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Happy Birthday Giveaway!

2 Sep

I am happy to announce I made it through another adventurous year! I am even happier to see what the coming year brings to this crazy journey I call my life.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

This was by FAR the best birthday I’ve ever had – thanks in large part to the amazing friends and family I was surrounded by for countless days, dinners and parties. Of course I want to share at least a snap shot of one of those joyous occasions with you all – where the food, the company and the setting came together so wonderfully, I’ll be hard pressed to beat it in the years to come.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

It was (and continues to be) important to me that during my birthday I spend some quality time with my oldest/nearest/dearest friends who have become family to me over the years (decades really).

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

They are so supportive of my goals, ambition and pretty much any hair brained idea I come up with (and subsequently wrangle them into). So, as I reflect on the year I just had and all the possibilities to come, I want to show them how much them mean to me. One of my favorite ways to do that, obviously, is to cook for them, and spend time making new memories around the dinner table.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

After all, having family and friends (both in Seattle and scattered around the globe) is one of the biggest things to celebrate!

And, so, when it came time to plan a birthday dinner, I wanted it to be as special as those people are to me. I kept it clean and simple with a slight nod to a nautical, “Anchors Away” theme.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Again, because these people really are always up for my shenanigans, they brought their A game, inclusive of some slightly nautical attire and all the delicious wine and appetizers for our leisurely pre-dinner, fireside hang out.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

And to really top it all off, West Elm of Seattle was wonderful enough to get in on the action by supplying me with some of the most timeless, yet updated entertaining pieces.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

From their summer collection (as you can see above), they graciously gifted me the Outdoor Metal Drink Bucket, Outdoor Metal Drink Dispenser, Outdoor Metal Ice Bucket and two of the Pad Printed Serve Bowl in Ikat. These were the perfect addition to my birthday table, and the best part is they all continue to do double duty in my every day life throughout this Labor Day weekend and beyond (uh, hello Football Season anyone?!?!?!)

Source: West Elm

Source: West Elm

Now, you all know how I feel about sharing: I LOVE IT!!! (except when it comes to pizza, colds and secrets) So, how excited was I when West Elm gave me an extra Outdoor Metal Drink Dispenser to giveaway on the blog?! If you want to enter the giveaway, simply follow the directions at the end of the post no later than Friday, September 6th by 11:59pm PDT.

Now then, aren’t you dying to know what I made for dinner in all those pictures above?!

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Easy Caprese Salad: Your basic trio that stands up to any table of dishes. Halved grape tomatoes, diced mozzarella and chiffonade basil with a drizzle of high quality olive oil and Balsamic jelly. Finished off with Himalayan flaked sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Watermelon Salad: This is both light and refreshing, and brings together opposing textures that is just surprising enough to make your taste buds sit up straight. Cubed watermelon, shredded mint and basil, grilled and diced Cypriot Halloumi (cheese) and a bit of zest plus the juice from half a lime.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Summer Couscous: Having a base for your main dish is a great way to both ground your central flavor palette as well as create a vehicle for all the flavor you don’t want to get lost on your plate. Couscous does this wonderfully. Sauté half a sweet onion in the bottom of a pot till translucent. Then add your chicken stock with olive oil till it boils, add the couscous plus a bit of white wine if you have it. Then stir in currants, a half cup (ha ha, sorry, I couldn’t resist) of a vinaigrette (I used a homemade one I had on hand with grapefruit and champagne vinegar), stir and refrigerate. Once chilled, stir in a half cup of finely diced Italian flat leaf parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.

Grilled Top Sirloin Steak: I had hoped to do Flank Steak for this dinner, but didn’t call the butcher ahead (shame on me, right?!) so I ended up with a big old cut of top sirloin (yeah, I know, what a down grade, right?!) But, I love my mom’s flank steak marinade, so I just used it anyway. Okay, well, I didn’t use it verbatim because I couldn’t find it in my binder of recipes….and I couldn’t get ahold of her on the phone, so from memory, I pulled together the following the morning of and let the steak marinate for about 5 hours, flipping once: half a bottle of red table wine, quarter cup low sodium soy sauce, quarter cup chopped scallions, quarter cup Dijon mustard, a generous splash of honey or agave nectar, a tablespoon of ginger powder, a dash of cumin and coriander, fresh ground pepper and a couple tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s delicious.

And for dessert, I made homemade carrot cake with homemade cream cheese frosting. But that recipe stays under lock and key….a girl has to have a couple of tricks up her sleeve that no one can replicate, right?!

Seriously, how did the room not catch on fire?

Seriously, how did the room not catch on fire?

Making a wish....

Making a wish….

Showing the cake who's boss. Yes, I blew them out in one try - even the black candle of death in the middle....

Showing the cake who’s boss. Yes, I blew them out in one try – even the black candle of death in the middle….

We sat around the fire and ate our cake, and I have honestly haven’t felt that happy in years. It was truly the best birthday I’ve ever had!

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

Copyright Siiri Sampson 2013.

So, let’s celebrate by giving away something awesome!!!!

Source: West Elm

Source: West Elm

GIVEAWAY DIRECTIONS:
1. Since the Seattle summer continues on into September, we have weeks of get-togethers, games, concerts and general outdoor awesomeness ahead. Head over to the West Elm New Dining + Kitchen section of their website and find a piece you would love to add to your entertainment arsenal.
2. Come back to this post and leave me a comment with the link to the item. (who knows, maybe I won’t be able to resist it either and I’ll pick one up for myself to highlight in a future post this season!)

That’s it!

Don’t forget there’s only one entry per person, but of course you can always spread the word to your friends (I’m sure if they win, they’ll have you over for drinks!) Keep your eyes peeled next week for a winner to be announced!

 

UPDATE!

We have a winner, folks! Our Random.org selection pulled Andra Freet as the lucky winner of the Outdoor Drink Dispenser. Congratulations, Andra! I’ll get in touch with you to get you your prize!!!

Old Favorites, New Spin: 4 Cheese & Black Bean Mexican Turkey Lasagna

18 Feb

This fun dish is a healthy twist on two comfort food classics – lasagna and burritos. Thanks to the lean ground turkey, low fat options like and fat-free re-fried black beans, you won’t miss out on any of the flavor. With plenty of room for customizing to your family’s taste and fresh add-ons like crisp green onions and avocado, everyone will be going back for seconds!

4 Cheese Mexican Turkey Lasagna by Siiri Sampson

Copyright 2013 Siiri Sampson. All rights reserved

I made this as an entry for a food contest a few weeks ago – and while I may not have won that particular award, I have it on good authority that this dish is indeed a serious winner. I had multiple volunteers help me devour this and then have had numerous others already request and make this for themselves at home with great success and accolades.

4 Cheese & Black Bean Mexican Turkey Lasagna

Serves 8

PREP TIME 30 Min
COOK TIME 25 Min
READY IN 55 Min

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (93/7 split if possible)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup organic black olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup diced organic green chili peppers
  • 1/2 (5 ozs) can diced organic tomatoes with green Chilies
  • 1/2 (8 ozs) jar organic, low sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 (16 ounce) can fat-free re-fried black beans
  • 3 large Smart & Delicious™ Low Carb, High Fiber Tortillas
  • 2 cups Sargento® Shredded Reduced Fat 4 Cheese Mexican

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the ground turnkey for 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and spices, and sauté for 5 more minutes. Drain any excess fat, if desired.
  2. Mix in the olives, green chilies, tomatoes with green chilies, tomato sauce and re-fried beans. Stir mixture thoroughly, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. While the mixtures simmers, toast the tortillas slightly in a dry pan till slightly brown and set aside. This helps keep the layers firm when cutting.
  4. Spray a pie plate, 8″ round cake pan, or spring form pan with light cooking spray. Place one tortilla in the bottom for a crust and lightly sprinkle with cheese, all the way to the edge.
  5. Next, spread a thin layer of the meat mixture, and press down level with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle a light layer of cheese on top. Repeat the tortilla, meat, cheese pattern twice more, for a total of 3 layers.
  6. Top off with a healthy layer of cheese.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, and if desired, broil for 3-5 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

  • Top with fat free sour cream and freshly sliced scallions (green onions)
  • Make a fresh batch of tangy pico de gallo to serve along side for a kick
  • Leave fresh veggies out for everyone to customize with their favorite toppings

TIME SAVING TIP

  • Prepare two pans at the same time and freeze one for a make ahead meal

Put a sock(eye) in it!

5 Dec

ATTENTION ALL FISH-LOVING SEATTLEITES!!!!

Presenting the Deal of the Week (in my humble opinion):

On Friday, Dec. 7, Whole Foods Market is hosting a one-day sale on wild-caught Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified sockeye salmon for $7.99/lb. – a savings of nearly 50 percent! 

 

Courtesy Whole Foods Market

Courtesy Whole Foods Market

And if it sounds amazing, but you’re not sure how to cook it besides grilling (and let’s be honest, there’s like MAYBE 5% of us who want to bother grilling in December in Seattle) here’s three crazy amazing ideas from Whole Foods:

·       Spice-crusted Roast Salmon with Ginger Beets

·       Honey Mustard Salmon Salad

·       Citrus-Marinated Grilled Salmon with Tabbouleh Salad

 

Our fave is the spice-crusted roasted salmon, for obvious reasons: salmon? YUM. roasting? DUH. spice-crusted? TASTY!

If you want a way to give back this season, then rest assured, you’re helping Mother Earth with this purchase! Your salmon purchase supports healthy oceans, too, because Whole Foods’ sockeye is certified sustainable by the MSC, meaning salmon populations are relatively abundant, fishing methods have minimal impact on the ecosystem and the fishery is managed effectively to maintain sustainability.

So if you want a no-brainer way to (inexpesively) impress at dinner on Friday night:

This deal is good on Friday, Dec. 7 only. Stock up on this rich, full-flavored fish for a lighter holiday meal option – for your guests, or just for you!

Fall into Food

26 Oct

Don’t literally fall into your food please, that’s just messy. But I always have this sense that I’m giving into the warmth of the season….when I’m finally able to let go of the fleeting warm days of early Fall – when the sun hits my face on  Sunday morning. At some point, I embrace the change and fire up my back stock of memorized recipes and improvised scratch dishes that fill up my fridge even if there’s no one to eat it all.

Poached red pears awaiting their marching orders.

Poached red pears awaiting their marching orders.

I have been busy busy with some large things lately – some fun, some challenging and some just plain old life. I’m sure you can relate, no? But I wanted to share some Fall food pictures I’ve taken when I had the whim, so here goes:

Home made chicken and wild rice soup

Home made chicken and wild rice soup

This fun little treat used up ALL the leftovers from a roasted chicken I had done earlier in the week (see below). I removed all the extra meat that hadn’t been devoured in the original meal, and set it aside. Then when I had time, I boiled the carcass – skin bits and all – to make a luscious chicken stock that I let sit over night before adding three kinds of wild rice, the leftover chicken and some veggies to last me 6 meals (including two other mouths). This was hands down the best soup I’ve made in at least a year. It was definitely the stock that made it so….homemade is the only way to go, and if you can, let yourself have the fat in the stock.

Whole roasted chicken with lemon and onions

Whole roasted chicken with lemon and onions

Could this have been photographed better? Hell yes. Could it have tasted better? Hell no.

I know you can see all the lame, nasty, kitchen behind the scenes aspects of this dish, but honestly, this is how it comes out, and it still looks freaking delicious. I think this was about 7.5lbs or so. It is one of the easiest things to cook because you just throw it in the oven. And yes, I used tin foil to hold the legs together instead of twine. And I even HAD twine in the house, but I didn’t want to get the step ladder out to reach it – it was above the fridge in the way back cabinet, behind the Moscow Mule mugs and I wasn’t into it. So I improvised. It tasted just as good with my ghetto technique.

Filet Mignon with Caramelized Jack Mushrooms and hericot vert with dill vinaigrette.

Filet Mignon with Caramelized Jack Mushrooms and haricot vert with dill vinaigrette.

Can you say YUM!? You should have seen the inside – bright pink, tender, with dripping compound herb butter I made myself. INCREDIBLE! You wanna know why I made this dish? Stick around for a full post on it!

What will you make for dinner tonight? Have you busted out the slow cooker yet? Do tell!

Summer “hands-off” dinner

9 Jul

Looking for some inspiration to keep the Monday night blahs at bay? Try this cheap and easy dinner that’ll leave you with enough time to sip a cold bevvy while you complain about how far away the weekend still is…..

Lemon Garlic Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Southwestern Summer Slaw

 

aHalfCup.com - Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Grilled Pork Tenderloin just begging for another heaping spoonful of those caramelized onions…..YUM!

For about $6-7 a pop, grab a pre-marinated pork tenderloin and fire up the grill to HIGH.

While that’s warming up, combine the following in a bowl:
-2 cans corn, drained
-1 can black beans, drained
-1 avocado, chopped
-1 beefsteak tomato chopped up finely
-1 lime, zested and juiced right over that avocado
-3 dashes favorite hot sauce

Slap in the fridge to meld the flavors while you cook the pork – SO simple:

1. Place pork at back of grill on high for 5min till one aide is charred.
2. Turn a quarter turn every 5 minutes, leaving one side UNcharred.
3. Turn grill to LOWEST heat, cover and cook 20 more minutes.
4. Turn heat back to HIGH and make final quarter turn to char last side for 5mins.
5. Remove from heat to clean plate, cover tightly with foil for 5 minutes to set minutes.

When you plate this up, toss a little shredded cheddar into the slaw (which is really more of a salsa or corn salad, let’s be honest), for added kick. A little leftover caramelized onions never hurt anyone (or a diet for that matter…), and a dollop of fat free sour cream for good measure.

Total calories for one: approx. 300 give or take. Enough left over for dessert, or a cold brew to match your job well done! (get it? Grill? Well down?! ….. Sorry.)

aHalfCup.com - Grilled Pork Tenderloin 2

My Birthday, My BARRIO

1 Sep

It’s sadly been exactly three weeks since my birthday. For me, birthdays are the BEST. Like, “super-duper, look forward to it ALL YEAR LONG” the best.  Like, “I’m already starting to think about what I want to do for my 30th next year” the best. I love them so much because it’s one of the few times during the year when you can get a bunch of people, who are pivotal in your life and who contribute to your happiness, together at the same time and celebrate life.  How could that NOT be good?!

Just before devouring my birthday churros! YUM

This year, I did a low-key, girls night out in my hood. At one of my favorite places. BARRIO. It’s one of my favorites because they just do the food and service so well. They are not pretentious, the food is by and large fantastic, and they welcome everyone in to try what it is they’re doing.  They even take constructive criticism well, and USE IT, to be better.  That is why I like them.  (*And they’re not paying me to blog about them either. I have been a fan since DAY ONE.)

Because foodies love to share their favorite spots with others, and talk about food until everyone tunes them out, and because everyone loves a little gratuitous food porn, I am sharing a little montage of my birthday dinner with you all.

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Mid-Summers Night Grilling Dream Come True

30 Aug

A few weeks ago, I was treated to one of THE BEST grilling bonanzas and wine pairings I’ve EVER experienced.  And since I love gratuitous food pictures just as much as the next girl, I couldn’t help but bring back some shots to share with you all.  The best part? It’s actually possible for anyone that lives around the greater Seattle area to try some treats from the same kitchen crew as I did, just head up to The Tulalip and find out how you can stalk Chef Perry around until he feeds you. Simple, no? :)

Yeah, HI! Who wouldn't want to curl right up on that couch with a glass of wine, plate of grilled salmon tacos and a hot date?!

And here was my hot date, my dear friend Danae!

Girls night out!!!

A little birdie/foodie friend of mine sent me an exclusive invitation to join him at the Tulalip Casino and Resort up North, which was exciting because I’d never been and have heard the resort service (and linens) are to die for.  So obviously I cleared my schedule and headed North for an afternoon of food, vino and great company….

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Cheese Rules!!! As it happens…

25 May

I’m at this rad cheese event and you get to see my live notes about cheese and same, wine and spirits pairings.

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Eat through the cold!

5 Jan

First, don’t forget to enter the fun little giveaway this week for a wonderful start to your new year!

A view from our table on the patio, while we sipped French 75's.

Now, I wanted to boost the mood for you all, with some fabulous summer shots of a local Seattle favorite restaurant of mine, Maximilien in the Pike Place Market.

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Inspiration: If you need some, open your eyes!

21 Jul

Last night I was at the grocery store after a pretty long day. I was tired, hungry, tired and hungry (uh, wait….okay I already said that….that’s how tired and hungry I was).

I needed to buy something for dinner last night as well as something for dinner tonight, as I’m having a couple of friends over and one is a vegetarian.  I headed over to the cold case where I knew they kept the tofu (just wait to see what I’m making with it! I’ll post the full method tomorrow, after I’ve made it).  As I walked over there, I saw a little “turn style” (not sure what it’s really called), on top of this podium thingy (real specific, Siir’, thanks!)…..

I thought to myself, I wonder why they are selling seed packets next to the tofu?  Right.  That makes sense. So I looked again and realized it was a rotating kiosk full of recipe cards!  And the podium had a reference guide-book on it with divider tabs that showed how to cook every kind of meat and vegetable! I could NOT believe my eyes. Here are some free resources for EVERYONE to use, just sitting there in this little corner. I have been in that store at least 100 times and have NEVER seen it sitting there.

So, of course I took full advantage of what I saw.

Here’s a list of recipe cards I picked up to try:

Grilled Halibut Raspberry Vinaigrette
Chive and Rosemary Filet Mignon
Roasted Cauliflower Gratin
Baba Ghanoush
Minty Watermelon Salad
Brussels Sprouts Vinaigrette
Sweet Ginger Carrots

Tonight I’m making the Sweet Ginger Carrots to go with the tofu and then I’m doing a Kale pesto pasta salad. Can you say YUM?

For the tofu, I’m going to bake it like it’s my crispy baked chicken (the same recipe that I used for my Food Network YouTube Challenge Video) and just sub out the chicken for tofu, and reduce the amount of yogurt so it doesn’t get soggy (I drained it last night).

I’ll show you how I did it tomorrow!

Next time you’re at the grocery store, keep your eyes peeled for these cool, free resources.  Most stores have something of this nature, whether in the deli, butcher counter or produce department.  When you are short on inspiration, borrow some!

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