Monday, December 31, 2012

Finding Passion for 2013

   Here we are the last few hours of 2012 are coming to an end, and 2013 is coming quickly upon us.  2012 has been a year of laughter and tears, joys and sorrows, adventures.  I can hardly imagine what 2013 will have in store for myself, and Mr. Love From Scratch.  I have never been a superstitious person, but 13 has always been my lucky number so I am hoping that next year will be a great year for Mr. Love From Scratch & I.  I know that I have mentioned Julia Child oodles of times here on the blog, but I do love what she did with her passion, and how she accomplished her dreams and goals.  She found her passion in life, and believed in that passion., in the spirit of New Years, one of the resolutions that I have set for myself is to this year clearly define my passion and set out to fulfill that passion.  I want 2013 to be a very fulfilling year for the Love From Scratch household., personally I want this to be a year dripping with passion for life and being interested every day in progressing and achieving goals.  I admire Julia's absolute dedication to her passion and I hope that I can have even a fraction of that dedication, if I had that I know great things would happen.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Treat Goodness...

   Three days till Christmas, it is hard to believe that the it is almost hear.  As a child my mom always made the Christmas goodie plates that we were responsible for running over to our neighbor's doorsteps. Mom's plates I can tell you were by far the best in the neighborhoods that we lived in.  Now I have carried on the tradition as an adult and I have spent a lot of time baking this week, but I have the goodie plates ready to go, and if I do say so myself they are amazing this year.  So I decided this year to make a few different goodies than usual, this year I made brownies (the richest, most decadent brownies ever), homemade caramels, and Scottish shortbread.  Mr Love From Scratch has been doing a little genealogy this year and discovered some Scottish roots and was very excited about that, so I thought and addition of Scottish shortbread would be a great way to recognize his new found roots.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's a Greek thing...Greek Salad Dressing

    I have always loved salads, and all last week I have been having such a craving for Greek salad.  Greek salad has always been one of my favorites, it is such an explosion of flavor.  I love all the different variations that you can make on it as well.  There are the standard ingredients; the lettuce, feta, kalamata olives. cucumbers. etc.  Yet there are so many others things that you can add, radishes. lemon orzo, chopped artichoke hearts and roasted beets.  I love the variety of salads, I never understood why people have thought that that salads were boring.  I am also trying to eat healthier and this is a great healthy dish that doesn't make me feel deprived, or as though I am eating "diet food".  I have decided that one of the keys to a great salad is all in the dressing.  A great dressing is key, and can be used in so many different ways, a dressing, changed into a dip, used as marinade, or used as a finishing sauce.  Below is my favorite Greek salad dressing recipe, it is also great with seafood as well, particularly shrimp, one of my all time favorite marinades as well.  Keep the recipe in your arsenal, you will use it time and time again!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving and the Gratitude Challenge, part 22 of a 22 part series

   Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope that your Thanksgiving is full of good food, family and friends.  As the Gratitude Challenge has come to an end I have thought a lot about this month and what I have learned, and what I hope to take forward from this experience and use in the future.  I hope that from this experience I can be more aware of my blessings and do a better job at expressing my gratitude to others. I want to make sure that my loved ones know how much I do love and appreciate them.  It has been great to have this opportunity to focus on gratitude and I am humbled as it has again reminded me how blessed I am.  2012 has been quite the year and I am confident that 2013 will be a great year.  One of my goals for 2013 is that I will have a spirit of gratitude for the full year and be able to share that with the ones I love.  I hope that all of you are having a happy Thanksgiving, and I hope that this month has been an opportunity for you to focus on the blessings of the season.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gratitude Challenge and Resilience...part 18 of a 22 part series

     Another week has come and gone, it is hard to believe that November is almost over.  Today in church the talks were on so many different things, but one of the common themes was our reaction to trials, and out attitudes while we are being tested.   These talks were on my mind when I read today's task for the Gratitude Challenge, which says to, "write about all of the things that make you so lovable.  Take a moment to appreciate your personal style, talents and charm."

     A talent that I do feel that I possess is that of a kind and giving heart, and that I can spot ways to help and serve others.  I tend to be an empathizer by nature, and I feel it deeply when others are suffering.  I have had numerous medical issues and problems of my own, and I have been lucky that so far (knock on wood!) I have been resilient.  Many times I have fallen down and had to get back up and dust myself off, I know that is part of life.  I am proud of myself that I am not a quitter, and that I never give up on myself or on others.  I don't know that I would describe myself as charming, and I don't know what my personal style would be defined as.  But I can say that I am a kind person who tries her best to help where she can and I do look for opportunities to cheer up others.  I try to live the Golden Rule.  I appreciate that my parents raised me to be a kind, helpful person, and I learned that from their examples, and that today that is what I am grateful for. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Memories and the Gratitude Challenge, part 17 of a 22 part series...

   Day 17 of the Gratitude Challenge, and today's task is to write about something in my life that I feel grateful for today.  There are so many things that I am grateful for, but one in particular happens to be memories.  I am so grateful for that.  Last week as I mentioned I had family in town and it was so nice to visit with them.  we re-lived old memories and created some new memories as well. I love that through memories events and people can live on forever.  I know I have discussed my grandparents numerous times.  I remember so much about them the smells of their home, their laughs and voices, the way it felt when they would squeeze my hand.  I have memories of when we went to Disneyland, a pink bead necklace they gave me when I was five,  I remember all of the stories that they used to tell me and most of all I remember how much they loved each other and they loved me.  I am so grateful that I haven't been stripped or robbed of these precious memories.

The End of an Era....

     I already know that everyone has heard the big news, Hostess Brands Inc. is going out of business, and with that we say farewell to Sno-Balls, Ding-Dongs, Zingers, Wonder Bread, Ho-Hos, Donettes, Hostess Fruit & Pudding Pies & Twinkies, and more.  I know that so many of us have childhood memories associated with these treats.  It is a little crazy to think that a business that has been around since 1930 is closing its doors, it really has been an American institution.  While the grocery stores are now being raided by people eager to stockpile their favorite goodies, I thought I would share a perspective on this development.  I know some people are saying this is a positive development and that it is due to he public desire to abstain from processed or junk food.  While I am all about people eating healthy and I try to myself, I can tell you that this has nothing to do with people's desire to eat healthy.  It it did I can think of several much larger organizations that would be closing down long before Hostess.  It is sad to think of all of the families who find themselves losing a job right before the Holidays, they are definitely in my prayers.  It is sad to think of the factories, stores and jobs that are being so cruelly affected.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lessons learned from The Help & Gratitude Challenge.....part 15 of a 22 part series

     Here we are a week from Thanksgiving, and on day 15 of our Gratitude Challenge.  Today's task was  "to take time to focus on myself & to appreciate and give thanks for my unique personality, skills and talents".  This was an interesting task for me, since I always feel a little odd or uncomfortable or vain if I focus on myself, of the positive things about me, so writing a post about this feels beyond odd, but here we go.  I guess I will start off my saying that I believe I am a good person, I try hard to be the type of person that my family would always be proud of.  Actually I was named after my Grandmother, and I'd like to think I have made her proud and not disgraced her good name.  I try to be kind and giving to others.  I can honestly say I am a loyal person, and that I am a charitable person.  A book (and movie) that I particularly enjoy is The Help,  I love that Abileen stress to baby girl three things to always remember, "You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important."  I actually do believe I am all of these things and I try to be all of these three things.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I have been reading Wednesday, Royal Edition...

Product Details     Time for What I have been reading Wednesday, royal edition this time!  I'll admit I was actually looking forward to reading this book.  I was one of the millions that watched the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, and saw her sister, Pippa emerge as new style icon, and media darling.  Not to digress from the book, but was that now infamous white dress fabulous on her or what?  When I heard that Ms. Middleton was going to be writing a book on entertaining I was very curious to see how this would turn out, I wasn't sure if the book would turn into a pretentious book of unattainable entertaining for the average person, or a self -serving attempt at continued fame.  I have to say I was very pleased with the result.  Yes, there are some entertainment ideas that may not be things that are familiar with the average American, but after all the woman IS British!  She does a great job at tying in all the elements of entertaining, the decor, the menu, music selections, invitations, really anything that you can think of.  It is a delightful book, the photography is amazing too, and she does share some humorous anecdotes of her life.

A Glad Game, The Gratitude Challenge part 14 of a 22 part series...

     It takes time to change perspective, and to shift attitudes and outlooks on the world.  The Gratitude Challenge has been going on for 2 weeks, and today's task is to write about how my perspective has changed, and the difference this challenge has made thus far in my life.  I'll be honest, I am no where near close to being a new person, and I am still horribly flawed and sometimes selfish and worldly, but what I can say is that I have become much more self-aware and focusing much harder on recognizing the blessings that I have in my life. 

     I am trying to everyday focus on the things to be grateful for and to express that gratitude for others, for the big things and the small things.  I can hardly believe that a week from tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I have loved this challenge this far as it reminds me to slow down my days activities and focus on the good.  One of my favorite movies is Pollyanna, as she plays the glad game.  I know that the glad game sounds saccharin and sappy at times, but really what would happen if for just one day we DID play the glad game, or were grateful for everything?  How would it change our relationships with others?  I am glad that I have been able to participate in this challenge thus far, to be able to focus on the true meaning of Thanksgiving and implementing that into my holiday season.   Are any of you participating in this challenge, and changes that you have noticed thus far?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Through rose-colored glasses, Gratitude Challenge, part 13 of a 22 part series

      We are moving right along with the Gratitude Challenge, today's task was to pick three people in my life and focus on seeing the good in them and their genuineness and desires to do good.  Focus on seeing them through rose-colored glasses, see the good about them and forget the bad.  I picked three very specific people to focus on, and I learned a lot from the experience, whether it be one person who never name calls or criticizes another, or another that makes whomever she is speaking to feel as though they are the most important person in the world to them at that time.  Or a man that selflessly gives to others and looks for ways to build and serve others.  The last person is the person I want to focus on, a person who selflessly gives, never shirks away from that which is hard and makes sure that they are serving and strengthening others. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The glass IS half full! part 12 of a 22 part series...

     I can not believe that we are only 10 days away from Thanksgiving!  So much to get done to be ready for the Holidays!  I have loved participating in the Gratitude Challenge, it is a great daily reminder for me to remember what the Holidays are all about.  Today's task was to "make the effort to live life with a positive outlook. Restrain from criticizing the people around you.  See the glass half full.  Listen more than you speak, give freely of yourself, practice kindness at every opportunity."    

     I found this task to be particularly interesting actually, especially the part to listen more than I speak.  Sometimes for me that is so hard, I have always been a talker, so to sometimes practice restrain is rather hard at times.  A very dear friend of mine once told me to "seek to understand before seeking to be understood."  I love this advice, and I have been trying to implement that in my relationships with others, it is so hard though, I want others to understand me and validate me, it's hard to slow down and wait and try to listen to others first.  I love the idea of random acts of kindness and I need to be so much better at doing them.  I love this challenge is not only helping me to express gratitude in words, but in actions as well.


 

 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Blessings & The eyes of a child, part 11 of a 22 part series...


     To say that the past few days have been busy and crazy is an understatement to say the least!  Mr. Love From Scratch & I have had family in town the past few days and its has been lots of fun, but lots of work as well.  My parents and brothers have been in town, and it has been so good to see family.  One of my nephews who is 15 months old has been staying with us and its been fun and eye-opening to have him with us. 

     Today is day 11 of the Gratitude Challenge, and today's task is particularly applicable to my little nephew.  Today's task is " to try to see the world through the eyes of a child.  Think about the things you take for granted on a daily basis  and then express gratitude for everything down to the basic necessities."  With my little nephew he has such wonder and excitement with the smallest and simple things.  He is always exploring and always searching, his giggling and laughing and smiles are beyond infectious.  I wish I looked though the eyes of a child more often, to see the beauty and wonder of things, to be excited at the snowfall or giggle at the dog and clap my hands at my family and smile.  What would it be like to go through a day without worries just absorbing every part of the day with joy.  How amazing would that be?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A week down of the Gratitude Challenge, day 7 of a 22 day series.

     Today's task was a particularly thought provoking one for me.  For this task I was challenge t share a photo or something someone, some place, or some moment that meant a lot to me and share why.  I thought of so many different things that I could share with you, but everything stems from one thing, my belief in Jesus Christ.  That belief and faith helps me to decide every direction in my life.  It is that belief that helps me to have ethics, morals and character.  The desire to be a good Samaritan, or to live by the golden rule.  My faith affects every aspect of my life, and I am so grateful for that.  I am so humbled and grateful for the sacrifice that he made on all of our behalf.  He is the one person that truly understands everything that we go through in life and I am grateful for that, I know that there have been many times where he has carried me through some dark times.  While this task might not have been asking for something  quite of this nature, there is not anything that means more to me,. and He makes everything else I do possible, and sometimes I feel I fail to recognize that so I did want to make sure I vocalize my gratitude for Him and His role in my life.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Expressions of Gratitude, The Gratitude Challenge...part 6 of 22 part series

     It has been a crazy day for everyone I know today, and I wonder how many people will even read this with the election results on every one's TV and laptop right now.  Today is day six of The Gratitude Challenge, and today's task was to call someone that I hadn't talked to in awhile and express my gratitude for them.  This was a particularly enjoyable task for me.  I had the opportunity to call someone who I haven't had a chance to talk to for a little while, it was great to catch up and talk about our lives etc, but the highlight was that we picked up talking right where we had left off.  It goes to show that there are some people in life that you will always be bonded to.  I told her how much I valued her friendship and the impact she had in my life, and it was great to vocalize that, sometimes we assume the ones we live "just know" how we feel.   Never forget to vocally express gratitude and appreciation.  So my challenge to you is to find someone and express gratitude and make sure they really know how you feel.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Take 5, Day 5 of the Gratitude Challenge, part 5 of 22 part series

     Today is the 5th day of the Gratitude challenge, and I can tell you that already it is helping me to be more aware of the blessings in my life.  Today's task is to spend 5 minutes writing about the blessings in my life and focusing on what I already have not what I am wanting or feel as though I lack.  It is true that there are lots of things that I would love to have, but I do have so many blessings and I am a very lucky girl.  I have amazing friends and family actually a better family than I ever could have dreamed of, and I don't know that I can adequately express in words how much they mean to me, or my gratitude for them.  So I guess the main thought that has been running through my head today is to be more vocal in expressing thanks to those I love and making sure they realize that I do love them and appreciate them.  The second being to quit voicing what I wish I had, a new goal of mine is to make sure I always express gratitude for something I do have before I wish for that which I do not.  Are any of you participating in a gratitude challenge?  If so, how is in changing your perspective this Thanksgiving season?

Meatless Monday, time for Corn Chowder...

     It's hard to believe it is Monday again!  Seriously, where is the time going?  It feels like there is so much to get done every single week.  With today being Monday, it is time for another Meatless Monday. 

     I have been participating in Meatless Monday for awhile now, I can tell you that there are definite benefits for participating in Meatless Monday.  The risk of heart disease and cancer go down, the carbon footprint goes down, the risk of high cholesterol goes down.  One of other benefits is that many times it saves money and allows you to focus on eating in season.  Whatever the reason you choose, give Meatless Monday a chance, I think you see benefits in a very short time.  With the weather turning colder I have definitely been more and more prone to fixing soups and stews, a warm bowl of soup is the perfect thing on a blustery day.  Add a green salad and some oven fresh rolls and you have a perfect fall feast.  This is a great soup to make ahead, the flavors just meld and get better and better so the leftovers are amazing!  Try this recipe and I am sure it will be a family favorite!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

National Candy Day & Pecan Praline Time!...

     Happy National Candy Day!  Candy making is something that I love to do, but it does take some patience and a lot of attention.  Whenever I make candy I make sure that I have period of time allotted free from any distractions, candy making is not something to try when you are trying to multitask, it needs your undivided attention.  I always make my candy when Mr. Love From Scratch is either out of the house, or at the very out of my kitchen! 

     With the Holidays coming up lots of us will be making candy and goodies for company and gifts.  When I was younger I would help my mom make the "goodie plate" for our neighbors during the Holidays, and everyone always loved those treats.  Now that I have gotten older I make treats of my own, some are the same recipes that my mother made, and some are new recipes that I have developed on my own.  One combination that I have always loved is the sweet/salty combination, especially when you add an element of richness to it.  To me pralines are one of the best candies out there, you have the salty crunchy pecans, and the sweet, rich and creamy caramel.  This particular recipe is amazing, and addictive too!  Also this is a great candy to dip in chocolate for an even more decadent treat.  Make these for the Holidays and it will be sure to please!  What are your favorite candy recipes?

Sunday Blessings and The Gratitude Challenge, part 4 of a 22 day series...

     Today's task for the Gratitude Challenge is to write a note of thanks for the trials in my life.  So many times it is hard to be grateful for the trials of life, because so many times we just want the trials do disappear as soon as possible.  Today in Church we talked about trials and how they do strengthen you, and the we have the decision on how we react to those trials.  I'll be honest, I absolutely hate it when I go through my trials, but I would rather have my trials than that of so many other people that I know.  I have had several trials in life, and I have learned so much from them.  It has taught me about the importance of family and friends and that sometimes it is okay if others have to help carry you for awhile.  Sometimes we really can't make it alone, and that's okay.  During my times of trial it also reminds me of the scripture in Proverbs, which admonishes us to "trust in the Lord."  Yes that is so much easier said than done, but it is true that He will direct our paths and that He is mindful of each and every one of us.  Trials are an inevitable part of life, but I am grateful that through trials I have learned more about myself, and more about the goodness of others. I hope that you too may be comforted during times of trial.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

National Sandwich Day & a bit of History...

     Happy National Sandwich Day!  Yes another random food holiday, but this one has always been one of my favorites because of the story behind the sandwich.  The story goes that John Montague, otherwise known as the Earl of Sandwich had a penchant for card games and gambling.  This penchant was so so strong that he is said to have invented the sandwich as a quick meal that he could eat that would not disrupt the game that he was playing.  I have always loved this story because I can see the human element in that.  As the sister to brothers I could so see them coming up with an idea like that, so many times they would have an ongoing game of RISK, or something of a similar nature that they didn't want disturbed.  From the Earl of Sandwich the staple for school lunches was born.  So children everywhere can thank (or blame) the Earl of Sandwich.

Family, it is what life is all about...part 3 of a 22 day series

     Day 3 of the Gratitude Challenge has arrived, and today's task is, "to write about something you feel grateful for in your life today."  There are so many things that I am grateful for in my life, but one of the greatest blessings in my life is my family.  They are the absolute best.  Growing up with all brothers I always hoped that someday I would get a sister, while I still do not have any biological sisters, but I do have sister in laws and that is something I really enjoy.  To be honest though, one of my absolute favorite roles in life is that of being an Aunt.  I adore my nieces and nephews, they are adorable (yes I realize I am biased, but they really are!)  I love those kids, and I love to watch them as they grow, but one of my favorite parts of having nieces and nephews is to see my brothers as fathers.  It is incredibly heartwarming to see my brothers as they try to teach their kids and watch the fumble with bows and ribbons.  They are great fathers and I do love to watch them in action.  Being the only of my siblings without children I love that fact that I am able to pay complete attention to my nieces and nephews at family gatherings.  I can play laugh and talk with them the whole time and I LOVE it! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

The ABCs of Gratitude...part 2 of 22 part series

     Well here we are day two of the Gratitude Challenge, and today's task is " to use the alphabet as a fun and quick format for making a list of things for which you feel grateful.  Share this list with your social network though email, a blog post or a Facebook or MySpace page."  So it looks like today we are focusing on the ABCs of gratitude, here we go!

A- Art
B- Brothers
C- Chloe (my dog)
D- Dad
E- Eternal Families
F- Family and Friends
G- Grandparents
H- Home

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's Makeover Time & Blasts from the Past!

     As many of you know, Love From Scratch underwent a makeover this past week, new template, new layout, new graphic, the works!  I hope that all of you are enjoying the new look, I would certainly love your opinions on my blog makeover.  Here in the Love From Scratch home I think that we are going to be undergoing lots of makeovers, trying to organize the home, I am going to reorganize my kitchen, and there will be a bit of personal makeover as well, planning new healthy recipes and exercise programs.

A New Month, A New Challenge, A New Mindset... part 1 of a 21 day series

   
  I love the fall, always have, always will, but my favorite month of the year has always been November.  Ever since I can remember November was the month for me.  There are so many reasons for that, one being that my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, another could be that my parents were married in November and I have always looked up to their marriage and the life they created together, another is that I took my parent's cue, and got married in November myself.  Actually I can hardly believe that I am almost at my one year anniversary.  I love that in November we try to focus on our blessings and what we have instead of what we don't have or wish that we had.  I have always felt that it was important to express gratitude and appreciation for what I have.  My parents instilled in me that we always needed to be grateful for all of the wonderful blessings that we have in our lives.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I have been Reading Wednesday...Food Lover's Companion...

     Happy Halloween!  I can not believe that tomorrow will be November 1st, seriously where did 2012 go?  Well it is Wednesday, so time for another "What I have been reading Wednesday".  As you already know I read lots of cookbooks and lots of food reference books.  The Food Lover's Companion is a book that I actually received as a gift.  A friend gave it to me for a birthday a few years ago.  It is a great book, but not for the faint of heart.  It really is a food encyclopedia, so its not a flowing read like most books, but a very useful book nonetheless.  The entries in this book are on foods, spices, cooking techniques and pretty much any ingredient you can think of.  The authors have obviously done a wealth of research to get all of the information they have into this book.  Want to know the history of Chocolate, there you go, need to know what Louis Sauce is?  It is in the book too.  Not sure what exactly a certain technique means?  It's described in the book.  I actually use this book quite frequently, especially if I find a recipe that has an ingredient that I don't have in my kitchen, I look it up learn more about the ingredient and it always gives me ideas of what I can use as the best possible substitution. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lemon Cream Raspberry Napoleons...

 
 
     Don't these little beauties look delicious?  Last winter Mr. Love From Scratch and I spent a week in Las Vegas, and had all kinds of great food, but the food in The Paris was particularly good, especially in the bakeries and patisseries there.  To be honest I really did want to try a sample of EVERYTHING, but Mr. Love from Scratch wasn't supportive of that idea.  They all looked so good but we finally decided to split a raspberry napoleon.  It was absolutely delicious.  It was creamy yet crunchy at the same time.  It had the juicy raspberries and a hint of lemon cream, honestly I tried to distract Mr. Love From Scratch so I could eat the whole thing all by myself. (That didn't work in case you were wondering.) 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy National Oatmeal Day

     Happy National Oatmeal Day!  I know sometimes I do keep track of the most random of holidays!  However this really is a great holiday, and a healthy one at that, so definitely one to take note of.  We've seen all of the commercials and articles lately saying how wonderful oatmeal is for you, and it is true, oatmeal is good for you.  Lots of people think that oatmeal means bland sludge in a bowl, which is completely wrong.  There are so many different recipes that you can use oatmeal in, but with the cold weather coming a good solid breakfast oatmeal is what I will share with you today.  I particularly like this recipe because there is not any added sugars, and it tastes just like a carrot cake, or spice cake.  It is a great start to a cold morning, and its also a great recipe to get those fussy eaters to get in a bit more veggies in their daily diets.

Meatless Monday...Potsticker Time!



     Another Meatless Monday has arrived, and with that comes a brand new week.  Sometimes coming up with good meatless recipes are harder than others, this week I am pleased that I get to feature one of my favorite meatless recipes, and that is for potstickers.  Potstickers as we know are always great, but they are also a great recipe to have up your sleeve, there are so many different variations that you can make.  Simply put in whatever you have in your fridge to make the fillings.  I love to make potstickers as a way to use up leftovers, its a great way to stretch the food budget as well.  These will always be crowd pleasers as well.  Usually when I make potstickers I make two batches, a vegetarian version, and then a batch using whatever leftover protein (chicken, beef, shrimp etc.) in the fridge.  Pair it with a good dipping sauce and it will always be a hit with the crowds.  I love to make this recipe whenever I throw a party or get together.  You can make these in advance, plus you can make several trays full for a very small budget.  Enjoy these potstickers you will find yourself eating the whole tray!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

National Chocolate Day & Chocolate Souffles

     Happy National Chocolate Day!  It's a great holiday isn't it?  Not that I ever need an excuse to eat chocolate, but sometimes it is nice when it is even easier to rationalize than usual.  There are so many different ways to enjoy chocolate, whether is be the traditional candy bar or hot chocolate, to the fancy ganaches and truffles, or to a more savory application such as mole.  There are different varieties, from the deep dark chocolate, to the creamy smooth milk chocolate, or the mild buttery white chocolate.  While I love all sorts of different types of chocolate, I am a bit more partial to a good dark chocolate.  Especially when I am picking a good chocolate to use in my baking.  I find that the bittersweet or dark chocolate seems to be the best chocolate in my eyes for baking.  I love the aroma of dark chocolate as it bakes in the oven.

Sunday Blessings...Enjoying the Journey

     I love this quote, it is one of my favorites, it was given by a leader in my Church, but I think it is applicable to people in all walks of life.  I have thought a lot about life this week, I think more so than usual due to the passing of a dear friend.  That friend was always living and always engaged in life to the very end, and really did live this quote.  This is something that I am going to try to do better at, so many times I think I get so wrapped up in the small things that don't really matter that I forget the big picture and forget to be enjoying every moment of the mortal journey.  I love watching kids and seeing how their eyes light up at the simplest things and their innocence and delight in everything, The eyes of a child truly are magical.
    
     Last night our congregation at Church had a Halloween Dinner and Carnival for the families.  It was so cute the scores of princesses, ninjas, superheroes etc.  (In case you are wondering I dressed up as Julia Child)  These kids were so excited to be there and they were enjoying every minute of the fun.  I watched the sugar cookie station for awhile, it was getting messy very quickly as you can imagine.  The adults were worried about the frosting getting everywhere, and it staining the costumes just days before Halloween, and so many other things, yet the kids they didn't care if frosting spilled on them or got ground into their costumes with no hope of coming out.  All they wanted was to make the cookie and enjoy the experience.  They reminded me how important it is to enjoy the process, not just fuss about the end result.  Kids are amazing, they teach me so much all the time, oh that I had their energy and joy all of the time.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

College Memories & Cookies

     It seems as though lately I have been having an uncontrollable desire to bake cookies.  I love to bake all sweets, but cupcakes and cookies will always be my favorite to make.  I think its because my mom always baked cookies for us.  As I have gotten older I have tried to come up with a few different types of cookies.  I have particular fond memories of this recipe, I developed the original basis of this recipe during college, I have since edited and tweaked the recipe over the years.  This recipe started when I had my first cranberry white chocolate chip cookie during college and I decided to recreate it at home. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Heroes & Pecan Pie

Today was a bittersweet day, there were some beautiful moments and some very sad moments today.  I had the opportunity to go to the funeral of an amazing man today.  A very dear friend of mine passed away, and while it was a freedom from his pain and suffering, it is sad for all of us who love him and will miss him dearly.  This man was like a Grandfather figure to me, he taught me many things and was an example to me of so many wonderful qualities, integrity, compassion, dedication, selflessness and more.  He was one of the dearest friends of my grandfather, and provided countless acts of service to our family.  The service was lovely and was a testament to the goodness of this man.  I had the opportunity also to design the flowers for the casket spray which was a wonderful opportunity, I love to be able to memorialize someone in flowers, especially someone I am so close to.  I have lots of favorite memories of him, some serious, some emotional, but most of them are just funny, because he was truly a very funny man.  The last time I saw him was just a few days before he passed away, I made a chocolate silk pie for him and we sat and talked as he happily ate his pie.  He loved sweets, and towards the end of his life it seemed as though sweets were his last indulgence in life.  Many times he would come with chocolate and visit my grandpa and debate who had the best chocolates here in town, or they would get a frosty and sit and talk about the stock market.  These two men visiting together always made me laugh.   One of this man's favorite desserts was a pecan pie, he loved all sweets but a pecan pie always had a special spot in his heart.  So in honor of him I want to share my  pecan pie recipe with you, and please make it for someone you love and share those precious moments with them.

Love From Scratch Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 pecan halves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pie shell, unbaked, 9-inch (I use a standard pie crust recipe)

Preparation:

In a large bowl, combine corn syrup, brown sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla; mix well. Add beaten eggs and blend well; stir in pecans. Pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes until set.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Memory Makers List...The French Laundry



     One of my favorite parts of traveling is the food, (yes, I know I do think with my stomach at times).  I love to try the food of the region, and experience the culture.  Ever since I was a kid I have had an affinity for cookbooks and fine dining.  I have always loved the artistry of fine cooking, and I feel that in some restaurants they almost transport you to a whole other world.  I have mentioned before my Memory Makers List, and there are several restaurants that I want to visit on this list.  The restaurants that has been on my list the longest is the famous French Laundry Restaurant, by Thomas Keller.

     I have always wanted to go to French Laundry, and I hope that someday Mr. Love from Scratch takes me, (hint, hint).  The talent of Thomas Keller is really second to none, and his technique and artistry is flawless.  While I haven't had the opportunity yet to go to one of his restaurants, I have had the opportunity to make several of his recipes, and they have been delicious.  Actually it makes me wonder even more what the food would be like at French Laundry, if I have made some of the recipes with such amazing results at my skill level, then the food must be phenomenal when made by someone of his skill level.  The one dish more than the others I want to try there is his famed "Oysters and Pearls".  Seriously have you ever seen a picture of his oysters and pearls?  It is indulgence and artistry in its purest form.  A couple years ago upon getting Keller's cookbook I decided to make it for myself at home.  I'll have to admit it was an expensive dish for me to make, between the island creek oysters and the sturgeon caviar it could easily blow your food budget for the month, but I can tell you it was completely worth it!  If I do say so myself it was one of the more impressive dishes I have made, however since I have never had his dish I'm not quite sure if I did it right, even if I didn't I loved it and so did my guests and that is what is important.   

     What dishes are on your Memory Maker list?  Any must see restaurants that I need to know about?  I will be sharing more of my Memory Maker list that is for sure.  Who knows maybe someday I will be able to cross everything off of my Memory Maker List, just maybe.
 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Loving the Farmers Markets on Vacation!


The most AMAZING leeks ever!
     I went to the most amazing farmers markets in Canada, it made me feel like a kid in a candy store as I saw all of the goodness that the local farmers were growing.  I took this picture in particular, because I have never seen leeks that looked that amazing.  Usually when I buy leeks in the local grocery store there is a limpness to the leeks and the size is no where near the size of these beauties.  As we walked through the market there were spices, seafood, vegetables, flowers, fruits, bread, oils everything you could possible want food wise.  Actually at one particular farmers markets they had a place where you could have foie gras tasting, where I got to sample their foie gras, the pates, and mouselines, and terrines.  Mr Love From Scratch didn't quite get as excited as I did, but I do take food a lot more seriously than most.  The smells and sights really were something to take in, and the prices were amazing too, it made me wish that there wasn't that pesky rule about taking produce across the border (silly customs), so sadly it was a look don't touch shopping trip for the more part.  I was however to get a couple jars from my new friend at the foie gras booth.  I am going to have to ration out those delicacies for special occasions, or maybe for my self-indulgent me time, who knows? 

     What I did learn from several of these farmers is pride in their goods, and the desire to provide everyone with truly amazing food.   It was great to speak with the purveyors, they were all so eager to share their expertise on the goods, and how to best use them.  They didn't just sell the goods they sold the knowledge of how to prepare it, what to pair it with, how it was grown, and usually also shared a joke or two. I'll admit I never go to my local grocery store and get any advice on how to cook or prepare anything, I'm lucky if I can just get a sales associate to just tell me where I can find the grated Parmesan cheese (don't ask, in my local store for some odd reason its near impossible to find).  Why though don't we have that atmosphere here in the states?  I love to talk about food, I would love it if the butcher ever told me how to prepare something, or if the produce manager ever told me about the newest produce specials.  So next time I go to Canada I'll make sure to spend some more time over there so I can enjoy more of their delicious bounty!

I want one of EVERYTHING!



Green Gables & Lessons learned from Anne Shirley


 
Anne's Bedroom
 
"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"
-Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables
 
     This picture was a dream come true for me, I took it inside of Anne Shirley's room at Green Gables, (yes, I do realize she is a fictional character).  I have read that book more times than I care to admit, but every single time I have absolutely loved it.  I used to sit in my room late at night reading the story and dreaming what it would be like to have lived in Anne's time, and what it would be like see Prince Edward Island.  I had so many daydreams while reading that book, so finally making it to Green Gables was thrill for me.  There are many lessons that I learned from Anne Shirley, and I hope that there is a whole new generation of young girls pouring over the book and learning lessons from Anne Shirley.
 
Lessons learned from Anne Shirley
 
1. It's better to be smart then pretty.
 
2. First impressions aren't everything.
 
3. Each new day is fresh with no mistakes in it.
 
4. Everyone needs a bosom friend.
 
5. Don't be a drama queen.
 
6. Great things can happen when you forgive people.
 
7. Don't hesitate to compete against the boys.
 
8. Sometimes puff sleeves do make the world better!
 
Green Gables

 
 
 
 


What I have been reading Wednesday....Stanley Tucci Edition

Half way through the week, and already it has been quite the week, but it is time for "What I have been reading Wednesday", Stanley Tucci edition.  I have to admit normally I am not a big fan of when actors suddenly jump on the lets make a cookbook bandwagon.  Last time I went to my Barnes and Nobles there were so many cookbooks by entertainers and not as many by actual chefs, but I guess the joke is on me because I sure saw those cookbooks selling even if they were not by chefs. 

When I heard that Stanley Tucci was doing a cookbook I was surprised, but very intrigued.  I have seen so many of his movies, and as we all know he is a very talented actor, and I have always loved his work, so I was hoping this next venture would not disappoint me,  I have to say I am impressed and his cookbook, the basis of the recipes is Italian, focusing on his own heritage and the food of his life.  They are good solid recipes to build into your stockpile with also, variations and ideas for turning the recipes into showstoppers for party and company.  The food photography is clear and crisp and I especially love the step by step picture instructions for techniques.

I had no idea that Mr. Tucci was so skilled in the kitchen and so passionate about home cooking and home entertaining, but I love that he is, and it shows me that some entertainers really do make some worthwhile cookbooks.  I had no idea that Stanley Tucci was so knowledgeable about food, as you will learn in the book the ENTIRE Tucci family know their food, and every aspect of it, down to the paring suggestions and more.  It is also a very personal book to him, including family memories, stories and photos, really sharing his private world with the reader.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised with his cookbook, and I am looking forward to making more of the recipes, first one up is the Plum and Polenta Cake, it looks amazing in the book, and I can't wait to try it.

Plum & Polenta Cake
(from The Stanley Tucci Cookbook)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal or seminola flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
13 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 plums, cut in half and pitted
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease and lightly flour an 8 x 2-inch round cake pan or an 8-inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, toss the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale yellow and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.

4. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the plum halves, skin side down, at even intervals on top of the batter. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the fruit and batter. Bake until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Meatless Monday & National Nut Day.....that means pesto!

It seems like forever since I did a "Meatless Monday", and this one is a particular favorite one of mine.  I have always loved pesto and pasta, and today is actually "National Nut Day" so I figure lets make a marriage of the two and feature pesto as our "Meatless Monday" recipe.   Pesto is actually amazingly easy to make and completely delicious, especially during the harvest season.  If you have some fresh basil, some pine nuts, and good olive oil you are set for a feast.  Sometimes I substitute spinach for the basil or pistachios for the pine nuts, really do whatever your taste buds crave.  Its a great dish that is simple to make, yet everyone loves and impressive enough for surprise company.  You can also add chicken for a non-vegetarian option that then becomes a main entree.  Or do it as a vegetarian entree and add additional veggies as desired.  I personally make the base recipe below, but then usually add some sliced roasted red peppers and sliced black olives and a few zucchini slices to the hot pasta, and that is absolutely delicious and filling.  I know its a simple recipe, but there is so much that you can do with it and so many different variations to find whatever really makes your taste buds go wild.

Meatless Monday Pesto

4 cups washed, torn basil leaves (try to omit stems)
3 garlic cloves, halved
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
hot, cooked spaghetti
 
Combine all ingredients BUT the pasta together in the blender or food processor, and blend till it has a smooth consistency, it should coat the back of a spoon.  Serve immediately over hot pasta, garnish with additional cheese and basil leaves if desired.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Blessings





I have always loved lighthouses, and was lucky on my vacation to see lots of lighthouses, I have always found them to be inspirational for some reason to me, but as I walked past the lighthouses I was reminded of a quote from one of my Church leaders about the importance about guidance and direction in our lives.  I am very grateful for the guidance and direction that I do have in my own life, and Sundays always seem to be a spiritual recharge for me if you will, it is always my favorite time of the week, it helps to put everything in focus.

“Like the vital rudder of a ship, we have been provided a way to determine the direction we travel. The lighthouse of the Lord beckons to all as we sail the seas of life. Our home port is the celestial kingdom of God. Our purpose is to steer an undeviating course in that direction. A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder—never likely to reach home port. To us comes the signal: Chart your course, set your sail, position your rudder, and proceed.”
―    President Thomas S. Monson

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I'm Back! Vacation is over and real life hits again!

Green Gables
     I know it is completely cliche, but sometimes you really do need a vacation to recover from a vacation.  I am finally back from vacation and back into the blogging world.  First off our vacation was amazing!  I was very lucky to go and to be able to see so many amazing things!  On our cruise we went to Boston, then Bar Harbor, Maine, and then onto Canada, where we saw some amazing things, one being Green Gables on Prince Edward Island!  Yes my inner nine year old girl shrieked and gasped and squealed upon going through Green Gables and seeing (gasp!) Anne Shirley's bedroom.  Mr. Love from Scratch didn't quite seem to share the same enthusiasm for a fictional character, but he was a good sport.

There were so many things that I loved about Canada and so many amazing things that I saw, but one of the things I loved the most was the architecture.  In most of the places we visited there were distinct British areas, and then distinct French areas, it was interesting to  see the influences of both counties and how both countries influence the culture.  I took so many photos of the sights we saw, but I was always drawn to the small residential streets, you know away from the tourists, where actual people live.  This photo was from a residential street that we walked down in Quebec City and I loved the decidedly French feel of that particular street.  Each little building was maintained, with flower boxes still blooming.  It really was completely charming. 

Quebec City was completely enchanting, it was a beautiful city and so many historical things to see, but one of the favorite things I saw was the farmers markets in the various ports.  As all of you know I love farmers markets, and Canada had some of the best I had ever seen.  I will have a whole post coming up soon with pictures and the details of that amazingness.

Mr. Love from Scratch is quite the walker when we travel, by this I mean we walk EVERYWHERE!  While my feet did ache and legs throbbed at times from all of the wear and tear they were subjected to, we did get to see some amazing hidden gems while walking.  Also I do have to say there are some very stylish ladies in Canada, it sure seems like people dressed up more to go about their daily business.  It has given me a new motivation to up my style quotient.  It seems that certain things strike me on vacations, each one inspires with me with new things I want to try in my day to day living at home.  This trip I was struck by of course the stylish people, but also their desires to make even the most simple things special, and to enjoy and savor life.












Monday, September 24, 2012

Vacation Dreams...Coming True!



     Ever since I was a little girl I have loved the book Anne of Green Gables.  I have read the book time and time again, cheered on Anne as she smashes a slate over Gilbert Blythe's head, laughed at her as she dyes her hair brown and it turns green instead, and read all of her triumphs and fails to finally end up where we all wanted her, back with Gilbert Blythe.  I have read the book and watched the movies so many times that it was definitely a part of my childhood, so I was thrilled when the opportunity has arose for Mr. Love from Scratch and I to actually go to Prince Edward Island on vacation!   How amazing is that?  My inner nine year old girl is in rapture thinking of seeing Green Gables and the  Lakes of Shining Waters and all the amazing sights of Avonlea.  While Mr. Love from Scratch isn't really at all familiar with the book or the story, he is being a good sport.  I have my camera ready and I am going to take pictures galore!  I can't wait for the trip. 

I know that I have shared my affinity for Tea Parties and Ladies Luncheon's, but a couple years ago I was able to help cater an Anne of Green Gables inspired tea party for a young girls birthday party.  It was so much fun!  The cute birthday girl had every girl arrive in their tea party finest, and the tables were decked out in vintage shabby chic galore.  Pink and flowers everywhere, as the guests came through the doors one could hear them shriek and gasp in delight.  It was a magical day for that little birthday girl, she grinned from ear to ear.  Her food was actually a lot of work, tea party food requires attention to detail, and usually there are lots of little pieces, but tea party and shower food is always a delight for everyone.  I have many tried and true recipes for tea parties, but I am curious, what do you make for your tea parties?  I would love additional ideas.

So this trip is one more thing that I can cross off of my memory makers list, I will have finally made it to Prince Edward Island!  How lucky am I?   There are still lots more things on my list, but I am excited to be crossing this off.  Are there any trips that you have dreamt of since childhood?  Where do you want to go on your next vacation?


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Places I have to eat at...

Some people have bucket lists, I have what I like to call My Memory Maker List.  Bucket list sounded too depressing for me.  Anyway there are so many things that I do want to do and experience.  Because its me, a lot of the items on my list do pertain to food.  There are so many places I want to eat at.  One of the ones that I am most intrigued by is Alinea, by Grant Achatz.  I reviewed his memoir a couple months ago, but ever since he caught the attention of the culinary world several years ago I have been more than impressed my his cooking style.  

If you have ever read his cookbook Alinea, you can see his precision for detail and his creativity is second to none.  I was so inspired by his story of determination and perseverance, but also his complete passion when it comes to food.  I always love to see people with passion fulfilling their dreams.  Chef Achatz has a couple restaurants but Alinea is definitely the one I want to visit, and has been recognized as the best restaurant in North America.  It is located in Chicago which means that Mr. Love From Scratch and I would need to make a trip to Chicago, maybe we can hit Wrigley Field while we are there.  I already know exactly what I would order too, the tasting menu, the couses change frequently, but the picture shows you idea of what it could be like.  What an experience would that be!  I would love to see his culinary artistry in action.

I have lots of things I want to do, and lots of places I would love to eat at, I will be sharing more of my Memory Makers List with you, maybe I will start getting some of them even crossed off my list.  Do I have any Chicago readers that have been here?  I would love to hear about your experiences there and what you thought!  What are on your Memory Makers List?

Lessons from a rose...

” Live now, believe me, wait not till tomorrow; gather the roses of life today.”
- Pierre de Ronsard



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Mother's Love & Cookies

I always write about cooking with love, and that when you cook with love you can taste it in the food.  My mother taught me so much when it came to cooking with love, it was always the first ingredient in all of her cooking,  I was going through family recipes this morning and remembering so many of the the recipes that my mother taught me to make.  Mom is an excellent cook, my brothers and I were (and are) so blessed to have her.  She always worked hard to make everything nice for my brothers and I.  She certainly made a ton of sacrifices for each one of us.  My mother is an excellent cookie maker, her chocolate chip cookies are the stuff of legends.  I have never tasted a better chocolate chip cookie than my mother's.  When I was a little girl she taught me how to make them so I could enter them in the fair, I had wanted to enter something, so she helped me.  The were blue ribbon cookies to the judges, and the best to us hungry kids at home.  I have made her recipe time and time again and it brings back lots of memories.

This weekend we went to visit my in-laws.  My father in law loves oatmeal raisin cookies, so I made sure to have some fresh from the oven to take on our visit.  My mother loves oatmeal raisin cookies too, but that is one of the few cookies that I never remember having in our home as a kid.  I remember how many times she said she liked them, but she never fixed them, the reason being, my brothers didn't like oatmeal raisin cookies, my mother wasn't going to make two different types of cookies so that meant chocolate chip cookies it was, and usually that is what was found in our home.  Now I know to you that doesn't seem like a big deal and you may wonder why I even mention it.  I mention it because my mother is allergic to dairy products, she couldn't even eat the chocolate chips cookies that us kids all clamored for.  Instead of her fixing the cookies that she would have preferred, she did what she thought her family would like best, even if that meant no cookies for her.  My mother made tons of sacrifices for us, some small, some huge, but she always put us first. 

As an adult I have discovered that I actually love oatmeal raisin cookies, I wish that I had realized that sooner, maybe there would have been more cookies for Mom to have eaten in the house.  I have developed my own recipe for  oatmeal raisin cookies.  I think mom will like it when she tries them, next time she comes to visit I will make sure she finally gets to always pick what she wants instead of always putting everyone else first.  Try this recipe and let me know what you think.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies:

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
11/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dark raisins

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 -14 minutes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lessons Learned, and Lessons to Learn Still...


     It's pretty isn't it?  It looks so calm and peaceful.  I took this photo a couple months ago when my husband and I went on a cruise.  I loved watching all of the different ships that we encountered, some were luxury yachts, some local fishing boats, some were speedboats zipping through the water.  One of my favorite quotes is "A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."  It reminds me that I need to go outside of my comfort zone a times and take the leap of faith that I can do it, and that I will make it work. 

As many of you know I love to watch Masterchef, it inspires every season, this season has been my favorite so far, two particular contestants have stuck out to me this entire season, Christine Ha & Josh Marks.  Both were my two favorites from the first episode, so I am glad to see them as the final two in all of this.  Both amazing chefs, and both amazing individuals.  Both are survivors both inside and outside of the kitchen.  Christine I have learned a lot from watching her grace.  Anyone who has watched this season already knows that Christine is blind.  I am so amazed at her determination and her spirit and that she never lets her blindness stop her.  I can think of a million excuses at any given time, but she never makes excuses for herself.  Josh too has been such a great example of hard work and determination.

I always love to see what I call everyday heroes or everyday champions, I feel like sometimes we forget how many of them there really are in life.  I feel that both of these individuals are those everyday champions.  They remind me to not make excuses for myself, and that I need to have the courage to go after my dreams.  Watch both of them next Tuesday on FOX to see who will be the next Masterchef.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A day late, but an AMAZING What I have been reading Wednesday

I apologize that I have fallen behind, yet once again.  It may be a day late, but I am very excited about this "What I Have been reading Wednesday."  I have been reading Ratio, by Michael Ruhlman.  I have to disclose that I love anything by Michael Ruhlman, I love his writing style, and I love his mission to make sense of cooking for the common person.  He really does try to take the mystery out of cooking and make is accessible for us all.

So I have to admit I will be buying lots of copies of this book, they will be Christmas presents, my new go to bridal shower gift, and really practical for every one who wants to be more efficient and confident in the kitchen.  The concept behind the book is to "crack" the codes of culinary ratios, so that they can be used into everyday cooking.  So many people tell me that they hate to cook because they get overwhelmed by the recipes, I can completely understand that emotion.  Sometimes I see a recipe that has dozens of crazy ingredients and complex measurements, and I can't help but wonder, are we over complicating things?  In our quest to be amazing chef & domestic goddesses have we just caused undue stress and work on ourselves.  I would tend to think so. 

Ruhlman teaches in this book that ratios are what allows a person to have literally thousands of possible recipes unlocked to them, all stored in their mind.  Take bread for instance, the basic recipe for bread is 5 parts flour, 3 parts water (plus yeast and salt).  The ratio really is that simple, say you want to make an artisan bread with additional flavorings, then add some garlic, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, you choose.  The ratio stays the same 5 parts flour, 3 parts water (plus yeast and salt).  With each ratio you are given dozens of modifications that you can make, adding in flavors if you wish, but really the possibilities are limitless. 

I think it is already obvious that I love the book, but what I love is that somehow Ruhlman is able to share his knowledge with everyone else, and have it make complete sense.  He instills confidence in even the most basic of home cooks.  Definitely buy this book, you will be glad that you did!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Artichoke Goodness


I love artichokes I always have.  My dad particularly liked artichokes and I remember him when we were younger fixing artichokes for us and he taught us how to eat them, and boy were they good!  I always have fond memories regarding artichokes, and I have had them numerous different ways.  However as we all know artichokes can be very pricey in the stores.  Right now at my local wal-mart they are 2.99 for some rather sickly looking artichokes, so I was thrilled to get these beauties.  

I belong to a produce co-op in my neighborhood which  I love, every week we are able to get some amazing produce at amazing deals, so its always exciting to see what I will get with this weeks produce basket.  This week I got numerous different things, but the highlight was large, beautiful, earthy green artichokes!  I was so excited.  It was my birthday this week, and these made for the perfect birthday treat for me!  I do however wish my parents would have been there to share them with me, because I know they would have LOVED them, however I guess that's what happens when you live in different states.   There are tons of different recipes for how to prepare artichokes, the following is my favorite way thus far, it is simple, but absolutely delicious!

Roasted Artichokes

Ingredients:

  • 4 whole large artichokes
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, kept as individual cloves
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt & pepper to taste

Preparation:

Rub a few drops of olive oil on foil and place an artichoke stem side down. Stick a clove of garlic into the center and push down an inch or so into the bottom of the artichoke. Sprinkle over 1/4 tsp of salt. Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the top.  Squeezing the half lemon over the top of the artichoke.  Gather up the corners of the foil and press together on top to tightly seal the artichoke (like a chocolate kiss).

Place in a roasting pan and bake at 425 degrees F. for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes before unwrapping and serving..

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Faith & Service & Blessings


It's Beautiful isn't it?  I know I have mentioned before that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or sometimes more commonly known as Mormons.  This building you may have already seen pictures of, it is the Salt Lake City Temple, and its a beautiful place, and a very important place in our religion.  It is through the Temples that we believe that families can be together forever.  I feel incredibly blessed to be a member of this church and for the blessings that it affords me.  Through the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I know where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going after this life.  I do know the purpose and plan for life, that isn't to say I know the reasons for trials and suffering, but I know that it is all part of a loving Heavenly Father's Plan for us. 

I have learned so much from attending church and studying my scriptures, and I realize that I still have lots more left to learn, after all that part is a life long process.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to serve as a full-time missionary several years ago and to share my beliefs with others.  I still desire to share those beliefs with all that I come in contact with.   The fact is this Church brings me incredible joy and peace, it has truly changed my life, and being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a huge part of who I am, and I am very proud of that part of my life.  If any of you have questions or want to learn more please go to www.lds.org or let me know and I'd be more than happy to answer any questions.

"With all my heart and the fervency of my soul, I lift up my voice in testimony as a special witness and declare that God does live. Jesus is His Son, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our Redeemer; He is our Mediator with the Father. He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins. He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again."
—Thomas S. Monson, "I Know That My Redeemer Lives!", Liahona and Ensign, May 2007
Topics: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, Testimony



New Friends and Ben's Cookies....


 
     Some weeks you meet people that inspire and change you, Last week was one of those weeks.  I went to visit a new family that had moved into our congregation at Church.  Having moved many times myself, I try to be as welcoming and helpful as possible, so I made this sweet new family dinner and brought them some delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies that I had made.  I love pumpkin and I love cookies, so I figure how can I possibly fail with a cookie like this?  So off I went armed with my goodies to meet this family.   When I arrived at their home I met the children, who were absolutely adorable, active and gregarious, but cute, active kids.  One in particular caught my eye (and later my heart), was cute little Ben.  Ben is almost 5 years old, and loves attention, at times Ben has a hard time expressing himself.  You see, Ben has Autism and sometimes is unable to express his thoughts and emotions into words.  What Ben did express to me was love through hugs and smiles, and an incredible appetite when it came to my cookies.

Ben's sweet mother assures me that he is a fussy eater and doesn't eat most things, so she was surprised to see how much he liked those cookies.  So I told Ben when he ran out of cookies he needed to give me a call and I would be happy to make him more cookies, sure enough he ran out and wanted the same cookies all over again.  I of course was more than happy to oblige and more cookies were made, actually writing this post reminds me that I need to check on Ben this weekend and make sure he has enough of "his cookies."  Ben may not be able to express himself as he would like all the time, but I watched him express thanks, love, appreciation, and generosity.  This little guy has taught me a lot more lessons than many adults have.  He helps me to realize how lucky I am, and that we can all have positive outlooks no matter what is befalling us.

So in honor of my new friend Ben, my classic pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are being renamed to simply "Ben's Cookies"  Make them for your neighbors, and friends, make them for a new family on the street, the recipe makes five dozen cookies, so there are plenty to go around.  Remember what makes cookies taste best is when they are made with love and shared with love.

Ben's Cookies
Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 12 ounce bag chocolate chips (your preference, I use semi-sweet)

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray
Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars,until the mixture is fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are slightly browned.  Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest and cool.