December 31, 2008

In what's turned out to be a New Years Eve tradition...

1. 2008.
2. When Nicole paired me with Steph over at the Cupcake Project for Taste & Create VI, it took no time at all to decide which of her recipes I would try.
3. When I was in high school, my mother had a bit of an infatuation with several of the 'personalities' on QVC.
4. Dorie suggests that you serve her Gooey Chocolate Cakes with something to play off of their chocolatey interior.
5. ditch the ATM card in favor of cash.
6. No, I'm not a Barefoot Blogger.
7. I've been invited to blog for Blake over at Blake Bakes.
8. A week or so ago, fellow Dorista and Daring Baker Susan over at She's Becoming DoughMessTic put out a call to action I couldn't ignore.
9. Hello there, long time no see...
10. Um... hello? Is this thing on?
11. We were surprised that we really enjoyed the food served on our Caribbean cruise with Holland America back in 2006; we expected it would be hard to find excellence in mass-produced food.
12. I came really close to bailing on this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.

There you have it. The first sentences of the first posts for each month of 2008. And once again from mudbugs to caramel cake, it's been a wild ride through the magical, mystical world of food. And again this year I want thank each and every one of you for joining me. However you choose to celebrate tonight's turning of the page, please raise a virtual glass with John and me, join our toast to health, happiness, hope, laughter and love in 2009.

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December 30, 2008


We need to talk big guy.

Collin asked you very nicely. I begged, pleaded, cajoled... everything short of offering you my first born.

But no Wii for me underneath the tree.

I got your note. I understand demand's a little high this time of year. And that part of me that responds to guilt trips is GLAD Timothy and Tina in Texas had their best Christmas evah because of my sacrifice.

I also appreciate you putting in a good word with Cupid. But February's a long way off. There are seven Dorie Tuesdays to traverse before Valentine's Day. That's a LOT of butter and sugar buddy...

I give you this week's indulgence: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake chosen by Anne of the eponymous Anne Strawberry. Okay, so mine's not exactly tall or particularly pretty. Despite the water bath AND my tallest springform pan, we had a bit of overflow. And I was able to distribute the caloric love by using this as my contribution to the dessert buffet at a dance we attended in the city. My tasters didn't care that it was short and ugly. It WAS creamy and they had no complaints about the taste.

So that solves this week's "how do I keep this off my hips" dilemma. But have you looked at the list for January? French Pear Tart? Berry Surprise Cake? I'm glad you liked the cookies. Care to join me in one of the January delights? You can bring the elves...

Oh, and Cupid? You're welcome to join us too.

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December 29, 2008

The Daring Baker 2008 Season Finale: Entremets

It's been quite a season for the Daring Bakers. Canadian Baker Jen cast the tart and tangy lemon in the January episode: Lemon Meringue Pie. February brought a guest appearance by Julia Child; March was the month of Dorie's Perfect Party Cake. April Popped, and in May we headed for the Opera. Over the summer and into the fall we were allowed to choose our own star for June's Danish Braid, the setting for July's Filbert Gateau and the supporting cast for Eclairs, Lavash and Pizza. In November it was my turn to choose the leading lady, and with Alex and Jenny's able assistance we put sugar in the spotlight.

And now we're down to the season finale, and what a finale it's turned out to be. This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen Entremets, a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.


A frozen confection constructed in six acts: a Dacquoise (or nut meringue), a freezer-stable mousse, a creme brulee insert, a ganache insert, a praline feuillete insert (a candy and crushed crunchy cookie layer), and icing. Hilda and Marion gave us a basic plot, some guidance on casting and a script from which to work, but left a lot of latitude for editorial license and creative direction.

I started with a hazelnut dacquoise, a vanilla bean brulee and a coconut and "Special K" feuillete, all of which took up temporary residence in the garage freezer for an overnight rest. So far, smooth sailing.

Things started to falter a bit with the dark chocolate mousse. I'm not sure what went wrong, but when we attempted to whisk the warm sugar syrup into the beaten egg yolks, we got more than a little bit of spun sugar. Not once but twice. We didn't have time for a third attempt, and our mousse didn't seem to suffer in taste or in texture, but if anyone can explain where we erred it would be useful for next time. John took the lead with the dark chocolate ganache and it seemed to go smoothly.

Assembly also went without much of a hitch. Dissolving the cocoa powder in the icing presented a bit of a challenge but again, it didn't seem to have a negative affect on the finished product.

I LOVED this challenge; it epitomizes my Daring Baker experience. I'd never have approached this recipe on my own. And given the amount of effort it required I'd think several times before attempting it again. But before the Daring Bakers I'd have dismissed it as above my head. And there's a fair amount of pride in knowing I'm capable of creating a beautiful and delicious showpiece dessert.


That's a wrap.

But stay tuned... the 2009 series premiere airs January 29.

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December 27, 2008

Mushroom Soup to soothe the soul

...and cure Christmas cough and congestion.

John's still not feeling well. His cold seems to have settled in his chest and shows no signs of evacuating any time soon. And he's damn tired of Robitussin and orange juice.

So with the leftover mushrooms from Christmas dinner and a quick romp through the internets, I whipped up a soothing mushroom soup. With inspiration from Crabby, Giada, Julia and Ina I knew it would be a winner, and it was. I used half and half rather than whipping cream because that's what I had available, and it was still creamy enough to feel indulgent without completely clogging the arteries. And John declared the warm earthy mushroom flavors exactly what the doctor ordered.

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December 26, 2008

Remembering Mo...

My father would have been 81 years old today.

And while I didn't learn nearly as much about cooking and baking as I could have or should have from him, he remains one of my primary inspirations in the kitchen.

Those of you who've been here a while know that John and I host a gala open house the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year. What started as our housewarming party in 2000 has evolved into an annual tradition we're proud to say is a must-attend event on many of our friends' calendars. What most people don't realize is that the whole open house concept wasn't mine but my father's.

Mo hosted his annual open house on December 26 -- though only a handful of his guests knew the significance behind the date. Like we do, he invited friends from all aspects of his life, and did nothing to coordinate introductions. And like our open house, it worked. People mingled, discovered surprise connections with other guests, and often in the process we learned new things about our friends. The only place we stray from Mo's model is that our menu is built on appetizers and finger food -- because growing up that's what *I* wanted to contribute to his menu and he insisted appetizers were a waste of everyone's appetite for the "real food."

So the BIG open house in my childhood home happened at Christmas time. But my father opened his home and his kitchen to his friends on a smaller scale on a weekly basis. Over the years Maude and Dick, Lou and Maria, Carol and Ken, Neal, John and Ruth, Henri, Lorraine, Donna, Julie, Bob and Joanne had standing invitations to dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. And most of them occupied a regular spot at the dining room table.

While John's and my weekend social life tends to be more outwardly focused (with three weekends in four often dedicated to dance events), we're looking at 2009 as an opportunity to entertain on a smaller scale.

And what better date to launch a new tradition than Mo's birthday???

So we put together a simple but satisfying menu and celebrated a belated Christmas with some of our dance friends. We built the menu around a main course I found over at Closet Cooking: Maple and Chipotle Roasted Turkey Breast. Our protein was pork tenderloin because I couldn't find a whole turkey breast at any of my regular marts of trade. On the side we served Warm Leek Salad with bounty from the CSA box, a simple spinach salad sprinkled with dried cranberries and walnuts, and Cooking Light's Colonial Corn Pudding. For dessert we offered a tray of Dorie Christmas Cookies.

We ate. We drank. We enjoyed each other's company.

I like to think Mo would have been proud.

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December 25, 2008

Buon Natale

It's a smaller celebration than usual this year.

John's sister and her family came back from vacation in Florida with the stomach flu.

So it was just mom and dad, John and me for dinner. An intimate dinner for four featuring three courses from Fine Cooking magazine's Modern Christmas Menu and a Dorie delight for dessert.

At center stage was a Slow-Roasted Beef Tenderloin Roast with Double-Mushroom Ragout -- a hit around the table. We paired the tenderloin with Cinnabar's Limited Edition Teroldego - a varietal prevalent in northeastern Italy but still a bit of an anomaly in Northern California. Fruit forward and food friendly wines are our favorites, and this one screamed "roast beast."

In supporting roles were Lemon-Thyme Spinach and Individual Savory Horseradish Bread Puddings, both of which received mixed reviews. I personally adored the spinach and already have plans to stir the leftovers into scrambled eggs for breakfast. Others found the dish a bit too lemon-forward for their tastes. The bread pudding suffered from the opposite problem, as the horseradish kind of got lost in the mix.

We wrapped up the meal with Dorie Greenspan's Real Butterscotch Pudding, proving again that there is no kill like overkill. Butter. Whipping cream. Egg yolk. Sugar. And a splash of scotch. What's not to love?

Christmas means something slightly different for everyone. For John and me, a huge part of the joy we get from the season is in sharing good food with the people who matter the most to us. Nothing would please us more than the opportunity to break bread with each of you who spends a few minutes of your day here catching up on our latest food adventure. For now, we hope you enjoy our virtual feast and we wish you the merriest of Christmases, the happiest of Hanukkahs, the most peaceful of Solstices, the most joyous of Kwanzaas, and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009.

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December 23, 2008

TWD: Real Butterscotch Pudding

Okay, so it doesn't photograph worth a damn, but Dorie Greenspan's Real Butterscotch Pudding -- made with Dorie's trademark copious amounts of real butter and a dash of real Scotch -- tastes a-MAY-zing if the spoon-licking experiment is any indication at all.

Stay tuned... this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection, chosen by Donna of Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases will be the closing act in tomorrow night's Christmas celebration dinner with John's family.

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From the archives...
Dorie's got a bit of a dessert legacy to live up to. In 2007 we served the Daring Bakers' Yule Log challenge for our Christmas Eve finale.

December 20, 2008

Cookies to cure the common cold

Christmas is upon us, which historically means Santa brings John a head cold with his Christmas stocking. Sadly this year has not proved an exception to that rule.

So while he reaches for the Robitussen, some Kleenex and a warm blanket, I head to the kitchen not because he's requested chicken soup or oatmeal (MY comfort foods when my nose is running and my chest is tight) but chocolate chip cookies.

I briefly considered last summer's infamous New York Times recipe, but abandoned it quickly when I remembered it required an overnight nap in the refrigerator. So I turned to Dorie... and she delivered these:

(Dorie Greenspan's) Best Chocolate Chip Cookies (with my editorial comments in italics)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (1 1/4 teaspoon if you really like salt) - I added the extra 1/4 teaspoon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans - I skipped these because John's a no-nut chocolate chip purist

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. I used one and just waited for it to cool between batches.

Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.

Working with a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for about one minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well blended. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed or by hand with a rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate chips (and nuts).

At this point the dough can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen. If you'd like, you can freeze rounded tablespoons of dough ready for baking. Freeze the mounds on a lined baking sheet, then bag them when they're solid. There's no need to defrost the dough before baking -- just add another minute or two to the baking time. FAR superior to anything you find in your freezer case at the grocery store.

Spoon the dough by lightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet(s), leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls. I LOVE my cookie scoop -- makes this task so-ooo much easier. And some advice... leave the space between these guys. They spread like mad.

Bake the cookies -- one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the midway point -- for 10-12 minutes or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center. They may still be a little soft in the middle and that's fine. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for one minute, then carefully transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature. Warning. If your audience likes soft warm cookies as much as John does, shoo them away from the cookies until they cool a bit. Straight out of the oven they smell heavenly but they're molten and will burn your tongue.

Repeat with the remainder of te dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

And in the end? John likes chewy chocolate chip cookies. I prefer mine crisp. Most recipes end up disappointing one of us. Not this one. The best of both worlds.

Thanks Dorie. I think John will agree... MUCH more satisfying than Robitussen!

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From the archives...
In 2006 I engaged in one of my favorite non-baking obsessive compulsive behaviors...
Our Christmas dinner in 2007 combined the best of healthy and heart-warming.

December 18, 2008


I never EVER win anything.

Not Bingo. Not the lottery.

Ed McMahon's never darkened my doorstep with the Publishers' Clearinghouse grand prize.

Hell, I go to Vegas for the FOOD.

But something prompted me to reply to Anne's post in search of must-have holiday foods. First, I had an answer to her question. And second I LOVED the retro-modern look of the apron prize from Phase Three.

Imagine my surprise when I learned I WON!

It showed up in the mail yesterday and I couldn't wait to show it off. Apologies to Anne for borrowing her image of my beautiful new apron, but I wanted to show it off and I can't find a way to model it AND photograph it.

Now excuse me while I head off to break it in...

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From the archives...
In 2006 we shared a "food first" with friends.

December 16, 2008

Santa baby...

Forget the sable. Nix the duplex. I've got PLENTY of checks...

Collin was right. Aunt Dolores NEEDS a Nintendo Wii Fit.

You thought LAST week's Dorie assignment was a caloric nightmare?


In this week's installment, Heather from Randomosity and the Girl chose to tempt us with Buttery Jam Cookies. And let me give you a hint big guy... if the word "butter" is in the title the final product's not likely to bode well for the diet. Even if they do taste like butter-coated ecstasy on a plate.

Furthermore, Dorie claims the recipe makes forty-some cookies. I got less than half of that. Twice the butter love.

Knowing full well that left alone on my kitchen counter, these babies *wouldn't* be left alone but would wind up basting my midsection in saturated fat, I've stashed them in the freezer until we need them for next week's cookie tray.

But I'm only human Santa. Sooner or later I'm going to give in to butter-basted temptation. And I've been good. Pleeeeease... bring me a Wii. I'll leave a couple of these guys by the tree...

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From the archives...
Menu for Hope III had raised over $25,000 by December 16 2006... go check out the stash being offered and give generously to Menu for Hope V!
In 2007, a 19th century salty snack replaced the microwave version in my kitchen.

December 13, 2008

An impromptu breakfast of champions...

...or an exercise in purging the 'fridge to make room for the onslaught of holiday goodies to come...

Grab the little plastic container with about 3 egg whites in it from the back of the top shelf. Add another little plastic container with a half cup of leftover sauteed mushrooms. And the last handful of the baby spinach leaves that were the base of last night's salad. The little bag of diced red bell pepper down there in the crisper. And the last couple of sprigs of thyme from the aerogarden.

Now let's add a whole egg and a pinch or two of kosher salt so it's not *completely* virtuous.

Toss the empty containers in the dishwasher and the foodstuffs in a saute pan liberally coated with cooking spray, olive oil, butter, or the fat product of your choice. Stir constantly over medium heat until the egg whites are nearly cooked through, or soft scrambled.

Plate and serve with toast and a couple of mandarin oranges.


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From the archives...
In 2007 I made a bit of soup for John's bocce buddies.

December 12, 2008


Relax, I've got nothing important to announce here.

This isn't about us.

But a couple in our Wednesday dance group is getting married soon. And the club wanted to surprise them with a celebration. And a cake. From Costco.


John insisted we weren't serving no stinking Coscto cake while he and I stood idly by. So we made a frightening mid-holiday-season trek to Michaels for a twelve-inch cake round, some cake supports and the dancing couple, pulled out the caramel cake recipe, rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

We're not professionals and we have no intention of quitting our day jobs, but I'm hoping our efforts won't make the front page of Cake Wrecks either.

Lessons learned and/or reinforced:

1. All ovens are not created equal. For logistical reasons we did our baking in John's parents' kitchen. Their oven is the same make as ours, an earlier model in a different color. And a completely different animal.

2. When baking in a kitchen not my own, I will make no assumptions about what might/might not be a pantry staple. What's in ready supply in MY kitchen may be an exotic ingredient in yours.

3. We are MUCH better bakers than we are cake decorators.

4. Our friends are either very very kind, blind, or have never seen a professionally decorated wedding cake (or some combination of the above).

In the end, the bride and groom-to-be were suitably surprised, and everyone who tasted it raved about the cake. A qualified success.

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From the archives...
I went digging in the ancestral archives in 2006 an emerged with a 1960s Bavarian Mint for Retro Recipe Challenge #5.
In 2007 Barbara captured a summer dessert prize in the heart of winter.

December 11, 2008

Fa la la la la...

I've seen this out on several blogs in the last few days and thought I'd play along...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
I'd love to say wrapping paper, but I haven't had the time, energy or inclination to hand wrap gifts in years. I would be lost without gift bags.
2. Real tree or Artificial?
If I'm going through the effort to put up a tree, it's going to be real.
3. When do you put up the tree?
It's been a couple of years since I've indulged in a tree, but when I put one up, it's typically the first weekend in December.
4. When do you take the tree down?
Twelfth Night: January 6.
5. Do you like eggnog?
Apparently when it's expensive or homemade I do.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
My bike and my baseball mitt got a LOT of use over the years.
8. Easiest person to buy for?
Gianni. He's too young to complain. :)
9. Do You have a nativity scene?
10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Underwear and socks.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
It's a Wonderful Life. And several of the made-for-TV Christmas Carol versions.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Whenever I find something that grabs me. But I'm rarely finished before December 24.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Not yet. But I've been tempted.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
6. Lights on the tree?
The more the better.
17. Favorite Christmas song?
O Holy Night, Silver Bells and Rudolph.
18. Travel for Christmas or stay home?
Home for the holidays. But one of these years we're going to get out of dodge.
19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeers?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph and Olive. :)
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Angel. Except for the Disney years, when the honor went to Snow White.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Historically Christmas morning. Lately Christmas Eve.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Traffic and long lines.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
I've got an ornament from every year I've lived (a tradition my mother started). I treasure each and every one of them.
24. Favorite Christmas dinner?
Ravioli. Roast beef. Mashed potatoes. Pistachio fluff.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
Time to enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays. A Nintendo Wii Fit.

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December 10, 2008

Another addictive holiday goodie...

Trader Joe's has done it again.

First they tempt me with a dozen flavors of booze-soaked pound cakes.

Then last year they introduced candy cane flavored oreo impostors called Joe Joes.

But that wasn't good enough.


This year they add insult to injury by wrapping the damn things in Belgian chocolate and sprinkling them with candy cane bits.

Unfortunately we tossed the package before I got a chance to peruse the nutritional information, and my TJ's has been out of stock since mid-December. But it can't be good.

Can't WAIT to see what evil they introduce next year...

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From the archives...
Trying my best to post 31 entries in 31 days in 2006 I resorted to that vocabulary Rorschach test that is Unconscious Mutterings.

December 09, 2008

Dear Santa,

I find myself in a bit of a quandary.

I'm trying to lose a little weight, to get into better shape, to smooth the transition from thirty-something into my forties. But it's the holiday season, with all of its temptations. And Tuesdays with Dorie. And the Daring Bakers. And a host of other culinary delights I'd just as soon NOT take permanent residence on my hips.

I've got a few tools in my arsenal in the ongoing war against butter and sugar. I spend several weekday lunch breaks working through an extensive exercise video library with coworkers. I hit the gym far more regularly than I used to. And I've got Lizette...

But my six year old nephew thinks I need YOUR help Santa. He suggested that I offer you some of these delicious Dorie cookies in exchange for a FUN way to exercise. Santa, Collin thinks Aunt Dolores needs a Nintendo Wii Fit.

Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies are quite tasty Santa. And with a quarter pound of butter and a cup of sugar, they're not the most dietetically disastrous Dorie offering (stay tuned... some of those are coming later this month). Grandma's goodies come to us this week from Ulrike of K├╝chenlatein. And if you can't get enough of them at my house, lots of other folks baked them too. Check out their results at the blog roll over at Tuesdays with Dorie.

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From the archives...
In 2006 I shared my introduction to sushi.
In 2007 I learned my readers are edjumacated.

December 08, 2008

A fridge full of fennel

It seems that 2008 has been a year of growing up for me. At least culinarily. Perhaps something in the transition from 39 to 40 has awakened my adult palate. I don't know. I just know that first it was rhubarb, and now it's fennel.

I hate hated fennel; vegetables shouldn't taste like black jelly beans. When it shows up in my CSA box, I thoughtfully regift it to my friends and neighbors.

Until this week, when I couldn't find a taker. I couldn't bring myself to just toss it, so I turned to my magazine collection for inspiration. Cooking Light delivered, in the form of a Pizza with Caramelized Fennel, Onions & Olives.

I skipped their pizza dough, choosing instead my new standby: the recipe from the October Pizza Challenge. Other than that, I followed the recipe as published.

The result? Okay, I give... fennel doesn't suck.

But I still hate beets!

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From the archives...
In 2006 I offered my kitchen Christmas wish list.
In 2007 I provided a culinary history of me

December 07, 2008

A Heartfelt hug for Barbara...

It's amazing, this internet thing.

The friendships I've developed, the stories I've shared, the things I've learned from people around the world. People I've never met. People with whom I don't share much in common beyond a passion for food.

Barbara is one of those people.

If you've surfed much of the food blog world you've undoubtedly encountered Barbara's warm heart, gentle spirit compelling photography and tasty recipes. A three time cancer survivor, she says she first discovered her fascination with food with an amateur attempt at raclette -- at the tender age of six. She started blogging to retain her sanity and some sense of community during her first round with chemotherapy and went on to lead the food blogging community in support of the Lance Armstrong Foundation's LiveStrong events with the colorful Taste of Yellow. She's the baker, the wine lover, the traveler, the brains, heart and soul behind Winos and Foodies.

As she faces yet another round of the brutality that is chemotherapy, Barbara needs a little love. And her food blogging friends are right here to provide it. This weekend we're sending her love and laughter, strength, peace and spirit as we do it best -- through the sharing of food.

When Bron and Ilva put out the call to action on Friday I knew where I was going to find a recipe. It had to be a Donna Hay. Barbara's "Donna Days" event introduced me to Donna Hay -- part Nigella Lawson, part Martha Stewart, with a little bit of Giada di Laurentis thrown in for good measure, Donna's food is simple yet sophisticated, comfort food worthy of company. The perfect fare for a virtual hug.

My first thought was the recipe that started it all, the infamous self-frosting cupcakes, but opted instead for what I'm calling Chicken Soup for the Soul, Donna style:

Chicken in Basil and Coconut Broth

2-14 ounce cans coconut milk
2-14 ounce cans chicken stock
2 tbsp shredded ginger
2 red chiles seeded and chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
2 organic chicken breasts (boneless & skinless), sliced
1 cup basil, chopped
3.5 oz bean sprouts

Bring the first 6 ingredients (coconut milk through cilantro) to a slow boil over medium heat. Simmer for five minutes. Add the sliced chicken breast and poach until chicken is cooked through (5-7 minutes). Stir in basil.

To serve, distribute bean sprouts in four small bowls. Top with chicken breast and coconut broth.

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From the archives...
In 2006 I reflected on rellenos.
In 2007 I discovered some 19th century kitchen tools.

December 06, 2008

The last of that leftover turkey breast?

A child of the late seventies and early eighties, many of my "traditional American" holiday memories revolve around convenience foods.

My not-so-traditional memories involve a heaping tray of meat lasagna next to the turkey platter, but I digress...

Who remembers pistachio fluff, courtesy of the friendly folks at Jello and Cool Whip? Green bean casserole with three different kind of Campbells canned soup? Sweet potatoes smothered in Stay Puff marshmallows?

My favorite of these convenience food concoctions actually never appeared at the Thanksgiving table, but was a regular feature on black Friday. Hot turkey salad topped with crushed potato chips. If my dad had a recipe, he never wrote it down. The base was shredded leftover turkey, often mixed in equal parts with leftover stuffing and/or mashed potatoes. To that he added random handfuls of diced onion and celery and enough mayonnaise to bind the mixture before topping it with the aforementioned crushed potato chips and a random sprinkling of grated cheese.

Since we didn't host the big event this year, I didn't have all the fixings to work with. I started with the turkey breast, added onion, red bell pepper and a bit of leftover mushrooms, used equal parts mayonnaise and ale-based mustard as the binder, and topped the casserole with the end of a bag of Kettle chips and the last hunk of chipotle cheddar.

It's not terribly photogenic, but it tastes good!

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From the archives...
In 2006 I explained my affinity for avocados.
In 2007 I made mini maple pies for Peabody's virtual housewarming party.

December 05, 2008

Bites from other blogs

It's time for another confession.

You see I've got a bit of an addiction.

Some of you might be able to relate.

My name is Dolores, and I'm addicted to collecting and categorizing recipes.

My bookcase overfloweth with cookbooks. I can't add another one without a donation or two or ten to freecycle. But Amazon keeps calling my name...

And then there's the Internets.

I was much better off when it was 'manual'. I surfed the 'net for recipes visiting my favorite blogs one-by-one. I managed my "to try" list as a word document. Adding 2-3 recipes per week, I maintained the delightful delusion of self control.

Then came the aggregate feed reader, making it possible to visit 20 40 hundreds thousands of blog posts in a week. And with delicious I could click through and bookmark my favorites -- categorizing on the go to appeal to my inner list geek. And TasteSpotting and FoodGawker upped the obsession ante by providing a daily dose irresistible food porn.

So I've spent the last couple of weeks justifying my obsession by building my menus around some of the recipes I've gathered.

For brunch on turkey day we indulged in what one creative commenter dubbed Piggy Cups with Eggs from Dragon's Kitchen. Grab a couple of ramekins and line them with prosciutto. Add some eggs and some herbage and bake. Yum!

Four blackening bananas required immediate attention, but plain old banana bread didn't appeal. Enter Melanie of My Kitchen Cafe and her phenomenal frosted banana bars. I took a bit of liberty with the frosted part - using the last of Shuna's caramel buttercream goodness in place of the cream cheese - which paired perfectly with the base bars.

I've long categorized Dim Sum with sushi -- yummy but reserved for restaurants as it's way outside of my comfort level in the kitchen. DP at Blazing Hot Wok shattered that paradigm with her Cocktail Shrimp Balls. We doubled the recipe intending to serve them at November's Open House. Then when I allowed a couple of sous chef guests to take the lead mid-party, we forgot about them in the back of the refrigerator. Friends, reheated cocktail shrimp balls drizzled in a bit of sweet chili sauce are a most excellent substitute for popcorn as a late night movie snack.

As we're trying to expand our everyday past the ubiquitous boneless, skinless chicken breast, I've been paying special attention to recipes for the other white meat, and Brooke's Pork Tenderloin Parmesan emerged at the top of the to-try list when it employed a lot of "need to use" ingredients and with Martha's influence, plated pretty enough for company.

Another new favorite that *did* make the open house buffet: Melissa's take on Ina's Classic Pan Fried Onion Dip. Ditch that envelope of soup mix folks -- this one's WELL worth the extra work.

And last but certainly not least, Micha's sensational *and* seasonally appropriate Pomegranate Ginger Pork Tenderloin Medallions will make the regular rotation during pomegranate season for years to come. We've made it three times in three weeks for three different audiences -- all with rave reviews.

Six recipes down. Three thousand eight hundred forty two to go...

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From the archives...
In 2006 I pondered the butterfly effect -- change one thing, change everything.
In 2007 I went for the gold.

December 02, 2008

TWD: To bake or not to bake

I came really close to bailing on this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.

After a bit of a baking hiatus over the last couple of months I feel like I'm surrounded by sweet things. There's still a wedge of caramel cake on the counter. And several servings of last week's two-fer pie. I *was* able to offload the banana bars on John's parents... but do I really need yet another sweet temptation in the kitchen so soon?
So I did what I do when I'm trying to resist temptation. I shared the caloric wealth. I took the two-fer pie into work with me where it lasted on the counter next to the water cooler 18 minutes, beating two tins of Girl Scout nuts, a plate of chocolate chip cookies and a bag of home grown meyer lemons to the empty plate club. (and I walked out of the break room with a handful of the aforementioned lemons).

After a taste test and a photo shoot tonight, the majority of my Linzer Cookies will follow in the pie's footsteps tomorrow.

Have I mentioned how much my colleagues love the concept of Tuesdays with Dorie?

I made my cookies with hazelnut flour because I had it on hand. And tossed a bit of whole wheat pastry flour in the mix in a vain attempt at making them nutritious. Rather than a fruit center, I smeared my base cookies with a bit of Nutella to carry on the hazelnut theme. And the irony that I was assembling my cookies and licking Nutella off my fingers on commercial breaks during The Biggest Loser was not lost on me...

Special thanks to the first man to join our fold, "Noskos" of Living the Life who chose Dorie's Linzer Sables for this the first week in December. To see how the other Doristas approached this one, check out the blog roll.

From the archives...
In 2006 I followed the insanity of NaBloPoMo with Holidailies (which starts on the 5th this year).
In 2007 I channeled my inner Popeye.