Thursday, February 26, 2009

Easy Dessert Fix

My friend Lynne came over for dinner tonight and after pasta, bread, broccoli and salad we both needed something sweet. Problem was I didn't have anything in the house. I can't really keep cookies or chocolate around because I eat it compulsively. So, what to do? I scoured the pantry and fridge and realized I had nothing. I did have a little vanilla ice cream and that is a good starting point if we could only get creative. We realized with a little milk and some frozen strawberries we could have ourselves a strawberry milkshake. A nice tall glass of heaven in no time. Easy as 1-2-3....

1. Combine 8 frozen strawberries with 1 cup of milk in a blender. Blend on high until smooth.
2. Add 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (I love Ben & Jerry's Organic Vanilla) and replace lid. Blend on high until smooth and creamy.
3. Pour into glass and serve with a straw.
And speaking of compulsive behavior, I'm sure I'll be making one of these again tomorrow and the next day, and the next day. A good dessert fix with things you probably have in the fridge and freezer. Enjoy!

So Romantic!

My five year wedding anniversary is coming up so I figured I could give a little hint about a gift idea. Diamonds? Nah! Pearls? No! A giant chest freezer for the garage? Top of my list! I'm telling you, when I get an itch to do something, it's all I can think about!

Not only was I so inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but yesterday I received another nudge. I was listening to KUOW when Jess Thomson, a Seattle-based food writer and Hogwash blogger, was on discussing how she prepares for the summer months by hunkering down and cooking in the winter. There's not a lot I would rather be doing when it's cold outside than standing at my stove above a large pot of delicious ___ (fill in the blank with any soup, pasta, or comfort food recipe). She was full of good ideas of things to make now so you aren't inside cooking on beautiful summer days. She spoke about making a delicious batch of carrot and lemongrass soup, then freezing it. In the summer, let it thaw and eat cold with a delicious fresh tomato salad. As she said, what a great way to have a delicious meal in the summer without any fuss.

She also makes batches of cookies and freezes them in small bags. In the summer you can pull a few to bake. You get home-baked cookies without having to make a batch from scratch when you'd rather be at the ___ (park/pool/zoo/tennis court) with your ___ (kids/husband/friend/sibling). Love it!

So my big projects for next week are (1) go with husband to buy uber-romantic anniversary gift (2) make carrot lemongrass soup (3) make cookie dough. I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I just finished Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and was completely obsessed and inspired. I know non-fiction doesn't do it for a lot of people but that is where my heart is. I loved the book and it was a complete page turner for me. The book inspired me in countless ways but here are a few things I am excited to do....
  1. I am going to become more of a "locavore". I've spent the last year trying to buy more locally produced food and avoid fruits that have traveled from anywhere further than California or Mexico. Other than bananas for my daughter I don't buy fruits and vegetables traveling from Chile or similar distances. I try to buy fruits and veggies when they are in season so I've been eating apples like crazy lately and not buying any fresh berries, tomatoes, etc. I plan to become even more strict with myself in the upcoming year.

  2. In addition to buying more food at farmers markets (which I really amped up last summer) I am going to research to find a local organic farm where I can purchase more food directly. I was doing a CSA program but noticed that only a small portion of my food was grown locally and most was coming from California. While it was supporting smaller farms, it wasn't supporting local farms as much as I had hoped. I would also like to volunteer at an organic garden or farm to learn more because one day hope to have a garden of my own.

  3. I am going to try making my own cheese (mozzarella for starters) and making my own bread. My goal is to try these both once and see how it goes. If I enjoy the process and the result I will make it more of a regular habit. The author frequently writes about both and I cannot wait to try my hand at it.

  4. I plan to load up on things in the summer while they're in season and tasting their best. I will buy tons of basil and make several batches of pesto to freeze for the winter months rather than buying store-bought pesto as often as I do. I will buy tomatoes when they are so good you could eat them like an apple. I will try to teach myself how to can some in various ways (as whole tomatoes, as sauce, dried, etc). I don't buy tomatoes anymore through the winter months because they don't taste like what they taste like when they're truly in season (my mother-in-law ruined me with the tomatoes from her garden. You can't buy tomatoes like hers in the grocery store - ever. Farmers Markets - here I come this tomato season to scoop up ALL your tomatoes!). I will try to buy berries when they are in season and freeze them on my own. This is a great way to eat these foods year round while capturing them when they taste the best.

  5. I'm going to try and institute Friday night pizza night. If I can make my own cheese, and give dough a go, how fun to do pizza every Friday night using fresh local ingredients as toppings?!

  6. I hope to avoid eating meat from CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) as much as possible. I am quite finicky about the meat I buy and cook at home but I still order plenty of meat at restaurants that is most definitely from CAFOs. I have vowed to myself to be better about that going forward.

I highly recommend the book. You can also visit the website to learn more about the book, find great resources for buying local food, check out some delicious recipes and more.

Friday, February 20, 2009

AE, Baby!

If you're heading anywhere hot this winter, or just want to stock up on some cute summer basics, I loved what I found at American Eagle for my recent warm weather vaca. I needed some casual basics for my trip and for this coming summer where I'm sure to spend most days at the park or pool with my little one. I scored some great items.

I loved my camo shorts paired with the white polo for my casual round of golf with the hubby. My normal golf clothes paired with some new crows feet around my eyes were aging me so I needed some golf attire that felt more young and fresh. I sure wasn't winning any golf fashion awards in this outfit but I felt a lot cuter than in my true "golf" attire.

I am crazy for my new denim cut-offs. I wore them with a Kate Moss for Topshop bohemian top and my favorite sandals during the day a few times. I also paired them with this halter top (cuter in person and not cinched), a great pair of black gladiator sandals and my fave new necklace for a few really casual dinners.
And I got this little number to throw on when headed to the pool. I thought it was pretty cute for an easy swimsuit cover-up.

Lots of great finds at American Eagle if you're in the mood for some simple summer items. Happy shopping!

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

I thought I might have the time or energy to update my blog while on vacation these last few weeks but when it came down to it I didn't want to be anywhere near a phone, TV, or computer. I made a point to enjoy every moment of my trip and to not get sucked into my bad habits. It was great. It was so great that I considered giving up my blog entirely because I felt such a sense of relief. But then I realized that I do love my blog and want to keep it up. It is like a diary for me, and fun to share the things I love with those who have some or many common interests. So I'm back at it but with a new game plan. I'm going to take the pressure off myself to post so often and just do it here and there. So keep checking back and I promise to have lots of great new recipes in the next few months along with my quick ramblings about miscellaneous topics. Have a wonderful weekend and keep checking back!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bananas Foster

We're off to visit my in-laws for a few days and we're sure to be spoiled. My mother-in-law, as I've said countless times, is an amazing cook. She is the genius behind my most favorite salad and she also makes some of my favorite desserts including Bananas Foster. What's not to love about butter, sugar, and ice cream?!

Banana’s Foster

¾ cube butter
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
4 bananas
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup rum
pinch of salt

1. Melt butter on medium high heat.
2. Sprinkle pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg.
3. Slice bananas into mixture.
4. Add brown sugar, rum and salt.
5. Serve over vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Meatless Night Robb Abrams Style

My friend Whitney is constantly inspiring me in the kitchen. Tonight I placed a "Food 911" call to her. I didn't want to run to the store and needed some ideas of what to cook with things I had in the fridge and pantry. She told me about a standard meal in her house growing up that is super good for you. She said her husband requests it all the time when he's craving something healthy. Perfect, I could use something healthy after the lunch I ate today.

Meatless Night Robb Abrams Style

Black beans cooked with onion, garlic, cumin, hot sauce and a bay leaf
Brown rice
Broccoli - steamed, then tossed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice
"A hunk of cheese" (I used cheddar)

I topped the rice with the beans and served in a bowl with some broccoli and the "hunk of cheese" on the side. It was easy to prepare, meatless, good tasting and good for you. I will definitely be making this again for meatless night. My goal is to increase meatless night from one to two days if I can come up with enough things to make. (Send me your favorite meatless recipes pretty please!)

Baby's Precious Skin

I try to use as many natural products as possible. I'm especially concerned about the chemicals in things I use on or give to my daughter (lotions, food, you name it). So when it was time to buy sunscreen for the little angel I made sure to do my homework. I spoke to some people at a more natural pharmacy in Seattle called Pharmaca. Their staff is knowledgeable about natural products and chemicals to avoid. I also did some research on the Internet. The consensus was that the main ingredient you want to avoid is Oxybenzone (Benzophenone). Other chemicals to avoid are DMDM Hydantoin, Triethanolamine, phthalates and any of the various parabens so commonly found in lotions.

I'm a big fan of California Baby sunscreen & Dr. Hauschka sunscreen. California Baby is great and rated well on the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetic Safely Database. I use a lot of Dr. Hauschka sunscreen for myself and my daughter so I was sad to read that their sun care products will no longer be carried in the U.S. as of January 2009. Apparently they cannot continue to provide the most natural sun care products given new regulations. I did find it at Whole Foods today so maybe that just pertains to future sales??? I snatched up a few tubes just in case it disappears soon.

On a similar note, I'm also a fan of the Sun Busters UV swimwear for little ones who might be out in the sun for any extended period of time. These suits are made from chlorine resistant fabrics and block 98% of both UVA & UVB rays.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nothing's Worse...

...than wearing a pretty silk dress to an event and having static cling. I've always rubbed a dryer sheet on silk items to get rid of static cling but it only provided temporary relief. This has caused me to pass on dresses before for fear of having it. Recently I almost passed on a silk dress when the sales woman told me to spray aerosol hairspray all over the garment and it will ward off static cling for the whole night. I gave it a shot for our Chinese New Year dinner because I wanted to wear a red silk top and it worked like a charm. The top was sticking to me so bad I almost didn't wear it until I remembered the trick. No cling all night. I love tricks like that!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Meatless Night Idea

My friend Tara said she cooks up a delicious batch of tofu stir-fry every week as one of their meatless nights. For some reason I never thought of that so I gave it a whirl on Sunday. Sadly, I forgot it was Super Bowl so while the whole country was enjoying burgers, hot dogs and fries, my carnivorous family was glaring at me between bites of the healthy "meatless night" dinner set before them. (Sorry fam!)

I served the stir fry with brown rice and my husband's sauteed cabbage. It was good, and everyone had seconds, but the recipe wasn't "blog worthy" so I'm not going to bother typing it up. Here's what I put in it though, in case it inspires you to try a version of it for your meatless night... (Tara, I need to get your recipe!)

Tofu Veggie Stir-Fry

firm tofu, cubed
ginger, minced
garlic, minced
red pepper, sliced into thin julienne strips
carrot, sliced into thin julienne strips
onion, sliced
broccoli, small florets
water chestnuts, chopped
mushrooms, sliced
green onion, chopped
toasted sesame seeds

soy sauce
rice wine vinegar
garlic chili sauce
Schezuan stir-fry sauce
sesame oil

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Daughter's Favorite Toys (4 of 4)

My friend Farrah gave my daughter this little "Laugh & Learn" Learning Piggy Bank. My daughter has spent countless hours playing with it. She likes to put the coins in the top slit to hear the different songs play. You can also press the snout for more music. She likes to keep pressing until she gets to her favorite song and then dance. She does this over and over and over. Cracks us up every time. When she was younger she just enjoyed opening and closing the side. The Piggy says "open" and "close". Who knew this little toy would provide such entertainment.