Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Year of Yum

2009 turned out to be a rather light blogging year for Cooking with Anne, but with good reason. With some of my duties stepped up at, A Thousand Soups doing fairly well and a new staff writing position at Half Hour Meals, there was a lot of food going on, just not all in one spot.

The year started of with a real high as I was featured in our local newspaper and the story then spread literally world-wide. There is no longer a link to the original story at The Morning Call, but there are links elsewhere. Two of those links are at The Seattle Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I was also fortunate enough to have some of my work for chosen to be displayed at The Princess and the Frog website. Click HERE for the site and when the site loads (I really love the background music!), click on 'Community' and then 'Cooking' to find seven of my favorite Cajun recipes (the ones tagged with 'Recipe provided by Disney') on site!

This is also the year that I started a Facebook Fan Page for Cooking with Anne - be sure to stop by!

I'm hoping this next year will be a bit fuller here at Cooking with Anne, and until then these are my favorite posts from this past year:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To Pea or Not to Pea

Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pot Pie

Part of a recipe developers job, beyond the creation of recipes for a specific client, is also sometimes the 'creation' of tried and true mainstays. A publisher wants their own versions of the recipes we all know and love to help fill out their database.

It was just such a circumstance that led to revamping my own chicken pot pie recipe. That, in turn, led to several funny and opinionated discussions via Twitter and Facebook about whether or not peas should be added to a pot pie.

Living in Pennsylvania, one must first get past the bounds of which pot pie you're cooking; the P.A. Dutch version, or the comfort food classic that we all know. My own recipe has always been the equivalent of a chicken stew cooked in a pie crust. No pomp and circumstance, no muss, no fuss. My own mother made hers the same way, lots of chicken and potatoes, no peas.

Every single pot pie I'd ever seen anywhere else, including within the grocer's freezer, contained those little green spheres, but not mom's. Search as I may, I couldn't find a single instance in a cookbook or online without the inclusion of peas. So, I thought I'd poll my corner of the world and ask which it was; Peas or No Peas.

Some of the answers I received were downright hysterical:

Patrick N: I've never known a CPP that didn't have peas

April Jean: peas!

Louise Lenner: sometimes with...sometimes without depends on the tastebuds..I like ANY chicken pot pie lol

Rhonda Jenkins: I don't always eat the peas but I've never seen one without them! If I were making it though, I'd probably leave them out since Stephen is allergic to them. Speaking of which, how about a good recipe? I have chicken out for dinner tonight! lol

Trinette Stowell: Yes, please! Or not. Either way is fine with me.


Ryan Boudreaux: Hello....peas and carrots are a must! lol

Krista Foster: That you would even contemplate not adding peas makes me question your culinary integrity (LOL!!!!)

Daniel East: I have to say it: Give peas a chance! (there, I said it)

Drheckle MrGibe: Only a neophyte wouldn't add peas to pot pie

Jennifer Koenig Wilson: peas.·

Cassidy Coleman: EWWWWW!!!! NO FREAKING PEAS!

Jenn DiPiazza: PEAS!

Reese Badman: Peas! If they're nice and fresh when you put 'em in, they're like little explosions of goodness when you bite into them. Peas all the way!

Joan Nova: peas pls

Duane Foster: You have to have peas.

Heather Cohen: YES! PEAS!

Audrey Michael-smith: Even though I do not like them they do add a little color.. my vote is YES

Bruce Sarte: Peas -- definitely!

Paul Landis: No Peas??? Epic fail.

Yvonne Freitas- Garcia: no peas............. blah! Was never a fan. Chicken Pot Pie. *drools

Kate Parker: Absolutely add peas, YES YES YES!!!!!!!!·

Morgana Kennedy: This is a very serious question. My kids hate peas and would get out of eating dinner if they were in there. You could always be a "sneaky chef" and puree the peas so no one will know they are there. Something I do a lot. Good luck!

Jason Sturdevant: Just tell them its peas or brussell sprouts...

Kerri Koch: oooh ~ no peas in my pot pie please!

Wendy Mikko-Wood: A pot pie without peas? No way!

Toontz Okara: Peas!!!!

Caroline Kahikina McCloud: Coming in late on this, but PEAS yes! Mushrooms are the debate in our household. I generally make one with mushrooms and without.

Paula Dancho-Moffo yes!

Mickie Connor Young: Peas, definitely.

Jennifer Buckner Atkinson: Peas!

Faith Bond: of course..always had it in that i knew

Rachel Zenhausern: No! No peas! It's the one reason I avoid chicken pot pies when other people make them. I hate the peas. I've always hated peas. Just the smell of them makes me gag! Please no peas. My chicken pot pie is a creamy mix of mushrooms and broccoli topped with a homemade biscuit crust.

Kristine Grampo McNerney: No Peas! Please: )

Jenn DiPiazza: PEAS!

Tom Pierce: whirled peas

Julie Pleiness Liedke: peas.... for sure:-)

Anok Kropotkin: Peas!

Hannah Rittenhouse: peas..sure and little diced carrots too..yummo! that other one with the broccoli sounds yummo but is not a traditional chicken pot pie..actually they're ALL chicken PIES..if it's made in a pot a "la pa dutch" THEN it's a pot pie! AHAHAHA!

Virginia Tadrzynski: peas, definitely, that is unless you go to put peas in the potpie and 'sob' and 'alas' (you toss your head back and cover your forehead with your arm) THERE ARE NO PEAS in the freezer. peas.

Chicken Pot PIe

I had several answers on Twitter, as well - from simple 'yes' to 'No peas. Ick! Pa-tooey.' It does seem that the peas won out, so in re-doing my recipe, I added peas. I have to say, though - when making this for my own family, the peas are out.

You may also notice that I've done another controversial thing - added potatoes. I've never had a pot pie at home that didn't contain potatoes and I love the flavor and texture they add.

Whichever you choose, Peas or No Peas, one thing is for sure, pot pie is one of the best things going.

This is the pot pie as it looks when made in one pan.

Anne's Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced potato
1 cup diced carrot
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup frozen peas
4 cups cooked and cubed chicken
1 double pie crust rolled to 1/4" thick and cut into eight 4.5" circles

Melt butter in a large pot and add onion, celery, carrot and potato.
Cook over low heat until vegetables begin to soften - about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir well. Pour stock into the pot in a thin stream, stirring all the while until the sauce begins to thicken. Add thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in chicken and peas. Cook for another 10 minutes until bubbly and completely heated through.

Ladle filling into 1 cup capacity ramekins or other suitable vessel - even oven-proof coffee mugs work well for this! Top each cup with a round of pie dough and set on a baking sheet.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until pie crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling out the edges.

Lindsay Olives - Perfect for Any Party

I love olives. Next to tomatoes they are my very favorite food and I could eat every variety known to man every minute of every day. That's serious love, folks. What I don't enjoy too much is opening cans. I like black olives as much as the next person (although Nicoise are my favorite) but wrestling cans open (you have to know my can opener to understand) just isn't fun.

Lindsay Olives have come up with a brilliant solution; re-closeable containers. While I admit that I could finish off an entire can of olives myself, not everyone has such fortitude and the need to store the little black gems is necessary.

Pitted ripe olives (medium or large size) and Italian Seasoned are the three products that come in handy little resealable bowls. Eat what you want, pop the lid back on and stow them in the fridge until the next time you need them - which would be every 5 minutes for me, but may be longer for other individuals. The Italian Seasoned olives are my favorite of the bunch - they taste nearly identical to my favorite baked olive, but with the added bonus of being ready from the jar! Those were gone in 15 minutes flat.

Try them for yourself by checking out the Lindsay website for a store near you, a valuable coupon and a complete list of Lindsay olive products. See if you don't think these are the next best thing to sliced tomatoes, too.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Cake

The top of this year's snowflake cake.

I think the first year I started blogging, which was 2005, I went into great detail about our Christmas celebrations and food. Not much changes from year to year in the department, but there are differences. Usually it's something one of the kids has requested or a recipe I caught from a magazine that I had to try. This year one of the desserts was something I haven't made for about 12 years - a snowflake cake.

I can't remember what magazine I found this beauty in, but I thought it was one of the prettiest cakes I've ever seen and had to tackle it. Back then I had 3 children and lots more time, so it wasn't so taxing to get it done. Over the years, as we added 4 more kids and lost some time I let it slide and intended to make it, but never got 'a round tuit'.

This year I wanted to make that cake come Hell or high water, and I did. I was amazed at how easily it went together and quietly scolded myself for not having done it earlier. It was a show stopper - as it was meant to be - and the cake itself was so good that my mother-in-law called (on behalf of my brother-in-law) to ask if we had any left.

My first snowflake cake from 1997.

The cake itself is one of my newest favorites, Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake, which I first made with the Daring Bakers almost 2 years ago. I have since come to love that cake and use it as a base for many, many desserts. This time I made 4 layers of the cake and sandwiched ALDI's Fruits of the Forest Spread between the layers (this spread is to-die-for and you must find an ALDI and seek this out) and topped the cake with a basic buttercream icing.

Once assembled, I piped 'snowflakes' (which were really more star-like because they have more than 6 sides) out of melted white chips and added pearlized dragées to them. I usually use silver or gold dragées, but they were hard to find this year.

Once the snowflakes are set, I add them in a pile to the top of the cake and sprinkle the whole top with large crystal sugar to give it extra sparkle. Give it a try sometime - it's a good cake for all winter long, not just Christmas.

What are the food traditions your family can't live without? What is something new you've tried this year?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

I got this recipe from a dear friend of mine, Hannah who I met over 10 years ago in an AOL chat room. No, it wasn't "Single and Looking", it was "Food Chat" where I met a ton of great people and talked about food (and silliness) all day. I met several of them face-to-face, but Hannah is the only one I've met up with more than once.

I haven't seen her for some time now (my fault), but I do get to talk to her just about daily on Facebook. This is a recipe she sent through to a few of us and the only change I made was to add white chips in with the cranberries and the kids devoured these in no time!

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
Printable Recipe

Preheat oven to 350º and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (this may be reused for baking more than one batch and your cookie sheet stays clean). I mix all cookies by hand because I think it really makes a more tender dough.

1 stick margarine or butter at room temperature. If margarine make sure that it has at least 60% fat content.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar NOT packed in a measuring cup
Cream above ingredients until well incorporated and fluffy then add and mix:

1 large egg (also at room temperature)
1/2 t. vanilla

Mix dry ingredients:
1/2 scant t. baking soda
3/4 c. all-purpose flour (Note: I made these on a humid day and needed 1 cup flour)
1 c. old fashioned oats (not instant - the ones that take about 5 minutes to cook)

Add to the 'liquid' mixture to form a fairly stiff dough.

Chop about 1/3 c. craisins (dried cranberries) and mix into the dough. There should be enough so that every cookie has a few pieces of the fruit.

Drop by rounded teaspoons on cookie sheet about 1 1/2 - 2 inches apart.

Bake for about 12 minutes until the bottom is lightly browned and you can smell the cookies ... if you time the first batch all batches will be consistently baked and not too dark.

Remove to cooling racks and cool completely. Keep well in a tin or plastic container.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Local Holiday Fare

These three local spot are personal favorites of mine. Get to know them better and check out their sites for more info:
Balasia is offering our Very Vegan Christmas Feast!

For those of you who may be Vegan or know or love someone who is, Chef Wendy is preparing a Vegan Christmas/Holiday Feast with all of the fixings!

Available for 1-100 People (gluten-free available)

There will be:

  • Homemade Whole Grain Bread Stuffing with Rosemary and Garlic
  • Parsley and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Butternut Squash soup with Ginger
  • Homemade cranberry sauce with clove and orange zest
  • Roasted Sweet potatoes with carmelized walnuts
  • Roasted Vegetables with garlic, soy butter and herbs
  • And your choice of homemade seitan with baby bella mushroom gravy, Coriander mustard baked tofu, or pineapple baked vegan ham
  • Finished with a Pumpkin Dessert of your choice (pie, cake, or cheesecake)

Call 484-330-6405 to place your order!

Week before the big Holiday - Haven't Ordered your catering platters from us yet?
Well, what are you waiting for? Place your orders Today!
Check out Our full menu
Need a gift for someone ? Get them a Gift Certificate from BlackForest Deli.
Follow us on Twitter: or become our fan on Facebook: BlackForest Deli & Catering You can get our daily updates, specials, and a chance to win a FREE lunch! We deliver - Try our food - you wont regret it!

Soups of the Week: chicken noodle / russian borsch / minestrone / halupki

HALUPKIS ARE BACK - PLACE YOUR ORDERS QUICK as they go way too fast - 2 for $6

  • MOB Special is back - as this was our very popular sandwich a few months ago, its back as a triple decker with turkey, crispy bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and honey mustard - $7
  • Reuben Wrap - a mix of fresh corned beef and pastrami with saurkraut, swiss cheese and russian dressing - warm of course - YUM - $6.50
  • R u hungry sub? - roast beef, ham, turkey, coleslaw, russian dressing and lettuce - $6
  • Salad of the Week - mixed greens, crunchy apples, mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks, tomatoes, nuts, cucumbers topped with our homemade tuna salad - $7
  • Hot Sand Of the week : Homemade Meatball Parmesan - $5
  • Panini of the week: thinly sliced roast beef, horseradish spread, hot peppers, tomatoes,
  • onions, spinach grilled to a crunch - $6
  • Veggie Sand of the week - Egg Salad Sand - with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers - $5
  • Yummy Sides : macaroni / coleslaw / potato salad / deli pickles / yogurt w/fruit / brownie

We’re excited to announce a new product – Sustainable Business GIFT BASKETS!

Promote the “Eat Fresh, Buy Local” concept - just in time for the gift-giving season. Our baskets feature Back Door Bakeshop goodies, Tallarico’s chocolates, Counter Culture coffee from Wired Cafe, and more.

Available in three sizes: petite $18, mid-size $25 and colossal $55!

And a reminder: whether you’re entertaining at home, visiting family and friends, or whooping it up at the workplace, you’re gonna be looking for something sweet to go with that fabulous meal. You know we’ve got you covered!

A quick call or email is all it takes to order apple and pumpkin pies, chocolate cake, carrot cake and all the amazing goodies you’ve come to expect. Party trays feature cookies, dessert breads, lemon squares, magic squares, cappuccino brownies and the stars of it all - espresso shortbread! We can gift wrap any tray - a fabulous end-of-year giving idea!

The full updated menu is available on our Web site –
Follow us on Twitter: @backdoorbakeshp or become a fan on Facebook: Back Door Bakeshop
To order, call 610-625-0987, or send us an email:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookbooks You Don't Want to Miss

What would you do if your home was taken away and you were displaced, with no real place to go and nothing but time to fill your days with? If you were Pamela Lyles, you'd pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make the most of it. Pamela and her family lost their home to Hurrican Katrina and were relocated to Houston, Texas where Pamela started writing down in earnest the recipes she had been storing up for years. She took a life-altering situation and made the most out of it and Da Cajn Critter is the delicious result.

With a slower paced look at life and food, Da Cajn Critter is more than just recipes, its a guide book to planning, shopping and cooking in the most efficient and family pleasing ways possible. Real NOLA and family Recipes like Aunt Bea's Cheese Cookies, Creole Pork Chops and Spicy Rice, Shrimp Po' Boys and Brownie with Double Chocolate Icing will keep you coming back for more and more. Don't miss grabbing your copy at Da Cajin Critter website.

Route 66, the American icon and home to Rock Cafe, owned by Dawn Welch is the backdrop for Dollars to Donuts, the companion cookbook to one seriously fabulous diner. Did you catch her spot on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives? No? Go have a look and I'll wait for you.

Awesome, no? All those recipes along with tips galore on how to save money while feeding you family well are tucked between the covers of this book and you'll want to grab a copy for yourself just as fast as you can. Not only is this insanely delicious food, but Dawn Welch was named Oklahoma's Woman of the Year for 2009!

True to its Eat Big on a Dime and Save Time, 150 recipes like Paella with Spicy Sausage and Pot-Roasted Chicken with Saffron, Chickpeas, and Lemon, and decadent desserts like Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal Pie are just what the family ordered. Find a copy of Dollars to Donuts at

The Baking Answer Book

Ever bring a cake out of the over that could have been used as a frisbee? Ever wondered why? How about a fruit crisp topping that never gets crisp, but stays soggy and pale? What if there were a book that addressed these and many other vexing problems the everyday baker faces?

The Baking Answer Book is that book. Filled with questions and answers from the common to the more obscure, this is a book you will turn to again and again for help with your daily baking needs. From ingredients to equipment to specific baked goods, this book covers it all in an easy to understand way that even the most novice baker can follow.

Not only are there tips for every scenario, there are delicious recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, cobblers, yeast breads and pastries. Find your copy of The Baking Answer book at

Strawberry Bread with More Fruit - Lucky Leaf Premium Pie Fillings

I've been baking for many, many years now - I was at least 10 when I started making sugar cookies and I'm not quite sure how old I was when I started making apple pies, but I know it was more than 25 years ago. I've used all sorts of fillings for pie, mostly homemade, but there are times I've relied on canned pie fillings.

I've not been disappointed, really, but it's not the same as the real deal. There's always more 'gunk' than fruit and sometimes the fruit itself just isn't very appetizing. Lucky Leaf recently revamped their fillings to be less 'gunky' and more fruity, and I think they've succeeded.

I was sent two cans of filling - one apple and one strawberry - along with a cookbook for recipe ideas. I couldn't find a better use for the apple pie filling than the apple and ginger tart in the cookbook, so I made that and it was gone so quickly that I never got a chance to take a photo.

The strawberry filling was a bit of a challenge for me. I find it hard to know what to do with strawberries when they aren't in season, so I had to think a bit. I took a recipe I already had for Strawberry Bread and altered it slightly to use the pie filling instead of the usual frozen strawberries.

This time the kids were at school so I had a chance to get a photo or two, but once they were home, the bread was gone instantly. In other words, there really is a lot of fruit in those cans and it's not lacking in flavor or overprocessed.

Strawberry Bread
(the unaltered version is linked above)
Printable Recipe

1 can Lucky Leaf Premium Strawberry Pie Filling
4 eggs
1 c cooking oil
1 1/2 c sugar
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c chopped nuts

Stir first 4 ingredients together well then add dry ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in nuts and pour into 2 9x5 inch greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

*I top ours with cinnamon sugar.

You can find Lucky Leaf Premium Pie Fillings at your local grocer, and for a FREE copy of the cookbook, you can find it here:

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Peppermint Bark

I inquired of my Twitter followers the other day what they might like to have a recipe for and @lisahanockjasie asked for peppermint bark. I'd never done it before that, but I can tell you it's so very easy that there's no need to ever buy it.

You need very few ingredients and even less time to get this one done. I made one with white coating and one with chocolate and the kids liked both equally well. Be careful when melting chocolate or coating - you need absolutely dry equipment to start with and add the room temperature extract only after the chocolate or coating is already melted and still quite hot.

The candy can be added after the extract or, as I did - after the chocolate is spread onto parchment. Adding the extra drizzle of the opposite flavor helped adhere the candy to the bark, as well.

Crushing candy canes can be a challenge. I used a hammer to gently crush mine. I originally tried the food processor, but wound up with inconsistently crushed candies - some were powder and some too large. I laid them on a baking sheet and gently hammered them until they were the size I needed.

Peppermint Bark
Makes 2 sheets (approx. 15x15) of candy
Printable Recipe

12 ounces chocolate chips or chocolate candy melts
12 ounces white chocolate chips or white candy coating
1 teaspoon peppermint extract or several drops peppermint oil
4 candy canes, crushed

1. Set aside 1/4 cup of both types of candy melts.
2. Melt each color of chocolate separately either in the microwave or in a double boiler. If using a double boiler the water in the bottom pot should NOT be boiling, but simmering. Even steam from the bottom pot can cause the chocolate to seize.
3. Once the chocolate is melted, add a teaspoon of peppermint oil to each color and stir thoroughly but very gently. Once the extract or oil has been successfully added (it doesn't seize the chocolate) stir it a bit more vigorously until it cools a bit. This will help to temper the chocolate and it will set up better than if you simply melt and pour.
4. Pour the chocolate onto the parchment and spread to desired thickness.
5. Top with chopped candies.
6. Melt reserved chips or coating and drizzle alternate colors over each. Drizzle white over chocolate and chocolate over white.
7. Let cool and dry completely before cutting with a very sharp knife or breaking into pieces.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

National Brownie Day

Did you know there is a National Brownie Day? Well, there is and today is it. Grab yourself a brownie and feel no guilt. I love an excuse to have chocolate and I wholeheartledly embrace this celebration!

Embrace it with me and leave a comment with contact information here for a chance to win a $30 gift set from Cheryl&Co.. That's right - thirty dollars to spend on thick, rich brownies or decadently iced cookies or any number of delectable treats offered up by Cheryl&Co. If you need more convincing, visit the website and if you don't rush right back to comment, then there's no help for you.

In the meantime, this recipe is a favorite at our house - rich and gooey brownies the kids can never get enough of.

Decadent Brownies
Makes one 9x13 pan
Printable Recipe

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs - slightly beaten
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put butter into 9x13 pan and place in oven until butter is melted.
Pour butter into a large bowl and add sugar. Stir until well blended. Add vanilla and eggs and stir well. Add cocoa powder and blend until smooth.
Sift in flour and stir gently until combined.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until set but not stiff - don't overbake!

**Contest ends 12/15/2009 at 11:59 PM

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Food in Manhattan

I was fortunate enough to spend the day with my cousin last Friday in New York City. Now, I should specify that she's my cousin by marriage, but after nearly 22 years of marriage the word 'in-law' doesn't come up too often anymore.

Chris being the astute woman that she is realized a long while ago that I needed a break from the madness of the past 2 years and invited me to come for the day and see the sights. I didn't realize it meant 'almost every sight in Manhattan', but I didn't mind the race one bit. I think she let me know about halfway through the day that most people referred to a day trip with Chris as bootcamp. They're not wrong. Here is a map of everywhere we went so you can get an idea of how far I was dragged (wink).

As much of a taskmaster as she is, I had a great time and saw more than I've ever seen at any other time. I hadn't been to The City for nearly 21 years, so I was way overdue! Here's our day in photos. I had my old camera with me for safety reasons so some of the pictures aren't as good as they could be. Click on links for more info on any of the places we went to.

The minute I got off the bus at PABT, Chris whisked me off to the subway and led me to the Chelsea Market, showing me The High Line on the way. We had coffee at Chelsea and then it was a sound-barrier-breaking taxi ride to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex for a great show and very cool museum. Any Lennon fans (like me) must get there for the Yoko-created John Lennon limited engagement exhibit. Beautiful.

The Chelsea Market and the elevator that leads to the Food Network offices.

Next we were off to stores like UNIQLO, CB2 and Dean & Deluca to see the shopping side of Manhattan. After that it was another wild ride where we landed for lunch at Blue Ribbon Sushi. Now, I'm not a seasoned sushi eater, but I started my sushi-eating career at a very fine local establishment, biasing my taste buds for any sushi that wasn't top-notch. I then went downhill consuming store-made sushi that just isn't anywhere near the same as the very fresh kind.

After hitting up Blue Ribbon with Chris, I'm not sure I'll ever want to have sushi anywhere else. The nori was still fresh and pliable, the rice precisely vinegared and the fish? The fish was so fresh I've never had anything quite so tender. We had several rolls between us: Spicy Tuna & Tempura Flakes With Cucumber inside out and California rolls with Yellowtail and Salmon. Perfect in every way. Not only was the food fabulous, but the wait staff was beyond helpful, the decor simple but beautiful and the bathrooms immaculate. If you're getting to Manhattan anytime soon, you must stop in and order some of the best sushi around.

The front of Blue Ribbon - unmarked, it looks more like 'the secret society of sushi'

Shortly after our sushi we were off to FAO Schwarz. Every time I've been to NYC I've missed my chance to see FAO because of long lines. We totally lucked out and got in very quickly. I wished the kids had been there to see it all, but I made sure to take lots of photos for them and it was just as fun as I always thought it would be.

The FAO doorman.

We ran across the way to see The Plaza and gape at the impossibly rich folks having tea and being waited on hand and foot by men attired in tails and very shiny shoes. I thought it was rather droll and Chris and I got to giggling about the extravagance of it all. We trotted past the very famous Oak Room and back out into the chill to head to Dylan's Candy Bar.

The Plaza - I'm pretty sure Eloise is waving from the window.

Dylan's Candy Bar is another place I took lots of photos. Chris picked up candy bars for all the kids (including dad!) and I stared far too much at the array of sweets and bright colors. This is one of those spots you don't want to miss, especially if the kids are with you.

The center of Dylan's - a lollipop tree!

Grand Central Station was the next stop and I was thrilled that there was an O & Co. store there. I ran in, sang a little song of love and bought a bottle of oil that may just have taken a sizeable chunk out of one of the kids' college funds. There's nothing like good olive oil to make one's day. Really. Chris said something about other people liking wine like I like olive oil and she's not very far from the truth.

We stopped at Chris' apartment to rest our legs and then she took me to the coolest place I've ever been to: 230 FIFTH, an exclusive and chic rooftop restaurant with a view of The Empire State Building that just beats all. Check out the Virtual Tour of the rooftop. We checked out the rooftop, but it was too chilly and windy to stay there to dine. Despite the fact that there are blankets and warm robes provided to patrons for their comfort, we opted to sit in the plush dining room and enjoy the view from a warm spot. Chris ordered sliders and fries and they were two of the best 'average' menu items I think I've had in my entire life.

The view from our cushy spot.

The view from the window.

Chris and I - the camera was winding down for the day at this point - everything was blurry.

Once we were finished with dinner it was time for me to head home. I was full and happy and my legs hurt like crazy, but I have to say it was a wonderfully memorable day for me. Chris, thank you so much for an awesome day and New York, you still have it goin' on and always will.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Delicious Holiday Books and Gifts

Each year my thoughts about Holiday gift-giving turn inevitably to food. Here are a few ideas for this year that fill the bill no matter what you'd like to give. From edible gifts that are a bit more expensive to homemade budget gifts to delectable books. Enjoy!

For a scrumptious countdown to the holidays, the chocolate lover on your list will love the Fannie May truffle assortment gift box ($17.99-$25.99) from Fannie May fine chocolates. The 16- or 25-piece assortment features a variety of Fannie May treats to indulge in, including Classic, French Vanilla, White Russian and Orange Royale flavors, all tucked inside a gift-ready holiday box. For more information, visit
*Who doesn't love truffles? Fannie May is one that we like a lot here.

For a new twist on a festive favorite, Cheryl & Co. will introduce Buttercream Frosted Brownies ($28.95 - $65.95) just in time for the holidays. Home of the famous Buttercream Frosted Cookies, the Buttercream Frosted Brownies collection will feature hot fudge brownies, fudge brownies and peanut butter brownies. For more information, visit
*Those brownies are dangerous! We loved ours and I highly recommend them.

For a gift that truly “pops,” The Popcorn Factory offers Big Snow design tins ($24.99$39.99). Available with The Popcorn Factory’s traditional three-way combo of robust cheese, butter and caramel corn, these tins are a classic gift that keeps on giving – in two-, three-and-a-half- or six-and-a-half gallon sizes. Tins can be personalized with a photo or message label on top. For more information, visit
*Popcorn from The Popcorn Factory is a favorite here; always fresh, crisp and delicious.

Thanks to Jamie Plaxco of MWWGroup for information and samples.

This holiday season give the gift of food with creative home made gifts that are as eye catching as delicious! has the Top 25 gifts that require simple ingredients but will have your friends and family talking until next year’s holiday season!

A few of the ideas offered:

Gingerbread Cookies

Get the kids in the kitchen to decorate a tried and true favorite. Decorative ginger bread cookies are simple, easy and fun for the whole family to get involved!

Cinnamon Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe

Give a gift for on the go with packaged hot chocolate! Mix cocoa powder, dry powder, creamer and cinnamon for some spice to give it a twist. Top with marshmallows in each individual package and send with a mug, perfect for the holiday season.

Peppermint Lollipops

Design your own festive lollipop for friends and family for a special gift. With just simple ingredients-peppermint oil, sugar, water, corn syrup and food coloring you can get creative in the kitchen with simple peppermint pops, great for after dinner treat!

Homemade Snow Globe

Get creative with a snow globe from home as a gift, layered sugar cookies with fluffy meringue topped with edible treats friends and family will sure to be impressed!

For these recipes and more like them visit

Thanks to Anjali Saxena of Krupp Kommunications for information and images.


Chocolate: A Love Story by Max Brenner, Illustrations by Yonatan Factor

Chocolate is a substance that transcends borders, boundaries and emotions. The mere mention brings a twinkle to the eye and a quickening of the pulse. Max Brenner knows this and shares his intense love for chocolate in this funky, eclectic and beautiful book. The illistrations themselves are worth the purchase, and the recipes are to-die-for. A perfect gift for the chocolate lover or art lover in your life.

Thanks to Anna Balasi of Hachette Book Group for information and book copy.

Elizabeth David's Christmas, edited by Jill Norman, illustrations by Mary Ross

Throughout her distinguished career, Elizabeth David wrote and collected many articles about Christmas food. She put together a file of these articles, recipes, and notes, and even wrote an introduction, intending to publish them as a book. It never appeared, and after her death in 1992, her literary executor
Jill Norman found the box with all this material. She put them together as Elizabeth intended, and we now have her "Christmas" edited for the American reader, handsomely illustrated and ready to guide us through this daunting festive season with good food and high spirits – and our humor intact.

Beautifully written, this new edition contains around 150 recipes
together with a selection of David's own articles, plus other writings that over the years she found interesting and helpful. Feeding friends and family for Christmas can be stressful, and this book is intended to help busy cooks plan ahead and enjoy Christmas as much as their guests. The classicsare all here: turkey (of course), but also goose; stuffings; sauces; mince pies; and Christmas puddings. For the armchair cook, the text also provides information as well as
diversion: here are the actual traditions of Christmas's past, as well as descriptions of the yuletide in other countries. In other words, a feast for mind, chef, and table.

I've been hanging on to my copy for over a year. SO entranced with it that I couldn't put it down and hardly able to find words to adequately describe it, I wanted to be sure and share it before Christmastime this year. For anyone who is a fan of Elizabeth David, a Christmas cookbook may almost seem absurd for her as she was happiest alone for that day, but this book is all her, written in as relaxed and comfortable a way as anything else she penned, with recipe done in a style that only Elizabeth David was able to deliver. A MUST read for any cook and a wonderful gift for the Ellizabeth David fan.

Thanks to Daniel Pritchard of David R. Godine, Publisher for information and book copy.

Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson

I don't even have this book yet, but I'm putting it here as part of my Christmas list! I think every book that Nigella has written is a must-have for anyone interested in cooking, from beginner to full-fledged chef. I have no doubt at all that this book is as wonderful as all of her others.