Archive for the ‘Holidays/Celebrations’ Category


Crazy Hat Party

September 12, 2010

We headed to the bay area on Saturday for a Crazy Hat Party. Our friends Paul and Tom were hosting and I knew I needed to create the perfect hat. Since I’ve been obsessed with all things “Food” lately – I came up with a food concept and spent last weekend searching for supplies.

The first stop was Chinese food for lunch. Our goal was to score some “to go” containers. I barely ate any of my chicken salad, so I asked for a “to go” box and our server brought us one of those clam shell styrofoam compartment boxes. I saw shelves of the cardboard wire closure boxes in the hallway next to the bathroom. I grabbed my purse and planned on “borrowing” a few. All of the containers were sealed in plastic sleeves – foiled again. We got our food and had lots left. This time I asked for the smaller cardboard “to go” boxes and our server delivered two to the table. SCORE! I scooped our food into the styrofoam one with the salad, filled one with the least messy food – fried wonton and then slipped the unused one into the bag.

My next stop was Smart and Final for chopsticks. I didn’t like the ones they had, but picked up some Pancit Kanton, Phillippine-Style Noodles for a whopping $1.89.

I then went to an Asian Market and picked up some cool chopsticks (5 packs for 75 cents each) and fortune cookies – a bag with over 50 for $3.00. The Chinese gardening hat was found at the Halloween Spirit Store for $7.99 – this was before I went to the Asian Market – could have picked one up there for $1.99 – ugh. Too bad the Halloween store doesn’t do returns.

The hot glue gun process began. Spacing the chopsticks was a bit of a nightmare. Thankfully Dan helped with the engineering.

Dan also helped cut a circle in the container to glue it to the hat. Then I got my Pancit Kanton (noodles) loaded on top of tissue paper that I stuffed into the “to go” container. Hot glue-gunned noodles, yummy!

Dan modeled my hat after finishing it last weekend. It came out really cool and I was excited to wear it to the party.

The hat in action… Dan’s hat was a military themed hat. We both got lots of compliments on our masterpieces.

Love the army guy up on the turret. Green men were on one side, tan men on the other. He used a roll of camo tape to cover a germen helmet from the Halloween Spirit Store. Our friend Deede went to Toys R Us and Joanne’s with us to grab up all the other supplies.

It was a blast looking at the other party hats. I tried to get photos of each one, but balancing my enormous hat, a glass of wine and the camera proved to be a little challenging.

Matching lamp shade hats, a drum cover with ribbons and Tom’s hat – covered in every plastic figurine you could think of. It was awesome!

Foodies/besties for life. I LOVED Paul’s french fry hat. He used 3 bags of fast food style frozen french fries. He had to let them dry out for 3-4 days after cooking  – they were too greasy to glue – yum! He also had to add the tie, because the construction paper red ring made the hat too small for his head.  If the fries weren’t stale and covered in glue, I totally would have grabbed one off his head – they looked that good!

Loved the Pantone/paint chip and the walking foliage with butterflies hats.

La la la-la la la,  Sing a happy song – the Smurf hat rocked!

A top hat/flower-pot making homemade ice cream. Yum!

Taking over the ice cream cranking. This hat had lots of photos and other vacation/travel memorabilia.

Leigh and Paul showing off their creations. The dove and flower hat was made out of a “Frosty the Snowman” head she cut open. She found the snowman head and the flowers at Michael’s. Very crafty! She also makes jewelry, so her necklace matched the flowers on her hat. Very chic.

Hah! Hah! Panties, lumpy legs and dangle feet – what more could you ask for?

FOOD! Yes food…there was amazing food. Paul and Tom hosted a taco cart. Didn’t get a photo of the actual cooks or cooking station, but the tacos were killer. Steak, chicken or potato – I actually had one of each. The couple that did the cooking came all the way from Modesto, CA. They had beans and rice as sides and onion, cilantro, radishes and two different salsa toppings for fixings. Party food perfection.

The dessert table had platters of cookies and the wonderful homemade vanilla custard ice cream – with all kinds of fun toppings.

Ummmm… Yummy ice cream.

Is that a giraffe in my ice cream? Why yes it is! Truth be told – I actually ate my dessert first. The taco line was so long, my table got up and hit the dessert table first… breaking all the rules.

I had a blast catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, hearing everyone’s hat decor stories and just chilling with good, good people. I wish I had taken even more photos. I missed capturing so many of the really great hats.

Today will be spent cleaning house, doing laundry, grocery shopping and Foodiddy recipe planning for the upcoming week. Hope everyone enjoyed their weekends as much as I did.


Deede takes the gold…

July 7, 2010

I woke up this morning to an in-box filled with Deede’s 1st place chili cook-off recipe and photos.

Let me give you a little background on our friend Deede. She moved to Sacramento, CA from Reno, NV for work. We met her through Dan’s car club and I immediately knew that she would be a ton of fun to hangout with. She married another member of the car club (Josh) and we’ve all been hanging out since then.

She’s super creative, which is totally my thing. She loves to paint, sketch, knit, cook (baking is her specialty) – she likes everything dealing with architecture, art, farmer’s markets, and she’s definitely a foodie. There’s also the whole car thing. This woman knows more about cars than any woman I know – I think that’s hot.

Deede is the type of friend that would take time off work to hitch up a trailer to drive to South Lake Tahoe to tow her friend’s motorcycle home to Sacramento because of a bald tire. Yep – she did that for Dan last Summer. She’s the type of friend that I can count on 24-7, that brings so much levity to any situation. She’s hysterical, in love with Nerds, Macaroons, Cupcakes and her Great Dane, Max. She also makes a freakin’ mean pie. She is amazing and I’m so happy that a Subaru STI brought us together.

These photos have Deede written all over them…

Decked out in her vintage owl apron, showing off her 1st place gold medal and bowl of chili…

Gangsta pose that turned into “Pirate-ish” according to her, LOL.

Deede’s 1st place chili is based on a Smokey Beef and Bacon Chili recipe from Sunset Magazine, January 2007.

She made some changes to the recipe and they are noted below.

2 Slices Thick Cut Bacon – finely chopped
1 Large Onion – finely chopped – she used a sweet white onion
1 Large Garlic Clove – minced
1 1/2 lbs. Lean Ground Beef – she used 3/4 lbs. ground chuck and 3/4 lbs. ground pork
1 Tablespoon plus 1 1/2 Teaspoons ground chili powder
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 1/2 Teaspoons Smoked Spanish Paprika
1/2 Teaspoon to 1 1/2 Teaspoons of Cayenne Pepper – she used a heaping 1/2 teaspoon and a pinch
1/2 Teaspoon Chipotle Chili Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Ancho Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt (Kosher)
14.5 Ounce Can Crushed Fire Roasted Tomatoes – she used diced
8 oz. Can Tomato Sauce
1 Cup IPA or Pilsner Beer – she used Full Sail IPA
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire
1  Can (14.5 oz.) Pinto Beans, drained – she used a little over half a can each of rinsed red kidney and pinto beans


In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, cook bacon, stirring until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion, lower heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent – about 4-7 minutes. Uncover pan, stir in garlic and cook for additional minute.

Increase heat to medium-high and add ground chuck and ground pork; break it up with a wooden spoon and stir gently until it loses the raw color, 6-8 minutes. Stir in spices and 1 teaspoon salt and cook 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, beer, Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially and cook 20 minutes.

Add beans and cook another 20 minutes uncovered. Season to taste with additional salt.

The original Sunset Magazine recipe was found online at

Now you have 2 new chili recipes to try – too bad it’s hot weather in most places – we’re nearing 100 degrees around here. I put my leftover chili into the freezer last night.


4th of July Party Fun!

July 6, 2010

Wow, what an awesome weekend.

I have to say, I’m a little exhausted today. Party prep included hours and hours worth of yard work, pool, food and chili contest prep and lots of running around.

We have lived in our house for 8 years. We went for 5 years without a backyard – just waist-high weeds that we would whack down before every 4th of July to lower the risk of rogue fireworks setting our yard/house on fire. We saved  money to do our yard right. One Saturday afternoon we drove to Manteca, CA on a whim to tour through a pool builder’s showroom. We decided to put in a pool that day. We are research people, we always have a plan… not that day – it was definitely out of the norm for us. I am so happy we made the decision to put in the pool. It’s led to hours and hours of enjoyment, some pretty kick ass parties and our backyard is beautiful. For the past 3 years we have hosted my Dad’s birthday/4th of July.

This year we decided to do a chili cook-off. Our block did one a few years back and it was a lot of fun. I did a little research online and found that Rachael Ray had  a chili cook-off page on her website. She had a downloadable judging sheet as well. Being Ms. Graphic Designer, I wanted our judging sheet to match the invites and 4th of July theme. I re-designed them using Adobe Illustrator. Rachael’s is on the right, mine is on the left. Wasn’t quite sure why Rachael’s sheet said to rate on a scale of 1-5 and the numbers only went to 4 – whatever, ours worked great – minus the oversight of leaving off the word “heat” in the 4th category – would have been helpful since some of the entries were smokin’ hot.

I also designed tent cards to place at each chili station.

I put down leather placemats to protect the kitchen desk from the crockpot heat. I also gave everyone a spoon and small plate to set it on. The chili started arriving and it was fun to see the different crockpots. We had everything from stainless to floral. I bought small plastic tasting cups and spoons for the judging. Each party guest grabbed two score sheets (I did a second one that contained the letters D, E, F) to accommodate the amount of entries.  I set up a card table and had the dining room table and kitchen counter for people to sit at.

Dan started off the judging. It was hysterical to watch how people went about it. Some lined up all of their tasting cups and labeled them with a sharpie, others did one at a time. Some people ate Fritos and drank beer in between tastings, others had more cheese in their tasting cups than chili. Some of the recipes were super spicy, others were more tomato based. There was a nice variety of meats and beans. I just wish I had taken pictures during the tasting. My Uncle did, but I was too busy tasting myself.

I spent many hours online researching different chili recipes. I ended up tweaking my usual one and I thought it turned out really good.

Foo’s Chili Recipe

3 Tablespoons Salted Butter
1 lb. Boneless Beef Chuck
1 lb. Ground Sirloin – mixture of 10% and 20% lean
1 Large White Onion – I used a white Spanish sweet onion
2 Garlic Cloves
5 Ounces Guinness Beer
1 Tablespoon Flour, 2 Teaspoons Cornmeal and 2 Tablespoons warm water mixed well.
1 28 Ounce Can of Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 Large Jalapeño – Seeds and veins removed – 1/8 inch diced
2 15 Ounce Cans of Red Kidney Beans
3 Tablespoons Chili Powder
2 Tablespoons Cumin
1 Teaspoon Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Coriander
3 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar
2 Cups Beef Stock plus 1 Additional Beef Bouillon Cube
1 Tablespoon White Pepper
Salt to Taste

Heat butter in large sauce pot or dutch oven over medium high until very hot. Add diced beef chuck and cook until seared and browned around the edges. Add the ground sirloin and cook until all of the beef is browned. I added some salt during this process. Remove the meat and set aside, draining off only 3/4 of the fat – leaving the rest in the pot. Add diced onions, garlic and 2 tablespoons of the chili powder and cook until soft. Add the meat back into the pot. Then add the Guinness and let boil for several minutes. Then add the flour, cornmeal and water mixture to create a thick paste. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, jalapeño, kidney beans, remaining spices, brown sugar, cocoa powder and beef stock. Bring everything to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 1 hour – stirring occasionally. Then turn the heat down to super low, cover and simmer for another 2-3 hours. I let the chili cool down, put it in the fridge overnight and then got it into the crockpot the next morning at around 11:00 AM on the lowest setting. The judging happened around 4:00 PM. I never once needed to add water or more beef stock – it was a nice consistency.

After all of the judging sheets were tallied, my recipe won 3rd Place.

Dan and I went to a local trophy shop and bought a gold, silver and bronze medal and had them engraved on the back with the date and name of the event. Everyone loved that little touch. My girlfriend Deede won 1st place – her recipe and photo to be included in another post – she had to work yesterday, so didn’t get a chance to send me the photo or recipe – so stay tuned.

My brother took second place. His chili was awesome. He didn’t use a recipe, he just added as he went – he was even in and out of my spice cabinet throughout the afternoon. His was sweet and then had a serious kick at the end. He let on that one of his sweet secrets was “maple syrup” – Deede and my brother definitely went the spicier route – mine was more tomato based. I’m guessing that could be tweaked by not adding the tomato paste or by adding less crushed tomatoes.

The rest of the 4th of July Party menu consisted of the following:

  • Beef Sliders made with garlic, caramelized shallots and fresh thyme – served with Havarti cheese, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce/Mayo combo on Hawaiian Rolls
  • Roasted Baby Potatoes with an extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and butter marinade. I used tri-color potatoes, so they were red, white and blue/purple.
  • Fuji Apple and Napa Cabbage Slaw
  • Fruit Salad
  • Cheesecake Shots

The cheesecake shots were so much fun. I knew Deede was bringing a homemade Martha Stewart Stars and Stripes Cherry Pie, so I didn’t want to do traditional birthday cake on top of that. I toyed around with some ideas, but found a photo on google images of the cheesecake shot glass dessert and knew I wanted to do those in a 4th of July theme. The bonus is that my Dad also loves cheesecake and after all, it was his birthday.

I went to Beverages and More and purchased 18 shot glasses for the party. I have a bunch, but not short and stubby or matching ones. Pier 1 informed me that they will be getting dessert shot collections for fall – awesome.

Cheesecake Shots – serves 18-24 – depending on shot glass size

4 packages of 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1.5 Cups Sugar

4 Teaspoons lemon peel
1 Sleeve of  graham crackers – crushed into crumbs
4 Tablespoons Red Raspberry Preserves
1 Tablespoon Raspberry Syrup
Blueberries and Raspberries for toppers

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and lemon with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spoon graham cracker mixture into bottom of shot glasses. I used a glass to crush the graham crackers and a mock pastry bag (Cut Ziploc) for the cheesecake filling. Add a layer of cheesecake filling on top of the crushed graham crackers, then add the raspberry preserves/syrup mixture, another layer of crushed graham crackers and then fill with more cheesecake mixture and top with berries and an American flag 😉 – Everybody loved them and darn, I have some leftovers in the fridge.

The house was decked out with the 4th of July decor I’ve gathered over the years.

I had a nautical/beach theme going on…

I just love hosting holidays and am so grateful and happy to be surrounded by an amazing family and such great friends. I would definitely call the 4th of July Birthday Bash a success – what did you do to celebrate?


Minty Pea and Butter Bean Hummus

June 29, 2010

Every year a girlfriend orders the Christmas with Southern Living book and we thumb through it at work looking for crafty ideas to work on for the holidays. In the past we have made adorable metal buckets filled with dog biscuits, toys and other treats for our dog lover friends. We made an advent calendar using small gift bags, fabric and scrap-booking supplies for her sister – a sea shell Christmas tree for another friend that loves the beach and we’ve even tried some of the recipes for parties.

The craft projects in the 2010 book were not all that interesting, but a few of the recipes caught my eye. I decided to try one from the appetizer section – Minty Pea and Butter Bean Hummus.

The Ingredients:

2 Cups Frozen Petite Peas – Thawed
2 Cups Frozen Baby Lima Beans – Thawed
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Large Garlic Cloves
1/2 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves (I would use about 1/2 the amount next time)
1/2 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese (I would use less next time)
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Pepper (I used a lot more than that)
Whole Wheat Pita Bread

I added everything except the pita bread to the blender. I didn’t feel like digging out the big food processor and that thought process turned out to be a horrible idea. My blender is not an awesome Vita-Mix blender and it just didn’t have enough oomph to blend the ingredients. After getting a rubber spatula stuck to one of the blades, I fumbled through the cabinet to find all of the parts to my big Cuisinart and wished at that very moment that I hadn’t given my smaller one to Dan’s friend.

A few weeks back I had found the top to what I thought was the smaller one… couldn’t figure out if it was an extra one that I didn’t give away, it confused me.  I grabbed the box of Cuisinart blades and there was a mini blade inside that fit the smaller unit I had found last week. Huh? I grabbed for the smaller top piece and saw Osterizer etched into the plastic.  No way! My craptastic blender came with an attachment that I never knew it had. Sweet! I was like a kid at Christmas. (Yes that is two Christmas references in the same post and it’s not even July). I gave my new-found treasure a good rinse and loaded my hummus mixture into it and let it whirl!

I got everything mixed up into a creamy texture. There will be some lumps due to the feta.

I then cut the whole wheat pita bread into triangles and used an olive oil and garlic spray on them.  I also added sea salt before putting them under the broiler to crisp up.

They only took a few minutes. I like making my pita chips instead of buying them – Not that I won’t eat an entire bowl of Stacy’s Pita Chips at a party – I just prefer eating hummus with homemade chips or pretzels.

The feta and mint combo was a little overpowering at first – that is why I would dial those two ingredients back a bit for next time. If you don’t like feta, you won’t like this hummus – I bet it would even taste good without it. I happen to like feta, so it didn’t bother me – now if I LOVED feta, I would keep the measurement at 1/2 cup – I just wanted to taste the peas and beans more.

It was a nice change from my normal Trader Joe’s Kalamata Olive Hummus and a perfect afternoon snack. BTW – According to the Internet, we are only 179 days away from Christmas, hah! hah!


Oompa Loompa doompadee doo…

June 14, 2010

I was invited to the most creative baby shower I’ve ever attended. My girlfriend’s mother owns an event planning company and wow, just wow! Super cute Willy Wonka theme, adorable for a kid’s birthday party… or heck, adults love the movie too! (Tom C. I’m looking right at you)

I knew I wanted to take photos, so I made sure the battery on my camera was charged. I had not planned on leaving the freakin’ thing in the charger at home, whoops! I ended up using my iPhone camera, which sort of sucks – I have the second generation iPhone – the third made improvements and I can’t wait for the one available for pre-order tomorrow. (Dan’s birthday present to me – woohoo!) o.k… major tangent. Back to the baby shower.

The invitations included a “Golden Ticket” – they used a Willy Wonka font – The attention to detail was insane.

“In your wildest dreams you cannot imagine the marvelous surprises that await you” – love that!

When I got to the baby shower, I noticed the signage right away. They also had a silk ribbon wrapped pole with a Willy Wonka sign hanging from that, I didn’t even  begin to capture all of the details.

The venue was a garden patio filled with oversized candy and lollipops. You entered the shower through an archway of candy delight.

The garland was super cute – cellophane wrapped around colored balloons with ribbon ties to separate the “candies” – super fun!

The centerpieces were genius! Plastic paint buckets with vibrant colored polka dots. They were filled with colored tissue surrounding floral foam. The buckets were stuffed with Willy Wonka candy – freakin’ adorable. I got all Martha Stewart and really investigated. They had the candy hot glued onto plastic flower picks – all boxes were empty, except the Wonka bars, Sprees, Sweetarts and Nerds Ropes. Loose Gobstopper and Spree candies filled the tops of the buckets where the stems came out. Dammit for forgetting my dang camera battery! The below photo doesn’t do the centerpiece justice.

The orange umbrellas cast a really warm glow throughout the tables. The whole thing was pretty magical – everyone at my table kept chatting about it and how they were going to use/borrow/steal the idea for their kid’s upcoming birthday parties.

Everyone said that the food was delicious. The sit down menu included four kinds of crêpes. A spicy avocado, a broccoli, mushroom and gouda, a ham and swiss cheese and then a super rich one – fresh strawberries topped with toasted almonds, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or frozen yogurt. Yum!  – Because of the stomach stuff, I wasn’t able to eat any of the menu selections. I did have a few pieces of croissant and water. Woohoo!

Even though I wasn’t feeling well, I had a great time visiting with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I stayed for the entire shower and left with my favor in hand.

I actually had another baby shower to go to in the afternoon. I hopped in the car and met Dan for the co-ed baby shower #2. Had a great time at that one too – it was in a gorgeous private home – they had a onesie painting activity and I had a blast doing that. While I painted, the guy in charge of the BBQ hooked me up. He put a piece of cheese on a plain bun and I had an instant BBQ’d grilled cheese – plain and perfect for my situation!

The menu at the second baby shower included BBQ’d burgers and gardenburgers, a really earthy mixed green salad, a platter of brilliant red and yellow tomatoes, a potato salad and carrot cake for dessert. I can’t wait until my body is back to enjoying food. This has been too weird. No cravings, no appetite… nothing!

The medical mystery stuff aside, I’m glad that I’ve been able to enjoy myself doing things – just upset that this has gone on for so long.

Enough of that, cheers to both of our friends with delivery dates coming up soon. May they both have healthy babies and may their hearts be filled with lots of love.


Still kickin’…

June 13, 2010

I know it’s been a while since I posted. In all honesty, I haven’t had a full meal since Thursday, June 3rd – crazy! I’ve pretty much been eating very small portions of the soup/rice/cracker combo and lots of bread in the form of dry toast, plain rolls, sliced baguette. The only veggies have been mushed carrots in chicken noodle soup last week – you know you’re jealous!

I’m waiting on blood test results and a CT scan with contrast dye. I was also put on a super strong antibiotic for infection. One test showed some signs of an infection. I think that has helped with the stomach pains too. It’s really sort of been a nightmare, especially since my 40th birthday fell right in the middle of all of this.

Dan pressed on with our tradition. He always bakes me a cake. We go to the store together, I pick my flavors and he goes to work in the kitchen. I look forward to this every year. Last year it was a giant cupcake. This year it was a full on girlie 40th cake. Butter yellow with chocolate frosting.

I would like to take this time to say, “I have the most amazing husband ever!” – He has been awesome throughout this whole health mystery. I could not ask for a more supportive partner. My family and friends have been really great too! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

My girlfriend Hilly came over to cheer me up on my birthday. We had a great time – lots of laughs like usual.  I even tried a little pasta and some of my cake, which turned out to be a HORRIBLE idea. I just wanted to be and feel normal on my birthday – my body had different ideas. I was awake for hours and hours with stomach pains and spent the next day in bed. Ugh!

They are looking at my kidneys, liver, pancreas, gallbladder and everything else they can think of. The doctor thinks it could also just be an intestinal infection – I am noticing a big difference with the meds.

I had big plans to celebrate turning 40, and in all honesty, it was just another day. Kind of sad – but you know what? I’ll be 40 all year. There will be plenty of time to have people over for a dinner party to celebrate… when I can actually enjoy the food!

Cheers to my 40th year – may it be filled with health, happiness and lots of fun times – hoping the health one happens soon!


Cashew Crusted Chicken Strips

May 25, 2010

I took Higgy out for his morning backyard time and noticed something floating in the pool…

It was a bee hitching a ride across the shallow end. Is it weird that I immediately started thinking of the German honey I had and what I could make that would include using it as an ingredient? Probably should have been more concerned about saving Mr. Bee.

I had purchased two trays of chicken breasts  for the weekend BBQ and didn’t end up cooking everything. I saved 3 breasts to cook another way. I’ve been wanting to incorporate nuts into a coating, but wasn’t really sure what kind. I’ve seen so many recipes for baked “fried” chicken. My SIL brought a can of cashews to the weekend BBQ, so I wanted to use up the last of those. I’ve seen recipes that used pistachios and walnuts, so I looked online and took things from each recipe that I thought would work well together.

Ingredients for Cashew Crusted Chicken Strips w/Honey Mustard Sauce:

For the Chicken Strips:
3 Chicken Breasts (I cut each breast into 4 pieces)
1/2 Cup Cashews (lightly salted)
1/2 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne PepperI used an extra dash
1 Large Egg White
1 Heaping Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 Tablespoons Loosely Packed Parsley
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Cooking Spray (I used olive oil spray)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the panko, cashews, cayenne, parsley and salt and pepper in a bowl. This photo is missing the parsley. The one with came out too blurry.

I used my chopper instead of breaking out the food processor to chop up the cashews – it worked great! I ended up putting the dry ingredients in a glass pie dish for the coating process.

I used a second dish for the wet ingredients.

I separated the egg and then added the dijon mustard to the egg white and whisked things together.

One at a time, I  dipped the chicken strips into the egg white/dijon mixture, then into the cashew/panko mixture. I pressed firmly and made sure both sides were coated really well.

I got all 12 tenders arranged on the spray coated baking sheet and put them into the oven for 15 minutes. I then gave them a quick turn and put them back in for another 15 minutes. I wasn’t very happy with the color – they didn’t brown up as much as I would have liked. I used a new brand of panko – maybe that was it… who knows. I was very careful to not over bake the chicken – I wanted juicy tenders.

While the chicken was in the oven, I whipped up the “bee” inspired sauce.

Ingredients for Honey Mustard Sauce:
3 Tablespoons Honey
2 Tablespoons Dijon
2 Tablespoons Mayo

I kept tweaking it, so the measurements are close guesses.

The chicken strips tasted delicious! Dan’s comment – they are crunchy! He liked them better with BBQ sauce, but then again… he isn’t a huge honey mustard fan to begin with. I felt like the strips were flavorful enough that you didn’t even need a sauce. I plan on using the leftovers in lunch salads for the week. I will for sure be making these again – next time I might even try a different nut… because I’m crazy like that, hah!

In other news… Today Dan and I celebrate our Wedding Anniversary. It’s so hard to believe that it’s already been 6 years since our beautiful wedding in Maui.

We look so um… thin and young… 😉

The plan is to go out for a nice anniversary dinner. Cheers to my awesome hubby and the best 6 years of my life! Can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Family BBQ

May 23, 2010

Saturday was filled with lots of family. It’s not often that Dan’s family gets together. Everyone but us lives in the bay area and occasionally we celebrate Christmas and birthdays – but that’s about it. My sister-in-law and bro-in-law had their second baby on April 14th and are moving to Connecticut in June.  My mother in law’s birthday is right around the corner and it gave us the perfect opportunity to have a BBQ.

Dan has 2 sisters and 1 brother. His brother was unable to make the BBQ, but Dan’s parent’s brought his daughter, our niece, Georgia.

She was very happy to be holding her stuffed Toodee – Yo Gabba Gabba! doll. She was not very happy that she couldn’t spend the day in the swimming pool. (It was too cold for swimming)

My niece Freja became fast friends with Higgy. In fact, I think he’s still alseep from all of the activity yesterday.

While the other kids ran around the house chasing Higgy – Baby Odin slept in his carrier, Grandma and Mom’s arms.

It sure felt weird to have a baby and little kids in the house. We entertained them with coasters, entertainment center knobs, dog toys, pillows, mirrors and just about every non-kid friendly item in the house, hah!

Mental note: probably shouldn’t have sold all of the toys, character sippy cups, placemats, plates, etc. that I used to have for my niece Abby.

While everyone was entertaining the kids, I cooked up a storm. I whipped up my Grandpa’s famous BBQ sauce. There is no recipe, he just threw things together in a sauce pot that looked 100 years old. He used to bring everything to the outdoor kitchen/BBQ area and the smells were out of this world. He introduced me to liquid smoke – smoke in a bottle? Are you kidding me? I remember thinking as a kid – that was the coolest thing ever!

I got my onions, celery and oil ready in the pot. I added my rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, worcestershire, ketchup, liquid smoke and a little water. The sauce was bubbling up a storm and the house smells reminded me of my Grandpa’s cookin’.

I got all of the chicken breasts on the grill and set the timer for 5 minutes. On my 5 minute check, I realized that the BBQ was no longer hot. Dan asked if we had enough propane – I assured him that we were fine. Whoops! Dan and his Dad headed to the gas station for propane and I freaked out because I had timed the mac-n-cheese just right. I knew I was going to need to add milk to get it creamy again. Bummer.

Crisis averted. The guys were quick in getting the propane and emergency apple juice for the kids – I got the chicken cooking again and everything turned out fabulous.

On the menu:
BBQ Chicken, Mac-n-Cheese (kid style – nothing fancy), baked beans, green salad and rolls.

I was juggling everything and didn’t have time for Foo style photos…


My Mother in law loves anything Disney. She is from Southern California and she has a season pass to Disneyland. My SIL asked if I could get a German Chocolate Cake and do it up Disney style. I ordered the cake from the bakery, headed to Party City and holy kid zone – so much to choose from. I grabbed a couple of Mickey Mouse things and it turned out cute – she really liked it!

All in all, a great family get together. I was exhausted after a long day. I hit the tub for a relaxing soak around 7:30 and I was in bed by 8:30 :). The hostess with the mostess was one tired girl.

There was mention of using Skype for our families to stay more connected. I’m really looking forward to that.


Mother’s Day and Margarita Fruit Salad

May 10, 2010

First off…Happy Mother’s Day wishes to all of you amazing Moms out there. I was reminded today how blessed I am to still have my Mom in my life. Several dear friends have Moms that are really ill right now and my heart goes out to them. I actually picked up the phone last night (knowing that I just saw my Mom Friday night and that I would be seeing her again today) just to tell her how much I loved and appreciated her. Life is definitely too short to not let those close to you know how much they mean to you.

O.k…onto the food porn.

My brother decided to host a BBQ lunch for our Mom at his place this year. He is definitely the master of the grill. He even has a rib cook off medal to prove it.

I was asked to bring a fruit salad and rolls. Sounded easy enough. I put off grocery shopping until this morning. I wanted super fresh rolls and I had other things going on yesterday.

The grocery store parking lot was insane. People driving in every direction. The store had placed two racks of cards and 3 massive bucket displays of flowers, balloons and other last-minute Mom’s day gifts by the front doors. I counted 22 men, with children in tow, hovering around the same “Mom, you’re the best!” tri-fold cartoon cards…written in Español – hah! Seriously…wasn’t much of a selection.

I gathered what I needed and had an hour to clean, photograph, cut, prepare and photograph (again) my dish. Hmmm…probably why we ended up being 45 minutes late, whoops! What?  This food stuff takes time.

The Fruit:

The frozen peaches didn’t make it into the photo…can’t wait until peach and nectarines are back in season…

The Ingredients for the sauce

Margarita mix, honey and lime.

The super easy recipe called for the following measurements:
12 cups of fresh fruit
3/4 cup margarita mix
1/3 cup  honey
1/4 cup lime juice (I used less lime juice since the margarita mix had lots of lime already in it – I used the juice of 2 limes)

I whisked the margarita mix, honey and lime juice in a bowl and set it aside while I cut up the fruit. Pineapples are a big pain in the ass…I’ve seen the nifty pineapple cutters, but I don’t think it’s necessary…they are only a PITA when crunched for time…nothing beats fresh pineapple, yum!

Once I got the fruit cut up, I poured 1/2 the mixture over the fruit and lightly tossed it. I then took the bowl outside for its photo shoot.

It was kind of overcast today with a slight drizzle. None of that mattered, I could not wait to dive into the fruit bowl…the pool was looking pretty inviting too. The less than 60 degree water temp, not so inviting.

Sidenote: I actually tried kiwi with the skin on for the first time today. It took a little getting used to, and to be honest, I’ll probably continue to eat them sans skin. I’d seen so many food bloggers mention that they eat it like that, had to give it a try.

We got to my brother’s place and the tri-tip was close to being done. It smelled delicious!

They had bought some really pretty flowers and I couldn’t resist taking photos. Yes, I’m now “that” girl.

Star of Bethlehem Flowers – so pretty…

Godetia Flowers – super bright and cheery…these were part of their gift to my Mom…she’s definitely got the green thumb in the family. Let’s just say they went to the right house…I’ve chosen super hearty plants for my house/yard for a reason.

We were also greeted by the fur babies…

Max – he’s the tall tank…

Ozzie – He’s the short tank…the two of them are adorable and such loves…

Higgy stayed home, he’s not ready to play with the big dogs. He still has the drag with his left leg and down time is better for him. He promised to hold the couch down while we were gone. 😉

Lunch is served…

Tri-tip sandwiches, sweet potato fries w/lemon pepper and margarita fruit salad. We had sorbet and lemon cookies for dessert…

I had a great day spending time with my family. It’s back to the 8-5 grind tomorrow and menu planning for the week. Here’s to hoping that it’s going be a good Monday!