Monday, July 27, 2009

News

It is with mixed feelings that I am announcing the end of The Diva Dishes. It has been almost a year since I began this blog and it has been an adventure. I've enjoyed all your comments and messages and in many ways, I know I will miss it.

However, there is good news. I'm joining a group of cozy writers who write about food, and we're launching a blog called Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. I'm thrilled to be part of this very talented group of writers. We'll be sponsoring contests and offering some interesting opportunities. In fact, we're kicking things off with a weekly drawing for a gift certificate to Williams-Sonoma. I hope you'll come along and join me for Saturdays with Krista at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen! http://mysteryloverskitchen.com.

See you there!

Funny Wedding Story

This story is so amusing that it won Coco Ihle a copy of The Diva Takes the Cake.

My ex-husband and I were congenially preparing for our son’s wedding, but my ex’s girlfriend was trying her best to make the experience a total nightmare for me. I asked my ex if she could possible be excluded from this event. After all, she had nothing to do with raising our son. My ex agreed, but she wasn’t having it. She was going to attend every event, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and reception, no matter what.

I found out from my future daughter-in-law what my ex’s girlfriend would be wearing to the wedding and decided to wear this same dress at the rehearsal dinner, the night before. I never said anything to anyone about my problem, but I suspected the gossip mongers had spread the news that the girlfriend might show up.

When the night of the rehearsal dinner arrived, I took special care to look my best. I was calm, friendly, and enthusiastic, excited about this new couple, who would soon spend their lives together. I have to admit, I looked great and felt like a million bucks. I was a beaming mother of the groom.

It wasn’t long before the girlfriend made her fashionably late appearance, strutting into the hotel ballroom with her head held in her normal stuck-up position, her hair bouncing. As she glided into the room obviously hoping all eyes would be on her, she got her wish. All eyes looked at her and then gravitated to me. Her eyes followed and suddenly widened. The next thing I knew, she had abruptly turned and rushed from the room.

I didn’t see her again, not at the dinner, the wedding or the reception. Problem solved. It was worth the price of the dress, which I, with a big grin on my face, later ceremoniously burned.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wedding Tip # 12


Patti O'Brien was married two years ago and sent a long list of tips. Some of these were sentiments voiced by others, so I'm sharing her entire letter with you because It's a lovely wrap-up and a wonderful reminder that a wedding isn't just about one day in your life.

Have the wedding you want, not what someone else (parents, future in-laws, friends) wants. Graciously (very graciously) take their advice, but it comes down to what you and your fiance want for your day.

Remember that this is only ONE DAY, that wedding and marriage are two different concepts. A wedding is one special event in your lives, but not the last special event you will ever celebrate. You will have many joys throughout your marriage, and have many special events together. Maintain perspective.

When my husband and I were planning our wedding (and granted, we were in our early 40s) we decided that if the event started to get stressful, we would bail and elope. For us, a day that was supposed to be happy and enjoyable should not cause arguments and stress between the couple, family or friends.

Enjoy everything surrounding your wedding--it is special, and everyone does wish you the very best. Bask in all those good wishes.

Be grateful, and thank everyone who helps you in any way, and be as prompt as possible with the thank you notes that you send out. I was always amazed by how generous everyone was during this time in our lives.

Have a friend/wedding coordinator assist you at the wedding and reception to make sure things run smoothly--it's better if it's not a member of the bridal party or a parent. The coordinator should have a schedule of events, and makes sure these things don't run too late. If the coordinator is a friend, thank her or him with a gift.

Have fun at your own wedding!!! I can't stress this one enough! Take a moment here and there with your spouse, and enjoy being together surrounded by friends and family. Don't forget to take the time to greet everyone in attendance--they took time to be with you on your special day, you should take the time to greet them in some way throughout the day. But for those of you with music in some form at your wedding, don't forget to get out on the dance floor either :).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wedding Tip #11

A clever variation on a traditional cake and decor from Joy Isley.

I recently went to a small wedding where the table decorations were flowers in angel food cake pans, cookie cutters strewn along the tables, and sprinkles of cake decorations sprinkled along with the ribbons down the cener of the tables.. The wedding cake was a small decorated cake and the guests ate cookes instead. There were several different types of cookies that the church ladies made.
Was interesting to see all of the men grab the brownies or chocolate covered peanut butter cookies. I heard a lot of comments that those were really good cookies. Each cookie donator brought 100 copies of the recipes of their cookies for the guests to take. You know how a lot of people don't like the cakes served at weddings because they tend to be bland or dry or too much frosting on them. I thought it was a unique idea and the men really appreciated it. Oh, and the bride got several recipe cards from the guests with their favorite recipe for her.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wedding Tip #10 Children


And a last all season tip for entertaining children at weddings from Vickie Hartwell.

I have a tip for the reception especially if there will be children present. For my wedding, I made each child a sand bucket filled with crayons, coloring pages, small tub of playdoh, cars, stickers, bubbles, candy...you get the idea. This kept them entertained during the reception while all the adults were having a great time. I received TONS of compliments on this idea because the adults were actually able to enjoy themselves.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wedding Tip #9 Children

This tip from Anna-Marie Barker is so easy and only requires a trip to the bulk food section of your local box store.

I am a believer in having children at the reception (I know some
folks aren't). I also believe that they should be made to feel a part of it
just as like adult guests to feel. So my tip is to do what we did at our reception...

First, the bride throws the bouquet. Next, the groom throws the garter. We then did as is tradition for many in our family: The best man and maid (matron) of honor throw loose change and candy out onto the dance floor for the kids. It is fun, crazy, and the kids will always remember the wedding too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wedding Tip #8 Children

A smart idea for children at winter weddings, from JT Thompson.

I was at a wedding a few months ago that had the best idea I've ever seen. A few of the young guests had brought their children with them - returning to Ireland for the wedding from Australia, Bali, France, the Americas - and some adults were wondering how they were going to keep two- to eight-year-olds from becoming fractious over the course of a long dinner.

It was a December wedding, so Santa was still in season. The bride and groom roped him in, and he arrived and called up each child by name - the littler ones going up hand-in-hand with a brother or sister or parent or aunt - and gave each one a nicely wrapped present.

Inside was a bunch of puzzles, crayons, colouring books and storybooks, which - with the help of loving parents - kept the children happy and occupied during the hour or so they stayed at the dinner.

It was the final lovely touch at a gorgeous wedding, where the groom's speech, full of love for his bride, had the guests brimming over, and that first dance - to 'D'ya love me, now that I can dance?' - was a jive with much brio and happiness.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wedding Tip #7 Children

Four people submitted clever ideas about entertaining children at weddings. Since this seems to be such a big topic of discussion and since the tips were so diverse, I decided to share them all. The next four days will be devoted to children at weddings.

First, from Leana McKay:
I have a wedding tip for the divas. I attended a wedding where the bride and groom provided separate reception facilities for the under-12 set. We had our own reception room, menu, and entertainment -- as well as chaperones. The older kids were allowed to visit the grown up reception for some of the events (like the cake cutting), but we did not have to suffer through the endless toasts, dances, chicken or fish dinner, and all the boring grown up stuff. The grown ups probably felt like they had a little break from the kids also.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wedding Tip #6

Helpful wedding tip # 6 is about being organized. Yes, you can use your computer, but notebooks and at-a-glance calendars might just be more useful than spreadsheets when it comes to wedding plans.

From Beth McKay:
A tip both Sophie and Natsha will love. (I'm sure Natasha's will be designer or ornately personalized):

Whether you are using a wedding planner or saving money with a do it yourself wedding, invest in a sturdy 3-ring binder and a pack of tab dividers. Make several sections to keep all wedding info together:

Guest list
Gift list, with notations when thank you cards are sent
honeymoon info
rehearsal dinner -- place, caterer, decor, etc.
reception -- place, caterer, decor, etc.
flowers
other vendors

Categories can be personalized to suit the particulars of the wedding. For extra convenience, a package of page protectors will go a long way to preserve the originals of receipts, contracts, etc. for filing behind each tab divider.

I still have my wedding planning notebook -- nearly 21 years after we used it. For an investment of $10 or less (depending on the number of dividers and page protectors), a bargain for planners and the planning challenged.

And from Anne Tomlin:
From the local office supply store, buy an erasable (for inevitable changes) one-year wall calendar that you can hang in plain sight to track dates for contacting the venue, church, florist, seamstress for alterations and to plot dates for meetings with the minister, photographer, organist, etc. and ordering/writing/mailing out invitations. Very satisfying to X out completed tasks as the big day approaches and serves as a better visual reminder (or panic-inducer) than the spsreadsheet program in your computer - also a backup.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wedding Tip #5

Clergy and their wives go through more weddings than Elizabeth Taylor. This advice from wedding pros Lynn S. Smith-Roberts and Kathlyn Chin might save the day!

From Lynn S. Smith-Roberts
Make sure to have an emergency kit in case things start to fall apart. Include: Scotch tape; needle & at least 2 threads, black and white, & maybe another the color of the bridesmaid’s dresses; floral tape; pen; ring substitutes;
Bobby pins; safety pins; straight pins; a book, or, even better, a box of matches; and a copy of the ceremony; or at least the vows; and make sure you have the marriage license and envelope for the officiant to sign and send to the appropriate office. [It should have a stamp on it.] If you are going to have wine poured into goblets, make sure you have the wine and goblets, or reasonable facsimiles – and a corkscrew! And other kinds of props, like candles, or whatever you are using.

As a minister, I have carried most of these, and it has been a lifesaver, putting bouquets back together, taping up pantlegs that the stitching has come out of, putting buttons back on, repairing eyeglasses, sewing up torn veils, and all of those little hideous things that happen at the last minute.

And from Kathlyn Chin
Another tip for the wedding organizer (and a great idea to keep in a Vera Bradley bag!) is to keep the usual supplies that go awry. These would included: extra pantyhose for those unbecoming runs or clear nail polish; a clean, moist washcloth to brush off crumbs or gently clean an area without leaving shreds of paper towels behind; mints, gum, a bottle of cool water, safety pins, small sewing kit with a variety of colors of thread to match the party’s dress, comb, bobby pins, a list of all the vendors cell phones including names of all the reception/church staff, relatives, an extra guest list, extra pens for the guest table, an assortment of extra batteries for cameras, and lastly, a list of nearby local pharmacies, markets, hospitals, clinics, etc. for exotic locale weddings or out-of-town guests.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wedding Tip #4


Wedding tip #4 comes from Joyce Delaney, who knows how to dance the night away!


For the bride who loves to dance (but not in the stiletto heels that are so in favor now), buy a pair of basic white Keds in her size and decorate them with tiny satin bows, lace cupids, etc. from a craft store. Change the sneaker laces for satin ribbon, either white or the color of her attendants' dresses. Use a silver or gold pen to inscribe them with good wishes and the date.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wedding Tip #3

If you've read The Diva Takes the Cake, you know things can go very wrong with wedding plans, even if Natasha isn't involved. Our tip today, from Anne Tomlin, helps take some of the pressure off.

Bonus tip: wedding insurance (no kidding.) The country club where my daughter's reception is being held burned down last year, and her fiance is in service on active duty so is subject to abrupt termination of leave; her father-in-law to be is 75 with health problems; and the wedding is in late November in upstate New York where we occasionally get ice storms and blizzards. It's money well spent for peace of mind.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Wedding Tip #2

I heard recently that nearly 50% of brides say they have cut back on the amount they can spend on their weddings. Mary Rice's clever tip is a great money saver.

Rent your greenery from the florist! For a fee (which is very reasonable) they will deliver and pick-up. It saves tons of money and time!!

Krista's note: I was surprised by this tip and made a few inquiries. Kim Jameson of Kim Jameson Design (http://www.kimjamesondesign.com) was kind enough to explain that some florists rent potted plants for weddings. Generally they're ferns, ficus trees, or palms. She pointed out that ficus trees are perfect for tiny lights. What a great way to dress up the backyard for your wedding.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

And the winners are . . .

I never thought it would be so hard to pick a winner. Wedding tips came in fast and thick, and they were fabulous. Thanks to everyone who sent in wedding tips!

There were a few that recommended not getting married at all. I also received a host of recommendations to elope, or tie the knot privately. If you're considering going that route, you should know that many of the people who made suggestions along those lines had wonderful marriages that lasted a very long time.

A good number of people sent in hints recommending that the bride focus on her marriage to the one she loves and not stress out over details. Stop, smell the flowers, and enjoy the wedding. And then there were all sorts of practical tips. Honestly, I wish everyone could have won. As it is, we have a major tie.

Winners of a copy of The Diva Takes the Cake are: Mary Rice; Anne Tomlin; Lynn S. Smith-Roberts, Kathlyn Chin, Patti O'Brien, Beth McKay, Joyce Delany, Joy Isley; and a four way tie between Leana McKay,Vickie Hartwell, JT Thompson, and Anna-Marie Barker. I'll be posting one of their tips each day. And at the end, I'll post a really funny wedding story that earned Coco Ihle a copy of the book, too! Congratulations, ladies!

It wasn't easy to pick a grand prize winner. I have to tell you it was very close. This money-saving tip is something we can all use, even for events other than weddings.

The winner of the tiara made with Swarovski crystals, a Vera Bradley bag, and a copy of The Diva Takes the Cake is Llyn Kaimowitz, who sent in this excellent tip.

If you're planning your own wedding celebration and trying to save money, here's a way to find the most inexpensive reception venues. Contact local non-profit organizations that hold fund raising events and ask for the person who does the planning. Ask the planner if he or she has a few minutes to discuss reception halls. Non-profits such as community chests, museums, and colleges are all good sources to call. Some of their parties are held on their own premises which might be for rent, and some of their parties are held at other locations.

Through the event planner at our state historical society, I was hooked up with a local women's college. There, we rented an entire mansion in the "old money" section of town -- complete with beautiful sun-room that held all 60 guests for the ceremony, a paneled library, and a huge living room (with a stone fireplace) where we dined. The cost? All we had to do was pay the caterer for the food. The caterer did the rest.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Ultimate Mudslide


A Mudslide is such a lovely indulgence. Sweet and creamy, it really does slide right down.

1 part vanilla vodka
1 part Kahlua
1 part Bailey's Irish Cream
2 parts milk
2 small or 1 large scoop vanilla ice cream

Pour the liquids into a glass and top with ice cream.

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kill Those Pesky Weeds

This nifty gadget is the Bernzomatic Self-Igniting Outdoor Torch. In other words, a flame thrower. It looks a little bit like a cane. A clever design really. It's held by the curved handle at the top. You attach a bottle of propane at the end of the handle and a flame comes out at the bottom. It's not a huge flame, but it's just the right size to burn those pesky weeds that grow between stones on your terrace, between brick pavers, and manage (though heaven know how) to sprout in your asphalt driveway and concrete sidewalk.

I have to emphasize that it's not meant for general weed control in the garden and that you have to take caution not to start a fire by burning dry plants. Last year, someone used a weed whacker too close to my house. It threw a stone at a glass door, and in seconds, a beautiful pattern spread as the tempered glass broke. It sounded like ice breaking. (Okay, didn't seem so beautiful when it happened.) The Bernzomatic is the perfect choice for killing weeds in places that shouldn't be weed-whacked. And if you live in a cold climate, it's also recommended for melting ice in the winter. It runs about $40. I found the best price on Amazon.

Five cupcakes!

So Who Won?

The winners of the contest will be announced soon. There were so many entries and wonderful suggestions that it's really hard to pick only eight winners! I'm planning to announced them on Monday and that will kick off eight days of wedding suggestions.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Silverbrite Salmon

I don't eat enough salmon. Do you? It's supposed to be so heart healthy and loaded with fats that lower our cholesterol. So I was in the grocery store looking at salmon and had a choice between $7 a pound Sockeye and $3 a pound Silverbrite. $3 a pound for salmon? How could that be?

The fish guy at the store said Sockeye was a superior salmon and that accounted for the price difference. Frankly, the Sockeye looked a little dry to me. Fortunately, a very nice woman standing next to me said she tried the Silverbrite the week before and it was delicious. So I bought the Silverbrite and came home to do a little research.

King and Sockeye are considered the top salmon choices because they have higher oil content, which means they should be more flavorful and moist. Soho and Pink salmon follow with less oil. The inexpensive Silverbrite goes by several names, including Chum, Keta, and Dog salmon. It has the least amount of oil content and can be of variable quality. But there's nothing wrong with it. Pacific salmon is a generic term. If the label says it's Pacific salmon, ask the fish guy what kind of salmon it is. Atlantic salmon is often farm raised apparently.

In my case (that's the Silverbrite in the photo), the Silverbrite was delicious. It looked great in the store, which is probably key. Interestingly, the lower the oil content, the less flavorful -- which means less fishy! For some people, that's actually a big plus. If you don't care for the taste of salmon, look for Silverbrite. It was neither dry nor tough, in fact, I think it was better than a lot of Sockeye salmon I've eaten.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Many thanks to author Sheila Connolly for joining us today as her new book, Rotten to the Core, launches in bookstores everywhere.

Last year's debut book of my Orchard Mystery series, One Bad Apple, was a top ten bestseller in its first month among independent mystery bookstores, and now the second in the series, Rotten to the Core, will be issued July 7th. Former Boston banker Meg Corey has settled into her inherited colonial house in the small western Massachusetts town of Granford and is rapidly learning how to manage her orchard--until a local organic farming activist is found dead in the springhouse in the orchard, poisoned with a pesticide. Not the best way to fit into a new community.
The series is based on a house built by my sixth great grandfather in a small town where even he had several generations of ancestors, and both the house and the town are essential parts of the series. And I'm learning all sorts of things about what to do with apples!


Somewhere (not in Massachusetts) it's summer, and summer means ice cream, right? One of my earliest food memories is of sharing pistachio ice cream with my father. He loved ice cream and always kept some in the freezer (although he liked to dish it up with a carving knife, don't ask me why). The first time I tasted real Italian gelato, from a street vendor in Florence, I nearly fell over, it was so amazing, and the Italian word for hazelnut was imprinted on my brain forever. Nocciola. Doesn't it just roll off your tongue?

Over the years I've had a crank freezer (still have it, in fact, in the basement) and one of those things with a liner that you keep in the freezer and whip out when the mood strikes you (not often). But the world changed when the super-premium ice creams came along, and Ben & Jerry's has come up with so many creative ideas. Sometimes they push the envelope a little too far–I mean, you don't have to put everything plus the kitchen sink into one little tub. I loved a few of the flavors (like the one with the tiny chocolate cows–was that Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz?) that disappeared forever, despite my best efforts to consume as much as I could. But I never give up hope, and I still scan the freezer compartments of our supermarket, just in case.

A couple of weeks ago I struck gold: their new Mission to Marzipan. I think that marzipan is one of those flavors you either love or hate, and given my history with B&J's most people will hate it and it will be gone, cast into oblivion. It wasn't even there in my local store this past week–believe me, I looked (maybe that first time it was a mirage, but it sure tasted good). But I'll keep trying. After all, ice cream is one of life's great pleasures, and you shouldn't settle for second best. Life's too short to eat ice cream you don't love.

Five Cupcakes for Mission to Marzipan from Sheila Connolly!

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Great Brat

Italians know their pasta, and the French know their cheese. When you have German ancestry, sausages like Bratwurst are important. Consequently, I'm always a little bit leery when I buy Bratwurst. I've sunk my teeth into some that were so bad, well, they wouldn't rate any cupcakes. I'm told that the various regions of Germany include different spices in their Bratwurst. So the Bratwurst in Hamburg won't taste like the Bratwurst in Munich.

I succumbed to temptation and recently bought Niman Ranch Bratwurst. If you've read my blog before, you know I'm into natural foods. This Bratwurst contains no added nitrates or nitrites, and is made from pork raised without antibiotics or added hormones. Of course, I love that. But the real test is the taste. The Bratwurst is already fully cooked, so all you have to do is heat it on the skillet. No brainer cooking. And it's delicious. The spices are mild and enhance the flavor just as they should. Niman's Ranch can be ordered from the company and bought in up-scale and natural food stores.

Five cupcakes from my German food expert!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Final Day of the Contest

This is the last day to enter my contest. Go to http://divamysteries.com and click on CONTEST. All you have to do to enter is send me a fabulous wedding tip. The top eight tips will win a copy of The Diva Takes the Cake, and the person who sends the best tip will also win a tiara made with Swarovski crystals and a Vera Bradley tote bag.

Enter today!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Washington Lawyer Margarita

This weekend a lot of spicy grilling will be going on. The perfect drink for meat with heat is a frozen Margarita. This particular version of a blender Margarita has been passed around through a number of Washington DC law firms. It came to me called the Washington Lawyer Margarita. I have no idea who originated it, but it's a winner every time I make it.

Like a lot of blender drinks, it's based on a small can (6 ounce) of frozen limeade. For some odd reason, I had trouble locating the small can. I found it in the third grocery store I tried, so I know it's still out there. Save the can and use it to measure the other ingredients.



Washington Lawyer Margarita

Place into blender

1 small can (6 ounce) frozen limeade
1 can Tequila
1/3 can Rose's lime juice
1/3 can Triple Sec

Fill the rest of the blender with ice. Blend to an icy slush.

Run a wet finger around the edge of the margarita glasses. Dip in salt. Pour the Margarita into the glasses and enjoy!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

No More Spoiled Watermelon

That wonderful summer treat, watermelon, is packed with vitamins and potassium, and has the distinction of being the leader among fresh foods for lycopene. It's delicious and good for us, too. But half of the last watermelon you bought spoiled and landed in the trash, didn't it?

While there's something fun about biting into a slice of watermelon, there's something annoying about storing that huge melon in the fridge and hauling it out to cut one slice. And in these days of tight budgets, buying a whole watermelon is definitely more cost-effective than buying a plastic container of pre-cut watermelon.





So this time, buy a seedless watermelon and take ten minutes to cut it. You'll be amazed by how fast your family eats it.

Quarter the watermelon on a tray to catch the juices. Using a long knife, slice both cut sides as shown in the photo to the left. Note that it doesn't have to be perfect. Don't cut through the rind, but slice horizontally to the rind on both sides. Next, slice downward over the exposed red edge, pulling the knife through so that it cuts down to the rind, but not through it. Pick up the quarter, position upside-down over a large bowl or container and the pieces will fall out. If any remain, simply run the knife around the edge, just above the rind.




Repeat with each quarter. Store the container in the fridge. It's now easy to add watermelon to meals. Pop a few chunks on a plate next to a sandwich. Serve a bowl at breakfast. And it's a perfect snack for hot days. Plus, that big clunky melon isn't hogging a shelf in your fridge anymore!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How to Make a Frittata

They're coming! With July 4th around the corner, friends and relatives are packing their cars and heading to -- your house. Most house guests are out at lunchtime, so that leaves breakfast and dinner. Dinner can be barbecue, after all it's summer. But even if you take your guests out to dinner, you still have to make breakfast.


Enter the frittata -- a versatile breakfast/brunch egg dish that you can make while talking about Aunt Edna's allergies and giving directions to places you've never been.


Shopping List for the Frittata


eggs
olive oil
mushrooms
onion
garlic powder
salt
pepper


Shopping List for Things to Serve with the Frittata


breakfast meat (bacon or sausages)
butter
bread for toast (buy a fancy local jam to go with it)
or breakfast breads (muffins, coffeecake, etc.)
fruit for a fruit salad (can be made the night before)


Before you begin the frittata, there are a couple of extra steps I recommend for your general sanity.

1. Make coffee or tea (or both). Put out sugar, milk, and mugs where your guests will see them so they can help themselves. They'll think you did it for them, but I know you were the last to bed and the first one up -- you need your jolt of caffeine.


2. Set the table. The coffee is perking. You're still groggy. Perfect time to set the table.


3. Place a basket of breakfast breads where your guests can find them. At least one person will nosh on them before breakfast.


4. Start the breakfast meats.


5. Take the fruit salad out of the fridge to come to room temperature.

And now -- the frittata.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
1 cup diced mushrooms
6 eggs (about 1 1/2 cups of eggs)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium/low heat. Swirl it around a couple of times to coat the sides of the pan. (Note: I do NOT use a nonstick pan for this.)
3. Add the onions and let cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir occasionally. If they threaten to burn, turn the heat down.
4. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about two minutes. Stir occasionally. (If you're experimenting, and you're a huge fan of herbs, this would be the time to add them.)
5. Meanwhile, add the salt, garlic powder, and pepper to the eggs and whisk together. (I like to use a Pyrex bowl that can go straight into the dishwasher.
6. Give the pan a good shake to distribute the mushrooms and onions evenly. Pour the seasoned eggs over the mushrooms and onions. Do NOT stir. Watch the eggs. After two to three minutes, you should see that the bottom is becoming firm.
7. Place the pan in the oven. You now have six to seven minutes to find the sock your dog stole from Uncle Elmo while he was sleeping.
8. After six to seven minutes, use a POTHOLDER to remove from oven and serve. It will deflate a little bit, but that's okay. For ease of serving, run a knife around the edge to loosen it and serve with a spatula or pie server.

I love this recipe because it's so simple. If you don't like mushrooms or onions, use spinach, leftover asparagus, ham, cheese, shallots, or peppers. I think this is one of those recipes where less is more. Don't overload with too many additions. Keep it simple and it will turn out great every time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yo Ho Ho and a Cheese Puff?


Now that summer is here, it's movie time. But popcorn and chips are beginning to get old, and you'd really like to graze on something a little bit healthier, right? Pirate's Booty to the rescue. These savory treats are baked, not fried. They contain all natural ingredients with no preservatives or colors and supposedly contain half the calories of potato chips. Gluten free and trans fat free, you can munch guilt free.

Even more important, though, they taste great. The puffs have a nice crisp crunch. My favorite is the Aged White Cheddar, with a pleasantly salty cheese flavor that isn't overwhelming. I admit I am not a fan of the Veggie flavor. But Aged White Cheddar gets five cupcakes from me!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wedding Gifts

Last week someone asked me what would be a great, but inexpensive, wedding gift. Naturally, every gift should be bought with the particular recipient in mind, but my top pick is a set of martini glasses.

Martinis are back in vogue, and there's just a touch of James Bond classiness about a martini glass. They look chic. The array of variations on martini glasses is astounding. And very nice martini glasses can be found for reasonable prices at Pier 1 and Macy's. It's an elegant and useful gift.

What's your pick for a great, but inexpensive, wedding gift?

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Radler

One of my favorite summer drinks is a mixture that brings on looks of confusion and sometimes, downright revulsion. It's very refreshing, though.

Here's the recipe:
Fill a Pilsner glass or beer mug half way with beer.
Pour Sprite in and fill to the top.
Enjoy!

That's right. Half beer and half Sprite. In Germany, it's called a Radler (Rrrod-ler) and can be found in restaurants and bars all over the Alps. I understand the British and the French have their own version of this curious mixture.

The surprising part is the taste. The beer cuts the sweetness of the Sprite and the result is simply delicious. No ice needed, but it's best served cold.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Submersible Floralytes


Have you heard about submersible floralytes? These cool little lights come in a rainbow of colors and can be used in water and wet locations. They're meant for one time use only, but they only run about $1.90 to $2.10 each, depending on the quantity you buy and where you buy them. Just Google submersible floralytes and you'll be amazed by the number of places that sell them.



These wireless lights run on two tiny batteries. They come in a disposable version and a reusable version with an on/off switch.





Use them in vases, ice sculptures, centerpieces -- let your imagination run wild. They are not, however, recommended for use in drinks. What fun for an evening poolside party! They're inexpensive enough that it won't break the bank to buy a box for an informal summer birthday party or a bridal shower.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Avoiding the $6 Pepper

I refuse to pay $6 for a pepper. Which means I walk by them wistfully in the winter. But right now, my grocery store is loaded with gorgeous peppers for $1. Red, orange, and yellow and they're positively mouthwatering.

And in the garden, the peppers are growing fast. It won't be long before I have too many peppers. So what to do with them?

Freeze them. It's almost as simple as freezing blueberries. Wash the peppers and dry them thoroughly. I sometimes leave them on a towel to air dry for a couple of hours.

Next, slice or dice them. I tend to use peppers in strips a lot, so I usually leave them in generous half-inch strips. Slide the strips into a quart-size freezer bag, press out the air and seal. Freeze.

When you're ready to use them in the winter, if they were really dry when you froze them, and if you didn't pack too many into one bag, you'll find you can sort of break off the amount you need, or just put the entire package into your stir fry or dish. I don't even bother thawing them. I have been able to thaw a few pieces for a decorative touch of red on top of a salad, but they're not the same as fresh. However, in a pasta sauce or other cooked dish and they're just as flavorful as fresh peppers. And you can turn your nose up at the $6 peppers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What's In Your Mayonnaise?


One of my good friends has a soy allergy. She was stunned to discover recently that her favorite mayonnaise is based on soybean oil. A lot of us are avoiding soybeans these days, for a whole host of reasons, but few people are aware that it's the primary ingredient in mayonnaise and 99% of salad dressings.

But you don't have to give up your mayonnaise addiction. After all, it's summertime and what's potato salad without mayo? Hain makes a Canola Mayonnaise that tastes the way we expect mayonnaise to taste. Even my very pickiest eater has approved the flavor of Hain. It's not organic, but it contains no genetically engineered products, and to top it all off, uses vitamin E as a preservative, so it's all natural.

Five cupcakes for Hain Canola Mayonnaise!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fancy Cupcakes Without a Lot of Effort

I am not always as creative as I'd like to be. So when I see something that dresses up a simple thing and isn't a lot of work, I get very excited.

The most basic cupcake will be the star of the birthday party for your little princess in these filigree cupcake wrappers. Even your book club or bridge party will be elevated if you cluster cupcakes as a centerpiece in these clever cupcake wrappers. Not to mention how stunning they would be at a wedding. They simply take cupcakes to another level.

The wrappers aren't inexpensive, but they won't break the bank, either. You can find them at Paper Orchid. One dozen run $13.00 and fifty wrappers cost $50.00. http://www.paperorchidstationery.com/modules/cart/products.php/keys/filigree/page/1/id/778/name/FiligreeCupcakeWrapperWhite

Friday, June 19, 2009

Jack Torres Martini


This has to be the easiest drink to make. It's very elegant, and would be a perfect after-dinner drink any time of year. Absolut Raspberri is clear, so the gorgeous color, even the hint of a reddish hue, comes entirely from the Godiva liquor. Be forewarned, though -- contrary to what one might think, this isn't a sweet, creamy bon bon type of drink. It's all liquor and there's no ice or mixer to cut it or make it sweet. Definitely a choice after-dinner drink for those who like their liquor straight.




Jack Torres Martini

Absolut Raspberri
Godiva Chocolate Liquor

Pour equal parts of the raspberry vodka and the chocolate liquor into a martini glass. Garnish with a raspberry.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dulce de Leche

Have you noticed that dulce de leche seems to be turning up everywhere? Apparently Starbucks has a dulce de leche latte, and I think I heard it mentioned on the last episode of The Next Food Network Star.

Essentially dulce de leche (dool-say de lay-chay) means sweet milk. It's a very close cousin of caramel, and I noticed that Haagen Dazs added the word "caramel" to their delicious dulce de leche ice cream (probably to clue in those of us who aren't familiar with it?). I was first introduced to this treat a long time ago by a woman who made her own dulce de leche. It can be found ready-made in stores featuring hispanic foods, but she made it by cooking an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in water. After cooking, the runny white milk inside had been transformed to a caramel-colored gooey treat. She ate it every day spread on bread for breakfast.

For most of us dulce de leche falls into the desert category. It goes well with ice cream, and there are loads of recipes topping old favorites with it. One bit of caution, though. Dulce de leche is really sweet. If you like caramel, you'll probably like dulce de leche, but if you don't have a sweet tooth, this isn't the flavor for you.

Five cupcakes for dulce de leche ice cream.

 
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