Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Last Day of the Decade

it's hard to believe its been 10 years now since the new millennium. i actually remember being a little disappointed nothing happened at midnight after all the y2k hype. well, tonight we are having a low key evening at home with some friends.

instead of a full dinner, we decided to have some soup homemade beef vegetable (L's specialty), sausage and feta stuffed mushrooms, pizza rolls, assorted cheeses with crackers,

drinks offered will be dos equis, yuenging, tartinis, lemon drops martinis, and prosecco.

and, for dessert, mini strawberry tarts and flourless chocolate torte.

stay tuned for recipes and pictures of the spread.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


the jessop family - 4 generations!

hope everyone had a wonderful christmas! i've been "off" for almost a week - yikes! it's been crazy with christmas, family, friends, and i have still been cooking 3 days a week. i haven't had much time for cooking at home and posting. plus, i realize i left off at 10 days of christmas cookies. sorry! luckily i found out the 12 days of christmas lasts after christmas/ technically the 12th day of christmas is january 5th - the day before the feast of the epiphany. really, check it out.

so, thank you catholic church for giving me extra time on my cookie project!

stay tuned, tomorrow i will be sharing with your my new years eve menu as well as one more cookie recipe. lots of finger foods, drinks, and sweets for an evening of grazing and fun with friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve at the Market

every year since i can remember, AC and UB have taken "the kids" to lexington market christmas eve morning. it probably started as a way to get us out of our parents hair but the tradition continues. the group has changed, grown bigger or gotten smaller over the years but AC and UB have always been there. they would get various items needed for the next couple of days - smoked white fish, oysters, chocolate, candy, etc. - and we would get a crab cake from faidley's.

it's probably not the best crab cake i have ever had, but it's pretty darn good and the memories that this small ball of lumps can evoke are priceless.

UB, Madoff's long lost twin

so today, christmas eve 2009, i had another broiled jumbo lump crab cake and caught up with old friends and relatives. "the kids" are now ranging from 20-35 years old but the act of walking into the market brings me right back to 12 or 13, squished between my older brother and older cousin in the back of AC and UB's jeep for the ride down 83 into the city. the smell of seafood washes over me as soon as i open the doors into faidley's. and i still sneak one or two of the coconut clusters or chocolate covered cherries i buy for mom and dad's stocking.

so here's to lifelong traditions and the blessing of a wonderful family.

cheers to you this christmas eve. may you and your family have a wonderful and joyous christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cheddar Dill Biscuits

i saw this recipe by ina garten on one of her barefoot contessa shows on the food network several years ago. i have been making them ever since. they always turn out really well and everyone seems to like them.

mom requested that i make some for christmas day so i am baking up a batch. actually i am making 2 batches. one i am making gulten free for A and G. they turned out really well. all i did was replace the flour with gluten-free baking mix which is a mix of garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour. they turned out really well too but for whatever reason didn't rise as much as the other batch. oh well - still yummy for our celiacs girls.

these biscuits taste really cheesy and savory on their own. they don't really even need butter (because they have so much already in them) but, they are also really good with some ham and mustard on them.

here is the recipe, which i have changed slightly. the original recipe is here.

Cheddar Dill Biscuits
(makes 4 dozen 2" biscuits)

4 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbs baking powder
2 tsp salt
3/4 lb unsalted butter, cold
1/2 c chopped dill
1/2 lb shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
4 large eggs, cold
1 c light cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

combine 4 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. cut the butter into small cubes (i cut it in half long ways, then turn it over and cut in half long ways again. then cut it into cubes so they all are about 1/2" square.) add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. add in the chopped dill and shredded cheddar. mix just for 10-20 seconds until mixed in.

in a seperate bowl, whisk cream and eggs together. add egg and cream mixture to flour mixture and mix until just blended.

dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. Cut with 2" biscuit cutter or use a small glass. place onto greased cookie sheets (i line mine with foil, then spray cooking spray for easy clean-up. you can re-use the foil for the next batch.) brush the tops with egg wash. bake for 20 minutes until tops and bottoms are golden.

serve warm or at room temperature.

i hope everyone is almost ready for christmas. it'll be here soon!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 10 - No Bake Cookie Disaster

so, i should have known better than use agave in these chocolate oatmeal no bake cookies. so, again, my cookies end in disaster, but i will post the recipe. make sure you use sugar, no substitutes! these are excellent cookies when they turn out well. the agave didn't let the cookies "set". so, they never really hardened. oh well. i had a good run there.

again, these will turn out just fine if you use sugar. i promise.

Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies
(makes 4 dozen cookies)

2 c sugar
4 tbs cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1 c peanut butter
1 tbs vanilla
3 c quick oats

in a heavy saucepan bring sugar, cocoa, butter and milk to a boil over medium heat. let boil for 2 minutes, then add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal. drop mixture by the teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. let cool until hardened.

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 9 - Peppermint Chocolate Thins

i am on a roll now. again, these aren't technically a cookie but if you are planning to give out treats as gifts, it's nice to vary it a bit. some cookies, some chocolates, nuts, etc. these would make a wonderful addition to your party or gift box of goodies.

these have been a favorite of mine since my college roomie N made them for us many years ago. plus, they are super easy! it's basically just melting chocolate.

these make a very nice presentation, check out how pretty they are!

Chocolate Peppermint Thins
(makes 32 pieces)

20 oz dark chocolate, divided (i used ghir 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips)
10 oz white chocolate (i used white chocolate chips)
2-3 drops peppermint oil (not extract)
3-4 drops green food coloring

melt half of dark chocolate in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring well after each heating. pour melted chocolate into a foil lined 8x8" square baking dish. let sit in refrigerator for 10 minutes until just set.

meanwhile, melt white chocolate in microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds intervals, again, stirring well after each heating. once melted, add peppermint oil and food coloring. pour over first layer of chocolate. chill in fridge for 10 mins.

meanwhile, melt remaining dark chocolate in microwave. pour over white chocolate layer and refrigerate at least an hour until completely firm.

once firm, place upside down on cutting board. remove foil and cut into 16 two inch squares. cut each square diagonally into triangles. you will have 32 triangles. store in airtight container.


Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 8 - Fig Swirls

i found this recipe at and was so excited as i read the ingredients! there isn't any sugar in these - only honey. yay!

of course, i used whole wheat pastry flour instead of white and i think we have a fairly healthy and tasty cookie here. plus, they are so pretty! they aren't super sweet, which i like. they taste very similar to a fig newton. so, if you like fig newtons, you'll definitely like these swirls. E even liked them (he also loves fig newtons - go figure).

i am afraid to say this only 3/4 of the way through, but the cookie thing is going much better. it started out pretty rough there at first.

these are a little more labor intensive and there are more steps as well as chilling time. i recommend getting to the 2nd refrigeration step and letting them site overnight. or doing everything at the beginning of the day, then getting other stuff done and coming back to slice and bake them off that evening, which is what i did. 

one other thing, the first log i did as they recommended. the second i spread the fig over the whole dough (leaving 1/2 inch border all the way around) and just rolled it up like a pinwheel. when i sliced them, they didn't really end up looking very different. so, either way works.

Fig Swirls (slightly altered from epicurious)
(makes 3 dozen cookies)

pastry dough:
1 3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
    7 oz soft dried mission figs, hard tips discarded
    3/4 c mild honey
    2 tsp fresh orange juice
    2 tsp grated fresh orange zest
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
      pastry dough:
      whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

      pulse butter, cream cheese, yolk, and vanilla in a food processor until smooth, then add flour mixture and pulse until dough just forms a ball.

      halve dough and form each half into a roughly 6- by 2-inch rectangle. chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 1/2 hours.

      purée figs, honey, juice, zest, vanilla, and cinnamon in cleaned food processor until smooth.

      roll out 1 piece of dough between 2 sheets of wax paper into a 10- by 8-inch rectangle (about 1/3 inch thick), long side facing you. remove top sheet of wax paper and gently spread one fourth of fig mixture over bottom half of dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. using wax paper as an aid, roll dough, jelly-roll style, halfway, enclosing fig mixture. flip dough, with wax paper and remove paper. spread with one third of remaining fig mixture and roll in same manner, to form an s-shaped log. do same procedure on other roll.  chill logs, wrapped in wax paper, until firm, at least 4 hours, or up to 3 days.

      preheat oven to 375°F.

      cut logs crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick slices and arrange slices about 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. bake until pastry is pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes. let cool completely on wire racks. store in airtight container.

      12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 7 - Meringues

      so, it's getting to the point where i have to double-up cookie days. today i am doing day 7 and 8. whew.
      first up are meringues. i have always loved these. they are so light and airy. the only problem with that is i feel like i can eat a bunch of them without realizing it.

      these are naturally low in calories because they are made with egg whites. no yolks, no butter, no flour, but there is sugar. and pure sugar is the only thing that will work here. otherwise, they won't harden up like you want them too.

      you can make them festive by adding a drop or two of food coloring at the end and just folding it in a bit so it looks swirly. i am out of food coloring so i wasn't able to do that. you can also flavor them differently by using a different extract (lemon perhaps, oooh, or almond - i even have some peppermint oil which may be very tasty) or by adding cocoa powder to make them chocolate. yum!

      here's the super easy recipe. the only thing you have to wait on is the egg whites are best at room temperature. i separate the eggs cold, then let them sit for an hour or so. they'll whip up fluffier that way.

      (makes 40-45 depending on the size)

      3 egg whites, room temperature
      1/4 tsp cream of tartar
      3/4 c sugar
      1 tsp vanilla extract

      preheat oven to 200 degrees.

      separate eggs being very careful not to allow any yolk into the whites. let sit for about an hour while the whites come to room temperature. add whites and cream of tartar to stand mixing bowl. whip at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. then start adding sugar 1 teaspoon at a time. add vanilla and whip until peaks are stiff and shiny.

      scoop meringues into pastry bag or ziploc bag. (if using ziploc, snip off very end of one corner.) pipe into small 2" spirals on 2 parchment lined baking sheets (you do not need to leave too much room between meringues as they will not expand).

      bake at 200 for 90 minutes until firm. turn off oven and crack door. let cool completely. store in airtight containers.

      Sunday, December 20, 2009

      Blizzard of 2009 Wrap-Up

      well, E and i finally made it home after an incredibly long day. more on that later . . .

      when i last left you i told you we planned to meet up with some friends for some drinks. turns out, that wasn't in the cards for us. the dc metro shut down everything that wasn't completely underground. and thus, our troubles began. basically, we were trapped. we couldn't go anywhere but pentagon or pentagon city. so, when we got up from our nap and realized we weren't really able to do anything, we took the metro one stop over to pentagon city and got a snack. i had a strawberry and chocolate crepe (yum!) and E had some popeyes chicken. we thought about doing some shopping but at 4:30pm the only store in the entire mall open was macy's. the district of columbia clearly doesn't know how to handle its snow. everything was virtually shut down. but it was pretty!

      cool patterns on the roof below us - looks almost like waves

      we headed back to the sheraton to warm up and decided to have some whiskey. jameson made us feel instantly better:)

      see, smiling already:)

      E and i were hungry again so we ordered from the (very) limited menu. we basically had 3 things to choose from. we decided on french onion soup and sharing some french fries. they turned out to be my favorite kind of fries - shoestring fries! and, let's be serious, i ate at least 2/3 of them. oh well. what's a girl to do with such limited choices.

      after we filled up we headed back upstairs to watch a movie. we decided on "angels and demons." we have both read the book and thought the movie was entertaining. it was kind of nice being "snowed in." after the movie we headed back down to the hotel bar and had another drink (beer for E this time and grand marnier for me). E had another bowl of soup and i had a very unsatisfactory crème brûlée. somehow i was still hungry after that so i ordered more fries. yikes!

      we headed to bed and i read a little more of julie and julia. i am trying to finish the book before i see the movie with K.

      in the morning, we awoke excited to get home. the metro had other plans. all underground stops were still closed. ugh! we were seriously ready to get home! E and i headed down for some breakfast with hopes of returning to good news of metro openings. by noon, there was still no word. we starting trying to think of ways out. the problem was our car was parked at the greenbelt metro and we were stuck on the yellow line with only 3 open stops. those stops didn't allow us to get anywhere close to the greenbelt stop.

      we called downstairs for a cab to greenbelt but were told only a sedan service would take us for $150. we scrapped that idea. our choices were 1) try to find another way out, or 2) stay another night. we decided we couldn't stand another night so we looked into renting a car from regan national airport. we got a fairly good deal and headed downstairs to check out and catch a hotel shuttle to the airport. we were on our way!

      or so we thought . . .

      on the ramp to the airport, we got stuck due to a 3 car pile-up. after 15 minutes of nothing, E and i got out of the shuttle and started walking down the ramp towards the airport. we finally made it to the airport (about a half a mile) and found another shuttle to take us to the national car rental center. we finally made it to our rental

      it took us over an hour to make it the one mile from our hotel to the rental car. ugh! but again, we were on our way. we made it to the greenbelt parking lot without too much trouble and had to dig our car out of this:

      ahh, good times! I-95 was smooth sailing as was 695 and we picked up the schmoops and were home finally after nearly 4 hours of traveling.

      when we arrived home, guess what was waiting for us to shovel??

      of course, more snow! looks like we got about 10 inches. some places more, hard to tell with the drifts.

      i do have to say, it's good to be home. home, sweet, home.

      one other thing, while we were struggling to find a way to get home, dignan and roxy were living it up at meadowvale. they couldn't love the snow more! they had so much fun and are currently zonked out under the tree.


      tomorrow, i'm back on the cookie craze. i still have 6 more cookies to go. i better get on it!

      Saturday, December 19, 2009

      Blizzard of 2009!

      well, the snow is upon us! i headed down to DC last night to meet E for his team holiday happy hour at black finn. we had a great time and it was wonderful to see some people i haven't seen in forever! we planned to stay over friday night and saturday night because E's company holiday party was supposed to be tonight. the party tonight has been canceled and we are snowed in at the crystal city sheraton. we had fun plans to venture out to the smithsonian but they are closed.

      E and i did get out this morning for coffee and breakfast in the crystal city underground shops. i found some honey yogurt and granola to go with my caramel latte at starbucks. yum! E had an egg mcmuffin from mcdonalds. basically, the only places open were starbucks, mcdonalds, and subway. not the greatest choices but we were hungry!

      (be forewarned, my pics aren't super as they are all taken with my bb)

      we also managed to venture out again for lunch at chipolte. i had a carnitas burrito bowl (or half of one anyway).

      now it's time for a long winters nap. gotta rest up. we are meeting some brave northern virginians for drinks after dinner. we are at at least a foot of snow and counting!

      some views from our room (again, not good quality, but you get the idea)

      Thursday, December 17, 2009

      Quick Workout

      i know this is a super busy time of year. often the thing that gets cut from the busy schedule is your workouts. i try to be as consistent as possible with my workouts because it actually keeps me sane. with that in mind, i thought i'd share with you how i get a quick hard workout in when i don't have a whole lot of time. it's my "i get bored easily" cardio fix.

      as mentioned, i tend to get bored very easily. having a personal trainer has helped that a lot but i realize not everyone can have one of those. (truthfully without my trading of services - i cook for him, he trains me - i wouldn't be able to afford it.) i like to keep a bunch of different exercise dvd's on hand so i can squeeze in quick workouts at home which saves lots of time because i don't even have to drive to and from the gym. however when it comes to cardio, i have to get to the gym - it's too darn cold outside!

      so, here is what i did today:

      minutes: 1-5          speed: 3.5mph          incline: 5.0
      minutes: 5-15        speed: 4.0 mph         incline: 10.0
      cybex arc trainer
      minutes: 15-30      intensity: 50 (out of 100)    incline: 10
      minutes: 30-45      level: 5

      this kicks my butt (literally!) its a quick 45 minutes but it's intense. according to my heart rate monitor i burned over 400 calories! my advice is when you are short on time, make it intense. mixing up the machines keeps me from getting bored. you can do this on any machine. mix it up - bike, treadmill, arc trainer, elliptical, rowing machine, etc.

      after my workout i always try to have a bit of protein to help my muscles rebuild. its most important after weight training but i figured since i really pushed it today, i'd have a little protein. the only problem? its really cold outside today and i just couldn't bear to drink a cold smoothie. so . . . i tried something a little different.

      i made some hot chocolate with protein powder in it. i was very surprised how well it turned out! my concoction included these:

      1/2 scoop of dessert chocolate fudge protein powder and half a package of nestle dark chocolate hot chocolate mix mixed with 8 oz hot milk. yum! this drink had 20 grams of protein (between the powder and the milk) and 9 grams of sugar. even though the sugar is a little high, i thought it was worth it to be warm and i only needed 1/2 a packet with the chocolate protein powder. i will be having this again, no doubt.
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