Cook the Collection #2: Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook

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Mar 292013
(Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

Apparently I’m on a Seattle bakery kick, because the next book up is the Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook. Macrina is a longtime Seattle institution, located in the trendy Belltown neighborhood (with two more popular locations on Queen Anne Hill and in SODO as well). The bakery is known most for its breads and cakes – the special occasion cakes are absolutely divine – but its cafe turns out delicious meals as well, and this cookbook highlights both the savory and sweet.

I tried out the Challah recipe the other day – I’m a big challah fan but I never make it at home for some reason. The recipe was easy to follow and the bread looked great. It was a bit dry and the crumb seemed lighter in color than I’m used to, like it wasn’t quite eggy enough. I’d make it again if I didn’t have another recipe, but as it is I’ll probably try another source next time. I feel like I’m selling this book a bit short though, because its pretty comprehensive and all the recipes sound great. I actually wish I had made one of the bread pudding recipes because it might have wowed me a bit more. The final verdict is that this book will stay on the shelf, and I’m looking forward to the next recipe I try from it.

You can see the previous posts in my Cook the Collection challenge here.

Mar 272013

I’m excited to be able to attend the IFBC (International Food Bloggers Conference) this fall in Seattle. The conference is September 20-22, 2013 and will be held at the W Hotel, located right in the middle of downtown and so close to everything. Mid-September is such a great time to visit Seattle; we always have really beautiful weather that time of year. The speaker and session schedule is still evolving but its already a strong lineup, with keynote speaker Dorrie Greenspan leading the way.

There’s a three part focus to the conference: Food, writing and technology. Each session has a breakout group focusing on one of the three topics and from what’s been announced so far it’ll be hard to choose which to go to! This will be my first blogging conference so I don’t know exactly what to expect but I’m sure it will be so fun and educational.

I wish it was September already; I can’t wait to attend! Are you planning on going? Let me know in the comments if you are!

Disclosure:  This post was written in part to take advantage of the IFBC discounted rate for bloggers – but all opinions are my own! For more information about the IFBC blogger program, check out the Discounted Blogger Price for conference registration.  

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Mar 252013

The other day I saw a post from Kaitlin at Wunderbar about tea tin terrariums and it got me thinking about a project I’ve had on the back burner for awhile – a succulent planter from an olive oil tin. We buy our olive oil in large tins from a food importer and I always save them when the oil’s gone. Sometimes I use the empty tins for vases, but once I used one for a planter as a gift and I’ve been meaning to make another one for our kitchen.

The process is quick and easy: first buy a few succulents for your planter (I bought two and transplanted two).

Look at these beauties!

 Add plastic as a liner and then stones at the bottom for drainage. I had a bit of a problem with the plastic so I had to push it to the sides as I filled the tin with soil so that the dirt stayed inside the plastic.

Fill the tin with potting soil (I used cactus mix) almost to the top, then add the plants and fill the soil in around them. Water well and you’re done!

I have my olive oil planter sitting on the windowsill above the kitchen sink – its a spot where succulents thrive and also I can admire it while I do the dishes.

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!
Mar 232013

Spring came in with a roar around here this past week with a wild windy Wednesday and snow on Friday, and since we’ve all been sick around here the sun today was a real relief. It can really lift one’s spirits to be able to get out into the garden and poke around after a time stuck inside. I brought my camera out with me and took a few photos of the young blooms and buds.

Our Asian plum tree is just getting started – when its in full bloom its a giant puff of white, and as the blossoms fall it looks like snow on the grass below. The plum is the first flowering tree to bloom in our garden – next will come the apples and European plum, then the flowering cherry.

The blueberry bushes are just starting to leaf out as well – with their promise of fresh organic blueberries this summer. We’ve got four bushes now but at the height of berry season its not enough to satisfy my little blueberry monsters!

What’s starting to bloom in your area? Happy Spring!

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Mar 202013

This weekend we did some Easter decorating in the yard. My philosophy for holiday decorating is to make sure it’s fun for the kids and easy enough for them to help with, and decorating with plastic Easter eggs fits that description well. One thing we like to do is to thread eggs on heavy duty thread and hang them from the trees and shrubs in our yard – we actually made these eggs last year.

Another easy trick is to stick wooden skewers into the bottom of plastic eggs and line them up in the garden or lawn – I had to use a bit of force with the skewers to get them into the bottom of the eggs but once the stick is in it’s pretty stable. As long as the ground is reasonably soft the kids can stick the skewers into the ground themselves. We’ve stuck them into planters as well and those usually have nice soft potting soil.

Finally, my daughter decided to place eggs into little nest piles around the lawn – someone else in our neighborhood actually covers their lawn with plastic eggs. We initally didn’t weight or fasten them down but it got quite gusty this morning and eggs were flying all over our cul-de-sac so I ended up adding stones to each egg to keep them in place. We’re not in a busy part of town so I don’t think any eggs will ‘walk off’ but it could happen – we’ll see.

Another super simple idea for plastic Easter eggs is to draw or doodle on them with sharpie pens. I did these last year with a henna style and they were fun to do. The only thing to note is that if they’re handled much the sharpie markings will rub off – these were played with a bit too much so you can see some worn spots in the photo.

What other ways have you come up with to decorate with plastic Easter eggs? I’d love to hear them or link up to your blog in the comments so I can check them out!

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!
Mar 182013

As anyone with young kids knows, eating out can be hit or miss, especially if you’d like to go somewhere a step up from fast food! I came up with a way to ease the pain of dining out by bringing along a restaurant kit when we go out (and since it lives in the diaper bag it does double duty as a busy bag when necessary).

Here’s what I put in our restaurant kit for kids:

1. Start with the bag. A small cosmetics bag would work great – I used a bag with a clear front so that I could see inside easily, and its heavy duty material lets me clean it off.

2. Little blank notebooks for each of the kids – fun for drawing, tic tac toe, or pretending to be the waiter.

3. Extra plastic utensils – just in case (sometimes the restaurant only has large heavy utensils which are unweildy for little kids, and sometimes the fork is on the floor with no replacement in sight).

4. Assorted little toys – I tried to pick things that both kids would enjoy and that could spark some imaginative play.

5. Extra straws. Sometimes restaurants don’t have straws, or they’re only giant straws. I have some thin straws in our kit, and I also cut down some straws so that they fit kid-sized glasses better.

6. Little card games. I printed these ones out from and used wide tape to ‘laminate’ them – one is a memory match game and one is an easy number game.

7. Crayons. I put them in ziplock bags which hold up better than the little cardboard boxes and I have a baggie for each kid.

8. Little books. We have a Velveteen Rabbit set which breaks the story up into 6 little books, but any little books would work.

9. Sticker books or stickers. The reusable sticker books are great for a restaurant kit because then you know that the stickers won’t permanently bond to the table, chairs or floor of the restaurant!

10. Printable coloring pages from Of course you can also find coloring and activity pages at a lot of other sites as well. I’ve found on some printers you can adjust the print settings to print 4 pages on one, which shrinks the images down to a smaller size – great for going in the kit and for coloring on the table without taking up a ton of space.

Of course, a phone with some kid-friendly apps works well too, but I try to avoid the electronic crutch when possible. What are some things you use to entertain your kids at restaurants?

I’m sharing this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!

Cook the Collection #1: The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook

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Mar 152013
cook the collection series header
  (Disclosure: The cookbook links below are affiliate links and if you happen to make a purchase through them I’ll receive a small percentage of your purchase – and of course would be so grateful!)

If you’ve ever been to Seattle, there’s a good chance you’ve eaten at one of Tom Douglas’ restaurants. At last count he’s operating 11 restaurants in the city, plus a catering venue and a line of dry rubs for cooking at home. Frankly they’re all pretty great and even the newer restaurants seem to become instant classics, but the grand dame of them all is the Dahlia Lounge – and its offshoot the Dahlia Bakery. Last year the Douglas empire released its newest cookbook: The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.

the dahlia bakery cookbook link
I received the cookbook this past Christmas and baked some cookies right away (the molasses ginger cookies, which were excellent) but then set it aside for awhile. I picked it back up again this week and was reminded right away by what a great instructive book it is. The recipes are written clearly and simply and there are plenty of baking tips (like quickly warming up refrigerator chilled eggs) that will improve my baking even when I’m not  baking from it.

I was looking for a quick recipe and decided on the Prizewinning Pecan Brownies. Now I have to confess I’m a boxed brownie gal (really embarrassing confession time – I’ve never made brownies from scratch before) but these brownies are the best ones I’ve ever eaten. Really. The best ones ever. I’d make another batch right now except then I’d eat the whole batch myself, so I’ll refrain.

Embarrassing confession #2 – even though these are supposed to be pecan brownies, I don’t care all that much for nuts in brownies and we didn’t have any pecans in the house so I skipped that ingredient altogether. Also, I love a bit of cinnamon along with the chocolate in brownies, so I added a half teaspoon of that to the recipe. This recipe alone is worth the price of the book, and this cookbook’s earned it’s place on the shelf!

Do you have the Dahlia Bakery cookbook? What do you think of it?

Mar 142013

I’m a cookbook junkie. I love to look through them, I love to get them for gifts, and I can’t pass a thrift store or yard sale without checking out their cookbook selection. I’ve got a bookcase overflowing with books. What I don’t seem to do much of, however, is cook from them. I’m a competent cook and I really enjoy cooking, but I rarely cook from a recipe and when I do I usually turn to either the same few tried and true books or else the Internet.

I’ve got tons of books that I haven’t looked at in years, and another bunch I enjoy looking through but have never cooked from. I’ve got a hoarder mentality though when it comes to cookbooks so I can’t seem to give any away, even as I part easily with other books.

This Cook The Collection feature is born from my desire to get some use out of all these cookbooks, find some new favorites and hopefully break the bonds with some old duds. I’ve counted up and listed out all of the cookbooks, compilations of essays, food science books and foodie memoirs in my collection and the magic number is 152 (I counted anything that contained a recipe). What I propose is to cook one recipe from each book and get through the entire collection. Of course, if I make one recipe a week it’ll take me just under three years, so maybe that’s a bit ambitious!

Here are some ground-rules I’ve established for myself:

1) one blog post per book / recipe. I may prepare a meal using three separate recipes but I will post each one alone.

2) I am not reviewing cookbooks per se. I will blog my impressions of each recipe and book but only as they pertain to me – I’m not going to judge whether others will or won’t like the cookbook or recipe.

3) I might modify the recipes to reflect my own cooking style, ingredients on hand, and family tastes. I’m not using these recipes as cooking lessons but as guides to prepare a certain dish. I also will not be publishing the recipes in each post in order to protect the authors copyrights- I’ll talk about the dish and include my own photographs but the reader will have to seek out the cookbook on their own in order to try out the recipe.

4)  Any new books that come into my collection will be added to the project total.

5) The link to each cookbook leads to Amazon, where I have an affiliate agreement. If a reader does decide to purchase the cookbook via the link, this site will receive a modest commission from the sale.

What do you think of this idea? I’d love to hear your comments! Also, what is the one cookbook you can’t live without?

I’ve also shared this post at some of these great link parties – check ’em out!
Mar 112013

Each year on Easter Sunday our extended family gathers and one of the highlights of the day is the Easter Egg hunt. We do one egg hunt for everyone and one just for the little kids and of course its loads of fun. The only downside is that the kids end up with too much Easter candy, so I’m always looking for ways to stuff the mounds of plastic Easter eggs with something else. A few weeks ago I came across a post on Make the Best of Everything that got the wheels turning in my mind – a puzzle divided up into plastic eggs that the kids would assemble together. She used one large puzzle for all the children, but since we’ve got young kids who are still learning about collaborating I decided individual puzzles would be better – plus then they’ll each go home with a whole puzzle. I’m going to mix up the pieces between eggs so that they’ll need to figure out which pieces go to their puzzle and trade between cousins.

Now here’s the step-by-step guide to creating your own homemade Easter puzzle for your Easter egg hunt!

Step 1.  Find a puzzle to use. I bought these wood puzzles at Dollar Tree – they’re 25 piece puzzles so they’re not so daunting for young kids. You could also recycle a puzzle you already have, or look for blank puzzles at a craft store. If you decide to use blank puzzles you can obviously skip the next step.

Step 2. Paint the puzzles white (or whichever background color you’d like to use). I used acrylic craft paint and a brush, but spray paint would be super quick and easy as well. Let the paint dry before moving on to the next step.

Step 3. Paint your background images – I used a variety of stripes and dots so that each puzzle piece had more than one color. Again, let the paint dry.

Step 4. Paint your foreground images – I copied some Easter bunny and bird silhouettes freehand with pencil onto the puzzle and then filled them in with white – you could easily use a stencil as well. I added each child’s name for more detail during this step too.

Step 5. Separate the puzzle pieces. The puzzles were pretty stuck together from all the paint between the pieces so I broke them very carefully and also needed to use a craft knife in some places to cut through the paint layer. Just be careful if you use a sharp knife – it was sometimes hard to stay exactly in the grooves between the puzzle pieces.

Step 6. I used extra fine sandpaper (320 grit) to sand the edges of the pieces so that they would fit together more easily. Since the puzzles I used were cheap they didn’t fit together that well in the first place and the paint made it worse (You could skip this step but I was trying to eliminate the possibility of frustrated puzzle builders on Easter).

Step 7. Divide up the pieces into plastic Easter eggs. Make sure that you buy the large size eggs so the pieces fit – I bought these Easter eggs at Dollar Tree and I put three pieces in each egg. Of course you could put 2 or 1 piece in each egg instead, but even with 3 its 25 eggs for us (plus some candy-filled eggs of course).

If you make Easter puzzles, leave me a comment with a link to your site – I’d love to see them! Also, do you have any other non-candy ideas for Easter morning?

I’ve shared this post at these great link parties – check ’em out! Skip To My Lou, Tumbleweed Contessa, Salt Tree, Nap Time Creations, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia Coastal Charm, Sweet Little Gals, Today’s Creative Blog, Ladybug Blessings, Inside BruCrew Life, Sugar Bee Crafts, New Nostalgia, Not Just A Housewife, JAQS Studio, Lil’ Luna, Creations By Kara, Lady Behind The Curtain, My Girlish Whims, The Trendy Treehouse, Ginger Snap Crafts, Ducks ‘N A Row, Ivy and Elephants, {Primp}, Savvy Southern Style, The NY Melrose Family, Polkadots on Parade, My World – Made by Hand, Someday Crafts, Busy Bees, Yesterday on Tuesday, Momnivore’s Dilemma, Chocolate Chocolate and More, The Crafty Blog Stalker, House of Hepworths, Seven Thirty-Three, Consider Me Inspired, The Style Sisters, The 36th Avenue, Bear Rabbit Bear, Seven-Alive, Fireflies and Jellybeans, Artsy-Fartsy Mama, Becoming Martha, The Shabby Nest, My Romantic Home, Simply Sweet Home, Ladybird Ln, 504 Main, Crafty Scrappy Happy, Liz Marie Blog, Petals to Picots, Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons, See Vanessa Craft, Diana Rambles, Happy and Blessed Home, A Vision to Remember, Six Sisters’ Stuff, Serenity Now, The Gingerbread Blog,Tatertots and Jello, One Artsy Mama, Its Overflowing, Too Much Time, Or So She Says, Nifty Thrifty Things, Flamingo Toes, Life on Lakeshore Drive, Three Mango Seeds, Project Inspire,