Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Snapshots

There is only one thing I love more than summertime and that is summertime in Rhode Island. It's the beaches, yes, but it's also Del's lemonade, clam cakes and chowder, bonfires, and of course, time with the family. I miss my family to bits living way out here in the Midwest, and summer is one of the two times of year I get to spend lots of time at home. One of my favorite things to do is hang out with my nephews, with whom it is pretty clear to everyone, I am obsessed.

Not that I need an excuse to share photos of these cutie pies, but I got one in my email box today anyway., lovely hosts of my first giveaway, are sponsoring a summer photo contest. You should remember that is a leading online provider of business cards, color brochures and mailing postcards.

Now the photo contest asks for one photo submission, but how can I choose? The above photo was taken of Nic in the backyard during Charlie's first birthday party. He's being attacked by the sprinkler, and I just can't get over his face! Actually, it's a volcano sprinkler, and he is sitting on it, so that may explain his reaction! I'll consider that photo the "official" entry, since it looks a little more photojournalistic, I guess. I can't resist showing you more though!

The next two were taken last summer at Sand Hill Cove, where we spent our honeymoon. Yes, we invited friends and family to the beach house the entire week of our honeymoon, and we had so much fun I wouldn't have had it any other way. This is Charlie taking a break in the shade, munching on a very juicy nectarine. That pout puts Derek Zoolander to shame!

This photo is of Nic's first time on a borrowed boogie board. Once he got on that thing it was impossible to get him out of the water! I love how it almost looks like he's surfing in this picture!

Thankfully, the countdown is on for our summer trip home! I can't wait to stuff my face with clams, chug D&D iced coffee, fight off a sunburn and get sand in my bikini. See you guys in July!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"All I need is food and creative love" Part Deux

I am a bargain hunter. When it comes to shopping for food, clothes, even nights out on the town, I plan ahead. I clip coupons from the newspaper, print them online, read grocery fliers, and keep my trusty Sam's Club card close. Unfortunately, even my best made plans often go awry. We eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in our house, and the selection is usually determined by what's on sale. Sometimes though, I buy way too much. Eric often has unplanned meals out with clients, which can sometimes blow my dinner plans, leaving a bag of slowly wilting salad greens or a pint of mushy raspberries to rot. Nothing irritates me more than throwing away spoiled food. I'm now on a mission to never do it again. The "never" may come back to bite me, but I'm working on it. I'm getting good at creating recipes that include produce that has seen better days. Now, we're not talking fuzzy mold or slimy ick here. If you see that in your vegetable drawer, by all means, chuck it and fast! I'm just talking about spinach that is a little too wilted for a nice salad, or fruit that has gone a little soft. Here are some ways you can use up produce that is just past its prime.

If you have:
Yes you can always saute it up with a little olive oil and serve it as a side dish, but that gets old. I used a big bag of baby spinach and adapted a Martha Stewart Recipe for this Spinach Quinoa Bake. I added more vegetables and cut out several of the prep steps to simplify things. It was really delicious, and a fantastic vegetarian option. It was also a good way to help me figure out what the heck to do with quinoa, since I bought it for one dish and then felt lost. Now I love it!

If you have carrots, peppers, squash, or even more spinach, soup is the easiest way to go! This recipe works well for leftovers as well as the stuff in the bottom of your crisper. Since it is pureed, you can use anything you want. Plus, its vegetarian, so you can please all of your friends with this one.
If you aren't into soups, Scrap Wraps are the way to go. All you need are some sandwich wraps and creativity. Saute up any veggies you want in a little olive oil. Then spread a whole wheat wrap with a little hummus, mayo, or anything you like and go crazy with toppings. I love whole wheat wraps with garlic hummus, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and roasted red peppers! You can even do sweet wraps when you have too many apples. Slice and saute them in a pan and wrap them with peanut butter and walnuts, yum!

Overripe berries are the bane of my existence, since they can be very expensive and are often cheaper when bought in bulk. It's easy to toss them into a blender with some yogurt and whip up a smoothie, but a little more time and effort can give you more impressive results. A pint of quickly softening strawberries was turned into the Strawberry Key Lime Muffins you see above. They are so moist and sweet I'll be sending the rest of them to the office with Eric to stop myself from eating the whole batch. I then used a half pint of raspberries for the frosting of these Sweet Crescent Rolls. I'm a little late to the crescent roll party, but better late than never. I know people have used them forever and ever, but I'm just lately discovering their versatility. I also love that they are now available in a reduced fat version! We used to wrap them around hot dogs or ham and cheese to make lunches for Delaynie, but I like them sweet! The extra raspberry frosting can be refrigerated in an air tight container for several weeks, so you can use it for fresh fruit, vanilla cupcakes, or my favorite, brownies.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Test Kitchen: Roasted Red Pepper Fougasse

My friend Kay is getting married in August, and I am lucky enough to get to help in putting her bridal shower together. There's nothing I love more than parties! The invitations are all printed and sent, so now it's just on to the food. I've decided to make a couple of varieties of stuffed breads for the party, now that I am newly addicted to that no-knead dough. I have been dying to try out the Roasted Red Pepper Fougasse posted on the Artisan Bread in Five Blog, so this week I put one together as a test. I wanted to add a few more flavors though, since the recipe is pretty basic. It turned out beautifully, and Eric and I devoured the whole thing within 24 hours. Test kitchen success means this version will definitely be going to the party!

If you'd like to make a fougasse my way, you will need the following ingredients in addition to those called for in the ABin5 recipe:
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
kosher salt
dried oregano

- Follow the ABin5 recipe to prep your dough and roast the peppers. If you don't have time for the peppers, you can use jarred roasted red peppers. However, you want to dry them very well on paper towels first!
- Spread minced garlic over the bottom.
- Sprinkle cheese over garlic and top with a layer of red pepper strips.
- Tear basil over peppers before folding the dough over and sealing the edges.
- Brush the outside with olive oil and sprinkle it with oregano and kosher salt.
- Bake as directed. Note: I skipped the "pan of water" step and had no problems with my bread being dry. This could be because I used jarred red peppers, though, so they up the moisture quite a bit. I suggest following the recipe the first time to see how your oven will do!

I think I'll do something with caramelized onions for the next version... maybe with goat cheese? Mmm mmm good!

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Congratulations are due to Janet and Maya, who were chosen at random as the winners of my first giveaway! Janet and Maya have won an 18"x24" poster print of any photo of their choice from, and just in time for Father's Day. You can visit them for all of your printing needs, from canvas printing and poster printing to business cards. Thanks also to all of you who took the time to visit and enter the giveaway. I appreciate that you stopped by to read my little blog! Keep an eye out for future giveaways... I love giving free stuff as much as I love receiving it!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Cupcake FAIL

We've all had those moments in the kitchen when things just go terribly wrong. I'll never forget the first time I tried to bake brownies without any adult help. I was probably 8 or 9 and I thought it would be simple. Just follow the directions on the box! Unfortunately I didn't know about oils back then, so I poured half a cup of olive oil into the bowl and baked up some of the most disgusting brownies you could imagine. They looked and smelled like delicious treats, but then we ate them. Revolting.

I've had lots of kitchen mishaps since then, but I am only upset by it on rare occasions. Those occasions are the ones when I have what I think is a fabulous idea, but it turns out to be, well, half baked.

Such was the case with my bloody Twilight Chocolate Cherry Chip Cupcakes. Since we've all read Stephanie Meyers' book (really, you don't want to get me started on that series!) and hadn't seen the movie, the girlfriends and I decided to have a little viewing party. Bloody Blackberry Pomegranate Martinis and my cupcakes, what could be better? My fabulous idea was to bake chocolate chip cupcakes with a cherry cordial in the center, so that when you bite into it, it will bleed. Genius right? I should have thought through the logistics a bit more. After baking, the chocolate inside melted completely, and the cordial soaked into the cake, leaving a sticky, gooey mess stuck to the cupcake wrappers, the sad little cherry sitting alone right in the middle. Grr.

I shouldn't have worried about it really, since they tasted lovely and we were too distracted by Robert Pattinson to really care about the cupcakes, anyway. He's almost gorgeous enough to make me think reading all four of those books was worth it. Almost. Anywho, I'm looking for suggestions for the next time I bake these cupcakes. I thought of putting a chocolate wafer cookie in the bottom before pouring in the batter, but the cordial will still melt. What I need is to put a filling into the cakes after baking them, but it will need to be liquid in order for it to really spill out. That liquid will have to be encapsulated in something to prevent it from soaking into the cake, but I'm at a loss. Ideas, anyone?