April 15, 2013

The Power of Handwritten Notes


This post doesn't have any pretty pictures, or even a recipe. I am not even sure it has a purpose. It's simply about something that I love.

I love handwritten notes. They are like little pieces of someone that you can carry with you. Bits of history. Tokens of love and affection that don't even begin to compare to emails or re-tweets, or any other form of digital communication that bombards us on a daily basis.

Google search results tells us in a thousand different ways how important a hand-written note is for the post-interview follow-up, for doing business, or attracting donors to our worthy causes. In other words, it's a great way to get something we want. But what about a simple note just for the sake of a note? To let someone know that we love them, that we're thinking about them, that 'hey, you matter to me?'

There are a lot of different ways that we can share words with one another, and of all the wonderful things that can be handwritten, one of my most favorite of all is recipes. I have a shortbread recipe passed down from my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, and now to me. It’s written on a tiny 4x4 square piece of paper, and I have rewritten it in other places a dozen times to make sure that I don’t lose it, but the original is tucked away in my recipe drawer (yes drawer) for safe keeping.

That’s the power of the hand-written note. It’s the preservation of something so much more powerful than the words themselves. I'm not saying handwritten notes are going to save the world, but if you have the time, take an extra minute to write someone you love a little note. Let them know how much you care about them. Send a friend you haven't seen in awhile a cute little card or letter. I know they will love it!

xx
nina




October 31, 2012

Old-fashioned sugar cookies with cinnamon and cloves


Before we talk about these sugar cookies, I just want to say that being a dog mom is tough. And being more obsessed with Arnold than he (sometimes) is with me makes for a lot of rejection. For reals.

Like yesterday, the hubs was watching the NBA opening season game and Arnold wasn't having any of it. I don't think he likes the whistles and the squeaking of the shoes on the court - so he goes upstairs. I go upstairs to cuddle him and he immediately goes back downstairs. I putter around for a bit and then head back downstairs. He gives me the stink eye from his dog bed and makes his way back upstairs. Total and utter rejection.

If he could talk, he would be telling me that my kisses and cuddles are embarrassing, and that for God's sake he is a dog with some dignity and can't I just respect that? Sigh.

Moving on from my night of rejection - let's talk old-fashioned sugar cookies.


I have always been more of a it has to have chocolate in it to be a good cookie kind of gal, but over time (ahem, as I've gotten older) I appreciate a nice sugar cookie now and then. I have a soft spot for sugar cookie cutouts, but these old-fashioned sugar cookies will please just about anyone.


The original recipe calls for lemon zest, but that just seemed so three months ago (aka when leaves were still on the trees). So in the spirit of all that is fall and fabulous, I added cinnamon and cloves instead, and swapped out the light brown sugar for dark. The outcome was divine. A soft, chewy, flavor-packed cookie that you could easily eat A LOT of. There, you've been warned, and I cannot be held responsible if you eat the entire batch.



These cookies are perfect for fall and I am telling you that you need to go out and make them right now. You'll thank me, I promise!

Enjoy!

Oh, and Happy Halloween too of course!

xx

nina

You will need

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
2 large eggs at room temperature
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and set aside.  

Put the sugars, cinnamon and cloves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until just combined. 

Add the butter; mix until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Reduce speed t o stir and gradually add the flour mixture until just combined. The dough will be thick and you don't want to over mix! 

Scoop the dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop (or any size you choose depending on how big you want your cookies). Space accordingly. Flatten cookies slightly with a spatula or your palm and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Flatten ever so lightly again and sprinkle with more sugar. 

Bake cookies until edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. 

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Eat and enjoy! 

Adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies


October 28, 2012

How to make Sharpie art on dishes



Sharpie art. Maybe you've seen it on Pinterest or around the blog world, maybe you haven't. Either way, it will change your life. The possibilities for crafts, projects and gifts are endless, and the cost is low too.

It's a flipping brilliant idea, and I have no idea why I didn't come across it sooner.

If you're not in the know, I will let you in on the Sharpie art secret. Are you ready? Here goes:

Step 1. Search around your house for dishes/trays/mugs that you'd like to get crafty with. Just make sure they're oven safe!

Step 2. Pick and buy (if you don't have any already) your Sharpie pens. The colors are endless and you totally have permission to go wild.

Step 3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 4. Write or draw whatever you want on the dish of your choosing.

Step 5. Bake for 20 minutes and let cool completely before using. Your artwork will be permanent!





That's it! That's all there is to it. Amazing, right?

Now, I don't know if the Sharpie art will be dishwasher safe, so probably best to stick to hand washing for now unless proven otherwise.

For my little project, I used Sharpie paint pens instead of the regular markers. They were 40% off at Michaels, and they were great to use, but from what I have seen, regular Sharpies work just fine!

Now that you know how easy it is, go and make some Sharpie art!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

xx
nina

September 13, 2012

Back to blogging

I've been on a longgg hiatus. Maybe you've noticed? Maybe not and that's alright too. During this hiatus I've still been cooking, baking and basking in the glory that is food. But I just haven't been able to carve out the time it takes to take the "perfect" picture, or write about the perfect recipe. I've put so much pressure on myself to create the perfect blog, that the blogging part hasn't even happened....

So, with that being said, this is my official comeback. I know you're all ready to mark it down in your calendars! I've made a deal with myself that it's OK to not always have an amazing new oh my gosh you've got to try this recipe every time I want to blog, and that there are so many other things that I can blog about that relate to food, and community and the happiness that comes from kitchens that I most definitely would never run out of things to say. If you knew me in "real life," you would know that I don't often lack for words.

There are so many amazing food blogs out there, it's hard not to compare and stack yourself up against them, but that's not what this is about for me, so please, please stay tuned....

July 31, 2012

Cupcake Pops!

I know, I know. It's been awhile. The summer has turned into one giant activity - an endless array of beach days, parties, barbeques and all around fabulousness that I haven't been able to break free from! Fear not, as I have been busy in the kitchen and soon you will be so inundated with recipes that you will be sick and tired of hearing from me - I promise.














In the meantime, I leave you with cake pops from Bakerella. I made these for my brother in-law's engagement party and let me just say - they were a hit! The cake pops are a little time consuming to make, but the finished product was so adorable (and tasty!) I wouldn't hesitate to make them again.

You can find the recipe for the cake pops here.

I will be back soon! In the meantime, I hope you are all enjoying the summer!

xxx
nina

May 4, 2012

Cowboy Cookie Recipe

True story. I am a recovering cowboy junkie. For a good portion of my young adult life, no one was more in love with cowboys than me.


In college, I had cowboy sheets. I think that they were meant for kids, but since the dorm beds were twin size, it never occurred to me that I was being completely ridiculous by buying them. 

LOVED them. 

Wayyy into my cowboy obsession, I discovered cowboy cookies. Um yeah. Whatever year that was, I am pretty sure it was completely made by that cowboy cookie discovery. And since then, I've had many a cookie, but never made my own. 


I really wanted to call these cowgirl cookies, but then I realized that no one would know what the heck I was talking about. I discovered that there are a lot of people out there who have never even heard of cowboy cookies, so why make it more difficult for them to discover their scrumptiousness? 

Let me just say. These cookies are not for the faint of heart. They have a lot going on. I used a basic chocolate chip cookie base that is my go-to, and then just loaded those puppies up with goodness. The combination of the oats, coconut, almonds, cranberries and white chocolate chips is intense. But it's so good. 


I also highly recommend mixing this cookie dough batter by hand - as in use your hands as the mixers. I almost always mix cookie dough by hand, because I think that mixers tend to over work the batter, which can result in a less than perfect cookie. Even if you just use the hand method after the butter and sugars are mixed, that works too and will make a big difference! Trust me on this.

I think these cookies actually tasted better the next day, after they were given a chance to settle. Yes, I know that's something that houses do, but I am thinking it can apply to cookies too. Makes sense, right?

Oh, and these cookies are amazing with chocolate ice cream. Which I may or may not have had for dinner dessert the past three nights. 

This recipe makes about 15 cookies

You will need:

½ (100 grams) cup granulated sugar
½ (120 grams) cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (115 grams) cold, and cut into small cubes
1 large egg at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Salt (table or sea salt, depending on your preference)
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 and ¼ cups (200 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup white chocolate chips
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ sliced almonds
1/3 cup oats
¼ cup coconut
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 300F (150C). If you choose to, you can bake these cookies at 350 degrees, but watch them like a hawk if you do!
Line two to three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a stand mixer, beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. With your hands or a spoon, mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda until just combined.
Stir together the flour, salt, coconut and oats. Mix them into the batter until just combined (again using your hands or a spoon).
Mix in the white chocolate chips and sliced almonds.
Scoop two tablespoons of cookie dough onto the cookie sheets, spacing them about four inches apart. Fill your cookie sheets according to their size. Most standard sheets will fit about 8 cookie dough balls.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until the edges become golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit on the cookie sheet for a few more minutes where they will bake a little longer, and then move them onto a cooling rack.
Eat and enjoy!
Cookie base adapted from Smitten Kitchen 








April 30, 2012

Homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

One of my proudest kitchen moments so far has been making homemade ice cream.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream

When I ordered the ice cream attachment for my Kitchen Aid – I was beyond excited.  I was bopping around, talking up my ice cream skills to anyone who would listen. This primarily meant the hubs and Arnold. It got pretty old, pretty fast. Believe me. 
 
It’s just that I could NOT wait to make ice cream. But then life happened, and this past weekend I realized that I’ve had the stupid churn for several months, but I haven’t done a darn thing with it.   

I’ve mentioned before how busy and important I am. Clearly this proves it.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe

When deciding on what flavor of ice cream to make first, the choice was clear – mint chocolate chip. The hubs loves mint chocolate chip ice cream – it’s his absolute favorite. And since he came down with typhoid a cold this weekend, it only seemed fair to make him some. Seriously, when the man is sick, it's like the world is ending. 

I will honestly admit that until recently, I thought making homemade ice cream was outside of my culinary capabilities. I figured I should stick with pie crust and call it a good day. But all of this time spent in the kitchen has taught me the following: if I think I can, I will. So this past weekend I did.

mint chocolate chip ice cream on a wooden spoon

It was a much easier undertaking than I imagined, and this mint chocolate chip ice cream recipe is incredibly accessible. No surprise it’s from David Lebovitz. It makes incredibly creamy and decadent ice cream. If you’re not a big fan of the creamy variety, substitute the heavy cream with whipping cream - it has a lower fat percentage and will work like a charm.

So what are you waiting for?! Think you can and you will! No matter what is facing you.

Happy Monday!

xx
nina



You will need:

1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh mint leaves – packed
5 large egg yolks
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used a combination of both)

Directions:

In a saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup heavy cream, vanilla, salt and mint. Once the mixture is hot and steaming, remove from the heat and cover. Let the mixture stand for one hour. This will infuse the mint flavor into the cream.

After an hour, strain the mint from the mixture, making sure to press down with a spatula or your hands to get as much mint flavor as possible. When you’re finished, discard the mint.

Pour the remaining heavy cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Set aside.

Re-warm the mint milk mixture over medium-low heat.  Once it’s warm, slowly pour some of the mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until combined. Then scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until it thickens and coats the spatula. *Note, this process went faster than I thought it would, about 5-7 minutes. If using an instant read thermometer, it should read around 170ºF (77ºC).

Immediately strain the mixture into the cream, then continuously stir the mixture over an ice bath until cool.

Refrigerate the mixture thoroughly, preferably overnight. Then churn and freeze according to the instructions of your ice cream maker.

If using your kitchen aid attachment, add the chopped chocolate at the very end of the churning process. Usually 2—3 minutes before it is done. If using another type of ice cream maker, follow the instructions for when to add the chocolate.

Serve immediately after churning, or freeze and enjoy!

Recipe slightly adapted from David Lebovitz (from his website)