Friday, December 12, 2014

#DanceTag: Kids Fight Cancer through @Cycle4Survival #kidsgive




My son and I have been talking a lot this holiday season about children in need. He sees the Toys for Tots bins around town, he watches the St. Jude's Children's Hospital commercials—he knows very well that not everyone is as lucky as he is. He wants to do something about it. 'Tis the season for giving, after all.

Like so many, he loved the Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the nation (or world?) this past summer. Not only did it raise loads of money and awareness for ALS, it enabled kids to get involved in charitable giving in a fun way.


My son knows that I've participated in Cycle for Survival for a few years now. This powerful event brings people together for a spin relay to raise money for lifesaving, rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). He decided that
we should create a fundraising activity for kids. He would like to raise $500—so we need to get 100 kids participate!

That's how "Dance Tag" was born:



There are, of course, some basic rules. Each participating child:
 
  • commits to donating $5 of their own money; if the child doesn't have $5 saved, we hope his/her parents will allow them to earn it; 
  • should make a short video of themselves busting out some dance moves and tagging at least three other friends; 
  • should share the video (on social media or via email) with your tagged friends and ask them to join in—and spread the word about Dance Tag and Cycle for Survival!

To make the $5 donation, go to my fundraising page. Or you can donate to our Team Sit & Spin page here.

The donation is tax-deductible (kids won't care about this, but parents might) and 100% goes to fighting rare cancers, such as brain, pancreatic, cervical, stomach, thyroid and ovarian cancers, and all pediatric cancers. More than 50% of people with cancer are battling these rare cancers. These cancers don't often attract research dollars needed for new therapies and treatments, so patients are left with limited options.

As for you grown-ups: you're welcome to donate, too! But I plan to do most of my fundraising in the new year, closer to the event's March date. So, stay tuned... 

We hope you will join us. Tag, you're IT!




Thursday, December 11, 2014

10 Gifts any Home Cook will ADORE! #foodiegifts



Research for this article consisted of interviewing myself, a home cook, for great gift ideas. Some items are things I hope to receive, others are things that I already own and use and love. It's a hard job, obviously.

Full disclosure: the links provided will lead you to Amazon; if you click through our links and then buy anything at Amazon, we receive a small commission. This helps support our blog. However, you very well may find better prices elsewhere, so no pressure!



Things I Don't Need but Do Want (and Will Definitely Use!)


Egg Genie
I read this love letter to the Egg Genie in Bon Appétit and became convinced I should have one. I love hard-boiled eggs and often make a whole bunch to have handy. The idea of a little appliance that makes perfect hard-boiled eggs—by steaming them, so they're easier to peel—makes me happy.





Raclette Party Grill
I lived with a family in Switzerland one summer and was introduced to the great fun of a raclette meal! You can melt cheese to pour over potatoes, grill bits of meats and veggies—such a social way to dine with a group. Sort of like what I picture an old-school fondue party was like (confession: I have never been to a fondue party but always wanted to go to one).



Donut Pan
I'm not a huge fan of donuts—they're just not my dessert of choice. But they are fun sometimes and I'd love to start playing around with baked donuts recipes. You probably should get two pans, since most recipes make 12 donuts.




Bread Box
I don't always bake fresh bread but, when I do, I really want a place to keep it fresh on my countertop. How cute are these?

 



Things I Have and Totally Love


Cordless Crepe Maker
Sure, you can cook lovely crepes in a pan. But this plug-in crepe maker just makes it so much easier—practically foolproof, even for inexperienced cooks. I don't know about you, but I love little appliances that make my time in the kitchen easier (and don't take much storage space). Try it with my Whole Wheat Crepe recipe!




Pizzelle Maker
Make fabulous Italian waffle cookies with this pizzelle iron. I just bought it for myself a little while ago and it has made this holiday cookie-making season so much easier: I can make beautiful, unique cookies to bring to parties, serve at dinners, and give as gifts. My pizzelle recipe is simple and delicious.



Belgian Waffle Maker
I got the All-Clad one for myself last year, using a gift card. I might not have purchased such a pricey one if it were coming out of my own wallet. However, it does work beautifully. My son and his friends love when we do "breakfast for dinner." 


Popover Pan
Sure, you can make popovers in a muffin pan. But they're so much taller, more fun, and more popover-y in a popover pan!




Stocking Stuffers: Gifts Under $10


Egg Slicer
Remember my aforementioned love of hard-boiled eggs? Well, my egg slicer makes perfectly even slices, so my sandwiches aren't lopsided. Trust me, an egg slicer is an awesome little tool. 



Salt Box
A perfect, pretty little container to keep your favorite salt at hand. SO easy to grab a pinch while you're cooking!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Charred Onion Dip #easyentertaining #lowcarb #grainfree



When I saw a recipe for Charred Onion Dip in my Bon Appétit magazine (thanks for the gift subscription, Mom!) I was totally intrigued. I love me some onions. All different kinds of onions, all different ways. But I'd never had charred onions. I knew what I had to do. Must. Make. Immediately.

Luckily, the recipe is very easy and called for ingredients I pretty much always have on hand. I made some adjustments—like replacing most of the mayo and sour cream with Greek yogurt—but the amazing flavor is definitely still intact. It's like a smoky caramelized onion dip...try it and you'll see! 


Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appétit magazine:
Ingredients
makes about 1 1/2 cups of dip
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh chives

Preheat the broiler. Toss the shallot, onion, and scallions with the olive oil and season generously with salt. Broil, tossing once, for about 10 minutes. Let the charred onions cool, then mix with the yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and most of the chives. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Top with the rest of the chives.

Now, you can serve this with crudité or pita chips. But how about something a bit different? Try slicing steamed, cold red potatoes and top them with a sprinkle of salt (I used a parsley sea salt); they are a perfect complement to this smoky, onion dip. It's a sophisticated—and healthier—take on classic Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips. 

I'm thinking this dip would also be a great baked potato topping. Would love to hear how you use it!


Fellow onion lovers should check out these other onion-tastic recipes:

My Foolproof Caramelized Onions (made in a Crockpot!)





This post contains affiliate links, so I make a small commission if you purchase through my links—which helps to keep this blog running. 


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Simple Vanilla Sugar #holidayfood #homemadegifts

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that I love to use vanilla sugar when I bake. Basically, whenever I use vanilla beans I just save the pods and stick them in my sugar. The result is a beautifully-fragranced sugar, with a lovely hint of vanilla flavor. 


But for a gift, it's nice to make a sugar that's even more heavily infused with the vanilla. The Clever Carrot has a nice instructional on incorporating both the beans and the pod. I can practically smell the vanilla right now!

I went to a holiday cocktail party this weekend; I figured the hosts would probably get more bottles of wine and prosecco than they could ever imbibe. So I made a batch of vanilla sugar and put it in a cute jar. Happy holidays, host and hostess! Now, go bake me something!



If you'd like to try some of my recipes in which I use vanilla sugar, check out my Strawberry Shortcake with Mini Strawberry PopTarts:

or my Vanilla Bean Pizzelle Cookies:


and my Sparkling Sugared Cranberries:



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Vanilla Bean Pizzelle "Snowflake Cookies" #holidayfoodparty



I think every Italian family has at least one member who is known for her pizzelles. My father's cousin Yvonne was our family's resident pizzelle maker. I always remember visiting her house and nibbling on the buttery, light, and crispy cookies (while trying not to inhale the powdered sugar). She always made sure to send us home with a stack of the cookies, too. Abbondanza

Because pizzelles hold such a special place in my heart, I was shocked, (SHOCKED I tell you!) when my son saw a picture of one and asked me what it was. I had failed my child. He, too, should know the bliss of this cookie! 

If you've never had these thin Italian waffle cookies, you no longer have to go without, my friends. I have for you a very simple pizzelle recipe that has a bit less sugar and a bit more nutrition (fiber, protein) than most. 



Yes, you do need to buy a pizzelle iron; for cookies so simple and delicious, you won't regret the investment. We've made these stunning cookies four times in two weeks: they've been a hit at my one-year-old niece's birthday party, a couple of different playdates, and a Thanksgiving dinner. My son calls them "snowflake cookies." Truly, each one is a bit different and so very pretty— they will dress up any dessert table. 



Ingredients
makes about 30 cookies
Note: you can just use a good-quality vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean paste. However, the paste really heightens the flavor, plus it adds those lovely little flecks of vanilla bean. The paste can be quite pricey, but I load up on it when I find it on sale or in the baking section of HomeGoods or TJ Maxx. Keep an eye out for it!

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar, until the mixture is combined and thickens a bit. Mix in the melted butter and vanilla bean paste.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt. Blend this mixture into the wet mixture until smooth. It will be thick, somewhere between a batter and a cookie dough.

Follow the directions for your pizzelle iron to make the cookies. I bought this Chef's Choice Pizzelle Pro Express Bake. For it, I need to preheat the iron, then scoop the batter by the tablespoonful—it is quite thick and sticky, so it helps to have another spoon to work with. Each batch of two cookies goes on the iron for up to 30 seconds (mine are usually ready in more like 20 seconds), then you must lift each cookie off the iron and onto cooling racks. Once they are cooled, the pizzelles will harden.

Dust the cookies with powdered sugar and store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer. Enjoy your "snowflake cookies!"



This post contains affiliate links, so I make a small commission if you purchase through my links—which helps to keep this blog running. Don't fret, I only recommend products I personally use and approve.

                                            
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