Wednesday, December 30, 2009

She's a Beaut!

It's not like me to go through my (proverbial) stocking (proverbial because my parents have deemed us too old for some traditions such as stockings), but this being somewhere I sometimes (er... often) post about things going on in the kitchen - I thought it only right that I also talk about the one of the best (looking) ways to go about cleaning up the aforementioned "things".

And while I didn't realize this until about a few days ago, using one of these Brushing Beauties has to be the way - although these ladies are so cute that they've left me wondering if any of them have ever actually made it out of the packaging. But that aside... isn't this the most adorable thing you've ever laid eyes on?

Wouldn't she, "the Baker" model, have been perfect in my stocking? Not that I'm ungrateful to my brother (make that his wife) for gifting her to me (au contraire)... but if I have anything to do with it next year, stockings, filled with these cuties (or perhaps one of these other food-related gadgets) will be hung by the chimney with care.

Pink, polka dots and little bow-adorned pockets... be still my heart. (although if pink, polka dots, and/or bows aren't your thing, there's bound to be one that's just right for you, too!)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Turnaround

Did someone say Christmas cheer? The big day is here, or all but... and I'm back, thanks in no small part to visions such as this...

Though no thanks to this... although I do admit it looks pretty - and at the beginning, it was. Two+ feet later, however, and I was singing a slightly different tune.

But a Christmas tune to be sure... even if my own personal rendition of a favorite song has long since been prohibited 'round these parts.

And with that, I wish you and yours the Merriest of Christmases. Over the past year, I've really learned to love this writing and photographing (food, or otherwise) thing so I may just hang around for a while. Thanks for sticking it out with me... whether you come here often or just drop by every once in a blue moon.

**Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a year's subscription to Cooking Light. Only 3 more days left to enter!**

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Antidote

Haven't entered my giveaway yet? Enter now for a chance to win a free subscription to Cooking Light!

My hands are freezing, there's a good 2-3 inches of packed ice covering every road between here and any destination imaginable... and I have more than 40 un-written Christmas cards staring me in the face - suffice it to say, I haven't hit the jolly part of the holidays. And yes, I'm well-aware that I have ah-hem, not so long to "get in the mood".

Fear not, though, I'm certain this will be just a short-lived pre-Christmas exuberance funk. I'm not one to miss the excitement of a holiday, most of all Christmas. And lest I give you the wrong impression, I'm not looking for sympathy... after all, hopefully you are far, far away from your computer, not here desperately searching for Christmas' version of being kicked in the rear... or was it being kicked into (high) gear. Either way...

While I'm here, though, I might as well finish what I've started... though to be fair, I'm not even sure where it came from (or maybe I just don't want to admit it). If you know me (at all), you're probably sitting there laughing. And how I'm dying to join you - for we all know one thing, if I'm not laughing then it's bad.

Here I am... wondering how I let this happen again. But I planned ahead this holiday so I could avoid this exact situation - I was supposed to be done and relaxing by now. Instead, I've created even more stress being frustrated with myself that I'm not enjoying the holiday yet.

With that, I've decided my pity party is over. Sure there are a few last presents to be wrapped, a trip to pack for, of course those pesky Christmas cards that I won't give up on, and cookies to be (hopefully prettily) packaged for our hosts. Watch out, folks, Kara's going to take it in stride (or at least make a valiant attempt).

With that, may I introduce you to some treats (although some version of them are an annual tradition around here) that are sure not to cause you any pre or post (or smack dab right in the middle of it) holiday grief... on the off-chance that there are more than one of me out there, prone to a last-minute meltdown (or three). And just because I have an inspired, fierce determination that from here on out, it's all-Christmas cheer, all the time.

Double-Mint Bark

7 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
15 oz Hershey's Candy Cane Mint kisses
Andes mint pieces

Turn a jelly roll pan bottom side up and cover securely with foil. Stir the bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler over low heat (the water should be barely simmering) until just melted and smooth. Pour chocolate on foil; using icing spatula (I used an off-set spatula), spread chocolate to uniform thickness (approximately a 10 x 8 rectangle). Chill until set, at least 15 minutes.

Stir Hershey's kisses in a double boiler over low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour melted kisses over the bittersweet chocolate layer in long lines and spread evenly (quickly) using an offset spatula. Immediately sprinkle hand fulls of Andes mint candy pieces over the mint layer and press lightly to adhere.

Chill until firm. Lift foil with bark onto a work surface; cut the bark crosswise into 2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip into smaller sections (to your liking). Store in an airtight container; can be frozen for a few weeks. Let stand a few minutes at room temperature before serving.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Little Premature (and a Giveaway!)

I have few excuses (and even fewer good ones) for why I do many things... but the facts of the matter are undeniable, and as such, I've come to accept them... and well, you might as well too. How this little quirk of mine came to be is unknown, but it is without a doubt the reason for which I just now finished reading (every single page of) my October Cooking Light magazine. That it might also contribute to why I have only posted one single, solitary Christmas cookie recipe on this the 21st day of December is another matter all together... and sadly, this below is not number two.

But before you shed a tear (assuming you kept reading after hearing this post isn't about a delicious sweet treat), know that my quirk of obsessively reading each and every single page of every magazine I subscribe to finally worked to our advantage. Lurking on one of the very last pages of my Cooking Light was this unobtrusive little warm-your-tummy but won't add-to-your-waistline Black Bean and Salsa Chili.

And while at first I was in disbelief with the realization that it wasn't delicious, buttery cookies (or even chocolate!) on the brain, rather this pot of hearty turkey and black bean chili, after simmering the blend of fragrant herbed and spiced ground turkey and mixing it with black bean puree (studded some more of its own kind), all of my cares (and along with those, my sweet tooth) were long forgotten.

With the amount of crud that I continue to give myself for only just a few days ago posting my very first Christmas cookie recipe, you'd think I wouldn't be turning to the healthy stuff so irrationally... but with two (out of three) cookie exchanges under my belt, let's just say that my belt is no longer fitting quite the way it used to.

But wait... don't go! I want to know how you're planning on detoxing from the Season. And I'm willing to give one of you a free subscription to one of my favorite magazines, Cooking Light, in exchange for your healthy ideas and recipes suggestions. Here's how:

  • Enter once by leaving a comment on this post telling me what your favorite way go go healthy after the holidays (or anytime) and a way that I can contact you if you don't have a blog.
  • Enter a second time by Tweeting (hate that word) about this giveaway using @karaskitchen & leaving another comment on this post letting me know that you did so.
  • Enter another time by posting about this giveaway on your blog & leaving (yet) another comment on this post with those details.
Contest ends 10 pm EST on Sunday, December 27. Using, I’ll select one winner on Monday morning.

Update!! Abby from Confabulation in the Kitchen (who tweeted about the giveaway) is the big winner! Thanks to all who participated!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some Christmas Spirit

It's more than about time... I'll be the first to say that my behavior around here recently is downright unacceptable. We've had our Christmas tree up for over two weeks, I've been listening to Christmas carols for well over four (yes, I'm an early adopter - and proud of it!), and this is my first mention of a Christmas cookie?! Truly disappointing, really.

Try as I might (to find someone or thing to unjustly blame), it should be noted that I must take full responsibility for this catastrophe. I've even had the recipe sitting on our counter for weeks now (thanks to my dear friend had thoughtfully forwarded it to me in plenty of time for the season), crying for me to rally the troops... er, ingredients (that also all awaited my call from our trusty cupboards). But as happens for many of us (guilty as charged), the month of December, Christmas cookie baking (and subsequent posting, especially when there are more interesting things to write about like oh, a fully legal trip to the White House), and (ugh, don't even get me started) Christmas card writing, sneaked up on me... and might I add, there was a moment when it risked clear passing me by.

Lucky for us (and not so lucky for our waistbands), there were cookie exchanges to attend (and Christmas cookie events to enter)... so when I could find no more excuses (good or bad, at that), these Hot Chocolate Cookies were finally called upon.

Since then, any that remained have been quickly gobbled up, accompanied by a few comments wishing I hadn't made such a fun and delicious recipe only to be given away to others (some people around here don't quite have the Christmas spirit thing down just yet).

So with the holidays (or more like... the holiday rush) all but imminent at this point (thank you, Captain Obvious), I figured you, like me and the rest of us, might not have many more quiet moments to sit by the fireside with a toasty cup of hot cocoa... and if that's the case, these should tide you over quite nicely.

Hot Chocolate Cookies
yield: 4 dozen

Cookie ingredients
3/4 c butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c flour
1 c instant milk chocolate hot cocoa mix
1 tsp baking soda
24 large marshmallows, cut in half crosswise

Glaze ingredients
1 3/4 c powdered sugar
6 TBSP butter
1/4 c milk
2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 3/4 c butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Add eggs, 1/4 c milk, and vanilla. Continue beating until well-mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour, cocoa mix and baking soda. Beat until well-mixed.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until just set. Remove from oven; top each cookie with marshmallow half, cut-side down. Continue baking for 1 to 2 minutes until marshmallow just begins to puff. Immediately remove cookies to cooling racks. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, place powdered sugar into medium bowl; set aside. Combine all remaining glaze ingredients in 1 qt saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes. Pour mixture over powdered sugar in bowl. Beat until creamy and fully combined.

Immediately spoon glaze over cooled cookies decoratively. Store between sheets of waxed paper in a loosely covered container.

*And of course it wouldn't be the Christmas season without a submission to Susan's Eat Christmas Cookies event. YUM!

It's official! You can no longer say that I've never done anything for you. As a treat for having made it all the way through this overly wordy post, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: come Monday, you're going to want to make your way right back here... because for the first time ever, it might just be worth your while.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On the List

Not that it's the first time, but trust me when I say that the pictures that follow are a lot more interesting (though the quality is debatable) than anything I could say to describe them so for now, my words will be few (but don't expect that to last... I have, contrary to what's shown up around here, been in the kitchen with some Christmas cookies, after all).

So while I have every confidence that you could have pieced this together on your own at this point, I'll go ahead and spell it out for you... we recently took a great little tour of the beautifully (but modestly) decorated White House (yes, the White House).

The super tight security at the entrance was expected but an unforeseen delay and rumored snafu with the list (thanks, Salahis!) almost had the Secret Service turning us away. Just mere moments later (fully cleared and confirmed on multiple lists), we were en route to viewing a number of beautiful rooms, sharing the apparent same hallway that the infamous crashers used.

Everything about the White House was festive - from the multiple trees and decorations to the (appropriately) white chocolate-covered gingerbread White House. Of course, just outside of the walls of the hallowed building stood the National Christmas tree (a new version of the same one we'd seen last year), and a decked out street leading to the Capitol.

The mix of patriotism and Christmas cheer was just what the doctor ordered during busy holiday season. My favorite part of the tour was seeing all of the different Christmas cards that our Presidents have sent out over the years... now if I could only get on that list.

Friday, December 11, 2009


They say not to believe everything you read on the internet, but every once in a while you come across something so undeniably true, not to mention timely, that well... it almost makes you want to throw caution to the wind. This was, without a doubt, that for me. Oh yes.

Now that you've seen my first picture of this post, it won't be hard to understand why I was recently researching the definition of the word 'amateur'. You know as well as I do that in these lazy days of the interwebs that we currently enjoy, it took about 0.000023 seconds for this to appear front and center:


  1. A person who engages in an art, science, study, or athletic activity as a pastime rather than as a profession.
  2. One lacking the skill of a professional, as in an art.
And in one brief nanosecond, my faith in the information age was restored. I'm still chuckling over that line "one lacking the skill of a professional..." - you can say that again. As an aside, I think I've reached a new low in self-degradation, but that's just an aside... back to regularly scheduled programming.

So after a fun (but too short!) little practice photo-shoot (courtesy of one of my oldest friends and her adorable son - remember this guy?), it's only too obvious that I embody the definition of an amateur. And I'm quite proud of it - after all, I'm nothing if not predictable.

But while we're here... on this journey, I'll call it, I figure it's only fair to show you where I starting from... which, of course, assumes I'm going somewhere. Let's all say a collective prayer for that... don't worry, though, I have no plans to quit my day job.

In the end, though, I got to thinking that really the only way to push myself to improve is to show you how far I have to go... and well, if you didn't believe me before, I'm fairly certain you do now.

Oh, and while we're on the topic of adorable little people... er, dogs (c'mon, she's the closest thing we've got right now)...

Yes, in the dining room (who am I kidding... everywhere) our baseboards really are as chewed up as they look in that picture;

No, they aren't courtesy of the beautiful black-and-tan long-haired dachshund you see posing above - rather, they were included in the purchase of the house (thanks, previous owners... or perhaps I should just thank 60+ years of wear and tear);

Yes, you're seeing that right - our dog has more than enough bed but when the heat comes on, nothing (literally) stands between her and the heater;

And, no, I had no clue that the aforementioned baseboards were in perfect (if I do say so myself) focus when I shot this picture (hey, we're all about honesty here!) but I really liked the picture otherwise so we take our lumps.

Monday, December 07, 2009


This weekend was a turning point for us... sure the days have been a lot shorter for the past few weeks, but Saturday morning, when the anticipated rain turned to surprising big, fluffy flakes of snow... and then they stuck - I was sure winter, and with it, Christmas, was here (at least according to this meteorologist).

And while I happily welcome this wonderful season with open arms, there are a few things that often find their exit as soon as the temperature dips. Thankfully, I'm not one of those people who sees their first icicle and thinks their nights of eating a big bowl of ice cream are over... quite the contrary.

As a matter of fact, this cold-fearing Georgia girl gladly embraces a bowl of homemade ice cream... 365 days a year. So after a friend's seemingly innocuous comment describing how delicious the pairing of apple crisp and cinnamon ice cream was, a search commenced to find yet another use for our beloved ice cream maker.

And while she's seen some other delicious recipes pass through her paddle, this may very well be the last. I say that even without having paired this cool and creamy dessert with its crunchy partner since by the time we got around to making this ice cream, apple crisp season was, shall we say, behind us.

It turns out that this Cinnamon Ice Cream didn't need much (read: anything) in the way of accompaniment to find its way into our bellies, and trust me - it shouldn't need anything to get into yours either. No disrespect to the peppermint and rocky road ice creams of our past... but dare I say that in the past they may just stay.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Different Version

Well, this is downright embarrassing... right now, most people who write something masquerading as a food blog (although I'm not completely convinced that's why you're here) are either in the kitchen hurriedly preparing delicious homemade accompaniments to the perfectly roasted turkey or are already at the table, surrounded by dear friends and family, just about to dig into said complements.

Yet... here I am - spending part of my Thanksgiving afternoon sitting at our computer still thinking (and talking, quite frankly) about our recent jaunt up to New York City. Admittedly this is actually a tradition in the loosest sense of the word - as for the past hour or so, I've had one eye on the annual Dog Show (that we always manage to watch in some shape or form) and the other... here with you.

It’s just that I’ve had Wicked on the brain ever since we saw the musical and I thought perhaps one way to transition from Wicked music all-the-time to Christmas music all-the-time (officially acceptable after today, right?), was to finally getting around to sharing this. After all, we all know that the best way to get rid of a song stuck in your head (as Wicked's Defying Gravity and For Good have been - not that I'm complaining), is to sing it loud and clear... er, right?

Regardless, I won't bore you with details except to say that I wish it weren't over... and that I'm fairly certain any Christmas music lulls will be filled with the sounds of Wicked - and I'm okay with that.

Now for that turkey...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Late Addition

I'm cutting it close, I know I am... and not only that, but I'm doing so in quite an unorthodox manner to boot. I'm not here with a fancy pumpkin pie recipe, variation on stuffing, or innovative way to roast your turkey. And you just might never have had a batch of these on your Thanksgiving table before... but that's all about to change.

Before we proceed, however, I have a bit of a confession. I've hid these from you - sure I hinted at them after the night Amber introduced us but I should have been more upfront... and the anger will only worsen once you've tasted Joy's super soft Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Cookies and realize what you've been missing.

But wait! There was a method to my madness. I was waiting until you were so over planning for the obscenely large feast that we will all indulge in next week (are you hosting?) and craving the sight of something other than your usual Turkey Day fare (and the luckiest in the bunch might have even one last can of pumpkin in your pantry).

So sure... I might have waited a little too long, but I'm not worried... because even though only a few days stand between us and Thanksgiving, these cookies will slide right into your schedule, and I promise you won't even notice the difference... well, unless you count the fact that after your first taste of these light-as-air but deeply full of pumpkin-flavored cookies, your life will never be the same.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This is the Day

It was inevitable, I knew the day would arrive - and to be honest, the thought of it looming was starting to haunt me as I knew it just wasn't feasible that I might make it through a holiday season stress-free - so today was a good a day as any. There I was toodling along with my can-do holiday attitude, not a care in the world... and then the switch flipped, just like that! But oh... oh yes, I remember how yesterday felt so clearly!

Speaking of yesterday, let's go back there... both literally and literally. As for the former, yesterday was when I snapped these shots of the new addition to our Thanksgiving decorations.

Literally speaking, this pineapple with a fabric turkey head (that's a technical term, for those of you taking notes) harkens back to a time when I actually didn't know the stresses of the holidays... yes, I was 3-years old but who's counting. A turkey similar to the one here graced our family Thanksgivings every single year and my table has felt empty without one... until this season. The same season that, early-on, saw me carefree and even encouraged thinking "I can do this Christmas season" - and then in the span of a quick day, gobbled me up (chuckle chuckle) in the feeling of "Thanksgiving is next week... NEXT week? What will I bring to a pre-holiday dinner... what about a gift for our holiday hosts... what will I make for my work potluck this Friday? And Christmas cards... baking ahead of time? Or perhaps, this year, more like 'barely in time'".

Yup, it's begun all right.

Luckily, though, as much as the holidays can engulf me in a crazed, stressed whirl, being surrounded by family and friends during this season can just as quickly melt all of that away... even if but for a moment. And I plan on enjoying those moments (even if some of you already have dozens of cookies baked and stockpiled in your freezer... you know who you are).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gone... and Forgotten

I'll be the first to admit that a mere few weeks ago, I was in the middle of an unusually strong case of the "summer-entertaining-burn-out" blues. I've been 'there' before, though, and as such, am quite familiar with the antidote: the discovery of some exciting new recipes, with their ingredients perfectly matched to our local grocery stores' sales. The coming together of two things so fortuitous is guaranteed to wipe out my "over-entertained" doldrums.

But I couldn't start with just any new recipe... goodness knows (am I the only one who says that?) that at any given moment, there are a bajillion recipes out there calling my name.

I decided I was fresh for a revamp of how I think about (and serve, for that matter) appetizers when having friends over for dinner. So often I am stuck in the crackers and yummy cheese or baked dip world that I can't see easy, fresh alternatives. Leave it to (guess who!) my mom to right my ship.

My mom has (in my opinion) mastered the art of incorporating new and unusual recipes with her steady stream of trusty go-tos (even though they are goodies, don't you dare call them "oldies"!). I, on the other hand, go hog-wild in one direction or the other.

But this time, armed with this slightly sweet and secretly savory Pear Soup, I couldn't have gone wrong either way. This new friend and I got acquainted the night before our dinner party (make-ahead dishes = my best friend), and well, let's just say I almost had to make a second batch (good thing the pears were only $0.58/lb.). And then, when I thought it couldn't get any better, out popped the Blue Cheese Bruschetta accompaniment.

And in an instant, my "summer-entertaining-burn-out" blues were gone... and long-since forgotten.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Liberty Enlightening the World

As it turns out, holidays aren't just the days that we have off of work, or the ones that are celebrated with large amounts of food or the giving and receiving of presents (so I told myself as I got ready for work this morning knowing that well-over half of my counterparts around this Capitol city that I call home were still fast asleep - "at least I'll get a seat on the Metro" was my only consolation).

On my short trip into work, I had an attitude change... though admittedly, it's not hard for me to embrace a day that honors our servicemen and women, past and present. Once I put my selfish bitterness of wanting a day off behind me, I was able to see much clearer.

I thought about all of the freedoms I have thanks to the service of our brave men and women - those that I all too often take for granted. I'm recently back from a short trip to New York City where we climbed our way up into the crown of the beautiful Lady Liberty; there just isn't another place on Earth in my humble opinion that elicits the emotions that a few hundred steps up a small, winding staircase conjure up about this Country... our home.

I might never have had the same experience with our fair Lady that those who were greeted by her at the end of a very long journey in which they risked their lives to come to our great country had, but we all enjoy the same limitless opportunities and freedoms that she stands for. Those that our founding fathers dreamed into place and those that we as citizens have the responsibility to protect... which, throughout history, has meant that some of our loved ones must be sent into harm's way. It is for those people that we have this holiday.

Who knew so many thoughts could come about during an undisturbed metro ride; and, lest you think otherwise, my ramblings here aren't meant to induce a conversation about immigrant rights in the grand US of A or military involvement... it's just me here, folks.

Though you can't go very far where we live without a reminder of why today is a real holiday, for many, sadly enough, Veteran's Day is just another day... and for those lucky ones, 'just another day' that they don't have to go to work. That's not to say there aren't many companies and people who don't go out of their way to make today special - but somehow, I think most of us miss the real meaning of this important day.

Today during my lunch hour, I was fortunate to have a chance to get involved in an effort to support military families but understandably not everyone has something so convenient. Perhaps, then, just look around... a simple "thank you" to a veteran or active duty military, or the family of a serviceman or woman, works just as well.

Now... off my soapbox - am I the only one who didn't know that the Statue of Liberty's official title is "Liberty Enlightening the World" and that her right foot is raised symbolizing forward movement? Both little (known?) facts are quite fitting however... and even more so on a day that commemorates those who fight for our freedom at home and abroad, bringing that sense of liberty with them.

THANK YOU to all those who have served, are serving or are family of the military sacrificing here on the home-front. We are more grateful than you know.

**Important info regarding crown access (and seriously, you want to get to the crown): It re-opened to the public on July 4, 2009, but for only a limited time - so run, don't walk and reserve your tickets!

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