Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I hope you have a wonderful day full of good food and festivities. Crunch in leaves, meet your neighbors, and enjoy cozying up with hot chocolate after going out.

Me? I will be going to an early evening get together and then later on curling up on the couch with my family for a best ever pizza-wine-musicals night. On the schedule is Bordeaux, Pagliacci, and (in honor of Halloween weirdness) "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."


Friday, October 29, 2010

If theres one thing I learned.

At pastry school, like most schools I'm sure, we learned our trade by taking our projects apart into separate components. Also, like mastering other talents, my trade can be broken down into a few basic skills that are repeated. Once one understands these elements, the idea of baking and creating amazing pastries is much less daunting.

Is that confusing? Let me give you an example: Boston cream pie is my husband's favorite cake. It consists of layers of vanilla cake, vanilla pastry cream, whipped cream, and chocolate ganache. Each of these ingredients can be combined differently and slightly altered to make other delicious desserts:

Vanilla pastry cream = vanilla pudding or cream puff filling
Whipped cream = easy topping for pie, fruit, or hot chocolate
Chocolate ganache = chocolate truffles or tart filling
Vanilla cake = the base for marble cake, strawberry shortcake, pineapple upsidedown cake, etc...

My point is this- everything gets used and reused to make endless varieties of desserts. Not only is this economical, but it's time saving in a kitchen.

For this very reason I love this cookie recipe from Southern Living that I got from a friend. It starts with the "Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie," which alone is good enough. To make it even better, it has variations that start with the same basic cookie dough which include anything from peanut butter to oatmeal raisin.

Last night when I baked some, I split the raw dough in half. To part I added basic chocolate chips, and the other I put in coconut and white chocolate.

You don't have to stick to only the suggestions in this recipe, either. Try using your own ideas!


  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels


Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended.

Combine flour, soda, and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in morsels. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 8 to 14 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies: Decrease salt to 1/2 teaspoon. Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter with butter and sugars. Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons. Proceed as directed. (Dough will look a little moist.)

Oatmeal-Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies: Reduce flour to 2 cups. Add 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats to dry ingredients and 1 cup raisins with morsels. Proceed as directed.

Pecan-Chocolate Chip Cookies: Add 1 1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans with morsels. Proceed as directed.

Almond-Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies: Reduce morsels to 1 cup. Add 1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds and 1 cup almond toffee bits. Proceed as directed.

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies: Substitute 1 (12-ounce) package dark chocolate morsels for semisweet chocolate morsels. Proceed as directed.

Chunky Cherry-Double Chip Cookies: Microwave 1 tablespoon water and 1/2 cup dried cherries in a glass bowl at HIGH 30 seconds, stirring once. Let stand 10 minutes. Substitute 1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chunks for morsels. Add 1 cup white chocolate morsels, 1/3 cup slivered toasted almonds, and cherries with chocolate chunks. Proceed as directed.

Coconut-Macadamia Chunk Cookies: Substitute 1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chunks for morsels. Add 1 cup white chocolate morsels, 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, and 1/2 cup macadamia nuts with chocolate chunks. Proceed as directed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


It's $19.99

I need a Mr. Coffe 4-Cup replacement carafe (to replace the one that I broke):

It's $15.23 plus shipping.....


Friday, October 22, 2010

The first of the season, and a season of firsts!

The transition between summer and fall this year was an odd one. September was fairly warm and green, and then I went to Cambodia, where it was HOT and tropical (in fact, I couldn't remember being that hot in a long time). When I returned, it was frigid and the trees in front of my house were bright red! Rather than easing into fall, I kind of felt like I was blasted into a new season. I am jet lagged, but everyone else is thinking about Halloween and spiced cider....oh, well. Might as well ride the wave, right?

Enter my first pumpkin pie of the season.

Now, I do get tired of pumpkin pie after a while, but there's nothing like those first few silky bites that fill your mouth and head with the smells and spices of fall.

Speaking of firsts....MY GREEK BROTHER IN LAW IS FINALLY HERE!!!! I admit, I am guilty of complaining about many things about our US of A. But when it comes down to it (and I was harshly reminded of this in Cambodia), we live in a great country with great traditions and great opportunities. And when I called up George and invited him and my sister over for pumpkin pie, he thought I was inviting them over for a savory dinner. He has never had pumpkin pie! Nor has he had Thanksgiving, or driven on a freeway, or many things in between! It has been so much fun to re-experience and appreciate things through his Greek eyes. What a great reminder of things to be thankful for in the month leading up to my favorite holiday!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back from the Bodge

So sorry about the 3 weeks of nothingness. It just so happens that I have spent the better part of the month of October in Cambodia. While this wasn't necessarily a culinary trip, I can't help but view the world through food goggles....and I got some pretty good shots.

Although we had a busy schedule learning about the history and politics of Cambodia, helping out our friends, and visiting the slum villages (where the government has forced thousands of families to move into so that they could develop the valuable city land), we managed to eke in some foodie time.

{We had several delicious home cooked meals}

{As well as some great restaurant food. This entire meal cost less than $10}

One day, we went with a Khmai woman to a traditional market. I have to admit, with my high reverence for food it was a bit difficult for me to see that some of the most dirty, malodorous places in the cities are these markets. It didn't, however, take the natural beauty away from the local produce.


{duck eggs}

{friends at the market}

{asian pears, dragonfruit, oranges}


As long as one avoided the road side stands (a warning we heeded), the food there was pretty fantastic, fresh, and interesting.

{saomao aka rambutan aka sweet hairy lychee things}