Archive | April, 2011

Custom Cuts: 30th Birthday Boy

28 Apr

Yesterday, I focused on the fact that I turned 30 this weekend.  I have details and food and a few DIY projects to show you, but I’m still easing into this whole “I’m 30!  Yay!” thing. 

You know what’s a lot easier?  Talking about other people who are 30!

So let’s start with these cookies, a 30th birthday surprise.

I had a lot of freedom when it came to color and design.  I settled on a modern masculine color palette (or at least that’s what I think blues and oranges are) and some traditional birthday icons – candles, balloons, cakes.  You know all those things that just made your 5th birthday.

And, the way I see it, these same items should make your 30th birthday great.  Because 30 is certainly not too old for balloons and candle.  Really, is any age?


Party Central Recovery

27 Apr

Well, it’s official.  I have entered a new decade.  I officially have to check the 30 – 35 box when answering surveys.

And, so far, 30 has been… exhausting!  But, I don’t think I can attribute it to the age.  No, I think it’s leftover from Party Prep turned Party Central.

I’ll be posting a lot of the details about the party in the coming days, but I’m happy to report it was a huge success.  Tons of people, lots of laughs and really good eats.  

I could not have asked for anything more to ring-in this new chapter!

Custom Cuts: A Little Spring for Japan

20 Apr

When I saw a request from Madison, of Espresso and Cream, for donations for an online bake sale to benefit disaster relief in Japan, I jumped at the chance.  

Seeing images from disasters such as Japan and Haiti is such a humbling experience.  Such a reminder of how lucky I am.  Donating a dozen cookies is the very least I could do to help.

While the cause might be a difficult subject matter, I figured the cookies could still be fun.  So I went with something cheerful and springy.   

These are the final design, which I actually sent to the bidders son and daughter-in-law (how sweet?!).  I think it was a success on all levels.  What about you?

Jumbo Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies – Fresh Baked Friday… on Monday!

18 Apr

As promised…

While I have a wicked sweet tooth, chocolate is really not my go-to.  Sure, I love a piece of dark chocolate now and then.  And I do love chocolate mousse.    

But vanilla or chocolate ice cream?  Vanilla every time.  Chocolate candy or gummy candy?  Hello, gummy bears, you are my friend.  Chocolate cake or coconut cake?  Well, you know that answer.

So I was a bit surprised myself when I starred this recipe on Annie’s Eats.  It may have been the size of each cookie.  Or, perhaps, the the description.  Either way, I was intrigued.

So, last week, I gave it a try.  It did not disappoint.  I would describe it as a cross between brownie and cookie.  It’s soft and chewy, but a bit dense.

I think the fact these were gone in no time is really a testament to how delicious they are.  Mom even ate one.  And she’s less of a chocolate lover than I am (gasp!  a taste bud commonality for once).

In fact, it just might make me a convert to chocolate cookies.

Okay, probably not.  But now my wheels are turning to see how I can make the equivalent for a simple jumbo chocolate chip cookie.  Yum!

Jumbo Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
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16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup dark cocoa powder (I used regular because that’s all I had and it was fine)
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Add the cocoa powder until well blended.  Add the flour, salt and baking powder to the bowl and mix on low speed until just combined.  Fold int he chocolate chips.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead briefly by hand to make sure the ingredients are well combined.

Divide the dough unto 12 equal pieces (about 4 ounces each).  Roll each portion into a ball and flatten slightly into a disc.  Place on the prepared baking sheets, a few inches apart.  Bake 16-20 minutes.

Let cool on the baking sheets 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


Source: Annie’s Eats

Party Prep Central

18 Apr

I know, I know.  So behind.  No Fresh Baked Friday on Friday.  No witty post today.

Why do you even come back?

But stick with me.  Right now, I’m in the midst of party prep central (more details coming on that).  And, I promise, Fresh Baked Friday, er we’ll call it Fresh Baked Monday this week, will be posted later today.

Thanks for your patience.

Oh, you want a little preview?  Okay, here you go…

3 Ingredient Tomato Sauce

14 Apr

My grandma is half Italian, half Irish.  But, truthfully, she really only identifies with her Italian side.  She’ll deny this, but we all know it’s true.

The upside of this allegiance?  I grew up eating really, really, good Italian food.  Stuffed shells, meatballs, spaghetti.  The list goes on.  And everything, of course, is covered in homemade sauce.

Ah, Grandma’s treasured homemade sauce.  She spends hours making it.  And there is no exact recipe.  You add a little of this, a bit of that, a pinch of this and finally a dash of that.  And when she offers you a frozen container, you take it.  And hide it.  Then savor it on some cold night or after a bad day.

So, you can imagine, I was reluctant (to say the least) when I heard about this sauce.  Just three ingredients and one hour.  Seriously, it can’t possibly be that good.

Surprise!  It is that good.

So good in fact, we’ve made it at least three times in as many weeks.  And I may have also made it in Vermont.

Needless to say, this is now a go-to dinner.  Try it.  Let me know what you think.

And don’t worry, Grandma’s still reigns.  But it’s nice to have a back-up when your frozen container is empty.

3 Ingredient Tomato Sauce
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28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (best bet are San Marzano)
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion (any color will do), peeled and cut in half
salt to taste

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven (2.5 or 3 quart size will be perfect), combine the tomatoes, onion and butter over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow simmer for 45-60 minutes.  Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.

Remove from the heat.  Remove the onion*, add salt to taste (I’ve never needed to add salt, but depending on your tomatoes, you might need to).  Pour over your prepared pasta or use how you wish.

*Save the onion!  I like (okay, love) to make the following, delicious breakfast – toasted bread (or biscuit, even better), onion, sunny-side up egg and a little grate of cheese… oh, boy!

Source: slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking

Custom Cuts: Cowboy Gus

13 Apr

Granddad loves Westerns.  Mini-series or full-length feature.  New or old.  Seen or unseen.  He loves them all.  If John Wayne is in it, well, that’s like hitting the lotto.

So, I can only imagine how disappointed he would be to find out I had to do a Google search when I was contacted to do these cookies.  See, the soon-to-arrive baby will be loosely named after the main character, Gus, in Lonesome Dove.  (On my behalf, I knew it was a Western.  I just didn’t know much after that.)

Cousin Pam (you remember her from this post, right?), who ordered these cookies for a book club friend, wanted to tie-in the name reference with the cookies.

And so 10 gallon hats were born.

And as a bit of an ode to those Western days, we added stars to the onesies.  Come one, surely Western babies wore cute star adorned onesies.

From what I heard these were a huge hit.  Perhaps, this will inspire me to read Lonesome Dove.  On second, thought, maybe I’ll rent the miniseries and just watch it with Granddad.

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