Color My World

Batch #3....paint chip cookies! I made these cookies for my cousin, Meg. There are several "paint chip collectors" in the family, but Meg is the only one I know of who actually does something with them!
Take a peek at her blog and some of the cool things she does with paint chips....I love her cards and cd covers. You should have seen her paint chip Christmas card!!! It is saved in my box of Christmas treasures.
To make these cookies, I made a trip to Lowe's to do a little research. :) I think the Martha Stewart colors have the best names. (Last year, we painted our guest room in Martha's "buttermilk biscuit.")
Once the cookies were made, I let them dry overnight then added the color names and numbers using AmeriColor Gourmet Writers food coloring pens. I love these and AmeriColor makes pens with the finest tip I have seen so far.

Cookies from art

So, here is batch #2 of cookies from our trip. These cookies were for my cousin Maura. She is an amazing artist, so I used her artwork and made cookies from it.
I love this skeleton bride and groom! I thought a bride & groom needed a scalloped edge cookie. :)

Isn't this blue bird so sweet?!? I love the little orange beak and feet! (Hey...that rhymes!)
For both of the cookies, I scanned notecards that Maura made (her etsy store is closed now, but if/when (?) she re-opens it, I'll let you'll want some of your own). To make photo or art cookies:
  1. Make sure you have a really talented cousin! :)
  2. Scan the image to be used (make sure you have permission!) and use a photo editing program to crop to fit the cookie. I use the crop tool and image size and view on 100% to see the actual size of the picture. Hold your cookie cutter up to the screen to check.
  3. If you are lucky enough to have an icing printer, print on icing sheets. Otherwise, burn the images onto a CD (my techno-speak is not great, hope I said that right!) and take to a bakery supply store to have printed with edible ink.
  4. Cut the images from the icing sheet, but leave the backing intact.
  5. Outline and fill cookies in white icing.
  6. While the icing is wet, remove the backing from the image and lightly place onto the cookie.
  7. Let dry at least 24 hours...not just overnight...24 hours! These take a while to dry, I think the moisture gets trapped under the image.
  8. Mix a little meringue powder with water.
  9. Using a small paintbrush, apply this mixture around the edges.
  10. Sprinkle with non-pareils; shake off excess.
  11. Let dry.

Taking flight

My son & I just returned home from a wonderful trip to visit my aunt, uncle and two of my cousins....some of my favorite people in the whole world! We took a few cookies along with us, so here's a look at batch #1.
These monarch cookies were for my Aunt Janice. I am so, so happy that my uncle had the smarts to marry her! :) I'll bet that every one of my friends knows "Aunt Janice" because I frequently talk about her...she is one cool cookie!

One of the many things my aunt does well is garden, especially butterfly gardening. The design inspiration for the cookies came from Karen Tack's Hello, Cupcake! book where she uses candy melts to make a butterfly cupcake topper. I like the way they looked tied with the dotted grosgrain. To make the cookies:

  • Using a #5 tip, pipe the butterfly body in black. (Spectrum Super Black)
  • Switch the tip on the black icing bag to a #2 and pipe the outline of the wings.
  • Thin black and orange icing with water to a syrup-like consistency and cover both with a damp dishtowel. Let sit several minutes. (AmeriColor Orange mixed with a little Spectrum Super Red)
  • Run a rubber spatula through the icings to pop any bubbles that formed on the top. Pour into 2 separate squeeze bottles.
  • Using the thinned black icing, follow the outside edge of the wing outline.
  • Immediately fill with thinned orange icing, filling in the remainder of the wing, making sure the black and orange icings meet.
  • Using a toothpick, drag the black icing into the orange, making veins in the wings.
  • While the icing is still wet, drop on white non-pareils.
  • Let the wings dry for an hour or more.
  • If desired, go back over the butterfly body using a #5 tip in black icing.

Cool As A Cucumber Salad with Agave

cool as a cucumber salad
Cucumber talk. And a salad recipe.

It started with a visit from a fellow food blogger. And ended up as a side dish. No wait. That doesn't sound right. Because it's more than just a side dish. And the food blogger? Well. She's more than just a food blogger. She's Alanna!

And a certain individual got to make her dinner. Talk about nerve wracking. Cooking for a second-generation food columnist? It's enough to give anyone schpilkis! And I'm no exception. I was afraid I'd burn the quinoa. Or ruin the ribeye. But dinner went off without a hitch. Even with two glasses of wine and a pre-repast stroll to watch the sun set over Abiquiu. I think we talked for five hours.

And the cucumber salad? I made it based on Alanna's simple instructions via cell phone (and via the no-fuss wit and wisdom of Old Liz) and it was such a lip-smacking tasty little number, I ate it for breakfast the next day.

Now that's a good recipe.

Thanks Alanna! And muchas gracias to dear Old Liz, who apparently (as we say back east) knows from cucumbers.

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Peanut Chicken Stir-Fry

Peanut Stir Fry Sauce Recipe
Gluten-free peanut stir-fry sauce- easy to make.

Peanut sauce stir-fry? Yes, please. Spicy peanut sauce is one of my favorite comfort foods. Maybe even in my all-time top ten. The last time I stirred up this peanut sauce we were watching episode 5 of Brideshead Revisited- the most dread inducing episode when it's clear that poor, sweet Sebastian is clinically depressed and Mummy Marchmain (aka the Velvet Hammer) is determined to crush his spirit for propriety's sake. Steve and I were sighing audibly, rooting for dear Sebastian, hoping against hope he would somehow summon the courage to break free from Mummy and stop self medicating as we chop-sticked our way through this lip-smacking bowl of peanutty goodness.

And as we each consumed the last delectable morsels on our licked clean plates we agreed. We just knew this dish would have perked up Sebastian. And Charles, too, for that matter. Nothing like a spicy peanut sauce to fortify you and return some bloom to wan, stoic cheeks.

In need of said fortification but allergic to peanuts, Darling? Don't fret. Substitute Sunbutter in this recipe. Sunflower seed butter has a roasted nut flavor that is delicious in Asian style sauces. [I find it at Whole Foods and Wild Oats.]

So if you're suddenly struck (as I, too often, am) by a craving for peanut stir-fry, imagining tender sweet mouthfuls of crisp broccoli, elegant red pepper strips and slender chicken pieces all commingling happily in an earthy, garlicky peanut sauce, don't worry. I've got you covered. It doesn't get much better than this easy recipe.

Even Sebastian's teddy, Aloysius, could whip this up.

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Pear Polenta Muffins

Pear Polenta Muffins- gluten-free recipe
Tender and sweet pear polenta muffins.

Ripe juicy pears and a polenta flour base make this new muffin recipe an instant favorite. I'll mention right off the bat- it's not low carb. It uses a moderate amount of sugar and some rice flour with organic corn meal. But if you're pining for a gluten-free vegan muffin recipe that you will absolutely love and devour with relish and lick your fingers and say softly (in your best Lauren Bacall voice), You know those pear muffins you got over there, Steve? You wanna toss me another?

These are it.

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got icing?

Just a little peek at the icing I made last night. One of the things I love about royal icing is that is can be made ahead of time. I've heard a week or more, but I never plan that well. This icing is for cookies I'm making today and tomorrow.

Once the icing is made and tinted, I press a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the icing, then cover and refrigerate. When I'm ready to use it, I just bring it to room temperature.
....and here's my helper sneaking into a picture of goodies from a trip to the bakery supply store. I am so happy to have a stash of my beloved Ateco meringue powder! I hate that Sur La Table quit carrying it! Ooooo...and I was really excited to find black non-pareils! :)

Italian Eggplant Recipe with Crumbled Beef, Tomatoes and Mint

Eggplant and crumbled beef recipe with tomatoes and mint
Gluten-free eggplant recipe with crumbled beef, tomatoes and mint.

The classic Italian flavors are all here- eggplant, tomato, garlic, onion and oregano with a twist of fresh chopped mint nudging it over into Greek territory- but there's not a speck of gluten or dairy.

Mediterranean goodness on a plate.

This recipe is for those of us who miss eggplant Parmesan- a little something I threw together this week when my craving for a slab of eggplant Parm (as we called it back in Massachusetts) heated up to such a fever pitch that all I could think about was, How? How to translate a dish so fiercely reliant on a fried breadcrumb coating and slabs of melty Parmesan cheese? A dish so not gluten-free. Or dairy-free. Or lower glycemic friendly to this waist-whittling goddess.

Thin, weeped eggplant slices are brushed lightly with a little extra virgin olive oil and roasted in a hot oven- all by their lonesome. This makes for a delicate, slightly crispy eggplant slice, let me tell you. Topped with a homemade ragu of Italian tomatoes, browned ground organic beef with onions and garlic and herbs and a splash of balsamic vinegar- it's love, Mediterranean style. It is sustenance. It is flavor. And it's dairy-free.

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Little Sweet Pea

Our neighbors just had a baby girl, so we brought them a batch of sweet pea...or pea in the pod...cookies.
I guessed a blond-haired baby. The mom is blond and so is big sister, but when we delivered the cookies, we saw the baby is an adorable little redhead! Well, after the cookies are eaten, there won't be any evidence that I picked the wrong hair color. :)

I used AmeriColor Gourmet Writer food coloring pens to make the eyes and mouths on the cookies.

South Beach Diet Notes- Phase 1

Summer fresh organic yellow tomatoes topped with mint, thyme and scallions, then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. What more could you ask for? A low glycemic snack with my favorite Mediterranean flavors. And no b-word.

I'm deep into my first week on the South Beach Diet, whittling down my waist a half pound at a time. I am seeing a difference already. And what's really interesting- for this gluten-free pasta and muffin loving girl? After eating a lower glycemic index recipe I don't feel stuffed. Or heavy. Or that other word. The b-word. The word every celiac hates more than anything. Yup. You women out there know what I'm talking about it.


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Quinoa Salad with Lime + Fresh Mint

Quinoa Salad with Mint and Lime
Cool and refreshing quinoa salad with lime and mint.

This is the post where I confess, Dear Reader, that I am now pear-shaped and lumpy and thick in the middle- obviously adept at gaining weight. I may even be considered gifted. This is not fun for me. But then, who promised fun during hip surgery recovery? Who said it would be easy? (Um, no one.) Throw menopausal hormone pandemonium into the sticky mix and you have a double roll nightmare.

I gained twenty damn pounds.

And who claimed that wedges of Green Chile Cornbread and Strawberry Chocolate Chip Scones and Peach Crisp were calorie-free, anyway? Certainly not moi. But geesh. How much can a girl give up in one lifetime?

Okay. So the rumors are true.

Your intrepid plucky gluten-free goddess is trying the South Beach Diet. Or as well as one can follow the famous low glycemic diet without the comfort of eggs and dairy foods (on my allergen verboten list). This should be interesting.

Lucky for me I have a Guru.

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Gluten-Free Maple Apple Breakfast Sausage- and things I lost in the fall

Truth is often messy. It's complicated. Hard to blog about. Because truth- the whole of it- doesn't always dovetail into a post about rhubarb or biscuit dough. It isn't shiny and pastel sprinkled or predigested for your consumption. What I'm feeling lately is raw and no doubt undercooked, and I'm not even sure I understand it. So, what, exactly, is it?

Things I lost in the fall.

Besides the ability to straddle, to jog up the patio steps, to dance to the Talking Heads while stirring onions, to heft groceries from the back seat, lug heavy Mexican chairs over into the sun, to reach the top edge of a five-foot canvas and lay down a swath of color, walk back, step forward, add more paint, back up, mix color (do this for hours). Or even just sit on the floor. Cross my legs. Curl up in a chair with a book.

To stand for more than ten minutes without assistance (read: cane).

But it's more than these things, even. More than the physical struggle back to a modified semblance of wholeness. It's the acidic sensation of sliding backwards in time, losing ground you worked so hard to get to, to claim as your own. The foothold that didn't come easy to a questioning hyper-vigilant child. A cultivated center of pure confidence. The belief in I am here. Entitlement.

The right to take up floorspace and wall space, to carve out time, spend money on materials. Make mistakes, explore, discover. Play. To start over somewhere new and unfamiliar. The right to disappoint someone else. To confuse them. To place someone else's needs next to your own- instead of in front of your own.

More was broken than a hip.

And ten months later, I am still mending. Not just knitting marrow and stretching fifty-year old muscles that knot and resist. There are invisibles I have lost.

And I am no longer bold enough, or naive enough, to simply assume I'll get them back.

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For the hostess with the mostest . . .

Texas hospitality is nowhere more evident than in my dad's neighborhood in Amarillo. When my son and I visited recently, a "come on over and use our pool" invitation by dad's friends, Kim & Vance, turned into an impromptu 5-hour pool party! Kim forced me (ok...not really) to have a few (3, 4, 10?...I lost count) of her poolside cocktails. I wanted to make cookies for her inspired by her drink. (It is a perfect summer/poolside drink: cherry 7-up, lime juice and vodka over beats the Texas heat, let me tell ya!)

I used my candy corn cookie cutter for these cookies. Here's a peek at just some of my drawings. I threw about half of the pages away before thinking to snap a picture. Sometimes, what is in my head just won't translate to the paper!
  • With a #2 tip, pipe the outline of the lime in one corner. (AmeriColor Leaf Green)
  • With a #3 tip, pipe the outline of the cherry in red, meeting up with the lime outline. (AmeriColor Super Red)
  • Using the lime as a guide for the corner of the glass, pipe the outline of the glass in black using a #2 or 3 tip. (Spectrum Super Black)
  • Thin white and light pink icing with water to a syrup-like consistency and cover both with a damp dishtowel. Let sit several minutes. (AmeriColor Soft pink with a smidge of Spectrum Peach)
  • Gently stir the white icing with a rubber spatula to pop any air bubbles that have risen to the surface and transfer to a squeeze bottle.
  • Fill in the top of the glass with the white flood icing.
  • Stir and transfer pink icing to a squeeze bottle.
  • Working with 6 to 8 cookies at a time, flood just below the glass "rim" with an uneven line of white icing.
  • Go back through your 6 to 8 cookies and flood with the pink icing butting up against the wet white icing.
  • While this is drying, add light green to the lime wedges using a #1 tip (or thin to flood). (AmeriColor Leaf Green)
  • Using a #3 tip, fill in the cherry outline (or thin to flood).
  • With a #46 basket weave tip, pipe the straw in white (un-thinned icing). Smooth side of the tip facing up.
  • If the flood icing has come up over the glass rims, like mine did, go back over the glass rim in black outline icing.
  • Switch the tip on the black icing to a #1 and pipe on the cherry stem.
  • Using a #1 tip, pipe stripes on the straws in red icing.

Vegan Peach Ice Scream

vegan peach ice scream
Refreshing peachy ice cream- and it's dairy-free.

Cool non-dairy peachy goodness. A vegan ice cream recipe for the dog days of summer. Wait. Is it August already? Good goddess, the summer is careening by. It's true what they say about the concept of time. It changes as you get, um, older. During your ritual morning walk your husband turns to you and mentions a moment from yesterday and the dirt road beneath you starts to swim (not that swimming surfaces are all that unusual out here in the shimmering desert heat).

You ask, Was that yesterday? 

And he thinks a minute. Wait, he says. Friday? 

You hear the brittle dryness of the desert wind. The roar of the loud cobalt sky. There are stones beneath your feet. The same stones as yesterday, last week, last year.

That was last week, you offer, shaking your head in a spin cycle of empathy and disbelief and astonishment. 

Dude, he says. 

Tell me about it, you sigh.

How about some peach ice cream for breakfast?

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