Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Top 5 Things I Ate in 2010

Looking back at my first year as a mom food blogger, I can honestly say 2010 has been amazing. From experimenting in the kitchen and online. Dining adventures at restaurants all over New England. To finding and meeting many bloggers and business-owners that truly inspire. How to sum up the last 12 months in a single blog post? A round-up naturally! So here it is: the top five things I ate in 2010 (drum roll please)....

I had never tried cooking anything with bulgur, much less tried to make a burger out of some. This dish not only challenged me as a cook, but my family of carnivores as well. It was really, really good. And the lime mayo was a perfect accompaniment.

One of my all-time favorite one-pot meals. I think what helped make this dish on the top five was the fact that the boys couldn't get enough of it - even the chorizo and saffron.

This is one of two dishes that got an A+ in 2010. It was a terrific side dish to an equally terrific summer. Grilled corn salad served in beefsteak tomato cups are a staple to any Forth of July cookout from now on.

Not only has blogging about family meals given me a new level of appreciation for my Dad's cooking, but a dish like Grilled Asian Pork Chops reminds me how a few simple, fresh ingredients can put a smile on our kids (and our own) faces. Thanks Dad.

This dish was a result of my submission to the blogging equivalent of Top Chef - Project Food Blog. This dish scored an A+. It filled our house with deliciousness. It introduced me and my oldest to a wonderful story called The Butter Man. It was comfort food at its best.

Not only did preparing this dish push me outside my comfort zone as a cook, but the entire Project Food Blog experience helped me grow as a blogger. I drew inspiration from fellow competitors and was touched by the support I received from bloggers, friends and family. I was not expecting to make it past the first round, so was thrilled to have had the chance to compete in challenge #2 - tackle a classic dish from another culture.

Similarly, I was not expecting for this blog to take off past a couple of posts. Yet I find myself looking at each recipe, restaurant review, or food event as a challenge, ready to move on to the next one. 2011 will be the biggest challenge yet. Bring it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am not much of a baker. I will be the first to raise my glass (no spiked egg nog for me - hot cocoa with some kahlua please) to anyone that engages in a baking marathon of Christmas cookie after Christmas cookie. Especially when I am the lucky recipient of such tasty, hard work!  It's no wonder I am drawn to no-bake, home-baked gifts.

White Christmas was first introduced to me by my mother-in-law. An addictive combo of sweet and salty, it has become our standby home "baked" gift for family and friends during the holidays. At first glance, it may not seem like much. But once you try it, you are hooked. Seriously. Alton Brown has a version (which he calls White Trash) in which he warns his readers to "Dole this stuff out carefully. It is highly habit forming."

So as my Christmas gift to anyone reading this, here is our recipe for White Christmas. Enjoy!

White Christmas

4 cups Cheerios
4 cups Golden Grahams
2 cups peanuts
2 8 oz. bags white chocolate chips

1. Mix Cheerios, Golden Grahams and peanuts in a large bowl.
2. Melt white chocolate and pour over ingredients. Fold until mixture is well-coated.
3. Spread mixture on parchment paper and cool.
5. Break into pieces and place in air-tight container.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Product Review: Easy Lunchboxes

So here we are, almost halfway through the school year, and I can confidently say packing lunch for my boys is going pretty well. We are definitely in a routine and our thermos, lunchboxes and canteens are being put through their paces. I won't lie - Fridays are particularly nice since we let our oldest buy lunch at school (pizza). I get in a lunch-rut like so many others. Until our Easy Lunchboxes finally arrived the other day.

I would describe an Easy Lunchbox as a Lazy Man's (or woman's) bento box - perfect for someone like me who is 1) lazy and 2) intimidated by bento boxes. It has three good-sized compartments with a single-lid. My oldest gets less than 30 minutes to eat lunch, so having one container to open does save time. It's surprisingly super durable (unlike the flimsy take-and-toss food containers you get at the supermarket), space-saving (nesting), BPA-free and eco-friendly.

apple & maple chicken sausage, roasted red potatoes w/ketchup, green beans, grapes and Joe Joe

It is pretty affordable compared to other "systems" out there (a set of four containers is $13.95). The only drawback is finding the right-sized cooler bag. I've found that the cooler bags from LL Bean work well, except there is no room for anything else. You can purchase the cooler bag from Easy Lunchboxes (we actually got one for free as a way of saying thank you since they were on back order when I placed my order), but they are sort of bulky for me.

just the right size - and fits in my kid's backpack

Overall, we love them! And from reading some of the other reviews by other parents out there, I think you will be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't like them.

What are some time-saving strategies for packing lunch? What is your kid's favorite lunch?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sticky Buns and My First Kitchen Disaster

Looks okay, but what did the others look like?

Okay, so Sticky Buns Saturday was really not my first kitchen failure. But it was the first #fail that I am admitting to and documenting. Let me start from the beginning...

I am not a baker. If I see "lightly flour work surface", beads of sweat start to form on my brow. So when I came across the Barefoot Contessa's Easy Sticky Buns recipe, I thought this was something I could do (duh, the word "Easy" is in the recipe name). Described by Ina herself as "OMG are they good... my friends go crazy when I make these." How could I go wrong, right?

Easy Sticky Buns by Ina Garten
click here for the recipe

  • Place rounded tablespoon of butter and sugar mixture in muffin cups and distribute pecans evenly (so far so good!)
1 1/2 sticks of butter in these cups - arteries are clogging just looking at this!

  • Sprinkle sheet of puff pastry with brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins and roll (easy!)
snug like a jelly roll

  • Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces (I can do this!) 
these are pretty even on my floured work surface
  • Place each piece, spiral side up in muffin cups (I think I got this.)
Starting to look like sticky buns!

  • Bake for 30 minutes, until sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top (Crap! What happened?!)

Well, either the oven temp was off or I got distracted and let these guys bake too long (which do you think?). I was able to salvage one or two, but the consistency matched how they looked - like mini hockey pucks studded with little black rocks disguised as raisins and pecans. The oven was also a crusted mess of butter-sugar mixture.

The recipe really is easy and only a dope like myself can screw this one up. But I am not deterred and will be making this again. But next time I will keep track of the baking time like I should be doing. And maybe look into purchasing an oven thermometer too!


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