Nov 18, 2012

Stabilized Whipped Cream

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Say what? Yeah! Stabilized whipped cream. Kind of a weird-sounding thing, and yet a very good thing that I think might be part of my political platform, should I ever run for public office. That’s how much I believe in stabilized whipped cream. With prime pumpkin pie season and mile-long culinary to-do lists within our reach, there’s no better time to talk about it–a whipped cream that can actually be made days ahead of serving, and not only used in dollop form, but for piping and frosting over cakes as well. Glorious!

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Nov 14, 2012

Homemade Marshmallow Troubleshooting

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Know what’s super fun? The influx of emails, tweets, comments, and Facebook messages I’ve received from folks working through the recipes in Marshmallow Madness! in recent weeks–lots of sweet stories and photos of fluffy, puffy successes that warm the cockles of my heart. ‘Tis the season for homemade mallow making and gifting!

But I’ve also gotten some requests for a few marshmallow-making tips and troubleshooting help for the recipes, which I also happen to love. Happy to help. For those new to mallowing, it is most certainly wacky, leaving plenty of room for self-doubt and simple mistakes. But don’t freak out! It’s just sugar! Everything will be okay. Keep in mind that the following tips refer specifically to recipes and techniques in MM, but some will cross over into any homemade marshmallow recipe you might try.

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Nov 5, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Sugar and More

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How is it November already? HOW? This is all just bananas to me. Because in my feeble mind, it seems that just a couple months ago we were ringing in 2012, and then a few weeks after that my first cookbook was unleashed onto the world. Hours later, I discovered that we would be thrown into the newborn abyss once again. Somewhere in there my first baby turned four (four!!) and then a few blinks later I had a second cookbook come out. I’m sure it didn’t go exactly that way, but it sure feels like it. Turns out that time moving at warp speed isn’t exactly conducive to a massive case of pregnancy brain. Plus I’m, like, 23 weeks sober. Someone remind me what day it is. Eesh.

So! Here we are, inexplicably teetering on the edge of the holiday season. Do you know what you’re doing for gifts this year? Clearly, given the above paragraph, I do not. But even though we’re barreling towards a whole lotta fa-la-la-la-la!, now is the perfect time to crank out awesomely inexpensive, handmade holiday presents that seem all highfalutin, and are perfect for blowing minds and taking names. Seriously, you can crank out a dozen gifts or more in a matter of hours, suitable for giving to everyone from your mother to the mailman. And, like so many things in my life these days, it all starts with the genius of vanilla. Obvi.

To start, you’ll need to get yourself a bunch of vanilla beans, which I know can be pricey. But! I am kind of an expert at sourcing the best beans at the best prices by now, so can I just recommend Vanilla Saffron Imports (don’t let the sparse website and packaging dissuade you–this place is the real deal) and Beanilla? Some folks find good vanilla deals on Amazon as well. But the bottom line is that ordering online will save you tons of cash. No way around that. Buying vanilla beans at retail will make your wallet cry.

So now that you know how to get a bundle of well-priced, good-quality, fragrant vanilla beans in your hot little hands, let me pass on a few DIY gifty ideas from Pure Vanilla, as a little present from me to you:

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Nov 2, 2012

‘Pure Vanilla’ hits Macy’s Union Square!

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So here’s what’s happening right now: Today I am buzzing about the kitchen with the Reality Bites soundtrack on repeat, prepping a whole lotta mini versions of Twinkie Bundt Cake, in preparation for a most excellent event celebrating Pure Vanilla here in San Francisco tomorrow. If you’re in the Bay Area, I hope you’ll come by to say hi, watch me attempt to bake and talk at the same time, and pick up some mad vanilla knowledge. I’ll also be signing books immediately afterwards! I may end up dressing like Lisa Loeb. Or Winona Ryder. Who knows? You’ll just have to come by and find out. Here’s the details:

Macy’s Union Square
Cellar Demo Kitchen, Lower Level
170 O’Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
2:00 p.m.

Hope to see you there!!

Oct 25, 2012

‘Pure Vanilla’ is Coming to Chicago!

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Anthropologie
111 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

(312) 255-1848
Space is limited for the tasting; call to RSVP

I have to say, the past few months have really blown my hair back. Between new books and new babies and what not, there’s been some great surprises that have come along and smacked me upside the head. One of them was finding out that  Anthropologie, otherwise known as the Mecca of Every Material Good A Lady Could Possibly Want and/or The Curators of Cool, had agreed to carry Pure Vanilla. Apparently they haven’t seen photos of me from the 90s. At any rate, I am positively thrilled to be a part of their utterly inspiring cookbook selection for the season.

And in a twist of the awesome getting awesomer, I am headed out to Chicago for a few days of family time and book-related events, and one of the events is at the Anthropologie store downtown on Chicago Avenue–just a stone’s throw from where I once worked as a touring makeup artist for Bobbi Brown, wondering what the heck I was going to end up doing with my life. This is a fabulous, life-affirming, Oprah-level moment, friends. I really hope you’ll come join me if you’re in the area.

I’ll be doing a brief talk and vanilla tasting (little cookies!!) for the first hour–I’ve gotten word that space is tight for the tasting, so if you’re interested, please call to RSVP. Afterwards, we’ll do a book signing where we can meet and chat and compliment each other’s skin and hair, and you can see how hugely pregnant I am already (bonus!).

Hope to see you there!

Oct 22, 2012

Good Morning Sunshine Bars & Other Big News

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Today I’d like to tell you about two things. They’re both pretty major and somewhat related. The first is that I’ve made a recipe twice in three days, which is highly unusual around here, but once the first batch was demolished, there was a primal need for a second batch. That’s pretty big time. And hey, speaking of second batches, there’s one other piece of exciting news…

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Oct 19, 2012

On Pflaumenkuchen and ‘My Berlin Kitchen’

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Inspiration can be awfully hard to come by, don’t you think? I mean, maybe I’m really just speaking for myself, here–sometimes getting inspired is a serious challenge, sometimes the wheels start turning with a bit more ease with just the spark of a new idea, but overall, the well can run dry far too often. And when it does, it always seems like everyone else is living in a state of eternal Pinterest Brain, constantly ticking off what they want to write or photograph or refinish and paint or who the heck knows what and it can really start to get depressing, seeing all these perpetually creative people out there. I admire you, Constantly Inspired People, and yet I am annoyed by you. Does anybody feel me?

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