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  1. Sunday, October 31, 2010

    Week 197 Menu

    Happy Halloween!

    I love these marshmallow pops my friend Nicole gave us. Just pop a marshmallow on a stick, dip in candy melts (like you get at Michaels) and voila! Super cute and kids love them. I might have to remember this for other holidays!

    I can’t believe tomorrow is NOVEMBER. Unbelievable.

    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas

    – Cassoulet-Style Italian Sausages and White Beans (from Perfect One-Dish Dinners)
    – Salad and bread

    – Spaghetti

    – Leftovers

    – Eat out (have Cate’s dentist appointment late that afternoon)

    – Paninis (either caprese or chicken w/avocado & honey mustard)

    – Waffles

    Yup, it’s that time again…time to share your meal plan for the week!

    Have a safe and happy halloween! May your day be filled with treats…and maybe even a few tricks!

  2. Saturday, October 30, 2010

    Pam Anderson’s ‘Perfect One-Dish Dinners’ Giveaway Winners!

    Happy Saturday! I’m happy to announce the winners for this week’s giveaway. The following two people will receive a copy of Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers:

    Brittney, who said, “one-dish dinners.. what an awesome concept! I’d love the book.”

    Kari, who said, “one dish – i love it! awesome.”

    Congratulations, ladies!

    For everyone else…if you’d like to purchase the book (it’s worth it!), just click here. And…never fear…I have more great giveaways up my sleeve!

  3. Thursday, October 28, 2010

    My New Camera and Why I Bought It

    I often get asked what camera I use. And, this past week when I was in the process of buying a new one and tweeting my way through the experience, I would get all kinds of responses from fellow tweeters. So, I’m deciding for you that you are interested in my camera and I’m going to tell you all about it. Plus, I’m excited. Downright bubbly, in fact.

    (Disclaimer: All the info in this post is either my own opinion or what I learned while researching this stuff…I’m no expert. Let me repeat, I am NOT an expert! I just love sharing what I learn to save you some legwork! Also, nothing in this post is sponsored.)

    For the last 3+ years I’ve been using a Canon Rebel XT. It was only $500 new and it’s been a great camera. It certainly gets the job done. Lately it’s been getting errors here and there, which is annoying when you’re shooting photos for a local restaurant and miss the moment that the milk gets poured into the coffee. ARGH! Plus, it’s only 8 MP. For heaven’s sake, phones are catching up to that number. Also, the ISO doesn’t go very high, which isn’t helpful in a dark restaurant. My food blogging has simply outgrown my Rebel.

    This is my old camera. It’s been real, Rebel XT.

    A quick side note. I use the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens for my food photography. I love this little lens. It’s cheap. And it does wonders in low light situations, has beautiful shallow depth of field (you know, fuzzy backgrounds), and I can get really neat shots of food and kids alike. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this lens…I highly recommend it.

    Speaking of Canon. I know you’re probably thinking, Canon or Nikon? In all honesty, I don’t think it matters that much. The biggest reason I chose Canon years ago was simply because it was less expensive. And that’s about all I have to say on the subject. I know, so helpful. Ree wrote a couple posts about the subject here and here, if you’re interested in her opinion and comparisons. Bottom line for me – I already had a few Canon lenses, so I stuck with Canon.

    Okay, so back to camera shopping. I spoke with many experts, got many opinions and decided NOT to get a full frame camera (I don’t really need it…I mean, maybe want, but need? not so much). Which left me with the Rebel T2i, 50D and 7D (in order from least to most expensive). The T2i is 18 MP, the 50D is 15 MP and the 7D is 18 MP. I ditched the 50D – less megapixels for more money than the T2i? No thanks. The camera store guy told me to not bother with the 7D – that if I didn’t get a full frame Mark II, then I should get the T2i. I must admit, I didn’t really trust him at first…but after even more research, I realized he was right. At least for my needs. Here’s why.

    The 7D and the Rebel T2i are essentially the same camera. When they designed the T2i, they incorporated many of the 7D’s features.

    The main differences are user interface (both are great, just different), the build (the 7D has more metal construction, is more durable, and, as a result, much bigger and heavier), continuous shooting speed (~8 frames/sec on the 7D, 3.7 frames/sec on the T2i), and focusing system (more complex and advanced on the 7D).

    The main similarities are they have the same megapixels, movie quality is identical, and image quality is identical (at least according to the camera store guy). And, keep in mind, the camera store salesmen are on COMMISSION…and they were all advising me to go for the T2i, which is HALF the cost. That’s saying something.

    I chose the T2i because I almost never use continuous shooting mode, I like having a lighter camera since I often throw it {carefully} in my purse when we eat out, and even though the focusing system is fancy schmancy on the 7D, it’s fancy enough on the T2i.

    So there you have it! I’m the proud new mama of a Rebel T2i. Yippee! (Update 12/23/12: Since I wrote this post, Canon has come out with the T3i and the T4i. These are just the newer versions of what I have and you can get the T3i at Costco these days for the same price I paid for my T2i. All the above applies – these are just newer and improved versions of what I have.)

    Check out that giant beautiful screen on my new T2i. Alright, you can’t really tell in this photo, but the screen is seriously beautiful. And it’s better quality than the 7D’s screen.

    Back to lenses. I actually upgraded to the Canon 50 mm f/1.4 because I use my 50 mm every darn day of the week and love it and the 1.4 has a cool focusing feature and for heaven’s sake it works in even lower light. I couldn’t resist. But, honestly, the 1.8 is great. Awesome, in fact. I’m giving mine to my mother-in-law with my old camera…I can’t wait to see what her artistic eye will come up with now that she has a decent camera. (Merry Christmas, Pat!)

    For general shooting I use an 18-55 mm lens. Both times I bought my cameras, I bought the body only and did not buy the kit lens, which is the lens that comes with the camera. The 18-55 mm that I purchased is basically a nicer version of the kit lens. I’m keeping this lens and will continue to use it, even though the 50 mm stays on my camera most of the time.

    Wish list lenses: 100mm macro 2.8 L and the 24-70mm 2.8 L. These are the lenses that Helene Dujardin uses on a daily basis, and just look at her beautiful work. Time to start saving some money! (She’s actually “mad” at me for spending money on the 1.4…she wanted me to save up for the 24-70. Sorry, Helene! Hope you’ll forgive me!)

    I hope this is helpful! Please feel free to pipe in with your own opinions or if you have any questions!

    Thanks to Helene, Ree, Broderick and Heidi (as well as the helpful staff at Keeble & Shuchat, where I bought my camera) for all their help over the last week as I waded through indecisiveness!

    AND…just when you thought this post was finally over…the Shutter Sisters wrote a great article today, Creating Your Digital Camera Wish List.

  4. Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    Guest Post on Make and Takes Today: “Healthy” Brownies

    Be sure to check out my post on Make and Takes today, The Great “Healthy” Brownie Experiment…and Why You Shouldn’t Trust Oprah.

    Special thanks to Anne Van Hoose who shared the black bean brownie recipe (pictured above) in the recent Call for Recipes: Beans. It was great inspiration for my Make and Takes post!

    P.S. It’s really easy to make the black bean brownies. Just get a dark chocolate brownie mix and a can of black beans. Drain and rinse the beans, then fill the can (with the beans) back up with water, puree the beans and water, add to the brownie mix, and bake to package instructions. Voila! To find out if we actually liked the brownies, you have to go read my guest post! Plus, I try another brownie recipe that you won’t want to miss. Enter Oprah.

  5. Monday, October 25, 2010

    Sunday Supper with Pam Anderson’s ‘Perfect One-Dish Dinners’ (and a giveaway!)

    This giveaway is now closed. But please keep reading to learn about this cookbook because that’s what this post is all about!

    I recently had the choice opportunity of meeting cookbook author Pam Anderson and her lovely daughter Maggy Keet. Pam, Maggy and Pam’s other daughter Sharon have a really delightful food blog called Three Many Cooks and I’ve admired them from afar for a long time. I can finally say that we are “in-real-life” friends and boy am I happy about that!

    Pam’s published oodles of fab cookbooks and her latest book is Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers. Maggy sent me a copy when the book first came out and it is beautiful. It’s full of, you guessed it, one-dish dinners…and Pam also creates entire menu plans for easy entertaining. Being the meal planner that I am, I love it! Maggy emailed a bunch of food bloggers last week and invited us to join them for “Sunday Supper.” Basically, we all made dinner from the book and are writing about our experience on the same day…which is today!

    Our little family virtually joined the Anderson family for Sunday Supper yesterday. And it was fabulous. The food was amazing and it was so nice to sit down and have dinner as a family. (Nate works late a lot, so this doesn’t happen as often as we’d like.) I chose to cook the Coq au Vin Blanc, served with Baby Spinach with Beets & Goat Cheese. And we topped it all off with Chocolate Mousse. It was a very French meal that every last one of us was pleased with.

    The Coq au Vin Blanc was a great recipe. I already had a lot of the ingredients on hand and it was simple to prepare. And did I mention unbelievably tasty?

    The spinach salad was very similar to one of my Cafe Borrone favorites, so obviously I was super happy about that! (And, yes, the salad below is not dressed…we drizzled our olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette right before we ate it!)

    And the chocolate mousse? First of all, it doesn’t have cream in the recipe. That earns, oh, 100 points in my book. Second of all, it’s so rich it can kill. Another 100 points. My unusually high tolerance for ultra rich chocolate desserts is apparently genetic…Cate ate all of hers AND Anna’s. (And…I think she was awake a few hours later than normal last night!)

    Anyway, Pam has done it again. And I’m not just saying that because I think she’s the bee’s knees. Although, she is. But, really, her new book is wonderful. Nate was commenting during dinner about what a great concept the idea of one-dish dinners is. He’s right!

    Since I love sharing, and Pam does too, we’re giving away TWO copies of Perfect One-Dish Dinners! You know the drill, just add a comment to this post! You have until Midnight PT on Friday, October 29 to post your comment. Two lucky people will be randomly-selected and the winner announced on Saturday, 10/30. (Books must be shipped to a continental U.S. address.)

    Bonus! We’re including the recipe for the Chocolate Mousse in this post. Click more below to see the recipe!

    Bonus Dos! I’m also listing all the other Sunday Supper posts after the recipe.

    (>> Find out more…)

  6. North Bay Farmers Markets Cookbook – Giveaway Winner!

    Time to announce the FOUR lucky winners of the North Bay Farmers Markets Cookbook giveaway!

    Winner #1: Emma, who said, “I love our local farmer’s market!”

    Winner #2: Tori Bush, who said, “New Orleans has definitely had a resurgence of Farmer’s Markets in the last few years. There is the Crescent City Farmer’s market three times a week which offers great produce and as well as stories.One booth offers dark German bread made by an old German sailor who never left the New Orleans port. Also, Mr. Okra buys produce there and drives around neighborhoods with a speakerphone saying “I’ve got oranges and bananas”¦.” Our farmer’s markets are more then just fresh food, they are the heart and soul of our city. P.s. I love cookbooks!”

    Winner #3: Renee, who said, “I’ve never seen a purple bell pepper before! I love the greater variety in farmer’s markets.” (A few of you mentioned the purple bell pepper – I’ve never seen them, either! And they sure made for a good photo!)

    Winner #4: Melissa, who said, “We have the most amazing little farmers market in Traverse City (MI) full of apples and CHERRIES and right now, lots of pumpkins, squash, etc. I don’t know how I lived without a farmers market (before moving here!)”

    I absolutely loved going to the random number generator four times – so fun! Hope all you enjoy your books! And if you didn’t win, you can buy the book here! 🙂

    Thanks to Brigitte & Amelia for so generously giving away the book…and for writing such a great book to begin with! Happy farmers market shopping, everyone!

  7. Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Week 196 Menu

    We went to a 1-year old’s birthday party yesterday, which is always fun! Gotta love chubby fingers digging into cake. Speaking of cake, didn’t Natalee (the mama) do such a great job? It was adorable. And she was smart enough to put a layer of butter cream frosting underneath the fondant, so there was actually some yummy frosting to eat with the cake. Good thinking!

    A few repeats from last week’s menu – sorry! This week is going to be busy, too – full of Halloween parties galore. Looking forward to lots of fun! And my mom coming to town…can’t wait!

    Vegetarian Chickpea Burgers
    – Fruit

    Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

    – Leftover night

    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas
    – Guacamole

    – Eat out

    – Homemade Pizzas (including one Honey Goat Cheese…mmmm…)

    – Mac & Cheese because it’s Halloween! I’ll be busy getting a couple of bumble bees ready to hit the streets for for some candy begging!

    Your turn! Please share your menu! And don’t forget, all meal plans are welcome…fancy schmancy or scary larry. In fact, scary is appropriate for this week! 😉

    P.S. Don’t forget to enter this week’s awesome giveaway! Today is the last day!

  8. Friday, October 22, 2010

    Call for Recipes: Preserving Apples and Tomatoes

    I know I put you to work only a week ago with sharing your best bean recipes, but I have to do another Call for Recipes today. It’s a necessity. Because I suddenly find myself with 12 pounds of pippen apples and 20 pounds of roma “mariana” tomatoes.

    My friend Gudrun sent an email earlier this week saying that her CSA would be selling tomatoes and apples in bulk and anyone could buy them. I decided to take the plunge. And now I need to do something with my beautiful produce!

    Gudrun conveniently wrote a post today about preserving tomatoes, which is super helpful. And she said she’s going to make a few pies to freeze before baking…making Thanksgiving that much easier! Can you see why I love Gudrun? She’s so resourceful and full of delicious ideas!

    I would also love to get some ideas from you! Here’s what I’m looking for:

    • Tomato Sauce Recipes. I make homemade tomato sauce frequently, but it’s only ever been for one meal at a time. I’ve never done it in bulk this way, so an honest-to-goodness recipe would be very helpful.
    • Apple Sauce Recipes. I’ve never made apple sauce, so I need recipes AND advice on how to store it.
    • Apple Pie Recipes. I know there must be apple recipes out there that you’re willing to bet the house on. Please share!
    • ANY ideas for preserving my loads of roma tomatoes and pippen apples!

    For purely selfish reasons I’m grateful for this blog…I can just put something out there and get a deluge of great advice. Love it! Thank you in advance!!

  9. Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    ‘North Bay Farmers Markets Cookbook’ Giveaway!

    This giveaway is now closed. But you should keep reading because it’s a great book…and the pictures are pretty. 🙂

    I took a stroll through the Menlo Park Farmers Market on Sunday morning. I haven’t been to a farmers market in quite a while. And I have to tell you, I’ve been missing out. I can’t believe what a great mood that visit put me in. I can’t explain it. I felt inspired and happy all day.

    Our friend Brian from San Diego emailed me one day and said I needed to connect with his friend Amelia, who was from the Bay Area and supposedly had a great cookbook. Well, I got in touch with Amelia and Brian was right…her cookbook is great, and it’s all about wonderful farmers markets! Once Amelia and I connected, she and Brigitte (her co-author) immediately sent me a lovingly signed copy of North Bay Farmers Markets Cookbook. And then…it sat on my shelf for months – it’s been such a crazy year! But I finally pulled it out this week and it’s wonderful. Lots of inspiring information about farmers markets and oodles of great recipes, peppered with stories of individual farmers from the North Bay. It’s a lovely read. And the book inspired my acorn squash yesterday. Which ended up being delicioso!

    The book also inspired my little visit to my own farmers market this past weekend. Farmers markets are always invigorating for me. I love interacting with the farmers themselves, knowing that the food is local and oftentimes organic. And, more than anything else, FRESH. Nothing beats fresh, in-season food. Nothing.

    Brigitte and Amelia want to share their book with you, so they are giving away FOUR copies of the book! If you’d like to enter for your chance to win North Bay Farmers Markets Cookbook, please add a comment to this post by Midnight PT on Sunday, 10/24. Four winners will be randomly-selected and announced on Monday, 10/25. And it doesn’t matter if you live in the North Bay or not…I don’t, and the book is still applicable to my life, as it will be to yours!

    As you know, I’ve thought a lot this year about how the way we eat affects the environment. I love seeing the growth of farmers markets across the country and an increased interest around eating locally and seasonally. It gives me great hope!

  10. Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Simple Roasted Acorn Squash with Shallots

    I am so happy the weather has finally turned cool. So happy. If we have any more hot days, I just don’t know what I’ll do! Shake my fist at the heavens and curse the weather gods, I suppose. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

    Since it’s finally autumn and it’s okay to have my oven on for an hour at a time, I made this squash the other night. It was super easy and darn tasty. The salty sweet butter mixed with delicious shallots complements the squash nicely and makes it pretty much impossible to resist. I was inspired by a recipe in a book that I’ll be sharing with you tomorrow…but it’s a surprise. And who knows, maybe we’ll have a few copies to give away. Just maybe.

    Until then, enjoy some roasted acorn squash with my most favorite member of the onion family, shallots.

    Simple Roasted Acorn Squash with Shallots
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Cuisine: Side Dish
    • Acorn Squash
    • Butter
    • Brown Sugar
    • Chopped shallots
    • Cinnamon
    • Salt & Pepper
    1. Cut the acorn squash in half. One half of a squash will feed one person, so do as many squashes as you need.
    2. Sprinkle the following ingredients into each squash, in the following order: Shallots (maybe 2 teaspoons or so), 2 pats of butter, a teaspoon or so of brown sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon over the tops of all the squash.
    3. Bake in a 425-degree oven for around 45 minutes (until the squash is easily pierced by a knife). Sprinkle with coarse salt and some pepper. Eat!