Monday, September 26, 2011

Crunchy Candied Walnuts

Candied Walnuts by Sante Nuts

MMMMM candied walnuts. Sweet and crunchy. A little bit salty. Roasted by hand. More, please!

We like snacks in our house. A lot.

I'm going to blame my mom on this one. She is the queen of snacks. She must think everyone looks starving all the time. The minute you walk in her house she asks if you want a snack. Cheese and crackers? Chips and Salsa? Pretzels? Nut mix? Popcorn?

I love her.

When I was young I used to steal eat all of the nuts my mom had in the kitchen. They were supposed to be for baking. I liked to snack on them. I'm sure she loved that.

I try to have nuts on hand for snacks instead of constantly carbing out on cheese and crackers all the time. (Oh how I love cheese.)

Even Elli likes them. I've started packing little containers of nuts in her lunchbox and she loves it. Peanuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and cashews are her favorites.

She's a snacker in training.

They do say it's better to eat a little bit throughout the day instead of a few huge meals. So maybe my mom was on to something?

Here are some new nuts I discovered and they rock! They are flavorful, crispy, some are sweet, some are spicy and they're not greasy. You are going to love them. I got four bags of different flavors. My very, very favorite is the Candied Walnuts. The Garlic Almonds taste good with a glass of red wine and some cheese and crackers. But you better make sure your honey is eating them too. If you know what I mean.

Go NUTS and enjoy some nuts. Here's a really great coupon for 25% off if you want to buy some now.

25% off Coupon code: 2011-Blog-072
Expires 12/16/11

I need to reiterate the "they're not greasy" part again. I'm eating these nuts as I'm writing this up and my fingers are not messy at all. I love that! These are seriously my new favorite snack.

**Big thank you to Sante Nuts for providing the nuts for me to review. They really were delish. You can send me nuts anytime!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My rough life

I've gone to two fun blogging parties in the last two weeks. The first was a group of foodies tasting chocolate and wine. The second was a group of lady bloggers from Northern California who got together to drink wine, eat yummy food and share blogging ideas.

Free chocolate and wine. It's rough.

If you had told me five years ago I would have a blog and would be socializing with people I met on the internet I would have given you one of my famous "HUH?" looks.

It's amazing how my life has changed since I started my silly little blog. I'm now making money (real money) blogging for companies. How crazy is that?

Elli thinks it's the best thing ever that I get to Tweet and Facebook all day long and get paid for it. "You love tweeting! That's the perfect job for you." she said.  And it's true. I love Twitter. It's full of news and interesting people. It's like reading all the headlines on topics you love all day long. The hardest part is stopping. Just ask Don.

So here are a few pics from the parties!

Ghirardelli Chocolate and Wine Party.
Hosted by Sabrina of The Tomato Tart blog.

 You can see all the details of the pairings on her blog here.

Carmelized onion and Parmesan tart
Fresh berries and plum and red wine jam with pepper corns.
Gluten free Gingerbread
Lemon Pepper brioche and yuzu pots de creme

And then there's the Nor Cal Lady Bloggers.
We got together this past weekend to drink some wine, chat, eat, drink more wine and laugh.

Nor Cal Lady Blogger Dinner
4:30 Wine Tasting at BevMo
6:30 Dinner at Ella
Overnight at the Citizen Hotel

Rachael Hunter, my Mill Valley blogging buddy and roomie.

Rachel, Nichole, Eileen, Sherri, Rachael and me.
We heart the BevMo! guys at the Arden store.
The S. Anderson cab was the crowd favorite.
The private dining room at Ella was perfect. We were a bit noisy. : )
The fancy prix fix menu, $30pp and it was fabulous.
Ricotta gnocchi. Outstanding. I wanted to lick the plate.
Stuffed Trout wrapped in pancetta.
Chocolate heaven.

It's a rough life, huh?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baked Scallops

There's nothing better than a great food and wine pairing.

You eat it and think to yourself, man this is good.

The best way to pair a food and wine is to pair the flavors. Does the wine taste earthy? Pair it with Pinot Noir.

When I went to the Star Olive Oil tasting party a few weeks ago I was blown away by how awesome all the wine tasted with each dish. The chef really knew how to pair wine with food.

Here are some other really basic examples.

Oakey butter chardonnay = buttery pasta dish, risotto, scallops in cream sauce

Citrusy sauvignon blanc = herb chicken, clams, cucumber salad

Pinot Noir = turkey, mushroom dishes, cornish game hens, lamb

This oakey and buttery Rombauer Vineyards Chardonnay goes perfectly with this Baked Scallops dish.

I hope you enjoy it!

Baked Scallops
adapted from Simply Recipes

2 lbs large scallops
1 cup white wine
6 T unsalted butter (separated 3T and 3T)
2 1/2 T flour
1 shallot finely diced
1/2 cup whole wheat Panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400

1. Place scallops in a medium saute pan. Add the wine and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and simmer for 4 minutes.
2. Remove the scallops to a 1.5 quart casserole baking dish. Pour off the cooking liquid to separate container and reserve.
3. Heat 3 Tbsp butter in the saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft.
4. Slowly add the flour and cooking liquid over the butter shallot mixture, whisk vigorously. Add a little water if it's too thick.
5. Add the sauce to the scallops in the baking dish as soon as it's thick. Stir to incorporate.
6. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the scallops, dot with remaining butter. Bake in the oven until bubbly and brown, approximately 15 minutes.

Serves 6

You can find this wine and other great Chardonnay's at BevMo! And guess what? You might just find this recipe over there today. woo hoo!! LINK

Saturday, September 17, 2011

We're going to a Ghirardelli tasting party

woot woot!!!

This is one of my favorite perks of being a blogger. We occasionally get invited to super cool stuff like this.

I'm sure some bloggers get invitations like this all the time. I don't. So when I do I feel like I'm a supa star like Oprah.

I know, I know. This is probably why I don't get invited very often.

Anyway, tonight we're attending a Ghirardelli intense dark chocolate pairing party.

HELLO? How awesome is this going to be?

We'll get lots of this.....

And this.....

Chef Sabrina of the Tomato Tart Blog is hosting. She'll be using all the different yummy dark chocolate to make fabulous recipes that pair with wine, champagne and beer. {happy dance!}

I better cut back on the caffeine right now. I feel the sugar crazies coming on. Don is even looking forward to it. Although he would never admit it, or show it. I believe after all the treats and cocktails he may crack a smile.

Elli has made me promise to bring her a sample. I will try very, very hard to remember.

Stay tuned for some yummy chocolate recipes.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolates

**Photo credit: All photos are from the Ghirardelli website. **

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kevin's Focaccia Bread

Have you ever eaten something so good you couldn't stop thinking about it? Of course you have. Well I hope you have anyway.

We ate the most delicious homemade focaccia when we went camping with my sister and her friends. Never in a million years did I think one of the husbands would bake fresh bread on a campout. Never. Ever. Open a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of queso, of course. But fresh bread, from scratch? Are you kidding me? It was then I realized there is a camping God.

I wasn't sure if it was the stress of camping that made it taste so good or if it really was that good. All I know is that when Kevin placed a huge pan of warm focaccia bread on the picnic table we all devoured it in a matter of minutes. We were polite about it at first. Then it was every man for himself. You had to get in there if you wanted a piece.

The bread was moist and the crust crispy from the olive oil. The top was salted just enough. It was absolutely divine. And that's exactly what it tasted like when I made it the other night.

Topped with Star Olive Oil,  fresh rosemary and black coconut salt. Oh, yeah.

Focaccia Bread

2 cups flour (all-purpose or bread)
1 t. salt
1 t. dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
Olive oil
Course Salt
Rosemary sprigs

1. Pour water in the bowl of your electric mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Wait 3-5 minutes.
2. Pour in 1 cup flour and salt. Stir on low speed with the paddle attachment 2 minutes. (or mix by hand with spoon)
3. Pour in second cup of flour. Mix two more minutes.
4. Cover bowl. Let the dough rise until double 1-2 hours.
5. Coat 8 x 8 pan with lots of olive oil and gently fold dough into pan. Be careful not to deflate dough. Let rise about 20-30 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
7. Coat top of dough with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt and rosemary leaves.
8. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake 22-26 minutes.
9. Remove pan and loosen bread with spatula. Cool about 15 minutes and serve.

You can double this recipe.
Allow 3 hours start to finish.

Use an olive oil with a flavor that you like because you really taste it in the bread. I used the new California Star Olive Oil. It was perfect.

**I received the olive oil Compliments of Star. And the recipe from Kevin.

PS. I can't believe how good it is. And how easy. You have to make it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Goodbyn lunch box review

Well, I'm afraid I have bad news.

The lunchbox was used twice and that's it. It's too big and the lid is too hard to secure. It took me a good minute to make sure I had all the sections sealed tight. That would never work with Elli, or any kid if you ask me. It would be a major bummer if the lid fell off and you lost all your food.

So, we'll use it for car trips or to store craft items.

Elli had a blast decorating it. Too bad we wasted all the stickers on a container she'll never use. 

Wah wah.

ITEM: Goodbyn lunch box
PRICE: $24.95

Friday, September 9, 2011

My story of 9-11

by Kris Mulkey

Don and I were living in Norwalk, Connecticut back in 2001. We both had jobs that required lots of travel and nights away from home. We were a married couple without kids with busy careers. This was our life.

In 2001 I was the Director of Field Marketing for Einstein Bros Bagels based in Golden, Colorado, and Don was a Creative Director working on AT&T Wireless with Ogilvy & Mather in New York City. He took the Metro-North train to NYC every day. I was often on a plane traveling to our corporate headquarters or other regions for meetings.

Elli wasn't part of our family yet. What we didn't know at the time was that she would be born in China just 8 weeks later on November 5th, 2001.

On the morning of September 11th, I was on my usual United flight from LaGuardia to Denver. I took this flight so often I could drive to Laguardia with my eyes closed. I often saw the same people on the flight. There were other commuters just like me going to Denver every week.

My flight to Denver left at 8:15am. We were on a very large plane, and it was less than half full. Our take-off was normal. Nothing out of the ordinary. I took this flight almost every week. It was my commuter flight to Denver.

Flying on a plane back in 2001 was different than today. Security was a breeze. There were no electronics to occupy your time. You brought a newspaper (I was a fan of USA Today) or a paperback book. Or you chatted with your seatmates. Seriously, people actually talked to each other on flights.

Don had pulled another crazy all-nighter finalizing another AT&T campaign. He and his team stayed at the office all night to finish their project. This was such a common occurrence Ogilvy had an arrangement with the hotel next door where employees could go to grab a few hours sleep and a quick shower. As far as I knew he was either at the hotel or back at the office.

Everything seemed fine on our flight until a few guys noticed our plane was not on its regular flight path. The flight attendants told us we were being re-routed to O'Hare and they wouldn't say why. This was really strange. There was nothing wrong with the plane or any of the passengers, and the weather was fine.

We all started using our cell phones even though you weren't supposed to. We had to let people know we would be late. My schedule was tight. If I had to make a connection I was definitely going to miss my meeting. I couldn't get my phone to work and I was getting really frustrated. I was cursing my cell phone carrier.

My seat was in row 12 on the right side of the plane. I vividly remember how empty the plane felt. There were very few passengers for such a large plane. I also remember two guys to my left, a few rows behind me, who had on red turbans. I thought it was odd. Who wears a red turban? They never left their seat or reacted when some of us were huddled trying to figure out what was going on. They just sat there staring straight ahead. I only mention this because it was out of the ordinary.

There was a guy sitting a few rows in front of me who finally got through to someone on his phone. He stood up and quietly told all of us that a plane hit the world trade center. We were in shock. What was he talking about? We thought it must have been an accident. An act of terror NEVER occurred to any of us. It was unthinkable.

We all gathered around him so he could update us on what was happening. My phone finally started to work but the only person I got through to was Nicole Sakansky, a girl I worked with at Einstein's, and her jaw was wired shut so she could barely talk! So crazy.

My parents, who lived in Sun City Grand, were watching the news and were worried sick about me. I had spoken to my dad the night before and he knew I was on a flight to Denver. They didn't usually know my schedule. In fact, it was a little random that I had spoken to my dad and told him my travel plans.

The pilots had lost all communication with air traffic control because the FAA was fearful the terrorists were listening, so we (the passengers) were telling the flight attendants what was going on and they passed the information on to the pilots.

We knew it was bad when we looked out the window and saw we were being escorted to the airport by air force jets. This made us really nervous. Now we were scared.

I wasn't able to reach Don until the afternoon. To say I was freaking out is an understatement. I didn't know where he was. His office was on the west side at 8th and 49th. But I didn't know exactly what was happening since we were just getting bits and pieces from friends and family on our phones. What if he had a client meeting or an edit somewhere I didn't know about? My stomach was in knots.

When we finally got to O'Hare it was a ghost town. Everyone in the airport had been evacuated. All the vendors were gone and their businesses closed. No TVs were on. There were no people anywhere. It was totally quiet and deserted. Our voices echoed in the halls. It was really creepy.

This is what O'Hare usually looks like. Imagine it totally empty. It's a very large space. It was very, very quiet. I was luckier than most on our plane. My brother and his family lived in Barrington, a suburb of Chicago. So he came and got me. All the other passengers were calling hotel after hotel. They were all full because of the people who were supposed to fly out that day and couldn't re-booked their room. I was never so happy to see my brother.

Poor Don was stuck in NYC for a while until they got the trains to Connecticut working again.

We finally connected on the phone that afternoon. It was such a relief to both of us to know we were both ok and that most of the people we knew were ok. It was very weird not to be together. I just wanted a hug.

He sat next to someone on the train who had made the long walk from Battery Park to Grand Central. He was covered in soot. 

I got a phone call from one of my tennis buddies late in the afternoon telling me one of our friends' husband worked in the WTC and he was missing. We knew what this meant.

Just one day earlier, on Monday afternoon, we had played tennis together. Meredith was telling us how she and her husband Peter just bought a beautiful farmhouse (their dream house) in Wilton and were going to have everyone over. We kept waiting for a phone call with good news. It never happened. Her name is Meredith Fry. Her husband was Peter Fry. They had two little girls (teenagers now.) I will never forget her name or her face.

My meeting in Denver was obviously canceled. After three days of trying to figure out how to get home by air, I finally rented a car and drove from Chicago to Connecticut. It took me 13 hours. I stopped once. You could still see the smoke from the buildings when I crossed the George Washington Bridge. When I got to LaGuardia to get my car it was eerie. The airport was still closed. The only cars in the parking garage were from passengers that had flown on 9-11.

I feel incredibly lucky that the plane I was on made it safely to Chicago. I will be forever grateful to my brother Dave and his wife Deb for housing me for nearly a week. I don't know what I would have done if they didn't live there.

This weekend, on the ten year anniversary of 9-11, I'll be thinking of my friend Meredith and her kids, and all the other families affected by this tragedy.

Peace and love to you all.


Click here to read about Peter Fry: Peter Fry Memorial: A stranger finds love endures

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Perfect Profiteroles

Remember these? Little puffs of pastry filled with ice cream or custard, topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. They are impossible to resist. Trust me.

We made them last weekend and they were divine. And super easy, too.

We found the recipe this summer while we were sitting in the waiting room at the pediatrician's office. We ripped it out of Family Fun magazine because we really wanted it. Probably not the best example to set for your kid. Sorry Dr. Schwartzman. And Elli, you really shouldn't do that.

The recipe showed a mom and her daughter making the puffs. Elli was practically drooling staring at the picture. We tossed it in my purse, otherwise known as the black hole, and forgot about it.

It appeared out of nowhere last weekend. I think it was ready to be used!

Elli and her friend did a great job following the recipe. I had to stir the pate a choux dough a few times just to make sure it was really combined, but they did everything else.

The recipe was easy and tastes delicious. We give it two thumbs up.

inspired by Sally Weaver and Family Fun Magazine
Serves 12

1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, diced
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
4 eggs, room temperature
1 lightly beaten egg for coating

Toppings and Filling:
Pick your favorite or mix it up.
Ice Cream (Vanilla, or your favorite flavor)
Whipped Cream
Chocolate Sauce
Powdered Sugar
Fresh berries

Preheat oven to 375*

1. Butter two large baking sheets.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil.
3. Remove the pan from the stove top and stir in the flour until well blended.
4. Return the pan to the stove and cook on medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture pulls away from the sides, about 2-3 minutes.
5. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in the 4 eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
6. Scoop out the dough using a 1 1/2" scoop, or large spoon. Place on baking sheet giving the puffs room to expand.
7. Gently brush the top of each with the beaten egg.
8. Bake the puffs until golden brown, 25 to 28 minutes. Make sure they are golden brown, you don't want them to collapse.
9. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
10. To assemble the dessert, cut each puff in half, place a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream on the bottom layer, replace the top and drizzle with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
11. Serve immediately.

Perfect profiteroles. Nice job, girls!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Childhood dinners

I miss childhood dinners with my family. Especially Friday night. Otherwise known as taco night.

We'd laugh, and eat, and share stories while stuffing our faces with tacos. We would go through dozens of tacos. Cookies sheets lined with taco shells would pop out of the oven one after another. We'd stuff them so full the shells would break and fall apart. Salsa would be dripping down our arms. It was organized chaos. And we all loved it.

There were always extra kids and families eating with us on Friday night. Taco night was meant to be shared. We ate and laughed until our stomachs ached.

Now that I'm a mom I can totally appreciate all my mom went through to get four kids to sit down at the table for dinner every night.

In the summer she would stand outside ringing a big cow bell at six o'clock. It was the signal for the entire neighborhood to go home.

We'd all run straight to the kitchen because we were starving. Then were immediately shoo'd to the bathroom to wash up.

I can only imagine what the bathroom looked like when we were done.

We'd finally settle down at the table, hold hands, and close our eyes to say grace together . "God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food. Amen." It was short and sweet but enough. And those ten seconds gave my mom and dad a moment to breathe.

The conversation flowed from my dad updating us on his day, to what the rest of us were up to. Then the laughter would begin. It usually started with my sister asking an embarrassing  question. She was incredibly curious and uninhibited. No question was off-limits in her mind.

Today our dinners at home are much quieter with our little family of three. And sometimes we don't eat together at the table. I realize now I need to make it happen. It will keep our family connected and talking, and that's so important.

Of course we're keeping the taco night tradition alive, too. We have tacos when Elli has friends over. I don't know what it is, but something about tacos brings out the laughter and smiles in everyone.

I'm back after a little summer hiatus. I haven't participated in The Red Dress Club since they changed their name to Write on Edge. So it's a little weird. I feel like I'm going to a new school! This week the prompt was to write a memoir piece beginning with the words, “I miss my childhood...."

Feedback is always welcome. Thanks!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

2011 Sausalito Art Festival

We just got back from the festival. It was terrific, as usual.

You really should go if you haven't gone. It's one of the top fine art (& music) festivals in the country. It's not cheap ($25/adults and $15/kids) but there are coupons around town - so look for them. I snagged a bunch of $5 off coupons when I was in Napa one day. They had a stack of them at a local toy store. We didn't need them all so I handed them out to the crowd which made a bunch of people very happy. I hope they spent the $5 they saved at the beer booth. I know we did.

We saw some new artists this year and some of our favorites. We heard classic rock, folk, and opera while we were there, too.

We saw a lot of people buying art and jewelry. The artists seemed to be quite pleased. We did our part and purchased two small pieces. Nothing big cuz we're kind of on a tight budget. Elli even brought some of her own money and bought a gorgeous, glass paperweight.

There were several large pieces we really loved. I have the artists' cards. Because you just never know!

Here's some of the cool stuff we saw:

Seung Lee Printmaking
Fun sculptures.
"Really Fat Cat"
This looked so real. Scary!
Scott Olson is one of our favorites.
Red Wolf Fine Art
Mark Anderson, St. Helena

Jim Budish - This dog sculpture was as tall as me!
Seal sculpture made from trash found on the coast.

Save the seals. Don't litter.
Yummy Udon Noodles
Jewelry made from recycled traffic light glass
Robert Weil we bought one of these.
Elli bought one of these paperweights. She had a tough time deciding which one.
Brian McGuffey
Sutherland Glass Art