Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Favorite Jammies for My Little Lovebug

I love these organic cotton jammies from Hanna Anderson. They look so cute on those teeny little bodies. The pink and white stripes are my fave but the seasonal ones go on sale so often that I end up buying more of those. They are originally $36 but you can get them on sale for $18 or $25, especially if you're willing to wear holiday pjs after the holiday. And if you live near a Hannah Anderson outlet store you can get them even cheaper.
These pajamas are not flame-retardant which is a plus for me....
A few years ago I read a very interesting book about the impact chemicals are having on our health. In that book there was a section on SIDS and a possible connection with fire retardant chemicals. A chemist in New Zealand made a persuasive argument that toxic chemicals like fire retardants interact with the heat from the child's body and a fungus that commonly grows in bedding. It creates a gas that asphyxiates the baby. This would make sense considering parents were told for so many years to have their babies sleep on their stomachs. They found that SIDS cases fell 48 percent once they instituted a new campaign to encourage parents to wrap the crib mattress in airtight protective coverings.
Maybe there is truth to this SIDS argument and maybe not, I cannot say. But I always like to avoid chemicals when possible so I am happy knowing there aren't a bunch of fire retardant chemicals on these jammies.

Another way to avoid unnecessary chemical exposure while your baby sleeps is to invest in an organic cotton crib mattress from GIGGLE.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dying to Make This Soon ...

My friend Chris was nice enough to share his secret halibut recipe that I was raving about the other day. It was heavenly. And don't forget to serve with rice or cous cous and those delicious brussel sprouts!

Christopher’s Texas Pecan Crusted Halibut in Tomato Orange Sauce

Fresh halibut fillets (skinned)
4-5 Tbsp grape seed oil
4 cloves purple or rag garlic, minced
14.5 oz can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes (once you use these you’ll never go back)
Zest and juice of 1 navel orange
½ cup fish stock
1 cup of unbleached flour (add some cracked pepper and a touch of salt)
2 eggs
1 cup orange glazed pecans (you can also mix with toffee pecans depending upon your taste and sweet tooth)

The sauce: saute garlic in grape seed oil over medium heat. After a minute, add zest, orange juice, tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil; then reduce and simmer.

Crush the pecans. This can be done by either putting them in a bag and beating on them with a meat tenderizer until they are crushed or using a food processor. Set out three plates and in one plate add your flour, in another add the two beaten eggs, and in the third add the crushed glazed pecans. Take the individual halibut fillets and coat with the flour mixture shaking off the excess. Dip them into the egg and let the excess drizzle off. Finally coat them with the pecan mixture. Continue with each fillet and set aside.

Preheat a cast iron skillet over high heat. This is the best pan to give the pecan crust a crunchy texture. Add grape seed oil to the pan and continue to heat. Place each fillet into the pan for approximately 1-2 minutes per side, bringing the heat down on the pan so you don't burn the fillets. If your fillets are too thick and aren't cooked through in that short time, then throw the pan in the oven for a few minutes until cooked. Remove the fish and serve with basmati or brown rice. Spoon the orange sauce over the fillet and rice.

Christmas Gift Idea #1

If there's someone in your life who is an avid gardener or cook, is interested in the quality of food or the global impact of the food they're eating, or is trying to eat more of what's in season and grown locally, then I highly recommend the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. It's educational and inspiring. I am thoroughly enjoying it and just ordered a few extras as gifts.

Check out the excerpt and recipe on NPR's website.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jennifer Garner Says "She's Magic!"

If you're ever in LA (or live in LA) you should book a facial with "facialist-to-the-stars" Nerida Joy. She has been working as an aesthetician and "skin expert" (a title reserved for dermatologists) for 29 years and has her own spa in Beverly Hills. I went to her for a facial and it changed the way I deal with my skin on a daily basis. I use to get lazy with the eye cream and SPF. Now, not a day goes by that I skip any part of my routine. She really educated me on my skin type, skin damage and what I need to do to improve and prevent signs of aging. She also scared the living daylights out of me when she explained the skin aging process and what's in store, especially once we hit 40. All the more reason to really take care of your skin now and stay out of the sun. That is the toughest part for me. You just look better with a little color but ... play now, pay later. Not worth it I guess.

Nerida said that very few aestheticians can properly diagnose skin and warned me about those who push services like microdermabrasion, monthly facials, peels, etc. She said those are not good options for my skin type ("thin skin"). She said she has so many clients whose skin has been absolutely RUINED by microdermabrasion or other services.
Nerida also sells a line of facial products - cleanser, eye cream, moisturizers and more. I am a big fan and feel that my skin looks better than it has in a long time. I have seen her twice now and we both noticed a significant improvement in the wrinkles around my eyes once I started being really regimented about my morning and night-time routine. All of her products can be ordered online.
If you ever schedule an appointment with her, say Colleen referred you. It doesn't do anything for me but YOU save a bundle on your first visit!

One of the Best of the Year!

I saw the movie "Slumdog Millionaire" last night and let me just say ... wow! It was a powerful story about the life of a young street begger who ends up on a game show and knows each answer based on an experience in his life. The film flashes back to show these moving moments. The cinematography was stunning, the family life tragic, and the love story emotional. Surely one of the best movies of the year. I highly recommend it. Just be prepared - it is intense. And stay for the credits. I needed the pick-me-up after such a gut-wrenching movie.

Read the review from Rolling Stone magazine and watch the YouTube trailer for a sneak peak.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Butterflies for Ornaments & Beyond

I came across these sparkly little butterfly ornaments at Pottery Barn and thought they would be cute on a colorful Christmas tree. This year I'm doing a silver and gold tree so I won't be able to use them but next year I'm vowing to do a really bright, fun, colorful tree. The tree at the Pottery Barn store was so bright and beautiful with these little butterflies perched on branches throughout. They would also be perfect for a mini tree for the kids. They are even cuter in person than in the photo.
They also had these Christmas balls in bright colors - gold, turquoise, green and magenta - that looked great. Shown here (bottom left) in gold.

I will be keeping Pottery Barn on my radar and might go crazy for these items when everything goes on sale. The great thing about the butterflies is that you can use them for other events like a butterfly themed baby shower or a little girl's birthday party. Check out my previous post on Butterfly Party Decorations and you will see how these "ornaments" from Pottery Barn would work right in.

Delicious Dinner Party Menu

I just got back from a fun weekend in Austin, visiting my friends Chris and Jeff. They were wonderful hosts and showed us a great time. Chris is an amazing cook and makes it look so easy. They hosted a dinner party one night and he threw together the most delicious dinner with such ease.

Butternut Squash Soup with Grilled Prawns
This came about by accident actually. The neighbor made a delicious butternut squash soup and Chris was planning to grill some marinated prawns (marinated in garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper I think). He got creative and chopped the prawns up after grilling them and put them in the bottom of the bowl. Then topped with some soup and a little parsley. He also thought a little creme fraiche would be fantastic dribbled over the top but didn't have any. It was so good and a fun twist on traditional butternut squash soup.

Sauteed Brussel Sprouts with Lemon and Pistachios
I have never been a huge fan of brussel sprouts but these were so good I had a huge second helping. Trimming the leaves off took a minute or two (understatement clearly as we made three bunches) but was worth it. I loved the presentation. This would be the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dinner. It's a quick and easy preparation once you get the leaves trimmed. Recipe from Epicurious.

Pecan-Crusted Halibut
I'm on the hunt for this recipe. It was absolutely delicious. There was a sauce made of crushed whole tomatoes in sauce, fish stock, orange zest and more. The halibut was served with wild rice and the sauce spooned over both. I ate every last bite. Delicious. I will post the recipe when I track it down.

Handmade Sweets with a Dash of Spice

If you're in need of some stocking stuffers, holiday hostess gifts or something to satisfy your sweet tooth, I highly recommend the tasty delights from Whimsy & Spice. The clever duo behind Sweet Find Day recently re-launched their website (and now offer ecommerce directly) for their delicious homemade sweets.
Thinking they would make great gifts for the holidays, I thought I would order a few bags for a trial run. Good excuse to indulge, isn't it?! I have been testing them out with my coffee in the morning and as dessert after dinner and must say they are some fine little cookies.

They offer small bags of cookies, biscotti, brownies and more. Or you can order gift boxes and try a variety of goodies. Their treats have a shelf life of 8 weeks but are best eaten within 5-10 days so keep that in mind when ordering.

My faves:

Pumpkin Ginger Sandwich Cookies
A creamy white chocolate filling, delicately spiked with white pepper is sandwiched between two spiced pumpkin ginger cookies dusted with sparkling sugar. Each 2" cookie is perfectly crisp on the outside, but cake-like on the inside.

Hazelnut Chocolate Whisky Sandwich
A bittersweet Scotch Whisky-infused Madagascar chocolate filling nestles between two cookies studded with ground hazelnuts and rich chocolate chips. Each cookie is 2.25 inches in diameter.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I cam across this list of Dr. Perricone's Superfoods on Oprah's website. Click on each one to learn more about it. I always love these kinds of lists because they inspire me at the grocery store.

The Allium Family
Beans and Lentils
Green Foods
Hot Peppers
Nuts and Seeds
Yogurt and Kefir

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Future of Fish

Seafood fans - read this quick article, "A Seafood Snob Ponders the Future of Fish", from the New York Times last Sunday. It won't make you stop eating fish, but you may be more aware of what you're eating going forward.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Great Finds at JCrew

JCrew has really impressed me with their new launch into jewelry these last few seasons. I think they've got some really fun pieces that don't break the bank. I purchased the bracelet pictured above last spring and had fun with it this summer. Jenna Lyon, Creative Director of JCrew, is wearing it on this month's cover of Domino. Super cute.

My dear friend Froiline Maria got me the bracelet pictured below for my birthday and I love it too. I love the gold tassle that dangles off the bracelet. Super cute (must be my new saying). Both are fun pieces when you want to snaz up an outfit for an evening out.


I'm also a fan of the oversized rings that JCrew is selling this season (I'm a sucker for big rings) as well as some cute necklaces and bracelets. Check 'em out. I say better to peruse the store than the website though. Jewelry can be tough. Some things are much cuter in person and some are actually better photographed (they can look cheap in person) so it's good to get your hands on a piece to try before you buy. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ABCs & 123s

Well how stinkin' cute are these handmade stuffed felt letters and numbers that I came across on Etsy?! I may have to get a set for my daughter as a Christmas gift. She's way too young for them but I can't resist.

You can even buy individual letters for $1 a piece. There are lots of fun things you could do with these. Attach them to the top of a wrapped gift for a birthday present. Mount them on the door of each child's bedroom. Sew them to felt stockings for the kids to hang over the fireplace. Make them into Christmas tree ornaments for a kid's tree. I'm not that crafty so I'm sure you creative types can come up with even better ideas. Do share if you think of something clever!

I is for Indulge and Ina!

My friend Whitney made Ina's Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing yesterday and I had the pleasure of indulging in one last night. I ate every last crumb of that delicious little cake and have been day-dreaming about them ever since.

She skipped the chopped nuts on top which I think was a good call. I was kind of surprised to read that on the recipe actually. The frosting was so good although she said she wished it made more. Maybe it wasn't the recipe's fault and the fact that she was sneaking spoonfuls for herself (hmmm?). I thought they were perfect and plan to make them first chance I get. Give 'em a whirl! The recipe looks pretty easy and they won't disappoint!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Life in a Nutshell

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast? said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.

Books Galore

I don't buy my daughter an overabundance of toys, but I don't think you can ever have too many children's books. There are so many great books out there that I find it hard to control myself. I'm always finding new ones at the bookstore, reading about them on blogs or hearing about favorites from friends.

I recently posted my list of favorite kids books but as I'm sure you experience, the little tots discover new favorites every few weeks (much to my relief actually because if I had to read some of them one more time I might go crazy insane!). The book Is There Really a Human Race is still a top contender, but here are some other current favorites...

Caps for Sale
Esphyr Slobodkina

My friend Whitney just shared some of her favorites and one is the delightful book Caps For Sale. Originally copyrighted in 1940, it is a clever little tale about a cap peddler and what happens to his caps one day during a snooze. My daughter and I thoroughly enjoy it. And any time she starts to get bored, I remind her that there are monkeys in the tree and she simmers back down into my lap. Fun little children's book.

A Bear and His Boy
Sean Bryan (Author) & Tom Murphy (Illustrator)

I can't remember where I first came across A Boy & His Bunny but my daughter and I both love it. Now she is loving another book by the same duo, A Bear & His Boy, and we've read it a couple hundred thousand times. We've liked them so much that I just ordered A Girl & Her Gator, and my husband and daughter are reading it now as I get a break to blog. I'm sure we'll be reading it ALL day tomorrow.

Barney Saltzberg

My friend Nicole first told me about Animal Kisses when her daughter fell in love with it. I picked one up for my daughter and she is also a fan. Come to find out there are several more including Baby Animal Kisses and the favorite in our house, Peekaboo Kisses, because it has different fabrics/textures like the other books AND it has flaps for the kids to flip. If you just get one, that would be the one to try. Fun for little ones!

ABC: A Child's First Alphabet Book
Alison Jay

And finally, I'm sure you've heard of all the wonderful picture books by Alison Jay. I love her ABC book because each page is full of items starting that page's letter and it's fun to go through and point everything out. We also like her book Picture This.

So ... what to do with all those children's books you're collecting??? In addition to them being strewn throughout the entire house, I've collected three little bamboo shelves to store my daughter's books. You can find them at antique stores from time to time and they have a little more character than a plain set of bookshelves. And if you're lucky you can get a good deal on them so you're spending less than a traditional set. These two are from Pacific Galleries Antique Mall in Seattle.

Would love to know what your favorite children's books are so please post a comment and share!

Attention Bookshelf Junkies

Don't you love these?! I love that they're built around those two huge windows. The best of both worlds - a wall of bookshelves and big windows for natural light! Featured on Desire to Inspire.
By Brooklyn-based Delson or Sherman Architects

Monday, November 17, 2008

High School Mockumentary

If you're a fan of HBO's Flight of the Conchords or Extras then you may also like the new HBO series Summer Heights High. My husband and I caught a glimpse of it the other night while channel surfing and were instantly hooked. It's an Australian series with creator/writer Chris Lilley playing the show's three extravagantly dysfunctional characters.

Mr. G (my favorite)


Ja'mie (pronounced Jeh-MAY)

"It is a satirical parody of high school life epitomised by its three protagonists: effeminate and megalomaniac "Director of Performing Arts" Mr. G; self-absorbed, privileged teenager Ja'mie King; and disobedient, vulgar Tongan student Jonah. It lampoons Australian high school life and many aspects of the human condition and is filmed in a documentary style, with lay people playing supporting characters." -Wikipedia

If the rest of the season is anything like the first two episodes then we're on board. Too bad there are only eight episodes of this hilarious and twisted mockumentary. Flight of the Conchords will start just in time with the new season premiering in January. Can't wait for that.

Summer Heights High is on HBO, Sundays at 10:30pm.

Ceeeeeeeeeelebrate Good Times, Come On!

In celebration of my sister's recent elopement, my husband and I hosted a ten-course Chinese dinner for our family. We had ten people and sat at one of those large round tables with a lazy Susan. It was great fun. I love being able to try so many dishes and the round table allows for great group conversation. We pre-selected the menu items so it would be easy and there would be enough food for everyone to try each course. I highly recommend this type of event if you have something to celebrate with a group that size. It's really cost effective for a large group too.
(For all you Seattlites: We went to Sea Garden in the International District. The food was fantastic and the service was great.)

I made menus and place cards using a version of the Chinese character Double Happiness, a symbol often used as a decorative piece for weddings (on invitations for example). The place cards would have been cuter but I was in a rush to get the names written on them. Not bad for how quickly I made them. I also got the little traditional red paper envelopes, used for Chinese New Year and Chinese weddings, and enclosed a brand new one dollar bill for each person for good luck.

The best course was the whole crab with black bean sauce. It was delicious. There's no classy way to eat it. You have to get some crab crackers and roll up your sleeves because it's gonna get messy. I even had a Julia Roberts/Pretty Woman "slippery little suckers" moment when a crab claw went flying. Good times!


Salt & Pepper Squid
Hot & Sour Soup
Prawns Sauteed with Honey Glazed Walnut
Crab with Black Bean Sauce
Chinese Broccoli with Cod Fillet
Diced Chicken with Cashew Nuts (Boneless)
Beef with Oyster Sauce
Chinese Long Bean with Black Bean Sauce
Barbecued Pork with Rice
Chicken & Chinese Green Chow Mein

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I Die for Pomellato

I am crazy for the Italian jewelry brand Pomellato. I think they have such beautiful and fun rings. Many of their rings are meant to be stacked two or three on a finger. I love the look. These are a few of my favorite styles from their latest collection.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I'm Cured!

I am officially cured of my fear of high-waisted jeans. I went from a non-believer to a huge fan in a matter of minutes. All it took was trying on a pair. Much to my surprise they weren't heinous on me, and after a few minutes of review I realized they were actually quite flattering. There are SO many cute styles out there now so between trying some on and seeing some great pairs in the fashion mags, I'm officially a fan. Some cuties below...

Anlo Anna High Waist Jean in Ibiza Wash

J Brand Eve High Rise Wide leg Jean with Flaps in Della wash as seen on Vanessa Hudgens

Star-struck for high-waisted jeans:

Funny enough, I actually walked by Hilary Duff that day as I was coming out of the elevator! She looked great.

Now I don't know that I'd really call Kate's jeans "high-waisted" but True Jeans thought so and I'm borrowing the photos from them so I'll go with it. I have always loved that simple outfit of hers. Oh to look that cute in t-shirt and jeans.

In The Spirit of the Over Cocktails/Michael Pollan Challenge

I thought I should offer a few meatless dinner ideas that are tasty with a capital "T". I love making puttanesca. You can throw it together in 20 minutes and it's delicious. I like to serve with my version of garlic bread and a green salad. You can whip those up while the sauce simmers and the noodles cook. Easy! Delicious!


2 T olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1/8 t red chili peppers

1/4 cup capers
1/2 t anchovy paste
1 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
1 large can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
2-3 T parsley, chopped
1/2 or 3/4 box of spaghetti noodles

1/4 c freshly grated parmesan
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for several minutes, making sure not to burn. Add red chili peppers and saute for another minute.
  3. Add capers, kalamata olives and anchovy paste. Stir to combine.
  4. Crush tomatoes with your hand to break down large chunks. Pour tomatoes and juice into pan, turn heat up to high and bring sauce almost to a boil, stirring a few times.
  5. Reduce heat, stir in parsley and let sauce simmer to thicken.
  6. Add salt to the boiling water and cook spaghetti noodles until almost done. Drain and toss noodles with the sauce, a little at a time so you can control for the level of sauce that you like.
  7. Transfer to bowls and sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan.


Slice a baguette on the diagonal into ½ inch slices. Brush with olive oil and place on a cookie sheet. Broil for one minute. Flip if the underside needs a little toasting too. Remove and rub the top of the toasts with the cut edge of a garlic clove.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Plan Ahead, Save $, Eat Healthier

Click on image to view in full.

I came across this great idea for a meal planner on a blog and loved it. (I can't remember or find which blog so I'm sorry I can't reference it or give credit). I took the idea and ran. On Sunday I planned my meals for the entire week. I'm the kind of person who loves making lists so this was a fun project for me. I figured out specific dinners, and some breakfast and lunch options. I usually prefer leftovers for lunch so I just needed a few options in case we pigged out the night before and didn't leave any.

It was great to have a complete list at the grocery store because when I don't know exactly what I'm cooking, I tend to over-buy. I spend more $ up front and then end up wasting food because things go bad before we can get to it. Knowing exactly what I needed for the week saved me money on both ends. I also saved money because I didn't buy so much meat. I did one chicken dinner, one fish dinner, and three meatless dinners. That definitely lightened up my grocery bill. And finally, because my list was so complete, I don't have to run to the store mid-week to get items I forgot. This was the cheapest grocery store excursion I've had in months. My husband was also impressed and it's nice to show that I'm doing what I can to cut costs while the economy is in a tail-spin.

Here are some basic meal planning tips:

  • Plan meat dinners earlier in the week so you don't have to freeze your meat.
  • Plan one or two meatless days. Sounds tough but it's not. See Michael Pollan post for inspiration.
  • Always make more than you need for dinner. Leftovers are the easiest lunch for you and your kids and dinner is generally more nutritious than lunch options (chicken and veggies rather than grilled cheese for example).
  • Make a big batch of soup once a week. It is SO good for you and provides meals for a few days.
  • After you write your grocery list, take a quick inventory of your pantry so you're not buying things you don't need (chicken stock, tomato paste, beans, etc).
  • Making a roast chicken on Sunday can provide a few meals (soup, chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, etc) throughout the week.
  • Try to overlap food items ... if you're making tacos one night, use the leftover tortillas, sour cream, salsa and cheese for chicken enchiladas or breakfast burritos on another day.
  • Try to imagine your food planner as a color chart. You want to eat as many colors in a day as possible so make sure you're meal planner has a colorful selection of foods (green, red, blue, purple, yellow, orange).
  • You could also add a row for snacks or desserts!
  • I've found that the more meals I have planned, the less likely I am to eat out (which saves money and is much healthier for you).

So plan ahead, save money and eat healthier! And please share your weekly meal-planning tips! I would love to hear how other people manage this piece of the puzzle. Thanks and happy planning!

Hipster Baby Names

I'm kind of obsessed with baby names so I thought this list of Hipster Names was fun to look over. Found on Oh Happy Day.

The Social Security Administration website is another fun place to do research on names. They provide a list of the top 10 baby names for the previous year. Here is the list for 2007.

The website also has search options for:

  • Popular Names by Birth Year
  • Popularity of a Name
  • Top 5 Names by State
  • Top 1000 Names by Decade
  • Top 5 Names Over the Last 100 Years

Fun stuff, especially if you are pregnant and can't lock down a name.


My computer has been out sick for a few days with a Facebook virus. The husband fixed it last night so we're back up and rolling today. Lots of posts in the works!

Monday, November 10, 2008

More on Martha

Well tonight I tried two more recipes from my new Martha cookbook and was very happy with both. I made her Braised Fish with Fennel & Tomato and her Brown Rice Pilaf with Dried Currants. The fish was great and I will definitely make it again. The brown rice pilaf was good but my husband and I are such suckers for white rice that it's hard for us to LOVE any other rice preparation. It was really good though and a nice accompaniment to the fish. I served the two dishes with a mixed greens salad with apple cider vinaigrette inspired by a restaurant here in town called La Spiga. It was good and an easy side to throw together since I was making two new dishes.
I highly recommend the fish, especially if you can get your hands on fresh seafood. Even my mother-in-law, who is the master of cooking fish, loved it and said she would add it to her repertoire! Big props when she likes your cooking!!! I used cod and halibut. My mother-in-law and I preferred the cod, my husband preferred the halibut. Both were great though.

Braised Fish with Fennel & Tomato
My adaptation of Martha's recipe

3 T olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
2 or 3 medium fennel bulbs, halved, cored, and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 can of whole peeled tomatoes, cut in quarters (use juice too)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
5 thin lemon rounds, shave off some of the peel first with grater or zester *
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 large black cod or halibut fillets **

Prepare Braising Liquid: Pour the oil, wine, and water into a large (13-inch) skillet, then add the fennel, tomatoes, garlic, and lemon slices. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer over moderate heat until the tomatoes begin to fall apart and the fennel softens, 12 to 15 minutes.
Braise Fish: Sprinkle both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and arrange fillets in the pan, partially submerging them in the sauce. Cover and simmer until fish is opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes (or 8 to 10 for thicker fillets).
Serve: Spoon some of the braising sauce into a shallow bowl, then top with fish. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with pepper.
* If the skin on your lemons is not too bitter (check by tasting a washed one), you may want to leave it on; this will help the slices hold their shape. Otherwise, remove the rind before slicing.
** Buy fish fillets that are similar in size (4 to 5 ounces each) so they cook at the same rate. A 1 1/2-inch thickness is ideal, allowing the fillets to cook evenly. Much thicker and the exterior could toughen before the center has cooked.

Paper Delights

It's not too early to start thinking about holiday cards. Last year I got on it very late and sent them out at the last minute. Not only did I not want my cards to arrive after Christmas but it's the last thing I wanted to be working on during the holidays. So this year I'm on top of things.

Last year I used Wiley Valentine and loved them. They just launched a new website and blog and have some cute options again this year. Last year I used their Whitman design (shown below) as a starting point, changed the wording and added a picture. They turned out fabulous! I will be using Wiley Valentine again this year so time to get moving on things. Photos have been taken so it's time to hammer down what I want them to look like. Hmmmm....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

wear a pair, share a pair

This morning at brunch I spotted someone wearing TOMS shoes. I was so excited to see my first pair now that I have been introduced to the brand. I shared the story behind TOMS with my friend Jennie and she told me that crocs has a similar program. You can take in your old crocs and they will recycle them, make them into a brand new pair and donate to someone in need. Again, amazed at these great programs. I am sure there are closets across America full of old crocs that don't fit the kids anymore. With the rate at which kids feet grow, I imagine most parents are replacing their kids crocs every year. So grab your kids tomorrow for a croc hunt and check out Soles United for more information on how to get your crocs to them. Jennie said in Seattle it's as easy as taking them to Nordstrom.
How it works:
  1. Wear
    Wear your crocs shoes until the tread becomes worn and they reach their end-of-life.
  2. Share
    Donate your worn-out crocs shoes at participating retail locations. You can recognize participating retailer partners through posted "authorized collection center" window stickers at the retailer’s entrance. Those without a nearby retailer can participate by mailing their worn-out crocs footwear directly to the SolesUnited program.
  3. Recycle
    Once worn-out crocs footwear are received, they are sorted, ground up and made into new SolesUnited recycled shoes. These recycled shoes are loaded into containers and are picked up at the warehouse by our shipping partners, who then send them to approved non-profit organizations around the world.
  4. Donate
    SolesUnited shipping partners work with organizations that can assure shoes will be delivered to those who need them. To date we have donated over 1 million pairs of shoes. In 2008, our goal is to donate 2 million pairs of recycled shoes to those in need.

Show your kids a picture like this and they can feel good about helping someone their age in a country far far away.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Oh Martha!

I picked up the cookbook Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook today at Costco and highly recommend it. I perused it cover to cover the minute I got home and think it's a great cookbook for beginners and more seasoned cooks alike. It is especially great for beginners because of it's vast supply of basic information:
  • complete run-down on equipment, tools, knives, pots & pans, baking necessities and more
  • cuts of meat and basic preparations (stocks, braising, grilling, roasting, frying, poaching, stir-frying and more)
  • complete guide to vegetables (various preparations, what to look for, how to store each variety and more)
  • guide to making pasta
  • section on dried beans and grains
  • chapter devoted to desserts
  • step-by-step photography to accompany instructions and recipes throughout entire book

If you know someone who is just learning how to cook, I highly recommend this book as a great gift. I bought one as a gift but might run back and get a few more. Available on Amazon for $29.70 or from Costco for $25.99. Cover-price is $45.

I dog-eared a few dozen recipes that I can't wait to try. This week's list:

  • Braised Fish with Fennel & Tomato
  • Brown Rice Pilaf with Currants (and toasted sliced almonds)
  • Indian Spiced Split Pea Soup (for my meatless day this week!)

Tonight I made some roasted vegetables, inspired by her Roasted Autumn Harvest Salad. They were so easy and so good. Here's how easy:

Roasted Vegetables

4 small golden beets, peeled and cut into quarters or sixths depending on size
4 carrots, peeled & halved lengthwise
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3” chunks (halve the thicker end pieces lengthwise)
3 shallots
2 T olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Heat oven to 450. Toss vegetables with olive oil on large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring two or three times, until fork tender. Remove any smaller pieces that are cooked through if larger ones need more
time. Serve hot.

Cook Up Some Quinoa Tonight

pronounced keh-NO-ah or KEEN-wah

When my daughter was first starting to eat regular food I was on the hunt for healthy things to feed her. My friend Tara introduced me to quinoa and said it was a great source of protein and other nutrients. Quin-what? Quinoa? Never heard of it. So the next time I went to the grocery store I picked up a bag to test it out. To my surprise, my daughter gobbled it up. I mixed it with a little diced chicken, avocado and steamed vegetables and she loved it.

I came across this article in The New York Times on Monday "Quinoa: A Protein-Packed Alternative to Grains" which states:

"Quinoa is as versatile as rice but it has a protein content that is superior to that of most grains, because it contains all the essential amino acids. In particular, quinoa is high in lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair. It’s also a good source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and it has a high iron content."

A great alternative to rice. All you need to do is rinse it, toast it in a pan for a few minutes and then cook in a pan as you would rice (boil, then reduce to simmer until cooked). Serve as I did, or with beans or lentils or check out 101 Cookbooks for some quinoa recipes.