Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tainted Oatmeal Cookies

It's Sarah's fault. She made me do it.

Gathered around the piano bench (who needs a table?), engaged in a uproarious game of Apples to Apples -- Rolling Stones, Colin?....your mom! -- I was itching to whip up a batch of cookies to accompany our rollicksome party. Between placing 'Women' as a fitting word to match 'Manly' (c'mon, you must see the logic in that?) and choosing 'Julia Roberts' as an apt description of 'Annoying' (she gets on my nerves a bit, okay?), I managed to mix, stir, scoop and bake a batch of oatmeal cookies.

Well, originally, just oatmeal. The first tray made it out of the oven unscathed. I attempted to explain the goodness of a pure oatmeal cookie that Ryan had taught me -- the men were easily convinced -- but Sarah's feminine, chocolate senses were tingling.

Must. Have. Chocolate. Now.

I caved. Mine were on high alert too. ;-)

I was forced to taint the rest of the batch with chocolate and coconut. And I'm not sorry I did. They disappeared before the game was even over....

Friday, January 29, 2010

Naniamos, eh?

When I was in D.C. last week, on the side of one of their pristine buildings I spotted a countdown clock for the Winter Olympics. Just in case you were wondering, at this moment in time, we are at 14 days, 8 hours, 4 minutes and counting....

I had actually forgotten they were happening this year. Truth be told, I'm not a huge fan of the Winter Olympics. I tend to enjoy the Games held during the warmer time of year. It may have something to do with the climate I grew up in. Sunny California doesn't afford us the opportunity to enjoy wintery activities very often.

Canadian friends of mine love to discuss professional hockey. My knowledge of the game consists of players moving over ice on skates with a hockey stick, while attempting to shoot a disc the size of saucer into a goal. Oh, and I know one of the teams is the Mighty Ducks, thanks to the 90's Disney film. ;-)

I do love figure skating. I'll watch that on occasion. There was a period of time when I was girl that I dreamt of becoming a professional figure skater. I think it was in between dreams of a professional gymnast and ballet dancer. People moving with grace has always been attractive to me. The underlying strength behind it all is the real charm.

What's cookin', eh?

Kind of like these Naniamo Bars -- exquisitely presentable, yet deeply sweet.

The second part of our Daring Bakers' challenge this month, in honor of the Vancouver Olympics, I present these deliciously rich Canadian specialities.

Naniamo Bars

Bottom Layer

1/2 c. unsalted butter

1/4 c. granulated sugar

5 T. unsweetened cocoa

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/4 c. crushed graham crackers

1/2 c. almonds, finely chopped

1 c. shredded coconut

Melt butter, sugar, and cocoa in a double boiler. Add egg, mixing until cooked and thickened. Remove from heat. Mix in graham crackers, almonds and coconut. Press into the bottom of an 8X8 in. pan lined with parchment paper (or foil).

Middle Layer

1/2 c. unsalted butter

2 T. + 2 t. heavy cream

2 T. vanilla custard powder (I used instant vanilla pudding mix)

2 c. powdered sugar

Cream butter. Mix in remaining ingredients, whisking together until smooth and light in color. Spread onto first layer.

Top Layer

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

2 T. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat in a saucepan. Cool. Spread over middle layer and place in refridgerator to cool and harden. I allowed mine to chill in the freezer for a couple hours and then cut them into squares. These treats are quite rich so small pieces go a long way. :)

The January 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Naniamo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Milk and Cookies: Graham Crackers

To be honest, I had never considered making home-made graham crackers. I take it for granted that when I want a yummy cookie to dip into my milk, I can simply pull one out of a cellophane wrapper. So when I stumbled upon this months Daring Bakers' Challenge, it was a revelation of sorts: 'Home-made graham crackers? What a novel idea!' I'm on it.
And if you're wondering, they do taste like the store-bought kind....only better. Their texture is a bit less crunchy and their fine, honey flavor produces a great flourish. There goes one for a dunk right now.
If nothing else, these babies permeate your home with a wonderful warm, honeyed aroma for hours. Better than any Bath & Body Works candle I've ever come across... ;-)

I chose to make the ones from Heidi's blog, using all-purpose flour instead of going the gluten-free route. I made up the dough the night before and chilled it overnight.

Honey bear lost his head in honey.

It rolled out quite easily, cold from the fridge. It was cut into rectangles and chilled again for about a half hour before baking.

I sprinkled one tray with sugar and cinnamon.
The scrappy ones will be crumbled up for use in Part 2 of this challenge...stay tuned. :)

The January 2010 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Naniamo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Flying High

Jumping on a plane this morning to fly across the States -- should be packing right now but I'm giving into the procrastination bug...figure I'll just throw in a few things at the last minute and hope for the best! :-p -- I was considering what snacks to bring onboard.

I'm loading up a baggie with carrot sticks, another with Trader Joe's Sweet, Savory & Tart Trek Mix, a Cara Cara orange, and perhaps tossing a few granola bars into the mix. I like to bring healthy snacks along with me as most offered in the airports are both laden with preservatives and cost an arm and a leg. I would like to keep mine, thank you. ;)

It is sometimes difficult now with the restrictions on liquids. I used to bring along a yogurt cup, but that counts as a liquid. I had to throw it out last time I went through screening. I also drink copious amounts of water, especially important when you're flying, but, again, can't take that through the security screening check point. I've been known to gulp down 40 oz. of water just so I wouldn't have to throw out a bottle I just purchased, but I've learned my lesson and now tote along an empty water bottle I fill up as soon as I pass through those invasive machines.

I do have a weak spot for fro yo and ice cream, however....will probably make a pit-stop in Chicago for a quick treat. Haven't figured out how to pack those into my carry-on just yet.... :)

What sorts of comestibles do you prepare for your high-flying trips??

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chocolate Chex

Working with children, I often get to do childish eat CHOCOLATE cereal. Hehehe. :)
I'm not usually a fan of sugary cereals, but when one appears within my peripheral vision with 'chocolate' on the label one of those days I'm particularly craving chocolate -- watch out. Must. Have. Chocolate. Now. Yeah, one of those days. I could eat the whole box. Good thing it was time for me to go on my break....
But seriously, folks, this is good stuff. Especially mixed together with a handful of chocolate chips and mini-marshmallows. We like to call it "Better Together Chex Mix" or "Smores Chex." You decide whichever suits your chocolately mood. ;)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Spaghetti with Cabernet Bolognese

"A good meal must be as harmonious as a symphony and as well-constructed as a Norman cathedral." ~Fernand Point

Even the simplest of suppers, when brought together just right, can prove a melodious tune. Case in point: a very easy dish to make in large quantities and freeze, this hearty meat sauce was a breeze to make (and consume!) and had me humming and dancing around the room
before and after its completion. :)
I started by sauteeing a chopped, large onion, several cloves of minced garlic and half-pound of sliced crimini mushrooms in olive oil. (A bell pepper would also be a great addition.) Then, I browned a pound of ground beef in the same pan.
Classico makes a wonderful Cabernet Marinara sauce which I added last to the pan and allowed to simmer for about 20 minutes.

I served it over spaghetti with some freshly grated parmesan, accompanied by steamed zucchini seasoned with salt and pepper.

This Pinot Noir in Robert Mondavi's Private Selection created a perfect harmony in this dinner orchestra.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lands End

Lands End.

A place where the world drops off into a vast unknown. A place where you can contemplate the enormity of reality while you stand in the midst of it as a tiny, yet significant speck. A place which evokes every emotion. A place where many are missed. A place to stage Greek tragedies by flashlight. A place to imbibe inebriating drinks. A place to engage in deep philosophical discussion. A place to juggle or to toss. A place of bonfires and revelry. A place to fill every pocket with grains of sand. A place of first dates and moonlight walks. A place to turn cartwheels and skip. A place to simply feel the cool mist rising up off the water against your face. A place to just be. A place of memories....

There are few places in the world that hold so much significance for me. This wonderful space at the western end of San Francisco is one such place.

On a family excursion through the mid-West one summer, we stopped in a small town called Cody, Wyoming. It receives its name from a character in history by the name of Buffalo Bill Cody.

He was a travelling showman with a Wild West motif.

For a time in a the early 1900s, his show was camped in San Francisco along the bay.

In 1902, he took this photograph with his crew along Ocean Beach, which I came across while wandering through the museum in Cody dedicated to his life, filled with memorabilia from his show. (In September 2008, a man created a tribute to this photo with cardboard cutouts and it was on display for a week or so at the beach!)

It is funny the things in life which evoke a connection with people through the annals of history. To see a place where I had spent so much time, and to know that he had to, created a seeming bond between us. I knew just how special that place could be. And continues to be....

Glance up to the right-hand corner of the photograph and you will spot a grand building sitting atop an outcropping overlooking the ocean. This is the famous Cliff House. The building standing there when Buffalo Bill shot his photo was the 3rd of 4 buildings that have adorned that cliff since 1858.

It was a popular place for presidents and the like to visit, particularly in order to take advantage of the opportunity to recreate on the beach below.

It had a few additions made to it as it gained a reputation and increased in popularity. However, it soon became infamous for its debauchery which disturbed local businessman Adolf Sutro who purchased the site in order to reclaim its beauty.

He gave it a drastic makeover, designing it in the style of the French chateaus. It was never a hotel but housed several elegant restaurants and galleries frequented by politicians and other weathly citizens.

Although it withstood the 1906 earthquake, a devasting fire started in the kitchen burned it to its foundations in 1907.

The building that stands today was finished in 1909. It was closed briefly during Prohibition as the owner at the time decided it would be impossible to maintain without the ability to sell liquor on the premises. In 1977, it became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The facade was revamped within the past 5 years, give or take. It has the feel of a resort from the exterior, fine dining inside within several dining halls. It is a perfect place to warm the body with sumptuous food after a frolic along Ocean Beach.

We normally eat in the Bistro dining room, where I recently enjoyed their lamb sirloin with Israeli couscous. It is cooked in a jalapeno mint jus with dried apricots, figs, almonds, currants, and arugula. It was a very rich dish reminding me of previous African cuisine I have enjoyed.

The crown of the evening was a decadent creme brulee studded with vanilla bean, accompanied by lemon shortbread and delicately sliced strawberries. I couldn't help but finish every bite.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

San Francisco Treat

How is that I have walked past this place so many times and never stopped inside?? There are gems that lie hidden within the industrial facade of the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco. Sparkling jewels that are easily overlooked...
Within its walls, there are quaint food stalls carrying delicious morsels of nearly every type of food. They have speciality shops dedicated to mushrooms, pig, olive oil, gelato, pastries, coffee, kitchen utensils, gluten-free foods, cheese...just to name a few! It is a foodie's paradise.
Arriving early in the morning, I met a friend for coffee at the Blue Bottle Coffee Company.
Having met during our studies in Paris, we'd become snobs regarding expressions of beauty and refinement. ;-) Our barista did not let us down. Before our very eyes, he transformed our drinks into works of art.

The Blue Bottle Coffee Company is known for its use of organic coffee beans farmed from pesticide-free plants. It is freshly brewed on the spot every morning for a delicious roast. I had the cafe au lait as a salute to our time spent in France.
While waiting for my friend whose train was en retard, I wandered through the hallways, peeking in on the foods being freshly prepared that morning. This shop caught my eye, in part due to my growling stomach, and I purchased a cinnamon croissant roll to nibble for breakfast.
I had visions, though, of loading up a paper bag full of the warm loaves emerging from the oven...a baguette, an olive focaccia loaf, a petit pumpkin roll, a rye bun. The reality of carrying the bag over town all day -- on the bus, traipsing across Golden Gate Park, through museums -- kept me from going overboard. ;-)
Dozens of reasons to return.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Oatmeal is my choice of comfort food when it is chilly and I desire something warm to coat my insides. On a foggy day like today, I wanted nothing more than to consume an enormous bowl of oats to fill my growling tummy after a long, grueling work meeting this morning. However, when I opened the cupboard, I was disappointed by the scarce quantity of oats lurking in the bottom of my cylinder tub - only about 1/4 cup! Scanning the cupboards I happened upon a small bag of pumpkin flax granola...that can't be much different from cooking oats, right?! I added that to the boiling pot of water, along with my oats and stirred away. Worked like a dream! (It is always good to work on one's improv... ;-)) Added a few other necessary ingredients to end up with my very own bowl of pumpkin pie oatmeal.

I just might be willing to forgo a piece of pie for this instead!

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
1 c. water
1/4 c. old fashioned oats
1/4 c. pumpkin flax granola
2 t. brown sugar
1/8 t. pumpkin pie spice
2 T pumpkin puree
splash of milk (if you wish)
1 T peanut butter (if you wish)
Heat water on stove to boiling point. Add oats and granola, stirring occasionally until cooked (about 5 minutes). Add sugar, spice, and puree for the last minute of cooking. Pour in a bowl and enjoy with a splash of milk and/or peanut butter if your heart desires.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Sometimes life feels like a murky, muddled mess. Not really sure where God is leading you, what kind of refinement He is working in you, how He is using you as an instrument...the final product is far from sight. But you trust. You patiently wait for the result....

This whipping cream -- still in liquid form -- requires a similiar faith, hope, trust to that you must place in God during those times of uncertainty and trial. With the cream, you are faced with a puddle of white liquid that is supposedly capable of becoming solid through patient, consistent labor. It seems impossible. Take up a whisk. Attempt it by hand. You beat and beat and beat. Whip and whip and whip. Stir and stir and stir. Still liquid.

You turn the bowl. Shake out your wrist. Switch hands. Maybe your left arm is stronger. You turn the whisk faster and faster, continuing to just see liquid.

Finally, when your wrist feels as if its nearly lost feeling, it begins to take shape. Peaks emerge. The cream holds its form. It truly does contain a solid being beneath its apparent watery surface.

Your life may seem like that liquified cream right now, seemingly incapable of solidification. Be patient; God is 'beating' and 'whipping' your life into a beautiful, 'solid' creation. One day, when you least expect it, it will be revealed.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lemon-Garlic Roasted Chicken with Rosemary

My perfectionist tendencies sometimes get the best of me, and it helps to have people in my life who encourage me to 'just let go.' Often, it is when I stop trying so hard that it all comes together just right. :-)

For our Christmas dinner this year, I was planning to prepare a couple roasted chickens. I spent a while pouring through my cooking magazines and books trying to find the 'perfect' recipe for my fowls. I remembered a time in college when one of my friends had cooked a chicken stuffed with 40 cloves of garlic. I wanted to replicate something similar. Wandering through the kitchen, my roommate glanced at me intently browsing through my recipes and asked what I was looking for. After I told her, she chuckled at me and said "Just wing it!" So I did. And here are the results of my fantastic spontaneity...every bit delicious!!

Lemon-Garlic Roasted Chicken with Rosemary
1 5-6 lb. chicken with innards removed
1/2 c. butter
2-3 T. chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 lemons quartered
1 head of garlic, in pieces, crushed
salt and pepper
2 carrots, diced
4 small Yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 large onion, sliced in eighths
zest of one lemon
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Place in a large roasting dish and season with salt and pepper. Stuff with lemons and crushed garlic, and tie off with string. Surround chicken with carrots, potatoes and onion.
Place butter, rosemary and minced garlic in a small saucepan on the stove and warm on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Brush half over chicken and pour the remainder over the vegetables. Zest lemon over chicken.
Cook the chicken covered with foil at 350 degrees F, 1/2 hour per pound. Baste the chicken every half hour. Remove the foil for the last half hour. Chicken is done when the thermometer reads 180 degrees F.
A little traditional Angel Food Cake for dessert...Happy Birthday, Jesus!!
Enjoyed mine with a bit of vanilla ice cream and Irish Creme....highly recommended. ;-)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ice, Ice Baby

There are many methods by which one can melt ice cubes. But, by far, my new favorite means is with your EYES. That's right, did you know that you are capable of making that ice cube weep with your laser-beam stare?

Well, that's what my co-teacher convinced our sweet, innocent children the other day as we were experimenting with different ways to melt ice. He announced that we would be having a three-way contest to see which group could get their ice to melt the fastest. The first group would melt their cubes with their hands, the second with their breath, the third with their laser-beam stare.

Let's just say that last method wasn't the winner but many gave their greatest efforts to get that darned cube to MELT.

A couple of the kids had their gazes fixed intently upon that ice for a solid 3 minutes. (For 6 year-olds that is a long time.)

Then, my co-teacher told them that the wider they opened their eyes, the more effective their eyes would be in melting the ice. So we had children actually trying to pry their eyelids open as far as they could with their fingers. Eventually, I had mercy on them and told them they could complete the melting process with their hands, although I was rather surprised how far a few of them got with merely their glare. Perhaps there was some heat behind that gaze....?