Monday, April 23, 2007

Au Revoir

I have lots of packing to do and many errands to run, so I am now going to say Au Revoir to you all until May 8th. I'll try to take as many notes as I possibly can about places to see, where to eat and places to shop while I am in Paris and along the French Riviera. I'll be slipping right into Vancouver mode when I get home, though, so it may take me a while to post my full French travel report.

(Pictures from msn Encarta.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Let the packing begin...

Well, my carry-on bag is packed (or at least it is for now). My suitcase is another beast altogether and won't be fully ready to go until 1:55 p.m. on Tuesday. (I leave for the airport at 2:00.) It was so much easier when I could just throw everything in my carry-on at the last minute. Oh, well. What can I do (but complain)?

Mocha Pots de Crème

Many Parisian bistros offer three-course prix fixe menus for lunch and dinner, and I have seen pots de crème on almost all of the menus as the dessert. Pots de Crème are the French version of pudding cups. They are actually more creamy and mousse-like than what we in America classify as pudding, though.

I remembered this recipe as one I have wanted to try for a long time now. Since I am in Paris-mode now, I figured, "What better recipe to make to celebrate my pending arrival in France?"

These are fantastic. Actually, they are utterly sinful. The perfect balance of chocolate and espresso is evident in this delicious dessert. The chocolate is really enhanced by the espresso powder. One bite you taste chocolate. The next bite you taste espresso. These are very rich and indulgent yet they are not overly sweet. Make sure to use quality chocolate for best taste. I used Valrhona.

These would best be served after a light meal or shared with somebody after a heavy meal.

I am sharing these with my neighbor Chris for watching my car and apartment while I'm in France. He's a self-proclaimed chocoholic, so I know he will be happy to see me with five mocha pots de crème in hand later this afternoon.

Mocha Pots de Crème

Source: Adapted from Atlanta Cooks At Home

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
5 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 T. instant espresso powder
5 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of fine sea salt
Approximately 4-6 c. of boiling water to create a bain marie (water bath)

Place oven rack in the middle of the oven. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Place six (6 oz.) ramekins in a medium roasting pan and set aside. Begin boiling water for a bain marie.

In a medium saucepan, combine cream, milk, chocolate and espresso powder over medium heat. Bring almost to a simmer and remove from heat. Set aside, stirring occasionally until chocolate is almost completely melted.

In a 1-quart measuring cup, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. While whisking, add a little of the hot milk mixture to temper. Add the remaining mixture and whisk to combine. Whisk in the vanilla and salt.

Pour approximately 1/2 cup of the egg mixture into each ramekin. Cover each of the ramekins tightly with aluminum foil to prevent a skin from forming. Fill pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. (This is the bain marie.) Carefully transfer the roasting pan to the oven. Bake until the custards are set in the center. 35-40 minutes.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Remove the pots from the water and place on a wire rack to cool, about 30 minutes; transfer to fridge to cool completely, preferably overnight.

To serve, top with whipped cream (if desired).

Toffee-Peanut Butter Rounds

I made these cookies Friday night for my brother and my friend Kurt. I took a few bites of one, and I must say that I loved this cookie. They are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside....the perfect cookie combination if you ask me. The dark brown sugar adds a nice but subtle molasses taste to these cookies and also compliments the presence of the peanut butter chips. You could use all light brown sugar if that's all you have on hand, but definitely use dark brown sugar if you have it in your pantry. I used Plugra butter, too. Any kind of butter you have on hand is fine, but I think all cookies and baked goodies taste better with the higher-quality European butters like Plugra (and Lurpak). Use candy bars instead of the pre-packaged toffee bits. You will want bigger chunks of candy in these cookies than the pre-packaged toffee bits offer. Please let me know your thoughts on these cookies if you try them. Enjoy!!!

Toffee-Peanut Butter Rounds

Source: Adapted from Good Housekeeping 2002 Annual Recipes

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1 cup peanut butter chips
4 chocolate-covered toffee candy bars (1.4 oz. each), coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat melted butter and eggs until blended. Add granulated sugar, light brown sugar and dark brown sugar. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Beat in flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Stir in oats, peanut butter chips and toffee.

At this point, cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before proceeding. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F while dough is chilling.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased large cookie sheet. Bake cookies 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Store cookies in tightly covered container at room temperature up to 1 week, or in freezer up to 3 months.

Yield: Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

Note: I got 44 cookies.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

(Super-Easy) Tandoori Naan Pizza

The hockey game is on soon, so this is going to be a short post. Kurt came over for dinner tonight and since I am in clean out the pantry, refrigerator and freezer mode, I made a quick, super-easy dinner using up some ingredients I had on hand in the pantry (pizza sauce and Penzey's spices), in the refrigerator (mozzarella cheese) and in the freezer (naan bread). I guess you could say that tonight I was an equal opportunity ingredient-user-upper. Kurt gave the pizzas two thumbs up. I tried a few bites of one (my stomach is still not's been nine days...please, virus, go away!!!), and I agree they're very good. I think they would be even better with the garlic naan, though. Unfortunately, the garlic naan is always sold-out when I go to Trader Joe's. We both had some sliced pink lady apples, too. If you're not familiar with pink lady apples, they are sweet and juicy with a slight tartness to them, and they have a brilliant pink color (go figure). They weren't cheap at Whole Foods (then again, what is cheap at Whole Foods?), but they were delicious and worth every cent. Kurt's taking the other two naan pizzas home with him tonight after the Stars victory (fingers-crossed). Go Stars!!!

(Super-Easy) Tandoori Naan Pizza

1 package (4 pieces) Trader Joe’s Tandoori Naan (frozen, not thawed)
1 can Muir Glen Organic pizza sauce
1 (8 oz.) package Sorrento mozzarella cheese, shredded
Assorted spices (such as Aleppo Pepper, Italian Herb Blend and Garlic Powder)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with Reynolds Wrap Release Non-Stick Aluminum Foil (or lightly grease a piece of regular foil).

Place pieces of Tandoori Naan bread on foil. Spread pizza sauce evenly over each piece of bread. Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese and your favorite spices.

Bake for 7-8 minutes. Let rest on baking sheet for 1-2 minutes, then serve.

Notes: You may have some leftover sauce and cheese.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Two months and I'll be on a plane. Oh...My...God!!! Sheer excitement and panic are starting to simulaneously set in. I promised my mom I wouldn't think about it until we get back from France, so that's all I'm going to say about it for now. But in the back of my mind, I keep thinking...

Where am I going to live? (Answer: Coal Harbour or Yaletown)

How much money should I take with me? (Answer: A lot!!!)

How am I going to get by with only two suitcases of stuff? (Answer: You'll get by. Stop worrying.)

I need to buy a new laptop. (Answer: Order one online at Dell when you get home from France.)

Okay, now that I'm answering my own questions, I feel a little bit better now. Maybe I am under control more than I think. Nah.

Thank you, Brendan Morrow!!!

My Stars are still least until Saturday night.

Game 5 results:

Dallas 1
Vancouver 0

Vancouver leads the series 3-2.

If you have no clue who Brendan Morrow is, read about him here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shopping in Chicago

I forgot to post my favorite stores in Chicago like I promised to do a few days ago. Since I don't have enough time to tell you about them all, I thought I would talk about three stores in particular that I really, really liked. (My credit card is still smoking from two purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue, but that's a dirty little secret I'm sharing with nobody.)

If you like browsing for bakeware, cookware, utensils and miscellaneous stuff for your kitchen like I do (you know, that stuff you really don't need), check out Bloomingdale's Home & Furniture Store at 600 North Wabash Avenue. I didn't make it upstairs to view the home things (sheets and towels are boring, right?) since I spent all my time downstairs looking at the kitchen stuff, but the bottom floor alone is very upscale and has a wonderful collection of things from OXO and Microplane to Emile Henry, WÜSTHOF and Le Creuset. I managed to leave the store without spending too much. I bought an OXO pie server and a Microplane extra coarse grater, both of which I have needed for a while, so I can justify these purchases without buyer's remorse. Even my brother liked this store, and that's saying a lot.

P.O.S.H. is located at 613 North State Street. The store is heavily Parisian-themed and offers a variety of vintage, antique and international dinnerware, silver, glassware and utensils. They also have napkins, coasters, candles, serving trays, stationary and miscellaneous novelties. I managed to walk out without buying a thing yet I wonder if my life would be better now if I would have splurged and bought that cow-shaped creamer or those vintage parfait glasses. I guess I'll never know. (I'm not that stupid to think that things make you happy...because they don't.) When I finally decide to buy a house, I hope to order some things for my kitchen and home from their website or better yet go back to Chicago in person and relive the fun I recently had browsing there.

Oil & Vinegar is a must for anybody who cooks. I liked the store so much I went back twice. The first time I visited, it was about 20 minutes until closing time, so I didn't have too much time to browse. Even though the store is on the small side, there are some really neat foodie things in there that you will need a decent amount of time to browse, read labels and ask any questions about the various products. The store employee (I wish I knew her name because she was awesome) apologized for not having any samples out and chatted with me and Mike as we browsed. I told her what kind of olive oil I was looking for (nothing too grassy, nothing too buttery) and she made a recommendation that was spot-on. She let me sample it, and it was perfect. I bought a bottle of Frantoia Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a bottle of Honey Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar, then Mike and I continued chatting with her for a few minutes before leaving (we could have talked for longer but we didn't want to keep her from going home on time). The next day, we just happened to be passing the store again (after all, it was on the way to and from our hotel), and Mike said, "Go in. I know you want to". He knows me too well. We both got to sample quite a few different kinds of olive oils, balsamic vinegars and miscellaneous goodies this time around. Sadly, the store employee from the day before wasn't working, but this employee was nice, too...she was just more reserved and trying too hard to please a food snob that was browsing (read: rich older lady in a fur coat with a Botoxed face). I bought Mike a bottle of Mama Africa's habanero hot sauce (I figured it was the least I could do for him being so patient as I browsed. The description from the Mama Africa's website says, "This sauce is subtle as a sledgehammer & is only recommended for the brave, the inspired, or the insane." Yup, that's my brother.) This time around, I bought a bottle of Olive Oil with Rosemary, a bottle of Series 7 Balsamic Vinegar and the Sicilian Blend Dipper. There were four varieties of Dipper...Parmesan blend, Tuscany blend, Sicilian blend and Rosa Maria blend. I sampled them all (twice) and decided that the Sicilian blend was my favorite. The ingredients are vegetables (bell pepper, onion), herbs and spices (oregano, thyme, garlic), spice blend, salt, olive oil. You can mix the Dipper with olive oil and serve with bread, mix it with salad dressing, use it as an ingredient in a marinade, combine it with breadcrumbs to bread chicken or fish, sprinkle your pasta with it, scramble it into eggs and omelets or make savory pancakes with it. The possibilities are endless. Go to Oil & Vinegar next time you are in Chicago, and plan to spend at least a half hour time there browsing and sampling. The Honey Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar is going to Vancouver with me since it will be strawberry season when I arrive out there. I can already taste strawberries marinated in honey vanilla balsamic vinegar served over vanilla bean ice cream or gelato. Mmmmmmmm.

I am not a shopper by nature, but the shopping in Chicago was way too good to pass up. Try to check out the above stores if life or vacation ever takes you to the Windy City.

My goodies from Oil & Vinegar:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Cherry-Poppy Seed Muffins

My friend Kristen is stopping by to see me tomorrow morning (she's calling in sick to work...way to go, K!!!), so I decided this was a good enough reason to get in the kitchen to bake something for my rebel-child pal. She has two favorite things to eat...brownies and muffins. Brownies and muffins are the "fruits and vegetables" in her diet. Seriously. Since I usually send her home with a batch of brownies, I figured I would be a rebel-child myself and bake her muffins instead this time. Whoa, settle down,'re out of control!!!

We both have a mutual love of poppy seeds, and since I had all of the ingredients on hand to make Cherry-Poppy Seed Muffins, it was a given what recipe to make. She gets six to take home and I get six to last me the next six mornings for breakfast before I leave for France next week.

I ate half of a muffin tonight, and it was yummy. Who knew poppy seeds, orange zest and dried cherries combined made such a delicious muffin? I can't wait to see what they taste like in the morning after the flavors have more time to sit overnight.

Cherry-Poppy Seed Muffins

Source: Adapted from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the cherries
1 cup sugar, plus more for dusting the tops of the muffins
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
1 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin, preferably nonstick, with butter.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together until evenly combined.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs; then add the melted butter, poppy seeds, and orange zest.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well; fold everything together to form a batter.

Toss the cherries with some flour (about 1 tablespoon) in a zip-top bag (this helps to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins when baked), and then fold them into the batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling them two-thirds full. Dust the surface of the batter with a little sugar to form a crust as the muffins bake.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a wooden toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center muffin. Place the muffin tin on a cutting board to cool.

Yield: 12 muffins

Notes: I sprayed the muffin pan with butter-flavored cooking spray instead of using butter. Use an organic orange since you are zesting the peel.

Down, but not out...

Go Stars!!!

Mr. X Factor has been heXed.

Feliz Cumpleaños, Elisabeth!!!

Espero que tengas un año maravilloso.

Today is my friend Elisabeth's birthday. She lives in Madrid and I miss her so much, but I want her to know I am sending HAPPY BIRTHDAY wishes and cheer to her across the pond. Have a great day, amiga!!! Wish I was there to help you celebrate con tapas y vino rojo (y torta de cumpleaños, por supuesto). :)

Here's the birthday girl in Athens (Greece, not Georgia) recently:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Opening Day at Wrigley Field

I've had three people email me and ask me to post Cubs opening day pictures, so here are some of them. I will be creating a Picasa account soon so I can upload all my pictures there and attach a link for you to view them all. There are many more opening day pictures (as well as many other travel photos) for you to see when I get around to uploading them all. Be is coming at me fast these days, and it's just not my top priority right now. I will get it done, though, I promise.

Mike and I had a lot of fun. We boarded the Red Line train at Grand and took it to Addison (where Wrigley Field is). There were hoards of people everywhere. Some were shopping, some were already drinking at the Wrigleyville bars and some were just walking around and soaking in the whole opening day experience. The two lines to get into the bleachers were insane. I had no idea that there was a different entrance for the bleacher bums than everybody else. Lucikly, we had awesome seats above the Cubs dugout, so we got right in without having to wait in a long line. Mike drank Old Style (I had a few sips myself...all for the sake of staying warm, of course), I had a pretzel and we both ate a Chicago dog. I can't even tell you the last time I ate a hot dog...probably when I was 5. A Chicago dog is greasy and served with grilled onions on a poppy seed bun. I threw on some relish, mustard, ketchup and more chopped onions to forget about the fact that I was actually eating a hot dog. Oh, the shame I have for admitting it was delicious!!!

It was cold and it even flurried for about 20 minutes as the game progressed, but the beer and hot chocolate was flowing, so everybody seemed okay with it all.

Sadly, the Cubs lost to the Astros 5-3. I have a bad feeling it's going to be another long miserable year for us Cubs fans. I haven't given up my optimism yet, though. That should happen in about another month or two.

I hope to go back to opening day again. Hopefully the Cubs will win next time and the weather will be just a tad bit warmer, though.

Pictures below: That's Mike (my brother) standing next to the Harry Caray statue and that's Devin Hester from the Chicago Bears throwing out the first pitch and singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th inning stretch.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lovely spring day in Chicago

Luckily, there was only one yucky day of the four days we spent in Chicago. The day before, Mike and I walked along Michigan Avenue. It was chilly, but the sun was out and we had so much fun. We spent the WHOLE day shopping. We both are not shoppers in general, but Chicago shopping is among the best. More on that tomorrow. I have a lot of dirty little shopping secrets. I'll share my favorite Chicago stores with you, too. (Mike and I now have a pact that one day I will buy a place in Vancouver and he will buy a place in Chicago. Oh, let us dream, okay?)

View from our hotel room:

Chicago - Food and Ditka

Chicago is definitely an eater's town. I could only eat half of almost every entree I had while there, though. Mike and I had Thai at Star of Siam, pizza at both Giordano's and Gino's East (Mike and I both agree that Giordano's is better), Italian at RoSal's (the best Italian meal outside of Italy that I have ever had) and I finally took him out for his very belated birthday dinner at Mike Ditka's. We met Mike Ditka before dinner, too. My dad collects sports memorabilia, so my brother went to the little store in the restaurant to buy my dad a football and the guy behind the counter said, "Go upstairs and get his autograph". We looked at him like, "What? Mike Ditka's here?" and he said, "Yeah, go up and get his autograph. He has pens with him." So, Mike and I ventured upstairs to look for him. He was sitting with two other men, but Mike approached him, shook his hand and then Ditka himself pulled three Sharpies out of his pocket trying to decide which one to sign the ball with. He then took the ball out of my brother's hand and signed it, "Best Wishes Mike Ditka H.O.F. 88". I said "thank you so very much" to him, he looked at me and nodded, and Mike (my brother, not Ditka) went back downstairs and laughed about the whole thing. It was cool. Ditka has awesome blue eyes, an intimidating stare and a big square head. I had my camera in hand, but I didn't dare ask for a picture. I'm pretty sure since it's his restaurant that he pretty much wants to be treated like a normal human being/local anyway. And, of course, I didn't want to look like a tourist. :)

I didn't take too many pictures in Chicago (I'll post opening day pictures tomorrow), but I did manage a few from Mike Ditka's and Giordano's.

Mike Ditka's:
Huge Paddle Steak (Mike ate every bite of it...except the bone, of course) and awesome chocolate birthday cake (we only ate a few bites of it). I accidentally let it slip that dinner was Mike's birthday dinner. Luckily, we just got cake and no singing. Mike and I are definitely not center-of-attention "it's my birthday" kind of people. You cannot tell by the pictures just how huge the steak and piece of cake were, so you'll just have to take my word for it. The piece of cake alone would have easily fed a table of four. (I had a crabcake and creamed spinach...sorry, no pictures.)

Pizza at Giordano's:
(so good we ate there twice...first time with pepperoni and onions, second time with cheese only)

What do you do when you don't feel well and you're bored?

You buy a plane ticket to San Francisco, that's what you do. I'll be in Vancouver all of three weeks when I take my first trip along the west coast to San Francisco. It's been many years since I've been to SF, and I'm really excited about going back. I'll be there from July 11-16. I'll get to see my brother and dad for two days since they will already be there for the baseball All-Star game, and then they fly home super-early Friday morning and I have three days alone to walk the various neighborhoods, shop (first stop...Fillmore Street), go to the Ferry Building, go see the Matisse: Painter as Sculptor exhibition at the SFMOMA and try a few cafes and restaurants (nothing upscale or snooty) that I have read about.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Washington D.C. - White House & Lafayette Park

More pictures to come...

Cranberry-Cornmeal Biscuits

I made these today since I had the urge to bake something, but since my stomach is still unsettled and I haven't had an urge to eat much of anything for the past few days, I figured I shouldn't bake anything too heavy or too sweet. I did manage to eat one of these, though, and they are very good. This recipe originally appeared in Good Housekeeping last Thanksgiving, and I have wanted to try it since then. These would be good served with honey-butter. You could serve these for either dinner or breakfast. They have a crumbly cornbread texture and a slight sweetness. You could add another tablespoon of sugar if you prefer sweeter biscuits.

All of the cornmeal and dried cranberries in my pantry are now gone (YAY!!!), so that's two more things I've used up before my move to Vancouver. My pantry is really starting to look like I'm making an attempt to clean it out. I have two heavy, overstuffed plastic grocery bags I am taking to the food bank next week, too. I got the snappy idea to clean out my pantry at 2:00 a.m. this morning. I just got up out of bed and started doing it, then 45 minutes later I was back in bed. There's some really good stuff in the bags, but since I don't have time to make all of the recipes I wanted to make with the ingredients like I had originally planned, I want to make sure somebody else will get to use them instead. I am donating some rather great stuff from the likes of Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Cost Plus World Market, but for good measure, I also threw in a box of chocolate Malt-o-Meal and Kraft macaroni and cheese from Publix. :)

Cranberry-Cornmeal Biscuits

Source: Adapted from Good Housekeeping

1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease large cookie sheet.

In medium bowl, stir cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until combined. Stir in butter, then milk just until mixture forms a soft dough. Stir in cranberries.

Drop dough by scant 1/4 cups, 2 inches apart, on prepared cookie sheet. Bake biscuits 15 minutes or until golden. Cool biscuits slightly on wire rack to serve warm or cool completely to serve later.

Yield: 12 biscuits

Do ahead: Wrap cooled biscuits in foil in a single layer. Leave at room temperature overnight or freeze up to 1 month. To warm, place in preheated 325 degrees F oven for 5 minutes.

Paris information for my mom

There are more links to be added and I will send you an updated itinerary for Paris and the French Riviera sometime in the next day or two. (I think I figured it all out for the most part.) Catch up on your sleep and pack some comfy walking shoes because we're going to be busy. :)

Tipping in France per David Lebovitz.

(While I am about 99.99% sure that David Lebovitz doesn't read my blog, I just wanted to say thanks to him for promptly responding to an email I sent. He answered my questions and replied with various shopping recommendations and miscellaneous Paris information. Thanks, David!!!)

The Marais section of Paris.

The Montmartre Walk

Tacky tourists

Well, I know for a fact that even though my mom and I are heading to France next week (I can't believe it's only 10 days away!), we won't look this bad. LOL. It is true, though. It's so easy to spot (and hear) an American. There are reasons so many people around the world hate us (besides the fact that W is our president). Just travel abroad and see for yourself.

Three beauties

My friend Bridget sent me a picture of her three daughters, and they are just so adorable I had to post the picture.

Here's Caroline (baby), Ellie (in white) and Maddy (in pink). Caroline looks so peaceful, Ellie looks so lovingly mischievous and Maddy looks so nurturing. Someday I hope to get out to Iowa to meet them all in person and finally see Bridget after all these years.

Washington D.C. Cherry Blossoms

It was very cold during my four days in Washington, D.C. and there were few cherry blossoms that hadn't already died or blown away, but nonetheless I found a few photo opportunities. Most of the cherry blossoms were smooshed into the sidewalks or floating in the tidal basin near the Jefferson Memorial, but I did find some lovely blossoms that were blooming on trees near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Friday, April 13, 2007


My beloved Stars lost in 4 OTs the other night to the Vancouver Canucks, but Game 2 is tonight on Versus (a little-known channel I had to scroll through my TiVo guide to find), and I plan to watch every minute of it...even if it goes 4 OTs again.

Click here for the kick-butt Dallas Stars fight song from Pantera.
Please Note: Do not click on the above link if you have young kids, pets or co-workers around or if you hate loud, obnoxious killer guitar riffs and/or metal music. You've been warned.
Gastown Melvin (posing with his Stanley Cup from the Hockey Hall of Fame and his Vancouver Canucks hockey puck) is cheering on the opposition.

I'm back!!!

My trip to Washington D.C. and Chicago was so much fun, but since I arrived home last night with an unsettled stomach and a dry, hacking cough (as well as waking up with a headache this morning), a trip report and pictures will have to wait.

Also, I have a plethora of emails to respond to, so please be patient. I will respond to all of them by the end of the weekend.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Last post 'til Friday the 13th

Tomorrow, I have a chaotic day of errands (most important being highlights and a haircut) and packing for my trip(s) to Washington D.C. and Chicago. The weather is going to be cold in both cities, and quite frankly, I'm okay with that. I must be one of the few people who actually likes to go sightseeing when it's chilly outside. As if getting down to the airport and getting through security isn't bad enough here in Atlanta, I have to wake up at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday to catch my flight to D.C. I'm starting to wonder why I booked that criminally early flight now. Oh, well...nobody ever said an extra afternoon in D.C. was a bad thing. I have lots of things planned with my friend Kelly, and I've got my fingers-crossed that the cherry blossoms are actually blooming now, too (regardless of the pending colder weather).

As for Chicago, right now the high for opening day at Wrigley Field is 46. Maybe the Blackhawks will show up to play instead of the Cubs. (God, I hope not.) Mike and I have many other things planned in Chicago besides going to opening day, though. We have reservations at some great restaurants (or so I hope) and we're going to the Cezanne to Picasso exhibition at the Art Institute. No trip to Chicago would be complete without visiting Navy Pier and walking along Michigan Avenue, too. I won't be visiting Sears Tower this time, though. I never had a fear of heights until I went up to the top of the Sears Tower many years ago. I've been afraid of heights ever since.

I'll post a trip report when I get back.

Assume now that it's Sunday, April 8th. I have three things to say:

Happy Easter to you all!!!

Happy Birthday to Linda!!!

Set your TiVo because Season 3 of Entourage debuts on HBO at 10:00 p.m.

Lemon Nutmeg Meltaways

My parents went on a two-week cruise to the Caribbean back in February, and one of the ports of call was Grenada. Grenada is well-known as a spice island, and I was lucky enough to receive a big bottle of whole nutmeg as a gift from my mom and dad. This is no ordinary nutmeg. I had to pull out the hammer to break off the outer shell to get to the nutmeg in the middle. This is the darkest, most fragrant nutmeg I have ever seen or smelled. It really puts my previous (so-called high-end) whole nutmeg to shame.

This cookie has everything right going for it...a tart citrus taste from the lemon rind combined with the aromatic warmth of the nutmeg as well as a slightly crisp exterior and a tender interior thanks to the combination of cake flour and cornstarch. These really are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I like the simplicity of the cookie, too.

Lemon Nutmeg Meltaways

Source: Adapted from St. Petersburg Times newspaper

1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon rind
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish

Sift cake flour, cornstarch, salt and nutmeg onto wax paper.

Beat butter, sugar and lemon rind with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sifted dry ingredients to butter mixture.

Beat on low speed until mixture is smooth. Roll dough by teaspoon into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Flatten slightly to 1 1/4-inch circles with bottom of glass dipped in confectioners' sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes, or until cookies have turned pale brown on edges. Let cookies sit on sheet 1-2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool. Sift with confectioners' sugar while still warm. Sift cookies again with confectioners' sugar when completely cooled, if desired.

Pack into airtight containers and store up to one week.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Notes: Use organic lemons since you are zesting the skin.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Sunday Brunch

Since I actually woke up early enough to eat brunch today, I thought I would try two new recipes from two cookbooks I've never used before. (To be fair, I just got one of them in the mail this week, so there's good reason for not using it sooner.)

The Best Bacon comes from the cookbook Celebrate the Rain. The salty flavor of the bacon along with both the bite of cayenne pepper and freshly ground black pepper and the sweetness of the brown sugar makes this bacon recipe a winner. The brown sugar mixture carmelizes the bacon strips with a heat and sweet flavor combination. Delicious!!!

The Best Bacon

Source: Celebrate the Rain - The Junior League of Seattle

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound thick-sliced bacon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Set a wire cooling rack or other slotted rack on top of the foil-lined pan.

Stir together the brown sugar, cayenne, and black pepper in a small bowl until well blended. Lay the bacon strips in a single layer on the rack. (Use 2 pans if all the bacon will not fit in a single layer.) Sprinkle the bacon with the brown sugar mixture. Bake until the bacon is browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the bacon immediately to individual plates and serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Notes: I halved this recipe. Make sure you use a rimmed baking sheet as there is a lot of fat that bakes off the bacon as it cooks. Use freshly cracked ground black pepper, too. The shaker kind would be too fine and too overpowering for this recipe.

Roasted Cornmeal Blueberry Muffins comes from the cookbook The Family Baker. The toasted (and beautifully fragrant) cornmeal adds a nice crunch, and the maple syrup adds a nice sweetness and flavor that regular sugar cannot. Make sure you use real maple syrup (not maple-flavored pancake syrup). I used No. 2 Amber and it was perfect. I also only used one cup of blueberries and the muffins were fine. Of course, you can use the 1 1/2 cups the recipe calls for, but if you only have one package of blueberries like I did, there's no need to run out to buy more. Also, I forgot to sprinkle sugar on top of the muffins before baking, but they were fine without it. Of course, I'm sure the sugar on top would add a nice crunchy sweetness and make them even better, but again, if you forget to sprinkle the muffin tops like I did, it's no big deal. The muffins are dense and just the right texture...not too moist, not too dry.

These two recipes were made to go together. Try them. You'll see. Enjoy!!!

Roasted Cornmeal Blueberry Muffins

Source: The Family Baker - Susan Purdy

Butter-flavor no-stick vegetable spray
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over, rinsed and blotted dry on paper towels (or whole frozen unthawed berries with all ice particles removed)

Granulated sugar

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Roast the cornmeal. (To pan-roast cornmeal, place cornmeal in an ungreased frying pan over medium heat and stir the cornmeal on and off for 7-10 minutes, until it begins to turn a light tan color and smells aromatic. Or, roast the meal in a metal pan at 350 degrees F about 20 minutes, stirring often.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, maple syrup, melted butter, vanilla, milk, and sour cream (or yogurt). Directly on top of this wet mixture add--but don't stir in--the flour, baking powder, salt, and roasted cornmeal. Stir the dry ingredients all at once into the wet, mixing just to combine; do not overbeat. Add the berries and stir once or twice.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling them generously three-quarters full. Sprinkle some sugar on top of each muffin. If you have any unfilled cups in your muffin pan, carefully ladle a little water into each empty cup.

Bake the muffins about 20 minutes, or until they rise, look golden brown on top, and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then coax them out of the pan with a fork and serve warm.

Notes: I used non-fat plain yogurt.