hostess gifts

Have you seen Chica and Joe’s blog? It’s a fun place to visit for craft and recipe ideas (like the candy corn bags featured here). Last week these lovely ladies stopped by and mentioned they are looking for coworker gifts in the $10-$15 range. Chica and Joe, this next set of posts are for you!

We’ll start with food gifts. Because, I think a love of food is something I share with Chica and Joe.

best homemade food christmas gifts coworkers

Isn’t the picture of Gingerbread biscotti tempting? Be sure to stop by Annie’s eats, the master baker and photographer behind the shot.

Gingerbread biscotti, yumm
A jar of hot fudge, ready to warm and pour
The latest Zagat
Cookies that look like your coworkers
Awesome peanut butter in flavors you never imagined but know you’ll love
Homemade lemon curd (via here, be sure to check out Stephmodo for loads of other killer recipe ideas)
Homemade pesto
The what’s for lunch spinner, maybe with a gift card to a nice little deli
Anarchy in a jar via this awesome list (if you live in Brooklyn they will peddle it over to your door)
Something yummy from Kohler, like the cherry almond bar

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Notes on Cooking

10.27.09

I am in love with this book. The instant I first saw it’s cover, with its sweet little understated title, I knew it would be good. And it is, wow, it is. You know how delicious it was when you were a kid or teenager and you were allowed to be part of some really adult conversation? Like the cool aunt who tells you how life really is? It feels like that. Like you’re sitting down with a master chef, who, for some reason, has decided to spill everything about how the kitchen really works and satisfy all your curiosities.

Notes On Cooking Cover

The book reminds me of all the reasons I love to cook. And if you know anyone who gets passionate about cooking at any time in their life, they will feel the same. Read some of the advice, you’ll see what I mean:

“If it’s in the title, leave it alone”
“The cook’s first job is to delight”
“Feed others as they wish to be fed”
“Preside happily over accidents”
“Cook for the kitchen you’re in”
“Use koser or sea salt”
“Fish should not smell”
“Think regionally”
“Add fresh woody herbs at the beginning; fresh leafy herbs at the end”
“When the cook has done his job, there should be no need for salt and pepper on the table”
“Chicken is the test of a cook’s versatility”
“First aroma and appearance, then temperature, then texture, then flavor”

So, do you have any stellar notes on cooking?

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If you’re new here, welcome. I’m AmberLee, and since writing this post, I’ve opened up a little chocolate shop. I’d love to have you stop by, don’t forget to send me a hot chocolate flavor suggestion. Or say hello on facebook. I’d like that too.

NOTE: If you blog this recipe, I’ll be thrilled and flattered. In fact, I kept this recipe as bare bones as possible in hopes you’d play with different flavors, molds, and sticks. If you do blog, would you link back to me here? (Like this and this kind review, thank you!) I will so appreciate it. Feel free to use a picture or two, but please don’t repost all the pictures and please don’t post the recipe without my written permission. It’s taken a few years of researching and practicing with chocolate (certainly not an unpleasant thing) and some days of a very messy kitchen (but a happy family) to provide you with this recipe and with good advice about chocolate.

Oh how I love when the weather turns cold enough for hot chocolate. Something about a good cup of hot chocolate makes the world feel like a gentler place.
gourmet hot chocolate on a stick gift
This idea is something I’ve been wanting to try for a couple winters now. Chocolate, and hot chocolate especially, have always been a big deal to me. I spent the first years of my life in my dad’s hometown of Merida, Venezuela—right up the hill from Lake Maracaibo, where some of the world’s most crazy amazing cacao is grown. Our family was made up of German and Austrian immigrants who were crazy about fine chocolate. So I always felt chocolate was in my blood. Finally, my parents and family landed in Idaho, which is where I discovered that a cup of hot chocolate was the difference between a bleak winter and a cozy one.



me in Venezuela, I’m the pudgy one in booties

Enough of my life story, and on to a recipe for real, amazing hot chocolate.

I’m glad I finally took the time to puzzle this through and do a little taste testing, because the recipe turned out to be so simple, and the results so delightful. Stir one of these sticks into a cup of steaming milk or cream and in two minutes  you will have transformed it into a cup of rich hot chocolate, the blessed stuff. I can’t help feel that the act of stirring adds to the experience, soothing you over while building up the anticipation for that first sip.
hot chocolate on a stick gift

First things first: what chocolate to buy (see a whole post dedicated to this here)
The trick to making the best hot chocolate on a stick is using good, serious chocolate that melts easily. A chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa butter will do that. More cocoa butter means quicker melting. A bag of every-day chocolate chips won’t melt as fast. In fact, chocolate chips are formulated not to melt as fast, so they hold shape in your yummy cookies. You can also find fake chocolate (like a bag of Wilton’s candy melts, aka summer coating), which uses vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter. It will melt well, but the resulting cup of hot chocolate won’t be transcendent. And we’re going for transcendent. The candy melts are great for coating the outside if you like, because they stay pretty and shiny even if you don’t melt them just right.

If you’re on a tight budget, try using a bag of real-chocolate wafers made for a chocolate fountain or for fondue. You can also go with a good baking chocolate bar (you’ll probably want one that is sweetened, not unsweetened). If you really want to make an incredible gift, invest in some good chocolate. You’ll have to sample to pick a favorite. For most chocolate, if you enjoy eating it, you will enjoy drinking it, though some chocolates definitely stand out as drinking chocolate (Scharffen Berger, great if you like a natural chocolate), and some seem to fall short (Lindt for me did this). Following are some good other brands to consider: Ghiradelli (great if you want a dutch processed, more cocoa-flavored chocolate), Barry Callebaut, Dagoba, Michel Cluizel, El Rey, Valrhona, Guittard, TCHO, and I’ve really been wanting to try Amano from Utah.

And if you want your chocolate to come out pretty, you’ll need to temper it. I’ve written my full tempering instructions here. But if you are new to chocolate and tempering scares you, just dip your creations in melted, chocolate-looking, summer coating.

chocolate wafers meltable

Word of warning: no water!
There is one thing you need to know before working with chocolate if you don’t already: never let water or alcohol touch it. Not a drop. You can be stirring a potful of smooth, decadent melted chocolate, then get one drop of water in it and the whole thing will get grainy and seize up. It’s a sad experience. (If this happens to you, use the chocolate for a recipe like brownies or ganache that uses chocolate and liquids).

So then, if you’re planning to introduce vanilla, use a vanilla bean or vanilla paste, not vanilla extract. If you want to add food coloring, use a gel or powdered form, not liquid.
chocolate homemade candy

Hot Chocolate on a Stick
Yield: 10 cubes of hot chocolate (ice-cube-tray size)
(use 1 oz. hot chocolate on a stick per every 1 cup milk or cream)

Equipment:
Ziplock bags or piping bags
A double boiler or pan with a glass bowl that can sit over the simmering water
Some kind of chocolate mold, ice trays work great
Stir sticks or a bag of wooden craft sticks like I used (like these, available at any craft store)

Ingredients:
8 oz. chocolate (see note above), bittersweet, semisweet, milk, and white chocolate all work
3 Tbsp cocoa, sifted (dutch processed cocoais more mellow, natural cocoais stronger, pick your favorite)
6-8 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar, sifted, depending on how much sweeter you’d like your hot chocolate
pinch of salt

Feel free to play with other fun ingredients to throw in, ground spices, crushed candy. Just remember, no water and no alcohol or your chocolate will sieze.

6 cups milk and 2 cups heavy cream if you plan to enjoy these right away

Method
(read a whole post about melting chocolate, including how to melt in the microwave, here)

  1. If your chocolate is in a block, chop it into even-sized meltable pieces. Simmer a couple inches of water in a pan, then turn down the heat so the water is below a simmer. I like to remove the pan from the heat, but if you keep it on, keep that water below a simmer. Place glass or stainless steel bowl over the top to make a double boiler. If the bowl touches the water it’s alright, as long as your water is mildly warm, not hot. Dump chocolate into the clean, dry bowl and stir as the chocolate melts. (If you are patient and let those chunks melt slowly, keeping them from getting over 90 degrees F or 88 degrees F for milk and white chocolate, the chocolate will stay “in temper” and will still be nice and pretty when it cools.)
  2. Once the chocolate is 2/3 melted, with just some pieces of the chocolate unmelted, remove the bowl from the pan, dry the bottom with a towel and continue stirring until chocolate is fully melted. This is just one more step to keep the chocolate from getting too hot.
  3. Add cocoa, sugar, and salt and continue to stir until combined. The chocolate will be thicker, as thick as frosting if you’ve put in all the sugar, but stir on. You can pop it back over your double boiler for a minute to make it a bit more liquid, or pop it back in the microwave for 5 or 10 seconds on half power. If the chocolate looks and feels grainy it’s possible you’ve accidentally gotten a drop of water in the mixture. If it has gotten water in it and has seized up, it will still taste alright, it just won’t be as pretty or smooth or melt quite as fast.
  4. Scoop chocolate into a ziplock bag and clip off the corner.
  5. Pipe the chocolate into your chocolate mold, tapping the mold on the counter to make sure all the chocolate settles into the mold. Add a stir stick and you’re done. The stir stick should stay upright without any trouble. If the chocolate bursts through the bag in places you don’t want it to, just put the whole thing in another bag. If the chocolate starts to get too thick to squeeze, just put the whole thing in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or so at half power.
  6. Let the chocolate cool either at room temperature or in the fridge if you’re in a hurry. I find the chocolate pops out of the mold nicely if it’s been in the fridge. It’s okay to cool chocolate in the fridge, just don’t store it there, because chocolate soaks up the odors of other foods pretty quickly.
  7. If you don’t like the look of the chocolate once it is removed from the mold, you can dip the cubes into a new batch of plain melted chocolate for a shinier finish (again, try to keep chocolate from heating over 90 degrees, or use candy melts, which don’t need to be in temper, they will stay shiny and pretty even if you go above 90 degrees). This also lets you add sprinkles or crushed candy or just lets you dip in fun patterns. I like dipping at an angle into a different color of chocolate.
  8. In order to enjoy these, heat up any combo of milk, water, half and half, or cream. I like 6 cups milk with 2 cups heavy cream. One ounce of chocolate on a stick should be melted into one cup milk or cream. So a standard ice cube-tray block, which is 3/4 an ounce, should be melted into a mug with 3/4 cup milk or cream in it.

Troubleshooting: A few of you have had trouble with your chocolate seizing. Tiffany provided this great note  to help out (thanks, Tiffany!), “if the chocolate begins to seize (since for some reason, both of my batches seized, I’m thinking it’s the humidity in the air where I am) you do not have to throw it out. Just put the bowl back over the hot water and add a little bit of vegetable oil (I used somewhere between a tsp and a tbsp) after stirring over a little heat, the chocolate will get smooth again. Also good to note, chocolate can seize if you add any cold ingredients.”

How to store it: Dark chocolate will keep in an airtight container for up to a year, milk and white chocolate for several months. Remember, don’t keep it in the fridge because it is really good at absorbing odors.
hot chocolate on a stick3

cinnamon hot chocolate

Variations: Try adding a pinch of your favorite spice. We tried adding a little extra punch by lining the outside with red hots. Very fun. You can also leave out the cocoa and sugar all together and replace it with 8 servings of your favorite packaged hot cocoa. And if you have any strokes of genius for flavors, we’re collecting flavor ideas at my hot chocolate shop, The Ticket Kitchen.
mold

As you can see, we played around with a few different molds, like this water bottle ice cube mold from IKEA. The classic ice cube mold was my favorite though. It works best for submersing the entire block of meltable chocolate in a standard mug.
UPDATE: Love Prince Pi’s suggestion of molding these in shot glasses. Also love how the Kitchn (yea!! they tried my recipe!!) made do with a single pan. TinaMarie also made the great suggestion of using small Dixie cups. And finally, check out this beautiful version Sprinkebakes made using a chocolate transfer sheet and birch spoons. You will love it.
hot chocolate on a stick 2

This was fun, but a mess to open (chocolate in egg shells).

Happy melting! And if you have a moment to peruse my shop or become a fan on facebook, I’d love to have you!


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If you’re new here, welcome! I’m AmberLee, and Giverslog is my place to share recipes, gift ideas, pretty wrapping ideas, and whatever else is on my mind. I also own an online chocolate shop, The Ticket Kitchen. Stop by if you get a moment!
amazing homemade caramel candy

Once you go homemade, you never go back.

I love the process of making homemade caramel. Getting the caramel started, pulling out a bowlful along the way to use as homemade caramel dip, then dipping apples just a little bit further along the way. Then reaching the end, where it’s ready to be candy, real homemade caramel, the heavenly stuff. For a week after I’ve made caramel I melt one piece of caramel in each cup of hot cocoa I have. Try it. You’ll like it.

+++

Following is my fail proof recipe. Or at least it is really really nearly close to fail proof. I have failed at it many times in many different ways in order to bring it to you in this bulletproof form. I’ve also had some minor degree burns. So be careful when you make homemade candy. Respect the candy. (You’re welcome.)

Homemade Caramel (or caramel dip)
Yield: about 60 caramels
Prep and cook time: 1 hour (not including time to cut and wrap caramels, save extra time for that)

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, unsalted
1 cup light corn syrup (11.5 oz)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (or substitute two cups half and half or light cream, I almost always use sweetened condensed milk b/c makes for shorter cooking time)
2 1/4 cup brown sugar (14.5 oz.), white sugar is also okay, but I prefer brown
1 tsp. vanilla
(Note: if you try any substitute ingredients, I’d love to hear how it goes! I’d love to accommodate readers with any dietary restrictions!)

Equipment:
candy thermometer
heavy, 3-qt. sauce pan, or 6-qt. if doubling the recipe, which I always do (having a heavy pan is important, if your pan is too thin it can heat the caramel unevenly and make it separate)
parchment paper (how I love parchment paper, i’ve never found anything that sticks to this stuff)
8×8 or 9×9 pan (or large jelly-roll cookie sheet if doubling recipe)
wax paper for wrapping caramels

Method:

  1. Every time before using a candy thermometer, clip a candy thermometer onto a pan full of cold water and bring it to a boil (make sure the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pan). I cheat on a lot of things, but I never cheat on this. Boiling water should read 212°. Once the water is boiling, make note of any difference in your reading, and adjust your reading accordingly when you make the candy (for example, if thermometer reads 210° in boiling water instead of 212°, then take caramel off at 242° instead of 244°). High-altitude note: If you live above 7k feet, see the high-alt info below.
  2. Line pan with parchment paper, even up the sides. Prepare any apples, pretzels, or other things you’ll be dipping. Chop any nuts or prepare any candy you’ll be sprinkling on top.
  3. Cut butter into smaller, even sized cubes for even melting. Melt over low in sauce pan.
  4. Carefully add sugar by pouring it into the center of the pan. If any sugar crystals stick to side of pan, push them down with a damp pastry brush so they do not crystallize the entire batch and make you want to cry. Stir slowly until well combined with melted butter.
  5. Add and mix in corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk (or cream).
  6. Cook and stir on medium for one minute, then to med.-high until boiling. You want to change temperatures slowly so you don’t shock the candy. Once boiling, clip on your candy thermometer (again, don’t let it touch the bottom of the pan). By the time your caramel is boiling, if you have been stirring well, you should have the butter fully blended into the caramel mixture, not separated.
  7. Reduce heat to about medium, adjusting so that you keep a moderate, steady boil. Stir frequently. I’m serious about the stirring. If you let your caramel go too long without stirring, you’ll end up with a separated, greasy batch of caramel. No good.
  8. Temperature does not raise at a steady rate, so watch thermometer closely. If you have any doubts about the accuracy of your thermometer, periodically do a test by dropping a little in cold water. When your thermometer reaches thread stage (230–233°), take out any caramel that you would like to use as dip. When thermometer reaches late soft ball stage (234–240°), dip in a few apples for caramel apples (UPDATE: Click here for  a great pro tip for perfect caramel apples.)
  9. When thermometer reaches 244°, remove caramel from heat (this is low firm ball stage; reaching this stage from boiling takes me about 30 minutes with sweetened condensed milk and longer with cream, though I have had a reader reach it in less time, so watch closely).
  10. Stir in vanilla. If dipping, start immediately. If making caramels, pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Either way, take care not to burn yourself, this stuff is so so hot.
  11. Allow to cool for several hours and use a butter knife or kitchen shears to cut pieces (UPDATE: a clever reader suggested a pizza cutter, another preferred preferred her trusty Santou knife, lightly buttered, thanks Susan!). Wrap in wax paper. Or to save on cutting time, just leave the whole batch out on the counter with a knife next to it and watch it gradually disappear.

And, for handy reference, here is the candy temperature list:

230–233° Thread
234–240° Soft ball
244–248° Firm ball
250–266° Hard ball

High altitude: I so appreciate this note from Debbie: If you live above, 7000 feet,  stop at 227 degrees! I used the NMSU E215 Guide, which I’ve found to be the best reference. I used the lowest temperature listed for chewy candies. It was the perfect temperature. I always select the lower end of the temperatures listed to take into account the extreme drying conditions of H.A!

candy thermometerchecking the thermometer temperature

dipping apple in caramelmmmm. apples and caramel means fall is here.

how to make a caramel candy apple with nutsrolled in pecans

homemade caramel

heaven in a wrapper

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CLOTH NAPKINS

09.04.09

homemade cloth napkinsMy parents are in town for the week (ahhh, so nice). With a couple extra baby holders in the house, I felt brave enough to take on a sewing project, a set of cloth napkins.

I found some fun fabric at a small local place a friend just introduced me to and matched it with some fabric grandma gave me from her days of sewing in the ‘ 60s. The first napkin set went well. I suffered no sewing disasters, which I’m prone to having. So I really got saucy and tried mitered corners on the second set. Here’s one of my better corners, ready to sew.

mitered cornerI like this as a possible housewarming gift. I’m thinking if I ever get a yudu or a gocco, screenprinting a set may be more my style. Or just picking up one of the beautiful sets would suit me too.

cloth napkins screenprintedscreenprinted napkins by olofsdaughter’s

cloth napkin-woodblock-lake_cloth napkins in pretty colors, hand dyed napkin, woodblock napkins

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B-cherry jamLet me just tell you about this sweet cherry jam. The first time I had it I felt like I was getting away with something. Like ordering an ice cream sunday and getting two cherries on top. I hunted down the friend who made it and told her I really needed the recipe. And being the angel she is, she presented me not only with the recipe, but also with my own jar of this heavenly jam. I’m not usually the type to crave jam, but something about the half cherries in bright pink-red jelly makes me feel indulgent every time I have it. So, without further ado, here is the recipe.

free printable jam wedding favor5Sweet Cherry Jam
yield 6 half-pint jars

Ingredients
3 lbs ripe dark sweet cherries
1 package (1.75 oz) pectin
1 tsp lemon peel, finely shredded
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 cups sugar

Equipment
6 or 8-qt. Dutch oven
half-pint canning jars, sterilized and heated before adding jam
boiling-water canner

Method
1.
Wash and pit cherries, then halve them. Measure 4 cups of halved cherries.
2. In dutch oven, combine cherries, pectin, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high, stirring constantly. Add sugar and continue to stir. Bring to rolling boil, then boil for one minute longer, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam with metal spoon.
3. Ladel jam into canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch space. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process jars in boiling-water canner for 5 minutes after water begins to boil. Remove from canner and cool on rack.

B-cherry jam 4
As for the packaging, I used this tutorial to cover the lid just to the rim (I didn’t tuck the paper under the lid for obvious reasons). And here is the label I created, in case you’d like to download it:
Free Printable Jam Label (1563)
decopage jar lid

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VOSGES CHOCOLATE

07.06.09

Remember when I posted about the Vosges chocolate chip bacon pancakes for Father’s Day? Well, now everything you need to make these babies comes packed up in one convenient mix (thanks to Oh Joy for the photo). If this isn’t the perfect offering for a hostess, I don’t know what is (though I’m open to arguments from vegetarian and Jewish hostesses).perfect hostess giftA few other specialties from these experts at mixing chocolate and exotic flavors: 1, 2, and 3. And incase it’s something you want to be really really good at, here is their page on How to Eat Chocolate, my kind of tutorial.
hostess gift chocolate3

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We recently came across the ice princess popsicle mold and had to give it to a little princess at her birthday. It’s made by Worldwide Fred, a company that has really made an art of ice molds (a few favorites below, but don’t miss cool jewels and cool jazz). We’ve also been experimenting with homemade popsicles lately, ever since my kids found out the popsicle was invented by a kid, and are thinking of taking some to friends as goodies. So then, these molds make great gifts, but if you want to keep one for yourself, you can make your own great gifts.
alphabet ice trayAlphabet and letter trays available from Sillycone.
ice cream sandwich moldsReally adorable ice cream sandwich molds by Tovolo.
(See more by Tovolo on their site.)
push up popsicle moldA push-up popsicle mold by Lekueto eliminate some of the mess during freezing (it has a lid) and eating (just push up as you eat, photo via here.)
And here are a few other favorites:

summer hostess gifts ice molds party popsicles1: Sailboat Pop Mold by Cuisipro
2: Fossiliced tray by Fred
3: Ice Kebob by Fred
4: Ice Princess Tray with straws by Fred
5: Rocket Popsicle Molds by Tovolo

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I’ve put together a set of Father’s Day DIYs I’m hoping to get to you over the next few days. With a little luck, you’ll get four DIY Father’s Day gifts in four days: Th, F & M, T. (Click here for all Father’s Day gift ideas.) free-printable-hostess-fathers-day-gift-hot-sauce Here’s the first DIY project: homemade hot sauce. Use any recipe you like, but I’ve had my eye on this recipe, which I hope to try next week. Hot sauce works as a hostess gift or DIY favor, but I like to think it’s particularly good for dad. Presented with breakfast in bed, of course. Kids can help color the label and maybe help make the hot sauce, if they can keep away from the peppers!

Homemade Hot Sauce Labels (1726)

I also put together some free printable Father’s Day wrapping paper this morning, which you can download here:  Father\'s Day Printable Wrapping Paper (1216)
You can print it on these labels.

free-printable-wedding-favor-hot-sauce-label free-printable-diy-wedding-favor-hot-sauce

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We’ve had an exciting development here this week.

chickensWe are the proud owners of five laying Rhode Island Reds. We came into a bit of a jackpot when a mom I met needed to find a home for these hens. The kids have been out to check on our new friends several times a day, and my daughter is thrilled that our egg basket is actually getting to carry eggs. Actually, I think all of us feel like we’ve gained a little more country cred.

I’ve been pretty excited about the possibilities with fresh eggs—eggs benedict, huevos rancheros, a BLT-E. But one of my favorites is a simple soft boiled egg (with asparagus if possible). It reminds me of my dad and Germany. So here are a few breakfast and egg favorites for you to enjoy.egg-cups

row one: egg cups from here and here, and ceramic egg crate from here
row two: crochet egg warmer DIY here, egg basket from here, and linen egg warmer DIY here

simply-breakfast-bookAnd to go with your beautiful egg accessories, Simply Breakfast. Buy and preview the book here, from here (the photos are amazing).

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I am so excited about this post. I have an amazing SIL, who on top of being the world’s best gardener and cook, happens to be Argentine, happens to travel to Brazil with my brother and their 2-year-old to play capoeira on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro (they import all things capoeira here), and happens to love all things Latino at least as much as I do. So when she told me she found a woman who taught her to make the best fresh salsa and guacamole ever, I was a little excited.  I’ll let her take it from here. Here are the recipes and pics from her kitchen of the entire, wonderful process. Thanks, Cherie!

homemade-salsa-and-guacamole-2

4 Ways to Gift Authentic Mexican in Minutes

Authentic Mexican shouldn’t be this easy, or so I thought as my Mexican friend Marcie shared her family’s super easy salsa recipes with me that they eat on a daily basis.  She just chops and blends her own homemade guacamole and fresh red salsa, or she gets that that green or red roasted flavor with her cast iron skillet in minutes. Take a look at the recipes and see what I mean.

Homemade Guacamole
10 Tomatillos, husked and washed
4 Serrano chiles (add more for heat)
1/2 Yellow onion, chopped
1 Clove garlic
1 Cup fresh cilantro
Salt to taste

Blend tomatillos, chiles, onion, and garlic in blender on high for 30 seconds. Add avocado, cilantro, and salt. Blend until smooth.

Fresh Red Salsa
2 Tomatoes, quartered
3-6 Dried chiles de arbol (3 for mild, more for heat)
1 Clove garlic
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp water

Put all ingredients in blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds.

Green Roasted Salsa
10 Tomatillos, husked and washed
4 Serrano chiles (add more for heat)
1 Clove garlic
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp water

Pierce chiles with a fork so the steam can escape (if you don’t they may explode!). Roast the tomatillos and chiles in a flat, cast iron pan until dark spots form on all sides. Put all ingredients in blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds.

Red Roasted Salsa
2 Tomatoes
4 Serrano chiles (add more for heat)
1 Clove garlic
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp water

Pierce chiles with a fork so the steam can escape (if you don’t they may explode!). Roast the tomatoes and chiles in a flat, cast iron pan until dark spots form on all sides. Put all ingredients in blender. Blend on high for 30 seconds.

3-husking-tomatillos

husking the tomatillos for the guacamole and green roasted salsa

guacamole-step-1

the beginnings of fresh guacamole

guacamole-step-2

mmmm….

1-ingredients-chiles-de-arbol-are-dry

Dried chiles de arbol for the fresh red salsa

fresh-red-salsa-step-2

can’t wait to use tomatoes from the garden

homemade-salsaroasting on the cast iron

green-roasted-salsa-step-2

green roasted salsa about to be blended

homemade-salsa-and-guacamoleshare with the crowd or sneak into your hostess’s fridge

homemade-green-roasted-salsa

gifts-from-the-kitchen-icon-long-bannerclick here for more Gifts from the Kitchen

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Today we woke up to find fog hanging over the fields. I love this weather. It always reminds me of Europe, especially a childhood trip we took to visit a great uncle in Germany.

So while my mind is on Germany, I thought I’d share something my dad brought me from recent trips there: jam and honey spoons. When we have friends for dinner I balance them over a jar of jam next to rolls, and the spoons have never failed to start conversation. I’ve been dying to buy more to give away with homemade jam, but I could never find them, until now.

thank-you-gift-jam-spoonshostess-gift-jam-spoonI nearly jumped out of my chair when I found the spoons at Wildseed Farms, and a similar and equally wonderful version at Baileys. I expect to be very enthusiastic about making jam this summer.

a-little-germany-in-calithe perfect day for spaetzle, beef sauce, and red cabbage

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iglesia-by-robzandIglesia by robzand

Today I thought I’d share a few Latino music favorites that go beyond Ricky and Enrique. Half my family is Venezolano, so I have a soft spot for all things Latino. And since Mexico has had a rough few months, today seems like a good excuse to put aside troubles and enjoy the good life for a day. Use the playlist yourself or present as a gift to the hostess of your Cinco de Mayo festivities.

For those who prefer strictly Mexican
1. Alejandro Fernandez, “Como Quien Pierde una Estrella”
2. Pedro Infante, “Llegaste Tarde” (you could do a whole dinner party with just Pedro)
3. Pepe Aguilar, “Mexico Lindo”
4. Luis Miguel, “La Bikina”
5. Pedro Fernandez (Vincente’s son), “Yo No Fui”
6. Javier Solis, “Escandalo”
7. María de Lourdes, “El Mosco Cacheton”
8. Los Tigres del Norte, “La Yaquecita”

For those willing to branch further into the Latino world
1. Beny More, “Barbaro del Ritmo”
2. Sonora Poncena, “La Pollera Colora”
3. Gipsy Kings, “Baila Me”
4. Mana, “Mariposa Traicionera”
5. Los Lobos, “La Feria de la Flores” (this band is a favorite)
6. Victor Manuelle, “Lechon Lechon Lechon”
7. Carlos Vives, “Caballito”
8. Raymond Castellon, “Tu No Me Quieres Na”
9. Patato & Totico, “Que Linda Va”
10. Chino Nunez, “Hoy Les Cantamos”
11. Pedro Luiz Ferrer, “Que Le Den Con Que”
12. David Cedeno, “A Dios Le Pido”
13. Tito Rodriquez, “Mama Guela”
14. Cubanismo, “Descarga de Hoy”
15. Peggy Lee, “Manana” (okay, she’s not Latina, but I love this song, Harry Belafonte also works well with this song)

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cookie-cutters-giftCookbooks are addicting. I get lost at the book store flipping through pages and fantasizing about making each dish. I try to keep my cooking library to a few well-chosen classics, but it’s hard…so hard. Here are two that came from great recommendations that I’m considering adding, plus a few fun accessories I’ve seen.

cookies-cook-book-giftCookie Craft
Recommended and used by Bakerella herself, and these coffee cup cookie cutters found via design crush.

double-timer-gifts-for-cooksBon Appetit, Y’All
Recommended here, and the double timer.
Isn’t the double timer fun? I have three timers in my kitchen, which is great because my kids are always running off with one, but this is a much more elegant solution.

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