Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Treats

One the traditions that I was excited to be a part of is the gift of sharing, and every year we go door to door giving a little treat to the ones we love. Friends, neighbors, and family all get a visit from our family. Its a way we deliver our Christmas Cards and also do a little catch up with the people we see a little less.

I love the feeling of being welcomed into a home. I love giving treats to people that are excited about receiving. And I love seeing that cup of coffee being enjoyed with something I made. It is definitely a time when I think that the giver is getting more out of the giving then the receiver and each year it is a "must" on my list.

I do try to do an assortment of treats. This year it was a mix of some of my favorite recipes.

Mango Cheese cake with a pistachio crust

Gentle Cake

Almond Cupcake with Caramel Mousse
and Coco-nut topping

Chocolate Macaroons

Were all put together in this Paula Dean Canister, because,
Christmas Traditions, hope.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Card

I finally ordered my Christmas Cards and even though all the people in our lives will be receiving them, I thought it would also be a good time to share our year with my followers.

I need to start by saying that we have been so blessed to have every thing we need and more. For starters, staying in our home has been a huge blessing. For us, it has honestly been a humbling experience and I find myself smiling at the thought that we have had both the opportunity to live with much and to live with less.

It seems that while our plans have taken us down a easy road in the past, we realized that it had only been by his grace. It was in that grace that he gave us some really great moments and filled our lives with people that have not only celebrated with us but today have helped sustain us. People that have walked the road with us, prayed for us, and encouraged us in every step, in every turn and then at every fall.

More then ever we have seen God's work through people. Families who prayed for us when we needed them to. Men who walked with my husband as he fought for his business, learning from the leaders in his life so that he could learn to lead. Each and every week we gathered with our house church to eat, relax, and almost always laugh.

I do believe that there is something about laughter that softens even the roughest spaces. There is something about community that smooths out the hardest of places. And there is something about prayer that touches the most delicate part of the soul. A year filled with that, in my books is a great year.

Happy holidays, hope.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Time Together

I love how holidays bring the family together. I love the small moments of traditional fires, hot chocolate, and of course Ginger bread. I love the music that continually plays in the background, the kind that gets everyone singing. I love the presents, the tree, and every decoration. All in all, I do enjoy every aspect of Christmas but especially because it reminds me that God so loved the world that he gave. He gave us a part of himself, he gave us his son. And now, it serves as a reminder about a gift I can only aspire to give and giving myself to my family was an easy start.

Spending time together, hope.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Branch off

For me, it was time to branch off of the typical center pieces and create something I was excited about. So when I saw a recipe for these branches in a Martha Stewart magazine, thoughts started racing inside of my head. Immediately I was inspired by the wonderful stump that Natalie had given me, a dessert order, and of course Martha. Can I just say that it was hard not to make something spectacular, a piece that I was proud of showcasing in the center of my table.

Russian Branches Cookie

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Course Salt
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1/4 cup Sugar
2 tbsp Brandy or Rum
1 tbsp Lemon Zest
1 Tbsp Orange Zest
10 cups Safflower oil
or Veggie Oil
Confectioners Sugar

In a medium bowl sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until it turns pale yellow. Add the brandy, lemon zest, and orange zest. Beat to incorporate. Add the flour and mix together. Knead together.

Let the dough rest covered at room temperature for one hour. After it rests roll the dough out in a rectangle, about 1/8 of an inch. Cut into thin strips and shape into branches by stretching the dough out. Deep fry in a large skillet on medium heat until golden brown.

Assemble in a vase, or decorate on a favorite dessert. Powder with Confectioners Sugar.

Towering, Hope.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All Decked Out

With the menu set, I had a house to decorate.

A tree to light and presents to wrap.

A table cloth to make and a table to set.

Delicate ornaments to hang.

Also, Paper whites to plant.

And lastly, a fresh garland to hang.

Finally we are all decked out for Christmas, hope.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cookies and cream

Peach Puffs


2 cups flour
100 g Butter
2 eggs
2 1/2 tbsp Sour cream
1/3 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
Dissolved in a couple drops of Lemon Juice


8 oz. can of condensed milk
1 stick butter
1/2 cup Heavy Whipping cream or 1 cup Whip cream

Beat sugar and butter, when fluffy add the sour cream. Separately whip the eggs and then add to the butter mixture. Beat to incorporate. Add the Baking soda paste. Mix well and then add the flour. Divide the dough in half and then let it cool in the fridge for 30-40 minutes. Once cool form 1 1/2 inch balls and bake in a 325 F. 6 cookies at a time for about 10 minutes. After removing the six from the oven, pick up one of the cookies using a towel. With your other hand carve out the middle, coming as close to the edge as possible without breaking it and remove the insides. You should end up with just the shell of the cookie. While shelling the remaining 5 cookies, place more in the oven to bake. Keep doing this until all the cookies are hollow and you have a small bowl filled with their crumbs.

To make the cream, you will need to beat the butter and the condensed milk together until incorporated. Add the whipping cream in a stream and beat until thickened. Then, process the crumbs in a food processor. In a separate bowl mix the crumbs and the cream together. Add the cream until desired consistency and moistness. Always do a taste test.

To assemble, add the cookie mush back into each cookie and and stick 2 halves together. They will slide off of each other, so put them on a high rimmed cookie sheet in sandwich formation until you finish with all of them. Place in the fridge to cool for about 30 minutes. Once hardened, mix a few drops of peach food coloring together with a water. Brush on each cookie and dip into the sugar or sprinkles.

Katie says it just wouldn't be Christmas without cookies,

Main Course

Grilled Fillet of Pacific Salmon with Thai Red Curry Sauce

This has been a recipe favorite in my books for years. I find that even though I am not a curry person I love this adaptation that I found in a cook book. The cook book is a collection of San Francisco's favorite recipes. One of the reasons I fell in love with it is that it had a small description, no pictures, and a tip for success on every page.

One of the other things that this recipe does well, is give a great first impression. It looks beautiful on a plate or a platter so I just couldn't resist in making it again. Also I have found that this version of rice is the perfect way to cook it.


2 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 cups Basmati Rice
3 tbsp Unsalted Butter


4 1/2 tsp peanut oil
2 1/4 garlic, minced
2 1/4 tsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
2 1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
5 tbsp plus 1 tsp canned tomato paste
4 1/2 tsp soy sauce
3 tbsp brown sugar

Cabbage Slaw:

2 cups loosely packed julienned green cabbage
2 cups loosely packed julienned red cabbage
1/2 cup julienned carrots
2/3 julienned cucumber
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1 tsp soy sauce+ more if needed
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar+more if needed
Salt and pepper to taste


6 six-once salmon fillets
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper
( I have grilled a whole fish also)

-To make the rice: Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small oven proof saucepan over medium-high, combine the water, rice, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 12-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Set aside and keep warm.

-To make the sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and saute until light brown, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder, curry paste, paprika, coriander seeds, and cumin. Reduce the heat to low and saute until fragrant about 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk, tomato paste, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Do not let the sauce boil. Keep warm or reheat gently before serving.

-To make the salmon: Prepare the grill. Alternately, heat a saute pan over high heat, brush the salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill or saute the salmon to desired doneness. About 2 1/2 minutes per side for medium rare.

-To make the cabbage slaw: Combine the cabbages, cucumber, carrots, cilantro, and mint in a medium bowl. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

-To serve: Place about 1/2 cup of the basmati rice in the center of each plate, then place the salmon on top. Pour about 1/2 cup of the sauce around the outside edge. Place a small pile of the cabbage salad on top of the salmon. Try to get as much elevation on the salad as possible. Sprinkle the sauce with peanuts.

* The secrets of success cookbook By Michael Bauer

Monday, December 6, 2010

For starters

Thai Pumpkin Soup:

Marinated Carrot Salad:

2 Bags of Shredded Carrots from Trader Joe's
(or you can shred 2 lbs yourself on a Mandolin)
Ground Corinader
Salt and Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Apple cider Vinegar
1/4 cup Grape Oil
6 cloves garlic, crushed

Place the carrots in a salad bowl. On medium heat, heat the oil in a pan. Once it is hot add the garlic and let it sizzle for just a second or two. Add the hot oil to the Carrots and stir to incorporate the oil. Start with a couple splashes of vinegar and begin adding the seasonings. Play around with the spices until you get your desired flavor. It should be intense and well seasoned, usually it is balanced between spicy and garlicky but it depends on personal preference. When you are satisfied with the flavors, cover the bowl and let it marinate in the fridge overnight or for at least 12 hours. It can last in the fridge for about a week but usually tastes better at a cool room temperature.

*I do realize that this is not a traditional, measurement kind of recipe. But, that is how Irina does it. She is a cook that has a eye for spices and a taste for correction. So, this is the best I could give you and if you are up for an adventure in the kitchen. This would be it. With out a doubt this is one of my favorite salads*

Soaking up, Hope.

My Holiday Menu

Creating a Menu usually takes me a little time. Its a sit down moment filled with opened cook books on my table. The way I usually start is with a favorite recipe, and work my way down from there. In this case it was a Red Curry Salmon that lays on a bed of a Cabbage Slaw. With the main course figured out, I knew I needed a starter, a salad and a side. Going along with the Thai flavors of the dish I added my recent favorite, Thai pumpkin Soup. After that, the sides were easy because my sister-in-law makes the most amazing Stuffed Mushrooms and a Marinated Carrot Salad, and even though it might sound ordinary the flavors she puts together are anything but. The Carrot Salad she makes has coriander and garlic that linger on the tip of your tongue, while hints of spicy cayenne add a little bit to the dish. Also, in addition to my recipes I will post my a few new things I added to my kitchen, that help my day in it be a little easier.


Thai Pumpkin Soup
Marinated Carrot Salad


Red Curry Salmon with Cabbage Slaw
Basmati Rice
Stuffed Mushrooms


Christmas Caramel Cookies
Russian Branches


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Team work

My husband and I are a team. If we had a design show on T. V, he would be that carpenter that makes visions become real. Nothing I do would be possible with out him and I love sharing my passions with him. I find that even though I respect his point of view, I also enjoy our many debates. But in the end though, we are always a team.

So, this little project was delegated by me and made by my "Genius". This cutting board was exactly what I needed to move out of the craft room and into the kitchen. It was made with a specific purpose that was both important and necessary. It was about to become my inspiration and drive behind the recipes that I was about to create.

Making something together where my inspiration drives our passion, hope.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

All tied up

Bolt did it again. The minute I saw this adorable robot fabric I knew that it would put a smile on any boys face. It was modern but fun. Simple yet colorful, and casual as well as comfortable. I just knew it was going to be the perfect gift for not only my boys but a few others as well. I found that besides the assembly of this project my favorite part was learning how to actually tie a tie. That with the joy of giving, just had to make it on my list of 25.

Tie together, hope.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Accessorize it

Christmas is a season that is red, shiny, fragile, and beautiful.

Everything about the dress that Jenny chose was festive and she loved every part of it. But despite her confidence in the choice, she was still lured by the saleswomen to the neatly arranged rack of accessories. From the corner of my eye I could see her eyes light up as we approached the beautiful headbands. And even though there were many great choices for her, I reasoned with the child. This is a result of that reasoning.

Making accessories instead of paying Nordstrom prices, hope.