Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How'd I Do?

Last year I made ten Foodie Resolutions, and I figured it was high time to assess my 2010 progress.

1. Learn how to make pasta, do it well, and feast accordingly.
Well, I didn't make any pasta this year, but John made it a lot and it was wonderful.  It's now his "thing" in the kitchen, and I am more than happy to have him do the work.

2. Make a chocolate-chocolate cake that is to die for.  Hopefully in time for John's birthday.

3. Conquer flaky all-butter (i.e. no shortening) pie crust.
I avoided this one all year, but vow to give it a go soon!

4. Puree a soup into silken perfection using my immersion blender.  
I can't believe I hadn't done this a year ago!  I've done it many times already.

5. Make a pizza and crust all from scratch.  Might need a pizza stone for this one.
I've only been making pizza a year?  I'm already on my second pizza stone and my third or forth pizza dough recipe.  We have homemade from-scratch pizza once or twice a month now.

6. Figure out how to turn on my grill (I always make John do it).

7. Get over at least one food aversion (e.g mushrooms, lamb, beets, scallops).
I'm less of a wimp about mushrooms in my food, though I still prefer my food without them.  Lamb still doesn't do it for me, and I think I avoided beets and scallops all year.  Oops.

8. Try at least three new fruits and vegetables (quince, pomelo, bittermelon, etc.).
I did try pomelos (blech, just like grapefruit), but I can't think of anything else new I tried.  Is buffalo jerky a fruit?

9. Force John to let me get a deep fryer so I can make french fries.
After learning from a friend that this will make both me and John gain ten pounds, I decided to forfeit this resolution (for now).

10. Spend as much time in the kitchen as my job, marriage, and sanity will allow.
Done and done!

All in all I think it was a successful attempt, but I'm hoping to go ten for ten next year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through our house
The puppy was stirring and wanted to go out.
The stockings were hung just out of reach,
So the puppy wouldn't have a stocking stuffer feast.

Kathi and David were nestled all snug in their air bed
While visions of real mattresses danced in their head.
With John in his kerchief and I in my cap
The dogs woke us up from our long winter's nap.

Out on the lawn the dogs rose such a clatter
The neighbors sprung from their beds to see what was the matter.
What to their wondering eyes should they see
But a brown spotted dog and a brown lil' puppy.

While walking on Christmas night for a bit
We looked in the sky and saw big St. Nick.
We heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Status Report

Despite appearances, I am cooking still.  While I stir a pot, I glance over my shoulder and yell at Harper for eating Maddie's food, but I'm still cooking.  Hopefully I'll get around to posting the Asian recipes of late: Thai green curry, Korean beef bowl, and General Tsao's chicken.  Better than takeout, I promise you.  

We're having eight people (and two dogs) around the dinner table on Christmas and I'll be making prime rib.  Assuming it comes out well, I will be sure to post on it since someday my readers might be tasked with a Christmas dinner for 8 one day.  

Harper is very excited for all the family members flying in tonight.  The more people to play with her, the better!  And she still hasn't eaten any ornaments yet, but that's probably because we have a huge wall of boxes surrounding the tree.  Not the prettiest, but it does the job!  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Prized Possession

Trust me when I tell you that you don't want to know what Harper is chewing on in this picture.  It is her prized possession and she spends more time chewing on it than her rope, either of her stuffed monkeys, her blankey, or her lion.  If all else fails, we give her this stick to chew on.  Unless you are a puppy owner, you do not want to know what this thing is made out of.  Trust me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cranberry Pie-Cobbler-Thing

Not to brag, but there are very few things you can't get at a farmers market in California.  Bananas.  Limes (baffling, considering lemons are abundant).  Chocolate milk (so it appears).  And cranberries.  Apparently there are no cranberry bogs in California, which means I'm stuck ravaging the supermarket shelves just like you guys.  

Cranberries are one of the few things that are actually treated seasonally across the country.  Along with pumpkins and corn (for the most part), people respect it's actual freshest season and you can only find it during that time.  Well, folks, Christmas is probably your last bet to get fresh cranberries, and I wouldn't let it slip you by.

I've never had fresh cranberries in a dessert before, and their tartness lends to a perfect sweet-sour combo. The recipe called this a cranberry pie, but I made it in a disposable square dish, which made is seem decidedly cobbler-like.  Depending on how sweet you like you desserts you can cut back on the sugar as much as you like.  This version is quite sweet, but I've got a sweet tooth to rival a toddler, so I like it this way.

This is the perfect dessert for after Christmas dinner.  Extremely easy and somewhat unexpected while remaining true to holiday flavors.  What could be better?

Cranberry Pie
From The Pioneer Woman

2 heaping cups of fresh cranberries
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a pie, cake, or brownie pan.  Add 2 heaping cups of cranberries to the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup chopped pecans on top and then add a layer of 2/3 cup sugar.  In a large mixing bowl mix together 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 stick melted butter, 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional) and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Pour the batter over the cranberries evenly and spread if necessary with a spatula.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, sprinkling  it with one tablespoon of sugar 5 minutes before removing from the oven.  Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or plain.

Oh and for those of you who only read this blog for the puppy, here's our gal:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dear Family

A letter from Harper...

Dear Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle David, and Aunt Kathi,
Greetings from California!  I just wanted to let you know that I look forward to meeting you next week when you visit.  I promise we will have a very merry Christmas together.  I can also promise to bowl you over with how adorable I am.  I look forward to lots of walks together while I try to play tug-of-war with the leash.  I hope you have no intention of taking all of your digits back to the East Coast with you, because I have other plans.  Please get here soon!

Monday, December 13, 2010

One of Her Many Talents

Harper is quite the talented and smart puppy.  Unfortunately for us, one of the ways you learn you have a smart dog is by how quickly they can escape in certain situations.  While her talent of retrieving hasn't surfaced yet, she has shown us from day one an additional talent she has: the freakish ability to lie completely flat.  

Unless you have a dog that can't do this, you won't realize how silly it looks on dogs that can.  Maddie's legs most certainly don't have the ability to lie flat out behind her.  John and I speculate this comes from the Cocker Spaniel in her, but we aren't really sure.  No matter where it comes from, it reminds me of when I was a kid and I would sit watching the TV in contorted positions on the floor, my parents remarking about how they couldn't believe I was comfortable.  I was, and she is; I guess kids of all types just like to outflex their parents.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Puppy Love

One thing that's great about puppies is that they are full of unconditional love for you.  They want to play, cuddle, and hang out with you all day long.

I guess that's where the phrase "puppy love" comes from, the unabashed and seemingly endless love of a puppy.  Either that or the unabashed and seemingly endless love people have for their puppies.

Everyone that meets her is quite taken with her.  How could they not be?  Mitch tried to get away with a bit of puppy thievery, but he was caught red-handed.  

I'm looking forward to a full weekend with Harper!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Irish Stew

We interrupt this puppy blog to bring you a special announcement: Irish Stew is delicious.  Thank you.

Oh, okay.  Fiiiine.  I will write a real post.

I have heard from multiple people that after you've been cooking from your family, it isn't the cooking that wears you down, it's the meal planning.  After thousands and thousands of meals, it can get exhausting having to decide what everyone has for dinner.  The only solution I've heard of is having someone else make up the meal plan for the week for you so that you don't have to wrack your brain.  Plus, as an added bonus at least one of your wards will be happy with dinner.

Well, thankfully I haven't gotten to the point where I am sick of meal planning (or cooking for that matter).  In fact, John suggests things and at least half the time I say "Yes, honey, that would be nice" and make something else.  If I don't feel like cooking it or eating it, we are not likely to be having it.

Over Thanksgiving John mentioned a couple of times how much he liked Irish Stew, and that got me in the mood.  So the day we returned from Pennsylvania I scoured the web for Irish Stew recipes (there aren't many, honestly) and made us this warm treat.

I can't say what makes something "Irish stew" as opposed to beef stew, but this recipe includes a cup of Guinness, so I feel pretty confident I can call it an Irish stew.  I've been to the Guinness factory in Dublin, actually.  And drank a pint of Guinness on the top of the factory.  Oh wait, I just took a few sips and decided I didn't want to drink a beer as thick as a milkshake.

This soup is the definition of hearty.  And delicious.  I strongly recommend serving it with crusty bread on a cold evening.  This also happens to be one of those recipes that is even better the next day.  Gotta love those.  Now go out and make some Irish stew for your husband and pretend you did it to appease his wishes, when really you just had a craving.

Irish Stew
Adapted from Simply Recipes

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 pounds beef stew meat (not lean, or else it will be tough)
6 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups beef broth
1 cup Guinness
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups peeled carrots cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add beef pieces (lightly salted) that are cut into 1/2 inch pieces to the pan.  Do not crowd so that the pieces can brown - work in batches if necessary.  Brown the pieces on all sides, this takes about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add in beef broth, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves.  Stir mixture and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, for an hour.  Stir occasionally.

While the mixture simmers melt butter in a large pot.  Add potatoes, onion, and carrots.  Saute until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and wait until stew has simmered for an hour, then add vegetables to stew and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes, until everything is tender.  Discard bay leaves.  Skim fat off the top of the stew (tiling the pan helps) and discard.  Add salt and pepper to taste (mine needed a bit of salt at this point).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Gift

I got so excited about Harper that I never got a chance to tell the story about how she came into my life.

It all started about two months ago when John informed me he had come up with the perfect present for me.  He said it was a big one, and if he could pull it off it would be my only gift.  He spent hours and hours researching this gift, so I told him I had figured out what the present was: a trip!  No other present could take some much work.  I told him my guess and he reluctantly agreed that I was right.

Last weekend he warned me he would be gone all day on Saturday doing something for my present.  The only thing I could think of was a travel fair.  This seemed a little weird, but I went with it.  Natalie and Mitch asked me if I wanted to go shopping, so I decided it was the perfect time to pick up gifts for John.  We went out shopping all afternoon and when we returned, John's car was in the garage, despite the fact he wasn't supposed to be back for hours.  Apparently Natalie and Mitch were in on it

I walked in the door and there was John sitting on the floor with brown ball of fur in a box.  And my life will never be the same.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sleeping Beauty

The life of a puppy is rough.  Sleep consumes about 18 hours of her day.  And when she is out, she is out.  

It's a beautiful thing to watch a puppy sleeping, though I can't decide whether she is cuter awake or asleep.  Tough call.    

Puppyhood is going well so far.  We are settling into a schedule and Harper is beginning to really understand the meaning of the word, "No!"  (Mostly, "NO (don't eat Maddie's food)!")  We think she's starting to learn her name too, which means there is no turning back.  It's exciting to watch her learn new things all the time, and it happens so quickly!  In the morning she doesn't know how to make it down the stairs outside the house, and later that afternoon she has figured it out.  

Leaving her every morning to go to work is painful, but it also means that I have a sweet ending to my day when I return home.  

Monday, December 6, 2010


Harper Pot-De-Creme LaBarre?  Harper MacKenzie LaBarre?  Harper Valrhona LaBarre?  Harper Holly LaBarre?  Harper Cocoa LaBarre?

So we've picked the first name, but the all-important middle name is yet-to-be decided.  

John created a list of great names for me to choose from so we could choose a name for the puppy quickly.  We went through the list a few times, narrowing it down slowly name-by-name.  Mitch started going through the names of the editorial board in my Martha Stewart Living magazine and somehow came up with the name Harper, even though no one could find the name or anything similar on the page.  It was fate, and the birthday boy chose the perfect name for our perfect puppy.

Welcome to the family, Harper.

Foodie Gift Guide Part II

Cookie Jar

When you spend all afternoon baking, you want the fruits of your labor to have a fancy place to rest, right?  I love this cookie jar, and it would go well in any kitchen.  As a perk, I hear having a cookie jar in your kitchen makes you feel guilty when it's not full, so pick this up for your foodie roomie if you want to benefit from the guilt trip.

12-inch Le Creuset Pan

The NY Times ran an article on this pan before I was much of a Dining & Wine section reader, but luckily for me the Le Creuset outlet had a printout for me to see.  The article was enough to make me buy this pan, and trust me, it lives up to all the NYT hype.  It's the best non-stick pan I've ever used, and it's teflon free.  Unlike other cast iron pans, this one doesn't rust.  It's my biggest saute pan too, which makes it even more ideal.  This gift would make any cook a Le Creuset convert, if they aren't already.

Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day

You can't get any fresher than bread that comes out of your own oven.  Peter Reinhart is a bread-baking genius, and this book shows you how to make artisan breads that are easy enough to have every day.  I scored a copy of this cookbook from the library and it will turn you into a carboholic.  In this book he tweaked his pizza dough recipe, and trust me, it's even better than the original godsend.  The recipes are foolproof and your special foodie friend will thank you for demystifying bread making.

Salter Digital Scale

Buying this digital scale changed my baking destiny forever.  Well, maybe not quite that dramatic, but it does make your baking better by increasing the accuracy of your measurements AND it makes your baking and cleanup easier by allowing you to just weigh the ingredients in a bowl.  Win-win.  This is the one we have, and it converts from grams to ounces easily, has an easy-to-clean surface, and works like a dream.  This is one scale that it is acceptable to wrap and put under the tree.

212 Oval Platter

For the New York-lover in your life this 212 platter is fun and practical.  From my experience, you never know how many platters you need until it's too late and your guests are about to arrive.  The more platters the bette,r in my experience.  Plus, unlike bowls, these actually stack in a reasonable fashion.  This fun gift is inexpensive too, which is good if you are buying the $140 pan above.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I have to warn you, I'm on the brink of renaming this blog Puppybia.  

I don't want to do anything that doesn't involve this puppy.

I don't want to talk about anything other than this puppy.

And I certainly don't want to blog about anything other than this puppy.

Please excuse me, I need to go watch her sleep.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Puppy for Christmas (Seriously)

John just came home with a puppy for Christmas for me!  Yes, seriously!  She is an Australian Labradoodle.  More to come, she isn't named yet, but all the dogs in her litter went by names from Glee.  Rachael isn't going to stick.  I'll write more soon, hopefully with our girl's new name.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Foodie Gift Guide Part I.2

Sorry, guys, I've been a bad blogger this week.  I have lots of recipes to post, but not enough energy to crawl out from under my heated blanket to write.  So let me leave you for the weekend with a couple of extra gift ideas (albeit not a full gift guide post).

Foodie Card Pack

Anika gave me a card from this adorable Chicago designer and I couldn't resist buying a few of my own on Etsy.  I almost hesitate to post this because it will mean everyone gets a sneak peak at every card they will be receiving from me from here on out.  I bought the variety pack which I could customize with whichever cards I wanted.  I now feel like I need to have more birthday, thank you, wedding, etc. cards on hand for all occasions.  Sorry, Hallmark, but you've been outdone.  Buy these for the food lover in your life!

Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Yes, more cookbooks.  I'm a cookbook fiend, so expect at least one cookbook on every gift guide post.  There are so many that I want this year, and Baked Explorations is on the top of my list.  I never got a chance to visit Baked when I was living in NYC, buy I hear the bakery and the book are both incredible.  The baked goods are classic and inventive at the same time, and most importantly, delicious!  Maybe if you buy someone this book they will bake you a treat a thank you present.  That's some incentive!

Update: I just read that this cookbook includes a recipe that improves upon those delicious Delta Airlines Biscoff cookies.  WANT.  NOW.  OMG.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Foodie Gift Guide Part I

Don't worry, friends and relatives of foodies, I haven't forgotten your gift-giving needs this year.  In fact, I have so many gift ideas this year I'm splitting it up into multiple posts.  So break out the credit card and spoil that foodie you love so dearly.

Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm a big David Lebovitz fan.  I've scoured this book from cover to cover in the brief three weeks we shared together.  I was bitter someone else at the Mountain View Library knew how wonderful David Lebovitz is and had the gall to put this book on hold after me.  This book is a great choice for a book with tons of wonderful dessert recipes and pictures to make your stomach growl.

Le Creuset Dutch Oven Magnets

Someone who knows me quite well (the lovely Anika of course) gave me these adorable Le Creuset magnets.  This would make for a great stocking stuffer.  One you'd actually be happy to get (fancy that!).

A Year of Cookie Cutters

It took me a few tries, but eventually I was able to figure out which cookie cutter went with each month.  It's not like August really has a go-to holiday you bake cookies for.  This would make a really fun gift for someone that loves baking cookies.  Someone like me, honestly.

Box of Chocolates Soap

Any chocolate lovers in the house?  Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!  The whole stocking can't be full of chocolate, so this gift offers a more unique approach to satisfying chocolate cravings.  Feel free to pick any other flavors your foodie might enjoy, such as Cup o' Joe, Pink Sugar Cookie, Bottle of Wine, or Pumpkin Apple Butter.

Monogrammed Mugs

Nothing like a monogram to lay claim to your work mug.  I'm a tea or hot chocolate kind of gal, but I suppose if you like coffee this will serve those purposes as well.  

Ruffled Cake Stand

I've been dying to buy this cake stand with a dainty ruffle for over a month now.  Could there be a cuter cake stand to display your creations?  Even without a cake this piece would look lovely in any kitchen.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving with the Kiddos

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  I'm spending mine surrounded by kiddos.

Well, adults are here too, but they are less keen to be photographed.

This little doll is Fiona.  Don't you love the pose?

Her brother, Grayson, had no intention of taking off these cool goggles for any pictures.  Oh well.

Ryan isn't little like the rest of them, but he is still my nephew.

Ryan is an amazing guitar player.  Kinda makes us adults feel like we are lacking in skills.

We were surprised today to find that it was a white Thanksgiving.  Apparently that happens in Pennsylvania.  We're not in California anymore.

I took a run in the snow, and there's nothing like a chill to make you pick up the pace.

Little Liam is the chattiest three year-old I know.

He and his dad went to go play in the snow.

Liam is going to be big and strong like his dad; look at him go!

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and are spending it around those you love!
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