and salt to combine. Add the yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Pulse until a rough ball of dough forms, about 1 minute. Remove from the dough from food processor. It should be moist but not too sticky. Form it into a ball. (See Recipe Notes, below, for instructions on making dough without a food processor.)

3. Leave it to rise. Add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a large bowl. Put in the ball of dough and turn it so it is coated on all sides. Cover with a tea towel and place it in a warm place to double in bulk, about 2 hours.

4. Put the dough into the pan. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of olive oil onto the baking sheet and rub it over the bottom and sides. Punch down the dough and place the dough on the baking sheet. Using your fingertips, coax and stretch the dough to cover the bottom of the pan; it may not reach all the way to the edges. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rest, about 30-40 minutes.

→ You can also divide the dough in half with a sharp knife to make one smaller loaf for smaller gatherings, and freeze the other half of dough for later. Smaller focaccia breads can be baked on a quarter-sized baking sheet (9-1/2″ x 13″) or in the center of a regular baking sheet. To freeze the second half, place the dough in a freezer bag, squeeze out the excess air, seal, label, and freeze.

5. Preheat the oven and prep the rosemary. While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Strip the rosemary leaves from the stems. If the rosemary leaves are large, chop them with a knife. You can leave a few of the smaller, softer leaves whole. You should have about 2 scant tablespoons.

6. Prep the focaccia for baking. When the focaccias have puffed up in the pan a little, sprinkle the rosemary evenly over the surface. Using your fingertips, dimple (make shallow indentations) the surface of the focaccia all over. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the loaf, so the oil pools in the indentations here and there. Use a little more if needed. Sprinkle the loaf with 2 or 3 pinches of the flaky salt.

7. Place in the oven and bake. Place in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375F. Bake about 20 – 25 minutes, checking after 15 minutes. The focaccia is ready when it’s golden-brown.

8. Remove from oven and cool. Remove bread from oven. Using a hot pad or spatula, remove the bread from baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool slightly. Focaccia is best eaten when warm, but perfectly fine at room temperature. If the crust gets too soft, try popping it back in a 350°F oven for a few minutes to crisp it up.

Recipe Notes:

Make Focaccia in a Mixer: Knead the dough in a standing mixer fit with a hook attachment for 5-8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Make Focaccia by Hand: Mix the dough in the bowl with a sturdy spoon until it is as smooth as possible. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes.

Make Focaccia Rounds: To make 4-8″ round focaccia, just divide the dough in half and bake in two 8″ cake pans.

Additional Toppings: Add any of these toppings before baking — very thinly sliced lemons, olives (whole or sliced in half), thick slices of fresh garlic or shallots, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, a few chopped sundried tomatoes, cubed pancetta. Instead of rosemary, try using fresh thyme, chives, or oregano. If you want to use fresh basil, sprinkle it on after baking.

Working with Refrigerated Dough: The dough can also be held overnight in a covered container in the refrigerator, which will retard the yeast and result in a slow rise and extra flavor. Pick up the instructions with step 4 above. No need to warm the dough before using, but allow extra time for it to rise before baking.

Working with Frozen Dough: If you are using frozen dough, let it defrost in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. When you are ready to bake, take it out of the refrigerator and stretch it in the pan, as directed in step 4 above. Continue to follow instructions from there.


Chocolate Stout Brownie w/ Salted Caramel Whipped Cream + Espresso Vodkatini

IMG_8460All I ever ask for on Valentine’s Day is chocolate. I could do without the flowers, fancy dinner or card professing love for me. Tell me you love me by giving me the most intensely rich and chocolatey thing you can find. And I will love you back. But in a platonic way because I already have Daniel :)IMG_8393To honor this holiday, Daniel and I collaborated to make our version of the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert for our friends over at Richer Poorer. Go check out our guest blog post and find out what we did on our first date together!IMG_8492

Chocolate Stout Brownies w/ Salted Caramel Whipped Cream
 
Ingredients:
14 Tbs unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp vanilla
3 eggs, cold
1/2 cup stout beer, such as Guinness
1/2 cup + 3 Tbs all purpose flour
Directions:

1. Postion oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of an 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, pressing in the corners to make a crease and pressing over the sides of the pan. There should be an overhang on two opposite sides of the baking pan.

2. Combine the butter, sugars, dark cocoa, dark chocolate chips and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set it over a sauce pan of simmering hot water (there should be a light boil). Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate have melted and the mixture is smooth (it will be a bit gritty or granulated looking due to the sugar, but will smooth out once the eggs are beaten in). Remove the bowl from the sauce pan and let cool for 1 minute.
3. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Next add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the stout beer and fold in gently until it begins to absorb into the mixture. Continue to fold until the beer is fully incorporated. Next, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Spread batter evenly in the parchment lined pan.
4. Bake at 325 degrees for 27-30 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out mostly clean. Let cool completely on rack.
5. Pull the brownies out of the pan by the two ends of parchment paper and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
Salted Caramel Whipped Cream:
Ingredients:
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup caramel
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
Directions:
1. Place heavy whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium/high speed for 2 minutes then check to see if the cream forms stiff peaks when you lift the whisk attachment. If not, continue to whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
2. Fold in the caramel and sea salt until well blended.
3. Place a dollop on each brownie, drizzle with extra caramel and serve!
Espresso Vodkatini made by Daniel
 
Ingredients:
1 part coffee liquer
1 1/2 part cold espresso
1 part vodka
 
Directions:
1. Mix all ingredients in a Boston shaker with ice.
2. Strain into a martini glass.
3. Top off with a few espresso beans to make it look pro.