Merry Giftmas II

So, whatever became of all that jelly I made in the fall? You know, the ones I blogged about here. Well, it all came in handy now that the Christmas gift-giving season is upon us. I had made crab apple, rhubarb, jalapeno, and mint, all of which happened to be either reddish or green. I packaged up one red and one green bottle in a cellophane bag and added a tag, badda bing, badda boom, quick gift for friends! Yes, it was a lot of work back in the fall, but none at all now that it’s busy Christmas season.

Jelly gifts

Merry Giftmas

I decided to knit something for A’s preschool teachers for Christmas this year. I had the same thought last year, but in typical Kate fashion, my thoughtfulness came far too late to actually act upon. But this year I was on it! And to make sure I hadn’t bitten off more than I could chew, I chose a pair of mittens with bulky yarn that would knit up very quickly. Bella’s Mittens, by Marielle Henault, is a ridiculously popular pattern that has been on my radar for a while. I happened to have some beautiful bulky alpaca that C’s coworker (an alpaca farmer) gave me that I’d been saving for the right project. Here are the results…

Bella browns   Bella brown closeup

Bella white closeup

These soft, lovely yarns are really special. The alpacas live just north of the city on C’s co-worker’s farm. She takes the fiber to be spun at Custom Woolen Mills, where they use antique machines to spin the yarn. I just think this is so cool, and particularly environmentally friendly considering that there is essentially zero shipping involved. I am going to try and get more yarn from her in the future!

Bella gift tags

Bella gift with chocolate

Anywho… I printed up a tag for the mitts as I couldn’t bear the thought of them getting accidentally felted. I attached them with a little bow, wrapped them up and put them in a gift bag along with some Two-Tone Peppermint Bark. And now I’m off now to deliver them!

A Week of Cooking Pins

I have a habit of “pinning” things on Pinterest without ever revisiting them. I gather that the whole point of Pinterest is to “pin” something to your “board” so that you can remember it for when you have time later, but I mostly look at the pretty pictures, formulate some good intentions, and move-on. Well, last week I made a point of basing my menu around things I had pinned. Here is how it turned out.

First up was Man Pleasing Chicken. This was actually a great recipe that I had made once before. Everyone liked it, it was very easy and tasty. We ate it so fast that I didn’t get a picture. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Next was Zucchini Carrot and Cranberry muffins. These were really yummy but in the end I was the only one to eat them as my family just aren’t muffin-eaters.

The next day I made Impossibly Easy Mini Chicken Pot Pies. These were yummy and easy, and my family gobbled them up, but they were a real pain to get out of the pans.

Then I made Honey Lime Shrimp and Easy Pad Thai. Both were very easy and super delicious. These recipes were keepers for sure.

Finally, I made Sweet Blueberry Bread. I really enjoyed making the bread, and it was a very pretty finished product. I made it into french toast the next day and it was perfect for that. I must say though that we have not eaten the rest of the loaf, it wasn’t that big of a hit on its own.








All-in-all, the pin-cooking was good and I got some great recipes. I will continue to mindlessly pin and know that I may actually come back to them someday.

World’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

No really, they might be the world’s best chocolate chip cookies. This is the recipe my mom always used when I was growing up, so this is what I expect chocolate chip cookies to taste like. Perhaps I am a bit biased since this is my reference point for all chocolate chip cookies, but I have it on authority from other people that this is a damn good recipe. I’m not sure where it came from, my mom thinks that it came from the back of a package or something. I just checked to make sure, and it is not the Nestle Tollhouse recipe (that would have been embarassing).  Now that I’ve talked it up, here it is.

Makes ~14 cookies


1/2 Cup shortening

1/2 Cup brown sugar

1/4 Cup white sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 Cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Cup chocolate chips (I like using the mini ones)


Preheat oven to 350 F

Cream shortening and both sugars. You don’t need a stand-mixer to do this, but I sure do love my candy-apple-red lady












Add egg and vanilla and mix













Mix together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt) in a small bowl









Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and blend













Mix in chocolate chips












Spoon ~2 Tbsp. dollops onto parchment-lined baking sheet









Like so









Cook 8-10 minutes, until golden on the bottom edges










Let cool on a wire rack until you can no longer bear the wait.


Tomato Noodles…

…is the really classy name we use at our house for the pasta dish I made for dinner tonight. A more suitable name might be “Versatile Noodles” since they are very easy and inexpensive to make, kid friendly, yet classy enough to serve to company. I started making the Penne Arrabbiata recipe from the Williams Sonoma Pasta cookbook, but they offered a variation on the recipe to turn it into Puttanesca instead. While I liked the idea of adding capers and olives, there was no way I was even going to think of adding anchovies. So what I make is somewhere in between the two recipes, but cannot really be called either. So we call them Tomato Noodles, and we eat them once a week.

Tomato Noodles

Note: I tend to switch things up every time I make this, depending on what I have on hand. Sometimes I’ll add a splash of red wine if I have an open bottle that hasn’t, for some strange reason, been finished. Sometimes I’ll add basil paste if I don’t have any fresh. Tonight I added parsley out of the garden because I had a lot of it.


1/4 C olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

Generous pinch of red pepper flakes (I tend to cut back so the kids don’t scream)

1 (35 oz) can of plum tomatoes, chopped with juice

salt & pepper (if adding capers I tend to not add any extra salt)

12 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Generous pinch of dried oregano

Splash of balsamic vinegar (optional, but I find it really brightens up the flavor)

1/2 C olives, halved and pitted (I just add whatever olives I have on hand)

1/4 C capers

1 lb pasta (I usually use penne or fusilli)



Put large pot of water on to boil and cook noodles until tender

Meanwhile, add olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes to large skillet and heat over medium heat, being careful not to burn garlic

Add tomatoes and raise heat to medium-high

Simmer for 5 minutes or so

Add salt, pepper, basil, oregano, balsamic vinegar, olives and capers

Simmer until pasta is done, but do not let it reduce too much (if it gets dry you can add some of the pasta water)

When pasta is done, drain and add to sauce. Mix, serve with parmesan cheese.


Picky-eater approved!