Monday, June 28, 2010

Food from the Road: St. Louis

Here’s a quick little homage to some great food we had on the road in St. Louis, MO at the Sidney Street Café. This unassuming café served us inspiring dishes including fried morel mushrooms, this beet salad with goat cheese, and lobster turnovers.

My companions enjoyed lovely halibut and vibrant beet risotto, sea bass with polenta gnocchi and a stunning ham and egg appetizer with an encrusted soft egg, over toast (in photo above). Once, the fork dipped into that egg, envious oohs and ahhs could be heard around the table as the bright yellow yolk eagerly ran down the crusty bits.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

For the Love of Wedding Cake

Last weekend, we had the honor of attending K and J’s wedding in Amador County, CA. This natural and rustic setting was perfect for their heartfelt and outdoor-loving wedding. I particularly enjoyed their wedding cake which was elegant and delicious.

Justin received a perfect piece of this four layered chocolate cake with berry filling. The cake was accompanied by a scoop of honey lavender or strawberry ice cream.

The cake topper was also very sweet as these two little lovebirds sat perched atop.

Congratulations, K and J!

What was your wedding cake like?

Here’s a link to our wedding cake. We had a small version remade on our fifth wedding anniversary.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Birthday Cupcakes!

Ah, it's June, the time of weddings, baby showers and birthdays!

I made these birthday cupcakes for my friend, Mama A who just had a birthday. But I also have to say Happy Birthday to my cousin, Jen, who we just threw a baby shower for two weeks ago.

These Billy's vanilla vanilla cupcakes are one of my favorite recipes because:

1. they are from scratch and they have a slightly denser crumb which I prefer to a mix.
2. the butter doesn't have to be pre-softened and they turn out just fine if the butter is a bit lumpy in the mix.
3. it's a one bowl recipe.

The vanilla buttercream frosting is super fresh and delicious and made with lots of powdered sugar and butter.

For the little flower, I used Wilton melting chips and melted them in a glass bowl in the microwave at 30 second intervals until soft. I spooned them into a ziploc bag, cut of the edge and piped the flowers on parchment or waxed paper. As you can see, not all of them turn out perfectly but I make more than enough so that I can choose the very best..

You can make anything with these melting chips. They aren't a great list of ingredients but you eat just a bit and they made wonderful decorations.

Here's a little link love to two other cupcakes that I have made- you'll see some similarities!

2. Wedding Shower cupcakes

Hoping to make a few more cupcakes before the summer ends...

Do you have a favorite cupcake recipe? I'd like to branch out and try something new.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summertime Sundae- Fenton's Creamery

When you grow up with a classic, sometimes you don't realize how special it really is. I grew up with Fenton's Creamery in nearby Oakland and it turns out, so have a lot of other people because Fenton's has been around since 1894!

This landmark creamery makes its own ice cream onsite and has a rich history. Whether it's a walk-up ice cream cone that you want or a full sit-down sundae, Fenton's has both. We thought a warm weekend was the perfect time to meet up for a sundae with Anita, who is a local Oaklander.

With Beaker, our dog in tow, we got a seat immediately on the patio and took a look at the extensive menu- it's two pages of ice cream and sundaes!

There are so many delicious choices, it was very hard to choose. What did we have?

A caramel sundae with toasted almond ice cream for Anita...

A root beer float for Justin...

A hot fudge sundae with Swiss milk chocolate ice cream for me.

And some fresh French fries...what can I say, I'm pregnant and salty French fries and sweet ice cream sounded so good!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Drink the Pink: Watermelon-Strawberry Coolers

It's almost summertime and that means time for watermelon. We ended up with a watermelon that's bigger than my head and wanted to make something different but still refreshing.

So what better way to cool off than to blend a bit of watermelon with a few leftover strawberries and some ice in the blender?

Thanks to the ridiculously powerful Vitamix, pulverizing ice is easy peasy for this blender.

In a matter of seconds, I had an icy, naturally sweet pink drink...yum!

What other things do you make with watermelon?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Baby Shower Desserts: Onesie Cookies and Pinwheel Cupcakes

And now for the treats! This is my favorite part...the baking! We decided that Debbie, cake and cupcake baker extraordinaire, would make the cupcakes and darling pinwheels and I would make the sugar cookie favors.

The Cookies

I borrowed a cookie cutter shaped like a onesie from my neighbor, Toni. You may remember that she is my cookie decorator partner in crime from our wedding shower cookies. Because my cousin doesn't want to know the gender of the baby, I chose yellow as the frosting color and to decorate half like boys and half like girls.

For the cookie recipe, I use a classic Martha sugar cookie one but for some reason, it's no longer online. And this time, I had some new tools to use! Above is my new pastry mat from the Pampered Chef. It's non stick and I love the grids to roll pie crust or measure. I also have a new thin spatula that is great for lifting the cutout shapes. Lately, I've learned to bake the cookies and decorate them on separate nights. If I can't do it back to back, I've been freezing the cookies in tupperware and thawing them the night before I frost them. This time, I made the cookies on a Wednesday and frosted them on Thursday. Toni came to help on Thursday!

The shower was Saturday and from past experience, this royal icing frosting needs 2 days to fully dry before you bag the cookies. You might recall that I bagged the wedding cookies after one night of drying and even though the surface felt hard, the frosting wasn't and the moisture migrating into the cookies and made them soft. I had no problems this time with a 2 day dry time before bagging. We made about 30 cookies and tried many different designs. First we piped an outline and then filled it with flow frosting. Then we piped over the top.

Here are a few designs:

For a boy...

For a girl...

A little lighter on the frosting...

and a little flower design.

and finally we bagged them and tied them with ribbon.

The Cupcakes

I can't take any credit for these- the lovely cupcakes were made by Debbie. She also made the darling pinwheels. She used Billy's vanilla vanilla frosting, which is my favorite.

She also piped in a raspberry cream filling using a number 5 tip and pastry bag after the cupcakes were baked. The top layer of frosting covers the hole.

Take a look at these tiny pinwheel with a sparkly center. She made them by hand out of the same paper as the invitations that we made and then glued it onto a lollipop stick.

Do you have any clever desserts for baby showers? We'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Baby Shower Food Ideas: Fruity Flowers, Savory Salads and Panini

Are you planning a shower? We were excited to plan the menu for this baby shower for 22 ladies. We wanted the food to be fresh and festive. Here's the main menu:

• Baked brie wrapped in puff pastry
• Vegetables with yogurt dip
• Hummus with pita chips
• Asparagus wrapped in puff pastry with prosciutto

• Edible Fruit Flowers
• Greek salad
• Field greens with pears and honey lavender dressing
• Black forest ham and Swiss cheese panini with cornichons
• Chicken parmesan panini

The Details:

Baked Brie in Puff Pastry

I absolutely love this appetizer because it is easy to make and easy to eat. I've posted a version of this before with jam and puff pastry and brie. This simpler version has no jam, honey, nuts or dried fruit and the seam is on the bottom. Click here for a great video tutorial on how to fold this.

If you have cookie cutters, using the scraps, you can easily cut out shapes and use a bit of whisked egg to "glue" the scraps on top.

It always turns out very cute. Here it is before baking. After you bake it, be sure to let this cool at least 45 minutes or a hour such that when you cut into it the brie doesn't gush out. I also recommend serving it on a platter with sides in case it does gush out.

Asparagus Wrapped in Puff Pastry and Prosciutto

This is an easy and elegant recipe that wraps prosciutto and puff pastry around asparagus. I have already posted this in detail from the Oscar party so just click on the link.

This Greek salad was made by Amber and it was juicy and fresh, filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, feta and green onions.

My mom made this field green salad with fresh pears, asiago cheese, pecans and a honey lavender dressing. You can also surround the salad with the pears for a more formal appearance. The honey lavender dressing was made with garlic, honey, white balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, and coarse ground mustard. Be sure to use culinary lavender, available at cooking stores and some grocery stores. Non-culinary lavendar may not be food grade.

Fruit Flowers
I've learned a few tricks in making these since the original post about fruit flower bouquets. Click the link to see the how-to but a few new tips:

1. Cut the fruit the night before and store it covered and in the fridge. Save the assembly for the next day.

2. Use small seedless watermelon. Larger watermelons seem to have less dense flesh that falls apart when cut. I tried both this time and the seedless one was much more homegeneous and dense and cut easily without falling apart.

3. Get creative with grapes and use them to fill in. I did a lot of grape and strawberry skewers to fill in the elaborate watermelon-kiwi-pineapple- strawberry flowers.

4. Use an Easter basket for the holder if you don't want to carve a melon as the base. I'm still figuring out what is the best dense material to stick the skewers in inside the basket...I used part of a cantaloupe in the basket.
Here's a finished basket with a mix of the elaborate flowers and the simple grape skewers. We made three different ones and they were lovely to eat but also as decoration.

My mom made two kinds of panini: Black forest ham with swiss cheese and cornichons on top as well as a chicken parmesan panini.

The cornichons made a lovely garnish. Mom also used a bit of mustard and mayo as a spread.

The chicken parmesan sandwich was made with a pounded chicken cutlet, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. It was garnished with fresh basil and parsley.

And dessert....coming in the next post!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Baby Shower: Handmade and from the Heart

This weekend four of us, Debbie, Amber, Mom and I hosted a baby shower for my cousin, Jen, who is due a few months before I am! I'm so excited that we'll have cousins that will be the same age!

She is waiting to find out if it is a boy or a girl so we kept the colors neutral: mostly green and yellow with a bit of light blue. This handmade shower from the heart had a bit of a flag and pinwheel theme as well which was sweet and whimsical.

We hosted about 22 ladies for a light lunch. The full menu and food will be in the next post but you can see, we created a very fresh and festive menu of salads and panini and fruit.

We had a lot of help from the guys preparing for the shower- special thanks to Dad for helping me carefully create the edible fruit flowers! You might remember this from a previous post. These turned out even better than the original ones!

Debbie created this darling pinwheels from the same paper as the invitations (paper from Martha Stewart collection at Michaels). She also made these wonderful filled cupcakes and the paper banner above. Jen took the paper banner to hang in the baby's room- what a great idea!

The cupcakes were just darling and delicious and the tiny pinwheels had a sparkly center. Debbie made these by hand and glued them to a lollipop stick- a great idea.

We arranged pinwheels with daisies as well.

A mix of yellow, green and white daisies including Gerber were just perfect for this day.

I made sugar cookies shaped like onesies as favors...

and Debbie created a "baby" CD as well.

Here we are proudly showing off our baby bumps! Congratulations to Jen!