Saturday, December 26, 2009

Snowballs and Sweethearts

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! I really wanted to post these Christmas cookie recipes earlier, but with the mayhem of the holidays, these festive treats will have to serve as belated gifts :)

Snowball Cookies

2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
powdered sugar

1. Cream soften butter and granulated sugar. Add in almond extract.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. Slowly mix into butter mixture.
3. Add in pecans and mix well.
4. Roll into 1" balls and bake at 350* for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden.
5. When cool, roll in powdered sugar.

Sweetheart Cookies:

1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup strawberry jam

1. Cream butter and sugar. Add in vanilla. Slowly add the flour and mix until well blended.
2. Roll out dough 1/8" thick on a well floured surface. Cut out heart shapes with cookie cutter.
3. With a smaller heart cutter, cut out smaller hearts on half of the cookies.
4. Bake on parchment paper at 300 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are very lightly golden.
5. When cool, spread jam on the whole cookies. Place cut out cookies on top to form a sandwich.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

'Tis the Season

Ever wonder how to host a fabulous gingerbread house making party, but didn't want to deal with all the fuss of rolling out and baking dough? Then try substituting graham crackers and have your guests bring candy decorations potluck-style! Just follow these 5 easy steps to host your own party:

1. Purchase supplies to create a set-up for each one of your guests:

  • 6 whole graham crackers
  • 1 tube of royal icing (see recipe below)
  • foil cake pan or pie tin
  • small plate for holding candy
  • plastic knife for cutting candy/spreading icing
  • paper towel/napkin
  • gingerbread man favor (optional!)

2. Cut 2 of the 6 graham crackers to make the front and back of the house:

3. Make royal icing: sift 5 cups of powdered sugar, add in 3 egg whites and blend in a stand mixer until it becomes the consistency of peanut butter. (Additional powdered sugar or water may be needed to form the proper consistency). Scoop icing into decorating bags and secure with rubber bands. Each batch makes approximately 4 bags of icing.

4. Set out bowls for the candy decorations.
5. Use icing to build and decorate houses. Be creative and HAVE FUN!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Factory

One of the newest eateries in Bixby Knolls (northern area of Long Beach) is The Factory. Don't let the name fool you though - it is anything but factory like! They promote local dining and use produce grown from a farm that is less than a mile away from the restaurant!

A few friends and I were taking a stroll along Atlantic Boulevard for their monthly First Fridays event when we stumbled upon The Factory. With their first operating day being the previous Tuesday, they already seemed to be doing quite well, as the line to order was out the door! We didn't mind waiting because it gave us plenty of time to scope out the menu. I attempted to order the Paella, but it was so popular that night that they already ran out! I opted for the pan seared Garlic Thyme Chicken and wasn't disappointed. Our food was served quickly, but I could tell it was cooked to order because the skin on my chicken was still nice and crispy. It was served on a bed of udon noodles sauteed with mushrooms in the same garlic thyme sauce they used to top the chicken. Finished it off with a tall glass of homemade sangria and I could have called it a night!
The Factory also serves a handful of local beers on tap that are all $5 a glass. They have an outdoor patio area equipped with heat lamps and water bowls for dogs. Another added feature is that they host cooking classes that are kid-friendly and have special wine tastings. Just drop by the restaurant to see when they're offered. However, my favorite thing about this place has to be the late night hours of can't find very many good eats like this after 10PM!

The Factory
4020 Atlantic Blvd.
Long Beach, 90807

T-Th 11AM-11PM
F-Sat 11AM-1AM
Sun 11AM-3PM

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tapas That Tops Them All

A few months ago, a girlfriend introduced me to what is now one of my favorite restaurants - K'ya. Located in Laguna Beach in the lobby of the historic 20s-style hotel, La Casa del Camino, K'ya is an intimate little restaurant that specializes in tapas. They combine fresh ingredients with simple, clean flavors in their wide variety of appetizer and dinner selections. No dish is over $15 and most are around $5-7, but that doesn't mean they skimp on portion size!

We arrived shortly after 7:00PM on a Friday evening and the restaurant was already packed with hungry customers. Since our reservation wasn't ready yet, we decided to have drinks and an appetizer in the lobby. What's great about their drink selection is that most wines and cocktails come in various sizes so you can sample a number of different ones - appropriately matched with their small plates theme. Petite Sangria ($4) for me and the Flash Fired Calamari ($5) appetizer to share. The red Sangria had just the right combination of wine, triple sec, and soda and was tastefully garnished with fresh berries. The tender rings of calamari were tossed in a sweet and slightly spicy Thai glaze with cilantro, peanuts, bean sprouts, and carrots. I was pleasantly surprised that the breading wasn't heavy and didn't lose it's crispness under the glaze.

Just as we finished up our appetizer, we were seated towards the back of the restaurant and were greeted by our (handsome!) waiter. Having looked over the menu in the lobby, we were all ready to order as soon as we sat down. I decided on the Herb Marinated Chicken ($5) and Truffle Risotto ($5). Much to my surprise again, the portions were very generous for being so inexpensive! I was delighted that the chicken was tender and came with grilled eggplant, zucchini, onion, AND asparagus. But the real star of the night was the rich, savory truffle risotto! The combination of the melted Parmesan and grated bits of black truffles created such a velvety texture in my mouth, I had to contain myself from devouring the entire plate!

Dinner, drinks, and an appetizer for under $20 - AND it was delicious? I don't know why you haven't already hopped on the 405 to get down there!

K'ya Bistro Bar
(Inside La Casa Del Camino Hotel)
1287 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, 92651