These are from my Grandma’s kitchen. She’d given me items from her kitchen over the years, including solid cookie sheets, ancient mixing bowls and even her wedding china – the most amazing gift ever. These small utensils are the things I use almost daily and bring back fond memories of being a kid in Grandma’s kitchen.
She used the orange handled spoon for ice cream. Remember the blocky carton of Foremost or Thrifty’s ice cream? We’d grab them from the freezer and wonder if the flavors inside would match what the box said. Grandma was famous for consolidating two or more flavors into one carton. And the orange handle would always be there to scoop out thick slabs of ice cream into our bowls and hungry mouths.
The whisk mixed pancake batter and sifted the dry ingredients for her oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I have a pristine whisk that I bought at Crate and Barrel, but this one is perfectly imperfect. Its wood handle is chipped and the wires unbalanced, but it works just fine. I find myself reaching for it more often than the new one – very possibly due to the thoughts it brings up.
And the salt and pepper shakers were staples in her kitchen. They sat on top of her stove and were used constantly. Grandma later filled them with sugar and flour, labeling them with masking tape and ball point pen. She used them to sprinkle flour and powdered sugar when she baked. I took great care to make sure the labels didn’t come off when I washed and refilled them after they came to live with me. I love that every time I pick them up, her cursive handwriting is looking back at me.
I’m the kitchen freak that has every gadget, pan and utensil known to man. Some I bought when I had the need (pastry blender, microplane zester), some I found at yard sales or thrift stores (mini cupcake pans, vintage sifter) and some were handed down to me (scroll up, baby). I love all my kitchen gadgets, but the ones that came to me from my baking idol are my favorites. When she passed away and we were cleaning out her kitchen, everyone laid claim to things they wanted. I took everything that was left because 1.) I’d use it and 2.) it belonged to a fabulously sassy lady who would want it that way.
A kitchen full of friends makes me the most happy. I’m lucky to have a large kitchen and am able to host gatherings often. My last kitchen was a galley and it was hard having guests over because I never got to see them. No fun! This kitchen is very open and begs for company, so I give her what she wants.
Fridays have become “wine night” at my house. As in, “Let’s have a _________ wine night on Friday”! The blank can be yoga, U-JAM, writing group, cookbook crew, couples, family — you get the idea. If you bring out wine, they will come. Of course we serve lots of other things too, but vino seems to be the constant.
And with wine, you need food. And guess what? I love to cook, so it’s a win-win. I’ve ditched the big dinner in favor of munchies and cocktail food, as it’s more fun to graze and it’s easier on the host. Yeah, that would be me. I learned the hard way that it’s tough to enjoy your company when you’re trying to get food ready to serve all at once. No thanks.
I love the noise, clutter and frenzy of having guests in my house. I truly enjoy bringing people together and then stuffing their bellies. I’ve also taught friends to bake and cook, but letting friends relax in my home is what makes me smile. Your glass will never be empty up in here!
Here are a few recent glances into my kitchen…
U-JAM wine night
yoga wine night (we posed all pretty-like at some point)
baking lesson with Sreya
Jinxie and Sharon snuggling (no wine or food that day, just fun!)
…and I can’t forget my daily kitchen companions, Jinx and Fred! They are always nearby in case I need taste testers. ;)
Here I go again with the garden. I’m telling you, it’s been one of the best parts of this summer! Fresh tomatoes on the regular. What’s not to love about that?
The hubby picks tomatoes every day and we started to get too many. I can’t believe that phrase is exiting my mouth, as you can never have too many home grown tomatoes. For reals. The thing is, we’ve been eating them almost daily, plus I’ve been giving them away and we STILL had too many. Afraid they’d go bad, I had to make a big batch of something to use them up this week. Guess what I made?
Pasta sauce! We’re ‘Goodfellas’ fans in this house, so we’ve taken to calling it gravy. As in, “I had a lot of stuff to do today, so I had my brother Michael stay home and stir the gravy so it wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pot” (paraphrased, but you get the gist). I found a recipe that seemed easy enough and went for it. Boy, was that ever a good idea!
First I weighed out the 12 pounds of tomatoes the recipe called for. We have a variety, so there were different sizes, shapes and colors going into the mix.
I used the process of cutting an ‘x’ on the bottom and then dunking them in boiling water for 30 seconds to peel the tomatoes. Easy breezy! The larger ones needed a bit more time, but the skins peeled right off. See?
Then everything gets chopped and put in the pool. Sweat the onions and add garlic and the tomatoes and let it all get soft. Eventually you mash the cooked tomatoes with a potato masher (again, easy!) and let it reduce to your desired consistency. I added basil to finish and put it into containers for the freezer.
We’re having some tonight with pasta and I can’t wait! The flavor is fresh and light. The tomato flavor really intensified with cooking and is going to hold up nicely to pasta and the lasagna I’ll eventually use it for. The original recipe came from The Earthbound Cook, but I did doctor it a bit for my own taste.
If you have extra tomatoes and need to make a batch of something big to thin out the herd, I recommend gravy. You can freeze it, give it to your neighbors or just enjoy it fresh out of the pot!
Are you planning on some backyard time this weekend with a glass of wine or a cocktail? If so, stop what you’re doing and make a batch of these Tamarind Spiced Nuts with Mint. I found the recipe on New York Times website and was excited to give them a whirl. Super easy to make and won’t take up much of your time. I forgot the mint the last time I made them and they’re just as good. I use extra coconut than the recipe calls for, but that’s me. These nuts are savory with a touch of sweet and sour that will make you want to munch a bunch!
PS- I found both unsalted cashews and unsweetened coconut flakes (bulk bins) at my local Whole Foods.
Remember the garden I told you we planted back in May? Well we are now up to our knees (okay, maybe ankles) in gorgeous, ripe tomatoes! We’ve been using them in different ways, but my current favorites are caprese salad and pico de gallo. I love salsa and this is the best in my book. Juicy tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, lime juice and cilantro are all you need to make this flavorful bowlful of goodness. Just chop up everything to taste, grab your favorite chips and get ready for a tastebud party!
Fresh pico de gallo ala FG
• tomatoes • red onion • jalapeno pepper • fresh lime juice • cilantro
I just start chopping and tasting as I go, adding more of whatever is needed. Omit the cilantro if you hate the stuff and think it tastes like soap. (I do not understand this notion, but know it exists!)
We used to inhabit Kauai every year cos we had a sweet deal. A great little rental across the street from a quiet beach, we could cook our own food and it was relaxing. We’d also gone to Maui, which is a step above Kauai in the crowded department, but not anything crazy. I’d heard of people vacationing on Oahu and thought they were nuts. It’s a big city, crowded and congested, so why would anyone go there? I’ll tell you why – because of the food!
This was our third trip to Honolulu and we don’t stay in Waikiki. We stay in a hotel off the main strip, where it’s tranquil and relaxed. It’s a place where everybody knows your name and they remember it even if you haven’t been there in a few years. It’s still in Honolulu, so it’s just a 10-15 minute drive to most restaurants in the area. We became friends with a valet who works at the hotel and he’s guided our Hawaiian culinary adventures. I truly have to give him props, because he knows the real deal. When we eat, we’re not looking for fancy, spendy, high-end places – we’re looking for hole-in-the-wall, tiny, funky joints that make you think, “Ummm, is this the right place?”, when you drive up. He knows this fact and always has great suggestions.
We’ve enjoyed foods new to us, such as shabu shabu and ramen, while going back to our old favorites like Hawaiian plate lunches (complete with a scoop of mac salad!), fried rice with Portuguese sausage and pan-fried pork chops. This vacation was definitely indulgent with food, but we’ll work hard at the gym now that we’re home. In fact, we’re doing a two week vegetarian stint right now to cleanse ourselves from all that meat. We also said no booze for a week, but that ended exactly after one week had passed. I can go forever without meat, but not wine!
We drove almost an hour for this shave ice. Nutty? Yes. Good? Yes! Plus, we wanted to see a part of the island we’d never been to, so what the heck? This is from Matsumoto’s Shave Ice in Haleiwa on the North Shore. Hubby got coconut and mango and I went for root beer with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was an icy root beer float! We snuggled on a bench with a family from Arizona who also made the drive from Honolulu and none of us were disappointed.
And then there are the cocktails. You probably think pina colada, mai tai or lava flow when you think Hawaii, but branch out next time you’re in the tropics. Town in the Kaimuki neighborhood offers cool cocktails that use herbs and their own special blends of spirits. Their entire menu is full of local ingredients and the drinks are no exception. We sat at the bar on our second visit and the bartender Jordan told me he came up with the “mai thyme” idea when he was growing thyme and lemongrass in his backyard. Doesn’t get more local than that! I love the traditional mai tai at Side Street Inn, but this is amazing in it’s own way. Rum, ginger beer, pineapple, thyme and lemongrass. Wow.
No trip to Oahu would be complete with at least one trip to Leonard’s Bakery for hot malasadas. We went twice in 2.5 weeks, which I thought showed serious restraint. Malasadas are similar to donuts but way better. WAY. Rolled in sugar while still hot and sometimes filled with custard, they are a Hawaiian staple. I’m sure Leonard’s sells other delicious desserts, but I wouldn’t know because I can never leave the malasada train. We brought some back for the night valet crew and as I handed over the box I thought, “Do the locals get sick of these?”, but decided that was a crazy thought. Tire of those warm, yeasty, sugary buns of joy? Never.
I didn’t take any food photos this trip, but will leave you with a list of our favorite Oahu haunts. Most are in Honolulu, since that’s where we stay and we don’t like driving far for grub.
Do you see this? It’s the remains of something wonderful. I didn’t take a before photo, but now that I see this one, I realize it has more impact. It shows how much everyone enjoyed this and ate it all up!
I made a roasted garlic white bean dip and homemade pita chips for a picnic I was going on with my food writing pals from Stanford. We had salads, wine, chip/dip and sweets – all on real dishes over a colorful tablecloth on a sunny Saturday. It was very civilized and lovely!
The dip looks like hummus, but is much lighter and has a fluffy quality. You blend cannellini beans with roasted garlic, rosemary olive oil (that I also made myself) and lemon juice. It’s easy and delicious. The recipe also shows you how to make your own pita chips, which I did. One of the girls remarked on how these pita chips weren’t oily like most and when I replied that I made them, she said, “That’s why!”
The dip and pita chip recipe is from Ripe, the gorgeous cookbook by Cheryl Sternman Rule. Cheryl was a guest speaker in our class last year and I bought the book from her then. She’s friends with our instructor, Tori Ritchie, and was invited to discuss her blog, 5 second rule, as well as her process for all the food-related things she works on. Ripe is chock full of amazing recipes for fruit and vegetables, all listed in sections by the produce’s color. I got my copy last October and it’s been mostly out on the counter because I just enjoy looking at it!
Here were are, the cookbook crew (we should give our group an official name!), in the middle of our glorious picnic lunch. We’re easy to spot if you’re out and about. We’re the foursome eating about food, talking about food and having way too much fun! I’m lucky to have met these beautiful women and be able to spend time with them – eating, of all things!
I keep hearing that cupcakes are over. I get it, we’ve moved on to the next big thing. Pie in a jar. Herb flavored ice cream. Nutella. Yeah yeah, I got the picture. The thing I’d like to know is if cupcakes are over, then why do people still ask for them? Huh? HUH? So my cupcakes aren’t $3.50 a pop and not that fancy, but they taste good and look darn cute. These were for a baby shower at the hubby’s office and were a big hit. Rumor has it some even took more than one. Yay!
A whole wheat English muffin topped with ricotta sopraffina and a drizzle of honey, with a side of strawberries. Yum!
If you haven’t tried ricotta sopraffina, give it a whirl. I find it at Whole Foods. They pack it themselves, so it’s in little clear deli containers and is sold by weight. I’ve had to talk with the cheese manager at the two WF near my house, as they stopped carrying it for a while. One of them now has it off and on and the other regularly carries it again – yay! I’ve been told it’s really wonderful in lasagna, but I haven’t even gotten that far with it yet. It’s so good, I can’t imagine covering it up with sauce or meat. The flavor is very delicate and texture is much smoother than most types of ricotta. I never thought I’d be eating this for breakfast, but it’s healthier than butter and has a little protein, making me feel full longer. Win-win!
You’ve never heard of tingas, right? Neither had I. Let me tell you, they are amazing and once you make them, you’ll keep them in the rotation. I did!
Tingas are a tomatoey (not a word, I know) shredded pork that is full of flavor and downright delicious. We saw this recipe made on America’s Test Kitchen one night and hubby asked, “are you gonna try that?” to which I replied, “ummm, yeah!”. I’m proud to say that we make this dish together. I start the process with boiling the meat and then he takes over once it’s time to shred. Teamwork!
It starts with 2 lbs. of pork butt boiled with onion, garlic and thyme. I get the butcher to cut it into cubes for me, which is nice if yours will do it. The meat boils for 90 minutes and then you shred it once it’s nice and tender.
When you drain the juice from the eat, you’re left with this golden pork broth that you’ll use later. It was so pretty and looked rich and flavorful. I threatened to drink some with a straw, but let’s keep it real. I was just trying to make the hub cringe.
I LOVE chipotle peppers in adobo and use them often. I had just used some the night before, so I had a can open and ready for business! This recipe called for 2 chopped chipotles (you can also use chipotle powder if you have it), but hubby added some of the adobo to add more spice. It came out just right. And for the record, they are pronounced CHEE-POAT-LAY. If I hear one more person say CHEE-POLE-TAY, I’m gonna scream! My dad is Mexican and even he says it wrong. Annoying.
So after you shred the meat (a potato masher works great!), you cook it with chopped onion in olive oil. Once the meat gets a bit crispy, you add in the chiles, spices, broth and tomato sauce to simmer.
The meat will still be juice when done. Just remove the bay leaves and serve! The entire process takes a while because of the initial boiling, but once you get it into the pan to fry, it moves quickly.
I cut lime wedges, avocado, lettuce and yellow heirloom tomatoes as garnishes the first time. Hubby put his fave jalapeno hot sauce on them for extra kick.
The meat was juicy enough that it stuck to the tostada nicely and you didn’t need a base of beans to keep it on the shell. The meat was spicy, sweet and full of flavor. Bonus: the house smelled amazing that evening and even the next day!
So my parents decide to go on this long road trip and we say, “Great! Sounds fun! Can’t wait to hear all about it!” And then my dad says, “So I won’t be planting a garden this year. No tomatoes.” *insert crickets here* Is he joking? His tomatoes are what keeps me going all summer and fall. This cannot be true. With the calmest voice I can muster I ask, “Really? What about the tomatoes?” and he says, “Not this year, honey.” I have to admit, I did panic for a bit. Then I decided I would get a few pots and plant my own. Yeah, that’ll show ‘em! I can do it. No problem.
Well, there is one problem — I have a brown thumb. The only thing I can successfully keep alive are cactus. It’s true. And this from a girl whose grandfather was the head gardener for the whole school district! Sad, right? The green gene did not transfer down. I still decided to give it a go. Why the heck not?
Then the hubby says he found these cool raised beds that don’t require any tools in Sunset magazine. Know what I did next? I called the guy who makes them (Conor), asked him a bunch of questions and then bought one. Easy peasy. Minifarmbox is truly the way to go if you don’t have the space for a big ‘ol garden. It came to the house in a few days and was super easy to set up. In fact, we put it together in about 20 minutes, then ran out to buy soil and plants and had a complete garden later that afternoon. It took a buttload of soil, but it was a very easy way to plant a garden. Daily watering is all I’m doing so far and as you can see below, it’s working.
We planted several types of tomatoes, squash and peppers, plus basil, thyme and cilantro in separate pots. Here’s our garden not even a month after planting. I got cages for the tomatoes, as they don’t have enough room to wander out. Shout out to Marcus and OJ at Home Depot for helping me separate out 12 cages that were all stuck together. I’d still be there trying to get them apart if it weren’t for them. I’m going to take them some tomatoes once they come in! I’ll keep you posted on how things turn out. But just in case, cross your fingers for me?
I took a food writing class a few months ago. It was only 6 weeks, but I wish it were 6 months. I knew we’d only scratch the surface of the food writing world, so I soaked it up like a big ‘ol sponge. I was infatuated with the subject, teacher and fellow students. Everyone was there for a different reason yet we all had this one common denominator — food!
We started each class with a free write exercise, where our teacher gave us a topic or sentence and we had to just go for it. There was a time limit, but we didn’t usually know how long we’d be writing. I loved the free write. I enjoyed putting pen to paper and seeing where my thoughts took me. I have many inhibitions in daily life, but not with writing. I say what I feel. The idea that I don’t always need to share it with anyone is probably what makes me so free with the words. Plus, there was always time to rewrite later. The point is to write everyday. We wrote about a newly discovered food item, a proper recipe, blog piece, restaurant review and a memoir piece during the 6 weeks. It was good to learn writing for various parts of the food world and figure out what I enjoyed.
My favorite writing topic was food as memoir. I was just finishing up Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table that week, so the timing couldn’t have been better. This writing style speaks to me. My brain is made up of one memory after another, many of them revolving around food and family. They’re fighting for space in my brain like an overstuffed closet. I just recently read Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton and she inspired me to continue down this path. I just enrolled in a memoir writing course that beings next month and am truly excited to explore this personal avenue. Wish me luck!
I’m not going to use her name, but I have a friend who eats Nutella by the spoonful. Or four. She tells me that she had 4 spoonfuls for lunch that day and I think, “No way! Isn’t it too sweet or too goopy?” I’m not a huge peanut butter fan and Nutella reminds me of the peanutty goo. I bought a jar earlier this year to make a dessert with it, but the occasion fell through and I never even opened the jar. Then I saw a recipe for Nutella cookies on Pinterest and pinned it for future use. Yesterday I opened the jar. My mind has been changed.
The recipe called for 1 cup of Nutella. Do you think a heaping cup will hurt the recipe? I did not and decided to go for it. (Note: It didn’t hurt a darn thing.) And yes, I did lick the spatula when I was done scooping this into the mixing bowl.
After rolling the dough into balls, you mash the dough down with the bottom of a glass. I went with the stylish 1970s TAB glass because it had the right size bottom.
So, yeah, these are really good. The edges of my cookies are a bit crumbly looking, but it doesn’t hurt the taste one bit. Plus, the recipe only has 4 ingredients, so it’s super easy. The cookie edges are crunchy and the centers are chewy, which is a really nice mix of textures. One of the comments on the original recipe said to wait until the cookies were cool, but I say p’shaw. I ate one warm and one cooled and both were delicious!
are you tired of chocolate? i know, i know. right now you’re probably saying, “WTF?” i make brownies all the time and they’re damn good. they have double chocolate and are chewy and good, but sometimes i want to make something else. something a little different, but still yummy. i’ve been making these toffee blondies i found in martha stewart everyday food magazine off and on for years and they’re a nice change from chocolate. i made them today for a picnic and they were a hit!
the blondies are easy to make. you take melted butter and mix it with brown sugar. we’re off to a good start, right? in my eyes this is already caramely goodness!
then you add vanilla, eggs, salt and flour to the butter/sugar mixture and end up with a sticky batter. hang on, it gets better…
then you add toffee chips. oh yeah! if i can find the skor chips, i like to use them. this time i used the heath toffee chips that had milk chocolate in them. i wasn’t sure how that would go over, but i can report that the little bit of chocolate worked.
the pan needs to be lined with foil because they’ll stick. the toffee melts a bit and makes them too sticky to bake in the pan alone. it’s amazing cos the foil just peels away when they’re cool.
ta da, toffee blondie innard goodness! i cut them small so everyone would be able to have a few and that they did. nothing makes me happier than seeing a big smile on a friend’s face when they eat something i’ve made!
my mother-in-law is retiring and she asked me to make a cake for her work party. she asked for a 1/2 sheet, white cake, white frosting with fruit in the middle. easy enough, right? i was cool with that and even got some lovely strawberries to add as the filling. but then there’s the decorating. i’m ok with trying almost anything, but i’m not really great at the whole buttercream roses and flowers thing. i have made them before, but they always turn out lopsided or weird looking. i surfed for flower ideas and found these on the Wilton website.
they used the candy clay, which i think is softer than fondant, but i had fondant in my baking cupboard, so i went for it. the first ones i made were too thick cos i didn’t roll the fondant thin enough, but i got the hang of it after a while. and i have these cute little flower cutters in various sizes, which i thought would look fun on the cake.
i wanted some of them to have a little body, so i let them dry on the edge of a paper plate. this gave them a little bend. i added a tiny sprinkle to the smaller ones and a larger candy ball to the larger ones. i kept a few of the large flowers flat to layer upon.
i was happy with the finished product. i frosted the cake with a non-dairy frosting that you whip yourself called pastry pride. i get it from a cake shop in my neighborhood and it’s usually frozen. you just let it thaw in the fridge overnight and then whip until it looks like whipped cream. you can add sugar or flavoring to it, but i like it as is. it’s super easy to work with, too, which is good. like i said, i’m happy with the finished cake. i like how the layered flowers turned out and am hoping my mom-in-law will too!
the ginger burned, so it became roasted carrot soup
the recipe in The Soup Book by Sophie Grigson said “maple roasted ginger and carrot soup”. maple syrup might make it too sweet, right? i think roasted carrots are pretty sweet on their own, so i didn’t add the syrup to the veggies and just roasted them with olive oil. glad i did!
i love fresh ginger and carrots together. my other favorite flavor combo is chocolate and bananas, but this one is slightly healthier.
carrots, ginger, onion all get roasted with olive oil. i also added salt and pepper. the ginger pieces were really small, so of course they got burned. duh. i should have added them later in the roasting process or cut larger chunks.
i added the roasted veggies to the blender with my homemade chicken stock and blammo — soup!
so this post is way late. i took these photos months ago when my friend sreya, aka my baking student, came over to teach me how to cook indian food. i put them in a folder all set to post about them and then i cleaned up my desktop. yeah, you know what i’m going to say now, right? into a folder they went and out of my brain they went! better late then never.
sreya brought over the ingredients and together we made this delicious indian veggie meal. the process was amazing. we made tikka masala from scratch. we added cilantro to everything at the last minute as a flavorful garnish. the only thing we didn’t make was the naan. we had much fun that day and then sat down to a gorgeous dinner. here’s the proof!
pakora — a yummy appetizer of cauliflower, potato and onion.
this is the pakora batter….
and here they are getting the bubbly treatment. you just grab little handfuls of the batter and fry. we ate them warm while we were cooking. such a treat!
chana masala. sreya boiled the chana at home so we wouldn’t have to, which made it a lot quicker to our bellies!
aloo gobi, my favorite, starting to cook. it’s a mix of potato, tomato and cauliflower. it’s delish!
believe it or not, this is the beginning of homemade tikka masala. we actually ground up red onions in a little spice grinder. you cook the ground onions with spices and it makes for a smooth, rich sauce.
while making the tikka masala, we had another pan going to brown the paneer cubes.
here’s the paneer all crispy and ready to go into the tikka masala. y-u-m!
the perfect marriage of the 2 together. paneer tikka masala is one of my all-time fave indian dishes and this one was wonderful. the rich sauce was full of spices and we added bell peppers for color/flavor. so good.
and to sop up all that yummy sauce? naan! we put them on a griddle so they got warm and toasty.
then we had galub jamun for dessert. you fry these little dough balls and then soak them in a sugar syrup until they’re saturated. we made these first so they’d be ready by the end of dinner.
the finished product. we spent all day cooking and it was worth every second. the food was delicious, the company was lovely and i learned some new dishes to add to my repertoire. i was even left with a little kit of the spices we used that day so i could try these dishes on my own. thank you, sreya!
check it out — mini corn dog muffins. i made these for a superbowl party last week and they were a hit. try ‘em!
this photo kind of sucks, but trust me, these babies are delish!
i didn’t even use the corn muffin base the recipe author used, i bought good ‘ol jiffy corn muffin mix and went to town. that stuff is damn good for .99 a box!
pop a tablespoon of corn muffin mix into each mini muffin cup, top with a small slice of hot dog and bake. that’s it!
the corn muffin bakes around the hot dog and stayed moist and yummy. when i put them on the table of the superbowl party i attended, a guy asked me what these were. i told him, he tried one and declared, “i don’t like corn dogs but i love corn bread and these are great!”. yay!
i love mushrooms. i ate them more often when i didn’t have a husband who hates them. it’s not like he forbids me to eat them or anything, it’s just easier to cook one dinner a day, ya know? so the other day i’m pinning (yes, and i am slightly obsessed) when i came across a lovely photo of mushroom barley soup from mango & tomato. i pinned it with the intention of making it soon. i thought it would be perfect for a dinner and some lunches this week.
so guess what i made today? and meatless for monday, no less!
here are the veggies cooking before adding the broth and barley. can i just tell you how amazing my kitchen smelled at this moment? i actually took this photo to remind myself of that yummy smell. the recipe is very easy and the soup comes together quickly. i didn’t use as much stock as the recipe calls for, but i may end up adding some as the week goes on. the soup is full of wonderful earthy flavors with the mushrooms and thyme. i only had fresh thyme and i added some dry oregano, too — just for kicks.
this is good stuff! easy to make and very tasty. olga recommends adding leftover meat to the soup, which would make it even heartier. yum!
i did it again. i made another pot of soup. i know, i know, don’t go crazy, fg. trust me, i’m nuts and i know it!
we called it chicken pho, but it wasn’t really pho. very similar, but not exactly. i used martha’s recipe out of everyday food magazine (thanks mom for the free subscription!), but went with my own broth rather than use her soup base, just like i did with the minestrone last week. i used 2 cartons of trader joe’s chicken stock, 1 low-sodium and 1 free range cos i’m not a salty kind of girl.
i made the pot when i got home from yoga, ate my share and then left it on low until hubby got home 2 hours later. the soup has rice noodles in it which don’t absorb liquid the way regular pasta would, so they didn’t get all gooey and the broth stayed the same as when i had it. to make this even easier than it already is, i used a store-bought chicken and just shredded the meat myself. quick, quick, quick! i added some sliced jalapeno, cilantro and basil for flavor. hubby put sriracha in his and loved it. now all i need are some big bowls and those cool little asian soup spoons for the full effect. hubby said, “you can make this over and over and over if you want”, so i believe it will be in the regular soup rotation!
wait. i turn it on and dinner is ready in 8 hours? no way!
i’ve never been able to wrap my head around this concept. i mean, i know it works and many people use them, but cooking in a crock pot has always seemed weird to me. if there’s no work involved, then it’s like dinner never happened. ya know? hubby used to make chili in the crock pot all the time, until i found an on-the-stove recipe that kind of kicks it’s ass. my grandma gave me her old crock pot when she was cleaning out her kitchen, but i never used it. my anutie nette (her name is annette, but i’ve never once called her that…how fun is that?) recently proclaimed that she broke the ceramic insert of her beloved crock pot and needed to get another one stat. hubby offered to get her a new one for christmas and she said she couldn’t wait that long. and we’re talking like 2 weeks away! she told me she uses it several times a week to make delicious meals that come from one pot.
so i was looking through some magazines my mom handed down to me last week and i came across a recipe for beef and carrot ragu. the picture was most appetizing (see above….looks good, huh?) and the ingredients were few, so i ripped the page out. upon reading the directions, i discovered it was made in a crock pot. i figured this was fate and bought the ingredients a few days later.
side note: my butcher bf told me to get regular short ribs and cut the meat off the bone. he said if i ask for “boneless short ribs” they’ll take some other cut of meat and try to pass it off as short ribs and it won’t be what i want. thanks for the advice, butch. you’re the best!
the other thing about crock pot cooking is there is light math involved and i am not a math girl. at all. if i want to eat by ______, then i need to get this pot going by ______. now i know that’s not rocket science, but putting time limits on when i need to start dinner just perplexes me. i did figure out that to eat by 7:00 pm, i needed to get this pot going by 10:00 or 11:00 am. whew!
ragu before turning on crock pot. just a bunch of ingredients layered in the thing.
ragu during cooking (around 4 hours of cooking) and after a good stir. kinda looks like stew, huh? it doesn’t look like much, but my house smelled incredible! this is where i left the house, took a bikram class, showered at the studio and drove home. the most amazing thing was that i came home to an almost complete meal!
ragu after and on top of pappardelle pasta! i did shred the meat apart a bit cos the chunks just kind of stayed together, even after 8 hours of cooking. the sauce was very good and chock full of carrots. we added some chopped basil and grated parm for a garnish and it was most good! i ended up calling auntie nette last night to let her know of my crock pot adventures and she sounded very pleased. she named many things she makes in her crock pot, such as beef stew, spaghetti sauce, bbq pork…she even cooks a whole chicken or 2 in hers. i’m now going to search out some more recipes and get this baby in the cooking rotation!
guess what i had for dinner tonight? yep, a big bowl of minestrone and it was darn good! the recipe was for chicken minestrone, but i decided to add extra veggies and ditch the chicken. hello meatless monday! except it was tuesday. ;)
this is how the soup was supposed to look, but i used different pasta and 86’d chicken. i also didn’t use the soup base recipe that martha made, i did my own thing. i used organic chicken stock and added some low sodium chicken base for extra flavor and the soup was done much quicker. i also recommend adding the parmesan rind because it adds a rich flavor to the broth. yum!
here’s my second cake for the non-profit cake4kids. they requested a cake with strawberries and bananas, so i made a yellow cake with fresh strawberries and bananas in the middle. i also used a non-dairy whipped cream to frost the cake, which gave the whole thing a nice, light texture. it’s amazing how much butter weighs! this cake was light as air when i put it into the box. i opted to use pre-made Cars decorations (another request from the birthday boy) as I knew my hand drawn Lightning McQueen and Mater would be unrecognizable. serious. i am in love with my colorful sprinkles, though. i used them on the last cake i made and have a feeling they’re going to be a staple. don’t they add a festive touch?
i delivered it to the foster office for the birthday boy and the women who worked there were very excited about it. it made me feel so good! they said this was only their second free cake with cake4kids and they were so happy to be involved with them. i hope gilberto enjoys his birthday and cake!
i spent a good part of yesterday roasting things in my oven and no, none of them were rocks. ;) our csa has ended and left me with several squash and pumpkins that need attention before they go south. i think roasting veggies makes them taste divine, not to mention it’s pretty easy to boot.
first i roasted butternut squash chunks. yum! i wish i had more of these babies, but roasted the 2 i had. i’ll use them in salads and a pasta dish this week.
next i roasted a few pumpkins. one was a winter luxury and the smaller ones were something else. i didn’t get a photo of the roasted pieces, but here’s the puree i made with them. it’s in the freezer to use in the near future. sunset magazine just did an article on how to make pumpkin puree (the recipe i used) and then recipes to use it in. this recipe for pumpkin gingersnap ice cream looks damn good!
then i roasted the seeds of the bigger pumpkin. i dried them out overnight, sprayed them with canola oil spray once dry and sprinkled with sea salt. i roasted them at 275 degrees for about 15 minutes or so. i watched this video first to make sure i was doing it ok and they turned out just fine!
there’s nothing like a cold day with the oven on. the dogs sit near it to catch some warmth and the house smells amazing. :)
cauliflower mac and cheese that has almost no cheese in it. it’s amazing. it’s creamy, tasty and the color of cheese, yet there’s only 1/2 cup of cheese in the entire recipe. well, you sprinkle some parm on top with breadcrumbs, if you choose to use them, so you can get a little crust on top of the casserole. i had no idea cauliflower gets creamy when pureed — did you? mark bittman sure did! i used a cheddar cauliflower from our csa so that’s why i got the color i did.
after it came out of the oven, i ate some and then put the rest in small pyrex dishes for individual servings. i’m so making this again, but will add breadcrumbs on top next time. this is really good, but needed a bit more crunch. oh yeah, and i’ll try it with whole wheat pasta, to make myself feel better about eating mac and cheese.
or is it tomato-rubbed bread? i’ve seen it called different things and i really wanted to try it. i first saw this bread on the food show From Spain with Love on the cooking channel. it’s pretty much rustic bread that’s been lightly grilled with olive oil and then rubbed with a clove of garlic and a fresh tomato. so simple, yet so delicious. i looked up a few recipes to see how different people make it and then tried my own version.
here’s what i did:
- cut crusty bread in half lenthwise - brushed inside of bread with good olive oil - brushed some crushed garlic on the insides of bread cos i didn’t have garlic cloves - i used my broiler (500 degrees), but next time i’ll use the grill - let bread sit under broiler for 3-5 minutes - rub inside of bread with a homegrown tomato
DELISH! the bread had both crispy and soft textures and it was really good. the hubby said he kept expecting to taste garlic bread, so he wasn’t too happy with it. whatevs. i am so making this again!
this isn’t something i ever used to think about. as a kid, i always got a birthday cake and never worried that someone would not think about getting one for me. then a few months ago, my friend andrea sent me an article from the sj mercury about a non-profit organization called cake4kids. i was already writing an email to them before i finished reading the article! i knew right away this was something i wanted to be a part of. cake4kids was started last year, by libby gruender, to provide free birthday cakes to bay area kids who are at risk. i am so in love with this idea. serious.
i attended a short orientation before i was able to view the baking calendar. they gave us info about the kids were serve and about how to bake clean in your own kitchen. i got on the august calendar by picking a last minute addition for the end of the month. you have jump on these cakes quick, cos they have lots of volunteers! you commit to 2 cakes a year, but i’m hoping to do more than that. my first assignment was for a 2 year old boy in san jose who requested a sesame street cake. i decided to go for the cookie monster cos everyone knows him, right? they asked for a white cake with buttercream icing made with soy milk. no prob! another volunteer sent me her recipe for vegan buttercream, which used soy milk, vegan buttery sticks and non-hydrogenated shortening, so i used that. i can report it tasted like regular dairy-based buttercream and wasn’t any harder to make.
i delivered the cake wednesday morning to the little guy’s house. the man who was babysitting told me the cake was really nice (after i explained that my cookie monster was a bit goofy) and the kids all thanked me. it felt good knowing that i made those wee guys happy. then i got in my car and cried. lol yes, that’s just me! the whole idea just got to me at that moment. little kids not celebrating their birthdays, making a cake for one of them, smiles, feeling good — it just overwhelmed me, but in a good way. if you have some extra time and feel like baking a couple of cakes a year or want to send them some supplies, check out cakes4kids. :)
This recipe was provided by a cake4kids volunteer:
Here is the “Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting” recipe from the book “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World”: (Please note: the recipe as written here is made to frost a dozen cupcakes. You might want to double it to get enough cake frosting, or at least have the ingredients on hand to make it twice.)
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated margerine (you can get Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks at Whole Foods)
1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening (WF should have this, too)
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted if clumpy
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup plain soy milk or soy creamer
- Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy.
- Add the sugar and beat for about 3 more minutes.
- Add the vanilla and soy milk, and beat for 5-7 more minutes until fluffy.
my friend amy recently asked me to make cupcakes and a little smash cake for her daughter’s first birthday. i made my standard chocolate and vanilla recipes for the cupcakes and chocolate for the little cake. i also found a new uncooked buttercream recipe that i like, so i used it this time. it’s from glorious treats and she calls it american buttercream. i really don’t give a damn what it’s called cos it’s good stuff! it’s light and fluffy for a regular buttercream, making it versatile for both the cupcakes and cake.
here’s the 6” round smash cake. i call these little guys smash cakes cos the 1 year old smashes it up! i matched the pink and purple from the party invitation (which i forgot to photograph, doh!). I just used a smaller star tip for both the number 1 and the border.
i did some fun swirls on the sides to match the border. i heard the birthday girl loved her cake and got all messy like she should!
i know what you’re thinking. “wait, she made something VEGAN?” crazy, huh? so one of my favorite food blogs is joy the baker. she takes lovely photos of the food she makes and has a fun writing style. i’ve got a bunch of her recipes bookmarked, but this is the first one i’ve tried so far. i take that back. i once made her chocolate buttercream frosting and it was delish! long story short, the hubby loves mangoes and we had a few mangoes and ripe bananas at the time, so i decided to give this recipe a whirl.
fresh cut mangoes are pretty, aren’t they? all shiny bright orange. i wish i liked them cos they *look* so good, but i do not. they taste weird to me. go figure. this recipe is really easy to make and has nice spices like ginger and cinnamon in it. i did have the last piece and i must admit, i now enjoy baked mangoes!
if you took a look at joy’s mango banana bread when you came to her link, you’ll notice that hers is much prettier (and normal looking!) than mine. here’s the deal: i read the recipe wrong and put in too many mangoes and not enough bananas. DOH! mine looks more like mangoes with a bit of banana bread added. oh well, now i know for next time. yummy bonus: the extra sugar you sprinkle on before baking for a crunchy top.
it’s a freakin’ mango explosion! the story ends with the hubby loved it and i’ll make it again soon. thanks, joy!
i’ve been buying whole pineapples for the hubby since our return from hawaii in may. there’s nothing like fresh pineapple, just there when you want it. i’d been cutting the skin off one slice at a time and ending up with little brown specs on the outer chunks. so not appetizing! then my pal tells me about this cool pineapple corer that you just twist into the whole damn fruit and the result are cute rings. woo hoo!
how cool is that?! there’s even a bit of pineapple juice in the hollowed out body that i put in a tiny glass and sip. so good!
they look damn good, right? lemme tell you, they tasted really damn good!
i got a new barefoot contessa cookbook for my birthday last month. as you know, i’m a cookbook freak, so i was happy to receive this gift. as i went through it for the first time, i knew the first thing i’d make were her fleur de sel caramels. i’d seen her make them on tv and they looked pretty easy, plus homemade caramels are one of my most favorite things *ever*!
just 6 ingredients. i love this.
don’t forget the candy thermometer. i pretty much made these without one because i’m a dumb ass and didn’t realize mine was broken before i got started. yeah, the bright red line that is stuck at 240 degrees should have been my first clue, right? doh!
you basically boil the sugar, corn syrup and water until it gets a golden brown color. no stirring with a spoon, just swirl the pot now and then. watch the magic as it goes from light…
to dark! ok, this wasn’t the darkest stage, but i forgot to take a photo of that. :p
in the meantime, bring the cream, butter and some of the salt to a low simmer.
here’s the part where you should be careful. you pour the cream mixture into the sugar mixture (vanilla goes in somewhere around here, too) and it bubbles up all crazy. it really does, so make sure you’re working with a deep enough pot. then you put the candy thermometer in and boil mixture until it reaches the firm ball stage or 248 degrees. the recipe i used said that or “about 10 minutes”. that’s when i realized my thermometer was on the fritz, so i let it go for about 12 or so and then got out my meat thermometer. now this sounds comical, but i think it worked. i just spaced out the ticks for every 10 degrees, even though they weren’t there. smart, huh?! ;)
pour the hot (and it’s fucking burned sugar that will melt your skin hot!) caramel into a pan covered with parchment and put in the fridge. it should take a few hours to firm up unless you’re like me. i checked it every 15 minutes for 2 hours, worrying that my broken thermometer was just going to give me caramel sauce. if i had just cooled my jets and kept the fridge closed, it would have set in a normal time frame. i eventually let them set overnight and they were a-ok the next day!
the last steps are to sprinkle with more fleur de sel, cut into squares and wrap in wax paper.
here’s the final product! they are kind of gooey since they don’t have preservatives in them, so you’ll need to keep them cold. this is the first time i made them and just bought more cream to make them again this week. they are burnt-sugar-buttery-salty goodness that melts in your mouth!
i dig grilling. we have a gas grill in the backyard even though i realize the flavor of charcoal grilling is better. i gotta say, it’s just easier, dammit!
the hubby is eternally searching out new recipes for me to try and he’s always on point. i’ll try most recipes once, unless the don’t sound great or have a zillion ingredients. he sent me this article with recipe last month and i knew i had to try it cos it’s only got a few ingredients and looked pretty dang easy. you basically throw all the marinade ingredients in the blender, blend, marinate for a few hours and grill. d-o-n-e.
here’s the finished steak. i opted to go with skirt steak, so i didn’t slice it like the recipe suggested. mark bittman gives recipes for several korean-inspired side dishes, but i didn’t follow his idea. i also didn’t serve it with lettuce as bittman suggests. i made white rice and steamed broccoli from the veggie box instead and it was damn good. hubby put gochujang (korean chili-bean paste) on his steak and rice, but you don’t need it. it’s delish with or without! i had to go to an asian market to find it, so if you don’t have it, no worries. now go get to grillin’!
it’s been well over 90 degrees for the last week and my oven hasn’t been used in days. i know she’s lonely, but there’s only so much heat i can take. i have a pile of home-grown lemons just waiting to be made into lemon bars, but i just can’t do it. i want to, i really do. i thought this weekend would be a good time to bake lemon bars, fresh bread (from my new cookbook i got for my birthday…see below) and do some serious cooking. no dice.
bread in 5 minutes? are they nuts? turns out the big secret is you make the dough ahead of time and keep it in your fridge for when you need it. who knew? it’s chock full of delish looking recipes for all types of bread. i’ll just have to dog ear recipe pages for when it cools down and i’m ready to turn her back on!
do you have some extra strawberries laying around and feel like baking? that’s what happened to me recently, so i pulled out my barefoot contessa at home cookbook and got to bakin’! our csa share has been giving us strawberries all season and sometimes i buy them in between thursdays, so i end up with extra some weekends.
the recipe is really for a tri-berry muffin, but i started making it with strawberries years ago and they were so good i never looked back. they get a crunchy little shell on the tops but it’s not because you sprinkle them with sugar. the barefoot contessa explains that the woman who first made these muffins forgot to add sugar to the batter, so she added it at the end and realized they came out with crunchy outsides. turns out, some accidents are good!
I’ve been MIA, but it’s all vacation’s fault! We went on vacation in May and I can’t seem to get back to my regular routine ever since. I haven’t been cooking as much either. I still use the veggies from my CSA share, but I’m not being very creative with them at the moment. That’s all about to change, dammit!
My friend Kris gave me lemons from her tree and I’ve been trying to make good use of them. So far they’ve mostly been in tall, cold glasses of water, as we’ve had some freakin’ hot weather here in the last couple of weeks. I owe her and her hubby lemon bars and will get those baked now that it’s ok to turn the oven on without melting. Last week’s veggie box included a lovely bunch of basil and included a recipe for lemon-basil vinaigrette. BAM! And here you have it…
Isn’t it pretty? I recycled an old honey jar and now I have a tasty vinaigrette for drizzling and dipping!
peel and juice of 2 small lemons 1 shallot, minced 1 Tsp white wine vinegar 1/4 c olive oil 6 basil leaves, chopped or julienned
Whisk the lemon peel and juice with the shallot, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Add the olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Stir in the basil and finish with pepper if you like. Use on lettuce, veggies, potatoes, bread, beans, grains, frittatas, meats or feta cheese.
Recipe from The Ladybug Postcard from Mariquita Farm, Watsonville, CA.
i made a wedding cake. this is big news for me as it was my first wedding cake, first multi-tiered cake and first experience using fondant on my own. i covered a couple of cakes with fondant at the end of my internship, but i had help. this was the first time i went for it on my own — and for someone’s wedding even! yikes. my friend veronica asked me to make the cake months ago when she got engaged and i really wanted to do this for her, so i put my fears aside and jumped into the deep end. the restaurant where the reception was held was providing dessert for guests, so they wanted a cake just for the couple to cut and smash/feed to each other. she sent me a photo of what she wanted and i tried to copy it as best i could.
the couple wanted a vanilla cake with fresh strawberries. i used vanilla italian meringue buttercream to frost and fill the cake and then covered it in ivory fondant. i don’t dig the taste of fondant, but it sure makes a cake pretty. the bride said her dress had antique silver accents on it, so i painted the scrolls silver using pearl dust and a bit of vodka. you know me, i’m very resourceful when it comes to booze.
and on the subject of fondant, don’t buy a cheapy brand. satin ice is the way to go. i’ve been told wilton sucks ass by more than one person and this is the brand my internship bakery used, so i know it’s good. it’s smooth and easier to work with.
i’m about to get all detailed on your ass, so if you just want to look at a bunch of pretty pictures, don’t read all the who-ha captions below them. i wanted to detail the process since it was my first wedding cake. of course i’m sure i did a million things wrong, but, it’s all part of the process.
let’s start with the tools i used…
spatulas are a cake girl’s best friend. i have many different sizes, offset, straight and they all sit in a pitcher of HOT water while i’m working. i learned this trick at SBF during my internship and it works especially well for the meringue buttercream. it melts right off the spatula when dipped into the water, cleaning the tools nicely during the frosting process.
this is a bit of crisco shortening. ick, right? this sounds gross, but it works as a lotion for the fondant if you get any cracks. i am proud to report i only had to dab into it a couple of times around a couple of edges. fondant dries out if you move too slow, so you gotta just get in there and go for it!
this is a fondant smoother paddle thing. yeah, i have no idea what it’s really called. ha! it works nicely to smooth out the fondant after you’ve draped it loosely over the cake.
this is a fondant rolller and mat. i should buy a good mat, but i have this cheapy one for now. this one is thin vinyl, but the good one is like a roul’pat and won’t slip around when you’re rolling out the fondant.
this is a silicone pearl mold that my fab friend nena let me borrow. it makes beautiful rows of fondant pearls, which cover up any space in between the tiers. they make it look all professional and shit.
i like cornstarch, but you can also use powdered sugar, to roll out the fondant. it acts like flour when rolling out dough, but isn’t grainy. i dab it onto the mat with a pastry brush often so the fondant doesn’t stick.
and now for the assembly. warning, it’s about to get all nerdy right about now…
i got fresh strawberries in my csa that week, so i used some to fill the wedding cake. the couple originally asked for strawberries and bananas, but i thought the bananas would get brown and be icky, so we went with just strawberries alone.
this is the top layer, which was a 5” round. i cut it into 3 layers and filled the middles up with good stuff. i leave the parchment on the top of each cake until i’m ready to crumb coat it.
here’s the crumb coat. i wish i had a giant freezer to just pop these into for a bit to get the buttercream nice and hard, but the fridge works just fine…takes a bit longer, but that’s ok. once the crumb coat is set, you can…
add a thin layer of buttercream around the entire cake so the fondant had something to stick to. it’s best to get it as smooth as possible, cos you’ll see the lumps and bumps underneath.
i rolled out the fondant to be about 1/4” thick. some rolling pins come with guides you can place on both ends and get the right thickness. my small roller has them. but not the big one, so i just went by feeling. if you run your hand around the fondant, you can feel where it’s high or low.
then i draped the fondant over the cake. this is the 6” tier, which was harder to get right than the larger tier. i kept smoothing the fondant with my hand and paddle until it was flat around the cake. then i trimmed off the excess with an x-acto knife.
after trimming the excess off, i smoothed it out again. i was a bit zealous with my trimming and had some high spots where the fondant didn’t touch the bottom of the cake. oops! my saving grace was i would be adding a border later that would (hopefully) cover this boo boo.
i did some research before attempting fondant and tiers. thank goodness for youtube! all the videos i watched showed how to use dowels to stack cakes on one another. the dowels provide support and keep the tiers together so they don’t slide around. this process was easier than i thought it would be! i used a straw to measure the lengths i needed and then cut the dowels with garden shears. (don’t worry peeps, i bought new ones for this specific purpose.) i used 5 short support dowels in the 8” layer and then one long dowel to hold the 2 cakes in place.
after putting the large dowel down the middle, there’s a small hole left in the top layer. if this were a buttercream covered cake, i’d fill it in, but since it was fondant and there would be flowers covering the top, i left it as is. the florist used the hole to attach the wire, so it worked out just fine.
here’s the silicone mold in action! after brushing the mold with cornstarch, i made a thin rope of fondant, smooshed it into the mold, scraped off the excess and popped those puppies out. i then brushed a bit of water around the bottom edge of each tier and then glued on the pearls.
see how nice and even they are? if i tried to do that with frosting, it would look *nice*, but not *great* like this. (thanks again, nena!)
i added fondant scrolls to the sides of the cake and then it was time to paint them silver. the good thing about adding accents to the smooth surface is that i was able to cover up some funky spots. i was able to smooth some oopsies out, but some wouldn’t come out as easy. no prob, bob!
hello, honey, come to mama! told ya i was good with the booze. and i know you’ll be shocked to read this, but i didn’t even take one sip while i was decorating! i used it to make paint out of the silver pearl dust. i mixed little batches of it while i painted the scrolls. you can also use clear vanilla extract, but i didn’t have that on hand. in my house, vodka is always on hand.
my palette while i painted the scrolls.
i ended up painting 3 coats of pearl dust on the scrolls. since the vodka dries fast, i was able to keep painting over and over without taking breaks.
here’s the cake before closing up the box. the hubby helped me wedge it on the floor of my car and let me tell you, this girl didn’t budge while i was driving.
here’s the cake at the reception site. the florist added a few orchid blooms, which made it look elegant and simple, just like veronica wanted! i know the cake had minor issues, but i was pretty happy with the end result. i realize it’s important for a wedding cake to look beautiful, but it’s nice to know that even with it’s flaws, it’s special cos it was made by a friend. :)
a friend of mine asked if i’d make jungle animal sugar cookies for her sister’s baby shower. you know what i said? oh yeah! i got myself a set of cookie cutters and started planning — fun! i did a little research on flickr to get ideas of how people have decorated these guys. there are all kinds of interpretations, but i went with a traditional one for mine. i have to say this was my first attempt at decorating cookies like this with royal icing and the border/flood method. i went to martha stewart for technique advice and she did me right.
so you bake the cookies. i baked her recipe for sugar cookies. they’re basic and sweet, just as a sugar cookie should be. so the basics are 1) make royal icing and tint colors you need, 2) fill piping bags, 3) thin out a bit of each color icing to flood in the border and 4) do this with plenty of time cos these suckers take a long time to dry!
that said, next pipe a border around the edge of the cookie.
then you flood the cookie surface with the thinner icing and spread it around with a skewer or toothpick. i used the thick end of a skewer cos it was way faster than a toothpick.
the icing is super glossy when it’s wet. the icing takes a good 5-6 hours to totally dry, so give yourself plenty of time when decorating like this. if you’re doing more piping on top of this layer, the cookie doesn’t have to be completely dry. i waited just until the top crusted over a bit before i added the next layer of icing. you can also go for it while the top is wet if you’re going to swirl colors together.
i let the cookies dry for a good hour or two before starting on the next layer of icing.
my friend picked them up later that evening and loved them! i packed them into a cake box with layers of wax paper in between so the icing wouldn’t smudge and a layer of crumpled tissue paper around the box edges. I wanted to make sure they arrived safely to their destination.
sugar cookies are just that, folks — sugar! and then you top ‘em off with royal icing and you’re looking at a serious sugar crash in the near future. i made these floral beauties for easter and had much fun with them!
this was my 2nd attempt at rolled and decorated sugar cookies and i think they came out decent. first you bake cookies. i like them on the thicker side, around 1/4” thick.
once you’ve whipped up some royal icing, start decorating! i piped a border around the edges so that i could flood them after. i used a #3 tip for piping. i had read suggestions that a #2 tip works best for borders, but it was too small for me. what can i say? i like chunky borders.
you then put a slightly thinned out version of the royal icing inside the border and push it around with a skewer or toothpick until it’s all filled in. i used the blunt end of a skewer. a toothpick was too thin and i’m not that patient. i even tilted the cookie around to make icing go where i wanted.
here are some flooded cookies. the icing is super glossy when wet, but dries with a matte finish.
the flooded cookies have to dry for HOURS, so do this well ahead of time before you need them done. like even the day before you need them done. these took a good 5-6 hours to completely dry. i didn’t wait for the base to totally dry before i piped the details on them. as long as there’s a crust of icing, you should be good.
keeping the icing bags in glasses with damp paper towels at the bottom will keep the tips from clogging and the icing from getting hard. if you’re going to leave the icing alone for a while, i’d put a damp towel over the whole thing.
my white flood icing was a bit thin and i got some air bubbles on those cookies. the thing is, that didn’t seem to matter at all when i saw kids grubbin’ on them sunday. yay!
i fell in love the other morning. here’s how it happened: i saw this salad made on tv and went straight to my computer to print out the recipe. easy, gorgeous and delicious! you can’t ask for much more than that.
i made this for a dinner party we had over the weekend and it was a huge hit. and when i say huge hit, i mean a) several people asked about the recipe and b) it was g-o-n-e! not a single berry left on the plate. i like when that happens.
ps- i’m in love with extra virgin with debi mazar and her husband, gabriele corcos. they are a darling couple who cook incredibly simple and beautiful tuscan food together. i sent one episode to the dvr and now i never miss it!
Recipe courtesy of Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos, Extra Virgin
we were having friends over for dinner saturday night and i wanted to make something easy, but fun for dessert. you what came to my mind — cupcakes! here are some vanilla cupcakes nekkid and ready for something to dress them up. i made a small batch of italian meringue buttercream and went to town…
with pale green coloring, a star tip and some colorful sprinkles. These babies are springy and festive as all get out!
collecting is good and bad. it’s good cos you have lots of stuff to look at and go through and it’s bad cos you have lots of stuff to look at and go through. hubby and i both have various collections, but my largest is my cookbooks. i don’t know how many i own, but there’s a lot. new ones, old ones and some that are truly vintage. i love going through them, daydreaming about how i’m going to make “that” someday. i did the same thing as a kid. i’d take my mom’s cookbooks out of the drawer and look at them over and over. i couldn’t wait to be old enough to graduate from my 1964 easy bake oven to the big goldenrod oven in the kitchen. oh, to bake with more than just the power of a lightbulb!
here are some photos of part of my collection.
i pick from this stack often. the red, white and blue recipe binder (left) was something my mom had when i was a kid. i found this one on etsy a couple months ago and had to pick it up cos it brings back good memories!
erik finds cookbooks for me at thrift stores and yard sales. most of these came from him…like the playboy gourmet, which is a hoot! :)
another stack i use often.
can you tell i went through a martha phase in the 1990s?
most of these i found at thrift stores. the better homes and gardens books are pretty easy to find and i’ve been known to buy a duplicate here and there cos i can’t remember if i already have it.
and this is my favorite of the collection, the prudence penny cook book. my grandma gave it to me years ago when she got rid of her own cookbooks. it was her first cookbook as a newlywed and she got it from the SF Examiner in 1939. the cover is pretty beat up, but the pages are in good shape for being 72 years old. it’s beautiful in many ways. :)
- slice day(s) old french bread - spread butter or light butter on bread slices - sprinkle slices with garlic powder - sprinkle slices with grated parmesan cheese - place bread on sheet pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes (you can also use the broil setting toward the end)