Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Accucut Bags

I love paper...wrapping paper, cardstock, bright colorful paper.  Nothing fills my creative soul like making stuff with paper!  I made these gift bags with my Accucut GrandeMark 2 machine, the Bag #9 Accucut die and a wide variety of wrapping paper I had in my stash.  The creativity fun continued with choosing the right ribbon for the handles.  Making these bags was a great way to use up my leftover wrapping paper and ribbon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Easter Favor Box

One last post before Easter this weekend.  I made a trio of Easter favor boxes using supplies from various papercraft vendors.  From Stampin' Up, I used the Lots to Love Box Framelits Die and Soft Sky/Lemon Lime Twist/Powder Pink cardstock.  From Mama Elephant, I used the Inside Pop - Bunny and Cat Creative Cut die.  Lastly, I used some stickers from Doodlebug from an Easter kit Simon Says Stamp put together last year.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

EOS Lip Balm Favor

EOS lip balms look like eggs.  I thought they'd be perfect Easter favors cutely packaged in a clear plastic box from Stampin' Up, tied with Stampin' Up Pool Party Baker's Twine and stuffed with colorful paper Easter grass.  Who wants one??

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Easy Tapenade Recipe

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where there is a gourmet chain of grocery stores called Draeger's.  Their San Mateo store offers onsite cooking classes and I signed up for a class featuring Michael Romano from Union Square in New York City (Yes, this class was a LONG time ago!).  I took away several fantastic recipes from this class, including one for tapenade that was provided by the Draeger's culinary program.  It was the first time I'd ever tasted tapenade and I loved it from the first bite!  Tapenade is the perfect pantry appetizer that can be thrown together for impromptu entertaining, as long as you have olives, olive oil, garlic and crackers on hand.  Serve in a cute Weck jar.  Here's the super easy recipe.


1 c kalamata olives
1 2-oz can anchovies
1 T capers
1/2 c Italian parsley
1 T cognac
3 cloves garlic
Good quality olive oil

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.  Slowly add olive oil.  Allow the tapenade to sit overnight (preferably) so the flavors can fully develop.

Friday, March 9, 2018

My Favorite Coffee Cake Recipe

I got this recipe from a co-worker a long time ago.  It has remained my favorite coffee cake recipe over the years.  I did make a slight modification to the topping but the cake was perfect and didn't require any changes.  This is an incredibly moist coffee cake.  Use fresh or frozen blueberries; either works well.

Mrs. Spooner's Coffee Cake
½ c butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

1 c vanilla yogurt (can use sour cream)
1½ c blueberries

½ c butter, cut into cubes
½ c flour
1 c brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, mix together the butter, flour and brown sugar for the crunchy topping and set aside.

In mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs, vanilla and yogurt; beat well.  Add to creamed mixture.  Fold in blueberries.  Spread batter in a 9”x13” pan.  Sprinkle topping over the batter and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

My Favorite Black Forest Cake

I made a German-themed dinner which culminated in Black Forest Cake for dessert.  I baked this cake at my sister’s house and didn’t have access to all the tools in my kitchen.  I was aiming for the “naked” cake look and almost achieved it.  There are a few spots that were heavy handed with the whipped cream frosting and I would’ve preferred bigger chocolate curls...but not too shabby for an impromptu attempt.  Callebaut cocoa is the secret ingredient that made the cake really tasty!

The recipe I used is from this blog post; I only had 6” cake pans which yielded taller cake layers.  I didn't have kirsch and substituted that with the juice from the jar of Morello cherries sold at Trader Joe’s.

  • 1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 c cake flour
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 c buttermilk
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c semisweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 4 large eggs

  • 3 c heavy whipping cream
  • 12 oz jar Morello (sour) cherries
  • 1 1/2 T cherry liquor kirsch
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 2 T cherry juice (from the jar)
  • 6 oz grated dark chocolate

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease two 9" round cake pans with butter or nonstick spray and line with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and eggs. Gradually beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips and mix just until well blended. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  5. Bake the cakes until a tester comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto wire cooling racks to cool completely. 

To fill and decorate the cake:
  1. Remove the cherries from the syrup and set aside both the cherries and syrup.
  2. Make the whipped cream. Place the whipping cream in a large bowl and use either the whisk attachment on your stand mixer or a hand mixer to beat. Start at low speed, then work your way up to high, adding the powdered sugar. Beat on high until stiff peaks form, then stop and set aside. 
  3. Use a long serrated knife or cake leveler to cut each  Place the first layer on a cake board or plate and brush a coating of cherry syrup (or kirsch) over the surface. Spread about a 1/3" layer of whipping cream onto the cake and top with 1/3 of the cherries. Repeat with the remaining layers.
  4. Use the rest of the whipped cream to coat the sides and top of the cake. Decorate with the grated chocolate. Refrigerate the cake until you're ready to serve. Since this cake uses a whipped topping, it is best served the day it is assembled since the frosting will gradually deflate. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Continuing the theme of posts featuring my favorite recipes, I give to you my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  I don't know where the source of this recipe came from.  It was given to me by a friend and she said they were called Not Mrs. Fields.  I made a few changes to the amount of brown and white sugars.  I wanted my cookies chewier so I increased the brown sugar and decreased the white.  Also, I changed the amount of chocolate chips (there are two bags of chocolate chips in this recipe!) and added milk along with semi-sweet chocolate.  

Not Mrs. Fields
1/2 lb butter
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 eggs (crack one and scramble it, then take half the volume)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 c flour
1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 12 oz bag milk chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients and add to the mixture.  Add chocolate chips.

Shape into 2" balls using a scoop and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Cookies may look underdone, but they will continue to brown as they cool down.  When cookies come out of the oven, flatten the tops with a spatula.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

My Favorite Bread Pudding Recipe

I posted this bread pudding recipe during my initial blogging days.  This recipe is so good, it warrants a double post.  I made this bread pudding over the weekend when I found myself with an abundance of stale bread.  The best bread to use is either a sweet french, ciabatta or pugliese bread.  You need a sturdy bread with body but not too dense nor flavored like a rye or pumpernickel or sourdough.  You can use those types of bread but it'll change the flavor and texture.  

Italian Bread Pudding

1 lb Italian bread (Ciabatta or Pugliese, for example)
8 eggs
2 c heavy cream
2 c half 'n half
2 c sugar
1/4 c Frangelico
1 T vanilla extract
1 c golden raisins soaked in enough Marsala wine to cover
1/2 tsp Amaretto
1 1/2 c white chocolate
1/4 c reserved Marsala wine (soaking liquid for golden raisins)

Trim crusts from the bread and cut into 1/2" cubes.  Soak the golden raisins with enough Marsala wine to submerge it, for at least 15 - 30 minutes)

Whisk the eggs, cream and half 'n half.  Add sugar, raisins, Frangelico, vanilla extract and Amaretto.  Pour liquid over bread cubes.  Let stand 30 minutes, pressing bread down occasionally into custard mixture.  Can be prepared 2 hours ahead.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare baking pan or individual molds with butter and flour.  Fill molds half way with bread pudding mixture.  Sprinkle with white chocolate and fill molds with additional bread pudding mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F until set in center, about 40 minutes.  If baking in one pan, it may take up to 1 hour.  Check to see that custard has set and is no longer runny.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Paper Fashions

Klutz Press prints lots of how-to and DIY books geared towards children and young adults.  I happened to pick up the book Klutz Paper Fashions (they appeal to adults too!) but I didn't touch it until a few months ago.  Once I did, I was inspired, channeled my inner "Vera Wang" and cranked out a series of cards in one weekend.  I had dreamed of being a fashion designer when I was a young girl and this was my opportunity to see what I could create.  I couldn't stop!  The book does come with patterned paper plus embellishments and tiny adorable hangers.  I also used things I found in my craft stash such as ribbons, glittery and patterned paper, rhinestones, scraps of paper, etc.  I donated a set of these cards to a school for their silent auction.  Some of you fashionistas may recognize a few of these outfits.  Yes, Amal Clooney's fashion sense inspired me tremendously.  I had so much fun putting together these looks!

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Perfect Day

Recently, a friend and I spent a decadent weekend doing ALL our favorite, crafting, eating and watching movies.  We started off the weekend "treasure hunting" at Home Goods/TJ Maxx.  I love it when I find Rae Dunn or other cute pottery and dishes there.  Then we crafted and made a lot of favor boxes using Accucut dies.  The cheese board we made for afternoon snacking filled us up, so we skipped dinner and ended the evening binge-watching Bridget Jones movies.  What a perfect day!  

The next morning, to continue the indulgence, I made Croque Madame for brunch.  There is also a "finger" of banana bread (recipe in this post and a huge latte in the background (Yes, that's a Rae Dunn "Dream." coffee cup).

Croque Madame
3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
2 c milk (heated)
12 oz Gruyere cheese
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
Nutmeg to taste
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
12 3/4" thick slices bread (I use sliced French bread)
6 T Dijon mustard
12 thin slices baked ham
2 T canola oil
6 eggs

Heat butter over medium-high heat.  Add flour and cook, whisking until smooth, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the heated milk and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer until slightly reduced and thickened, 6 - 8 minutes.  Add 1/2 c grated Gruyere and Parmesan and whisk until smooth.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Heat broiler to high.  Place 6 slices bread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread 1 T mustard over each.  Top with 2 slices ham and remaining Gruyere.  Broil until cheese begins to melt, 1- 2 minutes.  Top with remaining bread slices, then pour a generous amount of bechamel sauce on top of each sandwich.  Broil until cheese sauce is bubbling, 3 - 4 minutes.

Fry an egg and place on top of each sandwich.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Easter Favor Bags

One of my favorite papercraft vendors is Mama Elephant.  Their designs are really cute!  I made these Bunny Favor bags for Easter using Mama Elephant's Favor Bag Accessory - Bunny die along with their Favor Bag - XL die.  The tags were made with the Slim Tag trio die.  Wouldn't you be excited to receive this favor for Easter?  

Other favor bag accessories include a Dog.  I posted unconventional Chinese New Year red envelopes using the dog die in a previous blog post here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My Favorite Carrot Cake Recipe

When it comes to carrot cakes, the more add-ins, the better. This means crushed pineapple, coconut, raisins AND walnuts.  This year, I made mini carrot cakes for my sister’s birthday, which was the day after Valentine’s.  A group of us went out to dinner and I gave these mini cakes as "favors”.  I lined tiny cake boxes with kraft parchment paper, attached handmade "LOVE" tags using this bundle from The Stamp Market and tied up the boxes with cute colorful baker's twine from Stampin' Up.  This recipe calls for a 13x9 inch pan but it can easily be adapted to other cake pan sizes.  I used 3” cake pans which yielded 4 cakes.

2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 c buttermilk
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/4 c plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 c peeled and grated carrots (about 2 to 3 large carrots)
1-1/2 c sweetened flaked coconut
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
1 c chopped walnuts
1 c raisins

Cream Cheese Frosting:
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 c powdered sugar

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Spray 13x9-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside. 
  2. For cake, whisk together flourbaking sodacinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  3. Place eggsbuttermilkvegetable oilvanilla extract, and sugar in a large bowl and mix until smooth.  Slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Gently fold in carrotscoconutpineapple, pecans and raisins.    Pour batter evenly into prepared pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until cake springs back when pressed.
  4. While the cake cools, for frosting, add cream cheese and butter in large bowl and beat until fluffy.  Add vanilla extract and mix until combined.  Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  
  5. Once the cake is cooled, evenly spread frosting over cake.  

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Unconventional Chinese New Year Red Envelopes

A few weeks ago, I made these unconventional Chinese New Year red envelopes for my niece and nephews.  Since it's the Year of the Dog and Mama Elephant had just released their Favor Accessory - Dog die cut, I decided to forego passing out traditional red and gold envelopes and made my own.  In case you're interested, the die can be purchased here.  You can create various "breeds" of dogs depending on your creativity.  The envelopes were a hit!

Monday, February 26, 2018

My Favorite Banana Bread Recipe

I know it's been 8 years since my last post - where has the time gone?  I've been active on Social Media via my Instagram account @foodstraveller but after revisiting my blog a while ago, I realized I wanted to go back to blogging and share my travel, crafting and cooking pictures in more detail.  Blogging would allow this so here's my attempt at blogging 2.0.

Many, many years ago, when I was a young woman, I worked at Nordstrom selling men's shoes.  There were many great memories of that time in my life.  I took away many life lessons such as the "customer is always right".  I also took away the best banana bread recipe I've ever come across in my lifetime.  The recipe came out of an Employee Cookbook that was sold at the store.  Nowadays, Nordstom has published official fancy hard covered cookbooks, but back in the day, the cookbook I bought was a very "homemade" version with a spiral bound spine and a paper cover.  Here's the banana bread recipe from the cookbook with one edit by me.  I added some sour cream to the recipe.  This bread is amazingly moist.  You'll be thanking me like everyone who has ever had a slice of this bread.  It's heaven.  Enjoy!

Banana Bread

½ tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup sour cream
3 or 4 ripe bananas (mashed)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Cream butter and sugar with a mixer.  Add eggs, sour cream, bananas and vanilla.  Then add flour; do not overmix.  Pour into greased loaf pan.  Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Watercolored Cute Christmas

Here's a card I made for a Christmas Stamp-a-Stack class I held in November.  The trees are watercolored using markers that are scribbled on an acrylic block then the colors are picked up with an aqua painter.  This is one of my favorite methods of watercoloring.  I learned it at a Rubber Stamp convention and have adopted it ever since.

Stampin' Up Supplies Used:

Stamps:  A Cute Christmas, Sparkly & Bright
Paper:  Candy Cane Christmas DSP, Real Red
Ink:  Basic Black
Accessories:  Markers - Baja Breeze, River Rock, Pear Pizzazz, Old Olive, Peach Parfait and Real Red, Aqua Painter