Friday, May 30, 2008

Garlic and Sapphires

Garlic and Sapphires (Hardcover)
The bad news is I have not been cooking much lately. I have a lot on my proverbial plate. But the good news is it is the perfect opportunity to post about a book I have been meaning to share with you.

Most of you are foodies. I don't know how well-read you are or not. I am a bit behind the times with books because with two small children and a baby business to boot, I don't have much time. But a little over a year ago my sister introduced me to Ruth Reichl's book, Garlic and Sapphires. She said to me, "It is like this woman wrote the book for you!" You may have heard of it already. You may have even read it. It is a few years old. But if you have NOT heard of it or read it by some chance, I urge you to do so. I savored every word, crumb and morsel the author said and could practically taste the dishes she writes about.

The author, Ruth, was the New York Times's restaurant critic through much of the 90's. And obviously as a restaurant critic, her job was to eat at numerous restaurants (FREE I might add) and then write about it. Sounds like a dream job for most of us doesn't it? Well the book not only chronicles her experiences with the food and service at the restaurants but her own life and persona. In order to avoid recognition, Reichl dons some of the most elaborate costumes and assumes the roll of different "characters" that match her look. Sometimes the characters seem to invent themselves and begin to take over. The writing is witty, engaging, fast paced and down right hilarious at times. You just wish you knew someone this fun to be around! As a bonus, Ruth also shares a few recipes for you to try out at home.

Needless to say this book is a MUST for any food lover and a total hoot for anyone who just wants a good read. I love books! I need life to slow down just a smidge so I can start reading more again. Maybe I'll reread this one. I forget a lot at this point. And it looks like she has a couple more out. I should pick one up. The woman has a deft hand with the pen.

Do you have a good book recommendation? Let me know! And please, if you have read this book before or if you do in the near future, let me know what you think. My guess is you'll love it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Need I say anything more???

For those of you who for some reason (that I cannot fathom) do not know what this is or how to make it, it is simply several strips of bacon, lettuce, tomato AND avocado piled onto toasted bread (I prefer sourdough) with a little mayonnaise. It makes for one of the BEST sandwiches. I crave it from time to time. Totally filling and more than satisfying!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sweet Success!

Would you like some candy? I am back from New York -- exhausted and elated at the same time! It was probably the busiest 5 days I have seen in I don't know how long. I woke up at 6:45 every day and got to the Javits center before 8:30. Then it was non stop talking to people and promoting the line and sometimes (not as often as I liked unfortunately) taking orders. I almost never ever sat all day. At 6 pm the show finished every evening and we waited in line for the shuttle to take us back to the hotel which on Saturday and Sunday was about an hour ride due to a street fair. Then we had about 15-20 minutes to clean up and walk to a restaurant and eat and then back to the hotel for much needed sleep. Unfortunately we saw little to nothing of NY at all! We did have some nice dinners but it was sooooo tiring. I knew it would be busy but did not expect it to be as exhausting as it was.

All in all though, it was a great time. I loved seeing all the other manufacturers and designers. I loved meeting all the other people. There are some very very talented individuals out there. It is humbling to say the least. One of the talented artists at the show was fellow blogger, Helen Dardik of Orange You Lucky. It was really fun to meet someone with whom I have been blogging and talking to in the cyber world. She is so sweet and amazingly talented.

I unveiled my new holiday invitations and photo card at the show too. They will be going to press very soon. If you want to see more images of my booth at the show, check out my other blog on the Miss 'N Nick Designs site:

We had a really good first year at the show and while I didn't write AS many orders as I would have liked (does anyone ever?), I did write quite a few and made a ton of contacts. I also gained a new Rep group in Texas! And have some other potential reps I need to follow up with. I am going to be a busy busy girl for the next few weeks again!

I miss all of you and blogging. I will try to get some new food posts up soon but it may be spotty. I have so much catching up to do with a couple freelance jobs, new orders to fill and follow up calls and emails to all the people I got information on. Not to mention spending time with my sweet little babies that I missed soooooo much.

By the way... We stayed at The London Hotel in midtown Manhattan. This is the same hotel that Gordon Ramsay of Hell's Kitchen has his restaurant. It is not cheap actually. Good thing my birthday is coming up and my mom made the trip a bit of a present for me.

This hotel is surprisingly spacious for the city with a separate bedroom and sitting room in all rooms. I really liked it. It was comfortable and not at all cramped and the staff was more than helpful.

It's good to be home!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Norwegian Sour Cream Cookies

Here it is! My Great Grandma Melby's recipe for sour cream cookies! Great Grandma Melby was from Norway. She and Great Grandpa Melby came to the US when my grandfather was a very young boy.

Necessity is the mother of invention they say. And this seems to hold true for many recipes as well. To my understanding, in earlier times, people (whether from this country or not) tried to use every ounce of everything to avoid waste and to be thrifty. Bread pudding was created as a way to use stale bread. I believe the strong spices in India and Southern Creole cooking were originally used to mask the fact that the meat or fish was not exactly on the fresh side and didn't have the best smell or flavor.

So these cookies are made with SOUR cream. Not Knudsen sour cream. No dollop of Daisy but cream that is no longer good. It is sour and putrid smelling and often thickens and has little clumpy things. It is really disgusting actually! I often don't tell people what is in them until they take a taste. WARNING! If you are pregnant, proceed with caution. I personally didn't have morning sickness when pregnant but if a smell was really really bad... it could send me over the edge. This may just do it to you.

These cookies are so good though that I save my bad cream for months just to make them. I don't use it if it has gotten at all solid or yellow or has any growth of any kind. Doesn't this all sound just SO yummy and appetizing?

The recipe is quite simple actually.
1/3 cup butter (softened)
2/3 cup sugar
1 beaten egg (I rarely bother to beat it first)
1/3 cup SOUR cream (NOT commercial sour cream but cream or heavy cream that has gone sour/bad)
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cups sifted flour (I don't think I've sifted flour since I was in high school)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix together your wet ingredients (top 5 above) until smooth. Then add the dry ingredients (bottom 4). You know the drill.

Drop onto un-greased cookie sheet. Then dip the bottom of a glass into your bowl of cookie dough or smear a little dough on the glass. Dip the glass into cinnamon sugar.

Cinnamon sugar is made with a few tablespoons of sugar and about 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon.

With the glass coated in sugar, lightly tap down each ball of dough on the sheet. Continue with remaining dough. I sometimes use a spoon and sprinkle just a little more cinnamon sugar on each one as well.

Bake for 10 minutes in a 400° oven.

Voila! There you have your sour cream cookies! Note, I don't pay much attention to time when baking. All ovens cook differently too. I prefer these cookies done only until the bottom just gives the faintest faintest sign that it may color. They seem more moist that way. My mom likes them a little more done as you see in the above photo.

But any way you bake it these ARE good! No great! And with a cup of coffee in the morning? Well it is THE best breakfast EVER. My mom sisters and I could eat several in a sitting for breakfast. They are not too sweet.

PLEASE let me know if you make these. I am so curious as to what you think!

Well off to do the last minute stuff.
Au Revoir!
Until next week some time. Keep me in your thoughts!

Norwegian Sour Cream Cookies

This is my Great Grandma Melby's recipe for sour ...

See Norwegian Sour Cream Cookies on Key Ingredient.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Something to chew on...

Before I leave, I want to make sure you are well fed and have some food to digest. Below are photos from our Mother's Day spread.

I made a shaved fennel and arugula salad with shaved Romano and a bit of avocado. On it I sprinkled a light dressing consisting of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a tiny bit of Dijon and a splash of truffle oil along with salt and pepper to taste. It was a nice light and crunchy salad. It would have been better with Parmesan but I had a wedge of Romano in the fridge. My Romano was a bit stinkier than I would have liked.

Joy made seven layer dip. Always a great choice! It was demolished by the end of the day.

Jacqueline made a lovely orzo salad with feta, basil, red onion, pine nuts, olives and a light lemon/olive oil dressing. It was really good and flavorful.

Natalie brought cold cuts of turkey, roast beef, maple ham, fresh bologna, cheeses and rolls. The meat comes from Mattern Sausage and Meats in Orange. This place is owned by some German people and has excellent meat, cheese and other European foods that are hard to find. The sandwiches are amazing! My favorite is the pastrami on fresh dense brown bread that cannot be found at a regular market. If you are in the area, do stop in. But be prepared for a small cramped deli space and a long wait for help! It is popular.

My hope is that tomorrow I will have time to post about my great grandmothers famous sour cream cookies! If not, I will do it when I return from the show!

What do you believe?

Do you believe in "No pain, no gain", "No guts, no glory", "Hard work always pays off" ????

Or do you think that the best things just come easily and naturally?

I don't know what I believe. Sometime I have received wonderful things in life without thought or effort. And sometimes I have tried, worked, sweated and cried to no avail.

Well the last couple months (and still for a while longer), I have and will exert a lot of pain, guts and hard work! Will it pay off? I sure hope so!

Here are the boxes I shipped out a week ago to NY. And by the wonders of modern technology, I was able to use a few quick finger strokes online and find out that UPS delivered them at 10:17 this morning and even the name of the person signing for it! Well at least I know they are there at the convention center. Now I just have to take the remaining things and pack those and my personal clothes etc.... In about 48 hours from now we should be in New York!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I love you! I love blogging!

I still feel I am very new to the whole world of blogging. It has been less than three months since I started and at that time I hadn't even been familiar with this virtual world at all. When I heard the term blog, I thought it was for celebrities or kids on my space or something.

Now I feel different. I love my blog. I love visiting other blogs. I love the people I am getting to know. I love all your recipes, ideas, poems, advice, designs and suggestions. This whole new world is open to me now. I can be in Paris one moment and New York the next. I have seen glimpses of the deep south and rural roads I might never have seen before. It is so much fun. And I owe it all to all of you.

Amy at Family Bencomo had been gracious enough to tag me with an "I love you this much" award. I feel so fortunate and very well loved. Amy is so warm and has a beautiful blog chock full of great recipes and beautiful photos. I wish I could go right ahead and tag you back, Amy.

As is the rule, I am to tag 10 other blogs that I love. I am just getting to know a lot of you and it is hard to narrow down to only 10 but these are some of blogs I keep my eye on all the time.

1. Zen Chef - Chefs Gone Wild - Yes, this man does have a wild and witty sense of humor and a mean ability in the kitchen. You will salivate at the photos and choke with laughter.

2. Kristen - Dine and Dish - Kristen has a ton of recipes and a beautiful blog design with little snippets of family life dished in. She also started featuring some fun give-aways! Check it out.

3. Betty - La France Profonde- A beautiful blog about Betty's life in a rural part of France. Her writing and photos are amazing.

4. Dela - Not Your Mother's Southern Cooking - Dela is a delight to read. This girl has wonderful creativity and imagination in the kitchen. She has no fear and her recipes look great.

5. Kate - Paved with Good Intentions - Another deft writer, Kate relays her kitchen adventures from the foibles to the grand masterpieces with a witty voice. There is always something good on her blog.

6. Lulu - Lulu Abroad - Get ready for some armchair traveling. Lulu takes you to Ireland, India or just around the corner from her in the North Eastern part of the states. She documents it all with fabulous photos.

7. Peter - Kalofagas - You want to see a man who knows what he is doing? Peter is your guy! The food he serves up is gorgeous, amazing and as tempting as his infectious smile. Be prepared to learn something new.

8. Susan - Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy - This is a one-stop shop. Her pastries look as if from the finest bakery and the savory photos could grace the cover of a magazine. To die for.

9. Laura - Pinot and Prose - Get a little food then a literary review and more tempting food again. An intelligent woman with a passion for food. How incredible is that! Here is a place to "Eat, Drink and (find something new each time)!"

10. Helen - Orange You Lucky - And you are if you have time to peruse Helen's blog. She features her amazing and whimsical illustrations with tidbits of life and fun things she finds and shares. This site is complete eye candy.

I thought you might be thirsty after all of that so have a glass of lemonade!
The photo is from "Hot Dog on a Stick". They make great lemonade there.
If you are thirsty and near one, DO try it! It comes in 3 flavors.

Amy also tagged me with the "Look What I Made" game! Thanks again, Amy. I am going to tag Emily, Lisa and Jaime with this game.


1. List the names of 2-5 recipes you tried from other blogs. Provide a direct link to the recipe. If not available, give the blog link and let the reader search for the recipe by name.

2. Shortly describe your experience with the recipe.

3. Tag 3-5 other bloggers or the authors of the recipes you listed to post the links to the recipes they have tried from other bloggers. Note: If you are new to the blogging world and haven’t had a chance to try any recipes from your fellow foodies, just pass the tag on to someone else.

4. Notify the tagged bloggers about the tag either by leaving a comment on their blogs or by emailing them.

Here are some recipes I have tried:

1. Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze from Orangette. The recipe is actually at Bon Appetit. These are every bit as good and mouthwatering as Molly professes. DO be prepared to spend some time making them though. It is not hard but you need time for rising and rolling and baking and glazing. But it is well worth the investment.

2. Chicken and Shrimp Won Tons with Chili Sweet & Sour Sauce from Recipe Girl. These were great! I didn't have shrimp or serrano chili on hand and they still tasted really good. Lori's original creation with the shrimp and chili would be even better, I am sure. Do not be fooled. These are very easy to make and look really impressive. The only trick is learning how to fold the won ton. After that--easy-peasy. The sauce really has a kick to it so easy on the chili garlic sauce and ginger if you can't take the heat. I love it spicy so it was perfect for me but would use less ketchup and more soy sauce or something next time.

3. Roast Chicken with Ginger and Soy-Whiskey Glaze from Chefs Gone Wild. Zen is no amateur chef and browning this bird was no easy feat. But after all was said and done, I had a magnificent dinner that was moist and juicy and packed with flavor. It was amazing! Mine wasn't quite as pretty as his and was much darker looking but it didn't suffer in taste. I highly recommend trying it.

4. Veloute of Prawns from A World in a Pan. This sauce is to die for! My guests and I just ate and ate and slurped up the extra sauce with our bread. Laura says that the curry is optional but in my opinion the curry helps make the dish. Fantastic! Mine was much yellower than Laura's photo but maybe because I used yellow curry and she used red? I don't know. I would like to try this again with red curry though.

... and for dessert...

5. Cookie Dough Cupcakes from Big Red Kitchen. Robin Sue had this notion to put her favorite cookie inside a cupcake. You know what? It WORKED! This is fun and easy and provides so much room for play and creativity. I did it with the kids too. It is the perfect treat to make with your children or to bring to a potluck or school party.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

I wish all mother's a happy Mother's Day today. May you feel the love and appreciation you deserve.

We went to my sister's time share in San Clemente today for mother's day. I didn't think the sun would come out with all the pre-June-gloom we've been having but it did manage to be a really nice day. The kids frolicked by the water and had to change clothes on more than one occasion. Each sister brought some food for our potluck lunch. In addition to making a salad (as was my "job" today... we always change it up), I felt like trying out the cupcake idea that Robin Sue had on her blog, Big Red Kitchen. She suggested putting cookie dough into the cupcake before you bake it. Hers came out so darling and delicious looking! I have been wanting to try it since I read her post.

I am NOT a baker. I mean I can bake. And it usually turns out fine if not pretty good. But it rarely looks really beautiful or is to-die-for in taste. I am much better at the savory stuff. I just don't have the patience or something with the baked goods. The other issue I had today was that I was trying to frost the cake with 2 little ones trying to "help" and little time left and a shower and packing up (anywhere you go with 2 small kids you need to "pack" as if for a vacation) so I rushed with the frosting.

I had asked Robin if the cookie dough was doughy or cooked through and she said cooked through. I really like cookie DOUGH sometimes so at Robin's suggestion, I cooked the cupcakes for a few minutes (about 1/3 of the way) before taking them out and plopping in the dough. The problem with this is that the cake batter had begun to rise and I then deflated it. Also, I may have over-filled the cups as the batter oozed out around the whole pan. The cupcakes never did rise again to their full height. But the cookie interior WAS just slighty under-done and chewy. Thanks for all the tips Robin! I just wish mine was as pretty as yours!

As you can see, I made a red velvet cake (just from a box... lazy... and I kind of like box cake sometimes) with cream cheese frosting (from scratch) and the cookie you ask?????? Ohhhhhhh THAT is a secret! I could NEVER tell!

Okay... I am bad at secrets and there is no real point in keeping it. The cookie dough I decided to use (partly for color and partly due to the ingredients) is a sour dough cookie. It is made with sour cream. Not commercial sour cream. No "Dollop of Daisy" but cream that has gone bad/sour. DO NOT throw away old cream! I keep it for months. It smells putrid and disgusting and sometimes thickens and clots. It is really really gross BUT makes for the best damn cookies ever! The recipe is from my great grandmother and hails from her homeland in Norway. I will share it with you in a later post. My whole family dies for them. It is the best mother's day gift I can give to my grandmother.

The red velvet cake and sour cream cookies made pretty companions and tasted quite good too. I wish they were prettier but then again I never professed to be a baker. No "Daring Baker" here! Maybe one day.... We'll see....

Once again happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers and happy beginning of the week to all the rest of you.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Protein Style

You must be hungry! I haven't given you any food since Sunday.

While I adore fancy gourmet food, I also LOVE a good burger. I will often get a double-double at In-N-Out or if I am watching the carbs, I get the double-double protein style. It is still a GREAT burger. I like everything on it.

At home I often do burger without the bun as well. I do different things with it but this one is fairly typical for me. After cooking the patty (with a little Emmenthaler melted on top) , I place it on a bed of fresh baby spinach leaves and top with caramelized onions or leeks and some baby orange heirloom tomatoes. It really satisfies. The only thing this particular meal was missing is a great glass of red. But with so much to do, I cannot afford an extra second of sleepiness the next few weeks. Nor the calories.

Try it with sautéed mushrooms too! Fabulous!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Foodie BlogRoll

Click to Join the Foodie Blogroll! A growing community of foodie blogs.
I just joined the Foodie BlogRoll! It looks like a great forum for foodies. If you are interested in joining too, check it out here:

Happy cooking and blogging everybody!

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Call for Recommendations
As many/most of you know, I am leaving for New York very soon. While there I will be so busy with the trade show that we will not have time to really site see or play in the city but we WILL need to eat dinner! I am traveling with my mother who also really enjoys a good meal. She is not used to slumming anything but is open to a lot of different types of cuisine. Since most of you are all foodies too, I thought you might have some restaurant recommendations for us. Especially those of you who live there!

Thanks! I appreciate all your insight.
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Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Last Supper

Note that my title is not at all a religious reference but rather a reference to the fact that I will probably not be making any big dinners or feasts or posting about them between now and the end of the month.

After seeing the photo and reading about Zen Chef's Roast Chicken w/ Ginger and Soy-Whiskey Glaze, I decided I had to make it. First of all it looked great and secondly I thought this might be a meal my husband would actually like. He doesn't eat any seafood or 97% of vegetables or a lot of the different sauces but he loves chicken and is inclined to like Asian inspired flavors and cuisine. So I thought this would be a sure-fire winner. So LAST Sunday (haven't had time to upload or post) I made it.

Browning this baby in a pan first was HARD! Trying to turn it with the normal-size tongs I have and a large fork was really tricky.

My bird seemed to get REALLY brown! And was not as golden or beautiful as the Zen master. But then again he does do this for a living so maybe his should be better. The above is the only shot of the whole chicken because the kids were running around and crying for dinner. Paul was getting testy and telling me I wasn't watching the kids. Well I WAS making dinner for pete's sake! He wanted to watch a game and they were bugging him. (A little help please????!!!!)

But let's go back a couple hours. I decided I would make some rice and a vegetable to go with the chicken but I felt we needed something else... Something fun. I had recently purchased some won ton wrappers and thought they would be fun to use. I didn't want to spend a lot of time searching and knowing the vast collection of recipes Recipe Girl has on her site, I thought I must be able to find something. Sure enough! There it was. Chicken and Shrimp Won Tons with Chili Sweet and Sour Sauce! That would work. I had everything but the shrimp and the serrano chili. But Paul wouldn't eat it if he knew there was shrimp anyway. I just did without. I also really scaled down on the portions of the ingredients since there was just the 4 of us and I didn't think the kids would eat them.
Making the filling was a cinch. And assembling them wasn't that difficult either. (Lori has a step-by-step link if you need help) I hadn't worked with the won ton wrappers before. Now I realize you can pretty much take any sort of concoction that suits your taste and put it in the wrappers and fry it up to perfection. It is easy, fun and probably a great thing to have on hand for last-minute appetizers. The Recipe Girl's Won Tons were fabulous. It probably would have been even better with the chili and shrimp though. I also made her sweet and sour sauce. It was really good too and packs some heat! I think next time I wouldn't put in as much ketchup because I don't want to know that it is there somehow. You need it but I don't want to taste ketchup.

Now back to the bird. It was done. With all the squeals and screams and running around, I began plating before remembering to take more photos. But let me tell you, this chicken was SO moist and with the pan juices... Each bite was just packed with flavor and succulence. I truly think it was the moistest chicken I have ever tasted.

Sadly, when I asked my husband if he liked it, he said it was "okay". I said, "But it is so moist and juicy!" He said, "But I like drier chicken." Well I guess that makes sense! He only eats his steak really well done too. He thought the won tons were so so. He didn't get the cilantro inside. Now he DOES like cilantro but on a taco. He didn't understand why I put it in a won ton. He didn't realize that a lot of Chinese food has cilantro and it is often deemed Chinese parsley. Danielle told me the chicken and rice were so so yummy and said, "thank you, mommy."

Needless to say, I felt disheartened at his lack of enthusiasm. I thought it all came out great. I guess I just need to have guests over that DO appreciate food. Maybe when I get back from NY, I will start a regular Sunday thing and invite different people over each week.

I had this sad deflated feeling last Sunday. The grand irony is that when I was single for so long, I would cook and invite people over or give it to my roommates and I always thought how nice it would be to be married and have someone to cook for! Now I need to search for new takers again. I forgot why I hadn't been cooking much in recent years. But it is because Paul just wants blackened really done chicken or tacos. All of you who have husbands that appreciate you and your cooking, count your blessings! And my kids eat like kids and not very much food at one sitting. It is sort of a waste to cook too much for them. I try to eat the left-overs so as not to waste food. I have a thing about wasting. My mother passed it on to me.

Here I must find my Zen (not our fearless chef friend) but my inner peace in the enjoyment of cooking for the sake of cooking and creating and not for pleasing anyone but myself. The process, not the end result. I thought the food was great. Thank you to Recipe Girl and Zen Chef for providing the inspiration.

If you didn't notice the links above, you can find the recipes here:
Roast Chicken with Ginger Soy-Whiskey Glaze
Chicken and Shrimp Won Tons with Chili Sweet and Sour Glaze

Uh Oh!!!

How is this for some art and design work?

This is what happens when you are too busy and leave your not-yet-three year old in charge of her two year old brother!!! It all happened in just the time to take a shower and I'm quick!

He did it to himself! Yikes! Good thing for washable markers!