Saturday, June 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals

                         Summer Edition of Foodie Pen Pals!

Kalee says that Loveless Cafe is famous! Eli Manning and Punky Brewster have eaten here.  

Love the pizza recipe! I used the sugar cookie mix for a birthday platter (shown above) and it was fast and easy!

My new Tennessee friend, Kalee of Sorey Fitness, spoiled me this month with lots of goodies. Thanks Kalee!

Want to participate next month??
Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean runs the whole program; she’s amazing! Just fill out this form by July 1st. Then, Lindsay will email you on July 5th with your pal! There is a $15 limit on the boxes too so you won’t go broke.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brownie Dream Bars

Yesterday we went on a dreamy family bike ride from our house to Lake Padden. We were flying down the road, dodging the caterpillar brigade along the way. Waving at the neighbors. Pushing hard up trail hills & saying our "hello's" and "excuse me's" and "thank you's" as we passed pedestrians. Weaving back and forth up the steep road.  Quads burning. Sweat dripping. No tears, no whining.  Our kids are at ages where they have more composure, more strength and more stamina- Yay!  Speaking of dreamy, here's one of my favorite ways to dress up the classic brownie.

  • Ghiradelli brownie mix, prepared according to directions
  • 2/3 cup coconut
  • 2/3 butterscotch chips
  • 2/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cups pecans
  • 3/4 + cup sweetened condensed milk

Prepare your favorite boxed brownie mix and bake for just 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cover the top with coconut, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips and pecans.  Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the top. Cover the surface which may require closer to one cup of sweetened condensed milk. Place back in the oven for the remainder of the time for your favorite boxed brownie mix directions.

Cool, cut then serve!

Yield 24 bars

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Westin Kierland Resort Scottsdale, Arcadia Farms Cafe, Los Sombreros Cafe

Sometimes you get a vacation just right.  You go at the right time & choose the right vacation package, travel on weekend that works great with your families schedules. The trip length is just  right (ok, I might be exagerating here...I certainly would have loved to have stayed in Arizona a wee bit longer).  

This was one of those holidays.  It was just right.  Read on for the resort review & a few of our favorite restaurants!

               The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale

Bunny or a hare?  All I know is this one is soo cute!

Metal sculptures abound 

Rolling hills at the golf course

Daily bagpipes at sunset on the golf course

The breakfast buffet was delicious. Fresh berries, smoked salmon, freshly squeezed juices & chocolate crosaints. 

Poolside cabana view

The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa

  • Gorgeous grounds
  • Beautiful pools & relaxing lazy river
  • Chilled Eucalyptis towels at the weight room
  • Bagpipes at sunset
  • My vote for Best Hotel Breakfast Buffet
  • Nice walking paths for an early morning workout
  • Walking distance to shopping & restaurants
  • Lack of crowds 
  • Fridge in room
  • Patio to enjoy the sunrise
  • Attentive and friendly valet staff offering us water to help combat the 100 degree + weather

  • None

  • Cabana rental not necessary in the off season
  • Water stations are scattered around the pool area
  • Water & towels at the weight room
  • Safeway grocery store is located less than a mile from the resort

           Arcadia Farms Cafe & Marketplace

Charm abounds at Arcadia Farms which is located a few blocks away from Scottsdale Fashion Square. They offer organic and local fruit, veggies & cheese in all their dishes.  I enjoyed the fresh raspberry salad with fossil creek goat cheese, jicama, carrots, & candied pecans in a light vinaigrette.  

The Marketplace, located across the street, is as adorable as the photos show. Grab-n-go salads, sandwiches and baby cake desserts are offered.

                              Los Sombreros Cafe & Cantina

Los Sombreros Restaurant in Scottsdale offers a fresh twist on the mexican classics. Character abounds with a festive outdoor patio and a rustic/eclectic indoor dining area.

Jicama Tostada Shrimp Salad

Camarone con tequila al aljillo. The bacon and chipotle cream  was flavorful & tasty

Grilled rib eye steak tacos

I'm already dreaming of my next Arizona holiday. I would love to learn about your favorite destinations in Arizona. Please leave me a comment below. Thanks!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

                               Q: Why did the lemon stop half way across the road? 

                                                     A: He ran out of juice.

School is *finally* out for the summer & like the lemon our kids are out of juice. Our kids were released almost a week later this year due to snow days in the winter.  I don't know about you or your kids but this year my kids were D O N E.  Maybe it was the combination of the sun setting later in the evening, end of year parties and so on that have worn mine out.  Maybe it's just that they need some time to sleep in late & lounge around in pajamas all day.  

We're looking forward to lounging days & summer fun.  Hubby pulled the camping trailer out of the garage in preparation of visiting friends. He tested the mechanical side of things; tire pressure, break lights & turning lights.  Everything needed a little help.  We're excited for a friends 29th birthday party, we'll actually it's not his 29th but I loved the humor in the invite anyway.  Heck, who's counting. I'm not.  

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 scant tablespoon lemon zest
  • Non stick spray 

Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a bowl.  

In a separate bowl mix the remaining ingredients together.  Then add the other bowl of ingredients.

Spray muffins tins with non-stick spray.  Fill tins to about 3/4.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fairmont Olympic Hotel, BlogHer Food, Seattle

Hi friends, I'm backlogged on posting. I've been juggling the Blogher Conference, Arizona and kids end of school year activities. I have so much to tell you & I'm unsure where to start! So here I I'll share more of the BlogHer Food Conference experience with you, highlighting the food hosted by The Fairmont Olympic Hotel.  So many excellent entertaining ideas abound!   

       Be sure to scroll down all the way...the bamboo 
                        salad will impress!

Double duty vases: Fresh cherries and strawberries are the main act! 

Great way to host a big group...why not try a bagel bar?  Easily converted to home use with a dowel.
Neat-o ceramic tile with dry erase lettering.

Tasty breakfast featuring greek yogurt in a glass votive.

How clever to skewer fresh spinach leaves on a bamboo pick ! Ps, Gazpacho in a glass, I love you!

Easy, breezy way to jazz up your cupcakes. Animal Cookies and  Coconut dyed with green food coloring

                    What's your favorite entertaining tip?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wild Rice Salad with Salmon and Asparagus

Do you have random texting conversations about food? Please nod your head up and down so I know it's not just me. Here's a screenshot of my cell phone:

Yes, that's my friend calling me mom. I'm a planner, what can I say? We're travelling together on a moms' mini vacation (thanks to my friends and my hubby who insisted that I go-love him!).

It is unheard of for me not to have good food on a plane.  Since our kids aren't joining us this time I'm ditching the sandwiches & apple slices and typical bribery food like lollipops, candy bars and gum.

A few of my requirements for travel food without kids is that it needs to:

  1.  Be healthy 
  2. Have protein 
  3. Taste great

Why? Because I know that once we get to our destination that I'll eat my fair share of junk food and chocolate bars for breakfast & dessert in lieu of dinner. It's a vacation, after all!

If you're travelling soon or if you like wild rice give this one a try:

  • 2 cups Lundberg Wild Rice Blend
  • 4 cups of water
  • A bunch of asparugus
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 stalks of garlic scapes
  • a few tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 ounces of wild smoked salmon (don't buy farmed, please.)

Cook rice according to package instructions.  Let cool.

Snap off end of the asparagus and place in a large bowl.  Thinly slice garlic scapes and mix with the asparagus, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss well and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Broil on high for 5 minutes then on low for an additional 3-5 minutes.  Slice asparagus in bite size pieces.

Mix the cooked asparagus and garlic scapes with the rice & smoked salmon (flaked or cut into bite size pieces).

Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a slice or two of the leftover lemon from zesting.

Place rice in re purposed containers so that you can recycle them.

What food do you travel with?

PS- I met some of the Lundberg staff at Blogher last weekend. They are as delightful as the products they sell. I'm impressed with their food activism, in particular the consumers right to know which products contain GMO's in California. Way to go Lundberg Farms!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vegetarian Pasta Bake

Hi friends! I'm back from the Blogher Conference. My first ever foodie conference and I've gotta say that it exceeded my expectations. One of my favorite panels discussed "simple post processing for food photography, free cheap and easy tools".The expert panel, Diane Cu of White on Rice Couple , Bridget Ams of The Way the Cookie Crumbles & Brady Evans of Branny Boils Over  presented a wealth of tips and insight.  Now I know why my favorite food bloggers photos look so bright & crisp. They are enhancing their photos using software tools! I'm going to download GIMP for Windows this week (there is a Mac version too). Did I mention it's free?! Love that.

Beyond the technical information I had the opportunity to connect with so many people.  We laughed, snapped photos, tweeted and formed friendships.  We met manufacturers, sampled products and were given  an incredible variety of samples to take home.  One such product, manufactured by Progresso, isn't on the grocery store shelves yet.  It's a Recipe Starter Cooking Sauce sold in a can.  They offer 6 different flavors and after last nights meal I'm already planning to ration the other 5 cans.  It was delicious! Kids loved it too.

How to make a creamy pasta bake:

  • Progresso Cooking Sauce "Creamy Parmesan Basil"
  • 12 ounces macaroni
  • 12 ounces frozen veggie mix (we like the fiesta mix because it has beans in it)
  • Bread crumbs to garnish
  • Fresh basil to garnish
  • Shredded cheese to garnish
  • Pepper

Boil noodles until al dente. Drain noodles and place in a large bowl.  Thaw frozen veggies.  Place in large bowl with cooked macaroni & yummy cooking sauce. Toss and place in ramekins or casserole dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Place back in the oven for a minute or 2 until the cheese has melted. Remove and serve.  Creamy, pasta goodness! Yum!

Thank you to Progesso...we are fans of your cooking sauce!
Thank you Diane, Brady & Bridget. Soon my photos will be looking "pretty" too.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blogher Food Conference

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~ Mark Twain

I bumped into an old business associate the other day who asked what I've been up to.  Thoughts raced through my mind.  I thought of the career hats that I've worn; building product inspector, catastrophe insurance adjuster, project manager & mining company executive secretary. Thoughts of past achievements, accomplishments & successes in my former careers. It's like they all flashed before me & I needed to push the memories aside quickly so I could talk intelligently about my current going on's.  You see, when I explain that I'm writing a food and family blog I usually I get the glazed over look.  I know what they are thinking...go out and get a real are successful. You climbed ladders. You did big things.  Put long hours in, drive to work in the dark and get home in the dark. Sacrifice and do things that you don't like to do with some that you don't like.  That's the expectation.  I get that point of view. I've been doing that for many years & did a mighty fine job at it.

What does this have to do with a Food Conference?  I applied to be a volunteer at the Blogher Food Conference in Seattle.  This is where all the somebody's of the blogging world will be. They are stars of the industry; speaking, networking & sharing their expertise.  I thoughtfully filled out a volunteer application answering questions about what I could offer the organization and why I should be chosen over others.  I clicked "send" and thought to myself I have a good shot at this.

A few weeks later I received the standard rejection email thanking me for my application.  I was crushed! I unfollowed Blogher Food from Twitter (gasp!). My motivation ebbed and flowed  for days and weeks. Until one day I received a most unexpected email, acknowledging that an additional space opened up, they would like me to volunteer if I was still interested. Of course I will volunteer.  I picked myself up, shook off the self pity and replied  "YES Please" immediately.  I know, I was a second choice.  I get that.  I'm new at this. Self-teaching along the way.  Making mistakes and fumbling around a bit.

What I know for sure is that I love writing, cooking, baking, family time, being a mom, entertaining, taking photos, learning, sharing and connecting with folks. I enjoy replying to the ones who care to leave a comment on the blog or on my Facebook page. The ones who tweet or talk about a blog post at a party. Because at the end of the day isn't that what life is all about? Doing what you love & feeling connected?  I think so.

My goal is to make a career of food and family blogging.  But if I can't, that's o.k.  I have a meaningful hobby that will one day be a treasure for my children and hopefully grandchildren, and that is all that really matters.

So today I am following Mark Twain's advise and exploring, dreaming and discovering as I drive to Seattle with a friend to volunteer Blog Her Food Conference training at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. Curious? Click here for the schedule: BlogHer Food 2012

PS- I woke up at 5am today to a double rainbow & glowing back light on Chuckanut Mountain. It inspired me to be real with you.

                                   What inspires you?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Prosciutto Breadsticks

Are you looking for a fast, easy & elegant appetizer? This may just be what you are looking for.  

                      It's salty, crunchy & yummy!

Just 2 ingredients:

  • Italian bread stick crackers sold in a box usually in the deli area of the grocery store
  • Prosciutto
The bread sticks are fairly fragile, handling them carefully, wrap the prosciutto around at an angle. Tuck a little corner of the meat under another layer.  Place in a vase, glass or other tubular style serving piece to add dimension to your appetizer selection.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Burrito Bowl

I must admit, this is an accidental recipe. 

 Last week I decided to make a large quantity of freezer meals.  I had pounds and pounds of ground beef & Italian sausage.  Numerous onions and more garlic cloves than I cared to count.  I dusted off the food processor and got busy making all sorts of noise and messes.

At the end of the day I was tired & ready to kick my feet up on the coffee table.  I wasn't the least bit interested in a Mom style plated dinner containing a protein, veggie, carb and fruit.  I literally tossed things into bowls, held my breath as I served my family, sat back and hoped for the best.  To  my surprise everyone was pleased with their custom bowl.

Here's how I made my bowl:

  • Roundhouse Taco Meat with rice. Click here for the recipe: Local in Bellingham
  • Fresh avocado
  • Canned olives
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Shredded cheddar cheese