Month: May 2012

How to be a Good Host

 A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting two friends of mine from the east coast. They were in town because one of them is a Fox News culture correspondent and she was covering the American Idol Finale. As both of these women had a large number of friends who lived in the Southern California area, they decided make a trip of it. Only one of the girls I knew prior to the trip, and even she I only knew as an acquaintance. The other girl I didn’t know at all. For this reason I was a little nervous of how the weekend would turn out. Much to my delight, everything went swimmingly, both for me as a host and for them as guests! It inspired me to write a two-part series on how to be a good host and on how to be a good guest. ***Disclaimer: I did not necessarily do all these things, but thought about doing them after the fact. 1. Before your guests arrive ask if they have …

Baked Mac ‘N Cheese

This past weekend was Shavuot (Feast of Weeks/Pentacost). It is traditional to eat dairy products on Shavuot and stay up all night. It turns out the combination of all the dairy and staying up all night results in a lot of upset tummies to say the least. Regardless, when you think of dairy, what is better or more comforting than macaroni and cheese. I’m not talking the stuff from the box. Everybody know when they really want macaroni and cheese they want it baked. The recipe blows all of your grandmothers’ recipes out of the water. BAKED MAC ‘N CHEESE (adapted from Smitten Kitchen) Serves 12 Ingredients: 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole 6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces 5 1/2 cups milk 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese 2 cups (about 8 ounces) …

Shabbos Specials: Homemade “Oreos”

You know what’s good? Oreos. You know what’s good-er than Oreos? Homemade Oreos. I love to use Oreos in just about any concoction I think of. Favorite ice cream: Cookies ‘N Cream. You see what I mean? Today I have a really delicious recipe for you. These Oreos not only have the classic taste, they are much softer and cookie-like. Best of all, they just look good. The presentation is one that people would be sure to remember. Now let’s talk about cookies, shall we? Lately I have taken a job at a luxury cookie company. This is what I’ve learned that makes cookies awesome. 1. Cookies are easily shipped. You can send them pretty much anywhere and not worry about them going bad or getting destroyed (depending on the cookies and how you wrap it). 2. Cookie dough should be aged. What does aged mean? You should make the dough a day or two before you actually bake them. This means less time commitment per day. 3. Before you “age” cookies, you can actually …

DIY Paper Starburst Tutorial

So you want to make these handy dandy stars huh? So you have been waiting for DIY Wednesday to feature the tutorial for this have you? Well I have good news and bad news. The bad news is I mae these stars pretty late at night and did not take pictures required for a tutorial. The good news is, someone else did and I can link you to it! April from Funky Vintage Kitchen blog put together an excellent tutorial here: http://www.funkyvintagekitchenblog.com/2011/05/happy-memorial-day-paper-starburst.html I do have some tips for you. 1. Acquire an exacto knife or a box cutter. Scissors simply won’t do. 2. Get one of those scrapbooking/quilting boards that you can use the exact knife on. You know, something with a bit of give that you can’t pierce through. 3. Have plenty of staples and/or hot glue on hand. That’s it. Happy crafting!

Crockpot Whole Chicken

It’s a never-ending saga with me and the crockpot. You guys have asked for more recipes, and every once in a while I find a winner! This turned out super tasty, super moist, and it fit my most important qualification – I could leave it in the crockpot on low for more than 8 hours. I did figure out something pretty important when using the crockpot – be sure to fill it! This recipe called for one roaster chicken, but because the store only had 2lb roaster chickens, I bought two. This filled my crockpot to the brim, which I was quite worried about, but it worked to my benefit. When all the juices were extracted from the chicken by the salt and lemons, they just covered the two chickens. Had I left more room in the crockpot (like only cooked 1 chicken), the juices would not have covered it and it would have been dry. This is a great dish for dinner (turn the crockpot on in the morning and it’s ready when you …

Outcakes #2 – Italian Rum Cake

Yay Outcakes! This this is the segment where I show you much better pictures of cake recipes I previously posted using horrible pictures. They were my Cake Outakes – OUTCAKES! This particular outcake opportunity is brought to you by my friend Jen’s birthday. Jen doesn’t really like cake, but she LOVES custard and rum. Italian Rum cake to the rescue! There is actual cake in the this cake, but it is soaked in a  mixture of water and liquor. The layers between are made from custard and homemade whipped cream. Garnished with almonds and topped with strawberries – we have a whole cake! ITALIAN SPONGE CAKE (adapted from Diana Desserts) Ingredients: 5 egg yolks  5 egg whites  1 1/2 cups granulated sugar  1 1/4 cups pastry flour, sifted  1 teaspoon vanilla extract  1/2 teaspoon grated fresh lemon rind (optional) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8 or 9-inch cake pans. Set aside. Place egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until lemon colored. Add flour, a little at …

DIY Painted Jar/Vase Tutorial

It’s the little things that make a difference. Whether in your home or for an event, people remember the time and care you put in to the smallest details. Oh hi there! It’s DIY Wednesday! Do you have a number of clear bottles lying around? Or do you want to have vases for a table centerpiece, but cannot afford them in the color you like? I have a very simple trick for all of you. This DIY project did cost me something – about $0.79 per vase (after to vases that’s $7.90 + tax), but these cheery yellow vases brightened up my party and are continuing to brighten my balcony and my bookshelves. What you will need: Clear glass vases or bottles A large piece of paper for a funnel Plastic cup Tape Paint (color of your choice) Some brown paper bags Begin by shaping your paper into a funnel and taping closed. Place all your bottles on the surface where you are going to work, within close proximity to one another. Also take your …

Peanut Butter Brownies Recipe

When you bake as much as I do, you quickly learn what makes your friends hearts sing. You begin to think “Well, this person loves pumpkin, but this person is really into tiramisu, and this other person is just really into cake.” I usually take my testers to my synagogue and let the masses be the judge. Because I have very nice friends I get many compliment, which I’m sure most of them are true. However, after bringing goodies for about 6 months one of my friends remained rather silent or indifferent about my baked goods. She was silent until I brought in brownies. She ran up to me and said “OMG, you don’t know brownies are my FAVORITE and these are the best brownies I’ve ever had!” I was so happy to receive her name in the secret gift exchange for Purim, because not only did know exactly what this woman would like best, brownies are easy to package. I think the thing I love most about brownies is the low-maintenance factor. You just …

Shabbos Specials: Tres Leches Cupcakes

Good Shabbos everbody! Because last weekend was my birthday (and what a birthday it was!), I’m pooped! I was totally looking forward to this really nice relaxing weekend where I did a bunch of nothing, but guess what… it’s Cinco de Mayo tomorrow. I don’t know what kind of event this is across the United States, but here in California, it’s a big deal. Many mariachi bands. Now, I don’t know if I’m actually going out for the foreign holiday, but it sounds fun, doesn’t it? Today I bring you some Tres Leches cupcakes in honor of our neighbors to the South. Truth be told, Tres Leches if my absolute favorite kind of cake. The only problem is because of the messy nature of the dish, the presentation is often lacking. These little cupcakes keep everything super cute, but don’t be fooled – you should still eat these with a fork. This recipe is adapted from Mind Over Batter and I think it is the perfect little addition to your margaritas and Coronas this weekend, no? …

DIY Paper Flowers Tutorial

Happy DIY Wednesday! Today we are making flowers and these flowers cost me $0.00.  Woohoo! What you will need: Tissue paper Scissors A 1″ round object ( I used the top of a champagne cork) Bamboo skewers Glue Floral wire Floral Tape Cut your tissue paper in 4″x1″ strips. Take your rounded surface and twist the strip around it on each side. For one of the twisted sides, wrap the tissue in a bun-like form so it flattens agains the round surface. Make several of these – Approximately 10 per flower (in whatever color you like) Cut out a small strip of yellow tissue paper. Put a dab of glue (Elmer’s is fine) on the top of the dull end of the bamboo skewer and wrap the small strip around it until it all sticks. Take your floral wire and wrap it around the stem of the flower until it secure. Take the untied end of the tissue paper, attach to the stem and wrap the floral wire around it. Continue adding pieces of the …