Monday, August 31, 2009

More on "Tips for Saving"

I recently did a post on Tips for Saving on Groceries and I just wanted to demonstrate another example of why the bulk foods section is so great. Today I wanted to load up on Organic Old Fashioned Rolled Oats so I did a little cost comparison....

Whole Foods brand - container
32oz for $6.00 (special - 2 x 16oz containers for $6)

Red Mill - bag
32oz for $4.29

Whole Foods - bulk foods section
32oz for $3.18 *

So you save almost 50% by buying Whole Foods bulk rolled oats over Whole Foods packaged rolled oats. It makes sense that you would have to pay for the design and manufacturing of the packaging, but why would you?!

It goes without saying that Whole Foods is expensive but if you shop the bulk food section for items like oats, raisins, nuts and bay leaves, then you can spend less than you would at other grocery store chains. Be strategic about what you buy where and you can save money with every trip.

* Update 09/08/09 - I just saw that the oats are on sale so this would be even cheaper!

Bringing Me Back to Amalfi

A few years ago my husband and I spent some time along the Amalfi Coast. We rented a boat one day with some new friends we'd made and took a day trip out to Capri and then to a fabulous restaurant that sat alone in this tiny cove along the coast. Along with the most delicious feast of Italian pastas, salads, fish, antipasto plates and more, we were served pitcher after pitcher of white wine with fresh peaches.

I just came across this recipe for Chilled Peaches and White Wine on Orangette which reminded me of our trip and that fabulous afternoon in Amalfi. In the four years since our trip, I've made a few batches of white wine with peaches. Orangette's version is more about the peach than the wine but we prefer it the other way around. I can't indulge in glass after glass of this little taste of heaven (pregnant, remember?!) but I did allow myself one the other night. Who can resist with all these spectacular peaches every week at the market. Just another way to enjoy those juicy little gems!

Reusable Vegetable Bags

I just came across these Happy Vegetable Reusable Vegetable Bags sold on Etsy by way of a Garden Party post on Party Perfect. I thought these would make a fun gift for someone who is environmentally conscious or who likes going to the farmers market. The bags would actually be super cute for a cooking themed gift/gift wrap combo, wrapping other gifts inside them. Inside each bag you could put a specialty food item, table linens, cooking utensil or other cooking themed gifts.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Farmers Market Sunday

Each Sunday, when I get home from the market, I lay everything out on the table and then make a game plan for the week based on what I bought. This helps determine what to serve together and what items I might need from the grocery store to complete any meals or recipes. Based on today's array of foods, here's what's on the meal planner for this week (click on most items for more info and/or recipe)...
- BBQ chicken burgers with potato salad (any good recipes out there?) and green salad
- Tomato soup and grilled cheese (meatless night)
Breakfast, Lunch & Snacks
- Eggs (hard boiled eggs and/or egg salad sandwiches)
- Strawberries
- Plums
- Mini-watermelon
- Juice and kombucha
- Tomato soup (to freeze)
- Pesto with basil left over from bruschetta (to freeze or use for lunch)
If you ever visit the Ballard Farmers Market, here's a list of some of my favorite farmers and vendors. I've gotten to know a lot of them and it makes the experience all the more enjoyable.
Skagit River Ranch - bacon
Stokesberry Sustainable Farms - organic eggs and chicken
Local Roots - lettuces, Sungold tomatoes, basil and more
Wilson Fish Markets - halibut and salmon
Tall Grass Bakery - bread
Rockridge Orchards - raspberry apple cider
Olsen Farms - potatoes
Collins Family Orchard - peaches, white nectarines and strawberries
Billy’s Organic Produce - tomatoes, peppers
Communi-Tea - kombucha
Golden Harvest, The Bee Ranch - fireweed honey

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mommy 911

I was asking my friend Whitney how she keeps her life organized with two kids, a third on the way, a part time job, childcare, kid's activities, personal time, tennis (our new love) and more. She told me that the momAgenda Kitchenfolio planner and other products have really helped her keep it together. She said it's a planner with clear sleeves where you insert whatever information fits your household needs. She uses a sheet for emergency contact info, weekly activities, directions to soccer practice, to do list for a babysitter and more. Genius. momAgenda also offers these free printable downloads of some of their checklists and organizational tools. I can't wait to order some of these products and come up with my own binder to get ready for fall (and this new baby).

Good Quote

"The purpose of life is to live a life of purpose."

- Paul Kirk, Jr. Chairman, JFK Presidential Library, Ted Kennedy Memorial Service

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gobble Gobble Seattleites!

My friend Ali (and Food Editor of Seattle Magazine) highly recommends the heritage turkeys from Tom at Meadowwood Organics. She said he hand-plucks the turkey a day before you pick it up, the bird is never frozen and that you really can taste the difference!

And for all you Barbara Kingsolver fans, Meadowwood Organics has the Bourbon Red heritage turkeys that our inspiration writes about in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Ali also added that the farm (and the drive out to Enumclaw) is gorgeous. I don't host Thanksgiving but I might have to take a little drive and get a turkey for another day.

And if you don't live in the greater Seattle area, check out your local farmers market to see if any farmers are taking orders for turkeys. I've been seeing signs at the market I frequent so it's time to get your name on a list if you want one.

Farmers Market Dinner & Meatless Night

Last night I made a delicious batch of fresh tomato sauce with tomatoes, garlic, basil and parsley from the farmers market. I used an old recipe from my friend Erika whose family is Italian. I always loved going to her family's house in college on special occasions because they'd make the most amazing Italian feast. Of course there are no measurements to her recipe because her mom and aunts are all naturals and do everything by sight, smell, memory and instinct. It's in their blood. I put my measurements in parenthesis next to each ingredient. My sauce was not nearly as good as theirs, but with such fresh ingredients it's hard to go wrong.

I am also addicted to La Medusa in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood. I am crazy for their Roasted Cauliflower Gratin with Pine nuts, Raisins, and Spicy butter so I tried to re-create it last night. A new friend of mine is also obsessed with it and gave me some hints on how they cook it. Mine wasn't nearly as good as La Medusa's, but it was still quite tasty.

Tomato Sauce
My friend Erika and her family

Tomatoes (about a dozen tomatoes)
Olive oil (3 T)
Butter (1 T)
Onion (3/4 onion)
Garlic (5 or 6 cloves minced garlic)
Fresh basil (2-3 T minced basil)
Fresh oregano (I used 1/4 t dried oregano)
Red chili flakes (I skipped this because my daughter is sensitive to "spicy" sometimes)
Sugar (the tomatoes were so fresh that I skipped this ingredient)
Tomato puree or paste (about 1 1/2 cups tomato puree)
Pasta noodles
Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add tomatoes and boil for 5 minutes, until skin breaks. Drain and run under cold water to cool. Squeeze out the guts & seeds. Chop up the fleshy part of the tomato and set aside.

In a large pan, saute onion in butter and olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add garlic and saute for a few more minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato puree/paste. Stir in basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Add red chili flakes and sugar now too if using. Simmer over medium-low or low heat until ready to serve. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Cook noodles until al dente in a large pot of salted boiling water. Toss sauce and noodles and top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin with Pine nuts, Raisins, Spicy butter
Inspired by La Medusa
1 head cauliflower, chopped into large florets (large bite size or bigger)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup raisins (they use golden raisins but I just used regular Thompson raisins)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
4 T butter
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Turn oven to broil. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch cauliflower in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes (depending on size). Drain and transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking. When ready to prepare, toss cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne. Place butter in some type of oven-safe dish (I used these All-Clad Stainless Oval Bakers). Top with cauliflower and put in the oven for a few minutes. Remove, stir and return to heat. Remove again, stir, then add pine nuts and raisins. Top with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle top of bread crumbs with olive oil or a little melted butter (might be better to toss this together before sprinkling on top). Place back in oven for a few minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove and serve. (Be careful not to burn yourself with all that in and out of the hot hot oven!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Game Time

With fall weather comes spending more time at home, and more nights entertaining friends and hunkering down in the basement for some good old fashion fun. One thing we love doing with friends is playing games so I thought I would share a few of our favorites....

With some of our most favorite people in the world, we love to play the game Apples to Apples. It provides endless laughs, gloating, complaining, arguing and more. The best of times. (Recognize that photo all you Chows?!)
We also love the game Catch Phrase. We play this one with different groups of friends and it's always a good time.

We love to play the card game "Big Bertha" with my parents. We generally play a few rounds once a week and are currently playing a tournament which ends at Christmas with two winners (overall wins and lowest points). Here are some general rules for Big Bertha although this is not the exact way we play. It takes a bit to catch on but once you do, this game is addictive. We play for hours at a time.

Jones Design Company - School Time Stationery

My friend Jennie forwarded me an email with the cutest "School Time Stationery" that her friend designs. I love the simple designs and her clever ideas... book bag tags, stickers for lunch bags, lunch box cards and teacher notes. How cute for your little ones going to school this fall?! I am sure she could also make these cute designs into bookplates which would be right up my alley. Here's her work in action...

To order or for any additional stationery needs, contact:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Curried Chicken Salad

My friend Farrah is also dealing with pregnancy cravings and this is what she had to have this week. I was just at her house and tried it. Verdict? delicious! Perfect to eat as is, on a sandwich, in pita, atop some salad greens or as the recipe calls - as little tea sandwiches. This is a good recipe to have on hand when entertaining too. Perfect for a lunch or shower.

And speaking of curried chicken, I am also a huge fan of Ina's Curried Chicken Wraps. They are also a delicious option for family meals at home or entertaining guests.

I added notes below to show where Farrah used more or less of a given ingredient.

2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
1 medium unpeeled red apple, chopped
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery (more)
1/4 cup chopped pecans (less)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
3/4 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing (less)
2 teaspoons lime juice (more)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (more)
12 slices bread
Lettuce Leaves

In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients. Combine mayonnaise, lime juice and curry powder; add to chicken mixture and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut each slice of bread with a 3-in. heart-shaped cookie cutter. Top with lettuce and chicken salad.

Farmers Market Dinner - BBQ Chicken Burgers, Corn & Salad

Last night I made this farmers market dinner. Super easy, super good, and there was leftovers for today's lunch.


Corn on the cob, fresh from the market right now (boiled for 3-5 minutes)


Mix of lettuces from the farmers market
Basic Balsamic Dressing
Blue cheese, crumbled (I used Bleu Des Causses)
Dried sour cherries
Good tomatoes from the market, cut into small wedges

BBQ Chicken Burgers

2 chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half
1/2 - 1 lemon, juiced
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt & pepper

For the burgers:
BBQ sauce
Hamburger buns, brioche buns or kaiser buns
Red onion, thinly sliced

Marinate chicken breasts for a few hours. Remove from marinade and grill on the BBQ. When you flip the chicken, top with BBQ sauce and provolone. While chicken is grilling, place buns open faced on cookie sheets. Broil for a few minutes to toast and then spread with some butter. When chicken is cooked through, serve on toasted buns with more BBQ sauce, mayo, lettuce and onion.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Baby Brunch

Here is the menu from the beautiful brunch my dear friend Lynne hosted for me. Everything was delicious but I especially loved the egg dish and the raisin toast. The egg dish would be great for any holiday brunch or group gathering. You can prep part of it the day before, toss it all together in the morning and bake it. When your guests arrive, your main dish is done. So easy.

One thing I love about my group of friends is that we love to get together, eat and hang out and we love to do it is sweats. What better way to eat off fine china and sip mimosas from crystal than in sweatpants and t-shirts?!

(Thank you Lynne for a great meal and fun day! And thank you friends for all the adorable baby boy clothes!)

Brunch Menu

Scrumptious Eggs (recipe below)
Raisin toast and pastries from Macrina Bakery
Fruit salad
Scrumptious Eggs

1 ½ pounds Monterey Jack cheese
¾ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
½ large onion chopped
¼ cup butter, melted
7 eggs beaten
1 ¾ cups milk
½ cup flour
1 T. parsley
1 T. seasoned salt

Preheat oven to 350. Place ½ the cheese in bottom of buttered 9 X 13” dish. Sauté mushrooms and onion in butter until tender; place over cheese. Spread ham over mushrooms and top with rest of cheese. If desired, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. When ready, beat eggs, milk, flour, parsley and seasoned salt. Pour evenly over casserole. Bake for 45 minutes.

Serves 10 (Note from Lynne: I did one and a half times the recipe. I know it says it serves 10, but I had 8 for brunch and we nearly polished it off!)

Hostess Gift

My friend Lynne hosted a brunch for a few of our friends to celebrate the baby boy in my belly. She's a tough one to buy for so I wasn't sure what to get as a hostess gift. She's getting more and more into cooking (and becoming quite the good cook!) so I thought a cooking themed hostess gift was in order. I decided to get her some of my favorite things that I use in the kitchen. I thought it turned out pretty darn cute. The gift included:
- A cute apron from William Sonoma (since Lynne is like me and ruins a lot of shirts while cooking)
- Olive Wood wooden spoon (one of Giada's favorite cooking tools)
- Microplane grater (I use mine almost daily)
- Wooden lemon reamer (great when you a small amount of lemon juice)
- Mini whisk (I use mine for mixing small amounts of sauce or dressings)
- What to Eat pad (since I'm always pushing Lynne to make a weekly meal plan)
I asked Lynne to do a guest blogger post about the brunch she served because the food was delicious so stay tuned for that!

Freezer Trays

Last week I ordered some of these Beaba Multiportion Freezer Trays from Amazon. I know a lot of people use these for baby food and I thought they would be the perfect size for freezing cubes of pesto. Each little tray holds 2ozs which is a perfect amount to thaw for pasta for my daughter or to throw on paninis or appetizers. I made a batch of pesto and filled the trays, then froze them overnight. The next day I popped them out and tossed them in a large ziploc bag. These would also be perfect for my ice cream bars. I could freeze smaller amounts and just transfer to a bowl when ready to eat. And obviously the freezer trays are also great for making homemade baby food.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Comfort Food - Chicken Casserole

When I brought my baby girl home from the hospital (which feels like yesterday even though it was two years ago), my mother-in-law brought over an old-school chicken casserole that hit the spot. When you're exhausted, in pain, and emotional, there's nothing like comfort food on the table to make you feel better. I've since made this recipe for friends when they have babies and everyone loves it. I served it the other night with Orangette's Cabbage with Hot Sauce. Perfect dinner, not too filling, plenty of room for popcorn or dessert... or both.

Chicken Casserole

1 box long grain wild rice
3/4 cup of mayonnaise
1 cup of chopped celery
2 small onions, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
1 cup of water chestnuts, diced
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
2 or 3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded into small pieces
1 container crispy onions (a must!)

Cook chicken and shred. My mother-in-law poaches the chicken in about 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of white wine over very low heat for about 20-30 minutes. I cooked mine as I always do – Ina style. Buy bone-in, skin-on breasts. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook at 350 for 30 minutes (more or less depending on size of breasts).

Cook box of rice as directed.

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate overnight (I refrigerated all day but not overnight).

Bake for 55 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove and top with crispy onions. Return to oven for five more minutes. Serve.

Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies

My sister-in-law's friend recently made Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies from Gwyneth's Goop site and I was lucky enough to get to sample them. They were delicious so of course I've been dying to make them. I finally got around to it today and boy are they good. I cooked them for 12 minutes as well because I like my cookies kind of hard on the outside and chewy on the inside versus soft and doughy. Either way you like them, this is a good chocolate chip cookie recipe to have in your repertoire. And so easy too!

A Serious Case of Nesting

I've come down with a serious case of nesting. I'm five weeks out from my due date and the nesting phase has come on with a vengeance.

I love organizing closets, drawers and cupboards so I've been doing a lot of that lately. I've made countless trips to Storables for stackable storage containers as well as their Industrial Post Shelving. I use their large shelves for our pantry and just got a large cart with drawers for my "wrapping station" in our office closet. It is perfect to separate and organize my ever-expanding collection of notecards (I'm addicted), ribbon, craft supplies, boxes, tissue, and more. I use an older version of Storables shelving (a less industrial looking white set of wire drawers) for my daughter's closet and the baby's closet. I love having the drawings with separators to organize baby clothes, blankets and more.
Another project was to organize all of my daughter's toys. Her toy collection has grown beyond anything I ever thought I would allow. I always said I wouldn't be that family who has toys strewn all over the place, and here we are. Our basement TV room was being consumed by a growing pile of toys that was spreading like a disease. Time to take control of the pile once and for all.
I bought a Pottery Barn Kids Cameron Bookshelf to start. I'm trying to keep the TV room looking somewhat normal and not entirely taken over by kid stuff so rather than getting the baskets or buckets sold at Pottery Barn Kids, I went to the regular Pottery Barn store and found a huge selection of baskets to choose from. I got a few different shapes and sizes perfect for sorting and storing all the little toys.

These kinds of organizing projects are right up my alley. I spent a few hours sorting through all the toys and voila....

Of course, it was only for my own satisfaction because the toys were coming out of the baskets faster than I could get to the camera and snap a photo. We'll see how long all these baskets stay organized by toy type. Days? Hours? Minutes!

Another project I tackled was having all the carpets cleaned. Last time I had this done, I had them clean around most things. This time, if it wasn't nailed down or 500lbs, I moved it (with the help of my mom, husband and brother-in-law). And so comes the nesting as I refuse to put anything back in it's place without going through every drawer, shelf, basket, box, you name it. Every room has to be like new as I put it back together. It's all or nothing with this little mama. I was able to get rid of bags upon bags of old stuff. It feels SO good to get rid of stuff and it's so much easier to keep the house clean when everything isn't busting at the seams.

If you live in the greater Seattle area, I highly recommend D. A. Burns for carpet cleaning. Instead of "shampooing" your carpet, they do hot water extraction. It's non-toxic and doesn't leave a residue so your carpets stay cleaner, longer.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cabbage with Hot Sauce

A new friend of mine said she loves Orangette's Cabbage with Hot Sauce. I'm always up for a good recipe recommendation so I made it that night. It was the easiest recipe and so good. I made it again last night and it was even better. Then I made it again today and it was even better! I think the trick is getting the hot sauce/soy sauce ratio to your liking. This is definitely a keeper, and perfect for a quick side dish (takes less than 10 minutes start to finish). Thanks Kira!

Is Popcorn a Healthy Snack?

There is something about this time of year, when summer is winding down and fall is just around the corner, that makes my husband and I crave popcorn. I don't know what it is. Maybe that yearning for a few rainy evenings when you don't have the pressure to be outdoors and you can cuddle up on the couch and watch movies. (It always sounds so great in theory but when you're in the midst of those endless rainy days in Seattle, it sucks).
My husband makes the best popcorn but you have to look away when he adds the butter or you might not eat it knowing how much he uses. There's a reason it's so good! We've introduced my daughter to popcorn and have had a few fun nights sitting in bed, the three of us, with a huge bowl of popcorn and something good on the tube. For some odd reason, I cherish those moments with extra delight.

It was quite the coincidence that we're launching into our annual popcorn kick at the same time I got an email from my friend Jen about whether or not popcorn is a healthy snack (in our case, I know the answer to that question). She gets an email newsletter on "The Healthiest Way of Eating" from The World's Healthiest Foods and forwarded it my way. Here's what it said:
Is popcorn a healthy snack?

Popcorn can be a healthy snack depending upon how it's prepared.

Some people have written me asking if making popcorn with extra virgin olive oil is a good technique. Unfortunately, I don't think it's good to prepare popcorn with oil, even healthy oils, since I strongly believe in avoiding the heating of vegetable oils, including olive oil. Heating olive oil can cause it to oxidize and damages its delicate polyphenol antioxidants.

A more nourishing way to prepare this same snack would be to air-pop the popcorn in an air popper and then to add extra virgin olive oil and, if you want, a little sea salt after the popcorn was popped. How many calories you end up with depends on how much olive oil you use. One cup of air popped popcorn, for example, contains only 30 calories or so. Olive oil contains about 250 calories per ounce (2 tablespoons). Still, even with two tablespoons' worth of olive oil, most people would have little trouble fitting this type of healthy snack into their Healthiest Way of Eating.

As for microwave popcorn, I have my concerns. I don't think that microwaving of popcorn presents a risk-free alternative. That's because there has been some evidence that the Teflon-like coating of some bags used for microwave popcorn can get broken down with heat into unwanted substances, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The chemical, which appears to be potentially carcinogenic in lab animals, is partially released onto the popcorn when the bag is heated up and can then be absorbed, once again in partial amounts, into the blood stream. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently studying the effects of this chemical in more detail. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is studying potential problems associated with the artificial butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn.

When purchasing the popcorn itself, I'd encourage you to consider organic popping corn. It's often not much higher in price than non-organic popping corn, and the potential health benefits here are important. Organic popping corn will not have the pesticide residues or other toxic residues commonly found on conventionally grown corn, and it will not have been genetically engineered (as genetic engineering is not allowed in production of certified organic foods).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guest Blogger Recipe - Smoked Salmon & Artichoke Fettuccine

I'd been thinking I should ask some key friends to do guest blogger posts for my blog so when my friend Lynne typed one up and sent it to me, I was thrilled. It also inspired me to finally get moving on the idea so I reached out to several friends who love to cook, bake, eat, and entertain and asked for their participation. My dear friend Erika (and one of THE nicest people on earth!) was the first to reply with a post. Erika is a fabulous cook and has given me some wonderful recipes in the past (see Sicilian White Cookies and Grand Marnier Roasted Chicken). I'm excited to have another guest blogger and can't wait to try this recipe.

By Guest Blogger Erika...

It is the middle of August as I write this. Seattle has recently boasted some of her warmest temperatures on record. After a long, cold and wet winter and spring, Seattleites are finally getting some of the warmth that we have earned. And what am I thinking about??? Food. But not just any food. Good, warm, cozy, cool-weather comfort food. As much as I love and respect the BBQ, cold soups and salads, I am ready to do some real cooking. Roasting, braising, simmering and all of the goodness that comes along with it. I must be realistic, though. Only 15% of Northwesterners have air-conditioning and I am not one of them. There is no way I can turn on my oven to 375° for a few hours! To bridge the gap between summer and fall I have started having warm pastas that utilize some of our region’s fresh produce. So go pick some tomatoes and fresh herbs and have a wonderfully cozy dinner. And don’t worry, only a few more weeks until sweater weather!

Smoked Salmon & Artichoke Fettuccine

Adapted from Simply Classic

2 T. butter
3 T. shallot, minced
¼ cup cooking sherry
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
1 can artichoke hearts, quartered
8 oz (or more to taste) smoked salmon (any cooked salmon would work just fine)
2 cups tomato, seeded and chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped
¼ cup basil, chopped
1 pound fettuccine

Melt the butter and add shallots and salt and pepper to taste. Cook shallots until they soften, then add sherry. Let the sherry reduce then add remaining ingredients. Let come to a low boil and let thicken and combine.

Meanwhile, cook your fettuccine according to package directions. Drain fettuccine and add pasta to sauce.

Toss, top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Farmers Market Dinner - Easy Halibut, Beans, Salad, and a Crisp

Tonight I made one of my favorite preparations for halibut. It was inspired by a fish special at one of my most favorite restaurants in Seattle, Il Terrazzo Carmine.
I served the halibut with haricot verts with shallots and my new salad obsession. For dessert, I whipped up a quick version of the peach and blueberry crisp, served with vanilla ice cream of course. It was a quick version because I made a smaller batch of fruit and topped it with 1 cube melted butter, 3/4 cup oats, 1/3 packed brown sugar and 2/3 cup flour. This is the third peach and blueberry crisp I've made in twelve days. Clearly I can't get enough.


2 fillets fresh halibut
¼ cup flour
1 ½ cups white wine
¼ cup capers
¼ cup green onion, chopped
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup shallots, chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T butter + 1 t butter
1 lemon
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and shake off excess. Heat olive oil in medium sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and sauté until browned (about 3 minutes). When fish is browned, flip and sauté for 1 minute on the other side. Add wine, capers, shallots, juice of ¼ or ½ of a lemon and 1 teaspoon butter. Transfer skillet to the oven. Cook in oven for roughly 5 minutes or until fish is just barely cooked through (cook time in oven depends on thickness of fillets).

Using mitts, remove skillet from the oven and transfer fish to a plate. Tent plate with foil to keep warm. It will continue to cook for the next few minutes while you finish the sauce. Place skillet back on stove top and cook over medium-high heat until liquid is reduced by half. Once reduced, add green onions and toasted pine nuts. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of butter. Poor sauce over fish and serve.

Garnish with lemon wedges.

Farmers Market Breakfast - Bagel Sannies

My favorite part of the week is sleeping in (a tiny bit) on the weekends and then having the morning with "the twins" (my husband and daughter look exactly alike so I call them the twins). I love making breakfast for my family and then we usually head off to do something fun with the little one. This weekend, my hubby took the little lady to one of her favorite places... "the bagel store". While they were gone, I prepped the rest of the food for some bagel breakfast sandwiches. They were so easy and so good served with a delicious latte and orange juice.

From the store:

Sesame bagels, sliced and toasted
Cheddar cheese, grated

From the farmers market:

Eggs, scrambled
Bacon, cooked Ina-style
Tomato, sliced - optional

Nowadays I only cook bacon Ina-style... Preheat oven to 400. Spread bacon out in a single layer on a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet and cook for 15-25 minutes. When bacon is done, increase oven temp to broil. Place toasted bagels open faced on a cookie sheet. Top with cheddar cheese. Place in oven for a minute or two to melt the cheese. Remove and top with scrambled eggs and bacon. I added a few slices of a fresh tomato and a sprinkle of fresh pepper to mine. It was delicious.

Raising Foodies

My friend Jackie sent me this cute blog called Raising Foodies. It looks like it could be my blog's soul mate based on what I've seen so far.... references to meal plans, buying organic and/or local on an affordable budget, Michael Pollan articles, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, leftovers and more. I will be adding this to my list of faves and checking back in regularly.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Lovely Dinner Party (and Perfect Green Beans)

My friend Marly auctioned off a "Seafood Extravaganza" dinner party at an event we do in honor of our friend Tami who passed away. The dinner was at her parent's waterfront home and they served several courses including fresh caught crab and salmon. Marly and her mom spent countless hours preparing all the food, setting the lovely table on the deck and cracking bottles of wine and champagne for us to drink. The view was breathtaking, the food was delicious, and we all had a blast eating and drinking until the wee hours of the night.
With the main salmon course, they served the best veggie - String Beans with Shallots. They were some of the best green beans I've ever had. Of course I loved them though, it's an Ina recipe! This is the only preparation I use anymore when cooking fresh beans. They're in season now and popping up all over the farmers market. Give this preparation a try if you're looking for something different. My only hint on the recipe is to use way more shallots than you think you should. They cook down so small and they are so good with the beans.
Can't wait to make these greens this weekend for my family and for another dinner party one night at Marly's (hint hint!).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Great Salad

I tried a new recipe from my friend Heather's website for a Basic Balsamic Dressing. I loved the dressing. I loved that it took two minutes to make. I loved how much dressing the recipe made - enough for dinner the last two nights plus more for tomorrow. Try this salad when you're craving one with blue cheese or gorgonzola. So good!

My New Salad Obsession

Mix of lettuces from the farmers market
Heather's Basic Balsamic Dressing
Blue cheese, crumbled (I used Bleu Des Causses)
Dried sour cherries
Good tomatoes from the market, cut into small wedges
Red onion, sliced paper thin

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Guest Blogger Today - 30 Minute Dinner – Delicious and Easy!

My dear friend Lynne wanted to be a guest blogger today with some delicious and easy recipes. Fun to have a guest blogger. I need to do this more often. Any takers?!
Lynne says this chicken is similar to the Roasted Chicken Dijon I posted ions ago. I can't wait to try both of these. Thanks Lynne!
30 Minute Dinner – Delicious and Easy!

I work full time and Colleen is always encouraging me to use to make a meal plan on Sunday and do my grocery shopping for the week so I don’t have to figure out what we are eating on the commute home from work. I finally did it this weekend and had one of my favorite dinners last night – and literally, it was 30 minutes from prep to eating. The great thing about this dinner is that the green beans and the chicken have the same cook temp, so you can use the oven at the same time for both! I served with a side of cous cous and had leftovers for bringing my lunch to work. J

I always feel better when I cook a delicious and healthy dinner for my husband and I and this week’s meal planning are making that so much easier!

Parmesan Chicken

Recipe from Gourmet via Epicurious

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 (5-oz) skinless boneless chicken breast halves – I use chicken breast tenders, they cook the quickest.
1 1/2 English muffins (not sandwich-size) – I substitute 1 cup of Panko
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/2 oz)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Whisk together mustard, vinegar, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl and add chicken breasts, tossing to coat well.

Pulse English muffins in a food processor until finely ground. Add cheese, butter, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper and pulse until combined well. Transfer to a shallow soup plate or pie plate.

Dredge chicken, 1 piece at a time, in crumbs, coating completely and pressing gently to help crumbs adhere, then transfer to baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes (with the tenders, check at 15).

Roasted Green Beans with Garlic
Recipe from Bon Appetite via Epicurious

1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss green beans with olive oil on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until browned and almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle beans with garlic, salt, and pepper; toss to combine. Continue roasting until beans are tender, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to bowl.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Love Quotes Scarves - Buy Two Get One Free

Singer 22 is offering a promo on my favorite scarves. Buy two Love Quotes Scarves, get one free. Use the code LOVEQUOTES at checkout. I would jump on this but I'm trying to work on my scarf addiction.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Perfect Farmers Market Meal

Back in January I posted about Martha's Posole with Garnishes recipe that my husband and I love. I've been waiting for tomatillos to show up at the market and today was my lucky day. We will be eating this hearty soup for dinner and leftovers this week.
This is the perfect farmers market meal because you can get almost all the ingredients from the market right now including onion, garlic, Swiss chard, jalapeno, scallions, cilantro and radish. I also add chicken to my posole which I got at the market, and I use pre-made chicken stock that was also made from ingredients purchased at the market.
Now I'm off to fill in my meal planner and see what I might need from the grocery store to fill in gaps from my market purchases.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

The tomatoes have looked so amazing at the market (and taste so good) that I can't control myself and always over-buy. I was planning to make tomato soup again but ate too many and didn't have the 5lbs I needed for the recipe. I was eating caprese light crazy trying to get through them until my sister-in-law suggested that I make slow roasted tomatoes. I got right on it the minute her car pulled away and am so glad to have learned this new trick. They were so good. I asked her how to store them and how long they would keep but it didn't really matter because they were all gone within 24 hours. They were the most delicious snack. She did say they are great for pastas, paninis, pizzas, and more - if you can hold onto them long enough to cook something!

Slow Roasted Tomatoes
from my sister-in-law Allison

Several tomatoes, sliced
Olive oil
Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 200-225 degrees. Place tomato slices on a silpat lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper. Roast for four hours.

Summer Colds

I feel like there are lots of summer colds going around this year. Whenever I feel like I could be getting sick, I run through the same routine...

1) Load up on Vitamin C
The naturopath at Pharmaca introduced me to Thorne Buffered C Powder. My husband and I both take this daily whenever we feel a cold coming on.
2) Make a batch of Get Well Tea
My husband and I both suck this down like crazy when we feel a cold coming on and/or the entire time we're sick.

3) Use the Neti Pot
Now that I've figured out how to use the darn thing, I love it. I use it anytime I'm feeling congested or sick. Add me to the list of people who swear by this thing.

4) Get lots of rest & drink tons of liquids
Since I was a little girl, my dad has always said rest and liquids are the most important thing. I stand by that to this day. Even when I'm not pregnant, I avoid cold medicine because it makes you feel better (albeit temporarily) and then you don't rest like you should. The better you take care of yourself initially, the faster you can hopefully kick it.
This is not to say I never get sick or am never wiped out for a few days, but these are the things I do to try and stay healthy when I feel those first signs of sickness coming on.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Green Goddess Update

I recently posted about my love for the Barefoot Contessa's Bibb Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing. It is one of my faves for summer-time. I just made another batch and this time I used half the mayo and half the sour cream. It turned out great. It still made a ton and it was even more flavorful. If you plan on making this, try it this way. You can always add more.

Ina's Chicken Salad Sannies

I LOVE Ina's chicken salad sandwiches. I never follow her recipe exactly. I generally cook two chicken breasts (bone in, skin on) and then eyeball the mayo, celery, tarragon, salt & pepper. Last time I even added a touch of fresh lemon juice. I serve it with any type of lettuce on Islands Bakery 7 Grain bread (sold at PCC and Whole Foods). This photo from her cookbook is much better than the one shown on the Food Network. The online photo looks doused in mayo. Not at all how mine looks. I keep eating it up so fast that I forget to take my own picture. Great sandwich to make for lunch or to pack for a picnic or day-trip. My husband and I both love these.

Yes, I am crazy!

My friend Amy said they've been using the season's fresh halibut for homemade fish and chips. It sounded wonderful so, of course, I was on a mission. I got fresh halibut at the farmers market and had my parents and brother over to enjoy some homemade fish and chips.

I am definitely a crazy bird when it comes to cooking new things. Unable to zero in on one recipe, I always end up testing a few. That way I know which is the best for next time. For this meal I made two versions of fish, three versions of coleslaw, and had one homemade tartar and one store-bought tartar. I gave myself a break in the "chips" department and used Alexia's Yukon Gold Julienne Fries with Sea Salt from the frozen section. I love those fries and they are all the better dipped in tartar sauce.

For the fish, I tried Barefoot Contessa's Parker's Fish & Chips recipe (top photo) and then made a batch using panko (second photo), inspired by my friends Pat and Amy. I wasn't sure how they season the fish (or flour mixture) so I took a few ideas from Ina's. (Recipe below.)

The consensus? The panko version definitely looked better with the beautiful golden crust. Ina's was a bit lighter but I preferred the panko version. Both were delicious and I would happily make either version again.

I used a store-bought tartar sauce from Whole Foods (fresh from the refrigerated section) and made Tyler Florence's homemade tartar. This also brought on mixed reviews. Everyone else liked the store-bought tartar because it was more traditional but I couldn't get enough of Tyler's. I LOOOOOVED it. I didn't follow his recipe exactly, using less of everything and skipping the parsley because I was out. It was fantastic. I even made a second batch the next day to have with leftover fish.

For the coleslaw-athon I made Ina's Vegetable Coleslaw for a traditional option, Everybody Likes Sandwiches Lemon, Parmesan & Chickpea Cabbage Salad for a non-traditional cabbage slaw, and my mother-in-law's coleslaw because I remembered loving it. The chickpea version was good, but couldn't stand up against the punch of the other two. I think it would be great for lunch or a side dish with another meal but it didn't pack enough punch for this dinner. Ina's was great but my mother-in-laws was hands down the best. (Recipe below.) We were wiping the bowl clean to get every last morsel of hers. I will be filing hers away as my new coleslaw recipe never to be replaced.

Panko Version
Inspired by Pat & Amy

1 1/2 pounds fresh halibut fillets
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t freshly grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large egg

2 cups panko
Peanut oil, for frying

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Whisk in 1/2 cup of water and then the egg. Pour 1/2-inch of oil into a large (12-inch) frying pan and heat it to about 360 degrees F. Dip each fillet into the batter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl, then dip into panko. Place it very carefully into the hot oil. Don't crowd the pieces. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the oil between 360 and 400 degrees F. Cook the fish on each side for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the "chips."

Recipe from my mother-in-law

I didn't write down the quantities that I used so this is my best guess. You will have to make the dressing and taste in case you want to make any adjustments. The trick to this one is you want the dressing to be more runny and less creamy (from mayo) than traditional coleslaw dressings.

4 cups green cabbage, shredded/sliced thinly with a knife (I used a sweetheart cabbage which they said at the market is a bit sweeter)
1 cup red cabbage, shredded/sliced thinly with a knife
1/3 cup carrot, shredded
1/4 cup red onion, sliced paper thin
1/3 cup mayo
6 T seasoned rice vinegar
2-3 t sugar
salt & pepper

Mix green and red cabbage, carrot and onion in a large bowl. Mix mayo, rice vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Adjust for seasoning. Put both bowls in the fridge until shortly before you're ready to serve (10-30 minutes). Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and toss.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Favorite Glasses

I could have sworn that I blogged about my favorite glasses ions ago but I can't seem to find any record of it. Hmmm. Well anyway, these Fleur De Lys Glasses are some of my favorite glasses for everyday use and setting a cute table for entertaining. They come in several different colors so I have been collecting them for years now. I was hoping they came in blue to go with the Provence Tablecloth I just bought on sale but no such luck. Another favorite glass is the Hobnail Juice Glass. It comes in blue but I don't think it's the right match with the tablecloth. Clear glasses will have to do. A set of either style would make a great gift for a friend who loves to entertain.