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!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mmmmm....Cheese Ball

This is the best cheese ball I've ever eaten. And it gets rave reviews wherever it is taken. My sister-in-law got this from her friend. We've all passed the recipe around and I treasure it. Simple, make-ahead, party food that's sure to be a hit! Next time I make it, I'll post a photo.

Cheese Ball
2 8oz packages cream cheese
1 10oz package Cracker Barrel Natural Sharp Cheese
1 tsp. chopped onion
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. diced green bell pepper
1 Tbsp. pimiento (diced) these come in a jar
2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 dash cayenne pepper

Blend all ingredients with hands and shape into ball. Wrap in wax paper. Chill 24 hours.

Variation: roll in chopped nuts.

Foodie Site Find

I just found this website. It is pretty neat. For each category, they reference a ton of other sites, with a brief description of the recipe(s), and usually a thumbnail of the page. While looking around for a cheeseball recipe that I have at home, I found this site. (The cheeseball is amazing, by the way! I will post a recipe this afternoon.) Anyway, I was amazed at how many variations there were for cheeseballs!
Check it out! It never hurts to have one more good reference site for recipes!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dawn Needs...

Ok, just for fun, I went and tried something out that I saw on a non-food-related blog. I went on and typed in "Dawn needs" and saw what the first 10 answers were. Funny:

  1. Dawn needs a REALITY CHECK
  2. Dawn needs a process for expenditures
  3. Nuclear Dawn needs concept artists!
  4. Dawn needs to develop more speed endurance
  5. Dawn needs us now.
  6. Dawn needs you.
  7. Dawn Needs a Tripod
  8. Dawn needs to get out of the house
  9. Dawn Needs to Firm Up Her Group’s Flextime Options
  10. Dawn needs someone to look after her should try it out...just go to google and type in "your first name needs" and see what comes up!

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Ok, was I too lucky, or what!? I went down the street to check out a listing I found on craigslist for a bunch of free stuff. There were two brothers having to clean out stuff from their mom's house because it had recently been sold. They mostly had a bunch of stuff noone would want, like paint cans from God knows when. But, I got some really cool cactuses and succulents, a couple of unique African style dolls, a ton of crafts books and a few kitchen items.

I got to the house really was already after 1pm. But I noticed a box with some kitchen items in it and when asked, was told I could help myself. Underneath loads and loads of crappy old tupperware, here is what I found (I was shocked):

Yes, for anyone who is not sure, this is a really old piece of Le Creuset enameled cast iron. It is in excellent condition. I'm not sure what size it is, but I can cook for my small family with it.

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands: *clap clap*!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

WCB #20 - Hurry, hurry, the weekend is half over!

Here is my big boy Earl. Ever the vocal cat, here is the way we often see him around here. Meoooow! Meeeooow. Translated from cat to English, feed meeeee, feeed meeee!

SHF...too late...but here it is...with additional info...

Well, at least her is the photos. I made chocolate discs with a kick (have a little cayenne with your cacao!) and chocolate covered dried, sugared, ginger. They were both good and simple!

Ok, I just knew that someone would ask for a recipe! Claire has inquired, and so now I must try to recall exactly what I did here. I didn't follow any particular recipe. Instead, I went online and found out how to temper chocolate so that it would be firm and glossy at room temperature. This is the article that I followed to temper my chocolate. I used three different types of dark chocolate: Ghiradelli's, Scharffen Berger, and a Swiss chocolate that I found at my Trader Joe's.

I know that working with chocolate in this state (vs. baking with it) is not exactly my forte, so I didn't try anything heroic. Instead, I looked for simple ways to embellish the chocolate. I found dried, sugared ginger chunks at my Trader Joe's. They were excellent, with an extreme flavor: sweet and quite spicy. I suggest slicing these into small pieces and double coating the pieces in the tempered chocolate.

The second way I made them was inspired in part by a food exhibition at our Orange County fairgrounds several months ago called Zesty Best. Every kind of spicy food you can imagine was there, and for a mere $7 a person, you could sample ALL of it! I bought some amazing ruby red strawberry bar-b-que sauce made by Carlsbad Gourmet. It, like all of the other products present, had a kick.

So, I thought, chocolate and spice is the perfect pair. When you eat chocolate with spice in it, initially you can't taste the spice at all. After the chocolate flavor begins to fade from your tongue, the heat begins to rise. So, I gradually added cayenne pepper to some of the remaining tempered chocolate until I was at a level of heat that I liked (this will definitely vary from person to person...I loved them but a coworker of mine said her tongue was still burning ten minutes later). I used a mini muffin pan to make my little wafers, gently tapping the chocolate flat after spooning it in the cups. I put the tray in the refrigerator in speed up the setting process. After removing, I found that if I twisted my pan a little bit and pushed on the bottom of the cups (imagine an ice cube tray), the chocolates popped right out. Sprinkle them with a little cayenne for beauty and you have the perfect treat for those unsuspecting coworkers. Kidding, kidding (sort of).

Sorry for the imperfect directions, but sometimes, that's the only way to do something! I just have to approach it with an open mind and GO! For an equally interesting blend, check out Ilva's chocolate creation. Hopefully, next time I'll be a little more organized like she is with an actual recipe!


Friday, October 21, 2005

Top 10 Reasons I Love Food Blogs

10. I learn stuff from other people.
9. I get recipes that have already been tried, critiqued and photographed. Thank you for making the mistakes first!
8. The smells...(I swear I can smell this stuff sometimes)...ok, the "hallucinated" smells.
7. Amazing, animals, scenic vistas...and sometimes a loving boyfriend in spandex.
6. It doesn't matter what language the blog is in...usually, you can still enjoy them. Food is universal.
5. I don't have to read the depressed ramblings of lonely high school/college/fill-in-the-blank people who are self-obsessed. I'll take food-obsessed people any day!
4. Foodies don't dedicate entire entries on how George W. Bush is the devil.
3. The inspiration. Foodies are definitely the type to feed off of one another. No pun intended.
2. The motivation. I know that someone will be looking forward to my next project...must---get---off---the---couch!
1. The people. From every corner of the world, all sorts of professions, there is community in blogs. And the people are what makes or breaks a community. And the foodie blog community pretty much rocks!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Weekend Project #2: Cinnamon Rolls

The cooler weather must have gotten to me this weekend. I started craving warm comfort foods. I used the recipe for Clone of a Cinnabon from, with a few adjustments. I don't have a bread machine, so I used one package of active yeast and kneaded by hand. I also think that you should use only about 3/4 of the filling, but that's just me. They were so delicious! If you like Cinnabon style rolls, you'll love these. Again, here was another chance to use my deep dish stone baker. It worked beautifully.

Uncooked rolls:
Baked rolls, before icing. (They looked better before icing...after they are just a kind of blob sort of thing.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Kitchen Meme

Ilva at Lucullian Delights has tagged me to do a kitchen meme. This is my first meme, so I am happy in a childlike way!

1) Show us your kitchen ( a picture) and tell us what is it about this place that reflects your own personality.

This kitchen is small, so it is hard to fit personality in with functionality! My family is very important to me, and my refrigerator reflects that. Lots of art and photos about family. I can't wait to get to a house...I'll be sure to do an updated photo next year, so you can tell more about me. Mostly this kitchen says: I'm a renter!

Kitchen Photo

2) Open a cupboard (the one you feel to open), take a picture and tell us what we see.

Here are all the basics that carry me through working full time and having a family. Peanut butter, quick cooking packages of pasta, cans of tuna and refried beans, fruit cups and applesauce. Funny how sometimes, even with a full cupboard, I can come home from work and have no idea what to make! The fast cooking food is a necessary convenience for during the week. The weekend is when I get to make food I am excited about!

Cupboard Shot

3) Present us your favorite kitchen-based household appliance.

This is my favorite appliance. Especially after making a recipe like the pumpkin cheesecake. I think my arm wouldv'e fallen off if I had to do all that stirring manually! One day I hope to get a pasta attachment.

KitchenAid Mixer

4) Take out the ingredients you like the most, the ones you always keep stored.

I like to have staple ingredients around. There is no substitute for these simple items. So many recipes I make are straight-forward and require these simple ingredients. I like to have flour, sugar (brown, white, confectioners), salt, vanilla extract, spices, chocolate and pasta. There are other things, but these are what came to mind first.

Staple Pantry Items

5) My little steel friend: present us to your favorite cooking/baking recipient.

I absolutely LOVE my cast iron pan. I bought it early this year and have been seasoning it since then. I would rather eat a hamburger cooked inside in my cast iron pan than one grilled outside on the barbecue. There is nothing like a burger, seared on the outside, stuffed with blue cheese butter, oozing when you bite into it. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! This pan gives so much flavor, food will keep tasting better and better over the years. I am hoping to get a cast iron dutch oven soon.

Cast Iron Pan

I am going to tag a few folks I know to jump in on this meme. Can't wait to see some kitchen pics from:

Stephanie at Craftybeans
Kristi at Interrupted Wanderlust
Vicki at the Moveable Feast

Monday, October 17, 2005

Weekend Project #1: Pumpkin Cheesecake

This cheesecake was rich in flavor, yet light in texture. My husband commented that it was lighter than pumpkin pie. The crust has amazing flavor, using spices that pair perfectly with the pumpkin. I did end up with a crack in the top middle part of my cake (notice how conveniently there is no photo of the top?)...but the taste and texture was excellent. I did use a water bath as directed in the cookbook, and I think that this makes a big difference. My hubby has baked cheesecakes before and usually the crust comes out very dense and a little hard. The crust on this was perfect!

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
Serves 12 to 16
(from The New Best Recipe Cookbook)

Depending on the oven and the temperature of the ingredients, this cheesecake may bake about 15 minutes faster or slower than the instructions indicate; it is, therefore, best to check the cake 1 1/4 hours into baking. Although the cheesecake may be made up to 3 days in advance, the crust will begin to lose its crispness after only 1 day.

9 whole graham crackers (5 ounces), broken into rough pieces
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1 1/3 cups (9 1/3 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

1. For the crust: adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Place the crackers, sugar, and spices in a food processor and process until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl, drizzle the melted butter over, and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn the crumbs into the prepared springform pan and spread the crumbs in an even layer. Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 30 minutes. When cool, wrap the outside of the pan with two 18-inch-square pieces of heavy-duty foil; set the springform pan in a roasting pan.

2. For the filling: Bring about 4 quarts of water to a simmer in a stockpot. While the crust is cooling, whisk the sugar, spices, and salt in a smalll bowl; set aside. Line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Spread the pumpkin on the towels and cover with a second triple layer of towels. Press firmly until the towels are saturated. Peel back the first layer of towels and discard. Grasp the bottom towels and fold the pumpkin in half; peel back the towels. Repeat and flip the pumpkin onto the baking sheet; discard the towels.

3. Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a standing mixer set at medium speed to break up and soften slightly; about 1 minute. Scrape the beater and the bottom and sides of the bowl well with a rubber spatula. Add about a third of the sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape the bowl and add the remaining sugar in two additions, scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape the bowl. Add 3 of the eggs and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape the bowl. Add the remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated, about 45 seconds; scrape the bowl. Add the heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and give a final stir by hand.

4. Pour the filling into the springform pan and smooth the surface; set the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken and it registers 150 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 1 1/2 hours (see note). Set the roasting pan on a wire rack and cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and set the pan on the wire rack; run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the cake and cool until barely warm, about 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

5. To serve: remove the sides of the pan. Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the pan bottom to loosen the cake, then slide the cake onto a serving platter. Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yummy Berry Smoothie

My immersion blender finally got broken in! Tonight I purchased some simple items to make a simple smoothie. I used a variety of frozen berries: raspberries, blueberries, marionberries and strawberries. The only other ingredient was orange pineapple banana juice.

It was very good and so fast, I'm not sure when Jamba Juice will see me again.

Weekend Plans

How bad is it that I am looking forward to going to the pumpkin patch this weekend as much as my son is? Well, once I found out that they have a produce stand, my interest increased. Tanaka Farms is in Irvine, CA and offers produce almost year round, as well as u-pick strawberries and pumpkins. I'm not sure if you've ever seen a pumpkin on the vine, but let's just say it can be a "pointed" encounter, so we usually select our orange friend from a table.

Last year we had quite a good time trying our hand at some unusual pumpkin carvings. The first guy here was getting sick. The next guy was paying homage to my husband's favorite cartoon cat, Tom (of Tom and Jerry). The small guy on the bottom was my son's. Check out the single tooth - his idea. And then the mischevious guy is mine. Had to try out the stem as a nose.

This year, I hope to do the same. I was getting a little inspiration this morning from the Pumpkin Gutter.

And in addition to carving a pretty pumpkin, I figure it is time to do something else (something that I've never done): cook with pumpkin. Now, I know, I can't believe I haven't cooked with it yet either. I guess plain ol' pumpkin pie doesn't inspire me enough at the end of a long workday. But when I saw how many other recipes were possible using this versatile fruit, my tastebuds were entranced.

Will it be pumpkin cheesecake or maybe a simple pumpkin bread? Or a savory pumpkin soup? If you have any suggestions about a great idea for pumpkins, pass it along. Hopefully by Monday, I should be posting about pumpkins!

Which begs the question, how many times can you say 'pumpkin' in one post?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Sweet Ears

Well, I am getting a little more experienced with this polymer clay (heavy stress on the 'little' part). It is fun to use and I am not as afraid of making a mistake, especially now that I've made a few.

Michelle has been patiently waiting for these donuts and I think that motivated me to get it done. And I really hope that she likes them because Michael's was a nightmare today at lunch! I am not sure if I am 100% happy with the colors, but I guess that I'll have to keep experimenting with them until I get them right. The different colors of clay mix very well together, so a few colors can give you quite a palette.

Help yourself to some chocolate glazed doughnuts and some maple bars.

Here is a little photo of all of my polymer clay creations. As a bonus, meet my newest creations, the gingerbread men! I didn't have the earring hooks to finish these last few projects so they will have to be finished over the weekend.

Anyway, this project has been a lot of fun. And now, I get to wear my creations around and see if anyone notices (it's amazing that people won't notice you have fried eggs and toast dangling from your ears, even with your hair pulled up)!

Thank you, constant reader, for your patience on this project!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

Well, my pizza cravings took over yesterday. Even after I ate a Stouffer's french bread pizza, I still had a craving for more! Determined to finally use my Pampered Chef deep dish baker once and for all, I went straight to the computer and downloaded Emeril Lagasse's recipe for Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza.

I thought that I would use some Bridgeford frozen bread dough for the crust (I's sacrelige to some...but I was feeling a little lazy). But, in the end, my poor planning left me with too little time to go purchase the dough, let it thaw and rise. So, I was forced to make my own dough, using the recipe that Emeril references on his pizza recipe. It was surprisingly quick, easy and tasty. I guess pizza dough is the best place to start making bread.

I followed the recipe exactly and made no changes. I was lucky to find a really great Italian sausage at my Stater Bros. that made the flavor out of this world! The recipe was really simple and the finished product was excellent! At first I was a little worried when I pulled the pie out of the oven because it looked a little "wet" on top. But after we cut into it and had a taste, all of my doubts were gone. This pizza was worth the work!

The pizza tasted like there was a trick to was that yummy. I would recommend it to anyone! Next time we are going to try some pepperoni and less onions/peppers (my 5 year old needs to eat, too) for variety.

And of course, what is better than homemade pizza? Leftover homemade pizza! Guess what I ate for breakfast today? :-)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Weekend Cat Blogging...hope I'm not too late!

WCB first!

Here is my little Toejam (that's what happens when you can't pick a name and your husband does it for you) enjoying some time with her new catnip toy.

And here is my sleepy Earl. They both really got to enjoy their new toys. I found both of them sleeping with them today. Very cute!!

The experiment: Macaroni and Cheese

For a food as universal as macaroni and cheese, I've found that there is one main thing that all mac' 'n' cheese recipes have in common: nobody agrees on what good macaroni and cheese tastes like. Some people like it creamy, some like it thick and cakey, others love the stovetop variety. So, in my search to find a really great macaroni and cheese recipe, I decided that I would just have to experiment until I found one that worked for me.

My first test experiment taught me several things. I learned that sour cream (if used in your recipe) must be mixed into the noodles first, because if you pour it on top with the other wet ingredients, it will leave little white clumps that are visible after baking. The clumps don't taste bad, but they don't exactly inspire confidence in the taste-testers. I also learned that I should use more cheese than I think I'll need in my layers...later on it never seems like enough (of course, I love cheese, so my opinion may be a little skewed).

My favorite type of macaroni and cheese is the thick, cakey, baked version. My granny used to make it for us when we were little. There was nothing like sitting down to a table of fresh, from-scratch fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, biscuits and mashed potatoes. And naturally, like most people, I've found that I suddenly miss all those foods from my youth.

I used a combined recipe from two different sources. I decided that I would not make a cheese sauce, or roux, because I didn't think that was how Granny would have made it. In fact, I don't think any of us knew what a roux was back then. The taste of the finished dish was very good. I expect that by tomorrow, it will be an even better texture and I will really like it. With a few minor changes, I expect this recipe will be GOLD, baby!

Macaroni and Cheese ("Chef at Home" style...aka without much of a recipe)

4 cups cooked elbow macaroni (approx. 2 cups uncooked)
3/4 lb. grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 Tbsp. butter, chopped into little chunks (put it in the freezer for a while first, it helps)
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix your freshly boiled pasta with the 1/2 cup of sour cream until just covering pasta. Alternate several layers of pasta, shredded cheese and butter chunks. Mix wet ingredients with salt and pour over the top of the layers of pasta and cheese. Top with more cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so, until everything is melted together and begins to brown around the edges. Let sit out for at least 5-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Vegas Night at the Wyndham

Last night was Vegas Night at the Wyndham down the street. Vegas Night is a special event they do once a year to thank their customers. Since we use them as our preferred vendor, all of the employees here were invited. Of course, I was the only one who attended, and they missed out.

First, I started my evening by taking a photo with "Elvis" and a showgirl. Then, I headed upstairs, picked up my glass of champagne and started nibbling! They had a fabulous cheese and fruit platter, with about 7 types of cheese. Next, the circulating hors d'oeuvres came around with bacon wrapped scallops, mini beef wellingtons and spanokopita. Yum!

They had two beautiful cakes (I had to ask if they were real), decorated with fondant hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds, white chocolate curls and playing cards.

Once you got in the ballroom, they had four food stations. One was a carvery, with beef tenderloin, ham and mashed potatoes. Another was a pasta station, with italian pastas and salads. Third there was a chinese food corner (they had more mini beef wellingtons there...yum). And last there was a seafood corner. The seafood corner had great big crab legs, shrimp cocktail and several types of sushi.

And of course there was a full bar (gratis, thank you!) in the reception area. The DJ played popular music (some of the folks looked uncomfortable with the hip-hop/rap selections) and they raffled off a bunch of gifts. My sister won a stay at the hotel and tickets to Dora the Explorer. And our fried Shane won the centerpiece, which was a casino set (cards, chips, etc.).

The food was the highlight (although watching people dance was a close second) of the night. Would definitely go again next year. Too bad I won't have my job next year!


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cute Foodie Earrings...voila! know that this is probably just the beginning, right?! Here are the results of my first attempt at making polymer clay food earrings. I tried to get a better picture of these on my ears...but just couldn't get a great photo. (Next time I think I will try to make doughnuts!)



Monday, October 03, 2005

Queens of the Stone Age and NIN Rock

I went and saw the QOTSA and NIN on Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl. I have never been to a show that rocked so hard! The Queens had an awesome set...I would go to see them as the headliner. And NIN was very good, too. I am not as familiar with all of his newer music, but there were probably at least 10 songs that I knew. Both of the bands were very tight, neither one had any hiccups.

Autolux opened for them first. I cannot say that I liked them at all, honestly. But one thing I learned is that if the music is bad, it sounds much louder than if it is good. And Autolux was so loud I had to cover my ears.

Trent Reznor looked nice with his very short haircut (even if he looked like his new addiction is weightlifting). He was very intense when he sang and did a good job tailoring the show to this audience. The Hollywood Bowl is pretty much all seats, so there is no room for a crowd to smash together and really enjoy the music the way I think it should be.

Josh from Queens was pretty funny. I like that he talks to the audience. He comes across as a prick a little, but that just added to the humor. I would love to go see them again locally, so I hope that they play around here on a semi-regular basis after the NIN tour.

On a separate note, I was motivated enough to go buy some polymer clay and made my first food earrings. I have a couple of sunny-side-up eggs and a couple of pieces of toast. I will post pics tomorrow.

Happy Monday!