Blind Wine Tasting

Hi lovelies! I hope that you all had a wonderful weekend! And those of you who got yesterday off (lucky!) enjoyed the extra day of rest. Can you guys believe that it is almost Thanksgiving? It feels like we were talking about Halloween being the upcoming holiday just days ago and here we are already anticipating Thanksgiving! I try to celebrate each holiday as they come, but I broke that a little last night. It started innocently enough as I was merely flipping through the channels. And then I noticed that the Countdown to Christmas had begun on the Hallmark and Lifetime channels. I was powerless to resist and found myself watching not one, but two movies. They are just that good and since I was already indulging in the Christmas season, I accompanied it with some Chocolate Peppermint tea. Perfection. Let’s not even pretend like this isn’t going to keep happening all the way up until Christmas… because it is.

This weekend was a great one too because my friend Biz hosted a blind wine tasting party. It was such a fun idea and I know some of you will want to have one too over the holidays with your friends! Here’s what we did: Biz instructed us all to bring a bottle of Chardonnay or Cabernet and asked that we vary the price points. When we arrived at the party, we slipped our bottle into a burlap bag and tied it with a special ribbon for the type of wine we brought. We also labeled the wine inside the bottle with the price bracket and tied a number on the bottle.


Next, Biz handed us all little cups that you labeled in accordance with the amount of wines you are tasting. The wines were passed and small pours were doled out and you then rated the wines in order of what price bracket you thought they were in. It was so much fun to figure it out and of course I wanted to talk about each taste even though we were supposed to be private about our guesses. Go figure. At the end we found out the results which was hilarious considering I thought the cheapest bottle of red wine was actually the $50+ bottle. Guess that wine tasting hasn’t paid off?!

And of course the wine was paired with some delicious snacks or as I like to call it “the cheese table.” Not being able to partake was one of the hardest times being gluten and dairy free- especially since my friend Ashley made her famous puff pastry apple brie. However, I’m going to bring some vegan cheese next time and maybe it won’t be as bad as everyone says it is! Fingers crossed.


In love with Biz’s parties as much as I am? See some of her other ones for more inspiration:

-Derby Day Party

-Birthday Dinner Party

-Olympics Party

 

Let’s Get Caught Up

Hi lovelies! Long time, no see! I’m so sorry about my extended absence and apologize for the lapse in blogging. At first, I was away because I was fighting a horrible cold/flu and after getting home from work, just wasn’t up to blogging as well and needed lots of chicken noodle soup and sleep. Then, sadly, I ended up in the hospital with abdominal issues. I don’t like to talk about my health struggles too much on the blog because there are some personal things I’d rather just not discuss. But maybe at some point, I’ll take the plunge and write about it. For now though, we’ll leave it that I was in a great deal of pain and despite still having intermittent pain, I’m back at work and doing better which is such a relief.

But that’s enough of that, instead I’d rather tell you about some fun things going on!

1. My Favorite New Recipe: Strawberry and Mozzarella Salad with Mint Pesto Drizzle

Often times I’ll take pictures on my phone of dishes I make or delicious restaurant meals… and then forget to post them. Earlier in the summer I decided to make the above recipe that I pinned as the perfect starter. As much as I love cheese, I don’t care for raw tomatoes so I’m not a big caprese fan. But when I found a way to have the cheese and combine it with two of my favorite things- strawberries and pesto? I was sold. This is absolutely delicious and fairly easy to make (if you are in a hurry you could always use pre-made pesto but you’ll miss out on the mint flavor!) The only substitutions I made were using truvia instead of sugar and using less oil!

2. Most Exciting Part of the Summer: My Brother’s Engagement!

We had special engagement ring cookies made!

My brother has been dating the beautiful, sweet Julia for almost two years now and they got engaged this summer! I couldn’t be happier that this wonderful couple is getting married and am so excited to be part of their big day (but more on that later.) My brother planned a wonderful proposal for Julia and then my mom and I planned a surprise post-proposal party with both our family and Julia’s family all gathered together. It was such a success and so much fun!

3. Can’t Wait For: My Upcoming LA Trip!

All the girls together Junior Year… hard to believe that was 4 years ago!

In a few weeks I’ll be headed back down to LA for my alumni weekend! I’ve been out of college for 2 years now and cannot wait to spend the weekend with all my best college girlfriends! It also happens to be the day after my birthday, so it will be so fun to celebrate and go to a fabulous dinner! Now I just have to start figuring out the perfect outfits ;)

Questions:

-Catch me up on what’s been going on with you!

-When’s the last time you saw your college friends?

-Have you ever been to an alumni event?

Daddy’s Day

Hi lovelies! Long time, no see! Sorry I’ve been a little MIA lately- things have been so busy but I’m happy to be back around the blog. I have some recipes to share with you, some fun adventures in the city, my trip to Indy, fashion and much more! But today, I thought I’d start with the most recent– Father’s Day!

I spent the weekend celebrating my Daddy Jeff- the most caring, compassionate, loving man I know. I feel so lucky to be his daughter and it was a pleasure spending time with him and making sure that he felt extra special, because he truly deserves it. We went to the CA Academy of Sciences and Japanese Tea Garden on Saturday (more on that in a separate post) so we decided to do church and dinner on Sunday. To stray from the norm, my mom and I decided it would be fun to cook dinner for Daddy Jeff. He chose the general idea of what he wanted, and then I turned to some of my favorite bloggers for recipe inspiration. We came up with gazpacho (recipe to come), Mama Pea’s Yukon Gold White Bean Basil Burgers and dessert in the form of Averie’s Peanut Butter Cocoa Krispies Smores Bars.

I’ve eaten countless veggie burgers but never made them, so I was excited to tackle this challenge. Most veggie burgers contain rice or quinoa, so I was so surprised when this recipe combined potatoes with beans! It sounds unusual, but it tastes delicious! I followed Mama Pea’s recipe exactly, only substituting gluten-free flour and a small amount of finely diced onions. It was really easy to prepare, but I did make the mistake of not steaming the potatoes enough. That combined with the fact that I don’t have a potato masher resulted in a sore arm, but ultimately, a happy stomach. We chose to serve the burgers atop mixed greens with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. As I was slicing the mozzarella, and obviously employing the one for me, one for the plate philosophy, I was struck again with how much better fresh mozzarella is rather than the shredded stuff in the bag. I may never go back! We also lightly drizzled a bottled, gluten-free Herbs de Provence dressing atop the greens which perfectly complimented the other flavors.

And then it was time for dessert! Daddy Jeff LOVES peanut butter and chocolate, and if you are looking for one of the best recipes, check this one out. Since I made the one I linked to last Father’s day, I knew this year that I wanted something different. Averie never steers me wrong when it comes to her desserts, so I knew she would be an awesome resource. These bars are all over Pinterest, and when you try them, you can see why. I mean, how could white chocolate + marshmallows + graham crackers + peanut butter + cocoa krispies + chocolate ever be bad? Answer: It couldn’t. What’s especially great about this recipe is that it’s super easy to make, virtually no-bake and is easily gluten-free and vegan! Oh, and it tastes like an extra amazing s’more.

As you can see, it was a wonderful day full of great company and good food. It was really fun cooking with my mom, and so great to sit together as a family with a healthy, home cooked meal. I hope Daddy Jeff enjoyed his weekend as much as I enjoyed celebrating it with him.

Questions:

-Did you do anything special this weekend?

-What’s your favorite kind of Veggie burger?

 

Like a Big Pizza Pie, That’s Amore

Hi lovelies! Happy Wednesday! As I mentioned last week, things have been really busy for me at work, so my blogging schedule might be a little haphazard, but I’ll do my best to stay on track!

Last week, after seeing flatbread pizzas pop up on blogs, I decided to have pizza night with my family. If you’re a frequent reader, you know that I’m not a big cook. I’d like to be, but I’m more about putting something together that’s healthy and relatively quick. Although pizza is definitely quick (hello, delivery) it’s not really on the healthy side, so I generally only have it when I’m feeling like a splurge. But after seeing flatbread pizzas pop up on some blogs, I knew it was time I got on board.

My family decided that we all wanted lots of veggies on our pizza, so I started by grilling zucchini, yellow squash and asparagus. I thinly sliced the squash and sprayed it with a little olive oil and put it on the grill!

Awesome indoor grill that my parents have means that grilled veggies are always readily available!

After my veggies were grilled, I coated a piece of whole wheat lavash bread with TJ’s ready-made pizza sauce and a light sprinkling of grated part-skim mozzarella cheese. I then topped it with my veggies, sliced artichoke hearts and chicken. (I love Trader Joes frozen chicken breast strips because they are fully cooked grilled chicken and all you have to do is defrost!) And then it was time for more cheese. Since I couldn’t remember if you should put cheese on before or after the toppings, I decided to do both.  I added more mozzarella along with some crumbled goat cheese… in my book, you can never have too much cheese which is why I’m especially happy I can have dairy again!

Ready to go in the oven!

I then put my soon-to-be masterpiece in the oven for about 12 minutes at 375 degrees. You want to make sure to watch your pizza carefully so that your lavash bread doesn’t burn… which is why I sat on the floor so I could see inside the lower oven. Ok, that and the fact that I was anxiously awaiting my pizza!

So, so excited!

All 3 creations…

Mine

My Mom's creation

Daddy Jeff's pizza

Word to the wise: when you use as many wet ingredients like Daddy Jeff did, this is what happens when you try and take it off the cookie sheet…

Daddy Jeff's pizza calzone

All in all, it was a really fun night making pizzas and the results were fabulous! I couldn’t finish mine that night, but it made for a lovely lunch at work the next day served with a spinach salad. Next time, I think I’ll use pesto for my sauce and add some sundried tomatos… yum!

P.S. I couldn’t resist making this song my post title. At one of my favorite restaurants in LA, they used to pass out the lyrics and have everyone sing it during dinner!

Questions:

-Have you ever created your own pizza?

-What are your favorite pizza toppings?

Squash-tastic

Hi lovelies! I don’t know what has come over me lately, but I seem to have been bitten by the cooking bug. This has never happened before so I’m going with it in the time being! I recently bought zucchini and yellow summer squash at the store and wanted to do something a little different with it then the usual grilling or boiling.

On Sunday night, I decided to make Mama Pea’s Zucchini Quinoa Lasagna and oh my gosh, it was amazing. I followed her recipe almost exactly but omitted the onions simply because I forgot to buy them at the store. I intended to take pictures of the process or at least include the final result, but all I can show you are the ingredients.

Why? Oh, because the second it was out of the oven I went right from admiring it to diving into it, fork-first. It was a hit and everyone went back for seconds. Thanks, Mama Pea!

After Sunday night’s success, I decided to try my hand at cooking again last night. This timeI made Gabriela’s Cashew Pesto Hummus and Bon Appetit’s Shaved Squash Summer Salad. First up was the hummus. The one ingredient I was missing was the tahini, so I decided to stop at Trader Joe’s to pick some up. Well wouldn’t you know it, but they were all out of tahini! So I did a little improvising and used 1 T. peanut butter and 1/4 tsp. Toasted sesame oil. I’m not sure if it tasted different from how it would have with the tahini but it was delicious! It was fresh and creamy and the perfect dip for vegetables and multigrain pita bites.

The perfect appetizer for the first hour of the Bachelorette!

Then it was time for the squash salad- which I made during the Bachelorette. Luckily, I can stand at the edge of the kitchen counter and still see the tv, so I didn’t miss too much of the drama!

Shaved Summer Squash Salad

(Bon Appetit June 2011- Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons whole roasted almonds, crushed
  • 1 pound summer squash (a mix of green and yellow)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Baby arugula
  • Pecorino Romano cheese

 

Directions

1. Cut ends off of the summer squash and shave strips using a vegetable peeler.

2.  Mince 1 garlic clove and mix with fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt.

3. Toss a portion of the peeled squash and baby arugula with some of the dressing.

4. Transfer mixture to a plate and shave pecorino romano cheese on top. Garnish with crushed almonds.

The PERFECT light summer salad- And yes, I went a little heavy on the cheese.

All in all, it was the perfect light summer dinner. I had originally intended to make it even more squash-tastic by making Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash risotto (I literally squealed when I saw this in the store since it is two of my favorite things combined) but after LOTS of hummus and 2 servings of salad, I was just too full. The meal was finished with a sparkling water with lime and a square of Trader Joe’s Extra Dark Chocolate with Almonds.

I think I decided that although cooking is time-consuming (I was in the kitchen the whole night!) I might be a new convert because this was one of the best fresh, healthy meals I’ve had in a while! We’ll see how long it lasts- but maybe now I can finally use my recipe binder!

Questions:

-What recipes have you made lately?

-Are there any foods that you just can’t get enough of? (Clearly I feel that way about Squash!)

ABC’s of Food

Sorry for the hiatus! I’ve been really busy lately, but I’m going to try to be more timely in my posts! To start it off, I’ve been seeing the ABCs of foods on a few blogs and wanted to join in!

A is for Apple: What’s your favorite variety?

I love Granny Smith apples or any other tart green ones… but I really only like them pre-cut! As a kid I used to bring an apple cutter with me every day to elementary school so that I could cut my apples without them going brown… Yes, I was that cool. I’ve since abandoned the apple cutter and just buy the pre-cut ones.

B is for Bread: Regardless of nutrition, what is your favorite type?

I genuinely like wheat bread, especially when it has seeds in it. But as an SF native, I have to show a little pride and say that I also love a steaming hot, crusty loaf of sourdough.

Hello, Lover...

C is for Cereal: What is your favorite kind currently? (just one!)

I actually don’t eat traditional cereal… I stopped eating it a couple of years ago when I realized that I could never stop at just one bowl. But as you can tell by my blog name, I’m a big fan of granola! I love Galaxy and the Trader Joe’s Almond variety.

D is for Donuts: You might not currently eat them, but what kind do you fancy?

Hmmm… I’m not really a donut fan (even back in the day when Krispy Kreme was big, I always hated the smell) but a chocolate cake donut with chocolate frosting and sprinkles or coconut was an old fave.

E is for Eggs: How would you like yours prepared?

I don’t eat eggs! I used to love eggs as a kid, but my two older brothers thought they were gross so they would tease me and tell me how disgusting they were any time I would eat them and I guess it stuck! Even now, all three of us still don’t eat eggs. I’ve tried to get over it, but it’s a total mind thing! I do make an exception for quiche as long as it’s not too eggy.

My brothers (a.k.a. influencers of taste) and me a few years ago

F is for Fat Free: What is your favorite fat free product?

I love fat free frozen yogurt! Or 0% Greek yogurt!

G is for Groceries: Where do you purchase yours?

I generally stick to Trader Joes, Whole Foods and occasionally Safeway. I recently tried Fresh and Easy and was so disappointed because all the food I bought expired within two days. :( When I was living in LA though, it was all about Bristol Farms… it was like my second home!

H: is for Hot Beverages: What is your favorite hot drink?

Without a doubt, a delicious, strong cup of coffee!

I is for Ice Cream: Pick a favorite flavor and add a fun topping.

Easy- Jamoaca Almond Fudge with hot fudge sauce- my favorite order from Baskin Robbins back in the day… are those still around? I haven’t seen one in years!

The good stuff.

J is for Jams or Jellies: Do you eat them? If so, what kind and flavor?
I don’t eat them very often, but I like blackberry or raspberry.

K is for Kashi: Name your favorite Kashi product?
I like their bars and recently tried their cookies for the first time… so good! I just wish they were bigger…

L is for Lunch: What was yours today?
An amazing salad that had me tweeting that it felt like summer because it was topped with fresh, perfectly ripe strawberries.

Yummm

M is for microwave: What is your favorite microwave meal/snack?

Oh man, so much of my food goes through the microwave that this is too broad for me to choose just one! In terms of microwave meals though, I’ve cut them way back, but I do love Amy’s Reduced Sodium Spinach Lasagna. It tastes so decadent!

N is for nutrients: Do you likes carbs, fats, or proteins best?

My body needs carbs to function and consqeuntly, I was not a happy girl when I did one of those low-carb diets. I guess I would say protein, which is funny because my mom used to harp on me about making sure I had enough protein at every meal– and now I make sure of it too! I guess it stuck!

O is for oil: What kind do you like to use?

Generally olive oil, though I have a jar of coconut oil in my pantry… I’m still not on the coconut oil bandwagon yet but I’m working on it.

P is for protein: How do you get yours?
So many ways… nut butters, cheese (in my opinion the best way to have protein!), chicken, turkey, veggie burgers, edamame, nuts… the list goes on…

Q is for Quaker: How do you like your oats?
I used to eat oatmeal every day for breakfast and then I realized that the instant kind just wasn’t making me full! Now I don’t generally have time to make the real stuff, but TJs sells frozen steel cut oats that you just put in the microwave that are really good! I also think I need to give overnight oats another try…

R is for roasting: What is your favorite thing to roast?
Pretty much any type of vegetable, but my absolute favorite is squash!

S is for sandwich: What’s your favorite kind?

Grilled cheese… I don’t have it often, but let’s face it, crispy bread and ooey gooey cheese? How can you go wrong?  Ohh and add pesto to a sandwich and I’m usually sold.

The most amazing grilled cheese ever, made with raclette!

T is for travel: How do you handle eating while traveling?

I have a hard time when I’m traveling because I’m usually going out to fabulous restaurants where I want to try so many different, delicious things. I try to maintain a balance though and since I know there are going to be splurges (usually lots) I try to cut back in other areas. But what fun is traveling without eating all the delicious foods? It’s one of my favorite parts so I don’t like to be too strict about it.

U is for unique: What is one of your weirdest food combos?

To be honest, I don’t really have many weird food combos! But I’ve been seeing some on blogs that I’m intrigued by, so I’m going to try some soon!

V is for vitamins: What kind do you take?

A gummy multi-vitamin…. It’s the only one I ever remember to take.

W is for wasabi: Yay or nay?

Nay– too spicy for me!

X is XRAY: If we xrayed your belly right now, what food would we see?

This is so random! Um, my lunch and a lot of sparkling water?

Y is for youth: What food reminds you of your childhood?

Hands down- macaroni and cheese. I was a total blue box kid and it was my absolute favorite meal! My true favorite was the shape kind- the cheese coated the noodles differently and I thought it was amazing. My best friend Chelsea and I would eat boxes of the stuff, along with fuji apples. Though our tastes may have changed (but we still do love cheese!) I’m lucky to still call her my best friend since age 3!

At her college grad a few years ago

Z is for zucchini: How do you prepare it?

Mmm I like zucchini every which way! I suppose my favorite would be on the grill, but broiled with a little parmesan, roasted, boiled… I’ll eat it however you prepare it! I recently saw a recipe in Bon Appetit that I will be trying soon so you can see that here!

Questions:

-Do you have any foods that you don’t like for weird reasons?

-What was your favorite childhood food?