Sparkling Pear Cranberry Cocktails

Nothing says festive like a little bubbly! This was such a fun drink to serve before dinner, and very tasty, too! Plus, the cranberries float! How fun is that?
Who knew cranberries were so buoyant?
Sparkling Pear Cranberry Cocktail
2 tablespoons dry cranberries
1/2 cup organic pear nectar
32 ounces Moscato d'Asti wine
8 small sprigs fresh rosemary
  1. Put cranberries in a small bowl; add 2 tablespoons warm water. Soak until cool, about 15 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and refrigerate until serving.
  2. Divide pear nectar evenly among eight tall champagne glasses. Add cranberries, and then gently pour the Moscato d'Asti into the glasses. Garnish each with a rosemary sprig.

Baked Artichoke Hearts

My family absolutely loves artichoke hearts. I knew a great way to incorporate another vegetable into my Thanksgiving meal would be to somehow get them into it, but I didn't want to go with the usual artichoke dip (too fatty). I found this recipe for baked artichoke hearts and it was a huge hit!

Right out of the oven
Baked Artichoke Hearts
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat)
1/4 cups finely chopped fresh curly leaf parsley
2 ounces (1/4 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
2 ounces (1/4 cup) grated Pecorino Romano
1 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 cans artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, cheeses, herbs, and salt in a medium bowl, and season with pepper.
  2. Spray 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread artichoke hearts into a single layer. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over artichokes, pushing it into cracks between hearts. Tap bottom of dishes on counter to settle breadcrumb mixture.
  3. Whisk oil, lemon juice and zest, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle dressing evenly over breadcrumb topping. Cover dishes with parchment, then foil, and bake 30 minutes. Increase temperature to 375 degrees. Uncover, and bake until breadcrumbs are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Everyone raved about this one. As for leftovers, well, let's just say these were constantly picked out of the fridge and eaten cold, non-stop. Definitely a hit!

Honey-Glazed Carrots

Something that was important to me when planning out my Thanksgiving meal was to have a lot of vegetables in a variety of colors. On top of the health benefits, it made for a very eye-pleasing plate!

Bugs Bunny, eat your heart out.
Honey-Glazed Carrots
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower
2 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths, halved if thick
1 cup canned reduced-sodium chicken broth or water
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
Coarse salt
Ground pepper
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add carrots; cook, stirring once, until beginning to brown, 2 minutes.
  2. Add broth, honey, and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until crisp-tender, 10 minutes. Uncover, and cook over medium-high until carrots are tender and liquid is syrupy, 10 minutes more (there should be only a small amount of liquid remaining).
  3. Remove skillet from heat; add butter, and swirl skillet until melted. Season with salt and pepper.
These were more of a treat than a vegetable! You could get away with cutting the butter in half, and even using a little less honey, and they would still be delicious.

Pumpkin Pie

What's Thanksgiving without Pumpkin Pie? Traditionally my very favorite dessert at the holidays, pumpkin pie was one of the items on my Thanksgiving menu that I didn't have to think about. I wanted to try making it from scratch, so I borrowed from Martha Stewart's recipe.

So pumpkin-y
Pumpkin Pie
cup (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups fresh Pumpkin Puree
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg, for glaze
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1 frozen pre-made pie crust (I used whole wheat)
1 tablespoon heavy cream

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin puree, and 3 eggs. Beat well. Add evaporated milk, and combine. Set aside.
  2. Make the glaze: Beat the remaining egg, and combine with heavy cream. Brush glaze very lightly on edges of pie shell. Fill pie shell with pumpkin mixture. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 30 minutes more. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: when you take the pie out of the oven, the filling might still look a little watery.  Allow it to set for a good while (mine set for about an hour), then refrigerate. It should solidify just fine :)
This pie wasn't like any store-bought pumpkin pie I've had. It was much more pumpkin-y, for one, and not as sweet, which I attribute to using real pumpkin puree. I really enjoyed it and it got rave reviews!

Apple Spice Cake

The only word to describe this cake is YUM. I am a chocolate lover, but honestly, this cake is probably the most delicious thing I've ever baked, in my opinion. If you like apples or cinnamon, you NEED to try this.

Holy delciousness

Apple Spice Cake
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Caramel sauce
Nonstick baking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan or a 9 1/2 x 12 inch baking pan with baking spray; set aside.
  2. Working over a large sheet of parchment paper, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; gather sifted ingredients into center of sheet; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs; mix on high speed until lemon yellow.
  4. Fold reserved parchment in half lengthwise; with mixer on medium speed, gradually shake in dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  5. Add apples to batter; mix to combine. Add vanilla, mixing until incorporated.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack (or in the pan).
  8. Invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely on rack, and serve drizzled with caramel sauce and a side of vanilla bean ice cream.


Ham Roll-Ups

What's a holiday without ham roll-ups? Not a holiday at all! At least, not in my family. Such a simple, yet tasty little appetizer that pleases everyone, from little kids to Grandma.

Ham Roll-Ups on Thanksgiving, with cheese cubes

Ham Roll-Ups
1 lb. low sodium Polish ham, sliced thick from the deli
1 pkg. light cream cheese, softened
1 bunch green onions

Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on each ham slice. Place a green onion lengthwise on top of the cream cheese, and roll the ham up around it. Slice the ends off the onion and then slice the ham tube into bite-sized pieces. Repeat for each piece of ham, until you run out of ham, cream cheese, or onion.

These are seriously addictive. Make extra because people will eat them like crazy!

Mom's Stuffing

One of the great things about Thanksgiving is consistency. Every family has those dishes that are served each year and that everyone loves. For me, that dish is my mom's stuffing. Even though I knew I wanted to try some new dishes and really make my Thanksgiving dinner my own, I never even considered trying a different recipe. Why mess with perfection?

Stuffing right after we took it out of the turkey
 Mom's Stuffing
2 loaves of bread (I used whole wheat, she uses white), cubed and left out overnight to dry
1 large celery bunch, chopped, leafy parts reserved
3 tbsps. poultry seasoning
2 tbsps. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
4 sticks butter, sliced into pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 - 2 cups turkey broth (see below), OR
1 - 2 cups low sodium chicken broth

For bread cubes:
Slice bread into 1/4 cubes (bite-sized) and arrange on a large surface (I used the turkey roasting pan).  Season well with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper; taste and add more if needed. Leave out overnight to dry. Taste again in the morning and add more seasonings if necessary.

To make the turkey broth:
Fill a pot with water and add the turkey neck, gizzards, and leafy celery parts. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

To make stuffing:
Place all the butter pieces into a frying pan on medium heat to melt completely. Once melted, add celery and onion, and cook until soft, approximately 10 - 15 minutes. Pour mixture over bread cubes and mix well. Slowly add turkey broth or chicken broth, stirring, until the bread is softened. Stuff turkey or chicken if using, and bake any leftover stuffing for 30 - 40 minutes at 350 degrees in a glass dish lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

This caramel sauce is so rich and sinful, you won't be able to go back to store-bought after you try it.

Sauce being poured over my Apple Spice cake on Thanksgiving

Homemade Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons plain Greek-style yogurt at room temperature

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 10-inch heavy skillet, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of skillet with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, swirling pan occasionally, until dark amber, 7 to 8 minutes. Cool 2 minutes, then whisk in butter, cream, and yogurt. Transfer to a bowl and chill.

Just bring this to room temperature and then pop into the microwave for about 20 seconds before serving. Most definitely the richest caramel I've ever had.

Pumpkin Puree

For Thanksgiving, I decided I wanted to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, and I mean from SCRATCH. I arrived home with my 1 1/2 pound sugar pumpkin (so cute!) ready to roast and puree it into pumpkin pie goodness.

These guys are super cute!
Pumpkin Puree:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a sharp paring knife, cut several slits in pumpkin, piercing skin all the way through (this will let steam escape). Place in a glass dish; pour about 1 inch water in bottom of dish. Bake until skin is easily pierced and inside is very soft, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
  2. Cut off top of pumpkin, and scoop out seeds; discard both. Peel, and discard skin. Place pumpkin in the bowl of a food processor or blender; puree until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days or in the freezer up to 1 month.
Very easy to do, with the exception of scooping out the seeds. What a pain in the butt! The pumpkin is very small so you need to use a long handled spoon (I used an iced tea spoon), but you need to be careful not to discard the pumpkin insides! The skin comes off easily enough. Make sure to let the pumpkin cool a bit before you move on to step 2, but you definitely want it warm when you puree it.

You can do a lot with pumpkin puree (besides making pie, you can make pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, etc.), so you may want to roast two of these guys and freeze the extra puree for another project :)

Fresh Green Beans with Wild Mushrooms

In my farm delivery, I received fresh green beans two weeks in a row! I also received some really nice-looking cremini mushrooms. Keith doesn't love green beans, so I knew I wanted to use them for our Thanksgiving meal (since I love them and my parents like them, too). I decided to concoct a side dish with the green beans and mushrooms, and the results were delicious!

Fresh Green Beans with Wild Mushrooms
1 lb. fresh green beans, washed and prepped
1 clove garlic, chopped
7 - 8 cremini mushrooms, washed and thinly sliced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and add green beans, saute for 8 - 10 minutes until crisp tender. Add the mushrooms and saute for another 4 - 5 minutes. Serve.

I like to keep the crispness to my veggies, but if you like your green beans really cooked, you can boil them for 8 - 10 minutes before sauteing. Simple and delicious!

The Best Mashed Potatoes...Ever

I've mentioned it in my posts before, and I'll say it again - I LOVE POTATOES. My favorite kind of potatoes are mashed, and if you know me, you probably already know that. It's kind of weird how much I love mashed potatoes. Regardless, since I love them so much, I make them a LOT. I have never really been able to get them the exact way I like them, however. Seems simple enough, peel, quarter, and boil, then add butter, salt, pepper, and a bit of milk, and mash. Easy, right? Seems not.

Issues I've had:
  • Too lumpy
  • Too watery
  • Too creamy
  • Too bland
  • Too salty / buttery
I desperately wanted perfect mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, so after researching TONS of mashed potato recipes, I concocted this beauty, and the potatoes were MAGICAL! I give you...

2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup half & half
3/4 stick of butter, sliced into small pieces
sea salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in a salted pot of water until tender when pierced with a fork (about 20 minutes). Drain, return to the pot, add the butter, and let sit for a bit, at least 5 minutes - you can prep other portions of your meal at this time. When you are ready to finish the potatoes, add a healthy pinch of sea salt and pepper. Use a manual masher to start mashing. Then, get out your electric hand mixer and mix at the lowest setting, slowly adding the half and half until it's blended and the potatoes are fluffy and thick. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 cups or so.

These are unbelieveable - perfect texture and flavor. I finally cracked the code!


Kale, Cannellini Bean and Potato Soup

Today it snowed literally the entire day! And it's STILL snowing! It's the kind of day where you just want to snuggle up on the couch with a warm blanket and a good LifeTime movie (um...).

View from my office today -- brrr!
I wanted to make something warm and comforting for dinner and I had a bunch of stuff from last week's farm delivery that I wasn't sure how to use up - mainly, kale! I have never had kale before but I've read about the health benefits and I know it's pretty versatile. I found a recipe on Epicurious for Kale, Cannellini Bean and Potato Soup and decided to go for it!

Here's my variation:

Kale, Cannellini Bean and Potato Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
3/4 cup diced carrot
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh green beans, stems discarded and trimmed in half
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth (to make this veggie/vegan, just sub veggie stock)
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
3 potatoes, halved and sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 (16 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups finely chopped kale leaves
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Ground black pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat; cook and stir the onion until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the carrot and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes more.
  2. Pour in the chicken broth, water, and white wine; stir in the potatoes, green beans, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Add the cannelini beans, kale, red pepper flakes, and black pepper, and simmer, covered, for 30 more minutes. Taste and add as much sea salt as you want.
YUM! Seriously, this was sooo good! Keith doesn't even like soup (or things without meat in them) and he went for seconds. I also had two bowls and I'm absolutely stuffed. Also, there's a ton left - at least two more servings. I added the green beans since I had a bunch from last week's farm delivery and I wanted to use them up, and I'm so glad I did - they added another dimension to the soup, which might have been considered a little mushy without them. I think adding celery or mushrooms would also taste fantastic. It was also really easy and it didn't take a lot of thinking (chopping, yes; thinking, no). Love this and definitely will be making it again!

November 24th Farm Delivery

We have a special Wednesday farm delivery and I signed up so I can have farm-fresh fruits and veggies in my Thanksgiving Day feast! This is my first time making Thanksgiving dinner so it should be interesting, but at least I will have the help of my very culinary-inclined mom! I will definitely make sure to take tons of pictures!
I rearranged a lot of things on the delivery this week so that I don't have to buy as much stuff from the grocery store; but, my shopping list was still approximately 3 feet long!

Yukon Gold Potatoes, Organic - 1.5 pounds
Full Circle Farm, Carnation, Washington.
Broccoli, Organic - 1 each
Full Circle Farm, Carnation, Washington.
Yellow Onions, Organic - 4 each
Farmer's Own Organics, Seattle, Washington.
Green Beans, Organic - 0.75 pound
California Growers, California.
Celery, Organic - 2 bunches
California Growers, California.
Bunched Carrots, Organic - 1 bunch
Cal-Organics, Lamont, California.
Satsuma, Organic - 4 each
California Growers, California.

I kept this in here even though I have no use for it in our Thanksgiving meal because I've never had a Satsuma, or even seen one!
Like the orange, the Satsuma is a good source of fiber, and also boosts the autoimmune system with a healthy dose of vitamin C, helping to protect against heart disease and lower cholesterol. Known as the "Honey Citrus of Whenzou" the satsuma came to the United States through Japan, but is a citrus variety cultivated originally in China.
Garlic, Organic - 2 each
Christopher Ranch, Gilroy, California.
Lemons, Organic - 3 each
California Growers, California.
Gala Apples, Organic - 3 each
Earth Conscious Organics, Brewster, Washington.


Baked Apples

While we were watching The Walking Dead on AMC (great show by the way), I decided I wanted a snack. We keep getting a ton of fruit in our farm delivery and I try valiantly not to let it go to waste, but sometimes it's hard to eat it all! I decided to make something a little healthy after our fairly heavy dinner.

Baked Apples
2 apples (any variety will do)
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon butter, melted

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Chop the apples into bite-sized pieces and put them into a medium-sized bowl. Add the cinnamon, brown sugar and sugar, and stir. Then, drizzle the butter over the apples and stir, making sure that all ingredients are evenly distributed. Spread the apple mixture evenly into a small glass baking dish. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, until the apples are tender.

Keith liked this so much he literally licked the bowl clean. I balked at first but then took it as a compliment!

Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo

Things have been pretty busy around here lately! My parents are coming into town on Tuesday so we spent of lot of this weekend cleaning, getting things together, and shopping for the Thanksgiving feast, of course! I also had a particularly busy week at work, having to stay until 7:30 / 8pm almost every day last week. Thank goodness for a short work week!  

We have a ton of groceries in the house but most of them are hands off until Wednesday / Thursday. I didn't feel like going out (again) so I fell back on my trusty stand-by: pasta! I made my own version of the classic Fettucine Alfredo dish. I use a lot more cheese and less butter than most recipes call for, but once again, I just LOVE cheese! This comes out tasty and flavorful. I recommend having your dining companions add more salt, pepper, and cheese to their tastes once the food is in their bowls - it's much easier to please everyone that way!

Shrimp Fettucine Alfredo

Recipe makes enough sauce for 4 servings

Pasta (fettucine is best, but this can really be made with any kind!)
frozen deveined shrimp, thawed
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk, just keep in mind that the thinner the liquid, the thinner the sauce)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cook the pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until just al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.

Meanwhile, simmer the cream and butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the salt and pepper, stir to mix for a minute or so. Then add the shrimp and simmer for another 2 minutes. Finally, add the pasta and cheese. Depending on how thick or thin you like your sauce, add desired amount of cooking water to thin. Toss and serve!


Use Credit Cards for Good, Not Evil

During this time of year, we all start dropping money like it's going out of style. Christmas presents, birthday presents, dinners with friends and family, holiday outfits, decor, food, travel, the list goes on and on. If there's any point in time when people use credit cards, it's now. Generally, this makes us nervous - we know that putting anything on credit cards is bad, right? Not necessarily! There can be very nice rewards for making all these large purchases on credit cards if you know how to play your (ahem) cards right! Here's some tips to be a more savvy spender:
  • Store Credit Cards:  Most money management websites and articles will give you the advice to NEVER sign up for store credit cards. Their points are valid: the cards have high interest rates, and they can tempt you to buy things you don't need. However, if you already spend a lot of your money in a particular place, the benefits of being a cardholder can outweigh the negatives. Some stores have amazing cardholder benefits! Take a look at Nordstrom or Macy's - both have points systems that give you gift cards once you spend a certain amount, which equals money back in your pocket. They also give you access to special sales, additional discounts, and more. Even smaller stores, such as Banana Republic and Express have pretty perks - Banana Republic has a Visa card that's good anywhere and earns you reward points on everything from gas to groceries. Express cardholders are entitled to significant discounts, as much as 40% off. Even better, if you know you are going to get a motherload of Christmas presents at a specific store, you can usually get a pretty good discount just for signing up for the store card. Another 20% off on top of sale prices or other discounts can really add up! Make sure you pay off your balance each month and only buy what you need, but it makes perfect sense to get rewarded for the things you would have bought anyway!
  • Travel Credit Cards:  These cards are a great idea for the frequent traveler. Earn points on money spent on airfare, hotels and rental cars to get money back in the form of airline miles or even cash. If you belong to a frequent flyer program, such as Delta SkyMiles, find a card that will help you accrue SkyMiles on everyday purchases to help offset the cost of travel. Again, make sure you pay off your balance each month and you'll be sitting pretty with discounted seats, free checked baggage, and even free upgrades.
  • Reward Credit Cards:  Everyone should have an "everyday" credit card. You know, the one you use for your usual purchases like groceries, dining out, and gas for your car. Since you use this card every day (and pay it off every month...right? RIGHT?!), it only makes sense that it should do some work for you. There are tons of cards out there that can get you points for rewards, cash back, and more. Do your research before picking a card and make sure it fits your lifestyle.
The bottom line is that credit cards can be a great asset to a shrewd shopper. Make 'em work for you, but don't forget, MAKE SURE YOU PAY YOUR CARD OFF EVERY MONTH!


Tabs Work!

You may or may not have noticed the tabs across the top of my blog. If so, you might have seen the really fabulous "Under Construction" graphic I had up there. Well, thanks to the awesome coding skillz of my good friend JD, the tabs now work!

So, if you want to skip to just Recipes, or Deals & Dollars, or whatnot, just click on the tab to filter by entry type :)

November 18 Farm Delivery

This week's farm delivery (sans Bok Choy!) will contain the following:

Red Potatoes, Organic - 1.5 pounds
Full Circle Farm, Carnation, Washington.
Treviso Radicchio, Organic - 1 each
Full Circle Farm, Carnation, Washington.
A member of the chicory family, Treviso is a mild variety of radicchio that is shaped like an elongated cabbage with long purple leaves and thick white ribs. It has a firm texture with slightly bitter leaves. Wonderful when heated but can be eaten raw.

Green Kale, Organic - 1 bunch
Full Circle Farm, Carnation, Washington.
A descendant of the wild cabbage, kale is a cruciferous green widely prized for its wide variety of health benefits. Best braised to tenderness to retain nutrient value, kale has a slightly bitter earthy flavor that provides more nutrients per pound without the calories than any other vegetable.

Cremini Mushrooms, Organic - 0.4 pound
California Growers, California.

Occurring naturally in grasslands, fields and meadows across Europe and North America, Creminis were first cultivated in France, where they are known as "champignons de Paris." Picked young, they are Creminis. Left to grow, they are known as Portobellos, much larger and with a muskier flavor.
Green Beans, Organic - 0.75 pound
California Growers, California.
Celery, Organic - 1 each
California Growers, California.
Red Leaf Lettuce, Organic - 1 bunch
Lakeside Organic Gardens, Watsonville, California.
Bunched Carrots, Organic - 1 bunch
California Growers, California.
Valencia Oranges, Organic - 3 each
California Growers, California.
Yellow Onions, Organic - 2 each
Washington Growers, Washington.
D'anjou Pears, Organic - 3 each
Earth Conscious Organics, Brewster, Washington.
Gala Apples, Organic - 3 each
Earth Conscious Organics, Brewster, Washington.


Salmon and Baby Bok Choy; or, An Important Lesson for a City Girl

Good day to you fine people.  Below follows a cautionary tale, one with tragedy-like events, and I assure you, it's all true. Brace yourselves, dear readers, and continue reading...if you dare!



This was an entry in my LiveJournal from May 10th, 2005.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

This is a frangipani, my absolute favorite flower. They grow everywhere in Australia and smell sooo good. I have decided they are going to be the main flower in all my wedding bouquets. Hehe, planning ahead never hurt anybody!

I leave for Tassie in about 30 hours, so excited!  That is all, good nite!

SO, how weird is it that the frangipani WAS the main flower in my wedding bouquets; and even weirder still, that I got married on May 9, 2009?!?!?!  Oooh TWILIGHT ZONE!!!


November 4th Farm Delivery

I forgot to let ya'll know what came in my farm delivery last week. Since the fresh produce I receive drives a lot of what I make, I like to keep track :)

Brussels Sprouts
Baby Red Bok Choy
Green peppers
Red potatoes
Valencia oranges
Red flame grapes

Whoop whoop!

Halibut with Basil Vinagrette

I have been scouting yummy-sounding recipes and yesterday's dinner was the results of some of that work. I had some fresh halibut to use, and I received brussels sprouts in my farm delivery last week. I had NO idea what to do with them, and the only memories I have of brussels sprouts begin with boiled frozen sprouts circa 1994, tears, and dramatic gagging noises; and end with my sister and me spitting and / or hiding them into napkins when the parentals weren't looking. Ah, the stories I could tell...but I digress.

I found a quick but delicious-sounding recipe for red snapper and decided to sub in my halibut filet for it. The recipe recommended a potato dish as a side. If you know me you know that I have a slight issue with potatoes...I LOVE THEM. I had some Yukon Golds from last week's farm delivery, and since I'm always looking for new ways to cook potatoes (seriously, I could live off of potatoes), I gave it a shot.

Last but not least, the brussels sprouts. After much searching, I found a recipe called Brussels Sprouts for People Who Think They Hate Brussels Sprouts. I mean, what else is there to say, exactly?

The fish was great, but the Basil Vinagrette was a bit too lemony. Halibut is a really mild fish and it didn't need all that hoopla. B+

The potatoes were potatoes, so I liked them, but the recipe was kind of boring. Plus, the water took forever to absorb and the potatoes were a little too soft by the end. Tasty, but blandish. C-

Brussels sprouts! Verdict: They are OK. I wouldn't seek them out, but they aren't bad at all. The preparation method was pretty good, but I also happen to love cheese, so pretty much if you coat anything in parmesan reggiano, I'll eat it. They tasted like baby cabbages and if they come up again in my farm delivery, I wouldn't swap them out for anything else. A-

It was a good dinner but it wasn't anything I would rave about. And yes, I totally forgot to take pictures...AGAIN.


Tips for a Successful Website

I was reviewing my blog stats today (because I'm that much of a nerd) and I noticed that the entry for Wild Pacific Cod has by far the most page views. I'm thinking it's because of the pictures. This is further proof that people just don't like to read.

No but seriously. If you want to be successful on the internet, there are a few keys to achieving the best retention:
  • Get to the point:  No one wants to read through paragraph after paragraph of useless rhetoric. Figure out what your point is, and lay it out there. A good way to do this is by using bullet points...
  • People like pretty colors: Pictures and video capture people's attention much more than words on a page. Conversely, too many pictures or graphics will just confuse their eye and make it hard for them to focus on the important things. Moral:  don't clutter your site with silly animated .gifs or goofy illustrations. Make sure everything you have on your site has a purpose and achieves that purpose.
  • Evolution, baby: So, the site's live - that means the work is done, right? Wrong! You should constantly be changing things around, adding things, deleting things, etc. It's survival of the fittest, and things are constantly changing, especially on the internet. Analyze where your traffic is coming from, review how often things are clicked, and revise your site as needed. This is a never-ending process, and the only way to keep people interested is to evolve.
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: I'm not saying to copy that website you think is great, but definitely do your research. Look at the websites that you think are effective, and take cues from them. Successful websites are a combination of great design, compelling content, and a well thought-out architecture. Make sure these three things are a big part of your focus.
  • Use a designer: This is important. Just because you can use Paint or SnagIt does not make you qualified to design a webpage. And if you think Comic Sans is a great font to express your playful side...God help you. Let the professionals do their jobs.
Your website is almost always the first thing that people go to in order to learn about your company, service or product. You want to make a good impression, so don't throw something up there just to gain an online presence. Ask yourself if your website says what you want it to say.


Shopping for Deals & Dollars

Slight sidebar from cooking & food, one of my other interests is SHOPPING! Clothes, shoes, accessories, home goods, pretty much anything! I also love a deal. Some of the things I love about shopping online are that you don't have to shift through racks and racks of crap, deal with other people (haha), or wait in line. It's also SOO easy to look for deals and make sure you are never paying more than you need to. I enjoy nice things and I don't mind spending money for quality, but I try to avoid frivolity. There's an arsenal of sites I use to shop, but I wanted to point out a few that you might not know about:

RueLaLa:  This site is "private" (as in members only) and a bargain hunter's dream.  They have 4 - 6 boutiques every day that range from clothes, shoes, fine jewelry, travel, sports memorabilia, restaurants, cookware, home goods, pretty much everything.  Some deals I've gotten have included 50% off an upgraded room for a mini-vacation at the W in Fort Lauderdale, a $400 Betsey Johnson dress (which was for sale on Betsey Johnson's website for $350) for $150, and a $100 blanket for $29. To become a member you just need to sign up and provide your email address.

Daily Candy:  Daily Candy is a great site / email program. They have different editions for most major cities and also some others like deals, baby, and everywhere.  They call the daily emails "Candies" and they have everything from neat tidbits about what to do that weekend around your city, great websites to check out, and even contests. I've learned about a LOT of great websites through Daily Candy.

RetailMeNot: One thing I learned from my husband is that you should never buy something online without a coupon code :)  RetailMeNot is a site that compiles reliable coupon codes to save you anywhere from free shipping to straight up money off your bill. It's practically putting dollars back in your pocket. So next time you are about to hit Buy Now on a site, make sure you check for a coupon code.

Justfabulous.com:  I was iffy about this site at first.  Basically, you sign up by providing your email address and then take a really short quiz. Then, their stylists hand pick 6 shoe styles and 6 bags and put them into your personal boutique. Each item is $39.95 and there's free shipping (both ways, in case you want to return an item).  I've gotten two pairs of shoes from them now and I have to say, it's a pretty good deal. The quality isn't top notch but for trendy shoes that you know will probably be out of style next season, it's perfect! The only thing to note is that you do have to provide a credit card. Each month, you have to log into your boutique and actively choose to skip that month if you don't want to buy anything. If you don't, you'll be charged the $39.95. The up side to this is that you can use it on a future month when you do see something you like. I haven't had a problem with this, but it could be tough for someone who isn't on the internet all day like me :)

Of course, with great plastic comes great responsibility! As much I love to shop & travel, I am in the process of paying down debt, so it's important to manage my finances accordingly.  There are two sites I consider invaluable resources to help make sure I'm making the right financial decisions when I'm splurging on a great new pair of shoes:

CreditKarma:  This site is a great resource! You can check your credit score for free, as much as you want. Great for those who are trying to improve their credit score, but also a useful tool to see how certain actions affect your score (i.e. closing a credit card, paying off a debt, etc).

What sites do you use?  Any good ones I missed?


October Poll Results and Quick Pasta Options

Hey peeps!

The results are in! When you don't have a lot of time to whip up something fabulous, the majority of you turn to.... pasta! I definitely do, too. Pasta is so versatile and fast, and also delicious. I could eat pasta every day of the week and never have the same meal twice.

In honor of our beloved pasta winner, here are some of my favorite ways to make it!