Monday, August 29, 2011

Easy Entertaining


Anytime I am entertaining, I tend to follow a certain pattern and procedure that has helped me to streamline the process. I enjoy having people over and hosting. I do not enjoy winging it, picking random food at the last minute and ordering pizza if it doesn't work out. I like for people to feel special when they come to my house and after years of practice, this is what I have learned so far.

Guidelines For Easy Entertaining

1) When planning your menu, try to find at least three sides dishes to go with your main course. You'd be amazed how nice it is to have a variety of dishes on the table. It makes the meal more special than the average one meat (or main), one vegetable, one starch format. A menu I chose recently was a maple grilled salmon, bright arugula salad with fruit and nuts, marinated and grilled asparagus and roasted lemon fingerling potatoes. Whatever your menu is, something extra like homemade rolls or a spinach gratin takes it to another level which is nice. Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be fancy. Even a big pot of chili can be served with an array of toppings (cheese, sour cream, cilantro, jalapenos, corn chips) with homemade corn bread and a salad.


2) Think like a caterer when choosing a menu. You don't want to be slaving away in the kitchen stirring sauce until it thickens while your friends are mingling and enjoying themselves. Choose low maintenance food. Things that bake itself, or sides that can be cold or room temperature and made ahead of time. Dishes that can be kept warm without turning tough, etc. The last thing you want to be doing is frying batch after batch of chicken for a crowd since a dish like this is best served hot and crispy and can't stand out for too long without losing its appeal. A big lasagna which serves a lot of people without any last minute work would be a much better option.

Then, take it a step further and figure out which kitchen appliances you will have to be using. Don't plan on roasting potatoes if you have to roast a chicken at the same time and you only have one oven. I try and spread out the method in which my foods are cooked or prepared. A cold salad can be prepped way ahead of time and left to sit in the fridge. I bake something in the oven and saute something else on the stove top, then maybe utilize my grill for something else as well!

3) Always serve dessert. Usually I make mine from scratch but If you have a good bakery near you, by all means use it; especially if dinner is going to take up a lot of your time that day. I do not have a great bakery so if I am planning a labor intensive meal, I will usually pick a dessert that can be made a day ahead, like creme brulee, or a frosted cake that can be made in advance and waiting for me whenever I am ready.


4) Try to always have an appetizer out (even if it's just something to snack on like good olives and spiced mixed nuts) and drinks ready to be passed around the second your guests come through the door. Nothing says, welcome, come in and relax, let me take care of you like a smile and a cocktail ready and handy (or even fresh squeezed lemonade or sun tea for that matter).



5) Ambiance. Do not underestimate this because it's often the most critical item when entertaining. When I have people over I really like them to feel that I was ready for them. Nothing is worse than showing up to someones house at the appointed time just to walk in to a stark quiet room, and the host is still running around trying to catch up and put appetizers out. Nothing is wrong with that, especially if you are close friends, but it doesn't immediately put the guest at ease. I put appetizers and drinks out, light candles, set out flower arrangements, turn on my entry lights and lamps in the living room, open the front door (if it's nice out), light a candle in my bathroom, and play music about 30 minutes before anyone is set to arrive. Guests will walk up to a well lit house, and will hear music upon stepping out of their car. Everyone is ready for a good time.


6) You. I make sure that I am dressed and ready when my guests arrive. I will usually go upstairs about an hour before anyone is expected and get myself put together. It takes all of 5-10 minutes and then you can relax. I think a lot of people are so busy cooking that they forget to go and get ready themselves. Then you are stuck in your workout gear while your friends show up in dresses and shiny earrings. Fail!

7) Have a plan. Once I have my menu in order I create a timeline of the day. I will write down what time I have to put, say, the lasagna in the oven to have it out on time for dinner, with cooling time factored in. Then that tells me when I need to have the lasagna made and ready to be put in the oven, which means I need to be assembling it before that, and so I figure out how long everything is going to take so I can organize my day without rushing anything. If dessert is something I want to bake and serve hot, like an apple crisp, I will have it all prepped and ready for the oven so all I have to do is pop it in there as we sit for dinner. By the time it comes out it's dessert time. Whatever your situation, whatever the event or menu, having a plan and timeline for the day is key for less stress.

8) When cooking for company, only make what you have made before and what you know works. Now is not the time to try out that new method of braising you have never given a go.

9) In general, choose casual food. I know, I know, sometimes it's fun to get elaborate, and sometimes it's appropriate. On a regular basis though, if you are just having some friends over or the boss is coming to dinner, I find that familiar and casual food sets the best mood. A great recipe for a big plate of family style spaghetti and meatballs or an indoor clambake is a lot less pretentious and a lot more fun than duck confeit. It puts everyone at ease and says were having a good time. It's not a lot of fun to wonder which fork to use in a more formal setting while nibbling on something en croute. There is a time. There is a place. Just have intention and plan around your guests and what type of feel you want to set.


These are just guidelines I tend to use over and over throughout my years of entertaining. Listen, I don't abide by these religiously but they are things I keep I mind. You have to practice to make perfect and learn from your mistakes. Sometimes things happen that you have no control of. I once had a huge prime rib dinner for my sons 1st birthday and baby dedication. We invited something like 20 people to the party. I had poured over my day and tried my best to implement a good plan. The problem came when people started showing up and I clearly was not ready. I had put 5:30pm on their invitations and was thinking it started at 6:15pm. Oops. Luckily, everyone was family and close friends and we had fun and a few laughs setting the tables up together.

I don't view entertaining the same as everyone. I put a lot of emphasis on my guests having a relaxed and good time. When I invite someone over I want to take care of them, spend time with them, love on them by making them a meal. If someone offers to bring something, I most always decline. I am not saying it's wrong. I just like for people not to have to worry about bringing or preparing anything, because after all, isn't that the point of having someone over to your house for dinner?

The intention for having someone over for dinner makes the most sense to me when I am making all of the food. However, I know it doesn't always fit that box. Sometimes I'll be on the phone with a friend and we will decide to get together at either one of our houses that night. Usually one of us will say "I have salad stuff" and the other will say "I have dough for pizza" and a fun night will develop out of that. That's not what I am talking about here. I am talking about when I purposely call someone up and invite them to my house on a Friday night.

The people closest to me know I operate this way and sometimes it's cause for them to pause and consider weather or not they really want to have me over to dinner at their house since they do not go about things or view entertaining the same as I do. Honestly, it makes no difference to me. I am not watching and judging people on their entertaining skills when I am at their houses, despite what they think. Everyone has a different style. And you know what? I sometimes actually love to go into your kitchens, silently take over, and stir the pot while you chop the vegetables. I like to help put pizza toppings on and watch the crust to make sure it's not burning while you tend to other things. I'll even go and turn your music on myself if it's not already playing, without asking, cause I am a snot like that. It's no big deal to me. I just don't want you doing that at my house. Got it?

Um, you might have to set my table for me though, because that's one area where I totally drop the ball. Like, every time. It's like I have this mental block that allows me to forget right up until I yell "dinner" and we go to sit at the empty table. Making a mental note now...

And as always, everything I have learned, came in large part from Ina Garten.

*All photos courtesy of Southern Living

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Individual Baked Berry Oatmeal

baked oatmeal

Back in the saddle again. Hey all- I'm home, school has started and I am ready to start the new year with some routine! I came across this recipe for baked individual oatmeal's and thought it was such a clever idea for us busy mom's gearing up for making breakfast on a daily basis again. Um, no, I don't usually make breakfast during the summer. My husband does that. Okay, so my husband usually makes breakfast anyway, even during the school year, but I do it sometimes. For those days I love doing stuff like this. This goes beyond breakfast before school. If your a working gal, this is the sweetest little breakfast to grab on the go, or even to store in the fridge for later in the week in it's own little package all ready whenever you are. Sweet and healthy!

baked oatmeal

baked oatmeal

Is this not the cutest thing you have ever seen in your life? Put anything in a jelly jar and I'm immediately smitten. I love oatmeal but who wants to sit at the stove and stir the pot all morning? Certainly not me. I love the idea of being able to custom make your little jar of oatmeal. You are only limited by your own imagination when it comes to the endless combinations that can be had here...Raspberries and macadamia nuts with coconut milk, blueberries and almonds with almond milk, strawberries with half and half as the base (shhh, I won't tell) peaches and whole milk with a bit of cream added in, and extra cinnamon. Holy toledo, have I gotten your taste buds going yet?!

baked oatmeal

This is a perfect make ahead item because the jars are very hot, as you could probably imagine, right out of the oven, but if you pop the lid on and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes while you go and get ready for the day, you have a perfectly warm cup of oatmeal waiting when you are done (they stay really warm with the lid on for up to a hour after you take them out). Can't wait that long? You can pick them up after about 5 minutes wrapped in a paper towel and 10 minutes with your hand. You could also bake these the night before and stash them in your refrigerator for the next day. Like I mentioned above, such a convenient little package to grab on the go. You can always microwave them (although I don't like to because it takes out many of the nutrients in the food) or re-heat in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes or so, or eat them cold. I happen to really enjoy cold oatmeal, especially if it's really flavored like this one.

baked oatmeal

I'm going to write the recipe as I used it, but once you make these, you'll realize this is just a blueprint. Like I mentioned above, swap out and try different milks and liquid as the base, use different berries, top with the toppings of your choice, add more milk after it's baked, add some honey...yadda, yadda, yadda.

Enjoy! Back to school never looked this good!

Individual Baked Berry Oatmeal
adapted from Super Natural Everyday, by Heidi Swanson
serves 6

2 cups berry or fruit of your choice, plus extra for garnish
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons melted butter (I used melted coconut oil)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped almonds, for garnish
3 teaspoons brown sugar, for garnish (optional...I didn't use this)

6 8-oz. mason jelly jars for serving

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Divide the berries between six small mason jars. Mix the oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Divide the dry mix between jars, layering on top of the berries, about 1/3 cup each.

Mix the milk, butter, maple and vanilla together. Pour a scant 1/2 cup on top of the oats, letting it seep through to the bottom. Place all the jars in a baking dish, sprinkle a few berries on top, and bake on the middle rack for about 25-30 minutes until liquid is absorbed, tops are just browned but the oats are still moist. Sprinkle the tops with the toasted almonds and brown sugar, if using, and serve warm.

Jars will be cool enough to hold with your hands in 10 minutes. I recommend putting the lids on the jars as they come out of the oven to keep them really warm while the outside cools.

Try to use fresh berries whenever possible. Frozen often turns the oatmeal a gray-ish color. With these measurements, the oatmeal will be slightly sweet, just the way I like it. If you know you like yours sweeter you can always top off the baked oatmeal's with more maple syrup (or honey or brown sugar) or you can add more into the base milk mixture before adding it to the cups. We liked adding fresh milk to our jars. So good.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Roasted Tomatoes with Spinach and Mushrooms over Pasta - Guest Post

Thanks to Meg for guest posting for me with such short notice. Please be sure to visit her blog and get to know her a little bit.

Hi all, I am Meg from henning love and happy to help Krysta. I'll be praying and thinking about her and her family while they go through this difficult time. Thinking of you Krysta...

Some days you just need to go meatless in my opinion. You need to fill up on those veggies, get the nutrients and vitamins they offer you and just feel a little bit healthier and make a super quick meal all in the same dish. I have the perfect meal for you to do just that!

Roasted tomatoes with spinach and mushrooms over pasta.

First, gather your ingredients, 2 pints grape tomatoes, 1 cup chopped mushrooms ( I have used both white button and cremini mushrooms, both are excellent, the photos below are white button), 1/2 sweet onion, chopped, 1 minced clove of garlic, 1 bag of spinach( 6oz.), 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 pound of pasta, white or wheat is fine, and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and get a sheet pan out to roast the tomatoes. Spread the tomatoes on the baking sheet,

sprinkle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then some salt and pepper to season. Roast the tomatoes for 10 minutes or until they begin to burst.

Cook your pasta according to directions on the box or bag while the tomatoes are roasting.

In a skillet, heat up the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil then saute onions and mushrooms together, until the mushrooms are soft approximately 5-6 minutes. Then add in the garlic and the spinach. Let the spinach wilt.

Be sure to check on your tomatoes too during all these steps! When the tomatoes are roasted enough, pull them out of the oven and add them to the other veggies in the skillet.

Drain the pasta when it is finished cooking. Then combine the pasta with all the veggies in one pan.

Top the dish off with the mozzarella cheese, I like to put a lid on it to let the cheese melt a bit, which can create a cheese sauce consistency. Eat, enjoy and keep smiling!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Slow Cooker Salsa Pulled Pork- Guest Post

Say hello to Michelle of the blog Brunette and Blessed! She has a great dinner to share with us and to relieve you of my never-ending vegetarian recipes with some pork! Take it away Michelle!

Slow Cooker Salsa Pulled Pork

Serves 6 to 10 ( I divided this recipe in half, if you do the same-follow all the same instructions but cut cook time to 8 hours. The following is a whole recipe, not cut in half.)

4 pounds port butt (shoulder roast)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 fresh garlic cloves
12 ounces of salsa ( I used Giant Eagles Organic salsa -mild)

Place the pork in a slow cooker. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper
Smash the garlic cloves and peel them. Chop them roughly and sprinkle them over the pork. Pour the salsa over the pork and garlic.
Put the lid on the slow cooker and set on low for 12 hours

After 12 hours, shred the pork (it should be melting and tender). Serve with rice, beans and Salsa.

So, I duplicated this recipe after going to a cooking class. So much fun. I even went to the Indian grocery store and bought this great rice!

I highly recommend this recipe. It was a huge success. My husband does not like tomatoes and he could not even tell they were in the salsa because it all cooks into the meat.
Here is a few pictures of the process. Warning raw meat is not very pretty.

So yummy!

Enjoy! Have a great week!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Berry-Spinach Smoothie

Berry Spinach Smoothie

First thing's first. I promise this does not taste like a green smoothie. I have never been so excited about a green smoothie in all my life. I think the trick is adding the vanilla extract and pairing the spinach with oranges. It goes together so well. I drink this smoothie for lunch sometimes because it is basically a salad in a blender and perfectly filling because it makes enough to fill a big, tall glass. I don't know of a better way to get myself to eat 4 cups of spinach in one sitting. Perfect, I tell you, perfect!

Berry Spinach Smoothie

I like to make this with frozen banana because it makes the whole thing have a very creamy texture, but sometimes, unless you have a powerful blender like the vita-mix it is hard to blend up a lot of frozen fruit and so fresh bananas work just as well. Using frozen berries as well as a frozen banana I always have to add some water to the mix to get it to blend well, so do the same if need be.

Berry-Spinach Smoothie

makes 1 large serving

4 cups baby spinach leaves, loosely packed
2 cups frozen mixed berries or just blueberries works fine
1 banana
1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (you can add 2 teaspoons if you really love it)
a little water to help with blending, if necessary

Blend everything into submission, drink, and surprise yourself with how good it is.

I have no idea where this recipe came from. My friend sent it to me in a email a while ago and I know it originated on someones site but I apologize for not giving proper recognition. If you read this and say "Hey! That's my recipe!" write me and give me your blog address and I will link you up. Have a great rest of the week everybody!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Peach Pie and guest post anyone?

brown sugar cinnamon peach pie

This one comes to us from Southern Living. Don't you just love that magazine? They always have the best pictures and desserts. I do have a disclaimer though. I changed the pie crust called for to Ina Gartens, which I always use and love. The picture of the actual piece of pie on the plate does not represent the pie crust recipe very well because it looks as if it didn't stay together or sort of crumbled apart in places. This, I want you to know is all my fault. I didn't roll the dough out thin enough (I guess I wasn't paying attention?) and it baked up like a brick, which isn't necessarily bad thing, mind you. Plus, this was the first piece out of the pie and that's always the messiest. This is not the norm. Just wanted you to know that before you began baking. With that being said, peach pie in general tends to be messier because it's not thickened up the same as a blueberry pie, for example. It's meant to have it's sweet juices flowing and chunks of fruit spilling out onto the plate, which, by the way, happens to compliment vanilla ice cream perfectly.

Brown sugar cinnamon peach pie

We just got back from Jeremy's big race, the Leadville 100. This is the race that all the other races led up to. He biked 100 miles on Saturday in 9hrs, 18min. The kids and I crewed for him all day. We ran around filling water bottles with electrolyte enhancers, grabbing bananas and peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate protein drinks, making sure at every stop that he was eating enough so he wouldn't run out of energy, offering him sunscreen and praise. He was absolutely amazing. How those people do that just blows my mind. Were back and trying to get life back in order from the crazy whirlwind jam-packed summer that we have had so far. We will be home for about one week before school begins and life will have to get back to normal whether I'm ready for it to or not. In the event I'm not, I should consider making this pie again. It'll help you cope with anything.

Brown sugar cinnamon peach pie

Please note: The peach filling must be made right before you bake it. It cannot sit around for too long or it will become to juicy.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Peach Pie
adapted from Southern Living, July 2011

makes 8 servings, or 1 9" pie

For the Pie Crust:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
8-10 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
8 large fresh, firm, ripe peaches (about 4 lbs.)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (optional)

Vanilla Ice cream (for serving)
Toasted pecans (for serving)

For the pie crust: dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn't stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan (this is so you can transfer the dough without ripping it). Repeat with the top crust, except when rolled out into a circle large enough to fit on top of the pie pan, cut it into thin strips, about 3/4 inch thick, and reserve until the filling is made to make the lattice top.

For the filling: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the peaches, and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices; cut slices in half. Stir together brown sugar, next 3 ingredients, and 1/4 cup flour in a bowl; add peaches, stirring to coat. Immediately spoon peach mixture into pie crust in pie plate, and dot with 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. (Do not make mixture ahead or it will become too juicy).

Carefully place the strips of pie crust over the filling, making a lattice design. Press edges of crust together to seal, cutting any excess crust off. Crimp edges of pie. When lattice design is complete, brush the top of the pie crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Alternately, you can bake this without the lattice design top, just covering the whole pie with crust. If you do that, cut 4-5 slits in the top for team to escape.

Freeze finished pie for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a jelly-roll pan in the oven for 10 minutes. Place pie on hot jelly-roll pan. Bake at 425 degrees on lower rack for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake 40 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning, and bake 25 minutes more or until juices are bubbly (juices will bubble through top). transfer to a wire rack; cool 2 hours before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and toasted pecans.

In sad news, my Grandpa Burgos passed away last week. His wife, my Grandma just passed a month and a half ago. I am going to drive down for the funeral as that family has had a hard time and I want to be there. Anyway, I will be leaving rather suddenly in a few days and was wondering if anyone was interested in guest posting a recipe with pictures in my absence. You don't have to be a food blogger, just someone who has a recipe they want to share (you can also write about other things in your post like I do!) Let me know guys! Thanks. I'd need it by Wednesday...sort of short notice.

Friday, August 12, 2011

S'mores Pie

s'mores pie

Oh, so you want to hear about s'mores pie, do you? Don't worry, I'll answer for you. Yes, you do. I do not fancy myself a huge s'mores fan in general. I know I'm supposed to get excited over the whole graham, chocolate, marshmallow thing, much like I am supposed to jump on the peanut butter and chocolate or jelly bandwagon but for some reason I can't. I'd much rather just have a fat slice of chocolate cake, straight up. Something funny happens though when you take those same old combinations and make something new and unexpected out of them. Like this s'mores pie, for example. I see it and seriously cannot stop thinking about it. I try to rationalize and tell myself that I don't even really like the s'mores combination, but pictures are persuading. Suddenly I find myself pining for that pie convinced it will be my most favorite thing ever if I could just make it. So I do. That night.

My husband Jeremy was getting his weekly massage (he's training and it's definitely not a luxury "frou frou" massage. His muscles are getting worked over and it hurts). My friend Melissa is a masseuse so she works on him in the living room in the middle of everything and we usually all chat. Except this night I only had pie on the brain and there was no talking to be had. I checked my pantry and to my surprise had every ingredient needed. I went to work. I crushed graham crackers and mixed them with melted butter and pressed it into a crust. I warmed cream and milk in a sauce pan, then mixed in chocolate until it melted and became smooth. Then I added eggs and a pinch of salt and poured it into the crust and baked it. When it was done I piled marshmallows up on top and broiled them until they were a melty browned mess. Then I shoved it in the refrigerator so everything could firm up and waited, like a good girl, until the following day to try it.

s'mores pie

It was after lunch when I went to take the pie out of the refrigerator. I was stuffed after eating all of my veggie burger and sweet potato fries at lunch and eating the pie was not even going to happen until later that night. But, the lighting is good in my kitchen in the afternoon and so I decided to take a few pictures. I cut a thick, fudgy piece out. It was glorious. I drizzled it in chocolate sauce and took a bite. I was full, but how could I not?! Ugh-it was delicious and smooth and deeply chocolate, like a truffle. I delighted in thinking that in a few short hours after dinner this pie would be all mine. Then, a horrible thought. Where would I be after dinner that night? Holy crap, I had a date with my friend Kel that night. We were going to be out until late...much too late to eat this pie. Okay, the next day then, where would I be the next day? Shoot. Jeremy's race was that night and we always go out to dinner afterwards and order dessert wherever we are. I started to sweat a little. The day after that, maybe? I could not believe when I realized that we were planning to leave that day for Jeremy's huge Leadville race. The race he has been training for all year and was not about to miss for pie. We would be gone. The pie and I were not to be. I know you are asking yourself why didn't I just eat it right then and there, or like, for breakfast or something. Let me set the record straight. I cannot eat such sweet things in the morning. I will feel sick all day long, so that is out. And If I am going to "waste" 400 calories on a piece of pie (I have no idea how much it is in reality, that's just my guess) I am going to damn well enjoy it. It is going to be an experience. I am not willing to just scarf a piece down between meals unless my kids are napping, I have a comfy chair and Oprah is on and Oprah is not on anymore, so this scenario is impossible.

I gave the pie away to a loving home and the first person to claim it when I posted it's pic on facebook. It was hard, but I had to do it. Oh, and I realize that throwing out a sentence in which I remind you how many calories there are in pie does not help motivate you to make it. But, I can say that this s'mores pie is really rich and satisfying so a small piece is sufficient and all you need. The problem lies after you have had your small piece and then keep having them day after day until it's gone. Because you will eat this until it's gone. Just do yourself a favor and invite a lot of people over so you don't have to worry about it. Or, eat the whole pie in the closet by yourself. I am not judging.

S'mores Pie
adapted from How Sweet It Is

Yields 1 9-inch pie

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I crush mine in a food processor)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, whisked
1 bag of marshmallows (large or small)
chocolate sauce for serving, (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees

For crust: Mix together the the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until evenly coated. Press mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant and the crust is beginning to brown. Keep oven warm.

For the filling: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cream and milk. Warm over medium-low heat. Add in chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted and is smooth. Slowly add whisked eggs and mix until smooth.

Pour chocolate filling into baked pie crust. bake for 15-20 minutes, or until chocolate filling is set and does not move when pie is lightly shaken. (This took mine about 25 minutes). Remove from oven.

If using large marshmallows, use kitchen shears to cut them in half. Place halves in concentric circles over the top of the pie until covered. If using mini marshmallows, just pile them evenly on top of the pie. Bigger marshmallows are more attractive.

Set oven to broil. place pie until broiler and lightly toast the marshmallows. this can take anywhere from 1-4 minutes, so watch those marshmallows closely!

Chill pie in the refrigerator to set for 2-4 hours or overnight. Serve cold or slightly warmed. Heat the pie slices in a microwave for 7-10 seconds before serving for best results. Drizzle with chocolate sauce if desired.

I found the way to get the cleanest slices is to spray the knife with non-stick cooking spray and cut the cold pie into slices. You can also run the knife under hot water and leave the knife wet so the marshmallow doesn't stick to it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Award and Seven Things About Me


I was nominated for this award yesterday from the lovely blog Brunette and Blessed. Go and check her out if you get a minute, she's super sweet and I love what she pin's!

Official Rules of The Award:
- Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
- Tell your readers 7 things about yourself.
- Give this award to up to 15 recently discovered bloggers.
- Contact those bloggers and let them in on the exciting news.

So, this is a food blog and I try to keep most of my content about and relating to that topic, but since "my life" is part of the title, I am taking it as an "out" to subject you to 7 things about myself because the official rules of accepting this award say I have to. Plus, it's my blog and, to quote my sister, I do what I want!

1) I really like to read. Mostly, I like biography's and autobiographies because I like reading about what is real and what someones life looked like. I love character studies and pondering how someone lived their life and saw things. My favorites in recent years have been: Tina Fey's Bossypants, Pioneer Woman's Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Ruth A Portrait (about Ruth Bell Graham) and Elizabeth (about Elizabeth Taylor). I also enjoy a good made-up story once in a while (like Little Women and A Reliable Wife, which was incredibly scandalous!) Also, I'd just like to say, I read Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and didn't really care for it. No, I didn't, don't try to tell me I did!

2) I love roasting chicken. I don't know why. I don't get to do it often because we don't really eat chicken. I get envious of other people who get to roast chicken on a regular basis. It's weird.


3) Lulu Lemon workout gear and J Crew. These stores are basically my uniform. Now if I only loved to work out and owned a yacht, or traveled to Italy a lot, or ran a magazine, or lived in NYC, or the Hamptons because I'm pretty sure that's the image the crew puts out.

4) My favorite flowers are ranunculus, peonies, roses, lilac, sweet peas and hydrangeas. I can't narrow that down.

5) I love Kelle Hampton. LOVE. If you don't know who she is you need to. Mostly what she does is inspire. She leaves you feeling uplifted and always has such an interesting and reflective look at life. She makes you want to be better, somehow. If you do visit her blog you should start with Nella's birthstory. Nella, her daughter, was born with down syndrome and they didn't know before hand. The story is touching, honest, real, raw, and beautiful. Have tissue handy. You will fall in love with her heart like I did, I just know it.

6) When I was 13 my dad got in a terrible car accident outside of Sao Paulo, Brazil. He used to be a model and surfer. He shouldn't have lived, or walked again, but he did. Anyway, you are going to think I'm a horrible person for admitting this, but see, my dad falls when he walks, A LOT. His balance is no bueno. He sort of does this tuck and roll thing when it's happening (so as not to hurt himself further) and totally bites it, hard core. This sometimes happens in public, like when I was visiting him last in California outside a Verizon store, you know the ones that are all windows? He was walking in and totally tripped. He went down and his legs flew up and he rolled right in front of the windows and everyone inside saw. And me? I started laughing hysterically. Could. Not. Stop. I do this every time he falls. I'm awful, I know. But if you knew my dad, you would probably laugh too. He laughs sometimes, and other times he looks at you bewildered that you're laughing, which makes you laugh harder, but then always eventually laughs himself, so It's okay in the end. My dad...

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7) I sorta, kinda have a girl crush on Jennifer Aniston.

picture via

That's it for me! The seven blog's I would like to recognize and pass this award along to are:

1) Stephanie from Mcfarland Higgins Family - She is funny, spicy and sweet, people! She's also the mother of five who likes her wine.

2) Ms. Molly from Stilettos and Diapers - She is a hot momma currently pregnant with her second child. Her first son Cooper makes this Madagascar face in every picture. It's hilarious.

3) Katie from Keep Calm and Carry On - She posts the most interesting finds from clothes to products to recipes to just pictures of her weekend with her cute hubby, Billy and fur-child, Rocky.

4) Aileen from Happy Little Southern Nest - Aileen is a sweet nurse living in the South with her husband who write about her happy little life.

5) Amy from Love in Long Beach- She is a crafty beauty who lives with her German husband in Long Beach, Ca. She's also my good friends cousin!

6) Ashley from In This Beautiful Life - She's my new favorite read and I look forward to getting to know her.

7) Kel from Then There Were Five- Kel is one of my besties and the most talented photographer. She is funny, quirky, dramatic and insanely talented.

For some reason blogger keeps removing the actual award from my post. To pick yours up, go visit brunette and blessed and get the button. I just copied and pasted. Link above.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Asian Salmon with Ginger Scallion Sauce

Asian Grilled Salmon with Ginger Scallion Sauce

Without being too dramatic, I'll just say that if you were to die tomorrow you need run to the store to make this recipe for dinner tonight. It is honestly one of the best things I have ever tasted, ever. Was that too dramatic? Because I toned it down, a lot. *sigh*

A while back, my friend Caroline sent me a recipe for this ginger scallion sauce which is more like a relish, from Momofuku . I thought it sounded really good and all but seriously underestimated it. It wasn't something I wasn't going to run out and make it right away but rather file away in my mind until the appropriate time. Can I just say, I really, really wish Caroline would have told me how unbelievable this was. I wish she ranted and raved and let me know. But she didn't. She just sent the recipe to me with a casual "oh, we make this a lot and really like it". Caroline, is very understated. It is one of the things I like about her, but it didn't work out for my benefit in this particular context. It's okay, because eventually it was made and I swooned, and ranted and raved and jumped up and down and closed my eyes when I chewed--all the things Caroline probably did not. My Aunt Kellie was over for dinner that night and when she took her first bite, she whipped her head up, popped her eyes open wide, smiled and said "this is delicious!" Delicious, as it turns out, became the word of the week as we all looked back and commented on that dinner.

The sauce is made up of just six ingredients: a whole lot of scallions and fresh ginger, oil for binding, and soy sauce and sherry vinegar for flavoring. A little salt rounds everything out. Sounds good, right? No, let me set you straight...I don't know what sort of brew-ha-ha magic happens when you combine these ingredients together in that bowl, but it blends and becomes mellow but full and flavorful and almost buttery, although I am not sure how. You will want to eat this plain with a spoon. Just don't because you will need a lot for your salmon. Trust me, you will keep heaping it on as you eat. Make the whole recipe. I read through it and thought to myself that 2 1/2 cups of scallions is sure an awful lot, and it is, but it wilts and condenses when added to the other ingredients, so suck it up and chop.

I have no problems chopping my ginger finely, but I think Caroline peels and keeps her ginger in the freezer. When the ginger is frozen, you can shave it on a grater for very fine pieces without it all turning to liquid mush. Which ever method you use is fine, you just want a small dice or shavings, not mush. I like to use a serrated knife to cut ginger because I find it allows for cleaner, thinner and more precise pieces.

Asian Salmon with Ginger Scallion Sauce
ginger scallion sauce adapted from Momofuku Cookbook, by David Chang
Asian salmon marinade adapted from Ina Garten
serves 6

Ginger Scallion Sauce:
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (green and whites, from about 2 large bunches)
1/2 cup finely minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil ( I used light olive oil - it worked fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar or mirin
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, more to taste

Mix everything together in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Let the marinate sit at room temperature while you make the salmon and allow it to wilt together, at least 20 minutes. Add to the top of cooked salmon.

Asian Salmon Marinade:
makes enough for a side of salmon

1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Drizzle the marinade over the salmon and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Grill the salmon over medium heat until cooked through. Everyone grills salmon differently, but we like to put it on the grill skin side down, then shut the lid and let it cook through for about 5-7 minutes. Check for doneness by pricking the middle of the salmon with a fork. If it flakes, it's done. The cooking time will all depend on the thickness of the fish.

Serve salmon with a mound of the ginger scallion sauce on top and drool.

I admit, I have been a little heavy with the Asian/Thai stuff lately but I just love it so I hope you bear with me. I only share recipes I absolutely love, unless otherwise stated (like when I blogged about this white chicken chili, not because it was the most awesome thing I have ever eaten, but because I made it in 5 minutes, used all pre-ready foods which I normally don't do, and it honestly tasted really great). I like to tell you about those things too. :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Fruit Salad

Summer Fruit Salad

This is such a cheerful little salad with a playful combination of ingredients: arugula, mango, strawberry, cilantro, green onion, grapes and avocado. The poppyseed dressing is spiked with a kick of fresh ginger and is such a refreshing surprise, lightening up a typically heavier dressing. What a perfect salad to entertain with, since it requires such little effort to make and yet is so fresh and different from your normal run of the mill stand-by bagged variety. This would pair beautifully with grilled fish or chicken and a roasted or steamed vegetable on the side (zucchini, perhaps?) Make sure you have the recipe handy because people will ask.

Summer Fruit Salad

For some reason, salads confound me. They seem like they should be so simple to prepare, almost a no-brainer, but to me they are complex with many variables to consider. This of course is only true is you much care about the type of salad you are going to eat. I have a friend who just tosses lettuce with whatever vegetables are left in her fridge, with whatever dressing is available and calls it a day. That is fine for some, but in my case I only really enjoy salad if there is some purpose behind it. Which lettuces will I use? Do I want just one or do I want to mix different types of lettuces up for texture? If the greens are sturdy like romaine I can add substantial crunchy ingredients, like cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado and sprouts. If I use butter lettuces or delicate ones like baby greens, spinach or arugula the game changes. Nuts, seeds, goat cheese, fruit and or dried cranberries become appropriate. Small bites of things to accent the lettuce. Then you have to think about combinations, or which toppings go together and make sense. Is buttery a welcome ingredient? Then add some avocado or beets, but only if it compliments the other mix-ins. Then, there is the dressing. The dressing makes or breaks a salad. If you were to toss this summer fruit salad with a Thousand Island dressing, for example (and I really, really hope you wouldn't) it would wreck the whole thing. Poppyseed dressing is slightly sweet and compliments the fruit flavors involved. The cilantro, arugula and green onion along with the fresh ginger make it savory. Its a wonderful balance and was put together with thoughtful intention, so consequently, I enjoy it very much.

Summer Salad
adapted from Southern Living magazine
serves 4-6

1/2 cup bottled poppy seed dressing
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 avocados, thinly sliced
4 cups loosely packed arugula
2 cups green seedless grapes, cut in half
1 mango, julienned or cut into chunks
1 c diced fresh strawberries
1/4 c thinly sliced green onions
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro

Mix the poppyseed dressing with the fresh ginger and it let sit while you assemble the rest of the salad, at least 15 minutes.

Toss the arugula with the rest of the fruit and herbs in a large bowl. Serve with the dressing on the side.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fresh Peach Cake and Lance Armstrong

Fresh Peach Cake

I'll level with you. This is like coffee cake made with fresh peaches. After baking, your kitchen will smell like cinnamon sugar, and it will take every ounce of your being not to scarf the whole thing down yourself. It will have a crunchy outer crust with a softer, buttery middle with hefty chunks of warm, sweet fruit throughout. You will eat a piece that is much too large, warm with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Then you will go to sleep, and repeat. You'll eat it for breakfast and sneak slivers during lunch. It will be your afternoon snack and finally, dessert again. There, I said it. I laid it all out so you'll know exactly what to expect. It would be crazy talk to let peach season pass you by without making this one. This was the first piece out of the pan and looks a little crumbly on the bottom, but this cake held it's shape nicely.

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Fresh Peach Cake

I have returned from Salt Lake where I attended our first Angelman's Syndrome conference for Olivia. It was great to meet other kids and families that we could really relate to. Then, we packed up and headed out to Crested Butte, Colorado for Jeremy's mountain bike race and holy moly...People who say Steamboat Springs is beautiful have clearly not been to Crested Butte. Don't get me wrong, Steamboat is beautiful in more of a green valley, rolling hills, rivers, high grass and fences sort of way. Crested Butte is more like straight out of a movie with majestic, huge, rugged mountains, waterfalls cascading down whole mountain faces and tons of wildflowers. It was take your breath away beautiful, and more you drove around and saw, the more gorgeous it got. We stayed right downtown and was a block off the main st. Perfect location. The town was so cute and storybook charming. However, I will say Steamboat is a much better place to live. There is more community here, with more resources and events, restaurants, people and history. I love my town, but Crested Butte was sure nice to visit. Here are some pictures I took on my iphone. They suck, but you can sort of get an idea. I really wish I had taken a picture of the draw dropping landscape from down below. These are all taken in the mountains up high.

This would be that cascading waterfall I was talking about. Much more beautiful in person

Crested Butte

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Look at this mountain's peak! I'm pretty sure that's Mt. Crested Butte in the flesh. Oh, and that's Jeremy in from his first lap about to go out for his next 32 miles up a pass.

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At the meeting the evening before the race it was announced that Lance Armstrong would be racing as well and was headed up that night. Lance was in Jeremy's division (men, ages 30-39) and it was really cool to see a legend do what he does best. That man is a machine! He won the race both in his division and overall. Jeremy did awesome as well, coming in 10th in his division and 30th overall out of 300. This race was 64 miles and was done in two laps. When the bikers came in from their first lap Jeremy only came in 15 minutes after Lance. I was shocked. He was definitely one of the front runners. His placement qualified him for the Leadville 100 ride which is in two weeks. He had to come in the top 15 of his division to qualify and I am so proud that he achieved it. Leadville is a 100 mile race that only the best of the best athletes get to compete in. It is hard core and intimidating but I know Jeremy will do well. No worries here. My husband is definitely an athlete. A sexy superstar athlete :)

Lance, whizzing past the first lap

Lance Armstrong

My man after the race with Livy

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Waiting for the awards ceremony at the mountain's base


I have gotten off topic. Forgive me. Where were we? Peach cake, oh yes. Peach cake so moist and delicious and wonderful. Almost as wonderful as a visit to Crested Butte and an afternoon of watching the two most amazing men (in my eyes) do their thing!

Fresh Peach Cake
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?, by Ina Garten

Serves 8

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans.

Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream if desired.