Crochet Gifts for Baby

IMG_8885

Over the past few weeks there have been three new babies born into either our family or that of our friends. As I’ve mentioned before, I love to crochet and jumped to the opportunity to make blankets, hats, and shoes for the new little ones.

IMG_9184

For one of the baby girls, I made this sweet little set using a dark reddish pink as my primary color to step away from the traditional baby pink, and softened it with light pink and white accents.

IMG_9189

For a baby boy, I made a two colored blanket to resemble one large granny square. I was able to accomplish this look by using a very thick yarn. I love this emerald green color that also serves as a departure from the conventional baby blanket colors.

IMG_9193

For the second baby girl’s blanket, I used lavender and periwinkle squares with white trim to tie both colors together into one cohesive pattern. I used a medium sized ultra soft yarn to make each square large enough without feeling too heavy and bulky.

IMG_9185

I then made a few extra baby hats using a variety of colors and patterns to add to each of the gifts. I’m sure each baby will quickly outgrow their hats, but I do hope that the blankets will give them warmth and comfort for a few of their first years. Welcome to the world little ones!

 

 


Las Vegas

IMG_2344

For James’ 30th birthday, we decided to spend the weekend in Clark County, Nevada and explore the Las Vegas Strip. James had been there before as a teenager, but I had only driven past it, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Las Vegas was quite eager to welcome us to their city in this photo, even though they were about four miles premature. Most of the attractions that we visited, such as this sign are located in the unincorporated town of Paradise, NV.

IMG_9060

Mandalay Bay is the best example of one of the hotels that use real gold on their windows. I had only ever seen photos, so seeing them in person was quite interesting.

IMG_9081

We went to a Soviet themed lounge called Red Square inside of Mandalay Bay, and it was one of our favorite lounges on the strip.

IMG_9061

When James visited as a teenager, he stayed inside the pyramid of Luxor.

IMG_9079

10,000 paper cranes hang in the lobby of Aria, adding a bit of fun and color to the ultramodern interior.

IMG_3862

Many parts of the strip feel very cluttered and confined, but that is certainly not the case with the front of Bellagio.

IMG_9065

IMG_2365

The interior of Bellagio is beautifully tiled and the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place to walk around. After visiting most of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, I can confidently say Bellagio was my favorite one.

IMG_2376

We made sure to see a nighttime performance of the Fountains of Bellagio.

IMG_9078

We didn’t ride the gondolas at the Venetian, but they are such a great addition to see floating by as you are walking through the luxurious interior.

IMG_2399

Parasol Down, like the rest of the interior of Wynn is very whimsical.

IMG_9095

Vegas Vic still welcomes visitors to downtown Las Vegas, but he is barely visible under the visual cacophony of the “Freemont Street Experience.” I would have loved to look down Freemont Street and see the iconic neon signs unobstructed in front of the night sky, but that quintessential view of Las Vegas has been completely destroyed.

IMG_9089

The California Hotel and Casino lies just outside of Freemont Street, and has been spared from redevelopment.

IMG_9113

James’ favorite part of his birthday trip was our visit to the Neon Museum. Their boneyard has tons of old signs, including some of the most recognizable from the mid twentieth century.

IMG_9121

IMG_9156

The Stardust sign was once the tallest on the strip.

IMG_9122

This text advertised the Lido de Paris at the Stardust.

IMG_9140

We’re so glad that these pieces of art can still be enjoyed by the public, and hopefully the museum will have the resources to restore more of them in the future.

IMG_2458

Before leaving the area, we visited the Hoover Dam, and walked halfway across so that we could stand in both Nevada and Arizona at once.

IMG_9181

It took five years after moving to California for me to visit Las Vegas, and I’m so glad that we were able to do it together and make new memories.


Honeyed Peaches and Cherries

IMG_9046

Growing up we had three peach trees in our back yard, and my mom would make this recipe every single summer. We’ve used it on just about every sweet treat you can think of – as a topping, in a pie, with oatmeal, on toast, with ice cream – the possibilities are endless. I have made honeyed peaches and cherries in the past using a simpler recipe, but typically prefer this elevated version that includes red wine and more spices, giving it much more complex flavors.

IMG_9048

7 large ripe peaches (peeled and diced), 2 1/2 cups cherries (pitted), 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup red wine, 1/2 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 clove, 2 all spice. Add all of the ingredients to a large pot and mix well. Heat over medium high heat and bring to a simmer for about 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone and the syrup sticks to the back of a spoon.

IMG_9050

 

 

 

 


Handmade Pottery

The California drought has really put an emphasis on the role that native desert flora can play in Los Angeles landscaping. Recently, we decided to add some small succulents to our patio, and created a few handmade clay pots to put them in.

IMG_9045

We used a self hardening clay, so there was no firing necessary. We don’t have a potter’s wheel, or anything like that, so the pieces have a certain roughness to them that we accentuated with the paint job.

IMG_9051

The dried pieces are not waterproof, but simply painting them creates a seal to solve that issue. We created different shapes for each of the little pots and painted them all a little different.

IMG_9053

The finished pieces feel right at home on our patio, and we’re excited to have new drought friendly plants to decorate with.


Flavored Lemonades

Lemonade is the quintessential summer beverage, and it’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t enjoy an ice cold glass on a hot summer day. To keep us from getting bored with simple lemonade, I love making batches of flavored lemonades to keep in the refrigerator throughout the summer.

IMG_9040

Grapefruit & Mint Lemonade

The combination of grapefruit and mint makes this lemonade extra crisp and refreshing. 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm water, 1 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, 3/4 cup lemon juice, 6-7 fresh mint leaves. Make a simple syrup by adding sugar and warm water to a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Add the syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, mint leaves, and cold water to a pitcher.

IMG_9044

Raspberry Lemon-Limeade

I love the combination of lime with sparkling water so I decided to make this one a fizzy lemonade. Using fresh raspberries to make a raspberry syrup gives this lemonade a sweet fruity taste. 1 cup raspberries, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm water, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup lime juice, 1 gallon sparkling water. Heat sugar, warm water, and raspberries in a small saucepan crushing the raspberries with a wooden spoon as it comes to a simmer. Turn off heat and let it cool. In a large pitcher combine the lemon and lime juices, cold water, ice, and raspberry syrup.

IMG_9043

Lavender Lemonade

For this lemonade I infuse the lavender flavor into the syrup which gives it a delicate floral taste. 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm water, 4 sprigs dry lavender (or 1 tablespoons worth), 1 gallon water, 1 cup lemon juice. Add sugar, warm water, and lavender to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and let syrup cool. Add water, lemon juice, and syrup to a pitcher with ice and a few lemon slices.

 


Cocktail Gift Box

IMG_9034

When I was in high school I would occasionally give my friends gift boxes filled with their favorite candies and snacks for their birthdays. Recently for a friends birthday, I decided to resurrect that idea and put together a little cocktail kit with all of the ingredients you would need for two cocktails, and some charcuterie inspired snacks to go with them.

IMG_9030

Since he was getting a year older, and whiskey is his drink of choice, I decided old fashioned cocktails would be perfect. I simply used small bottles to hold each ingredient, and added them to a box along with dry salami, crackers, and cheese. The gift was easy to put together, catered to the recipients tastes, and is something he can enjoy on a night in even after the birthday celebrations have come to an end.


Sliders Four Ways

IMG_9039

Sliders are one of my favorite bar foods; I especially love when there is more than one type of slider available instead of having four of the same. They are also a great meal to prepare at home for casual nights in and are quite popular with guests. My favorite way to prepare sliders is with mini pretzel rolls and paired with home-made french fries and a good beer. Here are four different slider combinations I tend to keep coming back to whenever making them at home.

For the beef patties: 1 lb ground beef, 4 strips bacon, 1 large tomato (diced), 1/2 yellow onion (diced), 1 teaspoon each of dry parsley, salt, pepper, and paprika.

To get started fry the bacon strips in a large pan until crispy. Remove bacon and set on a paper towel (you will use the bacon for one of the slider recipes). Keep the pan with the bacon oils on low heat. While the bacon is frying, prepare the meat by combining onion, tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, and paprika with the meat. Mix well with your hands to thoroughly blend the ingredients. Create small patties with your hands, and add the patties to the hot bacon pan. Cook patties about 2 minutes per side and remove from pan.

IMG_9038

From left to right –

Slider 1: Make a basil aioli by combining 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 minced garlic clove, and a dash of salt. Spread aioli on pretzel bun then add a slice of havarti cheese, beef patty, arugula leaves, and a couple pieces of bacon.

Slider 2: Spread softened goat cheese on bun, top with beef patty, a few sliced pieces of sun-dried tomatoes, and a little bit of fresh parsley.

Slider 3: Make a spicy aioli by adding four sweet and hot cherry peppers (or you can use canned chipotle peppers), and 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise to a food processor. Mix in processor until puréed. In a small pan sauté sliced yellow onion with a teaspoon of olive oil, a dash of sugar, and a dash of salt. Remove onions from pan and fry egg in the same pan (add more olive oil if needed). Spread aioli onto bun, top with beef patty, sautéed onions, and fried egg.

Slider 4: Chop 2 large portobello mushrooms, 4 caper-berries, and 1 teaspoon of capers. Sauté ingredients in a small pan with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Spread burrata cheese onto bun, top with beef patty and sautéed mushrooms.


Homemade Spice Blends

I like to cook using a variety of spices, and while I certainly do not always stick to specific spice combinations, I have found that making spice blends that I tend to use often can be of great convenience. These pre-made spice blends save time and take some of the guesswork out of cooking.

IMG_9012

For each spice blend combine all of the ingredients and mix well, if using whole seeds or dried herbs you can use a mortar and pestle to finely grind down the ingredients. Add each blend to its own small container on your spice rack for easy access.

Dukkah Spice: this spice blend is traditionally used in Egypt, and is a fantastic mix for most savory dishes. I love adding this spice mixture to fish and meat, or dusted on vegetables for roasting.

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon sumac, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon crushed hazelnuts.

Italian Seasoning: of course this spice blend can be used in a great variety of both Italian and non Italian dishes. This versatile seasoning is great for pasta and meat dishes, or even with just some olive oil and bread.

1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon rosemary, 1 tablespoon basil, 2 teaspoons black pepper.

IMG_9013

Spicy Dry Rub: this rub has just a hint of sweetness and a powerful punch of spice, making it a fantastic blend for meats such as ribs and poultry.

1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon cayenne, 1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds, 1 1/4 teaspoons brown sugar, 2 teaspoons ginger, 2 teaspoons cumin.

Pie Spice: this spice blend can be used in many desserts such as cookies, apple pie, and pumpkin pie. A pinch of it can add deep flavor to a latte or hot cider, and in small doses can be used on savory dishes as well.

2 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 tablespoon nutmeg, 1/2 tablespoon allspice, 1/2 tablespoon cloves, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar.

IMG_9014


Hazelnut Coffee Bean Pot De Crème


IMG_9021

I’m not a big fan of all desserts, but I have always loved the richness and pudding like consistency of pot de crème. I recently made a batch of this decadent treat and decided to add both hazelnuts and ground coffee to give it an even richer flavor. Suffice to say that we each had more than one serving even after a full dinner.

IMG_9007

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 6 egg yolks, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 6 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon ground coffee, 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, 1/4 cup whole hazelnuts, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Instructions: add milk, 1 cup heavy cream, egg yolks, vanilla extract, sugar, and ground coffee to a saucepan. Beat with a whisk and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, continuing to whisk every couple of minutes, until mixture begins to thicken and sticks to whisk. Add the chocolate, hazelnuts, and hot milk mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into individual ramekins and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until mixture is set.  To make whipped cream add the remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream and powdered sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 6-8 minutes.

IMG_9023

Top the pot de crème with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate and hazelnut shavings.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 67 other followers