Monday, November 29, 2010

Chocolate-Almond Toffee

It was the day before Thanksgiving. I was looking for something in the pantry when suddenly I found TWO boxes of Scharffen Berger Bittersweet chocolate.  They practically jumped out of the cabinet, screaming for me to turn them into something magical. At least that's how I remember it.

I immediately knew I wanted to make some sort of candy.

I watched every episode of Top Chef Desserts this fall and saw them make little chocolate candies a lot. So that's what I wanted to make. But I know me, and I can sometimes bite off more than I can chew, so I thought I would start with something simple like a toffee-type candy. Or a brittle. The kind that has that carmel-butter flavor that just melts in your mouth.

It didn't take too long to find a recipe. When I saw the recipe for Chocolate-Almond Toffee in my 2010 Food and Wine Annual Cookbook I knew I had a winner! And lucky for me, these types of recipes don't call for many ingredients, just the basics - butter, sugar, chocolate, nuts, vanilla. Stuff I usually have on hand. This recipe is from Grace Parisi. Sr. Recipe Developer for Food and Wine Magazine. I've made some of her recipes before with success. So off I went.

There aren't that many steps to making toffee. All was well until I turned around to grab the camera to take one more picture when all of a sudden the mixture in the pot had gone from joyful bubbles to a blob. Waaaaaaaht the heck? I swear, I turned away from the pot for 5 seconds. 10 max. I knew the minute I started stirring it again that I messed up. The consistency was strange - all gloppy. So I cooked it for a few more seconds and took it off the burner to add the remaining ingredients. It had just reached the 300 temp. So what happened?  waaaaaaaaah  My toffeeeeeeeee!!!! boo hoo hoo.

Looking good......
It turned carmel brown color just like it was supposed to. Then something funky happened.
I poured it in the pan anyway. And what we ended up with isn't exactly toffee. It tastes amazing. But it never got hard. The consistency is more like frozen cookie dough. Which isn't a bad thing. Just not what I was expecting.  So for you candy makers out there - did I cook it too long, or not long enough? Anyone know? Grace Parisi, are you out there? Any advice? She's probably shuddering at how I botched her toffee!

I forgot to spread the chocolate before I sprinkled the almonds on.
So they got buried in chocolate! 

I only spread the chocolate on one side since I knew what I had was not quite right.
It was still still pretty tasty, though.
Of course we've been eating it. In fact it's all gone. The flavor was addicting. No one was complaining. Someday I'll give it a try again. I just need to give my waist about six months to recover!!! Or immediately wrap up the yumminess and give it away as gifts.

Here's the recipe. Anyone want to give it a try? Click here >> Chocolate-Almond Toffee

Sunday, November 28, 2010

New Tab: Favorite Recipes

I have a new tab. Woo hoo!  A whole bunch of my favorite recipes all in one place.

So check it out. This will be a work in progress. It's kind of taking a while to find them and add them.

I know this is incredibly exciting to you. And it would be if you were ever looking for the Blueberry Boy Bait recipe. So just humor me and say "Yeah!"

Happy cooking!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Get out and shop!

Shop, til you drop. Yeah!

We're off to Napa. I hope you also will be out and about shopping today.

Even if you're just buying a yogurt. You're supporting a small business.

Thank you. And HAVE FUN!!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The day after (Thanksgiving)

So here we are, the day after Thanksgiving.

I'm still stuffed. Are you?

We started the day yesterday by going on an amazing hike with a ton of people from Elli's school. It was the 7th annual Thanksgiving morning hike. Our first time. It was an amazing way to start the day.  I hope we're in town next year so we can join everyone again.

Everyone gathered at the Tennessee Valley Trail parking lot at 9:15am.

A pic of the moms!
The view from the top. Gorgeous.
Look how tiny everyone is!
I'm standing 2 feet from a drop off that is SCARY! To my left is the bunker below.
"Bunker with a view" is how they sold it to the soldiers!

WWII bunker covered in graffiti.
Can you believe this is where I live? A-mazing.

Time to walk off some of yesterday's dinner so I can eat some more. Ha!

Enjoy your day!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coconut Cream Pie

Need a last minute pie recipe? This one is Yum-my.

My mother-in-law and Emeril Lagasse have the same recipe. I know this because last year I couldn't find her recipe (mis-filed in the recipe box) so I used Emeril's. I found Rose's this year and wouldn't you know, they are the same. Curious, isn't it? They're both from the credit whomever you want. I'm going to call it "Favorite Coconut Cream Pie."

It's easy, delicious, and tastes great as dessert (or for breakfast with a cup of coffee!) The custard is so yummy you won't be able to resist stealing a few spoonfuls. Just make sure you don't eat it all. Save some for the pie shell!

Favorite Coconut Cream Pie

Pie Ingredients
1 9-inch pastry shell (store bought is fine!)
2 1/4 cups whole milk
¾  cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
¼ cup corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups toasted coconut
1 tablespoon butter
Meringue ingredients
3 egg whites at room temperature 
¼ cup granulated sugar


Preheat the oven to 350º

1. Prick the pastry shell all over and bake in a 350º oven until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Let cool.


1. In a saucepan, whisk the 2 cups of the milk and 3/4 cup sugar together.
2. Place the pan over medium heat and bring the liquid up to a simmer.
3. Whisk the egg yolks together.
4. Temper about 1 cup of hot milk into the egg yolks.
5. Whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk mixture.
6. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining ¼ cup of milk.
7. Whisk the mixture into the hot milk. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
8. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the filling is thick, about 4 to 6 minutes.
9. Take off the heat. Fold in the vanilla, coconut, and butter. Mix well.
10. Pour the filling into the prepared pan and cool the pie completely.


Preheat the oven to 400º 

1. Using an electric mixer with a whip attachment, whip the egg white to soft peaks.
2. Add ¼ remaining sugar and whip the egg white to stiff peaks.
3. Spread the egg whites over the top of the pie.
4. Place the pie in the oven for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown

Turkey in the bag

Cooking the turkey on Thanksgiving is the easiest part of the meal. It doesn't take much to season the bird to create a delicious turkey. There are all kinds of ways to season and roast a turkey.  I always use one of these oven bags.  I found this box in the back of the cabinet so I'm all set for this year. Yeah!

Your turkey will come out perfect. No muss. No fuss. No basting. No worrying. Just season the bird, stick it in the bag and bake it according to the package instructions. It will be brown and moist and deeeeelicous.

I picked up our turkey last weekend at Smart and Final. I was going to buy a fresh bird. But the girl at the checkout sold me on a deal they had. If you spent $25 you got the turkey for 39¢ a pound. I raced back to the turkey section and swapped turkeys. My turkey ended up costing me just $4.43. I had plenty of time to thaw it. And since I got a small bird it doesn't take up that much space in the fridge. (You can check out all the amazing deals at Smart and Final in their weekly circular here.)

I use the same recipe that I've used from the first time I ever made a turkey. It's from the Silver Palate Cookbook. It's really easy and makes a moist and delicious bird. You fill the cavity of the bird with sliced oranges, salt and pepper. Smear butter, salt and pepper all over the outside of the bird and squeeze oranges all over it too. Seal up the bag. Pop it in the oven. And let the magic happen.

I found a sweet potato recipe on the Silver Palate website that looks yummy. I'm going to attempt to make it tomorrow.
Doesn't it sound yummy!? The only problem is I bought yams. Not sweet potatoes. Is there a difference? And I don't have any spiced cranberry apple chutney. But I have apples and Cranberry. I'll figure something out.

What are you making tomorrow? This is our Thanksgiving menu:

Roasted Turkey and gravy
Cornbread stuffing
Parmesan smashed potatoes
Cranberry-Orange Glazed Sweet Potatoes (Yams?)
Cranberry Sauce
Apple crumble pie

Have a wonderful day tomorrow! Enjoy your feast and your time with friends and family.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hand whipped cream

Yes. You read it correctly. Hand whipped cream.

I've been watching too much Top Chef. Remember on Top Chef Just Desserts when they split the contestants into two teams and then gave them each a task in one of the Quick Fire challenges? Well I do. And apparently it's been on the back of my mind. Because last Saturday I got the crazy idea to whip some cream by hand to make a topping for a pecan pie Don had bought.

There are two words to describe this. OUCH and YUM.

Holy schnikes. Whipping cream by hand hurts. My biceps and forearm were like - WOOAH! But if I did this all the time my right arm might just look like this:

Of course if I make whipped cream all the time and then EAT it. I will look like this:

Good thing I don't eat desserts that much. 

In case you're wondering, I used the side-to-side style whipping motion vs. the circular motion. It was much easier and just as effective. If you don't know what I'm talking about well, sorry!

For those of you thinking of having whipped cream on Thanksgiving, I say go for it! Assign this job to one of the men hanging out in the living room. Make them flex a few muscles instead of just sitting there all comfy watching you sweat in the kitchen.

Good luck. And let me know how it goes!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday wrap up

My week started out great. The holiday campaign I did for my client was on the air. We had a nice relaxing weekend. I was energized for the week, and ready to start wrapping things up for my client - all was good in my work world.

Then all hell broke loose Monday afternoon and it's been a crazy, messed up stressful week. I'm so glad it's Friday. I don't think I could take much more. Plus I feel like I'm getting a cold - but I'm probably just worn out.

Did you know:

• Having a breakdown in the office is generally not a good thing, but this week it was. I'm getting more support and understanding from my peers that were giving me SH*&T.
• I am not good at billing.
• I have the most supportive family and friends ever.
• Elli knows who Bobby Flay and Ree Drummond are. (Bobby Flay was on the Spaghetti Taco episode of iCarly. He had a throwdown and lost. And of course Ree Drummond is the Pioneer Woman.)
• I still hate 4th grade word problems in math. (Which is probably the root of my problem with billing.)
• I could never, ever, bake like the chefs on Top Chef Desserts. No recipes? Right.
• I have great, supportive friends at the office. I will miss them.
• I'm a dork. I'm sitting in my living room, in the dark typing this at 6am.

That's it. I'm starting to sound like a loser. I need a Stuart Smally mirror. "I'm smart, I'm good enough. And darn it. People like me." Remember that from SNL? It always cracked me up.

Gotta get going. This was an unplanned project.  Now I'm running behind.
Have a great day and a great weekend!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cutest lunch tote EVER!

Check it out. I discovered these lunch boxes on TheKitchn website over the weekend. They are made by a company based in NY called BUILT. Aren't they cute? What girl doesn't like lunch boxes that look like purses in cute patterns and colors. Why didn't I think of this?

They have a lot of different styles, sizes and fabric choices. They're all pretty girly. Although they do have some in solid colors that I think a guy might carry. Maybe. I can't see Don carrying it. It's a little too pursey for him. Not sure that's a word. But he is way too manly to carry a purse. And this looks like a purse. But some dudes out there might like it though.

I thought they were super cute. Elli saw them and said "Hey, my friends have those. I don't like them though." I couldn't get her to say any more than that. But I was kind of surprised.  She wouldn't say any more when I tried to prod. So, huh. Not sure what the reasoning is. And she asked me not to write that she said that. Hmmmm. Now I'm even more curious. There is a story here. I must find out.

I was actually thinking of these for an adult, not a 4th grader anyway. I think using one of these lunch totes for work would definitely make my peanut butter sandwich taste so much better. Don't you agree?
They would make excellent Christmas presents or a gift for the teacher, too.

They also have cases for laptops, cameras, phones, wine bottles, water bottles and ipad. I would seriously carry it as a purse. For years I carried a huge Coach briefcase that was actually a diaper bag. I liked the built-in water bottle/baby bottle holders on each end. It was red leather. No one ever knew it was a diaper bag. I mean, I only pulled out the changing pad when I needed something cushy to sit on. KIDDING! Ha. It did come with one, but that was discarded immediately. There was one person that called me out on it. It was a stranger at the airport. She walked up to me and said, "Hey, I had that diaper bag. It's great isn't it?" DOH! Go away lady.

Anyhow. Back to BUILT. I think these totes would make awesome gifts for all the girls on your shopping list. And now you can save 20% on lunch totes.  Enter this code at checkout: APT20  

NOTE: All photos are the property of  And I was NOT paid to write this post. I just think their stuff is cool and wanted to share it with you. So there you go.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Look what's new at Pollin's

I was at the store a few weeks ago and saw bits and pieces of a job that was in development in our workroom. The fabrics were gorgeous. I couldn't wait to see pictures of how it all came together.

Don installed it this week and I just have to show it off. Everything is custom built. The designer, Kathi Wicht, worked with Don to design this for her client. Anything is possible with a little imagination!

Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, November 12, 2010



I don't know about you, but I'm really glad it's Friday. Last weekend was busy with Elli's birthday party/slumber party and it's been a really busy, stressful week. I'm ready to try and relax a little!

I want to give a big shout out to my friends and my family who are being so supportive of me right now. It means a lot to me. Even at my age, I need to be reminded that everything is going to be ok.

So, thank you.

If you were here I'd bake you a little treat, or pour you a glass of wine.

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

A day in my life.

I've recently spent a lot of time in this room. It's called an edit suite.

Suite 4 at One Union Recording in San Francisco
Elli has been here. She's been in the area called "the booth" recording commercials. You can see a music stand way in the back. That's "the booth" it's actually a soundproof room where the talent goes to read their lines. We need the window to see them so we can give direction and feedback. Imagine my little Elli in this room! It was awesome.

This is where the client and agency sit while the talent is in the booth and the engineer is at the controls. It's here that we make radio commercials and record voiceovers for TV commercials and movies. It's pretty cool and often really challenging. But most of the time it's just really fun. You do have to have a really good ear for the "good" takes and timing is everything when working with sound. But if you have a good team it's no big deal.

So what's my job in all this? I'm there making sure all the objectives have been met and the client is happy. I'm full of opinions. Sometimes they listen to me. And sometimes they don't. For some sessions I organize the talent (like I did for this campaign.) Other times the writer is in charge and I'm just there to lend an additional ear and confirm the copy points are made correctly. And every once in a while they let me pick the restaurant for lunch.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When life gives you lemons...

They always say when life gives you lemons make lemonade. Yeah! Lemonade. I love lemonade.

Well guess what? If this were really true we would have lemons busting out the windows. And we'd have so much lemonade you could put a tap on the front of the house where it would pour freely.

I won't go into all the details. But let's just say things have been a lot better here in the Mulkey household.

I'm not sure who we pissed off. But we did something to someone because bad news seems to be following us around and we can't shake it. We have family members that are ill, businesses that are hanging on by a thread and jobs that are going away.

It's astonishing how much bad luck we're having.

I know we'll get past this and it will all be a distant memory. So can we just fast forward to the good part? Because I'm a basket case of nerves. I'm not sure how much more I can take.

And why is it that every show on TV has a family, or couple, or business on the brink of collapse? This isn't making me feel any better. Some of my favorite shows have story lines like this, ie. Parenthood, The Good Wife, Mad Men, Apprentice....all have story lines around the economy. It's all just a little too close to home. I'm watching TV for a little comic relief from my world. I don't need to see it on TV. It's stressing me out. I guess I'll have to watch something else.

It's interesting. When you see shows like this and you're not in a similar situation you have all kinds of ideas on what the characters should do to improve/change their situation. You know what happens to me? I get an immediate shiver of dread from the top of my head to my toes and a knot in my chest that is the most sinking feeling ever.  It's awful. So why do I watch these shows? Good question. For one, the story lines were not there in the beginning (except for The Apprentice). And two, I'm a creature of habit. I like these shows. And I shouldn't let them bother me. THEY ARE NOT REAL. Oy.

So please forgive me if you read a blog entry like this from time to time. You are my therapy. I don't want to be like the TV shows that drag you down. So I'll try not to go here very often. But it is what's happening in my life. So in the interest of keeping it real please bear with me.

I'm all ears if anyone has any FABULOUS news to share. (Or a job lead.) Bring it on!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Spaghetti tacos

Last weekend we had six of Elli's friends (all nine year old girls) here for a sleepover birthday party. The plan was to play games, eat dinner, make s'mores, then watch movies. And all went according to plan. (I love when that happens.)

Elli planned the menu for dinner. She wanted to have Spaghetti tacos because it's something she's wanted to try "her whole entire life."

What are spaghetti tacos you ask? Just what you think. Spaghetti stuffed in a taco shell. Regular spaghetti + regular taco shell = spaghetti tacos. Elli got the idea from a character named Spencer on the show iCarly.
Here's where it all started with Carly, Spencer, Sam from the iCarly show on Nickelodeon.
The NY Times has even written about these crazy tacos. Apparently they are becoming quite the phenomenon. Who knew?

And the verdict? The girls loved it! I mean really, what's not to love?

All I can say is there was a lot of laughter at the table. I do believe a good time was had by all.

And they ate it too!

Happy birthday, peanut!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Homemade mac and cheese in 10 minutes

Does this ever happen to you?

It's Sunday afternoon. Don is napping/watching football. Elli is doing projects. I'm doing a little cleaning, straightening, web surfing, reading, etc. When I decide it's time for lunch. So I go in the kitchen to see what we have. Nuthin. hmmm. We have hot dogs in the freezer. Guess we're having dogs for lunch.

"Elli do you want a hot dog for lunch? I ask.

"No thanks. May I have mac and cheese, please?" she replies, in an ever so cheerful voice.

"Uh. No. We don't have any mac and cheese." I answer.

And then she gives me this really, really sad look with those BIG BROWN EYES. And I'm toast.

"Can you make some?" she says.

"No. We don't have any.................WAIT. I can make homemade mac and cheese. I'll use my mom's cheese sauce recipe and pour it over pasta.  Hold on." I answer smiling. I didn't even try to push the hot dog some more. what a sucker!!!!!!!

Instead,  I jump into supermom mode and whip out my moms cheese sauce recipe. Get some water boiling and bam. We're on our way to having mac and cheese.

Is this normal behavior? Do other mom's do this? Am I a complete freak of nature? I'm pretty sure my sister would not do this. But her kids only like Kraft Mac and Cheese. So she doesn't count.

Why do I feel this constant need to please everyone?

What would you have done? Would you have stuck to the original plan and made the hot dog or would you have made the mac and cheese? Or worse. Would you have gone to the store?

I dunno. It doesn't really matter. I just had a little out of body experience in the kitchen and my lazy self was watching super freak. And she was laughing. That's all.

So in the time it takes to make the pasta (~10 minutes) you can make the sauce. Voila! Creamy goodness for everyone to enjoy.

QUICK Homemade Mac and Cheese
serves 4 as a side dish 

Mimi's Cheese Sauce (adapted from Betty Crocker)

2 T butter
2 T flour
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1 cup milk
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups dry Macaroni or Shell Pasta (prepare according to pkg.)

1. Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.
2. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
3. Remove from heat. Stir in milk.
4. Heat to boiling. Stirring constantly for about one minute until it starts to get thick.
5. Add cheese. Stir until melted.
6. Pour over hot pasta (that has been drained and returned to pan.).
7. Serve immediately.

This sauce also tastes AWESOME on vegetables - like broccoli. It was a staple in our house growing up. I can barely remember eating broccoli without this yummy cheese sauce.

Now I know you know how do to everything here. So just humor me and scroll quickly down, down, down.....

"Mom.......your mac and cheese is THE BEST! Thank you, mommy." she says very sweetly, and then adds, "I get the red plate! It has more."

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hand made gifts by ta. (as in "ta da!")

I have a special post today from my friend Noelle Walker. I met Noelle a long time ago when we were Delta Gamma college sorority sisters back at TCU. We reconnected a few years ago when I moved to San Francisco. 

Some of you here in the Bay Area may recognize her from her work as an Emmy award winning TV reporter. In fact, she just interviewed Tom Brokaw before a Governor's debate. And she currently runs her own business called Scoop Media.

In her spare time she crochets amazing hats and scarves. So for those of you that just finished reading the article Killing off Supermom. You're in luck. Noelle is here to save us. So ladies (and gents), put down your knitting needles, set aside the beads and please, put down the be-dazzler. It's not "in" anymore anyway.  I have the solution.

Hand made gifts. Made with love, from an old college friend.

In her own words:

My hands are stiff.  Achy.  The joints crack with every bend.  I think of my Grammy, telling me not to hold the needle and yarn so tightly.

Grammy taught me to crochet when I was about 7 years old.  With my little hands sweating over every stitch, she cooed over my miscounted, misfit creations.  There is  photo evidence tucked away in a box in a closet somewhere of me wearing my “designs”.  I vividly remember a crooked vest of burnt orange and gold (in my defense, it was the ‘70‘s) that I fashioned from my grandmother’s scrap yarn pile.  My mom cried when I insisted on wearing it to document my 2nd grade year.  Grammy couldn’t have been more proud!  

It’s been decades since I picked up a crochet hook, or thought about how to do a 1/2 double or seed stitch.  So I don’t know what gave me the idea to make a baby blanket for my oldest and dearest friend.  It wasn’t just left field, it was an idea that came from the left side nosebleed bleacher seats!  I called Grammy, who’s now 97, hoping she’d tell me to just go buy one and be done with it.  Instead, she told me it was like riding a bike.  She had all the confidence in the world that I could, indeed, make a BEAUTIFUL baby blanket.  I had to ask if she remembered that horrible vest!  She remembered it differently than I: perfect.

I had no clue the baby blanket would lead me down a road that wasn’t even on my map. After years as a news reporter and media consultant/coach, the roads I travel lead to press conferences, crime scenes, and the occasional Hollywood star gone-to-jail-rehab-jail-rehab.  When I picked up that crochet hook, I really went off the map!

I started making hats and scarves for friends’ birthdays. A few of them told me I should sell them (sometimes you need friends to tell you you’re better than you think you are), and “ta da!”... a business.  In my case, it was just “ta”: that’s what I named my business.  “Ta” is Australian slang for “thanks”, something everyone who I gave one of my hats/scarves to said...genuine thanks.  To them, I say ta for believing in me!

So here I am; crocheting my way to early arthritis, channeling my Grammy with every stitch.  “Loosen your grip, sweetie...”  “That’s just beautiful...”  (Smile). 

ta accessories are available at The Store, Mill Valley in downtown Mill Valley, and by special order. Click here to email Noelle directly.

Noelle is kindly inviting everyone to a trunk show here in San Francisco featuring her crochet accessories, jewelry, and greeting cards/stationary.

DATES: WED 11/17, 5:30 - 8p and SUN 11/21, 2pm - 5pm
ADDRESS:  245 Laussat St., San Francisco

**Jewelry by Tami von Isakovics and Kelly Chamberlin
***Stationary by Erin Finnegan

Thanks, Noelle!