Oct 12, 2012

Homemade Caramel Apples with Vanilla Bean Sea Salt Caramel

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First things first–congrats to the five randomly selected winners of last week’s giveaway! The winners have all been contacted by e-mail. Woohoo!

So it’s fall, y’all! I really do love this time of year, don’t you? I’m all up in the fall baking season already. I’ve stocked up on flour, butter, and sugar, washed all my aprons, and have more new cookbooks to flip through than I can even deal with (more on that in an upcoming post–there are some newly released gems out there!).

Along with getting to work through some brand-new-to-me recipes, I’m totally in the swing of book promotion stuff, and one of the best parts about that is getting to revisit recipes in my own dang book. Which is to say recipes that were worked and reworked and obsessed over like potential cancer-curing experiments, and then once deemed publish-able, were put away in the far, far reaches of my mind. With a bit of distance to calm my nerves about some of the more crazy-making recipes, I can now look at them like old friends with whom I share an embarrassing history. It’s like a college reunion, without all the Abercrombie sweaters.

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Oct 2, 2012

‘Pure Vanilla’ Has Landed (with a Giveaway!)

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Well,  friends, today is the day–the birthday of my second cookbook Pure Vanilla! (WHAT?! Unreal.) I really couldn’t be more excited about the whole thing. I thought I’d pop in here right quick to say hello, spread the sweet, dreamy word of the book release, and, most importantly, give you all a little preview, with a shot to win a free signed copy of your own. Hooray!

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Sep 17, 2012

‘Pure Vanilla’ is Almost Here!

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We’ve known each other for long enough now that I don’t need to tell you that I’m a bit of a square. Okay, except for that one summer abroad in college. Other than that, I’m really a square. So it might not come as a total shock when you find out my second cookbook is called ‘Pure Vanilla’. But! Here’s the thing: the world of vanilla is vast. It is rich, complex, and insanely delicious. And as it turns out, every single person who hears that I wrote an entire cookbook about vanilla replies breathlessly “Ooh! I looove vanilla!”. Vanilla rules, people!

The more I dug into the topic, the more I realized that vanilla is anything but ‘vanilla’. It’s not just heavenly on the tongue–the journey of this underappreciated spice from flower (yes, from an orchid, true story!) to market is full of drama and intrigue. This stuff is sexy, people. Trust.

I received my first advance copy of the book a couple weeks back, and am so, so excited about the whole thing. Like Marshmallow Madness!, this book was shot by the completely incredible Leigh Beisch, and we were once again so lucky to have Sara Slavin on board for prop styling and art direction. For my part, I flapped around the studio like a crazy person for several days, prepping and baking and tweaking as food stylist. We’re covering everything from Breakfast to Cocktails and even some savory in this book. It smelled dang good up in that place during the shoot, I’ll tell you that much. The day we shot the Vanilla Cloud Cake was especially epic–it’s once of my favorite recipes in the book, encompassing everything that’s awesome about vanilla. It looks like this and it’s the sort of ethereal thing I’d be happy to attack, alone in a quiet room, wielding a large spoon. Vacant stare, drool. 

The official release date is October 2nd (you can pre-order now–whee!!), and I’ll have more of a preview for you in the coming weeks. But for now, I wanted to check in with you all and see if there are any bloggers who might be interested in nabbing a review copy. The hope is to spread the vanilla love far and wide, so that no one will ever, EVER! shove Vanilla aside for her sexy sister Chocolate again! (Well, you know what I mean. Just get into it, is what I’m saying.)

If you want to check out a review copy, send an e-mail to Eric Smith at Quirk Books–he is adorable and funny and loves vanilla as much as I do. Send him your name, blog name, and URL and he’ll take it from there. 

eric (at) quirkbooks (dot) com

You can also check out my Book page for more info on upcoming tour dates and Vanilla Tasting events! I hope to meet more of you on this tour, so we can wax poetic over vanilla and compliment each other’s skin and hair in person. It just feels so right, doesn’t it? More dates will be listed in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned, friends.

Aug 17, 2012

Sweet Cherries in Spiced Syrup

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I’m not one to dole out lots of unsolicited parenting advice, but hear this: there are very good, fun, smart kitchen projects you can do with small children. Aaannnnd…then there’s pitting pounds of cherries together. My kitchen still looked like a crime scene several days later. Oh, well. I tried. Back to the television for you, offspring!

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Aug 10, 2012

Indoor S’mores

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Oh my dear, darling readers. How have you been?! I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful summer doing very exciting things, while I’ve spent most of it being rather boring, and seemingly in hiding from an interwebs perspective (except for Twitter; I can’t seem to quit The Twitter). I wish I had a whole lovely list of things that I’ve been doing to share with you and an adorable Instagrammy collage to accompany it, but alas, I don’t. We’ve really just been lazy around here, people. Lazy, and not too interesting, and yes, there’s been some time spent in the kitchen, but not to produce anything of note. I mean, delicious things, thankfully, but mostly what have become go-to classics around here, like a certain banana bread, oatmeal cookies, and ice cream I’ve told you about before.

And isn’t that so nice sometimes, just to fall back on the things that work? To slow down for a while, stop the wheels from turning, turning, turning, and try to flip that dang switch off, the one that always makes us feel like we’ve got to be doing something new and different at all times in order for our days to count for something? (Who invented that, anyway, this constant need to be in motion? It’s kind of overrated. Trust me, I’ve been on the couch a lot over the past month and let me tell you, doing nothing has its benefits.)

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Jul 10, 2012

Mixed Berry Crostata

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Call me an Ina Disciple (no, seriously, I wish you would, it’s my truth), but I’m a big believer in getting a few good classic recipes down, and then putting your own twists on them. Take My Favorite Pie Crust, for example. I love the stuff. I use it pretty much for any recipe that calls for pastry, adjusting the sugar as necessary to match the filling, whether it be sweet or savory. I use this dough for pies, quiches, pot pies, tarts, crostatas, homemade pop-tarts–whatevs. It’s basically foolproof, works for me, and I haven’t thought to rock the boat. Until last week.

See, I’ve gone through a bit of overhauling in the home, as of late. Working on a shoestring budget (and really, is there another kind of budget?), I was determined to make our living space not feel like we were living in a dorm. (I suppose it really wasn’t THAT bad, but you know that feeling when you wake up one day and just suddenly want to throw a grenade at your whole house? Well, THAT.) So I traipsed around the Bay Area looking for effortlessly chic home accents, all the while swearing under my breath about how maddening it is, the freaking effort it takes to make something look effortlessly chic. Anyway, it took some doing, but I spruced things up around here, after many trips to IKEA and various TJ Maxx stores and Pier Ones.

(Sidebar: Can we talk about the headiness of Eau de Pier One? All the stores smell the same, and STRONGLY so. Is it, like, some kind of Pier One hallucinogen designed to make us buy more wicker things? See more beauty in tapestries and elephant-shaped candle holders? I don’t get it.)

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Jul 2, 2012

Kool-Aid Marshmallows

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If you’ve never been to San Francisco on July 4th, let me break it down for you: It’s freaking depressing. Cold, windy, and so foggy that we’ve never even bothered to go see fireworks in the 4 1/2 years we’ve lived here. But from the warm cocoon of our living room, they sound awfully festive! At any rate, the wintry conditions don’t hold me back from making treats suitable for the holiday, adding the perfect note to an afternoon spent grilling in an overcoat.

At first glance, these Kool-Aid Marshmallows might seem too bizarre to be a real thing. Believe me, I get it. And I wrote the recipe. But really, what we’re doing here is adding flavor to the mallows with the powdered drink mix, rather then just throwing in an extract or candy oil in the final steps of whipping. And the color is provided in powder, too, so no extra food coloring is needed to achieve a perfect candylike hue–hooray!.

While you can use any flavor of unsweetened Kool-Aid mix for these, the specimens you see in the photo above were made with Tropical Punch mix, which is one of my very favorite flavors for Kool-Aid Marshmallows. (Can you believe that I’ve experimented with this enough to have a favorite flavor This is my life, friends.) With all of their awesome fruit punchy-ness, they’re everything a marshmallow should be–fluffy, fun, full of Candy Land-esque novelty flavor. And as long as I’m on my way to Crazytown by flavoring a marshmallow with Kool-Aid, I tend to just go for it, take the scenic route, and roll the edges in Pop Rocks, which crackle delightfully upon serving. It’s all so hysterically whimisical, it almost makes you forget that you’re spending July 4th in long johns.

I’m going to give you the recipe for these gems below, but I also thought I’d give you a few more ideas for goodies for the 4th, suitable for summer get-togethers and picnics of all sorts. Enjoy!

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