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While in California, I (with my mom, a girlfriend and her mom – who did the heavy lifting) hosted my first baby shower. It was a bit of a head-game, as I’m still 20 (obviously) and therefore not old enough to have friends who are having babies.
But all my mental issues aside, we planned early that this wouldn’t be a standard issue baby shower – there was nary a diaper or duck insight. Rather it would be a proper party with yummy food and lots of drinks and oohing and aahhing over the guest of honor, who just happened to be hidden behind a really cute dress.
But since this party was more cocktail style than ladies lunch, we decided there should at least be some little activity, and if it was something that the future parents could use, all the better. And as little as I know about kids, I do know that they aren’t using the same plates as mommy and daddy. And yes, I know that eating real food is a ways off, but we figured they would have plenty of onesies.
Enter the Make-A-Plate.
Remember the ones you made in kindergarden, the ones that Mom may or may not still have hanging in a kitchen or laundry room?
We thought it would be fun to have the guests make these, as little mementos for the new family. It may take a while for the baby to appreciate it, but I am guessing that mom and dad will love having something tangible for their new family, especially the ones from the great-grandmas-to-be.
I bought the kits online from http://makit.com, but a little online search looks like you can find them at Target too. This particular kind uses Crayola markers and special paper, that you mail and shortly thereafter receive your custom melamine plates.
Next I am thinking about making some for myself, in a slightly more grown up version – stripes and dots and designs with maybe a monogram. I think they would be perfect for summer BBQs and much cheaper (and more personal) than the Neiman Marcus or Jonathan Adler versions.
The options are endless. Just look at a few of the cute ones that the guests made.
I’ll make sure to update with pictures when the plates and bowls arrive.
When buying carrots, I often like to buy bunches that still have their greens – it seems to me as a sign of their freshness (whether true or not).
But when you store them, make sure to remove the tops, as the greens will draw nutrients and moisture away from the carrots. Carrots without the greens will stay fresher and crisper longer.
However, if the carrots you have are young (so the greens aren’t bitter) and organic (pesticide free), there are a couple of fun ways to use the tops, so it doesn’t feel like a total waste. Salads and soups are my favorite, and here are a few more ideas.
Do you use the carrot tops?
After my California trip, I was ready to come home to sunshine, asparagus and English peas… Instead, I was welcomed by rain, temperatures back in the 30ºs and more of the same at the market. Not be a be a total bore and keep mentioning the weather, but this was not quite what I had in mind.
To make the most of it, I decided to make one last winter salad. The hearty grain kind that I can keep in the fridge for a few days, and have it for lunch while we wait out this (please let it be the last) cold-snap.
We know that beets and carrots are a great match, and since they are some of the few things in the produce section that I have yet to tire of, I thought they would make a nice starting point for this salad. I decided to use golden beets, knowing this salad will likely sit refrigerator for a few days, and their color does not bleed the way red beets do. As for the prep, they were roasted and cubed, but I kept the carrots raw – you know, with spring *being here* and all.
The Art of Simple Food really is that – an art. I am constantly delighted and surprised when simple foods, prepared simply become much more than a sum of their parts.
After I made that lasagna, I had a sweet tooth and a basket full of strawberries, so I decided to skim through Alice Water’s book again (since it was out) and see what looked good. I knew I wanted something easy – no baking or making, just really one step more than eating them plain. I also wanted more than just letting them macerate in their own juices or tossing them in some balsamic – both great preperations, don’t get me wrong, but they weren’t wowing me that night.
Alice, not surprisingly, had the answer.
Marinate sliced strawberries in fresh orange juice.
Thank goodness the woman has been winning awards for years. So simple and and obvious combination once you read it, but I can’t say I would have ever done it on my own.
I had two blood oranges in the fruit bowl that needed to be used, so I used the juice from those and sliced up some strawberries. The recipe suggests adding a bit of sugar too, but I didn’t think it was necessary. After letting it marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, I poured the strawberries and juice over a bit of ricotta that I still had on hand and it was a d.i.v.i.n.e. combination.
It would also be great with greek yogurt, vanilla ice cream, or just plain and served cold. In fact, plain and cold is what the book recommends.
I think now, regardless of the preparation, any time I make things with strawberries, I may have to add a bit of orange.
Right now I am heading to California for a few days for work (and then play) and I decided to actually do something I think about doing whenever I travel.
I made B dinner for a few of the nights I will be gone. This is something I have wanted to do before, but as we all know, there is usually more on your list before a trip than can get done, and this one usually ends up getting cut.
Backing up, it not like B can’t feed himself and so I must provide dinner, I just always thought it would be a nice fun little gesture. Plus, to be honest, this way I know that at least a few meals weren’t delivered or poured from a cereal box.
I decided on lasagna, figuring it is something he can easily heat up and tastes good after more than one day. And thankfully (and unlike me), B doesn’t bore of the same flavors after a day or two, although I’m really hoping he doesn’t finish the pan. Maybe I should have rethought this idea.
Just snapped this pic of colored vases in action. The ranunculus of course aren’t bad, but the it’s the vivid bud vases that really help brighten up this nightstand, particularly on on a rainy day.
Excited to wake up next to this tomorrow.
Note: can’t quite tell you where the vases came from, as this situation came with pre-stocked cabinets.
Something either terribly amazing or just plain terrible happened this week.
I discovered Dos Toros Taqueria and how ridiculously close it is to my house. I’m thrilled because they have great (CA style) tacos and burritos with highly quality ingredients – primarily local and/or organic – and great prices. I’m not so thrilled because having damn good tacos and quesadillas near by can be a bit dangerous.
So on my 18th trip in as many hours, I decided to pick up enough to share and bring it home for dinner. As an impulse buy when I was paying, I asked them to throw in some chips and salsa.
But when I got home, I realized it wasn’t salsa, but pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa). And as far as I am concerned, that doesn’t work as a dip for chips. I love pico de gallo on plenty of things, don’t get me wrong, but I want something smoother and spicier when I think salsa.
It turns out we didn’t have any jarred in the fridge (that stuff goes quickly around here), but thankfully, salsa is a breeze to whip up.
Do you ever go out to a restaurant, order something that looks good, like it so much you want to make it at home and realize you already have everything you need? It’s as if your body must have really needed those nutrients to have been attracted to them in both places. Oh, that doesn’t happen to you?
Or not exactly.
A while back I ordered a lentil and kabocha salad and liked it so much that I wanted to make it again. The squash was spiced and roasted and I loved the lentils in a salad – they were almost al dente, so they created a nice contrast to the soft squash and even their normal soft(er) presentation.
But what had me really coming back for more was the ricotta salata.
In the summers I love to make a zucchini and summer squash spaghetti with lots of lemon, mint and basil and top it with a mound of ricotta salata, but I don’t use it too much in the winter. I think that may have been what sealed the deal for me on this dish, as (at least in my head) it made the whole salad a perfect representation of the departing winter and upcoming warmth.
Back at home, I did have lentils and a squash on hand, so it was basically meant to be, and we can just ignore the fact that I always have lentils and squash is pretty common around here during the fall and winter. I even had the mint – which is not a given in months with an “r.”
The only thing I needed to run out for was the ricotta salata.
So this counts for my threory, right?
When I made the spice-crusted lamb, I mentioned the grape-almond port sauce from the Sunday Suppers winter dinner. I love being surprised by things, and the grapes in the sauce definitely did that for me. And I left that dinner wanting to make it again.
Only the next time I made lamb, I couldn’t give up my mint. So I switched the sauce to a side and was equally happy with the result.
We didn’t have port on hand, and I am not sure if I would have used it in the rice regardless, but wine we do have and I figured it would amp up the rice … it works great it risottos. I subbed half the water (or stock) that I normally use in rice for red wine, giving the grain a vivid color and bright taste.
Farmer’s markets, restaurants, magazines, the weather, walking around, other blogs, friends, parties – while this could be a list of my favorite things, in fact it is a (wholly incomprehensive) list of where I get ideas for this site. But when chatting with B the other day, I let it be known that he could make requests. Many things on here are spur of the moment, what’s in the fridge kind of posts, but occasionally there are go-to-the-store-with-an-idea in mind type of thing too. And I let him know that I am always open to suggestions for those.
And in about 2.5 seconds he answered lamb.
I think he loves it because: