Saturday, April 28, 2012

M K 's Wham Bam cookies !

In honor of my one year anniversary with Mary Kay (even though we all know my whole life has actually been Mary Kay) ;) , I've decided to share with you one of my favorite Mary Kay Ash recipes from her personal cookbook! These were here favorite "go-to" cookies when she was having guests or inviting top directors into her home for a "career coffee." (there's some old school terminology for ya!) These are truly the easiest of easy cookies to make, and I always feel so special making them, knowing that one of my biggest life heroes made them all the time. You'll get a little feel for what made Mary Kay Ash, well, Mary Kay... simple, beautiful and so inviting.

You'll only need 5 ingredients:

  • 2 sticks butter softened, salted is best to offset some of the sweetness
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar! Once well mixed, add the egg. Now in a smaller bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda. Once that's stirred together well, add it to the creamed mixture and stir!
For the true Mary Kay way, add a few drops of red food coloring... just 'til the mixture is rosy! ;)
These things are buttery enough all on their own so don't worry about greasing your cookie sheets. Make the dough into tiny little balls, about 1 inch. Now, you can either pop them in the oven as is or..
for the true Mary Kay way, put some flour on a little plate, get out a cup, place the bottom of the cup in the flour and "wham bam" on top of each cookie to flatten them a bit! But only one "wham bam" you don't want them too thin! Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of this process, but you get the drift right?
Bake for 4 minutes and bring them out! Let cool for about a minute and then remove them from the cookie sheet to keep them from baking longer! This recipe yields 100 cookies... yes... ONE HUNDRED COOKIES, so watch out. You'll think you haven't eaten any when really you demolished twenty. ;)
Mary Kay always said, "Everyone has an invisible sign hanging around the neck saying, 'Make me feel important'."

Why not make someone else feel important today... gosh, with ONE HUNDRED COOKIES on your hands, why not make FIVE people feel important today? You've got the time, I'm sure of it... they only take 10 minutes. So go ahead, spread a little Mary Kay enthusiasm today, and don't forget to reward yourself with a few, as well! :)
[the day I "pinned" myself with my Mary Kay pin one year ago]

Happy Anniversary to me and happy Wham Bamming to you!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cheese & Wine . . . yes please !

Who needs to prepare an actual dinner when you can just fancy up a few pretty trays with cheese and some well paired bottles of wine? I'd take that over a slaved over meal any day! Maybe it's because mom and dad loved (still love) taking us to Europe. Maybe it's because my husband is Australian and the most laid back human being I know. Or maybe it's because I have deep seeded heritage in the traditions of family gathering around the table for a simple meal of the staples: bread, cheese, olive oil and wine. I could write for YEARS, I'm sure, on this topic alone... and I probably will always interrupt our regularly scheduled foodie posts for the sake of cheesy conversation... (get it?) ;) so I'll keep it short and sweet today, knowing that it will most definitely not be my last post about my most favorite sort of meal.
Last weekend, two of my friends and I had our first girl's night in a LONG time. They invited me over for "snacks" and I offered to bring a new bottle of Barbera that I had just discovered. Well, I arrive to their BEAUTIFULLY decorated and candlelit home and I'm totally halted and the sight on the table. They'd prepared a gorgeous, shiny, fancy tray of assorted cheeses and perfectly complimentary melons, olives, crusty, delicious bread, crackers, oils and beautiful plates to decorate with the delights. I was immediately at home and with family. Is that crazy? Does that happen to anyone else? Seriously, the sight of that table, with the comforts of those few staple elements made me feel immediately like this was my home, too. I was relaxed, I was happy, and I knew we were going to have great, intimate conversations just like families do, simply because we were partaking in an age- old tradition of sharing a simple meal of these particular things. Yeah, I love cheese and I love wine... but it's very much an emotional thing, too. The point is, if you don't already do this on a regular basis, get into it. Experience the joy and simplicity of it. I have a feeling something inside you will connect in a way you may not be expecting.

Do you feel warm and cozy yet? I do just revisiting these photos! So here's the basics:

Serve a variety of different cheeses: different shapes, different textures, different regions... those are all important, in my opinion, for experiencing an array of different flavors and being able to keep things interesting in lieu of not serving an "actual meal."
Serve items that well compliment each selection of cheese: for example, if you're serving an extra sharp cheddar and a smooth, rich brie, don't just serve grapes to compliment "the cheese," serve toasted almonds and walnuts to compliment the brie and crisp green apples to compliment the cheddar.
Serve wine that will compliment your cheese selections: even if it means serving more than one type of wine... you want the wine to either pair well with or contrast the cheese. sometimes, the contrast of a  sweet, full-bodied dessert wine to the strong bleu cheese veins is the perfect way to taste the complexity of the cheese. But a sweet wine won't pair very well with a sharp cheddar! So have an acidic, crisp white to pair with as well! Are you on a budget? Have a guest bring a bottle! That way, you're only providing one or two!
Always, always, always serve olive oil: to complement the bread, to complement the cheese, to complement the wine, to stick a straw in a drink! Just have it. Extra virgin is the only way to go. If you think it's not affordable, think again. head to Trader Joe's.

So what are you waiting for?! Next time you're perusing the grocery aisles and you see that FANCY, intimidating round case of world cheeses, approach it with confidence! Be adventurous! Always wanted to try that crumbly Parmesan- Reggiano? Dying to sink your teeth into that perfect white ball of Mozzarella? DO IT! Pick up a few complimentary produce items along the way and imagine how fabulous your evening is going to be around the table.

Great food, great friends, great conversation... isn't that what life's about? 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring Bread Pudding

Happy Saturday, friends! Is anyone else having to snuggle up in the corner of their favorite coffee shop because it's 49 degrees out... or is that just me?! Well, it just so happens that last night, I made the PERFECT chilly, spring comfort meal that will easily tide me over for 2 or 3 days until the chill wears off. It's a spin off recipe of that one I posted a few weeks ago that I found in the Local Table magazine. I didn't have a LOT of the ingredients that it called for, but I remember thinking it was the best idea to make a savory bread pudding! I opened the fridge to my delight and found some fresh spring onions, some haricot verts, tomatoes, etc... time to go to work! :) I also had some bread that was about to go stale, but I HATE throwing away bread, so my heart was really happy that I put it to good use just in the  nick of time! (sorry robins that stalk my front patio... no snacks from the Rudders this week)

Here's what you need:... but remember, play around with the ingredients if you don't have all the same stuff!

  • Enough old-ish wheat or grainy bread chunks to fill up an 8x8 baking dish. I used two different breads.
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 spring onion with the green stalks... yes, you're gonna use those!
  • 1 & 1/2 cups milk... I used almond, as usual, but use whatever you want.
  • 4 eggs, beaten.
  • 1 handful of haricot verts, frozen or fresh. 
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • some sweet corn!
  • some sweet peas!
  • 1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
Right! Let's start... Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of your 8x8 baking dish and chunk up the bread pieces. Throw them in!
 Chop up the onion! Yes, chop the green stalk parts as well in small bits. Put the white part of the diced onion aside for now. Pour your milk in a skillet, toss in the green part of the onion and boil the milk until scalding. Then remove it from the heat and cover it. While the milk is waiting to boil, toss your white onion parts into a separate skillet with a little olive oil and wait for them to get translucent, about 5 minutes worth of cooking on medium heat.
Now start adding your other veggies to the onions and gently stir.
While the veggies are cooking, crack your eggs in a separate, small bowl and whisk them until blended.
 SLOWLY, and stirring constantly, pour the egg mixture into the milk and onion mixture. Remember what we're doing here? Tempering. You're adding the egg mixture to a hot liquid but slowly and stirring constantly, as to not cook the eggs! We learned this lesson when we were making avgolemono, remember? ;)
 Chop up your gorgonzola cheese, measure it out, and toss in the cooked veggies and onions and the cheese with the bread. Mix it in! You'll probably have to gently "lift and fluff" with tongs or a spoon to mix it all in... it'll be pretty full in that little dish.
 Remember: if you don't have gorgonzola, use feta! if you don't have feta, use goat's! etc.. etc...
 Now let's slowly pour the milk, egg and onion mixture over the whole thing. Then just gently "lift and fluff" again to just mix it all in.
 Bake it for 30 minutes, just until golden on the top and you're done!
 Look at that thing glistening with mouth watering goodness! This is a fairly rich and creamy like dish, so I'd say serve it with something chilled and crisp on the side, like a tomato salad or some fresh, citrusy fruit, like grapefruit! Enjoy for lunch or dish it up for dinner with a glass of your favorite Spring white wine! It's just so good and I know you'll make it more than once this season.

Lots and lots of love... and stay warm wherever you are!
I hear bread pudding helps. ;)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Pizza !

Yes, homemade buffalo bill filled goodness! James and I had magic hands in the kitchen last night and made TRULY the best buffalo chicken pizza we'd ever had. And you're gonna love making it, it's so easy. But before we dive in...

How great was my friend, Erin from Lovisa Photo? And how TASTY is that FUEGO?! Thank you again, Erin, for sharing your genius in the kitchen. We are forever grateful. (too much drama? i don't think so)

So here's what you need for this kickin' pizza: (for two)

  • 1 & 1/2 breast of chicken- grilled or baked in just olive oil.
  • 1 pizza base, either bought from Trader Joe's (or whatever secondary grocery you may have to use  ;) rude, i know, sorry.) or homemade... use our recipe if you'd like!
  • good, light tomato sauce... if you're using jar sauce, we suggest dicing up some fresh roma tomatoes in it as well.
  • white cheddar cheese, preferably sharp
  • crumbled bleu cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • one small yellow onion
  • 3 stalks of fresh, crunchy celery
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • all-purpose flour
  • Frank's Red Hot sauce
  • seasoned salt
First things first, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prep your pizza base. Lightly olive oil and flour your baking sheet and spread the pizza dough out. Top with your tomato sauce and some chunky slices of white cheddar cheese. When the oven is ready, slip that baby in for about 10 minutes just to set the base and get that cheese nice and gooey.
While this is baking, warm up some olive oil in a skillet, chop your onion into nice skinny strips, throw them in the skillet and dust with seasoned salt. Let them cook on medium-low and get nice and soft. While those are cooking, chop up your celery and grate some of the white cheddar cheese.
 (not too chunky, not too fine for the celery)
Now, when your onions are lookin' good, add in a good few hefty splashes of Frank's Red Hot and stir it in... yum!
At this point, your pizza base should be ready! Slice up the chicken into the size pieces you want, add in the 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet of onions and throw the chicken in. Mix it around well until the pieces are coated in all the onion-y, buffalo goodness.
Dollop around some more of the tomato sauce and top with the prepared buffalo chicken and onion mixture.
Now sprinkle around that grated white cheddar and top with the crumbled bleu cheese.
Pop it back in the oven for about 5 minutes, until everything just melts. (but don't wait for the crumbles of bleu cheese to totally melt, it's better if there's still some good chunky bits)
(are you kidding?)
And now for the finishing touch... add that celery all over for the best crunch.
And you're done! Slice it up and dish it out and enjoy the fiery, bite-y, fresh crunch-filled goodness of your homemade delight. We suggest washing it down with a Dos Perros and a smile.
Warning: you may need a tissue and you'll definitely need a knife and fork.

Enjoy. ;)