There is nothing that makes me smile like the smell of freshly-baked goodies. I love the scent of scones fresh from the oven and to see the way the currants have plumped to nearly bursting. My heart skips a beat when the gentle fragrance of vanilla and butter wafts through the house like a song. When I bake brownies, it’s like chocolate unicorns are dancing in my kitchen...
Inspired by my early morning baking, I thought I would share a few tips for brownie baking I hope you find useful, Dear Readers:
1. Always make extra brownies. Enough is not as good as a piece when it comes to chocoholics that mascarade as pretty girls.
2. Use a mix of brown and white sugars to give your brownies a slightly caramel flavor.
3. Both vanilla and chocolate make chocolate taste more chocolatey.
4. Go for the wet crumb NOT the dry crumb. (Moist brownie batter will cling to a wooden skewer and can be rolled around with your fingers.)
5. Toss any mix-ins like nuts and/or chocolate chips with a little flour before adding to the batter.
This morning it is sheeting down rain. I’m talking ‘singing in the rain, jeez la-weez, is that Gene Kelley dancing? Singing in the rain, rain! Get the picture? The kind of rainy day when musing about mix-ins is fun and baking muffins for exhausted daughters is a must. This morning, I perfected a Glazed Donut Muffin recipe for my upcoming cookbook, “Cooking Up Life.” I will be making it at the local Great Allentown Fair later this month so I thought I would give it one final test. Perfect mix-ins for muffins could be nuts, cheese, fruit, herbs or chocolate. The secret to mix-ins? Toss them with a little flour before stirring them into the batter so they are evenly distributed and have fun!
Are you’re wondering about dehydration and whether or not you might be? Well, you probably already are dehydrated if you’re wondering. Most of us do not drink enough water and thirst is not necessarily a symptom of dehydration. Thirst is proof of dehydration, not a symptom. Other symptoms of dehydration include headache and nausea. What to do? What to do? Sip slowly, Dear Readers, and sip often. Carry water wherever you go and eat foods that consist mostly of water like cucumbers, watermelon and tomatoes. Set a timer to remind you to drink if you need to (my husband Russell does this) and for goodness sake, don’t think soda or other sweetened beverages replace water. If you’re outside in the heat, balance your water intake with other fluids that contain electrolytes and such and be careful about gulping ice water or you may vomit and make matters worse.
Share your thoughts in the comments section and take care.
With the weather so hot and days so busy, if you’re planning a little gathering, instead of assembling “turn on the oven” treats and tidbits, how about offering an assortment of little bites. To start, assemble a cheese plate with three to four types that taste yummy with beer, wine and nonalcoholic beverages alike. Offer dried fruits and nits with the cheese plate and you’re good. For dinner, make a sandwich bar with crispy yet tender breads freshly-picked garden greens, herbs and tomatoes to pile high a top good sliced meats and mustards. To round out the meal, offer a berry assortment and local, high-end ice cream or sorbet and maybe something sparkly or fruity. Little bites show big love. Enjoy!
In the world of cooking, if a choice has to be made, it is better to taste good than to look good. (Pardon my grammar.) Fear not the slightly-topped cake layer or the imperfect dollop, both just mean a human (with a loving heart) made them. Run from the tasteless, “perfect” swirl of too much “frosting” and overly decorated small bites, both which usually mean fake news.
I am a very picky eater. I expect food to be flavorful without being over-seasoned. Is that too much to expect? I also believe buffet food should be well-labeled. People need to know what they are eating, especially those of us with food allegeries. I ask you, Dear Readers, where are the labels? I happen to be allergic to both walnuts and MSG. I always ask at restaurants about either in case it is used in dressings and such but usually it’s clear to see nuts but of course MSG is hidden danger. I am in the throws of a food allergy and if the desserts and such had been labeled, I would not be suffering. It’s just common sense for buffets to be labeled if you ask me. I’m just saying. Dah!
The New York City Theatre District offers many dining options but eating at a Churrascaria is an “experience” to say the least. A Churrascaria (roughly translated) is a place to taste your way through every known possible type of meat on earth that has been barbecued in a Portuguese-style before (either) exploding or falling into a food coma. Each diner is given a double-sided card that is green on one side and red on the other. Green means, ‘where’s the beef?’ and red means, ‘give me a minute while I loosen my belt.’ (Again, those a rough translations.) I felt like I was at war! The parade of meat included; sausages and hunks of succulent chicken, ribeye steak, prime rib, rib meat and Parmesan-crusted pork loin. There was garlic steak and lamb too plus sides of fried banana, polenta sticks, creamy fried patatas, and a toasted cornmeal and nut mixture to sample. An exquisite double-sided salad bar adorned the middle of the dining room that even had Parmesan reggiano and Jarlsburg wheels that were hollowed out so chunks of each could selected and drizzled with honey. (One of my favorite options since it complimented the crispy, tender rib meat.) We nibbled a little of each salad option from the quinoa to the barley and the potato to the shredded chicken. If you can imagine the “experience” being intensified, all these delights were washed down with Brazil’s national drink called a caipirinha, made table side. We opted out of the dessert cart choices or I don’t think we would have survived. We capped our evening with champagne cocktails and an incredible view of New York City. We had quite a time in the square!
August is hot! Darn hot! In fact, August a lethal combination of darn hot and humid! What to do? What to do? Keep things simple and by “things” I mean meals. Here are a few ideas to get you through an entire day of meals when it’s too hot to think:
Toss blueberries with yogurt and drizzle of honey and a handful of dried tart cherries and nuts for breakfast.
What about a simple lunch of tomato sandwiches or cucumbers with a pinch of grey salt and cream cheese?
How about something super refreshing like asparagus beans with a minty vinaigrette?
Throw some broccoli or zucchini on the barbecue next to chicken or burgers and pep it all up with some fresh, julienned basil for dinner.
Nope, I haven’t forgotten dessert. Fresh fruit over ice cream or sorbet with crispy, crumbled store bought shortbread cookies and a touch of creme de cassis over the top.
Sometimes the anticipation of being made to wait is sweet and sometimes it is sour. For example, the anticipation of waiting for a cake to bake or pie to crisp or favorite cookie to brown, is sweet. The anticipation of waiting for a loved one to arrive on a stormy day is sour. The anticipation of a trip is sweet, travel delays caused by weather? More like
sour. Both in baking and in travel, the tribulations of the arrival are met with effort but bring joy but joy brought with effort. The cake you may take all day to plan , bake and decorate but will be gobbled up in three bites; however, the joy of seeing your efforts make a person you love happy is great. There is the inconvenience of traveling and delays and tightly-packed planes and airports that run out of cake but knowing there is a warm welcome and loving arms waiting for you at the end make it all worth it. A loved one arriving after a long-anticipated visit is like baking and decorating a cake; it is planned, anticipated and and then gobbled up in three bites with only crumbs of joy left on the plate.
Today’s projects are many; cleaning, baking, gardening, haircut, more baking and gardening, kid gathering, dinner-making, the list goes on. First thing this morning however, I carved out a little “me” time. I did a power yoga session to get my mind and body reved up for the day. My morning workout is the one thing I do for “me” each day. My “me” time makes me happier, healthier and better. By default, my family, friends and colleagues benefit too. Wouldn’t you rather be around someone who is happy, healthy at their best? Me too! “Me” time is not selfish, it’s important. Respect and value yourself and factor in some “me” time each day, you deserve it!
Avid home cook and passionate instructor