Going on Vacation + No Pictures Won’t Stop A Giveaway!

May 28th, 2011 · 85 Comments · Cookbooks, Giveaways

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Growing pains that come from moving and expanding your blog…unavoidable, and a neverending challenge. I currently am having some issues with getting images to appear correctly on this site, which sorts of renders a food blog a little pointless, no? While I’m sure (hopeful?) the answer is just a couple code lines away, I am also leaving on a two week vacation today…to the Mediterranean and far, far, away from the Internet. So I’m afraid no new photos will arrive until U return.

So sorry, dear readers! I meant to leave you with a few interesting posts to tide you over, but it looks like I’ve been stymied by technological roadblocks.

As consolation, click over to the online version of Edible East Bay, where my review of Alice Medrich’s new cookie book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy
has been published. I’ve met Alice a few times and she is a truly meticulous and inspired baker. Her cookbooks remain among my favorites n my bookshelf.

I’m also giving a copy of this book away to one lucky reader – just leave a comment describing your favorite texture of cookie. Do you like your chocolate chip cookies thick and chewy? Your brownies cakey? Your macarons just this side of chewy? Give me some adjectives!

I’ll let this run until I return on June 12, at which point hopefully all will have been restored to rightness here and I can post the winner, as well as some tidbits from my interview with Alice, and a recipe from her book.

Thanks for your patience, all! Have a great Memorial Day weekend. Now, I have a plane to catch!

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It’s My Birthday – And I’m Doing A Giveaway!

May 4th, 2011 · 200 Comments · Giveaways, Personal, Tools

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shortribslecreuset

I was talking to my sister last week ago and she was reminding me to get a Mother’s Day card for our mom. I replied, “Well, we don’t need to worry about so soon, Mother’s Day is after my birthday and my birthday isn’t for a while…ohhh.”

So how did it become May already? I love having a May birthday – all that spring sunshine – and I love looking forward to it. However, the last few years I seem to get really busy in April so my birthday jumps out at me like an exam I haven’t studied for. (Another thing about a May birthday? Remember AP exams in high school? I had one on my birthday one year. That was great too).

What’s to prepare for a birthday, you say? Well, I usually try to make my own birthday cake. And post about it. Thanks to my sister’s oh-so-timely reminder, I scrambled to pull my myriad ideas together. However, when I went into the kitchen last night I was told by the Husband that it was going to be occupied for a while, so maybe I could entertain myself in the meantime? Ohhh…birthday surprise! (Yes, I am also getting slower in my old age.)

Did I mention how lucky I am to have such a great hubby? So, I guess I’m going to have to hold off on a birthday cake post until maybe next week. While I’m making myself conveniently scarce, I’m going to invite you all to help me celebrate by holding another giveaway! I told you I had a lot of stuff to get out of my place:)

Walk into any cooking store or get a cooking catalog and chances are you’ll see Le Creuset proudly displayed like works of art in a museum. I was quite excited to be offered a Le Creuset braiser in their new fennel color for review. By the way, this is my first Le Creuset piece! Woohoo! I guess that counts as a pretty awesome birthday gift!

lecreuset35braiser

This cast iron braiser is great for searing off foods quickly at high temperatures and then braising them slowly and evenly. The enamelled interior makes cleanup a breeze; we’ve used it several times already and it cleans up like new. It also works great for poaching, marinating, or browning – the wide bottom lets you fit in lots of pieces without crowding. The website also says it’s works for baking, although I haven’t figured out what to bake in it yet! Something for fall, it feels like…at least I have several months to mull it over!

The Husband broke in the braiser by making some short ribs with polenta and we were extremely happy with the results – like eating the leftovers for several days straight happy.

I’m giving away a 3.5 quart Le Creuset braiser to one Dessert First reader. Just visit the Le Creuset website and comment below on what your favorite piece is. I’ll run the contest through May 8 and announce the winner on May 9.

Sorry there’s no birthday cake recipe! But I’ll have the Pebble Beach Food and Wine full recap up in another day, with recipes from Yigit Pura and Daniel Boulud!

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Cupboard Inspiration: Hazelnut Macarons with Homemade Nutella (plus bonus giveaway!)

April 26th, 2011 · 79 Comments · Chocolate, Cookies, Giveaways, Recipes

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Hazelnut Macarons with Nutella

While I was giving my blog a makeover, I was also doing a spring cleaning of our kitchen. We’ve been in our new home for almost a year and a half now – not really a new home anymore, is it? Certainly not judging by how overflowing all the cabinets and closets appear; one glance and you’d think we’d been hoarding here for years.

No matter how assiduously one tries to keep order in the pantry, there are always a few rogue items that manage to find their way astray – forgotten spices, half-used bags of specialty flours, bottles of food coloring in all the least-wanted hues. I try to go through the back of my cupboards every couple of months just to root out orphaned items, and perhaps find some inspiration – or at least impetus to not let ingredients go to waste.

So it was this time I opened a cabinet door and found three jars of Nutella staring me in the face. I have no idea how we ended up with three jars of this hazelnut spread: Costco delirium, perhaps. But I knew we really didn’t need that much Nutella around. What to make? A thought came to mind, something I’ve been wanting to do for a while – macarons made with hazelnuts instead of almonds. (Aside: if you’re just looking for the giveaway, it’s at the bottom of the post!)

 

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Welcome to the New Dessert First!

April 21st, 2011 · 177 Comments · Giveaways, Personal

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newdessertfirst

To all my dear readers,

I’m so very excited to unveil what I’ve been working on for the last couple of months – my revamped and redesigned home for Dessert First! This update has been a long time coming: I knew I’d outgrown my old setup a while back, but I didn’t have the time, technical know-how, or temerity to make my dreams materialize. After much encouragement from friends and fellow food bloggers, though, I made it a New Year’s resolution, and here we are!

Many of the changes are designed to better organize the content I’ve created in the last few years of blogging and make it easier for you to find your way around. I’ve finally gotten with the times and have a navigation bar at the top! The recipe index has been updated and my recipes properly categorized. I’ve also created separate sections for San Francisco Bay Area-related items (so those of you coming to SF can find recommendations for sweet spots) and for reviews of cookbooks and baking-related items. This is both a response to my obsessive desire to organize (I always thought I’d have made a great librarian) and reader requests.

There’s still some work left to be done – the conversions page, another reader request, isn’t finished yet. I’m also in the process of implementing a recipe print function so that you easily print any of my recipes. And there’s still other things on my wish list. But since the site has basically gone live (and quite a few of you have made your way here already), I’d like to officially open my doors and welcome you in. Pardon any of the still-settling dust! A huge thank you to the talented folks at Foliovision for helping make this new site a reality. They’ve been fantastic in making the move from Typepad to WordPress a seamless one.

I’m really, really thrilled to have this new sandbox to play in and I hope you’ll all continue to join me here as I bake and eat my way through everything sweet. I apologize that my posting has dropped off while I was making this transition – I know there’s been a dearth of recipes. I started out this site as a way to document my experiments in the kitchen. Along the way, I stumbled into food as a career of sorts: I wrote two cookbooks, did freelance food photography and writing, went to professional food events, and met all manner of amazing and talented people in the food industry. My hope is that this new Dessert First will reflect this expanded universe that baking opened up for me.

That said, I’m always happy to hear from you about what you’d like to see. Please update your links to my site while you’re at it, if you have the chance (although I’ll leave my old site up and it will automatically redirect).

To celebrate the new Dessert First, I’d also like announce a giveaway for all of you: I have a $100 gift card to Williams-Sonoma lighting up my desk and I’d love to send it to one of you. This gift card was given to me courtesy of Williams-Sonoma, who is one of my site affiliates. I’ve always been a fan of Williams-Sonoma and I’m proud to have them on my site. I received a second gift card from them that I used to get a little something for myself; I’ll reveal the purchase in a future post!

wsgiftcard

Meanwhile, for your chance to win a $100 gift card to Williams-Sonoma,

1. Follow my page on Facebook  (Click the cute little “f” icon in the sidebar to the right of this post, and click “Like” to follow my page).

2. Leave a comment on this post.

That’s it! I’ll let this contest run through next Wednesday, April 27 and announce the winner on April 28th. Thanks and good luck, and let me know what you think of the new site!

love,

Anita

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