Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy first of the month

Happy 1st April everyone, hope you didn't get tricked by anyone!
It's reveal day for sketch one over at stuck sketches, here is my take on the sketch.
That pin and mushroom is from mylittlebitofwhimsy

Hope you can join in the fun over there.

Over at lilredrocket buttons Michelle has re opened the shop so head on over to see the new yumminess in the store.

Till next time....

Nigella's Chocolate Fudge

Six months ago I joined up with I Heart Cooking Clubs to celebrate the wonderful and eloquent Nigella Lawson. Armed with my copy of Nigella Express, I was excited to get cooking and testing out Nigella's recipes. Right out of the gate, I loved Nigella's recipes and her style of writing. Cooking up one hit after another for my picky family, we grew to love her recipes. After thirty or so of Nigella's recipes, Nigella Express holds a very special spot on my cookbook shelf.

One of our family favorites is this recipe for Nigella's Chocolate Fudge. In Nigella Express, Nigella adds pistachios to her fudge, but my son is allergic to nuts so we omit them. This is just your standard recipe for fudge using condensed milk, but the entire family loves it and most importantly my son can eat it, therefore it makes us all happy.

Chocolate Pistachio Fudge
Adapted from Nigella Express
12 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (I use a bag of semi or milk chocolate chips)
(1) 14 oz. can condensed milk
pinch of salt
1 cup shelled pistachios (I omit these and sometimes sub dried fruit)
2 tablespoons butter

Melt the chopped chocolate, condensed milk, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed pan on low heat. Put the nuts into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin until broken up into both big and little pieces. Add the nuts to the melted chocolate and condensed milk and stir well to mix. Pour this mixture into a 9-inch square aluminum foil pan, smoothing the top. Let the fudge cool and then refrigerate until set. You can then cut into small pieces approximately 1-3/4 by 1-3/4 inches in size. Cutting 7x7 lines in the pan to give 64 pieces best achieves this. Once cut, you can keep it in the freezer, no need to thaw; just eat right away. Makes 64 pieces of fudge.

Notes/Results: This fudge is a family favorite. It is quick and easy to adapt to your taste. I love pistachios and I'm sure they would be wonderful, but we usually make the fudge plain. I have toyed with the idea of adding dried fruit, but haven't experimented with that just yet. Since we are celebrating Easter over at IHCC, I bought some cute little Easter cupcake holders, filled them with the fudge, and topped them with some cute little bunnies. My son is allergic to flour, eggs, nuts so he can't have a traditional cupcake. These little fudge cupcakes were the perfect treat for him (and the rest of the family too)!

Head on over to I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what everyone else cooked up for their Easter Basket.

This is the last week we are celebrating Nigella Lawson over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Starting next week, we will be featuring the recipes of Mark Bittman. I'm looking forward to cooking my way through his recipes!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2nd challenge with Taryn

Today taryn and I have our second photo challenge to share. We have used the same set of photos of both our son's but created totally different layouts..

Absolutely love this new butterfly punch from Martha Stewart, and the new Basic Grey pps, that doiley is from here
A simple and quick layout. Be sure to head over to taryns blog to check out her example and leave her some love. (Sorry about the colours in the photos, just couldn't get the camera to work for me)
Till next time...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Taco Night: Sauteed Potatoes with Chorizo and Creamy Poblano Pepper Strips

It was a busy weekend here at Stirring the Pot. One thing after another, you all know how that goes. We spent the bulk of the weekend getting two cars fixed and neither one ended up being right. My husband's work vehicle broke down Thursday night, spent Friday in the shop, ran fine for an hour or so and then broke down again on Saturday. We're crossing our fingers that they can get it right this time around. My car wasn't broken, but we had an appointment to have a leather seat replaced. The shop replaced the seat a different color! Sometimes I really wonder what goes on in people's heads. It seems like it is nearly impossible to get what you pay for these days and that is a shame.

Frustrated and famished, I cooked up two different types of taco fillings. The first was Sauteed Potatoes with Chorizo and the second was Creamy Poblano Pepper Strips (Rajas). Both recipes were featured on the new Food Network Show, Mexican Made Easy. I have to admit that I'm still not sure what I think of the show itself, but I have loved all three recipes I've tried so far.

The Sauteed Potatoes and Chorizo were super easy and delicious. You can find Marcela's recipe posted HERE on Food Network. Mexican chorizo is sauteed with onion and boiled red-skinned potatoes to make a delicious, easy and unique taco filling. The recipe makes a ton of food and is great the next morning as a filling in an omelet or folded into scrambled eggs. We really liked it!

The next recipe,and our favorite, is the Creamy Poblano Pepper Strips, also known as Rajas, found HERE on the Food Network website.

The recipe for Rajas begins by blackening six poblano peppers, steaming them, and removing both the skins and seeds. The peppers are cut into strips and added to a mixture of sauteed onion and corn. This dish is finished off by the addition of heavy cream, creme fraiche, and monterey jack cheese. This recipe is SO good! It is tasty on it's own, but is delicious in a corn tortilla. I made a few changes to the recipe which I will note below.

Notes/Results: Creamy, unique and delicious, the Rajas were our favorite. I made a few changes to the pepper and corn filling because I have a major aversion to creme fraiche and sour cream. I replaced the creme fraiche with cream cheese and found that my mixture was a little too dry, requiring more heavy cream (oh darn!). The poblano peppers aren't hot at all, but did add a nice mellow pepper flavor to the filling. Even my picky daughter liked the poblano pepper and corn filling. Tucked inside of some delicious corn tortillas, both fillings were delicious!

Warning: While both recipes are delicious, they do make a ton of food! Luckily we loved both recipes and have been happy to have them as leftovers throughout the weekend. Both recipes would be great for a larger family or a gathering. In fact, they were featured as part of a Mexican Cookout on Marcela's show.

P.S. I was so hungry I snapped the pictures as quick as I could and got busy eating! Sometimes it's so hard to stop and take the time to worry about getting good pics!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

froggies are definitely in...

Yep...butterflies are out and froggies are in !! giggle giggle, no not really but I borrowed this super cute little frog punch on the weekend and thought they went perfectly with my new lilredrocket buttons I received from Michelle to play with.

I layered the buttons with some fun paper circles that Michelle also has for sale.

Addison at aged 3 definatly thinks he is the boss, we have a hard time convinving him he isn't LOL ! So I created this layout to show him one day when he is older and much wiser!!!!

This second layout tells of Addison's excitment at learning to ride the neighbour's quad bike, he was soooo proud of himself. That apple pin is of course from mylittlebitofwhimsy , the lamp post from 3tailscraft and that gorgeous flashcard from prettylittlestudio thanks to shell for the link.

BTW Shell has had so much success at lilredrocket she has sold out again, be sure to keep checking back for new goodies and some amazing kits she is putting together too.
Till next time...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Winner of the Lush Giveaway!!

The winner of the Lush giveaway is.......................................

Krista over at Krista's Kitchen!! If you haven't had the chance, please head over and check out Krista's site. She is a sweetheart and has wonderful recipes!!

Congratulations Krista! I hope you and your girls enjoy the products:D

photo walk

I had a great time with a group of photo enthusiast friends a few weeks ago. We did a photo walk, stopping at different locations around the neighborhood and around town. We had some darling models to pose for us. It was a great experience.This was our group (and a couple of our models). We had so much fun we started a photo club. We have an assignment each month and get together to share. It motivates me. I love beautiful photos and really want to develop my photography skills.

My goal is to get good enough to be able to photograph kids in foster care. The Utah Foster Care Foundation is a wonderful organization and was so supportive of us when we had Ella. And my heart goes out to the beautiful children in foster care. I want to give back and let them know how special I think they are. So I'll keep practicing.

We went to lunch at Zupas after the walk and guess who showed up for their own little lunch date? Lynn and Ella. We hadn't planned ahead of time where to eat, otherwise I would have thought they were checking up on me! Yep, these are some pretty wild women. ;)

chinese chicken salad

We had this yummy salad for dinner the other night. It's another family favorite. It's time to buy more cashews though. Ella stands in the pantry and eats them with a spoon from the jar. I hated cashews as a kid! I know there are a lot of recipes for this salad, but this one is the simplest (surprised?), best tasting and healthiest I've found. I found the original dressing recipe was way too sweet for us, so I altered it a bit. Enjoy!

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped*
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked
1 small can mandarin oranges (reserve juice)
1/4 bag or 1/2 can chow mein noodles
cashews, chopped

1/4 c. canola oil
4 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1-2 T. sugar or 1 T. honey
2 T. juice from mandarin oranges
2-3 green onions, chopped
sesame seeds, roasted (heat in saute pan until light brown)

Combine dressing ingredients and let sit while preparing salad mix.

Cut chicken breasts into small pieces. Combine with lettuce and mandarin oranges. Add desired amount of salad dressing to salad mix. Top with chow mein noodles and cashews.

*I cut the lettuce once or twice down the center lengthwise and then in small strips crosswise.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

misting and banners...pure bliss

As promised one of my layouts I did on my day trip away with Taryn ....wanted to do a little experimenting with my two favourites at the moment...misting and banners, love how it turned out, I initially tried to use some stickers I had from Sass but they stuck too much to my background, so I ended up cutting my own banner template out of spare paper and misted away.

The chipboard bracket and digger is from 3tailscraft and that cute little doiley is from here.

There is this fabulous give away here at lilredrocketbuttons
be sure to head on over to take a look.
Till next time...

Rib-Sticking Stir-Fry

Last night was one of those crazy and chaotic nights with the kids. My eight year old was outside playing with the whole neighborhood and let me tell you, there are easily 50 kids in this neighborhood. Every child was out and about. The doorbell was ringing, there was constant knocking at the door, everyone was hungry and thirsty, everyone had a million questions, and each and every time I went to the door my three year old took the opportunity to make a mess or get himself into trouble. My evening consisted of cleaning up messes and answering the door, repeatedly. My husband has been gone for almost two weeks on business, so thank God that my Mom was over. She and I went so crazy with the kids that we got slap silly and started laughing. The doorbell rang so much that my Mom finally took a chair and sat by the door so she could answer it while I made dinner. I laughed as I heard her out there answering all of their silly questions with equally silly answers. It was good stuff.

With my three year old riding his bicycle in circles around my island in the kitchen, I made Nigella's Rib-Sticking Stir-Fry. It sure was a good thing that this recipe was quick and easy, requiring absolutely no attention whatsoever. I whipped it up in about ten minutes and Mom and I sat down to eat with the blaring noise of Hungry Hungry Hippo in the background. As the hippos slammed loudly against the gameboard we discussed how we really enjoyed this meal. It was a funny evening and we were nearly crying with laughter at the sheer chaos.

I'd been looking forward to the day I got to try this recipe. Nigella's Rib-Sticking Stir-Fry is served with cannellini beans in place of rice. As a bean lover, I was very excited to try this meal.

Rib-Sticking Stir-Fry
Adapted from Nigella Express
Serve 2
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (you can use just a tad of oil if using a nonstick wok)
10 oz. chicken or turkey breast fillet, cut into 1-1/2 inch x 1/4 inch strips
4 cups chopped stir-fry vegetables (from a package)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine (I used chicken broth)
1 (14 oz) can cannellini beans, drained
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Heat the oil in a wok, and over fairly high heat add the chicken or turkey strips and toss them about to color. Once the meat has seared, add the vegetables and toss around again until beginning to soften, ten add the soy sauce and the wine. The soy will help the meat strips bronze beautifully. Once the heat is back up and sizzling, add the beans and toss everything about to mix before tipping onto two plates. Sprinkle with the herb and serve straight away.

Notes/Results: I added a few things to this recipe: one minced shallot; two good-sized cloves garlic, minced; and one teaspoon hot pepper flakes. Mom and I don't like to eat a lot of meat sometimes, so I just used one chicken breast for the entire recipe. We were craving vegetables, so I used an entire package of frozen Asian Medley Veggies (carrot sticks, baby corn, broccoli, sugar snap peas). I was a little short on 4 cups of veggies, so I added a cup of an edamame mix I had in the freezer. I wanted to garnish the meal with crushed peanuts or cashews, but there just wasn't any time for that. Maybe next time. Next time? Yes, there will definitely be a next time! This is an extremely quick and easy meal that goes together in record time. Healthy, quick, easy, delicious, very filling and a little spicy from the pepper flakes. I was impressed and will definitely be making this meal quite a bit. In fact, if I had the ingredients on hand, I would make it for dinner again tonight!

This is our last potluck round with Nigella over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. We have one more week with Nigella and then we will be cooking with a new chef for the next six months. Head on over to I Heart Cooking Clubs to check out this week's potluck roundup and vote for the next chef!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


What would I have done if cloud paper hadn't been invented?
I know you have seen this My Mind Eye cloud paper before but I soooooo love it.

Also love this photo of David and Addison...he is like his daddy's little shadow... love that. Borrowed that new Martha Stewart butterfly punch...delicious

Had a lovely day yesterday with my gorgeous friend Taryn and her mum crafting in her mum's fabulous studio high in the mountains of Maleny..managed 2 layouts will share them soon once I photograph them.

Till next time...

Cook the Books: Easiest Ever Chicken Mole Enchiladas

Like water for chocolate is part love story, part fantasy and a whole lot of food. It is a tale of true love, family traditions and family secrets. Tita and Pedro are madly in love, but they are forbidden to marry because Tita is bound by family tradition, as the youngest child, to take care of her mother. Tita's mother is a force to be reckoned with and forbids Tita to marry Pedro. In an act of desperation, and also to remain close to Tita, Pedro asks for the hand of her oldest sister. Heartbroken, Tita stands by as the love of her life marries her sister.

Tita, who was born into the kitchen, puts all of her love and emotions into her food, preparing elaborate meals. Her food is magical, illicting powerful emotions to those who eat her meals.

A tragic love story with magical food, Like Water For Chocolate, was a great read.

Inspired to make a recipe containing chocolate, I had my heart set on making Mole. I found the perfect recipe while watching the new Food Network show, Mexican Made Easy with Marcela Valladolid. Her Easiest Ever Chicken Mole Enchiladas looked amazing and take only one hour. I was instantly sold on making this recipe.

Marcela's Mole is about as quick and simple as they come. The sauce begins with 5 dried ancho chiles which are reconstituted in hot water for 15 minutes. While the chiles are reconstituting, grill two corn tortillas until crisp and crumble into pieces. In a saute pan, saute one and a half onions (chopped) and 2 cloves of garlic (minced) until translucent. Transfer seeded chiles, crisp corn tortillas, onions, garlic, one tablespoon of sugar, 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter, 1-3/4 cups chicken broth, and one teaspoon oregano to a blender and blend until smooth. Add sauce back to saute pan and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in 5.5 ounces of Mexican chocolate (Ibarra preferred) and season with salt and pepper. (Here is a picture of the Ibarra Mexican chocolate. I was expecting it to be bittersweet, but you can actually see how crystallized it is with sugar. It has a cinnamony bite and is delicious all on it's own).

The enchiladas go together pretty easily. Two chicken breasts are coated in oil, salt and pepper and baked for approximately 20 minutes. When removed from the oven, shred the chicken with two forks.

Marcela suggests dipping the corn tortillas in hot oil to soften them and make them pliable. Once dipped in the oil, she dips them into the mole sauce, fills them with 1/3 cup shredded chicken and rolls them up. Extra mole is poured over the enchildas and they are topped with Queso Fresco and Mexican crema.

Disclaimer: I'm sure that this is probably the easiest mole ever, but it was still messy and quite time-consuming. I'm talking lots of pots and pans, blenders and so on. Saying that, as far as moles go, it was really easy, quick and a lot less ingredients than a traditional mole.

Notes/Results: I enjoyed making this recipe. I love the chance to cook with new ingredients and explore in the kitchen. The Mexican chocolate is literally delicious and I can see myself using it for many other recipes. The recipe was well-written and went together perfectly. The mole had a very complex flavor, a little spicy, a little sweet, a little nutty. The smell of the mole reminded me of my favorite authentic Mexican restaurant. The recipe was good, just not my personal favorite. I'm glad I had the chance to try it, but I still prefer my enchiladas with red sauce.

Queso Fresco is also my Cheese of the Month. I went to a special Mexican grocer in Lexington looking for Queso Fresco(fresh cheese) and I was very happy to find it. It has a crumbly texture and a mild flavor which paired nicely with these enchiladas. True Queso Fresco will become soft when warmed, but does not melt. It can be used as you would use any other mild crumbly cheese, but mostly is served as a topping or a garnish. Marcela suggests using Feta cheese in place of Queso Fresco. The two cheeses do have the same texture, but Feta is full of flavor whereas Queso Fresco is really mild. I'm anxious to use the Queso Fresco in a simple recipe where it can really shine as part of the meal.

This is my submission for this round of Cook the Books, hosted by Rachel of The Crispy Cook, Johanna of Food Junkie Not Junk Food, and Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Strawberry Mascarpone Crepes

Are you guilty of buying cooking magazines in the check out line? It's hard to resist, isn't it? There you are standing in line and the magazines are glaring at you, tempting you with their pretty cover dishes. I'm convinced it's a form of torture. I used to be really bad about buying cooking magazines, collecting so many that I couldn't even go through them all. I seem to have a little more control lately, except when it comes those huge Taste of Home Editions. You know the ones I'm talking about? The magazine that is more like a book than a magazine. It's like a mega magazine with 240 recipes. Packed with mostly family style dishes, sweet treats, and breads, they are almost always worth buying.

Armed with my new mega magazine, I can hardly wait to get home and flip through it. This is serious business for me! A new cookbook or magazine is such a delight. An adventure that you can immerse yourself in for a short time. Settled on the couch with a notebook and pen, I'm in pig heaven (literally)!

I have a special weakness for breakfast/brunch recipes and these Strawberry Mascarpone Crepes were seriously calling my name! Even better, I had half a tub of mascarpone and some strawberries to use up. It was like it was meant to be.

Strawberry Mascarpone Crepes
Adapted from Best of Taste of Home 2010
Serves 8, can be halved
3 eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons butter, melted (I think I used 5 tablespoons, oops!)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) Mascarpone Cheese
2 tablespoons Confectioner's Sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1-1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (sliced into bite-sized pieces)
Strawberry Topping:
2 cups slices fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice (I used lemon juice)
1 teaspoon strawberry or vanilla extract (I used vanilla extract)
Dash of Salt
To make crepes:
4 teaspoons butter, divided (I found I really didn't need any butter when using a nonstick skillet)

For the batter: In a blender, combine the batter ingredients, cover and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Meanwhile, for filling: In a small bowl, combine the cheese, confectioner's sugar, basil and lemon juice. Gently fold in the strawberries. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the topping: In a small bowl, combine strawberries, sugar, orange juice, extract and salt. Let stand on counter for 30 minutes.

To make the Crepes: Melt 1 teaspoon butter in an 8-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat; pour about 1/4 cup batter into the center of the skillet. Lift and tilt pan to coat bottom evenly. Cook until top appears dry; turn and cook 15-20 seconds longer. Remove to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing skillet as needed. When cool, stack crepes with waxed paper or paper towels in between (I used paper towels with good results)

Spoon filling over crepes; roll up. Serve with strawberry topping.

Notes/Results: These crepes were heavenly! Delicate, light, creamy and fruity. I really loved them and will most definitely be making them again. I really wish that I had been able to add the minced fresh basil to the filling, but I didn't have any basil on hand. I'm sure the basil is a wonderful addition. I had to laugh when I typed this recipe out. I realized that when making the batter for the crepes I had added 5 Tablespoons of melted butter instead of 5 teaspoons. No wonder the crepes were so good! The crepes are gorgeous when plated and would make a wonderful addition to any Spring Brunch Menu, perfect for Easter or Mother's Day.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Help/Suggestions About Whole Fresh Ham

My next recipe for Stirring the Pot is Baked Fresh Ham with Apple-Cranberry Chutney. I saved the recipe for Easter hoping to find a 5-6 pound fresh ham. After some serious searching, I have come to realize that finding a 5-6 pound fresh ham is next to impossible. I finally called Mike the butcher in Lexington and they do have fresh ham, but only sell the whole fresh ham, which is 20 pounds.

Mike said that he could cut a 5 pound ham from the middle portion of the whole ham. I'm okay with that. This next part is where I need your help. There will be two ends of the ham once the ham is cut from the middle. The two ends will equal almost ten pounds of meat and a ham hock. If there is at least ten pounds of meat left, Mike can make me some sausage. If there is not ten pounds, he suggests a roast or even just plain ground pork. At one point he even mentioned ham steaks. My mind was racing as Mike talked on about the possibilities. I saw a food challenge and I was seriously down with it!

Here come the questions. What would you do? Would you get sausage made? Would you simply have it all ground? Get the roast? Go for the ham steaks? Is there another cut I didn't mention? Do you have any other ideas? Also, do you have any great recipes for any of these cuts?

I ordered the whole ham today and will pick it up on Friday. The whole ham will come to around $30, which really isn't bad when you consider that you're getting 5 pounds of fresh ham, a ham hock, and about ten additional pounds of meat.

I'm now referring to this as my Whole Ham Adventure and think it will be a fun challenge. I welcome your ideas and suggestions!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I think I am in love with brights lately. Last night while scrapping I tried to do a layout that had very earthy dull colours, I shuffled for over an hour then finally abandoned it for this. Larsen just loves playing in the cubby outside he would play in it all day if I let him. Love the new apple jack from Sass, some bakers twine and a splash of mist of course.

Do you want to win this awesome prize. Just head on over here and leave a message, Leeann has some fun handmade goodies for sale in her etsy shop.

Till next time...

A Lush Giveaway, Awards and Chocolate Sheet Cake

This is going to be a busy post, so let's start with the food first. To congratulate my neighbors on the birth of their first grandchild, I made Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever. I figured a chocolate sheet cake was a sure bet. Everyone usually likes chocolate, right? I also like the fact that this cake serves 24, which was perfect for my neighbors because they have seven children, six of which still live with them and are under the age of eighteen. I wanted to make sure that everyone in the family was able to have some. (Note: I omitted the nuts in this recipe because most children aren't a fan).

The cake uses ingredients I always have on hand and was easy peasy to throw together. I even had enough batter left to fill a small ramekin for my daughter (a devoted chocolate fan). I tasted a bite of the cake and it was rich, chocolatey and moist. The cake is rich enough that you can satisfy your chocolate craving with a very small piece. Of course, if you really want to indulge, plop a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top and call it a day. This is a great recipe for a large family or any other get together.

I am submitting this cake to Foodie Fans of the Pioneer Woman for their bi-monthly roundup of PW's recipes. Tomorrow's roundup promises to be a sweet one since we are celebrating desserts this time around. You can find the recipe for the chocolate sheet cake HERE on the Pioneer Woman's website.

I was very honored to receive two awards this week. Thank you to Sam of My Carolina Kitchen for giving me the Honest Scrap Award. Thank you also to Kathleen of Gonna Want Seconds for this beautiful Sunshine Award. I adore reading both of your blogs! In the interest of keeping this post from becoming a book, I would like to pass these awards on to all of you!

Onto the giveaway! I've mentioned before that I love my job at Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. I discovered the company as a consumer while traveling with my husband one summer and went broke buying everything in the store. Next to cooking, Lush is my second love. I love their products and so do my family and friends. When a store opened up in my local mall I ran for the opportunity to work there.

Lush is a UK-based company that has spread worldwide. All the products are handmade with fresh organic, fair-trade ingredients, based on natural ingredients, such as cocoa butter, essential oils, fruits and vegetables. The products are made with little or no preservatives and for this reason have expiration dates. The products are tested on humans, never animals. There are so many fun things, that it was hard to pick what to give away!

I wish I could make the giveaway available to everyone, but for now I will have to limit it to the US only. I am, however, looking into having items ship worldwide for the next giveaway.

I chose four items that are all related to food in one way or another:

First up is Helping Hands Hand Cream. Since we all spend so much time in the kitchen working with our hands and washing dishes, this is the perfect cream for us. This cream is packed with nourishing shea butter, soothing chamomile water, honey, and lavender. Our most popular hand cream. NOTE: The item pictured below is only 1.5 ozs. I am giving away the large sized 3.5oz hand cream.

Next, is a Blackberry Bath Bomb. Drop this purple, blackberry and frankincense scented bath bomb into your bath and relax.

Third on the list is a Creamy Candy Bubble Bar. I'm sure you're all familiar with liquid bubble bath, but this is a solid bubble bath with no preservatives at all. Simply break the bar in half and crumble one half under running water for a candy scented bubble bath!

And finally, a luxurious Melting Marshmallow Moments Bath Melt made to look like a cute little pink cupcake. The bath melts are one of my favorite products, much like a bath where you are being dipped in lotion. Cut the pink cupcake look-alike in half, toss one half in a warm bath and say MMM. This melt is packed with moisturizing cocoa butter, marshmallow powder, and almond oils. Great for dry skin.

The giveaway is open to all US Residents. The winner will receive all four products. To enter, simply leave a comment telling me which of these four products sounds the best to you. Your comments will help me when it comes time for another giveaway. Contest ends Friday, March 26th at midnight EST. Winner will be chosen with the random number generator on Saturday, March 27th.

I encourage everyone who is eligible to enter the contest, men included. These products make great gifts!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cookbook Review: Giada's Kitchen

I can easily say that Giada's Kitchen is one of my favorite cookbooks at the moment. The recipes are simple, but also unique with fun twists here and there. For instance, classic tomato soup is Hearty Tomato Soup, topped with a Lemon and Rosemary Cream. Chicken Scallopine is Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce. The recipes are easy enough for a beginner cook, but unique and beautiful enough for a well seasoned cook.

I was lucky enough to borrow the book from the library, keeping it a total of about ten weeks! Over the ten week period, I made nine recipes: Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette, Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup, Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary Cream, Pecorino Crackers, Baked Orzo with Fontina and Peas, Amaretto Sour with Prosecco, Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce, Artichoke Gratinata, and finally Strawberry and Mascarpone Granita. All nine recipes have been a big hit. Here is a recap of all nine recipes below (Note: When my computer crashed I lost my picture of the Baked Orzo with Fontina and Peas)

Below is a picture of Giada's Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette. In January, I did a recipe throwdown comparing Ina's Grilled Pork Tenderloin and this version of Giada's pork tenderloin. Ina's recipe blew our socks off, but Giada's version was also a big hit. The pork was meltingly tender and the sauce was full of robust flavor. The meal had a gorgeous presentation and I would definitely make this recipe again.

Next up, I made Giada's Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup which was right up my alley. It really satisfied my bean craving, while at the same time being hearty and delicious, especially served with bread on the side. This is an extremely easy and economical meal, not to mention delicious. Also on my list of make again recipes.

Lured in by the gorgeous photograph in the book, I made Giada's Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary Cream, served alongside her Pecorino Crackers. I should have known better than to think I would only partake in one cracker! Those crackers were addictive and the soup was too. The soup is extra hearty with the addition of canned white beans. The dollop of lemon rosemary cream makes the soup fun and special. Definitely a soup that would be wonderful for a dinner party. My new "go-to" recipe for tomato soup.

Before my computer crashed, I made Giada's Baked Orzo with Fontina and Peas. I don't have a picture to share, but we did enjoy the recipe. Giada goes light on the cream and cheese in this recipe, but it feels indulgent. The peas really liven up the meal, but they do add a sweet dimension to the dish, which might not be for everyone. Also worth noting, I enjoyed this recipe more before the pasta was baked. I'm not sure I would make it again, but if I did I probably wouldn't bake it.

I had a Valentine's Day Throwdown with a bottle of Prosecco. Nigella's Fruit Fizz won the Throwdown, but Giada's Amaretto Sour with Prosecco came in second place. It was a wonderful drink that I would be happy to serve to a crowd or at a party.

With the remainder of my saffron, I made Giada's Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce. It was a gorgeous meal which was made in less than a half hour. We felt like we were dining in a fine restaurant when we sat down to eat this. Also something that will be made again soon!

Onto my favorite of all the recipes, Giada's Artichoke Gratinata. I knew this would be good, but I didn't know it was going to blow my socks off. I made it for lunch yesterday and ate both helpings! I loved it as much as anyone could love a meal. Truly delicious. I'm thinking of eating it everyday until I stop craving it.

Lacking seriously in the self control department this week, I made this summery Strawberry and Mascarpone Granita. Strawberries were blended with simple syrup, lemon juice and mascarpone into a smooth, thick, creamy, dreamy, glorious mixture. It was so good that I wanted to drink the whole batch before freezing it. The only thing stopping me was not being able to take that final picture of the granita! The granita was delicious. It was almost the texture of an ice cream, but was still slightly icy like a granita.

That wraps up my roundup of Giada's recipes. The good news is that all of the recipes posted here, as well as many others from her book, are posted on the Food Network for free. I have many more recipes from this book bookmarked to make.

For now this book makes my top ten list! The recipes are well-written and tested, the pictures are gorgeous, everything is easy with simple fresh ingredients, plus the recipes are impressive and worthy of your most special guests. Simple and classic recipes with a unique flair.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Artichoke Gratinata

I ate the whole batch. Yes, the entire recipe. Both ramekins. It was a good thing I was in the privacy of my own home, because I'm quite sure it was unladylike. It was so good that it caused me to lose both my manners and self-control. I'm talking mind-blowing delicious! This is a side dish that will steal the show. The smell of the gratinata baking in the oven is reminiscent of the best Italian tratorrias. It is intoxicating. Are you seduced yet?

When I really love something, I can be a little over the top. It's almost like I can't stop babbling. This is such a good recipe, that I will literally tell everyone I know to make it. It's that good. I can already tell you that it will easily make my top ten favorites for this year. Hands Down!

This recipe received four out of five on the Food Network. I'm not sure why. I would give it more than five stars if possible. I did make a few changes, which I will note below.

Artichoke Gratinata
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis/Food Network
*Serves 2, can easily be doubled
3 tablespoons olive oil (I used barely 1 tablespoon)
1 garlic clove, minced (I used one really good sized clove)
1 pound frozen artichoke hearts, thawed (Used one can drained, halved artichokes)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I added about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup chicken broth (I omitted the chicken broth, using about 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice)
1/4 cup Marsala wine
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs (I used Panko)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the artichoke hearts, parsley, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook until the artichoke hearts are starting to brown at the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken broth (lemon juice) and wine and simmer for 3 minutes. Transfer the artichoke mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. (I like individual ramekins so that everyone gets some yummy crunchy topping)

Melt the butter in the same skillet used to cook the artichokes. In a small bowl mix the melted butter with the bread crumbs. Stir in the Parmesan and top the artichokes with the bread crumbs. Bake until the top is golden, about 10 minutes.

Notes/Results: Loved it so much! I'm so glad that I omitted the chicken broth and used lemon juice. You could really tell that the lemon juice brightened up the recipe. Also, I can never find a bag of frozen artichokes, so I decided to use canned artichoke hearts. I had read the reviews online and saw that the canned artichokes worked well. I drained the artichokes and cut them in half before adding to the skillet. I also cooked the artichokes until all the water (leftover from canning), wine and lemon juice had reduced to about nothing. The mixture was moist, but not wet when I put them in the ramekins. The panko topping was crunchy, cheesy, buttery and over the top delicious. I would definitely double the panko topping if you use two cans of artichokes. You will want all that yummy extra crunch. This recipe is a unique and fun side dish. It is bright, fragrant, crunchy, buttery goodness! I'll be making it again soon!

I'm submitting this to Reeni's Side Dish Showdown. Click HERE for the link.

Oink! Oink!