Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blog Party#41: Traditions---the squeezing it in before the year's over Round-Up


oh, well...what can I say? Perhaps throwing a party for friends around the same time I was facing down four Christmas celebrations wasn't my finest or most brilliant plan.

And there was something refreshing, almost, about staying away from the blog for a couple of weeks. Made me antsy to get back, finally.

So, here we are, just under the wire. We're staring down a brand new year, and a dozen new Blog Party themes. Oh, yes...I'm such a Virgo/planner, I've got parties lined up for you, for a very long time!

Before we get to this month's party, though, I'd like to announce a new tradition for Blog Party: starting in January, the deadline & party dates are moving.

Because no matter how much advanced planning I do? Every single thing I need to do during the month seems to fall on the very day a BP round-up is due, which means I scramble, or it's late.

So, beginning next month, entries/RSVP's will be due the third Friday, with the round-up coming on Sunday. Realism in '09, that's my new motto.

Ok, not really, but it sounds good, doesn't it?

Now let's get to the fun stuff.

We're all about traditions tonight, and for me, that means a certain style for the table & general decor.

I look to holidays at my grandparent's house, and while today even my Grammy has a computer(!), the tree and tables were most certainly set with a mid-century leaning.

So of course, I had to get one of these adorable platters!

While I was at it, this one, too...

Anyone have a plastic star? Because this cute little 'aluminum' tree, set in the center of the table, could use it!

And because I know my guests, a very nifty way to serve up all those drinks tonight: candy cane shot glasses!

The music was a bit trickier this time. We had some many people crowded into the house around the holidays, you wouldn't be able to hear whatever might be playing on the stereo. And we did just do Christmas music last month...

So, what to do?

Oh, the heck with it. New tradition. Holiday parties will now feature the pleasant sounds of Django Rheinhardt & Stephane Grappelli!

Now it's time to meet the guests, and get started on that delicious food.

First one in, from a much sunnier clime, it's Sarina!
And she's cooked up some gorgeous Curried Potato 'mini' Latkes for us...oh, can't wait to grab one. I've never met a potato I didn't like.
Those tiny taters are just a bit spicy, though, so you'll definitely want to grab some of her Bubbly Guava-Ginger Ale.
Fantastic, Sarina...thanks so much for coming!

Next one to arrive, it's Deb!
And tonight she's serving up a family favorite, from the NW by way of Hawaii: Debbie's Bean Dip. Yum, yum.
No worries about the 'simple' angle; wait till you see what I made!
And I know you're all going to want one of her Blood Orange Creamsicles...who cares if it's cold, right?
Wonderful, as always Deb. Glad you could make it!

Making a return to Blog Party, be sure to say hello to Heather!
And she's sure to make friends fast, with a platter of her Mom's Molasses Cookies; ooh...they smell so good.
Keeping those warm, wintry flavors going, she's also serving up a pot of Hot Apple Cider with Amaretto; who's first in line?
So good to see you again, Heather!

Here come Mary...Welcome!
Now, I'm always happy to see her, but tonight even more so. Why? Well, she brought along one of my absolute favorite cookies in the entire enormous world. The Kiss Cookie!
Proving once & for all, good doesn't always equal fancy. Love 'em.
Thanks so much for coming, Mary!

Next we have Judith, with something just a little different.
Like my own family, she has relatives in Florida. And that can mean only one thing: gifts of citrus!
So, help yourself to a lovely, sugar-drenched, Grapefruit Half Mmm...brings back memories.
And what could be more perfect for the time of year, than a nice glass of Eggnog?
Thanks for the Vitamin C boost, Judith!

Finally, our friend J has arrived!
She always makes sure we're well-fed, and tonight's no exception.
Starting with Bacon Sandwiches & Spoons of Smoked Salmon-Laced Scrambled Eggs, moving on to Beef Wrapped in a Parma Ham Jacket, and finally, a nice glass of warm Winter Pimm's.
Nothing short of fabulous, J...so happy you could come!

And now it's my turn.

My family has few traditional foods. Ok, there is the 'cookie of my people', Grammy's fudge (which I didn't have time to make), or Am's sausage (a friend of my Grampa's recipe, sold only at Pfaff's Market). And of course there would be a turkey or ham, bread, various side dishes...the usual.

But what I do remember most, and found applicable, was the cheese & cracker tray.

The long coffee table in the living room always sported a platter loaded with some sort of summer sausage (Am's, if we could get it), crackers from those familiar red and yellow boxes, and some sort of cheeses. It could be cubes of cheese, a cheese ball or log...but there was always cheese.

This time, I just picked up some random sausage approved by Matt (as I no longer consume it), Triscuits & Wheat Thins, and a repeat of the Smoky Lil Cheese Ball I'd made for a previous party, only this time making many tiny ones instead.

One thing I cannot do without over the holidays? My mom's sugar cookies.

I don't actually like sugar cookies. But these? Oh, they are only the best sugar cookies you'll ever taste. I'm not kidding. She's shared the recipe with me, but only after swearing my to secrecy. And while the cookies are fantastic, it's her beautiful decorations that really make them special.
This year, we were gifted with a tray of my mom's cookies, sporting two tooth-shaped ones...in honor of Alex's missing front two choppers!

And I know Matt wouldn't feel as though it were really the holidays if I didn't bake, too.

I got a late start this year, but do help yourself to a few! Starting at the top, and moving right: Pistachio Fingers, Chocolate Almond Biscotti, Lemon Cookies, Chocolate Rugelach, the 'Cookie of My People', the Holly Berry Cookie, Kolachy, Choco-Caramel Delights, Chocolate-Mint cookies, and peanut butter cups, center.

For my beverage? Well, I have a rather bizarre tradition of my own. I guess I always had a thing for flavors, mixing and matching. As far back as I can remember, I'd take whatever drinks (child-friendly, of course!) were in the house, and play mix-master. I'd start with some sort of cola, add in some iced tea, juice, whatever we had. I still do that today, although my ingredients are of a slightly higher quality.

So, I've decided to uphold that tradition tonight. I'm taking a little of this, and a bit of that...sampling everyone's drink offerings, and coming up with a Blog Party Special. Wish me luck with that...

It's been another wonderful party, and an amazing year. Thank you to everyone for making Blog Party such a fun place to be!

Tagged with: + + + + + + + + + + +

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!


To all my friends, whatever you celebrate this day (or not), wishing you all the happiness you deserve, more love than you think you need, good health, visits with those who care about you, endless supplies of chocolate, and success in the kitchen.

While you're waiting for all that to arrive, why not help yourself to a cookie?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hang on to your Party Hats


Due to unforseen baking emergencies, Blog Party will be slightly delayed.

Check back tomorrow night!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cookbook Review: Great Party Fondues


Mozzarella Surprise: Marinara Fondue

Matt & I were told, some years ago, that we were, in fact, people who looked like they'd own three fondue pots...

I think it's ridiculous, how fondue has fallen out of favor. That everyone thinks it the same way they do avocado green appliances & gas shortages.

But fondue is fun. And it is truly is the ultimate party food.

It brings everyone together. It instigates a certain amount of laughter, as melting cheese strings out for yards, connecting that hot pot to a fork-full of dip-able food. You eat, you laugh, you talk. Good times.

Welsh Rarebit

So, OK; we're already pro-fondue in our house. And yes, I have fondue cookbooks. But when I got my hands on a copy of Peggy Fallon's Great Party Fondues, it was truly an 'oooh'-worthy moment. Page after page decorated with those brilliant sticky tabs. Recipes that, while certainly enticing, were accessible & uncomplicated.

Dippers for sweet fondue

I made several fondues. Because I was dealing with molten cheeses and such, I opted not to photograph them in my 'studio' (box on sideboard, with attached light), and risk poor picture quality from high ceilings and low light in the dining room.

The food may not look as gorgeous as it really was, but trust me: it was good. Seriously.

I think my favorite was the Mozzarella Surprise Marinara Fondue.

Blindingly simple. Onion, tomato paste & garlic, cooked. Add crushed tomatoes, with juices, red wine, salt, red pepper flakes, and sugar, boil/reduce/simmer till thickened. Add basil & parsley.

Cubes of mozzarella go into the fondue pot, pour the sauce over, and keep warm.

Each time you dip in your bread or pasta (or whatever you like), you get this tomato-y cheese lovefest. We absolutely cleaned the pot. Amazing stuff.

Minted Milk Chocolate Fondue

The majority of the recipes have been marked; in fact it's only the meat-heavy ones we ignored, as 2/3 of the household happens to be vegetarian!

But whatever you like to dip, there's a fondue for you. The recipes are quality, the results are gorgeous and filling.

And hey...the holidays are almost here: what better way to feed a crowd?

This December, Blog Party is celebrating your holiday traditions!

Join us for the food & fun; RSVP no later than THIS Thursday, 18 December. Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Let's All Go to the Lobby: Movie Meme Time


One of my best pals, Erin, posted this fun meme.

1. Pick 15 of your favorite movies.
2. Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie.
3. Post them here for everyone to guess.
4. Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, and put who guessed it and the movie.
5. NO GOOGLING/using IMDb search or other search functions.

1. Awww... this is one of those days that the pages of history teach us are best spent lying in bed.---The Philadelphia Story; SugarPunk

2. You're a handsome devil. What's your name? ---Grosse Point Blank; Sara

3. This ageing debutante, Mr. Jefferson, I retain in my employ only because she is the sole support of her two-headed brother!---The Man Who Came to Dinner; breadchick

4. The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.---The Thin Man; breadchick (ironically, I'm watching it right now!)

5. Now you listen to me, I'm an advertising man, not a red herring. I've got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don't intend to disappoint them all by getting myself "slightly" killed.---North by Northwest; Rick

6. No, actually, we're just good friends.---A Hard Day's Night; stefibles

7. All of my key employees are my sons. Blood is the best security in this business.

8. If there's anything worse than a woman living alone, it's a woman saying she likes it.---Pillow Talk; breadchick

9. This isn't a hospital. It's an insane asylum. And it's your fault.---M*A*S*H; Melody & Rick

10. Subject, Toilet paper. One: on 6 June 1941, this vessel submitted a requisition for 150 rolls of toilet paper. On 16 December 1941 the requisition was returned with stamped notation, 'Cannot identify material required.' Two: the commanding officer of the USS SeaTiger cannot help but wonder what is being used at the Caviti Supply Depot as a substitute for this unidentifiable material once so well known to this command.---Operation Petticoat; Rick

11. Nobody needs a mink coat but the mink.---Christmas in Connecticut; Deb

12. Amazing tradition. They throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can't come.---The Big Chill; Rick

13. You know I'd die for you, only sometimes it's so hard living with you

14. I want you to get married. I want you to have nine children. And if you only spend five minutes a day with each kid, that's forty-five minutes, and I'd at least have time to go out and get a massage or something.---White Christmas; Erika

15. I'd like to get home and tell my wife about this. She thinks all my cases are boring---My Favorite Wife; breadchick.

This December, Blog Party is celebrating your holiday traditions!

Join us for the food & fun; RSVP no later than Thursday, 18 December. Hope to see you there!


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Souper Sundays: Refrigerator Soup


Although we've yet to meet in person, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen and I have become fast friends. We discovered we had a love of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, a similar approach to food & cooking, and of course, Blog Party!

She's been a regular guest at BP now, and when I saw she was starting a rather informal soup event, I swore I was going to join in.

I love soup. I mean, lovelovelove. I love eating it, I love making it. I just...don't. Not as often as I'd like.

But I'd been inspired by breadchick's 'pantry plan'; her use of ingredients already on hand...in cupboards, freezer, whatever. I had a craving for soup, and I knew I had a bunch of stuff I could use up.

So, finally getting it posted, I give you Refrigerator Soup. Truthfully, though, it could be called Kitchen Soup. The ingredients came from the fridge, pantry, cupboards, tops of cupboards...you name it.

A rummage through the veggie bins, and a search of the potato keeper: diced onions, carrots, celery & garlic sauteed in olive oil till tender. And I do mean tender; none of that 'five to ten minutes' crap. They were soft.

Next, diced Russet potatoes, skins off, cooked for...I can't remember how long.

Two cans of diced tomatoes, with juices, can of crushed tomatoes.

Simon & Garfunkel herbs left over from something made the week before.

Vegetable boullion, some water.

A can of black beans, and cup and a half of barley. Cooked till barley was tender.

It was...fantastic. So hearty, so warm & filling, almost meaty. Served with a chunk of bread, it was a perfect & virtually fat-free meal.

Of course, I can never make it again...the only downside to those rummage recipes!

This December, Blog Party is celebrating your holiday traditions!

Join us for the food & fun; RSVP no later than Thursday, 18 December. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

An Asian & Heart-Filled Hug For Barbara


Poached Ginger-Lime Salmon on Kaffir Lime Rice

Dear Barbara;

I know your appetite has taken a vacation, and your stomach is playing games without telling you the rules. It's my hope this fragrant & fresh dish will entice your appetite to come back, and cause the belly to call a 'time-out'.

A 1/2 pound of skin-on salmon, marinated with 1/4 cup lime juice, a heaping tablespoon ginger/garlic paste, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and a half teaspoon Chinese hot chili paste. Cook lightly, with marinade.

Serve on a bed of lime-infused rice; zest, juice and finely chopped Kaffir lime leaves for flavor.

I truly hope you enjoy it.

Alex wanted to do something to make you feel better, and this is his interpretation of what a hug would look like. If you click on the photo, you'll see pink & red hearts, in various sizes, as drawn by a 5 3/4 year old boy.

Never forget how special you are to so many of us; we're all hoping, wishing & praying for your full recovery.

Happy eating!


Stephanie, Matt & Alex

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Blog Party#41: Traditions


December is already underway, and the holiday season has started, ready or not.

I was thinking about Christmases spent with my relatives, growing up. Packing our rather large extended family into my grandparent's house, the food my Grammy would make---year in, year out---, how loud it would get, with everyone laughing and talking, trying to be heard. How, as we all grew older, and the number of grand kids grew, too, the celebrations would spill into more and more rooms: the majority of the aunts & uncles would be in the living room, grand kids in the 'play room', uncle Danny in 'great-grammy's room' watching television, and always a small, rotating group in the kitchen, picking over the ham and/or turkey and sides Grammy'd prepared.

I loved this time of year. My family was incredible...so much fun to be around. We'd eat & talk, talk & eat. Gift-opening took ages: grandparents, six aunts & uncles plus spouses, and close to 20 grand kids. Hot, noisy, and wonderfully perfect.

Of course, as years went by, families grew up, split up, and moved on. Fewer came home for the holidays, and those who did were too busy to stick around long.

After Grampa died, it simply wasn't the same.

I, of course, started my own family. Inherited one, too. New schedules, different ways of celebrating. It was then I realized just how much I missed, wanted, the traditions I'd grown up with.

Whatever you celebrate during the next 30 or so days, odds are you incorporate some sort of family tradition in your plans.

For this month's Blog Party, we're going to celebrate those traditions, together.

December's party is all about those little food rituals, must-haves, you use to celebrate whatever it is you celebrate. Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus...if you celebrate it between now & early January, share it with us!

So here's the plan: in bite-sized form (or can be cut into such), make one of your family or friend foodie traditions. Serve up a glass of your favorite traditional drink...doesn't have to contain alcohol.

Let's use this as an opportunity to remember & celebrate the foods & traditions we grew up with, the ones that made us feel happy, safe and loved.

Want to get traditional with us? Then RSVP no later than Thursday, 18 December. As always, thehappysorceress at gmail dot com

That Saturday, 20 December, we'll all raise a glass in remembrance, and together toast the holidays.

New to Blog Party? Or has it been awhile? Click here to read more. Still have questions? That email address above works for that, too.

Hope to see you there!

Tagged with: + + + + + + + + + + +

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tim Tam Time


It's a happy time.

Through the generosity of my overseas friends, and the magic that is Blogging by Mail, I and many other food bloggers have discovered the joy that is Tim Tams.

The downside to that discovery, however, was found when the last chocolate-covered cookie was eaten, and all was left was a rather sad reminder of good things, in the form of a plastic carton. That was it. They were gone, and the only way to replenish was via a long-distance care package.

But now? Oh, happy days are here again. Because Pepperidge Farm is now selling Tim Tams, and they can be found at Target!!!

Seriously. They have them. I received an email from a PR person, letting me know. And would I like a sample to tide me over??


I wrote to Matt, letting him know. He was heading to Target that day, anyway, and grabbed a box.

They are exactly the same. Same lovely crunchy base, creamy chocolate filling, chocolate wrapping. Wonderful.

Matt ran into the mother of one of Alex's friends that same day. They moved here, a couple of years ago, from Australia. He mentioned this seemingly sudden development, and apparently, she practically cried with happiness.

For those who already love Tim Tams, go forth and buy! Target rocks anyway, but this just makes them dearer to me.

If you've yet to try them, go. Do. You won't regret it. And do it fast; looks like they're only available through March.

Monday, December 01, 2008



Post-party scenes. Day after, we did nothing. Literally. Stayed in pajamas all day.

The dogs were happy to relax in the warm house, as well...

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