Monday, August 30, 2010

Jenna's Peachy Keen Peach Pie

I love people who are passionate about food. So when I recently read Jenna Weber's blog Eat.Live.Run about making a home-made peach pie I felt inspired to try her recipe. She has a way of writing that just makes you want to be there in the kitchen with her, baking side-by-side.

Jenna is a super popular, 26 year old blogger. I first discovered her when she was a contestant for the wine blogger job at Murphy-Goode. I watched some of the videos people had submitted for the job and something about her personality and style made me want to see more. That was over a year ago.

Since then she's moved from the East coast to Northern California. She did not get the Murphy-Goode job, but she got a job at Michel-Schlumberger. She moved to Healdsburg, and then Santa Rosa. She wrote about oatmeal every day for months (she almost lost me in this phase), and she rode a bike in a 100 mile race. She started dating a dude she's nicknamed "Almonzo," (which I find a bit odd) and she just finished writing her first book which I assumed was a cookbook, but just learned it's a book about her experience at Le Cordon Bleu.

Here's the thing about Jenna. Until a few weeks ago we never really saw her bake or cook much outside of oatmeal, enchilada's, salads and some random bean/legume dishes. So I was really leery about what she could possibly have put in a cookbook. Unless the book is called 100 variations of overnight oats, which I'm sure it's not.

I knew she had a degree in English, and went to culinary school. But it wasn't until recently that we learned why she went to culinary school. Because she doesn't work in a restaurant or bakery. So I've often wondered why she did it. Now we know why. It was so she could write about food as a profession. Ah ha! Now it's all starting to make sense to me.

So when she posted this peach pie recipe I thought I would give it a try. Everything is made from scratch. This will be the ultimate test. Plus she insists that a Crisco crust is better than a butter crust. Don and I prefer butter crusts. But I decided to give the Crisco crust a try.

Here is a pictorial of the whole pie making process. If you want the recipe you can skip on over to Jenna's site right here!

The hardest part is following the recipe on my iphone!!!

She gave a great tip for removing the skin. Dunk the peaches in a pot of
boiling water for 10 seconds. It really works!

The crust was a bit crumbly when I unwrapped it.
But came together nicely after about a minute.

And the verdict? The pie was delicious. The crust was flaky. The peaches were juicy and flavorful, with just a hint of cinnamon. I still prefer a butter crust. But I must say, as far as Crisco crusts go, this crust was pretty good. Here's the recipe again: Peachy Keen Pie Recipe

The next recipe of hers that I'm going to try which was featured on her blog isn't really her recipe. But it's a chocolate chip cookie recipe made with brown butter which gives the cookies a carmel flavor. How yummy does that sound?

So there you have it. I'm not sure why I felt compelled to tell her story. It was just supposed to be about peach pie. I got a little carried away. Oh well! (Hi Jenna!)

PS. I met Jenna last September at BlogHerFood09. She probably doesn't remember me. We sat across from each other at lunch. I was kind of in a state of shock the whole time. Not about sitting with her. But about being at this conference with all these other food bloggers. I wasn't sure what I was doing there. Anyhow, Jenna was very shy and quiet. I expected her to be more outgoing like the persona on her blog. Not sure why you needed to know that. But now you know.

PSS. I sat next to Jennifer of "Unplanned Cooking" who I still keep in touch with. She's on her SECOND book and has a TV show in the works based on her first book 52 Fights: A Newlywed's Confession.

It's a crazy, crazy blogging world. And I have to admit, I LOVE IT!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cheap wine is très chic!

You heard it here first. Cheap wine is chic. I'm starting the trend. I'm on a quest to find decent wine that is less than ten bucks. And when I mean decent, I actually mean good wine. Wine that tastes good and doesn't give you a headache in the morning. We should all be able to enjoy the things we love without breaking the bank. So since I love wine, I'm going to find great wine that I can have with great home cooked meals. I know there are great, inexpensive wines out there. I just have to find them. So we can all be très chic! 

The key is finding wine that won't give me a headache. I had some cheap wine last Friday afternoon (Rex Goliath Pinot Grigio) that gave me the WORST headache Saturday morning. It really bummed me out and made me wonder why some wines give you a headache and some don't. And why is it usually the cheap wines? Some say it's the tannen. Some say you didn't drink enough water. I don't know. I'm no scientist.

All I know is that on Saturday afternoon I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner. I was so relieved after talking to Don and Elli that I got my appetite back! We hung up the phone and I literally ran to the store to grab a bottle of (cheap) wine and buy something yummy for dinner.

I went to BevMo for the wine because I knew I could get something good and cheap. I picked up two bottles. One bottle was a Rosé for $6.99 and the other a Malbec $5.99. Both wines are from Spain. Of course, these were the ClubBev prices at BevMo, they aren't always this price.

After I hit BevMo I went to Bryan Foods in Corte Madera. They are my favorite place to buy fish. I love their halibut encrusted in citrus panko. It's expensive to buy for 3 people so we don't get it very often. But not bad when you're just shopping for one. Well, it was still nine bucks.  But since I had popcorn for dinner the night before I felt like I could splurge.

The halibut and wine were the perfect pair. The wine was delicious. It had strawberry scents, but tasted more like black cherry. It was sweet, but not too sweet. I really liked it. And the fish was fabulous as usual.

Hoya de Cadenas, Rosada 2009 - Wilfred gave it 90PTS. He describes it as "A bright and sassy Rosé with serious designs, the scintillating '09 Hoya de Cadenas Rose is resplendent with ripe strawberry and raspberry flavors; perky and crisp in the finish."

And the next day?  No headache. Bravo. I'm off to a good start!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First day of school.

Yesterday was Elli's first day of school.

She was a little bit nervous in the morning. More excited than scared. But didn't really want to eat breakfast which is huge for her. She always wakes up starving.

She couldn't wear the special new outfit she had picked out for the first day because it was 100 degrees out and a plaid FLANNEL shirt with leggings would not be comfortable. We had a ten minute argument discussion about this. As you can see from the photo - - I won.  She was bummed. But she got over it the minute she stepped outside.

Elli on the first day of 4th grade. Nice tattoos Elli.

She wanted to make sure we got to school early so she could see all her friends. We arrived at 8:05 (school starts at 8:30) and there were a million cars everywhere. We had to park a mile away. Well not really, but it felt like it. It was awesome to see how many moms and dads were there with their kids. Our parent participation is huge. I guess it's not like this everywhere. We're really lucky.

Everything was going just fine until we realized we forgot her lunch at home. DOH! "Where's my lunch? I asked you to grab my lunch!" she said. Uh. Didn't hear that. And since when am I responsible for your lunch? GREAT. Now I have to go home and get your lunch.

And guess what? i couldn't find it. So I called Don. "Did you grab Elli's lunch?" "No." he said. "Well I can't find it!!!!" I barked. Literally. And then I see it. Sam, the lab, had it and had eaten everything. Argh. So I made a new lunch and zipped back to school. By now it's 8:55 and there are still a TON of cars at school. Those kindergarten parents have a hard time saying good bye. They'll get over it soon.

I took off from work in the afternoon so we could enjoy some fun pool time together and relax a little  - because next week everything will be in full swing again. Dance classes start on Tuesday. Homework with start on Monday. The craziness will begin again!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Insalata Caprese

I love fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato and basil salad. Don is not a fan of this type of salad. So I made one for myself last weekend when he was gone. I thought this was very nice of me. It's one of those things that I'll order in a restaurant, but never make at home. But since we're not eating out much anymore I never have the chance to eat it. What's wrong with him anyway? What's not to love?

So here's my yummy little salad.

Apparently I made a big faux pas and drizzled balsamic vinegar all over it. I like it this way. But according to the food snob on Epicurious it should only be a drizzle of olive oil. Vinegar will destroy the taste of the cheese. Oh well. I like it drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar - and according to the reviews I read on Epicurious I'm not alone. A lot of us like it this way. Ha! Whomever wrote the recipe on Epicurous is a big-time food snob. It goes back to 1996. Perhaps it's time they updated this post.

Yummy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil fresh from my little herb garden! I just used plain old vine ripe tomatoes, but it would taste amazing with heirloom tomatoes. I just wish they weren't so expensive.

I'm going to make some yummy sandwiches with the leftover ingredients. I bought some fresh sour dough bread. So when I get to work I can toast the bread, add the tomato, mozz and basil for a fresh, yummy sandwich.

How do you make your caprese salad?

Monday, August 23, 2010

How much do you worry?

Last weekend Don and Elli went camping without me. For those of you that know me, you know I'm not a camper. I'm not really nature girl. But that's not why I didn't go camping. I had a meeting in Sacramento on Friday and I had already promised our neighbor we would cat sit while she was away.

So Don and Elli left on Thursday to camp somewhere near Kirkwood ski resort with 3 other families. There would be 5 girls, all good friends. Elli was so excited she could hardly stand it. It would be her first time camping.

View from Kirkwood ski resort.
We borrowed a tent from one of the families who had recently upgraded tents. Elli wanted to pitch it in our living room and test it out. But Don reassured her he knew how to set up a tent - that they would be fine setting it up once they got to the camp.

At 4pm on Thursday I learned I was not going to Sacramento on Friday. It was too late to make any changes. Don and Elli were gone. So I guess I would be home alone all weekend. All by myself all weekend. Well not really all by myself. The dogs would be there.

I haven't been home by myself for four days ever. Oh my gosh. This might be fun.

Just one teeny tiny problem. For some idiotic reason I was worried about them. So I couldn't completely relax. I know. I tried a glass of wine. It didn't help. I told my neighbor I was worried. She said I was just being a good mom. Then her husband came out and told me a story about their encounter with a bear the last time they were camping. Uh thanks. Kinda didn't need to hear that. 

Don is always really good about checking in with me. So it was weird that I didn't hear from him at all on Thursday. Or Friday. So I started sending text messages "Hello! Having fun?" You know, cheery little notes to let them know I was thinking of them. I didn't want them to know that I was kind of freaking out wondering if they had encountered a bear or other wild beast.

I knew I shouldn't really be worried, but Don has a track record of hurting himself on every vacation. He got stitches in his knee the day before a big scuba trip; went to the hospital two times in Hawaii, threw out his back the day before we went to Newport, and recently went to the Chiropracter twice in Tahoe. See a trend?

As much as I wanted to relax, I couldn't completely. I just needed to know everything was ok. They FINALLY called late Saturday afternoon from a pay phone. Collect. I swear the operator said it was an emergency collect call. The minute she said that I had a flash of tingles from head to toe.

When I finally got done with the operator I talked to Don and Elli. They were super happy. Even Don was happy. I could hear him smiling. And that my friends is a BIG accomplishment. So, yeah! No emergency. I'm not sure why the operator said that. They were having a blast hiking, canoeing, and swimming. He said everyone was having a great time. What a flippin relief.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Frugal is the new black


Frugal Living Community - Frugal is the new black. That sounds depressing.

Something about the word frugal just doesn't work for me. Frugal. It reminds me of someone old, grumpy, gray, plain, simple, uninteresting, traditional, and boring. I do not associate one positive happy word with the word frugal. I even have a sad face when I say it. Go ahead, say it out loud. Froooogal. Ick. I don't like it.

The phrase "Frugal is the new black." is referring to a new trend. Then and now. I get it. I just don't like it. And I don't really want to be part of it. Unfortunately, I am part of it big time. We are living more frugally now than ever before. We still have a long way to go to really learn how to live frugally. But we're getting there.

I wish they called it "Smart Living Community" where frugal is the new black. That would work much better for me. Because smart is a happier word than frugal.

I know. I just need to accept it. And this is the hardest part of all. Which is why I'm following this new community.

I need to learn how to live with it. It helps to know I'm not alone. There are many, many people like me trying to figure out how to live life with less. I love reading all their tips. You never know what might work for you. And you can always tell the difference from people that are living it - and the people that are not. Their advice and suggestions are different. The person living it has real suggestions. Not the obvious - make your own coffee and take your lunch to work. Duh.

Here's the thing. I don't want to give anything up. I want to know how I can have it all - for less.

What I want to know is where can I buy all my fabulous gourmet food ingredients for a lot less $$? I found this weird little store in San Rafael, by the Trader Joe's that sells Indian spices, rice, breads and stuff. And they sell ginormous bags of jasmine rice for $5.99. This is WAY cheaper than the regular grocery store. They also have huge containers of olive oil that are less than 10 bucks. Those are the tips I want. Where can I shop to save on things that I want like:

  • seafood, meats and cheeses
  • fresh fruits and vegetables
  • wine (besides bevmo)
 Is there a way I can get all my household expenses a lot cheaper?

  • cable tv and internet
  • cell phone service
  • insurance
  • rent
  • electricity
  • car repair
  • gas
Does anyone know if there is there such a thing as a discount orthodontist? We need to take Elli. But we know how expensive it is. Where do you find a good orthodontist that is affordable?

And car repair. The "bring your car in for service" light has been on for a month. Where do you get quality auto repair that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? The enormity of it all has my stomach in knots.

I'm working on a new account at the agency called Raley's. It's a supermarket chain in CA and NV. They've recently introduced a concept called Raley's Dailies. They have set prices on over 1,000 items that people purchase all the time. It takes the guess work and stress out of buying. I love this. I wish other retailers did this too.

So I'm asking for help. What do you do to to save money on everyday expenses?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Role models for kids

Who do your kids look up to and consider a role model? Elli idolizes some of the kids she sees on TV. But she really looks up to some of the women she has met from hanging out with me and Don at work.

Elli came to work with us a lot this summer. As in, she was with one of us almost every day. So she got to know a lot of my colleagues and our customers at the store.

Her summer break is about 10 weeks long. She went to camp for three weeks. And spent the remaining 7 weeks with us. It's been a long summer. She's been a real trooper through it all. And so has Don. Since she was with him most of the time.

She created a fort at the store under our big table in the showroom where she could hang out. She went on appointments with Don and got to know a lot of his great customers. Thank goodness they all like kids and dogs because we are a real family-friendly company. One of his customers even sent home a goody bag for Elli with little trinkets she had collected from her travels all over the world. Elli just loved this.

Elli usually came to work with me on Friday's. But I brought her in last Thursday so she could say goodbye to one of the girls at the office that she really looked up to. Erica and Elli share a love of fashion and make-up. Unfortunately for us, it was Erica's last day at Hoffman Lewis. So Elli came to work to get some final make-up tips from Erica, as well as a make-over.

I love that they became buddies. Erica is so nice and sweet, plus she's really smart and hard working, too. She's the perfect person for Elli to look up to and have as a role model. Elli sees her working hard  in her office, and sees that she can have fun too.

So now they are now going to be blog buddies. Erica's blog is called Gloss Addiction. My Life. In Makeup. I'm pretty sure Elli is Erica's youngest fan.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Keeping up with fashion trends

In my fantasy life I am decked out in all the latest fashions.

In reality, I'm wearing the same things I bought in 2005 and I'm trying to make myself look stylish and current.

The new Garnet Hill Catalog has tips sprinkled throughout called TREND WATCH. Love this! Quick little tips on how to be current and now. Yeah! Tell me what I need to know so I don't look like a dork.

Eileen Fisher dress @

TIP #1 - Equestrian Style. As in super cool boots. I have really nice brown suede Cole Haan boots I bought a few years ago that I love. Excellent.

TIP #2 - The "feel good" factor. Fabrics that feel good like cashmere. Check. Got that too.

TIP #3 - Eco-conscious style. Hmmmm. Not buying anything new that was made eco-friendly. But I suppose wearing what you have IS eco conscious. So I'm good here. As long as it's not the blazer with shoulder pads from 1991.

TIP #4 - The cinched waist. I can do this. But oh, it's not nearly as comfortable as going uncinched. I have some belts to cinch outfits with - skinny, wide, suede, leather, patent you name it, I've got it. But I always find myself fussing with the belt and shirt all day. I tried wearing a skinny belt with a shirt last week and Elli gave it a thumbs down. "Doesn't look like you mom." she said. I guess I'll have to work on this one.

TIP #5 - Romantic ruffles. Yeah! I have a few shirts with ruffles. So we're good here too.

I feel much better now. I'm confident I can mix and match what I have to look somewhat stylish. Of course if anyone out there wants to send me some new duds to show off - I would be more than willing to accept.

There is no shame in asking. If you don't ask for it you won't get it. I know THAT for a fact.

My laptop that I use for work was a hand-me-down black MacBook that had seen better days. I used this Mac for 3+ years when finally I couldn't take it anymore. I marched into our IT guys office pleading for a new computer. He reached under his desk and handed me a brand new MacBook Pro. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? All I had to do this whole flippin' time was ask?  NO. WAY.  Of course, the computer was originally intended for someone else (they didn't like it.) I grabbed that sucker and ran before he had a chance to rethink what he just did and take it back.

So the moral of the story? Ask and sometimes yee shall receive!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gotcha Day

Yesterday we celebrated Elli's 8th "Gotcha Day." It's a very special day in our family - it's the day she was adopted and became part of our family.

We always do something to celebrate family, and her Chinese heritage. We read through the diary that I kept when we were in China and looked through old pictures when she was a baby. Someday Don will edit our video. It's a monumental task. But I'd love to see it.

We went into San Francisco and had dinner at House of Nanking. Then went and had frozen yogurt at her favorite yogurt place.

When we got home we gave her two gifts that we bought for her when we were in China. The first was a hand-painted sun umbrella. And the second was a paper fish kite that is really cool, and incredibly fragile. We'll see how long it lasts.

Don and I count our blessings everyday that Elli is in our family. She brightens our lives when everything else seems to be falling apart around us.

Lili Smith (Elli's friend), Elli, and me.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

The sun is out. Which is a rare occurrence lately,  so we're heading outside.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Salad Nicoise - canned or fresh tuna?

Did you know that people have been debating the proper way to make a Nicoise Salad for decades? I know, can you believe it. (ha, just kidding) It's been the topic of conversation with chefs, critics and foodies for a very long time. I had no idea until now.

I read an article in the September issue of Wine Enthusiast about the "real" way to make Salad Nicoise. Certain people say the salad must not have any cooked elements, the tomatoes must be quartered, the original recipe doesn't include lettuce, and the biggest debate of all is around the tuna - canned tuna or seared Ahi tuna. According to the author, David Rosengarten, it's not really a Nicoise salad unless you use canned tuna.

Really? Really???? That's dedication to a salad. Whoa. It's a salad people!

So it got me thinking. What does it mean to be an authentic recipe? I get what it means to authenticate a painting or a gold coin. But how do you authenticate a recipe? It's possible we have the original recipe as recorded by the first person on the planet to come up with said concoction. But even with that, every cook has their own way and things taste different. It's not like we can pull out that original dish and take a bite. Cuz you know, it's been eaten and discarded in the porcelain god. You know, it's gone. Loooooong gone.

And who cares anyway?

Are all these foodies that have been debating the recipe for years saying that we can NEVER alter a recipe? Ever? That we have to make it exactly as it was originally conceived? Or is an authentic recipe the essence of the original recipe that makes it authentic. If we were only to use "authentic" recipes then there wouldn't be thousands of cookbooks out there. hmmmm. Hello?????? I think these people just miss high school debate class.

But back to the Nicoise Salad.

What does the word nicoise mean anyway? And how do you say it? Well, I'll tell you. It means "as prepared in Nice." So I wonder if everyone in Nice, all Niceans have any thoughts on the canned vs. fresh tuna debate. I did some google research and Elise Bauer, from Simply Recipes solved the pronunciation question (nee-suaz.) She also has a really yummy recipe on her site, and you can get it right here! And you know what else? I found restaurants in Nice that served the salad with Seared Tuna. TRAVESTY!!! Poor Niceans (which is pronounced NIECEEEANS. And yes, I made it up.) are eating Nicoise salad the wrong way. I guess I can't go to Nice now. They have no..........oh who am I kidding. I'm not going to Nice unless someone hands me a plane ticket and a wad of cash.

I will say all this talk about fresh veggies and tuna did get my taste buds watering for this salad though. I would like to make it with fresh seared tuna. Of course canned tuna is a lot cheaper. So we'll see. I know one thing is for sure. I won't be adding any anchovies - cuz they are hairy and yucky, and unless completely dissolved in a sauce or salad dressing, are just plain gross. People that say otherwise are lying. Don't you dare drape little smelly fish on top of my salad. Ickkkkkk. And I'll smack you if you get GOAT CHEESE anywhere near me. Let's not go there.

Bottomline, who cares if we change it? The Nicoise police will not be knocking on my door. It's going to taste good, and that's all that matters. And guess what?  My current favorite cookbook has a fab recipe. But I'm kinda digging the recipe on Simply Recipes. So I think we'll have to try that version.

So what do you think about all of this. Other than you think I might be going CRAAAAZY.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Myth Buster - Dogs like to watch TV

Last Sunday Don and I were relaxing in the living room. I was typing away on my computer, as usual, and Don was watching something on National Geographic. I wasn't watching. It was just noise in the background. When suddenly Bentley, our little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, started barking and growling at the TV. What the heck? "Don, what is he barking at?" I say.  "The TV. He's barking at the dogs on TV." Ha! He was actually watching TV.

He was mesmerized by the action. His head and eyes were following the dog from left to right, and when they barked, he barked. Too funny. Now Don has someone to watch animal shows with.

Look at this sweet little face.
Now picture him growling and barking at these cute dogs and kids!!
They were watching a show called And Man Created Dog on National Geographic. Don loves these shows. Actually Don likes any and all shows with animals - dogs, sharks, whales - he's kind of obsessed. So Bentley has plenty of opportunity to watch fellow doggies on TV. The three men in my herd (Don, Sam and Bentley) will sit there watching these shows for hours. Don snacks. Bentley growls and barks, and Sam naps. Pretty much what guys do when they get together.

Shows over. Back to napping with Sam, his BFF.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oh yeah. Linguine with Onion, Bacon and Parmesan

I heart bacon.

Have you ever tried to cook bacon without eating any? OK, maybe those of you that don't eat bacon can resist. (But you wouldn't be cooking it anyway.) For those of that eat bacon - it is nearly impossible to keep your hands off the bacon bits. And for those of you that don't eat bacon - what's up with that?  If it's for religious reasons I would petition someone to change the "rules" and ban liver or lima beans. Banning bacon is just cruel.

You'll never experience a spinach salad with crispy bacon bits, a fillet wrapped with bacon, a BLT with fresh heirloom tomato, crisp lettuce and bacon, bacon wrapped scallops, bacon wrapped shrimp, chocolate and bacon cupcakes, a triple decker club sandwich, or a basic cheese omelet with crispy bacon strips on the side.

Maple Bacon Bar @Voodoo Doughnut
I even saw a donut on TV recently with bacon. Voodoo Doughnut shop in Oregon makes a donut called the Maple Bacon Bar. It's a yeast donut with maple frosting and bacon on top! It's like having pancakes, syrup and bacon to go. How awesome is that? Ok. It's kinda gross. But someone probably likes it!

Today's featured recipe is......Linguine (or fettuccine) with Onion, Bacon and Parmesan.

Could you substitute the bacon for something else? Of course. I think it would taste good with chicken, scallops, or shrimp. But it's really good with bacon.

Here is the inspirational picture.

Linguine with Onion, Bacon and Parmesan
Super easy. Super yummy. A perfect weeknight meal that the whole bacon-loving family will enjoy.

Fry the bacon then cook the onions in 2T of bacon fat. And try to leave some bacon for the pasta. mmmmm bacon.
And here it is on the table! I used Fettuccine noodles and they worked just fine.
The recipe.

I asked Don what his favorite food thing is with bacon. Before he even had a chance to answer Elli leaped off her chair and screamed. "Bacon!? Are you eating bacon? I want some! Where's the bacon. You said there was bacon?" Whoa Nelly. No bacon. Just talking about bacon. You should have seen her sad little puppy eyes. Poor baby.

Here's where I got the fab recipe. I have three of these "Quick from Scratch" books from Food and Wine. I love them all.

*Donut image courtesy of Voodoo Doughnut.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Paper or Cloth? Napkins that is.

We ran out of napkins a few weeks ago so I pulled out some cloth napkins I have until I went to the store. Then I realized that I like using cloth napkins. Something about using pretty cloth napkins just feels fancy and special. Even if you're just eating cereal.

We toss them in the laundry room when we're done. They get laundered with all our other laundry. We're not throwing anything away.  They fold nicely and are stored in our napkin holder just like the old paper napkins.

It's better for the planet. And frankly, they are much nicer to use than paper, so it's a win-win.

So this got me thinking. How about paper towels? We have a ton of dish cloths and towels. Maybe we can get rid of them too. So we're giving it a try. We'll see how it goes. So far it's fine.

Since I'm on a roll (ha, ha) what else can get I rid of that just gets thrown away? 

Ziplocks. Check. They are pretty much gone from our house. I use the gallon size bags to freeze meat. Elli's school discourages kids from using Ziplocks, so we try to stick to reusable tupperware type containers whenever we can. The only annoying thing with tupperware is how much space they take up in the dishwasher each day. 

Paper coffee mugs. Check. Don and I take our coffee in travel mugs every morning. We rarely, if ever, use paper cups. In fact, if you take your travel mug to Starbucks or another coffee shop they will often give you a better price. 

Paper and plastic grocery bags. I'm working on it. This is the one thing I'm still really bad at. I always forget to put the reusable grocery bags back in the car. And I better get my act together. Here in Marin County people are extremely progressive as far as environmental concerns go. They want to ban all bags at retail stores, grocery included. So I better start remembering to put the bags back in the car after I've unloaded the groceries.

Are there any other good tips out there? Giving up toilet paper or using 3 squares is not a tip I'm interested in - in case you were thinking of going there. TP is the one paper product we're not giving up any time soon.

One last thought....

Does anyone know why Trader Joe's uses so much packaging for their produce? It makes me crazy. Plus I like to pick out my own stuff. I would like to know why they do it. And if they are thinking about changing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dishwasher soap comparison: Cascade vs. Bright Green

I don't know about you, but I don't wash anything by hand. Everything goes in the dishwasher. Glasses, plates, pots, pans, knives, wooden spoons, Everything. Ok. 95% of it goes in the dishwasher. The only things I don't put in the dishwasher are my wooden cutting boards, my cookie sheets (because they don't fit) and certain metal pans because it does something weird to the metal, so they have to be hand washed. Bottomline, I stink at washing dishes. So I count on my dishwasher and the detergent to get those dishes clean.

For years, and years, and years, I used Cascade dishwashing soap and had squeeky clean dishes all the time. Then all the organic and earth friendly products started getting introduced so I switched to the Bright Green brand of dishwasher soap. It felt like the right thing to do.

All was well for a while. Then I started noticing that my drinking glasses were getting cloudy. The glasses looked terrible - all spotty and streaky. Just awful. So I added Jet Dry hoping that would clear things up. Nope. That didn't help.

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore, so I bought Cascade again. And ta da the problem is all gone. The glasses are clean once again. Here are two glasses side-by side. It's hard to tell in the first photo. But the Cascade glass is crystal clear. The other? Not so much.

Cascade                         Bright Green

You'll be happy to know that all the glasses are sparkling once again.

But now I'm wondering if our dishes were actually clean. Because once they went through the dishwasher with Cascade they were clear again. Ewwwwww.

And what about our clothes?  We use Bright Green laundry detergent, and fabric softener and bleach. They seem clean. But are they?

And who makes Bright Green anyway? The back of the container says Lucerne North America LLC, based in Pleasanton, CA. I thought Lucerne made dairy products like milk, cheese and butter. And isn't Safeway based in Pleasanton? Is this a Safeway brand? I wonder. Anyone know? I'm confused.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gingerbread Cookies in summer. Why not?

I recently read a blog someone wrote about how much stuff we have in our cabinets (kitchen and bath) that if you actually went through it all - as in used everything - you could save yourself a ton of money.

She has a good point. We often buy new things because we're tired of what we already have. Or we buy something new because we have plans to do something with that ingredient, say Molasses or old fashioned oatmeal and corn meal. But then never actually make anything with it, or only use a little and there it sits in the pantry. I usually find this random stuff with an expiration date way past it's prime. So it goes in the trash.

So I've decided to do start using what I have to make stuff. And the goal is to find recipes where I have all the ingredients on hand. I have a new jar of molasses, 1/2 container of old fashioned oats and 3 containers of corn meal. I do believe we have some muffins and cornbread in our future!!

So that's how we get Gingerbread Cookies in the middle of summer. They feel like a fall/winter treat to me. But not to worry, I still have 2/3 of a jar of molasses still and it doesn't expire until 2011. So we have plenty of time to make something this fall.

I went on the Grandma's Molasses website and found the cookie recipe (which is also on the jar). I also found several other recipes  like Rosemary Chicken, BBQ Ribs and Memphis Style BBQ sauce that sound good, too.

I asked Elli to hold the jar of Molasses like they used to do a long time ago.
And this is what I got.
I used the cookie recipe that is right on the jar. I added some apple pie spice that I have - to make them my own, and because for a little while I couldn't find the ground cloves and was considering that as a replacement.

Elli layed out all her cookie cutters for me. Then disappeared to watch another re-run of iCarly. I wish I was as fascinating as Carly and Sam. But then she reappeared when it was time to roll the dough.

Holy cow. I don't know what got into her, but she was a complete wacko. I laughed so hard as flour and sugar flew through the air as she tried roll the sticky dough, and use the cookie cutters.

At one point she said one of her dreams is to get in her bikini with all of her friends and throw flour at each other, and toothpaste, and cereal. Oh, and sprinkles. She said it would be AWE-SOME! I'm worried. I have a feeling I'm going to be in for some big time fun in a few years.

Elli has eaten 5 cookies and is flying high. Does Molasses have some kind of super kid power? I'm wondering if Gingerbread cookies was a good idea. Lucky for me she'll be at work with Don today - and not with me. Good luck honey. hee hee hee.

So do a little digging in your own pantry and tell me what you find!