Friday, December 29, 2006

Tiki Party Picks

As the site says you can "incorporate this fun-loving figurine into the decor at a jungle-licious soiree. ". Only $3 for a pack of 8.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

What's Your Story #3: Nicole of Pinch My Salt

For the third edition of "What's Your Story" I contacted Nicole of the lovely food blog Pinch My Salt. Not only do I enjoy her site's clever name and beautiful recipes, but I really like how she sets up up her recipes and provides links for more information. It is so handy! Not only do we get yummy recipes but we learn a lot at the same time.

How long have you been cooking/baking?
My sister and I started baking with my mother when we were really small but I was probably 10 or 11 before I first really started cooking and baking on my own.

What are your favorite foods to make?
Well, I love to bake bread but other than that one of my favorite things to make are salads. I love trying different combinations of greens, vegetables, fruits, nuts and cheeses. It seems like the possibilities are endless!

What inspires you in the kitchen?
Fresh ingredients, new ingredients,and new kitchen gadgets! Sometimes I'm just inspired by my own hunger!

Why do you blog?
I started blogging because I live really far
away from friends and family and I thought it would be a great way to keep everyone updated on our adventures in Sicily. I started out with a "Life in Sicily" blog and I noticed that most of my posts were food-related. It didn't take long for me to realize how much I enjoyed photographing food, developing new recipes, and sharing with others. That's when I started Pinch My Salt. Since I haven't been updating my Life in Sicly blog, I will soon start trying to incorporate more of my Sicily experiences into Pinch My Salt.

What is your favorite post so far?
Well that one is hard to answer. I have a couple of favorite recipes and a couple of favorite photos but they aren't from the same posts! My favorite recipes are the Double Dark Chocolate Beet Muffins and the Cilantro Caesar Salad. But my favorite photos are the Mini Cherry Cheesecakes and the Peach Sorbet. But I guess my all-around favorite post would probably be Beef with Butter: Heart Attack or Heaven?

Best thing about living in Sicily?
The fresh produce! Oh, and the pizza and pastries and coffee and wine. Olive oil. Did I mention the pasta?

Do you share what you make?
Of course! My husband is in the military and unfortunately that means he isn't always around. But since I don't stop cooking when he's gone, my friends end up getting fed.

What do you do when you are not cooking?
Take photos of things I have cooked.

Favorite places to eat?
Greece and Italy. Oh, did you mean restaurants?
Some friends and I found this awesome pizzeria up on Mount Etna. I've only been there once but it was the best pizza I've had so I guess that's my favorite place to eat right now. It always changes! I also love Ring of Fire in Eugene, Oregon.

Any other interesting facts?
Well I'm originally from California but I lived in Oregon for several years so both places kind of feel like home. I have an English degree from the University of Oregon but I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. We don't have kids but I have a very spoiled little Boston terrier and a big fluffy cat who thinks she's a dog.

PS. if any readers want to be interviewed, send me an email!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I need your help!

My husband and I are going to have a 80s night and watch all of the 80s movies I never saw because I was in still in elementary school when the 80s ended. I also didn't have an older cool sibling, so anything that happened in the 80s that didn't involve My Little Pony, Care Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids or Tranformers is beyond my knowledge base. Matt, on the other hand graduated high school in 1990 and has seen many, many 80s movies that he feels the need to catch me up on.

This is where you came in, we've picked the movies but now I need help with the food aspect. I always associate sun dried tomatoes with the 80s. So I was kind of thinking of making a "California" pizza with sun dried tomatoes but am not sure. Anyone have better ideas? I saw that Cheetos were introduced in the mid-80s but that's not really a meal. Classic coke? Skittles? We don't want to spend money on something we don't really want to eat, so things like Hamburger Helper et al. are out, but anything else that reminds you of the 1980s is welcomed.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rheb's Candy

Every holiday (my birthday, Easter, Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc) my mom gets me a box of Rheb's candy. It is the best candy in the world. It is all handmade on site here in Baltimore (since 1917) and the caramels in particular are wonderful. I have never had better, even from fancy NYC candy shops. It is creamy yet redolent of burnt sugar. I am also partial to their dark chocolate covered sponges, and many coconut candies. If you go to the store (they have online ordering during the cooler months) during the holiday season, the line is hours long and wraps around the tiny shop and down the street. People are there buying 5, 10, 20 lbs of chocolate. You can make your own assortment, right down to the exact number of each individual candy (although prepacked is available and during the busy season, there is a separate line for prepacked only people that is still quite long, but faster moving) in your box. Then they wrap it up in apparently the same wrapping paper design they have been using since 1930 and tie it up with a bow. Rheb's is a major reason why I can never move from Baltimore-with an August birthday, I'd never get another birthday box. The prices are very reasonable too, it depends what you get but I am pretty sure it is all still under $15 a pound.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Moustache Factory: Monsieur Pain Grille

Moustache Factory has number of adorable food related mustachioed buttons for only $1.50 each. I love this french toast. And the word mustachioed.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I love: Pommery Pop Champagne

We discovered these last year: 1/4 sized bottles of Pommery Champagne. The huge bottles cost about $40 but the tiny ones are only around $8. They also have a 1/2 size that is about $17. The best part is that in addition to being cute, they are actually a really good Champagne from France, not just a novelty drink. The pink ones are a tad sweeter, but the blue ones are very dry. Both are delicious and it is so much fun to have your own personal sized bottle of Champagne. I think the idea of individual wines must be becoming popular because you can now buy the little bottles in a four pack ($34) and there are several shelves of other varieties of individual bottles of Champagne and sparkling wines where there used to just be Pop and Sofia (Sofia Coppola's sparkling wine in a can).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Book Review: Party Dips

It's the holiday party season and it seemed timely to share my favorite dip book. Party Dips! 50 Zippy, Zesty, Spicy, Savory, Tasty, Tempting Dips by Sally Sampson doesn't revolutionize dips as we know them but she doesn't have to. What she does do is give us 50 recipes for all kinds of dips: creamy dips, hot dips, cold dips, chunky dips, low fat dips, cheesy dips, sweet dips, any sort of dip you can imagine. It is all written in a casual tone which is entirely appropriate for the subject matter. Dips are not serious foods. She does give tips and techniques on preparation and serving suggestions but all of the recipes are easy and most can be made from ingredients you probably have on hand. I have read a number of other dip books and this is the one I am most like to turn to. It sounds trite but there really is something for everyone and for every occasion.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Last Minute Gifts

It is not too late to put together a last minute gift: Hanukkah is still in full swing and Christmas isn't until Monday. These cocoa mixes use ingredients you probably have around the house, are quick to make yet impressive looking. These would make fun hostess gifts as well.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Traditionally at Hanukkah, children get gelt (chocolate coins) and play the dreidel game to win more. Now, you have an alternative: Maccabeans, legendary jelly beans. Kosher, tasty and a little kitschy, they come with their own "legend":

And it came to pass that the Maccabees had been fighting for many days. They were hungry and grew weak, for they had endured many hardships with little sustenance. Suddenly Judah chanced upon a small pot of jelly beans with enough to nourish only one. But selfless leader that he was, Judah apportioned the beans equally among his men. Then to the astonishment of all, the beans began to multiply in all the colors of the rainbow. One bean became two, two became four, four became eight, and so on, until there were ample beans for all. Replenished by the amazing beans, the Maccabees battled on and triumphed over tyranny.

which is an obvious spoof on the miracle of the oil story.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Or are you just happy to see me?

Feel a nostalgic pull towards wood panelling? Lust after Country Squire station wagons? Satisfy that need by eating off these faux wood plates by Pop Ink.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide

On my google homepage, I have NPR Topics: Food as one of my feeds. Nerdy, I know but that is how I heard about this cool book: Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide by Hemingway's grandson and a friend. which features cocktail recipes, quotes and anecdotes from famous authors like Hemingway, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald (side note: in the Zelda biography they mention that their liquor bill was often in the $500 range--in the 1930s! I trust they know their booze.)and many others. It looks like a lot of fun and a good way to look like a smarty while you get loaded. Just think of how impressed your guests would be at your next party when you serve Hemingway's favorite mojitos.

You can listen to the Morning Edition interview with the author and a "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" piece featuring my favorite Amy Sedaris taking a literary drinking quiz here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

My Wishlist: Pink Glitter Spatulas

Pink glitter spatulas by Le Creuset. Have you ever seen a spatula that was more beautiful? Curvy wooden handles, pink glittery silicone heads. This totally tops my wish list. Too bad we don't have a Sur La Table in Baltimore. Or any in Maryland at all for that matter. I'd have to drive to Charlotte, NYC or Pittsburgh to pick one up in person.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Review: Buttercup Bakes at Home

Buttercup Bakes at Home: More Than 75 New Recipes from Manhattan's Premier Bake Shop for Tempting Homemade Sweets by Jennifer Appel looks like it has promise and maybe it does-just not for me. I was underwhelmed by the first Buttercup Bake Shop cookbook and it doesn't seem like this one is much better. The recipes aren't bad, they are just sort of boring. The same brownies and cakes we have seen again and again but with the added bonus of calling for an inordinate amount of butter; most cakes (even those with just two layers) call for 3 or more sticks of butter. And that isn't including what goes into the icing. I can't say I am too surprised, I have been both to the Magnolia Bakery and the Buttercup Bake Shop in Manhattan (Appel was the co-owner of the Magnolia but parted ways and opened up the Buttercup) and wasn't too impressed with either of them, the icing on their famous cupcakes tastes like solid butter with a hint of sugar. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that her cakes call for so much butter, but I can't help but wonder if they come out greasy. I know even adding a extra couple of tablespoons of butter to a cupcake recipe can result in greasy cupcakes, so I can only wonder what a ratio of 3 sticks of butter (a cup and half) to two cups of flour would have on a cake. Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars do sound interesting: brownies with crisped rice and chocolate but I am not sure if I am comfortable enough with her recipes to bother making them.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fruit Breakfast Set

I love anything with a fruit print and this breakfast set is no exception. It comes with a matching mug, bowl and plate; all you need for breakfast for one.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gift Idea: Threadless Shirts

I am a big fan of Threadless, a site where you can submit your t-shirt ideas to be voted on and possibly turned into shirts. They have a bunch of really fun food related shirts including the one shown above, this one featuring a vending machine, the Fruit of Negativitree with angry fruit, the super cute Nothing Rhymes with Orange, Cookie Loves Milk, two different shirts for meat eaters, one with bread spreading itself with jelly and a silly cupcake, the slightly blasphemous Fast Supper. You are sure to find something for everyone. Best of all: women, men and children's shirts are all just $10 today and tomorrow. The only catch? When they are gone, they're gone!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thrifty Tip #2

A great way to save money around the holidays is to shop at craft stores like Joann Fabrics for holiday decorations and party goods. As crafters know, the time to make a holiday craft is not December. Christmas and Hanukkah crafts generally start to appear in stores around August. By December, holiday related items are already marked down. Knowing this, we went to Joann Fabrics this weekend to pick up some paper plates and napkins for the holiday craft night we are hosting this week. All of the Christmas and Hanukkah things were 40-50% off and they had tons in stock. They even had heavy serving trays, decorations, gift items (like hot chocolate mixes, bath stuff, ornaments) all for 50% off. They weren't picked over junk either, they were things people would actually enjoy receiving. So, if you have to buy some party supplies or get a cheap gift, check out a craft store.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

On Sale: Baking: From My Home to Yours

I know a lot of you have been yearning for Dorie Greenspan's new book. I just saw it at for $22, way less than the $40 cover price.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Astro-Weenie Christmas Tree DIY Club

Why am I half (okay, a little more than half) tempted to make this? Have I gone mad? Have the days I've spent flipping through both Merry Kitschmas and Judaikitsch: Tchotchkes, Schmattes & Nosherei gone to my head? Possibly so.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Gift Idea: Wooden Sushi Play Set

This wooden play sushi set almost makes me wish we had a kid. Or knew someone with a kid at the right age for it. It is so detailed and has every thing you need to have a play sushi party.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gift Idea: Hershey Kiss Fondue Pot & S'more Maker

I love this Hershey's S'more Maker & Fondue Pot for a few reasons. First, it is only $30 and you get two gifts: give them together, split them up, who would know? Secondly, I love anything that is in the shape of something else. Finally, it is one of those things that someone might think is fun, but it is not necessarily something one would buy for themself. Therefore, who ever you are buying for probably doesn't have one. It would also make a great gift for a couple, who sits around eating fondue by themselves?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Food Maven Shop & Gift Guide

I set up a little Amazon store where you can buy items that have been featured on Food Maven, check out a selection of cookbooks from my personal collection, my suggestions for gifts for adults and my suggestions for great food related gifts for kids.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Holiday Treats Kit

This kit has all you need to make homemade holiday presents. It cames with 18 recipes and all the packing materal you need to make a pretty gift including coordinating tags, string, labels and bags.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Chandelier Dinnerware

For some reason I am really drawn to things featuring a chandelier print, despite being apathetic to the idea of an actual chandelier. I have a chandelier necklace by Lusterbunny and now I want these plates.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Gift Idea: Bacon Wallet

Not sure what to get that pork obsessed person on your gift list? How about a bacon wallet? Strangely, it is made of "faux leather" and is therefore vegan. And only $8. What are you waiting for?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mini Croq Holiday Cookbook

I have some vegan recipes in the mini Holiday Cookbook edition of the super cool zine Croq. Now, I don't profit from this but you can buy it here and get several of my recipes and a ton of equally tasty ones from other people. The Holiday Cookbook can also be found in the Holiday Sampler along with a contribution just from me: a special mini Winter Treats issue of my Coconut & Lime zine .