It Was A Happy Day

Look! Mother Drucker made an engagement party — and it actually looks kinda good?!! (Proud of self.) I spent so much time being crafty that the hubs has forbidden any more party planning in the foreseeable future. But given how much I love this couple, it was actually super fun, and their reaction to all the little details (ahem, Pinterest) was priceless!

Speaking of priceless, check out these sugar cookies shaped like engagement rings. Yum. Just Nigella’s easy cut out cookie recipe, food color, sparkly sprinkles and my favorite C&H buttercream. And this cookie cutter from Amazon.

ring cookiesChalkboard signCupcake toppersdonuts tableMr and Mrs bannerHydrangeas are from the LA Flower Mart, burlap from the fabric store, a few flea market finds, craft supplies from Michael’s, cupcake toppers from Etsy, donuts from Randy’s and all other cooking and craftiness done by yours truly. (I referenced Ina Garten when creating the cheese tray, and frosted the cupcakes with this tip.) And thanks to my friend Alison for recommending this Pampered Chef Sweet & Salty party mix. It was gone in a matter of minutes!

And just to be sure that this party started their wedding year off with a bang, it rained for about the first time in three years. As I raced around the house setting up, a bolt of lightning hit a nearby car. It was so incredibly loud that I actually stopped to ask myself, is this the apocalypse? No? Well. I’ve got a party to throw.

car lightning

I’m pretty sure I pinned all the tutorials on Pinterest but if you have any questions just ask. Believe me, if I can do this, ANYONE CAN. The groom-to-be summed it all up perfectly: it was a happy day. Good luck Cat & AC!

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BBQ Chicken Drucked Salad

I didn’t realize how attached I was to this recipe until I couldn’t find it. I am a HUGE fan of the California Pizza Kitchen BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad, even after I read somewhere that it’s 750 calories. (Roughly a Big Mac and small fries.) Nutritional info not withstanding, it turns out that making your own is easy, especially if you use helpful shortcuts from the supermarket. (In other words, Semi-Homemade!)

Not the best photo quality. But you get the idea.

Isn’t it magnificent? I brought it to a dinner party in a big, beautiful serving bowl and it was gone before you could say CPK. It’s kind of labor intensive with all the chopping, but the results were well worth it! (And now I can use my food processor, yay!) Since it requires only the slightest bit of on-site finagling and doesn’t take up space in my host’s oven, this is my new go-to dish for potlucks, parties, etc.

Such a fresh alternative to typical dinner party fare.

So here is the recipe (I halved it, which was just enough for six people with lots of other options) and here are my super-sneaky shortcuts:

  • Store-bought tortilla chips, crumbled
  • Whole head of romaine lettuce instead of half/half with iceberg
  • Toss salad just before serving with high-quality buttermilk ranch dressing, to taste
  • 2-3 grilled, fried, broiled or barbecued chicken breasts from the hot deli counter (Peel off the skin and chop into bite-sized cubes)
  • Skip the cilantro because too many people hate it
  • Be sure to peel your jicama (this won’t be easy)
  • Use plum tomatoes and squeeze ‘em a bit before chopping (thanks for that tip, Rachael Ray) so they don’t make everything soggy
  • Top the salad with one or two chopped avocados that you’ve drizzled with lime juice and lightly salted
  • A few lime wedges are a nice touch

Follow step #4 in the recipe “Directions” to assemble the salad. I always wondered what that fresh, ever-so-slight licorice flavor was that kept me coming back for more of this salad, and I mistakenly assumed it was fennel. It’s a healthy dose of basil!

This was good enough that even my veggie friends were tempted to nibble around the chicken, making me think that you could make it with cubes of firm tofu, if you were so inclined, or just skip the protein altogether. I know, I know, we’re in holiday party mode now and it’s a very summery salad. But the colors are so Christmassy! And most of the ingredients are now available year ’round, except for jicama, and peeling that thing was like wrestling a warthog, so maybe you’re better off without it!

One last caveat — the ingredients for this salad were a cool $35. (Ouch.) You can get a Totino’s party pizza for $1.50. Food for thought.

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Druck It to Me Cake

It’s actually “Sock It to Me” cake. I made it for my friend Tom’s birthday, and I’m guessing it’s a Southern thing. My mom makes a similar one she calls “Sour Cream Coffee Cake,” and Corner Bakery makes an exorbitantly priced version called Cinnamon Creme Cake. But any way you slice it, it’s a rich, buttery bundt cake with a delicate crumb and a cinnamon streusel tunnel baked right in.

The slices are so pretty!

I found the recipe at good ol’ Duncan Hines, and as the very satisfied recipient of many a Betty Crocker birthday cake, you won’t catch me hatin’ on cake mix. I did make one change — instead of using the recommended tub of Duncan Hines vanilla frosting, I made a powdered sugar glaze. (One cup sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp vanilla. Whisk in a few drops of milk at a time until you reach the perfect drizzling consistency.)

Simply GORGEOUS glaze.

In other exciting news, I used my brand-new food processor for the first time to chop the pecans for the cake! (It was a Christmas gift from last year. I fear things with spinning blades. Garbage disposals, food processors, helicopter propellers, etc.)

Let's get one thing straight pal. In this kitchen, I AM THE FOOD PRO.

Worked like a charm, and I can’t wait for my next chopportunity! (Oh Drucker, you ARE a clever girl.) It says you can use it to chop soft cheeses. Can soft cheeses be chopped? I will let you know!

Drizzling Tip: I saw Paula Deen do this and thought it was awfully smart. Arrange four strips of waxed paper on your cake platter in a square, leaving an uncovered square in the center so you can slide the strips out when you’re done drizzling. Drizzle with abandon. Remove strips and VOILA. No drips on your platter and no schmears where you tried (in vain) to wipe off the drips.

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A Druckin Salad Sojourn

Yes, I said salad. I know this normally a safe haven for all things sweet and sinful, but hey — salad starts with an ‘s’ too. I saw these gorgeous salads in the LA Times food section, and noticed that one of them particularly made a splash in the world of food bloggery.

Click for handy instructional video!

Nancy Silverton, thank you for explaining how to do this! Assemble a salad in layers?! GENIUS. I’m always so annoyed at how the good stuff ends up at the bottom. Nancy makes it easy to assemble the perfect bite! I also want to make her olive and rosemary focaccia someday. You know, when I fulfill my true destiny as a lady of leisure. And I haven’t been to the Grove in awhile, but apparently this is happening. Very exciting for burger-lovin’ Angelenos!

And then there’s this, courtesy of BLD in LA:

Click this gorgeous picture for the recipe.

I just think this is a brilliant collaboration of flavors — ginger, soy sauce, sweet rice vinegar, honey and lemon juice, with sweet corn, creamy avocado, crunchy French beans and salty cashews. (I have an aversion to sprouts, so I would omit those.)

These ragged little newspaper clippings have been haunting my daybook for weeks, so it’s a huge relief to finally get them up here and make room for that Bar Method coupon that’s about to expire, my gas bill and my flight info for Thanksgiving. What an exciting life I do lead.

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Pumpkin Mess is Actually Druckin Tasty

Because it’s fall in some parts of the world (it’s supposed to be 86° in LA this weekend!), people are thinkin’ pumpkin. Especially this easy Pumpkin Bread Pudding recipe from Gourmet, 10/07. After reading about it here and here, I just had to try it, even though the boyfriend promptly re-named it ‘Pumpkin Mess’ and refused to eat even the tiniest bite.

This picture makes it look so pretty... In the pan, not so much.

The top baked up golden, crisp and slightly salty from the butter, while the soft custard underneath was just dishy –the kind of thing that gives to the gentle pressure of your spoon in the most satisfying way. It’s the love child of pumpkin pie and French toast, and it would be just as at home on a brunch table as it would be at a fall dinner party, served warm in white ramekins with creme anglaise or softened ice cream.

It's deliciousness, cubed.

Or the way I ate it, scooped straight from the oven into a waiting bowl, and consumed while snuggling on my boyfriend’s couch, watching Arrested Development. (Yay, movie!)

Tip: The recipe calls for 5 cups of day-old baguette, cubed, and I had no idea how much baguette that was, so I bought two. Turns out, I only needed 3/4 of one standard-length baguette. But if you simply love baguettes, by all means, buy two.

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Honey Challah is Druckin Delicious

Sometimes (and I know this is hard to believe) I amaze myself. Like when I pulled this gorgeous, professional-looking challah out of the oven. Then I dip my white sleeve in beet juice, or absentmindedly get into the wrong car, and remember what I’m working with here.

Mine looked just like this!

I used this awesome recipe from the uber-blogger at Smitten Kitchen, and it wasn’t even that hard! I felt vurry fancy as I kneaded my shiny, elastic dough that came together beautifully and didn’t even stick to the counter. Then came the fun science experiment of watching it double in size. All I wanted to do was punch that smooth, puffy mound of dough right in it’s soft belly, and guess what step just happens to come next?! Yay! Punching!

Take that, you stupid dough.

The boyfriend swanned in for the fun part (as men are wont to do, am I right ladies?) and braided this loaf for me, per the VERY helpful step-by-step instructions.

Good job, Jared!

I omitted the apples, but otherwise made this exact recipe, right down to baking it on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Hot out of the oven and slathered with salty butter, it was nearly impossible not to eat the entire loaf of this golden egg bread with its delicate, slightly-crumblier-than-brioche texture. I ate the last of it standing in front of my toaster the next day, with softly melting butter and lavish swipes of strawberry-rhubarb jam.

Jam = Joy.

I used to make challahs in high school fairly regularly, and that fabulous recipe, handed down from a nice synagogue lady, is gone. But this one is close enough. My mom would add a pinch of saffron for Middle-Eastern authenticity, color and its unmistakably heady scent, but I think it works without it. Maybe even better. And that’s what I call progress. Challah back, everyone!

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Druckin Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was skeptical about how well this would work, but I should’ve known better. This recipe for Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies got a lot of love on the interwebs for a REASON. They’re over the top and awesome.

Shocking and delicious. Shockingly delicious.

Now I really want to try this same blogger’s recipe for S’mores Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. Behold:

Hey, good-lookin'.

I think it adheres to one of my favorite sayings/ideas — too much of a good thing is even better. Next up, squirrel-stuffed chocolate chip cookies! A little furry tail in every bite! Forgive me, I’m tired.

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