Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sugar Cookies

I first saw this recipe on Or So She Says and knew I would give them a try.  I'm a sucker for any cookie recipe calling for 4 sticks of butter and a sugar cookie recipe that doesn't require rolling and cookie cutters.  I decreased the flour amount a little to suit the Nevada desert ... this recipe is a keeper.

1     pound butter
3     cups sugar
2     eggs
2     t. vanilla
5     cups flour
2     t. baking soda
1     t. baking powder
6     T. buttermilk
       sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream butter and sugar and then beat in eggs and vanilla.  In another bowl sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Add the dry ingredients to the creamed ingredients and mix well.  Add buttermilk to make the dough soft, not wet.  I used an ice cream sized scoop (we like large cookies) and placed them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, sprinkling them generously with sanding sugar after flattening them with a sugared glass bottom.  Bake until slightly brown around the edges, barely showing  a golden color.

A quick note about sanding sugar.  Williams Sonoma will always have pretty sanding sugar, but it's pricey.  I like the King Arthur sanding sugar and it's less money, especially if you wait for a 'free shipping' promotion.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Maybe Autumn will happen


At 6 am this morning there was a lovely breeze coming in from the French doors.  For the first time in I don't know how long I opened both and let the fresh air come in.  I had no choice but to bake.

First up?  A new pumpkin bar I saw on Pinterest.  Highly recommend.  Texture is halfway between a bar and a dense cake.

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking pan.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin on medium speed until light and fluffy.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
Hand mix the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Spread the batter into the prepared 13 by 9-inch baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Source: Sweet Pea's Kitchen adapted from Paula Deen


Just before the pumpkin bars was some banana bread from King Arthur Flour.  They gave a hint about putting the ripe bananas in a ziploc back and kneading them.  I decided this might be the trick to a good banana bread.  I was supposed to get 1 1/2 cups of mashed banana from three medium or two large bananas.  It was much less.  Measuring is everything when it comes to baking, so from now on I shall stick with recipes asking for bananas in cups rather than numbers of bananas.  This bread had a nice crust to it.


Cookies came next with some heath bar toffee bits and miniature Hershey kisses.

The baking matched the weather.

Happy official Autumn.
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

au revoir Laguna

In case you couldn't tell vacation was pretty perfect.  Lazy days by the ocean reading and plotting our next culinary adventure - very hard work I tell you.  Hard to believe, but I don't blog about every single place we go to eat.  Only the ones I can really say good things about.  So, um, I am on calorie restriction and not very happy about it.  Monday night we both went to bed hungry and there was whining.  This trip was worth waiting for, even through the long hot Las Vegas summer.  I cannot wait to go back.

No segue at all...

My family is cursed with lumps where lumps just shouldn't be, so I found myself in an operating room the week before last.  I didn't find out about this little adventure until the day before I left for my vacation.  Did it put a damper on my fun?  No.  Not one bit.  See how that made me sound like the chill girl?  I'm not her, but in this case I was!  One for Patti.  Also, I'm well.  Results confirm.

Being home doing nothing for a few days wasn't exactly like being at the beach doing nothing.  I thought I might lose my mind on one of those days and then I thought, HEY, order your Christmas cards.  Good idea, right?  This is the same person who can't stop ranting (I'm being nice) about the universe talking about Autumn, pumpkin desserts and apple cake when it's still 99 degrees here.  Whatever.  Did I do some Christmas shopping while I was at it?  YES.  Yes, I did.  Oh, the hypocrisy.

La la la la . . . so it's later than mid-September already.  October is that month where, despite the Autumn thing that's going on, the world loses just a little bit of focus and starts to talk about pink ribbons and pink M&Ms and all the things we can do to help "the cause."  The breast cancer cause.  If you're in the mood for some chocolate, buy the pink package, would you?  If you just want to support Susan Komen, THAT is awesome.  One walk for breast cancer will tug at your heartstrings - you can register on October 1st.  That pink month.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lunch at C'est Si Bon

Where the bread has a time on it to let you know when it came out of the oven.

Same for the chocolate croissants...

Where the best chicken curry salad is made and then put on that French bread...

And finally...where the best apple tart resides, complete with that delicious French almond filling.

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vacation coma...

Today is our last full day at the beach.  That familiar "why does it have to be over" has overtaken us but we are determined to make the most of our day.  I love this place more than I can communicate.

Yesterday there was tennis and beach time, rides on that breathtaking section of the PCH and delicious food.  We ate breakfast in The Blue Cottage and got to the sand earlier than most days.  I finally made my contribution to Vine and took some fun video of my spouse in the water.

I finished Defending Jacob.  Another departure for me, this novel, but the review I read convinced me to give it a shot.  I'm glad I did.  If I could have paced and read at the same time that would have helped.

By now you can see we went back to The Counter for dinner last night.  I think the waiters might all be models.  Models with lots of personality.  I digress, probably because I'm experiencing beef overload. Food overload.

On the drive to The Counter I pulled the car over at a local flower stand to check out an Autumn wreath I spied the day before.  Purchase!  We kept driving north and stopped at that cupcake place, only the BEST cupcake place in the entire universe.  Red velvet, strawberry, vanilla with sprinkles.  I went to Bristol Farms to check for a Fall doormat and found one.

We stopped at a new candy shop to check for the tiny boxes of fireballs.  Always looking for those.  No luck.

After dinner we went to Balboa Island to see if that little baby shop was still open.  When it wasn't I had no choice but to get that frozen banana.
I have not had a Laguna Beach caramel apple nor have I stopped into LaRue du Chocolat or the gelato shop.  I don't know how time evaporates when you're here, but it does.  I have a few things to bring home from the trip that will trigger a memory.  A pillow here, a shell there, a silly piece of coral, all reminders of the time I spent eight days at the beach with my best friend, who I love.

I'm headed down to the sea now...

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Friday, September 6, 2013

We did it again...

I should be embarrassed, but I'm not.  I have, however, had my fill of beef.  I'm very sleepy.

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Counter

This morning I opened my eyes and said, "What are we going to do today?"  BEST reply ever followed.  "Whatever we want."  I just love this kind of vacation.

We were slow getting started and that's okay.  There was tennis and a trip to the gym to get on the treadmill.  I wasn't kidding when I said there were lots of old people at this little gym.  Not exaggerating for emphasis here, today I actually saw a woman with a cane.  Except for the guy checking everyone in, I am the youngest person there.  SCORE.

Lunch was at The Counter.  Yes, it was good.  How can you go wrong with a burger covered in bleu cheese and grilled onions and onion strings.  You cannot.

Lunch was followed by time in the sun.  We didn't leave the beach until after 7 again . . . it was dusk walking back to The Blue Cottage.  Heavenly.

I finished the book11/22/63 is behind me and I'm glad.  It was tedious at times, but it had to be. So many details to incorporate, many with implications that followed much later in the book.  I'm not unhappy I read it but I'm extremely happy to be done.

I have a mini-library here to choose from not to mention a stack of back issues of Esquire, Vanity Fair and Bon Appetit.  Not sure what's next . . . probably more hamburgers.

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Pacific love

I shall finish 11/22/63 today.  My goal was yesterday but it just didn't happen.  It's Thursday and I've yet to finish my first book.  Not right.  It's been a fun read and I want to say very well crafted (there's are so many details to think about when you write a book like this), but until I get to page 847 I will stay mum.  There's so much riding on how he ends this book.  I don't believe I've read any Steven King since 1980 . . . I just had to read this one.

Later I will have to decide what book gets my attention next.  Luckily it's the most difficult decision I have to make this week.  How great is that?

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Ho Sum Bistro (redux)

We ended the best day ever back at Ho Sum.  Except for that little crisis at Southwest Gas and those conference calls that lasted a few hours, it was the best day.  It was a 90 degree day so arriving at the beach a little later just worked for us. 

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Blackened Salmon Avocado Lime Salad

Isn't this pretty?

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Johnny's Real NY Pizza (in Corona del Mar)

He looks crabby here, but this is the face of elation.  His favorite little New York pizza place on Pacific Coast Highway was everything he loves.
We left Johnny's and stopped at Sprinkles for a red velvet and a triple cinnamon.  Then to the beach, the beautiful deserted beach.  That is where we stayed until 7 o'clock.  We have permanent smiles on our faces.
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The longer you look at the ocean the more you see...

Just like every Tuesday after Labor Day, the beach was deserted yesterday.   It was bliss.  My spouse headed to the tennis courts up in Laguna Hills while I went to the little gym around the corner with the extra old clientele.  When I finished I drove down to the village and noticed I had my pick of parking spaces.  It was a quick stop to pick up some cherry danish for "that guy who lives in the garage."

We walked down to the beach loving the slower feel here.  It was a scorching day, but when you move your chair down toward the water close enough to feel the surf hit your ankles, well, it's all good.  Especially when you see dolphins.  We stayed late and read and watched the sun hit the ocean.

Later we drove north on Pacific Coast Highway to Newport to give TK Burgers a shot.  Delicious.  Sprinkles had orange cupcakes with our names on them, so we made a stop there before heading back to The Blue Cottage.

Right now I am consumed with visiting The Wedge.

I love it here.  I'm where I want to be.
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

by the sea, by the sea ...

Everything about time is different at the beach, so I'm going to estimate and say we left the sand around 5:30 last night.  We wore our backpack beach chairs and started up the hill to our little cottage, towing the cooler of diet coke (lighter than when we arrived), the boogie board, fins and beach bag.  It's always good to come back to The Blue Cottage.

Dinner was at one of our favorite beach places, complete with welcome dogs at their owners' feet and the best guac ever.  There's room for all versions of Mexican food in this world . . . we pulled that idea apart over our dinner.  Los Tacos, you have the best ceviche I've ever tasted.  Taco Taco, thank you for teaching me how a real street taco should taste.  Why am I pushing 60 and just finding out about al pastor?

We went to the Director's Cut theatre to see the last showing of The Way Way Back and it was excellent.  Steve Carell is under-appreciated as an actor, I think, and that's probably Michael Scott's fault.  He was so unlikeable in this role.  Just to mix it up, Sam Rockwell was very likable.  Go figure.

I found a tiny local gym around the corner that cut me a deal to use their treadmills for a week.  It's about the size of my bedroom but it works!  Also, I am the youngest person in the place, so it's a win-win.

I am considering what seaside treasure to bring home for my house.  This is never a rash decision for me.  I like to visit a few of my favorite shops and think on it.  Whatever it happens to be it will remind me of the time we spent together at the ocean, so it's important.  This is the best place ever.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Fajitas and quesadillas

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La Sirena guac

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Don't let the sun go down...

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The Yankee Glare

First up in this stack of books is the longest read, all 847 pages of Stephen King's 11/22/63.  At first glance this isn't a book I would be remotely interested in, but I read a compelling review and had to dive feet first.  I love reading something with a New England connection, sometimes for the reminder of a colloquialism I've long forgotten and sometimes for the descriptions of things so familiar to me but now so distant.  This is a good beach read.

Yesterday was sedate and lovely.  No Irish tan, no reason to get in the car, just a simple quiet day by the ocean.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

May I blog about Bao?

There's this little place on Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach we love.  Ho Sum Bistro serves up some Asian food with a California twist.  Believe it or not, one of the best things on the menu is a salad they serve - if you google Ho Sum you're likely to read about that salad.  Yelpers rule the world!

I'm going to apologize for these pictures.  They are not doing this Bao justice.  Let me just say this is my new passion.  Cha Sui Bao is lean pork barbequed and then wrapped and baked in a fluffy steamed bun.  It was served with a delicious hoisin sauce and I was close to speechless.  I communicated my new love of the Bao to the owner.  He was happy we arrived before they were sold out.  The pork is luscious.

To prove they are committed to Asian food with a California twist, these dumplings are in a spicy cilantro sauce.
Sprinkles was next where I was sucked into trying the special S'Mores cupcake.  They know how to make homemade marshmallow.

Orange County is mobbed right now.  We sat in traffic on the road into Laguna long before that typically happens.  We weren't able to get a parking space downtown last night, so Tuvulu will have to wait.  No matter, all the crowds will leave Monday and we'll still be here.   I will never adjust to how beautiful this place is.  It still takes my breath away.
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The Blue Cottage

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