3.29.2012

march entertaining: pizza night.

Pizza night - especially Friday night pizza night - is one of my favorite things. Earlier this month, we enjoyed a last minute get together with my pregnant best friend over delivery, a semi-homemade salad and some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. A pretty good Friday night in, if you ask me.

Even when we're eating straight out of the box, I crave a taste of homemade, especially when it comes to entertaining. Phoning in the main course left me time to get some baking done, and over chit chat, throw a salad together.
My current obsession is goat cheese and strawberries, paired with mixed greens and this vinaigrette. I tossed in some orange segments (plus a squeeze of juice), very thinly sliced half moons of red onion and candied walnuts for some crunch.

With Mari tucked in dream land, Krisa and I turned pizza night into a working dinner and talked baby registry, which must only be conquered with a gal pal and the world wide web. With the laptop fired up, we clicked our way through Diapers.com like nobody's business, and I hope she had as much fun as I did. With Eddie chirping in in the background, it made me think about how far we've come, what we've learned and how, if we get to do it all over again someday, that would be pretty wonderful.

PS: chocolate chip cookie talk to come!

For more editorial on baby registry and why Diapers.com is the bomb-dot-com, email me or check out my list of must-haves for month one, months two and three and for starting solids

3.27.2012

recipes from the box: spicy-sweet linguine alla vodka.

Do you try recipes that are printed on things like boxes of pasta, soup cans or in this case, Morton's Coarse Kosher Salt? I never do. Really, never. Until a few weeks ago, I cooked up two things from a box. Very unlike me.
And, it seems as though I've been passing over some weeknight-friendly and very delicious recipes, because in three weeks, I've made this pasta three times. And I'll probably make it this week, too.

Found on the back of the kosher salt box is this Rocco DiSpirito Spicy-Sweet Linguine alla Vodka, sans Vodka. It's from his Now Eat This! diet, and it's a great, quick weeknight meal that walks on the healthier side, made with whole wheat pasta and as a cream-substitute, greek yogurt.

Here's the best thing about this dish: you probably have everything on-hand at home, with the exception of fresh basil (ah, hem, remember that 2012 intention? Working on it, promise). Buy a jar of roasted red peppers on your next market stop, and if you're like me, and crave protein (and a bit of naughty), some organic chicken sausage as an add-on, too.

Rocco DiSpirito's Spicy-Sweet Linguine alla Vodka via the Morton's Coarse Kosher Salt box
Serves 4

8 ounces whole wheat linguine
1 1/2 cups low-fat, store-bought marinara
3/4 cup fire-roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
1/4 cup 2% greek yogurt
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to directions.

While pasta is cooking, bring marinara and sliced peppers to a simmer in a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Cook the sauce, stirring occasionally until slightly thick, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from heat.

Put yogurt in a small bowl and stir about a 1/2 cup of the warmed sauce into the yogurt until smooth (a whisk did the job nicely for me). This technique is called tempering and it keeps the yogurt from curdling. Then whisk the yogurt mixture into the marinara and peppers. Keep sauce off the heat, and cover to keep warm.

Drain the pasta and and add it to the marinara sauce, tossing to thoroughly combine. Add the basil and hot sauce and then salt and pepper to taste. Top with parmesan cheese before serving.

To add chicken sausage, I start by browning 1 pound of mild Italian chicken sausage, casings removed and slightly broken up, in a nonstick saute pan, before making the sauce. Once browned, I remove from pan and set aside in a small bowl (or plate, whatever). I immediately add the marinara sauce and peppers to the same pan, scraping the yummy sausage bits as I stir, and make the sauce according to directions. Once the sauce is done, I add the sausage back to the pan and let it sit, off the heat, to get acquainted with the sauce, before adding the drained pasta.

A quick note on store-bought marinara: I had just about given up on jarred sauces, until I stumbled upon San Marzano at Whole Foods. For years, I've heard The BC recommend it and just never found it at our local market. Let me just say: San Marzano has changed pasta night in our house, and I'm not sure anything else will ever do.

Photo disclaimer: the pasta pictured is angel hair, because it was all I had on-hand. I actually enjoy this dish with Rocco's recommended whole wheat  pasta, so try it first with that, if you can. Also, my pasta got a good shower of parm post-photo. I was a bit too excited to photograph before I lost sunlight, so if it looks a little naked, it is.

Recipe-from-the-box number two to come.

3.26.2012

from the post office, with love.

I'm loving this kraft-ish envelope and card design. It was an impulse purchase at my trip to the Post Office last week, and it reminded me how I'm always pleasantly surprised by the card selection there. Plus, USPS doesn't charge tax.

Why am I not shopping there more often?

I kinda heart the Post Office. Long lines and all.

3.22.2012

pretty package.

I think it's been well established: I love a good gift wrap. I find all sorts of inspiration from walking the aisles at the local craft stores, and last week, I found exactly what I was looking for - a kraft box. Paired with some raffia and Paper Source's papaya scallop labels, it was the perfect vessel for a very special note for two very special people with very special roles, staring as Mari's godparents.

A role that's of course practiced and perfected over a lifetime, not just one day. But, for the record, her big day in church is coming up and it was about time we make it official with the godfather and godmother.
When I grow up, I want to be exactly like my godmother. She's smart, independent, confident, poised, pretty, has an amazing smile and always has the perfect accessories for any outfit. Above all else, she's my mom's best friend.
Mari's godparents are my best friends; my brother and Krisa. I hope Mari grows up and wants to be just like each of them. Together, they make one amazing super human role model.
I told them all this and more in a long note, that was rolled up tightly and tucked inside these little kraft boxes, finished off with a bow of raffia and a pretty sticker label. I wanted them to know how grateful I am for their love for little Miss Mari, and I didn't want to leave anything out, so I opted for good, old fashioned pen and paper - okay, I did type the letters - with some flair.

You like?

Kraft boxes and raffia from Michael's (on the same gift wrapping aisle!); labels from Paper Source.

3.19.2012

wknd snaps, in green and pink.

St. Patrick's Day really snuck up on me this year, whereas 10 years ago, this was the holiday of all holidays in my world (how times have changed). Plus, we had some rainy, windy weather this weekend, so our indoor celebration for three was made brighter with margs and guac. Not quite corned beef and cabbage, but we had our own green theme going, with Mari running the show. As per normal.
Blood oranges = found! I got just enough to make a batch of Annie's margaritas.

And holy guacamole. They. Were. Fabulous.

3.15.2012

inspired by: blood oranges.

Have you noticed how much blood orange goodness there is around the world wide web these days? I'm daydreaming of inviting recipes and photos of the juicy gems that regrettably aren't in season for much longer. So, if you find them locally, let me know. Jonesing to enjoy them. Stat.

Until then, I'll continue to salivate over...
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+ Annie's Eats' blood orange sorbet

+ Also from Annie: blood orange margaritas

+ Blood orange and valencia orange salad with olive vinaigrette from Food & Style

+ Local Kitchen's blood orange curd and bars

+ Crumb's blood orange tart

+ Kitchen Confidante's lemongrass and blood orange wine spritzer

+ Last but not least: blood orange crostate with salted caramel sauce from TasteFood



Mari's baptism is next month, and our very small family gathering is gathering some blood orange inspiration. See more of what I'm loving on my Pinterest board.

3.12.2012

pb green.

In the wee back corner of my kitchen drawers have sat these bags for almost eight months. I bet they were feeling pretty neglected. Until I needed to pack Mari a sack lunch (green peas and applesauce) over the weekend. It was kind of like finding that $20 in your jeans that you forgot you had.
I don't know when it happened exactly, but shortly after Mari made our family of three, I've been more conscious of waste and have avoided plastic whenever I can. These bags from PB Green help me do both.
They were yet another gift when I was pregnant, and their motto is: Re-Snack; Re-Wrap; Re-think your lunch. Bags and sacks are perfectly sized for different food containers, and are phthalate and BPA free.

They come individually or in sets of three, and are made of cotton fabric on the exterior, water-resistant lining on the interior and close with velcro.
Plus, they're cute. Like super cute.

For more on Mari's food storage and tools I love, click here.

3.08.2012

7.5mos in: baby food update.

A month and a half into baby food making, and we're still going strong. Mari has yet to meet a food she doesn't like. We're starting to combine fruits and vegetables now, like creamy sweet potatoes with pear puree - doesn't that sound good?

I will keep it real - of all the homemade foods Mari's tasted, the one thing she loves more than anything I make is oatmeal, which you can find just about anywhere you can buy jarred baby food. Cereal is her favorite meal of the day. It's practically mine too, and I'm okay with that.

I'm still using all the same products I mentioned last month, but I especially love, love, love C&B's Glasslock containers and my OXO Food Mill. I highly recommend both for those embarking on the solids experience. I also cannot live without a trusty stainless steamer basket and Mari's most fabulous high chair. I look at it and smile, and am so grateful for all our friends who helped contribute to her first big girl chair.

I am pleasantly surprised that I'm relying equally as much on Cooking for Baby as I am The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet. Each book has its strengths, and are great compliments when I'm pondering a cooking process, a new vegetable or I forget something simple about food storage.

Last thought on baby food: making Mari's meals has inspired me to get back to the basics by adding more organic fruits and vegetables to my diet, and savoring them. We smell the raw produce, we touch it and we look at its pretty color. Instead of rushing the cooking process, we slow down. We're thankful for this food and appreciate it for its pure, delicious, naked taste. That's new to me.

As is eating broccoli steamed. And actually enjoying it. Magical!

3.07.2012

cherry blossoms.

How amazing are these. Real cherry blossoms. From my mother-in-law's farmer's market.

Happy Wednesday.

3.05.2012

eddie's shrimp dip.

When the weather is near perfect, the weekend is wide open and the sun dances on the water, Eddie's shrimp dip is on the menu. For us, it's a breezy state of mind - just like those inviting Corona ads - and it's our happy place.

I tasted the dip for the first time upon meeting Eddie's extended family, all 50+ of them, in his grandmother's backyard more than 10 years ago. I was an intimidated oustsider, but took comfort in this refreshing, delicious dip that really is more of a meal. As I slurped it up, I watched Eddie's cousins methodically craft perfect bites of shrimp, onion and tomato, piled high on a saltine cracker, and fought for the table's bottle of hot sauce.

This dip is more than just a dip; it's a family tradition that has graced every Salcedo gathering I've been to since. It's been there for the highlights and the lowlights, and everything in between.

This is hardly a recipe, because everyone has their own version with varying degrees of spice and citrus; quantities listed below are simply suggestions. Take it slow, taste as you go and find your perfect shrimp dip.
Eddie's Shrimp Dip
Serves 8

1 pound cooked medium sized shrimp, cleaned, deveined with tails off
1 medium (or 1/2 a large) sweet yellow onion, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons chopped (or minced) cilantro, depending your cilantro tolerance
1 very small garlic clove, finely minced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup jarred cocktail sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
hot sauce, such as Cholula - as many dashes as you can stand
fresh avocado slices and lemon wedges for garnish
crackers and chips for serving

Combine all ingredients into a very large bowl, and stir. Let chill in refrigerator at least 30 minutes (overnight is best). Prior to serving, taste for spices and garnish with sliced avocado and lemon wedges. Serve with saltine crackers or my favorite corn chips and a spoon. The dip is so hearty that crackers and chips usually snap. You really need a spoon to do the job.

Plus, we are firm believers: no dip left behind.

PS: My Little Shrimp took her first [salt water] dip on Sunday. Picture perfect day at the beach.
More about her first official dip: here.

3.01.2012

happy march.

It's the second most wonderful time of the year, in my humble opinion. Hello, ranunculus.



Mari met her first batch of ranunculus yesterday. As expected, they are already best friends.

I heart spring.