Cashmere Apron

All For Mom

May 8 is just around the corner and with it, a day that is dedicated to M-O-M. This carefully curated list of gift ideas appeals to different tastes and preferences and there is sure to be something every mom would appreciate (or at least I would)! All of these gifts can be found online and ordered, except for the weekend getaway, of course!

Mothers Day Guide(1) Fitbit Alta Luxe
Motivation Is Your best Accessory.” The updated and more glam Fitbit Alta comes in a trendy array of colors including: blush leather, graphite leather and stainless steel. The classic version still comes in black, blue, plum and teal. The updated look and features will keep mom moving, grooving and on trend.

(2) Oscar de la Renta –  a Restrospective at the de Young Galleries in San Francisco running through May 30. An overview of the exhibition is described as follows, “Oscar de la Renta’s designs celebrated the best in us—beauty, optimism, and confidence. Including more than 130 ensembles, this world-premiere retrospective pays tribute to one of the most beloved and influential fashion icons of our time.” Definitely a reason to visit San Francisco with your mom, and if geography poses an issue, check out the art galleries in your town. A relaxing Sunday viewing art, lunching, drinking champagne…O’ Happy Mother’s Day!

(3) Juice Beauty Gift Set. “As the new creative director of makeup for Juice Beauty, Gwyneth [Paltrow] collaborated with the company on a line of organic makeup this winter. And this month, in further partnership with Juice Beauty the launch of a new organic skincare line goop by Juice Beauty.” (Glamour Magazine, March 2016). The company is based in California and the all organic formulations offer everything from skincare to make-up that starts with a pure, unadulterated juice base. Juice Beauty offers FREE shipping on orders over $30 and 15% off your first purchase by signing up for their newsletter. The product line is extensive and reasonably priced.

(4) Simone Le Blanc Spa Indulgence Gift Box. A company that curates anything but ordinary gift boxes, Simone Le Blanc believes in connecting people through carefully selected gift experiences. The way they package their gifts, along with the quality would absolutely make me want to be the recipient of one of these special packages at my front door. They offer everything from her to him to babies and more. Classy. Elegant. Unique. Their pricing starts at the reasonable and ramps up to the high but there is a wide array of quality selections for every budget. This particular Mother’s Day gift box includes:

  • Coyuchi Organic Cotton Robe. A beautiful and elegant bathrobe handmade of 100% organic cotton, fabricated to be both lightweight, incredibly absorbent, and soft-to-the-touch. S/M, fits most.
  • L’Objet 28 Candle. Bright mint, deep Rose de Mai, orange flower, topped with warm honeyed amber notes swirl in this candle inspired by travels to Morocco. Hand blended and poured into a keepsake porcelain and brass vessel. A truly luxurious candle.
  • Rodin Body Cream. A luxurious formula of calming jasmine and nourishing neroli essential oils, moisturizers, healing agents and antioxidants to smooth skin and restore glow.
  • Rodin Body Oil. A gloriously rich elixir for restoring suppleness and radiance. Made of eleven aromatic and skin-soothing essential oils derived from flowers and other botanicals.
  • Cousus De Fils Soaps. A trio of fine soaps handmade in France using traditional techniques. Naturally scented and made without artificial ingredients. Beautifully wrapped in antique wallpaper patterns.
  • Simone LeBlanc Gold Foil and Stone Leather “Moments” Journal. Dove gray leather journal with gold foil embossed “Moments” lettering for capturing special memories. A timeless keepsake.
  • Crystal Geode. A unique geode to fill the home with charm, vision, and an open heart. The perfect sparkling memento.
  • Signature Simone LeBlanc Keepsake Wood Box. Handmade in Los Angeles. Reusable and just right for storing beloved heirlooms or personal mementos.
  • Menu with inspirational quote and component details.

(5) Alexis Bittar 4-Piece Stacking Ring Set. Alexis Bittar is the CEO and Creative Designer of the jewelry company bearing his name. He is best known for his lucite bangles and high fashion runway collaborations. His jewelry is modern and just different enough to always invoke the question from others of, “That’s beautiful…where did you get it?” My mom gave me a very unique Alexis Bittar stacking necklace for my birthday and I get compliments on it EVERY day (I am NOT being dramatic). The jewelry price point is very reasonable and his line is carried widely at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. I loved this ring and thought it would be a very well-received Mother’s Day gift!

(6) The Giving Keys classic “Inspire” necklace. A “pay it forward company” that helps employ others impacted by homelessness. Custom-made in Los Angeles, The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness in Los Angeles to make key necklaces and other jewelry out of repurposed keys. Singer/Songwriter Caitlin Crosby is the company’s founder and lives by the motto, “Keep your eyes open to all the needs you see around you. They are all over the place.” Today, The Giving Keys are carried in over 1200 stores in the US and internationally including Nordstrom, Fred Segal and Kitson. There is a large, budget-friendly priced product line which can also be found online. The company also says, “Our products are worn proudly and intentionally by individuals from all walks of life who want to be inspired and touch others with their words.” I can’t imagine a more meaningful gift for the woman that inspires you.

(7) Spa and relax away at The Bernardus Lodge & Spa in Carmel Valley, California. Okay, not everyone can just take off for a weekend in Carmel Valley with their mom. BUT, what a great sentiment! You can always schedule a special day at a local spa. We did this for my mom’s birthday this past weekend and what a great day we shared. We worked out overlooking the ocean, had a delicious lunch, received amazing massages and finished our day with a glass of rose and a beautiful ocean view. Maybe the Bernardus Lodge & Spa can be on a future list. It is sooooooooo worth it. Tucked away in a beautiful valley – the calm and mellow feel coupled with gourmet locally-sourced food and the incredible scenery will keep you coming back year after year.

(8) Pamela Love: Muses and Manifestations Book. This beautiful hardcover book would not only be gorgeous on a coffee table or nightstand, but the content is inspiring as well. Give mom a copy of this tome and wrap it with a soft afghan. Trendsetting contemporary jeweler, Pamela Love, invites you into her universe, revealing the obsessions and inspiration behind her cult jewelry line she began in 2007. Part of the book, which inspired me, shows her process for jewelry creation and the use of vision boards and where she finds her motivation. The pages are colorful, elegant and so captivating. This is an excellent gift for mom to enjoy and think of you every time she sees it.

I hope you find something appealing on this list for your mom, or maybe for YOU. Happy Mother’s Day.

vanilla caramel popcorn halloween cupcakes

Lead HalloweenIngredients
one dozen vanilla cupcakes (use your favorite recipe)
melting chocolate
salted caramel popcorn
caramel sauce
pastry bag or squeeze bottle
melon baller
parchment paper
Halloween cupcake liners

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients
1 lb box of C&H Pure Cane Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter (softened)

Directions
Make vanilla cupcakes and let cool on a rack.

While cupcakes are cooling, melt chocolate and add to a pastry bag (the process would be neater in a squeeze bottle but I didn’t have one on hand). On a sheet of parchment paper, pipe out chocolate spider webs. They are simple to make once you get the hang of it. I used this tutorial from the internet (the example uses white chocolate but the process is the same for dark chocolate). Once you have created your spider webs, leave them to harden on the parchment paper or pop in the fridge until you are ready to use (they harden in about 15 minutes-very quick).

Easily pipe spiderwebs onto parchment paper

Even with my hands covered in chocolate, I managed to create these cute chocolate webs

While your spider webs are setting, take your melon-baller and scoop out a hole in the top of each cupcake. Fill the hole with caramel sauce. Once all of the holes are filled, make the vanilla buttercream frosting.

Scoop out a small hole in the cupcake and fill with caramel sauce

The caramel center is a yummy surprise in almost every bite

To make frosting, add all of the frosting ingredients to a mixing bowl and beat with a mixer for approximately 2-minutes, scraping down the sides. Add frosting to a pastry bag and frost all of the cupcakes in any style you desire. I used a thicker frosting tip to cover the cupcakes thoroughly.

A tray of homemade Halloween sweets

A tray of homemade Halloween treats for every age

Once the cupcakes are frosted, cover the top with the salted caramel popcorn and insert a spider web in the middle. Arrange on a platter and serve for a fun, Halloween dessert.

*Add the popcorn to the top of the cupcakes right before serving so it doesn’t go stale from exposure to the air.

The popcorn adds a whimsical touch to the cupcake

The popcorn adds a whimsical touch and a crunch to every bite of cupcake

root beer float popsicles

IMG_8895

Labor Day almost requires that our toes not leave the sand – summer can’t really be (almost) over, can it? Wimbledon, Fireworks and the Fourth of July had my attention just yesterday it seems. If you’re planning on celebrating and entertaining this weekend, try a fun and easy dessert that’s the epitome of summer and sunshine and kids running through the sprinklers. Below find two types of popsicles – a version for kids and adults (Root Beer float) and one for just the adults (fresh peach and Bellini). With the extra root beer, you can also make mini-root beer floats.

Mini root beer floats to go with the popsicles

Mini root beer floats to go with the popsicles

You can easily make these popsicles ahead to ease last minute rushing and preparation. Pass these popsicles around, kick your feet up and savor the last bites of summer.

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups A&W root beer
1/2 cup vanilla bean ice cream (softened)
1 Hershey’s milk chocolate bar
popsicle mold
cupcake liners

RootBeerFloatCollage

Directions
Slowly pour 4 1/2 cups of root beer into a large bowl. Once the fizzing has subsided, gently add 1/2 cup of softened vanilla bean ice cream to the bowl and stir slowly until melted into the root beer. Pour mixture into popsicle molds using a measuring cup with a spout (if possible).

The mixture will fizz a little bit more when poured into the molds due to the carbonation in the root beer. Once the fizzing has stopped, drop a few very small pieces of Hershey’s milk chocolate into each popsicle mold. The chocolate will float to the bottom and be in the first bite once these tasty treats are served.

Before removing frozen popsicles from their mold, cut a tiny hole in the bottom of the cupcake liners. Once the popsicles are out of the mold, push the popsicle stick through the cupcake liner to add a mini “drip tray.”

Arrange popsicles in a decorative ice bucket filled with ice and serve immediately. You can also place the popsicles on wax paper on a large dinner plate, stacking them into a few layers with wax paper between each layer and put into the freezer until you are ready to serve.

 

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Also easy to make ahead – scoop vanilla bean ice cream into small mason jars and freeze. Load them on a tray when ready to serve and add the root beer and whipped cream.

fresh peach and bellini popsicles

IMG_8933
Ingredients
2-3 large peaches, peeled and diced
2 cups+2Tb cranberry juice
1, 8 1/2 ounce bottle of prepared Bellini (find in your grocery store’s chilled spirits section)
fresh mint leaves
popsicle mold

A hint of mint

A hint of mint

Directions
Place peaches in a blender and add 1-2 Tb of cranberry juice. Blend until the peaches are pureed into a liquid – 30 seconds to one minute. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the 8 1/2 ounces of prepared Bellini and 2 cups of cranberry juice and mix with a large spoon.

Pour mixture into popsicle molds slowly using a measuring cup with a spout (if possible). Add a few fresh leaves of mint to every popsicle. The mint will float on the top but once the popsicle stick is inserted, the mint will be pushed further into the popsicle mold.

Freeze popsicles. Before removing frozen popsicles from their mold, cut a tiny hole in the bottom of cupcake liners. Once the popsicles are out of the mold, push the popsicle stick through the cupcake liner to add a mini “drip tray.”

Labor Day poolside dessert

Labor Day poolside dessert

Arrange popsicles in a decorative ice bucket filled with ice or pass around on a large tray with fresh mint leaves decorating the platter. Serve immediately. You can also place the popsicles on wax paper on a large dinner plate, stacking them into a few layers with wax paper between each layer and put into the freezer until you are ready to serve.

Garnish with fresh mint and serve on a large platter or in an ice bucket

Garnish with fresh mint and serve on a large platter or in an ice bucket

lemon-thyme cake

FullSizeRenderIsn’t it annoying when a recipe calls for a few sprigs of a particular fresh herb and you are essentially left with the full amount? In my case, the culprit was thyme, whose two sprigs capped off my perfect pot roast. Rather than toss the bunch, I decided to try a few different recipes and really max out the versatility of the herb. One such recipe is this scrumptious cake that popped up as soon as I Googled “lemon-thyme cake.” The talented ladies from the blog Spoon Fork Bacon published the original recipe in 2014 and it is a winner.

No one in my family could pass the cake stand without breaking off pieces of the light fluffly deliciousness. We chipped away diligently until all that remained was a smattering of crumbs.

The Lemon-Thyme cake will debut at my sister’s house on Mother’s Day; one cake wrapped for my sister as a thank you for hosting and another cake as an “I Love You” to my mom. I’m picking up white cake boxes and wrapping each one in soft yellow ribbon with sprigs of thyme on top. Personally, I think it’s a gift everyone will enjoy and it comes straight from the heart (and, of course, will be accompanied by a bottle of champagne).

This piece might seem big, until you take a BITE.

This piece might seem big, until you take a BITE.

Makes 2 (8”) cakes

Cake Ingredients
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (I used C&H pure granulated sugar and it was fine)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh minced thyme

Frosting Ingredients
I strayed from the SFB frosting and made a lemon buttercream which was easy and divine, especially with the hint of lemon subtly popping through.

1/2 cup butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 to 6 Tb lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon peel
Lemonthyme1

Cake Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl.
3. Place sugar, butter and eggs into another mixing bowl and whisk together. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture and whisk together until very thick and combined.
4. Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the zest and thyme, until fully incorporated and the batter is smooth.
5. Gently fold in the zest and thyme until just combined.
6. Pour the batter into two prepared cake pans (bottoms lined with parchment and lightly greased) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
7. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from pans and letting them cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Directions
1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy.
2. Beat in the confectioners sugar, vanilla and lemon juice
3. Beat until well-blended.
4. Fold in the lemon peel just until mixed.
5. Frost each cake layer when cool and assemble.
6. Decorate the top with a few leaves of thyme and a lemon wheel

Beautiful on the outside and tasty on the inside

Beautiful on the outside and tasty on the inside

love bites

Love Bites CollageIf there is any chance of denying your kids are growing up right before your eyes, it only takes a holiday or two to make it clear that there has been a shift.

My “babies” are only 16 and 12 but gone is the Valentine’s Day frenzy of candy grams, homemade treats for the class and finding the perfect Valentine’s cards for the big exchange. Perhaps its denial but I refuse to “go gently into that good night,” when it comes to my maturing babes and ANY holiday. When they are grown with families of their own, I want them to remember their childhood home as a place of tradition and celebration – no matter their age.

So for the past few years, I have made them their own Valentine’s Day celebration replete with decorations and a decadent amount of treats and sweets. I call this little party, “Love Bites,” because each morsel is filled with love (and of course, you can’t overlook the fact that sometimes, love DOES bite).

Love Bites Menu

The first year I created “Love Bites,” it was a wild-haired idea that came to me about an hour before school pick-up. I dashed to the store and bought heart-shaped cookies, nuts, conversation hearts, caramels, strawberries and whipped cream. It wasn’t a fancy display but I knew from the looks on their faces, it wasn’t about the fancy, it was about making an unexpected and special gesture just for them. Don’t think over the top if you create your own Love Bites table, just keep it simple and real – for whoever you’re loving.

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Mini Layer Cakes with Strawberries+Mint

Click HERE for recipe

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts

Palmiers dipped in red chocolate+crushed peanuts

 

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

Click HERE for recipe

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles

Chocolate dipped strawberries with red sprinkles

 

Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings

Chocolate Tulip cups filled with Vanilla pudding and topped with raspberries & chocolate shavings

 

Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies

Chocolate dipped alphabet cookies

 

Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint

Blackberry+Strawberry infused water with mint

 

Food alone won't fill your table - pay attention to the special touches

Food alone won’t fill your table – pay attention to the special touches

Happy Valentine’s Day!

white chocolate peanut butter krispies

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies

Perfect for any holiday or special occasion, these White Chocolate Peanut Butter Krispies are highly addictive. A friend gave us some after her annual family cookie baking session in early December. Everything she gave us was yummy but my kids went wild for these delicious morsels. They are soooooooooo easy to make that I gave them out for teacher gifts at holiday time (I was asked for the recipe by several teachers).

For Valentine’s Day, I followed the recipe below and added conversation hearts and pink sprinkles for a little Valentine’s Day flair.

Ingredients:
2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup creamy peanut butter
*2 pounds white melting chocolate =  (2, 12-oz packages plus 1 1/3 cup)
**I used Ghirardelli White Chocolate Melting Chips (NOT chocolate chip morsels)
**You can also use vanilla CandiQuik

Conversation Hearts and Pink Sprinkles add a Valentine's Day Flair

Conversation Hearts and Pink Sprinkles add a Valentine’s Day Flair

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine cereal, peanuts and marshmallows. In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate and peanut butter on high for 1 minute and then in 30 second intervals until fully melted. Stir chocolate into cereal mixture. Mixture will be slightly runny. Drop by tablespoon onto waxed paper. Add sprinkles (conversation hearts) at this point if desired. Let set until firm, 2 hours. Store in airtight container.
One batch makes between 20 and 30 pieces depending upon how big you drop them onto the wax paper.

mini strawberry layer cakes with fresh cream

IMG_6842The perfect little dessert for any occasion, these cakes are tailored for Valentine’s Day with bright red strawberries, fresh cream, chocolate zest and mint.

Ingredients:
Cake
Use your favorite vanilla/white cake recipe
Add 1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
Add 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Add 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Large 6-well cupcake pan

Fresh Whipped Cream
8 ounces heavy whipping cream
1 Tb pure granulated sugar
1 Tb vanilla extract

Other
Cleaned and sliced strawberries
Dark chocolate zest
Fresh mint leaves

Directions:
Make cake batter according to your recipe, adding the additional ingredients listed above (lemon zest, cinnamon and vanilla extract). Pour each cupcake well 3/4 full of cake batter and bake according to directions. Once finished, let cool.

In a blender, mix together the heavy cream, granulated sugar and vanilla extract. Blend on medium-high until stiff peaks form.

Using a perforated knife, cut each oversized cupcake into three layers.

Layer cupcakes with whipping cream, strawberries and mint. Repeat. Once the top layer is finished, zest dark chocolate over the whipped cream and top with a strawberry or two and a fresh mint leaf.

Place mini cakes on a heart shaped doilie on a cake stand. Place fresh mint leaves all around to fill white space.

Place mini cakes on a heart shaped doilie on a cake stand. Place fresh mint leaves all around to fill white space.

champagne and flowers

IMG_6151This simple and stunning floral arrangement will beautifully grace your holiday table or serve as a novel hostess gift. It works double-duty as a floral arrangement and a festive drink. Once the flowers have run their course, you can remove the oasis and pop open the bottle of bubbly.

Embellish arrangement with descriptive words for your Thanksgiving table

Embellish arrangement with descriptive Holiday Expressions tags

Surprisingly, this arrangement was made with just three bunches of flowers from my local Pavilions grocery store. The flowers and the Oasis floral foam came to a mere $18. The bottle of champagne (or sparkling wine) adds to the cost, but you can still create an affordable arrangement or gift on a budget. See this list from Gayot for their top Ten Sparkling Wines; all reasonably priced.

Start with three small bunches of florals

Start with three small bunches of florals

 

Alstroemerias in a deep burgundy play well against the Chrysanthemums

Alstroemerias in a deep burgundy play well against the Chrysanthemums


Items Needed

1 bottle Champagne or Sparkling Wine/Prosecco
Oasis floral foam
2 to 3 bunches of flowers
Chrysanthemum (burgundy and gold)
Alstroemeria (deep burgudy)
Fishing wire
Holiday Expressions tags (the ones pictured below are from the Paper Source)

Gently hang word tags from your arrangement with clear fishing wire

Gently hang Holiday Expressions tags from your arrangement with clear fishing wire

Directions
Make sure oasis is soaked in water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Once soaked, take the oasis out of the water and let drain for a few minutes. Take the oasis and cut the edges so the shape is more circular. The oasis is easy to cut with a sharp knife – think of it as slicing a piece of cake. Once you have the desired circular shape, carefully push it down onto the chamapgne bottle until it is firmly in place. Water may drip down the bottle as you are working with it so keep a paper towel on hand to wipe up any moisture.

Trim corners of the square oasis into a circular shape

Trim corners of the square oasis into a circular shape

Gently push oasis onto top of bottle until firmly in place. Wipe up any moisture that may drip down the bottle while you are creating the arrangement

Gently push oasis onto top of bottle until firmly in place. Wipe up any moisture that may drip down the bottle while you are creating the arrangement

Start filling in around all sides of the oasis, one flower at a time. Be sure to fill in from the bottom as well for a round and robust effect. Keep filling in the oasis, varying the colors and types of flowers. Your goal is to create a round shape that is full. You don’t want to see any part of the green oasis. Once you have everything filled in, make sure you turn the bottle to look at it from all sides.

Start filling in the oasis from all sides, making sure to cover the bottom as well

Start filling in the oasis from all sides, making sure to cover the bottom as well

 

Keep filling in with flowers until you have a full effect and the oasis cannot be seen at all

Keep filling in with flowers until you have a full effect and the oasis cannot be seen at all

If you want to embellish the arrangements with special holiday words (like this version below for Thanksgiving), tie each small card with fishing wire and hang from the arrangement. To keep your arrangement alive, you can spritz with water every other day. This arrangement here lasted over a week.

I love how the fishing wire is invisible, creating a floating look with the word cards.

I love how the fishing wire is invisible, creating a floating look with the Holiday Expressions tags

Bold holiday colors showcase the beautiful arrangement

Bold holiday colors showcase the beautiful arrangement

alice’s stuffing

IMG_6204I love holiday recipes that have a life of their own brimming with history, insight and love. This cherished Thanksgiving recipe was shared by one of my dear friends, Annie-Laurie.

Annie-Laurie married into an Irish family of five, with her husband being the baby and the only boy. From day one, the family scooped her up into their holiday traditions and high-spirited meals. I’ve heard her recount many years of endearing holiday stories…turkey cook-offs, taking turns around the table saying what each person is thankful for, piano playing and singing and a bevy of games from Catch Phrase to Pictionary.

Annie-Laurie’s first Thanksgiving with her husband’s family was 25 years ago. Both of her in-laws have passed on but imprinted onto their family treasured customs that the family shares in, especially during this time of year.

This is Annie-Laurie’s favorite recipe from her mother-in-law, Alice. In reminiscing about Thanksgiving with Alice, she said, “Alice made everything from scratch and she did it so well. The whole meal was ready at the same time. She would always want us to take our time and enjoy it because it took an entire day to prepare. My sister-in-law, Beth, has followed in her footsteps and makes the Thanksgiving meal a treat. Next week we will have Alice’s stuffing and I will savor every mouthful.”

Counterclockwise: Alice's recipe in her own writing. she and husband Jack in the early years. Sitting down to Thanksgiving in the early 80s

Clockwise: Alice’s recipe in her own writing. She and husband Jack in their early years. Sitting down to Thanksgiving in the early 80s.

Recipes aren’t just instructions on a page; they connect families and friends to the past the present and the future. A special recipe holds purpose and love and the ability to tell a family’s story from generation to generation. The love of those we miss comes alive with each ingredient we add and with each bite we take. Ask your friends about their favorite family recipes and you will be sure to not only get a delicious new dish to make but insight into the love of family that connects us all.

Alice’s Stuffing is meant to cook inside the turkey. See below for a second version that omits a few ingredients and cooks outside of the bird.

Fresh, cubed bread, ready to be mixed with fresh ingredients

Fresh, cubed bread, ready to be mixed with celery, onions and herbs

Ingredients
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups diced celery
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp pepper
16 cups lightly packed fresh bread cubes
3 eggs lightly beaten

Fresh, wholesome food

A simple recipe using the freshest ingredients

Directions (about 40 minutes before adding to the turkey)
In a large saucepan over medium heat, in hot butter or margarine, cook celery and onions until tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add parsley, salt, poultry seasoning and pepper; mix well. Stir in bread cubes and eggs and mix well. Makes enough stuffing for one 8 to 11 pound turkey.

Use a pretty casserole dish for stuffing that bakes outside of the turkey

Use a pretty casserole dish for stuffing that bakes outside of the turkey

Crumbly Bread Stuffing
For stuffing cooked outside of the turkey, prepare as above but use only 3/4 cup butter and omit the eggs. Cook in a lightly buttered casserole dish on 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes.

 

sweet potato soufflé

IMG_6060I asked a few of my best friends for their favorite family Thanksgiving recipe. My friend Lisa, always supportive of everything her friends do, sent me this recipe from her husband’s southern Georgia family. I made the dish (fluffy sweetness and savory scrumptiousness all in one bite), took pictures and sat down to write about it. It took me back to how Lisa and I became friends.

It was my first day of second grade at a new school. I was sporting a Dorothy Hamill pixie cut and wearing a light blue puffy jacket from JCPenney (my sister and I had matching ones). I was assigned to a square table of four with Lisa sitting next to me. She showed me where the drinking fountain was and we have been friends ever since. We survived the many adventures of grade school and then, all girls Catholic high school. We have shared the stages of life that only lifelong friendships can – homecoming dances, football games, big 80s style hair, cramming for exams, parties, sneaking out, graduation, college, concerts, careers, trips, marriage, babies, birthdays, book clubs, cooking clubs, illness, death and everything in between.

Friends since age seven... All the beautiful (and not so beautiful stages)...

Friends since age seven… All the beautiful (and not so beautiful stages)…

Friendships are like good recipes. They bring comfort, fulfillment, love and deliciousness to your life every day. This recipe is as good as the girl it came from (thanks, Lis!). Lisa adjusts the recipe for her son’s food allergies so you can also enjoy the same yumminess in a Gluten free and Dairy free version.

Ingredients
3 cups sweet potatoes, baked and mashed (approximately two large sweet potatoes)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Crumbled topping of pecans, brown sugar, flour and butter

Crumbled topping of pecans, brown sugar, flour and butter


Topping
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted

*For a Gluten Free and Dairy Free version use the following:
Non-dairy butter (Earth Balance)
Gluten Free flour
Vanilla Almond milk (in place of the evaporated milk)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, butter and vanilla until well blended. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Mix the pecans, flour, brown sugar and melted butter and sprinkle over the entire top of the sweet potato mixture. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Golden brown and cripsy crust just out of the oven

Golden brown and cripsy crust just out of the oven

You can make the Sweet Potato Souffle a day ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate. To serve, simply bring it to room temperature and bake. The souffle also makes for great leftovers.

Use a large sweet potato and leaf-shaped cookie cutter top embellish soufflé on your Thanksgiving table

Use a large sweet potato and leaf-shaped cookie cutter to embellish soufflé on your Thanksgiving table with “Sweet Potato Leaves”

pistachio torte

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This year in particular, it seemed like “pumpkin fever” took hold before I could finish licking the Labor Day barbecue sauce off my fingers. If an item wasn’t pumpkin flavored, it was pumpkin infused, laced or scented from bagels to pudding to chocolate and beer.

If you happen to be on pumpkin overload and want an alternative for your Thanksgiving dessert table, try the Torta Di Pistacchio. This particular recipe is from a cooking class at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, Canaletto Ristorante Veneto. And by “cooking class,” I mean that we sat at a beautifully set table and watched two talented and highly entertaining chefs whip up three delicious courses. Our job was to drink wine, converse and eat. The chefs always finish the meal with a dessert and an appertif sized-glass of homemade limoncello, an Italian liquer.

Limoncello pairs perfectly with the torte to finish off your meal

Limoncello pairs perfectly with the torte to finish off your meal

This Thanksgiving, if you want to forego the traditional, serve this beautiful torte with chilled Limoncello to cap off your holiday.

Ingredients (sponge cake)
7 whole eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 ounces cornstarch
1/4 Tb baking powder
1/4 Tb vanilla extract

The torte displays beautifully on any table

The torte displays beautifully on any table

Ingredients (filling and topping)
3/4 cup pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup Mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate, grated finely (I used a zester)

The rich creamy filling softens the cake layers

The rich creamy filling softens the cake layers

Bagna mixture (to wet the sponge cake before frosting)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. Triple Sec
Fresh mint, if desired.

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, vanilla extract, and sugar until the mixture becomes fluffly and rises to almost double. Mix the flour, baking powder and cornstarch together in a separate bowl.

Very slowly, incorporate the flour mixture into the fluffy egg mixture until well mixed. Pour batter into a springform pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes. *The sponge cake will rise into a fluffy dome but will settle down once it cools.

Assembling the cake
Cut the sponge cake into three even layers. I used a perforated bread knife and it worked fine. Don’t worry if your layers aren’t perfect – that’s why we have filling/frosting.

Combine the water, sugar and triple sec in a glass bowl to make the Bagna. Wet the sponge cake layers with the Bagna using a pastry brush. Be sure to cover the entire surface of each layer.

Mix the heavy cream, Mascarpone cheese and sugar in a blender until firm. Gently blend in the grated chocolate until mixed. Spread the cream in equal parts on the three layers, one on top of the other and save some for the top. Finish the top of the sponge cake with the creme, pistachios and chocolate shavings. Add mint for aesthetics if desired.

Top the torte with pistachios and chocolate zest and embellish the sides with fresh mint

Top the torte with pistachios and chocolate zest and embellish the sides with fresh mint

Serves 8-10

Buon Appetito

Compliments of Chef Moises Mendoza and Antonio Guarracino

Canaletto Restaurant, Fashion Island Newport Beach, California

And if you’re curious, check out this list of best and worst pumpkin items this holiday season.

caramelized garlic tart

IMG_5455Whenever I buy a new cookbook or rip through a fresh- in-my-mailbox magazine, I dog ear pages like crazy, making notes left and right. I have a laundry list of creative endeavors I aspire to accomplish. I often find, however, that I get sidetracked – it’s an ongoing problem I call multi-tasking max out.

I recently rifled through the robustly colorful cookbook, PLENTYnamed by Amazon Editors’ as a “Favorite Book of the Year” for 2014. The award winning chef and food writer, Yotam Ottolenghi has been described as “the man who made vegetables sexy.” I wanted to find something scrumptious to make for a Labor Day party and this tart was the ticket. While there are PLENTY of steps to making this light puff of a pastry, the process is simple. Just allow enough time for preparation and avoid cramming it in between Sunday Church, football, laundry and walking the dog.

A Beautiful Cover Always Grabs My Attention

A beautiful book cover always grabs my attention

With Thanksgiving looming, the versatility of the Carmelized Garlic Tart can double as an elegant #thanksgivingappetizer or #thanksgivingvegetariandish. The tart can be made a day ahead and then reheated before serving. I love recipes that allow for something special and beautiful on the plate without requiring you to sweat it out in your heels and party clothes minutes before your guests arrive.

Ingredients
13 oz all-butter puff pastry
3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
¾ Tb sugar
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped thyme, plus a few whole sprigs to finish
4 ¼ oz creamy goat cheese (such as chevre)
4 ¼ oz hard, mature goat cheese (such as goat gouda)
2 eggs
6 1/2 Tb heavy cream
6 1/2 Tb crème fraîche
black pepper

Directions
Have ready a shallow, loose-bottomed, 11-inch fluted tart pan (I bought a new pan from Bed, Bath & Beyond by Wilton). Roll out the puff pastry into a circle that will line the bottom and sides of the pan, plus a little extra. Line the pan with the pastry. Place a large circle of greaseproof paper on the bottom and fill up with baking beans or pie weights. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tart pan in the oven and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the beans/weights and paper, then bake for 5-10 minutes longer, or until the pastry is golden. Set aside. Leave the oven on.

A light and golden crust ready to be filled with scrumptiousness

A light and golden crust ready to be filled with scrumptiousness

While the tart shell is baking, make the caramelized garlic. Put the cloves in a small saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a simmer and blanch for 3 minutes, then drain well. Dry the saucepan, return the cloves to it and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic cloves on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, rosemary, chopped thyme and ¼ teaspoon salt. Continue simmering on a medium flame for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in a dark caramel syrup. Set aside.

 

Garlic caramelizing with fresh herbs, sugar and balsamic vinegar

Garlic carmelizing with fresh herbs, sugar and balsamic vinegar

To assemble the tart, break both types of goat’s cheese into pieces and scatter in the pastry case. Spoon the garlic cloves and syrup evenly over the cheese.

Carmelized garlic+syrup+cheeses make the filling

Carmelized garlic+syrup+cheeses make the filling

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, creams, ½ teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Pour this custard over the tart filling to fill the gaps, making sure that you can still see the garlic and cheese over the surface. Reduce the oven temperature to 160 degrees and place the tart inside.

After light, whipped custard is poured into the shell with the filling still showing through

The light, whipped custard is poured into the shell with the filling still showing through

 

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Warm from the oven, browned and golden

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the tart filling has set and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Then lift the bottom of the tart pan away from the side and trim the pastry edge if needed. Lay a few sprigs of thyme on top and serve warm.
As a reminder, the tart can be made a day ahead and reheated before serving.

Slice and serve

Slice and serve

Recipe from PLENTY, by Yotam Ottolenghi.

spider web elixer

Black Widow LeadHalloween morning has broken with fluffy gray clouds and temperatures more in line with fall. Here in Southern California, it has not been below 74 degrees since May. I heard that stat on the news yesterday and couldn’t believe it. I am soooooooooo ready for boots, scarves, jeans and hats. I am going to enjoy this micro dip in temps and ignore the forecast which takes us back into the 80’s next week.

We are celebrating in the neighborhood tonight on Christi’s very long driveway. Our beach chairs are out and the ping pong table is set-up with mounds of candy ready to be thrown into pillowcases of trick-or-treaters big and small. We have a “gourmet” menu planned of pizza, salad, apps and spirits. I am looking forward to a RELAXED and EASY Friday night Halloween as we pump up every kid in the neighborhood with their annual sugar fix.

If you are in need of a Halloween themed drink, whip up a pitcher of our favorite “Spider Web Elixer.” The drink is simple to make and can be creatively styled with black licorice and candy corn or orange and black jelly bellys. Happy Halloween 2014. Wishing you a GHOULISH good time! ♥

Ingredients
3 parts vanilla vodka
1 part black anise-flavored liqueur (recommended: Sambuca)
1 part espresso
Black licorice and candy corn for garnish

Directions
In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients except the licorice with ice and shake to mix. Serve in a cocktail martini glass with a black licorice straw.

 

Recipe from Sandra Lee

fabulous frightful frankies

Frankie Final LEADIngredients
3 Tb butter
4 cups JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows + 12 to 16 additional marshmallows to create side screws on Frankie’s head
6 cups Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® cereal
11-12 drops of green food coloring
1 package mini chocolate chips or Dolci melting chocolate
black licorice strands cut into 1” to 1/2” pieces
decorative sugar in green, gold and silver (found in the baking aisle at most major
grocery stores. I used Betty Crocker brand.)
candy eyes by Wilton

Directions
In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add 4 cups marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Stir in 11-12 drops of the green food coloring until the color is “your” desired shade of green. Add Kellog’s Rice Crispies cereal. Stir until well coated. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into large rectangles to form the head of Frankenstein. *To create a thicker Frankie head, use a smaller sized pan.

When the cooled and cut Rice Krispy rectangles are ready to decorate, melt the Dolci melting chocolate or pour 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds. Stir and put back into microwave for 15 to 30 seconds. Remove and stir again until melted.Frankenstein Hair

Dip one side of Rice Krispy rectangle into the melted chocolate to add Frankie’s hairline. Add strands of black licorice to fill out the hairline and sprinkle with green decorative sugar. Set on wax paper so chocolate can harden.

To add the eyeballs, dip a wooden sandwich pick (it has a bigger flat end than a regular toothpick) into the melted chocolate. Gently place a drop on the back of the eyeball and then place (chocolate side down) onto “Frankie’s” face to create the eyes.Frankie sidescrews

To create the side screws on Frankie’s head, melt chocolate in a small, microwave proof bowl. Combine the gold and silver decorative sugar in a small bowl. With a wooden sandwich pick, dip the miniature marshmallow into the melted chocolate and then directly into the gold and silver decorative sugar. Place on wax paper and let chocolate and sugar firm up. Once firm, place a drop of the melted chocolate on the flat side of the marshmallow and press to the side of Frankie’s head until set. Let dry completely on wax paper.Lead Image Frankenstein

Arrange the Fabulous Frightful Frankies on a platter and watch them disappear like magic.

mother’s day spirits (our mom’s faves)

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Christi and I were both blessed with amazing moms who are there for us no matter what. They are our biggest champions, friends, confidantes and aren’t afraid to keep us on track when we act sassy or grumpy (yes…who knows your mood better than your mom). We will each be celebrating our mom’s tomorrow on Mother’s Day. We thought it would be fun to highlight their favorite cocktails on Cashmere Apron this week (Nina’s fav is the Blue Cheese and Bacon Martini and Mary’s is the Grapefruit Basil Martini – both recipes follow).

Cheers to Nina and Mary – the best of the best. We love you – Happy Mother’s Day!

BLUE CHEESE & BACON MARTINI (Nina’s favorite)
Ingredients

2- 1/2 shots Gin
1/2 shot of brine from cocktail olives
1/8 shot extra dry Vermouth
Blue Cheese stuffed olives for garnish
Bacon crumbles

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CHRISTI & HER MOM, NINA VISITING NYC

Directions
Fry bacon until very crisp and chop up very fine. Rub the rim of your chilled martini glass with butter and roll the edge of the glass in the bacon crumbs. Shake all martini ingredients together with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into glass. Garnish with a few olives. Makes one drink.

 

Grapefruit Basil Martini Lead
GRAPEFRUIT BASIL MARTINI (Mary’s favorite)

Ingredients
2 ounces Freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1 ounce Vodka
1 diced fresh Basil leaf plus additional for garnish

Mother's Day 01

 

Directions
Add crushed ice to a Martini shaker. Pour in the freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice and vodka. Add the diced fresh Basil leaf. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with a fresh  Basil leaf for garnish. Makes one drink.

star noodle

A MUST visit on Maui

A MUST visit on Maui

Our family just returned from a blissful ten day vacation on the island of Maui, or as I call it, “Maui by fork!” We love our food and have our favorites but we branched out this trip and discovered some new favorites (see previous post on Leodas). You know a restaurant is good when you feel compelled to visit it twice on the same vacation. “We ARE going to Star Noodle again, right?” said my kids.  And so we did.

Star Noodle is nestled at the top of a hill in a nondescript business park – the major landmarks being a church and an outdoor Flying Trapeze studio. The benign exterior gives way to a light and lively interior anchored by a full-service bar offering sake and daily specialty cocktails as well as a long communal table bustling with different groups of locals and tourists. The place is jammed. The vibe is inviting. Their style of food is simple but long on flavor and creativity, “Serving Fresh House made Noodles & Asian Specialties.”

Culinary Bliss Awaits

Culinary Bliss Awaits

 The first time we went to Star Noodle we arrived at the height of lunch hour and waited 30 minutes, which gave my mom and I time to sip on the cocktail of the day featuring some sort of muddled native herb, Absolut Citron vodka and Diamond sake. If you are a “need it now, instant gratification” type, you can call ahead to put your name on the wait list or you can order from Starstruck, the restaurant’s food truck parked adjacent to the restaurant, offering a modified menu and a few picnic tables for eating.

Starstruck Food Truck Lead

We feasted on food that can only be described as intoxicating. Apparently, we were eating so enthusiastically that the couple next to us commented (out loud) that we were scarfing.” Of course, we struck up a conversation and compared notes and restaurants as they were visiting from New York for the first time.

Cocktail of the day: Asian Pear muddled in Pear vodka+Diamond Sake+Lime Sour

Our Cocktail of the day on the second visit: Asian Pear muddled in Pear vodka+Diamond Sake+Lime Sour

I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but if you find yourself visiting the island of Maui, find yourself visiting “Star Noodle.” Some things you have to experience for yourself and this is one of them. And let’s not overlook the restaurant’s moniker that says it all – S-T-A-R!

 

Pohole Salad: Hana Fiddle Fern, Maui Onion, Ebi & Kombu

Pohole Salad: Hana Fiddle Fern, Maui Onion, Shrimp, Ebi & Kombu (my kids loved this so much we had two orders)

 

Steamed Pork Buns: Duroc Pressed Pork, Hoisin, Shiitake, Cucumber

Steamed Pork Buns: Duroc Pressed Pork, Hoisin, Shiitake, Cucumber (dreaming of these)

 

Scallop Shooters: Wafu Dashi, Ginger, Scallion, Lemon EVOO (ahhhmazing)

Scallop Shooters: Wafu Dashi, Ginger, Scallion, Lemon EVOO (ahhhmazing)

 

Chicken Satay

Yakitori: Chicken, Teriyaki Glaze, Scallion, Sesame Seeds

 

Organic Buckwheat Soba: Daikon, Wasabi, Scallion, Ginger, Tsuyu (served cold; refreshing, delicious and healthy)

Organic Buckwheat Soba: Daikon, Wasabi, Scallion, Ginger, Tsuyu (served cold; refreshing, delicious and healthy)

 

Pad Thai Lead

Pad Thai: Rice Noodles, Chicken, Shrimp, Egg, Peanuts, Garlic and Chives

 

Garlic noodles

Garlic Noodles: Fresh & Fried Garlic, Dashi, Green Onion

 

Malasada3

Malasadas: Portuguese Inspired Doughnuts Served with Chocolate and Caramel Sauces and Macadamia Nuts

These were some of our favorites after two visits but the Star Noodle menu is extensive and varied. There is something for everyone!

Entertaining Ourselves While Waiting for A Table

Entertaining ourselves while waiting for a table

 

Simple artwork and a clean decor make Star Noodle all about the FOOD

Simple artwork and a clean decor make Star Noodle all about the FOOD

Star Noodle can be found at 286 Kupuohi Street, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii 92761
(808) 667-5400

leoda’s kitchen and pie shop, maui

Leodas Lead

There’s a feeling you get every time you return to a place you love – a certain familiarity and time tested traditions you rely upon. One of those places for me is the island of Maui. My parents discovered it for the first time in the early 70’s and brought us almost every summer to visit.

I remember the days of flight attendants garmented in long flowy Hawaiian dresses with leis around their necks and orchids in their high tight buns. My mom always dressed my sister and me in matching Hawaiian dresses for the flight. And as soon as we stepped off the tarmac, the overwhelming feeling of excitement was hard to temper especially with the warm tradewinds blowing, ukeleles playing and greetings of “Aloha” and friendly smiles from every person you passed. I don’t know how many times I have visited this place but it’s close to 40 I would imagine. That’s how my family is…we find something we love and we stick with it. We have explored some other wonderful places but our hearts always lead us back here. And now we have passed that love on to our own kids. Whenever they are asked about vacation spots, they always say, “We want to go to Hawaii,” and we have been fortunate enough to carry on the tradition.
Leodas Lead 2

On our way in from the airport this year we noticed that Chez Paul, a long standing landmark restaurant was gone. Replacing the landmark in tiny Olowalu town was Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop. We didn’t think anything of it UNTIL some New Yorkers we were sitting next to at lunch mentioned that we should try it. Apparently, the way we were all “scarfing” down the food (their words) made them think we would appreciate good food and good pie. And, of course, they were right.

We hit Leoda’s after a rousing tennis match with our stomachs churning for food. Leoda’s did not disappoint. The place is quaint, warm and homey. Wood floors, bright white tile, soft hanging lights, a large vintage sideboard housing cups, napkins, silverware, condiments and a display of cake stands and plenty of high and low tables to sit and enjoy your food which is served in vintage pie tins. Their approach to food is this, “Our menu features hand crafted specialties made fresh daily using only Maui’s freshest ingredients. We take a unique approach to many classic or traditional favorites…we call it glorified grandma comfort food.”
Leodas Lead 3

We stood in line to order and despite the size of the line, it moved quickly, pressuring us to make a decision after looking at all the different and yummy choices on people’s plates. The various choices are hand-written on chalkboards flanked by a Daily Specials Board, a listing of local farms the food comes from and an abundantly filled display case of mini-handmade pies and pastries. Known for their sweet and savory pies and their homemade breads, we had a little bit of everything…the Chocolate Mac Nut pie, the Olowalu Lime pie and the Chicken Pot pie, and those were just the items we shared. Amongst the food we ordered was Leoda’s burger, homemade fries with a garlic aioli dipping sauce, a roasted pork hoagie smothered in onions and sauce, a cobb salad with amazing greens, a fried salad (my order) which had fresh greens topped with slim pieces of flash fried brussel sprouts in an orange vinaigrette, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made from thick pieces of Leoda’s homemade bread.

Leodas Lead 4

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop is a must visit. There’s always something new to discover in a place you love. We are planning on visiting Leoda’s again before our vacation ends. Aloha!

st. pat’s day feast

St. Pat's Lead 2Having grown up with an Irish father who was devoted to his heritage and roots, I thought everyone LOVED corned beef and cabbage. And while I have since learned that may not be altogether true, this Irish preparation by Bobby Flay will make believers out of those with the most dubious palates.

Follow Bobby Flay’s surefire hit for Corned Beef and other additions below to round out your Irish Feast, and your guests will leave wishing St. Patrick’s Day was more than once a year!

(1) No Irish Feast is complete without Jameson Irish whiskey (2) Rather than boiled cabbage, put together a hash using golden brown bacon (see below), shredded cabbage, shaved brussel sprouts, shredded carrots and diced red potatoes (3) Bake a loaf of Ina Garten’s Irish soda bread as an accompaniment (4) A crisp and perfect salad is made of Butter lettuce, dried cranberries, blood oranges, Irish Soda Bread croutons, a sprinkling of Gruyere and a light vinaigrette salad dressing (5) Before the meal begins, read a tried and true Irish Blessing (we always select one of our children to read the blessing) (6) Decorate each table setting with something new and something traditional. Here, we paired monogrammed vintage napkins with a sequined shamrock tied with heavy twine (7) The complete meal

Now for the STAR {Corned Beef} of the show…I came across this recipe a few years back while seeing Bobby Flay on CBS Morning News. I decided to follow his recipe and couldn’t stop eating – it’s that good. The recipe is easy because you still follow the very basic directions for cooking Corned Beef. Once the Corned Beef is cooked through, the extra elements add an elevated essence that is unparalleled.

St. Pat's Lead 1

Ingredients
Whole prepared Corned Beef (follow directions on label but allow 3 to 4 hours for cooking)
Bobby Flay Spice Rub for Meat
Canola oil
1 pound bacon
Dijon mustard
Whole grain mustard
Honey
Prepared horseradish
Chervil, for garnish

Ingredients for Spice Rub for Meat
3 Tb dry mustard
1 1/2 Tb dried oregano
1 Tb chili powder
1/2 Tb garlic powder
1/2 Tb black pepper
1/2 Tb sea salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp celery seed

Directions
Rub Corned Beef with Spice Rub and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden brown. Remove bacon, let rest, and coursely chop. Sear the Corned Beef in the bacon fat until a crust forms, turn over and continue cooking until golden brown. Remove, let rest and thinly slice.

Whisk together mustards, honey and horseradish. Serve Corned Beef with sauce on the side and garnish with chervil.

love in elysian park

Finding Love in Elysian Park Burger
Last summer the TODAY show held a “Burger Battle” in search of the best original burger recipe and the inspiration behind it. I thought, “Why not?” I made taste testers out of my family. My son wouldn’t try it but my daughter (the more adventurous eater) and husband gave me a thumbs up.

I wasn’t contacted by the TODAY show, clearly a mistake (haha) but their contest did present me the occasion to create something special. So I am sharing my inspiration and recipe on Valentine’s Eve because it’s all about the LOVE.

My Valentine's Day Inspiration

My parent’s at the Los Angeles Police Academy – my Valentine’s Day Inspiration


When I reflect upon the quintessential “
Valentine Lovebirds,” I think of my mom and dad who lived a loving, healthy and happy marriage, on par with few I have seen. My parents met at the Los Angeles Police Academy in Elysian Park in 1964. An unlikely duo from the outset, he being 14 years her senior with a wild past and she being a mere girl of 18 who always followed the rules. He was a Lieutenant at the time and she was a secretary to the Chief. I’m pretty certain my dad visited that office more than was actually necessary. They fell head over heels in love and were married in June of 1966.

June 4, 1966

“The Glass Chapel” in Palos Verdes, California – June 4, 1966

 They were a true fairy tale couple who were the personification of love for 45 years (my father died unexpectedly in 2008). Both of my parents were fiercely proud of their heritage and my sister and I were raised with the same pride. My dad the dark Irish, and my mom, the beautiful “Jackie O” look-alike with strong Mexican roots, somehow grew into the perfect couple.

My loving family

My loving family (my sister being goofy and me, obviously with a full diaper)

This recipe is a tribute to the uniqueness that gave me my Irish Mexican heritage and to the love that bloomed in Elysian Park, California in 1964. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Ingredients
1 pound organic ground sirloin
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 cup finely diced cooked corned beef (have corned beef shaved thin in the deli)
1 jalapeño pepper (seeds removed) and finely diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tb dried oregano
1 Tb country Dijon mustard
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 Tb Jameson Irish whiskey
Three-pepper Colby cheese, thinly sliced
1, 14 oz. can sauerkraut, drained
1 small head of Frisee lettuce
Fresh Rye bread
Olive oil
Sugar
Butter

Yummy burger layered with hints of corned beef and jalapeño

Yummy burger layered with hints of corned beef and jalapeño

Directions
Preheat grill. Add all ingredients through the Jameson Irish whiskey to a large glass bowl. Gently mix all ingredients together (use your clean hands if desired). From ground sirloin mixture, form three 1/3 pound patties. Lower grill heat and place patties on aluminum foil on the grill and grill about 4 minutes on each side. Once grease has melted off, place burgers directly on grill for another two to three minutes per side.

In a sauté pan, add a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of olive oil and heat on medium. Add the drained sauerkraut to the pan and sauté until browned.

Brush each side of the Rye bread with olive oil and a little melted butter and grill for about 1 to 2 minutes per side (don’t overcook).

Grilled Rye lightly brushed with Olive oil and butter

Rye bread perfectly crusty after being brushed lightly with Olive oil and butter and grilled

Add burger to bread and top with three-pepper Colby cheese, browned sauerkraut, and frisee lettuce. *You can add extra dijon to the grilled bread if desired.

Chow down. Seriously amazing burger. A shot of whiskey or tequila is optional BUT highly recommended.

[gal]entine’s day love, lunch and friendship

Galentine's Day Recipes 2

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” -Jane Austen

Our post this past Wednesday talked about celebrating “girlfriends” this Valentine’s Day. Christi and I hosted a luncheon in honor of some special ladies in our lives. For details, photos, setting and decorative ideas click here.

Today we are sharing our Galentine’s Day Luncheon Menu and the recipes. Revel in Cupid’s inspiration and create something special for your gal pals!

Galentine's Menu Lead 1

 

 

Caprese Fruit Skewers LeadCaprese Fruit Skewers
Ingredients
36- strawberries, cleaned with tops taken off
24- fresh basil leaves, rinsed and carefully dried
24- bocconcini balls, drained
12- wooden skewers
1 bottle of store bought balsamic glaze

Directions
Clean strawberries and set them aside to dry on a paper towel. Rinse basil and gently remove the leaves from the stems. Carefully thread a strawberry, basil leaf, bocconcini ball-repeat once, ending with a strawberry. When all 12 kabobs are completed, lay them onto a platter and drizzle the top with the balsamic glaze.  12 servings

 

Fusilli LeadFusilli & Heart-shaped Pasta Salad with Green Beans, Pistachio and Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
Ingredients
8 ounces uncooked fusilli or gemelli (can substitute gluten free pasta)
1 cup (1- 1/2 inch) cut haricots vert
1/2 cup shelled and chopped pistachios
2 Tb fresh thyme leaves, divided
2 Tb grated lemon peel, divided
1 Tb minced, shallot
2 Tb Champagne vinegar
3 garlic cloves, crushed
5 Tb olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 ounce shaved, fresh Parmesan cheese

Directions
Cook pasta according to the package direction, omitting salt and fat.  Add the haricots vert during the final two minutes of cooking. Rinse the cooked pasta and haricots vert under cold water until cool, then drain.

Place the pasta, haricots vert, pistachios, 1 Tb thyme and 1 Tb lemon rind in a large bowl; toss gently to combine. Combine remaining 1 Tb thyme and 1 Tb lemon rind, shallots, vinegar and garlic in a small bowl, mixing well with a wire whisk. Add salt and pepper and mix well. Drizzle over the pasta mixture and toss to coat. Top with Parmesan cheese. 4 full servings or 8 side servings

 

Turkey and ProvoloneSmoked Turkey & Provolone on Baguette with Bacon & Avocado Mash
Ingredients
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
8 slices bacon (can use turkey bacon)
1 Hass avocado, halved and pitted
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 rustic baguettes, cut in threes and sliced in half for sandwiches
1 tomato, thinly sliced
1 carton sprouts
12 ounces thinly sliced deli turkey breast
1/4 lb Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 small English cucumber, sliced very thin

Directions
Toss the onion with the vinegar and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl. Let stand 15 minutes, then drain. Meanwhile, cook the bacon as the package directs.

Mash the avocado with the yogurt in another small bowl until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Lay 4 halves of the sandwich rolls on a cutting board and spread with half of the avocado-yogurt mixture. Add a layer of turkey breast, bacon, Provolone slice, cucumber and red onion. Top with tomato, sprouts, salt and pepper. Spread the left over avocado mixture on the remaining 4 roll halves and place spread-side down on top of sandwich. 8-10 half sandwich servings

 

Galentine's Day Desserts

For dessert we made Duncan Hines Creamy Red Velvet Cupcakes (click here for recipe) and Emeril Lagasse’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding (click here for recipe). The Valentine’s Day sugar cookies were ordered from Lizy B. Bakes. We had her bake the “love bird” cookies that had small holes at the top so we could hang them from branches we added to our floral centerpiece.

This menu is easy and delicious and perfect for a ladies luncheon. Everything was topped off with Moet & Chandon Imperial champagne. Let us know about any fun GALentine’s celebrations you create – we would love to hear about your special plans.

 

 

 

[gal] entine’s day lunch

Galentine's 1 CollageAhhhhh…the month of LOVE. Yes, there are reminders and not so subtle hints everywhere we look. And while we have no shortage of love or devotion for our spouses, there are those people in our lives that fill a special place.

I, for one, would be lost without the love, dedication, spirit, sarcasm, thoughtfulness and humor of my girlfriends. If you think about it, we have girlfriends wherever we turn. Not every single one has to be a BFF. There is a certain camaraderie, understanding and sympathy from the ladies in our lives. Maybe it’s the school receptionist you share an orthodontist story with while signing out your child for yet another appointment. Maybe it’s the woman standing behind you in line at the grocery store as you commiserate about the challenge of getting a hot and relatively healthy meal on the table for your family. Maybe it’s a stranger you encounter in the dressing room at Nordstrom asking for your opinion… Girlfriends are all around us and should be CELEBRATED.

We hosted a Galentine’s Lunch for some special GALS we are lucky enough to call girlfriends….Whatever you do this February 14th, be sure to give some love to the girlfriends that give it back to you time and time again {our Galentine’s Lunch recipes will be on the blog this Friday}. Follow this easy, step-by-step guide to create your own unique Valentine’s day occasion…

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Galentine's Lead 3

 

Galentine's Lead 4

 

Galentine's Lead 5

 

Galentine's Lead 6

 

Galentine's Lead 7

superbowl bloody mary bar

Bloody Mary Bronco Style

Across America this weekend, Superbowl Sunday is sure to be filled with scrumptious gut-busting food and lots of beer (can’t wait for this year’s commercials). In honor of Sunday’s “big game,” we veered off the beer path and created a Bloody Mary Bar that pays homage to each football team. I love the Bloody Mary because there are no rules. Start with a base of tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix and vodka and layer in your creativity from there. I used Mr. & Mrs. T’s in regular and in a Bold and Spicy version. Create your own specialty Bloody Mary or stick with the traditional – you really can’t go wrong with this festive cocktail that personifies a relaxing Sunday.

Colorado and Denver are known for a lot of things in the way of cuisine, especially good meat and spicy food. Our “Denver Broncos” Bloody Mary features Mr. & Mrs. T’s Bold and Spicy Bloody Mary mix, Greygoose vodka, a crisp piece of center cut bacon paired with a sliced yellow pepper, a mini vine-ripened orange tomato, a crisp celery stalk and then lightly sprinkled with a pinch of black Alder Smoked salt.

Bloody Mary Denver Broncos Style

Bloody Mary – Denver Broncos Style

Washington and Seattle are known for equally delicious food traditions with the focus falling on seafood. Our “Seattle Seahawks” Bloody Mary features Mr. & Mrs. T’s regular Bloody Mary mix and Greygoose vodka which is then garnished with a green tomato, Pacific Sea salt and a mini shrimp corn dog (so yummy and easy – mini shrimp corn dogs are carried by Trader Joe’s). Serve a side of Sweet Chili dipping sauce with the mini shrimp corn dogs.

Bloody Mary Seattle Seahawk Style

Bloody Mary – Seattle Seahawks Style

Bloody Mary Basics

Whether you choose to theme your Bloody Mary bar or not, there are some basic Ingredients to include:
Bloody Mary Mix or Tomato juice
Vodka
Crushed ice
Tabasco
Hot sauce
Horseradish
Garnish of your choice: fresh cut celery, cornichons, pickles, stuffed olives, pickled green beans, lemons, limes, capers, small tomatoes and salt
Stirring sticks
Large wooden toothpicks
Straws

Final Bloody Mary Collage

create a vision board – a diy for every age

Lead Vision BoardI tried to get both of my kids to write resolutions for the new year. I thought our New Year’s escape to Ojai would be an ideal opportunity. I enVISIONed myself neatly writing down their respective resolutions during the three-hour drive, hoping they would motivate each other and find some new aspirations for 2014. Well…we snacked and listened to music and talked during the drive (to and from) and neither kid ever took the “resolution” bait.

Flash forward to the last Friday night of Christmas vacation. Sports practices and high school games were back in full swing, “voluntary” 3-day soccer camps were ongoing and my daughter’s science fair project loomed with a glaring annoyance. One day after soccer camp, my daughter talked her BFF into being her “timer” as she tracked the results of her science experiment. They finished and came inside to change for my son’s high school basketball game. When I came downstairs, ready to leave, both girls had on furry pajamas and were cozied up under their blankets watching a movie. Clearly, a brother’s basketball game was nowhere on their tuckered little radars.

And since they had a night of movie watching on their agenda I said, “Why don’t you create Vision Boards!” Yep – blank stares. Their interest perked up a little bit when I explained what a Vision Board is. Then I pulled up some “cool” examples on Pinterest and they said, “Yeah, we’ll do that.” I gathered up every magazine in the house so they could start cutting and tearing out images and words that appealed to them. I explained there was no right or wrong to the process. They simply needed to put aside those things that appealed to their passions and instincts without thinking too hard about it.

Vision Board Pinterest 4

I found black canvases at Aaron Brothers (cheers to the 2-for-1 penny sale) and when I got back from the basketball game, they were still on the couch cutting away with scraps strewn everywhere. The girls happily worked for at least four hours on their boards. My daughter’s friend created a board that highlighted fashion and her individual style. We embellised the border of the canvas with a few diamond specks and fresh rose petals for extra impact. My daughter’s board was a random smattering of sports, surf and expressions that fit her personality.

I used large pushpins to attach a thick burlap ribbon into the back of the canvas frame so they could hang their boards wherever they wanted. I also added an envelope on the back of each board that says “Goals” so they can drop in any goal that pops into their heads during the year.

Vision Board 2

Apparently there IS a correct way to create a Vision Board and the method has proven effective in achieving goals and dreams that we each manifest internally (I found this article on Oprah online but there are hundreds of articles and examples out there).

Personally, I love the “no thinking,” creative, instinctual aspect of putting a Vision Board together. And rather than writing a list of resolutions that may just add to our daily pressure and checklists and failures, I prefer the easy roadmap style of this process. I think of a Vision Board as a gentle daily reminder of where each of us wants to go – in our own time and at our own pace.

Vision Lead 3

I have gathered a new stack of magazines and plan on having a few friends over for a “Vision Board” party (wine included). Happy New Year. Be good to yourselves.

cake and cocktails, american hustle style

Lead CakeWith the People’s Choice Awards just past, the Golden Globe Awards scheduled for this Sunday, and that special man “Oscar” not far behind,  Tinseltown’s Awards Season is in high gear. And with that I say, “TIME TO ENTERTAIN.” What better excuse to host a group of friends for food and drinks. One of my personal favorites nominated for “Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical” this year is American Hustle. You can’t beat the setting, the cast or the era – 1970’s New Jersey with Bradley Cooper in perm rods, Amy Adams as the sexy mistress and cunning business partner to the bloated, side-hair parted Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence as the crazy wife and Jeremy Renner, the do-gooder politician with Mob ties.

What better way to celebrate the Golden Globe Awards than with cake and cocktails. And what better representation of the 1970s than the Harvey Wallbanger. Invented in the 1950’s but wildly popular in the 1970’s, the scrumptious base of ingredients includes orange juice, Galliano, and vodka that can be easily baked into a moist and yummy cake or shaken into a crisp cocktail. My mom was over and helped me “sample” the cocktail. We laughed as she remembered the Harvey Wallbanger era and how every hostess gift she received was a bottle of Galliano because she once mentioned that she liked it at a party. The cake was devoured by my family (it goes great with fresh berries for breakfast) and the cocktail…well, that was taken care of too!

You don’t need to always feel compelled to serve a full meal. Host a fun Golden Globe Awards party or Oscars party and do a Cake and Cocktail theme, with each person bringing an item in the theme of one of the “Best Nominated Movies of the Year.” My take on American Hustle and the 1970’s is apparent…disco and gold baby!

Cake Collage Final

Harvey Wallbanger Cake
Ingredients

One package yellow cake mix (16.5 ounces)
1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 fluid ounces Galliano liqueur
2 fluid ounces vodka
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 10 inch tube/bundt pan. Combine cake mix and pudding mix in a large bowl. Blend in eggs, vegetable oil, 4 ounces Galliano, 1 ounce vodka, and 4 ounces orange juice. Mix batter until smooth and thick and pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes then remove and place on cooling rack. Spoon glaze over cake while it is still warm.

To Make Glaze: Combine the remaining 1 ounce Galliano, 1 ounce vodka, and 1 ounce orange juice with the confectioner’s sugar and blend until smooth. Spoon glaze over warm cake.

Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail

Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail
Ingredients
3/4 oz vodka
1 1/2 oz orange juice
1/4 oz Galliano
orange slice for garnish or
maraschino cherry for garnish

Directions
Pour the vodka and orange juice into a Collins glass with ice cubes. Add the Galliano. Garnish with an orange slice or maraschino cherry.

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herb roasted tenderloin filet

Filet Final 1We have all been there…trying to serve a picture perfect holiday meal while sashaying through the kitchen with ease and elegance (that’s how I always see it in my head anyways). Sipping champagne, passing appetizers, and telling your guests, “Of course I don’t need help. Just relax. I’ve got it covered,” as sweat slowly trickles down your back, the oven timer starts beeping incessantly and the burners on the stove are in full flight. I know you can relate!

There is a solution to this overachiever mentality. It is the “Herb Roasted Tenderloin Filet.” I have made this many times and I promise you, it is simple and a delicious and beautiful meal. The roast goes into the oven and you do nothing but wait. When you take it out, it has to rest so you have time to toss your salad, sauté mushrooms and pull an easy side dish out of the oven (roasted potatoes, mac-n-cheese, baked potatoes, buttered noodles-all compatible options). Once the roast is ready, you will find it easy to slice and amazingly tender. Serve the roast with your accompanying sides and Voila, a sophisticated and scrumptious holiday meal that will keep you relaxed and enjoying the evening with friends and relatives.

For the tenderloin filet roast pictured above, I was lucky enough to be given Italian Basil and Rosemary right out of a friend’s garden. The smells, flavor and freshness of the herbs elevated the finished roast. My son just peeked at what I was working on and said, “When do I get that again???

Happy Holidays!

Ingredients
1, 2 1/2 to 3 pound whole tenderloin (I found a great selection of grass-fed prime at Vons Pavilions)
2 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 Tb ground up fennel seed (should be very fine)
1 tsp fresh Rosemary, diced
1 Tb fresh Basil, diced
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Directions
Mix all of the herbs together and add enough olive oil to make a paste. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub the tenderloin with olive oil and sear for about a minute each on all sides. Remove from the skillet and put directly into a roasting pan (no rack needed). Spread the herb paste across the top of the filet roast. Roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees (a good meat thermometer is a must). I cooked this filet for about 45 minutes before it reached 135 degrees. The time can vary depending upon the size of the filet, altitude, etc., which is why the meat thermometer is important.

Remove from oven and cover roasting pan with foil or a lid. Let the filet rest for another 10 to 15 minutes. It will continue to cook and should come out a perfect medium on the ends and medium rare toward the middle.

No sauce is required but my personal favorite is a whipped horseradish with dill for a little extra kick and amazing flavor.

Depending on the size of your crowd, you may need an additional roast. Plan on about 1/2 pound per serving, so a three pound roast will serve 6 adults.

seashell diy treasures

I have always enjoyed making ornaments to give away or to save for my family’s Christmas tree. I think my love for crafty ornament making began back in Ms. Meyer’s Kindergarten class when we made those salt dough ornaments (do you recall making those???). I don’t know about the rest of the country, but we Florida kids always wondered why our treasured ornaments were slightly moldy the next year…. “Ahhh, the good old Florida humidity!”
The Seashell ornaments shown below are sure to last a lifetime. My teenage daughter and her bestie loved making these seashell treasures. We have a bucket full of shells that we picked up from our local beaches over the years so these ornaments are a little more personal to us. You can purchase shells if you do not have your own collection. It’s also fun to personalize with last names, dates, or the name of your city and state. Make sure you have a glue gun for this activity as the shells need to be securely fastened.
Grab your teenager or little one and make an ornament for your tree or to give away as a gift. Years from now you will be so happy you took the time to make a seashell treasure. The best gift you can give your child is time, attention, love and memories….
PicMonkey Collage

Supply list to make 8 ornaments
8 large clear glass ornaments
1 small bottle metallic aqua blue paint
1 small bottle gold paint
Paint brushes
1 can glitter spray paint
Glitter (we used white, blue and red)
Shells (we bought two bags from Hobby Lobby and used some that we found on Siesta Key Beach)
Ribbon
Glitter Glue pen (to write your name, date, or city’s name)
Glue gun with extra glue sticks

PicMonkey Collage

Instructions
1. Carefully remove the top of the glass ornaments and fill 1/4 of the way with glitter.
2. You can leave your ornaments clear or you can spray paint the outside with the glitter spray paint. Let dry completely.
3. While ornaments are drying, paint your shells. We painted some of our shells and left some shells in their natural color.
4. Plug glue gun into power.
5. Being very careful with your glue gun, glue your shells onto your glass ornaments in the design of your liking.
6. Using the glitter gel pen, write the date, your name or your city or state’s name onto your ornaments.
7. Let the ornaments dry completely then replace the top of the ornaments.
8. Tie a ribbon onto the top of the ornaments for hanging.

PicMonkey Collage

a bi-coastal thanksgiving

Thanksgiving CollageChristi and I couldn’t be having two more different Thanksgivings. She is in Sarasota, Florida hosting 18+ for dinner. She was visiting So. Cal last week and didn’t get home until last Sunday night. I know she has been scrambling all week plus both of her ovens went out yesterday and I haven’t heard from her since (no doubt, her kitchen drama will be a future post).

On the flip side, I am here in beautiful Dana Point, California sipping coffee and reading. We are going to visit my grandma with flowers and then head to my sister’s house in Los Angeles. I told her to have the champagne ready so we can toast the occasion. We are then heading to her beach club for a gourmet dinner with every food imaginable (I’m guessing).

Despite how we choose to celebrate the day, everyone’s intentions are the same…reflect on the gifts we are thankful for and the people in our lives that we love and that love us. Christi and I wish you a memorable Thanksgiving filled with laughter, family, friends and good food.

a classic cocktail from a page in history

Lead Willard CocktailMy girlfriend and I recently had the good fortune to accompany our husband’s on business to Washington, D.C. While they were working during the day, she and I explored the city. Located just two blocks from The White House is The Willard Hotel. It has a storied history dating back to 1820. Charles Dickens was a guest in 1842. President Franklin Pierce lived there at one time and “Mr. Lincoln’s  [temporary] White House” was used to conduct business while renovations were being completed on The White House. Ulysses S. Grant stayed at The Willard four times while in command of The Union forces in the 1870s. President Calvin Coolidge called The Willard home at one time and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Inauguration was hosted there. Mark Twain and Walt Whitman graced the hallowed halls of The Willard Hotel. I could go on and on about this living treasure of American history that has been illuminated by luminaries for almost 200 years.

The first day in town, we strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue hoping to sink into plush high back chairs and indulge in High Tea at Peacock Alley. Unfortunately it was a Monday and High Tea is a Friday to Sunday kind of thing. So we opted for the bar instead. We were a bit early and ran into the bartender, Jim. He was an engaging man who let us bend his ear about our day’s plans. He provided suggestions for sightseeing, one of which was the original Post Office Pavilion. The building is worth the visit as the Clock Tower boasts a stunning 360 degree view of the city. Apparently, Donald Trump has acquired the building with plans to make it a grand hotel and city center for political events.

Round Robin Collage

After a few hours touring the sights, I dragged my girlfriend back to the Round Robin Bar. Very early afternoon is fine for cocktails, right???? There were two other patrons in the bar which validated that we do NOT have a problem. We talked to Jim a bit more and learned that he has been working at the Round Robin Bar for 27 years. Jim Hewes has been written up many times over the years and has a drink to represent each of our 44 presidents (he put his own twist on the Blue Hawaiian to represent our current president). Imagine the people, the political deals and the history that have graced the Mahagony Walls of that bar. Kentucky Senator Henry Clay was visiting Washington, D.C., in the Eighteenth Century when he originated the Southern Mint Julep at the Round Robin Bar. Chocked full of fresh mint, powdered sugar and Maker’s Mark Bourbon, it is not for a weak palette. I tried Jim’s recommendation, The Willard Cocktail. I figured it was a true classic made by the man who created it. He gave me the recipe which you will find below.

Ingredients
1 part Gin
1 part Apricot Brandy
A dash of fresh lime juice
A dash of Rose’s fresh lime juice
A dash of Triple Sec

Directions
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a cherry, lemon peel and a lime wedge.

The Willard collage

If you visit Washington, D.C., you must visit The Willard Hotel, The Round Robin Bar and the affable Jim Hewes. The magic is in the history and all who carry its torch – past, present and future.

 

parmigiano crisps with chocolate & sea salt

Parmigiana Crisps LeadTomorrow night we are invited to an intimate dinner party at our neighbor’s home for a “Pre-Thanksgiving,” Thanksgiving meal. Last year they treated us to a homemade Oktoberfest dinner but October schedules this year were insane for everyone so we switched gears and rolled our tradition into November.

As my neighbor and I chatted in the street one evening, we talked about their native Michigan and a wonderful cooking school she and her husband attended several times. The cooking school gained so much popularity that attendees can now only register for one class per year. When the Thanksgiving themed course came to their attention, there was only one spot available and the husband took it immediately. My neighbor painted a mouth-watering picture of a golden turkey so divine we will be begging for the recipe. They have used that coveted cooking school recipe time and again. And, the rest of the menu is apparently just as amazing. Needless to say, I will be starving myself all day tomorrow so I can indulge tomorrow night!

I am bringing the appetizer and this recipe came to mind. I found it a while back on The Whole Foods website and love it. The recipe is simple to make but is sophisticated and looks so elegant on display. The Parmigiano Reggiano Crisps marry the salty and sweet in a flavorful crunchy bite. The crisps aren’t heavy so everyone will still have room for the feast. Serve the crisps with a good bottle of Prosecco and you will have the ideal starter for any dinner party (especially during the holidays). And if you are looking for a unique homemade gift during the holidays, wrap these up in wax paper in a decorative box and give them along with the Prosecco.

Ingredients
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
6 Tb finely chopped dry roasted whole almonds (skins on)
4 ounces good quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 scant teaspoon vegetable oil
Sea salt for sprinkling

Parmigiana Crisps Collage

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss cheese and almonds together in a bowl. Form 12 mounds of cheese mixture on each lined baking sheet, spacing them 3 inches apart. Using the back of a spoon, press down on each mound to form a 1/4-inch thick circle. Place one baking sheet at a time on middle oven rack. Bake rounds 6 to 8 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let crisps cool on baking sheets.

Once crisps are cooled completely, line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Toss chocolate with vegetable oil in a small bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Dip about one-third to one-half of each crisp into melted chocolate, hold a few seconds above chocolate, then place on the lined baking sheet. Immediately scatter a tiny bit of sea salt over chocolate. Let chocolate set before serving. You can put crisps in refrigerator or freezer to speed setting.

This recipe is from Whole Foods