BCM: Palets de Dames | Fall in San Diego

I’m jealous of all your stunning landscapes with changing leaves, your picturesque apple orchards, your warming scarves and coats.

We’re still wearing shorts here in mid-November while biking to the beach, spotting tables full of colorful heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market, and sleeping with the windows open. San Diegans love their year-round mild weather, and sure, there are some great things about it, especially when walking the pup, but, I really do miss the familiar fall back East.

blacksmountain

A Saturday afternoon hike up Black Mountain; and beautiful views of sunsets from our neighborhood.

sunset

To bridge the gap, I’m trying to make up for the lack of season changes by still cooking seasonally: Hot apple cider at night, butternut squash in soups and salad, planning for my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.

And plenty of baking.

My mom, sister Emma, and I decided we’d try to participate in the new Baking with Julia challenge, as we’re able. Dorie Greenspan’s new Baking Chez Moi is a beautiful mix of French desserts that are elegantly simple. While some of the past recipes that we made with the blogging group from Greenspan’s “Baking with Julia” were delicious, many were difficult and not all that special. We stopped way long ago, but have high hopes this time around though.

Katie

First up were these Palets de Dames, a little vanilla cake-ish cookie with a sweet icing. They were a simple treat to start off our baking challenge, a standard cookie recipe that calls for creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs, then vanilla (and lemon zest, if you want!), and finally flour. A chill in the fridge and then this cookie is ready to scoop and bake til they’re just golden on the edges. Powdered sugar, milk and a few drops of lemon juice make for a simple icing to dip the cookies in. Sanding sugar made the cookies sparkle.

The tender cookies are perfect for nibbling throughout the day, or enjoying with a mug of tea. The three of us, and our boys, thought they were delicious in their simplicity.

(This recipe has been posted many places online, including here, but for the most part, we’re not supposed to post the recipes in the future as a way to encourage bakers to buy the book.)

Mom

My mom’s version, above; Emily’s cookies are below.

Emma

Palets de Dames, Lille Style
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi

Note: I added lemon zest to the butter and sugar as it was creaming, on the suggestion or my mom, who baked them first. They were delicious with the citrus notes.

For the cookies:
9 tablespoons (4½ ounces;128 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (132 grams) sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour

For the icing:
1 cup (120 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
About 1½ tablespoons whole milk
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and salt and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is again smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Don’t be discouraged if the mixture curdles; it will be fine as soon as you add the flour.

Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour in 3 additions, mixing only until it disappears after each addition. You’ll have a very soft dough that might look more like a cake batter than a cookie dough.

Scrape the dough into a bowl, press a piece of plastic film against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the dough for at least 1 hour, or until it is firm. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)

When you’re ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

You need about 2 teaspoons of dough for each cookie. You can use a small (2-teaspoon capacity) cookie scoop—my favorite tool for this job—or you can use a spoon to scoop out rounded teaspoonfuls of dough, in which case it’s best to roll the dough gently between your palms to form balls. Place the scoops or balls of dough about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the cookies are set and just slightly brown around the edges. Carefully transfer the cookies to a rack and allow them to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheet between batches.

To make the icing: Put the confectioners’ sugar in a wide bowl and add 1 tablespoon milk and the lemon juice. Using a small whisk or a fork, stir until you have a smooth icing that forms a ribbon when the whisk or fork is lifted. If the icing is too thick to flow smoothly, add more milk; you might need even more than 1½ tablespoons milk total, in which case it’s best to add the additional milk in nano-driplets.

One by one, pick up the cookies and dip one side into the icing, then lift the cookie up and give it a little twirl, so that the excess icing falls back into the bowl. Put the cookie icing side up on a rack and let the icing dry and firm at room temperature.

Serving: A cup of coffee, a palet de dames and la vie est belle.

Storing: Once the icing is dry, the cookies can be put in a covered container; they’ll keep for up to 3 days at room temperature. Because of the icing, the finished cookies can’t be frozen. However, if you’d like, you can pack the undipped cookies airtight and freeze them for up to 2 months; defrost and then ice them.

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Six Months in San Diego in Photos

Six months ago, on a snowy February 14, my dad and I packed up the Camry and started a 2,800 mile journey to a far-away city that was to become my new home.

On the 19th, we arrived. (Though, from my blog posts, you’d think we were still stuck in New Mexico! I’ll share that last day soon!)

Now, it’s August 19. It’s been an up-and-down six months, with a trip home, two visits from my family, one from Tom’s, a vacation in Colorado, lots of furniture shopping and apartment decorating, several expensive vet visits, lots of great food, and, the primary reason I moved here, fun and adventures with Tom.

Here are some of my favorite memories from the past six months:

We made it! 

1-newapartment

Lots of dog walks in our new neighborhood, Bankers Hill.

dogwalk

All the fish tacos. 

2-fishtacos

And all the produce. Avocados every day! Blood orange margaritas!

avocadoes

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How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Iced Tea)

Even in San Diego, it gets hot.

I’m not complaining, really, at least not too much. We don’t have A/C, but at least it’s not like that horrible summer of 2011, when I would, for some reason, straighten my hair every single morning, only to have it curl up from sweat by the time I arrived at the newsroom. No, fortunately San Diego doesn’t have that humidity and the weeks of never-ending heat like Virginia.

But when my mom and sister visited recently, the sun’s rays were relentless, giving us days  in the upper-80s and 90s, while they were practically turning on the heat back home. Of course, we had to keep hydrated, with water, margaritas, sangria, beer, more margaritas, and jamaica.

How to Make Jamaica (Hibiscus Tea)

Jamaica–not that Caribbean country, pronounce it Hah-My-Kah–is hibiscus iced tea. You’ll find it at virtually every taqueria and Mexican spot, near the soda dispenser. The tea is almost a punch, cool and refreshing, a brilliant shade of pink, a little tart and a little sweet, like cranberry juice. Jamaica seems to be the drink of San Diego.

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How to Pack Jewelry For Moving (or Traveling)

packjewelry

On vacations, my packed earrings and necklaces always seemed to get twisted and knotted so many times that I’d have to pull out tweezers to work them loose.

What would happen, I wondered, during a cross-country move, when all these chains, beads and hooks were bunched together? I didn’t want to find out. Fortunately I found a great tip online for necklaces–and discovered another solution for earrings while cleaning.

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Picnic Dinners

sunsetcliffsselfie

One of our favorite new dinner routines is to pack a picnic, a blanket and a Frisbee, and explore a new park.

Dinners don’t require much prep–just a quick stop at the grocery store and a few odds and ends from the fridge, tossed into a basket or bag. We’ve been buying a baguette and cheeses, especially those little marinated balls of mozzarella because Tom is obsessed. My friend Eva included some baby brie rounds on a cheese plate this weekend, and I think those would be awesome too, because they’d get all gooey as they sat outside. Once, for my birthday weekend, we picked up a few other sides at Whole Foods for our elaborate smorgasbord, but I also like to just prep a salad during the day and slice up some fruit to round out our meal.

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Arugula Salad with Peaches, Avocado, Feta, Nuts

peachsalad

This is a celebratory salad.

It’s for those times when something exciting happens–Germany wins the World Cup AND you now own a couch AND a patio table, all in one weekend. Or, it’s for those times when it’s too hot to cook and you just want, no, need, something light and cool on your table, something quick but filling, and full of good-for-you things.

Four months in, our apartment is almost a home now, in time for both our families to visit in the next few weeks. Having a couch makes the living room feel like it should, though, I’ll admit, I’ve still been cuddling with pup on her dog couch/futon mattress, especially as she recovers from anesthesia and a tooth extraction. We purchased the IKEA Ektorp sofa in black because of the dog hair, but also because the fabric was on clearance so the couch was significantly cheaper. Have you ever wondered what a couch from IKEA looks like before it’s assembled?

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A Colorado Summer Vacation

Tom travels for work pretty often. Too often, in my opinion, for it’s far different for him to be out-of-town now than it was when I lived in Virginia. Just this week, pup and I dropped Tom and his suits off at the airport at 5 a.m. Monday for a three-day conference he’s putting on in Chicago, leaving us with lots of time for decorating and napping together. (And, job searching? And a puppy’s tooth extraction.) But the perks of his work-travel allow Tom to explore new cities (and countries!), and every once in a while, I’ll try to tag along. (San Francisco, you’re next!)

Last month, his company produced its largest event in Denver. A trip to the midwest seemed ideal for my own summer “funemployment,” since I’d last traveled to Colorado when I was but 1-year-old. Memories of hiking in the mountains during that trip are nonexistent, though a photo proved I had fun. This time, I’ll remember the vacation. Colorado is completely stunning.

RMNPselfie

The conference was still ongoing when I arrived mid-week, so I roamed along the 16th Street Mall for most of the afternoon, and relaxed on the banks of Confluence Park. (Travel tip: Getting to downtown from the distant Denver International Airport is incredibly easy and doesn’t require an expensive taxi. A public bus runs about every hour, and is only $11, exact change required. A free shuttle along the 16th Street Mall dropped me off right by the hotel.)

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Strawberry Spinach Salad

strawberryspinachsalad

A quick search online will yield an overwhelming number of strawberry spinach salads. Some have cheese, some slivered onions. But I think this one is best.

It’s one my mom pulled from the Washington Post ages ago, but I haven’t been able to find it on their website. The salad is quick to pull together, yet impressive enough for parties, where my mom has served it, several times. Share it with a few friends at a pool party, or just enjoy for a weekday lunch.

A tangy-sweet dressing, specked with poppy and sesame seeds clings to the spinach leaves. Almond slivers add a crunch, and the strawberries, of course, offer a sweet and colorful bite.

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