Friday, July 30, 2010

Under the Radar Screen

Yep, that's me.  Off the radar screen.  I do some interesting things and I touch a few lives, but I do it in the background.  Sometimes I watch "Who Will be the Next Food Network Star" and marvel at how people can put themselves out there like that.  It's just not what I do.

Case in point: 

I was in a fancy Atlanta china slash cookware store a few years back.   I took my purchases (which included a beautiful china tea cup and saucer for Edna Lewis) to the register and handed over my credit card.  The woman at the register squinted at the name, looked at me and said, "do you know there is another Liz Lorber in Atlanta?  She gives participation cooking classes and she's a great caterer."

Fool that I am, I just nodded and said something inane like, "oh really?"  WTF, Liz?  Guess I just didn't look the part.  (Of course, I sometimes dress like a homeless person and don't always sport a lot of make-up so maybe it was one of those days).  I will confess to a silent chuckle as I played along and feigned amazement that there was another Liz Lorber in Atlanta who was a cooking instructor and caterer!

I have never felt the need to "put myself out there."   So in that spirit, I have never made a big deal about our friendship with Edna Lewis.  I write about it now only because I think it is important to keep her memory alive.

Just another family dinner....

Edna meant a lot to us.  We didn't care that she was an icon or a national treasure.  She was just someone we knew and loved.  She was a dear friend and we mourn her passing to this day.  Here's what I wrote upon her passing:

We were lucky enough to have known her for almost 20 years.  We loved her.  She loved us back. Even in her declining years, she never failed to ask me “how are the boys?”  Somehow, the well-being of my sons was important to her.  Maybe it was because she met them when they were very young.  Maybe it was because she knew she helped shape their lives.

In our kitchen

One of my best memories is walking into my kitchen in the early 90’s.  My son, Andy (then about 12) was knee-deep in flour, with an intense and serious look on his face.  He was absolutely intent upon conquering the task at hand.  That task?  Pie crust.  His teacher?  Edna Lewis. The two of them spent almost three hours rolling and re-rolling pie crusts, abandoning the quest for perfection only when she gently told him it was time to stop.  But, he didn’t.  He continued to practice, practice, practice (as she told him to do) until he could finally make a good pie crust.  To this day he loves to bake and is a serious home cook.  Here is the recipe she wrote out for him on a lined yellow pad:

Henry’s  favorite memory of Edna is actually one “from back in the day” and follows in his own words:

“When Edna arrived for the Southern Chef’s event in 1995, I was the designated dishwasher and quail egg peeler.  When there were no longer eggs to be shelled, in an attempt to humor me, she took it upon herself to teach me how to make Cats' Tongue cookies.  As a non-food person, other than as a consumer, I was a total novice when it came to the fine art of making cookies. 

Rather than try to make me into a Master Chef, she elected to teach me a simple task in the hope that I would be able to conquer and appreciate it.  Both of us were proud of my success with the cookies, and for the next twenty years of our friendship, we constantly kidded one another about who made the better Cats' Tongues. 

The real lesson here was that Edna Lewis appreciated each of us for what we were able to achieve.  For many of us, her friendship and love were what we cherished most.  To many, her passing is the loss of the Doyenne of Southern Cooking.  To some of us, however, the loss is much greater.  She was a loving, supportive member of our extended family and her loss is incredibly personal.  God bless her and keep her.”

Edna’s impact on our family was significant. At one point, my mother lived in the apartment directly below Scott (Peacock) and Edna’s.  She and Edna became unlikely friends.  Mom recalls the day they were outside, planting flowers by the creek.  They finished and came inside to Mom’s apartment to wash their hands and clean up a bit.  Mom offered Edna a drink and before they knew it, there they were, just like old friends – Edna with her Jack Black and Mom with her white wine – sitting around, talking.

There were braised pork chops cooking away on the stove.  Eventually the aroma overpowered the conversation and my mom’s fear of cooking for the great Edna Lewis faded in light of the fact that they were both very hungry (and probably a little tipsy).  They shared a wonderful meal that night and many more in the months to come.  In fact, my mom always kept a bottle of Jack Black just for Edna.  She even got over her fear of cooking for her!

A few of the notes she wrote to us  - treasured memories

Another memory is of the independent Edna who always insisted on wearing high heels.  When she lived in Virginia Highlands, it was a daily occurrence for her to walk to the neighboring Kroger on Ponce … in those high heels.  She was so elegant and so very beautiful and of course, nothing else would do.  She held court as she walked on Ponce and as she entered Kroger. It wasn't intentional, it was just what evolved from her presence.  It was amazing to behold.

However, Scott and I were terrified she might fall.  We expressed this to her and she basically told us to go to hell (though not in those words, as she was too much the lady).  Still, we worried.  I finally convinced her to go shopping with me so we could buy her sneakers and sweat pants for walking. ( what was I thinking - Edna Lewis in sneakers and sweats?????) We went to Mervyn’s and she was appropriately appreciative as I bought her shoes, sweat pants and the like.  She even thanked me.  But of course, she never wore any of it.  She just kept on walking to Kroger in those high heels.

Edna was an amazing woman with an amazing presence.  It's hard to believe she is gone, but she isn’t, really. She is in our hearts and is still very much alive for me and for my family.  We are humbled to have been, even in a small way, a part of her life.

CATS' TONGUE COOKIES  (from Edna Lewis' "The Edna Lewis Cookbook")

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 cup heavy cream
Whites of 2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.

Rub 2 cookie sheets with sweet butter.  Sift both the flour and the powdered sugar before measuring.  Combine the flour, sugar and ginger; sift together.

Whip the cream until frothy and whip the egg whites to the same stage.  Mix the cream and egg whites together.  Spoon into the flour mixture and stir in a circular motion until the batter is well-blended.

Place a cookie sheet close to the bowl of batter.  Dip in a dinner knife and give the knife a turn, which should gather about a good teaspoon of the batter onto the blade.  Strike a mark on the cookie sheet and end it with a thin line.  It should form a cookie about 2 1/2-inches long.

These cookies will spread, so allow about 1 1/2-inches between each one.  When you have filled each cookie sheet, place it in the middle rack of the oven for 7 minutes.  When the edges are brown, the cookies are done.

Remove from the oven and let them cool for 2 or 3 minutes.  Then slip a thin spatula carefully under each cookie, removing them before they cool too much and harden to the cookie sheet.  (If this happens, set them back into the oven for 2 or 3 minutes more to soften).

Place the cookies on a wire rack, and when they have cooled, store them in an airtight tin.

Yield:  about 4 dozen

Here's to you, Miss Edna.  May your memory live on forever.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Henry's Birthday, Part One

Henry's birthday was last week.  Now, we've been together for a lot of years, so I'm pretty burned out on ideas about what to get him or how to celebrate.  I mean, how many shirts does he need, anyway?

Besides, he could care less about clothes.  Those of you who know him can certainly attest to that!  He does care about wine, but he is far more knowledgeable about it than I, so forget it.  What to do?

Fortunately, I waited until the last minute because I couldn't think of anything (that, however, reminds me of the time my ex-husband didn't buy me a Christmas present for precisely the same reason - need I mention again why I am no longer married to him?)  In this case though, my procrastination paid off.

Our awesome friend Lynne (Sawicki) is the owner/chef of Sawicki's here in Decatur.  If you want it, she's got it or can get it.  Her sandwiches and desserts are legendary.  She specializes in meat and seafood but has expanded her scope to include catering services as well.  She knows her way around a kitchen like nobody's business.

She decided it was time to host a farm-to-table dinner at the shop.  The date coincided with - you guessed it - Henry's birthday.  Way to go, Lynne!

Here is her menu.  Click on it so you can read it.  We could not have had a finer meal in the most expensive restaurant in Atlanta.   AND we got to bring our own wine.  That 1977 Chalone Pinot we rescued from Henry's collection was
P-R-E-T-T-Y wonderful.  Happy birthday, Henry!

Watermelon gazpacho with squash blossoms

The roasted trout with peeled cherry tomatoes, no less.
I could have made a meal of this!

The pork.  Picture doesn't do it justice.

I would SO order this again!

The cheese course.  You're kidding me, right?

Here is my adaptation of Lynne's baby squash salad.  So good and so refreshing.  It was a perfect counterpoint to the richness of the roasted pork and the potato tartilette.

SQUASH SALAD  (adapted from Lynne Sawicki)

2 organic yellow squash (the smaller, the better)
2 organic zucchini (the smaller, the better)
1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Slice squash and zucchini into very thin rounds.  (If possible, use a mandoline slicer as you want the thinnest possible slices).  Place into a bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together sherry wine vinegar and honey.  Drizzle olive oil in a thin stream, whisking well to emulsify.  Stir in salt and pepper.  Taste to adjust seasonings.

Sprinkle cilantro over squash.  Stir to combine.  Pour about 1/4 cup of the dressing over the squash and toss well.  Add a little more dressing if needed but do not overdress.  Any leftover dressing can be refrigerated for another use.  Taste to adjust seasonings.

Serves 4

So no worries, after this meal, I'm a long way from being a skinny cook.  Trust me on that one!  But, it was SO worth it.  Lynne - when is the next one?  We're there!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Durham Beckons

Hi everyone!  Just want you to know I haven't abandoned you.

Never, ever!

But, I'm in Durham right now, orchestrating Eric's move to Philadelphia.  The work of a mom is never done.  For those of you who are new moms, brace yourselves.  They will still need you, even when they are in their late twenties.  I'm not sure if that's the good news or the bad news.

In any event, I've got a couple of good posts about to happen - maybe tomorrow night if I'm not too exhausted from packing his 500,000 books.  I'll be here for the duration of the week.

But of course, I WILL make it to Watts Grocery (my favorite restaurant here).  Details to follow.

Hope you stay with me.  Thanks for your patience.....

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Salt Can Fix Anything

My kitchen has been the scene of barely ordered chaos this week as I've been testing cookie recipes.  My counters are still slick from countless unwrapped sticks of softened butter and there is that sweet smell in the air and in my hair that doesn't quite go away.  You clean up as best you can before you stagger off to bed, then you stumble into the kitchen the next morning to pour a cup of coffee, only to discover dried bits of cookie dough and greasy handprints all over the faucet, refrigerator handle and oven door.  Yuck.

I'm a pretty good baker.  I'm willing to tackle just about anything, usually with some success.  I can make killer pastry and while my decorating skills suck (we've addressed this before), my cakes rock, at least as far as taste goes.  While I will occasionally burn a pan or two of something, failure in the kitchen is not something I experience often.  Even in my crappy kitchen.

Until (drum roll, please)...........THUMBPRINT COOKIES.  Seriously.  Now I could understand it if we were dealing with some complicated recipe involving tempered chocolate or even a dessert souffle (which I always seem to nail).  But no, we are talking about simple, basic thumbprint cookies.  Can it get any more humbling?

I found a recipe in one of my old cookbooks and decided to try it since it included the addition of oatmeal.  I thought it sounded interesting.  What I didn't notice was that the recipe did not call for eggs.  Well, I didn't notice it until after I baked the things.

Hmmm .... I rolled them, indented the centers and even stuck them in the freezer for an hour before baking.  Popped them into the oven for 10 minutes, then pulled them out to fill the centers with raspberry jam before returning to the oven to set.  Simple, right?

They started out like this

Well, it didn't quite work out that way.  I looked at them after 10 minutes and THEY WERE COMPLETELY FLAT.  Like little silver dollar pancakes.  Not what I was looking for.

But they ended up like this.  No thumbprints in sight!

As much as I wanted to drag that pan out of the oven and fling it across the room, I didn't.  I left in in until they were just golden then set them out to cool.  My eyes narrowed as I comtemplated them.  Wait a minute.  Maybe all was not lost.  I grabbed my container of pink Hawiian sea salt and hit them with it while they were still warm. 

Pure.  Genius.  They were crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and the salt gave them just that little extra kick that pushed them over the edge.  I gave one to Henry (no food police in sight) and the response was "can I have another one?"  Well, maybe those food police weren't so far away after all......


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 1/4 cups oatmeal (regular, not quick-cooking)

In electric mixer, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping bowl down several times.  Add vanilla.  Add flour and mix briefly on low speed to blend.  Scrape bowl, then add oatmeal and beat on low speed until mixture is just combined.

Remove dough to a sheet of plastic wrap.  Form into a disk, wrap well and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.  Use a small ice cream scoop to form into 1-inch balls, then flatten slightly and place on a parchment-lined tray.  Freeze until very firm.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350-degrees.  Place balls about 1 1/2-inches apart on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet.  Bake until lightly golden, about 13 minutes.  Sprinkle with Hawiian pink sea salt and cool completely on a baking rack.

Yield:  about 36 cookies

So I guess this is the perfect example of making lemonade when life gives you lemons.  At least you get to learn from my mistakes!

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's only money, right?

I think we are pretty much about to declare bankruptcy right now.  Bad things come in three's, don't they?

The good news, as I reported earlier, is that my beloved dog Lucy has stabilized.  I'm grateful for that.  The bad news is that my sweet little Annie had to have knee replacement surgery.  KNEE REPLACEMENT SURGERY???  FOR A  DOG????  Well, yes.  When she's torn out her ACL and is permanently limping, what choice do you have?  In our case, it meant an orthopedic vet specialist, which is a polite way of saying "big bucks."  Oh, Annie!

Uh, and then there  is Roxy.  She is Annie's mom and Lucy's sister (are we incestuous here or what?)  She had major gum and teeth issues so we had to take her to the periodontal vet specialist.  Another surgery.  Another "big buck" event. 

Then I was in the kitchen and suddenly there was a huge BANG and a BIG noise that sounded like shattered glass.  Honestly, I thought someone had broken out a window and was breaking into the house.  Upon investigation, I discovered the spring on the garage door had imploded and gone AWOL.  WTF????  Suffice it to say, a few more bucks were required to cure the problem (along with my having to spend way too much time in the house the next day, waiting for the garage repair person).

Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhh.  I need chocolate.

Here is the answer:

CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE TART (adapted from Claudia Fleming)

For the crust:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
1 extra-large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, such as Droste or Valhrona
1 1/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Using electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and confectioner's sugar until smooth and creamy, scraping down bowl once or twice.  Add egg yolk and vanilla; beat until smooth.  Scrape down bowl, then sift in cocoa, flour and salt.  Beat on low speed until just combined.  Remove from mixer, scrape down bowl and finish by hand until ingredients are just incorporated.  Do not overmix.

Turn dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press into a round disk or a square, depending upon what size tart pan you are using.  Wrap well and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to three days.

When ready to use, roll out tart dough on a lightly floured board (or a silicone baking sheet, which is what I did) until dough is about 1/8-inch thick.  Transfer to a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom which has been lightly buttered  (I used an 11 x 8-inch rectangular pan).   Ease dough into pan without stretching and press into pan.  Trim edges. (*See note below). 

Refrigerate or freeze until dough is well-chilled.  Place into oven preheated to 325-degrees and bake for 10 minutes then prick with fork to release any air and continue baking for another 10 minutes or until pastry looks dry and set.  Cool on a rack.

For the filling:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 extra-large eggs, room temperature (**See note below)
1 scant cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

Place butter and chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Cook and stir until just melted, then remove from heat to cool slightly.

In the meantime, in electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar on high speed for 10 minutes or until mixture is very light and fluffy, scraping down bowl often.  Fold about 1 cup of this into the cooled chocolate then return chocolate mixture to remaining eggs in the mixing bowl.  Using a spatula, gently fold together, taking care not to deflate the eggs.  Sift flour over and fold in until just combined.  Do not overmix.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill until firm for at least one hour or up to 3 days.  (***See note below)

To bake:
Preheat oven to 325-degrees.  Fill pre-baked tart shell with chilled chocolate mixture (I use an ice cream scoop for this) then spread out and smooth top.  Bake until the filling is puffed and slightly cracked on top 15 to 20 minutes.  Let cool for slightly (souffle may fall but don't worry), then remove from tart pan and cut into slices.  Serve warm. 

If you like, you can sift a little confectioner's sugar over this or serve with a little freshly whipped cream and even a few raspberries.  I, however, think it's perfectly good on its own.  In fact, that's how I prefer it.  Why interfere with the chocolate?

Serves 8 - 12 (or more or less, depending once again upon how generous you want to be with your slices!)

* If you find the dough won't roll out without cracking, no worries.  Just press it in.  I promise you, no one will know the difference.

** My quick method for bringing eggs to room temp is to place them in a bowl and cover them with hot tap water.  Let them sit for five minutes and they will be ready to go.

*** This recipe may sound complicated, but it can all be done in advance.  The dough can be made and stored in the refrigerator (or even frozen).  You could even get it into the pan and refrigerate or freeze it unbaked for several days or even a week or two.  Also, don't forget the filling will last in the fridge for at least 3 days (and probably a few more).  So once these pieces parts are in place, filling and baking at the last minute is a piece of cake.  Oops, I mean pie.

The end result?  Money!!!  Trust me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Watershed Moment

I've mentioned before that I worked at Watershed here in Atlanta.

What I didn't mention was how it happened.  Ready for the back story?

Watershed opened eleven-and-a-half years ago.  At the time, I read about its upcoming opening, noting that it was owned in part by Indigo Girl Emily Saliers.  "Okay," I thought.  "It's close to where we live.  It might be worth seeking out."  Little did I know how significant the place would become for me.

It was created out of an old gas station in Decatur (an intown "suburb" of Atlanta - contradiction in terms, I know).  It continues to be very cool space (designed by the very talented Dominick Coyne) but that's not my point.  On the day before it was scheduled to open, I got a phone call from my friend Scott Peacock.  Turned out he had been hired as a consultant and was calling to ask if I wanted to see the place in advance.

Of course I did!  I high-tailed it over there at breakneck speed, only to find myself stepping over boxes, electrical cords and unassembled furniture.  It was complete chaos.  And that was just the front of the house.  The kitchen was even worse.  I couldn't imagine how they would possibly be able to open their doors in less than twenty-four hours.

As we stumbled around the place, Scott asked if I would be willing to help out with the opening the next day.  Sure, why not?  Anything to help out a friend, right?  So I showed up the next day.  And the next, and the next and the next.  I ended up staying there for five years.  (Scott stayed for eleven).

When we opened, it was just a sandwich place.  You placed your order at the counter and I would scream out "Charlie -- your sandwich is ready."  It evolved into much, much more.  Today it is the quintessential restaurant of all things southern, fresh and local.  But I fondly remember its roots.

Let me be clear - I am not a trained chef.  What I am is a good cook.  Finding myself in a restaurant kitchen was daunting.  There were times when I wondered what the heck I was doing there and why no one had figured out that I was really just a two-year-old wandering around the kitchen.

In the early days, none of us knew what we were doing.  Especially me.  But I learned a lot and soon there wasn't much in that kitchen I couldn't handle.  I did it all, from desserts to the famous fried chicken.  Before I knew it, I was cooking on the line, running the saute station and turning out all the good stuff, like mussels in wine, pasta with wild mushrooms and shrimp grits.  Yum!

Who knew?  A fat housewife making her mark in a trendy restaurant.  I was five hundred years older than everyone else in the place so I was pretty much "mom" to them all.  Some of them were even classmates of my kids.  But we all got along, we all did our jobs and to this day I am still close to some of the owners and staff.  Watershed, you will always be in my heart! 

My mom and her boyfriend Ed (who is unfortunately no longer with us, we miss you Sweet Ed) were mussel fanatics.  They would hit every restaurant in town that had them in pursuit of the best version.  The ones that we (I!) made at Watershed won out every time!  The recipe below is similar.


1 leek, halved lengthwise then sliced
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 15-oz. can diced San Marzano tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs. live mussels, cleaned with beards removed
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Place sliced leeks in a large bowl of cool water.  Swish them around with your hand to allow any dirt or sediment to fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Scoop them out and place in a colander to drain (do not pour the dirty water back over them!).

In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the leeks in the butter until very tender, but not browned.  Add the garlic and tomato; season very generously with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine to the pan then increase heat to high and bring to a rolling boil.  Boil uncovered for several minutes to burn off some of the alcohol, then add mussels.  Cover the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan often so mussels don't burn on the bottom.  When all mussels are open, pour into a large serving bowl and stir in the parsley.  Discard any unopened mussels.

Serve with a heated baguette, bowls for the shells and lots of napkins.

Yield:  2 servings

If you want these to be outstanding, use high-fat European butter, such as Plugra.  Also, make sure you use a generous amount of salt - this dish needs it.  And finally, don't overcook your mussels.  Watch them carefully and remove from the heat as soon as they have opened.

Now if only we had some pomme frites.........

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


If you live in Atlanta, can I make a request?  Would you PLEASE invite me to dinner at your house?

That's because no one ever does.  For some very strange and sad reason, people are intimidated to cook for me.  C'mon, I'm just human.  I'm not a professional chef and I like to eat just as much as you do.  Anything you cook for me would be gratefully appreciated.  My friend Scott Peacock (who is one of the best chefs ever) once said he didn't care if someone invited him to dinner and served beanie-weenies; he just appreciated the opportunity to sit down at a table with friends and share a meal.  I concur.

So thank you Shawn and Michael (along with Finn, Aidan and Tristan).  You invited us to dinner and it was awesome.  It could have been beenie-weenies and that would have been just fine.  Instead, you served up bruschetta with gorgeous tomatoes, succulent grilled pork tenderloin, watermelon salad with feta and Kalamatas, mango salad with corn, cilantro and lime and orzo salad with lovely tomatoes (from your garden) and avocado.  I can't think of a better summer supper.  And I loved that we ate it at your kitchen table because your dining room table was covered up with a jigsaw puzzle!  Oh, and we didn't mind that amazing bottle of Silver Oak cab either...

If you invite me to dinner, I will (of course) bring dessert.  Way too much of it, I might add.  If one dessert is good, then two are better.  Nah, don't stop there, Liz.  How about five?

Given the fact that Finn, Aidan and Tristan are growing boys, I figured my peanut butter bars would be a slam dunk.  They were.  If you missed the recipe, here's the post for it:

I also made oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies, but that's a subject for another post.  This one is all about candy.  What kid doesn't love it? So in that spirit, I made marshmallows, salty caramels and peanut brittle.  Something for everyone!


Have you ever made these?  If not, you should because they are SO fun to make.  They start with just a little blob of stuff in your mixer and they end up being fluffy and light.  Pure magic....make them with your kids.

24 gelatin sheets (this translates into 5 1/4-oz. packets of unflavored gelatin)
1 1/2 cups cold water
3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Place gelatin in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and pour the 1 1/2 cups water over to soften.

Meanwhile, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, remaining water and vanilla in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and continue to cook until mixture reaches 238-degrees (you will need a candy thermometer for this).
Pour hot mixture over the gelatin mixture in the mixing bowl. Turn speed to "high" and beat until mixture turns white and the bowl is cool to the touch.  This will take 10 - 15 minutes. (A word to the wise here - drape your mixer with plastic wrap until the mixture gets thick, otherwise the stuff will end up all over your kitchen and result in a big, sticky mess.  Not fun).

Turn the marshmallow mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and coated well with cooking spray.   Oil your hands and spread the mixture out into an even layer.  Cool, then dust liberally with confectioner's sugar.  Wrap in plastic until needed.

When ready, cut into squares, using a serrated knife.  Dip each square into confectioner's sugar to coat, then dust off.  Store as needed for up to 3 days.

Yield:  24 squares

When I worked at Star Provisions, we used these marshmallows to make S'mores.  Let me know if you want details.  Also, if you want to purchase gelatin sheets (I prefer them to the powdered version), here's where I buy them:

SALTY CARAMELS (From my food maven, Ina Garten)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel (French sea salt), plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper to overhang the sides.  Grease paper lightly.

In a deep saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden-brown color.  Do not stir - just swirl the pan to mix.  Watch carefully as it can burn quickly at the end.

In the meantime, bring cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of the fleur de sel to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and set aside.

When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel.  Add the vanilla extract.  It will boil up violently.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture reaches 248-degrees.  (Note to self - keep it on medium heat.  If you cook it over high heat, you will burn both the mixture and your pan beyond repair.  I know, because I didn't follow the directions and ended up throwing both the mixture and the pan away.  Learn from my mistakes, people!).

Pour the hot caramel mixture into prepared pan.  Refrigerate until firm
When caramel is cool, use the parchment paper to pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board.  Starting at one end, roll the caramel up tightly until you have rolled up half of the sheet.  Roll up the second half in the same manner, then cut the sheet across in the center where the rolls meet.  You will end up with (2) 1 x 8-inch logs.  Sprinkle each log with additonal sea salt, the cut each log into 12 pieces.

Cut parchment paper into  6 x 4 1/2 inch squares.  Wrap each caramel in a paper, twisting ends.  Store at room temperature.

Yield:  24 pieces


This recipe is ridiculous, as in it's so easy.  I'm not a big fan of microwaving anything, but it works for this recipe.  Please forgive me for this shortcut but in truth you should thank me because this recipe is so simple yet so good.  At least it doesn't involve a cake mix! (there are depths to which I will NOT sink).

2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda

Stir the nuts, sugar and corn syrup in a large microwavable bowl (preferably Pyrex).  Microwave, uncovered on high until mixture is light brown, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir well, halfway through.

Remove nut mixture from microwave (be careful, it will be hot) and stir in butter and vanilla.  Return to microwave and cook on high for another 2 -4 minutes until mixture becomes caramel-colored.

Use oven mitts to remove the mixture from the microwave.  Add the baking soda and stir quickly until mixture is light and foamy and baking soda is mixed in.  Pour onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat or greased parchment paper and spread out with an offset spatula.  The mixture will be thick, so work quickly.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes.  Break into pieces and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week, depending upon humidity.

Yield:  16 - 25 pieces

Those sweet boys (picture to follow in another post) LOVED  these desserts!  Of course, we felt like the bad grandparents in that we provided a complete sugar overload, then left the parents to deal with those sugar-infused kids.  Haha, such fun and we didn't have to suffer the consequences!  Shawn and Michael, please forgive us!