All posts by Aleta

Cupcakes in a cone

When you’re planning a birthday celebration for a 3-year-old, you never consider an elegant cake with sophisticated flavors.  You want something fun and colorful that appeals to toddler tastes.

Cupcakes in ice cream cones are just the ticket, especially if they’re crowned with a shower of colorful sprinkles.

I know baking cupcakes in cones isn’t exactly a cutting-edge idea but it was new to me when I spotted a C & H Sugar tweet last month.  I knew immediately that these cone cakes would be an ideal birthday treat for a little boy who’s hard pressed to choose between chocolate “cuppy-cakes” and ice cream cones. Continue reading Cupcakes in a cone

Here’s to a bubbly 2013


2012 was a tumultuous year all around.  My husband and I pulled up deep roots in California, and shifted all our worldly goods to the Northwest in a chaotic move.  Meanwhile, politics kept the entire nation on edge with a nail biter of an election and the economic game of chicken playing out in Washington.  Natural disaster and the nightmare in Newtown capped it all off.

I’m ready to bid this year good riddance and welcome 2013 with open arms.

To toast the occasion, I propose a bubbly new cocktail combining ginger liqueur, a splash of tangerine juice and Prosecco.  The liqueur brings new depth and a spicy kick to the sparkling Italian wine while the tangerine juice adds a tropical note.  It’s a festive libation made to order for New Year’s Eve.

I had never even heard of ginger liqueur before I chanced upon it as an ingredient in a couple of baking recipes this fall.  I tracked down a bottle of Domaine de Canton, a French product made with baby ginger and Cognac, and was hooked.  Although it has the syrupy texture associated with a liqueur, it’s only lightly sweet.  The ginger flavor, bright and true, is the perfect accent for an inexpensive sparkling wine like Prosecco.

Add a bowl of salted nuts and you’ve got a party.

Happy 2013 everyone!


Makes 1

Pour 1 ounce of ginger liqueur into the bottom of a chilled flute.  Add a splash of tangerine juice.  Top off with Prosecco or other dry sparking wine.  Serve.

Aleta Watson

A brunch for a bunch

Along with the holidays come the house guests. We’re all happy to see them, but sometimes feeding them becomes a challenge.

For me, breakfast is the most difficult meal to pull off. I’m not really that hungry myself in the morning and there’s usually so much to do to prepare for the day’s celebrations. (Plus I hate facing a sink full of dishes first thing.)

One answer for the harried host is this eggy casserole that can be made the night before and slipped into the oven to bake while you attend to other tasks.  It contains all the basic breakfast food groups in one tasty dish that’s always popular with my family.  Continue reading A brunch for a bunch

A plethora of persimmons


For the first time ever I have more persimmons than I know what to do with.

Who knew that little tree in the backyard of my new house would bear so much fruit?

Don’t get me wrong. I still adore the bright orange fruit that I used to track down at farmers markets, feeling lucky if I scored half a dozen.  A whole tree-full is a big responsibility, though.  I’ve given a bunch away to neighbors and family but there still are trays of ripening persimmons covering the counters in the laundry room and more in bowls in the dining room and kitchen. Continue reading A plethora of persimmons

Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens


Let the baking begin!

Even people who use their ovens to store pots and pans most of the year, start pulling out their mixers and baking sheets about now.  It’s cookie time and we’re lucky that an early Thanksgiving gave us a little extra time to fill our freezers with homemade treats for the holidays.

I’m a self-confessed cookie addict.  When I just checked, I found 14 cookie recipes posted here in the four years I’ve been writing this blog.  Still, I’m always on the lookout for simple offerings that deliver irresistible flavor without a lot of fuss, especially during such a busy season.

Bar cookies are one of the best bets.  You spread them in the pan, bake, and slice when cooled.  No rolling, no cutting, no decorating. Continue reading Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens

Fresh chestnuts reconsidered


One of my best discoveries at Portland’s fabulous downtown farmers market this fall was the glory of fresh chestnuts.

I know, I know. People all over the world adore fresh chestnuts.  But as many times as I’ve prepared with them over the years, they’ve rarely seemed worth the trouble.

Most of the fresh chestnuts in the supermarket are already too old and starchy despite the promise of their glossy shells.  Then cooking them – as in “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” – has always proved a dicey undertaking.  The shells are hard to score with a knife, it’s difficult to decide when they’re done, and I usually burn my fingers trying to peel them. Continue reading Fresh chestnuts reconsidered

In praise of fresh cranberries


Some people absolutely insist their cranberries come out of a can, preferably with the little ridges that serve as cutting guides.   So it only makes sense to put canned cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table if that’s what it takes to keep peace in the family.

At our house, though, fresh is the only choice.

These delightfully tart little berries are the perfect counterpoint to the heavy carbs and – let’s admit it – often boring turkey at the heart of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  What’s more, they’re loaded with antioxidants and are only in season during the holidays. It would be a shame not to make the most of them when they’re here. Continue reading In praise of fresh cranberries

Winter squash flavor, tender skin

The vegetable selection is rapidly shrinking at local farmers markets with the arrival of a wet and chilly fall here in the Northwest.  One of the compensations, though, is the arrival of beautiful squash in every imaginable shape, size and color.

One of my favorites is the aptly named delicata.  Like many of its cousins, this little squash boasts rich, sweet flesh that’s great in a soup, fabulous in a salad, and terrific in pasta.   Unlike the better known butternut, Hubbard and acorn squashes, though, the delicata has skin that is thin and tender.  For many dishes, you don’t even have to peel it.

This is one winter squash that I can prep for a recipe without worrying that I’m going to take a finger off in the process.  That alone would make it attractive in my book but I also love the way it cooks up quickly and takes to a wide range of flavor combinations. Continue reading Winter squash flavor, tender skin

“Pure Beef” for the rest of us

I grew up in a beef-eating family. My dad, who was poor as a child, loved nothing more than a slab of sirloin and a monster baked potato for dinner. There were vegetables on the table only because my mom insisted.

As an adult, though, I’ve had an uneasy relationship with beef and have avoided it more often than not in the interest of health.  For more than a decade, the only beef I consumed was an occasional hamburger – one of my guilty pleasures.  When I became a restaurant reviewer, though, I could no longer reject red meat, since it stars on so many menus.  Beef returned to my life, but I remained a little uncomfortable about it.

Then I received a review copy of Lynne Curry’s cookbook, “Pure Beef,” Running Press, 2012.  The book looks at the movement toward artisan beef  raised on open pasture, slaughtered as humanely as possible and dressed by craftsman butchers.  This is meat for the conscientious consumer, light years removed from the industrial model beef sold at most supermarkets. Continue reading “Pure Beef” for the rest of us