Monday, February 28, 2011

Parmesan Scones

I made these Parmesan and Caramelized Onion Scones last Saturday. They are so good, and easy to make. You won't be able to stop eating them.

Parmesan scones (little ones)
Don and I were going to have a glass of wine and some snacks and gasp! we were pretty much out of everything but cheese. We have lots of cheese. So I decided I would make something that we could eat using some of our cheese.

I could have zipped over to the store. But lately I have been like a hermit at home. Once I'm home I don't want to go out again, even to the store which is 2 minutes away. One reason is that I'm trying not to spend any money. So if I can figure something out with what I have than that's what I do. The other is pure old-fashioned laziness. I just don't want to go.

Sometimes this backfires though. While I was making the scones (because I didn't want to leave the house) Don left the house. He came home with a bag from Whole Foods.

He bought some chicken shish-ka-bobs for dinner. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the price tag on the package. THIRTY FOUR DOLLARS for four shish-ka-bobs. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!?

My mood went from happy as a clam to totally PO'd. I wasn't mad at Don. I was mad at Whole Foods. How can you sleep at night knowing you just completely RIPPED US OFF. Please don't make me boycott your store again. I like your store. I like your products. And lately I've been pretty pleased with your prices. PLEASE tell me it's a mistake that you charged us this much.

I've been stressing about it for a full day now. Do you know now much stuff I could have bought with $34. WAY more than four shish-ka-bobs that's for sure. I can feel my forhead twitching as I type this. THAT's how pissed off I am. Deep breath. I'm still mad.

OK. I'm done. I'm still mad. But I'll move on.

Let's make some scones.

Parmesan Scones (big ones)
Parmesan Scones
(adapted from Pastries from LaBrea Bakery)

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 T plus 1 t. baking powder
2 t. kosher salt
3/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
1 stick plus 1 T unsalted butter, cut into cubes and frozen
1/2 onion, diced and caramelized 
1 cup sour cream
Olive oil

2 T unsalted butter, melted
1 T grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
1 t. freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400º

1. Make the caramelized onions first. Add the diced onion to a small frying pan with a touch of evoo. Cook on medium until golden brown. This may take 10+ minutes. Let cool.
2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cheese. Mix on low to incorporate.
3. Add the butter and pulse on and off a few times until it's the consistency of a fine meal.
4. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Toss in the onions.
5. Add the sour cream until just combined. The mixture will be a bit dry and crumbly.
6. Dust your hands with flour. Turn the dough on a lightly floured surface and kneed a few times.
7. Roll out the dough slightly thicker than 1/2 inch thick. (I rolled mine too thin.) Cut out circles using a 1 1/2" round biscuit cutter or glass. (A 2" cutter is too big, try something smaller. 1 1/2" or smaller.)
8. Place on a silpat (or parchment lined) on your baking sheet.
9. Brush the tops with the melted butter, a pinch of Parmesan and a few grindings of black pepper.
10. Bake for 15-25 minutes until firm to the touch and lightly browned.

Hey, Whole Foods if you read this you can shoot me an email. I promise to be nice.

PS. We were munching on the scones while watching the Oscars and Don (the hubby) leaned over and said "Hey, these scone things are pretty good." And Elli ate two and gave me the thumbs up sign. So there you go.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Free chairs!

Do you need chairs? We have 2 really, really comfy black chairs and we don't need them anymore. They are in perfect condition. You can come and get them now!!!!!

My mom always says we should give to the needy. So if you need chairs you can have ours for free. You can have our soap too.

We live in the house with the big u driveway.

My mom plays tennis at 11 o'clock so that would be a good time to stop by.

ok. See you later.

PS. If you see my mom's station wagon in the driveway don't stop!
PSS. Or my dad's car.

-Kris, age 9

The seats on our chairs are black.
This is the ad I would have written if they had Craig's List back in 1973.

Yeah, right.

I was way too chicken for that. But the thought would have crossed my mind as I sat in one of the chairs. I would daydream about selling those chairs for sure. That, I know.

I hated those chairs when I was a kid. Mainly because I spent hours sitting in them. They were the original "time-out" spot designated by my mom. In fact I think she invented it. It wasn't called time-out back then. It was just called go-sit-on-the-black-chair-NOW.

Did you ever talk back to your mom and stomp around so hard the walls shook? Well if you did that in our house you would be headed for the black chair. Yell at your sister for touching your stuff? You're headed for the chair again. Knocked down your little brother's beer can collection? Yep. Go sit down.

I vividly remember the chairs in our living room. They were placed right in the middle of the room on top of the freshly raked, celery green shag carpet. Yes, we vacuumed and raked that carpet with a metal rake each week.

Who rakes carpet anyway? Well, back in the 70's we did. (And yes, it's the same rake you use to smooth out the sand trap on a golf course.) It made the room look perfect, I guess. Like a freshly mowed lawn. You could see the teeniest little footprint on that raked carpet. So as you can imagine, the living room was pretty much off limits. Unless you were being punished for a time out in the black chair.

You couldn't see outside when you sat in the chair. Because seeing outside might be interesting. And that was not the point of sitting in the black chair. The point was to be miserable and uncomfortable. You faced the piano, the empty front hall and the front door. You longed to escape off the chair and out the door. But you didn't dare.

The leather seat got hot and sticky on your skin as the tears roll down your cheeks onto your legs. The cane backing gave you something to poke at as you "thought about what you've done." Why did she think I could only think about what I've done sitting there in that chair? Did she have any idea how uncomfortable it was? I'm pretty sure she did.

When you have four kids you need a black chair. Or two. And a living room that is off-limits to everyone but adults. These chairs saved my mom's sanity. (Along with the big jug of Tyrolia wine.) I get that now.

Today's The Red Dress Club Topic: imagine you've just had a fight with a friend, a co-worker, husband, significant other, child - you get the picture. You're mad. It's time for revenge.What would you sell? write a humorous listing for eBay or Craig's list. Talk about the items and why they must go. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wine and cheese, please

Lots of stuff to update. Last Sunday Don and I went up to Healdsburg to pick up wine and cheese at Williamson Wines. They have a great little thing going up there once a quarter. They present a spread of food and cheeses that are all paired with that month's wines. It's free. It's always packed. And the food is always really yummy. Even Elli likes to sample the goods. You do have to be a wine club member to enjoy all this fun. You can learn all about it here.

They had two yummy recipes that I'll be making soon. One was Shrimp Bisque. The other a breaded chicken. Both were winners with the Mulkey's. Elli had two helpings of the bisque. I thought for sure she would prefer the chicken. Go figure.

Chicken Cutlet with a Tomato/Red Pepper Sauce - pair with Merlot
Their wines are only available at the winery. But don't despair! You can order them. And you can probably find these cheeses at your local gourmet store, or even Whole Foods. It's amazing how good they taste with the wine when you have them paired properly. I will get major eye roll from Don when he reads this. "Duh" is what he will say. "Whatever" is what I'll whisper under my breath just loud enough for him to hear.

I did ask him to take a bite of the third cheese down to help me describe the taste. He's usually really good at describing flavors but all I got out of him was "It tastes good." he said. "But what does it taste like? How can I describe it?" I asked again. "I don't know." he responded. He clearly did not want to play the what-does-the-cheese-taste-like game. Great. So the closest thing I can think of to compare it to is white cheddar. The coffee coating on the outside is really interesting and pairs really well with Cab - since cabs often have hints of coffee flavor. And yes you read right, there is ground coffee on the outside of the cheese. We're a little crazy here in California.

White Stilton with Mango and Ginger - Nice chunks of mango. Pair with a sweeter white like Viognier.

The White Stilton would also taste really good with Sparkling wine or a mimosa for brunch.

Midnight Moon - sharp and nutty. Pair with Shiraz
Barely Buzzed - similar to a white cheddar, coffee crusted, really great flavor. Pairs with Cabernet and is Don's favorite
Now on to wine. How about a Wine Spectator Top 100 Update?

Don found two wines on the list at a little place here called The Spanish Table and both were really, really good. We need to get back over there and pick up a few more bottles before they are gone. Especially since one of them is only ten bucks. Nice.

#44 - 90PTS WS $10.99
#52 - 91 PTS WS $21.99
This was not on the Top 100 list. But was also very tasty.

Uh......Elli just walked over to me to show me something. "Mom, look, I've gained some weight." she said. I looked up and she had wrapped her little blankie around her waist and had her shirt covering it. It added a little pooch to her tummy and roundness on her back. "Oh." I said. "You look like me now." was my response to her. "Ick" was all I could think. Maybe I should lay off the cheese.

Monday, February 21, 2011

American Girl Sandwich Cookies

 Introducing Sweetwiches.

Elli has been bugging me for weeks to make a recipe out of her American Girl Recipe Calendar. I finally remembered to take a look and see what we needed to make something. The recipe for February looked fun (and easy) so I picked up the ingredients we needed to make these sandwich cookies.

The cookie recipe is similar to one my mom used to make. You use a cake mix as the base. I have to admit, I liked them better when I was a kid. They're pretty sweet. Of course Elli and her friend loved them.

We made home-made frosting to go in the middle instead of the ready made stuff. I thought cream cheese frosting would taste good so that's what I had them make. They didn't like it at first. Uh oh. But I convinced them it was delicious and suddenly it was. They pretty much licked the bowl, spoon and beater clean when they were done.

Elli's friend is a fifth grader. They hang out together in the after-school program on Monday and Friday. Both girls are only children. When they're together they almost like big sister/little sister. Except they don't fight.

They had the most fun making the frosting. They covered themselves in powdered sugar on purpose. It was everywhere. We ended up with a lot of extra frosting. So I put the pipe bags in a ziplock and stuck them in the freezer. We can make a batch of chocolate cookies and just thaw the frosting. It should work don't you think?

And of course they LOVED piping the frosting on the cookie. Elli was a bit spastic with her application. Her friend was very precise with hers. It didn't really matter because once you put the top cookie on you couldn't really tell .

We heard Don, the cookie monster, sneak into the fridge a few times. I think he liked them.

Lucky for us her friend took half of them home with her so there aren't many left to tempt him.

1 box of cake mix (any flavor. We used vanilla.)
1 stick of butter (softened. Ours was partially melted.)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350º
1. Combine all ingredients together.
2. Scoop dough into 1" balls. Gently press flat with a glass.
3. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 oz) bar of cream cheese softened
2 T butter
2 T milk
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
4 cups powdered sugar
Food coloring (optional)

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla until fluffy. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add food coloring (optional.)
2. Place frosting in a piping back let sit while cookies cool.
3. Pipe onto a cookie. Place another cookie on top.
4. Keep cookies refrigerated.

This would be a good cookie to make for the school bake sale. You could even make them in the school colors. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Homemade Pancakes and Chocolate Truffles

We usually make pancakes from a mix. I mean really, who makes pancakes from scratch? Martha, yes. The average Joe. Probably not.

Elli wanted to make heart shaped pancakes for Don for Valentine's day. But we were out of mix and I was too lazy to go to the store. So I made the batter from scratch. And guess what? It's not THAT much harder than using a mix and tastes fantastic. Most recipes have you add a few things to the dry ingredients anyway and this is the same.

Elli was in charge of the pancake production and I'm happy to report that most of the pancakes actually did resemble a heart. Let's just say they were her artistic interpretation of what a heart looks like. I had to do a little bit of finessing so they didn't look like Mickey Mouse.

The recipe and pipe bag instructions are straight from Martha herself. 

Happy Valentine's Day Daddy!

Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup flour
2T sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)
2 T melted butter

Preheat oven to 175º

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the egg, milk and melted butter to the dry ingredients. Whisk together. Don't overmix it should have some lumps.

Heat your griddle or griddle pan. Add a little butter to the pan. Add the batter and flip when the edges get bubbly. Cook another 30 seconds or so.

Place pancakes on a plate and keep warm in the oven.

Makes 6-8 pancakes

Valentine's Chocolate Truffle update.....

Truffle making turned me into miss cranky pants. Our truffles looked like little Bentley poops. I kind of freaked out during the process. Don had to yell and remind me that these were Elli's truffles - not mine. Ouch. At one point I threatened to throw them out. Elli cried and Don told me to zip it again. This was not good.

It was definitely not the joyous mother/daughter project that I imagined it would be. There were sprinkles and chocolate and hot chocolate mix (don't ask) everywhere.

Elli thought they looked AWESOME. I thought they went from looking like little turds to prehistoric rocks. I immediately knew we needed some nice packaging to disguise these suckers.

We found little red treat boxes at Cost Plus that would fit three truffles perfectly. We carefully wrapped them with pink tissue paper. Then we placed a sparkly heart on top of the box. The box looked great. I would love to know if her teachers ate them. I hope she remembered to tell them we used Godiva chocolate. sigh.......

This is definitely one of those instances where the pros made it look really easy and it wasn't. At least it wasn't for a 9 year old and her psychotic mother.


Little chocolate Godiva turds.

oooooooh. I think I want the little turd in the back row that is covered in hot chocolate mix. It's an Elli original. Maybe we could name these Yosemite Truffles and sell them in Curry Village?

I better go before I get in trouble again for being sassy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A day like no other.

Our instructions were to wait in the hotel dining room for Jack.

We sat at a large table with three other couples. The young servers were pouring coffee and smiling with excitement. They knew what was happening and were so happy for us. Everyone was really chatty eating their breakfast and drinking coffee. Except me.

I could barely swallow. I had no appetite. My chest was tight and heavy, I could hardly breathe and I felt like I might throw up or burst into tears at any moment. I'd never felt so much emotion before in my life.

Everyone was doing their best to try and calm me. This was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life. And I was scared to death. This is not how I imagined I would feel.

At 8:30am Jack appeared in the dining room and said the magic words "The babies are here. Let's go!" The entire table immediately said to us "Go. Go get your baby. You go first." We jumped from the table and practically ran to the elevator.

We got in and looked at each other. I don't remember if we held hands or said anything to each other. I just remember thinking "This is it. This is what we've been waiting for. It's finally time. We are about to meet our daughter." I couldn't believe it was really happening. I could feel goose bumps spread from the top of my head to my toes.

The elevator stopped. This was it. Oh my gosh. I felt like crying again. We got off the elevator and started walking down the dark hallway. We could hear the babies crying so we walked faster. I couldn't wait to get in that room.

The door was open. Towards the back of the room were several men standing around chatting. I had expected to see sweet nannies. Not men. Two babies were sitting on the queen size bed crying. The other two were being held. I looked at them all wondering which baby was ours.

One of the men asked us our name. He pointed to a man holding a baby. He handed her to us. He said something to me. I have no idea what. I was just staring at her and smiling. She looked different than we imagined. Her face and eyes were not the same as the picture. Her head was heart shaped and her eyes were so sad. She was incredibly shy and timid and very, very small.

Suddenly there was a lot of fast-talking. The Chinese men were huddled together talking to each other with worried looks on their faces. They were looking at papers and the babies and us. Something was wrong. They had made a mistake. They had given us the wrong baby. The minute they put the second baby in my arms I knew she was the one. She too looked different than the picture. But the eyes were the same. She had the same bright, big, brown eyes.

They told us her nickname was Dong Dong. All the commotion really scared her. She was crying so hard she couldn't catch her breath. Even when she finally stopped crying she couldn't steady her breathing. I held her tight and kept whispering to her that everything would be all right.

She was so beautiful. Her brown eyes were so huge. Her pink lips round and full, and her skin so smooth and soft. Her cheeks were pink from crying and her face was moist from her tears. Her little teeny hands held onto my finger. Her body was so small and thin. We held her tight in our arms so she would feel safe.

The other families started trickling in. There was so much joy and excitement in the room as we all met our daughters for the first time. We were all congratulating each other and hugging and laughing and crying. We were so happy. It was over. The long, long wait was finally over.

**This was my first time participating in a writing club assignment with Red Writing Hood and The Red Dress Club. I haven't written an assignment like this since college. It's not perfect. But I did it!

The topic: Write a memoir. Imagine that after you have died and your daughter/son will be given the gift of seeing a single five-minute period of your life through your eyes, feeling and experiencing those moments as you did when they occurred. What five minutes would you have him/her see? 700 words max.**

And here's my little Dong Dong from those first 5 minutes.

Elli "Dong Dong" and Don. Day one in China.
August 14, 2002.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Will you be my Valentine?

Remember these?

I thought so. I don't know about you, but I still love getting a box of these candies. Some of the messages have changed since I was little.

But many are the same as I remember:


So guess what? Since Valentine's Day is all about showing how much you love someone I figured I would ask for some love and give something sweet in return.

If you make a $100 donation to Team in Training I'll mail you a whole bag of candy hearts. Because I love you and I really want Don to get to his goal so I can relax. I'm sure you want the same.

You can make your donation by clicking {HERE} or on the Team in Training link to the right in the sidebar of the blog. Make your donation between February 11th and February 14th and I will mail you a bag of candy hearts. Now that's what I call a sweet treat.

Here's how it works. You donate one of these:

Check out the turkey neck on Benji.

And I will give you this. 

Ha. Just kidding. That's 32 pounds of candy = 250 pieces per pound = 8,000 conversation hearts. That would be kind of  COOL. But that seems like overkill. I was thinking more along the lines of a one pound bag.

So there you have it. 

Thanks in advance for the moola. LLS greatly appreciates it. And so do Don and I.

Homemade Valentines

Elli is in full getting-ready-for Valentine's Day mode. She has made cards for her teachers and for all the kids in her class. And this weekend we are going to make homemade truffles to give to her teachers as gifts.

She's a "do your best" kind of gal. It makes me crazy. Where I see mistakes and messiness, she sees beauty. She's way more accepting of life's little imperfections. And obviously not a perfectionist. (I'm the opposite.) I love the way her cards came out anyway. They look like her.

I can hardly wait to see what our chocolate truffles look like!

A card for one of her teachers.
Cards for the kids in her class.

A mobile for another teacher.

I remember making cards when I was little. I loved playing with the doilies and all the shades of red, white and pink.

And now we're about to make homemade CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES. Yuuuuuuum. Can't wait.

Here are two truffle recipes in case you want to try to make some this weekend too. I haven't tried these myself so we can all experiment together. They look really easy and chocalicious. I mean really, how can you go wrong when the main ingredients are chocolate and heavy cream? (I think I just gained a pound typing heavy cream. Good thing these are gifts.)

1) Valentine's Day Truffles by Jenna Weber. Super easy. Perfect recipe for kids.

2) Chocolate Truffles by Jacques Torres. The chocolate god. Not hard. But not super easy according to one commenter.

So there you go. Homemade cards and candy made from little hands with a big heart. My favorite kind of gift.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

WS Study buddy: 25 wines to try under $20

I was a multi-tasking mommy last night. I planned to lay in bed and write up this post. But Elli remembered at the last minute that she had a geology quiz the next morning. So I became her study buddy.

Lucky for me she already had most of the facts she needed to learn memorized. Phew. There were just a few things she had to work on a little more. Thank goodness.

I quickly realized that learning these geology facts was going to be much easier than tackling a math quiz. Math quizes = lots of tears and frustration. So as she was reading her study guide I would jump back on the computer and type. Then back to her room to quiz her. Then back to the computer. This went on until she finished at 9pm. And now I'm tired and I haven't really started. And I have a huge list of wines from Wine Spectator (that you've probably never heard of) to share with you. sigh.......

That doesn't sound very exciting does it? It would be if someone just sent us me all of these wines to try instead of shopping all over the place trying to find them. The magazine should offer to do that don't you think?

So here you go. I'm just going to concentrate on the wines that are affordable. And lucky for us there are 25 wines on the Wine Spectator Top 100 that are under $20. Now that IS exciting. At least it is for me.

The folks at WS tasted over 15,800 wines in 2010. Holy cow. How do they remember them all and what makes one hundred of them stand out to make the list? Oh yeah. They're professionals.

Well, to be considered for the top 100 the wine had to score above 90 pts. After that, they were judged on the following:
1) Quality - as represented by score (100 pt score)
2) Value - price. duh.
3) Availability - case production. as in, "did they make enough so us ordinary folks can find it?"
4) X-Factor - excitement. the ooh la la factor.


91 pts Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva 2005 $19
91 pts Columbia Crest Merlot Horse Heaven Hills H3, 2007 $15
91 pts Chateau de Flaugergues Coteaux du Languedoc La Mejanelle Cuvee Sommeliere 2007 $17
91 pts Chateau de Lascaux Coteaux du Languedoc 2008 $16
91 pts Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserva 2004 $18
91 pts Pagos de Familia Marques de Grinon Syrah-Petit Verdot Dominio de Valdepusa Caliza 2006 $16
91 pts Yealands Pinot Noir Marlborough 2008 $16
90 pts Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico 2007 $17
90 pts d'Arenberg The Stump Jump Red South Australia 2008 $11
90 pts Durigutti Malbec Mendoza 2008 $15
90 pts Louis Jadot Moulin-a-Vent Chateau des Jacques 2009 $18
90 pts Bodegas LAN Rioja Crianza 2006 $12
90 pts Peter Lehmann Clancy's Barossa 2007 $16
90 pts De Martino Syrah Choapa Valley Legadi Reserva 2007 $15
90 pts St.-Cosme Cotes du Rhome 2009
90 pts Tamarack Firehouse REd Columbia Valley 2008 $16

92 pts St.-Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett Mosel Ockfen Bockstein 2009 $19
91 pts Attems Pinot Grigio Venezia-Giulia 2008 $19
91 pts Koutsoyiannopoulos Santorini 2009 $19
90 pts Bouza do Rei Albarino Rias Baixas Lagar 2009 $13
90 pts Elk Cove Pinot Gris Willamette Valley 2009 $19
90 pts Chateau de la Greffiere Macon-La Roche Vineuse Vieilles Vignes 2008 $16
90 pts Stadt Krems Gruner Veltliner Qualitatswein Trocken Kremstal 2008 $16
90 pts Vina Nora Rias Baixas 2008 $18
90 pts J.-C. Pichot Vouvray Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette 2008 $16

My plan is to take this list to a few wine shops and see what I can find. I really hope I can find a few. Oh who am I kidding. I'll print the list. It will sit on the kitchen side board for months. It will get buried under Food & Wine magazine issues, homework papers, recipes, notes, and coupons. I'll keep looking at it thinking "I should take that with me to the store." But I won't. And I will eventually recycle it.

Maybe I should give it to Don.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sunset over Mill Valley

This is the view from our house.

You can see a sliver of moon!
Pretty spectacular, huh?

Mt. Tamalpais at Sunset

I caught a glimpse of the sunset last Saturday night when I was standing in the kitchen. I grabbed my camera and pointed it towards the sliding glass doors. Thank goodness I'm married to someone smarter than me. Because Don immediately recognized that I needed guidance. "You're not going to take it in here are you?" he asked. "Oh. No. I'm going outside."I said.  And out I ran. In my socks. Sheesh.  (I was just going to try to snag a shot from in the kitchen. I'm eye rolling myself.) What was I thinking? I would have ended up with this.....

Instead of this.

So pretty.

Mill Valley rocks.