Thursday, December 29, 2005

Test Your Culinary Knowledge

I took this quiz in my local paper today. I was actually surprised.

First, I was suprised that I had to answer almost every question with a guess. There were only a couple of them that I knew off the top of my head. Heck, I had never even heard of most of these items.

Second, I was surprised at how well I was able to guess the correct answers. I still got more wrong than I got right, but it was interesting to see how the words themselves provided clues to the meanings. I guess my fifth grade Latin instructor would be feeling vindicated right about now.

Take the quiz and let me know how you did. Maybe you'll be more familiar with these items than I was!

Note: There might be more than one correct answer. (But, really that's is only true for one of these.)

1. We had a great recipe using Kurobuta. What is Kurobuta?

A. A Japanese vegetable that looks like a long green gourd, but has a plum-like aroma.
B. A pink sea salt from Hawaii that has been linked to spot weight loss.
C. An heirloom pig described as having heightened "porkiness."

2. A caller wanted to know about verdulagas. She said she enjoyed the taste when she was a child. What is it and where can she buy some?

A. It's hard green candy, shaped like leaves and flavored with mint extract. It is available at stores that specialize in imported confections.
B. Also called purslane, these lemony greens are often lightly sauteed and scrambled with eggs. Generally, it's not availabe commercially.
C. The name means "little worms" in Italian. It's pasta that can be found in Italian markets or ordered online.

3. What is muscovado, and can I put it on toast?

A. Muscovado is the delicious fat that is slowly rendered from Muscovy duck legs. It is incredible when used to fry potatoes, or it can be thinly spread on toasted baguette slices.
B. Muscovado is a raw sugar. It's very dark brown with a strong molasses flavor. It would be lovely sprinkled on buttered bread toast along with a little ground cinnamon.
C. It is a warm mixture of melted chocolate, soymilk and sugar. It is scrumptious on toast.

4. Reposada: Should I chew it, drink it, or grind it?

A. Reposada is tequila that is aged up to one year. Drink it.
B. Reposada is a coffee that is grown in central Mexico. Grind it, brew it and drink it.
C. Reposada is a Hispanic cheese with a creamy texture and delicate flavor. It is best eaten before it becomes overripe and stinky.

5. What is kufta?

A. A combination of lamb and beef formed into hot-dog shapes, then grilled. Often served with pita bread and hummus.
B. A Moroccan stew made of lamb, potatoes and sweet peppers that is made in a special ceramic casserole.
C. Kufta is the toast made at Norwegian weddings and baptisms. Also, it's slang for "I'm bored, and I've had enough of this."

6. What is a sidecar?

A. Chef's slang for a thin rod used for sharpening knives.
B. A special warming dish often used to keep cooked foods warm.
C. A cocktail most often made with brandy, orange liqueur and lemon juice.

7. What is ong choy and is it good with rice?

A. Ong choy is a Mandarin dish that combines rice noodles with sauteed chicken and water chestnuts. Because it is a noodle-based dish, it isn't served with rice.
B. Ong choy (rau muong in Vietnamese), also called water spinach is a green vegetable with long pointed leaves. It can be quickly sauteed with a little oil and minced garlic, and is often served with rice.
C. Served with or without rice, this is just another name for Napa cabbage.

8. What is cold duck?

A. A pink sparkling wine, usually a mixture of Champagne, sparkling Burgundy and sugar.
B. Refrigerated roast duck.
C. Someone who won't kiss on the first date.

9. What is Carmenere? (There should be a little dash over the second E.)

A. A casserole that features white beans, sausage and herbs, and is often topped with toasted bread crumbs.
B. Often called Bordeaux's sixth grape, this red varietal combines well with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
C. A French cheese shaped like a Renault sedan.

10. What is muhammara (moo-HALM-mer-ah)?

A. It's a spread made with roasted red bell pepper, walnuts, pomegranate and molasses.
B. It's a pungent, wine-based punch that is usually garnished with sliced fresh fruit.
C. A specialty of New Orleans, this hero-style sandwich originated in 1906 at the Central Grocery.

11. Dr. Jim Duke, a medical botanist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 30 years and author of "The Herbal Pharmacy" (St. Martins Press, $7.99, paperback), contends that cinnamon can:

A. Fight colds, coughs and fevers, as well as relieve gas and indigestion, stimulate circulation and ease allergies.
B. Fight formation of plaque on teeth and prevent insomnia.
C. Be lovely sprinkled on grapefruit wedges.

12. What is Aleppo?

A. It's a sun-dried pepper from Syria that is coarsely ground. It has a mild heat.
B. It's a culinary device used for finely grating ingredients.
C. It's a thick molasses made from pomegranate juice. It is wonderful used to marinate lamb.

13. Jeroboam, my jeroboam. Are you different from a nebuchadnezzar?

A. There are biblical terms and have no place in a quiz about wine and food.
B. These handcrafted cheeses are sold online. One is like a dry ricotta, the other is a white cheddar-style cheese.
C. A jeroboam is a large wine bottle; in Champagne it's three liters (four standard bottles), in Bordeaux it's 4.5 liters (six standard bottles). A nebuchadnezzar is a big, big boy. It's a wine bottle that holds 15 liters, or 20 standard bottles.

That's it! Answer are below...

Answers to the quiz:

1. C
2. B
3. B
4. A
5. A
6. C
7. B
8. A and B
9. B
10. A
11. A
12. A
13. C

Hope you had fun...and if you know a foodie who needs to be stumped, send them my way!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Time to catch up...

Christmas went about as planned this year (which is a good thing), and now that it's over, I am breathing a little sigh of relief! No more shopping, wrapping or searching for gift ideas.

Well, at least until the next holiday arrives.

I hope that everyone out there got something fun that they wanted, and I will be making the rounds as time permits today to see what's new with everyone.

I feel pretty lucky. Among my gifts from family and friends, I received:

2 stock pots (I'm keeping both and throwing out my two old blah pots), 1 is a 10 quart and the other is a 12 quart. The 10 quart also has a pasta insert and a glass lid while the other has a stainless lid and is a little wider.

1 Henckels paring knife

1 "condiment container" which is the stainless steel and glass little container that Alton Brown uses on his cooking show

1 set of cheese knives (the kind that are all different shapes for cutting different types of cheeses)

A poster of Cheeses of the World (that coworker knows me well, I'd say)

The complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes comics in a nice 3 book set.

I hope that you've all been having good holidays. Until the new year officially starts, I will probably only be on my blog sporatically, but I should be back full time after that.

See you in 2006!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New Year's Resolutions

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions. I guess that I figure that I don't need one particular time of the year to think of ways to improve myself, but instead it should happen year round.

Now, that sounds like a reasonable and commendable course of action, but looking back on this year, I have changed my mind.

I feel like 2005 has been a difficult and trying year. I have had to deal with the fact that I am losing my job, that I will be moving next year (to a state that I've only visited for less than a week) and worst of all, that I have not been taking care of myself.

I have long ago forgotten the exercise routine that I hoped to maintain. I have ignored my body's various issues, including some nasty heartburn and other upper digestive problems. I forgot about taking baths to relax. I didn't take any classes to broaden my knowledge or abilities.

So, this January, which is right around the corner, I will make some resolutions. I will start my year on a truly positive note and work my hardest to stay there.

If you have been feeling depressed, worried, tired, or just down in general, I suggest you do the same. I am already looking forward to having new feelings of optimism and joy...and they await me, just 11 little days from now!

Oh, who am I kidding, the feelings are already here!

My 2006 Resolutions

1. Take classes or otherwise find ways to learn those things that I have been wanting to. I have already signed up for a beginner's machine sewing class and a hatha yoga class.

2. Find ways to make time for exercise, keeping in mind that it makes me feel better on the whole when I keep up with it.

3. Try to improve my communication with my husband and try to see things from his point of view. (Must remember, he is not a mindreader...ask him for help when I want it.)

4. Try to get my son ready for bed a little earlier so that we can read words from his lists or find places on his map of the world.

5. Find new ways to eat more vegetables.

6. Start shopping for Christmas earlier, so there is less stress later.

7. Use my sewing machine.

8. Buy a house.

9. Find a new (part-time, yay!) job that is FUN!

10. Pay off all of my debts.

11. Catch up on my scrapbooking.

12. Try different recipes that I would normally skip.

Let's see what you have on your list! Maybe they'll be similar, maybe they'll be totally different.

Monday, December 19, 2005

QOD #12 and Congrats to Kristi!

Well, if Kristi's wanderlust wasn't interrupted before, it is now! Go check out Kristi and her husband's story. It was a difficult road for them to get to where they are, and they are cautiously celebrating! Congratulations!

QOD #12

A father is someone who carries pictures where his money used to be.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Final Installment of Holiday Cookie Exchange #1

This is our last weekend for the first Holiday Cookie Exchange. Thanks to everyone who's participated so far. If you haven't seen the last two weekends, you should definitely check them out!

Feel free to jump in any time and I'll keep updating all weekend.

This week my theme was SIMPLE. Why? Because I'm tired, stressed out and sick! Boy, don't you love the holidays?

So, I dug up this recipe for Jam Thumbprints. I've never made them before, but I had all of the ingredients on hand and they sounded good. It turns out, they are good! And they were simple enough for my six-year-old (six since Monday!) to do tons of helping. These cookies are buttery, crumbly like shortbread, and simple enough to make with one big bowl, measuring tools, a wooden spoon, a pastry blender and cookie sheets.

Try filling them with different colored preserves and jams for a colorful presentation.

2/3 cup butter (about room temp)
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup strawberry preserves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease cookie sheets, or line them with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla and salt. Gradually mix in flour.
3. Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls (I did them about 1 inch). Dip in lightly beaten egg whites, then roll in finely chopped walnuts. Place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. Press down center of each with your thumb. Be sure to make a good indentation, some of mine wanted to rise up.
4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Just before serving, fill centers of cookies with strawberry preserves.

Take a look at some other great recipes here:

bna at Peanut Butter and Purple Onions made these holiday-perfect Ginger Cookies

Kristi at Interrupted Wanderlust distracted herself by making Oatmeal Spice Cookies and Pumpkin Cookies

Vicki at The Moveable Feast dusted off her trusty first cookbook and baked some Walnut Lace Cookies

Michelle shunned the traditional cookie and made these very sweet looking Pink Christmas Marshmallows over at The Accidental Scientist

Eggy in Singapore at the Greedy Goose (welcome aboard!), made these yummy sounding Chocolate Malt Cookies

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Reminder: Final Weekend of the Holiday Cookie Exchange and QOD #11

Let's fire up those ovens one more time!

Starting tomorrow and going on all weekend, I'll be hosting the final installment of HCE #1!

If you need a little motivation, here it is: show us something simple.

Show us your no-fail, four-ingredient, everyone-thinks-they're-so-hard-to-make cookies! Show us how you turn that tube of cookie dough from the refrigerated section of your grocery store into "homemade" greatness (hey, you baked it at home, right?)!

And remember:

Foodie QOD #11

An empty belly is the best cook.
-Estonian Proverb

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

You Are What You Eat Meme: My Top Ten Favorite Foods

I've been tagged by Ilva and bna to participate in this meme. Thank you both!

First, let me say this. I am definitely going to cheat. ;-)

How else would I be able to cover even a tiny portion of the foods that I love? As I've gotten older, I find that I like more and more things. My tastes have broadened and I'm much less likely to say (about anything in my life) that I just *love* something better than anything else.

That said, here are my top ten favorite foods:


When I was young, I used to cut a hunk of cheddar off the block and microwave it until it was all melted, oil separated and sitting on the top. I would grab a fork and eat it. Just melted cheese. It was one of my favorite things.

Now, I'm older and no I don't microwave just plain old cheese anymore. But, I still love cheese. How do I love cheese? Let me count the ways: cheddar (mild, medium and sharp), monterey jack, pepper jack, mozzarella, swiss, gouda, edam, dill havarti, gorgonzola, blue, asiago, parmesan, ricotta, cream cheese, feta, emmental, romano, gruyere, mizithra, string, colby, cotija, meunster, and cottage. I might have missed a couple, but you get the idea!

Oh, and the only cheese I don't like: brie.


This is pretty simple. I like breads of all sorts. In fact, I've rarely met a bread that I didn't like. Bread for sandwiches. Bread to go with soup. Bread with butter. All good.


I like fruits of all sorts, but I am particularly partial to berries. I can remember picking blackberries from wild bushes in the woods near my house when I was a young child. Those moments were pure, simple and sweet. Positive reinforcement may very well be at work here!


There is nothing that satisfies me more than to find a good chicken fried steak. I think it is really hard to find a good chicken fried steak, so that may be why I get so excited when I do find one!


Ok, so this is cheating. But really, how can you pick just one kind of soup? I love broth based soups, cream soups, veggie soups, meat soups, noodle soups...again, I've rarely met a soup I didn't like. (Although I haven't tried the more adventurous types, such as melon soup or other cold soups.)


Whether it's lemon for fish or iced tea, lime for a beer or a bowl of pho ga, or a tangerine to share between friends, citrus fruits have a bigger influence on food than I would have ever thought growing up. But I know, when you need that lemon or lime, nothing else will do!


There is absolutely nothing in the world like a good piece of sushi. And if you want to eat a good piece of sushi, go to one of Nobu Matsuhisa's restaurants. You'll never want to go anywhere else again. (The above is yellowtail with jalapeno and some die for)


If you haven't caught onto the theme...I am big on savory foods. This was a dish made at by a little chain of restaurants called La Madeleine's. I believe that they still make these, but I no longer live near one. If you ever see one, you should try this dish. It is a puff pastry filled with a combination of chicken, mushrooms and bechamel sauce, then topped with a mushroom cream sauce. It's amazing. You should also try their french onion soup..mmmmm!


If you're ever in Scottsdale, AZ, you should definitely go to the Carlsbad Tavern restaurant. That is, IF you like spicy foods. If not, skip it!

Their blue corn enchiladas are filled with cheese and one has chicken and the other has gulf shrimp. They're covered with a green sauce and more cheese. Need I say more? (Ahem, could I get some more cheese here?)


By themselves or used in a dish. Black, green, kalamata. Stuffed. Spicy or mellow. Nuff said.

I'm tagging my sister Stephanie for this meme...because she really needs to start posting on her blog more! I would tag others, but it looks like I was last to do this one. If you haven't done it yet...consider this your *tag*!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Where's a good bowl of soup when I need it?

First off, thank you to everyone who participated in last weekend's Holiday Cookie Exchange. We just have one more week left to share our recipes before the holidays swallow us up completely!

Hopefully I will see you all again this Friday!

After a hectic week and an even crazier weekend, my body did something terrible: it got sick!

I threw my son's birthday party on Sunday. It was a huge relief because I was very stressed out for about a week or two prior and just about couldn't take it anymore. It ended up going over very well, with plenty of guests and good food.

I took a simple route this year by serving cold cuts with various breads and other sandwich toppings and a big pot of homemade chili. I was happy that everyone liked the chili since it was my very first time ever making it!

I had woken up at 6:00 a.m. to bake the cake, and I worked very hard until about 4pm that day. I had a celebratory drink once the party was over (thank god) and went to bed before midnight.

Monday morning: I wake up with a feeling that I have a white-hot trail burning in my sinuses. My throat is sore and swollen. I am coughing. My head hurts, my body hurts. My tummy is upset and threatening to turn on me completely.

I call in sick to work. I sleep, never leaving the upstairs of my apartment, until almost 11:30am. I eat, and then I sleep some more.

And, of course, last night was my son's Christmas program at school. So there I am, sweating in the audience, smiling, waving and making funny faces at my son, trying to get him to loosen up on stage.

I told my husband, next year, he's in charge of the birthday party. If he wants to do it at Chuck E. Cheese's, fine. As long as he's the one calling and booking the space!

The chili really was good and I will definitely be sharing the recipe and a photo soon! I'm back at work today feeling about 50% better, hoping that my normal routine will help perk me up. At the very least, the coffee helps! I hadn't had a cup since Friday morning!!

I haven't made the rounds since probably Saturday, so I hope everyone else had a much calmer weekend than I did. I'll check in with everyone in the next day or so.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Holiday Cookie Exchange #1, second installment

Hi everyone!

Happy Friday and welcome to this week's installment of the Holiday Cookie Exchange. I will update the post throughout the weekend, so feel free to join in any time.

We have one week left in this exchange, next Friday/weekend, and I hope that you all come back to share one more time before the holidays officially take over our lives. Maybe we can all get together for a Valentine exchange...I can just see the hearts, cherubs and kiss shapes now!

I love a simple sugar cookie. Ilva at Lucullian Delights reminded me of this with her wonderful entry below. Here is one of my favorite cookies in that category.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening (i.e., Crisco)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
2. Cream together the butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.
3. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are set but not too firm. Remove immediately from the cookie sheets and put on cooling racks.

Once done baking, take some photos in some funky lighting (I mean, really, what is the deal with bad lighting in kitchens?):

Please check out these recipes from some fantastic foodie sites:

Ilva at Lucullian Delights bakes Marco's Cookies for her husband (lucky guy)

Michelle at The Accidental Scientist made these Double Chocolate Coconut Cookies (they sound delicious, don't they?) and some Raspberry Linzer Windowpane Cookies

Kristi at Interrupted Wanderlust made something perfect for the holidays: Candy Cane Cookies

Nerissa at Deetsa's Dining Room submitted her 'it wouldn't be Christmas without them' Peanut Butter Balls, check out the pretty colors!

Melissa at the Cooking Diva, has baked her cookies, you can take a look here...she'll get the post up with the recipe soon! are the recipes!

Vickie, at The Moveable Feast joined in a little late...she had to give her home security a once over...check out her Pinwheels...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Kickin' Collard Greens & Reminder for Tomorrow's HCE #1 Second Installation!

Here is a recipe that I tried out on Tuesday night. I thought that it came out really well, but I have reduced the salt (it really needed to be reduced).

Here are the raw collard greens:

Here is the salt pork that I used instead of bacon:

Here are the greens cookin:

And the finished product:

Kickin' Collard Greens


1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices bacon (I used 1/2 package of salt pork)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups water (recipe originally called for all 3 c. of liquid to be broth, but it was way too salty)
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 pound fresh collard greens, cut into 2-inch pieces


1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and cook until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, crumble and return to the pan. Add onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until just fragrant. Add collard greens, and fry until they start to wilt.

2. Pour in chicken broth, and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until greens are tender.

They were yummy! I had never eaten collard greens before, but I would definitely make them again. I found that it didn't quite take as long as the recipe called for to get them tender. They would be great with some fried chicken and mashed potatoes!

Don't forget to participate in tomorrow's Holiday Cookie Exchange #1, second edition. Come and get some good ideas for your own family and share a few, too!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Vegas...the highlights...vol. 1

We returned last Saturday evening from Las Vegas, tired from the drive and looking forward to the comforts of home. And if you listened to me talk about my trip once I came back, you might think that we didn't have a good time.

That is mostly because I was so smoked-out from the casinos and tired of the dirty slums that lie just beyond the strip. But those complaints certainly are not what I hope to remember in the long run.

Truth is, Vegas offers a lot of attractions that are the stuff that memories are made of.

My very favorite thing we saw was the lion display at the MGM Grand. I love animals, and these guys looked like big kittens to me! They were so youthful, playing with the balls in the enclosure. There were 4 people in the display with them, to my surprise. The two women interacted with the animals and the two men simply stayed back. I think that the male lions liked the women better.

When we walked back past the display later, we found that it was cat-nap time! This answered my question about whether or not the trainers could touch the lions.

She was laying down with the lion, spooning. After she scratched him on the neck a little, he rolled over and was facing her. His rear paws rested on her hip. All three of the lions were sleeping at the same time, which was no big surprise since the sign on the cage said they usually sleep 18-20 hours a day.

I don't normally share pictures of my family, but I thought everyone'd get a kick out of this shot of my husband and son at the M&M store.

QOD #10

Ok, ok, I promise that I'll get those photos from Las Vegas up soon! Until then, here is a funny little quote:

The trouble with Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again.
-George Miller

Monday, December 05, 2005

Vacation, a box of goodies, and 12 eggs

First of all, let me say *thank you* to everyone who participated in the first week of the Holiday Cookie Exchange. I will be posting them again this Friday (& weekend), so anyone who wants to jump in, I'll see you then!

I just got back from Las Vegas. I was a little worried because I was going to be out of town on Friday when the exchange started, but I drafted my post and my great sister Stephanie baby-sat my blog until Saturday. Thank you, Steph!

We had a fun time in Vegas, but we were ready to come home after just a couple of days. I'll go into that more tomorrow and post some pics from the trip.

When I got home on Saturday, I was so pleased (ok, REALLY excited) to find a box from Vickie!

When I first opened the box, I was looking forward to the contents. But I happened to notice that the shredded paper filling the box was shredded paychecks. I was impressed. I've been given some expensive gifts before, but this takes the cake. (I know, I know - they were probably blank, but don't tell'll ruin my high.)

Box from Vickie:

Fancy filler:

Here is what I found in the package:

And then inside of those:

When I was opening the box, before I could even get the flaps apart, I could smell the spices and the sweetness of lavender.

There is a basil garlic blend of spices to either make a dip, spread or sauce with. There was a pack of organic lavender from Vermont. There was a package of plantation peanut soup (hmmm, interested in trying that one out). And last, but definitely not least, were two traditional German wax ornaments that smelled like the most amazing cinnamon. Everything here is a feast for the senses!

Vickie included some recipes (which is good because I've never cooked with lavender) and I am looking forward to trying something new! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

This was so much fun, opening an unexpected gift from such a nice person! I can't wait to reciprocate!

Ok, so that covers the "vacation" and "box of goodies" parts from my title...please go check out Kristi's page, Interrupted Wanderlust for the 12 eggs part. It is an awesome adventure that we are sharing with Kristi (thanks for sharing).


Friday, December 02, 2005

Holiday Cookie Exchange #1 - Join In!

Welcome to Holiday Cookie Exchange #1!

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, or another holiday, there is sure to be a place for cookies!

Please join in today (and I will keep updating the post through the weekend, so late joiners, feel free to jump in anytime) and for the next two Fridays as we bake, eat and share our favorite cookies.

Simply post your cookie entry on your blog and come back here and enter a comment with the permalink. I'll add listings periodically so you can check out the great recipes with a simple *click*!

Gingerbread Cookies
Here is my first attempt ever at making gingerbread. I tried this recipe out around Halloween, but got so frustrated with the quickly softening dough's tendency to stick that I rolled up the dough and tossed it in the freezer. Here is the recipe for Gingerbread Skeletons from Baking Sheet. The original recipe is from Epicurious. They were so cute as skeletons, but somehow, it just wasn't appropriate for Christmas!

Here are a few tips I learned along the way for using gingerbread dough:
1. It freezes very well. Just move to the refrigerator the night before you plan to use it.
2. It makes a very sturdy dough - don't overcook them unless you are making gingerbread bricks. Mmmm - bricks - yum.
3. To avoid sticking dough, put down wax paper, then sprinkle it with flour, you can roll/cut your dough on it and then, simply slide the cookies off the paper (be sure to use enough won't show, it will be on the bottom). If you have to, you can flip the paper over and catch the cookie in your hand and place on a cookie sheet.
4. If you get excess flour on your lovely brown cookies, it will either absorb while baking or still be there after you've pulled them out of the oven. If you can still see flour, use a pastry brush and lightly brush it off after the cookies have cooled.
5. The dough makes wonderful sliced cookies. I sliced and then rolled slightly to get a consistent thickness.
6. Don't eat them plain. You should definitely ice these cookies because you need some sweet to balance out the complex ginger taste.

Here is where you'll find the links to everyone else's goodies! Check them might find a new favorite!

So far these are looking very yummy!!!

Check out the Earl Grey Tea Cookies that Michelle made at The Accidental Scientist!

Melissa at The Panama Gourmet is going to add her post (hopefully tomorrow), but she ran into a little trouble...good luck and we'll wait for you!

Vickie at The Moveable Feast made this very cute Christmas Tree Cookie Tower!

Mebeth at Hold the Raisins contributed some delicious looking chocolate chip cookies...always a staple at my house!

Good job everyone...let's see what we try next week! I'll keep adding any new posts over the weekend.

PS...Vickie at The Moveable Feast sent me a package - you don't even know how excited I was to see it...I'll post pics and info after I get into it! I can't wait!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thanksgiving Pics and HCE #1 Reminder

As promised, here are a couple of photos from Thanksgiving. You can see some of the food and my sister getting ready to carve the turkey.

Don't forget to join in for the Holiday Cookie Exchange tomorrow (& weekend)!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

New Restaurant in the Neighborhood

I like to try new restaurants out when they crop up in our neighborhood. This has worked out well (Niko Niko Sushi is to-die-for) and it has sometimes not worked out so well (the Mexican restaurant around the corner where my husband and I decided it was absolutely the worst food we'd ever been served). We had an idea that the latter might not be so great when they came out with our food about 2 minutes after we placed our order - and yes, we had ordered hot meals.

Recently, a new restaurant opened in the food court of my nearby Japanese store. Yes, in the grocery store. There are two japanese stores in my city, and both of them have food courts. Most of the restaurants in them are Japanese, but there are a few oddballs. There is the Italian Tomato, which is, of course, Italian food. There is a Hawaiian barbecue place and a Chinese restaurant. The great thing is that I've loved almost every single dish I've ordered from any of these places, which I think is pretty amazing.

The new place that opened is a Korean restaurant. Having a Korean background, this just made my day when I discovered it. Because if I'm not up to making a huge Korean meal at home, then that used to mean that I'd have to drive several cities away to get to a decent restaurant. Now, I can walk to one in less than 5 minutes.

This soup was so delicious, with mandu (dumplings filled with a meat and veggie mix) and green onions in an amazing broth. It is called mandu guk (pronounced "mahndoo gook").

One of the other dishes I tried was the chap chae (pronounced "chop chay"), which is clear noodles with some veggies and a sesame oil type dressing on it. It is served cold and has a great flavor. Sorry for the slightly fuzzy picture here.

If you've never tried Korean food, I would highly recommend it. They eat tons of vegetables, soups and delicious marinated meats. Whenever you eat at a sit-down Korean restaurant, they serve your meal with a bunch of side dishes that accompany every meal, called ponchon. Sometimes it is various kimchees (pickled, often spicy vegetables), sometimes it is a marinated crab (the crab is raw, but safe to eat, just FYI), and sometimes just cooked vegetables like steamed and seasoned spinach or bean sprouts. I've even had a whole baked fish as a side dish.

While some people may feel intimidated because they don't speak the language, I hope that this won't stop them from trying out their local Korean restaurant. I think that overall it is a fun food experience, not to mention delicious!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas Project: Family Cookbook

My coworker Kathy just gave me the recipe for one of my favorite cookies. It's for Fairy Drops: wafer thin sugar cookies that just crisply melt in your mouth.

Kathy brings these in every once in a while. They are about 4" around, but because they are so thin, I usually eat about 5 or 6 every time I pass the kitchen. In fact, I can't help myself!

It reminds me of when I was in second grade. I used to sneak in and eat several little marinated mushrooms from the tiny Cara Mia jar in the refrigerator. I knew they were expensive, so I would creep in like a thief (ok, so I was a thief). The point is, however, that it was a compulsion. It was one of the very few things in my life that I felt powerless to control. I guess that you would call it an "addiction." Ha. Mushroom Addiction. (I guess I needed Mushroom-aholics Anonymous. Ok, I'm done torturing you with bad jokes...back to the topic at hand.)

This morning, I was lucky enough to find a recipe card on my office chair for those heavenly Fairy Drops. When I went to thank my friend, she was explaining how she injured herself getting that recipe for me. Opening her bag, she pulled out a worn, yellowing paperback cookbook and showed me how one of the staples inside was pointing up, thus giving her the cut on her finger. (She sacrificed so that I could have light-as-a-cloud sweetness!)

The cookbook was a family cookbook that two of her aunts had put together. Photocopied, along with some pictures, are "90 Great family recipes." What a treasure. Some of the recipes show their age, such as the one I noticed that calls for "two cubes oleo." Adorned with a photo of one of the ladies cooking at the stove, big smile on her face, the cookbook is called Down-home California Cookin'.

And what is the first thing that pops into my mind? I need to make a cookbook with family recipes! I want that! So, it is only November 29...hypothetically enough time to put together a little gem and share it with the rest of my family. I don't know if they'll appreciate them or not, but I will. It will be a snapshot in time, showing what we were all cooking in 2005.

In 2010 and 2020, I want to look back and laugh at how much bacon we ate and how we all got sucked into the latest food fads. I want to reminisce about my young son's favorite foods. And I want a little treasury of best recipes that my son, sister, and hey, maybe my grandchildren will be using to recreate those dishes they grew up loving.

Food, to me, is about several things. It is about taste. It is about fun experimentation. It is about broadening your horizons. And it is about tradition.

I think my new tradition will be the family cookbook.

Be sure to join us for this Friday's Holiday Cookie Exchange!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving (aka "My Stomach Hurts-Day") and QOD #9

Wow. It is really hard to get up for work the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend. I stayed up past midnight last night, trying to get as much out of the long weekend as possible. Now, I feel groggy and my tummy is upset! But it was definitely worth it.

I caught up on Lost, watching crazy Ana Lucia struggle with her demons from the past. I also watched Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, also so much fun! But enough of my TV ramblings, back to Thanksgiving.

I was lucky enough to be invited to my sister's house, who baked the turkey and had prepped a lot of the meal in advance. I helped prepare a bunch of the dishes. We had: squash casserole, broccoli casserole, mashed potatoes, dressing, corn casserole, persimmon bread, and other various snacking items.

We discovered two things about turkeys. They hide that little pack of organ meats in its should find and remove prior to baking (well, next time, I guess). And second, with the help of a dictionary, we confirmed that giblets are pronounced with a "j" sound and not a hard "g" sound at the beginning.

The only thing I made (prior to arrival) was that fabulous pumpkin cheesecake. BTW, I figured out what makes my cheesecake crack on the happens when I use the instant read thermometer to check the temp in the center. Next time, I know how "jiggly" it should look and I won't make that mistake!

My favorite foods this Thanksgiving were the squash casserole and the gravy. The gravy made everything better! The squash casserole is just so yummy that even my son who does not like squash ate it. It is basically this recipe from Allrecipes, with one added ingredient: bacon. And not just a little, but about 1 slice per squash. It has squash, cheddar cheese, bread crumbs and bacon. How could this not be good? Cook the bacon and onion together a little, then add the squash a cook until softened (don't overcook, it will finish cooking in the oven). Follow the rest of the recipe as directed.

Also very good were the pomegrantinis that my sister-in-law made. It is basically a pomegranate martini using POM. They were delicious. I'm not sure if this is the exact recipe, but it sounds right:

2 parts vodka (use a good one, we used Belvedere)
1 part pomegranate juice
splash triple sec
orange rind for garnish
Combine first 3 ingredients with ice in shaker. Shake, strain and serve in a well-chilled martini glass. Garnish with orange rind.

My sister used this menu mailer from Saving Dinner. It helps you get organized for the dinner. It provides you with a shopping list, a timeline on when to buy your groceries and when to prep different components for the meal, and then of course the rest of the instructions and recipes to finish off the meal.

I will add some photos soon from this lovely feast. Hope that everyone out there had as tasty a holiday as I did.

QOD #9
It's so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone's fingers have been all over it.
-Julia Childs

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Caramel Apples and QOD #8

Well, with my son's birthday rapidly approaching, I have been spending much of my free time planning and wondering. I have the bounce house ordered and will be getting a pinata. I hope and pray that will keep the kidlets entertained. But then, I have to focus on the serious side of any party: what food to make.

The parents and other adults will probably be satisfied with anything I make, it's the kids I have to worry about. Yes, children can be difficult to please. Most of the difficulty comes from the fact that I refuse to be one of those parents who order 15 pizzas from the cheapest pizza store around. I have been to many birthday parties like that and I am now practiced enough to completely hide my disappointment. It's like a pizza-poker-face.

I think that my son should grow up remembering all the great food at his parties. Food that I prepared, recipes that he'll want to make when he's throwing a party for his own kids. At least, that's what I hope will happen.

That said, the question remains: what do kids want to eat? More importantly, what do kids not want to eat?! Well, sometimes I go too overboard for kids this young (about 5-ish), so this year, I decided to go simple. I am going to provide a selection of cold cuts, breads, and assorted other items (pickles, pepperoncinis, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.) and let them make their own sandwiches. For the parents, however, I am making a pot of chili with lots of toppings to choose from: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, and avocado.

But I think that the hit of the party will be the caramel apples. I made a sample this weekend, just to see how they would turn out, and it was beautiful! I could've killed myself making caramel from scratch, but instead, remembered that the kids weren't going to critique the apples, they were going to gobble them down!

I used squares of caramel candies and a little half and half in a double boiler, gently stirring until melted completely. I used a spoon to help pour the caramel over the apple, then quickly rolled in chopped peanuts. Next, I drizzed some melted dark chocolate on the top. I did this the simple way. I took my good dark chocolate and put it in a ziploc bag. Then, I microwaved it on a reduced power setting until melted. Then, I snipped the tiniest corner off the ziploc and used it like a piping bag. It was so fast and easy!

Oh, and just to make them cute, I used baby Granny Smith apples!

Foodie Quote #8
Even though this quote is for Christmas, I think that it is more appropriate for Thanksgiving:

A three-year-old gave this reaction to her Christmas dinner: "I don't like the turkey, but I like the bread he ate."

-Author Unknown

Monday, November 21, 2005

Foodie Quote of the Day (QOD) #7

There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won't, and that's a wife who can't cook and will.

-Robert Frost

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Parmesan Risotto

I've never ordered risotto at a restaurant. And, frankly, I've often wondered why it cost so much when I see it on a menu. I thought, it must be difficult to make. It must taste like heaven. It must have expensive ingredients.

So, after much wondering and a little recipe reading, I set out to try my hand at making risotto. First, I read recipes. I often do this as a way to try to familiarize myself with a process before actually attempting to create a dish. It helps me understand what will be going on and alleviate any concerns that a dish might be too difficult. (Sometimes, it helps me see that a dish will definitely be too difficult...I usually stop reading recipes at that point.)

But, after looking at a couple of risotto recipes, I found that the process appeared simple. There are a couple of rules that you are advised of (that is, if you have a decent recipe). First, you must stir continuously. Second, you must stir at the correct speed: not too fast, and not too slow. If you stir to quickly, the rice will become slightly gluey; stir it too slowly and it will be watery. The last thing you should know is that you will be stirring and cooking, cooking and stirring, for at least 15-20 minutes continuously. (Ahhhh...must be why it costs so much! Don't get discouraged, though, this is not like whipping egg whites to stiff peaks by hand.)

The result was a lovely, rich flavor. It was quite filling, and I think that I enjoyed it more the next day when I reheated it. The ingredients are simple, direct, and best of all, I get the impression that you can make many variations without having to be told what to do.

Here are the Oh-so-fancy ingredients that I used:

Parmesan Risotto
Serves 4

Stirring the rice too vigorously will make your risotto slightly gluey; stirring too little will make it watery. Rice should be only thinly veiled in liquid during the stirring process.

6 to 8 cups homemade chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 to 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for grating or shaving
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat stock in saucepan over medium heat; keep at a low simmer. Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots to oil, and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add rice, and cook stirring, until rice begins to make a clicking sound like glass beads, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add wine to rice mixture. Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed by rice.

3. Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to rice. Using a wooden spoon, stir rice constantly, at a moderate speed. When rice mixture is just thick enough to leave a clear wake behind the spoon, add another 3/4 cup stock.

4. Continue adding stock 3/4 cup at a time and stirring constantly until rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in the center. Rice should be al dente but not crunchy. As rice nears doneness, watch carefully and add smaller amounts of liquid to make sure it does not overcook. The final mixture should be thick enough that grains of rice are suspended in liquid the consistency of heavy cream. It will thicken slightly when removed from heat.

5. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, Parmesan cheese, and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture among four shallow bowls, mounding risotto in the center, and grate or shave additional Parmesan over risotto. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Holiday Cookie Exchange #1

Calling all food bloggers!

Announcing the first Holiday Cookie Exchange! In the spirit of the holidays, I thought we could all get together and do some cookie recipe blogging. I know that most of us will be baking anyway, so this will be a great opportunity to show off those sweets as well as get some new recipes.

I hope that this will be the first holiday cookie exchange of many to come! After all, there are plenty of holidays that warrant cute and delicious cookies: Valentine's Day, Easter, and Halloween, to name a few. Vickie at The Moveable Feast has graciously offered to host a future exchange.

The event will be held for the three Fridays following Thanksgiving: December 2nd, 9th, and 16th (I have no illusions about any of us having time to do this on the 23rd!) Post your entry on your blog by Friday and submit a comment with the permalink on my site under the HCE #1 posting. I'll try to get all the links up by Friday evening so that everyone can check out the recipes all weekend long.

This is my very first event, so I hope that it all works out! (I'm a little nervous, though I am not sure why!) With all of these great cooks out there, I bet we'll have some really great recipes to share!


Monday, November 14, 2005

Foodie QOD #6

I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead - not sick, not wounded - dead.
-Woody Allen

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Happy Birthday, Daniel!

My little brother (who towers over me, he's so tall) is 23 years old today! Happy birthday from the three of us here!

I have a bunch of family photos that I borrowed and scanned, with the hopes of being able to order prints and make some scrapbook albums with pictures from when we were growing up.

This was one of my favorite photos of my brother Daniel. I don't know why I liked this so much. Maybe it was the fact that he looks happy. Uncomplicated, simple happiness. No other family members to associate this photo with. No special event with other memories competing for the spotlight.

Just a simple photo of a boy sitting on dirt outside looking content.

Happy Birthday Daniel, wish we were there to celebrate with you.

Love, Dawn and the boys

Friday, November 11, 2005

WCB #23 - Cats for Claire

Well, it was hard to think of an appropriate picture to cheer Claire up. So, I opted for a simple photo that makes me feel happy, and hopefully it will do the same for her!

Here are Toejam and Earl (Earl is the bigger one with his back against the couch) napping together. It's not too often that they opt to sleep so cozily next to each other; usually they just get together for a cleaning/biting ritual that leaves everyone unhappy. So when they settle down for a peaceful nap together, it is definitely a photo op.

Feel better soon, Claire!

Pre-WCB Foodie QOD #5

My WCB will be going up soon (I hope this evening), but in the meanwhile, here is a foodie quote of the day:

The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote because of it's unusual tempo. I slow down to be sure that I understand what he is saying, and in that process visualize the true meaning of the words.

I rarely stick to any one project for too long, but every summer when I get that itch to grow something new, tend to it, and then enjoy its bounty, I recognize that it is one of the most rewarding things in my life. I feel a sense of accomplishment. And as I sit there, pruning tomato bushes, I feel peace. Forty five minutes can easily slip away after work while I play with the plants.

This year, I grew yellow pear tomatoes, jalapenos, anaheim peppers, and carrots.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Succulent 1

Succulent 2

I got these beautiful little plants from a house in a nearby neighborhood. The house had recently been sold, and the two sons of the woman who had lived there were cleaning it out. I didn't ask, but I am pretty sure that she died. She was really interested in succulents and cacti, and I was lucky enough to snag 11 of these little potted beaut's. They all have different textures and they are mainly all green. They are a low maintenance plant (oh, my favorite kind!).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

QOD #4

I refuse to believe that trading recipes is silly. Tuna fish casserole is at least as real as corporate stock.

Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

Food fact: A cucumber can be up to 20% cooler than the surrounding air. Hence the phrase, "cool as a cucumber."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Culinary Confessions

This blog idea was found with Ilva...who in turn found it on Cooking with Amy, who states that she "brazenly bloglifted" it from David Lebowitz. I find myself wondering if he snatched it from somewhere else, too.

My confessions:

I regularly cook "in a box" items: pastas with sauce, rice-a-roni, etc. (in my own defense, I work full time, often while taking college classes, and I have a 5-year-old)

I don't like a ton of sweets. Not that I don't like them, but I don't often crave them.

I wash my mushrooms in running water.

I sometimes judge a person by what they eat.

I am very leery of any food that might be 'old.' As a result, I don't eat many leftovers and am extremely cautious with milk, cream, sour cream and cheese.

I have a bunch of cans of tuna and tomato paste that have just been sitting there. For quite a while.

I really dislike meringue.

I really, REALLY dislike salmon. Yecch.

I don't like to eat caviar, no matter how expensive, because I just don't think it's that good.

I have spices in my cupboard that are more than 6 years old. *sheepishly grins*

I have whisks, pots, pans, colanders, silverware and who knows what else that need to be thrown away and replaced, but I can't bring myself to spend the money.

I have thrown away a dish, in the middle of preparing it, after several things have gone wrong and frustration took over.

My food has to be piping hot. Even if I have to microwave it.

My kitchenaid mixer is stored under my sink.

I get one appliance/gadget/tool obsession after another.

I used to want to collect cookbooks. I recently gave away almost all that I had.


I collect Boxtops for Education from my cans and boxes.

We don't recycle.

These are my confessions, to name a few. Now it's your turn to confess!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Textures in Nature

Ilva at Lucullian Delights inspires me with her simple, beautiful photos of the nature around her. I found myself wondering where does she find the time?! Well, I certainly had plenty of time as a took a walk with my son. We found some great textures and had a fun time as well. Enjoy.

Eucalyptus trees

Pine tree with sap

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Potato Leek Soup

Well, after seeing potato leek soup mentioned on a couple of other sites, I couldn't wait to dust off my recipe card and get to work. It is finally cool enough to get into warm soup and I am very happy about it. This is one of my favorite soups. The seasonings are fragrant and meld beautifully together.

Here are the fixin's for my bouquet garni. It includes bay leaves, rosemary, flat leaf parsley and peppercorns. A bouquet garni, for those who don't know the term, is simply a little pouch full of spices/seasonings that you want to infuse your food with, but don't want to actually eat. This way, when you are done cooking, you simply pull out the little pouch and discard - no fishing for sprigs of rosemary or little pearls of pepper.

Here are most of the remaining ingredients. Leeks, potatoes, shallots, celery all contribute to the lovely layers of flavor that give this soup such depth.

And here is the delicious finished product, complete (in my book anyway) with some shredded sharp cheddar and crisp bacon.

Everyone has a different way of making potato leek soup. This version is favorite so far.

Potato Leek Soup

Serves 6 to 8

2 dried bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp. crushed dried, but fresh is SO much better)
4 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
6 leeks, white parts only, washed well, thinly sliced
4 shallots, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
8 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Make bouquet garni: first wrap bay leaves, rosemary, parsley, and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth. Then tie with a piece of kitchen twine, and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil and butter in a medium stockpot. Add celery, leeks, shallots, and garlic; cook on medium-low heat until very soft, about 45 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Do not brown. Add potatoes, stock and reserved bouquet garni. Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until potatoes are very tender, about 40 minutes. Remove bouquet garni and discard.

3. Working in batches, pass the half of the soup through a food mill, fitted with a medium disk, into a large saucepan. Add the remaining chunky soup. Place the saucepan on a medium-low heat to warm soup. Slowly stir in milk and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

As a side note, I did NOT pass my soup through a food mill. I used my immersion blender. I have also in the past used my food processor. Anything goes.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Halloween Pumpkins

Halloween Pumpkins 05
Originally uploaded by dawncfrost.
Well, I am quite a bit late...but you know what they say. I have to hand it to my husband and son this year. They had to single-handedly take over the Halloween spirit. I apparently have been affected by the time change this year more than years past. I kept falling asleep directly after dinner as the sun was setting for a while last week. I think that I've finally adjusted! Anyway, they did an excellent job with the pumpkins this year. Very spooky! The skull had an awesome stem and vine still attached, all dried out and overhanging it.

Friday, November 04, 2005

QOD #3

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.

Henry David Thoreau

Another lovely quote from Thoreau (non-food-related):

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

QOD #2

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.

Garrison Keillor

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Quote of the Day (QOD) #1

If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Saturday, October 29, 2005

WCB 21...Happy Birthday Kiri!

Happy Birthday to Kiri at Eatstuff! Clare hosts WCB (weekend cat blogging) and was gracious enough to invite us to Kiri's 1st birthday party. My cat brought presents and even pretended like they were there eating the birthday cat food!

Here is Toejam all dressed up for the party:

Here is the gift for the birthday boy!

And here are Earl and Toejam eating the "birthday cat food"...they wish they were there!