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Sugar Bowl Mix: December 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa Baby

And a little more cheer from the girls.

Caroline designed and made her own costume from spare material I had.

The microphone is part of a chair back.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Who is Santa?

One of the girls favorite things to do is put on shows for us so a few nights ago they staged a special holiday performance. They like to make up their own songs.

Here's a little holiday cheer from Katherine.

Caroline's holiday cheer will be up tomorrow.

Do your kids like to put on shows for you?

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Chocolate Coconut Island Cookies|Fun Holiday Cookies

I have made these comforting, soft, and scrumptious cookies every year for the holidays for as long as I can remember.

When I was little my sisters and I would bake lots of batches and give the cookies as gifts. My mother found the recipe in Recipes from Pennsylvania, a small cookbook given to her by my grandmother many years ago. I adapted the recipe by adding more chocolate, decreasing the flour, and frosting the cookies with my own vanilla fudge frosting.

Katherine loves to help me bake, especially when it involves decorating with festive sprinkles, snowflakes and tiny gingerbread men!

The coffee flavoring gives these feel-good cookies a touch of sophistication and the subtle coconut adds an unexpected surprise in every bite. 

4 squares unsweetened chocolate
¼ cup strong coffee
½ cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon soda
½ salt
½ cup sour cream
½ cup shredded sweetened coconut

Melt the chocolate in the microwave at 50% power for 3 minutes or in the double boiler. Set aside to cool.

Cream the sugar with the butter. Add the egg and mix in well.

Add the cooled chocolate and the coffee to the sugar mixture and beat well. 

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda and add to the batter alternately with the sour cream.

Stir in the coconut.

Drop by teaspoonful onto parchment paper on a baking sheet. 

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Do not overbake!

1 ½ cups confectioner sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla

Mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until frosting is ready to spread. Spread on the cooled cookies while the frosting is warm. Decorate immediately.


The recipe to print can be found here.

This recipe was previously published on The Caffeinated Globe in a guest post.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Past | Last year

Christmas 2009

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Red hands

I have red hands. Red palms and fingers to be specific. Red, inflamed, tingly, numb palms and fingers.

It started two weeks ago when the palms of my hands started to feel tight, hot, and strange.

The following morning they looked like this.

I couldn't feel my finger tips. My hands felt like they do when they're really cold and are dropped in hot water. All the time. They throbbed. They hurt.

I couldn't open bottles or tie shoes. Two things I was being asked to do. Constantly.

Off I traipsed to the doctor. She was a little perplexed. She prescribed steroid cream.

The girls greeted me each day after school with. "How are your hands, Mommy?" followed by,"Ooh, they're still so red! That cream isn't working!"

Two days later and still no improvement. Back to the doctor. She ordered blood work to test for lupus. You know, just in case. I tried not to think about it a whole lot but lying in bed that night with my two girls asleep and my cat pressed up tight against me my mind wandered to some dark, lonely places.

The next day the red started spreading onto the tops of my hands, my back, my feet, my achilles heel.  I've had eczema most of my life so  I knew enough to know this was not auto-immune disorder but a skin issue.

The dermatologist diagnosed it immediately: Eczema that had become systemic. This type of eczema flare-up is usually triggered by high stress. She had no explanation for why it had flared up on my hands where I have never experienced eczema before. She put me on strong oral steroids. I didn't sleep for a week. Steroids do that to you.

A few days after starting the oral steroids the skin on my hands started to slough off. Big chunks of skin.

I find little piles of skin chunks, like this one on Katherine's drawing, everywhere.

I'm supposed to apply thick steroid ointment three times a day and wear cotton gloves 24/7. It's a pain and it's yucky. I take the gloves off in my sleep so now I put socks on at night. Those seem to stay put.

The dermatological gloves need to be washed regularly. Sometime I wear socks. It's easier.

Yesterday I went to the hair salon. Wearing socks. On my hands.
"Are you cold, Anne?" the hair stylist asked in the middle of discussing my cut.
"No, I'm fine," I said, wondering why he was asking me that when it felt like 80 degrees in the salon.
The hair stylist began trimming my hair but he looked bothered by something.
"Are you sure you're not cold?" he asked again. This time I noticed he was looking at my hands. In white cotton socks. Duh.

My hands are still swollen and red and sloughy.

But I'm looking on the bright side. Oral steroids are done with, I've slept for three nights in a row, and when this is all over I'm going to have the most beautifully exfoliated hands and feet in all of Los Angeles.

And I didn't even have to go to a spa.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Flourless chocolate cake|A perfectly elegant holiday choice

Your search for an elegant, divine chocolate holiday dessert ends here!

This dark flourless chocolate cake is all at once light, dense, sophisticated, and absolutely delicious. A perfect ending to any holiday meal.

I pulled the recipe from The Los Angeles Times some twelve years ago and over the years I’ve made it my own with a little tweaking.

 8 ounces dark chocolate (I use 72% cocoa)
1 cup butter
3 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder, sifted
¼ cup strong brewed coffee
2 whole eggs
6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar


 Cut the chocolate and the butter into pieces and place in a bowl. Melt in the microwave on medium power for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cocoa until it is smooth.

Beat 2 whole eggs, 6 egg yolks and the sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. This will take 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the chocolate mixture and the coffee. Mix together slowly.

In a separate bowl beat the 6 egg whites with the cream of tartar until they hold their shape but are still moist. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.

Gently fold in ¼ of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the rest of the egg whites. Don’t worry about a few streaks of egg white in the batter.

Gently pour the batter into a 10-inch springform pan lined with buttered parchment paper.

Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes (some ovens may take longer). The cake is done when it is puffed, slightly cracked and no longer jiggling in the middle.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing it.

I like to serve mine with a dusting of powdered sugar, hand-whipped cream and raspberries. 


The recipe to print can be found here.

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This recipe was originally published in a guest post for The Caffeinated Globe.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Guest post on Caffeinated Globe

My Christmas recipe for chocolate coconut island cookies and my trusty helper, Katherine, are over at The Caffeinated Globe today!

Head on over and check it out!

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Past | The first four years

Some of my favorite pictures from Christmas pasts. Come back next Wednesday for the next four years!

Caroline's first Christmas, 2002.

Holiday card picture, 2003.

Katherine's first Christmas, 2004. Sisters in their great-grandmother's dresses.

The first year cookies and milk was left for Santa, 2005.

What are some of your favorite photos from past holidays? Post and link back here!

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This post is participating in wordless wednesday over at 5minutesformom.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Tackling a holiday bake sale

A few weeks ago the girls' school held a photo fundraiser. Parents who are professional photographers donated a day of their time and families got a half-hour professional photo shoot at a very reduced rate. A holiday bake sale was held at the event and of course, yours truly, along with trusted helper, Caroline, volunteered to man the baked goods table.

For the three years before this Caroline was at our local public school, a school with a wonderfully active community and strong fundraising abilities. The old school tackled a lot of bake sales that always sold well.

But the majority of the baked goods at those bake sales were not "baked", per se. They were bought. You know, the big, crunchy, chocolate chip cookies, the hard holiday cookies with hard blue frosting all packaged in the plastic containers that slice your fingers when you try to pry them open. And not that yummy, people. There was always a lot of pizza. A little greasy. A little soggy. Not yummy.

At one bake sale I worked the woman in charge arrived five minutes after it was due to open and unloaded one plastic grocery bag of junk food after the next onto the bake sale table. I was actually embarrassed to even ask the kids to pay for the junk: chewy doughnuts, rubbery muffins, stale pound cake. It was bad, people.

So imagine my delight when I showed up with my red velvet cupcakes at the new school's bake sale a few weeks ago and found only home baked goods, all beautifully presented with a list of ingredients displayed in front. Nothing was stale, hard or chewy if it wasn't supposed to be (although the chocolate chip cookies were a little burned!).

There were creative concoctions like the chocolate pudding poppers: a little container of chocolate pudding, with a small dollop of whipped cream and a candy cane.

There were lavender shortbread stars.

There were chocolate chip cookies.

There were sugar bell, tree and snowman cookies. Popular items.

And the most popular item of all? Chocolate chip snowman cupcakes. Decorate with eyes and a nose and the kids will buy!

This bake sale was held at a public school - an art charter so maybe there are more crafty, baking types in the parent body. But it gave me hope. Hope that bake sales can be elegant, delightful, greasy-pizza-free and stale-cookie-free.

Hope that bake sales can be more like I remember my own childhood bake sales.

And still make money.

How do you tackle bake sales at your schools? Do you bake? Do you buy and then repackage as home baked (come on, fess up, we've all done it!).

Or do you simply come to them as buyers? What do you think bake sales should be like?

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This post is participating in Tackling Tuesday over at 5minutesformom.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chocolate zucchini cake| A green holiday cupcake

I love zucchini. It's such a versatile vegetable. I add it to many things like omelettes, muffins, veggie stir-fries and I've even put it in meatloaf. But it also works well in breads, cakes and yup, chocolate cupcakes. All its fiber, its mild flavor and moisture content make it a healthy and subtle addition to chocolate cake. 

Whip some of these devil's food chocolate cupcakes up for the holidays and feel good about getting some veggies at the same time. And green veggies to boot - perfect for the holiday season!

I adapted this recipe from The Classic Zucchini Cookbook by Ralston, Jordan and Chesman. My version has three kinds of chocolate, I omit the oil and I frost them with cream cheese frosting.

A few green sprinkles and there you have it:  A green holiday cupcake. Yum. 

4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use 72% cocoa)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 1/4 cup sifted cake flour
1/4 cup natural unsweetend cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchinis)
1/2 cup chocolate chips


Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave for 3 minutes on 50% power. Set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each one well. Add the vanilla.

Add the flour and cocoa mixture.

Add the buttermilk, beating until well combined.

Beat in the cooled melted chocolate, then the zucchini and finally the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into 12 cupcake liners.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool before frosting. 

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound confectioner's sugar
green sprinkles

Combine the cream cheese with the butter and the vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually add the sugar while beating.  
 Frost the cupcakes and decorate with green sprinkles.


The recipe to print can be found here.

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