Apologies . . . and a Fire in My Belly

Hey ya! Groovy Readers;

I’ve missed you all. After a horrific month of ridiculous medical issues for the whole fam (my sweet toddler even had pneumonia!) and a very messy transfer from WP.com to fully hosted (My top links got hacked and I lost a ton of READERS due to rerouting issues!! YIKES!!!) I am now back on track and so is the blog.

I hope you haven’t forsaken me.

So to kick things off in style, I have a giveaway in appreciation of all of you that have stuck by me and continued to check  back for new posts. (more…)

Live Food Blogging at the IFBC Portland

Some serious foodies – NOT! Had the Best time with Table 22 (Janelle from Talk of Tomatoes and Jacquelyn from Gourmet Housewife)

 

This weekend I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference held this year, right here in Portland. It was three days of work (I volunteered), networking, and learning.

This post is from a crazy attempt at “live food blogging” during a speed tasting event we did on day 1. By the end, I was too hopped up on sugar and coffee to make any sense of anything. Though there were 21 vendors present, each table only made it through about 10 vendors each in the time allotted.

Here is my valiant attempt to blog live, (more…)

Toast the New Year with Taste-y Cocktails and Hors de ouveres

There’s something about having lil noshes on New Year’s Eve, even if you’re just staying home with the fam, that makes it all feel extra festive. In fact, most years of my life that’s what I’ve done on New Years — stayed home, noshed on little bites and watched the ball drop, kissing my sweetie at midnight.  As a woman who settled down early and took up cocktails late (I was 30! Gasp!) New Year’s Eve never meant much more than Dick Clark and banging pans. There were a few other years where I attended someone’s party or went out for dinner but it was always mostly low-key.

That is until New Year’s Eve 2006. It was the first NYE I ever spent with the love of my life, my hubby,Todd.  We were just dating at the time, but since I had settled down so young the first time around and never experienced what the nightlife and true party atmosphere of NYE could be, he decided to take me out on the town.

Pom Honey Bear (Pomegrante juice, lemon and Barenjager honey liqueur)

We went from venue to venue that night, making our rounds to all the hot spots — drinks and appetizers, dinner, dancing, dancing and more dancing. Dressed in new jeans, boots and a black blouse with sparkly trim, I felt like the hot girl, for once, no small feat for a lifelong chubby gal and bookworm. (The men must have agreed because I got picked up on all night long — even with a date!) It was as if, suddenly, I was transformed into one of those people in the movies who have something to do on NYE — and it was actually something fun! Not the party of a friend of a friend that’s supposed to be, “so awesome,” but turns out instead, to be a total dud.

Brazi Bites -- review coming soon!

The last club we went to, we stayed at for several hours. It was big, 15,000 sq ft, with a HUGE dance floor and two stories. By the time we rang in 2007, it was packed. Filled with people dancing, laughing and having a great time — just like those ultra hip club scenes in the movies set somewhere cool like Miami, NYC or LA (don’t get me wrong, I’d been dancing before, lots of places, but none were as cool and big and packed, as this place was NYE 2006-07.)

To cap it all off, when the crowd finished counting down, they released tons of confetti from the ceiling, followed by bubbles — setting the scene for the most perfect New Year’s kiss in the history of my life. We all returned to our drinks and dancing and by 2am, as the club began to thin out, I was floating on air.

A NYE staple - even the most ardent food snobs swoon in their presence

Since that night, my hubby and I have talked about doing it again, but I have to admit, the night was so perfect, that I fear trying to recapture it could tarnish the wonderful memory. For once in my life, I was the princess (in blue jeans) in my own stroke of midnight fairy tale and I loved every moment of it.

This year, my son is 3 and it will be the first year he’ll attempt to stay awake, banging on pots and squealing, “Happy New Year,” at our hopefully (fingers-crossed) wide-awake neighbors. It will be another first in my life– no less magical than that NYE I spent behaving like the hot ingenue in your favorite party movie — just different.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4uxRmZvzcw&w=640&h=360]

(Two shots of Apple Schnapps! Love that Otis!)

We’ll mix a few drinks (like the cinnamon sparkler above, whipped up by Otis over at Taste and some plain sparkling cider for the tot.) I’ll put together a few bites for us to nibble on throughout the night — some frozen and some homemade — but all delicious. We may even put on some colored wigs and dance around the living room. Tomorrow, we’ll begin again trying to be our very best selves for as long as we can, until it all unravels sometime before, this time next year.

It's a colored wig dance party!

This is the beauty of a new year– a fresh start. The chance to be your very best self — even if, for just one bright and shining moment, before the clock strikes 12.

Wishing you and yours a happy and safe 2012!

A Taste of Fall: Butternut Squash Two Ways

Growing up, I was never much into squash of any kind. My mom seemed to favor zucchini and occasionally, yellow crookneck squash. She was passionate about fried zucchini (as was my middle sister) but I hated it! I didn’t mind the breading but when I got to the center and was met with the taste of squishy, squashy bitterness — ugh, I just had to pass. I remember, many a time, just eating the breading and then tucking the squash into a napkin, smooshing it smaller with each new piece added, in order to hide enough, that my mom would let me leave the dinner table. (I did something similar with the eggplant in another of my mother’s favorite dishes — eggplant parmigiana. Ick.)

The Picky Eater

Flash forward to today. I am a mom now, of a picky and precocious 3 year old. He is a child who loved his veggies before this last year — though, he was never too much into the green lettucy stuff. He used to love eating such a variety of good-for-him foods like broccoli, carrots, peas, corn, avocados, beans and sweet potatoes.

In fact, for a while we thought he was going to be a natural vegetarian because he wouldn’t eat meat (except for nitrate-free hot dogs.) But, alas those days are over and my pediatrician says it’s fairly normal for toddlers to give up the “bitterness” of veggies at this age, opting for the sweetness of fruits instead. (More TRIVIA: It has to do with our cave man survival instinct and the fact that, were we in the wild, our little ones might pluck something poisonous from a bush or vine and pop it into their mouths. Which means, at this stage in life, they are naturally averse to bitter flavors for their own protection.)

To top it all off, as much as I want him to eat his veggies, when he finally agrees to eat some (through sheer bribery or threats) I can’t stand seeing that look on his face when he’s chewing something he really hates. I know it all too well, the feeling like you might just throw up a little in your mouth. It’s at this point, I usually whisk the plate away and thank him for at least trying whatever it was.

UGH! Motherhood.

As I wait this stage out, I can’t seem to sit idly by and give up on him getting good nutrition. I fret about it and I find ways to sneak vegetables (and even some fruits) into the handful of foods he seems hell bent on eating each and every day. Noodles, it turns out, are the king of foods (along with pizza, burritos, and tuna sandwiches)  and I strike a balance by giving him whole grain brown rice noodles and Barilla’s Plus line of noodles that are full of a variety of whole grains and legumes, as well as Omega 3’s (and no they are not sponsoring my blog or paying me in any way to tout them — I just like ’em!)

So imagine my glee, when one of my favorite food bloggers (and one of my Virtual Potluck cohorts) FarmgirlGourmet posted her recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash & Brie Mac & Cheese with Smoky Bacon. It was as if the heavens had opened up and shined their golden butternutty light down upon my pasta. Yes! A new way to sneak a super healthful veg (TRIVIA: though considered veg in cooking, in actuality it’s a fruit) into my little one’s diet — and it comes on the holy grail of food for him — the noodle!

Creamy butternut mac and cheese

The dish is sweet, creamy and cheesy and was a big hit at our house.  I highly recommend you head on over to her blog for that recipe and the other bountiful ways in which she has been using up the butternut squash from her garden. We ate it for dinner and lunch the next day and it only used up half of a roasted butternut squash and half of the brie and cream cheese I’d purchased, so I decided to use those ingredients again for lunch the following day for soup, baguette with brie, and a wilted kale salad.

A little bistro flair at home

This bright idea was great for mom and dad (felt like upscale bistro fare for a weekday lunch) but the kiddo was not buying into the soup (he only likes — you guessed it — noodle soup!)  — which is why, I boiled up some more noodles and ladeled on some of the soup, topping it with cheddar cheese for a quick and dirty version of FarmGirl’s mac.) We paired this with some fresh strawberries for a well-rounded meal that any toddler will adore.

Soup Prep

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1/2 an oven roasted butternut squash (approximately 1 to 1 1/2 pds)
  • 4 oz of cream cheese
  • 3 to 4 cups chicken broth (depending on consistency you like)
  • 1 small onion diced carmelized in a saute pan with 1Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne powder (to taste and heat you desire)

Saute the onion in butter, caramelizing it lightly. Pour into blender or food processor. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of it’s skin and into the blender, adding enough liquid to allow it to begin blending (you may need to do this in batches depending on blender or processor size.) Add the cream cheese and continue to blend, adding the additional broth as needed until the soup is smooth, creamy and the desired thickness you prefer. Then pour into a deep saucepan heating it on low, as you season to taste with cayenne and  salt and pepper.

Makes 4 to 6 heaping bowls of soup. Serve with toasty baguette (we like Trader Joe’s parbaked whole grain baguette) and the wilted kale salad below for a warming taste of fall this holiday season.

Accoutrements, or in plainspeak -- sides

Super Simple Wilted Kale Salad with Parmigiano Reggiano

  • 1 bunch regular, lacinto or red kale
  • 1/2  to 3/4 tsp sea salt (depending on your tastes)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (you can change the vinegar to match your meal — apple works well with the squash here)
  • 1/8 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano + extra for topping

Clean and destem your kale, patting it dry (with paper towels.) Cut or rip the cleaned kale into bite sized pieces or  ribbons. Add olive oil and salt. Next take your freshly washed and dried hands and work the salt into the kale by grabbing handfuls and kneading the kale tightly in your fist. Continuing throughout the entire bowl of kale. After it’s all mixed and the kale has significantly reduced in size (a few minutes) add apple cider vinegar to the mix and toss. Then, let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes as you prep other items for your meal, this allows the kale to wilt, softening the leaves for easy eating and toning  down the bitterness. Add freshly grated parmesan reggiano and pepper to taste, tossing to mix. Serve topped with more freshly grated parmesan reggiano.

We love this with any kind of soup or as a side dish with chicken or beef. You can also use this recipe and add it to roasted yukon gold or new potatoes tossed with a little tahini and lemon for an out of this world hearty, warm salad.

Happy Eating!