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Archive for February, 2012

Maybe it’s because there is snow on my lawn or because it’s freezing outside or because I’m ready for something besides the blah landscape of late winter.

Whatever the reason, I am more than ready for spring to arrive.

Until it does, I think I’ll force a little springtime to blossom inside my home with some things that remind me of spring.

Crocuses are always a hopeful sign that winter is fading away and spring is coming right around the corner. I love their cheery colors, especially against the winter grays and browns. Bring some of that eye-popping color indoors with accents throughout your home for an instant mood-lifter.

Flowering trees are so pretty and shout-out “Spring Is Here!” Some of my favorites are magnolias, dogwoods and Hawthorne trees. You can capture some of that beauty indoors by bringing in a few branches as they bloom or cheating by purchasing a few fake branches to  give a lighter, brighter look to your home decor now.

I love tulips. It’s hard not to smile when you see a bunch of them blooming in all their colorful splendor. My silly tulips are already poking their little heads through the soil, attempting to freeze their tops off. I think they are as ready for spring to arrive as I am. You can find bunches of tulips in florist shops or even the grocery store this time of year. Treat yourself to a bright bouquet and see if they don’t make you grin. A lot.

Robins are a sure sign that spring is coming. I saw a whole bunch of them yesterday and sighed in relief. Robins create the most spectacular shade of blue with their eggs. You can recreate a little of that miracle in your own home using a fake nest and eggs from the craft store. Or for a fun project, make a nest out of coconut and fill with candy eggs. It might not last long, but the smiles from your family will be well worth it!

She Who Can’t Wait for Spring

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Ingredients

 

Wrap with bacon

 

Secure with a skewer

 

Put on a rack in a baking pan (foil lined if you are lazy like me and don't like cleaning up baked on messes).

 

Cook until bacon is crispy and sizzling.

 

Drizzle with seasoned butter and prepare to indulge in a delicious treat!

You know that saying bacon makes everything better… I’m pretty sure it’s true.

I don’t even like scallops, but wrapping them in bacon and drizzling them with butter made them quite tasty!

This recipe is easy, simple and fast, so give it a try and enjoy!

Bacon Wrapped Scallops

6 scallops

3 pieces of bacon

1tbsp melted butter

1 tsp seasoning

skewers or toothpicks

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut bacon strips in half lengthwise. Wrap each scallop with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick or skewer. Place on a rack in a roasting pan. Because I am a lazy slug and don’t like cleaning up messy baking pans, I lined mine with foil before I did anything else. Spray your rack with a little Pam to speed up the cleaning process and keep your scallops from sticking.

Place in oven for 15-20 minutes or until bacon is crispy and sizzling.

Melt butter with a teaspoon of seasoning. You can do spicy or mild. I used an all-purpose seasoning (Mrs. Dash works fine).

Pour over scallops and serve.

This recipe would serve two.

She Who Likes Bacon Wrapped Indulgences!

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The other day I locked myself into my office and spent the evening absorbed in writing my next novel.

If I don’t surface or make any sounds for a couple hours, Captain Cavedweller will come check on me to make sure I am still alive and kicking.

When he came in that evening he asked if I wanted anything. I said a little spoon of ice cream would be lovely.

He came back with this…

Needless to say, I was quite impressed.

I think he might just be a keeper.

She Who Loves CC and Ice Cream

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Everything seems a little gray and dreary in my world today, so I thought I’d share something that would brighten things up a bit – the “it” colors for Spring 2012!

I’m kind of excited about the color choices, because I actually like quite a few of them. While I’m not too excited about the Tangerine, Solar Power or Starfish for apparel options, they would make fun party colors!

Bellflower, Margarita and Sweet Lilac and colors I can definitely see doing some fun things with along with Driftwood. I have a friend who will look absolutely gorgeous in Cockatoo, my two personal favorites on this chart of Caberet and Sodalite Blue. Both of those colors speak to me, quite loudly in fact. I may even be wearing something Caberet colored right at this very moment.

I love that these colors seem cheery and bright, but still have some warmth and depth to them.

If you are looking for a reason or theme to host a party, why not have a spring colors party and invite over a few friends. Maybe each one of them could either wear or bring something (food dish, serving piece) in one of the colors.

You could talk about ways to combine colors, what options would make key wardrobe pieces for spring. You might also see who looks best in what colors. There is nothing like a gathering of girlfriends telling you you look fantastic in a certain color to make the world seem a little more sparkly and wonderful.

She Who Longs For Spring

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Just a few weeks ago, The Heinous Cat disappeared. I wrote about him coming home, much to our everlasting relief after being on the lam for 12 days.

Due to some very disturbing activity in our backyard the past few days, we’ve been wondering just exactly where he went and what he did while he was gone.

In just the past two days we have counted six, that’s right, SIX,  stray cats trying to make themselves at home. At first we thought we were seeing things, but nope, a head count revealed six extra cats. All big and way too friendly to be wild.

With The Heinous Cat and Miss Maizy, we really don’t want any more cats around, but the drop-in guests have been a bit reluctant to leave.

We are wavering between two theories.

1. The Heinous Cat was tired of only having Miss Maizy to swat at and be mean to so he went on a crusade to recruit some new blood. He told them it was a real happening party at his house, offering up incentives to get them to come. Unfortunately, his new recruits could all slap him into next Thursday without even blinking.

2. The Heinous Cat got lost and at every house he came to he told the resident cat about how much he missed his home and his Mama and his Captain Cavedweller. He cried about how they took such good care of him and he just wanted to find his way back home. It got the cats he talked to thinking about checking out some digs where all they are expected to do is eat, sleep and occasionally wander over for a nice back rub or head pet and they decided to come check it out.

3. Someone had way too many cats and decided to drive out in the country and dump them and they somehow ended up at our house.

Yeah, I’m going with theory number one myself.

Anyone need six stray cats?

She Who Doesn’t Like Felines Enough to Need Eight of Them

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I was working on the cover for my Savvy Spring Entertaining book (coming soon!) and I wanted something to feature on the front that was… well… springy!

It needed to shout “Spring” and be colorful and fun.

I found just what I was looking for with this Lemon Bundt Cake.

Bundt Cakes are so easy to make and so, so good with their moist, flavorful texture.

Garnished with lemon slices and a berry, I thought this did a great job of saying “Ah, Spring.”

Our cast of characters.

Mix up your batter. It is going to be really thick, so don't panic.

Pour into a bundt or angel food cake pan that has been properly greased. (Properly vs. improperly, which is what I usually manage)

Bang the pan a bit to get the air bubbles out and even off the top of the batter. Pop into a preheated oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until the top if lightly brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan.

While the cake is cooling prepare to have a divine experience.

Zest a fresh lemon. As the scent fills your kitchen with a divine fragrance that makes your knees week, try not to pass out on the floor. Spouses, children and pets may find that disturbing.

Microwave cream cheese frosting for about 10 seconds or until melted then pour over the top of the cake.

Pour on plenty of frosting. You wouldn't want anyone to get short-changed in the sticky-sweet department.

Sprinkle a little lemon zest on top and enjoy!

Lemon Bundt Cake

1 box Lemon Cake Mix

1 small package instant cheesecake pudding

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup oil

3 eggs

1 tsp. lemon juice

2/3 cup  cream cheese frosting

1 fresh lemon

Strawberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend cake mix, oil, eggs, sour cream, water and lemon juice on medium speed until combined. The batter is supposed to be super thick, so don’t worry if it seems heavy.

Spoon it into a greased bundt pan, evening it up as best you can (I tap the pan on the counter to get out air bubbles and even up the batter). Bake for one hour or until it starts to pull away from the edges of the pan.

Let cool completely then invert on a cake plate. Zest a lemon and enjoy that mos fragrant experience. You may also want to cut a few thin slices of the lemon for garnish.

Put frosting into a microwaveable pitcher or bowl and nuke it for about 10 seconds. For this recipe I used  Cream Cheese Frosting. That was a very good decision. Pour liberally over the cake, letting it drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle on a little lemon zest.

Serve with a strawberry or two and enjoy this luscious, moist dessert!

She Who Loves Lemon Desserts Way Too Much!

 

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Last Saturday, my BFF and I decided to take a cooking class. The driving force behind that glorious decision was the fact that  the class was called “Chocolate is for Lovers!”

Guess what the class was all about? Come on, take a guess.

That’s right- chocolate!

Part of a month-long series, classes are offered each Saturday during the month of February at the Walla Walla Community College’s Titus Creek Café centered around a theme. The first Saturday was Super Bowl, last Saturday was chocolate, this coming Saturday is meat.

Not exactly sure what to expect, we arrived to find a lively group already gathered, ready for the class to begin. We actually sat through four mini-classes, enjoyed lunch and a musical performance, and then there was a food and wine pairing class to finish up the day.

The most wonderful Mandi Konen, Pastry Chef at the Marcus Whitman Hotel, taught our first class on the basics of chocolate and how to make truffles.

Mandi taught us about the different types of chocolates, the appropriate temperatures to melt chocolate and discussed cocoa butter and cocoa powder. She talked about tempering chocolate and how the process goes from hot to cool to warm.

The biggest tips from her class about working with chocolate were:

• Keep the space clean and dry.

• Don’t allow contact with water. It will make the chocolate unusable.

• Don’t heat chocolate above 120 degrees.

• Keep stirring or “agitating” chocolate during tempering process.

The way she demonstrated melting the chocolate was called “seeding.” During the process, 2/3 of the total amount of chocolate is melted, stirring in the remaining 1/3 until you’ve reached the cool range, then returning to heat, if necessary to reach the warm range.

She gave out tips, like use disc chocolate rather than brick or chips. Chips are meant to hold their shape and the bricks of chocolate have to be chopped and are harder to temper.

She let us sample salted caramel truffles that were divine. So divine in fact, my BFF may or may not have insisted we go to the hotel’s gift shop after the class where we may or may not have purchased every single last truffle they had.

Mandi shared her recipe for the caramel she puts in the truffles, as well as detailed instructions on how to make the candy. She made it look really simple. I know it isn’t, which is why I will probably continue to get my salted caramel truffle fix from the gift shop instead of attempting this at home.

She also showed us how to make ganache, which can be poured over a cake, whipped into frosting or used to top off candies.

This I could do.

Ganache was also a topic at another of the mini-class sessions where Chef Greg Schnorr, pastry chef instructor at Walla Walla Community College where the class was held, taught us all about  Sacher Tortes.

He made it sound so easy, using a Duncan Hines Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix, apricot jam mixed with rum, and ganache.

The end result looked quite yummy.

The taste was way beyond yummy. It was so good, in fact, I think we actually closed our eyes in bliss for a moment or two.

We also learned about making sorbets and ice cream with Chef Dan Thiessen, Director of Culinary Arts at WWCC.

I would have shared pictures of the sorbet and ice cream, but I got too involved in tasting them and and forgot about the photos. Sorry.

Dan shared about using fresh seasonal fruit to make delicious sorbets, like the Orange/Pineapple/Strawberry sorbet he served. He also taught us about ice cream and the tips to get that smooth, creamy texture. The Chocolate-Coffee Ice Cream he made was fabulous and I don’t even like coffee.

Our fourth class was about mixology with Silas Manlove of The Vineyard Lounge.

He provided tips on stocking a home bar, different types of cocktails and offered a chocolate drink to those interested in sampling. My BFF thought it was amazing.

We were treated to a beautiful lunch. The highlight, in my opinion, was the cocoa nib crusted beef. Executive Chef Antonio Campolio  from The Marc Restaurant outdid himself in the preparation. Captain Cavedweller, upon hearing my ravings over the meal, was sad to have missed it. College Cellars provided wine for tasting to those interested.

While we were finishing up lunch, The Four Tenors serenaded us and then, sweethearts that they are, provided all the women in the class with a single red rose.

The afternoon finished with a food and wine pairing class with Chef Antonio and the sweet Jaime Chalk from L’Ecole No 41 Winery.

After the classes, those who wanted were invited to attend a Wine & Bites reception at the Marcus Whitman Hotel featuring L’Ecole’s wine and tasty treats prepared by Chef Antonio and his talented culinary staff.

The cost for all that fun and excitement was a mere $20 – for the classes, lunch tasting and fun.

There are two of these unbelievable classes left. If you are within driving distance of Walla Walla, I highly encourage you to purchase your ticket and enjoy a memorable experience. Call the Marcus Whitman Hotel at 509-524-5110 and let them know you want your ticket for the next February for Foodies class.

Here’s Mandi’s caramel recipe!

Caramel Sauce

3 c.                  Sugar
¼ c.                 Water
1 tsp.                Lemon Juice
10 oz.               Heavy Cream

Combine first three  ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot. Brush the sides of the pot down with a clean pastry brush and water to keep the sugar from falling back into the caramel and crystallizing. Cook over medium high heat until a dark caramel color. Once desired darkness, stir in heavy cream. Heating the heavy cream first decreases the amount of sputtering when combined.

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