Showing posts from 2010

The Salad

The recipe is simply called "The Salad".  It needs no fancier name.  It's one of those foods that lingers in your mind long after the last bite has passed your lips.  And so, when I emailed my sister-in-law, Peggy for the salad recipe she brought to a family gathering, say five or so years ago, she immediately knew of which one I was referring.  My SIL, Peggy, got the recipe from her co-worker Cathy, who got the recipe from her friend, Patti, at which point it is untraceable to me.  In any case, add this to your New Year's buffet, and your friends will be emailing you for the recipe, too!
1 1/2 cups sugar 2 teaspoons dry mustard 5 tablespoons grated red onion 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar 2 cups canola oil 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Salad Mix together:
3 bags lettuce pomegranate seeds or 1/2 bag craisins red onion rings sugared almonds (make on stove - caramelize with butter and sugar and let them cool) Feta Cheese
The dressing recipe makes …

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Every year on Christmas Day, after the Christmas Dinner, after the reading of the Christmas Story, after the playing of the Christmas Carols, after the opening of the  Christmas Gifts, after the collapsing on the sofa and gazing cross-eyed at the piles of paper and boxes and toys, we gather one more time for a light meal and a special cake - a Birthday cake for Baby Jesus.  For this year's birthday cake, I couldn't wait to try this Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake recipe which I found in the December issue of Southern Living Magazine.  I don't know what lured me more - the multiple layers of chocolate, or the gorgeous white chocolate snowflake on top!
The recipe says it serves 10, but this is so rich in dense, it could easily serve 20 - 30.  The cake has a rich, not-too-sweet dark chocolate flavor and will appeal to a sophisticated palate.  For a sweeter chocolate, follow the recipe, but substitute some milk chocolate for the semi-sweet, or semi-sweet for the dark chocolate in …

Merry Christmas!


A Christmas Tradition

It's a family tradition that started long ago - our annual December trek downtown.  My grandparents used to take me and my cousin, Kristena, to the then Dayton's, now Macy's, 8th floor Christmas display.  It seemed like magic, crawling into the back seat of their blue Buick, driving toward the city of lights.  We gazed with delight as we crossed Nicollet Avenue - it's tree-lined branches perfectly frosted with strings of white.  As we entered downtown Dayton's, I knew it was no ordinary store.  It's art deco glamour spoke an elegance of days past - like an old movie that I could walk through and touch and feel and smell.  The eighth floor bustled with excitement. As we waited patiently in line, we knew a storybook land was just around the corner.  Once inside this land of enchantment, we savored every mechanical figurine and lingered on every posted word.  From Mary Poppins to Dr. Seuss, each year proved to be a new adventure.  As we strolled through the animat…

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cookie Cutouts

As part of my quest to bake through Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book, I chose this festive-looking dessert to bring to a family Christmas gathering - Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cookie Cutouts.  I've never made gingerbread before and had two concerns about the recipe - 1.  The large amount of spices (2 Tablespoons of ginger!) and 2.  No sign of a leavening agent!  Despite my reservations, the cupcakes turned out moist and flavorful and were similar in density to a quick bread.

The instructions called for Martha's Fluffy Vanilla Frosting recipe and a topper of homemade cutout gingerbread men.  I substituted cream cheese frosting (because it's my favorite) and found these ready made, perfectly sized gingerbread men right at the grocery store!  Of course, homemade cookies would be adorable, but when perfection is staring you in the face, why look the other way?

These boys are ready to party!

Gingerbread Cupcakes With Cookie Cutouts Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

Hot Cocoa For Two

Looking for a last minute gift idea?  Just a few simple ingredients and you can create these super easy hot chocolate cones!

Make your own hot chocolate with powdered milk, cocoa and sugar, or save even more time and buy a high quality mix like the one above from Whole Foods.

Layering the cone-shaped bags is easy.  Put 1/4 cup cocoa mix on the bottom.  Place 2-3 tablespoons of  your "add-in" flavors in a pleated sandwich bag.  Seal with tape and snip off the top.  Be creative with your flavors.  I used white chocolate and dark chocolate, but crushed candy canes or toffee bits would also be delicious!   Place the bags, tape side down, on top of the cocoa mix.  Top with 1/4 - 1/2 cup of marshmallows (can you really have too many?) and close with a twist tie.  Make your own simple label (I used a 2" round punch for a perfect circle) and secure with a festive ribbon.

A sweet and simple gift!

Fruitcakes With Meringue Mushrooms {MSC}

Whenever my kids are faced with a task that seems just too monumental to complete, I tell them to break it down into baby steps.  Taking my own advice, here are the baby steps I took to complete this month's Martha Stewart Cupcake Club Challenge - Fruitcakes with Meringue Mushrooms!
DAY 1 - The Fruitcake

OK, let's be honest.  I've never been a big fan of the fruitcake.  This fruitcake however, was filled with high quality, delicious ingredients like Medjool Dates, Turkish Apricots and Turkish Smyrna Figs.  Since I AM a big fan of the Fig Newton, I knew we were off to a good start!

It also called for lots of hazelnuts and Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur.  And since I'm also a big fan of Nutella, I knew these ingredients would be a plus as well.  When all was assembled, the add-ins and the batter were of approximately equal proportion.

The recipe stated that this batter would make 12 cupcakes.  I ended up making 18.  (OK, so maybe I didn't fill them full enough!
DAY 2 - Th…

iheartfaces Photo Challenge - Pets

A Boy and His Dog

When Samuel was little, he asked us for a brother.  When he was three, his sister, Anna was born. Although happy for a sibling, he knew a sister just wouldn't be the same.  Again, he asked us for a brother. When he was 5, his sister Arielle was born.  Samuel never gave up.  When, at age seven, his sister Ella was born, he declared, "I should have just asked for a puppy!"

For more great pet photos, head over to iheartfaces!

A Time for Giving

Around this time of year, I like to take my kids to our local charity center.  Not only does it provide a hands on lesson in giving, but it also serves as a reality check.  My kids need to know that they are blessed and that even though they may not have a cell phone or an itouch, they have it better than most of the people in this world!  It's been said that the antidote to materialism is giving.  It's amazing how this trip shortens the Christmas list!

When we think of what to give, I try to make it personal to the kids.  Once again this year, the kids pooled their Halloween candy together.  It weighed a whopping 13 pounds!  Is it just me, or are the candy piles getting bigger?

With all that candy they made over 100 goody bags that the charity will use as part of its Christmas program.  The addition of cheese crackers and a small toy rounded out the bag.

For Anna's Birthday this year, she collected items to make "birthday boxes".  Instead of gifts, her party guests…

S.O.S. Cupcakes

So what do S.O.S. cupcakes have to do with my long list of Christmas preparation items? Absolutely nothing!
These cupcakes were part of fourth grade Volcano Day at school and were requested by a teacher who's motto is, "Science is Fun!"  When asked to bring cupcakes, my first thought was to send in something easy.  I found these cupcakes in one of my favorite cupcake cookbooks, Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.  They were featured on a page that also contained amazing sharks, floats and channel markers.  I decided to just go with the life preservers.  A doughnut on top of a cupcake.  How hard could it possibly be?

During an abnormally busy week, I had only slotted about one hour to decorate the cupcakes.  Unfortunately, after a quick trip to the store, I was only able to glean 5 plain mini doughnuts out of a variety pack.  I would have to make due.  After unpacking my grocery bag, I also noticed that I had accidentally purchased the whipped frosting, not th…

iheartfaces Photo Challenge - Self Portrait

Here's me playing Santa's helper - a role I play well this time of year!  If you look closely, you can see my living room.  It contains dupioni silk drapes, a grand piano and a hockey table!  This room encompasses my life as I see it - a juxtaposition of a vision, a past, and a reality (i.e. a husband, four kids and a big dog!)  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I hope I'm also instilling in my family the true meaning of Christmas.  As often as not, however, they are the ones teaching me!
Initially, I was going to skip this week's iheartfaces challenge - Self Portraits - because, if you've noticed, I don't even have my face anywhere on my blog!  My type A personality kicked in, however.  I just didn't want to miss a week!

Five Favorite Teacher Gifts!

With Christmas soon upon us, I put on my thinking cap for that perfect teacher gift - something thoughtful, yet something that wouldn't break the bank!  I came up with these five favorites.  Some of them I have given in the past, and some they just might receive this year......

Clementines - ($4.99 - SuperTarget) Who wouldn't want a whole box of something called Cuties?  Tied with a red bow, this deliciously sweet, seedless citrus fruit is a healthy alternative to holiday sweets.  If nothing else, a bowl of them makes a great centerpiece!  My kids ate through this entire box in 2 days!

"Go Fish" Christmas CD - (  This fun acapella band from my home state of Minnesota made their mark with alternative Christian music for kids, but they definitely appeal to the adult crowd as well.  You can see their hit song, "Christmas With a Capital 'C'" on YouTube.  The first CD is $15 but all the rest are only $5!  (Plus FREE SHIPPING!) This is a grea…

I Heart Faces Photo Challenge - Scenic Black and White

I became passionate about black and white photography after receiving my first Ansel Adams calendar in high school.  I love how black and white erases the clutter and, instead, draws the viewer into contrast and texture and light.
This photo of my niece, Sherah, and her husband, Andy, was taken at their wedding on the Oregon coast.  Surrounded by majestic rock and harsh waters, their solid embrace holds a future of promise that will withstand all that life throws their way.
The June day was windy and cold.  Who knew that this pragmatic bride, never flinching, wore long underwear under her gorgeous gown?

Knots on a Counting Rope

Every year before their Thanksgiving Feast, the second grade class reads a book called Knots On A Counting Rope by Bill Martin and John Archembault.  The book is about a Native American boy who requests his favorite story from his grandfather --- the story of the special night when the boy came into the world.  Though born blind, the boy learns many ways to see without needing his eyes.  Each time the Grandfather tells the boy's tale, he adds another knot to the counting rope.  Once the rope is full, the boy will know the wonderful story by heart and will be able to tell it himself.
After the children have heard the story, the parents are invited to the class to tell a story of their child.  Here is my humorous and sentimental story of Arielle.

When Arielle was born, we knew we had our hands full.   She was the child that made me wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, “I’m the mom, I can do this!”   It was a few years later that I truly understood the problem – she was …

Candied Sweet Potato Cupcakes

Sweet potatoes have never been a Thanksgiving tradition in our house, but now that we are "Southerners", I thought it would be fun to incorporate this root vegetable into our family feast.  These Candied Sweet Potato Cupcakes, from Martha Stewart's Cupcake book are a take on the famous southern side dish, complete with a marshmallow and candied pecan topping!

My first step in tackling these cupcakes was to simplify the recipe!  Rather than roasting sweet potatoes specifically for these cupcakes,  I opted for canned sweet potato puree.  While I'm sure that homemade roasted sweet potatoes would be even more delicious than the canned version - my family will never know!

Thanksgiving break is a great time to incorporate the little bakers.  Cracking the eggs (into a separate cup, please!) seems to be the favorite task!
I made a few more substitutions in the recipe including the use of white whole wheat flour and substituting one stick of butter for 1/2 cup of canola oil.  I …