The 2017 Cookie Swap with Tots

If you know me, you know that I love to bake. I also love cookies. Therefore, I love baking cookies and then eating them. In fact, my parents tell me one of my first words was cookie. Not surprising, Caleb also has discovered a love for cookies. He takes his hands to his mouth, and enthusiastically says, "nom nom nom!" He will do this with pictures of cookies and even plastic toy cookies. It's hilarious.

Our love for cookies must be shared, which inspired a cookie exchange. It seems December hits, and you never have time to make all the varieties of cookies you want. Then Caleb came along and baking all the cookies became even harder. So last year I started a cookie exchange party with all my mom and baby (now tots) friends. It's so much fun to get everyone together to enjoy cookies and conversation while the kids get out all their energy. Win win! Everyone liked it last year so much that I just had to do it again this year...and now it'll be the annual cookie exchange. I'm committed to it now my friends. 

Let me share some of the party fun in pictures because the pictures tell it all.

All the cookies:

Here's the cookies (start top left): Oatmeal Cranberry, White Chocolate, Walnut Cookies*, Cinnamon Sugar Pie Pinroll Cookies, Oatmeal Blueberry Cookies, Ginger Sparkle Cookies, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, No-Bake Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies, Caramel Apple Cider Cookies, No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies, and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

*These were my cookies. There is a story here about our oven, etc. I hope to share that with you soon. But for a sneak peek: the world was against me making cookies.

All the tots:

Kids starting from ~6 months to almost 4 years old. Sadly I didn't get a great photo of the baby, but he's a cutie!

Everyone playing:

All the party people:

The top photo is everyone but blurry, and the bottom photo is not everyone but better focus.

Food, Caleb, and Cookies:

I made some warming spiced apple cider and lots of snacks, but the cookies were the main dish. ;) And I had to share the one of Caleb. I don't know how many cookies he ended up eating, but he kept snagging them off the table, the little stinker. Apparently, we have a chocolate lover on our hands, too.

Such a great time with friends and really helps get me into the Christmas spirit. Love this day!

Portland Mini-Trip: Foodie Edition

I confess...I am a foodie.

I know this might sound good, but I have always have felt slightly embarrassed to admit to being a foodie. Which got me thinking...why? After some thought, I guess it comes down to my need for everyone to like me and that as a foodie someone might think I'm a food snob. But really, it just means I like food. I like eating it, cooking it, baking it, reading about it, researching it, talking about it, photographing it...just like a hobby. Nothing to be ashamed of, right? I hope you agree. 

Great, and now that the foodie confession is off my chest, I want to talk about food. Surprise! Josh is transitioning jobs right now and got a few days off between work. We seized the opportunity to go on a family mini-trip down to Portland. We haven't been to Portland since we moved to Seattle in 2010. Crazy, huh? I mean we just live three hours away. I chalk it up to: life. 

Portland has really grown since the last time we were there, especially in the restaurant scene. It's become a real foodie town. As soon as I knew we were headed down, I started to compile a list of lists of where to dine. I looked at my Pinterest board, asked Facebook friends, and read some of my bloggers Portland must-eats. You know, foodie research.

I know we wouldn't be able to do it all - not just because it was just a day and half long trip, but because bringing a baby along changes everything. Oh, and my list was way over 50 restaurants/cafes long (heh!), but that's neither here or there.

We did get to some pretty awesome places. Also, I snuck some food photos for you (again, slightly embarrassed to be taking photos of food. Apparently not enough to not take them, though). 

Okay, enough of the talk. Here's where we went and what we ate...

Breakfast  

Barista {Day 1 - Coffee} There is a picture of me with the Barista sign from our last visit (see photos below). I am pointing at my head because it was when I was working as a Starbucks barista in Eugene. Wow, that seems like a long time ago. Back then, I'm pretty sure that was the only Barista location, but this time we found there were several locations.

Lucky for us, Barista was just a nice walk away from the AirBnB we were staying at. It snowed that morning, so we walked down and got ourselves some delicious coffee. I ordered the hazelnut latte and Josh got the Valhorna Mocha. I normally don't go for hazelnut lattes, but it was housemate syrup and I saw someone rave about it on Yelp. It was delicious - slightly sweet, nutty, and smooth. The mocha was a winner, too. The chocolate was rich, but not too much - it was just right. 

Blue Star Donuts {Day 1 - Food} Honestly, I don't have a huge want to go to Voodoo Donuts. Most of them look like they are covered in cereal. They might be delicious, and if I get the chance, I'll try one. Mostly, though, I look for a classic donut with a fun twist. And that is what Blue Star delivered. They were so freaking good. 

The gal was late to open the store, but she let us hang out inside (snow in the PNW always slows things down!). So we had time to debate what flavors to get...it was so tough. We ended up with the Raspberry Rosemary, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Smoked Grapefruit, Bourbon Blueberry Basil, and Breakfast fritter (bacon potato goodness). I think my favorite was the Raspberry Rosemary donut, and Josh couldn't decide but mentioned the Smoked Grapefruit being a favorite because it was just so different. I think I have to say it: this was the best donut I've ever had. 

Sterling Coffee Roasters {Day 2 - Coffee}  I always have a dilemma when traveling. You find something you really enjoy one day, but should you return to it knowing you really liked it or should you try something new? What if the something new isn't quite as good? #firstworldproblems. I usually end up forcing Josh to make the decision. Generally, Josh is on Team Try Something New, so that usually want we end up doing. And that is the case on our last morning in Portland. Instead of Barista, we walked a little longer to check out Sterling. It's a tiny coffee shop made more for commuters than dwellers. It was swanky and nice inside, though. I ordered a vanilla latte with their homemade vanilla syrup. Josh ordered their house caramel latte. Both were smooth, creamy, and delicious. We also purchased some beans to take home and we are still enjoying their coffee. Their beans are quite good, in fact. Unfortunately, I don't remember the exact ones, but I believe they were Ethiopian.

We took our coffees to go and strolled back to our AirBnB for some food to go along with the coffee. Man can't survive off coffee along...or, can he? Naaawww. Food required!

Trifecta Annex - {Day 2 - Food} If you continue to read, you'll know we went to Pine Street Market. When we were there we picked up some bread and pastries. For breakfast, we noshed on sweet citrus morning buns. They were buttery and had a lovely touch of orange zest inside. Take that an dip it in your coffee. Now, that's what I'm talking about.

Lunch

Lardo {Day 1} Our intention was actually to get lunch at Tasty 'n Alder, but it was a 45 minute wait. When you have a baby who's nap is coming in about an hour this just won't do. Instead, we crossed the street and hit up Lardo. This place specializes in meat and sandwiches. If you can do a good sandwich, oh man...

I indulged in the Pork Meatball Banh Mi while Josh got the Philly Joe Jones. Both were terrific. To accompany the sammies, we go the fries which were also great with herbs and such. Josh got some red velvet beer, which was in fact red colored. He thought it was great and refreshing. A great spot for lunch! 

Tasty ’n Alder {Day 2} Basically everyone I asked mentioned we should go here. It's one of John Gorham's restaurants, and he's the hit restaurateur in Portland right now. We ordered the house cottage cheese with pineapple jam for Caleb. Caleb refused it, but don't let him tell you if it was good as he's currently only living off fruit and puffs right now. Anything else gets dropped, hidden, or squished. We ate it instead and our impression of cottage cheese was changed for the better. And now I want to know how to make it!

I enjoyed the Polenta n Sugo, which was basically creamy polenta topped with a chicken and pork ragu sauce with mozzarella and topped of with an egg. Oh man, it hit the spot on the rainy day. Josh took the waiter's advice and ordered the Korean Fried Chicken, which was spot-on spicy and delicious. This place didn't disappoint...even after all the hype. 

Caleb enjoyed this Bamba (peanut puffs). And flirted with the ladies next to us.

Snacks

Salt & Straw Ice Cream {Day 1 & 2} Oh man, oh man, oh man. This ice cream is the BEST. Da Bomb! The creme de la creme. Probably the best ice cream ever. Statement made. Done. 

The flavors are freaking amazing. Different but not so wildly different that you scratch your head in confusion. We opted to share a flight of ice cream. Yup, a flight of ice cream. We found it to be the perfect way to enjoy several flavors. We tried the Chocolate Gooey Brownie, Arbequina Olive Oil, Coconut with Petunia’s Salted Caramel Bars, and Pear & Blue Cheese. We both thought the Pear & Blue Cheese was the best (of the best!). And Caleb liked their spoons. Can you find the missing spoon in the photo below?

Guys, it was so good, we made a pit stop before hitting the road back to Tacoma for a treat to go. Josh got the rootbeer float, which was dynamite. I couldn't resist and got a waffle cone of the pear and blue cheese. 

Dinner

Jo Bar & Rotisserie {Day 1} We arrived late afternoon to Portland, and didn't have much time before Caleb needed to go down for the night. He's an early to bed guy, so we need to eat at 5pm if he's going to join us. We were staying within walking distanced to 23rd Street in the Alphabet district (slash near Nob Hill), so we walked down to see what would work. We landed at Jo Bar, which received good ratings on Yelp (not that Yelp is the end all be all of rankings, but it usually steers us well). The good thing about early dining is happy hour. We both got a drink - Josh a beer, and me a cocktail (blood orange old fashion, my fav!). Our favorite dish was the fondue. Not only fun to eat, but delicious. Then we shared the rotisserie chicken since rotisserie seemed to be their specialty. We ended up having to gulf it down because Caleb started to get tired (that's code for - fussy, flailing arms, shrieks, etc). But it was a solid dish and worked well for that evening. 

Pine Street Market {Day 2} We always love a good market. Like The Ferry Building in SF, Krog Market in Atlanta, Pike Place in Seattle, Granville in Vancouver. If there is a market in the city, you can probably guess Josh and I will check it out. Pine Street Market is fairly new - just opened a year ago (according to some guy that served me some food). It has several little restaurants inside and is very hip/trendy. And we loved it. We ended up with ramen from Marukin Ramen, which was soul warming. Before we left, we bought bread & pastries from the Trifecta Annex to enjoy later. I would definitely want to come back and try more places! I love marketplaces. 

What a great weekend! What a culinary adventure! I'm pretty proud of us for getting to so many places with a baby/toddler. We definitely have to return to PDX soon. So many good places to try still. Have you gone to Portland recently? Foodies Unite! 

My Thanksgiving Game Plan

Do you ever think back to what you were doing last year at this time? I find it so interesting to think back and consider how life has changed. Last year I was in my third trimester and getting pretty preggo. This year I have a 10 month old baby and have a home in a new town!

And yet, some things stay the same. Last year my in-laws came to our place for Thanksgiving and they are coming again this year. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen cooking and baking and Thanksgiving is the ultimate kitchen challenge. I am always on the quest for the perfect turkey and dishes. There are so many options out there it’s always so hard to decide!

There are a few dishes I’m going to keep the same as last year because they were dynamite, but there are a few new dishes on the line-up. Here’s my plan for our Thanksgiving feast this year along with what I did last year.

Turkey & Brine

One thing I’ve learned is brining is key to making a juicy, tender, and delicious turkey. Please don’t skip this step! I am going to use the same brine and roasting recipes as last year, which is from the Pioneer Woman. One trick I heard this year that I’m going to try out is to put the turkey in the refrigerator uncovered the night before roasting. Apparently, this helps achieve a nice golden turkey.

Stuffing

OMG, this was so good last year. I declared then that I would make it again this year. Hopefully it’s as delicious as I remember because it was a winner. I call it stuffing but I know some of you out there call it dressing.

Gravy

I always buy a jar of gravy just in case I either run out of time or energy and/or the gravy doesn’t turn out for some reason. This year I’m trying a recipe with a cornstarch thickening agent opposed to flour from last year’s recipe.

Cranberry Sauce

I’ve made a different cranberry sauce the past few years. I just haven’t found “the one.” I’m looking for a balance of sweet and tangy. Hopefully this does it! I did like the conveniences of the slow cooker, though. It was a decent sauce, but I’m looking for perfection!

Mashed Potatoes

I bought a potato ricer to try this year. I should get it any day now. I hope this will make these the lightest and fluffiest potatoes! I think I’ll make them early and keep them warm in the slow cooker.

Green Beans

I usually make Brussel Sprouts, but learned that my in-laws don’t really like them all that much. Ha! So this year the veggie is green beans. Roasting is my favorite way to cook green beans – yum! I’ll just do Brussels Sprouts for Christmas and the recipe I have is so good!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I love mashed sweet potatoes, but I thought it too much to have mashed sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes – too much mashed up! So roasting it is.

Rolls

I always have grand plans of making rolls, but then end up just buying them. I’m hoping I’ll be able to bake them this year with this quick 30 minute option. I was tempted with the freeze and bake ones, but realized they still need to rise for like 4-5 hours in the morning..

Pumpkin Pie

It’s not a complete Thanksgiving meal without some pie. Pumpkin pie, of course! I love everything pumpkin so this is the hardest decision for me. This one calls my name with that delicious looking crumb topping. But I highly recommend the one I made last year, too.

So there is the line-up. Now, the game plan:

A Few Days Before Thanksgiving:

  • Make the pie crust and store in the refrigerator (or freezer depending on when I get to it)
  • Cook a fresh pumpkin for the pie and store in the refrigerator (I’ll have canned pumpkin on back-up, just in case)
  • Make the rolls and freeze them
  • Make the cranberry sauce – I think this will be just fine in the refrigerator for a few days
  • Bake the cornbread for the stuffing
  • Caramelize the onions for the green beans – Optional
  • Brine the turkey for 18-24 hours

Thanksgiving Morning:

  • Take the rolls out of the freezer first thing in the morning – they will need 4-5 hours to defrost and rise
  • Make and bake the pumpkin pie
  • Assemble the stuffing
  • Assemble the green beans
  • Peel the potatoes
  • Peel and parboil the sweet potatoes

Before putting in the Turkey:  

  • Bake the rolls, stuffing, green beans, and sweet potatoes

Turkey Time:

  • Roast the Turkey – The time really depends on the size of the bird. It’s about 10 minutes per pound of turkey
  • Sauté the green beans
  • Prepare the mashed potatoes

While the Turkey Rests:

  • Warm up all the sides in the oven – I hope they all fit in my oven!
  • Pour some wine (or sparkling cider)

Lastly, as part of my preparation, I like to go through all my recipes, read them, add them to Paprika, and list out the temperature and bake times. For the last item, it’s great to know what the need is for the oven. Sometimes you can bake things together. I only have one oven so I need to be efficient!

  • 25 mins @ 350 — Rolls
  • 35 mins @ 375 — Pie
  • 25 mins @ 350 — Pie Topping
  • 15 mins @ 450 — Cornbread for Stuffing
  • 45 mins @ 400 — Stuffing
  • 50 mins @ 400 — Sweet Potatoes

Whew! I can do this, right?! It’s going to be a challenge with a 10-month old baby, but with help I think we can make this feast a success.

Tell me about your Thanksgiving plans! Any dishes that are pure perfection? 

Daily Dinner: Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup

Growing up my parent’s had the tradition of making a nice family dinner on Sunday nights. We would usually eat out Friday and Saturday night for dinner, but Sunday was always at home. Sunday afternoon we would go out and do something fun as a family, then on the way home we would stop at the local market, Harvest Ranch, and pick up groceries to make a delicious meal. We often picked up a Marie Callendar’s pie for dessert at it was next door to the market, too! 

My parents weren’t big cooks, but they loved to grill. We lived in San Diego, so the weather was pretty grill-friendly year around. Some of the family favorites were BBQ chicken, steaks, and hamburgers. I enjoyed helping them prepare the meals and assist in the kitchen. Perhaps this tradition helped to spark the love of cooking I have today! 

As I grew older and moved away from home, I continued the Sunday dinner tradition. I especially enjoyed this tradition when Josh came into the picture. A few years ago, Josh made a request to put a twist on the Sunday night tradition. He wanted to make Sunday night dinner soup night. To persuade me, he gifted me the book, Mr. Sunday Soups. I tried out a bunch of recipes from the book and really started to like the soup tradition. We put the soups on hold during the summer - just too hot for soup. However, each fall we tend to bring it back. 

This week when I was talking to Josh about how I wanted to share a recipe this week, he suggested I do soup. I asked what soup he thought I ought to share and he suggested this one, which happens to be my favorite. The only problem is that it’s a bit more time consuming than I would like - too much standing at the stovetop. Now that I have a baby, I need meals that are quick and easy. So, I did something I’ve never done before and I am quite proud of the results: I converted the recipe to be for the crockpot! 

I love butternut squash, and this chowder is filling and a great introduction back into the fall season. The potatoes add a nice creaminess, and the bacon to top it off! We served this with some crusty, toasted baguette for dipping. 

Now, sit down with your family and/or friends and enjoy some time together over dinner!

Butternut Squash Chowder Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 6 white potatoes, cut in half (roughly 12 oz)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 4 slices bacon strips cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage, extra for garnish
  • 1/4 cup half & half (or cream)

DIRECTIONS:

Place everything - except the chopped sage, bacon, and half and half - into the crockpot and give it a good stir. Cook on low for 6 hours. 

While the crockpot is going, cook up the bacon pieces on the stovetop until nice and crisp. Put aside for topping the soup later.

When the crockpot is done cooking the veggies, place the chopped sage and half and half into the pot. Then blend with a hand blender (or do batches in a blender). I didn’t blend until smooth, but kept some of the lumps from the potatoes to have a chowder like texture.

Ladle into bowls and serve warm! Enjoy this together as a family. :)

Note:

 

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast is important. Yes, I'm for Team Breakfast. Breakfast for the win! 

The way I see it there are people who eat breakfast and love it, and then there are the others...those that skip breakfast. Why??? Sure, the claims that it's the most important meal have been downgraded, but it's still important! I fully support a good breakfast. And so does Josh because otherwise I would be one crazy gal to deal with everyday. In fact, I usually wake up hungry and need food ASAP. Of course, these days little guy comes first, but I eat as soon as possible after him. 

Ever since I discovered Marge Granola at the Ballard Farmer's Market, I have been eating granola and yogurt for breakfast. This has been a couple of years now. Before Marge I had no idea granola was so good. So so so good. Then I upgraded it even more by using Ellenos yogurt. Even if you're a yogurt hater, you'll like Ellenos. It's so so so good. My favorite flavors are the ginger raspberry and marionberry. Oh, the lemon curb is delicious as well (although I don't think it "matches" the granola flavors as much). 

Yogurt + Granola = Breakfast of Champions. This is the equation for the best breakfast.  Not only is it delicious, it's nutritious, gives you energy, and keeps you full until lunch. Oh, and be sure to have a cup of coffee....that's the trifecta. 

Before Caleb was born I made my own granola on occasion and mostly just bought Marge's Granola, but now I have really gotten into making it (during Caleb's naps). It's actually very easy. I even got my mom addicted to making it. Now, I have a few recipes I love, but recently I've settled down with my very own creation. I've fine-tuned it to be similar to Marge, but also has it's own unique flavor. I cut down on the sugar and oil to make it more healthy, too. Sometimes I'll change up the seeds and nuts to make it different, but the base is the same. 

Because I love you guys, I'm going to share my recipe. Yay! 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups rolled old-fashioned oats 
  • 1/2 cup chopped, raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup sliced, raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas 
  • 3 Tbsp flaxseed meal (optional...kinda)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil 
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 2 Tbsp minced crystalized ginger (optional...kinda)
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries and/or raisins (a mix of both!)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 300 F. With the exception of the cranberries/raisins, mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and spoon out onto a large, rimmed baking sheet.

Bake 45 minutes. Be sure to stir halfway through, so granola doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan and/or burn.

Eat and enjoy!

If you don't trust me, then here's some recipes from the experts that I also enjoy making as well.

I also enjoy some other items for breakfast, but this is what I eat pretty much everyday. I hope you give it a try. It's worth it...believe me. 

Daily Dinners: Weekly Meal Planning

I'm not going to share a specific recipe today, but instead how I plan my meals for the week. I often get asked while munching away with co-workers at lunch how I manage to make the all my meals during the week. My co-workers think they are gourmet or something - ha! It's just regular, home cooked meals here, friends. So I'm going to share my meal planning secrets with you. 

Okay, that's a lie; it's not a secret, but I had to hype this up a bit to get you excited. It's definitely not rocket science (and if I was a rocket scientist, I'd probably be rich and have a home chef or something). But it did take me a while to get where I am with the meal planning. It all started on paper - literally scraps of paper where I wrote the meals and shopping list. My dear husband played a bit part in helping me get a system down. This system still takes some time, but it's a whole lot less than it used to be at the start. And I'm still refining it...especially in anticipation of the little guy on the way. 

Here's how it goes...

Gather Recipes

Finding the perfect recipe never stops for me. I'm always on the quest for the perfect meal - one that's quick, tasty and healthy. It's like a game - a game I both love and hate. I like to torture myself that way. Anyway, where do I get my recipes? Mostly from the blogs and Pinterest.

Blogs: I have been hoping to write a post about my favorite bloggers, and I still plan to, so below is just a sampling. These are a few favorites for meal type recipes (some are better for treats & sweets - that's for another time). Oh, and I use a blog reader to follow my favorite bloggers.

  • Pioneer Woman - Ree, otherwise known as the Pioneer Woman, is great and I've been following her for years. She's built quite the empire for herself and recently started a program on the Food Network. I've been to her book signing and met her when she signed my book. Her chicken parmigiana is a favorite of mine. 
  • Annie's Eats - Annie always seems to have great solutions for healthy and quick meals. She seems so nice, like she could be your friend. Her Mexican quinoa is one of my go-to's for a quick meal. Just add some avocado and sour cream and chips on the side and you're good to go. And, if you want some meat, I often add the carnitas from Trader Joe's. 
  • Gimme Some Oven - Ali has some awesome meals - yes I know them all on a first name basis (although, sadly, they don't know my name). I love how she lightens up a lot of traditional meals and does recipe round ups by ingredient. Her Hummus Crusted Chicken is super tasty - just serve it with Trader Joe's rice! (Psst, I told you about this before...)
  • Mel's Kitchen Cafe - I tell ya, Mel makes some good, home cooked meals. She often make suggestions on what to serve with the meal, which is helpful. I enjoy the Thai Style Chicken and Quinoa during the spring and summer. 
  • Pinch of Yum - Lindsay is a recipe machine. I follow her on Pinterest and she's got so many recipes pinned. One I made in the spring and will make again soon now that it's cool enough for the oven, is the Six Ingredient Sausage Potato Pie

Pinterest: I use Pinterest to quick save a recipe that looks promising to me. So, when I am looking through my blogs and come across a recipe, I pin it to one of my boards. I also use Pinterest to source recipes. I follow a few of the bloggers I follow as they pin other people's recipes, too. 

Plan the Week

Every Sunday I sit down and plan the menu for the week. Here's the steps I take:

1. Weather Check: Yes, I check the weather. Seriously. I want to know whether I want to turn on the oven or not (this is key for the summer). 

2. Scan my Recipes: This is where Pinterest plays in again. I go to my boards and check out if anything catches my eye. If you have a cookbook you like, look at the table of contents. Or, do a quick web search if you have something particular in mind. Got some ideas now? Good, let's move on...

Before I go to 3, I want to tell you about Paprika as it's pivotal to the next steps. This is is a great piece of software and has served me well. I was doubtful of switching off my paper method (with recipes all printed and in a binder), but Josh convinced me and I haven't looked back. When I have a meal planned for the week, I just imported it into the tool. Slowly the recipe library builds up. I can use this for #2 now as well. It's on my desktop, phone, and iPad so it's really convenient. 

3. Meal Decisions: There is a calendar tool in Paprika, so go through and decide on a meal for Sunday through Thursday (I take off Friday & Saturday). If it's a new recipe, you may need to import it. Or, if you already have it in your library, great! You open the recipe on Paprika and there is an opinion to "Add to Meals" - go ahead and add it. 

Tip: I try to have some variety to my weekly meals. I tend to have one pasta dish, a chicken dish, ground turkey/beef, and pork. 

4. Grocery List: At the same time you add the meal to the calendar, you should click "Add to Grocery List." Then you click all the boxes for the items you need. Don't forget to go through the pantry and refrigerator to see what you have, what needs refreshing, etc. You can also just manually add items to the grocery list. I have some things I get every week - yogurt, bananas, milk, ice cream - so I add those, too. All set, good! The tool is great and will categories them into aisles at the store. 

5. Go to the Store: Sunday afternoons I head to the grocery store. I tend to go to Trader Joe's and/or Safeway these days - sometimes I go to both. It takes me about an hour total. I take out my iPhone and open Paprika, and go through my grocery list. As I put an item into my card, I check it off and the item disappears. 

6. Put the Food Away: This is self explanatory. I hope so. Josh usually helps me bring in the grocery bags, isn't he sweet?

Cook each Day

When you get home each day, open Paprika and get cooking. I use Josh's iPad and a little stand in the kitchen. The recipe is there and ready to help me make a most wonderful meal. I usually make 4 servings (or more!). We eat two for dinner, and then put two in tupperware to take to work the next day. Then your co-workers will look at your lunch and ask, "how do you do it?" 

And if that's not enough to get you going, there here is more Daily Dinner inspiration:

Farmer Brown

As you know we moved into a rental home earlier this year - an actual house with a yard and everything. Dang, we're so grown-up now. Having a yard gave us the opportunity to have a garden, and better yet there was a empty garden bed. It was screaming for us to plant veggies (not literally, that would be weird). So, we headed to the garden store, got our hands dirty, and started a garden. 

We started out by hitting up Swanson's Nursery. We grabbed a cart and got some starter plants and some fertilizer. Generally, a good way to start, right? 

When we got home, Josh was good enough to do the digging and fertilizer job. That's my macho man!

Then he came up with the idea of doing a grid system. He's pretty clever, too! 

We planted all sorts of goodies including spinach, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, strawberries, zucchini, parsley, thyme, and sage. Off in another area we planted basil and rosemary as well.

Once it was all safely in the ground, of course, we had to let it grow. 

Can you identify what everything is? I hope you can at least guess the onions above. 

The weather turned pretty hot here for a few weeks so it was a struggle to keep things alive. Some made it, some didn't. We learned that when the weather gets hot, spinach can "bolt" - not running away bolt, but just grow upward and flower. Basically, it was not edible (Sad Trombone). Our strawberries didn't quite make it either but the plant lives on so they may still grow something. But sadly our tiny pepper dropped off the plant. 

On the bright side, we got some tasty kale, lettuce, zucchini, and carrots. Seriously, the zucchini...it was massive. And there is more zucchini in-the-works. Yay! Here's me picking the carrots. Ta Da! 

It was a good first harvest for us first time gardeners. I used our kale in a yummy pasta dish, the zucchini we grilled on 4th of July, and the lettuce we used on turkey burgers. Yum yum freshness!

I'd like to dedicate the garden success, though, to Josh. He diligently waters every morning. I think I watered it like twice. I'm not the greatest gardener, but together we did pretty good. Maybe next time we'll feel brave enough to start from seeds instead of starters. We'll see.

Taco Libre Truck Showdown

On Saturday, Josh and I decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo a bit early and eat some delicious tacos at the Taco Libre Truck Showdown. Basically, local food trucks gathered at one location and served out their best plate of tacos. Tacos....count us in.

We knew it'd be crowded (hello, tacos) but we didn't realize it'd be this crowded.

We almost turned around and said forget that! But the tacos lured us back. And what the heck, what else are we going to do, go home and watch TV? It's sunny. It's tacos. Let's do it. 

Considering the length of the lines. We had to just chose a truck and go with it knowing it would probably be the only one we'd go for. We opted for the Asian influenced, Buddha Bruddah.

So we waited. And waited. And whispered to each other about the obnoxious group behind us. It was fun and good people watching.  

Oh boy, we're getting closer. Also, I'm impressed that the gal was able to continue to smile considering her line was a mile long. 

See, she's still smiling.

As we neared, the menu appeared. Oh so delicious sounding...Oh so hungry!

We ordered three carne asada tacos and three sweet & spicy carnitas tacos.

We finally got our tacos, hunkered down on the curb, and chowed down. 

I'm mean, look at me go...

I am happy to report: the tacos were worth the wait. They were delicious! 

And so, with full bellies, we left. 

It was good. It was fun. And we 

Josh's Birthday Treats

Josh turned another year older last Sunday. The years just keep rolling by...it's scary...can we make it slow down? Just a bit? Oh the bright side, I love that birthday mean celebrations, and in our case, the chance to try another Seattle restaurant on our "to try" list. There are so many we want to go to, but they tend to be out of the everyday dinner price range. 

For this particular celebration we headed over to Stika and Spruce. Oh man, good idea. Even with a week in a half early on calling for reservations, I was only able to snag a 5pm reservation for the two of us. Come on, Josh isn't turning that old. But it worked since we needed to meet up at 7:45pm for dessert to celebrate another friend's birthday. So 5pm it is! 

But first, before dinner we sat down for a cocktail at Bar Ferdinand. Okay, yes, we were early. But it turned out to be quite enjoyable. I order a martinez, which was quite delightful. But then dinner called...

Our Order: Sourdough bread // Delicata Squash, pumpkin seeds, haloumi, whey, argan // roasted beets & apples, sunflower seeds tartar & flora's curd // half chicken, baked ham, peregion beans, einkorn & asian pear // buckwheat crunch ice cream.

Our Favorite was the delicata squash, but it was all delicious. (I forgot to take some of the photos before we started to dig in). 

We enjoyed ourselves very much, and left with full bellies. Josh also liked opening his gifts. I bought him some over-the-ear headphones so he can rock around the house. That made him pretty happy, too.

After dinner, we headed over to our friends house for a surprise dessert party for Torrey's 40th birthday. I had made some pumpkin bars (sorry, highly secret recipe). 

And our birthday food adventures didn't stop there. Oh no sir ye, we continued with breakfast the next morning (before I had to fly to Irvine for work). One of Josh's favorites is Hudson - it's where a bar meets comfort food. 

The birthday weekend with fully bellies and smiling faces.

Happy Birthday Josh!

Local Spotlight: Best Pizza Places

Happy Labor Day weekend! I hope you're out doing something totally awesome. Josh and I are having a lovely, lazy Saturday morning (with a drizzle outside). It feels awesome (even though the weather doesn't feel totally Labor Day-ish).

When I think of Labor Day food, I usually picture hamburgers & hotdogs. Bad news for you: I didn't go eat at hamburger joints and take pictures (please note: I did eat at hamburger joints, though). BUT, I did eat at pizza joints and took pictures. Pizza is in the same food family as hamburgers, right? That's a rhetorical question. Don't answer it.

That was my entirely-too-long lead in to tell you how this is list of my favorite pizza places in Seattle. Since my opinion is everything, that means this is the list of best pizza places in Seattle. You're welcome. Here we go (not in any particular order):

The Masonry

Josh and I stumbled upon the Masonry quite unexpectedly. We had just been to an event (honestly, I can't remember what event. I think maybe the winter Urban Craft Uprising). We were hungry and didn't know where we wanted to eat in Lower Queen Anne. We decided to just walk around and see what we could see...and we saw the Masonry. It was it's fourth day being open, so it was brand spanking new. We sat at the window and enjoyed a squash pizza with a spiced ricotta with a scrumptiously chewy crust. I fell in love.......with the pizza (people, duh, I'm already in love with Josh). I was thrilled to see it was featured in Sunset magazine last month. Just remember, Josh and I found it first. 

Delancey (and Essex)

This is a well-known pizzeria here, and has a rep for being one of the best already (even New York Times noticed it). So this isn't anything new. However, I'm here to tell you all the hype about it is valid. I like this pizza so much that it's where I had my birthday meal this year (it was a mid-week birthday, wahhh). They usually have seasonal toppings on the chalkboard, which you can add-on. The crust is thin, but not crunchy; a lovely chew that doesn't destroy your jaw. I love the white pie (minus garlic) with kale (when it's on the chalkboard). Yum. Better yet, Essex is next door (same owners). When you wait for your table at Delancey, just have a cocktail. Good things come in twos, eh? 

Pagliacci

This is our pizza delivery go-to, and it's delicious. It's no Round Table, or Papa Johns delivery. It belongs up in the big pizza leagues with the others on this list. It has great flavors options, and great crust, too. It's not really the wood-fired, thin crust neapolitan pizzas, but more traditional pizza with a thicker crust (but not crazy thick). I enjoy the Chicken & Spinach pie and add ricotta. The have stores all around the great Seattle area, hence why the delivery is so great. 

Veraci

You'll usually find Veraci at most of the farmer's markets here in Seattle. They bring a wood-fired oven with them and cook up pizza for all the farmer's market goers. You can purchase a whole pie, or just a slice (or two). It's very thin and sometimes has a bit of a crispiness around the edges. I love their florentine pizza Again, with ricotta (but it comes with it). I love ricotta on my pizza. If you haven't tried it, please do. Anyway, I like this for a on-the-go / quick bite since they are at the markets or have their small store-front in Ballard. (Sorry, just have this one photo).

Cornuto

Have you watched Gordon Ramsey's show Kitchen Nightmares? This restaurant was NOT on it. But when Gordon was running an episode at a nearby Greek restaurant, he apparently ate at Cornuto. According to the waitress, he said this pizza was true, Italian style and delicious. I don't think this waitress was lying; the pizza is great. And the ambiance is dark and romantic. It's a cozy place in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood. Josh and I usually split a pizza and get a salad. We tend to vary it up, but the margherita is to die for. However, the gnocchi is also melt-in-your-mouth good. We haven't gone yet, but I hear the happy hour is great.

Via Tribunali

Via Trib and Cornuto are sister restaurants, so it's no surprise that we like them both. The menus are somewhat similar, but each does have something different to offer. This is also a cozy restaurant and it's just up on top of Queen Anne, but there are a few more locations around town. We love to get the Via Tribunali Specialita della Casa, which is more of a calzone pizza. Perfectly chewy, fresh and delicious toppings. It's one of those pizza where the first few slices are so hot and fresh that you usually need to fold the slice sandwich style to get it into your mouth. (Sorry, it was dark when we ate there so the pictures weren't great).

Serious Pie

If you're a foodie, then you know Tom Douglas is the chef de la chefs of Seattle (along side Ethan Stowell and Matt Dillon). Serious Pie is Douglas' answer to pizza pie and it's pretty dang good. I really enjoy the pie with yukon gold potatoes - simply delicious. There are two locations, and both mostly downtown. I prefer the Westlake restaurant, which is also a biscuit place in the mornings (Serious Biscuit). You really can't go wrong here.

Kylie's Chicago Pizza

If you know me, you know my extended family lives in Chicago (or nearby). My parents were born and raised Chicagoans. They love Lou Malnati's and Ginos East, and I was raised up eating this upside down, deep dish pizza (we'd visit Chicago most summers). If you haven't had Chicago deep dish, then let me tell you something....it's filling and delicious. It's pizza you need to eat with a fork and knife, and a slice or two will do you (oh, sure you can eat more but  you'll feel that food baby later). So, we aren't in Chicago (obviously), but let Kylie's transport you. Note: Patxis just opened in Ballard and is also a good Chicago style pizza (we first tried this in the Bay Area). 

Tutta Bella

This was the first pizza we tried in Seattle. Our good family friends, Vince and Jonita, brought us along with Josh's parents. We haven't been to it in a while because we usually end up at one of the above places, but this is solid, wood-fired pizza. It's good for kids, too. Plus some great salads. It definitely deserves a place on this list of bests. This is my parent's favorite Seattle pizza, too. (Sorry, no pictures).

That's it. There are still many places to explore and test out. In fact, here's a place I'd like try: Mio Posto. And/or eat through this list. Hungry now? Go get pizza.

PIZZA PIZZA. EAT IT. (and enjoy).

Turning Older

I woke up on June 18th feeling a year older. Okay, that's really not true. But people like to ask you that on your birthday - sillies. If you ask me this whole getting older thing is weird...I really don't feel all that much older. Am I supposed to feel older? Maybe I do sometimes - like when I have a hard time stay up on New Years. This list actually sums it up pretty well. 

I really don't mind birthdays. In fact, I love them. You get all the attention. Eat where you want. Go where you want. Get presents. It's a celebration of YOU. Soak it up. Enjoy it. Yay for being born. That's my birthday philosophy. 

I had to work on my birthday. Wah wah wah. But luckily I have pretty cool co-workers. They sang to me. They gave me cards, cupcakes, coffee, and cheers (all the C's). So that was pretty awesome. Then for dinner, Josh and I got a drink at Essex and pizza at Delancey. And I opened all my cards.

And here some of the food and drink we enjoyed. A tasty snap pea brusetta and a yummy cocktail. 

So that was pretty nice. But then the weekend after my birthday, we did a even bigger food and drink excursion. We went out to Capitol Hill to Terra Plata for a romantic birthday dinner. Before dinner, we got some lovely cocktails at a speakeasy bar, Knee High Stocking Company. One of those places that you should have a reservation to (oops!) and you have to ring the doorbell. With true, classic bartenders (those that make bartending their career). I had two drinks - I tell you, I'm wild and crazy at this age...

Then, as happy as a clam (remember those two drinks), we headed to dinner at Terra Plata. We sat out on the rooftop patio, which was oh-so-nice. I felt special since they printed "Happy Birthday Heather" on our menus. 

We really enjoyed the patio. 

And we enjoyed the food - some halibut (for the hell of it), and some roasted pig. Oh and our appetizer of roasted grapes with goat cheese. Nom nom nom. And then we finished it all off with one of my favorites, macarons.

And that was one fine birthday. Now I'm ready to face another year. 

Thanks to everyone for the love on my birthday. xo, heather

A Lovely Day: Kirkland Uncorked

How the heck is it already August? Holy moly! I think I say this every month, but seriously, how is it already August? Summer is going way too fast. And it also makes me feel somewhat guilty that I'm only just now writing about something we did in mid-July. I feel like such a slacker. Ugh. I swear, I've been busy. That and generally after being on a computer for 8-10 hours a day, I really don't want to spend more time in the evenings at the computer. It's for my eyes, they need to look beyond the screen. 

Okay, no excuses. And I'm here now. That has to count for something. Right?

Let me transport you back a few weekends to Saturday, July 20th when Josh and I went across the bridge (here in Seattle that means we went to the East side - Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, etc). Okay, joke:

Why did Heather and Josh cross the bridge? 

To get to the other side. (Hmm, that was so much funnier when I was 8 yrs old...)

Sorry, I won't use that joke again. Lame. Let's be adults again. We went to go to Kirkland Uncorked. Kirkland Uncorked is basically a food and wine festival where local wineries and restaurants come and you can sample all their stuff. 

 Kirkland Uncorked

Kirkland Uncorked

To my dad's disgrace, I'm not a huge wine fan. So I'm not sure why this festival appealed to me so much. Maybe it was because I saw that Diane's Delights would be there with Lemon Riesling cake pops. Yea, most probably that. But I did see that there would be quite a few rieslings. And sometimes those can be sweet, and I do like myself a sweet wine. So we decided it would be fun.

We went on Saturday around noon with the plan of eating the restaurants samples for lunch. Good plan. There were about 10 different restaurants sampling out pulled pork sammies, grilled salmon, chicken kabobs, shrimp salad, etc. And it was all quite delicious. And to finish it all off, I did get a Diane's Delights cake pop. It really did make the whole visit to the even worth it. Those cake pops are just too good (Diane is the gal that taught me to take cake pop, so in my mind she's the cake pop master). 

 Diane's Cake Pops (photo credit: Diane's Delights Facebook page)

Diane's Cake Pops (photo credit: Diane's Delights Facebook page)

 Food Sampling

Food Sampling

Although the day started out gray, the clouds burned off and we had a very sunny, nice afternoon. We watched a cooking class, but by then it was too hot to sit in the direct sun (and surprise, Josh and I got burnt). It's okay, we'll tan (bahahaha, me tan? That'll be the day). The cooking class was a calamari salad. Given that I don't like calamari - it's the tentacles; they scare me - it haven't tried to make the dish at home. But I sense I might be boring you with the details now. Let's move on. 

We did sit and enjoy the festival.  See our smiling faces...(notice Josh wearing sunglasses? They're new. This is the first pair of sunglasses he's owned since I've known him - so that's like 10 years. Isn't he hot in those glasses?)

 Enjoying Kirkland Uncorked

Enjoying Kirkland Uncorked

Really the rest of the story is that we went from booth to booth tasting different wines. My favorite was Silver Lake Winery's 2012 Roza Riesling. It was nice and sweet, but not dessert wine sweet. Just something nice for a warm, summer day. 

Runner's up include: 

* Funny story about my mom and mead at Bunratty Castle. Ask me about it someday. 

 Wines of Kirkland Uncorked

Wines of Kirkland Uncorked

We ended the day at the Boat Show and touring some cool boats. Wish list: a yacht. Please Santa?

So that's that. A nice day in Kirkland eating, drinking, and looking at boats. Can't get much better than that. 

 Captain Heather on her future yacht

Captain Heather on her future yacht

Prost! Cheers! Slainte! Živjeli!

Okay, I admit it: I like foofy drinks. Beer, yuck. Wine, meh. Cockails, oh yeah!

Josh and I have been pub crawling around Seattle. Okay, pub crawling might be an exaggeration. Now in days we really only make it to one bar on a given evening; maybe two if we're feeling crazy. So, this list was a long time coming. But, let me tell you, it's a good list. A very good list indeed.

I decided to write about my favorite bars when I discovered a drink that I really enjoyed one night at Re:public - it was the Corpse Reviver #2. Finally, a drink that wasn't a lemon drop or a cosmo. This is a drink that's more hip and sophisticated (not to say lemon drops or cosmos are bad, they are perfectly good girly drinks, too). but Corpose Reviver just seemed less girly, and had more umph. A serious cocktail, if you will. 

At first, I was just going to get Corpse Revivers at every bar, until Josh convinced me that I might find another drink while I'm at it. 

Please keep in mind that this is mainly a list for places was great cocktails; not necessarily a place with a huge wine or beer selection. Here goes nothing...

 Voltare at Leary Traveler

Voltare at Leary Traveler

 Maylie at Oliver's Twist

Maylie at Oliver's Twist

The Leary Traveler (Ballard) not only has good cocktails, but it is a place for beer lovers, too. The drink pictures is the Voltare, which was the drink special for the day. Honestly, I don't remember everything in it. However,  recall it definitely had mint. The important part was that it was oh-so-tasty. But my favorite thing about this place is the yam fries. Died and gone to heaven yam fries. A cocktail with yam fries...classy.

The cocktail on the right is from Oliver's Twist (Phinney Ridge). I think this place has the best cocktail list - big selection! So big that there are several drinks that I like on it. The one I've featured here is the Maylie - vodka, lemon, pear nectar, absinthe, and rosemary. Besides the selection, the other great thing about this place is that happy hour goes until 7pm. Can't beat that!

 Ruby Slipper at The Gerald

Ruby Slipper at The Gerald

 Tasty Drink at Tavern Law

Tasty Drink at Tavern Law

When I'm at The Gerald (Ballard), I feel like I could be Don Draper, and the Seattle Met feels the same - read on. However, I don't think Don Draper would choose the same drink as me. I went with the Ruby Slipper. I was unsure about this one with since it had  pink peppercorns, but the bartender said if I liked Corpse Revivers, I would like this...and I certainly did. Another plus is that this place is also a great dining option.

One of the more popular bars for a cocktail in Capital Hill is the Tavern Law. We got there before the major crowds, so it's hard to know if you'll always be able to find a seat. The cocktail list here is quite extensive - as in pages of drinks. I actually don't remember the drink I had. I thought they would have the menu online, but they don't. If they had, I would be able to tell you since it had many ingredients that I enjoy. Nonetheless, you'll be sure find something you like here. 

 Corpse Reviver #2 at Re:public

Corpse Reviver #2 at Re:public

 Corpse Reviver #2 at Essex

Corpse Reviver #2 at Essex

Okay, so Re:public (South Lake Union), was where I discovered the Corpse Reviver #2. I'm hesitant to say, but darn it, I will. I think they have the best Corpse Reviver #2. Hands down. Not to mention the delicious cherry at the bottom. Yum! I also enjoy the chicken dish they serve - it has spätzle (shout out to my German friends).

Now Essex (Ballard) is just a great bar. First off, their wallpaper is fantastic. It has whales on it. You heard me, whales. Their website has the whales on it, if you're curious. Oh come on, I know you're curious - check it out. There drinks are great, it's a fun place, and better yet....the pizza next door is the best. 

 Corn n' Oil at The Innkeeper

Corn n' Oil at The Innkeeper

 Limoncello Cocktail at Cornuto

Limoncello Cocktail at Cornuto

We went to the Innkeeper (Belltown) for dinner one Friday afternoon since we wanted to unwind from a long week with a beverage. I tried something totally wild (for me) called Corn n' Oil. Since it has blackstrap rum and something called falernum which separate from each other to give a layered look. It was very refreshing on that rainy day. ;)

I wouldn't necessarily called Cornuto (Phinney Ridge) a bar, but more of a pizzeria with some good drinks. When I saw it had limoncello, I had to get it. Limoncello just draws up great memories of traveling to Sorrento in Italy...ohh Italy... This was like a done up lemon drop. 

 Wandering Monk at Revel

Wandering Monk at Revel

This drink, the Wandering Monk, at Revel (Fremont) was super good. Actually, I guess I should say it's from Quoin, which is the restaurant's bar next door. However, I drank it at Revel while eating a delicious dinner. Seriously, delicious dinner. Anyway, back to the drink. It was like a mojito, but with a twist. I believe their drink list changes seasonally, so if this looks appealing you better get going. 

Well, this does it for my drink tour with you. This doesn't mean I'm done exploring, though. The next up will probably be the Sitting Room , and/or the Clever Bottle.

Also, not featured, but still top notch: Zig Zag Cafe and Local 360.

So....chug chug chug. Oh, eh hem, what was I thinking; I mean  cheers my friends! Or, Prost! Cheers! Slainte! Živjeli!

The Luck of the Irish

What did you think, that I'd let a holiday go by without a post? Sheesh, have some faith. Hello, my maiden name is O'NEILL. I wouldn't dare let my ancestors down by skipping St. Paddy's Day.

I spent most of my St. Paddy's Day in the kitchen - working with some Bailey's and Stout. I decided that I'd utilize my new cake ball making skills to make a holiday treat. I almost changed my mind when I found this Guinness and Bailey's Irish Cream cupcake recipe, but then I decided to use the Bailey's Irish Cream frosting in my cake pops. That's two birds with one stone - score! And green sprinkles for decoration, of course! 

I don't know where my Irish luck was on Sunday. It was not a smooth kitchen experience. First, my decision to use Devil Food cake was wrong. That had way too much Devil-ish taste (should've gone with plain ol' chocolate). Since I couldn't get the delicious Bailey cream frosting to "stand out" much, I thought, "hey, I'll add it to the chocolate." Well, that went blarney (I made that up - what I'm saying is that it was a flop). So I screwed up the "special" chocolate (not easy to find/get), and I had to purchase other chocolate. *Sigh* 

Oh, it continues. The chocolate wasn't setting right, and was too soft. Then as I did squiggles, the bag just exploded onto the balls. But I managed to forge on and finish, and then throw them in the fridge. I was all distraught, and whining to poor Josh all night about all the time I spent gone to waste, and should I even keep them? Yada yada. I ended up bringing them in to the office, and everybody loved them. Finally, my Irish luck returns. I ate one tonight and found that it was in fact quite tasty. Yes, my luck returned (thanks Irish ancestors). 

 Chocolate Bailey's Cake Balls

Chocolate Bailey's Cake Balls

Not only was I baking up a storm, I was also cooking up Beef and Guinness Stew for our Irish dinner. Okay, so I didn't use Guinness, for shame! Instead, we decided to take it a bit more local with Hub's stout. However, I swear this stew would totally be something the Irish would get on a cold, rainy Irish day. Plus I added potatoes. Go Irish!

 Stout Beef & Veggie Stew

Stout Beef & Veggie Stew

I did wear green, and I wore my Irish jewelry. I did my Irish duty.  

Happy St Patrick's day!

Baker's Corner: Cake Balls & Pops

I had my first cake ball not very long ago. Our Office Manager walked around and handed me a little ball. She was sampling sweets for our upcoming office holiday party. Looking at the ball, I was doubtful - will it be dry and untasty? But it was so cute and pretty, I couldn't resist. And I'm so glad I ate it. Delish! 

Luck had it that our Office Manager chose these delightful treats for the party. The display of cake pops at the party was mouth-watering, and so yummy. Then I learned these little heavenly pops and balls were made by my co-worker's friend, Dianne.

My luck continued because my co-worker told me Dianne was holding a cake pop class. Again, I couldn't resist, so I signed up. And that's how I came be make cake pops and balls this afternoon at Dianne's Delights.

Dianne was very sweet (pun intended), and was very gracious to share her tips & tricks. It turns out, the magic is in the technique. She showed us how to make them uber moist, how to roll the balls (without have to buy a silly cake pop mold), and to make the stick stay on the cake (which is pivotal for a cake pop, but sadly one of the harder things to do).

You'll see in my photos collage, some of the things we learned. Rolling the balls, dipping into chocolate to make the outer shell, and decorating them - we had pretty pink sprinkles for Valentines Day.

(Sorry my photos are a bit blurry, it's my phone's camera. I always feel awkward bringing my regular camera to these things.)

 Cake Pop Making

Cake Pop Making

 Heather Rolling Away

Heather Rolling Away

Here's a photo of me in action. I'm rolling vanilla and chocolate balls. I bet you wouldn't have guessed, but rolling them into perfect balls is extremely difficult. They kept wanting to look more like spin tops than balls. Dianne would walk over and make a perfect ball - making it look so easy. Gosh! But mine were mostly round and still quite delicious. I guess I have to practice (to the joy of my husband and co-workers).

One of the best parts is seeing them come all together - with sprinkles and swizzles - too cute. We also made some totally cute heart shaped pops. Now it'll be tough to decide what to make for Valentines Day - Cake pops or Macarons. Hmmm, tough decisions. (Remember my macarons class? Loads of fun there, too).

Cake pops are great. NOW GO BAKE'EM.

You had me at Pumpkin

It's no secret, I love pumpkin. When fall hits I get super excited because it means pumpkin time. If you add pumpkin to any food name, I'm instantly attracted to it. Pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cake, pumpkin latte, pumpkin pasta...you get the idea. 

For me, Saturday was a pumpkin-full day. For breakfast it was pumpkin pancakes, then a pumpkin smoothie in the afternoon, and to top it off, Pad Pumpkin for dinner. Can it get any better? Well, getting dessert would have been nice, like a pumpkin froyo, but I guess you can't get everything.

 Pumpkin Day

So the pancakes were quite good. Next time, I might add more sugar (maybe double it) because I have a pretty crazy sweet tooth. If you put maple syrup on top, though, that does a pretty bang up job. Here's the recipe. It's actually pretty quick & easy. You should do it.

Then there is the pumpkin smoothie. When I had my first sip, I knew there was a reason why I was stalking Jamba Juice the past few weeks. It was heaven...pumpkin pie in a smoothie. Can I even call it a smoothie? It's so creamy, good I think it must be a shake. Oh man, go to Jamba. Do it.

A tip from a girl that loves Thai food: get the pumpkin stuff. Pad pumpkin, pumpkin curry, pumpkin whatever, it's guaranteed to be delish. They use kabocha pumpkin, and it's so tender and sweet. Yumm.

So, anyways, that was my day of pumpkin. But, it doesn't stop there. Pumpkin must be had all season. Here's so ways to get more pumpkin:

Pumpkin Beer and Cider - Now, I don't like beer. Not one bit. Josh is always trying to get me to drink beer. So, I tried pumpkin cider. It was awesome. This had none of that hoppy stuff, just plain sweet. Go try Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider, you won't regret it. Or, if you like beer, so far, Josh's favorite is Pumking

Pumpkin English Muffins - My mother in law told me about these precious things. How can you go wrong? With a lil' butter or cream cheese. A nice late-night snack. Oh yes, these do exist.

Pumpkin Froyo - This is my FAVORITE. If you know me, you know why. My two loves froyo + pumpkin married together in total awesomeness. 

The list is endless, here is all sorts of Pumpkin Treats, but I have my eye specifically on this one next, Pumpkin Cinnamon Strusel Coffee Cake. Oh gosh, or these bad boys. Or, have I died and gone to heaven cupcakes. Eh hem, muffins anyone? Too much to bake, too little time. 

Pumpkin is the best. Now EAT IT.

Pumpkins

 

Fried Goodness

About two weekends ago, Josh and I along with my friend Beth, went to the annual Ballard Seafood Fest. Given it's title, we excepted there to be tons of seafood. We envisioned booths and booths of seafood - seafood to eat, seafood fresh to buy (like at Pike Place), seafood gadgets, etc. Right? Wouldn't you except seafood at a seafood fest?

Okay, so there was seafood. Just not tons of it. I would say that there was a higher than average number of seafood food booths in the food vendor section alongside the traditional fair food. Basically, it was a street fair. Don't get me wrong, I like street fairs, but my expectations were all out of wack.

I think what we'll really remember most from the Seafood Fest is the fried twinkie experience. There was some debate as to what fried food to get - there was so much! There was fried candy bar, fried PB&J, fried oreo, even fried rootbeer floast (say what?!). 

Fried Truck

The decision was...fried twinkie. It had to be done. And Josh stepped up to the plate (pun intended). (Believe it or not, Josh had NOT had a fried twinkie in his life yet).

Here's the Twinkie and Josh as he received the twinkie (look at that smile).

The Twinkie Deep Fried Twinkie

But then it consumed him (yes, it consumed him). Look at that bite. Like I said, it consumed him.

Josh eating Twinkie

And that was the memory we took away with us from the Ballard Seafood Fest. Fried twinkies. 

Honey Lavender

Balsamic Strawberry, Early Grey, Salted Caramel, Stumptown Coffee...

What do all these things have in common? They are all ice cream flavors at Molly Moon's Ice Cream.

Seriously, this place rocks. I would say it's THE place to get ice cream in Seattle. There are several stores thorughout the city, one of which is right in Queen Anne. Molly Moon's is always coming up with fun, delicious flavors like Flagship Cheddar (made from Beecher's Cheese here in Seattle), Stawberry Lemonade sorbet, etc. And did I mention they have the best waffle cones ever. Drool.

More Screaming for Ice Cream We Scream for Ice Cream

These pictures were take the Summer 2010, our first summer in Seattle.

Want to hear something evil? My office is in the same building as the Capitol Hill Molly Moons and every so often the waffle cone scent fills the office. Cruel if you ask me. Here I am working away and then this ever-so-delicious waffle smell fills the room. (That, and then the bakery or bacon smells from Odd Fellows come in too).

Anyway, Josh and I have loved this ice cream since we moved here, so when the cookbook was released, we decided to get one.

New Molly Moon Cookbook

Of course, the first recipe I chose was a froyo recipe (would you expect anything else from the Froyo Queen?). I picked the Blueberry Goat Milk Frozen yogurt flavor. Unfortunately, I didn't purchase goat yogurt at the store earlier in the day, but regular yogurt. And I had fresh strawberries I thought I could use alongside the blueberries. In essence, I made my own flavor, Strawberry Blueberry frozen yogurt, but it was still very good (and still using the basic recipe/idea). The result:

The Froyo Recipe Froyo Cup

 At the store, or at home, this is gooooood stuff. ;)

Culinary Chicago

Josh and I were in Chicago this past weekend. It was part of our annual trip to see all my family and to celebrate all the April birthdays including my Grandma Ruth's 91st birthday. More to come in another post about all the fun we had, but first to more important things: food. 

Usually when we go to Chicago, we eat at the same places. My parents grew up in Chicago, so we generally go to all their old favorites. This is what I call nostalgia food. These places include: Gale Street Inn (ribs), Hackney's (burgers), Lou Malnati's (pizza), Portillo's (Italian beef).

However, this means we don't get to taste all the other awesome restaurants I know Chicago has to offer. Seriously, Chicago is right next to New York in places to eat. And if you watch Top Chef like me, you see that a lot of the chefs are from Chicago. For instance, Steph, she's in Chicago. Anyway, there's good stuff.

This time, Josh and I broke away from the pack (aka the family), and tried something new. Friday night we headed to Blackbird. This is hard core good food, like 9 James Beard nominations hard core (including this year). Josh heard about it on the Food Network, and then we saw Anthony Bourdain visit there or something. Either way, this is the place we chose.

Here's what we had:

[Heather] Blood Orange Martini [Josh] Gin and Tonic

[Shared] confit of suckling pig with smoked date, stewed hazelnits, pickled shallot and dandilion

[Heather] roasted alaskan halibut with turnips, almond, pickled turmeric and smoked butter

[Josh] chickory glazed lamb belly with escarole, crunchy turnip, pine nut hollandaise and preserved meyer lemon

[Shared] frozen pear parfait with vanilla pudding, red wine and chocolate + housemade citrus-cello

Blackbird Orange Cocktail Roasted Alaskan Halibut Braised Lamb Belly Frozen Pear Parfait After Dinner Citrus Cello

Verdict: Happiness. It was delicious, every bite. Our favorite was actually dessert, the pear parfait...soooo goood.

Here's us, happy diners:

Josh is Ready for Dinner Heather Enjoys the Meal

Drooling yet?

Well, there is more. Saturday, for lunch, we decided to head over to Rick Bayless's restaurant, Xoco. (side note: how the heck do you pronounce that?). The best part about this, besides the sparkle in Josh's eye while eating his torta, was that we saw Rick at the restaurant. How freakin' cool is that? I didn't think celebrity chef actually worked, so that was cool. See, there's Rick:

Rick's at Xoco

And we really enjoyed our lunch. I enjoyed it down to the delicious iced tea. 

[Heather] Wood-Roasted Chicken Pozole

[Josh] Goat Barbacoa (yes, goat)

Heather's Pozole Josh's Goat Barbacoa

Oh, friends, the culinary adventures don't stop there. We ate out at Wildfire with the family, which was also very tasty. And Argo Tea (remember me talking about that from my work visit?). 

Food is good. The end.

A Trio

"What makes up this particular trio," says you? I say, "it's a trio of three." You return with, "Heather, that's ridiculous, a trio is 3 already." And I say, "yes, 3 trios, deal with it." Explanation:

Trio 1: The diners

  1. Heather (me)
  2. Josh (my husband)
  3. Beth (my friend)

Trio 2: The courses

  1. Appetizer (my choice= Savory Apple Soup)
  2. Entree (my choice= Carnaroli Risotto
  3. Dessert (my choice= Carrot Cake)

Trio 3: The dessert

  1. Theo Chocolate Pudding (Beth)
  2. Carrot Cake
  3. Maple Crème Brulee

Tilth Dinner

The three of us enjoyed a lovely dinner last night at Tilth as part of Seattle's Restaurant Week. I believe other cities have similar events, but mainly restaurants join together to offer 3-course menus to diners for a flat $28/person. For some restaurants, this is a great deal for the diner. You get to try out a new restaurant at a lower then normal price. To make it work for the restaurant, it's Monday through Thursday only; no weekends. But that didn't stop us!

This was the perfect opportunity to test out a restaurant that I've been wanting to try since I arrived here in Seattle. Their menu is seasonal and always looks delicious. And for all your Bravo Top Chef buffs, Maria Hines, the chef, was on Top Chef Masters.

To be honest, I was totally going to document the whole experience for you. But I was late at work and had to rush to make our reservation. In doing so, I forgot my camera. Then, I was so caught up in conversation (and food), that I forgot to use my iPhone. Finally, at dessert, I remembered and whipped up the above photos. Sorry the one of Beth and me didn't turn out (blame Josh - he'll blame the lighting and the window).

After eating our meal, I would definitely return to Tilth, even it if meant for the regular menu (maybe just for special occasions though). Restaurant week makes for a fun night out during the week and a delicious foodie experience.