Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More Farmers Market Meals

photo courtesy of yum sugar

Who knew a few simple ingredients like eggs, bacon, and bread from the farmers market would bring me such joy. I was at one of the booths to pick up some ground pork and overheard what looked like a market regular saying "they have the best bacon". Well twist my arm. I grabbed a package too.
I've been craving lots of carbs this pregnancy and nothing sounded better than some super fattening spaghetti carbonara with bacon. YUM! I'm not a big pancetta fan (I know, I know, what's wrong with me?) but bring on the bacon! I've always heard that Tom "Crazy" Cruise has a good recipe for carbonara and you can't go wrong with Giada so I read over both of their recipes and came up with my own variation. It turned out great.
Spaghetti Carbonara

1-2 T olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
10 slices bacon
4 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 lb spaghetti
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 T parsley, minced
salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place a baking wire rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon on the rack in a single layer. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until the bacon is browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels and let cool until they are easy to handle. Chop bacon into small 1/2" pieces.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Saute onion until almost fully cooked. Add garlic and saute for a few more minutes. Stir in bacon and continue to cook on low heat.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan.

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente (time depends on brand so check package).

Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse with water; you want to retain the pasta's natural starches so that the sauce will stick. Quickly pour the pasta into the pan with onion, garlic and bacon. Immediately add the egg and cream mixture and coat the pasta completely. It's important to work quickly while the pasta is still warm so that the cream mixture will cook, but not curdle. Add another 1/2 cup Parmesan and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss well.

Side Dishes

I served the pasta with garlic crostinis (my pasta side of choice) and an arugula salad (fresh arugula is also at the market right now). To make a quick arugula salad, I just toss it with olive oil, lemon juice, a touch of pepper and some freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Leftover Goodies from the Market

I used leftover bacon, eggs and baguette for breakfast the next morning. It was a delicious breakfast. And the lady was right, it is some damn good bacon!
Seattlites venturing to the Ballard Farmers Market, here's where I got the goods:

Bacon from Skagit River Ranch
Baguette from Tall Grass Bakery

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pregnancy Cravings, Back with a Vengeance

My friend Erika is a great cook. She is the one who gave me the fabulous Grand Marnier Roasted Chicken recipe as well as countless recipes for cookies that are heaven on earth. She made these Sicilian White Cookies two years ago and I have been dreaming about them ever since. Funny enough, I was pregnant last time I was scarfing these down so no surprise that I had to have them the minute I came across the recipe in my binder.

They have only been in existence in my kitchen for a matter of hours and already my husband, daughter and I polished off a dozen of these bad boys. They are so light and fluffy that you justify cookie after cookie... "Well it tastes so light, it can't be that bad for you." (I'm always lying to myself.)

I'm generally scared to bake because you have to be much more precise than cooking and I always worry about things like using an extra large egg when it calls for a large egg or over-mixing the batter. Fortunately, these cookies were super easy, although it is true that you have to work fast when glazing and sprinkling. I had the most luck dipping cookies with the right hand then immediately sprinkling them with the left hand. That way the glaze didn't dry before I sprinkled the nonpareils.

Sicilian White Cookies (Pastine Bianche)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 T. plus 1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 t. anise extract
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 c. milk

2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/4 c. milk

White nonpareils

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk flour and baking powder together in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on med-high speed, beat butter until creamy...about 2 min. Add granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon zest and extracts. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add about 1/3 of flour and mix on low speed. Gradually add milk and remaining flour, mixing just until blended. Mixture should stiffen but still be a bit sticky. Roll dough into 1 inch balls between your floured palms and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.

To make glaze, whisk all ingredients together until thick yet fluid. You may need a little more or less milk.

Bake cookies until light golden brown on bottom, about 10 min; tops will be white, dry, soft and springy. Slide parchment onto racks. Immediately pick up each cookie and dip top half into glaze. Allow excess to drip back into bowl. Set cookie, icing side up, back on parchment on racks and immediately sprinkle with nonpareils while icing is wet. YOU MUST WORK QUICKLY!

Allow to cool and dry completely.

Chicken Stock (for the Insane)

My five-year anniversary freezer arrived and I couldn't be more excited. I really hit the ground running this past week. Last Sunday I hit the farmers market and loaded up on the goods for a huge batch of chicken stock. Monday morning I prepared the stock and let it simmer for four hours.

Then, panic set it. As I was separating the liquid and solids and straining the stock, I got my first glimpse of just how much stock I had. The recipe from Ina that I followed (kinda) said it made 6 quarts. I knew by making three pots of stock (one chicken per pot) that I would yield more stock than that but I was in no way prepared for the amount of stock coming out of these pots. When you're filling a pot with water, you look at it differently than when your assessing stock for storage. What was I going to do with all this stock. Straining it was the first battle and I pretty much threw my back out man-handling those enormous pots.

Managing the pots, bowls and strainers was a battle in itself. I pulled every large bowl I had so I had something to strain the stock into, but they say to strain it twice so that meant cleaning the first pot so I had somewhere to strain it back into (and store it in overnight). Oh the coordination of it all. I can't tell you how many times I asked myself what sane person would ever do this. Repeatedly, I answered "a sane person would not do this".

Cooling the stock in a sink full of ice water was another problem since I had so many pots, only one sink and so much ice. I was finally able to solve that one using oversized mixing bowls as ice baths.

Storing the stock overnight in a fridge was my next obstacle. I cleared out everything I possibly could and amazingly made room for three large pots. I still had one to go though. My first "Food 911" call was to my friend who lives down the street. She didn't have any room in her fridge for a huge pot. Yikes! Second call was to my sister-in-law. No answer. I was going to have to to figure this out quickly since my stock needed refridgeration sooner than later. I ended up clearing out a vegetable drawer and putting a large bowl in there. Every time I opened the drawer I'd get a little wave of stock over the edge of the bowl but it was my only option.

Tuesday I skimmed the fat and transferred the stock to jars and plastic containers. I had to make a late night run on Monday for more jars and thank goodness I did. I filled 7 huge jars, 8 medium jars, 5 large yogurt containers, plus 3 quarts leftover in the fridge for soup for Wednesday and Thursdays meals.

I was giddy as I stored the stock in my new freezer. What a glorious site!

In addition to my freezer full of homemade chicken stock, I also had enough shredded chicken to feed an army. I removed a few breasts after one hour so they wouldn't be too dry. I also pulled some more chicken out at the end of the four hours. I made delicious
Cha! Cha! Cha! Chicken Tostadas for guests on Tuesday night and had leftovers for lunch Wednesday. We had my Avgolemono soup for dinner Wednesday night. My brother and a friend joined us, plus I sent a few bowls home with another friend. We had a little leftover soup for lunch Thursday. I love the fact that my batch of chicken stock provided enough chicken for 15 meals, not even counting the stock.

In the end, it was worth the time and effort and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Toddlers & Tiaras

I started to write some comments about this show and found that I couldn't write anything that wasn't too judgemental so I will let you form your own opinion. I will just say that I couldn't resist watching a few episodes and I still can't believe some of it (spray tanning five year-olds, hair pieces, fake nails, $800 dresses and more). Tune in!

About Toddlers & Tiaras

On any given weekend, on stages across the country, little girls and boys parade around wearing makeup, false eyelashes, spray tans and fake hair to be judged on their beauty, personality and costumes. Toddlers and Tiaras follows families on their quest for sparkly crowns, big titles, and lots of cash.

The preparation is intense as it gets down to the final week before the pageant. From hair and nail appointments, to finishing touches on gowns and suits, to numerous coaching sessions or rehearsals, each child preps for their performance. But once at the pageant, it's all up to the judges and drama ensues when every parent wants to prove that their child is beautiful.
Watch Toddlers & Tiaras, Tuesdays at 10/9c, on TLC.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Flora & Henri Launches Fancier Collection

fancier: to please the taste or fancy; of superfine quality or exceptional appeal
Flora & Henri launched a Fancier Collection, a menagerie of items that inspire designer Jane Hedreen. I'm crazy for the porcelain egg vases by Ted Muehling for Nymphenburg and the hand woven table linens.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Special Baby Gift

When my daughter was only a few weeks old we received this bunny bank from my parents dear friends. It was such a thoughtful and generous gift and looks so cute in her room.

It came in a great big Tiffany & Co. box that was bigger than my baby girl was so we had fun snapping photos of her in the box. My arm is covertly reaching behind to prop her up while my husband quickly snaps the pictures. It still makes me laugh to this day.

Pizza Night

Inspired by Barbara Kingsolver, I wanted to start doing pizza night for family dinners. Her family has pizza night every Friday, which sounds great in theory but I'm always so done in the kitchen come Friday night that I always suggest eating out. Sundays sound like a perfect pizza night but I'm always so overwhelmed with cravings that I can't commit to having a certain food every week. We had our first pizza night on Sunday and it was great. We will definitely be doing it more often, I just can't commit to a weekly endeavor like I originally hoped.
I love pizza on the grill but due to the weather I thought I should use the oven for now. I bought a pizza stone from William Sonoma and it worked out great.

Eventually I would like to try making my own dough, my own cheese, and maybe even some pizza sauce once I get my hands on some great tomatoes. Since it was my first time using the pizza stone and doing pizza in the oven, I thought I would let that be the thing to learn for the day.
I'm still a sucker for testing things out though so I bought two kinds of sauce and two kinds of cheese to see which we preferred. I bought fresh pizza sauce from the prepared foods section and Muir Glen organic pizza sauce in a can. I would have thought the fresh would be much better than canned but they were equally good. I bought fresh mozzarella from the farmers market and pre-shredded mozzarella from the grocery store. I think we both preferred the fresh mozzarella but there wasn't a significant difference.

For this week's toppings I chose olives, mushrooms and hot Italian sausage. I bought dough from the prepared foods section of the grocery store. It was fine but I like the dough from a local pizzeria better (some pizzerias will sell you their dough!). I hope to make my own going forward though so long as I have some luck with it. I recommend having cornmeal on hand to help keep the dough from sticking to your pizza stone.

It's an easy dinner and fun if you do build-your-own, especially if you have kids who can participate. And the list of topping options is endless. You can even make it meatless night!

Mixed Greens - Eating Locally in the Pacific Northwest

I just came across this great blog called Mixed Greens with fun posts to read and great recipes. I'm going to try their Spanish Omelet with Leeks this weekend and can't wait to try the Turkey n Dumplings and the Butternut Squash Risotto. There are a million butternut squash risotto recipes out there but it's fun to try recipes from a new blog to see if you like their food. If you do, it's like a goldmine of good recipes. Can't wait to spend more time reading Mixed Greens. Check it out!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Farmers Market Dinner

I made the easiest dinner tonight with ingredients I picked up at the farmers market on Sunday. I was inspired by the huge stacks of leeks being sold by several vendors. Of course my mind goes straight to soup so I thought I would try making potato leek soup. I grabbed a few potatoes for the soup and some brussel sprouts for a side-dish and checked another night off my grocery list.
I looked over four recipes and came up with a very basic one of my own. I loved it. I had some leftover no-knead bread to go with our soup and as a side dish I made one of my favorite green veggie dishes - Sauteed Brussel Sprouts with Lemon & Pistachios.
Perfect dinner in my book... delicious, local, meatless, healthy and easy!

Potato Leek Soup

2 large leeks, white and tender green parts, rinsed well and chopped
1 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-1" chunks
6 cups chicken stock
1-2 T fresh flat leaf parsley
salt & pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, saute leeks in butter and olive oil until tender (roughly 5-8 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Add stock and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a blender (may have to do 2-4 batches) and blend until smooth. Put back into pot and stir in fresh parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Handmade Leather Goods

Some friends of mine met and befriended a leather craftsman in Florence, Italy named Simone Taddei. Over the years they have sold his goods at a holiday bazaar which helps raise money for various schools and charities. They sell his handmade frames, cigar and glove boxes, jewelry boxes, business card holders, garbage cans and more in rich red or chocolate brown. I have been slowly collecting these items over the last eight years. I'm especially crazy about the shell shaped jewelry box. It is quite a little showpiece.
When my husband and I went to Italy a few years ago we decided to look up Simone. He met with us and spoke to us at length about the detailed process of making these fine leather goods. He learned the trade from his father and grandfather and said it takes nearly a dozen steps over the course of weeks to make a single item. He is quite proud of his work, as he should be for each piece is stunning and flawless.
Simone runs a one-man shop in a hard to find little workshop in Florence. Imagine my surprise when I came across him in The New York Times Travel magazine on Sunday! (click on #8) What great exposure for him. His work is impeccable and you would not be disappointed if you were to buy some of his goods for yourself or as gifts. You can call him direct or I can put you in touch with my friends who sell his stuff in Seattle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Simple Lovely

I love the details of this wedding featured on Once Wed. Courtesy of Party Perfect.

(Thigh) High Fashion

According to the New York Times Style section, thigh-high boots are "the item to own next season". Ladies, start saving your pennies! I'm a big fan of right-above-the-knee boots but not yet loving the "thigh" highs. Maybe if you're tall you can pull them off but at 5'2" I'm not cut out to wear most of these (nor does my stay-at-home-mom wardrobe call for them).

Noticed: The Lengths They Go To

As prevalent as pants at the fall fashion shows, thigh-high boots are the item to own next season. Or, for some, this minute. In Paris, fashion editors fortunate enough to get their legs into a pair — none are in stores now — trotted them out like prized show ponies. Some of the savvier women had procured them last fall. Others, like Emmanuelle Alt of French Vogue (near left), pinched them right off the runway. (In Ms. Alt’s case, they were Isabel Marant.) Still others cobbled together makeshift versions. It has been reported that Lauren Santo Domingo of Vogue took an old pair of Brian Atwood boots to Leather Spa in Midtown Manhattan and had 14 inches of suede tacked on.There is an easier way: At last check on eBay, there were 20 pages of thigh-high boots, ranging from $58 Sexy Stripper styles to a pair of black suede Manolo Blahniks for under $1,000. Get them while you can.

NYT Fashion & Style
Pulse by Karin Nelson

Monday, March 23, 2009

Our Nations (Broken) Food System

If you're interested in our nation's food system, check out the article "Is a Food Revolution Now in Season?" in Sunday's edition of The New York Times.


Meatless Night Dinner - Soup & Veggie

Tonight I made some basic lentil soup but it turned out really flavorful. I served it with Roasted Curried Cauliflower. Delicious and easy meatless dinner idea.

Lentil Soup
Adapted from Giada's Recipe

2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
8 cups chicken stock (store-bought)
6 fresh thyme sprigs
Freshly grated parmesan

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Saute until the vegetables are tender. Add garlic, salt, and pepper and saute for a few more minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices, mashing the chunks with your hand. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the broth and stir. Add the thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer 4 cups of soup (mostly tomatoes, veggies, and lentils plus a little broth) to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour back into pot and stir to combine. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Interval Training

"They say" a great way to maximize your cardio workout is to do Interval Training. This technique also helps improve your body's ability to burn fat. Interval training is where you maximize your intensity for a certain length of time or until you reach a certain heart-rate, then slow down for a set amount of time or until your heart rate lowers to a certain number. Different trainers offer varying instructions and techniques.

I came across the article "A Healthy Mix of Rest and Motion" about interval training a few years ago after I had been introduced to it by a trainer. It's a good quick read if you're not familiar with this type of training.

Interval training can be incorporated into most workouts you're already doing. Learn more about interval training on Intervaltraining.net. It has a ton of info about the various methods and benefits.

I've been using a Nike heart rate monitor for the last 5+ years. I love it for both regular workouts and interval training to track my heart rate and length of workout. It is especially helpful if you continue to exercise while pregnant and want to keep your heart rate from getting too high.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Shoppers Guide to Pesticides

photo courtesy of Mom Goes Green

I receive the Environmental Working Group's email newsletters and yesterday's sparked my interest more than usual. They provided a link to a Shoppers Guide to Pesticides. The EWG does great work and research so I am always eager to hear what they have to say.
I'm especially careful to avoid items on the Dirty Dozen list and only buy those items if they are organically grown. We all try to be "healthy" in our own ways, whether it be avoiding sugars, white flour products, carbs, red meat, alcohol, you name it. We all have our thing and eating foods that are pesticide, hormone and antibiotic free is my thing.

If you are like-minded and/or want to learn more, check out the EWG's list which also has links to information in the following sections...
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • The Clean Fifteen
  • Ignorance Does Not Equal Safety
  • Children Are Especially at Risk
  • Doesn't The Government Regulate These Chemicals?
  • What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk?
  • Links to articles

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Meatless Night Dinner Idea

My friend Tara told me about a great meatless meal - black bean green enchiladas. Yum! We ate Mexican last night so I made extra black beans. Today for lunch I whipped up the black bean enchiladas in about 10 minutes and they were delicious. I have leftovers for dinner and will definitely be making these again soon.

Black Bean Green Enchiladas

Cumin black beans, can be made ahead and then reheated on the stove top
6 flour tortillas
Green chile enchiladas sauce (1/2 - 3/4 can)
Cheddar cheese (or a Mexican blend)
Sliced olives
Sour cream

Hot sauce (we love Cholula)
Chopped tomato

Chopped Iceberg lettuce

Preheat oven to 350. Pour cooked beans into a fine sieve to remove all the liquid. Toss tortillas into warm oven for a few minutes. Remove and put several large spoonfuls of beans down the middle of each tortilla (maybe 1/2 cup worth of beans). Fold sides of tortilla over beans and place seam side down in a lasagna pan. Once all the tortillas are in the pan, cover with enchilada sauce. Top with shredded cheese and olives. Bake for 5 minutes. Turn oven to broil and cook for 3-5 more minutes, until cheese is melted. Top each enchilada with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro. Also serve other toppings for people to choose from.

Baby News

My baby girl, Cece, when she was just a few hours old.
Amazing how quickly time flies.

Yours truly will be setting down her cocktails for a few months (actually a lot of months) because baby number two is on the way. Yay for the baby, bummer for the booze.

A new bambino will give me all the more incentive to be up to date on new baby gear and gadgets, natural products and new organic clothing lines. If you know about any great brands or baby items, please post a comment. I love hearing about new things.

I've had a complete turn around in attitude about this pregnancy. I was always excited about the baby, just not excited to be pregnant given all the aches and pains that go along with it. I was complaining to friends that September 25th seems SO far away. Then one friend said "You want it to be so far away! These are the last precious months you have alone with your baby girl. You need to cherish every minute!" It hit me like a ton of bricks. It's so true. I need to slow down and cherish every moment I have alone with her. Our world is going to get rocked when we introduce a new baby into our lives. It will be tough on all of us at first - amazing and wonderful of course but exhausting for us and a huge adjustment for my daughter. So I'm enjoying every day with a new attitude and appreciation for these precious months. My little baby is already 21 months old. I can't believe how quickly she has grown up and how much bigger she is going to seem when baby #2 arrives. I'm 13 weeks today and all of a sudden I want it to slooooooooooow down.

(Thanks Lynnie for the great advice!)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

... and for dessert

we enjoyed my favorite Whimsy & Spice cookies. Behold the Hazelnut Chocolate Whisky Sandwich...


Happy St. Patty's Day!

My St. Patrick's Eve dinner was a hit last night! My friend Courtney brought Guinness and Harp's Lager and made us all delicious Black & Tans. I made the corned beef plus two versions of cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. I think the verdict was this:

Cabbage - better boiled
Potatoes - better roasted
Carrots - neither version was better than the other

The secrets of my success:
I looked at a ton of recipes for corned beef and cabbage, plus I asked two different people in the meat department and called in twice with other questions. The big question was whether to cook it on the stove top or in the oven and I learned that either option works. I opted for the stove top because it's easier for me to check on.
After everything was prepared, I placed the roasted potatoes in the middle of a large platter. I put the sliced corned beef on top and the cabbage and boiled veggies on the ends around the potatoes. It looked nice and everything was on one platter (a trick I learned from Ina for a casual dinner). I put several serving spoons on the platter and told everyone to dig in, and boy did they. That platter was down to a few potatoes and cabbage scraps in no time.

C's Corned Beef

4 lbs corned beef (pre-marinated by the store or butcher)
2-3 cups brine (ask the meat department for some of their corned beef marinade)
14.9 oz can of Guinness
water to cover
1/2 head cabbage, cut in half *
2 large red potatoes, cut in quarters or eights *
2 large carrots, cut in half *

* I would use more of these items had I not also sauteed cabbage and roasted potatoes and carrots.

Put corned beef in a large dutch oven. Add brine and Guinness, then add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for five hours on low. After five hours, add cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. Cook for another 30-60 minutes, until veggies are tender. Remove corned beef and cut off any fat. Slice meat against the grain. Fish out veggies from pot and add to platter.

C's Roasted Red Potatoes

6 large red potatoes, cut into fourths or eighths depending on size (roughly 1.5" chunks)
2 large carrots, sliced on the diagonal into 1 inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, chopped and soaked in olive oil
2-3 t herbs de Provence
1 T fresh parsley, minced and added to olive oil and garlic mixture
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
lots of olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes in a large bowl with olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Transfer to a large cookie sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, then stir in carrots. Roast for another 10 minutes. Stir in garlic/parsley/oil (I add this half way through so garlic doesn't burn). Roast for 10 more minutes. Check potatoes and carrots to see if they are fork tender. If not, roast for roughly 10 more minutes. (I cooked for 40 minutes total).

Ina's Sauteed Cabbage

1 small head white cabbage, including outer green leaves (2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut the cabbage in half and, with the cut-side down, slice it as thinly as possible around the core, as though you were making coleslaw. Discard the core. Melt the butter in a large saute pan or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and begins to brown. Season, to taste, and serve warm.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Now That's a Knock-Off!

These platform sandals are identical except for the color. The buckle and heal are also an exact match. Pretty amazing knock-off in my opinion. I'm surprised they can knock something off that much. You'd think it was illegal.

On the left - Banana Republic (in stores now)

On the right - Marni (from their Spring 2008 collection)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Patty's Day Dinners

photo courtesy of Food on the Food

I'm hosting a St. Patrick's "Eve" dinner tomorrow night for some girlfriends and serving corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and sauerkraut. I did it last year and everyone had fun and enjoyed the food so I decided to do it again.

Whole Foods sells a delicious corned beef (on sale today for $4.99/lb) that I will cook for several hours tomorrow. At some point you add carrots, potatoes and cabbage. I am also going to make Ina's sauteed cabbage so we can test which way we like the cabbage better. I love cooking one thing two ways so you can run a taste test. I think I may have cooked the corned beef in beer last year so I will have to do a little research tonight.

I got extra meat and all the fixings so I could make these delicious Reubens with leftovers on St. Patrick's Day. My mouth is watering already. My husband is going to love coming home to these after a long day of work.

Sick of Being Sick

I caught a little cold and suppose I didn't take care of myself like I should have because it turned into a sinus infection. And not just any sinus infection - the most painful, crippling sinus infection I have ever had. I spent the last few days in pure hell.

Well not only did I have a long, rough week in bed this week but it sounds like the rest of the city did too. Every day I hear about several more people taken down by a cold, the flu, sinus infections, walking pneumonia, you name it. Is it just me or does it feel like these bugs get worse every year?

So in the spirit of the season I thought I would re-post my Get Well Tea recipe. It's so yummy once you get used to it! We drink it like crazy around my house when we're not feeling well.

And to make you laugh... a clip from a favorite Seinfeld episode. Get well, get well soon...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Too Cute for Words

I just read about a new brand of organic cotton clothing on Cool Mom Picks. The brand is called Sarah Waldo Organics and she has some super cute pieces. I am crazy for this orange plaid Beatrice dress with the rain boots for fall. (Want to buy so badly but must.... be.... good....!)

Also loving these little cotton Ella dresses in great summer colors.

Chlorine Free Organic Cotton What?

The other night at dinner with friends, someone asked me about tampons. She said that she is so careful about choosing safe products for herself and her family but never thought about tampons.

Two years ago I went to the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, California and learned a thing or two about traditional versus natural tampons. I started buying Natracare tampons from that day forward. Here's some info from the Natracare website explaining why:

Natracare tampons were developed as a direct response to health and environmental concerns about dioxin pollution caused by chlorine bleaching, the extensive use of pesticide spraying on conventionally grown cotton, and the use of rayon and other synthetics in tampons.

Many women are unaware that rayon and rayon-cotton blends are widely used in the manufacture of tampons. Rayon is commonly chlorine-bleached, and is a highly absorbent fibre. Dioxin, a toxic carcinogen, is a by-product of all chlorine bleaching methods and is also found throughout the environment in varying levels as a by-product of pesticide spraying and pollution from incinerators. Dioxin has been found to collect in the fatty tissues of animals, including humans and should, therefore, be a real concern for women. Published scientific reports have shown that evidence is growing that even low levels of dioxins may be linked to cancer, endometriosis, low sperm counts and immune system suppression. Considering a woman may use as many as 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, she may be subjecting herself to additional dioxin exposure.

Seventh Generation also sells 100% organic cotton tampons that are safer for you and the environment.

Features & Benefits:
100% certified organic cotton
Whitened without chlorine
Safer for sensitive skin
No rayon
Compact style
Package is 100% recycled paper

Friday, March 13, 2009

New Report Finds Carcinogens in Baby Bath Products

Washington Post reports: "Probable Carcinogens Found in Baby Toiletries"

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics study:

What They Found

"The lab tested 48 kids' products for 1,4-dioxane and found it in 67 percent of the products. Of the 28 products tested for formaldehyde, 82 percent were positive. Seventeen products were contaminated with both 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde."

Health Concerns

"While a single product might not be cause for concern, the reality is that babies may be exposed to several products at bath time, several times a week, in addition to other chemical exposures in the home and environment. Those small exposures add up and may contribute to later-life disease.

Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens; formaldehyde can also trigger skin rashes in some children. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. government does not limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, or most other hazardous substances in personal care products."

What You Can Do

Contrary to industry statements, there are no regulatory standards that limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane or most other toxic chemicals in personal care products sold in the United States. There are signs the U.S. is gearing to catch up, but for now it's up to consumers to consider carefully before they buy. Here's some suggestions for safeguarding your family's health:

  • Simplify: Select products with fewer ingredients and no synthetic fragrance or dyes, and use fewer products overall.
  • Choose safety: Search EWG's cosmetic safety database, Skin Deep, to learn more about the products you use and find safer alternatives. Also check out EWG's Safety Guide to Children’s Personal Care Products.
  • Read labels: Select products for baby and yourself that don't contain the ingredients listed above, which are commonly contaminated with formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane.
  • Take action! Can’t memorize these lists? Nobody can. If harmful contaminants and ingredients weren’t allowed in products, you wouldn’t have to. Tell Congress you want safe cosmetics for babies, adults and everyone in between.
  • Spread the word: Send an e-card letting friends and family know about this report.

Homemade Bread

My mom tore a recipe for No-Knead Bread out of the paper and mailed it to me ions ago. I thought it sounded interesting at the time, but not something I was eager to make at the time so it got filed it away in one of my recipe binders (click here to read more about my pride and joy recipe binders).
Well, with my recent completion of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I was finally inspired to make my own bread. Add to that the recent post on Babyccino reminding me of the no-knead bread recipe I also had tucked away, I knew how I would begin my bread-making days.

So I gave it my best shot. Shame on me for not learning by now the importance of reading a recipe the whole way through before starting it. I have made that mistake in the past and you'd think I'd have learned by now. The recipe was pretty easy, it just took longer than I anticipated. I didn't read that you needed to fold it with wheat bran and let sit for two additional hours. I had the oven and cast iron pot all ready to roll when I read that. I think it threw me that I was going off the video rather than the recipe. I suggest reviewing both before you start.
It didn't turn out perfect (a little flat and a little burnt) but it did taste fantastic. We spread a little butter on top and gobbled it up with soup and salad for dinner. It was delicious. We had it in the morning as toast but felt it tasted best just sliced and served with a touch of butter. The loaf didn't last long in our house and I will definitely be making it again soon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our Mr. Elephant Rocker

When I was pregnant with my daughter I ventured into the Flora & Henri store in Seattle to look at all their beautiful children's clothes. I also came across this adorable elephant rocker they used as decor. I tracked it down and ordered one for our nursery. It is so cute in my daughter's room and she loves it, always getting on top for elephant rides and giving him kisses.

The company who makes it is called Hand Crafted Beauties and they have a wide selection of animal rockers - ponies, dogs, a moose, you name it. They were great to work with too.

During my most recent trip into Flora & Henri (to take advantage of their huge sale!) I noticed they had this new elephant rocker which is also adorable (much cuter in person). I tracked it down too although I can't justify buying it. I think one elephant rocker is enough for one family, don't you?!

The company who makes this style is Vilac and can be bought online from Apricot & Ivy. Super cute!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Greek Themed Dinner

Photo: Taste.com.au

I took a quick jaunt to our local farmer's market on Sunday and picked up most of the fixins for this weeks meals. I had fun planning my menu and was able to find some great stuff for a Greek themed dinner. I got chicken breasts and some veggies to make a quick stock and then soup, potatoes, eggs, mixed greens and feta cheese. With a quick trip to the grocery store and a stop at our favorite Greek restaurant for my most favorite hummus, we had quite the feast last night.

The Menu
Homemade Avgolemono soup
Pita with hummus, feta and mixed olives
Greek potatoes
Mixed greens with lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan

Avgolemono Soup
adapted from William Sonoma's Soup cookbook

olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
6 or 7 cups chicken stock (I used 3 cups homemade + 4 cups store bought - see below)
1/2 cup long grain white rice
4 egg yolks, lighten beaten
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 t finely chopped lemon zest
salt & pepper
2 T finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup shredded chicken

In a large pot over medium heat, saute carrots in olive oil for a few minutes. Add chicken stock, turn up heat and bring to a boil. Stir in rice, reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered about 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice and lemon zest.

When rice is cooked, take out one cup of broth. Whisking constantly to prevent curdling, slowly pour the hot stock into the egg mixture.

Reduce heat under the stock to low and slowly stir in the tempered egg mixture. Cook, stirring, until the soup is slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Do let let the soup boil.

Stir in shredded chicken and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 4 small servings. (Next time I will double this recipe so we have more leftovers.)

Chicken Stock

I'm really partial to homemade chicken stock for simple soups. I also wanted to add some shredded chicken to this recipe so I was able to kill two birds with one stone. If you're missing an item or two, no worries. You just want to add veggies and herbs to give flavor to your stock.

2 chicken breasts
2 carrots, cut in half or thirds
1 white onion, quartered
3 celery stalks (plus leaves), cut in half or thirds
1/2 or whole garlic bulb, cut in half
handful of parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 t whole peppercorns
1-2 t kosher salt

Throw it all in a pot and cover with water by an inch or two. Bring to a boil over medium or medium high heat, then simmer for a few hours. Once it's done, strain through a fine mesh strainer two times.

Shred one chicken breast for soup and save the other for something else.

Cool stock in the sink with cold water and ice before moving to fridge. Leave overnight, then skim off fat before using or putting into containers to freeze.

What the World Eats

I came across this slide show from Time magazine on Party Perfect, titled "What the World Eats". I agree that it is a fascinating pictorial showing families around the world with a sample of a week's worth of groceries. Equally interesting is the weekly food expenditures associated with each picture, listed below each one.
The family from North Carolina is probably a good representation of how most Americans eat (sadly). It is crazy to think we spend more than most countries on food, yet we eat the most highly processed foods, and the least whole foods.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Personalized Vintage Bookplates

My sister-in-law told me about these adorable personalized vintage bookplates by Oiseaux that she came across on Etsy. A set includes 24 personalized bookplates and costs $15.25. What a cute gift idea! Especially if paired with one of your favorite children's books. I will definitely be ordering some of these for our next birthday party. There are countless designs to choose from but here are four of my favorites....