Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chocolate Covered Oreos, Sea Salted

As much as I love making cookies from scratch, I must admit that there is one store bought cookie that has been a childhood favorite of mine. The cookie first made by Nabisco in 1912 has gone through a series of iterations over the last hundred years, but it has been the classic original that calls out to me when I allow myself to walk down the cookie aisle in the grocery store.  I can usually bypass this aisle and show restraint in buying them, unless I am past the point of starvation when I am shopping for groceries.

Eaten all on its own or dunked in milk, I never thought the Oreo cookie could be made any better.  But then the double stuff version came out and I again thought this cookie could not possibly get any better.  Until the day I dipped the double stuff Oreos in Ghiradelli chocolate and sprinkled the tops of them with sea salt.  Not only did it get better, it felt downright sinful to eat something so decadent.

When I first started making them it was simply the double stuff Oreos dipped in chocolate.  About a year ago, as I was looking through one of the hundreds of cooking magazines that I have, I must have read that sea salt further enhances the taste of chocolate. So I decided one day to try it.  That first taste of a sea salted topped chocolate covered Oreo validated made me glad I wasn't just browsing but actually reading the magazine. After that little experiment, there was no reverting back to the 'first generation' chocolate covered Oreo recipe (and yes, the use of the word recipe would be a stretch here).

Yes, I know this posting seems out of sync with the way saltedsugaredspiced is evolving and might even be viewed as taking a few steps back. So as you are reading this post some of you might be saying 'okay come on now, a recipe for chocolate covered Oreos, really?, what kind of food blog is this?'.  The simple answer to that question would be 'unpredictable'.  For someone who is characteristically somewhat predictable, I get an adrenaline rush when I move the predictable pendulum in the opposite direction every so often.

If you have never eaten a chocolate covered double stuff Oreo with or without a sprinkling of sea salt, let me just say that you are missing out on an intense chocolate cookie eating experience.  The combination of the cookie, chocolate and salt is in a word 'lethal'.  Visually these cookies are so beautiful they seem to just beg to be eaten.  Kids love them, adults love them.

At the hoildays I buy as many Ghiradelli double chocolate and white chocolate candy making and dipping bars at Sam's Club as I think I will use over the course of six months.  If I underbuy or over use, I have to resort to ordering them online on Amazon if I run out.  This chocolate melts and coats both cookies and strawberries perfectly.

It is important to chop the chocolate into consistent, semi-finely chopped chards before setting it in a bowl over hot simmering water.  If your chocolate has too many large chunks it will take longer for the chocolate to melt and you risk bringing the chocolate to too high of a temperature, resulting in ruined chocolate.

Let the hot steaming water melt the chocolate for at least 10 minutes before you stir.  I have found the less you stir the chocolate, the more it retains its shine when it sets up on the cookie.

Once the chocolate is melted remove the bowl from the pan and place on towel or pot holder.  It will be very hot, so its best you use your thickest pot holders or towels to remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the pan of steaming hot water.  This was a lesson I almost had to learn hard way.  I prefer dipping the cookies away from the pan of hot simmering water for many reasons.  One of the most significant reason is I don't want the chocolate to continue to get heated to too high of a temperature as the amount of chocolate is reduced from the dipping process.

To coat the cookie in chocolate, I simply place an Oreo in the chocolate, submerging it by pressing down with a fork and then lifting it up out of the chocolate.  You want to make sure the entire cookie is coated in chocolate. I then gently tap the fork on the side of the bowl a few times to release some of the melted chocolate before placing the chocolate dipped cookie on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Don't worry about any bubbles that may appear on the top of your chocolate coated cookie, as you will be adding more chocolate to the tops of your cookies later.  Using parchment paper on the cookie sheet adds to the ease of removing the cookie.  It also makes clean up so much easier.

After all of the cookies are dipped once, I take a teaspoon and top each cookie with some additional chocolate.  It gives some height and texture to the finished cookie.  Because the chocolate will set up somewhat quickly, I wait until I have added chocolate to about 10 cookies and then lightly sprinkle the sea salt on the tops of the cookies, crushing the sea salt with your fingers as you sprinkle.  It is important that the sea salt doesn't melt into the chocolate, but only adheres to the chocolate.

Let the chocolate completely set before removing from the parchment paper.  I sometimes escalate the drying process by placing the cookie sheet out on the table in the back vestibule where it is a little cooler.  Other times I just let them set on their own in the house.

The two and a half pound of Ghiradelli double chocolate candy making and dipping bar perfectly coats two packages of double stuff Oreos.  You should have a little bit left.

This time when I made the Oreos I only had three broken cookies between the two packages.  Sometimes I break them up a little more, put them in the leftover chocolate and then take out to let dry on parchment paper.  The chocolate covered broken bits of cookies make a great topping for ice cream.

Packaged in a box, tin or cellophane bag, they make a wonderful gift.  Served on a tray for dessert, with or without wine or some port, makes for a memorable ending to a dinner or cocktail party.  Be certain to have a few cookies wrapped in cellophane bags for your guests to take home.  I promise you these cookies are so good, they will hide them from their children and their partners.

Chocolate Covered Oreos, Sea Salted

2 packages of double-stuffed Oreos
1  2.5 lb. Ghiradelli double chocolate candy making and dipping bar
Maldon Sea Salt

1.  Line two 15 x 18 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2.  Chop chocolate and place in bowl over simmering water until melted.
3.  Using a fork, dip the Oreo into the melted chocolate.  Lightly tap the fork holding the cookie on the side of the bowl to release some of the chocolate.  Place cookie on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
4.  After all of the cookies have been dipped once, top each cookie with some additional chocolate using a teaspoon (10 cookies at a time).
5.  After each set of ten cookies is topped with additional chocolate, lightly sprinkle each cookie with sea salt. Note: Crush the salt with your fingers as you sprinkle the salt.
6.  Let cookies set completely.  
7.  Remove cookies from parchment paper and package in a tin, box or arrange on a platter.

Thankfully I am able to escape the winter weather for a few days.  So this will be my only blog posting this week as I fly clear across the country to Tucson for some sun, much needed relaxation and to spend some time with a very good friend.  I have put together a box of these chocolate covered, sea salted Oreos to bring as one of my hostess gifts.  As much as I loved how the photos here captured the beauty of the chocolate, I waited to post this blog as I made my way to Arizona so I didn't spoil the surprise of an unexpected gift.

In addition to returning home energized after a few days of escaping from the cold winter weather and from hikes on trails with views of the mountains, my plan will be to return with a great recipe for a margarita.  The friend I am visiting was the person who introduced me to the deliciousness of a martini.  A few years ago while having lunch at the Prado restaurant in Balboa Park in San Diego, she had convinced me to try a French martini.  It was seriously the best French martini I had ever tasted.  But just to be certain I had to order a second one. And yes, the second one confirmed my assessment of the first one.
With some degree of certainty, there are probably a few margaritas to be consumed while visiting the southwest.  And of course, in order to find a great margarita recipe I suppose I will have to taste a few of them, just to be certain the recipe will be good enough to share.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Creamy Shrimp Crostini

I still pinch myself every time I go into the grocery store, a farmer's market or roadside market at the accessibility of fresh seafood here on the east coast. Having grown up in the midwest I recall only one or two seafood markets within a 20 mile driving distance.  Farmer's markets did not carry fresh oysters, live mussels or fresh lobsters.  And while the grocery stores and Whole Foods carried fish and seafood, there were more fresh, previously frozen choices than fresh choices.  Yes, I find that I am turning into a fresh fish and seafood snob of sorts.  But I suppose there are worse things I could become. 
After a long week at work and ending my day after 6 at night, I stopped in the grocery store and walked over to the seafood area to see what they had. When I saw that fresh shrimp was on sale for $7.99 a pound, I thought perfect, now I will make Shrimp Crostini over the weekend.

Why shrimp crostini?  Well because the shrimp on sale were the 18-21 pieces per pound size so I knew I wasn't going to make shrimp scampi as the size would be too small.  So along with the shrimp I picked up some fresh dill and a french baguette (the only two ingredients I knew I didn't have at the house).  

Now that I can readily find and buy fresh shrimp, I do not mind the extra step of cooking it for this or any other recipe calling for cooked shrimp. Over the years I have learned it is best to immediately place the cooked shrimp into an iced water bath to stop the cooking process.  The shrimp seems to come out so much more succulent this way versus putting the cooked shrimp in a colander and running it under cold water.  (Note: Frozen precooked shrimp that has been thawed works well in this recipe and saves you a step or two.)

I know I have shared my mayonnaise bias before but for the sake of redundancy please use Hellman's in this recipe.  On the west coast it is labeled as the Best Food mayonnaise.  Remember Miracle Whip is not mayonnaise.  The cream cheese should be room temperature so that it mixes well with the mayonnaise and dijon mustard.  I do take my cream cheese out the night before to ensure a perfect consistency.  And yes all Dijon mustards are not same.  I prefer the more flavorful, milder Maille Dijon mustard over the Grey Poupon for cooking or spreading on sandwiches.

It takes about three to four green onions to yield a half-cup of thinly sliced onions. I like cutting them on the diagonal as they make for a prettier presentation in food.

Fresh herbs are now available year round in the grocery stores.  You will need to finely chop the dill first before measuring the 1 1/2 Tablespoons.  Another redundant message here (hope most of you see redundancy as a good thing), but dried dill does not work as well in this recipe.

Before microplanes were available, I used to take a zester and/or peeler to remove the skin from the lemon and then try to get it to a grating consistency. Needless to say no matter how hard I tried, nothing compared to the grating quality of a microplane.  If you are looking to buy another cooking tool, the microplane is pretty versatile and can be used for grating hard cheeses and chocolate.

When you have the onions cut, lemon grated, dill minced and shrimp coarsely chopped, add to the cream cheese, mayonnaise and mustard mixture.  Once the mixture is stirred together, add a pinch or two of sea salt to taste and stir.

The denser the baguette, the better for making crostini.  To prepare the crostini you first cut the baguette into approximately half-inch slices.  Slicing on the diagonal makes for a beautiful presentation as well as making them easier to pick up to eat.

Lightly brush olive oil on one side of the baguette or lightly spray with oil olive.  Place slices on two cookie sheets and bake at 350 for 5 to 6 minutes or until very lightly browned and crisp.  Depending on your oven this could take slightly longer.  If you go beyond 4 minutes, set the timer in minute intervals.  You do not want to over crisp the crostini as it get another baking when the shrimp mixture is placed on top. The original Bon Appetit recipe called for broiling the sliced baguettes but I found I have more control over the coloring of the crostini if I just bake a high temperature.

Place a heaping tablespoon of the shrimp mixture on top of the baked baguettes.  Return to the oven and bake at 350 for 8 to 12 minutes or until the mixture is lightly browned and warmed through.  I know this is a range of minutes but where you place the cookie sheet in the oven (top, middle, bottom) affects the cooking time.

Remove from oven, place on a platter, top with a sprig of dill or parsley, and serve immediately.  With each bite you will taste the layers of flavors.  From the shrimp, to the dill, to the onion, to the lemon, to the detection of the sea salt, to the dijon mustard, to the crispness of the crostini, this is an appetizer you will want to make again and again.
Creamy Shrimp Crostini (slight adaption of the Creamy Shrimp Crostini recipe printed in Bon Appetit in January 1998)

1 8 ounce package of room temperature cream cheese
1/2 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard (prefer Maille)
1/2 cup green onions sliced thinly on the diagonal (green and white parts) - about 3 to 4 green onions
1 1/2 Tablespoons of freshly minced dill
1 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon peel
1 pound of shrimp (cooked, peeled, deveined and coarsely chopped) 
pinch or two of sea salt

1 loaf of a french baguette, cut diagonally into approximately half-inch slices
Olive oil spray or olive oil

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees (F).
2.  Lightly brush or spray one side of the sliced baguettes with olive oil.  Arrange on 2 baking sheets.  Bake until lightly toasted.  Approximately 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove from oven.  (You can cool these and store these in an airtight container if making them earlier in the day.)
3. You can use thawed frozen shrimp that is peeled and deveined or you can cook fresh shrimp.  If you have raw shrimp, bring the water to a boil. Add shrimp and cook for approximately 4-5 minutes.  Remove shrimp and immediately put in an ice bath to cool.  Once cool, peel, devein and coarsely chop.
4. Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard in a medium to large bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat until blended.
5. Mix in green onions, dill, lemon peel and chopped shrimp.  
6. Season with a pinch or two of sea salt.
7.  Spread a generous tablespoon of the shrimp mixter on top of each crostini.  Bake at 550 for approximately 8 to 12 minutes or until mixture begins to brown lightly.
8.  Top each crostini with snippets of dill or parsley (optional).

Note:  You can skip the baking process and serve the shrimp mixture cold on top of your prepared bread.

Tools Needed:  Measuring spoons, measuring cups, microplane, knife, baking sheets, bowls, parchment paper.

The availability of the fresh shrimp actually only served to justify a purchase I had made for myself earlier in the day.  I generally don't leave the office to get lunch but I was driving from one location to another and decided to take ten minutes to stop in one of my favorite little gift stores for the singular purpose of rewarding myself for surviving a very stressful week at work.  It took me less than a minute to see out of the corner of my eye a Mariposa platter, a silver textured birch inspired rectangular platter, sitting on the shelf.  Whether the purchase was impulsive or not, I knew that was platter had to be the reward I was giving myself.

It just happened to work out that the early evening purchase of fresh shrimp at the grocery store gave me reason to put the platter to use this weekend. Being able to serve food to guests on a silver platter, well, how fun is that?

Cooking and entertaining has become a form of therapy to help to reduce the feelings of stress of life, of work. Now if I only found exercising as therapeutic.  Maybe my next reward should be a purchase made at Lululemon.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Whenever I invite anyone over for a gathering the first question they usually ask is "Can I bring anything?".  Without hesitation my response is usually 'no thank you, just bring you."  However, there is one person for whom I usually say yes to and that would be my sister, as she is the wine connoisseur in the family and is always willing to share her incredible wine and port finds.
Keeping in mind this singular exception, there was a day years back it was a very busy week and I wasn't exactly certain I could get all of the appetizers made for a cocktail gathering for some of my staff.  One of my staff members must have caught me in a moment of weakness because I uncharacteristically said 'that would be great' to the question.
To this day I am eternally grateful that I loosened up a bit because the guacamole brought by this male guest turned out to be incredible. In the first bite, I immediately knew I had to have the recipe.  So I asked 'where did you get this great guacamole recipe?'  When he said it came from an old Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, my response was 'seriously?'.  He must have read my mind because he said he too was surprised at how good it was when it first made it, but that it had become his signature appetizer for the past twenty-five years.  When you are the recipient of someone's treasured recipe, you feel as if you have been given a priceless gift.
His recipe called for the addition of one medium tomato chopped and added to the guacamole.  Because you can only get really good tomatoes in the summer I will either omit this ingredient completely or use chopped grape tomatoes because they are perfect all year round.  Either with or without the tomatoes this is one killer guacamole.

There is a little store in my town that has a basket of perfectly ripe avocados year round.  They don't last long on the store's counter, so as long as I can stop there in the morning on my way to work I can always make up a batch of fresh guacamole when I get home.  If you are not lucky enough to have a store that carries ripe avocados, it usually takes a day or two for the firmer avocados you buy at the grocery store to ripen.

When you slice an avocado in half lengthwise it is easy to scoop out the flesh. I take a tablespoon to separate the avocado from the skin.  And with just a spoon you can remove the entire avocado half and place into a bowl.  Once all of the avocados are in a bowl you immediately add the freshly squeezed lemon juice.  The lemon juice not only adds flavor it helps to keep the avocado from turning brown.  I mash the avocados with a fork.  I like my guacamole chunky but if you prefer a smoother guacamole, this will the time for you to mash it to the consistency you prefer.

Red onions are my favorite onion of choice in this guacamole.  You only need a half of a medium red onion minced for this recipe.

What makes this guacamole recipe different from most others is the addition of the chopped mild green chilies.  Sometimes I buy the can of already chopped chilies, but I usually like to buy the can of whole green chilies so I can decide on the size of dice.  Whole chilies can minced to a small dice or they can be a more medium sized dice.  Again, the size of the dice will all depend on the guacamole texture you like.

Once the avocados are mashed and combined with the lemon juice, you add all of the other ingredients. Remember to use Kosher salt in this recipe.  Table salt and Kosher salt are not the same thing and in this recipe one cannot be substituted for the other.

Of course either mojitos or margaritas are my beverage of choice when serving guacamole.  But if you aren't a rum or tequila drinker, serve this guacamole with your favorite iced cold beer. You might want to make sure you have extra ingredients on hand as once your guests start eating this guacamole, it won't last long.

Guacamole (adapted from the recipe appearing in a Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook)

4 medium ripe avocados
3 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 medium red onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 four ounce can of mild green chiles, drained and chopped or 1 four ounce can of chopped mild green chilies
Optional:  1/2 cup chopped grape tomatoes or 1 medium ripe tomato seeded and chopped

1. Slice each avocado in half lengthwise, remove seed, and scoop into a bowl.
2. Mash avocado with lemon juice.  Leave chunky.
3. Stir in salt, minced onion, minced garlic and chopped chilies.
4. If adding tomatoes, stir into mixture.
5. Spoon into a bowl.  (Cover with plastic wrap if not serving immediately.)
6. Serve with your favorite chips.

It is hard to believe that it was just a week ago that we had a power outage creating blizzard here on the east coast.  It snowed again mid-week, only this time the snow was soft, fluffy and melted from the heat of the sun.  The landscape of freshly fallen snow at sunrise is breathtaking.  On my way to work I stopped to take some photos to try to capture the light as it came up from the horizon.  When you have heat, power and water, the winter landscape is truly beautiful.
Even though the winter can be wicked at times, I would never want to miss out on being able to take in this season.  I could certainly do without the blizzard experience, but there is nothing more mesmerizing that looking a beautiful winter sky, winter landscape. As much as I love warm weather, there is something about experiencing all four seasons that can be energizing.  This is one guacamole recipe that tastes great any season.  It might even be one that helps you get through those seasons that have a few less than pleasant days.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Dutch Baby, At Last

Having grown up in the midwest and experienced my share of blizzards, I certainly thought that I was a seasoned blizzard surviver.  Apparently, the recent blizzard experience here on the east coast has made me realize I had erred in my thinking.  Maybe it was the three days of no heat, no power and no water was my reality wake-up call that my prior exposure to blizzards were just really a prelude to a 'real' blizzard.  I am afraid to say that I am now a seasoned blizzard survivor because I don't want to see how much a blizzard could actually get.
There was enough time to prepare as best as one could for the impending storm.  Like the calm before the storm, Thursday was a relatively mild day.  In preparation for the predicted storm, I had decided to get up early on Friday morning to get my car filled with gas and to go to the market to pick up a few things, but mostly some things I needed for the Dutch Baby I had planned to make on Saturday morning. Returning home from the store, I brought wood into both the house and the garage; filled up the tub with water; and filled up a cooler with ice just in case the power went out for longer than a day.  After all of that was done, I thought 'okay, I'm ready, bring it on Mother Nature'.  In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have been so bold in speaking to Mother Nature in that tone.
The power went out late Friday evening, but I was confident, or at least hopeful, it would return sometime on Saturday, saving the Dutch Baby breakfast meal for either lunch or dinner. Little did I know I would be making the Dutch Baby for a very late breakfast on Monday, two full days later.  Thankfully I had my cooler filled with ice so the milk, whipping cream and eggs were all kept cold over the course of a three day power outage.  If I thought this Dutch Baby was delicious before this blizzard, the lack of hot food for three days only intensified how incredible it tasted.

So what exactly is a Dutch baby?  Well, it is a light, airy sweeter than a popover pancake that melts in your mouth.  Dutch babies are also called German pancakes. They are usually baked in a cast iron skillet at a very high temperature in the oven to allow the sides to puff up.  Simply sprinkled with confectionary sugar and served with whipped cream and freshly squeezed lemon juice or lemon curd, this food makes any breakfast (or lunch or dinner) feel like  a special occasion.
For a long time I was intimidated by the thought of making a Dutch Baby.  For some reason I thought it was difficult.  Maybe because when you order them in a restaurant there is usually this little disclaimer that says 'this could take up to 20 minutes before being served'.  If something took that long to make it had to be difficult, right?  Wrong! Little did I realize how simple a Dutch Baby really is to make.

It is truly amazing how five simple ingredients can be whipped up into something so spectacular, so delicious.  You use a blender to whip up the eggs, milk, vanilla, and flour.  The mixture should look a little frothy and should take you only about 45 seconds to get it to that consistency.

The quarter stick of unsalted butter is melted in a cast iron skillet that has been warming in a preheated oven.  I like using the ten inch Lodge Cast Iron Skillets from Williams-Sonoma for this recipe as it never seems to fail me.  Once the butter is melted and very lightly browned, you pour in the batter and allow to cook for 16-19 minutes.  This is when the magic happens.

While the Dutch Baby is cooking in the oven, the whipping cream and confectionary sugar can be whisked and turned into a thick, stiff peak whipped cream.  It is amazing how easy it is to whip these two ingredients together with just a whisk.  You can do this ahead of time and put in the refrigerator and/or if you don't want to whisk by hand you can always use a hand mixer.  If you have any whipped cream left over, you can always use it in a cup of hot chocolate, on ice cream or on top of a Bailey's on the rocks.  

You will know the Dutch Baby is done when the sides puff up more than inch on the side of the pan and it has a light brown color.  Remove from the oven and cool for barely two minutes before sprinkling with confectionary sugar.  Bring the Dutch baby to the table immediately after sprinkling with the confectionary as the presentation of this dish is ooh and ahh worthy.  

The Dutch Baby comes out of the pan perfectly!  The combination of the crispy edges and softer inside makes this 'pancake' one that is the best of both worlds.

I like serving the Dutch Baby with a side of whipped cream and some lemon curd.  Homemade lemon curd would taste incredible, but a great substitution is the lemon curd made by Stonewall Kitchen.  If you have never had anything made by Stonewall Kitchen, you should try to rectify that sooner rather than later.  Their jams, jellies, chutneys, mustards, sauces, toppings, and dressings, to name a few, are all phenomenal. But if you don't have any lemon curd, freshly squeeze a lemon over the Dutch Baby before sprinkling with powdered sugar.  Both lemon options are equally delicious.

Whether you are eating a Dutch baby for breakfast, brunch or lunch, or even dinner, thick applewood bacon fried in a skillet is the perfect side.  I prefer baking bacon in the oven but when making the Dutch Baby and having only one oven, my only option is to cook bacon on top of the stove, in cast iron skillet just in case you have an extra one.
Dutch Baby (Adapted Williams-Sonoma version of the recipe)

1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup confectionary sugar plus more for dusting
3 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk (no substitutions)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons or 1/2 stick unsalted butter
Optional:  Lemons or Lemon curd

1. Place a 10 inch cast iron skillet in oven and heat oven to 475 degrees.
2. Put eggs, flour, milk and vanilla in a blender blending on high for 30-45 seconds or until frothy.  Set aside.
3. When oven reaches 475 degrees, put butter in skillet and allow butter to melt in oven.  Should take two to three minutes (check after 2).  The butter will be melted and lightly browned.
4.  Pour batter into hot pan and return to oven.  Bake until the Dutch baby is lightly browned and the sides have risen.  It will cook for 16 to 19 minutes of cooking time depending on oven.
5.  While Dutch baby is baking, whisk whipping cream and 1/4 cup confectionary sugar until thickened with stiff peaks form.  Set aside.  You can do this with a mixer, but it doesn't take long to whisk the whipping cream up with a whisk.
6.  When Dutch baby is puffed and lightly browned, remove from the oven.  Let rest for 2 minutes before sprinkling with confectionary sugar.
7.  Serve with the whipped cream and lemon curd.  If you don't have lemon curd, you can squeeze a fresh lemon over the center of the Dutch baby.  Or you can just enjoy the Dutch baby with the confectionary sugar and whipping cream.

So whether you are celebrating the return of heat and power or entertaining guests for breakfasts or just wanting to create a fun family weekend tradition, the Dutch Baby is a celebration worthy dish.  Not only is it simple, its easy and its so inexpensive to make.
I thought that when the Groundhog did not see its shadow and when the Medici's Almonds were on the shelves at Williams-Sonoma, that spring was within reach. It may be, but winter seems to getting in the way.

In spite of some of the whining you may have picked up in my writing, there was much beauty to behold over the last few days.  When the sun came out on Sunday, the sky was a most incredible blue making the ice on the branches look like chards of crystal.  The wind was relatively mild on Sunday so I went out to take photos of the snow, the sky, and winter landscape here on the east coast.  Capturing the beauty of nature was therapeutic for all of the angst I had been feeling.
Like everything, life is about finding or getting to a place of balance.  And even though it felt like I was living a chapter out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder "Little House on the Prairie" book over the last few days and completely out of my comfort zone, I survived.  And if this is the only hardship I have to experience this year, then I will be very lucky. These past few days have also served as a powerful reminder to me of the importance of appreciating and acknowledging the things and people we can often take for granted.
At last after several days I was able to make and enjoy the Dutch Baby.  From now on when I make this recipe it will take a whole new meaning for me.  Its back story of eating Dutch Babies in the days when I was really was a runner training for a marathon, is now replaced with the story of my first east coast blizzard.  When friends and family now come out to visit, the Dutch Baby will be the breakfast meal on at least one the days.  For me, it will be my way of letting them know how much I appreciate them, if not only in words, but in my actions.