Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cocktails & Countdowns

PART OF THE FUN (OK, almost all of it) about New Year celebrations is drinking bubbly. Usually I pass on champagne because I find it to be too bland. It's not that I have it too much; in fact I rarely drink sparkling wine or any of the fancy schmancy stuff. For the holidays, I like to use flavored liqueurs and champagne to make glittering drinks... so for those of you eager to label me a lush, put a cork in it! ;-)


This is a Strawberry cocktail that uses demi-sec wine (although any sparkling wine will do, really). It's fruity and delicious!

  • 4 fresh strawberries for garnish, 4 hulled and diced strawberries, distributed evenly
  • 4 teaspoons grenadine syrup
  • 4 ounces strawberry liqueur
  • 1 bottle sparkling wine, demi-secs pair well with desserts (and strawberries!)  

Photo source unknown--but I will attribute if it's yours!

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011. Be happy and safe everyone!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

There weren't too many entrants, but that's great for everyone who entered. :-) A big congratulations to ★ Janey ★ for winning the Christmas package! Please contact me at to receive your prize and to let me know which charity you would like to donate to.

Thanks once again to everyone for entering!

12 Cookies & Crafts of Christmas

Q BJECTIVELY SPEAKING, Christmas is the one occasion where parties and cookies will be measured against everyone's fondest childhood memories. OK, maybe I should lighten up on the melodrama, but it's hard to deny the headache that present-hunting or baking can sometimes elicit. Stuff your face and your stockings with my favorite DIY Christmas cookies and crafts.

1. Cinnamon Tree 
A great use of cinnamon besides for adding flavor is to use the bark! What you'll need: cinnamon sticks, hot glue gun, twine, mini stars (you can find these wherever they carry scrapbook making supplies), three buttons, plaid fabric, three consecutively long Evergreen leaves. I would suggest cutting approximately 1.5", 2", 2.5" pieces.

2. Snickerdoodles
Cinnamon is also used in so many Christmas classics, my favorite being snickerdoodles! This recipe makes the most pillowy golden brown cookies.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar 
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature  
1. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. 
2. Mix butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar in separate bowl, then add 2 eggs and flour mixture. 
3. Form 18-20 balls, combine cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar and use to coat dough balls.
4. Leave about 3" of space between cookies, because they spread! Bake at 350° for 13 minutes.

3.  Santa Gift Tags
These are a cinch to make and therefore a perfect project to do with kids. Draw/paint personalized Santa faces on card stock/watercolor paper. Cut the faces out, making sure to leave room for the beard. Tie together short pieces of white yarn approximately 1.5" long with another piece of yarn, and tape to the back of Santa's face.

4. Cool Jewel Cubes
Bling your drink with these dazzling ice cubes! I've already made Cranberry "garnets", "emeralds" (a drop of green food coloring does the trick), Apple "Topazes", and "Diamonds" (just water!)... the possibilities are endless. You can find the ice cube mold by Fred here

5. Snowman Donuts
I found these donut hole snowmen over at They didn't mention what they used for the snowman's face, but I used some brownie crunch sprinkles for the eyes and mouth. For the "carrot" nose, I used some orange tootsie rolls and shaped them into Frosty's nose!

6. Doily Snowflakes
I doubt it was an accident that doilies resemble snowflakes. Look around the house for any crocheted doilies you have stored away, or you can create your own. Paper doilies hang more elegantly, but you could use crocheted doilies for a bunting that would add some charm to a bare table or wall. I needed last minute bags for presents, so I took out my scissors and beautified some ordinary red bags.

7. Nutty Reindeer Ornament
I'm pretty "fawned" of these darling deer ornaments I help put on the tree this year. ;-) Gather some unshelled walnuts, peanuts, pom poms, and googly eyes for this ornament. Add a festive bunch of fabric between the "antlers" and you're all set!

8. Chocolate Crinkles
Chocolate lovers won't be able to resist this one. It's moist, gooey, and bursting with flavor without being too strong. The snowy white confectioners' sugar provides the perfect winter touch too.

  • 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate, melted using a double boiler.
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • splash of milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

    1. Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate.
    2. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in one bowl.3. Mix butter and sugar, then adding in eggs, vanilla, and melted chocolate, then flour and milk.
    4. Refrigerate dough until firm, which takes 1-2 hours depending on the settings of your fridge.
    5. Form about 20 balls, and roll in confectioners' sugar.
    6. Turn oven to 350° and bake for 13-15 minutes.

    9. Pasta Angel Ornaments
    Behold, pasta-haired angels... a twist on your angel-hair pasta! What you'll need: wooden bead for the angel's head, Rigatoni for the body, Bowtie aka Farfalle pasta for the wings, Elbow macaroni for the arms, Acini de pepe for the hair, clear glue, hot glue gun, white spray paint, gold glitter, string, and a fine gold pen to draw on your angel's face.


    10. Pumpkin Cookies
    Why limit pumpkin to Halloween or Thanksgiving? These pumpkin cookies adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies book have a vanilla-ey icing and you can top them with these gingerbread men that I gave away here.

        •    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
        •    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
        •    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
        •    1/2 teaspoon ginger
        •    3/8 teaspoon nutmeg
        •    1/2 stick unsalted butter
        •    1 cup brown sugar
        •    1 egg
        •    3/4 cup canned pumpkin
        •    1/2 cup evaporated milk
        •    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    *For the icing, use 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1/2 stick unsalted butter, 1/8 cup evaporated milk,  and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
    1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
    2. Mix butter and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs, then add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Lastly, add flour.
    3. Bake cookies for 12 minutes at 375°.

    11. Claus Cookies
    Sugar cookies are a must-have for Christmas! My favorite holiday treat are these Claus Cookies. Using egg paint with a drop of red food coloring, you can opt for a lighter treat than with icing.  And you know what this means--more cookies! A win win situation. You can decorate these with white nonpareils, snowflakes, coconut shavings, icing, or whatever else you have on hand.

    12. Petit Four Presents
    These petit fours are--quite literally--Christmas presents for your mouth! I didn't have my camera  handy when I made mine, but here are some fabulous looking ones from Check her out! You can use Wilton Fondant with Oreo cakesters and it takes no time at all.

    Happy Holidays, everyone!

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Christmas Giveaway... for You & Charity!

    Happy Friday, guys! I'm happy to announce that I have some Christmas goodies for one lucky winner!


    Jessie Steele Bib Audrey Cupcakes Apron & Gingerbread Boy Icing Decorations.

    And because people who own computers are not the only ones who deserve prizes, I am also offering the winner $20 to a charity of their choice. I'm sure a ton of you have ADD, so I'll get straight to the details on How to Win!

    1. Follow me on Twitter here and retweet the following: I entered to win a Christmas package + $20 for charity from @bite_size_baker! 
    2. For an additional entry, leave a comment letting me know what you would use the gingerbread icing decorations for and/or what charity you would donate to!
    3. You can also earn another two entries if you follow my blog via Google Friend Connect.

    Don't forget, you can retweet multiple times for more chances to win. Contest will close at 12 PM PST on Saturday, December 25th.  A winner will be chosen at random and announced on the blog.

    Good luck everyone!

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Peanut Noodles

    HABIT, OR PERHAPS the lack of good Asian cuisine within close proximity, has me constantly experimenting in my own kitchen. I love anything that involves peanut sauce, which always conjures up memories of the dish my Mom always brought to potlucks, one with an unmistakably fragrant peanut and sesame sauce. Gourmet Magazine had a recipe with peanuts and noodles that seemed pretty promising, so I adapted my own version. 

    Firm tofu, red bell pepper, Persian cucumbers, green onion, and garlic.

    Buckwheat soba noodles.


    Toasted black sesame seeds, chili powder, and ground ginger.

    Peanut sauce--tangy and sweet. In other words, heaven.

    Just like Mom's!

    I used 3/4 of a brick of firm tofu, a medium sized red bell pepper, five green onions, one large clove of garlic, a few tablespoons of sesame seeds (enough to stud most of your noodles), and enough noodles to serve 4 hungry people. There are no hard and fast rules in this recipe except for the peanut sauce. Make sure to purée everything to form a good emulsion.

    • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
    • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon ground ginger 
    • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon honey

    I aim to bake next week... so stay tuned! :)

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    For the Love of Vintage

    EVER SINCE my parents taught me the word "discount", I knew I was destined to save and scrimp my pretty pennies. If it were up to her, my mom would never even throw out the expired ketchup packets she swiped from Mickey D's many moons ago. My parents always bought the best for me and my sister, but their garage sale-going ways somehow stuck with me to this very day. Ever the collector, one of my favorite hobbies is estate-examining, Goodwill hunting, and flea-market frequenting.

    Centerpiece floral bowl by Haeger, $13.

    Tribal purse from India, $10. 
    Tooled leather purse from Africa, Brahmin purse, from Momsy.

    80's textured turquoise cocktail dress, $35.

    70's purple pleated dress, $6.

    Reasons to Shop Vintage:
    • Unique! Vintage is a euphemism for OLD, aka not current! Trendsters need not read on; for nonconformists, it means you're way less likely to see anyone else with the same thing.
    • Affordable... most of the time. Most of the time pre-loved items are cheaper because they're secondhand. Some vintage items can be much pricier if they are antiques. I take precautions and wash or dry clean items before wear, and I don't buy things where the ick factor, whether real or imagined, is just too great--like shoes, socks, or lingerie.
    • Reuse, reduce, recycle. Instead of buying something new, why not scour the thrift shops first? Buying secondhand means conserving natural resources used in the production of a new item, like fuel for shipping or energy to produce. Furthermore, pollution (factory emissions, dumping of dyes or chemicals) is not an issue, and you are saving those items from going into a landfill. If you are interested, look into popular stores like Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads Trading Co. that allow you to buy and trade in used clothing.
    • The hunt! I get an adrenaline rush haggling and scoring awesome deals, waiting with baited breath to hear a counteroffer. I also enjoy talking to the seller about the history of the item because it lends a more personal quality to what I'm purchasing.


    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Better Together: Salt and Pepper

    JUST WHEN I thought I had exhausted my list of Christmas gift ideas, I stumbled upon a salt and pepper set that my sister had given me. I am a collector (not synonymous with hoarder), and these might be my new favorite thing to find, especially since I drool over kitchenware on the regular. Another great thing? These would make cute wedding presents too! Here are a few of my favorites:

    1. Balance Salt and Pepper Set, $34. charlesandmarie.com2. Jonathan Adler 'Mr. and Mrs. Muse' Salt and Pepper Shakers, $48. jonathanadler.com3. Peas Pass the Salt and Pepper Shakers, $21.99. modcloth.com4. Sleepy Sow Shakers, $12.00.

    Summer Salad So Sweet I Want it In Winter

    CAN YOU BELIEVE it's December? It's also hard to believe that I'm still eating salad when it's this cold outside, but try my recipe and you'll understand!

    Avocado, Corn, Tomato Salad
    Salad Ingredients:
    - 2 avocados, cubed
    - 1 cup cooked corn
    - 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
    - 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped. (*Make sure to do this step well or you'll end up with one spicy salad!) 

    Dressing Ingredients:
    - 2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
    - 2 teaspoons lime zest
    - 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
    - Splash of lime juice
    - Salt and pepper to taste

    This salad is so good that it makes the accompanying teeth chattering worth it. I love how easy it is, how there are no leaves in it (having salad sometimes makes me feel like I'm eating grass), and the fresh factor.


    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    This with That: Dessert with Tea, Part II

    ALTHOUGH pumpkin pies are (by most beginning baker's standards) fairly simple, I would venture to say that most people are puzzled about what libation to pair pumpkin pie with. Liquor or coffee are good bets, but if you're not looking to get soused, a slice of pumpkin pie with a cup of pu-erh tea is the next best thing.

    As with all pairings in the Dessert with Tea series, a brief background about the tea is necessary to appreciate the match. Unlike other teas which gradually lose their flavor, pu-erh can be aged for as long or as short as the drinker desires. It can be purchased either raw or ripened. Pu-erh has active bacteria that interact with the leaves and affect the taste of the tea (similar to the beneficial probiotics from fermentation found in yogurt or kefir). Technically pu-erh is considered a green tea, but the ripened pu-erh leaves and tea it produces are dark red/brown and therefore have sometimes been mistakenly classified as black tea. All of the semantics are silly to me, so let's not get bogged down by it. :) If you're at all interested in the production of wine, you may enjoy learning about how pu-erh is made... so feel free to check that out if it moves you.

    left: pu-erh, right: pumpkin pie from

    Pu-erh drinkers agree on one thing though--it's not for everyone. It is rich, earthy, and very strong. Earthiness aside, it is similar to coffee. The dark, roasted elements of pu-erh pair so well with the nutmeg and cinnamon flavors in the pumpkin pie. Like most good relationships, when put together, the contrast brings out the best in each.


    Monday, November 22, 2010

    How I Resist Bacon

    A LOT OF PEOPLE are baffled and sometimes angered by my response to the question, "Why are you a vegetarian?" The short answer is, "Because I care." I don't say that with a holier-than-thou attitude, although I do think people get defensive because my answer calls their morals into question. People are entitled to put whatever they want into their bodies, but I wish they would give serious thought to the repercussions before ordering a plate of slow-cooked ribs slathered in sweet, tangy barbecue... OK, where was I going with this?

    I was raised eating meat, or what I call "delicious murder", for almost every meal of my life. When confronted with the issue, I always secretly agreed with what vegetarians said but made excuses for meat-eating. "But tonnnns of vegetarians don't get enough protein!" I would chime, not knowing whether this was fact or fiction. I ignored my nagging principles because principles didn't taste as good as meat. I implicitly justified the violent and exploitative treatment of animals for a momentary pleasure.


    Do as Lisa does: picture the cutest animal ever as you sit down to eat it.

    What I have always known and selfishly suppressed is that animals have as much of a right to life as we do. They have families. They feel pain, happiness, sadness. The fact that they feel should be deterrent enough. I want to note that  my advocacy is nowhere near PETA's level of intensity--how feasible is it to avoid unintentionally killing microscopic mites?--and that if placed in a scenario where my survival was at stake, I would eat meat if it was the only way to survive. Some would argue that this is hypocrisy, and I would rebut that survival is distinct from living.

    Few consider the fact that not eating meat is also better for the environment. Dispute this all you want, Sarah Palin, but meat production is responsible for topsoil depletion, consumes non-renewable sources of energy, and requires far more water than plant protein.

    I am very interested to hear what you all have to say on this issue. Even if you have no interest in this post, maybe you'll enjoy these broccoli cupcake toppers I made (via Hello Cupcake!).
    Eat broccoli (or broccoli candy), spare a cow! 

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    This with That: Dessert with Tea, Part I

    MARMALADE COOKIES, Muenster cheese, and fresh fruit--these are just a few of the things I have discovered pair perfectly with tea. Over the last year or so, Nicholas has inundated me with a data deluge of tea trivia. What I've taken away from talking about and drinking tea is that each person may experience something slightly different or perceive something that another may not--and that's totally okay!

    In my mind, this makes pairing food with tea less of a science and more of an art form that is completely dependent on the taster's palate and the extent to which they are willing to experiment. Over the next few weeks I hope to share what I've found to be tasty tea and dessert couplings with you.

    Apricot cookies with Oolong Tea

    Apricot Cookie Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup almond flour
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 1/2 cup room temperature butter
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup baker's sugar
    • confectioners' sugar to dust cookies
    • grated zest of 1 medium-sized lemon, and a tablespoon of lemon juice to the apricot jam
    • apricot jam

    1. Mix dry ingredients except for sugar in a medium bowl (flour, salt, cornstarch) and mix wet ingredients separately (butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar). Refrigerate the dough for 45 minutes and roll out to 1/4" thick on a piece of wax or parchment paper. Freeze this for 10 minutes after placing on a baking sheet.
    2. Cut out cookies and bake for 9-10 minutes.
    3. After the cookies have cooled, spread a bit of apricot jam (feel free to add lemon juice) on a cookie and sandwich. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar on a cookie and eat!
    Note: This recipe should make 18-20 cookies. The cookies themselves will not be very sweet, so you can add more sugar, but I like them to be relatively unsweetened; that way the jam packs more of a punch. You can also vary the amount of lemon juice you squeeze into the mix; I favor more lemon in the cookie and less lemon in the apricot jam.

    And now onto one of my favorite types of tea! I have tried many types of Oolong tea and have found some commonalities as well as striking differences between the two. The Chinese oolongs taste very earthy and sweet to me, whereas Taiwanese oolongs are not as heavily oxidized and therefore richer, creamier, more flowery. I would even say that they are mildly vegetal. Both Chinese and Taiwanese oolongs initially are very strong and can be bitter, but have a smooth and much milder finish with a very sweet aftertaste.

    Because of this, either type of Oolong goes very well with the cookies. The lemony citrus bite of the cookie also highlights the floral notes of the tea. I think the lightness of Oolong lends well to any cookie with a sharp flavor, which makes the Apricot filled lemon cookie and Oolong combination a match made in heaven.

    Drop me a line in the comments form; I would love to hear what you think!

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Good Fortune

    IAM THE KIND of person who is seriously underwhelmed by most love songs and re-evaluates friendships if The Notebook is listed as a favorite movie. That's why every year, my boyfriend and I have a hard time establishing our admittedly fuzzy anniversary date. When it comes down to it, we just approximate the date and do something low-key but celebratory.
    I don't think any of that makes me unsentimental; I just feel that we appreciate our together-ness everyday. In other words, because I am evil, I ask Nick to do me favors everyday. And he doesn't question them. His response is always something along the lines of, "As you wish," although I think secretly he wishes I would be abducted by a giant, a swordsman, and a Sicilian.

    Princess Bride references aside, I am lucky to have Nick in my life. It would take volumes to describe, but in a few words, Nick's love for me has made the toughest 3 years of my life also the easiest.

    This year I was floored when I came home to Nick in the kitchen making fortune cookies from Martha Stewart's Cookies book. The fortune cookies were almond-y, sweet, slightly soft. The best part yet was that Nick made his own fortunes to put inside! I am not ashamed to say I squealed a little.

    Chef Nicholas hard at work.

    Fortune cookies.

    I got some good ones. ;)


    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    A Trick of a Treat

    YOU MIGHT think the composition of a cookie is not complete unless eggs are present, but let me and everyone who has tried these attest to the deliciousness of eggless cookie dough. I repeat--EGGLESS. For all salmonella-fearing mothers and raw cookie dough lovers, this is a godsend. The recipe is uber easy and child proof:

    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 3/4 stick softened butter
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 1/4-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon milk
    • 1/2-3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Combine the flour and salt in one bowl and set it aside. In a larger bowl, beat the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract, and gradually beat in the mixture from the first bowl. After it becomes smooth, fold in chocolate chips. These should make about 20 balls of cookie dough. Place a lolly pop stick in the center and chill until firm (15 minutes or so). Note: Make sure to squeeze the dough onto the stick so that it stays attached to the lolly pop stick; it comes loose very easily otherwise.

    I made "Witch on a Stick" and "Pumpkin Pops" for Halloween this year. Unfortunately, mine came out less than perfect, but that's OK, because ugly pops taste just as good. I've included pictures from the ingenious Bakerella, who loves to do these pops with deliciously moist cake.

    Which witch should I eat?...

    Plump pumpkin pops!