Monday, December 22, 2014

We [HEART] Cowgirl Creamery

We never get close to the Ferry Building without going in and spending an obscene amount of money on tasty salted pig parts and cheese!  It's probably a good thing that Cowgirl Creamery isn't closer to us; I'd just have to sign my paycheck over to them each month.

This trip the boys even turned down lunch at a restaurant. They just wanted to go to the Ferry Building and get some cheese and meats. I'm down with that. Jake went to find somewhere to sit and I took the mini-caseophiles into Cowgirl.

The boys grabbed a number and waited, impatiently, for their turn with the cheese specialist.

"Number eighteen?" one of them called.

"Right here," declared R, waving his number. "I'd like some Red Hawk, please." Click to read more about the Red Hawk: here.

It's a family favorite. And this time around, he didn't mess around with half of a wheel. We got the whole thing!

"I'd like to try a bleu cheese, please," said the Wombat. The cheese specialist glanced over his head at me. I nodded. 

She asked he wanted a mild bleu or a stronger one. Stronger, please. 

"We love seeing kids who have a great cheese palate and know what they want. When I was a kid, I only ate Kraft singles." 

I'll admit it: I did buy this cheese for the name. Sottocenere. Under ashes. How can you resist a name like that?

I imagined sitting under a tree in Pompeii washing this down with a bottle of Lacrimi del Cristo. And beyond the coolest name ever, it's a truffle cheese. Yes, I was in heaven.

And we picked up some Fra'Mani. Salame Piemontese was my pick for the day. I love the warm, aromatic addition of cardamom, ginger, and clove.

Look at these guys! One likes the stinkiest cheeses he can find. The other takes photos of his food before he eats it. You'd think their mom is a food writer or something!. The apples don't fall far from the tree, apparently.

This crazy 12-hour whirlwind was a great way to celebrate our Wombat and his upcoming birthday.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bejeweled Bread Pudding

For D's class holiday breakfast, he wanted to bring bread pudding. He wanted to use quinoa bread, but I didn't have any more and didn't feel like making any. Sorry. But, I stirred in some cooked red quinoa and it looked just the same. He was satisfied; I was relieved. Off it went.

I was inspired to bake a re-do since I didn't get to try any of D's bread pudding. I added some caramelized apples, fresh persimmon, and pomegranate arils that reminded me of carnelian and garnets. The bread pudding looked bejeweled.

  • 8-10 C cubed bread (I used a mixture of a French loaf and a wheat loaf)
  • 3/4 C cooked red quinoa
  • 4-5 large eggs
  • 2 C eggnog
  • 3/4 C + 2 T organic dark brown sugar
  • 2 T pure vanilla extract
  • 2 T organic almond extract
  • butter
  • 1 T spices (I used a mixture of ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, and ground ginger)
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T organic granulated sugar
  • 2 apples, sliced
  • 2 Fuyu persimmon, peeled and sliced
  • pomegranate arils
  • eggnog for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggnog, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and extracts. Stir in the spices, then blend in the bread cubes and quinoa until moistened.

Press the mixture into the buttered baking stone. Cover with foil. Bake for 50 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with 2 T sugar. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is firm and golden.

While the pudding bakes make your topping. Place sliced apples in a saucepan with butter and sugar. Heat until the caramel forms and the apples are softened.

To serve, slice the bread pudding and place them on serving plates. Top them with the caramel apples, sliced persimmons, and a sprinkling of pomegranate arils. Drizzle with eggnog.

Candle Making by Hand-Dipping

You could argue that this post doesn't belong on my kitchen's more of a Maker Manns thing. Fair enough. But it was done in my kitchen, with my stove, with my pots, with my knives and my kitchen twine, and I sacrificed the Bodom glass out of my French press. So, I'm still calling it a culinary adventure!

Two of our best friends had mentioned wanting to come over and make candles. They had the wax and the wicks. So, on the first full day of Christmas break from school (last night), Jake picked them up and I rushed home from work to make dinner - jasmine rice, beetroot and pumpkin curry, and mekaral salad. That's for another post. Back to candle making....

After our Sri Lankan-themed dinner, we cranked up the Christmas tunes and went to work.


  • wax
  • wicks (at first we used some pre-fabricated wicks they brought, then we moved to my 100% cotton kitchen twine)
  • knife for chipping the wax into small pieces
  • tall canister, either tempered glass or metal ,that will fit inside another pot
  • pot
  • water
  • bucket

Place your wax chips in a tall container that can withstand heat. As I mentioned, I used my Bodum glass. Place that container in a pot of water where the water comes up about half way on the canister. Heat gently until the wax chips melt.

Have a bucket of water near your work area.

Hold the wick by one end and dip it in the hot wax. Dip it into the cold water. Repeat.

That's all there is to it...

Then hang them somewhere to harden completely.

D and I made small candles to put on his birthday cake next week. And, I think, everyone had a good time. We'll definitely do it again soon.

Have you ever hand-dipped candles? Would love some tips on how to add color and fragrance.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Turkey á la Chop Suey Palace for #foodnflix

For this month's Food'N'Flixwe watched, or rewatched as the case may be, A Christmas Story. Heather, at girlichef, is the brain behind this fun event and our hostess this month. Click to see Heathers's invitation.

This post contains an affiliate link for the DVD at the bottom. 

I have to admit that I've never seen this movie. Heather was blown away by that admission: "WHAT!? This is a childhood classic, I thought everybody had seen it ;). Look forward to seeing what you make, Cam!" Okay. Here we go...

On the Screen...
From what I read, this film is based in part on a collection of short story memoirs by satirist Jean Shepherd entitled In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. True to its satire roots, one reason A Christmas Story is so comical: even its most ridiculously outrageous moments feel grounded in reality. You might have gushed - and cringed -, while watching, "Eeek! That happened to me!"

Although the film's setting is never specified, it appears to be pre-WWII, maybe the early 1940s. Protagonist Ralphie Parker is coveting the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action BB gun. When he shares that with his mom, she dismisses it with a wave of her hand: "You'll shoot your eye out." Unfazed, Ralphie continues his campaign with his father, his teacher, and even the Mall Santa. The consensus: he'll shoot his eye out.

There's more to the movie than a kid's campaign for a dangerous toy - it is a classic after all. There are sequences that every child - and adult - can relate to. Think getting your tongue stuck to a pole; accidentally swearing in front of your parents; when tables turn on the school yard bully; and constant sibling spats. Just watch it. There's a lot of nostalgia and a whole lot of fun. On to the food...

On the Plate...
Not surprisingly, I was inspired by this scene. It was just too funny to pass up. "It's smiling at me!"

Okay, mine came without its head, so it wasn't smiling. I did an Asian-inspired glaze in honor of the Chop Suey Palace. I did not, however, sing when I brought it to the table.

Does the idea of roasting a whole duck intimidate you? Don't let it. This is so just takes time...and a little bit of patience.

Here’s the basic technique: 4 hours at 300 degrees, glaze, then finish it at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes. Here's a more detailed how-to...

Christmas Turkey á la Chop Suey Palace

  • fresh duck
  • sea salt
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 C rice vinegar
  • 3 T honey
  • 2 T ginger syrup
  • 1/3 C tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/4 C toasted sesame oil
  • 3 T hot sauce (I used some from my friend Belle!)
  • 3 T minced garlic

Unwrap the bird and remove all of the giblets from the duck's cavity. When your duck is empty, rinse it under cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity with some salt. 

With a sharp knife, score a diamond pattern into the duck skin on the breast. Slice very carefully - you want to cut through most of the fat without cutting into the meat. As luck would have it, a duck’s layer of fat is fairly thick. So this process is relatively easy once you get the hang of it.

Poke the duck’s skin all over with a sharp knife, creating small holes through which the fat can escape more easily. Only prick the skin, try not to poke the meat.

It's time to truss the duck! Cross the legs and tie them together like this with a piece of butcher’s twine.

Now it goes into the oven, breast side up.

After the first hour, pull the pan out of the oven. The skin will still be pale, but should be a little bit crisp when poked. Pour off the duck fat into a separate container; I used a large mason jar.
Prick the skin all over with a knife. When pierced, the skin should let out more molten duck fat. Make sure to get the area around the legs, which is particularly fatty.

Flip the bird over, so it’s breast-side down. Pour off more of the duck fat. And pop it back into the oven, breast-side down, for another hour at 300 degrees.

After the second hour, pull the pan out of the oven. The skin will be browner, and more crisp. Prick the skin all over, again and flip the bird breast-side up. Pour off the duck fat again.

Put it back in the oven, breast-side up, for 1 more hour at 300 degrees. After the third hour, remove the pan from the oven. Your duck should be significantly browner and getting more crispy. Prick the skin all over, pour off more fat, and pop it back in the oven. Roast breast-side down for a final hour at 300 degrees.

While the duck is roasting for its last hour, make the glaze...

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened. Remove your glaze from the heat.

After the 4th hour in the oven, pull the pan out of the oven and raise the heat up to 400 degrees.

Brush the duck with glaze so that it's completely covered. If your glaze has cooled and is too thick to spread, just warm it up on the stove and it’ll liquify quickly.

Stick your pan back in the oven, and roast at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes - just until your duck is a beautiful brown color. Keep a close eye on it, and pull it out if it starts to burn.

And that's a wrap for the 2014 #FoodNFlix events. What a year it has been!!

We'll be back in January when Evelyne at Cheap Ethnic Eatz is hosting. We'll be watching Bridget Jones's Diary. Stay tuned for her invitation. Merry Christmas! I hope yours doesn't involve any dog-napped poultry.

Pop In Fun for the Teen Chef Program

Earlier this week I headed over to our local library where they have a Teen Chef program. My task: stay within a $25 budget (or donate materials) and create a healthy snack that teens could make while watching a movie...without a stove or microwave. Oh, and "sometimes they just drop in, so there's no real presentation time." Challenge accepted.

I've always wanted to host a popcorn bar. Done!

I did create some flyers with a little bit of history and information. One of the teens asked, "Do I have to take a flyer or can I just have the popcorn?" Take the flyer. This is a library. You need to read! You might learn something. (Yes, I really did say case you're wondering.)

What makes popcorn “pop”?
The secret is in the kernel. Popcorn comes from a particular kind of maize that produces small kernels with a hard outer shell. These kernels are inedible as is. To get to the soft, edible part, you have to heat the kernel to the point where the heat turns the moisture inside the kernel into steam. Then the outer shell bursts, releasing the soft inner flake and becoming what we recognize as popcorn.

What is popcorn?
The popcorn variety of maize was domesticated by Pre-Columbian indigenous peoples around over 7000 years ago. It’s a harder form of flint corn where the stalks produce several ears at a time. The “pop” is not exclusive to this type of maize, but the flake of other kinds is smaller. 

Popcorn likely arrived in the America over 2500 years ago, but was not found growing east of the Mississippi River until the early 1800s. Today the Midwest is famous for its “Corn Belt.” 

First Pop
Evidence of popcorn’s first “pop” did not appear until the 1820s, when it was marketed under the name Pearl or Nonpareil Corn. Its popularity quickly began to spread throughout the South and by the mid-1800s popcorn, as a snack, gained a foothold in America. Prestigious literary magazines such as New York’s Knickerbocker and The Yale Literary Magazine used the term ‘popcorn.’ 

By 1848, the word “popcorn” was part of John Russell Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms. Bartlett asserted that the word, and name, derived from “the noise it makes on bursting open.” Pop, pop, pop!

Since I had no stove and no microwave, I used R's air popper to make about 40 servings. Pop, pop, pop! Told the kids they could pop however made sense to them...or even buy pre-popped popcorn, if they didn't have any other way. Here's where it gets fun...

Kinda like that ice cream place where you mix-in. I gave the teens lots of options for sweet and savory. I've listed what I provided, but feel free to get creative!

For the popcorn bar...
  • popped corn
  • melted butter or spray butter (opted for the latter since,again,  I had no heat source)
  • paper bags

Sweet Mix-Ins
  • raisins
  • banana chips
  • shredded coconut
  • diced dried pineapple
  • granulated honey
  • granulated sugar
  • chocolate chips
  • cinnamon-sugar
  • mini marshmallows

Savory Mix-Ins
  • shredded cheese
  • nuts and seeds (I offered pecans, sunflower seeds, and sliced almonds)
  • chia seeds
  • crumbled cheese
  • furikake
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Herbs and Spice to Mix In
  • fresh parsley
  • fresh dill
  • fresh thyme
  • fresh oregano
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly grated cinnamon

How to...
Scoop in your popped corn. Give it a spritz of butter. Add in your toppings. Shake!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In the Spirit of Giving: Fun Foodie Picks

'Tis the season. Yesterday I had a moment of clarity about the Spirit of Giving.

My 10-year-old was wandering around CostPlus World Market, looking for the last of his Secret Santa gifts. His buddy has been in a few of my Friday afternoon elective classes and, apparently, they talk about food and cooking a lot. So, D had some ideas of what he wanted to get, including measuring spoons, spices, and a spatula. He had a budget of $7 because he had already spent $3 on other days' gifts.

Let me set the stage: It was raining. I had just finished a class at the library and was tired. I just wanted to get home to work on other things. I was tempted to rush him into a selection.

But as I listened to him, questioning which one his buddy would like more, searching to see if there was something better, and staying within his budget I realized: he was focusing on what someone else would really want and need. His gift would be thoughtful. And THAT is the spirit of giving. 

So, I we stayed in that store for almost an hour. Dinner was late, but it was worth it.

That experience made me think about compiling a list of some fun foodie picks for under the tree or just in stockings.* 

Some of these I have. Some I just covet. 
Some I bought for myself. Some were gifts.
Enjoy. What's on your wish list??


*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the book or item of your choice.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Royal Icing in Secret Santa's Gingerbread Cookie Workshop

D's class is doing a Secret Santa Gift Exchange this week. He decided that he wanted to bring his buddy some decorated gingerbread men on the first day. I still had some Puerquitos dough. So I rolled out, cut the men, and baked before I ran out the door for a girls' evening with Pia. 

D decorated the cookies with Jake (thanks for helping, my Love); and I helped D wrap them up in the morning.

Royal Icing

  • egg whites from two eggs, or more if needed to thin icing
  • 4 C organic powdered sugar, or more to thicken icing
  • juice from one lemon

Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. 

Add sugar and lemon juice. Beat for another minute. 

If the icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it's too thin, add more sugar. 

Add food coloring if you desire. This icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

D's Secret Santa neglected to bring him a gift. He was sad. But he wrapped up his second present tonight and said, " I hope my Secret Santa remembers me tomorrow." Sweet boy. I hope so, too.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Candied Buddha’s Hand-Olive Oil Shortbread for #fbcookieswap v.2014

When I was trying to decide what cookies I would make for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap of 2014, I raised the question of cookie flavor combinations to social media. I received lots of great suggestions from matcha-toffee to rose-ginger and from pumpkin-cranberry to peanut butter-pretzel. But, in the end, my cookie was determined by this...

Buddha's Hand Citron are just too cool not to incorporate into a cookie! Have you ever used a Buddha's Hand? Here's a brief intro to Buddha's Hand.

  • 3 C flour
  • 1 C organic powdered sugar
  • ¼ C organic granulated sugar
  • 1 T limoncello
  • ¼ C chopped candied Buddha’s Hand citron*
  • zest from 1 organic lemon
  • 1/2 t fleur de sel
  • 1 C good quality olive oil

*Candied Buddha's Hand Citron (do this ahead of time)...

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, limoncello, candied citron, lemon zest, and fleur de sel. Pour in the olive oil and stir until the dry mixture is completely incorporated into a cohesive ball.

Transfer the dough to a baking dish. My stoneware didn't require greasing, but you might want to grease your dish first. Use your fingers to press the dough into an even layer. Prick the surface of the dough all over with a fork; I also cut score marks for the squares.

Bake until the surface feels firm to the touch and is slightly golden around the edges, approximately 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven, re-score the shortbread, and let cool for 20 minutes.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the shortbread into the pieces. Let cool completely before removing from the pan.

This was such a fun project...and for such a great cause. I will definitely participate in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015! Be a good cookie and join the fun next year.

Here's a special message from the Cookies for Kids' Cancer team:

"The Cookies for Kids' Cancer team wants to extend a big thank you for participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. By simply swapping cookies, you helped raise funds for pediatric cancer research, bringing HOPE to children battling this ruthless disease. Being a Good Cookie does not have to end here. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a 365-day a year non-profit, with bake sales happening in all 50 states. Simply go to to learn more about the cause, to register to host an event or  send cookies to your friends and family this holiday season. And thank you for being a Good Cookie!"

For this year's Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I was assigned to ship to Sonja of Ginger & Toasted Sesame, Kelsey of Taste for Trouble, and Robin of A Shaggy Dough Story. I hope they enjoyed these. I'll post links to the entire round-up later. Look for it. You'll have plenty of inspiration for those holiday cookie platters!

And if you want to join the fun next year, visit this link and sign up for a notification. I know I'll be doing this again.

Thanks, too, to the gals who baked for me. Alice of Dining with Alice. Heidi of Awesome with Sprinkles. And Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. My family and I really appreciated the sweets...and I loved the inspiration to log a few extra miles on my running shoes.

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