Thursday, January 23, 2014

Recipe | Decorating Cut-Out Cookies with Sanding Sugar | Bakery Style

There is more than one way to use sanding sugar to decorate cookies, I know, but I find this one to be the simplest (please refer to Charlie's video tutorial below...) that happens to result in cookies that look like they were bought in a bakery.

This is the only way of sugar cookie decorating with my children that results in all edible cookies.  While they have loads of fun using icing, their cookies/works of art tend to get pitched after a few days because the icing globs don't look all that appetizing once they dry.

Decorating cookies is very much like completing an art or craft project.  Especially with this technique - paint (meringue wash), glitter (sanding sugar)!  It is perfect for short attention spans that seek quick gratification too. Charlie did a whole batch and was still eager to do more. And just like crafting, there is a considerable mess in the end.  I kept hearing the crunch of sanding sugar under my slippers while I made dinner last night.

I did use a new sugar cookie recipe (felt like I was cheating on my own blog) that I discovered this fall.  I plan to blog + discuss the recipe soon, but till then my other go-to sugar cookie recipe works perfectly.

To Make the Meringue Wash:
Whisk together 2 TBS water + 2 tsp meringue powder

Brush a thin layer of the wash over the entire top of the cookie and then cover completely with sanding sugar.  Shake off the excess after they dry (about 5 min.)  Let Charlie demonstrate for you...


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Recipe | Provencal Beef Stew with Red Wine

First, I want to thank all of you for the kind words and topic suggestions you left after my post last week.  I loved your ideas and will try my best to cover many of them throughout the year.  I got a number of meal planning questions and I will try to share some of my process over several posts.  Meal planning is one of those tasks that I can love (when I'm brimming with ideas for new recipes to try) or I can dread (when I'm lacking inspiration or creativity).  I by no means have it mastered.  I'll get frustrated that I need to consult a recipe to confirm the ingredients on a dish I've made a million times or I dare to ask Jimmy what he's craving for dinner and he almost always he suggests tacos.  I so rarely make tacos, so I'm not sure why they are always top of mind for him.  I think I'd fall over if he said chicken picatta or penne vodka.  The point is, meal planning takes effort and some weeks you have it and others you don't.  There isn't a single perfect system, but the more organized my recipes are the better off I am. (They are rarely organized.)  I've been working on my pinterest boards and slowly moving all my recipes into better defined categories.  Up till recently everything was filed under "Yummy".  So creative. Ha.  The other thing I value greatly is having a set of go-to, staple menu items, like my Vegetable Soup or Ina's Spicy Turkey Meatballs or my Sunday Roast.  With each season I have a short list, maybe 10 recipes or so, that are on regular rotation, they help fill in the blanks when I can't think of what to make for dinner.  This stew recipe will be a new addition to that round up.

I made this stew on Friday, when it was bitterly cold and we were inside all afternoon.  The house smelled incredible (hello, 12 cloves of garlic!) and watching Jimmy take a deep inhale when he walked in the door after work was exactly the reaction I was hoping to get.  Everyone in my family licked their bowls clean (worthy of a victory dance because I have children that can occasionally be prone to pickiness.)  I think this might be my favorite stew recipe, ever. (Sorry Ina, I love your Beef Bourguignon so much, but the mushrooms and pearl onions aren't a favorite with my crew.)  My key is to use high quality meat (I like Fresh Market), especially in a stew where it cooks for hours and a great tasting wine, I like a dry red in stew, like a Pinot Noir.

This recipe was adapted from the Cooking Light recipe for Beef Daube, my biggest changes were in the preparation steps and the amount of seasoning.  Enjoy.  This is what I call "I love you food",  a slow, unhurried, earthy meal, that says I just want to take care of you.   It is one that I will make time and time again.

Recipe | Provencal Beef Stew with Red Wine
(adapted from here)

  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 12 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (2.5 - 3 pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup beef broth

  • Preheat oven to 300.
  • Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, oven safe, saucepan or dutch oven.  Season meat with kosher salt
    and fresh cracked pepper (about 1-2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper).  Brown meat on all sides for 5 minutes in oil, then remove and set aside.   Add onions, carrots and garlic to the same pan and cook until onions are softened.  Add fresh herbs.  Cook for 1 more minute.  Return meat to pan and add red wine, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 3 minutes, then add remaining ingredients through bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and place in preheated oven for 2.5 hours.  Season to taste.
  • Cook egg noodles according to package directions.  Serve stew alongside noodles and garnish with thyme if desired.
  • (serves 4-6)
  • Printable Recipe
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • egg noodles 
  • sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Valentine's Day Favorites

I really like Valentine's Day and all its assorted heart-day paraphernalia.  I have always looked forward to its happy and glittery arrival in the middle of the dark winter.  When I was young I spent hours making elaborate card collection boxes (think lots of paper doilies) and saved my class valentines for waaaay longer than anyone else probably did.  This year I feel a bit ahead of the game having ordered cards for Charlie (he picked them out from Minted's classroom card options, but I've been known to raid the shelves of Walgreens at 9:00 in the evening on Feb 13th before too, just depends on the year).  I'm not sure if 5th graders still exchange cards, they are getting into that awkward boy/girl stage now, so, despite my best intentions to be organized, I'll likely still be spotted at Walgreens buying cards for Andrew when he tells me at the last minute that they are still planning a class exchange after all and freaking out when all that is left is Dora and Mickey.  I also bought a couple things to make pretty packages for class treats and friends.  (I will be sharing an easy + cute cookie idea in the next couple weeks that I discovered last year but didn't blog about in time!)  Above are some of my favorite items that I came across online. Oh, and I snagged a few of these too, but I forgot to add them to the collage...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Bumpy Start to 2014

Well, last week began with the coldest temperatures we've seen in 40 years.  By the grace of God our pipes didn't freeze! And the week ended with a dreadful case of food poisoning or a stomach bug for me, hard to tell which, but it was just awful.  Hopefully, this week turns a sunnier corner!

The colder days with no school were passed with cookie baking, elaborate fort building, books, cards, movies, searches on pinterest for "boy crafts and activities" and lots of time in our PJs in front of the fire (ooo, and the premiere of The Bachelor + Downton Abbey).  It sounds dreamy, but we all started to suffer from a little cabin fever by the end of it.  I recently read this book (really liked it!!) and just started this one.  I must be on a young adult fiction kick.

All that time spent at home got me thinking a bit about New Year's resolutions (which I typically don't make) and blogging (why I really do it, what I want for this blog in the year ahead).  A reader (hi Paula!) recently left me a comment saying I seem to have a good handle on how I manage my phone/ipad/computer use and balance social media, that it doesn't interfere with me being a present and good mother.  That if all of it had been available when her children were little she fears she would have been a distracted mommy.  It got me thinking, am I distracted?  Do I really balance it well?  I know I like to think so, but how often do I jump on Instagram in a day or quickly check email or scroll through Pinterest?  How often am I holding my phone when one of my children starts a conversation or asks for my help?  Do they ever feel like they are interrupting me and my phone/computer/fill-in-the-blank device?  Am I balancing it all as well as I should?  Honestly, I think I am not.   So, this year I'm making a more conscious effort.  I'm only going to check email twice a day.  In the morning and at night.  Nothing is so urgent it has to be addressed immediately and if it is, I hope it comes via a phone call!  I did sign up for and it has been a life changer in managing all my email subscriptions, of which there were over 300.  As for IG, I'm going to only check my feed in the evening, even if I post pics earlier in the day.  I think these two things will force me to keep the phone out of hands reach at all times.

As for blogging, I've given some thought as to why I continue to do it.  I love the way blogging forces me to seek out the beautiful moments in life, it makes me want to capture them on film and in words whether it's about family or food or home.  I appreciate joy in the simple things and see beauty in everyday moments more clearly since I've been a blogger.  It's a big bonus that others want to read about it and allow me to share on a weekly basis.  So, 2014 will likely bring much of the same on this blog, but I'd love to know if there are topic areas you would like me to cover that I haven't in the past.  I'm taking suggestions!!  I'm planning a kitchen essentials post (by request from my IG friends) later in the month.  Feel free to add anything else you would like to hear about in the comments and I'll see if I can work it in.

I hope your 2014 has gotten off to a great (food poison-free) start!



Friday, January 3, 2014

Snowy Days in Our Village

For the second time in the last week I hopped out of bed early enough to see the sun coming up and was completely awe struck at how magnificent the sunrise looked in the frozen sky, the way it illuminated the bare branches of the trees.  Like watching brush strokes of a painting.  On both occasions, I grabbed my jacket, camera and boots before I even had a chance to put on socks or change out of my pajamas.  Today was especially glorious because we had a snow fall the day before.  I begged and coerced Jimmy to take a very early morning walk around the block to admire the beauty with me.  He's not a morning person (I asked before he'd had his first cup of coffee, I should know better) nor is he a lover of chilly weather but he did it and it was lovely, cold, but lovely.

The last couple days our afternoons have been filled with snowman (or snow blob? you be the judge.) making, fort building and sledding.  The temperatures are about to dip into the single digits so I wanted to make sure we got in our share of snow play before it became unbearably and dangerously cold.  I took a few pictures each day. It is amazing how beautiful and different the streets look both mid-storm versus on a calm, clear, blue sky day, both equally enchanting, both equally fairytale like.  I'm so grateful to live where we do and I appreciate it every. single. day.


^^ a few big snowflakes inside too, in the form of vanilla marshmallows ^^

^^ pictures from during the snow storm. for the record, that was a walk I took alone. ha. ^^

^^I love seeing the flag flying against all the white ^^

^^ the village chapel^^

^^Goldilocks and the Three Bears or maybe Grandmother's house from Little Red Riding Hood? :)^^

A little snip-it of a wild afternoon of sledding...  I swear the trees weren't quite as close as they look... Not the best video, but it was the BEST hill!

Sledding from tessa on Vimeo.