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Archive for March, 2012

I delight in giving gifts for holidays!  I love window shopping, blog browsing and imagining what I can put together for friends and family.  In my mind, I imagine bestowing lovely, creative gifts on those around me.  I see myself walking into a party early, well put together, with the aforementioned lovely gift in hand.  Do you hear the uplifting piano concerto?

But, I have one small problem.  I wait to the last minute to create these gifts.  Most times I have purchased the main item, but not the “icing on the cake” – the little goodies that would elevate it to something special, and it certainly is not wrapped.  My creativity peaks just before the time I have to deliver.  The typical scenario is me rushing around, pulling out ribbons, paper, and embellishments while trying to get dressed just before party time.  The end result is dashing into the party 10 minutes late, nice gift in hand (but nowhere nearly as cute as I had pictured it in my mind), clothes that are not ironed (not nearly as cute as I had pictured either), and out of breath.  Hear crashing symbols, now?

Luckily, my friend Julie invited me to accompany her to Cost Plus yesterday.  She is super organized and always has her gifts planned and executed well before every holiday and party.  Because of her, I got my Easter act together early this year.  Thanks Julie!

This one is for Julie!

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What Makes Me Happy

This is what makes me happy:  finding Le Creuset baking dishes for $24.99 each!  Of course I had to get three since they were such a good deal!  I love the colors.

I was actually in need of new baking dishes.  I have been using this cracked one for a couple of years now.  I am always worried that it will crack in two just as I am serving Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  That would not be good!  So, you see, I needed a new baking dish (or three).

These are 3 3/4 quart baking dishes.  They will be perfect for baking mashed potato casserole which makes an appearance on most holidays.  They will also be perfect for roasting a chicken and vegetables on a weeknight and baking an overnight breakfast strata when guests are here.  And, they will make serving so easy and pretty.  They go from oven to table.

Did I get a deal?  I had to check.  Here are the results of my price search (these prices include tax and shipping).  Who knew Zappos sold baking dishes??                 (I found mine at TJMaxx.)

Amazon.com $35.95
Cooking.com $43.95
Wayfair $48.94
cutleryandmore.com $41.90
Bloomingdale’s $62.11
Macy’s $69.48
Kitchen Kapers $48.49
Zappos.com $55.00
Chefs Catalog $64.95  

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The Last Bite

Remember my friend Dave who was the recipient of the birthday cookies?    I had to laugh when he sent me a blog-style thank you!  This is what he sent:

“Thank you so much for the cookies!  They were great, with just the right crunch.  Here’s the last bite!”

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Mad Men is back!

It is time to return to Madison Avenue.  Finally!  Can’t wait to catch up with Don Draper, Peggy, Pete, Joan and Roger.  While I will be paying attention to the storyline, what I am most excited about are the sets, the clothing and the accessories.  I love the visual styling of this show.  Oh, and the music (I want this).

Add in the underlying tension that seems to be simmering under the surface of every character, and I am hooked.

I imagine Betty would serve something like this at a cocktail party.

 

Cheese Ball  adapted from Preserving Our Heritage Community Cookbook

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 1/2 Tbs green onions, chopped

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tsp lemon juice

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts

Mix all ingredients together.  Shape into a ball and chill.  Roll ball in nuts.  Chill.  Remove from refrigerator to soften prior to serving.  Serve with crackers.

Maybe Stylin’ Guy would be invited to the party.  I think he would fit right in.

Ready for the party

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Tutu’s Sugar Cookies

I love cookies.  I love stories.  And, I especially love a cookie recipe with a story.  I can picture Tutu clearly.  Can you?

A reader, Charlie, wrote in to Food and Wine magazine.  He said that when he lived on the island of Hawaii, every Sunday, he would buy cookies at the farmers’ market from an elderly woman everyone called Tutu, or “Grandmother.”  She would only sell one bag per person until she ran out, which took about 30 minutes.  Before Charlie moved away, he asked her for the recipe.  She gave it to him on the condition that he couldn’t share it with anyone for 25 years.  Time passed, and Charlie decided to share it.

These cookies are crispy with a hint of butterscotch flavor.

Tutu’s Super-Crispy Sugar Cookies  adapted from Food and Wine magazine

Makes 2 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp

¾ c sugar

¾ tsp kosher salt

¾ tsp baking soda

1 Tbs pure vanilla extract

2 c flour

1 ½ c Rice Krispies cereal

Preheat oven to 300.  In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and salt until smooth and fluffy.  Mix the baking soda with the vanilla, then add to the butter mixture. Add the flour, 1 c at a time, mixing well between additions.  Gently stir in the Rice Krispies.

Lightly butter 2 baking sheets.  Spoon 2-tablespoon-size mounds of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 3 inches apart.  Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the pans from the oven.  Gently flatten the cookies with a spatula.  Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back and continue baking until the cookies are lightly cracked on the top and golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes longer.  Let cool slightly, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Spoon 2-tablespoon-size mounds of dough on a cookie sheet

Cookies after baking 15 minutes

Flattened cookies

Fully baked cookies

Today is my friend Dave’s birthday!  Here is a special treat for him.

Birthday cookies ready for delivery

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Want to gaze at a beautiful view of San Francisco?  Shop for vintage finds?  Eat lunch at one of the best food trucks in SF?  Indulge in delicious mini-donuts cranked out on a vintage donut maker?  If your answer is yes, take yourself to the Treasure Island Flea in San Francisco at once!

Here are some of the treasures we found:

Charming tablescape

Alluring attire

Vintage train

So many hats!

Wrought iron and metal

USC banner!

The setting is reason enough to go.  Not to mention the mini-donuts. (wink!)

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Extra Crumb Coffeecake

I have a history with coffeecake that goes way back.  It will always, always remind me of college finals.  Who knows how it originally started?  All I know is when it came time for finals, I made coffeecake.  Was it because I needed a break from studying?  Or was it because I felt guilty if I wasn’t studying and thought I should be doing something productive if I was not studying?  Maybe it was because it calmed me down when my nerves were rattling around distracting me from my studies.  Whatever the reason, my roommates certainly benefited from my weird thinking.  In college, the recipe of choice was the one on the back of the Bisquick box.  Simple and satisfying.

This recipe for Extra Crumb Coffeecake from my new cookbook, Joy the Baker, took me right back to finals week.  My son just finished his finals.  This coffeecake is for him!

The extra crumb is a delight.  All together it is a bit sweet but sometimes that is just what is needed.  Joy the baker adapted a King Arthur Flour recipe, and I adapted hers.   I must mention that this recipe requires more bowls and measuring cups than your average coffeecake.

Extra Crumb Coffeecake  adapted from Joy the Baker cookbook

Topping

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups flour

1 Tbs cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, softened

Filling

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 Tbs cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

Cake

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla

3 large eggs

3 3/4 cups flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup sour cream

1 1/4 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray one 13″x9″ pan or two 9″x9″ pans with Baking Pam spray.  I make two 9″x9″ coffeecakes.  I line one pan with non-stick foil and bake and freeze that coffee cake for later.

Topping:  Whisk together the sugar, salt, flour and cinnamon.  Add the butter and cut in with a pastry blender, your fingers, or two knives.  Set aside.

Filling:  Whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Set aside.

Cake:  In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until well combined, about 4 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In another small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and milk.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter, mix, then add 1/2 of the milk mixture, mix, add 1/3 of flour mixture, mix, add the rest of the milk mixture, mix, then add the last of the flour and mix.

Spread half the batter into the bottom of the pan(s).  Sprinkle the filling on top of the batter.  Spread the remaining batter over the filling.  Use a butter knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter.

Sprinkle topping over the top and bake until golden brown, 55 to 60 minutes.  Use a skewer to test for doneness.  Let cake rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.

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