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Turn that recipe on its head!

15 Dec

I just saw this picture on BHG.com and was thinking I knew what the filling was going to be:

 

Turns out I was totally wrong, here’s the recipe for Better Homes and Gardens Vanilla and Chocolate Santa’s Sandwiches.  They made a raspberry filling….

However, I would change this up. Without even reading the recipe, I knew what I would do to make this easier, as well as my own!

Continue reading

Inspired places make inspired people.

13 Dec

If you’re still getting into the swing of things for Christmas (or any other holiday you celebrate with your family this time of year), you’ve still got time, but honestly, HURRY UP! WHAT’S TAKING YOU SO LONG!!!???? :)

I just finished decorating my tree last week and you may have seen my tablescape in last Friday’s post.  But today I want to share someone fantastic with you.  My blogging friend, Lauren, from Pure Style Home.

Lauren is so nice, knowledgeable and crafty! She really thinks outside the box, does a ton with limited resources for clients and comes up with stunning rooms. And her fellow bloggers are not the only ones who agree.  She was just featured in Better Homes and Gardens December issue! Her home and family are shown in a seven page spread that is just fabulous.

She shows that style really does reflect who you are, and doesn’t have to be expensive to be upscale, organic, fresh and vintage all at the same time.  I wanted to share a couple images here, but really you should follow her blog or go pick up a copy of Better Homes and Gardens.  Thumbing through her article actually gave me a revived sense of what I wanted to do at my new apartment (first christmas there), and renewed energy to do it all myself since I now live alone.

I hope you enjoy the article and images of her beautiful home and family as much as I have!  Happy Holidays, friends! Only a handful of days till stockings are stuffed!  All this talk about holiday decorating makes me want to throw on an old record and bake some cookies with sprinkles or something!

Gluten Free Baking/Cooking Challenge

15 Nov

Hi guys!

I know I’ve been spotty around these parts lately, and I just have a few minutes to share something with you today.  In prep for Thanksgiving, which is scary close (!!!), I wanted to share my squash soup recipe, just like I do every year.

This year is a bit different though, as there’s a great cause going on around the blogosphere right now for the Gluten-Free folks.  A dear blogging guru friend of many, Shauna Ahern (who is SO SO SO talented and starting her new book tour TODAY), put together a group of folks that would each share a gluten-free recipe on their blogs TODAY, November 15th, in support of all those people out there dealing with holidays while being gluten-free.

If you want to read Shauna’s post today that has a GREAT round up of all the folks involved, check out her post here entitled Gluten Free Thanksgiving 2010.

There are links to tons of recipes, and trust me they are good, even if you CAN have gluten in your diet. Plus, many of them are easy to make, and don’t require crazy ingredients!

If you can’t get enough, or if you know someone that cannot have gluten, how about getting them an early Christmas present like Shauna’s new book, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef!  You can get it on Amazon.com (click that linked title) for a reasonable $20 which is probably way less than you’d spend on a shirt, or something less helpful!

I have a couple more things to tell you, but without further delay, here’s my contribution to her awareness efforts:

Siiri’s Famous Squash Soup

 1 large Acorn Squash
1 medium Butternut Squash
1 large yellow onion (yields about 1.5 cups chopped)
4-6 cups low sodium, fat free chicken or vegetable broth
2-3 cups corn (you can use frozen, just double check label for gluten-freeness, yellow is sweeter, I like this)
1 cup fat free or regular half and half
2 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 medium sweet potato (optional)
1 cup pumpkin (optional)
½ tsp. Poultry seasoning
 
Directions
 
In a large soup pot (10-12quarts) chop onion with 1 tsp olive oil. Keep on low heat,  add all spices and caramelize. Should take about 20 minutes. Once caramelized, add broth and bring to a simmer. Lower temperature to keep warm, but not simmering.  Puree corn to a paste consistency in blender using a bit of liquid from pot; add back to pot, stirring occasionally.
 
Cut squash (all of them) and sweet potato in half length wise, remove any seeds, baste with olive oil, and bake in 425°F oven for 30 minutes (or until fork tender) cut side up. Next, remove pulp from squash and potato and mash into a paste (throw away skins). Transfer to pot. Stir and bring to simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to the lowest setting. Cover for about 20 minutes. Stir in half and half.
 
Tip: Use a whisk to incorporate each new ingredient. The whisk will help break up clumps of squash or anything else that enters the soup as a paste. Your goal is to have a well blended soup that still has some chunky consistency, but is well incorporated.
 
Add more spices to taste. Will stay in pot in fridge for up to two weeks. Can freeze if desired.

Is it possible? ANOTHER Giveaway!!!!!!!!!!!!

19 Oct

It’s true, friends, I’m doing TWO giveaways in ONE week this week.  Why? Because we have something fun to celebrate!

Yours truly has started a fun side gig with a local newspaper, The Seattle Weekly.  Starting today, and coming out every Tuesday, I am writing a blog column, The Eatside, for Seattle Weekly’s food blog, Voracious.  I cover all things on the Eastside of greater Seattle (so that’s East of Lake Washington).

Today’s article is on a fun little joint called Lil’ Jon.  Go check out the article when you have time:

http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/voracious/2010/10/working_title_lil_jon_review.php

Meanwhile, we’ll start a giveaway today to celebrate my new adventure!  Sooooo, what’s up for grabs today?

It’s a Lasagna Lover Stoneware dish from Rachael Ray:

That’s right! It’s blue, shiny and just BEGGING you to splatter tomato sauce and noodles into it’s softly curved corners.  It’s dishwasher, microwave, freezer and oven safe to 500 degrees. AND, it has a glazed interior that’s nonporous so your food won’t stick!  It’s 9″ x 13″ with extra wide handle holes.

What are you making, and what time should I be there? Ha ha, just kidding. But seriously, send me your address, I’ll bring the wine.

So, if you’re interested in winning todays giveaway, here’s how**:

1. Go read my article (which will take you about 3 minutes), and share it with a friend (you’ll see at the bottom there’s a button to email it to a friend, or you can use the buttons at the top to share via a social media outlet like Facebook or Twitter).

2. Come back to the blog and post a comment letting me know who you shared it with (you can just give me a first name), and any feedback you have for my column.  This could be a critique, a place you think I should review, or just plain advice you think would benefit my column!

3. We’re using the honor system here, kids, so don’t let me down. I’ll have no way of knowing if you really shared the article, so do me proud!

The giveaway runs from October 19th at 9am Pacific Time to October 25th at 11:59pm Pacific Time.  Good luck and thanks for all the support! I’m excited to take you on this wild ride with me!

**By entering the giveaway, you agree that if you win, you will use the product and leave your honest feedback/review on the Amazon.com page for the product within 30 days of receiving it from A Half Cup.  One entry per person.  All valid entries will be entered into a random drawing, one winner will be chosen and given 14 days to claim their prize. An alternate will be chosen in the event the winner does not claim their prize.  You may only win 1 prize in a 30 day period from A Half Cup.

Potato & Bacon Pie: YES PLEASE

15 Oct

Earlier this morning, someone tweeted a link to this awesome video of the award winning (Literally, James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award winning) chef, Andre Soltner, making a old peasant dish.  And now I’m going to make it this weekend.

It reminds me of quiche, but is probably a million times better because, lets face it, bacon is culinary crack, and when it’s layered with buttery dough, potatoes and anything else, you can’t go wrong.

Check it:

That crust is to die for.  If you don’t have some fancy shmancy metal ring like that, you can use the outter ring of a springform cake pan, or even do it in a cake pan with straight walls.

Pam Anderson is: TheBomb.com

7 Oct

On Tuesday night this week, I went to another fabulous Seattle Food Blogger event put on by the one and only, Frantic Foodie (Keren Brown) at the ever-evolving and inspiring Urbane restaurant inside the Hyatt downtown.

We (the Seattle Food Bloggers) were welcoming author and master cook, Pam Anderson, who is celebrated across the culinary industry, but also has a great food blog with her two daughters, http://threemanycooks.com/.

Pam had one of her talented daughters, Maggie, with her for the evening. We noshed on tasty local bites ranging from oysters to asian pear salad, salmon with a heirloom tomato relish and more.  (BTW, they have a KILLER HAPPY HOUR. take note!)

Pam talked about her journey in writing her new book, Perfect One Dish Dinners, and told us a bit about how the everyday cook can use it.  We got to thumb through it (which only made me want to buy a copy even more here) and then she opened the floor to questions….about pretty much anything.

In a word, Pam is: gasp-enducing (is that one word???).  Her tennacity and drive are palpable and she was truly inspiring to be around.  If nothing else, I recommend looking at the cook book because it gives us what I think we truly want: someone else does all the planning and all we have to do is do exactly what they say. She plans the whole meal, but makes it super simple to create.  She gives you effortless sides, adds in substitutions and even mentions possible wine pairings.

I of course put on the hat of  “broke-twenty-something-who-likes-to-entertain-on-a-weeknight-for-under-$40″ and I was really pleasantly surprised at how many meals could still step up to the plate.  While some meals would require a grocery store trip for ingredients, many things could be whipped up based on what you’ve got around the kitchen and garden.  And I’d estimate about 95% of the ingredients you need are inexpensive and readily available at any regular grocery store….so no specialty shops required.

Here’s a fun video she did about the book and her career path:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/mD2WPBCTJZPG1

Thank you to Keren for putting on this great event, and thanks to Pam for opening up about the process, encouraging us all to forge ahead, and for being kind enough to share moments with us individually afterwards.  It was great to meet you and good luck with the book!  Here’s to your next 6! :)

Summer Sun: Let mother nature inspire you!

22 Jul

Something amazing happens during the summer months in Seattle. Amongst all the hustle to get outside and enjoy the weather, every now and again you find yourself just for a few hours, doing nothing in particular.  It’s a really wonderful opportunity to remember how lucky we are to see the sunsets, hear friends and family laugh around the table, and smell, taste and touch the endless fruits (and veggies and meats) that nature has to offer.

For the 4th of July this year, I was in Bellingham, a city/town north of Seattle by about 80 miles, just South of the Canadian border. I went to see my sister, Kate, her husband, Nathan, and my nephew, Riley (aka The Munch). 

For fireworks viewing, we went to Nathan’s mom’s place out at Birch Bay. It really is incredible.

After a lazy afternoon walking the beach on agate patrol (I only found like 1 or 2, but as a team, we probably got 10!),  we had grilled cheeseburgers for dinner with deviled eggs and bruschetta (homemade by yours truly, including the soda bread which I’ll share in another post this week).

Then we watched the sun go down, and the fireworks begin. It was just spectacular!  Riley got to stay up WAYYYYY past his bed time, but we had to let him see the fireworks that everyone around the bay was setting off (including us – we were on the reservation after all)!

The next morning, I was feeling inspired and made a tasty apricot coffee cake. Not my best ever, by far, but the Munch didn’t seem to mind, did he?

So, next time you have a few minutes to relax and take it all in, do! You’ll be surprised what it might lead to…

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!

Inspiration: Best Idea Ever…well, at least today

23 Feb

I’m sitting here enjoying a cup of green peppermint organic tea and one of my fist-sized oatmeal raisen (pecan and craisin) cookies, when I had a GREAT cookie idea!!!!!

Ready?

Oatmeal, ginger and golden raisin cookies with almonds.

I know, RIGHT?!

Seriously, just bow down now and get it over with. :) (just kidding. not)

I will make these this weekend when I return from Chicago.

Dinner Date: Dina’s Goat Cheese Strata – I did it!

22 Dec

Hi gang,

So if you recall, a few weeks ago, Lori (my friend and boss) sent over a great recipe for this goat cheese strata thingy (it’s not as complicated as it sounds).

Well, fast forward to a little over a week ago: I made it for our wine tasting holiday party here at the office, and wanted to share my experience with you!

First, let me remind you of the recipe:

Cut very top off head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in foil, bake in oven at 400 for one hour until soft.

Ingredients:
One half pound cream cheese @ room temp,
One half pound goat cheese @ room temp
Salt and pepper
One half cup sundried tomato pesto,
One third cup basil pesto

How to make:
1. Mix the cheeses together well, divide evenly into three small bowls.
2. In first, squeeze the roasted garlic and mix well with the cheese blend adding salt and pepper to taste.
3. In the second bowl, add the sun dried tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.
4. In the third, mix the basil pesto and add salt (*careful not to overdo if your pesto already is well salted) pepper.
5. In a 3 cup ramekin or bowl, line with dampened cheese cloth. Spoon basil mix onto bottom and smooth with spatula.
6. Next, put the roasted garlic on top of the basil layer and smooth with a spatula, followed by the tomato layer.
7. Fold excess cloth over the strata. Refrigerate at least one hour…better at 2 or 3 hours.
8. To serve, unfold the cloth and invert onto platter, carefully peel cloth off the cheese….serve with crackers, bread, bagels, pita, or veggies.
***makes three cups

Now, it says you can do this in a ramekin or bowl…I’m dumb, saw only the word ramekin, and thought, “I don’t have one, so I’ll improvise and use a tart pan! YAY!”

(first layer with pesto)

Dumb. So dumb. Don’t do this, okay?

(second layer that’s supposed to have roasted garlic in it, but I forgot it at the store and was too lazy to go back, so it’s just the two cheese mixture)

Here’s what happened, it turned out great, don’t get me wrong, but it made the layers incredibly thin and hard to spread. So I had to heat up each mixture to spread it over the top of the previous layer, and be VERY CAREFUL. It went fine in the end, and it was tasty, but I have to tell you, I could have really screwed it up easily.

(final, third layer with sundried tomatoes. This was supposed to be sundried tomato pesto, but I could not find that, and I bought my ingredients at Costco, so I just made do!)

So, my advice is to make this in a bowl, like Dina said, not do what I did, and completely ignore the directions. Right. Check. Done and done.

Also, because I’m a spaz, I forgot to take a picture of the final product, but really it just looks like the first picture, because the layers are so thin that you only see the pesto layer when it’s turned out.

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