Sweet Lolita Strawberry Vanilla Panna Cotta

Strawberry Vanilla Rose Panna Cotta

Wowza, it has been a long time since I updated – let alone threw a recipe at you. Sorry about that! Between preparing for Anime Expo, a sinus infection, preparing for my mom’s trip to Berlin, preparing for my trip to Europe, this summer has made me totally whack-a-doodle. That is an official term, by the way.

Some of you are looking at me askance, muttering, “What the hell is Sweet Lolita?” In Japan, there is a fashion-rooted subculture called “Elegant Gothic Lolita” that began gaining international traction in the early 2000s. Girls, boys and gender-neutral individuals don their fluffiest finest; sub-categories are as varied as the motifs they don: Gothic Lolita; Vampire Lolita; Elegant Gothic Aristocrat for more traditionally male silhouettes; Alice; Pirate Lolita; and the classic, Sweet Lolita.

Lolita runway-1374

Illustration by Kira Imai
Loli’s (as they’re nicknamed) typically incorporate a particular aesthetic that calls forth motifs such as tea parties, picnics, dolls, and all things slightly old fashioned and cute. There are variations, of course, but for the purposes of this recipe, I’m calling forth the basic Sweet Lolita style. While I haven’t the energy to dedicate my whole wardrobe, I do enjoy certain motifs and incorporate them as more of an accessory to my life as a whole. Such as this heart-shaped strawberry vanilla panna cotta – perfect for a sweet lolita tea party!


I arrived late to the Panna Cotta Party – having only given it a try maybe four years ago when I first tried it at my favorite Italian restaurant, Celestino. I’ve been a fan ever since, and only got it into my head to finally attempt to tackle the delicious dessert this year. Baking and I have a tumultuous relationship; cookies rarely make it beyond the dough stage and cakes are a source of stress for me. I can churn out a decent fruit pie, mostly because I am not above buying store crust. So this whole Panna Cotta business came about in baby steps. First: the desire to actually tackle it. Second: purchasing an adorable ramekin from Daiso (aka The Greatest Store Known to Mankind). Third: A Serendipitous team-up with Nielsen-Massey Vanillas for that extra push. Fourth: A killer, fool-proof base recipe. And lastly: Just doing it.

Strawberry Vanilla Rose Panna Cotta
Big squishy hugs to Nielsen-Massey for the vanilla!

In lieu of half and half or cream, I decided to make this Panna Cotta out of a recent find at my local 99 Ranch Market (a popular chain of Asian grocery stores): Strawberry Milk. When in doubt, make it pink and cute! This recipe makes two (I used a circular ramekin to make a back up in case the heart ramekin failed).

Sweet Lolita Strawberry Vanilla Panna Cotta


Cooking spray
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1/4 cup sugar
1 box (6.8 fl oz) strawberry milk (I used Binggrae Flavored Milk)
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla
Pinch salt
1/4th teaspoon rose syrup (optional)

  • Lightly spritz the ramekins with cooking spray, then use a paper towel to wipe upward, removing most of the oil, leaving only a light residue.
  • Set saucepan on burner but do not turn on heat. Pour the milk into the saucepan, then evenly sprinkle the powdered gelatin across the milk’s surface. Wait until the surface of the milk is wrinkled and the gelatin grains look wet and slightly dissolved.
  • Set the saucepan over low heat and warm the milk gently, stirring/whisking frequently. Do not allow the milk to boil or simmer. The milk should get hot, but you ought to be able to stick a finger in for a few seconds. This step will happen quickly as gelatin dissolves as the milk warms.
  • CHECK: Rub a bit of the milk between your fingers to ensure smooth texture. Alternatively, dip in spoon and check its back for graininess.
  • Stir the sugar into the milk and continue warming until it dissolves; less than 5 minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat before whisking in the milk, vanilla, (rose syrup if you’re adding) and a pinch of salt.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared ramekins and put in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
  • Wipe the plate with a damp paper towel before running a thin knife along the edges of the ramekin. Invert the ramekin over the plate and tap/shake very gently (if need be; I didn’t need to do anything. My panna cotta just plopped! right out) IF you have trouble, gently set the ramekin right-side up and fill a large bowl/pan with hot water before holding the ramekin in the bath for about 5 seconds. Try inverting again.
  • Garnish with fresh strawberries and enjoy with a cup of tea and some good company.
  • Alternatives: You can also primarily flavor the panna cotta with rose, orange blossom, or any other kitchen grade flavoring – also available from Nielsen-Massey.

    Panna Cotta Header

    Have you ever indulged in the lolita fashion or panna cotta?

    Recipe: Shaker Lemon Pie

    Shaker Lemon Pie

    Shaker Lemon Pie

    Today is my 31st birthday and what better way to celebrate than with PIE!

    Lots of people might be blinking curiously at me, as is the norm when I talk about Shaker Lemon Pie. Yes, it’s namesake is from the Shakers the religious group that touted simplicity and this pie embodies the Shaker philosophy and way of life. Depending on the amount of sugar used, this pie can be calibrated to achieve the perfect balance of sweet and tartness as it uses the entire lemon – rind and all – in the pie. Strange to encounter at first, I know, but trust me: utterly delicious.

    My brother is a huge fan of not-so-sweet desserts, and especially fruit-based over, say, chocolate. So when I get a bee in my bonnet to make a pie, I know I can bestow half of its final product onto him and his lady. Pie is so much tastier when you’re sharing it with others. Unless it’s razzleberry or pumpkin pie. Then get your mitts off, because it’s all mine! Buwahahahaha!

    The lemons themselves I am unsure of; they were given to me by a family friend on that dreadfully hot weekend before the Fourth of July. She was lamenting about an overabundance of lemons from her tree and oh what would she do with all of them? Of course, I had to swoop in and save the day by taking about twenty off of her hands. Unsure what I’m to do with the rest of them. Perhaps lemon bars are in order? Oh well. Must start somewhere, and here we are. This lemon is more on the tart side than the sweet, and it is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of afternoon tea.


    You’ll Need
    2 large lemons
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    4 eggs
    4 tablespons butter, melted
    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    1 pie crust for 9″ pie plate (you can top crust this if you like)

  • Wash and scrub lemons clean, then thoroughly dry. Grate lemon zest into a bowl before slicing lemons as paper thin as you can get them. Use a mandolin if you’re a badass. Don’t forget to discard the seeds. Add slices to zest and toss with sugar and salt. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.
  • Preheat the oven 425°F. Roll out pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate, and trim/crimp the edge, or fold up like a rustic tart style. I call all my pies rustic. It means I can’t ever have the perfectly aligned and crimped edge crust, but shhhhh nobody needs to know that.
  • Mix the macerated lemon-sugar mixture with eggs, flour and melted butter until combined incorporated. Pour final mixture in to prepared pie shell.
  • Important: Since I don’t do top crusts, I highly recommend taking strips of foil and covering the edges of the pie crust so it does not burn as the pie is baking.
  • Bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350°F then bake the pie for 25-30 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. Let the pie cool before serving it warm-ish at room temperature. Enjoy with your favorite tea.

  • Let’s Talk Pie: Leave a comment below telling me what sort of pie you like to bake, or have baked for you on your birthday!

    Recipe Box: Toasted Marshmallow Sweet Potato Pie

    Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Topping

    Christmas is supposed to be my holiday; the holiday where I rule the kitchen and everybody else just stays out of my way. This last Christmas, however, was slightly hijacked by my over enthusiastic aunt and it left me with nothing but an overwhelming desire to make plans for a tropical retreat come December 2013. Seriously, Hawaii? Polynesia? Australia? New Zealand? Tahiti? If any of you want this food & travel writer lady to hop on a plane and hole up in your resort over Christmas, do not hesitate to get in touch. I’m more than happy to denounce the family in exchange for some pina coladas by a barbecue pit.

    Stalker Claws
    Stalker Claws sees you when you are sleeping.

    I’m losing track here. Where was I? Oh, yes. So, a few months before Christmas I proposed the idea of banishing Christmas dinner altogether and focusing on what my family has always paid special attention to: appetizers. For as long as I can recall, my family has used Christmas as a vehicle in which to snack all day long as we watched movies, snacked, opened presents, snacked, listened to our favorite Christmas albums, snacked. Then we would sit down for a big dinner. That part never really made too much sense, especially in the last few years when we – gasped! – cut back on the appetizers. Everyone agreed that they were unhappy with that, and so it was not a struggle in the least to win them over with the idea of abolishing dinner in favor of our day long feast appetizers. That isn’t to say we did not have a few sit down moments: specifically, our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of Eggs Benedict and of course, our dessert. Which really just got tossed in among the rest of the snacking towards the evening.

    Though I’d never openly admit to being outright sick of pumpkin centric treats, I definitely wanted a change up. Sweet Potato Pie is an easy enough change up that, for the most part, I just used my pumpkin pie recipe and added a nice crisped marshmallow topping for an added sweet bonus. There were a few grumbles at the lack of pumpkin, but once they clammed up long enough to take a bite of this Toasted Marshmallow Sweet Potato Pie, they were definitely singing a different tune.

    Toasted Marshmallow Sweet Potato Pie

    1 lb. sweet potatoes, washed & scrubbed
    seasonings: ground nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger (to your taste, approx 1/4th-1 tsp)
    1 pinch ground cloves
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    2 eggs
    1/4th tsp salt
    1/2 to 3/4th c. evaporated milk
    1/3rd c. softened butter

    1 nine inch pie crust
    1 c. mini marshmallows

  • Roast your sweet potatoes in a preheated oven (400 F) for 40-50 minutes. When finished, run them under cool water as you peel away the skin. Add to a wide and deep mixing bowl.
  • If you are using a store bought crust as I did, now would be a good time to take care of any necessary pre-baking.
  • In a separate, smaller bowl, cream the butter and sugar before adding the eggs and milk.
  • Pour into the larger bowl with the sweet potatoes, add seasoning, vanilla and salt and either (1) use your immersion blender to incorporate well or (2) add to the food processor to pulse into blended filling. Once well blended, pour into cooled pie shell.
  • Bake pie at 425 for the first fifteen minutes, then reduce to 350 and bake for another 35-40 minutes.
  • Once pie has completely cooled, add a layer of mini marshmallows on top and either broil on the lowest temperature for a few minutes or use your handy dandy kitchen torch to lightly scorch the top to a nice, toasty golden brown!

  • Note:
    I recommend baking the pie one day ahead of its required time. The center will have set perfectly by then, and it will be one less thing for you to stress over when your aunt whips out a platter of deviled eggs despite the fact you already slaved over your own two dozen.

    Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Topping

    Guest Recipe: Salted Chocolate Brownie Cookies

    This guest post was lovingly crafted by Rochelle. Please enjoy!

    Hello, I’m Rochelle from WheatlessRochelle.com! I’m a gluten free, vegetarian blogger who mostly writes about cooking and baking, gardening, and raising a healthy, happy family. I focus on fresh, whole foods and recipes that the whole family will enjoy. I’m excited that Rachael has given me a chance to share a dessert recipe with you!

    This recipe is for Salted Chocolate Brownie Cookies. They are super soft, almost cake-like, but are round like traditional cookies. They’re gluten free, easy to make, and taste great! I hope you enjoy them as much as my family does!

    Salted Chocolate Brownie Cookies
    (Based on a recipe from SparkPeople)

    1/4 c. melted coconut oil
    1 c. raw sugar
    1 tsp. vanilla
    1 egg
    1 1/2 c. gluten free AP flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. xanathan gum
    2 tsp. salt
    1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/2 c. milk
    Freshly ground sea salt for topping

    Preheat the oven to 350

  • Cream together the oil, sugar, vanilla, and egg. Add the baking powder, xanthan gum, 2 tsp. salt, cocoa powder, and milk and mix to combine.
  • Add the flour slowly, and mix to fully combine.
  • Scoop batter onto a cookie sheet, top with a bit of ground sea salt, and bake for 9 minutes.
  • Makes about 24 cookies.

    If you’d like to learn more about me, please check out my blog and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

    Thank you for sharing this deliciously sweet recipe, Rochelle! – R

    Recipe Box: Mom’s Fruit Cake

    This is a guest post by my friend Spice of Batman Comics. She was kind enough to share her mother’s fruit cake recipe while I am away in New York City/Philadelphia. Thank you, Spice! – R

    When I was growing up we often hosted Friday night dinner for family and friends, and this cake was my mom’s go-to dessert. In fact, she made it so often that the original recipe card is almost illegible now, and instead it’s been written directly on the inside of a cupboard door. This cake is quick and easy to make, very tasty, and you can substitute pretty much any fruit that you have on hand. I like to use cranberries in the fall for a seasonal touch, especially if I’m bringing the cake to a Thanksgiving meal, but when I baked it this time I used peaches and blueberries to capture that special end-of-summer feeling.


    2 eggs
    1 c. sugar
    1/2 c. vegetable oil
    1 3/4 c. flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 c. orange juice
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 – 2 c. fruit (approx 1 bag fresh cranberries, or 5 apples, or peaches, or blueberries, or halved Italian prune plums, or whatever other fruit you want to try)

    Topping – brown sugar scattered, and/or crushed nuts, sunflower seeds, 1/2 tsp cinnamon


    Start by preheating your oven to 350 and preparing your fruit. I used diced peaches and blueberries, they make a great combination.

    In a large bowl, mix together your eggs, sugar and oil. It should be smooth but don’t over-mix.

    In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.

    After you measure out the juice, stir the vanilla directly in to the juice; this will ensure that the vanilla is evenly mixed through the cake. Then alternate adding the dry ingredients and and juice to the wet ingredients bowl, stirring to keep it smooth and avoid lumps.

    Fold in the fruit, and that’s all there is to it!

    Grease your baking dish before pouring in the cake batter. I used a ceramic casserole dish here, but glass also works very well for this cake and it bakes a bit faster if you do use glass. Finish by sprinkling with brown sugar and chopped nuts, or sunflower seeds.

    Bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 min, test with a toothpick to see if it’s done. Enjoy!

    Recipe Box: Berry & Lemon Cream Trifle

    I always volunteer my culinary services for family birthdays – first with just dessert because I was sick and tired of choking down the same stale store bought pie – then gradually I started to take over the main course. For a recent combined birthday party for two of my aunts, I decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm (glorious!) weather and grilled lamb loin chops for dinner and made a trifle for dessert. I usually think of trifles for summer backyard barbeques – which is what we were having so, hey, who cares if it’s early March? I wanted to try something new and easy, so trifle it was!


    You’ll Need:
    1 pound cake (I used Sara Lee family size)
    1 quart heavy whipping cream
    1 jar of lemon curd
    2 pints strawberries, hulled and quartered
    raspberries – I used 1/2 lb.
    blueberries (I used one 1 lb)
    Fresh mint, muddled or crushed
    1 tsp. vanilla
    1 vanilla bean
    juice of a lemon
    zest of lemon
    3/4th cup cream sherry

    Wash the berries and mix them up in a large bowl. Pour the cream sherry over them, gently mix again. Cover and let it sit in the fridge while you make the whipped cream.
    Slice the pound cake into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
    Extract seeds from vanilla bean (see this video if you don’t know how)
    With an electric mixer, whip up your cream
    As it begins to peak, add the vanilla and vanilla bean
    Once the cream has been adequately whipped, gently mix in the zest and fresh juice of the lemon.
    Begin to add the lemon curd, one tablespoon at a time as you work it through with a rubber spatula, until you reach the ratio of sugar/lemon flavor/cream you desire. I ended up using about 3/4th of my 11 oz. jar.
    Crush or muddle the mint and manually mix it into the cream
    In a large bowl (glass makes for prettier presentation but whatever) with a fairly even bottom-to-rim ratio begin to layer:
    – pound cake
    – whipped cream
    – berries
    Keep layering in that order until it’s all gone or you’ve reached the top of your bowl. You might have some excess berries to set aside for later.
    Cover and let it chill in the fridge until you want to eat it – mine was for about 90-120 minutes.

    Take a big ass spoon and dish into bowls. Add extra berries and serve!


    – I don’t think I paid much attention to the video I recommended or maybe I didn’t use enough but adding just one vanilla bean seemed to do fuck all for flavor. I ended up adding a lot more vanilla extract. First time working with a vanilla bean and it’s a bust!
    – I thought my cream was too lemon-sugary but everyone else said I was crazy so I’m going with majority ruling on the amount. I stand by the use of lemon curd but next time I’d use less.

    Guest Post: Four Recipes

    I gave a Twitter shout out for people to send in their favorite recipes and my Tweeter pal Amemait sent not one, not two, not three but four marvelously easy recipes. Two dinners, one dessert and a fabulous anytime snack. ENJOY! -R

    Amemait’s Notes: Most measurements given in Antipodean metric, I’m afraid (which means the ‘cups’ are slightly differently sized as well as the measurements being in grams). Exception is Fondue, as this recipe’s a traditional German one. Temperatures given in Celsius (so add 15 and multiply by 2 to get the Fahrenheit).

    DINNER ONE: Farmhouse Fondue
    Serves: 4-ish. Or 2 very hungry cold people
    Prep and cooking time: depends on your stove
    Difficulty scale: 2ish
    Special equipment: Fondue set, Fondue forks and a cute person to snog sitting next to you

    1 clove Garlic
    1lb Cheddar Cheese, grated
    1 teaspoon dry Mustard
    1tsp Nutmeg
    1/4pint Milk
    2tblsp Dry White Wine (+1 glass to drink while making)
    Salt & pepper to taste
    1/2tsp butter (optional, but useful)

    Chop garlic finely (or used some of them garlic twisty thingies)
    Place in fondue pan & melt gently, stirring continuously.
    Slightly warm the wine & milk, add with remaining ingredients except butter.
    Cook until thick & creamy, stirring all the time.
    Adding 1/2tsp butter makes the pan about 100x easier to clean.
    Fondue bread should be crusty, or you can use Granny Smith apples for the sharp tastiness.
    Have the cute person sit on your right if you want to be allowed to snog them if you drop the food into the fondue bowl, or on your left if you want them to kiss you.

    DINNER TWO: Pizza Pancakes
    For the days when you wake up and a) can’t decide if you want pizza or pancakes, or b) discover that you’ve woken up and it’s time for dinner!
    Serves: however much the pancake mix you’re using serves.
    Prep time: Depends on your pizza toppings
    Cooking time: About 5-10 minutes per pancake
    Difficulty scale: 2
    Special equipment: A frying pan, a see-through lid which fits over it, and something to lift the pancake off the frypan with.

    Either your own recipe for pancakes, or some supermarket pancake mix
    Whatever you personally like to put on Pizza

    Pour the pancake mix into the frypan, and wait until it’s about 1/4 to 1/2-pancaked on the bottom side. Without flipping it over, add whichever sauce you use for pizza to the top of the pancake, and then
    your cheeses, meats, peppers, etc.
    Top it off with some more cheese (this helps it cook a little better, honest!) and place the lid over
    the frypan.
    Watch until the cheese is melted to your taste, then quickly turn the frypan or stove off and transfer your pizza to a largish plate.
    If making for more than one person, be sure to place the plateful of pizza pancake in the oven on ‘Keep Warm’. This will keep your pizza from getting cold while you make everybody else’s.
    Perhaps not a good idea to put the fried egg on if that’s your thing for Pizza.

    PUDDING: Sticky date pudding
    Serves: A LOT. Can go up to 8 people with leftovers for breakfast (it’s a very nice breakfast)
    Prep time: About an hour the first time
    Cooking time: 40-60 minutes
    Difficulty scale: 2
    Special equipment: Oven-proof pudding basin, baking paper to line this (makes it easier to clean)

    250 g pitted, chopped dates (you can buy them like this in Woolies, sometimes)
    1 and 1/2 cups water
    1 large rounded teaspoon minced ginger or 1 level teaspoon ground ginger
    1 and 1/2 teasp baking soda
    90g butter
    1 cup caster sugar
    3 eggs
    1 and 3/4 cups Self-raising flour (or use plain flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder)
    1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice or cinnamon

    Caramel sauce
    60 g butter
    2/3 cup brown sugar
    1 cup cream


    Preheat oven to 180 deg
    Line a large pudding basin with baking paper
    Put dates, water and ginger in a saucepan, cover, bring to boil then
    turn heat down and simmer for 5 mins
    Remove from heat, stir in baking soda while still hot, then allow to
    cool slightly – 10 minutes max
    While the dates are cooling, cream the butter and sugar together, then
    add eggs, mix thoroughly but do not over beat.
    Mix the flour and mixed spice together in a separate bowl
    Fold in 1/2 the flour into the butter & sugar mix, then fold in half
    the date mixture, then repeat with the remainder.
    Put it into the pudding basin, bake for about 1 hour – watch that it
    doesn’t burn, maybe test with a knife after about 40 minutes.
    Remove from oven, and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

    Caramel sauce method:
    Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan, stirring over gentle heat until melted and mixed.

    SNACK: Never-fail Microwave Brownie!
    Prep time: 2–5 minutes
    Cooking time: 5 minutes
    Difficulty scale: 1
    Special equipment: Baking tray, maybe a mixer (I whisk it by hand within the 2 minute limit), maybe a sieve to sift the flour & cocoa for easier mixing and to put the icing sugar on top)

    Butter: 100g
    Eggs: 2 (mediumish)
    Sugar: 1 cup
    Cocoa: 1/4 Cup (not drinking chocolate. I speak from experience)
    Flour: 1 cup
    Baking powder: 1tsp
    Vanilla Essence: 1tsp (not essential, but does lift this a little. If using Vanilla Extract or Flavouring, 2tsp)
    Icing sugar, Chocolate Sprinkles, or Grated Chocolate on top (optional)

    Soften butter (by soften I mean ‘nearly liquid). Add sugar & eggs,
    cream well. Add other dry ingredients & Vanilla, mix well. I’ve taken
    to doing all this in the bowl which I’ll bake it in to rescue dough.
    Place mixture in microwave-proof tray (which should fit into the
    microwave and be able to do 360degree turns in it; if this gets stuck
    it burns). Cook on High for 5 minutes (watch to make sure the try
    doesn’t get stuck).

    Sift on icing sugar/grate chocolate over it/attack it with sprinkles.