Top 10 Best Bites of 2019

As we gather around to celebrate the new year, I want to reflect to some amazing food experiences of the past year. Whether it was from menu item from a restaurant or a recipe from a cookbook, my food memories keep me going every year and make me ponder what kinds of foods I will stumble upon at a new restaurant, in a new cookbook, and even developing recipes in my own kitchen in the future.

#10 - Creamy Crab Seafood Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Bible, 2nd Edition by George Geary

#9 - Sweet & Salty Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from 101 Epic Dishes Cookbook by Ali & Jet Tila

#8 - Meaty Beef Ribs from The Rib Trader in Orange, CA

#7 - Tahalat (Spicy roasted lamb spleen) during Ramadan from The Olive Tree in Anaheim, CA

#6 - Marionberry Pie Ice Cream from Tillamook

#4 - Lasagna di Pesce from Prego Mediterranean in Tustin, CA

#3 - Asado de Titans (Special Cut Beef Short Ribs) from Corrientes 348 in Dallas, TX

#2 - Swordfish & Chips from San Pedro Fish Market Grille

#1 - Spaghetti Scallops & Miso Butter from Casa Barilla

I hope you enjoyed the content this past year from 19 blog posts, 95 YouTube videos, and 271 Instagram posts. That’s a wrap for 2019! See you next year!

Preserving delicious, seasonal flavor with Cinnamon Persimmon Jam

The Cinnamon Persimmons in this post were provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.

I am inspired daily by my friend, Susanne Duplantis of Makeover My Leftover, to end food waste in my kitchen and hopefully inspire my family, friends, and followers to do the same. It is just mind-blowing how much food waste happens around the world. Right now, Melissa’s Cinnamon Persimmons are in season. I had a plethora of fruit! In my previous blog post, I made Cinnamon Persimmon Bars which won over the hubby so much that I made it for his office potluck the very next day. The hubby got some nice compliments on the dessert which made me happy. Even with testing the recipe three times and slicing a couple of them up for a quick snack, I still had a lot leftover. One way to preserve these delicious Cinnamon Persimmons is making jam. I made my first jam, Huli Huli Jam, earlier this summer for The Jelly Queen’s Biscuits & Jampionship and got hooked. Since then, I’ve made a few more flavors. This will be my 5th jam and it is so simple! Now I can enjoy Cinnamon Persimmons for months!

Cinnamon Persimmon Jam by OC Food Diva

4 Melissa’s Cinnamon Persimmons
4 tsp calcium water
½ cup fresh lemon juice


  1. Prepare calcium water per package directions in Pomona’s Universal Pectin box.
  2. In a large pot, place jars and lids and fill pot with water making sure to cover entire jar. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and keep covered until ready to jar.
  3. Remove stems from persimmons but gently pulling up on the stem. It should pop off like a cork on a wine bottle. In a blender/food processor, puree persimmons. Place puree in a medium saucepan and add lemon juice and calcium water. Mix to combine. Turn heat to medium and bring to a boil.
  4. In a small bowl, combine sugar and pectin. When persimmon mixture comes to a boil, turn off heat and add sugar/pectin mixture. Mix until combined. Turn heat to medium and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Once at a boil, turn off heat.
  5. To jar jam, remove jar from water and drain off water. Pour hot jam mixture into jar leaving a ¼-inch space to the top of the jar. Remove lid from water and place on top of jar. Using oven gloves, screw lid on tight, but not overly tight. Repeat process with remaining jars. Let jars cool to room temperature. Once cool, make sure lids are sucked in tight and store. It should last a year in dry storage. When opened, refrigerate.

Melissa's Cinnamon Persimmons are here! + recipe

UPDATE: This recipe was chosen as the winner of the Melissa's Produce's Cinnamon Persimmon Contest! I received a Baby Vegetable Gift Basket as my prize!!!

Some of the ingredients and products in this post were provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.

It’s that time of year – persimmons are in season! Melissa’s Cinnamon Persimmons, also known as “Hyakume” or “Howard’s Amagaki”, are highly prized and named for their sweet flesh and dark speckling inside (reminiscent of cinnamon). The flavor is a combination of Fuyu and Hachiya with a hint of cinnamon.

To celebrate persimmon season, here’s a recipe that brings the sweetness of Cinnamon Persimmons and the savory flavor of a flaky crust together in one.

Cinnamon Persimmon Bars by OC Food Diva
Serves 9
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 40 minutes


1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup lard

1/3 cup Jovial 100% Einkorn All-Purpose Flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup shredded coconut
2 eggs
1 Melissa’s Cinnamon Persimmon, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. For the crust: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. With a pastry cutter, incorporate lard into flour mixture until combined.
  3. Press crust mixture into an 8-inch square pan and bake for 10-12 minutes. Do not brown. Lower oven temperature to 350°F.
  4. For the filling: In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and shredded coconut. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, chopped persimmon, and vanilla extract. When the crust is done baking, mix the flour and egg mixtures together until fully incorporated. Pour onto the crust and smooth out so the filling gets into the corners and is level. Bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and cool for at least 30 minutes. Cut into 9 squares and enjoy!

#LardLovers Recipe Contest Entry: Mangonada Pie for #NationalPieDay

UPDATE: My pie made it into the Top 10 and came in 7th place! 

Happy National Pie Day! If you've been following me on my blog and social media channels, you know I love to cook! I promised one of my competitive cooking friends that I would work on my baking skills. You might have seen my YouTube video of my Biscuits & Jampionship entry, Tropical Biscuits, back in October. I think I have conquered my fear of baking and ready to punch through the "dough" layer and make some tasty baked goods.

I came upon Coast Packing Co.'s #LardLovers Recipe Contest and decided to try out my skills. It took me two tries to perfect it. The first try, I had problems with the crust and the filling. The crust seemed too wet and also not enough to cover the pie dish. The custard filling wouldn't set before it the top started getting brown. UGH! Back to the drawing board... For the crust, I increased the amount of flour and started adding cold water, a tablespoon at a time, until it just clung together into a ball. The crust rolled out nicely and even had enough extra dough to double up on the edges. I decided to forgo the custard and went with a pastry cream filling. There is more attention to be paid on the stove top, but the end result was perfection. It set up nicely after refrigeration and I did my "Happy Dance" in the kitchen.

Mangonada Pie is inspired by a popular fruit snack here in SoCal. It has sweet and savory flavors from the sweet mango, tangy chamoy sauce, and spicy salty Tajin. This pie incorporates those flavors in a velvety mango pastry cream, sweet and tangy glazed fruit topping, and a flaky spiced crust.

Mangonada Pie

Mangonada Pie
Serves 6-8
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Refrigeration Time: 4 hours 45 minutes

2 cups Jovial All-Purpose Einkorn Flour
1 tablespoon Tajin
6 tablespoons cold lard
7 tablespoons cold water

Mango Pastry Cream:
2 large mangos (to yield 2 cups puree)
1 cup coconut cream
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
¼ cup Jovial All-Purpose Einkorn Flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup salted butter

Topping & Glaze:
2 tablespoons chamoy sauce
4 tablespoons corn syrup, divided
½ cup sugar
1½ cups mango juice, divided
1 teaspoon pectin
1 large mango
1 center slice lime
¼ teaspoon Tajin


  1. Crust: Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine flour and tajin in a medium bowl. Cut in lard with a pastry blender until mixture is combined and stays together in a ball. If still dry, add 1 tablespoon of cold water at a time until consistency is achieved. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1 inch larger than the rim of pie dish. Transfer dough to dish and press down to the bottom and up the edges. Use excess dough to double up on the rim crust. Use a fork to poke holes through the bottom of pie crust to let steam through so crust doesn’t bubble while baking. Bake for 15 minutes with pie weights. Remove pie weights and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
  2. Mango Pastry Cream: Cut mango from seed and scrape fruit from skin and seed. Place in a food processor/blender and blend until smooth, yielding 2 cups. In a medium saucepan, combine mango, lime juice, and coconut cream. Heat on medium heat for 15 minutes. While mango mixture is heating up, in a separate small bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract, and flour. After mango mixture has cooked for 15 minutes, add ½ of mixture to the yolk mixture and whisk to combine. Add in the other half of the mango mixture and whisk. Return combined mixture to the saucepan and cook for 15 minutes or until thickened (ribbon stage). Remove from heat and whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at time, until combined. Pour mixture into pie crust and level off with a butter knife or rubber scraper. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
  3. Topping: Combine chamoy sauce and 2 tablespoons corn syrup. Spoon on top of pie and brush to coat the entire top of pie. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and ¾ cup mango juice. Bring to a boil. In a small bowl, combine pectin and ¾ cup mango juice. Once saucepan is at a boil, add the mango pectin mixture to the pan. Whisk until combined and thickened. Turn off heat. Cut mango off seed and scrape fruit from skin in one piece with a spoon. Thinly slice mango into petal-like slices. Arrange from the middle of pie into a flower petal pattern. Place center lime slice in the middle of the mango flower. Brush mango glaze on top of fruits. Sprinkle Tajin on top. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving. 
If you end up trying the recipe, let me know what you think.

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box Recipe Series: Quinoa Cranberry Pudding Parfait

Melissa’s Deluxe Pantry Box in this post was provided by Melissa’s Produce but the opinions expressed here are my own.