Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Trés Chic Wine Wednesday!

Ok. First let me say I did not set out to buy this wine. I walked into Safeway last Friday night to grab some stuff for dinner (which was awesome and you can read about on Friday.) A super friendly manager was standing at the entrance handing out flyers to everyone that walked in. He handed one to me and explained they had some awesome specials that were good that day only. And all were $5.00.

And it was good stuff too!

1) Signature Cafe Roasted Turkey Breast or Turkey Pot Roast $5
2) 5-lb box of Clementines $5
3) Shrimp appetizer Platter $5
4) Fetzer Valley Oaks Chardonnay or Cabernet $5

My immediate reaction? I gotta try the $5 wine. Sheesh if it's horrible we'll toss it and never buy it again. Just kidding. It has to be completely undrinkable for us not to drink it. As in corked or something. But what the heck. So I bought one bottle of each.


We opened the Chardonnay that night and gave it a whirl. It's not bad. Not the most sophisticated wine on the planet. But not bad. And it doesn't have the oakey buttery notes that I don't like in Chardonnay so for me it was a completely drinkable, suck it down, kind of wine. Would I buy it again? Yes. Would I serve it to guests? Depends on who they are. Would I buy a case of it for $5/bottle. Absolutely!

As I was approaching the check out lane an announcement came on over the intercom. "Five..............Five Dollar...............Five Dollar Chardonnaaaayyyyyyy. " I totally cracked up and happily bought my chardonnay.

Click here for a nifty little wine pairing chart, complements of Fetzer.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Who likes Oatmeal Cookies?

Silence.

Maybe you didn't hear me. "Who likes oatmeal cookies?" I say to Don and Elli.

Silence.

"Hello??"

Silence.

I know they can hear me. Our living room is literally 6 steps from the kitchen. I just counted Don's steps as he walked from the kitchen to his red chair.

"Elli. Do you like oatmeal cookies?" I say to her. "I dunno. I don't think so." This is not going like I'd hoped. "Well, you like oatmeal, right?" I respond. "Yes." she says. "Ok. Then you'll love oatmeal cookies. We'll toss in a few mini chocolate chips too. Just for fun." Cuz everyone knows I hate raisins. There will be NO raisins in these cookies. "Ok." she said. With about as much enthusiasm as someone about to take a math test.

We never did get a response from Don. But I've seriously never seen that man pass up a cookie. I know he'll eat them.

So, after convincing Elli she would like the cookies, I talked her into helping me make them, because I had more surprises for her. It was my turn to walk the girls to dance the next day. You have to bring a snack for the six girls you're walking. My plan was to bring cookies. These cookies. ('Cuz I am an evil, evil mommy. )

I made the dough while Elli finished her homework. Elli scooped it onto the pan. In 10 minutes the house smelled like cinnamon oatmeal goodness. Elli (and Don) gobbled up 2 cookies each as soon as they were cool enough to handle.

Insert victory dance here because I'm a goof and this is how I roll.

"So Elli, I'm going to bring these cookies for the girls tomorrow. Is that ok?" I ask her. "Yes!" she said. "They'll love them. Oatmeal cookies are AWE-SOME!" This is how quick she'll change her tune. No faking it. I love that about her.

The next day I got some really sad puppy eyes when I showed the girls I brought oatmeal cookies. And I got a lot of silence. AGAIN! What's wrong with these people. So I went into super saleswoman speak, "They're home-made and really yummy. Elli made them! You're going to love them!!!!" I cheered to the group. They each begrudgingly took a cookie. And before I knew it all 12 cookies were gone and they were skipping along to dance.

Ha. I knew they would like them. Why do all the people in my life make it so hard?

(Dad, I know you like oatmeal cookies. No need to respond. And I would send you some but the silent people in my house ate them all.)

Uh, yeah. One cookie is missing from this photo. I ate it. It was gooooood.
Here's the recipe. Straight from the lid of the Quaker Oats oatmeal container.

Quaker® Oats Vanishing Oatmeal (Raisin) Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla (I use Penzey's double-strength)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked oats)
1 cup raisins (optional, blech.) or,
1 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

1. Heat oven to 350º F
2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
4. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.
5. Stir in oats and raisins or chocolate chips; mix well.
6. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheet lined with a Silpat (or ungreased sheet)
7. Baked 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. (We baked them 10 minutes so they were still soft and not crispy.)
8. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.
9. Makes about 4 dozen.



PS. So I just asked Don if he liked the oatmeal cookies. I got a nod. No actual verbal response. But a nod. What is wrong with the people in my life?????

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Car conversations

"Mom,  there's something on Sam (the dog.) It's either a bug, eye booger or a burr." says Elli.

"Uh huh." is pretty much my response.

"Give me your finger." she says.

"Why?" I respond. With just a touch of sass in my voice. Ok, more than a touch.

"I want to stick it on your finger so you can tell me what it is." says Elli.

"Uh.......NO! That's gross!!" I bark at her. Is she nuts? Why on earth would I give her my finger to have some potentially disgusting thing put on it. Especially when I'm in the car. Or anywhere for that matter. Hello? It's me your talking about. Yuuuuuuuck!!

"Mom, you really need to learn how to deal with bugs better. Dad and I do it. It's time you learn." she responds.

"That's what you and daddy are for!" I reply. Yes, I'm 12.

"Oh, mom." says Elli.

It's now time to change the subject. Thank goodness she saw a white cow out the window. "Is that a sheep?" she asks. She seriously did ask that. And if she knew I was writing about it now she would KILL me. But she's not here. And she thought a big white cow was a sheep. Ok, I'll admit, we don't see completely white cows very often. But sheesh. It was CLEARLY a GIGANTIC COW.

Of course I once thought a golden retriever swimming in the bay was a sea lion. And they never let me forget it. But that's different. It was swimming with just it's head poking out. Ok. Maybe it did have a ball in it's mouth. But I didn't see that!

Oy.

I swear I don't make this stuff up. This is my life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Plop plop, fizz fizz, it's not what you think it is!

It's Trés Chic Wine Wednesday and I'm featuring Kool-Aid. What the heck? I'll have another new wine for you soon. I promise.

Elli went to the store with her dad recently and came home with this.


He's much nicer than me in the store. I'm the queen of "No!" Of course I take her shopping MUCH MORE than Don does. So he doesn't deal with the constant "I WANT" with everything she sees. She just starts spewing out everything that comes in her sightline in hopes it's something I might respond to. It's actually kind of comical. "Can I have a donut? yogurt? ice cream? Toaster Struedels? Chicken nuggets? Bacon? Corn Nuts? Doritos? Lunchable? Sugar Cereal? It seriously goes on, and on, and on. It's a nightmare. Of course I remember being the same way.

So when they came home with the Kool-Aid Fun Fizz packets I wasn't completely surprised.

Poor Elli just drinks water most of the time anyway. And you know why?  That's what she likes! The girl likes water. We are so lucky. We don't drink soda. We stopped drinking it years ago so we never have it in the house. She's tried it. But she doesn't really like it. She'll occasionally drink juice or milk. But what she really likes is water. Yeah!

Getting ready to drop in the tables with her friend Olivia.
Plop! (uh, check out the excellent photography here people! I caught the plop in action!)
Already excited in anticipation of the frizzy concoction!



Watching the magic happen.
Yum!

As you can imagine, she loved it. And her friend loved it. I checked the label and I don't think it has any harmful ingredients. But who knows. It seems like there is some product in the news everyday that's got someone up in arms. I'm still kind of confused about the corn syrup debate. But back to fizzy water. I'm trusting Kraft/Kool-Aid a brand that mom's have been trusting for years is keeping things real. Right? Right???

It's healthier than soda. And they sure had fun with it.

What do your kids BEG for in the grocery store? How often do you give in?

Monday, September 20, 2010

A visit to the Rock Wall Winery in the Alameda ship yards

The nearly empty ship yards in Alameda is not where you would expect to find a winery. What you might expect to see is the crew from Myth Busters. But we didn't see them anywhere. And trust me. We looked.

But the empty (kinda scary shipyards) is exactly where we found ourselves yesterday. We went to Rock Wall Wines to hear a band.

Don participated in something called the Closet Musician's Workshop the first year that we lived here. He loved it. He got to jam with a bunch of really talented "closet" musicians, like himself. At the end of the session they performed at a local bar. It was awesome. I felt like a groupie. And Don really loved playing guitar and singing on stage! The man that doesn't talk actually sang on stage. It was awesome.

They had a lead singer of the group. Her name is Hilary. Hilary was really serious about becoming a real performer. She wasn't doing this just for fun. She had a voice coach. She called the group to her house in the Oakland Hills for extra practices. She had a much bigger goal for herself than playing at the now defunct Sweetwater Grill.

Flash forward 3+ years and she has a stage name now, Nell Robinson, and a real band. She has an album. She's performed on the Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keeler. She is not a closet musician anymore. And she and her band are pretty good! You don't even have to like Bluegrass/country music to appreciate the talent of the musicians. But it's much more enjoyable if you do. Click here if you want to hear her with the Jaybirds.

So in addition to the fun music - we got to taste some pretty yummy wine. And since it is the middle of crush, we got to see them tending to the zinfandel grapes. Pretty cool.

Nell Robinson and her band in the warehouse space at Rock Wall Winery.

2009 Rock Wall Sauvignon Blanc
Elli entertained herself....
....by drawing all of the instruments that were in the band!
We wandered outside and saw this!
Zinfandel grapes. Yum.
They had a crew of people tending to the grapes.
Elli wanted to jump in the grape bin just like Lucy and Ethel. Of course she has NO IDEA who Lucy and Ethel are. But something about seeing that bin of grapes beckoned her to climb in! I didn't let her. But I did laugh when she asked.

So what did you do yesterday?

Friday, September 17, 2010

PART II - Dishwasher soap comparison: Cascade vs. Bright Green

Check. It. Out!

This JUST arrived at my office from Safeway Corporate. A box filled with Bright Green goodies. About 6 weeks ago I blogged about my drinking glasses looking streaky and yucky so I switched dishwasher soaps. Well, guess what people. There ARE people out there reading our blogs and they do care if our glasses are streaky. They don't like it either. So they sent me this:

Super cool tote bag. Nice.

Big bottle of dishwasher soap, a water bottle, a tote and a laundry soap sample.









Looks like I better do some cooking this weekend so I can try out their newly reformulated soap that reduces spots and streaks. 'Cuz we really don't want this to happen again. Remember? Yeah. Not good.



Gotta do some dishes before I can report back.

Big thanks to Safeway, and Cristina Stanley for reaching out to little 'ol me in Mill Valley. This worldwide web stuff is kinda nuts, huh?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are you an early, on time, or late kind of person?

I'm an arrive on time, or just a titch early sort of gal. Or at least that's what I strive to be.

For client meetings I always plan arriving early. Mainly because the stress of driving fast, parking, etc is too much. It's better to give yourself few extra minutes.  I had a client once say that if you show up exactly on time than you're late. He was a cranky old chap. And that's putting it nicely.

My husband has a tendency to run late.  We'll be getting ready to go to a party, I'm dressed, purse in hand, and he finally jumps in the shower. Grrrr. It makes me crazy. "WE"RE GOING TO BE LATE!!" I mutter under my breathe, but loud enough that he can hear.

I think he doesn't want to risk being the first one there. That would mean a lot of focused small talk. If you're mixed in a crowd you can become invisible.

What kind of person are you?

Monday, September 13, 2010

I've got a bag with your name on it.

We participated in our first sample sale on Saturday. We brought our new line of Elliott Grace totes made from remnant fabrics, cow hides and leather.


We have cow hide wine totes (large and small) and fabric bags in a few styles.




Click here to see our bags. Shoot me an email if you want to order one and I'll have Don get in touch with you. Christmas will be here before you know it. Get a jump start and order your mother-in-law a bag. You know she'll love it.

The booth next to us was handbag designer Bryna Nicole. She had a great day (as in sold a lot more than we did. A LOT.) Bryna was there most of the day. She's a super nice, young gal with a bright future. I was impressed by her style and grace. I would definitely buy one of her bags - if I were in the market for a chic bag.


You can check out all her bags here on her website.
Addison Messenger Hobo, $320

Fallon Hobo, $425

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mahi Mahi Burgers and homemade Garlic and Green Chili Spread

Mahi Mahi burgers, with yummy roasted garlic and green chili spread, and crispy sweet potato fries. The perfect weekend meal. No fuss. Minimal mess. And super yummy.


Here's what you need. Don't be scared about fish burgers in a box.


Honestly, I never would have bought these. Don picked them up at Trader Joe's. I was worried they wouldn't taste good. (I had a previous bad experience with fish burgers in a box - not from TJs.) So I asked Don what he thought about me making up a flavored mayo for the burgers. His response? "Uh, sure. Whatever." It just looks like it might need a sauce/spread, right?


I love the yummy sauces restaurants put on their sandwiches. I wanted something gourmet for our sandwich. You know, something to accent the fish, not cover it up. So I decided to make one myself.

I had some roasted garlic, green chiles, mayo, and sour cream which I thought would make a good spread. So I googled garlic mayo and found a recipe from Tyler Florence that I used as inspiration. My track record with creating recipes isn't too hot - so I needed a little guidance!


AND GUESS WHAT???? My creation tasted great. I actually made up a recipe that tasted good. (insert happy dance here.) We dipped pretzels in it until dinner was ready. Ok. I did. Don never got off the red chair. And I know the spread will taste even better tomorrow. Right on. We'll need to find something else to spread it on.  Oh, and the burgers were just fine. I would definitely buy them again.

Roasted Garlic and Green Chili Spread

1/3 cup fat mayo (I used low fat.)
1/3 cup sour cream (I used low fat.)
3 cloves of roasted garlic
2 t. chopped green chiles
salt and pepper to taste
1 t. chopped chives

Mix mayo, sour cream, roasted garlic, green chili's and salt and pepper in mini food processor until smooth. Stir in chives. Chill 30 minutes. Spread on sandwiches or use as a dip.

You might be wondering about the roasted garlic. I just happen to have a bunch of cloves already roasted in the freezer. I made a whole chicken recently and stuffed it with the garlic cloves. It didn't make sense to throw them out, so I put them in a ziplock in the freezer. I have been using them like crazy. I'm definitely doing this again the next time I roast a chicken. It's also really easy to roast garlic in a toaster oven. Just drizzle with olive oil, cover in foil and roast for 20 minutes or so in a 400 degree oven.

The sweet potato fries were yummy too. mmm mmm mmm

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Suck in your gut little missy.

Remember the first time you felt you had to suck in your gut? How uncomfortable and yucky it was?

Well, Elli came home from ballet class yesterday complaining that her teacher Miss Erika told her to stand tall and suck in her gut several times. Elli was just completely thrown off. She's never sucked in her gut for more than a second.

"I cannot get as tall as the other girls. It's impossible." she cried out. "I cannot dance sucking in my gut. It hurts!" Uh yeah. Welcome to my world. 

She showed me what the teacher had her do, how it elongated her body, and made her compact little body look lean - the way a ballet dancer does.

Elli's immediate reaction. I hate ballet. I don't want to do it anymore.

Ha. Get used to it missy. Nothing in life is easy. Keep practicing. Listen to your teacher.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trés Chic Wine Wednesday - More wine, more corks, what to do?

It's Trés Chic Wine Wednesday. Yeah!

Today's reco is another fab wine from Spain that you can buy at TJs for $6.99. Don picked this up and we REALLY like it. He bought the last two bottles at our store. I hope they get more in because it has a nice fruit flavor and is really drinkable now. It would be a great wine to have when guests are over. Or not!

2005 Monte Ducay Reserve Red Wine
I don't know about you, but we're amassing quite a cork collection here at the Mulkey compound. We have about 500 corks at home in various places. Yes, you read right. 500. I know.

We originally started saving corks for a science project that Elli was going to do at school. I had seen a cute little project where you make little cork boats, stick a thumb tack in the end and push them through water with a magnet. I don't know exactly what happened, but Elli decided to do a project with a friend that didn't involve corks.

So here we are three years later with a cork collection that just keeps growing. And look what I found today. A whole bunch of things you can make with corks. Huh.

Look at all the groovy kits you can buy on the Wine Enthusiast website!
Square corkboard


Serving Tray

Lazy Susan (haven't seen one of THESE in a while.
Coasters
Trivet
Oval Tray
Oval tray turned into corkboard. Two gifts in one!

I don't know. I'm not sure I want cork decorations. Maybe I'll just donate the corks to someone. Or make cork Christmas gifts?

Better yet, check out Cork ReHarvest.org



They have some cool pictures of cork getting harvested from trees. And they will tell you where you can take corks so they can be recycled. And the best part? They've partnered with Whole Foods. So now you can just take your corks to Whole Foods and they will be recycled into cool stuff like cork floors, boxes and other consumer products.

So the next time you have the urge to toss that cork in the trash....don't do it. Take it to Whole Foods.

I'm going to have to take mine a little at a time. I don't want someone to get the wrong idea about the 500 corks I have. We've been saving them for years. Really, it's true.



Please note: All images are from Wine Enthusiast and Cork ReHarvest and Whole Foods.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Easy Fresh Fruit Shortbread Bars



I heart shortbread bars.

One of the signature dishes I make is called Breakfast Bars and the recipe is from Nancy Silverton of LaBrea Bakery. They have a super butter crust, fruity middle, and crunchy, buttery topping. They are delish. But they are kind of a pain to make. Lots of steps.

So I was pretty excited when I saw a post by Smitten Kitchen with a picture of a bar that looks exactly like the breakfast bars I make. Except she used fresh peaches in the middle. After I read the recipe and saw how easy they were to make I knew I had to try it immediately. If these bars were good, they might knock Nancy's recipe off its pedestal. Whoa.


And guess what? They're AWESOME! I substituted fresh, juicy nectarines for peaches. The recipe said two pieces of fruit should be enough. Well, I could of used one more because I ran out. So I started digging through the fridge to find jam or something else for filling. I found some Fig Spread. Perfect. They will taste like super yummy fig newtons. And they did! They are super delicious. I might even make a whole batch of fig bars next time.

The recipe calls for you to brown the butter. I did this because I love the nutty taste of brown butter. I'm sure it would be equally delicious if you didn't brown the butter. But it's so easy to do, just do it! Brown the butter then stick it in the freezer while you do something else. Before you know it thirty minutes will have passed and the butter is hard and ready to use.

Here's the recipe from Smitten Kitchen - with slight adaption. Very slight. As in I used 3 nectarines instead of 2 peaches. That's hardly an adaptation.

Fresh Fruit Shortbread Bars (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cups all-purpose flour (or you can measure 3 cups and remove 2 tablespoons flour)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
3 nectarines or peaches, pitted, skin removed and thinly sliced (between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick)
or 1 jar of fig spread, at room temperature

Brown your butter: Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns and the very second that you turn around to do something else. Set it in the freezer until solid (about 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9×13 inch pan, or spray it with a nonstick spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and spices with a whisk. Use a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips, blend the solidified brown butter and egg into the flour mixture. It will be crumbly. Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly. Tile fruit slices over crumb base in a single layer. Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over fruit and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.

Store in sealed container in the fridge or freeze.

 
If you want to see more steps and pictures how to make this you can skip on over to Smitten Kitchen. She has it all down. No sense repeating it here! Click here: Smitten Kitchen  I got the ever popular Blueberry Boy Bait recipe from her too. You can click here for that recipe:  Blueberry Boy Bait  Cuz you might want to check that one out again.

You can definitely make this today. It is a holiday after all and what else are you going to do? Your family will thank you.

I need another cup of coffee. Bye!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

House envy. Part II.

Remember a few weeks ago when I was whining about the new house that Heather Armstrong, blogger extraordinaire, founder of Dooce moved into? I was just about ready to move on. Until yesterday.

Check out her totally awesome breakfast nook. How fantastic is that light fixture? I'm sure she'll have a swell time dusting it. My fantastic breakfast nook light fixture from Home Depot (aka, the 300 dollar store) never needs to be dusted. ha.

Photo from Dooce.com
So, my unhealthy and completely immature obsession with her home continues.

Don't get me started (again) on the gorgeous wood floors either.

wah wah waaaaaah