We aren’t doing anything special for this July 4th, unless you count sitting on our deck reveling in the sunshine. Ahhhh. But I do want to point towards my post from earlier this year talking about star shaped foods. I made these for the Oscars but hey, stars are versatile. I’m definitely going to make the star shaped corn chips again, they were easy to make and strong enough to stand up to guacamole but not so strong that they Captain Crunch the inside of your mouth. You know?
I accidentally bought this jar of caramel sauce. I mean, I did set out to buy caramel sauce but I accidentally bought the vegan version. (I’m sure I don’t need to tell you but just in case I’ll point out that I am not a vegan.)
It turns out that it was a wonderful mistake because this is made with coconut milk and when poured over vanilla or chocolate ice cream the combination of flavors closely approximates the anticipation/love/scarcity I feel when eating a Girl Scout Samoa cookie. I will need to file this away for the “Girl-Scout-Cookie-!” mental alert that my brain gives me about three months too early each year.
Sparkling Ginger Margarita – Rick Bayless | Frontera. Via Serious Eats, who had him in their kitchens to give a demonstration.
Recipe Quest: Shear-Thickening Starch Noodles. Wow, how to make your own noodles by dripping sweet potato starch into boiling water.
Use A French Press to Add Flavor to Your Beer | Serious Eats: Drinks. With a primer on the Randall, what it is and where it came from.
My Take on Cronuts | Edd Kimber | The Boy Who Bakes. A recipe to create your own cronuts, via Kottke.
I Fell for a Shameless Hussy | Serious Eats: Drinks. I normally stay away from wines with labels that shout like this, but these tasting notes will make me seek this one out.
Bake the Book: Raspberry Doughnuts with Vanilla Dipping Sauce | Serious Eats: Sweets. “It took her dozens of attempts to develop a method that, according to her, works every time.” This is something I’ll be learning very soon.
Lately I crave very tasty vegetable and grain salads from very pricey cafes. Can any cookbooks or blogs teach me to cook something similar? | Ask MetaFilter. I love the number of times 101 Cookbooks and Orangette are recommended here.
App Release: Unique Eats of the Northwest | The GastroGnome. The person who created this app just happens to be a friends of mine so I can say that this lady knows her restaurants. It covers Oregon, Washington and British Columbia and is perfect for food loving road trippers.
Patent Pending, at Cooking Issues. A heat diffuser for a torch to cut down all the pesky troubles that come with using a blow torch in the kitchen. Smart.
Last weekend Scott and I headed to Portland for a weekend where our main goal was to try as much beer as we could. We’d made the plans in January when it was dark and rainy and hopeless and beer sounded like a damn good idea. It turned out that the weather that weekend was one of those perfect pockets of Spring where it’s 70 and sunny and you just want to sit outside and talk about how great sunshine is. Which is basically what we did, every meal and sip of beer was done outdoors. Or at least near a really big open door. It was ah-mazing considering it was still March.
I was armed with a few places in mind and a recent copy of Beer West magazine that has an article on all the beer destinations along Division Street. Most of the restaurant recommendations friends had given me (Pok Pok being mentioned the most often) were on Division Street and I started to wish our hotel had been in that part of town because we kept returning to it.
When we arrived our first stop was at Hopworks Urban Brewery which is huge. They have outdoor seating in the front as well as an upper back deck. Right now they are doing a single hop series of IPAs, I tried a sample of the Simcoe and discovered that I don’t prefer Simcoe on it’s own. I wish I lived closer and could sample all of their single hops beers because I suspect it would be a cheap and enjoyable beer education. Hopworks has an eye towards being friendly to the environment and we’re hoping to take our bikes to Portland (maybe on the train!) and pedal our way up to their BikeBar location this summer.
That night we walked to Ground Kontrol and drank beer while playing console arcade games and it was so damn fun. The upstairs is filled with rows of old electric arcade games, the upstairs is devoted to pinball machines and yes the games take real quarters which you can get from change machines just like the old days. We had the most fun playing two person House of the Dead, with the rubber guns. We nearly made it through Chapter 3 before running out of quarters! We would have planted ourselves in front of Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (which we’ve played on our PS3) if it hadn’t been occupied.
They have all the old games I could remember, including Joust, Paperboy, and Burger Time. They also have a tabletop four-person Pac-Man (a hem: Pac-Man Battle Royale) that was very popular all night long. The lights above are reminicscent of D&D dice, the tiles in the ladies room are Ms. Pacman themed, the entry tiles (shown above) are Space Invaders. Also, on weekend nights there is a cover ($2? $1?) and there might be a line, which is good because it means the place doesn’t get too crowded. When we were on our way out I noted there was a crowd around a few of the machines but there were plenty of seats at the tables near the bar, where the tables are illuminated. I heart that place.
The next day we got brunch food from the food carts near our hotel (the standout was Liege waffles with brie, arugula and bacon) and headed out to have a picnic. Our goal was to eat under cherry trees which were blossoming in the most spectacular manner that weekend. But it turns out that was everybody else’s goal that weekend too. The area around the trees near the river (and the Saturday Market) were filled to capacity and the Arboretum was packed. So we took the great advice of Sprizee and headed out to Cathedral Park. It was perfect. An expanse of grass leads down to the water just under the Cathedral Bridge, which makes everything feel very dramatic. We had a huge area in the sun all to ourselves and sat and watched dogs playing fetch. We weren’t right under blossoming trees but we did have a view of some, which was good enough. This morning has become the Happy Place I go to in my head.
Next we headed to Hedge House which is the new-old home of Lompoc Brewing. We grabbed seats on the front porch (there are also tables in the front courtyard area) where we watched families walk and bike past. I had the Calling All Monsters IPA which was very good and I remember as worth going back for if it wasn’t a three hour drive away.
Scott wanted to show me the space where the XOXO Festival had been last year and there just happens to be Cascade Brewing around the block. We had samples of their Noyaux (almond) sour, seasonal IPA and the Oblique Black and White Stout, which has the color of an pale ale but has mellow coffee flavors. (Not shown in order above because they all looked the same and it was freaking 70 degrees and aaaawhhhhh.) The Oblique Black and White Stout was delicious and surprising and on our way out of town we stopped to buy a growler of it, which we buckled into the back seat.
That night we met up with Jenna whom I’d met at Hops Academy last summer. We met at Beer Mongers where she gifted us a precious bottle of Pliny the Elder which we can no longer get in Washington. Beer Mongers is a bottle shop that has a big door they can open in warmer weather. I love drinking at bottle shops, it’s still a novelty for me. Jenna knows what she is talking about when it comes to beer and was sipping this IPA made with brettanomyces, which I dearly wished I’d requested a sip of. In any case it was a perfect end to a beer day.
The next day we managed to made it to Sasquatch Brewery before we left. I got to meet Charlie (aka RagnarBeer) at Hops Academy who the head brewer there. I sampled a beer that is is own recipe, Celilo Cascadian Dark Ale and it was delicious. I’m normally not a fan of dark beers but this made me very happy. Sasquatch has a full menu and outdoor seating in front as well as a nice peaceful deck along the side of the building. I didn’t get to see Charlie because he was busy doing something like the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, DC. No biggie.
We stayed at the Crystal Hotel downtown which is part of the McMenamin’s empire. It was surprisingly quiet considering it’s in a noisy part of town, though I was roused by the daily 5 a.m. garbage collection. We took advantage of the soaking pool in the basement and had it all to ourselves. Our bed wasn’t very comfortable but the hotel as a whole was good for the price and location. Most rooms share a bathroom in hall, which I’ve never found to be awkward in a McMenamin’s hotel, but I booked an ensuite room because, well, bathroom.
The staff at the Crystal Hotel seem used to asking if people staying there are headed to the music venues later that evening so one day we were asked if we were going to see Anthrax and the next day they asked if we were there to see Bob Seger. I assure you we are not people who look like we’d be headed to either. At least not any more.
Alright Portland people, what else should I seek out next time I visit? Anything particularly spectacular in the sunshine? Or particularly comforting when it’s rainy and dark?
Half Baked – The Cake Blog » DIY : Rainbow Sprinkle Cake. How to get those sprinkles all the way around a tall cake.
Miniature miracles: quick meals with a mug and a microwave – The Independent. Small but hearty microwave recipes for dinner and all made in mugs! Thanks go out to Busywork for sending the link my way!
Cookie Spoons DIY at Oh Happy Day.
Fried snowballs (!?) and a brand-new feature on delicious:days » delicious:days. That’s it, I need a schneeballenform.
justJENN recipes – Weeping Angel cookies. Oooh, I like these.
A pinata cake | a subtle revelry. This is so much fun!
Slide Show | What to Eat at Honoré Artisan Bakery, Seattle | Serious Eats. The first recommendation here is the Kouign Amann and I cannot heap on enough extra recommendations that you try one here. So, so good.
Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa? | guardian.co.uk. “The quinoa trade is yet another troubling example of a damaging north-south exchange, with well-intentioned health and ethics-led consumers here unwittingly driving poverty there.” People in Bolivia and Peru where it is grown can no longer afford it, in Lima it is more expensive than chicken. Via Delicious Days.
Let’s build a massive meta McDonald’s in Times Square at Kottke. I love the comparisons between fast food and molecular gastronomy. I remember hearing that Ferran Adria admired McDonald’s for their ability to make the exact same burger over and over again.
5 Sauces that Spank Sriracha | The GastroGnome. See also: in this episode (185) of The Dinner Party they have a segment about siracha. Did you know? It’s made here in the US and it’s so popular it’s been faked!
Cucumber and Hummus Cupcakes at Creative Kid Snacks. So many things can be made to look like cupcakes, but these I will actually be making for myself soon.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Joining the Biscuit Club « Tea & Cookies. The secrets to the perfect biscuit.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
It’s time to fill the freezer with The Best Chicken Soup in the Universe at Juniper Moon Fiber Farm blog.
Bon Appétempt: Organic and Chic’s Goldies or The Shiniest Dessert Ever. Shiny Twinkie like things!
Marx Foods Readies to Open First Retail Store – Voracious. They sell really fancy foods, I’m looking forward to being able to visit the retail location here in Seattle.
Crunchy Bloody Mary – Recipe File – Cooking For Engineers. Gotta try this very soon.