Saturday, July 26, 2014

celebrating my 40th . . . and a theme



I've been looking back on this month ~ through photos ~ and couldn't help but notice a theme . . . FOOD.

Much of my birthday was centered around food (no complaints here!) . . .

a beautiful birthday cake made by my dearest and best-friend Alex of Cameo Cake Company
 lunch at CHADO's with some of my favorite people
Cookbooks
and a gift card to a Cooking School 




LADUREE
.     .     .     .     .     .
My husband worked a little magic (a lot, actually) and surprised me with a box of LADUREE macarons!

I love these petite French cookies. I've tried countless macarons over the years, and none of them compare to LADUREE's. There's something incredibly unique about them. The chocolate tastes like REAL chocolate; pistachio tastes like REAL pistachio; the vanilla tastes like REAL vanilla; and the rose macarons taste like REAL rose.  They're like a little pieces of heaven on earth.







The CAKE
.     .     .     .     .     .
My best-friend Alex, Owner of and Cake Decorator for Cameo Cake Company, surprised me with this beautiful cake. She paid careful attention to ALL the details . . . even down to the muted gold and pearly white fondant . . . and the BIG, beautiful hand-made pink peony. Simple and classic. Perfect.





And the inside . . .

a DARK CHOCOLATE lover's dream
.     .     .     .     .     .
Intense and rich dark chocolate cake ~ made with two varieties of high quality Guittard cocoa ~
filled with mint Oreo Swiss meringue buttercream ~ made with high quality and all natural peppermint extract ~ and then frosted in extra dark chocolate ganache ~ made with Callebaut Extra Bitter Chocolate ~
 before being covered in vanilla fondant. Heaven!






CHADO's
                                                                  .     .     .     .     .     .
A small group of close friends and I ventured north to Los Angeles
where we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at CHADO's.







 


Prep
.     .     .     .     .     .     .
I'm so excited about this gift card!
Prep is a culinary retail store and Cooking School.
They offer a wide variety of top-rated, hands-on cooking classes . . .
and I have plans to enroll in the hand-made pasta workshop . . .

Herb Pressed Tortellini with Garlic, Roasted Tomatoes
Fettuccine With Grilled Chicken and a Light Cream Sauce 
Lasagna with Classic Bolognese

Summer Salad with Fresh Market Greens

Grilled Peaches with Chantilly Cream


I can't wait!!
I hope to take photos of my hand-made pasta adventure . . . and share the recipes with YOU.




The COOKBOOKS
                                                                  .     .     .     .     .     .
I was gifted amazing (and heartfelt) cookbooks. I treasure them, especially when there's a special story within its covers.

I'm a huge fan of Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen.

Have you heard of them? They're both highly respected in culinary circles, and I'm so happy to have more of their books to add to my collection.

I've already tagged upwards of 50 recipes from this one!  The old-fashioned chewy sugar cookie recipe I posted recently came from here.



 



This cookbook (below) has an extra special story behind it . . .
I saw it sitting on my cousin's dining room table last Summer. Its charming watercolor cover caught my eye . . . and when I asked her about it, she told me that it was a cookbook made by a group of elite women who have lived on Coronado Island for decades and decades. They're the women of the Crown Garden Club of Coronado.




Throughout the years, Crown Garden Club members have enjoyed fabulous brunches, lunches, teas, and dinners. Many of the recipes included in this book are treasured favorites from those events. Other recipes are from local restaurants that are long gone, but still evoke happy memories of past days in Coronado.

I was so surprised when my cousin, Linda, surprised me with one for my birthday!! What makes it so special is that there were only 500 of them printed, and they sold out almost immediately. She pulled a few strings (many strings, actually) and called in a favor of a friend, of a friend . . . and found one for ME!

I might not be a Coronado native and resident (like Linda), but I have fond memories of spending many Spring and Summer weekends in Coronado with my family. So although I don't know the Ladies of the Garden Club personally, I feel honored to have one of their cookbooks. Now I have a piece of Coronado in my home & kitchen (smile). Thank you so much, sweet Linda.

a chapter from the cookbook titled . . .
Summer in Coronado
.     .     .     .     .     .
White Truffle Deviled Eggs
1 dozen hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white truffle oil
1/2 teaspoon black truffle salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper, to taste
Lemon thyme sprigs for garnish
.     .     .     .     .     .
Cut off 1/3 the top of the hard boiled eggs and place the yolks in a bowl.
Mash thoroughly with a fork and add the oils, and salt and pepper; mix thoroughly.
Return mixture to egg halves.
Garnish and serve cold or at room temperature.






I feel so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by so many loving friends and family members!
Thank you all for making my day so very special!
I will treasure all of my 40th birthday memories always.



LET'S STAY in touch!




Sharing with . . . .

Stephanie Lynn, Twelve O Eight, Carrie This Home, Cooking for the Seven Dwarves, Huckleberry Love, Dwellings, Smart Party Planning,  The Dedicated HouseMod Vintage LifeLori's Culinary Creations,  StoneGableAn Extraordinary DayBetween Naps on the Front Porch, Rustic Refined,  Tumbleweed ContessaA Stroll Thru Life,Elizabeth & Co,  My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Savvy Southern StyleChef in Training, The Recipe CriticOur Home Away From HomeFinding FabulousThe Style Sisters, Fluster Buster  Pure Grace Farms, ,Kitchen Meets Girl, Lady Behind the Curtain Craftie Allie, Fine Craft Guild, Wednesday morning The Blissful Bee,  The Newlywed Pilgrimage,, Lamberts LatelyLive Laugh RoweSweet Bella Roos, The Charm of Home, From My Front Porch to YoursSimply Dream and Create Delightsome Life.,  Katherine's CornerNancherrow,  Jann OlsonHome Maid Simple,  Rooted in Thyme,  One More Time EventsThe Cottage MarketBacon Time, Sunflower Supper ClubChic California, Tater Tots and Jello,  Cooking with CurlsMade from PinterestSimply Gloria3 Little Greenwoods




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

celebrating my 40th birthday on Coronado . . .

 


I told my husband a year ago that I wanted to have a big party to celebrate my 40th birthday . . . but as the year passed, my thoughts changed.

Instead, I dreamed of a quiet birthday . . . away.




The idea of a big party wasn't as appealing anymore.  I thought it would be more enjoyable to gather over the month with friends and family for small lunch or dinner dates to celebrate my birthday.

I've come to appreciate smaller gatherings, as they tend to be more relaxing . . . and they give me the chance to have meaningful conversations.




And so my birthday wish came true . . .

We spent a quiet, wonderful weekend on Coronado Island.

My husband and I took the Amtrak Surfliner south to San Diego, and then ferried across the water to Coronado, where we biked and strolled all weekend.




We enjoyed long, leisurely bike rides on the island,  moonlit walks on the beach, and relaxed meals on the harbor.

One of the highlights of our weekend was having Sunday brunch in the Crown Room at Hotel del Coronado.

I could have taken hundreds of photos of the hotel alone, but my focus this visit was the Sunday Brunch in the Crown Room.

The brunch is well-known for its extravagance; and after having gone now, I can see why.




The Crown Room is quite stunning with its wood ceilings, crown chandeliers, and beautiful views of the harbor . . . but the food was equally impressive.

I'm still in awe over the incredible menu that not only included typical American brunch entrees, but also Mediterranean, Italian, Spanish, and French. Take a peak at the menu here.

I brought my "good camera" to take photos while we were there, but found that it was more convenient to take photos with my cell phone. I'm quite happy with how many of them turned out.

I hope you enjoy . . .







a seafood bar . . .



seating in the garden too . . .




A few of my favorite photos of the grounds of Hotel del Coronado . . .





A peak at the exterior of the hotel from the courtyard. I love the white . . . and all the details.





One of many beach bungalows . . .




On our way to the beach, we found the hotel's herb garden.





We had a wonderful weekend!

Actually, the whole month has been filled with fun, friends, family, and small celebrations. I love birthdays, don't you!?






LET'S STAY in touch!







Sharing with . . . .

Stephanie Lynn, Twelve O Eight, Carrie This Home, Cooking for the Seven Dwarves, Huckleberry Love, Dwellings, Smart Party Planning,  The Dedicated HouseMod Vintage LifeLori's Culinary Creations,  StoneGableAn Extraordinary DayBetween Naps on the Front Porch, Rustic Refined,  Tumbleweed ContessaA Stroll Thru Life,Elizabeth & Co,  My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Savvy Southern StyleChef in Training, The Recipe CriticOur Home Away From HomeFinding FabulousThe Style Sisters, Fluster Buster  Pure Grace Farms, ,Kitchen Meets Girl, Lady Behind the Curtain Craftie Allie, Fine Craft Guild, Wednesday morning The Blissful Bee,  The Newlywed Pilgrimage,, Lamberts LatelyLive Laugh RoweSweet Bella Roos, The Charm of Home, From My Front Porch to YoursSimply Dream and Create Delightsome Life.,  Katherine's CornerNancherrow,  Jann OlsonHome Maid Simple,  Rooted in Thyme,  One More Time EventsThe Cottage MarketBacon Time, Sunflower Supper ClubChic California, Tater Tots and Jello,  Cooking with CurlsMade from PinterestSimply Gloria3 Little Greenwoods








Tuesday, July 22, 2014

old-fashioned chewy sugar cookies



The perfect sugar cookie is tender, moist, and chewy . . . with just the right amount of vanilla and sweetness. 




Have you ever wished that you had a fool-proof recipe for soft, moist, and chewy old-fashioned sugar cookies?

Well, it's no surprise that Cook's Illustrated, sister to America's Test Kitchen, gives us that . . . the perfect chewy sugar cookie.

I don't know about you, but I like having an arsenal of fool proof recipes, especially for baking.




My mother-in-law bought me this beautiful book for my birthday . . . and I've already tagged upwards of 50 recipes that I want to try out.

              Of all the recipes, I chose to make the Chewy Sugar Cookie first (big smile . . . and no surprise, I guess).

For a little Summer fun, the kids and I decorated them with bright and cheerful sprinkles.

They're delicious all by their lonesome with their tender sugar crust, but we've also enjoyed them topped with frosting and served up as ice cream sandwiches . . . just to give you a few more ideas.




One of the reasons I trust Cook's Illustrated (and America's Test Kitchen) recipes is because they share with readers why their recipes work.

Here's what they have to say about their recipe for Chewy Sugar Cookies.

Why this recipe works
excerpt from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook

Traditional recipes for sugar cookies require obsessive attention to detail. The butter must be at precisely the right temperature and it must be creamed to the proper degree of airiness. Slight variations in measures can result in cookies that spread or become brittle and hard upon cooling. We didn't want a cookie that depended on such a finicky process; we wanted an approachable recipe for great sugar cookies that anyone could make anytime. We melted the butter so our sugar cookie dough could easily be mixed together with a spoon - no more fussy creaming. Replacing a portion of the melted butter with vegetable oil ensured a chewy cookie without affecting flavor. And incorporating an unusual addition, cream cheese, into the cookie dough kept our cookies tender, while the slight tang of the cream cheese made for a rich, not-to-sweet flavor.




chewy sugar cookies
24 cookies
.     .     .     .     .     .
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus
1/3 cup sugar, for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
.     .     .     .     .     .




Preparation
NOTE: The dough will be slightly softer than most. Handle as briefly, and as gently, as possible when shaping. Overworking the dough results in flatter cookies.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.

Place 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese in large bowl. Place remaining 1/3 cups of sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later). Whisk in oil until incorporated. 

Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.

Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each. Using hands, roll dough into balls. 

Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet. 

Using bottom of a drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2" in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per baking sheet), discarding any remaining sugar.

Bake, one sheet at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating sheet after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet 5 minutes. Using wide spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.






LET'S STAY in touch!




Sharing with . . . .

Stephanie Lynn, Twelve O Eight, Carrie This Home, Cooking for the Seven Dwarves, Huckleberry Love, Dwellings, Smart Party Planning,  The Dedicated HouseMod Vintage LifeLori's Culinary Creations,  StoneGableAn Extraordinary DayBetween Naps on the Front Porch, Rustic Refined,  Tumbleweed ContessaA Stroll Thru Life,Elizabeth & Co,  My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Savvy Southern StyleChef in Training, The Recipe CriticOur Home Away From HomeFinding FabulousThe Style Sisters, Fluster Buster  Pure Grace Farms, ,Kitchen Meets Girl, Lady Behind the Curtain Craftie Allie, Fine Craft Guild, Wednesday morning The Blissful Bee,  The Newlywed Pilgrimage,, Lamberts LatelyLive Laugh RoweSweet Bella Roos, The Charm of Home, From My Front Porch to YoursSimply Dream and Create Delightsome Life.,  Katherine's CornerNancherrow,  Jann OlsonHome Maid Simple,  Rooted in Thyme,  One More Time EventsThe Cottage MarketBacon Time, Sunflower Supper ClubChic California, Tater Tots and Jello,  Cooking with CurlsMade from PinterestSimply Gloria3 Little Greenwoods


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