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  1. Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Week 210 Menu

    I’m not feeling great today, but Nate decided some fresh air and big ocean waves would do us all some good. We drove down to the coast and spent the morning watching giant waves crash against the shore. It was beautiful. And Nate was right, the walk out to Mavericks was pretty much the only time I didn’t feel sick today. Must have been the ocean air.

    I love this shot of the boats on the harbor. It was a silvery, misty morning. And no, this photo is not in black and white. Pretty amazing.

    Now that we’re home, time to snap back into real life and get our menu planned for the week!

    – Leftovers

    – Soup (have some in the freezer)

    Chicken Parmesan
    – Pasta with tomato sauce

    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas
    – Chips and guacamole

    – Leftovers

    – Eat out

    – Nate’s omelettes (we got off the hook last week, had dinner with friends instead)

    I know I am sounding like a broken record, but I am loving all the menu and recipe sharing that is going on each week on these weekly menu posts! Thank you all for creating such a wonderful community. And here we are again…please share your menu for the week! Can’t wait to see what’s for dinner. 🙂

  2. Friday, January 28, 2011

    The Evolution of My Toaster Oven Life…and a ROCKIN’ Giveaway.

    This giveaway is now closed, thank you!

    I didn’t grow up with a toaster oven. So…when Nate and I were engaged and registering for our wedding and he insisted on adding a toaster oven to our registry, I just didn’t get it. Thankfully Nate added it to the list anyway and we ended up receiving this beauty.

    Let me introduce you to ‘the little toaster oven that could.’ For more than 11 years it’s been sitting on our counter toasting toast and reheating all kinds of food…pizza, muffins, baked french toast, and more. To this day I’m grateful Nate was such a smartie pants. I simply couldn’t live without a toaster oven now!

    While ‘the little toaster oven that could’ has been loyal and hardworking, it’s on its last legs. Half of the time I have to bang it on the wall to get it going. So, while I felt somewhat disloyal to our little friend, I started thinking about getting a new toaster oven.

    Right as I started contemplating a new toaster oven, Breville contacted me about their Smart Oven. As a great appreciator of toaster ovens, as soon as I started reading about this lovely Smart Oven, I was enamored. And then I said, “YES, please, I will happily take an oven off your hands!” It arrived a few weeks ago and I must say I had good reason to be excited about its arrival.

    First off, just look at it.

    But since good looks aren’t everything, here are some of the other reasons I’m liking this oven. There are magnets in the door that automatically pull the tray out – and it works like a charm! SO much better than my old toaster oven, which had little hooks that pulled the tray out. There’s about a billion different settings – roast, toast, bake, convection, pizza, and I’m sure I’m missing something since that’s definitely not a billion. So far we’ve made toast (6 pieces at once!) and lots and lots of cookies. Oh, and some really yummy garlic bread. The convection cooks pretty evenly (better than my regular oven, actually) and the preheat time is way shorter than my big oven. Also, I love how in toast mode if I open the door, the oven stays on. It’s the little things that make me happy. 😉 I’ve yet to try roasting meat and cooking pizza, but you can be sure I will!

    The Smart Oven is definitely bigger than my old toaster oven. But in the end it’s really not taking up that much extra space in my kitchen. And it’s worth having the extra capacity inside the oven. It does sort of seem like toast takes longer to cook than in my old toaster…but it toasts really evenly AND I kind of think some of it might be mental. On my old oven, I would hit toast and just wait for the ding. On the Smart Oven, there’s a timer. I don’t know, when you actually KNOW how long something is taking, I think sometimes that makes it seem longer.

    Bottom line – I’m so glad I have this Smart Oven. It’s great! Thank you, Breville!

    You know I’m always thinking of you, right? Not only did I get an oven for myself, but Breville is giving one away! One of you lucky, randomly-selected commenters will receive your very own Smart Oven (retail $249.99). Just like always, simply leave a comment on this post and you’re entered to win! (Comments need to be posted by Midnight PT on Thursday, February 3. You need to have a U.S. mailing address, and only one entry per person, please.)

    If you want to become a fan of Breville on Facebook, click here!

    So, get commenting! I’m super duper excited about this giveaway!! Big thanks to Breville for making it happen!

  3. Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Lettuce Wraps

    Not only did I actually get my grocery shopping done this week, but I finally made the lettuce wraps I’ve been planning for two weeks. Yea!

    These lettuce wraps were TASTY. We loved them and I’m so glad I finally tried my hand at lettuce wraps. I followed my friend Kristen’s recipe over on Dine and Dish, except I made a chicken mix instead of using ground beef. I also used green onions as a topping at the end, rather than cooking them into the meat. You could easily take either approach.

    I feel like most restaurants where I’ve had lettuce wraps serve them with iceberg lettuce. Kristen’s recipe called for Boston bibb or butter lettuce, which I liked better…it still had some crunch, but the leaves are more maleable and didn’t break when you wrapped them up.

    Our girls loved putting their lettuce wraps together. I let them spoon the chicken mixture onto their lettuce and sprinkle their green onions over top. They thought that was really fun. In terms of actually eating the wraps, well, Anna loved the filling, and Cate liked the lettuce. But I was able to get Cate to eat her chicken filling as well, she just didn’t love it as much as Anna. Bottom line, they’re a little tricky to eat as wraps for kids, but overall I think a mostly kid-friendly meal.

    Lettuce Wraps
    Modified from Dine and Dish (the Dine and Dish recipe uses ground beef, which Kristen says is delicious”¦so head on over to Kristen’s site for the ground beef version)
    Recipe type: Main Dish
    • Boston bibb or butter lettuce leaves (one head), rinsed and patted dry and set aside
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced into small cube-sized pieces (if you want to make this vegetarian, substitute the chicken for diced tofu)
    • 1 can water chestnuts, diced into small cube-sized pieces
    • Handfull of shiitake mushrooms, diced into small pieces (I actually didn’t add mushrooms this time around, but it’s an option)
    • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
    • ½ onion, diced into small pieces
    • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pushed through a press
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
    • ¼ cup hoisin sauce
    • ground ginger
    • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
    • 1-2 tablespoons Asian chile pepper sauce (optional)
    • 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
    • 2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
    • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
    1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add chicken, onions and mushrooms (if using). Saute until chicken is cooked through. I lightly sprinkled some salt evenly over the chicken during this step.
    2. Sprinkle chicken evenly with ground ginger. Add garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar, and chile pepper sauce to the chicken mixture and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts and sesame oil and heat through. (If you want to cook the green onions into the meat, add them with the water chestnuts and cook until the onions are just wilted.)
    3. Serve over lettuce leaves, topped with green onions, soy sauce and chile sauce.

    Speaking of chili sauce, I picked up this bottle of Maggi Sweet Chile Sauce at Safeway and it is YUMMY. It’s got some heat and a nice sweet flavor. So glad I stumbled on it at the store!

  4. Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Kitchen Tips: The Secret to Tender Chicken

    I love my meat tenderizer mallet. It’s my secret to tender chicken.

    This handy dandy tool came into my possession pretty much by happenstance. When Nate and I were first married, I was kind of clueless about cooking. As a result, we had more than our share of tough chicken dinners. In an effort to make our chicken actually chewable, I randomly grabbed this meat tenderizer at our local grocery store. I had no idea what I was buying, I just hoped it would work.

    Well, It did work and has ever since! Whenever I have a recipe that calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts served whole, I always pound them with my tenderizer mallet before cooking. For recipes where it makes sense, I have been able to pound the chicken very thin and the results are great.

    Here are the reasons I like my particular mallet.

    • I like the hammer style of my mallet. I feel like I can get good leverage and power by pounding the chicken with a hammer motion.
    • I love the pointy tenderizer surface of my mallet. Not only does my mallet physically get the chicken flat from the force, but the textured surface really does what it says it does – tenderizes meat! Nate’s mom mentioned to me once that when she wants super tender chicken, she stabs the breasts like crazy with forks. We decided the result of our two methods is the same, and it is a darn good result at that!
    • I would offer a link to the mallet I have, but I haven’t the foggiest idea where it came from. Just search “meat tenderizer mallet” and look around…there are many variations out there. Who knows? Maybe your grocery store has a simple one like mine, too!

    If you’ve never pounded meat before, place the meat on a cutting board and then lay plastic wrap over the top of the meat before pounding. The plastic wrap holds up surprisingly well, even when I stab it repeatedly with my scary looking mallet!

    Another side note. I don’t pound my chicken when I’m cutting it into bite-sized pieces or slices before cooking. But if I plan on cutting or slicing the chicken after cooking (or not cutting it at all, for that matter), then the tenderizer makes an appearance!

    By the way, I highly recommend pounding your meat when you’ve had a bad day. Cheaper than therapy and the meat can take a beating. 😉

  5. Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Week 209 Menu

    How about a puffed oven pancake for breakfast? Cate’s review this morning: “This is delicious!”

    I never even made it to the grocery store last week – terrible! I suppose those crazy weeks happen (maybe more often than we like sometimes!). I’m going to force myself to go to the store TOMORROW. 🙂

    Lettuce Wraps (carry-over from last week!)
    – Dumplings

    Sausage, Pepper & Onion Hoagies (we didn’t end up having them Friday night, but I still have a hankering!)
    – Fresh fruit of some sort

    Vegetarian Chickpea Burgers
    – Homemade oven fries

    – Leftovers

    – Eat out

    – Spaghetti or something equally as easy!

    – Nate’s omelettes (he didn’t have to make these last week, but he’s not getting off that easy!)

    Tag, you’re it! Please share your menu for the week – we all want to see what you’ve got in the works!

  6. Friday, January 21, 2011

    Sausage, Pepper and Onion Subs…with Secret Ingredient!

    One of my favorite go-to meals is a quick sausage sub. I cook Italian sausages on the stove and saute sliced bell peppers and onions, then throw it all on a hoagie roll. So tasty and easy! Recently I added an ingredient which took this quick dinner to a whole new level – tomatoes. HEAVEN. I added some sliced tomatoes I had lying around during the last few minutes of cooking and it tipped this already yummy sandwich over the edge. Yum!

    So there you go, a nice quick weekend dinner idea. In fact, even though it wasn’t on my plan for this week, we are having this tonight!

  7. Thursday, January 20, 2011

    We are officially FANS

    I was just putting these away and decided I really should share them with you.

    Nate’s aunt gave us these awesome Red Sox glasses for Christmas. And with that gift we are now officially hahd coah (that would be “hard core” in New Englandese) Red Sox fans. I mean, Nate’s always been loyal. He has the t-shirts and hats (and broken tennis racket…don’t ask) to prove it. But I think these tumblers have taken it to the next level. The only thing beyond this is full place settings covered with red socks and blue Bs.

    In honor of Jimmy Fallon’s apartment in Fever Pitch and true sports fans everywhere, it’s time for you to fess up. What team mascot is hiding in your kitchen cabinet?

  8. Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Foodie Fun: The Fancy Food Show and Food Fête Favorite Finds and Recipes

    This week I attended The Fancy Food Show in San Francisco with my dear friend and fellow food blogger Vanessa Druckman. We had a BLAST. We also attended Food Fête and had an equally good  time. I discovered lots of wonderfully delicious things that I simply must share with you. I’m not getting paid for any of this…these are my favorite discoveries from both shows. Get ready to drool! Oh, and it’s a long post, but it’s seriously full of wonderful treats…and at the end I’ll share two amazing recipes with you! So, dig in!

    At the Fancy Food Show there was a room called What’s Hot, What’s New. Vanessa and I loved this space because it was full of new businesses selected for the show. It was fun to meet the owners and hear their stories and passion for their companies.

    Vanessa and I both fell head over heels in love with Michelle Crochet and her lovely confections. She started a company called Droga, which means “drug” because she considers chocolate a drug (agreed!). Michelle was a buyer at Williams-Sonoma (hello, dream job) and then struck out on her own to start this business. The packaging is completely adorable. The caramel is made from a honey base as opposed to high-fructose syrup, which gives it nice depth of flavor. And the Rebel Rocky Road tasted lovely as well. You can buy Droga in a few stores in California or online.

    Just around the corner from Droga was CC Made, with beautiful packaging and delicious treats! They were serving artisan caramel sauces, which were all wonderful but the chocolate was TO DIE FOR. They served the caramels with different flavored salts, which was really fun to mix and match with the sauces. I don’t see the sauce on their website yet, but I’ll be stalking them until it shows up!

    Once we were done with What’s Hot, What’s New we headed over to Italy, where we were met by lots of unfriendly men. So, we scooted over to France, where we met Nicolas from Isigny Ste Mère, who was friendly and fed us lots of amazing food. Visiting this booth made me want to move to France straightaway. First we tried the butter. It was amazing. I ate a giant hunk of it. I’ve never eaten a giant hunk of butter before because, well, it would be gross. But not in this case. Then I tried  fromage frais for the first time, something that my French friend Vanessa knew all about. It’s sort of like a mix of yogurt and crème fraiche, but so much more delicious than either of those items. Nicolas told me to use my “influence” to get fromage frais into the grocery stores here. I’m workin’ on it, Nicolas! 😉 Next we sampled their Eric Ribot Confiture de Lait (milk jam). PEOPLE. I could live on this stuff. Unreal. The flavor is similar to sweetened condensed milk but oh so much better. It would be delicious topped on things like ice cream, pancakes, toast, yogurt…but also completely amazing alone. We need Confiture de Lait all over the U.S. I will not rest until it is so.

    While in France, Vanessa made sure we stopped by Comptoir du Cacao. Every single one of their confections was perfect. Again, I’m moving to France…as soon as this post is done. Tell Nate to meet me at the airport.

    And while we’re talking chocolate, we tried Tisano Cacao tea. The tea has all the health benefits of chocolate without the sugar or fat. Vanessa and I both enjoyed it and found it to be a fun and interesting new trend.

    We also spotted hot chocolate on a stick. The guy was totally unfriendly and unhelpful, and then he expected Vanessa and I to share a cup. Which we didn’t. He begrudgingly gave Vanessa her own, but the milk was cold and the chocolate never melted. I’m not naming names, but I will say that my homemade version is just as tasty and easy to make…so forget buying it! 😉

    We discovered La Tourangelle, an artisan oil company with really wonderful oils. The Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil was lovely as was the Pan Asian Stir Fry Oil. Preeti Mistri (of Top Chef fame…she was super friendly and nice!) was there cooking up delicious food. We had the chance to try her Thai Carrot Ginger Soup (recipe at the end of this post), which was so good with just the right amount of heat. Vanessa had tried these oils on her own and made sure to take me by the booth – I’m so glad she did!

    On to Food Fete! I didn’t get a ton of photos because it was nighttime, so you’ll just have to trust me that this stuff is good.

    We met Anolon and I’ve decided my life’s mission is to get a set of their Nouvelle Copper pans. They have me completely sold.

    We also met the Organic Valley folks, who were wonderful. I look forward to working with them in the future! I was especially happy to learn that the Organic Valley milk I buy at Costco comes from all grass-fed cows who live in California, and that their milk is locally-sourced around the country depending on where you live. Yea!

    There was a brand new company at the event called Simpli Oat Shakes. These lactose-free shakes were delicious. I must admit, I didn’t think I would be that interested in their product, but after trying it and talking to the unbelievably nice married couple who run the company, I knew I would write about them. If you have lactose-intolerant kids, this would be a great option for them. The chocolate really tastes like chocolate milk. The “Fruits” flavor was really good, too. Heck, I’m not lactose intolerant and I’d drink these puppies! They are working on distribution in the U.S., but you can purchase product on their website.

    Pure Dark was in attendance. I’d never had this chocolate. I’m in love.

    Bel Gioioso Cheese was also there and they were serving burrata. I’ve written about burrata before when we had it at Cafe Borrone. I didn’t know you could buy it in the grocery store – I’m so excited! The rep said you can find the burrata at regular grocery stores as well as Trader Joe’s.

    I was also introduced to Nocciolata, which sells a chocolate hazelnut spread similar to Nutella but BETTER. Yes, better than Nutella. The flavor is great but the texture is what really sets it apart. Plus it’s organic to boot. Very cool.

    Last but not least, Stonemill Kitchens was there serving their delicious dips, which can be found at various markets and Costco. They were serving Parmesan Pear and Raspberry Crostinis that I could not stop eating and is the second recipe I will be sharing in this post. You have to make them. So good!

    PHEW. That was a doozy of a post. And those were just my very favorite finds…there was so much more, and I didn’t even scratch the surface of the show itself. I’m so glad I attended these events, especially with Vanessa at my side. I hope you get a chance to enjoy a few of these fun items! And I’m working on giveaways so a few of you can for sure try some of these goodies. Cross your fingers!

    Click ‘more’ to see the recipes for the Parmesan Pear & Raspberry Crostini and Thai Carrot Ginger Soup recipes.

    (>> Find out more…)

  9. Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Week 208 Menu

    For our “eat out” night last week we went to Tacone, one of our favorite quick spots to eat. They have these amazing homemade potato chips with this crazy good seasoned salt, which is a little bit salty and a little bit sweet and a lot wonderful. I think my new mission might be to figure out that seasoned salt. Let the quest begin!

    Menu time already? The weeks go too fast!

    – I will be at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco
    – Family will be eating Manicotti out of the freezer

    Stuffed Shells…yeah, yeah, I still haven’t made them! I did follow my menu last week, I swear! We just had more leftovers than I thought.

    Lettuce Wraps (this is my friend Kristen’s recipe…she swears by it…I trust her because she rocks)
    – Dumplings (probably just pick up a few at the Chinese restaurant down the street!)

    – Leftovers

    – Eat out

    – Nate’s omelettes

    Whole wheat pancakes
    – Smoothies

    Before I beg for your menu for the week, let me say THANK YOU. I am simply ecstatic over the number of menus we’re getting each week. I LOVE it. And I love having about a bazillion ideas to peruse and be inspired by when I sit down to plan for the week. Now that I’ve gotten the gratitude portion of the program out of the way, time to get bossy again. Share your menus!!! (And, if you’re new to the blog, we don’t care how fancy or non-fancy your menu is or what day of the week you share it. Just bring it on!)

  10. Friday, January 14, 2011

    Frosting Mix

    When I was a kid, my mom would often make frosting from a mix, especially chocolate. The mix came in a box like a cake mix and was a powder that you simply added butter and probably milk to. And the frosting was delicious. Sometime around fifth grade, my mom and I stopped by the Smith’s grocery store on the corner of 106th South and 7th East in Sandy, UT. We walked down the baking aisle and no matter how hard we looked, not a frosting mix was to be found! For some inexplicable reason, the big cake mix companies decided to stop making the frosting mixes and force us to eat their yucky canned frostings. Which we refused to do. It was homemade all the way after that. But we certainly missed those quick and delicious mixes. (P.S. For other inexplicable reasons, this memory is burned into my brain. It’s funny the stuff that sticks with you.)

    Imagine my surprise and delight the other day walking down the aisles of Trader Joe’s and seeing this:

    Chocolate Frosting Mix! Yes, it’s a powder! Yes, you add butter to it! Yes, it’s delicious! I called my mom that night to let her know the good news, and she was even more excited than I was. I know her well.

    I had a random hankering for cupcakes the other day, which I indulged. It gave me a chance to try this stuff out. The frosting is in fact delicious. I think I needed to add a bit more hot water because it wasn’t super spreadable, so the cupcakes weren’t very pretty (my 6 year old kept insisting the cupcakes were beautiful, what a sweetie). But the frosting was great regardless.

    My apologies to those of you without Trader Joe’s. I know I pretty much torture you with these posts. Good news, this mix isn’t perishable. All you have to do is convince your loving friends in Trader Joe’s markets to mail it to you. Easy peasy. 😉