Friday, December 24, 2010

French Chocolates and Italian Leather Boots

This week has been brutal. Beautifully brutal. 500 chocolates later, I have a new hobby (chocolate making) and a buzillion chocolate crumbs all over my house. I have everything from chocolate stained pants and shirts to towels and aprons. You name it, it has been covered in chocolate. I feel quite fortunate to have sold 500 chocolates this week.  The inner passion that comes from the heart, not the head, has made itself known. These are the impulses in life you can not ignore. The ones that knock and don't go away when answered. These are the passions that seemed to be fueled by some boundless energy. I spent the entire week making fresh French chocolates and actually getting paid for it! (Have you ever seen the movie The Secret)....We get what we wish for.

Do any of you remember that fine pair of black boots that I put on my Santa Wish List a few weeks back? I do..  they looked like this. Hot, sexy over the knee black boots. Casual enough for work, but sassy with a pair of tights and a skirt. Take a look - Cute eh?

I just fell in love with these boots the minute I put them on. Franco Sarto (can you hear me)....I was dreaming of getting my hands on these boots come hell or high water. There was one caveat, they cost too much. I couldn't justify spending the cash. I whined about the boots to my husband, hoping he would cave and purchase them.  These boots were going to be my the staple of my winter clothing wardrobe.  I am not sure he had ever heard me whine for a piece of footwear. What to do when your wife whines for black leather boots? Good question! 

When I lost the Pom Pomegranate Party competition (that is another story) and cried and shouted expletives at the top of my voice, my sweet husband went out to our local TJ Maxx to purchase the boots for me as a consolation prize. Sadly they were out of my size at the store.  Just my luck! Nothing like rubbing salt into an already sore wound!  So, I decided at that moment that the only way I was going to get those hot boots on my legs was by making chocolates and selling them for boot money. I did make chocolates, 500 of them,  and suddenly, I could afford the boots. But now that I have the $$$, I am on to saving for something bigger... whatever that may be. (possibly a Nikon D 40)    And just in case Franco Sarto happens to be reading my blog and feels that he would like to trade amazing French Chocolates for a pair of  hot leather boots....  I wear a size 7.5 and prefer the black! A fair trade I do believe.

Love and Chocolates and A Pair of Black Boots
Merry Merry
Miss Megan

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Milk Chocolate Snowflake Pops

It snowed all night. The blizzard that collapsed the Minneapolis Metro Dome visited our neighborhood too. Not as much snow, thank goodness, but lots of snowy white beauty. My husband and I set out on a late night blizzard walk. It was beautiful. We took the bike bath and went through the silent woods. Spectacular and serene to say the least. When was the last time you went out hiking at night.... in a snowstorm? We huddled under some resting pine trees on the golf course near our house. It was sweet protection from the wet snowflakes that were stinging our noses, necks and cheeks.

Today, we woke up to this.

 All of the branches in the yard were frosted with snowy icing.

Even our "Halloween Spider...(that is still up) enjoyed a snowy treat!

In honor of the snow, I made these wonderful milk-chocolate snowflake pops. Perfect for the stocking or giving away to those you love. I tried one, I couldn't resist. They are delicious! Easy.... all you need is chocolate!

Voila! Chocolate Snowflake Pops!

Loads of snow and love! xoxo Miss Megan

P.S. I feel like I cheated on this post... it's a bit on the "trim" size. Read my post from yesterday if you are looking for something with more grit and substance! he he!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

400 Tamales, Public Education and the PTO

Community sings when people work together. Community thrives when women work side by side, communicate in two languages and race against the clock to make over 400 tamales before the clock strikes 7:00 a.m. Women rock. We do. 

The PTO.... remember them? They used to be called the PTA until they went "independent" and formed their own group. Our two conscious women  PTO - Co-presidents at our local elementary school, Glacier Edge, make their own way in the world. They raise funds and a lot of funds I might add, by thinking outside the box and inviting the whole community to participate in the process. Their strength? Women power. Use your strengths to reach deep into the community - ask for resources - create - and birth amazing and inspiring activities that are not just your typical bake sales. 

It's all part of the process...... Do you know that song by Morcheeba? We all are looking for success. Looking for a way to make it happen, what ever that may be. We look at what we have and want to give it back, throw it at our children, have them catch it and ride the kite of success, high into the sky.  No matter our culture or language,  we want to succeed and want our children to have all the opportunities this world has to offer.

In a time of immense budget cuts in our educational system, the only way to help our public schools and our kiddos is through family. If we love our kids, we need to share some of that love with the schools. Public schools often get a bad rap, but guess what? Public school teachers rock. They are some of the hardest working people I know. The teachers that are with our children are full of love, full of amazing ideas and care deeply about your kids. Public schools need us to be involved. Whether it raising funds, reading to kids in the classroom or volunteering in the lunchroom. Our help is needed and appreciated.

I used to be a private school devotee. I had blinders on. I taught in a private school and naively avoided public schools like the plague. Public education was the evil kingdom of poorly behaved children and bad lunches. Private school was where it was at in my mind. Both my kids started off in private education.  They had excellent experiences and loving teachers. However, I just kept questioning myself,  how could there be any stellar teachers in public education?  Seriously? Here I was, some left wing liberal sending my kids to private schools, while the real democratic process was happening within our public schools. I shunned public schools, I felt that they were ruining our children and failing them. I was wrong. Private education excluded many, public was all-inclusive. Private education was for those with privilege. Public provided for everyone. Thank goodness someone took my blinders off!

What a novel thought. Education for everyone. 

Blessed be the mothers and fathers of all of our kiddos and blessed be the grandmothers and grandfathers of public education. Thank you for fighting the good battle and continuing to fight for the good cause. Education is a right and how good it feels to work side by side parents in the community to make goodness happen! Support Public Education.

On a cold winter night, on the eve of the first snow, seven women gathered in a warm home to make tamales for the local elementary schools first ever - Pancake and Tamale Breakfast. Wow. When I stated earlier this year that I would be collecting recipes from the Latino community, I never envisioned myself being at an all night tamale-a-thon. I love this stuff. This is what life is made of, these earthy moments of friendships and crossing cultures.   There we were at eight o'clock in the evening using our hands to wrap hundreds of pork and chicken tamales. Up to our elbows, literally, in masa, carne, hojas and wine. Who could make so many tamales with out a bit of wine. Bless that fabulous beverage and blessings on the corn plant that brought us the masa and the leaves in which we wrapped the tamales.

Seven laughing, smiling women, chatting in Spanish, chatting in English. Back and forth,  here and there. Some interpreting for others, all working hard, learning the ins and outs of tamale wrapping. Pork tamales, chicken tamales, soaking corn husks, music, wine, laughter, jokes about men, mistakes, fixes, more laughing, snow, and most importantly love. That is how tamales are made for a school fundraiser.

Three women showed us their specialty, tamale making. Making 400 tamales seemed like a difficult feat for me, but not for Reyna, Baudelia and  Gregoria. These women have done this before. This is their fund-raiser. We make pancakes, they make tamales. Together, a community of seven women, all mothers, doing what we love to do... cook with love!

The Tamale Mamas

The occasional phone call......

Coloring the masa with the broth of the guajillo pork.

Stacking the tamales... getting ready for the steaming.

Carrying the first pot to the garage.....

Loading them on for a slow 3 hour cook....

Tamales awaiting stacking

Help shape your child's education. Become involved in the process. Support public education. Public Education is not perfect. It is a dance. It has it's ups and downs, mistakes and successes.  Our children learn to be part of it. It is a breathing community of people, learning about life and all that comes with it.
All relationships are difficult, sometimes the ones we actually have to work at are the most rewarding.
No blinders, just life.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter Shortbread Cookies

A cold and frosty night;
The sleeping world lies motionless,
All silent, and all white. - Yasui

Our thick blanket of snow. December 4th 2010
Welcome old man winter and thank you! The lovely thick blanket of snow you left for us made for a most luxurious morning in bed. Today was the one of those lazy mornings. One of those - I am staying in bed until nine o'clock mornings. The quiet of the morning's snow blanket kept my entire family snug in their beds, warm under their covers. When I finally said enough is enough, I must get out of bed, I crept into the kitchen and looked out our window at the beautiful bright white snow. I decided at that moment that it was my job to thank old man winter for this beautiful gift. It was settled. I would cook a warm morning feast and break out the champagne glasses for some mimosas and o.j. for the kids. Cheers to winter!

My daughter helped cook the buttermilk blueberry pancakes, she actually took over and told me several times that I needed to stop hovering. I guess I was hovering a bit. When I grabbed the metal spatula out of her hands to rescue a pancake in dire need of being flipped....she turned around, looked me square in the eye and said..."let me do this... please". Okay... I did. I would set aside my perfectionism for a while.. until it resurfaced again later when I decided to make shortbread. (gosh this is hard to do... let go)

The morning was going so well, until mother (that would be me) had her meltdown. Why does this always happen to me.... I had a lovely table set, the bacon was warm, the pancakes were done, the kids were at the table but where was my husband? Ahh... after several attempts to call him (never call... it always ends up in failure),  I finally had to march my mad self into the living room and push the power button on the stereo to turn off the loud Mark Knopfler just to let my husband know that breakfast was being served. Maybe, this wasn't the best approach. Argument...upset mother....upset husband....mother stalks off... breakfast still waiting..mother still upset..convinced that my breakfast was ruined... I cried. Mid morning meltdown. Have you ever had those before?

Breakfast finally ensued, husband and wife made up...I drank my mimosa, (two), and ate the pancakes that my daughter cooked up and munched on crispy thin bacon. To satisfy my own curiosity, are you readers out there a thick cut or thin cut bacon person? I have switched back to thin.... for various reasons. I tend to find that the thin is just so much more mouthwatering, like some delicate chip that melts in my mouth with hardly a chew. I digress. It was delicious... even with the meltdown hiccup...the mornings meal was a true welcome to winter.

I ♥ Snow - My daughter's message to the Snow Queen
The kiddos went out to play in the fresh snow after breakfast and Hopper went out to shovel. I stayed in my warm kitchen and continued my personal tribute to winter. I embarked on Winter Shortbread Cookies. and drank more champagne. The zen of the snowflakes and buttery shortbread dough put me back in my element. The quiet kitchen filled with peace calmed my heart. I invited the children back inside when it was time to cut out the shortbreads and decorate them with the amazing blue sanding sugars. Somehow, some elephants made it into the mix of cookies. I started with pure stars, feeling that they were a tribute to the season but the elephants... hmmm. They turned out beautifully as if they had traveled far and wide to get here.

We did have one little elephant escape into the lavender bush. I think he was lost.

In one of my 'foodalution' moments, the kind where you obsess about grabbing the right photo, I grabbed my beautiful blue glass stand which was loaded with cookies and went out on the porch to grab a snap shot of these beauties.  I figured the blue would stand out so nicely against the white of the snow. Whoops! When I set the plate into the snow.... all the cookies toppled  right off into the soft white snow. I think they did it on purpose as they looked like they were having so much fun and didn't seem to mind a bit that their little shortbread bodies were covered with beautiful white snowflakes.

Wheee.... that was fun... let's do it again!

Shortbread Cookies Recipe

3 sticks of unsalted organic butter (almost room temp) I prefer the butter to have a bit of a chill as it holds better
1 cup sugar
3 cups plus 3 TBS unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Decorating sugars. I used sanding sugar and sugar crystals. They do have food dyes in them. But they added so much sparkle to these buttery cookies.

In mixer, blend sugar and butter until creamy. Add vanilla. Add flour and salt. Be sure to scrape your bowl. Mix until the dough just comes together. Place dough onto floured surface. Divide in half. Shape both into discs, cover with plastic warp and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Oven to 350 degrees F.

Take out one of the halves of dough.  Flour your work surface Roll out to a 1/4" thickness. Choose your cookie cutter weapon. Cut out cookies. Place onto parchment covered cookie sheet. Decorate. Do not worry about your decorations spilling onto the parchment. Place cookie sheet in freezer for 6 minutes. This firms up the cookies and lets you transfer them onto another cookie sheet covered with a clean sheet of parchment paper. Take out of freezer, transfer to the clean cookie sheet and place in oven until just browned around the edges. Depending on the size of your cookies, this could be anywhere from 10 - 15 minutes. Keep your eye on them. Take out, let cool and enjoy.

And thank you to my 100th follower! Hooray! I never thought that day would come. For a while there I was singing the '99 followers on my wall' tune. I remember when I had my first follower (my husband) and how exciting that felt! Then along came Biren, Belinda, Kristy, Chef D as I like to call him (Dennis), Wendy, Othelia and Sara... just to name a few.

We welcome winter and all that it brings. Snow... so beautiful and white and the cold that keeps us huddled next to the ones we love most! If you are lucky enough to go out today and enjoy the sparkling snow, send a wish of love out into the world. See what goodness it brings! Loads of foodie love.... Miss Megan

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And now for some awards....And the Giveaway Winner

Two lovely bloggers, Biren from Roti n Rice and our dear BrownievilleGirl both recently me awarded me the "Lovely Blog Award". Every blogger gal (and guy) I know, strives to put their heart, soul and sass into their food, recipes, photos and posts. This award means a lot to me because when I blog... I do end up putting my heart into my recipes and posts. I wouldn't have it any other way. They are full of my love and magic (most of the time). I will admit that I have made a thing or two (or three) when I have been  a bit ticked off. Definately not the right energy going into the food, but therapeutically speaking... I came out a better person after I cooked and baked through my anger.

When I think of lovely, I think of Jackie O., Kate Middleton's sapphire blue dress, a freshly cut bouquet of flowers, a kiss from my kids, or the fresh air filling up my lungs. There are plenty of days...(many of them) where I forget the loveliness of the world, I see things as ugly, forced, difficult and annoying. These awards are a reminder to step back into the moment, breathe and realize that there is more good in this world than there is bad. Find the good and praise it.. right?

Some of the things I think are lovely are these last remnants of autumn... my last hike through the woods...

Thank you ladies... I adore both of your blogs, you both inspire me with your amazing creations. You are both creative, meticulous and lovely! I only wish I could sit in both of your kitchens for a week and indulge in all of your tasty goodies, both savory and sweet. Thank you both again for your friendship and appreciation. 
Keep the peace in your your family and take time out today to visit a new blog... leave them some love and pass it on!

love·ly (lvl)
adj. love·li·er, love·li·est
1. Full of love; loving.
2. Inspiring love or affection.
3. Having beauty that appeals to the emotions as well as to the eye. 
4. Enjoyable; delightful.

And to announce my first giveaway winner! The lovely Sommer from A Spicy Perspective was the winner of my amazing Artisan Cheese Giveaway. Amazing cheese is off to an amazing blogger! Kudos to you Sommer and thank you all for entering. It was very entertaining to read all of your "cheese moments"! Funny how we keep certain memories around certain foods... makes me smile! Thank you all again for visiting my blog, leaving your cherished comments and keeping the bloggin spirit alive!
xoxo Megan..... loads of foodie love