Alfalfa Sprouts

I feel like a kid in a candy store lately. All the foods I have re-discovered while cleansing have made me eager to experiment in the kitchen. Basic recipes have so much flare and flavor (not to mention appeal) it’s been a joy.

Take this one simple plant, for example, that I hadn’t had since childhood at my cousin Chickie’s house. Alfalfa sprouts. They are exceptionally delicious. I find myself going to the fridge just to grab a handful of the things. Alfalfa sprouts are highly nutritional boasting protein, calcium and other minerals, and vitamins B, C, D, E and K!

sprouts as a garnish

One of my top clean eating dishes is Oven Roasted Chicken with Wild Rice and Alfalfa Sprouts. It’s completely satisfying, low-fat and energy packed. Let me know if you would like my adaptation of the Clean recipe.

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Baking Frosted Sugar Cookies for Christmas with Tracey Rapisardi

As the year closes, Tracey Rapisardi of Tracey Rapisardi Style and I fit in one last collaboration for you. We hope you enjoy it!

It was a sweet treat to work with such a talent in styling and photography (not to mention Interior Design). The real gift was to sit and spend time with Tracey, warm up with a steaming cup of sweetened green tea, and to create this fanciful gathering which we would then come to share with you.

cookies and ingredients

Another special gift this season came to me in my very own kitchen. I have actually, finally, figured out how to mix Royal Icing – the kind that hardens – from scratch. You know…the kind you see on snowmen cookies at Starbucks or at the cash wrap in Whole Foods around holiday time. If you know me, you probably know I have been experimenting with this tasty confection for some time (remember my Failure Happens post?)

Icing Decorates Cookies

Once I figured out the recipe, I admittedly went a little overboard. I bought a junk drawer load of pastry bag tips, used for decorating and writing with icing, and a few extra sets of couplers, which are used to secure the tip of choice to a pastry bag. Using all the tools I picked up, I created white, pink, green and blue shades in both outlining and flooding consistencies. Then I set up a Decor Station, which included icing, sugars, sprinkles, nonpareils, pearls, candy snowflakes and more, each in their own ramekin.

Icing on Sugar Cookies

Lots of fun work and experimentation led to a strong sense of accomplishment. (My newfound success was inspired by a video tutorial, Royal Icing Wet on Wet Technique, by Simply Sweets by Honeybee. Her steady hand and the quick, easy strokes she takes with the icing is a true art.)

Green Sugar Decoration

While the icing was still wet, sanding sugars in different colors and sizes are sprinkled over top. Immediately shake off any excess and place your decorated cookie on a flat surface to dry.

Letters Gift Tags and Star Sugar Cookies

Trick: Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper before using sanding sugars or embellishments. Place a cooling rack on top and sprinkle away. You can then funnel that special fallen sugar back into the jar for later use. Happy baker, padded wallet for more ingredients.

Delicate Cookies with Royal Icing

I had a blast creating different patterns and textures on tag cookies, letters, stars and snowflakes. The possibilities are endless!

Sugar Cookie Success

This snowflake is my favorite because of the warm and fuzzy, wintery feelings it evokes.

Royal Icing and Decorated Cookies

Glam Your Sugar Cookies

Don’t you just love Tracey’s use of colors and patterns? I bet those lollipops are as much of a delight to taste as they are to look at.

Area to Decorate Cookies

McLean Sugar Cookies

It is snowing in sunny Florida! Is it snowing where you live, too? 🙂

Decorated Sugar Cookies

The holiday tunes on the radio turned my afternoon with Tracey into a real party. Wait until you see what she did with the decorated cookies, and don’t forget to sign up for email updates on her blog!

Whether they arrive via visits with close friends, within personal achievements of any size, or under your tree, I hope you receive the gifts you have been wishing for this Christmas.

Warm Rosemary Olives from Real Simple

An Especially Warm Welcome from one of my favorite magazines.

Melanie Acevedo via www.RealSimple.com

Melanie Acevedo via RealSimple.com

The warmest of welcomes comes straight from the heart, and hot from the oven. This fantastic, colorful and fragrant opener makes an appearance at all of my holiday gatherings. In Cozy Nook, the Lenox house, I’d fill an entire jelly roll pan with these little bursts of salt and herb. When warmed, the fresh rosemary fills the kitchen with the scents reminiscent of Christmas parties past, laughter, homestead, hearth and good cheer.

Click here for the Recipe for Warm Rosemary Olives, via www.RealSimple.com. To follow Real Simple on Facebook, click here.

Holiday Preparations: Time to Get Festive

Pie and Brownies

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie, Apple with Almond Crumb Crust and Sinful Fudge Brownies

The holidays are a wonderful time of year.

Let’s kindle the festive spirit  so that the glow of wonder and magic lasts throughout the long winter. Here I am going to share my favorite seasonal tips, treats and topics over the next few posts. Please join me on this sleigh ride!

And, if you’re feeling the spark, share your fave thing about the holidays below.

Pink Chocolate Popcorn for Movie Night with Tracey Rapisardi

Snuggling up on the sofa with a crunchy snack and an entertaining movie is one of the best ways to spend a quiet Sunday evening. Along with my good friend, Tracey of Tracey Rapisardi Design, and we experimented with some popcorn, pretzels and chocolate to make a scrumptious spread for movie night.

Naked Popcorn

Popping pure white popcorn is the first step to snack time success.

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Melt a Ghirardelli White Chocolate Premium Baking Bar in the microwave or in a double boiler. Add some red food coloring until you have achieved your desired shade of pink. (A touch of blue will tone down the pink.)

Insert amusement here, and have a ball pouring the warm chocolate over your popcorn. For best results, using a light hand, drizzle slowly and cover as evenly as possible.

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Using a rubber spatula, mix the popcorn and pink chocolate until you have achieved semi-evenly covered goodness.

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Transfer the popcorn to a large white ceramic bowl…make sure it’s roomy enough for you to fit your whole hand in!

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Drizzle with remaining non-tinted chocolate.

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If you are in the mood for toothache sweet, sprinkle with Classic White Chocolate Baking Chips and white non-pareils.

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If you have chocolate left over, why not dip some pretzels? Salty vs. Sweet. Who do you think will win the tastebud war?

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Don’t forget to put your pajamas on before you snuggle up on the couch! Now that you’ve got your snacks together, head on over to Tracey Rapisardi Style to see how she arranged our Sunday evening surroundings.

A special kudos to the talented Tracey for her wonderful styling and photography.

Easy Cookie Recipe: Polka Dot Cookies With Tracey Rapisardi

Get Started Baking

Baking bright and cheerful Polka Dot Cookies made me happier than a warm chocolate chip muffin with a dollop of whipped butter. I had the pleasure of designing this recipe for you from scratch – I hope you enjoy it.

The ice cold milk with the muffin was that I was fortunate enough to collaborate with Tracey of TraceyRapisardiStyle. Wait till you see what she did with the cookies once they exited the cooling rack. But more on that later; let’s get our hands floured up first!

Add the Butter

Add the butter to your mixing bowl;

Add the Sugar

then add the sugar.

Butter and Sugar Get Creamed

Cream ingredients until fluffy. Don’t you just adore the movement captured in this still image?

A big thank you to Mandi Rapisardi for her brilliant eye and creative approach to photography. She added a very special touch to this post and was a blast to work with!

Vanilla in the Polka Dot Cookies

Then add the eggs, one at a time and pure vanilla extract. I always use pure as it really packs an unmatched flavor punch.

Dry Mixture

Whisk together the baking powder and flour; slowly combine with wet mixture to form a sweet, buttery dough.

Dough for Polka Dot Cookies

Form the dough into balls and…

Sugar Rolled Cookies

roll in sugar for a little something extra. They will look slightly sugar-kissed when they are done.

Prepare to Bake

Line ’em up and press!

Flatten to Bake

I used the bottom of a drinking glass for the flat ones,

Patterned Dough

the bottom of a patterned glass for the sunbursts,

Filled Cookies

…and the bottom of the cookie scoop for the fillable version.

butter cookies

A big huge heaping XOXO and thank you to the brilliantly talented Tracey Rapisardi for styling this blog post. To see what she did with the sweet and scrumptious Polka Dot Cookies once they were finished cooling, please visit her blog here and don’t forget to sign up for email updates.

But, wait, before you go… What was your favorite photo in this post? What do you think about the recipe? What would you like to see next? I love hearing your feedback so feel free to comment below!

Oh, and here’s the recipe. 🙂

Polka Dot Cookies from Kitchen à la Cate

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature

1 ¾ cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 cups all purpose flour

food coloring (liquid or gel, I used McCormick’s neon green + yellow for lime green; blue + green for the dark teal; Wilton rose gel for the dark pink)

¼ cup sugar in a small round bowl

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Take your time with this step; the mixer should be creaming for at least five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for two minutes after each addition. Mix in vanilla.

Whisk baking powder and flour in a separate bowl to combine. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Once combined, add the food coloring of your choice. The dough will be warm; wrap it in plastic wrap or pop into a plastic bag. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Using a 1¼ inch cookie scoop, form cookies. Drop dough into your hand and roll into a ball. Roll ball in the ¼ cup of sugar to coat and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

For flat cookies, press each dough ball with the bottom of a flat or patterned glass and bake in preheated oven for 7 to 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 minute and carefully remove cookies from sheet to finish cooling.

For filled cookies, bake the sugar coated ball shapes in preheated over for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and form a well in each cookie, while hot, using the backside of the cookie scoop. Remove cookies from sheet to finish cooling. Once completely cooled, fill with your favorite– whipped cream, frosting or ice cream.  Jimmies add an extra charming and colorful look!

Failure Happens in the Kitchen

Great ideas can stem from small packages, especially when they come from the local kitchen store.

I picked up this adorable cookie shape along with a biscuit cutter to remove the center cookie dough.

Cookie Cutters

These fancy-dancy edible shimmer dusts…

Gold and Silver Dust

And I was a little overly excited (which is not unheard of) to use my handy new piping bag and tips.

Bag

Tips

I was going to make engagement ring cookies and send them to my favorite jeweler as a thank you. You see, they made some repairs to my bauble and I wanted to do something to express my gratitude. These cookies were just the ticket. (Or so I imagined.)

The breton biscuit dough baked up buttery and slightly browned on the edges. Boy, did I think I was onto something good.

Diamond Ring Cookies

Then I started to decorate. (Not my brightest idea.) I wanted to make them look just like my ring so I carefully piped the edges with white royal icing and filled in the lines. The plan was to brush some with silver and some with gold dust, but it didn’t end up appearing as dark as I had imagined. A second coat didn’t really change that. Oops!

Icing the Cookies

Then I thought, I am going to tint the icing yellow for the diamond. The first batch of frosting turned out egg-yolk-yellow, which wasn’t pretty at all. The second batch was more of a pastel-ly yellow, so I filled in the gem areas on each cookie. The icing was too watery and started to run, so I cleaned them up as best as I could and let them dry. They looked so non-realistic I could have cried. Double oops!

Looks like my engagement cookie idea was a real recipe for disaster. But there are positives in everything – sometimes they are just hard to see at first.

On the sunny side, I got to experiment with tools and ingredients in the kitchen, which is one of the most heartwarming things to do. Kevin and I laughed and got a bit sentimental as we reminisced about our engagement and our friends at McTeigue and McClelland. And although those rings looked, truthfully, completely sad, they tasted kind of sugary and good. *Blush* (What? Did you think I threw them away?!)

Not only that, but I had the perfect excuse to bake more! Fudgy chocolate brownies from scratch with Ghirardelli cacao to the rescue. Thanks for a reason to bake twice and to experiment with royal icing and edible metallic dust, MC2…

Brownies

Have you had success with royal icing? Please share your tips!

Recipe: Shrimp Madras and a Chiffonade

A dear friend of Kev and I, Barbara, also shares a certain – what do you call it – “foodie-love” with us. It is evening in our tiny, romantically-lit, 1970’s inspired kitchen in the Berkshires, and Kevin hands me a recipe. (By romantically-lit, we’re talking one little baby lamp on the counter top and a floor-to-ceiling thing we picked up at Wally World; and by 1970’s inspired, I mean pieced together actually in 1970…)

Along with the recipe from Barbara is a bag full of exotic and fragrant, dark green Kari leaves. Just looking at them and taking in the aroma makes me wonder what traveling to India would actually be like. They appear strong and glossy and feel silky under my hands.

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Earlier, I put good use to the grocery list from Kevin, happily searching for ingredients for the dinner (what is Garam Masala?) gliding up and down the aisles of Guidos. Plus, I was eagerly anticipating the taste of the homemade curry powder my very talented chef cousin, Gregg, gifted me with on Christmas. (All about him on another day, I promise.)

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Here are the ingredients.

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Isn’t this watercress outrageous?

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I chiffonade the Kari leaves by layering them all into a stack…

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Rolling them tightly…

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And slicing thinly on a slant. For such little strips they are abundant with robust fragrance.

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I use chicken instead of shrimp in these photos (taken at a later date in a different kitchen) to add my own variation to the recipe.

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Pressto. As the meal comes together and the whole apartment fills up with intense and deep, complex aroma, I feel India in my heart and decide that one day I will travel there.

For the recipe, click here. Thanks Barbara 😉

Have you been to India? What recipes in your file inspire you to travel?

Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Antipasto Salad

I have lots of favorite things, Vixen included (despite the bitter reality that she’s decided to stop downloading music again…) Any-who, among them, the unique flavors and textures present in delectable foods really get my smile going.

Can you imagine all your favorites in one place at one time? Enter: the great Antipasto Salad, inspired by one of my most-loved cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. If you are a vegetarian, or even if you’re not, this book is full of marvelous meal ideas that I promise, will become staples in your meal plan after one taste.

In goes a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained. I could eat these by the jar-full (…and have been known to.)

Garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (a sneaky way to get protein into my husbands belly, without using chicken.)

Don’t you just love Kalamata olives? They are available pitted through most grocers, which will save you a few precious minutes during the dinner rush. I also added Castlevetrano’s (those bright green goodies) and some capers.

Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (eventually Kev figured out my sneaky bean trick, but the good news is he ate them anyway!)

In with the tomato (chopped and seeded, of course…)

…red onion…

…and Feta cheese. Lots of Feta cheese. Yum. Squeeze in a lemon, drizzle on a touch of extra virgin olive oil and add freshly ground black pepper.

The best part about food is that we need to eat dinner everyday; that’s seven opportunities a week to feel inspired, create, and indulge in something fantastic.

This salad is now looking confused (all mixed up) and Me. Likey.

Served on a bed of lettuce for some crunch. Simple, satisfying, fresh and easy! All is well with the dinner world…now if I could just figure out what’s wrong with Vixen. Hmm.

Simple Tomato Dish

Thank you, Jacob Whitmer, for gifting Kevin and I with these beautiful red tomatoes that you hand-picked with your Dad! As you can see, they were very ripe – and as you can bet, extremely delicious to eat.

I sliced these farm-fresh, drop-dead-gorgeous tomatoes into 1/2 inch thick rounds and dressed them up with some kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, basil from my little porch-plant and, of course, EVOO. Sooo simple and so good!