Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monkey Business

My sister-in-law just found out she is having a boy. Hooray! We have a daughter and they have a daughter so we're all thrilled to have a baby boy joining the family. She is on the look-out for some cute monkey or elephant decals for the nursery. I just came across these ones and thought they were SO stinkin' cute. Loving that Etsy site once again!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I chose Mrs. John L. Strong invitations for my wedding four years ago because I fell in love with the gold embossed pomegranate. I thought it was so elegant and timeless. So imagine my delight when a girlfriend gave me a miniature monthly calendar as a hostess gift for my annual holiday brunch the last two years in a row. I just love them. I keep my monthly calendar on the window sill above my kitchen sink so I always have a quick reference for the date and something pretty to look at. And of course my favorite month is February for that adorable little pomegranate!
Peruse her website to see all the exquisite paper goods available.

Cha! Cha! Cha! Chicken Tostadas

My latest obsession are these homemade chicken tostadas. My daughter loves the spicy chicken and loves to Cha! Cha! Cha! around the house with her little red maracas so I thought the name had a nice ring to it. Perfect dinner served with chips & salsa and a nice cold Corona!

P.S. Photographer I am not. Repeat offender - I am. My husband had to eat these twice this week because I couldn't stop thinking about them and HAD to have them again. Also wanted to photograph for my blog but I was too anxious to eat them so didn't capture the best pictures.

Cha! Cha! Cha! Chicken Tostadas

For the chicken:
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock1 Jalapeño, finely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 t cumin
Salt & pepper

For the toppings:
Cumin black beans
Iceberg lettuce, chopped
Avocado, dices
Walla Walla sweet onion, minced
Cilantro, chopped
Pico de Gallo
Sour Cream
Queso Fresco
Corn tortillas
Salt & pepper

Rinse chicken, pat dry and place in baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and generous amount of kosher salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Let cool and shred.

Sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and jalapeño. Sauté for a few minutes. Pour in chicken stock and stewed tomatoes breaking up chunks of tomatoes with your hands. Season with cumin, salt and pepper and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add chicken and stir to coat.

Cook cumin black beans according to recipe.

Heat olive oil on high heat. Add corn tortillas one at a time and cook for a minute or two on each side. Transfer to a sheet pan. Sprinkle tortillas with queso fresco cheese and broil for a few minutes until cheese melts and tortilla crisps.

Top with beans, chicken, onion, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, lettuce, and salsa. Serve hot. Cha! Cha! Cha!

Going Bananas

Banana Macadamia Nut Muffins from Epicurious

I recently came across a recipe for whole wheat banana muffins on a cute little blog called Sweet Fine Day. What triggered my interest was that it said her daughter was a picky eater but ate these up so I gave them a whirl. They were good and my daughter gobbled them up, but sadly they weren't enough for my sweet tooth. Once I have the craving though, I can't stop until it's been satisfied. So off I went to track down some sweet banana muffins for yours truly. First stop - my grandma's old recipe that my mom grew up on and loved. I thought I'd give nuts a whirl so I made three versions - plain, pecan and walnut. They were delicious, and yes, quite sweet. They should really be called banana cupcakes! I thought I should compare an old recipe with something off my tried and true recipe source, Epicurious, so I made their Banana Macadamia Nut Muffins. They were all delicious but the Banana Macadamia Nut Muffins were a bit lighter than my grandma's recipe. I think you could switch out the nuts if you preferred walnuts or pecans. I'm not sure that I've settled the nut debate yet so next time I might have to do a third, a third, a third. Either way, you can't go wrong with a banana muffin every morning with your coffee jolt of choice (cappucino or americano pour moi)!

Grandma Tess's Banana Muffins
½ c butter
1 ½ c sugar
2 eggs beaten
2 c flour (scant)
½ t salt
1 t baking powder
¾ t baking soda
¼ c sour milk (add 1/2 t lemon juice to milk and let sit)
1 c mashed over-ripe banana (or more)
1 t vanilla
½ c nuts optional

Mix in order given
Butter muffin pans or use paper muffin cups
Fill muffin pans 2/3 full (you might end up with extra batter but don’t fill tins too high)
Bake at 375 for 25 minutes

Banana Macadamia Nut Muffins

Recipe for Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Nephew ... Farley

I was never a "dog person" until I met Farley, my sister-in-law's baby Beagle when he was only a few weeks old. It was love at first site for all of us. My husband and I have spent the last 4 years making special trips to pick up our nephew and take him on walks. For my sister-in-law's birthday two years ago we decided to have his portrait done by the talented Joey Hyatt. Here is the finished product. It is truly spectacular. My sister-in-law cried when she opened the painting. It was the best and most loved gift I have ever given. So if you're looking for something special for the dog lover in your life...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Heart Organic Cotton Onesies

When my daughter was first born I loved putting her in organic cotton onesies as often as I could. As she has gotten older I don't think about it but as a first time mom I hated the thought putting my teeny tiny newborn baby in clothes that were sprayed with formaldehyde, flame-retardant and other irritating chemicals. I bought a lot of Under The Nile onesies and loved them. I just found this great new brand, Kate Quinn Organics, and love their color combos.

My Little Cooking Corner

One of my favorite things in my house - my little cooking corner. Oh how I cherish the stress and anxiety I feel while preparing a new recipe.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Soup-er Freak

There is nothing I love more than a bowl (or two) of delicious hearty soup. I generally start off every week making a big pot of soup to have on hand. It is great for a quick and easy lunch and nice to have if you're not in the mood to make a big dinner. Just throw together a salad or sandwich and you've got yourself a great meal. Not to mention a big hearty soup is full of vegetables and so good for you.

I thought I would share my soup recipes each week. Some are from the great chefs like Ina Garten or Giada De Laurentiis and some are made up depending on what I have left over in the fridge. The following recipe falls in the latter category. It is by no means an award winner, but it's quick, it's easy, it's hearty, it's healthy and it tastes so good. Bon appetite!

2 T olive oil
3 carrots, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 potato, cubed
½ yellow or white onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 quart chicken stock
1 pint vegetable broth
¼ cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2/3 container fresh cheese tortellini
1 t Italian seasoning
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated parmesan

Store-bought fresh pesto

Sauté onion in olive oil on medium heat until translucent. Add all other veggies and sauté for several minutes. Season with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning. Add garlic and sauté for a few more minutes. Add stewed tomatoes, crushing them with your hand as you add them, and parsley. Add chicken stock, vegetable stock and approximately 3 cups water. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1-2 hours. Add tortellini shortly before serving (10 minutes?). Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and add a dollop of pesto. Delicious!

Loving Love Quotes

Every hipster needs a Love Quotes scarf. They come in all colors, can be worn so many different ways and worn year round. Check out to see all the celebrities sporting their Love Quotes scarves. My favorite color is Dove. It goes with EVERYTHING!

Go Green, Get a Klean Kanteen

As we all know water bottles are really becoming quite the epidemic. I refuse to buy plastic water bottles anymore, with the rare exception being in a hotel room or something. I have converted to the Klean Kanteen and am a huge fan. I am in the process of getting my mom to switch over and just got my husband a SIG bottle to take with him on the golf course. It's better for the environment and healthier for you (read up on Bisphenol-A leaching into plastic water bottles and you will want to avoid them too!).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Beautiful Custom Books

If you have a special occassion - birthday or anniversary for parents or grandparents - these are the most incredible custom books. Check out all the samples on the website.

I ordered her custom printed family tree as a Christmas gift for my sister-in-law. She loved it. Of course I couldn't resist getting one for my own daughter to frame in a beautiful antique looking frame for her room. (One day I'll get that done, right?!)

Birds Birds Birds

I don't know when it happened, or how it happened, but all of a sudden one day I was obsessed with birds. I don't think I am over the top though, everything in good taste. But I do love a good looking bird ____ (fill in the blank ... painting, card, stuffed animal for my daughter, you name it). Here is my latest obsession. I have always loved the mobiles by Tamar Mogendorff but I was recently delighted to see she's making these adorable little handmade bird houses. Are they cute or what?

A Few Of My Favorite Things ... In The Kitchen

Favorite Cookware - Where oh where would I be without my Le Creuset 5 quart braiser. I use this cast-iron pot for EVERYTHING. It was a wedding gift (thank you Chows!) and I literally don't leave home without it (we lugged it down to LA with us for one month. crazy? yes, that's me!)Favorite Knife - J.A. Henckels Santoku knife (watch your fingers)

Favorite Chef / Favorite Cooking Show / Favorite Cookbook - Ina Gartner, Barefoot Contessa, Barefoot Contessa at Home (#1 fan! can you tell?)

Favorite Cooking Utensil - endless supply of wooden spoons and these Le Creuset silicone basting brushes. They are great for rubbing olive oil on bread for crostini, chicken on the barbee and so much more. I always hated the loose brissles on the traditional basting brushes. The product development staff over at Le Creuset must have to!

Favorite Electronic - Breville 800ESXL Die-Cast Espresso Maker. I have paid for this bad boy several times over. I still can't convince my husband to switch over from his morning Starbuck stops to take advantage of his own little barista.Favorite Wine Glasses - there's not much better than a crystal wine glass that can go in the dishwasher. Did someone say dishwasher? I say sold! I wasn't crazy about the look of them at first but now they are my go-to glasses.

Favorite Chef's Trick & Treat -
Trick: I use a Cuisinart Grind Central Coffee Grinder strictly for black peppercorns

& Treat: I keep them next to the stove in a marble swivel top container (along with kosher salt). It's so great to have freshly ground black pepper already ground when you're a frantic cook like I am.

Olive Juice = I Love You

I have fallen in love with this brand of clothes, and more importantly with their incredible sales! Recently they sent an email saying $5 off every item. Well some of the dresses were already marked down to $10.95 or $14.95. What a steal for such adorable all-American clothes. This is my most favorite dress. I ordered it in every size. My poor daughter.

Favorite Childrens Books (one year in)

I so enjoy reading books with my daughter each day. As I'm sure you have experienced, it gets old reading the same old boring books with the lame messages and less than exciting illustrations. These are some of the books that I really enjoy. I first read about some of these on the Babyccino blog when they wrote about the Booktrust's Top 10 Best New Illustrators exhibit (

My daughter reading Iggy Peck, Architect

Iggy Peck, Architect (our current fave, the illustrations are amazing!)
by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

The Incredible Book Eating Boy
by Oliver Jeffers

Slow Loris
by Alexis Deacon

by Polly Dunbar

Ruby's Wish
by Shirin Yim and Sophie Blackall

Yum Yum Dim Sum
by Amy Wilson Sanger

I Like It When
by Mary Murphy

Is There Really A Human Race?
by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell

Charley Harper ABC's
by Charley Harper

Salad Obsessed

My mother-in-law is one fine cook. She is always coming up with new creations that I literally eat to death (translation - I eat the recipe daily until I am so sick of it I can't eat it again for months). I am currently on a binge with this salad.
Simple Green Salad with a Kick & a Real Nice Surprise
Mixed greens
Tomatoes (grape, cherry or regular)
Red onion, sliced VERY thin
Cucumber, peel before chopping
Dried sour cherries (the real nice surprise)

1 small clove of garlic – mince, then sprinkle with salt and mash into a paste with the side of the knife
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T Worschester (the kick)
¼ c balsamic vinegar
¼ c good olive oil
Juice of one large lemon wedge
Salt & freshly ground pepper

Handmade Dolls

I came across these dolls the other night while cruising the internet. I love the unique style of the doll's face and hair. Such a dainty little thing.

Delicious Healthy Cookies

A friend found this recipe in an airplane magazine of all places. I am addicted. Three of these in the morning with my homemade americano and I am a happy girl. I add flaxseed to the recipe so I can pretend they are extra healthy cookies. Bon appetite!

1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup extra-light olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 t flaxseed
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the oats in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, then pulse until the oatmeal is broken up into small pieces. Add the flour and process. Next, add the walnuts, oil, maple syrup, and salt and run the food processor until well-mixed. Drop the batter onto a large cookie sheet, a generous tablespoon per cookie. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Remove cookies and cool on a plate.

Makes about 15-18 cookies.

Beautiful Handmade Animals

On my latest trip to LA I made a special visit to a great store in Larchmont called The Little Seed. What a fabulous little store devoted to eco-friendly & organic products. I found the most beautiful handmade animals painted with non-toxic paint. They had every animal you could imagine and I had a hard time settling on which ones to buy. I brought these home for my daughter's first birthday. She loves them, almost as much as I do.