Sunday, March 28, 2010


A friend of mine just came back from a vacation in Tignes, France and brought me back this cute little jar of honey. I love the European food labels! They are so simple and cute. I was in Brussels a few years ago and came across this cute little honey store and had to take a picture. I love little specialty shops like this!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Walla Walla, WA

The stars have not aligned in my favor this week as my boyfriend is in Walla Walla, WA for a wedding and I am here at home. Walla Walla is in the south east corner of Washington and has been featured in several magazines in the past few years for its adorable Main St., great restaurants and wineries. I did have a chance to go last summer and fell in love! It is so cute and there are so many things to do. Most of them have to do with eating fresh fruit, fine cuisine and drinking wine, so it's almost impossible not to enjoy yourself!

The family wheat farm.
The beautiful family farm house built around 1905 overlooking the wheat fields.
The groom is the pastry chef at the best restaurant in town , Whitehouse Crawford. I'm missing a dessert reception for a pastry chef's wedding. Upsetting.
Another wheat farm.
Another fantastic restaurant, Brasserie Four! I had the most delicious quiche with caramelized Walla Walla onions and best chocolate souffle with fresh raspberries. I love the french bar stools also!
The wine industry is relatively new and is booming now that the grapes are in their 10th year. A few of the wineries have been open for a while but they were using grapes from the Colombia Valley, not local Walla Walla vines, until recently. The winery below is in an old French school house, hence the name L'Ecole, which means "the school" in French.

If you are ever in Washington, make a side trip here. Or make an entire vacation out of it!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ginger Chicken and Crispy Sesame-Crusted Brussels Sprouts

It is only when Native Midwesterners move to other states and enjoy colorful, cooked vegetables full of life, can they crack jokes about the grey, limp counterparts they grew up on. They will say things like, "The broccoli is almost done, let's put the turkey on!" And then they all laugh and reminisce about grey asparagus and broccoli of Christmas past. So, growing up with Midwestern parents and bad vegetable stories, I didn't think I liked brussels sprouts. But, they have have become my new favorite vegetable. For one, they are about $1.99 at Trader Joe's, two, they are on the very short list of fruits and vegetables my boyfriend really likes, and three, really easy to make and delicious. I normally roast them in the oven with a little salt and pepper for about 30-45 minutes around 425 degrees, but I found a good recipe for Crispy Sesame-Crusted Brussels Sprouts in Rachel Ray Everyday while at the hair salon last week. They are easy and really good.
6 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds brussels spouts, halved
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper
3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1. Cut sprouts in half. Melt the butter, sesame and vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
2. Add the crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.
3. Cook, stirring frequently until golden brown. Recipe says 25 minutes but I cooked for less.
4. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and cook until the brussels sprouts are dark brown and crunchy, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.
To go with brussels sprouts, I made chicken and brown rice. This basting sauce is delicious and so easy!

Ginger Basting Sauce for Chicken
3/4 Cup brown sugar (yes, that much)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons minced ginger root
3 cloves garlic
1/4 Cup wine vinegar
1/3 Cup soy sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Marinate chicken for an hour, stirring frequently. Cook however you like. In the oven, BBQ, etc.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

On the search for bread recipes that don't require a stand up mixer, I was excited to read A Slice of Ireland in the March issue of Bon Appetit magazine. I've never had soda bread, but the pictures looked so good so I tried it. It was delicious, but more like a giant biscuit than a slice of bread. Great for breakfast! Eat while it's still warm, with lots of butter and jam if you have it.

Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread - Ballinalacken Castle Country House & Restaurant

3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled margarine or butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a heavy baking sheet with nonstick spray.
2. Whisk both flours, sugar and baking soda in a medium bowl to blend.
3. Add butter and cut until butter is reduced to pea-size pieces.
4. Add buttermilk, stir until shaggy dough forms.
5. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, about 10 turns. Shape dough into 7 inch round.
6. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut a large X, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough.
7. Bake bread until deep brown and bottom sounds hollow when firmly tapped, about 40 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

The picture in the magazine shows the bread in a baking sheet about 2 inches deep, but the recipe says to shape in a 7 inch round, which is what I did but the center was not cooked all the way. I will make this again, but will press into a baking sheet as the picture shows, rather than a round. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Pizza Sauce and Lee & Perrins Aioli

All I could manage to get together this week was a snack platter, pizza and a not so good lemon/parmesan/spaghetti dinner that's not worth posting. And, I think there may have been an entire meal of peanut butter fingers in there somewhere as well. I found a good recipe online for pizza sauce and usually keep a few containers in the freezer for nights I feel like a quick, easy meal.

Pizza Sauce Recipe from
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1 garlic clove
1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 small bay leaf
1 teaspoon fennel seed (I usually skip this and it's fine)

1. In large skillet, melt butter and oil. Add the onion, celery and garlic and saute until soft and transparent.
2. Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir until smooth.
3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer 30-60 minutes
4. Remove bay leaf and spread on pizza. Or let cool and freeze.

Walt's Wharf is a really good seafood restaurant in Seal Beach, CA that serves the best oak grilled artichokes and dipping sauce (Lea & Perrins Aioli). They had the recipe online for a while but have since removed it. Here it is...

Mix together and chill: 1/4 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 Tablespoons honey, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 2 Tablespoons season salt, 1 cup mayonnaise and 2-3 oz of Worcestershire sauce. I usually skip the sesame oil and use kosher salt instead of season salt.

Also on the snack platter, granny smith apples, hummus, fig spread, brie, gruyere, white cheddar, olives and homemade pita chips. To make the pita chips, cut whole wheat or regular pita bread in triangles, brush with olive oil on both sides, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for about 12 minutes (after 6 minutes, remove from oven, flip triangles over and put back in the oven) at 350. I got the cute platter for $.50 at a vintage store on 4th St. in Long Beach, aka "retro row". It was missing the tile, but $1 and a trip to Home Depot solved that!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Peanut Butter Fingers

I have a deep love for all things peanut butter, and had some free time, so today I made Peanut Butter Fingers from my Grandma's Lutheran Laymen's League Mixed Group Cookie Cookbook. I don't know how old it is but many recipes call for Oleo, all of the women on the cookbook committee signed their name using their husbands name (Mrs. William Smith, etc.) and it was typed with an old typewriter font, so I'm guessing it's at least 50 years old. I followed the directions exactly and it was good, but there are a few things I would do different next time. Cream together:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Blend in:
1 egg
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Stir in:
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
Spread in a 13" x 9" greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with small bag of chocolate chips. Let stand for 5 minutes to melt and spread with a knife. I made toffee squares a few weeks ago and melted a larger Hershey bar over the top which would work well here also.
Mix together:
1/2 cup powdered sugar (I used more)
1/4 cup peanut butter
2-4 Tablespoons of milk
Drizzle over the top. I think the peanut butter/powdered sugar mixture is great, but I think it adds too much peanut butter to the cookies. It would be much better on a cupcake as frosting, not on this cookie. You don't need a pastry blender (pictured below), I just don't have an electric mixer.
I think the peanut butter with the oatmeal is a really nice mix! I would hold the frosting though and use it for cupcakes.