Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Dinner

I was assigned an appetizer and a salad this year for Christmas dinner. I always love an excuse to try new recipes so I took on my aunt's brie appetizer, my uncle's Portuguese Caesar salad, and my mother-in-law's croutons. What would I do without those three?! They've provided me with an endless supply of great recipes. Here they are...


Round of good brie
2 large heads of garlic
1-2T brown sugar for sprinkling on garlic
2T brown sugar for sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
Box of water crackers

Cut garlic in half horizontally and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Top with olive oil and brown sugar and wrap the foil up around the garlic. Roast for 1 hour in 400 degree oven.
Remove garlic cloves (with a small spoon or knife) and boil with sugar, olive oil and honey. Meanwhile, freeze cheese for 30 minutes. Cut off brine. Set on a microwavable safe dish. Top with roasted garlic sauce and microwave for 30 seconds or until cheese starts to warm and soften. Serve with crackers.


3-5 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much garlic you can handle)
1 or 2 anchovy fillets, minced
juice from one lemon
1 egg yolk (I used the yolk from a coddled egg but most recipes use a raw egg yolk)
1T Dijon
1T Worcestershire
2t Tabasco
4T balsamic vinegar
1 cup good olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, lots
Romaine lettuce
Butter leaf lettuce (not mandatory but it is nice to have a little bit of this mixed in too)
1-1.5 cups Asiago cheese, grated
Homemade croutons (recipe below)
Add a sprinkle of salt to the minced garlic and then mash into a paste using the side of a large knife. Add minced anchovy and continue to mash into a paste. Add mixture to a large wooden salad bowl. Add a touch of olive oil and mash a bit more. Whisk in the egg yolk, lemon, Dijon, Worcestershire, Tabasco, balsamic and pepper. Then whisk in olive oil. Using a small lettuce leaf, test dressing. You may want to adjust if any flavor is too strong for you. Add lettuce, croutons, cheese and pepper. Toss to combine. Serve with a little more cheese and pepper sprinkled on top.

Cube of butter
Day old bread, cut into 1" cubes
Garlic powder and/or onion powder (I use both)
Garlic salt and/or regular salt (I use both)

Melt the butter in a large saute pan. Sprinkle some of each seasoning over melted butter. Add bread and stir to coat. Sprinkle with more seasoning and parmesan. Transfer to a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 or broil until crispy. Be careful not to burn.

Handmade + Homemade = Looks Like Grandma-made?

The beauty of blogs is that they help you find what you've been "looking" for, without ever having to look for it. For a year now I've been meaning to make my own felt stockings for my family. I wanted to make ones that matched the one my grandmother made me when I was born. It's a big task though and I haven't been up for the challenge for the last 12 months. I worried that another year might go by with the same result. Until 5 minutes ago when I found this little beauty posted on Party Perfect.

Hable Construction has a huge array of wool felt stockings on sale, and as a fun feature to get you interested, they have a Make Your Own Mantle feature where you can play around with the different designs to see what you like together. The stockings are hand made by a women's cooperative in Hungary. Very cool.

I think the stockings are cute, but they lack a little pizazz. I want something that looks a little more homemade. I might order up a few and dazzle 'em up with some homemade touches. Maybe write each person's name in felt with the sequence sewn around the letters like my grandmother did. I think the Santa stocking definitely needs some angora sewn to the top, the star above the three wise men could have something sparkly added to it, and the candy canes definitely need a little life added to them. This could be a fun project and a little more manageable than starting from scratch. I'll keep you posted if I end up getting some.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Your Most Precious Cargo

Did you know that 9 out of 10 car seats are not properly installed!

Scary fact.

If you live in the Seattle area, I highly recommend contacting Sue Emery. She is a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and makes house calls in her off-hours. She doesn't just install your car seat for you - she educates you about the seat, proper installation, seat belt versus latch installation, and helps you determine the safest place, based on the make and model of your car, to install your car seat. She does not charge for her visit but asks for donations for her time. We called Sue to help with our infant and toddler car seats and were glad we did. This is one item you don't want to rush. It's far too important when you're dealing with such precious cargo. If you don't live in the greater-Seattle area, do a little research to find someone knowledgeable who can help you.

Sue Emery: 206-619-2871

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Something Different

My uncle is a great cook and I have so many recipes in my repertoire thanks to him. This is a great pasta to make when you're getting bored with your basic recipes. It is also something you can generally make with stuff in your pantry and a quick trip to the store for fresh noodles and asiago cheese. It's the easiest recipe on earth and can be done in less than 20 minutes. Serve this with a salad or sauteed spinach and you have yourself a great dinner. Perfect for your meatless day too!

Pasta with Breadcrumbs & Capers

3 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 package fresh egg noodles (linguine)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
1-2 t fresh oregano
1-2 t fresh basil
1-2 t fresh thyme
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup capers in juice
1 cup asiago cheese
lots of fresh ground pepper
Heat olive oil and butter. Add garlic and shallot and heat until it bubbles. Cook for several minutes, stirring and making sure not to burn garlic. Add breadcrumbs and herbs. Cook on medium heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in capers. Cook noodles according to instructions (generally 2-3 minutes in boiling salted water), drain and add to the breadcrumb mixture. Top with cheese and pepper. Stir to combine and serve hot.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ex Libris

My sister-in-law knows I'm addicted to buying children's books for my daughter so she got me these adorable Felix Doolittle personalized bookplates. They are so cute and I can't wait to put them in our favorite books.

They also have fill-in-the-blank bookplates with "for", "from" and "notes" which would be such a cute touch when you give a book as a gift. I like to add an inscription on the inside cover but a special little label would be even better.

Felix Doolittle also has an array of stationary products including note cards, invitations, baby announcements, return address labels and more. They have an extensive collection of illustrations to chose from. They can also create a custom illustration of your home for your own personal stationary. That would be a thoughtful housewarming gift for someone with a new home (if you can sneak a photo) or a neat thing to do for a change of address announcement if you move.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Gift of The Year Award

As long as I'm talking about favorite gifts, I should mention my daughter's favorite gift this year. No, it wasn't the kitchen set from Santa, the tea set or mini trike from her grandparents, or the books from her cousin. It was the over-sized box, turned upside down with a door and windows cut into it. She played in her little cardboard house with her teddy bears and dolls ALL day yesterday and is back at it again.
My mom and dad suggested making the house when we were taking the kitchen set out of the boxes. They remembered making box houses for me each time we got a new appliance and that I loved playing in them.
We were also really into making forts when I was little so I look forward to doing that one day with my little one. We didn't just make a simple fort though, we'd take over the entire basement with a sprawling home fort - complete with halls and separate rooms for each person. Something fun to do with your kids on a rainy afternoon. It could keep them busy for hours!

My Toes Thank You!

Thank you to my sister-in-law Allison for my most favorite gift of the year. I am loving these Shearling slipper mocs from JCrew. I love wearing slippers around my house because my feet are always cold. These are the most perfect pair - warm, soft, cute, and not too bulky. My toesies are in heaven in these cozy little moccasins.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Merry Christmas

Today my husband, daughter and I will host Christmas brunch for our families. We will have coffee, mimosas and pastries while we open gifts and then enjoy a huge breakfast. I'm doing the same menu as last year which includes a spinach & egg strata, baked french toast, New York-style Italian sausage and fruit. See my previous post for the recipes. My father-in-law isn't eating carbs so I'm making him a variation of this baked egg dish. It will be a whirlwind day but I can't wait! Merry Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Lovely Linens

I first saw these Crochet Edge Napkins by Kim Seybert in Cookie magazine. They are classic linen napkins rimmed in looping metallic gold. I love them. Available at Neiman Marcus or sold online through Vivre.

photo from Cookie mag

Oh So Good For You!

My friend Whitney and her husband make smoothies every morning with their infomercial purchase, the Magic Bullet. She loves it and prefers using it over a blender. I hate having a monster blender on my kitchen counter and especially hate cleaning it so this looks enticing.
On that note, Whitney told me last night "over cocktails" that if she hasn't had anything green for the last 24 hours she will throw some spinach and apple juice in the Magic Bullet for a quick hit. What a great way to get more greens in your diet. I can't tell you how often I go days without eating any green veggies so I loved hearing her trick.
This morning I was making a spinach and egg strata for Christmas brunch. I had some leftover spinach so with Whitney in mind I lugged out my enormous blender and whipped up some spinach, an apple (cut into chunks) and some OJ and had myself a delicious (yes, delicious!) little juice that was so good for me. The sweetness of the apple and OJ completely override the spinach flavor. I'm sure that my 17 month old would drink it too so what a great way to sneak spinach into her belly!
Whitney also introduced me to the Flu Buster drink at a local organic cafe called Chaco Canyon. It is SO good. She said she makes this type of thing at home all the time with her Magic Bullet so I will be giving it a try soon, although maybe with a blender.
Flu Buster:
Fresh juice of an apple
Fresh juice of an orange
Fresh juice of a lemon
Topped with cayenne pepper and steamed

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Gift Idea #8

If you're racing around town trying to finish up your Christmas shopping, here's a few last minute ideas for you.

My sister-in-law introduced me to Seda France Classic Toile Pagoda Box Candles several years ago. The candles are very fragrant and come in great scents. My favorite are the French Tulip and the Japanese Quince. They would make a lovely gift for a girlfriend or female family member. Seattleites can find these candles and other great gifts at Stuhlbergs on Queen Anne (one of my most favorite stores for gifts and children's items). They can also be found on Amazon.

I am also a huge fan of Diptyque candles and recently gave one as part of a hostess gift to our friends Chris and Jeff who invited us to stay at their home in Austin. One of the reasons I love this brand so much is that they have great scents for guys. I opted for the Baies scent for them but I also love the Figuier, Feu De Bois and Ambre candles for any men in your life. They also have great florals and more girly scents for women too. Seattleites can find these candles at Barneys (downtown Seattle) or purchase online at Beauty Habit.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stocking Stuffers

In my husband's family, everyone buys stocking stuffers for everyone else so we all end up with a stocking bursting full of little wrapped gifts - things like Altoids, nail polish, lottery tickets, and more. This year my husband suggested Wine Away as a stocking stuffer for family members. Genius I thought.

I've heard lots of remedies for red wine spills - white wine, tonic, soda, salt and more - but I've never had luck with any of those completely removing a red wine stain. Enter, WINE AWAY!

During an especially competitive round of Apples to Apples (another great Christmas gift idea) one of our friends knocked a glass of red wine over and it sprayed everywhere. I thought we would never get the full stain out but the Wine Away worked wonders and removed every last spot. We were stunned by the results and now swear by it. Available online and at most grocery stores.

Easy Roast Chicken

We've been snowed in for a few days here in Seattle so I've been cooking for four and a half people (my 17month old is the half) and trying to cook things that allow for leftovers. I decided to make a roast chicken with some veggies I had leftover in the fridge. I used the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for Garlic Roast Chicken as a road map and spruced it up from there. My version provided a complete meal (with leftovers for lunch today) and turned out moist and delicious.

Easy Roast Chicken

10 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks if they're thick carrots
4 parsnips, peeled and thick end cut off
4 medium red potatoes, quartered
1 whole yellow onion, quartered
2-3 T olive oil
1-2 t fresh thyme, minced
1-2 t fresh oregano, minced
1-2 t fresh parsley, minced
1 (4-5lb) whole chicken

2 heads garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 lemon, quartered

5 T butter, 90% melted
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Pull chicken from the fridge and let it sit for 20-30 minutes before cooking. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and turn on convection option if you have it (otherwise cook at 425 degrees).

Put vegetables into a large roasting pan and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs.

Remove giblets from chicken. Rinse and pat dry. Sprinkle inside with salt and pepper. Stuff garlic and lemon into the cavity and tie the legs together with cooking twine. Place chicken into the roasted pan with the veggies around the outside. Slather the bird with the butter using your hand or a brush (I like to use a silicone basting brush) and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Cook for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes. While chicken is cooking, stir vegetables every 20 minutes or so, so they don't burn or stick to the pan. When they're fork tender you can pull those from the roasting pan and set aside. Check the internal temperature of the chicken around one hour. You want to remove the chicken when the internal temp reaches 165, then cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

Carve chicken and serve with potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onion wedges.

Recipe for Sole

I got some great Petrale Sole fillets at the fish market yesterday (*Seattleites read below). I've only just started cooking sole so I referenced a few recipes for some ideas. Between my new Martha Stewart cookbook, a few online recipes and some suggestions from my mother-in-law, I came up with the following recipe. I served with "butter rice" (Asian white rice cooked in a rice cooker, then add butter, chicken bouillon, chopped green onion and toasted pine nuts) and a green veggie. Delicious dinner, easy, quick and relatively good for you.

3 Petrale Sole fillets
3 T olive oil
3 T butter
1/3 cup flour, on a large plate
2 T minced garlic
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 parsley, chopped

Heat 2 T olive oil and 1 T butter in a large saute pan on medium heat. Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Add to the hot pan and saute for approximately 4 minutes per side (until lightly browned and almost cooked through). Transfer fillets to a plate. Add more olive oil to the pan, heat for a moment and then add garlic. Saute for a few minutes and then add capers. Add wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Then add lemon juice, 2 T butter and parsley and stir to combine. Add fillets back to pan and spoon sauce over the top. Heat for a few minutes, until fully cooked through, then plate and serve.

Petrale Sole is wild caught and has medium to high levels of abundance.

From the Food Network Encyclopedia:
Petrale sole: [peh-TRAH-lee SOHL] Not a true sole, but rather a flounder that is found in the Pacific Ocean from Alaska to Mexico. It's highly prized for its excellent flavor and fine-textured, lowfat flesh. Those found in the market generally weigh from 1 to 5 pounds. They can be purchased fresh and frozen, whole or in fillets. Petrale sole can be prepared in almost any manner including sautéing, broiling, grilling and poaching.

While looking for a good photo to use for this post, I came across this recipe for Panko Crusted Sole with Creme Fraiche Caper Sauce that looks delicious. I might try it next time.

* Mutual Fish is the best place to buy seafood if you live in Seattle. It is located on Rainier Avenue South a few blocks south of I90.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas

Every year I try to remember the order of this song so I thought a little refresher wouldn't hurt. My poor daughter has to listen to me sing it out of order AND out of tune so this will at least help resolve the first part. Here's the last verse for all you fans out there...

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a-leaping,
Nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a-milking,
Seven swans a-swimming,
Six geese a-laying,
Five golden rings,
Four calling birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Favorite Event of The Year - Hoiday Brunch with My Besties!

Every year I host a holiday brunch for my very best friends from college. It is my most favorite event of the year. Here are the details...

The menu:
I normally love planning a menu but this year I had "chef's block" and couldn't think of what to make. To remedy the situation I introduced a little contest. I asked all of my friends to submit menu ideas and whoever submitted ideas that I used would win a door prize. After receiving a ton of ideas I put together the following menu and awarded two different prizes from the Anthousa Bath & Body Collection.
Croque Monsieur Sandwiches - absolutely delicious!
Butternut Squash Soup - my own variation on this recipe (coming soon)
Sauteed Brussel Sprouts - huge surprise that I made these, right?

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting - heaven on earth!

Mimosas & champagne cocktails (champagne with blood orange Italian soda mix), coffee, sparkling water

Party Favors:
Bags of homemade party mix (recipe posted Monday) with pretty ribbon and holiday tags

David Monn, the celebrated New York event planner, was recently quoted in a New York Times Style Section article saying "People love the permission to be comfortable". With that in mind I went for a very laid back setting this year and created a little tree-side picnic. On my living room floor, in front of our lit Christmas tree, I threw out a nice tablecloth, a drink tray, flowers and centerpieces, sparkling pine cones and candles all on the floor. Everyone was asked to wear sweats and after serving up a quick buffet style lunch, we all ate siting on the ground, with the Christmas tree lighting up the room. It was quite festive and very casual. Everyone loved it and said we should do it that way every year. After busting out my old college photo albums so we could have some good belly laughs at our uglier days it was time to get to work...

The highlight:
For the last few years I've hosted this annual holiday brinch. A few weeks prior, I work with a local charity to sponsor a family in need. We circulate the list and all of our friends jump at the chance to sign up for gifts. The day of the brunch everyone brings their gifts and after we eat a great meal and catch up it's time to get to work. It's like Santa's little elves at work, as everyone shares the gifts they bought and wraps them up with Christmas wrap and ribbons. It is so wonderful to look around the room at your favorite people in the world, who are so fortunate in their lives, working together to make Christmas magical for another family. My most favorite part is to look at the enormous stack of wrapped gifts we've collected and think of the family opening them Christmas day.

Here are my little "elves" hard at work...

The fruits of our labor... (toddler beds & mattresses, bedding, highchairs, a TV with DVD player, clothes, toys, books, a stroller, gift cards and more. Nice work ladies!!!)

If you have a great group of girlfriends who enjoy getting together for the holidays, I highly recommend this type of holiday party. I have so much fun and love having all my dearest friends over for such a fun event.

Impeccable Presentation

My friend Heather is a wonderful cook but where she really excels is in the presentation of her food. She has the most artistic eye and everything she does is just impeccable. I was just looking at her website and came across these photos of a holiday open house party she hosted. Look at the presentation of these platters. Absolutely gorgeous!

Photo Garland

I love the Party Perfect blog and wanted to share this Photo Garland I found on her site. What a cute way to decorate a child's room or to share photos at a birthday party. Check out the link for step by step instructions.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Make What Your Heart Desires

I think these oversized Bernard Maisner O Christmas Tree Grand Statement Cards are spectacular but at $34 a piece they are well over my Christmas card budget (for 1 person let alone 75). Two years ago I hired a calligrapher to draw it up for me, then printed on beautiful paper and used stamps and a heat gun to add sparkly red ornaments. They weren't as lovely as the real thing but I was still quite pleased with the end result. It was torturous to make them though and a few hours into it I vowed never to make my own cards again. I'm sure I'll forget the pain and suffering brought on by homemade cards someday because it is so fun to turn out something different every once in awhile. Here's my card from Christmas 2006...

Bernard Maisner also has quite the selection of exquisite stationary and cards like their hand painted notecards. I think they're dreamy. Maybe I need to make my own hand-painted notecards too. Another crazy idea that will take way too much time, but could be fun. Hmmm.

Christmas Gift Idea #7

At dinner with friends last night I was saying how much I love Molton Brown fine liquid hand wash and that I like to buy it for gifts and stocking stuffers.

This is the type of thing I love to have in my powder room because it looks so much nicer than a bar of soap and it smells so nice. I prefer the Naran Ji scent but the others are great too. They also have other products like lotion, shampoo, body wash and more.

Christmas Gift Idea #6

A great gift idea this year is the Flip Video Mino Series Camcorder. It's the teeniest video camera (weighing in at a whopping 1lb) that you can toss in your purse or pocket. You can hook the camera up to your tv so you can instantly watch the videos you've taken. Everyone is raving about these and how easy they are to use. Great gift for a husband or family member who is impossible to shop for!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Best Homemade Enchiladas

My friend Lynne is great about researching recipes online. She will think of something she wants to make and go through countless recipes on Epicurious and the Food Network site perusing recipes and reading all the reviews before making her final selection. Last week she found and made Tyler Florence's recipe for Chicken Enchiladas and raved about them. They sounded so good that I made them the first chance I had and they were definitely worth raving about. The recipe makes a ton so it's perfect to feed a big group or to have lots of leftovers!
After a few discussions about soggy enchiladas I tried something to avoid it. Rather than slather the enchilada sauce and cheese on for the entire bake time, I just put a tiny bit of sauce on and baked for 10 minutes. Then I topped with the rest of the sauce and the cheese and broiled it (on the same middle rack) for 3-5 minutes to melt the cheese. They turned out perfect. I tried regular corn tortillas and sprouted grains corn tortillas and both were equally good. The sprouted grains tortillas weren't as easy to fold but we both liked the texture a bit more. You'd never know the difference though if you didn't eat them side by side.
I served these with some black beans that I heated and seasoned with lots of cumin, some salt and cayenne pepper. I also added a tablespoon of leftover enchilada sauce. Top with the enchilada toppings (sour cream, green onion and cilantro) and they're a perfect side dish. Bon appetite.
(Thanks Lynnie!)

'Tis the Season!

Every year I make a few batches of Chex mix for party favors, hostess gifts or treats for friends. Because who doesn't love Chex mix?!
I like to use:

- Rice Chex
- Corn Chex
- Wheat Chex
- Pretzels (I like the straight ones)
- Cashews
- Cheese crackers (like Cheez-Its)

My mother-in-law's is always the best so I copy what she does for the sauce. Follow the recipe for the Original Chex Mix but double the butter and add extra Worcestershire and garlic powder. Also add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for a little spice. I always cook mine the old-fashioned way, in the oven, rather than the microwave. It lasts longer if you put it in the fridge, and my mother-in-law says you can even freeze it if you want to make extra for down the road. Delicious!

Christmas Gift Idea #5

My friend Froiline Maria has one of the limited edition, over-sized and autographed copies of Let Me In! by photographer Mario Testino and I am crazy for it. They are sold out everywhere I've looked so I will have to settle for the regular size. The book features 300 pages of amazing behind-the-scenes photos of celebrities. It's a great coffee table book to flip through so I bought it for my husband to put in his office. I then realized it's much too cool to part with so I ordered one for myself too. Merry Christmas to you, and to me!

Quick & Tasty Lunch

I hosted a brunch yesterday and spent all last week mulling over menu ideas. I reached out to friends to gather ideas. My friend Jen who loves to talk about food as much as I do sent me quite a few great ideas. One of the things on her list was a recipe for Country Ham-and-Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches with Fig Jam and Heirloom Grits from Bon Appetite. I didn't end up making it for my party but I did do a quick version of it for lunch on Saturday for my hubby and me.

I bought four biscuits in the bakery section at Whole Foods. I buttered each half and topped one side with prosciutto and the other side with Dalmatia Fig Spread, then topped with slices of plain old cheddar cheese. Threw it under the broiler for a few minutes (oven rack in the middle of the oven, not up high) until the cheese was melted and the buns were warmed. Put halves together for little buttery biscuits of heaven. I loved the combination of all the flavors and it took less than 10 minutes to make. This is a keeper for sure. (Thanks Jen!!!! You're the best!)
And if you don't already own this fig spread I highly recommend buying some. I use it a lot when I do cheese plates and I eat it on toast with butter or tahini. It is delicious.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gourmet's Favorite Cookies

I am drooling all over my keyboard this morning looking through Gourmet's website. They have listed their favorite cookies by decade (1941-2008) with pictures and recipes. I wish I had a few hours to burn so I could try some of these. There are so many good ones. First chance I get I'm trying the Trios (pictured above) and the Pistachio Tuiles (pictured below). YUM! If they're good they could be my treat of choice for the holidays next year. This year I'm making everyone Chex Mix. My mother-in-law has a few secrets up her sleeve to make the best Chex Mix so I'm giving that a whirl. It's always a big hit.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

List Lover

I love making lists and I especially love scratching things off my list. Sometimes if I've done something that wasn't on my list, I will add it just so I can scratch it off. Crazy I know, but other list fanatics do the same I've been told.

Although I prefer to make my own list, I like these Knock Knock lists for various things. I received the "New Parent Checklist" from my friend Heather and used it all the time when my daughter was first born. The tag line is "Getting out of the house in two hours flat" and that sure is what it felt like those first few times I left with a new baby in tow.

I also like the "What to Eat" pad and used it prior to my Excel meal planner. It's a great way to plan out your weekly meals and see what items you'll need at the store.

Knock Knock makes some pretty funny pads too, like the "Things You Do that Really Piss Me Off" pad, the "Mood Alert" pad, and the "Things You Must Do to Make Me Happier" pad. These could be good stocking stuffers!

I also love this "I will do one thing today" pad that I came across on Swiss Miss. Some days the one thing you need to get done is the one you put off all day. I am always guilty of that so this would do me well.

Notecard Addict

I just came across The Grosvenor Stationery Company in the gift section of Domino magazine (Fabulous Finds under $25). Of course I went straight to their website and I just love the Cool Dudes Correspondence Cards. If you think I seem addicted to notecards you don't even know the half of it. I am on a "notecard spending freeze" since I have a closet full, but I would sure love to get my paws on a box of these.

Click here to find a US retailer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ma Pa Tofu

Ma Pa Tofu is a traditional Chinese dish made with ground pork, tofu and chili sauce. I first learned to make it at a Chinese cooking class at Uwajimaya. I have since improved the recipe by taking notes from my mother-in-law. It is spicy and very flavorful, and one of my husband's most favorite dinners.
I use Lee Kum Kee brand for the three sauces (black bean, chili, and hoisin).
Ma Pa Tofu

1/2 - 3/4lb pork
1 package tofu, cubed
2 T ginger, minced

2 T garlic, minced
½ cup green onion
¼ cup cilantro
½ - ¾ small can water chestnuts, finely chopped
Shitake mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chicken stock
1 t (heaping) corn starch
2 T black bean sauce (black bean garlic is ok)
3 T chili sauce (chili garlic is ok)
2 T hoisin sauce
Salt & pepper
¼-½ t red chili flakes

Cook pork, garlic, 90% of the ginger, and half of the green onion and cilantro on high heat. Season with salt (just a touch since the sauces have a ton of sodium), pepper and red chili flakes while cooking. Combine chicken stock and corn starch in a glass (stir well or whisk to break down the corn starch). Then add black bean sauce, chili sauce and hoisin. When pork is almost cooked through, add sauce mixture to pan. Mix thoroughly. Add tofu, water chestnuts, mushrooms, final bit of ginger, green onion and cilantro. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over white rice.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Kim of Good Stock in Real Simple

Catch Kim of Good Stock in this month's Real Simple magazine with her cutest little grandmother.
My friend Jen just referred Kim for her boyfriend's father's 60th birthday and Kim did the most amazing book. The recipient absolutely loved it and joked that he was going to go sit in the other room to go through it and cry. I think it was quite the touching tribute to 60 beautiful years.

What a perfect gift for a significant birthday or anniversary. I am also a huge fan of her family trees and think they make beautiful gifts for new parents (as mentioned in this previous post).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Gift Idea #4

Ah, the Neti Pot. The whole idea of cleaning out your nasal passage with this little thing is so weird to me but every time I turn around someone else is swearing by it. My friend Whitney first told me about it and raved about the results. My friend Amy says she use to be plagued with sinus infections but no more, thanks to the Neti Pot. My friend Chris does it anytime he's not feeling 100% and swears that it helps ward off sickness. I suffer from dryness in the schnoz, my mom has pretty bad allergies and my dad gets sick a lot so Merry Christmas to the three of us with our very own Neti Pots. I will do a follow-up post a few weeks after Christmas to let you know if we've gotten use to the crazy sensation of fluid trickling in one side of your nose and out the other, and let you know if we're seeing any good results. Wish us luck!

Product Description from Amazon:
The Himalayan Institute Neti Pot naturally cleanses, refreshes, and protects the nasal passages, one of our body's first lines of defense against illness. Recommended by doctors and pharmacists worldwide, the Neti Pot has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to alleviate sinus and allergy problems. Recent clinical studies have shown that nasal irrigation is effective in improving symptoms of patients with frequent sinusitis. The Himalayan Institute introduced the Neti Pot in 1972. Our bestselling Neti Pot makes nasal irrigation easy and comfortable. The trademarked lotus design and distinctive shape dispenses the perfect rate of flow to optimally cleanse the sinus passages. Ceramic Neti Pot is made with lead-free ceramic and glaze. Illustrated instructions include link to free online demonstration video. Proceeds benefit the world-wide humanitarian, environmental, and educational projects supported by the Himalayan Institute.