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Archive for March, 2010

A classic example of what it’s like to be 39 weeks pregnant.  I made Coffee Toffee Bars.  I tasted them and they were quite delicious.  I thought Coffee Toffee bar, mmmh.  And then I thought, “Coffee?  There’s no coffee flavor … oh yes I glanced over the Tbs. of coffee called for and figured I would first add the salt and baking powder before doubling back … I never doubled back … I forget absolutely everything these days.”  Hence, I give you a Coffee Toffee Bar without the coffee.  Which I assure you, is quite tasty indeed.  I’m also quite sure that the “with coffee” version would be equally tasty.

They might look like a Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar, but they aren’t quite the same thing.  The bar is far more flaky and somewhere in between a cookie and shortbread.  And the teaspoon of almond extract enhances the flavor from the classic vanilla found in a Chocolate Chipper.  And who knows what the coffee would do except to say it would definitively taste nothing like a regular chocolate chip at that point.  So go crazy.  Give these a whirl.  Choose to live spontaneously by adding or not adding the coffee.

Coffee Toffee Bars
Taken from tastykitchen.com
Prep: 10 min  Cook: 20 min.

1 cup Soft Butter Or Margarine
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
1 Tablespoon Instant Coffee (Up To 2 Tablespoons For More Flavor)
½ teaspoons Baking Powder
¼ teaspoons Salt
2-½ cups Flour (approximately)
1 cup Chocolate Chips (Up To 2 Cups!)

Cream together the butter and brown sugar.

Blend in the almond extract, instant coffee, baking powder and salt.

Add enough flour to make a stiff dough.

Press into a well-greased 9×13 pan (or a jellyroll pan if you’re doubling it) and sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes.

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Crafty Catherine

My friend Catherine is too cute.  Despite the fact that they bought an old Chicago bungalow a little less than a year ago and have about a gazillion house projections going on all the time (which you can read about here) – including things like repairing cracked windows, redoing hardwood floors, and upholstering dining chairs – Catherine still volunteered to do a small sewing project for me.  I saw a “how to” guide on nursing wraps and instantly loved the idea of having one that is unique to me.  Much as I loved this idea I hate sewing and had about 10% motivation to do it myself.  Enter gracious Catherine.  Two weeks later I have a cute nursing wrap to hopefully start using today … sigh … or tomorrow or sometime in the next 17 days.

But Catherine being Catherine she got even more cute and crafty and I ended up with two matching bibs to catch all of little Toro’s slurps and spit-ups.  I love the contrasting trim and lining she chose and can’t wait to be posh and coordinated.  Thanks Catherine!

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Cheese Please!

I just love cheese. Almost any cheese. I was thinking the other day how very sad it would be if my baby ended up having trouble digesting cheese and I end up off of cheese for 8 months or so. Here’s to hoping I never need to have that thought again.

(Photo taken from flickr, courtesy of Maksis)

But it started me thinking about my cheese preferences and my perfect pairings. I’ll take almost any cheese combo, but when I have my pick here’s how I pair things currently:

On a burger … either smoked gouda or bleu

On a cracker … creamy brie

With fruits such as apples, pears and grapes … havarti

In a fondue … gruyere

As a salad topping … goat

On a toothpick … manchego

What about you? What’s your perfect combo? And what’s your must-do pairing for a killer grilled cheese because I haven’t yet decided on that particular favorite?

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Here was Saturday morning’s result of the 80 lbs. of cinnamon roll dough I accidentally made.  Maple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls.  Take your basic recipe and add a touch of maple flavoring to the dough, some chopped walnuts to the filling, and top it with a maple glaze.  After all, despite being a firm believer in the fact that there is nothing better than the original cinnamon roll dough, when you’ve got 80 lbs. of it … it’s time to get a little creative with some of your pans!

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38 Weeks

Here’s Toro & I at 38 weeks, 1 day.

38 weeks means I’m full-term and can be okay with having this baby at any time.  My midwife informed me that they are knocking out births like crazy so that I’ve now made it to the first page of her list of upcoming moms.  Toro’s pretty much as low as he can go, so now it’s just a matter of him deciding when he’s ready to leave his cushy lifestyle.

Things I’m ready to be done with, especially right now?  The three pillow nightly arrangement that has to be rearranged every time I flip over.  The ankles that can now only be called cankles.  And the pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel in my hands that makes me unable to form a fist for about 30 minutes after I wake up.

Nate and I have been so busy that we rarely have a night at home anymore.  Last night was one of those golden nights, but we decided to go out anyway because you never know when we are going to be pretty much tied to our home for the next three months.  So this is kind of our last “date” weekend.  We went to one of my favorite french restaurants and had the most satisfyingly delicious dinner that I’ve had in ages.  Nate started with a Bacon, corn, and basil risotto that he instantly fell in love with while I tried something new in the form of a Potato vichyssoise with lobster.  Both excellent choices followed by steak frites, bread pudding with creme anglaise and creme brulee.  Their creme brulee is the consistency of perfection in my book.  A nice treat before the many housebound, freezer meals to come.  And tonight we are headed out to take in Billy Elliot: The Musical, which was one of my birthday gifts from Nate.  Again, probably the last time we’ll be doing Broadway in Chicago for awhile …

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This here salad is something truly simple to throw together.  Because, you see, you’ve already made the Radicchio & Orange salad so you’re dressing is already set and waiting in the fridge for it’s next incarnation.  That’s the whole reason this salad came together for me: leftover dressing, leftover produce.  But just because this salad had the word “leftover” in it doesn’t mean Nate wasn’t picking up the bowl to scrape at it and slurp the rest of the juices out.  Oh and making me promise to include this 5-minutes of labor on a future cafe menu someday.

Asparagus, Avocado, and Orange Salad with Honey & Poppy seed Dressing

1/2 bunch of asparagus
1 large avocado
1 orange or blood orange
kosher salt
pepper

Honey and Poppy seed Dressing

Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus.  Place on a microwave safe plate with a Tbs. of water and microwave just 30 seconds to 1 minute or til barely tender and still crisp.  Place in cool water to stop the cooking.

Cut the avocado into a dice.  Cut the orange into segments and then cut each segment in half.  Cut the asparagus stalks into inch long pieces.  Place all three together into a serving bowl and sprinkle with some kosher salt and pepper.  Drizzle with some of the honey & poppy seed dressing.  Toss and serve.

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This salad is a great example of how sometimes the simplest combinations are the tastiest.  I had no recipe for this salad.  Instead it was a trip to the fruit and vegetable market where I saw the bin of radicchio and couldn’t resist.  Then a big orange caught my eye as the perfect color complement to the purplish ruby radicchio.  And from something that simple this salad was born.  So simple that it could be on your plate from start to finish in ten minutes.  Now that’s an extra ten that is worth it to have something other than a bowlful of packaged, wilting iceberg leaves.

Radicchio & Orange Salad with Honey Poppy Seed Dressing
Serves 4

1 large head of radicchio
1 large navel orange
½ of a shallot

Dressing:
2 T. lime or lemon juice
2 T. honey
1 t. poppy seeds
1/2 t. prepared mustard
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1/4 c. olive oil

Cut the head of radicchio into four equal sections, lengthwise.  Remove the heart at the bottom of each wedge.  Fan slightly and plate each wedge on a separate salad plate.

Cut top and bottom off of the orange.  Cut away remaining rind and slice the orange into segments.  Place on top of the radicchio on each plate.  Peel the skin off the shallot and thinly slice.  Separate slices and sprinkle on top of each plate.

Place all dressing ingredients in a bowl and emulsify completely.  Drizzle over each of the salad plates.  (Dressing makes more than needed for this recipe, but I make the full recipe and store in the fridge to use on a variety of salad combinations.)

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