Thursday, December 25, 2008

New Plan

I have a new plan for my life.
I am going to marry Santa.
He is jolly.
He has all the toys.
He has been Sainted.
Nicholas is a good name.
He likes cookies.
I am on the nice list.
He makes the world a better place.
I have been dating all the wrong men, what was I thinking?

I have OCD with my Christmas tree.
My tree must have a theme.
No one of a kind, handmade, mixed, or gifted ornaments.
Nope, 20-50 of each one.
Silver snowflakes.
White snowflakes.
Clear snowflakes.
White icicles.
Clear icicles.
Ice drops.
Ice strands.
Clear stars.
White lights.
It looks like winter.

This year I used less than half of the ornaments and lights and I still love it. Don't get me wrong. I love the other types of trees that people do with a variety of and handmade ornaments and I could spend hours looking at every thing. I just can't live with them. Issues definitely. Oh well. I don't think any ornament has ever cost more than $1 and often are 6/$1. That is the nice thing about using multiples. It is cheaper but doesn't necessarily look it. Also a theme keeps me focused on what I buy to decorate with. Trust me, I could spend a couple thousand dollars every Christmas on new stuff. And yes I have a fake tree.

I hope everyone has been immensely blessed this Christmas with love, peace and joy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

White Peppermint Fudge

Chocolaty. Buttery. Full of nuts, cut into little squares and luxuriously melting on your tongue, slowly pleasuring so many of your senses.
Hot fudge, oozing down the round slopes of cold mint chocolate chip ice cream, fluffy whipped cream lightly pressing itself onto this sensuous embrace of decadence.
These are the visions in my head when the word fudge is spoken.
Yes, brown fudge.
Not white.

I saw these tempting photos though at A Southern Grace of this white wonderful looking treat. It was so pretty it reminded me of layers of white tuille with red sequence trim. And add to that, it is peppermint and I needed peppermint ideas for the plates of sweets for my neighbors. Then I saw the word fudge. What fudge? Where's the brown stuff?

Now I am willing to think outside the box and I have a pretty big box, so I figured I would give this a try. But I am changing the name. Because fudge is brown. Okay, maybe just a little outside the box this time.

This is way easy and the ingredients are a little cheesy (ooh, I rhymed), but at Christmas who really has time for being a food snob? I suppose you could use chopped white chocolate instead of the chips and make your own frosting from scratch to make this, which I may attempt at another time just for fun, but the end result of this recipe is really pretty yummy. I think I like white fudge.
Thanks Grace.

I added butter of course because my brown fudge always has butter, lots of butter, I used extra peppermint extract, and I added crushed peppermints to the white fudge.


12 ounce package vanilla chips
16 ounce can vanilla frosting
1 cube butter, sliced
2 t pure peppermint extract
1/4 c finely crushed peppermints
8 drops red food coloring
crushed peppermint candies or candy canes or a smattering of peppermint sprinkles

Line an 8-inch square pan with wax paper.
Melt the vanilla chips in the microwave.
Using a hand mixer stir until smooth.
Warm the frosting in the microwave for 30 seconds - 1 minute.
Mix into melted vanilla chips.
Add butter slices and mix well.
Blend in peppermint extract.
Lightly stir in 1/4 c crushed peppermints.
Spread the creamy goodness into the prepared pan.
Drip the food coloring over the fudge and swirl decoratively with a knife.
Sprinkle with crushed candies and/or sprinkles and chill until set.
Cut into 1" pieces and share.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Remember this?
Now check out this.

If you missed the set of postings on the tables I featured and you are interested in viewing them and reading all the tips then go here.

One of my very favorite entertaining sites is Totally Tabletops. The owner, Sheena S. Kalso, who is absolutely gorgeous by the way, was so helpful to me when I worked on my charity table setting back in October. I was searching for flatware in ivory and antique looking. I had located some beautiful pieces, but the average cost was $50 per place setting which was out of my budget. Although I eventually found what I was looking for in the nick of time at Target, I truly appreciated her efforts. Now she has featured my table on her site. I am so excited I could just piddle my pants as Leslie says.

Check out her site and all the many really wonderful ideas. Entertaining is a way to celebrate life, something we so easily get too busy for. Gather friends, family, your pets or just your own soul. Celebrate your breath, sunshine, Tuesday at 2, whatever inspires you. Make memories that your grandchildren gasp over. Invite the paparazzi to your party when you are old and hopefully the cops will be called to shush the noise.

You are blessed with this life. Savor it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chili con Queso and street tacos

I have been sick since I came back from vacation and working then coming home to bed basically, so my apologies for the late post. I, personally think it is an omen from God that I should be a woman of leisure who travels the world for pleasure in order to stay well and peaceful.

We do eat some street food in Mexico. In Puerto Vallarta this place is really good though it is not technically street food, it is outdoors and on the corner, across from the Super Mercado which is next to the suspension bridge over the Rio Cuale.

We ordered their 'Dedos de Camaron', which were fried shrimp tacos, every time we went there and once you go, you will go back again and again. At 20 pesos a piece they were only about $1.80 each, one makes a small lunch or snack. The plates are covered in a plastic bag for really easy clean up, a little tacky but hell, how fun is it to just go with life as it comes sometimes. The tortilla is soft which is traditional, not the baked or fried tortilla shell that so many Americans are used to, and the shrimp are fried in a batter then you add a dressing/sauce, hot salsa fresca, fresh squeezed limes and a lettuce/spinach/cilantro/carrot chiffonade mixture. OMG these are good! Sorry there is no photo of the tacos but we kept eating them before I ever thought to take one. That happened a lot. Great flan also and a staff that smiles at you when you come back day after day after day.

Also if you are old enough like me, you will remember laying on the bed to zip up your skin tight Chemin De Fer jeans, the girls that work here didn't forget how to do that.

These are 2 of my happy, hungry sisters waiting for lunch. Sitting at the counter is fun and friendly and very traditional.

Puerta Vallarta is in central Mexico and on the ocean which means fresh fish is in abundance. One night as we waited outside for a table at Cafe de Olla (eat here too), I noticed a couple men with ice chests speaking with the chef or the manager. When I sat down at the table and inquired about what type of fresh fish was available, the answer made it obvious that I had just witnessed todays catch being sold to the restaurant. Bass off the boat with garlic, tortillas, rice and beans. Bring it on. And for less than 100 pesos it was less than $9. In Mexico people eat real food, not a lot of sweets and the only fast food that I saw is like the taco stand above.

Now how about a traditional Mexican recipe? Let's begin with what we Gringos would call an appetizer. Chili con Queso. Northern Mexico is where there are large cattle ranches and there is much more use of dairy products. Yay! I love cream and butter and cheese. Oooh, and ice cream. But this isn't about ice cream although ice cream is a fine appetizer in my book. Flour instead of corn tortillas are more typical in this part of the country also.

When handling chiles, always use care. Thin latex gloves help, but wash, wash, wash and never touch your eyes or inside your nose, there is bad stuff in them thar peppers that burns and it burns bad.

from Savoring Mexico

2 T butter
2 small white onions, finely chopped
4 jalapeno chiles, seeded and cut into strips
15 anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and deveined, then cut into long narrow strips
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c warm water
sea salt to taste
1 lb queso asadero, monterey jack or other melting cheese, shredded
Flour tortillas, totopos or good quality tortilla chips for scooping

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter.
Add the onions and jalapeno chiles and saute until the onions are limp and golden, about 5-10 minutes.
Stir in the Anaheim chiles and tomatoes and cook until all the chiles are soft, about 5-10 minutes longer.
Pour in the cream and warm water, season with salt, and simmer for several minutes.
stir the cheese into the chiles, cover, and remove from the heat.
When the cheese has melted, pour the chiles into a heated serving bowl.
Serve while it is still bubbling hot, as the cheese will separate and become tough and stringy if allowed to cool.

Serves 10-12 as a dip, or serves 6 as a filling for tortillas.

My preference is fresh flour tortillas, but as I said, I have been sick and back to the store was not going to happen. Not the best photos but you get the idea.


Monday, December 8, 2008


Two days ago I was warm and the sun was shining. Today I am freezing and it is foggy. I am not happy about this.

I love Mexico. The people are friendly and devoted to their faith, it is beautiful and festive, humbling and inspiring. Ever since my first trip to Puerto Vallarta these have been my favorite pieces of art. The designs are all a little different, some are an obvious pattern, some are a seemingly random design and every one is absolutely gorgeous. They catch the light and reflect what is beyond at their best when they are layered. Five is probably the necessary amount for the nicest result, but they are very expensive which puts my interest in the couple thousand dollar area. But then who needs curtains when you have these.

The window in these photos is at Le Bistro Jazz Cafe which is on the Rio Cuale, and the metalwork is the window. Yes all sorts of critters can get in and there are 3-4 foot long Iguanas that live in the trees all around (see him in the photo below?), so I would send in the critter getters first if I worked here to catch them and send them on their happy little tree climbing way. Le Bistro is very, very elegant and the food is excellent, a lovely experience if you are there.

If you cross the bridge after leaving Le Bistro, you will come to the outdoor marketplace. It is fun and there are lots of handcrafts to haggle over. I don't haggle much because I realize how poor these people often are. Unfortunately the world economy is beginning to really affect Mexico in that tourists are spending half of what they used to and costs have gone up tremendously for locals and tourists alike.

Halfway through the marketplace is a suspension bridge. It is lots of fun attempting to walk it in some sort of ladylike fashion though some say it is easier to cross after a few margaritas. The local young women cross it in heels which I would never attempt. On the other side of the bridge and across the road is the Super Mercado and the best shrimp tacos around.

Puerto Vallarta comes down from the hills into the Bay of Banderas. It is so pretty because of all the flowers and even buildings are often in colors of fuschia, teal, periwinkle and tangerine. There are lovely butterflies and pottery painted by hand with designs that amaze me. Then there are sunsets that take your breath away. And we even had fireworks every night. I love fireworks.

People are friendly unlike many countries. You are often welcomed with Buenos Dias Amiga and you are treated as a guest. I think it is so important to be a good tourist. To remember that you are a guest. It is not your country, not your rules, not your way. If you have the proper attitude towards the Mexican people and what little they have in the way of stuff, I believe you will come home happy, relaxed and feel blessed for all you have.

I will be back in a day or so with recipes, I just wanted to share some of the beauty of Puerto Vallarta with you.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

This is the view from my parents condo in Puerto Vallarta. See how far downhill it goes. Down, down, down. See Amber walk down the steps. Huff, puff, puff. See Amber wobble on the cobblestone. Wobble, wobble wobble. See the highway that you risk your life crossing. Run, run, run.
Every day we walked to town downhill. Every day we took a taxi back uphill. We are not stupid. Most of the roads in old Puerto Vallarta are still cobblestone and sidewalks are sometimes 3 feet higher than the road. You have to pay attention because often part of the sidewalk is missing and steps appear out of nowhere. I love this kind of stuff. It is real life. It is imperfect. It has character. And it is not like the United States. There is no one to sue, so pay attention.

This is the view from the pool up to the condo. We are at the very top middle of this photo, you can see the front wall of our patio. It is 128 stairs down to the pool. It is 186 stairs up to the condo. I counted. Figure it out.

I liked this little guy. Actually he was about 4 inches long body wise, but he sort of minded his own business.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008



The shopping season has begun.
Think about what is important to you and to the path you leave.

I am currently consuming margaritas in Mexico.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Joy to the World

I will be in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a week starting on Saturday.
Oh Darn!
Beaches, sunshine, margaritas, fresh prawns and lots of time with my parents and my 3 sisters.
No really, they are twisting my arm, ha ha.

I saw this at Joy the Baker on Thanksgiving and thought it would be nice while in the hotel the night before we fly. So I leave you with this luscious little lovely...

Pumpkin Pie Bars

adapted from Kraft

1-1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) cold butter or margarine
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons bourbon (optional)
a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips for sprinkling on top (optional)

oven to 350°F.
Line 13×9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides; grease foil.
Mix flour, 1/4 granulated sugar and brown sugar in medium bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Stir in oats and nuts.

RESERVE 1 cup oat mixture; press remaining onto bottom of prepared pan.
Bake 15 min.
Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla, bourbon, pumpkin and spice with mixer until well blended.
Pour over crust; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture and a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips (if desired).

BAKE 25 min.; cool 10 min.
Use foil to transfer dessert from pan to wire rack; cool completely.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


TWD is going to be posted not on Tuesday. Just can't see making it ahead of Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


There are county fairs in the summer time all over the country. Cows, pigs and sheep are shown along with some of the tightest jeans and the most cleavage county wide. Coins are tossed and so are tummies. Beer is swilled and everything that you could possibly deep fry is calling to you.

And then we have the Greeks, inventors, philosophers, a culture with an amazing history and also that wonderful thing called Phyllo. Paper thin. Versatile. Crispy. It has the delicateness that a communion wafer should have. It is wrapped around sweet and savory with equal success, Baklava being one of the more famous recipes.

So why not blend two great cultures? One, centuries old, full of history and culture. The other, well, think 'Joe Dirt' at the tilt a whirl.

These are baked instead of deep fried.

This was my favorite, York peppermint patty.

(Candy bars in phyllo)

1/2 package phyllo dough
6 candy bars
3/4 cube butter, melted
Optional for in between the phyllo sheets or on top before and/or after:
powered sugar
whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray or grease a cookie sheet.
Keep a damp paper towel covering the extra phyllo while you work.
On a flat work surface, lay out one sheet of phyllo and lightly brush with melted butter.
Lay another phyllo sheet on top and brush with butter again.
Repeat with a third layer.
Set candy bar on one end of the phyllo and begin to roll, tucking in the ends as you roll.
Brush the outside with butter and place on cookie sheet.
Bake 25-30 minutes.

Candy bars that come in two pieces work well, just cut the phyllo or use two full sheets per piece.
I used Athens Fillo Dough which comes in 2 sealed packs and I had 19 sheets in the half I used.
This would work very well with leftover Halloween candy. Just adjust the amount of phyllo used and the baking time.

Reese's big cup. Use the regular two pack instead, they will melt better.

Milky Way, much better than snickers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Arborio Rice Pudding TWD

It is a Saturday night in Autumn. A gorgeous 51 year old woman feels the heat of the night. Is it perhaps a Spaniard, his hot breath on the back of her neck? Or a forgotten lover, here to reclaim the woman he never truly let go of in the inner depths of his heart?

Naw. She is at the stove making Arborio Rice Pudding.
And yes, this pudding may break her heart just like many men have done before. 'Why' you ask? Because she didn't read the part about bubbling away. No, she just assumed simmer. Never assume. The dawn of the morning will slap her in the noggin with reality. She is not a fan of reality. She prefers to believe that all the men in her grocery checkout line are there to give her money because she is an amazing woman. Reality is fat cells and gray hair. Reality sort of sucks. Why would anyone go on a reality show, and then who is dumber? Them? Or us for watching them? Where was I? Oh yeah, reality. Reality is why I am making rice pudding on a Saturday night.

This is week 3 for me with Tuesday's With Dorie and I am really enjoying it because so far these are all new things for me. But! Big but, get it? Yes, reality was a bitch this morning. It tasted good but was nothing near a pudding. Soupy sweet milk rice. Back to the stove with these babies, arborio and vanilla bean are too pricey to not try to rescue. Some other TWDer's tried reheating it and so I did too and it worked pretty well. Is it perfect? I have never had rice pudding so I don't know but who really cares? It tastes good and that is the real goal isn't it?

I doubled the recipe because the reality of 4 servings sort of sucked.

1/3 of the rice pudding was added to the scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean.

1/3 of the rice pudding was added to 2 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate.
1/3 of the rice pudding was added to cinnamon, apricot and cranberry, but reheating this one didn't work out, it just turned color from the dried fruit cooking with it and the milk separated so you don't get a photo of that one because it is in the happy land of fertilize the planet.

Round 2, Sunday. I am making a double batch this time also, but with 4 cups of milk to start, get to the bubbling point and then we will see what happens. Stay tuned for the results.

30 minutes was not the time, nor was approximately 30 minutes. 45 minutes seemed to be the magic number. I still only got 4 servings, at least what I call a serving. Perhaps the extra milk would have made more but the cooking time would have been longer I am sure. Also, having never made rice pudding I may have gone 5 minutes too long. I just made sure I got it to a thickened stage.

I enjoyed this, but I absolutely love risotto and so with the cost of arborio, I will most likely make risotto instead of rice pudding.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Marie Antoinette Toast

I could not eat the entire Kugelhopf myself. Well I could but chose not to, so it was sliced, wrapped and stored for a later date. Kugelhopf becomes stale very quickly and it is best eaten the day it is made. Or, oooohhh, stale bread, we all know what that means. French toast! Or in this case Austria and France, hence the title.

As a kid I hated french toast. Actually I hated most American cooking because it was a time when many women stayed home to raise children and keep the home, and they didn't do it with fake nails, big cars, pampers and cell phones. Wonder bread was wonderous, Oleo was new and green jello molds made you the most creative cook around. Okay, all together now..."Ewwww!". Yeah that's what I thought. Give me my grandmas oatmeal with butter, cream and sugar any day over that food from hell.

Because kugelhopf is a cake, though barely sweet, it does have a sugar crust and raisins. That is why there is no sugar added to the french toast as is usually done or to the pears. This was a very nice breakfast, rich and creamy, not your ordinary fare. It would be great served with bacon or sausage also.

Start the syrup first, then the french toast, and while the toast is soaking, begin the pears.


8 slices stale kugelhopf about 1 1/2" thick
12 T cream cheese
3/4 half and half
2 eggs
1 t vanilla

Carefully cut a slit in each kugelhopf.
Fill with 1 1/2 T cream cheese.
Blend half and half, eggs and vanilla together.
Soak kugelhopf slices in this mixture for 5-10 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
In a pan, melt butter on medium.
Add slices to pan and fry until browned on each side about 10 minutes total.


1/2 c pure maple syrup
1/3 c butter
1/3 c chopped walnuts
1/4 t cinnamon

In a small saucepan, warm all ingredients together for about 20 minutes.

2 d'anjou pears
T butter

Melt 2 T butter in a medium saucepan.
Peel, core and slice pears.
On medium/low simmer pears until tender, approximately 10 minutes.
Strain the liquid from the pears and serve.
You can add a little butter and cinnamon if desirable.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kugelhopf TWD

You know how we are all aware of the baking and cooking rules which say that you are supposed to read the recipe all the way through and then you set out all the measured ingredients on the counter in order?
Am I the only one who only does that sometimes?

So I am thinking "what is a kugelhopf?"
I'll just whip it up after work on Monday since I am off early.
Ha ha ha.

Kugelhopf as the story goes came from Austria to France via Marie Antoinette. It is a raisin filled yeast bread or breakfast bread, excellent with butter and honey and makes wonderful toast. It is not difficult but it does require a lot of time for rising.

The ingredients were simple enough, flour, eggs, yeast, yadda, yadda, yadda. But keeping it from sticking to my hands? Impossible. My dough never got soft, it just stuck to the beaters and to my hands, or is that what soft means? I had also read somewhere that it is not a very sweet dough. As I licked some stickiness off my hands I realized that they weren't kidding.
Oops, I forgot to add the sugar.
Okay, sugar added after raisins, we shall see.
Also, where is the chocolate?
I love when dough has risen, it just seems fluffy and has that wonderful smell, and my yeast doughs don't always rise so it was great when this did. Some time spent rising and slapping down in the fridge and then let it rest overnight.
Yeah, I'm good with overnight.
I put it out for the final rise today and oooohhh, fluffy and poofy. Yay!
Off to the oven.

Now I'm thinking "Well this is a good learning experience, I mean, how good can it be with out chocolate?" It took 2 minutes to brush the melted butter (melted butter is always good) on the hot cake and 1 minute to sprinkle natural sugar (sugar is good) on it and 15 seconds to decide to cut a piece before I even photographed it. Wow, I really, really liked it. Now I have to let it cool before I add powdered sugar and take some photos. I would rather eat more and just photograph crumbs.

I think the only thing I might do different is add more stuff, you know, dried fruits and such.
Would I make this again?
Refer to the sentence below.

If anyone feels the need to buy my love, a nice standing mixer would do it. Yes I can be bought.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chocolate Rugelach

"When no one understands you, chocolate is there."
~Daniel Worona~

For last Tuesdays TWD I only used half my dough, saving the rest because I had wanted to make some with chocolate. I have eaten them before and chocolate were always my favorites. Duh. The strawberry, chocolate and almond ones take a pretty close second though. The chocolate filling is not as sweet which is not better or worse, just different. You can add 1/8 cup or so more sugar if you prefer a sweeter version. Rugelach are buttery rich, oooohhh my favorite, and so versatile. I don't think I am making them again for a while though because I keep eating them all.

I found an easy filling at and just altered it a bit of course. I have also learned a few things regarding rugelach...
*more is not necessarily better, everything falls out as you roll them and they look messier
*12 triangles is better that 16
*perfection isn't going to happen for me for a while

1/2 recipe for 1 dough disc

2T butter, melted
1 t cocoa
1/2 t cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup grated bitter-sweet chocolate
1/8 c walnuts, finely chopped

1 egg
1 t water
2 T coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
After dough is rolled into a 11-12 inch circle, brush butter on top.
Mix cinnamon, sugar and chocolate and spread onto dough.
Sprinkle walnuts on top.
Cut dough in half.
Then into sixths.
Then into twelths.
Roll from fat end towards point.
Place on parchment covered cookie sheet, point side down.
Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Whisk egg and water and brush on each rugelach.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Cool on rack.

1/2 recipe for 1 dough disc

1/3 c strawberry jam, warmed
1 T sugar
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 c almonds, finely chopped
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

use 1/2 of the glaze above

After dough is rolled into a 11-12 inch circle, spread jam on top.
Mix sugar a cinnamon and sprinkle over.
Sprinkle almonds on top.
Sprinkle chocolate on top.

Follow above directions for cutting, rolling and baking.

The rugelach dough can be found in Dorie Greenspan, Baking From My Home To Yours

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


This man gives me hope.
He makes me proud to be an American at last.
I actually cried when I found out it was over and that he had won.
I feel we as Americans can hold our heads up high in the world now.
Finally we the people have a voice.

I consider myself a Christian.
One who cares about human rights, animal rights and environmental rights, all the creations of God.
I have been so hugely offended for so long by the religious right which assumes I follow their dictatorship.

I am proud of America.
We have crossed lines that never should have been.
We have voted in numbers not seen before.
We are not indifferent.
We needed a leader that we could follow.
He gave our youth a reason to care.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TWD Rugelach

Well this is my very first Tuesday's With Dorie post. I had been wanting to join for quite a while but I did not own the book.
Until Ross.
Yep, you read that right. It was like manna from heaven. As soon as I saw it on the shelf it was in my greedy little hands before I even took a second breath. Thank you discount store with all your poorly behaved shoppers and their children running down aisles practically knocking everyone into the tacky displays and your stuff all over the floor instead of on the shelf like most stores. Yes, thank you. It was worth 17 minutes in line. No need for hello or thank you. Nope, the book is mine, all mine, ha ha ha ha ha ha. Yes, a store like that can put you over the edge. But the book is still mine.

I love good Rugelach and the best I have had were at Irvine Ranch Market in Costa Mesa and not even close to cheap. But now that I know how to make them, watch out. The cream cheese dough was very simple to make in the food processor. And fillings of jam, nuts and chocolate...yeah well just try to stop me. I chose to go with strawberry, chocolate and almond filling. These were easy and very good and adaptable. I will make these many more times, and they will get prettier. This was a nice recipe for my first TWD, so to Grace at Piggy's Cooking Journal I send a heartfelt 'thank you' for making this a pleasure. You can see all the other bakers and their creations at the blogroll also.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Garlic Game Hens

Half of me is from the Middle East. It is not so obvious physically, but in how I love and how I..... 'the opposite of love'. It is the feel for family and making children the center and celebrating life. It is probably why I like to feed people. My Grandma always had a cup of garlic soaking in water above the sink, so it would peel easily. When I say always, I am not joking. The kitchen smelled of love and home and safety. We all have memories of our childhood that nurture us even as adults. Garlic is one of mine.

Robin Sue of Big Red Kitchen, posted a recipe for Super Easy Garlic Chicken. It sounded good, but oooohhh, the photo. Be still my beating heart. Now, I have game hens in the freezer not chicken and since times are economically questionable in this country it just makes sense to make do with what I have, right? My daddy would be proud. Make sure and visit Robin Sues blog for the original recipe. She has the cutest caramel apple kit idea also among other great things.


2 cornish game hens, quartered
3 egg yolks
3 huge garlic cloves, minced

3/4 c bread crumbs
3/4 c shredded Parmesan cheese
3/4 t Kosher salt
3/4 t fresh ground black pepper
2 T fresh parsley or thyme, minced

4 T butter
4 T olive oil

In a large ziplock bag, mix the yolks and garlic, add the hen pieces and smoosh around.
Marinate at least 2 hours.

In another large ziplock bag, mix all the other ingredients and set in fridge until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss hen pieces in bread crumb mixture until well coated.
In a pan just large enough to fit all the hen pieces, place butter and olive oil, set in oven until just bubbling.
Remove pan from oven and place hen pieces in a single layer.
Bake 18-25 minutes.
As Robin Sue said, it comes out juicy, crispy and tender.
Serves 2-6

With buttered peas and sweet potato fries it made a very nice meal.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Moist Meatballs, Tender Meatballs

Often, meatballs tend to be dry, heavy and flavorless. I always figured why bother. But I also know that there are a lot of bad ways to cook good things, so perhaps there are great meatballs too. A couple years ago I had some wonderful ones my parents had made for the holidays. Proof enough. My goal this week was to create your everyday meatball with ground beef, nothing too fancy, just ones that would work well with almost any sauce.

Finding 'the' recipe can be interesting and exhausting with stacks of cookbooks and recipe cards scattered on the counter and the computer close to the spinning beach ball stage. In 'The Best Recipe' book by Cook's Illustrated I finally found an answer that worked and made sense.

I love cookbooks that explain 'why'. Cooks Illustrated says that most meatballs are too dense and heavy, hey that is what I said. Meat balls are not round hamburgers. They need to be cooked thoroughly and they require additional ingredients to keep them moist and to lighten their texture and binders to keep them from falling apart. Cooks Illustrated tested with eggs, dried bread crumbs, fresh bread crumbs, ground crackers, bread soaked in milk, eggs, egg yolks, thinned yogurt, buttermilk, beef, veal and pork. They tested with roasting, broiling and pan-frying.

The results were as such: ground chuck has more fat and tends to work better, and 3/4 ground chuck with 1/4 ground pork adds more flavor. Egg yolks have fat and emulsifiers for smoothness. Buttermilk was the choice for creaminess, flavor and ease. Pan frying was preferred because it created meatballs with a rich dark crust and moist texture. So here we go with what worked for me...

cooks illustrated & amber)
Makes 20-28

2 slices white bread crumbs
1/2 c buttermilk
2 egg yolks
1/4 c fresh grated parmesan
1 t minced fresh garlic
2 T minced fresh parsley
3/4 t salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3/4 lb ground chuck
1/4 lb ground pork

1 1/4 c vegetable oil, for frying

Combine breadcrumbs with buttermilk.
Add egg yolks.
Add parmesan, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.

Add ground meats and mix fairly well.

Using a light touch and a dinner spoon, shape full spoonfuls of meat mixture into 1 1/2" round balls. If you compact them they become dense.
Pour oil into 10" or 11" fry pan to a depth of 1/4".
Turn to medium high and test after several minutes for sizzle.
Fry turning several times, until browned on all sides, approximately 10 minutes.

Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain.
Keep warm in sauce of choice or serve with a dipping sauce.

These are wonderful with a marinara sauce on spaghetti. This time I served them in a BBQ/bourbon sauce with a buttered wild and whole grain brown rice mix, but they would work with most sauces.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pumpkin Puffs

This is a very nice treat and so simple. They are perfect in the fall, sitting with a book and a cup of tea by a warm fire. Or in the kitchen with hot coffee and a friend in the morning.

I had these at Trader Joe's once when they were featuring their puff pastry, which happens to be one of the better commercially available ones. I shortened the name because 'Pumpkin Butter Cream Cheese Puffs' is just far too long. And I think Pumpkin Puffs is a much cuter name. I just cut them smaller and added nuts.

4 ingredients.
30 minutes.
That is it.


1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
4 oz whipped cream cheese
1/2 jar pumpkin butter, (12.5 oz jar)
1/2 c walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cut puff pastry into 4 strips and then 4 strips crosswise, creating 16 squares.
Place squares evenly spaced onto cookie sheet.
Place 1 t cream cheese onto each square.
Cover with 1 T pumpkin butter.
Sprinkle chopped walnuts over.
Bake for 25 minutes
Cool approximately 5 minutes.

Makes 16 small pastries, 4-8 servings

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The End of Tables

Until next year that is.

Look at how absolutely beautiful this mixture of flatware is. Granted they are antique pieces or close to it, but who says you can't mix new pieces of flatware? Or dinnerware? Or glassware? Play.

This china is stunning. The only thing I would suggest here is detail. Pay close attention to placement of the plates. Match lines or don't match them but pay attention. Plan the setting by seeing if there is a top of the plate. Had all the blue detail been matched up or the layers been blue and white opposite each other, then the look would be more finished. These are small details but that is what makes the difference.

These were the cutest cream and sugar set. You can have fun with things like these. I often use unexpected things for this and salt and pepper and for serving. If you click on 'Diner en Blanc' on the right you will see how I presented salt and pepper this year.

Finishing a look with the chair is often easy and just adds that something extra. I draped the napkins over the chair backs like over the arm of a waiter. The table with the camel hung bells and carvings. And the Christmas table made covers of the nutcracker. Even an inexpensive floral pick from a craft store can be bent around a piece of the back. They can also be bent into napkin rings.
Now, the piece de resistance...

A huge, probably 3" tall, vase, totally filled with handmade chocolates as a centerpiece and out of the top of that came these beautiful red roses wrapped with a black bow. Are you kidding me? You would have to pick my tongue up off my lap. I love this woman.

I hope you enjoyed these photos this past week and perhaps found some of the tips helpful. If you didn't take time to read them, go back and do so. There really is a lot of great info. I have learned a lot in the last 10 years working on this event from all the designers and from my own trials and successes. And I am still amazed at what is created every year. Remember if you have questions, leave a comment and I will help however I can. Be creative, think outside the box, paint, glue, sew, mix, match, and color outside the lines.
Back to baking and such tomorrow.