Tuesday, February 28, 2012

homemade Samoas

Not even sure where to start with this. 
Here's what they look like.

You know the Girl Scout cookies with the chocolate and the coconut?
This is my attempt to make those cookies at home. I don't really know why I decided to make my own instead of just buying the little box but I did.
And I don't think they turned out real pretty but they are most definitely real tasty! And I will most likely never make these again.
Why? Because all that toasted coconut and caramel and buttery shortbread goodness is NOT good for my jeans!
And because I have no self control. I'm adult enough to admit that. 
Of course now, I do have an entire plate full here, and I'm not sure what to do with them (besides grab a little hunk every time I walk by the counter)
Looks like I'm bringing treats to Ada's school again.

This recipe is originally from bakingbites.com.


for the cookie base:
1/2 cup sugar
12 tablespoons of butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
dash of salt

TO DO for the cookie base:
oven to 350
line a 9x13 sheet pan with parchment paper.
cream the sugar and butter.
beat in the vanilla and the egg.
scrape down the sides and mix another minute.
turn the mixer to low and gradually beat in the flour and the dash of salt.
mix until crumbly then dump the contents onto the sheet pan with the parchment paper.
using your fingers - press the dough into an even layer.
bake 20 to 25 minutes until the edges are all golden brown.
once done set aside.

this must cool completely before applying the topping.

for the topping:
3 cups of coconut
12 oz of caramels
3 tablespoons of milk
dash of salt

TO DO for the topping:
oven to 300
spread the coconut out onto a large baking sheet.
toast until crispy.
should take about 15 minutes.
give it all a good stir once or twice while it's in the oven.
once it's done set aside to cool a bit.
leave it all spread out and on the sheet.

in a microwave safe bowl melt the caramels, milk and the dash of salt.
about 1 minute intervals.
stir in between each time segment to help melt the caramels.

once the caramel mixture is melted and smooth pour it over the toasted coconut.
then gently mix the whole thing together.

once the coconut, caramel mixture is mixed carefully spread it out onto top of the cookie base.
use all of it.

let come to room temperature.
then place a sheet of parchment paper on top.
wrap with clingwrap.
refrigerate about an hour.
this will make it easier to cut and get the nice little squares.
(as you can probably see I did not wait and therefore have very uneven squares...sigh...)

when ready cut the sheet of coconut, caramel cookie heaven into 2 or 3 inch squares.
set aside.
melt the chocolate in the microwave.
about 30 second intervals - stirring between each time.
be sure to NOT burn the chocolate - you will have to toss the whole thing and start over. (does that sound like the voice of experience?)

get a new tray with a new sheet of parchment on it ready and very nearby.

dip the bottom of a cookie into the melted chocolate.
place onto the parchment paper.
repeat until all the cookie bottoms are covered.
(this part is messy and more than a little frustrating - but I found the best tool to help me with all this dipping and moving over was a chopstick.....I know.....what can I say?....)

pour the rest of the chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a skinny tip.
or a ziploc bag with a corner cut off.
pipe the zig-zag lines across the tops of all the cookies.

refrigerate until the chocolate is set.
should be about a half hour.

try not to eat them all!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

fried rice

This is fried rice the quick and cheating way - using a package of frozen mixed vegetables.

Yes - I know - shame on me! But I had quite a few other dishes to prepare for this birthday dinner so I needed to make the short cuts where I could.
And honestly - I remember my mother doing this many, many times so it couldn't be that bad...right?
If you have time to dice 16 ounces of various vegetables then please do so. Or, if you have a bunch of leftovers - chop those up and use them in your dish. For my mother - if she wasn't using a package of bacon she used leftover pork or a little chopped up steak or chicken and it was always delicious. 
Just be sure to keep an eye on things. This dish cooks pretty quickly and if you're like me you don't want all the vegetables getting mushy gross.

note: This recipe needed to be a side dish for 15 to 20 people so it might seem like quite a bit. Scale it down for however many you are serving.


1 package of bacon - chopped
1/2 sweet white onion - chopped
4 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
1 16 oz package frozen mixed vegetables
4 eggs
6 cups white rice - leftover rice works great here as well
sesame oil
sesame seeds
couple tablespoons chopped scallions

And whatever else you might want to toss in here.


Chop the bacon up.

Cook until almost crispy then remove to a plate with a paper towel on it.
Set aside.

You will need to remove most of the bacon grease, but leave a little bit in the pan as well as all the brown bits on the bottom - you want those!
Now saute the onion and garlic for a couple minutes in the leftover bacon grease.
Add the mixed vegetables.
Cook on medium high until the frozen vegetables are heated through.
For me this means I keep eating the little pieces of green beans to check for doneness.
Once those are hot my mix is done and ready for rice.
Toss the bacon back in and give everything a good stir.
Add the rice.

Mix well.
Break the eggs into a bowl.
Now this next part I saw on some show ages ago and thought it was brilliant so have used it ever since (I of course cannot remember what show)
Squish all the rice mixture to one side of the pan and kind of scootch that part of the pan off the heat.
Drizzle a little sesame oil onto the bare part of the pan and add the eggs here - make sure this is the part that is directly over the heat.

I really do have four eggs in here - not sure where the other one is in this photo.
Let the eggs cook for four or five minutes then push the rice mixture over the top of them.
Cook another minute then carefully start mixing it all in.
Here I usually use a spatula so I can scrape all the tasty bits off the bottom as well as get a good mix going.
Once the eggs are cooked add the chopped scallions and a handful of toasted sesame seeds.
Taste for seasoning - you might add a teaspoon or two of salt but I usually find the bacon does the salting trick for me.

Food and Friends 5

Food is a gift.

Think about it.
Without getting into the politics and neediness in the world and the shortage there is of everything.....I'm just talking about in most of our personal lives.....right now.....what special occasion or event have you had recently that didn't somehow involve a meal? Or a dish brought to a friend in a time of need? Or something silly like making 8 trays of cookies for a first grade class? Or reservations at a special place for Valentine's Day?
It all involves food. 
I think it's a tremendous gift to prepare a meal for a friend - regardless of the occasion. And I know I am truly grateful when a meal is thought out and prepared for my family. At some point in life it's no longer about the 'stuff'. It's about being together, laughing together, enjoying the company of the people we love. And sharing a meal.

So on that note, Happy Birthday Gina!
She wanted a Korean feast so I prepared for her a Korean feast. 
Great night. Great food. Great friends. (Great beer!)

Some photos of what I made:

This is Kimbap - made the way I remember my mother making it.

Fried rice - made partially the cheating way for the sake of time - recipe will be up soon.

Bulgogi and white rice

Shredded dichon radish kimchee - my personal favorite.

Cucumber kimchee

Egg rolls - as with all the dishes this was also made the way I remember my mother making it.

Korean pancakes.

Bibimbap - this dish didn't actually make an appearance at the party - this is what I had for lunch since it contains most the ingredients of the items above.

The requested dessert? Chocolate filled beignets - baked not fried in a effort to reduce calories (ridiculous, I know) And also lemon curd filled beignets drizzled with chocolate ganache and powdered sugar. The lemon ones didn't turn out as pretty as I wanted them to but as I was told later "you didn't hear any of us complaining did you?" I wish there was a photo of me just placing the hot tray in the middle of the table, handing out a bunch of spoons and everyone digging in. It was delicious!

Happy birthday my friend. Looking forward to celebrating many more together.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

berry gratin with champagne sabayon

This morning has been a bit of an adventure for some reason. Driving all over town to collect ingredients for a birthday dinner I am making this weekend. There was an "incident" involving a lot of orange cones. There was a lot of laughter from a particular road crew. A great deal of embarrassment from me. Followed by me getting a giant coffee just to put myself over the edge and make me an even bigger spaz than I already am today.
Happy Thursday to me!
I figured I should just come home and stay out of society until I could pull myself together...or until it's time to collect Ada from school...at which point I'm sure there will be something else for me to report!

Anyway, none of that actually has anything to do with this post.

Last weekend on French Food at Home, Laura Calder made all these glorious little desserts with various seasonal fruits.
They were so pretty and most of them were so uncomplicated. So of course I'm going to try several of them.

The first one is this berry gratin with champagne sabayon.
The following is the simplest explanation I could find for this:
"The sauce you need is based on a foamy mixture called a sabayon (a cousin of the light, egg-based Italian dessert zabaglione). A sabayon is made by beating egg yolks with a liquid over simmering water until thickened and increased in volume. ( the liquid can be water, but champagne or wine is often used for a savoury sabayon.) The sabayon must not get too hot during cooking or it will become grainy: if it begins to feel warmer than body temperature, remove the pan briefly from the heat, beating continuously, until the mixture cools. Then return the pan to the heat and continue cooking. Sabayon may be served warm or cold; a cold sabayon is beaten off the heat until cooled.

Sabayons may be sweet or savoury. They may be served simply as a sauce, often flavoured with an alcohol, or they may form the base of some mousse mixtures. They may also be used for sweet or savoury gratins. Cornflour is sometimes added for stability."

Here's the link from where I retrieved the above info -   SABAYON

After I made this I kind of thought it was like a creme brule...minus the creme...this is very light and airy and yet still rich in texture - but NOT a custard.
Super quick.
Beautiful to serve.
Give it a try.


4 ramekins
1 baking sheet
pot with simmering water

4 handfuls mixed berries - I only had blueberries and raspberries in the fridge so that's what I used.
3 tablespoons champagne
2 tablespoons bakers sugar
3 egg yolks
zest from 1/2 lemon

fresh mint leaves for garnish - optional


oven to broil
rack to almost top position

evenly distribute those berries among the 4 ramekins - place all of them onto the baking sheet.
set aside.

In a glass bowl add the champagne, sugar and egg yolks.

Lightly whisk to blend, then place this bowl onto the pot of simmering water.
Whisk continuously until mixture has almost doubled in volume.

Spoon the Sabayon evenly amongst the 4 ramekins.

Place the tray under the broiler.

Keep an eye on it - needs to come out just as the tops begin to bubble and tan.

And there you have it. 
So simple. 
Serve immediately (maybe with just a dollop of fresh cream?)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day 2012

There was a list I made when I was younger, "things I will never do as an adult". (I really wish I could find this scrap of paper)
At the top of this list was 'have children', followed very closely by 'get married' and somewhere in there was 'never will there be animals living in my house'. I honestly wanted nothing to do with any of the above. What my father used to describe as my 'wanderlust' had no room for a quaint little family in the suburbs.
I was going to continue traveling. I was going to study art in all the most exotic places. I was going to play my cello until my fingers bled. I was going to  read and collect all the classic books I could get my hands on.
All this was how my life was going to be.

Needless to say life has a way of giving us what we need even though we think it's something we don't want.

Here I am now somewhere in my forties - married to a man who is my best friend, raising the coolest kid ever, living life in our little house and there's a four legged creature regularly begging for anything.

How did I get to this moment?

I don't know.

I'm sitting in front of the computer now and this home is still, quiet , peaceful.
I have finished everything I needed to do.
There are twenty five gift tags stamped, glittered and labeled.
Eight trays of cookies baked, wrapped, tagged and adorable.
Two trays of heart shaped rice krispy sheets completed.
Another three trays of cookies dipped in chocolate and decorated with anything the kids could find in the kitchen.
Ada and her friends frosted and shook sprinkles over every surface possible. There are more little snips of colored paper than my vacuum can handle.
The entire kitchen is covered in flour and chocolate ganache.

This is what my life has come to. It is nowhere near perfect and even farther from what I pictured it would be like. Never did I imagine I would be a mom. But here I am finishing the last treat bag for my daughter's class and tying the last length of ribbon.

My life is exactly as it should be.

And it is enough.

Happy Valentine's Day to the husband I never wanted and the child I never imagined. 

I love you.

Those little girls did a pretty fantastic job on the cookies above!

The rice krispy treats are the reason I am STILL wiping threads of chocolate off my cabinets!

I would say these girls are pretty focused!

Ada hard at work. Why is she wearing that weird little mask?
No idea...

Would you eat that cookie above? me neither...
Also, imagine that same amount of sprinkles and craziness on the carpet!

Some of the fruits of their labor. WOW.

I actually think I should shellac this and make it into an art piece.
What do you think?
Maybe Kevin can use it as a paper weight on his desk at work.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

nutella espresso mousse

I make a lot of mousse. I love the end result but I do not love the amount of clean up. So when I saw this on Symon's Suppers last weekend, I could not believe how quickly he just whipped this all together. 
I - of course - had to try it. 
I did make a couple of adjustments based on personal taste preference. But this was so amazingly quick and so delicious (it's nutella!) 

Try this.


2 cups heavy whipping cream - separated
3 - 5 tablespoons nutella (I used 3 because the original 5 was a little too sweet for me)
1/2 teapsoon instant espresso granules
dash of salt
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/2 cup hazelnuts - toasted and chopped


toast then chop those hazelnuts.
350 degree oven about 10 minutes.
let cool.

make the whipped cream.
1 cup heavy whipping cream plus the 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar.
beat this until stiff peaks.
when done give the cream a gentle mixing by hand.
cover and refrigerate.

now put all the other ingredients together in the bowl of the stand mixer and turn it on.
mix until the mousse is firm.

and thats it.
see? amazingly quick.

serve garnished with fresh whipped cream and toasted hazelnuts.

Friday, February 3, 2012

ginger elizabeth chocolates

The Sacramento Bee asked a bunch of us food bloggers to suggest a place for a sweet treat for Valentine's Day. Maybe get a word from the chef, maybe get some photos, what our favorite item is.....etc..... First chance I get I drive straight over to Ginger Elizabeth chocolates. This beautiful little shop is located at 1801 L street in Sacramento. It may be small in stature but it is definitely giant in presence. I popped in there right after store opening with no appointment and no real plan other than I knew I was probably walking out with a bag of something (of course I was - and most of it is below)

I ask for Ginger Elizabeth herself and the lovely, lovely girl (I wish I'd gotten her name) at the front says "let me go check, I'll be right back" 
She returns and says "they're tempering chocolate right now but she'll be out in about five minutes"
Now as I mentioned earlier I had no plan. I was not expecting to actually meet the owner. I wasn't sure if she'd be okay with me taking photos in the shop. I most definitely did not expect her to be so gracious and chat with me for as long as she did - explaining some of the flavors and processes and why she had this shop in Sacramento and where she originally came from and what her favorite items are and why she loves chocolate.
I'm sure she is used to getting this barrage of questions quite often and this post is not a publicity plug for the chocolatier (I guarantee she does not need it from me - her resume is pretty outstanding).
This post is to share what is one of my favorite places when I want something truly special and unique.
Every item in the shop has been thought out and executed to perfection and then presented in nothing short of perfect elegance.
Her quote ".....chocolate intrigues me. It's beautiful - a beautiful food to work with - the science and the challenge of it is extraordinary. It's finicky and a lot of work but challenging and I love it..."

I hope you get an opportunity to visit here.

Here are a few of the photos I took.

could you imagine staring at that counter top all day?

The above photo is of my favorite things here. Which one? It doesn't matter. I love the traditional French Macaron and these are perfect. Although maybe the salted caramel nudges just above the other flavors...maybe.

I did pick up a couple sets of these as gifts. Caramel Chocolate Hearts. They're beautiful. What I find with all the chocolates here is that they demand a certain amount of respect. This is not the 'shove a bunch in your mouth' type of chocolate. This is the 'take a bite, savor, appreciate the flavors and aromatics that have been infused' type of chocolate.

The next photo was a set the girl was putting together - unfortunately not for me - although maybe a good thing because I can't guarantee I would have shared.

Before we finished our conversation I asked what the staff favorite item was then laughed when she and the girl behind the counter said it was the chocolate chip cookies. Everyone that works there agrees this is their favorite.

All those incredible chocolates and chocolate desserts in that shop and the good ol fashioned chocolate chip cookie is the preferred item. Funny.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lit'l Smokies handpies

You know the lit'l smokies? The little sausages used to make 'pigs in a blanket'. That and a container of crescent rolls seems to always make for a very happy group of guests.
Now, with the BIG game coming up on Sunday I'm sure everyone expects me to produce a thousand of these little units. But I thought "could I make them slightly different"? Of course the family thinks that if it isn't broken I shouldn't  fix it - but here I go anyway.

note : I was actually looking for something a little less work than rolling all those tiny sausages. It didn't work out that way.
But these are quite delectable - kind of like a Hot Pocket - but you know exactly what is in them. Does that make sense?

lit'l smokies handpies (aka...homemade hot pockets)

another note : I made a couple batches. One batch I used mozzarella cheese - one batch I used cream cheese. I can't decide which I liked better. I love the gooiness of the mozzarella but loved the creaminess of the cream cheese. You decide - use whatever you happen to have in the fridge, it'll be good either way.
Also, I used a combination of both green and black olives. I love the bite of the green olives but the black ones give it the Hot Pocket Pizza feel. Again, use whichever you prefer.


1 package puff pastry
a 3 1/2 or 4 inch cookie cutter
1 14oz package lit'l smokies sausages - sliced
1/2 cup white onion - roughly chopped
4 cloves fresh garlic 
1/4 cup green olives
3/4 cup black olives 
1 cup mushrooms
1 cup fresh parsley 
1 small package mozzarella or cream cheese - sliced - then put back in fridge until right before you need it
1 1/2 cups pasta or pizza sauce
splash of red wine (just to clean all the tasty bits off the bottom of your pan)
pepper - I did not add any salt, I felt the sausages and the olives gave enough of that - but you taste it at the end and see what you think.


oven to 375

line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper then set aside.

slice the cheese then put it back in the fridge.
chop all the sausages, onion, garlic, mushrooms, olives and parsley.
using a large skillet/pan saute the onions about 5 minutes on medium high then add the garlic.
add the mushrooms and sausages and let cook until there is almost no liquid.
add the olives.

use a splash of red wine to clean up the pan.
add the 1 1/2 cups of sauce.
cook another 7 or 8 minutes - just until it really starts to bubble.
taste to see if you want to add salt otherwise just give it a few turns of fresh ground pepper.
turn off the heat then stir in the fresh parsley.
set aside and let cool a few minutes while you roll out the puff pastry.

pour a little water into a small bowl for brushing the edges of the pastry.

roll the pastry to the usual 10 x 12 rectangle.
slice yourself 9 sections.
brush most the entire square with water (you can leave the center dry)
place a large tablespoon of sausage mixture onto each square.
top with your sliced cheese.
then fold a corner to another corner.
kind of pat all round the mound of mixture to seal the pastry.
using a 3 1/2 or 4 inch round cookie cutter - cut out your little handpie then place onto the baking sheet.

bake about 25 minutes.
until tops are golden.

let cool five minutes then let everyone have at 'em.