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 ;)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

50 Shades of Crimson

According to Matt Lauer on the Today Show this morning, even the author of these "racy novels" doesn't care to talk about them all that much. 

What's all the fuss? 
In a nutshell:
It's erotic.
Very erotic (graphic, actually).
Innocent college student meets billionaire (breathtakingly beautiful) boyfriend.
He's a Dominant. He would like her to be his Submissive.

According to the Today interview, two million copies sold in one month (I'm NOT the only one!).
It's been referred to as "The Secret of the Suburbs."

Of course, I had to read it. Here are my thoughts.

Is it a "good book"? Depends on your definition...
Is it well-written? No. Definitely not.

Perhaps best put by Jessica Reeves of the Chicago Tribune earlier this month: 
Aside from their decidedly untraditional sex lives, the main characters in "Fifty Shades of Grey" (embarrassingly named Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey) hew close to worn-out romance novel archetypes: The young innocent who is surprised by the depth of her own carnal desires, and the wolfish (slightly) older man with some kinky predilections who is incapable (or so he believes) of true love. James' often alarmingly purple prose isn't the worst in the history of published books, but I'm afraid that's not saying much. (April 14, 2012)

In many ways, I wholeheartedly agree with her. Here are a handful of phrases I could definitely go without hearing (ever again):
Pants that "hang on his hips."
Christian always busy "raking his fingers through is unruly hair."
Breath "catching in throats."

Though, having said that, even the author agrees it's not going to win any literature competitions:
"It's raw. I'm not a great writer," reported James during the interview on the Today Show this morning. I'll admit, when I read this, my inner-critic did a kind of eyebrow-raise and had to concede that the honest admission improved my impression of the her AND the book.

Now, if your definition of a "good book" is something different... Something like,
Is it interesting? Entertaining? A page-turner? The answer is, YES.

Despite the distraction of WAY overused phrasing, sometimes juvenile perceptions/actions/dialog from the protagonists, an overly predictable and simple plot, and the personally unsettling stalking qualities displayed and tolerated by the characters, I was captivated. I read the book in 2 days. In fact, two minutes after I finished it I downloaded the next one in the trilogy (yes, there are 3!), 50 Shades Darker.

I enjoyed the book. I'm happy to discuss it in generalities here in this public forum; however, I should also admit that I would never suggest this for my book club(s). It's not the kind of content *blushing* I think I'd feel comfortable discussing in any great detail. It's naughty.

In summary, this is not "steamy romance." This is "erotica." Trust me, they are very different.
If you'd like to know for yourself, I suggest you pick up a copy (or better yet, download it to your Kindle if you'd rather be discreet).

post script: OH NO!!!! I just re-read this post and noticed that I've developed an "inner-critic" (did I really type that??)! Based on how much I despise the fact that Anastasia refers to her "inner-goddess" (constantly) in the novel, I'm completely disappointed in myself. Good grief.

Laters, Baby.

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 13, 2012

Recipe Review: Crockpot Fiesta Stew

The pinspiration for this meal came from this photo and the fact that I had all of the ingredients on-hand and I could whip it up for a busy-day-meal.

{Melissa Genovese}
Melissa's recipe (which I named, Fiesta Stew and EDITED) is simple:

Stew Ingredients
1 can of rotel
1 can of corn, (not drained)
1 can of black beans (drained & rinsed)
8 ounces cream cheese
1 packet dry ranch dressing
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
2-4 cups chicken broth (Depending on the size of your chicken breasts and how "soupy" you want your stew to turn out, use more or less broth. You can always add more at the end.)
2 frozen chicken breasts

Green onions

In a large bowl, combine all the stew ingredients (except the chicken).
Spray your crock pot with cooking spray and place the chicken breasts in the bottom.
Pour the mixture over the chicken.
Cook 6-8 hours. 
Shred chicken, and enjoy!

If your family is sensitive to spiciness,
substitute "MILD" Rotel
 This actually my second attempt at the original recipe. The first time, I followed the instructions to the letter and the result was less of a soup and more like a taco or enchilada filling. Rather than having a broth (as pictured at the top of this post), the dish was mostly wet meat. That sounds gross--it wasn't! It was very tasty but not the right consistency.

Because it tasted so good, I decided to tweak the recipe to try and make more of a soup of it (hence the RED adjustments listed in the recipe section). 

Post-cooking, Post-shredding.
I added MORE broth after this point.
 Plated and garnished:
Don't skip the fresh garnishes! 
For and even brighter flavor next time, I think I'll add fresh lime juice to the list of garnishes (just a squeeze!). 

We will definitely have this again as a stew (or minus the extra liquids, as a taco filling).


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 ;)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hoppy Easter! The BEST Brunch Spread

We had such a nice holiday. It was a terrific mix of family-time, play, sunshine, friends, decadent food, delicious beverages, and relaxation.
Here's a recap, in photos (mostly).

Baskets and Gear from The Bunny

Ready for the Neighborhood Potluck at the Keys House

My Signature Bloody Marys

Yogurt Parfait Bar 

Strawberry Pancake Skewars

Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries 

Cereal Bar (Huge Jones Girls HIT)


Easter Ham, Deviled Eggs (amazing!), Brisket Quiche,
Poppyseed Bunt Cake

Donut Hole Bouquet 


"Have you seen all these goodies??"

Greg and Geneva

Wardrobe change to accommodate all of her bike racing!
The sunshine was the icing on the cake of our amazing Easter Weekend. Another example of what a great neighborhood we live in and the terrific people we are surrounded by. A special thanks to the Keys Family for opening their home and welcoming the rest of us to absolutely enjoy every corner of it! 
When a brunch starts at 11:30am and you get your cottontail home (two doors down) at 7:00pm... It's safe to say, you had an incredible time.

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 5, 2012

Recipe Review: Crockpot Korean Beef Tacos with Cucumber Slaw

I found this amazing-looking taco recipe on Pinterest (no surprise) and couldn't wait to try it for my taco-loving family.

{Confections of a Foodie Bride}
The recipe provided by FoodieBride is a hybrid of two other recipes. I added my own (small) adjustments in blue.


  • For the Korean beef:
  • ~5 lbs beef short ribs (can also use chuck roast or back ribs)
  • 1 bottle (10 oz) low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp ginger, grated (I just sliced mine into thin disks that I fished out later)
  • 6 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha
  • 1 cup water (optional) (I did not add any water)
  • For the Cucumber Slaw:
  • 1 cucumber (seedless recommended)
  • Thinly sliced red onion rounds 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • For the tacos:
  • 16 small wheat (flour) tortillas
  • cilantro
  • bean sprouts
  • Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • sriracha


  1. To make the cucumber slaw, slice the cucumber very thinly and sprinkle with salt. Place in a colander and let sit for up to an hour over a bowl or in the sink. (I skipped this step.)
  2. Shake additional water from the colander or pat with paper towels.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and toss with red onions, rice vinegar, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Refrigerate until ready to use (leftovers get less and less crunchy as they sit but it can be made ahead, just pour off any accumulated liquid and toss with an additional 1-2 tsp vinegar to taste, if necessary).
  4. To make the Korean beef for the tacos, spray your slow cooker crock with non-stick cooking spray and add the ribs (boneless chuck roast).
  5. Whisk soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar with the garlic, ginger, sriracha, and oils.
  6. Pour over the ribs in the crockpot. (I thought the liquid level looked a little low so I added ~ 1 1/2 cups of water.) Again, I did not add any water.
  7. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  8. (optional) Remove 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and skim the fat from the top. Pour the liquid into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer while separating the meat from the bones. Reduce the liquid by about half and pour over the shredded meat. I highly recommend this step!
  9. To assemble, serve the shredded meat on warmed tortillas topped a spoon of cucumber slaw, cilantro, bean sprouts, sriracha and a dollop of yogurt (we used sour cream).

I used two roasts to equal approximately 5 pounds of beef.

I pulled out some cucumber slaw BEFORE adding the
onion and red pepper flakes (for the girls).

I had help shredding the meat.

Don't skip this step! 

I suggest cooking your meat a full 8 hours for this recipe.

The bean sprouts added a nice crunch; the cilantro,
a nice fresh flavor.

She ate two.
Her little sister ate one and a half.
Greg had four.
Papa Mike (visiting from CA) ate four.
I'm not telling how many I consumed!

So pretty too!
 This recipe is going on the "short list" of family favorites!
It's definitely salty--even with the low-sodium soy sauce.
I would use the chuck roast over the ribs again (it's less expensive and you don't have to bother with the bones.

This one's a keeper!
Let me know if you try it.

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 ;)