Mocktails

When pregnant, especially in the early weeks, most people try and keep it a secret and for good reason. You never know what can happen in those first precious months of creating a life. We didn’t end up telling anyone until we passed the 10 week mark and in those 10 weeks I avoided quite a few happy hours and other ‘drinking centered activities’. It actually wasn’t that hard or that bad, it would have just been an immediate clue to all of our friends that we were pregnant. The few times we did go out to dinner I think at least one of our friends figured it out…. which is why I think everyone should know a few Mocktail recipes!

Mocktails are just a fun word for virgin ‘cocktails’ and hopefully a little more creative than just leaving out the ingredient that makes an alcoholic beverage what it is. You’ll have to order from the bartender to keep it a total surprise, but hopefully your partner can help with this! It’s a fun item for non-drinkers and may send you to the grocery store craving something besides lemonade on a hot day.

Now, so you don’t have any misconceptions, I’m no heavy drinker. I do love a glass of wine with dinner, and it’s what I’ve missed most. This is the product of living an hour and a half away from wine country for eight years of life and having a fairly large collection of good wine. It’s just sitting in the cabinet waiting with me for a few more weeks. Michael is also excited to break out the bottles again because a good bottle of wine should be shared and appreciated by more than one person. I also enjoy a handful of tequila drinks and thank my Meemaw for a love of vodka (not gin) gimlets, a favorite old lady drink of mine. Because I’m weirdly in love with grapefruits I also enjoy Greyhounds, Salty Dogs (a greyhound with a salted rim) and the drink you should really order instead of a margarita when you go to Mexico, the Paloma.

We hosted a dinner at our new place recently and invited a few of Michael’s co-workers (hopefully we get to call them new friends) and old friends from college. Since there were two pregnant ladies, we requested someone bring a non-alcoholic beverage to share and oh my was it delicious. A mix of fresh squeezed lime juice, homemade simple syrup and sparkling water. It’s basically a fresh sparkling limeade but also reminds me of drinking a margarita. Tart and delicious, I will probably keep making these long beyond pregnancy. They would be a perfect addition to any summer BBQ.

Sparkling Limeade

And then there is the grapefruit obsession again. I frequently have grapefruit juice on hand. I like that it’s not as sweet as orange juice or apple juice which may surprise you since I have a major sweet tooth (or a full set of sweet pearly whites). If we were going out for drinks and I knew the bar had fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (thank you San Francisco for meeting all expectations in cocktail making) I’d just order a juice. Sometimes it was about the same price as a cheap well drink but what did I care? It was delicious and made me happier than just drinking water all of the time. In honor of my love for grapefruit and Palomas, I made this Mocktail to share.

grapefruit fizz

There really is no limit when it comes to inventing a new drink. Make your own simple syrups, muddle up some fresh fruit and create something great. Now, go out and enjoy a fresh sparkling beverage whether you’re pregnant or not.

 

 

 

Ice Cream Sundaes and Life Updates

It’s been a while since I posted, which usually means life got busy. May was a crazy month! We celebrated Michael’s 30th. Michael’s parents came to visit and we took them on one of our favorite hikes at Stinson Beach, Steep Ravine to Matt Davis loop. We hiked again the next weekend just for fun and exercise near Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands. In June, we celebrated our 7 year anniversary with traditional yearly photos and dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the city, Frances! (try the grilled squid, it’s exquisite). Took two Architecture licensing exams. Played in the water with my nephews. Spent some time in the woods over July 4th weekend with friends. Ran a 10K with a friend. And are currently planning a trip to Europe in September! I’ve been baking intermittently too. A lot of baking doesn’t get photographed though. I do want to take pictures of things, especially the ones I haven’t posted about, but I also bake a lot of things late at night for the next day which leaves little time to take pretty photos.

Michael turns 30

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7 Year Anniversary

Heart "Ring of Fire"

jackson

tyler

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This past week, I worked on an Ice Cream Sundae Party Kit that I donated as part of an AIDS Walk fundraiser. Gensler has a very active team of people who help raise money each year for the AIDS walk. There are bake sales and they also host a silent auction of items donated by vendors and people in the firm. They range from something small like my Sundae Party to huge items like a weekend stay in Palm Springs or plane tickets for anywhere in the US. This year they raised over 11,000 from these events.

The lucky winner of my kit requested today for his delivery date. It was so much fun to put together and I really hope they enjoy it! It included a bunch of things I’ve made before. Sometime I try new recipes but I stuck with the tried and true just to be safe! The kit included Chocolate Chocolate chip Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, dark chocolate brownies, salted caramel sauce, homemade chocolate sauce, cherries, whipped cream, toasted pecans and bananas. Who doesn’t love an ice cream sundae? This would be so fun for a kids party too, and no one says to have to make everything by hand, I’m just crazy. Remember presentation is half the battle. I wrapped each brownie in natural colored waxed paper and the rest went into jars. Red and white bakers twine and labels tied everything together.

sundae kit

Happy Summer!

a Spring(erle) in his step

We visited Michael’s Grandparents in Great Bend Kansas for part of our Christmas vacation and my it was cold! Michael’s Grandma, Beverly, has carried on many of the family Christmas traditions originating in Austria and a good chunk of these traditions are tasty ones. There are three specific traditions I have experienced so far: no meat on Christmas Eve, Strietzel, and Springerles. I welcomed Strietzel into my belly soon after Michael and I started dating. It’s kind of like fruit cake in bread form and I love it. It’s weird with those candied fruit bits and dense – but delicious slightly chilled with a thin schmear of butter. It’s also the one item Michael and I agree is fantastic. Grandpa eats this bread on Christmas Eve accompanied by shrimp cocktail and the infamous cheese ball and crackers (and pretty much every day for breakfast until it disappears). The tradition Michael loves most is a little cookie called a Springerle. Michael just ran out of his stash in early January, savoring them as long as humanly possible. They are not nearly as good when they’re crisp but Michael may argue that.

Townsends

Last Christmas Grandma gave the entire family a lesson in Springerle Craft. She is an amazing woman and I hope you can find some time to watch the video we made. The recipe is incredibly simple with few ingredients, but tricky indeed. I’m especially grateful we have this video because the Springerle is one tradition I’d like to carry on, and I have a feeling I’ll need as much help from Grandma as possible. YouTube is a good second runner-up to teleportation.

Over the past ten years, I’ve grown to like Springerles. I must confess I detested the first bite of Springerle I tried and Michael probably thought “more for me”. If there is one thing I learned over the years is the Springerle inspires sneaking and taunting. All in good spirits mind you. The cookies also inspire a love/hate relationship and I’m finally  beginning to love them. There is a Great Townsend Divide when it comes to who likes them and who doesn’t. I prefer them less Anise-y. The texture is incredible; they are crisp on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside.  I have a feeling I’ll really like them when I make my own, but I’ll have to make two batches because Michael will not be happy with my wimpy cookies.

We have an assortment of antique cookie cutters from Grandma and Michael got the special rabbit shape in his stocking this year. Rabbits are the best because they are the biggest. I finally I bought everything I need to make a batch and I’m hoping all baking ammonia is created equal because I bought mine from Amazon. I think I’ll practice a few batches before May so I’ve mastered them by Michael’s 30th birthday! Hurray for Springerles and Happy Family Traditions!

Springerle
Emilie Peschka Komarek

4 large eggs
1 lb powdered sugar
4 drops anise oil (Grandma Bev uses 6-8)
baking ammonia on the tip of a knife
flour, about 4 cups

Beat the eggs until thick, about 10 minutes. Add powdered sugar gradually and continue to beat for several more minutes. Drop the 4 (or more) drops anise oil during this process. If the baking ammonia is not finely pulverized, grind it between two spoons and mix it in with the first flour added. Add more flour until the dough is firm and well mixed. Shape in a ball, roll out about ¼” thick. Smooth with back of hand. Cut into shapes with cutters.

Place on a lightly floured surface to dry for about 8 hours. Cover lightly if desired.

Heat oven to 325˚F. Place cookie sheets in oven until hot. Remove and “grease” them with paraffin. Dust cookies [remove as much flour as possible] and place on cooled sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly brown on the bottom. The cookies will not spread but double in height. Time will depend on thickness and size. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store tightly covered. Flavor will develop after about 2 days. If not covered the cookies will become very hard!

Notes from Grandma Bev:
Baking ammonia was available in drugstores but is now available in specialty shops (like the spice merchant in Wichita). [I got mine from Amazon.]

The “tip of the knife” I translated to a scant ¼ tsp. 1 tsp baking powder may be substituted, but we purist think the ammonia is better. It is also called hartshorn.

If a Springerle rolling pin or press is used, the dough should be rolled thicker to accommodate. Grandma Komarek did not use a press, only cutters. These cookies were always baked for Christmas, and I am sure that Cecilia Komarek Goetzel Miller baked them as well although I never knew her.

i feel incredibly loved

My husband may be the most thoughtful man on earth. I hope everyone finds a “Michael” if they’re looking for one. He is intelligent, quirky (though mostly behind closed doors), an amazing designer and photographer, and incredibly thoughtful. We are coming … Continue reading

Merry Merry Gingerbread Men

I wish there was a magical recipe generator that combined the best recipes on one website… then I would waste less time looking through hundreds of recipes! Until this exists, I will trust a tried and true method… asking friends. My friend Nicole suggested I make a recipe for gingerbread cookies from Not Without Salt (a fantastic blog by the way). Nicole and I would make a mean baking duo if we lived in the same city again….

When I read through the recipe I was nervous about the amount of black pepper. I like spiced cookies, but was a little unsure of spicy cookies. Nicole assured me they were great, so in the end I used about half of the black pepper called for just to be sure. I made gingerbread cookies for a dinner party we had with some friends. I thought it would be fun to decorate them all together and it was! I’d like to make this into a tradition, decorating cookies that is, no matter who comes to the table. Traditions give meaning to otherwise meaningless baking and I think creating a tradition of gingerbread cookie decorating would be great.

(I added only 1 tsp of black pepper)

Happy Halloween

I love Halloween! I don’t have kids, and I’m thankful San Francisco doesn’t put an age limit on dressing up. Michael and I went with some friends on Wednesday to an underground restaurant/costume party at a “haunted” house in Alamo Square hosted by Stag Dining Group. We paraded through a gigantic house-turned boarding school-turned artist studio/event rental complete with a larger than life size painting of Michael Jackson in full Thriller get-up. Oh, and loads of gorgeous glitter paintings. Yes, I said glitter and gorgeous in the same sentence! Artist Rene Garcia Jr. is a genius with glitter. My limited experience with glitter involved a bottle of Elmer’s Glue….

We jumped from dark rooms into dark hallways to scare other diners in a creepy empty top floor, and walked through a staged “Haunted House.” We also drank some interesting cocktails by Cocktail Lab complete with basil seeds and rum that look and feel texturally like you are chewing on eyeballs. They also made a “Hannibal Lecter;”a whisky sour with chianti poured over a spoon on top to keep the colors separated, which I liked much more than the first.

The chef’s behind the Stag Dining Group created a great menu for the night:
Crab Puffs – Togarashi, lemon
Roasted Beets & Carrots – goat cheese mousse, preserved lemon-honey vinaigrette, rye crumble
Squid Ink Chowda – lobster, kabocha squash, clams
Baby-Back Ribs – smoked maple glaze, apple celery root slaw
“Drumstick” – dark and stormy brownie, rum ice cream, waffle cone 
I can’t complain much about the food, only a little about the timing. It was fun and provided a good test run of the costumes. 
Saturday I spent a majority of the day decorating the house with spider webs and fake plastic spiders for our grown-up Halloween party. I also tried a new recipe for sugar cookies. They are super soft and puffy and very much like the kind you buy in the grocery store… you know, the round ones with sprinkles coordinating with every holiday. The recipe is great. The cookies are not overly sweet and pair well with the buttercream frosting. I prefer buttercream on cookies as opposed to royal icing decorated cookies – the buttercream tastes so much better. The recipe I tried came from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen and I didn’t change a thing (except on the second batch I rolled them a bit less than 1/4″). The general consensus was good and Michael really liked them. I believe his exact words were, “Those cookies are the Bomb!” Then we laughed and high-fived. This is the key to a good marriage. 
Hopefully I’ll get to hand out some candy to neighborhood kiddies this year since we have a front door! I think I’ll refrain from my creepy Black Swan costume as well… no need to terrify the little ones. 

Happy Halloween!

Apple Fritters

I’ve always enjoyed apple season. We used to go and pick apples at Stephenson’s Orchard as a family when I was young. My sister and I would climb the trees to get some of the best apples from the tops. I have fond memories of blue rimmed heart shaped sunglasses during these adventures. Yeah 80’s. I don’t think you were supposed to climb the trees but we were little and probably light enough it didn’t matter. We picked a ton of apples, mostly Jonathan apples, and stored them in a fridge in the garage. I miss the convenience of having an extra fridge or freezer. I don’t know if the orchard still exists for picking in the Kansas City area, but the restaurant that had some of the best apple desserts does not. I was always fascinated by their caramel apples, and still am to this day. I’ll be making my own soon so don’t fret. I also have a special place in my heart for fried dough balls filled with apple chunks. 



I picked a variety of recipes for the month of September for the Easy Bake cOven blog but I chose to make the fritters first. I usually get around to making quite a few of the recipes but these were calling me. Michael asked why I bought so many apples at Trader Joe’s when we got back from our NYC trip, my response was baking. It’s usually baking when I buy an excess of one particular ingredient. Unless butter is on sale… 



I don’t fry things often. Sometimes Michael and I will make tortilla chips if we’re out and have nothing but corn tortillas, but this is the extent. Desserts are excessive to start and I feel worse eating something fried. Doughnuts fall in this category. I love doughnuts but don’t have them often. Guilty pleasures. I really enjoyed these little fried dough balls. Simple and quick yet small enough you don’t feel bad eating a few. 



Apple Fritters
Pioneer Woman
I halved the recipe and it made about 2 dozen ping pong ball sized fritters. 


2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
3 T sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
3/4 C milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 T melted butter
2 whole granny smith apples peeled and diced
powdered sugar for dusting

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Melt the butter in a large liquid measuring cup and add the milk, egg and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until little flour remains. Add in the apples and stir to combine. 


Heat a couple of inches of canola oil over medium heat. I kept my oil temperature around 325˚F and the fritters took about three minutes each. Using a small cookie scoop, drop a few blobs of dough into the hot oil, don’t overcrowd or your oil will not stay consistently hot. Flip them over to insure even golden brown and test your first batch to make sure they are evenly cooked. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with powdered sugar for eating. 

Apricot Blueberry Cobbler

The other night I blew up a pyrex in my kitchen. I realize now I shouldn’t put my trust in a brand name that has been around forever, claiming you can transfer your bakeware from freezer to oven and such. I could trust something made in the 1920’s but not recently. They changed the glass product from borosilicate glass to soda-lime glass which can’t handle the swing in temperatures and results in a shatter. I lost some good pastry cream and spent way too much time cleaning little glass shards out of my kitchen. Note to bakers: don’t use pyrex on the stovetop (and definitely use caution in the oven with change in temperature). This little disaster put a bit of a hold on my baking for a while. I remade my pastry cream and finished a birthday tart for my office, but since then, I haven’t been baking much. sigh.


Kitchen disaster behind, I decided to use some new ramekins to make individual apricot blueberry cobblers. Sugar Dough was the monthly recipe for June over at the Easy Bake cOven  and since I had some very ripe fruits in my fridge, I put together this incredibly simple dessert.


I think most people are more familiar with cobbler that has a fruit filling and a sugar dough topping. Sugar dough may range from a biscuity dough to a thick crumble, and even hunks of bread. The sugar dough recipe we used came from the restaurant stove in Portsmouth, Virginia. I was reading a blog post the other day and someone said they were skeptical of restaurants who published their recipes. Would they leave something out? Why would they reveal their secrets to ordinary people? Well, I can’t tell you the answers to these questions, but I’m glad that some restaurants are confident enough to do it. I have a feeling knowing Stove’s recipe will not keep Sarah & Eric from going back! Thanks for picking this recipe, it was fantastic!

Mini Fruit Cobbler 
you can use any stone fruit or fruits that won’t obliterate when cooked


for one 10 oz ramekin:
slice 3 small fruits into a buttered ramekin
add 2 tablespoons blueberries
break up 1 scant tablespoon of butter and distribute evenly
sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top
top with sugar dough and press lightly into the fruit (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)
set ramekins on a baking sheet
bake for 20-25 minutes at 350˚F or until the fruit is bubbly

Stove’s Sugar Dough
This is not a dough for rolling, you have to pat this dough out into the pan your using for dessert. It’s rich and wonderful and can also be made into a short bread as well. I have even used it for bottoms of pans mixed with pecans and then a cake batter over that for a crunch factor. Just don’t over mix it or you will have some good rubber dough

1 cup white sugar, baker’s sugar if you can find it
1lb unsalted double A butter
6 cups of all purpose flour, (unbleached and without chemicals if possible, King Arthur is good stuff and easy to find)

In the bowl of a 4 to 6qt. mixer cream the sugar and butter until light and somewhat fluffy. Stop the machine, scrape down sides and add all at once 6 cups of flour, raise the bowl and on the lowest speed blend the dough until it pulls together. If it’s winter and your environment isn’t warm you may need to spray from a mister water a little at a time till the dough starts to combine. Pinch a bit of dough to see if it will hold together, if so it’s ready for use. 

this dough stores in the refrigerator for a week or so. It also makes a ton, so feel free to half the recipe.

Low-Fat Blueberry Coffee Cake

I use the Whole Foods Recipes app for my iPhone a lot. The format is great. You can search for foods on hand, or in a certain category (vegan, slow cooker, quick and simple…) which I find is a huge help for making quick meal plans. I have a couple other apps for recipes but this one I use the most. I keep recipes bookmarked in my “Favorites” tab and have a fairly dynamic collection. I finally made the time to try this recipe recently and am very happy with the results. 
I happened to be babysitting the day I decided to make this coffee cake and finished up the prep with a one-and-a-half-year-old on my hip. He seemed mesmerized by my one handed mixing, all the while educating him on each ingredient I was using. He also liked to peek in the oven window with me to check the progress. Thankfully, amid the distractions of the wee one running amuck in a non-baby-proof house, the coffee cake turned out stunning. 
The cake has a much lighter crumb topping than most coffee cakes (remember it’s low-fat) but the almonds help give texture. There is hardly any fat in the recipe, so the moisture comes from fat free yogurt. Michael says you can tell it’s low-fat but he is also not a big fan of blueberries. The girls in my office liked it a lot and I enjoyed it as well. I’d definitely make it again and recommend serving it to guests. It’s fast to put together and friendly for your summer bikini body. 

Low-Fat Blueberry Coffee Cake
from Whole Foods Recipes

2 C fresh or frozen and thawed blueberries divided
1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C plain non-fat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 C sliced almonds

for the topping:
2 T whole wheat flour
1/4 C brown sugar
2 T butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside. Mix together the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl with your fingers until it you have pea sized clumps.

Whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Combine yogurt, eggs, and vanilla in another small bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Add half the blueberries and smooth into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter and add the remaining blueberries. Top with the almonds. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and remove the sides of the pan. Let cool another 20 minutes before serving. Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

You can also use a standard 12 tin muffin cup with liners instead of the springform pan. Reduce the baking time to 22-25 minutes.