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January Highlights

At the beginning of January I was still in California visiting with family and friends.  There were a few places I wanted to capture and write about for all of you to see, but certain factors prevented me from doing so.  A particular cafe where I met up with a few long time friends for coffee did not allow me to take photographs of their pastries and their decor!  We has such fun catching up regardless of this so it wasn’t a total waste.  I was also hoping to visit with the owners of that wonderful antique store that I frequent every time I’m in Los Angeles, but alas, they were under the weather and weren’t at the store when I walked through.  A few collectibles were bought, however, so it wasn’t a complete loss going to that favorite store of mine; trust me, there’s something there for everyone.  

Luckily, though, I was able to capture the Farmers' Market in Los Angeles with Monsieur Marcel as the highlight.  I never tire of going there for a bite to eat and a chat with my friend Isaac.  If  you’ve been to this location then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  People watching, good food, good wine, wonderful products to shop’s almost like being in Paris.  

As so often happens when I go away on vacation, I become restless toward the end of my trip.  The place I call home is my favorite spot to be, because so much of what I love is here and so I’m always eagerly wanting to return.  

For some odd reason I continued with my mini vacation through the first couple of weeks in January and blogged rather sporadically.  I’m allowed some time off right?  

January’s topics were good ones I must say and it was nice sharing them with you.  Let’s revisit now!

The first highlight was of course Monsieur Marcel and the Farmers' Market.  Doesn’t the  spinach quiche look delicious?  I hadn’t tried it before because I tend to like my own version of this French classic, but I must say it was quite good; the filling was light and the crust was very flaky.  The mesclun salad made the meal perfect for me.  Nothing heavy.  Nothing over the top.  Do go into the store itself after you’ve eaten something tasty here and shop for exclusive wines, chocolates, kitchenwares and other products.  You’re going to be tempted to get a whole shopping cart!

The Martha by Mail Igloo cake is such a classic mold and so wonderful to have if you like baking.  I particularly like the addition of the marzipan penguins.  This was one of the first molds to be offered through the catalog which became one of their best sellers.  After the catalog shut down and the company began to offer its wares through Macy’s, a similar mold was made for stores nationwide.  The Macy’s mold was made from food grade silicone, not heavy cast aluminum like the one from Martha by Mail.  Don’t confuse the two.  

The post on caring for one’s silver salt & pepper shakers/mills happened as a result of my having acquired a few of them while in Los Angeles.  After walking through the antique store I came upon a display where several salt dips, salt cellars and shakers were for sale.  The owner of that display was there taking down the holiday decor and so I began conversing with her about the assortment.  I pulled the beautiful quails and miniature sterling silver shakers to examine them more closely and much to my surprise they were in perfect condition.  It was then that the topic of how to care for them came up, thus the post.  Silver can be used every single day if you want, but just make sure you know how to care for it so that it keeps well.
I LOVE cinnamon tea and cinnamon coffee.  It isn’t a big secret that it’s delicious and I encourage everyone to have a try at some.  It’s so easy to make.  The tea is good to have in the afternoon when you’ve got a moment to sit down and the coffee is such a treat to wake up to when the weather is cold and everything is bleak outside.  There is no other aroma like that of cinnamon in winter.  It’s popular for a reason.  

With so many people walking their dogs around town and around their homes during the winter (snow and all), it’s a good idea to think about a pet’s needs.  These tips gathered from the ASPCA are worth reviewing, because there are many hazards which can be detrimental to our four-legged companions.   I know all of you who do have pets, whether they be dogs or cats or both, only want the best for these members of the family.  Let’s make sure that they are as safe and as well taken care of as possible.  

It doesn’t matter if you call them macaroons or macarons, these cookies are ultra delicious and so popular right now.  I love seeing the different colors and flavors that pastry chefs come up with.  Each of them seems worth biting into don’t you think?

My version was different on several points. Rather than using the straightforward French method of whipping egg whites until frothy and then adding the sugar in a steady stream until one gets firm peaks, I decided to use a Swiss meringue base instead.  Secondly, I piped the macaroon batter using an open star tip instead of a plain tip, and formed rosettes with little peaks.  I loved the way they baked up and cracked here and there.  After testing and testing several recipes, my final version was just what I was looking for.  
The filling was not a buttercream like the standard found in pastry shops.  No no!  I used a thick ganache to sandwich the cookies and let me just say that they were gone in no time.  I kept a few for myself to have with tea....baker’s privilege.

Ultimate Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate in a porcelain syllabub.  The tray is antique ironstone.

A whisk is essential in creating a smooth drink.

How about some hot chocolate during the winter?  If you’re going camping, skiing, hiking or just want to have some at home while reading a good book, it’s good to have the few ingredients within easy reach.  In no time you can have a great tasting cup of hot chocolate that will satisfy even the biggest chocoholic.  Whip up a mug or two now or wait for a romantic moment.   Pure bliss.  Pure joy.  Pure decadence.  

Those heart cookie cutters from Martha by Mail are gorgeous to say the least.  Who knew that so many heart shapes could be so lovely and so sweet?  If you’re one of the lucky ones who owns a set, put them to good use this Valentine’s Day or for a wedding this year.  Ice them, gift them or send them to someone who needs some cheer.  Oh yes,  and don’t forget, send me a few pictures of your creations so that I can share them with everyone.  Happy Baking!

Now I’m looking forward to February and what it has in store for us.  I have a cookie that I’m working on at the moment, so stay tuned for that.  For some reason I’m still on a chocolate kick that I can’t seem to shake off.  Let’s see where it goes! 



  1. First of all... I've just copied and pasted your chocolate cookie recipe into a word document, printed it and laminated it so that I'll have it forever! Thank you for such a beautiful (and easy to work with) chocolate cookie recipe. As you know, I recreated your gingersnap cookies and they were heaven... So I'm confident these chocolate cookies will yeild the same results!

    As for your trip - Shame on that bakery for not allowing photos. I would have run outside with my plate and taken pictures anyway! And, I would have taken pictures through the windows, from the public sidewalk. I mean, really! Nevertheless, I'm thrilled you got some down-time (me-time) into your busy holiday season.

    I used my Martha by Mail Hearts cookie cutter set yesterday and cannot wait to show you!



  2. I think you're going to love those chocolate cookies Janet. Knowing you, you'll make pound after pound of this dough! :)

    You have me laughing in stitches with images of me running outside of that cafe with my plate just to get a picture! If only I had done that!

    Do share those pics of the MBM heart cookies with all of us soon. I can't wait!!


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