27 April 2009



in my mind, i'm on vacation here today. sans kids, please. (btw, no kids under 6 are allowed at the resort. not that i blame them. it's just that the one under 6 is the only one that's invited on my vacay today.) but seriously, how cool is a yurt? especially one in big sur that overlooks the ocean?

24 April 2009

room to grow

in a day and age where there is so much to protect our kids from, i thought this was a great read. although fostering independence in our kids is the hardest thing, sometimes its the best thing. 

it's not easy being green

my favorite moment of irony this week? the 50,000 paper crafts that came home for earth day. so for every tree that was planted in honor of mama earth's big day, about 10 were chopped down to spread the word. 

17 April 2009

beaba babycook

i love my beaba babycook! its a french baby food maker (oo-la-la). i received this as a gift from my spectacular work friends when my baby was born and i have been dying to put it to use. i tried it last week now that the baby is ready for solids. so fast, so easy, so convenient. i did a batch of sweet potatoes in 15 minutes, i'm not exaggerating. you just chop up the fruit or veggies, add water to the steamer compartment, put the veggies in the steamer basket and turn it on. it will shut off when the water is gone. then you pour off the water and puree the steamed food in that same container. then i put the food in the freezer in an ice cube tray -- the baby eats about two cubes at a time, so i can just pull out what i need. i love that i can make all of his food, i know exactly what's going into it and it literally costs pennies to make a batch. yes, i could do all of this on the stove top and use a blender or food processor, but this is so easy and convenient to have it all in one.  to watch a video of how it works, click here. so if any local friends want to get together to make baby food, let me know. i'm out of control with this thing.

check out more beaba products here. lots of cool european baby goods, including the coolest high chair i've ever seen. that deserves another oo-la-la. 

14 April 2009

cheese and potato soup

i love this recipe. i made it last night with leftover easter ham -- the kids ate it up, it's one of their favorites. here's what i changed: generous with the onions and carrots, omitted the celery (i don't really like celery, so keep it in if you like it), added 2 cloves of garlic, added an extra russet potato. once the potatoes were cooked, i spooned some (about a third) into my magic bullet and pureed it. this made the soup nice and thick, but still chunky. after i puree the potatoes and add the cheese, i usually have to add an additional cup or so of chicken broth, just until it gets to the right consistency. the keeps the soup from getting too "glue-y" - you want the pureed potatoes to make it velvety, not overly dense. then i salted it and added the tobasco -- don't even think of skipping the tobasco. a few drops gives it a nice little edge. you could also try bacon instead of ham, and play around with different types of cheese to change up the flavor a bit. a smoked cheddar or gouda would be delicious, as would a combination of sharp cheddar and parmesan reggiano. next time i want to thinly slice a handful of potato skins and fry them in a little oil to use as a garnish on top -- yum. 

if you're not familiar with epicurious.com, you really should be. i've gotten several recipes that my family loves on this site. i love saving recipes to my "recipe box", and i always read several of the reviews -- there are usually great ideas from fellow home cooks on how to really liven up the recipes. just a tip: stick with recipes that have a 3 1/2 - 4 fork rating. good luck!

ps -- i love and highly recommend these double handled soup bowls. williams-sonoma updated them, so they're larger (17 oz) than the set i have, but still at a great price. sadly, they don't come with the little plate anymore. but they're still oven safe, so i can use them to make these delicious individual chicken pot pies. 

03 April 2009

cupcakes and tom foolery

i've been having so much fun with cupcakes this week. for my girl's 6th birthday, i made a swarm of monarch butterflies. they are actually much easier than they look. i melted dark cocoa melting chips and orange melting chips, piped them out onto parchment paper using ziploc bags, swirled them a bit with a bamboo skewer (or toothpick, but i used what i had on hand), then added white non pareils.  the idea comes directly from the cupcake book du jour hello, cupcake by karen tack and alan richardson.  in case you didn't know, you must own this book! the most fun and creative cupcakes i have ever seen. they're fairly simple even though they can be somewhat labor-intensive, but making a few of these fantastic creations are a surefire way to secure rockstar mom status. 
the t.v. dinners are also from the hello, cupcake book. a friend of mine, sarah, owns her own cupcake business and she is a total pro at whipping these out. check out her website here. sarah helped out with our activity at church and showed all the girls how to make these for april fool's day. they were a total hit -- that sarah is one amazing gal, not to mention being way too much fun. 
i'm thinking my next cupcake venture needs to be panda bears... i'll let you know how they turn out.

30 March 2009

cake, part 2

so, the chocolate cake. it was pretty good, if i can toot my own horn. i wanted it to have the flavor of mexican hot chocolate (one of my favorite treats in the world), so i experimented a bit. first i tried melting a couple abuelita tablets to substitute for the cocoa powder and water mixture from the recipe. this was a bust as the chocolate was way too gritty. so instead i stayed true to the recipe and added 2 teaspoons of freshly ground mexican cinnamon. i also boiled a couple cinnamon sticks in the water. you can find mexican cinnamon down the "latin foods" aisle at the grocery store. all of the spices are sold in packets. i don't like to get the cinnamon that's already ground; you get so much more flavor from the sticks. and yes, there is a difference between regular cinnamon sticks and the mexican cinnamon sticks; the mexican cinnamon is softer and little more papery, not to mention the flavor being completely different. i ground the sticks in my magic bullet. can i just tell you that i love that thing? i bought it at costco and it works so well, especially for the price. then i sifted the cinnamon a bit --  you need to do this to pick out the tiny "sticks" (when you do this, you'll see what i mean). 
between the layers of cake, i used marshmallow creme as the filling. still going for that hot chocolate flavor, ya see? it was very yummy, just know that it will run a bit when it is cut, but it won't make the cake soggy. for the frosting, i added about 2 teaspoons (you'll really just have to add to taste) of mexican cinnamon to my chocolate buttercream. i also used mexican vanilla in both the cake and the frosting. so there you go, a mexican hot chocolate cake. seriously delicious. 

and here's the quick chocolate buttercream recipe, in case you need one:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
6 cups confectioners' sugar
6 T milk (plus more, if needed)
2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled to room temp

beat together butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and salt with flat paddle attachment*. scrape down sides of the bowl; continue mixing for a couple more minutes. add in chocolate and mix until combined. add more milk if frosting is too dry. 
*i like to use the whisk attachment to make my frosting really light and fluffy, rather than rich and dense. it's personal preference, however. and it depends on the cake.