Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cozy Up

Ya'll I made the most delicious green chile mac & cheese the other night.  It came from the December edition of Bon Appetit, in the RSVP section, where you can write in and say "I had the most awesome ________ from _________ in _____, ___" and they will contact the restaurant and ask them for the recipe. 

I guess there are probably some parameters, like maybe they change up a few ingredients or leave out some secret step, but whatever.  If there is some recipe that you love from somehwere you've been, it's worth a shot!

This comes from the Roaring Fork in Scottsdale, AZ and the notes say it would be a great side dish for steak.  I agree with that pairing but I made it with thin cut chicken breasts that I marinated in vegetable oil, hot chile powder (if you don't have that use mild and add a dash of cayenne), cumin, garlic pepper, salt and lime juice.  I served the chicken over the mac & cheese with a lime slice on top for some extra fresh zing.  This was so yummy and comforting, without being too rich. 

I looked to see if there was a link for this on the BA website, but I don't know if they publish their RSVP recipes online or not.  I didn't find a link to this particular recipe.

Green Chile Mac & Cheese
Courtesy of Bon Appetit, via Roaring Fork Restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ

1 whole fresh poblano chile plus 1/4 c chopped fresh poblano chile
1 T corn oil
1/4 c chopped red bell pepper
1/4 c chopped red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c fresh corn kernels or frozen, thawed
3/4 c whipping cream
2 c freshly cooked macaroni (about 2/3 c dried)
1/2 c grated pepper jack cheese
1 pint grape tomatoes, roasted* (optional, see notes below)

Char whole chile directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides.  Transfer to paper bag; seal.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Peel, seed & coarsely chop chile.  Transfer to food processor; puree until smooth.

Heat oil in have large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add 1/4 c chopped chile, bell pepper, onion, and garlic.  Saute until soft, about 4 minutes.  Add corn, stir 1 minute.  Add cream and chile puree, bring to boil.  Add macaroni and cheese; stir until cheese melts and mixture is heated through.  Season with salt and pepper.

* - I made a couple of modifications.  This was all I was serving (chicken and mac/cheese) to our neighborhood dinner swap** so I wanted it to have a bit more vegetable punch.  First off I double all the pepper amounts and then I had about a pint & a half of grape tomatoes at home, so I threw those in the oven and roasted them with olive oil, salt & pepper until they had burst open (10-15 minutes on 400). I thought they went very nicely with the rest of the ingredients.  Stir them in at the end.  They will kind of break up and be all throughout the pasta.

** - Have I told y'all about our dinner swap? Here's the deal: three households who are all within steps of one another do this every week.  Three nights of the week, one house is responsible for dinners for their own house as well as the other two houses, so you are essentially cooking for 6 adults one night a week, and then two other nights dinner is taken care of for you.  It is awesome.  We just all laid some parameters of things to stay away from (one person doesn't like raw bell peppers but will eat them cooked, our house has a pretty strict no-mayo policy, and one person doesn't eat shrimp).  We all have very young kids who typically eat before we do, and we are all OK with eating later (as in, after our kids have gone to bed).  I do think you have to be pretty close in proximity to one another to do this, successfully, on a regular basis, but it's been such a blessing to not have to worry about it.  We started it this summer and all agreed that we wanted to keep it up for a while.  If all the variables work out for, I encourage you to talk to some friends and try it out!

Bon Appetit!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Translation, Please

I have been meaning to get this down somewhere so I can remember.  At 16 months, Mitchell has 30-35 words in his vobabulary.  His first real word was uh-oh, followed by Daddy and dog.  He says Mama a lot more now, which is often mixed with 'mo' (and the accompanying sign for more), I guess because he knows Mama will always feed him!

Here's a rundown of some of what he's saying/doing (since some of it is closer to signing than speaking) these days:
  • wa-wa is the universal word for anything to drink; he drinks his wa-wa in a 'pup'
  • ow-da (outside); he will go and stand at the back door when I ask Dixie if she needs to go outside, and sometimes he'll just go stand there without me even asking and start saying it over and over.  The first syllable is emphasized with a very exaggerated open mouth, where his chin almost touches his chest.
  • poo (for both spoon and fork)
  • peas (please, along with a vigorous rubbing of his chest, to approximate the sign for it)
  • pass (pacifier)
  • bush (brush)
  • bath, which I sometimes get it confused with his pronunciation of either pass or brush, as they all sound similar but he definitely uses them distinctly
  • likes to say nose and then points out the nose, eyes, ears, head/hair and mouth of anyone around; be careful if he goes for your nose or your eyes, as his finger ususally goes IN both; also likes to point out belly buttons if you ask him where people's are but he doesn't really say anything for that yet
  • up and open (both sound similar but I can usually tell which it is he's trying to say)
  • socks/shoes (and his favorite, boots, with emphasis on a long 'ssss' sound at the end)
  • hat
  • ba-bwee (baby)
  • hot ('ot, and then he usually does a little 'ssss' noise because that's how we taught him not to touch the fireplace and the oven and he seems to think it is funny
  • tair for chair
  • light
  • book
  • bubbas (bubbles)
  • Mitchell's name for Santa is Ho.  I'm not sure Santa will apprecite that one.
  • Foods he likes to say are apoo (apple), eths (eggs), ice, cacker, rais (raisins), gape (grape), cheese and he has a word for blueberries but I cannot reproduce it, much less spell it.
  • Animals: dog (also says woo-woo; this continues to be his favorite word, we are all dogs all the time around our house), cow (only says cow sporadically but if he sees a picture of a cow or you ask him what a cow says he will respond with moo), horse (same as with cow, rarely says the word but knows neigh very well), duck (says the word and also knows that a duck says 'dack dack'), cat (prounounces the cat sound like mow instead of meow), 'daff' (giraffe), 'ga ga' (for the gobble gobble of a turkey, although he cannot say that word)
  • He has an animal book that he can identify a lot of the animals in, either by the name of the animal or by the sound they make, but as we all know some animals don't make a noise that is identifiably thiers, or easy to mimic, so I try to tell him something about those animals, like "the zebra has stripes" or "the elephant has a long nose".  One of them I've always done is say "waddle waddle" when we see a penguin, so now he says something like that and sways from side-to-side when he sees one.
  • Names he can say pretty well: Mama, Dada, Dixie, Maddie (next door neighbot/classmate and her name is running a close 2nd to dog these days as his favorite one to say), Mike, Spot (dot), Grampa (pa-pa).  We work on his other classmates' names regularly and he does a pretty good job with all of them but one, which is kind of tough (Dakota; if anything he will say something like 'co' when I say his name).  The others I can make out that's what he's saying are "ez" (Ezra), "dack" (Jack), "day" (Grey), and ess-da (Jessica, a teacher).
  • He loves to say hi and bye.  His new thing is to go tell someone bye when he's ready to go or wants me to be done talking.  He does the bye thing a lot lately if I'm talking on the phone and he's at home with me.  He'll just walk up to me and say 'bye' to me and start grabbing on my legs.  He makes sure I get the message!

I am sure there are plenty of other cuties I'm leaving out.  It is really fun to watch him processing so much.  I know what he comprehends is way more than what he can say, that's for sure!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Big Fat (Random) Holiday Shopping Guide

Hello, fair readers.  Do y'all even remember who I am?  I am so sorry for my blog break of late.  I just cannot seem to get it together enough to write anything, but I learned recently that I have more readers than I knew about, so I guess there is some added external pressure to update this baby so you don't have to look at my wishlist of cookbooks any longer....

Without further ado, here is my big, fat, holiday shopping guide.  There is no rhyme or reason to this is simply a list of interesting gift ideas I've seen lately.  I was going to do separate posts for a bunch of different categories, but clearly I've not shown I'm capable of that much follow through so I'm just going to try to do a mammoth single post.  I hope you find a few things that someone on your shopping list might like too!

For the hostesses on your list

Seeded Glass Pitcher - This beauty would also double as a unique vase, and it's on sale right now!

These soapstone whiskey stones will keep a drink cool without watering it down (you can buy with or without the pictured glasses).  Pair with a nice bottle of his (or her) favorite brown liquor for a complete gift!

This bay leaf peace wreath is a fun twist on an old standby gift idea for me.  I love giving wreaths, especially to those who I don't see very often.  A beautiful greenery wreath goes with most any decor and I think it's definitely one of those gifts that keeps on giving (plus it is stunning as is, so you don't have to worry about it not being wrapped, since most of them cannot be gift-wrapped).   

My favorite place to send wreaths from is Williams-Sonoma.  I have been ordering them for about the last 5 years and they have always been high-quality, long lasting and beautiful!

 I have this Magnolia & Pomegranate Wreath from last Christmas and it is still beautiful. 

 I think this cook's herb wreath is a wonderful option for the chef in your life!

For the person who has everything
Sorry for the blatant giveaway of where I stole this photo from (here is the link to it on  I think this would be great for a friend who has everything and might appreciate some new material on her coffee table (especially one that might have a hidden stash of Us Weekly magazines hidden in a cabinet somewhere).  It's a little bit cheekier than just pictures of landscapes, or houses, etc but still has gorgeous photos. 

There are endless possibilities out there for a photography lover - gorgeous options exist for almost any interest or hobby.  Here are two that I'd love to feature in my home. 
Click on the photo for a link to the item.

Another great idea is a personalized puzzle. I got these puzzles made from a satellite image of an address for several family members on our list (the hometown puzzle is more of a general area).  John's extended family is very hard to buy for, so I just got everyone a puzzle of thier address. If nothing else it will keep them occupied for a while!  I got mine from LL Bean since they have free shipping on everything right now, and I can just ship them directly to the recipeints, who live in FL and CO so we're not going to see them anyway.  However, they are available from a bunch of different retailers, so if you have a coupon or promo code, you may want to do a quick Google search to see if you can use it to buy one from some other retailer. 

For the charitably minded

First, let me say that I totally support charitable giving at the holidays in lieu of gifts.  There is no one on my gift list who truly needs a single thing; nor do I.  Of course getting gifts is fun and that's what most of this list is about, but I fully support this method if this is the way you admirably choose to go.  I hope to push my "gift giving" more in this route in years to come.  A nice note explaining why you have chosen to give to a specific organization in honor of someone is certainly sufficient.  However, if you would rather give a more tangible gift here are some good options.  All of these ideas donate to worthy causes in some way.

Juliska Cornerstones Charity Piggy Bank - available in pewter and signature Juliska whitewash
$8 for every bank sold, with minimum of $50,000 goes to Save the Children; I would write a nice note and encourage the recipient(s) to choose a charity to support with the funds they place in the bank.
(sorry the picture is so tiny, it got very blurry as I tried to make it larger)

This was recently featured on Oprah's Ultimate Favorite Things (Did y'all see that one by the way?  Completely over the top.).  We all know teachers who have to pay out of their own pockets for necessary supplies.  This site helps you match up your donation with a classroom.  You can choose what project you want to donate towards.

Kellie is the daughter of Hank Greenwald, who was a baseball broadcaster for the Giants and Yankees during his career.  He published his autobiography in 1999, after which Kellie expressed her desire to put out her own story.  Kellie was born with Down's Syndrome and wanted her book to portray memorable events and emotions in her life.  From Amazon: Kellie's Book expresses her celebration of life & promises to be a source of hope for people with developmental challenges, their families, extended families, providers, & educators. It is a testament to the fact that when children know they are utterly loved & supported, there is no end to what they can achieve & no end to what they can give back by uplifting the lives of those around them.

Part of sales proceeds are being donated to The Cedars of Marin, a facility for adults with developmental disablilties. Y'all know this book hits a soft spot with me.

***There are millions of ways to do this same thing.  If you are passionate about local food, then buy a membership to a local CSA/food box/co-op program.  If you love the Humane Society, sponser a few animals to be spayed/neutered in someone's honor.  If a local charity produces an item that gives the proceeds back to it's causes, buy a few of those for gifts.  The sky is the limit.  I think any thoughtful gesture that supports a cause someone is passionate about is the ultimate gift.***

For the gourmand

There is a heck of a lot of fancy food out there. I prefer to find something sort of cheeky and fun to give; if you see some crazy unique food item and think, "I'd love to try that, but I'd never buy it for myself", then it's a great gift idea.  I like the idea of picking one thing and buying a case, or in whatever bulk quantity for that to just be your signature gift for the year.  Here are a couple of things I've seen that I'd love to try (but probably won't buy for myself, wink wink).

This stuff is made by Vosges, a "haute" chocolate company.  The Mo's Bacon Bar has bits of bacon in a chocolate bar.  This mix has bits of the bar in it.  Need I say more?

Blackberry Farm Spicy Pear Chutney I think by now y'all know I'm obsessed with this place.  Many of its popular products are available for purchase online, and this is one of just several that I want to try.  They even sell a handsome looking birch box that will hold 2 12-ounce jars so you can give someone a sampler if you wanted.  Some other products I have my eye on are the green tomato chutney, the winter jam and the spring thyme marmalade.

As for other food gifts, think regional.  If you love a particular item from your hometown, consider packaging up nuts, cheese straws, honey, jam or any other special item that has some significance to you or the gift giver.  As always, a nice note explaining why the gift is special helps give it that personal touch.  Consider making your own gifts.  I get my ideas most regularly are the kitchn blog, Smitten Kitchen, My Recipes and Real Simple.

For the young (or young at heart)
*My apologies this part of the list is sparse.  As I write this on December 8, I don't even know what I plan to get my own child for Christmas, so I'm hardly able to give you much guidance on what to give yours.*

I am in love with Elizabeth Mitchell's music.  We have You Are My Little Bird, You Are My Flower, You Are My Sunshine and I just ordered her newest release, Sunny Day.  Her songs are sweet, fun and creative, and I find myself listening to them for my own pleasure, which is something I cannot say for all children's music!  Consider tucking one of these into a child's stocking.

Mary Englebreit's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas
This book is absolutely beautiful.  Even if you already have a copy of TtNBC, I think this is a gorgeous addition to a child's library.  Her sweet Nursery Tales book is also a great gift.

My favorite children's gifts come from The Land of Nod (free shipping on lots of great gifts right now), Learning Express, or Uncommon Goods.  I know lots of people find lots of wonderful things on Etsy, but I always feel like I need anti-anxiety medicine and a personal shopper before I go looking for anything on there.  There's almost too much available.  If you don't know what you are looking for, do not go there. 

I hope this gives you some great ideas.  If I come up with any other gems this week I will do a follow up.  I am also trying to squeeze in a quick Mitchell update.  Stay tuned!