Our family was invited to share a New Year’s Eve dinner with Marco’s best friend and his parents, and I was put in charge of desserts – my favorite course!
Seeing as how it was NYE, I knew a champagne cupcake was in order, and winter is a wonderful time for pomegranate. But, in case there were guests who did not enjoy cake as much as I do, I thought a fruit and cheese coupling would do nicely. I had found a recipe that contained brie and apples in a puff pastry, and thought I’d easily duplicate it with different pairings.
Champagne cupcakes (I actually used a Prosecco, as it is sweet, dry, and inexpensive) – based on the recipe from Homemade by Holman
2 3/4 C all purpose flour (I used 2 3/4 C + 2 tbsp whole wheat cake flour)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 C unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 3/4 C caster sugar or Baker’s Sugar
3/4 C champagne
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare your muffin/cupcake pan with paper liners. Combine the champagne and vanilla together in a small bowl. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on a medium speed until light and fluffy (approx 3 minutes). Add the flour in three separate batches, alternating with the champagne mixture (ex flour mix, champagne mix, flour, etc) until combined. Set bowl aside.
In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they hold stiff peaks. Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the batter then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Spoon batter into cups until each is about 2/3 full. Bake approximately twenty minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool about five minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack until cool enough to frost.
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup pomegranate puree (I use Perfect Puree pomegranate concentrate)
cornstarch, as needed
Let butter sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature, then cut into cubes. Using an electric mixer, beat on high until the butter if fluffy. Add sugar, 1 cup a time, until combined. Add the puree concentrate 1 tbsp at a time, checking for your flavor preference – I wanted a lot of the tartness to come through. Because so much liquid is added to the buttercream, but I still wanted a thick frosting, I added two tablespoons of cornstarch to the frosting to help keep it thick. You can also add more sugar, if that is your preference. Cornstarch is good because it has virtually no flavor, and will not over-sweeten your frosting.
Frost your cupcakes as you wish! I used the Wilton 1M star tip and disposable bags, and made a basic cupcake swirl, then sprinkled edible decorating pearls for a little pizzazz :-)
Fruit and cheese puff pastry envelopes (makes 8) – similar recipe HERE
2 D’Anjou pears
Pear butter (Whole Foods carries many varieties)
small block of Point Reyes bleu cheese
8 whole dried black mission figs, cut in half
1/2 wheel of Rouge et Noir triple creme brie
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry (or, if you have more time, make your own!)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it’s a 10 by 10-inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife. Using a pastry brush or spatula, spread a light layer of the pear butter onto each quarter of puff pastry.
Add 3 or 4 pear slices and some good sized crumbles of Point Reyes blue cheese.
Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold the corners in to look like envelopes. Place the pastries on a prepared sheet pan.
Repeat process with the second sheet of puff pastry, only this time use the fig butter and sliced dry figs, and two or three small slices of brie.
Brush the tops of each with egg wash. Bake the pastries for about 24 minutes, rotating the pans once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.
Both desserts were a hit! The best part about the puff pastry envelopes is that they are easily adaptable to suit palettes. Any fruit and cheese combinations can be used – aged cheddar and apple would do nicely!
I decided I couldn’t wait for Spring to do a little Spring cleaning, and took the opportunity of a four day weekend to re-organize the closets and my bathroom. I tackled Tim’s closet first, because I knew there were interesting bits in there. For Tim, the most painful thing is to throw out a tee shirt that still holds up, even if he hasn’t worn the stupid thing in 6 years. Lots of haggling involved just to pare down his closet to what he actually will use.
Then, there’s this weird tic he has, when he thinks I should hold onto this gawd-awful pair of boots he made me buy (the last time I let him talk me into any purchase) back in 2005, right after we got married, and which I have worn: 1 time. We get into this debate every single year. I throw the boots into the donate pile. He fishes them out and hides them in his closet, in a box, under the bed, etc. I stumble upon them, put them back in a donate pile, and round and round it goes. He insists that he will take me to the snow and I will need these particular boots. However, we have been to the snow together: 0 times. How do I explain this… they are suede with faux fur lining. I hate them. I can’t even post a picture here, that’s how much I dislike these infernal boots.
On the plus side of our New Year’s weekend, my hair tools/accessories are neatly organized in drawers:
But, of course I still have a junk drawer for loose ends. SIGH.
Before you get to thinking I had the saddest New Year’s ever, I will be sharing recipes this week for two delicious desserts I brought to the NYE dinner party we attended!
There’s nothing like the anticipation of a new calendar year to bring about change; welcome or not, it somehow makes a difference. It’s not just a new datebook and remembering to write the correct dates on a check. I feel like I don’t always see it coming, though in reality I’m given 31 days of December to notice that it all starts over.
approx December 26 1983 – HA! My mom was impregnated. LOLS FOR DAYZ.
December 31 1999 – Wow champagne tastes awesome n rad n stuff n oh my god I’m drunk and my head hurts help mom i’m sick and underage!
December 21st 2003 – At the young ages of 21 and 19 (respectively), Tim and I become officially engaged.
January 4 2006 – The decision is made to move from my hometown of San Jose to the Napa Valley (where we’d spent a mere 5 days on our honeymoon), and our hunt for a suitable apartment begins, just days after the valley experienced a nasty flood.
December 31st 2009 – After months of anxious guessing: we’re having a boy!
December 6th 2010 – I start a new job, working full time after spending six months with my beautiful baby, which also means my baby begins daycare.
December 30th 2011 – Emergency surgery to remove my left ovary.
This year is quiet. Almost too quiet… it gives me time to think. It also gives me time to plan, which is never good, because I make giant grandiose plans of how my next year will be spent (also how the next year’s money will be spent, sorry Tim).
Yesterday I hadn’t had time to properly organize my hopes and resolutions for the months to come, but now I think I have them:
1. Kick even more ass at my job. I’ve done pretty well so far, but c’mon, there’s always room for Jell-O…erp…improvement.
2. Get back to the gym. I took the entire month of December off, and I feel how tired I am – it helps my sleep when I work out.
3. MAIM! DESTROY! REMODEL! The kitchen, of course. 1973 is so000 40 years ago.
4. Take more pictures. Though this may sound strange coming from someone who took an over 4,000 photos this year (not including the photos taken for the wedding I photographed), but I really want to keep moving forward in my photography skills, and my Nikon D7000 will definitely help (thanks to Tim for my amazing Christmas gift)!
5. Spend more time playing, reading and running with Marco – and less time throwing my hands up with impatience when he does something naughty (“We do NOT climb onto the changing table in order to leap onto the bed!”) or incomprehensible (“Just tell me WHY you moved all the train tracks into the bathtub…”).
6.. Figure out how I REALLY feel about babies, and if I am a 1 or 2 kid Mom.
7. Continue the fun with flour and sugar! I don’t mean to ding my own egg timer (ehh!?), but I’ve whipped up some fantastic baked goods these last few months, much to the dismay of waistlines every where. Let’s keep it going!
Last resolution: go to bed earlier. Now that it is 12:22am, I’m signing off.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas!
My mother’s day was just as lovely as I could have hoped! I got to sleep in, was greeted upon waking with flowers, donuts, coffee, and hugs! Marco drew a card for me, and I even received a special card from my fur babies! <3
We decided to go to the movies to see ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’, which was quite silly and fun. British humor is rather quirky. Rather. Ha, see what I did there? Right-o, Jeeves.
Marco and I both took an afternoon nap, and after, I was able to read in bed. Blissful silence…
For a special treat, Tim took Marco and I to dinner at the Calistoga Inn, one of our favorite haunts in the valley.
Tim, contemplating the dinner menu. It’s serious business, guys.
Marco, lookin’ handsome (as always!)
Marco’s smooches are the best mom’s day present!
Love the patio
Spring risotto!! Mmmm
I love this picture of us!
After dinner, Tim picked up a lemon-blueberry cheesecake for us to enjoy at home, and we settled in with a glass of wine and an episode of ‘Mad Men’. I was completely disappointed in Betty’s childish behavior (when will it cease??), and kind of furious with Don for his treatment of Ginsberg (whom I adore!), but otherwise I quite enjoyed our evening.
Here’s to the mamas!
P.S. My baby turns 2 in three days. Trying not to have a heart attack.
I get to be mommy for these precious babies…
Chloe (with her sarcastic face!)
And that is reason to celebrate.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mommies – whether it be people babies or fur babies!
I’m a week behind, but here’s some unbelievably adorable pictures of my boy during our Easter festivities!
I even got a basket from the Easter bunny – complete with Cadbury Mini Eggs and a Kermit the Frog pez dispenser – thanks Mr Bunny. After our jelly bean appetizers, I made whole-wheat Bunny pancakes for breakfast. Actually, pretty darn good! I’m not generally a pancake person, but the whole-wheat flour created a tasty flavor.
After our breakfast, we watched Sesame Street, read books, and got ready for our day with Tim’s parents and grandparents. My son is hilarious about his clothes: he has to pick his own outfits. He picked out every item, down to his socks. MY KID IS SO FLIPPING STYLISH. Also, he’s a ham – he started posing for the camera! Tim stood behind me and did funny poses that Marco imitated – it was awesome. Next time CrewCuts needs a model, they should call Marco, am I right?
Once we got to Judy and Len’s, Marco hunted for eggs (I didn’t think he’d be into it, but he thought it was the most fun thing ever), and we noshed on good food all day (my kind of day, lol!).
Lately, I’ve been a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen (working on new recipes, messing with old ones, and sometimes making things up on the fly). Here’s a few tidbits to nibble on (heh heh)
A special chicken pasta dish that was such a huge hit I will be posting the recipe here soon (as well as whipping up a vegetarian version so that I can eat it!):
Rice balls – based on the recipe from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious, but with slight modifications. Instead of just brown rice, I used a mixture of brown, red, and barley; the recipe also calls for chicken or turkey, which I left out, and I used crushed whole wheat garlic croutons instead of wheat breadcrumbs.
SO FLIPPING GOOD. Basically arancini, but healthier. It contains sweet potato and broccoli purees, which give an awesome flavor to the cheese.
For Valentine’s Day, I made Rice Krispy treats dipped in vanilla candy coating for my coworkers; I used food coloring to make it pink. Then I shook some candy sprinkles to make them cute. They disappeared very quickly from the break room!
I made the Rice Krispy treats with a jar Marshmallow Creme, instead of regular marshmallows, as there is no gelatin included (making it vegetarian-friendly). The texture of the bars was perfect, and even the next day were perfectly chewy. I also recently found a recipe on Pinterest for homemade marshmallow fluff, which I can’t wait to try!
I had plenty of candy dip left over, so I dipped a basket full of strawberries for Tim. We had these as our special Valentine’s dessert
We’d been hoarding a block of Bellavitano Espresso cheese, and I finally experimented with it by making a quick panini. Baguette with genovese pesto, Robusto gouda and the Bellavitano, grilled. OMG DELICIOUS. Also had mixed greens tossed with gorgonzola, tomatoes, garlic EVOO and my favorite Olivier barrel aged Balsamic Vinegar.
Tim and I had stayed up after we returned from Christmas Eve dinner to finish setting up Marco’s presents. I wanted everything to be perfect for the kiddo to run out and see his gifts!
Christmas morning dawned, and still the Dicksons snored. Marco woke up at 8am, not exactly happy with life. He insisted that Daddy hold him on his chest. The three of us stayed in bed and passed out for an additional 45 minutes. Then, we decided to have breakfast before Marco discovered his treasures.
Marco loves his eggs
Look at his excited face – and his adorable holiday jammies!
After breakfast, we let Marco run out to the living room to discover what was there. He was SO excited to see his tunnel tent!
There was even a special note from Old St Nick
Tim had piled Marco’s gifts into the tent so we could all hang out with Marco in his new digs.
I gave Tim two sets of cuff links (one that is reminiscent of a circuit!), and a cool book by Brian Cox, and the accompanying BluRay documentary. I also gave him a few silly things for his stocking, like binoculars, candies filled with Sambuca, and such.
After a pleasant morning and early afternoon lazing around, we got ready for our Christmas dinner with the Dicksons.
Marco looked so handsome! Vest, tie, slim fit jeans and Converse.
I made my special baked Brie for an appetizer (by special request), and it went fast! I was only able to get a few bites before it disappeared. We had a delicious dinner, and I spent a lot of time talking with Dad and Tim about photography.
My body wasn’t thrilled with me that day, and I was losing the battle to stay awake and comfortable., so we left around 9 so I could get home to bed. Overall, a very good and quiet Christmas.
Happy New Year!!
I know I’m kind of behind on the holiday posting! It’s already 2012. Whoops. I felt so disconnected from the holidays this year, because of how much pain I was in, how tired I was, blah blah blah. Anyway, Marco had a wonderful holiday, which is the most important thing! It felt good to be able to bring such smiles to his face.
The Friday before Christmas, my amazing best friend Micaela came up to stay the night and keep me sane. We sipped a little bubbly (delicious Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose – YUM) and discussed life in general, exchanged gifts (I’ve held onto her gift for several months, I was DYING for her to finally open it! I found this beautiful vintage locket in the shape of a book; the cover had a cameo on it. It was part of an estate sale that ended up in a shop near my house; the clerk estimated 1950s). Micaela gave me a beautiful raspberry colored scarf/shawl, and an awesome crafting book full of neat ideas that I feel like I can actually do! It’s like Pinterest, in book form
After the fun present part, Micaela helped me chop pistachios and candy canes so I could make chocolate bark:
Dark chocolate with pure orange oil and pistachios
Milk chocolate with almonds (my grandma’s favorite, I made it especially for her)
Dark chocolate, white chocolate and smashed bits of candy canes (micaela took a meat tenderizer to the super-size candy cane)
I also baked some cookies, molasses and ginger snaps, and dark chocolate and mint cookies:
The next morning, Christmas Eve, we enjoyed coffee and conversation, and Marco engaged Micaela in a few rounds of tag and hide-n-seek.
Woo hoo! Marco loves racing cars around the house, and this one is his new favorite.
Marco and Belle decided to take their mid-day siestas, so the grown ups lounged around. We exchanged our gifts (I’m excited to start reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami ! Timmy got a Wii golf game – at least he doesn’t have to wear the weird plaid to play lol!), and I tried to feel less tired.
When Marco woke up, we made the trek to San Jose for my family’s dinner at my uncle’s house. It was good to see everyone, and I was happy to see my grandmother in good spirits. She’s been so frail for so long, it was a relief to see her smiling and laughing again. Marco was free with hugs, and my cousin Tony made an appearance (I haven’t seen him in several years). Overall, a good night. We couldn’t stay very late, because we had to drive back up to Napa. The drive home was difficult for me; I couldn’t get comfortable and the Motrin wasn’t doing anything for the pain.Poor Timmy was exhausted too, so we were relieved to finally make it home.
Christmas morning and day to come in the next post!