Friday, December 17, 2010

Not Just {Half} Full

Do you do this? I have always had this habit of over-filling things. When I was a kid my mom would always get on to me for filling my cereal until the cereal fell over the sides. When I was a bit older my little sister would always ask me to dish up her ice cream because I would always be sure the bowl was totally full.

These days my habit is not all that different. I was supposed to make pasta for tonight's school party. I wanted to take plenty so that we wouldn't run out. After the first trip to the store, it didn't look like we had enough tortellini. After a second trip to the store, I got started cooking. The water started to boil. And then it boiled higher.


And then it was like the cereal bowl all over again. Only it was pasta. And it was falling down into my gas burner. Yikes!


But at least we had enough tortellini to go around. MORE than enough, actually!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Winter Burn


Last weekend I watched an episode of one of Giada De Laurentiis' shows. I loved her theme for the episode ~ her idea is that spicy food is great for warming up the winter chill! This got me thinking. Many of my favorite winter meals are in fact spicy. Here are a few of my faves:
Yesterday I adapted one of the recipes from Giada's show ~ pasta with eggplant sauce. This is some of the best pasta I have had in a very long time. I'll share it with you soon.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Meatless Mondays: More on Muffins

{Photo from here}

In the last few weeks I've mentioned my (and my preschooler's!) new love for hearty muffins as an afternoon snack. This muffin started it all. The recipe calls for peanut butter to replace some of the butter. It is sweetened with maple syrup and chocolate chips. And they are made with whole wheat flour. These are more than your average muffin because the peanut butter and whole grains really boost the protein and fiber.

Oh, and did I mention how yummy they are? The chocolate chips poking out of the top of the muffins entice my daughter every time. We have some in our freezer now!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Red and Blue

I have really been loving all of the RED-and-BLUE themed holiday things I've run across lately. I think it adds a nice twist to more traditional color schemes.

Here are a few of my favorites:



{We had this more fall-ish centerpiece at our house on Thanksgiving}


{Red and blue holiday cards are everywhere this year!}


{I just love this snowman themed kids' party}

I guess it's not just for the 4th of July anymore!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Pumpkin Cornbread


Last week I mentioned that the new favorite snack around my house is the {muffin}, and this recipe was a truly great find. These are hearty, sustaining, even long-winded. They are whole grain, for a boost of protein and fiber to make you feel full, and the subtle honey flavor makes them absolutely scrumptious. Just like the little cakes Alice eats in Alice in Wonderland! They taste best the first day, or frozen immediately after cooling and re-heated later. Yum!

Pumpkin Cornbread
Adapted from Simply Vegetarian
  • 1/2 c. soft butter
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter a 12-cup muffin tray. Cream the butter and honey in a bowl. Add the eggs, pumpkin, and milk, then mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix thoroughly. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full, then bake for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Favorite Gifts for People with an Appetite



{For the baker ~ artisan extracts from Sonoma Syrup Co.}


{For the coffee drinker ~ Ethiopian coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee Company}


{For the snacker ~ an olive oil dipping set from St. Helena Olive Oil Co.}


{For chefs of all sizes ~ a lovely apron from Etsy.com}

Monday, November 29, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Pack it in


Back when I was pregnant with my daughter I started to keep track of how much protein I ate just to be sure I was getting enough for the both of us. I quickly realized that it's hard to eat enough protein in just one or two vegetarian main dishes. But there are many foods that you wouldn't ordinarily think of that have a good dose of protein. Whole grains are one of the easiest "alternative" sources. Once I started counting every whole grain slice of bread and every spoonful of brown rice, the protein really added up quickly.

If you want to feel full during a day of meatless eating, then pack in the protein. Afterall, every ounce of nutrition counts. And what better way to enjoy some nutrition than in a muffin. That's right, a muffin. My daughter loves them, so I try to find recipes withextra protein or vitamins without too much sugar. She and I both have them for afternoon snacks. Or breakfast. Or a midnight snack. Or dessert. You get the idea ~ when you look this similar to a cupcake, what's not to love?

I can't wait to share some recipes soon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Everybody loves pumpkin!

Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. This 8-month old Siberian tiger cub did!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's in the center?

Have you given any thought to a centerpiece for your holiday feast? These caught my eye last night:







I love using natural elements in centerpieces. This is what our table looked like last year thanks to my cousin:



I confess, after all this poking around on the web, this year will probably be a minimalist year!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Thanksgiving Favorites




Hi All! I know it's been a while, but it's only fitting that Thanksgiving should bring me (ahem) back to the table.

I'm happy to report that Thanksgiving is a holiday for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. I discovered some of my favorite recipes while planning Thanksgiving menus. I think the best vegetarian main course are those that the meat-eaters are likely to dig into, too. Here are a few of my faves:
Enjoy, and I plan to see you back here real soon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So Saucy

{Green Bean Casserole}

I have a new secret sauce. I think it's pretty great, but my hubby absolutely loves it. He's always had a taste for creamy sauces ~ alfredo, bechamel, creamy pesto. Basically, if there's cream in it he loves it. Of course this hasn't always worked out so well for him. I mean, a busy dad can only squeeze in so many runs to stay ahead of the cream sauces. You know what I mean!

This creamy sauce isn't actually creamy ~ its texture comes from someplace other than cream. It has very little fat and lots of flavor, not to mention a dose of protein and fiber. So far I've used it with veggies and as a pasta sauce. Success, success, success! I plan to continue adapting this recipe for as many uses as I can. Tonight I'll share my basic recipe, and I'll share a few of my variations soon.

Consider trying it out. I think you'll be surprised how flavorful and satisfying it is ~ especially when you don't feel like running off a real cream sauce!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Garlic and Herb "Cream" Sauce
  • 1 15 oz. can canellini or white kidney beans, undrained
  • Up to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Up to 2 tsp. of dried herbs (try thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, or a combination)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
Place all ingredients in a blender (or use a hand blender) and blend until the sauce is smooth and creamy. It's that simple!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Announcing. . .

I'm pleased to announce the winner of my first giveaway for CSN Stores. Meeyeehere of Mississippi won the gift certificate. Congrats!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Le Menu


I have been a vegetarian for many, many years. As a young teenager I endured my fair share of teasing, and I encountered many situations where my only food option was to remove sausage or pepperoni from pizza and simply ignore the traces that stayed behind. Even in law school where I was surrounded by large numbers of vegetarians, the veggie-friendly options frequently ran out at school events or wasn't up-to-snuff to begin with.

As a result of countless bad experiences, I am always so grateful when an event is veggie-friendly and when it is done well. Last Friday I attended one such event ~ an evening garden party. There was a live band and a full bar, and the the party was all-around great.

There is no question that the meat-eaters dominated at this party. And, as far as I could tell, the meat-eaters were well taken care of. There were giant prawns, chicken satay, and lamb, all of which appeared to be accompanied by a scrumptious sauce and other appropriate adornments.

My expectations were low for the veggie fare, but it turned out to be both abundant and great. The veggie-friendly menu included:
  • Mango salad rolls
  • Pizza with blue cheese and pear
  • Pizza with onions, tomatoes, and feta
  • Heirloom tomato bruschetta (garden-fresh tomatoes, with top-notch olive oil ~ yum!)
Add some amazing chocolate cupcakes, butter cookies, truffles, and brownies, and it made for a great edible evening. It is so wonderful when a menu gives veggie fare the attention is deserves, and I know that the meat-eaters probably appreciated the variety, too!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pizza Remix 3

It's been a while since I blogged a Remix recipe. These are my simplest, easiest, most basic combinations of ingredients. I love to re-create tacos, pizza, and sandwiches in new or different forms. Very often the meal that results is fantastic, despite its simplicity. Do you do this too? If so, I'd love to hear about some of your creations ~ feel free to leave a link in the comments.



Whole wheat pita (or substitute white)
Tomato sauce
Shredded mozzarella
Crumbled feta
Pre-sliced cremini mushrooms
Pine nuts
Red pepper flakes

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Doing More


I've done it. Finally, I've done it. I sat down and I watched the movie Food, Inc. I'm not sure what took me so long, really. I guess part of it was that I knew what I was in for. I've read several Michael Pollen books and generally know that I don't like the way the food industry operates.

As it turned out, most of the movie I had heard or read before. I was still shocked all over again. The difference here was that in most cases I had never seen images of the food industry's icky business before. And the images are powerful.

The movie left me feeling very unsettled. It re-affirmed my family's choice to be vegetarian, but it also left me feeling that we should do more. The problem is that I haven't figured out what "doing more" means yet. For now, I'm pondering. Pondering where my food comes from and where I wish it came from. Afterall, I like that food is so convenient. I have no plans to grow all my food in my backyard. But surely there are some better ways to get food ~ better ways to grow it and better ways to buy it.

If I reach any firm decisions on how I plan to "do more" then I'll be sure to share. In the meantime, I'd love to know what others thought after seeing Food, Inc. or learning about the same food issues from other sources. Did it change how you ate? Did you find ways to do more?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Don't Forget!

My giveaway for CSN stores is still in progress. Click here to enter anytime between now and the end of Friday. Good luck!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Make-Ahead Favorite

I have a new make-ahead recipe that I love. I can't wait to have an excuse to eat it again! I made it for my graduation party and for the baby shower a few weeks ago. It's a strata, which is a dish made with bread, eggs, and cheese.


I love that stratas are hearty enough to satisfy full-time vegetarians and carnivores alike. Can you see why?


This recipe is stellar ~ it appeared on both Smitten Kitchen and Annie's Eats, two of my favorite blogs. You layer the bread, spinach mixture, and cheese in a pan much like you would layer a lasagna.


Then you pour the egg and milk mixture over the top and let it chill in the fridge overnight. The custard soaks into the bread and the flavors mingle a bit. In the morning the strata is oven-ready, making it so much easier to get brunch on the table.


And the flavor of the spinach and gruyere cheese is . . . well, yum! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spinach and Cheese Strata
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Annie's Eats
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups onion, finely chopped
  • 2 (10 oz.) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • ½ tsp. pepper, divided
  • Dash freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. prepared Dijon mustard
  • 8 cups cubed French or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 oz. coarsely grated Gruyere (about 2 cups)
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about 2/3 cup)
  • 9 large eggs
  • 2¾ cup milk
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt, ¼ teaspoon of the pepper, and the nutmeg, and continue to cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the spinach, remove from the heat and set aside.

Butter the inside of a 2½-3 quart baking dish. Layer the bottom of the dish with one third of the bread cubes. Top with one third of the spinach mixture and one third of each of the cheeses. Repeat these layers twice more with the bread, spinach and cheese.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, the remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt, ¼ teaspoon of the pepper, and 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard. Whisk together until blended. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread and spinach layers in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.

Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Bake uncovered until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, 45-55 minutes. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Game Prizes sans Perfume

At the baby shower I helped plan a few weeks ago I was in charge of buying or making prizes for the shower games. Since we had just as many men as women coming, my big dilemma was what exactly a "game prize" should be. My online search told me that the most appropriate shower prizes include: lotions, scented candles, sachets, and lip gloss. These options clearly wouldn't do ~ I didn't want the guys to bolt, afterall! Then I thought about chocolate, but we were already having chocolate cake and chocolate favors.

In the end I made up a double batch of my homemade salsa (recipe here), which these friends have always enjoyed.






After adding a little cuteness, I felt like I had some very respectable game prizes to offer. No makeup or girlie scents in sight!


I'm happy to report that the guys did not bolt from the party. We had an all-around great time!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Babies!

I'm not sure why, but the last few months have been loaded with "life events" ~ baby showers, bridal showers, graduations, bachelorette parties, birthday parties, and then more baby showers. These are some of my favorite things in life ~ I adore celebrations of any kind, but especially celebrations of such wonderful milestones.


Two weekends ago (I'm still catching up on my posting!) I helped plan a baby shower at the home of my lovely friend Nina. The parents-to-be are expecting a boy, and we went with a jungle animal and Noah's Ark theme. We served brunch foods, which was one reason that I was worried about serving so many egg dishes smack dab in the middle of an egg food poisoning scare. Fortunately nobody complained and nobody got sick! It turned out to be a wonderful shower and a wonderful day all around.


I was in charge of getting a cake that went with our theme. The cake turned out pretty well, but it was harder to draw the animals from the partyware than I expected. With chocolate cake and fudge filling, at least I can say it tasted great!


These are flowers from my yard:


Favor boxes filled with Godiva chocolates:


I'll share more pictures and recipes in the next few days. Happy Long Weekend!

Still Excited...

I'm still super excited! My first giveaway, which is being offered by CSN Stores, ends next week. Don't forget to check it out!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

More Maui Favorites

I think it's fair to say that three of my favorite things in Maui were also some of the simplest:

Smoothies
- Check out this fruitstand and deli in Lahaina called Take Home Maui. We enjoyed their smoothies on several occasions. The fruit is so fresh that they tasted nothing like what we can find back home. You can also order farm fresh produce delivered straight from Maui to your doorstep.


Ice cream
- Our guidebook recommended the locally produced Rosalani's Ice Cream, so we were thrilled when they served it at the Plantation House Restaurant. Although the town of Lahaina where we stayed seemed to have an ice cream shop on very corner, I can honestly say that Rosalani's was some of the best I've ever tasted. Their website has a convenient list of the restaurants and stores where you can find this local treat. The passion fruit sorbet at the Plantation House Restaurant wasn't bad either!



Cocktails
- From the freshest fruit juices to the perfect flower adornments, Hawaii knows how to do cocktails. One of our favorite stops for cocktails was the Happy Hour at Mala Ocean Tavern in Lahaina. We had top-notch Mai Tais and a full meal, including the best macaroni and cheese we've ever tasted. Plus, the staff won us over by giving our daughter a crab toy to play with.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My First Giveaway!

I am super excited to announce the start of the very first giveaway on Appetite for Conversation!!! CSN Stores will be giving one lucky reader a $40 gift certificate to use at any one of their 200+ online stores. That’s $40!!! Just for being one of my readers!!! I hope you can tell how excited I am!!!

There’s something for everyone at the CSN sites. Need a new dining table? They've got it. Hoping to adorn your dining table? They have that too. Maybe you need more help with kitchen items? Home decor? Baby items? Look no further. They've got it all. And... many products are on sale right now and certain items even come with free shipping.

{Nordicware Pumpkin Bundt Pan found here}

There are several ways you can enter, but please note that the giveaway is limited to residents of the U.S. and Canada. For each entry leave a comment on this post telling me that you’ve entered. You can:
  1. Subscribe to Appetite for Conversation in a reader
  2. Become a Follower or Friend of Appetite for Conversation on Foodbuzz
  3. Link to an Appetite for Conversation recipe, post, or this giveaway post on your own blog
  4. Follow Appetite for Conversation on Twitter and tweet about the giveaway
  5. Leave a comment letting me know what you would buy with the gift certificate from CSN Stores
This means you can enter up to 5 times! Just don't forget to leave a separate comment here for each entry. The giveaway will end Friday, September 10 at 11:59pm PST, and I will announce a winner Monday, September 13.

Good luck!

Disclaimer:CSN Stores will provide one gift certificate to one of my readers, and I am not receiving any compensation for this post.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Maui Bargains

I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since we got back from our Maui trip. Oh, how time flies!

We have so many fond memories of the trip. Last Thursday I visited my daughter's preschool and shared some of the pictures from Maui. I showed the kids a couple of videos from the hula show we went to, and the preschoolers even tried a little hula themselves! It was super cute, and the kids seemed to love it.


The hula show we saw in Maui was really pretty special. For one thing, it was free. That's right ~ FREE! It was put on by a local hula school at the Lahaina Cannery Mall, and all of the dancers were children. The smallest child looked like she was not more than four. These girls are talented!


They did several dances using a variety of traditional instruments. Here's a video of them getting started with their first dance:


video

If you're ever in Maui you should definitely check out this show.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Meatless Mondays: It's Time

You'll have to excuse my sparse posting recently. Instead of talking about food (and life!) I've been enjoying it. So now it's time to start catching up. In fact, I'm blogging with today's Meatless Mondays post just in the nick of time. In most parts of the U.S. it's not even Monday anymore. But who's counting anyway!

In recent weeks I have finally realized that summer is almost over. School has started for all the children here in Davis, and we've even seen a few cooler nights. Clearly it's time to prepare for Fall, but I'm not quite ready. I have yet to really enjoy the best of summer produce ~ the garden-fresh tomatoes, the locally grown sweet corn, the eggplants and bell peppers. I'm hoping to make time for all of these summer treats...and fast.

For today's Meatless Mondays post I'd like to share this luscious tomato salad. It's perfect for this time of year because it features tomatoes straight from the farmstand.


It requires zero cooking.


And, it is light enough for even the hottest of days.


I hope you enjoy it as much as we did ~ even my daughter dove headfirst into this, herbs and all!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Marinated Tomato Salad

  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 pints of the freshest mini tomatoes you can find (using a mixture of heirloom cherry tomatoes might make for the prettiest result)
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/8 tsp. each of sea salt and freshly ground pepper (or more to taste)
Whisk together the vinegar and oil in the serving dish. Add the tomatoes to the dish, top with the herbs, salt, and pepper, and then toss well to coat the tomatoes. Adjust the seasonings if necessary, then chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours before serving.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Surprise, Surprise!

Don't you love surprises? I do. And our trip to Maui was full of wonderful surprises. We enjoyed every place we visited, and we were amazed by the variety of things to do there. A perfect example is the Surfing Goat Dairy Farm. Talk about a place not to be missed! This Local Great offers something for everyone.

We headed to the farm after a full morning of sightseeing. We had sort of skipped lunch, but we wanted to visit the goats before we ventured out for food. Boy were we glad we showed up hungry!

This was not your ordinary farm. In addition to its location on the side of a volcano and its breathtaking panoramic views, this turned out to be a haven for gourmet munching at its best. Before we got to munching, we toured the farm.

We fed hay to the goats, which of course my daughter loved since she adores animals of all kinds.


This little guy's name is Elvis ~ because of his hair-do of course!


We saw the goats lined up for milking, and we saw where the milk is pasteurized and made into cheese within mere hours of leaving the goat. No wonder it tastes so fresh! After the tour we ended up here:


This may look like a surf shop, but it's actually the farm's cheese stand. For us it was the source of the most luxurious meal we had enjoyed up to that point in the trip. To start we had lemonade, iced tea, and smoothies. We sampled fresh goat milk cheese, then realized we needed to hang out for a while. We ordered a goat cheese caprese salad and a flight of the lightest, creamiest, best flavored goat cheeses I've ever tasted. That's right, a FLIGHT of goat cheese! Who knew there was such a thing?

If you are ever, EVER in Maui you should visit this place. They also sell their cheeses online, including a cheese that was served at the Obama Inauguration festivities.

If you're curious what my favorites were, they were the"Rolling Green" made with fresh garlic chives (not so surprising that I would like this, plus it won the 2nd Place National Award in 2005) and the exotic "Mandalay" made with apples, bananas, and curry (a very surprising combination in my opinion, and the winner of the 1st Place National Award in 2004).

Yum, yum, yum. These cheeses just might show up in my life again...maybe for my birthday!
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