The Best Dam Experience

The Best Dam Experience

When I arrived back to Seattle after months away, my calendar was full of fun activities catching up with friends. My friend Kelly organized a camping trip in Eastern Washington where the highlight purpose was running a 5K over Grand … Continue reading

#9 Formaggio di DeLaurenti

I always love going to Delaurenti’s cheese counter in Pike Place Market because they have the best selection in Seattle. I try to be helped by the same guy because he has a knack for remembering my likes and loves (I’ve only eaten one cheese ever that I’ve disliked). During my month-long stay in London my affinity for cheese turned into an addiction. Once we were back in Seattle,  I realized how lucky I am to have such an incredible selection of cheeses so close to home. David and I are now in the habit of having cheese boards for dessert whether it’s at a dinner party or a small one for the two of us. For dinner parties, I always label the cheeses so our guests know what types of cheeses they are enjoying. Recently I’ve started to save all of our labels so that we can keep track of all the different types of cheeses we have experienced. It’s always a good idea to get to know your cheese monger and to build a relationship with him/her.

I love that cheese is simple yet so complex. Every cheese (even bloody American cheese) has a mixture of history and science behind it. More often than not, it tells a story of terroir, dedication and love. Goat, Cow, Sheep, Buffalo, raw, soft, hard…there are cheeses to suit every person and every mood. Next time you’re at the grocery story, head to the cheese department, ask some questions, learn a bit and bring some cheesy love home with you.

“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese”- Willie Nelson

A Small Portion of Delaurenti Cheese Counter

Cheese Board

New Year's Cheese Board

Cheese Board in London

New Year’s Eve

After two months of cooking and entertaining in kitchens other than my own both in London and in Boston, I was counting down the minutes until I could finally be back in my kitchen. For the last four years David and I have been gradually perfecting stocking our kitchen with the right utensils, cookware and appliances. We decided to go for quality, not quantity and we had fun researching the tools that would be necessary for our idea of a perfectly equipped kitchen. I am so happy with our knives, pots, pans, cutting boards, mixers, blenders and bakeware, and I really look forward to cooking and baking in our kitchen daily. There are red specks of Le Creuset that are carefully strewn throughout the house to keep us organized (and pretty). Our kitchen and pantry are arranged and organized efficiently and are perfect for our culinary needs.

For months, David and I have been looking forward to throwing a party at the condo to celebrate our return to Seattle, our new view of the Space Needle and to welcome in the New Year. I hadn’t hosted a party in Seattle in over two months and the entertaining itch was getting pretty severe. Given that space in the condo was limited, we invited a small group of close friends over to ring in the New Year with food, fireworks and libations. David and I did a “comfort food” theme and we also asked our guests to bring a favorite appetizer or dessert.  David and I provided the following fare:

Mini Potato-Parsnip Latkes with Roasted Onion Applesauce
Short Ribs Crostini with Parsnip Puree
Antipasto & Cheese Platter

Scottish Shortbread Cookies
Mini “Johnny Cash” Chocolate Cupcakes
Chocolate Truffles with Coconut, Chocolate Sprinkles & Pistachios

Champagne with Pomegranate Seeds, Wine, Sparkling Water

Time ticked closer to midnight and between the eating, giggling, drinking and games, we almost didn’t get up to the roof in time for the fireworks. Some waited for the elevator while others raced up the stairs, and we all made it onto the roof just in time to enjoy the spectacular firework show. Once the fireworks started and the clock struck midnight, I realized I forgot the noisemakers, hats, pomegranate seeds for the champagne and I didn’t light the candles on the cupcakes. After our champagne glasses were filled, emptied and refilled by other neighbors on the roof, we came downstairs to the condo and counted down to midnight again with all of our proper party paraphernalia. I forgot to light the cupcakes again, but in reality I think they looked prettier that way. We laughed into the wee hours of the morning and listened to the crazy chaos that was occurring on the streets below us.

David and I had more fun planning, setting-up and cooking for this party than we have had in a long time. It takes a short time away from home to realize what is important. It’s often the little things that are looked over when you are home and are first missed when you aren’t home.  I know there’s a possibility that David and I will go back to England in the next few weeks, but right now I’m counting my blessings and enjoying my time at home with my husband and friends.

Champagne with Pomegranate

Piggy Shortbread

Pretty Pomegranate

The Crew that stayed up to Midnight

And the crazy faces....

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza

Let the decorating begin!

This is the second annual Christmas cookie decorating party that Lisa has hosted and I was happy to be apart of it. It’s a tradition often found in the States, but most Brits have never heard of such a thing. I multiplied this recipe by five to make the appropriate amount of dough for the party. Lisa and I rolled, cut out and baked over 150 cookies. There is a debate among what frosting should be used. Butter cream makes for a tastier frosting (which is what we used), however using Royal icing makes for easier decorating and more refined lines. If you are challenged in the decorating department like myself, royal icing is easier. If you are gifted like my sister-in-law, you can stick to the butter cream. Since I’m anal about my cookie decorating, I’ll give you the Royal Icing recipe but you be the judge.

This is adapted from The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer.

Sugar Cookies

  • 3 cups (390 grams) All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Butter, softened
  • 1 cup (200 grams) Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Zest

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated thoroughly, then add the vanilla and lemon zest. Slowly pour into the wet mixture the dry ingredients until the dough is smooth. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough until it is firm, approximately one hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first half of the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Make sure to keep turning the dough as you roll so it does not stick to the surface. Using cookie cutters, cut out cookies and transfer them to the baking sheets until all the dough is finished. Place the baking sheets into the refrigerator for 10 minutes to harden.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or until they just start to turn brown on the edges. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

Royal Icing

  • 4 cups (440 grams) Confectioner’s Sugar, sifted
  • 3 tbsp (30 grams) Meringue Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla or Almond Extract
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water, warm
  • Professional Grade Food Coloring (see note below)

In an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add 1/2 cup of the water and extract and beat on medium high-speed until glossy and stiff peaks form. Add more water if it’s necessary in order to get the right consistency. Quickly divide the icing into bowls and add food coloring. Transfer the icing into piping bags with appropriate tips and frost immediately (if the bags are plastic and you don’t have/want to use a tip, you can cut off an 1/8 inch of the bag instead).

Note: If you haven’t used professional food coloring before, treat yourself and buy it. You can usually buy them at Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table and other cooking/baking stores. I guarantee that you will be so pleased with the vibrant colors that you won’t go back to the sad box of four pale colors from the grocery store. In Seattle each color costs $1.95 and I would happily pay double that.

My Cookies

Lisa's Cookies!