Thursday, May 10, 2012

Vacation Post Part I: Palm Springs

We just enjoyed a great family vacation to sunny (SUNNY and warm) California. This photo-heavy post covers our first four days in Palm Desert.
This is our third annual sun-seeking vacation to the Palm Springs area. This year, we followed our PS tour with a trip to Disneyland. After editing down our photos from the trip, I decided it was probably best to split the trip into two separate blog posts. 

Who's excited to be on their way to
This year, we stayed at the Marriott Shadow Ridge resort.
Guess who loved their first day: swimming, visiting with Grandma Lulu, and the 90 degree weather?

Spontaneous Celebration:
She's singing and dancing in her underwear.
Breakfast, Morning, day two:

My Little Mermaid
 Followed by: 
blue skies,
poolside cocktails,

 Afternoon Activities:
Counting wild jackrabbits...

Did you know that rabbits breed-- a LOT? 
... Heading to Grandma's house,
enjoying wine and appetizers...

... Visiting through the kitchen window.

Closing the night with:
Dinner out.
Fun. Fun. Fun.

Day Three:
Breakfast of champions,

Oh yeah... those are Honey Nut.
 ... More swimming, 
water slides,


(Insert: Cocktails, lunch, book-reading in the sun) 

Next up:
Cool bath,
afternoon naps,
a few games on the Kindle Fire.

 Then dinner with Grandma!

Day Four:
Lounging on the patio in the morning sun in our pajamas,

... making sketches of nature.

Geneva found a really cool sketch book.
Followed by a GIANT chess game between Geneva and Greg.

Directing Piper where to move her
Can you guess what we did next?

... flips and tricks.


 (Insert: Cocktails, lunch, baths, naps, dinner with Lulu and a late bedtime.)

Day Five: Departure (sad),
heading to Disneyland next (happy).

Morning visit and a breakfast date with Lulu.

Nature sketching while we waited for our breakfast order.

"Look out, Mickey! Here we come!"

"Thanks, Palm Springs! It's been fabulous!"

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Neighborhood Wine Tasting

As I've mentioned countless times, I feel so lucky to have wound up in a neighborhood full of fun, outgoing, socially motivated, creative people. We have so much fun!

Every other month, we get together (rotating hosts) and have Wine Club. Each couple brings two bottles of the same wine and a complimenting appetizer. It's delightful. There's usually a theme: "Argentinian Reds with Latin Appetizers," "Crisp Whites with Light Fare," "Blood and Carnage" (Old Vine Zinfandels with meat-heavy appetizers), etc.

For April, we did "Red Blends with Favorite Appetizers," hosted by the Jordan family.
The Lineup
Because the appetizer direction was loosely defined, we had a wide variety of snacks to nosh on while we sipped, savored, and evaluated our beverages. We did end up with two platters of lamb chops--but NO ONE was complaining. ;) I made my mom, Debbie's recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip (with a couple small modifications). The recipe can be found at the bottom of this post.
Buffalo Chicken Dip*
Michele and Miffy
Grays (one more than the other):
Sean and Greg
Me and Gretchen
Golden Tones:
Amy and Chris
And to be clear, I did NOT intend to capture the guests in photographs that could be captioned and categorized by hair color! What's up with that? :)

More snacks:
Savory Tarts
We eat well.
Bacon Cheeseburger Puffs
The winner by a landslide, Zerba Cellars "Wild Z" red blend from Walla Walla Valley, Washington ($20/bottle).
The "Bottoms Up" Winner!
No one's favorite: pro-mis-Q-ous ($10/bottle)

Too Sweet!
Looking forward to June Wine Club...

*Buffalo Chicken Dip Recipe

16 oz. Cream Cheese
1 cup Chunky Bleu Cheese Dressing
1 cup Frank's Hot Sauce
1 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
12-15 oz. Rotisserie Chicken meat, shredded

Put everything into a pan and heat until melted, transfer to a chafing dish or small crock pot to keep warm.
Serve with celery sticks or Frito Scoops.

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Recipe Review | Maple-Glazed Salmon

I started making this recipe several months ago. It is WAY overdue for some Blog Props. 
It's one of our favorites. Not only is it delicious (melt-in-your-mouth-delicious), it's super easy to prepare and very quick from the fridge to the plate. In fact, if you take my advice and double (or triple) the spice mixture, saving some for future usage, you'll cut your prep time down even further: approximately 10 minutes start to finish. Pair that with a simple salad and quick-cooking polenta and you have a delicious, healthy, impressive, dinner in about 15 minutes.

The recipe is from an older issue of Cooking Light (September, 2010). I keep all of my issues and enjoy looking through them for new recipe ideas. I'm really glad I keyed-in on this one recently after overlooking it the first time through my issue.

What you need:
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 (6-ounce) Alaskan salmon fillets
2 tablespoons real maple syrup

What to do:
1. Preheat broiler
2. Combine first 6 ingredients; rub spice mixture evenly over flesh side of fillets. Place fish on a broiler pan (or lined baking sheet) coated with cooking spray; broil 6 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with syrup; broil 1 minute more.

Alaskan Salmon from Costco
 I like to buy my Alaskan salmon from Costco. It's fresh, flavorful, boneless and skinless. I can cut my steaks as wide as I choose and if I don't want to cook all of it, the rest freezes really nicely.

 I find that with Alaskan salmon especially, there tends to be an edge and/or end of the fillet that is much thinner than the rest of the steak. I always tuck this part under the steak so that the overall thickness of the piece of fish is uniform. That way, the fish is cooked more evenly throughout--so don't be shy about bending and folding your fish!

Gettin' Spicy!
 Most of the spices required for this recipe are already in your spice rack, I'm sure. If you find you cannot locate "Ancho Chile" powder in your grocery store, feel free to substitute it for more of the regular chile powder. 

I happened to have an amazing Moroccan spice blend from a local company, Dulcet, in my spice cupboard. Many of the ingredients in the Moroccan blend are also found in this recipe (chile, paprika, sugar, cumin, salt). In addition, the Moroccan has ginger, cinnamon, saffron, turmeric, garlic, and coriander. I have had this recipe with and without the addition of the Dulcet Moroccan spice mixture--both are delicious... But I have to say that the addition of the saffron, ginger, and cinnamon flavors from the Moroccan blend add to the outcome. I highly recommend you get your own HERE ($6).

Add caption
 Generously sprinkle the top side of the fish with your seasoning mixture and pop it under your well-heated broiler. I move my broiler rack down a bit so that the top of the fish is approximately 5-6 inches from the broiler coils.
Do NOT flip your fish. They only need to cook on the one side to be evenly done throughout.

After exactly 6 minutes, take your fish out and brush on the maple syrup. Please, learn the difference between pancake syrup and real maple syrup before you ruin your fish!

Use the one on the RIGHT
 Once coated, it's back under the broiler for 60 seconds more.
The spices get "frisky" and the maple syrup gets crispy and caramely (I just made that word up) under the heat. The fish is perfectly done in the 7 minutes: tender, medium, rich in texture. 

This night, with Spinach Salad and Creamy Polenta.
Although every member of my family flips for this salmon, we usually only go through 4-5 steaks during dinner. The typical fillet from Costco will make between 5-8 steaks, depending on the size of the piece of fish you buy. I suggest you prepare ALL of your salmon and save the extras in the fridge. We always follow-up with Salmon Caesar Salad later in the week and the leftovers are delicious!

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Things I Love Thursday

  • Taking tennis lessons with the girls. We are all at about the same level, so this works out nicely.
  • My neighborhood. We have so much fun! (Wine Tasting post coming soon!)
  • Piper's Self-Portrait. She's been enjoying taking pictures with our nice Canon and she's very careful with it. I found this among a series of closeups of her blanket. Too sweet.

  • My subscription to Whole Living magazine. I find it to be a great "all-around" read. It's about balance, beauty, fitness, recipes, and living green. I really look forward to it arriving every month.
  • Pinning
  • Visiting the Oregon Zoo on a semi-dry day with the family and having these girls smile and be delighted with the snack we chose: an apple and a banana, rather than the other items available: ice-cream, "Elephant Ears," cotton candy, etc. (Also, I can't help but love Geneva's hat!)

  • The prospect of a sunny weekend on the horizon.
  • Getting our garden started.
  • Having your guests say, "We'll bring an appetizer." Then, having them show up with the most amazing spread from Olympic Provisions and a bottle of The Napa Valley Reserve. *swoon*

  • Having a Kindle. Specifically, for ready naughty erotica without anyone knowing.
  • The new stamp I recently acquired to make these new cards. Which are now featured in "The Shop." In addition, figuring out how to run a "special" that allows me to offer free shipping for Mother's Day! (MD2012 - use it at checkout)

  • Our sunny vacation... that's right around the corner. 
  • Making summer plans... Sunriver, visits with my family in Southern Oregon, my high-school reunion, camps for the kids, Vegas...
  • The joy of Piper learning to ride without training wheels.

  •  The fact that Game of Thrones is back on-air for their second season.
  • This ridiculous picture of Piper:

  • The new Scentsy wick-less candle night lights I recently purchased for the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. 
  • Growing my own ranunculus. 

  • Seeing all the cheery trees blossom around town.
  • Receiving hand-me-downs for the girls from our very generous (and super stylish) friends.
  • This amazing gift we recently received from some amazing friends: A Dessert-a-Month! I have no idea what's coming each month and I couldn't be more thrilled. *tummy doing the happy dance*

  • Piggy-tail braids.
  • The little voice I hear reading to her sister, all the books I used to read to her.
  • Seeing the blue and yellow rooster statuettes that once belonged to my grandmother in my bookshelves. 
  • The way Piper loves all things (even the gross things).

  • Listening to the girls sing, "Somebody That I Used to Know" at the top of their lungs. (Indeed, I am aware of the inappropriate "screw me over" and "so happy you could die" phrases... we're working on understanding figures of speech right now.)
  • Thoughtful, unexpected, simple gestures from friends.

  •  Cool kids. "Take my picture like this and send it to Daddy, please." 

  • My new fruit basket (that I found for a steal at Target). It is similar to this one but a slightly different style.
  • When I receive a text from my mom, Debbie, saying that in addition to caring for the girls while we are on our Vegas trip in August, they would "love to have the girls for an additional week or two this summer." 
  • When a hectic weeknight, post-gymnastics and T-ball practice, ends (at 6:45pm) with a dinner for Greg and I like this one. Let me explain how this was remotely possible. Piper and I had visited Costco earlier in the day. We went to return some outdoor cushions and purchase toilet paper. However, we arrived during lunchtime. Piper decided on a hotdog. I decided to wait to eat until we got home. Mistake? Maybe, maybe not. I was hungry. I sampled every station. We came home with some randomly delicious items: brioche buns, peach-mango-orange preserves, cranberry-almond thin cookies, coconut curry simmer sauce... (I'm totally serious. I think I bought everything I tasted. *gasp*). In addition, we came home with Sous Vide Cuisine Solutions - Lamb Shanks, "seasoned in an aromatic mint and rosemary sauce." I couldn't help it! They were amazing. And while you can prepare them in 7 minutes (in the microwave), I chose the conventional oven method and 25 minutes later, nestled these tasty treats over a bed of creamy Bob's Red Mill polenta. 

This post may contain affiliate links and I may make a HUGE commission (j/k it's literally pennies) when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You should know (and I'm legally required to tell you) that as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Feel free to make me RICH. lol ;)