Sunday, December 23, 2012

LeCreuset braised short ribs!

You already know about my obsession with cooking in LeCreuset dutch
ovens but the one piece that's eluded me is the 5-quart braiser in luscious lime!
But not any more... This was one of my early, to-me-from-me
Christmas gifts and I couldn't be happier... Or wait to use it!
But then I got busy baking Christmas cookies and my eagerness to
use my beautiful new lime-green LeCeuset braiser was put on hold!
Until last night when I skipped into The Fresh Market on a mission!
Braised beef short ribs in red wine sauce with veggies!
Exactly the perfection I expected from my new LeCreuset braiser!
Served over German egg noodles, of course!
Will there be LeCreuset under your
tree this Christmas... If so, which piece?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mixed Conference 2012

I think I was the only person at Mixed last month who hadn't seen
the movie Dirty Dancing before arriving at Mountain Lake Hotel
where the movie was filmed in 1987... Well, that changed tonight!
I already shared a little about my experience at Mixed with you in
that I've finally seen the movie I feel qualified to share the rest of the story!
Bottom line... For me, Mountain Lake Hotel will always be about having the
time of my Blogging life at Mixed first and, about that little movie second!
This was our room in one of the cottages. It was warm and cozy...
With a quiet balcony and a great...
View of the surrounding forest and mountains!
After we checked in, we checked out the gift shop, where it first
became clear that the film Dirty Dancing plays a big part there!
Too bad the lake is missing! If you want to know why, read here!
Walking back into the main hotel, the first blogger-friend I recognized was
Melanie who writes here. Like me, Melanie was a Good Cookie and brought
cookies with her, so we took them down to the barn to be with the others!
The second blogger-friend I recognized was Lynda, who writes,
Me and My Pink Mixer. She was delivering these cuties!
I added my Penguins...
We admired the other cookies and, then it was time
to head back to the main hotel for a little mingling!
 Incredibly, the first blogger I spoke to at the mixer was Nikki who just
happens to also be from Winston-Salem! When I told her that's where I live
too, she didn't believe it! We've since made plans to have lunch together and I
can't wait! After the mixer we had a wonderful dinner where the good folks at
Dreamfields Pasta crowned the winner of the Mac n' Cheese recipe contest!
Day two of Mixed was jam-packed with informative and fun break-out
sessions. The one I couldn't wait to attend was Marian's... She is of course,
the delightful creator of Sweetopia. And, do let me tell you, Marian is
without a doubt just as lovely and as sweet as you'd imagine from her blog!
Look... She liked my penguin cookies enough to take two for herself! I couldn't
believe it when Marian held them up and mentioned them during each of her
classes... She said they were a terrific example of how to use sanding sugar!
That's high praise coming from Sweetopia, believe me!
Marian showed us how to decorate sugar cookies
two ways. First, with royal icing and second...
Using crusting buttercream frosting. Learn more about that here!
Then there was cake decorating with Duff and his team!
I somehow missed signing up for the smaller, more personal class with Duff but
fortunately one of our hostesses, Susan was able to get me in at the last minute!
As you already know, I was most interested in learning how to handle
an airbrush and, with Duff's help, I was airbrushing in no time at all!
Unfortunately, I tripped going up the stairs after class
so my perfectly airbrushed cake didn't make it very far!
Luckily for me, Duff's bigger class was on my agenda for the afternoon
so I got another opportunity to decorate a second cake with him!
There was no shortage of Duff's cake decorating supplies at Mixed...
Whatever we wanted to do, we were invited to try!
And, I have to tell you, although there were close to 30 people in this
larger breakout, Duff was everywhere... No shortage of his help either!
He was one accessible celebrity, that's for sure!
I haven't mentioned them yet, but I very much enjoyed meeting the
ladies from Way Better snacks who brought us tons of their delicious
snacks. You can pick them up at Whole Foods but I would love to see
them get into the Commissary system. Military families need better
access to wholesome and tasty snack foods and there simply isn't a
Whole Foods near every base. If you want to see Way Better snacks at
your commissary or post exchange, please go see a manager and ask
them to carry Way Better Snacks. Read this and you'll be glad you did!
In addition to the cake Duff did for the Way Better snack
ladies, there were these other beautiful cakes to admire!
Of all the cakes, this was my favorite!
One of the many fantastic aspects of the conference Paula and Susan
put together for us was free-time they built into our schedules. We
spent some of our free time exploring the beautiful surroundings!
Taking in the sights and all that fresh, clean, crisp Virginia mountain air!
It doesn't appear so looking at it from the hotel, but the lake area is huge!
Standing here you can hear water running!
Coming from somewhere down there...
At the drain! 
Absence of the lake aside, this is a gorgeous spot!
After our hike around the basin we headed back to the conference...
For more fun!
And, prizes! Paul and Susan managed to put together an amazing group of
sponsors for Mixed. We were spoiled by healthy Dreamfields pasta, fresh
produce and nutritious cereals supplied by Attune Foods, sweets from
Hershey's and cookie tins from Imperial Sugar, (which I've already put to
excellent use) just to name a few! Plus, KitchenAid and OXO went out of their
way to supply thousands of dollars in prizes. Including 2 KitchenAid ranges!
Paula and Susan spoiled us rotten all weekend! And, true to their good nature,
they also provided us the opportunity to give back by donating the proceeds
from all of the raffle ticket sales to OXO's cookies for kid's cancer charity!
This was one amazing experience and, although Susan and Paula
didn't distribute a feedback questionnaire like ones I have received
at conferences I've attended for my day job... I would like to take this
opportunity thank them again... And to say, sign me up for Mixed 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Martha by Mail... By Santa!

I put a little of mom and dad's Santa gift money to me to
excellent use this week by hunting down and buying a few
of the Martha by Mail copper cookie cutter sets on my wish list
How cool is it that this set arrived on the tenth anniversary of
the manufacturing date on the box? Clearly, it was meant to be!
Sets in this condition and complete like this one rarely
become available. And, when they do, they cost a bit more too...
But in my opinion, they're soooo worth it!
I cannot wait for Spring to come so that I can create Martha's beautiful bugs!
This is another find I'm so happy to be able to add to my collection...
Initially, I mistook it for a cake-pan set...
However, it's actually a set of four graduated star cutters meant
to cut sheet cakes into star-shapes. I can see using them to create
large star cookies too. I love it when a tool has multiple uses! 
When I stumbled on this set of rubber
scrapers I almost couldn't believe my eyes!
They were a must-have. And, I've already warned a certain
someone never to put them into the dishwasher because...
I'm washing these babies by hand!
Another gorgeous set of Martha by Mail copper cookie cutters... Fall leaves!
And this set is currently my very favorite...
And, the one I'm using today!
Beautiful, gleaming copper with the Martha by Mail stamp...
Makes my little heart go pitter-patter!
These are gifts that will last a life-time and, they
will certainly be put to good use in my kitchen!
Thank you, Mom and Dad. I mean... Santa!