Archive for the ‘Dining’ Category

7 Fall Flavors

November 5th, 2009 by Jane

There is finally a little crisp in the air here in Central Texas and I am excited to start doing some cooking. I survive the heat of the summer by only using our microwave, the gas grill or the toaster oven. Surprisingly, you can feed a family of five very well with just these appliances!

The relief from the heat inspires me to experiment in the kitchen.  Lately, I have been in full frugalista mode by trying to lower our food waste. I have made improvements, but there is still a ways to go.

Peruse some of my creations and ideas for future meals!

1. Tortilla Casserole
I used some leftover seasoned chicken from tacos, layered it in between corn tortillas with cheese and black beans. I mixed up a sauce with plain yogurt and salsa verde and added that to the layers. Baked it in the oven for 30 minutes or so and YUM-MY!

2. Chowder
I make the best corn chowder you have ever tasted and it is the only recipe that I do not share because I make it for our annual New Year’s Day Soup Party. I cannot fine one that is close to refer to you. Here is what my recipe does not have in it: flour, bacon or other vegetables besides corn and potatoes. I garnish it with cheese and roasted poblano peppers, then serve with cornbread and a salad.

3. Speaking of Salad
I could live on soup and salad for the rest of my life. My favorite combination for fall is pears and arugula. What are your favorite salad ingredients?

4. Eggplant Parmesan
I do not believe that eggplant is a fall vegetable, but I cannot bear to turn on the oven when it is in season. So, I save this dish for fall. I was going to make this version the other day, but my eggplant froze in the refrigerator. I made the sauce and put it over chicken roll-ups instead. The sauce caramelized in the oven and I was scraping the yummy bits off of the pan.

5. Candied Nuts
My new frugalista self has stopped buying candied nuts at the grocery store and I am making them at home. I like the nuts on the aforementioned pear and arugula salad, and they are surprisingly easy to make. We use Texas pecans because we are lucky enough to have pecan trees. Try this version.

6. Pumpkin
I like pumpkin as a savory ingredient, so I make pumpkin soup or a great pumpkin sauté with black beans. I am going to make this pumpkin and black bean tostada from the chefs at Dean & DeLuca.

7. Cranberries
The Cranberry Tart with the Nut Crust from Martha Stewart’s Entertaining book is out of this world. No, really. People who do not enjoy the cranberry like this tart. Pile on the whipped cream and it will disappear. I am thinking of adding a layer of chocolate to it this year. Too much? Nah!

7 of My Favorite Blogs

September 16th, 2009 by Jane

I do not have much time to read other blogs, but I try to make a few minutes every day to visit at least one of my favorites. The following seven (in no particular order) are a mix of humor, inspiration, creativity and information-four of my top interests!

1. Ink on My fingers
This blog is new to me and I am pouring through the archives of Susannah Conway’s blog as fast as I can. She has had a tragic past and I am fascinated. She writes about grief and art and life in a poignant, breathtaking way. Cathartic and refreshing.

2. Soul of the Garden
Tom Spencer hosts a local gardening show on PBS called Texas Gardener. His blog, Soul of the Garden, is where he talks about gardening, spirituality, travel, good books, his cats and much more. If you need something beautiful to look at, click here!

3. Ordinary Courage
I had the pleasure of hearing Brene’ Brown speak in Houston this past March and many of her words resounded so much with me that I found myself wishing I could be friends with her. After reading her blog regularly, I feel that I am. She writes about perfectionism, shame, addiction and gratitude with intelligence, humor and insight.

4. Katherine Center
Katherine Center writes books about mamahood that are funny, full of truth and love, with interesting characters. Her blog is just a continuation of  her fiction, but it is about her life. You will love getting to know her.

5. Orangette
Molly Wizenberg is a great cook, but she is also charming and sweet and thoughtful. Read her blog for delicious recipes, the chronicles of becoming a new restaurant owner and a love story. Her new book will bring tears.

6.  SF Girl by the Bay
Does your house lack style? Well get a screenful of ideas on this lovely design blog. You will be inspired to rearrange  your furniture, at the very least. We share a crush on the fictional character of Don Draper on Mad Men, so we know she has great taste!

7. Art Biz Blog
Alyson Stanfield’s blog is a self-help tool for artists. She offers marketing advice, support and inspiration for visual artists. She aims to make the term “starving artist” a thing of the past!

7 Fruits To Cobble Together

April 28th, 2009 by Amy

Peach Crisp.


Blueberry Buckle.


Apple Brown Betty.


The other day my friend sent me this recipe for a fruit cobbler, along with the assurance that it was delicious.


I baked it and ate it (with ice cream) … and it was!


Seven fruits – fresh or frozen and in any combination – to add to a cobbler:


1.  Apples

2.  Apricots

3.  Blueberries

4.  Cherries

5.  Peaches

6.  Pears

7.  Strawberries

7 Quesadilla Fillings

April 22nd, 2009 by Amy

It’s lunchtime and I’m starving. Instead of making a meal, I’m sitting here writing about the one I wish would magically appear on my desk.


I’ll have to check the refrigerator, but if I have these seven ingredients I’m going to sauté them together (adding the mango afterwards) and stuff them in a hot, gooey, cheesy flour tortilla quesadilla and smother the whole thing with salsa. Yum!


1.  Corn

2.  Mango

3.  Onion

4.  Avocado

5.  Mushrooms

6.  Black Beans

7.  Poblano Peppers

7 Herbs for Spring

April 9th, 2009 by Jane

The herbs are coming up in my garden and I will have enough to flavor our holiday dinner this week. Herbs mix wonderfully with flowers in the garden. I just plant mine in between the roses and zinnias. The more you snip them to add to recipes, the better they grow. Check out The Herb Garden for more information (the lovely photo, above, came from their site.) Here are some of my favorites, with a few recipes to get you inspired!

1. Arugula
Definitely an herb for grown-ups. It’s spicy leaves are a great addition to a salad, but try this recipe for pesto. Feel free to substitute walnuts or toasted pecans for the pine nuts. This also freezes very well. Just let is sit out for a bit at room temperature. I toss it on hot pasta or spread it with goat cheese on crackers. Yum! 

2. Bay Leaf
The Bay Laurel plant will grow easily in your garden or a container. Use the leaves fresh or dry some to share with neighbors. Try the delicious-looking Potatoes Roasted with Olive Oil and Bay Leaves for an elegant side dish.

3. Cilantro
My absolute favorite herb. Try the following recipe for radish salsa and you just might become addicted. If you like a spicier salsa, just add some minced jalapeno pepper.
  1 cup radishes, small dice
  1 cup of tomatoes, diced
  1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
  1/2 cup red onion, diced
  garlic, minced and to taste
  Lime juice, to taste (I like A LOT)
  Salt and pepper to taste 

4. Epazote
This is hard to find fresh, so look for seeds to grow. You know when you eat at a great little dive Mexican food joint and the beans are the most delicious you’ve ever had? Epazote is the secret ingredient. It is purported to lessen the side effects eating beans has on the digestive tract.

5. Mints
My dad planted several varieties of mint where the condensation drain from his air conditioner drips into his yard and he now has a mint forest. I love that this herb can be used in beverages, sweet or savory dishes.

6. Lemon Grass
Surprisingly easy to grow, lemon grass is delicious in soups or as a flavor for beverages.

7. Sorrel
One of the best soups I have ever eaten was a potato-sorrel soup I had in New Mexico. I am going to try to replicate it with this recipe

7 Ways to Make a Fool of Yourself

April 1st, 2009 by Jane

The origin of April Fool’s Day is a little murky, but history shows that we humans have been making fools of ourselves for centuries. Short sheeting beds or fake vomit is for amateurs, so I thought of a few things for which we all have willingly become fools, at one time or another. The lovely jester quilt (right) is from the very talented Lee-Anne Gilbert from Victoria, Australia.

1. Dancing Fool
Watch this video of Judson Laipply as he demonstrates dance moves from the last 50 years or so. 

2. Gold
The American Gold Rush turned many people into fools, but ultimately helped populate the West. Here is a bracelet I am a fool for-I want at least ten of these. I would wear them all at the same time so I would jingle while I walked! 

3. Love
I would never call Tina Turner a fool, but I sure love hearing her sing about it!

4. Money
Bernie Madoff investors aside, anyone these days can take a look at their IRA portfolio and feel a little foolish. We can at least try to have a sense of humor about it, can’t we?

5. Putter
One definition of fool is “to putter” or move about aimlessly. If you ask a person from the south what they are doing, many times you will get the response “just putterin’.” Check out this nice blog about puttering in the garden!

6. Raspberry Fool
One of the best days I have ever had was at a raspberry farm in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  Mmmm, heaven! Try this recipe for Raspberry Fool and don’t tell a soul how easy it was to make.

7. Toys
Another definition of the word fool is “to toy with.” Try some of these eco-friendly toys and make a fool of yourself playing with your kids!

7 Recipes Using Blueberries

March 19th, 2009 by Amy

I know blueberries are completely out of season – a distant summer memory and too far to be seen on the harvest horizon – but I’m craving them right now.


I’ve got a cup of buttermilk and a pound of organic frozen blueberries from Costco and I’m lookin’ to bake something sweet. Bring it on!


1.  Batter-splattered

Molly lives in Alaska, but Molly’s Blueberry Buttermilk Tart has me seriously considering heading north just for a taste! Batter-splattered is chock full of lovely photos, simple instructions, and honest tips … just the way you expect the best-loved cookbooks to be! (Photo Credit: Molly at Batter-splattered)


2.  Culinary Adventures Of A New Wife

Sharon, the New Wife, walks us through the making of two different batches of blueberry muffins – one of which she cools in her open dishwasher! Down-to-earth advice delivered in a cheerful tone makes Culinary Adventures an utterly unpretentious read and resource.


3.  Mike’s Table

Mike is an unassuming software developer who loves his Kitchen Aid mixer. With heartwarming earnestness, Mike walks readers through his blueberry muffin recipe, gently warning about common pitfalls (“you should resist the temptation to just melt the butter”) and offering encouragement (“but don’t worry–it’s normal”) as he goes. Great muffins, great guy!


4.  Orangette

I’ll get to Molly Wizenberg’s love of pancakes shortly, but first I’d like to love on Molly for just a minute. While I’ve never met her, Molly’s superb blog leaves me amazed that I haven’t and definitely feeling as though I should! Reading Orangette has always been a treat and I’m fully expecting that her brand new book, Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, will be as well.


Now for the blueberries. Basically, Molly loves Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes, but when making them individually got to be a bit much, she took the “pan” out of “pancakes” and ended up with the just-as-delicious Blueberry Buckwheat Cake. Yum!


5.  La Petite Gourmande

Still aren’t quite sold on mixing up a batch of blueberry muffins? This photo at La Petite Gourmande will have you running for a mixing bowl. What’s really, really great about this blog is the amount of research/knowledge LPG includes with each entry. Without so much as a hint of condescension, LPG has a way of patiently explaining, guiding, and educating … sort of like a younger, smaller, Julia Child.


6.  The Pioneer Woman
What I’ve always loved about Pioneer Woman is that she invites you IN! Ree never greets visitors with caution and reserve. Instead, she flings the door wide open, says she’s glad you came, pulls up an extra chair to the virtual table, and lets you know that a dozen dirty, hungry men are on their way for lunch. Day or night, on her website, it’s always high noon, the grill’s always on, the men are always hot, and PW’s always got things completely under control.

Oh, and she’s got a great blueberry muffin recipe … complete with her signature humor, stunning photographs, and generous amounts of butter!


7.  Tartelette

Helen seems lovely. Her blog is utterly charming. Her photographs are absolutely exquisite. And, then there is the food itself! Superlative. If Helen would have me, I’d probably move in with her just so I wouldn’t have to miss a dish!


Once an executive pastry chef, the blueberry muffin recipe she uses on her blog however is part of her favorable review of the Sweet Melissa Baking Book. Helen’s much anticipated book will be out in the Fall of 2009 and promises to be just a wonderful as her blog … maybe even just a bit better since you’ll just be able to read it in the bed, the bath, or stretched on the living room couch!

7 Things to Do with a Carton of Plain Yogurt

February 27th, 2009 by Jane

I buy 2 large cartons of plain yogurt every week and make flavored yogurt for my children. This is an  easy and economical way to make them all happy, for a while, that is. I buy plain organic yogurt for the added health benefits.  Try some of these ideas or go get The Book of Yogurt for more yogurt yumminess! 

1. Tricked Out Yogurt
I add a little sugar to a  large carton of yogurt, pour in a little vanilla extract and mush up some fresh or frozen fruit to customize flavors for my kids. These days, when kids are getting sugar in almost everything they eat, I like knowing I can control their sugar intake by making our own flavored yogurt. You can also try adding maple syrup for the sweetener. We like it with frozen raspberries or granola mixed in!

2. Say Cheese!
I’m not kidding: this recipe is easy! Make some yogurt cheese and use it as a substitute for cream cheese. You can spread it on a bagel, stuff it into celery sticks and even cook with it. Just don’t put it in the food processor-it will break up!

3. Dips
When I am making anything that calls for mayonnaise, I use half plain yogurt and half mayonnaise. Try this easy dip for a healthier snack. Or for something zingier, try a cilantro dip!

4. Main Dish
Try soaking chicken overnight in yogurt for extra moist kebabs!

5. Elegant Sides
I am trying this sumptuous-looking Bulgarian take on gratin of potatoes.

6. Dessert
The addition of yogurt to any baked good, will keep it moist and flavorful without adding a lot of fat. Try this elegant version of banana cake for a dessert you could serve at your fanciest soiree.

7. Go Spa Yourself
Get yourself a carton of yogurt and mix up a facial,  a batch of muffins from the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, or Yogurt Spa-ghetti by Amy Sedaris. Soak your feet and luxuriate in your loveliness! 

7 Products For A Lead-Free Lunch

February 26th, 2009 by Amy

Economical … Ecological … and Lead-Free.


Looks like the new power lunch is the one that comes from home!


The silver lead-free lining?


See how much money you’ll save by packing a lunch.



1.  Fish Food

These lunch bags cost a little more than most, but when you consider how much you’ll use them – oh, maybe a billion times – they are a terrific investment in both function and fun.


2.  Laptop Lunch

A bento-style lunchbox you don’t need a PhD in Engineering to assemble! An array of wonderful, colorful, and thoughtful lead-free lunch gear makes this product more of a lunch system than a simple lunch box. Their website even includes menu ideas!


3.  Lunchbots

I haven’t tried this new product yet, but my first reaction is “Thank You!” Seriously, how many times have I hoped for something like this?  Affordable, durable, and toxin-free … The fact that it’s stylish is gravy!


4.  Magic Box

This sleek, lead-free lunchbox by Aladdin comes complete with its own custom ice pack. Well-designed and well-made, this lunchbox rocks both the cafeteria and the office.



5.  Snack Taxi

A wonderful alternative to plastic sandwich/snack bags, these cute little pouches transport snacks for everyone from toddlers to teenagers … and beyond. Easy to clean, use, and label and unique enough that your goodies shouldn’t get “accidentally” eaten by anyone else. Handmade in Massachusetts by a small company with a big heart.  


6.  Stackable Stainless Steel

In a word … Brilliant! Wondering about those little containers in the picture? Those are for sauces! Again … Brilliant! Lightweight and lead-free, this amazing product is from To-Go Ware, an innovative company in India that puts its money where its mouth is. Read all about their story here.


7.  Zippy Zoo

Though my 5 year old son reported that he was told his Lefty Munchler was too “pre-school,” his quirky 9 year old sister happily brings her Benny Munchler to school everyday. The ingenious design unzips flat, making for much easier cleaning. Though priced practically the same as the ubiquitous lunchboxes at the Big Stores, this one is lead-free, with whimsy to spare.

7 Ways with Beans or How to Survive an Economic Downturn

February 11th, 2009 by Jane

I am remaining positive about our country’s ability to turn around the economic situation, but in the meantime, I am cutting back and making do where I can. When my parents were newlyweds without much money and living near the Gulf Coast, they would cook inexpensive meals using shrimp or beans. Well, things have changed and shrimp is not that cheap any more, but beans are still a great way to make an inexpensive and nutritious meal. One of my friends serves bean tacos to her family when it is the end of the month and she is at the end of her budget. I love beans and I’ve done a little research to expand my repertoire. Try a few of these and watch your dollar stretch!

1. Cooking Tips
Try these cooking tips to insure your beans do not turn out tough! Try the fast soak method or make them in a crock pot.

2. Salad
This white bean and tuna salad is quick and low in calories. Pile it on top of your favorite salad greens for a filling meal. Try quick-cooking lentils or an updated cobb salad for a main dish.

3. Soup
Republicans and Democrats on the Hill all agree that Senate Bean Soup is delicious.  This yummy bean soup is on the menu everyday in the Senate’s restaurant. 

4. Chili
I love this recipe for vegetarian chili from the creative minds behind the Moosewood cookbooks. Even meat-lovers enjoy this hearty mix of red beans and veggies. To feed a crowd, try this beef and bean chili from Emeril Lagasse and take it up a notch! Or a white chili from Paula Deen, might be just what you need on a cold evening.

5. Burgers
No need to purchase pre-made vegetarian burgers when making them is this easy. Or try making falafel from this video tutorial and skip the take-out stop.

6. Casseroles
Whether you go Italian, Mexican or just plain and simple, beans are a great addition to a casserole for your main dish. 

7. The Magical Fruit
Worried about unpleasant side effects from eating more beans?  If you make sure to rinse canned beans before you use them and do not cook dry beans in the water in which you soaked them, then you should be fine. Or you can use the tried and true remedy: beano. for more information on the versatile bean, go to the U. S. Bean Board!

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