This post is brought to you by Bing. Know what Bing does really well? Image searches, which is why I now need to go plant seeds to have these ready for next year. Thanks to Bing for making finding ideas for Oscars party food and star shaped foods easy to find.
My husband is on call for work the night of the Oscars so we stay fairly low key in our house. A little bit of celebration is in order since it marks the end of a big annual work project. So this year I’m making it The Night of A Thousand Star..shaped foods. Or at least a few star shaped foods. All of these are gluten-free, almost by coincidence. Though I know so many people who are gluten-free that it’s become normal to avoid it when menu planning.
I hope some of these ideas help make your Oscars snacks a bit more sparkly.
We’ll start with a fruit salad and champagne. Pineapple rings and kiwi slices act (sort of) like rays of light and the stars are cut from slices of pear. I used Sumo citrus wedges here, their delicate taste doesn’t overwhelm the other fruits. (Shout out to my friends who have shown me the way to Sumo love!) Add pomegranate seeds to your champagne glass and watch as they bob and float.
DIY star shaped tortilla chips! The best thing about homemade tortilla chips is that they are extra strong and can stand up to the chunkiest of guacamole.
The chips are are easier than you might suspect, I followed the instructions you can find over at Savory Sweet Life. You’ll need a bag of corn tortillas, a star cookie cutter and some vegetable oil. Brush or spray vegetable oil on both sides of a tortilla and use a cookie cutter to cut shapes, I could only get through two tortillas at a time. Spread the chips on a baking sheet in a single layer, sprinkle with salt and bake at 350 degrees for about ten minutes, flipping about half way through. Since I don’t know the size of your cookie cutter I recommend flipping them after five minutes and checking them every two minutes after that. If you have a crowd coming over you can make some star chips for decorations and then slice the rest of the tortillas into wedges to save time. (Kind of like bringing out the cheap wine after the good wine has been consumed and nobody will care at that point anyhow.) If you want to make these in advance they can be crisped up by baking in a 200 degree oven for a few minutes.
Finger foods are in order to keep our energy up during commercial breaks so I’m going with stuffed mushrooms and star shaped cheese crackers. This is the first time I’ve made stuffed mushrooms and I had no idea that they are so easy, I’m going to be making these a lot more often for no reason at all. For these I simply subbed in gluten-free bread crumbs.
The star shaped cheese crackers here are the Cheesy Squares recipe from Lara Feroni’s book Real Snacks. I’ve made these before (for cookbook club) and at the time I made both the version with wheat flour and the gluten-free ones to compare. We found that the gluten-free ones turn out a bit more crisp and are more fun to eat. This time around I made a few different sized cheese stars and the smallest size were our favorite by far, the crispy edge ratio is just about right. The ones shown here arout 1.5 inches tall. I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour. If you make these a day early they can be crisped up by heating in a warm oven for a few minutes.
I had a little conundrum at the grocery store over these. The good sharp cheddar I could find didn’t have the ultra-orange coloring that would make these really fun to look at. But the good sharp cheese is delicious so it won out. You could likely make these far more Cheez-its orange with different cheese.
Recipe from Real Snacks, by Laura Ferroni. Used here with permission and changed slightly.
- 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 180 grams (1.5 cups) all-purpose gluten-free baking flour
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup milk, plus more for brushing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine the cheese, butter, flour, onion powder, salt, and milk in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade. Pulse to form a ball, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the dough into four parts and flatten into discs, wrap with plastic wrap for the time being.
Roll dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it’s 1/8th to 1/16th inch thick. Cut the dough out using a small star cutter and transfer each star to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper leaving about 1/2 inch between each. (You will likely be popping each one out of the cutter so it’s easy to just deposit them right onto the baking sheet.) Brush the dough with milk and prick the center of each one with a skewer.
Bake until the crackers are just slightly brown on the edges. Check after five minutes frequently after that, times will vary depending on which size cutter you’ve used. Cool crackers on a wire rack.
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Dessert will be something we can make quickly so we don’t miss anything. Here are simple scoops of ice cream with metallic sprinkles. I found these at Joanns. I cannot tell you how delightful I find these tiny edible gold stars. I’m going to start putting them on everything, like eggs and steak.
· comments  · 02-22-2013 · categories:food ·
Spicy, Smoky Bean Cakes with Lime Slaw and Charred Avocado | Serious Eats : Recipes.
Something to try, Smoky Spruce Buttercrunch | Thoughts on Food and Life. A Buttercrunch made with smoked chocolate and spruce essential oil. I happen to have some of those smoked chocolate chips and they make for the best indoor s’mores of all time.
New Booze: Hophead Hop Vodka | Serious Eats: Drinks Hopped vodka? I wonder if it’s good, I looove hops..
Taste Test: Olo’s Chipotle Paste Vs. Canned Chipotle Chilies | Serious Eats. We don’t cook often enough to keep fresh ingredients around all the time, but I think I would make good use of the chipotle paste.
What are your best recipes for a savory breakfast casserole that can be prepared the night before and cooked in the morning? | Ask MetaFilter.
How to Identify Hops in Your Beer: The Three C’s | Serious Eats: Drinks, also see How to Identify Hops in Your Beer: Amarillo, Summit, Citra, Simcoe I wonder if there are any professional beer tasting courses that teach you how to identify components, I’d like to take that class.
Bon Appétempt: Gérard’s Mustard Tart. Oooooh!
25 Food Trends for 2013: bonappetit.com. The Paloma made with mezcal and the stovetop smoker are things on my radar. Via Shutterbean.
Julian Baggini – The art of coffee. A blind taste test of Nespresso vs. hand drawn espresso.
Eats // The best heart shaped donuts you’ll ever have. So very cute, at Sugar & Cloth.
· comments  · 01-10-2013 · categories:food · links ·
Jonathan Gold quiz: Weights and measurements – latimes.com. The only question I got right was: “8) At Milliways, Douglas Adams’ restaurant at the end of the universe, the fabulous cost of the meal is what?” Via The Hairpin.
Sprinkle Bakes: Cinnamon Cider Sticks. These are basically mulling candy for your cider, I’m completely in love with them.
Roasted Rosemary Almonds – Shutterbean.
Joining the Biscuit Club « Tea & Cookies. The secrets to the perfect biscuit.
Xmas Wishlist, Non-Pappy Edition | Mash Notes. Which bourbon to buy when you cannot find Pappy Van Winkle, via The Morning News.
Washington Wine Battle: Columbia Crest vs. Chateau Ste. Michelle | Serious Eats: Drinks.
Lara Ferroni » Gingerbread Meringues.
The Baking Steel | Serious Eats. “The Baking Steel makes some of the finest indoor-oven pies you’ll ever make. It’s a quarter-inch-thick, 15-pound steel plate that you place in your oven in lieu of a pizza stone. Because of its superior thermal qualities (higher volumetric heat capacity, as well as higher conductivity than stone), you can cook pizzas faster than you’d be able to with a regular stone.”
· comments  · 12-12-2012 · categories:food · links ·
In my 3D Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies post last year I explained how to create your own version from an existing cookie cutter and I also offered a ready to go printable version that you could use. I wasn’t ever happy with that pattern so I’m updating it. The pages to print out are below, and they have been added to the original project as well.
I’ll be making these again (as soon as I have a working dishwasher, because ugh) and using royal icing and sanding sugar to decorate the branches instead, I think it’ll look far nicer.
A view overhead showing how the cookies fit together to make them stand up.
Click on each of these to view or download and print them.
· comments  · 12-10-2012 · categories:christmas · food ·
I was going to show you my updated pattern for the 3D Christmas Tree Cookies today but yesterday morning my dishwasher decided it didn’t want to do it’s job anymore and I decided I was going to ignore it by not entering the kitchen, which means no baking is getting done right now. So! Instead let’s talk about cookie swaps.
I’ve got a few cookie swaps coming up and I am considering something new. My usual cookie swap recipe is of the slice-and-bake variety, the Cornmeal-Cherry Cookies from Martha Stewart are a go to. (Also very helpful is this slice-and-bake cookie palette over at Smitten Kitchen.) The slice-and-bake means I can lovingly mix the dough a day or two before hand then bake the night before or the day of the swap and, since I have not been stressing over six dozen cookies for the majority of the day, I’m a happy person at the gathering. This year I wanted to do something different that would let me cut out a bunch of shapes (since I’ve been doing a lot of that lately and have my technique down). These gingerbread wreath cookies are under consideration. And then yesterday I came across these:
Edge of the mug cookies cutters! I previously came across this concept when doing research for my tiny gingerbread houses that perch on the edge of a mug but at that time the only cookie cutter sets I could find were ones you’d order from the UK or were no longer available, just ghost catalog pages found through a vigorous search. You can also cut a slot into any cookie, see this page at I Am Baker for examples, but I think we’ll all agree that a dedicated cutter is faster. I know, this is me saying that. I am the one who is always making needlessly complicated things because they amuse me and suddenly this is too much bother. (In my defense, I had made a few test runs of DIY edge of the mug cookies and they all sort of tipped over and fell off the mug so I gave up on it.)
I think I’ll be using these edge of the mug cookie cutters and making cocoa-friendly cookies out of basic shortbread dough for my cookie swaps. They’ll be fun and quick and hopefully novel enough to delight people.
But I’m curious: What is your favorite recipe for cookie swaps? Do you bring something practical? Or a family recipe? Do you attempt to dazzle? Or do you pick a cookie that you know to be delicious but might not look like much? Have a cookie that is a consistent crowd favorite? Share!
· comments  · 12-7-2012 · categories:christmas · food ·
Earlier this year I accidentally donated our pepper grinder to Goodwill. Don’t worry, it was clean. We’d been decluttering the kitchen and my just washed and reassembled clear lucite pepper grinder went into the donate box. I replaced it with this OXO Good Grips Pepper Grinder which isn’t as pretty but I love it. The part you grab to turn is rubberized so it’s easy to grind. But most importantly for me, the actual grinding bits are at the top. You have to flip it over to grind over food but this means that when I retrieve it from it’s little kitchen shelf any loose pepper doesn’t fall out. Which is great because in my awkward and tiny kitchen I store the pepper grinder on a spot over my head. It’s easy to set the grind, and the other end unscrews so there is a nice wide opening for refilling. Two kitchen gadget thumbs up.
· comments  · 12-4-2012 · categories:food · shopping ·
· comments  · 11-29-2012 · categories:food · links ·
These are the books currently stacked up in my living room waiting for me to give them some more attention. Looks like I’m in for a lot of time in the kitchen! I’m putting two at the top here because they have events coming up soon (like, today soon):
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perlman, Smitten Kitchen. This book is as beautiful as you are thinking it might be. Deb is here in Seattle right now! She’s at the Book Larder tonight, the main event is sold out but signing is open to the public later in the evening. Tomorrow, the 8th, she’s at the University Bookstore at 10 a.m.
Real Snacks: Make Your Favorite Childhood Treats Without All the Junk This book is by Lara Ferroni, Cook and Eat, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when she lived here in Seattle (we miss you!). She has recipes for all our familiar favorites and each recipe includes instructions for gluten-free and vegan versions as well. Lara will be at the Book Larder here in Seattle on Nov. 13th.
Ok, now from the top down:
Bake It in a Cupcake: 50 Treats with a Surprise Inside by Megan Seling, Bake It in a Cake. You gotta make the pumpkin pie cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. I mean, come on. Megan Seling also happens to be a music and food editor at Seattle’s weekly paper The Stranger.
Beer Craft: A Simple Guide to Making Great Beer by William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill. They go through all the information you need to brew whatever type of beer you’d like using your stovetop, and the graphical layout of the book makes everything very easy to take in.
The America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook. Canning, pickling, making cheese, preserving meats (and yes, bacon), homemade snacks and brewing beer all with the how and why information that will allow you to make variations. I love this book.
Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet with Ada Calhoun. The history of what we wear and why we wear it, with tips on how to look your absolute best. The tone is conversational and filled with anecdotes. I wish this had been around when I was starting to study costume design in college.
Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan. From jams and pickles to syrups, granolas and nut butters. Even chocolate cakes, vanilla extract and information on freezing in jars. The book includes stories from her childhood and the tone is very friendly.
Improv Sewing: A Freeform Approach to Creative Techniques; 101 Fast, Fun, and Fearless Projects: Dresses, Tunics, Scarves, Skirts, Accessories, Pillows, Curtains, and More by Nicole Blum and Debra Immergut. The projects in this book are lovely and not too intimidating. They include basic garment shapes and dozens of ways to adapt them as well as decorative and functional items for your house and yourself.
Cook’s Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking. Detailed information on the practical science behind food and cooking, including lots of recipes. This book is dense, packed with solutions to common cooking troubles and will become my go-to for when I have a question about why a recipe has me doing something that I need to understand.
· comments  · 11-7-2012 · categories:food · links ·
· comments  · 11-5-2012 · categories:food · links ·
Remember last year when I made a 3D Gingerbread Christmas Tree out of interlocking cookies so that the tree stands on it’s own? I had so much fun making it that I decided to do something for Halloween too. This time I made a tree from four pieces so that the eight branches resemble spider legs. Perched in a dish of candy it looks rather creepy.
To make this I used one batch of Gingerbread House dough from Simply Recipes that was divided into four equal pieces before chilling it. I roll it to 1/4-inch thickness and bake it until the edges are browning so that it’s as dry and strong as possible. Directions and templates are all below.
I think I have some changes to make but in the mean time I feel like I’ve figured out how to roll out gingerbread dough with as little swearing as possible. As much as I love making gingerbread for construction purposes I really dislike rolling it out. Here is my set up:
The Roll-Pat is an investment but it gives me a smooth surface to use. It grips the tabletop and keeps parchment paper from slipping. A nice, heavy and super wide rolling pin with handles also makes a huge difference, before this I only had a cylinder rolling pin but this one with handles makes the job a lot easier. I have a 15″ rolling pin and it is large enough for everything I’ve used it for so far. I have both silicone and rubber rolling pin rings (one set has 1/2 inch and the other has 5/8ths inch heights). I cannot fit the thicker rubber rings around my larger rolling pin so I switch to my narrower rolling pin if I need to use them.
[Read more →]
· comments  · 10-26-2012 · categories:food · halloween ·
These Trick-or-Treat cookies have a surprise inside. Each cookie either holds a treat, like mini chocolate candies, or a trick, here they are small sugar ants. Which will you get? You’ll have to break one open to find out.
How to make Trick-or-Treat cookies:
Make one or more batches of cut out cookie dough (recipe below, or use your favorite) and after chilling it take it out of the fridge to warm up so it can be rolled out. Preheat your oven to 350 and clear a shelf in your fridge or a spot in your freezer large enough to hold a cookie sheet.
Roll out one half of your dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 1/4th inch thickness. Remove the top layer of parchment and cut out your cookies, dipping the cutter in flour to keep it from sticking. We’ll be baking the cookies on this same parchment so space them about an inch apart.
Right now you are cutting two parts of each cookies (the top and the bottom) so if you have an asymmetrical cutter be sure to flip it over and cut half of them mirror image, as shown above.
Trim the parchment away from the dough so that it’s small enough to sit on your cookie sheet and slide the parchment onto the cookie sheet. Put this in the fridge or freezer to firm up so you can pull away the excess dough.
Later we’ll baking the cookies right on this sheet so trimming the parchment means they’ll bake flat. I keep the cookies on this same parchment throughout so they don’t have a chance to lose their shape.
Once the dough has firmed up pull away the excess from around the cut out shapes. You can save the scraps for more cookies later.
Before baking chill the cookies and the cookie sheet again for about 10 minutes before putting them in the oven. (You can roll out your second layer while you’re waiting, instructions are just under the next photo.)
Bake for about 10 minutes, checking and rotating the cookie sheet half way through. After that check often and remove once the edges of the cookies are just starting to look brown and the tops look set.
Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and let them sit for a few minutes until the cookies are cool and strong enough to slide them off the parchment and right onto the cookie rack.
Roll your second half of the dough to 1/2″ or 3/8″ thick. You’ll be cutting the middles for you cookies so only cut half as many this time, so if you cut six earlier, you only need three now. (No need to make mirror image cut outs this time.) Use smaller cutters to create a hole in the center of each shape.
Trim the parchment, slide onto a cookie sheet and chill the dough as you did for the first round. When it’s firm remove the excess dough from the outside as well as the inside of your shapes.
Again, chill these very well on the cookie sheet before baking them. Check and rotate after five minutes and keep an eye on them after that. Remove when the bottom edges begin to brown and cool carefully, as you did for the first set.
While your cookie pieces are cooling mix up some glue from one cup of powdered sugar and four tablespoons of milk (as per the recipe below). Put this into a sandwich sized zip bag and clip a teeny tiny corner off.
Lay your cookies out so the bottom piece has the flattest side up, the middle and tops will have the flattest side down. When constructed the top and the bottom of your cookies will show the pretty side that was up while they were baking and they’ll look nice and tidy. If you have asymmetrical cookies here be sure all the bits will match when they are sandwiched.
Glue the middle part of your cookie to the bottom.
Fill the cookies with your trick or your treat. Be random, no cheating! Don’t overfill them and check to make sure the top of your cookie will fit on with no trouble. It’s much easier to do this not before more sugar glue is introduced.
I made four different shapes: pumpkins, ghosts, tombstones and coffins (my favorite).
A detail shot to show the middle layer of cookie is a bit thicker than the top and bottom layers.
Glue the top on, decorate if you’d like, and you’re done! Now, serve these and see how much fun people have breaking them open.
Important: Make sure anything you might put inside these cookies is edible, you don’t want somebody accidentally swallowing something like a plastic spider (which I really, really wanted to hide inside these).
These cookies were inspired by the Pinata Cookies made over at She Knows, which are genius. Since I didn’t need mine to be striped I used a cut out sugar cookie recipe instead and created a thicker middle layer. I did try to cut the cookies out when the dough comes out of the oven and is still warm, the technique that is in the She Knows recipe, but found it created an edge that was too crumbly.
I used a set of seven Halloween cookie cutters made by Wilton for the cookies you see here. I cannot seem to find the same set online, it came packaged in a coffin shaped box and it’s probably already 50% off at Joann. The middles of my cookies were cut out using my Ateco 12-piece round cutters, which I love and find myself using often.
I find rolling dough to be tedious so I invested in a Roll-Pat (that page shows it as Roul-Pat but mine says Roll-Pat on it). It’s similar to a Silpat but oversized and the bottom layer grips your counter top. This is lovely because I prefer to roll dough between two layers of parchment and this keeps the parchment from slipping on my counter top. Love it, especially as what I think of as gingerbread construction season arrives.
There are so many options for what tricks you can hide inside, here I used some black cake decorations made by Wilton, they are complete edible but don’t taste like much. I also considered some small flat sour gummy candies, salted licorice coins, various cake decorations (skull and crossbones!) and Pop Rocks. For the treats the only things could find that are small enough are mini M&Ms or (my favorite) Valrhona Perles Craquant. Sadly I found that Reeses Pieces or candy corn wouldn’t fit inside, I tried. A friend mentioned that mini-candy corn might exist in the world and if I’d managed to find some I definitely would have used that as well.
I’m also considering seeing if I can make the coffin cookies tall enough to fill with some sugar skeleton pieces I found. I’d also include the Valrhona Perles Craquant as graveyard dirt. And small gummi worms if I can find some.
Click more for the recipe. [Read more →]
· comments  · 10-18-2012 · categories:food · halloween ·
· comments  · 10-8-2012 · categories:food · links ·
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Earlier this year I bought a whipped cream maker and promptly used it to make a lazy girl’s Ramos Gin Fizz. During my research I found that a whipped cream maker has more uses for booze, it can fast infuse spirits in seconds by using the pressure inside the canister to push flavors into the liquor. So cool.
I’ve previously made grapefruit and tarragon infused vodka and love it so much I’ve wanted to introduce it to anybody that showed the smallest interest but it takes six days and I cannot tell the future. So I decided to test a few infusions and do a side by side tasting of the slow and fast versions to see how they compared.
I made slow and fast versions of Cucumber Jalapeño Tequila, Pineapple Ginger Rum and Grapefruit Tarragon Vodka. For the slow infusions I put the ingredients in a jar stored in the fridge for six days, taking a second to swirl the ingredients once a day then I strained them through a fine mesh strainer.
To make fast infusions you put your spirit and flavorings into your whipped cream maker. Put the lid on and charge it with your gas canister. Swirl (don’t shake) the canister for 30 seconds then let it rest for 30 seconds. Carefully, discharge the gas by leaving the canister upright (you want to keep the liquids inside) and slowly pulling the trigger, make sure to point the nozzle away from anything important like delicate stemware or your face. Then remove the lid and pour the ingredients through a fine mesh strainer. Why the swirling and resting for 30 second increments? I’m not sure but Cooking Issues and a few other sources recommend that so I go with it.
Results? My tasting panel (um, myself and Scott) took careful notes. The slow infused gin had more tarragon and more bitterness from the grapefruit peel. The slow infused tequila carried lots of green notes from the cucumber that the fast infusion didn’t show. The slow infused rum showed a little more pineapple, but the fast infusion had a much stronger ginger note. I’m not sure if the fast infusion is better at getting ginger flavor out or if the ginger I used was better, but it was such a clear difference that I might try again to see how it compares.
The winners were the slow infusions, at least for now. I’ll just have to learn to plan ahead if I want people to try Salted Tarragon Greyhounds. (You should make some, I’ll wait.) I think that the recipes could be adjusted to create better results for fast infusions, but I’m wondering if there are some things that just cannot be rushed. Clearly I’ll need to do a lot more research. It’ll be tough to sip so many variations on infused liquor but, for you, I’ll be tipsy any time.
While we were at it I did a fast infusion recipe that I saw demonstrated at the Northwest Distillery and Cocktail Festival by Jay Kuehner. He talked through his recipe so here is the best I could do from my notes from the night. He made enough for six cocktails:
Smokey infused whiskey
1x lapsang souchong tea
3 vanilla beans
I made a smaller amount and used about 1/4th of a 750 ml bottle of whiskey, one vanilla bean split and cut into a few shorter segments and two pinches of loose tea. I strained the result and then poured it through a coffee filter to also get the the vanilla beans and smaller specks of tea. The tea imparted a nice smokey flavor into the whiskey and though the vanilla wasn’t too apparent in the flavor it imparted a lovely vanilla nose. It vastly improved my unfortunate choice of whiskey (which shall go unnamed).
Have a favorite infusion recipe? Please share it, I have jars and fridge space that need filling.
· comments  · 09-27-2012 · categories:food ·
10 Tricks to Make the Lazy Cook’s Food Taste Better | The GastroGnome. Salting the lettuce in a salad before adding dressing and other things? I have never heard of this.
The Seattle Dog: An Oral History – Seattle Weekly.
Fresh Hop Beers are Here: Where to Get Your Fresh Hop Fix This Year, Seattle Beer News. I will actually be in town for a few of these events, yes!
Campfire Cook | Living Blogs | Martha Stewart. Making damper, “a simple bread that Australian bushmen made when they spent nights out under the stars.” I want to make this sometime soon!
Hand-blended organic teas, delivered monthly | Bird’s Eye Tea. A little birdie told me that Maria from Curio Confections has been baking small bites to include with the monthly tea shipments. I adore everything Maria makes!
The Pizza Lab: The Baking Steel Delivers | Slice Pizza Blog. We have a new winner in the “what to use to cook pizza at home” wars and it is available to us because of Kickstarter, neat.
· comments  · 09-25-2012 · categories:food · links ·
I recently got to visit Tom Douglas’ Palace Kitchen restaurant to learn how they smoke tomatoes. It was pretty rad. I went home and made my own. And guess what? My tomatoes? Not so smokey. Let’s blame the underpowered two-burner grill. Or me not really committing to setting wood chips on fire. Or my tiny foil containers.
I’ll be trying again. Smoked tomatoes, I will conquer you.
· comments  · 09-20-2012 · categories:food ·