Holiday Cookie Exchange

I’ve got to apologize for my terrible radio silence this past week. With Christmas in full swing I’ve been so tied up with planning my Company Holiday Party and now my own Holiday Party that I’ve pretty much ignored Fox And A Parasol.

I have however been busy baking some cookies and other tasty treats (as well as re-visiting a few favorites) and I should have some new posts pretty soon.

Speaking of cookies, this year I’m hosting my first ever cookie exchange! I don’t know how I’ve managed to go so long without ever taking part in one of these and while I’m pretty stoked, I’m also a little stumped on what to make.

I’ve got a few ideas but if anyone has a tried and true holiday cookie recipe I’m all ears.

Idea #1: Almond SnowballsMy Recipes

Photo Courtesy of Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Idea #2: Chocolate CrinklesSimply Recipes

Photo Courtesy of Simply Recipes & Garrett McCord

Idea #3: Candy Cane BlossomsBaked Perfection

Photo Courtesy of Risa of Baked Perfection

Yours Truly,

Mel


A Beautiful Morning

In the midst of all the holiday craziness it’s really easy for me to get caught up in presents, decorations, parties and just the general holiday stuff.

That’s why when Mother Nature greeted me with this beautiful sight I took it as a little reminder. The holidays are the perfect time to spend with friends and family but it’s also important to just take a minute and breathe in the wonder of the season.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Yours Truly,

Mel


After Thanksgiving Check-in

I don’t know about you but my Thanksgiving Holidays are rarely relaxing and there always seems to be someplace to go and people to see.

The First Thanksgiving with my family

With Fourteen different desserts

My contribution to the count

A much smaller, more intimate Thanksgiving with The Husband’s family

Don’t get me wrong, that’s just how it is in our family but with Thanksgiving over we can finally move on to my most favorite holiday of the year; Christmas!

Now that it’s officially December 1st Christmas music will be playing in my car 24/7 and I can’t wait to start decorating. As an added bonus I’m almost done with my shopping and that just means it’ll be all about wrapping (which I really love too).

Yours Truly,

Mel


SF Cooking School: Day 4

This class on Salads and Emulsified Sauces was probably the one in which I’ve learned the most to date. I has no idea what an emulsified sauce was (hint: mayo and vinaigrette are two really big ones) and I had fun making homemade mayo although I think I prefer the stuff in a jar and a tangy, peppery vinaigrette.

We also had the chance to experiment with different oils and I got the opportunity to work with ones that I’d never even heard of; avocado, hazelnut or grapeseed anyone?

The menu for today’s class started with these items:

Appetizer: Zucchini Fritters

Salads: Chinese Chicken Salad, Clementine Jicama Salad, Harvest Salad with Gorgonzola, Bacon and Concord Grapes & Fall Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash, Kale Chips and Persimmons

Entree: Seared Flank Steak with Romesco Sauce

Dessert: Ginger Pear Upside Down Cake (totally simple and crazy delicious when served with sour cream, it sounds odd but it compliments the sweetness of the cake really well)

And then since we polished everything off in about an hour (give or take) our Instructor for the day, Kirsten gave us a few more items to make:

Appetizer: Petit Gougeres with Gruyere

Dessert: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Browned Butter

I had no idea there could be so many possibilities when it comes to vinaigrettes and Kirsten was right; I’m probably never going to buy store bought dressings again.

Yours Truly,

Mel


SF Cooking School: Day 3

I’m a little behind, since I’m going to be attending my 5th day of class tonight but really when am I not running behind?

Day 3 was all about stocks and soups and before class I was really stoked to learn about everything. I had no idea there were light and dark stocks and I even got to have my very first encounter with a pressure cooker when I helped make the Burmese Chicken Coconut Soup.

It was finally starting to get cold here and that meant that I was really looking forward to our tasty soups and the added bonus of some hot flaky biscuits!

Here’s the menu for the night:

Appetizer: Porcini [mushroom] and Pecan Pate (completely meatless but you’d swear it tasted like meat)

Soup/Stock: Classic New England Fish Chowder (Fish Stock), French Onion Soup (Dark Stock), Burmese Chicken Coconut Soup (Blonde Stock), Tomato Soup in Puff Pastry & Vegetable Stock.

Side: Buttermilk Biscuits

Dessert: Raspberry Frozen Yogurt with Almond Melt Away Cookies (*btw, super yummy!)

As always the flavors in everything were phenomenal, so fresh and so vibrant. I hate to be that person but the Burmese Chicken Coconut Soup  was probably my hands-down my favorite.

I can’t wait for tonight’s new lesson!

Yours Truly,

Mel


The Harvest Festival – San Mateo, CA

This year I’m trying to be extra good and get a jump on my christmas gift shopping and when I heard about the Harvest Festival at the San Mateo Event Center, I knew this was my sign. The Festival starts, today 11/14 and runs until Sunday, 11/16 and it’s hours are 10AM – 6PM (Friday and Saturday) and 10AM – 5PM on Sunday.

I’ve never been to the Harvest Festival but their website says that it’s,

“24,000 handmade American art & crafts in hundreds of booths, all day entertainment, and kids activity center. [The] Harvest Festival features hundreds of artisans exhibiting American handmade items including beautiful jewelry, clothing, specialty foods, photography, original art, hand-turned wood, music, ceramics and much more.

Enjoy three fun-packed days of shopping, stage and strolling entertainment, and festival food all for the price of one ticket. Remember to get your hand stamped to return as many times as you want without paying again.”

Tickets range from $4.00 for Youth (13 – 17), $7.00 for Seniors (62+) and $9.00 for General Admission and for 3 days, that’s not too shabby.  Plus if you bring a nonperishable food item with you to donate to Loaves and Fish you can get $2 off a Senior or General Admission. If you’re free this weekend and have a few hours to burn it not be a bad way to spend your afternoon.

Yours Truly,

Mel


A “No Egg” Smash Cake

I recently had the honor of making a smash cake for a friend’s daughter, Ellie’s 1st Birthday and I couldn’t have been more flattered with the request and pleased with the result.

A few weeks before the big event I was told that the little Miss Ellie was actually allergic to eggs and my friend hoped that wouldn’t be a problem. Not a problem at all and it really wasn’t. There have been a few times where I haven’t had enough eggs for a recipe and if that ever happens to you it’s pretty easy to substitute unsweetened applesauce, oil or bananas. In my case the recipe called for 4 eggs so I broke it up and used 2/3 C. of unsweetened applesauce and 1 medium sized banana and THIS recipe.

Since there weren’t any eggs in the recipe the cakes themselves didn’t rise too much but that was okay, with a little bit of whipped cream and four layers (I cut each cake in half) it came out to just the right height.

Don’t let the frosting deceive you, it may look complicated but I promise that it might just be the easiest cake you’ve ever frosted. If you want a tutorial this ONE by Alicia of Thrifty & Chic is pretty spot on and easy to follow.

The day of the party, the cake looked fantastic and my friend did a great job decorating without making everything too matchy, matchy.

And that’s how you know the cake was a success.

Before:

After:

Yours Truly,

Mel


SF Cooking School: Day 2

This week the focus was on starter and appetizers and man, there was so much food! Our menu was super ambitious for 16 people with 2 hours to cook but we did it and we whipped out 11 different items ranging from soups to sliders to plum cake for dessert. The format changed a bit and instead of focusing on make a single dish we rotated station so that every person got to work on at least 3 different dishes.

I didn’t really learn that much new information but I did leave very full and very happy AND I even have some great new ideas for the upcoming holiday season so that’s something.

Here’s the menu from our second class:

Soup: Cream of Chestnut & Celery Soup Shooters

Appetizers: Crostini with Tapenade and Goat Cheese, Roasted Butternut Squash and Gruyere Turnovers, Bloody Mary Deviled Eggs, Scallion Pancakes with Spicy Soy Dipping Sauce, Prosciutto and Gruyere Palmiers, Seattle Salmon Cakes, Meatball Sliders, Ceviche with Lime and Herbs served with Fresh Pita Chips & Spicy Thai Chicken Wings

Dessert: Plum Wine Cake with Grapes

I think my favorite one was the turnovers but you tell me, didn’t that all look mouth-wateringly good?

Yours Truly,

Mel



6 Last-Minute Halloween Treat Ideas

I don’t know if you’ve been feeling like me this week but I’ve been dragging. I’ve had zero energy to do anything and with Halloween tomorrow (eek!) and a Halloween party on Saturday I’ve got to play a little catch up.

Luck for me my costume is pretty easy and only requires a few tweaks (with a little help from my trusty glue gun) AND I just happen to have a few tasty treats you can whip together for Halloween too!

1. Vampire Donuts

I did these last year and I absolutely loved them. These were quick, easy and pretty darn cute.

2. Mummy Hot Dogs

Thinking something a little more savory and a lot more filling? These hot dogs wrapped in biscuits may be just what you’re looking for.

Photo Courtesy of Damn Delicious

3. Candy Coated Marshmallows

I’m a sucker for anything that has marshmallows in it and these candy coated pumpkin inspired marshmallows are no exception

Photo Courtesy of Smile Monsters

4. Witches’ Broom

When we had our little Halloween Party last year I made these and they really are ridiculously easy

Photo Courtesy of The Kitchen Magpie

5. Witches’ Hats

Almost as easy as the brooms these little cookies require minimal effort and will make a great addition to any party. All you need is: Hershey Kisses, Fudge Stripe Cookies, Sprinkles and Icing and you’re done.

Photo Courtesy of My House and Home

6. Spider Deviled Eggs

What’s Halloween without a spiders? Everyone knows how to make deviled eggs but these little olive spiders really add a little bit of creepy to these good, old favorites

Photo Courtesy of She Knows

Hope these nummies are getting you excited for Halloween tomorrow because it’ll be here all too soon!

Yours Truly,

Mel