Monday, December 31, 2012

This Year's Most Popular

It's been such a fun year - sharing 103 recipes and at least that many songs!  I've loved writing and cooking and baking and playing music for you.  I appreciate your stopping by and sharing your time with me.  I REALLY appreciate it when you've shared my blog with others.  As a result, more and more readers have stopped by to take a look.  Thank you!

Did you know that tune 'n fork has a Pinterest page?  It's true!  You can sign up to follow by clicking here!  

I'm a lover of lists - "to do" lists, "done" lists, "recommended reading" lists, "top vacation spots" lists.  Today I'm sharing a list of the ten most popular posts this year - the ones that have drawn the most visitors. Maybe your favorite is among them!

I wish you all the best in this new year and look forward to bringing you more new recipes with fun musical accompaniment!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Warm & Creamy Crab Dip

One Day More by The Cast of Les Miserables written by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil
I couldn't help but talk about this today.  My family and I went to see the new movie version of Les Miserables on Christmas night.  You must go!  You absolutely must go and see this!  A story of Jean Valjean, a french man who was sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread so his sister's child would not die of starvation.  Bitter?  You bet he was!  But this story shows the struggles of mankind to maintain faith and hope in a world that is not always kind.  It's the end of another year and we are all reflecting and resolving - just like the characters in this song.  Some are resigned, some are resolute, all are reflective.  I love how the New Year celebration embraces both sides - the outgoing as well as the incoming.  You might be looking for something to add to your celebration party so, in the spirit of the Thenardier's - "here a little dip, there a little touch" - I have come up with a Warm & Creamy Crab Dip.  It doesn't take much time at all to prepare - so you'll have plenty of time to go see the show!

I am a HUGE Les Miserables fan - thanks to my Great Aunt Gwen.  She was coming out to visit us one summer about 20 years ago and heard that the stage production would be in town while she was there.  She asked if I had ever seen it.  I hadn't.  Had I read the book - she asked.  I hadn't.  tsk,tsk  She had been a school teacher before retiring.  An educated mind was important to her.  She said that she wanted very much for me to see it and would provide the ticket but hinted (strongly suggested) that I read the book before I see the musical.  

Luckily, I headed straight out and got a copy of the book.  I say luckily because it's a very long story - even the unabridged version.  Being a mother of five young children, it was going to take me awhile to get through it.  Or would it?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Chocolate French Macarons with Peppermint Buttercream

I Celebrate the Day by Relient K
This is one of my favorite modern day Christmas songs.  I learned about Relient K through my youngest daughter.  I'm a fan.  And this song has caused me to do what no new Christmas song has done in a very, very long time ~ and that is to think about the birth of Jesus in a new way.  "The first time that you opened your eyes, did you realize that you would be my Savior?  And the first breath that left your lips, did you know that it would change this world forever?"  The potential of that wee babe born so humbly in Bethlehem.  What an awe-inspiring thought.  Potentials from "first times" - it'll give you lots to ponder if you let it.  Do we ever sit back and contemplate where our "first times" have taken us?  I do ~ often.

 My second year of culinary school found me in my baking rotation.  It was divided up in segments through which each team of two had to circulate and demonstrate skills in various areas - breads, pastries, cookies, etc.  One of the cookies in the cookie segment was the Parisian or French Macarons.  That is not a spelling error - it has only one "o."  It's basically a meringue cookie sandwich and the filling can be all sorts of delicious things like buttercream frostings or luxurious chocolate ganache.  They are such an eye appealing cookie - you can dress them up in so many ways.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Santa Baby by Everclear
Somehow I just don't believe Everclear when they sing this song!  I think that they've really been bad - very bad!  And I find myself smiling and secretly hoping that they have been bad!  What?!?!  I know, I know.  But, when they sing this song, they make me think of those bad boys in class in high school.  The ones that had the nerve to say the things that everyone else was thinking, even if it sent them to the principal's office.  Quietly I'd smile to myself and have a bit of a crush for a moment.  It's always said that girls like those bad boys.  There might be a little truth in that, I suppose.  Today I've been a little naughty myself.  Taking a perfectly good cookie and hiding secrets inside.  And once I started, I couldn't stop the naughty train until I smashed right into a full-blown sundae with peanut butter oozing down the sides!  I just know that when my husband reads this post and sees that sundae he's going to come into the kitchen and give me that look that says "Why is this on your blog but NOT IN MY BELLY!"

Dear Santa,
I hope you will forgive me for being a little naughty this week!  I should leave well enough alone, I know!  But these thoughts!!!  They just come into my head UNINVITED!!!  

You know those Soft Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies that you love so much?  Well, while thinking of another cookie I had last year that I loved so much, this idea just BURST into my head.  The idea that I could wrap the chocolate cookie dough around a peanut butter cup and bake it up!  I figured that it would come out with this incredible peanut buttery middle and that the chocolate coating would bake right into the cookie.  I was half right.  There was an incredible peanut buttery middle - but that chocolate coating acted more like a chocolate chip, leaving a chocolatey drip as you pulled apart the cookie!  So it was magnificently even BETTER than I had anticipated!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cream of Tomato Soup

The Little Drummer Boy by Harry Simeone Chorale
Tomato Soup is childhood.  And childhood at Christmas time meant standing around the turntable and playing my parents collection of Christmas albums.  This version of The Little Drummer Boy was one of my favorites.  I loved the men's voices acting as drums in the intro.  And, when the women's voices started the melody, it was so soft and haunting.  They were telling a story and it really caught my attention and made me picture the scene.  It made me ponder what I, as a child, could give if I had been called upon to pay my respects to the Holy Child.  Any song that can make a kid stop thinking about Santa for about 3 minutes and think about the deeper meaning of the holidays has got to be a stellar song.  And I believe this song fits "stellar" perfectly!

Tomato Soup takes me back to my K-12 school days and cafeteria lunches.  It was part of one of the perfect sacred combos served ~ Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  Cheese and tomatoes - a very happy pair indeed!  I loved to dip the corner of one of my Grilled Cheese halves - cut on the diagonal, of course - into the tomato soup.  I'd go home and rave about this to my mom who would always point out the obvious to me - "You know that tomato soup is made from tomatoes, don't you?!"  I did know this and I was just as perplexed as her!  It came into the same class as ketchup -  I liked ketchup just fine and it was made from tomatoes.  But neither the canned soup nor ketchup tasted the same as the yucky stewed tomatoes she tried to serve me or raw tomatoes which made me shudder from head to toe.  Tomatoes were a tricky lot.  You never knew where they were going to show up.  I was always on my guard.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Eggnog Buttercream

Sleigh Ride by Spice Girls
I acquired this song in my music library simply because it was on a CD of various artists.  I was in a Virgin Music Store back in the 90s while on vacation in Arizona.  It was holiday time and I was enjoying some music playing over the store's stereo system.  I tracked down the CD that they were playing and bought it without really looking to see who all was on there.  Once back out in the rental car, I loaded that CD, put the car in reverse, and was prepared to enjoy this new music.  The intro was one I hadn't heard in the store but it sounded pleasant enough.  And then they started singing!  What ?!  Who is this?  I grabbed the CD case and read "Spice Girls."  Oh, come on!  Seriously?  Well, I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want - and that's for no Spice Girls in my holidays!  Nonetheless - it stayed in the CD player.  And during that vacation - and when I got back home - I never once could bring myself to skip that track!  And you know why?  Because it grew on me!  And, before that holiday season was through, I was addicted to this song that clearly conveyed that these Spice Girls were thoroughly enjoying a sleigh ride.  And the real grabber was the laugh at the end and the British greeting of "Happy Christmas!"  Ring-a-ling-a-ling-a-ding-dong-ding!  A guilty pleasure!  Like Eggnog Buttercream hitching a ride on top of Gingerbread Cupcakes!

It's gingerbread time again!  Cookies, cakes, puddings!  Bring it on!  

Ginger is a decadent spice.  It's loud in its volume and sultry in its allure.  Think Gilligan's Island - the "Ginger or MaryAnn" debate.  Most guys opt for Ginger because she's sexy.  I happen to think that ginger - the spice - has that same appeal.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Potato, Kale, and Bacon Pie

In the Bleak Midwinter by James Taylor
This is an old Christmas song.  Old as in 1800's old.  English poet, Christina Rosetti, wrote the lyrics in response to a call for Christmas poems by a magazine.  It has been adapted over the years and paired with various tunes, however, this James Taylor rendition uses the current most popular tune.  This song has really come to the forefront of my holiday listening so far this year.  I mean, I love his entire Christmas CD, but his velvet voice brings this song from yesteryear to current.  His phrasing and framing of the words makes you stop - listen - and feel.  My heart fills with the Christmas spirit and helps me focus on the reason for the season.  It's as heart-warming as today's recipe.

Last spring you might remember me telling you about a trip my husband and I took to Atlanta, Georgia.  We had some amazing food while there, prompting me to write about Banana Pecan Bread French Toast and Bacon Cheeseburger Hand Pies.  Well, the same wonderful pie shop that inspired those hand pies, also inspired today's pie - Potato, Kale, and Bacon Pie.  

You might imagine how I would have been in my glory finding a shop that was as wild about pies as I was!  Pies for entrees AND dessert!  Along with those cute little hand pies and our dessert pies, we chose this Potato Leek Gratin pie.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Designer Sugar Cookies

O Tannenbaum by Dave Brubeck
Jazz great, Dave Brubeck, passed away yesterday just one day shy of his 92nd birthday after giving us decades of soulful music.  I will admit that he did not appear in my iTunes library until about a year ago.  I wasn't familiar with the name.  "What?!" you say - and deservedly so.  But let me interject that, although I wasn't familiar with the name, as soon as I took a listen, I knew that his music had been part of the fabric in the background of my life.  Take Five is classic - a must own.  My son-in-law is the one who brought the Brubeck name to the forefront.  I don't know why I was surprised to learn that he liked to listen to Jazz but I was -  I think it involved a birthday or Christmas wish list.  Nevertheless, whenever I hear a name of an artist with which I'm not familiar, I go browsing.  And this Christmas album was one that ended up in my library.  The beginning of the song suggests that wandering you do while hunting down this year's perfect tree.  When the familiar melody begins it is, musically, that "moment" when you've found "the one."  You stand there envisioning it with the star on top and all your precious ornaments sparkling between its branches with lights twinkling all around.  The moment deserves a Dave Brubeck song.

My grandson called me yesterday while I was figuring out today's post - experimenting with different ideas.  He asked, "Grandma, what are you doing?"  Just then my oven timer went off and I asked if he could hear the beeping.  He said he could.  "Do you know what that means?"  Silence.  "It means that Grandma is baking cookies!"  (Oh, that he lived close enough to beg his mom to drive him right over for a taste!)

Then he asks me, "Grandma, do you have cookie cutters?  We do!"  And, with his 3 year old mind, in which all things are possible, he runs to the kitchen and "shows" me their cookie cutters - over the phone.  No - we were not on Face Time!  I listened to him as he rummaged through, showing me various ones.  I "wowed" and "oohed" like a good grandma.  Throughout the conversation he "showed" me how he brushes his hair and something else about playing ball.  It was a lovely afternoon chat that, for a moment, erased the 600 miles separating us.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Israeli Couscous Blend

Desert Rose by Sting (with Cheb Mami)
I've been trying to incorporate more elements of the Mediterranean cuisine into my diet lately and couscous of various forms is a regular feature, especially for lunch.  Thanks to Sting and his "Brand New Day" album, this song he sings with Cheb Mami of Algeria immediately pops into my head.  I'm suddenly filled with the vision of being a belly dancer and wearing tinkling scarves!  This song is such a wonderful blend of cultures.  I am a HUGE Sting fan.  My family might contest that that is an understatement of great proportion!  It was a surprise to myself, though, to find that this is the first Sting song I've used on this blog!  Welcome, Sting, to the tune 'n fork playlist!  And welcome, couscous, to my belly!

I know I've already shared with you my love of Costco.  It's such a fun place to explore and I try to give myself enough time to fully enjoy the hunt.  With this new Mediterranean cuisine focus that I've been trying lately, I was really happy to find this Couscous blend on one of my recent Costco Explorations.