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IMG_20131212_224635When the tree goes up and the baking begins, that’s when I really get into the Christmas spirit. Around this time last year, I posted my mom’s recipes for two of my favorite holiday cookies from childhood. This year, I’ve added two new cookies to my repertoire. Neither screams of Christmas, so they would actually be great recipes year-round.

I must confess that the inspiration for both was to use up ingredients that had been in my pantry for a while and I wanted to use up. I was having a chocolate craving one day and didn’t have any actual chocolate in the house, but I did have a full tin of cocoa powder. I looked up cocoa powder cookies and chose this quick and easy recipe at Food.com.

To make them a bit “healthier” (i.e. to justify eating more than I otherwise would), I substituted half of the butter with coconut oil and added cayenne pepper. Plus, I love both flavors in chocolate. I also added a ton of walnuts because I love them in cookies and they’re a great source of monounsaturated fats and omega-3s.

photo by wannabe runway model

Spicy Chocolate Cookies (makes about 2 dozen)

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on your heat tolerance
1/2 cup ground walnuts (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Make sure that the butter is at room temperature, or put the butter in the microwave for about 15 seconds just to soften it up.
  3. Using a mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne.
  6. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated and you’re left with a luscious chocolate dough. Stir in walnuts if using.
  7. Make truffle-sized balls and place them on a lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 8 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

After finding a successful recipe for our unused cocoa powder, I began searching for other barely touched ingredients taking up space in our cupboards. That’s when I found not one, but two full jars of sesame seeds – one white and one black.

There are actually a lot of desserts made with both, especially in Asian cuisine. I was salivating over photos of black sesame mochi and ice cream in my recipe search, but, in the end, chose to stick with what I know best — cookies.

I was excited to find this recipe for a Chinese sesame seed cookie on the San Diego Chinese Women’s Association website, so I knew it was legit.  However, when I went to make them I only had cake flour at home. I went with it, adding 2 tablespoons to the 2 cups the recipe calls for, and they turned out perfectly light and delicate.

photo from SDCWA

Chinese Sesame Seed Cookie (makes 3 dozen)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 – 1 cup white sesame seeds, toasted

  1. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.
  2. Using mixer, beat butter, shortening, white and brown sugars.  Add the egg and almond extract, and beat until blended.  Add the flour mixture (in 2 or 3 portions) and mix well.  The dough is moist.
  3. Using your hands form the dough into 4 rolls or logs approximately 6-7 inches long.  Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for 4 hours or longer (preferably overnight).
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  5. Pour some toasted sesame seeds into a small bowl (e.g. rice bowl).
  6. Take one log at a time from refrigerator and slice into 20-24 slices.  Roll each slice into a small ball and roll ball in sesame seeds to cover.  I used a small spoon rather than my fingers.  Place on lightly greased cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.
  7. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a fork inserted in the middle comes out clean and they easily lift from the baking sheet.  Let cool for a couple of minutes before placing on cookie racks to cool completely.  Cool thoroughly before storing in a container.
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We exercised our independence with an escape to the Pacific northwest last week for some long overdue R&R and to celebrate Peter’s birthday. He called it our “mini-vacation” because most of our trips tend to be overseas for three weeks at a time (European style). Regardless, it turned out to be the perfect itinerary to explore the area, which made it feel longer than it was. Isn’t that what we all want from a vacation?

Here are the highlights of our trip:

We spent one full day in Portland to start. We loved exploring Mississippi Ave, Alberta Street, and the Pearl District, where we escaped a sudden shower by visiting the Museum of Contemporary Craft, but lingered well after the rain subsided. We toured Mudshark Studios and picked up a couple of their ceramic growlers for our homebrew. Our favorite meals were the seafood dinner at Woodsman Tavern and Scandinavian brunch at broder, where we celebrated Peter’s birthday. The pastries at little t american baker were also outstanding, and so was the space.

From Portland we drove up to Anacortes and took the ferry over to the San Juan Islands for a three-day “glamping” trip. We stayed in the very stylish tent cabins at West Beach Resort on Orcas Island. We took in gorgeous sunsets while sitting in front of the bonfire roasting marshmallows. We had a blast digging for clams on the beach (a first for both of us) and kayaking the west coast of San Juan Island. We were bummed we didn’t see any orcas, but we did have a pretty spectacular view of the Canadian mountain range from the water. Our favorite discovery was Island Hoppin’ Brewery, the island’s first brewery, run by a friendly British expat and his crew.

Our last stop was Seattle, our first stop in which was the iconic Seattle Public Library. Peter had worked for the library’s architect, Rem Koolhaas, early in his career and spent well over an hour geeking out over the architectural details throughout the 11-story building. From there, we stumbled upon the Seattle Art Museum’s newest exhibit, Future Beauty, the first comprehensive showcase of leading avant-garde Japanese fashion designers from the last 30 years. It was one of the most impressive fashion exhibits I’ve seen. I hope it comes to San Francisco so I can see it again.

At dusk we headed over to the Chittenden Locks, which was interesting, but not nearly as much as watching the salmon make their way up the elaborate fish ladder across the way. Afterwards, we spent a fun evening cruising around Ballard and strolling through Fremont in the morning. Our last meal was a Korean brunch at Revel, which turned out to be the best meal of our entire trip. My “jook” with browned buttered shrimp and fish sauce was out of this world, as was Peter’s sausage quiche. It was the perfect ending to an awesome vacation. It made me want to do this trip all over again for my birthday… next month.

PD turns 1 croppedWow, it’s hard to believe that I launched percolating design just one year ago today. It feels great to look back and see how much it’s grown from a simple design idea into a real business in such a short amount of time.

When I started, I thought I would just knit my jewelry and customers would come clamoring for them. Not really, but I had no idea how much effort I’d be putting into everything else besides knitting. I think that I have spent more time doing marketing, PR, photography and social media than actually knitting in the past year. While I’ve had some steep learning curves, I feel like I’m making progress and gaining valuable skills that I can use in other endeavors.

Once my online presence was established, I had to decide whether to enter the world of craft shows. I was hesitant at first, but after dipping my toe into the pool with two holiday shows, I realized how valuable they can be. With the help of my handy husband, we designed and (he) built a brand new display for my shows, which debuted at Urban Air Market earlier this month. This summer, I’m looking forward to traveling down to LA for the Renegade Show in July and introducing percolating design to a new market.

display UAMAnother benefit of being at local shows was connecting with local retailers. I learned that a lot of store owners attend local events to discover new designers and scope out unique products for their stores. That’s how I met the awesome folks at San Franpsycho, Local Take and Park & Pond, who now carry my jewelry in their stores.

My latest endeavor is to expand my online reach. I’m currently setting up a new shop on OpenSky, an innovative new social shopping experience with over 3 million members. OpenSky is committed to helping small businesses like mine grow. It will be a great way to expand my reach and gain valuable exposure to industry insiders.

imageI need 20 fans to follow my store before it can open to the public though. Please follow my store so more people can discover the exciting things in store for percolating design in year two… and beyond!

Ever since we started collecting fresh eggs from our chickens, our weekend brunches have consisted almost exclusively of egg dishes. Our favorites are simple fried or baked eggs atop Peter’s homemade German multi-grain bread.

For Easter, we decided to do something a little more special. Being a savory breakfast kind of gal, when Peter first mentioned pancakes I wasn’t all that excited. But when he suggested herb pancakes, my ears perked up. A savory pancake? Now you’re talking.

This is a pancake that he had often as a child in Germany. It is especially popular in the spring when you have your pick of fresh herbs. Parsley and chives are the staple herbs, mixed with any number of other garden herbs. In Germany, common herbs include pimpernel, tarragon, chervil, dill and lemon balm.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 handfuls of chopped herbs (chives, parsley, dill, tarragon)
2 Tbsp oil
3 slices bacon, chopped
1/4 diced onion

Directions:

In a heavy bottom skillet, cook bacon and onion until transluscent. Set aside to cool.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix flour and salt. Create a well in the middle, crack both eggs and pour milk into the well.
Mix vigorously in a circular motion. Slowly add water while stirring. Batter should be smooth and thick. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Mix bacon and onion into the batter. Spoon 1-2 ladles of batter into the same skillet, frying the pancakes on medium high heat with remaining bacon fat.
When batter begins to set and the bottom is brown, flip and brown the other side (about 3-5 minutes each side).
Pancakes are delicious by themselves or topped with a little herb yogurt.

Happy Easter!

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