Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Farmers Market "Chickenchurri" Dinner

I really loaded up at the farmers market on Sunday so tonight we had my father-in-law over for a farmers market feast that was, in my husband's words, "blog worthy". It melts my heart when he says that.

(Everything in green was purchased at the market.)

I was craving chimichurri sauce and was inspired by my friend Lynne who serves it over grilled chicken or fish. I opted to go with some chicken breasts I bought at the market. I like well-seasoned chicken so I decided to prepare it souvlaki-style rather than grilling entire chicken breasts. I used my chicken souvlaki recipe as guidance but used parsley instead of oregano to match the flavor of the chimichurri. Recipe below.

I got these great little Maris Piper potatoes at the market and found this fabulous recipe for Parisian Potatoes from the Almost Bourdain blog. They were really easy and we all loved them. I especially liked dipping them in the chimichurri sauce.

I can't get enough of the broccoli that's in season right now. I cook it so simply - with garlic, red chili flakes, salt, pepper and olive oil. I could eat it every night for dinner and I love leftovers with brown rice for lunch.

I bought butter lettuce, romaine, sungold cherry tomatoes and cucumber at the market so I threw together
my favorite salad with my mother-in-law's amazing dressing.

And for dessert we indulged in some vanilla ice cream and a marionberry pie from the market. Perfect refreshing dessert to top off our meal.

Colleen's Chickenchurri Dinner

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 lemon, juiced
¼ olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 T fresh parsley, minced
½ t garlic salt
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large Ziploc bag. Prepare as early in the day as possible. (I didn't do it until the afternoon and it was fine but the longer the better). Soak skewers in water for 20 minutes so they don’t burn on the grill. Put chicken pieces on skewers and grill on the BBQ until cooked through. Serve with chimichurri sauce (recipe below).

Chimichurri Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetite

1 1/4 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley (roughly one large bunch)
3/4 olive oil
2-3 T red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
juice from one large lemon wedge

Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve over grilled steak, chicken or fish.

Tomato Soup

I just made a batch of this tomato soup with 5lbs of beautiful tomatoes from the farmers market.

Baby #2 is due at the end of September so this will be perfect for a crisp fall day when I'm a zombie and have no energy to cook. I can pull this soup out of the freezer and enjoy it with a delicious grilled cheese sandwich. YUM!

Tomatoes taste wonderful right now so it's the perfect time of year to make this soup. And it couldn't be an easier recipe. It took less than 20 minutes to prep and then a few hours to simmer (I ended up simmering for two and a half hours). I don't have a food mill so I used a fine sieve and made sure to really smash it through the strainer so I could get all the good tomato juices.

Next up - more carrot lemongrass soup with fresh carrots from the market.

101 Salads...

Having trouble thinking of what to cook these days? Check out Mark Bittman's recent article "101 Simple Salads for the Season". He offers so many good ideas, I don't know where to start.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Light & Refreshing

My friend Lynne bought me some Flora Berry tea from Remedy Teas on Capitol Hill in Seattle. She thought I would enjoy it as iced tea on these hot hot days. I wasn't sure what the best way to make iced tea from loose tea would be so I gave the store a call and the guy who answered was so helpful. He gave me three methods for making iced tea. He also recommended using some agave sweetener with the Flora Berry tea I was using to bring out the lavender flavor. I had purchased some agave nectar from Dr. Tea's Tea Garden in LA so I was finally able to use it.

The tea only took a few minutes to make and I have a few servings for lunches this week. The perfect light and refreshing beverage for these hot days.

I had fun looking over Remedy's list of teas. They have quite the selection. I am loving the Flora Berry and can't wait to try more.

The method I used for making iced tea:

Bring 5 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat and add 5 T loose tea. Let steep for 15 minutes (anywhere from 5-30 minutes is great). Stir in a few teaspoons of agave nectar. Strain through a fine seive and chill. Serve over ice.

Random Thing I Love

I love these Aquis Microfiber Hair Towels. I use one every day after I get out of the shower. It stays on my head better than any regular towel and doesn't fall off while brushing my teeth or washing my face. They're super absorbent so great to wear until you're ready to blow-dry your hair. I can't live without these hair towels and even take mine on vacation with me.

A Productive Nap Hour

I love to cook so I take on a lot of projects. To show how quick and manageable it can be though, I wanted to show you what I accomplished yesterday during my two-year old's afternoon nap. In the few hours she slept I made:
  • one large batch of pesto and stored it in jars to freeze
  • two loaves of zucchini bread
  • eight ice cream bars to enjoy on these hot hot days
  • one batch of Remedy Flora Berry tea brewed to have as ice tea all week
  • two trays of rinsed and dried blueberries to freeze overnight on cookie sheets before bagging

Not bad for a few hours. I was quite proud.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


As I've been saying for months, I'm completely inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. With her in mind, I've been buying up local produce this summer and freezing it for the winter months. In addition to freezing berries, I wanted to make some pesto and a great tomato soup. I checked pesto off my list making a batch last weekend and yesterday. Tomato soup from a recent post on Mixed Greens is on deck for today.

Pesto is a great thing to have on hand when you need a quick or last minute dinner. Toss with some noodles on it's own or spruce it up with some half & half, an egg and asiago cheese for a quick pasta dinner. It's good hot or cold and can be used on pasta, paninis, pizza and more.
I bought tons of fresh basil at the market and once I took the leaves off the stems, it took about two seconds to make pesto. I always love Ina's recipe for pesto but I wanted to get a range of ideas so I pulled pesto recipes from some favorite resources - Ina, Giada, Martha, Epicurious, and 101 Cookbooks - and then made up my own version. My friend Amy tipped me off that parmesan doesn't freeze well. Some recipes online for freezing pesto include parmesan but several don't so I went the safe route. Once you thaw the pesto, stir in freshly grated parmesan before using.
I froze my pesto in little jars because I can easily go through that amount in a few days once I thaw it. You can also use ice cube trays or freezer trays (also great for baby food) and then pop out the cubes and throw into freezer safe Ziploc bags. That allows you to thaw a small amount at a time.
Pesto is great to have on hand for these recipes and more:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oh So Talented

I came across Rifle while deep into blogland one day and instantly fell in love with the style of Anna Bond's artwork. She does custom illustrations for save the dates, wedding invitations, announcements and more. I think the above family tree would be adorable for a baby announcement (maybe mine!). Check out her website and blog to see her amazing works of art.


I love the blog Simply Breakfast. It always inspires me with ideas of what to make for breakfast. This morning I had really good Killer Dave's Powerseed bread, toasted with cream cheese, tomatoes and black pepper inspired by the above photo (I think she used feta though). A nice change of pace from my usual breakfast, especially since tomatoes are so good right now. Always fun to check in on occassion to see what the photographer is cooking up.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Photo courtesy of World of Work

I'm totally guilty of talking on the phone (a lot) while driving. It's the easiest way for me to catch up on phone calls because I don't have a screaming toddler wanting my attention. I don't text while driving so I always thought I was being careful enough.

Well I just read the article "Drivers and Legislators Dismiss Cellphone Risks" from Sunday's New York Times front page and found it to be quite interesting and persuasive about the dangers of talking on the phone. Scary how quickly an accident, even a fatal one, can happen when you're talking on the phone. I would have thought that dialing was the dangerous part but it sounds like the content of the call is equally distracting.

Also interesting is that they say hands-free devices aren't any safer!

If you're like me and talk on the phone a lot while driving (or if you text, email, play games, etc), this is a good article to read and possible persuade you to change your behavior. I know I need to make some changes in mine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Choosing the Right Cooking Oil

I always cook and saute food with olive oil and/or butter depending on the item but I know there are better oils to use depending on what or how you're cooking (high heat for example). I came across a great pamphlet at my local PCC called Choosing the Right Cooking Oil and thought the cooking oil chart (bottom of page) was quite helpful. The chart provides a few great options for cooking with high heat that have mild or neutral taste. I'm always wary of certain oils for fear that their flavor will affect what I'm cooking but now I'll know what to use. Great resource if you're like me and always opt for olive oil.

I came across the article What Is the Safest & Healthiest Cooking Oil? while looking for a photo. It is also interesting and helpful. For example, I did not know that canola oil is one of the safest and healthiest options.

Monday, July 20, 2009


These little beauties by Seattle-based company, glassybaby, are used as cups, candle holders or vases. They are seen all around town in people's homes and restaurants. Not sure if they are as popular in other cities but they should be. They come in over 70 different colors that you can mix and match to set the tone for your next dinner party or event.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lunch for Three

In typical Sunday fashion, I started off the day at the farmers market. My daughter and husband came with me today which makes the experience all the more fun.
We came home and I threw together a quick lunch featuring items from the market, both past and present. I used some of the Carrot Lemongrass Soup I made months ago in preparation for a hot day like today. I whipped up a quick salad with fresh butter lettuce, Sungold tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers from the market, topped with leftover Green Goddess dressing. We even drank juice from the market - deliciously sweet raspberry-apple juice that my daughter and I raced to finish so we could get more before it was all gone. Perfect lunch for a hot summer day.
The best part of all was having my husband back after a four-day golf tournament. He was all ours, all day. My daughter was in heaven, as was I. Weekends with my two favorite people are always the best, no matter what we're doing. We topped off the day with some delicious halibut fish tacos, a walk and a slice of Cherry Calfouti with ice cream. What more could a girl ask for?!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cherry Clafouti

I came across this recipe for Cherry Clafouti from my friend Heather's website. Since the cherries are in abundance at the farmers market, I thought it would be a great time to make it. I put my daughter down for her afternoon nap today and while she was asleep I made, baked and ate some of the clafouti and even had time to blog about it. It only took 20 minutes or so to whip up plus an hour to bake and voila, you have a delicious dessert. I was expecting it to be more cake-like but the consistency reminded me more of a souffle. It was delicious with vanilla ice cream as my pre-dinner dessert (I'm pregnant, remember?!). I will definitely make this recipe again. Maybe tomorrow when this one is long gone.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tips for Saving on Groceries

Photo courtesy of RecipePedia

I've been talking to friends a lot lately about the cost of food and how expensive it is these days. I've learned a lot of tricks while trying to eat the best quality food without breaking the bank. These aren't huge saving tips but every little bit counts.

Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. You will get more bang for your buck buying Washington apples (if you live in Washington) when in season rather than Kiwi from Argentina or Strawberries from Chile. And food just tastes better when it's in season.

Shop at your local Farmers Markets. You have no choice but to shop seasonally if you frequent the farmers markets in your community. The Seattle Farmers Market has some interesting information on their website about whether it is really more expensive to shop at the markets.
Make a weekly meal planner. I make a meal planner every Sunday and then create my grocery list from that. It saves me TONS of money. I buy what I need. I don't buy a lot of snack foods because they aren't on my grocery list and we don't need them. I used to buy extra veggies with great intentions and we'd never get through them all so they'd go bad. Groceries are expensive enough, you don't want to be wasting produce or other items.
Buy in bulk. I shop in the bulk department a lot more than I used to. Bulk spices, grains, nuts and dried fruit are much more cost effective when purchased in the bulk bins. For example, I bought 8 bay leaves from the bulk food herb section at Whole Foods. The bag was so light that it didn't register on the scale so the cashier charged me 10 cents. You may get a few more bay leaves in the jar but it's going to cost you $5-6. I bought cumin in bulk to refill my empty jar. I filled my jar and had extra for $2.62 whereas the regular jarred cumin is again, $5-6. This is also the route to go when you need an uncommon spice that you don't cook with much. Why spend $5 on the whole jar when you only need a teaspoon for your recipe. Buy oatmeal and raisins in bulk rather than buying the individual packs or name-brands. It is cheaper and better on the environment to avoid all that excess packaging. Buying beans in the bulk food section is another healthier and cheaper alternative to canned beans. This is one thing I don't do but should.
Plan for leftovers. I stretch my food. I generally make more than enough dinner so I have leftovers the next day for lunch. If I make tacos, I always make extra meat. That way we can use up the tortillas, sour cream, cheese, cilantro, lettuce, etc. I might even do quesadillas or breakfast burritos one day to get through all the taco accompaniments. If I have leftover zucchini, spinach or canned tomatoes I use them in my black bean mix for enchiladas. If you can't finish a good baguette before it goes stale, make croutons or bread crumbs. Leftover goat cheese or cream cheese is great cooked with eggs. Leftover ricotta can be used for pancakes. If you have to buy a specialty item for a recipe (sun-dried tomatoes for example), think of another meal for that week (or the next) that could use them (pasta, chicken, pizza). There's nothing worse than seeing an expensive item go bad in your fridge after weeks of not needing it. If you have veggies that are about to go bad, make a quick pot of veggie stock. It takes minutes to prep and will save you money down the road when you need some.
Buy whole chickens or bone-in, skin-on chicken breast. Buy a whole chicken. Roast it one night for dinner, then use the leftover meat for lunch or dinner the next day (chicken caesar salad, chicken sandwiches, enchiladas, etc) and use the carcass to make stock. Buy bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. They can be as much as $3 cheaper per pound and they taste better when baked. Ina taught me that!

Eat less meat. It's good for your health, the environment, and your wallet to eat less meat.
Think ahead. Look through your fridge and pantry before you go to the store so you don't accidentally buy things you already have.
Watch for sales. I buy a lot of canned tomatoes and canned beans so when they're on sale, I load up. I do the same with toothpaste, hand soap or other toiletries when they go on sale. Every little bit counts.
Think about your non-food items too. Buy some reusable bowl covers so you don't go through as much plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Use old sour cream or large yogurt containers instead of Ziploc bags. Use wash cloths in the sink instead of sponges and kitchen towels instead of paper towels. Those items affect your grocery bill so avoid them when you can.
These tricks have helped me save money week after week when I grocery shop. I hope they help you too. And please share your ideas on how to save money on groceries! I would love more ideas.

A Girl's Best Friend

Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

I'm terrible when it comes to cleaning my engagement and wedding ring. I'm lucky if I clean them twice a year so who I am to be blogging about this topic?! I couldn't resist though and thought I would share a few great tricks to keep those diamonds sparkling clean:

1) Invest in a jewelry cleaner like this one on sale from Frontgate: Small Digital Ultrasonic CD and Jewelry Cleaner. Drop your ring in for a few minutes and it's ready to go.

2) A toothbrush is a lot cheaper than a jewelry cleaner and does a great job. Just make sure you close your sink drain so it doesn't go bye-bye if you drop it.

3) A jeweler told us this trick... If you own an espresso machine you can use the milk steamer to clean your ring. Use some tongs to hold your ring and turn it under the hot steam. Works like a charm.

4) My sister-in-law told me this trick... Drop your ring in a container of jewelry polish every night when you go to bed. In the morning, put it on after you've gotten ready for the day so that your moisturizers, lotions, and hair products don't leave a residue.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Favorite Salad

One of my most favorite salads is the Barefoot Contessa's Bibb Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing. It is fabulous this time of year when you can get most of the ingredients fresh at the farmers market.

I used butter lettuce from the market instead of bibb lettuce. I also got my basil, green onion, tomatoes, and garlic from the market. I also had cucmber and carrots from the market so I used those as well (I like shredded carrots in salads because you don't get a huge bite of carrot but you do get a little flavor and more nutrients).

The recipe makes a huge amount of dressing so it's perfect to make when entertaining a large group or you can just have leftovers for days. I will be eating this salad until every last drop of dressing is gone. Makes a great little veggie dip too!

A Favorite Item

I love these scalloped cake stands from William Sonoma. They come in three sizes that can be stacked or used individually. I love them stacked to display cupcakes or petits fours for a shower or party.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Medela's Freestyle

I've been hearing great things about the Medela Freestyle hands-free breast pump. My friends are saying that's it just as powerful as the regular machine but much more user-friendly. It's small and portable, battery powered so you don't have to be near a plug, and it has a timer. Much easier to travel with too. Pumping was the bane of my existence so I'm interested in anything that makes it easier. I would say I can't wait to try it, but I can!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Farmers Market Dinner & Meatless Night in One!

My friend Amy was telling me that she makes a great eggplant pasta for their meatless night. She gave me a quick run-through of how she makes it and it sounded great so I gave it a shot last night. She was right, it is easy and so good. The longer you cook it the more the eggplant and tomatoes soften and sweat. With the added goat cheese it creates a creamy and flavorful sauce.
I got most of the ingredients for the pasta and the sides from the farmers market on Sunday. Everything in green below was purchased from the market.

As most of you have probably heard, you want a very colorful diet. The most colors you eat in a day, the better. This was a great meal in that regard. There was red, two orange, lots of green and a few purple in one meal! We got other colors inlcuding yellow (banana) and blue (blueberries) throughout the day so my daughter and I covered the whole rainbow yesterday. I don't think I've done that in awhile.

Butter lettuce
Sungold tomatoes (so good they are like candy!)
Homemade vinaigrette

Rainbow chard

Eggplant Pasta

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 T garlic, minced
2 small to medium sized eggplants, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 pints cherry and or grape tomatoes (I used one of each), largest ones cut in half
1/4 cup white wine
3-4 T basil, minced
2 T parsley, minced
1 T oregano, minced
1/2 t red chili flakes
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Penne pasta
Goat cheese

Heat 2 T olive oil over medium heat. Add red onion and saute for a few minutes. Add garlic and saute for a few more minutes. Add eggplant and tomatoes. Stir and saute for a few minutes, adding small amounts of olive oil as needed. Add white wine, herbs, red chili flakes, salt and pepper. Increase heat to high. Cover and cook for about five minutes to let the tomatoes and eggplant soften and sweat. Stir and lower heat back to medium. Continue to cook, covered, for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower heat to low and continue to cook, the longer the better while the flavors meld and everything gets super soft and combined.
Bring a pot of water to boil. Salt generously and cook penne until al dente. Add noodles to sauce (I used 3/4 of the bag because I like my pasta saucy) and toss to combine. Sprinkle with lots of goat cheese and stir into the pasta. It will melt and make the sauce nice and creamy. Serve with a few last sprinkles of goat cheese and basil on top.

Freezing Berries

Yesterday at the farmers market I bought three flats of berries. I tried to buy one raspberry and one blueberry but the guy offered me a great deal on the price of three so I couldn't resist.
If you haven't tried them yet, I highly recommend the local berries right now. They are so sweet and delicious.
When I got home from the market I gave the berries a quick rinse and then laid them out on kitchen towels to dry. Once dry I put them on cookie sheets and placed them in the freezer overnight so they would freeze individually. Today I transferred them to freezer safe Ziploc bags. I got as much air as possible out of the bags (to avoid freezer burn) by closing them almost all the way, then sticking a straw in and sucking out all the air before quickly sealing that last little opening. Worked like a charm.
Now I have fresh, local berries, grown without pesticides, ready to go for cobblers, smoothies, and more. Great way to support local, sustainable farmers and save yourself some money on frozen berries throughout the year!

Love this Wallpaper

I'm in the process of decorating the nursery for our baby boy and was looking at wallpaper online. I came across this Zebra wallpaper from Scalamandre that is absolutely adorable.

And to top off how much I love it, it was in Margot's bathroom in The Royal Tenenbaums, one of my favorite movies of all times.

I would love to use this wallpaper in a boy's bedroom or kid's bathroom. Adorable and so fun.

Happy Anniversary to Over Cocktails!!!

Today is Over Cocktails one year anniversary! Not only did it survive a few meltdowns where I thought I should give it up, but I wrapped up the year with a total of 418 posts and an average of 50+ unique visitors a day from all over the US and several other countries. It's not huge numbers but enough to keep me going and having fun.

I hope you are enjoying my recipes and mindless ramblings. And I hope I have inspired some of you in one way or another.

Baby #2 is due September 25th so I can't promise as many posts in the year ahead. Over Cocktails is like a diary for me though so it's the first thing I want to do to wind down from a long day. I'll be sure to keep posting after a short hiatus once baby arrives.
Post a comment if there's anything you're interested in and don't have time to research because I enjoy it and am happy to post on any subject!
Thank you to all my friends for their inspiration and support of my little hobby!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Regulars - Part 3

Still going strong with my addiction to black bean green enchiladas. I've been making them so often that I've been fiddling with the recipe and thought I would share some new variations.

I mentioned in a recent post that I like to add shredded zucchini to my black bean mixture to add more nutritional value and sneak a green veggie into my daughter's mouth. I have also been adding chopped spinach for those same reasons. This last time I also used some leftover canned tomatoes from another recipe. I chopped up the tomatoes and included a lot of the juice. You get the wonderful health benefits from the tomatoes (so good for you!) and you get rid of all the excess liquid when you strain the beans. I'll be adding those a lot more often.

My friend Amy makes these on a regular basis and adds shredded chicken. Great addition if you want more protein. I do that from time to time as well.

Whenever I add anything to my black bean mixture I just make sure to add a lot of extra seasoning (cumin, salt, pepper, garlic salt, paprika, hot sauce, etc).

I also mix it up and use red enchilada sauce sometimes. I generally use Hatch Green Enchilada Sauce but lately I have been using their red enchilada sauce. This last time I tried a new brand called Sweet Creek that's bottled (instead of canned) and organic. It was delicious and something I will definitely buy again.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Regulars - Part 2

My husband asks for chicken fajitas a lot and it's great by me. They are really easy and very tasty. I'm sure everyone has their own twist on this basic dinner but here's my version...

Chicken Fajitas

For the meat mixture

1 - 1.5lb chicken breasts, cut into large bite sized pieces
2 T garlic, minced
3-4 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced 1/2" thick, then cut in half
1 red pepper, cored, seeded, cut in slices 1/2" thick
1 yellow pepper, cored, seeded, cut in slices 1/2" thick
1 package fajita seasoning (I like Lawrys)
2 t cumin
salt & pepper
red chili flakes
garlic salt

For the fajitas

flour tortillas
cheddar cheese, shredded
sour cream
salsa (call me crazy but I LOVE Pace's Organic Medium Salsa)
hot sauce (we love Cholula)
iceberg lettuce, chopped or shredded

Preheat oven to 350.

You can either do the chicken and veggies one at a time, or you can cook them in separate pans. I generally do them one at a time.

Saute chicken in olive oil over medium heat. Season well with salt, pepper, garlic salt, red chili flakes, and minced garlic. Set aside. Saute onions and peppers in olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken to pan. Mix fajita seasoning packet with 1 - 1 1/2 cups of water and pour over chicken/onion/pepper mixture. Bring to a quick boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.

Top tortillas with cheddar cheese and warm in the oven until the cheese melts. Remove and transfer to a plate. Top with meat mixture and pass out for each person to add their own toppings.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Regulars - Part 1

I have a few dinners that are in constant circulation at our house. I always assume they're in every family's rotation but decided to share them just in case you've been missing out on these quick, easy and kid-friendly favorites. Here's my taco recipe. Next up I'll post my chicken fajitas.


For the meat

1 lb ground turkey breast
1/2 lb leanest ground beef
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 T garlic, minced (4-6 cloves)
2 T olive oil
salt & pepper
garlic salt
red chili flakes
taco seasoning, one or one and a half packets (I like Bearitos)

For the tacos

flour tortillas
cheddar cheese, shredded
sour cream
salsa (call me crazy but I LOVE Pace's Organic Medium Salsa)
hot sauce (we love Cholula)
1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
iceberg lettuce, chopped or shredded
olives, optional
cilantro, optional

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute for several minutes. Add garlic, ground turkey and ground beef. Season with salt, pepper, garlic salt and some red chili flakes. Saute until meat is just cooked through. Drain off any fat from pan. Combine taco seasoning with one or more cups of water. Add to pan and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Top tortillas with cheddar cheese and warm in the oven until the cheese melts. Remove and transfer to a plate. Top with meat mixture and pass out for each person to add their own toppings.

* You can use any combination of ground turkey and beef. I like to mix them 2 to 1 so it's a bit leaner and healthier. I always make extra meat so we have leftovers for lunch the next day. These are also quite good with hard shell tortillas.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

This Little Piggy

I just came across this pair of pig bookends on Oh Joy! and thought they were pretty darn cute and worth sharing. My immediate thought was that they'd be cute flanking cookbooks in a kitchen. They'd be really cute in a child's bedroom or playroom as well. And speaking of little piggies, I thought these glass piggy banks were fun and unique. Cute gift idea if you're looking for something different.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Little Taste of Heaven

For some reason I started thinking about those ice cream dixie cups we all used to eat as kids. The ones with vanilla ice cream swirled with orange sherbet that you ate with a little wooden spoon. I was craving that creamy blend of flavors and decided it would be fun to make my own.
I couldn't find orange sherbet at my neighborhood grocery store but I did find some mango tangerine sorbet that I thought would do the trick. I had a second set of the Tovolo popsicle molds so I got those out tonight and got to work. These ice cream bars were so fast and easy to make, not to mention absolutely delicious. Lucky for me, there wasn't enough room for all the ice cream in the molds so there was lots of leftover ice cream to enjoy tonight. I can't wait to try one of the ice cream bars tomorrow once they're frozen and ready to go.
This would be a fun project to do with your kids on a hot summer day!

My Homemade "Dixie Cup" Ice Cream Bars
1 pint Double Rainbow mango & tangerine sorbet
1 pint (or more) Julie's Organic vanilla ice cream (my favorite)
1/4-1/2 cup orange juice
1/4-1/2 cup whole milk

Take the ice cream and sorbet out of the freezer about 10-20 minutes before you need them so they soften up. Put the ice cream and sorbet into a blender and pour some milk and orange juice over the top. Blend for a minute or so and then stir to combine. Add more milk and orange juice as needed. Repeat until well blended and really soft. Spoon into popsicle molds and place in your freezer until you're ready to enjoy.

Lather Up with the Best Sunscreens

The Environmental Working Group just put out their 2009 Sunscreen Guide. It's a great resource to find the Best Sunscreens or to Find Your Sunscreen to see how it measure up.

Happy Birthday to My "Snookies"

My baby girl turned two. I can't believe it. Where does the time go?!

We hosted a small family BBQ to celebrate. I wanted to cook but I also didn't want to take on too much and be stressed on her birthday. I feel that the best birthday gift to my daughter is to be fun and present on her birthday rather than stressed out which is how I normally get when I entertain. So to avoid some stress, I ordered the tzatziki, roasted tomatoes, Greek salad and orzo salad from a local Greek restaurant. I ordered the cake as well so all I had to make was the chicken (so easy), the Greek fries, and the appetizer. Easy prep and stress-free cooking before and during the party. I only wish I had more time with my girl and all the guests. Parties always go by too quickly in my opinion.


Meat & Cheese Plate


- served with warmed pita, tzatziki, parsley, red onion, roasted tomatoes

Greek Village Salad (purchased from Vios Cafe in Seattle)
- tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, green pepper, kalamata olives, feta, oregano, red wine vinaigrette

Greek Orzo Salad (purchased from Vios Cafe in Seattle)
- with eggplant, olives, feta and sundried tomatoes

- with garlic, herbs, lemon juice and feta cheese


Birthday Cake (from My Sisters & Me in Seattle) & Ice Cream
- organic sour cream cake with lemon curd and raspberry filling

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Zucchini Bread

If you look at the ingredients, this is basically a cake without frosting. However you put it in a loaf pan, slice it like bread and it's not out of the question to heat it up and add a pat of butter. So maybe that's why we call it bread, because it's as good as cake.
This is the recipe my mom has made my whole life. I love it.
Zucchini Bread

3 eggs, beaten
1 cup oil (I used Canola)
1 3/4 - 2 cups sugar (I used 1 3/4 cup)
2 cups grated zucchini (the recipe says peeled but I didn't)
2 t vanilla
3 cups flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t clove
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger

Optional - 1 cup nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325. Mix first three ingredients together. Then add the rest and stir to combine. Butter and flour two loaf pans. Hit sides of pan to remove all excess flour. Fill each pan with half the batter and bake for one hour. Remove and place pans on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes. Gently turn pan over and catch loaf with your other hand. Continue to let cool on the wire rack until ready to eat or wrap up for later.
Great with coffee for breakfast (heated and slathered with butter of course). You can also freeze one loaf if you don't plow through it as fast as our family.

Exercise During Pregnancy

I know a lot of women, myself included, who've had questions about exercise when they're pregnant. I know my first time around I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions to find out what I could and couldn't do, where my heart rate should be and if I could continue to do the classes I had been enjoying so much.

Most responses were that you can continue to do what you've been doing - so if you're a runner, continue to run, if you love spin classes, yoga or swimming, continue to do those activities. The biggest warning is that you just shouldn't ramp up your exercise routine (obviously) or start a new sport or type of fitness program once you get pregnant. A lot of people/websites say you need to keep your heart rate at or below 140. Some say it's okay to go higher if you've been training at a higher level for some time. Some say continue to work out at the same rate/pace that you did before you got pregnant so long as you can pass the "talk test" (can you talk while you're exercising or are you too out of breath?). And some say that it's more important to watch your body temp and not to overheat.

I'm sure anyone with an opinion would say that it's also important to make sure to stay well-hydrated.

A friend who is newly pregnant recently asked me about the heart-rate situation and I didn't have a solid answer for her since I've heard such a wide range of opinions on it. She did a little googling and found this Q&A on the Mayo Clinic website...
Question: Exercise during pregnancy: Is heart rate a concern?

I exercise frequently and also teach water aerobics. Now that I'm pregnant, I've been told that I shouldn't let my heart rate go over 140 beats per minute (bpm). What happens to me or my baby if my heart rate exceeds 140 bpm?

Answer: from Roger W. Harms, M.D.

If you exercised regularly before your pregnancy, you shouldn't be too concerned about exercise during pregnancy.

In 1983, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) originally set a guideline of no more than 140 beats per minute during exercise as a recommendation for most pregnant women. This was based on limited research that suggested higher heart rates during pregnancy may slow the growth of your baby in the womb. But further research found this only occurred in women who exercised too much and didn't consume enough calories. So exercise alone wasn't the primary problem.

ACOG now recommends 30 minutes of exercise a day for pregnant women, but doesn't make a heart rate recommendation. Doctors now recognize that every woman has a different fitness level and no recommendation could account for those differences.

When you exercise, ACOG recommends that you should be able to carry on a conversation comfortably during your workout. If you're already physically fit, you may be able to make only a few changes to your workout to accommodate your pregnancy. You should talk to your doctor before continuing your current exercise routine.