Friday, August 29, 2008

Eating Organic - The Dirty Baker's Dozen

As many of you are probably already aware, some foods are more contaminated with pesticides than others. "They" have compiled a list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables called "The Dirty Dozen". I have seen two versions of the list so I compiled my own list called "The Dirty Baker's Dozen". (Genius, I know! I love the pun. I even considered "The Baker's Dirty Dozen" but that's just not right.) Anyway, lettuce and raspberries are the items that vary so they are both on my list. As we all know, the cost of food is skyrocketing right now so buying organically is especially pricey these days. If you aim to buy some organic produce though, here is the best place to splurge.

Grapes, imported

Bell peppers

You can find more information on The Dirty Dozen here:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sedums, Succulents, Sempervivums Oh My!

I love mint julep cups as vases. They look great with any kind of flower or ... something different. The flowers at my friend Lynne's wedding were so fantastic, using various succulents intermixed with flowers. It looked incredible. It inspired me to try something different as a centerpiece. I filled mint julep cups with an array of Sempervivums, my favorite of these little succulent plants. I thought they gave great character to my table.

They are also wonderful in outdoor pots with sedums dribbling over the edge and look especially cute in beautiful strawberry pots (I like the bright green painted clay pots). They can thrive in almost any condition and mine have even survived a few Seattle winters. If you lack a green thumb I highly suggest trying these out because they require very little, if any, TLC.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Walk N Roll Baby

My sister-in-law bought the Walk N Roll for my daughter's birthday gift and it has quickly become one of her most favorite toys. She pushes it, pulls it, carries it, spins it. I always know where she is in the house from the little clacking sound it makes. The Walk N Roll by Plan Toys is sold on Amazon as well as other online stores. Great gift for your child or another.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Say "NO!" to Food on Drugs

I came across Dave's Killer Bread in the grocery store and couldn't resist trying it after seeing the slogan written on the bag.... Just say no to bread on drugs. I am a big advocate for buying and eating organic when you can so I loved it. I'm changing the word "bread" to "food" and making it my own.

P.S. I tried the Powerseed loaf and it was really good. Way to go Killer Dave!

Minnie Shares Her Favorite Things...

I love reading the celebrity picks in Vanity Fair's "My Stuff" section. Last month in the fashion issue they highlighted Minnie Mortimer. She said her favorite mascara was Diorshow. Well good timing because I was in need of a new mascara so I gave this one a whirl and am really liking it. I went from heavy duty YSL Volume Effet Faux Cils to a much lighter and more liquidy mascara from Nars. Liked them both but Diorshow could be my perfect in-betweener.

Favorite Things

Several of my friends are pregnant so I have been stocking up on all my favorite items for their shower gifts. One must have item in my opinion is Sophie the Giraffe. It is all the rage among new moms, especially those looking for non-toxic toys for their infants. Sophie is a great teething toy and is made with natural rubber and non-toxic paint. It's popping up in a lot more children's stores and can be purchased online at Amazon, Craftsbury Kids and others. Happy teething!

Probiotics 101

About 6 months ago my daughter's pediatrician suggested I give her probiotics because he thought she was fighting off a little tummy bug. Hmmm, probiotics... heard of them, but what are they exactly and what do they do? Off I went to research probiotics. Since then I have been learning more and more about the health benefits. Awareness is on the rise too as it's the new health buzzword.

Here's a short list of some of the health benefits:

  • Improved digestion
  • Stronger immune system
  • Body alkalinity
  • Appetite/weight control
  • Improved liver function
  • Anti-aging
  • Improved cell integrity
  • Aids in detoxification
  • Healthier skin & hair

There are several ways to include probiotics in your diet:

  1. Supplements in powder or pill form.

  2. Yogurt - most people already know that yogurt is a good source of probiotics.

  3. Attune granola bars - they are DE-licious and packed with 5 times the live active cultures of yogurt.
  4. GoodBelly - these little juice packs are tasty and packed with active probiotics.
  5. Organic Raw Kombucha - Be warned, the first sip is a little rough. It's definitely an acquired taste. Pretty soon you will crave it though.

The Most Perfect Gift

Next time you need a great birthday or hostess gift or want to indulge in a little treat for yourself, check out the line of products from Anthousa. Anthousa is a collection of home ambiance perfumes, candles, personal fragrance and bath & body products. The products are beautiful from start to finish with each element sought out world-wide or specially crafted to make the most interesting and sophisticated product. The essential oils are of the highest quality and you can truly tell because of the depth, complexity, and integrity of the fragrance. There are a lot of home ambiance diffusers on the market today and I can tell you that Anthousa's quality is unmatched (I was the Production Manager there before I had my baby girl so I know these things!). It is also the prettiest.

Some additional thoughts...

-My new favorite fragrance is Okeanos which launched after I left. It smells AMAZING!
-Stay tuned because the packaging is changing and the new stuff is out of this world!
-Trio sets make great gifts because the recipient gets to try three different fragrances.
-Anthousa now sells online! Visit the website at

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Blueberry Crumb Bars

I found this recipe for blueberry crumb bars on Smitten Kitchen and they were de-licious. I am a sucker for this type of thing for breakfast with my coffee but it was also perfect for dessert (and for an afternoon snack. Is that too many in one day?)
I think I must have done something wrong though because I had little tiny chunks of crystalized sugar on the top crumble part. I'm not a baker so I have no clue where I went wrong. If anyone has a guess of why that might happen let me know. Would love to know for next time.
You can find this recipe here...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My New Favorite Pasta

My uncle is an incredible cook and I learn a lot from him. Last time he had us over I learned how to make this delicious pasta. He also used thick cut prosciutto chunks which makes it even better but I wanted a lightning fast pasta so I skipped that. If you want to try it with prosciutto though it doesn't take that much more time and is even better! In the time it takes you to read the recipe you could have made the sauce! I'm hooked on this pasta. I eat it for lunch a lot, give it to my one-year old, and served it as a first course for guests the other night. It's a hit!

Super Easy Delicious Pasta

1lb FRESH pasta noodles (sometimes they come in 10oz packages)
1 egg
3/4 container store-bought pesto (Track down a great pesto. I prefer PCC's store brand. Second best is Cibo Naturals Classic Basil Pesto.)
1/4 cup half & half
1 cup grated asiago cheese
1 t freshly ground pepper

Combine egg, half & half, pesto and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water for a few minutes. Check directions on pasta packaging. Fresh pasta usually takes about 2 minutes. Drain pasta. Quickly add liquid mixture to the hot pot. Give the pasta a little shake (my aunt says never shake off too much liquid or rinse the pasta with cold water because the pores close up and the noodles don't absorb as much sauce). Throw noodles back in the pot on top of sauce and stir, quickly. Top with cheese and more pepper. Stir and serve with an extra little sprinkle of cheese.

*side note - fresh noodles cannot be served al dente but it really doesn't matter for this dish.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Chicken Rice

This is one of our favorite home-cooked meals. My husband is half Asian and loves when I cook anything Asian-inspired. I love this meal because it's so stinkin' easy. We both love the mix of flavors and are suckers for white rice with sauce. If you are going to try it though I have one requirement.... you must serve it with a little dollop of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce on the side for dipping. It's a must!

Colleen's Chicken Rice (updated 09/10/08)

3 chicken breasts
green onions, chopped
toasted sesame seeds
white rice
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

1/3 cup soy
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of one lime
1/4 t sesame oil
3 T minced ginger
3 T minced garlic
freshly ground black pepper

Rinse chicken and place in a Ziploc bag. Add all ingredients and marinate for one hour. Every 20 minutes I would play around with the bag to make sure the marinade was getting all over the chicken but I don't know that it's really necessary. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour chicken and sauce into a shallow baking dish and bake for approximately 30 minutes (depending on size of breasts). Slice chicken into strips and place on a serving platter. Pour some of the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve with white rice and a green veggie(sauteed zucchini, broccoli or bok choy go especially well). Pour some sauce over the rice and use hot chili sauce on the side for dipping.

Could it be any easier?! A few minutes prep, 1 hour to marinate, 30 minutes to bake. All you have to do is fix the white rice and a quick veggie and you have yourself a delicious dinner. Bon appetite!

Florentine Frames

I am currently obsessed with these Florentine frames from Cavallini & Co. They are handmade in a small Italian workshop and are just lovely. The one on the left comes in several colors, including green (my fave), red & black. I have incorporated antiques into my decor so I especially love these frames for my home. In Seattle they are sold at Stuhlbergs on Queen Anne (one of my MOST favorite stores for gifts by the way). You can check the website to see where they are sold in other cities.

Announcing Baby Cece

My friend Jen told me about Ceci New York and I was instantly obsessed. If you have 20 minutes to burn (I didn't either but couldn't resist), I highly recommend going through all of the wedding invitations. They are the most gorgeous and unique wedding invitations I have ever seen. Next time I get married I'm using them. JUST KIDDING! I did use them for my daughter's baby announcements and was so excited with the end result. I wanted something that was feminine but not too girly, pretty but not too cutesy, elegant but still a little playful. Lisa totally nailed it for me and I was so happy with Baby Cece's announcements. Check out the Ceci New York website. The wedding invitations are truly beautiful!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cutest Personalized Dolls

I saw these little personalized dolls on a blog and linked to the website. They are so so cute. I am so frustrated though because I can't seem to find the blog where I discovered them or the site that sells them. I will keep you posted. I have to order one for my little china doll so I will track them down one way or another.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nature's Great Healer

They say wheatgrass is "Nature's Great Healer" and "King of the Juices" because it's packed with so many nutrients and vitamins. I've been doing some research on wheatgrass lately and here are just a handful of the benefits:
  • Loaded with antioxidants
  • A great energizer
  • Rich in folic-acid (great for women of child-bearing age although they say you shouldn’t drink it while pregnant)
  • One of the richest sources of vitamins A, B, and C
  • Well known blood cleanser
  • Stimulates healthy tissue cell growth
  • Improves digestion & helps with weight control
  • Great detoxification agent
  • Helps prevent tooth decay

To get the full benefit of wheatgrass I imagine you’d need to make your own juice from fresh wheatgrass. I don’t know about you guys but that’s just not something I’m going to do. But looky-here what I found in the frozen section of the grocery store…. frozen packets of pure, organic wheatgrass by Evergreen. I’m sure you don't get as many health benefits in this frozen form but you are still getting a lot. One box down and I'm hooked.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Binth Baby Book

When I was pregnant I looked high and low for a baby book that wasn't too cutesy. My friend Clare suggested this one and I just love it. It's such a fresh take on a baby book. Sweet and modern graphics, nothing too cheesy, lots of space to write and areas to include photos. I had so much fun filling it out. It's a bit of a splurge for a baby book but well worth it. I even went back and ordered two more so all my babes can have one. I got mine at Craftsbury Kids but they are also available at the Binth website and from Tiny McSmall. Just look at how fabulous these pages are...

Big Girl Bedding

A friend asked if I had any ideas of where to find bedding for her daughter's new twin bed. One of the first places that came to mind was Serena & Lily. They have some of the prettiest bedding sets I've seen. These are my three faves...

Oh so pretty! - Serena & Lily

Crazy for Ina

As my friends all know, I'm crazy for Ina Garten. I've never made a recipe from her that I didn't love. Her recipes are easy enough for the amateur gourmet but pack a big punch in the flavor department. I thought I would share some of my favorites in case you haven't tried them and are looking for something new.

Beef Bourguignon
Fillet of Beef of Poivre (I'm obsessed with this recipe right now!)

Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Chicken Curry Wraps
Chicken with Herbed Goat Cheese (I add sundried tomotoes to this recipe, courtesy of my friend Nicole)

Spinach Gratin
Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes

Mexican Chicken Soup (a staple in our house)

Bib Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing (another current obsession)

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula

Dessert (well, breakfast for me)
Lemon Pound Cake (the one in "Barefoot Contessa at Home")

Check out the Food Network website for most of these recipes and more from the Barefoot Contessa. Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Baby Slipper Shoes

I'm in love with these teeny tiny slipper shoes for my little girl. They are the cutest little shoes. I bought them in pink and white and love them both. I must order black for the fall and winter months!

Fun Photography

I especially love the food and kids sections.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lovely Hydrangeas

I love this time of year when my hydrangea bush is in full bloom. I made an over-sized arrangement for my dining room table. It put a smile on my face every time I walked past. I also like to put them in small cache pots around my house. So very pretty!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Carne Asada - Ah So Good!!!!

Well my husband gave this a 9.3 out of 10 which I was pretty happy with considering it was my first time making it and I was working from a few recipes to make my own. He's a tough critic though. To gain an extra .7 he suggested (a) guacamole instead of sliced avocado (b) thinner slices of beef and (c) small flour tortillas instead of normal size. See what I have to deal with? So picky. Just kidding, I did ask.

Well I am happy to say I used the leftover meat (just two of us with 2lbs of beef so lots of leftovers) and (a) made homemade guacamole instead of avocado slices (b) cut thinner slices of meat (although he meant pounded thinner but it was too late for that) and (c) offered to cut his tortillas into smaller ones, with a sarcastic laugh of course and no real intention of doing it. He loved them for the second night in a row but I spared him from having to rate it. Any critiques this time around and I may have been at it for a third night in a row.

Side note: I am a huge fan of making more food than you need so you have lunch or dinner the next day. The meat was great the second night. I heated it in a large pan on the stove top with a touch of olive oil until just heated through. They were just as good if not better (he was right about the guacamole!).

Carne Asada Tacos
Adapted from Tyler Florence & LA Times Recipe

2lbs skirt steak
Marinade (recipe follows)
Flour tortillas (small ones if you can find them)
Guacamole (preferably homemade)
Pico de gallo (recipe follows)
Sour cream
Fresh cilantro
Green onion or chopped onion (I didn’t serve either but some do)
Cold beer (required)

3 limes
1 jalapeño, minced
½ cup olive oil
3 T shallots, minced
2 T garlic, minced
¼ c cilantro, chopped
¼ c parsley, chopped
1 t cumin
1 t kosher salt
1 t black pepper

Pico De Gallo:

4 vine-ripe tomatoes, minced
¼ c onion, minced
¼ c fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño, minced (or more if you can handle it)
Juice of one lime
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients for marinade in a large baking dish. Toss steak in marinade to coat both sides and marinate all day, turning over a few times to make sure marinade gets all over meat. Remove from fridge about 30 minutes before grilling. Heat gas grill to medium-high heat. Cook steaks for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Remove from heat, cover with foil and let sit for a few minutes. Warm tortillas in the oven. Place meat down the center of the tortilla and top with guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, juice from a lime wedge and fresh cilantro. In-between bites sip cold delicious beer.

Serves: about 6

Missing Urth Cafe

I recently spent a month in LA and one of the things I miss most was our daily breakfast at Urth Cafe. They have the most delicious cappuccinos and morning delights. A staple for us was the fresh bowl of their creamy oatmeal with little ramekins on the side with all the fixin's. When I got home to some gloomy Seattle weather I headed straight for the store to recreate my little bit of morning heaven.

Back to Urth Oatmeal

McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal
Steamed or warmed whole milk
Brown sugar
Fresh strawberries

What To Do With All Those Recipes You Stockpile?

That was my problem for quite some time. Whelp, that's resolved. My new pride and joy ... my beautiful recipe binders in their latest and greatest edition. These binders have grown and improved over the years and I think I have finally nailed it. First off, you need binders big enough to support all your recipes. I started with one small binder and over the years have worked my way up to two extra-large and one small binder. I swear by using glossy slicks to hold the recipes. When you go to make something you remove that slick from the binder. It doesn't matter if you spill on it because everything just wipes right off. No more smudged ink or sloppy recipes. I love the slicks and couldn't live without them, but they posed one problem... you could no longer see the tabs showing each category of food (soups, salads, chicken, etc). I knew there had to be an answer so I jetted on down to Office Depot and found some glossy TABBED dividers that are the same size and the tab sticks out beyond the slicks. Fabulous. The final thing I should note is that a recipe has to be "approved" before it can go in the binder, whether by me or by a friend or family member. If I make a new recipe that I don't love, the recipe doesn't go in the binder. Tough love baby! Why fill it up with things that aren't great?! So, if you are looking to revamp your recipe collection may I recommend a quick trip to Office Depot. You won't be sorry!
Here are the categories I sort by:
  • Appetizers
  • Soup
  • Salad
  • Veggies
  • Sides
  • Pasta
  • Seafood
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Other
  • Breakfast
  • Dessert
  • Beverages
  • Menus
  • Tabletop (pictures from magazines, ideas for table settings or place card holders, etc)

Up next - a new section devoted to cooking healthful meals for my daughter.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Glass Baby Bottle Covers

When my daughter was born I used Evenflo glass baby bottles to avoid anything with Bisphenol-A. As she got older and was able to hold her own bottle I switched to Born Free for fear of a glass bottle breaking. Well looky here - now they have covers for glass baby bottles so if you drop them they won't chip or break. Genius.

There are also a lot more BPA-free baby bottles available these days.

  • Green to Grow
  • Born Free
  • Think Baby
  • Nuby

The Soft Landing offers a BPA-free sampler kit since you never know which type of nipple your child is going to prefer.

Cherries Jubilicious!

Butter? Good.
Sugar? Good.
Brandy? Good.

Fresh cherries? Good.

Paula Dean's Cherries Jubilee? Great!

That Paula Dean knows how to make a great dessert. I bought some fresh, organic, local cherries the other day for a gazillion dollars a pound so I really wanted to enjoy them and what better way than cooking them in butter, sugar and alcohol? Paula's recipe was great. I added a bit more alcohol and about 1/4 cup water to get a little more sauce out of it. I also cut the cherries in half and then mashed them a bit while heating them in the sauce. Serve over some good vanilla ice cream and you will have a little taste of heaven.

Paula's recipe:

If you're interested in making this may I also suggest a cherry pitter. Oxo makes a great one and it can be used for olives too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Acai = The New Antioxidant

My friend was telling me what a great antioxidant Acai is so I did a little research of my own (it has more antioxidants than blueberries!) and ran out and bought some (you can buy Acai smoothie packs in the freezer section at the grocery store).

Use the Sambazon smoothie pack in place of ice. Here is what I used although as any smoothie connoisseur knows, you can use any mix of ingredients.

Acai Fruit Smoothie

half of one Pure Acai smoothie pack
half of a banana
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh strawberries, cut in half
1/2 cup orange juice

Read more about the health benefits of Acai here:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Wish I Had a "Chalet" Dollhouse Growing Up!

Growing up I was a sucker for a fun dollhouse. I could spend countless hours playing dolls and it was all the more fun with a great house. I wish my daughter were old enough to play with them because I think this "Chalet" dollhouse is the cutest thing ever. I can't wait to buy it for her when she's old enough.

I have to add that I love that it has stairs. My dolls always had to perform the impossible and leap from floor to floor. (wink)

Watermelon Cocktails Anyone?

A friend of mine made up this recipe for watermelon cocktails and I absolutely love it. You could serve it in a glass with ice or put the concoction in a bowl in the freezer for about an hour to chill it. I served it ice-cold in mini martini glasses with lime wedges.

I made it two days ago for a big group and everyone thought they were refreshing and tasty so I was going to take another stab at it today. To my surprise when I cut into the watermelon it was yellow inside. Never seen a yellow watermelon before. It tasted the same and I thought the yellow was quite pretty with the lime wedge. Either way, the colors are so vibrant that they look very pretty in any glass. Cheers! (Thank you Tara for the delicious recipe!)

Watermelon Cocktails

1/2 organic seedless watermelon, cut into 1-2" chunks (about one blender full)
1/2 -1 cup vodka (depending how stiff you like 'em)
juice from one lime wedge
1-2 t basil simple syrup (recipe below)

Fill the blender with watermelon cubes and blend until a liquid is formed. Let sit for 10 minutes to separate. Pour through a sieve into a metal bowl, stirring and pushing the watermelon froth to release as much juice as possible. Add vodka, lime juice and basil simple syrup and stir. Taste to adjust flavor. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and freeze for 45-60 minutes. Serve in cute glasses with lime wedges.

Basil Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3-6 basil leaves, chopped

Put sugar and water in a small sauce pan and bring to a bowl. Stir and allow sugar to dissolve. Reduce to simmer and throw in basil leaves. Let sit for 15 minutes. Drain simple syrup through a small sieve. Discard basil leaves.

I think this recipe would also be quite good with mint instead of basil. Next time I will give that a whirl.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hasselback Potatoes from Orangette

I came across these Hasselback Potatoes on the Orangette blog one day and thought they were so cute that I had to try them. They turned out great and really were kind of fun to serve something so different looking. I thought her wooden spoon trick was just genius. I was in an adventurous mood so I tried 6 different preparations. I think my favorite was the potato with a slice of garlic in each cut, topped with olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and herbs de provence. I think the trick is really to make sure the potatoes are a bit crispy, and cooked ALL the way. I am always in a rush to eat so my potatoes should have cooked for a few minutes longer. Very good and such a cute presentation. Will definitely make them again. Thanks Orangette!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pretty Papers

When my daughter was born I started a little diary for her, talking about all the things she was doing and what we were experiencing as new parents. I kept it by my bed and each night (or every few nights ... or weeks) I would jot down a few thoughts. I am addicted to Carrot & Stick Press so of course when it came time to buy a little notebook I went straight to their site. I love the little journals they have in beautiful bright patterns. I also am a HUGE fan of their birthday books. It is so nice to have a book that you can reference year after year versus having to transfer birthdays each year when you get a new calendar (assuming you are like me and can't remember everyone's birthday). And finally, I LOVE their adorable notecards in all the fun patterns. I use them endlessly ... gingerbread notecards to go along with holiday treats for friends, the floral prints for nice thank you notes, skull & crossbone for a quick hello. They also make great gifts. I got my friend one of the birthday books and filled in all of our friend's birthdays. She loved it.

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee

I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Wendy Mogel speak at Town Hall in Seattle. She was amazing and I was frantically taking notes during her lecture so I could remember all the things I wanted to share with my husband. I couldn't buy and read her book fast enough. Her book, "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children" is wonderful. I am not Jewish but found that Dr. Mogel's theories and lessons could transcend all religions if you value her style and approach to parenting. I believe this is a book I will read again and again as I raise my own child(ren) and run into all the challenges big and small that lie ahead. I highly recommend this book as a thought-provoking and wise parenting book.

I would love to hear about parenting books that others like so please post your faves!!!